Sunday, August 28, 2011

Swim to the Moon :)

     Ok, I'm not quite sure how to begin talking about this race.  I guess I should go back to childhood.  I was a shy, quiet girl in school, most of you know if you've read anything in the earlier blogs, so I won't get into that.  But anyways...I felt like I was never good at anything besides swimming, and in high school I was a pretty strong swimmer.  Could of been more if I ate better and had more positive thoughts.  Anyways..I always had big dreams.  (Who admits this?  lol)  
     I ran a marathon at the age of 22.  A long, long time ago I had the goal of swimming the English Channel.  When I met the runners of Medina County, I found out what ultra-running was and wanted to do that, too.  (And, secretly, an Ironman...perhaps ultra-ironman races too)  Why?  I'm not sure.  I'm not sure why I enjoy exercising for long, long periods of time or what motivates me to do these things.  Whatever it is, it's in my heart.  It's like something is pulling me towards it.  I love it.  I love being out in nature, enjoying the beauty that was created for us.  Maybe that's one reason.  With swimming....I don't know...I've always loved it.  Before I swam on a team, I was ALWAYS the last kid in the pool, never really wanting to get out.  I love how the water feels as I pull through it with my stroke.  I love how these activities make me better prepared to handle any situation that is thrown at me in life.  I love how I can think more clearly, love and appreciate the people in my life more, and take on challenges, not only physically, but with the mind as well.  
     I used to be a negative thinker.  As I've grown up, my thinking has changed more to the positive.  I don't doubt myself too much anymore.  I've put in the hard work, and I'm ready to perform.  (Whether it's athletically or in school/work)  It doesn't matter how fast or slow I am compared to others, what matters is that I give it MY all.   I always know I'll finish the event.  That's no question (as long as I train, hydrate and eat properly...this will need some work though as I grow and enter more races, and more races of greater distance).  There's this one quote by Apolo Ohno..(yes, I like to read about Olympic athletes..:)  "I acknowledged the negativity....then I let it go."  Very powerful.  No use in being negative anymore.  It gets you nowhere.  And "You can't put a limit on anything.  The more you dream, the farther you get."  Michael Phelps-I believe there is truth in that statement.  After letting going of negativity in my thoughts, I realized that I COULD do these things that I wanted to do.  I have had some great role-models, such as my parents for always working hard towards their goals and never giving up.  They are probably some of the most hardest working people I know.  Also, ultrarunners of NE Ohio.  Yep.  You all have amazed and inspired me.  Then, joining Team Toledo Triathlon Club.  There's a bunch of people older than I am too competing in triathlons and Ironman Triathlons, both men and ladies!  How cool!  So, I know there's real people out there doing these things.  If they can I :)
     Anyways...I'll say a bit about the actual 5k swim lol.  I knew I'd be able to finish, no doubt in my mind.  Some people say 1 mile of swimming=4mi of running.  I'm not quite sure if I agree with that.  That means I would have run like 12mi today, I don't think I put that much effort in the water lol.  My goal was to swim in under 1:30, hoping to swim around 1:20ish if I swam fast.  I'd be happy with 1:30. Friend from Team Toledo told me to use the first 500yd as a warm up.  So I didn't go out too fast.  I still went out fast, but not too fast.  All the other girls in my wave went super fast at the start.  I never know how I'll do compared to others in my wave because this summer I entered races that I had never done before.  So I wasn't sure if they were just going to be way faster than me or if they were going to die out.  A lot of them lost their speed and I was able to pass.  I eventually caught up with some men (hehe) and my friend who was with me did as well (this always makes us feel awesome LOL :)  I quite enjoyed swimming in Lake Michigan.  The water was clean, dark, but clean.  It was fun swimming around buoys and looking for the next one.  Swimming through a tunnel and under a bridge was cool, too.  I finished in 1:22:30.  I definitely could have swam faster, I think..but with distance swimming (especially it being the first 5k race you've entered!)  you want to make sure you save energy for the whole thing.  So I didn't go too fast.  It was a steady pace.  I didn't even see the finish until the last buoy!  Which is when I sprinted :).  Clearly...distance swimming...and distance anything is more what my body was made for.  (Which is awesome because I like it!)  
     I'll probably do it again next year.  I'd like to get into more open water swimming because it's fun and challenging.  My friend from FL said she'd crew for me when I decide to swim the Tampa Bay 24miler, and I'd like to swim the English Channel.  Yep :)  
     On another note, for my exercise physiology class, our teacher asked us to find a topic within the exercise physiology field and find a research article to share in a few weeks and lead a discussion on it.  We eventually have a review paper on that topic due at the end of the semester.  I am interested in seeing how body fat vs training effects certain endurance athletes (particularly ultra-endurance athletes) of different disciplines like ultra swimming, ultra-running, and ultra-ironman triathlons.  I found one study on male ultra-swimmers about body fat, height, leg and upper body measurements vs training volume and intensity.  Some studies say that having a higher amount of body fat will help in long-distance swimming because of the cold water (yes, true), but in this study they actually found training intensity and volume were a better indicator of race time.  Now, if I recall correctly, the men had an average body fat % of 17, at about age 40.  Which is I believe in the healthy range, but not athlete range (don't quote me, I haven't written the paper yet)  Interesting.  I also found more studies about ultra-runners and other ultra-athletes where body fat isn't always the best indicator of race performance.  Yes, you don't want to carry around excess fat, but what I've found so far that as long as you're still in the "healthy range or slightly higher," you can perform just as well as your leaner competitors, given the same training volume and intensity.  It seems training volume and intensity are a greater predictor of race time.  So..I'll post my work when I'm ready.  I want to study all endurance athletes and their measurements vs training variables.  It's cool stuff!

"To accomplish your goal, you have to be willing to sacrifice beyond what others are willing to sacrifice; you have to be willing to train at levels others are not willing to train at; you have to be willing to accept accomplishing goals that others never reach."  John Schaeffer

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sylvania Triathlon and Getting My Master's in Kinesiology...

Hello!  I am going to talk a little bit about the Sylvania Triathlon, and a little bit about school.  I need to vent anyways.
     As many of you know, I competed in my first Olympic distance Tri last weekend, 2nd tri ever.  Let me go back a bit in my life.  So...I think I mentioned in another blog I bawled my eyes out for probably 15minutes after my last swim meet in HS.  I loved it that much.  And if you read my other blogs, you know I swam on my own throughout college (could of swam for a college, but didn't) and joined the MCRR to train for and run my first marathon.  Some people may wonder why do you like doing those activities for so long?  Because I LIKE it.  I like compettition between other individuals (this may seem untrue regarding my personality, but it is :)  .  I like to test myself.  In the race setting, you have a chance to give it your all, see what you can do with the amount of time you put into training.  And, probably most importantly, I like to meditate/think about life/pray while I'm doing long endurance exercise.  I love letting my mind wander, and I always have.  Maybe it's because I'm always reading, learning, or doing something that involves my mind the rest of the time.  Whatever.  Anyways....I'll start.
     The swim:  1500m swim, just right under a mile.  Now, I knew I would be one of the top female finishers in the swim because I swam in high school and have kept it up, so I have a pretty efficient freestyle stroke.  With swimming, it does not matter too much how large or little you are, it is more concerned with how efficient you move through that water.  So having a swimming background will always have an advantage to any athlete who decides to "try a tri."  (Of course, so will the others, but I'm just saying, swimming is rather hard to learn the right technique, unfortunately, but don't give up, it can definitely be done if you put in enough time!!  :)  Anyways, gun went off, and off I swam!  I was pretty calm, as I swam around this pond with Team Toledo for practice.  I caught up with the male wave (hehe), but didn't have a hard time passing through people as I thought and didn't get kicked (which was my fear).  I did get pushed out a bit from a current rounding a buoy because I went wide to avoid others, I'm sure I lost a little time on that, but was able to get back by everyone after a few minutes.  So, I finished with a decent time of 23:37, and ran to transition.
     I was out of breath and shaking again (I think the running to T1 after swimming gets my heart rate way up lol).  I slowed way down putting on my shoes, and for some reason (with the lack of oxygen getting to my brain, I'm sure) mounted my bike, lol.  A volunteer quickly told me I had to run with my bike, then hop on (duh!  I knew this.)  So I lost probably half a minute there because I was so tired, and trying to mount my bike when I was still dizzy was a challenge lol.  So, I run with the bike, tried to get a hammer gel down, only got 1/4 of it in because I was still disoriented and dropped it while running with the bike.  Finally mounted the bike and was off!
     I did not enjoy the bike leg during this race at all.  It was raining a little during the swim, then picked up on the bike (of course...).  I was a little scared because of the tar on the road, I didn't want to slip!  But, I did ride aero most of the time and tried to cycle as fast as my legs would let me!  I got yelled at a few times from being too far over to the left by other cyclists passing me, lol, but sometimes it was rougher on the right, and me being a newbie didn't want to fall!  Oh well.  I was glad when the bike leg was over.  (This is my least favorite, I still enjoy it, but not really when it's raining...)
     T2.  Went relatively smooth.  Didn't have to change my shoes since I wore my running shoes because I'm afraid of those cycling shoes and clipping in.  Had my garmin watch on from T1 (wanted to know my pace during the run) and was ready to run!  I was running strong at the start, but noticed my adductors (inner thighs) were super tight.  I slowed way down to about a 10:00min pace for the first 3 miles.  I tried picking it up but I just couldn't!  Here's where I knew I should have practiced more bike-run brick workouts.  But oh well.  Two girls in my age group passed me, but I couldn't keep up with them, they were very strong runners.  Then..a girl started to pass me at a slightly faster pace than I was going.  She was a bit larger than myself...and I told myself, "NO!!  I am NOT going to let someone who's bigger than me pass me!"  This may sound mean...but that's what I thought.  So, I picked up the pace and was able to maintain 8:00-8:30's the rest of the 3.2 miles.  Also, this guy passed me a little while back, said I was doing great, and ran on.  He was still in sight, so my goal was to keep up with him.  I finally caught up to him and said I needed to stay with him in order to keep ahead of that girl.  We started chatting (I enjoy talking to others as I run) to get our minds off the pain.  He definitely helped, we shared stories of our past running experiences and how we both hated sprinting and were better suited for longer distances.  Anyways, I was starting to run faster than him (I am always able to loosen up after 3 miles anyways in distance running, this is why I suck at 5ks lol) so he said go on, and I said nice to meet you, good luck and great job for your first tri!  He is what I call a "running angel."  He was saying good job to every single person who passed and help me through my pain.  I was lucky enough to see him at the finish and congratulate him.
     It was a neat experience.  I'll do another.  I ended up getting 2nd in my age group and qualifying for age group nationals for next year in VT.  But I have to check on this, I'm still a little confused.  Top 5 in each age group get to go, after a few days someone else was first in our age group, so I guess I got 3rd, but still have the 2nd place trophy lol.  Oh and thank you Mike for being there the whole time :)  It was nice to have some support for my first one, and thanks to my sister for trying to see me, she got there when I was already on the bike, but was leaving for Cleveland, so didn't stay the whole time.  Thanks guys!  Meant a lot to have some support!
23:37swim, 2:38 T1, 1:18:16bike 19.1mph, 2:05 T2, 55:32run, 8:57pace, 2:42:06total.
Obviously I need to work on transitions and getting faster in everything.  Good first one though!
     So...I am very excited to study exercise science/kinesiology.  The study of human movement...studying the physiological effects of exercise on the human body...there are numerous benefits to both the mind and the body.  I'm having a hard time deciding what to do my thesis on and what to study.  I have 2 yrs to narrow it down (I'm definitely pursuing a PhD in the field.)  I met with my teacher to discuss my thesis a few weeks ago.  I told her I wanted to go the doctoral route, and we have the decision of doing a masters project or thesis.  Since I'm going the PhD route, it's better to do a thesis so we get used to writing one.  I told her I wanted to test short term memory and how exercise effects it.  There have been studies done saying that for example if you exercise before an exam, you will be able to think more clearly (because of the oxygen to the brain).  I noticed this in undergrad.  If I didn't workout in the morning before classes, I didn't feel as alert.  Anyways, I want to test older adults and younger college aged students.  I will ask them to remember something (words, shapes, sentences, I have no idea yet) before, during, after and 15-20min after exercise to test this.  I am very interested in the mind.  Especially what happens to older adults, and if exercise can somehow prevent/pro-long memory loss.  I wish I could do long-term memory, which is why I will probably have to go to a different school after I get my PhD to study it.  But testing long-term memory isn't practical for my master's degree lol.  So I chose short-term.  My teacher thought it was a great idea.  I just have to read more studies done on the topic to get an idea of how to do this.
     It was funny, she said that college professors joke that they are very absent-minded, but when it comes to books they are very smart.  I've been like this my whole life lol.  Having "blonde" moments or forgetting where I misplace my keys when I'm only 24, yet excelling in school.  I thought that was funny.  Anyways...I'm also very interested in human endurance (Obviously...I'm friends with a TON of endurance athletes, and particularly find ultraendurance events and the people I'm friends with very interesting.  This is one of the reasons I'm on facebook so much.  I like to see what my ultrarunner friends are up to lol.  I kinda want to study the effects of what ultraendurance activities has on the human body.  I wonder if there are some detrimental effects or what and what the benefits are of ULTRAendurance activities.  Personally, I think there are many benefits, as long as you are careful and get in the right nutrition.  I need to read more on that topic, as well.  As long as it's not an obsession, (well...haha) but I mean as long as it doesn't get in the way of spending time with family, I think it's good.)
     Ahhh I love the whole field!!  So...I think I'll post all my work I do in school in my blog for you all to read and give me feedback :)  Also, please, if ANYONE has any interesting articles for me to read about the field, please let me know.  I'll need all the help I can get lol.  Thanks for reading!