Chasing Unicorns

This is a blog post that should come as no surprise to anyone, but is still hard for me to write. After several years of blogging at Running On Waffles, it is time to say good-bye.

When I started this blog, I was a third year graduate student. I was in the middle of trying to overcome the first of many back injuries while also tackling my first marathon. 2011 was a tough year for me mentally, and this blog provided me with an outlet and a way to cope with everything I was experiencing.

Since then I’ve run 4 marathons, become a duathlete and triathlete, qualified for and competed at the Duathlon World Championships, and ran my first relay race. I finished my PhD, moved across the country, and am now a third year postdoctoral fellow. I married my best friend, got a sassy little puppy, and have created a family of three that makes me laugh to the point of crying every day. I have been given opportunities I never imagined, serving as an ambassador for a number of races and brands I truly love and believe in, and have met some of the most amazing and inspiring women and runners. Writing this blog, sharing that journey with all of you, has helped me roll with the punches and smile even brighter during the successes. And it made the transition from DC to Bay Area much less painful.

But the truth is, as I progress in my career I have less and less free time, and I want to spend it with my family. Trying to become a successful scientist means I work somewhere between 60-80 hours a week on average. Training for my first Ironman 70.3 this summer will monopolize a lot of my remaining time. And this fall I’ll be going on the job market, hopefully getting to start my own research lab in a little over a year, which means I have a lot of work to do if I’m going to be an attractive candidate.

I rarely use Twitter anymore, and I’ll be taking down my Facebook group soon. If you’re a long time reader and want to continue following along on my journey, I’d recommend following me on Instagram. Or send me an email. Over the course of the next 6 months or so I will slowly be taking down the blog. So if one of my recipes is a favorite of yours, save it now!

Saying good-bye to this blog is hard. It has been a part of my life through a lot of ups and downs. My readers became my friends, and in some cases even my family. I shared so many life changes and received so much support from this community throughout it all. Thank you for allowing me to share my life with all of you, and for coming along on the journey with me.

I will still be chasing my unicorns – qualifying for the Boston Marathon, completing an Ironman 70.3 and Ironman 140.6, landing a faculty position and having a successful career in science – and I hope that as I pursue my unicorns, you all continue to chase yours, too.

Vineman Monte Rio Olympic Triathlon 2015

Hello all! Despite my hopes at writing a bit more consistently, life has had different plans and has been keeping me on my toes in some of the best ways possible. Perhaps inspired by volunteering at Vineman 70.3 and Vineman 140.6 the last two weekends (where I met my favorite triathlete!), I wanted to carve out a little time to write about my first Olympic distance triathlon at the end of May.

with Mirinda Carfrae

Before getting into the race, though, I do have some really exciting news to share! A new race was unexpectedly added to my schedule recently, and it’s one I’m beyond thrilled to race in. My performance in duathlon last year earned me enough points to claim a spot on Team USA at the Duathlon World Championships in October as an age group athlete! I will be heading to Adelaide, Australia, in about 2.5 months to race for the red, white, and blue. This is certainly an opportunity I never expected, especially after my first year racing duathlons, and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from the experience.

Ok, so back to Vineman Monte Rio!

Monte Rio, CA

We drove up to Monte Rio the Saturday before the race, getting there right as transition was opening. We checked in, got our packets, and racked our bikes. The entire transition experience at Vineman made me truly appreciate how amazing the transition set up was at HITS. No one was overseeing the number of bikes on each rack and they were crowded together in a terrible jumble. I actually ended up moving my bike to be farther away from the end of the rack just so I could get a bit more space. We also realized we forgot our bike pump as soon as we got on the road, but traffic was so bad getting out of the East Bay that we weren’t turning around. Our friend, Danielle, was also racing, so we borrowed hers, instead. Unfortunately, the valve on my front tube is crazy weird and we couldn’t get the pump to connect well. Since I’ve been meaning to change that tube for a while now, anyway, because it’s so frustrating to deal with, I got an education in changing a tube (though, to be fair, my tires are so tight I couldn’t get it back on without Matt’s help). I was nervous about making the change before the race and not testing it out, but it was perfect on race day. Words of advice: do any major bike maintenance before your last training ride! Additional words of advice: wear sunscreen when prepping your transition spot! It may seem like you aren’t out in the sun for very long, but I fried in that time.

After checking in at the room we found on AirBnB (seriously, the best way we’ve been able to find lodging for races in Sonoma County), we headed to Santa Rosa for dinner with Danielle. We fell in love with Lococo’s before the Water to Wine Half Marathon last year and it was the perfect place to fuel before the race. What that really meant was an opportunity to talk all things multi-sport with Danielle…something that is becoming a new favorite pastime for myself :).

We were staying in Sebastopol, which was about a 25 min drive to Monte Rio, and we had the VIP parking, which meant we didn’t have to take the shuttles and we could park right next to the swim start. (It also gives us early registration for Vineman 70.3 next year, so if you’re considering this, I highly recommend taking advantage of it!) So we decided to get up at 5 and leave at 5:30. An unfortunate confusion involving salt, not sugar, in the coffee set us back a few minutes, but we made it to the parking lot around 6:10. Between getting our transition spots set up and visiting the portapotties a few times, we were rushing to get our wetsuits on and get into the water for the swim start. The start was actually about 150 meters upstream from the entrance to the river, and we were about 1/3 of the way there when I realized Matt had 1 min. He took off but didn’t make it to the start line in time and ended up with a bit of a late start. Oops! I made it to the start line with a few minutes to spare and spent some time getting my face in the water, adjusting my goggles, and trying to take deep breaths. The water was really warm (I think high 60s), so I wasn’t worried about not being able to breathe because it was too cold, which was great!

Vineman Monte Rio swim start

I had just enough time to get myself feeling settled and ready before my wave started…and no crying this time! I focused on finding a good line to take with everyone around me, trying to dodge body parts while still making forward progress. It took a couple hundred meters before I really felt like people were spread out enough to hit a solid groove, but I never felt overwhelmed or scared. A few times throughout the swim I had to do a bit of backstroke just to catch my breath better or clear my throat (I wish I had taken a drink of water before starting the race) but I spent the vast majority of the race doing forward crawl. That was a HUGE victory for me since a lot of times I feel too overwhelmed in open water to do much forward crawl. I kept telling myself to lengthen my stroke and really reach every time I extended an arm forward, and I was doing great! There were some built in breaks where the water was too shallow to swim. A couple of sand bars left us either dolphin diving or walking along the way, which wasn’t great. But that’s kind of what’s been happening at triathlons in California given the drought conditions. The worst part of the entire swim was just dealing with the rocks on the bottom of the river. My feet were not exactly loving that. But I came out of the water feeling crazy strong. And as soon as I hit the beach, I was running the long trip up to transition. Total swim time: 36:10.

coming out of water at monte rio

My new wetsuit slips off so easily and I had my area set up really well so I was able to change and get off on my bike in 4:18! And that included decent runs in from the water and out to the bike course.

Once I was on my bike, I settled in to a hard pace and focused on maintaining that cadence. It helped that I knew the course from going up to ride it about a month before the race for a training ride. I felt like I was doing a really strong ride for me, but I did also wish that my cycling skills were stronger. I was passed by a lot of strong riders and I did my best not to let it bum me out. I kept telling myself to race my own race, and that helped. Going forward I want to focus more on my cycling, but it was nothing I could change in the moment. I really handled the bike well and felt comfortable on it the entire time. My riding has really come a long way.

During the race, I focused on spending the first half of the ride taking in fluids. I wanted to let everything calm down before eating, so I waited until I hit 20K before I pulled out a fig bar. I was dumb and forgot to open the wrappers while setting up my transition, even though I’d thought about it the night before. I got the first one open without a problem and managed to eat without losing too much speed, but that would bite me in the butt later on in the race.

bike at vineman monte rio

After turning onto US 1 to head up to Jenner, I knew I was getting close to the turn around and I figured I’d get to see Matt soon. I expected he’d have his red jacket on since it was a cool morning and he usually gets cold easily, but I was shocked to come across him without a jacket…it caught me so off guard I was too busy picking a blueberry seed out of my tooth to get out any words of encouragement. Once we hit Jenner, there was a small hill before turning around and heading back to Monte Rio. I had a game plan of getting to 20 miles, eating my other fig bars, and then getting into a good position with the riders around me since there was a no pass zone for the final mile. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the wrapper open and gave up on it. I focused instead on ignoring the crazy pain from being on the bike so long and worked on getting into a good place for the final mile. I was leap frogging with a group of riders as we approached that point, and of course I managed to end up at the back of the pack. A little frustrating. The good thing about the pack was that they kept me pushing on the final section of the bike course, instead of letting me fade. Total bike time: 1:24:53.

bike at vineman monte rio

I came into T2 and dashed to my spot to rack my bike. After a quick shoe change and dropping my jacket, I was out with a mouth-full of Swedish fish and a Gatorade. T2 time: 1:55.

And then the run. I think the cruel part about being good at the last discipline is that you’re exhausted by the time you get there. I was really struggling by the time I got off my bike and it took every ounce of mental strength to keep myself running. I tried to settle into a comfortable pace as we took off along the Russian River, but I wasn’t really sure what that was.

My body felt like it was running 10 min miles but when I checked my watch at the 2 mile mark I realized I was running 8:30s! I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that pace for the entire 10K, but I thought I’d hold on as long as I could and allow myself to back off whenever necessary. Interestingly, I felt like I was running at the same effort throughout the entire run but at some point my pace dropped to a 9:15. I think there were a lot of false flats, though; I noticed on the way back in that I was doing a little climbing, which meant I’d had a slight downhill on the way out. That could certainly explain the pacing. My legs were begging me to stop and walk the entire time. I was getting passed by so many people, which was more frustrating before I realized I was actually running a really strong pace for myself. I recognized, though, that starting to run again would be even harder so I just willed myself to hold on.

run during monte rio

Shortly before the turn around, I saw Danielle, who had also passed Matt, and then Matt. Getting a high five from both of them helped a lot. I continued grabbing water to dump on myself and Gatorade to drink at every aid station, but when I came through the last one I was coming in just behind a large pack and could only get water…they hadn’t restocked enough to get Gatorade, too. I was really parched and craving the sugar and electrolytes at that point, but I just dug deep and forced myself to hold strong until the finish line. I had 1 mile to go and I knew I would be ok.

The course ran along the opposite side of the Russian River as the transition/finish line area, so with about .6 to go, you could start to hear the announcer calling names as athletes were crossing the finish line. I listened hard for Matt’s name while also willing my legs to find any last push they could possibly muster. And then I heard it…he had finished. I memorized the time on my watch and knew I had exactly 5 minutes to reach the finish line if I wanted to tie with him. I came around the final corner and started across the bridge, trying to find pep in my muscles that had left me long before. As I made the turn off the bridge to do the loop around the transition set up, I saw Matt and Danielle cheering for me. I was so close.

run at monte rio

Ahead of me I saw a man in a brightly colored kit and I heard Matt whispering to me, as he often does on a road race, that the man really wanted to be chicked. I wasn’t sure that I had enough real estate to make it happen, but I remembered there was a short hill just on the other side of the transition area to get up to the finish line. And as much as I hate hills, I also know that they’re my secret weapon in a race. I flew passed him up the hill, leaving him behind as I raced across the finish line.

run at monte rio

finish line at monte rio

I stopped my watch and was greeted with sweaty hugs from Danielle and Matt. When I finally took a look at my watch my jaw dropped: 3:01 and change!!!! Matt asked me 3:01 what? So I double checked…3:01:06. He was mad…I’d once again beat him, only by 6 seconds this time. That feeling was pretty awesome. Final run time: 53:52.

I’m really proud of how I raced at Monte Rio. On the swim, I made huge strides forward with my confidence and endurance. I swam almost the entire distance in forward crawl, and my speed jumped a lot. On the bike, I held strong and felt really confident with my handling. I want to make some big improvements here in the coming months, but I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made in the past year. On the run, I didn’t give up. I was exhausted and my body was feeling a level of deadness that it has never experienced before. But I still held on to an 8:42 overall pace, which is fantastic. Plus I did really well on my transition times. If this is where I’m starting out with Olympic tri’s, I think that’s pretty outstanding. What I love most about multi-sport is the number of ways in which you can improve, and knowing that those improvements will eventually add up to make huge gains in the sport helps motivate the training.

Overall, I loved this race. The course is beautiful (how can you beat racing in the redwoods and along the Pacific coast?), the organization was on the better end of what I have experienced, and the competition is fierce. There were some incredibly strong athletes out on the course with us (always inspiring), including our friend Danielle, who took home 3rd place in her age group!

danielle takes 3rd

Maybe I can eventually learn how to be as fast as her??

vineman monte rio finishers

Time: 3:01:06
Overall: 356/609
Females: 86/249
AG: 17/32

HITS Napa Valley 2015

With Vineman Monte Rio on the schedule for Sunday morning, it seems I should write my race report from last month’s triathlon in Napa Valley before taking off for Sonoma County! There have been an incredible number of thoughts that have swarmed through my mind since that day, and I will truly do my best to distill it all down in a post that is 8 pages long :).

The HITS race series bills itself as being the triathlon for everyone, holding 5 distances over the course of 2 days in several locations throughout the country. And whether you’re a newcomer to the sport, like myself, or a veteran Ironman, the meticulous organization and well-run logistics of the races provides a great experience for racers at any level. Having run several poorly organized road races, I was thankful to have such a well-planned race as my first triathlon.

Going into race week, I of course had at least 1,000 questions. I bombarded Danielle over dinner at Homeroom. I texted my coach probably no less than 20 times during the week…even though we Skyped before the race to talk about everything triathlon-related I could think to ask. But more importantly, two weeks before the race I had attempted my first open water swim in the Bay (Odyssey offers supervised open water swims in the Berkeley Marina every Sunday morning) and had a major freak out. I was terrified. I got through the swim but I was so overwhelmed and convinced I was going to drown in Lake Barryessa. A poor swim in the pool a few days later left me 100% positive I needed to withdraw from the race. I felt like I was such a poor swimmer there was no way I could actually cover the 750 meters. And so I decided to withdraw. I told my family, I told my coworkers, I posted it on Facebook. I couldn’t handle the pressure and fear and I just wanted to throw in the towel. And then my coach stepped in. She asked me to go back to the Bay and do another open water swim the week before the race. And I actually had a blast. It was a frigid day and we were getting a little bit of rain, but I had an amazing swim. And so she asked me to do just the swim portion of the race. From there I could decide what to do. But she knows me well enough to know that if I walked away from the race and let my fear of the open water swim consume me, I would never attempt another triathlon. And so, while everyone else assumed I had decided not to race, I spent the week leading up to HITS bombarding Coach T and Danielle with every triathlon-related question I could think of.

Danielle was racing the half distance on Saturday (check out her race recap here), as was our Ragnar teammate Rich (aka Iron Ballz), and Matt and I were both anxious to check out the race site and pick up our packets in the daylight. (It’s important to note that HITS assigns transition spots, so we didn’t need to worry about getting to the race early to claim a good one but I did want to have a sense of the layout.) The biggest downfall of HITS Napa Valley is how far away it is from any hotels. And because neither of us were willing to spend at least $70 just to be 20 min closer, we drove the 1.5 hours from Oakland to Lake Barryessa on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately we timed our arrival just before Danielle crossed the finish line, and we were able to catch her finish! While we waited for Rich, Matt and I did a little recon on how transition was laid out and spent some time checking out the lake and the swim route. More than anything, getting to feel the water and to visualize coming in and out of transition was really key for me. I like to spend the night before a race really visualizing each aspect and that made a huge difference for me on race day.

Lake Barryessa

After watching Rich finish the race, we spent a little longer trying to figure out where our transition spots would be and grabbed our race packets before heading home. I whipped up some dinner while Matt pulled up videos on how to change a flat (complete with a little cheat sheet of instructions he included in the flat kit he’d outfitted my bike with that week). We packed – so much stuff for triathlon!! – and got to bed as early as possible.

tri packing

The 3 am alarm was an unwelcome sound to my ears, but we got up and got moving. We ate breakfast, loaded up the car, and started heading to Lake Barryessa. I was relieved to find Danielle quickly once we entered transition; she had decided to volunteer on Sunday and I can’t even tell you how incredibly grateful I was to see her throughout the race. She started out with body markings and came over to write our race numbers and help calm my nerves. It seemed like time FLEW by as we prepped our transition spots, got our wetsuits on, and prepared to make our way down to the water. Before I knew it I was passing Danielle, and as she was giving me a hug I completely lost it. I was scared and overwhelmed. I was excited and nervous. I was every emotion one could ever experience at the start of a triathlon all at the same time. To help me calm down, Danielle drew a smiley face on one of my feet and Dory on the other, reminding me to just keep swimming. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

HITS Napa Valley

Dory

Before I could really comprehend what was happening, we were next to the lake and Matt was lining up with his wave for the start of the race. I must have looked pretty freaked out because a race official standing near me asked if I was ok just before the race started. I was honestly nervous about getting through the race without Matt…we’ve raced 4 marathons and countless other races side by side, so it felt weird to not have him next to me at the start of the triathlon.

Lake Barryessa

And then, it was my turn. I got in the water…my heart was racing. As soon as the sent us off, I tried to swim freestyle, but I couldn’t calm my breathing well enough to avoid sucking in large amounts of lake water. I’d found that backstroke would allow me to make forward progress while catching my breath, so I flipped onto my back and began heading for the first buoy. Several times I’d try to start swimming freestyle again, but I never settled into it. I basically ended up swimming the entire 750 meters using backstroke, which isn’t as fast and impossible to site while doing. I only got off course once or twice, remarkably, and was elated when I could start to make out the crowd waiting for us on the beach. I specifically thought to myself that while backstroke wasn’t the way I had hoped to accomplish the swim, it give me something to work on for the next race. I focused on not letting that fact defeat me, and instead used it to fuel my push forward.

HITS Napa Valley

Coming out of the water I was ecstatic to see that I had finished the swim faster than I thought I would: 22:54. I was actually nervous that HITS was going to be strict about the time limits they posted online for the race and had even emailed them ahead of time to ask about it. In case you have the same question, they told me that I was free to take as much time as I needed, the cut off times were just a recommendation. My swim time had me in 289th place out of 440 competitors as I entered T1. With my swim being faster than I had anticipated and Matt having a bit of a struggle with his wetsuit and tri top in T1, I was able to snag a quick kiss from him as he was heading out on his bike/I was coming in to change and grab mine. It was a big boost!

I tried to change as quickly as possible (getting a wetsuit off is crazy hard especially with tired arms) and did my best to get out of T1 in a respectable time. I ended up taking 5:19, which I think I can do a lot to improve on.

Coming out of T1, I grabbed my bike and headed for Bike Out where Danielle caught my attention just as I was crossing the mount line. Seeing her in that moment helped me regroup and think about what I’d just accomplished. She gave me a big smile and cheer, and somehow I knew the rest of the race was going to be amazing. I can’t really explain it but it was almost like I could leave the fear of the swim behind and just race like hell for the finish line.

And once I was on my bike, that’s exactly what I did. Once I hit the main road, I gave a strong, steady effort on the uphills and maintained a stronger effort on the flats, picking up as much speed as possible through the downhill sections. The course was actually hillier than I noticed the day before, and some of that could have come from the poor road conditions (there were a few potholes that needed to be dodged and some uneven terrain in places). I aimed at finding the safest but straightest line throughout the course and urged myself forward the entire time. Shortly before the turn around I caught sight of Matt on his way back in, which was really fun. He looked so strong, which gave me an additional boost. (It helped that he’d left me a little note on my handle bars, which I kept looking down at throughout the bike.)

HITS Napa Valley

A little way after the turn, I was passed by the only two women on the course that managed to pass me and stay ahead of me on the bike (it’s worth noting that no men accomplished this feat). Considering they were wearing sponsored kits, I felt like that was ok. The rest of the ride, I focused on each person ahead of me and tried to reel them in one by one. I couldn’t even tell you the number of people I passed, but considering I jumped about 100 places when comparing swim time to bike time, I think it’s safe to say it was a lot. On my way into T2, I rode past Matt heading out for the run, and gave him a little cheer. Even though we couldn’t race together, it was amazing to see him on the course several times. And as I hit the dismount line, I was excited to hit a bike time of 45:35 (on a challenging course), moving up to 159th place for the bike.

Once in T2, I racked my bike, stripped down to my singlet, switched shoes, grabbed the rest of my stuff and headed for run out. Unfortunately that meant dodging athletes heading out on their bikes in the opposite direction, as well as coming in from the swim (swim in was next to run out). Chaos!! My T2 time ended up being 2:07. I’m hoping that now that I switched to the stretchy shoe laces I can shed a few seconds off of that!

I made it out onto the run and was immediately frustrated: the route to get out onto the main roadway was narrow and we were sharing parts of it with runners coming in to the finish line. We were also next to the bike in/bike out route, and there were spectators crowding the road. I kept getting stuck behind slower runners, and I’d have to ease up on the pace for a bit before there was room to pass. Which was especially annoying because so many people come out of T2 going so slowly!!!

Once I was on the main road, though, I had the space I needed to get around other runners and my intense desire to outrun everyone in front of me kicked in. I was trying to be smart because most of the first half of the route was uphill, but I was certainly struggling to not get swept up in the excitement of the race and my happiness for reaching my best discipline. I ran the first mile at an 8:30 or so pace and told myself I could ease up if need be; I was working hard and my legs were pretty dead after pushing so much on the bike. At that point I told myself it was just half a mile to the turnaround and I’d probably get to see Matt at some point soon. I was starting to struggle a bit and thought about taking a short walk break; the hills were no joke at that point, and I was approaching the largest climb. I thought to myself that I couldn’t let Matt see me walking and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him, so I had to keep running. Shortly after that I passed him on his way in and we exchanged a high five as we passed each other. I needed that boost, too, because I was starting to climb the hardest hill and it totally felt like the Hill of Truth back in DC, even though I don’t think it was quite as steep. Somehow, before I knew it, we were turning!

HITS Napa Valley

I’ve always taken pride in my ability to hold strong on hills and to pass runners on a climb. Maybe it comes from figure skating and using my quads to jump, but as much as I might complain about running hills, I seem to be pretty good at it. So as we turned to the downhill, I made it my mission to not lose the advantage I’d had and to use the hills to pick up more speed. I didn’t see a marker for mile 2, so I had no clue how fast I was running, but I continued to pick off runners…only getting passed by 4 people (so a total of 6 once I was out of the water). At the last bridge, where we had a stunning view of Lake Barryessa, I turned my head to glimpse the view on my way in and seriously almost started laughing because I couldn’t believe how stunning it was. I could not have picked a more beautiful place to do my first triathlon!

And then out of no where, there was the parking lot where we’d parked, and there was the turn off of the main road, and after cresting a small hill: there was the finish line. I started to fight back the tears and flew with every bit of kick I could muster. Cruelly, I came up the final hill and raced across the finish line. Matt was standing there waiting for me with a big, sweaty hug and his first words were, “I think you beat me.” Which turned out to be true! My run time was a new 5K PR at 24:27, putting me at 111th for the run time. Overall, I came in 1:40:23, well ahead of my 2 hour goal, finishing 189th out of 440, and 21st out of 60 in my AG. Not too bad for my first race!

HITS Napa Valley

HITS Napa Valley

I can’t describe the emotions that raced through my mind in the moments after I crossed the finish line. Relief, pure joy, a strong sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t the swim I’d hoped for, but I had outraced my expectations all around. I was ecstatic to share the moment with Matt and to race over to Danielle and celebrate with her (even though she was busy guiding racers in and out of transition). It was a reminder of what my very first road race felt like…and a reminder that I’m pushing myself down the path to a much bigger goal. Sending the text to Coach T that I had exceeded my own expectations for myself and telling my mom about the challenge I had just overcome was the epitome of the term sweet victory. Getting myself to the start line at Lake Barryessa was by far the hardest part of the triathlon. And believing in myself enough to trust I could make it to the finish line was scary. But I let go of those fears somewhere in the middle of the lake and began savoring the experience.

HITS Napa Valley

I almost wish someone had kicked me in the butt and pushed me to start chasing my triathlon goals before this year. But I have to say thank you to everyone who encouraged me to make the transition and to once again discover that the mental limits I set for myself are nowhere near the physical limits my body is capable of achieving.

Monday Miles: April 27 – May 10

Wow. That’s about all I can say for the last 2 weeks. Things have been pretty crazy around here, but with a vacation coming up and a trip to Boston on the horizon, I’m looking forward to a chance to relax for a few days :). Of course, there’s a triathlon on my calendar in less than 3 weeks, so the training forges on!

Monday: After a crazy brick workout up in Monte Rio, I headed out for an easy run along The Embarcadero for 60 min. My legs were dead and I was moving rather slowly, covering 5.81 miles. I also managed a bike commute for another 6.9 miles for the day.

Tuesday: The toughest pool swim I’ve tackled yet! The workout was 200 yard warm up followed by a descending ladder of 400, 300, 200, and 100 yards with a 15 second rest in between, followed by a 100 yard cool down. Prior to this workout, I had only managed to swim 200 yards uninterrupted. And getting beyond that was a HUGE mental battle for me. I had tried and failed several times. But this time I managed to truly find my groove in the pool and really settled into the forward crawl. I somehow dominated this workout, which put me on cloud nine, and covered all 1300 yards in 30:50.

Wednesday: The day started with 60 min of strength and stretching (which left me sore for the rest of the week and into the weekend). I also did another 60 min on the bike after work with 10 x 1 min one leg drills, 10 x 2 min spin ups, and 5 min in Z3. I was pretty beat up after that ride.

Thursday: I kicked off the morning with a track workout. After 1 mile of warm up, I did 20 min of fartleks as 3 min on, 2 min off, and 1 mile of cool down. I was pushing it, too. I came close to losing my breakfast on the final fartlek! I ended up covering 4.27 miles in 40:59. I also did 30 min of stretching at home and 5.9 miles of bike commuting.

Friday: A glorious, glorious rest day.

Saturday: The longest bike ride of my life, thus far! Matt and I headed out to Livermore to get in a 35 mile bike ride! We rode through some of the vineyards to Pleasanton, down to Sunol, and out to the Sunol Regional Wilderness Preserve and back. It was a tough ride, but a major confidence booster! We covered the distance in 2:28:40. After dropping our bikes off in the car, we then headed out on foot for a little shake out run. We covered 1.64 miles in 16:41…in some VERY hot sun.

Sunday: We had a 5 mile speed workout on the calendar for the day. But after a challenging week and a long morning getting work done in the lab, neither of us were up for the run and we decided to take an extra rest day. Some days that’s really what your body needs.

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: Started off the week with a swim workout. I hit the pool for a 100 yard warm up followed by 4 x 200 with 20 second rest and 4 x 25 with 10 second rest. The workout was wrapped up with a 100 cool down. It wasn’t my best performance in terms of how natural my stroke felt, but I’m feeling really good about consistently being able to swim 200 yards. And that’s still pretty major for me, considering how much I struggled with that distance. In total I covered 1100 yards in 25:41. I also squeezed in 6.9 miles of commuting to round out the day.

Wednesday: Unexpected rest day as I had 24 hours notice to prepare a lecture for some of the residents Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday: I started with a 3.45 mile commute to work and ended up having to have Matt pick me up from work later in the day. I went out for a 6 mile run with some speed work thrown in, but 2 miles in I knew my back wasn’t up to the challenge. Instead I struggled through another 2 miles back to work to cover 4 miles in 41:23. It was definitely not the way I wanted the workout to go.

Friday: Rest day. My back was begging for it, too.

Saturday: A double brick that was longer than several duathlons I’ve completed. We started off with a  40 min run through Oakland, covering 3.97 miles. After a quick shoe change, we were out on the bikes, heading out on the Bay Bridge Trail. (Quick interlude: when you are running/biking/walking on public trails, I IMPLORE you to pay attention to the lane designations; I cannot tell you how many people I had to scream at to move out of the bike lanes on the trail…and several of them were with the Run365 group, which was most frustrating.) We ended up covering 17.5 miles in 1:25:31 before our final shoe change. We headed out for another 40 min run, this time covering 4.1 miles through Oakland. We were smart enough to avoid Lake Merritt, though, as the Girls on the Run 5K was taking place in the park at the same time. That would have been the cherry on top after a frustrating bike ride. Overall, it was a tough workout, but one that left me feeling pretty good about being able to tackle the race distances.

Sunday: This was a tough one. For our anniversary, which was last Tuesday, Matt and I decided to give each other wetsuits. Since Sports Basement has bumped up their rental prices from $50/month to $80/month, and we had an offer of 60% off the new Xterra line, we bit the bullet and purchased the Vector Pro suits (at a killer deal considering their $600 full price). They came in on Thursday night, much earlier than we had anticipated, and instead of heading to the pool to get in a 60 min swim on Sunday, we decided to take the new suits out to the Bay instead. Sunday morning was a cold and windy morning, which left the Bay waters quite choppy. I had gotten it in my head that I wanted to swim a full mile, but I had no idea just how hard that would prove to be. To say I struggled in the strong waves might be an understatement. But I hung in there and finished the task I had set for myself. I also couldn’t fail with all of the Mother’s Day brunchers looking out on the Bay from the restaurant above us! I spent so much time swimming off course that I ended up covering 1,917 yards, and realized I really need to get new goggles. My total time ended up being 1:14:32…A LOT of room for improvement!

So there we are, some good workouts, some tough ones. And just 3 weeks to finish preparing for my first Olympic triathlon. Those 3 weeks are going to come WAY too fast!

Your Turn: What’s the farthest you have ever swum or biked? Is there a distance that’s a big mental block for you?

Monday Miles: April 20-26

Oh hey there friends! I know it’s a been a while since checking in with a Monday Miles, but I’ve finally managed to get my manuscript submitted for review, which means a little more time for blogging again. Sometimes trying to find the balance between work/family/training/blogging means that I have to compromise somewhere. And as much as I love sharing my training and racing adventures with all of you, my husband and dog get pretty angry if I ignore them :).

So that being said, let’s check back in!

After finishing my first triathlon (!!!) on April 12 – details to hopefully come soon – I spent the following week in recovery mode. Which was perfect because that weekend I had a trip to Salt Lake planned to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday!

with my mom and matt

After flying back to Oakland on Monday, it was time to start gearing up for Vineman Monte Rio…which is approaching rather quickly!

Monday – Rest day, because after an early morning wake up and a late night at work, there wasn’t time for anything else.

Tuesday – Rest day, because we were celebrating! Matt’s big paper for school was due Monday and my paper was sent out for review, which meant that for the first time since October, neither of us had a paper to be working on at night (though that isn’t entirely true because I could have been working on another one we’re currently writing).

Wednesday – The return to the pool! I did a fairly short swim with 100 yard warm up, 2 x 50 yards with short recovery, 4 x 100 yards with 10 second recovery, 2 x 50 yards with short recovery, and 100 yards cool down. Surprisingly, the 4 x 100s were a lot easier than I thought they would be considering how challenging the rest of the workout was! In total I covered 800 yards in 17:23. I also rounded out the day with 6.9 miles of bike commuting.

Thursday – Track workouts return with a vengeance! After a 1 mile warm up, I tackled 4 x 1200 progressively dropping 10 seconds off of each interval. During the second 1200, my legs started to feel like jelly. During the fourth 1200, I was on the verge of puking…but managed to hold it down somehow. Always love a workout that pushes me to the edge. And a little secret: when I start to doubt myself during these kinds of workouts, I start to imagine how it’ll feel to finally hear Mike Reilly call me an Ironman. It helps. I finished the workout with a cool down mile for a total of 5 miles in 43:26. I finished the day with 5.9 miles of bike commuting.

Friday – Strength training for 30 min in the morning with my friend Abby (she always kicks my butt!). We focused on shoulders and abs with a healthy dose of squats for good measure. I was ridiculously sore from the squats when I got home Friday night and ended up spending at least an hour stretching before heading to bed.

Saturday – Rest day. For the first time that I can remember recently, I slept in! We hung out in bed all morning planning a trip to San Diego over the summer. It was amazing.

Sunday – Crazy brick to remind me just how hard this next race is going to be! We had a 1:30 bike ride followed by 30 min of running on the schedule, and since we needed to head up to the Sonoma area to pick up our wine club, anyway, we decided to make a trip to Monte Rio and ride the bike course! If you’re training for this race, you should know that the bike is gorgeous! We started out heading west on CA 116, make a little side loop on Austin Creek Road (which desperately needs repaving) and Cazadero Highway before turning back onto 116 and heading to Jenner. After turning onto US 1, the most gorgeous view of the Russian River feeding into the Pacific Ocean awaited us! To say the scenery was stunning is an understatement. After turning around at Jenner, we headed back to CA 116 and returned to Monte Rio. At that point, we switched into our Mizunos and headed out to run 30 min on the run course. However, the road for the run course has no sidewalks and a lot of blind corners. After a few close calls, we turned around and headed out on a different route to finish up. Overall, the bike covered 24.4 miles in 1:31:41 and the run covered 3.14 miles in 30:03.

Other notes worth mentioning about Monte Rio: the Russian River looked low. Yes, I think there’s enough water in it to swim and I know they dam it in the summer so it’ll fill up more, but the thought of actually “swimming” in the river right now was a little crazy. The bike course was pretty windy yesterday, and I get the sense that it’s typically that windy. Nothing too challenging, but at points I was struggling a bit to maintain control over my bike. And there is only 1 hill with much of a challenge. There are some rollers at other points in the course, but really, the 1 tougher climb is on 116 before turning onto US 1. (The climb going the opposite direction is much easier.) Parts of the bike route are nicely shaded and parts are very sunny. From what I could tell, most of the run course is shaded. Hopefully that’ll help anyway thinking about what to bring along for race day.

FYI, when you return home from a tough brick workout, Miss P will help you recover with some cuddling on the sofa :).

post-brick cuddlesIgnore my gross hair. We’re having a drought in California & I’m just doing my part to conserve! Or my legs were too tired to stand up long enough to shower.

And with that, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow brings what will be the toughest pool workout I’ve attempted yet!

Your Turn: How has your training been going and what are you currently training for?