Thursday, April 27, 2017

Race Report: Ironman Texas 2017

Ironman #3 is in the books!!!  I started training for IM Texas in January with the hopes of qualifying for Kona, knowing that there would be extra slots since it was the North American championship race.  Unlike my training for IM Cozumel last summer/fall, this time around I was MOTIVATED and CONSISTENT.  I didn't skip workouts and although I had that dang achilles injury, I was feeling pretty fit heading into this race.   I cut out all added oils and sugar 3 weeks prior to the race to ensure I'd be running clean and lean on fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, & of course Beet Performer Beet Juice!  According to rigorous analyses of the finishing times of the women in my AG from the past 5 years performed by my training buddy/engineer/11-time Ironman finisher/7-time Kona qualifier/8:54 IM PR/Cam Loos, a sub 10:30 would probably put me in contention for Kona.  It was a high goal but I believed it to be attainable.

We packed all imaginable tri gear into 1 car - with 2 sets of everything it was like Noah's ark of triathlon.  We drove 10 hours to Texas and met up with some rockstars from NC - PA and super dad Lawrence Landrigan, pro triathlete Tim Nichols, and awesome sherpa/most supportive girlfriend ever, Barb Kornegay.  It was fab hanging out with you guys and thank you Barb for all the cooking & cleaning you did for us!

The days prior to the race were all about those last minute workouts, the expo (loved seeing my Zoot peeps Mark, Jake, and Jill), practice swim (rubbed elbows with fellow high-octane vegans Kyle, Shannon, & Taylor), gear bags, and fine tuning the bikes.  My bike was optimized to the MAX!  Thank you Justin for letting me borrow your Enve 808 rear wheel with disc jacket - that thing looked sick and no doubt made me go faster.  Other optimizations:  Grand Prix 4000 IIs tires, latex tubes, and an aerodynamic water bottle for my seat tube.  Trayvon was ready to roll.

The Swim - 2.4 miles - 1:12:18 (1:43/100 yds)
Surprise!!!!!  The swim was non-westuit legal.  A week prior to the race, word was that the lake temp was a delightful 69 degrees.  Didn't think there was any way it would creep up over 76 degrees within a week, but expect the unexpected, it did!  Sooo, this resulted in the purchase of a new Zoot speedsuit (YES, I had one packed in the ark, but its so old that wearing it probably increases drag - anyone in the market for a dragsuit speedsuit?).  During the practice swim I swam up to a SUPer to fix my goggles and when I pulled myself up onto his board he exclaimed, "Whoa!  I just saw all the water bead down your back like a duck!"  Excellent - the new suit was performing well already!!!

On the day of the race Lawrence and I lined up near the front figuring we'd start together and take turns drafting off each other in the swim.  I was only able to stay with him for about 100 yds d/t the pure chaos of the swim.  The entire way to the first turn felt like a brawl - it was so rough, simply d/t being in and amongst so many other swimmers.  Not sure why exactly, but it was a lot more physical compared to Cozumel and Chattanooga.  When you make the final turn into the canal you still have over a half mile to go and I was mentally prepared for this.  I was not prepared for the water to smell like someone had emptied all the porta potties into it.  With about 300 yds left another swimmer passed me and as they did so, smiled and waved.  Was I hallucinating from the permeating odor of sewage???  No!  It turned out to be Cam who was the very last non-wetsuit swimmer in the water! haha

T1 - 4:27

The Bike - 112 miles - 5:51:33 (19.12 mph)
When I started the bike I didn't feel very good.  I think this was b/c the swim took more out of me than I was expecting.  I told myself that eventually I would settle in and start to feel good, which did happen after about 20 miles.  It was a very windy day out there, eventually building to 15-20 mph.  The meat of the course was a double out & back on a toll road.  The pros were that there were no cars and no turns.  The cons were that (to me) it was a boring course and there was a ripping headwind on the way back.  I must have told myself "do not over bike" at least 100 times.  I over biked in Cozumel and had nothing on the run - I did not want history to repeat itself.

I kept myself in check even though a lot of people passed me, including women in my AG.  But I knew I had to stay within my limits and I while I was doing that on the final lap a pack of no joke about 30 triathletes caught up to me.  This wasn't a legal paceline or even an illegal paceline.  This was a PELOTON of riders all 4-5 inches off each others' wheels.  They were easily going 2 mph faster than I was going solo.  I was pretty pissed off.  How can someone riding legally possibly compete with that?!?!  And I never saw 1 person in the penalty tent all day.  In fact, a draft marshall drove up from the opposite direction and put both arms up in the air to say "What are you all doing???" but no one left the peloton nor did anyone get a penalty.  What do you do in that situation?  Expend extra effort to stay ahead of the pack?  Let everyone pass you?  Try to "legally" draft off the back?  Or just fall in with the group?  I'm not sure what the right answer to this question is and would be interested to hear what others think.  My nutrition was on point during the bike - I ate a Carb Boom gel or margarita shot blocks every 30 minutes and drank water plus electrolyte tablets.  I was hoping that both my legs and stomach would feel good heading out onto the run.
T2 - 4:45

The Run - 26.2 miles - 3:43:19 (8:31/mi)
The run was a bit of a question mark.  I had to take a full month off of running during my training d/t the achilles injury.  I supplemented with some water running and eventually worked back up to doing one 20-miler prior to the race, but was never able to resume speed work.  Perhaps the worst thing about not running so much was the mental aspect - going from 0 miles/week to a marathon in 9 weeks was an intimidating prospect.  My coach and others told me that no matter what I still had a solid running base, but it was hard to find solace in their words.  

When I got off the bike, which I was soooo happy to do, it was a joyous moment when I realized that my legs felt good.  I knew I'd be able to run today.  I started off at about 7:55 pace and had to force myself to slow down.  I figured that based on my training I'd be able to average between 8:30 to 9:00 miles for the marathon and I didn't want to start out too fast.  It's the classic debate of do you A) bank time at the beginning of the marathon when you're feeling good knowing that you're likely to suffer in the later miles?  or do you B) force yourself to stick to your goal pace and hope that you're able to stay consistent for the entire thing?  Cam and I had discussed this and he is a big proponent of strategy B.  I'm still not sure what I think, but I knew I didn't dare let myself run faster than 8:00 miles for the first loop.  Turns out I averaged about 8:00 pace on the first loop, 8:30 pace on the second loop, and 9:00 pace on the third, thus putting me at my goal pace of 8:30 for the entire thing.  And yes it got really damn hard.  I kept hearing my friend say, "whoever walks least gets to Kona" and this kept me going.  I wonder, would it have been easier if I had slowed to 8:30 from the beginning?  Thoughts?

A word about this run course - it was AMAZING!!!!!  As dull as the bike was, the run was equal in magnitude but in the complete opposite direction.  Great job Brian for putting together a real winner.  It started off by the river, wound through some neighborhoods, a few shaded sections of paths, and then the last 3 miles were the bomb diggity.  Both sides of the river front were lined with thousands of spectators.  Music was blasting and cheering was on in full force.  You'd think that doing a 3-loop marathon would be a drag, but running through this section 3 times was something to look forward to!  It had a lot of variety and was very well supported.  It was my favorite IM run course so far (favorite bike course was Chattanooga & favorite swim was Cozumel).
My big goal for the run was not to walk at all.  After crumbling on the run in Cozumel, I wanted to put together a solid overall race with a strong marathon.  I didn't let myself walk once, even though the aid stations, and I am really happy and proud of that.

Total Time - 10:56:22 (12th AG, 67th female, 349th overall finisher)
I felt elated to cross that finish line and hear the famous words, "Tara Martine, YOU ARE an IRONMAN!!!!!"  I believe I executed the race as well as I could have and there's nothing that I would have changed about it on the day.  I feel happy that I was able to put together a solid performance and I know that I have a strong fitness base that I will keep building on.  Everyone says that getting to Kona takes 3-5 years of hard training.  Well, I'm about 1.5 years into it now and am not planning on stopping.  I will get to Kona.  I have a lot of work cut out for me (especially on the bike - I have no clue how women in my AG managed to average 22-23 mph in those winds).  However, I am really enjoying triathlon right now and if I didn't like doing the workouts and love going to races I wouldn't do it.  I'm already plotting my next race, which I am thinking just might have to be Los Cabos....  :)

Congrats to all finishers and thanks to everyone who supports and encourages me!

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Best Veggie Burger

Now that I've been plant-based for about 10 years, it's fair to say I've had my fair share of veggie burgers.  They are one of the easiest meat-free meals to make and are usually well-received by vegans and non-vegans alike.  It's been a little while since I've made a veggie burger (cause I've been mainly living off of a variety of bean & vegetable-based soups & stews) and when I went the local organic co-op, I was amazed at how many brands of veggie burgers they had that I had never tried!  I got the great idea of buying a bunch of them, cooking a different one every night, and doing a taste & nutrition comparison.  I cooked all of them in a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and served them on a 100% whole wheat sprouted bun with melted Chao "cheese", lettuce, and ketchup, served with baked sweet potato fries.  The winner of this mouth-watering experiment was.....

Sweet Earth Natural Foods Santa Fe Veggie Burger
This hefty burger had FLAVOR and a fantastic texture!!!  It was crispy on the outside, had a chewy mouthfeel, and was slightly spicy.  I credit the texture to the first ingredient being vital wheat gluten, the protein portion of wheat from which seitan is made.  Seitan is a meat-alternative with a texture similar to turkey.  Another plus about this burger was the ingredients - all whole natural foods, no protein isolates.  Additionally, it's not high in fat, with only 5 grams per burger.  I don't have anything bad to say about it - it was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend adding it to your shopping cart.

The silver medal goes to Hilary's veggie burgers .  I've had her adzuki bean burger and black rice burger and enjoyed both!  They are made from whole food ingredients, but just have slightly more fat than the Sweet Earth Burger.  In taking a peek at the website, it looks like there's a lot more exciting products to try including a spicy veggie sausage!

And finally, the last burger to make the podium, HODO Soy Tofu Veggie Burgers.  These were a slight departure from the typical veggie burger, in that the main ingredient is tofu.  This resulted in a texture similar to fried tofu or to a Boca "chicken" patty.  If you are looking for your veggie burger to imitate meat, then this is not the burger for you.  However, I enjoyed the (mild) taste and appreciate that it was made from whole natural ingredients, no protein isolates.

Honorable mention would have to go to Boca Burgers (make sure you get the Original Vegan if you are 100% plant-based).  Boca burgers are a good staple to keep in the freezer; they produce a healthy satisfying meal, but nothing to write home about.

Lastly, the two veggie burgers that I am not a big fan of are Lightlife Smart Patties Black Bean Burger and Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties.  The Lightlife patties didn't have much flavor to them and they had a gummy texture.  They also contain protein isolate and other non-whole-food ingredients.  The Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties simply taste too greasy to me and they leave my mouth feeling like a paper towel that had potato chips sitting on it.

Clearly, these are not the only veggie burgers out there and there are tons of delicious (and nutritious) recipes for home-made veggie/bean burgers.  What is your favorite veggie burger?


Here's a nutritional breakdown of these burgers for those who are interested:

Sweet Earth Natural Foods Santa Fe Burger
Calories - 230
Fat - 5g
Sodium - 360 mg
Carbs - 31g
Protein - 17g
Ingredients:  vital wheat gluten, sweet potato, millet, brown rice, peppers, barley, quinoa, brown rice flour, black beans, corn, chipotle sauce, ginger, kombu, garlic, tomato puree, yellow onion, brown rice syrup, ancho chili pepper, chipotle peppers, canola oil, white vinegar, evaporated cane juice, flax seeds, celery, carrots, anaheim chili peppers, jalapeño, lime juice, hickory smoke, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, expeller pressed canola oil, agave, cilantro, celery seed, smoked paprika, cinnamon, oregano, spices

Hilary's Adzuki Bean Burger
Calories - 180
Fat - 7g
Sodium - 270 mg
Carbs - 25g
Protein - 4g
Ingredients: millet, adzuki beans, quinoa, expellar pressed coconut oil, onion, sweet potatoes, green chilies, salt, psyllium husk powder, arrowroot, apple cider vinegar, cumin, garlic, chili pepper, oregano, lime juice

HODO Soy Tofu Veggie Burgers
Calories - 200
Fat - 9g
Sodium - 400 mg
Carbs - 11g
Protein - 19g
Ingredients:  organic tofu, carrots, cabbage, onions, soybean oil, salt, dried shiitake mushroom, garlic powder, white pepper

Boca Burgers
Calories - 70
Fat - 0.5g
Sodium - 280 mg
Carbs - 6g
Protein - 13g
Ingredients:  water, soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, methyl cellulose, salt, caramel color, dried onions, yeast extract, sesame oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, natural and artificial flavor, disocium guanylate, disodium inositate

Lightlife Smart Patties
Calories - 100
Fat - 2.5g
Sodium - 330 mg
Carbs - 11g
Protein - 10g
Ingredients:  water, textured soy flour, cooked black beans, natural flavors, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, tapioca starch, cellulose gum, soybean and sunflower oils, spices, dried onions, dried garlic, salt, cane sugar, caramel color, paprika oleoresin

Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties
Calories - 160
Fat - 7g
Sodium - 390 mg
Carbs - 21g
Protein - 4g
Ingredients:  sweet potatoes, onions, celery, spinach, brown rice flour, egg whites, sunflower seeds, soybean oil, sea salt, spices

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dealing With An Injury Close To A Race

While an injury can send an endurance athlete down a gradual spiral of doom and gloom, an injury with a race on the immediate horizon is categorically apocalyptic.

When I first felt a little bit of an ache in my right Achilles tendon I did what any other athlete would do - I ignored it and hoped it would go away.  I'm not very injury-prone and I figured it would work itself out.  However, 1-2 weeks went by and it was slowly getting worse, not better.  The next weekend I set out on a 20 mile run and my Achilles immediately started barking.  But, I otherwise felt so good physically, that I kept going and ran the entire thing at a good pace (it actually felt easy, that's how fit I was getting!)  Needless to say that really pissed off my Achilles and it was swollen the next day.  I had to face the fact that I had an injury a mere 11 weeks out from Ironman Texas.  I saw a sports med doc and he informed me that healing Achilles tendonitis is a slow process because the area is not very vascular.  NOT what I wanted to hear.  He did give me some ideas and I have been:

*Icing every night
*Wearing compression socks to bed
*Using anti-inflammatory patches during the day
*Putting a turmeric paste on it
*Doing calf raises to stretch & strengthen at the same time
*Using my Compex on my calf and foot

I also bought some KT tape today and plan to start taping it.  Another friend suggested alternating between soaking my foot in a bucket of ice water w/ a bucket of hot water on 2-minute rotations.  I'm even going to try my coach's "magic smoothie" tomorrow which she swears promotes faster recovery, though it doesn't sound very appetizing to me, hence I've been avoiding it:

Sharon's Magic Recovery Smoothie
V8 juice (8 oz)
Spinach or other greens
Turmeric (1 tsp)
Ginger (1 tsp grated)
Nutritional Yeast (2 Tbsp)
Pepper (dash)
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Beet (1/4 - 1/2 of a whole)

I'm trying to stay positive but it's so difficult.  I'm trying to tell myself that this is allowing me to focus on improving my cycling and swimming (which are both getting better).  But it still doesn't change the fact that I haven't run in over 2 weeks and will be running a full marathon in 9 weeks! Couch to marathon program anyone?

So, what else can I do????  What has worked for you?  Any suggestions to heal this thing quicker or strategies for mentally coping with an injury this close to the race would be greatly appreciated!

On a lighter note, I rode an awesome century today with 135 amazing local cyclists from Pensacola to the Battleship in Mobile AL and back.  Some pics from the day :)

Pre-Ride Pep Talk
Aid Station #1
Turnaround Point!

Zoot Teamies!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Race Report: Ironman Cozumel 2016

Chock full of mental, emotional, and physical challenges, Ironman Cozumel was truly an unforgettable experience!  This race exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone!

Pretty much the moment I finished IM Chattanooga 2015, I started planning for IM Cozumel 2016.  My goal was to qualify for Kona (spoiler alert - that did not even come close to happening).  For various reasons I didn't put in nearly enough training hours or intensity to fully prepare for this race.  Note that his had nothing to do with my coach Sharon, who is awesome - if I had done half of what she prescribed for me I'd probably have a ticket booked to Hawaii right now.  Regardless, Sharon, her husband Matt, my parents, and myself all booked flights and a sick VRBO right on the beach in a gated community on the island.  The race happened to coincide with my dad's birthday and Thanksgiving weekend so the whole trip was going to be one big celebration of triathlon and life.

Unfortunately, as the race got closer, my grandma fell ill.  I spent a lot of time with her and my grandpa growing up and have so many amazing memories of us together.  She was literally the best grandma I could have ever wanted or asked for.  We were close.  About a week prior to the trip her health continued to deteriorate and my parents cancelled their trip.  I rerouted mine and flew up to VA to see her before the race.  She was very frail and unable to eat or drink much at all.  Though she didn't look at all like the grandma of my childhood she still had the same spirit.  As soon as she saw me she said, "Tara!  What are you doing here?  What about your race???"  I hated it for her that she felt so terrible.  I wished there was something I could do to help her feel better.  I felt conflicted about going to Cozumel, but my mom and grandma both wanted me to go, and I did.

I was so thankful to be staying with Sharon and Matt in Mexico - thank you both for being amazing friends to me and the perfect company in a time when I had such an odd combination of feelings and thoughts in my mind.  I was a mixture of guilty for going on the trip (especially since my parents were not), sad about my grandma, happy to be there with friends I haven't seen in a long time, a part of me was excited to race, and then I also felt guilty about being excited about racing.  It was confusing sometimes.   And then the day before the race I got news that my grandma had passed away.  I felt some relief for her that she wasn't suffering any more and I also felt a lot more sadness. I decided I would dedicate this race to her.

The Swim (2.4 miles) - 1:09:44 (1:39/100 yds)
One of the reasons I picked IM Coz is because the swim is supposed to have a current the entire way. Plus, I figured I'd be more buoyant in the salt water.  And, as an added bonus, visibility is 100% so you can see coral, fish, and avoid swimming into other swimmers.  The start was a self-seeded rolling start.  I'm a huge fan of these because it brings the chaos level of mass starts down a bunch of notches.  I didn't feel the current like I thought I would.  In fact, I almost felt like I was being pushed in towards the shore from incoming waves.  From speaking with people after the race, it seems like the general consensus was that there wasn't much of a current the first half and then it picked up for the second half of the swim.  Hard to say for sure, but overall the swim was enjoyable.  It did feel long and I was disappointed to see that I had been swimming for over 1 hour when I got out of the water.
T1 - 5:14
I wore a full piece Zoot trisuit so didn't have to waste time changing in T1.  The suit was very comfortable (and aero) on the swim and on the bike!  In fact, I'm super excited to be racing for the Southeast Zoot Team in 2017!

The Bike (112 miles) - 5:50:42 (19.2 mph)
The bike is what I had been anxiously anticipating all summer.  Exactly how bad were the winds going to be???  Well, for the first two laps they weren't all that terrible.  Nothing worse than what I had trained in in Pensacola.  I was never afraid that I'd be pushed off the bike and was never out of control (FYI the depth of my rims was 50 mm).  I was still averaging around 18 mph during the 15-mile stretch of headwinds on the back side of the island.  I felt pretty good and at 4 hours into the ride I was at 80 miles - sweet 20 mph average!  Then things got significantly more difficult.  My neck started hurting really badly.  Holding my head up to look forward was SO painful but I knew looking down would negate the advantage of wearing an aero helmet and that it was also dangerous b/c of scattered water bottles on the course.  As soon as I made the turn into the wind on that 3rd loop it was the start of 15 miles of misery.  The wind had gotten a LOT stronger.  I tried not to look at my Garmin, but I did at one point I was going 12 mph!  Demoralizing!  I wanted to sit up and get out of the aero position so badly because it was so hard to pedal and because my neck was killing me.  However, this was the most important part of the course to stay aero.  I saw a lot of people sitting up and you could tell this part of the course was crushing people - mentally and physically.  What got me through that 15 miles was thinking about my grandma and talking to her and remembering all the times we had together.

T2 - 4:27
When I got off the bike my legs hurt so bad, I could barely walk into T2.  I wondered how in the world I was going to run.  I felt like this was a bad sign b/c last year at Chattanooga as soon as I got off the bike I felt better and had a spring in my step.  This year, my legs just felt HEAVY.  And I felt really nauseous.

The Run (26.2 miles) - 4:24:19 (10:05/mi)
As soon as I started running a woman in my age group passed me.  That usually doesn't happen on the run and was frustrating.  I tried to tell myself to just go at a comfortable pace and then hopefully my legs would warm into it and my stomach would come around.  Unfortunately the opposite of that happened, the more I ran the worse my stomach felt, the more my legs hurt, and the slower I was going.  I went to the porta potty twice, hoping it would alleviate my issues, but it was to no avail.  Nothing seemed appealing in terms of food or drink - I even tried drinking some Coke (a chemical sh*t storm) but it was not my friend.  I was debating in my head whether I could keep going and when my friend told me I was in 7th place in my AG, I gave into the my body's cries to walk.  This was my biggest mistake.  The greatest lesson I learned from this race was DO NOT WALK ON THE RUN.  Trust me, you will regret it.  I started walking and felt pretty dejected about it.  I also started thinking about everything else that was going on and in that state all my emotions came to the surface.  At that moment, Iron Bob caught up to me and started walking w/ me.  I was so thankful for his company and after 4 miles I felt my spirits and physical ailments lifted!  It was too late to race for a place on the podium, but it wasn't too late to enjoy the rest of the race and finish that b*tch!  I crossed the finish line w/ a smile on my face and really proud of myself for finishing the race despite all the challenges I had faced.  I know I would have made my grandma proud.

Total Time - 11:34:26 (9th AG)
I finished over an hour later than I was hoping to, but was elated to finish.  I was even more excited when they immediately handed me a fresh coconut with a straw in it - yum!  As I was recovering, a man and his young daughter came up to me and he said "My daughter and I live on the island but she has never seen the race before - can she get her picture taken with an Ironman?"  Seeing her smile after I said yes and gave her the rose they gave me when I crossed the finish line is one of my favorite memories from the race :)  

I know it was a really tough day out there for a lot of people and it was so good to see so many familiar faces out there on the course:  Sharon, Matt, Tricia, John, Charlie, Iron Bob, Misty, Erin, Sami, and Elizabeth - every time I saw you guys it helped me persevere!

The last thing I have to say about this race is that the organization was impeccable and the volunteers were AMAZING!  I really felt like the entire island supported the race and everyone came out to cheer the athletes on.  Basically Cozumel was totally devoted to Ironman that whole day!  The result was a first class race experience in a paradise destination location.  If you ever have a  chance to do this race, jump on it!

Sharon, Matt, and I spent a couple days after the race exploring the island and then I flew back to VA for my grandma's funeral.  It felt good to be around family and we celebrated her life and the amazing person that she was.  I still miss her and I know I always will.  However, my overwhelming feeling now is gratitude that she was in my life and unconditionally loved me for the last 34 years.

Looking forward to 2017, I have a really good and positive feeling about everything.  I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally strong.  I can just tell that it's going to be a great year and I know that nothing is going to stop me from getting to Kona.