Thursday, December 25, 2014

I'm going to do it all

As mentioned in my past couple blogs, I always get irritatingly navel-gazing this time of year. Today is Christmas and with one week left in 2014 I still had no direction for 2015. Hell, I haven't had any direction since 2012, when I managed to both complete my first Ironman and obtain my CISSP certification.  I was happy to keep it relatively low-key in 2013 after a year like that, but now that 2014 has come and gone without anything big to show for it as well, I'm feel edgy. We only get so many times around the Sun and I'm definitely feeling that as I get closer and closer to 40.

Well, today I heard One Republic's "I Lived" for the first time, and quickly hunted down the video to find out who did it.

And after I picked my bawling self up off the floor, I knew I had a song for 2015. I don't know quite what it means yet, but it does involve dragging myself out of my comfort zone and saying "yes" more often. I'm also hoping to add some "big stuff" to it the year as well (aside from IMLP, of course). I'm thinking maybe travel, another certification, I don't know.

But I'm excited to see where it takes me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Off Season 2014 and Changes for 2015

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

So...the 2014 season has come and gone and the year itself only has two weeks left. I always get very introspective this time of year. For some people it's their birthdays that signal the passing of time and thinking of the year ahead, for me it's the New Year.

After PRing at my last A Race of the season , it was time for a break where I let my body recover from a grueling season and thought about what went right and what went wrong.

So, I spent several weeks sitting on my ever-widening ass and eating all the junk food I could find. Sufficiently rested, November came and being an Ironman year, it was time to start on 2015.

The first big change is that I am now training with Team Amazing Day. Although Coach Karen was amazing and turned me into a long-distance triathlete (for which I can never thank her enough), I felt that it was time to move on after four seasons.

I am already seeing improvements after less than two months of MAF training and am excited to see what Coach Jenni can do with me.

As usual, I ran the Lake Placid Turkey Trot and amazingly set a race PR! I couldn't believe it since I was just easing back into training after the off-season, but there it is. In full disclosure, the fact that the streets were (mostly) clear and the temperature was in the mid-20s instead of single-digits helped.

Yes, I know my form looks horrible. Sprinting to the finish praying for the sweet release of death.

The other Off-Season thing to do is...SPONSORS! Unfortunately not as much good news there. I applied to the Coeur Sports team and just found out a couple hours ago that I didn't make it. I have to admit I was really upset not because I felt I "deserved" it or some such arrogance but simply because I honestly thought I had a very good chance of making the team. As I told Kebby, they treated me so well I felt like an honorary sponsored athlete this year and I will always speak well of them and wear all of their things. Of course I plan on re-applying next year. How can I not when their compression capris make my ass look like this?

Dr. Z would like to remind you all that you may look but not touch. 
I also re-applied to Skratch as I'm hoping to continue my relationship with them as a Taste Agent, but they haven't chosen their team yet. Hopefully I'll have better news there.

Also, I've rainbow-ed my hair. It's a lot of upkeep because the chlorine in the pool keeps stripping it out, but I LOVE it.

So where does this leave me for 2015? I have a new coach who is already piling on the volume higher than I've ever done in December before, will evidently be paying out-of-pocket for my amazing training wardrobe, and am hoping to continue with Skratch. I will also be doing my earliest triathlon ever, which right now is looking like the very brutal (Here! Have a 55-degree swim! And the HILLIEST BIKE COURSE EVER!) Harryman downstate in May.

A lot of new things this year, including more strength training than I've ever done, and an introduction to paddles in swim training (Ruling in favor of - LOVE!). I'm excited to see what it all brings. I have this weird feeling of starting a long journey that while I don't know the destination, I'm thoroughly enjoying the ride.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Wrap-Up

Now that I've been sitting on my rear end for a week and half, foraying into the 40 degree drizzle that's been a constant for the past week only for the occasional Masters or easy three mile run, it's time to digest this season. (Especially since I found out that next season starts next week, not November 1st like I thought.)

My bike and run training went amazing this year. I missed very few sessions and laid down some amazing times, even on the Tinman course. Swim training was a bit more frustrating. Coach Karen and I put down an extra swim a week this year but my times even in training stayed more stagnant than they ever have during a season before. She DID lower the distance of each swim so that overall volume wasn't much higher, and maybe that had something to do with it. I don't know.

Even though they aren't an "official" race, the first time I really got to see if all the early-season training paid off was at the Time Trial series. When I set a PR at the FIRST ONE, I was pretty excited. I managed to PR two or three more times despite never tapering or resting for them, and that and my training rides out in Tupper Lake had me feeling good about my bike. (And hey, winning "Best Dressed" thanks to my Betty bike kits didn't hurt. ;-D )

Tinman was next. Despite the goggle disaster in the swim and 85 degree sun on the run, I actually had my best Half execution ever. (Aside from my meltdown on miles 2-5 on the run). The fact that this Polar Bear managed to eek out a tiny PR despite all that had me pretty happy despite being 10 minutes off my 6:40 goal.

After Tinman's ridiculous weather, started practicing heat training. Proof I'm Coeur material: My ass sweats hearts.

Then it was Mini-Tri time. I did manage a PR, but only one. The first year I didn't set and break PRs at least three or so times. My times stayed at 1:18 - a result I only dreamed off just last season, but frustrating in its consistency.

Caught in pea-sized hail on a run - SO unusual for this part of the country!

Then came Big George. I just wrote about it so I won't rehash too much, but I let the tough conditions completely tank my head game, and that was the biggest loss.

An embarrassingly small portion of my S/B/R wardrobe. Doesn't even include any of my Coeur gear.

It was nice to be able to end on a high note with the PR at Mohawk Hudson. Sonja talked about "gazelles" vs. "bulldogs" in her Kona race report, and that's made me realize that I am definitely a "gazelle" athlete. I find joy and execute best when everything is coming together in contrast to being able to pull out the grit on tough days. Definitely something I need to work on since the biggest thing that leads to "bulldog days,"the weather, is completely uncontrollable.

So, not sure where that leaves me for 2015 after such a shaky 2014 season that vacillated between PRs and disastrous races. I do know some things:

1.) As mentioned in my Big George recap, I'm glad to be taking a break from focusing on 70.3 racing. I'll definitely do at least one as a run-through for IMLP and maybe another coasting on my IM fitness like I did in 2012, but in either case it won't be an "A" race.

2.) I need to work on finding my Inner Bulldog. It's a bit harder being BOP because I can't just focus on chasing the podium instead. A definite keep will definitely be to figure out what can drive me on tough days.

3.) I also need to work on my swim in a major way. The new Masters class has definitely helped already despite that we only swim about a mile each week. All the focus on form (and being forced to do things I hate like Single Arm Drills, and kicking with no fins, etc.) and getting corrections from the deck (especially when I get tired and start to fall apart) is REALLY awesome, even if right now my form is SO broken down I look more like a drowning brick than a swimmer. Plus it's much more fun to swim with friends. I even have a swim buddy - we always share a lane and she's just a TEENY bit faster than me, which helps to push me to keep up with her.

And also, another changes as well that I'll get into in my next entry. Hope everyone's enjoying off-season!

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Mohawk Hudson Half Marathon Race Report

(a.k.a Dreams DO Come True!)


Going into the race, I knew that a lot of things were coming together - my training times were good, the course is one of the fastest in the country, and the weather was forecasted to be PERFECT run PR weather.

The pieces were all there, it would be up to me to put them all together. In other words, if I DIDN'T PR, it was all on me. This was both good and bad. Good because for the first A race in a year and a half, weather wouldn't be an issue, bad because No Excuses.

So, Dr. Z. and I headed down Saturday afternoon for packet pickup in downtown Albany - a rare treat for this city-loving girl. Got my bib, and walked around the expo a bit. Just was I was about to leave, a super-cute pink hoodie WITH SWEATERPAWS caught my eye. They actually had an XS, so it was MINE.

Then it was time to mow down and P.F. Changs (my FAVORITE) before heading back to the hotel. Pinned my number to my run tank and it was time to hit the hay.

Race Morning:

Ah, the joy of foot races. Relatively late 8:30 start and no transition to set up (or body marking/getting chip/etc.) meant we woke up at a relatively decent hour and still had time to have a leisurely breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. (My carb-heavy go-to breakfast for footraces of a plain bagel with butter and large coffee.)

Dr. Z. dropped me off at the start and drove off to the finish line in Albany. (The joys of a point-to-point race.) I immediately got into the long line to use the Porta-Potty and spent the rest of the time jogging around while freezing my ass off. (It was about 38 degrees.)

We got all lined up, and in the middle of chatting with a couple other women, we suddenly started moving - no air horn or anything. (And I know it wasn't just me missing it because someone else said, "Oh, we're going?") I actually liked it. It was like, boom, race time.

Mile One:

So we get going and the first thing I find out is that I've seeded myself too far back. It's really hard to pass people because we're on a narrow bike path. Sigh. I end up passing people by going on the grass. I keep telling myself that it's an excellent way to ensure I don't go out too fast. Just as I get some space and get in a groove, my shoe comes untied despite double-knotting it in the morning. I briefly entertain the thought of just running with it like that, at least until the crowd thins out, but five notifications from people that my shoe is untied in as many minutes convinced me to haul over to the side and fix it. I then had to re-pass everyone I had spent the first half mile passing. Sigh. This was my slowest mile by far, but I didn't really freak out - I was in a good groove and had 12.1 miles to make it up.

Miles 2-4 :

Got behind some perfect girls to draft off of. They were running high 8:30s/low 8:40s, but the heart rate and my RPE was okay, so I stayed with it. I couldn't believe they were chit-chatting. I remember thinking, "I'm in the 170's, which is technically Z4 for me, and this is their CONVERSATIONAL PACE?!?!"

Also dumped my hoodie at the first aid station - I was warming up fast. (Luckily it was an old hoodie I knew I might have to trash if Dr. Z. didn't meet up with me in time.)

Miles 5-8:

At the second aid station, I decided to dump some water on my head (yes, although it was still only 40's) and managed to nail someone who (unbeknownst to me) was drafting off me. Oops. I honestly had no idea she was there. Dr. Z finally caught up to me and could see from where I already was on the course that I was having a good day.

I also had latched on to a new group. One of the little things that came together for this race is I always had people going the perfect pace to draft off of and drag me along. It was in here I started noticing my heart rate starting to climb past acceptable levels - I told myself I couldn't go into Z5 until the last 5K. I had a couple slow half-mile splits in here, which made me a bit nervous. My average pace also went down from 8:35 (after a very fast downhill half mile) up to 8:42. Usually still a PR pace, but I could tell this course was LONG. (Thank God for Garmin!).

Miles 9 and 10:

This is where it started hurting. My splits were BARELY staying within acceptable numbers - I was seeing a lot of 4:20s and 4:22s even with my HR up around 175. I dumped off my sleeves and gloves to Dr. Z. at several points.

A couple particularly great action shots Dr. Z. got.
Miles 10-13.3:

Once again, I latched on to a new group, well person for the last 5K. I had actually started sitting on her shoulder at mile nine somewhere and was just trying to hang on. She was going just a bit fast for me, but this late in the race it was go time: Let's pick it up, and see what we have left under the hood. As we passed the Mile Ten marker, Dr. Z. pretty much said that to me. And I went with her. It hurt bad.

During this time, I couldn't rub the brain cells together to look at splits, but my AVERAGE came down from 8:42 to 8:37.

I'm in my "head down and focused" mode, but the beast in front of me is awesomely deep in her Pain Cave.
I just held on. Around mile 12ish she said something, I forget what, and I replied, "Let's finish this thing!". We came on through the bike path, and hit the final turn. I did think enough to hit my lap button at mile 13.1 - something like a 1:53.

First time I've been able to get the "rippling shredded muscles" effect in a photo.
The last .3 seemed to take FOREVER because of the course being long. I kept looking for that damn finish line after I hit 13.1. I could see the clock saying 1:54 and I just SPRINTED through to ensure not only an unofficial "Garmin 13.1" PR, but an official PR. As it turns out, I managed to PR by almost a minute even by GUN time.

Came on through the finish and amazingly DIDN'T need Medical for once. (How disappointing. ;-D) I DID use my inhaler, but that's about it. I was SO, SO happy with my performance. I grabbed a chocolate milk and then through myself down for my first-ever immediate-post-race massage. (More like a very light leg-rubbing, which is all the quads could handle at that point anyway.) Another nice touch that they have at the finish line was a change tent.

What does one wear after taking down a 7-year-old PR? ALL THE PINK!

There isn't much to say about a race where everything big (weather, course, training) and small (people to run with, perfect breakfast) comes together. I do love this race as I love a fast, flat course so am hoping to do the Full marathon next year and set another PR.

Time: 1:54 (8:37 pace over 13.29 miles)
28/130 AG
108/510 Women
238/761 Overall

Onto the off-season!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

2014 Big George 70.3 Race Report

So. Over a month ago, I raced my fifth 70.3. On what I thought would be a fast swim course (much better sighting and less chop than Tinman), a fast, flat bike course, and a hilly run course. As it turned out, not so much. Except for the hilly run course.

(Ugh, the GOOD races are SO much easier to write about...)

Saturday: So Dr. Z and I packed all our (okay, mostly MY since I was the one racing) in the car and headed down to Lake George. I was immediately put on edge by the hordes of cars and pedestrians in this very much a tourist town for the holiday weekend. Reason #454381 why I don't understand why the race directors moved the race to Labor Day weekend a few years ago. We go to packet pickup (lots of swag - Yay! Cheap t-shirt instead of cute baseball hoodies this year - Boo!), check in the bike (one thing the race does RIGHT - one less thing to do in the morning), and finally check into the hotel. I call Coach Karen and we arrange to pick her up at her hotel and head out for dinner.

For the life of me I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at, but it was DELICIOUS! (I'm one of these people that although I have a "pre-race meal" that I always cook if I'm at home, I really CAN eat whatever the night before a race.) After that, we went back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the evening filling water bottles of Skratch for pre-race, bike, and run. Since it was an early start, we went to bed early and I actually slept pretty well.

Pre-Race: We were up at Ugly O'Clock for the 7 a.m. start, even with having everything laid out, bottles filled, and bike checked. I got dressed, nuked my usual eggs and rice that I had brought with me (hooray hotel fridge and microwave), and we headed out to the Dunkin Donuts that was supposedly right down the highway on the way to the race. We finally figure out it's a "Self Serve" Dunkin' in a HESS. Nastiest coffee EVER. THANKS, Google Maps. Lesson learned.

We get there and after some drama with parking, I get my chip (I really wish races would start putting these in the packet pickup packages. Once again, it would be one less thing to do on race morning), and set up my transition area. The entire time, I'm freaking the fuck out because it's windy. REALLY windy. And it's NEVER windy in the morning here, but there it is. While I consider it a minor nuisance on a flat bike route, I'm looking at the lake and I'm petrified of the swim.

I warm up, get some photos with Coach, and it's time to get in the corral.

My coach, ladies and gentlemen. LOVE this photo! LOL!

Swim: The horn goes off, and at first it's not bad. 

For the first 400 yards or so the water's not still, but it's not as choppy as I feared, and for once in my life I have GREAT feet to hang on to. Then, a nasty wake from a powerboat hits me from the side and I freak. I sit up, panicked, losing the feet, and actually start to wave a kayak over because I don't think there's any way I can finish this swim. The swells calm down,  I wave her off, and get going again. By now I'm way behind everyone, especially since my wave was the second-to-last to go off.

At this point, the chop is there, and it is FRIGHTENING. I just keep eyeing all the safety boats around, and knowing I can bail out any time helps me to keep going just a little further, just a little further. I hit the final turnaround on the "U"-shaped course to head back to shore, and a kayaker points out a light for me to sight off. Thank GOD, because even WITH something to sight I kept getting pulled waaaaaaaaay over to the right thanks to the chop. I would have otherwise ended up on the coast of Ireland or something.

A GREAT picture considering what an awful swim I had.
I come tearing out of the water. I have no idea what my time is (and thank GOD because if I had SEEN my terrible time that would have tanked me for the entire race), but I know it's Very Not Good. I run by Coach and Dr. Z. and just shout out "CHOPPY!"

I love that the lady in gray on the right is totally throwing shade my way. Like, lady, I KNOW I had a terrible swim.
Swim: 55:25 (OUCH!) 11/11 AG, 73/ Women, 203/207 Overall.  MAJOR ouch - only FOUR people swam slower than me!?!?!?

T1 - So I tear ass into T1, already exhausted from that swim. I do manage to get in and out of there pretty quickly and get off onto my bike.

Myself and the athlete in front of me displaying fine triathlete speed mounting technique. Sigh.
T1: 1:50 - 5/11 AG, 15/ Women, 55/207 Overall - See, TOTALLY a front of the pack athlete! ;-)

Bike:  Ugh. So I get on the bike, look at my Garmin, and my heart rate is SKY HIGH. Like, 170s high. So I just simmer and try to get that puppy down while in granny gear. And that's the story for the next five miles. Most of it WAS a climb (that I had underestimated looking at the elevation profile), but I was definitely tired out from the swim. It SUCKED. I averaged ELEVEN MILES PER HOUR that first half hour while people passed me left and right and my heart rate just wouldn't come down.

I finally came around after getting on the main flat part of the course and was able to start hauling. Well, hauling for me anyway. Passing people back and feeling pretty good. I get to the first aid station, grab a bottle to refill the ol' Aero, and...the top foam part falls in. I say many bad words, come to a stop, and fix everything. Double sigh.

So everything's going okay until I get to the next aid station at mile 28. I swear to God I thought it was an out-and-back course, and there's no turnaround. I get to mile 29, then 30, and now I am FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I FINALLY figure out that it must be a lollipop course (which it was), but at this point that's a lot more energy just expended. In addition, my stomach is giving up the ghost and I can't put anymore chews down.

On a bright note, at one point I'm playing leapfrog with a woman and crack her shit up at mile 40-ish by announcing, "My crotch and I are SO ready to get off this bike!" as I pass her.

We come back into town and there's HORRIFIC traffic we're having to weave through. I almost get hit at one point. Not only that, they change the course on the way back so that we have to basically go around the block at the end - no way to keep good momentum going. I come in with one of my slowest rides ever. After a bad swim. (Well, the rest of the ride actually went pretty much according to plan, but 56 miles was not enough real estate to make up those first five miles.)

This photo cracks my shit up - my expression perfectly captures how I was feeling about my race.
Bike: 3:36:42 - 9/11 AG, 62/ Women, 186/207 Overall - Ouch again. Sigh.


Well I am in a TERRIBLE headspace at this point. My swim was awful (not to mention the scariest I've ever done), my bike was awful, and now my stomach isn't going to let me put anything down. 

T2 - 1:03, but the "placings" have me all in the BOP which is weird, especially looking at the times - other people with slower transitions are showing as better placed. Huh.


Heading out on the run - I love this picture - I look so FAST.
So the run was changed to a four-loop course a couple days before the race. While I grumbled about it, it WAS a nice way to break it up.

After such a rough first two legs, it was great to have my Cheer Crew yelling up a freakin' STORM when I got started. Stretch stretched out to his full 6'5" glory, put his hand up as high as he could, and yelled "UP HIGH, UP HIGH!" Nearly fell over laughing, especially since I didn't even know he was spectating until that point.

The first loop I'm doing pretty well despite not being able to take anything except water.  Definitely the fastest loop of the day. Unfortunately towards the end of the loop payment is due and I really start bonking. I tell Coach my problem when I start the second loop, and she basically gives me a "Figure it out."

The first thing I have to do is take it down to Zone 2, instead of Zone 3 as planned. Any time I try to run harder than that, I get so nauseated I'm afraid of vomiting. I grab some pretzels and water at the aid station at the far end, which helps a bit, but I'm doing a shit-ton of walking instead of that sweet 9:20 pace I had practiced even on ridiculously big hills in training.

Yes, I became quite sponge-addicted in this race.

I managed to get my shit together a bit better for the third loop - felt faster than the second one. I still sauntered through aid stations though and kept the HR low. I was so happy to get to the downhill at the end and know I only had one loop left to do.

Ever since the Syracuse Marathon in 2012, taking my picture by a speed sign when I'm hurting has become an ongoing joke.
The fourth loop, Stretch actually joins me in my walk-jog for about half of it, which is really sweet of him, especially since his easy pace is like 8 minute miles. At this point I'm just trying to get it done and over with. He leaves me with about 1.5 miles or so to go. Shortly after that, Dr. Z. finds me and escorts me in on my bike. I swear to run the rest of the way if it kills me.

Half a mile or so to go and yes, a 10 minute/mile jog DOES feel like it's going to kill me.

I come through, and as usual collapse in a wheezing heap. And because it wouldn't be a race report without me falling apart at the finish line, here's the collage for y'all:

Run: 2:18:21 - 6/11 AG, not going to manually figure out the rest. Yes, the "auto-tabulated" results ARE screwed up.

Total: 6:51:27 - 9/11 AG (Exactly the same as Tinman. Sigh.), 43/62 Women.

After thoughts:  Well, this was pretty much a shitty race from the start. I have to admit it's been a disappointing season in general, especially after having such an amazing breakthrough season last year. After my THIRD 6:50 Half-Ironman in a row despite training so hard, I'm happy to step away from the distance for a bit and concentrate on Ironman next year.

I'm not saying I won't do Half-Ironmans - they're still my favorite distance - I just need a break from banging my head against the wall trying to execute the race that training shows I have in me. (No, I DON'T think 6:40 at Tinman followed by 6:30 at Big George were unrealistic goals, even in hindsight.)

With that, I was happy to wrap up the triathlon season and go back to my comfort zone - RUNNING!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

2014 First Annual Mutt Strut Race Report

Yes, FINALLY a race report. And no, it's not my Big Georg 70.3 one. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Anyway, animal shelters are "my" cause, so when a flyer for a "Mutt Strut 5K" the local humane society caught my eye, it stuck in my head, especially since it was being held on, yes, my birthday.

I didn't seriously consider doing it though since it would be two weeks out from my PR attempt at the Mohawk Hudson Half Marathon.

However...Dr. Z. decided to go out of town, and after working approximately a bajillion hours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with more to put in on Sunday, I decided to have some damn fun.  And "some damn fun" around means "racing."

(...and bonus points if you can figure out what I do for a living given those dates.)

So, I didn't have a mutt to strut, and the real thing that pushed me over the edge into deciding to go was a cat. Since, you know, I didn't have a dog to bring. And yes, I had the perfect, or, ahem, PURRfect outfit:

Yes, WITH cat ears of course.
And unfortunately the above is the only photo I have. Dr. Z. wasn't there to take pictures and aside from one photo a woman asked to take, there was nothing. (In fact, one of the reasons I've waited to post this was in hopes that more pictures (or hell, ANY pictures) of the event would show up.

So I roll in and chat with all the shelter girls, who I know. I can tell right away that this is NOT serious at all and there aren't even any bibs or timing. I'm also one of the few people without a dog, although I have a blast playing with all the doggies there.

I originally wasn't going to warm up (NOT taking this serious, SEE), but at the last minute decide to shake out the legs a LIIIIITLE bit and do some quick striders, knee-ups, and butt-kicks so I don't pull a bajillion muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The gun goes off and even with just jogging it in Zone 2 I'm at the front of the pack. Two guys flew way ahead, and I was playing leapfrog with this woman whose dog kept sprinting and then slowing down.

About a mile in, I decided to dig in and push it a bit. I quickly dropped the other girl and spent the next mile and a half working very hard, but never quite going into that brain-melting 5K pain cave.

In the end, despite not pushing over the edge AND having twelve hard miles on my legs from the day before, I finished first Woman and third Overall. My second ever 5K win! Once again, the competition wasn't there, and my pace should NOT have won even a small local 5K, but it was a fun bit of fast, hard running to raise money for a cause that's near and dear to my heart.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Coeur Sports Review (Or Why My Twitter Feed Has Sounded Like a Shill for Them Lately.)

Hey All!

Time for another race report (did Big George 70.3 on Sunday), that race did NOT go well, which means, there's going to be much more to write than for a "good" race.  It also means I'm still sorting out a lot of shit in my head about what went down, so in the meantime, LET'S TALK CUTE AND FUNCTIONAL TRAINING CLOTHES! (My FAVORITE thing, as you all know.)

So, I first found out about Coeur Sports through Katie. While the seamless chamois intrigued me (hello, huge saddle sores during IMLP 2012 training), I have to admit that at first the minimalist designs didn't really do much for me and to tell the truth, I kind of forgot about them.

However, this winter my local bike shop started carrying Coeur (one of about four or five in the COUNTRY at the time) so I decided what the hell, let's try them on and grabbed a Chinese New Year kit. After nearly strangling myself and dislocating a shoulder trying to get my usual XS on (their old sizing), I pulled on a Small and was surprised by not only how good it looked but that it was the most freakin' comfortable kit I had ever worn and bought it immediately.

So, let's get grading, shall we?

Shipping and Handling: A

Shipping is included in the item cost, which I love. I have this weird thing about HAAAAATING to pay shipping charges. Also, their packaging is the CUTEST. Check it:

Everything also comes wrapped in this super cute white-with-red-hearts wrapping paper, and I am very sad I didn't save it. They even usually include a little handwritten note..

The only time I had an issue with S&H was having to wait a while when I ordered shortly before the Fourth of July holiday and they sent me some extra goodies in apology. Crazy service or what?

Cost: A

I know, you're looking at the prices now and saying, "But Veronica, why do they get an 'A' when their prices are pretty average for other small shops like (yes, let's name names) Smashfest Queen and Betty Designs?" It's for two reasons: 1.) The amazing QUALITY of the clothing and 2.) As mentioned, the price includes shipping, which most others don't.

Design: B+

Like I said, the East Coast preppie vibe (I usually love to look like a rainbow threw up on me) didn't appeal to me at first, but I've really grown to love it. My current favorite is actually Fleet Foxes, believe it or not.  I also love how you can mix and match the four main designs across all of their different sport lines.

They only get a B+ for the fact that my FAVORITE design, Seaglass, is only available as a swimsuit or bra. I want my Seaglass tri kit. Also, I'd love to see a pink design, maybe with HEARTS (Get it? Hearts?) Get on that, Kebby! ;-)

Quality: No Grade

These are all amazingly well-built pieces, looking at them. (And my mother used to be a professional seamstress, so I know what to look for.) However, I'm new enough to the line that I don't feel like I have REALLY put them through their paces yet.

Comfort: A++++

Hands-down the most comfortable stuff I've worn. The first time I wore the Fleet Foxes on a run I remember having the thought that it felt like I was naked. THAT comfortable, people.

The seamless chamois is a big win as well. I mean, BIG. I always get nasty saddle sores in what I call my "Leg pits" due to the seams that run through there on most shorts. This chamois is a dream come true and all I plan on wearing during IMLP training next year.

Also amazing is the little pocket in the sports bras. I got NASTY cuts on my chest stuffing gel packets down my bra at the Cowtown Half, so this is the Most. Brilliant. Idea. EVER.

Selection: A

Okay, so one thing that's really driven me nuts about other lines is that they don't have the full selection a triathlete girl needs. Smashfest makes BEAUTIFUL tri and bike kits but nothing for the swim or run. Betty Designs has swim, bike, and tri, but stopped making run clothes a while back. Coeur is the first company that understands a girl wants to swim in a swimsuit, bike in a bike kit, and run in running shorts and tank. They even have a huge t-shirt collection (I NEED the "Running Makes Me Happy" one in green.) and compression gear.

They would get A++++ if they added cold weather gear. They have sleeves but I would love to see long-sleeve jerseys, knee warmers, and beanies for us Northern girls who train in the cold.

Customer Service: A+++++++++++++++ (Can I put more pluses in there?)

Okay, so it's when things go run that you really get to know a company, and boy did I have a major issue. I bought the Chinese New Year kit and Fleet Foxes shorts and bra in pretty short order. Unfortunately when I went to wash them, the black liners bled onto the white of the patterns, leaving rust-colored stains everywhere. It was BAD.

The horror - avert your eyes, people.
They quickly exchanged the gear, except for the bra, which was out of stock so they refunded me. Not only that, they included a Fleet Foxes tri top in apology. Crazy, right?

When the SECOND Chinese New Year top also stained, they went even further to make sure I was happy. These are truly amazing people who care about their customers and want to do right by everyone. Everyone I worked with - Kebby, Andrea, Reg, etc. was AWESOME to me. Not only that, I know several of the people they chose as ambassadors, including local speedster Amy Farrell, and with girls like these proud to represent them, that just cements them as a great company in my mind.

My Three Caveats with Coeur:

1.) The Staining Issue - The main concern here is with the Chinese New Year Tank, although my Fleet Foxes shorts, bra, and even the replacement tri top experienced it as well. (Luckily the tri top is only white on sides and back, and staining was minimal and is hard to see - still wearable!) 

I have to admit it's a little frustrating because it seems like the issue would be fairly straightforward to fix - run the black liner material through a hot wash before manufacturing. I hand wash all my good training clothes, and even in COLD water, the water literally turns brown with dye - no WONDER it's staining! 

They ARE trying to fix this issue, but definitely approach with caution and wash very carefully the first few times.

2.) Differences Between Website Photos and Merchandise -  Coeur is always looking for better manufacturers and factories to work with, which is awesome, but they don't always update their photos for the small changes to the products that occur. It's all little things, like whether the Seaglass bathing suits have white or pink straps, or the hoodie having a much fainter logo design, but if you're OCD like me, it might drive you a little nuts that what you get isn't exactly as pictured.

3.) Frequent "Out of Stock" Issues  - Not only is Coeur unafraid to pull merchandise that is having issues (I've noticed that the troublesome Fleet Foxes bra has been unavailable for months), they're also experiencing a huge surge in demand as word gets out. If you see something you like, snatch it up. If not, it WILL eventually come back, but it may take awhile. (Aside from the Fleet Foxes bra, I'm waiting for the Checkmate Bikini to be back in stock.)

So, would I recommend Coeur Sports? Does this answer your question?

In all seriousness though, they are a great company with a high quality product. DEFINITELY highly recommend. In fact, I'm so much in love with them that when a girl in a Chevron Kit was rudely elbowing people out of her way on the crowded 4-lap course, I took it personally. Like, "HOW DARE YOU DISHONOR THE NAME OF COEUR!"

Had to wear the team kit, but proud to sport a Coeur visor during Sunday's Sufferfest.

And of COURSE I did my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in my (pre-stain-appearing) Chinese New Year kit.

So, go and buy, buy, buy their stuff.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Summer

I know, I know. Another two months have gone by and nothing since my Tinman race report. Between training harder than I ever had this late into the season and dealing with a lot of work and personal stuff, this blog (like cooking, hello takeout and restaurants) fell to the wayside.

Ironman Day was awesome, as always. Got up at 5:30? to see the race start. (We live only a block away but wanted a good seat, especially since Dr. Z. can't stand for long periods of time due to his knees and back.) As most of you probably know, we had an unprecedented hellacious thunderstorm during the swim. Like, I don't even know what to say to everyone - we don't GET thunderstorms around here, and never in the MORNING. Truly a freak of weather.

After a brief rest, it was time to head up to do bike escort for lead runners. I was given second place female, and ended up escorting the lovely Kim Schwawenbauer.

And yes, that jersey is HUGE on me. I asked for an XS and got a S.
I won't lie, I was terrified. The last time I escorted was about three or four years ago when I had ZERO skills on the bike. At the end of the second loop at the turnaround on Mirror Lake drive I managed to both nearly take out a cyclist AND blocked my runner (Tim Snow). This time went better, thank GOD, but I still accidentally blocked Kim at the first turnaround at River Rd. (Tried to go through the turn with her - didn't try that anymore.)

Anyway, it was up early again the next day to sign up for 2015. It's definitely scarier the second time because I know what I'm getting myself into.

I captioned this "WHAT DID I JUST DO?!?" on Facebook.
Other than that, it's been a quiet summer. Well, okay, busy as hell but nothing to really TALK about, you know? Dr. Z and I are about to start a block of three race weekends in a row (Mountain bike race for him on Sunday, Big George 70.3 me NEXT Sunday, and a second mountain bike race for Dr. Z. the Sunday after THAT. ACK. And also? There goes catching the football pre-season.)

I really wish I had more to say. Katie's blog has given me tons to think about lately, but nothing I'm ready to vomit up here quite yet. Hell, I'm not even sure I could verbalize it to myself yet.

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 Tinman 70.3 Race Report

Okay, let's get this show on the road...

Tinman was my first "A" race of the season. After a good training build, a great Time Trial series, and a mediocre first Mini-Tri, I wasn't sure what was going to fall out, but I felt my goal of sub-6:40 time was definitely doable, especially based on my bike and run sessions out on the course.

The couple days before I decided to take the focus away from an actual time goal and concentrate on EXECUTION. That was when I made the call to leave my wristwatch at home, put on the Garmin in T1, and not have the race clock to race against.

A few days before, the forecast changed from overcast and 70 without any wind (PERFECT weather) to sunny and 78, then 80, and then 82. The only good news was that there was still no wind in the forecast.

The night before, Dr. Z and I went to packet pick-up and quickly came back home to do last-minute prep and have our ritual pre-race dinner of gnocchi with bacon and diced tomatoes (idea thanks to Sonja). I wrote some reminders to focus on execution and applied my Skratch tattoos:


After one of my worst pre-race sleeps ever (I literally slept better before IMLP), we got up at Ugly O'Clock despite the latish 8:00 start because the porta-potty lines are always legendary and we never have enough time to warm-up. Aside from some queasiness that initially made it hard to get down my pre-race Skratch rice and eggs breakfast, set-up went very smoothly and I got a nice long warm-up all the way out to the first buoy or not. I noticed that the water was the stillest I've ever seen it, felt nice and relaxed in the water, and was optimistic of if not a good swim, at least one that wouldn't put me in the hole too much.

Dr. Z's wave (the sprint) goes off, and then it's time to get back into the water. After what seems like a  super-long wait (mainly because I thought it was five minutes between the waves, but it was ten), the gun goes off and it's go time.


I initially feel pretty damn good and am happy, and then...the goggles fill up. Okay, minor nuisance. I pop up, clear them, get on my way, and...they fill up again. Immediately. On a course that's notoriously short on buoys and hard to sight on in good conditions. Now I'm a slow swimmer and rarely have company, but am now even behind for me. The upshot of this is I don't really have anyone I can use as a guide. After the last turn back to shore, which always has WAAAAY too few buoys, the sun is right in my eyes and I am totally lost. I finally pop up when a safety boat is nearby and say, "I can't see a damn thing. Where the HELL am I?!?" I do finally find someone to follow to shore, but by then I've lost oodles of time. I am SO SO glad I didn't wear my watch and see my time. It would have tanked me mentally for the rest of the race.

Time: 56:34 (2:56/100m) (DISASTROUS)


So I BLAST through T1, and put down a smoking time despite literally sitting down to put on socks. (I feel more comfortable biking with socks so for half and full IMs where I need to wear them for the run anyway, I just put them on in T1.) Like, what the heck is everyone else DOING in transition? Making a sandwich?  I seriously don't understand what I do that makes me so much faster than everyone else.

Time: 2:02


So I get on the bike and of COURSE my heart rate is sky high. I patiently soft pedal waiting for it to calm down, as according to the plan. I get past the first hill, and then hit my target HR for the majority of the ride. It's already hot out, but no big. I get a bottle one aid station earlier than planned because of the heat...and they're these tiny 6-8 oz. "half-bottles" of water - you know the type. On a HOT DAY. AND THEY DON'T FIT INTO WATER CAGES. Now, the latter wasn't an issue for me - I just dump into my Aerodrink and use the down tube cage for my liquid nutrition, but a lot of people DO put them in their cages. Plus, this now meant that I had to slow down through literally EVERY AID STATION to stay hydrated when I was only planning on one, MAYBE two bottle grabs.

At least it IS a beautiful race course.
Despite that, I'm feeling pretty darn good at the turnaround as I have somewhere around a 16.1/16.2 MPH pace without attacking the hills and I always negative split the course.  (And this is despite having that "the brakes must be rubbing or something" feeling. No, the bike legs did NOT show up for race day.) However, on the way back, I'm getting slower and slower. For no discernible reason. I don't have speed or average speed displayed, but it's easy enough to do the splits mentally to figure out of you're over or under 16 MPH. I just couldn't believe that after my slowest course ride being 16.2 and my fastest one 16.6 (all with tired legs), I was going to come in around 15.8 or 15.9 MPH. SO disappointing.

Time: 3:31:28 (15.9 MPH)


I come into T2 very unhappy. I've now had a terrible swim and nowhere near the bike I had trained for.

A little slow for me but I took two extra steps to deal with the heat - putting on a running cap and using my Fuel Belt. But still, my COMBINED transitions were under 4:15. BOOM. I do NOT fuck around in there.

As I run out, I get a peek at the race clock and it says 4:30. Shit.

Heading out on the run.
Time: 2:11


So I get out on the run and at least my legs feel pretty good. It's HOT though - crazy hot. First mile goes pretty well - even sub-10:00 since they changed the beginning of the course a bit. But halfway through the now second mile which is straight up, I lose the mental battle. I spent a lot of the next couple miles walking. I see ugly splits (before I make the decision later on to purposefully avoid looking at the splits). The only good thing that happens is that I manage to not only take my first 1/2 gel on schedule, I eat some orange wedges at the first aid station. (I ended up subsisting on fruit for the rest of the run.) I also take an Endurolytes tab.

Not feeling good, as evidenced by my horrible running form.

So, I start putting ice down the shirt, down the shorts. The run is through residential streets and a lot of people have set out sprinklers for the runners. Around mile 4 I start running again and mile 5 I really hit my stride. I still have to spend 30 seconds-1 minute at every aid station, drinking, getting ice, dumping cups upon cups all over my head and skin. I literally spent around 7-10 minutes total just keeping the heat under control.

I am passing a lot of people though - it's a walkfest out there. The pain really sets in in the last 5K. I've been nailing my Z3 heart rate as planned (Yay good execution!), but don't quite have the mental fortitude to take it up to Z4 for the last few miles, so just keep it in high Z3. I'm so nailing it next time though.
Coming through the first arch. Kept it zoomed out for the scenery.

As a note, I thought I PRed the run (despite the slightly changed course being a bit longer), but that's because I mis-wrote the time. I was slower by only two seconds this year. Despite much worse conditions and a longer run.

Almost there - no idea what the heck my left arm is doing.

Time: 2:17:55 (10:32/mile)

Finish Chute:

So I come down the line, and have NO IDEA what the race clock is, but am SO SO disappointed when I see that forget 6:40, I won't even be breaking 6:50 today.

About to go through the finish line.

 I come through with that "Man that was not a good day" shrug I'm sure every spectator has seen at some point, stop the Garmin, and go down. Collapsed from the heat. The volunteers pick me up, and one of the EMTs sits me in a chair, dumps water all over me, and makes me drink diluted (isotonic) Gatorade.

My speedster friend Rachel checking up on me as I recover, quite unable to move from that chair. (And yes, they moved the chair to the shade shortly after.)
Total Time: 6:50:06 (HIM PR by 16 seconds). 9/11 AG (Ouch!), 48/68 Women, 207/256 (Not counting 14 DNFs.)

Post Race Thoughts:

I'm still processing a lot of what went down on Saturday.  Was I disappointed about my performance? Yes, across all three disciplines. My times were much faster in training. I ripped off a 16.6 MPH 40 mile ride on the course and followed it up with 10 miles on the race course at 9:30 pace six weeks ago. I'm not a great or even good swimmer, but even I was expecting to make it out in 50-52 minutes.


I PRed. In extreme heat. It was by the skin of my teeth, but I am a notorious polar bear who has melted down and DNFed in heat like that.

I executed. Although I cannot explain my slowness on the way back, I nailed my HR plan on the bike. (Okay, I did not spin out the legs in Z2 the last couple miles as planned, but I was pissed about my slowness.) After the disastrous first 5K on the run, I nailed Z3 and walked far less than I ever have in a HIM. I was two seconds slower but it was with 8-ish minutes of aid station stops and a slightly longer course. I ATE while running of the bike for the first time in a race. (Yes, even the IMLP marathon was done on liquids.)

There are two things I now have as chips on my shoulder:

1.) The Swim -  Whether it's lessons, driving to Plattsburgh for Masters, I need to figure it out. I am losing way too much time on the swim. Now, yes, I lost about four minutes to the goggle issue, but if I were middle of the pack, I would have had people to follow while half-blind and it would not have cost me as much time. And yes, said goggles are now in the trash.

2.) Racing in the Heat - Although living in the Adirondacks allows very little opportunities, I will be doing all and any training in the hottest part of the day.