Philadelphia Escape Triathlon

It took me awhile to get to this post because even though I was looking forward to my first triathlon of the season, I felt broken going into race day, mentally and physically. I was fighting chronic fatigue: getting sick once a month, too high of heart rates in training, and all of my muscles seemed to revolt and refuse to move. I knew I was overtrained, but didn’t comment on any of my workouts in Training Peaks for my coach to assess since I am so focused on Ironman Chattanooga, not wanting to miss a single workout.

This is also the time in the training cycle when things get tough–long, lonely rides and runs, early morning swims, not keeping up with the Meet Up group I started–all of that shook my confidence.

I raced anyway. The swim went well. The water temperature was 74 degrees, and even though everyone and their grandma had on wetsuits, I left mine on the shore with gear check: I knew I would get too hot. The cold water only felt cold for the first 100 meters–I flew by the buoys marking every 100 meters, fought the swirling current at times and made it to the swim finish in a respectable time. But, my nagging headache from the day before was still there, I had menstrual cramps, so I drank a bottle of Tailwind in T1 to keep dehydration away because today was going to be HOT and humid as the day went on.

I set off on my bike and almost crashed within the first ten minutes while messing around with my bike bento. I’m glad no one was around me at the time. I climbed the first hill of the ride, which made me want to quit. My legs burned so much that I wasn’t sure if I could possibly do another hill let alone eight total on the course followed by a run. No matter how my legs felt, I pushed through the bike, rode by athletes walking their bikes uphill, and clung desperately to my brakes on steep downhills that totally scared the crap out of me on my new bike. I am not used to going that fast since my road bike is much heavier.

As soon as I racked my bike, I set out on the run. The course was shaded for the first quarter mile, but then it was in full sun. My cramping returned, and my headache worsened. I thought I was going to pass out more than once. I walked a bit to prevent going to medical and finished the run and the race.

But, I was pissed off. I trained hard, too hard, and I paid for it. I don’t even want to discuss my finish time or place because it just plain sucked. I could have done better. I know I could do better.

I talked to my coach and ran with her while she was passing through Philadelphia. I cried on that short run because I felt like such a failure. She understood.

So, I’m taking about two weeks to recover. The workouts are less demanding, I have more time to think, read, write, paint, garden, and do all the things I usually don’t have time for in the middle of triathlon training, especially during Ironman training. I saw my friends over Independence Day and made plans to meet for some of those long and lonely five to six hour rides rides to make them a bit less lonely and a little more fun. I also went to a sports massage therapist to help with my sloping shoulders–I plan to go back once or twice more before the Ironman. In other words, I plan to use these two weeks to remind myself why I do this and why I should take care of myself first.

This race will be a reminder of what I am capable of because it was one of the hardest races I’ve done. I am looking forward to the Philly Womens’ Triathlon this weekend, rested and ready. And as for Ironman Chattanooga, I’m coming for you.

Hilly Ride

Hills are unavoidable around where I live, so I usually head to the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) since it’s the flattest and fastest ride near me; however, with Ironman Chattanooga coming up, I need to practice on hills with my TT bike, Ikaika. Sadly, Ikaika is in the shop getting some new bright red tape and longer shifting cables because I had the aero bars raised, which means that this ride was on my road bike, Bia, and she’s perfect for hills and steep climbs.

I had a three hour ride to complete, but I wanted to head for the hills for the first half of my ride before cruising on the SRT. I looped around Valley Forge’s ribbons of trails and roads at least three times–past Washington’s Quarters where he stayed during the war in the actual valley that was a forge for making all kinds of items out of iron. His house was modest and near the workshop, but it was way better than the cabins and rustic living of most of the troops in the wintry mud of the valley. I’ve been in Washington’s Quarters a few times and glided my hand up the railing he and others touched. It’s kind of gross if you think about it too hard, and my family has a running joke about Washington with all of the signs in the area about “George Washington slept here.” If he slept there, he must have peed there too, so I remind everyone that George Washington peed here, or somewhere around here anyway.

I passed the cabins too along with replicas of the forts the troops built to look out for the British. I rode by the church where they all worshipped, past monuments with spectacular views of the valley below. Valley Forge is a day’s march from Philadelphia, so if needed, the troops could swoop down and defend the city. Although, they may have been too late if the situation was dire.

You can get an idea of how the hills are from the photo on the left, but there’s no substitute for running or cycling up and down them. I went up that hill three times, which is a good 5-8 minute climb. Around Valley Forge, you’re either climbing or descending; there are no flats. When I had enough, I headed to the SRT for some easy riding.

Tri Shoes or Road Shoes?

So, which shoe is better for you: triathlon shoes or road shoes? As a triathlete, I’m all about the gear that goes along with the sport, but I am also frugal when it comes to dropping my paycheck on unnecessary accoutrements. Yes, I have a road bike and a TT bike, but I bought them used after a long search. The hybrid I have is my beater commuter bike, and that one was free! Sure, I have a wetsuit that I found on sale online. Of course I have more than one swimsuit; swimming is my first love with this sport. Three pairs of running shoes line my staircase, and I have a drawer full of running and cycling clothes. And, yes, I do have a pair of Roka open water goggles because I love them so much.

But when it comes to my bike shoes, I have two pairs: a mountain bike shoe with SPDs that I use for spin classes, and road shoes that go with my Shimano Ultegra Pedals for all of my trainer rides, outdoor rides and races. Many athletes will ask: aren’t they harder to put on after the swim than triathlon specific shoes? What about the flying mount and dismount? Doesn’t that save you time in transition? Will my feet be soaking wet after the swim in a pair of road shoes? To answer all of these questions, I ask questions: how far do you ride and how comfortable do you want to be?

You see, road shoes are way more comfortable than triathlon shoes, and if you’re an athlete who enjoys long course races or rides lasting a couple hours on a Sunday, then you need a pair of road shoes. I’m all about comfort over squeezing a few extra seconds out of transition time for most age group athletes. If you don’t believe me, time yourself in a mock transition. Do one time trial by putting your cycling shoes completely on, then reaching for your bike, and then mounting your bike. Next, do it with a flying mount with the same distance to the mount line. Which one is faster? And which one is safer in the mounting zone when other athletes are scrambling to get on their bikes as well? Unless you practice the flying mount and dismount so you can do it flawlessly, it won’t save you time, and it might even cause you to fall over or hit another cyclist before the bike portion.

But, if you want to spend the money on two pairs of shoes, keep the triathlon shoes for short races and rides–sprint or Olympic distances and draft legal races, and use the road shoes for long rides or long course races. If you are only buying one pair to save cash, I recommend the road shoes.

This video is really helpful when deciding which shoe to buy:

Tri Shoes or Road Shoes?

Pictured above are my current road shoes. To make it easier in transition, I loosen the velcro so I only have to worry about closing and tightening the top, and sometimes, I leave it open on a short ride, but still take the time to put on socks, always. Gasp! I know, socks? Like I said: for a long course race comfort is key. If you’re a draft legal athlete, elite, or pro, you probably have a pair of triathlon shoes for your draft legal races or short distance races. That’s OK. There’s a shoe for everyone.

Last of all, I made my road shoes even more comfortable by adding inserts so that they feel like a pair of Birkenstocks. The inserts keep my arches from collapsing on a long ride and prevent lower back pain as I pedal. So, when cycling shoes cost almost as much as running shoes and don’t need to be replaced as often, I’ll have one pair, please: road shoes.

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Last, last of all, these are my mountain bike shoes with SPDs. The clip is embedded so you can actually run through transition with these on; however, since the sole is softer, it doesn’t offer as much support for really long rides. I use these for spin classes now, but they were my first pair of bike shoes that I used in a triathlon. I went with these shoes for a few years when I first started the sport because they were less slick when starting and stopping at traffic lights (road shoes take some practice), I could walk or run in them through transition without a problem, and I still got the benefits of riding while clipped in by pushing and pulling the pedals. I switched to a standard road shoe since I’m riding longer outside, and I needed more support for my arches.

So, when you go to the shop to buy a pair of cycling shoes be honest about how you ride and what you do. Try on different shoes and pick the one that best suits your needs and wallet.

On the TT Bike

One thing is for sure, I enjoy cycling a lot more when I can go fast. Ikaika lets me go a full two miles an hour on average faster than on Bia, my heavier road bike. But, Ikaika requires a bit more maintenance and and prep before a ride. Essentially, Bia is my sedan, the bike I can ride all day and for days, while Ikaika doesn’t wait around for all day rides; she’s more like a Ferrari and covers the distance as fast as possible. The faster I ride, the more stable Ikaika’s frame becomes.

Since I’m riding Ikaika for Ironman Chattanooga, I’ve been fitted in a more comfortable aero position, tested out four different saddles and finally found one I like–surprise! It’s a road saddle with the nose angled slightly downward for an easy ride in aero. I have gorilla water bottle cages waiting at the shop and a bento for all of my food. Heck, Ikaika even has lights on the occasion that we take to the road. She’s ready to go!

When we’re on the trail, no one passes me. Groundhogs flee from the whirling gears and wind we create, trees wave at us, and confused bumble bees bounce off her frame or my helmet. I can even stop quickly with her when a dog on a retractable leash jumps up or pulls the leash across the pavement. The back tire skids with speed thwarted for an instant. Soon, we’re back on the trail in aero and passing all the other cyclists as we ride because who has time to go slow?

How to Change a Flat Tire

flattube

Yes, that’s my road bike, Bia, off the trainer and appearing to be dead on the basement floor. I had an hour and a half ride planned, my podcast was ready to go, I logged into Zwift, and set my watch to view my heart rate. About ten minutes into the ride when my heart rate should have been up in zone 2, it kept dropping to zone 1. Frustrated, I switched gears to make it harder to pedal and increased my cadence. Nothing happened until I got off of my bike and realized that the tire was completely and totally flat even though I filled the tube moments ago.

I had a few choices: go to the Y and pedal away on the spin bikes, leaving the flat for later, or taking the rear flat tire challenge head on and learning once and for all how to fix a flat. I took the challenge. I repaired the flat all by myself, and then, I finished my ride before heading up to my local shop to purchase some spare tubes for Bia and Ikaika, just in case.

If you’re like me and nervous about changing a flat, go to your local bike shop when they do bike maintenance clinics or watch a helpful video like the one below. And, above all else, practice often.

On the Main Line at Trek Ardmore, check out this event:

Ladies’ Night Out

Here’s an excellent video (I’m not affiliated with Trek, but they do have great information; I really wish I could get paid for advertising for them, but I don’t).

How to change a flat video

Tri it Forward

TriSwim

The 2018 Triathlon Race Season is almost here! If you have friends who are interested in the sport of triathlon, or if you are new to the sport yourself, click on the link at the bottom of this post and tri it forward!

And, if you’re like me, you like free stuff. Who doesn’t? To get two free weeks of triathlon training, message, email, or call me at 610-241-4164 to get started. You have to be brand new to the sport of triathlon or have competed in a few races at the sprint distance and want to improve.


Tri It Forward

 

Training for the Swim in Triathlon

 

Swimming is the shortest segment of the triathlon and typically the weakest for most triathletes. Many athletes only want to survive the swim so they can move on to the bike and run; however, if they spend a little more time on the swim in training, they can greatly improve their overall time and maybe even make it on the podium for their age group.

A structured workout is key every time you enter the pool and even for open water. Whatever workout you choose to do, it’s important to remember to train like a distance swimmer. As a triathlete, you are a distance swimmer. Got it? Good. By that I don’t mean to hop in the pool and swim 2000-3000 yards continuously because that will only make you good at swimming long and slow.

Distance swimmers train the all of the body’s systems by doing different workouts and sets within the workouts: endurance (aerobic), speed (mostly aerobic, but some faster paces), form (aerobic with a focus on drills), force (pulling or using paddles with the buoy), muscular endurance (lactate threshold), distance (half IM or IM race pace), and anaerobic endurance (very fast swimming or all out swimming). Source: Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Nick Hansen.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that each swim workout has multiple moving parts. Here’s an example of a good distance swimmer’s workout for triathletes:

Warm Up: 400 easy, 200 pull, 200 kick, 8x25s 1/2 FAST 1/2 EASY on 30s

This warm up gets the muscles moving and focuses on form with the kick and 25s. The pull is the force part of the workout. 

Main Set:

12x100s descending

#1-4 are on 2 min or less, and for each set of 4x100s, drop 5 seconds from the time you will leave on. So if you start at 2 min, the next set of 4 will be on 1:55… Rest for 30 seconds after these 4x100s.

#5-8 are on 1:55 or 1:50. Rest for 30 seconds after all 4x100s.

#9-12 are on 1:50 or 1:45. Rest for 30s.

This set is all about muscular endurance to anaerobic threshold near the end. Be sure to use the clock to keep track of when you are supposed to leave for the next 100.  

2x300s at IM pace. Rest for 20s in between. This is the distance part of the workout.

Cool Down:

200 stroke, your choice, but NO FREESTYLE

Total Distance: 3000 yards

Each workout should include a warm up of 500-1000 yards of slower swimming, drills, kicks, and pulls, a main set of 1500-2000 yards to focus on speed, endurance, etc., and a cool down of a few hundred yards. Make sure to mix it up and challenge yourself, and you’ll find that you’ll be swimming faster in a few months.

For open water swimming, it’s important to warm up for about 400 yards, sighting every 6-9 strokes. After the warm up, swim the distance you planned, whether it’s 800 or 5000 yards, but vary your stroke like this:

Open Water Swim (OWS) Workout:

5 minutes warm up

10 minutes at T pace (IM or Half IM pace)

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes increase speed and build

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes build

5 minutes easy swimming

This is approximately 50 minutes of open water swimming, so increase it as needed. 

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Many of the runners and triathletes I coach are strong women who work hard to accomplish their goals–whether it’s getting up for a 5am run, training for their first triathlon, or preparing for the Chicago Marathon. These are only a few of the women who inspire me to keep going every day. I’m so glad my mom encouraged me and my sister to pursue sports–she’s the original Greek athlete in the family who played football in the street as a kid and now challenges herself in cycling races today. She’s Sophia’s Yiayia, and she kicks butt every single day.

So, to all of the strong women out there, and that means ALL of you, today is your day. Get out there and show yourself what you’ve got!

Training with Heart Rate Zones

 

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Training with heart rate zones may seem overwhelming at first, but once you understand your zones, you can properly train for any endurance sport. Get out your calculators or put on your thinking caps for the rest of this blog post. Let’s do some math!

 

First of all, find your resting heart rate. Without a heart rate monitor, you’ll need to take your HR (heart rate) before you get out of bed every morning for seven days. Take your heart rate for a full minute in the carotid artery. At the end of the week, find the average out of seven days. Mine is 59 bpm (beats per minute).
Secondly, to find your max heart rate without a VO2 max test, which you can do if you choose: run a hard workout such as 6×800 repeats on the track with 2 minutes rest in between while you wear a HR monitor. Look for the max HR after uploading your workout. Mine is 185 bpm and may spike higher, which is different than the standard 220-your age.
Third, calculate your HR reserve. Here’s the formula:
Max HR – Resting HR = HR Reserve
For example, mine is 185-59= 126 bpm for Heart Rate Reserve.
You can base your training on heart rate reserve or a percentage of your max HR.
                                                      Max HR %                         HR Reserve %
VO2 Max (Zone 5)                          93-95                                91-94
Lactate Threshold (Zone 4)         82-91                                77-88
Marathon Pace (Zone 3)               79-88                                73-84
Long Run (High Zone 2)               74-84                                65-78
General Aerobic (Zone 2)             70-81                                62-75

Recovery (Zone 1)                          <76                                    <70

To calculate HR Reserve:
(HR Reserve x percent from table) + Resting HR = HR Reserve for zone
Example from my numbers:
(126 x .77) + 59 = 156     156 bpm (for the lower range of zone 4)
You would do the calculations for the whole range, so here it is for the higher end of zone 4:
(126 x .88) + 59 = 179
So, my range for zone 4 HR Reserve training would be 156-179 bpm. I usually train by percent of max HR, so that is just taking a percent of your max for the ranges. Therefore, for my lactate threshold of zone 4, I would be in this range: 157-168 bpm. Please note that these calculations are for running.
For cycling, everything is about 8 bpm lower in all of the ranges. To set it up manually on Garmin from Garmin Connect–first login and then click on your device:
1. Go to your device
2. Device settings
3. User Settings
From here, you can add HR zones that are customized for you. You’ll have three choices: Percent of max HR, HR Reserve, or Percent of Lactate Threshold. Garmin calculates it automatically, or you can manually change it around based on your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). I originally had Garmin calculate the percent of HR Reserve, and then adjusted it manually a little higher because zone 2 felt too easy.
Here are a few things you should know when using heart rate to train: heart rate is useless if you are doing short sprints on the track or on the bike. It takes too long for your heart to recognize that it needs to work harder, which is why you see a spike in the recovery phase of really hard and short efforts. Go by rate of perceived exertion or by time for really, really short distances.
I also want to mention that for swimming, your heart rate zones will also be different, which is why I use rate of perceived exertion for swimming as well as timed intervals and train all of my athletes as long distance swimmers, but that’s another blog post. Not to mention that looking at your watch on the swim, if you can actually see it, messes up your swimming form, which doesn’t make this coach happy. If you wear a HR strap during the swim, analyze your heart rate later on and write down notes about how you felt on the swim for comparison.
Remember, your numbers will be unique to you and your training. With HR training, you will eventually become more efficient at each zone so that you’ll see your pace increase while your HR stays the same. It takes about six weeks to see progress, following the 80/20 rule where 80% of your workouts are in zone 2 and 20% are in zone 4. Train slower to race faster. It’s also true for ALL endurance sports. Happy training! And be sure to comment below with questions.
References and further reading: 
80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (where all of the heart rate charts are from)
Be IronFit by Don and Melanie Fink
Daniel’s Running Formula by Jack Daniels (if you only get one book on running, this is it)
Joe Friel also has excellent books and online resources, so check him out too!

Introducing Ikaika

cerveloCongratulations to Amber for naming my new bike! She wins a week of training for free with the Training Peaks program and unlimited coach access for a sport of her choice. Steve also had a wonderful name suggestion of Tyche, or the Greek goddess of good luck.

My new time trial bike will be called, Ikaika (ee-kai-kuh), which is the Hawai’ian word for strong or warrior. I think the name suits her just fine, especially since the sport of triathlon began in Hawai’i, and Kona continues to host the Ironman World Championships there every year. Maybe with Ikaika, I’ll get a chance to race in Kona one day, but until then I’ll imagine I’m back in Hawai’i enjoying the scenery and surf. I need to come for a visit soon; I’ve been away from Hawai’i too long! Mahalo!

Rock and Roll VA Beach