Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Some Advice for Training For Your First 140.6 Iron Distance Triathlon

My life this past summer pretty much centered on training for the Rev3 Cedar Point Full, which was my first 140.6 iron-distance triathlon. It was a life-changing experience and I am looking forward to tackling a new 140.6 next fall. 

I thought it might be helpful to those considering taking on their first 140.6 next season to impart some of the things that I have learned and found to be helpful in my prep for Cedar Point:

  • Swim, bike and run often. Even in the off season you want to make sure that you’re engaging in at least one session in each discipline each week. This helps ease you into the training plan when it is time to get serious.
  • Have a plan and work the plan. An iron-distance race is too big of a task to wing it. You need to be both mentally and physically prepared. While no athlete can commit to 100% of the workouts (life gets in the way on occasion) you should commit to 95%. The plan will keep you focused even through life’s little setbacks.
  • Build endurance early on. But don’t overdo it in the training. Keep it easy on most days. You can challenge yourself by selecting a spring endurance event that you can focus on and it’s also a good idea to race a 70.3 half distance triathlon somewhere between 6-12 weeks out from your 140.6 race.
  • Seek the advice of elders. Never be afraid to ask your experienced peers that have already completed this challenge for advice. Most of the time they will happily share what they have learned along the way.
  •   Have some fun along the way. One of the best things about triathlon is the people you will meet and train with and cheer for. It is a fun and social sport. Make sure you have some fun along the way and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Be well. When taking on a challenge like 140.6 it is so important to be well. Make sure that you eat to fuel your body. Treats are okay but eat the good stuff too…lots of fruits and veggies and lean proteins and whole grains or alternative grains like quinoa, buckwheat, etc. And sleep well. Aim for eight hours a night especially during your build periods. Don’t be afraid to nap or kick your feet up when you can. And take vitamins and supplements like probiotics and vitamin C to keep your body’s immunity up.
  • Don’t forget recovery. With such a physically demanding challenge you must allow your body some time to recover as well. Designate a day to rest and stretch each week especially during the build periods. For me it works out well to take Mondays off after a long weekend of training. I sleep in a little and then get up and stretch well for 20-30 minutes. If you’re really restless on recovery days you can always allow yourself a short one or two mile walk.
  • Be Flexible on race day. It's a long day of racing and things may not go exactly as you've planned or envisioned. It's okay, your real goal is just to get to that finish line. Forget the time goals or doubting yourself if one leg of the race doesn't go well. You have done the training and you can do it. Stay mentally strong. Focus. The finish line awaits!

If you decide to go the full distance know that it is okay to have moments of frustration, worry or doubt.  Just don’t let those let those little worries hold you back because you can do anything you set your mind to if you follow a good plan, take good care of yourself and believe in yourself. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Salt Fork Challenge Race Report - 10.4 miles and 1900 feet of rocks, roots, mud and beauty!

Years back the Ohio Outside Salt Fork Trail Challenge was my first trail race. Steve and I actually ran it together for fun and ended up walking a good deal of it. This year we both wanted to race it and see what we could do.

For a 10 mile trail race it is a very challenging race! Salt Fork is full of hills and single track and mud and beauty! I loved this race and will most certainly do it again!

Shot of the park on drive in
Steve and I had planned a little get away for the race so we headed down Friday afternoon through some yucky Cleveland weather to the snow-free trails of Southern, Ohio. Salt Fork is located close to Cambridge, Ohio, which was about a 2.5-3 hour drive for us from Mentor. We stopped for a smoothie at Robeks on the way down and checked into our room about 4:00. On the way into the park I couldn't help but snap some pictures so I could share this beauty with my friends and family back home.

After unpacking and relaxing for a little while we went to pick up our packets and then headed to dinner at the restaurant in the lodge. The beer selection was not too great, which was no big deal as we had come prepared!

Salt fork hoodies!
It was a relaxing and fun night and we were able to enjoy some of our own hoppy beers after dinner as well as some tasty snacks. Our Salt Fork hoodies came in very handy as they were nice and cozy to wear around that evening and post race! We were also able to sleep in since we were onsite already, which was an awesome bonus!

Race Morning:

The wake-up call came at 7 am and I felt well rested. Steve brewed us some coffee and we ate some breakfast, got dressed and headed out for a warm up mile before the race. It was really cold early in the morning by by the race start at 9:30, it had warmed up some. In fact I ran back to our room to change my shirt so I didn't overheat.

Steve and I lined up together and chatted for a minute before the race. The race starts in front of the lodge with a fast, downhill trek through the parking lot and then quickly heads off road into the grass and through some bushes heading into the trails of Salt Fork. I tried not to go out too fast as is often my modus operandi because I knew the later miles were going to hurt. The footing was tricky due to heavy leaf coverage and I managed to trip and fall early on within the first mile. I was right back up before I could even be passed but this instilled in me very early into the race to use light feet.

With it being a technical trail with a variety of terrain and conditions as well as elevation, it's not a real fast course so you can't really plan to just go out and run an 8-minute mile. Some sections are fast like that but most are slower going as you have to really watch your footing and what lies ahead. I really love this aspect of trail running because it is NEVER boring as it can be running on the road at times. You can't just zone out. This makes for a very zen and interesting run.

There were some muddy sections and I even passed a woman who had lost her shoe in the mud around mile 3.5 or 4.
Muddy feet after the race!
I used that as an opportunity to try to distance myself from some other women. I wasn't sure what place I was in until just after the road leading to the aid station where a man yelled to me "third place female". This gave me a boost and I was prepared in advance of the aid station as I had taken in my gel and just quickly stopped to throw away the packet and sip some water. I took off on the road because this is a strong spot for me and I wanted to gain some advantage over the woman right behind me. This worked well as I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I was running in the lower 7's for that section.

Of course once we headed back into the hilly grass section things were not moving as fast. A young woman came out of nowhere around mile 7 and took off ahead of me. She was soon out of my sight and I was in 4th and just trying to stay steady within myself. The fatigue was starting to set in for me and the end of the race is not easy. I really started to feel myself weaken and fade in the last mile of the race and another woman had passed me but I would not allow myself to get into a walking pattern and throw it all away. My thoughts of food, beer and Steve kept me moving.

My Award!
The last section is challenging straight uphill through the grass and a woman tried to pass me but I was able to fight her off and push through to the end of the race. It was a painful finish but it was a nice feeling to cross the finish line and be handed an award for 2nd in the 30-39 age group and 6th female.

The 10-year age groups made it difficult as Steve didn't place in his age group of 40-49 but was the first over 45. In looking at the results it was a competitive race. I would have liked to have held onto my top 3 status but better luck next time. It was still an awesome race and a hell of a good workout!

Our other award! Yakima!
We had to get back quickly for my cousin's funeral so we were not able to enjoy a beer right away but we did stop for a quick bite to eat at Einstein Bagels on the way back. After the funeral we headed to Ray's Place in Kent for a hoppy beer and dinner. Then we stopped at World of Wine in Mentor to fill the awesome growler we bought with some Columbus Brewing Yakima Fresh Hop Ale! Yep, that was worth 10.4 miles and 1900+ feet of running and climbing!

Ohio Outside does a great job with their races and I definitely recommend this one if you like a challenge on the trails!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Autumn Leaves Race Report

This was my second year of racing the NERC Autumn Leaves 5 Miler at the Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. This is a grassroots cross country style race with a fun vibe and some solid competition. It is definitely not a PR course but a great race to challenge yourself and have some fun. Each year the course is altered some, which also makes it interesting.

Steve raced also so we were able to eat breakfast and get in our warm ups together. It was a chilly morning so we did our best to stay warm up until the race start. The start is fast as it begins with a downhill section and quickly winds down through some of the dirt roads within the farmpark before heading into some lengthy sections of pasture. The grass was long and muddy from rains the night before. As usual this made for some slower footing. After about 2 miles the course winds through a corn maze. This year the maze section was longer. The twists and turns through the maze and the slippery sections definitely make it a challenging part of the course. If a corn maze won't get your heart rate up then I don't know what will!

I'm in the pink chasing 1st in my AG ahead of me after the corn maze
Coming out of the maze you reenter the pasture and there are some nice hills to keep that heart pumping. I had been passed by two women (including the one who won my AG) not long before entering the maze but was not able to close the gap as I had hoped. The rest of the race I just tried to run within myself and give what I could that day. After coming off a bad race the week before where I pulled out halfway due to lingering foot issues I wasn't sure how I'd fare a week later, especially in harder conditions. Fortunately the foot held up okay for me.

When we finally got out of the last pasture section and hit the dirt road leading back the finish I felt both happy and annoyed. My garmin had showed 40:01 (a slower time than last year by about a minute) but it also showed the course as 5.18 miles. In my mind I ran as best as I could on a hard course and ended up placing 9th female and 2nd in the 35-39AG (which is where I placed last year). All in all I am happy with the result and looking forward to tacking the the Salt Fork 10 Mile Challenge next weekend.

Post race with our award beer glasses!
Steve had a great race and finished with the same time as last year (33 & change), given the longer course. He placed 8th overall and 1st in the 45-49AG. We both won new glasses, which were perfect to enjoy the tasty IPAs we had that night to celebrate another race in the books.