I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason; whether I agree with the reason or not is something else entirely. For months now I have been training for the bike portion of my triathlon in a combination of ways. I started out in spin class at the gym until it warmed up enough this spring for me to bike outside. (Mind you, I ran outside all winter but biking in cool weather I find to be much more chilling, so I stayed indoors until the temperatures suited me.) I also worked the stationary bike into a number of work-outs mostly because I found it easier to do a controlled hill work-out on the stationary bike. Though I’ve been riding my mountain bike for my outdoor rides, I never planned to ride it in the actual race.
For the race, my plan has long been to borrow someone else’s road bike. As luck would have it, a friend of my parents who is about my size offered her road bike to me for the triathlon. Wanting to get some practice time in on the bike I happily picked it up and accompanied my husband to our local Bike Doctor where he was going to buy a new bike and I was going to have the borrowed bike adjusted to fit me.
Almost from the day I signed up for the race my husband has encouraged me to just buy a proper road bike. My preference has been to make sure I like triathlons before making a purchase. I sat on the hardly ridden, borrowed Trek bike in the store and an associate came over and immediately (but nicely) squashed any thoughts I had of riding that bike. It is a size 54 and I was identified as a size 51. The seat is too far back and too angled down for me and the handlebars are too far away. I attempted the conversation of things we could do to make the bike work for me but with my husband and two associates pleading the case for why I should have my own bike, I finally caved. Buying a bike was not what I had planned for the day, but I guess that is what was supposed to happen. Let’s just hope I love triathlons! Continue reading →
It’s been a couple months now that I have been swimming consistently as part of the training for my first triathlons (one in August and one in September). Before I hopped in the pool for that first session it had been many years, since middle school swim team, that I swam consistently. I knew that it would take plenty of time in the pool and lots of practice before my stroke and form resembled even what it looked like in the 7th grade let alone what it should look like for a triathlete.
Over the weeks, swimming has gotten progressively better, definitely more enjoyable, and I am more confident in my ability to swim and breath correctly. This is in part due to practice. However, I definitely credit my progress to a few other important factors. One of them is talking about it. Any chance I have to talk to another swimmer or triathlete, I do and I ask questions. I tweet about it, sharing what I’ve done and inquiring what others are working on, and I always learn something new. I haunt the blogs of other swimmers and triathletes picking up on what has worked for them and I try to absorb as much information as possible.
The other factor I credit for improving my swimming skills is a website that I visit often but that I still have much to learn from: goswim.tv. Continue reading →
Buying new running shoes, especially for experienced athletes, is not just a fleeting shopping moment or a purchase made on a whim. It is a thought-out, planned experience. For some, like myself, the process of buying new shoes begins months before it’s actually time to buy. For many athletes, the buying process includes researching shoes, studying their own foot type, or becoming familiar with local running stores–the act of buying new shoes is a very deliberate process.
Over a week ago my friend invited me to join her in her new shoe purchase. Like the athletes I just described she was well armed with information long before it was time to buy shoes. She knew what stores she did and didn’t like in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas, she knew why she was ready to move on from her trusty Asics, she could describe her fitness level and walk/jog work-outs, and she was well versed in the different arches of her feet and the orthotics she uses to get a comfortable fit with shoes. So when we met up at the new Charm City Run store at the Annapolis Towne Centre I knew it would not be your average shoe purchase experience.
An old pair of my New Balance shoes, now retired to the role of gardening shoes.
I believe my first pair of “running shoes” was a pair of retired volleyball shoes that I used in college until they wore thin. Once I realized the value of actual running shoes I dabbled a bit with different brands. I started with Saucony and switched to New Balance, then ran in Nikes, and moved around between the three brands for a while. Most of my purchase decisions were entirely based on price. I had no knowledge base of how a shoe should fit when I was first buying running shoes.
A couple years ago, however, I started to really care about the shoes I was putting on my feet. I’ve had my share of blisters in every shoe imaginable from running shoes to high heels to flip flops so I often figure blisters are just part of the deal. After the Annapolis 10-mile run one year, I took my shoes off to find that my big toe had much more than a blister. My poor toe was bleeding, discolored, and looked just awful; it was the first time I’d seen my feet really take a beating from running. When I commiserated about this with friends, they instantly pointed to my shoes as being the culprit. They were not sized right for the amount of running I was doing and the A10 was the long run that finally took its toll on my feet.
I’ve found a sweet spot lately with a five mile loop. It seems to take just the right amount of time, it has the right amount of hills, and each time I finish the five miles I feel a little better about it than the last time. As nice as it’s been, you might say I’ve been in a five-mile rut. If I weren’t planning to run a half marathon the first weekend of August it might not matter that I’ve been stuck at five miles, but I am. So I finally upped my mileage and it’s been several months, since the Cooper River Bridge Run to be exact, since I’ve ran more than five miles.
One of the reasons I love MapMyRun is for my archived running routes. I think I could do my five mile loop with my eyes closed but I needed a quick refresher on my six mile route. I “dusted off” the routes and looked it up. For some reason, those six miles looked a lot longer online than I remember them being. Knowing I wasn’t going to give myself a chance to get out of the run, I switched mental gears and focused on how nice it would be to run a little longer than normal and planned to let my mind wander. Continue reading →
Tempo running requires focus and concentration to keep pace; just like the tango. Photo by Tango Store.
There are any number of ways to label a run and of course, you don’t have to label a run just to go running. However, in training, it’s very helpful to understand what the labels mean in order to get the most out of each work-out and maximize your performance. When I first started running the only terminology I recalled where words leftover from high school track–sprint, relay, and cross country. Until recently, my running vocabulary has been minimal at best. At some point I plan to put together a glossary of terms that I have come to understand and that seem to be an integral part of any article, website, blog, or coaching program related to running.
For now though, I’d like to focus on tempo runs. There are five types of runs on the Runner’s World triathlon training schedule and they each have a relatively helpful description. Some of the runs have the same descriptions as what one can select on many online training logs, interval and tempo for example. Even though I’ve trained for a number of races over the years, this is really the first time I am making a serious effort to follow the suggested variations in running. Rather than stick with my 9-minute pace, if the schedule tells me to run strides, I run strides. If it says hills, I run hills. And now most recently, it said to run tempo. Continue reading →
Overlooking Sunset Cove where we spent much time on the active "Sports Beach" and did an open water swim.
I was on a roll. Swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run, write about it, tweet about it, three square meals, healthy snack choices…a few weeks ago I was doing great. Mentally I’d been preparing for quite some time for the full week vacation I would have in Jamaica in order to be at my best friend’s destination wedding. I pre-wrote my blogs and set them to post. I researched the gym and swimming facilities at our all-inclusive resort. Packed my running shoes, goggles, swim cap, and training schedule for the week.
By the time we got to our resort in Jamaica (the flight was a piece of cake on Air Jamaica for what it’s worth) I was completely relaxed. It really didn’t take long for vacation mode to kick in; it was an all-inclusive resort after all. The first morning I dutifully went to the gym and used a stationary bike to get in the 45 minutes of hill intervals my schedule called for. I even did my 10 minute transition run jogging around the resort and through the outdoor dining area where folks in our group sipped on coffee as I went by and the smell of omelettes and baked goods lingered behind me.
Day two I dragged my husband with me for some open water swimming. The resort did have a pool that would have sufficed for the various laps and drills I’d written down from the schedule but it seemed too good of an opportunity to get in my first open water swim. Goggles in hand we went down to one of the many beaches and eyeballed our swim route. We freestyled our way overtop beautiful reefs and tropical fish to a marked swim area that we estimated to be 40 yards in length. In this area I did the required sprints and threshold swims and then just practiced trying to swim in a straight line. I will write more about this open water swim experience later for sure.
When I first started running I used whatever sports shorts I happened to own at the time, and at the time what I had were baggy old gym shorts, some with the elastic thinning out. In college I was lucky enough to inherit from my roommate a pair of blue Nike running shorts. They were the first running shorts I’d ever owned and I thought it was brilliant the way the shorts were so light and airy and also had a handy inside pocket that fit a key or chapstick.
I still run in those shorts. Eventually I added a pair of Brooks running shorts to my collection and relied on doing regular laundry to have clean running shorts. For winter running I used sweatpants and old yoga pants until I found a pair of Adidas running pants that worked for cold weather runs. Eventually I added a pair of compression pants and then a pair of Nike capris for cool, but not cold, runs.
A couple months ago I reviewed the sports bra, tank, and pullover made by Gracie’s Gear. In addition to her tops, Gracie Updyke has a line of bottoms in her gear as well. Given my spartan collection of running shorts and the pair of too big Nike capri pants I have, I was more than happy to also review the Gracie’s Gear capris and shorts. Continue reading →
For the last month I have been using the training log on runnersworld.com both to log my work-outs as well as to experiment with one of the many available online training log programs available to athletes. It was a few months ago that I decided I would use and review as many logs as possible and I had started with the log on Race Nation‘s website before moving on to the Runner’s World log.
When I started with the RW log, I was slowly building my running routine back up from my marathon recovery and have since begun training for my first triathlon, so I have multiple kinds of work-outs that I need to track. I already had a profile on rw.com, but if I hadn’t, that would have been the first step, just like for any other site that stores your personal information.
The RW log has one button to enter a new run and another button that drops down with options to enter a bike, swim, strength session, walk, health note, or generic ‘other’ work-out. I found entering the first few entries to be tricky because not all fields of the log format were super intuitive to me. For most type of work-outs, standard data fields are: date, time, heart rate (rest, average, and max), route, distance, time, weight, and environment. There is also a standard notes box at the end, which I love, as well as the option to rate the quality and effort of the work-out on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best or hardest. And, as you may know, I am a big fan of measuring the quality of my work-outs. Continue reading →
My enthusiastic gear check buddy making sure runners would know where to drop their things.
Most runs start pretty early in the morning and the ZOOMA Annapolis race had a start time of 7 a.m. for runners of the 10K and half marathon course. This means that volunteers had to be there long before the sun was even up to ensure that water stations, information centers, parking lots, exhibitor areas, and the gear check station were set-up and ready to go when the first runners arrived at the start line.
I had volunteered to work gear check at the race as well as hand out chocolates to finishers as they arrived back at the Expo from the finish line. I woke up almost every hour to make sure I didn’t miss my 4:30 a.m. alarm and by the time I got to the Naval Academy stadium to meet my fellow volunteers I was remaining optimistic that the ominous clouds overhead would blow over.
Not having volunteered to work a race before I wasn’t sure what the flow of things would be and it turned out it couldn’t have been simpler, more organized, or run by the most patient and helpful people. The ZOOMA race is the brainchild of Brae Blackley and her calm demeanor and constant smile eased both volunteers and runners as she responded to a constant flow of questions. Her core volunteers are her friends, mother, mother-in-law, and husband as well as the many willing locals who came out to support her race whose mission is to empower women to live healthy, active, and happy lives. Continue reading →