Monday, May 30, 2011

Interested in Time Trialin'?

By: Rural Girl

I was asked to write a post on my recent time trials. I then asked myself how absolutely boring and mind-numbing could that be?! INSTEAD... as elementary as it may seem to some, I thought I'd write about the 'what's, how's and why's' of time trialing. Who knows, maybe I'll even convince a few of you to try it out for yourself!

For those new to cycling or triathlon, an organized time trial is a type of cycling race. Multiple riders are set loose, either in pairs or singly, and at varying time increments, such as every 15-30 seconds. A pre-set course is followed. All time trials are not of the same distance and terrain. The ones I have done are between 16 and 25 miles with substantial amounts of climbing versus slight rollers.

The rider basically goes as hard as he or she can for the duration of the ride. It's really very simple; no drafting, no pace line, none of that stuff that mucks us non-roadies up! I also think that is part of time trialing's charm. It does bring together triathletes and pure cyclists, bridging the gap between us. We're definitely more alike than different!

What I love the most about time trialing is that at most events any bike will do. If it's got wheels and moves under human power, it's a GO. However like at most events, where there are highly zealous, Type A-er's, the bling can be astounding! Zipp wheels and Powertaps are everywhere! Not too many Huffy's or 10" wide gel-foam saddles with springs underneath. But I love seeing them. You can tell a lot by a man and his bike.

Strategy is really quite minimal. If you're so inclined, it does pay to know the course. Usually they are not so long that a quick drive around the loop will not break the ever-growing gas bank! Where are the hills? What way is the wind blowing in relation to the course? How are the roads? Where are the corners? For me, less uncertainty is better. That way I can just put my head down and race. Having a decent warmup is KEY. I typically aim for a good 30 minute spin with several pick-ups thrown in to get the legs fired up. How this is accomplished is individual. I always bring my CycleOps trainer and set it up next to my van. The last major piece of strategy would seem simple and obvious but is probably the hardest to accomplish. Do Not Blow Up Over the First 15 Minutes! It's easy to do. Races are exciting. Goals are set high. Competition is there to be beaten. But the best piece of advice I have to give about time trialing is to hold back out of the gate. BUILD into the ride. Trust me, I've heard this countless times by my coaches and still mess it up! What I have realized though is that it's true. My better time trials have occurred when I've been conservative up front. This means I'm not spending the last 75% of the race trying to dig myself out of the lactate-filled hole I've dug for myself over the first 25%.

I must interrupt the flow of this for a moment and interject something. Ladies, if you've been reluctant to get into competitive cycling because it seems intimidating, this is the best way to get your toes wet. It's you against the clock. Not you against a pack of riders 2 feet next door with a feeling of impending doom with the ditch nearby. It's a great way to meet other women cyclists/triathletes, learn new things, and potentially get involved with a group or club. I cannot encourage women enough to get involved.

Back on track....What is a definite is that time trials are a great way to assess bike fitness. I like to do a few each spring because I get a feel for where I'm at on the bike. One would then ask, "well how do you know that?" Because hills, snow, sleet, hail, and wind all affect time and mph. Doing the same race the following year on the same course will most likely lead to a different result. But is it an improved result? It may be despite the fact that the overall time is slower. How do you know? Training with power. Power does not lie. Force times Distance divided by Time. All that matters is how hard your legs are cranking round the pedals. I will not go into a great big physics lesson or explanation as I am sure to fall short. I will time and time attest to the fact that training with power has got to be the best thing I do to improve my bike fitness. I admit, I'm a power junkie!

The bottom line is that time trials can be nasty. A lot like going for it in a 10K. However, just like everything else in this world, you get out of it what you put into it. That's one of my mantras. Burning pain in the quads. Snot running out of your nose. Exploding lungs. What's not to love?! As my coach would say, if you don't feel like your ready to puke at the end, you didn't go hard enough! Hmmmm. I've never done THAT. But, I just keep telling her that I have a very STRONG stomach. Ha! Whether you choose to aim for that goal or not, I do encourage everyone to look at time trials as a way to get more involved in the cycling community, assess bike fitness, and build bike fitness.

Let's go race!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Training Update with JP

My third year as a member of team Evotri has really been an exciting one so far…

On paper, it was definitely slated to be a good one with my wedding in late June, honeymoon to Scotland, and the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  None of those have happened yet and it has already been incredible. The cool thing is that the best is yet to come.
Caitlin and JP
As most of you know, I am living in California right now.  This place is incredibly beautiful.  The roads are perfectly smooth and the climbing is second to none.  The 500 mile trail system definitely helps for running and a pool across from my work makes things super easy.  I am really starting to find my groove here and my fitness is starting to develop.

The year started with the hiring of a coach.  I wanted someone who was local and knew what it took to get to an elite level in the sport.  Jill Savege, Canadian Olympian and Ironman Kona Top ten finisher, has been amazing.  She is flexible and knows how to maximize the time I have in order to continuously improve.  Under her, my swimming has become more consistent and my stroke has become more balanced and powerful.  We’ve started actually doing intense workouts and it is paying off big time. I am better across all disciplines which feels really good, but still loads of work to do.

My cycling has really come back to me as a huge strength.  I even bested Jordan Rapp, Multiple Ironman Champ (and husband of my coach,) in a 20k TT!!! To be fair he was absolutely smashed from several huge weeks of training so it wasn’t exactly legit.  Nevertheless, it was so exciting for me to even be racing with him -- let alone beat him!  I was over the moon as he is one of my heroes in the sport.  I went through some really dark spots cycling where it was a weakness and I questioned continuing in the sport.  If I didn’t have cycling, I didn’t have a weapon, so it is a huge relief to have it back in the arsenal again.  It also helped bring my confidence back.

Training with my CycleOps powertap, powerbeam pro trainer, and my Zipp 808 has made test workouts and races fast and fun.  I am really starting to delve into training with power.  My favorite workout is the 20 min TT.  Power has been an excellent tool for really pushing on hard intervals and it has taken my riding to a new level.

I attended a spring training camp put on by Solvang Triathlon Camps.  It was some of the most intensive training I have ever done and we accumulated 27 hours of intense training in 6 days.  I must say, it buried me. It took me a while to come out of that hole and absorb the work.
Dead after a particularly hard day at the Solvang Spring Fling Camp
I am officially out of the bucket and feeling incredibly sharp again.  Especially on the bike.  One of the coolest recent developments is that I have been riding with Terenzo Bozzone, multiple time world champion, for the last week and we have been hitting the hills hard.  We have had two 80-90 mile rides with 8-9000 ft of climbing in each one.  I am slowly learning what kind of work it takes for these guys to be at the top of the sport.  Man… it is nuts.

Stay tuned to all of JP's training and antics at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Risking It

Here's TriSaraTops Cleveland Marathon race report, where the lessons learned in 26.2 miles most times are not about running at all...

"So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's A Great Balancing Act."--Dr. Seuss, in Oh, the Places You'll Go! and me almost every night when I read this book basically by heart

"Yeah, you know, technically I'm not even really supposed to be here right now. So f-- it...might as well make the most of it."--Eminem, Cinderella Man, the first song to come on my iPod when I put the headphones on at Mile 14

I've had a little more time here to think about everything that happened on Sunday and why I am still so happy about it. I know it sounds strange. Conventional wisdom would say that one should not be happy unless things are a PR, right?

But occasionally, for me, racing isn't all about time. It is a lot of the time, but for me it's also about more than that. I mean, seriously. I'm not winning these things. If it was all about time for me, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.

Sometimes in our little circles, our little stories, our little heads, we forget how amazing it is that we can do these things to our bodies. That we choose to have this pain; that we choose this fight. That many of us do in a morning what most people do in a week. I know I forget that sometimes.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. And Self? You've done some great things. It's okay to relax every once in a while.

In the past ten years, I've done somewhere in the ballpark of 20-30 sprint and olympic distance triathlons, countless 5Ks and 10Ks, I don't know--6 half marathons?, 5 full marathons, 5 half-ironmans and 1 Ironman. And I haven't won any of them.

That's a lot of stuff to do, too.

Sometimes I forget that this in and of itself is a pretty big deal. And I chose to do all of it. ALL of it. I put myself through what it took to get to all of those start and finish lines by choice.

I say this, because the night before the race I found out someone I know who has two little children--one just a few months old, and a little boy just a few months younger than Jackson--was given 2-4 years to live. Cancer.

Two to four years to live.

It made my heart sink, and I thought what it must be like for her to have gotten this news this past week. For her husband to get this news. To know that she won't see her daughter's first day of kindergarten. Or her son's little league games. Or her 15th wedding anniversary.

Somehow, my little saga, my self-created struggle, seemed rather insignificant.

I had been mulling in my head my options all week. What if I played it safe? Ran with the 3:50 group--an 8:46 pace--which I was completely positive I could handle? Clock myself down a few more minutes and chip away at the PR a bit?

Or what if I just went for it--3:40, knowing that I didn't get in the miles I wanted to....knowing what that might mean later in the race? This spring has been, to put it mildly, pretty awful for me. To get in the miles that I did required a minor miracle. And I knew that my long runs were not as numerous as they had been in the past. That the marathon is a huge nasty gorilla who will either tolerate you being in its presence, or grab you by the hair and bash you against the wall, depending upon the day. You never quite know until you're in the middle of it.

I thought of her, of this news she just got this week. And that sealed it.

3:40 for sure. I choose this risk. I choose this pain. I choose to do this because it reminds me of how much joy I get when I push my body beyond the limits I set for myself.

I fully understood and accepted what the outcome would be. Either I would do it, puke, and collapse at the finish line, or I would try and absolutely blow up.

Either way, my sun would still come out tomorrow.

There's really not much else to say. I could go mile by mile, but you'd probably laugh out loud. It's actually kind of funny to see my mile splits. Just looking at my mile splits, you would deduce that no one has ever ran a more stupid marathon than that chick. And on paper, this was not a good race for me.

But I do believe that this, in fact, was a good race for me. It reminded me why I do this, and that I have, in fact, come so far from where I started.

In this race, one where the wheels started to fall off around mile 12 and were completely rolling behind me by mile 14, where my first half was right on pace and my second half was horribly painful and slow, I still ended with a 4:05.


As short as three years ago, I did not think I was capable of a 4:05. I have now reached the point where my horrible marathon--my worst-case-scenario marathon--is a 4:05.

That alone is kind of blowing me away right now.

I thought of quitting. As we ran through downtown all I could think of was why, why whywhywhy did I not sign up for the half? I am in fantastic half shape. I could have knocked this half out of the ballpark. But my right hamstring was already seizing up on me by about the half marathon point, and I knew then that it was not going to happen today.

Part of me wanted to stop.

I was ready to stop when I saw my family. They were going to be somewhere around mile 17. I was ready to just collapse in a heap when I got there and be done so that it didn't hurt any more.

But they were early. They caught me off guard. And I couldn't stop then. They gave me the encouragement to keep moving forward.

So move forward, I did. Slowly, painfully, but I vowed I would make it somehow to the end.

At mile 18, I stopped at the medical tent. At this point, I was stopping to stretch my hamstring about every half mile or so. Each time I would say in a hushed whisper, "come on, hammy...come on hammy, hang on..." But it didn't seem to be listening. The two guys in there gave me a few stretches to try so I did.

"Do you need any help? Are you sure you want to keep going?"

Yes. Yes, I am.

Miles 18-25 had pain in almost every step. I was so glad at least I threw my iPod in the race belt at the last second, so I tried to step with the beat. I just kept thinking about how pain is good, how I feel just fine!, to block out the pain in my hamstring and the one slowly developing in my right knee.

Somehow I can salvage this race. I can learn something here. I can show myself something here, wrapped up nicely in this disaster.

The last thing I wanted to do was to go to school the next day and tell my students I quit. The very thought made me tear up. I didn't want to say it to Jackson, either. And I really didn't want to let my teammates down. I felt like I already had a bit, as I know they were rooting for me and for most of them this stuff comes much easier than it does for me. I wanted to be the success story that they were hoping for.

Maybe I still could be.

The last two miles hurt so badly. I had already watched the 3:50 group come and go after making a desperate attempt to latch onto them. Then the 4:00 group came. I tried, but had nothing. But I reminded myself that I chose this pain. I knew this might happen. This was not mental, this was physiological. I knew I hadn't done what my body would need to do to run a 3:40. Many, many people can get by on a lot less than I can, but this confirmed that for me to do this time would require somewhere in the ballpark of 50-60 mile weeks, minimum. Multiple 20+ mile runs. No triathlons, because I wouldn't have time to do anything but run, breathe, teach, and raise two children. And even then, there's no telling what the gorilla might do. But that would be what it would take for me to have a shot at it.

And about mile 25 I made peace with that. I made peace with the fact that I cannot do that right now. No, actually that's not really right. I will not do that right now. This is my choice. I am happy with it.

And it was like a big weight was lifted off of me. The gorilla let go and stopped bashing me in a bit. I high fived all the kids I saw. I stopped and chatted with a former student at the last water station. I screamed like crazy at my two friends on the corner of East 9th and St. Clair.

The weather was just the same as Ironman Wisconsin. Almost exactly the same, down to the wind and rain and 53 degree temperatures. It didn't rain much the first 3 hours and just misted which was actually pretty nice, but that last hour it started to really come down, and I remembered that finish line that day in Madison.

In short, I remembered why I do this. Because of how fun it is, and how alive it makes me feel.

I ran down that finisher's chute, with a smile on my face and a hard-fought, well-earned 4:05 finish. And now I know. I know what I can do with the time I am willing to give. I know that setting realistic goals is probably the smart thing to do, but going hard or going home also makes a better story.

That reaching far too high is much better than not reaching at all.

I have absolutely no regrets about the way I raced this race. Don't let my splits and my 7:50 second mile tell you any differently. It was absolutely reckless. It was full of wonder. It was full of pain. It was something I am very happy not to even try again for possibly years. Because I can walk away from this and say, for the very first time, that I raced a marathon.

And that makes this story, in my book, a happy ending.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TriSaraTops to Rock Cleveland Marathon

TriSaratops is racing down her dream tomorrow at the Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon as she attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon. You can cheer her on virtually by following bib number 459 to get TXTs, emails, or Facebook updates.

If you've been following her blog, you know that she's primed and ready to go. It all gets underway at 7 AM EDT. We'll have updates after the race and get her thoughts on how it all goes down.

Go Sara, Go!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Crazylegs 2011

It's a two-fer! Michelle & Robby were able to run the Crazylegs Classic 8K in downtown Madison on April 30, 2011. Here are their race reports. First, Michelle:

I feel like a runner! Finally!

It's taken about 6 years, but I'm starting to get it and it's awesome!

The Crazylegs Classic was held 4/30/11 in Madison, WI. Little did I know, but this has been rated as one of the top 100 races by Runners World mag. The race is 8K and starts at the state capital building and ends at Camp Randall Stadium. This year was a record crowd with something like 12,500 runners. Wow! The proceeds benefit the University of Wisconsin Badger athletics. And it was my initiation into what I hope to repeat many times over.

I had a fabulous time at this race. Why? I think there were a lot of reasons. First of all the sheer number of runners is inspiring. I mean, really, 12,500 runners? That's a little less than 3 times the population of my hometown. When you're used to running alone, having that much company is really motivating. There are wave starts at this race. When I registered, I put down an estimated time of 37 minutes. This put me in wave F. I really hoped to run faster than that, but one thing that is not good for my psyche is getting myself in over my head. Plus, without a previous Crazylegs time, the fastest wave a person could seed themselves in was 35 minutes. Waves help to keep people in line. Less falling all over each other. Granted I was doing my share of dodging to get around people. But to me, that's fun. Another big reason this race is what it is is that it's held in Madison. College town extraordinaire. The vibe in Madison is spectacular. Energy. Progressiveness. Excitement. This is probably why I love IMWI so much. Lastly, I was running with my friend, Rob. How can a person not like stepping up to the start line with a friend? It's just the best way to kick off a race.

We had prerode the course, so when the gun goes off I'm telling myself to hold back a bit. Not too much. But, don't blow up in the first mile. There is one hill on the first mile and then a nice gradual downhill stretch run through a section of college housing. I love college kids; so cute, young, and living in the moment. I was one once and sometimes still think I am! I played this right because the second mile has a huge uphill through campus that bites ass. By not killing myself on the first mile, I was strong and steady on the second mile and uphill. A huge confidence booster. The rest of the course was fairly flat with some gradual incline. The 20 mph wind was a factor over about the last 1-2 miles. But, thankfully, the end is near and I can pretty much talk myself into anything at that point. I knew my goal pace and would check my Garmin occasionally to make sure I was on track. Before every race I try to think of something that will be motivational for me to play back in my mind when things hurt. Well, the name of the race made this one easy. I tend to be a third person talker. "You've got 'crazy legs', Michelle. They're fast and they're strong. You love this." And I did. I cannot remember every feeling so in love with running as I did on this day. It hurt like a mother, but I felt like I was flying. Oh, how I wish I could bottle that feeling and sell it! Crack, cocaine, heroine, all that crap would be obsolete.I was hoping to crack 35 minutes. That was the GOAL. A quick check of my watch on the final corner into the stadium told me it was going to be close. I sprinted it in over the last 50 yds. The weekend before I missed breaking the 21 minute mark in a 5K and I didn't want a repeat experience. Yah, I squeaked it in at 34:54. I wanted to crack the top 5 in my age group and previous years' results told me that breaking 35 would make that a definite possibility. Not this year. I was 6th out of 568 women. 5th place beat me by 12 seconds. I don't think on that day I had 12 seconds anywhere to spare. I ended up 51st out of 6034 women total. I'm good with that.

You know, I've read all the stuff that talks about performance decline as we age. One source I read said 0.5-1% per year between the ages of 35-50 and the rate increases in the years after that. Well, sometimes hearing that really bothers me. By the sound of it, I should be damn near walking in the next few years! Granted, this info seems to pertain to those who have been runners, etc. for years and have prior times from those peak years to compare to. I'm 41. I don't want to slow down! I could accept it if it was something I CHOSE. But, I think that's the point. I'm not CHOOSING to slow down. I'm so thrilled that I keep making gains. Granted, the gains are smaller now than when I first started but they are nonetheless still gains. Yes, yes, physiology does not lie. I realize that and do not argue that. But, I think sometimes psychology does. And it's the head that often wins. We all know it's our mindset that really matters. If my head tells me I can, then I will. That's what keeps ME going.

[And now, Robby's report, from a decidedly different point of view.]

On the Monday before race, I had just gotten back from a long weekend in Florida with family when I realized that I was most likely going to get my booty kicked this weekend. Not only by Michelle, but the course as well.

I've actually lost track of how many times I've done this race. I've done it in high spirits in great shape. And I've done it after consuming many spirits in hurtin' shape. That year, I was lucky there was the Farmer's market going on at the same time to provide some pre-race energy (nutrition?) in the form of an elephant ear. But every year, the course never forgives you for not being prepared. And this year, I was not prepared.

Michelle came into town the night before and we reviewed the course. Most of it is shared with the Ironman Wisconsin course, just that you go UP the curvy section Observatory Drive instead of down. She didn't seem phased at all as my car dropped a gear to get up the incline. I gulped.

The next morning, we're warming up and sharing strategies while completing four strides and twenty minutes overall. Michelle's just chatting away and I'm gassed. She wants to run to the clothes drop, then run to the bathroom and then back to the start line. I'm thinking that I don't want to waste any more running - I'm going to need it for the race. Amongst all that, I eat a gel and chuckle at the thought of the elephant year. Times have changed.

We find our wave, and before I now it, we're off. At the first mile, we're pretty far ahead of pace and I don't feel so bad. Then we hit Observatory Drive. We get to the top and I can start to feel my lazy training this spring in the pain coming from my legs. Down a little to Charter Street then back up in front of the overlook of Lake Mendota. That's when I realize that Michelle is in front of me by twenty feet. I yell, "It's all you Michelle!" and she flashes a thumbs up. I think flames are now shooting out of her shoes, or maybe they're wings. I couldn't tell. I was cross-eyed.

Back down the hill and on to the flat out to Picnic Point. My pace has slowed because I was distracted thinking that Michelle and I didn't pick a place to meet after the race. Did I use that as motivation to run faster, catch up to her and finish together? Of course not. I get caught up thinking that it's going to be tough to find her in the crowd of 20,000 runners and walkers in Camp Randall Stadium. I waste several minutes thinking of how best to find her when I realize I'm at Picnic Point and ready to turn around.

And then, smack! Thirty mile per hour gusts in your face. Talk about soul sapping. My fragile mind couldn't handle it and I actually walked through the water station for a five-mile race. Ouch. But, I get my mind back into it and finish it out, attaching a "rubber band" to people in front of me and not letting it break. I make my way back to Camp Randall into the wind and finish strongly for a 37:21. Not a PR, but not too bad, either.

And Michelle was standing right there, plain as day.