Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ITU Worlds: Race Goals Dictate Choices

This year, Team USA members have the opportunity to participate in multiple races at ITU Worlds in London in September. As an Olympic distance qualifier, I can elect to race in the Sprint and/or Aquathalon. Sprint qualifiers can elect to race in the Aquathalon. The races are each two days apart:
  • Aquathlon - Wednesday, September 11
  • Sprint - Friday, September 13
  • Olympic - Sunday, September 15

I'm signed up for the Aquathalon, as a bit of a warm-up (particularly for the swim), and the Olympic, with four days between them. Today, registration opened to pay and confirm. I had a last-minute moment of regret, wondering if I should be doing the Sprint and Olympic. I've done two double-race weekends including Nationals last year, but that was with my big A race, the Olympic, first, and the Sprint getting the leftovers.

After a quick email to and from Coach Jim, he brought it back around to what was my goal? Without hesitation, I responded "I am going there to race my best against the best." I answered my own question. I would not be my best two days after a sprint race. The original plan stands.

Had the order been reversed - Olympic first - then maybe. But as is, no. And for someone else with different goals, a different decision may make sense. That's why it's good to know why we are racing and what our real purpose is, then stick to it! Just because an opportunity is there does not mean it should be taken.

OK, I do have ONE other goal in London -- I'm hoping to find another ITU fleece hoodie like this one. At the Auckland race, this was the only thing I bought, and I have lived in it this winter. (Yes, with the hood up most of the time in the house, I've been cold all winter.) It's perfect for "casual days" at the office.

I'm pretty sure it will be threadbare by September.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The YEEHAW of Outdoor Training Keeps me Coming Back For More

"Those who exercised outside exercised longer and more often
than those working out indoors

Ummm. Duh.

That was one of the recent research results summarized by Gretchen Reynolds in "The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors" for The Well at the New York Times on February 21. I read that piece and was just thinking YEAH and exactly who is surprised by that?? Are you at all surprised? Maybe the people who I see running inside on our tiny gym track when it's perfect running weather outside would be surprised.

When I ride or run outside and have the opportunity, it inevitably ends up longer than what is planned. Yesterday's 42 mile ride? 47. Who wants to turn around exactly at mile 21 when there could be something interesting over the crest of the next hill? (Disclaimer: I have a sense now of when/which workouts and by how much I can "go over" without violating the intent of the coach-planned workout. That "sense" was developed for me by getting called out for it the first few years.)

Anyway, by way of comparison, if I've got a 50 minute bike trainer session? 50:00...DONE! Not one second more!

Time goes by so much faster outside. We are away from the things that mark time through a beep or chime or flash. Thoughts drift and the brain is left to creative tasks or to problems in need of a solution. The sun, fresh air, and freedom are a reminder of our own smallness out in the world.

A few days ago I had a conversation with my son about having passion for a sport. I felt this surge of excitement rising as I described how great it felt to finish a long bike ride or go out and nail a tough run in challenging conditions like a 35 degree rain. Then I looked at him and said I would never get that YEEHAW feeling from grinding out time on an elliptical in the gym six days a week. It's the YEEHAW that keeps me coming back for more. The YEEHAW comes mainly from training outside, from the natural adversary found in miles of varied terrain, and from submitting to whatever Mother Nature has in store.

It's the unknown, the adventure, and the unpredictability that makes outdoor training so exciting and rewarding

You can't wrangle cows or run through town dressed as an elf or pedal your way to an Expo in the next town or swim in a city harbor or race rabbits or see a gorgeous sunrise from the inside of a gym.

I'm not saying there isn't a time or place for indoor training, but it's the outside stuff that gives me that YEEHAW and keeps me coming back for more.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! (Dr. Seuss)

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Today I Passed the Bench Press Torch

Spencer - bench press meet 2013
Me - same bench press meet 2011
Today my son Spencer (top photo) participated in his first ever bench press meet -- a local one held by Virginia Tech Rec Sports. I did this meet in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Spencer is still 12, turning 13 next week, and is already 5'8" (or more). He hit his first two lifts - 90 and 105 - and barely missed 115. In meets, the bar has to come to a stop on your chest before you get the command to "press" so it's not the typical touch-and-go gym lift. It's harder.

What was great was to see how rock solid his form was and how the big audience and buzz of the event did not shake him. I was extremely proud of his focus and ability to keep his "groove" on his lifts.

Spencer has been my faithful twice-a-week gym partner since September and I treasure that time with him. He started training for this in November so he's not been at it very long. It's been fun to work with him and pass along my knowledge. He's naturally driven in the gym in ways that he never was in soccer and other sports, so why not nurture what inspires him?

Today we were simply coach and athlete. I just asked Spencer if he felt that way, and he said "I agree!"

As we were leaving, I asked if he'd like to work toward this again next year. "Yes, I would," he said. Good.

As "coach" I was smiling, thinking about some new fun in the gym. As "mom" I was taken by the significance of the moment and the privilege of having this relationship with my very cool kid.

Weigh-ins the night before

Testing out the bench after weighing in

Rules briefing

Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - February 23

Nutrition, Health, Wellness
  • Smaller But Better? Organic Tomatoes May Pack More Nutritional Punch but Allison Aubrey, NPR, February 20, 2013. Well, YEAH, DUH! Is this all that surprising? It's just another reminder that farming methods and soil quality DO matter. Local is your best bet, stick with organic for sure with any produce where you are not able to remove the outside/peel it. 
  • Making Biking Irresistible - by Zach Venderkooy for America Bikes, February 20, 2013 - "Next-generation infrastructure and programs are inspiring cities across the United States to make bicycling irresistible. Here's a peek at ideas and innovations from the Netherlands and Portland, Oregon that are pushing the envelope." I like the "Car-Free Days" idea!

Training and Racing
    • The Dirty Dozen - 12 Mistakes (even experienced) runners make - by Pete Magill, Running Times, February 5, 2013. Now that we are coming out of hibernation and hitting the road again, read this refresher on how to train smart! (link from tri Coach Eric Neilsen who is directing our Vasa Ergometer pilot training program)
    • Bicycling's 50 Golden Rules - Bicycling Magazine. Great list! I liked #34 "Listen to Your Bike" with some ideas about what various sounds might mean! And #22 "If your knee hurts in the front, raise your saddle; if it hurts in the back, lower the set." Nice and simple. What tips can you pick up?
    • Professional Triathletes - Websites, Twitter, Facebook. I stumbled upon this page that has links to a long list of pros. I'm not sure how current it is or what the criteria are for inclusion, but I always appreciate well-organized information. The name of pro Jesse Thomas came to me and I noticed he's not on the list.
      If you are looking to follow a list of pros on Twitter, you can do so by subscribing to TriCrowd's Twitter pro list
    • Angela Naeth - Iron dreams alive but on hold - by Timothy Carlson for Slowtwitch, February 22, 2013.  Slowtwitch always provides in-depth articles and interviews and this is a great one with Canadian Angela Naeth. She recently started working with Mark Allen after a stint with the famous Brett Sutton and I anticipate a great year for her!

    • This is actor Will Smith from a 2009 children's award show where he talks about the value of running and reading. He nailed it!
    • 44 Bodyweight Exercises - This 5 minute video by "Tee Major Fitness" starts out fairly easy and conventional but he progresses through 44 increasingly difficult bodyweight exercises including lots of variations on pushups that are just amazing. My massage therapist, who can do many of these things (attesting to his strength), showed me this!

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Office Chair Options for the Busy-Legged

    Two different friends, Erin and Kristin, posted the above picture on my Facebook wall the other day. It's a stainess steel IKEA bar table repurposed as a cycling work station! Are they trying to tell me something?

    Truth be told, I have never been comfortable in a normal chair, sitting still, two feet on the floor. It's so confining and conformist!

    I am more the cross-legged, both feet under me, one leg under me, one-leg-sprawled, feet-on-the-desk type. I thought I might outgrow that and learn to sit "properly", but I don't see that happening. Currently I alternate between a cushioned backless stool (to my left) and my very attractive decor-matching stability ball. It's just enough freedom and movement to keep me happy.

    Treadmill desks have been a recent phenomena, but research shows that too much movement may reduce productivity....and cause "rampant misspellings." (see Falling Down on the Job? Workstations Designed to Help you Get Fit May Make You Type Poorly, Even Fall by Jen Wieczner of the Wall Street Journal)

    I personally couldn't work at a treadmill desk, nor would I want too. I like to keep my work and workouts separate. Plus my keyboard is not sweatproof.

    If you can't see spending $20 for a blow-up "chair" like mine and insist on spending $500, then the Aeron Chair is for you!

    Remember those kneeling chairs? Those didn't hang around long.
    Then we have the lazy options. Why deal with all the hassle of actually standing on your own when you can have a chair do it for you? Supporting your own bodyweight is SO overrated!

    Then why sit when you can lounge?

    And for the really lazy....or overtrained. Now THIS chair has some promise!

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Rest Day!!!

    There was a time when I did not appreciate rest days. I must not have been working hard enough ;-) Don't get me wrong, I love training and look forward to whatever is on the day's agenda but these days when a rest day rolls around, I am ready! (my lazy pets above who know how to rest!)

    Last night I was definitely on empty and the reserves were absolutely tapped out. I was ready for bed at 6 pm, but hung in there till 10.

    Today's "OFF" day came at just the right time.

    I slept in till 5:30 and woke up feeling awesome!

    I love the instructions for today -- "relax" and "rest". Ummm...yeah. Can you tell my family, clients, and projects that?

    But seriously, it is nice.

    Without an early morning workout, I had tonight's dinner made by 6:30 am - turkey meatballs that will go with a cucumber sauce in pitas.

    I only have to take ONE shower (or none if I'm really lazy).

    I read the paper!

    The bummer is that the sun is shining and it would be a glorious day to bike or run.
    But better to "relax" and "rest".

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Race Report: Blacksburg Classic 10-Miler

    It was a great day to gather with friends for our biggest local winter race! It was in the low-30s and lightly flurrying. I had not been in a great frame of mind the night before and into the morning (from events unrelated to the run) but I had the choice to crumple or suck it up. I chose the latter. The day was tailor-made for the "Suck it Up Buttercup" shirt.

    Coach Jim's race instructions were to go out at 7:20-7:25 for the first two miles then settle into race pace (7:15ish). So I looked at this race as:

    a 2 mile warmup
    + a 10k race (no biggie, there was no swim or bike before!)
    + 2 final miles to attack and burn up what was left in the tank before re-entry

    I finished in 1:12:42, a PR for me by 29 seconds (7:16 pace). It was enough for the top master's spot (full results). And YES I hit Coach Jim's designated paces for the first two miles and YES I will admit that was a good strategy!

    My time was a minute faster than last year. Previous times: 1:15:08 (2009); 1:13:11 (2011); 1:13:37 (2012). When I ran the 1:15 in '09 I thought that was the best I'd ever ever do. Then when I hit the 1:13:11 in 2011, I figured THAT was the best I'd ever do. That's the reminder to just run. You never know what you can do.

    Today's race was a physical and mental win. In the midst of the effort (avg heart rate - 168 IS some serious effort for me) I felt very relaxed. This sounds really silly but sometimes when I run, like today, my legs feel like they are ten feet long. I found comfort and happiness in the sensation of covering ground and the rhythm of my footfall and breathing. I let go of everything else. There is just nothing more therapeutic than running.

    Racing is like unwrapping a long-anticipated gift. Coach Jim fills the box and race day I get to discover what's in it.

    I like where I am right now, 57 days out from Boston.

    (Oh...and my "race recovery plan"? Nine boys ages 11-12 here for a sleepover b-day party!)

    With my peeps!
    James DeMarco, head coach for BHS track and owner of Runabout Sports
    is the hub of the running scene. We are lucky to have him in our town!

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    Saturday Morning Tri Coffee Reads - Feb 16

    Nutrition, Health, Safety
    • Wine Not Linked to Better Running, by Michelle Hamilton, February 15, 2013. Chemicals such as catechins, quercetin, and resveratrol have been linked to better endurance and muscle strength but a small-scale study showed no effects of these compounds on running performance after a 45 day use. Bummer!
    • What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast? by Susan Voisin, FatFree Vegan Kitchen, October 26, 2011. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein, containing essential amino acids; it's full of vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins (and is often times fortified with vitamin B-12), and it's low in fat and sodium. 
    Training and Racing
    • The Development of the Modern Stroke, Washington Post. This resource isn't pretty to read but I couldn't find anything better. I was surprised to learn that modern freestyle (aka Australian crawl) has really just been around since the early 1900s. It was preceded by a stroke called the "trudgen." Breaststroke is the oldest and additional strokes evolved through competitive swimming.
    • Sara McLarty's Swim Workouts - need a workout idea? Pro triathlete and coach Sara McLarty has over 500 of them on her blog, with A, B, and C options for varying levels of fitness and training goals.

    • Julie Weiss - Marathon Goddess - At age 42, she's finishing up a campaign to run 52 marathons in a year to raise money to fight pancreatic cancer. She's one of seven featured athletes in "Spirit of the Marathon II". (I loved the first one and look forward to the newest addition)

    • Andrew Starykowicz' blog - Many pro triathletes have blogs but few keep them up to the extent that Andrew does. He was involved in a bike crash with a race volunteer at Abu Dhabi that in a strange twist of fate resulted in a short-term imprisonment and challenges to get him back to the US. In his blog he often "interviews" other triathletes which make for a fun read!
    • How to use CO2 for Cycling - a Beginner's Guide - DC Rainmaker, August 5, 2008 (oldie but goodie). I carry CO2 but frankly, I've never used it. I thought when the time came I'd be able to figure it out but after reading this I realized there's some tricks and things to be aware of.