Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 in Review: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Since the end of 2011 is rapidly approaching, I figured I would do a post with the highlights and lowlights of the past year. A lot of people use this to post their "yearly numbers." I don't do that.. it's not my style and frankly, I don't know. I honestly couldn't even guess how many miles I've swam, biked, or run. A lot. End of story! So here is my year of memories, accomplishments, disappointments, and just plain stupidity! And a LOT of links to race reports and creepy blog friends (and some real life friends too). :)

The Good

I PRed in the half-marathon distance at the Flower City Challenge HM. Yes, it was only by 40 seconds, and it still didn't bring my PR to sub 1:40, but I was still excited.

I WON my first race at the Keuka Lake Sprint triathlon! It was a small race, but it was awesome to finally win something (I have been close before) and stand on the top of that podium.

I think I sprinted up there to get on that podium first!

I did 2 Ironmans in 3 months. 'Nuff said.

Not only did I meet Cait Snow, but I made it into her IMCDA race report (mention AND photo!!!!).

oh wait, you've seen this photo before? my bad :)

I added 5 states to the list of states I have been to which were: Washington, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Obviously, the only two I spent any real time in (other than driving) were Idaho and Wisconsin. Wisconsin I'd visit again in a second - Idaho, not so much.

My family came to a whole bunch of my races. My parents were there when I won Keuka, and they were there at IM Coeur D'Alene to help me out with my medical tent disaster. They missed IM Wisconsin but only because I didn't want them to have to stand around for a whole day at IM #3.

I bought an iPhone 4 which has basically altered my existence.

I moved to a new apartment! It's cleaner, nicer, homier, quieter, and there is no squirrel taking up residence with me and Fiona. Even though it's small, I absolutely love it there, and I am no longer embarrassed to have people come over to my home!

I read a ton of books in the past 12 months, thanks to the Kindle I got for Christmas last year. Some of my favorites include: Water for Elephants, The Hunger Games trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End. There are many, many more but those are some that I loved so much!

My friends have become an even more amazing part of my life this year. I actually maintained my social life (although it's not as exciting as some peoples' social lives I am sure) with trainer sessions/long rides with Kim, girls' nights with Ari and Sam, bar nights with Matthias, Amanda and Greg's wedding, and some fun outings with Solveig. I had a ridiculously fun race experience at mini-Mussel with Greg and Mary. I met a whole bunch of creepy internet friends: Jon, Mandy, Emily, Kevin, Anne-Marie, and Laurie. Also, 3 of my friends got engaged this year (Kerry, one of my long-time horse friends, Amelia, and Kim)!


I have begun to consistently ride Cherry again, which is something that has escaped me since this whole Ironman nonsense began in 2010. I am so much happier when I get to spend time at the barn and in the saddle, so I am going to try my hardest to make this work around my big training weeks in the summer. Plus, Cherry deserves the best care possible for as long as she's around! She has been such a great 4-legged companion for the past 17 years of my life. Really, she's the best horse I could ever ask for and I love her so much!

she is sooooooo awkward, just like ME!

The Bad

Despite my increased training, swimming more yards per week, more 6 hour bike rides, multiple 3 hour long runs, even with two attempts, I did not have the Ironman that I wanted. I wanted to PR, I wanted to go sub-12, and I wanted to run a good IM marathon. I was unable to do any of those things. I think I would have been happy if I had hit at least one of those goals, but I didn't. Regardless of the small victories that I had (the completion of two more Ironmans, figuring out long ride nutrition, the success of those 3 hour runs), my failure to meet my own goals has cast a shadow over much of the 2011 season. I know that is negative, and I know that people are not happy with my perspective on it, but that's the way it is. The best I can do is take what I have learned this year and apply it to the future.

Mary sold Train-This in the fall of 2011. Although this is definitely a personal achievement for Mary (she was invited to join the coaching staff of QT2 Systems, which she accept, and which we are ALL proud of her for), I am still sad about it. Train-This has become a family to me. We are so close; most of us are in Rochester so we raced together, went to training camp together, joked around on the google group, and saw each other in training hot spots like Mendon Ponds Park and Canandaigua Lake. Even though the friendships are still there, and I have followed Mary to QT2 (which I do believe will help me improve next season), it's different now. I loved that Train-This was a local, help-you-out kind of coaching service. It was affordable, it was flexible, there were no limits to how often I could text, tweet, facebook, email, or call Mary. You don't find service like that very often, where someone launches a business because they truly love it and aren't trying to make tons of money off of it. Since it has changed hands, the logo has been altered and the name has changed to T2 Multisport. Although I understand why the company has been madeover, it still bums me out that the Train-This that I have loved for 2 years is gone.

I spent all of my money on Ironman this year. Literally all of it. Between race entries, travel (flights to and from CDA and all that driving for IMOO), hotels, coaching, equipment (hello, Garmin 310XT), I came out of the race season with no extra money saved. I don't regret it because I believe that I should embrace opportunities that I may never get to experience again, but it has made things difficult for the past 3 months as I struggle to pay my regular bills. I didn't think I would be having this kind of trouble, but my coaching has increased in cost and I am now paying off a new laptop that I bought when I was forced to replace my Macbook that died in July. I am praying to the gods of triathlon that my year end bonus arrives both swiftly and plentifully!

The Ugly

I will be happy if I never have to see the inside of a medical tent again. Hours of my life were wasted inside the medical tent after IM Coeur D'Alene, begging for that sweet, sweet IV that fixed my dizziness and nausea when they finally gave it to me (hours after I first got carted into the tent). Between passing out in the changing tent and puking in the medical tent, my IMCDA post-race celebration was not very good. There was less dizziness at IMWI, but there was vomiting both during the run and after the race in my hotel room. Again, vomiting = NOT FUN.

dizziness FTW

I still hate wearing pants. Unfortunately, it's December, and even though it's been unseasonably warm, I can no longer lounge in my apartment sans pants because one thing I hate even more than pants? A high electric bill! I have moved on to the winter equivalent of no pant - giant sweatpants and/or a snuggie.

I am still single. (Which honestly, and I am really being totally honest here and not pretending in order to make myself feel better or to convince the world that I am "better off without men," is fine. I am happy enough with the way things are in my life). After last year, I swore I would swear off boys eternally (2010 was the year of two breakups). Which I sort of did. Because my choice in men is.. questionable. But then, you know, I get bored. Seriously. It's just boredom that makes me think I want to find a boyfriend. Oh yeah, and that looming deadline of being 30 that has been arbitrarily stuck in my head as the age to be married by (ummm.. I can tell you now.. that's definitely not going to be met). But.. I have nothing to show for my year except for a whole bunch of super awkward dates with a bunch of weirdos. Maybe I am ready for part 2 of this blog post? Luckily I have Matthias who is basically my pretend boyfriend because his girlfriend, Sabrina, lives in California, so he hangs out with me, which is perfect because I don't cross those kinds of lines, and I find him totally non-threatening because he's in a relationship!

In Conclusion..

I am (mostly) happy with my year. Meaning, I will look back on it fondly. It didn't have the ultimate highs that I got in 2010 (my big half-IM PR and my first Ironman), and it did have some disappointments, but at least I tried. I feel that most of the great parts of 2011 were actually NOT triathlon related, which is totally fine! Overall, I was more levelheaded, I felt like I knew more of what I was doing (training-wise), I handled working the night shift better, and I never had that post-Ironman depression that killed me in 2010!

On to 2012!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

winter is here, maybe?

Hey Winter,

6 days away from Christmas and you finally show your face! (Not that I am complaining about being able to wear my yoga capris and a hoodie to and from the gym in December). If I was actually running and had to acclimate to 20 degree weather straight from 60 degree weather, I would probably be bitching, but right now, all of my workouts take place in the comfort of my climate controlled apartment or the heated YMCA pool.

We actually saw some snow on Saturday!

I did some things this weekend. Some socializing in the form of dinner on Saturday with Matthias followed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's Christmas concert with Solveig. I rode Cherry. I rode my bike as well. I finished my Christmas shopping and once the final present arrives from Amazon.com, I will wrap them!

Week 2 of QT2 base phase is complete. I am done with my "adaptation lift" cycle and begin my "max phase lift" cycle tomorrow. Should be interesting! Gotta start building those leg muscles!

One huge difference between my training with QT2 and Train-This is that my rest weeks are no longer scheduled to fall on my first week of nights. Because my work schedule is on a 5 week rotation and QT2 has a pretty strict 4 week cycle with specific tapers and benchmark races along the way, I doubt it would even be possible to edit it to a 5 week rotation like Mary has done the past 2 years (Mary was a little more flexible with training cycles, races, etc in the Train-This days). Plus, if my work schedule changed, I'd be SOL. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just going to be different and I hope I do OK with training weeks that fall on that first week of nights. It honestly just depends on whether or not I can sleep. Unfortunately, last week AND this weekend did not go well sleep-wise, which stinks because I had been doing pretty well for the past few months. Maybe it's time to pick the Ambien back up for a little while.

FYI: My 28th birthday is exactly one month from today. SO if anyone wants to start thinking about the awesome present they're going to buy for me OR plan a surprise party, here's your heads up! :) Actually, for all of my local friends, I will probably organize a fun outing the Saturday evening after my birthday so that I can enjoy the company of my friends! Especially in January when everyone stays inside and becomes reclusive due to the weather, it will be fun to go out and socialize!! If I am have to accept that I'm in my late 20s, I might as well have fun doing it. :)

Friday, December 16, 2011


I have had an issue for a while when I am cycling. I never can seem to "hit" my target HR zones. When I was with Train-This, we used Joe Friel HR zones for both the bike and the run (I believe, Mary can correct me if I'm wrong) with a Z1 (recovery), Z2 (endurance), Z3 (tempo) and Z4 (short races). There was an offset between bike zones and run zones, like usual, and I still have a hard time understanding WHY there is an offset, but I attempted to follow these HR zones to the best of my ability. When I am running, I have no problem dialing into the required zone. I can run all day at my endurance zone, and I can hit and run at tempo pace when it's scheduled.

But I just CANNOT seem to ride in my cycling zones. For instance, my Z2 for last year on the bike were (approximately, I can't remember exactly) 142-162. So, for the majority of my rides (all my long rides, all IM bike splits) should be ridden at a HR somewhere in there. But, where do I tend to average my HR for long rides? In the 120s (if I'm lucky). This happens on the trainer, outside, all the time. During IM Wisconsin, the only triathlon where I have worn my HR monitor, I actually averaged in my Z2 (on the high side even) but this was a race situation AND it was hot as balls on that bike.

Mary figured that part of my issue with this (because it was an ongoing issue over 2 seasons) was that I was just cooked from 2 Ironmans in one year. Personally, I felt like I was just being too lazy on the bike. I felt like I was riding at endurance pace, based off of perceived effort, but it's hard to tell sometimes!

When I made the switch to QT2 two weeks ago, my HR zones changed to the QT2 system. They are ZR (recovery), Z1 (endurance), and Z2 (tempo). I ran a 5K in October and Mary used that data to structure my new zones. They are smaller and lower than the previous ones I used, so I thought that I finally might have a chance to actually ride in my endurance zone. My first bike ride in, I was absolutely determined to hit my HR zone, and I did it, by sprinting my ass off for 75 minutes. My Z1 was 134 - 145, and my average HR was 134. So even riding above my BSE (best sustainable effort) for 75 minutes, I BARELY made it into Z1. And I don't think I could ride at that intensity for much longer than 75 minutes, so that is going to prove to be problematic for long rides.

By this point, I was super frustrated.

That same day, I had posted a photo on facebook that I had taken with my iPhone. The photo was of this index card I had decorated with my HR zones so that I could sit it in front of me and stare at it while on the trainer - just another safeguard against slacking (because that's what I thought was going on). A QT2 teammate, Keith, that I am friends with through Mary commented on the photo about how my HR zones are higher than his (my Z1 is his Z3) and he said that he also had trouble riding in his HR zones, and said that it is common for runners who are used to using our entire bodies when we work out, so when we have to use just our legs, we have a harder time because we lack leg strength.

I wanted to run this theory by Mary, so I hopped over to the QT2 forum and posted a question for Mary with some background (for other members who read the forum), my "conversation" with Keith, and asking what her thoughts were on the matter. Sidenote: because I am a QT2 Mission Plan Athlete, things have changed a little bit since being a Train-This athlete. Questions about training, races, switching workouts, and other questions in general are posted to Mary's QT2 forum instead of emailed to her directly (if you want that kind of communication, you have to be a 1:1 athlete, but I can't afford it). It works out fine because Mary is very diligent about checking the forum and answering questions, and you can also see what other people post and her answers to their questions. Also, since she is now one coach among other coaches, she can actually brainstorm problems her athletes are having with other knowledgeable people in search of answers. I believe this is what Mary did, since her and I had no idea what was going on last season.

 Long story short (ok actually it's long, sorry!) we think the problem is a lack of leg strength. It's kind of crazy when you think about it, because I don't look like I lack strength in my legs. I am pretty solid, my quads are pretty big, and I've done a LOT of training the past 3 years. But, this also does make sense to me. I might be strong endurance-wise but in terms of actual strength, I don't have a lot. I think this is why my quads blow up in marathons, IM marathons, and even at the end of a hilly long run.

To try to fix this, Mary is going to have me doing a lot of lower body max phase strengthening exercises (and I think my max strength phase is going to be extended) and a lot of low cadence, big ring trainer rides over the winter. I am just glad that this problem has been figured out, that it's not my fault, and that there is a solution that will hopefully make me a stronger, faster athlete!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

oh runner's knee

I ran for the first time in 13 days on Wednesday. I had posted about some knee pain after Running for the Diamonds on Thanksgiving Day, so I wanted to give my knee ample time off to heal. Turns out, 13 days is not enough. Two miles into my run, my knee started to twinge. As I turned around and headed back home (it was dark, cold, and I was wearing knickers and a long sleeved shirt so I ran) it continued to get worse. I kept hoping something would click into place and the pain would go away, but nope. 2 weeks, 2 runs, 2 encounters with knee pain, I don't like where this is going.

After walking in my apartment and kicking off my shoes, I immediately posted this concern on the QT2 forum (I guess I never published a post saying that I had started with QT2.. whoops) and Mary immediately put me on the run injury protocol, which is basically taking all of my run volume, and putting half of it on the bike (the other half gets eliminated). I iced and elevated my knee after running. When I woke yesterday morning, it was stiff. Not as bad as after the race, but it hurt to walk on and I basically gimped around work for the first 2 hours, then it slowly got better as I moved around more. I also made a doctors appointment for the afternoon to rule out any real damage.

Fast forward to 3:45 pm, I was in the doctors' office for literally 5 minutes. The doctor looked at my knee, had me crouch, had me stand on my tiptoes, and then deemed it Patella-Femoral Pain Syndrome AKA Runner's Knee.

The verdict is: no running for the rest of December. Pool running is ok, cycling is ok, swimming is ok. When I do ease back into running, I need to stay on flat, soft surfaces (such as a treadmill or the canal path).

I am annoyed that I put myself into this situation (running a hilly 9 mile race without the required training) but really, it's probably the best case scenario and hopefully I will be up and running (literally) in a few weeks!