Monday, April 25, 2011

Elusive Sleep

My typical night has me in bed by 10:00, reading briefly, and fast asleep soon after. Then the fun begins as I wake up 2-4 times each night, with the first occurrence at around 1:00 am, but sometimes as early as 11:30. I'm usually up just briefly, maybe 5-10 minutes. By 5:15 or 5:30 I abandon sleep and get up for my morning workout.

Sometimes I'll get up and pee, sometimes I am hungry and I'll wait it out a bit to decide whether it's bad enough to get up and eat something. Sometimes it's busy brain, but not usually.

This is not restful sleep.  Most days I feel just fine and can push through.  Every couple of weeks though I crash and burn and have a really tough day. At any rate, it is NOT optimal.

This past Easter weekend I had hoped to catch up and maybe start to reset these patterns.  I took the kids and headed to western Pennsylvania to spend some time with my folks and meet up with my sister.  I was back in my childhood home with no work, no responsibilities, and the boys were happy and easy. 

No luck, the same multiple wake-ups and now I'm heading into a super busy week already feeling sleep deprived.

Any one else dealing with this sort of thing. Any ideas or suggestions?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Lost to Myself

I raced myself on Coach's CompuTrainer and LOST!  CompuTrainer is a whole bike trainer / computer interface that lets you ride simulated courses as it adjusts for climbs and descents and it gathers information about pedal efficiency, balance, wattage, etc.  You can load other people's race files and race them, or in my case, race yourself!

I raced ME from my January 2010 10-mile time trial. Old me started off strong and new me, remembering how much old me struggled on the back half of the course, thought I'd use some strategy and hang back then charge myself when old me was weakening. You know, employ some psychological tactics. But old me was just too far ahead to overtake. I was about .4 miles behind.

I could come up with a list of excuses and rationalizations (i.e. 10 week layoff), but plain and simple I lost. I've fired myself up. I will seek revenge on myself and get myself next time. Watch out, me, I'm coming to get me!

My credit card is impulse purchase, no reward for this. Of course, I could get something for the winner. And that would be ME!

That Swim Workout Cost Me

Nothing like hitting a little swim milestone that is slightly intimidating to prompt the purchase of a new swimsuit. I can't swim in boring suits - the wilder the pattern, the faster I am.  OK, not really, but it helps to put on something fun at 5:45 am.  Not that I am rationalizing now, but my suits get stretched out and gross pretty quick thanks to the chemical levels in the town pool. It was time for a new addition.

And what amazing feat should justify this indulgence?  A set of 30 x 50's on minute cycles.  Previous to this, it was 1:05 cycles. Not so amazing. I let it get to my head and then it was no big deal. Nice to have a coach to push you into discovering what you can really do.

This afternoon I have a time trial on Coach's CompuTrainer.  If that goes well, someone had better hide my credit card!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston, a swing and a miss

I thought I was over it....apparently not all the way. I should have "unfriended" the Boston Athletic Association on Facebook. The flurry of posts compelled me to track myself online as I sit 600 miles away from the starting line. In the big scheme of things, this is insignificant. But for right this minute it's a little annoying.

Next year, Boston. Save me a spot!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why do you race?

The last page of the Spring 2011 USA Triathlon magazine has an article by Jeff Matlow called the Tao of Triathlon. After 19 years of racing, he says he's finally becoming "more introspective and slightly less dimwitted." Out of this reflection has come his 14 tips for racing, one of which particularly struck me as I close in on the start of my race season.
  1. Before you get to the starting line, make sure you know the reason you are racing triathlon. Write it down; remember it. when things don't go as planned, this will be your source of hope. As Nietzsche's triathlete second cousin once said, "he who has a why to race a triahlon can bear with almost any how."
Why do you race triathlons (or races or competitions of any sort)?  Why do I?  I had a 4 hour car ride today and lots of time to ponder this.  Here are some of my reasons.

1.  I race because it's hard.
I once read that runners like to push up against walls - be it speed, endurance, hills, mental barriers, or pain. Yes, in a strange way I do like to push against and beyond my own walls.  Each time I race I consider that I have a choice to face these walls with bold courage or timidity. 

2. I race for the focus and structure it brings to my training.
I love to train! But without a goal, without a target, my training would lose meaning and importance.  Any goal will do - it may not even be a race, it may be rehab or base building, but some focus is crucial for me.

3. I race to be around other racers.
The energy from others is contagious and encouraging. Through this shared experience great friendships have blossomed.

4. I race to be reminded that age really is just a number.
Yeah, I admit I do get a kick out of passing the 20- and 30-somethings. Triathlon is a bit of an equalizer as it rewards the grit and toughness that comes with age.

5. I race for my kids.
I want my kids to know that I know what it's like to put yourself out there, to deal with nerves and butterflies, and to handle uncertainty. I want them to witness how consistent effort can get you to a goal. I want them to see how to race your own race and to do so with joy, gratitude, perspective, humility, and reflection.

Notice that I don't have "fun" listed as a reason I race.  It's fun to cross the finish line, and there are some moments of fun and even playfulness along the course, but overall I'm not sure I can honestly say the actual race itself is fun. Yet I'm inexplicably drawn to it.  Is this strange?  Do others feel this way?

Well, even without fun as a reason, I still have five other meaningful reasons. Thanks, Jeff Matlow, for this reminder.  When the body is complaining and the mind is faltering at the next race, I will think back to this list of reasons that I am there.  I have my "why" and will bear the "how." I'll simply scrape up my courage and look for the next 20- or 30-something victim to pass :-)

Please share your comments!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Much-needed rest and a Nice Surprise

I'm taking TWO full days off this weekend, yes TWO. No apologies, no guilt!  I had a great training week and am feeling pretty pumped.  In the last six days I hit:
  • three bikes -  trainer ride, hill repeats, and a 36 miler with transition run
  • three runs - speed work, aerobic run, transition run
  • three swims - a long continuous, two intervals
  • three weight training sessions

And on top of this, I had one kid sick at the beginning of the week, one kid sick at the end of the week (this one required a trip to the docs), 36 hours without a car, and a husband out of town for two days.   I'm sleeping like crap too, mostly thanks to allergies. Such is the life of the tri-mom-athlete.

After I got back from my ride/run yesterday I found the USA Triathlon mag in my mailbox, and inside a nice surprise!  It was the 2010 ranking edition. Out of curiosity I had checked the rankings in the fall and I was way WAY down the list so I never expected to see my name.  It was the VERY last one in the F40-44 group but there it was, the last person to make the cutoff for the "Honorable Mention" category.  It made me think about the joke about "what do you call the person who graduates last in his/her med school class?"  Answer: "Doctor".  Hey it took 225 people to beat me...hahaha.

Seriously, can you think of too many other circumstances when a number is carried to the hundred thousandth decimal place?  How do they determine the cutoff? If I had been delayed by one extra sip of Gatorade and scored 84.58530 would I have made the cut?  Kinda silly.

#226 and proud of it!!

Eh, it's old news and this isn't what drives me. It's a new year, new me, new competition, new challenges.  Bring it!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hill Repeats on the Bike

Check out the monster hill I had to go up (miles 0-2) JUST to get to where I wanted to be to do my baby hill repeats (miles 5-8).

Original plan: Drive kid up monster hill to town to soccer practice with bike on car, ride from there during practice and get my neat, tidy little workout in on the baby hills.

Revised plan: Take minivan (circa 2000) in for a "little brake work" and find out that you need to leave car overnight and fork over almost $1400 to cover five different things that are falling apart, leaking, have holes, and are generally worn out.  Walk mile and a half to kids' school, get rides home. Scramble for ride to soccer for kid.  Head out on bike to work off stress of huge repair bill, and pedal up monster hill.

On hill repeats
I learned a few things today as I'm kind of new to this.  When coach suggests a hill for the repeats, trust that he knows best.  I thought I knew better and headed for another nearby option.  It turned out it was a skinny road with too much traffic and gravel.  Plus it suddenly got super steep and I was faced with two choices:
  1. sharp turn on incline with gravel - certain disaster
  2. unclip in virtual standstill despite phobia of falling over - only just possible
After pondering the choices for .000001 seconds, I went with option 2 and by the grace of God did not fall over.  Then I returned sheepishly to coach-suggested route. As it turns out, you don't need all that steep a hill to work hard. Duh.

On being carless
I enjoyed the forced marching around campus today. Plus it's the "Earth Week Commuter Challenge."  So by default, I am now participating!

On training in general
Things are going pretty well!  It's been a packed training schedule with a morning and evening workout most days - swims, runs, bikes, and of course my beloved gym.  I had my first legit speedwork on the track a few days ago and it was the first time that I had no thoughts or consideration of my past injuries or weaknesses.  I was totally focused on the task at hand and nothing felt amiss. What a gift!!

I feel solid in the pool too, whether it's 30 x 50y intervals or a 2000y continuous swim. Compared to where I was last year in the pool - it's just night and day.

The solo gym workouts have gone better than expected.  No big embarrassing screw ups lately, and I've been going at a good clip and sweating like a pig.  I've been the right amount of sore, so I don't think the quality is suffering too much.

I am chomping at the bit to race.  Oh, and you know what I did RIGHT before I got the news about the car repair bill?  I signed up for three more races (cha-ching $$$). That was bad timing, money-wise.  But I don't have to worry about them filling.  Two of them are the Luray International and Luray Sprint which run on a Saturday-Sunday in August.  I'm now signed up to to the "Luray Double" - both races!  So I'm registered for everything I want to do from now through August, unless I throw in a road race in or two.

Speaking of running races, I discovered that the USATF Master's Track Championship is up in Berea, Ohio, very near my sister, at the end of July.  I briefly fantasized about how much fun it would be to experience that (no entry requirements other than age). We'll see...getting a little ahead of myself.  First I need to survive the icy cold swim at my opening race May 7.

Hope your training is going well and that your vehicles are in good repair!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Training Time: Planned vs Actual vs Reality

While many others are busy with race strategy, race reports, race after-effects, I am still waiting for my first race of 2011 on May 7.  It feels like a near eternity since I last toed the line (Turkey Trot), but it has just been 8 weeks out of the cast and boot. Not racing apparently leaves me with plenty of time to ruminate on the finer points (read: unimportant) of training.

Today I was looking at my weekly training schedule on Training Peaks and for the first time, after a mere two years on there, noticed the "Planned" and "Actual" time at the end of the week. Those numbers aren't all that big. I mean, 7:35?  That's less time than it takes to go to dinner and a movie twice in a week. (Not that I would know, twice in one year is more like it for me.)

It turns out it doesn't capture the REAL Actual, which is much bigger than that.  Did you ever think about all the prep and followup goes into each workout, above and beyond the actual minutes running, biking, and swimming?  Here's some of that extra stuff for me.  I wonder what extras others contend with?

  • Plan weekly schedule to figure out how to shoehorn workouts into real life. Negotiate with family.
  • Download and print out schedule - copy on refrigerator, copy in car, copy for the pool.
  • Program workouts and upload to Garmin.
  • Download data from Garmin for bike/run.
  • Recharge Garmins.
  • Upload data to Training Peaks, make comments, reflect on workouts.
  • Drive to/from pool, track, trail, etc.
  • Put bike rack on car and/or take bike rack off car as needed.
  • Move bike from bike rack to/from garage to/from trainer upstairs.
  • Clean bike (esp if it's coming in the house). Maintain bike. Pump up tires.
  • Plan routes for runs and bikes.  Plan company for runs and bikes.
  • Load fresh podcasts for runs and workouts.
  • Make bottles of water, fuel, pack gels, food.
  • Plant fuel stops on long runs. Clean up from fuel stops after long runs.
  • Stretch, roll, ice, compress, and self-medicate with vitamin I.
  • Laundry!
  • Shower
  • Nap (yeah right, why aren't these scheduled in?)
  • Blog (haha)
You pretty much have to be a type-A person to be a triathlete, you need the type-A organizational skills. I probably make it all too complicated. Yeah, I'm sure I do!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"All I need is a bike": a Photo Essay

When I contemplated the leap into the world of triathlon in June 2009, I recall saying "All I need is a bike!" Didn't we all? Look at me in that picture, the day I got my new (used) bike for $625 from Craigslist  (read more here)!  So happy, so naive!

And now, less than two years later, only the frame, wheels, shifters, crankset, the gears and derailleurs (all that "stuff" whatever you call it) are original. I've got different handlebars, stem, seat, chain, tires, tubes. Here's some of the accessories I've acquired in less than two years, and I use it ALL.  There's nothing superfluous.

I realize I've been pretty frugal compared to many who get the bike bug.  Still, I was shocked when I did some quick math. (I'm hoping my family does not read this post.)  I've spent about $2860 to support my biking -- that's 4-1/2 times what I spent on the bike itself.

When I say I have been frugal, I feel the need to discuss one item. The $240 bike shoes came about because I found the men's version of the shoe (about $110 online) and asked the local store to order them.  The store said there was a ladies' version so I OKed it to order those.  After I tried them, loved them, and got the cleats put on, they rang up as $240 and my jaw dropped. Rather than back out of the deal, I kept them, and although I do really love them, I will never ever spend that much on bike shoes ever again.  I ordered a backup pair, one model back, for $110.  That's more like it.  So be careful out there. I think the shops are used to the big-spenders, not the spendthrifts like me.

This post was inspired by a conversation with my mechanic last week when we discussed a potential upgrade path - possibly replacing the shifters, then maybe the gearsets, maybe the derailleurs.  The technical terms escape me but at any rate, we wound up around the $500 mark, hypothetically.  Then you start thinking well for that, maybe I should think of a new bike.

But you know what, I LOVE my bike, LOVE it!

And it's not the bike that wins the race, especially for us age-groupers.  It's not the pedals, not the shifters, not the tires. It's the legs, the heart, the consistent training, the sweat, the pain, the no excuses.  So hey, you on the fancy bike...better watch out for me!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shannon Price: Interview with the Ultrarunner

Shannon Price is one of our region’s strongest and most humble ultrarunners, and a true gentleman ambassador for running. Shannon inspires many of us so it seemed like we needed an opportunity to find out more about him. He agreed to a “blog interview” which follows this brief preface.

I got to know Shannon in the Fall of 2009 when I was gearing up to run the Richmond Marathon – my 1st, and his 37th marathon (11th Richmond in a row at that time). We work out at the same gym and have run together a few times.  Luck was with me and he was the pacer for the 3:40 group that I would run with. I locked in on Shannon, fed off his encouragement, and finished with a Boston qualifying time and the bug for more! He has continued to be a source of inspiration to me and to others.  Here’s an excerpt from last June when I asked him for a “pep talk” prior to a triathlon:
“As the start time comes just let yourself go. Go out knowing you will never get this moment back ever again so let your fire grow. Go out hard and let your drive, excitement, adrenaline, and fear push you to your next level. Go out like a wild animal determined to pick off the person in front of you….Grab your fear and excitement, strap yourself in tight, and hold the hell on!!!”
Last weekend he completed the Umstead 100 miler…in this interview he’ll tell you the outcome. I can attest that he earned it. His work ethic, resiliency, and sense of play are second to none.

I know your involvement with running goes back some time because you've participated in the Richmond Marathon for many many years. But how and when did you get interested in ultrarunning?
Richmond 2009 Pacer
Ultrarunning actually came to me as many failures in marathons many being Richmond. Don’t get me wrong I love the Richmond Marathon but it broke my heart so many times. I would train what I considered “hard” to run Richmond and qualify for the Boston Marathon. In 2008 I was in the best shape of my life up to that date. I went out and was on pace for a qualifying time and blew up at mile 17. I fought back as hard as I could but still came up short. When I finished the race is was crying, heart broken, and mad. I remember saying to myself that “if I cannot run fast enough to qualify for Boston then I am just going to run longer”. That is when my ultrarunning career was born.  (interviewers note: he has since MORE than qualified for and run in Boston)

What other sports and hobbies have you done in the past or do you enjoy currently?
In the past I was a natural bodybuilder. When I was 19 and 20 I weighed in at 238 pounds off season and 206 pounds show weight. After my bodybuilding days I went through a short time trying multiple sports from triathlons, biking, running, golf, and softball. I finally found my calling with running. I still love to golf and go a lot with my family during the summer months when I am not racing as heavy.

I enjoy when you post pictures of some of your post-long-run meals on Facebook, and it appears you have some skills in the kitchen! What are your favorite fuelling meals and foods?
One of his many food pics...yum!
I wish I could take credit for the incredible food but my wife Megan is the cook. I can make cereal, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and a few other very basic things. My favorite meals for fueling have always been some sort of very clean pasta. I used to love lasagna as my carb load meal but it is tortellini with Alfredo sauce right now. I have found that it works best with my body. I always carb load 36 hours or so before a long run. I have not found a lot of success in loading the night before a long run.

Those of us who know you and follow your running are aware of the very intense, high-mileage, and largely solitary training you do week-in-and-week-out, yet you seem fairly immune to burnout. How do you manage to keep it fun and interesting?
I use many things to help keep my driven and determined. I am a very goal driven person and like to pick races that really peak my interests. I also change my workouts up a lot especially on the weekends. Some days I will do hill work for a long run and others I will do tempo (marathon pace), or intervals, or anything else to change things. I will go from road to trail to single track and back. I will run in the mornings some weeks and afternoons others. Mainly I just listen to my body and give it what it wants. If I am craving mountains I will hit the AT at McAfee’s Knob, road I head to my undisclosed running paradise, and anywhere else I can think of. My lack of burn out comes from keeping things fresh and trying new things/places.

You've had a few challenges this fall with races that did not go according to plan. How do you bounce back from those and stay mentally tough and confident? What advice would you have for others in that situation; because it's inevitable we will each face our own race disappointments.
I was talking to Bart Yasso a couple of years back and he told me the only true disappointment is not trying. Sometimes I just have days when my body will not go. It can happen on a training run or on race day but it will always happen at some point. I will typically break down the race and see if there was anything that I did wrong or was it just not my day. I will admit that I do beat myself up a lot, question my training, and somewhere along the way get over it. Once I am past it I move on quickly because I know my next race is right around the corner. I would rather take my race day performance (or lack there of) and use it to drive me to train harder and peak at the right time. A DNF can beat you if you dwell on it for to long so my advice is put it behind you by signing up for another race that peaks your interest as soon as you feel comfortable.

What are the major races you are hitting in 2011 and what are some of the goals you have or races you'd like to get to in the future?
I am currently working on this. My spring “A” race was the GRR 100 Miler in Georgia a month ago. That day was a rough day to say the least. It rained like no day I had seen. The course was ankle to shin deep in cold, wet, unrunnable mud. The course and the weather finally beat me at the 50K mark and I came home. I quickly turned my mindset to Umstead 100 which was last weekend. I was using it as my redemption race to prove to myself and others that I still had it. I had a great race and ran a 19:10:10 (PR) and 21st overall. Even better is that I beat my last year’s time by more than 3 hours and 35 minutes. I never really tired at this race which shows my training is going in the right direction but there is so much room for growth physically and mentally. Races in the future…wow where do I start?!!! I would have to put Western States as my life “A” race. The thought of this race is one of the main reasons for my ultrarunning. However I do have many others I would like to do like Leadville 100, Wasatch Front 100, Hardrock 100, Miwok 100K, The Bear 100, Cascade Crest 100, Way to Cool 50K, North Face Championships in San Francisco, and I could go on and on. Basically I would like to hit 2 100 mile races a year with another 8-10 races ranging from marathons to 100Ks.

You are truly an ambassador for running and you do a great job of giving back, not only as a regular marathon pace group leader, but less formally too by encouraging and helping everyone around you with their own running goals. I've received many a pre-race "pep talk" from you and I find your words are very powerful and motivating. Who are the mentors or supporters who encourage you?
Encouraging the next gen...MY kids!!
Well thank you!!! Coming into the ultrarunning family was odd to me because everyone (for the most part) is there to encourage. The family is so small that you get to know everyone very well. I have always been a “go for the kill” type of runner when it comes to racing but I have learned to support and help in anyway I can. I will never forget I was on a trip to San Francisco and read Dean Karnazes book “Ultramarathon Man”. Now I hate to read books and I could not put this one down. I remember thinking if he can do it then I can as well. That is the day I fully made the transition. I finally met Dean in DC last year at the North Face Endurance 50 Miler. We talked for a few minutes and I ended the conversation thanking him for sharing himself and his stories to the world. Reading his book opened my eyes that I was not living to my potential and life was too short to wait. Currently…I know this is going to sound cheesy but I get more joy in watching others dreams come true. Nothing inspires me more than being able to help others who want to do something but don’t quite know how or need an extra nudge to put them over the top. My races are fun and I enjoy everything with them but watching someone go from couch to a 5k does it for me. Seeing the dream realized on others faces when they get the “I can take on the world” look can never be replaced. Every runner has a responsibility to pass the passion on by helping others. We were all “there” at some point in our careers so don’t ever lose sight of that.

Tell us a little about your involvement with the Brooks team and what that endorsement means to you.
My sponsorship with Brooks is very dear to me. I have never been the fastest runner out there but I will always try to inspire as many as I can. Brooks has a program called the PACE ID (Performance and Coaching Excellence Inspire Daily) Program. We all call it the ID’ers. The main goal of the program is to life Brooks culture of “Run Happy”. It is not about distance, time, or heart rate but rather all about getting out and running, inspiring others to reach for their dreams, and smiling the entire time that we do it. So the program fits me perfectly as I love to try to inspire others in everything they do. Every time I put my running gear on I am always thinking that I am representing the team so do things the right way. Being on the team has brought me back to my roots and joy of running by helping to make it fun. Last year at the Boston Marathon I ran with quite a few team members during the race. At one point we had 10-15 of us running together with our racing outfits on. People were screaming “Go Team Brooks” and we were waving and smiling. For me it made for such an enjoyable experience to be added onto the Boston Marathon. I have met so many great runners on the ID team

Your wife Megan is obviously very supportive. What would she tell us about you and your ultrarunning lifestyle, or maybe some of your idiosyncrasies?
My wife Megan is my rock. She is my coach, my crew, and my best friend. She has learned over the years to support me or tell me to suck it up. I think she would tell you that ultrarunning is a lifestyle that fits me well. It is normal to go out and run 60-80 miles a week with or without a race. She would probably also say that I am very hard headed when it comes to my training and racing but that makes me the runner that I am. She would also say that she knows me better than I know me (which is true) when it comes to my running. She is one of the very people I would ask advice from and take into consideration.

Now for the "quick fire" round:
  • IPod or not? Speed work, tempo, or inside yes
  • Mantra or something you tell yourself when the going gets tough? If it were easy everyone would do it…do you want to be normal or be you?
  • Number of pairs of running shoes you own right now? 5…I just got rid of 4 pairs and am getting ready to order
  • Average number of hours of sleep you get? 6
  • Place you would most like to run? Rocky Mountains, Tetons, Alps, and London…there are so many that are close to these but these are at my top.
  • Describe what you do for work? I work in the relocation industry. I work with companies/higher education institutions with their employee relocation needs. For example if Virginia Tech hires Dr. Smith from Colorado and he needs to move his house and family to Blacksburg I help them with the “move”. It is a fun industry that I did not expect to get into but it kind of found me and I enjoy it.
Anything else that you'd like to share? Anything! 
Always remember the worst thing you can do in life is not try. Be crazy today…you might surprise yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek help as we all put our running shoes on one shoe at a time.

Thanks, Shannon!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Real Heart Rate Zones: Chill, Working, Suffering

My friend Krista pointed out that her new Garmin doesn't do heart rate zones. I replied that I don't use that feature anyway, I check out the raw data as I go and in my mind I categorize it all into three zones:
  1. Chill
  2. Working
  3. Suffering
Yeah, my coach has things set up in Training Peaks and I see my ranges for Active Recovery, Aerobic, Tempo, Threshold, and VO2 Max. Yada yada.  He specifies the zone for different workouts or intervals.  Here's how those zones translate, how I really think about them:

Active Recovery = Immobility.
This includes sleeping, watching TV, hanging out on Facebook, working (desk job).  In my mind, there is nothing exercise-y about this zone.

Aerobic = Chill.
On the bike and run, this state is only attainable where it is flat or downhill.  In this zone I can go on autopilot and think about lots of things. It automatically qualifies as Chill if the run involves a dog or a kid, or if the bike ride involves a kid.  (If the bike involves the dog it becomes Suffering).

Tempo = Working.
This is a sustainable effort where I give some thought to what I'm doing but the mind can occasionally migrate to other important places, like the to-do list, sorting out a work problem, why it's apparently SO hard to get the socks INTO the laundry basket, that sort of stuff.

Threshold = Suffering. 
In this state I am only able to focus on my personal suffering, the time/distance I have gone in the suffering state and the time/distance I am expected to continue on in said state of suffering. Sometimes I can also think about how strange it is that a song I normally like is incredibly annoying when I am suffering.

VO2 Max = call 911.
Self-explanatory.  Thinking about nothing because I am unconscious.

It turns out I don't enjoy the Chill Zone very much, but I know it's important to hang out there on long runs and rides and recovery efforts.  I keep vowing to get better at being in that zone. I have a terrible habit of slipping into Working and the Suffering Zones. I love/hate the Suffering Zone.

Today's brick included a 5-mile run with "Standard Aerobic Running."  I had my watch set to show average pace per mile and by golly, on it appeared was that magical target 5K pace!   It felt easy and I thought, "I can do better!"  Before I knew it I had sailed beyond the Working Zone to the Land of Suffering. Then I couldn't give into it.

Turns out my left quad and hamstring had other ideas and at about 4.5 miles in, I relented and returned to the Working Zone and eventually Chill, followed by Immobility.

So keep it simple: think Chill, Working, and Suffering.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I was a Barbell Sandwich

Thank you stranger in the gym who freed me from a state of human barbell sandwich.

There's this great bench exercise where you take a resistance tube that has a handle at each end, put one handle over one side of the barbell, run it under the bench, and put the other handle on the other side of the bench, thereby increasing resistance at the top of the lift. (read more here and see picture below)

it's like this only with a two-handled resistance tube running under the bench and hooking at either end

It's a great exercise at least until you tumble off that sheer cliff of failure...then poof....human sandwiched between bench and barbell.  I waited a brief eternity until I caught the eye of a fellow lifter who bailed me out....I think with just his pinkie finger.

I realize the hardest thing about lifting solo is going to be figuring out just how far I can push myself without Jake here as my automatic backup spotter.  And learn to ask for a spot, but I hate that.

Other than that, the first solo workout that Jake sent my way went well - 35 sets - hitting chest, some shoulder, and core, and I worked up a pretty good sweat.  I think this virtual trainer setup is going to work just fine.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weather Warrior

Today was calm, sunny, and warm -- a picture-perfect spring day with a high of 66!  Yesterday, we hit 45, but it felt much colder because we seemingly had every climactic condition including snow, driving rain, drizzle, sleet, sun, thunder, clouds, and winds gusting to 35+ MPH.  The weather seemed to change every 15 minutes.  If you know me, you know I hate to be cold, and that wet cold is the worst.

Wind Speed and Gusts for Blacksburg on Saturday
Yesterday the schedule had a brick workout.  Today was a scheduled off day.  I knew the forecast.  And there was no question that I would keep to the schedule and so I rode and ran through snow, rain, sleet, and rain. I'm so glad I did!! It turned out to be a rewarding effort, particularly on the run where, for the first time post-injury, I finally got back that next gear and hit the middle two miles around my target 5K triathlon race pace (7:15-7:20ish). I also got more experience riding in some tough head- and side- winds and in reduced visibility.

As much as I fear being cold and wet, I won't move a workout due to weather unless there's a clear and present danger. I know I need to deal with whatever Mother Nature dishes out. For me, it's an important part of developing toughness and a necessary element of my own self-discovery process, to see what I am made of. Those are the workouts that I remember, the ones that I think back to on race day.

This relates back to the concept of being an athlete "Warrior" as described in Bob and Shelly-Lynn Glover's book, The Competitive Runner's Handbook.  My trainer Jake shares in this philosophy.  It really comes down to having the "desire, motivation, discipline, belief, self-esteem, confidence, courage, and mental toughness to win in battle." (p. 314)  He continues, "You need to make sacrifices to be a warrior runner. Every time you think about skipping a workout because you're 'too busy' or 'too tired' remind yourself that you are a warrior."  The warrior attitude is an all-encompassing lifestyle and not something you can simply take on during workouts. You live it.  Or you don't.

I'm not the strongest or fastest or best triathlete. But I am a warrior triathlete.  How do you live as a warrior athlete?  When do you most need your warrior courage and toughness?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thanks, Jake

Blurry pic, but it's all I got!
Friday was my last workout with my trainer, Jake Parks, at the Weight Club. I worked with him 3-4x a week for three years and he was instrumental in helping me to discover the athlete that lurked within.

Jake is leaving to take a job starting up a new weight-loss focused training program at the Reston Hospital Center in Northern Virginia. As much as I will miss him (immeasurably), he is the perfect person for the new position and he has the potential to change countless lives.

Jake is a standout among trainers and is proof of the significant impact a caring, creative, skilled, and motivating trainer can have. He has a loyal group of long-term clients who have experienced many changes and accomplishments due in large part to his direction.

He sees limitless potential in everyone. He believed in me and showed me I could believe in myself. He is perhaps THE person most responsible for bringing about wholesale change in my life. Without him, my life story would not include footnotes of Boston-qualifying marathons, race wins, triathlons, bench press PRs, and overcoming injury. But what is more difficult to quantify is the happiness, purpose, and fulfillment he helped restore in me.

I’ve recounted this story many times, but it’s a significant one. When I walked into the gym three years ago, Jake didn’t write me off as a middle-aged, out-of-shape, mom. As with all his clients, there is no judgment, only potential. It didn’t take long before we were setting goals and he was providing structure and guidance to my newbie running, teaching me about fueling, and stressing balance, rest and recovery.

I loved and looked forward to our sessions in the gym. I worked consistently with Jake 3-4x per week for three years. It was a stretch financially but the payoffs for me and the trickle-down for the family was huge. I enjoyed coming to sessions with that element of surprise, knowing the basic body parts we’d hit but not exactly how. Sessions could include compound powerlifting moves, free weights, cables, kettleballs, bodyweight suspension exercises, boxing, plyometrics, medicine ball tosses, weighted vests, Bosus, stability balls, resistance tubes. It was like a big playground – with a lot of sweat!

Jake has helped me through some significant setbacks too – both physical injuries and mental hurdles. With the fibular fractures, he kept me going in the gym, working my upper body and getting creative with cardio. He kept me on track and accountable with my nutrition so that I could maintain a healthy performance weight.

Most people don’t realize how much coaching and counseling trainers do in their work. Jake has had to talk me up from despair, and down from the clouds, and provide reality checks and perspective. I’ve often told him he has “saved me from myself”.

I have learned so much about myself and about healthy living - fitness, health, fuelling, and recovery. There isn’t room to describe it all. I know as a result I am a better worker, better mom, better friend.

Thank you, Jake, for believing in me and for teaching this old dog new tricks. Thank you for making life so much more exciting, filling it with goals and dreams, and helping me to get there. Thank you for getting me into the best shape and happiest place of my life. Thank you for your patience, friendship and love… tough love usually!

I wish you the best in your new adventures and am confident you will continue to change lives and help many to find joy and confidence as they shed doubts and pounds.

Fortunately Jake will stay on as my “virtual” trainer providing structured strength training workouts and accountability for me and for others. It’s up to me to bring the motivation, drive, and commitment.

You bet I will. I learned it from the best.