Friday, November 30, 2012

The BSC Swim

I'd say I don't really know how it came about that we ended up swimming 100x100's this morning... but really I do know... But I'll blame it on Teresa (it was her birthday) and Scott (it was also his birthday) and Krista (who instigated the birthday swim for them in AZ then posted it on FB)... then somehow even though we are in Hawaii and they are in AZ, we got roped into doing both birthday swims combined ("Double Dog Dare" style 42 + 49)... Then of course I'll blame Nalani again b/c she was like Um, are we really going to do 91 but not an extra 9?? 

So there you go. I'd blame all of them, but I'm the one who wrote the w/o. For the record though, minus all that encouragement, I wouldn't have written the workout. So I'm not really the crazy one in all this. Just sayin'. ;)

Nalani was so excited she had her swim cap on before the pool even opened. Truth be told, she does this every time we go swim so it's not as special as it might appear. What IS special though is that her cap is all Christmasy with snowmen and gingerbread house, etc. So.freaking.festive.

Mark showed up for the first time in several weeks. We laughed b/c he had no idea what he was getting himself into this morning. We didn't even tell him either until we were sitting on the pool deck and about to get in the water. He said he needed a long warm-up since it had been a while since he swam. We laughed and promised him it would be long alright. Then the conversation went like this:

Me: We're swimming long today.
Mark: What are we doing? Like 5K??
Me: No. 10K.
Mark: WHAT?!?

I captured his expression on my camera. Classic, no?

He still actually didn't believe us until Nalani pointed to our Powergels and said How often do you see us bringing food to swim workouts?? (Not that Powergels are food. We know.) Anyway, it was funny. Maybe you had to be there? (Fwiw, Mark made it through ~45 and then bailed something about having to go to work...)

Moving on. How cute is Nalani with her matching Christmasy swim suit?? OK so you can't see it very well in this picture but it's all Christmas trees and presents and Santa, etc. So.freaking.festive.

Pool looks long, no? I secretly think it is. Longer than 50M. Maybe it's the lack of lane lines and a decent gutter system that just make it slow? Anyway, nice there are not a ton of people who come swimming lately probably because it's been so cold in the mornings. Yes. I said it. Cold. I doubt it's even 70 degrees before the sun comes up these days. Brrrrr. The water is nice though at ~80*.

Enough pictures. Time to get in and swim. Here's what we did this morning.

20 x 100's @ 1:40 w/u easy effort but not much rest- we didn't want to be cold. :)
8 x 100's @ 1:50 bands only strong effort
4 x (3@1:45, 6@1:40, 3@1:35, 1@2:00). The 1 @ 2:00 was super easy and allowed us about 20" to take a sip of energy drink or pop a powerbar energy blast between sets. By the way, have you ever tried to swim with one of those things in your mouth? I tried. 3x today. I learned that I breathe through my mouth a lot more than I ever knew... Those things are a choking hazard don't swim with them. :)
20 x 100's Paddles/buoy/bands 4 x (4@1:40, 1@1:30)

Anyway, this main part of the workout didn't look that hard to me when I wrote it, and maybe if we only went through it 2 or 3 times on a normal swim day with only 1000wu it wouldn't have been... but yikes if I didn't feel trashed by the 4th time through that main set. Shockingly, I still made the last set with paddles... I'll thank the powergel for that. The last 100 of the day was my fastest of the day so apparently I wasn't as trashed as I thought I was (mentally maybe more tired than physically? Though physically pretty damn tired). I will say though, I forgot how hard 100x100's can be. We do this 1-2x/year and I guess since I've made it through every time I've tried I just don't give it the proper respect it deserves?? Somewhere around 60-70 today though I told Nalani that I should have better mentally prepared for this and what it was going to feel like. She reminded me that we would do well to mentally prep ourselves for the marathon like that too. Oh yes. The marathon. 9 days. Lovely. Looking forward to it. I think.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Swimming Strength

People tend to think of me as a swimmer and I think I've said this before... I'm not really a very naturally gifted swimmer. But for years, I have trained often, I have trained consistently, and I have trained a lot (and often times very hard) and therefore my swim race times don't tend to suck.

But just like most everyone else, if/when I miss swim workouts (and therefore my volume and frequency go down), my swimming skill temporarily disappears. One nice thing about the deep background I have though is that typically, with a few weeks of resuming solid training, it comes back. So that's nice. Don't think I'm 'lucky' though in that regard. I have put my time in and I have earned that. :)

Anyway, I am currently once again training for the Double Roughwater swim and if you've been following my blog at all over the years maybe you'll remember this one. It's ~7K or so and this will be the 7th(??) year I've done it. What I like about training for it sort of gives us license to do all sorts of the craziest swim workouts you can imagine. I can't say my swim fitness has been very high this fall BUT it is finally coming around now so that feels good.

Last weekend we did the Double course with a small group and a kayaker. It was cold, super windy, choppy, with jellyfish, etc. I was NOT fit enough to swim it well so essentially I got my ass kicked by everyone on the way home (for the 2nd week in a row actually) and it did not make me happy. At all. I got out of the water at the end and didn't speak to anyone just went and got changed and went home and plopped down on my couch feeling sorry for myself. I had all sorts of thoughts like screw it I don't even like that damn swim WHY am I doing this I suck at swimming, etc. (And no- not even PMSing! Ha!) I was conflicted though b/c I *knew* that if I ever want to have a shot at keeping up with the swimmers in that group I need to buck up and swim more and bailing on those long swims was not going to help me in that regard... But going through that ass kicking every weekend wasn't really sounding like a great idea either. Blah.

So if you know me at all, you'll know that instead of throwing in the towel, I put my head down and kept working at it. Wednesday we did a 5K w/o that involved 3 x 1000's descend 1-3 w/ 1' rest. This is actually kind of a staple in our world so not a huge deal... But I made it more challenging this time around my putting on paddles. Have you ever tried descending with paddles? It's crazy hard. Mostly b/c paddles wear you out muscularly in a way that regular swimming does not so in all honesty, I was not sure at all that I would be capable of descending. But why not try?

Long story short, I managed to do it (descend) but I will tell you- on that 3rd one I had to focus like no other time and really make sure I was swimming correctly. My goal was to make sure I was continuing to engage my lats (vs getting lazy and dropping my elbows on the catch) so I consciously widened out my stroke a little, anchored my elbow up high toward the surface upon catching, then reached deep in an effort to generate as much propulsive power as I could with each stroke. It was freaking HARD but so cool b/c I just felt like an animal and I knew I was hitting my target pace the whole time.

Fast forward to today I was in the ocean with Nalani doing the Double course again... granted the conditions were 100x nicer today than they were last week... no wind for the last few days meant the water was clear and glassy which makes it easier to swim correctly for sure... BUT the interesting thing to me is that when the pace picked up on the way home, I was there. My power was there. I totally recalled the animal feeling I had on Wed with the paddles and went back to that type of effort... widen it out, anchor the elbow, reach deep, feel the power. It was hands down the strongest swim I've had in a very long time and felt sooo good! I'm sure doing the long ocean swims 3 weeks in a row also had something to do with it, but I'm calling that 3K with paddles The Animal Set and 100% for sure I will do it again b/c I just LOVE the strength it gave me. Actually, while I was out there today I was thinking even better strap bands on too and try to descend that. 3 x 1000's descend 1-3 with 1' rest with paddles and bands (no buoy)? Holy crap. Totally not sure that is even possible but don't put it past me to try it. Maybe I'll start with 3 x 600's first though. ;)

Anyway, the inspiration for this post sort of came about after seeing the swim splits from Ironman Cozumel this morning. Clearly some swimmers were able to swim that course well today (top 3 women swam 54') but then looks like no one else (female) was even <1:02?? HUGE split for sure and a lot of relatively 'slow' times which indicates the conditions were suitable for the strongest of the swimmers but either the currents or the chop (maybe both?) were enough to separate the weaker ones out in a way that a lake swim would not. If you live near an ocean where you're able to train, then getting better in the ocean is a no brainer (duh- get in the ocean more!) BUT that is not an option for most people. So your next best bet is to get strong. And to get strong in the water, correct your stroke technique and then strap on those paddles and focus. Widen it out a little, anchor your elbow, reach deep, feel the power. There you go!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Bullet Points

Bullet Points!

~Happy Thanksgiving! So this was the first year I can remember that I did not eat turkey. I've been doing some information gathering on factory farming and how 99% our meat is produced and it's unsettling to say the least. I buried my head in the sand for quite a long time on this issue but having been exposed to it recently, I am no longer able to ignore it. Maybe I'll write more about this in a future blog but for now I'll just say that it is indeed a possibility to have a nice Thanksgiving without eating turkey. :)

~In my opinion, Turkey Trots are one of the best parts about the holiday! We have one here that is 10 miles. You show up, donate $5, write your estimated time on a popsicle stick that you carry with you while you run, then turn it in at the finish line. If you're within 20" of your estimated time then you might win a prize. It's super fun b/c you can run whatever effort you want- it's not about being fast as much as it is about knowing yourself... No watches/GPS/electronics on the run... Every year someone guesses pretty much exactly to the second which is a combination of luck and smarts of course. I was the closest I've ever been to guessing correctly at 27" off. I was probably dead on at ~mile 8 but then I saw a friend of mine up ahead... we were together at the start then he ran ahead... then I caught him around mile 6 or so then he busted his ass up Diamond Head toward the end and passed me back... I've been pretty much walking every hill in training (hello MAF training) so no surprise I couldn't go with him on the hill... but then on the downhill he was coming back to me and I sensed I might catch him again, which I did, in the finish chute! So fun. BUT then I was 27" faster than I'd guessed I'd be so I'm thinking had I not been so competitive I might have actually been spot on. Live and learn! In the end, I think the prize was a turkey and if you read my first bullet point then you'd see I didn't want a turkey anyway. But bragging rights are always awesome. Lol.

~A couple of my local athletes ran a Turkey Chase 5K... small neighborhood Navy event (they are both Navy) and one of them dressed up as a turkey and got a head start and then tried to not get caught. So this year Gene was the turkey and apparently when he found out Patrick was racing as well Gene insisted on a  2' head start vs the customary 1' (Patrick is fast!). Interestingly, Gene set a 5K PR while wearing a turkey costume- and didn't get caught! I cannot believe no pictures have surfaced of this- I would love to see those- but Patrick was out there running ~5:35 pace after Ironman training all summer (read: NOT speed work) then a 2 week break. Impressive, no?

~So I'm planning on running the Honolulu Marathon in 2 weeks. Based on my pace and perceived effort at the Turkey Trot, I'm going to go out on a limb and say my marathon is not going to be very fast! Breaking News: 5 weeks is not enough time to adequately train for a marathon! It's been ~3 weeks that I've been back running so far (so I have 2 weeks left but not really b/c I'm not going to run much that week prior so really I have 1 week left to 'train'), and while it's going as well as it could be going, when you're essentially starting from scratch fitness, well, 5 weeks is just not enough time to get into real marathon shape. Essentially all I've been able to do is the base work that focuses solely on aerobic fitness... In my world this must come first! I'm taking the big picture into account here and with Cabo as my main goal (in 16 weeks! Holy Crap.) I'm not ready to really do muscular endurance stuff yet and obviously don't have time to bring that in prior to Honolulu... so that's fine. I did a 20 miler last week and while it was slow, I finished it just fine and wasn't super tired at the end... so I'm confident I can finish anyway- likely without hurting myself too much. Since I'm not in PR shape, I don't think I'll do anything other than jog it for fun. Are marathons ever fun? I'm going to try to make this one fun! More on my methods of making that happen later. :)

~So with that thinking on the marathon, I've started to bring more biking back into the picture. It's funny- when I'm not riding a lot I don't ever really feel great on my bike, so consequently I don't really love biking (same could be said for swimming and running). But this week I rode 4x for a total of like 180 miles so that was a decent week and the love is starting to come back. I was more motivated today than I've been in a while and consequently had my longest training day since Canada (75 mi w/5 run). And I didn't feel like death at the end! Yay for small victories! I was thinking today that for the first time in a while, I can envision actually being FIT and strong again. Little by little it is coming back so I just keep chipping away and seeing/feeling the progress is motivating. I feel like I'm on the right path anyway. And I genuinely like Ironman training. Today was the first day that felt like Ironman training to me. :)

~In other good news, Kelly got that spot to Kona last week in AZ! Super stoked for her! And check out this picture of Keith at the finish last week. Has there ever been a better Ironman finish photo?? Apparently this is what an 80' PR feels like. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ironman Niche

What a day! Oh my. I spent so much of the day pacing around my house and obsessively checking IM Live and the Pele app for updates on my athletes racing AZ. It can be super stressful, you know, "watching" your athletes race from afar... At one point I called Krista (so glad she answered her phone!) and barked something like "GO FIND KELLY TELL HER SHE IS 2ND AND HAS A KONA SPOT IN HAND JUST KEEP RUNNING 9' MILES FOR 13 MORE MILES AND ITS HERS GO SCREAM AT HER!!!!!" Krista was a superstar cheerleader of course too (so I heard!) and was everywhere cheering for everyone so thanks to Krista for being there and doing something I would have loved to have done myself! :)

Anyway, not sure yet if Kelly got the Kona spot as she ended up 3rd 30-34... so... maybe!?! BUT check out that smile. Hard (smart) training and a well executed race earned her a PR of nearly an hour today.

My other 3 athletes in AZ had super days as well today... First timer Scott ripped off an 11:44 (amazing!!), Mary finally pedaled while on her bike (yes!) and ended up with a 30' PR (11:46!), and Keith negative split his marathon and ended up with an 80' PR (11:52!). I watched them all finish (so thankful for that live webcam of the finish line!) and then popped open a beer in celebration.

Today got me thinking about what an amazing year Team BSC has had. I did some math and this is what I came up with... 16 BSC athletes finished 19 Ironmans this year... 100% finisher rate!... with 12 of the 16 athletes achieving PRs at the distance (75% PR rate). Add one Kona qualifier (maybe 2??) and four Vegas qualifiers... I lost track of how many 70.3's and other races everyone did but of course there were tons of 70.3 and other distance PRs as well. Big congrats to ALL of Team BSC this year. Really. They all just trained so consistently and I could not be more proud.

So continuing the thinking thing... here's what I've come up with... Ironman is my thing. It's where my passion is and it's what I feel like I know and understand the best. I like Ironman, and I like coaching Ironman. And I'm good at it. :) So, going forward, I think I am going to try channelling my business in that direction. I do have a few athletes who are not interested in Ironman at the moment and that is fine- I will keep them on- but going forward I'll only be accepting new athletes who are geared toward Ironman. In good news, I don't have a boss or anything telling me how many athletes I can or can't work with each year so it's pretty much up to my own discretion when I think I'm full... I want to have enough time to give each athlete the attention he/she wants/deserves so I won't overbook myself, but that said, I think I have the capacity to handle a few more in 2013 so if you're interested in coming on board, let me know. We need at least 6 months of training to get an Ironman right so if you're planning an Ironman for next year, don't wait til the last minute and expect miracles. :)

So there you go! Funny aside... I was chatting with Mary about how her day went this afternoon and about how I was completely beside myself all afternoon watching it all unfold and she said something like "Did you even get anything done today?!?" My response... "Oh ya! I ran 20 miles." I love being able to do it all. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

MAF... On A Bike

Sounds like quite a few people were interested in that last post on MAF training... I received some messages from people who were trying it and had that experience of OMG This is so slow is it really beneficial to go this slow?? I get that. Hang in there. It does get better but it will get better faster if you do it often and are diligent/disciplined.

One thing I thought I'd also mention is that MAF training works on the bike too! I am lucky in that I have a ride option that is pretty much out my door that goes quite a ways with very few interruptions... mostly flat road, windy much of the time, but not a lot of lights and/or turns to interrupt me... so I go out and ride that most of the time. Boring, maybe, but it gets the job done. I can essentially do a trainer workout outside on this route. :) Anyway, you need a route like this for a MAF type bike workout b/c the goal is to ride at a very steady effort, and that's hard to do when you're stopping at a light or a stop sign every mile.... or twisting and turning through neighborhoods... or going up and down steep hills...

Anyway, MAF is the same thing on a bike. Know your range, maybe it's a little lower on the bike, maybe not. Personally, I use the same HR range for bike and run. When I first started MAF training on my bike 2 years ago I had to back off and soft pedal to keep my HR <150. Especially up a hill or into a headwind. It didn't take too long though until I felt like I was actually riding and my HR would stay where I wanted it. Then it got to the point where it was really all about staying >140 vs staying <150. Like, I had to work fairly hard and stay focused to keep HR >140. No sight seeing!! No soft pedaling! Pedal consistently all the time so your HR doesn't drop. Not that hard for an hour or so but go do that for 5 hours every week and guess what? You get strong on the bike.

I find group rides are the opposite of MAF training. Groups tend to go super slow/easy then HAMMER then back to super slow/easy then HAMMER again. Fine to train like that if you're a cyclist but if you're a long distance triathlete, well, this is the opposite of the type of fitness we want to gain.

My experience coaching women over the years is that many have a hard time getting HR up on the bike. This makes sense of we think about what makes heart beat harder? Muscles demanding oxygen... so muscles working harder = increased demand for oxygen = heart beats faster trying to supply it. So if a woman- especially a woman who is new to cycling- isn't as naturally muscularly built, she may not be recruiting strong muscles for pedaling that require a ton of oxygen. SO, no need for heart to beat faster. But that also means she's not riding very fast and that's what we're trying to fix... so for some women MAF training on the bike is opposite of MAF training on the run b/c it forces them to push harder to keep HR up vs backing off to keep HR low. Not all women have this issue of course. Some women (me included) are, for whatever reason, more muscularly built and in my experience these women tend to have to back off to keep HR low... at least until they get more fit. So it's pretty individualized.

If you have a power meter then you can track your MAF progress similarly to the way you would with pace on the run. So say you're just starting out a new cycling base period and you go out and avg 146 HR on the bike for 2 hours and end up pushing 150 watts to do that. Then next time you go do the same ride, same HR, but power is 154W. Then next time it's 160W. So that HR/power ratio is one we can watch to proves how you're improving. Just know that even if you don't have a power meter, ride like that and you will still improve even if you can't track those numbers. The first year I did this type of training I did not have a power meter but I knew I was making big improvements primarily b/c I ended up feeling like a bulletproof machine on the bike (even at the end of 5 hours) and my rides were faster with same HR avg.

Part of the reason we do this type of MAF training (both bike and run) is so we become more metabolically efficient- preferentially burning fat for fuel vs ripping through our glycogen stores. For athletes who are racing shorter distance races this matters A LOT LESS. A key reason people don't race faster at short races is that they are fitness constrained. They don't train hard enough. A reason people don't finish Ironmans stronger is that they are fuel constrained. They don't train smart enough. Alan Couzens wrote a really smart blog about this a couple years ago.

One last thing about the benefits of MAF training... your run pace at MAF is your run pace at MAF, regardless of whether or not you biked 100 miles first or not. Dehydration and heat can factor in of course, but I will tell you, I live in Hawaii so I train in heat much of the time... once you're adapted and fit, if you stay at least mostly hydrated, you'll be able to run off the bike the exact same pace you would run after waking up in the morning and having a cup of coffee... For an Ironman athlete, this is a beautiful thing! Of course, to maintain this pace for a full 26.2 miles one needs to have enough muscular endurance to not break down in that way. Most Ironman athletes aren't struggling with heart rates that are too high at the ends of their marathons... they're struggling with legs muscles that are rebelling the distance. So at some point once we're cardiovascularly fit enough, we move on and start really focusing on training that muscular endurance... But that's another topic for another time. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Take On Running At MAF

I am such a dork. You'll totally agree by the time you finish reading this post I am sure. :)

So I've been running a fair amount lately (and by lately I mean that last 10 days or so). And I have confirmed a couple of things that I think I knew before but am 100% positive I know now. Call it reconfirmation?

~Having a MAF base is super important for Ironman athletes. If you're not planning an Ironman maybe not such a big deal... but the ability to feel strong at the end of a very long day (ie Ironman) requires a huge aerobic base.

~Building that MAF base is an absolute tedious nightmare pain in the ass. I have walked more in the last week on my 'runs' than I have since the last time I tried to build a MAF base (early 2011 courtesy of Lucho). Pretty much every time the road tilted even slightly uphill, my HR would shoot up and I would have to walk to bring it back down. Every.single.time. It is not surprising that very few athletes take the time to go through this MAF process b/c honestly when you're out there jogging/walking it's really easy to get super down on yourself and think things like I suck I am so slow I'm way too fat and out of shape for this I'm never going to get better this walking is a waste of time...

~The trick to making MAF runs actually work for you is that you actually have to be diligent and not fudge it. Meaning- if your MAF HR range is 140-150, then don't look down and see 152 and keep running. Be the boss. MAKE your HR stay <150 by traveling at whatever pace necessary to make that happen. IF that means walking, then walk. Eventually your heart will get the message and beat at 148 bpm but you have to dictate that.

~The other trick to building MAF base is that it actually requires quite a bit of volume. The more miles you put in at MAF range, the more adaptation you'll get. But here's the thing- the runs are so slow/easy that they don't really take much out of you, so it's really not that hard to put in a lot of miles (assuming you have the time). The big picture goal is not to run slow- the goal is to become metabolically fit and durable. To do that you need to run a lot. BUT if you run a lot and you run hard, you'll be trashed. Run truly easy and you can run a lot. I ran 10 miles today. Twice. So 20 miles on the day and the bulk of both runs were done at MAF HR and I will tell you- I am not that tired right now. I do not have the fitness to run 20 miles hard, but I can travel 20 miles at MAF. It just takes time.

~It doesn't work to just go out and run slow. Because done right, your MAF pace will change. It's not about going out and running 10' miles. Maybe that was MAF pace last week but if you've run a lot now your MAF pace is 9:40... and at 10' pace your HR could actually be too low? Need to watch HR to get this right.

~Remember how I said I was a dork? Here's proof! I've been plotting my avg pace on my runs over the last 10 days or so. On a graph. I did this mostly b/c I needed some sort of confirmation that I was indeed on the right path (because just going out and walk/jogging super slow might have had me shooting myself in the head otherwise). Check it out though! It's working.
On both my runs today I was able to run the whole time while keeping HR exactly where I wanted it. No walking at all-even up the hills! Oh glorious day! I can tell when I'm getting fit b/c my HR won't bounce and jump all over the place. It stays super steady and only changes a beat at a time. Earlier in the week it was jumping 3-4 beats at a time- very reactive which is a sign of low fitness (OR could be freshness from taper- so IMAZ athletes DON'T freak out- but clearly that is not the case for me at the moment!). Anyway, it felt freaking awesome to actually just run. And even though it's still slow, it's MAF pace, so I am not concerned.

So in good news, I may still be 'in' for the Honolulu Marathon. It's in 4 weeks and I was pretty sure that my bout with shingles was going to take me out of that event... But I set a little goal for myself that I wanted to put in ~250 miles at MAF and in that time hopefully watch my MAF pace come down to ~9' miles... And if I could do that, then theoretically I could run the marathon in ~4 hours at MAF... thinking that then it wouldn't kill me and therefore require a month of recovery... BUT I'm ~60 miles in and already at ~9:20 so it may not take 250 miles to get there? Which would be super b/c then I can actually start training earlier. You see, in my head I have classified this current MAF base period not as "training" but as "training to train"... because once my base is developed I'll actually be able to go out and run hard and it won't kill me. Like I said before, the big picture goal is not to run slow- it's to be durable enough to handle the harder training you want to be able to do prior to Ironman. This period, for me, is part of attaining durability. I walk in the beginning so I can try to rip my own legs off at the end. :)

18 weeks til Cabo.

I do feel like I want to thank Lucho for teaching me all this last year. I have not forgotten how good it feels to actually be fit which is what is motivating me to go through this process again. It is coming along way faster this time which is super encouraging... though I swear there's no way I would do this to myself if it wasn't for my experience in 2011 having Lucho hold me accountable and guiding me along the way.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Long Day On The Ocean

I really had no business showing up for a 6K ocean swim this morning. Especially given the small group of fast swimmers who were there. I got the invite from a friend last night though and made a last minute change to my weekend training plans... Apparently I had some sort of amnesia about how little I've been swimming lately... also about how freaking hard it is to race swim in choppy ocean water for an hour and forty minutes. All I was thinking is that the Double Roughwater Swim is in 5 (or 6??) weeks and I need to do some long training swims so I won't die during that race.

It's always interesting too when you show up as a "guest" with a group you don't normally train with... Looking around at the small group as we were about to dive into the ocean, I recognized 3 of the swimmers as folks who are always crushing me in ocean swim races, and then 3 other swimmers who I'd never met before. I should note- these were not triathletes. They were ocean swimmers. There is a difference! I asked Miki what the plan was- where were we headed?? The shipwreck, she said. Ok. I've never been there so not quite sure where it was... I'll just try to keep up I guess?

Can I just say how much fear is involved when you're swimming with a group in the deep blue ocean and you're the slowest one and it's all you can do to just keep a pair of feet in your sight?? Yikes. And these folks don't screw around. There was no stopping or regrouping until we got to the shipwreck... 48' after we started.
All I was thinking that whole time was that if I fell off the back that would be it... no one was going to wait for me and I did not know where we were going. That, my friends, is some incentive to swim faster than you normally do! I am 100% sure that had I had a 'friend' who I knew would wait for me, I would have eased up. Maybe it's good for me to put myself in these uncomfortable scenarios? I do swim faster when I am afraid. ;)

Anyway, at the shipwreck they told me that there was shark who lived there so everyone was diving down and checking him out. In 8 years of ocean swimming here, I had never seen a shark (other than pictures!) but sure enough, I dove down and got a glimpse of him. Interestingly, I was not afraid then?? The first time I saw him he was just hanging out on the ocean floor (sleeping?) then the next time I dove down he'd apparently woken up and was cruising around... still not scary. Just kinda cool. Sharks actually DO exist after all.

After that one of the guys was like "Let's go check out the turtles". I wasn't quite sure what he meant but off we went and I sprinted behind in fear followed along again and sure enough a few minutes later we were on top of 7 HUGE honu who were just cruising around right under us. That, my friends, is the difference between ocean swimmers and triathletes (ok, one of the many differences!). Ocean swimmers know the whole floor of the ocean and where all the cool animals live. The ocean is vast, you know. I was simply amazed that they could swim right to those turtles?!? We hung there for a bit and I was grateful for the rest break. Then we headed back, into some crazy wind chop. I was tired by then... pretty much ran out of gas at about 1:15 into the swim and the group was sort of split up by then but I attached myself to a guy I was near and just did what he did. We did stop one more time on the way back to check out a spotted eagle ray and he was super cool and mellow. Thanks for the break, dude. I needed it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Scott and Moana on a catamaran cruise. This is where I planted myself with my rum drink.

Moana eventually got up and asked to drive the boat. We were all drunk enough to let her... watch where we're going!
The long ocean day was capped off watching a pod of spinner dolphins putting on a little show for us. I didn't get pictures of them but use your imagination. They're in there somewhere!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chasing Stage 4

So last time I wrote about the stages of shingles (the ones I went through anyway)... and as I was out riding my bike today (yay I'm finally riding my bike again!) I was thinking about the stages we go through when trying to regain lost fitness. Maybe a good blog post? Or maybe not? Ha! I'll give it a shot though and see what I can come up with. And I guess this goes without saying, but this is kind of how I personally experience the effort to regain lost fitness. For others it's likely different.

You take time off for whatever reason- you're injured, you're sick, you're done with your season and just want/need a bit of a break... regardless of the reason, when you're not training for an extended period of time, you lose fitness. Not the end of the world and we all go through it... but then we all try to get it back. Honestly lately I've been thinking that maybe one of the most challenging parts of having been fit in the past is the realization of how much it sucks when all that fitness disappears because you know how hard it is to earn back. I am not one of those genetically gifted athletes who magically gets fit overnight. It is a long damn process for me and requires a lot of diligent consistent specific work.

For me personally, it seems like it's been a loooong time since I've had any sort of consistent training pattern. Since August, really. After Canada I took ~2 weeks and did very little, then took another full week completely off. Starting back to training after that pretty much sucked and physically I felt like shit much of the time. A couple weeks later, just as I was seeing hints of some fitness returning, I dropped a broken plate on my foot and gashed it pretty deep- probably deep enough that I could have used stitches but I did not bother... figuring it would heal fine on its own. That was likely a mistake (hindsight is 20/20 you know). Anyway, it was another setback of 3 more days doing nothing and then limited training for about a week after that. Then again just as I was seeing hints of fitness coming back, I got shingles and was in bed for another week feeling as bad as I've felt in a long time. Shingles knocks your immune system down pretty solidly and after I finally felt well enough to go swim, I ended up with an ear infection the day after I first hit the pool. Lovely, eh?? My point of all this is simply that I feel like I'm starting from ground zero over here, which might not be such a terrible thing given that it's Nov... except that I am signed up for an Ironman in MARCH. My sense of urgency to start to get at least some baseline fitness back is probably higher than most of yours at this point. But I'm trying to not freak out. :)

So that's the background. Currently, my ears are not hurting, the cut on my foot is pretty much healed even if the scar is wickedly ugly (who cares!) and seems like my energy levels are almost normal again post shingles. I'm managing to get out the door for some swim/bike/run almost daily now but all around. Which lead me to thinking about this post!

Stages Of Regaining Fitness:

Stage 1: OH GLORIOUS DAY!!! This is so awesome I am outside and I am swimming/biking/running and oh it feels so good to be outside and able to exercise... who cares about my pace or my heart rate I am outside swimming/biking/running. So happy!!!! (For me this stage lasted like 3 days.)
Stage 2: Realization that I should really go about this in a diligent way... strap on that HR monitor and abide by what it is telling me... OMG does that say 155? I'm running 11' pace?!? WTF!?! Um, did Nalani seriously just lap me? In a longcourse pool?? Where's my pull buoy?? Um, I can't even attempt that swim workout yet. Maybe I'll just kick today. 2 hours is a hell of a long time to ride a bike. I'm trashed. This training is not very much fun (read: it sucks) but I know that if I stick with it eventually it will get better... (The length of this stage varies depending on the sport. I think my run will likely be in this stage for another month at least. Swim and bike typically move on to stage 3 after 1-2 weeks).

Stage 3: Looking at my watch while swimming I think, Ok well that is still way off where I've been before but seeing little hints of improvement. Finished a whole 3800M in the pool and didn't get lapped. Yay for small victories! Manage to get in 2 training sessions on the same day and while I felt tired, I wasn't crawling. Then I get the depressing thoughts like: Ok well this is better than last week but OH MY still have such a long way to go. How am I ever going to actually get as fit as I was before? Let alone more fit? Is that even possible? Rational self/coach says: It's probably best to not let these thoughts enter your head. Just shut your brain up and keep plugging away through stage 3. You might be here for a while.

So Stage 4 would be where you finish a workout and realize that you didn't just survive it... but that you actually felt good/strong! And maybe even went fast? I am pretty far from that one right now but I'll let you know when I get there. That is really the reason we suffer through the monotony of stage 3, isn't it? For that elusive feeling of nailing it in a workout or a race? I miss that feeling, but I'm going to be chasing Stage 4 until I get there again. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stages of Shingles... And Starting From Scratch

Shingles seems to have different stages. I'll document them here just in case someone at some point gets diagnosed with Shingles and googles for information wondering what they might expect... This is what I went through anyway. Very possibly people experience it differently!

First sign: Pulsing/throbbing nerve pain. This lasted ~2 days and was relieved by nothing. It felt the same whether I was sitting or standing, sleeping or swimming. Never suspected shingles at this point but if I ever felt that again, I would. Other than the nerve pain, I'd say my energy levels were pretty normal- I didn't otherwise feel sick or anything.

Day 3-4: Again energy levels weren't too bad, nerve pain subsided some, but itchy blistery rash spots started popping up along the nerve line. Not sleeping well.

Day 5: Energy levels start really dropping. Feel like I have the flu. More blisters appearing by the hour and all clumped together just on one side of body. Finally with google search figure out that the nerve pain was actually the Shingles virus making its way to the skin and that I must actually have shingles. Not sleeping well.

Day 6-7: Probably the worst of it as far as low energy goes. Felt seriously bad all over. Diagnosed by MD by this point and started on anti-viral meds. Also very hard to sleep at night b/c everything hurt all over. Vicodin sort of eased some of the pain but still had a hard time sleeping. No new blisters appearing but they itch like mad. Spent most of the time in bed (useless!) desperately googling for some sort of home remedy that will make this go away. Very little appetite.

Day 8: The newest blisters start to scab over a little (get darker in appearance) and itch less. Energy levels start to come up a little (maybe 70%?) and I managed to get outside and go for a walk. Head also seems more clear but that's likely related to not taking vicodin anymore. :)

Day 9-10: Energy levels more normal (80-85%?). Rash is almost all scabbed over but scabs actually hurt a little more- they don't itch anymore though. Still on anti-virals 3x/day. Experiencing a little of the nerve pain again in the original spot but not pulsing like before- more just like an irritated nerve? Haven't found anything yet that alleviates that.

So there you go. It's Day 10 today and I did manage to get outside and go for a short jog. Well, short in distance (4 miles) not short in duration! Ha! I strapped my HR monitor on b/c it just made sense to me that I don't want to push my body too much at the moment. So even though I feel sort of decent I sense that being greedy and going out and busting out a session that is too long or too hard will most certainly set me back. HR was extremely jacked up today- my goal was to keep it <150 today and I kid you not, I had to take a short walk break every 2-3' to make that happen. So odd, really, to not be able to run at all without HR jumping up to 153... but I listened to what my heart was telling me (it was screaming HELLO I AM STRESSED) so even though I did not feel stressed, I backed way off the effort from what I would have done had I say, just gone out for an 'easy' run by feel. 11+' miles today as the avg pace. I'm trying really hard not to be depressed about that. It is what it is and there's not much I can do about it at this point but just be patient and diligent.

My plan going forward is to heed that HR- I am going to wear it during every session throughout November and goal is going to be to simply accumulate time/miles <HR150 as I know that is a level that will not really stress my body much but will develop back some cardiovascular fitness that seems to have disappeared since Canada. So there you go. With a MAF pace of 11' miles I feel like I'm just completely starting over from scratch. I've been through this process before though and I am confident I can do it again.

19 weeks til IM Cabo.