Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Bike Shoes Are In The Freezer... And Other Random Tales

So a couple weeks ago I put my bike shoes on and felt something unusual... wasn't sure what it was but took my foot out of my shoe only to find HUNDREDS of ants in there. Holy crap that was nauseating. You know how hard it is to get rid of all those ants?? Really hard. I won't go into all the details, but it turns out those ants are somehow attracted to the inserts I have in there and they will NOT stay away from my shoes. I've put cinnamon in there (didn't work), tried OxyClean powder (didn't work), ran those shoes through the dishwasher (didn't work)... If I leave them outside on the patio after I ride, the ants find them. In the last few weeks I've had to add 10' to my bike ride prep time to de-ant my shoes, which I've been doing with a power hose outside. Those things hang on though it's amazing how strong of a grip they have. I've resorted to storing my bike shoes in my freezer. I am not kidding. I do put them in a plastic bag and in the bottom drawer so hopefully they're not contaminating the food in there. In good news, we eat more fresh food than frozen.

In related news, in Hawaii it takes like less than 10' for frozen shoes to thaw out after you start riding. :)

I followed the coverage of IM Lake Tahoe over the weekend and apparently it takes longer for frozen shoes to thaw out up there. But I bet nobody had ants in their shoes now did they?? In all seriousness, props to anyone who even started that race. Shit. I'm really not sure I would have.

Can anyone tell me why it is that husbands are incapable of loading the dishwasher in an organized manner? I don't understand that. They can pack a ridiculous amount of luggage and bike boxes in a car like nobody's business but figuring out how to organize plates and coffee cups in a dishwasher is beyond their scope? After 5+ years of marriage I'm finally just accepting this as not one of my husband's many skill sets... but to all the Mama's of the little boys out there... please do your future daughter-in-laws a favor and teach your sons how to load a dishwasher.

At the grocery store today I bought a bottle of coconut wine. Have you ever even heard of coconut wine? I had not. My husband came home and asked me what possessed me... Just a whim, I said. Turns out its super sweet- like syrup sweet (almost). It would probably be really good over fresh strawberries as a dessert. It also works to allow you to relax and not worry about how efficiently packed the dishwasher happens to be. :)

Yesterday at the playground 3 older girls told Moana she couldn't play with them because she was too little. She was upset and came crying to me. I wasn't exactly sure how to best handle that but we had a little talk about how girls can be mean (I'm sure this will not be the last time we have that talk) and I suggested she let it go... maybe we should just go home? She didn't think that was an acceptable solution. NO, she said. She insisted she was going to tell those girls that what they said wasn't nice and although I warned her that might not be a good idea, I just watched as she marched right over to those girls to give them a piece of her mind. They were out of ear shot for me so I just watched and sure enough within a minute or so they were all playing together. I was floored. My 4 year old has some courage. More than me, apparently!

Those girls aren't the only ones she speaks her mind to though. Somebody is starting to really speak out here at home. I predict some serious battles in this house in the coming years.

I finally read the book Wheat Belly. And as an experiment, I immediately stopped eating all wheat products (he makes a compelling argument). I'm not gluten intolerant or anything so this has nothing to do with that. It's more about how I typically feel a fairly ridiculous amount of hunger, and about how if I eat a Wheat Thin I'll eat the whole box before I even realize it, never feeling satisfied. The book suggests that modern wheat products affect our brains and in cutting them out over the past 10 days or so, I've found this to be true for me. I didn't find it hard at all to drop bread and pasta and english muffins, etc. And what I found was that my appetite evened out and I have not felt obsessed with food, for once. I'm not anti-carb or anything, so I still eat potatoes and bananas and oatmeal and basically anything that is not wheat. You know what though? You have to pretty much prepare 100% of your own food if you want to eat wheat-free. Apparently everything processed has wheat in it. Why does soy sauce need wheat?? I don't really get that but now that I am carefully reading labels looking for wheat it has opened my eyes to part of the issue with food addiction that so many of us battle.

Enough of the random stories for tonight!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

De-Cluttering My Head

First off, thanks to all of you who reached out to me personally after that last ugly blog post about my ugly race in Vegas. I really appreciated your kind and encouraging words... more than you know.

I'm climbing out of my hole and getting over myself... trying to figure out what I learned from that experience. The only thing I've come up with so far is that I'm a head case. :) Interestingly, when I look back, I've had some of my most disappointing races when I've been the most confident about my training leading up to the event. What is up with that?? Must be something about expectations being high... Too high to be reasonable? And when I (even subconsciously) realize I'm not meeting them I become some sort of mental basket case and melt down? I don't really know but that's kind of been my experience in the last few years.

When my approach going into a race has been more laid back and relaxed and I have some questions about how it's all going to go down, that's when I've come away with more satisfying end results. So of course that makes me think I should go into all my races with a whatever type attitude and maybe that's just what works for me? So then how do I adopt that relaxed attitude if I actually DO care about the race outcome? Inquiring minds want to know...

One of coach's suggestions has been to ditch my power meter. He thinks it's screwing with my head. He's actually been giving me this advice all year but I've over-ruled him and used it on all my key rides anyway, swearing that I don't really look at it unless I like the numbers... And I did ride without it a lot- on all my easy rides! But that race in Vegas was bad enough to allow me to really open my mind and agree that clearly I am doing something wrong so I finally felt willing to just do whatever coach suggested.

Today my ride was a progression where the instructions said to just feel my way through it, and that it was okay if I blew up. Hmmm. Interestingly, I felt a bit paralyzed to start... like how was I going to know if I was progressing if I didn't have wattage numbers to prove it to myself?? Usually on these progression rides I start off with my own power goals... the numbers I expect to see based on past experience and what I know I can do... and sometimes I adjust those mid-ride depending on whether legs are there or not. Today, without the black and white feedback, I realized that I did not really know how to push HARD without numbers to shoot for. Since all my rides without power have been the easy ones, riding at my limit felt totally foreign to me. But I kept pushing and trying to blow up, which I never really did, but came away feeling like I met the objective of the session anyway because for once I paid attention to what my LEGS felt like instead of what the power numbers were saying on my garmin. It was weird to try to log the w/o too b/c I couldn't say that I nailed it b/c I hit 220W or whatever... I don't know how many watts I was pushing... and I'll never know... but whatever I did was right for today and you know what? I'm not able to judge myself about it.

So there you go. I think that's the big A-HA for me... Since I know what power I have been able to hit in the past on a ride like that, whether I hit it or not today would be something on which I would judge myself. Hit the numbers would make me think I'M ON. Going to have great race! (This is what happened the week before Vegas and we know how that turned out.) If I miss the numbers, I think I SUCK. Neither of those head spaces is one that works for me going into a race. But without the power meter, I can put the work in without judging myself... therefore de-cluttering my head... which (in theory) would put me on a start line with a mindset of not being really sure how it's going to go, which is where I think I want my head to be when the gun goes off. Leave open the possibility that the day is going to go well but not be so overly confident in it that I melt if it turns out I'm not actually on fire like maybe I anticipated.

I've been aware of all this clutter in my head more than ever this past week. Yesterday I was climbing Tantalus and listening to the recent Endurance Planet podcast on HRV (Heart Rate Variability) which is apparently an ap that measures data around how your heart is beating that tells you how stressed out you are and whether or not you're really ready for big training that day or whatever. And no offense Tawnee if you're reading this, but all I could think the whole time I was listening to that was OMG that is exactly the type of head-clutter I'm trying to avoid right now! Too much information can just be stifling. Listen to your body and when you're tired, you're tired and you'll know it without an ap spewing out a highly variable number telling you how you should be feeling. Yikes.

Anyway, I don't want this to come across like now I'm all anti-power meter or whatever. I see a ton of value in riding with/by power! Honestly, as a coach, I love it when my athletes use power because it tells me a lot about how they're actually doing when I'm not there riding beside them and watching... Makes it easier for me to coach them! BUT, if you're a head case like me it's going to screw with your head and you're going into workouts with lots of anxiety about hitting your numbers, or coming out of the session being harshly judgmental on yourself, then shutting that thing off and going back to riding off feel might just be the best route. I'm trying it now anyway. Will let you know how it goes. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Happened In Vegas... Raw.

Aloha... wow it's good to be home! So here's the deal... I had a long flight home yesterday and took some time to write out my thoughts about the race on Sunday. If I were writing it up today, I'd prob say something quick about how it just wasn't my day and I'm moving on... today is a new day blah blah blah. I've debated about whether or not to even publish this because it was written when I was still quite raw. Of course I'd rather put out there about how strong I am and how I don't fail and I'm not a mental basketcase or whatever... but the truth is, sometimes I am a complete mess! Unfortunately Sunday was one of those days. Anyway, today I am crawling out of the hole I was in yesterday... but in the spirit of being authentic, here's how I was actually feeling after that race...

I could wait like a week to write this race report… and maybe in another week I'll be able to think or speak about it without the overwhelming feeling of disappointment that I have right now. But that would make for a rather boring read. So I thought I'd write this out now when it's all still really raw. Honest race reports are always more valuable than the boring factual ones anyway.

I think the biggest disappointment for me is that my race yesterday was not representative of my training in the lead up to the event. And it wasn't just that I'd worked really hard and consistently (most athletes do that) but I'd say that I felt like the weeks leading up to the race had gone just about perfectly… I'd worked until I was tired; I'd backed off and recovered. Race week sessions went perfectly- I felt like I was on fire- and on Friday night at the race meeting I was twitching with energy. The last note I wrote in my Training Peaks log after my Saturday pre-race shake out session was "I have every reason to believe I will have my best day tomorrow." And I meant that. I don't make shit up in my TP notes- always 100% honest with those. I don't think I was kidding myself...

So maybe then the fact that my legs didn't show up on Sunday is more a matter of frustration because I just can't explain it? I look for reasons to explain why I felt the way I did… not excuses, but I'd like to understand mostly so I could do something differently next time to fix it. So the easy answer- and one that I heard from several athletes who know me better than most- was that I just had an off day. OK. But why?? I genuinely want to know? I don't *think* I was too tired, I don't *think* I was too rested, I don't *think* I was overly stressed… I just can't figure it out. I have no answers to that question of 'why'. 

Anyway, details of the race from my point of view… I felt good and ready and confident at the start. I put myself on the front line to start the swim, went hard when the gun went off, didn't really get touched… saw a couple gals swim by… tried to get on their feet but couldn't. OK so they are fast let that go just swim as hard as you can Michelle. I took a fairly wide line around all the buoys b/c men 40-44 started 4' ahead of us and I started catching them at buoy #3 (of ~12-15?). That water is really dark and its hard to see feet in front of you so I figured if I swam on the buoy line I'd end up on top of those guys really fast and would get kicked in the chin or something so that was my thinking with the wide line. For the most part I think it was good b/c I could put my head down and swim more aggressively b/c I had clear water. It did get a lot more crowded in the last 10' or so and I found myself looking up A LOT (like almost every stroke) to make sure I wasn't going to land on top of someone. That was a little frustrating but whatever.

I got out of the water and didn't know how many girls were ahead of me… I'd thought maybe 3… Reality was there were 6 but I didn't know that til I saw results at the end of the day. I'm glad I didn't know that b/c it probably would have frustrated me. That's the furthest down I've been in years coming out of the water in any race, including Kona.

T1 was long and muddy (as you prob know if you followed the race at all, it rained on us all morning). I wasn't happy that it was raining or anything, but I also wasn't very worried about it. I ride in the rain quite often so I just kind of had the attitude of whatever… Not my favorite conditions but I can handle just fine. The reality of it though was that I had some fear on the long fast descents. The Vegas bike course is actually pretty cool with lots of big rollers and I can see how if you had open dry roads, it be would awesome to just blast down those things. Our reality was that the roads were soaking wet, we were being pelted in the face with raindrops (I tend to not wear sunglasses when it rains because I can't see out of them at all… without glasses, while my vision is not perfect, I can see better than with them so that's my choice. I left my sunglasses in T1.) and there were a bunch of older athletes already on the roads ahead of us, traveling quite a bit slower. So it doesn't really feel great to go blasting by 70 year old men and women on a long descent in the rain… 

Anyway, I constantly reminded myself to Be Brave on the downhills, especially in the beginning… I felt a little like I was being a pansy but a lot of others around me were also being pansies about those descents and the reality was I was passing people on the way down, even though I felt like I was being a pansy. It was the uphills where I was getting passed. Where were my legs? Why did I not have any power? That was weird. I got passed by I don't know how many women- more than I anticipated. Like always, I was racing without any data only subjective feeling so I was trying to play it off with myself like Well this is the World Championships so duh these gals are going to be super strong… and maybe I'm fooling myself but I do think that on a good day I could hang with those girls on a bike. Yesterday I could not. 

A note about drafting (because no race report is complete without a note on drafting)… This is a course that does not lend itself to drafting. It's one where you would have to go out of your way to make a real effort to stay in a pack. In good news, I did not see a single woman drafting yesterday (YAY for a fair race, girls!!) However, damn if those top men in the 30-34 and 25-29 waves (who started behind us) weren't drafting their asses off. Everyone around me saw it and we all commented on it afterward… First a pack of ~5 went blazing by, then a pack of 4, then a pack of 10-12... full on peloton style. So those were in all likelihood your "World Champions" and future pros… Blatantly cheating. Congrats, guys. Hope you're all really proud.

Back to my race. I was trying to trust my fitness and hang in there even though my legs felt like concrete… and I'm glad I did because finally around mile 40 my legs came around and I felt more like myself. I passed back 3 of the gals in my age group who had passed me earlier. Of note, this is also where the course flattened out and I could just get in my big chain ring and aero bars and steadily gun it, which is a lot like how I train. The thought in my head at that time went along the lines of 'maybe these hilly courses aren't really my thing?' I do tend to have more access to my power when the road is flat and that's kind of been a trend so something to consider going forward. Anyway.

Onto the run. Ugh. (This is where it gets raw.) So I'm not like delusional or anything and I know I don't have an ace in my pocket when it comes to the run. I did think though (based on my training data) that if I had a decent day I could pull off a run in the 1:50-1:52 range, even on this course, especially given that it wasn't 100+ degrees. (OMG had it been 100+ degrees I'd probably still be out there, crawling to the finish.) Maybe it would have helped me to use a garmin and get pace- especially on the first 2 laps- because it would have told me I was not actually running backward like I felt like I was… 

But I'll tell you what. When you get off the bike 10th in your age group at a World Championship event, and it's a 3 lap run course out/back, and younger/faster waves start behind you, and you don't have World Championship caliber type run talent, it sucks. I am not exaggerating when I say that I got passed every 5" for 2+ hours. And not by like just one person at a time… but more like 3 people at a time swallowing me up from both sides just a constant stream of athletes running by me like I was standing still. I tried really hard to just put myself in my own little bubble and do my thing and ignore all that but I completely failed in that regard. It was impossible for me to block out that many people running by that fast and I just felt like I had no business being out there at all. So for 2 hours I just beat myself up mentally telling myself over and over, "I DO NOT have a World Championship caliber run…" Nice, huh? And it just got worse and worse and my legs filled with more and more concrete. I took 2 gels and drank some coke/perform at most aid stations hoping maybe it would provide a little magic or something but it did not.

Then to add insult to injury, I could feel twinges of cramping coming on… same adductors that always give me issues. It sucked b/c I knew I wasn't even running that fast but it all felt so hard and I'm wondering WHY is it that other people can run so efficiently but if I push with any effort at all my muscles seize up on me in complete spasm?? And then boom, right before mile 12 or so my left adductor went into full spasm and I was just stuck- bent over right in the middle of that run course yelping out loud in pain… not able to stand up straight until it released… ARGH. It did eventuality release and while it felt like an eternity it was probably only ~60-90" before I could walk… so then I walked a little and then resumed jogging… tried to really just relax and get my damn ass to the finish line without it happening again…

Turned around at the final turn around… less than a mile to go and all downhill… phew. But as soon as I started running vs jogging, my other (right) adductor seized on me and much worse this time than when the left one went… So I was back to being bent over on the side of the road this time for much longer because that damn spasm just wouldn't release and I was so pissed and frustrated (that prob didn't help b/c what I need to do when this happens is get my muscles to RELAX and when I'm pissed like that I'm pretty much the opposite of relaxed). 

Eventually I managed to trot my way to the finish line where I saw Krista and Tracy and immediately burst out into tears of frustration. They were awesome and they let me just vent. Krista asked me what I needed and I didn't know but I said I just didn't want her to try to convince me that I did great because I did not and the last thing I wanted was to be patronized. She totally understood which I appreciated more than I can even express.

So then I was in a really tough spot because at this race I was trying to play the role of both athlete and coach… And my athletes all had really solid days so I needed to find a way to get over myself and smile for them but I was just not ready to do that quite yet. So here's a public apology to my athletes for that… I'm sorry. :( Instead I went and found a quiet place where I could just sit alone and allow myself be sad and frustrated and disappointed for a little while. Eventually I came out of my little hole. Nalani found me and gave me a beer and at least for a little while I managed to paint a smile on my face.

Like I said in the beginning, I don't know what the issue was. I really have no excuses which leaves me feeling completely confused and without a real understanding of where to go from here. The reason I like this sport is because typically it's a scenario where you get back what you put into it, where consistent hard work pays off… but yesterday, for me, it did not. I still want to believe in the process. I want to believe that if I just consistently put in the right work that I will get rewarded with a satisfying performance on race day. I see that happening for others. And it has happened for me in the past so I am clinging to that memory right now. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Race Week Musings

I'm sitting here eating peanut butter out of the jar (to my credit, with an apple, not just with a spoon). It's race week and typically I try to avoid peanut butter in the 2-3 weeks prior to a race because if I just cut out that one thing I'll lose like 10lbs (at least). I managed to do it perfectly before Honu but for whatever reason this time around I have caved to my peanut butter cravings. Not sure what that says about my race preparations... I think it is more a reflection of my current HORRORmonal state b/c I'm not just eating peanut butter like it's my job- I'm also bitchy and negative and Saturday when I was riding I was super pissed that my socks were too tight. Maybe some of you ladies can relate.

In good news, in another day or so this pissy attitude should pass and I'll feel good again so I am not worried. 

So I leave for Vegas on Wednesday night. Not normally a fan of the overnight flights but nothing a glass of wine and an ambien can't fix. Nalani and Lectie are also on my flight so they can wake me up if I'm still passed out when we land.

Most exciting about this trip is probably that I get to meet a couple of athletes (Monika and Brian) who I have been coaching for years but have never met! I feel like I know them of course but the face to face meetings are always the best. :) In all, there will be 7 of us Team BSC'ers on the start line on Sunday and I'm pretty proud of that fact. It also makes the post race party bigger and therefore more fun!  We rented a BSC party house where several of my athletes will be staying... we are near the finish line and our fridge/freezer will be stocked with Guiness and ice cream for post-race celebrations by the backyard pool. I am looking forward to that time swapping war stories and stuff. That's why we race, right? So we can swap war stories over beers after it's all over?

I have not yet started packing, justified by the fact that our condo is still on the market and we have a showing tomorrow which means it's probably in our best interest to not have my triathlon crap strewn about the house. In fact, I should be cleaning it right now. Yet I am blogging. Again, where are my priorities?? Argh. Get it together, Michelle.

OK so curious about my race plan? Here it is: (pretty simple)
~Take off watch.
~Shut off brain.
~Swim fast.
~Bike strong.
~Run strong.

I feel as fit and strong as ever... yet... this photo sums up how I'm imagining I'll feel after I get out of T2...