Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tri Tips for Beginners - What to Wear

   Being that my ankle is officially sprained (yes, I went to a doctor and everything), I can't really post my regular race updates. Because I can't race. No running for me for the next seven days. In case you're playing along at home - that's FIVE WEEKS of no running. I had to miss the Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon this past weekend AND its Tribute to Sweden! I'm not sure what I'm more upset about - missing the tri or never knowing what the Tribute to Sweden was. Was all of the race music by ABBA? Were the medals SAAB medallions? The post-race food nothing but Swedish meatballs? I need to know!
   Anyway, since I had to miss Memphis this weekend, I went out to the Cedars of Lebanon Triathlon to cheer on some friends. Cedars, as it's more commonly called, is a fun, sprint race that is very popular with beginners - 200m pool swim, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run. This was actually my first tri back in 2010, though it was a bit longer (300m swim, 17 mile bike, 3 mile run) when I did it.
   One of the things I noticed during the race is that many female racers were wearing some pretty random things, especially during the swim. It could be that they didn't have the time or inclination to purchase "official" triathlon gear. And that's cool. Why spend the money if you don't know if you're going to race again? But it is also likely that they had no idea what to wear, because the main question I'm asked by new triathletes is "What do I wear?" Believe me, I obsessed stressed out about this before my first tri as well.  And because I care you about you ladies (sorry guys, you're on your own), I'm here to answer your tri attire questions.
What to Wear - Triathlon Edition. 
   Before I get into specifics, let me answer the #1 question I get regarding triathlon clothing - YES, you wear the same thing for the entire race. You swim, bike and run in the same outfit. The exception to this is the Ironman distance, where some people do change. But you also have 17 hours to complete the race. For anything less than an Ironman, you don't need to change.
   Secondly - YES - triathlon clothing is tight. Skin tight actually, especially when wet. Deal with it. You don't want a billowy shirt flowing like a parachute while you're on the bike and you REALLY don't want that when you're swimming. It's annoying and will slow you down.   
   The standard attire for a triathlon is a tri-top. Similar to a running tank top, but generally more form-fitting and pockets in the back for Honey Stinger Gels (yum), or whatever your choice of nutrition would be. These tops are made of wicking material (all tri attire is) so they dry quickly once you're out of the water, and also keep you cool in warmer weather. Some have a front zipper for extra ventilation. What you DO NOT want to do is to wear a cycling jersey or running shirt during the swim. Please, please, please don't do this (yes, I've seen it).
De Soto tri top 

   Just like the tri top, there are specific shorts for tris.  You do NOT wear regular cycling shorts unless you want the padding to swell up from the water in the swim and you do the remainder of the race basically wearing a wet diaper. Tri shorts are similar to cycling shorts, but don't have the bulky padding. Due to this, they will take some getting used to, especially if you have a hard saddle. Don't break them out the day of your race unless you want to be walking funny the next day.
2XU tri short

   Wear one. Some of you might think that the built-in bra some tri tops have is sufficient support for a race. For the majority of women, it's not. While there are tri-specific sports bras, you don't necessarily have to use one. A regular sports bra will do unless you don't plan on wearing a tri top (some women choose to just bike and run in their bras).  Make sure the bra fits comfortably and doesn't cause chafing anywhere. And please, make sure it supplies the support you need. You'll be a lot more comfortable throughout the race.
2XU sports bra

   Again, yes, you're going to need one. For a sprint tri, you can get away without a cap (I didn't have one for my first tri), but for anything longer you're going to want one. Hair in your face while you're swimming isn't fun. I don't care how tight your hair tie is, one strand of hair is going to escape and get in your eye every time you breathe. Also, many (most) open water races require caps so you can been seen in the water. Will you feel silly the first time you wear one? Yes. Will your head hurt? Yes. But you get used to it after a bit. Plus, these aren't your grandma's swim caps with giant flowers attached to the side (though those are still available). They also don't have to be basic, boring black (like mine is). Want to swim like a fish or be fast like a cheetah? Wear it on your cap! Whatever makes you feel fast.

So I think technically this is a kid's cap, but I saw a woman wear it last weekend. Will other racers giggle at you? Most definitely. Possibly. But nothing will put a triathlete's ego back in check faster than being schooled in the swim by woman wearing a fish cap. (Schooled - fish... see what I did there? Yes, I basically write things to amuse myself.)

Seriously. How awesome is this? I need to get one of these.

   I can hear it now. "I won't need goggles because I don't want to get my face wet!" Umm - you're doing a tri. You're going to have to get your face wet. I have a few sets of Speedo goggles that I use in the pool for training, and then a set of Zoggs for anything open water. I switch in open water due to the glare of the sun on the water, as the Zoggs are tinted and polarized. They're so good that I'm half-tempted to wear them as regular sunglasses. Are they more expensive than my pool goggles? Yes, but totally worth it to not be blinded by the sun when you're racing. If you're going to be doing open water races, I'd recommend you getting a pair.

Zoggs - best goggles ever.

    What I've listed here is pretty much standard for a tri, but you'll see different things depending on the length of the race. I've worn the above for races ranging from a super-sprint to a half-ironman with no issues. There are a ton of good triathlon brands out there: Zoot, 2XU, De Soto, Sugoi - I could go on. Go to your local store (many running and cycling stores carry triathlon gear now if you don't have an official triathlon shop nearby) and try on several brands and styles of everything and see what works for you. You DEFINITELY need to wear whatever you plan on racing in several times during training prior to your race. This way you'll know what to expect on race day. You don't want to be half-way through your race and realize that your bra strap is cutting into your shoulder. 
   If any seasoned triathletes have any recommendations / suggestions for beginners regarding tri kits, please comment! I'm always looking for new gear, too!  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stupid Ankle

   So when we last met, my ankle looked like this:

   That was two weeks ago, directly after the Nike Women's Half Marathon. To this day, I have no idea how this happened. It appeared to be a mild sprain because I could run, walk, ride and jump on it with no problems. The only thing I couldn't really do was rotate it. Then it would hurt. Not bad - but just enough to think "Hmm - maybe I shouldn't do that anymore."
   Even though my ankle didn't hurt, I played it careful and took that first week after the race off almost completely (only swimming).  It was swollen almost the entire week, but finally went back to normal after six days. Then this past Monday, I added cycling back in to my routine with no issues. I rode and swam a few more times - no problem. I was planning on adding some light running in this week and then "racing" the Memphis in May triathlon on Sunday. "Racing" is in quotes because I'd really only race the swim and bike. The run would be more of a run/walk, dependent on how my ankle held up.
   Then yesterday, I decided to do some greatly-needed yard work. Nothing too crazy, but I did have to dig up some things and used my foot to assist the shovel. Apparently, that was enough to flare up whatever injury was lurking because guess who has a swollen ankle again?! Sigh.
   To say that I'm very annoyed and frustrated is an understatement. Fortunately, it's not as swollen as it was previously, and I still don't have any pain. But - it definitely puts a damper on any training I wanted to do before Memphis. I'm especially hating not being able to run. I was getting to the point where I felt I was really making progress - and now I feel like I'm going backwards. Of course, there is also the issue that I'm not the type of person who can "take it easy" for too long. I like being active and being outside. Sitting inside on a beautiful day with my ankle wrapped and set on a bunch of pillows, pretty much sucks. I feel like I need to go do 100 pushups to compensate for it.
   So all of you non-injured people - go enjoy the day for me. Go for a run or a ride. Go plant a tree or take your dog to the park. Whatever. Just get out there and do something and appreciate how lucky you are. Next time I'm out there, I know I will.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nike Women's Half Weekend - Part 3 RACE DAY!

   A 4:00 am alarm is never a welcome thing - unless it's RACE DAY! WOO HOO! Don't get me wrong, it's still ridiculously early, but it comes with the territory. You want to race? You get up early. Deal with it.

All decked out in PURPLE! Love how the race gave TNT special purple bibs!

A TNT purple manicure? Sure, why not?! 

   Team Tennessee met down in the hotel lobby at 5:00 am. What's funny about this is that generally at a race you think "Oh - just meet in the lobby. Got it." Because there usually aren't 100 (or more) people in a hotel lobby at 5:00 am. But yet, there they were. TNT Teams from all over the country were meeting in the hotel lobby at 5:00 am. And everyone was in purple. It was quite the sight and kind of made it hard for us to find everyone. Somehow, Gwen (from Knoxville) snagged a little alcove where we could see everyone walk by and grab them before they wandered too far. After a photo (obviously), we headed down to the Metro to take to the race.

Julie, Lauretta, Gwen, Brandi and me. TEAM TENNESSEE!

   The Metro let us off right at the race start. PERFECT. We had about an hour before race time, so I went over to the hotel of Deb, Dana and Jenny (aka college running girls) and met up with them for a few minutes before the race.  A few minutes after meeting them, I got a text from my dear friend Cory from high school, who was also running with TNT in this race. She was somewhere at the start. I HAD to find her, even for a minute to just give her a hug and say Hi. Even though the announcer was telling everyone to head over to their corrals, I was literally running around the area where I thought Cory was, just yelling her name over and over. Eventually, we found each other, gave each other a quick hug, wished each other good luck and ran off to our corrals for the start. (Sidebar about Cory. Her amazing mother passed away from leukemia in 2011. Many of my favorite high school memories involve wonderful times at Cory's house and her mother always made us feel like we were part of her family. She was one of my main inspirations for getting involved with TNT.) 

Oakton High School Cougars, y'all!  

   After leaving Cory, I tried to make my way to the 9:00-9:59 corral. Remember in my first post about this weekend when the check-in volunteer pretty much threatened me with disqualification if I didn't wear my corral wristband? Well, no one was checking them. Not only were they not checking them, they didn't even have the corrals separated. If fact, they were actually encouraging people to move forward. So people from the later corrals were standing right next to me. We were all jammed in there like sardines. And, of course, the Boston Marathon bombing was in the front of my mind (as I'm sure it was on everyone's). I was really ready for the race to start so I could get a little space.

Too. Many. People. In. Too. Close. Of. A. Space.

   After a few words from Shalane Flanagan (who I didn't even know was there), the National Anthem and a moment of silence for Boston (you could have heard a pin drop), the race started. Ever tried to run with 15,000 people through the streets at one time? No? Well, don't. It was awful. Way, way, way too many people in too narrow of a road. WHY Nike didn't stagger the corrals, I have no idea. We were passing walkers in Mile 1. MILE 1! Totally unacceptable. I have to say that this was my biggest disappointment of the race. I saw several people just run into each other because they literally had no where else to go.

Letting 15,000 runners go at one time sure makes a pretty picture, though. Dangerous as hell, but a pretty picture.

   Due to the mass start, I never really felt like I got into a rhythm with my running. I also knew that any chance I had at a PR was gone because I had to walk/jog too much in race traffic.  So I decided to just relax and enjoy the race. It was, after all, a beautiful course in my favorite city. And I did enjoy it. For a while. But then it became quickly apparent that this must have been the first half (or race) for many people because the lack of race etiquette was staggering. Not ONLY did we have walkers jumping corrals and starting in the front, there were people STOPPING in the middle of the course to take a photo. Now, did I bring my camera? Yes. Did I move off of the course to take my photo so no one would run into me? YES! Because that's what you do!!

Me. In a photo. On the sidewalk. Not in the middle of a race course.
   However, there were also some AMAZING aspects of the race. First off - running as a member of TNT was fantastic. Everyone was yelling "GO TEAM!" Everyone. There were TNT coaches along the entire race route. They would ask if I needed anything or just run with me a few minutes. I can't express how much this helps when you're tired and hurting. 
     Also - the race organizers hired some pretty cool talent to entertain along the race route. They were mainly drum lines, which was unique theme, but it worked. Around mile 3, we ran into a pretty long tunnel, and they had drummers at both ends of it playing the same groove. The echos of the drums followed you throughout the tunnel. It was pretty awesome. A Chinese drum line WITH Chinese dragons were there and as was a kick-ass, all-female drum line who just ROCKED it. I have to give a shout-out to the GMU pep band who was also along the course, and sounded so good I almost jumped up and started dancing with the conductor BEFORE I realized who there were (I'm a GMU alum).  
   There was an issue with rest areas. The water / Nuun stops were fine and spaced accordingly (I LOVED that they had Nuun out there), but like my last DC race, I had to wait about 20 minutes for a porta-john. Considering I wasn't planning on PRing, this wasn't a huge deal, but it's still kind of annoying. I mean, come on. You have 15,000 WOMEN out there. Get a few more porta-johns. 
   Of course, the best part about this race is the finish. Why, you ask? The Nike Women's races are famous for tuxedoed men handing out Tiffany necklaces instead of finisher's medals.

Because who doesn't love a man, in a tux, handing out little, blue Tiffany boxes?

And what was inside of the box?

My new bling!

All done!! 

   Being that this was a race for LLS, I did have several moments when I had to hold back tears. The worst was when I saw a little boy wearing a purple "survivor" shirt. His dad was holding a sign that was obviously written by the boy that said "You're running for me. Go Mom." Ugh. Just rip my heart out right there. I almost lost it. There were many poignant moments like that for me throughout the weekend. It really brought home why we were all out here. Sure, it's fun and who doesn't like Tiffany necklaces? But man, we raised $6 million dollars to fight cancer! I've never been a part of anything that huge. It's what this race was really all about. 
   Unfortunately, I discovered something after the race that has me (still) totally bummed. I somehow hurt my ankle. After getting home from a post-race brunch with my college runner girls, I looked at my ankle and saw this: that's not right.

   I have no idea how it happened, because it didn't hurt when I was running. I didn't twist it or anything. I "think" I tweaked it at my Thursday night workout and then running on it caused it to swell. It's now a week later, and the swelling has FINALLY gone done, but it's still a little sore when I rotate it. I haven't run for a week and made the decision to skip my morning run tomorrow. I'm supposed to race in two weeks at Memphis in May, but I'm not sure about that now. It'll probably be healed by then, but I won't be in any shape to compete. We'll just have to see how it goes.
   Before I go - I need to say THANK YOU to everyone from TNT.  Especially, the Knoxville TNT ladies for really looking after me - my awesome roommate Laurella, Julie, Gwen and Brandi. Thank you so much. And Thanks to Sammi from LLS for coordinating everything for me (and answering all of my crazy questions), to Coach Carey and Coach Jim for being there every Saturday no matter the weather, to my mentor Jeanne for her motivating e-mails, and to the Nashville TNT group for your support. Everyone has been just wonderful. And last but certainly not least, THANK YOU to everyone who donated to my campaign. I am humbled by your generosity. Thank you, everyone, for making my TNT experience so special. GO TEAM!!  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Nike Women's Half Race Recap - Part 2

   After a long day of running around the Nike expotique and Niketown, we all headed back to the hotel for a short rest before the TNT Inspiration Dinner that night. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was the beneficiary of the race, so there were A LOT of TNTers there. So many that the LLS had to have two separate dinners to accommodate everyone.  The Tennessee Team dinner was the early seating at 4:00. So at around 3:30, we all headed down to the Washington DC Convention Center, which was where the dinner was being held. One thing (of many) I love about DC - you can pretty much walk anywhere. We just followed the sea of purple TNT shirts all the way to the dinner.
   The dinner was in the big convention hall on the bottom floor of the Center. They separated us into two lines when entering the space. So. Many. People! And I'd never seen so much purple in my life. Probably 90% of the people there had a TNT shirt on. It was easy to pick out the newbies, myself included, because we were the only ones in regular clothes. Everyone was clapping and cheering while we were waiting in line to enter. Some people brought cowbells and I was totally jealous. I love me some cowbell.

The dinner line in front of me.

And behind...
   After about about a 10 minute wait (not bad at all considering how many people were there, we made our way down into the event space. No words can truly describe our entrance into the dinner. (And, unfortunately, my video won't upload.) But picture coming down a giant stairwell and walking though a tunnel of people in purple yelling, screaming and clapping...for you. It was like we were rockstars or professional athletes. It was extremely cool and set a great tone for the rest of the evening.
   After we made it through the tunnel, we immediately went over to the buffet, got our pasta dinner and made our way to the Team Tennessee table. Once seated, I had to look around and really take in how many people were there. This dinner was HUGE! And we were one of TWO dinners that night! TNT really came out in force for this race!

Lots and lots of cancer-fighting people in this room.
   The presentation started about a half-hour later. One of the heads of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society got up and gave us an update of where the TNT money goes and what advancements have been made to fighting blood cancers. I really wish I could remember the detail of what she said, because it was very impressive. But let's be honest, I can barely remember what day it is most of the time.
   However, I DO remember the next speaker. How 'bout a little dose of a running legend with dinner because freakin' Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson was there! So cool. 


   Unfortunately, I can't really tell you what she was saying either because I was plotting on how I was going to get my picture with her for almost her entire speech. Yes, my name is Kristine and I stalk running legends (no, I didn't get a picture).
   After Joan, awards were given out to the top fundraisers. I'm pretty sure that they announced that this race raised $6 million dollars for LLS! WOW! That's mind-blowing. And as most of you know, I raised $6,005 for the event. Seems like a lot of money, right? Want to take a guess on how much the top individual fundraiser raised for this event? Go ahead. Think about it. I'll wait... You're thinking something like $10,000, right? Nope! $25,000? Wrong again! OVER $50,000!!! One person raised $50,000!! Never think that one person can't do something huge, because there is proof right there.
   The last person who spoke was a leukemia survivor. Imagine being a twenty-something grad student who goes to the doctor one day because you're tired and have inflamed tonsils. The doctor thinks you have mono and tells you to get a blood test. A few hours later, that doctor is knocking on your door to tell you that you have cancer and to get to the hospital immediately for treatment. That's what happened to her. Personally, I can't fathom something like this, though I know it happens as I have friends who have been through it. As she was giving her testimony, the main point she kept mentioning was "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you." Why? Because the drug that saved her life was directly paid for by Team in Training. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room when she said that. Heck, I'm tearing up just writing about it. And the best part? She ran the race on Sunday with her family.
   After the dinner, we met up for a few last minute instructions, and of course, another photo.

Team Tennessee REPRESENT!

   While we had an EARLY (4:00 am) wake-up call, it was only about 6:00 pm when dinner ended, so I tracked down my college runner girls and met up with them for a bit. 

   It was a great night.

Next post - RACE DAY! 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Recap - Part 1

   As you all know, for the past four months, I've been raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through Team in Training. My race was the Nike Women's Half Marathon, which was held last weekend. Finally, race weekend was here! DC - here I come!

   I flew in to Baltimore on Friday and took the shuttle to the Westin hotel in DC where the Tennessee Team in Training runners were staying. (While my college friends were also running this race, I wanted to stay with TNT to really get the entire TNT experience.) The race was on Sunday, so flying in on Friday was great because it gave me an extra day to see my parents, who recently moved back into their house after the fire last June. I checked in to the hotel, dropped off my bags the room, and immediately headed out to my parent's house in Northern Virginia. It was awesome to see my parents back in their home and it looks fantastic. 
   First thing Saturday morning, I went back to DC to meet up with the Knoxville chapter of TNT (I was the only Nashville TNTer, and the Knoxville chapter really adopted me as their own. Thanks, ladies!) to head down to the Nike "expotique." Yes, that's right - an "expotique." Not an expo, which is what most races have, but an "expotique." Now - I have to have a little sidebar here. Most women-only races make me want to gag a little. They're all pink, have glitter on the bibs and have hearts and flowers on the race shirts - very girly-girl. Now don't get me wrong, I like mani-pedis, flowers and other "girly" things, AND I've actually worn a feather boa at a race before, but I don't necessarily want all of that stuff shoved down my throat at a race. But, while the Nike race definitely caters to women - they've changed things enough to not be offensive to people who don't want things too frilly. Example - their primary color scheme was green, not pink. I can get into green. 
   So anyway, we head down to the expotique to pick up our bibs and race packets. Rather than being in a convention center, Nike set up giant tents along the Georgetown waterfront. It was really something. Nike really had their stuff together. I don't know where they got all of their volunteers, but they were EVERYWHERE. And they were all decked out in Nike from head to toe. It was pretty impressive.
The packet pickup tent.

   As you walked through the tent, you saw really long row of tables with volunteers checking people in. Rather than checking in by bib number like most races, everyone stood in a single-file line. When a volunteer was available, they held up a sign.

This nice lady checked me in. I didn't even ask her to pose.

   Check-in went very smoothly. You got your bib, your gear bag and a wristband with your assigned corral on it. The volunteer made it very clear that I was to wear my wristband on race day or else I wouldn't be allowed in my corral. Remember that.
   After we were all checked in, we headed over to the next tent - the actual expotique.

Hello Nike!

Team in Training is taking over DC, y'all!  

   So far - my mind was being blown. I know Nike it a crazy, huge company, but they really out did themselves. This was unlike any expo I'd ever been to. First off, they had a wall of flat screen TVs at the entrance. They also had a map of the race course illuminated on different wall. And, of course, a lot of shoes.

This is not your ordinary expo.

The race route.

Shoes under lock and key.

Ever seen a Tiffany blue Nike? These are made especially for this race series.

   The expotique is also unique in that they only have race sponsors as vendors. Well, "vendor" isn't exactly the correct word. The only "vendor" that could actually sell anything was Nike. Everyone else (Luna Bar, Clif, Nuun, Bare Minerals and Paul Mitchell) could only give out samples. Which is kind of neat, because who doesn't like free stuff? But if you, like me, were planning on buying any last minute items for the race - you were out of luck.  
   I'd also never been to an expo where you could get a "make-under," courtesy of Bare Minerals, or a new hair style by Paul Mitchell. While normally, these two things could want to make me hurl at a race expo because they were too girly, I was OK with them here. Probably because I use Bare Minerals and I can use all of the free samples I can get.

Styling sessions I can live with - it's the "Be Fabulous" that makes me want to hurl.
   One of my favorite parts of the expo was the signing wall. This trend has become pretty popular at races recently. This signing wall was HUGE. I guess for 15,000 people, it would have to be. (Sidebar - what do they do with these walls after the race? Do they recycle them? Must find out.)

One VERY small section of the wall.


A shout out to my sorority (no, I didn't write this).  

    After spending about an hour at the expotique, we headed over to Nike Georgetown, which is where all of the race swag was being sold. It was about a five block walk. Not bad in nice weather. The TNT ladies had hinted there was something cool at the store, and there was. Check this out.

That's right - a GIANT wall of names.

It's ME! 

   Once we got inside the store, it was CRAZY packed, but pretty organized. I spent way too much money on race swag, which is something I generally don't do. Nike is very crafty in that they don't give you a race shirt when you get your bib. You get it AFTER the race. So a lot of people think "oh - I need to buy a race shirt because I don't get one with registration." See - crafty. I, however, knew that we got finishers shirts. I just wanted more swag. I think it's genetic with runners. We LOVE our race swag.
   Next post - the TNT dinner!!