Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Training During Triathlon Off-Season

If you live in the U.S., chances are you are freezing your ass off right now.  I know I am, and I'm in Florida.  Winter is upon us, which means various holidays, time off of work, time spent with friends, a lot of good food, even better drinks, short days, and cold nights.  As a triathlete, WTF do you do during this odd time!?  Don't despair.  I have some ideas for you.

I think the winter (better known as triathlon off-season by the hardcore) is a great time to try new things, and train in OTHER sports.  Yes, other activities exist outside of swimbikerunning.  Shocking, I know.  This off-season is a perfect time to re-energize, shake off any burnout you may have experienced toward the end of last year's tri season, and work on strengthening yourself through some new sports.  You can of course still enjoy a nice long run on Saturday morning, or spend some time on the trainer if it's dark after work and/or snowing outside, or go for a swim if you're crazy, but do me a solid and challenge yourself to try something new during this off-season.  Something that maybe you never saw yourself doing.  Something you maybe thought you wouldn't be good at.  For me, that something is YOGA.  Specifically, yoga challenges on INSTAGRAM.

No lie, I have come across multiple yoga challenges via Instagram just by creeping hashtags such as #yoga #yogaeverydamnday or #yogachallenge.  The premise is that these challenges are hosted by badass yogis who post the pose of the day and instructions on how to do them, then you are on your own to snap a photo of yourself doing said pose and upload it to whatever hashtag the challenge is called.  For instance, the one I am doing now is #30DYC which stands for 30 Day Yoga Challenge. 

It may seem silly, but guess what?  This is basically free yoga training.  It is something I can do on my own time, and trust me, you end up doing the pose about 20 times to get the perfect photo that is Instagram worthy, so you will be sore.  If posting photos of yourself on the Internet with one leg over your head while in a back bend with one hand in the air shooting a peace sign ain't your thing, check out my list below for some off-season training ideas that are sure to fire you up come this year's tri season.

1.     Join a real yoga studio.  Many yoga studios offer a free class if you are new to their studio, as well as special deals on class packages if you are a new student.  I myself just signed up for 30 days for $30 at Yoga Mix in Jacksonville Beach.  Yoga is excellent for triathletes because it offers a lot of strength needed for the swim and run, balance for the bike, and hip-opening stretches that every triathlete needs, and always tries to avoid.

2.     Hit some weights!  Spend more time in the gym or with some dumbbells at home to work on maintaining muscle tone and building those fast-twitch muscle fibers that most triathletes lack.  Doing squats and lunges will keep those quads, hammies, and glutes powerful for when you are able to get back out on the bike.

3.     Enjoy relaxing runs.  Put the Garmin away for a while.  Go out and run without the pressure of always knowing your distance, pace, and time, and what it should be.  I'm telling you, you'll feel like a new person.

4.     Work out with your non-triathlete friends.  They miss you during tri season.  Take them to an indoor rock climbing gym and have some fun while still exercising.

5.     Try new gear.  During the midst of triathlon season, it's never a good idea to make too many changes to your gear because of the risk of failure or injury.  Since no races are coming up soon, try those barefoot style shoes you've been wondering about.  Test out that new aero helmet.  Hell, even try a new flavor of Gu on your next Garmin-less run.  Just go wild, and remember to have FUN.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Honey Chipotle Chicken Thighs & Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Holy southern dinner- that wasn't even an intentional theme.  You know what my theme always is?  Easy.  

Honey Chipotle Chicken Thighs
- 1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/3 cup raw/local honey (beware of the big branded store bought nonsense- it's usually cut with high fructose corn syrup)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
- 1 tsp cumin
- pinch of salt 
- preheat oven to 400, place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet, mix all other ingredients in a bowl, coat chicken, bake for 35-40 mins until chicken is cooked through and glaze begins to crisp.

Balsalmic Brussels
- 1 package brussel sprouts
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- pinch of brown sugar (optional)
- toss the brussels in a bowl with the ingredients, place them on their own baking sheet, stick em in with the chicken for 25 mins or until slightly brown.

Eat after a long swim, bike, or run!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Ironman Augusta 70.3 Race Recap

Well this has been a long time coming!  As of today, 12/14/13, I am done with my first semester back to school to pursue *another* degree in physical therapy.  That being said, I am 2 months late on a race recap from Augusta.  I still haven't recovered from this race, either.  I shall tell you why.

The race was set for Sunday, Sept. 29th, so I loaded up with Ironmom and Irondad and headed to Augusta, GA on Saturday the 28th.  It was about a 4 hour ride from Jacksonville, so with a late start we were cutting it close to the check-in deadline.  However, we made it to the host hotel where the expo was just in time.  The host hotel was in downtown Augusta right on the Savannah River, which was also the site of the race start.  After checking in and wandering around the expo spending money I didn't have on Ironman branded nonsense, we hopped back in the car to drive the 1.5 miles to transition to rack my bike.  (Since the swim was a point-to-point, the transition was right about 1.5 miles from swim start at the hotel.) 

Parking near transition on Saturday was a nightmare!  We found a spot along the road that lead up to transition, which ended up being close to a mile away.  The transition area was pretty crowded, and since the weather was still pretty hot (mid 80's), I heard a couple tube explosions from people pumping their tires to capacity, then leaving them in the heat which caused the air to expand even more.  It's a good idea to leave your tires pumped to about 90 psi the day before the race, then bring your pump into transition race morning to inflate the rest of the way.  Luckily for me, I got a spot on the end of my assigned rack, so I hung up the ol' bike and got out of there quickly. 

After checking out the river after putting the bike in transition, we left the race site to go check into our hotel, which was back out near the highway, maybe 15 minutes from the starting line.  The river was calm, wide, and the swim would be wetsuit legal.  I wasn't worried about the swim at all between the wetsuit and current, but I was starting to get nervous about the hilly bike leg.

That night, we ate at Outback since it was close to the hotel.  I just had some chicken, veggies, and bread.  And a cider.  Always a good idea to have at least one pre-race alcoholic beverage (that's just science, people.)  After that, I did some reading for school and hit the sack.  Although my wave wasn't departing until 9:18 A.M. (ugh), I still had to get to the race site at an ungodly hour to finish setting up my transition area.

We left the hotel at about 5:15 A.M. and parked in the same spot as Saturday near-ish to transition.  I lugged my giant bag of transition gear (I swear that setting up for a triathlon looks more like I'm going backpacking through Europe for two weeks), to transition, set up, got body marked, and was out of there shortly after 6 A.M.  There were shuttle buses taking athletes from transition to the race start back at the host hotel, but since I had three hours until my wave started, I chose to walk the 1.2ish miles to the starting line.  My poor Ironmom was worried that I would get too tired walking so much before the race.  I informed her that if walking a mile before racing 70 miles made me tired, then I should just go back to bed and give up the dream.

Even though Saturday was in the 80's, race morning was COLD.  Now, it could be because I'm a FL wimp, but regardless, I was freezing.  And unprepared for that.  I just had on my tri shorts, top, flip flops, and a thin long-sleeved sweater that I happened to just throw in my bag last second.  It wasn't the 1.2 mile walk that was making me tired, it was the uncontrollable shivering.  The sun came up a little after 7, which warmed the air a bit.  I was still extremely cold, and my nerves were starting to set in, making the shivering worse.  I started to move around more, and also ate my bagel and banana.  That helped for a bit, but I just could not get warm.  I also didn't anticipate how nervous I would be watching all the other waves go before me.  At Ironman Florida 70.3, I was the 2nd wave to go behind the pros, leaving me no time to stand around to get nervous.  This time, I was the 2nd to last wave to go, right in front of the relay wave.

Finally, it came time for me to suit up and get ready to hit the river.  I started putting my wetsuit on (2011 2XU V:2 wetsuit I got off of last minute, that was a men's XS) and realized that, Houston, we got a problem.  A big problem.  My wetsuit was too small.  I struggled to get into this thing for 15-20 minutes.  When I finally did get it on and zipped, I couldn't stand up straight because of how tight it was.  I also could not pull the arms up enough to give my shoulders enough room to move.  Um.  Great.

I waddled down to the dock, struggling to breathe in this suit.  I was already ready to get out of the water, and I hadn't even gotten in yet.  Since the current was so strong on race day, they did not allow anyone to get in the water before the gun.  So, we all stood on this moving dock waiting to jump into 60 degree water without a warm up.  Finally, the gun went off and in I went.  The water was so cold that it knocked the wind out of me for a second, so I started to tread water for a few seconds just to acclimate and catch my breath.  I was expecting that to happen, so it didn't induce any panic.  After getting my breathing under control, I took off.  Immediately, the wetsuit started giving me Hell.  The damn thing was creating SO much resistance on my shoulders that my stroke was completely unnatural, and I had to exert more force per stroke to be able to even lift my arms to swim.  I tried to rely more on my legs than my arms (which is the exact opposite of my usual swim strategy), but I didn't have a choice.  However, the suit was so tight on my calves, that my right calf started to cramp up, which meant I had to stop kicking with that leg and re-enlist the use of my arms.  Shortly after that, I felt something in my neck and shoulder pull on the left side.  Now, I was without a functioning right leg and left arm.  Perfect!  I started to breast stroke and did what I could, and I knew I was nearing the end of the swim.  In addition to the wetsuit drama, the swim was super crowded the entire time.  I never got to fall into a rhythm in my own space.  It was a constant hand-to-foot-to-ass-to-face combat for the entire swim, until I finally took myself out wide near the bank, which sacrificed some of the current but was more relaxed.  The glare was pretty bad on the water so I actually couldn't see the last buoy, so I just watched the people in front of me and turned when they did towards the dock to get out and run to transition.  Be aware, you exit on a steep concrete hill, so be prepared to run up a hill upon exiting the water.  Through all my struggles, I finished the swim in 28 minutes. Boom.

I pulled the wetsuit down to my waist and trotted to transition, where I was greeted with wetsuit strippers.  These lovely people tell you to lie down, put your legs in the air, and hold on to your shorts (if applicable) while they peel your wetsuit off in under 2 seconds.  Truly amazing. 

I had to use the bathroom but decided I would just hold it until I couldn't anymore, then just pee on the bike like everyone else.  So, I threw on my helmet, glasses, socks, shoes, and bounced.  I already had all my hydration bottles locked and loaded (2 bottles of plain water and 2 bottles of electrolyte) as well as my food in my bento box (I had cooked, salty potato bites and honey stinger waffles, as I prefer solid food early on the bike.)  I flew out of transition and past Ironmom, who was fiddling with her camera getting ready for my exit.  She wasn't expecting me to come out so quickly, so when she missed my photo she yelled for me to come back.  Sorry, Mom!  Gotta go. 

I hit a bump in the road about two minutes after leaving transition, which caused my aero water bottle top to come open and splash water right into my open bento box, which completely soaked my potatoes and waffles.  Awesome.  The bike portion was fairly uneventful, but had some pretty decent hills.  A lot of people were actually getting off their bikes and walking them up some of the hills, which I had never seen before.  This could be because I was in the 2nd to last wave, so was catching up to some of the slower people from earlier waves.  There were even some portions of the bike that didn't look like inclines, but the only reason I knew they were was because my speed suddenly dropped to 13 mph like I was pedaling through molasses.  I felt really strong on the bike, and actually passed a fair amount of people.  The ride was also very scenic, a lot of open land and farm land, which was nice.  The weather was cool too, I never once felt overheated.  I had to remind myself to hydrate regularly.  Back to having to go to the bathroom, yeah, two hours later on the bike and I still had to go.  I tried everything I could to go on the bike, standing, sitting, leaning off to one side, pedaling, not pedaling, and it would NOT happen.  I had to stop at the last aid station at mile 50.  Now to get to this station was interesting.  There was a MASSIVE downhill, followed by a  MASSIVE uphill.  There was a girl in my age group who I played cat-and-mouse with for half of the ride who was in front of me going up the hill.  I was stronger than her on the ups and downs of all the hills, but she was stronger than me on the flat portions.  With this last big downhill, there were also curves in the road.  I started my descent down this hill, and man, I was FLYING.  Not sure what my Garmin was reading because I was too scared to take my hands off of the handlebars, but I felt like I was going about 60 mph.  The girl must have also felt like she was going 100 mph, because she started hitting the brakes hard right in front of me.  I was able to slow myself and swerve beside her, and as we hit the bottom of the downhill which immediately began the start of the last big hill of the race before the aid station, we both went from 60 mph to 2 mph and about to tip over.  We looked at each other and laughed then struggled up the last hill.  At the top, I had to stop and use the bathroom before I brought it back home to transition.

Back in transition, I quickly changed shoes, threw on my visor, and headed out for the 2-loop run, which ended downtown (close to the host hotel but not exactly in front of it.)  I felt strong coming out of transition, and knew I was going too fast (still had my bike legs.)  I slowed myself down, but around the mile 1 mark, I started to have some severe pains in my chest and back.  The pain in my chest was making it difficult to breathe, and I was beginning to think something was seriously wrong.  I started to walk and tried to take deep breaths, which made the pain worse (especially in my back.)  I walked for a bit, slowed my breathing, then started to jog again.  However, the pain just got worse.  When I stopped to walk again, I lifted my arms above my head, and realized the pain was radiating from my shoulder.  The twinge I felt in my shoulder/neck on the swim turned into a bigger issue.  To spare you a long story of walk/jog, walk/jog, the pain was to the point around mile 5 that I either had to walk the rest of the half marathon, or drop out.  I opted to walk, and 2 hours and 27 minutes later, finished the run.  What a disappointment!  I still finished in 6:18, which was 11 minutes slower than Haines City, and 19 minutes slower than my goal of a sub 6.  I was on track for a sub-6 too, it was the run that killed it.  I collected my medal at the finish line and just started to cry.  I was in pain, tired, and disappointed all at once.  I found Ironmom and Irondad (who missed my finish, by the way), and we trudged the 1.2 miles back to transition to get my things.  It wasn't until a few days later that I realized how proud I was of myself for fighting for that finish. 

All in all, Augusta was a great race, and well-run as always by Ironman and their wonderful volunteers.  The city itself was welcoming to all the athletes as well, and a lot of restaurants had welcome signs for the athletes as well as food specials for those who participated.  I would recommend this race if you're looking for a 70.3 PR, especially if you can have a strong run (the course is flat and has good crowd support during the downtown portions), but just prepared for the logistics of course set-up and how much you may have to walk/shuttle before and after the race.  I preferred the setup of Ironman Florida 70.3 in Haines City, because start, transition, and finish were all in the same spot. 

Later on this week I will outline what I've been doing to rehab my shoulder, which is still giving me trouble, 2 months later.  Luckily, it is the end of triathlon season for 2013, so I can rest and re-charge to get ready for some sprints next spring and summer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ironman Augusta 70.3 Countdown

The key to success in anything is consistency.  I have been spread a bit thin lately between work, school, and training and have neglected the ol blog.  (Not an excuse.). However, I want the blog to be successful in that it helps others realize their potential as a triathlete.  So, I promise to be consistent and get back to posting relevant, useful information at least twice per week.

Ironman Augusta 70.3 is in 2 weeks, and I'm currently in the "oh, shit it's getting real" phase.  I finally found a wetsuit which I will review after the race (haven't used it for more than a 10 minute trial in the ocean), and the hotel is booked.  Bike needs a tune-up but, I'm just going to shine it up a bit myself.

Training has kind of hit a plateau, and I would like to blame school.  However, I realized that's not a valid excuse, so I gave up 1 thing to make my schedule more efficient: sleep! 

Tonight I managed a 10 mile run post-work and pre-homework.  I averaged around an 8:45 pace, but was talking to my wonderful friend who rode a beach cruiser next to me the whole time.  My last mile, however, was 8:13.  

Tomorrow I plan on a pool swim, 1700 m minimum with pull and kick drills mixed in. 

Wednesday are bridge repeats on the bike.

Thursday strength training.

Friday 25 mi brick + 6 mi run.

Saturday yoga.

Sunday open water swim.

Next week will be a taper week with possibly one more long run Monday night.

It feels good to be back!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stress-Free Training

All I want to say today is that sometimes it's nice to get outside and swimbikerun without any piece of technology.  You should try it.  No phone, no app, no watch, no iPod.  Just get out and enjoy your surroundings and the sound of your breathing (this is not always peaceful.  I typically sound like a dying water buffalo on long runs.)  We swimbikerun or do any other physical activity because we enjoy it.  We make friends, we achieve personal goals, we get fit, we get healthy, we have fun.  Sometimes, though, we get caught up in the competitiveness or urge to always do better.  That's fine, but it often leads to what Runner's World coined OGD, or Obsessive Garmin Disorder.  Stop checking your pace every two seconds!  I have not used my Garmin for any workout this week and it's been refreshing.  Since I had a tough weekend of workouts, I used this week as a recovery week as it is.  Removing data collection from my workouts has really improved the sense of recovery I feel.  I will bring it back this weekend of course, because I need to get in more quality distance workouts (thinking a short ride and long run brick as my tentative main weekend workout.)  On your next rest day or recovery workout, leave your technology behind and just be free.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Healthy Honey Mustard Dressing with Greek Yogurt

This photo was a fairly popular item on Instagram today, so I figured I'd share it on the blog in case you missed it.

As you may know, I have no faith in the food industry.  NONE.  It is big business that cares more about money than your health.  TRUST.  So, I am always looking for healthier alternatives to overly processed bullshit.  Lately, I've discovered many things you can do with Greek yogurt.  Including make a delish honey mustard dressing that is free of preservatives and chemical additives.  Take a hike, high fructose corn syrup.  

- 3/4 cup individually sized plain Greek yogurt (brand of your choice.  I used Chobani.)
- Raw honey of your choice (buy local when you can!)
- Dijon or other deli mustard 

- Mix ingredients together until they taste the way you like it.

I keep it simple around here.  

I poured my dressing over some homemade chicken salad which included 2 baked chicken breasts, some red potatoes, green onions, and celery.  

Motivation Monday & Handlebar Palsy

After slacking a bit getting school in order and being sick, I've finally hopped back on the Ironman Augusta 70.3 training wagon with an intense weekend of endurance workouts.  

Saturday: Long Ride
I joined a group of about 15 cyclists for a 62ish mile round trip ride from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine.  There were two bridges en route (both long with gradual inclines, but still fairly steep), which will definitely help prepare me a little bit for the rollers on the Augusta bike course.  We held a 20-21 mph average the whole time, which, if you know me at all, is NOT how I typically roll. Literally.  Luckily I am a skilled drafter/slacker and hid in the back of the pack the whole time and never pulled.  We would've gone from 21 mph to 17 mph REAL quick.  However, I held my own and completed the whole ride in about 3 hours and 5 minutes, which is 5 minutes faster than my Ironman Florida 70.3 bike time and about 6 miles longer.  It was a great ride with great people and all was well, until I tried to rack my bike on my car to go home.  It was then that I noticed my left hand was stuck in claw-like form, and my ring and pinky fingers were tingling with numbness.  What had happened wuz, I had a death grip on my bike the entire time because I am a noob at group riding.  Plus, I have a tri bike, which are never welcomed in group rides.  I had to ride for 3 hours sitting up when I have never spent more than 5 minutes out of the aeros on my bike.  I lost nearly all grip strength in my left hand for the rest of the day!  It was incredibly difficult to hold my well-deserved post-ride beer.  I ended up consulting Dr. Google on what I could have possibly done to my hand and this is what I learned:

Handlebar Palsy- Essentially compression of your ulnar nerve through your palm, wrist, or elbow.  This nerve controls your pinky and ring fingers, as well as the majority of muscles in your hand in general.  When too much pressure is applied for too long, you may experience weakness and tingling in your affected hand.  Don't panic- this is common among cyclists.

Preventing Handlebar Palsy:
- Proper bike fit.  Make sure your bike is set up to accommodate YOU.  Don't accommodate your bike.
- Wear cycling gloves.  This cuts down on some road vibration and adds a buffer between palm and handlebar.
- Change positions!  This was my number one mistake.  I only used my right hand to shift gears or to grab my water bottle and snacks, while my left hand stayed tightly gripped on the bar.  Learn to remove and use both hands equally on rides.
- Stretch.  Throughout the ride, put your arm behind your back and touch your ring and pinky fingers to your thumb.
- If you do not heed my advice, then expect to have a tingly hand for about 2-3 days.

Sunday: Long Run & OWS
Sunday morning I set out on a mission to finally get my distance back up.  I have been focusing a lot on speed, and while I have been making great improvements in that area, my distance has been suffering.  I decided to throw pace out the window and just run 10 miles until I was done.  I chose a flat out and back course along the beach (on paved road, not sand) and took off before I could change my mind.  I ran with a friend and we took a short water/Gu break at mile 2.5, then another stretch break at mile 5. Mile 7.5 was our last water stop before finishing out the run.  Since we started the run close to 8 A.M., the heat was brutal from miles 7.5-10.  I ended up dropping my friend and picking up the pace for those last miles just to finish.  Total time was about 1:24 with an average pace of 8:23 min/mile.  I'll take it!

Immediately following the run, I hopped in the ocean with the triathlon club and did a 15 or so minute swim.

Then I went and had a margarita.

This week, I will be running short (4-5 mi and under) and fast runs, biking short courses (16-20 mi), and increasing my swimming and upper body strength preparing for my first open water swim race on Saturday, the Ocean Marathon!  It is a 1.2 mi or 2.4 mi point-to-point race in the ocean.  I am swimming the 1.2 mi option as practice for IM Augusta.

Stay tuned for open water swimming safety tips later this week!