Sunday, November 13, 2011

Love - Hate Relationship

As a child I grew up with the smell of chlorine imbedded into my skin. When I walk into a swimming pool I feel right at home, and swimming up and down following the never ending black line just comes as a second nature to me. But you already knew that!
What you probably didn’t know is that we trained countless hours with our swim team and part of our training, especially during the off season, was spent running trails and countless loops around the pool. Back then running was my number one enemy; I would do ANYTHING to escape that part of our work outs. As a matter of a fact, I was notorious for walking as much as I could, out of sight out of mind… or so I thought. I would keep an eye on my coach and as soon as I was out of his sight I would start walking. At times we were 40+ people training and guess who was the last one to make it back from all those runs… yup you guessed right, it was me. If it was not the last one I was pretty close to being the one.
As a teenager that was one of the ‘medicines’ we had to take if we were to come back from the off season with some extra lbs. The rest of the team would get to play soccer, basketball or any fun sport, while ‘us’ would go around, and around, and around the pool. I think that is when my love-hate relationship with running started, to start with I already despised it, but during those years it got even worse because I saw running as a punishment.
After my swimming years were over I had no desire to step back into a pool for a long time, I would coach swimming but you would not see me swimming. This lasted for almost ten years and even then it was pretty sporadically. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my son Marc that I started swimming again on a more regular basis.
Those years in ‘hiatus’ from the pool I also took a break from working out for a while, but after I realized I had to do something I got into spinning, aerobics and even running. As a matter of a fact that is one of the things that got me and my husband to spend time together, who would have thought that something I used to hate as much as I hated running would be the one thing that brought us together.
Back then we just ran for fun, we would do 5 or 6 short runs a week, no HR monitors, no specific paces, no races… that is how I started falling in love with running.
Right before I started triathlons I thought I was an ok runner (little did I know), it was quite the eye opener when on my first season with TNT I realized that the only thing I was ok at was swimming.
After working on my run and bike with Jeremy, I improved quite a bit on both, but surprisingly enough (for me anyways) my bike splits seemed to be stronger when compared to the rest of the field. So, last season, being the second season working with J we focused on my run. And although my run has come a long ways I still didn’t feel like I could run forever (the same way I feel in the pool).
As I have mentioned before on this blog this year is about improving my run again, which means I’ve been running quite a bit, and this is just the beginning. I have notice a big difference from last year though, although I am not running with a Garmin (naked running is so much fun J) I have a bunch of different loops from my house, depending on how long I have to run I know what I should be able to do.
Last year I remember struggling with the off season running, not only I was running more than I had been accustomed to which means I hurt physically, but even mentally it was hard on me.
This past couple of weeks I’ve felt strong on my runs, being back on some structure was good the first week but took me a couple of days to get back into it. Being the excitement of going down to Florida or just the energy from the race has really lifted my spirits and I have seen a change on my running, for the best. I can tell I am running faster than last year during the off season and I am kind of looking forward to my daily runs. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am falling in love with running again and since I know J is got plenty of painful runs in store for me I hope I get to keep the hype for a while.
This brings me to week 2 & 3 of training; swimming has been good since I don’t have to force myself into the pool but once a week. With the trip down to Florida and Sami traveling I had to do most of my riding indoors and being shorter rides there are pretty manageable while watching TV.

Week 2 Total
Swim - 75 min - 4000m
Bike - 4 hrs
Run - 4.2hrs
TOTAL - 9.5hrs

Week 3 Total
Swim - 75 min - 4000m
Bike - 4.3hrs
Run - 4.4hrs
TOTAL - 10.1hrs

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Live and Learn

Sami gets tired of hearing me say ‘Things Happen For a Reason’, but I truly believe it to be true. By that I don’t mean to make excuses for things I don’t have an answer for, instead I believe things might not always go the way you like but as long as you get something out of each experience you are moving forward.
Last weekend was a big one for me, but I would not be Carmen if I had not been taking mental notes throughout the day from athletes, volunteers and cheerleaders to use for next year’s race (YES my mind is always working J). Since I know I will come back to these earlier posts as my big day approaches I wanted to make sure I wrote some of those down, some of these are things I learned, others are pure observations that I thought I could benefit from if I found a ‘better way’, so hopefully  will have an answer for all of those that require one before Nov 3rd 2012…

-         To Swim or to Run: Some athletes got in the water right after completing their first loop, making their way to the start of loop 2 swimming. Others chose to run back to the swim start and then headed out for loop 2. For those watching from shore it was very obvious which was the fastest way… run the stretch instead of swimming it, 1st you are always faster when running and 2nd you can get a bit of a breather in between loops.
-          They have wetsuit strippers… use them, UNLESS you are in the middle of a big pack then it might be worth just heading to T1 and have volunteers peel it off there.
-          Long vs Short Sleeve Wetsuit; this one is a tough one for me. I can’t swim with long sleeve wetsuits, if you’ve seen me swim you know that I am like a windmill, which means I have a very HIGH turn over. My shoulders get very tight with long sleeve suits and feel very constricted. I own a sleeveless and love using it. Unfortunately Panama City has a lot of ‘visitors’ as I like to call them (AKA jellyfish). I can’t even remember the amount of people I saw at T1 who got stung by jellyfish and the people who got stung the worse were those with sleeveless wetsuits. I also know that purchasing one just for that one race is not smart as I will not be using it again. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

-          Compression Socks: I am debating on using these or not. I use them for recovery all the time but I have never run on them, I was thinking it might be something good to try in training but there MUST be an easier way to put those on, specially on race day when you are wet. I think I have seen a video on the past (maybe in Twitter?) that shows you how to put those most efficiently. If you know which video I am talking about please forward it my way. I guess I will need to practice that before race day.
-          Arm Warmers: I saw some people who had baby powder on those and it definitely made a difference. But again, some people took forever to put them on, like the socks, there must be a more efficient way. I saw some guys putting them halfway up I am assuming they pull them all the way up while on the bike, this would be of course the best case escenario if it weren't that my bike handeling skills are non existent.
-          Biking Shoes: so far I have not been able to master getting on the bike with the shoes attached to it, hopefully I will be able to do so before IMFL, but if not the best solution would be carrying them with me and putting them on by the bike since is a bit of a stretch you have to run til you get to your bike.

-          Everybody I’ve talked to emphasizes on how important it is to change position on the bike every now and then, as the course is flat and you keep using the same muscles over and over again.
-          Changing tires: right now if I were to have a flat in the middle of a race I would have to call it a day. They came up with this spray thingy for tubulars but I yet have to learn how to use it. My friend went through 2 CO2 cartridges on race day and had to wait for mechanical support, 45 min. later she wished she had used the cartridges on training rides.
-          PACING is the big game here. I am an expert on blowing out the bike leg of a half IM and then not having anything left for the run. I better start thinking on something to keep my mind entertained for 112 miles so that I don’t find myself going too hard.
-          Set small goals so that you can break the course into small segments, thinking 112 miles ahead of you seems like very very long day ahead of you.

-          Not much to do here, in and out.

-          Form, form and more form. The best way to be effective with your running is to have a good form. Mine is not pretty but is either that or it gets really, really, reaaaaaaaaaaally UGLY. So, concentrate on high knees, relaxed shoulders and face and keep checking yourself through out the marathon.
-          I have opted for not running a marathon before IMFL, which means my first marathon ever will have a swim and bike warm up. Being an out and back course, thinking I have ahead of me 4 times one stretch seems a lot more doable than 26.2 miles.
-          Pacing is also big here, stay on track with your pace for the first three ‘stretches’ and if you have anything left bring it home on the last one.
-          I loved seeing everybody out there on the run course, but let me tell you that big part of that is that everybody had a HUGE smile on their face. One person in particular didn’t (I am not saying names) but my bet is that this person made it a lot more miserable than necessary. I am not a smiler, I am one of those people that LOVE having support out there, but you will probably not get a hug from me in the middle of the race, or a very enthusiastic wave for that matter. Please know I appreciate your support and I NEED it, I just tend to stay focus on my ‘goal’ and I promise I am going to try and smile. I have even been smiling on my training runs this week just thinking on what is ahead of me.

Smilling on the Bike is so much easier than on the Run

-          If you have to go, you have to GO! GI issues is one thing, having to go potty is another and you can take care of that in no time.
-          Coke: everybody swears by it, I have used it on a couple of races but I think I did so when it was too late, I am thinking incorporating it as part of my nutrition plan might be a good idea.
-          Advil?? This was new news to me, I heard from more than one person that took Advil on their second loop of the run. If you have done this before or if you know of it, does it really work?
-          Lastly, enjoy the finish chute. Sometimes we forget to savor every little thing and when we realize we haven’t done it we regret it. I have been ‘known’ for pushing so hard that I can’t remember the last minutes of a race, I don’t know how many more IM races there are in my future so I need to make sure I enjoy this one and I can hear out and loud the ‘Carmen Brahim you are an Ironman’, isn’t that why we all do it?? Brian B mentioned to me how one of the only ‘bad’ memories he has of his first IM is that he can’t remember coming down the chute. His family was there and he didn’t even see them, I am sure he will make sure to enjoy every second of it next year and I am planning on doing the same.

 And this is what makes it ALL worth it

I think I have covered everything I can remember right now, if you have anything to add that think I might find beneficial please send it my way!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race Week IMFL 2011

Given the nature of this blog (scroll up for title in case you are not following me), you will understand how big of a deal this past week was for me. YUP! It was IMFL 2011 race week, which means I had thousands of thoughts going through my mind, thinking on how important this week will be for me a year from now.
As I mentioned on my first post one of the reasons why I decided on IMFL as my first IM was a group decision; what started as a group of 20 people potentially doing IMFL 2012 and going down to volunteer this past weekend, ended up on 14 of us heading down.

Part of the 'Alpha Ironman 2012' group

Unfortunately for me one of the people that had to back out on her decision to race next year was my sister Raquel. Some of you might have read my posts on FB so this will be a bit repetitive, but basically she started nursing school this semester, she has always been very dedicated to her studies and her GPA shows it. I like to say she’s got the brains in the family. So after two tests significantly below to what she is accustomed to she had to really think about her decision of committing to something like IM training when she already has a big commitment with school.
So Wednesday evening I get a call from her asking me to ‘pull email’, she couldn’t even talk about it, we had planned this for a while now and we were super excited to share this journey together. And although is the smart thing to do for her, the idea of not sharing it with her just makes me sad. After I got through the initial shock I realized my traveling plans for the weekend where now up on the air. After a shout out to the group, the guys offer to take me in their car, the schedule worked out great for me and I took them on the offer.
We headed down on Friday around 10 am, share some funny stories and made our way to Panama City. Friday was the volunteer meeting, it is pretty unbelievable the amount of people an IM takes to be successful, what makes it even more unbelievable is that a LOT of those people were there so that they could sign up for next year.
For those that are unfamiliar with the rules, IMFL is one of those races that fills out rather quickly. Athletes get first priority (they get a chance to register before the race), and then the day after the race volunteers get a chance to do so, after the volunteers they open registration to the open public (those that are physically there) and lastly if there are any slots available they open it online. Well, we definitely made the right decision because online registration sold out in 12 min. It is just CRAZY!
After a short meeting we headed for dinner and then to bed, out of the 10 girls in our condo we all had different shifts but we were all as excited. Race morning we headed to the swim start so that we could see the whole thing unveil. Let me tell you, that was nerve racking! Walking down to the beach I had butterflies in my stomach, the closer I got the more emotional I got. There is something about a mass start that just makes it for a unique experience and I am sure the only thing better than watching it is being part of it.
Me, Stacey and Sarah were in the women changing tent (T1). It was so cool!, one min. the first swimmer was entering the room and the next one you didn’t have room to even move with all the bags and clothing and people in that tent. It was so great to be able to help the athletes, and was even more special when we had friends walking in. I have to say that 99% of the people were very thankful and relaxed, it really was a great experience.

T1 Volunteers

The shift couldn’t have ended any better with Sina entered the changing tent way before the swim cut off, we were all very worried about her. We knew that if she made the swim cut off she was good to go, but after having a friend of mine not making the cut off last year I knew it would have been devastating. Sarah, Stacey and myself kept checking the clock and looking at the tent entrance. When I heard her yelling my name I burst into tears, it was so good to see her and she was in such good spirits!

Sina getting ready to get on her bike

After our shift was over we knew we had a while before everybody started making it back from the bike, so we headed for a run, took showers got lunch and found a good location on the run course to see everybody.
It was great seeing everybody out there, it is one of those things that if you have never experienced you HAVE to do. I am one of those people that just love watching others race but there is something special about IM races, the energy, the vibe, the excitement, it is just surreal. I really can’t put it into words everything that goes through your mind every time you see one of your friends go by. Smiles took over the run course and emotions just ran through, just imagining next year’s race I get goose bumps.
I have to say that there were a lot of emotional moments; Sina finishing the swim, seeing her Dana, Bonnie and Cheryl on the run course with a big smile on their faces. Darin, Jeff and Carl cruising by making it look easy, but what really got me was when PT Solutions team mate Tony C ran by us at mile 25, at that point he knew he was about to cross the finish line and get his ticket to Kona. We all started cheering for him and the look on his face was just priceless and one that I will never forget, he kept saying ‘I am going to Kona!’, we were all caught on the excitement and it was truly amazing!
I can not think on anything more motivating than a day in IM land, needless to say I can’t wait til May when I will be traveling to Lanzarote (Spain) to see Sami and John race, that will keep motivated for a while and hopefully through the heavy training weeks.
Sunday morning we woke up and headed to register for 2012, registration was schedule to open at 9:00 around 5:30 we got a text from Michelle saying there was already a line! Since most of us were awake, we just headed down and froze our little behinds off. Luckily the line was so long that they decided to open up at 7:30 which made it for an earlier than expected trip back home.

People lining up to register for IMFL 2012

Needless to say I am static about this upcoming year, I am thrilled to share this experience with so many friends and looking forward to a very exciting 2012 season. Happy training!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2012 Tentative Race Schedule & Week 1

As I mentioned in previous posts I am a planner, so here I am six months out from my first race and I have pretty much planned the whole season. In Carmen’s perfect world I kind of had planned my races a couple of weeks a go, before 2012 race calendars were published, that of course means that now I am forced to move things around and not be able to do some of the races I was looking forward to race next year (i.e. West Point Lake).
I had originally planned to start with NOLA 70.3 like last year, get an Olympic distance race in a couple of weeks later and head to Spain again for a 3 week vacation around Sami’s IM (IM Lanzarote in May).
Last year I did St A’s for a third year in a row, that is probably one of my favorite races but this year they changed the timing and it is only one week after NOLA. That means no St A’s for me, I think I am at a point where I can recover from a HIM in a couple of weeks but one week is way too close.
Looking at my options (and based on last year’s schedule) I thought Peachtree city International would be a great one. I did it a couple of years a go (that was actually my first full Olympic distance tri), it is a very fast course and I could drive there the morning of. Of course you will understand my disappointment when they published the new date: May 19th, great! I am in Spain that weekend, so I had to look for another option.
My only other option was REV3 Knoxville. I kept telling myself how I need to concentrate on bigger things, yes REV3 is not what I wanted but the bigger picture for 2012 is IMFL, REV3 allows me to get one Olympic in before heading home and I know that with the Oly being the bigger race in Knoxville it promises to be a very competitive event.
So that part is set, into the second half of my season. Again I wanted to do an Olympic around June when I got back from Spain, I was hoping to do West Point Lake again but they just changed the date on that one as well, that one really kills me. I have done it two years in a row and I really wanted to do it one more time, specially now that they’ve moved the date (April 29th) which means there wont be any issues with the heat which is always a big factor on this race.
Once again Carmen the planner has to adjust (you see? I told you I was flexible J), and is looking like I will have to look at some of the SETUp races (NC/SC). From the time I get back from Spain til September I am going to concentrate on Olympic distance races, hopefully get in one a month. Augusta 70.3 at the end of the month and after that I will focus on IMFL.

April 22nd - NOLA 70.3
May 6th -  REV3 Knoxville Olympic
June 10th  – Festival of Flowers (SC)
July – Chattanooga Waterfront
August 4th or 5th - Trying to decide between Lake Logan (NC) and Acworth Womens Tri (??)
August -  New PT Solutions Olympic distance (date TBD)
September 8th  – Tugaloo
September 30thAugusta 70.3
November - IMFL

I also have to report that I finally got a plan for this past week. It felt good to be back out there, with a 'purpose', even if is not much. The structure does me well and allows me to focus on other things. Unfortunately my body was not craving a healthy diet as much as I thought J, but overall was a good week.
As I mentioned previously, during the fall training (or off season) we will focus on my run, for me this means we are taking one swim off and leaving just one session a week.
This change has been good so far, it is so hard to get motivated to swim nowadays, unless I have somebody to swim with which is not very often. Since I only have one session a week now it is not as bad, I know I need to get it in if I want to maintain some fitness in the water and knowing I don’t have to get back to it til the following week gives me the extra push to pack my bag and head to the pool.
I am not Haley Chura when it comes to swimming, Elaine Sipos on the bike or Katie June on the run, but for the most part I can count on a solid swim and a strong bike. Running is something that doesn’t come naturally for me (like most swimmers), and even though I made huge improvements last season, it seem as if I still struggle with consistency on longer distance racing. I am hoping this will change with the running I will be doing in the next couple of months.

Week’s Total
Swim -   75min. – 4000m.
Bike -  4 hrs
Run – 4.1 hrs
TOTAL – 9.3 hrs