Make it Right for Houston

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A slightly different post for today but one I feel is very important. The school I work for is promoting a ‘Make it Right’ campaign and the students have decided to focus on one of the mahoosive problems we have here in Houston; homelessness and hunger.

We are going to be fundraising and raising awareness for Houston Food Bank who support so many of our citizens on a daily basis. The students have organized a ‘Soup Day’ where they will only eat soup and donate the money they would have used for their packed lunches/school dinners to the Food Bank. We are also organizing a funding page for anyone else who wants to donate to go through that.

We all know that your training is only as strong as your nutrition but can you imagine not even being able to buy basic food? Or not knowing where your next meal is coming from?

I’ll be posting a link soon if anyone would like to support the Houston Food Bank and their amazing work. If you’re local you could also volunteer your time if a monetary donation isn’t a possibility.

Houston half marathon race report.

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Sunday was chilly to start but I would have said a perfect start for the race. The course had changed since the last time I ran and boy was I glad of that!
No more trekking up and down Montrose Blvd. We ran out of downtown and up Kirby around Rice. Plenty of crowds to cheer.


My knee sadly wasn’t overly happy about the thought of a 13.1 mile jaunt and was hurting as we started. My friend who also ran gave me half an ibuprofen which I chewed and attempted to swallow without water – not a good plan.
I stayed nice and slow in the hopes that my knee would hold out from hurting and I made it to about mile 3 before the intermittent pain started kicking in. By mile 5 I was in agony and switching between walking and jogging and then it totally gave out a couple of times and I had to stop. One lovely runner checked if I was ok as I applied my homeopathic cream to try and relieve the pain. Nothing seemed to work and I added more tape to the existing quantities. On the plus side my achilles was great!
The first “First Aid” station I remember coming across was about mile 6 or 7 and I put on as much bio freeze as I could and hobbled on. I stopped again a few yards after and had a little cry because it hurt – logically my body was telling me to stop and I considered listening. I text my friend who was watching out for us on the course (I was that desperate) and said I didn’t think I could go on but then I realised I didn’t know how I would get to the finish and leaving in an ambulance isn’t my style. I gave myself a pep talk as we approached westheimer/SW fwy and told myself that even if I walked the rest I would be crossing that finish line.
A great lesson in mental strength- I don’t want to give up on my goal and who am I kidding… The medal was something to look forward to!
By now stragglers and walkers were surrounding me and I knew I’d left the pocket of people aiming for a time but it didn’t matter. I stopped at mile 11 to see my lovely HRTC club buddies and they dosed me up properly with ibuprofen, water and an Oreo. I stumbled on down Allen parkway and saw the marathoners appear from out under a bridge. They were running at crazy speeds and I was still walking.
Not a very hilly course as Houston is so flat (you can see in the elevation map below) but some nice scenery and passing through Rice which is always a bonus.

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As we approached downtown I set myself a goal of jogging to the finish and once we hit Lamar I started to run faster and boy did it feel good. I wanted a strong finish. I imagined that I was in a tri and competing for those final spots and sprinted past lots of people and crossed that line in front of GRB.
It was a fair old walk to pick up the bling and get inside. Medical tents first and then later water(!!) and bananas. I feel that the “finish” layout could have been a little better considered.

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The finisher shirts ran VERY small this year and stupidly I didn’t try mine on as I was in such a daze (lesson also learnt about doing long bike rides (50 miles) and brick sessions the day before). So I have something to try and fit into once I’ve dropped some of this excess weight post surgery.
I stretched and rolled and rehydrated when I got home and felt fine the next day and subsequently. There was a minor dull ache in my knee but fine with heels (still avoiding flats too much). I skipped running the last 2 days to give my knee a break but back to the park tonight! (With my new coach!!! Yay!) and I have scheduled a doctor appointment to get it looked at tomorrow – hoping and praying it’s just because my bio mechanics and not a cartilage problem or injury!
So to summarize: a great course with fantastic volunteers and support from the crowds but perhaps a rethink on the layout of the finish and GRB.
Happy running!

#girlsgonesporty

Just a quick entry for me although I bounced straight back (thankfully) after the Houston half – I’ll update about that another time.
Today I became an aunt, my aunt was cleared of cancer AND I became an ambassador for Girls Gone Sporty!!!! What an AMAZING day! I am so happy – felt like I was walking on a cloud the whole afternoon. Lots to do and get sorted this week now and it’s a busy week of training – it’s recovery week next week for me. My knee is still twinning so I won’t be hitting it too hard if I can help it.

Anyway – can’t wait to get out there and inspire more people as well as women!
As somebody once said.. Whether you think you can, or you can’t – you’re right! It’s all about attitude!!!

Good night!

Cold weather or injury?

For the steel boned northerners who battle blizzards everyday in the winter this will probably sound lame but it has gotten very cold in Houston over the last 2 weeks. All the newbie fitness freaks (New Years resolutions and all) are hogging the gym equipment but the trails at the parks are empty.

It’s the Houston marathon this weekend. I’m meant to be running the half. Last night I went to run 15 miles after having a rest day (achilles problems). 3.5 miles in my KNEE was in such agony that I couldn’t continue. I hobbled back to my car and headed home. Later on the pain was so bad I could barely walk. It has improved somewhat over night although I am still limping. I just can’t seem to get it right at the moment. I really needed to get a long run in so I’m gutted that the pain/potential injury is holding me back.

I am resting and recuperating over the next few days to give my leg a chance to recover but I’m praying it’s the cold weather disagreeing with my joints rather than an injury I have inflicted upon myself.

Ways to prevent injury:

1. Warm up properly.

2. Wear the correct attire – if you’re running get your shoes checked!

3. HYDRATE.

4. Fuel your body correctly and pay attention to your nutrition during the race too.

Progress!

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The noticeable part of the training is that workouts are becoming either easier, more enjoyable or more consistent. It is slow progress but I am still moving forward which is what matters to me.

I have managed to keep myself motivated and working out and it’s mostly been me on my own doing things. It’s incredibly freeing to realise that I don’t need anyone else to go and do something to get me to do it now. There’s a training bike ride I think I’m going to do at the weekend and I’m pretty sure I won’t know anyone there and I’m ok with that!

Don’t get me wrong I love the social aspect of training and doing things with my friends but to not have to rely on needing them to be doing a workout to get my butt out the door makes a big difference.

How to motivate yourself to get out the door (because that’s the hardest part of any workout).

1. Picture how you want to feel crossing that finish line
2. If you haven’t signed up for an event, sign up for one.
3. Set yourself small goals for your workout.
4. Compete against friends (e.g. On Nike + who can work out most consistently or get the most miles in a week or month).
5. Remember than summer is coming and you’re going to have to wear a swimsuit or that your race will involve a wetsuit (yes, I went there).
6. Reward yourself with something (preferably healthy or recovery based like a smoothie or a hot bath).
7. Sign up to a forum where you are accountable to others.
8. Keep an online training log that others can see… Nothing like the shame of not doing your training to motivate you out that door!

Be consistent and you’ll see rewards!

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TriDot training.

TriDot training

I wanted to write a little bit about TriDot training as I’ve been following their outseason programme for the last few weeks and I felt it was too valuable a resource to hide away and not share.

I stumbled upon TriDot through a tri acquaintance online and I decided to get in touch and see what it was all about!

I was accepted into their outseason free for feedback programme – you have to complete assessments and submit the data every two weeks as well as complete at least 75% of the workouts to be able to get your money back.

First step was completing the initial assessments and submitting those numbers. It was definitely a wake up call just completing the tests without having done much of anything concrete for a fair while. I requested my plan and although the recommended turn around for receiving a plan is within a week, mine pinged into my inbox the very next day. MUCH. EXCITEMENT!

Cindy, who is the TriDot support system online, has been amazing from the off. She emails me regularly just to check in and see how I’m getting on or throw an encouraging word my way. She took the time to talk through my plan carefully and check that I understood the terms and codes and go through things she likes to do with her workout plans (like printing the overall week and having the HR and speed codes printed and laminated so they’re to hand for each of your workouts).

I’ve thrown myself a curveball by training for a marathon before the Ironman 70.3 which turns out to be a less than bright idea but hey ho I’ll get through it, it just means I have to add additional running into my schedule every week and my long runs are my need based distance rather than their prescribed times.

Once you know the codes the workouts are really easy to understand and very easy to follow. It’s motivating to log in and be able to follow it and then check off that workout. I’ve managed to talk several friends into joining with me so we can talk TriDot scores. These are your scores based on your ability and fitness in that discipline. I was super pumped to have a 37 for my swim, until my uhhhhmazing buddy (she truly is amazing) casually dropped into conversation that she’s a 49!!! WHAT?!?!?!?!!!!

Anyway, the scores change based on your assessments and every set you are set targets (achievable ones) to shoot for based on what you’ve been working on.

If you were looking for a training plan for your A race this year and weren’t sure where to go I would honestly suggest TriDot. If you feel you need more than online support and the odd phonecall then you can select a different level of coaching and pick one of the coaches you would like to work with and they can call you and check in more regularly and answer any questions you may have.

Check them out and let me know what you think! In the mean time I’ll be shooting for a 49 in my swim (because Lord knows I will never make it there with my bike!)

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How to deal (not just cope) with that OWS (Open Water Swim)!

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2015 has arrived; barging its way in with loud promises of fitness, sobriety and newfound happiness for the masses. Amongst the athletes the excited whispers of upcoming races, new gear and overhauled training plans.

What’s not to love? A new year, being able to “clear the slate” and write off anything you didn’t quite love about last year. The buzz doesn’t always arrive on time for some but that’s ok, as long as it shows up!

This year hundreds, thousands (I’d love to say hundreds of thousands but I can’t quite believe that many!) of new triathletes will sign up and commit to their first race; how exciting! How daunting! How to begin? How to continue?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned triathlete or a newbie, there will be a huge group out there that just DREAD the swim. Perhaps you avoid open water swimming and go for the pool based tris so you don’t have to contend with potentially murky waters. Not. This. Year! You can change it around, you can make that open water swim. There’s that little voice (possibly the one who talked you into signing up for your first race) inside your head, nagging you, talking to you, persuading you “it can’t be that bad”.

So how can you do it?

What are those fears that prevent you from doing it?

“I’m not a strong swimmer”

“I won’t be able to touch the bottom”

“I can’t deal with deep water, anything could be down there”

(If you didn’t have those thoughts before, you’re welcome… they’ll be circling for the next couple of hours).

How can you prepare, and overcome those fears?

PREPARATION.

Just like with the training and preparation for the race, you’ve got the physical aspect and you’ve got the mental side of it. Both require time and effort.

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1. Time
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your race and to adjust to swimming in open water. You may want to give yourself a deadline for your goal by signing up for a race, you may want to hold off for a while until you’re more confident; whatever works for you!

2. Practice
Get yourself down to the local lake/ocean/river – wherever your local OWS train! If you’re in Houston; Lake 288, just south of Houston, are fab! If you’re a member of HRTC you can get in free on a Friday afternoon. Galveston is always an option for “choppy waters” – as I prepare more for Texas 70.3, I’ll be taking some day trips down there to bike and swim to adjust to the local waters. Take some friends with you and make an activity of it.

3. Support
Support yourself with friends/company and also with a buoy. There’s no shame in swimming with a buoy (you just tighten the strap around your waist or ankle and it tows along behind you in case you need it). If you’re a very anxious swimmer, stick to the shallows in your first few visits to allow yourself to adjust. Swim around the edge if the deep middle bothers you.

4. Imitate
Mimic your race when you know what you’re going for! Is it going to be wetsuit legal? Are you going to be wearing one? Then get practicing in one! Wetsuits give you more buoyancy so you float that bit easier. If you’re going to be swimming in the ocean, get out in the ocean more! (I’m sure you get the idea).

5. Start Small & Build
Baby steps are key – you wouldn’t run a marathon without training so why would you attempt an open water swim without training. Just go for 50 meters or 100m the first visit – whatever is best for you (it may even just be sitting in the water for 20 minutes before you try swimming). Each week add on a bit to make progress. (You should still keep up your pool sessions during the week).

Recommendations:

(Amateur advice)

If you’re buying a wetsuit – rent one first to see what sort of fit/shape/style you prefer first (if you’re only going to use it once or twice, you may just want to rent).

My own recommendation for a wetsuit would be a sleeveless one- it might feel good to have sleeves whilst you’re stood waiting on the shore but after a couple of hundred meters you will have burnt a few hundred extra calories of your reserve battling the arm strokes in those same arms.
I wore a sleeved suit for my 70.3 relay swim last year and all I could think of in the swim was “Never again”. Needless to say I’ve gone for a sleeveless suit now (an Xterra Vortex). I’ve kept my sleeved one just in case.

You might want to see if a local Tri club does OWS practices – join them! Morale in numbers and you might meet new people and make some friends as a bonus.

The local tri community may offer OWS clinics – I’m a big fan of doing pre race practice clinics to get an idea of what the actual day will be like.

If you’re still nervy come race day, get yourself a strapped buoy – they wrap around your thigh and inflate if you activate them (they do prevent you from placing but safety and peace of mind are way more important! – You’ll still get a medal at the end!). Swim IT have USAT approved devices and there are other companies coming up with ideas all the time.

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If you’re swimming in open water with jet skis, boats etc. then invest in a buoy so they can spot something in the water and hopefully avoid you! ISHOF sell one for $39.95. (This can also serve as a rest point when you’re tired – just hold on and float!).

Hang back in the crowd at the start of the race. If you’re doing a running start, just wait for the keen beans to run ahead of you, if you’re starting in the water, hold onto the dock or whatever until the last minute, or stay to the back of the crowd.

Look for open spaces – nobody wants to be pulled or kicked or crossed in the race, neither do you!

Count in your head, it keeps me calm and it gives me a rhythm when swimming. I do it when I’m running too to keep me going. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 etc.

Breathe rhythmically. If you favour one side, stick to it – there’s no point trying to start bilateral (both sides) breathing on race day. I favour my right whether I want to or not.

Slow down. Most people start off too fast and burn out. Maintain a steady pace and remember you’re doing this for you, not for anyone else.

If you panic, give yourself a pep talk, tell yourself you’re ok. The wetsuit feels too tight, it’s ok, it’s helping you float; the water is too deep, think about crossing that finish line; too many people, slow down or hang back a bit and let them pass; can’t swim crawl anymore, turn onto your back or side and keep going.

Mental stamina is about 80% of the battle whether in training or the race.

Whatever the situation, in the race there are lifeguards watching and monitoring to help, either as swimmers, kayaks or boats.

My strongest recommendation is to enjoy it, relax and go at your pace. Visualise yourself doing it and then do it!
(and if your foot hits some seaweed, do a T-Swizzle and shake it off! If there’s anything in that water, it will be terrified of the hundreds of splashing swimmers who are invading it’s home territory!)

Best of luck for your OWS and let me know how you get on!

Twitter: @jrnytoironwoman
Gmail: journeytoironwoman@gmail.com

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