Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Super fast lunch tip! (and other ramblings)

A few basic items of background information:

1. I like to cook...usually.

2. I like eating fresh veggies and I feel a lot better when I eat them. A salad is my go-to lunch.

3. I don't mind peeling/chopping/slicing/prepping fruits and vegetables. I find it very relaxing and kind of meditative.

But after a workout, standing in the kitchen to chop vegetables and cook a meal is the absolute last thing that I want to do. My main goal is getting food in my face and my butt on the couch. I should note that this is also how I felt when I got home from work back in the days of my 6am to 6pm job. As I learned then, the key is forethought and preparation.

So on Mondays, I go to the grocery store and buy all my salad ingredients: some kind of leaf base, precooked beets, sauerkraut, cucumbers, carrots, other things that look fresh/tasty, plus some feta and smoked salmon.

When I get home, I wash the leaves and then repack them in a big ziplock bag. I let them air dry for a while so they don't get all nasty over the week.

Then it is chopping time: I have 5 big jars set out and proceed to fill them with the toppings for each day's salad. (If you are using beets, put them in first!) All the veggies, minus the base leaves, go in here, and into the fridge. It takes me less than 30 minutes to do all of this, but that time probably depends on which vegetables you choose.

So, when it is time for lunch, I throw down a handful of leaves, pour out the jar, then top with some smoked salmon and chopped feta. Sometimes I'll add some sunflower seeds or raisins on top. Then olive oil, balsamic, and salt/pepper and I am ready to eat! Super fast!

Interestingly, I have this memory from my childhood of my mother standing at the kitchen counter and chopping the ingredients for her lunchtime salad. So your parents do have a huge influence on your eating habits!

Another eating related item: I found Matt Fitzgerald's interview on the Endurance Planet podcast very refreshing. Instead of "you should eat x because of y, but not a because of b," he was much more realistic about food choices and identifying what works for each person. I'm going to have to listen again...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reliving the race...also, good German practice!

Here is the video that SkinFit put together about Lydia Waldmueller, who finished 2nd in Norseman this year.

Even if you don't speak German, I think this is the best coverage of the "experience" of the racers and support teams. The guy who is her support crew did the race last year, so I bet that was a factor in planning the video coverage.

Now, keep in mind that she was at the front end of the race -- it is much more crowded when you are in the middle of the pack!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Notes from watching the Kona coverage

A few quick things I found enlightening:

1. I was expecting the pros to do super high-speed bike mounts. Instead, I noticed that the leaders (the ones they showed anyways) were very deliberate when getting on their bike. Yes, shoes were in the pedals and most of them used the rubber bands, but there was no "flying" involved. So I guess I can stop thinking that my mount is soooooo slooooooow. One thing I did learn is that I should probably make getting up to full speed the first priority, then slipping on my shoes. In past races, I'll only get up to half speed before putting them on. And then I get discouraged that a bunch of people pass me.

2. My race photos (especially on the run) are always terrible. Since there are always great photos of the pros running, I assume that somehow bad photos mean that I'm a bad runner. (When I actually write that down, it seems ridiculous!) Since the FinisherPix are linked to the results, now I can see the race photos of people that I know are fast -- and they are pretty bad pictures, too!

On a related note -- my singlehanded worst race photo ever was taken at Las Vegas. If you want some comic relief, check out the photos here, especially the second one at the swim exit. I thought that was a picture of a man but realized that the stripes on the swim skin were pink. Blech.

I am currently getting back into training and working on finalizing my goals and races for next year.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

German Cycling Capstone Exercise

Now that race season is over, I'm happy to be riding my trusty Merida road bike out on the open roads again. It is so nice to have my hands on the brakes at all times, plus I feel very well balanced. So I'm been out exploring some of the bike routes along the river.

Yesterday, as I'm 30 minutes into my ride, I shift to my small chainring to anticipate the approaching intersection. I immediately hear the terrible sound of something hitting my spokes, so I quickly stop. It turns out that my chain had dropped in between the cassette and the spokes. To make matters worse, the wheel was now out of alignment and therefore could not spin. The good news was that I wasn't on the side of a road somewhere, I was close enough to civilization that I could get a cab if I needed, and the weather was fine. I eventually loosed up the brake cable to make the caliper wide enough for the wobbly wheel to spin and I slowly rode home, being extremely careful with the rear brake. I got home with no problems and finished my required time on my trainer and tri bike.

Ironically, as I am riding down the street to get home, I was passed by a German Red Cross vehicle. The road isn't very wide due to parked cars, so I was kind of miffed that they were really close and going a bit fast. But then, the car slams on the brakes and as I am going on the right to avoid it, the passenger opens the door only a few feet in front of me. I bailed onto the sidewalk, said the only German swear word I know, and made it the last 400m home.

I decided I would quickly clean off the bike before I was going to determine if I could fix the problem at home. It became evident that there is the possibility the derailleur hanger might be bent. Checking that requires a tool that I don't have, so I'd need to go to a bike shop.

Normally, I take my bike to Rad Sport Smit in Gustavsberg, but that is a long drive. I chose to go to the 4 Riders shop in the neighboring town. I had already checked them out, and they seemed like a quality shop. I loaded my bike in the car, expecting that I would have to leave it there.

I was able to explain to the mechanic my problem in German. He immediately took a look, adjusted the limit screws and then tightened the spokes until the wheel was back in alignment. (The hanger wasn't bent after all.) The whole process took about 5 minutes. And it only cost 10 EUR! This was a win-win-win situation!!

So proud of myself for being prepared, keeping my wits about me, and dealing with the entire situation quickly and without getting discouraged.

And for future reference, the phrase "my wheel is untrue" is "das rad hat einen Achter." Why isn't that in my phrasebook?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't Be That Triathlete

I found this video from Competitor Magazine hilarious. Lesley Patterson did a great job of spoofing some of the more bizarre practices people engage in.

The pie on the bike reminded me of a gal a few spots away from me at the Redman Half a few years ago. As we are racking our bikes the night before, I glanced at her bento box -- it was chock full of various baked goods in ziploc baggies. It looked like a very small version of the offerings at a bake sale set up outside a Walmart. I think I said something about her selection and she replied, "yeah, I like variety."

At races, I'll always take note of the people who put their wetsuit on really, really early. (I understand it takes a while -- I allow at least 15 minutes!) I'm talking about an hour before the race starts. But at Norseman, I saw a guy with his wetsuit on (fully pulled up, too) around 3 am. The race started at 5 am.

I think a great idea for triathlon spectators would be to have a photo scavenger hunt. Everyone gets the same list for things like "craziest hat," "most epic beard, "brightest jersey," or "most kiniseotape." Compare and discuss later.

There was one thing that would have really put this video over the top: When she was at the office, she should have been wearing calf compression sleeves, shorts, and sandals/Crocs. However, that probably would have hit too close to home for many people.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vegas Notes

Since the World Championship is moving to Mt. Tremblant, I probably won't be doing this course again. But there were important things that I did and learned, so I'll write them for my own historical record:

1. Drafting on the swim. I was concerned about still being tired during the swim, so I actively worked to always find someone's feet. I normally just swim my own race and probably waste a lot of energy. The lake is really muddy, so I did have to do a lot of heads-up sighting to make sure I was still behind someone. This might have slowed me down a bit, but I didn't feel drained after getting out of the water, so that is a plus.

2. The foot rinse. In the run to T1, part of the lane was through a grassy area that the rain and 1700 previous competitors had turned into a mud pit. After that, we were routed through a sand volleyball court. As a result, my feet were covered in wet sand. There were volunteers handing out water right at the beginning of the carpet and I grabbed one with each hand and poured them on my feet. That was an outstanding decision.

3. Change to water plan. Since the temps were not hot on the first 2/3ds of the bike, I only grabbed water at half of them. I was still getting fluids from my gel bottle (8 gels + water in a 12oz bottle). Once the sun came out at the end and I had finished my gels, I made sure to drink a bit more after the last aid station.

4. Run fueling plan. They added an extra aid station this year, but my basic plan was to take water and coke at every aid station except the one halfway up the hill -- I carried two PowerGels to eat on the first two laps. I also would dump ice down my shorts or top. My run was 10 minutes faster this year, so I was pretty pleased with that.

5. Post-race air travel. I flew through Atlanta on the Tuesday after the race on Sunday. Despite wearing compression nylons, I had a terrible cramp in my quad that popped up about 2 hours into the flight. For future post-race travel, I need to get an aisle seat so I can get up and move around more easily.

6. Heat prep. I had been going to the sauna at least once a week, taking colostrum, and doing workouts in extra clothing and I think that all of these things helped. I don't really remember feeling like I was overheating like the previous year.

I was still feeling a bit fatigued on the climbs, but I was happy with the level of effort I put in on race day. It was so great to see my Timex teammates before the race and then out on the course!

So now that my race season is done, it is time to step back, reflect, and plan out next season...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ironman: the aftermath

So it has now been a little over three weeks since I finished Norseman. I have just under two weeks until my last race of the season, Las Vegas.

I have now come up with a "should-have" for my full distance training: I should have done more research about the post-race. I am normally a super planner and researcher, but maybe it was because I didn't want to jinx myself or take my eye off the ball so I didn't really know much about how I was going to feel after the race was over. This was (and still is!) uncharted territory for me.

I understood the importance of feeding myself nutritious food and getting plenty of sleep. With the exception of a bit of stiffness the following day, I was never in any pain. I wasn't physically exhausted. I don't think I was mentally exhausted. I felt like I was back to normal within a few days.

After about 5 days of rest, I was back to following my training, which was now mostly swims and easy recovery bike rides. Sounds pretty non-threatening...

Here is what blew my mind: despite feeling fine and my heart rate variability and resting pulse rate suggesting I was fine, within minutes of starting my workout I found I had no juice. The best analogy is to compare myself to an old cell phone. You charge it up, the display says full bars, and after pressing a few buttons, you have no battery power left. For me, this was very frustrating. I would look at my run pace or my bike speed and think, "well, this is pretty humbling." Even worse was going to our club swims -- the people I usually swim faster than were dropping me.

I guess this is going to take a while. I'm already seeing improvement in my "rebound," so that gives me hope that I will only get better and I shouldn't get discouraged. For my next Ironman, I need to be smart about scheduling races afterwards as well as planning better for the recovery stage.

Time will tell....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Triathlon 101: The final class -- transitions, nutrition, and everything else that didn't fit

--- Before the race ---

Your race might require registration/packet pick up before the race day. Be sure to look at the schedule, especially if you need to travel to a race.

Bring your photo ID and license to registration. You can buy a day license at the event, or a USAT license is also valid. (The German Tri Union rules specifically state that foreign racers can use their home country licenses, but I've had no issue at my races in Spain and Norway.)

If you are doing a half or full Ironman, you may want to use the on-course nutrition. Check what they are offering and then test it out in training.

Tapering your training: If you are using a training plan, this will be included in the final few days (for a sprint) or weeks (for an Ironman). The goal of a taper is to let your body absorb your fitness, but this doesn't mean you'll be nothing. Your workouts will generally be race intensity, but shorter. This will keep you sharp for the race, but not wear you out. Use this extra non-training time to get more sleep, since you will probably not sleep much the night before the race. You'll want to minimize how much time you spend on your feet, especially if you are doing a long race.

--- Transitions ---

We have talked a little about these in the individual event sections, but there are important things to consider before the race.

You want to make sure you have practiced a few times at home. Set up your stuff and then run through your actions very deliberately. This will help you identify potential problems. You can do this separately from swim/bike/run training, but getting your heart rate up will better simulate race day.

Types of transition area (weschelzone) -- Generally, there are two different types: I call them the "flow thru" and the "bay." Many races utilize the "flow thru" to be more equitable -- you'll have to move the entire length of the transition zone, so no one is running any less than anyone else. The "bay" types have a single entrance/exit; if you are really close, it is fast, but if you are in the farthest corner, you'll have to run more. Some races might provide the layout of the transition area.

Some races have T1 and T2 in a different location. However, this is usually only for the bigger WTC races and you might have to hand in your run equipment the day before. If it is a split transition, it will be obvious from the course map. (Hint: if the bike starts and finishes in a different spot, it is a split transition. Races will almost always have the course maps on their website.)

Many races will do a bike/helmet safety check as you enter transition to set up. Have your bike helmet easily accessible, as well as your race number. US races will check that you have the appropriate safety stickers on the inside. The European stickers aren't valid for US races -- keep that in mind if buying a helmet in Europe.

Picking a spot -- At some (the larger/longer) races, these are assigned with numbers on the racks. If not, it is first come, first served. If you are looking to maximize speed, you want to pick a spot that will minimize the amount you will have to run with your bike. If speed isn't your concern, you might have more room to spread out if you are a little farther away.

Setting up your spot -- Before you rack your bike, make sure that it is in a good starting gear. Rack it using the nose of the saddle to hang it. (If you are checking it the night before, it is more secure to rack it by the brake levers and then turn it around pre-race.) Lay out your stuff in a logical manner.

Helpful tips --
Lay your helmet down with the clasp open and the front closest you you. This is not an inspection, so it is OK to have to open side up.

Roll your socks to make them easier to put on. It is quite difficult to pull a sock over a wet foot.

Baby powder in the insoles of your shoes will make them slide on more easily. Elastic laces are also a great idea!

Before starting the run, all you need to put on are your shoes. You can put on your hat, watch, etc. while on the run.

If you are going to clip your shoes into your pedals pre-race, please practice this.

It is important to figure out some way to mentally note where your spot is in transition. After you have prepped your stuff, go to the "swim in" entrance and walk to your spot. Count how many racks there are or look for other non-temporary landmarks, like trees, lightposts, signs, etc. Do not use movable things like, "I'm in the row with the hot pink bike." Do this for "bike in" as well. Make a quick sketch if you need to. You could use something like a balloon or flag, but some races don't allow those and it looks really silly. Take the 10 minutes to mentally rehearse how you will move through T1 and T2 and you'll be fine.

Look through the course map and become familiar with the gist of it before the race. Ideally, you'll want to do this far enough ahead of time to plan your training accordingly. Is there a giant hill? You'll want to train on the hills to be prepared.

--- Race day nutrition ---

Remember, nothing new on race day! Don't go on a crazy health kick the week before the race. Continue your normal eating habits.

Dinner the night prior -- Avoid eating too late and don't consume too much fiber. Rice, cooked greens, and lean meat is a good choice. Eat foods you normally eat, just add a little more carbohydrate. Make sure you are drinking water throughout the day and all some extra salt to your dinner if it will be a hot race.

Race morning breakfast -- Eat 3 hours prior to start time to give your stomach time to digest. You want about 300-500 calories, mostly carbohydrates that you know you don't have a problem with. I eat a sweet potato, a Larabar, and a pack of Buddy Fruits.

Race morning water -- Beginning 3 hours prior, you want to drink a total of 1.5L over the next two hours. At that point, switch over to a small sipper (about 20 oz) so you won't be having to pee the entire race. You will go to the bathroom many times on race morning due to nerves and being hydrated. Keep in mind that there can be significant lines for the porta-potties.
Pre-race gel -- I'll have a gel plus a bit of water somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes before the start.

Race nutrition - General Guidelines --
For sprint races, you won't need to worry about eating during the race. Hydration is still important, so ensure you are drinking out of your bottle on the bike and then at the aid stations on the run.

Olympic distance racers might need a gel towards the end of the bike if you are going to take a little longer to finish. Or use a sports drink in place of water on the bike.

For half and full Ironman races, you need to be taking in calories, and the bike is the best place to do this. You want to eat when your heart rate is lower so your body has the chance to process the calories. There are a couple calculators on the web to determine how much to eat, but the best idea is to experiment in practice. Start with 60g of carbohydrates/hour, then see how you handle that. If you can eat more, great. Personally, I will guesstimate how long I will be on the bike (making sure to allow extra time for climbing!) and then eat 1 Powerbar gel per 20 minutes. Race morning, I will dump them all into a water bottle and top it off with water. This bottle then goes between my aerobars and I sip when necessary. I'll get water at the course aid stations as well.

When going through a bike aid station, slow down and sit up. The volunteers will be holding bottles out, but remember that those bottles are stationary and you are moving -- be ready to absorb the impact with your arm. If the water bottles are open, they will probably squirt all over. And if the water bottles have been filled by the volunteers (and aren't already packaged bottles) you'll want to verify that the cap is closed completely. I've had this happen with the yellow PowerBar bottles at races, so make sure you check.

Practicing aid station hand ups before your first half/full would be a good idea. On race day, make sure you are also mindful of other racers and are prepared for people making sudden movements. The aid stations are also the only place to discard your trash.

Before an aid station, it will help to yell out what you want. (Sometimes there are signs and the race might have published what is where, but honestly, they all start to blur together.) Sportsdrink is iso in German.

Bike ride opportunities

I am amazed at how popular casual road cycling is in Germany. It seems like I will see at least one cyclist out on the roads every day. Drivers are very courteous to cyclists here. So now my only concern is my inability to communicate if something goes wrong. 

The local cycling clubs often put on weekend "bike tours," like the Giro Hattersheim. These usually have several distance choices, the course will be marked, and there are a few aid stations where you can get snacks and water. Minus the torrential downpour, the Giro Hattersheim was great!

Here is a searchable calendar of events: (Make sure you double check the day of the week. My Google Translate was erroneously listing a lot of these rides as being on Thursday.)

If you are looking to do your own thing, the Hesse Bike Route planner is good stuff too: 

Please take the information in the "bike routes" layer in Google (which is used by MapMyRide and Garmin, among others) with a grain of salt. I once wanted to take a "bicycle friendly road" that turned out to be a badly rutted and muddy two-track. It was almost impassible on my road bike, so there was no way my tri bike would make it. 

On that note, please remember that the bike paths in the fields are also used by tractors. Watch out for big dirt clumps and the occasional slow moving vehicle! 

I love riding my bike here. On a sunny day, when I'm riding past the vineyards and orchards, it is hard to believe I am so lucky!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Over 4000m of climbing, 20 gels, and 1 black t-shirt: My Norseman Extreme Tri odyssey

This is an extremely in-depth list of exactly what I ate/wore/did for the 2013 Norseman Extreme Triathlon. 

If you'd like the executive summary race report (with pictures!), please check it out at the Timex Multisport Team blog: Hopefully, the combination will be useful for future racers.

My goal for this race was to get a black t-shirt. I was not concerned with my finishing time, and since this was my first Ironman, it would be a PR!

--- Training advice -- 
I think the best thing I did in training was to ride big hills whenever possible. I found a loop in the Taunus Mountains with about 500m of steady state climbing around 6%. It worked out to be about half the distance of the first climb in Norseman. It took about an hour to complete, so I would go do my 4 and 5 hours rides there, doing multiple laps and getting more efficient at climbing. I think the grade was more important than the length, and I was confident that I could handle the longer version on race day. I only started doing this loop about 6 weeks before the race and I already had a large base from riding on the trainer and on mostly-flat roads near my house. I practiced with my race nutrition to get my body used to processing the gels while going uphill. 

I also did some hilly runs, but only sparingly. Mostly, I focused on staying relaxed and keeping my heart rate low for long runs. I come from a running background, plus I had broken my big toe 7 weeks prior, so I didn't run much at the end.

--- Pre-race logistical preparation --- 
Since we currently live in Germany, I knew that we were going to drive to the race. When we were buying a car in January, I was already thinking about what type of vehicle we would need for Norseman. We have a Mercedes B200, which is a mid-size hatchback that would fit the bike in the back. My husband, Eric, was going to be my sole support crew.

We drove to Kiel (about 5.5 hours) and then took the 20hr ferry to Oslo on Color Lines. Once in Oslo, we drove to Eidfjord going backwards on the race route. We also checked out Zombie Hill. This recon was super helpful for reducing the stress of the unknown and giving us a chance to scope out aid stops. It only added about 90 minutes to the most direct route.

--- Vehicle and support crew considerations ---
Your vehicle choice depends on how big your support crew is. The racer will need to bring a lot of gear, food, and water for the actual event. Every person in your crew will need a wide variety of clothing, since they'll be moving through weather ranging from summer (at T2) to almost winter (Dyranut and Gaustatoppen), so every additional person will require more space in the support vehicle. Since the rules state the support vehicles have to park with all tires off the road, having a large vehicle can be problematic when trying to park in the same tiny turnouts as 10 other cars. But having a single person in your support crew makes for a long, arduous day for them. And that's before they hike up (and down) the mountain. So keep that in mind -- many people had only one-person crews, but it is hard on the support person!

If you have to rent a car, make sure that the person driving during the race is very familiar with the blind spots and mirrors. Most European cars are manual and gas is Norway is ridiculously expensive. Choose wisely.

It is important that the support crew has a system for organizing your vehicle. I used a milk crate for all my nutrition (I brought 8 water bottles for use at different times), as well as Ikea bags and plastic bags to separate stuff by event. I labeled everything so that my husband would know what something was without having to unpack/unfold it. This is especially important for the extra or "just in case" items.

--- Pre-race lodging --- 
We stayed at Kinsarvik Camping, which was about a 30 min drive on race morning. There is a grocery store at the base of the hill and since our cabin had a kitchen, I could cook meals, which was cheaper than eating out. The complex is beautiful and overlooks the fjord. When there is more traffic during the daytime, it can take up to 40 minutes to get to Eidfjord. 

--- General race plan ---
Swim: First 400m hard, relax for the rest
Bike: Heart rate between 145 and 155
Run: Heart rate at 155 until 25km, then see what happens

--- Race morning ---
Transition opened at 3:00am. Woke up at 1:45 to have my breakfast of sweet potato baby food, a Larabar, and a package of fruit snacks. Left a little early for Eidfjord to ensure that we could park reasonably close to T1. At the entrance of T1, they did a safety check on my bike and showed me to my spot. The ferry boarded at 4:00 am. If you bring the numbered race bag they gave you at registration, you can put your extra stuff in there and the ferry will take it back to T1. There were lots of photographers on the ferry and it was a bit strange to see them flocking around other athletes. I brought my iPod and zoned out for a bit before putting on my wetsuit.

--- Swim ---

blueseventy Helix
Extra neoprene cap
Clear lens goggles 

The water temp was 17C (I think), so it wasn't overly cold. The only time I was a little chilly was waiting in the water before the start. We had 10 minutes from the time they open the ferry until the start. I should have swam around a bit more to keep warm, but it wasn't a big deal. When you step off the ferry, put one hand over your face to hold on to your goggles! Swim away from the ferry quickly so someone doesn't land on you.

I thought the sighting was difficult, so I just followed everyone else. The coldest part of the swim is about where the blinking boat is floating, marking the left turn. This is where the river with the snowmelt reaches the fjord. My calf cramped up here, so I just slowed down a bit to relax and it went away. 

The swim exits right up to the shore just past the hotel and ferry dock. I had a hard time gauging the depth because of the plant life, but it wasn't overly rocky. After my terrible swim exit at my last race, I was extra cautious.

--- T1 ---

We had a space blanket and handwarmers ready, in case of cold weather/water, but they were unnecessary  I did not change out of my tri suit, but put more clothes over it. I also had a chair, which made it easier to put on my socks and knee warmers. Your support member can be in transition, so he/she should have a towel ready when your wetsuit comes off.

--- Bike ---

Quintana Roo CD 0.1 with Ultegra Di2 and additional Dura Ace bullhorn shifters
11-27 rear cassette
Shimano C50 wheels
Continental Ultra Race tires
Aero helmet
Clear lens glasses
Cycling gloves
ChampSys tri kit
Short sleeve cycling jersey
Arm warmers, knee warmers, toe covers, socks
ChampSys winter cycling vest that I put on at 33km
Notes: I was very happy with the clothing choice - I was neither too cold nor too hot. This may have been because I was keeping my HR below 155 even on the climbs. As for the tri bike vs. road bike, I was able to fly past people riding road bikes on the flat/downhill sections. The CD 0.1 is pretty light, so it climbed better than other tri bikes. I also did all my hill training on this bike, so I was used to it.

On the bike, I followed my nutrition plan almost perfectly. The gels were in a bottle topped off with water and in a horizontal mount between my aero bars. I used PowerBar Strawberry Banana gels. Since there is a non-caffeinated European version and a caffeinated US version, I mixed them 50/50. I carried water in a rear mount holder, but I really didn't drink that much because it was pretty chilly and I was dressed adequately. But I was staying hydrated.

I planned for 4 aid stops: Dyranut at 33km, Geilo at 90km, the right turn at 135km, and Imingfjell at 150km. Most of these were handups (like a normal race), with the exception of the first one.

This is what I consumed/wore for each of the five segments: 

1. 0-33 km. Climb up to Dyranut. 8 gels, plus some of my small (.5L) bottle of water. At Dyranut we chose the yellow Tourist building as an aid stop. Here I physically stopped for about 5 minutes and to swap my reflective vest for my winter cycling vest.

2. 33-90 km. Downhill to Geilo. 4 gels, 2 Coconut Cream Larabars, carried a big (.75L) bottle of water. One the pavement smooths out at 50km, this is a great chance to eat/drink. The Geilo point required a leapfrog aid station -- basically two handups a minute or two apart. 

3. 90-135. Three small climbs. 6 gels, small bottle of water, which ejected out of my bottle holder at some point. 

4. 135-150. Climb to Imingfjell. 2 gels in 1/2 full bottle plus another bottle of water. We had to do another leapfrog for this one. As I was climbing, my husband had stopped to spectate and took the opportunity to put the Larabar for the next segment in my pocket. A race official was stating our places once we hit the timing mat before the dam.

5. 150-180. Downhill to T2. 1 Larabar and a big bottle of water. This was the only part where I didn't follow my nutrition protocol. After getting up to Imingfjell, the wind and fog were so bad that I wouldn't even take my hands off the handlebars to get my last bottle of water. The section along the lake is probably your last opportunity to really eat or drink. The race manual said to keep your hands on the handlebars for this last portion, and they were not lying. This section was extremely treacherous due to the fog, switchbacks, and road construction. In the last 15km, the road looks like it is good quality, but there are several depressions in the road that can surprise you. I was on the aerobars about 50% of the time. 


Because everyone's support crew is wearing the same white t-shirt, it can be hard to spot your helper. We found the best method was to park the car and then Eric would walk down the route about 50m, so the car became an "indicator." Once I saw the car, I knew my husband would be standing close by.

In addition to our scheduled aid stops, my husband would also stop more frequently to spectate, so he could check how I was doing. At one point, around 70km, I had just passed him when I dropped my chain. It got severely stuck between the brake and the inner chain ring and Eric quickly noticed that I was off the bike and after I yelled "chain," came running over with the bike tool kit. It took the two of us with two screwdrivers to pry the chain out, but I was only stopped about 10 minutes. Thank goodness this happened when he was around -- I would have been in big trouble otherwise. 

I had a spare set of wheels as well as a robust toolkit, to include an extra chain. I also had about 4 extra tubes between the flat kit on my bike and the car.

For me, it was good to minimize the number of actual stops. I think that if I had stopped after I was getting cold and tired, it would be hard to get going again. 

--- T2 ---

Due to the parking congestion near T2, I got there about a minute before Eric did. I took that time to eat and drink what I should have in the final section of the bike. I removed all of my extra clothes (except the arm warmers) as well. Once Eric got there, I ate a gel, changed my socks and put on my shoes. The chair was helpful here, too.

--- Run ---

The first 25km of the run is essentially flat and runs along the lake. (There are not many places to stop in this section). Upon getting to the power station, the road turns left onto Zombie Hill, which is about 7km at a 10% grade. There are six segments of switchbacks here. The checkpoint for a black or white t-shirt is at 32.5km and those going up the mountain continue on to the mountain entrance at 37.5km. Here, your partner joins you with the packs and you hike the 4.7km to the top of the mountain.

ChampSys tri kit
Arm warmers (started with them, took them off at 1km, put them back on halfway up Zombie Hill)
Run hat
Fresh pair of socks
Asics Gel Trainer 17 shoes
Nathan Sports Vapor handheld bottle
Long sleeved cycling jersey at 32.5km
Gloves and beanie cap at 37.5km (mountain checkpoint)
Salomon 10+3 XT Wings vest backpack (with water in Camelbak bladder)

We planned for a few aid stations, but added a stop at every switchback on Zombie Hill
1. 0-19 km. Flat along the lake to Miland. Carried the handheld Nathan Sports bottle with 4 Powerbar Hydros. I had not tried the Lemon flavor before and it was really puckery! It was beginning to get warm now and the sun was out, so I was getting thirsty for water.  

2. 19-25km. Ate a gel at Miland, plus took a 750mL water bottle and some Dextro tabs. Dropped off my handheld bottle.

3. 25-32.5km. Zombie Hill to cutoff. I picked up my handheld, now filled with Coke. At every switchback, Eric met me with two cups of water and to check if I needed any additional items. The temperature swing in this section was significant -- it dropped about 5 degrees Celsius (10 Fahrenheit) from the bottom to the top.

4. 32.5-37.5km. I kept my handheld, put on my long sleeve jersey, and turned my hat around due to the high winds. Since I now knew that we would have to walk down the mountain as well, I just walked this section.

5. 37.5km to the top. Eric had the packs checked off before I got there, so after a quick sanity check by the race officials, we headed up the mountain. Along the way I drank water and ate some of the various snacks I had packed: a Mr. Tom's bar (mostly peanuts with a sugar coating), plus about 200 calories of black licorice and gummy bears. Several people passed me on the way up. I am not a very agile person on a good day. At the beginning of the climb, we could not see the antenna. 

6. Back down. After enjoying tomato soup, a waffle, and some cocoa at the top, I refilled my water and put on my ChampSys winter cycling jacket and wind jacket, plus long pants. By halfway down, we needed our headlamps to find the way. At this point, I was also getting behind on calories and really starting to get cranky. I had a few dextro and perked up within minutes. I'm not sure what the temperature actually was, but I could see my breath by the time we got back to the car. 

Because of the additional requirement for the racers to walk back down, the race organizers wanted the support person to carry extra food, water, and clothing. Instead of his small Salomon pack, Eric used the much larger blueseventy transition bag. So having an empty large pack would be helpful if necessary, plus it would facilitate getting all the gear out of T2 quickly. 

While my running shoes were comfortable for the first 37.5km, I wish I could have changed into shoes more appropriate for hiking. This wasn't so much for the way up as the way down. The Asics just felt too clunky to be nimble.

It is chilly even at the base of the mountain. While I had plenty of cold weather race clothes, I was a little short on warm casual clothes. (For reference, it was 10C at the finishers' ceremony the next day.)

--- Post race ---
We stayed at Kvitaavatn Fjellhytter, which are cottages very close to the white t-shirt finish line. We didn't get to our room until almost midnight. This is one time when having another crew member would have been useful, since that person could check us in and download the vehicle. Late check in was not an issue...the resort was very helpful!

There are a few grocery stores in Rjukan that are open on Sunday. However, you can't buy alcohol there on Sundays. 

We didn't eat at the race evening buffet, but we did go to the one after the finishers' ceremony. It was outstanding!

--- Other notes ---
Norway is a very expensive place. A beer at the hotel bar cost $10. Eating out can get very pricey.

When you drive the course, stop occasionally to really look at the road quality. There are some sections that are extremely rough, while others are smooth. 

At the race brief, the organizers used place names instead of kilometer marks to reference important areas. For example, "the construction zone at Blahblahblah has lots of loose gravel." Since I wasn't familiar with most of these places, it would have helped to write them down and associate them with a distance, like "at 115km."

This race was an amazing experience. It was a great chance to meet people from all over the world, see some spectacular scenery, and challenge myself in ways I never thought possible.

Of course, I cannot forget I would not have been successful without my coach, Rich Laidlow, and all the support from the Timex Multisport Team and our sponsors, Quintana Roo, Shimano, blueseventy, Nathans Sports, Powerbar, and Champion System clothing. 

My amazing husband, Eric, was an excellent support crew, cheerleader, photographer, sherpa, trail guide, rally driver, and bike mechanic. And that is after months of supporting my training, gear buying, and bizarre healthy eating habits! Unlike other races, I felt like he was part of the race, instead of just watching. For me, that was incredibly meaningful. So it wasn't just me getting the black was us.

If you have questions about the race or want additional information, please e-mail me at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Triathlon 101: Running class notes


Technique: Running technique is important mostly because it will prevent injuries. Your speed will also improve. There are four elements to consider:

  • Posture -- Run upright, leaning from the ankles, not bending at the waist. Shoulders should be comfortably back.
  • Stride Length -- Keep it reasonably short, but pick up your knees so you don't shuffle. Running barefoot down a grass playing field will give you a good feel for how long your stride should be and how to naturally land on the ball of your foot. Be careful you don't overdue this drill!
  • Cadence -- You want to mimic the biking cadence of 90 RPM. Count how many time either the left or right foot hits the ground in one minute. Shorten or lengthen your stride as necessary.
  • Arm Swing -- Keep your elbows at 90 degrees, relax your hands, and don't cross over your body.
  • Adapting to terrain -- On the uphills, use a shorter stride and focus on pulling your elbows back. On the downhills, lean forward and use the speed. If you try to brake on the downhills, you will trash your legs!
  • Clothing: Dress appropriately for the conditions. I like Runner's World's tool, and over time you'll figure out what you like and don't.
  • Shoes: There are about a million different choices for shoes, but make sure you get a pair that works with your biomechanics. If you have minimalist shoes, please build up to using them slowly. Expect it to take months.
  • Watches: You can use a simple stopwatch and run by time. Or you can go for all the bells and whistles with GPS tracking and a HR monitor. By having more information, you can chart your progress and see improvements.

How hard to run:

Heart Rate (HR)/Rate of Percieved Exertion (RPE): You want to keep track of how hard your body is working when running. Over time, you will be able to run faster at the same level of effort. You can track this with a heart rate monitor, or on a 6-20 scale, known as the Borg scale. If this seems like an odd range, it roughly equates to your heart rate when multiplied by ten.

You can build an aerobic base through Maffetone running. The Maffetone formula uses 180-your age to determine your HR range and prevent you from going too hard. Another way to do this without a HR monitor is to only breathe through your nose and use that as a governor. (I breathe 4 in and 3 out.) Once you have a good base of aerobic running built up, then you can incorporate speed work, especially if you are doing sprint triathlons.


Because running is so strenuous on your body, consider training during the cooler parts of the day, especially if you are doing a high intensity workout. You won't need to worry about eating unless your are running at least ninety minutes. But making sure you have adequate opportunities to drink is very important. Your HR will be higher as it gets hotter, since your body needs to pump more blood to the skin surface to cool you down. This become more difficult if you aren't replacing fluid intake because the blood will thicken as you lose water. However, do not overdrink, since that can flush the electrolytes out of your system. Drink when you are thirsty and don't force it.


Make sure you are wearing shoes that address your individual foot motion. Good running stores will look at your stride to see how your foot moves as you are running. To get an idea, the Runner's World shoe advisor will help.

For watches, you can go with a simple stopwatch, or use a watch with a heart rate monitor, GPS, or both. Think about what motivates you and how you are likely to train when deciding what to buy.


T2: Your biggest considerations here are racking your bike, taking off your helmet, and changing your shoes. Elastic laces will make getting your shoes on much faster. Put on a hat if you'd like, but remember that you can do that while you are running. Hanging the bike by the brake levers is faster than by the seat. If you use a number belt (highly recommended), just turn your number to the front.

Your legs will feel heavy for the first few minutes of the run. But this will go away. Hopefully, you have done some bricks in practice, so you know how long it will take.

If there are aid stations, be sure to take some water. Pouring water on your head can be nice in the heat. If there is ice and you are really hot, put it down your shorts. You'll want to prevent your feet from getting too wet, since that can cause blisters.

Keep focusing on the next short term goal, like running to the next sign or lightpost. This will keep you motivated when the finish seems like it is a long way off.


I love this cartoon from The Oatmeal about running.

Running is a great way to keep in shape while travelling. I have run in so many different countries, and it is handy for scouting out where you want to go during your sightseeing time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The final few days...

My first Iron distance race is this weekend! I am kind of nervous and kind of excited, so I have been going through a whole range of emotions for the past few days. But I remember being this keyed up before every "new" race distance, so it is to be expected.

As I was listening to the Everyday Cyclist podcast, Graeme was recounting his experience at a 100 mile mountain bike race. He mentioned a situation during the race were he got really pissed off and therefore did not do what he needed to do because he was reacting angrily to another rider. (In this case, he didn't take in enough food/water at the aid station and rode away in a huff -- later he DNF'd.)

His point was basically this -- Do not let your attitude during the race undo all the preparation, work, and sacrifices you have made. Because he had a bad attitude, he wasn't listening to his body and it ultimately cost him.

I know that at some point during my race, I will be in a bad mood. I need to make sure that I can identify that and work to remedy it. For me, taking some extra carbs usually helps, along with focusing on positive things, like family or friends.

Here are some tips for dealing with the pre-race jitters:

1. I look back through my training log and write down the notable workouts. This can be because they were really hard, or the weather was terrible, or I had a great achievement. Even just looking at the amount of training I have done is motivating. I tend to gloss over things that I've done in the past, but this is the time to look back and say "look at what I did!" (This is one of the times you can really reap the benefits of logging your workouts -- even if it is just the date, time/distance, and how you felt.)

2. Find a TV series or movies that will entertain you and has nothing to do with triathlon. Since I have no job, I really don't have anything to distract me from thinking about the race 24/7. I force myself to watch shows on Netflix to give me a break from worrying.

3. Be appreciative of the process. I am very lucky to be able to put all of my focus into this sport that I love and to have the health and ability to pursue my dreams. There are millions of people who do not have this opportunity.

4. Resist the urge for "panic training." In looking back at your training, you might think that you have not done enough. Maybe you got hurt, or had some event that disrupted your training. But that is the past -- you can't fix it now. Many coaches say that it is better to go in 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Your taper is time to rest up and let your body repair itself.

5. Use visualization to "pre-race." Because my shorter workouts now leave me with more time, I use that time to go over the race in my head. I record a voice memo where I talk through the whole race day, from pre-race to the finish. I'll talk about my race strategy (like HR zones), nutrition plan, and objectives for each segment, as if I were a sport commentator watching me race. Just recording this helps me to get things straight in my head and identify issues while I have time to correct them. Then I'll listen to the recording at least once a day, while doing some deep breathing. I have found this to be immensely helpful for both preparation and the actual race.

6. Don't freak out if you can't sleep the night before. Plenty of rest in the days prior will offset this. Assume that you will have problems sleeping the night before, and do what has helped you in the past.

Writing this blog has been quite therapeutic for me. Before I do my next Ironman, I'll probably look back on this and laugh.

The Norseman Extreme Triathlon is this Saturday, August 3rd in Eidfjord, Norway. Sometime in the future I'll post my nutrition plan as well as some after action comments of how the race and the fueling went. My toe is pretty much healed up, so I am ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead and to keep a positive attitude. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Triathlon 101 Class 3 Notes: Biking

With all the gear available, there is so much information we could cover here. I'm generally going to focus on basic equipment, training, and the bike portion of the race.

Great resource for how-tos is Global Cycling Network channel on YouTube.

If you are confused by the terminology, see a diagram of terms here.

  • Bike -- You can ride any kind of bike, but a road bike is a great "first bike" option.
  • Helmet -- Either a road helmet or an aero helmet, but make sure it has the safety sticker. US races will not accept the European stickers, so consider that if you are buying a helmet here.
  • Pedals -- You can use platform (regular) pedals or clipless pedals. The pedals will come with the required cleats, but make sure your shoes have the right attachment holes.
  • Spare kit -- I put mine in a small bag that goes under my seat. Include a multitool, tube, CO2 gun, tire levers.
  • Shoes -- There are road shoes, tri shoes, MTB shoes. Tri shoes will be easiest to get on and off.
  • Bottles -- You'll want to have a bottle cage or two for water bottles while you are training. There are also bottles that go between the aerobars.
  • Trainer/rollers -- These are great for indoor training during the winter. Make sure that you have a fan and lots of towels and water.
  • Pump -- It is helpful to have a floor pump with a gauge. Make sure it will fit your tire valves!

The components (parts) of the bike is usually the major determinant of price. There are three basic brands: Shimano, SRAM, and Campognolo. I would avoid Campognolo because of the limited availability in the US.

Ironman has a good article about buying a bike. 

Once you have a bike, get the bike fitted at the shop. You can get a pretty good position on your own as well.

Remember that almost everything is adjustable/changable. You can change the stem to modify your fit on the bike, as well as change out the individual components, like getting a new rear cassette that will be easier on hilly terrain. With bikes, you always need to be mindful of compatibility of parts!

Road bike tire types -- 700x23 is most common

Tire pressure -- look on tire, go for higher when dry, lower when wet, and check before every ride

Practice changing a flat tire at home. Or as the Brits call it, a puncture. Check out a demo here. It is much easier in the comfort of your living room than when on the side of the road.

Clothing - you can carry lots of stuff in bike jersey pockets, bike shorts or tri shorts, socks optional


Pre-ride check: tires, brakes, inspect the chain.

Don’t wear headphones!

Cadence -- This refers to the RPMs that you spin the pedals. At the two extremes are "mashers" (a very low cadence) and "spinners" (a very high cadence). Because you will have to run later, aim for about 90 RPM. Use the gears of your bike to change the level of effort required, but on climbs, it is acceptable to use a lower cadence (60-70). Some bike computers will tell you this data.

If you use HR, it will be lower than when you run.

The terrain will also dictate your body position
  • For flat terrain, either put your hands on the hoods for comfort, or on the drops for speed.
  • When climbing, put your hands on the bar tops and sit back to better use your glutes.
  • For max speed while descending, put your hands on the drops and get low.
  • If the terrain is very rough (like potholes or cobble sections), put your pedals at 3 and 9 o'clock, get slightly out of the saddle and use your legs and arms like shock absorbers.
Finding places to ride
  • Map My Ride has some searchable routes, but isn't as popular in Europe. This is good for planning a route and figuring out the distance, as well as researching a course.
  • My new favorite is the Hesse Bike Route planner. (Click on "radroutenplanner" on the upper left side.) 
  • There are also some good options on WikiLoc. This has good running trails as well.
  • You can ride on the road. I have found German drivers to be very courteous, but make sure you are properly signalling your turns, obeying traffic laws, and wearing clothing that makes you visible.
  • If you are going to ride on the bike paths, you will want to verify that they are paved. 

It is worthwhile to occasionally do a brick workout, by running a short distance after finishing your ride. 20 minutes should suffice. The goal is to get an appreciation for how your legs are going to feel and then understand that after a short period you'll be fine.

After your ride, wipe down your bike and chain. Make sure to re-lube the chain as well. Do not use a high pressure washer or WD-40. I have found that Simple Green and Dawn soap both work well.


During the race, the bike leg is your best chance to take in food. Your HR will be lower and allow your body to better process the calories. This is most important at races longer than three hours. Below that, you won't need to eat that much assuming that you had a good breakfast.

To rack your bike in T1 before the race, use the nose of the saddle to hang it on the bar. In T2, it will be much faster to use the brake levers.

Do not ride your bike in transition!

You cannot mount your bike until after the mount line, must dismount before the dismount line

Do not litter/abandon equipment. Usually you can discard trash at the aid stations.

It is important to always keep right and let people pass on the left. If you need to alert the rider ahead of you that you are passing, say “on your left” or “von links.”

Drafting (riding in the slipstream of another rider) is illegal in almost all triathlons. The size of the draft zone will vary -- so make sure you know what it is. For the HIM in Berlin, the draft zone was 2m x 10m and the time limit was 30 seconds. The draft zone starts at the front wheel of the person in the lead. The trail rider has a limited time to move to this point, after which, the passed rider must drop back to outside the draft zone. If I have completely confused you, this USAT video explains it well, but note the different "dimensions" involved.

When you are being passed and have to slow down, that is a good time for food/water.

Next class: Running