Category Archives: Race Training

Oh, Right. That.

If a blogger starts training for a marathon and doesn’t tell the Internet, is it really even happening?

That’s more or less what I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of months. But considering I ran 18 miles on Sunday, I suppose it’s official enough: I’m planning to run the San Francisco Marathon in July.

This isn’t a sudden plan — far from it, actually. Back in November, I found out I’d been selected as a marathon ambassador for 2014, which meant I got a free entry to one of the events in exchange for writing a few posts for the official blog and generally exhorting people to sign up. (I did plenty of that in person and on social media, but uh, obviously not here — bad ambassador!) I’d been starting to get the itch to run another marathon anyway, and after running the first half in 2012 and the second half in 2013, running the marathon this year would gain me entry to the 52 Club. I do like swag, and while a sweatshirt isn’t enough to convince me to give up nights out and lazy weekend mornings in favor of hours of running, it at least helped to sweeten the deal. After confirming with the organizers that I could switch events if something came up, I registered for the full.

Then there was the matter of training. After making biking my focus over the winter, I planned to spend April remembering that running was a sport worth paying attention to and May starting to ramp up my long run distance. That more or less happened; I squeezed in a couple of 8-milers, a 10, and a 12 before Wildflower, but I had a hard time getting my overall weekly mileage where I wanted it. I hung out in the 15-20 miles per week range for a little too long, but I finally heaved myself over the 30-mile barrier last week.

So far, this could hardly be more different than my Berlin training. Then, I mapped out every run in detail; I stressed over every change of plans; I was terrified I’d end up not being able to start, or finish, the race because of injury or undertraining. This time, I cobbled together a Franken-plan (a little Hal Higdon Novice 2; a little Run Less, Run Faster; a few lessons learned from last time; a lot of adjustments and allowances for triathlon training through early June) and most weeks I look at it only to remember what I’m basically supposed to be running. Because the race is local — and, frankly, because I haven’t spent money — I feel very relaxed about it; I know that if training goes poorly or isn’t fun any more, I can drop to a half or just … not do it. I know that’s a luxury, and I’ll probably never have a situation like this again, so I’m really trying to appreciate it.

Since Wildflower, I’ve done long runs of 14, 16, and 18 miles. The 14 was solid, even including a fairly effortless trip up the Point Lobos hill. The 16, in Portland, was a slog, with walk breaks every two miles the only reason I got it done. The 18 was back to feeling smooth; there was something relaxing about knowing I was going to be running for three hours, and yes, I think that is probably pathological. (History shows that I had the same 16-awful/18-great situation last time. Weird.)

It hasn’t all been smooth. My shoe drama continues, and I haven’t loved the shoes I’m running in (Asics GT-2000); I got the worst sports bra chafing of my life on the Portland run (and that’s saying something), and it’s still healing a week later; and I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking when it seemed reasonable to run 18 miles this past weekend, race an Olympic-distance triathlon during my “cutback week” this coming weekend, then go right back into long runs of 18 and 20. Oh, and my training plan calls for my final long run of 20-22 miles to happen while I’m in Chicago for a friend’s wedding in July, and I’m a girl who was dripping with sweat after 18 miles in sub-60-degree weather. (Seeing the calendar shake out that way almost made me drop to the half right then and there.)

But hey: I’m eight weeks out, I’ve already run 18 miles, I feel mostly functional other than wanting to eat everything in the house (which is nothing, because I’ve already eaten it), and I’m way more caught up on podcasts than I’ve been in years.

I guess I’m running a marathon?

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Vineman 70.3: Week Eight

This week was packed with Vineman recon: a solo ride of 90% of the bike course on Thursday, a group brick including 10 miles of the run course on Saturday, and an intense amount of forecast-stalking on most days in between.

I’d debated how to structure this last big week of training — there were plenty of options besides what I did — but when I got to the end of Saturday’s workout, I only felt relief. I learned so much from being on each of those courses one more time, about the race and myself and when I felt good and when I’ll want extra motivation (read: food) to get me through a tough spot. It was a lot of driving, and a lot of time in the heat, but I’m happy with how I chose to spend this week.

Now it’s taper, which means trying to keep busy and not freak out about anything I am or am not doing. To this end, Pete and I went to a local nursery and bought a bunch of plants yesterday. If you need me, I’ll be in the garden potting herbs. And maybe obsessively checking the weather … but mostly potting herbs.

Here’s week eight:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Lacking swimming motivation — as well as my gym card, which I now suspect I may have lost at the gym — I met a friend at her pool. The accountability and the chance to swim long-course meters for the first time ever were well-worth the $15 drop-in fee. Swam 2600 meters (~2800 yards) including 4 sets of 400s with the first 300 easy and the last 100 speedier plus some hard 50s.

Wednesday: Track workout of 6×600, 2×300. We were supposed to go as far as 6×300, but when I checked in with our coach after the 600s and she found out I’d been speeding up on each one, she — rightly — guessed that I was holding back for fear I’d slow down or not finish. So, she sent me out with instructions to do just two 300s but legitimately run them as fast as I could. I ran 1:23 and then 1:17 (7:15 pace!), which I admit IS far faster than I thought I could run. My legs and back were sore after, though — perhaps proof that a) I’m not made for sprinting and b) I’m ready for taper.

Thursday: Solo 56-mile ride, 50 of it on the Vineman course, plus a 1-mile mini-brick run. I started from Windsor High, which replaces the first 5 mostly flat miles of the race with 5 other mostly flat miles and meets up with the course on Westside. For the first 30 miles of the ride, I felt amazing; despite a few brief stops (stoplights, retrieving a Gu that flew out of my bag when I hit a pothole, fixing my speed sensor), I was trucking along at 16 mph average — HUGE for me over that distance. I was smiling at passing cyclists and memorizing wineries on the course to tell my family where to spectate and looking at the scenery and, honestly, getting a little emotional. Western Sonoma County is where I started hiking, and started thinking of exercise as something more than drudgery in a gym, and started to fall in love with being outside. Being on my bike for hours out there, alone, was cathartic in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

The last 26 miles were tougher — a combination of the heat (I had plenty of water, but it had heated up so quickly it was hardly refreshing), a warm headwind, getting lost, and knowing the worst of the ride was ahead of me. I stopped for several minutes at the store around mile 36 to reapply sunscreen and refill my bottles with cold water, and I never really got momentum back after that. I kept waiting for the shady part of 128 that I remembered from my first ride on the course, but I apparently made it up. Chalk Hill was fine, but I let myself believe that it was all downhill from there, while actually the next five miles continue to roll — and roll over some of the choppiest pavement on the course. It’s really not till mile 50+ and the turn back towards Windsor that you’re solidly downhill on good roads.

Still, with all stops included, I pulled up to the car in 3:55, making me feel pretty good about my race goal of 3:45. I also learned how to swap water bottles from my front cage to the back and to drink out of my back bottle and replace it without crashing. And as a bonus, I even learned how to take salt pills, which was a major victory considering I often feel like I’m going to choke when trying to swallow even an Advil. My phone said it was 90 degrees at the end of the ride, and my car said 100; I’m inclined to align myself more with the car, because while it had been sitting out in the sun for four hours, so had I.

Takeaways: I really need to eat earlier in the ride (my goal will be a whole Gu before I’m off River Road during the race in addition to my every-20-minutes food plan). I may do a quick full stop to swap/refill water bottles for the second half of the ride if it’s a hot day (I thought I’d do a bottle of Rocktane and a bottle of Skratch on the bike and supplement with aid station water, but the stuff in the bottles was grossly warm after 30 miles). I need to save myself a special treat — mint chocolate Gu or a fig newton or something; jellybeans? — for the stretch between the Chalk Hill descent and Shiloh. Dry Creek is a great place to truck it, and Canyon really isn’t bad.

Friday: Rest. Skipped a short, optional swim because of silly logistical failures, and while I could have gone back out later in the day, I took it as a sign to just chill.

Saturday: My last big workout with the group: an hour out-and-back bike ride, then 10 miles of running on the Vineman course. It was overcast, but as Pete always used to remind me when he lived up there, there are two kinds of Sonoma County summer days: the ones where it’s cloudy in the morning and hot and sunny by noon and the ones where it’s sunny and hot in the morning and you just want to die all day long. Indeed, by the time we were starting the run at 10:15, it was sunny — but temperatures still hovered around 70. And it was delightful. The first four miles felt rough, but apparently it was just an extra-long transition, because my legs eventually got some spring back. I know it was a tease; I know it’s more likely than not to be 85+ on race day. But the run felt so much better when I didn’t need an emergency garden hose infusion to cool off.

Sunday: One mile of slow and choppy swimming at Aquatic Park. I didn’t notice the wind until I made the first turn along the buoy line and suddenly got slapped in the face with incoming waves. I felt strangely relaxed, though, and just rolled with it, enjoyed the ride, and thought about now nice swimming in a nice, calm river will be.

Week Eight Stats

Swimming: 4600-ish yards
Biking: 71 miles
Running: 15 miles
Other: A good amount of stretching/foam rolling

Most proud of: A solo long ride; making it to taper feeling good.

Need to work on: Plans for getting myself out of low spots should they hit on race day; laundry?

Excited for: SUNDAY.

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Vineman 70.3: Week Seven

Week seven: The week of waffling.

Sleeveless wetsuit or full-sleeve for race day? Salt caps or good ol’ fast-food salt packets? Email the bike fit dude that I still don’t love my seat or give it one more ride? What workout for my last weekend before Vineman: short bike/long run or one last 50-mile ride?

I’m at a weird point in training, in which I’ve hit a bunch of milestones — including week seven’s triple brick and run on the race course — and yet things feel unsettled. Vineman is still two weeks away. I’m not fully tapering yet. I still have a bunch of decisions to make about how to approach race day. And at the same time, is anything I do now actually going to make any difference? Or is my barn — to steal an overused blog metaphor — full of all the hay it’s going to get?

I guess this is why I train with a group: to have a coach on the other end of my dithering.

While I wait for him to tell me what to do, here’s what I actually did last week:

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: In the morning, 2360 yards of swimming, including a total of 18 100s (3 sets of 5, one set of 3 and then had to dash to a conference call) at somewhere just under 2:00 each. In the evening, about “30 miles” of indoor riding at a computrainer class, with a total of 15 minutes (5 times through a set of 30, 60, and 90 seconds) at Zone 5 watts. I’d been debating whether to cry uncle on my newer, narrower saddle, but I made it through this class with no major issues — a far cry from the previous class with my old saddle, where I was uncomfortable from the get-go. Finished with a ~.75-mile misty transition run on the nearby bike path, which was absolutely covered in snails.

Wednesday: Track workout of about 4.5 miles, including a main set of 3×400 targeting 2:00, 3×1200 targeting 6:09. It was sunny, warm, and humid for San Francisco — I have to emphasize the for San Francisco — and while I hit all the intervals, I felt alternately like I was suffocating and drowning for the duration of the workout.

Thursday: 16 miles total of bike commuting (12 to/from work, 4 to/from yoga) and then the last yoga class with my favorite teacher, who’s taking a break from teaching. Yes, this makes me regret every single time I’ve skipped yoga since first finding her class last year.

Friday: Base Pace Test swim: warm up, swim 3×400, divide by 12, get base pace for 100 yards. I swam 8:16, 8:06, 8:04, putting my base pace exactly where it’s been for 18 months. I’m a little frustrated, but at the same time, I felt better on the 8:06/8:04 swims than I think I ever have during a base pace test; if I had another 400 to do, I bet it would have come in even faster.

Saturday: Second in our “peak weekend” series of workouts: the triple brick. I feel like I should be calling it The Dreaded Triple Brick, but having now done three triple bricks in my short triathlon experience, I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite workouts.

This was my first crack at the long course version: 18-mile ride, 30-minute run, 18-mile ride, 20-minute run, 18-mile ride, 10-minute run. Each loop was a circuit around Paradise Loop from Tiburon, including going up and over Camino Alto at miles 12, 30, and 42. First loop clocked in at 1:20, not speedy but steady. First run felt amazing — 9:14/mile pace, chatting briefly with friends along the way. I’ve been saying all year that I don’t know why I’ve been running well off the bike, but I think there’s actually an easy answer: my bike fit. When I run, I’m warmed up but not already worn out; I can use biking muscles for biking now.

Second loop, I was on track for a speedier ride, and I’d just hit the lovely part where the pavement smooths out when I heard a massive pop and felt my back wheel skid out of control. My previous flats have all been of the slow-leak variety, and I’ve been terrified of the explodey kind since I started riding, but in the moment I calmly understood what was happening, unclipped, and got off the road. Started dumping out my flat kit and realized, OH, that’s not tube, it’s tire — there was probably a two-inch frayed section that looked like ripped-up carpeting. I’d been telling passing cyclists that I was fine and had everything I needed, but clearly this was a bigger problem. Luckily, one guy had stopped despite my protests and had a patch that he figured would buy me a couple of miles of easy riding. I realized I could either get back to our starting point or keep going down the hill to a bike shop — and only one of those options would get me a new tire. So, kind stranger fixed my flat and followed me down the hill, where I rolled up to City Cycle and asked for a new tire right now, thanks! Finished up the loop on my sweet new tire, but the whole thing took 1:52.

My 20-minute run again felt great — I had lots of nervous/angry energy to burn — but then I had to decide what to do about the third loop. It was already 2 p.m., I was way behind schedule, and nobody was going to stick around to watch my stuff in our “transition area.” But I hadn’t just spent a bunch of money and time getting a new tire to bail on the workout. So, I packed up the car and set out for loop 3. The wind had picked up by then, but I think the sheer power of not giving up made it the most enjoyable ride, and I came coasting back to our starting spot in 1:16. Locked the bike to my rack, took off for another 10 minutes of running, and finally finished the workout at 3:40 p.m., six hours after starting. Not exactly the day I was expecting, but I’m so glad I didn’t quit.

Sunday: Talked Courtney into a trip up to Guerneville and Windsor for a Russian River swim and run on the Vineman course. The swim went well — same shallow parts as the week before, slightly faster time (41:15) — and I tried out the sleeveless wetsuit. Point for: definitely cooler. Point against: more time to get sunburned. Then we drove over to Windsor High to run, and oh my goodness, I thought I was going to actually wilt. My Garmin claims it was 93 degrees and cloudy, which is hilarious, because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; my car, on the other hand, said 98. The first three miles are rolling with a little more shade than I expected, and I was actually looking forward to the end of the run … until I realized the course actually loops back on a parallel road with zero shade. We ran everything but the loop around the winery (about 7.4 miles), walked several times, and barely scooted in under 11-minute/mile pace — which is fine except my race goals were premised on 10-minute miles. Time for new goals. We also drank out of someone’s garden hose. Desperate times and all that.

Week Seven Stats

Swimming: 6150 yards
Biking: 101 miles (55 road miles, 16 commute miles, 30 trainer miles)
Running: 19 miles
Other: One yoga class

Most proud of: Finishing the triple brick after the tire situation

Need to work on: Heat acclimation, however possible

Excited for: Race day?! It’s starting to feel close.

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Vineman 70.3: Week Six

OK, so I learned my lesson from Week Five. Week Six — or, at least, the weekday part of Week Six — had a nice, big dose of recovery. Easy spins, easy runs, no track, lots of quality time with my compression socks and my foam roller.

And it’s a good thing, because the weekend brought the start of peak training.

The plan I’m following has what I consider two “peak weekends.” There’s a small increase in weekday volume in between them, too, but the big jump comes in both distance and importance of the weekend workouts. This weekend was the first — a swim, and my first 56-mile bike ride, and then more riding, and then a double-digit run 12 hours later (with a bit of sleep, and some beer, in the middle). It started in the Russian River, hit 96 degrees in the middle, included a photo of me giving our coach the finger (in jest…sort of), and ended with me collapsed on top of the foam roller in a shirt so thick with fog-rain I could wring it out.

It was awesome.

Just when the logistics of training were starting to get to me — just as I was stomping around angry about having to drag the stupid bike rack out of the stupid garage and put it on my stupid car at seven stupid o’clock — this weekend came around and woke me back up. Endorphin-drunk (and, OK, maybe also the kind of drunk you get off three sips of beer after riding your bike for 70 miles when it’s 96 degrees outside), awed at what my body can do, dreaming up new challenges. This close to Vineman, I think it’s a good place to be.


Monday: Rest. In retrospect I might have wanted to swim out some of the post-race soreness, but the foam roller was good for that, too.

Tuesday: In the morning, 2400 yards of swimming, including a main set of 3x(3×100, 300). At night, I hopped on the trainer for a few minutes and then rode to get burritos. ~10 miles total.

Wednesday: Skipped track in favor of a chatty run through the park with a friend, punctuated with a photo session for a Top Secret Project (TM). Just over 5 miles total.

Thursday: In the morning, a 3×600 tempo swim that went far better than last week’s. Again shooting for 12:18, and I squeaked under that marker two out of the three times. At night, “12 miles” of easy spinning in the basement while watching the NBA finals online.

Friday: Rest. I wish I could find a Friday morning yoga class, or convince myself to get up on Friday mornings and do some yoga, but I also like sleeping.

Saturday: Vineman training day: 1.2-mile swim in the Russian River, then 56 miles of cycling the race course from Johnson’s Beach to Windsor High. Then, because simply riding my longest ride ever wasn’t enough, I’d chosen the option of riding back to Guerneville, so my day ended with 15 hot and cranky miles back to the car, probably coasting as much as I pedaled. Full post to come once I’m done stealing pictures from other people.

Sunday: 11 miles of running through soupy gray fog. Chased a couple of friends for the first 8-ish, then slowed it down for the final 3 home.

Week Six Stats

Swimming: 6900 yards
Biking: 92 miles (70 “real miles,” 22 trainer/city miles)
Running: 16 miles
Other: A lot of foam roller QT

Most proud of: 70. Freaking. Miles.

Need to work on: Keeping a good attitude in bad conditions — something I did reasonably well on Saturday, but it took a lot of concentration, and friends, and promises of beer and soda and gummy candy. I’m good at whining, but whining is the easy way out; being border collie excited takes more work, but it also pays off big.

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Vineman 70.3: Week Five

Week five (!?) was a funny one. It came after one race and ended with another, but because neither was a race I cared much about independently, it was hard to know how to position what I was doing. Was I recovering? Tapering? Just normal training?

For most of the week, I felt great — endorphin-high from racing, so darn happy to be swim-bike-running. A couple of friends warned me to make sure I wasn’t getting too tired or burned out, and I’d just chirp back, “Nope! I’m awesome! I want to run! I feel great!” And then Thursday night’s swim rolled around. The thing with me and swimming is, swimming never lies. I can push through a run or a bike ride; the sheer joy of being outside and going places is usually enough to overwhelm whatever sluggishness I feel. But swimming is a true barometer, and Thursday’s was a slog. Friday’s rest day helped, but I definitely learned a thing or two about the effort racing takes, whether I’m capital-R Racing or not.


Monday: Rest. Sleep. Not enough stretching.

Tuesday: In the morning, 1760 yards of swimming, including a main set of repeats of 6 40s and a 200. (It was supposed to be 5 50s and a 200, but: 20-yard pool). Feeling good! Recovered! Awesome! At night, my second computrainer class, which I liked much more than the first (positioned myself in the corner away from the mirrors; brought food). Brought shoes for a transition run after, but my coach made me sit down and watch the “I am injured; I am an Ironman” video instead. Point taken.

Wednesday: I went to track and — surprise! — it was 2-mile time trial night. I thought seriously about ditching, and waited for the typical “taper/recovery/new runner” option to appear…but it never did, and I ultimately decided that as long as I was there, I’d give it a shot (and quit if I felt terrible). I ran 16:29 (8:14/8:15), the middle of my three times this season, which left me itching to run a 5K once all this craziness is over. 4 miles total for the night.

Thursday: Biked to/from work — still feeling awesome! — then went to swim, at which point I just could not work hard enough to get my “tempo” 3×600 anywhere near my base pace. My closest was 12:22 (I was shooting for 12:18 or under) — and that’s only because I was circling with a fast collegiate swimmer who was rightfully none too pleased to have ended up with Breaststroking Lady and Flailing Freestyler (<–me) for the last few minutes of her own workout.

Friday: Easy biking — a few minutes on the trainer at a bike fit follow-up (swapped for a narrower saddle; we’ll see…) and then a few miles around town to get my packet at the SF Marathon expo and make a return at REI.

Saturday: Awesome, endorphin-full day. Started with ~35 minutes of swimming including my first trip around the perimeter at Aquatic Park (no sea lions but a decent view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the gap at the end of the pier). Then solo-biked 45 miles over the bridge and to Fairfax. I still hate the bridge, and I absolutely gave up and walked around the pylons on the way back, but the rest of the ride was a blast, and to be able to ride through all of West Marin by myself, without even needing directions? I’ve come a long way.

Sunday: San Francisco Second Half Marathon, which I ran mostly easy but wish I’d taken even easier, in retrospect. I disobeyed the first rule of “run easy,” which is that I judged my pace and picked it up beyond where “easy” probably should have been for the second half of the race. Finished in 2:07:16, which is I think #3 of my 8 half-marathon finishing times. Paid for it by being stupidly sore. But, I did run the whole race without music, which accomplished one of my goals.

Week Five Stats

Swimming: 6020 yards
Biking: 90 miles (21 commute miles + 45 “real miles” + 24 computrainer miles)
Running: 18 miles
Other stuff: no yoga, a little core, a little stretching

Most proud of: Going back to the computrainer class and hating it less

Need to work on: Being smarter about recovery this week

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Vineman 70.3: Week 4

Big week, this one. I rode up a mountain on my bike, and then the next day I managed to not only drag myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. but also race participate in a race with not-terribly-embarrassing results. I passed the 100-overall-miles-in-a-week mark on Dailymile for the first time (which may or may not be accurate — I haven’t always recorded mileage for, say, spin classes or trainer rides — but wheeee! numbers!). I swam four miles — which is still less than Victoria swam in a day, but which is still almost certainly an all-time high for me. Week 4 felt good.

I’m going to write a full post about my first time climbing to Alpine Dam and Seven Sisters, and I’ll recap the race-that-wasn’t-really as soon as the pictures go up, because lord knows it would be nice to have something besides a block of text ’round these parts. But before that, here’s the bare bones of Week 4.

Monday: Just over 27 miles of morning cycling around Lake Merced, in the (probably futile) hope that 23 miles on Friday + 27 miles on Monday would equal one 50-mile ride.

Tuesday: 2480 yards of swimming, including three times through a main set of 4×40, 100 kick, 300 swim at base pace. Kept tossing in random 20s of breaststroke and easy freestyle to get back to the end where my kickboard was waiting; odd numbers are annoying in a 20-yard pool.

Wednesday: A track workout of just over 5 miles, including 10×400 with 200 recovery jogs. Compared to last week’s 1000s, this just flew by, and I hit all the intervals between 2:03 (the first one) and 1:56 (three of the others, including the last one).

Thursday: I rode my bike to work in the morning and planned to ride more after, but I’d been having some shifting issues and when I saw my weekend ride — and its 3300 feet of climbing — trickle down through TrainingPeaks, I decided the better decision was to get my bike to a shop. I had to leave it overnight, so I bussed home and then did my weekly “long swim” of 2800 yards. The main set was 4×500 at tempo pace, which I decided was anything under 10:15. Swam 10:13, 10:09, 10:12, 10:09 and was pretty pleased with the effort.

Friday: Rest other than getting my bike home, ~6 commute miles.

Saturday: Alpine Dam/Seven Sisters — 33 miles, 3400 feet of climbing. So, uh, this, with a 15-minute transition run after.
Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.57.15 PM

Sunday: Finished the Folsom International Triathlon in 3:22. Some annoying/frustrating moments, but also a really delightful endorphin high (and equally delightful cheeseburger).

Week Four Stats

Swimming: 6920 yards
Biking: 100(!) miles — 85 “real riding”/racing miles + 15 commute miles
Running: 13 miles
Other: Hahaha, whoops.

Most proud of: Riding Alpine Dam, by far. I was more nervous about that ride than I’ve been about a race in a very long time, and in the end I left it thinking it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected.

Need to focus on: Longer rides, especially longer rides with bursts of race effort. As I re-learned in Folsom, riding hard on flat roads without stopping is way different from the type of riding I usually do (the kind where I climb a bunch of hills and stop at a bunch of stoplights).

Can’t wait for: Riding the Vineman course, finally, the weekend after next.

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Vineman 70.3: Week Three

Week three: commence freakout(s).

Specific freakouts: that I’m not doing enough. That the weeks of group training I’m missing or altering will mean I don’t finish Vineman. That I’m not riding hard enough. That I’m not running easy enough. That my stupid swimming base pace has been the same for the last 18 stupid months.

All of these thoughts are easy enough to tamp down with a workout or a cookie or a moment of looking at my training schedule and really counting the remaining weeks. There’s a lot of work left to do; I shouldn’t be ready to cover 70.3 miles today; dailymile shows numbers going up and graphs don’t lie, right?

And yet. It nags at me that I haven’t done one of those really key workouts yet — a tough ride over 50 miles, or a day on the Vineman course, or a big, meaty brick. They’re coming, I see that, and I trust my coach and know I’ll get there when it’s time. I also know that the changes I’ve made to the schedule are crucial for keeping my life in balance. But it’s still hard to see the rest of my group ride the Vineman course one weekend and race the next when I haven’t done either.

Rational brain says this: I’m plugging away. I’m doing the work. I’m doing things other people in the group aren’t doing. I’m making this plan fit my life the way I like it. I know I can ride 56 mostly flat miles. I’m about to prove, again, that I can run a half-marathon. And swimming? In that river? That’s what I spend every summer longing to do. The pieces will fit. It just takes time. And contrary to what I see when I page through TrainingPeaks, I do still have time.

Here’s how I spent week three:

Monday: Rest, though I did walk a couple of hilly and drizzly miles to retrieve Seattle Memorial Day indoor picnic supplies.

Tuesday: Mini brick: 13 miles of biking with hill repeats (1300′ of climbing up El Camino Del Mar and Clement), then a mile transition run. When I got home from work, the weather was sunny and still; by the time I got my stuff together and figured out how to reinstall my bike pedals, it had turned cloudy and windy and made for a rather scary descent down to Ocean Beach.

Wednesday: Track workout — warm-up, 4-5×1000 with 200m recovery, cool-down. I’m still getting my legs under me for these relatively longer track intervals and ran 5:18, 5:28, 5:27, 5:19, 5:19. Totaled just over 5 miles by the time I got home.

Thursday: In the morning, I lifted some things and put them down in the living room while watching the French Open — about 20 minutes of squat and deadlift variations. Here’s how often I’ve “lifted weights” since we moved in October: the weights live on a built-in bookshelf, and when I picked them up, some of the bookshelf paint came up too. In the evening, I swam 2200 yards in a crowded pool where some people refused to circle and others said they would but really just wanted to chat and mostly it was all stupid. The workout included a whole bunch of 40s with different prescribed paces, but I just swam what I could when I could.

Friday: “Long Ride,” Part One. I’d thought about trying to ride long on Sunday after the beer festival, but when we worked through the logistics, driving the bike down seemed like a terrible idea. Instead, I decided to split up the miles into two rides, Friday and Monday. This one was ~23 miles including two laps around Lake Merced, finishing with a 20-minute transition run. Lake Merced isn’t the most challenging ride, but frankly neither is Vineman, so I got a little “race pace” practice in. I had a presentation at work that morning and gave myself permission to cut the run short before I’d even started, but for some reason the phrase “this is what your house is built on” popped into my head as I ran, and I decided the extra 10 minutes would make more difference for Vineman than for the presentation. Also, I think the word I was looking for was “foundation.”

Saturday: Rest via tastes of many beers, with the New Belgium Prickly Passion Saison surprising me as a favorite. It was nearly 100 degrees and I was sweating just standing around, so I’m happy with the decision to take this as a full rest day.

Sunday: On the way home from the festival, 1.2 miles in Lake San Antonio, sans wetsuit. The water temperature was probably high 60s, but the air temperature was still in the 90s and the idea of putting on a wetsuit made my brain boil. I finished just under 50 minutes and was not thrilled with that time, but it gave me something to reference when I think about going wetsuit-free for my (hot) races later this year. I closed out the week with a 10-mile run once we got back to the city, cheating on my no-music rule to make sure I’d get out of the house.

Week Three Stats

Swimming: 4350 yards
Biking: 39 miles
Running: 18.5 miles
Other: lifting things for ~20 minutes
Most proud of: Getting up with a 5 on the clock and riding when the sun came up on Friday. I could have let the timing of some work stuff derail my plans, but I didn’t, and while the ride wasn’t as long as I initially wanted it to be, I can confidently say I made the most of my time.
Need to focus on: Time in the damn saddle. That’s where I most feel like I’m playing from behind right now. Luckily, partially owing to Long Ride, Part Deux on Monday, week four’s bike miles will be relatively huge.
Can’t wait for: Racing again this weekend, more to come …..

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Vineman 70.3: Week 2

I loved traveling during marathon training. Adored it. Relished it. I did my first post-injury-break 6-miler in Philadelphia, my first 8 in Chicago, some hot and humid runs in Michigan, and a 15-miler in Madison. I got to run with friends, and run to things, and run around places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone. It took a little planning, but only of the “maybe two drinks instead of three at this wedding reception” variety, and it kept training fresh. I almost wish I’d done more of it.

Traveling during 70.3 training is a different beast. It’s logistically challenging. It requires stuff — bikes! — and facilities — pools! swimmable lakes! — and the weather to be halfway decent and others to be either OK with you disappearing for several hours or crazy enough to come along.

When I first hit on the idea of going to Seattle over Memorial Day weekend, I envisioned some kind of triathlon training camp — kind of like my “Berlin Marathon training camp” in Madison in which I took a long flight, slept very little, ran a bunch, and then drank beer and ate sausages. But there were a few problems with this, namely: 1) it rains in Seattle; 2) a bike and a wetsuit are a lot tougher to travel with than a pair of damn sneakers; 3) if I was going to devote the weekend to swim-bike-run, it would not leave a lot of time for the real reasons I wanted to go to Seattle, namely seeing our friends and meeting their babies and eating things and drinking other things.

So, I tried for balance, or some version of it. I emailed Rebecca for training suggestions, rented a bike for two days (initially — though it turned into three once the rain pushed our ride start several hours later and I didn’t want to worry about returning it on time), convinced a friend who’d never ridden more than 20 miles that 50 would be totally doable, and squeezed in a long run before leaving San Francisco. In the end, I only skipped one of the scheduled workouts (the shortest of the swims), though any benefit that was meant to be derived from doing things in a particular order certainly went out the window.

I’m traveling again this weekend — to a beer festival — and so am shifting workouts around yet again. Most of my group is racing this weekend, and I’m clearly not, so I think things are going to feel discombobulated for a bit. After this, I’m not going anywhere till Vineman, so as long as I don’t dig too big a hole, it’ll be OK … I think?


Monday: Rest

Tuesday: In the morning, 2080 yards of swimming including 3×500 in fine but not-as-fast-as-when-I-swam-with-the-fast-ladies times. I was intending to bike to some errands and then to yoga in the evening, but the wind was terrible — maybe the worst I’ve ever biked in — and I badly missed the start of class after miscalculating how long it would take me to ride in those conditions. I was slightly disappointed but mostly relieved to be able to get home and out of the wind sooner.

Wednesday: Track around the outside of the track again: two .7-mile loops, then two double (1.4-mile) loops, with the double loops clocking in at 11:40 and 11:39.

Thursday: I took advantage of a weird work schedule to get in a longer morning swim: 2760 yards, including a main set of 400 pull/400 swim, 300 pull/300 swim, 200 pull/200 swim, 100 pull/100 swim. I did pull sets all the time last year but haven’t done them in a while, and it was crazy how dead my legs would feel when I started kicking again. I got home too late to drive up to computrainer class, so I hung out in the garage for an hour making up a trainer interval workout and watching Scandal.

Friday: 10 miles before work through Golden Gate Park and along Ocean Beach, average pace 9:48/mile. Not much notable about this run, actually, other than its start time; it was a gorgeous morning, and while I did let myself listen to podcasts as an extra bit of encouragement to get out of bed, I probably would have been OK without.

Saturday: Rest. Initially thought I might make it to a Seattle public pool, but when the time came, I chose coffee and scones with friends, and I’m happy with that choice.

Sunday: 50 miles through Seattle and around Lake Washington with Pete, our friends A and J, and Michaela! More details to come, but — other than the two times I toppled over at extremely low speed on my rental bike trying to make tight right turns — I found Seattle to be an absolute biking paradise. The weather did not look like it was going to swing in our favor, but it only rained in the last five minutes, which was pretty remarkable since — including all stops — we were out there for five hours. I talked myself into skipping a brick run (it would have meant either heading sharply uphill or sharply downhill on slippery sidewalks), but after discovering the flat sidewalk path by the lake the next day, I wish I’d just gone down the hill and gotten it done.

one of those stops was for a slurpee.

one of those stops was for a slurpee.

Week Two Stats

  • Swimming: 4840 yards
  • Biking: 75ish miles (50 real miles, 10 commute miles, 15 trainer miles)
  • Running: 15 miles
  • Other: nnnnnnnothing. fail.
  • Most proud of: Getting in all 10 miles of my long run, though I’d already given myself permission to cut it short before I even started
  • Need to focus on: Not ignoring core and stretching
  • Can’t wait for: Swimming again — I hope in the pool soon (waiting for my scraped-up knee from the bike fall(s) to heal a bit more) but also in open water this weekend, finally finally.
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Vineman 70.3: Week 1

This week was all about climbing. Metaphorical climbing up the ladder of training (more hours, more distance) but also actual climbing — more than 6,000 feet by foot and by bike on Saturday and Sunday alone.

I’m slightly cursing the way I handled the last couple of weeks of TAG Wildflower training. I know taking a reset week was probably smart long-term, but in the short term, it made this first week a bit of a shock. I wish I’d gotten in a few longer bike rides over the past month, or tossed in an easy morning run back in April like I swore I would but never did. I feel a little like I’m playing from behind. Vineman’s in eight weeks, and that doesn’t seem like much. But then I remember that eight weeks out from my marathon, I hadn’t run more than 14 miles yet. A lot can happen in eight weeks (ahem, self).

A note about how this is all actually happening: I’m training with a group led by the same coach I worked with during TAG. We meet once a week for workouts, and he sketches out a schedule for the rest of the week. But it’s not a Vineman-specific training program, or even a 70.3-specific training program; most people in the group are training for that distance, but there are also people training for century rides, Olympic tris, a couple of Ironman races, etc. I’m using his schedule as an outline but filling in where I need to — especially some extra cycling, if I can handle it, because I know that’s my weakness. In these first couple of weeks, when I’m full of nervous 70.3 anticipation energy, I’m trying to see what it feels like to do extra. If it’s too much, I can always fall back to what’s actually on the schedule.

Anyway. Week one:

Monday: Rest. May eventually want to switch my rest day to Friday, but I haven’t decided yet.

Tuesday: AM: 30-minute easy run + 30 minutes of core/strength work. PM: Drove to my coach’s computrainer studio for my first class — more to come on that, but it was 90 minutes of cycling with a power meter. Others in the class headed out for a transition run after the ride, but I didn’t have my shoes. In retrospect, this was a bit aggressive for training weekday #1, and the drive to and from the class made for a long day.

Wednesday: AM: 2060 yards of swimming, including 3×500. For the second half of the swim, I was in a circle-swim lane with two very fast swimmers, and they pushed me to a 9:35 500, which is the fastest I’ve gone since I started keeping swim data. Too bad I can’t chase them around the pool every workout! (I have no business being in their lane, but the balance in the pool was weird that day, and I was too fast for the slower lanes. I could hold my own for 500 but probably not for much more than that.) PM: First “big-kid” track workout with Golden Gate Triathlon Club group (our TAG workouts were held in parallel but structured separately). The biggest difference to me was the overall distance of the workout, though that may have been a function of the track being closed (we ran on a .7-mile route around the outside). Including my jog to/from the track, I hit 7 miles, including two 1.4-mile segments in 11:28 (8:01/mile pace, way too fast to maintain) and 11:48 (8:29/mile pace and way more legit).

Thursday: Thought about getting up to ride before work; brain heard the alarm clock and said “oh hell no.” Instead, 12 miles of bike commuting at like 4 mph (I have no idea how slow my bike commute is, but that’s what it feels like). Yoga on the way home.

Friday: The first workout of the week that was mentally a struggle and I think why I want to shift my rest days to Friday. 2000 yards of swimming, including some “fast” 40s in a very crowded pool.

Saturday: Dipsea trail run! The race is a classic, and when I hiked this narrow, root-y, rocky (and beautiful) trail a few years ago, I said I didn’t know how anyone ever ran it. I … still don’t. The instructions were to do what we could in about 3 hours; I made it through 10.5 miles in 3:05 with plenty of hiking. Garmin had moving time at 2:39 (FINE, I stopped to take pictures, plus to check the directions at a few points) and elevation gain at 3250′.


Sunday: Between post-Dipsea soreness and an anniversary dinner featuring a lot of food and plenty of wine, my long ride started a bit later than planned. Pete and I escaped Bay to Breakers for the year and took BART to the East Bay to ride a route known as the Three Bears (three hills — Mama, Papa, and Baby, helpfully labeled as such on the pavement, we discovered) and finish off with a loop of the Lafayette-Moraga trail, which I hadn’t visited since my first 16-miler. Newsflash: when you’re used to San Francisco weather, 80 degrees is hot. But Vineman’s going to be hot, so I better get used to it. I’d also forgotten that the trail has stopsigns every quarter-mile (or more), and I never hit any sort of rhythm in the final 10-12 miles. I don’t think I’ll plan any more cycling routes there, though being out of traffic was nice. 2720′ elevation gain over the 40 miles. Plus 6 miles to/from BART and a 10-minute “transition run” after the ride home, though how “transition-y” it was after sitting on a train for a half-hour is surely debatable.

Week One Stats

  • Swimming: 4060 yards
  • Biking: 40 “real miles” + 18 “city miles” + 90-minute computrainer class (?? “miles”)
  • Running: 21 miles (11 on roads and 10 on the Dipsea, if we’re calling that running)
  • Other: One yoga class, one lifting session, not enough foam rolling
  • Most proud of: Not quitting on the long ride when we biked past the train station at mile 20
  • Need to focus on: Not freaking out about not doing enough
  • Can’t wait for: a Seattle adventure this weekend. Fingers crossed for good cycling weather.
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Vineman 70.3: Week Zero

I’ve spent the year saying that I wasn’t training for anything important to me. Not really. Not yet. Napa was an interesting checkpoint, and Wildflower was a celebration of others’ success, but neither of them was my race, my real race.

And then last Monday, it hit me: there are no more distractions, no more thinking it doesn’t matter how I train or what I do. In just nine weeks, I have 70.3 miles to cover. That’s a whole lot of miles.

I’m nervous — terrified! — but I’m also so excited. I looked in TrainingPeaks yesterday and I could see the sketches of my schedule starting to trickle in — a few big weekends, a note that it was “time to start adding up the miles.” I’ve been happily bookmarking 50-mile bike rides and calculating run mileage and finally getting the quick-release kit set up for my Garmin. July 14 seems way too soon — and yet, this is the work I’ve been waiting for since the moment I submitted my registration form back in November.

(We’ll see if I’m saying that after I run the Escape from Alcatraz course, sand ladder included, the day before an Olympic tri or do a half-marathon the day after a 70-mile ride.)

This week was a transitional one — I didn’t need Wildflower recovery, per se, but considering that I trained straight through Napa, I was probably due for a cutback week. So I took the start of the week easy — then met my training group on Saturday for our first ride and run, got my next 10 days’ marching orders, and started quaking a little in my Ravennas. But only a little. Mostly, I just feel ready.

Bringing back the weekly recaps, Vineman edition …

Monday: Rest after a late return home from Wildflower.

Tuesday: 1920 yards of swimming, including a ladder of 500-400-300-200-100 trying to get faster per 100 yards in each set.

Wednesday: Took a week off from track and ran easy around Stow Lake in the morning with a podcast in my ears. I wanted to do two loops but left late after cleaning up some various messes my cats made and ended up with just about 3.3 miles.

Thursday: First, 10 bike miles including 3 El Camino Del Mar repeats. Then, a quick shower and another 5.5 miles to work for my first Bike to Work Day. Later, 6.5 miles home, including a stop in the middle for a meeting. I thought I’d missed the “Energizer Stations” after the first mapped location I passed had no sign of one — if you know me, you know I’d have been pissed to miss free stuff — but there was another one a bit farther down the road, and I scored a wonderful, tiny San Francisco bike map and some other goodies.

Friday: Rest. I think I planned to aquajog, but it didn’t happen, and that’s OK.

Saturday: First group ride of summer training: 28-ish miles, including 1900+ feet of climbing via Chapman Road repeats and Paradise Loop. The day got off to an unpleasant start about a mile into the ride, when we realized a brake pad had popped off my friend’s bike and was nowhere to be found. While the rest of the group headed down into Mill Valley post-hill-repeats, she and I gingerly picked our way back to my car. She did a long run while I rode Paradise the other way and found the group in Tiburon, just a few minutes ahead of me. Hooray for still being in TAG Captain troubheshooting mode! Chased the ride with a 20-minute run on the bike path. I had a few low moments on the ride — I tire of Paradise really quickly (har har) — but I reminded myself to keep eating and drinking, and I eventually snapped out of it. I think my favorite moment in all of Northern California cycling is when Paradise turns from a potholed, rutted shitshow into a nicely paved, perfect road.

Sunday: Met up with some Golden Gate Tri Club folks for an early Aquatic Park swim and felt good in the bay for the first time all year. Turns out, it’s lovely not to be fighting a surging tide! Garmin recorded just under a mile in 34 minutes. Drove home to grab a parking spot before the weekend park surge hit (and so I could run in dry clothes for once), then ran 8 miles through the park before the fog cleared. That’s my first time over 6.5 miles since February, and it was clear — but not as rough as I expected it to feel. I’ve decided to go back to running without music/podcasts until Vineman’s over, and I believe this was my longest run without music or friends ever.

Zero Week in a Nutshell:

  • swimming: 3640 yards
  • cycling: 50 miles
  • running: 13.6 miles
  • strength-training: nope
  • yoga: nope
  • most proud of: bumping up my long-run distance
  • need to focus on: getting back to yoga
  • can’t wait for: a 40+-mile ride next Sunday
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