Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: TrainerRoad training plan - Olympic triathlon base

Posted by Rachel 

I've had TrainerRoad for a couple of years, but usually only select the workouts that I like. It doesn't mean they aren't hard, but I always pick them because I know they're doable. They're in my comfort zone even if they're painful (if that makes any sense). This year I really need to get better at cycling, so I decided to let TrainerRoad tell me what to do.

I cycled for several weeks before beginning the Olympic triathlon - mid distance base phase. It is a 6 week plan that has a mixture of workouts. There are a couple of notable workouts that I was forced to do that I never would've chosen before.

Shasta - a workout that has short 20-sec intervals at 200% FTP. I never would have thought 200% FTP is even possible, but I was happy to find that it wasn't too bad!

Galena- This is one I NEVER would have selected, 3 x 20 min intervals between 90-94% FTP. It appears twice during the training plan - the first time I almost died doing it, but the second time went pretty well!

Phoenix - 75 min at 80-85% FTP. Pretty boring, but forced me to practice aero, and much easier the second time than the first.

Overall, my FTP went from 189 W to 201 W, an increase of 6.3% in 6 weeks! I'm pretty happy with this, except for one small thing... makes the build phase SO HARD. I don't like 120% of FTP, it's not a fun place to be, but it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time there. I did the 2nd workout of this phase on Wednesday and thought my legs were going to fall off. It will be interesting to see if my FTP will increase again - I'll report back!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Biking and running in Burgundy-Beaune, France

Posted by Rachel

Happy 2017, everyone! I have a couple of posts I've been meaning to compose for a while, and this biking/running in Burgundy is one of them. I started posting about exercising in each of the spots we visited in France for many reasons: for people planning to visit who wanted to see some of the options, for any family/friends who were interested in more details about our vacation, and for my own documentation and reference. I'll probably skip posting about running in Paris because I don't think we found anything non-obvious (ie. we ran along the river). Beaune, however, was a different story. It was awesome exercising in Nice because I LOVE the ocean, but admittedly it wasn't that radically different than California. Beaune probably topped Nice in biking and running uniqueness.

Looks like wine country!

To understand why biking and running in Beaune is so much different than California even though we too have plenty of vineyards, there is a key point to understand about Burgundy. Instead of having discrete large plots of properties owned by single families or groups as we do in Napa or Sonoma, Burgundy is more "communal" where a family or group owns a few rows of vines in several of the micro-regions spread throughout Burgundy. This is important because it means that there is a lot more public access between/throughout vineyards. In fact, they basically invite you to travel through the vineyards.

Around the town, it was fairly easy to find maps highlighting the options for different run distances.

Snapshot of a map we brought with on us our phones. The map was prominently displayed in a town park.

For one of our runs we decided to follow the green route through the vineyards and it actually reasonably well-marked (though we still did take a couple of wrong turns). The run was a combination of paved and trail, and it was moderately hilly.

If you ran through someone's vineyard like this in the US I'm pretty sure you'd be asked to leave. Or shot. 

I should note that there is also a paved bike path and it's easy to run a simple out and back on that as well (more details below). But even though I'm not much of a trail runner I did enjoy the wine trail adventure.

Photo from the solo morning run I did a different day on the paved bike trail. Someone had drank too much wine the previous day to accompany me on the run, and I didn't trust myself to not get lost on the trails. 

Biking in Beaune was SO AWESOME! The paved dedicated bike path through the vineyards in shown in the picture and easy to find from the town.

Veloroute la voie des vignes

The trail goes for miles and there are small towns every 2-3 km to stop for water, food, cafe, wine, etc. I don't think there's much need for a guided tour if you want to do this ride, the signage is very good. I'm not good enough with words to describe how cool this ride is, so I'll just inundate with you captioned photos.

Vineyards for miles

Sometimes the vineyards were surrounded by brick walls built thousands of years ago - the age of everything built here is SO much older than California

Headed into one of the towns

Wine cellar that we happened upon during our ride. It was a little creepy at first because nobody there spoke english and they were just leading us into a dark basement. Luckily when we got there it was filled with wine and not torture devices or anything else creepy. And nobody stole our bikes from outside while we were down there... another bonus.

In summary, if you're in France and you like wine, running, and biking, you can't go wrong with a stop in Beaune. I'm sure there are equally awesome wine/bike/run places in France, but we can highly recommend Burgundy based on our experience. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

RnR Las Vegas Half Marathon: Race Report

Posted by Rachel

A year ago the most unlikely thing happened! My phone buzzed and it was a text from my little sister, saying "I'll sign up for the Las Vegas half marathon next year if you do it, too." WHAT?!?! Miss "I don't run unless someone is chasing me!"? The obvious answer was a resounding yes. So that's the story of why I signed up for this race.

Over the course of the year we got a bunch of people on board. My mom signed up for the half - her second. An aunt and uncle from NY had never been to Vegas and signed up for the 5k. My dad, his cousin, another aunt, and Travers (who is perfectly capable of running but just didn't want to) all came along for the ride. It was shaping up to be a fun weekend.

And it was! After a long week of drinking following the most disappointing election I could possibly imagine and my 33rd birthday the following day, we landed in Vegas on Friday night to continue the party streak low-key at my sister's place. Afterward I hit the BlackJack table with my dad and a $20 bill... and walked away half hour later with $30! Winning!

Saturday I continued to spend time with the family. The bad thing about a Sunday night race is having it hanging over your head the whole weekend, but on the plus side I had just PR'ed a half two weeks ago and didn't really care much about this one. So we walked around Vegas quite a bit, and drank, with a stop at the High Roller.

 Great views from the High Roller

Mid-day tequila + observation wheel = winning combo!

Sunday was a little less fun as I had to figure what and when to eat to avoid a total disaster in the evening half marathon. I really just felt like I was waiting for time to go by until we could run the stupid thing. Finally though, it was almost time, and I was SO EXCITED for my mom and sister to run too!

We wore neon so our fans could spot us... but it turns out everyone in Vegas wears neon

The event kicked off with a one hour Snoop Dogg concert. I wouldn't ordinarily attend a Snoop Dogg concert probably, but it was pretty fun, and he was good as far as I could tell!

Drop it like it's hot

A few classics:
1.) Snoop: So marijuana is legal here. Who is f-ing high right now?
     Me: Ummm...does this guy know what he's doing here?
2.) Snoop: What do you all like to drink while you're running?
     Crowd: Gin and juice!
     Snoop: What?!
     Crowd: Gin and juice!
     Snoop: [perplexed] Gatorade?!
3.) Snoop: expletive-expletive-derogatory comment about women-expletive-explicit comment about women
      Me: This guy should go for president! 

After managing to get through the concert without a contact high (thank you fellow runners), which is more than I can say about some of my training runs at Lake Merritt, I left for my corral. At this point I was NOT excited to run a half marathon, but as it became dusk and the strip started to light up I had to admit it was pretty cool. 

Let's go!

The plan was to just run comfortably the whole time. After running minimally since Healdsburg I was surprised to find that 7:3x pace was coming pretty easily, so I decided to roll with it. The course had a lot of entertainment which was good because there were a lot of distractions. I hadn't studied the course at all and I didn't know where the full marathoners were supposed to separate from the half, so once in a while I'd find myself surrounded by full runners and enter a brief panic that I had accidentally joined the full course. That would've been a nightmare. Luckily, I did not, and I just kept going along my way.

It was about mile 10 when a 7:3x pace stopped feeling so fantastic. If you look at my splits mile 11 is about 20 sec slower than miles 5-10, which is clearly where I was thinking "f- this, why am I pushing myself?" But then I started doing math and I realized that if I DID go back to 7:3x pace I would finish sub-1:40. I think I have some sort of compulsive disorder because there's no reason to go sub-1:40 two weeks after 1:34, but I found myself pushing it anyway. Somewhere in mile 12 I saw my family cheering and waved excitedly! (My dad said I looked like I wasn't even trying or sweating. False. Well maybe I wasn't sweating because I was super dehydrated and my face was caked with salt, but I was definitely trying.) I finished the race in a 1:38:59, for some reason stopped to have a coughing fit, and then made my way through the finisher's chute back toward my family.

After drinking several liters of liquid and going to the bathroom many times, I was getting ready for my mom and sister to run by. I am a total rule follower, but I had this grand plan to jump back onto the course and finish with them. It was making me nervous just thinking about it, but I couldn't think of anything more awesome than finishing a run with them. So my aunt was tracking and once I knew their estimated time to pass, she left to head closer to the finish. I had Travers with me - he actually stuck around to take a video of my rogue behavior. We waited and waited, both looking for my mom and sister so I could jump in, and then we got a call from my aunt saying we had missed them. I was SO disappointed :( Lesson: it's really hard to find people in a race with 36,000 runners. At least we got to meet up with them at the finish line.

We did it!

One thing my aunt noticed when we were tracking my mom and sister was that something had gone wrong with my tracking and the app said "location unknown". I definitely installed my D-tag correctly as this wasn't my first rodeo, so I'm not sure what went wrong. While we were at Shake Shack two of my training buddies texted to make sure I was ok, which was really thoughtful :) The 'unknown location' ended up with me having to submit a results correction, which after review the RD agreed to correct my time but listed by start time as the front of my corral rather than where I started. So my official time is slightly slower than I actually went, which really isn't a big deal but ever so slightly bothers my compulsive side :) 

Afterward my sister really wanted to go to the club, and she had just finished her first half marathon, so I complied.

Party time

Did I mention that I had a 6 am flight the next morning and had to go directly to work? And that we had work all day/all week and dinner plans Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after work? Needless to say, I barely exercised this week and it was exhausting anyway. 

I probably wouldn't run that race again. I always prefer to get the race over with and then have fun the rest of the trip - not the other way around! But a huge thanks to my family for coming out to support - great to see everyone! And big congratulations to my mom and sister!!!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Healdsburg Half Marathon race report

Posted by Rachel

Ok, so I know I didn't finish my 'exercising in France' series, but I have to interrupt that for my race report before I forget the details of this past weekend. Wine will do that to you.

This is my 7th (?) year running this race and it is always one of my favorites for the social part. Each year we register a big team, Running for the Win(e), and ever since a couple of our good friends moved away this is one event that they regularly return for. So no matter what happens in the race, it's always great times with great friends! The fact that the race is located in one of my favorite areas of wine country is just an added bonus.

In terms of running, I wasn't quite sure what to expect this year. I had a great summer of triathlon racing, but had a nice bout of shingles in August followed by 3 weeks in Europe in September. I ran through all of that, but just not very fast. When I returned I had 5 weeks until the race and I diligently did my speed and tempo workouts. I had a couple pretty terrible "long" runs, but more or less I figured that on a good day I should be able to be in the neighborhood of my PR from last year (1:35:37).

The day before the race I fueled up with an oreo milkshake, a nostalgic drink that I used to have before big swim meets when I was a kid (I told my mom it helped me swim faster, ha!). My rebellious husband fueled up with wine, brandy, and beer.

The key to fast swimming. Jury is still out on whether that much dairy the night before a run is a good thing.

The morning of the race was a little rainy but not too cold. After a short warmup we were off! At first I just ran a comfortably hard pace and I seemed to be in the ballpark of last year, if not a few seconds per mile faster. I met a girl, Lauren, who kindly introduced herself after she realized we were running the same exact pace for the first few miles. Not that we had the energy to chat, but she seemed really nice and running with her helped me keep pushing the pace for the majority of the race. Little did I know that my own husband was only yards behind us, using us as pacers. You're welcome ;)

Feeling good...a solid thumbs up for the photographer. Disclaimer for anyone who doesn't know us that guy behind me is NOT Travers.

There was a timing mat at the halfway point and I looked down at my watch, and I was at 47:27. Innnnteresting. An even paced race would land me a 1:34, barely. Idea planted. Unfortunately I was also getting tired, but I tried not to think about that :p

A weak thumbs up to the photographer, but I am starting to fatigue...

Sometime in mile 9 Travers caught up to me and my new friend Lauren - he said he had been trying to catch us for miles. I introduced them and we chatted very briefly before the hill at mile 10. The hill was WAY more miserable than I remembered. I ran up it with Travers in silence, suffering. As we neared the top, there was a guy vomiting his guts out for at least a minute, but all of a sudden he was done and just kept running. A terrible sight but much worse for the guy I'm sure. I thought that was the top but it wasn't. The slope eased up but the hill kept going and going and going. A strange sensation considering I've run that course 3 times before and didn't recall this much misery. When the course started angling downhill, Travers started pulling away. I felt like death. Maybe I should've fueled with beer and wine and brandy!

Miles 11.5 to 13 were really, really hard. I wanted to walk but knew I was treading on breaking 1:35. I started talking to myself and asking myself hypothetical questions: "If you come in at a 1:35:00, are you going to look back thinking you left 1 second on the course? If so, RUN HARDER." I tried to run harder by pumping my arms, but I think in reality I was just flailing wildly. I wish I had a video of myself running at this point because it would probably look ridiculous and I could caption it "A swimmer trying to run", which would hopefully explain my random arm movements. When I got to mile 12.5 I just tried to think about the hardest 800 I've ever done and kicked it in. There is a final turn and then a long straightaway to the finish chute. I looked at my watch...1:33:high...can I run that far in a minute? I was sprinting so hard and coincidentally also closing in on Travers. After another minute of misery, I finished the race in a 1:34:51 - a 44 second PR!!!!!!!!!!!! and 3 seconds behind Travers.

This face says it all - the joy of a PR wrapped up with the misery of a 13 mile tempo run

One really cool thing was that Meb was in the finisher chute giving high fives. WOOHOO! I felt kind of lightheaded and really spaced out so I said thanks to him and congratulated him on his Olympics and babbled something about him being inspirational. Hopefully I wasn't the only nonsensical babbler that had come through.

After the race it was the best part - WINE TIME. It's always a bummer when it rains during the wine festival because they move everything indoors and it's quite cozy, but it was awesome to hang out with everyone. We had a team of about 16 people or so and a few additional fans. During the awards a couple of really cool things happened: (1) my first running podium (3rd place AG) and the award was a bottle of wine! and (2) a first place team victory for Running for the Win(e) and the award was a half case of wine!! Talk about a great day!

The reason I run this race

Getting my award wine (ie. standing next to a girl who is WAY faster than me)

Running for the Win(e) teammate won his age group!

Our crew had two rental houses, and later that night we had dinner at the other rental house. It was an isolated house on the Russian River with a comically harrowing drive. Parking wasn't close to the house and the walk to the house was like something out of the Blair Witch Project, but we survived and had a great time with friends.

Wine country. Fall. The best.

It was such an awesome weekend, and we have quite a busy social calendar ahead in November! This means I'll be taking it easier on the running & exercising front, but I'll be picking up cycling and a stricter training routine again in December. But maybe not too strict because the holidays are a time for celebrating :p

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Running in Lyon, France

Posted by Rachel

As promised, I'm slowly making my way through our France vacation, specifically the most active parts (and believe me, there were plenty of inactive parts). Lyon was an interesting place. There were tons of awesome trails and parks for running. However, since it seemed like pretty much everyone in the city was a smoker, I'm not sure how they were also runners.

Lyon is a city on two rivers and the Rhone has a fantastic running path on its east side. I'm not sure how far it goes since our longest run in Lyon was 6 miles, but it seemed to stretch quite far.

If running isn't your thing, this path is also lined with barges that are actually bars. 

Heading north on the Rhone, there are a lot of cool paths next to the river. Some of them were pretty isolated, but it didn't seem to be sketchy. 

There is also a park that looked fantastic for running - Parc de la TĂȘte d'Or. We tried to find it on one of our runs and somehow missed it (don't ask how - it is gigantic). However, we walked to it later on which is when I realized it really would've been perfect for running.

From Lyon we took a day trip to Annecy, France in the French Alps. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been - HIGHLY recommended. While we didn't swim, bike, or run there, we easily could've done any of the 3.

Unless you count pedal-boating as biking

And a few more pictures of Annecy, just because. 

I'd love to go back here and bike around the lake and do some of the hikes. We'll see where our future journeys take us.

And that's it for Lyon. Next up: Burgundy!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Swim/bike/run in Nice, France

Posted by Rachel

Last month Travers and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend two weeks of vacation in France. We went to 4 different places in France and each one was uniquely awesome for at least one of swim/bike/run, so my plan is to make a post for each place. At the rate I blog this will probably take 6 months to finish, but hopefully it will be helpful to anyone visiting the area (or anyone who is interested in our vacation).

This is an easy one. Nice is right on the deep blue Mediterranean. As far as I could tell, you could hop in anywhere other than a boat lane (which are well marked by buoys). Unfortunately for me I chose the windiest (and choppiest) day to open water swim, but despite getting tossed around it was still awesome. I went for about a mile until I decided that sitting on the beach with a drink would be more appropriate for vacation.

The little speck in the middle is me swimming out. Looks calmer than it was. The water is SO BLUE!

We rented some decent road bikes in anticipation of having to climb a few hills on the ride from Nice to Monaco. We really had no idea what to expect and I couldn't find great information about the availability of bike lanes between the two places. While it turns out that there wasn't a well designated bike lane the whole way, the drivers were very aware and respectful in terms of space. Probably better than California's drivers, which in hindsight shouldn't come as a surprise... France is the country of the Tour. The most terrifying parts of the ride were a few short tunnels we had to go through, but we made our way through them without incident. Anyway, on the bikes we were able to get some awesome views of the coastline we wouldn't have otherwise seen. The ride was ~13 miles each way with ~700 feet of climbing each way, and I highly recommend it. My only regret- wearing shorts from Old Navy instead of proper bike shorts. Chafing. 

Absolutely stunning views on the ride

Bike lane looks ok here

Here's a link to my Strava if you want to see the route we took for this ride. (Yes, I know... we weren't winning any speed awards here. We were on vacation! And also, I'm not a cyclist.)

There is a pancake flat bike path along the beach which is spectacular for running. I couldn't believe how many other runners we saw in Nice at all times of the day. Besides being a little bit humid, this place is paradise for running.

Running at dawn 

Ventured away from the pancake flat beach path to run up a hill for the views. Worth it.

Summary: This place is awesome.
Next up: Running in Lyon, France

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Catfish Aquathlon race report

Posted by Rachel

PART I: Catfish

Last year we signed up for an open water swim race called "Catfish". It was a 2.4 mile swim that was appropriately timed for Ironman training, and we tacked on a 90+ mile, >8000 ft climbing, hot-as-balls bike ride afterward, barely making it back before dark.

This year, I opted for the 1.2 mile swim + 3.5 mile run version. Sounded a hell of a lot better than last year! A week before the event, the venue was changed from Livermore (not close to my house) to Berkeley (way closer to my house, but colder/saltier/more questionable water). Due to partially to the temperature but mostly to the questionableness, I switch my race category from non-wetsuit to wetsuit, though it didn't matter because the aquathlons were combined.

This was a pretty small race (maybe a couple hundred participants over all of the race categories?), so check-in was really chill. I never even waited in line for a bathroom! I had a secret goal I set earlier in the week of running sub-7:00 miles for the run, so I did a bit of run warm up. Then I got in the water about 10 minutes before our wave started. One fun thing was that there were a handful of people there I knew. Shout out to Minori from LMJS who won the overall female 500 yard swim-3.5 mile run division, and my Club Hot Tub masters swim team members who both won their divisions as well (1.2 mile no wetsuit over 50 age group, and aquathlon 1.2 mile swim-3.5 mile run over 50 age group).

Do I look ready? Questionable. Ready to go back to sleep, maybe.

Swim (supposedly 1.2 miles, my watch clocked ~ 1.05 though it's not always accurate in the water).
First, a warning to anyone considering swimming at the Berkeley Marina. The bottom is GROSS. It is spongy and hella slimy, and then when you look at your feet they are covered with some sort of gray matter. So I warmed up a little and we are off! As I said, it was a small race so there weren't too many issues right at the start. Two guys pushed ahead of me right before the start (which Travers noticed from the shore) so I drafted off them for about 200 to 300 yards, but then I thought I should probably to try beat them so I pulled away.

The swim was really uneventful and I felt great! Here's a photo of me during the swim, although it's really unexciting because there's not much going on!

Look, there's me!

My overall time was 25:02, which according to m Garmin was a pace of 1:22/100 yard, including the time it took me to get out and up the swim ramp. That sounds very reasonable, so I'm tending to believe my Garmin distance is close. Also, I finished first in my wave (all 1.2 mile swimmers combined, men & women)!

Very nice volunteers had to pull everyone out of the Berkeley Marina. Thanks, volunteers!

Happy after swimming :)

Why am I so slow at transition?? First, I couldn't unzip my wetsuit! Another girl in transition helped me, which might be illegal but otherwise I would have been literally stuck in it. Then I couldn't get my shirt on because I was wet, then Travers started giving me crap for putting socks in real-time. Next year I really need to work on my strategy for tri transition in general. 2:18 to strip off a wetsuit and put on shirt/shorts/shoes.

I had a secret goal of running sub-7:00 minute miles, so I just started cranking the run. There was a nice spectator around 0.25 mile who shouted at me "nice pace!". I looked down at my Garmin, encouraged, until I realized that yes... I was running a nice but highly unsustainable pace. Oops. I clocked the first mile in 6:45 but was struggling. I think I had swallowed too much salt water and was feeling nauseous. There was a water station at the turnaround where I chugged some fresh water (which maybe helped?) but led to a drop in pace of 6:58 for mile 2. I was still feeling nauseous but luckily 3.5 miles isn't that far. So I kept calculating how many minutes were left and then eventually I finally made it to the finish!

This is actually a screen shot from a video Travers took, but I surprisingly looked SO much better than I felt. Maybe I was overjoyed to be almost done running!

Total distance: 3.5 miles, 6:52 pace, 1st overall finisher in the 1.2 mile swim-3.5 mile run category!

Awards ceremony, after we all cheers'ed our pint glasses!

Then I went home and took a nap. That's the end of my Catfish race report!

PART II: "Exercising with singles" (pictures are omitted for your reading pleasure)

I have the heading for this part in quotes because I must've googled that exact phrase 10 times and found nothing useful. 3 weeks ago, shingles appeared on my C2/C3 dematome (on my neck). At first I thought it was a bug bite so on day 2 of bug bite/shingles I ran about 10 miles, which didn't prove to be a problem so I thought nothing could be THAT wrong. I also thought that the worst headache I ever had for 2 days straight was just a coincidence. On day 3, when I woke up at 5 am to go swimming and everything was even worse, not better, I gave in and went to the doctor. I didn't dare ask "can I workout?" because I feared the answer would be "um... no, psycho" so I came home and googled it instead. There's relatively little information out there so I thought I'd just share my experience with the internet:
-Get on the anti-viral (you have to go to the doctor within the 1st 3 days) - there's not scientific evidence that I found regarding recovery time with vs. without the drug but a lot of speculation that it helps, and I was about 80% better after one week and 95% after 2 weeks which seems reasonable!
-Listen to your body (I know.. duh, right?). One piece of advice that I got was don't work out at all because your body is trying to fight a virus and it can make you much worse. However, I did run 3 times in the first week (albeit at reduced volume and intensity) and that was fine. The dumb thing I did was try to go swimming with shingles in the neck. I was past the point of contagious (about 6 days after it first appeared) but the nerve pain in the neck was not having it. I got out early with massive headaches and was cursing myself for being an idiot. 4 days later though I was good to go for swimming, so just be patient!