Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seven Days and Counting...

I have really been pushing hard these past couple of weeks, which is my poor excuse for not blogging about my training.

My schedule for the past couple of weeks has been slight variations on this:
Monday -- bike or swim
Tuesday -- run
Wednesday -- swim or bike
Thursday -- run
Friday -- off
Saturday -- long run
Sunday -- long bike + swim

And best of all, I have REACHED MY FUNDRAISING GOAL FOR THE TRIATHLON, with a grand total of

Of course, I am still looking for donations for the marathon, so if you want to help me honor the memory of Prince Liam the Brave by making a donation to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research, just click here!

Swimwise, things are going really well.  Everyone who's done the event tells me not to worry, it's the easiest swim ever.  That's good to hear, but one person's easy is another person's flaily-drowny.  However, last week in the pool, I came to a realization, and maybe this will be helpful to any of you that are swimmers.  I was doing a drill where I had one of those kidney floaties between my legs, so I was only using my arms to propel myself across the pool, and I was cranking out the laps like nobody's beeswax.  No breathing problems, no exhaustion, nothing. 

So I lose the floatie and start a regular crawl stroke.  Sure enough, two laps, and my breathing is messed up and I'm exhausted.

Lightbulb -- must be something I'm doing with my legs!  And that something was kicking like a crazy person, as fast and hard as I could.  Instead of propelling me forward, it was only exhausting me. 

I don't know much about swimming, but I feel that I do most of the work with my arms, with the legs providing just a small amount of propulsion.  I'm not saying that that's how it's supposed to be -- I honestly don't know -- but that's how I feel I swim.  So why am I knocking myself silly trying to get my legs to work harder, when they're not my main source of propulsion?

So instead of kicking hard, I relaxed my legs and kicked gently, and what do you know, I did ten laps easy.

Good thing I figured this out now!  Can you imagine what my swim would be like had I got it earlier?  Oh, well.  The swim will be fine.

Bike will be okay.  I am mainly worried about things like the hairpin turns at the turnarounds, and literally just getting onto the West Side Highway (up a steep hill almost immediately after getting on the bike.)  Two of my Teammates told me the hardest part of the bike course is avoiding bottles and crap that fall off people's bikes.  So I feel that with my training in Central Park, navigating around annoying tourists, I should be okay there, too.

And the run is, well, the run.  It's only a 10K, but it should be interesting after the bike ride, and, of course, it's uphill for the first two miles. 

Two Saturdays ago was the first NYRR Long Training Run.  The LTR is an untimed run, with pace groups heading out for distances of 6-20 miles (a loop of 6, two loops of 5, and a loop of 4.)  Do as many or as few loops as your training requires.  It's a great way to pace yourself and see where you're at.  

It was also the last day of a heatwave that sent temps soaring into the triple digits through most of the week.  The night before, it only dipped down to 85.  Despite NYRR's taking extra precautions -- extra water stations, adding Gatorade to the stations, slowing the pace groups, adding three misting stations and having cold sponges on the transverse -- Coach Ann and Jeff instructed the Team to do six miles instead of our scheduled 14, and go home.  Better to scrap one long run then to knock yourself out to the point where your training for the rest of the week is affected.

Teammate Jonathan and I went out with a 9:30 group.  He's a faster runner but is coming back from injury, and I'm, well, not a faster runner.  The 9:30 group should have been running at a 10-minute pace.  I'm not really a chatty runner, and neither is he, but we would thumbs-up each other every once in a while, and it was nice to have that companionship.  Another good thing that they did for this run was to have the pace group leaders walk the water stations, which they sometimes don't do on these runs, and that means I lose the pace group. 

My only quibble with the run was that all the extra water stations were on the east side of the Park.  It seemed like there was one water station on the west side, and then one every 45 feet on the east side.  Yes, I exaggerate, but the group did wonder where these mythical extra water stations were as we trundled down the west side.

Jonathan broke away on mile 4 and finished ahead of me.  He told me afterwards that the pace group was actually going at a 9:20 pace, and he was feeling good, so if he was only doing 6, he was going to do it as his pace.   So I'm happy, because I felt pretty comfortable with that pace.  I don't think I could have sustained it for 14 miles, but it was fine for 6.  And I feel that I could have done maybe another 5 in that heat, but I was starting to cramp up, and it has taken me a long time to learn to listen to what the coaches tell me.

We also had our first speed and hill workouts over the past two weeks (I have to do the step workouts on my own, alas.) Our first speed workout at Riverbank was one mile warm-up, 5 x two laps hard, one lap easy, then 3 laps cooldown.  This was during the heatwave, so it was really exhausting.  I had to hit the snackbar for some salt so I could keep going, because all the Gatorade in the world wasn't helping.   I really tried not to slack on the hard ones, so my easy laps involved some walking.  That's okay.  If you don't push, you don't improve the way you want.  I thought of sweet Liam every time I started to flag, and I swear to God, every time I thought of him, a breeze would come up and cool me off. 

And lookit what we did -- the next day, Riverbank's sewage plant cought fire, sending millions of gallons of sewage into the Hudson a/k/a my swim course next Sunday.  All because of the heat we generated on the track!

Same thing holds for the Cat Hill workout.  We did a warm-up of the lower loop, then 2 sets of four hill repeats -- easy effort, easy, medium, hard.  Break between set 1 and 2. 

It's so tempting to hold back on the medium and the hard of the first set, because you're thinking you have another set of four to go.  It's almost frightening to commit to doing what the coaches ask, because you wonder -- do you have it in you?  And if you don't, what does that say about you?  Ultimately, what you have to do is push until you can't push it anymore, whether you have completed the task or not.  If you bonk, you bonk, but at least you do it in training, not on the day.  The year I had a 30-minute improvement in my marathon was the year I did everything the coaches told me.  And I would not be honoring Liam properly by slacking.  Set 1, I felt I pushed the last repeat to maybe 90 percent.  Sort of disappointed in myself.  Set 2, I felt myself falling back in the last repeat, regrouped, and pushed to 100 percent up the second part of the hill all the way to the end, running full out the last 100 feet or so.  Had to walk most of the way back down the hill, and could barely complete the cooldown.

This past Saturday was the infamous Great Hill run -- 10 loops of the wretched thing, for 15 miles.  The first time we did this workout, we did it as a Tuesday night workout.  Jeff didn't take the length of the transverse into account, and by the time we finished, it was pitch black outside.  Sounds stupid, but I've been in love with this workout ever since.  Last time I did this workout two years ago, I could not do the full ten, and I was crushed.  So I was both anticipating it and dreading it.

Jeff and David told me to take it easy and cut it short, because apparently I get to have a little bit of a taper this week for the marathon!  Hooray!  Who doesn't love a taper?   So instead of ten loops, I did eight -- and I definitely could have done the full ten, and done them strong.  So now I'm back to loving this workout again.

Today was a nice 12-miler on the bike -- and completed in under 50 minutes -- followed by a really positive swim session.

Holy crap, I think I'm ready to do this triathlon!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We're Having a Party, and Race Report: Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe 10K

I'm having a fundraiser for Fred's Team, so all NYers are welcome to come on down!  And if you're not a NYer, come on down anyway!

Fast Feet and Fast Fingers -- a Double Benefit for Fred's Team and NYSCRA
July 20, 2011
Ward III, 111 Reade Street

Here's the invite:
Drink. eat, and do good at the same time!

Meet, mingle and have a delicious bespoke cocktail or three prepared by the amazing Michael Neff and the Ward III bartenders. Happy hour prices will be extended for the duration of the event. We get a percentage of the bar, so come thirsty!
Proceeds will benefit both the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at MSKCC and the New York State Court Reporters Association's legislative fund.
Drinking cocktails has been scientifically shown to improve speed, both on the steno machine and on the track.
All are welcome -- you don't need to be a court reporter or a runner to come and have a good time!
Click here for the link to the Facebook page!

Hopefully going to go over the top with the fundraising for the triathlon at this event, so fingers crossed.

Saturday was the Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run To Breathe 10K in Central Park.  It was also a post-long-run Fred's Team soiree at one of the assistant coach's apartments.   I have a friend with CF who runs with Team Boomer, so of course I wanted to do the race.  But I needed to talk with the Fred's Team crew about the aforementioned party and some of the logistics.  What's a girl to do?

Both, of course.

Before I begin, this was my training week:
Monday (July 4th)  23 mile bike ride, 30 minute excellent swim
Tuesday  attempt at speedwork (no slow twitch muscles left after Monday.)
Wednesday  11 mile bike + 1 mile treadmill (indoors obviously, as I did not bring a treadmill outdoors)
Thursday  5 mile run
Friday  nada

13 miles on the schedule.  Got a late start, thanks to Spot, who somehow konws that I'm getting ready to leave and becomes instantly needy, so of course I must tend to her.  How do cats do that?  Semi-related note -- also, how does Spot take the pill, eat food, drink water, and THEN manage to cough the pill up?  Did she learn this trick at kitty prison?  Don't get it.

I wanted to take the miles a little slow, but I also wanted to get to the corrals for the race with enough time to find my friend.  Also -- and this is not a slam on my friend at all -- my friend is slower than I am, and I knew we'd be walking a bit during the race.  So it was okay if I burned myself out a bit on the first half.

Bought a new pair of VFFs -- even though I'm still miffed at them -- and I wore them for this run.  Now, here's a new discovery.  VFFs aren't really shoes, they're more like socks with a thin rubber sole to keep glass from cutting your feet to ribbons.  That being said, apparently one needs to break them in the same way one breaks in a new pair of actual shoes.  Or to put it another way, one's first run in brand-new VFFs should not be 13 miles long.  I developed a blister in the one spot on the VFF that one could possibly get a blister, and that's on the middle of the inside side of the right foot, where the one seam is.

Another new and semi-unfortunate discovery was my new shorts.  At the JackRabbit NY Running Expo, I discovered the Zensah brand of running and compression gear.  Bought a couple of bras and a pair of shorts and fell in LOVE with this brand.   The shorts are snug, they go down to the knee, and they have what I will call an ass pocket, so it supports your tush without mushing it.  Alls I want is more of those shorts!!  Went back to JackRabbit -- not there.  Paragon -- nope.  CitySports -- no.   Bizarrely, no one carries running underwear anymore, either.  Bras, yes.  No panties.  Why is that?   Paragon only had one kind of running panty, and they used to have rackfulls.  Anyways, I digress from my digression.  So I ordered a pair from the Zensah site.  They arrived Friday, and I was psyched to wear them for the 13 miler.  Turns out Zensah doesn't even carry those shorts anymore.  The ones I bought were plain old compression shorts.  They have since been redesigned or discontinued, and what I got instead was a high compression short, which meant that instead of my thighs being gently squeezed and supported, they felt like two sausages stuffed into a too-small casing. 

Oh, yes, the race.  Do my seven miles and make it to my friend's corral as the singer is finishing up the Star Spangled Banner.  Ordinarily perfect timing, so there's no real cooldown between the run and the race.  Bad timing when trying to find a friend, because at that point all the corrals are moving forward, and it's a crush of people.  Grr.  I look around and can't find him.  Okay.  I figure I'll catch him on the run.  Enough time, since it takes so long to really get moving, I sit down on a post and, for lack of anything better to use, attempt to stuff a Jolly Rancher wrapper into my shoe to cover the blister.  

Start walking forward, and wouldn't you know it, my friend, who is much smarter than I, is waiting closer to the start line, outside the corral, watching for me.  So he jumps in and we take off.

It's a humid day, and warm, and that didn't help anyone, least of all my friend.  Still, we get a fair bit up Cat Hill before the first walk break.  We do a combo run/walk through the race (one full loop of the park) , and my friend keeps apologizing to me for being slow and this not being a good race for me.  Okay.  First of all, blister and sausage legs.  Second of all, went out too fast for first seven miles.  Third and most important of all, he's my friend, and STFU.  It's a much better race slow and with his company than fast and without it. 

We stop at the south end of the reservoir to meet my friend's friend, a fellow runner with CF, who runs with an oxygen tank, and waited with him while he changed tanks.  What's my excuse not to work out?  Don't have one no more.

Anyways, we cross the finish line, and head over to the VIP tent to try and meet Boomer himself, but the imperious lady guarding the tent wouldn't let us pass, even though Boomer was standing right there.  We probably would've got by had my friend been wearing his Team Boomer shirt.  Alas, not so.  Denied.  However, where we were standing, we got to see the friend with the O2 tank cross the finish line, which was pretty cool.  Then we went over to the Boomer Esiason Foundation tent and bought t-shirts (performance fabric AND tagless -- way to go, Boomer!) because we were both very sweaty and heading directly to other events -- he with fellow Team Boomer people, me with fellow Fred's Team people.

We crossed the finish line in about 1:20, which, had we not stopped to wait, would have been more like a 1:15, which is, let's face it, not that shabby a time, especially since my friend has not been keeping up with regular running and the conditions were difficult for folks without breathing difficulties. And quite frankly, on my own, I probably would have only been about 10 minutes faster and not had nearly as much fun. So who gives a crap about time?  Not me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's the Difference Between Eating 63 Hot Dogs and Running a Marathon?

Not much.  Baffling as to why one would want to do either, but running a marathon is only slightly less disgusting.

Good Lord, girl, where have you been?
Training, training, training!
Didn't I tell you, there's a triathlon and a marathon to get ready for!!

I'm sure I've said this before, but blogging is sometimes like going to the dentist -- you know you have to do it, but you put it off and put it off, and then there's jsut too much work to do when you finally go.

I'm sure I've also said this, but I will try to post shorter, more frequent posts.  But not this one.  This one may turn out to be super-long.

First and foremost, the most important reason we're all here -- I would like to announce that as of today, I have raised approximately
of my
goal for both the marathon and the triathlon.

Due to unpopular demand -- folks not wanting me to put their names out on the interwebs -- I am suspending the listing of the Fred's Team Honor Roll, although believe me, I've got it here with me.

Please help me honor the memory and fight of Prince Liam the Brave by helping to ensure that no child ever again has to suffer from neuroblastoma and other deadly childhood cancers. It couldn't be easier -- all you have to do is click here to go to my triathlon page, or  here to go to my marathon page.  The money that you donate goes to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research. 

And let me tell you, I am earning every penny of your donations this year.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of each discipline, since I don't have the Buckeye Outdoors link on my site anymore -- and I think I should get it back, because the Training Peaks software that Fred's Team now uses, though a good program, does not have the linking capability to the blog that I was hoping for -- a brief overview of the schedule: 
Monday -- swim
Tuesday -- run
Wednesday -- bike
Thursday -- run
Friday -- off
Saturday -- long run + swim
Sunday -- long bike

Can you believe I used to be a pack-a-day smoker?

First off, I am swimming.  And by swimming, I mean not drowning for half an hour at a time.  Which admittedly is hard to do in a pool that's only 17 yards long and 4 feet deep (NYSC pool in the Crowne Plaza, or whatever hotel that is).  I have been working hard with the drills and the endurance, but until yesterday, I wasn't able to go more than 4 laps at a time without feeling like my heart was going to burst.  It doesn't matter how long or how fast you can run, swimming uses a set of muscles -- and apparently a set of lungs -- that you don't normally use anywhere else.  I have discovered that as long as I sidestroke, I can go for at least half an hour, which is what I was expecting the swim portion to be for me.  So I had planned to do that.

However, I have been told by many people who've done this particular tri that the water in the Hudson River is at least 2 knots, and you are swimming with the current.  If you put your arms in front of you, you will go point to point in 28 minutes.  Additionally, I took my first open-water swim class, and after learning which is the correct way to put one's wetsuit on -- zipper in the back, and yes, I AM the only person in the world not to know that! -- and realizing just how bouyant and fast you become while wearing one, I think I might have to do more crawling and less sidestroke.  That, plus the instructor kept saying to beware of the frog-kickers, and that would be me.  I am feeling better about that, and also yesterday in the pool, I managed to do multiple sets of six consecutive laps, which I've never been able to do before.    Okay, so it's only 100 yards at a time, and I'm going to need to do 15 times that to get through the swim portion, but I'm just looking to get through the swim portion.

Some other things I learned during the open-water swim class -- the wetsuit does not keep you dry.  Water definitely gets in there, especially since I have a sleeveless one that I think is maybe a half-size too big for me.  On the other hand, water also gets out, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.  Also, the ocean is very, very salty.  I drank enough of it not to need extra sodium -- including electrolytes for my run -- for the next three days following.  Something tells me the Hudson is not going to be nearly so "tasty."

Biking, one would think, would be much easier to take.  Alas, not so.  After spending nearly $900 on my bike, a Cannondale Synapse Women's Alloy 7 Sora, and learning to understand all those gears and how they shift, I discovered the one place Cannondale really skimps, and that's the seat.  I was under the impression that, seeing as this is a woman's bike, that they would provide a woman-specific seat.  Apparently they do, but it must be for a woman with no genitalia.  I was wearing bike shorts on my rides -- which for the uninitiated is a pair of shorts with basically a Depends sewn in the crotch -- and was still getting such pains in the female parts that after my first 18-miler, I bled for two days (TMI, part of the process).  

So back to Toga for a better bike seat, and an introduction to Chamois Cream, which is a cooling cream for one's, um, chamois.  Apply directly to affected areas -- apparently things feel better if you wear the shorts without underwear. And amazingly, they do!  Although why there is menthol in the cream, I don't know.  Some parts of the body don't need to be mentholated. 

I've been having palpitations about what to wear under the wetsuit for the bike and run legs.  I was super-worried about tri shorts, given that I can barely stand riding in the bike shorts, and tri shorts have only a little bit of padding in the crotch, because you're also supposed to do the run in them.  My friend and Teammate Abby suggested I do what she did, which was wear running shorts, and pull the bike shorts over the top for the bike leg.  That was the plan.

Then yesterday, I discovered that I indeed had a pair of tri shorts that I unwittingly bought in last year's Jackrabbit post-Thanksgiving sales frenzy (where I also picked up the wetsuit for under $100, btw).  So yesterday's experiment -- 18+ miles in tri shorts, no undies, to simulate the bike leg.  And believe it or not, I did 23 miles in those shorts and it didn't feel too terrible!  Of course, when I got off the bike my back seized up and my left arm had gone numb, but I can't attribute that to the shorts.   So it looks like we might have a winner!

The other thing I have taken the plunge with is to buy and use clip bike shoes. They have a clip on the ball of the shoe that clip into the bike pedals.  The idea is that you are helping to move the bike both by pulling up and pushing down on the pedals, which makes you go faster, and also helps with the hills.  I was initially scared to use them, as I had visions of not being able to take my foot off the pedals and falling over.  Turns out, it is extremely easy to unclip one's foot from the pedal -- as long as one remembers that one's foot is clipped onto the pedal.  My first foray out with the shoes was a jaunt up to the GW Bridge and back, a nice, long and fairly flat ride up the West Side of Manhattan.  The only problem is there is one section where you have to leave the path along the river and head into the city streets for two blocks.  There is a stop sign where you cross from the street back onto the bike path.  I got to the stop sign, stopped, and tried to pick my foot off the pedal.  Why can't I lift -- wait a minute -- and then plop, over I went.  Scraped knee and banged wrist -- that freaked me out, because as a stenographer, I can't afford to mess up my hands -- but otherwise, I'm no longer scared of falling over on the bike.  And now I remember that my feet are clipped to the pedals.  Duh.

Here's an observation I have as a runner-who-bikes:  as a runner, you have to be aware of your surroundings, but as long as you're not running a race, it's okay to sort of  "check out" every once in a while, you know, let your mind wander.  You cannot do that on a bike.  You have to be 100 percent aware 100 percent of the time, and it's so scary sometimes to be in Central Park and have to ride amongst the hundreds of bike-renting tourists and others who do not ascribe to that edict.   Here in NYC, there's a huge business -- legit and otherwise -- in renting bicycles to folks to cruise Central Park and also Riverside Park.  Why is it that people who clearly do not ride bicycles in whatever city or country they live in decide that a great way to see Central Park is to do so on a barely-working rental bike?  They ride in packs of 10 abreast, oftentimes the wrong way (you are only supposed to go counter-clockwise on a bike in Central Park, just as with cars), usually without helmets, and doing things that people who would have enough common sense to fill a thimble wouldn't do, like stop at the bottom of the Great Hill when other cyclists are barrelling down that hill at 30+ miles per hour -- or even better, make a sharp turn across the roadway in that exact same spot.  Or just stop randomly in the middle of the road.  And my favorite of all -- TEXTING while on a bicycle.  Apparently this woman must be a doctor informing her colleagues of an important medical decision that must be made immediately and could not possibly wait long enough for her to even pull off to the side of the road.  Or maybe she's just an idiot.  Either one.

The lower loop of the Park, below 72nd Street, is where the biggest number of tourist clogs and difficulties lie.  As I was setting off on loop #4 of the Park yesterday -- and I was originally planning to do 3 full loops and then one or two lower loops -- I was riding around packs of tourists and others.  I have found that "Coming through, coming through" as I ride works, because "on your right" and "on your left" doesn't work when the people don't speak English.  At least the sound of my voice alerts them that I am passing by.  So I'm trying to pass one woman who keeps drifting to the right as I am passing her there, and I'm saying "Coming through, coming through," and she's not paying attention and about to crash into me, so I go "Coming through, COMING THROUGH!!!" which wakes her up.  She stops drifting and says to me, "Shut up."  !!  So as I pass her, I yell, "Watch where you're going and I'll shut up!"  My righteous fervor led me to do a five-mile loop, since I was not about to ride on the lower loop any more than I had to, now that I had a mortal enemy.  So thanks, biking idiot, for giving me my longest and fastest ride to date.

Running -- ah, running.  Well, at least I sort of know how to do this.  I'm a little concerned about the run portion of the tri, even if it's only a 10K, because it's mostly uphill, and goes the hard (clockwise) way around the Park.  I know I'll make it.  The question is merely, in what shape will that be?  Upright, I hope.

My new not-so-secret weapon on the run are salt packets.  Just little salt packets from the deli.  I sweat like a moose when I run, regardless of the weather, so it's important that I maintain my electrolytes.  Before every run I drink water with a Nuun electrolyte tablet  dissolved in it -- love them! --- and for a long, hot run, I'll also take an S-Cap, which is another form of electrolytes.  But along with gels and Gatorade, I'll also chew on a salt packet -- just like a stick of gum -- once or twice during the course of a run.  As icky as it sounds, it works for me.  For 10K or less, if I feel I need it, I'll have some salt about halfway through.  For 10K or more, I use about the same formula as gels -- every 45 minutes to an hour -- unless I'm using gels that have extra sodium.  Then I'll just take the gel, and hold the salt unless I feel I really need it. 

And yes, I am still running in Vibrams, even though my many attempts to get Vibrams to sponsor even a fraction of my events were for naught.  For naught, I say!  I still love those damn shoes, and will wear them for the run portion of the tri and also the marathon, but you know, not even a "thanks but no thanks" from them.  Does that cheese you off, too?  Write them, at and let them know.  Which is another reason why I switched to bike shoes -- and why I'm eying those Saucony Kinvaras...

In addition to the tri training, the Team began marathon training a few weeks ago.  Our long runs are up to 11 miles.  It's been over a year since I've gone over 8 miles, and it's both joyful and painful to get back up to the double digits.  I had to take an ice bath after our first nine-miler.  How far we have fallen!  We start our Tuesday-Thursday sessions soon, but work will prevent me from doing most of the Thursday dates because of work.  If there's one thing I hate to do without the Team, it's the Thursday workout, because those are stair workouts and they can be brutal.  I don't think I will slack -- Liam doesn't deserve a slacker-- but without the Team there, I am afraid of not working as hard or as long as I should be.  But we will make do.

Okay, nearly long enough.  One small observation  before we go -- I did my volunteer race during a rainstorm.  When you do that, NYRR gives you one of those orange and white rain ponchos that you see the folks at the water stations wear during the marathon.  While initially excited about receiving the coat, I was soon disillusioned. A decently constructed raincoat wouldn't have stood a chance in this rain, and this one didn't keep me even remotely dry, but it didn't even keep me warm, which is an unusual thing for a coat constructed of non-breathable plastic.  And here's why -- it's glued together with what must be Elmer's School Glue, because by the time I got home, the hood had ripped off and the sleeves had mostly disconnected from the body.  So not such a great giveaway after all, but I still have it, for some unknown reason.

Okay!  Done for now.  Donate, donate, donate!! And off for a run!