Oakland International Triathlon – Race Plan!

If there is anything I like more than triathlon, it’s obsessively planning for a triathlon.



TL;DR – I’m hella nervous so I wrote every little thing I’m going to try and do on Saturday.  Hella Nervous!!

Race day for the Oakland Triathlon Festival is August 29, a Saturday. A little bit odd, but the Raiders have a game on Sunday and that occupies the OPD, so if we want traffic control we go on a Saturday. It would be a bigger deal if I was coming from out of town but as I’m not, all is well.

It doesn’t help matters that Thursday night is both packet pick up and a mandatory meeting for my kid’s preschool. Yay double booking. I can get my packet Friday night and that’s what I’m planning on. I’ll jam home from pick up and lay out all my stuff, do one last bike check, and then try to have a relaxing evening.

Wake up call for race day is a minimum of three hours before start time. Assigned wave time is 7:06 AM so I’ll be up at 4 AM. Breakfast will be a Clif Bar, a banana, and water. I tend to eat my race day breakfast while methodically getting all my gear on, taking bites of bar between pieces of clothing. I know that it will be work to get all the food down, but it’s worth it. I’ll stop drinking except for tiny sips of water at about 5 AM.

My new best friend!
My new best friend!

Given that I want to get to transition around 5:15 AM and I want to have a happy home life, I’m car pooling to the start and leaving the car for the Mister, the little Miss, and my Father in Law to drive in at the not quite normal but at least a bit saner time of 7AM.  There is a whole lot of walking around the swim leg that I want to save my family by not asking them to watch the start, just be there at the swim exit. That also gives them a serious cushion to find parking, get coffee, and scout spectation spots. (I love that this race has really good spectator info, including where to view each transition as well as the finish line and coffee shop recommendations).

Pro Tip: If you have people coming to cheer you on, give them a time range for each leg/each time you will come past where they plan to be. Best bet these days is to text it to them. I do something like “I will finish the swim in 30 to 45 minutes.” This is a massive time range and makes allowances for a great day, a crap day, and swimming with the current! I do that for each leg. They basically reset each time they see me “OK, that was the swim, she said the bike would be approx 45 minutes per lap so we have 40 minutes to get to our preferred viewing area.” Worked perfectly for my last race. Family gets to see me, I get to see family – everybody wins!

Immediate Pre-Race or TZero

Get to Transition, find the club rack (55 people from my club are registered, total domination!), set up transition. Go to Porta Potty.

Light jog down to the swim exit and back.  Optional: Drop T1 spare shoes. Jog the transitions. Visualize success, ease, relaxation, mastery! Go to Porta Potty.

6:15 – T-49 minutes – last check of transition area. Start getting into wetsuit. Go to Porta Pottie.

6:30 – Grab homies, start the walk to the start.

6:45  – Sprint waves start – Take a gel, finish getting in to wetsuit, get in the water to warm up. New race tradition – including butterfly in my warm up. It gets my heart rate up very quickly and it can be intimidating to the competition. Plus it’s just super fun in a wetsuit.

7:00 – First Olympic Wave goes! Chill and breathe, chill and breathe. Visualize race.

7:03 – previous wave goes. Get lined up, not the back, not the front. Chill.

I will pace myself, I will swim to have a good bike, I will bike to have a good run, I will run to finish strong.

7:06 – Go Time!  

Swim – Head down, get into the rhythm as soon as possible. Stroke, Stroke, Breath, Stroke, Stroke, Sight, Breathe. Repeat for 30 – 45 minutes.

I haven’t learned how to catch a good draft while swimming. If I do get feet that would be awesome but I’m not gonna go off book to try and do it. I will probably swim well within what I could do, because I’m not confident of my swimming I think I go very conservatively.

Early in the swim there is a zig zag before we got onto the long stretch. I will focus on getting into a solid rhythm and staying right there; just below the burn, working, firm but not hard, breathing into it but not gasping for breath.

T1 – Flop onto the dock  then stand up, cap and goggles off, top of wetsuit down, find T1 running shoes (NB – gotta make sure I can find my shoes with my glasses off! May need to place glasses in the T1 shoes, in a case, don’t want them smashed and I’ve got cases to burn. Option is to run with foggy vision.

Jog the whole transition. Running all out would just get my heart rate spiking way to early in the day. I bet there will be a lot of people while start out running too hard and end up hitting their bike a walk, lungs heaving. Because…

Oh, doesn't that look fun!
Oh, doesn’t that look fun! We get to run up and down these stairs twice.

That’s right, we run a couple hundred yards out of the water and then up and over a pedestrian overpass! There is actually a prize for the male and female records for T1. Super love that this race has primes (small prizes) for the fastest leg splits.

Get to the bike, thrown down goggles and cap, finish removing wetsuit, bike shoes on, grab flask of gel (it’s sitting in my helmet) and put it in my leg pocket, grab flat kit, other leg pocket (bento box?), helmet on (glasses on if I didn’t run in them), jog to bike mount, right past all the people right at the line, get in front of that traffic and get on the bike! Pull race belt down to waist after getting on the bike (you wear your race belt under your wetsuit? Hell yes I do.)

Bike – Lots of turns on this course, there are not a lot of places where we will be just grinding away in our rhythm. I want to average 16 mph and finish this up between 1:30 and 1:45. Because there will be so many turns, it will be important to slow down through the turns as little as possible while remaining safe. Accelerating takes more energy than maintaining and every moment slower than my goal average speed requires a moment that much faster.

I will pace myself, I will go at a controlled pace, I will bike to have a good run, I will run to finish strong.

It’s out of transition, left turn, a couple of blocks, right turn and a couple of miles straight up Broadway to settle down and get into it before the turns start.

I did the preview ride last Saturday, so I know that the one short, steep downhill is immediately followed by a ninety degree left and then a right, basically a really hard chicane and the middle of that turn has potholes. Priority through the turn is staying upright.

Take the turns nice and wide->apex->wide where possible, otherwise it’s watching out for potholes, train tracks, and pools of ick (I see you 7th Street right turn, I see you!) and staying in the right effort zone. There will be a headwind out 7th to the Port and a tail wind back.

I know where I need to be effort wise, working but no burn in the legs, no chasing, no jumping, no attacking. Steady, steady effort. (Exceptions: necessary passes due to people in front of me slowing down or getting the hell away from unsafe riders).

And no drafting!

I need to do two laps of the bike course, when we approach transition the sprint racers will be heading to dismount and the Olympic racers will need to turn left to head out again. This merge was apparently quite hairy last year so it’s head up time.

No matter what you think the race director ought to be doing, knowing the course, the rules, and racing safely are the athlete’s responsibility.

Nutrition – I will be doing a small hit of gel every 15-20 minutes. I will drink to thirst, with Gu Brew for electrolyte and some calories and just water to chase gels. Plan is to finish three total gels and one and half water bottles during the bike.

The forecast is for mid-sixties with cloud cover. Perfect racing weather. Still gotta wear sunblock, still gotta hydrate, no slacking on the basics!

T2 – on the last stretch down 3rd clam down, spin the legs, stretch the back and hammies, think about running.

Dismount safely and walk to the rack, bike straight on, helmet off, shoes off, shoes on, grab visor and gel flask, run, put visor on while running.

Run – This is not a sprint, no hell bent for leather pace here. Left down 2nd, right, left, left, right, Spend the first five minutes getting under control. I’ve practiced my race effort so I need to relax and let it come to me. I can’t bank on the flow coming but I’m going to make a place for it. Just under 5K pace, just a bit less than a sprint race. Can you do this for an hour?

I will pace myself, I will go at a controlled pace,  I will run to finish strong.

Nutrition – one gel flask at a concentration to be sipped every ten minutes/every mile. Aid stations every mile with water.

(This late in the race, there are fewer words. Keep it simple)

Don’t fall off. Stay on it, don’t slack, stay on it. Don’t chase anyone.

Up to the lake. Home field advantage in full effect. Anyone who runs in Oakland, runs the lake. Familiar courses are easy to run. Let it be as easy as possible. Working, comfortably hard. No burn, no burn, just tired, no burn.

At the Boat house- Can you do this for another thirty minutes? Yes.

It’s okay to be tired here, it’s been a long day. Stay in your zone.

Left after the pedestrian bridge, 1.2 miles to go. Is there more in the tank? No? Ok, stay with this pace. Yes? Pick it up just a notch, a tiny notch.

Under the freeway, about a mile to go. Cross Oak Street, about a half mile, start to spend the last drips of energy. Flask goes in pocket. Stay strong and steady.

I will finish strong.

Here comes the kicker. With a quarter mile to go, it’s back up and over the pedestrian crossing. Stairs, fucking flights of stairs. Just do this, just do this, it’s gonna hurt, it’s supposed to hurt but you’re so close to the finish.

Down the other side and out and it’s a quarter mile to go. Start to squeeze out that last bit of energy. If that means maintaining – good, if that means speeding up – good.

Left onto the path at 300 yards, when you make the right it’s 200, go hard.

In the chute it depends: Is someone in front of you? Chase them down. Is someone behind you? Keep them there. All clear? Arms up, head up, big smile!

All done! Get your medal, walk around, find the family. Ahhh. Get some recovery fluids and calories and enjoy the rest of the day, you earned it!



I am not getting aggressive!

I’m just trying to set some goals for my next race, the Oakland International Triathlon, on August 29. (You’re gonna come out and cheer, right?) (I won’t be finishing until, like, 11:00 AM, at the earliest, you can make it to the finish line by then!).

I really want to do it in three hours!! But I don’t think I can and that’s bumming me out, so it’s time to have a conversation with myself.




Be real jackass! You did 1:35 at Monte Rio going hard the whole time. There’s no way, in the same year, you’re gonna maintain the same pace for twice as long, it doesn’t work that way. If you pulled a 3:10 that would be phenomenal!

Really looking at training data, what is realistic? What is your body telling you it can do?

Swim – you did a 2000 yard swim with a pull buoy that was 48 minutes or 2:24/100 yds. Race day will be a bit faster with the wetsuit and not having to break rhythm on the walls.

My previous Olympic, the swim was 38:25 – in retrospect I think that swim was short. That would be a 2:21/100 and I think that’s reasonable.

Realistic goal, let’s say 38 minutes, anything up to 40 minutes will be just fine. (and look, we’re back to writing in the first person)



T1 is long on this race – it’s a run from the water, up and over a pedestrian over crossing and into the transition area. Looking at last year’s times, I’m giving myself 8 minutes.

Bike – this is where I feel the least prepared to go how I believe I should be capable of going (torturous grammar!). I love biking and I want to be able to hammer the shit out of a bike. But 25 miles is a long way to go. Given that it’s gonna take me at least an hour and a half I need to recognize that no one could hammer for that long.

My last race I averaged 16.8 mph. My last hard training intervals I was pushing to get 20 mph and I was getting 18-19 mph for a very hard interval. I should think that 16 mph would be really good! That would give me 1:33 for the bike and anything under 1:40 will be fine.





Tempering my expectations doesn’t mean I’ll be pissed off if I go faster! And once again, I will race without a watch on swim and run and go by RPE. I will use my bike computer on the ride. The bike is where I tend to really back off if I don’t have something to spur me on.

I want so badly to do as well, relative to my age group, as I did at Monte Rio (5th!!) but this is a much bigger race, with a much deeper field. I will move myself up in the world. From the back of the pack to the middle of the pack is big move. I’m not gonna get to the front of the middle of the pack for another couple of years.

Instead of being disappointed, I need to fuel my hunger! These are the thoughts for the off season, for strength training, for the days I don’t want to get up at 5 and get on my bike trainer. What do I want? Well, for one, I want to be in the top half of my age group at The Oakland International Distance Triathlon.


T2 is much shorter, the dismount is right before transition, so I’m giving myself 2:00.

and the Run. Sigh. My right IT band has been in not premium shape the last two or three weeks. Hills are just deadly to it. Good thing my race is just about pancake flat! My usual weekly long run on trails has been replaced my a run from my house, but that’s good too as my race is on asphalt so I need to be used to the surface. I’ve been doing my old PT exercises and the leg seems to be holding up. The IT just gets tired easily.






The plan is to stick to doing PT exercises every day, avoid steep hills and stairs, and generally taking care of myself. This is on top of the right ankle injury from swimming and the shin splints that have been making a return.  I don’t know why my legs are complaining so but I also know that I had no such problems in my last training build and I was doing drills during almost every run. Hmmmmm…

Pace goals wise, this week I did thirty minutes at goal pace/effort and that ended up being very consistent, I was able to get to and stay at 10:30/mile without undue effort. I feel that the run pace is dialed in and that’s going to be my goal, which would give me about a 1:06.


That means my totally reasonable, based on training data, goal time is

38 + 1:33 + 1:06 + (8 + 2) = 3:19 [All my triathlete people will understand the order of operations].

Which, by the way, would be a thirty minute PR over the distance, which is HUGE. Instead of having my chamois in a bunch because I won’t be hitting three hours, I should be well chuffed that I could cut ~12% off my previous best at this distance.509981548_f_hell_yea_card_p137994298350043481qt1t_400_answer_2_xlarge

Further goals include: Not giving myself stomach cramp by chugging a gel in T2, not giving myself a back cramp by biking too hard, not losing ten seconds in transition to worn out bike shoe ratchets (solved by the purchase of tri bike shoes last weekend).

So there. I feel better now. I have a reasonable, training based goal time.

15 days to race day.


What did I learn this week? – July 9 Edition

  • No, you cannot skip sunblock for that one hour lunch time run, even if the temperature is pleasant.
    • Bra straps on sunburn suck.
  • I need a new mantra – getting out of bed has been a struggle this week.
  • Swim Test – 1000 yds in 25:15    2:32/100yd average
  • This was so so. I took it easy because I was worried about being able to finish the distance and it was my first swim with kicking after a few weeks of just pull buoy to rest my foot. (Did I mention I hurt my foot?)
    • FYI Rachel – yes, you can swim 1000 yds (dumbass) and if you go out too fast you know how to back off and recover while still swimming. Next time, a bit harder, eh?
  • My foot is well enough for light kicking in the pool – yay!
    • no kick sets and some buoy work still going on.
    • Bonus: Next Tri is a wetsuit race.
  • Run Test – 6 minutes – avg 8:03/mile
    • Pretty good! I was feeling crap and didn’t want to do it but I did it anyway. My mood and perceived energy level don’t seem to actually effect my athletic performance that much.
    • Based on treadmill runs that was RPE 9 for .75 miles.
    • On reflection, I’m quite pleased with that test. It felt like death and I wanted to stop but I like the result, so there.


Hot Damn! – Monte Rio Race Report

(For the short version, scroll down )

Yesterday (holy crap, it seems like a week ago) I raced the Monte Rio Sprint Triathlon. It was my first triathlon in three years. I had a lot of anxiety going in to this race.  I hadn’t practiced open water during my hiatus. I hadn’t specifically practiced transitions that much – changing from swim to run and run to bike can be really hard to do quickly. I had done a couple of races in the last year but they were runs, so they had significantly easier logistics.

A lot more complicated than one pair of shoes and some sunblock.
Packing for a tri – A lot more complicated than one pair of shoes and some sunblock.

My anxiety was not helped by the total upheaval of my travel plans on Wednesday night. Instead of focusing on my race and visualizing my transitions, I was completely upset and distracted. Every time I tried to lie quietly and think though the race my mind wandered and catastrophized – I even imagined a fist fight in transition. I was in rough shape. I told Mr. Fyre several times on Saturday that it was the worst race anxiety I’ve ever had. Only knowing that it was nerves (yay, years of racing experience!) kept me at all in the game. I was shaky, tired, nauseous and generally  freaked out. I had planned to do a short swim in the river on Saturday to get at least some open water in before my race – no go. I had planned to do a short bike and run to shake out my legs – no go. I had planned to drive the bike and run courses and scout the swim entrance and exit – actually did it! One out of three – I’m a winner! At that point my race goal had come down to – just get to the start.

The picture of success!

Team Fyre adapted and overcame and found a last minute hotel room that was pricey but ended up being really nice (The Woods Resort in Guerneville – really nice people, good rooms, good coffee). The only downside to the hotel were the people in the next room.  I don’t begrudge a person a shower at midnight after a long drive. I do begrudge them shouting over the sound of the water to their friends so loudly that it wakes me up in the middle of the night before my race, when I was actually sleeping the night before the race (this never happens and I still got the best rest I’ve ever had on the night before). Mr. Fyre, my absolute hero of the whole week, nearly took the wall out banging on it. Desired effect achieved, sleep resumed. Little Miss Fyre even obliged us with an early bedtime and nine hours of solid sleep in a strange bed.

Oh no worries, I”ve just been working towards this goal for my child’s entire life…

Sunday morning came and I rolled over to check the clock at 4:29 AM. I caught the alarm before it went off and popped into the bathroom to eat my breakfast and get dressed without waking anyone up. Lots of self talk and posturing into the mirror followed. I got my food down and got ready. The theme of race day was that the technical skills of triathlon – timing your eating, transition set up and execution, swim sighting – stay with you regardless of fitness. Race morning felt like race morning – not some new and strange experience. I knew that eating the banana was a good idea, even though I felt nauseous looking at it.

Hitting my schedule on race morning is key to my confidence, so I felt great when we walked out of the hotel room at 6 AM. I felt even better when we got to the parking lot. There was a line for timing chips and then a shuttle ride. There were a lot of people nervously glancing at watches and putting on their wetsuits as they watched wave start times tick by. I was in the last wave and I was going to have time, not a luxurious amount of time, but enough to get set up with any craziness.

Not quite this relaxed
Not quite this relaxed

On Saturday I had run into a couple of Swim Bike Moms and I saw one of them again on the beach, walking to the start. The day before the two women had encouraged me and on this day Suzanne ( I think, I’m so terrible with names) gave me a huge hug and then zipped up my wetsuit. That’s triathlon. I zipped up two other people, I chatted with a first timer on the shuttle and all the people around me in the line. We were all there together, really together. I can’t even say how much it meant to me  to see those women I had never met and how much they helped me when I was cracking open. SBM Army – for real.

Down the beach – the very rocky beach – to the water. There was a walk (it is shallow as anything and I highly recommend this race to anyone with water anxiety – you can stand up just about any time) to the swim start line. Everyone around me was slogging through waist deep water – Smarty McFyrepants here got a swim warm up! At least ten minutes of swimming, getting loose and relaxed, getting my heart rate up and back down. I even threw down some butterfly to show the competition I meant business. We were the last wave, all the Olympic waves and the Sprint men were already off. Waiting at the line, when the announcer said “Thirty seconds” I yelled “Chase ’em all down!” Then it was go time and things got new.

In every previous triathlon I have lined up at the absolute back of the swim. I’ve walked down to the water and started slowly. That was when I trained three times a week. One swim, one track session and a weekend ride or run. That will get you to the finish of a triathlon. But I have been training five to six days a week, up to eight hours a week. I started base training in November, I did weights, I’ve been doing yoga for strength and to gain hip flexibility. I have used The Sufferfest Novice Triathlon plan and I am a new damn woman. My last hard swim workout was doing 100 yards hard, not quite as fast as possible, but hard and steady. And doing it fourteen times in a row. I had not worked that hard and sweat that much to sit back and take it easy.


My number one race goal was not a time. It was to race hard the whole way. To RACE.

I passed half the women’s field in the first 200 yards. I swam over bodies, arms and legs clashing. I went, I deferred to no one. That pace, drilled into me over twelve weeks, those hard hundreds were in my arms and my mind. No pausing, no worrying, just going hard until two orange buoys, then turning and heading straight for the swim exit. It was amazing. I felt strong and fast and confident. I didn’t even kick. We ran out of depth fifty yards before the  exit and walked over the rocky bottom to the exit. I ran as soon as I could and there was Team Fyre. A kiss to the Little Miss and then I ran up the (very thoughtfully laid out) carpet to transition.

As I ran I was wheezing, my heart rate was way high and all I could think was theme two of the weekend “I didn’t come here to take it easy.” I had a bit of trouble getting the suit off but then it was glasses, helmet, race belt, shoes, and off to the bike.

Once again, my heart was pounding, my breath was wheezing and I did not slow down. I knew my body would settle in without coddling. I went for it, again, still. Training had told me I could hold 18 mph, so I pegged it there and stayed low. The hardest moment of the race was a curvy downhill on patched road. I lost my bottle. I know that I need to build bike handling skills and confidence in taking turns at speed. I did the best that I had on the day. Twice I straight out attacked. There were riders on the course who did not have great handling skills and did not know the rules on drafting (like, don’t do it!) or road position. Two of them I purposefully put in a big effort to pass and leave behind. As I passed one I thought “This is Fight Club!” The bike training  I had done had prepared me for exactly the effort I needed.

No, the other one.

Then the bike was finished (Hi Monica!). My legs had started to hurt but I knew I had a good run that was waiting to be called for. Then the ratchet strip on my bike shoe got stuck and I couldn’t take my bloody shoe off. I yanked and yanked and it gave (first post race gear purchase will be new shoes). I raced out of T2. Wave and a smile to Team Fyre and into the pain cave.

Nothing grows in the comfort zone. I did not come here to take it easy. I didn’t feel fast. My legs never “woke up.” I got a rhythm. It wasn’t my usual rhythm when I feel happy and light and strong. It was there though and I grabbed it. I tried to keep a smile on my face and started crying. There had been no panic attack on my swim, there had been no ease on my bike, this was new ground. I counted the women who passed me and tried to see if they had sprint bibs. Two. Two women passed me on the whole run. I got to the turn around and saw the strangest thing; they were all behind me. I have never seen that many people behind me at a race, ever.

I kept going, one steady pace the whole way. I had planned a kick and had memorized landmarks for 800, 600, 400, and 200 meters. I was able to give it a bit more at 600 but I was already running so hard there was nothing else to do but keep going. A wave to Coach Raeleigh (props for recognizing me without OTC kit!) and Prez. Chris and I threw myself down the home stretch. Then, the insult to injury. The last thirty yards are straight up hill. No valiant finishing sprint but an uphill shuffle. Team Fyre was on the left, shouting for me and then I managed to kick in the last ten yards.

Arms up over the line! Then nearly falling over, heaving, as I got a medal put on and chip taken off. Done. I had gone as hard as I could, as long as I could. Mission Accomplished.



5th!!! I have never finished out of the bottom 25% of a race before (not an exaggeration) and I came 5 out of 24 for my age group.

Event review: These people know how to put on a race. The event was extremely well run, absolutely would race again. Great value, great venue.

I had planned a good, better, best set of goal times for this race. I also had a super secret awesome stretch goal. I beat that goal. The one that was outlandish, the fantasy. My training numbers told me I could do it. The body would be willing, I had to have the fortitude to go there.

Swim – 14:21 1:55/100M

My fantasy swim time was 15:00. I beat a number I didn’t think I could make by 39 seconds. I am still absolutely ecstatic over this. Imagine how fast I would be if I kicked! (Out of 199 racers – men included, only 60 were faster than I was. I learned to swim six years ago this month.)

T1 – 4:31

Seems long until I tell you it was the second fastest in my age group and out of 199 total racers, it was faster than all but 34 of them.

Bike – 44:15 16.8 mph average

Not quite as fast as my fantasy number of 18 mph, but better than 114 others on the day.

T2 – 1:35

Once again, faster than all but 37 other racers, including the jammed bike shoe.

Run – 30:22 9:48/mile

This is the fastest I have ever run a race – even one that wasn’t a triathlon. I held off the next women in my age group by 20 seconds.

Total – 1:35:03

Good for

-5/24 in my age group

-32/122 women

-85/199 overall.

My best race ever. It hurt and it was amazing. I could not do it without Mr. Fyre, he is my hero. I could not do it without me, I am my hero.


What a weekend!

It was full to bursting! Groceries, library, workout, gardening, marathon volunteering, workout, make quiche with a three year old, work out more, put three year old to bed, collapse.

I prefer the busy weekends. I hate getting to Sunday night and feeling like nothing happened. I don’t want to be well rested, which is what I tell myself I will be if I do as little as possible. I want to feel like I lived my weekend. Most of us spend most of the week working. If we do that, when are we living the lives we want? If you do nothing, or close to, on the weekend, when are you actually _doing_ what you want to do?

Working on it!

I was taking Sundays off in the last phase of my training. This phase is over! Now weekends are for beating my ass. The fantastic news is that all this training is totally working. I am not just feeling stronger and faster, I AM stronger and faster.

This weekend’s case in point: the swim. I couldn’t get to masters’ because of the Oakland Marathon. I manned a water stop for three hours with the Oakland Triathlon Club. Super fun by the way. Even if you have no intention of ever participating in an athletic activity, I encourage you to volunteer. You get to see a lot of the race and a very tangible feeling of helping the racers. Races don’t happen without volunteers. I always thank them when I race and I try to volunteer a couple of times a year.

It’s fun, I promise!

(As long as you don’t get sued: http://www.somerandomthursday.com/liebesman-v-competitor-group-the-reply/)

I went swimming Sunday, midday at Mills College. Forgot my suit the first time I drove there but I got it right eventually and jumped in. Trefethen Aquatic Center has a very nice pool. The lap section is consistently eight feet deep. It has low chlorination, is very clean, 25 yards (I think), and un-crowded. I had to share my lane for the warm up but not for my main set.

A couple of months ago I was swimming at masters’ and I had to do 100 yards on an interval, e.g. I had to leave the wall after a set period of time. The 100 yards took me about 2:30 and I left every 3 minutes. So each 100 I took 30 seconds of rest. That’s a lot of rest. Those 2:30 100s were tough for me, I was working very hard to make that interval. I think I did about three of them before I was worn out.

On Sunday I did 4 * 100 on 2:25 with 10 seconds rest. Twice. I swam 100 yards in 2:15 (that’s 15 seconds faster than before) and then rested 10 seconds (20 seconds less rest) and then did another 100. Instead of three intervals of 100 yards, I did eight. I could not only go faster, I went faster with less effort, on significantly less recovery time. Each of those eight 100 yard segments was the same time. Every time I came up at the end it had been 2:15, from the first to the last. I’m a sucker for consistency, I could not have been more happy with my results.

Between the two sets of 4 * 100 I did 200 yards of backstroke. In November, when I started masters’, I couldn’t go in a straight line during backstroke to save my life. On Sunday, with something to spot, I did just fine and was able to relax and swim effectively on my back.

The cherry on top of the already fulfilling workout (did I mention I swam almost a half-iron distance worth of yards in 55 minutes? My longest swim workout since I got back in the pool after a three year break?) was that I did two lengths of butterfly, for FUN. Easy butterfly, just cuz I felt like it, as a cool down.

I have lost my ever loving mind or maybe just shed my non-swimmer self just about completely.



I feel like I’m not doing anything…

…which is either a massive over or understatement, depending on how you look at it.

I completed the Tour of Sufferlandria, which I had not planned into my training calendar. It came up and I went for it. It was super fun but it threw me off my rhythm.

It was.....fun...?
It was…..fun…?

I spent a week recovering and then I was planning on being in Irvine for the Zot Trot as a training day to get the feel for a triathlon without the pressure of an “A” race, i.e. I was gonna take it easy and have fun. I did not get down to Irvine. My husbeast’s band had a really important show scheduled for that weekend, which we figured out nine days before race day. So the Zot Trot got cancelled and I do not do very well with unfulfilled expectations.

Yeah, the anteater was disappointed too.
Yeah, the anteater was disappointed too.

That was two weeks ago. Right after the aborted triathlon we jumped right into preschool applications. This shit is crazy. We are applying to a handful of co-operative preschools which are cheaper in dollars and more expensive in time than a conventional school. Given that we have a bit more money than time, this seems good.

Apparently the time commitment starts before your kid is even accepted. Each school requires that we attend a tour during the school day. Every school’s tour times are overlapping, so we can’t do more than one a day, and they are all during the work day, so I have to take a half day at work for each one of them.  We can take our kid to some of them but not to others. Some of them require an application to be mailed, some need an application fee, some need us to write about what we are hoping to get from the cooperative experience.

Fuck paperwork, right in the ear.
Fuck paperwork, right in the ear.

When I get to work late I don’t take a lunch. If I don’t take a lunch I’m not getting a lunchtime work out in. My energy levels are really low, I’m not eating well (e.g. not getting enough protein, or frankly enough calories, full stop), and I just feel spaced out and crappy.

I have been getting some runs in and I got out for an actual long bike ride on my road bike with my fancy clipless pedals. I totally fell on my bike ride because it had been more than three years since I had ridden outdoors on my clipless. Thus I totally forgot to clip out at a red light. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt and the rest of the ride was quite easy. My runs, well, my runs have been amazing.

I am coming out of the base training or “off” season. Lots of slow running. I have been feeling very questionable about my fitness after these disruptions to my training. Then I looked at the stats.  I don’t look at my heart rate while I’m running. I’m trying to learn to gauge my effort zones by putting in the efforts as I run and then checking afterwards if I was in the zone I was aiming for.

My runs lately have all been in Zone 1-2 e.g. “Slow, hella slow.” But that’s what the plan called for so that’s what I was doing.

Last October a 30 minute easy run was just over two miles. 13:36/mile

Today an easy 30 minute run was 2.7 miles. 11:16/mile

Same level of effort, similar average heart rate, more than half a mile farther. That’s awesome. For an even more stark comparison, in 2009, in my first triathlon season I did a timed mile as fast I could go. It took me more than 12:30, for one mile, and I was cooked. I can now jog a minute faster per mile than that at a low level of effort.


Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

It’s very nice to have some stats to show that consistent training is yielding promising results.

Starting next week I’m out of Base training and into something a bit different…

Go time…


Comparison Shopping Running Apps & Wow was my run good today!

I had the best training run of the last two years today. I was in a funk last night and very anxious about my ability to execute to the level of fitness I thought I had. My last two long training runs had been extremely difficult. I had run much slower than I thought I was capable of, I had been low on energy physically and mentally. I was really quite afraid of what was going to happen today and on race day in two weeks.

Today was amazing. It was twenty degrees cooler than it had been two and four weeks ago on my really tough runs. My fueling was spot on, my hydration was good. I ran hills today that I wasn’t able to run before. I averaged ~15:15 per mile (more on that in a bit) rather than 17 to 18 minutes per mile. Even after a wrong turn added to my mileage for the day I didn’t flag at the end. I was still running up and down hill. I was relaxed and happy. I didn’t back off after my bad days, I had doubt but I stuck to my training and today it showed in how strong and fast I felt. I fell pumped and ready to race, which is a far cry from last night. Let’s hear it for consistency!


About those apps…

Today I ran three run tracking apps on my phone: MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Wahoo Fitness.

I have been using RunKeeper for just over a year. It’s got a good interface and I really like the interval feature. At the designated intervals of time and distance it will announce the time, distance and a smattering of other stats, including average pace. I use this to time my nutrition.

I use MapMyRun on the web to map out runs. I used it today because this was not a route I have run before. It was a good choice as I did make one wrong turn and almost made a couple others.

Wahoo Fitness are the makers of my heart rate monitor. Their data is meant to be uploaded to other apps for analysis. It does the best job of transferring usable heart rate data to TrainingPeaks, which is the application I use to plan and analyse my training.

There are predicatble time differences because I could not start and stop all the apps simultaneously (I’m sure there’s an app for that). It’s the distance and elevation differences that interest me.

RunKeeper: 3:18:25 12.85 miles Total climb 3763 feet.

MapMyRun: 3:18:39 13.15 miles Total climb 1514 feet.

Wahoo Fitness 3:19:11 13.26 miles Total Climb 5315 feet


I know that Wahoo is very sensitive to elevation change, as it tells me I have been climbing when I run on a treadmill, so I’m going to disregard that number.  The climb of 1514 seems very low and I suspect that MapMyRun does a lot of smoothing. I like it’s distance number though, in the middle of the other two. I need to run them against Strava for my next run and see where that falls.  I’d like to run one or maybe two apps at most. And someday I’ll grow up and buy a damned Garmin like an adult.



I don’t know myself at all OR Why I bought a Heart Rate Monitor

In our last episode, our intrepid heroine undertook to set her heart rate zones based on a Rate of Perceived Exertion Test. Said test was demonstrably wrong. Because I am absolute crap at working out to RPE. The next day I replaced my scheduled tempo run with a 30 minute treadmill time trial.

The Procedure:  Warm up for 5-10 minutes, run for 30 minutes at best effort, cool down for 5-10 minutes. Take average of heart rate for the last 20 minutes of the effort.

Best Effort? The fastest pace that you can maintain for the time period. Your best effort for one minute is way different than your best for an hour. There is some fun stuff you can do with testing at various durations and charting the result, but that’s for another day we’re running here!

I set the treadmill at 10 minutes per mile. This is fast for me, for 30 minutes. I have run that fast exactly once in my life. It was a 3.5 mile race about 5 years ago. I had a friend pacing me and I ran absolutely on the red line the whole damn race. I was so close to that line that by the last mile if I started talking I would get nauseous. I kept it up and averaged 9:58 per mile. I nearly vomited at the end of the race. Good times!

That’s the level of effort you’re looking for in a time trial, slow enough to make it the whole way at the same pace, fast enough that you could not go another minute at the end. So it will feel easy at the beginning “Should I go faster? I think I could go faster.” Just right in the middle “Alright, this is good. I’m working but I’m not hurting.” Like death at the end “Dear god let it end. I can do it, just another minute, just another minute.”

For reference, see Jens Voight’s Hour Record attempt. (You watched that, right? It was amazing!!)

I had picked a pace that I knew would be hard but that I hoped I could maintain. This was good! I think I could have actually gone faster but it was absolutely work to finish it.  I made it the whole way and had a bit of gas in the tank at the end. Not a lot though, so the pacing was pretty good.

Now our previous test had given me a Lactate Threshold of 147 beats per minute. I knew this to be false because my predicted max heart rate of 157 was nowhere near the 164 I averaged on my weekend run the previous Sunday.

The new test, the harder test, gave me a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (let’s just say LT) of 178 beats per minute. Dope. Absolutely. Looks good!

I took that out for a spin the next day. It was an easy day with drills and strides. My goal was to keep my run “Easy” or Zone 2 or lower. As I suspected, my heart rate monitor slowed me down, far below my usual speed for my easy days. I was running outside and it was getting on to 80 degrees. Higher heat = higher heart rate so my easy run pace is slower in the noon day sun than when I’m getting my miles in on the treadmill. At the enforced slow pace I felt great. I didn’t have to take walk breaks to finish the run and today I feel great. I could have kept up that Zone 2 shuffle for hours.

Next week we’ll see where it puts me when I do my 400 meter intervals at 5k +~30 seconds per mile pace. I’ll go with the rate I’ve been using and see where my hear rate goes. Then I will adjust to get my heart where it needs to get the most out of my training time.