Monday, July 13, 2015

Eating Ice Cream At The Edge

One of the good things about having done this triathlon thing for a long time is that I've had an opportunity to personally test out different training methods and can see how they work (or don't work!) for me. As they say, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat… Of course, I love my cat and have no interest in skinning him. ;)

My point here is that I've done the group training thing, have trained on an 'as I feel' every day basis, I've done the extended HR training thing, I've tried high volume and low volume approaches, high intensity and low intensity, etc. Some definitely work better for me than others, and my what works for me may not be the same as what works for others, but I've found some general guidelines that I think are important for me.

In a nutshell, in order for me to feel good/strong, I need to train frequently (3-6x/week per sport and more seems to be better here). I need to do the vast majority of my running with my HR low. The more running I do with a controlled HR, the faster I run at that controlled HR, and the more I *can* run in total. And for me, total run volume is a big factor. When HR is controlled I find I'm able to go out and run 10-15 beats above that normal/low HR and feel awesome- like a machine. This is the feeling I find myself striving for. The thing is though, the only way for me to feel like a machine running at HR 160-165 is to get good at running at HR 145. That's why I'm willing to do so much running with my HR in the 140's.

I need to do a lot of specific strength work on the bike, and similar to run, total volume is big/important (for the most part, more is better), but I don't think tooling around with HR <130 is really all that beneficial for me so bike volume needs to be balanced with total overall fatigue. If/when I'm too tired to get HR >130 then it's time to rest.

As much as I hate to admit this, I don't really need to swim more than ~10K/week. Swimming more does make me slightly faster but after 30+ years of swimming a ton, I can get by on 10K/week and spend my extra time on bike/run and that is beneficial to the overall picture. I seriously hate to admit that because swimming more does make me feel better in the water! I just am reluctantly understanding that for me at this point with the goals that I have, 10K/week is enough. Bummer.

Anyway, I'm back on a higher volume bike/run training plan and for the most part I'm really liking it. I did a 10 day block where my hours were quite big (by my standards) and it was interesting to watch what was happening to my mind and body as those days went on… I was actually feeling quite good through day 8 or so… Just physically feeling good and motivated and HR was coming down for giving pace/power and everything was right in the world. I was on a roll! Clicking and ticking! Then on Day 9 I screwed up my fueling (by not taking in enough) and that hit me hard… Major bonking at the end of a run… walking home… emergency trip to McDonalds for some french fries that I hadn't had in years… I was a mess. (No, I have not checked yet to see if I won anything on that Minion Mania?)

The problem with under fueling even once during a big volume block is that it takes a while to recover from that. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the next day wasn't any better. I was pissy during my swim. An hour into the ride I stopped for a snickers and a gatorade, hoping that would help (it didn't'). An hour later I stopped again for a giant Coke, which perked up my brain a little but did nothing to bring up my HR or my power. At that point I felt like I had a choice to make… continue on for a few more hours to hit the workout goal, or bail and go home? I spent a long time arguing with myself about this but eventually opted to just go home. Part of me felt like a failure for that, but another part of me remembered the overall big picture goal of training> Take yourself to a new fitness level by pushing just beyond your current limits. Then rest/recover. Then hit it again.

There were a lot of signs that day telling me I was (temporarily) DONE… HR was low and didn't want to come up, brain was pissy, appetite was gone (but I was eating crap out of desperation). That might be the most unhealthy part of Ironman training- when you get past the point where healthy food is enough to sustain you so you end up eating ice cream and french fries and mac-n-cheese. I know I am not alone in getting to this point but yikes fuel your body with crap and you're going to feel like crap. Except the ice cream worked I think b/c I came back the next day and ran pretty well. :) I guess there's a balance there.

Anyway, the good news about the training I'm doing now is that it feels really right because there's some recovery built into the plan. I think where I screwed up in 2013 was that there wasn't much recovery built in… so I'd push to this point then keep barreling right on through it. I really wanted to see what was on the other side that year so I'm not bummed I went and found out, but a series of poor race results was enough to scare me away from making that same mistake again. The thing is though, for me anyway, I don't get results if I don't push myself at least close to the edge in training. I think that was my pitfall last year. I tried to do it on a lower volume plan and made up for the fewer hours by increasing intensity and damn I wish that route worked for me but it just doesn't.

I'm enjoying this year though watching HR like a hawk again and patiently building myself back into the bulletproof athlete I want to be. The only way I've found I'm able to keep my HR controlled is by watching it on pretty much every run and adjusting my efforts accordingly. Sometimes, when our humidity levels go up significantly, this means slowing down a ton and walking (gasp!) when it's stupidly hot. In good news, I've found that when I drink Osmo Pre-load prior to a long/hot effort, HR stays more controlled for sure. My goal is never to run slow- it's always just to keep HR in control- so whatever tricks I can use to keep HR lower are tricks I learn to use! Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep are probably the two biggest factors there.

Anyway, enough about this for now. I've had a few lighter days which I've really enjoyed (I don't resist rest when I know I need it!) but it's back on for big training over the next few days again. We'll see if I can go find the edge again. You'll know when I've found it because I'll start posting pictures of ice cream... :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back In The Saddle

I was going to write a blog post about the first swim of the North Shore Swim Series... but never got around to it. In a nutshell, was a fun swim! There were some decent sized waves to navigate- I navigated those wrong, which was a bit of a bummer when I saw my finish time/place but whatever... Live and learn... Next time I'll make a different choice! Love this picture though- it's not me but I felt like I took a wave like this at the end of the race... Was so exhilarating! Normally I'd never be brave enough to body surf shore break like this, but given the race situation I did and it was so fun! I had a goofy grin on my face for the rest of the day because of the wave I body surfed in.

After that race it was on to Ironman training... Marilyn and I had some good discussions about how things went down at Honu and how my training could be tweaked going forward. Essentially, I begged her to put my on the high volume plan because based on past experience I just 100% believe that's what works best for me... and she agreed. Super! So my Training Peaks calendar showed a good meaty week... like the kind of week that was a bit scary even to me... The kind of week that really made me think "Wow if I get through all this I'm going to be tired." Truth be told, those are my favorite weeks.

That Sunday I rode ~5.5 hours with Lectie and Michelle and Gary. Really should say that I got my ass kicked for 5.5 hours but however frustrating that was, it was certainly a step in the right direction toward the goal of fixing this gaping hole in my fitness so I was happy to have that done. The next day I rode a solid 56 miles alone, mostly in my aero bars and holding ~Ironman power steady throughout, and that felt stronger than I expected it to so that was super. Then the next day bike week continued with bunch of hill reps... so off I went to Tantalus to climb climb climb.

Unfortunately I didn't make it very far into this workout before I ended up with a broken helmet.

I was descending Round Top Dr, thinking about how (since this was the 3rd time in 7 days I'd been on this mountain) how much more confident I felt about descending it... I wasn't really trying to go fast or anything, but I was less cautious and more relaxed than I had been in the past. I actually took that as a good sign (progress!), until I hit a big pothole and both my hands popped off my bars and I lost control and landed on my head.

My first thought after I hit the pavement was that I need to go see Dr Zen. He's our local chiropractor and he's awesome and I knew my back/neck were going to be a mess after taking such a hit. My next thought was that I needed to get back on my bike right away.

So here's the thing. Last month two of our TeamBSC athletes went down on their bikes (one of Krista's athletes and one of mine). My advice to each of those guys, after a bit of sympathetic yes bike crashes suck, was that riding a bike can be a risky endeavor and it's a risk we all accept every time we go out to ride... And after you crash the best thing you can do it suck it up and get back out there on your bike again as soon as you can.

This kind of tough love may sound a bit harsh, but I picked it up from Hillary Biscay when I went to her Tucson SmashFest camp in 2012. On the last day of that camp, she took us out on some rocky trails where several of us fell and ended up a bit bloody. To be honest, I was sort of shocked at her response when I fell... She gave me like a minute to collect myself and rub some of the blood away and then we were back off and running again... Just like yep falls happen out here its no big deal. I remembered that because I think I expected her to baby me a bit more. But the fact that she didn't baby me was actually quite empowering. It was as if her perception of me was that I was tough enough to not let a silly fall like that interrupt the rest of my run session, and I rose to meet that expectation and in the end was really proud of myself. So that was a good lesson and for the most part going forward, it's one I've applied not only to myself but also to my athletes in many cases as well.

So given that just weeks prior I'd pretty much told those athletes to buck up, I knew that following my own advice was my only option. In good news, my bike was scratched up but functional, so I got back on it and continued down the mountain. I actually considered trying to finish the hill repeat session, but after 1x10' climb I knew for sure that was a dumb idea. Mostly b/c I couldn't take a deep breath without some real pain and I sort of wondered if maybe I'd broken a rib? I rolled back to my car and called Dr Zen who, because he is awesome like that, agreed to see me over his lunch break. While he couldn't take away all of my pain, I do believe that seeing him so quickly was a big part of how quickly I recovered on the whole.

I spent the next 3 days grunting and groaning and gritting my teeth through every deep breath. In good news, I didn't break any bones... Just had some sore muscles around my shoulders/back/neck and maybe some bruised ribs and spasming intercostal muscles? Whatever it was, it was getting better every day, and by Saturday I felt like I might be okay to go ride my bike again. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any fear- of course I had some fear getting back on my bike. But I reminded myself that I've been riding for 20 years now and only fallen off 4x. That statistic was pretty favorable toward me being able to get through a short ride that morning without crashing again, so I pretty much banked on that! And toward the end of that ride, once I was able to relax, I felt joy... Like Yes! I love riding my bike. I think that joy needs to be there at some level, and if it's not, why bother being a triathlete? Sometimes I hear athletes complaining about riding their bikes and that just makes me wonder why they bother with a sport that doesn't bring them joy? There are too many other options out there to waste our time forcing ourselves to do something that doesn't bring us joy. In the end, I think that crash was good for me in that it reminded me of how much I really like riding my bike. When it was taken away, even if only very temporarily, it became crystal clear to me how much I wanted it back. So maybe that's the silver lining.

Anyway, check out this spiffy new helmet I got! It's the Smith Overtake. I'd been wanting this helmet for a while but couldn't really justify it since I had a perfectly good functioning helmet... But this one is the bomb. It's light and airy and fits my head really snug.
Cheers to not babying ourselves and being back in the saddle!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Honu 2015... I'm Conflicted!

One of the best parts about doing big races with lots of friends is hearing everyone's stories after it's all over. There's always something to be learned no matter how the race goes, and I'd argue that often we learn more when the race doesn't go well vs when it does.

When I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I had some friends ask how it went... and all I could say was "I'm conflicted!!" In a nutshell, the truth is that I raced to the very best of my current ability on Saturday. Unfortunately my current ability makes me slower than I've been in years and it didn't put me in the mix for top 3 in my age group the way I hoped it would.

So how do you deal with it when you look back and think you executed the very best you could, nothing you'd change, but yet the results weren't even in the ballpark of where you want to be?? I definitely don't want to bitch and moan b/c for the 5th year in a row I came away with a podium spot in my age group in this race so it doesn't really feel right to complain about that, but I'd be lying if I said I was even remotely satisfied.

There were some really good things about how the day went down on Saturday. I'd say I did the following things exactly right:

~Managed my time and stress levels all week so it was a really relaxed lead in to race day.
~Fueled and hydrated prior to the race really well.
~Felt like I was as rested as I've ever been going into Saturday.
~Was appropriately nervous/excited but not overwhelmed or fearful.
~Executed the best swim I could have given the scenario.
~Stayed upright on my bike when it was mass mayhem during the first ~10 miles.
~Fueled and hydrated exactly as I'd planned on both bike and run.
~Kept my head together and didn't mentally cave when it became clear to me that I wasn't going to reach any of my big goals.
~Never gave up.

Not sure how interesting it is to go through the details of each leg of the race, but here are some thoughts about how it specifically went down (if you're interested?!)

I knew my swim fitness was good so I started on the front line. W40+ started in the last wave and I hoped I'd have someone to swim with but was mentally prepared to go it alone if there was no one. Cannon went off, I swam hard for about a minute, took a quick look around and saw there was no one around me at all... so at that point I went with Plan B which was swim hard all alone. I caught what seemed like 1/2 of the pink cap wave (W39/under) by the first far turn buoys, followed my plan of staying on the inside of the pink marker buoys, passed a steady stream of people the whole way but for the most part had clear water, hit every yellow turn buoy straight on, and felt like I was swimming really well. Not super stroked with 29:48 but swim might have been like a minute long this year... No one else in my wave swam <34' and only 4 gals in the wave ahead of me swam faster, so I felt 100% satisfied with my swim. I will say this- I own 3 different brands of speed suits and without question my Roka one is the fastest material. Plus, I used my new Roka goggles which are mirrored/tinted in such a way that allowed me to no be completely blinded by the sun after the final turn when we were heading into shore. I'm a giant fan of Roka products for the swim!!

T1 and the start of the bike was a giant cluster*ck of a mess. I swam myself straight into the middle of the men's race and it was a disaster. Super scary, men everywhere riding all over the place weaving passing on both sides, etc. It's a minor miracle I stayed upright and didn't completely lose my shit. I had the thought that I really missed the days when this race used to be a mass start. I know a lot of people don't like the mass start b/c it doesn't spread things out, but for me personally it was so.much.better because I was able to get out onto the bike with some relatively clear roads and then the men who passed did so with authority b/c they were fast. So it's just less of a mess (for me) that way. Alas, starting in the back and dealing with this chaos is something we as women apparently just have to deal with now so I'm adapting.

I will say this- the worst is when these men refused to let women pass. Several times I found myself in a scenario that was 'illegal'... meaning I'd ride up on a guy and start to pass but then he would see me and step on it and surge ahead. Um, ok. I was sort of trying to figure out if that was my fault for not completing the pass or if it was his fault for not falling back after the pass was initiated? I didn't feel like I gained any drafting advantage when this was happening (it happened at least 4x with 4 different guys- the last one I just yelled at to BACK OFF AND LET ME PASS ALREADY) but I knew it wasn't 'legal' riding and that bugged me. They said the new rule was 5 bike lengths but even with the athletes spread out over 5 waves, there was simply not enough room on the roads for all those athletes to be spread out 5 bike lengths apart. And this course is a lot of rolling hills so depending on whether or not athletes were pushing the downhills or the uphills, there was a ton of passing back and forth. I'd say this- I didn't see any blatant cheating/drafting going on but I did see a lot of 'technically illegal' riding which just seemed to be the nature of how the race had to go... No solution to this really other than maybe to further spread out the swim wave starts?! I really don't know.

My 'best case scenario' plan for the bike ride was that I'd find a gal 39/under from the wave ahead of me who swam ~33-34 who was a strong rider and I'd be able to work with her... Sure enough around mile 10 a young gal rode by me and I was like PERFECT. She was strong and aggressive but I felt like I was too and neither of us ever settled to just sit behind and let the other get complacent out front... we (legally) passed each other back and forth probably 10x throughout the ride and came into T2 together. So that really was great and I loved riding with her.

During the bike I gave myself a little mental pat on the back every time I managed to eat. I never felt like eating but I knew better than to skip fueling, so I ate 2 bonk breaker bars + 2 gels + 2 bottles of Osmo + a Gatorade from on course + water as needed at each aid station. It's probably the best I have ever done fueling a 70.3 ride.

T2 was a mess for me but mostly b/c the way they had it set up- no passing zone for the last mile of the bike and of course I got stuck behind a guy who stopped pedaling and coasted in... Then he proceeded to jog as slowly as he could to the bike rack where we had to rack in the order we came in (vs in a pre-assigned spot by number) so I was basically walking single file behind this guy who was clearly not actually 'racing' and it seemed like forever... Finally I couldn't contain myself anymore and was like CHOP CHOP BOYS MOVE ALONG!!!! It didn't help but made me feel like I was at least being slightly proactive about trying to not waste time in T2. I hope they fix T2 for next year because it doesn't seem fair to the women who are competitive to get stuck behind men who are not... being in a situation where it was literally impossible to pass just seemed wrong.

I was told by some spectators that I was 6th woman coming into T2, and I knew that 4 of those women started 4' up on me- I'd been passed on the bike by one gal in my age group so knew I wasn't leading the age group but was still doing really well overall... I didn't know my exact bike split but I glanced at my watch which was showing time of day and did a bit of math and figured out that I didn't bike particularly fast (as compared to how I'd ridden here in the past) so I was trying to figure that out. I didn't spend much time or energy on it though I just got my run shoes on and set off onto the run course. Within a mile, Nell went running by and I thought SHIT now I'm third... Then like a minute later Audra went running by and I was like TRIPLE SHIT now I'm 4th... Kudos to those girls for being such badasses of course, but that pretty much confirmed to me that I hadn't had the ride I was hoping I'd have. Don't get me wrong- I wasn't sightseeing out on the bike- I was working as hard as was appropriate given my fitness, but that just resulted in speed that was not where I want/need it to be when I'm racing women as strong as these gals!

I wanted to win, but by mile 1 that goal was out the window because I was already 4th. In the past this would have been a giant mental blow but the thing I might be most happy with about this race is that I completely let that disappointment go and made a vow to salvage what I had... keep trucking along and just do the best I could with what I had in each moment. And that's what I did. I continued to follow my plan, ran as fast as my heart and legs would allow. Part of my plan going into the race was to not judge how it was going until I'd cross the finish line. I wanted to FOCUS on the here and now with every pedal stroke and with every step and I think this might have been the best I've ever done at achieving that goal.
Osmo continues to be a lifesaver at this race- it was stifling HOT with no shade and no wind but I had a bottle of Osmo waiting for me in T2 and I drank that down then survived on ice/water/gels/coke for the rest of the run. I didn't have any cramping issues (which I've totally had in the past!) and my energy stayed good/steady throughout the whole race. I was limited more by the fact that my HR was super high so that just placed a ceiling on how fast I could move along. I walked all the aid stations b/c I wanted as much ice and water as I could get each time and I also walked most of the short spiky hills in an effort to keep my heart from exploding out of my chest. Speaking of my chest, gotta give a shout out to my awesome Coeur Sports kit! I filled that bra with 2 cups of ice at every aid station so I had my own personal little cooler full of ice for the majority of that run. :)
I felt like I finished as strong as I started though, and I didn't get passed by any more women in my age group, so I smiled through the last mile or two. Holding myself together the way I did was certainly something to be proud of!

When you do the best that you can, but don't end up in the league where you want to be playing, what do you do? I'll tell you what I did. I came home and dug through 5 years of training logs and found the problem. I don't for a second believe that I am too old to be getting faster! And while I wish a lower volume/higher intensity plan was one that worked for me, the proof is in the pudding. It's back on the high volume bandwagon for me. If you need me this summer, come find me on my bike. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Being "Lucky"

I got a comment from a friend yesterday about how I am "lucky" that I'm able to swim. I'm pretty sure I understand what she meant, because I've had similar feelings about those little gals who run a lot faster than I do. I've thought, with a hint of jealousy, about how "lucky" they are. But the reality is that the vast majority of those gals have been running most of their lives. And they probably eat less than I do. Those things aren't luck. They are choices.

To be honest, it bugs the crap out of me when people call me "lucky". I remember when I graduated college and landed my first teaching job. My grandma told me I was lucky. And immediately I thought, NO. I am not lucky that I got that job! I worked my ass off in college and graduated with a 4.0 with a degree in Elementary Education. I took jobs working in after school care positions so I would have something about experience with kids to put on my resume. I sent in a lot of job applications and prepared for my interviews and showed up on time and did everything that was expected of me (and more!). I didn't feel lucky that I'd landed a job. I felt I'd earned it. There is a difference.

Back to swimming. I didn't learn to actually swim until I was 8. I don't remember a lot about that time except that my mom told me she felt bad that she'd waited so long to put me in swim lessons. I got put into the beginner "Minnows" group with all the 5 year olds because that's the level I was at. I learned how to swim that summer and competed in the 8&U division at the swim meets, swimming 25's. I have no memory of how any of that went, but I do know I looked forward to summer every year because it meant I could go back to morning swim workouts.

I continued that summer league swimming through middle school... I'd ride my bike by myself to the pool every morning, do everything that was expected of me at swim practice, then was a pool rat for the rest of the day before riding my bike home in time for dinner. I was never the most talented swimmer but I worked hard and never skipped out on anything. This continued though high school as well. In high school we practiced every day after school. I remember our coach opening up morning swim practices. Some parents thought that was too much (including my own mom), so coach made them optional. I always opted to attend. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from adding up how much I swam each day. Between the two practices it was often 7-8K/day. Am I lucky that I chose to do that? Maybe just lucky in the sense that I enjoyed it?

I do remember feeling a sense of jealousy toward the gals on the team who were more talented than I was. I really wasn't as fast as my friends on that team but I made up for it by working really hard and being willing to swim the events that the others didn't want to do. That's why I swam fly. And the 500. It's where I found I could shine, but only because no one else wanted to swim those events!

I took ~3 years away from swimming as I focused on my collegiate diving career (I had more talent for diving than I did for swimming, so diving paid for my college. No swim coach would have given me a scholarship to swim on his/her team.) But eventually I went back to swimming and joined an adult 'masters' group which rekindled my love for the sport. Since then, I don't think there have been many weeks where I didn't swim at least 3x. I used to teach math but adding up all the swimming I have done in my lifetime would be a pretty near impossible task. Let's just say it's been A LOT. I'd guess I average 10-15k/week now, depending on the time of year. I don't take extended breaks away from the water. I don't skip swim sessions. I don't cut sessions short. I time everything I do. I write detailed notes about every main set I swim.

33 years of consistent work. Does that make me lucky?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon... And On Racing By Feel

Well we are in the thick of the racing season now, eh? Races every weekend are fun to follow along and regardless of outcomes, always a good learning opportunity.

This past weekend we had two races here on Oahu- a small local one up on the North Shore and a bigger one on the South Shore (Honolulu Triathlon). While small local races are always super fun (and racing with your friends is more fun than racing against a bunch of strangers), I chose to do Honolulu triathlon for a few reasons... #1) It's the only race on Oahu all year long that has a legit swim for the bike/run distance. Every other race around here has a short swim, and as a swimmer, I feel it's my duty to support with my dollar the race that is more fair to swimmers. And #2) The feel of the 'big race' environment is a good one two weeks before Honu. Walking around a giant transition area 30' prior to race start, surrounded by a 1500 athletes you don't know, brings butterflies to your belly in a way that little races just don't.

To be honest, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get to the start line of this race. Last week Moana got pretty sick (lots of throwing up, followed by some nasty diarrhea explosions). Scott and I thought maybe she'd eaten something bad (??) but then 36 hours later it was my turn to spend some violent time in the bathroom, followed by ~24 hours flat out in bed... Then it was Scott's turn... On Wednesday when I couldn't lift my head off my pillow I pretty much wrote off the idea of racing this weekend. But the good thing about those kinds of viruses that come on really quickly and hit you like a ton of bricks is that they tend to lift just as quickly and then suddenly you're back to normal. I felt normal by Friday and was able to eat again so the race for me was back on!

Since I'm a female, and now that I'm 'old', I tend to get shunted to the last wave with these race starts. As a strong and well trained swimmer this can be frustrating because it means my swim becomes more about dodging all those people who started before me but don't regularly swim train. Yesterday, the horn went off, I ran into the water and swam alone in clear water for ~3 minutes before I started running into the wave that started 3' ahead of me... then for the next 19' passed probably (and I'm not exaggerating here) 500 people. In good news I managed to do this without a) ending up with a black eye or b) getting pissed off, so we'll call it a successful swim. I will admit though I had the thought "These people really need to swim train more."

On the bike it was kind of more of the same... I tend to enjoy racing by feel more than racing with data so I don't start my watch or wear a garmin. At this race I ended up with a false sense of how fast I was actually moving. I kind of knew I wasn't really pushing very hard but I was passing so many people the whole time that it seemed like I was moving really fast! Unfortunately my bike split shows I was not moving as fast as it may have appeared. DOH! The lesson from this race that I'll take with me will be to focus more internally on my own effort and not judge my own bike performance based on the others directly around me.

The last few years I've blown up spectacularly on this run, so on purpose I took it out a good bit more relaxed than normal. This strategy worked for me and I felt like my legs kind of came around and I was able to go a little faster as I settled in. Again, without a garmin I didn't know how fast I was running but I did a few gut checks, asking myself if this was as fast as I could go in that moment and the answer was always yes this is the right effort right now so just kept doing what I was doing. My run is a constant work in progress but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I ran a pretty even/steady 10k that didn't result in any meltdowns. I didn't have the energy to pick it up and go faster at the end, but I didn't feel like I slowed significantly either. Finishing feeling like that left me satisfied with my effort for the day.

In my post race recap to Marilyn, I wrote the following:

Thanks! Ya as I was finishing up yesterday I did not know my time or place, but I had the thought that I was pleased enough with my effort and execution of the day so I figured no matter what the time/place was, I'd be satisfied. It was reminiscent of how I did things toward the end of my diving career in college- I'd gotten to the point where I knew how to do all of my dives really well. Whether or not I executed them well in a meet was up in the air, but I knew I was capable and I always knew if I did them well or not. Anyway, toward the end there I got really tired of 'being judged', which is how we won or lost diving meets. I would, on purpose, hang out under water after every dive and decide for myself if I'd done it well or not (vs coming up in time to see the judges' scores). So I'd go through the meets not knowing what any of my scores actually were! It was my way of judging myself vs allowing others to judge me and it worked well for me once I'd gotten to the point where I was capable of accurately judging for myself how I'd performed. I feel like I'm there with triathlon now too- like I KNOW if I'm moving well and working to the right effort swim bike and run and focusing on that while I'm racing works better for me than focusing on numbers. I think good/fine to watch numbers in training b/c it helps me hone that feel and helps me keep track of how the training is working for me, but racing by feel is where I get the most out of myself (most of the time!)

To be honest, I was shocked when I heard my name coming from the announcer's mic... I wasn't paying attention and didn't even know they were doing awards (they did the OA really early like as soon as I crossed the line?!) and I was like What?! I got 2nd?! Sweet! I hadn't even really had time to digest my race and wonder about placings before I found myself up on the podium. So that was fun!

Anyway, I think the experience I had out there starting behind all those people was actually a good one going into Honu- they've changed the start format there so that women 40+ go off last... So yesterday was actually good practice for what I'll experience on another big stage in less than two weeks. I'm excited to tackle that challenge!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Two Week Progress: Clif Notes Version

I thought I'd share some of the notes (directly quoted) from my Training Peaks account over the last two weeks as I've been working on fixing this aerobic efficiency thing... It feels weird to share all of this because it's almost like publishing my personal diary, but I think this tells a great story about how much fitness can change in a very short amount of time with high frequency fairly high volume running. I ran a total of ~80 miles over a span of 11 days, and with very few exceptions at HR 140-150. Here are some of my daily notes from some of my runs:

~Kept HR 140's and was strict about this and in great news- didn't have to walk at all! Even up the hills to my house! This might be the first time I've ever 'run' up these hills while also keeping HR from going above 150.

~In good news, my body is responding really well to this aerobic running. This run this afternoon I did pretty much right off the bike and it was 25"/mile faster than the run this morning at the same HR... yay!

~Not a ton to say about this except that I kept HR <150, only had to walk a few times up hills, and had the thought that these long 'durability' days I think give me the most return on race day... As hard as it is to train for 5.5 hours in a day, I think this is the kind of thing that really helps me the most! And really, to avg <10' pace on a run this long at the end of a training day like this with HR low shows giant improvement already over last week when I couldn't run 2 miles at that HR <10' pace... So even though I'm super tired right now, I feel like we are on the right track here so it's easy to embrace the fatigue I'm feeling.

~Since I was in Kailua for the swim (where it is flat!) I figured I'd do this run on that same flat loop where I did the HR Benchmarking last week... just to see how it has changed in the last ~8 days. It's not an exact comparison b/c today was much warmer than last week (9:30-10:30AM and no cloud cover at all!). So still showing a significant slowdown though not as drastic as last week (most of the miles today were 40-50" faster than last week, so, yay).

~HR was much better controlled than it has been recently- and it didn't seem to drift much over the course of this run like it has been drifting lately. I drank a bottle of Osmo before I went then carried a bottle of Osmo and drank that, then refilled 2 more times w/ water... That seems like a lot of fluid but I think it was perfect... staying hydrated helped a ton. also, full cloud cover was nice!! It's still hot out but without the sun beating down on me it was way more comfortable. Anyway, kept HR <150 and didn't have to walk much except on a few big hills (Haiku/Heeia/Lanipo loop is quite hilly) and I slowed at the end to keep HR low but that was mostly a factor of it all being uphill. Today was one of those days where had it been a progression run I felt strong enough where I could have picked it up and run a good bit harder in the last few miles... I wasn't slogging it in just trying to finish today. yay! Left achilles is talking to me. Am taking care of it and just got done voodoo banding it- that took care of it temporarily. will stay on it.

~Headed out around 4PM for this and it was drizzling rain which was awesome. I took really good care of my calf and achilles all day so it was fine during this whole run no issues. And, this was the same route as I ran Tuesday morning but was almost a full minute faster today at the same HR (avg 144). I'm super happy with the progress I've made running this week! Physically and mentally I feel really good and I totally enjoy this game of "How fast can I run while keeping HR <150?" It's addicting b/c I see that almost every time I head out the door I run faster than the last time so it makes me want to head out all the time! :)

~Ran Ben Parker out/back which is pretty much 2 miles down then 2 miles back up. I've done this run a lot over the last 1.5 years since I've lived in this house- often by HR and rarely under 40' when I'm trying to keep HR <150... but today what I was doing was more like running vs slog/trotting and I did it in 38:02. Pretty sure that's the fastest I've run this route while also keeping HR140's. Felt good!

~Did this at ~2:30PM (~3 hours post bike finish) on the TM mostly b/c I was curious about HR drift if I controlled for temperature and hydration... so I had a big bottle of Osmo that I drank during this run and I'm sure that helped. First mile HR 130's was pretty slow like 10:20ish then 5 miles straight at HR148-150 interesting there was very little (if any?) drift going on here... super interesting to see that HR didn't drift when I was inside and not hot. At the end of this run I added in 6x20" strides with 20" straddle TM rest... started at 8:00pace for those and each one bumped up the pace by .2 so finished last one at 7' pace and felt really good. HR got up to 153 on those.

~Can definitely tell that we are making change in my fitness- today was the first time I felt like I was more limited by my legs vs my heart rate/breathing- especially on the way back. Ran aikahi out/back from 9-11ish AM... some clouds and I wouldn't say I felt super hot but I was sweating like a fountain and drank almost 5 bottles of fluid during this run (2x Osmo + 3x water). Also took gels at miles 5/9. On the way back I def felt like I had some fatigued legs and had the thought that I want/need to do more long runs until the distance is not hard anymore... come home to log this and see next weeks schedule yikes 2x long runs but yep I'm with you there... anyway, today was almost even split out in 60' and back in 61' avg HR 145 so it was more controlled than it has been for sure.

~Holy cow I feel like a completely different runner than I was 2 weeks ago. Did this in the afternoon after the core work and felt good right from the first step. Was sunny but still super windy so that helped keep me cool. Ran the same hilly loop as tuesday morning but was a full 90" faster today at the same HR. I feel like unless I'm going up a steep hill, I'm actually able to run at an effort that feels comfortable- this feels a lot less like I'm having to hold way back and more like I'm just out for a cruise run. Still have a bit of an issue on the hills but only if/when they're steep. Shallower hills no problem now. I'm super happy with the progress I'm making here. Of note though: I am aggressively managing my left calf/achilles. It's ok but only b/c I'm spending a good bit of time throughout every day being really really nice to it.

Anyway, I'm not 'done' with this process because I'm still seeing improvement just about every time I head out the door... I will caveat this with a couple of thoughts:
1) I think I respond really quickly to this type of training because I have been through the process before (and have seen great results so I truly believe in it).
2) I was super diligent about keeping HR in the right range and I didn't fudge it. Not even on days when I felt really good and wanted to just say screw it and run faster.
3) I have both the available time and the durability to handle a lot of miles. Plus, I sincerely enjoy running a lot.
4) I am a conscientious NUT about doing all the body work necessary to keep myself healthy through a lot of miles. I can pretty much guarantee that had I not pulled out every trick in the book, I'd be nursing a calf/achilles injury right now. Every day I was massaging, rolling, stretching, voodoo banding, and e-stimming my calves... and they responded by letting me continue to run. :)

In good news, I got to test myself out with a little local sprint triathlon this morning. I haven't tried to run 'fast' in a few weeks so wasn't 100% sure how it would go but I figured no matter what it would be better than 2 weeks ago, and I was right. :)
4 weeks till Honu.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hatching The Egg

Alan Couzens wrote a blog last week where he included this quote and it spoke to me...

Hatching chicks is a part of the chicken journey I have not (yet) attempted, but I've read some about it on the Backyard Chickens web pages. Apparently it's really important to let those chicks hatch on their own without any outside assistance, even if it appears that they are struggling and taking forever and might not make it on their own. Apparently, if/when an impatient chicken owner tries to help that chick hatch out of his/her shell, the chick often ends up in more trouble and often doesn't make it out alive. You just can't rush the process.

Anyway, that analogy reminds me of how I've been approaching my run training. I got myself into a bit of trouble in recent months by consistently pushing too much too hard when it came to running. For a while my HR monitor wasn't working, so I did all my easy runs by feel (I wasn't breathing that hard so that was easy, right?) ... then on my hard runs I prefer to focus on pace or effort so I (usually) consciously choose to not use HR during those sessions... Then even when I finally got my HR monitor back up and functioning, I don't know, I think I just figured I was 'past' that stage in my development b/c OMG I've been training for like 20 years now you guys surely my aerobic fitness would have to be really good, no?!? And coach was on the same page there so I think neither of us really worried about that much at all. Run training seemed to be going well and my daily runs were getting faster and while I noted often that I was suffering more, I kind of took that as a good sign b/c (duh!) learning to tolerate suffering is like the key to success in triathlon! I will admit that the thought crossed my mind that I felt like I was working really hard really often on that run, but I thought maybe that's just what it takes to really develop my run into what I want it to be?

So then I got to run a half marathon, and I was sort of excited b/c I thought maybe I was actually going to run a good half marathon... But I didn't run a good half marathon. Instead, I blew to shreds. Damn.

So that was disappointing for sure and when I have a performance like that it really makes me go back and question what the heck happened... Where was the limiter? For me that day 100% it was my breathing... Breathing was way too labored starting around mile 5 and once I lost that I couldn't bring it back without slowing WAY down. My gut told me that my aerobic efficiency was something I should probably take a look at- I know what it feels like to have super aerobic efficiency and to be ticking along like a machine- working hard but in control- that feels awesome and I love that. But I did not have that with running. I raced again the following weekend (sprint tri) and noted that my run was limited by my panting breathing- I was at my top end limit but I was not going very fast. I knew I needed to go back and fix this the patient way... from the bottom up.

In good news, coach was open to also listening to my gut, and we decided that a 5 mile MAF test was in order. That would tell us what was up. So I did one of those and, um, I don't even know where to start with that?! I expected to see my pace fall off a bit at the same HR but it fell off like 2'/mile over the course of 5 miles and I was in shock. Like, what?! That's like off-the-couch level fitness and it was shocking to me. How that could possibly have happened I have no idea, but the fact that we had that concrete evidence of what was happening with my HR was the key to understanding how we needed to move forward. (See? Bad race results can be beneficial if they prompt you to look into why it went bad!)

Anyway, I got my HR monitor back out and am on a mission to fix this aerobic efficiency thing... I ran 45 miles this past week, all HR 140-150 (diligently!!), and watched my fitness rebound. I actually quite love that process and since I had a lot of time to think while I was out jogging almost every day, I got to wondering why it was that I seem to have a bigger issue with aerobic efficiency than many other athletes I know? I never really figured this one out? My guess is that it's genetic b/c I coach athletes who do a lot less aerobic volume than I do and their heart rates remain in control. I see a lot of files from a lot of athletes and some seem to have a really hard time keeping their HR under control (I fall into this category) while others struggle and have to work quite hard to get their HR up into the right zones. I think those in the latter group can do more hard/fast running and adapt to it just fine, but those of us in the first group need to focus more on aerobic running and that's where we get the most benefit. And when those of us in the first group do a higher % of our run training in the 'hard' category, we have a harder time going back and keeping heart rate under control. Anyway, the learning in the past month or so has been really good and just confirms to me what I thought I knew all along- I am a volume athlete... I respond well both physically and mentally/emotionally to high volume lower intensity work. Some higher intensity work can be good for me but too much of it buries me. These are good lessons!

If you're in the same category as me and feel you are limited more often by your breathing vs your legs, I think the key is actually running by heart rate- not by feel or by pace. Early on in the week I had to run very very slow and stupidly easy to keep HR in the 140's. Today, if I ran that same pace or effort, my HR would have been in the 130's which is too low for me. My goal is NOT to run slow- it's to run easy. And those two are only the same thing if you're missing aerobic fitness and efficiency. Today I was running and was actually able to push a bit b/c my HR was still pretty low and wow that felt GREAT.

I'll try to keep you updated on how this process continues to progress!