Claudia Blackburn

February, 2013

We continue with the second entry from Age Group triathlete Claudia Blackburn, akaIronmaiden”. Facing early season challenges, Claudia takes us through battle and triumph in The Good, the Challenging, the Ugly, and the Sublime.

The Good, the Challenging, the Ugly, and the Sublime

The Good…The Challenging
Overall, my training is going quite well. ‘Knock on wood,’ I have had no major setbacks regarding health issues since last October. Everything is holding… the plantar fasciitis has abated, the rotator cuff/shoulder is not bothering me, my heart rhythm is normal, lung function is creeping back to pre-pneumonia status, and I only have had periodic sciatica at night. Besides weight management, the greatest challenge is meeting the demands of an IM training plan while doing the rest of my life. With a recent move further from my place of work, I really have had to force myself to do at least one training session before I leave for work. This takes some dedication, since I must have a 30 minute pre-training session with a cup of coffee.

In the last 2 months, I have seen some significant gains, especially in biking and running. Thanks to the DC Saturday morning bike spin session, the commute to work with my 29er, and my targeted training plan, I am showing a greater ability to sustain higher watts than even three months ago on my bike. Also, I have come to realize that I enjoy suffering with others and that group “sufferfests” (aka Saturday spin class) produce better results – if nothing else, it supports one aspect of my psychological profile: a tendency toward athletic masochism.

The Ugly…
The current challenge is my weight and diet – it is my number one nemesis and limiter regarding performance. After the Ironman in November, I became more lax on this part of the training routine even though I wanted to continue with the same plan and attempt to drop more weight leading into the next season. I had great intentions, but another voice outwitted the sensible plan – “I deserve to lighten up on my food plan. You worked so hard this year.”

As I was leaving the Pearly Izumi factory outlet store in NH this past week, I realized, after a torturous moment trying on a women’s so called XL “size 10” tri suit that I had gone too far, and now I am pulling in the reins. How is it that I always forget that losing weight is always harder than gaining, that age makes it harder to lose, that I have no thyroid to manage metabolism naturally, that the premise – calories in versus calories burned – does not precisely translate to rapid weight loss? So I am back on a plan that works for me – a plan that supports training loads, involves higher amounts of protein, and no carbs at night.

The Sublime…
Oh… I have had such a good month. In testing performance and training markers with running, I was astounded that I ran a 5k at a 9:20 pace. I haven’t seen the nines in three years and never anticipated that I would have the capability of getting back in this range. While I may never get back to my PR set five years ago in an off road triathlon at 7:20 min/miles for a 5k, I see a remote possibility of hope – that I may be able to get faster in longer runs. I am excited.

Beyond the run, I hit a PR for cross country skiing. I love cross country skiing, and I always choose a winter race as an off season training incentive, Yet, I typically slog along in classic – mainly due to lack of actual training on skis before a race (dry land training for cross country skiing includes roller skis and long runs holding and planting ski poles – both look a little ridiculous). Just this week, I went to New Hampshire for a cross-country ski half-marathon in Maine that never happened due to a snowstorm (really). Instead, we created our own personal short classic race course in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. I dramatically improved – actually cutting my min/mile ski time by more than half. Ah… the rapid gains as a newbie! Though I have recreationally skied Nordic classic for 30 years, I am still a newbie in ski racing and just started taking race performance lessons in the last two years to develop efficiency as well as honing basic skills – I clocked in at a 6:05 minute/mile on a hilly course. I am blown away. And I hope I see that time again – maybe next winter! For now, I am quite content to say good bye to heated “heed” dispensed in five gallon buckets and onward to more palatable summer electrolytes!