Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sweat, Tears, and Acceptance Letters

Well friends, I have been waiting to write this post for a long, long time and I am so excited that I finally get to fill you in on a part of my life that I have not talked about on my blog (or at all, really) until...well, now!

I do not talk much about my career on my blog but I have mentioned being an accountant in a few different posts. I even told you in one of my Friday Facts post that I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up, but I couldn't tell you yet.

Truth be told- I did not enjoy being an accountant. It wasn't the 70 hour work weeks, the crazy deadlines, or even staring at excel spreadsheets for hours on end that made me not enjoy the job. I didn't feel like I was making a difference in anyone's life and that bothered me. I did not get personal satisfaction out of my day to day tasks. Accounting is a great career choice for many, but it was not for me.

So I did some soul searching and thought long and hard about what career path would keep me passionate about what I was doing on a daily basis. I thought about my personal strengths like my outgoing personality and ability to form close friendships. I thought about my personal passions and what makes me happy. After several months it was clear what career path I should follow. It was one that would satisfy my need for helping others, allow me to form relationships, and embrace my passion of being athletic and active. I decided to pursue a career in Physical Therapy.

As a business major in college I did not take the necessary classes such as anatomy, bio, chem, ect to prepare for a physical therapy program. So I began taking classes in addition to working full time and training. (and taking the GREs!) It was not easy. In fact, it has been damn hard. I miss workouts, I have to readjust my weekends due to tests and labs, and I spend the mid-week runs and rides on the treadmill or the trainer so I can study while sweating. It has not been fun.

But it's been worth it. I am so excited to say that I was accepted into a Doctor of Physical Therapy program at a really great school. It is a three year, full time program that culminates in a doctorate degree. I begin this new journey in August of 2012. Until then though- I am still working, finishing the necessary classes, and training! Doctor Lauren. I like the sound of that!

Oh yea, the school I will be attending is in Denver, Colorado! Hello high altitude training :)

(Phil and the pup are coming too!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recovery Week: Good for the Body and Mind

Hi! When I saw you last I was battling a serious cold and felt down right awful. Luckily for me last week was recovery week where the workouts were short and the miles were single digits. Unluckily for me, I spent the whole entire week chugging nyquill and dayquill instead of sweating at all.

But I am happy to announce that my stuffy nose is clear, I am no longer sneezing every 4.7 seconds, and I am able to stay awake for longer than 15 minutes without needing to take a nap. Hallelujah for recovery weeks!

Recovery weeks are also a great mental break. Because there were no super long workouts planned for this weekend I decided to head home to Philadelphia and spend some quality time with my family. Thursday was Phil's birthday so we all went out to dinner to celebrate the birthday boy.

We are a pretty good looking bunch if I do say so myself!

The night continued with drinks and inappropriate conversations with the waiter laughs at a near by bar.

Side note: Nikki and I always said we don't look alike but I think we look really similar in the above picture!

It was nice to take a break from the long miles for a week and spend the time recovering from my cold and catching up with the family. But it is back to the grind for this week- I have a 110 mile ride and an 18 mile run on the agenda next weekend!

I can't wait to tell you guys about this amazing fitness class my sister took me to on Sunday morning. It kicked my butt (literally) and I can barely walk up or down stairs today! I'll post all about it tomorrow.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

(ps- I am totally behind on my blog reading but I promise I'll catch up on your lives soon!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pushing On vs Calling it Quits

Sometimes in training there are times when you have to dig deep and push yourself to make it to the finish and sometimes there are times when it is smarter to just call it quits mid work out. Today, I raised the white flag of defeat during my bike ride.

I set out this morning with high expectations of completing a long, long, ride by myself. I thought it would be great practice to push myself through the lows that come with tackling a long distance without the help of someone else. I stuck to a local trail that had plenty of water stops and other people just in case I needed any help. I was excited to write a blog post about pushing through and perseverance.

 I persevered until mile 20 when I realized I was just being dumb.

 See, I skipped my long run on Friday night because I felt too sick to move from the couch. I didn't do anything yesterday except deplete a whole box of tissues and sneeze uncontrollably. I woke up this morning after 9 hours of sleep feeling a little better and eager to get in some sort of work out so I headed out on the trail with the false perception that I felt fantastic.

I told myself for the first few miles that I would feel better once I got warmed up. When I was stopped a traffic light at mile 20 I realized that I was shivering, I still felt awful, my chest hurt because I was breathing through my mouth due to my nose being stuffy, and I had more snot on the sleeves of my bike jersey than lady-like to admit.

With my tail between my legs, I turned my pink bike around and slowly pedaled the 20 miles home for a grand total of 40 miles. About half of what I was hoping for.

Could I have pushed on? Probably. But it would not have been smart. In fact, it would have been smarter to just stay in bed this morning and have Phil serve me chicken soup while watching episodes of Say Yes to the Dress.

If you are able to push on without injury or putting yourself in danger, you push. If your nose is dripping snot and you feel the need to take a nap, you raise the white flag.

This week is recovery week. Hooray! I shall be recovering with tons of Ny-quill, sleep, and vitamins so that I am ready to tackle 110 miles on Oct 1st.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Watermans Half Iron Bike Course Preview

This past weekend I had the opportunity to bike the Waterman's Half Iron bike course. I was excited about this opportunity because I will be racing Waterman's in a few weeks. The bike course had tons of positives and some negatives. Here are my findings.

The race takes place in Indian Head, Maryland just about 50 minutes south of Arlington, VA (hooray for day-of travel!). The swim will take place in Smallwood state park in a very calm lake. The bike course quickly leaves the park and makes a big 56 mile lollipop loop around southern Maryland.

The Scenery:

The course starts and finishes with a few miles on Chicamuxen road, which is a four lane highway with huge shoulders and little cars. After the few miles on Chicamuxen (I love saying that!) you turn onto Riverdale Road which is a serious treat. You ready for this? It's totally shaded! There is a huge tree canopy lining the road for miles and miles. It is absolutely beautiful. I didn't stop and take a picture but you can imagine is looks something like this, only better, for about 15 miles:

The scenery for the rest of the 56 miles is equally as beautiful and shaded. You ride by farms, historic churches, and through a nature preserve. It is one of the prettiest rides I have been on and I am excited to see it all again during the race!

The Terrain:

Don't let the images of tree-lined streets fool ya- the terrain of the course is not flat. It's not super hilly either. In fact- it is a perfect mix of both! The first 25 miles are rolling hills, with 2 or 3 climbs that slowed me down to under 10mph. None of the steeper hills though are very long. You never have to climb for more than a few minutes at a time. And don't forget- what goes up, must come down! You are able to pick up serious speed on the downhills if you are a master at your gears and use that momentum to go up the next hill.

See? Nothing crazy but certainly not Cozumel flat. The rollers come often and come quickly in the first 25 miles. You have to be ready to change gears quickly if you want to be efficient going up and down those hills. And don't drop your chain like I did on one of the hills :)

Once you turn off of Riverdale Road you have some sections of flat with a few more rollers thrown in. As you can see from the elevation chart above the last few miles into T2 are downhill. You can stretch your legs on your bike while you fly down the hills into transition and be nice and prepped for the 13.1 mile run of more rolling hills.

The Obstacles:

While the course is fantastic there are some issues on the course on which to be aware. The most dangerous obstacle we encountered on the roads were potholes. Big ones! There is one pothole on Riverdale Road that actually takes up the entire right lane and you have to cross the yellow line into the left lane to avoid hitting it. I emailed the race director about that one since crossing the yellow line in a tri is a DQ offense. Besides that one major one, there are also several others that if a cyclist hit them they would either wreck or seriously damage their tires. Keep an eye out for these as they could seriously mess up you and your bike. The potholes are mostly on the downhills so take caution when flying down the hills.

The other obstacle is one which a race director can do nothing about- squirrels! Those little buggers are scary! They run out in front of you, then run back, then dart out in front of you again. They can't decide if they want to get run over by your bike or not. I encountered 3 or 4 potentially suicidal squirrels on the 56 mile loop.


So in short- the course is beautiful with rolling hills on roads that have large shoulders and very few cars. I think there are going to be some damn fast bike splits at this race. There may also be some road rash for the cyclists that don't dodge the potholes on the downhills. There may also be a few squirrel deaths if they don't stay off the road.

I hope this helped for those that are racing the Waterman Half on October 8th!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Random Ramblings of an Ironman Trainee

Instead of the weekend update post I decided to be a bit more random and share some thoughts, observations, and feelings about Ironman training so far. I spent numerous hours on my bike yesterday so I had tons of time to come up with quite the list. In no specific order...

  1. I ran 16 miles on Friday evening with Kate and then we practiced our Ironman recovery meal by going and getting fajitas. It took my stomach a little while to calm down before I could feast even though I was starving.
  2. I rode 104 miles yesterday and the sorest part of me this morning? My sit bones from being in the saddle for so long. My legs? They feel fine, just a little tired.
  3. During the 104 miles I experienced many many different emotions- I went from happy to sad to angry. I felt great, awful, not so good, to great again. It was as much a mental training day as it was physical.
  4. I can't sleep when I am dehydrated.
  5. I cant sleep when I am too hydrated because I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  6. I have yet to find the ideal amount of being hydrated that allows me a good night sleep.
  7. Why do I chose to participate in sports that chafe you in all the wrong areas?
  8. I have really ugly feet since training so much. Its embarrassing.
  9. You won't lose weight training for an Ironman (not that I am trying to) due to how much you eat. I had a hard time adjusting to eating all the time but I know my body needs it. Plus I am so hungry all the time that not eating would make me cranky.
  10. I have a love/hate relationship with heart rate training. Sometimes I think my HR rate is super high when it isn't, and other times I feel like I am putting forth no effort yet my HR is through the roof.
  11. I hate when non-Ironman-training people ask me what I am doing over the weekend and I have to respond "riding my bike and running". Sometimes I wish I could go out dancing or be a lazy butt on my couch. I think I'll spend the whole month of December being a normal person again with a social life that does not revolve around working out.
  12. I don't mind missing some social events but I had a hard time missing my best friends birthday and law school graduation due to long training weekends.
  13. When I do laundry, I make sure I do work out clothes first and then work clothes. I can wear my work clothes more than once, but my workout clothes need to be washed asap.
  14. I don't spend any time doing my hair unless I have somewhere fancy to go (which I don't- see point 11). Good thing its long enough for me to put it in a bun and call it a day.
  15. Doing long runs and rides with good friends leads to very funny/interesting/amazing conversations. If you want to become close to someone spend several hours sweating along side of them.
  16. I have been most surprised by the fact that my legs have felt fine for the most part but I have been so sore in some strange places- like my fingers from changing gears on my tri bike or my elbows from being in the pads of the aero bars for so long.
  17. All of my disposable income for the past year has gone into this sport. I think my paycheck after Ironman is going to be used to buy me some fancy boots or heels instead of running shoes or sports bras.
  18. I have come a long way with my Ironman nutrition strategy but I still need to find something more substantial that fills me up for breakfast that sits well in my stomach as well as something solid I can eat on the bike. Yesterday I used powergel, pretzels, a granola bar, water and salt pills. While I had energy the entire time, I felt hungry- like I wanted a burger or something mid ride. Maybe pack a sandwich in my special needs bag for Ironman?
  19. I prefer PowerGel (the Powerbar brand) over Gu gel because it is slightly more liquid-like and it goes down with out having to semi-chew it like you have to with Gu. It also has more calories and sodium. Hooray for Powergel being supplied on the Ironman course!
  20. I enjoyed our Friday night long run much more this weekend than 2 weekends ago. I think both Kate and I were more mentally prepared for what to expect which made the miles go a ton faster. We also finished our 16 miles in front of an outdoor party with loud music. I may or may not have put my hands up in the air when my watched beeped 16 miles. I was practicing for my Ironman finish.
  21. I imagine crossing the finish line whenever I need to get myself through a long or hard work out.
That is all the random tidbits I have to share for now. Ill keep a running list and share more later.

I rode the Waterman's Half Iron course yesterday- so keep an eye out for a bike course preview post this week!

Happy Monday!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday: Rain

    This morning I went to track practice and ran the fastest mile of my life to date in the torrential downpour.

    My miles got slower as my sneakers became more saturated with water.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Labor Day Weekend Adventures

    I hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend! My weekend was filled with fun and crazy adventures!

    On Friday evening Phil and I bought a new car! We both do not drive to work and we needed wanted a vehicle that could handle all of our adventures. The new car is fun and rugged and obviously has a huge roof rack and is able to hold 4 bikes. Phil is the master negotiator so we got out of the dealership pretty late but with a pretty solid deal on the car ;) Go, Phil!

    We woke up early on Saturday and headed out for what was supposed to be my first century ride but turned into a whole different adventure.

    Right before the half way point I noticed the sky looked rather ominous. As if there may be a thunder storm heading towards us. We pushed forward.

    Not even five minutes later it began to rain. Nothing serious but we ducked under a tree to keep dry while meteorologist Phil whipped out his smart phone to look at the Doppler radar of the storm. It began raining a little harder and within minutes there loud thunder booms so close that I got pretty nervous.
    a light drizzle
    Phil and I decided that standing under a tree during a serious thunder storm was most likely not a smart choice. We began riding (I couldn't see 2 feet in front of me) and then ducked into a random persons car port for shelter where we stood for 45 minutes waiting for the storm to pass.

    Once the rain slowed down meteorologist Phil said that the Doppler showed the majority of the storm out of the area and we could push on in the rain. We were already soaked and 45 miles from home so we kept going.

    We heard more thunder and immediately stopped at a close by strip mall and then this happened...

    The annoying part about the storm was that is was DIRECTLY over us. DC got hit for like twenty minutes, but the clouds over Poolsville were never ending. What do you do when you are cold, wet, and 45 miles away from home in a random strip mall?

    You eat pizza and mozzarella sticks to warm up. You also send a tweet begging someone to please come pick us up.

    We saw on the radar that the storm was heading out, so we waited it out. FOR THREE HOURS.
    On the way home we took a shortcut to shave off a few miles. After being stopped for several hours and freezing my buns off I just wanted to get home! No century ride for me this weekend but I'll take 75 miles, pizza and an adventure with Phil any day! Note to self: pizza and mozzarella sticks in the middle of a ride do not make for a fun ride home. I almost lost my lunch at the top of every hill.

    After such a day, Phil and I met up with friends for dinner and a few well deserved drinks. Even the dog didn't come out of the hectic day unscathed. Notice the grease stain on her fur.

    We also spent some time at Great Falls this weekend just enjoying being outdoors while not swimming, biking, or running (crazy, right?). We were politely reminded not to swim in the river at Great Falls because it can be dangerous.

    The long weekend came to an end by spending the evening with Bobbie and Ray celebrating their recent marriage. We were unable to attend their destination wedding so it was nice that they had a small celebration here so we could congratulate them!

    Ray and Phil hard at work

    so. much. food.
    It was great spending time with friends and meeting new ones!

    It was certainly an action packed three day weekend. I could have done without the three hour detour in a strip mall- but hey- Phil and I had fun!

    I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Training in Heart Rate Zones

    Many moons ago I mentioned that I had a VO2 max test done, and I frequently  mention about "staying in Zone 2" during long runs and rides. Several commenters asked me to explain what that means so here is a very brief overview.

    Earlier this spring I had what is called a Vo2 max test- this is a maximum effort test that tells you your heart rate training zones. The test itself was pretty grueling. My bike was placed on an indoor trainer and I wore a face mask that measured the amount of oxygen I was exhaling. The tester made the effort on the bike harder and harder until I could not go anymore. It started off easy and finished super hard- to the point where my heart was about to pounce out of my chest, I was dripping sweat all over the floor, and my legs were burning. It was fun.

    scary looking, right?

    What the machine is measuring is how much oxygen I am consuming as the effort gets harder. We need oxygen flowing to our muscles to prevent lactic acid build up- this is called being aerobic. When there is little or no oxygen flowing to the muscles the muscle cells use reserve energy and this is called being anaerobic.

    There is a point where the oxygen consumption plateaus even if the effort increases- this is your Vo2 max. It is at this point where you would not be able to exercise much longer. And truth be told, if I had to keep pedaling my bike at max effort for 30 more seconds I would have lost my lunch on the floor. This is why they tell you not to eat for a few hours before the test.

    After the test was completed the machine printed out a nice little chart that showed my heart rate zones. Let me explain the different zones:

    Zone 1: This is the active recovery zone. Think of an easy jog or a Sunday stroll on your bike. This zone triggers growth hormone release but it is not intense enough to increase damage from previous hard work outs.

    Zone 2: This is where all of the long runs and rides take place. This is the aerobic threshold zone- the zone where your muscles are getting the maximum amount of oxygen. In this zone you burn mostly fat and not as many carbs. Training in this zone activate the slow twitch muscle fibers which is what you need for long endurance events.

    Zone 3: For me, my Z3 feels very much like Z2. You are still getting oxygen to the muscles but you are doing more damage to the muscles and will require more recovery. In this zone, more carbs start being burned than fats. Not too much training is done in this zone.

    Zone 4: This is called the lactic threshold zone. Both the aerobic and anaerobic systems are working together to provide energy to the muscles. This is what tempo runs and speed work are done at in order to increase your lactic threshold.

    Zone 5: This is the zone were your body cannot get rid of the lactic acid as fast as it is producing it. Training in this zone has its benefits of increasing endurance performance but the recovery time is high due to the lactic acid build up in the muscles and the blood.

    Heart rate training can also be extremely frustrating. When it is warm outside, or if I am slightly dehydrated, or tired, I feel like my Zone 2 is super slow. I have noticed that during my long rides and runs if I dedicate myself to staying in Z2 I wake up the next morning with fresh legs where as when I push into Z4 or Z5 during track practices, I can barely walk.

    I think heart rate training is really important for long events such an Ironman. I also suggest getting a Vo2 max test done if you can because my perceived effort compared to my actual heart rate zones were way different!

    I had my test done by Melissa Dalio of Endura Coaching. I really enjoyed my experience with her. After the test she walked me through all of the results and even told me how many calories of fat vs carbs I was burning, which helped me dial in my nutrition for the long training sessions. Reach out to me if you want her information!

    Hope this helped explain what I mean when I say Z2!