Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sweet and Twisted 2009 - a race gone right!

The Prep:

I signed up for Sweet and Twisted Triathlon in late June. I had been working out a little prior to that - LIFT and spin classes, short runs and some swimming which made me feel confident while signing up. Ironically, all workouts came to a halt a few days after I signed up. The next 4 weeks just flew by in a flurry of activity- driving trip to Colorado, packing, moving, unpacking. Before I knew it, there were just 3 weeks and 2 weekends left before the race. I hadn't even managed to find and buy a bike and there was hardly any time left to get one. I had to get moving.

First of all, the bike fell into my lap. Vanessa and AshG were going to do a relay and Vanessa was willing to lend out her bike. Her bike seemed to be a good fit for me. With that arranged, I concentrated on getting my workouts on track - LIFT on Monday mornings, swim at Mansfield dam with Deb on Wednesdays, short run on Thursdays, a pool swim and a bike+run session on weekends.

Other than getting physically fit, I knew I had to do something to tackle the heat on race day. I did not want to bonk during the run like I had in the two triathlons in 2008. For heat management guidance, I turned to the running guru amongst our friends - Gaurav, who runs for several hours each weekend in the Texas heat, just 'for the fun of it'. He explained how I could use an ice filled bandanna to keep my core temperature down.

Meanwhile, I had also observed that what I ate had a big effect on how I felt during and after my workouts. In the week preceding the race, I made the extra effort to eat right and eat enough to build strength for race day and tried to keep my water intake on the high side.

A good part of the last week before the race was spent on getting used to the road bike I had borrowed from Vanessa. The bike had to be tuned up and fitted for me. I also managed to get a little taper down in the last 3 days before the tri :)

It was race day eve pretty soon and I was at packet pickup. It dawned on me that I had ZERO bike maintenance skills. I did not even have a kit to fix a flat in case I got one on the course. There wasn't much I could do about that this late in the game. I just made a mental note to take care of this aspect for the next Tri, picked up my packet (also got gyan about the hilly bike course from Coach A who was volunteering at Packet Pick-up), and came home. I laid out my gear and went to bed fairly early to get some rest. The sleep was restless of course, but I was also excited about the next day.

Race Day Morning:

Vinit offered to drive AshG and me to Pace Bend Park on race day morning. We reached the park by 6:30a and while we were still in the line for parking, I managed to get really really nervous. I think I even asked Vinit to take me back home at some point of time. He wasn't going to do that, so I had to get out and do what needed to be done.

I quickly got body marked, set up transition and got my bike tires checked for air. Coach A came by to inspect my transition set up and after a few adjustments (like changing the bike gear, re-arranging my shoes, helmet, sunglasses, cap, Gu, race belt, etc. etc... you get the drift), he looked satisfied and gave his nod of approval.

Varsha told me that she had gotten a white swim cap from the organizers which basically made them look out for you on the swim course. She recommended that I get one too. So we promptly made our way to the organizers' desk and I got my timing chip and the white cap. We made the last port-a-potty stop, and Varsha (sweetheart that she is) also fetched my swim goggles from transition, which I had conveniently forgotten in my nervousness. I found Vinit and the three of us took off to the swim area.

The walk to the swim start was around 500m and each step increased my nervousness ten fold. Even in retrospect, I can't put my finger down on what it was that made me so nervous. I think it was just pre-race jitters and fear of racing in a 'new' place.

Then the swim course came into view. It was a straight point to point course that ran parallel to the shore line around 20 feet away from it. We would not have to turn around to do a loop or anything. I felt my nervousness quietly slip away. We dropped off our shoes at the swim finish area and walked barefoot towards the start. Varsha and I got in the water for a quick 10 minute warm up. The water was warm and familiar. It felt just like the cove at Mansfield dam where we swam with Deb. By the time I got out, I felt ready to race!

After a quick photo session with fellow tri-oomphers, we went to the wave start area where I found a place to sit and relax till the swim started.

The Swim (500m):
Time: 00:24:27:246
Pace: 00:04:53.4

Soon enough, we were entering the water and the horn went off. I hung to the back of the pack to let faster swimmers go ahead.

I swam real slow so I wouldn't lose my breath and panic. I was so slow that 4 waves went past me. I tried to stay out of their way and continue at my own pace. Sha even managed to recognize me in the water and gave a shout out. That gave me a great boost!
At one point I did get disoriented though. Around 200 meters into the course, I didn't look up to "sight" for quite sometime and later found myself headed to the shore where I heard Sangeeta and Vinit trying to direct me back to the course :P.
I took my own sweet time to go past each of the five buoys. The swim leg felt long and crowded. Arms and legs hit me at various times, none too seriously except once near the 400m mark, where a jab on my face displaced my goggles and water threatened to flood my eyes and take my contact lens with it. Luckily I was able to adjust the goggles quickly and move on. This was something I had expected, so I stayed calm.

Swim finish was in plain view but somehow I wasn't getting any closer to it. There wasn't enough room to swim. There were swimmers all around and it felt as if I was stuck at the same point for a long time. I moved further away from the frantic swimmers and found my own path to the finish. While coming out of the water, I was glad that I hadn't freaked out in the water. I was also happy that I didn't stop anywhere or call for help and swam freestyle the whole time.

The Dash from swim to T1 (~500m):
Time: 00:05:08:620

I saw Vinit, Sang and Coach A at swim exit, quickly put on my shoes and walked to transition. I felt my stomach cramp a little and decided to not run at all in this 500m 'dash'. I took my time to relax and get my breathing back. In my head, I went over what I was going to do in T1 and T2. I was happy with myself thus far. I had survived the swim even though it had taken me a long time!


Time: 00:01:56:653

Once in transition, I met AshG and GRao at Tri-oomph bike rack. They were waiting for their relay partners to finish the swim. I quickly ate a Gu, wore my helmet, socks, shoes and took off with the bike.

The Bike (15 miles):
Time: 01:10:10:953
Pace: 12.8

I love being on a bike - reminds me of my childhood rides with my brother. I was looking forward to the bike leg even though I had heard about the hilly course. I was eager to see what it was like. We had to do the same 7.5 mile loop twice. It was a beautiful, tree lined route of rolling hills around the park. The hills never ended and some of them were real brutal but I was able to manoeuvre my gears in time and also take advantage of some fast down-hills. It was tricky to find the right stretch to hydrate on the bike. I forced myself to drink enough Nuun and water since I feared bonking out later during the run.

The bike ride was thrilling actually and I had fun on the course. Near the end of my first loop, I crossed Sha and soon after that Deb crossed me. The camaraderie and occasional vocal exchanges with fellow riders made the ride more interesting. Oh yeah! I also posed for each photographer out on the course :)

Time: 00:01:51:779

After one last hill, it was time to dismount and head back into transition. I parked my bike, took off the helmet, wore the race belt and my hat. I had put a cooler in transition area in the morning. I reached for an ice filled bandanna from the cooler and tied it around my neck. I doused my hat, head and upper body in water, grabbed a Gu and a water bottle with Nuun in it and took off.

The Run (5k):
Time: 00:36:29:745
Pace: 00:11:46.4

I was still breathing heavily when I set out on the run course. Vinit, Sang and Savi were there to see me head out. I waited for my breathing to become steady and then had the second Gu shot. The run was on a trail in the park and I made slow, steady progress. I was happy to be running and not walking. It was hot and I was glad for my cooling mechanism in place :)

Soon, I saw Cha. She seemed to be going slow. Her quad had cramped and she was going to walk it for sometime. I seemed to be locked into my pace and so I carried on. Soon after that I spotted Varsha. She urged me to go on running at my own pace. I kept going. The water in my bottle was warm and I didn't feel like drinking it. The cold water at the Aide station at mile 1 felt really refreshing. The organizers had promised cold sponges at the aide station at mile 2 and I looked forward to it.

Again the camaraderie on the course was really great. I upped my pace when I saw the 2nd aide station. There was the cold water again and the sponges felt like a slice of heaven! The bandanna around my neck was warm by now and I was feeling quite hot. The sponge did a great job cooling us off.

I was on the last mile now and could hear the noise coming from the finish line but it was still a good distance way. The third mile seemed to drag on forever. The trail seemed never ending. At one point I felt that my knee pain might flare up but I guess the softer trail surface as compared to tarmac kept it in check. Finally, the finish line came into view. I made Vinit run with me in the last stretch. I was feeling good and strong when I finished with a little dance and a huge smile on my face.

At the end of it all:
I had run a strong race and achieved all my goals
1. Not freak out in the swim.
2. Stay strong and ON the bike throughout the course.
3. Run and not walk during the run.

I know these were pretty basic goals. Improving my times will be my goal for the next triathlon that I do but all that is for later... now was the time for hugs and kisses and smiles and race stories and pictures and food and cupcakes!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mmmm... Shoulders!

I should clarify, at the outset, that the shoulders being talked about here are not the sculpted, bronze shoulders of the guy with killer flat abs, gliding topless on a sweaty, hot evening at town lake trail. (Although that topic does deserve an altogether separate blog post). The shoulders in question are, anti-climactically, my own!

I have been going for the LIFT class at 24 hour fitness for almost 2 months now. LIFT, as the name implies, is mainly a free weights class which leaves my legs feeling wobbly and my whole body deliciously sore for two days after. I love it for the way it reaches even those hard to work muscles, two best examples being my glutes and hamstrings. And God knows HOW much work I need in that area!

I can safely say that I have averaged one class per week in these two months and noticed my upper body strength go up. No more 2.5lbs for arms and shoulders. (Yes! Yes! the giant me could only manage 2.5 lbs when I started.) I have now graduated up to 5lbs on each side. So although I feel stronger, I hadn't noticed any changes in the shape of my arms until this past Monday.

I generally run in my loose fitting tech tees but that day I was in a mad rush and landed up pulling out a slightly stretchy cotton tee instead. It was only when I was in the car that I realised how the tee fit differently from before. It used to be 'slightly' snug at the shoulders but now it was 'quite' snug. I kept moving my shoulders and adjusting the tee, hoping for it to fit like before until the thought of the LIFT classes stopped me. It seemed like my shoulders and chest were not the same. Muscular? I don't know. Bigger? May be. More open and wider? May be. They were 'nicely' different in a way that I found myself breathing deeper and running a very steady 4 mile loop with straighter back and shoulders!
In 100 deg F temperature too :)

Now my child-like biceps are another story altogether. But who knows! In time, may be I'll be surprised by another one of my tees fitting even more snugly!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Consistency & Commitment

The two C words that often make me shiver.

Throughout my life, I've been all about another C word - Change. I've loved change. Change for Geminis is like honey for bees. I'm always ready to try something new to help me discover something new about myself. To me, consistency used to equate to boredom. I could not eat the same breakfast three days in a row, forget having the same routine. In fact, one of the reasons for doing a triathlon was precisely because it was novel and there was variety built into the sport - it wasn't about the same activity. The main reason I've shied away from marathons is not because of the physical exertion but because I cannot imagine doing the same thing for 5 hours! Call me ADD but I love change. I believe that change pushes you out of your comfort zone. And when you dare to move out of your comfort zone, you begin to learn something new about yourself - how you think, act, believe.. how certain assumptions you've held onto are mistaken (or true). The re-visiting of yourself in a new situation helps you to get to know yourself all over again.

When the tri routine was new to me in 2007, I embraced it. Then I discovered Tri-training, like any other endurance activity hinged on consistent training. When it came to buckling down to a regular routine for training in 2008, it was a struggle. I struggled with enforcing my own routine. What made it even more difficult was that I was contending with health issues. So I always found reasons to break with routine.

But after battling health issues over the last two months, I've begun to embrace routine again. Last week I started working out again and tagged along with Cha who's training for OD this season. I stayed away from creating any sort of schedule for myself because I was not sure how my body would handle it. (And admittedly I had some trepidation that the R word would lead to inner resistance.) The training days worked well for me. The next week, I found myself wanting to stick with the training - miraculously and effortlessly, I wanted to be (gasp) consistent!

On reflection, you can do the same thing for 100 times but when you do it with full attention, it seems like a new experience each time. For instance, yesterday when I swam the usual free-style & breaststroke, I started noticing how my body responded to each style differently... which muscles were working... how my arms felt as I propelled myself forward etc.

Consistency, at the end of the day, is born out of commitment. If you are committed to your goal, you will find it in you to train consistently. Here's an interesting blog post that Amit forwarded to me about the power of commitment. It's really inspiring how the author tackled the challenges of tri-training because she was committed to her goal of losing weight. . which ultimately led to new self-insights.

As a triathlete, I ask myself, "What am I committed to? Why am I committing to this?" When my commitment is clear, it makes room for consistency. I am able to make it to my planned workout. Yesterday, I had a hectic day and found a lot excuses to escape my swim workout.. fatigue, errands, a meeting at night etc. Then I made up my mind to follow through with my intended workout because I knew that the exercise would help in my recovery. I went swimming at 24hr fitness at 9.30pm. And it felt awesome.

My commitment is clear this season. I'm committed to helping my body heal. I'm committed to a routine that will help my body get to a place where I feel strong enough to take on challenging distances. I want to find out what my body can do for me and discover my true potential - that is what I'm committed to.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Words of Wisdom from Coach A!

~ Posting on behalf of Coach Amit, honorary member of Tri-oomph!:)~

Ok Lady Tri-Oomphers-

I've been laying (in stealth mode) on many of the discussions on this mailing list and that is of course "by design". I do not want to break the mojo of the "sisterhood of the triathletes" or the peer-to-peer camaraderie and have people stop referring to the group as "HeyLadies!" :) Since as a guy, I have been granted exclusive membershipto this group (for which I am very thankful to Cha/Sha), I felt a little payback was overdue, so here are some of my thoughts (after stating these I will go back into "stealth mode" unless there aredirect questions of course) :)

#1 Swim Coaching:
Swimming is perhaps the discipline that keeps most folks from even attempting to Tri (this is *one* of the reasons there are more Runners and Cyclists than Triathletes around the world. That being said, Triathlon is still the *fastest* growing sport in most parts of the world, defn the US. I think Steph pointed this out earlier). So, why am I saying all of this? For one because Swimming was discussed a lot on this thread and two you've *gotta* take this discipline seriously and some degree of formal coaching for this particular discipline is time and money well spent. I think most Swim programs and pools(heated/non-heated) have been covered. A few of the pools that were left out were Deep Eddy, Barton and Nitro. Deep Eddy and Barton are two of my favorites since nothing is better than finishing yr swim and not reeking of the smell of Chlorine. Especially Barton should be a weekly ritual no matter what distance you training for and whether or not you are already getting formal training. It just NEEDS to be incorporated into yr training schedule. It is by far the best place to practice open-water swim. You can practice all of the valuable traits of open-water swimming such as sighting, navigating, drafting etc out there. It also does wonders for the calming the anxiety one feels (at least I used to feel) on race day morning when the gun goes off (if all you've doing is swimming in lane-pools). When I was training forSprint's/Oly's, it used to be one indoor swim and one Barton a week,at least. For Halfsie (that I am currently training for), it's two indoor and one Barton, at least. It's totally free this time of the year and of course being so cold and all, westuits help but are not a requirement since yr body warms up just fine after the first lap. Nitro has a lot of swim classes and an Oly sized pool so that's a plus but maybe far for most of you folks who live Central or South.

#2 Plans for Races this year:
After Galveston Half in Apr, I think I am going to do a few Sprints and Oly's to build on speed during the middle of the year as I plan onracing at least another two Halfsies before wrapping up the season inOct/Nov. My favorite Sprints/Oly's have always been (in no particularorder) Rookie, Couples, Captex and Austin Tri. The last two are downtown races and there is nothing in the world that can match the phenomenal spectator support for downtown races. Many of you Runners who've run downtown races may be very familiar with what I am talking about. Also, the bike and run courses are pretty flat and well paved in the downtown Tri's. G3- Swimming in TL is not as bad as it's madeout to be. I actually enjoyed it. Lottsa easy landmarks to sight off which rocks since I am usually known to stray off course and be theone poked on the head by the guys in the Kayak (refer to importance of swimming in Barton to practice sighting) !! Rookie is awesome because of the time of the year (read: Texas summer just begun), the scenic rolling bike course, all-you-can drink beer at the end and the fact that my long standing crush and idol pro-triathlete Desiree participates in it every year :) For you ladies, does it help if I told you Governor Rick Perry participates every year? ;) By the way singer Shawn Colvin is there every year also. Also, this was Cha's and my first ever individual race and I have raced this race since 2006*every* year, so it's special. Ok, nuff said about Rookie. Just do's awesome!!! Couples is great since it's the *only* race where someone elses time affects yrs and so that makes for the greatest camaraderie during training, motivating each other and of course on race day.

#3 Bike Shopping:
I think Itisha asked about this and Steph's advice of CL was spot-onw.r.t good deals. That being said, I cannot emphasize enough the need to be in the right size frame. Everything else is modular i.e. can be adjusted or replaced, just not the "frame". So...*before* you go scavenging for good deals on Craig's, make sure you go get fitted at one of the *reputed* (read: BSS, J&A and ATC) bike stores around town.My fav is J&A because they have the friendliest folks in the business and they really *do* care about you riding in the right sized bike even if you don't buy a bike from them. Remember to mention to them what "type" of bike you plan on buying online (Road vs Tri) since the fitting is totally different for the two. Which one between the two should you go for? I can elaborate on that if there's interest but in short it really depends on what you already have, types of rides(races vs organized rides), money you want to spend and how aggressive you want to be. Remember that just because a person with your exact height is selling a bike on Craig's, it doesn't mean it will fit you.Two reasons for that are 1) He/She may not have been fitted into that bike properly and may have bought it on a whim on Craig's like you are planning to and 2) Your measurements (inseam, torso, arm length) maybe vastly different from theirs making it a bad fit for you. Bottomline: Get professional help to determine your right sized frame, then decidewhere you wanna buy the bike from. The best advice for beginner's isto just borrow a bike for the first race (even though it's not the right fit). You will be surprised on the learning curve on bikes as you ride more and more. I bought my first bike almost a year after getting into Tri's.

#4 Kick-Off Gettogether:
I am all for it!! HH one of these Thu evening's?? :)

- Coach-A (pseudo title since I have really not coached most of you in the group) :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Tri time again!!!

Hi girls!!

Hope everyone is doing well!!

It's March...practically Spring...and time for Tri season!! :D

I signed up last week for my 1st ever Olympic Distance Triathlon - the CAPITAL OF TEXAS TRIATHLON -!

These are the distances I will be training for for this Tri:
Swim: 1500 m
Bike: 40 KM
Run: 10 KM

This is definitely going to be one challenging experience, but I can't wait! There is a lot to be done. I need to improve my swimming and stroke efficiency and become MUCH more comfortable with freestyle. I need to graduate to clipped pedals! 10K run might not sound that bad after a 42K marathon, but a 10K run AFTER a 40K bike ride will surely be something! So definitely more brick training needed! I start my training this week and this is what my tentative workout schedule looks like:

Monday - AM: Bootcamp PM: 45 min Swim Session @ 24 hour fitness pool
Tuesday - AM: Bootcamp PM: Spin class @ 24 hour fitness
Wednesday - AM: Bootcamp PM: Break
Thursday - AM: Bootcamp PM: 2 mile Run @ Canyon Creek Middle School track
Friday - AM: Swim Session @ 24 hour fitenss pool PM: Break
Saturday - AM: 10K Bike Ride @ TBD.
Sunday - AM: 5K Run @ Town Lake

If you girls would like to join me for any of these workouts, please do let me know!! It's always more fun to train with some company! :)