So That’s What “Everything Clicked” Feels Like: Lake Minnetonka Tri Race Report

Drafting this race report has been on my to do list for far, far too long.  In fact, this race happened over a month ago.  Time slips away so fast.  But I am excited to write about this race as it was an awesome day.  For the first time ever, I can say “everything clicked on race day”. 

The Lake Minnetonka Triathlon is one of my favorite races all year.  The venue is beautiful, the run is on a gravel trail, the swim is a point to point and I always race with my best friend.  I was pumped going into race day. 43b1b79d-875c-49c3-b408-ec524cf5fa36  Well, the day started out pretty wet and rainy.  It was dry on the drive over to Excelsior Bay but the clouds were looming.  I was worried about another canceled race (last year’s Lake Minnetonka Tri was canceled due to thunderstorms).  As we pulled into the parking lot, the rain came, and it came and it came.  Everything was soaked by the time we got to our spot in transition and started setting up.  At that point, you just shrug your shoulders and deal with it.  Other than the rain, transition set up went by quick and soon we were listening to the race talk and doing our final walk over to the starting area.  I wiggled into my wetsuit and started out for a pre-race warm up swim.  I was so glad that the water had warmed up a bit since the Buffalo Tri two weeks earlier. 

As I waited for the whistle indicating my wave to go, I made a plan for the swim, line up on the inside and stay away from the traffic.  Whistle blows and off we went.  I stayed to the buoy line and away from the bunched-up swimmers, which worked perfectly.  I was able to swim on my own for most of the race, at my speed, unencumbered by anyone else.  I breathed easy, focused on arm turn over and catching as much water as possible to propel myself forward.  Coming into the swim exit, I glanced at my watch and was thrilled to be a few minutes ahead of my goal.  I did a little whoop in my head and quickly got out of T1.

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The bike portion of this race always goes by in a blur.  The beginning mile or so is a few turns to get out of the park and city area and then you are out on the road.  I wanted to push the pace on the bike to test out my bike fitness a bit.  img_3972I was cruising along, passing the bikers in front of me when a female racer that I was familiar with came screaming by me.  My new goal, stay with her.  The bike course is 15 miles so before long it was time to turn around.  After half way back to transition, I fell back from the girl I was trying to stay with but I didn’t let that discourage me.  I just kept pushing and talking myself through the upcoming run portion.

Out of T2, grabbing my hat and race belt, I focused on turning over my legs and breathing.  As the miles ticked by, I was feeling really good.  My feet felt light and fast. I came through the finishing shoot and was thrilled as I looked my watch.  Over an eight minute PR! Everything clicked! That was racing and it was awesome. 

It’s so gratifying when all of the hard work I have been putting in pays off.  This wasn’t slated to be my A race for the season but the way I raced it, it was an A race memory for me. 

Next post: Lifetime Minneapolis Tri Race Report and Long Training Days

Keeping My Head Above Water: Buffalo Tri Race Report

Hard to believe it but I already have 3 multi-sport races under my belt for the season.  2 weeks ago, I raced the sprint at the Buffalo Tri and last weekend at Lake Minnetonka.  The race report for Minnetonka is forth coming, stay tuned.  But let’s chat about Buffalo.

Leading up to the race, there was lots of distracting discussion, mostly around the weather and water temps in Buffalo Lake.  It was cold for many days at the end of May so it was likely that the swim would be cold, if not canceled all-together.  A few warm days leading up to the race helped bring the water temps up to that the swim wouldn’t need to be canceled.  I watched Facebook and saw a few posts about upper 60 degree and even 70 degree water temps.  So I relaxed a bit and carried on with race prep.

Sunday morning I packed up and drove the 60 miles to Buffalo for the race.  After getting my race packet and getting set up in transition, I had some time to kill so I chatted with fellow racers and focused on warming up. img_3867This being my first tri of the season, I was really excited to see how all of my winter swim sessions would impact my open water swim time.  My usual routine is to get into the water and do a brief warm up swim to acclimate to the water and focus on my breathing.  As I walked down to the water’s edge to start my warm up swim, another racer walked out of the water passed me muttering “70 degrees, my ass”.  And he was right, as soon as I got out to do some dolphin dives and the water hit my face, I knew this was going to be one very cold swim…strike that, a freezing swim.  I was just thanking the gods that is was only a 400 yard swim.  “I can do 400 yards, even if it is freezing” I thought to myself and carried on with getting prepped for my wave to start.

Soon it was time to line up at the water with my wave and the gun sounded us to start.  I ran in with the pack and it was no more than a few seconds before the cold water, massive amounts of flailing arms and legs of other swimmers took me from calm to panicked.  I lost the rhythm of my breathing as I tried to get out of the pack but it was near impossible. The cold water and other swimmers through everything off for me and  I am pretty sure I dog paddled half of the swim.  I was extremely disappointed as I exited the water but knew I needed to put it aside and focus on the bike.

The bike went by in a flash and without incident.  I worked to just put my head down and pass everyone I could.  Soon I was coming down to the bike dismount and off to start the run. 

If you have participated in this tri in the last few years, you know that the run out is a nice long climb out of the park and onto Montrose Blvd.  It’s a killer on the bike legs.  Once I got out onto the blvd, I focused on keeping a steady cadence and pace.  This year, I can really tell that my runs have been improving.  I am feeling more efficient and my run times are showing vast improvement.  It’s awesome when you can see hard work paying off.  After about ¾ of the run, you get to take a fun downhill back into the park to cross the finish line.  I love that part.  I just let go and let my legs carry me. 

Overall, I didn’t do as bad as I thought. My swim did improve from the last time I did this tri by 15 seconds and my run improved by nearly a full minute.  Overall my time was 2 seconds faster than my previous PR and I was able to take an AG podium (my first time on the podium at Buffalo) and a top 10 women’s finish time.  Can’t complain too much! 😊

Cheers!

Training Log + Sartell Apple Duathlon Race Report

Whew…It’s been a loooong couple of months.  Too long since I last blogged apparently. What have I been up to?  Mostly training, raising kids, spending time with friends and family, working…you know, the usual.  First things first, let’s talk about the first race of the season.

1st Multisport Race of the Season – Sartell Apple Duathlon!

Last Saturday, I raced the first multisport race of my season. I had originally planned to race the Oakdale Spring Classic Duathlon the weekend before but family commitments 60941861_2153103114745678_2370556196290560000_ngot in the way. I was lucky that the Apple Duathlon was being held the following weekend and it worked with my schedule.  So I signed up and started to prep. By prep, I mean, work on getting rid of the cold I was coming down with Zicam and lots of fluids.

I raced the Apple Du 2 years ago and really loved the race.  I would not say Duathlons are my fav, as I would rather not run twice, but something about this race in particular I love.

The morning of the race was pretty low key.  The hubs and I decided not to drive up the night before and just get up early to make the trek. After a night of fitful, restless sleep, the alarm buzzed at 4:15am.  I woke up bit tired but so happy as it seemed like my cold symptoms had surprisingly subsided.  A quick breakfast of steel cut oats and hot coffee, prepping a banana and peanut butter toast, double checking my bags and gear, loading the bike and we were on our way…almost.

5 minutes down the road, I remembered that I forgot my sunglasses and asked that we turn back to get them.  It’s a silly thing, but when I have something as part of my race plan in my head, it throws me for a loop if I don’t have it. I try to control everything that is in my control. Ok, with sunglasses in hand, we were finally on our way.

I love that anxious feeling of pulling into the race venue on race morning.  I love all of the energy that is in the air.  The Apple Du was full of it.  Many smiling faces and people getting their gear out of their cars and ready for the race.  It’s fun to see familiar faces and meet new friends too. After checking in and getting my race packet, I unpacked my bike and set everything up in transition. It was the easiest race morning ever.  The weather was a bit on the chilly and windy side but it was pretty manageable.

Race kicked off by sending wave 1 (Elite and over 55) out on the course and I was slated to start 3 minutes later in wave 2.  I got lined up in the start corral and before I knew it, the gun went off and we were running.  I noticed that a number of people took off very fast.  I was tempted to go with them but knew that I needed to stick to a pace that I could hold for the first 5K run. I really wanted to make sure I kept something in the tank for the last 5K run.  I kept glancing down at my watch and seeing somewhere between 7:20-7:45 pace which I was thrilled about.  I am not a fast runner so it was encouraging to see those splits.

After coming into T1, I threw off my sunglasses (yep, I absolutely used them), changed my shoes and threw on my helmet, grabbed the bike and headed out for 33K on the bike.  The initial first few miles I got settled in and pushed a bit, passing a few folks that were faster runners than me and put some distance.  After the first turn, I was hit with the cross wind and had to hold on for dear life.  I wanted to stay in aero and did so as much as I could.  I knew that I would have to take advantage of the wind anytime it was at my back and did so as much as I could. I also was very aware that there was a USAT official out on the course and didn’t want to get a draft penalty so I worked hard to keep enough distance and pass in the appropriate amount of time.  I didn’t have too many athletes passing me and I passed a few so I figured I was doing okay. As I ticked down the last few miles of the bike, I started to mentally prep for the run.  A final 5K and I really wanted to be fast.

Hoping off the bike and heading out on the run (with a wave to Jerry), I started up “the hill”.  Let’s paint a picture. As you get out of transition, you are immediately met with a steep, fairly looong climb up hill.  You legs already feel like jello and that climb just seems to take forever.  Anyway, I joked with a fellow athlete about the hill and then as he pulled slightly away from me, I made it my mission to stay on his heels. He ended up pulling away at the very last few meters but I think I successfully kept up.  (He did say that I was keeping him on his toes because he could feel me pushing from behind). 🙂

Overall, a really solid performance, one that I am happy to start the season with.  A 1:30 PR and a faster run split on both the 1st and 2nd run. 1st AG and 8th overall women.  Awesome race, really well done and super fun. I’ll be back!

Let’s talk training!  The past few months have been going pretty well.  Knees have been pain free for about 3 months…hooray.  I am not sure if it was the PT or just them adjusting to the training load, but there has been no pain.  Big sigh of relief.  I have been doing A LOT of swimming. I think I finally hit the point where I don’t dread the swimming.  I get into the water, relax, and do my workout.  My swim times have leveled out a bit but they certainly are faster than I have ever experienced before.  I have to admit, it’s fun to swim fast.  I like being in the pool next to another swimmer and cruising past them. During many of the podcasts I listen to they talk about swimming with a group (a master swim program or a teammate) to help drive the pace, keep it competitive and keep pushing you.  I don’t have the opportunity to be part of a group at the moment, so I just use the other swimmers to help keep me accountable.

I have had my bike outside only 3 times this year so far.  REALLY, REALLY SAD FACE! It’s img_3567almost June people! The weather has not cooperated in Minnesota this spring.  But I keep chugging along on the trainer in the basement until we have a streak of solid nice weather.

This spring I did do a running block to train for a half marathon.  It was more intense than I ever thought it would be.  Many Saturday’s were spent logging 10-14 miles…and that was before the half marathon even happened.  I was supposed to run the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon but as luck would have it, my daughter had a soccer tournament that weekend so I couldn’t commit to the actual race but did go out and run the distance later that afternoon on my own.  I recognize that I probably would have run a bit faster during the organized run but I accept that. I got it done and that was what mattered in my book.

This weekend will be the Buffalo Triathlon. Hopefully the water will warm up enough to have a swim. At the time of this blog, it’s still 56 degrees…..brrr! Check back for a race report next week.

Cheers!

Indoor Tri’s, Great Friends + Brunch: The Perfect Combo

A couple of weeks ago, Lifetime Fitness held their series of indoor triathlons. I was able to participate in the event at their Eagan club. As this was my 5th year participating, I was pretty well aware of what to expect. 10 minutes of swimming followed by 30 minutes of biking on the spin bike and ending with 20 minutes of running on the treadmill. This event really has a special place in my heart as a few friends and I do the event together and grab brunch afterwards. A sweet little reward after 70 minutes of hard work.

I was really looking forward to this year’s indoor tri to see if my Ironman training has made an impact on my results. I knew I wasn’t going to go my normal pace on the run due to my nagging knee injury but had set some aggressive (for me) goals on the swim (goal – 23 lengths) and bike (goal – 11.3 miles).

My group had an early wave time so we got toimg_3186 the pool and got prepped while the first wave was just finishing their swim. I always like to set my gear out in the locker so it’s easy to grab after the swim portion and I don’t have to think about what I need to dig out of my bag or find in a pocket. After a pre-swim rules review, the whistle sounded and we were off. My swim strategy was just to settle into a good pace and hold that for the 10 minutes. As I pushed off the wall on my first length, I noticed that my friend and “next lane over” mate took off well ahead of me. “No need to panic and sprint to keep up, just stay consistent” I kept telling myself. Luckily, I caught her after a few lengths and I could relax a bit again. Upon hearing the 1 minute warning whistle, I was at 20 lengths and knew I could get 2 more in. So down and back I went again and just after touching the wall to finish the 22nd length, the final whistle blew. I missed my goal by just 1 length but overall, I very happy with 22.

img_3182Off we went to change into our bike gear and I mentally prepped for what I consider my strongest portion of any triathlon (indoor or out). Lifetime gives 10 minutes to change for the bike and it’s amazing how fast the time goes by. If you aren’t hustling, you will likely miss the start of the bike and you won’t get a full 30 minutes. We quickly changed and shuffled, in our bike shoes, our way to the cycle studio. After I set up my bike and got settled into the saddle, I got into the push-pull mindset and set my legs to work as the Lifetime crew yelled “Go”. I must admit that I like pushing as big of watts as I can on the bike. Working my way up the mileage, I set my mind on the 11.3-mile goal. The volunteers in the cycle studio were awesome, they were very encouraging and kept us all motivated. In the last few minutes, I was racing the clock and pushing hard for the 11.3. I fell just short again and ended with 11.2. But no sad faces, I was thrilled with the result. In both the swim and bike, I had results that surpassed any of my previous indoor tri results.

As I mentioned, I knew I was going to take it easy on the run due to a knee pain that img_3185keeps cropping up. More to come on physical therapy and remediation in future posts. I got myself to a comfortable pace on the treadmill and just enjoyed the last 20 minutes of the event, laughing with the volunteers about the below freezing temps and already looking forward to the brunch food that would be in the near future.

I had a blast at my 5th indoor tri and was happy with my results (my solid swim and bike landed me an overall 1st place finish). Lifetime Fitness truly does an excellent job running these events. Capping the morning off with a delicious mimosa and quiche with my friends is what I call a great race!

Cheers!

Photo credit: Grifftown Photography

New Year + Finding Focus

Happy 2019! Hard to believe another year has come and gone again.  It seems like they go by so quickly now.

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Photo by Murilo Folgosi

My biggest accomplishment for the month of December (and a bit into January) is the big improvements in my swim.  Yes, I still loathe swimming but my swim times have been dropping week after week.  I started with well over a 2:00/100 yard pace and now I am down closer to 1:38/100 yards.  For me, that is huge!!!  I spent quite a bit of time reading about swim technique, watching videos and thinking about how my body moves through the water.  It’s paying off and I am pumped.

Cycling has taking on a fun element as I went back to using Zwift for training purposes.  I don’t own a power meter so I needed a way to measure my power output (at least close to it) in order to follow the prescribed training.  I love that Zwift uses a formula to give you an approximate power output and it’s fun to ride with others around the world.  I “may” have even added some additional fun rides on top of my training. 😉

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Unfortunately, I am still working through a persistent knee injury that started last September.  I took a long time off of running to see if it would help and although the pain level isn’t terrible anymore, it is still sore after my runs.  This is something I need to get figured out soon as my runs will only get longer and more intense.  More to come with a future doctor visit.

Last but certainly not least, I have been busy working on a race plan for 2019. There are so many races I want to do but had to think about them strategically and how they will build up to IMWI. I have never thought that way.  In the past, I just signed up for races I enjoyed in the past, worked with my schedule or sounded fun.  It’s been interesting to apply a little strategy to planning, but since the list hasn’t been blessed by coach, it could still change.

That’s all from me for now!

Cheers!

Just Keep Swimming….and Reading

I am officially starting my 4th full week of IMWI training today. Whew! This is just the beginning and it’s already hard. Not hard in a sense of the workout being difficult (except swimming, more on that later), but just trying to fit it all in. Being a mom of 2 amazing kiddos which I have 50% of the time and an full time IT professional, already fills up my calendar but then you add in 1-2 hour daily workouts and it’s a juggle. Most days I am getting up super early or doing my best to fit my workout in during the day on my lunch break. I feel like it’s a game of Jenga, move a piece here and move a piece there and hope it doesn’t topple over.  So far, so good but I am certain it will only get harder.

Let’s talk about swimming.  In 3 1/2 weeks I have logged  14,000 yards in the pool. Woah!  I realize that to some that may have swam in high school or for a club, that isn’t a lot. But for this girl, who didn’t swim much growing up and prior triathlon training consisted of about 800 yards of swimming per week at best, 14,000 is A LOT.  I am still adjusting to say the least. I am not a fast swimmer so it takes me forever to complete a swim workout. And I am exhausted at the end. Coach just keeps telling that it will get better with frequency and consistency.  I am sure he is right but not going to lie, it is hard and a bit demoralizing still.  And boring, let me tell you.  There is nothing more boring than swimming (sorry swimmers).  Nothing to look at or listen to except sloshing water and the black line on the bottom of the pool.  I usually count to pass the time.  Count my strokes, every other stroke or how many laps I have done or to go.  I think I need to invest in some underwater swimming headphones!

Gotta keep telling myself, “this is the easy work, enjoy it now, it’s only going to get harder, just keep swimming.”

On another note, I thought I would be fun to highlight some of the books I have been reading lately.  If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I love to go to the library.  I usually walk out with a stack of books that I know I will never get through before they are due back.  It’s like going to the buffet on an empty stomach, I always want to check out more books than I can handle. Reading certainly fills my soul with happiness and I often neglect to give that need enough attention. My kids and I have stopped at the library every couple weeks and I walked out with a ton of running, endurance and training books, and promptly got to reading them.

I just finished Running Home: Big-League Wife, Small-Town Story by Alisha Perkins.

What initially attracted me to this book was that it was about a local gal and talked about a ton of local races that I had run myself. What I didn’t realize until I had started the book was that it was also about the author overcoming anxiety through running.  It was so awesome to read about how running helped her clear her mind and made her a better mom, wife, daughter and friend. It was fun to read about her journey, how she got started running and how she tackled her running, fitness and self improvement goals.  Loved it!

I also recently finished Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor.

The mind-body connection is so incredible and often overlooked.  Deena Kastor writes about how positive thinking can be a tool to help you achieve your physical goals like running.  Deena talks about racing different race distances and strategies she and her coach would enlist to turn her into distance running record holder (holla sub 15 min 5k).  I loved how she described running and how she would hone in on the smallest of things like the sound of feet striking the ground or the breathing of a competitor.  I am certainly not saying that I will be racing IMWI competitively (only to compete with myself) but that how I mentally prepare for and think while in a race can greatly impact my performance. I finished the book feeling very inspired!

Next post I will do a race recap of the TC 10 Miler. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

Coaching + First Training Day

48 weeks until Ironman Wisconsin.  It sure seems like a looooong way away.

In the last week I checked a few things off my list.  I hired a coach.  I definitely knew this was a must for me.  In the last 6 years of doing multi-sport events I have, mostly, coached myself.  Just taking a guess on what I should train (swim, bike, run, strength, sometime yoga) on a given day.  I had no rhyme or reason, just whatever I felt like doing and for however long I wanted or had available.  So in thinking about my approach to IMWI, I knew I needed guidance.  And a lot of it.  I had, and still have, so many questions about how to become a better runner, how to plan for nutrition while training and racing, how to plan shorter races into my training, how to deal with fatigue and injury, and the list goes on and on.

So I went where all good research happens, the googles! I did some quick searching and website scouring of local triathlon coaches and came upon Final K Sporting Services.

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They offer one on one coaching services, run and swim analysis and other awesome services.  They have a group of coaches that can be paired up with an athlete based on what their goals are. Awesome! I spoke with the owner, Kris and got some more info and moved forward with signing up as an athlete with Final K.  Kris is my coach and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have a resource to ask questions and help me with planning my training and racing.  I sure hope he is ready for my onslaught of questions. 🙂

So, Kris hooked me up with Training Peaks and some training plans for the next few weeks and I got started. By the way, Training Peaks is super cool. I am a data geek and I love that I can automatically connect my Garmin to the platform and it send my data and links it to the training plan.  I also love how you can see how the upcoming training, you can log how the training you just finished felt and send notes to your coach about how much you hated or loved it.  Awesome tool right at your fingertips!

Day 1 – SWIMMING….dun dun duuuuhhh! Ugh, I have to admit, I haven’t been in the pool for quite a while.  Probably about 6-8 months.  If a race I had included a swim, I just went and did the swim during the race and didn’t do any prep or training for it.  Bad Julie!

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This swim session called for a warm up and then some 200 yard drills.  In all about 2000 yards total.  For a non-swimmer who hadn’t been in the pool in quite a while, it was hard.  But necessary!

Anyone else geek out and watch the Ironman NOW coverage of IM Chattanooga on Sunday.  I did.  So inspiring to watch these races and athletes.  Unfortunately they had to cancel the swim portion of the race due to heavy rains and fast currents.  Those lucky dogs! Ha!

Cheers!