Thursday, January 25, 2007

Two Timing

I've been neglecting my blog and I have to confess it's because I've been two timing. For the last three months, I've been a lab rabbit for Triathlete magazine. Basically, I agreed to follow coach Gale Bernhardt's training plan and to record my training and progress in a diary and a blog shared with the world. I was persuaded by the fact that :1) Coach Bernhardt coached the triathlon Olympic team in the last Olympics (being an average working class athlete, a girl doesn't get these type of opportunities too often); and, 2) I'm usually prone to over-training and with the thought of an Ironman I knew my natural instincts would be taken to the tenth power.

If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes in my training, you can follow my daily workout here I must warn you that I complain a lot about my hip and being tired but I always try to follow the workout plan.

It's a challenge every day to post an entry and an even greater challenge to work on my personal blog. This will come to a close next month when the program ends and I start working with my own personal coach at my own personal expense. Two timing is exhausting, so in a way, I look forward to the end of my lab rabbit days.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

To group, or not to group

I have spent all of my triathlon training alone. Every year since 2003 I swam, biked, and ran thousands of training miles by myself. It is both something I look forward to and something I hate. It is both incredibly lonely and fulfilling in its self awareness and self sufficiency. It is both smart and poor training strategy.

I admit, that I could benefit greatly by training with athletes who are better than I am. There is nothing like a little push or the spirit of competition to push you well into the uncomfortable z4 or z5. I have entered into the foray of group training twice this year and I can see the benefits but still I am hesitant. Why, you might ask? Two reasons: I worry my competetive nature will push me into a pace that could cause injury. I'm pretty good at pushing myself into the uncomfortable but I also think I'm sensible about my workouts. I respect the slow, measured recovery rate of a 44 year old. The second reason, no offense gals, you chat too much.

This morning as I was running I passed a half-dozen women also running. I run at 5:30 AM, it is peaceful and I use that peacefulness to slowly work into my day. As I passed the women, there were three (if not more distinct) conversations going on at once. Chat, chat, chat--I can't stand it. I not only like quiet I am not afraid or uncomfortable when I am with others and there is no conversation. Over the course of many races, I have competed in both coed and women-only races. Invariably, the women are chatty whereas the men are just concentrating on moving you out of their way to get ahead. Once in an all-woman triathlon I was bumped during the swim. No big deal. The woman stopped and apologized. I'm swimming, no chatting--no need to apologize.

I recognize I cannot train for an Ironman alone, so group I must. I'm just hoping to find the right mix of training partners--not too chatty, faster then I am in all disciplines, and cognizant of my old age.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A lesson from Della

Della is my dog, an 8-year old Hungarian Vizsla. She is smarter then most humans and in her youth she served as my dutiful running partner. She is retired from running except for small, slow runs when I am just coming back from a cold.

Della is starting to get a little white in the face and she is sleeping a lot more than she ever did in the past. Della is starting to hate the cold, she hesitates before going out in the cool mornings and winces when the morning air blows her ears back. She gets incredibly grumpy about food--demanding to eat when she is hungry, protective of her well earned treats--make no mistake, she is not interested in sharing. She is a horrible grump about sleep. If she is all curled up you can touch her but don't even try to move her or you will get the hairly lip and a growl. She is serious about her beauty rest.

Della and I have many life parallels. I noticed that I hesitate before going out on cold morning runs and I'm always slow getting in the pool on a cold morning. I long for my warm bed, down comforter, and flannel sheets. I also noticed that when I am grumpy it is either because I'm hungry or tired. I try to notice this before my grumpiness takes over but sometimes I act badly and then realize why. Self awareness is such a slow learning process.

I would add to my New Year's Resolutions that I vow to get as much sleep as I need this year. Too often I am cutting corners on sleep for work or my workouts. This year if I'm tired I will unashamedly go to bed at 8 pm. To many of my friends, this is absurd--for me this is a necessity. I get up at 4:30 every weekday (6:00 on Saturday, 7:00 on Sunday) and I do more exercise in one morning then most folks do in a week. Sleep is exactly what I need to recover and replenish my pleasant personality.

I thank Della for the lesson and for moving me to a place of comfort where I can unabashadly embrace my absurd schedule.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years' Resolutions

For most people, New Years' Resolutions are a way to set a high bar that will quickly be abandoned. For me, I use them as a micro-life list--what do I reasonably want to accomplish in 2007. They must be attainable goals and necessary changes. Most importantly, there must be some that require little to no work and yet bring satisfaction--pampering goals if you will. Here goes my 2007 list:

Dump the junk miles. Since going longer (i.e., moving up to the half-Ironman distance) I have lost time in the discipline that was previously my strength-running. I believe this has happened because I have had too many junk miles. Junk miles are essentially all LSD's (long, slow days). I need to mix in some interval work to bring my cadence up. LSD's have their place but if all runs are LSD's race performance is an LSD. By mixing in some speed intervals I believe I can bring my run back into a strength category.

Stretch, stretch, and stretch. While I'm not a doctor, I believe that most of my injuries occur because my musculoskeletal structure is wound extremely tight. I need to add post workout stretching and continue the Bikram yoga at least once a week.

Figure out the heat. As a kid I rode the porcelain bus many a day due to heat exhaustion. I'm surprised that I can compete in endurance events, much less endurance events in intense heat. I do suffer but I learned in the Cancun 70.3 that salt tablets bring me back instantaneously when nausea and malaise set in. This year I will add salt tablets in my training to figure out when I need them and how much I need.

Form, form, form. When I get tired while swimming my form goes downhill fast. Throughout my training sessions and particularly during a race I'm going to spend 100% of my time focusing on form. In part, some of this energy will be dedicated to beating down the voice in my head that is complaining of being tired. The other part involves awareness, setting aside race strategy and survival instincts to watch and feel each stroke. This should result in consistent race times.

Cadence and spinning on the bike. I like hard, high gears. If you were to look at my bike you would see wear in the high gears and pristine teeth in the low gears. I have never dropped out of my big chain ring on a hill, something I'm proud of but I acknowledge it comes at a price. This approach translates to lower cadence and a fair amount of standing on a hill. There are competing schools of thought on this but I want to experiment with better gearing and faster spinning to see if I can improve my bike time. I would like to try to spin up a hill. Although I will not abandon completely the relief of getting out of the saddle, I would like to do that less frequently. I want to focus on cadence, not speed. I suspect the result will be improved times.

Massage, Chiropractic, and Nutritional Treats. I will continue my regular massage regimen which I credit with saving my season last year. I will go to my chiropractor when a problem arises and forget dealing with my orthopedic doctor. Finally, I will continue to focus on good nutrition. What I eat helps or hurts me and I try to eat only good foods..which, of course, includes an occasional piece of dark chocolate.

Have fun. Last, but not least of all, I will remember to have fun. Whether I am training, or racing, or working, or relaxing, or enjoying the company of family or friends I will try to have fun and experience life fully.