Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Race Of Truth

Time trials on the bike are called The Race of Truth for a reason. There's no hiding out there. It's you with your wheels against the wind and the clock. No drafting, no strategy, no cat and mouse games with other competitors... just as fast as you can go from start to finish.

For that reason, TT's are scary to enter and race. It's the ultimate in the game of How do I measure up?

And this morning was a tough one. The weatherman wasn't kidding when he predicted rain and high winds. We all gathered at the race start while it was still dark for pre-race instructions from the race director. The wind was whipping through the trees and we were all dressed like Eskimos in our coats and hats. I had my hands crossed across my chest and a scowl on my face as I shivered to keep warm. Then it started raining.

Lovely. Let's all get on our bikes and race now, ok?

Lots of people brought their trainers to warm up with. I didn't. I just rode around in wet circles with my teeth chattering for about a half hour and tried to force myself to let go of the pissy feelings I was having. Time for an attitude adjustment, mama.

The good news is that typically, once the gun goes off, I'm able to put all the elements behind me and just race. In this case, there was no gun that went off- they sent us off every 30 seconds individually. I got in line like a good little racer and took off sprinting when I was told to GO.

And then immediately the wind and the rain and the wet and the cold just completely left my mind. My goal today was to ride hard. The whole time. I wanted to focus- to not let my mind wander onto random topics. Push the whole way. Teach my body to push through fatigue barriers. This was a good course on which to do that because there are a couple of good solid climbs right at the end. So, I wanted to push myself to the limit before the climbs and then hammer up them with any scrap of energy I could muster up.

I looked at the start list for women and saw that just about all the fastest girls were starting ahead of me. So I wasn't worried at all about being passed- instead today, I was The Hunter. That's a new and different role for me b/c usually in triathlons (coming from a swimming background) I am the one being hunted. But you know what? I sort of like being The Hunter. I caught a bunch of women who started ahead of me... picked 'em off one by one.. I was looking for Nalani who started 60 seconds ahead of me... she was riding very well! It took me a long time just to get her within sight, and then even when I did, it took me a while longer to actually catch her. As I went by, I told her, "Don't get complacent! We have less than 10 minutes left!" (Afterward, she told me she was impressed that I could conjure up the use of a word like 'complacent' under those circumstances. Ha!)

I guess I said that about not getting complacent because it was really my goal for myself... the ride hard the whole time thing is easy to throw out the window once you've reached a goal, and one of my goals was to catch Nalani, so once I did that I didn't want to just sit up and cruise in. I pushed as hard as I could up the final climb to the finish... felt a bout of nausea coming on for sure... and congratulated myself on a very solid effort today. I was happy when I crossed the finish line... looked at my watch and saw that I finished the 12.8 mile course in 29:57, which was cool I guess, though it would only matter in the context of what the other fast gals did. In the end it didn't really matter- since my goal was to focus and ride hard for the entirety of the race- and I did that- but yet I still wanted to know how I measured up.

Turns out, two women rode faster than me today. They are both really strong cyclists so I was not surprised. So what did the Race of Truth tell me today? It told me that my cycling is right on track with where I want it to be right now. It told me that I'm getting better at maintaining focus for extended periods of time. It told me that weather elements cannot bog me down or deter me from my goals. The truth is, I'm right where I want to be right now! :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

You Decide

The Sports Scientists wrote a good blog the other day about mental attitude in sports... the mental vs physical debate... no one will ever have the answer, but I think if we take a close look at ourselves we can get a bit closer to figuring out how much of our performance is based on our mindset vs our physical abilities.

I know that for me, mindset going into a workout is HUGE. If I think the workout is supposed to be easy, it better be easy. And physically I'll be pretty much unable to do anything other than easy. Sometimes I make a decision that today is going to be HARD, and that I am going to go FAST. And guess what? It's hard and I go fast. Amazing how that works, eh?

I'm working on this now with my athletes- especially the ones I get to train with sometimes. I'm learning how to push their buttons and get into their heads and elicit higher levels of performance from them. Take Todd, for example. This morning we were swimming and doing sprint 50's. Todd and Nalani and I were swimming side by side. After the second one I told him, "You are a sprinter! There's NO WAY Nalani and I should be able to hang with you on these." And then guess what happened? Nalani and I sprinted our brains out but Todd ended up a full body length ahead of us after just a 50. That's where he should have been. He's very fast. He just needed to believe that to make it physically happen.

This Sunday will be my first race since Ironman! It's just a short time trial on the bike... 12 miles I think. I was watching the news tonight and the weatherman is predicting high winds and rain for Sunday morning. Niiiice. So I sent a text message to two of my local athletes who will be racing on Sunday (their first TT's ever!) I told them what the weather forecast was and that they should start mentally preparing now. One responded by saying she would do her anti-rain dance all day tomorrow. NO! I responded back. Embrace the weather! Mediate on this all weekend instead: I LOVE riding in the wind. I LOVE riding when the rain is pelting in my eyes. I thrive under those conditions! My other athlete texted back immediately, "I will crash if it rains." NO! Again I wrote... NO NO!! You are a bad ass and you love riding in the wind and rain! Rain and will will not slow you down!

It took a few more tries with this one but eventually she wrote back, I AM THE STORM!" That's better.

Because really, you can completely defeat yourself right from the beginning if your attitude is that the conditions suck, you will be slow, you're not fit enough, you didn't eat the right dinner last night, blah blah blah. Whatever. You have to decide. You have to make the decision that Today Is Your Day... Today, you are going to be fast. You decide. Then make it happen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paying Attention

Seems everybody is talking about heart rate monitors and training with gadgets (or not, as the case may be) these days... everybody has their own opinions I know... but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents out there as well. I've actually been contemplating a post like this for a while and now I'm finally getting to it. :)

I've been around this sport for a long time and I've seen the pendulum swing a couple times. And I'll be honest, I swing with it sometimes.

I started as a newbie triathlete when I was 20 years old (YES! I wasn't even old enough to legally drink a beer after my first race). Those were the good old days, I tell ya. When we knew nothing about training or fueling or technology... none of it. I would eat a banana and then just go as hard as I could for as long as I could without worrying about pace or bonking or having fear of working too hard or going too easy. And you know what? I wasn't that slow back then. I did a lot of races without any real plans, had a ton of fun, and usually felt rather satisfied with myself afterward.

It's good sometimes to be completely naive.

A few years later I got a heart rate monitor and a running coach... I read some books on training and decided to get more 'serious'. I had to slow my training runs way the heck down to stay in the right 'zone'. I had to choose between riding with my friends and riding in my zone, because let's face it, you can rarely do both when you're with a group of competitive athletes. I can say that I did improve during those years- eventually I didn't have to walk on my long runs anymore to keep my HR down, and my pace at HR 170 got a lot faster (yes, I have a hummingbird heart that beats very fast), so clearly I was becoming more efficient. The HR training was working.

But you know what? I hated it.

I felt like a slave to this machine all the time and I swear it took all the joy out of my training when I had to let myself get dropped from a group ride so my heart rate wouldn't hit the roof. Training alone all the time so I could stay in my zones was the pits. I remember specifically making a decision that even if it meant I wouldn't reach my full potential, I wasn't going to use that damn HR monitor anymore because I just wanted to train with my friends and have fun and not worry about all the data.

So I threw away my heart rate monitor. I trained however I felt, went hard when I felt like it and easy when I felt like it. And I still had decent races.

I've gone through that swing a couple times and have now settled in a pretty comfortable place where I see the usefulness of the data tools but I am not a slave to them. I think now I've got more maturity as an athlete than I've ever had before, so I can look at data (pace, HR, and power- coming soon!) and understand it for its usefulness but not get so wrapped up in it that it ruins the rest of my day if I don't hit xx pace or xx bpm. I know that there are some days where I just feel great and other days where I just feel bad and that's the nature of our sport. I understand that my HR responds differently when I am well rested vs when I am at the end of a hard block of training.

Currently, I do use a HR monitor a lot of the time while running and riding. (And when I get my power meter I'll use that a lot too!) But honestly, the purpose of it for me now is mostly to keep myself in check. As I get older (and wiser?) I understand and appreciate the need to let my body recover and just go easy sometimes. So mostly I use the tool to make sure I'm not going too hard on my easy days, which allows me to recover and go really hard on my hard days. Sometimes I wear the monitor on my hard days just because I get a kick out of seeing what my HR is when I'm going that hard. That said, I typically leave my HR monitor at home when I go to the track- because at the track, I don't care what my heart rate is. I care what my pace is. And I work as hard as I need to to hit that pace. Additionally, I will not race with a heart rate monitor. Shoot, I don't even race with a watch! I race completely by feel, so it's important for me sometimes in training to go by feel as well so I don't feel lost while I'm racing.

I know that different athletes are different and some are gadget geeks and couldn't imagine for a second going for a training run without their garmin or a race without their watch. And others want nothing to do with that and always train by feel. Personally, I think that most newbie athletes would benefit from using a heart rate monitor for at least a year because it's a tool that really helps you get to know and understand yourself and your training. Zone 1 is really really easy. But that can also be very subjective. I have training partners who think they're going 'easy' but I swear that if we strapped a heart rate monitor on them we'd find out for sure that their sense of 'easy' is way off. Data can really be useful in these situations. That said, once you really truly know yourself, training by feel is great. It's liberating. But I think you have to have a good bit of experience and maturity to train appropriately when it's all by feel.

I'll leave you with this last example. I'm a swimmer by background. I think maybe once I strapped on a HR monitor while swimming just because I was curious about what it was, but that is certainly not the norm. But of course I time everything I do in the pool, and after years and years of swimming and paying attention to effort level and pace, I've got it pretty much nailed down now. This morning was a hard workout in the water. By the time we got around to the last set of 5 x 100's descend 1-5, I was feeling like I might puke from the effort on the 200's and my toes had been numb since the last 300. But nonetheless, it was time to descend these 5 x 100's. I felt thrashed. But I know pace by feel and descended all 5 of those 100's by a second or two each time. That is something I've been working on with my athletes as well- descending pace- which forces them to pay attention to pace and effort. Most find this incredibly frustrating at first because if you've never paid attention before, it's nearly impossible to do. But once you start paying attention, you get the feel.

So start paying attention. And if you're using pace or power or heart rate to learn that, great! If you've been there, done that, and can differentiate easy from moderate from hard by feel, and can feel the difference between 7:00 pace and 7:20 pace, awesome! But the trick, data tools or not, is to pay attention.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bomb Da Bugs

Yesterday morning I got home from swimming and these guys were waiting outside my condo.

Tropical islands are great places to live, though one thing we don't talk about a lot is that they are typically full of bugs. Sometimes these bugs set up house in your house and feast on the wood that holds your house together. This is bad, for obvious reasons. These bugs are hard to kill. But if you hire some professionals they'll put a massive tent over your house and then fill it with poison chemicals which will kill anything living inside.

Again, for obvious reasons, it's important to go away from your home while this process occurs. So we packed up all our food, our plants, our animal, our baby, and anything we needed for a few days, and moved out.

Um, what a pain.

Neither Scott nor I felt happy about the fact that our home was being poisoned, but it's a necessary thing here if you don't want your house to be eaten by termites. Or if you ever want to sell the house- inspectors are always checking for termite damage and if they find any, you can count on the fact that you will not be able to sell your house. Ever. So we packed up and moved out and let the guys bomb our house.

It was actually even more complicated than normal because we live in a town-home complex where multiple families live under the same roof, so it had to be organized so everyone moved out at the same time so the entire building could be tented. This was no small feat. Our neighbors have been trying to organize this for almost a year and a half and it just now happened.

Anyway, we went to the neighboring town and stayed with some friends in their house. Not a bad deal, really. It was really gracious of them to let us stay there. Moana was a superchamp, of course... such an adaptable little person. She didn't protest a bit taking a nap or going to bed in this strange place... In fact, it appears that she was highly intrigued by the new environment. She got to pet a cat (she said 'meow' for the first time when she saw it- apparently she does listen to me when I read to her and make all those animal noises).

I had a hard time relaxing with her in the backyard though because of the deathtrap out there. Unfortunately the water was too cold to swim in so we didn't get to enjoy the pool at all... it was more like Mommy couldn't let go of Moana's hand while she ran around back there and finally we just had to stay inside so Mommy didn't have a heart attack.
So Moana and I spent a lot of time out and about the last few days. Playground, beach, park, grocery store, etc. I would have been happy to just come home tonight and finally just relax and chill out on the couch while watching the Olympics, except that we had to move all of our food and medicines and stuff back in... and since the refrigerator/freezer was completely empty for the first time in forever, I seized the opportunity to clean (I mean, really clean) the shelves and drawers... this was the kind of cleaning that hasn't taken place since I went through my 'nesting instinct' right before I gave birth to Moana.

One thing that shocked me though was that there were no cockroaches on the floor when we came back in. I was fully expecting the floor to be covered in dead bugs. (Nice, I know) There were some of the little roaches dead on the floor (those don't bother me like the big ones) but not.a.single.big.dead.roach anywhere. What's up with that? I know they live here. I've seen them. Yes. Occasionally In our silverware drawer. I know how bad that sounds. I swear I keep my kitchen clean. But they live here. It's unavoidable. Why, then, did they not come out and die when the whole place was fumigated?? Don't tell me those things saw the big orange tent and decided to temporarily move out as well? Because they're not invited back.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hello, World!

I got home from running today and said to Scott, "I feel complete."

Not being able to run these past few weeks left me feeling like something was missing. (Like a limb?) It didn't matter that *everything* else was going really well... my inability to run made me feel all incomplete. But apparently that A.R.T. stuff is magic because I ran today without even a twinge of pain. Not even a bit of tightness. Amazing. Truly. I know that I need to be careful with it for a while yet though- the PT told me that I am susceptible to re-injuring it for the next 3 months, so I need to be careful about running too fast or too hilly. But flat easy or tempo running is just fine. I'm listening to this gal because clearly she knows what the heck she's talking about.

You know what else is complete? (This is the big news you've all been holding your breath and waiting for...) My website. My coaching website. How's that? I feel like the real deal now. Amazing how a little website can do that to you.

I was inspired to create one but seriously didn't know where to start. I figured I'd have to hire someone to do it for me... I had so many very basic questions... like how do you make a logo... and can I buy the web address... and what do you do once you have your web address?? I may know triathlon, but I did not feel like I knew how to create a website.

BUT, the good thing is that we can all learn, can't we? And this Internet thing is amazing when you can google something like 'create a website' and get all sorts of good information about where to start and what to consider when getting started.

I started with my logo. I found a site that said their professionals would create one for me for $499. Hmmm. That seems like a lot of money. Then I found another site that said their professionals would do it for me for $150. That sounds more realistic. Then I found a site that told me I could make my own logo for free. I didn't have much hope that I'd be able to come up with anything good because let's face it, artistic talent is not exactly a strength of mine... but here you go. This is what I made. Like it?

I like it. I like the Find A New Gear tag line, and if you've been reading my blog for a while you know I talk about that sometimes- finding new gears while you're training and racing... getting out of your comfort zone and finding out that You're Faster Than You Think.

Next up... tackle the website. I did a bunch of reading about it, then finally settled on a 'host' for my site, registered my 'domain name', and boom! Website created. Now if I could just come up with the content.

I sat for about 2 days staring at the blank pages of my website. It's strange- putting yourself out there like this on the web... In my heart I know that I am a good coach and that I have a lot to offer to athletes who are looking to reach their potential... but to write all that out and put it on the web like, "Hello, World! I think I can help you..." makes me feel very vulnerable. But you know what? Sometimes things are scary. And those are the things we need to just do. Shut your brain off and just do it. (That's what I used to have to do when I was a springboard diver in college and I was afraid of a dive- just shut my brain off and do it.)

Unfortunately the only way I actually knew how to shut my brain off in this situation was to drink a beer. So, beer in hand, I just started doing it. I created my website. Thank you, (inhibition-blocking) beer.

I asked my athletes for testimonials. This part was actually very touching for me. It appears that the athletes I'm coaching now actually like me and feel like they are improving in the sport thanks to my guidance. Ahh. Sappy, I know. You know what's NOT sappy? That in her testimonial, one of my athletes actually called me her 'Triathlon-Mother'. Ha ha! You know, I guess I thought of JH as my Triathlon Mother last year, even though she is only 3 years older than me. The scary thing here is that I could theoretically be Rae's mother! I never thought of myself as being so old until it occurred to me that had I had a child while I was in high school, she would be Rae's age now. Let's move on, shall we?

So here you go... Hello, World... check out my new website at And let me know if you want me to be your mother too. ;)

Friday, February 19, 2010

The A.R.T. Magic

So thanks for all the birthday wishes! I had a great day yesterday... busy, but great. I feel good being 36. My 36 year old self is stronger and faster and smarter than my 35 year old self, and that's a good feeling.

Last night we went out to dinner as a family... the little family of 3. We don't do that a lot because let's face it, taking a toddler out to dinner can be a nightmare (for everyone!) but last night was just perfect. Moana actually provided some good entertainment value to the evening. We ordered 'scallop cakes' (like crab cakes) for an appetizer and when they were placed on our table Moana let out a big "OOOOOOOOOOHHHHH" from her highchair. For the record, she's a big fan of scallop cakes. She's also a fan of opah, rice, baked potatoes, and salmon. It was hysterical last night to watch her just open up her mouth as wide as she could. It was like, open mouth, insert fork through the whole dinner. Then of course came the dessert... and who doesn't like peanut butter chocolate cheesecake with oreo crust? Moana helped us polish off this baby.

We got home and Scott gave me a new Mac Mini for my birthday! I don't complain about this computer very much to you guys, but Scott listens to me all the time and probably just finally got so annoyed at my incessant whining about how it freezes up all the time and takes forever to load a page and then just randomly shuts itself off sometimes... We'll get the Mac set up this weekend and then hopefully there will be no more complaining about the freezing up of the computer. Yay!

Moana also wanted to add to the birthday giving fun... so she gave me a big poop. In the bath tub. Oh, thank you, Moana. Mommy appreciates cleaning up poop out of the bathtub on her birthday.

In better news, I went in for my first A.R.T. appointment this morning. I wasn't sure what to expect but I've heard so many of you rave about the wonders of A.R.T. I just had to go see for myself what this magic is all about. My weak spots were identified immediately and then, via some very painful moves, they were 'released' and now I'm all better! Lol. Not quite that easy, but I do feel like I've got a good grip on what the problem is and we've made real strides toward getting me all healed up. My calf feels 100% better today and I've been given the green light to run (easy) on FLAT surfaces, which for me means the track or the treadmill because there are no flat surfaces around here. As much as I hate running on a treadmill, I hate not-running even more, so the treadmill it is.

I've also got some other big news... so stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


So today is my last day of being 35.

Turning 36 is really no big deal. I mean, it's not like I'm going up an age group or anything. And 35 or 36... whatever... still "mid'30's", so not like turning 39 or 40. Not that turning 40 is bad (I know many of you are doing that soon or have done that already and believe me, when I turn 40 I won't be the least bit sad about it)... I just mean that 36 doesn't feel like anything I need to really go out of my way and make a big deal of.

So other than the typical birthday workouts (ahem, 36x100's anyone?), this birthday should pass by quietly and peacefully and when I wake up tomorrow morning, I will still be Scott's wife and Moana's mom. Though I guess one fun new thing about my birthday this year is that I get to make some of my athletes do my birthday workouts with me... I probably caught a few off guard when they read their swim workouts of 36x50's or 36x100's... so if you're reading this, go to the pool and get it done. And thanks for celebrating with me. :)

I got a Bosu ball for my birthday (thanks, mom!) It arrived in the mail yesterday. I pumped it up right away, much to Moana's amusement, and practiced balancing on it. Pretty cool, that thing. Makes plank a heck of a lot more interesting, and push-ups on that thing are HARD. I've been standing on it with one leg and trying to balance... Moana is intrigued and actually stood on it by herself today too.

You know what I'd really like for my birthday? A new calf muscle. Mine is still bugging me. I thought it was ok. I ran 3 times last week on the treadmill at the gym. Gasp. I know. Who runs on a treadmill at the gym in Hawaii when it's 75 and sunny? People who are injured and are afraid of mid-run calf pain and don't want to have to walk home, that's who. So last week Monday I ran 20 minutes, no pain. Got off ahead of the game before I felt any pain because I'm smart like that. Waited 3 days. Back to the treadmill on Thursday for 30 minutes. No pain. Sweet. Wait 3 more days. Back to the treadmill on Sunday for 45 minutes. Ok, a little tight this time toward the end there but no acute pain so I think I've licked this thing. Take another day off running and then hit the road outside Tuesday morning and 1/2 mile into my run BAM. Calf pain.

I don't like to swear on my blog b/c my mom reads this, but this warrants a really loud F&*K.

So of course now I'm being all 'crazy injured woman'. I mean, seriously, it's been 5 weeks since that initial calf strain/tear injury. I've been able to run some here and there, but you could NOT call it 'training'. I think the original acute tear has healed but now it's adhesions or something like that. Clearly time to see a professional about this because it'll feel 100% walking around for a couple of days so I'll try running and then re-injure it so it hurts again. But not exactly in the same spot as the original injury. It moves around. Isn't that weird?

Anyway, my thoughts at this point range from A)Forget it. I'll just swim and bike this year since obviously I'll never be able to run again... to B)I need to go see an ART person and get this taken care of... I should not try to run again for several weeks and meanwhile I will focus on building strength and doing what I can... to C)Screw it. Give me some advil and I'll just harden up and run through this thing.

'C' is NOT an option because the pain I feel when it starts to hurt is excruciating. I'm tough, but this is not an injury to run through. So it's either A or B. I'm thinking I'll try 'B' and if that doesn't work, well then, 36 will be the year where I tear up a bunch of ocean swims and bike races.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Training Effect

So while I was getting certified as a triathlon coach, I obtained a Polar RS800CX Heart Rate Monitor. It's like a training computer that does all sorts of things (um, too many things??) and I am still in the process of learning all that it does... but thought I'd share a bit about one of the features I think has been the most helpful to me so far.

One of the things you can ask this HR monitor to do is test... it estimates your max HR, your VO2 max, and it tells you if if your training intensities have been appropriate. Um, can I just tell you how nice it is to be able to test my max HR without going to the track and killing myself for 20 minutes? Lol. The fact that I can test my max HR (and therefore determine my training zones) while laying on my bed almost makes the $$$ price tag of this thing worth it.

So the Max HR test is done like this: Set the watch to the 'test' mode, lay on your bed, and relax for 3 minutes. Oh... you've tested your max differently? You went to the track and ran as fast as you could until your felt like you were going to puke? Suckers.

Just kidding. That is an excellent way to figure it out. But this is much easier. :) I found out that my max is in the realm of 190 (without feeling like I might puke). It also estimates your VO2 max during the same relaxing 3 minutes. Apparently it does this by measuring the variability between heart beats... the more variability, the better. Or something like that.

Anyway, I had my VO2 Max measured in a lab about 7 years ago. There was a guy who was testing the whole team of runners I was training with... so I got on the treadmill and had that mask over my face and ran and ran and ran faster faster faster until I thought I was going to die. I do not remember what my score was, but I do remember thinking the guy was full of it b/c he told me that my VO2 Max was 'off the charts'. What? He said it was the highest of anyone in the running group. Which, um, begs the question, "Why am I the slowest one in the group?" I don't remember what his answer was to that, but I did walk out of there with heart rate training zones so at least I had some useful information to work with, even if that VO2 Max score was clearly a bunch of BS.

Fast forward to the present... now I can test my VO2 Max without being hooked up to any face masks and I still find that my score is 'off the charts'. The chart given in the User Manual for this Polar product says that for a woman my age, an 'elite' VO2 max would be <44. Mine repeatedly comes in at 58. A little google searching about what this means and I came up with the fact that my 10K pace should be 5:51. Um, who comes up with this stuff? I have never run a 5:51 mile in my life.

So I'm still calling BS on this VO2 Max stuff.

BUT what I have found helpful is another test this Polar computer does, and that is the Optimizer test. Essentially what this is is a way to evaluate your training intensities and how your body is responding to them. The test tells you to lay down for 3 minutes, during which time the HR monitor measures your resting HR, then it beeps at you and tells you to stand up, where it measures your peak upon standing, then you stand quietly for 3 more minutes and it measures how much and how quickly your HR comes back down. In a 'normal' or 'recovered' state your standing HR would come down and get pretty close to your resting HR. In a 'Training effect' or 'Hard Training' state your resting HR is higher, then it spikes pretty good when you stand, and then only recovers some in the remaining 3 minutes.

OK, so for those of us who like to train and like to train hard (and don't have coaches ourselves to keep us in check!), this test is extremely helpful. For the first 2 weeks you're supposed to test 3-4 times/week so the computer can 'get to know you'. You test after easy days and after hard days and it remembers how your heart responds and what your personal patterns are.

I found it interesting that I was regularly coming in with a score of '2', which meant 'normal state' and that I was not even on the brink of overtraining. Even during that big Bike Week I did where I rode and rode and rode... Polar told me I was still in 'normal state'. I began to wonder what the heck I needed to do to get into a 'Training Effect' state?? Well, after that wicked fast ride we did last weekend, where I was 90%+ of my max for almost an hour straight, I figured surely I must not be in a normal state now... so I did the test and sure enough... My score was 3. "Training Effect" achieved! My resting HR was like 70 and then peaked at 111 when standing and only came back down to 84. Ok, that's not normal. Clearly my heart experienced something traumatic during that ride and needed a little break. Good info to know!

The manual tells you that when you see a 3 you have two choices- you can take your recovery now, or you can continue to train hard for another day or two and then take really good recovery after your hard block is over. If you continually test and come in with elevated heart rates, it'll give you a score of '6' which is 'Hard Training'. This is ok if you are training hard on purpose and trying to get into an 'overloading' state. It suggests very easy training or rest for several days until you get back to a normal state. A score of '7' tells you that you are 'overreaching' and that seriously indicates that you need a full recovery period. '8' indicates 'Sympathetic Overtraining' and '9' indicates 'Parasympathetic Overtraining' where you can't even get your HR up anymore because of a long history of overtraining.

By the way, scores of 4 or 5 indicate that "Your HR has been at a normal level for a long time now. Effective training requires both heavy training and good recovery and this should cause variation in your heart rate results..." Or in other words, Hey lazy one... get off the couch and go out and train, would ya? I can't imagine that I'll ever see a score of 4 or 5. Lol.

Anyway, the great thing for me about having this testing tool is that it has given me new purpose to my recovery days. Those of us who love training hard tend to hate recovery days/weeks. But when there is a tangible goal with the recovery, like make this HR monitor tell me that I am 'normal', recovery days have a whole new purpose. It's also good in other circumstances, like where you might think that you should be tired but the test indicates that you're normal state so it's like a green light to go harder than you might have otherwise in your next training session.

So if your goals are to train as hard as possible while still within your recovery limits, this testing tool is extremely valuable. I'm looking forward to continuing to use it regularly and getting to know myself even better this season. There's a big part of me that wishes I would have had this while training for Ironman last summer/fall. Just to have the information from that period would be awesome- because thanks to a good coach I think I did it right- but I am curious now about how long I actually stayed in a 'hard training' state during those big weeks... Interesting stuff.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Evolution Of The Saturday Ride

When I lived in AZ (prior to moving to Hawaii) I had a great little group of friends to ride with. There were like five of us who rode together consistently several times a week... pretty much on the same routes. Over time we got to know each other's riding styles. We knew everybody's strengths and weaknesses. We knew where the fast parts of the ride were going to be and who was going to attack and when. It was really quite amusing and fun to have such a great little group to ride with.

Fast forward like 6-8 years and that little group has grown into something huge... They've got a real name and uniforms and all that. Last time I went back to visit (several years ago) I hopped in on the group ride, which was the same as the one we started with a small group of friends years prior, and hardly knew any of the 40+ people who were there. Amazing how these rides can just take on a life of their own as they grow into something very organized.

Anyway, it was tough to leave that group when I moved to Hawaii. For months (almost a year!) after I moved here I did a lot of training by myself. There are lots of training groups here but I was appalled when I found out that most of them charge you to participate... What??? $400 to join the training group? No thank you. I just could not wrap my head around paying to get into a group training situation. (Masters swimming being the exception here- paying coaches and pool time and all that makes sense... it was bike/run groups that didn't make sense to me. The public roads are free, you know.) Clearly I was very spoiled by my group of friends in AZ. I mean, ok, if you need motivation (like, "I paid $$$ to do this so I'm going to show up and do it"...) then maybe one of the paid groups is right for you. Or if you're new to the sport and not sure how to train properly- though even then I can't say that group training is always 'proper' training, but that's another post.

My point here is that I was psyched to meet some friends who live nearby who train like I do. 5 years ago I saw a gal swimming at the pool near my house. She was wearing an IM Florida swim cap. Hmmm. A triathlete, I thought. As I was leaving the pool I saw her in the parking lot digging through her trunk to find her run shoes... In true stalker fashion, I walked right up to her and started a conversation... yes, she and her husband were both triathletes... yes, they ride on Saturdays... cool. They live like 3 miles down the road from me... Yes! Let's ride this weekend!

So for several years the Saturday Ride was just me, Sandy, and her husband Mike. Just a couple of friends who got together to ride just about every weekend. We are creatures of habit so we tend to do the same route all the time. Or maybe it's that we live on an island and there are like 2 roads here so in reality we don't have much choice. Regardless, it worked for us.

Then little by little we started meeting new triathletes... come ride with us, we would say. And little by little the group grew. And it continues to grow. We've got a great group now of about 10+ 'regulars'... you know- the people show up every week- and we know their strengths and weaknesses and on which section of road they are likely to attack, etc. And then of course we get the 'guest riders' who just show up every once in a while because they heard this is a good fast ride. Some (ok, most!) of these athletes drive over from the other side of the island to play on Saturday mornings. We have formed a team with a team name (and matching outfits and everything!)... And I now find myself back in the same situation I was in while I lived in AZ... a great (and growing!) group of friends who amuse me every Saturday on our ride.

Here's Sandy and Spence at our turn-around point today... trying to call Spence's wife...

I think it's interesting to watch how these rides grow over time and become something so much bigger than just a couple of friends who get together and ride on Saturdays. That's all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Double Shot

I've found the key to faster swimming.

You wanna know what it is, don't you? Ok, here goes... spilling my secret... it's all about the *second* shot of espresso in the morning before hitting the pool!!

I guess I've been missing out these last few months (years?) with having only one shot... but I gotta say, since I've started drinking the second one I've been much happier in the water. Happier because I feel peppier (is that even a word? Maybe it's 'more peppy'?) Whatever. I'm swimming faster which makes me happy and being happy is a good thing so if I have to double my budget for espresso from now on, so be it.

I've been a loyal Nespresso user for probably about 7 years now. I bought this machine at some kitchen store when I used to live in Scottsdale and it moved to Hawaii with me and still gets used every single morning. I love this machine. Love it. I mean, really really love it. I think the only possible negative thing you could say about Nespresso is that once you buy their machine, you have to buy their coffees... they come in little pre-packaged pods that fit nicely into the machine. It's not really a negative for me though because I really like Nespresso's coffee pods (um, they taste gooooood) and they make for a perfect frothy shot of espresso. Every time. No mess. No fuss. Nespresso also comes out with what they call 'Variations' which are fun different flavors... I usually just buy their standard dark blend but the variation I'm currently hooked on is something like 'chestnut cream' which is so nice and smooth... mmmm. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

So enter Coffees Of Hawaii, the local company who sponsored the "Espresso Bar" out in the ocean in Kona during Ironman Week... What a cool company, eh?

I swam out to their boat and totally enjoyed their coffee every day while I was there this past October... :)

Coffees of Hawaii is now sponsoring my local cycling/triathlon team, Pac Velo...

I mean, sometimes I drink regular coffee (ahem, hello Sunday mornings...) but while I usually build time into my morning to check your facebook updates, I typically don't leave myself enough time to enjoy a whole cup before I have to get out the door to train... hence, the espresso. Anyway, imagine how excited I was to hear that Coffees Of Hawaii was coming up with a pod that fits into the Nespresso machine! AND, they asked me to be a guinea pig in trying out their new little product! Heck Yeah! I'll do that. :)

So Albert sent me several different pods to try out. The colored ones are the Nespresso brand pods... the clear ones are the Coffees Of Hawaii prototypes.

I was psyched to try these out. And you know what? The flavor of this coffee brought back the best memories of swimming at the Kona pier last October... The flavor lingered in my mouth this morning for a while after drinking the coffee. Ahhhh.... So here's to good memories and fast swimming!

So right now you're thinking, Man I'd love to have some of that coffee from Hawaii... Go check out their website and if you want to order before Valentine's Day, enter the code 'love' at checkout for a 15% discount. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's Time

6 weeks. That's the amount of time before the first local sprint triathlon.

3 weeks. That's the amount of time until the first bike TT on my 2010 race calendar.

Our triathlon race season starts early around here. There are plenty of reasons for that, not the least of which is, of course, that our weather allows us to train outside all year round. The big 'A' race of the year (for most of us) is the first weekend in June. After that, unless you qualify for Kona, there are only a handful of little races to play around at. My point with all that is this: The time has come for us. It's time to get fit. It's time to start getting fast. It's time.

I am not one of those natural athletes who can not train all year and then show up to a race and be bad ass fast. It takes work for me. Lots of time and lots of work. That's ok. I like work. :)

Which makes the fact that I had the opportunity to participate in my own Bike Week last week just perfect. I've been putting a ton of base miles in, and when you also throw in some short hard fast intervals, it sets you up nicely for some group training where you know you'll be testing your limits. Today was the start of that for me!

So I went out for the group ride with my own understanding for myself that when it got fast, I wasn't going to argue with myself about it being 'too fast' or 'too hard', because it's time. I'm ready to go fast. I'm ready to go hard. And I did. And it was awesome.

I feel good about the way I planned the ride today- 62 miles, out and back... a few other gals started at my house with me and we rode out to Sunset Beach at a steady/moderate zone 2 type effort. All along with the understanding that on the way back we would be joining the group (read: fast guys) and doing whatever it took to hang on to a wheel. Yell obscenities at yourself (or others, whatever), just do not get dropped.

So we met the group at the turn around point and got going headed home. The pace didn't start off too fast. In fact, for the first 5 miles or so it wasn't any faster than what we gals had done riding out... I was not fooled though. I've ridden with these guys long enough to know that at some point they would get all antsy at the slow pace and start racing each other, and I was ready to play when it all started. And then sure enough, one after another, they started attacking and it was Game On!

I glanced briefly at my heart rate monitor a couple times... wow that's high... but I felt ok and was hanging right in there... in no danger of being dropped... and then it got faster... and I hung in there... and then it got faster... We were flying! Yet still, while I was right on the edge of my personal cliff, there was no thought of falling off. I did not know I could maintain a heart rate that high for so long. But you know what? I can.

These are the rides, when used at the appropriate times (and sparingly) that make us fast. There is no way I could have pushed myself the way I did today without those guys to pace off of. So while I am in no way advocating that we should ride like that every time we go out, I do think that without those types of efforts, you finish a race, look at the results, and think, "Why can I not go faster on the bike?" If you're not going fast enough on the bike, it's likely because you're never pushing yourself past your own little comfort zone in training.

When it comes time for you, find a group of people who are faster than you. Then start showing up to their rides. Hang on as long as you can before you get dropped. Then go back and try again next week. Hang on a little longer this time before you start yelling obscenities and get dropped. Then one of those times, you'll be there, at the end of the ride, with the group, thinking, "I just did that. Wow. I rock." The key (of course) is that you have to earn your way into those efforts, and then use them appropriately to boost your ceiling.

My ceiling was raised today. Sweet.

Friday, February 5, 2010

No Means No... (Or Sometimes Yes)

Like I mentioned before, Moana has exploded with her ability to verbalize things lately. 'Yes' was one of her first words and it was just so cute to hear her say an emphatic YES! to everything.

"Moana, do you want to eat?" YES!

"Moana, do you want to go outside?" YES!

"Moana, do you want to go to the beach?" YES!

"Moana, is it time to take a nap?" YES!

Ahhhh, the glory days.

Though stage 2 wasn't so bad... she learned to shake her head and say no. But it was cute sounding 'no'... with a high pitched ending making it almost sound like a question... "no?" The great part about stage 2 was that she only said no when she meant it. Like seriously, she wasn't hungry anymore and she would say 'no?' while waving her hands in front of her face. Her message was clear. I'm done eating, mom. Ok. Got it. I was so proud of my little girl for being so spot on in expressing her desires. For like a whole week she said Yes! when she meant yes, and no? when she meant no. I could totally depend on the answer she gave me when I asked a question. Love this girl.

Now, however, we have moved onto the next stage, where she says NO to just about everything. Sometimes it's still the cute 'no?' but other times it's really more of a NOOOO. Anyway, dumb me was still in the habit of listening to her when she would reply in the negative to a question I would ask. Take this morning, for example. She didn't eat much for breakfast. Kinda weird because usually she eats a big breakfast, but whatever, she had no interest in eating. So I let it go. We played for several more hours, and once every 30 minutes or so I would ask her, "Moana, are you hungry? Do you want to eat?" To which she would reply, 'no?' Ok, so we went about playing. Finally it was about 10:00 and I figured it must be either nap time or eat time, though she replied an emphatic no? to each question when it was asked. Hmmm. Then right after a big 'no?' she showed me the eat sign (hands to mouth) and said 'eat'. Hmmm. So I asked again, "Moana, do you want to eat?" To which she replied, "No." I told her that if she was hungry and wanted to eat that she needed to say "yes", to which she replied "yes!". So we came downstairs where my starving daughter ate a huge breakfast.

I really need to stop asking the question about nap time now too. Because you know the answer to the question "Is it nap time?" is always going to be 'no' when a 15 month old gets to decide. She protested pretty strongly against the nap today and I let it go for a little while because she genuinely did not seem tired, but by noon (when she'd been awake since 6) I put my foot down and told her that nap time means nap time and I left her in her crib to protest as much as she wanted. Now the house is peacefully quiet and when she wakes up I suspect she'll be less grumpy. Though now I won't be able to trust her 'no' for a while.

Finally (unrelated to this post) here is a video of Moana at the beach last week. Angela mentioned on her blog today that she thought Zach would like to go to a warm sunny spot so I thought, worst case, maybe he'd at least like to watch one of his little girlfriends in one...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Somebody Please Take This Damn Piano Off My Back

Want a good swim workout? Try this...

Main set:
12 x 50's @ 1:00, every third one ALL OUT SPRINT
straight into
12 x 100's @ 1:45, every third one ALL OUT SPRINT
100 easy, then

It doesn't look all that hard on paper, does it? The intervals are pretty roomy... shoot, there are only 4 fast 50's and 4 fast 100's... and then just 1 x 200... how hard could that be?

Nalani and I did that as a main set this morning and I just have one word. Brutal. I guess though it's only really brutal if your ALL OUT segments are actually ALL OUT. I read Ange's blog yesterday where she talks about getting out of your comfort zone and really pushing it when you have the green light to go hard... and you better believe that's what we did this morning. It's funny too- when you're sprinting like that in the water... with each repeat the piano starts falling on your back earlier and earlier... by the last 100's I was carrying that damn piano after only about 25 meters. Anyone watching from the side of the pool probably could have seen it pounce on me too. Man, I can FLY for a good 25 meters of the wall and then boom! The piano falls, and my pace did too.

And last week when I was sitting at my computer writing that workout, the 200 fast at the end sure seemed like a good idea. Ha! Let's just say it was a better idea last week than it was this morning after those 100's. I went for it though. It might not have been pretty, but I went for it.

Then I got back on my bike (again) for the last of my official Bike Week workouts. Having my mom here this past week gave me a ton of free time and I used it accordingly. It is clear to me that Bike Week really boosted my cycling fitness up to a nice level. I feel quite strong right now on the bike and I like that. The vast majority of the 300+ miles I rode in the last 9 days were steady zone 2 stuff... though I did sprinkle a few well timed intervals and hill sprints in there to keep myself feeling poppy. I felt great today while pushing a handful of 2 minute intervals. Now I get to sit back and relax for a couple of days to let my body absorb all that good work. Ahhh...

Or... maybe there will be no sitting back... Moana was spoiled in a big way by all that undivided attention from Grammy. Now Grammy is gone (boo!) and it's up to me to be the attention giver again. So much for recovery... ;)