>Fantasy Triathlon

>Who would win an iron-distance triathlon, and why?

-Jane from Survivor Nicaragua (yes I am part of the 1% who still watches it)
-The Little Mermaid (she gets legs in T1)
-Chrissie Wellington
-Little Red Riding Hood
-Sarah Palin


>I’ve hinted already that I have spent some time debating ultras vs. Ironman. Can they both be put on a race schedule and can you get to your best at either one with them both on the schedule? While I have achieved a dece level of success this way, I do not believe I will get any further in either one trying to balance both. So as I train for HURT, all my focus is on running and I’m staying off the bike and out of the pool. There really is not other way to prepare for 25,000 feet of climb and a 30 hour race day other than to be on your feet, and on the trails. But then the question become, what next in 2011? I really do love the 100 mile distance and I want to work towards a big win at that distance one day. But, I also like the Ironman. I like cycling. I like the level of intensity that is in that race during every minute. Looking at it further, improving at either sport is simple: get faster. After thinking about it, I knew that ultimately my speed would improve more doing the workouts required for an IM rather than a 100. It’s easier to then take speed from a marathon and draw that into endurance for a 100, then it would be the other way around. Therefore I decided that after HURT, I will focus solely on the Ironman in 2011.

Easy, right? Well, not really. Truth of the matter is, Ironman training is tough. Not just the workouts – the logistics. When I work 45 hours a week, scheduling running workouts is relatively easy to me by now. I know how to get in the miles and I know what type of workouts are required. When you throw swimming and biking into the mix though, I’m a lost puppy. And there really aren’t many people I know who have had great success at the distance either to draw from their training. I have said it before that I felt like I had a sub-11 race in my hands at Wisconsin, and watched it slip away on the run. The reason for that is simple: I didn’t train for a sub-11. I didn’t to the proper workouts to run that off the bike. I wasn’t prepared. Close, but no cigar.

Figuring out how to get myself to the next step wasn’t even a question. I knew I would get a coach when I was ready to tackle the IM head on. In the past couple years I have had discussions with several notable coaches. For one reason or another, they never worked out. Generally, I wasn’t ready. But I also didn’t feel like I had met anyone that clicked with me enough to coach me and get the results we’d both want. After Wisconsin this year, I stumbled upon Hillary Biscay. You may have heard of her from her recent 2nd place at Ultraman (if you don’t know what that entails, look it up!). Or, perhaps you know her as the chick who did 6 Ironmans in one year…and placed top 5 in all of them. Or maybe you just watch Ironman Live sometimes and think she’s pretty, haha. And if you don’t know her, you should.

When I look for a coach, I have a few priorities. First and foremost, can I respect their athletic accomplishments in a way that I relate to them as an athlete. Of course I respect someone like Chrissie Wellington. She’s uber fast and a great role model. But, I think Chrissie also came out of the womb doing a sub-9 Ironman. I can’t relate to that. I have always thought of myself as a great athlete, but when I want to get good at a particular thing – whether it be soccer goalie, the high jump, or triathlon – I have to do work. Luckily, I consider one of my best qualities also to be that I am extremely coachable. Once I decide I respect a coach, I have no problem putting all my faith and trust in them and just doing what they ask of me. In my opinion, it’s great. They’re doing the hard part of figuring out how to schedule my workouts and what to make them…I have the easy/fun part of just doing them! After reading about Hillary’s athletic accomplishments (including training under the infamous Brett Sutton) I know that she has truly had to work hard to get to where she is. (Not that someone like CW doesn’t work hard…it’s just…different.) People like that generally expect the same from those they coach, and that’s what I want. Hillary also has the “ultra” mentality. She will understand that side of me.

Second, can I be friends with this person? While this may be a trivial thing for some athletes, it does matter to me. No longer am I part of a team where if you don’t like the coach it’s “oh, whatever, I have my friends around me that I play with at practice.” Instead, it’s us. My coach is my team. Thus, they have to be my friend. I need them to understand me as a person as well as an athlete. I need to feel like I can be open with them about my life; that kind of relationship (in my opinion) only strengthens the athlete-coach bond. And, I’d argue, it makes the coach better able to help the athlete. After exchanging e-mails I had a hunch that Hillary and I would get along. When I went out to IMAZ, she graciously took the time to meet me for coffee. I was able to chat with her for over an hour without even blinking. Who knows – we do have the same birthday so maybe that helps, but I definitely feel like we’re on the same page with both life and triathlon.

And finally, what is their coaching style? Heart rate coaching? Miles vs. minutes? How far out do they schedule workouts? How frequently will they check in and readjust them? I was happy to hear that Hillary doesn’t coach via heart rate. I don’t understand that and I don’t really like it. I would hate to have my heart rate be telling me to slow down when really I feel good and can keep pushing it, etc. She coaches based off perceived exertion and does a combination of miles and minutes. She schedules workouts 1-3 weeks in advance, and as soon as I log a workout she can sign in and see how it went to re-adjust the upcoming ones. She is also a very “hands on” coach. I like that she didn’t have separate levels of coaching packages. In her words: “I don’t really know how to create a “less is more” training program, and I don’t pretend to.” She limits the number of athletes she takes on so that she can give them 100%, while still getting after her own training/racing agenda. Pretty Sweet.

So that is set, and I’m pretty excited. Right now, my 2011 looks like this:
-Columbia Triathlon (May)
-Eagleman 70.3 (June)
-IM Louisville (August)
-IM Arizona (November)

I’m sure I’ll race a few others but those are the bigger ones for next year. February can’t come soon enough!


>“When it is all said and done, the HURT 100 is made up of souls: souls with young dreams, visions of sublime beauty, and the ever-present vigilance of the vulture of uncertainty that makes this kind of adventure and camaraderie so rare and precious in our modern era.”— Matt Stevens, 2009 HURT 100 Participant

>Weekly Countdown

>11/15 – Easy 5 miles; 45 minutes
11/16 – 10 miles; 1:25 minutes
11/17 – off
11/18 – 2×2 mile, 9 miles total; 75 minutes
11/19 – 31 miles on the Pemberton Trail, 5:45
11/20 – Hills on South Mountain (AZ) – 14 miles; 2 hours
11/21 – off
Totals: 69 miles, 11 hours and 10 minutes

11/22 – Easy 3.5 miles in Tempe; 30 minutes
11/23 – 12.5 miles (5 at marathon pace); 1:45
11/24 – 3x2mile, 10 total, 90 minutes
11/25 – 5 miles, 4.2 race pace (Gobble Cobble); 35 minutes
11/26 – 15 miles, 3xhill workout; 2 hours
11/27 – 29 miles on the AT, 6 hours
11/28 – 8 miles; 1:12
Totals: 83 miles, 13.5 hours

I know the 69 –> 83 miles was a bit of a jump, but truth be told, I’m running out of weeks. I wanted at least one week in the 80s, because after this rest week, I’ll have 4 weeks in the 90’s and100’s. The jump felt alright and my body responded well. The trail run on the AT was my most techical training run to date, and my ankles definitely felt it. But, I kept a good pace and ran just what I should have for that section. My biggest complaint today on my first rest day is my back and shoulders. I will probably have to start doing more of my runs with my Nathan Pack to keep getting those parts stronger for HURT. If they hurt this bad after 6 hours, I don’t even want to think about 24+ hours!

In the meantime, winter running isn’t *as bad* as I thought it would be. I saw a ton of deer, a famiy of bobcats, and even some snowflakes on the trail. I have also been working on my nutrition and have found a new special treat to eat on the run  – personal size Digorno Pizza! The pepperoni ones have 400 calories for HALF of it! And they are pretty tasty, even cold. I have some more experimenting to do, so if you have any other ideas for food that is dense in calories and I could eat on the run, shout them out! (PS I think sandwiches, in general, are gross).

>Twenty Ten

>So despite my super exciting plans I am lining up for next year, I would be amiss to not reflect on the past year. I think 2010 has been a great year for me. I had a good ’09, but, looking back, there were few races I really felt that I nailed. I also had 2 DNF’s in ’09. That being said, it was also the year that I finished my first 100 miler and first Ironman; while they were not quite where I wanted them to be, I think the base of training and the experiences of racing those distances really started to pay off this year. I’m not going to just recap the results, those are on the blog and the race reports are in the archives if that’s what you want to read. Instead, I’ve compiled a little list of 2010 lessons:

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” -Juma Ikaanga
This year I learned a lot about the value of preparation. Before Old Dominion, I knew the course. I thought more about what I would need to get me through that race than any other race. And, above anything else, I finally put in the miles and the workouts that racing a 100 miler requires. It paid off. Not only was I able to run well, but I was able to race. I was able to have fun, and enjoy the moments.  Well, most of them 🙂

I also took cycling to a new level of preparation for IM Wisconsin. I rode more than 5 times the amount of miles I did in 2009 before Louisville. Because of this I was able to ride 15 minutes faster, on a notoriously harder course. Once again, the work paid off. I also found out that I actually *like* riding bikes! This will only help me in the future.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
After Old Dominon, my training was scattered. I tried to get on the bike and keep running, and get in the pool whenever I was so motivated, but there was no rhyme or reason to the training. I knew that I would be able to get through the IM based on my 100 miler fitness, and I was taking that for granted. Because of that, I put out (what I would consider) an average performance for myself at Wisconsin. While I shaved off time, I still didn’t make the race into the complete package that I know I can. It has become more clear to me that I can’t do both ultras and tris, and get them both to the level that I expect of myself.

Winning matters….but only so much.
I used to try to win at least one race a year. This meant I would jump into smaller races when they weren’t on the training schedule or didn’t really make sense for my goal at the time. Looking back at this year, my one ‘W’ really doesn’t mean anything to me (though I do like the bling). I want to win every race I run, but ultimately even a 2nd place (Syllamo/Old Dominion) or even a 13th (Wisconsin) means more to me than the 1st.

Ride in to the danger zone.
Well, I couldn’t find any good cliche about “comfort zones,” but danger zone will do. This year I dared to step outside of my comfort zone a little bit and race some shorter races. While Miami was a brilliant failure (who races well after 2 nights of mojitos anyway?) I did a 5K over the summer and just recently a 7K turkey trot. In both of these races I exceeded my own expectations. It is fun for me to break out of the “long slow distance” mold and show people that ultra runners can have speed too! Not only that, but it bodes well to give myself a different challenge every now and then – it only serves to make me stronger.

“You came here for this.”
Eric Grossman has been writing a great motivational series for the Running times. This is the link to the piece that the above line came from. This year, I spent a lot of time debating what I was looking for in my racing. The training is time consuming and hard, and there’s no guarantee that it will pay off. After this year, I have reaffirmed with myself the reasons that I race. And when the going gets tough, I think it’s important to remember, simply, that I came for this. I signed up. I didn’t sign up for an easy day. I knew that the race I wanted to run would require my time and effort, and I expect it to challenge me. I expect it to help me grow as an athlete and a person. To put it simply, the hard times are what I race for, and I should embrace that.

So here’s to a great 2010. And to an even better 2011.

>Are you serious? No, I’m for real.

>I know I owe myself a Week 2 training post, but I am going to combine weeks 2 and 3 for next week in the interest of saving my fingers some typing because I have a lot of blog posts racking up in my brain. I wanted to get this one out first because it’s something I’m really excited about. Last Thursday I flew out to Tempe, Arizona. This trip was for one main reason: to spectate and support Ryan as he ran his first Ironman. Not only was Ryan there for my first Ironman finish but he has been integral in my successes this year, and I have sincerely enjoyed and been inspired as I’ve watched the fire get lit under him as he made his comeback to triathlon.

Before the race on Sunday, however, I did have a few things to accomplish. One was my own training. I opted for my long run on Friday, and headed out from Tempe to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. This is also the site of several ultra’s throughout the year, most noteably the Javelina Jundred just about a month ago. The trails here are true desert running – dry, sandy, cacti, dry brush, and rocky. Did I mention dry? It was a different experience for me, but what was the best was how well-kept the trails are and how well they are marked. The Pemberton Trail is a 15.4 mile loop and I opted for 2 of these. When I arrived at the park I realized that I had a slight issue – while I was super prepared with maps, food, and water, I didn’t have one very important thing….socks. I didn’t want to spend much time mulling over this so I figured whatever, just get through it. I could feel blisters forming as I made my way through the first loop, but there wasn’t really anything I could do. At mile 12 I ran into Shannon. It turns out, Shannon was trying to get through an 18 mile run (her longest ever!) in prep for the Rock’n’Roll Marathon in AZ in January, but she was hurting a little bit. I know company can make a huge difference, so I offered to run with her the last few miles. She gratefully took me up on the offer and I’m glad she did because it turns out she grew up in Charlottesville so we had plenty to talk about. By the end of the 3 miles she was basically an old friend. And you know what old friends do for each other? They give each other socks. Yes, that’s right, I took her socks. And I’m really glad I did because my feet were already in bad shape. The second lap I ran clockwise and despite the heat getting stronger I ran about 15 minutes faster than the first loop. Maybe it was the socks.

My second run of the weekend was Saturday at the South Mountain area. I had 3 x 15 minute hill repeats scheduled, so I opted for the Holbert trail. Again, everything was really well marked and there was plenty of access to bathrooms and water at the trailhead. This area was much more crowded but still very pleasant, and the 2.5 rocky trail up the mountain turned out to be the perfect choice for the workout. Two hours later I was done and it was time to relax and help the Ironmen-to-be get psyched for their race.

I’ll admit it, I complain about the sport of triathlon. It’s expensive, time consuming, mentally and physically draining, and for as many people who seem to do tris nowadays, very few truly understand what it is like to train for this event. In the months leading up to the race it can often seem like you’re on an island of one trying to make this thing happen.

But, even just getting the opportunity to spectate one of these events make all of that goes away. The Ironman, while it can be a pain to travel with all the gear, buy all the gear, etc, really is a beautiful event. Putting together a 2.4 mile swim, hopping on the bike for 5+ hours (for most of us!) and then running a marathon is an amazing thing. Getting to do it yourself is one thing; be able to watch a friend accomplish their dream of finishing one is just as fulfilling. Ryan and Claire will put their race reports on their blogs – it’s not my job to tell those stories. What I can say is that I saw amazing things out of all 2500 people who toed the line on Sunday. In no other sport will the Champions return to the finish line after their own race to run in with the final finishers, as Chrissie Wellington and Linsey Corbin did. In no other sport will the pro’s bring In-and-Out Burger in mass quantities to feed the volunteers who man the finish line for 17 hours. The Ironman requires determination, mental strength, a physical ability, and most of all, heart. Even the pro’s know that. The Ironman family is a special one, and one that I can say I am proud to be a part of.

Chrissie Wellington rocking out to the YMCA.
Linsey Corbin chatting with a fan as she welcomes in the final finishers.

>Week 1

>So I half apologize for this post. Why only half? Because right now you’re reading it, and if you make it through you deserve a prize because while it will not be long, it will be boring. So, I’m half sorry. But I’m half not sorry because in 8 weeks when I win HURT you guys are going to be like “Shoot how did Alyssa do that?” And then you’ll be thanking me for chronicling the next 8 week through these useful, albeit boring, posts.

Coming off of MMTR I felt okay. My legs felt great, I wasn’t really even sore, but I could tell that my body was just “tired.” It hasn’t been going through long efforts like that in awhile, and the running mileage adding up was just reminding me of the importance of sleeping and eating. I wasn’t going to take a full rest week, but rather the first few days easier and then ramp things back up. This is what it ended up looking like:

Monday 11/8 – easy hour on the waterfront, 7 miles
Tuesday 11/9 – off
Wednesday 11/10 – 7.5 with 2×2 mile “race pace”, 1 hour
Thursday 11/11 – easy 5.5, 45 minutes
Friday – 8 miles, 1:07ish
Saturday – 15 miles, 2 hours, 2×15 minute hill repeats
Sunday – Metric Marathon (16.3 miles) 2:05, 12 miles at the Park (2 hours)

Totals: 71.3 miles, 10(ish) hours

*Sidebar about the Metric Marathon: This is a 16.3 hilly, HILLY, course run through Columbia. My goal going into the race was to run 8’s, but if nothing else just get through the race with enough gas to go run another 2 hours afterwards. I enlisted the help of Jen K. and Carly P for this task I brought along my Specialized Daily, and Jen was going to run the first 8 with me while Carly rode, then they’d swap. After a couple miles, however, it appeared I had more fitness than I thought and was pushing the pace. Jen and Carly swapped early – though I’m not sure how much of a relief that was, as riding the Daily on the hills through unclosed roads was just as challenging. They swapped back at mile 14, and brought me in well under my goal pace, just under 2:05. As one guy who saw us put it, it really does take a village. Thank you girls!

This week I’m pretty excited because I will be heading out to spectate and support Ryan at IMAZ. This means my hill repeats and long runs will be out on some new trails!

>Last Weekend

>This past Saturday I hung out with 300 of my friends. We met around 5 in the morning and took a few buses together to our favorite hangout spot. Before leaving some of us conferred about what to wear – shorts were the final decision. We said goodbye to the others we’d be leaving behind with a smile and a cheer. In the beginning there weren’t too many conversations. We bonded in silence as the sun came up and we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise in the Blue Ridge Mountains I’ve ever seen.

Throughout the morning we got a chance to catch up with those we haven’t seen in awhile. We introduced ourselves to those we didn’t know and found out how much we had in common. We found some good places to eat with plenty of food for all of us. Some of us decided to leave early.We said goodbye to them with heavy hearts.

The afternoon came rolling in and the temperatures started to drop. We made fun of each other for having worn shorts in the snow. We told jokes. When one of us got a little tired or frustrated or sad, they were met with a smile and a hug. Sometimes we found ourselves separated from each other. We were alone with our thoughts, but knew that we were never far from a friend. As the sun began to set, we all gathered again. We were goofy and silly and tired and happy. There were smiles and there were shrugs as we said goodbye to each other; just until next time.

Sometimes I race. But last weekend I went out and ran 50 miles with friends. And I had a blast.

Bring on the HURT.

>Follow if you wanna…

>Well, October flew by and November is here. Tomorrow is the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler. And by 50 miles, they mean more like 54. Haha. Cold weather is for sure but thankfully rumors of snow have calmed somewhat: but, who knows what tomorrow will bring. I have no real time goal here, I just want to run strong and feel good. This is my kickoff to HURT, so there’s no need to cause any damages. But, a race is a race, so we will see. The pre-race dinner was bumpin’ with runners from all over the country, many of whom I’m sure are hoping to get that coveted entry to Western States. They can have fun fighting for that, as I only want to HURT next year 🙂
Updates throughout the day will be here: http://www.eco-xsports.com/mmtr.php

On a more somber note, Mike Broderick passed away this morning. A great friend of the ultra community, Mike was diagnosed with Lung Cancer 4 short weeks ago. He will be in all our hearts and minds tomorrow, so Mike, this one’s for you.

>Even the best

>Have bad days.

Anton Krupicka and pacer Dakota Jones at the 2010 Leadville 100 Mile Run. Anton won this race in 2006 & 2007.

But, we live to run another day.