18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Friday, July 25, 2008

Flip Turns

As a triathlete, I race in open water. However, I practice at the pool once a week. I proudly wear my LA Tri Club swim cap to proclaim to my master swim group that yes I swim slowly, but I run AND bike too!

Nonetheless, I've gotten the urge to learn to do a flip turn. My grab-the-wall-and-push-off technique is pretty well streamlined, but real swimmers do flip turns.

The way the flip turn should go is, flip over, push off with feet onto back, turn onto stomach, and swim.

Mine goes something like this:

One stroke to go before hitting wall. Look up and hesitate fearfully. Take deep breath.

Flip over. Realize, I'm flipped over, don't inhale.

Panic and inhale, getting water up nose.

Search for wall with feet.

Push off. Be surprised by random direction in which I am pushing off. Sometimes launching to bottom of pool. Other times diagonally toward oncoming swimmer.

Panic again with water up nose. Eventually hit surface. Cough.

Proceed with stroke.

I need a *lot* of practice with flip turns. For now, though, the grab-the-wall-and-push technique is working well enough.
Image from

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I've never experienced anything like this.

Coach Jamie told me to take it easy this week to recover from Vineman 70.3.

Now, I've done marathons, and I'm sore for three days, but after that I'm up and roaring, back to my usual workouts.

Not this time.

I raced on Sunday for almost seven hours of swimming, biking, and running. Then, on Tuesday I went to my usualy bike/run workout. I got on the bike, and whoa, I definitely did not have my usual strength.

Then I thought I'd be fine by Wednesday, the day I do speed work at the track. Not so much. I was more tired and far slower than my typical speedwork pace. So instead of the usual workout, I mostly ran/walked around the track on my own.

I asked my coach how long -- he said to give myself a week and a half. I've taken today off completely from working out, and I'll swim tomorrow.

Maybe by then I'll be back to my usual self.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My First Half Ironman -- Vineman 70.3 -- Done!!!

Initially, my goal for Vineman 70.3 was 7 hours and 30 minutes. Then my coach suggested 7:10. And as I thought about it, I figured I can do the swim in 45 minutes, the bike in 3:45, and then run even if I completely fall apart can be done in 2:30. So my goal was seven hours.

And I had to remember, this is my "A race". I'm only competing against myself to do the best that I can, but this is *the* race that I've been training for. And, I need to focus. Often in races I find myself daydreaming and acting like it's just a training swim/bike/run, but this time, this is the real deal.

The day started chilly. My wave, the 30-34 year-old women headed to the water for a start. I hadn't been too nervous until just then.


"I think I'm going to throw up." Not sure where that came from. But as the gun went off, any nausea dissipated and I started swimming up the river. Aggressively to start, per Coach Jamie, trying to draft off of someone. The outward portion of the swim seemed to last forever and I settled into a good pace. Shortly after the turnaround, my arm hit the ground and I stood up in the water which must have been only three feet deep. I glanced at my stopwatch, regained my concentration, and dove back in.

I finished the swim in 41 minutes. In transition, I tried to put on my bike shoes without removing my wetsuit. Whoops. That ate up a couple seconds. To the person who keeps mocking me that my transitions take too long, no I did not put on makeup or cook tofu in transition.

Off on the bike. I used disposable water bottles, which did not want to stay in the bottle cages. My Gatorade flew off the bike as I rounded the first turn. Whoops! So I had only one bottle of water, and no electrolyte solution, for the first nineteen miles of the bike. I bent my front bottle cage so that the water would not fly out. That took me a couple extra seconds.

The first five miles of the bike were flat. Then miles five to fifteen were rolling hills, and a bit challenging. Then around mile 25 was the first "hill". I pounded up it, and at the top wondered, "Was that a hill?"

Something hit my face around mile 40, then fell on my leg, and then there was a stinging sensation on my right thigh. I looked down, and there on my leg was a bee!!!! I was stung, through my bike shorts, by a bee!!!! It stung like crazy, and thanks to adrenaline I was able to for the most part ignore the pain for the duration of the race. But on the way home in the car that evening, I definitely felt the bee sting.

Then there was yet another, far longer and a bit steeper hill at mile 45. Not too bad. I was surprisingly faster than I anticipated on the bike. My average pace was 16.2 mph, faster than my goal pace of 15 mph, and in total the bike took 3 hours 36 minutes.

Then, off on the run, which was really hilly. I reminded myself that I had 2 hours and 40 minutes to finish the run -- even if I completely fall apart on the run, I will break seven hours for the course. The first four miles seemed to be all uphill, but as I ran them the opposite way on the way back, they sure didn't seem like they were downhill at all. My legs felt like they weighed fifty pounds apiece. My stomach started getting upset at mile eight. I'd start to walk a bit, but then I couldn't get myself to run again. We ran through the La Crema Winery, which was really the only pleasant part of this run, as the rest was just hills and more hills.

I felt awful during the last 5k of the run. I was exhausted, and my legs were heavy. My left calf started to cramp up in the last mile, and I tried to ignore it. I pushed myself for the final stretch. The announcer called out my name, then asked, "We've been waiting for you all day. Where have you been?" Kind of a bizarre question. Nonetheless, it got me some applause as I finished.

My finishing time: 6 hours, 48 minutes. I'm pleased.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tapering and Chilling Out

There are four days until Vineman 70.3. I'm supposed to taper -- in other words, significantly decrease the amount of time spent exercising. It feels so weird. I went to the pool today, instructed to swim 500 meters, as opposed to my usual 2000 or so. I rebelled and swam 600 meters.

Coach Jamie says to do lots of stretching. Take "me time" -- when is that? When I'm busy blogging about how I have no time to take "me time"? I'm supposed to lie down for five minutes in a quiet room every so often and just relax. That's called sleep and it happens for five, maybe six, hours a night.

I don't relax. I'm pretty high-energy, high-strung. But, I'm trying to get more sleep, do less, and just chill out this week. But work is busy, and that's just not happening. Nonetheless, I'm trying to limit my outside committments to get myself ready.

Tomorrow I'll wake up and run my easy 1-2 miles, which will just feel downright bizzarely short.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Various statements I've made througout the years:

"I like to run... but I could never do a marathon. That's just too far."
(Since then, I've run three marathons)

"Yes I'm a vegetarian... but being vegan would be impossible! How could I live without cookies?"
(Vegan for three and a half years... and still enjoying a cookie every now and again)

"I do sprint triathlons, and maybe one day I'll do an olympic distance. But I don't ever need to do a half ironman. That's crazy!"
(I'm doing Vineman 70.3 this weekend)

"I think I can die without having ever done a full Ironman."
(I haven't done one yet... but I would love to be able to say that I'm an IronWOMAN!)

With this in mind, I'll contemplate whether I want to do an Ironman this November, or wait until next year to take one on. I'm just not sure I want to do it yet.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Breath of Life Triathlon Race Report

For me it was a good race. And a race where I finally have a picture of myself running where I don't look like I'm about to die. Excellent.

If you look at the race stats, I'm number 15 out of 17 in my age category, which is a bit depressing on first glance. BUT, this is only my fourth olympic distance race ever, and I've only been doing this sport for less than three years, and my times are getting better. My overall time, 3 hours and 9 minutes, is 17 minutes faster than my previous fastest time. And, my 10k run was in 59 minutes. I've never run a 10k in under an hour, let alone having swam, biked, and then run a 10k!

Swim: Cold ocean water, a bit choppy, but a favorable current.
Transition: Ran way too far on sand to get to my bike. I was a little tired out.
Bike: 25 miles almost perfectly flat. I cruised at 16.7 mph. For me that's fast. Your grandma could probably pass me on the bike.
Transition 2: How did it take me over three minutes to get out of my bike shoes and put on my running shoes? I'm still not sure, but that could use some improvement. Maybe I was thrilled to hear my name on the loudspeaker: "Heather Shenkman is racking her bike and is looking strong and about to go out and run 10k!" It was some guy from my tri club who had the microphone. It was cool.
Run: Whooooo hoo! I just had fun with the run. Cheered for people from my tri club,mostly people I don't know, because when you're in a club with 1500 people, you simply can't know everyone. Told some 70 year-old man who was racing that he's my hero and that when I get to be his age I just want to be able to crawl across the finish line. No, really. He's my hero.
Finish: Heard my name on the loudspeaker again as I ran toward the finish line. Felt great. Ate a post-race Boca Burger, which I swear was the tastiest burger I've ever eaten in my life. The man serving the burger asked me, "How come all the early finishers eat meat and you're getting a veggie burger?" My response, "How do you know I wasn't just chilling out for an hour?" I wasn't, but I'm not going to let him think I'm weak because I don't eat meat.
So that's the race. Two weeks until Vineman 70.3, where I'll try to dawdle less in the transition areas.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Still alive and Tri'ing

I haven't posted much. There are just over two weeks until my Vineman 70.3, my first half ironman, and I'm in the middle of a move to a new place. But I did the Breath of Life olympic distance triathlon this past Sunday, with a time of 3:09, my best olympic distance triathlon by 16 minutes. I'm still slow, but I'm getting faster. More on that, and a better picture, soon.