Per usual, I have plenty of thoughts running through my head to share, but these training updates are a good way for me to slow down and reflect. So proceed at your own risk with the warning that this post about as long as my long rides have been lately :)
1. Embracing Laziness
The harder I train, the more I realize I need to take advantage of and make time for opportunities to relax/rest when the opportunity arises. To combat my "need to be doing something," I've been reading. YES, READING. I haven't finished a book in years (outside of educational textbooks) but somehow recently started #5 of the summer. The underlying purpose of the reading is actually counter-conditioning: I've been trying to read in the evenings instead of being on my computer or phone, with the ultimate goal of sleeping better at night. Overall, I am enjoying the books, sleeping better and they're fueling my motivation #winning
I've also been trying to take advantage of my last few weeks of down time before school starts to nap in the afternoons, where possible. The harder I train, the more I love the thought of sleep !!!
2. Mental Prep
Back in June I realized that I spend A LOT of time thinking about the nutritional aspects of race prep (because I enjoy it), but perhaps not enough in regards to mental preparation. In the past month I've tried to equal things out a bit and have been investing more time in mentally preparing myself for both race day and the training that is to come by: visualizing race day, visualizing various aspects of swimming, biking and running, practicing relaxation techniques and focusing on specific mantras. I am good at having random conversations with myself during workouts, so the mantras have been effective way in turning all that 'chit chat' into positive, focused self-talk to help me stay fully engaged in the task at hand and dig deeper #alsowinning
3. General Race Prep
My bike is just about race ready in regards to fit and equipment, minus the fact that I managed to mangle it this past weekend (major lesson in IM training: have a good bike mechanic) Anyway, I've been working on getting more comfortable accessing my nutrition and water bottles and dialing in my fueling plan. I'm continuing to work on navigating hills efficiently without "burning matches" based on perceived effort and heart rate. Tasks left on the to-do list include figuring out some sort of race wheel rental (???) and getting in more practice in regards to changing out tires/tubes quickly in case I flat (it pays to be prepared!). I'm done racing until IMLOU, but hope to work in plenty more open water swimming between now and then. I also hope to get out to Louisville to see the course, but unsure whether that will realistically happen. Otherwise "race prep" at this point consists of surviving the training and making/eating a lot of food !!
4. Trusting the Plan
Every so often the question pops into my mind of "Am I training hard enough?" I know I am not alone in that regard, but regardless I consistently remind myself of the importance of trusting the plan. Reality is: I have zero rational reasons to question my training and I don't have the time or energy to waste on doubting it. This is round #3 of IM training with my coach, and while things are looking a little different this year (greater intensity/volume in general), we both have a good idea of what has worked well in the past and I have two overwhelmingly positive ironman experiences to build upon. It's a wonderful place to be in having a plan I'm confident in and knowing that my job is to put in the work and take care of my body... and give my coach a hard time in the process because that adds to the fun factor :P
5. Culpeper Race Weekend
This past weekend I participated in the Culpeper Gran Fondo (Saturday) and Culpeper Olympic Triathlon (Sunday). The plan was to treat it more as a training weekend: participate in the 100 mile ride Saturday, then have fun and race the triathlon on Sunday as a longer workout on tired legs. The weekend was not without it's share of hiccups, but totally fun overall ! In lieu of a "race recap," I'm just including my thoughts here:
Culpeper Gran Fondo
My primary goals for the day were to put in the miles, limit time off the bike, ride strong and practice my IM race day fueling plan. Early in the ride I also set the goals of making 3 new friends and peeing on the bike :) The first 15-20 miles were full of energy and excitement as ~ 375 riders took off in a peloton in a light rain. These early miles kept me on my toes between the hills and passing other riders back and forth, which was chaotic but exciting and good quality race day practice. From the get-go I felt really good and only felt stronger as the miles went on. I was having the time of my life up, succeeded in meeting a few new people and was simply soaking up the gorgeousness of the day and landscape thinking "this is why I do what I do!" Then around mile 47 I heard a loud crunching sound coming from my bike while climbing a short hill up to the next aid station. I figured I had dropped my chain, but instead I had snapped my rear derailleur hanger which equated to an automatic "game over" for my ride :( BOOOOOO.
I was definitely majorly bummed with this outcome, partially because the perfectionist in me hated the idea of a DNF but mostly because I had been looking forward to the remaining miles. Which is a GOOD sign: I love riding my bike and I wanted to continue, both positive signs that I enjoy the process and am eager to complete the training.
After hitching a ride back to my car, my mind quickly turned towards troubleshooting the lack of bike issue for racing the following day. Unfortunately neither bike shop in town could fix my bike, nor provided rentals. Fortunately, my husband was quick thinking and put my road bike in the car before heading up to Staunton for a friend's birthday bash. If I wanted to race, I'd have to drive down to pick it up. So I took a nap, then left everything in my hotel room (knowing I might not return otherwise) and drove through torrential downpours and flash flooding in the Charlottesville area to pick up my bike and husband (3 hrs round trip). My plans to relax and recover and refuel Saturday afternoon went out the window, but I now had a bike AND cheerleader and those are both major positives!
My attitude towards the olympic tri was already fairly lax, but even more so after the whole bike incident. I was thankful to simply have a bike and be racing, period. As I was setting up my transition area, it was announced that the bike was cut back to 17 miles due to flooded roads and the start would be delayed 1/2 hour. I commented to a fellow racer, "That's totally fine. My level of 'don't care' is at an all time high right now. And this also means NO pressure to PR." Her response was along the lines of, "That means you'll have a phenomenal race" and I agreed. I race best when fully relaxed and drop the weight of expectation, and I had zero expectations for this race other than to simply to BE A TRIATHLETE and have fun.
So here's how the race went down: I swam strong, confidently, and relatively straight. I kept my transition setup simple and was in and out. On the bike, I struggled to get into my shoes and then got stuck behind a slow moving vehicle the first 5 minutes or so. I also quickly realized that my bike seat was low compared to how I've been riding lately (oops). I wasn't aero but didn't care. I worked the hills, stayed as low as possible and rode as strong as I could manage on less than rested legs. I remember smiling and laughing at only God knows what! I finished off my bottle of sports drink just in time to dismount and then tried to not wipe out as I sprinted on jello legs downhill toward the TA. As I was putting on my running shoes, the hubby yells at me not to hurry up but rather to wipe off my face (priorities: not looking like I grew facial hair. Apparently it still had some dirt residue on me from the swim... thanks love :)
The run was my most anticipated discipline of the day. It's a HILLY run and I expected it to hurt. I remained relaxed in the first mile, unwilling to max out my heart rate on the first long climb. From there it was up, down, water to drink, water over the head, gel at mile 3, sips of gatorade ... QUICK FEET ! I knew coach would be proud of my quick cadence, and it helped tremendously. Around mile 4 I was on the verge of throwing up but pressed on anyway. I had barely looked at my watch the entire race so knew little of my performance time-wise, but knew I had been working hard. The final mile is all downhill and pushed the pace in pursuit of 3 ladies in front of me. Running down that final hill overlooking the race site was tremendously exciting! I never did catch the other female racers, but finished with a smile knowing I had given the race my best effort, dug deep and remained mentally focused and positive throughout the entirety of the day.
I am over the moon with how my race went! Not because I had a stellar time, but as I later reflected in my training log: "Independent of time and placement, the major victory of the day was the mental dialogue that set me up for a successful and positive racing experience. I was just out there running my own race... having fun, focused, positive, confident and strong and it was beautiful !!" What more can a girl ask for ?!?!
6. What's Next ?
It's been a fairly down week of training ("until the weekend of course," says coach), then things will be picking up again pretty quickly as I move into peak IM training. On August 20th I'll be riding the Burke's Garden Century for the 3rd time and I'm greatly looking forward to it! I am also looking forward to the extra motivation that always comes with watching the OLYMPIC GAMES STARTING THIS WEEKEND!!! 66 days to go until IM LOU means I'll be working harder than ever in the weeks to come. Bring it!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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