Triathlon Training Ahead

I’m in a bit of a training slump for triathlon for the past few months. I had thought that signing up for Eagleman would help to get me back on track, but so far it has still been tough to find consistent motivation. I thought this would be a good time to step back and look at how I plan out my triathlon training.

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Swim exit at Eagleman

This Is Not Normal

So first of all, I don’t work a standard Monday through Friday job during normal hours. I work an average of three 13-hour overnight shifts each week. Right now they are grouped so that I work four shifts on one week and then two shifts the next. This might sound like I have a lot of free days to train, but it takes another day to recover from those night shifts, as well as some napping before heading in for the first night shift.

All of the triathlon training plans that I have seen so far assume that you have something close to a traditional schedule. The long workouts fall on Saturdays and Sundays, with a rest day on Monday in most cases. The workouts in the plan are structured in such a way that you’re rotating through sessions of varying intensity in the different disciplines in a way that makes sense. If you stick to the plan, it scatters the swims, bike sessions, and runs in an order that (probably) won’t overwhelm your legs all at once.

Add Some Swords

fencingpodium

Summer Nationals Veteran Women’s Sabre Team event – 3rd place.

On top of swimming, biking, and running, I have been fencing for over twenty years and practice for 1 to 2 hours twice a week. This adds another leg-heavy workout to my training, but I’m actually much better at fencing than at triathlon. Old injuries and just practical scheduling keep me from training more than that in a high-impact sport with a lot of repetitive hand and arm motions.

So how do I work around all of my scheduling weirdness? I pretty much make it up as I go. For some people, a triathlon coach may be helpful, but I don’t envision myself hiring one anytime soon. I also squeeze in at least an hour of weight training once a week with a personal trainer and that helps to keep me free from new injuries. I’d love to make it into the gym for that twice a week, but that rarely happens.

What Have I Used?

I started out my triathlon training by keeping it very simple. I already had some cycling experience but I had to learn to run and swim. I bought some real running shoes and started running only a mile at a time until I could tell if my ankles would tolerate it at all. Once that was going well, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA.

When it was time to do my first race, I had bought a Garmin 920 and used one of the sprint triathlon training plans on the Garmin connect training log. This was pretty simple and the workouts were all short, so I just squeezed them into my schedule where I could.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect features sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training plans. Access this by buying a Garmin device.

By the time I was ready for Eagleman training for my first 70.3 distance race in 2017, I needed something more. My husband pointed me toward Trainer Road, which is primarily a cycling platform that integrates with an indoor trainer. We had just purchased an indoor trainer because I was going to need to start my plan over the winter. Trainer Road has triathlon plans also, and while they don’t integrate into any specific device, I could read the workout listed there and then just go do it (for swims and runs). For the swim workouts, I’d jot down the sets on a small Post-It note and then tape it to my water bottle.

HalfBuild

Example of a triathlon training plan on Trainer Road. The bike workouts are used on a power-based indoor trainer. The swim and run workouts are text descriptions.

The plans on Trainer Road got me through Eagleman in 2017, and the Rev3 Quassy Half and Ironman Lake Placid in 2018. The site has options for sprint, Olympic, half, and full distance triathlons. Pick from three options of level and time commitment for each distance. The plans are built in blocks, starting with base fitness, then a build phase, and if you have time for it, a specialty phase. Look around at the plans and then count backward from your race date to see when to start each section. I had built in several extra weeks because I knew I’d have to take a break for certain travel weeks, fencing competitions, and a snowboarding vacation.

Going Forward

Now that I’ve signed up for Eagleman for 2019, I needed to think about how I planned to train again. I looked over plans on Trainer Road and found that it now offers a calendar option. This lets you pick a plan, decide which day of the week you prefer to start on, and then import it into those dates. From there, you can click and drag workouts to different days if you need to. The swim and run workouts also show up!

Trainingplan

This is an example of how a training plan looks after you import it into Trainer Road’s new calendar feature.

If you click on a swim or run workout in the calendar view, you can see more details. I think I’m sticking with Trainer Road for my training for Eagleman again. As the weather turns in the spring, I will do more of the rides outdoors, but the application even lets you import your outdoor rides into the calendar so it’s all visible in one place.

RunWorkoutTR

Close up view of a run workout as seen through the calendar view in Trainer Road.

So that’s my plan for this upcoming triathlon season. What other platforms have you used and found helpful for your training? Do you have an abnormal schedule that makes it more challenging to train? Let me know in the comments below!

Coming Soon – Eagleman 2019

Funny story…

I raced in Eagleman in 2017 for my first Ironman-branded event, as well as my first 70.3-mile (half distance) triathlon. Prior to that, I had only completed sprint distance triathlons and two half marathons. I had never swam that far in open water, and had only ridden that distance once before on my bike. I had spent a good amount of my time training up to the running distance, since that is a weak point for me.

The day of Eagleman came, and I raced. I felt great during the swim, despite getting a little lost on one turn and being swum over by another age group. I started out strong on my bike and felt fast until I was about two-thirds of the way through the course.

Swag

From there on, my stomach complained and I became dizzy with more exertion. In hindsight, I believe I was dehydrated, but at the time I didn’t know that that was how my body would react. I started the run barely being able to walk, but finally found a jog-walk strategy that helped me keep moving. By the last 3 miles of the race, I really couldn’t run at all, but I kept moving and made my way to the finish.

I had been hoping for a better time, but with the heat and dehydration, I just couldn’t move any faster. This past season, my races were all hilly, so it has been tough for me to compare times between any races so far.

Since I now have a couple more races under my belt, I have been thinking ahead about goals for next triathlon season. I don’t do too badly in the shorter events, but I’d like to get faster overall. I signed up to race in the New Jersey State Triathlon in July, for both the sprint and the Olympic distances.

I had been thinking that I would do another 70.3, but it was a toss up between Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev3 Quassy Half), Eagleman, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3, or something a little further afield. My thoughts kept going back to Eagleman and that flat, hot course.

Last week I received an email announcing that all of the Tier 3 entries for Eagleman had sold out. That means that the race was down to the last tier of entries and would likely sell out completely. If I wanted to race Eagleman next season, I needed to decide soon. This race has also been designated as the tri club championship for 2019, which has probably added to the entries.

When I raced Eagleman in 2017, my brother also did the race, and my cousin, sister-in-law, and a friend completed a relay. My husband had considered doing the bike portion of the relay with them, but ultimately decided against it. I know that he’s said a few times that he wished he had ridden in it.

I brought it up to him and mentioned that the race was likely to sell out soon. By the end of the night, we had both signed up. He’s in for a relay and I’m racing the whole thing. Now I just have to figure out how to hydrate and go faster. I guess I’m starting a training plan again in December!

Upcoming Events (Nov 2018 – 2019)

Well I’m out of races to write about because the triathlon season here in New Jersey is essentially over. I don’t want to swim outside unless the water is at least 70 degrees, so any time from mid-September through May is out for me. That means that it’s time to look ahead at what events I’m competing in for this season in fencing, as well as triathlon in 2019.

CJTC Turkey Tri

Well, I guess I do have a triathlon to race in November. This one is put on by my local tri club and is a self-guided indoor (or partially outdoor) triathlon. Competitors will pick one day between November 21 and 25th and will complete a swim, bike, and run all on the same day. They don’t need to be back-to-back, but I’m not sure if they need to be in the traditional triathlon order or not. I’ll have to pick up my athlete packet to find out, I guess.

Everyone tracks their workouts and reports in on their times. I think there are age group awards, but this is my first year participating in this event, so I’m not really sure. But in any case, it’s a good excuse to get some workouts in over a weekend where everyone is typically focused on eating.

US Fencing North American Cup (December NAC)

This is the first of three national-level events that I will be competing in this year and is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have entered the Vet-40 and Veteran Open events in Women’s Sabre, and chose to forego the Division II and Division I events this time. I could technically fence on all four days (one event per day), but the entry fees and travel expenses make it tougher to commit to that.

IMAG0428

This is what a NAC looks like.

Division II isn’t an unreasonable event for me (I think I finished top 16 in the last one where I had a decent day), but Division I is tough. If I remember right, I believe that my last Division I event had me facing Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis in my first bout (I did get one point on her).

Thrust Fall ROC

This is a regional fencing event in December which features both Division I-A and Division II options. I’m going to fencing both days/events, and I’m hoping that it will be a good warm-up for the NAC that takes place on the following weekend. If I fence well, I can qualify for Summer Nationals.

Tri-State Veteran Cup Events

This is a series of fencing competitions held in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, and is limited to athletes in the Veteran age groups (40+) and is only held for sabre.

I finished second in the first event of the year, and there are at least four more this season. I probably won’t make it to all of them, but I’m planning on at least two more, depending on my work schedule.

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

This will be my first time participating in the Lifetime Fitness series of triathlons. This chain of fitness centers runs this event in January all over the country. I’ll be competing in Florham Park, NJ on January 20th. I don’t have any particular goals for this race (yet) because I’m not really sure what to expect with the indoor format.

New Jersey Half-Marathon

This is a race that I’m undecided about for now. I feel like I need to have an event on the horizon in order to motivate me to run. Otherwise I tend to focus on just fencing and cycling (which is fine, but not if I want to do triathlons). The half-marathon distance is a good stretch on the distance for me, but is also something that I know I can finish (and hopefully improve my time).

What Else, Isn’t That Enough?

I’m sure I’ll find more fencing events as the season progresses, and then there are those other two national-level events ahead also. But it’s too far away to plan and think about those for now. I’m considering a 70.3-distance triathlon, but haven’t decided on which one. Oh, and maybe I’ll do another cycling time trial? I have plenty to keep me busy!


Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid (Part 5 – The Aftermath)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here:

Well, I did it. I completed Ironman Lake Placid. It was a long journey filled with plenty of hours, some pain, stress, doubts, and a lot of hills. It was nearly midnight when I crossed the finish line and collected my finisher’s swag.

The volunteer who caught me was great and directed me to a collection of picnic tables where athletes were recovering. I sat down and she asked me what I needed, then brought me water, some orange slices, and a foil blanket. I felt tired, of course, but not actually all that bad, considering what I had just been through. I gulped some water and chewed on the oranges and let myself just sit and enjoy the lack of movement.

Potties

It didn’t take me long before I was ready to get up and move on. The picnic tables backed to a huge row of Porta-Potties, so it wasn’t the most scenic part of the race, but this recovery area was close to the spectator access. My family was all waiting right there when I came out, and I moved slowly to join them. My muscles still functioned – nothing had cramped or seized up otherwise while I had been sitting.

My family had already taken my bike and transition bags. You get tickets in your athlete packet that allow someone to get in to collect these things for you, and this is something that I’ve always been happy to have available. The last thing that I want to do at the end of a long race is to carry around bags of equipment and keep track of my bike. My special needs bags were still on course, but we left them there. We were able to pick those up the following morning, but if you don’t get them before noon, apparently they dispose of them.

I had to walk a little ways to the car, because there really isn’t much to do after the race when you finish close to the end. In fact, as soon as midnight rolled around, Ironman shuts down the finish area very quickly. Apparently they rolled a truck across the chute and turned all the lights out. When it’s over, they really mean it! I felt terrible for those athletes who may have made it through the swim and the bike course, only to fall short at the very end, to be greeted by darkness in the final stretch.

All of the restaurants were closed at this point, but my family had ordered pizza earlier, and it was waiting back at the B&B. It’s necessary to plan ahead for food unless you’re really fast. However, the first priority for me was a shower. I managed to get through that without falling over, although my legs were having a tough time of it. I ate two pieces of lukewarm pizza, drank more water, and went to bed.

I woke up at least once overnight, and apparently that’s normal for the first night post-race. I didn’t even sleep that late in the morning. I expected to be sore, but I found that my knees and ankles just sort of ached, and I didn’t have that much muscular soreness to start with. I took Advil sporadically and tried to keep moving a little through the day.

Our original plan for Monday was to walk around downtown and do some shopping. However, the rain had returned, so we decided to just lounge around at the B&B, reading and playing board games. Later in the day, the joint pain started to fade and my muscles began to hurt. Everything was sore, *except* my quads, which was actually pretty weird. In all my long training runs or after long climby bike rides, my quads were consistently sore. Put it all together on race day and … quads were fine. I don’t understand why.

Toward evening my back muscles threatened to cramp, so I laid down and went to bed. We traveled home the next day, but I started to feel better. I still moved slowly and didn’t feel like doing anything too strenuous, but could function well enough. I think that the soreness was essentially gone by the third day after the race. My blisters also healed up quickly.

Donuts

I was also hungry and ate a lot. I had eaten carefully planned meals in the weeks leading up to the race, hoping to avoid any unneeded distress, but I no longer cared. On the drive home, I ate most of a half-dozen donuts.

The strange thing about recovery was that my legs felt completely drained with any exertion for about 3 weeks after the race. I went out on a 40-mile ride a week after the race, and my legs just had no strength in them. I would try to push up a hill, and they just couldn’t do it. They weren’t sore at this point, but just wouldn’t respond. I rode in an 80-mile cycling event 3 weeks after the race and finally felt like I was returning to normal by that point.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever do another full distance race prior to competing in this. I didn’t really know for a few weeks afterward either. I certainly don’t plan on another one for 2019, although I’m contemplating a 70.3. I think I would consider another full after that, but I have no specific plans (Maryland, Chattanooga, Barcelona?). Lake Placid was a beautiful place to race, the town was welcoming, and I enjoyed so much of it, but I’m not eager to face those hills again. I would probably race a different course in the future.

My training has substantially diminished by now. I have kept up a degree of cycling, finishing Zwift Academy in September. I’m hoping to swim and run at least once a week, but I’m also back to fencing practices since September.

For next year, I’m already registered for the New Jersey State Triathlon in July (both sprint and Olympic distances). I’ve looked at other events: Eagleman (70.3), Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev 3 Quassy), Jerseyman, Lifetime Athletic Indoor Tris, Ironman Virginia 70.3, or maybe a half-marathon locally. I would like to try to get faster at the shorter distances.

Numbers

That brings me to the end of my Ironman journey for now. I hope this race report is helpful to anyone thinking of trying one, or looking at Lake Placid specifically.

See all my race reports here.

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid (Part 4 – Run)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

I had just finished the bike course, and I knew I was running short on time. So while I was happy to be through with the longest part of my race, I knew that the marathon wouldn’t be easy. Being sick during the last couple of months of training had meant that I had had to let something go. And that something was my long runs. The furthest I had ever run in training was a single 14.3-mile effort.

I was feeling down about my race at this point, but still happy to be on the last part of it. My ankle had ached during the second half of the bike section, so I was a bit worried about how it would deal with running. But then the volunteer in the changing tent dumped out my bike-to-run bag and OMG – chocolate-covered salted cashews! I had stashed a lot of goodies in my bags, but this was the one time where I really, really needed them.

Cashews

Not a great photo, but those are the cashews!

I changed into leggings and a tank top for the run. The temperature was much better by now and the rain had stopped. I had a long sleeved shirt stashed in my run special needs for later, if I got cold. I dragged myself out of the tent on started the run (er, walk).

T2 = 9:00

I still could barely move, but that was fine. It was easier to eat my cashews while walking anyway, and I knew that the beginning of the run course was downhill. By this point in the day, everyone was out cheering on the athletes. The run course was two loops, with one long out-and-back that led back through downtown, followed by a short out-and-back that paralleled the end of the bike course. So everyone who was running overlapped in town a few times.

I shuffled along as the course turned toward the long downhill section. Then I heard a familiar voice beside me and found my brother jogging alongside me. He wanted to make sure that I understood the cut off times, which I thought I did. All athletes had to reach the turn around for the second loop by 9:00 p.m. and I also had to reach the finish line *before* midnight. I had started my race a few minutes before 7:00 a.m., so in order to make the total cut off time of 17 hours, I’d have to make it to the end a few minutes before 12:00 a.m.

Drake

My brother found me in the blurry dusk.

My brother encouraged me as I finished up my cashews and found that I was now able to jog. He coached me a bit and told me that I needed to get through the run in about 6 hours. I felt pretty good about that prospect now that my legs had started to cooperate. I had done the run in the Quassy Half in 3 hours with a run-walk approach, while still sick and coughing, so 6 hours for the Ironman run should be doable, right?

I have to admit, I was a bit disheartened by seeing other runners on their way back in from the long out-and-back. How far ahead of me were they? How many were already on their second loop? My brother peeled off at this point and I was alone with my legs.

I found that the first 5 miles weren’t really that bad. I had done plenty of runs of this distance in my training, so now that my legs felt better, I was able to keep my pace where I wanted it. I walked at every aid station, and alternated between water and Gatorade Endurance. Later on, I would switch to soda and Red Bull. I had plenty of gels and had planned on taking one every 45 to 60 minutes.

On the way out of town, I did experience some exhaustion-fueled resentment toward all those athletes who were on their way back into town and appeared to be happily walking and chatting with newfound friends. I knew I wouldn’t have time to ease up at all as I made my way through the marathon.

The course led down the hill beside the Olympic ski jumps before making a left turn that took athletes through a wooded area with slightly rolling hills. I felt like I spent most of the run on this road, and I heard complaints that this stretch was boring. However, I kind of liked it. The aid stations broke up the monotony of a long run, and it wasn’t really that hilly. By the time I had reached mile 8, I started to hurt though.

I had blisters on both feet, along my pinkie toes where I usually get them. My left ankle had begun to have twinges of pain, and my right hamstring twitched like it wanted to cramp. I would walk whenever this happened and it never got any worse, so after a short break, I’d run again. My overall pace was steady, and only a tiny bit slower that I would have liked. I knew that I still had to go up the hills back into town (and would be walking those parts), and I knew that I had somewhere over 6 hours to get through the miles (probably closer to 6.5).

Toes

I made this photo little so you don’t have to look at my super-zoomed in blisters/toes.

I made it back to the hills and was relieved that I had a good excuse to walk. But as soon as I reached more level ground, I pushed myself back to my running. The miles slowly ticked by. I passed a few athletes as I went, and at least a couple who were doubled over sick at the side of the road.

The stretch between the ski jump hill and the steeper hill into  town was short and flat, and went by quickly. When I reached the Main Street hill, I walked again, jogged through town, then turned onto the second shorter out-and-back on the course. This section was lined with tents, tri-clubs, and spectators. The run special needs bags were also located here, but I decided to forego my long-sleeved shirt.

As I made the turn-around and sped toward the halfway point, I could hear the finish line. Knowing that I was only halfway through the run while others peeled off to the finish was disheartening. BUT – I was also halfway through! I made the time cutoff at the halfway point at just a little over 3 hours, and headed out again for loop 2.

I wasn’t sure how my ankles, knees, and muscles would react as the miles accumulated. My initial approach was to slow to a walk when something twinged. After a while, I grew tired of this, so I started to just push through those tiny aches and pains, and everything was fine. I never cramped and my ankle randomly hurt, but never got worse. I didn’t have any pain in my knees or my back. I did have to stop at the medical tent to smear Vaseline on my inner arm where it had started to chafe against the edge of my tank top. My blisters still hurt, but felt like they weren’t getting worse.

I tried the hot chicken broth at one aid station, and it was a bit too weird for me to drink much of it. Maybe if it had been a colder evening, it would have been a nicer treat. I reached mile 15, and from there on I just chuckled to myself with each mile. I’d never run this far in my life, and I didn’t even like running! Why would anyone ever run this far?!?! These were the thoughts that cycled through my head. I even continued to pass a few people on the course.

By the time I had reached the long wooded section along Riverside Drive, it was full dark. The course was lit, but there were some long stretches where I couldn’t see the road surface well at all. I made an effort to keep my feet active and tried not to trip on anything. The volunteers handed me a glow-necklace, and the course thinned out. It was pretty desolate out there, but at no point did I ever think that I would give up. I felt in a better place mentally than I had on the bike.

I did have some mild nausea on the second loop and stopped eating my gels. I think I actually took in too much liquid, so I backed off on the water and soda until my stomach felt better. I took three bathroom stops on the run course, and these didn’t take me long. By the third one, the Porta-Potties weren’t in very good shape though.

Despite the automatic tracking app giving my family anxiety and reporting that my pace was all over the place, I was actually very consistent throughout the run. I slowed again to walk up the hills on the way back in, and I now knew that I was going to make it. If I was truly running short on time, I could pick up my pace. I didn’t want to because that would *really* hurt, but I knew I had that effort in me if I needed it.

My brother found me again as I passed through town and onto the last out-and-back, and I also chatted with a nice older gentleman who was struggling at a fast walk. I had given him some words of encouragement earlier, and he was thankful, telling me that it had kept him going. He was going to make it also, and ended up finished just before me.

The turn around felt so far away at this point, but I finally made my last 180 and had about a mile to go to the finish. The spectators had also thinned out beside the road, but in just a few minutes I would see where they went. I could already hear the music and shouting from the finish.

The final part of the run passes through the area that had earlier been part of the Expo and around the Olympic skating oval, which is a paved track in the center of the downtown, set between the ice rink and the high school. Transition had been in the grassy middle of the oval, so the last part of the run was essentially a short trip around transition. My brother met me on the way into the finishers chute and videoed me for as far as he could get away with.

TheFinish

I had been told to slow down as I ran the last stretch. The Olympic torch blazed ahead of me and the fans at such a late hour were incredible – so many people lined the sides of the finish cute and pounded on the sides in rhythm. The lights shone down and I could no longer hear the music over the cheers of the crowd. Hands reached out and I smacked as many as I could as I jogged by. When I crossed the line, I couldn’t even hear Mike Reilly announce that I was an Ironman.

A volunteer caught me after I crossed the finish line. I guess some people collapse, but I was relatively okay. I grinned as she handed me my finisher’s goodies, someone placed the medal around my neck, and I smiled for more photos. The elation of the experience is hard to describe, but all that mattered at that point was that I had conquered Lake Placid. I was an Ironman!

Posed Finish

RUN TIME: 6:14:32

TOTAL TIME: 16:52:32

Next: Part 5 – Aftermath

See all my race reports here.

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid 2018 (Part 1 – Pre-Race)

This ended up being really long, so I’ve broken it into parts. You can find the rest here (when they’re ready):

Well, I completed my first full distance Ironman triathlon on July 22 in Lake Placid, New York. It’s been a long journey of training leading up to it, and it was certainly a challenge that should never be taken lightly.

Ali and Me

I had been practicing at the shorter lengths of triathlon, first to just try it out, then to see if I could do longer distances. Every time I reached a little further, struggled up a new hill, or pushed my pace a little faster, my body kept growing stronger. My previous injuries essentially vanished other than a few aches in my ankle after long cycling sessions. Finally, I signed up for a full distance Ironman. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-miles on the bike, and then just a little 26.2-mile run. Yep, it ENDS with a marathon after all that swimming and cycling. Who would put a marathon at the end?!?!

How was I going to train for that? I used a training plan provided by a monthly subscription service called Trainer Road. It is mainly a cycling training tool, and is used in conjunction with an indoor trainer. Their training plans give you options to choose between three options for training time per week, and different stages of the training (base, build, specialty). I had to modify the plans quite a bit to fit in with my atypical work schedule, my fencing practices, and planned travel and events.

Training Plan

I rode several cycling events in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP). I completed my first century ride (100 miles) on a flat course, followed by the Gran Fondo New York, and the Rev3 Quassy Half. You can read about those in the links. I was a bit worried about IMLP after I raced the Quassy Half. I had trouble with my breathing during the swim and just barely made the cut off at the end. IMLP is a hilly course (like Quassy), and I just didn’t have enough race experience to anticipate my pace for the event other than to know that I’m a solid back-of-the-pack-er.

As race day neared, I had been sick since the end of April and had to cut a lot of training out of my schedule in order to get some rest and be healthy. I finally felt better and stopped coughing about 2 weeks out.

I’m not sure that I appreciated the taper as much as I was supposed to. This is the time in your training when you start to back off on the distance and hours so that your performance (theoretically) peaks on race day. With illness cutting into my training, I had essentially been tapering for weeks already. I tried to resist the urge to cram in a few last extra long sessions. I had heard that it’s better to race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Even during the taper though, you don’t rest. You’re still working out, and my plan called for several workouts during race week, up to a final short run the day before the race.

We drove to Lake Placid, NY on Thursday of race week. I had spent hours making exhaustive packing lists, planning for my transitions, and finally stowing it all in the back of the car. We finally arrived at the venue in the late afternoon, just in time to make athlete check-in.

Bobsled

Lake Placid has a history in sports. This small Adirondack village has hosted two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980), and was the site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey game. It still functions as an Olympic Training Center for bobsled, skeleton, luge, freestyle skiing, biathlon, and other sports.

Ironman has held a full-distance triathlon in Lake Placid since 1999, and the race is the second-longest running Ironman in North America. This year’s race marked the 20-year anniversary for IMLP.

You can’t miss the signage for the race when you drive through the downtown area. The transition area and tents were nearly assembled when we arrived, all centered around the Olympic speed-skating oval off Main Street. Athlete check-in was located in the Winter Olympic Museum.

This being only my second Ironman-branded event, and first full distance triathlon, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. It turned out to be a similar process to the Eagleman 70.3. They verified ID and then handed me a card with my bib number. I had to sign a couple of pages of waivers and verify emergency contact and medical information. Everyone was weighed, and the number was recorded in your waivers. I think this was to help assess dehydration on race day in case medical assistance was required.

Wrist

I received my athlete packet at the next table. This contains your race number stickers (for your bike helmet, bike, gear bags, special needs bags, and your run bib. It also has tickets that you can hand off to friends or family members who can then pick up your bike and equipment bags when you’re done with them on race day. This is where they also clasp a wrist band on you that marks you as an official athlete for the weekend. Get used to wearing it, because you can’t race without it.

After that, I picked up some swag. This bag had a flag, tiny dry bag, a restaurant coupon, and a poster. The last stop was for timing chips. That only took a few seconds as the volunteer assigned a chip to your race number. After that, I marched outside and over to the Ironman merchandise tent to pick up my bag. This was a pretty nice gym bag with straps to convert it to a backpack, although I have heard some complaints about the orientation of the logo. By that point, everything was closing for the day, so I met up with my family and we moved on to check in to our bed-and-breakfast and relax.

The next day brought brilliant sunny weather, low humidity, and only light winds. It would have been a great day for a race. Instead, we traveled to Mirror Lake for a practice swim. First, everything you may have heard about Mirror Lake is true. It is a long and narrow body of water with a public access swimming beach adjacent to downtown Lake Placid. The water is very clear for a northern lake with probably 20 – 30 foot visibility.

Mirror Lake

The Ironman buoys were already in the water to mark the course, but in case they weren’t, other smaller permanent buoys are there for water sports (something with boats). These small buoys are all connected underwater by a cable that stretches all the way across the lake. This is the fabled cable that you can follow during your swim so that you don’t have to sight. It even crosses at the far end where the Ironman course runs, so you can literally follow the cable for the entire race (more on this later).

I swam about 1000 yards for my practice swim, cutting across the course early. It almost felt like a race because there were an awful lot of other swimmers in the lake. I couldn’t quite tell how the end of the swim course was oriented, but I knew that it was two loops with a short run across the beach between them. The water was a pleasant temperature, about 74 degrees F.

We rested after that and then I headed out on my bike for a short spin along the course. Everything seemed to be working on my bike. My husband rode along, and we found a route from the B&B to nearly the start of the bike course. It turned out that scoping out this stretch at the beginning of the bike course was a great idea. The course leaves transition, makes a hard 180-degree turn (which we didn’t see until the following day), and then goes down a pretty steep hill before a left turn. Apparently a fair number of racers crash in this section, so it was good to ride through most of it before the day. The next part of the course leaves town along some rolling hills. We passed the Olympic ski jumps on our right and turned around shortly after that to head back. It wasn’t a bad ride, and I was feeling good about the race.

Ski Jumps

The next day was my last workout before the race. I woke up early (for me) and met my brother for a slow 1-mile run. My training plan had called for 20 minutes with some sprint efforts, but since I had not done that many sprint workouts in training (sick), I cut it short. From there, I only had to pack up my equipment bags and bike and drop those off in transition. For a full-distance Ironman you have the option to change clothes between each leg. Changing tents for both men and women are provided. Instead of your normal transition set-up, each athlete places the swim-to-bike clothes in one bag and then the bike-to-run clothes in another. You grab the bag, take it into the changing tent, and then just run through transition to get your bike. They actually don’t let you store anything else near your bike.

Bike Ready

You’ll also have two special needs bags (bike and run) that are positioned halfway through these sections of the race. You don’t have to drop these off until race morning. Additionally, you’ll have access to your equipment bags and bike on race morning so you can add anything that you forgot. I didn’t place my nutrition/water bottles, bento box, or computer on my bike until race morning.

Once our gear was tucked away, we left town to drive the bike course for a preview. Now my husband had ridden one loop of the bike course that morning, so he was able to narrate our drive with his own experiences from the morning. I’ll save the details of this drive for my section on the bike segment. I felt better about the race after seeing what I was going to be up against. It may have been nice to preview the run course also, but since I was already planning to walk all the hills, it didn’t matter as much to me.

Bike Course

Soon enough it was time to get to bed. I double checked everything I had laid out for the morning, and I think I managed to fall asleep by 10 p.m.

Next: Part 2 – Swim

See all my race reports here.

Rev 3 Quassy Half – Race Report

Well, this race report for the Quassy Half triathlon has been a bit delayed, but here it is! I raced this event in June 2018. For me, this was a practice race for Ironman Lake Placid, and was my second 70.3 mile distance. My first 70.3 was Eagleman last year (race report here), which was a vastly different type of course, compared to Quassy.

Location

So Rev 3 puts race on all over the country. Quassy is known as the Beast of the Northeast, and is in Middlebury, Connecticut. The race venue is the Quassy Amusement Park, which is an odd little place. Anyone can wander through the park, and access to individual rides is through tickets, much like a traveling carnival or local fair. The park had a separate water park with limited access for members or possibly people who paid for the day. This was full of pools, water slides, and also had beach access to the lake.

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Quassy Amusement Park water slides.

Travel

We drove from New Jersey to Middlebury, and it was an easy 2-hour trip. Our hotel was the Hampton Inn Waterbury and was a few miles from the race venue. When we first arrived in the area, we went straight to the park for packet pick up.

The entrance to the parking lot was a little congested and confusing. Triathletes were arriving in cars, jogging through the area, and getting a last spin in on their bikes, all while the general public was attending the amusement park. Transition was set up in the middle of the parking lot also, adding to the congestion. We were able to park though and managed to find packet pick up. We had to walk through the park and then around and down toward one of the wooden roller coasters.

Once we found the right place, packet pickup was smooth and easy. Swag included a t-shirt, visor, and buff.

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So much stuff to organize and pack.

Like many 70.3 distance races, athletes were supposed to check their bikes into transition on Saturday. I wanted to get a quick spin in, so I headed out along the start of the course for a few miles. This took me right out of the park, down a busy road, past the turn to the run course, and to the first turn of the bike course along a quieter wooded street. I turned back at that point, just feeling a need to move a bit.

I stopped by the athlete briefing which was held near packet pick up. This was touted as mandatory, but I doubt every athlete made it there. They did explain the swim course, and the different turns for the Half versus Olympic distance, which was helpful.

I slapped stickers on my bike and left it in transition before trying to scope out the swim start. The problem with that was that only those people who had access to the Quassy water park were allowed on the beach. Fortunately, the employee watching the gate let us sneak in a short ways to peek at the beach. There wasn’t really much to see anyway – sandy beach! Couldn’t tell exactly how swim exit would be set up yet. The swim buoys were all out already, which was helpful. The Olympic distance swimmers would turn at a yellow buoy and cut across sooner before turning in, so it was good to visualize how far out that would be.

Finally, we decided to drive the bike course before it got too dark. I had been practicing hills more than I ever had in the past, but I wanted to see what I was up against. It’s tough to describe the Quassy bike course until you’ve experienced it, so let’s just say that it certainly looked like I had my work cut out for me.

Finally we headed to the hotel for check in there and then a hearty dinner. The hotel was adequate – nothing special, but fine. Dinner was at D’Amelio’s Italian Eatery in Waterbury.

Race Morning

We woke up bright and early on race morning and checked out of the hotel. I had everything organized and ready to go, and everything went as planned.

Nutrition Plan

My nutrition plan for the day consisted of two bottles of Gatorade Endurance, Clif Blok Mountain Berry blocks, Nutri-Grain bars, Mott’s applesauce packets, and Rice Krispies treats on the bike. I would refill with Gatorade Endurance or water, depending on how I felt. For the run, I would switch to Gu Smores flavor and on-course options (water, Gatorade, cola). This is what I had been using in my training.

Weather

Weather on race morning was cooler than I would have liked. I wore my Coeur two-piece tri kit, but pulled long pants and a sweat shirt on over top. I think I’m getting used to this whole transition thing. I set up my tiny area and felt like I had everything ready to go. Then it was away to the swim start, to wait.

Swim

It seems like more triathlons are switching their start format to a rolling swim start, where athletes group themselves by estimated swim pace. I think I like this approach, although this was my first experience with it (more later). I put myself at the back of the 2:00/100 yard group, figuring that I usually average a tiny bit slower than that.

The water temperature was supposed to be 72 degrees, which I was worried would be too cold for me. However, I had managed to get a couple of open water practice swims in that were in that range, so I should have known that I’d be fine.

The down side of the rolling swim start was that for a slower athlete, I had to stand around for a while. This made me cold – even with my wetsuit on, I was shivering before I ever reached the water. However, when it was time to go, I spashed in, dove under, and started my swim. I realized that the water felt pretty nice!

I started out swimming fine and tried to keep myself calm and slow. I tend to feel dizzy after 300 – 400 yards, so I was waiting to get past that point to really settle in. I felt fine and kept it steady for a while, but then hit that first turn. As soon as I made the right-hand turn, I started to struggle. There must have been a little more wind, or the direction change pushed my out of balance or something. I started getting splashed with more chop, had trouble sighting, and felt lost in the middle of the lake. My heart rate surged and my breathing became more ragged. I had to stop and tread water to sight a few times. Every time that I thought I was headed on course, I felt like I was further from the other swimmers and the track where I should be. I saw a kayak lifeguard on my left, so I knew I wasn’t really alone out there. She told me I was off course, which I knew, but it helped to have her acknowledge that she saw me. I finally found a buoy ahead and decided that I could make it there. My heart rate was still too high, but I found a rhythm and kept going.

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I was not so happy at this point.

I had thought that this buoy was the turn buoy for the inbound leg, but when I got there, I saw that I had one more to go. Looking back at the swim, it seems that there were only two buoys marking the far side of the course. I think it would have helped to have at least two more out there. At this point, I grabbed onto the buoy and let myself rest. I took deep breaths and waited until my heart rate fell to a more tolerable level. I realized that I had been trying to bilateral breathe through choppy section and I should have known to switch to one side sooner. I got myself together, made a plan to breathe only on the left, and swam away from the buoy.

This new plan worked out much better. I still wasn’t happy out there, but I knew I’d be okay and could finish the swim. I reached the turn, headed in toward shore, and just kept going. Of course, it felt like it took forever, but I was less than ten minutes slower than my goal time.

SWIM = 54:52

T1

The swim exit was a little steep, and I had no energy to do more than walk. But now I was at the bike section, which is my favorite of the three parts of triathlon, so it could only get better now! I found my bike, and I think this was the first time I actually remembered where it was in an event. However, this was where I had worried about the temperature. The temperature at the start of the bike was 57 F. I am always cold, so I was afraid that I would be too cold as I pulled off my wetsuit and started cycling. I pulled on arm warmers and a cycling vest, and then topped it with a light cycling jacket. The arm warmers were a bit of a struggle to get on over my wet arms, but I needed them.

T1 = 7:02

Bike

The bike exit was straight-forward, but I struggled a tiny bit to clip in, still dizzy and shaky from the swim. But my cheering section was here and that helped me get going! The first part of the bike course would be easy – I had seen it yesterday. Then I knew that the serious climbing would hit me after that. My goal was to finish with enough time for a 3-hour run.

I had a lot of fun out on the bike course. The hills were certainly challenging, but I kept to my plan. Slow and steady, drop my cadence, and be patient. Steady effort on the flats, then fly down the hills. I knew that the last part of the course had more downhill sections, so it would get a tiny bit easier.

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I love this photo. I actually look like I was having fun at this point.

I stuck with my nutrition plan. Unlike Eagleman, I had decided to stop briefly at each aid station. That way I could make sure that I ate one of my snacks and could refill my water bottles less clumsily. The first aid station was great and everything went according to plan. I held the same approach at the second one – eat more, refill, keep going. Finally the day was warming up and I pulled off my jacket and stuffed it in a pocket at this point. That was part of the plan also, and it worked well. The cycling vest gave me pockets that the tri top didn’t have.

By the third aid station, I told myself that I would stop for a bathroom break. After being so dehydrated at Eagleman last year, I was making a real effort to keep drinking through the ride. In the past year I learned that when I start to feel a little nauseous, that means I need to drink more, NOT stop drinking.

At the third aid station, the bathroom break went as planned. I ate more snacks, refilled my water again, and continued on. It became clear at this point that everyone along the course was in the back of the pack. That is one downside to the rolling swim start. If you place yourself at the back of the swim pack, you will likely remain in a lonelier place through the bike and the run.

Toward the end of the bike course I started to feel a cramp in my leg. I realized then that I had not been taking my salt tablets. I pulled over and found a couple, swallowed those, and then kept on to the end. My leg felt better and I rolled into the bike finish. Overall, I was slower than I would have liked, but with the hills I really had not had much of an idea of what to expect.

BIKE = 4:16:43

T2

Transition went smoothly again. I took off my cycling vest and sleeves and finished the race in my tri kit. I changed into running socks and added a visor. Compared to Eagleman last year, I felt much better.

T2 = 4:30

Run

Even though I had intended to run hills in my training, I had not had time to do enough of them. I had already told myself that I would walk up the hills in this race. Well, everyone else who was still on the course by the time I started the run was also walking the hills. Quassy’s run course was probably hillier than the bike course!

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Forced smile. Why was the photographer on the uphill section?

I kept my pace slow and figured that I could speed up if I felt like it later on. After only a short distance I had to stop to take my shoe off to adjust a place where my sock had bunched up. I figured that it was better to do this early on than to wait until it caused a bigger problem.

The aid stations were spaced out about a mile apart, and the course ran through a wooded area on quiet streets for two loops. I took one bathroom break early on and stopped at every aid station for water or Gatorade. Later on, some of the aid stations had Coke, which tasted heavenly by that point.

I had a few places where I started coughing and had to walk, but overall felt pretty good. Despite walking up the hills, my pace was pretty steady and I finished roughly in my goal time of 3 hours.

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Wheee! Done!

RUN = 3:00:25

Finish area

Rev 3 will allow you to have family members join you to run down the finish chute. I have mixed feelings about this as sometimes that can mess up another finisher’s finish photo. But by the point at which I was done, there was hardly a crowd finishing.

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Okay, so the medals are pretty cool and Cthulhu-like.

When I crossed the finish line, I was promptly given my medal, an ice-water soaked towel for my shoulders, and water. I was able to stay on my feet (unlike Eagleman) and ate a hamburger. It didn’t take me too long to recover enough to get my bike out of transition. My husband went to bring the car closer and we were packed up and on our way home quickly.

TOTAL = 8:23:34

Other than my swim difficulties, I had a good time at this race and would consider doing it again. I would like to get faster on the hills on my bike, but this will take time to train up to. Of course, this was a practice race for Ironman Lake Placid, so I immediately extrapolated my performance to the longer distance. Even assuming that the elevation profile for IMLP was the same as Quassy, if I double my time, I could still finish within the time cutoff for Lake Placid. After some internet searches, the general opinion of triathletes who have done both events seems to be that Lake Placid is easier (distance aside). I’ll let you know soon if that is really the case.

See all my race reports here.

Upcoming Events and Races

So the triathlon season has come to an end for 2017, fencing has started up again for 2017-2018, and I’ve been planning the upcoming year for both.

Here’s what’s on my plate for anyone who’s interested:

December NAC: I will be fencing the Veteran Open and Vet-40 events in womens’ sabre in Portland, OR.

April NAC: I will be fencing in Richmond, VA. I’m sure I’ll enter the Veteran Open and Vet-40 women’s sabre events, but could also do the Division II event. I haven’t decided yet.

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May: I’m riding in the New York Gran Fondo. This is a 100-mile ride/race that starts on the George Washington Bridge. The route has a ton of climbing and I expect will be my first century ride.

July: This month is a doozy. I should be fencing in Summer Nationals in St. Louis, MO for whatever events I qualify for. Then later in the month, I have Ironman Lake Placid. This will be my first full distance triathlon, and I hope that the NY Gran Fondo will help to prepare me for the climbing on the Lake Placid course.

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St. Louis arch.

That’s it for now, although I expect to add some other local and regional fencing events when my schedule allows it (not easy right now). I’m debating whether I want to sign up for a 70.3 distance triathlon or a half marathon as training for Lake Placid, but I haven’t made a decision yet on these.

Race Report – Vincentown SuperSprint Triathlon

Here’s a quick write-up on my last triathlon event for the season (back in August). This was something that just sounded like a lot of fun to all of my fast-twitch muscles – a super sprint! Even shorter than a traditional sprint triathlon, maybe I could truly manage to sprint in this one?

The Vincentown SuperSprint was held in southern New Jersey in the small town of Vincentown. The event was also on a Thursday evening, which meant it was easier to manage it around my work schedule. The race distances were: 200-yard swim, 5.75-mile bike, and a 1.3-mile run.

Packet pick-up was that evening, and they were also taking on-site registrations. The atmosphere was low-key and beginner-friendly. There was plenty of parking at the fire house (this was also where packet pick-up was hosted), and the transition area was just across a small bridge from there. I set up my transition area, choosing to go with the no-sock approach again for speed in transition. The race also allowed you to choose your own place in transition, so I got a good spot – pretty close to the bike in/out, but right next to the run out.

Transition map

I spent some time walking around and looking at the water next. The swim was going to be in a small lake, and there were already markers set up to mark the exit point. However, while standing there, it became quickly obvious that a horde of wasps was in the process of building nests in the mud at the shoreline. I brought this to the attention of one of the volunteers, and he had the fire department take care of the wasps.

It turns out that the swim start was in-water, but everyone had to wade in through the swim exit to get into position. The event was so small that rather than age groups, they just divided the competitors into two groups – men and women. The men started first and were quickly away with the women starting two or three minutes later.

Wading in, the water temperature was reasonable (not sure I ever heard what it was though), BUT the bottom was rather unpleasant and mucky. So while the course and distances were otherwise beginner-friendly, this part of the day was not. If you’re squeamish at all about murky water, this may not be the race for you. I tried not to think about it too much and figured I’d be out of the water soon enough.

The swim course was a short rectangle with two left turns and a return back to shore. The race director had said that we would probably be able to touch the bottom and stand if we were nervous in the water. One one turn, I did reach down and found the bottom before changing direction and continuing. I didn’t have any problems and came out mid-pack. The run to transition was very brief (just across the street), and I easily found my bike and headed out on the bike course.

I did hear of one person crashing at the beginning of the bike section. There was some type of plastic grate on the shoulder of the bridge just after turning out of transition. I believe the athlete who crashed was focused on clipping in and hit this grate with his front tire (at least it was at low speed). I think a few people got lost on the course too, but I didn’t have any problem following the directions from the volunteers.

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The bike was a single loop, and as usual, I passed a lot of people on this part. I tried to race this more like a time trial, and harder than I probably should have. My heart rate was pegged around 175 – 180 for most of it. The road surface was mainly smooth and there was little traffic, although the roads were not closed.

I rolled back in to transition, stashed my bike, and ran out for a quick sprint. My legs felt better than they usually did at this point, maybe because the entire course was so short? The run course took me through town, up a slight incline, and out on a dirt road to loop around a field.

A couple of other women passed me on the run, but I knew I didn’t have much more speed to give. After coming around the back side of the field, the course retraced the outbound section, going downhill. When I knew I only had a short distance left, I was able to push harder for a strong finish.

The firehouse had snacks and drinks – pizza, bananas, and water. I don’t remember what the other offerings were. I hung around for a bit afterwards to find out my results, and yay – I ended up first in my age group!

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See all my race reports here.

Race Report – NJ State Triathlon (sprint)

I finally found a little free time and am just catching up on some writing, so I thought I’d do a couple of belated race reports first. I raced in the New Jersey State Triathlon for the second time back on July 22, in the sprint distance event. I had participated in the same event last year, so this was the first time I’ve had a chance to compare my performance on the same event from one year to the next.

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Finisher medals from this event are huge!

This event consisted of a 500-meter swim, an 11.5-mile bike course, and a 3.1-mile run. The race was well-run and I had no trouble getting my race packet, finding parking, and setting up in transition. I’m starting to feel a little more accustomed to how this triathlon thing works and I think that’s helping with my pre-race sleep, although I’m still not a morning person.

Much of the race was identical to last year. My goals were to be faster in each discipline, but also in my transitions. I had hoped to fit in more specific training, but a sudden change in my work schedule made that impossible. I had only done a few short bike rides, a few 2-mile runs, and one swim session in the pool since Eagleman 6 weeks earlier.

The water that morning was super warm – 88 degrees Fahrenheit – but I was still cold until the very end. My lack of swimming leading up to race day was apparent when I felt rather winded on the final inbound leg. Oh well, the bike was next and that is where I’m strongest.

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Transition set up

For T1, I only threw on my helmet, glasses, and cycling shoes, skipping out on socks, gloves, drying my feet, water, or a snack. This worked well and I was quickly out on the bike course. This was much as I remembered it, with several turns and a nearly flat course. Police directed traffic at intersections, and cones separated the athletes from traffic. I passed a lot of people, but that was how 2016 also went, and fit with my expected swim slow–bike pretty fast–run really slow pattern.

Finally I returned to transition and had to leave my bike behind for the final section of the race. I swapped out cycling shoes for running shoes, still with no socks, and exchanged my helmet for a visor, ditching the sunglasses, but also picking up my race belt and number.

I don’t think that the air temperature was as hot as last year, but I still felt like I struggled on the run. I had hoped to run under 30 minutes for the course, but couldn’t quite do it. I still finished about 5 minutes faster than last year, so I was happy overall. And the no-sock technique helped my transitions, but I did get blisters on my feet in the last mile of the run. Fortunately they were not as epic as those from Eagleman.

See all my race reports here.

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