Posted by: kellietris | June 13, 2011

Hypothermia rules! Pirate Tri Race Report

Yesterday I raced the Pirate Tri at Point Sebago in Casco, ME. A quick 1/3 mile swim in a cove on Sebago Lake, a pretty hilly 14 mile bike, and a 3-mile out-and-back run. The weather left something to be desired, but I can’t argue with my results!

I woke up Sunday morning to rain. Chilly, drizzly, rain. Quick check of the phone said the outside temperature was 49. Sweet. This race was more polar-bear like than the actual polar bear! I had packed everything the night before so I got out of bed, suited up, and headed out. Stopped for coffee on the way- I was aiming for the Dunkin Donuts in Gray but for the first time ever I saw a cop at the intersection where getting in and out of the store requires two illegal U-turns. Gas station coffee it was. Later, while I was getting body marked my bike tipped over and put a hole in my coffee cup. I figured a little shot of bike grease in my coffee can only help, right? Be one with the bike!

I got all set up around 7:15, which left an hour and a half before the pre-race meeting. Lots of milling around and making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I took a vanilla GU about a half hour before the start, since I found that one most palatable in my experiments the last couple weeks. I met one of my twitter friends in real life which was pretty awesome. I really don’t get nervous before races, I just stand around and watch everyone else freak out. Good stuff! Carolyne and I went down to the water just before transition closed, and by then I was legitimately chilled from standing around. I don’t get cold very easily but standing in the 50-degree drizzle had me feeling it a little. The water was supposedly 68 but I don’t believe that. Definitely closer to 65, but still way warmer than the air! That made it feel great when I got in to warm up, but it also made me not want to get out. So I stood in 65-degree water for ten minutes which is really just a terrible idea even though it felt warm. I was told by multiple people my lips were blue before the start, and for a split second I wished I had a wetsuit like all the relatively warmer people around me. Just a split second though!! I was shivering and goosebumped and checking my mental state just in case I was legitimately hypothermic. Great way to start a race! 12 minutes after the first wave entered, it was go-time. I couldn’t wait to get back in the ‘warm’ water!

This was one of the most aggressive women’s waves I’ve ever swum in. I’ve swum in waves with some aggressive men before, and I can roll with the punches and kicks and the likes, but in women-only waves that doesn’t often happen other than the unintentional tangles at the beginning. There was one woman in particular here who was just off my right side, and we paced the same to the first buoy. About two thirds of the way there she started to turn into me, as if she were trying to cut me off. I took offense, naturally, and sped up and got in front of her. Next thing I know she’s scratching at my legs and feet, and swimming on top of my legs. More than once. When you’re swimming that fast, that’s not a mistake. I gave a couple strong kicks and broke away from her. I got around the first buoy and got held up by a couple women from the previous wave. Unfortunately that gave her the advantage- she was on the outside of the pack and I was on the inside (which I try to avoid) and she came out of the water a couple body lengths ahead of me. Grrr. Overall swim time was 7:47, 8th among the 237 women.

Out of the water and slightly peeved, I pulled on my bike shoes, glasses, and helmet. I downed a couple shot blocks and took a swig of water. I also threw on my long-sleeved PVC jersey that I had worn to keep warm pre-race! I’ve never raced in long sleeves before but i was still concerned about body temp. Cost me a few seconds digging the jersey out of the box I had packed it it, but I got it and took off through the mud to the mount line. T1 time of 1:29. This course is hilly. For some reason everyone complains about it being crazy hilly, but I don’t think of it as that tough. Yes, there are some nasty hills which require the tiny gears and a lot of focus, but for each of those there is a great downhill. I hit 41 mph on the second such downhill yesterday (the first has a sharp turn at the bottom so 40mph is not a good idea!). Maybe it’s because I’m larger than the average female cyclist (more mass = more speed downhill!) but I love this course for its downhills. I got passed by a few people going uphill who I later flew by going down and never saw them again. I finished the bike cuorse in 44:38, a minute slower than last year, but with an average of 18.8mph which I’m pretty content with (the roads were wet in a couple spots so I slowed up a bit). My bike time was 11th out of 237.

Quite possibly the most awesome photo of me ever. Courtesy of the awesome Pattie D.!

After the race a coworker of mine who was volunteering told me I was the first female cyclist to come back from the bike who was not on a cervelo or fancy tri-bike. That made me feel pretty good. I came into T2, ran back through the mud on wobbly legs, and took off my bike gear including the jersey. I was warm enough by then to trust I could run for half an hour without freezing. Challenge was to get my fivefingers on with cold fingers and cold toes, in a relatively quick manner! I’m actually surprised that didn’t take more time, I only had to adjust one of my toes after the first attempt to get them in. I compared this year’s T2 to last years (when I wore sneakers) and this year took only 6 seconds more. Win! I fumbled with my Garmin but couldn’t get it going as I was running out, so I just strapped it to my wrist and forgot about it. It was gonna be me and the road. T2 time 1:37.

I ran. I had decided Saturday night this race was going to be about the run. I was going to suck it up and think about all the things I have been working on all spring and just GO. I experienced a little of the hip flexor complaining I usually get when I transition from bike to run, but I tried to ignore it. This course has a few gradual uphills but nothing major at all. It’s a lollipop course, with the loop part being maybe half a mile. A lot of chances to see who’s in front of you and behind you, but if someone is close behind you you don’t see them in that little loop. Last year I was passed by a girl in my age group with a half a mile left. She beat me by over a minute (do the math, I was slow and she was flying!). On the way out I saw some teammates and friends coming back in looking strong, and I was running paranoid that someone was right behind me. I did get passed by four or five women but they were going so fast there was nothing I could have done. Also, none of them were in my age group. Every time I started to think about how much running sucked, I thought about my form. Tighten my core, lean forward, midfoot strike, elbows to ribs, the whole nine yards. That’d get me through a little piece and it would suck again. Correct my form, keep on chugging. I did start to feel nauseous about halfway through but once I could hear the finish that gave me the last little boost, and I made it to the line feeling strong. Final time 1:21:08. Run time 25:40. That makes those three miles the fastest I have ever run in my life, ever. WHAT. My run time was 73rd among the women, with an average mile of 8:34. My previous fastest average in a race this distance was 9:07, and that was a road race that didn’t have a swim and a bike preceding it! Not bad for being borderline hypothermic an hour and a half previously. Cold: does a Kellie good!

I think this was a breakthrough for me as far as running goes. I’m learning enough about technique that I can manage it like I do swimming- constantly adjusting what I’m doing and monitoring technique so I stay focused on the details, not on how much I hate what I’m doing. (I don’t hate swimming at all, but I would certainly get bored after 6000 yards if I wasn’t constantly breaking down my stroke as I go!)

Overall I was the 15th woman, and placed first of 29 in my age group. I officially qualified for the USAT age group national championships in Burlington, VT this August, and have to decide if I want to/can go (I didn’t qualify last year and the year before it was in Alabama- it’d be fun to do it!).

I’m not sore yet, but I’m sure I’ll start to feel it by the end of the day!


Posted by: kellietris | June 8, 2011

Why kick six times when two will do?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been getting some decent open water swimming in so far this spring, way more than I have in years past. I’m averaging two swims a week, each of them between 1-2 miles. It’s amazing the things you notice when there aren’t any walls and you can just keep going stroke after stroke after stroke after stroke….

I average 13-14 strokes per length in a 25-yard pool. Often by the time I really identify something I want to tweak and start working on it, it’s time to turn again and I have to start all over on the next length. Obvious perk to open water swimming is you can make changes over a much longer time without being interrupted. I’m using my open water swims as an opportunity to adjust my kick.

No matter how quickly or slowly you swim, it is highly recommended to have a beat to your kick. This means that you should have a steady kick, and its rhythm should be connected to your arm strokes. When I teach people who are relatively new to freestyle technique, I start them out with a six-beat kick. Every time one arm enters the water you kick three times. Double that to include the other arm and you get six beats. The trick is that all six kicks should be there, and they should also be steady. I liken it to a waltz count to get people started; one-two-three one-two-three etc. The right arm enters on the first “one” and the left arm on the second “one. Rinse, repeat. The hard part for most people once they’ve got the basic rhythm down is making sure the rhythm isn’t disrupted by a breath.

This is a video of Dutch sprinter Pieter van dan Hoogenband slowed down a bit so you can really see the kick/pull pattern. When his hand enters the water, count ‘one two three’ and his other hand will enter for another ‘one two three’

Different kicks are useful in different situations. One of the major goals of longer distance open water (and triathlon) stroke technique is efficiency; you want to maximize your speed with the least effort possible. An alternative to the six-beat kick is the two-beat kick. In this one you kick one time for each arm pull. As your right arm is about halfway through its pull, kick once with the right leg. As your left arm is halfway through its pull, begin a left kick. With a strong kick and a strong core you can feel the power of your kick not only giving you a boost in propulsion but almost more importantly it powers your roll and allows you to maintain long and strong strokes for far less energy than kicking three times as much (I find that the more I kick the more it hinders my roll).

Here is a video from the womens 400m final at the Athens Olympics. The swimmer closest to the camera is using a 6-beat kick, while the second swimmer, Laure Manaudou of France, is using a 2-beat kick (Manadou won the gold in the end).

In one more variation, here’s Natalie Coughlin (one of my favorite swimmers ever) sporting an 8-beat kick in the 4x200m relay at Beijing (she’s the one in the middle, the swimmer closest to the camera has a 6-beat kick)

I find that in the pool during warmup I default to a 2-beat kick, but it’s not a true 2-beat. I compensate for either a lack of core engagement or some other imbalance by fluttering my feet once in between each big kick. A 4-beat kick maybe? When I’m doing a set, especially of shorter distances, I use a 6-beat. I was aware of the flutters before but I never really paid attention to them since I usually use that kick when I’m warming up or cooling down. Now that I’m in open water however, I really like the way it feels when there is some power behind it! I’m working on eliminating those flutters. Preliminary results show that the flutters seem to be a type of rudder… When I really put my mind to controlling my kick this morning I found myself straying off course pretty quickly. Definitely a work in progress, I recommend you try out different kicks just for fun (for kicks? yeah I said it) if you haven’t already!

Posted by: kellietris | May 31, 2011

‘Mountain’ is in the name of the road for a reason

Yesterday I participated in my first Community Cycling Club of Portland annual Memorial Day ride in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The last two years I have said I was going to go, but sprained elbows and moving to a new apartment have stopped me.

Short summary: 80 miles of beautiful rural roads and gorgeous mountain views

Long summary: well, it was in the mountains! 53 of us left from Fryeburg, ME around 9AM, and with a few pit stops and a lunch break in between, finished the ride in (give or take) 6 hours. One mile into the ride you have to choose: go around, or up and over, the infamous Hurricane Mountain Road. I’m always up for a challenge, so I chose to go up and over despite the majority of my friends choosing the flatter route. Turns out, they put ‘Mountain’ in the road’s name ’cause it goes UP. And up, and up. I will readily admit that at two points on the way up, I unclipped and walked my bike up, probably totaling an eighth of a mile. I was not alone, and I give major kudos to the large group of people who did make it up without doing so. The ascent was about two miles long. If you know the Portland area at all and can picture High Street or Deering Ave going up towards Congress St., picture that kind of hill, over and over again, for two miles. There was one of those ‘HILL’ signs at the bottom, with a picture of a truck on an incline, warning of a 15% grade ahead. It was badass, and awesome, and next year I resolve to do the whole thing without walking.

Making it up was the hardest part of the day (even walking the bike up was wicked tough), and coming back down the other side was an amazingly close second. I’ve never ridden hills like this before, and I heard people at the start talking about blowing out a tire by overheating your brakes. This was foremost in my mind as I was descending… while riding my breaks on the switchbacks I could feel heat coming off my rear wheel from the friction! I actually stopped halfway down the heat got so bad. I reached back and touched my rear wheel and could have burned my hand had I left it there! I threw some water on it and finished the descent, and my forearms ached so much from braking that I had completely forgotten about how much effort the ascent took from my legs!

All of the above happened in the first nine miles. I wore my Garmin, and the elevation profile for the whole ride looks like this:

What goes up, must come down. Or something like that.

I’ve annotated it to show the three major climbs of the day; Hurricane Mountain Rd (the horrible spike on the left), Pinkham’s Notch (the big one in the middle), and Evan’s notch (the most bearable, on the right).

The sag wagon met us at the bottom of Hurricane (Major thanks to Dana McEwan for carrying around water and bananas and brownies and pure awesome all day for us). I was definitely not one of the first to make it up and over, and the group that had gone around had already left for Pinkham notch, at the top of which was to be lunch. I continued on with a couple guys from Portland I hadn’t met before, and who turned out to be awesome. We totally pulled each other up the ascent to Pinkham, through an obnoxiously present headwind that just wouldn’t quit. One of the guys dropped his chain and fell back a bit, but the other guy and myself took turns the last two miles or so just steadily spinning up the hills at 7mph. It was crazy, with the awesome mountains towering over us, and a wide open road in the brilliant sunshine… only things I would have changed were the direction of the wind, and maybe knocked 15 degrees off the temperature which was in the 80s!

It looks like I'm trying to be a cool kid, but my tongue is actually hanging out because I've been climbing the same hill for half an hour.

Heading down from Pinkham was the most fun section to ride. We were flying down the hills averaging close to 30mph for a good while. There was a group of us who left at the same time and stuck together almost until the end, including a bunch of the women I normally ride with and the two guys who had ridden with me up Pinkham. North Road, north of Route 2 somewhere in northern NH, was absolutely gorgeous. We rode past so many small farms with open fields overlooking the mountains, and huge lilac bushes in full bloom… almost makes me want to move out of civilization and up into the middle of nowhere! Almost.

Evans Notch was a blast to climb. At one point we looked down to see that we were going 17mph uphill! The first few miles were a very steady 2-3% grade, which I rode in the middle of my triple gear up front and one of the larger ones in back. I tried to keep my cadence pretty high and it worked like a charm. After about 5 miles of this, all of a sudden I felt like crap. It was subtle, but the ascent had turned into 5-6%. After a couple miles of that, it really ramped up to an 8-10% grade for the last mile and a half or so. I dropped into my granny gear and spun spun spun until I found Dana at the top, waiting for us with brownies and water. Both very VERY good things to see!

The last 20 miles after Evans were a blur. We hit the Fryeburg town line and I knew we were just about back to the start, so I took off when it was my turn to pull the group of three of us who were together. One of the women said ‘it’s like five miles!’ and I was ready to be back to where we started, where we could jump in the river and cool off. Open roads past farms and huge fields… I was definitely pushing 23 on the flats there, knowing I was close to the end. I gave way to the next person to pull, and she likened me to a horse knowing the stable was near which was totally how I felt! Problem was, it was more like ten miles. We kept thinking it was just around the corner just around the corner it HAS to be around the next corner! but it wasn’t. Instead, we found the NH state line again! Turns out Fryeburg is pretty long from north to south, and Rt 113 goes from Maine to NH and back again. We crossed over to NH and back into Maine, and FINALLY made it back to the parking lot. The Saco river ran just off the dirt lot, and we jumped in for a very refreshing end to the ride.

I do intend to do this ride again next year, and as I will be in Ironman training mode I really hope to be able to make it up and over Hurricane Mountain Road without walking my bike! I think I got psyched out at the beginning, since I definitely later rode up steeper hills than I the first one I walked up (the second time I walked was ridiculously steep and insane and is the part I want to own next year). 80 miles in a day beats my previous daily high of 78 when I went from Cumberland up to Naples for lunch a couple summers ago with my roommate, but these 80 were definitely a different beast than 78 in southern Maine. We have hills, but the mountains… they have actual mountains!

As a fun aside and a tribute to the altered mental state this type of physical activity can leave us in, on the way to dinner I captured a beetle which had been flying around inside the car. I opened the window and tried to throw the beetle out such that it wouldn’t get sucked back in (you know, physics and whatnot). Instead of releasing my grip on the beetle and then rolling up the window, i rolled up the window first. With my other hand still out the window. As in, I shut the car window on my hand.

Moral of the story for the kids: don’t ride and drive.

Moral of the story is: If you’re around next Memorial Day, join us!

Fresh legs! Thanks again to Dana McEwan for the photos & sag wagon amenities!!

Posted by: kellietris | May 31, 2011

Swim Advertisement FAIL

I’m considering signing up for the Charles River 1-mile swim I mentioned in a previous post. Today I was looking over the details again when I noticed an amusing item on the side of the registration page. See for yourself:

The page also mentions swimmers may encounter 'jetsam and flotsam'. Also, Ursula.

Tonight I’m going to write up my adventures riding my bike in the White Mountains yesterday (no alligators involved), but in the meantime I thought you all might enjoy the thought of my being chased up the Charles by a ‘gator.


Posted by: kellietris | May 19, 2011

Look Ma, No Shoes!

Over the past year or so, I have tested the tested the waters of the ‘barefoot running’ craze, and I like it. DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe everyone should ditch their shoes and run free and barefoot and stick it to the man. I do believe everyone should try it out as a training tool, and some should stick with it, for reasons I will discuss below (sticking it to the man is still an option, even with shoes).

I honestly don’t remember where I first learned of the barefoot running concept as it exists today. I remember hearing about the book Born to Run, and even bought a copy (though admittedly I’ve only just made it past the halfway point– I’ve been busy!). I also did some online exploration on the topic. In case you are unfamiliar with the basic tenets of the movement, some of the major arguments for ‘natural’ barefoot running include:

  • Scientifically: Running shoes may do more harm than good. Basically, putting huge cushions on your feet not only changes the part of the foot you land on, but also could lead to injury by restricting the natural movements of the foot as you strike the ground
  • Anthropologically: Many elite Kenyan runners, the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico, and countless other cultures grow up running barefoot, and they turned out pretty okay. Humans as a species survived back in the day by being able to outrun prey for food, and they did it barefoot. Basically, humans were ‘born to run’
  • Anecdotally: Numerous testimonials from people claiming to have ditched their shoes and alleviated their chronic running injuries.

I have a history of stress fractures as a result of running. Back in 2004, within a month of beginning to run regularly I was diagnosed with a navicular stress fracture in my right foot. It healed, and I lost interest in ever trying to run again. Then triathlon entered my life.  Since 2009 I have had two more stress fractures; another in my right foot in an area close to the first, and last summer in my left calcaneous (heel bone) which was NOT a good time. [Don’t feel bad for me though, I have a tough time being told I shouldn’t do things, so I tend to aggravate the situation when I do things like play ultimate frisbee and race the Urban Epic with a broken heel.]

Tri For A Cure 2010, with fivefingers. Still smiling!

What it comes down to is: If someone says ‘this helps reduce running injuries’, I’m interested. The science was sound enough, so I bought myself a pair of Vibram Fivefingers last July and figured it couldn’t hurt more than broken bones, right?. They are basically a strip of rubber to prevent you from putting glass through your feet, with a strap on top. Zero cushion. At the time, I was desperate to understand the concept of the ‘midfoot strike‘; I totally land on my heel when I run and could not for the life of me figure out what it meant to land midfoot. I put on the fivefingers, ran literally around the block, and GOT IT. Just like that. It took some concentration to find it and consistently land midfoot, but I got the gist. Step one complete.

This spring I have attended two natural running clinics at Maine Running Company in Portland. One of them included a very quick and basic gait analysis, and the feedback gave me enough confidence that I’m not doing something so drastically wrong in the fivefingers that I’m likely to blow an achilles any day that I’m now feeling more comfortable adding distance to my training in them. Last week I ran the boulevard, 3.5 miles, in my fivefingers and was not even sore the next day. I ran the three miles of the Polar Bear Tri in my Brooks, and could feel discomfort in my feet by mile 2. VERY small sample size, I know, and there’s no guarantee I won’t break a foot or manifest some other running injury as I transition to running ‘barefoot’ all the time, but so far I’m feeling good about the idea. The only complaint I have is easily remedied… When I go more than a couple weeks without running in them, the calf pain the day after the first run is terrible. It’s purely muscle pull, I’ve never been concerned I’ve actually hurt myself, but it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. This goes away after a week or so, and gets less severe with each run. Simple solution is: RUN MORE OFTEN which is something I’m finally doing now that springtime is (supposedly) here.

I mentioned that I don’t think this is for everyone. A couple reasons why it works for me, but maybe not others (all in my opinion, feel free to refute ANY of this post):

  • In my life, I have not run a lot of miles. My feet are not accustomed to being in the confined space of a running show for miles on end. People who have been running 30 miles a week for 15 years have feet accustomed to being cushioned. Taking away that cushion could easily cause just as many problems as leaving it be.
  • I live my life in flipflops. It’s a swimmer thing, but I wear flipflops in the snow, rain, wherever. Even when I’m not running, I don’t wear very supportive footwear so I may have slightly stronger feet without shoes than most. In fact, living in flipflops and then jamming my feet into relatively supersupportive shoes, doesn’t sound like a great idea.

There are also scientific and anthropological reasons why running with cushioning is a good idea. For example, while our ancestors and Kenyan kids and Tarahumara athletes run barefoot, they don’t usually do it on surfaces like the brick sidewalks and paved paths and roads that most of us run on. These surfaces have zero give, whereas dirt trails and grass have a little more bounce built-in.

All that being said, I DO advocate that everyone give barefoot running a try as a training tool. You can learn a lot about your balance and running from from running without shoes. If you think you heel strike, run on a paved surface barefoot. You’ll automatically adjust your stride so you’re landing closer to midfoot, to avoid pounding your bare heel into the pavement!

I will conclude this post by saying that I think I’m on to something in terms of my feelings about running, and it’s coming from first, feeling like my form is improving and it’s getting easier, but also from my brain. I mentioned I’m finally reading Born to Run, and I’m learning more about the mental attitude necessary to be a better runner than all the reasons why barefoot running might be beneficial. I’ve had two great runs this week, including the fastest 3 miles I’ve ever run EVER (also while wearing the fivefingers), and followed up tonight’s swim practice with a 2-mile run. It could be a turning point… stay tuned.

Also, if you haven’t considered donating to my Tri For A Cure page yet… at least check it out?

Posted by: kellietris | May 16, 2011

Open Water Swim Season Is Here! (For Some)

I know for many, open water season doesn’t ever start when you live in Maine. It might consist of a few days in July after we hit 90F and Casco Bay touches 68F, but for the less easily-deterred of us, the time is near. Or here, for the seven of us who swam a mile in Crystal Lake yesterday!

I mentioned a couple posts back that I had bought a wetsuit. For those who don’t know me, I have a thing against wetsuits and it’s a big deal that I caved and bought one. I have historically waited patiently until water temperatures reached 58 until taking the plunge, and did so in just a bathing suit. That being said, I’m abnormal in that 58 degree water doesn’t bother me all that much.

So why the wetsuit? This year I have signed up for the Peaks to Portland swim, a 2.3-mile race from Peaks Island to Portland’s East End Beach.

Totally took me 10 minutes to get into it. Also, out of it.

I’ve wanted to do this race since I was 16 but for one reason or another have not been able to do it. I am really looking forward to training for it and racing it, and in order to get in the water before June, I need a wetsuit. I got an amazing deal on an online discount site on an Orca S3 (long story short, they had 6 wetsuits, all the same size, and they happened to be exactly my size!).

Yesterday morning, myself and six others met up at Crystal Lake in Gray to take the plunge. Two of the group had actually been in on Friday morning, so we weren’t the first of the season but that didn’t really make it any warmer. I stopped and bought a giant cup of coffee to take with me, intending to drink it post-swim to warm me up. Driving up I actually had to slow down a but on I-95 because it was so foggy the visibility was pretty bad! There were intermittent rain showers, and the air temperature was around 45F. The optimist in me said hey, at least the water will be warmer than the air, right?!

I had my bathing suit on under my PJs when i pulled into the parking lot, and the worst part of the whole morning had to have been taking off my sweatshirt to put on my wetsuit. Yes, I knew it was going to be cold in the lake, but it’d be nice to be warm until then, you know? I wasn’t the only one in a sleeveless suit, there was one other. We got the usual ‘you’re a little crazy’ comments, nothing new! Wetsuits on, we walked to the boat ramp and ditched our shoes and I waded in up to my knees. COLD. like, the kind where your foot bones ache for the first couple minutes you’re standing there, until they go numb and you’re blissfully unaware they’re there. It was kinda nice that the wetsuit kept the rest of my legs from suffering a similar pain though! I waded farther up to my chest, chicken-winging it to keep my arms above the surface as long as possible. There wasn’t any gasp reflex, I’m guessing since I had the suit on. Just a slight chill through my chest. I put my goggles on, ran my fingertips across the water, and started swimming Tarzan-style (head out of the water freestyle) until I was brave enough to put my face in after about 15 seconds. Still no gasping! No ice cream headache either, but I did wear two caps and that might have helped. I settled into a steady stroke, and set off for the point that was somewhat visible through the fog in front of us.

I love open water swimming. Being able to just go forever, no walls, no flip turns, lots of nice scenery to look at when you breathe, no stupid monotonous black line below you. I prefer the ocean over lakes, something about the salty feeling you’re left with. Some people are freaked out by the lack of water visibility in lakes or in the Northern Atlantic, but I think it’s awesome. It makes you feel small, like you’re just a drop in the giant bucket. I don’t worry about anything coming up and snacking on me, or seaweed dragging me down to the bottom. I’ve swum through schools of fish before and I felt right at home! (Note: jellyfish are the exception. I have trouble swimming in open water south of New England, after some close encounters and some friends’ way too close encounters).

I also think that swimming in cold water adds something to the experience. I’ve swum 2.5 miles in 58F water with no wetsuit, I’ve done three polar bear plunges (the coldest of which had a water temp of 33F), and I routinely swim in Casco Bay in the summers, again, without neoprene. I like to be able to feel the water, or the numbness induced by the water (you can feel that kind of numbness, trust me). When you get out of the water after one of these swims, your bones are chilled. You can take a hot shower for as long as you want, there’s still a chill emanating from inside you that will last the rest of the day. I love that feeling. It was a little much during the polar plunges, but the swims are great. The important part, though, is to be smart about it. Obviously hypothermia is very dangerous and easily induced below 60F, and you can be incapacitated before you even realize what’s going on. After yesterday’s swim someone demonstrated the motor impairments that come along with the chill… we tried spreading the five fingers of one hand and bringing them back together, and it was very difficult to control! That’s why we swam as a group, and only for the one mile. Official water temp was 55F.

Yesterday, in the middle of the lake, in the fog, the rest of the water flat and shiny as glass around us… it was just great. I’m really looking forward to getting more open water swims in this year than I have in the past. Portland Harbor was hovering around 50 degrees a couple weeks ago before the buoy station’s water temperature sensor crapped out. There is a buoy 12 miles southeast of Portland which hit 49 a few days ago, but with the weather looking bleak for the next week, I don’t expect it to rise too quickly. However, with how comfortable the new suit felt in 55 degree water yesterday, 50 might not be out of the question…

Who’s with me?!

Posted by: kellietris | May 11, 2011

Swim With Me!

I mentioned this in an earlier post but I want to update it, since I can now say that I’m going to be coaching the summer sessions of the triathlon swim class that’s being offered by the City of Portland! If you didn’t already want to sign up, now you have extra motivation, right? Right??

The class will be at the Kiwanis pool on Douglas St., and the schedule is as such:

That looks a little crunched on my screen but if you click on it it should get bigger, if you have any questions let me know!

Once more, the course description:

Course Description:
Are you competing in a triathlon or open water race for the first time? If so, we have a training program for you! This program provides a coach-led 30-minute workout in our pool. It is designed to work ontechnique and racing strategies as well as help build your endurance for your race. Each workout will consist of three components: proper warm-up; main set; and cool-down based upon your race distance and ability. It will also integrate how to properly monitor heart-rate through your training.

Posted by: kellietris | May 8, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Polar Bear Race Recap

And like that, race number 1 is in the books. It was an absolutely beautiful morning for it, especially in contrast to last year, when it was about 40 degrees with a heavy mist the whole time.

In the end I took a minute off of last year’s time, finishing in 1:14:19. It’s difficult to compare times year-to-year, since weather or course changes can easily add or subtract a minute, but it’s nice to see the number get faster. However, everyone else also got faster, but by more than one second… so I ended up placing worse than last year both in my age group and overall.

So where did that minute come from?

I'm liking Allsports Timing's new results display!

The Good

Swim: Last year my first 100 was about a 1:06. I hadn’t been training, and I haven’t been able to hold 1:06’s since I was training 12 hours a week, so as you can imagine the last 200 was horribly painful and much slower. I hit the 500 at about 6:50. This year I have been swimming twice a week for a month and a half,  took it out in a 1:09, and finished the 500 in 6:25 (the race was a 525, and the time they give us includes the run out of the pool and to T1, but I got my 500 times by looking at the clock). There was a girl in the next lane who I swam stroke for stroke with for the first 300 yards, and then she pulled ahead of me. Had it been a swim meet and just a 500, I would have given her a run for her money. But, I really didn’t want to set my legs up to start the bike after a sprint finish to a 525, so I let her go. I kinda wish I had made a race of it, but I still think it was a smart decision, she only finished about seven or eight seconds before me. Official time comparison has me 31 seconds faster this year. Win! Moral of the story is: training regularly makes me go faster… who knew?!

The Bad

Bike: There was definitely a headwind for a good part of the course. I could feel the swim in my legs for the first couple miles, but it wasn’t terrible. I think the best way to sum up the bike is that in retrospect, I feel like I didn’t push it enough. In the end I averaged 19.4 mph, last year I went 19.6. Really not a significant difference, something I could easily chalk up to being out on the road a lot less this year than last, or the headwind out there yesterday, but I think I held back knowing the run was coming. It wasn’t a conscious decision, otherwise I would have tried to kick it up a notch. That’s definitely something to work on going forward this season, since my lack of running ability means I really have to step it up on the bike to give myself the advantage.

The Ugly

Run: Coming out of T2 I definitely felt like my shoes were made of bricks. One thing I have done none of this spring is bike-to-run brick work, and that was evident as I started the run. My hip flexors were shocked into running after happily biking 11.5 miles. It took about a mile and a half, or half the run, to feel like I was in control of my legs. I did run with my Garmin to try and keep myself going (it’s motivating to look down and see an 11:00 mile staring at you), and I ended with an average of 10:14 miles (to last year’s 10:04’s). This run has a road component, a trail component that is a double loop, and a couple of connecting parts that are along the edge of a baseball field in the grass. Not sure if it was my shoes or the surfaces, but my ankles were aching the rest of the day yesterday. Eventually I would like to start wearing my fivefingers in races, since they’re lighter and I also really believe my shoes are contributing to my stress fractures. I’ve got a spot on my right foot I’m being careful with already this spring, and I really don’t want it to turn into another one!!

So if I biked slower and I ran slower, and my swim was only :30 seconds faster… where did the rest of that time come from? Transition! I’m not sure if I took a nap last year or what, but I was considerably faster in T1 and in T2 than last year. 42 seconds faster in T1 (total time this year was 0:56), and 36 seconds faster in T2 (time this year 1:21). I did make a conscious effort this year to get out of T2 faster, since I usually hang around postponing my run as long as I can. However, my T1 improvement is a total surprise, and a pleasant one at that. My T1 usually is throwing down my cap & goggles, stepping into my bike shoes and closing the ratchet and velcro (I’m not cool enough yet to start with my shoes in my pedals), throwing on my helmet, and taking off. I really don’t know what I did differently this year but I’ll take it (transition was set up just like last year, so I don’t think that was a factor). T2 I do sit down to put my sneakers on since I’m usually too shaky off the bike to do it standing, I put on my hat, and I clip on my race belt while I’m headed out of transition. Again, not sure where 30-40 seconds comes out of those, but in the end I came out faster on the day.

In sum, I need to get out on my bike more, I need to do bike-to-run brick work more, and I need to do some speed work with my running. Sounds like a project that can and will take the whole summer! It’s been a really busy spring, way busier than I anticipated, so to get the results I did, I’m content 🙂

PS: My dad survived the duathlon, finally stopped sending me hate mail, and didn’t even vehemently oppose doing another one someday!

Happy tri season eve! My resolutions for this season of racing and fun:

  • I will not get a flat during a race this year, be it in transition or on the road
  • I will not take extra time in T2 putting my running shoes on just because I don’t want to go running
  • I will not lock my keys in the car before a race

Tomorrow morning is the 2011 Polar Bear Triathlon and Duathlon in Brunswick, with a 525 yard swim in the Bowdoin Pool, an 11.5-mile bike through Brunswick and Freeport, and a 3-mile sufferfest (read=run) on the roads and trails around campus. Not only will I be racing the tri, but my dad will be making his multisport debut as he participates in the duathlon (couldn’t convince him to don any spandex).

He can outrun me, but he won't catch me on my bike!

We’re running a bit of an experiment tomorrow, will my tri be faster than his du? He runs at least 1:00-1:30/mile faster than I do. The duathlon has a 2-mile run in the place of the swim. Last year I finished the tri in 1:15. Quick math with him running 8:30 miles and averaging around 16mph on his bike has us close… He’s borrowed a road bike so he’s hoping he can get up to 17mph but we shall see.

I did this race for the first time last year. I had an… incident, we’ll call it… before the start, in which I was reaching for some stuff on top of my car and the front door swung shut in slow motion as I watched, locking everything except my bike inside. The door didn’t even close all the way, just enough to latch, and not open again. Very long story short a friend tried and failed to get the lock undone with a stick, and in the end I was saved by a fellow PVC member who swept in with her AAA card and saved the day. Lesson learned.

Luckily, I have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies when it comes to race day, and one of them is that I will arrive at the race as early as possible, usually about three hours before start time or whenever transition opens. That was a lifesaver last year, since I had plenty of time to wait 45 minutes for the tow truck to arrive and unlock my door. Downside was, my coffee was locked inside with everything else 😦

In other news, I bought a wetsuit. If you know me, this might come as a shock. I hate wetsuits in principle, since they change my buoyancy and I don’t like how it makes me adjust my pool-bred stroke. However, after signing up for Peaks to Portland I realized I’d like to get some open water swimming in before June, and that’s going to require some insulation.

Tonight I’ll pack up my tri box (I should take a picture of this, speaking of obsessive-compulsive tendencies!) and tomorrow morning is GO time.

I’ll post a race recap when all is said and done!

In the meantime, a few things I recommend checking out:

  • Last weekend I took part in a ‘natural running’ clinic sponsored by Merrell shoes and Maine Running Company. They’re having a “Good Form Running” clinic at their Portland store on May 10th from 7-8 that I highly recommend if you are even remotely interested in proper running form and how different shoes can affect your form.
  • If you’ve any desire to swim a mile in the Charles River (of ‘Dirty Water’ Standells fame!), check out the Charles River 1-Mile Swim. I did this a few years ago, and the view of Boston is awesome as you swim between the Harvard and Longfellow Bridges.
  • I’ve still not set up any formal swim clinics, but if you’re interested I’ve managed to fit in a few here and there, taking payment in the form of a donation to my Tri For A Cure page. If you’re interested, drop me a note in the comments and we can set something up.

See you in the pool or on the roads!

Posted by: kellietris | April 13, 2011

I’m not dead yet!

She’s alive! Quick update, and a plug for a great triathlon swim class below.

First off, my apologies for falling off the face of the earth so soon after launching. Turns out the week before vacation and mid-way through my last semester of classes is a bad time to start a blog. Who knew?!

I’m going to make an effort to post at least once a week for now. Feel free to berate me if I start to slack.

New in the world of Kellie’s triathlon-ing!

Less than a month to my first tri of the season! Polar Bear Tri, May 7 in Brunswick.

I’ve given up on the idea of the May marathon. I loathe the treadmill, and once I hit five miles it because incredibly difficult to maintain enough self-discipline to run it all inside. Weather was gross outside, so I scrapped it. I’m looking at the Maine Marathon in October as an alternative.

Signed up for Peaks to Portland! I’ve never done this race, though I’ve wanted to since I was 15 and legally able to compete. (For those unfamiliar, this is a 2.4-mile ocean swim from Peaks Island to the East End Beach in Portland).

I’ve taken up residence with the masters swim team at Reiche twice a week. I love having a workout group to swim with again, and they work out from 6-7pm so I don’t have to battle the morning wake up issues I tend to have…


The City of Portland is offering a triathlon swim class:

(from the website) Course Description:
Are you competing in a triathlon or open water race for the first time? If so, we have a training program for you! This program provides a coach-led 30-minute workout in our pool. It is designed to work on technique and racing strategies as well as help build your endurance for your race. Each workout will consist of three components: proper warm-up; main set; and cool-down based upon your race distance and ability. It will also integrate how to properly monitor heart-rate through your training.

The spring session is underway, the summer session will be starting at Kiwanis (outdoor pool!) on June 20. The current instructor, Jeanette Strickland, is absolutely wonderful.

I’m going to get started scheduling my TFAC fundraiser clinics pretty soon, and will let everyone know as soon as that happens.

Until next time (which i promise will be sooner than last time!)


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