Monday, May 12, 2014

TJ's backyard: Racing in Monticello's Half Tri

"Give about two of hours every day to exercise, for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong." 
--Thomas Jefferson

The past 9 months had left me exhausted and sleep-deprived. I wasn't training as much as last year - a full-time job and full-time Master's program aren't conducive to endurance tri training! Still, I came into MonticelloMan thinking I might be able to slip in a sub-30 swim and hoping for a 1:38-ish half-marathon. Not quite the day I hoped for, but the first race of the year always makes me antsy to race more!! 


Le Swim: Swimming through sticks and into the sun
1.2 mile swim: 31:29 (2nd female) 

Deb Hopkins and I lined up for the beach start with our comrades. Surprised to see how small the field was, and both Deb and I giggled that maybe, just maybe, we might land on the overall podium this year! 

Quick start, caught onto a pair of fast feet, and held them until the first turn buoy. Murky waters made it difficult to enjoy the swim, and I kept swimming into clumps of floating sticks. The aftermath of a storm several days before! I found Deb's feet after the first turn and held them - thanks for the draft, Deb! After the final turn, I focused on strong and solid strokes, sighting off of the men from the wave before us. It was impossible to see the buoys or the beach exit, since the sun was glaring right into my squinty Asian eyes. Egads

Finally saw the dock and exited 2nd female outta the water. Saw Loren - congrats to her on a recent pregnancy announcement!! - and did a quick wetsuit strip. Spermie onto my head; Garmin clicked on; velcro-ed my feet into the shoes. I yelled at Deb that we had a woman ahead of us to catch as I ran away with Penelope to start tackling my weakness: the BIKE! 

Post-note: I have this very weird obsession with swimming sub-30s for a half and sub-hour for a full. Swimming is the sport I have the most confidence in, and it makes me pissed every time I don't meet my goal. I could blame the slight choppiness or the sun, but really, if I got my butt into the pool more during the winter, I'd be a stronger swimmer. Can't wait for Haines Point to open so I can find motivation to be a fish again! 


The longest bike ride of the year: Hills, wind, and getting dropped 
56 mile ride: 3:03:25 (7th female??)

Every year, every race, I vow to myself that I will learn to bike. I will learn to pedal with power. I will learn to attack hills and not fear wind or descents. 

But it hasn't happened yet. I'm not sure why I struggle so much with the bike. There doesn't seem to be any real technique; you make the wheels turn faster and you go faster. I still remember when Bart first gave me a power meter; I thought it was broken because it was stuck at 80 watts. Stupid thing! Useless Garmin, I thought, can't even read my sure-to-be-200+ wattage. Sure enough, the only thing that was broken were my short and stubby legs - full of slow-twitch fibers but no fast-twitch power muscles anywhere in this frame. It takes extreme concentration and effort for me to burst through the triple-digit wattage. Sigh.

So for the entire bike race, every time I heard the swoosh-swoosh of race wheels closing in on my 650s, I would pray to the Buddha that it was a male. But as the miles ticked on, the females closed and gave sweet smiles of victory as they pedaled past me. 

OK, OK...so they passed you...you'll get them on the run, I told myself. But by the time I was on my second loop, the wind had picked up...and me and the wind are NOT friends on the bicycle. Just get off the bike and run people down, I thought, trying to focus on my calories. 

Nutrition for the bike: 
This year, the Snapple Triathlon Team picked up a new sponsor: Osmo Nutrition

Wooohoooo!!! What a fantastic product to work with!!! Preload, Active, and Post hydration mixes all taste fantastic (number one priority). Osmo had been stellar during my marathon, and it worked for the Monti half as well! 

2 bottles of Active Osmo mix: 200 calories 
1 Clif Bar (Choco Chip, classic!) and one Honey Stinger bar: ~450 calories 
3 Clif Shot Blox (athlete's candy): 100 calories
Total liquid cals (200) + Total solid cals (550)= 750 calories 

Eating on the bike is always a highlight for me. Let's be honest, though - eating anything, anytime makes me happy. 

Into T2 - and spectators told me I was 5th female. Time to run some cyclists down! Mizunos on, tucked my extra shot blox into the bra, and then found my way to the Port-a-Potty to take a leak. 

Running with a Human God 
13.1 mile run: 1:42:11 (2nd female) 

Since my beloved Mizuno Ronins had worn thin and the model had been discontinued, I converted to the new Hitogamis.

Hitogami translates to Human God, which is a bit too other-worldly of a shoe name for my liking. Whatever. I love this shoe despite its egotistical name. 

Love love love. It fits like a glove. It's as light as the Ronin. It has yellow, my favorite color. It doesn't feel like a weight but gives just enough cushioning to sustain my feet for a half-marathon (I think it would work pretty damn well for a full as well!). 

I hadn't done any practice BRICK runs - the last run I'd done off the bike was at IMMT last year. How quickly I had forgotten (perhaps intentionally??) what it feels like to run on feet disconnected from my quads!! I couldn't get the turnover I wanted, and even though my cardio/breathing was fine and I focused on picking up the pace, I didn't settle in until about mile 5. 

Started to run down the chicks that had gotten me on the bike. Around mile 10, I felt really strong and confident - and spectators told me I was 3rd female. Yeah, man, why hadn't this surge kicked in earlier? Let's chase #1 and 2!!! 


Alas, this doesn't have a fairy tale ending, and I wasn't able to catch Ms Long Legs (1st place) or Kendra's look-a-like (2nd place). I look like a midget next to these two! 


Final Monti Half: 
5:19:52
3rd Female
13th Overall

Best part of the race was the final 1/4 mile. Zack, Munchies, Kraft, Lee, and KGo were there at the corner, screaming at me to put some gusto in my step. Always nice to have a cheer squad!!!  

Thanks to Loren Bazualdo for some race pics, and congrats to her and hubby Dan for their recent announcement: a lil' one cookin' in da belly! 

And congrats to Deb Hopkins - first place AG and comrade in suffering through work and school full-time. You are a rockstar and I don't know why we're smiling so widely in this pic - especially when we both went straight home and started working on finals! 

A shout-out to Kendra (3rd place female in the Oly! - and ran with me for a short stint as part of her post-race workout!!), Munchies (Champion of the Oly!), Kraft, Dez and Holly Tompkins on their MontiMan Oly races! 

And the tri community is such a wonderful place to meet new faces with similar passions...Mark and Lee rocked it at the Oly! 

OK...so what's next...not too sure! Just basking in the aftermath of graduating with my Masters and now have to figure out which races to sign up for. Most likely Williamsburg Rev3 Half and Wisdom Oak Winery Tri! 

I also have a mission to try every Talenti Gelato flavor before the end of summer. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rockn' and Rolln' through my First Marathon

I kinda knew what to expect for my first marathon. A "huge" hill at mile 6 up to Calvert, an emotional depression when marathoners peel off from the half-marathon course and continue into Anacostia for the second half of the course, and the inevitable knives in the quads. Race day came around and I felt ready - both mentally and physically!

Race morning was perfect. Low 40s, clear skies, and low winds. Given the tough and extended winter the DC area has had this year, I was running in shorts and a tank for the first time in 2014! Drank my Osmo (best hydration mix ever!) before driving over with Bart to the start!

Socks as mittens and a couple dudes thinking I'm way too excited pre-marathon!
Goal coming into this race was to qualify for Boston. I know, I aim HIGH!!! haha. BQ for my age group is somewhere around 3:35. My twin sister Phebe is moving to Boston in July 2014, and we'd been talking about both running Boston in 2015.

20,000 half- and full-marathoners lined up!

Miles 1-6: Kept it easy at an 8:00 pace that later turned out to officially be 7:56 pace for the first 10K. Phebe had told me to run with the 3:30 pace group, but I moved up a corral and never saw the pace group the entire run. 

I saw teammates Bryan Frank, Jenny Leehey and Steph Ewert on a switchback on Memorial Bridge. I think my sudden eruption of their names from the other side of the bridge caused slight heart palpitations to the people next to me. 

Hill leading up to Calvert was FUN! Lined with locals and cowbells on both sides and I had expected far worse. Hallelujah, after the ascent came the slow and steady descent!! 

Miles 7-12: Tried to keep even at an 8:00 pace and enjoyed the crowds through DC. Legs felt fine, I was keeping reserves in the bank for the last half, and the weather was starting to warm up. Hey! This marathon thing ain't too bad! I'm still enjoying myself and giving 5-year-olds high-fives!

Handed off my arm warmers to Bart when I saw him! 

Mile 12.5: The lanes divided in half - the left half for the half marathoners and the right side for the marathoners. Talk about being in the minority. A pack of ladeez that I had been running with abandoned me as they picked up their pace and dug down for their last half-mile. It was just me and a dude whose shirt I kept reading and re-reading for the next 5 miles: some quote from the Bible about Christ and something about the Philippians. I kept looking at that word - 'Philippians' - and made up stories in my head about its relation to the Philippines. 

Halfway point (13.1 miles) - 1:43:30. I silently hooray-ed to myself. Slightly ahead of target, but feeling strong and confident! 

Miles 13-16: The dwindled race field made things lonely...even boring. I picked up the pace a little and aimed for a 7:45 pace. I felt fine and dandy. The sun was starting to peek out and I was so happy that I'd gone with shorts and a tank. There were a few marathoners with long sleeves or capri tights and I wasn't jealous of them one bit! 

Engility reunion...Daniel Head raising the roof
and my heel-strike in full action!
Around mile 14 or 15, I caught up with my lucky leprechaun coworker Daniel Head. He was in full-on St Patty's Day mode...kudos to him for running in a tutu and a wig! 

Miles 17-20: Enter the pain cave. My quads started to feel as if they were stabbed with invisible knives. The pain wasn't intense enough to cause me to stop or even slow down, but I did think about whether it'd get any worse and deteriorate into quad cramping issues. 

I cursed silently to my quads. They had held up fine in my two 20-mile runs during peak training - and now at mile 17, they decided it was payback time. I mentally blocked the pain by focusing on catching up to a chick in a pink tank ahead of me. Once I passed her, I focused on a girl wearing a Harvard tanktop who was knock-kneed. 

Miles 21-25: These weren't dull butter knives anymore; these were full-on, freshly-sharpened Wusthof steak knives stabbing my quads. Youch! I tried to pick up the pace and focus on not letting my hips drop. Just trying to think of maintaining a strong push-off and even hip balance helped me to block *some* of the pain from my quads out. OK, I could do this! I tried to keep a consistent 7:45 pace but my official chip time shows that I actually slowed to an 8:01 pace the last 10K. 

The lower the visor, the further into the pain cave I am.

Mile 26: The stadium was in sight! That hideous structure suddenly looked so appealing! I was finito. But then I saw Bart at the peak of a "hill" (more like a highway ramp) and got a final burst of energy. I was gonna do this and finish strong! 

Mile 26
Final turn was downhill ("yee-owch!" screamed my quads) and merged with the half-marathoners. I tried to kick it in for the last 200 yards, but in reality I was just swinging my arms just a bit more erratically. But I felt like I was flying through that finish line!!!! I heard cheers of "Go, Snapple!" and I did a thumbs up! 

Official finishing time: 3:25:43. 
Finished 25th Female!

Perks: 
  • Negative split! 
  • Boston qualified! 
  • Still have all my toenails! 
Non-perks: 
  • Can't walk down stairs! 
  • No ice cream at the finish line! 
  • Had to walk a mile and a half back to the car.  
No ice cream in the post-race grub but got a Chocolate Milk...has never tasted better!!! 
Nutrition: Took a Clif Shot Block every 4 miles. Managed to muster down 2 Clif Mocha gels - nursed them for about 3 miles each. A sip of water at every aid station. Finished a little dehydrated but no stomach issues!

Post-race Interview: A Run Washington staff stopped me as I was chugging water and asked about my race. I blabbered on about how it felt while stuffing my face with potato chips. Some snippets of my interview here!

A shout-out to Phebe - best friend and coach! Little do people know that my twin sister is a 2-time Olympic Trials marathoner...her training plan got me to my goal time!
And, of course, Bart! What a stud - he made me laugh every time I saw him on the course. 

Super Congrats to teammate Courtney Fulton and coworker Daniel Head who also ran the full marathon!!! And teammates Jenny Leehey, Steph Ewert, Bryan Frank, Stephanie Brown and Holli Finneren who ran the half! 

That night, I celebrated by hobbling my way to a bachelorette party for my friend Dawn Riebeling, who ran the half and PR'ed! A cooking lesson, a four-course meal, and some great wine and conversation was the perfect way to cap off a tiring day! 




Monday, November 18, 2013

Mizuno Women's Run Shoes: The Full Monty

I'll admit it: I play favorites. And one of my favorite sponsors for the 2013 season is Mizuno

For the past decade, I'd run in Asics. Asics everything: GT 2000, Gel Kayano (Models 12-18; see how loyal I am?!?!), Gel Nimbus, Gel Cumulus, and, finally, the Gel DS Racer. I probably should have invested more in Asics stocks given my commitment to the brand. 

I loved my Asics and never wanted to part with them. But after battling a hamstring injury for 2 years, I was willing to try anything different (except aqua-jogging). 

Mizuno's sponsorship of the Snapple Tri Team couldn't have come at a better time!

I've ran in and fell in love with the five models of Mizuno running shoes that clutter my closet. It's like a rainbow of running happiness everytime I look at my shoe closet! 

Here's the run-down with links to Mizuno's site: 


Not different colored shoes, Silly! Both Bart and I have the Sayonaras,
so thought I'd show the gender discriminating colors of these great shoes :) 
If I could choose just one shoe to train, race, do everything in, I'd pick the Sayonara. As a former (and sometimes current, when I'm lazy or tired) heel-striker, I needed to go with a lower heel-toe drop to train myself to mid-foot strike. 

Pros
  • The Sayonara has a 10mm drop - perfect for me in the transition from a 12- or 14-mm drop! 
  • Lightweight. 7.1 oz. Meant for the neutral runner. That means severe pronators or supinators would NOT enjoy this shoe and in fact might risk injury. I actually run with Superfeet insoles in all my running shoes, which is supposed to provide more heel stability and help with my very slight pronation. 
  • Roomy toe box and forefoot. Just what I need!!! 
  • Grippies on the bottom toebox of the shoe are PERFECT - you can feel the grab even when running on pavement! 
Cons
  • Have heard fellow teammates complain that the Sayonaras aren't as well-ventilated as other running shoes. I personally haven't run into this problem, but heavy feet-sweaters, be forewarned! 
  • Wears more quickly than other training shoes (like the Precision, which the Sayonara replaces), but no shoe is meant to last forever!
  • Pricey at $120 retail. 

This is happiness in a running shoe.
Pros
  • Yellow. Enough said. 
  • Use these for racing half-marathons or shorter. Absolutely feel like I'm flying when I lace these babies up! 
  • Only weigh in at 5.8 oz, but amazingly my feet have never felt like there's not enough support/cushion/oomph to the shoe despite it's extremely light weight. 
  • Same heel drop as Sayonaras at 10mm - so when I switch between the two, my feet aren't confused. 
  • Same wonderful grippies on the sole as the Sayonaras - except there are more of them! Even on the road, I feel like these have awesome traction. 
  • Roomy all around for my extra-wide feet. 
Ran my way to a half-marathon PR in the Ronins!
I told my parents, "Just look for the bright yellow shoes and Snapple visor!" 
Cons
  • Lasts less than 150 miles. I went through my first pair FAST. 
  • I'd imagine that anyone who severely pronates/supinates or is a heavier runner would need more support than the Ronins offer. 
  • On the more expensive side at $105 retail, given these shoes have a much shorter lifespan than normal.

3. Wave Precision 


The bad news: the Wave Precision has been discontinued by Mizuno. Thousands were angry, taking to the streets in riot. Just joking. But I would have if Mizuno would not have followed up with this: 

The good news: It was replaced by the Wave Sayonara. 

People (especially runners) don't like change. We're used to rhythm and monotony. But the Wave Sayonara somehow successfully improved on the best lightweight trainer (yes, that would be the Precision) and came out with a running shoe that's like a Cervelo frame: something that, quite frankly, can just switch colors every year but nothing - absolutely nothing - about the shoe's biology needs to change. 

So! You can't buy the Precision anymore and even if you find it on Amazon or Zappos, you really should be buying the Sayonara. 



The Wave Riders took off in sales after Wendy Davis made them famous. Calling these shoes a "symbol of the talisman of feminism and political voice" (that's seriously what the Daily Beast called them) is a poetic exaggeration that makes me puke a little, but I shan't take away from the awesomeness of both Wendy Davis and of Mizuno Wave Riders. 

Not my favorite running shoes, so please find other shoe reviews if you are looking for a rosier picture:

Pros
  • A favorite among runners! Flexible for nearly all runner types - it's a neutral shoe but due to its internal forefoot overlay and structured support in the heel and midfoot, it works well for pronators and heavier runners. 
  • Great for any distance. 
  • Lifetime is 3-4 times that of the Sayonara or Ronin!
  • Standard 12mm heel drop 
  • Well-priced at $115 retail and will last the standard 500 miles. 
Cons
  • Too bulky. Keep in mind that I love the lightness of the Sayonaras and the Ronins, so the extra ounce on the Wave Riders made a huge difference to me. Wave Riders weigh in at 8.2 oz but feel like they weigh twice as much as the Ronins.
  • Less flexible overall - my foot craves that "in a glove" feeling I get from the Sayonara and Ronins, so I'm a bit spoiled and feel like I'm wearing a box when I put these on. 
Snapple Tri Girls sporting our Mizuno Wave Riders! 



Man, these are the lightest imaginable. Like nothing. Like air!!!

Pros: 
  • 6.2 oz. 
  • Designed to help someone transforming to a midfoot strike (me!!)  - Mizuno reps stressed that this is NOT a minimalist shoe. Instead, it's a shoe meant to encourage your foot to mid-foot strike by providing more cushion in the forefoot, a 0mm drop, and a wider toebox. 
  • I've only used this shoe for shorter workouts 3 miles or less. To be honest, the weight and lack of structure - you can bend this shoe in half!! - scared me, but after running in this shoe, I'm quite in love. Would NOT recommend these for any longer training runs, but I've worn them in a 5K race and they hold up FINE! 
  • I believe that these have successfully helped me to become less of a heel striker. 
  • Great air ventilation on these as well - I've worn them sockless!
Cons: 
  • NOT for longer distances or heavier runners!
  • Almost no support
  • Pricey at $120. 
That's it! I love our sponsorship with Mizuno. For the first time in 3 years, I'm running injury free and getting compliments at races constantly on how bright my shoes are! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Magic in Whistler (as a Sherpa)!!!

Less than a week after we flew home from Mont Tremblant, we were off on another IM-bound journey to Canada. Nasty weather detoured our flight and our journey ended up being more than 24 hours until we landed exhausted in our hotel in Whistler.

Did the usual pre-race ritual of expo (no, we don't need a $50 pair of compression socks) and packet pickup (oh, Bart, we have matching backpacks now!!!) and then a splurge meal because, hey, we needed our iron! 


A little meander to Green Lake 
A cool bit about Whistler: Mountain Biking! This lil' kid was doing his first off-road ride, according to Proud Dad. And the ski slopes of Whistler serve as mountain biking courses during the summer!




Saturday: Bart was in complete taper mode, which meant movies in the hotel. I have a very unsuccessful record of staying awake during movies, so I decided that I'd go out and explore these beautiful mountains rather than snore and slobber.

During my entire 3-hour hike to Singing Pass in the Garibaldi Province, I saw only four people. It was fantastic!!! 

Love getting above the tree line!!

Little Mountain Hut...it was empty except for some empty bottles! 

Snow in August!?!?!

Glacier-tipped ranges and lakes

It was quite windy and cold up here!

When I showed Bart this picture, he said, "I've never seen a penis mountain before."

Summit of Whistler Mountain

Cheakamus Lake in the background

Cheakamus Lake - highlight of Saturday!

Red mountains - reminded me of Colorado 
Symphony Lake 
Harmony Ridge Lake 
Got home late from the hike and proceeded to shovel down chicken and rice, popcorn, trail mix, and leftover bagels. Bart kept asking when I was going to stop eating, but I was so hungry! Maybe altitude affects your appetite, too?

We hit the sack early, and the next morning we woke up at 5AM. I snuck onto the athlete's shuttle bus to take to-be-Ironmen to Alta Lake, where green and pink caps adorned the entire beach.


I couldn't pick out Bart from the thousands in matching wetsuits and swim caps, so I stood in the front row of spectators, shivering and sporadically yelling, "Go, Bart! Good luck, Bart! I love you, Bart!" 
Tip to Sherpas: when the athletes are all clumped together and you have no idea who is who, just scream your athlete's name. Bart later told me that he heard someone cheering from him before the swim start - I took the credit ;) 

Bart out of T1
An hour and change later, Bart emerged from the swim and into the change tent. I pushed through strollers, dogs, and lumbering spectators to rush to the bike exit, and got to see him before he set off for the rollercoaster roads of Whistler.
Looking strong on the bike at 60K!

Bart passing the traffic jam that lined Highway 99! 
Cheering for Bart on the bike was a bit of a pain, since Whistler is a one-loop course. I managed to see him twice on the bike before he set off for the run, which was good enough for me. He was quickly gaining ground on the stronger swimmers, and I lost track of what AG place he was in because there were just too many compression socks covering people's calves!

Bart looking happy at Mile 1 of the run! 
Still happy during the first loop! 
Yeah, kid, I know, my boyfriend's a STUD.
I took a quick trip to Whistler's Farmer's Market while Bart did a very long loop on the run course...

Happy to see that he had passed two people in his AG! 
Cloud cover...the guy behind Bart didn't look too cheerful! 
"That's him! That's Bart!" I exclaimed to the ladies next to me as we stood near the finisher's chute.
Each time I saw Bart on the run, I was so thrilled with how strong and steady his pace was. I constantly asked fellow cheerleaders to "check 196 on ironmanlive.com" since I wanted to have reliable stats to yell at him.

I had no idea how many Kona slots would be given to his age group of 35-39, but hoped for the best. When I saw Bart come down the finisher's chute, I started to cry. Just a little, not enough to embarrass myself. I (correctly) thought that he had finished 7th in his AG and (incorrectly) thought that there were only 4 or 5 Kona slots in his AG. I crossed my fingers that I had somehow misread some calves and he had finished 5th or higher. I thought to myself that somehow, maybe, we could go to Rolldown and Bart could get a slot to the coveted World Championships.

Official finish time 9:41

Exhausted and ecstatic (the ecstatic doesn't quite show in this pic...) 
Three minutes later, I was hugging a sweat-soaked Bart. And then I started crying again when he told me that he thought there were 7 Kona slots in his AG. This time, it was the embarrassing kind of crying. 

Although Bart didn't take his Kona slot, the race was a BLAST and it was a huge accomplishment to finish in the front of such a tough field! And, during Rolldown, I got to meet the guy who got a M35-39 Rolldown slot. He was from Salt Lake City!!!! Such a small world :)