Thursday, June 27, 2013

Isn't it supposed to be summer?

The weather here has been crazy, temperature-wise. When we returned to the Wiesbaden area after the Berlin race, it was ridiculously hot. And now is cold again. It was over 90 degrees a week ago, and yesterday it was 60.

The pool I swim at has a 50m pool that for most of the year is covered by a bubble. Around June 1st is the "tear down" date and last night was the first time I had been in the open air. Remember how I said the temperature was 60? It was a bit chilly.

Most of the other swimmers wore their wetsuits, but since I am trying to prepare for the icy water of the Norwegian fjord, I elected not to wear mine. I actually find cold water refreshing, so I didn't feel overly cold while doing the workout. However, when it came time to get out of the pool, I was having a hard time with basic coordination.

My toe is doing much better -- I am avoiding doing hard push offs after turns, as well as swimming with a pull buoy to prevent kicking. This means that I lose lots of time at the wall. Since my clubmates I swim with are already faster then me, plus they were wearing wetsuits, plus I was almost coming to a complete stop at the wall, there was no hope of keeping up with them. So I just focused on relaxing and my hand placement.

I'll swim without a wetsuit tonight, too, but I make sure to bring a sweatshirt to put on afterwards!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Berlin 70.3 race report

In addition to my race report at the Team Timex blog, I wanted to include some information for people doing the race next year.

Overall, this was a great race for me (other than the broken toe). I felt like I could have pushed a little harder on the bike, but Ironman training has made it difficult for me to go into overdrive. I am definitely becoming a "diesel" and not a "turbo."

Here are my thoughts for next year:

1. The swim entrance requires going through transition. I normally give my gear to my husband and don't utilize the "street wear" bag. For this race, the spectators had to stop at the gate before transition, which wound up being about 300m away from the swim start. So, at least bring a) the white bag and put your shoes in it or b) throwaway footwear. The walk has a good amount of gravel on it. I was so thankful the people at the bag dropoff had extras. Lesson learned for myself is to bring the white bag even if I don't think I'm going to use it.

2. It is quite a hike to get your bags back after the finish, so if you want to change out of your running shoes quickly, have a pair of shoes with your spectators.

3. The hairpins on the bike course were well marked and widened where possible. If you compare them to a turnaround on a two lane road, there was much more room. All turns had orange signs with arrows about 50m prior to the turn.

4. The most dangerous part of the course was the 90 degree right hand turn off of Columbiadamm into the airport grounds. The turn itself was narrow and onto the granite cobbles. There is a metal bracket in the ground for the gate that could be a hazard. The next 250m is very uneven pavement and paver bricks. Some people had ejected water bottles here, so those added to the challenge. By staying far right after the turn, you can avoid the depressed area. You'll go through here 4 times in total.

5. When you make the 180 on Templehoferdamm, you'll be at the bottom of the hill. The turnaround is over a slightly raised median, but by taking the turn wide, you'll also cross over two well-worn road lanes. Be cautious here.

6. Using the S-Bahn is really convenient to the start/T1 (Treptower Park) and the finish/T2 (Tempelfhof).  Both are on the ring route, so you could look for lodging anywhere along there. I stayed in an apartment very close to the Hermanstrasse station and that was perfect.

7. I was concerned about the possibility of extreme congestion at the bike aid station. I purposely started with two full bottles, knowing that I would toss and take one during the first lap. I had no problems with this strategy. However, there are two important things to consider: 1) it was not hot, so hydrating was not a major consideration and I could get by on less water, and 2) I was in the first wave of amateurs, so there were not very many people on the course when I did my first lap. I do not know how busy it was when the bulk of the AG men came through.

8. Please be careful at the swim exit! Swim as far as you can and don't stop when you see the plywood.

My nutrition for this race:

Pre-race breakfast (eaten at 5 am): sweet potatoes, 1 package of Buddy Fruits gummies, 1 coconut cream Lara Bar

1.5L water consumed over 3 hrs until race start

1 gel 20 min prior to swim

Bike: 9x PowerBar Strawberry banana gels in a bike bottle with water, in the cage between my aerobars, total of 3 bottles of water (cage behind seat and one on seat tube)

Run: Coke and water at the western aid station, water and PowerBar Hydro at the eastern aid station. I thought it would be PowerBar gels, so I was suprised when they were holding out the bigger packets. Since beggars can't be choosers, I used them anyways. I had no stomach issues, but since the Hydro is more like a bag of liquid, I did a great job making a huge mess. I think I might have sprayed one onto the volunteer as I was opening it...oops. Sorry!

Post race: I had 1.5 bananas, as well as a bottle of my Infinit recovery drink. I didn't hit the finisher buffet until returning back for the awards ceremony, since I was more concerned about getting my toe checked out.

Hope this helps!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Triathlon 101 Class #1 Notes

Overview of class
1st class is basic info
2-4th will be sport specific
5th will be tying it together
Also will include German terms (italics)
I will post the the questions/answers on the blog
If I don’t know an answer I will find it
Feel free to e-mail me with questions!

Sport overview:
Three sports: Swim (Schwim), then bike (Rad), then run (Lauf)
In between you have transitions (Weschelzone)
T1 is from swim to bike, T2 is from bike to run
Generally in the same location, but not always (called a split transition)
Longer races (70.3 and up) will have aid stations with water, sports drinks, food on the bike and run course
Other variations: duathlon (run-bike-run), some novelty races with other events

Not every triathlon is an Ironman
Ironman -- 3800m/180km/marathon (distance for Hawaii race), 140.6 miles, takes 10-17 hrs
Half Ironman/70.3 -- 1900m/90km/half marathon, 70.3 miles, takes 5-7.5 hrs
Olympic -- 1500m/40km/10km, takes  2.5-3 hrs
Sprint -- varies, but usually around 500m/20km/5km

(In the information below, I'm using the term "larger" to describe more participants in the race, not a longer distance.)

Often started in waves, but Ironmans are usually mass start

Your time is calculated by a chip

Compete against people in your age group (5 or 10 year ranges)

For larger races, you may need to check in the day prior -- keep this in mind when planning.

Assume that for 70.3 and Ironman you will need to check in your bike and go to the race brief the day before.

Race calendar (good resource for US races as well as the larger European races) (this will have the smaller German races also)
Ironman-distance events (WTC or Challenge) usually fill up a year in advance, there are more 70.3s and they don't fill up as quickly
Some events will have multiple distances available

All races will require you to have a license to enter, either a German DTU license, a USA Triathlon license, or buy a day license. A day license is about 12EUR.

You and triathlon

It is important to take in all the information in the context of your personal goals and situation!

There is lots of knowledge out there, but if you try to digest everything it can be overwhelming.

Goals -- What are yours?
Finish injury free
One and done? Driver for fitness? Long term ambitions?

Your situation
Time available -- training time, recovery time
Money available -- Race fees, training costs for swimming, travel if necessary
Things you already have
Your strengths/weaknesses/fears

Books, online training plans, coaches (esp. virtually) are available
Remember that generic plans are generic
Aim for 2 workouts of each type per week -- more if you are really weak at one discipline
Give yourself proper time to recover
Running is the most “intensive” on your body -- do it when fresh
Swimming is a great recovery exercise

We talked about Joe Friel, author of the "The Triathlete's Training Bible." One of his big principles is "periodized training," where you break down your training into different phases, each with a different purpose. Many training plans will utilize different phases, like "base" and "build."

What to wear on race day?
ABC -- anything but cotton
Basics/things you probably already have: spandex shorts (swim and leave on), tech shirt, sports bra for women, running shoes
The best choice is triathlon clothes, either a top and bottom or a one piece suit
Seems like a good idea but isn’t: biking shorts (will get soggy)
Generally have to wear a shirt for the bike and run -- looser is better
Socks are a personal preference
Hat/sunglasses are a good idea

What do I need at a minimum?
Helmet, a bike (any kind), shoes, probably goggles

Best hints
Know that you can do the swim distance. It can be in the pool, but make sure you have successfully swum that distance without stopping.

Practice a few bricks (bike and then run). It doesn't need to be much, but after a few bike sessions, go for a 1-2 mile run immediately afterwards. You'll get used to how your legs feel and you'll understand that the heavy feeling goes away after a little bit.

Don't do anything new in a race. Think ahead of time of what you'll be eating, drinking, wearing and doing. Incorporate these things in your training sessions to make sure they work.

Sports clubs are extremely popular in Germany, so it is not unusual to see many people wearing club uniforms at races. The club in Wiesbaden is LC Olympia. I am a member of TCEC Mainz. They have dedicated swim lanes on weekdays and also organize group runs and bike rides.


Forums I think every question has already been asked here.

The "Become One" video series follows ex-NFL player Hines Ward on his road to completing a full Ironman. The first episode is here. They are currently up to episode 4. This is a good overview of some of the fundamentals.

These are what I have found so far, so this isn't an exclusive list

Both of these are specialty stores, but have a small selection of other accessories for triathlon. I have successfully used VAT forms at both of these.

Bike-- Radsport Smit in Gustavsburg (Darmstädter Landstrasse 13). Marco speaks English.

Running-- Frankfurter Laufshop (Große Friedberger Str. 37-39)  Have a few English speaking employees Prices from here will include VAT. Prices from here will include VAT.

I have not found many US triathlon retailers that will ship USPS. Having something shipped to Germany via UPS is quite expensive.

The expos for the Ironman Frankfurt and Weisbaden 70.3 will have retailers selling tri-specific items.

Frankfurt Ironman Expo (located by the Dom), the race itself is on Sunday
Thursday, July 3, 2013 10:00am – 8:00pm
Friday, July 5, 2013 10:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday, July 6, 2013 10:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday, July 7, 2013 10:00am – 8:00pm

70.3 Wiesbaden Expo (by the Kurhaus), the race is on Sunday
Friday, August 9, 2013 10:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday, August 10, 2013 10:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday, August 11, 2013 10:00am – 6:00pm

Next time we will discuss swimming! Bring your questions or send them to me via e-mail before class.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A hodgepodge of thoughts in my head

Man, I have a ton of things to write down, so hopefully they will come out in a coherent manner. As my husband can attest, I sometimes make very large leaps in logic. So I'll at least label each section so you can read what you want. In no particular order...

1. Wiesbaden USO Triathlon 101 class. I am teaching a 5 part class about the basics of triathlon and I am pumped that people signed up! I can tell you from personal experience that trying to get started in this sport when you are completely isolated (either by distance, socially, or by language barrier) can be tough. Yes, there is lots of information on the internet. But figuring out how that information applies to you is sometimes very difficult. (I'll elaborate on this more in a second.) So my hope for offering this class is that people will learn basic information to either help them this season or motivate/guide them towards next season. The Wiesbaden 70.3 race is right around this area, and I met at least one person who signed up, "because it goes through my town." I can honestly say that the sport of triathlon has taught me, pushed me, and guided me in ways that I never thought possible. So I just want to give back.

2. Bike Fit. I know intellectually that a professional bike fit is a good idea -- you'll get better aerodynamics, better power transfer, avoid injuries, and be more comfortable. I had to wait a while to see Lloyd at because of his extremely busy schedule. So part of me was thinking, "do I really need to go see him? I'm riding comfortably and my position looks pretty good." Plus, I'm looking for ways to cut costs, so maybe this is one of those areas. Finally a time slot opened up and I drove the 45 minutes down to Bensheim.

It is rare that I can look back at something and say that it was absolutely the right decision. But after my first ride with my new fit, I can say that with no hesitation. The handling was so much better, it was like riding a completely different bike.

I had been very nervous about riding outside because of my bike handing skills. I had gone six months without riding outside as a result of healing from my crash, moving to Germany, and then winter. I had never ridden my QR CD 0.1 on the road before going to training camp and then didn't ride it outside again until the Mallorca 70.3. In that race I was swerving all over the road trying to simply reach for a water bottle. But I chalked all this up to my handing skills evaporating over the previous six months. So part of me realized that riding outside was the only way to improve, but another part of me was very hesitant given that I couldn't guarantee I wouldn't run into anything. Riding outside was a chore that I had to do.

But after this bike fit, it was a complete 180. Now that I'm more properly weighted on the bike, I no longer feel like Bambi on ice. I want to ride outside now. (For everyone thinking, "how could you not tell that the handling was off?" I will point out that this is only the second tri bike I have ever had.)

So, do you need a bike fit? Maybe! If you have bought a used bike or a new bike off the internet and have not had a knowledgeable person look at your form, I would highly recommend it. Please do not think it is only for racers or professionals. If you are putting in time in the saddle, whether that is for training or leisure, it will make a difference.

3. Coaching vs. Self Coaching. (Disclaimer: this is all my personal opinion...I do have a coach.) Throughout our lives, we have learned the basics from people more experienced than us. As children, our parents and teachers impart knowledge and values that we carry for the rest of our lives. If you played sports as a kid, you probably had your parent or a coach showing you the basics. This is where triathlon is tricky -- almost none of today's adult triathletes grew up doing triathlon. This is an adult-onset sport.

Here is where we come back to the idea of being an individual with the internet. Can you get a training plan to get you ready for X distance triathlon? Yes. I can see how people who are just beginning are tempted to use this option, as it is usually much cheaper, whether it is from a book or online. Can you find solutions to problems that you think you may have? Yes. So the tools are available. But the real challenge is knowing how/if/when to use these tools properly.

This would be a lot easier if everyone was exactly the same. But we aren't. So what works for me, might work for you, but it might not. Between strengths, weaknesses, schedules, finances, allergies, experience levels, and personal tastes, it is basically impossible to successfully create a "one size fits all" training plan. The variables are just too broad.

So, I am a bigger fan of finding a coach or a club with knowledgeable people. That being said, I am not in any hurry to get my coaching certification. Since I feel like I am still a relative newbie, I am satisfied with being a mentor to people just starting out.

4. Too Much Information. I myself have fallen victim to this; I am a naturally curious person and I like finding out about things I am interested in. I listen to several triathlon/running/cycling related podcasts, read the forums on Slowtwich, and subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds about the sport. When we hear about a topic or problem multiple times, it can seem like it is happening to everyone. This is like watching the news -- if all they talk about is tragedy, it can seem like the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

This is where you need to have a filter. In the context of the news, you can look around you and say "huh, no one has been murdered in my neighborhood. I guess it really doesn't happen to everyone." But if you are an inexperienced triathlete, you have no context for a filter. This can be a problem because people like to complain about what went wrong. How are you to know that this won't happen to you?

I'll give an example from my own training and racing: race day fueling. There are many stories about gastrointestinal (GI) problems that people have encountered during their races. It isn't often someone even mentions if they didn't have any issues, because it should be the status quo. So in my information gathering, I came to the conclusion that success was not having GI problems. I have met my own definition of success, but that doesn't mean it was optimal. I was like a C student when it came to fueling -- I didn't bonk or have tummy problems, but I wasn't gaining all that was available. I only came to realize this after the Mallorca race. My coach had given me a carbohydrate target that was 1.5-2x what I had normally used. I could not believe how outstanding I felt after the race. Granted, some of this was a function of more training, but I know that they additional carbohydrates definitely helped.

So, the moral of the story? Take everything with a grain of salt. If you are worried, test it out in training. Just because something was a problem for a few people on the internet, doesn't mean it will necessarily apply to you.

Whew! That was a lot -- thanks for reading this far. Please let me know what you think in the comments section and good luck with your training!