Monday, March 26, 2012

Snake River Spring Sprint Duathlon

Photo by Greg Gallagher. Pictured from left: Craig Thorsen,
Dave Erickson, Nate Duncan, Natalie Gallagher, Jarod Crooks,
Matt Siegel, Meghan Faulkenberry, Erica Zeimer, and Merissa
Saturday morning arrived sooner than I had anticipated after having just begun recuperating after a long finals week. I was to meet Craig Thorsen and Erica Zeimer at “O’dark thirty” to arrive in Lewiston by 8:30am. Despite an early-morning wake up call, 6:30am didn’t appear that dark at all. Craig didn’t even have a donut in his hand, which he attributed as, “Race fuel, baby!” Erica wouldn’t have approved, I’m sure.

Nonetheless, we were on the road by 6:40, following the Gallaghers and Duncans as they had made it out of town before we had. We followed the winding roads through Spangle, Colfax, and Colton before scaling the grade down into Lewiston. The sun hadn’t quite burst through the clouds yet, and the temperatures still hovered around 34 degrees. Yet we remained hopeful. Warmer temperatures and sunshine stood just within reach.

Plenty of open racks invited us to reserve our spot with our bikes in the transition area. I parked my Cannondale road bike alongside Erica’s swift-looking Cervelo, Merissa’s sweet-sailing QRoo, and Natalie’s smokin’ Felt. I can only hope someday soon I can adorn the bike rack with something better than a tri-bike wannabe. Until then, I’ll have to rely upon my legs to work a little harder to keep up.

In no time, all nine of us Trifusion teammates toed the line to begin our 2-mile sprint along the river. The gun went off and I found myself following in Jared Crook’s and Dave Erickson’s wake. Nate was so far ahead I lost track of him after 200 yards. Thankfully, two miles flew by in approximately 13 minutes for me, and then I begged my legs to keep up, as my head was already 3 miles into the bike.
For anyone who’s ridden this bike course, it pretty much emulates a cone. I slogged through six miles over a steady incline, only to fly back those same six miles at speeds closer to 25mph. I could only think about the 5-minute SS/LT intervals Roger so kindly introduced us to during the last few bike clinics. On a trainer in a hot, sweaty basement, 5-minutes at 90rpm, heart rate hovering in Zone 4 translates into misery. Yet I had three women to catch halfway through the bike, and for 30+ minutes, I pedaled and pushed the same way I do during Roger’s training rides.  Now, only two women remained.

Hopping off the bike was fun! (Note sarcasm here.) I felt pretty ridiculous attempting those first few strides out of the transition area. If it weren’t for the fact I saw pavement moving underneath me, I would have sworn I had somehow managed to run backward. I marveled at the way my breathing sounded like wheezing, more characteristic of a rheumatic pathology. I could not manage to settle my breathing or my heart rate as it raced into Zone 5. It took all I had to convince myself I had just two more miles to suffer through. Then I was done.

I never caught those two women ahead of me. I’ll blame it on my bike. Yet I did finish in a reasonable place, and I felt even more elated by the fact I could still walk and ride another 2.5 hours with the rest of my Trifusion teammates afterward. (Two years ago I would have called it a day after a race like this. I guess calling yourself a triathlete-in-training requires a little more dedication and hard-ass mentality, especially if you belong to Trifusion.) The long ride in the sunshine—sans wind along the Snake River afterward—made for a great ending to a fun race day. I’m already looking forward to the next race, but first I have Roger’s last indoor trainer session to conquer.

Check out Dave Erickson's SwimBikeRun Video


Thanks to Dave for putting this together, and to Greg and Melissa Skelton for taking video and pictures along the course!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Paddy's 5-miler swim... No, RUN!

I awoke at 6 am to the sound of rain hitting the driveway outside my window. Shrouded in complete darkness, I headed to the bathroom. Ever since I was little, I've come to learn that if I can hear rain hitting the bathroom fan, it's not just raining...It's pouring.

As I write this, the same window I looked out of this morning to see steady rain hitting a huge puddle in the driveway is now bright with sunshine. Go figure. This morning looked much different, and I take pride in the fact that I got off my bed and followed through with my decision to participate. The clothes I set out the night before looked pretty scant when considering what the rain and wind planned on throwing at me. Being a St. Paddy's race, I thought it might be fitting to wear something green. Yet it turns out I don't own any green running gear whatsoever. Unless you call the neon jacket I borrowed from my dad an example of green running attire, the only piece of green I had on was a pair of underwear. I wore them, but no one knew but me.

The rain fell just as hard at Spokane Community College as it did up north in my area. It didn't take 10 minutes to grab my race number and go for a quick 2-mile warm up before I felt like I had hopped out of the swimming pool. Goggles would have been nice to shield my eyes, but I relied on my Timex head sweat to keep the, the water...out of my face.

Dave Erickson starting out. Photo by Greg Gallagher.

Warm up complete, all runners treaded water at the start line in anticipation of the gun. In year's past, that stupid blast has scared the crap out of me. Yet this year I never heard it. I only started, running...when the wave of people moved forward toward the first giant puddle to muddle through. Many were to follow.

Eager to finish sooner than later, I started out at a relatively brisk but conservative pace. I learned my lesson last weekend (no starting out at 6:40 miles) and decided to shoot for 7-minute miles instead. It sounded more manageable in my head anyway. A similar head wind that we experienced last weekend at Snake River hit us again starting out. This time, we had rain to contend with, and I soon couldn't figure out if I was smearing rain water or snot across my face in an attempt to keep my vision clear.

Eventually I collided with Mike Lauffer and one of his running buddies. They proceeded to carry on at a 7-mile clip (conversation included), so I decided to hang on in their wake to the finish. Five miles flies by much faster than 13.1, and I couldn't have felt more relieved to finish just under 35 minutes. My finish time signified several things:

  1. I maintained a conservative pace throughout the race.
  2. It may have hurt a little, but at least I could walk at the end.
  3. Most importantly, I didn't drowned.
Natalie Gallagher, Adam Little, and Jeff Wilcox at the finish.
Photo by Greg Gallagher.
Cooling down with a few teammates and congratulating those who ran much faster than me served as a great ending to a cold day. Having to slog through a run in the rain is made much more fun when you're surrounded by hundreds of other wild and crazy people who chose to do the same thing. We could have all been sitting on the couch, sipping hot chocolate, and watching a movie. Yet we chose to run. 

Perhaps the greatest reward after cold, wet races is the warm shower awaiting us when we get home. When I said earlier I felt like I'd hopped out of a swimming pool after my warm up, my clothes looked like I'd hit every muddy puddle on the course, too. After a shower and post-run meal, post-race congratulations continued on Facebook. In fact, check out Dave Erickson's video of the race at Swim Bike Run Videos (link below). Thanks Dave!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snake River 2012

For those of you who have raced the Snake River half marathon or spoken with anyone who has, you know the biggest concern about this race isn’t, “What direction will the wind be blowing this year?” It’s, “How many times will it change directions, and at what point will I have to die trying to keep with the group or tough it out on my own?”

Making our way down the grade, it was all we could do to try and catch our first glimpse of the water.

The last time I raced Snake River I had the help of a tail wind to carry my sorry butt to the finish after slogging through a headwind to the turn-around point. This year…well, in the words of Tony Dibartolo (as we’re driving down the Wawawai grade) “Look at that water! Completely calm,” only lasted for about 7 miles, and then the winds decided to get even.

These days, it’s hard for me to go into a race with the notion I’m just going to take it easy. I wasn’t even out of the car before people said they expected at 1:26 finish. Honestly, I wanted this race to feel more like a long run, an effort greater than an easy Sunday run, but not so great that I couldn’t walk after crossing the finish line.

Jayne Anderson getting ready to hit the course!

I couldn’t walk after crossing the finish line. The muscles in the soles of my feet ached so badly I stripped my shoes and socks off so the cold pavement would quench my burning feet. I felt like a gimp. Then I spotted Haley Cooper-Scott 30 yards ahead of me and noticed I wasn't the only one walking funny. (For my PT friends, my gait analysis: short step length on the left, decreased left hip extension, and severe left lower extremity internal rotation.) She peeled off her sock—bloodied—to reveal a blister that could have fit in the palm of my hand. It spanned the entire planter surface of her foot. I no longer complained.

Looking back, this was by far one of my dumbest races I’ve run. In retrospect, it’s better to get it out of the way early to serve as a lesson for my future races, but seriously; I’m smarter than this. With no headwind starting out, I began at a pace I raced last summer in my 5ks. It took just two miles to call myself an idiot and slow to the pace I had originally hoped to maintain: 7:10s to 7:15s. Yet those two miles dictated the entire course of the race—wind excluded. By the turnaround, 6.5 miles felt like 10. By mile 8, I dreamt I had covered 11. Mile 11? Where is that DAMN finish line?!?

Somehow (I’m guessing my GU gels saved me) I managed to maintain a pace somewhere between 6:50 and 7:15…until mile 11. Remember that clear Snake River water I eluded to earlier—the glassy, beautiful river? I’ll just say that if it weren’t for the kind gentleman in front of me who bore the brunt of that relentless wind, I surely would have walked the last two miles. Glassy water my ass.
Finally…the finish line. My feet burned. I could have sworn someone had shoved knives into my quads. My back ached. My heart ripped at a whopping 182 beats per minute (um…this can’t be healthy?) Yet I crossed the finish line just before the seconds turned that 1:32 finish time into 1:33. A kind volunteer cut the timing chip off my shoe (bless him…there was no way I could possibly bend over and then come back to standing), and another one handed me a brand new pair of socks. Socks! What a treat J

Photo by Hector Garza. Pretty sure he snapped this right at the finish, when all I could think about was how everything hurt. Thanks Hector!
In the end, I came away with a valuable lesson for this year. Don’t just race, but race smart. I did come away with a personal PR for that particular course—nowhere near my half marathon PR—and an age group award; however, I don’t think anything compares to the camaraderie shared by so many people I correspond with on Facebook and only get to see at these races. Family reunions have never been so fun! The more people I meet, the more people I can cheer on as we pass each other on the course. 

Eric Worden, Jeremy Anglin, and Matt Cantrell at the finish but ready to get home. All had great races, and Eric set a new PR. Congratulations to everyone!

I'm just disappointed I couldn't fill my pint glass with what it was intended to hold. Damn my feet!

Friday, March 2, 2012


My training these past few months are about to be tested, as my first race of the season is upon me. Tomorrow’s Snake River Half Marathon sounds like the perfect opportunity to see where my fitness level stands coming off a successful 2011 season and 2012 winter training fest. Since last fall, I’ve made what I consider to be a significant number of changes with the way I approach each day with regard for my workouts and training. I included a picture of the four biggest components that will affect the way I race tomorrow, all of them somewhat new to my racing mindset.

The Timex Run Trainer has probably afforded me the biggest training improvements I’ve witnessed in the past few months. Before I ruined my Garmin Forerunner by swimming in Bear Lake, I used it primarily for tracking my progress by feet and my effort by pace. The Timex has introduced to me a third way to evaluate my progress: heart rate. While it has served as a great indicator of my effort, it has also posed an incredible challenge—a significant pain in the butt. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a phenomenal tool, and I don’t know what I’d do without it, but I’ve come to realize my heart rate doesn’t lie. What shows on the screen is no fabrication of reality. One hundred seventy-three beats per minute is exactly that—173bpm. For me, this translates to a certain effort that may or may not be acceptable when considering the type of run I’m supposed to be running. Usually, it’s the wrong effort. In the end, I’ve learned more about my body from my Timex than I’ve learned by trying to judge my perceived exertion by feel. Tomorrow, I will use it to compare what I used to consider my “race pace” to what my heart rate monitor says it should be.

Everyone has a favorite energy source. I have experimented with a number of different products: Hammer, Powerbar, and even honey and baked potatoes. My body has settled with GU, a company that not only provides gels, but chews, electrolyte and recovery drinks as well. If it weren’t for the information and advice that Steve Anderson—Field Sales and Service Representative for GU—provided to me, I wouldn’t be as confident when I say that GU has demonstrated far superior quality in their products than other products I have tried. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs—of course, everyone’s bodies respond differently to different foods—I have far fewer stomach upsets and much more energy for longer endurance events using GU than I did when I experimented with Hammer or Powerbar. I most often use the electrolyte tablets, gels, and chomps. Tomorrow I’ll be fueling through the race using GU gels…they haven’t let me down yet! For those interested in more information about GU and how to use it, you can visit the link below for more information. (I’m sure Steve wouldn’t mind if you contacted him with questions, too.) This article by Chris Carmichael provided some great suggestions regarding when and how to fuel using GU:

If the athletes you ask don’t have an opinion about energy, then they most definitely have an opinion about shoes. To be honest, I’ve been experimenting with different shoes for the last three years. I’ve always been a heavy pronator, a characteristic that encouraged my physical therapist to place me in orthodics at an early age. Having since began physical therapy school, I’ve used the last 2 years to defy my need for them and have slowly—I mean slowly—worked my way out of orthodics to more of a minimalist style of shoe. With stronger feet and a transformation to a different style of running, I believe this change has improved both my form and my speed. In addition, I struggle with fewer injuries as a result of teaching myself to land on my mid- to forefoot instead of my heels, thereby encouraging a softer landing with each footstep. Tomorrow, I’m testing out Saucony’s Guide 4s and their ability to carry me over 13.1 miles. I’ve never worn Saucony before starting this winter, so I’ll report back with an update!

Finally, my newest experiment revolves around the use of glutamine, a non-essential amino acid (meaning, the body makes it) whose stores become quickly depleted as a result of intense physical exercise (i.e. triathlon J). Matt Cusack recommended I consider using this supplement in order to bolster my immune system, especially after hard training efforts. Matt has done far more research than I have on the subject, and you can find more information about what he has found by following the link to his blog post, Some may be familiar with Recover Ease, a supplement that is very similar and works in much the same way. I’ve tried both, and while I have not experienced a difference (granted, more time and experimentation will give me a better idea of what I prefer), I hope taking several capsules post-race will help me recover faster and stave off any impending post-race cold that hopes to take advantage of a weakened immune system. Since I'm technically "training" through this race, I need whatever "support" I can get to make a 1.5-hour swim and 2.5 hour bike ride on Sunday possible, so…

Here’s to Snake River! Just please…a headwind going out would be so much more appreciated than tackling a head wind to the finish…