Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seasons change

November is nearly here! Last year at this time, it kicked off two months with no training structure. It was my choice and very much supported by Coach Jim. At that time I wrote,
"Nearly two weeks in, I have been oddly at peace doing very little. I'm OK with not having a plan and structure!"
This year I thought I would do basically the same thing and pull the plug from training structure for two months starting November 1.

October was a perfect mental deceleration from the race season and I enjoyed it a lot! I had a few things I wanted to do, and Coach Jim put together a nice schedule with an appropriately relaxed vibe.

Looking ahead, my November Training Peaks calendar was blank, as requested, left for me to fill in as I chose. But as I saw my final day of structured training approach, I was not feeling good about it. I was not feeling at peace. I was feeling dread. I didn't want that empty calendar.

This year my gut told me I still want and need some structure to my activity. I don't want to be wondering if I'm doing too much or not enough. I like having that workout on the calendar to get me out the door, but also to keep me in check. Left to my own devices I will always err on the side of more is better.

So I reversed course on my decision and asked Coach Jim to provide some structure and he agreed.

Everything you read about the "off season" says lose the structure and in general I support that, but I also believe in following one's instincts about what is best at the time. This year I'd just rather have some direction and I know he'll keep it fun and flexible.

We planted the beautiful tree in the top photo 11 years ago from a tiny seedling that my mom suggested we bring from our old house. It's not the same as it was a year ago, and neither am I. It's important to set course from where you are at the moment, and not where you were a year ago, or where you plan to be, or where you wish you were.

I was happy to see my calendar begin to fill again and glad for a Coach who understands the changing currents of life and sport that sometimes call for a little more rudder, and sometimes a little less.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Off Season Adventure

We each approach our off season a little differently. It's a time to rest, a time to build strength and address weaknesses, and a time to recharge. I tend to have a few phases to my off season.

Immediately after my last triathlon wraps, I find myself eager for adventure and change and different outlets for my fitness. I'm happy to let go of paces and watts and prescribed intensity. In the four weeks since my last race, I've enjoyed the following:

112 miles (Iron distance bike) on the bike trainer - split between 64 miles on Saturday and 48 on Sunday. This was the weekend the hurricane blew through the east coast making it too rainy to do my prescribed double-ride weekend safely outside. I rode on the trainer on Zwift (the virtual reality multi-cyclist riding community that is awesome). I decided to knock out a metric century (and then some) on Saturday, and then get to a total of 112 on Sunday. I watched a bunch of movies and made it a fun challenge!

Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival Century Ride - This was my first ever century ride that was part of an organized ride. I was not nervous about handling the 100 miles and 6000' of climbing, I was nervous that I'd miss a turn and get lost! I did not miss a turn, and I did not get lost, however, something went glitchy on my Garmin and the mileage count was way off. I knew something was not adding up quite right but didn't fully realize it until I asked a fellow century rider how far in were were and he replied "65" to my reading of "49.5". It felt like I had time-travelled!! What a surprise that was! (I think the glitch came because I had loaded the course on my Garmin and didn't remember to activate it until about 15 miles into the ride.) Anyway, I had an awesome time out there!!

Brush Mountain Breakdown 12 Mile Trail Race - It's been a few years since I've done this small local favorite race. My goal was only to run happy and safely as the trail is very rocky in places and covered with leaves. I like the mental challenge of trail running. I told Coach Jim that my brain is so busy concentrating on where to put my feet (especially downhills where I am very slow/conservative) that there is no room for doubt, judgement, or negative self talk. You can't be anywhere but in the moment or you risk a fall. On the second half of the run I connected up with three young women runners and we had a great time running together. We traded leads some, but mainly I followed their springy and sure-footed steps. We separated in the final miles and I finished third overall, happy and healthy! That was the most fun I have had running in a long time!

nice elevation profile

Photo by Kristen Chang of

I am glad to have had some different fun this month but I'm ready to chill out a bit and start thinking about the holidays. I plan to step up my gym workouts and re-establish that routine, along with adding more consistent stretching and flexibility work.

Today, though, is a rest day for sure. I am happily enjoying the appropriate amount of full-body soreness!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Move the brain and the body

Most of the day, my brain moved FAST and my body was quiet.

At the end of the day, I let my body move FAST and my brain was quiet. 


My life is pretty much full tilt from 5 am to 10 pm but I think what makes it doable is that the mind and body trade off. They each get exercised, and they each get rest. It is my personal formula for "work/life balance." They are complementary and symbiotic.

Today was a typical example. I started with our coached group swim then it was a solid day in front of the computer with lots of "gear switching" - newsletters, writing, websites, spreadsheets, email, phone calls, and organizing. All good, I love LOVE my work and the awesome folks I get to support, but after a while - you know - the computer just feels a little toxic.

Around 5:45 pm I headed out for a 30 minute spin squished in before dinner duty. I felt like I was bursting out the door for recess and I'm sure it was one of my fastest work-to-bike transitions.

The adult in me moved aside and let the kid take over. Six years in and the rush of flying on my bike is no less exciting. I get those "kid" moments swimming and running too.

I came home energized, bubbling over with happy, and ready to finish the day strong.

Making time each day to be active isn't "selfish." It's important that the body and the mind each get their time to shine. It's important to get outside and to play.

Daily I am grateful for the gifts and lessons of our sport.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The electronic reality of the "simple" indoor bike ride

With the chilly, rainy Saturday weather and the need to get in some miles for a century ride in two weeks, I hit the bike trainer yesterday in our playroom/computer room/kid hangout room. That's where the Apple TV is and it's hard to do an indoor metric century (100km = 62 miles) without some form of entertainment.

Seems simple - put the bike on the trainer (in my case a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine I bought used in 2010) and pedal. But it's gotten increasingly complicated, though no fault but my own, over the years.

To get started required swapping out the race wheels for the training wheels and adding the rear skewer that is best suited to the trainer (has metal end for trainer to grab onto, rather than lightweight plastic). From there, I crossed my fingers that my technology planets would all align and that all the following would be charged, communicating, and linked to work properly for my "simple" indoor ride:

  • the Garmin Vector power meter pedals
  • Garmin Edge 800 bike computer
  • Garmin Speed/Cadence sensor (calculates speed by wheel rotation and pedal cadence in absence of GPS)
  • Heart rate monitor 
  • ANT+ dongle in laptop
  • Macbook
  • Zwift software laptop (Zwift is a multi-rider, real-time virtual cycling course with rankings, KOMs, sprint jerseys etc. It's the video game of the cycling world.)
  • Zwift iPhone app (used for group communication and additional monitoring)
  • TV
  • Apple TV
  • iTunes
  • Noise canceling headphones and extension cord
  • Wireless network

Then I added water, snacks, towel, phone, remote control for TV, remote for Apple TV....

Me with kid and his Oculus Rift. Family virtual reality...egad!

Geez, can you say "high maintenance?" 

Amazingly enough, everything worked from the get-go and I had a very fun ride on Zwift Island with about 170 other cyclists. Periodically, my youngest would check in and urge me on to catch the next person, and I'd oblige, despite the fact that it was supposed to be an aerobic ride only. It's hard not to get a little excited on there.

Even Trixie got caught up in the excitement! Not!

I kept one eye on Zwift on the laptop, the other on the movie (it ended up being a 2-movie ride). Incidentally, I have a hard time sitting through movies any other way. Watching while cycling is my preference! 

Cycling virtually with so many others from around the world really does make it so much more fun. There were a few of us with a metric or Imperial century goal and encouragement was plentiful!

(not me...but shows what it looks like)

Today's weather means another indoor ride. I will join the Zwift group riding with "Jensie" Jens Voigt at noon. Despite all the entertainment of an indoor ride, I still prefer the road. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Final Race of the Season: Giant Acorn Sprint

I finished my final race of the season yesterday - the Giant Acorn Sprint. I was coming off of Chicago, a week with a cold, and a total of an hour and a half of "training" in the week prior. Oh well! I was very relaxed, had zero pressure, and was ready to just have a good time!

We got SO lucky with the weather. The forecast called for rain...they didn't even bother to give a percentage chance...they just said RAIN. Fortunately at about 7:30 am on race day, the rain stopped, and we raced under cloudy skies but in cool and dry conditions that were nearly perfect for racing! (I did break out my fleece hat for the chilly morning air and I had just shed two jackets.)

The water was in the low 70's which was a nice change from the low 60's of my last few races. I actually got hot in my wetsuit.

I had a good-for-me swim and noticed there were not too many from my wave (the over 40's) ahead of me. It turned out there were seven ahead of me, fewer than usual. I could tell in the swim that my head was in a good happy place.

In transition I had trouble buckling my helmet strap. I'm realizing now, looking at its position on my head, that it was probably twisted and half the clasp was upside down. Duh! No matter! I also had trouble getting my feet into my bike shoes once I smashed them down to pedal up to speed. That's been an ongoing problem the last few races and I need to figure that out. 

It was a good effort on the 15.3 mile bike and I was happy to have the fastest bike spit of the 223 women! On my way in, I happened to see Parker Albright early in her run looking fast and strong. (Turn out that's because she WAS/IS fast and strong! She finished 3+ minutes ahead of second and third places.)

Then it was time to head out on my run, which starts up a hill, and continues up-up-up for the first 3/4 of a mile. I felt pretty decent and knew at some point we'd enjoy the down-down-down. The course rolled up and down before it finished on a running path through the woods that spits you out onto the sidewalk along the lake and into the finish chute! Very fun!!

I finished 20s behind second place but I was a swim wave behind her so there was no opportunity to try to chase her down. Nothing inspires a little extra effort like seeing competition up ahead!

I had a really good time. It was the perfect happy ending to leave me looking forward to next year. Better to finish wanting a little more (which I do, believe me) than to be burned out.

Next year it'll be top 'o the age group for me.

As we saw from the overall podium, age is but a number, with the overall winner Parker Albright at just age 13, second place Aimee Reeves at 38, and myself at 48. (race results here)

We got cool clocks for our efforts! Thanks to the Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series for another top-quality event and enjoyable regional racing!

All the best to my family, friends, and coach as they deal with me transitioning to "off season*."

* - possible side effects of "off season" may include century rides, pub runs, trail runs, and other activities that are not technically training or racing. "Off season" should be avoided if races remain on your calendar. "Off season" should not be used for extended periods of time. If symptoms of training and racing remain (obsession over pace/volume/distance/structure), consult your Coach and Sports Psychologist. For best results with "off season" get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet, adjust caloric intake appropriately, and get hooked on a Netflix series.