Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2.5 weeks

Yesterday, Liz asked me for my race plan. Prior to every race, Liz requests that we write a detailed race plan. The plan includes everything you can think of: what are you eating the days leading up to the race; what are you eating race morning; what are you drinking; what is your warm up (if you have one); what is your strategy for each event; what will you do when things get tough. After we turn in our plans, she provides feedback based on how well she knows you and gives recommendations.

I can't believe that I'm at this point. In March, I had surgery. As I was recovering, I thought to myself, "If I can be ready for Boulder, I'm going to put everything I have into training".  In April, I was released to start training again.

I emailed Liz, "Do you think we can be ready for Boulder in 8 weeks?"

Her response: Absolutely.

Then, she told me, "It'll take 2-3 weeks to get back to your old paces. Don't worry about".

Two to three weeks. I let that sink in. That puts us at 5-6 weeks until race day.

Every day I went to the pool, I felt like a fish out of water. I wasn't fluid. I was flopping around. I was splashing more water out of the pool than I was actually propelling myself forward. It took everything in me to hold a 1:45 pace.

I ran. Or, I should say, "I ran". I felt like an elephant stomping down the street.

My legs didn't want to spin on the bike and getting my cadence to 90 was ridiculous.

I was swollen. I was bruised.

I kept going. I didn't judge myself for where I was. I wasn't hard on myself. Every day, I woke up and said, "Do you best every damn day".

It would have been so very easy to take the easy way out. There were times I seriously considered it.

"It's not going to matter if you cut this short. It's not going to matter if you go a little easier at masters. It's ok if you have dessert a few times a week. No one is going to know".

It was true. No one would know, but I would.

I was up early 3 days a week for strength training; grunting and groaning in my basement. I was swimming 3 days a week at masters. I was riding 4 days a week and running 4.

My swim coach started working with me more often. "Your hand needs to enter here. What's your thumb doing? Tighten your core. Out of the water, let's try this a different way. Pull deeper. You're starting too fast. Slow down. Let's try this again."

For weeks, I gave everything I had in the pool. Fitness gains are not linear. I knew I had to keep working at it. Every time I swam, I heard Andrew's voice, "Tighten your core. Squeeze! Pull deeper.Watch your hand."

Slowly, my pace went from 1:40 to 1:35. Then, I stalled. I stayed at 1:35 for weeks. More work with Coach. Swim with faster people. Every once in awhile, I would see a 1:33 pace, but it was fleeting.

It happened. After weeks of putting in the work, getting lapped, flopping around, wondering if all of this work would EVER be worth happened. I swam 6 x 100's in 1:30 with :05 rest.

One after another, hammering out 100's at the end of the workout when I was already tired.

And there was the bike....

Shortly after I came back from surgery, Liz scheduled a bike test. I think it was out of sheer determination that I managed to increase my power. I knew this would be my last test before the race.

I knew that in order to meet my goals, I needed a w/kg ratio of 3.2%. My previous test put me at 2.9%.

This bike test came in at 3.24%.

What about the run?

Long runs, speed work, hill repeats, mile repeats at the end of long runs, runs at faster than goal pace.

One by one, I checked off workouts. Every week, I saw little wins. I biked to the top of a zone and held on. I ran faster than HIM pace, when my legs were screaming at me to stop. I went beyond my comfort level in the pool and didn't back down.

Throughout all of this, I learned that every step of the way, Liz was showing me that "I can handle this. I AM strong enough".

Now, I'm 2.5 weeks out from my race. After seeing so many people freaking out about the race being close, I decided that I need to stay away from social media.

This time around, I'm in a different place.

I'm not thinking about missed workouts. I'm not thinking about what I could have done better.

Eight weeks ago, I didn't know that I'd be standing where I am today.

I put everything into this training.

Yesterday, Coach took me aside and said, "You are ready, Tea. You ARE READY". I felt tears welling up because for the first time ever....I knew he was right.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Outside of my comfort zone.

You may remember that several months back, I had a conversation with Liz about focusing on my bike. In my 12 years of racing triathlon, I've never had the opportunity to focus on my riding. With my limiter being the run, the thought process was "run more. run. run. run." (This was prior to me working with Liz).

I had this feeling that running more wasn't the answer. Running harder wasn't the answer. I really believed the answer was in my bike. 

I, also, believe this is why the coach and athlete relationship is so important. When Liz and I talked, she said (in not so many words), "Let's do it. We're going to hit the bike."

For the next few months, that's exactly what we did. Insane high intensity workouts on the bike. Of course, I was still running, but the running was different. (It felt different to me.).

We saw my bike power EXPLODE. Even better, we saw a massive jump in my running paces. 

When it was time to start 70.3 training, I was expecting to follow a very similar plan to the one I did a few years ago.

True to Liz form, she took me in a different direction. My training this time around has been completely different.....more riding....more riding with intensity. Long ride. Run off the bike. Ride longer the next day. Run off the bike again. multiple long rides of +4 hours this time around. Running. Running with intensity. Some long runs. But for the most part, I've found that I'm not hammering out miles like we did a few years back. (Did I mention that I'm still swimming?)

Now when I first started seeing my peak weeks show up on my plan, I knew there was a method to her madness. I saw immediately, the difference between this time around and my last 70.3. I got SUPER PSYCHED about riding 4 times per week with gut busting 130% FTP intervals and screeching pain of bouncing between 85% and 90% FTP intervals on long rides. 

For the first time ever, I started failing workouts. These workouts pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. There was a run last week where I failed to hit my zones/paces. I had a bike workout where I hung out at the low end of the ranges, feeling so tired and sore that I thought I couldn't take anymore.

Sure enough, Liz sends me an email that says, "Work the full range of the zones, Tea. You are strong enough. You CAN handle it."

It became my mantra.

"You are strong enough. You can handle it, Tea."

And I could. It has not been pretty, and I'm not done yet. For the first time, I've finished workouts in tears.....I don't know if they are tears of pain or just being so happy the workout is over.  I still have a few weeks of this insanity. I know she is going to continue to push me. 

I will do my best to rise to occasion, knowing that there are days that I might fail a workout here and there.

But nothing great comes out of being comfortable. Greatness comes from taking risks and being willing to fail. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The full monty

You all know about the work I've been doing on racing as who I am (today) instead of who I was.

Yesterday, I went back to look at my last 70.3 to look at what my paces were. I plan on posting those here as the race gets closer. This way on race day, anyone who is tracking me can have an idea of where I am during the race. I'm not focusing on time goals, but as someone who tracks's kind of nice to have an idea of what the day is like on the course. Weather and course conditions affects an athlete's overall times, but they will affect everyone's time.

But back to yesterday. Liz told me that my 3 hour ride + 30 min off the bike run was to put my entire race plan together. Try out all the gear, fueling, use race day cadence, sodium.

Lately, I've had emotional highs and lows. There are days where I feel great and days where I feel completely overwhelmed. This is because I have changed everything for this training cycle. There are a lot of unknowns for me.

I met with Dina (of course). I had my fueling strategy. I've had (repeat) sweat tests, and I've gone through sodium testing. Those things are set. She gave me great advice a few weeks ago for long runs.

After the conversation, I realized that I know what I need to do, but exactly how does it all work? HOW do I carry salt tablets and easily take them on the bike? (I know there are proud card carrying members of Team Base Salts, out there. Unfortunately, I cannot use base salt. It took me a year of using it to realize that some of my issues were directly related to Base. That's why testing is so so important.)  How do I carry my UCAN on the bike? Do I carry water with me on the run? Do I take water from aid stations?

I went back to Liz about running with water and without. I came up with a plan that I was going to use for my 3:30 workout.

It wasn't until the night before, that I came up with a plan for my fueling.

Here are some details about my fueling:

I need 28oz of water per hour and 600 mg of sodium (per hour).

2 scoops of vanilla UCAN 30 min before my workout.

1 scoop of Cocoa delite every 1:15. (I love the cinnamon, but I have found that some days it's upsets my stomach and some it doesn't. The cocoa gives me a higher success rate).

For 3.5 workout, that's 98oz of my UCAN. I can carry 4 water bottles on my bike. I need 3.5 bottles of water, but then I don't have any left for my fuel. How on earth am I going to make this work?

Then, I remember what Dina told me about long runs with ucan. Concentrate the UCAN and use these to carry it. That definitely works for running, but would it work for the bike? Do I have a tri kit with deep enough pockets where I don't have to worry about it falling out? (Cycling jerseys are completely different).

I check out the two tri kits that I was planning on wearing for race day. I fill a flask with water and put it in the tri kit pockets. YES! They fit snuggly.

That means, my water bottles are freed up for water. This also means that I will not have to slow down to refill at aid stations during the race. As the race goes on, my bike will get lighter and lighter.

The next issue I had to address was carrying salt stick tablets. I went through a variety of ideas. (I have a built in bento box on the bike, but for many reasons, bento boxes are less than optimal. They are great for carrying a variety of things....not so good for salt tablets).

For some reason, mini m&m's popped into my head. YES. A mini m&m container! I can carry an entire race worth of salt tablets. With that decided, I bought mini m&m's.....sadly.....a mystery man ate the m&m's. I didn't get to enjoy them myself.

Mini m&m container in the back pocket of my jersey.

NEXT! If you've done a 70.3 before, you know that regardless of weather, by the time you start fueling on the bike, your fuel is warm.  Because this is my first year racing with UCAN, I decided to mix it with warm up water, to make sure that the taste would still be palatable to me when it's not ice cold. My plan for race day is to freeze one flask over night. However, I have found that even freezing fuel, doesn't help. It always warms up.

Ok: Water issue resolved. Sodium issue resolved. Fuel resolved.  There's only one thing left: how to handle the run.

Carrying water is great, but coming off the bike when my legs will already be tired.....I want to avoid that.

Liz recommended walking the aid station. I started doing the math for various walking times, calculating my pace, how it would affect pace, etc.

I decided to test a :15 second walk every mile (or during my test run yesterday, every 10 minutes).

The general idea of my run was: 6 min easy/4 min at goal pace. So, walking fast and drinking water every 10 minutes seemed logical. BUT, is :15 enough time?

The workouts:
I woke up and had my breakfast and got ready to train. The bike workout was a success. I realized that some things were easier than others in aero position, but that for the most plan was solid. (Keep in mind, I don't use fuel at all for sprints. Olys are right on the cusp of needing fuel). I tried the m&m container in the bento box (FAIL), but it worked in my back pocket. I miscalculated my water intake the 2nd hour and ended up peeing TWICE. (To put this in perspective, an athlete should pee every 2-2:30 hours. That means you're hydrated. If you pee more, you drank too much water and not enough salt. If you pee less often, you are dehydrated.) Other than that, the day went well.

The run went great! I had my fuel belt on and every 10 minutes, I walked fast and drank my water. Then, immediately started running again. I felt great the entire run. Now, I know that I might not be able to take down my fuel in :15, but I will only have to do that once. During a 10 mile run a few weeks back, I was able to take the fuel while running. If I need more fuel, I will have Skratch chews.

The feedback from Liz:
I nailed the run, and my heart rate was very low for the pace. WIN. The run/walk went well, and I obviously fueled correctly to have such a strong run.

For the bike workouts, I was in the ranges I was supposed to be in. Once again, I was in the low end of the ranges.  Liz told me, "Work the full range. You can do this, Tea. You CAN." The workout was a build workout. This is why 1.) I need a Coach and 2.) I need data equipment. I know there are people who will go too hard, too often. I'm not that person. I will always take the easy way out (if I don't get feedback).

After the workouts, I started eating and recovering. I have a 1:50 run on Sunday. It's going to be painful, no matter what, but if I can make it even a little less painful by eating right.....I will.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Success is a choice

Many years ago, where did the time go--it seems like yesterday, I did P90X. I loved the workout.I don't know what kind of person Tony Horton is;  but in the videos, he always made me laugh.

There was one thing he said that stayed with me all of these years.

It was 4 simple words.


I can't tell you how many times I call on this quote. It's always like a slap in the face when I need it most. 

I have been asking Liz and Dina a number of questions lately.

I found out that I'm in the last wave to start on race day. No big deal, right? I have to plan food for that morning. I will be having breakfast around 3:30am. My start time won't be for 5 hours later. Obviously, I want to start testing out snacks now

The bike and run courses were changed. The bike course will be fast. (It always is). It plays to my strength (rolling hills & false flats). No major climbs, just enough to get to the top, fly down the other side and pretty much coast up the next hill.

The run changed but the difficulty remains the same. When I first signed up, I told Liz, "this is a course that I struggle with. There is some single track. There are hills. I always get beat up by this course."

I've had PRs on the run. Don't get me wrong. I still run just fine. When I say, "I get beat up", I mean, I haven't done my best.

One of the reasons that I haven't done my best, in any 70.3 really, is that I don't pace it correctly. The swim sets up the bike. The bike sets up the run.

Let me tell you about the issue I've had with pacing.

I could never figure it out. When I'm told, "start easy". "Start easy" means different things depending on the distance.

Start easy for a 5k off the bike means a half a mile at about :03-:05 seconds slower than goal pace. I get this. 

Start easy for a half marathon off the bike? This is where I falter. I tend to start WAY to slow, thinking I need to conserve energy.

This is why running road races and practicing in training is so important. When I ran my half marathon in Jan, I realized that I started too fast because I was so worried about not being able to make up the difference.

That would be true, except that racing isn't black or white....there's a whole lot of gray in there.

Interestingly, this is applicable to my swim and bike as well. My swim coach has been working tirelessly with me to get my pacing right.

Swimming in a pool is very different than open water swimming. In a pool, you can look at the pace clock. We don't have that in open water.

"Start slower, Tea. It's supposed to feel easy."

"Another 500. This time swim slower. It should feel stupid easy. We're going to start closing that gap on your starting and finishing paces."

"Watch the clock. Start noting effort for your pace at the start and your pace at the end. You won't have a clock in open water. Learning your effort is critical."

"Don't look at the clock. Tell me what your pace was."

Then, a few weeks back on the bike:

"Consistency is what we're working on here, Tea. Start here but end here. If you have too much power left at the end to surge, you didn't use enough at the beginning.We don't want surges....we want consistency."

Then, we get to the run.

Liz and I have talked endlessly about running and pacing. I'm starting to get it.

After one conversation in particular, I realized that she really believes in me. I've been doing the training. On race day, I have to trust my body to do what I have been doing in training.

It doesn't matter what my times were in the past. 

The only thing that matters is what I'm going to do now

Success is a choice. I'm choosing success.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Gotta love an artist with a trucker cap.

In March, I wrote this post about things I've learned. I have been thinking about that post a lot.

Last week was a recovery week. Coming off a build, I'm always thrilled to have a recovery week. Yet, the week of training feels a little off.

Mid week, I had a bike test. More improvement on the bike = very good thing. If we've seen anything, it's the improvement on the bike is resulting in much faster running paces.

For the first time, I got nervous about my race. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed. Pacing and fueling and start times and on and on and on.

Why was I nervous? I wasn't nervous at my last two 70.3's. (Granted they were awhile back). Now of all times, when things are going the way I want them to....why am I nervous now?

It's because for the first time in awhile, I am doing things the right way. It's probably the first time EVER.

I really didn't care about my last 70.3. I went into it half assed. Oh, I did the training. I put in the time, but I wasn't emotionally vested in the race.

This time, it's different. It's not in any way easy.

Meal planning. Negotiating my training schedule. Training with intention.

Somewhere in me, I've found a new determination, new thresholds that I wasn't willing to bust through.

Of course, for most workouts, no one sees the work. Sure you see the end result on Strava, but that's like looking up someone's race time. It tells you when they finished, but it doesn't tell you the story of their struggles. It doesn't tell you about the fight they went through for that time.

As the race nears, I've found that there are more distractions. I'm avoiding toxic athletes and talking with the most supportive athletes. What I'm doing is hard enough. I want to be around other people who are working their asses off to accomplish great things. I want to be around the athletes who focus on the process, their journey. The ones who do the work every day without complaining. The ones who take the hard days with a grain of salt and celebrate the little wins. The ones who are humble and support other athletes regardless of speeds and paces.

The ones who are doing everything they can. 
I never claimed to be the YOU GO GIRL type.