Let Tri Season Begin: Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon

Let Tri Season Begin: Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon
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On May 15, I raced the Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon. It isn’t really what I’d call a sprint-distance race, since each of the tree legs is a bit longer: 3/4-mile swim, 16-mile bike, and 5-mile run. It was my first triathlon of the year — and I was undertrained.

I had only had three weeks of swimming and riding (I had racked my bike and stayed out of the pool in the months leading up to the Boston Marathon), so I knew I wouldn’t be 100% race-ready for this one. Heck, I would’t be 80% ready.

Yet, I’d been looking forward to the race for months. MHST would be my Boston victory lap: a beautiful morning out with friends (no fewer than eight of my training buddies did this one) and a morning of swim-bike-run fun on the roads where we often train.

Race Morning

I was planning to pick up my race packet on race morning, but on Saturday, I made the impulse decision to drive over to packet pickup at the Sports Basement in Sunnyvale. I needed to buy a new race belt, anyway.

That was the last smart decision I made that day. Later that night, as my mind was drifting off into lala land, I thought: Hey, I bet it would be totally cool if I slept in a little tomorrow. And so I changed the alarm, from 4:30 a.m. to 5.

Why not? Transition opens at 5:30, the race starts at 7. I had about a 30-minute drive out there… leaving home at 5:30 would be OK.

Indeed, it was — until I hit a traffic jam about three miles down the road from transition. It turned out that the designated parking lot had filled up and late arrivals like me were stuck in a bumper-to-bumper nightmare, moving at 3 mph. People were parking off the road and riding to transition, speeding by those of us who decided to wait it out and park safely. An aggravating 40 minutes later, I was out of the car and riding to the start myself.

It was 6:40 a.m. when I finally arrived at the bike racks and found my friends. The race announcer was already rushing everyone onto the water start and I was just beginning to set everything up!

Never mind, at least I’ve done this before. Rack bike, lay down towel, bike shoes-helmet-sunglasses to the left, running shoes-race belt-visor to the right. Dump two Nuun tablets and two Nuun Plus in water bottle, fizz out, close. Squeeze into wetsuit, grab swim cap and goggles. Snap quick pic with team. No time to pee! That’s OK, we’ll do it in the water.

7 a.m. Off we go into the water.

Free photos courtesy of USA Productions. Love it!
Free photos courtesy of USA Productions. Love it!

Swim

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My swim was as expected: blah. I tried as hard as I could to focus on good form, push the water, fast arm turnover… In reality, I would find myself wildly off course any time I sighted, and I could swear the reservoir water was choppy. Good thing it’s supposed to be safe to drink. Before I could find a rhythm, the swim was done.

My swim time, 25:19, was the slowest of all top 20 female finishers. At the time, I didn’t know how slow (or fast) this was, but as usual, by the time I got back to my rack, most of the bikes were gone.

Transition was a fairly quick (for me) 1:42: socks, shoes, grab Magic Bike and go. We’ve got some chasing to do.

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Bike

I had decided that no matter how undertrained I was bike-wise, I’d go as hard as I could. And if I blew up on the run, so be it.

So I pushed. The course is hilly and my legs burned the entire time, but I’d biked these roads before and had a good idea of the ups and downs my body and mind were about to experience.

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It’s a beautiful course, by the way, if you live in the area and haven’t done this race, you should. At least, come out and ride those roads. Enjoy the full reservoirs – thanks El Nino! – and gentle rolling hills, and challenge yourself on the short, but lung-busting climb up Sycamore road.

I got the bike done in 50:17, an average 19 mph.

I wonder how much faster I could take this course if I trained better, with hill repeats and at least three months – not three weeks – of riding consistently. Maybe I’ll find out next year.

Ran into transition, jumped into my running shoes. T2 time: 1:08.

Run

Time to go balls out. My feet were cold and each foot strike felt awkward, but at least my legs were there. The MHST run covers the first 2.5 miles of the bike course, then you turn around and head back towards the finish. It’s all gentle rollers, but nothing really hilly.

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I covered the first two miles at a 7:30 pace, wishing with all my heart that I could go faster than that, but couldn’t. My legs were fine — my lungs were not. I guess that’s what four months of marathon training does to you: you get the endurance, but lose your speed.

I was especially concerned to be running this pace on what seemed like an incline and kept thinking of the fight I’d need to put on the way back to avoid a walk of shame up the hill. Except something weird happened after the turnaround: running got easier. The gentle climb I expected never came. My pace went down to 7:07 for mile 4. I passed some people, then a woman who was in my age group.

Then I immediately thought, shit. I have a mile to go, and she’ll catch me. Must not let that happen. Must. Not. Grunt. Inner scream. At least, we were still running downhill. Pace for mile 5 on my watch was 7:03.

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I crossed the finish line just as my lungs were about to explode, with 1:59-something on the clock. My wave started 4 minutes behind, so I calculated that I’d gotten just under 1:55. Well, this was my first time doing this race, so I had no clue what that meant. Whatever, I just wanted to catch my breath and get some water.

After that, I went back out on the run course to cheer on the rest of the team — then headed back to the finish area to get food and beer. After a hard race, beer is the best!

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

So is checking the results and finding out you placed! I got 2nd in my age group, a good 8 minutes behind the first crazy-speedy lady. I can only dream to be so fast one day!

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What a great way to open triathlon season. (Oh, and guess what was in my prize pack: a race belt. So now I have a spare.)

Here’s to a new tri season, having fun and kicking butt!

Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon
Swim: 25:19
T1: 1:42
Bike: 50:17
T2: 1:08
Run: 36:27

Total time: 1:54:56
Overall place: 79 of 497
Female: 12 of 170
Age Group: 2 of 25

Life After Boston: What Happens to Your Body After Running a Marathon?

Life After Boston: What Happens to Your Body After Running a Marathon?
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It’s been 21 days since the Boston Marathon and I am finally beginning to recognize my own legs. I also recognize the absurdity of counting days after Boston.

When you spend so much effort and focus on one single thing, though, it’s normal to be numbering your days “before” and “after,” don’t you think?

Many runners experience post-race blues after training for and finishing a big event. Let me tell you how I nip this phenomenon in the bud: I always line up more stuff to train for before I’m even done with the “big” one.

That is how, a few months ago, I found myself signed up for my first Ironman. So now I’m officially:

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To be honest, I am currently questioning the sanity of this decision. It’s too soon! Too soon after Boston, which was a hard marathon training cycle, a tough race, and just a very emotional experience overall. And it’s just too soon, given my experience: this is only my fourth year in triathlon and even though I’ve completed four half-Ironman events and eight or nine short-distance ones, right now I am overwhelmed at the thought of basically racing all day long, double the longest I’ve ever raced.

To put it mildly, I really, really don’t feel like running another marathon in the next few months.

But selective amnesia is a real thing and I have faith that it will kick in, sooner or later!

For now, I have taken the first step towards moving on from the Boston Marathon:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

That’s right, I decided to not spend a gazillion dollars on one of those official (and very sleek-looking, I might add) shadow boxes that MarathonFoto was offering up at the Expo, and make my own instead. I think it represents my marathon experience perfectly: It didn’t turn out quite as planned and it isn’t perfect — but I love it anyway!

What’s next for me?

First, a little sprint-distance triathlon to kick off tri season this coming Sunday. Considering the swim is 3/4 mile, the bike is 16 and the run is 5 miles, the event falls somewhere between Sprint and Olympic distance, which suits me just fine. Last year, I learned the hard way how difficult it is to switch from marathon mode to Sprint-distance 5K-mode in just a month.

The good news is, my legs are starting to feel better and my feet are almost better (I’ve been doing lots of strengthening exercises and massaging the plantar fascia and all that wonderful stuff… and by now my fellow soccer moms and dads are used to seeing me waddle on barefoot on the side of the field during games). The bad news is, I’ve only had three weeks of riding and swimming after a long break, so both those things are nowhere near prime for me right now.

Like my coach said, it will be fine, as long as you adjust your expectations.

In other words, let’s do this for fun and not worry about placing or even racing. Well, knowing myself, I will probably end up trying my hardest anyway: gotta do what you gotta do to earn that post-race beer!

The good news is, I have so many friends doing this race that I won’t be alone in my suffering. Here’s to a fun week and an even funner weekend to come!

MARATHON

What happens after a marathon?

No matter how much we enjoy the endorphins and feelings of accomplishment after we’re done, let’s face it, marathons are hard. So what happens to our bodies after a marathon? The reactions described below are based on personal experience, as well as reading and hearing from other runners share theirs. They are all perfectly normal and to be expected.

  • Night after the marathon: many people have trouble falling asleep, despite feeling very, very tired. One reason for this is elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol as a result of putting your body through… well, the stress of running a marathon.
  • Soreness. Legs may begin tightening up and cramping during or immediately after the race, but DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness – typically kicks in the day after the race and is worst over the next two to three days. Stairs are best climbed and descended sideways :-)
  • Swelling. The body must rebuild all those muscle fibers you tore during the race – and that often causes your legs to retain water. If you notice that your skinny jeans feel tighter than usual, this could be one reason why. Chrissie Wellington has described this in detail in her book, A Life Without Limits.
  • Weight gain. This might start as early as your taper, especially if you carbo-load before the race (as most of us do). It is perfectly normal to gain a few pounds during this time and the assumption is that they will naturally come off after the race — but not immediately after, as your body will like retain fluids to fight post-race inflammation (see “swelling”).
  • Elevated body temperature. Speaking of fighting inflammation, this may cause you to have a mild fever over the next few nights, and your legs might be warm to the touch.
  • Weakened immune system. As the body is busy repairing torn muscle fibers, the immune system weakens and you might be more susceptible to getting sick.
  • Post-race blues. That feeling of emptiness and aimlessness after your big race – it’s no joke. Many of us fight this by signing up for another – be it a marathon, or a shorter race, or even something more challenging. It gives purpose to your recovery and, as soon as you feel ready for a new training cycle to begin, you now have a new big goal to strive for. Onwards and upwards!

Did I miss anything? How did you feel after your latest big race?

GIVEAWAY: Amazing Grass Protein Superfood

GIVEAWAY: Amazing Grass Protein Superfood
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Greetings! How was your Cinco de Mayo? I started mine bright and early at the track, with Margarita shots:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

I meant Margarita Shot Bloks, what did you think? And I didn’t even run on the track — I just “ran” the workout for our weekly Track Thursdays group. Lately, all the running I’ve been doing has been short and easy around the block, or longer but relaxed on the nearby trails.

I’m still very much in recovery mode from the Boston Marathon, which I’ll be honest, is taking a little longer than I expected. I know what they say about recovery from a hard race – it takes a day for every mile you ran – but given how long it took me to bounce back from past marathons (a few days to a week), I am surprised a bit at how stiff and “not there” my legs still feel.

(Part of this may have to do with the fact that I jumped back on the bike, after nearly three months off, and wasted no time cranking out a few 50-mile rides. The first of these was only on the Saturday after the marathon. But, I will say this: I missed my bike too much, triathlon season is now officially on, I have a race in a week and a half, and if riding my bike means my legs take longer to run fast again, I’ll take it!)

Back to recovery, though, because I have a giveaway that will make you want to work out hard, just so you can recover well with it. Anyone who is serious about running and racing knows that food is fuel and the foods we eat before and after a race have as much to do with performance and recovery as our training. In the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on eating enough protein and inflammation-fighting foods (berries, avocados, salmon, dark leafy greens, to name a few).

A part of my near-daily routine has also been a new protein+greens shake by Amazing Grass:

AmazingGrassProtein

A scoop of Amazing Grass Protein Superfood has:

  • 20 grams of plant-based protein, a blend of pea, hemp, chia and quinoa.
  • Seven alkalizing (read: anti-inflammatory) greens, including wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, broccoli, and spinach. As you can see above, you absolutely cannot tell by the color of the smoothie that there are any greens in there.
  • Two servings of fruits and veggies, including beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, goji, acai, banana, and more.

And the chocolate peanut butter flavor… all I can say is, when my seven-year-old gets his hands on my shake, there’s none left for me!

I experimented a bit with mix-ins, blending it into a smoothie with banana, frozen strawberries and kale (as you can see in the picture below, the result was a green smoothie – surprise!), or mixing it into my morning oatmeal instead of my usual tablespoon of sunbutter, but in the end, a simple shake with almond milk was my favorite. (I tried with coconut milk, too, but the consistency ended up a little too thick for my taste.)

AmazingGrassGreenSmoothie

For those who are on a weight loss plan: be careful with using this as a supplement or snack. One scoop of the protein powder has 190 calories, and you will invariably add more with the mix-ins. If you throw in a banana, some more fruits, and non-dairy milk, this might very well become a 400-500 calorie snack. (Then again, that would still be less than a venti Starbucks caramel macchiato, so there you go.)

For me, the Amazing Grass Protein Superfood has been the perfect post-run or ride snack. If you’d like to try it, enter the giveaway below — or use code SWEATPINKAleks16 for 30% off any Amazing Grass product on their website (but seriously, try the Chocolate Peanut Butter….). Coupon code is valid through 5/31/2016 and can be used once per customer only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post and giveaway were sponsored by Fit Approach and Amazing Grass. Reviews and opinions, as always, are honest and strictly my own.