Saturday, May 31, 2014

Part II: Have FUN!

Sportin' the dri-fit with my little runner!
            While “if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing,” doesn’t apply to everything in life (we have to do a lot of things that aren’t fun), it should apply to your hobbies.  You only have so much time left in a day after working, sleeping, and getting chores done, that however you choose to use it, it should be worthwhile to you.
            For me, family time ranks really high, so much so, that I’ll continue to do my biking and weekend training in the afternoon when it’s at its hottest, because that’s when Baya naps.  Now that it’s nice enough outside and track will soon be wrapping up, I plan to run more with her in the stroller versus on a treadmill at the Y.  Pushing her along with me far outweighs the time apart while on a treadmill.  Plus, she loves it.
            Some people who sign up or plan to do an Ironman are doing it as a bucket-list item.  In and of itself, that is not a bad thing, but with some of them, I wonder if they even enjoy swimming, biking and running very much, and then to need it in such high volume seems crazy to me.  It takes many months of high commitment that will greatly affect family time (as well as everything else in life).  There is no convenient way to fit in so many 4-6 hour bike rides, long runs and swims.  As much as I’d like to believe my triathlon lifestyle doesn’t impact my family, I know it does, and I just try to minimize any negative effects as best that I can.  Sometimes training is able to be a family affair when we can all do an easy run together, or when we kept each other company on the longest runs while it was marathon training time for either of us, me biking and giving Andy drinks, or Andy pulling Baya behind the bike while I ran.  Everything is sweeter when it can be a family affair.
            And while there are days that I can’t wait for a ride, run, or swim even to be over with, for the most part, I truly do enjoy being out there on my bike, even for 3 or so hours, or running 10-11 miles.  This spring has been super long in frustrations, but over Memorial weekend, I finally had some killer breakthrough rides.  Before that though, I had already decided to change my attitude, as I was nearing the end of the heavy training and towards the start of race season.  I wanted to have fun.  No matter who showed up on race day, or how I placed, I wanted to go out there, give it my best, and have fun doing it.  After all, that’s what got me hooked in the first place – the fun!  And with all the time, energy, focus, sweat and tears that I’ve put into it, it’s time to have some fun with it.  I don’t want to waste my time on race day being frustrated, or upset afterwards, and then wasting my family’s time with my poor attitude.  Not every race will go as well as I’d like, but there’ll always be a reason to have joy.
            Maybe your fun isn’t with swimming, biking, or running, but I hope you do find what you enjoy  - dancing, rollerblading, leagues, etc.  And you do it, you get moving and you show your kids that an active and healthy lifestyle is fun and joyful.  I hope it’s something your whole family might be able to get involved with too, even if it’s just being the best cheering section, because we all nee the support of our families, and there’s just nothing better than having them beside you along the way.  Enjoy every minute of it!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Part I: It's Okay, Go Ahead and Suffer a Little

            It seems to be a common thought that pain is the enemy – to be avoided at all cost.  We’d rather not make ourselves uncomfortable.  We’d rather not push into the zone of suffering.  That is, after all, just the human tendency.  I dare you to challenge that though.
            We all have things that we would like to change about ourselves.  Being at the Y everyday puts me in contact with many people who want to get into shape, lose weight, etc.  However, it seems that all-too-many think that just by being at the gym, or doing a little bit at a low intensity, will somehow make this happen.  For somebody just starting out, that can be a good way to begin, but then your body will start to adapt to the new stimulus and there will be a point of diminishing returns. 
Here’s when you need to start shaking things up.  Throwing in short stints of high-intensity can do wonders, whether that is with running, biking, swimming, or whatever you’re doing.  This should increase your heart rate, get you sweating, and challenge you physically and mentally.  You can build on this as you adapt.  Going hard should hurt (in a good way – always be attentive to your body for any oncoming injuries and do this with good form), and it seems that’s what some try to avoid.  It’s okay, though - go ahead and suffer a little (in fact, embrace it!), and you’ll discover that the rewards are great!
      As I said, it can be not only physically challenging, but also mentally challenging.  So here are some ways that you can get and stay motivated to stick with it:

1)    Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely)
2)    Write your goals down and post it where you can see it everyday.
3)    Write your workouts/training plan down.  If it’s in writing, it makes you a lot more dedicated.
4)    Don’t leave any room for excuses.  Make it a priority.
5)    Find a friend to workout with, or find another way to hold yourself accountable, perhaps by posting on social media what your plans are.
6)    Make it your routine/habit – motivation gets you start, habit keeps you going.
7)    Sign up for a race!

Another great thing about all that hard work is that you can reward yourself afterwards with a glass of low-fat chocolate milk.  After a frustrating spring/super-long winter, I finally got some amazing training rides in outdoors.  Did it hurt?  You bet!  But I feel like I’ve finally had some breakthroughs after a lot of frustrations and tears (yup, it really happened).  So I celebrated afterwards with a glass of cold chocolate milk.  Why?  Because after all that work, I knew I needed to refuel properly to reap the benefits of all that pain I put my body through.  Who knew chocolate milk could taste so good after a long, intense ride and run?!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

10K & the Plague

            It has been a roller-coaster ride for these past few days.  Last week I took several days at an easy intensity, and backed off my volume for the week as well.  I thought that would be enough to get me ready for my 10K on Saturday morning.  Friday night was spent at a frigid track meet.  Fortunately Saturday morning was a stark contrast with sun, a much calmer wind, and some warmth.  I ran this same 10K last year, so while I knew the course was a little long, my goal was to beat last year’s time on this course.  Andy was running the 5K.  Had I not already signed him up for it in advance, he wouldn’t have run it even.  He hadn’t run in a week, and very little the week before.  Plus, both of us had been running low on sleep all week.
            For the first three miles, I held just under my goal pace.  As the 10K route went onto the trail through the woods, I had to pick up my effort, but was still optimistic.  Then over the course of the last three miles, I watched my pace slow, and I wasn’t able to push any harder.  I knew I wouldn’t even be able to hit my time from last year anymore.   I finished in 43:15 – 22 seconds slower than last year.  I was beyond bummed, or even frustrated.  Andy, however, won the 5K with a 16 second PR in a time of 19:16!  His theory now is to do very little running in preparation except some speed work with the track team more than a week in advance, and then be sleep deprived.  Whatever works I guess!
            While we were out running our race, Baya was at home with Grandma, and started the day off with throwing up in bed.  In the afternoon when we got home, we took Baya out for her first paddleboat ride on our little lake, which she seemed to enjoy, except for the bulky lifejacket she had to wear.  She seemed to be doing better, except she didn’t want to eat much.  This was only the beginning for our family.
            Sunday I set out on a long ride outside – my first time out this spring in shorts and a tank jersey versus winter apparel!  I wasn’t sure how hard I’d be able to go, since my legs were still feeling that 10K from the day before.  I ended up having a great ride (though very tough to keep pushing hard).  I feel like I’m maybe starting to get back to where I was last year on the bike – let’s hope so!
            Early on Monday morning, it was Andy’s turn for the stomach flu.  For some reason he still tried to go into work, only to return again shortly after.  With Andy and I being the only track coaches, I’d have to run practice without him, and he’d have to keep Baya home with him.  Shortly after noon already, I could already feel I was declining though.  I sat through practice and moved slowly.  Practice was kept very short and I went home.  Shortly after I got home, it hit me.  Baya cried while she listened to me be sick, and she didn’t understand why I couldn’t play with her, or have her sit in my lap while I read her books, or sit at all.  Andy had been able to hold everything down for several hours, so now he was forced to instantly get better and take care of Baya.  Our poor family!
            This has certainly been quite the spring!  It feels like there has been one thing after another to battle, whether it’s the cold, snow, rain, wind, sickness, or general training frustrations.  Less than three weeks out from the race season, and it’s been tough to catch a break.  Luckily, past experience tells me that sometimes I do my best when the odds are against me (just not for this 10K! – let’s save it for the more important races).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

When Negative Nancy Comes Visiting - Shut the Door!

Doubt and negativity have been knocking on my door recently.  Doubts – will I be able to pull off fast race results again this year?  I’ve struggled to hit my fastest swim times in workouts, and have basically plateaued with it.  On the bike, I should be doing phenomenal since I have been training way harder than any other offseason, but my first two outdoor rides did not show it.  The first, I gave myself the excuse of it being my first outdoor ride of the season.  The second one, I had 20mph winds, with me going into it for the majority of it.  I was headed down a hill, and only going 17 mph, and then even though I was pedaling and still going down it, my speed kept getting slower.  Say whaaat?!  It was both a physically and mentally exhausting ride.  I had planned to do 47 miles, and quit early at around 30, which still took me 2 hours to complete, which is absolutely ridiculous, as it should have been closer to 1.5 hours!  It is difficult to not doubt and question my ability on the bike.  I should be going faster.  I should be able to ride harder.  How many times must I try to give myself excuses for not doing better?? 
When it comes to running, I feel fairly confident.  I’ve been putting in decent mileage and have been doing speed work.  I have also had my hamstring problems diagnosed.  I have inflexibility issues in my right hip, which resulted in the stressed hamstring.  When I was training for the marathon, I merely addressed the symptom by rolling out and massaging my hamstring.  Now I have been foam rolling and stretching my hip.  Since I have started doing that more, I haven’t had any pressing issues with my hamstring.  I know it is not solved yet, and a massage therapist has told me that as well, but at least I am on my way with being able to correct it.
Then there has been this never-ending winter.  It seems like we have been stuck in Narnia’s Long Winter (from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).  We got a foot of heavy snow dumped on us right before Easter, and though that batch melted in a few days, we still had leftover snow from the winter hanging around.  It also continued to be below average temperatures.  Since we are in the land of lakes up here, all of the ice and snow on the lakes contributed to the persistent lower temperatures (says meteorologist Rob Duns).  Meaning, while Wausau (just 1.5 hours south of us) isn’t far away, they had been 5-10 degrees warmer for a lot of days as we struggled to shake off this cold.  Even as recently as April 29th we were getting more snow.  Aren’t the April Showers supposed to come in the form of rain?  Will we get May flowers, or just more snowmen?  Well, enough about that!  By the way, good luck to all those out drilling holes in the ice up here for Fishing Opener weekend! (Truth be told, there is more open water than ice now at least).
I have decided that perhaps a half-iron distance triathlon in June isn’t such a good idea.  I’ve been struggling with being able to get outside for rides, and I’m already starting to countdown the number of weekend rides that I have left until I start racing June 1st  (only 3 left)!  Yes indeed, it can be easy to become negative these days.  One of the biggest things that an athlete, and especially a self-coached athlete, needs to do is to trust their training.  Since I did so well with last year’s half-irons, it seems that I had begun to have this idea that the half just isn’t so bad.  After my first outdoor ride, that notion was shattered for sure – the half-iron is a tough race!  It was reaffirmed with my second outdoor ride, as I wanted to quit and cry.  Negative Nancy was not only knocking on my front door, she had taken up residency as well! 
I have nervously pressed onward, telling myself that my rides could only improve, and I am merely being prepared to be mentally tough.  I don’t know if that made it any easier or not.  I had a 10-mile run in 35 degrees and rain.  Better than snow?  I finally had a decent outdoor ride recently, but then it was followed by another one that I struggled through.  The doubts are indeed heavy.  There are moments where I feel like a failure.  As I express my frustrations to my husband, he expresses his confidence in me, telling me that I may not be where I want to be right now, but he has no doubt that I will race well this year.  He thinks I perform well under pressure (I’m not sure about that one), and believes in me, even when I don’t.  I also really like impressing him when I do perform really well.  So I’ll give myself a little time to recover from the heavy load I’ve been putting on myself, and then I’ll push again, and even if no other reason, than to impress my hubby, who has more confidence in me than I ever may.  At the end of the day, isn’t all that really matters is your family anyway?