Tag Archives: Triathlon

Interval Awareness

Intervals involve hard runs for short times or distances followed by recovery jogs so it's helpful to have a watch to time each interval. Photo by Michael Lokner.

Intervals involve hard runs for short times or distances followed by recovery jogs so it's helpful to have a watch to time each interval. Photo by Michael Lokner.

Until recently, the last time I ran intervals was during track and field practice in high school. I’ve read plenty of articles about interval runs and there are some great folks on Twitter to learn from whose focus is interval training. The last few weeks of my triathlon training plan have included threshold interval work-outs. According to the plan this means to run for three minutes at 5K pace followed by a three minute jog. The first session I repeated this three times and the next three sessions I was to repeat four times. Each interval session begins and ends with a little over a one mile jog which happens to be the distance from my house to the local track, quiet convenient!

The first round of intervals were eye-opening. Even though I’d been preparing my body for speed with strides and tempo runs, attempting to maintain what I thought to be my 5K pace for three minutes was much more challenging than I thought it would be. I’m sure that part of the problem is that I still don’t know my actual 5K pace. My goal pace is 8-minute miles but I have not measured that on the track. I measure my 5K pace by my form, the length of my stride, the little extra push from my arms, and my breathing. I’m so familiar with my 9-minute pace that I feel like I can tell when I’ve pushed past that to something faster and that is what I consider my 5K pace. Continue reading

The Crooked Swim

jamaica_swimareaMy first open water swim that I would consider as part of my triathlon training was in crystal clear waters in a protected swim area in Jamaica. The second two have been off the beach at Chesapeake Bay Foundation and I hope there are at least two more open water swim practices in my future before the day of the triathlon. Though the tropical conditions of the Jamaica water with colorful fish I could see below me and a high level of salinity helping to keep me afloat and the brackish dark water of Chesapeake Bay are drastically different, they do have one thing in common–there is no perfectly straight black line along the bottom to guide you.

Within the enclosed swim area in Jamaica my goal was to practice the drills for that session, sprints and threshold swims. I had marked off the distance and knew about how many “laps” I would have to do to complete the drills for that day’s training session. The plan was to swim to the rope at the far end of the area, turn around, and swim back to the beach as many times as necessary. No sooner did I start off to my target end of the rope than I was headed diagonally toward a different area entirely. Where I ended up is not at all where I had planned to be. Part of the training for that day then became practicing swimming in a straight line when there was no black line on the bottom to follow. Continue reading

My New Ride: The Bike, The Shoes, The Ride

cannondale (5)Recently I wrote about the process of buying a new road bike. At the time I had tons of questions. My husband and I were buying road bikes together and it turned out that his bike was delivered to the store a week before mine. I watched as he got an orientation to his bike, was shown how the gears worked (very different than I’d ever seen), did a test ride around the parking lot, and talked through the various carbon components with the Bike Doctor’s bike expert. I tried to pay close attention knowing I would be doing the same thing soon enough.

Originally the Cannondale Synapse bike I ordered was to have an aluminum frame but nowhere could the Bike Doctor find one in my size. I was upgraded to a carbon frame on a 9-speed bike rather than a 10-speed bike with the rest of the components being essentially the same. The bike I’ve been training on so far is a 9-speed so while I understand there are certain advantages to having just two big gears, I was comfortable knowing my new bike would have a set-up I’m familiar with. Finally, my Cannondale Synapse Feminine 6 arrived and I went to the store to meet her (yep, I refer to my bike as a female and am working on names now!). Continue reading

Breaking Consistency

j0390441I have been running 9-minute miles for as long as I can remember. Every now and then there is a little variation with my slower time hovering around 9:12 which I usually see on runs of 10 miles or longer and my lower end averages 8:54 on my shorter runs. And for as long as I can remember I have been perfectly content with my 9-minute mile pace. Until this spring. After I ran my first marathon and tacked some other races onto my spring and summer schedule I got my head wrapped around the idea that I wanted to run my 10K in 8:30-minute miles and maybe even try to run my 10-miler at the end of the summer in 8-minute miles.

I ended up dealing with ITBS recovery after the marathon and wasn’t able to ramp up my training to make my 10K goal but there is still plenty of time to work on my 10-miler goal. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a slightly faster pace, but I never sought out the ways to make it happen. Since I have been triathlon training, however, my eyes have been opened to a whole new way of training. Instead of just going out and running at my same old 9-minute pace and consistently adding miles, I have *gasp!* been training with variety! Not only have the weekly work-outs included swimming and biking by necessity, but even the weekly runs are different. Continue reading

An Eye Opening Open Water Swim

Our taking off point for the first open water swim practice. Photo by james_shelton32.

Our taking off point for the first open water swim practice. Photo by james_shelton32.

I am sure that some people who train for triathlons go into the race without having ever done an open water swim. Perhaps they live in a landlocked area and have no access to open water in which to practice. More power to them for taking the plunge for the first time at the race! I feel very fortunate to have the Chesapeake Bay at my fingertips because I cannot imagine going into my first triathlon without having practiced open water swimming.

My husband and I met our friend at the beach of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (she also works there which is a nice inside connection!) for an open water swim practice. My husband swam competitively all through childhood and in high school and has one triathlon under his belt, so there was not much mystery in this swim for him. My friend has done several triathlons and was excited to be getting back into the water. At the pool, I’ve been working on my form, my stroke, my pace, and also breathing drills to prepare for open water and in the pool I have been steadily improving and feel good about my swimming skills. My only concern standing on the beach was that I would get cold. Continue reading

Running Off Days

42-15530314We all know that rest days are important for any kind of training to be successful and learning to appreciate rest days, I’ve found, requires just as much practice as training itself. This winter when I was marathon training I would often experience various levels of guilt on my off days and I know I am not alone. Despite the anxiety I sometimes felt by not running, I knew it was important that my body get a break from the impact and stresses of running.

I’ve read many articles and heard from a number of coaches and other runners that rest days do not have to be days of complete inactivity. When it comes to running, rest days are anything from a light run to a cross-training activity to weight training to Pilates. I fully admit to having been very inconsistent in how I used to spend my rest days and more often than not would choose to do nothing rather than cross-train. All that changed when I started triathlon training. Continue reading

Information Overload: Bike Buying

Photo by vufgew.

Photo by vufgew.

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

Swimming Drills: When it Looks Easy

Photo by cygnus921.

Photo by cygnus921.

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

It’s Tempo Time

Tempo running requires focus and concentration to keep pace; just like the tango. Photo by Tango Store.

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

Training Log Review: Runner’s World

rw_summaryFor 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