Monday, January 28, 2013

On Patching Holes

Good news, friends! I think I've managed to patch those holes in my legs. :)

Fwiw, my cats are in love with my Recovery Pump boots. Mostly b/c it means they have a nice pillow for an hour or so whenever I'm in them. ;)

So I'm feeling 100x better today than I was on Friday! Body feels refreshed, brain feels refreshed... Mojo is baaaaaack. That was easy! How did I do it so fast?

Well first of all, looking back, I think my little meltdown might have been more in my head than actually in my legs. Maybe b/c I was entering this new territory in training and it was just building and building (and building!) and it was getting scary to me like yikes when am I going to get a break?? I do think subconsciously I was just a bit freaked. Maybe I just needed confirmation that my coach was not actually trying to dig my grave? He was just trying to find my limit, I think. Anyway, I have to say I totally appreciate the response I got when I raised the white flag... and maybe that's all I needed? Confirmation that when I need a break, I will get one? And in good news, when you catch these things early, you don't need much of a break, really. Just a few days to regroup and then can jump back into things.

Saturday morning I left my garmin on the counter and went out for a run in a neighborhood where I've never run before. No idea how many miles I ran or what my pace was... it was perfect. Yesterday I swam in the ocean with a couple of batshitcrazy friends (ocean swimmer friends are good like that) who didn't even flinch at the stormy conditions. OK, well if you don't think flinching and puking are the same thing then they didn't flinch. My point is, I have a new found compassion for folks who get seasick. We were being tossed around like ragdolls and I was completely as nauseous as I've ever been while swimming but loved every minute of it! That was the first sign my brain was back. I wasn't pissy at all! Yay!

Anyway, whether the meltdown was in my head or in my legs doesn't really matter. Right now I feel like the holes have all been patched and I'm ready to hit it again starting tomorrow. Which is good b/c this week, according to coach, is going to be "good for me mentally". I'll leave you to figure out what that means.

#redefiningbatshitcrazy #oneworkoutatatime

Friday, January 25, 2013

On How Our Brains Protect Us...

So you guys are probably tired of reading blogs from me about how awesome training has been and how I've been on fire and super happy and nailing everything... lol. So here's the post you've been waiting for! Come on, don't lie... you knew it was coming...


OK. I'm not sure if you call what happened today cracking or not... somehow in my mind "cracking" is when you're trying to rip it and you just can't so you stop and call it quits. A couple years ago I remember a run where I laid down under a tree for like 1/2 hour. That was most certainly cracking! Today I did not stop and call it quits, and I definitely was not ripping anything (I didn't even have the slightest desire to try)... But that's kind of what this post is about.

For me right now, when I get close to my overtraining cliff, I don't tend to get sick or injured... instead, my brain just shuts down and I go into 'whatever' mode. Normally, when I'm training, especially if I understand it to be a key workout, I'm all agro about pace and power and effort and I get super pissy if anything interrupts me. Tree trimming crews blocking one lane of the road and stopping traffic mid-interval?? You've got to be kidding me!?! Surfers and tourists trying to cross the road to check out the waves?? MOVE OUT OF MY WAY. I don't want to stop pedaling for a second b/c that will screw with the steady pink line I want to see on my Training Peaks graph later. Yes. I'm like that. See? This was last Saturday.

Not every ride is all steady like that... Lately this has been one of my key workouts and I've done it every week... It's not hard to guess what it is...

So of course since I do this every week I've been watching the numbers and every week they've gone up and heaven forbid I reverse that trend... so while coach doesn't instruct me to go MAX on these, I tend to now b/c I want to see higher and higher numbers. I've been adding ~10W/week which has just been shocking to me- but super cool at the same time- so yesterday when I did this session I pretty much ripped myself apart to get the numbers I wanted (I got them!!) and honestly, I think this was my downfall. Since then, my brain has shut me down and my aggression level is zero. Mama spent all her GRRRR on those hills yesterday. Since then it's pretty much been like there is some sort of hole in my legs and all my power has leaked right out.

I almost have to laugh at myself b/c the switch in my brain is so obvious. Today, instead of being pissed at the tree trimmers, I was relieved for the opportunity to stop pedaling. Hi Mr Tree Trimmer! Thanks for your work! Surfers checking out the waves?? Good idea! I should do that too. Maybe I'll just sit here and eat my Powerbar and watch for a while... What nice looking waves...

I am not kidding... an hour into my ride I was thinking that if I ended up with a mechanical I couldn't fix and had to hitch a ride home, I wouldn't even be pissed. Who thinks like that?? Someone who has had enough training for now, that's who.

Anyway, I'm pretty comfortable being here in this spot right now... I recognize it for what it is... haven't hurled myself off the cliff... And it took a shitload of work to get here. I think coach has been anticipating it too b/c his instructions for today were "If you feel good then xxx, if you're tired then yyy..." Obviously I took the latter instructions today. Then I sent him an SOS email so I don't have to over-think anything while trying to dig myself out of this little hole.

So there you go. I really think it's pretty cool how our brains protect us from actually hurting ourselves... We just have to pay attention and listen to what they're saying.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 Weeks of Crazy

So! I've made it 5 weeks with my new BatShitCrazierThanMe Coach... Haven't seen my plan yet for this upcoming week and not sure I even want to look... I'm just tackling one day at a time right now but so far so good. Thought I'd jot down some things I've learned/observed in case you're interested. :)

~I am capable of a hell of a lot more training than I thought.

~Coach loves the bike. For the past 2 weeks in a row I've ridden more than my biggest bike week of 2012. And I feel the best I've ever felt riding! 55% of my total training volume in the last 5 weeks has been on my bike.

~I always thought- in my heart- that I would thrive on volume. I was right.

~I actually haven't had any seriously big/long training days. But I don't have many short days either. It's really been more about backing up a solid day with another solid day tomorrow and another solid day after that. Frequency is high and therefore total volume is high but no single session has been overwhelming.

~I am generating a lot of laundry.

~Not once have I altered or moved or modified a workout. A+ for following the plan! :)

~The key to nailing hard sessions is making sure your easy sessions are easy. I know we've all heard this one before but right now I am LIVING it and can vouch. Nalani saw it this weekend too- yesterday we rode HARD. Today we rode EASY. La la la... Just some chit chat catch-up time while pedaling a bike today.

~I used to hate easy recovery days. I am learning to love them. Seriously. LOVE.

~This might sound crazy, but I think I always resisted rest/recovery before b/c I was never really working hard enough to feel like I needed it. I distinctly remember at the end of that training camp I did with Hillary Biscay last March thinking, "I do not work hard enough in normal training..." This year so far every week is like a training camp week. Seriously. So when I do happen to have an easy session, I cherish it. :)

~I thrive on seeing a schedule that makes me think No Way can I do that... but then doing it anyway.

~Those Recovery Pump Boots are worth their weight in gold to me. I am testing their limits and very pleased so far.

~I've been eating a mostly plant-based diet for the last 3 months or so. Not quite 100% vegetarian, but close. I don't feel the slightest bit deprived. I have not been able to give up eggs. I love hard boiled eggs. I'd really like to find a local source where the hens are not abused.

~I don't feel fat anymore. I'm not weighing myself often but I weighed myself some over the fall and managed to put on quite a bit of weight (like 8-10lbs!). OK so I was never really 'fat' but I was too heavy to run well and I just generally felt like a cow so that wasn't good. Pretty sure that's all gone now b/c I just don't feel fat anymore. That was one of the things Nalani and I chatted about today while we were soft pedaling- given that I feel awesome and am hitting great numbers in training and my pants fit loosely again, I don't feel the need to see a number on a scale to validate what I'm feeling. It's all good.

~I am pretty surprised that I haven't cracked yet. I keep thinking that one of these days I am going to CRAAAACK but so far I've been ok. I've had a few runs that could be called UGLY for sure but not like to the point of sitting down on the side of the road and calling it quits.

~Sometimes I wonder if coach writes a week schedule in for me and thinks to himself "I wonder if THIS will crack her??" Lol.

~When I ride in the rain a lot, like for 2 weeks straight, I find myself incredibly happy when the roads are finally dry.

~Coach is more into effort than numbers (HR, pace, power, etc) but I have not yet given up my training data. Seeing objective evidence of improvement (vs just thinking 'I felt stronger today') is highly motivating to me (yet I don't need to see objective on a scale? Interesting.) And when the numbers aren't there I just think Duh, I'm trashed and don't stress about it.

~Ok I just checked Training Peaks and saw the schedule for the upcoming week... Had a hot flash. Here we go again! 8 weeks 'til Cabo!

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Swimming... And Cleaning House

I have lived in this condo for 8+ years now and finally, for the first time ever, hired professional cleaners to come clean it today.

I've been wanting to do this for some time but never actually followed through. I think just the thought of having someone else in my home going through my stuff and cleaning just made me a bit uncomfortable? And let's face it, I did feel a bit inadequate allowing these women to come in and see what a dusty mess I've allowed my house to become over the years. Like, shouldn't it be my job to make sure this house is clean?? That's up for debate I suppose... and while I can (and do) straighten up, and I do a decent job of keeping my kitchen clean, I do not often ever launder the bathroom rugs or the shower curtains... and now our screens are clean, etc. So it was worth every penny. I will not wait another 8 years before I have them back. :)

And plus, let's face it. I'm too tired right now to clean my house. I am not, however, too tired to train like I'm on fire! :)

So in other good news, I am swimming out of my brain right now! Coach seemed to recognize that with my swimming background I could swim often (and hard) and that it wouldn't really take much energy out of me to do so... so I've upped my swim frequency to 4-5x/week (from 3) and avg weekly volume is up to 16-19K/week (still not huge but bigger than the 10-12K I have been complacent with for years) and it is working! I have never felt better in the water... well, not since I've lived in Hawaii anyway.

In November I blogged about a swim w/o I was super happy with... main set 3 x 1000's pads/buoy/bands descend 1-3... I remember being thrashed and DIGGING to get that 3rd one to be my fastest and was so proud when I did it... I remember thinking that took some serious strength and I remember how much I had to focus. So this past Sat I had a 3K 'aerobic' swim on the schedule... my choice of how to do it and I was too brain dead to think up anything creative so I figured I'd just put my toys on and swim 3K straight. I was alone though so to keep myself occupied and engaged I thought maybe I'd try to descend each 500. I'll spare you the details but suffice to say that my effort was never more than moderate but I rolled through that whole 3K solidly descending every 500. Last 1000 was 28" faster than my 3rd 1000 in November (when I had rest!) and I never even felt winded. Amazing. So. Lesson of the day- swim more frequently if you want to get stronger in the water. And use your paddles like all the time. :)

For today I pulled a set off Andy Pott's FB page. He posts some solid ones fairly often and since instructions for today were "HARD" (and I'm still braindead) I figured I'd find something good there. Main set went like this:

3 x 500's HARD @ 30" rest
300 easy pull
2 x 400's HARD @ 20" rest
300 easy pull
1 x 300 HARD
300 easy pull c/d

Great set! 2600 hard meters and all of it done faster than my best ever tested t-pace. I'd like to say I was over the moon stoked about this and maybe I would have been had I done this set alone, but seems no matter how well I swim, Nalani is always one lane over absolutely So while I'm swimming faster than ever, so is she. So I guess that's good for keeping me humble. ;)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Handling More Load

Wow. Definitely less time and energy to blog these days. Must mean ironman training is in full swing!

I tweeted last week about my new Recovery Pump Boots and how much I was in love with them...

That prompted a few responses from folks wanting to know more about what I think about them... Are they worth it, etc. Initially my thought was Yes! #worthit. And a week later my thought remains. YES!

So here's the thing. To improve at Ironman, we have to train a lot. More is more, and all that... until it's not more, meaning you're doing too much and can't recover from session to session which means your body isn't able to adapt/absorb the work you're doing... so no point in training beyond that point b/c you'll just end up sick or injured or whatever. That's old news.

Some people are able to train a heck of a lot more than other people, and still recover day to day... Which means they can do more WORK. Those athletes who are able to handle more load, if things go well, will likely fare better on race day. So how do we go about teaching our bodies to handle more load? I've been pondering this over the last week while sitting in my recovery boots between sessions. Here's what I'e come up with.

1. Longevity/aerobic base. Athletes who have been at this game for a while, who have years and years of miles in their legs, can definitely handle more load than someone who is recently off the couch. However, even if you don't happen to have 18 years of triathlon training behind you, you can still teach your body to handle a higher load if you take the time to develop a really solid foundation of aerobic base miles. I've been over this before talking about MAF base, etc so if you're new and lost on this topic, go back to November/December and search what I wrote then. I'm too tired to link it. ;) The biggest reason to develop a great big huge aerobic base is so when the time comes to TRAIN, you can TRAIN. And then you'll recover really well which means you can TRAIN again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. (This is the phase I am in right now, as evidenced by the lack of regular blogging I've done lately).

2. Whole Food Nutrition. I am not a dietician but I don't think you need to be one to figure out that whole foods do a better job of supporting your body than processed crap. Whole foods go a long way toward allowing your body to repair itself and can help you combat excess stress. Live by this motto and you'll recover 100x better than if you don't: 1. Eat real food. 2. Not too much. 3. Mostly plants. (I am quoting Michael Pollen here. Smart guy.) I would venture a guess that my diet consists of more greens and other fruits/veggies than a lot of people. Consequently, my body recovers well and I stay healthy more often than one might think I should based on my training log.

3. Sleep! This doesn't seem like rocket science but I would venture a guess that many folks just don't organize their lives in such a way as to make 9PM regular bedtime. Try this for a month and see if you don't feel like you recover way better from your training?? Fwiw, good whole food nutrition supports this effort to sleep. I don't know the exact mechanism there but I am sure there is a connection.

So those are my top 3 things you can do to increase your ability to handle more training load. And guess what? They are all FREE! Ok, well good food isn't free. I lied. Sorry. But sleep and base miles are free! Well, if you run barefoot and naked they are free? You get my point.

Now, IF you are doing the above and still trying to get more out of yourself with the goal of achieving your highest potential, then maybe you'll be open to spending some money to aid your cause. There are endless ways to spend money on triathlon, but here are my thoughts about how you might get the best return on your investment!

1. Hire a good coach. There's lots written about how to pick a coach so I'm not going to go into the details of all that now. I'll summarize by saying pick someone who you like and trust... and who also genuinely wants to work with you. This last point may sometimes be overlooked but I think it's really important! A coach is going to be able to figure out how much load you can handle (it might be more than you think??) and suggest that you do it. A coach might also hold you back a bit if you're new and overeager to go after more load than you've set your life up to handle.

2. Buy yourself a set of Recovery Boots. Yup. After my experience this past week I'm putting this right behind hiring a coach. Two weeks ago #2 would have been buy a power meter but the power meter (in my head anyway!) has been relegated to #3. My rationale is that you can still put in the work on the bike without a power meter... maybe you can't quantify the work and track your progress as specifically, but you can still *do the work*. Recovery Boots allow you to feel fresher the next day so you can once again go out and get the work done, whether you can measure it or not. I find inflammation in my legs to be nearly non-existant after sitting in those boots for 45' or so. I use them every single day now! And yes, my husband laughs at me. Whatever! Another benefit is that I tend to be a little more aggressive than I might otherwise be on my harder days now knowing that I have this recovery tool at my disposal afterward... which is huge. I've been able to do more quality work this past week than I even dreamed I'd be capable of and I'm crediting my coach and my boots (and my aerobic base, nutrition, and sleeping habits!) for the increase. I should note here as well- I am not sponsored by Recovery Pump. Believe me, I wish I was! But I am not... so nobody is paying me to say this. It's 100% my own opinion.

3. Buy a power meter (and learn how to use it). A power meter in itself will not make you a faster/stronger rider. BUT, if you have a good book or coach who will teach you how to use it and you pay attention to your numbers and record them for future reference, you can get pretty specific with your bike training and track your progress accordingly. You can build base by keeping your watts in control, and push yourself harder on intervals chasing higher numbers. You can also dial in Ironman effort which can help you learn to control yourself with pacing, etc.

Of course there are 100 other ways to spend money on triathlon that can be beneficial to performance... HR monitors, Garmins, race wheels, aero bikes, wetsuits, race shoes, etc. The #1 thing though, really, is to Get The Work Done. So if money is tight, focus on the first three items here. If you've got some to spend (and you're already doing the first three right!), consider the latter three.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Go Big Or Go Home

2013 arrived in a storm. Literally. This is what I'm looking at this week. Lovely!

In good news I feel fairly immune at this point to weather related issues when I'm riding. Wet, windy, whatever. It's not like it's 40 and raining. That would suck. ;)

Anyway, today was interesting as I was out on my 'easy' day... 'just' a 3 hour bike/30' run... more on my new coach who is clearly more BSC than me in a bit... It was pretty ridiculous conditions out there with the strong north winds and squalls of driving rain... didn't see too many other cyclists this morning (not as many as you'd normally expect on New Years Day anyway) but the few I did see all gave knowing nods... like ya, we're doing this. Toward the end of the ride my power data went blank. I got home and figured out why.

Looks like water got in to my PT hub and the batteries didn't like it. Shocking! I also had my first flat of the year today... probably shouldn't have bragged about only have 2 all last year! Now I am in for it. Or maybe not. I have those Tuffy tire liner things in my tires which is the reason for the huge reduction in flat tires last year- it takes something pretty significant to get through that and it kind of has to come through the sidewall, which is what happened today. Anyway, there I was, riding in sideways rain with a dead powertap and a flat tire and amazingly just felt unaffected by the circumstances. In the past this type of scenario would have left me feeling pissy. But not today! I think that is a good sign for 2013.

There's a mountain behind those clouds somewhere...
The worst part about riding in conditions like these is the time you have to spend on maintenance on your bike afterward. I actually hosed this baby down before even trying to wipe her clean. I didn't even want to touch her! But I did need to address that powertap issue so cleaning was mandatory today.
Anyway, I think the reason I did not feel pissy today was that I can tell, 100%, that this new training program I'm on is working. And when you know you're on the right path, motivation gets higher. You're willing to put up with more crap. More rain. More dirt and grit on your bike. More flat tires. Whatever. Just ride. Because it's working!

So here was my thinking... I had a good year in 2012, but it wasn't my best year. There's more in there, I know there is. And my gut was telling me that I wanted/needed someone more experienced than me to help me pull it out. I am good at making myself do the training. I can put in the volume no problem. I can even write good intense intervals for myself... but interestingly, when I don't have a coach, I tend to modify my planned bike/run workouts on the fly and they become much more an 'as you feel' effort vs actually pushing myself even if I don't feel like it. This was my problem in 2012.

I came up with a short list of coaches I thought might work well with. Honestly, my #1 concern was that a coach would treat me with kid gloves and I did not want to waste my time with that. I don't know how many years left I have here at my prime (I'll be 39 next month!) but only maybe a few and I just figured Go Big Or Go Home, you know? I am at a point in my training/racing where I feel I am ready for that. So I went with my gut and contacted Scott DeFilippis with Team TBB. Team TBB has a reputation for working hard, maybe a bit unconventional (which honestly was probably the #1 draw for me) and they clearly have something figured out b/c their athletes perform. Scott was a collegiate runner, has been coached by Jack Daniels in the past and is now coached by Brett Sutton. He just ran 2:47 at IM Florida for 3rd OA. He told me that if I didn't want kid gloves then he was my person. Perfect. Let's get going.

So I'm in week 3 of the program. I wasn't going to tell anyone... I was just going to quietly do it and show up at Cabo ready to blow it out. But that makes for a boring blog, no? So I'll detail at least a bit of what I'm learning here. I'll say this so far... it's been interesting! My biggest take away so far is the consistency of the work. Pretty much every day I do something that is solid. But so far none of the workouts themselves have been over the top (though I saw the plan for Saturday and I think, by anyone's standards, it is freakin' but it's more like the way they're stacked together that makes them work. I am learning a ton, I've watched my power jump up to nearly my highest outputs ever in less than 2 weeks, and the run workouts scare me. One thing I thought was cool was that Scott recognized that whatever I'm doing with my swim is working, so he is letting me stay pretty much in charge of the details of that... he'll tell me a theme for the day (ie aerobic only or as was the case yesterday, "flog yourself") and then I get to write the actual workouts, which of course I love. But the bike/run stuff he writes the details and I have been following them to a T. Turns out, I freakin' LOVE following directions when I believe in the plan. I have not modified a single thing in the last few weeks. Novel, right? Lol.

So there you go. In 2013 I'm a "TBB online" gal. Go Big Or Go Home!