Thursday, March 29, 2012

Leg Two

Let's see, where did I leave off?  After camp was over, it was time for recovery.  Lucky for me, Sonja knew how to accomplish just that!

Sonja picked me up from Melissa's house Saturday night and from there, the pampering began.  I truly enjoyed my few days with Sonja and Michelle.  We ate GREAT food.  We went to the movies (Hunger Games!).  Sonja let me be lazy (and BOY is the bed in her guest room comfortable!) and get 8-10 hours of sleep each night.  We laughed.  I played an INTENSE round of the Quiet Game with Annie (Troy and Sonja's awesome daughter).  We talked.  And I learned.  A lot.  I love being around others that are as passionate and interested in the sport as I am!  I had SO MUCH fun!  Oh yeah, we also did a little training!  :)  Fortunately Sonja and Michelle are also racing this weekend and so our schedules meshed somewhat.  We swam OUTSIDE.  YESSSSSSS!

Riding on a beautiful Colorado day!

Sonja (and Troy!) is an AWESOME cook.  This was avacado enchilada night.  Just the tip of the iceberg my friends.  There was awesome-ness every single night!

Unfortunately, I did eventually have to leave!!  I was sad to go but California was calling.  So after one last awesome lunch, Sonja dropped me at the airport on Wednesday to head further west.  San Diego or bust!

I never claimed to travel lightly.  :)
And now I sit typing in Marit's kitchen.  MORE fun friends to visit and stay with!  (did I mention yet how lucky I am?).  It seems Marit and I go way back - back to the time when I said I'd never do an Ironman (only stupid people do those...  :).  It's been great to catch up, see her beautiful artwork and photography with my own eyes and again be treated to amazing hospitality. 

So starts the 3rd and final leg of this trip - my pro triathlon debut at Oceanside 70.3.  I was talking with my mom today on the phone and she mentioned my very first triathlon ever, a small sprint race near Charleston, SC that she and my father came to watch!  I feel kind of like that day all over again.  Nervous and EXCITED and NERVOUS and really excited!  Not knowing what to expect and worrying about what to put in transition.  Much like that day, I have nothing to lose on Saturday and so much to gain.  It's a huge step for me but at the same time, it's all the same.  You line up.  You swim.  You bike.  You run.  And you smile when it's all done. 

Here's to another big smile on Saturday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Things I've Learned About Denver

1) It has really good radio stations. Like WAY better than Pittsburgh.

2) The view of the mountains doesn't get old.

3) The water here is REALLY cold out of the faucet. Like cold enough to take an ice bath without the ice! Very different from our lukewarm "cold" water at home.

4) You can swim outside even in March! That is very nice and also ensures that there is no dilly dallying on deck because the water is way warmer than the air temp!

5) It is painfully dry up here at 5000+ feet which is good if you want your towel to dry quickly but bad if you want your skin to stay attached to your body.

6) Because of said dryness you have to drink A LOT to stay hydrated but you still wake up with cotton mouth no matter how much you drink.

7) It's always so sunny and beautiful (even on chillier days) but that sun can be intense!

8) Its windy here. And when you say "wow, it sure is windy today" while riding, everyone laughs at you because to them its not windy unless there are 50 mph gusts.

9) There are sooooo many cyclists and runners and just ACTIVE people in general here. Its a great thing to see!

Denver is a pretty awesome place and I highly recommend a visit if you haven't already!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Training Camp

Training camp has come and gone - 8 days of swim/bike/run repeat with a great group!  I kind of have that "wow, what just happened??" feeling right now!

It seems like way too much (and way too boring) to detail day by day at this point.  So instead I'll do a summary.  Just as a means of explanation, the camp was for new(ish) elites/pros and was run by Melissa Mantak (one of the few USAT level III coaches in the country).  The primary focus was training (and lots of it!) but we also had a discussion each night about varying topics, all of which I really enjoyed and learned a ton from.  It was definitely a great opportunity to be immersed in the sport for 8 straight days with little other distraction!

Although I knew it would be a lot of training, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  What I found is, we did a HUGE amount of swimming, a very good amount of running and a moderate amount of biking.

Our home every morning from 9-10:30.  :)

Wowzas.  Close to 34,000 yds in 7 days time.  I don't think I need to say much more!  :)  Other than the first day, it was all long course meters which was awesome.  We swam at the University of Denver which is a fantastic facility.  To say I had a few swim breakthroughs would be an understatement.  I was surprised to handle the amount of volume relatively well and actually swim quite good on top of that.  Amazingly, my arms are still attached!  :)  I didn't feel the altitude much at all with swimming.  I did feel the result of trying to keep up with several male pros day in and day out.  :)


Not a huge amount of biking, in fact our longest ride was just a bit over 3 hours.  Again though, trying to keep up with the guys (I was on the only female) made for some faster paces than usual.  We did an awesome amount of climbing (up to Red Rocks, up Lookout Mountain x 2, up Golden Gate Canyon) which is such a treat.  Colorado is an awesome place to ride your bike!!!

At the top of Red Rock where there is an amphitheater.  You can see for miles!


I ran about 60 miles total in the 8 days (actually running 7 of those days) and we ran in some beautiful locales!  We ran on the Highline Canal and at Waterton Canyon - amazing dirt/gravel trails/roads that just scream "RUN"!!  I felt the altitude most here - in fact running 7:45 pace on the first day yielded a heart rate in the 160s.  YIPES!  By mid week though I was back to much more normal paces/HRs and feeling much better.  The air indeed is thin here.  :)

Overall an amazing experience.  Although I really struggled at first with being homesick, and it was hard to be the only female amongst 7 other really fast guys, living and training with other pros was an opportunity I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I certainly came away with more fitness, more knowledge about racing as a pro and most of all, 8 new awesome friends that I can't wait to see crush it this year!  So grateful to Melissa who opened her home to us and gave us a week of her time.  I still don't think her "easy" swim sets are that easy, but I'll forgive her that.  ;)

And now I'm living large as the hostess with the mostest, Sonja, has been taking care of me until I fly to San Diego Wednesday for race #1 of the season!  WOOT!  I feel so lucky to have the support of such wonderful people!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Annnnnnd...Here. We. Go!

Time to pack my bags again! 

This time, the task is to pack for 12 days in Denver including an 8 day training camp, followed by 6 days in San Diego including a 70.3 race (the first of my pro career).  All in one bike box and one suitcase that weighs less than 50 pounds.  You can imagine the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is about to occur when said packing commences.  I have NEVER been a light packer but if there is one thing I'm going to learn this year...light packing is it!  (wish me luck now please...  :)

Packing aside, I'm pretty pumped.  Of course, excited to RACE!  For the past several weeks I've definitely been noticing that "itch" to get racing.  Physically I feel like my fitness is coming around (at least for early season racing) but moreso mentally, my brain is getting ready to go.  Classic sign for me is when I start to "see" my races unfold in all my workouts.  So instead of thinking what I'm going to be having for lunch during my track session, I'm envisioning holding someone off on the run, or racing side by side with someone in the middle miles.  And instead of pondering what I did with my favorite tshirt on my rides, I'm visualizing trying to catch the car up ahead of me just as I would be trying to catch another rider...  You know, it's just gettin' to be racing season!  OH YES!  I know we all feel differently about racing but make no mistake about me - I'm the type that LOVES it and would not in a million years consider doing all this training were it not for the promise of a race as the reward!  Of course this being my first "pro" race, I'm also a *teeny* bit nervous, but I'd be nervous no matter who I was racing so need to add extra stress right?!  (right?? :)

(by the way, the race in San Diego that I speak of is one of my favorites - Oceanside 70.3!)

But before all that race business, there is some training camp business to attend to!  And that is what Denver is for.  I am lucky to be attending a camp for new(ish) pros that is put on by Melissa Mantak.  I'm pretty excited by it because (1) we are going to train ourselves silly (I got the training schedule for camp and it even makes a Dirk schedule look not too bad!) and (2) I'm really excited to meet some other new(ish) pros and learn as much as I possibly can about how to be a pro.  I know this is a great opportunity for me because, living in Pittsburgh, I'm not constantly surrounded by other professionals in our sport (of course we have lots of awesome athletes, just none that have been racing pro for years) and I know I will benefit from having some mentorship. 

Now, this camp is a bit of a risk in that training really hard for 8 days at altitude 1 week before my first race might end in complete disaster at said race.  Or could end in a great race.  Who knows.  Dirk and I determined that I really don't have much to lose (I' know...not defending a title or anything at Oceanside... :), so why not?  After this, I'll certainly know a lot more about how I handle altitude and how I handle a big week followed by a little taper before I race.  I'm sure I'll say this many times throughout the year...but this season is ALL about the learning...  :)

Of course I'm already torn up about having to leave O and Roxy again for close to 3 weeks again.  That is no fun!  In the ideal world, O and Roxy would join me on all training/racing trips!  But I know that is not reality and if there is one downside to all of this, this would be it.  Still, I have SO much to look forward to and SO many great people taking care of me including Sonja, Michelle, and Marit, that I know that I have nothing to worry about.  And if anything, leaving my two loves (that would be O and Roxy of course...  :), definitely motivates me to make the very most of all the opportunities I've been blessed with and to train and race with all my heart! we go!  I leave on Friday and return in April.  Time to get this season rolling!!!  :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Ebb And The Flow

Doesn't the "flow" look so happy?  :)
This morning while I was swimming I was thinking about the ebb and flow of training.  I was actually feeling quite good during my workout which is quite the opposite of how I've been feeling the past couple weeks in the pool.  And I was happy to finally be "coming around" a little.  Flow makes me happy, ebb not so much.

Of course this is how it is with all training and racing in general.  I think I see it most often in the pool.  I can almost always make my intervals or goal splits but sometimes I feel just awesome doing it, like it's a walk in the park, and sometimes...well, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning and killing myself to make the same interval that felt so easy just a week before.  The great thing about triathlon (in my opinion) is that when one sport is ebbing, another is flowing quite nicely.  So while the past couple weeks haven't been grand on the swimming end, my running has felt SUPERB!  (pretty soon it will ebb too I'm sure...  :)  The tricky part is to get all three flowing on race day! 

Anyway, despite the fact that I've been doing triathlon for 6-7 years now and am about to start my first season as a pro, I still don't feel like I have a lot of experience or that I have a lot to "teach" others.  But I will say one lesson sport has taught me is this: there WILL be ebb and flow and when the ebb comes, just wait it out, be patient and don't fret.  Don't let either the ebb get you too down or the flow get you too high.  I think it takes a lot of maturity as an athlete to really embrace this concept.  Something I'm still working on!

Kind of the same idea as the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan.  Which, in case you are wondering where that came from, check this out: 

Happy weekend everyone!  :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Good Week

This past week was a good week.  I got back in my Pittsburgh groove.  Since I'm a lover of all things routine, this was nice!  Of course it meant going back to work but earning a little money every now and again isn't a bad thing.  :)

On Monday I dropped Petey (the bike) off at the bike shop and when I picked him back up on Tuesday he had some new cranks.  And now, my friends, we have POWER!

Oh little Quarq, how I love you!
Although I'm not a live or die by the numbers type of person, I have to admit that the Quarq coupled with the Garmin 910 has me totally captivated on all my rides now.  SO MUCH DATA!  Yesterday I was able to ride outside (best winter EVER!) and I couldn't take my eyes off (1) my watts and (2) the % grade function on the Garmin.  In case you are wondering, the steepest hill I rode up was 21.5%.  :)  I'm sure the fun will eventually wear off but I'm definitely excited for this new training tool!

I also got some deliveries in the mail.  One from PowerBar which means we are now well stocked and fueled for the next few months of training and racing!  Kona punch gels?  YES PLEASE!  And apparently I'm not the only one that likes me a PowerBar or two...

She's so bad...but CUTE!  It's a no win situation for us.  :)

Also, a whole box of LOVE arrived on Thursday.

Seriously best kits ever.  Sorry guys, for us women only!  :)
Training wise I've also had a good one - pending completion of tomorrow's brick, I will have finished off a nice 25 hour week feeling pretty good!  I even got to (sort of) do a workout with Oscar on Thursday.  Okay, I did 4x1 mile, 4x200 and he did 2x3 mi (oh, and he ran a lot faster than me too) but at least we warmed up and cooled down together!  FUN!  :) 

And that pretty much sums things up!  Hope everyone has also had a great week, with even greater things to come!  :)