Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lisa's AC Triathlon

September 17, 2014

Last Sunday, September 14, I competed in my first Olympic Triathlon!

I give a special thanks to MIT's Triathlon Team, who helped me prep for this race. Racing with me was Sam Nicaise, Mitchell Hsing, Justin Bandoro, and Alex Springer.

Check out the triathlon website!

In the year before, I only competed in a sprint triathlon in Maryland (400 Swim, 8 Mile Bike, 5k Run). The Atlantic City Triathlon, which was held in conjunction with the AC Seafood Festival, was technically a "shortened" Olympic distance.

Originally, Olympic distances are 1.5 kilometer (.93 mi) swim, 40 kilometer (25 mi) bike, 10 kilometer (6.2 mi) run. However, this race was a one mile swim, a 20 mile bike, and a 5 mile run.

In other words, perfect for a swimmer with little experience in biking or running. Seriously.

Pre-Race: I came in a bit sore from Wednesday's Spinning workout. It was POURING the entire time during packet pick up, which made for a chilly and wet ride to the hotel.

Race Day: Got up at 5:00 AM. I tried to take a mini nap in the span it took my teammates to drive from the hotel to race day. I chose an apple and a bar for breakfast- but it still felt like I ate too much before the race.

6:15 AM: Omgomgomgomgomg I'm going to race! Let's set up my stuff...

6:20 AM: Am I going to get my wetsuit on in time?? Are they going to kick me out of the transition area with my wetsuit half on???? Why is it so cold!!!

6:22 AM: It's still not on!!!!

6:23 AM: Teammate tells me I've been putting the wetsuit on inside out. Oops.

7:00 AM: We've been standing at the shore, waiting for the last parathlete to finish. UMass and BU are here in full force. Uh.....Cosine, Secant, Tangent Sine, 3.14159? Go Beavers?

The weather: A bit chilly, windy, and sunny. I love this weather the most.

The Swim portion. Thank god it was long!!!

  • The water was salty, but a nice temperature of about 74 degrees. I lost sight of my teammates the minute I put my head in the water- complete murkiness. 
  • Not enough I way off course, or is that other person way off course? 
  • I pass a lot of people. This reminds of Club Swim warm-up at meets. Except for once I'm not the one being run over. 
  • I had to sight a lot because of the lack of buoys and the murkiness of the water. I swim like one of those 8-year-olds in minis. You know, the ones who haven't learned proper breathing technique yet. 
  • Finished with a time of about 29 minutes. Yikes.... 

After finishing 56/477 on the swim....440/477 on the bike. At least it was a chill route :)

  • Not too hilly, but a lot of wind. It was very smooth. Perfect! 
  • Had to watch out for the pothole. A lot of bikers ended up with flat tires. 
  • Oh hey there's my teammate...... 
  • I count about a couple hundred bikers pass me. Have I passed anyone yet? Nope. 
  • The biking mostly consists of me trying not to let too many people pass me. 
  • It's a beautiful route. I almost forgot I was in a race. The wind actually feels nice. 
  • There's teammates 2 and 3 as they catch up after the swim. 
  • I need to cycle WAY more. 

  • This run was shortened from 6 miles to 5. Thank. God. 
  • My legs are jelly after the bike. 
  • It takes a few minutes to warm up before I can begin jogging. 
  • I'm an OK runner. I'm usually racked with shin splints due to improper training, so I don't run too much. 
  • The board walk was beautiful, especially since we ran along the beach. I recognize the hotel I stayed at last time I was in Atlantic City. 
  • People are very supportive, offering water and yelling encouragement. 
  • I didn't let too many people pass me this time :) 
  • I see my teammates running on the way back, woohoo! 
  • I ran at a pretty slow pace most of the time, and then sprinted the last 40 yards. 


The splits are off, especially for the run because we only did 5 miles, not 6.

After sitting for about 2 minutes at transition, I head to the food tent, and down about 2 bagels, peanut butter, cream cheese, eggs, and bacon. No regrets.

I can't really walk faster than a 3mph pace, so finding my teammates and getting my stuff is pretty slow.

On the car ride back, I sleep for about 3 hours. Thanks for driving guys!!!

In Summary: The most perfect race I could have ever had. The weather was great, teammates supportive, and the distance favored me ( as a swammer who can't really bike or run).

Sam's Race (Season) Report - NECTC 2014

How to be injured almost half the year, and still get faster: Sam's guide on dealing with injuries.

This is my report on the past 5 weeks and 4 triathlons of the season. For those of you who don't know, MIT Triathlon has many race reports published to our blog and you can check out my summary report from 2 years ago.

Unfortunately, in my 4 years of triathlon, I've had a propensity for injury, seemingly more than others. Also unfortunately, injuries are things that happen in our sport. They're not the end of the world, and actually sometimes you learn a lot from them. They can get us down, and make life difficult. Or they can motivate us further and help us learn a lot about ourselves. Over the past year, I've been injured for 5-out-of-12 months, yet still had more fun with triathlon and have gotten even faster!

...but, in the end seriously, just don't get injured. It's not as fun as being healthy, and it isn't cheap either. This is a topic for another day, so ask me if you like.

Starting from August 2013, I raced Cranberry Sprint and had a great race! I had been training quite well through the summer, and it was starting to show rewards with speed and fitness. After that race, I ended up with some severe Achilles tendinitis [1], unfortunately setting me back, and eliminating the rest of that collegiate race season. It was mid-Nov before I started to bike easy (I mean...easy...and very short rides) and late-Dec before I started back to 1-mile runs. Unfortunately, I was "injured" for 2-3 months while my Achilles healed. Fortunately, I was able to build back into training January - April, and competed in Collegiate Nationals 2014. The race went really well, considering I hadn't been running much and had barely bike outside.

I ended up reinjuring my Achilles (other foot) [2] again in early May, again setting me back for 2-3 months. This time, I was put in a an air cast for 2.5 weeks, and then completely limiting my biking and running until mid-July. In the end, I had probably ran only 30 miles and bike 200 miles in over 10 months. At times, my weekly training time was down to <4 8-12="" average="" compared="" div="" for="" hours="" my="" nbsp="" per="" person="" previous="" recommended="" the="" to="" typical="" week.="" week="" workout="">

2014 Racing

To make it short at sweet, this summer I had mid-July through mid-August, only 1 month, to get in racing shape. After that, it was 4 races in 5 weekends: Timberman Sprint, Cranberry Sprint, Lobsterman Olympic, and AC Tri International. If nothing else, I was shooting to do well enough, have fun, and help MIT compete. In the back of my mind, I wanted to be fast! But, with so little training, I wasn't sure of myself.

Timberman was the first test, where I found out that my biking was very lacking. The hill out of Lake Winnipesaukee was grueling! Cranberry felt better, where I PR-ed my time from the previous year by almost 1 minute - things were looking up. Lobsterman brought out the heat of the mid-day sun, reminding me that I hadn't done enough summer training. Lastly, AC Tri was where I peaked, still feeling somewhat limited on the bike, but flying on the run.

At the end of AC this past weekend, I knew that I was faster, fitter, and having more fun! I realized that despite being so injured through the year, I had done it. I had found a way to be passionate enough about the sport to make the best of it. Again, as has become old wisdom, swimming is important, but not everything, biking is king in triathlon and you need to be bike-fit, and running is my strong suit and it seems I'll never not be fast at running.

Below are some new things that I learned:

If by chance you get injured, and still want to get faster and love Triathlon:

  • Don't lose sight - why are you doing this? 
The first thing I realized was that, in order to get back on the horse after being injured, I had to know why I was doing triathlon. Motivation can stem from purpose, and purpose can be found through internal and external perspective. During my injured times, I realized: that I loved being with the MIT Triathlon team, had an innate human desire to move my body, desired to see all of the team members get better at the sport, wanted to maintain life-long fitness, and missed racing.

  • Do what you can 
While I was pretty limited on the run and bike, I did what I can. During Nov-Jan, this included 5x/wk swimming - during which I dropped my CSS time from 1:35 to 1:25 per 100yd. While this speed didn't carry over to the most recent race season (now back up to 1:32), the comfort in the water did carry over. The swim legs of the last 4 races seemed *easy*, and possibly just as fast as 2013. Working on your weakness is something that I always suggest to team members who are looking for "what to do next". This was my time to really see how much better at swimming I could get, and lots of time in the water made a difference!
I also did my best to keep moving. I started walking for commuting, learned how to do lots of functional movement thanks to Coach Bill and my PT, and did easy bike riding when I could.

  • Hit the weights 
I started lifting weights with my friends almost 10 years ago, so I have some experience in the gym. While I couldn't do a lot of endurance training, I could still get into the gym. Weight lifting doesn't directly benefit triathlon speed, but it has incredible indirect benefits and I recommend it to almost everyone. I felt stronger, more capable, leaner, and able to move my body better after getting back to the weight room 1-2x/wk. I worked towards doing single-leg squats, and improved my bench press over 20 lbs [3]. Coach Bill taught me lots of TRX, a great method for increasing mobility and strength. As a cherry on top, I couldn't complain about the body shape improvements it made in the absence of other longer exercise.

  • Recover
There are 2 aspects of this. The first is my encouragement of everyone to make use of a foam roller. While it didn't directly help for these injuries, it's still been good for me in preventing other injuries.
The second is my new "heal and aggravate" recovery method for injuries. If you're interested...ask me more. 
  • Get Zen 
I also spent this time getting in better touch with my enlightened self, in an effort to share more love with the people around me. I started practicing much more yoga and meditation, to the point that it's now similarly as important to me as triathlon training. While it doesn't directly benefit triathlon performance, I can tell you that my pre-race visualization last year before Collegiate Nationals and this year before AC seriously improved my ability to push myself during the race. Furthermore, the stress reduction and life-easing power of yoga and meditation means that I'm just a happier and easier-going person!

  • Learn from others 
I started to do more captain work on the team, which as been a work of passion for me. While it's something that I seriously enjoy, it also helped me get faster. I was able to analyze and learn from other athletes' form, training plans, and performance. By working with these other athletes, I learned what I could do for myself to get faster and perform better. 

  • Learn the fine points 
This point should actually be higher on the list. While triathlon performance is mainly benefited from increased fitness, it's still a sport, and therefor still has technique aspects. Brick workouts are always important, but I've never really had a problem switching between the sports. On the other hand, transitions are a different story. At Cranberry Olympic 2013, I was volunteering in the transition zone and was able to watch the Army athletes do their transitions. They were wicked fast! In October 2013, I participated in the Collegiate Draft Legal Camp in Mass. During the camp, we did lots of transition practice and that's where I learned how much room for improvement I had. During the past year, I've worked more and more on my transitions, incorporating speed with taking off my wetsuit, flying mounts on to my bike with the shoes already clipped in, rolling dismounts off the bike without shoes, and speedy running shoe transitions.

The past 4 races, I was always in the top 1% of transition times (new T2 PR of 35 seconds!). This typically translated to a 1 minute advantage over my competitors - the cheapest and most time-efficient improvement within reach!

Triathlon is a sport, and there are way to practice the skills.

That's all. It's been a great season, and I'm already looking forward to the next. In the end, remember, have fun, and love the journey.


[1] I had rested for 10 days because of a medical test. After that 10 day rest, I was excited to get back to training, so I did a hard track workout (3 miles of intensity, and 8 miles of total running). Later that day, I stood up after a 1 hour meeting, and had acute pain and serious trouble walking. My achilles was killing me, and I could barely go down stairs. After getting to the doc, I was diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis, and ended up going through 8 weeks of PT (graston method is amazing for this stuff!).

[2] Again, kinda the same thing. I decided to do a fun marathon run with some friends - easy 11:30 min/mil pace, albeit still 26.2 miles. I was 100% fine for 24 hours after the marathon, but the following day my achilles again flared up. After hitting up the doctor, he put me in the aircast to immobilize it and enhance recovery.

Being Floxied - In the end, I think the Achilles issues were somewhat a result of being "Floxied"(if I hadn't been running so hard, it probably wouldn't have happened). Achilles rupture or damage is a serious, but rare side-effect of an antibiotic that I was taking when I got both of these injuries. The doctor thought so as well, which is why I was in the aircast, to prevent it from completely tearing. Who knows if that's the actual reason, but lots of signs pointed that way. Fortunately, I now know to find an alternative antibiotic if I can, and to take "body-damaging warning labels" seriously.

[3] Hence, decimating my Kuat Factor.