Pre-race Rituals

I am really particular about doing things a certain way and having everything just so. I’m not a completely annoying person about it (I think anyway), I make messes, my clothes end up on the floor and sometimes I take a few days to fold and put my laundry away. But having some particular pre-race rituals really helps me to get my mind and my equipment ready. 

– I lay everything out the night before. I know this is sort of trendy but it (usually) helps me to make sure I have everything I need. I didn’t lay out my goggles at the Tall Pines tri and I forgot them. I lay everything out now. 


– I lube everything up the day before or two days before if I won’t use it. The bike chain, the cleats, everything. I also air up my tires and pack my pump still. 

– I make sure I get there about an hour before the start. This is my happy spot because I can get in, layout my transition area, get marked, and do a little warm up before it’s time for the start. 

– I drink a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. This is my normal routine and I try to keep things the same. I don’t usually eat before a morning workout but I might eat some Cliff blocks or something easy to digest like a banana. I really just don’t want to do anything new or different. 

– Last thing I do is try to go to bed on time or even a bit early since I can have trouble sleeping in a new place. I’ve sort of trained myself to sleep in varying environments with the use of soft ear plugs, a sleep mask, and some lavender essential oil and maybe some melatonin. It really helped when I was TDY and sleeping in large open bays with hundreds of other women all in different schedules and with alarms. 

Summer Favorites

Summer has always been my favorite season. I love the long, hot days and the warm nights, BBQs with friends, going to the beach or the pool, and how time just seems to slow a little bit.

SnoBalls. There’s a Pelican SnoBall stand right by my house and I would always see cars dart in there and today I finally understood why. SnoBalls are what snowcones want to be when they grow up. They’re fluffy, delicious, and they have 100 flavors and a multitude of toppings. I had Wedding Cake (it’s my anniversary weekend) and POG (pineapple, orange, guava) with cream drizzled on top and it was heavenly. I am going to be one of those many cars darting in there now, too.

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Grilling! Is there anything more summer-specific than grilling? I know you can grill anytime, I did it in Alaska in the winter (and okay, it was almost always winter) but there’s something about a summer grill session with a cold drink in hand and dogs and kids running around outside that makes me nostalgic. Plus, you can’t beat the smoky flavor of food grilled on open coals and with soaked wood chips thrown in for extra flavor. We left our scraggly propane grill in Alaska and as an anniversary gift to P, we got a combo propane and charcoal grill (and it was on sale at Lowe’s, which is even better!) His dream grill was the Oklahoma Joe combo grill with a smoker box, but we actually have a full-size smoker box already so a smaller grill attachment is sort of redundant.

Fishing. I got hooked (no pun intended) on fishing while living in Alaska and I love it. It’s relaxing and fun and the best part is I can eat what I catch. I’m looking forward to hooking up on some more trout and also landing some bass and catfish.

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king salmon fishing in Alaska

Dogs in bandanas. I don’t know if there’s anything more adorable than a dog sporting a bandana. I have two very fluffy dogs so every couple of months they go to the grooming salon for a bath, trim, and they always come home smelling great, soft and silky, and with a cute bandana that just makes me and everyone who sees them want to pet them because they just look amazingly cute.

 

First Week Done

I am notorious for not sticking to training plans so I am so pleased and proud of myself for getting through the first week of my half iron training plan. It sounds like such a small thing, but this is a big thing for me. In the past, I’d end up cutting workouts because I had unit PT and it either ate too much time or worked muscle groups that didn’t fit with my training plan and eventually I just got too off track to get back on. It’s a lot easier now that I don’t have to do unit PT, but I did just start a brand new job and so it’s been interesting juggling that and also finding new ways to fit my workouts in.

I knew I needed something to keep me accountable so I joined Training Peaks and after looking at several different training plans (and you can input your own) I chose a Matt Fitzgerald beginner half iron plan because I liked that it was a good mix of the three, and also because if it was too easy or hard they’d let me trade plans for one that better suited my needs. It’s 80/20 which essentially means 80% of the time it’s easy, slow long distances and 20% of the time it’s hard, short intervals. It’s actually a lot harder to keep myself in the long, easy paces than I thought it would be, especially with swimming. I have never had to pace myself while swimming so I can’t help but try to kill myself by swimming every lap as fast as possible. I keep telling myself it will get better with more practice…

The indoor pool on post is closed until July so I went and joined the same Y I was a member at four years ago when I was here last. It’s changed a bit, my favorite yoga class is gone it seems, but it’s added more and different programs and I’m sure I’ll find a new favorite. Right now I’m mainly using it just for its pool. I don’t mind using the treadmill to make sure I’m hitting the right paces, but I’d rather ride my bike trainer at home or get out on the road.

I’m still a flailing swimmer, but the only way to get better is to do the work.

Finding Discounts

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and while it’s a day for remembrance, it has also come to signify the beginning of summer since all the schools get out and marks a definite wardrobe transition.

Now that I’m no longer making mad money from Alaska COLA, I’ve had to scale back the lavish lifestyle I developed (ha). Part of this is holding off on major purchases for a longer while and/or looking for discounts. Here are some helpful tips I’ve gathered that I use to fund my triathlon training needs and wants.

  • Many brands have bigger discounts or sales over a holiday weekend. Oiselle is having an extra 30% off their sale, Kovey is having up to 80% off, SwimOutlet has up to 80% off in their Memorial Day sale, REI has 20% off one full-price item, and SOAS  has an extra 20% off right now with their code ANNV20.

 

  • Many local stores are also clearing out old merchandise and slightly discounting newer merchandise to attract people to the store. My LBS had an entire table that was 50% off cycling shoes as well as many other accessories.

 

  • I have a toolbar app called Honey that automatically looks for coupons when I’m in the checkout procedure of any store. It doesn’t always work, but it’s so much more convenient than searching for coupons in a separate tab. Plus, it will automatically try them for you so you can just sit back and grab a cup of coffee instead.

 

  • eBay is a great source for some things, especially slightly used clothes. I found a matching tri kit in my size for 25% of what it was brand new, and also a cycling jersey for 30% of its original price. Sometimes people either just get out of the sport, don’t like the style, or just have too many clothes (who are these people?) I’ve tried Postmark but they’re more for regular clothes. For Oiselle, there’s an awesome Facebook gear swap page where women sell their used or even new-but-didn’t-like-the-fit clothes.

 

  • For online shopping, it’s sometimes worth leaving things in your shopping cart for at least a day to see if the company will offer an additional discount. A few times I’ve gotten an emailed coupon to entice me back to a purchase.

On My Mind…

It’s a Free Friday, so I thought I’d just unload some of the other things I’ve been up to. I hope everyone has a safe Memorial Day and enjoys some time with their loved ones and remembering those who aren’t with us any longer.

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  • As soon as I moved to Georgia, I dove right into some big house projects I wanted to get done before the movers showed up. My goals were to pretty much repaint the entire interior of the house with a more cohesive color scheme and remodel the kitchen. It was a LOT of work, especially the kitchen, but I am so pleased with how it’s turned out. I still have to paint the ceilings and the trim and at some point I want to remodel the two bathrooms as well but the big stuff is all taken care of. I honestly love my kitchen now and it’s one of my favorite rooms in the house.
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The original kitchen. Red walls, blue-gray laminate, and yellow oak cabinets. Ew.

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Painted the walls using Sherwin Williams Eider, it took two solid coats to cover the red.

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Used Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations to make yellow oak into white oak

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Used Giani Granite Bombay Black to remodel counters and painted the backside of the cabinets with SW Eider. I decided to keep the hardware because I sort of liked it, and didn’t feel like more $$$.

  • My poor house had no curb appeal and I was determined to fix that. After failing to do my homework and almost killing a hydrangea by putting it in the sunniest spot in my entire yard (seriously, what was I thinking?) I decided to get some help and went to a local nursery. The woman there was so unbelievably helpful not only in choosing plants that would love all the punishing Georgia sun they could get, but also with planning a cohesive color scheme and giving advice on landscaping ideas. If you’re ever in the area, Double B Plant Farm is not only the place to go for help, but it’s also really beautiful just to walk around and find inspiration. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d just bring them out and let them advise me on what I should plant. I’m a pretty lazy gardener so I’m glad they were able to give me some suggestions that fit the space but also my experience level and lifestyle. So far, all the plants are doing well and I’m working on getting my lawn looking less-sad now.

 

  • I made grits for the very first time in my life! If you know me, you know what a shock this is. I’m still shocked myself. I’ve had shrimp and grits in restaurants and had a craving for it last week. I actually had to ask someone where grits are sold in the grocery store because I didn’t know. The recipe came out fantastically and I am sold on making grits (as long as they have a 2:1 ratio of cheese to grits, anyway.)

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  • 2/3 of my pets have gotten to visit the vet in a 24-hour period this past week. Sophie had a scheduled removal of two mammary cysts that have been leaking fluid and then Twister got spooked enough to run out of the backyard and spent the whole night having Fight Club with two other cats until I found him on the roof and rescued him. Zane feels left out and doesn’t understand why I obviously prefer the other two and they get special car trips.

 

  • Two swallows made their nest on my front porch and their eggs just hatched. There’s five baby birds in there now and it’s fun to be able to watch them at such a close distance. Their parents are amazing in how they seem to have a telepathic connection in avoiding each other in flight as they swoop in to feed them. Twister also enjoys watching them from his cat tree by the window.

 

Bike Maintenance for Beginners

The first day I walked into my new-to-me LBS, I was only looking for some cleaning help for several thousand miles of road grime but when they told me there was a basic maintenance class held every month and you could bring your bike in and that it was free, I knew I needed to go.

For too long my bike maintenance has consisted solely of lubing my chain and hoping nothing would go wrong. P gave me some tire levers as an anniversary gift once and I only knew what they were because of the packaging they came in. I knew I’d have to do some learning if I wanted to be confident enough to wander further from home not to mention if I had a break down at a race (my worst nightmare.)


This class was perfect for that. Phil, the owner of Chain Reaction in Evans, Georgia first showed us the basics of cleaning and then lubing our bikes. I knew I needed to lube the chain and sort of how to clean it, but I never knew I also needed that same attention to the derailleurs or even what those were and where to find them. He also showed us how to use the edge of a rag to “floss” the cassette and get it cleaner. I was thrilled with that because it’s been driving me crazy trying to get down in there.

 

Next he showed me how to take the tire off my bike, strip out the tube inside and replace it all back together. Not going to lie, this was more awkward than he made it look and took a couple of tries but I got it all back together by hand and was so pleased with myself when I inflated it and didn’t have a pinch flat. I am sure now that if I get a flat while riding, I’m not doomed to walk back in shame.

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It wasn’t too bad, really. I didn’t have any problems getting the tire off but I tried putting the tube and the tire back on at the same time with hilariously bad results. Phil came over and told me what I was doing wrong so I had to start over.


The last thing he showed us was how to repair a broken chain and even how to ease a stiff chain link. This part was straight magic to me because I had no idea that was even possible. I almost hope this happens because it was so amazing to watch him “break” a chain and then knit it back together so easily with just little chain links.


It was such a good experience and I’m so glad that the wonderful folks at Chain Reaction take the time after the close of business to instruct some people on basic bike maintenance. It was also interesting to see all the different bikes and the little differences between them and I couldn’t help but feel like when I watch how magic tricks or done or see how they created special effects – I know now that it’s not that complicated but it just seems so amazing to me that it’s that simple and that even I can do it. And after admiring all the different bikes there, I really want a beach cruiser to take down and ride by the Canal now, or a mountain bike for the trails out here.

When your race falls apart

Sometimes when I’m reading race reports I feel like an outsider because I don’t always love running. Lately, I’ve actually sort of disliked it in fact because everything else seems more fun to me than slogging through the heat here. That’s probably a major contributing factor to the sufferfest I unleashed on myself at Ft. Gordon’s 10 Miler & Run to Honor on Armed Forces Day.


Originally I planned on running the 10 mile distance. I’ve run so many distances even longer than that with less training that I was sure it would be fine. First, Saturday evening I went to bed with a headache then I woke up Sunday just feeling really blah and not at all into it.

I went back and forth until I decided I shouldn’t waste the entry fee and I made myself get dressed and headed to post where I picked up my packet just in time. I didn’t do any of my usual pre-race or even pre-run things and I’m sure that didn’t help.

As soon as I started running, the skin I rubbed raw last weekend started aching. A few miles in and I just knew I wasn’t up to the full distance and decided to just do the shorter route (that was supposed to be a 5K but measured at four miles.) Even that was just so slow and hot and tough with the hills and the humidity.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed that I didn’t do the whole distance.  But not every run is fun or easy even though sometimes it looks like it is. Sometimes it’s hard and painful and just leaves you feeling like a hot, sweaty disgusting pile of crap like today did for me.

There’s nothing else to do except just write it off and keep going. Not every run is going to go well, but not every run will be terrible, either. I just have to take the bad with the good and learn from this and keep going.

Five Ways I Like to Recover

It’s Five for Friday again and I’m still riding a bit of a high from last weekend’s race. I have another race (running type) this weekend that I’m looking forward to even though I have a feeling it’s going to be a slight sufferfest with the heat that’s predicted for the weekend.

Anyway, my favorite things for recovery after a hard workout or a race.

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  • First, I always try to do some immediate stretching after I’m done because I feel like it keeps me from tightening up or cramping. My favorite stretches are anything for the hamstrings and calves, like either using stairs or just leaning against a wall and pushing my calves down.
  • Foam rolling. I got into foam rolling while I was deployed as a way to ease aching muscles. My favorite was a medieval-looking torture device with a knobby grid that could really get into the muscles. It looked like this one from REI

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Last year at Bird Camp we had a seminar from the maker of PHLX (pronounced “flex”) and were also given one to take home with us. I’ve used it exclusively since then because it’s easy to travel with and really convenient for a variety of uses. I really like how the pieces nest inside each other because it makes it easier to store them and to find what I want.

  • Yoga. I admittedly do not do enough or a good enough job of this. I just need to get it into my routine and make time for it because I know it helps. My favorites so far have been Jasyoga, either online or in book form, or any vinyasa flow class.

HIT RESET: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor jasyoga

  • Easy running. It’s always hard and a little painful to head out on a run after a race or a hard workout, but I find that just a short, easy run really helps get the kinks out of my system. To keep it light I go somewhere fun and pretty, like down by the Savannah River or even just around the park next to my house.

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  • A cold, stiff drink. Georgia is new to me in that it doesn’t sell alcohol before 1230 on Sundays so if I have a Sunday race I usually make sure I have something to look forward to at home beforehand. My favorite post-race drink is probably a tall frozen margarita with tons of salt on the rim. I got to visit Riverwatch Brewery (the first brewery in the CSRA in 95 YEARS!) last weekend (currently only open Fridays and Saturdays until September 1 and then open more days) and once September 1 hits and it’s open more often, I will probably use that as part of my post-race junk food refueling. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a visit!

 

Question: What do you like to do to help recover from a hard workout or race? 

 

Tall Pines Sprint Triathlon

I knew signing up for a tri two weeks after I moved to Georgia might be a bad choice, so I compromised and signed up for a sprint reasoning I could suffer through it if nothing else and told myself it would give me a good baseline for the rest of the season. Well, yes.

I consider myself a pretty good swimmer not really because of technique, which I don’t have much of, but just overall confidence. I wasn’t able to do any swim training in Alaska or traveling because of a lack of a pool and then when I showed up in Georgia, the pool was closed for renovations. Womp womp.

That’s okay, I told myself, I can still work on the bike and the run.

Have you ever moved from a cold, dry place to a hot, humid place? And then run outside? Because that’s what I did and let me tell you, it’s tough. Running still feels like the way it does in my dreams, a lot of effort and still going in slow motion. Sometimes I swear I can actually feel the air’s thickness around me like running through a pool.

Cycling has been about the only thing that’s been mostly okay for me or even improved since I got my bike fit. It really is so amazing at what a difference in comfort it’s made. I really thought lower back pain was just a sign of how weak I was and not, you know, a sign of my body being pushed into a weird alignment.

With all that, I have nice low goals going into the race.

Goal A: Finish

Goal B: Don’t injure anything

Goal C: Don’t die

Even with reasonable, achievable goals, I still felt those doubts creeping back in and worry that I wasn’t ready for this, that this was a bad idea, that I should just wait until I’m better trained. Well, yeah, I could definitely be fitter, but it’s my first tri in four years (does that mean I can still claim novice status? Because I really feel like I should be able to) and it’s always going to be scary doing something new.

With that, I made sure I set aside time for the packet pick up and the race briefing because nothing calms (or sometimes inflames) my fears like knowing what I’m getting into. Knowledge is power.

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I got up around 0530, let my dogs and cat outside, made some coffee and a bagel, let the dogs back in and had to chase the cat back in, fed them, and then I made sure I had everything. Last night I had a sudden fear I left my swim cap out somewhere, but I had it in my bag. I wanted to get there early since it was a first come first served transition area so I could get a good spot.

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I ended up not loving how the Oiselle bra with its two straps interfered with my swim stroke, or the fact that I didn’t pack any socks.

There were a pretty good number of people there and I admired the fast-looking bikes and some of the people who looked like they really knew what they were doing. I racked my bike and set up my area and that’s when I realized I left my goggles at home in my closet. Seriously. I could have asked to borrow a pair but I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to return them and also I was so annoyed with myself for forgetting them that I thought I should go without to really make sure I’ll never forget them again.

After I set up my area I went to the bathroom (which had flushing toilets and that was nice) and just walked around petting as many friendly dogs as I could until it was time for the start.

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All set up.

The swim was a mass start so I hung back until it cleared up. The water was so warm so it wasn’t bad at all. I think the last time I swam may have been four years ago at my last tri. I tried not to think about that. I was really uncomfortable with no goggles and I felt like the swim took forever so I was surprised to see it was over in less than twenty minutes.

I sort of jogged/stumbled back to the transition area where I got all my cycling gear on and headed out on the road. The course was nice with not too many hills at all and wove throughout the park and the turnaround was a gas station just on the outside of the park. I like cycling so this was probably my favorite bit, especially after the turnaround.

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The run felt so slow but I managed to keep my pace about 9:30 which I was happy with. It took me a while to settle in and not walk but I just did my best to zone out. Towards the end I developed a blister on the back of my heel which then popped and was really uncomfortable and I just tried not to think about it since I was almost to the end.

In all, I took second place in the novice category (YAY!), met some new people, and pet some cute dogs. I will probably never forget my goggles again, and had a pretty decent time. I love being able to race locally so I can come right back home afterwards.

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Swim: 18:19

T1: 1:50

Bike: 42:15

T2: 1:08 (surprised this was shorter since I also stopped to spray myself with sunscreen before heading out, but in T1 I fiddled with my headband to get it to lay flat so I guess that took some time)

Run: 28:17

There are definitely a few things I’ll adjust before my next race from this one. The best part is I actually improved over 10 minutes from my last/first triathlon four years ago. I can’t wait to see how much I’ll improve these times over the course of the summer and how much lake water I’ll get to drink as well. For now, I’ve got my Panaway  nearby and ready for the next week of training.

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Five Things I Usually Eat/Drink

I’ve really liked reading others’ Life in a Day posts, so this is somewhat inspired by that and it’s five things I eat/drink in a typical week.

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  • Breakfast burritos for breakfast. I am really good about making time for breakfast even if it’s just something quick. Breakfast burritos are perfect for a quick meal you can heat up before you run out the door. I make mine on the weekends and wrap them individually in foil and freeze them for later in the week. They’re super cheap, filling, and as healthy as you want them to be and you can fill them with just about anything and change the spices to what you like. This week I’m eating a spinach-kidney bean-egg-gruyere mix with some Ethiopian berbere spice thrown in on a whole wheat tortilla.
  • Coffee. I wouldn’t say I’m an addict, but I definitely have made coffee part of my morning routine. I love to drink a cup before I work out and a cup for breakfast and  possibly some in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. I used to use my Keurig a lot, but I’ve switched to a reusible K-cup pod and have been using my French press a lot more lately since I’ve been working through the bag of whole bean coffee I got from Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. I usually add either flavored creamer or just a little cream and sugar to the coffee. I can suffer if it’s just sugar, but I can’t drink it black.

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    I made a little coffee station at my new house. I’m not completely done with it yet, but I love having all my breakfast things conveniently next to each other.

  • Water. I have a nice collection of water bottles going on so I can always make sure one is full and that I have one somewhere. I’ve never minded the taste of tap water but I like to add flavoring sometimes. I used to use just a splash of lemon juice, but I recently bought a premium starter kit from Young Living and now I love using dietary essential oils in my water for flavor. Lemon and tangerine are my absolute favorites for flavoring water and I love using peppermint for an especially hot day as it just feels so much more refreshing.

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    Seriously, SO good in water! Or even tea.

  • Sandwiches for lunch. I’m getting better about packing lunch for myself so I don’t end up wandering the commissary aisles during rush hour or worse, end up wandering the gas station nearby at 2 p.m. and wind up eating cupcakes and Icees for lunch. Making sure I have a full lunch really goes a long way to prevent that, and the cornerstone for me is a sandwich. I like to be able to mix it up a little bit so I keep some deli meat and cheese available but I also still love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich any time of the day. The best tip I’ve figured out for myself is to have a cute lunchbox or two and those cold blocks like you used to have in elementary school.
  • Salmon. I’m still getting over the fact that wild caught salmon is going to be less available to me now that I live on the opposite side of the coast, but I ate salmon at least weekly for years now between living in Washington and then Alaska. Most of it was what we’d caught and frozen and there is nothing more delicious than king salmon. My favorite way to cook it is to soak a cedar plank all day and then grill the salmon on it, or even to smoke the salmon over cedar chips until it’s infused with the flavor and just falls apart. Wild salmon is sustainable, delicious, and so good for you. I know some people say it tastes too strong, but I think they just haven’t had it in a way they liked yet.