Indy Women’s Half Marathon Race Report: 2020

In a pandemic year, it is close to impossible to find a competitive race with a sizeable field.  When I first heard wind of the Indy Women’s Half Marathon, it sounded too good to be true.  This all women’s race offered a flat and fast course, all the swag, and prize money to the top TWENTY! I registered and crossed my fingers it would happen.
The afternoon before the race, I headed over to my friend Shannon’s and we packed into her Volvo wagon with the fancy rims.  Indianapolis was only a three hour drive from Lexington, and we made good time.  I brought the snacks (rice crisps and Swedish fish), and then proceeded to demolish them all.  So much for sharing…

We pulled up to our hotel, a nice, little Marriott in a group of about three hotels on the western edge of downtown.  It was also almost directly across from Military Park, a pretty, little venue where the race would start and finish.  The weather Gods had blessed us, and we noticed the first chill of fall weather while making the five minute walk to packet pickup.  After a really toasty summer of training (and almost heat stroking on our last mile repeats the week before) the crisp, fall air was very welcomed.
Packet pickup was quick and easy, and the swag was great.  Shannon and I then headed to Yard House for a bite.  I had eaten there the night before the Monumental Half Marathon, where I had PR’d with a 1:29 low in November.  I knew the Gardein orange chick’n and rice bowl worked for me, so why change?  We were the only people in the entire restaurant, so didn’t have to wait long!

On the way back to the hotel, we ran into my friend/ client Caroline.  She and her fantastically weird and wonderful boyfriend Matthew were walking down the sidewalk, so we chatted with them for a few minutes.  Caroline was around the same current pace as Shannon and I, so we all planned to work together the following morning.

Shannon and I got to bed early, and fell asleep to some really stupid comedy of my choosing.  I often sleep better on race nights, as I force myself to turn the lights off earlier, and this was no exception.  I woke up early, had my Picky Bar Can’t Beet Chocolate oatmeal three hours out, and did the Myrtl Routine (a hip mobility sequence.)
It was dark and chilly on our way to the start line- perfect!  We ran into Caroline, as well as Jess and Heather (and Heather’s husband Scott.)  Jess and Heather are two friends/ athletes who I coach, and it made me so happy to see they were both sporting their Rocksport singlets. The girls in green would be representing!  Jess was doing the 5k, and Heather was doing her first half. We chatted for a few minutes, and then it was time to warm up.

Caroline, Shannon and I did a ten minute jog with a bathroom-I-mean-bush break peppered into it.  We did a few strides, and a few drills.  I was happy to note that my strained calf was quiet and not very noticeable for the moment. By the time we got back, I had to line up for the final Port o Potty stop.  The line was long, and after that I had to make a mad dash to the start.  The three of us got into the first corral, with the elite runners and faster amateurs.  I took a Huma gel, and opened the other one that I would nip on throughout the race. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was playing, and there was just this great energy in the corral.  So many of these speedy women had come in from all over the country, and we were all elated to be out competing again.
I noticed a ton of women in PBR singlets.  PBR is a huge racing team based in Indy, and they seemed to have a ton of camaraderie and fans.  I would see their jerseys often in the next hour and a half.

Shannon, Caroline and I took our marks and before we knew it, the gun went off.  We took off at a speedy clip, speedier than I had ever gone in a half.  Everyone else took off quickly too, and there was a lot of excitement that first quarter mile.  Finally, we settled into a low 6:30’s pace.  The three of us were elbow to elbow, and there was plenty of competition around us too.  I had planned to go out in the 6:40s, but my training going into this race was sharp.  When I saw 6:36 on my watch for the first split, I decided to go with it.  It felt comfortable. My calf was not a problem. Shannon and I were working together, while Caroline decided to back off a hair.  She was newer to this distance and wanted to finish with plenty in the tank.  Shannon and I continued to work together, and as the pack thinned I could hear another woman on our heels, pacing off of us.  All the spectators seemed to know her, and there was a lot of cheering.  This helped motivate me too.  The next two miles were a few seconds faster, and I remember thinking if it was a 5K I could have run a big PR, as the pace was not that far off my 5K PR, a distance I have always loathed and struggled with.

Mile 1: 6:36 Mile 2: 6:33 Mile 3: 6:33

Around mile 4, my left leg became “locked up.”  This is a sensation I deal with sometimes, and it is very frustrating because it hinders my gait.  It isn’t painful, but it feels like I have no coordination/ control on my left side.  It almost always happens on the treadmill, and rarely outside.  But if the course is super flat it can appear.  It happened in my marathon earlier this year, and I knew if I was patient it would go away.  It annoyed me for about two miles, but then as expected it dissipated and I found a comfortable rhythm again by the end of mile 5.  Around that point, Shannon started to retreat just a little, and I found myself solo.  

Mile 4: 6:33 Mile 5: 6:36 Mile 6: 6:42 (this was an odd mile that wound down a narrow path along the river with a ton of twists.  It was hard to keep momentum going, and with this two loop course it would also be the final mile)

Coming out of the twisty section and back through the start marked halfway.  The announcer called us by name as we came through, and there were plenty of spectators so it was a great boost.  Also, around this time Caroline joined me again!  It was fun to catch up with her again, and she looked great.  She would run with me for a while, drop back and repeat throughout the next few miles.  There were also two PBR women about 100 yards ahead of me, and they were the only girls in sight.  With my history of getting lost during races, I HAD to keep them in sight.  So I picked up the pace a little.  We also repeated an out and back section we had done earlier in the race, which I loved.  I got to see some of the pro runners and leaders, and how many girls were in front of me.  There were about 14, so I had a big chance of getting some of the cash prizes!.. I also saw Caroline and Shannon after the turn around, and they both looked strong.  Lexington is home to some very talented and capable women athletes, and the talent of my small training group always amazes me.

Mile 7:6:29 Mile 8: 6:29 Mile 9: 6:33

I was starting to make up some ground on the PBR runners, especially one of them.  I made the pass around mile 9, and now was about 20 yards off the other.  She was a tall gazelle of a runner, and her graceful run was motivating.  I was finally starting to feel it at this point, but I should have.  I had run a 10K PR, and was shocked I was still holding that pace.  And I was slowly gaining ground on Lori.  I drew alongside her around the 12 mile mark, but I knew I would not be able to finish the last mile very strong.  I was just trying to hang on at this point, and even told her so!

Mile 10: 6:34Mile 11: 6:33Mile 12: 6:30Mile 13: 6:42The last .15: 6:02 pace

1:26:19 chip time.  First half: 43:19, Last half 42:58 13th overall

Coming up and out of the last, twisty mile Lori pulled away a little, and would beat me to the line by 4 seconds.  I was all smiles though, coming to the finish in a huge PR.  I could literally not believe the time on my watch, and never thought I would achieve that pace.  At the finish line, I was definitely tired but not bad.  I caught my breath for a minute and then cheered in Caroline, who came in at 1:27 with a huge PR.  Shannon was right behind her as well.  Jess and Heather both had good days too, and it was fun seeing Heather come in just over 2 hours for her first ever half!  I also talked to Lori after the race, and she ended up connecting me with her friend Ashley, who had just moved to my area.  We now run together often!  I am always amazed at how small the running community really is.

With the three of us women all finishing in the top twenty, we got to take part in the most fun award ceremony ever!  They took all of us on stage (in our masks,) and took a bunch of photos while they presented us with some nice glasses, beautiful winter scarves and of course the $$$.  Then, they opened a bottle of champagne and sprayed it on the group.  It was awesome!

This race was definitely a milestone, but it was also a huge confidence booster to learn that I am capable of more than I thought.  I am excited about the next racing season, and focusing more on running races for 2021 vs triathlon.  Now for more races to open back up!

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Virtual Road Race Strategy 101

In these times of Coronavirus, most endurance athletes are taking one of two options.  The first option is base-building.  These athletes are putting in the training volume, mostly easy, as they anticipate a fast fall (and hopefully one filled with numerous races from which to choose!)  The second option is to have fun with some virtual races.  These athletes are also working on consistent mileage, but they are incorporating some virtual races on their calendars as well.

Lately, our Facebook feeds and emails are overflowing with ads for virtual races.  We see 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons and full marathons.  There are backyard ultras and virtual triathlons (which are really duathlons at the moment, with no pools open.)  There are so many options that it can be overwhelming to choose!  Let’s look into picking, and ultimately racing, the perfect fit for you.

woman in white t shirt walking on concrete road

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What distance should I pick?  Here is where you want to tread carefully.  Pick a distance that you feel comfortable with.  This is not the time to charter into unknown territory.  If you have been running all 5K’s and 10K’s, do not opt into a full marathon.  Why?  The risk of injury is high, and although virtual races are fun it’s not worth risking your fall season.  Also, the weather plays a huge role in long course races.  If you run your first full in the blazing heat of late June or July, it’s going to make for a miserable experience and leave a bad taste in your mouth.  Save that epic first marathon for a fun spring or fall event with thousands of your closest friends once the world reopens!  On the other hand, if you are a big endurance junkie I would avoid targeting a fast 5K in the very near future.  Going straight into speed work to prepare for a hard, short course race is also going to raise the risk of injuries.  So choose wisely and go with a distance you enjoy and that you have done often.

Now that I know the distance, which race should I pick?  The choice is completely yours on this one.  If medals are of utmost importance to you, shop around to see which medal and swag catches your eye.  You can stay local and support your local race companies.  For example, our local company RaceRise has an upcoming virtual half marathon that has attracted over 2400 runners from at least 44 states.  If you are very results-oriented, you can look at the big name companies like Ironman that host large fields with frequently updated leaderboards.  Beware though, as the cheating can be rampant.  Always think of these events as a race against yourself if you want honest results.

How do I plan my course?  This is the tricky part.  You want a route with as minimal traffic as possible.  If you have a park with a two mile (or longer) loop, that can be ideal.  If it is a popular park plan for a quieter time of day, such as an early morning or week day.  Long bike paths that you can run as an out and back are a smart choice. Another option is to search for certified race courses in your area.  For example, we have a rural half marathon outside of Lexington, KY that is on quiet roads and would be a nice option.  And the terrain is up to you.  Find as flat as possible for maximal efficiency.  You can do it on the trails if you prefer.  And if you are sadistic and love hills, go ahead and plan a painful route.  Of course, not many routes could be as painful as Pan Shancu’s recent course.  He ran 31 miles around his living room while in lockdown in China.

How should I warm up?  Warm up just as you would on race day.  Eat your typical race day breakfast at your regular time.  For example, I eat a small bowl of oatmeal 2.5 hours before a longer race and then sip on a watered down sports drink until the start.  Dress in your race day outfit, and wear your fast shoes if you have them.  The shorter the distance, the more of a warm up you’ll need.  For a 5K, you might warm up anywhere from 1-3 miles. Include drills.  I suggest side shuffle, skipping, butt kicks and a few wind sprints.  For longer races such as a half or full, 5-10 minutes of easy jogging will suffice but drills are always beneficial.  After your warm up, make sure and reset your watch so that you will have the accurate distance of your virtual race.

How do I pace my virtual race?  This is the million dollar question, but the answer is relatively easy.  Virtual racers will be at a handicap compared to actual racers.  We do not have the adrenaline and crowd support.  We will not be surrounded by our competitors.  We are probably not fully tapered and trained specifically for this event.  Unfortunately, all of these factors can often set us up for failure.  They make an incredible difference.  So, rather than going out at your usual race pace, I suggest using the triathlon pacing rule of thumb.  Double the distance, and think of your race pace for that specific distance.  For example, if you are running a 5K, aim to go out at your 10K pace. Running a 10K?  Aim for your half marathon PR pace.  A half?  Dial it in by trying to perfect your marathon pace.  If you are feeling good as you hit the second half, give it a little gas.  But there is no reason to be a hero in a virtual race, so I suggest finishing with a little more to give.  Do know that the longer the race, the tougher this will be.  Holding marathon pace for 13 miles is no easy task and would be a very challenging key workout in a marathon build.  But, using this strategy should set you up for success.  And finishing with a negative split is always a huge confidence booster!

After your virtual race, take an easy day or two of rest and/or active recovery.  If you enjoyed the experience, you might want to start searching for another event.  If you are targeting a goal fall race, be mindful of giving yourself plenty of time to get in quality training mileage between events.  Just like in real life, racing every weekend or two can be detrimental to achieving your best results.  But if having fun is your goal, that’s a different story.  It’s important to remember we all race for different reasons.

photo of man running during daytime

Photo by Tembela Bohle on




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A1A Marathon Race Report

I’ve never enjoyed the marathon distance. After my first one (Hudson Mohawk Marathon in 2010) I crossed the finish line and swore I wouldn’t do another one. But I felt obligated to do Boston the following spring, so that happened. Five years later I did Winter Warm Up Columbus (a one mile loop 26 times) on a whim, qualified for Boston, and ran it again. And that’s my marathon history.

Every time I tried to train for a marathon I seemed to get injured, or bored, or lose interest. I never thought I’d grow to like that event. Triathlons (and even half marathons) were more appealing.
But earlier this fall, I was really enjoying my long runs and decided to register for A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale in late January along with some friends and Rocksport teammates. It would be a nice way to break up the winter with a little Florida sunshine.

I began training in October, and it went extremely well. I averaged 50 miles per week, with my peak weeks in the high 60s and one 70. There were a few things I did differently in this build, including a few split long runs (for example running 13 miles with my 5am group, and then another 10 on the trails later that day with my training partner Sarah.) I also did a medium long run on most Sundays with my husband (in the 10-14 mile range.)
I had three races during this period- Monumental Half Marathon (1:29:12,) a bust of a 5K at Thanksgiving where I couldn’t get going, and then a pretty solid hilly 10 miler on New Year’s which I won first female while running marathon pace the first half and then putting down the hammer the second half for a 6:54 avg. So the two longer races had me optimistic about A1A.
Three key runs stick out in my mind as particularly helpful. One was a 21 miler in Minnesota over Christmas. I was listening to podcasts and felt like I could run all day. My goal was 8:30s or slower, but I kept having to slow down. It was a huge confidence booster, and I threw in a hard final (uphill) mile at 7 minute pace.
Another was two weeks out. Sarah and I did a 16 miler that included six late miles at race pace. I averaged 7:00 and felt strong in the wind and warm temps. She crushed it too.
Finally, one workout I did about 10 days out before the half and full was a set of 8-10 800s with a minute cruise recovery after each. Before Monumental I averaged 3:22s on the track and before A1A I averaged 3:17s at a hilly park, so my fitness had definitely improved.
Aside from running, I tried to get in three swims a week and an easy bike. I also strength trained a couple times weekly. Everything worked well, because I never had so much as one little ache or pain throughout the whole training cycle.
My husband Damien and I also really cleaned up our eating. We are plant based already, but cut flour and sweets a month before the race which allowed me to get down to racing weight of about 123. I also continued to do intermittent fasting about 5-6 days a week.
Damien, Sarah and I flew into Fort Lauderdale the afternoon before the race, which was not ideal. We felt pretty rushed going to packet pickup and lunch. But we got to hang out with our friends Bo and Kara at lunch, so that was nice.
For dinner, we went to Vegan Fine Foods and I had a big plate of macaroni and cheese with chorizo. This was after a big buffalo tempeh burger at lunch. I hadn’t consumed flour since Christmas, so why not stuff myself full of it the day before the race? What could go wrong?!

Damien and I woke up at The Granada Inn (lovely boutique hotel) the morning of the race at about 4am, since it would be a 6am start. I didn’t want to get up for my typical Picky Bars oatmeal breakfast that I usually eat three hours out, so I had a stroopwafel with a little peanut butter about at 5am. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling like I had a brick in my stomach from poor food choices the previous day.
The good news is that the weather looked spectacular. The humidity was low, and it was 55 degrees at the start. There wasn’t much wind either.
The three of us took an Uber to the start, with the strangest guy I’ve ever encountered. It reeked of BO in the car, and from what I gathered, he was dishonorably discharged from the military. He also had a big duffel bag in the front seat (full of weapons or maybe body parts) so we squished into the back. I felt grateful to have made it to the start line.

Because of the early start, it would be pitch black for several hours. Sarah and I went for a very easy jog to loosen up the muscles, and found a really nice bathroom. My lower GI system was not cooperating, and I was a little worried about bathroom breaks during the race.
Finally, we made our way through the crowds to the front of the starting line. My plan was to go out with the 3:15 pace group, but I didn’t see them. The gun went off, and I just went by feel because I couldn’t see much in the dark.

The first mile was quick, 7:01. I felt great but had planned closer to 7:15s, so slowed down a little.
At mile two, I had a sudden debilitating pain in my foot. It lasted about a mile, and fortunately disappeared as quickly as it appeared. It would be one of many sensations related to wearing Nike Next % in the wrong size. I had worn them on a training run, and could tell they were a little too big but my correct size was sold out so I figured I would put up with them.
Around mile two, my husband Damien joined me. I don’t think we have ever been able to run in a race together. He was doing his first half in six years, due to a long time knee injury. We also joined up with another guy and were able to chat and take our minds off the impending 24 more miles of doom.

A few miles in, as we got to the coast, we were herded into a loop around the Hugh Burch State Park. It was like going into a haunted house. It was dark, eerie and there were creepy animal noises. Maybe our Uber driver was lurking in the trees. You couldn’t see at all in there, and a few people tripped and collided. However, once we exited, we turned onto A1A along the water just as the sky was beginning to turn a muted pink. Watching the sunrise during those earlier miles would be magical.

Damien stayed with us until mile 8 eight or so, and then he hit the turnaround of the half. He was all smiles, and I knew it would be a good day for him. I hated to say goodbye though!
My new friend and I stayed together a while longer, and we picked up another guy Kevin. We came across the half split at 1:33 and change, about 7:08 avg. Kevin said his goal was to stay with us until the turnaround at mile 15ish. He did, and at the turnaround I found myself pulling ahead of them and entering no man’s land.

This race has a lot more participants in the half compared to only about 600 of us in the full. The turnaround was a mile loop through a residential neighborhood, and the cones marking the way were a little confusing for me. The road was also a little uneven so this was the toughest part of the race for me (so far.) I eventually came out, and was surprised to hear the volunteers shouting “Second place female!”
It was about mile 17 when I started to feel the effects. My left hip/adductor had been bugging me for several miles and I kept debating whether to stop and stretch it. I didn’t. Now my muscles were starting to tighten and I was having to put in some effort.
I stayed on top of nutrition well. I ate a Huma gel at the start, and would nip on them throughout the race for a total of three gels. I also took a couple good gulps of water at most aid stations. In the later miles, I walked for a few seconds to get the water down without choking. It was also getting warm now, so I was dumping the extra water behind my Headsweats visor and down my back.

About mile 23 I was starting to pick up a lot of the slower half marathoners, so there was a lot of weaving in and out of people. I was also feeling rough, and was going to need to hit a bathroom soon. In that regard, I would make it. The woman behind me would not, as she mentioned on Instagram that she “crapped her pants at mile 16,” and I love her for owning that.
Fortunately, the scenery was changing into lots of beachside shops, bars and more spectators. This helped with the motivation. I could feel my pace slowing now, and I had to really push to keep moving. 7:20s was all I could do now, and I did fall off pace about a minute on the final 5k.
Finally, I could see the beach park where we would finish. I started smiling, and couldn’t stop. This was going to be about a 15 minute PR!

I turned into the last stretch and could hear Damien and Kara screaming in excitement. I tried to pick it up, but I think I just finished steady in 3:07. I was handed the biggest medal I’ve ever seen, and then went straight to the port o’ potty.

I found my friends and was able to watch Sarah finish in an amazing BQ performance that gave me goosebumps. She trained incredibly hard for this race, and being new to marathons we knew that a BQ would be a stretch goal. But she did it and it was just awesome to bear witness to that. I almost cried, and I am not an emotional type!
Damien was also super excited about his half. He picked up the final miles to finish in 1:32 and loved every second of it. Kara had really enjoyed the half too, despite battling some injuries.
We watched our other teammate Bo come to the finish with a huge smile too. His goal was to break four hours, and he ran a 3:57. That was about a half hour PR for him. What an exciting day!
Afterward, we all hung out (along with other friends Grae and Gilly who also had big days.) This race has the best finish line atmosphere of any race I have ever done. It is right on the beach, with palm trees and ocean backdrop. The sun and the temps were perfect to prevent that typical post-race chill.

After collecting our awards, Sarah and I decided to walk the 1.2 miles home. The sand and ocean water in our toes felt amazing, and was the perfect way to end a perfect morning. I also managed to get lost trying to cut through a huge parking garage, so that was fun 28 miles into my day. There was no cursing or anything. Damien hitched a ride home and was chilling by the pool by the time I arrived.

I would hands down do this race again, but I don’t know if we would get so lucky again with the weather. At any rate, it made me realize that maybe the marathon is my distance, and it would be fun to buckle down and do another one later this year. We’ll see what happens.

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Breaking 90 (Monumental Half Race Report)

I am not usually one to write race reports, but since this has been a long time goal I want to get it in print before I start forgetting the details. 

Although I focused on triathlons this season, I had some solid races this spring (1:30:33 at Carmel, and 1:30:47 at Derby) so I knew that I was knocking on the door. 

They say the average runner who begins racing in adulthood only has seven years before they reach their peak. I’m 41 and have been racing consistently since 2008, so should be on the downward trend. But as a coach, I have seen numerous athletes defy the odds. Masters athletes can not only excel, but continue to improve for much longer than predicted. 

On the day before the Monumental Half Marathon, Wendy, Kara and I piled into Sarah’s Jeep for the three hour trek to Indy. We checked into our downtown hotel, walked to the very crowded race expo, and then searched for a restaurant. With two of us being being plant based, dinner could have been tricky but the Yard House was perfect for a mix of meat eaters and veggie eaters. I had the Gardein orange chick’n bowl with rice, and the hummus appetizer. Everyone liked their food and the ambiance was good.

After watching some HGTV, Wendy and I went to sleep early. I set my alarm for 2.5 hours before the race, so I could eat my Picky Bars beets-and-chocolate oatmeal. It sounds weird but don’t knock it til you try it. 
Since the weather was pretty frigid (it would be 27 at the start with cold winds) we headed to the hotel gym to warm up. Why had I never done this before? I biked for 20 minutes, ran for 6 minutes on the treadmill with a couple pick ups, and then foam rolled and did the Myrtl Routine to loosen up the hips. It all felt much better than battling the elements outside! 

About twenty minutes before the start we headed out, and finished with a few form drills. We all wished each other luck and headed to our separate starting positions. I was dressed appropriately in a tee shirt with arm warmers, gloves, Senita capris, Nike 4% shoes and a Headsweats cap. A winter hat or headband would have been too warm, so I glad I didn’t wear that.

The gun went off, and I quickly muscled my way into the huge 1:30 pace pack. The first few miles were total chaos- feet clipping each other, elbows flying, people swearing, people apologizing and lots of stress. It was also kind of exciting, so the first few miles went by fast. 
 By mile 4 the pack started to thin out just a bit. Michael, the pacer, had done a really good job keeping it steady. At this point I can usually tell if it going to be a good race, and I had definitely found my rhythm and was feeling optimistic. He did take the next two miles “a little hot,” with a 6:35 and 6:38, but he quickly dialed us in with a few slower miles that allowed me to regroup. 

This course is pretty uneventful, being almost completely flat aside from a couple very gentle inclines and declines. As the miles ticked by, I engaged the pacer and a few others into conversation. I learned at Carmel that disassociation is a useful mental tactic for me. We talked about favorite races, injuries, training and pacing. One of the girls mentioned she was a high school senior coming off an 11th place finish in the KY State Championship Cross Country Meet, so that was pretty neat.

As far as fueling, I didn’t do much. I had sipped on Tailwind all night and morning, so was well hydrated. I had one strawberry Huma gel that I nipped on every few miles. I took a small swig of water around mile 6 and a small swig of Gatorade later in the race. 
At mile 10 I was feeling fantastic. I thought about surging ahead, but this goal had been coming for such a long time, and I didn’t want to do anything risky. Usually at this point in the race, I am slowing by 5-10 seconds per mile and trying not to dry heave, as I watch the 1:30 pace pack disappear into the horizon. So this was a breath of fresh air! 
We now had a very small pack of about seven guys and one or two other women. At mile 11 or so, we turned into a substantial, cold headwind. I was happy I decided to stay with the pack, because the group provided slight relief from the wind. 
At mile 12.5 I felt incredible, and knew it was time to go. I could not stop smiling, because I knew I would achieve that elusive sub 90 goal. That mile ended up being one of my fastest at 1:40, and I sprinted to the finish to officially get a 1:29:12.

At the finish I found Wendy and Azurdee. We all train together often, so it was no surprise that we finished within one minute of each other. Sarah finished a few minutes later with a huge 15 minute PR, and Kara crushed her first half. Another client, Sandy, had a strong race too. 
Monumental is a perfect, late season race. The flat course combined with chilly weather is conducive to fast times, so it is always popular for Olympic Trials qualifiers. They had 39 runners qualify this year! 
Now that the sub 90 is in the bag, it is time to find some new goals. With that race being as comfortable as it was, I feel like there is plenty more gas in the tank. It will be fun to pick out some new goals over the off season! 

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2019 USAT Duathlon Nationals in Greenville, SC: Race Report

Luke, Caroline, Dolores, Ben, Erin, our friend Laura, and Sarah

Rocksport Training’s first official group trip took place in Greenville, SC, after several of our members elected to compete in this early season race. We booked an AirBnB, and traveled down from Lexington, KY (and Louisville) with plans to race Sunday.

We all arrived Friday afternoon to a beautiful house in a peaceful and wooded neighborhood less than ten minutes from the venue. The house slept ten, and we filled all ten of those spots with two of us having to utilize the sleeper sofa (thanks Caroline and Matthew!) Several of us headed to White Duck Taco for a casual, outdoor bite while waiting on others to arrive later that evening.

Greenville is a lovely venue, and we had time to do some exploring Saturday despite intermittent rain (which would be par for the course over the weekend.) We started off the morning with a planned shakeout ride through the neighborhood. On the second mile, we came around the corner and suddenly faced one of the steepest hills I have ever seen! In fact, I worried about our riders running out of gears before reaching the top. Fortunately no one toppled over, and we were able to re-route and do an out and back into town.

We followed that adventure with a quick drive to packet pickup. The draft-legal races had just finished up, and we were impressed with the venue. Being a USAT Nationals event, everything was top notch. It had all the bells and whistles of the Triathlon Nationals, with the huge finish line, bleachers, transition area, etc. Volunteers were everywhere and there appeared to be millions of cones marking the course. No one would be getting lost! The expo was small with only a couple vendors but packet pickup was painless and super fast.

After packet pickup. we headed to Sidewall Pizza with our other friend Sally and her mom, and then walked down to check out Falls on the Reedy park. The sun had miraculously appeared, and the flowers were in full bloom. The waterfalls were spectacular, and everything was so walkable, Kids, dogs, couples and athletes were all milling about. What a great destination!

At 6am on race morning, we made the long journey (about 5 minutes) to transition. It was humid and it was also a little rainy, which would continue all morning. Transition spots were numbered, so it was easy to get set up. And the best thing about this race? With only a few hundred competitors, port o potty lines were non existent!

Everyone from our group was racing the standard, non-drafting race with a distance of 5.25 mile run, 25 mile bike and a 2.85 mile finishing run. We were all in different age groups, but I would be starting in the women 50 and under wave along with two of my athletes, Caroline and Sarah. (Sarah would also do the sprint later that afternoon in stormy weather.) After a short warm up, we had to duck for cover for a few minutes due to a torrential downpour. Thankfully, it lightened as we headed to the start.

The starting line was impressive! They had a wonderful announcer, who was introducing some of the strongest competitors and reading their race resumes. I heard the words “Champion” and “All-American” a lot. One thing about this race, the athletes were in it to win it. They had flown in from places like Texas, California and Oregon. I felt very humbled to be standing up there with such dominant women athletes.

When the gun went off, this group of women took off like a bat out of hell. It was hard not to get swept away with the crowd, so I aimed to hold back along with my athlete Caroline. I knew our run speed would be similar, so we had elected to go out together. The first quarter mile was straight up a hill in humidity that we were not ready for, so our heart rates were surging early.

Once we found a rhythm we started to pick off a few of the girls who had overexerted themselves early. We held a high 6:40’s pace most of the way, and backed off a bit the final mile to regroup a bit before the bike.

I lost a few seconds in transition, as I was more careful due to the rain/ wet conditions. Jumping on the bike, we were met with about a half mile of twisty and winding curves through the parking lot, so it was not super easy to get the shoes adjusted. But once we left the park that was the end of the technical portion.

The bike course was not easy. It didn’t have any particularly steep or challenging hills, but it seems to be a constant battle against high wind (especially crosswinds) and long grinders. I never did find my rhythm. The only thing that kept it interesting was that I played cat and mouse with a strong cyclist who was in the age group ahead of me. She was on a road bike, and was killing it. Any time I would get too comfortable, she would pass me, and then it would be a challenge to keep her in sight.

25 miles later we re-entered transition. Again, I rode into the park at a very conservative pace being careful of the wet, twisty roads. I made it through transition with a less-than-impressive time.

For our second run, it was back up the steep hill. I passed a couple girls on the hill, and then settled into some kind of rhythm. This was my first duathlon in years, and despite preparing well, I had forgotten how heavy-legged you feel on race day!

My second run was less than stellar, but I seemed to be holding my own and continued to pass a few folks. About half a mile in I passed the girl I had cat and moused with on the bike. She was looking strong. I managed to hold about 7:00 pace but just couldn’t find that extra gear. The bike course had been more fatiguing than I expected.

With a half mile to go, I started chatting with a local guy and we stuck together for most of the homestretch. The downhill finish was awesome, and the announcer was great about calling us each by name as we crossed the finish line!

After grabbing some water, I was able to watch our other athletes come in. Caroline came in just about a minute ahead of Sarah. Dolores finished strong, and so did Luke. Ben had an impressive race as well! Between our group, we had three podiums and all of us were invited to compete for Team USA in the Netherlands.

As far as my race, I was in a very tough age group. Despite being 7th overall with a 2:08, I could only swing third in the women’s 40-44 age group. I was pretty consistent across the three legs, with my bike being slightly better than my runs as usual.

Next year this race moves to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I am already putting it on the calendar. It is later in the season- May 31, so we will have to get ready for a heat wave!

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Four Can’t-Live-Without Brands in Multisport

When it comes to training and racing tri’s, there are obviously some brands that make our lives simpler. We have Cervelo, Hoka, Body Glide, Swiftwick and GU. Most of us could not live without our Garmins. But there also tend to be some brands that fall under the radar. Through many years of triathlon, I have finally narrowed it down to my fab four underrated favorites.



Amrita:  I am in love with these protein bars! The founder of the company, Arshad Bahl, developed these healthy, organic and raw bars after dealing with his son’s food allergies.  So these bars are free of dairy, gluten, nuts, soy, oil and preservatives.  But they taste phenomenal! The dark chocolate quinoa and the chocolate chip coconut are hand’s down my two favorites. They are great for quick breakfasts, and long bike rides. A while back, I had to cut back on them, as I was eating 4-5 a day (don’t judge,) and even though they are reasonably priced, that adds up on the pocketbook! So now I am a two-a-day girl. If you haven’t tried these packages of goodness yet, you are missing out! Click here to visit Amrita.


Zwift: I am a full fledged addict. If you are looking to take your cycling to the next level, look no further. Paired with a smart trainer, this is what I attribute to my biggest gains as a cyclist in almost a decade of riding. Set up your trainer, connect to a monitor in front of a bike, and guide your customized avatar through the streets of London, NYC and even a magical island called Watopia. You can do group rides (with realistic drafting,) workouts and race against others! It makes indoor riding exciting and very realistic. You might even find yourself praying for rain so that you can ride inside.  Click here to visit Zwift.



Roka: you can’t beat their goggles and wetsuits. I have tried probably 50 pairs of goggles over the years, and only two don’t leak. One is the Aqua Sphere Vista Mask (which makes you look like an awkward scuba diver/ swimmer) and the other is the Roka X1. They are comfortable with good visibility, and fog less than others. I am crazy about the amber lens! Click here to visit Roka.

Headsweats: For years, I have been obsessed with Headsweats visors. For us heavy sweaters, the sweatband prevents sweat from pouring down our faces. They are cute, comfortable and I feel naked without one. Ask anyone who knows me, and they can attest that I am never seen running without one. I had applied for years to represent this company, and 2019 finally brings my dream of being a Headaweats ambassador!  Click here to visit Headsweats. (Also, check out the $5 grab bags available from their website- receiving them is as exciting as Christmas morning!) Use code Erinrockrun25 for 25% off.



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How to Own Your Indoor FTP Test

“FTP Test.”  That phrase alone is enough to bring the heart rate up to a mid-Zone 4, and turn my palms into clammy seal fins.  For those of you who are still blissfully unaware, FTP stands for “Functional Threshold Power.”  In the cycling world, it means the maximum power (in watts) that you can theoretically hold in a one hour time trial.  But rather than forcing us riders to kill ourselves for a whole hour, the typical testing protocol involves inducing some fatigue through a series of shorter intervals before sending us on a ride-or-die, torturous twenty minutes of hell.

dewgong on body of water

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As a USA Triathlon coach, I have had plenty of experience with FTP tests among both my athletes and myself over the years.  I have made numerous mistakes, some of which still cause me to cringe.  However, last night I executed the textbook FTP test. My average watts remained unchanged from the first minute to the twentieth minute, making it as consistent as it gets.  It resulted in an FTP only three points off my all-time best (despite that this is off-season and it should not have been that high,) and failed to send me into a gagging, crumpled heap upon finishing.   Afterwards, I reflected on the factors that set this particular test up for success, and decided to share these tips and tricks.

1.  Use the Fan as a Training Tool.  For the few weeks going into this test, I trained without my fan.  Yes, I know what you heavy sweaters are thinking… that you will have a puddle the size of a Great Dane’s piss pool under your bike.  Well throw a bath towel over your handlebars and endure cleaning that nastiness for a couple weeks.  Suck it up.  On testing day, bring that fan back into action and set it on full-in-the-face-blast.  You’ll get the same effect as training in summer heat and then racing on that first chilly, fall day.  Free speed!

black vent close up photography

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2.  Develop a Fueling Plan.  This time of year, people are targeting weight loss resolutions and cutting calories.  In the day or two before your test, don’t do this.  If you are intermittent fasting, revert to hearty breakfasts.  Oatmeal with almond butter, protein powder and a banana did it for me.  Eat at least two hours out.  I also aim for a Huma gel just before my ride, and another gel during the six minute recovery spin just before the time trial.  Make sure you’ve been hydrating all day.  Have both water options and sports drink or electrolyte drink options within reach.

3.  Change up your Music.  I love my Alice in Chains and Rage Against Machine during hard workouts, but I have too many memories of crashing and burning to “Man in the Box.”  Change it up on test day.  Try something new.  I am not normally into dance music, but on test day my bike room was hoppin’ like a gay nightclub straight outta the 90’s. Pandora was on Sandstorm radio, and I had a healthy dose of La Bouche, Faithless and CeCe Penniston to see me through this battle.  I dare you to even think about throwing in the towel when “The Rhythm of the Night” is blasting in your ears.  Techno not your thing?  Take it gangsta style and throw in some Warren G and NWA.  Or go with a hair band theme with Def Leppard and Warrant.  Just change it up.

people dancing inside building

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4.  Dress Right.  And that is usually as near-naked as possible.  My go-to outfit is a retired pair of thin tri shorts (too see-through for the road,) a sports bra and a Headsweats visor because that is the only thing that will keep the sweat from rushing down my face.  Don’t wear anything that may be a problem.  Bib shorts can sometimes get too heavy and water-logged feeling.  No need for a shirt obviously.

5.  The Warm Up Sprints Might Feel Awful.  And that’s OK.  More often than not, I think about giving in during the warm up intervals because they feel brutally hard.  It’s because we are not warmed up yet, and our mental focus is not yet ready.  Hang in there.  Things will improve.

6.  Trust Your Instincts.  If you’ve done a few of these tests already, you should be a decent judge of what you can and cannot hold.  Start out about 5% easier than you think you’re capable of, and adjust after that first minute if needed.  Once you find your rhythm, aim for consistency.  Don’t surge.  Focus on your movement pattern, and keep those watts as steady as possible.

There you have it.  When done right, FTP tests are not as painful as they need to be.  (Think getting run over by a Corolla vs getting run over by an Escalade.)  Good luck in you next attempt, and ride on!

active bikes cyclist elderly

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Veestro: My Introduction to Meal Delivery

(Note: I am not sponsored by Veestro, and they never asked me to write a review.  This is unbiased.)

Several weeks ago, I was thumbing through the latest issue of Veg News magazine when something caught my eye.  It was my name, as first prize winner of a giveaway!  My award would be 30 days of free meal delivery from Veestro, a plant-based company out of Vernon, California.

I had heard about meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Plated for a while now, but had never learned the details.  I had low expectations, thinking I would be getting frozen dinners comparable to Amy’s or Healthy Choice, both found at my local Kroger.

After a wonderful welcome email from the co-founder of Veestro, Monica Klausner. I learned that my shipments would be arriving every Friday over the next four weeks.

The first order arrived exactly when it was due, and it came in a huge box packed expertly with dry ice. I wondered how I would ever fit everything in my freezer!  As Damien and I unpacked, we were like two kids on Christmas morning.  These meals were clearly restaurant quality, and looked incredible!  Plus, there was enough food to feed an army!

Since I do have an Irish husband, we quickly chose the sheperdless pie as our first dinner.  We took it out of it’s tray, and threw it in the oven for the instructed time.  It did take slightly longer than the directions listed, but I’m sure this depends on your oven.

When we took it out, we had two dinners that looked like something you’d be served in a gourmet restaurant.  And the taste did not disappoint!  As we came down to the last few bites, we both slowed down because neither of us wanted it to end!

Since then, we have tried a few others: Thai chick’n stew, breakfast burritos and the Beluga lentil braise.  They are all delicious and I would give them all five out of five stars. The portions are decent-sized too, even for us endurance athletes. It would be hard to pick a favorite.  We have others to look forward to as well:


As you can see, these meals were picked from the weight loss plan, which means they are among their healthier options.  They do have a chef’s choice plan, which includes some more splurge-worthy meals like pizzas and baked mac and cheez.

With many people wanting to dial in their nutrition for the New Year, winter is a perfect time to get on board.  The prices are reasonable too, with meals in the $10 to $12 range.  Plus, they often have big discounts like this one:


After playing around on the website, we learned you can customize everything to your preferences.  There are some meals I am looking forward to trying later this month, like the country fried chick’n dinner and the Tuscan calzone.

Overall, I am so impressed with the logistics of Veestro.  This would be a perfect system for a busy professional who works late, or someone who wants to cut down their time in the kitchen.  My husband and I both love to cook, but it has been wonderful taking a break and having everything ready to go!

I had never dreamed of using a meal delivery service before, but after my month runs out, we have already decided that we will use this again during busier months over the upcoming year.



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Intermittent Fasting: It’s Not a Diet

There has been a lot of buzz in the fitness industry about intermittent fasting. As a fitness professional, I am always skeptical about new trends. But IF (intermittent fasting) is far from a trend.

If you haven’t heard the phrase before, let me offer a brief explanation. IF is not a diet, but an eating schedule. Typically, it is eating according to a daily, eating window. The most common ratio is an eight hour daily eating window, typically 11am to 7pm, or noon to 8pm. This means that for 16 hours of the day, your body is in a “fasted” state.

Now that we’ve established that, how does it work? First of all, it is a very simple way to cut calories. The key to weight loss is a caloric deficit, and this achieves that by basically cutting breakfast, and eliminating late-night snacking. And secondly, when we are in the fasted state, our bodies have to tap into our fat stores for energy. Thus, we burn more fat.

I began fasting about five months ago. Being used to hearty breakfasts, I did have hunger cravings the first week. Ever since then, it has been easy. Like many others, I feel less bloated and experience more clarity in the mornings. It is easier to focus. After some initial weight loss, it has been easy to maintain my goal weight. As an endurance athlete, I stick to six days a week because I do like to fuel on my 3-5 hour long bike morning.

Many highly-respected nutritionists, strength-coaches and athletes swear by IF. About half of my clients do it, and all have seen results.  Unlike other trends such as low-carb, Atkins, paleo, etc. this is NOT a diet and that is why it works. It does not involve religiously counting calories, logging info into food journals or weighing your meals. And it can work for anyone, whether you are an athlete or sedentary.  However, if you truly want to get the most bang for your buck, fasted cardio will give you an edge. Biking, running, rowing or any other cardio (even walking) at the end of that fasting window will turn you into a fat-burning machine!

If you’re interested in giving this a try, I suggest printing out the guide and calendar template from Nerd Fitness. They also discuss some other options (such as a shorter eating window and a weekly 24 hour fast) but for the sake of simplicity I suggest starting with the eight hour feeding window.  Here is a link to the download

So let me offer you a challenge. Let’s start on Thanksgiving and finish on Christmas. Log results on the provided template daily. Who is with me?

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Eight Traits of Highly Successful Athletes

It’s hard to believe I am entering my fifth year as a multisport coach.  Time has flown by, and I continue to learn something every day.

During this time, I’ve observed that the most successful of athletes seem to share many similar traits.  No, it’s not that they are 21 years old, post-collegiate athletes and have all the time in the world to train.  In fact, some of these may be surprising.  Drum roll please…

1.  They are consistent.  This is the mother load.  The more they stick to the workouts, the more likely they are to succeed in reaching their goals.  When I post a set of workouts, I expect that an athlete will hit 85% of their workouts.  That has been the historical average.  Sure, life happens and a missed workout every couple weeks isn’t going to hurt.  But if I notice it becoming a trend, it might be time to rethink goals.  On the other hand, I have several athletes in the 95% range and sometimes 100%.  When one runner asked if, after hitting every workout for three months straight, she could cut a workout ten minutes short due to an appointment I knew she would be golden!

2.  They are not afraid to go easy on easy days.  I spend an ungodly amount of time reprimanding folks for hitting too ambitious of paces on recovery days.  Yesterday, I wrote a “thank you” text to a client for nailing this.  One of my fastest athletes logged a recovery run in the 10:00 pace ballpark.  She could have run the same workout at 7:00 pace without much discomfort.  The famous coach and author Hal Higdon has touched on this subject in his books, explaining that even the Kenyans will go at a pedestrian pace on recovery days.  This is how we grow and improve!

3.  They are not afraid of hills.  In the past, I have had athletes seek out the flattest terrain for every single workout.  Unless it is specified in the instructions, there is no reason to avoid hills.  And here in Lexington, Kentucky there is no shortage!  Hills are our friends.  They activate our important posterior chain muscles (often lacking in runners) and build strength, which is vital to keeping injuries at bay.

rear view of man on mountain road against sky

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4.  They are more likely to be Type A personalities.  The athlete who runs circles around their car to avoid the dreaded 9.93 miles on their Garmin is probably going to be more likely to hit their goal than the athlete who stops on an odd number.  I’ve also observed athletes cool down a little longer to hit 45:00 rather than the 43:37 that was on their watch when the workout officially ended.  These athletes send me spreadsheets of their race goals, have a highly organized scheduler and probably don’t sleep well enough.  That said, I have some Type B athletes who can crush it!

5.  They are in touch with their nutrition.  Most of my successful athletes have a good idea of their racing weight, and stay on top of their eating after learning what works for them.  Many are careful.  I have numerous vegetarians/ vegans, a few gluten-free and a few with food allergies.  However, these folks are not afraid to indulge in the occasional dessert or cocktail.  Eating healthy 80% of the time is a sign that you have a healthy relationship with food.

6.  They hit the gym regularly.  Even though I don’t program much strength-training onto their calendars, they realize how important this is.  They all have memorized Nike Coach Jay Johnson’s Myrtl Routine (short hip mobility workout.)  They also strength-train or participate in classes; some teach classes (we have yoga and spin class teachers) and a couple have backgrounds in body-building.  If you are thinking of strength training, check out The New Rules of Lifting, by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.  That book really simplifies the program and is doable for all levels.

person wearing black shorts and blue lace up low top sneaker holding black barbell

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7.  They have crazy schedules.  My typical athletes are doctors, lawyers, accountants, or moms and dads with a LOT on their plates.  They are able to fit in their workouts and sleep by only the most strategic of planning.  One prime example jumps to mind.  Last year at Ironman Louisville, one of my athletes (we’ll call him Cheung) was a full-time student and worker.  He finished his 12 hour night shift and headed straight to the starting line, getting into his wetsuit with just minutes to spare.

8.  They are pet owners.  This one has been a surprise to me, but almost every single successful athlete who I have coached is a pet owner or past pet owner- dogs, cats, horses; you name it.  I have a triathlete in Egypt who always does her cool downs with her dog.  Another triathlete competes in canine biathlons.  I have a runner in California who recently discovered the joys of running with a dog, to the extent that we looked into “canicross.”  This new sport involves racing with the assistance of a pulling dog.  Unfortunately, they haven’t developed anything similar for my successful feline owners.  Anyway, my theory here is that owning pets is a huge responsibility and you have to stay on top of it daily- just like training for these races.  Responsible people make disciplined athletes.

Which of these traits do you possess?

beagle running between grasses

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