Friday, April 29, 2016

Mental endurance and the busy brain

I have often said that my life is "balanced on the head of a pin." I make it all work, but perhaps just barely. It doesn't take much additional load to threaten that delicate balance.

Well, this year has been quite the test. The precarious balance has been challenged by the sudden loss of my father and the ensuing responsibilities of working with my sister to help my mom, including selling a house, buying a house, and planning for an interstate move. Now we have a central member of our family (our Grandfriend) fighting for his life, on day 17 in the ICU. And my best friend is going through tough times.

But, this is life. This IS life.

Through it all, I swim, bike, and run. It's an escape from the phone and computer, from decisions, and from the noise of life. I make it happen, even when I don't want to, and I bring my best to it, whatever it is on the day.

My physical fitness and physical endurance are pretty good and my bike power numbers are strong.
And thanks to the appetite-suppressing "benefit" of stress, I'm at a good race weight, lol.

The real challenge right now is mental endurance. A busy brain and heavy heart are the enemy of speed and endurance. The busy brain yells "quit" a lot. In that condition, there is little hope for resiliency if I am under-fueled, under-hydrated, or sleep deprived.

Last weekend I had a long brick that started with a strong bike, but then mid-run, I stopped and sat on a guardrail, sobbing, and wondering what I was doing. It was all I could do to finish.

In three weeks I am racing IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. I can't do that there. This may be my biggest racing challenge yet.

Time to dial in the mental game, nutrition, and sleep. Time to quiet the brain, and let the fitness do the job.

gratuitous Saki kitty picture

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My winter of indoor training

Up until this year, I was pretty hardcore about training outside unless it was dangerous (i.e. ice, potential zombie apocalypse, etc). This summed up my attitude:

This winter things really changed. One big reason was Zwift. Rather than dreading the boring indoor trainer ride, I came to enjoy it. I'd put a movie on one screen, Zwift on the other, and I positioned the kid's music stand horizontally for my phone, mouse, and fuel. It's a great setup and often better suited to the specific workouts I needed to accomplish.

I got curious and queried Training Peaks. Since January 1, I've done 43 bike rides, and only 8 of them outside. That's crazy! Prior years it was probably the complete opposite of that.

There's been a cascade effect with my runs. Of the 53 since the beginning of the year, just 26 have been outside; 27 have been on the treadmill in my basement or in a gym. In all of 2015 I only found one treadmill run on Training Peaks, there may have been a few more, but nothing close to 27!!

All 27 swims have been inside too (haha), whether at the pool or on the Vasa Swim Ergometer. That's not something I want to take outside in Virginia quite yet!

I've softened my stance on the indoor vs outdoor decision. There are some definite upsides to indoor training. On the bike I often get a better workout especially if the goal is to hold a particular power level. I can focus more fully. On the run I can hold a prescribed pace - something that is difficult to do on the roads. I can also push the pace more, again - no distractions! I run my easy runs easier because I do a better job of keeping tabs on my heart rate.

There are time efficiencies, and fewer layers/laundry in the winter! And for the longer training sessions on weekends it has allowed me to stay home among the family even if that just means they are walking by as I'm pedaling or running.

Indoor training also takes less mental energy to initiate. Over the last five weeks, with fragile emotions and an overloaded brain, the trainer and treadmill have been a salvation. When I have debated inside or outside (clearly procrastinating), Coach Jim reminds me to go with the one that is "easier to get started." After all, starting is the hardest part. I am fortunate I've had indoor, at-home options that have allowed me to keep up my training. If I had let training totally fall apart, I think I would have too.

I'm not discounting the importance of outdoor rides for bike handling skills, and not discounting the amazing benefits of outdoor rides and runs for the spirit. I look forward to more.

So, have I gotten soft? Or smart?

I don't know, but I no longer need to prove my toughness to the weather. Only to myself.