Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Strong like bull...

In my thirteen seasons of training for and competing in triathlon, I've learned a few things about myself and my body...

- If I swim 3x week (10,000 yards), I can survive an Ironman swim
- If I swim 4+x week (14-16,000 yards), I actually improve and get faster!
- Deep bike fitness produces my best running in triathlons
- I get huge jumps in bike fitness from a few days with big miles, followed by recovery (e.g. coast rides, training camps)
- Consistently running 30+ miles a week manifests in injury (ITB/plantar issues)
- Hard track workouts will leave me sore for days
- I can run in a race faster than I can run in training (taper? race day magic?)

The above are truisms for me, they may not be for you. One thing that is not included in the above is anything about strength training since I've never really submitted to serious strength work. I didn't compete as a serious athlete in college and since then, most of the things I've done that fall into the *strength bucket* are things like core work and occasional push-ups.

Last year, when I switched triathlon coaches, I committed to a strength training program, enlisting Kate Ligler to help me work on *functional strength*. Unfortunately, my fatigue/hormone issues prevented me from really building pure strength but I did spend the year working on core and hip stability issues that have helped me stay injury-free.

For the 2015 season, as my health is getting back on track, Kate is pushing me to evolve my pure strength fairly dramatically. Last week we established some benchmarks for squats, bench press and pull-ups and we'll be looking to improve on those marks in the coming weeks.

With a lot of work, in 2015 I will be strong!

Core workout to warm up!
Single leg deadlifts & lunges to activate the glutes.

Widowmaker - 20 squats
Assisted pull-ups to failure
Finally, I am back as a Betty Designs ambassador in 2015 and I'm totally excited for more fresh, colorful and badass designs from Kristin Mayer. Below are some of my favorite designs from the past year... colorful capris, world champion bike kit, swimsuits and a bright Betty tee for the man in my life! Click here to shop all things Betty!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I want my body back... and I think I'm finally on the right track!

I have been feeling "off" all year and have talked about it a little bit on this blog as I've visited with doctors and attempted to find solutions as to "why I feel absolutely awful when I train and race"... Of course, I know that when training hard, it doesn't always feel good, but this year it has been much more than that... a feeling that I was always stuck in second gear, and this feeling manifested itself most of all in the run. However, I also struggled with breathing in the swim and had many bike sessions where I would cover or remove my SRM as I really didn't care to know what the power was.

People, including my own husband, offered me many reasons as to why I might be feeling off:
- I was overtrained
- I didn't get enough sleep
- My nutrition must be off
- Allergies
- Anemia
- I need more recovery than others
- Too much stress

Standard CBC test results - "I'm totally fine"

Iron, B12 and ferritin values - "highest values I've ever seen"

I consulted with my coach, Matt Dixon, I had three sets of blood tests, I visited an allergist, I consulted several different specialist sports doctors and they all had ideas to treat my symptoms (take B12 and folic acid supplements, use a nasal spray) but no one offered solutions that were comprehensive or demonstrated a true understanding of my health situation. By *normal* standards, I was just fine and the fact that I could no longer run a mile well under 8 minutes (never mind 13 miles) is not considered cause for alarm.

From the outside, things probably didn't seem all that bad. I podiumed a few times this year, my race times were only off by 10 or so minutes here and there, I qualified for 70.3 Worlds. It would appear that I was doing just fine. But I know how much I invested in training, nutrition, strength all while going backwards in training. After 13 years of calling myself a triathlete, I know what it feels like to be training and making progress, I know what it feels like to have gears in training and racing... this year I was always in survival mode, trying to chase fitness that my body was not permitting me to accumulate. After yet another mediocre race at Mont-Tremblant, I just broke down in tears to my husband, saying: "I want my body back, I don't recognize any of these sensations".

The return from Mont-Tremblant coincided with catching up with a long-time friend, Kiki Silver. Kiki and I met while running at Kezar track with SFTri Club in 2003... we go back a long way! She's a super smart doctor and a kick-ass triathlete, having placed 2nd at Ironman 70.3 worlds and 6th at Ironman Hawaii over the years. She's also the sweetest and most caring person you'll ever meet. She and her husband relocated to Boulder, Colorado about 3-4 years ago but we've kept in touch via email and occasional visits. She updated me that she was leaving the general practice where she had been working since arriving in Boulder in order to open up her own practice... my immediate thought was "can you be my doctor? I need help!" After a quick legal check (since I'm CA-based), she confirmed that she would be able to help me and we could do everything remotely. She would order a bunch of labs that I could get done at my local LabCorp office, and she'd also send me some other testing kits.

Kiki's practice, Boulder Peak Health, opened on October 1st so I scheduled a phone consult for October 3rd, the day before I flew to Kona. I completed the first set of bloodwork and a very detailed questionnaire beforehand so Kiki had some preliminary results for us to review over the phone. Here are some excerpts from the blood tests.

Testosterone is zero 
Thyroid, while in normal range is NOT optimal for an athlete, progesterone is zero

The first thing I noticed in our hour-long phone consult is the much broader range of tests and results that Kiki had ordered compared to other doctors I had visited. She also included an awesome summary discussing both the test results and aligning them to the symptoms I had reported in a very holistic manner. See the excerpt below:

We discussed all of the explanations in detail with Kiki pointing out that the BCP was probably contributing in large part to many of my symptoms... and had probably been affecting me over the last five years... From what I understand, my body has slowly depleted many of the hormones that I need for normal functioning... in particular what I needed to function as an endurance athlete. The largest culprit is the BCP... and while I appear to only have minor symptoms on a monthly basis, I was unaware of the long-term damage it had been doing to my body, in particular as an endurance athlete. Few people talk about it... in fact no one had ever told me and no doctor (before Kiki) had even suggested that this might be the culprit. Note that Angela Naeth had conducted a survey earlier this year and many other women reported issues on the BCP, though I had dismissed this thinking it was merely bloating or headaches as the key symptoms fellow athletes were reporting.

My lesson here is that it's hard to know exactly what's going on "under the hood" unless you have a doctor that is committed to you and your health for the lifestyle that you choose to lead... running 9 minute miles was not good enough for me :)

Another particularly interesting part of Kiki's assessment that the allergy symptoms that have become increasingly worse in the past 5 years (having never had hay fever before in my life) are likely due to "estrogen mediated mast cell degranulation of histamine". Basically, the low level of estradiol and progesterone in my body due to being on BCP have been activating mast cells and causing allergy/hayfever-like reactions. What's even worse is that the Afrin and Nasocort that the allergy doctor had been recommending offered merely temporary relief and were in fact exacerbating my symptoms.

Kiki's detailed "treatment plan"
I just returned from Kona and I found it really hard to be out there feeling very unfit relative to how I felt just twelve months ago, running loops around our house at Hualalai and seeing the difference on the Garmin in 2014 compared to my Kona-fit self in 2013. But I could finally sense that I was beginning to feel a little bit stronger... not great but getting there. I even managed to hang on for 75 bike miles with the studette triathletes in the picture below.

Witsup ride with Chrissie Wellington, Mel Hauschildt, Emma Snowsill,
Belinda Granger, Stef Hanson, Beth Gerdes, Laura Siddall

It's now been just over two weeks since I consulted with Kiki and have been following her plan and advice and I'm happy to say that I threw down a couple of 7:4X min/miles in today's easy run. I also didn't feel like I needed to stop and sit on the curb 3 miles into my run. That's huge progress! The testing is not yet over as I still need to complete some saliva, urine and more blood tests, but I am beginning to feel that "I am getting my body back"...

It was fun to be in Kona and I was very happy to be spectating and not racing... that was always the plan. However, a part of me would like to return at some point and I can only do so if I fully resolve the issues I've been dealing with this year. I have a good feeling that I am finally on the right track and for that I owe Kiki, aka Dr. Silver, a huge thanks!

If you need help and are searching for an athlete-minded doctor to do a thorough review of your state of health, I cannot recommend Dr Silver more highly. She can be reached via her website: Boulder Peak Health

Betty Girls at the Underpants run

In Kona to cheer and support Pia!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mont-Tremblant 70.3 World Championship race

Heading into Mont-Trembant, I had few expectations for myself, with the exception of ensuring that I enjoyed the race and stayed positive, whatever my body was giving me. While this season has not been terrible for me... I made it to the World Champs so no complaining... but it didn't go how I wanted and expected it to go. I've been battling with some nasal breathing issues and have felt as if I've had a low-grade cold all year. More on where I'm at with that later...

Rich and I flew to Montreal (via Chicago) the Thursday before the race. It was a long travel day but the delay in Chicago was made tolerable by bumping into Jen Harrison. I seriously barely noticed our 90min delay because we were too busy chatting away!

We had a pretty late arrival into Mont-Tremblant that evening (after ~90min drive) but since it was still 3 days before race day, I didn't become a stress case. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac hotel in the pedestrian village and we loved it. A few hundred yards to Tri-Bike Transport, maybe 1,000 yards to transition and less than a half mile to the swim start.

Local bike shop in Mont-Tremblant

The lake where we would swim
We used the few days to do the usual check-in and race course reconnaissance. I wasn't feeling particularly sharp on the bike and run prior to the race but I was just going to go with what I had on the day... I have few aspirations of being competitive in this world-class field! 

In the lead-up to this race, all I heard about was how much climbing there is on the bike course... which I couldn't correlate with the fast bike splits that I'd seen for the June edition of this race in past years. There's almost 2x the climbing compared to a course like Vineman 70.3 but the bike splits are quicker. I realized why they were quicker... there are barely any turns on the course making it technically a relatively easy race. The last 10 or so miles are hilly for sure and we pre-rode this section but the rest was a series of rollers and flattish, perfectly paved freeway.

Race day dawned a chilly 43f so my fingers were numb (in spite of gloves!) after I spent a few minutes in transition pumping tires and installing nutrition, bottles and my bike computer on my bike. Fortunately, we just headed back to our hotel room to stay warm and relaxed until about 40mins before my wave... such a luxury to not have to line up for a porta-pottie!

I jumped into the lake for some warm-up yards but stopped my warm-up to watch the pro waves start their race. I was bummed to see that MBK did not get off to a good start tripping (or being tripped) as she entered the water and then having some gal clamber over the top of her!

Soon enough 8:16am came around and it was time for the gun... I lined up at the far left, having no illusions that I could swim with my speedy AG swimmer friends, Jen Harrison, Kristin Schweiger and Becky Paige. Kristin and Becky would end up as 1-2 out of the water for my wave. My 33:17 swim time placed me a distant 56th out of the water and my swim included being swum over many times by the green caps of the wave behind (M35-39?). 

On the bike I was excited as I knew this bike course could play to my strengths... great aero position and ability to ride steady over rollers and then just let fly on the flats (I may have to go back to IM Cozumel next year as I love just hunkering down and riding flats with few turns, I just love that course!). I had talked to Matt Dixon before the race and said that I was super excited for this course, none of the turns and corners that slow you down on race courses like Lake Stevens and Oceanside. 

Unfortunately, the reality of the race situation quickly took the joy out of the bike course experience. My 100+ age group of W40-44 started just 4 minutes before 224 M35-39 athletes, 8 minutes before 73 18-24 male athletes and 12 minutes before 248 40-44 male athletes. While some of those guys clocked me and passed me on the swim, a decent number of those 545 men would swarm past me in packs on the bike. It was ridiculous that a World Championship race was so tightly bunched from the start. In hindsight, perhaps the race course should have been reversed, starting us with the challenging rollers out of T1 and finishing with the freeway section. What's interesting about the packs (male and female alike) is that they seemed to hammer the uphill sections of the rollers and then just freewheel down the backside. In contrast, my steady watts approach and maintaining momentum OVER the roller would have me fall back from competitors on hills and then just fly by them on the downhills or have to put in a 20-60 second surge to get by the entire pack on the flats. Looking at my power file, my 20sec max power was 322w, 30sec was 291w and 60sec was 272w... some 20-30w higher than usual in a race situation.

On the return portion of the freeway leg, I passed a couple of the speedy swimmers in my AG, Jen Harrison and then Becky Paige and I briefly allowed myself to think I was having a solid race. Of course, I'm a bit of a one-trick triathlon pony so I knew it wouldn't last once on the run! I finally got back to town and was ready for the rollers. While the packs on the freeway were scary, this section was even worse given the narrower roads. I was almost ridden into the ditch on the right hand side of the road at one point as a pack of guys swarmed past me up the hill... maybe I should retract my earlier comment of reversing the course and riding the hills first since these guys seemed to ride together regardless of the terrain! It was in this section that I caught and passed Kristin Schwieger, recognizing her Soas kit and introducing myself as we rode the steep rollers. I also noted to myself that I made a poor gearing choice, having just a 25 cassette and wishing that I had a 27! However, the 11 was certainly helpful as I made the return trip down the rollers and flew back to T2. Bike time of 2:33:57.

Once on the run, I knew almost immediately that the legs were feeling as flat as they had done during our 5am jog earlier in the day. It quickly became a question of finishing with a smile, ending my season and focusing on getting healthy for next year. I was also intensely curious about the women's pro race, desperately hoping MBK was crushing dreams on her way to a win. Thankfully, within the first mile I spotted Siri Lindley and asked her for a race update. Thank you Siri! Little did I know at the time that Siri had been single-handedly updating the entire world about the state of play among the women's pro field via her instagram account since the World Triathlon Corporation had failed to offer live coverage. Yes, really... I also got a personal update on the women's race a few miles later when Mary-Beth Ellis, Heather Wurtele and then MBK passed me (of course, cheering me on and checking how I was doing as she went!). I completed the run in 1:53:02 and ended with a total race time of 5:08:00 and 42nd place in the world. Good to know I wasn't last!

Post-race it was fun to catch up with Blanco and a Portland-based EverymanJack (EMJ) team member and friend, Brian August and hear their race stories. I was also super excited to hear that Ritch Viola, the leader of Team EMJ had won M40-44 and was a world champion!

Team EveryManJack hosted a post-race Taco-fest
We went to the awards banquet to celebrate Ritch's victory and Meredith's 4th place position. The EMJ guys are an impressive bunch... I think 17 of them were racing Worlds but it was quite a crew!

Team EMJ
Post-race catch-up with Meredith

Team Witsup - Blanco and Laura Siddall

For those that are interested and have asked, here's the quick health update: I'm still seeing the allergist and trying to figure out what is going on with my breathing. For the past three weeks I've been on a "no dairy, no citric acid, no chocolate/coffee" diet. I relapsed quite a bit the night before the race (pizza!) and in the post-race chow down and I felt worse for it in the last several days. I just caught up with the allergist again and he started me on a food challenge. For one week, I have to eat as much dairy as possible with each meal... hello triple creme cheese, ice cream and chocolate milk!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The backstory to Lake Stevens 70.3... and the race report!

As I noted in my Vineman 70.3 race report, I've been feeling "off" all season... in fact, in spite of some *lucky* podium appearances, I've been off ~5-10% in training and racing since mid-February.

One morning I was running with my coach, Matt Dixon, talking through the fatigue I was feeling and how badly training and racing were going and how I seemed not to be able to handle a workload and volume that would have been considered easy for me last year.
- Swimming further than 75yards left me feeling like I was breathing through a straw
- Riding would start off okay but I would tire quickly... after an hour or two
- Running 9min/mi pace would feel uncomfortable and not "easy" like it should feel

I would have occasional good sessions, but mostly I was going through the motions of the workouts, failing to hit some very basic metrics that should come easy to me, and I was making zero progress. In one 20min bike test, I went backwards by 20w! Matt and I brainstormed all the usual stuff: recovery, sleep, nutrition, stress, anemia. I went back through my workout logs from the past 5 years, to make sure that I wasn't delusional that I can push more watts and run faster than my current paces. I saw my GP for several blood tests but nothing was showing up as irregular. Not happy with the feedback, I went in and saw another GP in my practice. The second doctor prescribed an inhaler to see if that would help - some days I would feel a little better and other days I would go back to feeling awful. I also consulted with two different sports medicine specialists but no one had any ideas... in health terms, no longer being able to run 8min/mi or faster definitely falls in the #firstworldproblem category...

Two weeks ago, Blanco and I went to Tahoe for a long weekend and on the Friday, the two of us did my favorite ride, a loop around Lake Tahoe. I started off okay but started to feel tired pretty quickly. By the time we stopped in South Lake Tahoe to refill our bottles after 2+ hours of riding, I burst into tears, sobbing because I didn't recognize my own body. I've been doing triathlon for 13 years, I've learned to know my body pretty well, and this just "wasn't the body I know".
View from our little cabin on Donner Lake
The next day, we met up with some friends to ride another of my favorite Tahoe rides... Yuba Pass and Gold Lakes. I rode up to Yuba Pass with what should have been relatively easy power for me and yet I still felt awful... I described the sensations to my friend, Galyn, and she thought it might be some sort of allergic reaction as she had felt quite similar about 4 years ago.

Yuba Pass with Galyn
Galyn recommended her allergist and I called and arranged an appointment as soon as possible. I met with Dr. Vadim Kvitash the following week and he explained the process... blood tests, 3 sets of skin tests, spirometer test and a physical exam... and it would take several weeks and he wouldn't be able to tell me much before he had examined and reviewed all of the above. I wanted answers quickly... this was not going to be quick... sigh! On my second visit, last Tuesday, I let Dr. Kvitash know that I was feeling particularly bad and had really struggled on what should have been an easy taper run. He asked me if I breathe through my nose when I run... yes... then he inspected my nasal passages and commented that they are extremely swollen and he's surprised I can breathe at all! He recommended a couple of over-the-counter nasal sprays (Afrin and Naso-Cort) and sent me on my way. That evening, Blanco asked how the appointment had gone and I shared that I felt better just sitting on the couch than I had in a while. I really had forgotten how it felt to breathe in deeply and take in oxygen...

The next several days, I was using the Afrin/Naso-Cort daily as the doctor prescribed and was beginning to feel better in my workouts, though with the race a couple of days away, none of the workouts were real stressors so it was hard to judge if there was an improvement. I hated to think this way, but there was a lot of pressure riding on the run at Lake Stevens to see if I could feel/sense any improvements relative to recent training and racing. I was nervous... I just want my old self back... to enjoy training, to reap the benefits of training and not to feel like I'm just wearing myself down.

If you've never done the Lake Stevens 70.3, you should know that the swim is quite delightful due to the presence of the rowing lines a couple of feet under the water, guiding you along the entire course. No sighting required. Of course, on race day when you're one of the last waves to go, sighting is required to navigate around some of the 1,000+ athletes that started ahead of you. I felt good in the water, swimming efficiently at a good but not hard effort, carefully navigating around the multi-colored caps of the prior waves. I came out of the water in 33:26, my fastest swim of the year and 8th in the AG out of the water. Once on the bike, I knew I was in for a long ride as Lake Stevens is probably the most challenging course I've done on the 70.3 circuit. The first 40 miles don't seem hilly but for some reason, the course rides slow. And the last 16 miles are hilly for sure so you might think you're on track for a great split but your speed will slow during the last miles. I felt like I rode fairly conservatively and definitely backed off in the second half, knowing that I desperately wanted a decent run, if possible, though knowing that I wasn't really in control over what happened on the run.

The sun came out to greet me as I hit T2 and the results tracker indicated that I had ridden from 8th place to 2nd place. 13.1 miles stood between me and a hug from Blanco so I set about the run course with mixed feeling of hope and apprehension. This was my 4th time at Lake Stevens and so I know the run course relatively well... a challenging start with some hills but overall not too bad. I ran the first four miles in sub 8min/mi pace... that's better than any training run I have done since February! Admittedly, I slowed down from thereon to 8:30 pace and dilly-dallied a little too much at aid stations, but I felt like I was running again, even racing! I completed the run in 1:49, slow for me on this course, but my best run of the year! I crossed the line in 5th place for my age-group, 10mins off my usual time on this course but happy that I felt like I was actually racing and not just surviving.

It's now less than three weeks to Mont-Tremblant 70.3 Worlds so I don't have high hopes for much change in my fitness between now and then but I am hoping I've made some progress with my health issues and regained some confidence. Tomorrow is my 3rd appointment with Dr. Kvitash so I'm looking forward to sharing my experience of the last week and getting his thoughts... we still need to figure out WHAT is causing the allergic reaction... my guess is that it's the JCC pool as I always feel worse after swimming there... but I need to remain open to other information.

Post-race with fellow Betty, Nancy Clarke
Blanco came 4th in his age-group and picked up a slot to 70.3 Worlds in Austria in 2015.
Post-race chillaxing lakeside, waiting for awards
Pro Betty, Erin Spitler came 3rd overall with a smoking fast run, so it was great to meet Erin and get a photo with the three racing Betty's on the day.
Nancy, Erin and myself waiting for awards.

It was also awesome to hang out post-race with members of our favorite men's triathlon team, EveryManJack!
Dorothy, Ollie, Dana, Brian, Jordan, Rich

Finally, I was psyched that I scheduled a Monday morning flight so Rich and I could have a Seattle date night, checking out a new restaurant.
Champagne on the house to toast our racing - Lark restaurant.

Last dessert before Mont-Tremblant!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Problem Solving in the Vineyards: Vineman 70.3 2014

I think I forgot to write a race review of St. George since I was busy writing a race preview and review of the women's pro race for witsup.com. In fact, this blog might have been forgotten since I was delighted to be asked to write for them again about Vineman ... My dear friend, Meredith Kessler, won both races so the writing came easy!

However, a flurry of race reports from twitter friends (Muncie, Hilo, Vineman) reminded me of the cathartic process of writing about my experience. Besides, I've been in "problem-solving" mode all year and I still haven't quite figured things out so writing about it may help order my own thoughts... and possibly elicit suggestions and ideas from others!

My goals for the year were all focused around 70.3 racing. There's no Ironman on the agenda for a while (October 2015) so I figured by focusing on the 70.3 distance, I could have a breakthrough race at this distance... WRONG! I've been setting almost "personal worsts" on the run at every race.

- Blood tests in January indicated I could stop taking iron supplements, so I did (my doctor said so!)
- I changed triathlon coaches, going from a personalized plan from Chris Hauth to the PurplePatch Virtual Training Squad
- Allergies (that I never had as a kid) have taken hold of me this year and I was diagnosed with asthma in June

Pre-race dinner, we drove by my favorite "J Vineyards"
Vineman race recap

Swim 34:14 - it might be the easiest swim to navigate and safest swim on the 70.3 calendar. You could probably walk the entire thing because the river is pretty shallow in places. But I know from experience, standing up is ALWAYS a time-losing proposition so I resort to dragging my knuckles along the river bed for the 100 meters of the course that is particularly shallow. The awesome part of this year's swim was that Rokasports (swim sponsor) had put numbered flags on every buoy... if only I had known this pre-race so I knew when we could start counting down. For the record, the last buoy was #11 but there were still a few more yards after the 11th buoy to the turnaround.

My age-group was split into two waves and I was in the second wave, 6 minutes after the first. I lined up on the front row on the very left hand side, but no one else was around me. I took off swimming aggressively and waited for swimmers to pass me in the first couple of hundred yards, perhaps coming from the right hand side... except only one person did. Seriously, I'm the second fastest swimmer in the wave? That's unheard of! Another swimmer (fellow PP athlete Sandrine Micoleau?) came up on my side and we did end up swimming relatively close to one another most of the way, though I swam a more direct line to the swim exit and just beat her to the line, for the second fastest swim in my wave! It made me hope that I had swum a 31 or 32... nope; 34:14 was 20 seconds slower than last year. Sigh.

Bike 2:36:50 - I was most confident about the bike at Vineman since I had been able to ride the course a couple of times in the weeks leading up to the race. The first time was with Blanco and a Team EMJ friend, Pierre Billa. It was a pretty quick ride, riding from Windsor HS to Guerneville and then riding the full Vineman course (~72miles) in 3:30. I headed back up to Windsor to repeat the same ride with PP pro Laura Siddall the weekend prior to the race, and it was comforting to feel that I knew the course well... it's quite a roller coaster so you need to be confident about maintaining momentum over the rollers and not lose time. What I had not taken into account on my pre-rides of the course was the volume of race-day traffic. My race had started at 8:18am, the last female wave, and it meant that some 2,000 athletes were already on course, as well as tons of cars. Put together narrow roads, cars (following their athletes???) and lots of cyclists riding at very different speeds and it all feels very cluttered and a little dangerous. I tried to stay on task, remain aero, pass politely and not get too frustrated when stuck behind cars and multiple other cyclists... though my voice may have been slightly hoarse from yelling "on your left" by the end of the bike! Of course, my fellow AG competitors experienced the same challenges, so the conditions are fair, if slightly scary. I was secretly hoping for a 2:35 bike split but I was happy to get off the bike under 2:40 and was curious to see if my newly prescribed inhaler might be my secret weapon on the run!

Run 1:53:41 - It was just after 11:30am when I hit the run and the sun was high in the sky, not a cloud to be seen. A week earlier, Laura and I were running around midday and the temps were in the 90s, it felt about the same when I set off from T2 (after a puff on the inhaler!). I don't have much to say about the run except that it felt like a death march from step one. I have not been running well in training or racing this year and my expectations for today were pretty low, with the exception of finishing, preferably sub 1:50. I clearly missed even that low expectation goal by a margin!

Finish 5:11:08 - 5th place AG - I felt rather disappointed at the finish line but I'll admit to perking up when I discovered that I had snuck onto the Ironman podium (5 deep in my AG), especially since Vineman is one of the few races that gives a prize to the podium finishers. My wooden box contains a bottle of La Crema pinot noir... that has not yet been drunk! I was also ecstatic to hear that MBK had won the women's race and that PP athletes and friends, Ritch Viola and Sarah Cameto had won the amateur races. Congrats to my speedy training buddies!

Awards ceremony, congratulating Betty team-mate, Jen Temperley.

Since I titled this post "problem-solving", you'll be forgiven for thinking there'd be a solution at the end of the post... I'm trying to solve the problem of my run... why am I suddenly 10 minutes slower than last year? Of course, I have some thoughts and ideas that I am going to put into practice ahead of my next two races (Lake Stevens and Mont-Tremblant):

- more race-pace (and longer) tempo running off the bike, as I need to re-find my fast feet

- I think of myself as a “momentum runner”… I just need to get going out of the gate and try not to slow down too much. I’ve never been a strong hill runner but I can gut through things if I am fit enough. I've been working on hill running for strength but it's not having the expected impact

- my best 70.3s have come about when I am training for Ironman. I always think that I’ll race 70.3s better when I am focused on 70.3s but it doesn’t appear to be the case! D'oh! I hate generalizing about things but after 13 years of triathlon, I think I have learned that I respond to volume more so than intensity. I've been trying to inject more intensity this year and it just leaves me exhausted. I respond better to load/big gears with only a dash of speed

- the inhaler is helping... I can once again breathe when I swim and run

- go back to taking an iron pill, B6, B12 and folic acid, as long as my doctor says it won't hurt

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ch..ch..ch..changes! Oceanside and more...

I stole the title from my dear friend Beth Gerdes who, along with her boyfriend, Luke, were fantastic hosts to Rich and I during our SoCal visit last weekend to race Oceanside. It really is pretty awesome to have a *homestay* when racing a triathlon away from home, especially when the hosts have ample supply of all things triathlon! I forgot my Garmin 910XT and Rich forgot water bottles... Luke and Beth to the rescue on both counts... not to mention cooking a delicious, healthy pre-race dinner on Friday evening. Aussies know how to barbie! Many, many thanks...

As for the changes, the last year has been tumultuous in a whole host of ways, incurring stress and challenges that at the time seemed insurmountable but that I knew would eventually be a distant memory thanks to the passage of time and my stubborn (tenacious) attitude that there is a way through/around anything... as long as you have a plan and the right attitude... and some great friends!

The "unwanted" stress was my company's decision to move the product and trading team that I managed to New York City... sorry but, I've been there and done that. NYC was a blast in my 20s, straight out of college and working on Wall Street. NYC would not be a blast with a husband and stepson in California and my athletic, outdoors lifestyle. Thankfully, a long and generous separation package allowed me the luxury of time to figure out what was next on my agenda. More about what came "next" at the bottom!

The "brought it on ourselves" stress was the decision to renovate a house that we bought in San Francisco... I've interrupted the triathlon tales enough on this blog with our housing story but all you need to know now is that we finally live in the house of our dreams and are always happy to host friends and family. Come visit!

The "as if I didn't have enough" stress was the disruption I most welcomed and was excited about. Perhaps when everything else in your life seems to be changing, it opens you up to making even more adjustments? After Ironman Hawaii in October 2013, I parted ways with my triathlon coach of the last 8 years. Chris Hauth has played a huge role in my athletic career hobby, helping me qualify for Ironman Hawaii 4 times... I never thought I would qualify once!

I decided to join Matt Dixon's PurplePatch Virtual Training Squad. I've known Matt almost as long as I've known Chris and he's based in San Francisco so it wasn't a radical shift but Matt definitely gave me confidence that he can evolve me as a 70.3 athlete. I've been frustrated at this distance for a long time... my PR was set in 2003... but it's the distance I will focus on in 2014. If you spend any time talking with Matt, the words "evolution" and "progression" will crop up frequently. In the first three months of the year, Matt has asked me to change quite a few things about how I train, including how I ride a bike... my sanctuary!  Thankfully, I've been swimming in Matt's SF-based triathlon swim program for the past two years so that would not change but my approach to riding has already changed and now we have Oceanside under the belt, we will start to evolve the run. There's also been zero race preparation work to date...

For last Saturday's race, the only thing I had any confidence in was my ability to complete the swim without significant energy loss. Once I was on the bike, I had zero confidence that I could complete the ride. Matt and his bike guru, Paul Buick, have been helping me *evolve* my TT position but a combination of sickness and out of town travel (without a bike) in March meant that I had only ridden the bike outside once before shipping the bike to SoCal. I had ridden it on the Computrainer a couple of times but those efforts were a disaster and left me uncomfortable, frustrated and close to tears.

Bike position before... all scrunched up!
Bike position pre-race in O'side... flat back, more stretched out!
I'm not normally one to freak out prior to a race but Matt sensed that I was not happy about the bike and even about my fitness, given the week+ of training I had missed in early March due to sickness and a hamstring niggle (another story!). His advice was "not to have any expectations for the race but also not to hold back".

With that plan, I raced Oceanside 70.3 for the 5th year in a row (and for the 7th or 8th time in total). Results-wise, it was my slowest time of the 5 years but not by much... all of the races are in the 5:08-5:12 range... but it was my fastest swim (except last year's freakishly short/fast edition) and my fastest ever bike split (2:41). Of course, it's a triathlon, so I should add it was personal worst run, but I have high hopes and confidence that that the run will *evolve* as I start to actually focus on it.

The other good news is that I placed 3rd in my AG at Oceanside... albeit a little off the pace of #1 and #2. Speedy and cool chicas, Janine Wills and Amy Larson! It also scored me a slot for Ironman 70.3 World Champs in Mont-Tremblant in September. Yay... and Blanco did too with a 2nd  place in his AG. Oh Canada :)

Fast hubby scored 2nd in his AG - M45-49.
Thanks for making it this far, especially when the triathlon portion was less detailed than usual :) At the beginning of this year, I also accepted a new kind of challenge, working with a start-up. While I had several "finance" career options, none of them were truly appealing when I thought about the lifestyle and culture that were important to me. Last summer, when reaching out to my Stanford Business School network I came across a friend's new venture, byUs.com. The company is focused on reviews and recommendations from trusted friends, a concept which resonated with me as a new homeowner that had relied on feedback from friends and personal connections to help us through the renovation process... I wasn't going to rely on Yelp! or Angie's List for our contractor! The site is currently Bay Area focused but if you want to check it out, please go to byUs.com/jordan and share some of your favorite recommendations.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Whole 30: finale & recipes

It's been a few weeks since we finished Whole30 but we did make it and had a very positive experience. My goal was to reset all eating and drinking patterns in the hope of breaking some bad habits (cut back on chocolate, drink a little less wine, curb sugar cravings after meals) which I succeeded in doing. Even though I did not monitor calories or the quantity of food I was eating, I lost about 6lbs, going from 132.4 to 126.6, though I've since added back 2lbs, which feels more sustainable. I feel leaner and stronger... but I don't think I look any different. I can't really tell!

What are we eating now? While we are not continuing on a strict Whole30 path, I am endeavoring to eat Whole30 whenever we cook and eat at home. The one exception is to add Greek yoghurt to the mix as a quick, digestible (for me) breakfast before a workout.  When dining out, we aim to select  menu choices that are closest to Whole30 but without worrying if there's a little honey in a dressing or having the occasional slice of pizza, but our diet is generally dairy, sugar and gluten free.

Here are some of the recipes I cooked during our Whole30 month:

Shepherd's Pie
1-2lbs of buffalo meat
2-4 sweet potatoes cooked and peeled
1 onion (chopped)
2 carrots (sliced)
2-4 tbsps almond milk (optional)
1-2tbps Rama Rub seasoning (http://www.ramarub.com)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Cashew nuts

Shepherd's pie heading into the oven

Bake (45-60mins) or microwave (8mins) the sweet potatoes. Saute the onions and carrots ~ 5mins until carrots begin to soften. Add the buffalo meat and the Rama Rub seasoning (or a seasoning of your choice). Cook until meat is browned. Peel the sweet potatoes and add to a food processor along with almond milk and nutmeg. I prefer to use the Cuisinart to keep some some texture to the sweet potatoes but a Vitamix will make them smoother/creamier.

When the meat is cooked, place in a casserole dish and top with the sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle with crushed cashews and cook in over an 375f for about 15-20mins.
Shepherd's pie with steamed broccoli

Brussel sprouts
1/4 cup EVOO
2lbs brussel sprouts (trimmed and halved)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2tbsp fresh lemon juice
Sauteed Brussel Sprouts
I love brussel sprouts and in the last few years, my favorite preparation was to slather with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast for ~30mins at 400f. However, more recently I have been sautéing them as follows.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add brussel sprouts, season with salt & pepper and cook, stirring frequently until caramelized (~8mins). Then add 1/3 cup of water to pan and cook until water has evaporated (~2mins). Finally, add the lemon juice and mix to coat the brussel sprouts... serve immediately!

Buffalo & sweet potato lettuce cups (adapted from Feed Zone)
1-2tbsp of EVOO
1lb of buffalo
Seasoning (I used Rama rub)
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1 jalapeño (optional)
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 lime
1-2 cooked sweet potatoes, cut in large cubes
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced,
1 onion thinly sliced
1 avocado
One head of butter lettuce

Lettuce cups with roasted cauliflower
This recipe is simple but annoying since it takes two sauté pans... one for the meat and one for the veggies. I often double up the sautéed veggies and use them for breakfast next day.

Add EVOO to saute pan with heat on high. Add buffalo and stir to stop from sticking. Add the dry spices and jalapeño (if using). Turn heat down and cook until most of liquid has cooked down. Add peas, lime juice and salt and pepper. Cook until peas are soft but still bright green.

In the meantime, to make the sweet potato filling, add 1tbsp of oil to sauté pan on med-high heat. Add bell peppers, onion and sweet potatoes and sauté until potatoes begin to crisp.

To assemble the "lettuce cups", wash lettuce leaves, add a little of each mixture then top with a slice or two of avocado. You can also add your favorite, fresh salsa for some additional spice.

Dry-Spiced chicken and figs (adapted from Feed Zone)
1-2tbps of EVOO
Dry spice rub = 1/2 teaspoon of each: cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, coriander
2lbs of chicken thighs cut into bite-size pieces
2-4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 onions
2 carrots
2 garlic cloves
8-10 dried figs
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley

I didn't have carrots so used parsnips!
Add chicken and spices to large ziplock bag and mix well until chicken is well coated.  Add EVOO to sauté pan and heat on high. Sear the chicken pieces until golden then remove from pan. Add stock/vinegar to pan and stir in any spice that has come off the chicken. Add back the chicken along with onions, carrots, figs and garlic. Cover and let simmer on a medium heat for 30-40 mins, until chicken is tender.

Kale salad
Green garlic dressing:
2 stalks of green garlic (or scallions), rinsed & chopped
1/4 tspn of sea salt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2tbsp of ripe avocado (~1/2 avocado)
1/3 cup EVOO
1 teaspoon of honey (omitted during Whole30)
fresh pepper to taste
1 cup of farro, cooked (omitted during Whole30)
4-5 farmer's market carrots, sliced thinly (I use a grater to slice thin strips!)
small bulb of fennel
kumquats, sliced thinly (optional)
1/2 bunch of kale, washed, destemmed, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 gem lettuce (optional, to mix up the kale)

Kale market salad with kumquats but no farro/carrots
To make the dressing, add everything to food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust salt, honey, lemon to taste.

Add the kale to the bowl and add 1-2tbps of the dressing and ensure mixed well (you can even let this sit for 15mins to soften up the kale). Then add the remaining ingredients and more dressing to taste. I often find I have extra dressing which I'll store in a Mason jar and use later in the week. I've kept it up to a week.

Zucchini and cauliflower curry recipe 


Zucchini & cauliflower curry
This is a recipe I found when I realized I had some zucchini and cauliflower and didn't know what to do with them... Google to the rescue! I made this dish while Blanco grilled some flank steak... a bit of an odd pairing but both tasted great!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Whole30: day 25 & Coast Ride

Last weekend, Rich and I joined about 150 friends and acquaintances to cycle down the California coast from San Francisco to Santa Monica. We were a little concerned about how eating Whole30 would hold up while we were cycling 5-7hrs a day. We had been using Lara bars and Clif Kits Original Bars as our workout nutrition to this point in our Whole30 plan... but the idea of eating 6-10 of these bars a day (they're all date based so the taste and texture is very repetitive even though there are 10 or so different flavors!) was something I could not wrap my head around. Other alternatives (fruit, nuts, sweet potatoes, eggs) were not as portable given the small backpack we were allowed to take with us. Therefore, we decided to add gluten free Picky bars and Bonk Breakers to the mix. Thanks to a new stash of Nuun goodies, I also continued my plan of drinking Nuun for hydration on the bike.

Thanks for keeping me hydrated! #nuunlove
Day 1 took us from San Francisco to Seaside... We decided to push off a little earlier than the slated 8am start with a small group of friends in order to avoid the swarm of 150 other cyclists navigating the city streets.
The overnight crew leaving from CasaBlanco
Beautiful morning on Crissy Field

Riding a few miles with fellow #Betty, Christine Gould.
After stopping for water in Half Moon Bay, Rich, Christine and I were engulfed by the lead group near Pigeon Point. It went without saying that Rich hopped on the back of that group. I tried to tag on the end but the pace was a little hot... however, shortly afterwards, the second group came by and I was able to slide into that pack. The pace was not cushy but it was not nearly as painful as the lead pack. I rode with this group all the way to the lunch stop at Davenport (~75mi). After a quick lunch stop (I just ate a bar!), Rich and I joined up with Mimi to ride the 50 miles remaining on the day.
Jordan & Mimi
It was a gentle ride through Santa Cruz and the little towns south of there before rejoining highway 1 near Moss Landing. Once again, the lead pack came flying by and Rich hooked onto the back. Since I needed more water, I stopped to refill and hooked up with another couple of guys to finish up the last 15 miles of the ride... they were happy that I knew where I was going!
Day 1 125miles, 6.5hrs

We hit Chili's for dinner that night with Hailey, Jess, Christine, Laura and Sonja among others. Dinner included a steak, broccoli and sweet potato fries... this was supposedly Whole30 but in hindsight, I am guessing the sweet potato fries are cooked in canola oil (kind of a don't ask, don't tell policy).
Dinner crew

Chili's "Whole30" dinner

Day 2 of the Coast Ride is by far the hardest and once again, Rich and I decided to push off a little early and enjoy sunrise on the road. We ended up making it almost all the way to Ragged Point before the lead group caught us, even with a couple of decent stops in Big Sur and Lucia for water refills (and coffee!).

Could the scenery be more beautiful?

The ocean was on our right all day.

At Ragged Point, Rich took off with a couple of buddies while I waited for the SAG wagon to hand off some excess clothing. No one else seemed ready to leave so I ended up pushing off solo, thinking a group would be along shortly to sweep me up and carry me to Morro Bay. Unfortunately, it took until Cambria for a group to catch me (I enjoyed a lovely 30 solo miles) so I was getting a little tired at this point. Fortunately the group was not riding too hard so I hooked up with them (some familiar names: Sonja, Chuck, Hendrik and Caroline) for a little while... until I dropped my chain and lost the little group. D'oh!Thankfully, we were just a few miles from Morro Bay at this point so I didn't mind.
Day 2, 127 miles, 7hrs 
Date night in Morro Bay: Whole30 halibut & olive tapenade
On day 3, Rich and I switched over to the AIMP & SagMonkey ride (since they were riding all the way to San Diego and the other group was stopping in Santa Barbara). We had some great food to fuel our ride today... I asked for a little avocado on my omelette.. looks like I got a whole one!

Breakfast omelette in Morro Bay
The group wanted to take the freeway into town (which I hate!) so Rich and I took the *back way* into San Luis Obispo (SLO). I had never gone this way and Rich forgot to note that it tacks on a few extra miles and is bitterly cold. I saw 27f on my SRM as we were riding in one of the valleys. My fingers have never been so painful... I am used to riding in 50f+ weather so this was a shock to my system. We met up with the group in SLO and then rode with them into Guadalupe. My right knee was really bothering me whenever the road headed uphill (back of the knee, hamstring/IT band) and so I chatted with SagMonkey and decided to take a break and help with SAG for the rest of the day.
Nick Nicastro is SagMonkey - best bike concierge ever!
It was fun to hang out and catch up with Nick and a couple of other riders we picked up along the way, and I also truly appreciated how hard he works, keeping track of 30+ riders with differing riding abilities.

On arriving in Santa Barbara, Rich and I grabbed an early dinner (Marmalade cafe) and then went to the movies (American Hustle). It was such a treat to sit and relax in a movie theater after being absorbed in everything cycling for the prior 3 days.
Day 3, 45 miles 2.5hrs
Riding with another fellow Betty, Monica Moreno.
On day 4, the route took us from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica and with just 2000ft of climbing, I was hopeful that my knee would be okay. A good night's sleep (93% on Sleep Cycle) also seemed to have done the trick! After a water stop 25 miles in, Blanco decided that warm-up was over and launched an attack that splintered the 30 strong group. That left just 6 of us (which quickly dwindled to 5) to ride to the lunch stop 35 miles down the road, and then on to our final destination in Santa Monica.
The ladies hanging on to Blanco's wheel

Katya in a sweet Betty Kit

Three Betty's in a row
The pace was fine on the flats but Rich confirmed to me that he wanted to push the rollers so I was left working my butt off over every hill, trying desperately not to get detached from the back. My fellow Betty companions, Katya and Caroline, worked with me to keep the group together and share the pain as Blanco pushed over the rollers. Soon enough we were in Santa Monica, greeted by my father-in-law who had stationed himself to watch for riders nearby our hotel destination.
Day 4, 100 miles 5hrs

We had a few hours to clean up, grab dinner before heading to LAX for a flight home (SagMonkey drove our bikes back later in the week).

Ceviche was my Whole30 meal of choice to celebrate the end of the Coast Ride
It was a fun coast ride, but I was definitely tired and sore by the end of it... it was great to tack on a 4th day, but it helped that I cut back the miles on day 3. Before the ride, coach Matt had told me to ride hard but be smart and avoid digging myself in a hole. I think I accomplished the goal of adding fitness and avoiding a black hole of deep fatigue.

We were able to eat Whole30 during our trip, with the exceptions mentioned above, but it was nice to get home and be able to cook for ourselves and have access to Wholefoods and our other favorite places.

Wholefoods salad bar

Flank steak over ratatouille and green salad

Kale salad with carrots and watermelon radish

Favorite breakfast scramble with eggs and fruit salad
We have just five days left of our Whole30 experiment and I'll be honest that I am ready for it to be over. Rich tells me that he *can't eat another nut*! I also miss having a glass of wine with dinner! The greatest challenge has been the loss of foods that I considered to be convenient (and not necessarily unhealthy) such as yogurt, or using corn tortillas as vehicles for everything from almond butter and bananas to vegetable and buffalo sautés. I am now trying to give some thought to the re-entry to eating dairy, gluten and other foods. I am enjoying the steadier energy levels and my stomach has mostly been settled throughout the experiment (dried fruit and nuts have disturbed it lately!). I also love some of the new breakfast dishes I have created (sausage and sweet potato scramble) even though the recipe ran counter to my former belief of what is healthy (saturated fat in the sausages??)

I am wondering whether we eat Whole30 Sunday-Thursday, or Whole30 before 6pm (thinking of Mark Bittman's book Vegan before 6pm). The challenge, however, is that Whole30 takes a lot more preparation and can be challenging when we are both working, commuting and training... there are not many hours left in the day when I am aiming for 8hrs sleep too! If you have suggestions, send them my way...