Monthly Archives: April 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed running. The last time I can really remember is before I hurt my knee in September of 2013. Ever since then, it’s been a long and painful process to get back to being able to run a competent 5K or 10K, but it’s always at least sort of painful and involves some level of dread. I kept putting in the work because I wanted to finish triathlons, but I rarely actually enjoyed a run.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve found the joy again, and I think I have the Fleet Feet SpeedPLAY group to thank for it. I’ve attended three sessions so far. I was originally so afraid and intimidated to join, mostly because whenever I’ve tried to run intervals on my own, I ran the first one very quickly and then felt terrible the rest of the workout. And then never did it again. My impression or prediction of what the group would entail was a lot of feeling like I wanted to barf while skinny people ran laps around me and my hair fell out. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but most fears really don’t.

But I’ve learned from swimming that interval training absolutely works, and I would really like to drop a couple of minutes from my 5K time to be a bit more competitive at the sprint distance, so I signed up and I even managed to attend all three weeks. The first week, the pressure was low as the coach emphasized repeatedly that the point of the session was just for him to get a sense of how we ran. We were doing 800 m repeats with 1 minute of rest. It was hard, but it was totally achievable. And with a warm up run to start and a cool down run with pickups to finish, it was surprising how easily my body was tricked into running 5 miles without realizing it.

The second week we did hill repeats, and I went into hunker down mode without realizing it and was able to crank through 8 repeats while feeling generally okay.

Last week, I was introduced to fartleks, which other than being the most hilarious word in sports is apparently also something I didn’t know I love. Fartleks, I learned, actually mean “speed play” in Swedish. Based on what we did, I would define them as intervals without actually stopping in between. We did 1200 meters running hard followed by 600 meters running easy, x4. Our coach encouraged us to make the first one the slowest of the day, so I intentionally took it out easy. We were supposed to go between 10k pace and half marathon pace. Well, I’ve never run a half marathon, but my best 10k is 54:xx, so I aimed for that. I finished my first 1200 in 6:45, about 9 minute mile pace. I knew I could do better, so aimed to pick it up a bit. I ended up knocking ten seconds off each one, finishing the subsequent ones in 6:35, 6:25, and 6:15. And you know what? I felt strong, powerful, and pretty great, even though it was windy as hell and actually snowing (yay, spring!). Great enough that two days later, on my rest day, I was texting Josh and asking if it was crazy that I really, really wanted to go for a run.

My next running race is the Twilight 10K on May 23 and I can’t wait to see if I can take it down a notch.

Current triathlon struggle:

I’ve been working really hard on my biking this winter, in spin class at the gym and on the trainer in our living room, but for some reason I’m having a hard time getting motivated to get out in the REAL WORLD on my bike even when the weather is beautiful. Today it was in the 60s and sunny and I was slated for an 80 minute ride. I moaned and whined for a bit until I finally just got dressed and got out there. I’ve been having a hard time this spring getting on the aero bars. I was starting to get kind of concerned that I’m somehow now afraid of riding in aero, but was trying to rationalize that the real issue was that it’s been an incredibly windy spring and that I was actually just showing good judgement by not riding aero when I was at risk of being blown over. Well, today it was calm and sunny and I still had to talk myself into getting down in the bars. By the second half of the ride I seemed to be more comfortable in aero and was even taking some turns down on the bars. Did I suddenly develop a phobia of riding in aero? For the sake of my wrists, I hope not. My bike is fitted for me to ride in aero and riding on the hoods puts a lot of pressure on my wrists. (Although, *TMI alert* riding in aero puts a lot of pressure on the, ahem, “soft tissue.”)

Hot triathlon tip:

I swim with a woman who’s done iron-distance and 70.3 distance triathlons, and she mentioned last week that the way she keeps on top of her nutrition is to test herself while she’s biking or running to make sure she can do simple math. If she can’t add up the numbers on a mailbox within a reasonable amount of time, she knows it’s time to eat or drink more.

Weeks until first tri of the season:



Wisconsin State SCY Master Swim Meet:

It’s become somewhat of an annual tradition for my Masters Swim class to descend en masse on the Wisconsin State SCY Master Swim meet. For many of the group, it’s the only meet of the year that’s attended, and it’s a nice chance to see how we’ve progressed over the past year and get some experience pushing ourselves as hard as we can. For those of you who aren’t in with the swimming lingo, SCY, as I recently learned, stands for Short Course Yards. Swim meets are generally divided by short course, a 25-meter or 25-yard pool, versus long-course, a 50-meter pool. And then, of course, there’s the distinction of meters versus yards. Given that the pool we train in is 20 meters long, I guess we train on a short, short course.

This year our group was a little smaller than usual, due to some scheduling quirks, so only three of us made the trek to Brown Deer, WI, for the meet. I had initially been pretty excited about doing the 400 and 100 IM (individual medley, in which one person swims all four strokes). However, at the last minute, my coach talked me into signing up for the 200 butterfly. I actually like butterfly and I do it well compared to the other students in our Master Swim group, but 200 yards of it sounded like total barf city. But in a moment of weakness, I signed up for it and spent the next week dreading the 200 yards of pain.

Of course, the 200 fly was my last event of the day, so in what I can only explain as preemptive self-defense, I immediately told anyone who could listen that I was going to scratch the 200 fly so that I could focus only on the events that I actually wanted to do. The 400 IM was up first, and I was really looking forward to it. I love swimming IM because you get to do something different each time you start getting tired of one stroke. It’s sort of like triathlon, where as soon as I am tired of swimming, I get to bike, and then often before I’m tired of biking it’s time to run. The 400 IM consists of 100 yds of fly, then 100 of back, 100 breast, and 100 free. I felt strong during the entire race, and was shocked to see that I had finished in 6:17. My coach had seeded me at 6:30, which I thought was relatively optimistic, and I was thrilled to have beaten that seed time by 13 seconds. Best of all, I placed third overall (of women), and won my age group. Granted, not a lot of people like to sign up for the 400 IM, but hey, part of placing is convincing yourself to sign up, right?

My other races were good, if unremarkable. I swam the 50 fly, 50 free, and 100 IM, and had a pretty good time doing them. Meanwhile, my classmates were killing it, knocking down PBs in their various events. We found a fourth to join us for a medley relay, and without even thinking about how much fly I was already on the hook for, I volunteered to swim fly. We finished in fine, albeit non-competitive form, and immediately after the medley relays was the 200 fly. The meet director announced a 5 minute break before the 200 fly would start, and at the very last minute I decided, “Oh crap, I might as well just swim it.” After all, if I want to compete an Ironman some day, I should at least be able to stand being extremely uncomfortable for 3 and a half minutes.

See, the problem with swimming butterfly is that it’s exhausting. And as soon as you (or I, I guess) start getting tired, your legs drop, which increases drag and makes everything that much more difficult. I went in with a conservative plan to execute some pretty slow turns to take the time to grab some extra air and bit of rest. And… I just went for it! I only consciously hesitated on two turns to get my breath back, and although during the last 75 yards my legs were begging to fall and my muscles were burning, I held on to my stroke and even managed to speed up slightly in the last 25, finishing the 200 in 3:05. I was thrilled. And just like with the 400 IM, the fact that I managed to show up and race the event put me in third overall and won my age group.

10k PR:

I was happy this year to be able to run the 10K at the Shamrock Shuffle, after spending last year watching Josh take off while I was still side-lined with a knee injury. I was even happier that this year it was a balmy 50 degrees and sunny, which was a huge relief after last year’s 5 degrees and windy. So cold, in fact, that as soon as Josh was out of view, I hunkered down in a coffee shop, hoping my estimates of his time would get me to the finish line in time to see him cross.

This was only my second official 10K, the first being at last Thanksgiving’s Berbee Derby, where I finished in 56:47. I felt awesome after that race, which made me think that I could take it out a little faster in this effort. This was also my first race since being diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, and it’s astonishing how much of a difference it makes to be able to actually breathe while I’m running.

This year’s race involved a bonus hill, as muddy conditions on the Lakeshore Path had the course rerouted to ascend the very steep Observatory Hill not once, but twice – first at mile 1 and again at mile 5.5 when, you know, you just really want to climb the steepest hill in the city. A few representatives of the UW Marching Band were there, though, to help us up the hill with the power of music.

I was very pleased with my time, finishing up in 54:45, which had me coming in at under 9 minute miles! I guess that when you only have one other race to compare your time against, it’s easy to PR, but overall I’m really liking the 10K distance. I feel like I can actually think during the race and don’t need to spend the whole time running as fast as I can.

Running Intervals: 

As I mentioned previously, I signed up for Fleet Feet Madison’s SpeedPLAY training, which focuses on running intervals. I’ve sort of vaguely tried to run intervals on my own before, but it’s so incredibly hard to force myself to run them alone. I truly believe that interval training works, as it’s improved my swim times dramatically, but running intervals are somehow even more painful than swimming. I signed up for this training program in the hopes that it would be easier to force myself to actually run intervals, counting on my own competitiveness and the proven power of peer pressure.

Our first session was last week, and although the coach cautioned that this would be our easiest one, as he wanted to get a sense of where all our speeds fell and how we were doing to start with, I came away feeling confident and excited about the next seven weeks. I wasn’t the fastest person (oh Lordy, not even close), but I wasn’t the slowest, and who cares even if I were? In swimming, there’s a saying that “if you’re the fastest person in your lane, you’re in the wrong lane.” Which is to say, if you have no competition, you’re never going to get better.

We started out by running 800 m repeats at faster than 10k pace, with 1 minute of rest. I felt strong and out of breath and tired and competent. I’m excited to see where this training takes me.

Random bonus:

I can’t explain it, but despite the recent spring weather, I’ve just had no desire to get out there and start training for the 2015 triathlon season. Well, I figured out what I needed, and it turns out it’s two things: the smell of sunscreen and a ride on my bike outside. The first was easy enough – I’m pretty militant about sunscreen and as soon as spring started to think about emerging, I bought my cadre of tubes for the summer. The first day I put some on to work out outside, I immediately was transported by the smell back to last summer and I got excited to get out there.

Then, last Saturday I finally unhooked my bike from the trainer, changed out the tire, somehow put the back wheel back on correctly, and went for an actual ride in the actual outdoors. Ahhhh… this is why I love my bike. Inertia solved.