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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends

Finding others to exercise with makes a workout more fun and sometimes challenges us to do more than we might do on our own.

If I tried to do all twenty or so hours a week of Ironman training all by myself, I don't know if I would get through it.

While I do a long run alone at the crack of dawn , and a 1-2 hour bike ride alone one evening per week, I have a number of workouts with others.  I join a coached pool swim, a group ocean drill swim, and I usually find people for my long bike ride.

My weekly e-mail to several women in my tri club who cycle at about my pace goes something like this: 

"I'm doing 112 miles, starting at PCH and Temescal at 7:00 am, meeting up with the PCH 101 ride at 8:30, heading out past the Oxnard fruit stand to Ventura, and then turning around and coming back.


I'd be eager to have someone start with me at Temescal, or start at Zuma and ride out past Oxnard with me, or ride with me at the end, or join me for any amount of time on the ride. Let me know if you're in :)"

There's no one on my exact schedule, but usually I can find people to ride pieces of the ride with me.  Thank goodness for my friend Lee who accompanied me for at least two thirds of my 125-mile ride a few weeks back.  It was fun talking to her as we rode up toward Ventura.  While her strength is riding on flat roads, mine is on hills, and she really pushed me on the flats of the ride.  And, as we got tired out we took turns drafting off one another to give each other a break. 

Similarly, though even if you're not training for an Ironman:  Use the buddy system.  It makes exercise a whole lot more fun.

Monday, June 28, 2010

One Month until Ironman Lake Placid

I look forward to becoming an Ironman.  But, I don't think I need to do another one.

It wasn't until yesterday that I truly got excited about this adventure.  Several of my friends raced Iroman Coeur D'Alene yesterday.  I tracked their progress online and watched the live feed at the finish line.  It is quite fascinating -- the live camera captures everyone after they cross the finish line.  The announcer states the names of the finishers, so that when I cross the finish line (and I will!), he will say, "Heather Shenkman, You are an Ironman!"  People looked tired, but they definitely looked elated to finish.

This weekend, I rode 75 miles on my bike on Saturday.  On Sunday, I swam a total of 2250 yards and ran 16 miles.  Next weekend, I get to ride 112 miles then run 6 miles on Saturday, and on Sunday swim 2 miles and then run 15 miles.

It is interesting how my skills have evolved with my training.  Surprisingly, I've become a faster swimmer.  Through coached swimming and a few pointers, my swim stroke has improved and I am faster than I was at the beginning of the season.  On the other hand, I'm a slower runner.  I haven't done any speed work at the track for months, but then again, that's not necessary when training for an endurance event like an Ironman.  While my long run pace earlier this year may have been 9:30-9:45/mile, I find myself chugging along at 10 minutes per mile or slower, and after a long swim or bike, my pace for 15-16 miles may be closer to 11 minutes per mile.

I've been contemplating my nutrition during the race.  I've found that a Tofurky sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce, tomato, and avocado fuels me well.  I have also found that I can wrap this sandwich in foil and duct tape it to my seat post for consumption later on in my ride.

The event is sponsored by PowerBar, which is a bit of a dilemma for me as a vegan.  Their Ironman Perform electrolyte beverage, which they've sent samples of to all of us since it's not available in stores yet, fuels me well for my long workouts.  But, the PowerBars contain dairy, as do several of the energy gels.  That means I'll have to carry more food on my bike, which shouldn't be a problem.  I'll have one Tofurky sandwich, one PBJ, a PureFit bar, and some Clif Blocks.  I'll also take a banana, which I usually consume in the first hour on the bike.  On the run, I usually go with less solid nutrition, like the blocks and gels.

I've figured out my goal times:  1 hr 30 minutes for the swim, 7 hrs 30 minutes for the bike, and 5 hours for the run.  That should put me well toward my goal of finishing in under 15 hours.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Turmoil in the Water

I like to think that after three years of living as a triathlete in Southern California, having swam in the ocean dozens of times, that I'm an adept ocean swimmer.

Then again, sometimes in multisport training, we have experiences that humble us.  Today was one of those days.

Today was scheduled to be my first two mile open water swim before Ironman Lake Placid.  Now, granted, I've swam nearly two miles in a pool, but an open water swim is a bigger challenge without the walls of a pool to push off of.

I ran into my coach and started chatting with him as the group ambled down the beach to start swimming.  He cut me off, "Not to be rude, but you need to catch up to those people, so start running."  Or something like that.  And I realized, the superstars who planned on swimming two miles were far ahead of me, jogging down the beach.  I took off after them.

I arrived, catching my breath as the two mile group was suiting up.  The group was mostly men, and those who I recognized were definitely what I would consider to be elite athletes.  My friend Gail, who I would say is part fish, was getting ready to do the two miles.  Knowing my relative speed was quite a bit slower than the rest, I asked her to tell me if anyone there might be around my pace, and she introduced me to someone named John, who I asked to keep an eye out for me, though I knew that Gail would look out for me at the end even though she is considerably faster.  For ocean swims, we use the buddy system -- given the possible dangers of the ocean.

The group headed in.  The waves were bigger than usual.  Some of the elite types dove on in and headed out like it was nothing.  Being from the Midwest (or at least that's what I use as my excuse), I tend to get into the ocean a bit slower.  John dashed off.  Gail was quick behind him.  The rest were well ahead.  And there I was -- me and the waves.  Big waves.  One after another.

One thing I've learned is that if you see a big wave coming, go with it.  Put your arms straight out in front, tuck your head, and dive under it.  Do not turn to the side.  Do not cower.  Those are surefire ways to get knocked over, lose goggles, get tossed under, etc.

The waves kept coming.  One after the next.  And they were big.  I'd barely swim one stroke when another wave faced me and I prepared to dive under.  There was absolutely no break.  After five minutes of this, I turned to the shore and realized I'd barely moved forward.  In the distance I saw that several members of the group had taken off.

I was alone, floundering in the ocean, trying to get out past the waves, and I just couldn't do it.  I was tiring out.  After about eight minutes of no progress, hyperventilating, and fatigue, I turned around and swam back to the beach.  I was really upset.  Like as in crying, tears, that kind of upset.  The last time I cried was a year and a half ago when I was unable to finish the Surf City Marathon due to gastrointestinal upset that led to me dehydrating like a raisin.

As I got out of the water, the thoughts in my head were of course disappointment in my abilities to swim through the waves when everyone else in my group seemed to have no problem.  I must have looked quite distressed because one of the lifeguards approached me.  I don't recall exactly what I said, something to the extent of, "I've done this before, I'm not a newbie, I don't know what happened."  He could tell I was pretty shaken up, suggested walking down the beach, catching my breath and getting in at a lifeguard stand closer in.

I walked back toward the start.  I wistfully saw the others who managed to get past the waves, their tiny swim caps bobbing in the ocean as they swam toward the Manhattan Beach pier.  As I came up to the one mile mark, I saw another woman standing in a wetsuit and swim cap, looking shaken up as well.  As it turned out, she was another member of my club who similarly had issues of getting past the waves.

I stood and chatted with her for a few moments.  I felt better.  I suggested that she and I try again, and we could stick together and get a mile swim done.  We saw a few others trying to get into the ocean, and we saw that with the size of the waves that it took them longer than usual.  The waves, while choppy, looked calmer here than they did down at the Hermosa Beach pier, so I felt ready to give it another shot.  My new friend said she would stand by while I tried to swim out.

I was ready.  I swam a few strokes, dove under a few waves, and it felt like deja vu.  But then there was a break in the waves, enough time for me to get out far enough from the shore to a point where the water was calm.  I swam forward, prepared to travel the one mile to the Manhattan Beach Pier.  I did take one break, where I rolled onto my back, looked up at the sky, and as I thought about that day started to hyperventilate again.  From there, I decided I needed to finish, and I could do it.  I would count a hundred strokes and see how much closer I was to the pier.  And then another hundred.  And gradually, I made progress.  At the pier, conditions became choppy and I felt like I was swimming in a washing machine, but with a bit of extra effort I managed to get around, and while almost being hit by some idiot on a wakeboard I did finish the mile swim.

I did see Gail at the end, and she and John had waited for me after getting past the chop -- I just couldn't see them beyond the barrage of waves at Hermosa Pier.

I'm afraid to try the two mile swim from Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach again.  But then again, I feel like I won't be complete until I do it.  Next time, I will start early so I don't have to run down the beach.  And, Gail has offered to accompany me next time, and I think I'll take her up on that.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Racing and Training... the beat goes on

My legs hate me.

They're tired.  They're wiped out from yesterday's training ride of 125 miles on PCH from Santa Monica to Ventura and back.  And they were mad that I made them work again today at the Redondo Beach Triathlon.

I wanted to do a race before Ironman Lake Placid.  So, I chose the Redondo Beach Triathlon and I raced it as an Athena, which is the category for women over 150 lbs.  While I'm a normal weight for my height, I'm a tall girl, and just a hair over that weight.  These long legs are no advantage on a bike, so I feel justified in racing that category.

The race was a half mile swim, 6 mile bike, and 2 mile run.  That relatively long swim compared to the bike and run put me at a disadvantage since I'm not a great swimmer.

As we started, I saw one Athena girl take off into the water and I never saw her again.  While she finished the swim five minutes faster than me, overall her time was only 50 seconds faster.  My swim was definitely more tired than usual after yesterday's 125-mile bike adventure. 

The bike portion was an out-and-back two loop course.  My legs were absolutely screaming at me with soreness.  But, I pushed on through.  The mostly flat course of two three-mile loops was crowded initially but then thinned out.

Then there was the run, always my favorite part in a race, because it's where I'm strongest.  And, surprisingly, my legs felt good to run.  Since we Athenas started in the last wave, there were plenty of people ahead.  I passed at least thirty people over the course of two miles and not a single person passed me.

I landed on the podium -- second place Athena!  Had I raced my age group, I would have done well too at seventh out of seventeen.

Horrible picture.  Nonetheless, it's me on the podium, which is pretty cool.

Tomorrow will be a well deserved rest day.  But after this, I have two more Build weeks, a recovery week, and then a Peak week prior to my taper for IM Lake Placid on July 25.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Doctor's Cholesterol

I just got my own cholesterol numbers back:
Total cholesterol - 160
Triglycerides - 86
HDL - 71
LDL - 72

Thought I'd share what a healthy vegan diet and exercise have done for me. :)