Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Race Summary: Indoor Triathlon Championship (and Mini Bike Shoe Tutorial)

Good evening, everyone! I hope your Monday has been swell. I can't complain. As Mondays go, this was a pretty good one. Not least of all because I got back the results from yesterday's triathlon championship. Before I go into those, though, I'll cover the race itself in detail.

The Swim:

The swim is starting to become my biggest weakness. I can swim for awhile, but not fast. A slow swim will not be helpful in Providence if I hope to complete the race this year. Before my heat started, I went up into the stands to watch the previous heat. I watched one woman in particular because she seemed to be especially slow and counted her lengths. She completed one more than I did, so my own swim must be at a snail's pace! I will say, as well, that becoming fatigued in the water is much scarier than it is while running, for obvious reasons. It's not that I'm afraid of any real danger, but it's much harder and less acceptable, in my mind, to stop swimming than it is to stop running. Where I might just start walking during a run to catch my breath, I am much less inclined to do so while swimming. As I was getting tired I just had to keep my mind on moving forward and trying to maintain my form. Occasionally I would breathe more often than on every fourth stroke in an attempt to catch my breath but that was the extent of the relief I could give myself.The resulting length count: 18.

The Bike:

Alright, before going into this I think it's time for a brief tutorial on bike shoes for anyone who's unfamiliar. On many road and triathlon bikes, pedals are made so that the rider can "clip into" them while wearing special shoes that have cleats at the toe. This allows the rider to utilize leg power on both the downstroke AND upstroke. Mine look like this:

The cleat (please ignore the obvious Phoebe hairs stuck to the sole):

The pedal:

The shoe while it's clipped in:

It might be a little hard to see the pedal in the last couple of pictures. In the first one, I circled both the cleat and pedal and just the pedal in the second to make it a little easier to imagine, since the pictures might be a little unclear.

So, now that we have that in order, back to the race. Unbeknownst to me, a tiny sandstone pebble had lodged itself in one of the holes of my left cleat. As a result, the shoe wasn't fully clipping into the pedal on the spin bike and kept dislodging, which left me to slow the bike down to a stop from 36mph with one foot still attached and then bring it back up to speed. This happened three or four times in the first few minutes of the ride. Since I'd never had that problem before, I assumed it was the bike and the people who organized the race were kind enough to allow me to start over on a different bike. Once on the new bike, though, it happened again! This time only once, at least, so I managed to crank out 18.08 in 30 minutes on the spin bike, which I believe is .03 miles less than what I did last time. I'm confident that if I hadn't had to deal with that one pedal incident I would've beaten my old distance by a few to 10 hundredths of a mile. Regardless, it was a good effort and I was proud of it. Plus, the ratio of male to female triathletes in the spin room was quite high. If you've spent any time in the sport, you know it's an attractive group of men. Tee hee.

Err...back to business!

The Run:

If you've been following, you may remember that one of my goals for the year is to run 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. I hopped on the treadmill before the race and got my instructions, which included a warning that the buttons on the treadmill's LCD display might not be very responsive. They were certainly right about that. It took 30 seconds and the assistance of one of the race officials to bring my treadmill up to the desired speed of 7.5 mph. Once there, though, I maintained that pace for the entire remaining 19.5 minutes and even managed to speed it up to 8 in the last 20 seconds or so. I ended up with 2.44 miles. Even though I still haven't actually recorded 2.5 miles at exactly 20 minutes, I'm fairly sure I have accomplished this goal a couple of times. I won't mark it off until it's official, but I consider it done.

So that's a complete summary of my pre-results impressions and scores. I expected that, while my distances are higher overall, my score would be much lower since this group of women would be the most competitive I've faced so far. Scores are determined based on the highest and lowest distances achieved by female or male athletes, so it's possible that 18 laps in one race might give me a score of 67 and 55 in a different, more competitive one. I anticipated that I would place near the bottom.

In fact, the results came via email today and I placed...10th! Well, technically tied for 10th, but still. I was extremely happy with that placement, considering these were the best of the best of whoever competed in the whole series. Here are the full results:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Easter Marathon

I finally found it, my spring marathon. I searched high and low for a marathon that would be sufficiently accessible and discovered one in my own backyard! Initially I thought I might make it a trip and visit friends at the same time, but I looked into that and didn't really find anything suitable. I was beginning to think I wouldn't find anything until summertime. Then I came across this. It looks like a very informal thing, but I'm excited about it nonetheless. Plus, even though there's no guarantee that the weather will be good, it's far enough into spring that I imagine it will be gorgeous.

As we get closer and closer to beautiful weather, I'm increasingly disappointed that I won't be able to run the Brooklyn Half. What a great race. I've even considered running the course anyway but I guess we'll see. It's very late and I have a class and the tri tomorrow. Guess I should hit the hay.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Streak Milestone: 50 Days

Considering there are 30 days in a month and 12 months in a year, I'm feeling a little odd about marking the 50 day anniversary. Seems like I might have made more of a fuss at the 30 and 60 day points. Oh, well. Here's hoping I make it another 50 days (or 30, or whatever). I've been really good this week about doing well above my 1 mile minimum. I've done 20 miles this week starting Monday and ending today. It's not massive, but it's more than I usually do over course of the workweek.

Tomorrow is quidditch day, so it should be a good overall workout including both cardio and strength. Sunday is the tri championships. I'm a little nervous about my swimming as I still haven't been doing enough of it but it's not like there's very much time to improve between now and then. My strengths will definitely be the bike and the run.

I felt like I had more to say today about the streak and the weekend, but I'm coming up short on words. Ah, well. One thing is for sure: TGIF.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Goal Examination and a Good Workout

Yesterday as I was checking up on bloggy things, updating and whatnot, I stumbled across my 2011 Goals tab. Folks, progress looks bleak judging from the things I set out to do, the time I gave myself to complete them, and what I've accomplished so far. I've still only achieved one of my goals, which was qualifying for the Indoor Tri Championships. According to my schedule, I should now be able to run 2.5 miles in 20 minutes, a 5k in 24 minutes, and do a pullup. I've only come close to accomplishing one of these, which is 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. I did it once at Crunch with Jared and today, which I'll explain in greater detail shortly.

What's the problem here? Well, I think it's a lack of focus. Not only did I have three concurrent goals, I've also been working to keep my running streak alive and trying to train for the tri this weekend. I want to accomplish all of these, but in order to do so I need to focus in on them one, maybe two at a time so that achieving them is manageable. The best increments for these, I think, are weeks. This week I'm going to run 2.5 miles in 20 minutes and continue the streak...and train for the tri. Alright, so I've sort of set myself up to have trouble focusing. To be fair, 2.5 miles in 20 minutes is a subset of tri training. Anyway, back to the plan.  Next week I'm going to run a 5k in 24 minutes. If I have time, maybe I'll throw in some assisted pullups, but that is not the focus. I won't focus on that for another two weeks.

If I don't break these goals down into manageable pieces, I'll find myself in December having accomplished only a couple of them. So there you have it, this week: 2.5 miles in 20 minutes.

Now, during today's workout I may well have accomplished this. Unfortunately I'll never know for sure because I was only able to time it roughly. This afternoon I finished with work early so I came home to walk and feed Phoebe. Normally I have a hard time making it out of the apartment once I'm home, but today I was really motivated because I decided to do a small indoor tri as my workout. After Phoebe and I returned from our walk, I collected all my stuff for not only the workout, but a comedy show I had to attend after, and set out for the gym. I was afraid I'd be pressed for time since I had to make it for the comedy show so I decided to get my run in on the way to the gym. Unfortunately for me, the most direct route to the YMCA I planned to visit was down 7th Ave, which cuts right through Times Square. Times Square is great for strolling and not so great if you want to get anywhere in any amount of time. It wasn't as bad as I feared, though, once I parkoured my way around some tourists and a few piles of garbage.

I will say that running with a backpack can be a real pain in the butt. Not only is it an additional 5 or 10 pounds to lug around, it also sways back and forth if not kept in check. I'm sure there are backpacks that are better suited for this purpose than the one I have, which I won from a dining hall vendor show raffle and has Tony the Tiger on the front. However, a backpack is pretty far down my list of gear priorities so I plan to make do for as long as possible.

Once I got to the gym I did a little over 8 miles on the bike before heading over to the pool. To my dismay, there were at least three people in every lane! I don't like sharing a lane with anyone let alone three other people. I decided I'd make it a mini-duathlon (run, bike, run, typically) instead and began to run again around the indoor track. I started fast an only got faster after the first five or so laps. I knew I was going fast because it was an uncomfortable pace to keep. Normally once I hit this discomfort I'll slow down my pace. Not this time, though. I was flying and I knew it. Discomfort be damned! Once I was about a mile in I considered timing myself but eventually decided against it. Strangely enough, I become anxious when trying to meet time goals and sometimes do worse than I would have without the knowledge of what my time is.

I decided to make it a time goal. Once I saw that blessed minute on my iPhone I stopped, having done 2.5 miles. I was a little regretful of not having timed myself when I realized that I'd received a text just before starting and so would be able to estimate my time. It was around 20 minutes. I rain 2.5 miles in around 20 minutes. I don't feel that I can really count this given the fuzzy nature of the time calculation, but I felt good about the run while it was happening and after. I haven't pushed myself that hard in a long time and I'm looking forward to doing it more frequently.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Recap

Can't ever complain about a weekend, really. This one was especially good in the weather department. On Friday it was 74-75 degrees outside and,  while I had to work for most of it, I really enjoyed my walk to lunch. And even though I didn't get to physically enjoy it as much as I would have liked to, the promise of the beautiful  weather to come was enough to put a bright spin on the whole day and weekend. Friday's run was a Phoebe loop sans Phoebe. She seems to have gotten worse on runs, so I haven't been running with her as much as I used to.

Saturday was quidditch day, as usual. We started out with a warmup run in Riverside Park from about 108th to the Dinosaur Park, which I believe is around 96th and back. Conditioning was back in full force courtesy of Jared. The first post-warmup activity was four rounds of suicides down half the quidditch field. Next came 10 minutes of circuits which consisted of the following:

-10 burpees (an exercise in which you drop to a crouch on the ground, kick both legs behind you, do a pushup, jump back into a crouch, then jump vertically off the ground)
-15 squats
-20 mountain climbers

Afterward we moved to crab walking and bear crawling up and down the field. It was the type of Jared-devised workout that I haven't had in a long time. Needless to say, I'm quite sore today. In a good way, of course. The conditioning was followed by an hour to an hour and a half of quidditch-playing, which is always a good workout and a good time.

Earlier in the week I had a comment on one of my posts from Ruben, who started a triathlon-centered social networking site called TriumphTriathlon. Head on over and sign up if you're a triathlete looking for a growing community! If you happen to be a triathlete in New York City, you can join the group TriumphTriathlon in New York City and maybe group workouts or outings could ensue.

Lastly, the NJ Ultra Festival. It took place this weekend and we were aiming to run the 50 miler. Alas, we weren't ready for it and had to postpone for later. Now it's time for me to find a few Road Runners races and a marathon for the spring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Yes, I'm that excited about them. Not even normal capitalization rules can contain it. For the longest time I didn't think I'd ever be able to get into barefoot running. Then suddenly (approximately a week and a half ago) the idea popped into my head and, rather than thinking it's ridiculous like I normally do, I was actually really excited about the prospect of walking and running around almost barefoot. So I began looking around online and figuring out where I could get them, both online and in stores. I found a few websites selling them for $75-$80, but it was only one or two models. Not only that, but I couldn't try them on and I certainly didn't want to spend that kind of money and not be able to return them if they didn't fit.

I decided the best best option would be to get them from JackRabbit, the same store that organizes the Indoor Triathlon Series and put on the Shamrock Shuffle. Once you spend a certain amount of money ($150, if I remember correctly) and register with them, you get 10% off of everything you buy there. Considering how expensive running and triathlon stuff can be, it's a decent deal. And since I haven't spent too much money on running shoes in the last couple of years, I decided to take the leap and buy a pair. This is what they look like:

I went for a short run in them and they were great!

I made it short because I thought it might be hard to run in them at first. It wasn't as hard as I anticipated, but it will take some getting used to before I'll be able to do longer runs in them. I also worried that blisters and chafing might be an issue. They still might on a longer run, but today I had no issues. It could just be that the top part is designed enough like a sock that it's not as abrasive on bare skin as normal running shoes would be. I was also delightfully surprised to find that I seemed to be running faster. I'm not sure I was as I didn't time myself, but it definitely felt like it. Next time I'll time it to find out for sure.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Shamrock Shuffle!

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to run a FREE 5K. And not just one that I made up in my head or on mapmyrun.com and did by myself. This was an actual run organized by JackRabbit Sports and delightfully titled the Shamrock Shuffle. JackRabbit is the same store that puts on the indoor triathlon series in which I've been participating. It wasn't a competitive race and, with maybe 20 people running it, was possibly the smallest organized one I've ever done. The course started out from their Upper East Side store on 85th and Lexington and ended at a bar called 3rd and Long, which is owned by the now famous and very inspirational Matt Long. The run was very low-key and took place on the sidewalks and streets of NYC. No roads were closed so it involved what I've learned is called parkour, which is a weird fitness movement that involves jumping and climbing over and around things.

The whole group was very pleasant and nice to run with. In particular, I had the privilege of running with a few members of my quidditch team, which made the experience that much better. Running with friends ALWAYS beats running alone, after all. Fortunately, our team shirts are green, so we managed to show team and St. Patrick's Day spirit. It was no coincidence that the run ended at a bar, either. There was pizza and beer at the finish. Did this counteract the running? Yes, in terms of caloric intake, but it only contributed to the experience as a whole.

The streak continues. I think I'm up to 40 days now. I'm also at the point where I think I'll restart my situps streak. I definitely felt good about it while it was happening and am sort of disappointed that I haven't remained committed to it.

Spring is fast approaching and I need to sign up and begin training for the half Ironman in July. Last year's debacle was one of the driving forces behind my training strategy last fall and throughout the winter, so I really need to pick my plan, tailor it to my time constraints, and jump right in. The major changes from last year to now will be the following:

- Transition practice
- More open water swims (con wetsuit)
- Practice putting on and taking off the wetsuit
- Purchase of a new bike
- Much more frequent and longer outdoor bike rides
- Bricks

You may wonder why I even bothered trying last year without these things. Sometimes I wonder that myself. It is what it is, though. It served as a valuable learning experience. I have to run, but next to discuss is the Indoor Tri Championships on March 27th.

Note: As I'm sure you all know, Japan was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami last Friday. They've since registered hundreds of aftershocks and are currently working to cool down three nuclear reactors to prevent explosions or, in the worst case, a meltdown. Please consider donating to the relief efforts.

The Japan Society 

The Red Cross - You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation from your phone.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

DEALWATCH: Sale on Xterra Wetsuits

Hello and good Tuesday to all. I'm currently watching The Biggest Loser and obviously not at the gym. The good news is I've already done my run so that's good. FYI - Xterra is having a wetsuit sale. The prices are really decent. See the offer here. It's good until March 28th. If you're in the market for one before the season starts, take a look!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fun Run, St. Patrick's Day Parade, and Scheduling Conflicts

Okay, so while I do refer to it as a fun run, make no mistake; it was pretty tough. It was good, though, and definitely different from most of the runs I do. I've biked across the George Washington Bridge, which is mildly terrifying, but I'd never run across it until Saturday. When all was said and done we'd done about 16 miles. This run has a story behind it, as well. On Thursday the run was on my mind since we'd planned on doing another long run in preparation for the New Jersey Ultra Fest. Originally I'd planned on doing all or at least part of an 18 mile route that goes back and forth between Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, crossing the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queensborough, and Pulaski bridges. The bridges provide plenty in terms of challenging hills. The Queensborough feels especially endless, just like it does in the NYC Marathon. I was all set to do that route when I spoke with my friend Helen, whom I hadn't told about the run. She mentioned that the Hoboken St. Patrick's Day parade was taking place on Saturday and that a friend of hers was having a party starting at 9:30 (yes, in the morning). I glumly responded that I would be in the midst of a run at that time and so wouldn't be able to make it. She suggested (possibly jokingly, I'm not really sure) that I should run there. I sort of dismissed it at first, but then it began to grow on me. I love functional runs. So I mapped it out and made sure Jared was okay with it.

We started at about 9:30 and made our way north to Central Park. I decided to go up the east side of the park since it would give us a little more in terms of distance. We made it up to Harlem Hill and exited from the northwest corner of the park. We then ran west on 110th street until we got to Riverside Dr. We ran along that from about 110 to 160 and then had to take a right onto Fort Washington in order to make it toward the ramp of the GWB. That ramp was much less scary when I ran it than when I biked it. Running the bridge itself is glorious, the hill doesn't seem that bad and the wind is great, not to mention the view. Once we got off the bridge, I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to get to River Road, which is what we ended up spending most of our time running in New Jersey. But it was fine, the ramp led right to it and we began running south in New Jersey. It got a little boring at that point since we ran along the same road for about 7 miles, but it was still much different than what I normally run.

We made it down to the Port Imperial ferry terminal, where Jared had to catch the ferry back to the city for a Quidditch match. I took the light rail into Hoboken and did, in fact, make it to the party and even managed to see some of the parade.

Unfortunately, I did not do the indoor triathlon today. When I signed up for it I completely forgot that I had a sketch comedy class at noon. Under normal circumstances I would have done the tri and shown up to class late, but if I had been more than 15 minutes late I wouldn't have been let in. I did go down to Park Slope anyway hoping that I'd at least be able to do one or two parts of it. No luck, though. On the bright side, the race director said I could apply the entry fee to the championships on March 27th.

So that is that for the weekend. I continued my streak today by doing the Phoebe Loop. People are always entertained when we run by; it's probably because Phoebe looks like a running sausage with pointy ears.  Upcoming this week: tri training. I'm hoping to get in a couple of swims, a couple of runs, and some time on the spin bike. Eventually I'll need to start doing rides in the park in order to prepare for when I can start training with Team Lipstick again. I still have a phobia of biking with a group, and the only way to fix that is to put in the time and the miles. Hopefully I'll also be able to get my new bike soon.

One more thing, vote in my poll! Tell me what your goals are this spring and let me know if there's one that I've missed.