Race Report: BCS Marathon

Wow! Well I wish I had blogged more frequently leading up to this event because there is a whole load of stuff that happened that I could have shared about.

Anyway more excitingly – Sunday the 11th December 2016, I ran my first FULL MARATHON!

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(I was letting it sink in for a minute).

 

I ran BCS marathon at College Station in Texas which is Aggieland (Texas A&M for the non Texans amongst us). What a race! The volunteers were amazing and everything was well organized with clear, frequent communications from the organizers. It was a much smaller race than I realized and I think I loved it more for this reason! It was so much more personal and every single person out on the course was happy and friendly.

I ran with my friend and I am so grateful that I had someone to run with; it would definitely have been a different experience solo. If you are planning on running with someone, make sure you know them fairly well and get on enough that you can zone out or tell them to shush if you need to (I didn’t need to shush my buddy but I was pretty quiet the whole race – just taking it all in and mentally keeping myself on track).

In my racing/training strategies for my longer runs I like to count down the miles which I know some people hate but it keeps my mind focused and doesn’t let me quit until I reach 0. I was surprised how quickly the miles went down on this race – way quicker than in my ‘training’. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t trained for the race and I wouldn’t recommend it to people as a healthy approach to racing but weather conditions and the course were in my favour. The longest training run we did was 13.1 miles at Thanksgiving (see photos for the beautiful trace we ran in Louisiana)

 

The weeks when I had planned 15 and 18 mile training runs I was so ill with flu that I couldn’t even get out of bed and then my asthma flared up big time – to the point where I couldn’t even speak more than a word or 2 before dissolving into coughing fits and being unable to breathe. (Ironically I can run perfectly with asthma as long as it’s not too cold!). I just can’t go anywhere without my inhaler in the winter.

Anyway.. side tracked (obviously still in that post race daze/high stage).. so the race was amazing. My friend got a huge blood blister just after we passed 13.1 (high five for making it beyond our longest training distance) so we switched to walking through the water stops at each mile marker after that point. At about 18/19 he started to feel unwell (I’ll admit around mile 10 my stomach started to feel rough for a few minutes and then luckily I was fine without any issues for the rest of the race). By mile 23 my knee felt like it was about to give out and I was experiencing quite a bit of pain and my buddy was feeling like he was about to hurl so we walked until 24. We rallied and kept going, looking at the photos of the child slaves freed this year because of this race (WOW!!!) as we ran towards the finish. My buddy had said to me that he wasn’t going to sprint finish as we usually push to do.. but then he picked up his speed so I said ok.. if we’re going to do this, let’s do this properly! We flew into the finish at top sprint and everyone was cheering and screaming (and I later found out our friends were watching us finish!!). It was an amazing end to the race and I didn’t even cry! Yay me!

As soon as I crossed the finish line my feet felt soggy and I could feel some intense pressure points and potential blisters on my feet which I guess I had blocked during the race. Other than this and the knee pain at 23/24 (and maybe some ankle/inner foot aches from the pounding) I felt pretty good the whole race and mentally I was clear and with it throughout. I didn’t hit a wall but I’m pretty sure this was because I had someone with me to push me and keep me going.

There were way too many people milling around in the finish enclosure and when my legs were buckling I was worried about falling into people or things but hey ho.. I made it out upright, with my super duper medal and off we went to have pictures taken!

 

Would I recommend this race to others? Yes! It was awesome!

Pros: 

Cheap sign up if you join early

Marathon only $5 more expensive than half marathon

Fantastic communication and social media support

SWEET medal and finisher jacket (plus a tech shirt)

Great volunteer support

Yummy food at finish

Benefitting a fantastic cause

 

 

There weren’t really any – we decided not to stay in College Station over the weekend and drove up for the race, if I did it again I would stay overnight probably. I would have liked maybe a portapotty or two more dotted around the course just in case!

On a side note, if you’re in College Station and you’re looking for great food – head to Mad Taco near Northgate – best tacos I have EVER eaten!

 

 

New goals!

As I sit and wait for Tropical Storm Bill to grace Houston with his presence, I thought this would be the perfect time to write an update.

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I know they’re few and far between but I feel like I’m getting back on the horse, so to speak, and into a new routine of working out again. I’ve been making healthier choices with food because let’s face it, you can’t out train a bad diet!

I’ve signed up for the Houston Marathon and set my sights on finishing alive. A group of my nearest and dearest friends (minus 2) have signed up so I know there will be a great group out on the road and training too. I’ve begun to run again, and bike, post injury and have discovered very quickly how unfit I am just in a short amount of time! It is definitely a wake up call and I’ve been putting in the time and hours because half an hour or an hour now will save me so much panic later! I want to feel ready at the start line.

I’m also starting to prepare as if I’m doing Austin 70.3 but will sign up later as it’s a lot of $$$!

I have a few more weeks before I head back to the UK to renew my visa and I need to get my butt in gear and hopefully tone up a bit before I hit the other side of the pond. I probably won’t be able to swim or bike there so I want a strong base before I leave. *Off to pinterest I go to find some strength workouts*.

I think I’m finally out of my funk! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

 

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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Running/injury update!

Began my day with a 10k run (sadly no negative splits today) started out way too fast but managed to finish without issues. Then headed over to my favourite Yoga for Runner’s class at Luke’s Locker.
After I stopped off to check out the shoes as advised by the Doctor and lo and behold… I hadn’t even been running in the right kind of shoes. (My oldies had actually been causing the pain and problems). Doh! The guy (John) was super patient and helpful and talked me through the various types of shoes, listened to me moan and then told me exactly what I needed to run pain free!
I now proudly own 2 pairs of runners – pair A – Saucony Guide 8 and pair B – Nike Zoom Structure 18 QS. I wasn’t too sure about the appearance of the Nike’s but they fit so well that I stuck with them. Both shoes have the stability to keep my foot from over pronating. I donated my old pair to their charity pile – hopefully somebody will get better use out of them!
I’ve also bought some new socks as the magic sock monster ate my old ones. Oh and runners glide! (Yeh… These longer runs in shorts rather than 3/4 or tights are causing some unpleasant chafing (which I’m sure I’ll start to experience under the arms too at some point).

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LA Marathon Update.

Some of you that have been following from the start may have known that I’d been toying with the idea of the LA marathon to go run an event with one of my best friends (who now lives in LA). She has been a fantastic source of inspiration and motivation over the last 3.5 years.

I had decided to wait until I had more news from the Doctor about my left leg before signing up for anything. Sadly; my very dear friend is even more injured than I am. She’s got some severe stress fractures which if not rested would basically split the bone in half and require metal pins and surgery to fix. So crutches and rest for quite some time. 😦 We are going to call her LA from here on in. LA is super fit and so dedicated to her fitness and health that this is devastating news for her.

She has inspired me so much since meeting her that I am determined to run the LA marathon sort of as a hats off respect sign to her. I’ve decided to go for it and I’m going to create a fundraising page because ‘normal’ people don’t like the thought of major sports events ‘just because’ – if it’s for charity then it’s justifiable. So I’m going to throw it out there and raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma as it’s also a personal charity for LA.

https://www.justgiving.com/journeytoironwoman is the link if you would like to donate against cancer. Many thanks in advance.

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(Also.. any advice about training/nutrition etc. is welcomed and appreciated!)

Exercising in the Winter! Hints and tips to keep you on track.

 

BRRR!!!! (Photo credit: Zoomarun.com)

Living in the South I am usually blessed with warm (and often yukky, sticky humidity) weather. Over the last few years Houston’s climate has really begun to change.. we have had snow, ice, heatwaves, tornadoes, hurricanes etc etc. (You see my point).

In the summer it is usually blazing hot and people can’t hack the heat until later in the evening; where in normal parts of the country it would cool off – not in Houston! But we suck it up anyway and off we trot for a couple of loops at Memorial or Rice, or even THP if you’re further out like me.

So Houstonians and us wannabes (imports) have adjusted to this and embraced the sticky horrible heat and worked out regardless. What we are not accustomed to at all is the cold! It hits anything below 70 here and we start wearing scarves and boots, coats make their way out of the closet or storage (I’m not even kidding!).

So my friends (and I, yes, I too am guilty), moan about the weather “Oh it’s too cold to run”, “I can’t get out of bed because it’s freezing”, “There’s no way I can bike in this weather” and the like.

BUT…. YES, we can! The North of the Country, (Mason Dixon line if you want to be super specific/Yankee country if you’re a Texan) manage it! Some of the States for about 5/6 months a year. And let’s face it, they are so hardcore up there that even giant snow drifts and ice storms don’t phase them! Hats off to these heroes!

One of those heroes! (Photo credit: 4.bp.blogspot.com)

I am embracing the cold (obviously not at 4:15am when that pesky alarm goes off and I have to tiptoe across the tiled (who even invented tiled flooring!?!) FREEZING floor to slip on my running shoes or grab my kit bag and head out for that oh so important work out). I love that I can now work out for an extended amount of time without feeling like I’m going to burn in hell or spontaneously combust from heat exposure. Yes, it is unpleasant and downright miserable when you stop and that wind hits you, but take some layers for when you stop, and grab a towel to dry off and you will be golden.

I read a fantastic article on Runner’s World this morning about 10 hints and tips for running in the cold so I would definitely recommend that you read it too! (Particularly the part about how many layers to wear depending on the temperature! This is something we have NO idea about down here!).

My hints and tips are as follows:

1. Don’t over layer during the workout but take plenty for post run/workout! Change out of your damp clothing – you will only get colder otherwise.

2. Don’t linger outside post workout longer than is absolutely necessary! You don’t want to get sick.

3. Keep a towel to hand in your car to “dry off” afterwards – you will still sweat on these workouts.

4. Set your alarm across the room if it’s a morning workout. Once you’re up, you’re less likely to curl back up.

5. If it’s a morning workout have everything ready to go and some people have suggested even wearing workout kit to bed so you don’t have to freeze in the morning getting ready.

6. Safety is key! I’m an independent female who is still going to work out on my own but there’s a limit to where and when! I will happily got to the gym near my work at 5am, running at the park at the same time; not so much! Think about where you are; who is around at that time etc.

7. Wear fluorescent clothing or bands and take a flashlight/head torch. See and be seen!

8. Pack yourself a treat of hot coffee/chocolate or tea for the end! It’s great to focus on that to get you to the end of the workout.

9. Find some indoor classes you would be interested in taking if it’s “just too cold” outside

10. If you’re a gadget/gear geek or guru struggling to get out there get yourself a jar or money tin and put a set amount of money in each time you work out so that you can buy yourself something fabulous and shiny at the end of the winter and it will feel that much better because you earned it with those difficult get ups, cold slogs in the wind and the rain.

And if you’re struggling with motivation in the cold find alternatives, set yourself some personal challenges, sign up for a Spring event, get some friends on board for a competition, imagine yourself crossing the finish line of an event you were particularly pleased with; how did it feel? Rekindle that feeling! And if you’re still struggling reading my previous post about Motivation.

 

Please, make sure you warm up adequately pre and post workout! We don’t want any injuries!

What are your hints and tips for Winter Workouts?

Reply here or tweet @jrnytoironwoman.

Be safe out there!