Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Push 'Til You Can't

So ya, I'm on a little recovery break at the moment. Just a few easy days and I am not resisting them at all. I know people think I'm all anti-rest or whatever because I tend to train a lot and don't take many rest days, but I think the reality of it is that I just don't like resting until I feel like I need rest. When I feel like I need it, I embrace it! It's weird though to have days that are not filled with training sessions... Yesterday I got up and swam in the morning (like normal) but then afterward had this amazing light feeling because I really had nothing else that NEEDED to get done that day. My house was clean, my kid was in school, all the training plans for my athletes were written... so I spent the day drinking coffee and playing on the internet... and I took a little nap. I know I should not admit that because most of you will hate me but the reality of it is that I have like 2-3 days like that per year so I did not feel the least bit guilty about having a relaxed day where I really did pretty much nothing.

Training has been going well. It seems odd to say but it's like I haven't even been paying much attention to it (if that even makes sense??). The last 3-4 weeks has been some of the best training I've ever put together... It's been along the lines of the consistent day after day after day variety vs the one huge session style and I think somehow I've managed to shut my brain off and just complete each day the best I could given what I had that day. So nothing was exceptionally stellar or brilliant but most of the time I was pretty happy with pace or power (on days I opted to track it) when taken in context of the block I was building. I've matured as an athlete a lot this year I think in that I very rarely judge myself anymore based on how my training went that day... had a good session, struggled with that session, whatever. Got it done and that's what matters and I don't have mini panic attacks when I miss pace or power goals and think I suck at this or whatever... Just taking it all in stride and not over thinking anything. In the past I have not always been able to do that!

I think the key to being able to relax about it all is having a coach who you trust. I'm 100% on board with the TBB style of training now and having that plan written out for me each week just allows me to get the work done without over thinking it. It's amazing how much energy that frees up when you're not stressing over whether or not you're doing the right type of training! I don't question it anymore, and there are very few sessions that scare me. If the week looks big I just take it day by day, and I do the best I can. I write detailed notes after each session and honestly assess how I felt and what I was thinking. When I feel good I note that I felt good, when I feel like ass, I write that too. The key though now is that I just write that as fact, not as judgement. Then coach can take those facts and write next week's plan accordingly. The philosophy is along the lines of the saying "Push til you can't, Rest til you can..." And that works for me not just physically but mentally as well!

So last week's training notes would be interesting to read as a string altogether... b/c you'd see that everything is ok early in the week then I started writing stuff like this was brutal, very hard, stopped under a shade tree because I was dying, and finished with sunday notes noting phrases like stick a fork in me... Coach saw that trend and cut everything back for a few days so that's where I'm at right now. You want to know the best part of how my plan got written for this week? Let me brag a little... Coach raced Challenge Penticton on Sunday, got 2nd OA with the fastest run of the day (2:45 holy crap, right??), then later that afternoon read all my notes and wrote a really coherent plan for me for this week. I think that was one of the most impressive feats I've ever seen a coach do! Ha! I am pretty positive that I would not want to be writing plans immediately after finishing an Ironman... Can you even imagine?? 

Anyway, watching Carrie (his girlfriend who won!) and Scott be so strong over the course of that race inspired a lot of confidence in me. I feel like I'm on the right path for me... enjoying what I'm doing, maturing as an athlete (and consequently as a coach!)... I haven't thought a lot about the fact that I'm racing in Vegas next weekend but, um, that's next weekend... Looking forward to it for sure though! I'm not putting any pressure on myself because it's the World Championships... there will be many gals there with far more talent than I, so my goals are not unrealistic or anything... but as of now I'd say I'm on track to show up at that start line with the most fitness I've ever had and am interested to see where that lands me amongst my peers. :) 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Nemesis Set

I've been working with my current coach for ~8 months now and by now he's got me pretty much figured out. Things are clicking... He's helped me capitalize on my strengths... and he's also revealed my weaknesses.

Then I get drilled on my weaknesses.

Pretty much every swim he writes for me these days involves fast 50's. Lots of them. I hate 50's. I write that in my post workout notes every week and every week I get more fast 50's.

I subject my training partners to my fast 50's a lot. They kick my ass at those every time which only adds to my disdain for fast 50's. A few weeks ago when we had the 60x50's set again I promised them before we got in that no matter how it went I would report back to my coach that it was awesome and that I nailed it and I loved it... That way maybe he'd stop giving it to me every week? But you know what? I couldn't lie. The fact was I hated that set and it didn't matter if I did it every single week- every single week I hated it and I hated swimming and I couldn't see how it was doing me any good to do this damn set of 60x50's where I was actually swimming SLOWER than I would for a similar set of 30x100's. See, 30x100's I have no problem with at all. Love that set. 3x1000's? LOVE IT. Seriously. Shoot, I'd do 5x1000's and not flinch. But 60x50's? SHOOTMENOW.

Anyway, my heart sank when I saw that set show up on my schedule again for today. It's probably the 6th (or 60th? I can't remember) time I've done this set and it's never gone well and I know a lot of that is in my head but damn if coach isn't determined to make me get over myself and figure this one out. So I changed up a couple of things this morning to see if it would help. #1- I asked my training partners to do their own set today b/c I wanted to suffer through my 60x50's in my own private hell. Really I was thinking that maybe if I could just focus on myself instead of the fact that I was getting my ass kicked 60x in a row it would keep me in a more positive mental state? #2- I also added 5" to my send-off each time because I thought maybe if I actually got a little rest on these I'd be capable of swimming them each with higher quality vs just touch-n-go style which just made me swim slow and tired.

So the short of it is, the changes worked! Phew. I could finally honestly report in that I managed to get through this set without wanting to quit swimming. #winning! Because I got some rest between intervals I was able to swim each of them with higher quality, which I think is the point of this set... Managing to hold faster than t-pace for a full 3000M is a good thing and likely the goal of the set, you know? So if for now I need a little more rest to make that happen, fine. And doing it alone did indeed help me just focus on my own stroke and I never got pissy. OK, well I got a little bit pissy part way through but only a little bit then I managed to shut my brain off and stop thinking and just SWIM.

So I can't say I'm in love with this set or anything but at least for once I feel like it didn't beat me. I can see the benefits of it- both the mental and the physiological aspects of it- and when it shows up again maybe I'll be able to handle it even better? We'll see... In any case, I need to make peace with this set because it's not going to go away anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cat Fight

A couple weeks ago one of the maintenance managers at our condo complex approached me asking if I had a cat carrier- he was holding a sweet little (very skinny) black and white kitten that he'd found wandering around the grounds. He was planning to take it to the humane society but needed to contain it somewhere until he could do so. That kitten was so cute he immediately grabbed my heart and I said I'd keep him at my house for the morning and see if he got along with Ozzie and Harriet?

So I let the kitten in, Moana went nuts (of course- she had been asking for a new kitten and I'd been telling her NO because, um, we already had two cats)... He was all skin and bones, with fur that was supposed to be white but instead was gray... but that little cat had some spunk and some fight. Looking back I think it was probably just because he was starving to death so he was just ready to do battle with anyone or anything that stood between himself and a bowl of food.

Immediately he smacked Hoku in the face... DON'T MESS WITH ME DOG... then I put some food out for him and he ate it eagerly and aggressively... Ozzie and Harriet were less than happy about this new little scrub eating their food so they growled and hissed but Tom (we named him Tom) was not even the slightest bit phased. I was sort of surprised that the two bigger cats just stood back and watched this little thing eat their food but that's exactly what they did. For the next few days, Tom ate everything in sight and didn't retreat at all when being hissed at by the others. I thought his alpha personality was admirable but I was a bit concerned that my other two cats were so unhappy about his presence.

For the next week or so- for the most part- the cats just ignored each other but feeding time was still a struggle. I could tell that Ozzie wasn't happy about his alpha status being downgraded. He just wasn't the same cat?  But then the other night we woke up ~2AM to a screaming cat fight... sounded pretty brutal... this one was not playful at all like Ozzie and Harriet sometimes have with each other... It didn't actually last that long, though I stayed awake for a while adrenaline pumping hoping everybody was okay.

Interesting thing then the next morning at breakfast. I fed the three cats as normal but rather than aggressively diving in, Tom stood back and let Ozzie and Harriet eat... then he took his turn when they were done. Wow! Interesting switch that one. Apparently Ozzie taught him a little lesson overnight about who was boss in this house... I'm also guessing that once Tom learned that food would be readily available pretty much all the time, he didn't feel quite the need to be so aggressive when it came to the food. Later that same day Harriet started licking him (like she does with Ozzie who is her brother) and now Harriet and Tom chase each other around playfully throughout the day. Ozzie isn't quite there to play with Tom yet, but he doesn't hiss anymore so I'm guessing another week or so and they'll all be buds. :) This morning they all managed to eat at the same time no hissing at all!

So all in all we are loving having Tom around. He is great with Moana- she holds him pretty much all the time when she's home and he patiently allows it. He's managed to clean himself up well so his coat is shiny now and his white fur is white... no ribs showing... He's a sweet content little cat.
So ya, call me the Cat Lady. It's fine! I feel good about rescuing this one. :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Camp... The Aftermath...

Monday morning and for the first time in what seems like forever, back to a 'normal' week. I have said before that I am a creature of habit, and while the last few weeks have been awesome, I'm happy to return to my little routine... Heading to the pool on a Monday morning to bang out a 4K tempo/threshold effort swim with my normal training partners then home to a quiet house that I need to clean where I can think and work and just generally catch up on things... I actually like Mondays. :)

So this year was interesting coming off that big camp week. Every year I learn more and more about what the human body is capable of. A lot of that learning stems from the open mind I have been determined to keep when it comes to my own training and following the plan my coach sets out for me each week. I've written recently about going into training sessions without pre-conceived notions- I do believe that we convince ourselves we are tired/fatigued long before we are actually as tired/fatigued as we think we are (did that even make sense??)... Concrete point here- I would have thought maybe coming off a big solid block of work at camp that I'd want/need at least a few easy days to recover. Coach had a different take on it and I admit I gasped and laughed out loud when I saw the plan he wrote for me for the days following camp.

Had I been stuck on conventional wisdom or based my plan on what the triathlon magazines would have me doing, I'd have taken a few easy days. Maybe even a whole easy week! But the fact of the matter is, the sessions at camp went really well, I felt good, and I wasn't dragging ass at the end like one might anticipate. I noted that in my PWN on Training Peaks and coach read it and made the call to keep the ball rolling. So in the end, instead of a 5 day camp block, I really had more like a 10 day block with one easy day and now onto another normal week, which isn't altogether different than what a training camp might look like. #mylifeisatrainingcamp

The thing is this- you might think I'm an anomaly, but Kelly and Pam both finished camp then went home and raced on Sunday setting new PRs at 1/2IM and Olympic distance races. And I've seen power/garmin files from several others who attended camp and they were solid... not dragging ass but instead showing a nice fitness boost. So I think the keys to getting that boost in the aftermath of camp are as follows:

~Be as fit as you can be going in- the fittest athletes recovered the fastest.
~Execute camp workouts as intended (ie don't race every session).
~Fuel appropriately all the time (before, during, and after sessions).
~Get enough sleep.
~Don't shut it down completely immediately after camp- keep it rolling with active recovery sessions.
~Start back into training with some short HARD intervals to get your engine revving again.
~Don't let your brain get in the way of what your body can actually do.

I wouldn't say that I feel as fast as I've ever been right now, but I do feel like I am as strong as I've ever been. Makes me wish I had another Ironman on my schedule for the fall... I should know that! Every fall I wish I had an Ironman on my schedule... Next year I'll schedule one. :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Kona Camp 2013... Blood Sweat and Tears

Writing up all the details of Kona Camp this past week would simply be too daunting! So much awesome happened I wouldn't even know where to start with that... so instead I'll do some bullet points about the highlights from my perspective...

~We had an awesome group this year. It was different from last year in that it was bigger (double, actually, at 12 of us vs just 6) and there were some boys along for the ride which also changed the dynamic slightly. Not in a bad way, just different. There were several couples who were there together and that was good I think for them because in a group that big they knew they always had a steadfast partner serving as a bit of a safety net... But then I'd go out on a limb and say that the girls who came alone got some good solid bonding done and are probably now friends for life!

~We had a huge awesome house rented this year and it fit our group perfectly as the couples all had rooms upstairs and the single girls had their own private space downstairs... the well stocked kitchen was big enough for several of us to work at once, the lanai allowed nice sunset viewing, and the pool in the back was warm and perfect for floating around and socializing after each session. Overall I'd say the set up was perfect because the house allowed us time together as a group but also had ample space so folks could step away from the group dynamic to recharge/regroup on their own when they wanted to! I could see myself reserving this house again for next year for sure.

~Highlights of the training should probably start with the 10K swim... This was logistically the most challenging part of the camp planning for me because I was figuring out escorts and renting kayaks and transportation for the one-way swim down the Kona coastline... 
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about this and I'd also be lying if I said it went 100% smoothly. Not everyone finished and that was a bummer- the wind picked up unpredictably at ~9:30AM which was ~2 hours into the swim. Prior to that we had postcard conditions with glassy clam clear warm water... We stopped to play with 2 pods of dolphins along the way and during this part my little group and I were in our happy places.
It was as if Nalani and Lynsey and I had practiced swimming in the ocean side by side for years... Ok so Nalani and I have done exactly that and Lynsey is simply an accomplished enough swimmer that she was able to jump right in. I felt like I spent at least an hour of this swim in a meditative trance and for the first time ever understood the mindset of an ultra-swimmer. It was oddly peaceful and absolutely awesome. But then the wind picked up and really out of nowhere it got pretty choppy and we were OCEAN swimming. It was at this point that I started to worry about the groups behind us.
So it was unfortunate that the final 2 miles of this swim had to be so hard fought, but that's probably also what made it even extra special for those who dragged themselves to the finish at the pier. Anyone who finished this swim should know that they can indeed swim through just about anything! And going through something like that together allowed for a bond between swim partners that couldn't be formed in any other way. This moment between Kelly and Kimberly was what camp was all about for me... helping each other do something they did not know they could do. So cool.
~And of course the riding on the Big Island is special and a highlight of camp for sure. We had Nalani's husband, Kurt, along as sag and he also happens to dabble in photography so an added benefit is that everyone now has super cool pictures of themselves riding on the Queen K. It started off really fun and all smiles for everyone...
Of course we had sections where we were working hard... this was our first ride of camp and I think some athletes were chopping at the bit to drill themselves (and me!) so we waited for the appropriate time (climb to Hawi) before it got hard, but it did indeed get hard!
On the whole I'd say we had really good conditions, but everyone did get at least a taste of what the wind can be like up at Hawi... just that final stretch got pretty ugly and the wind was ripping enough to send one of our smaller riders into a guardrail... This was not the first time at camp we saw blood and it wouldn't be the last. What to say other than that's part of it, right? Part of the risk we take in sport... sometimes we fall off our bikes... but in good news the spills we had at camp were not the kind that sent anyone to the hospital. We had scenarios that posed challenges that we could overcome, and we overcame. It was good.
~Of course along with the highs in a 5 day camp come the lows... Not every session was rainbows and puppies... riders got grumpy after ~170 miles in 2 days... when it rained on us, when they were low on fuel, when body parts started hurting, and when the coffee shop was closed.
But that's part of it too, right? When you're pushing past where you thought you could push, when you're tired but finding that your limits aren't where you thought they were... sometimes you cry, but you get back on your bike and finish what you started and in the end you learn you're capable of just about anything you put your mind to. That's what we learn at camp!

And in the end, after an awesome long run along Ali'i Dr, we drink a lot of beer. That's the other thing I learned at camp. This group was full of champion drinkers. I was impressed!
Until next year... I think we will all smile with fond memories. :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

BatSuit Worthy

Kona Camp 2013 is coming up next week... We had some custom swim suits made just for the occasion! Pictures coming next week but suffice to say when I pulled them out of the box, Scott commented that they look like Bat Suits. YES! Bad Ass Bat Suits!

My plan was to keep these suits under wraps until camp, but I must admit, I busted mine out for the last of the North Shore Swim Series races this morning. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures! Let me explain.

So this past week has been stressful. Part of it is putting together last minute details for camp... If you've ever run a camp before you'll understand what I mean here. I just want it all to go well and I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to all the planning, etc so it's just a lot on my mind right now. More stressful than that was that I had no help with Moana this week. I know that should seem easy- just take care of your kid for the week- but yikes if keeping up with a 4yo doesn't take a ton of extra energy... The worst of it though has been the whole house hunting ordeal... Without going into details like the fact that the mango house we wanted had 3 offers for over asking, one of which was cash I'll just say it has taken up WAY more brain space than I have available... I didn't sleep well at all for like 3 nights in a row just up thinking about all this stuff and what are we going to do, etc...

The "Life Stress" and lack of sleep totally showed up in my training sessions this week too. Training was cut way down this week so I know my crap sessions were not about excess load or training fatigue... just the simple fact proven again that the more you have on your plate in life, the less training you can do. Or at least do well. Case in point... Thursday I tried to ride first thing and just had nothing. Tried to just let it go and not let it add to my emotional stress level... Just spun easy and tried to let the ride be a release of sorts. But it didn't work. Yesterday, after getting up at 2AM to get a bunch of work done (I find it hard to write training schedules and such while Moana is home so my only quiet time this week was in the middle of the night) I was trying to swim a short/hard set and I was KILLING myself on these 100's couldn't even hit t-pace for a single 100... tears filled my goggles... all of it. Was awful. Totally bailed on the main set and tried to just swim a 500 easy but cried the whole time so just got out and went home. Fwiw, I wasn't crying because I was swimming so poorly- I was crying because I felt so completely overwhelmed with everything going on and I just needed some SLEEP.

In good news, Moana also needed a nap yesterday afternoon so I got 4 solid hours of sleep while she napped/played on her own until I woke up. #BlessHer.

So this morning I had that ocean swim race and just really had no idea how it would go. The extra sleep I'd gotten helped for sure but that crap swim yesterday was on my mind and I kinda thought it was very possible that I was going to get my ass handed to me this morning. I thought that maybe I should leave the Bat Suit at home because what if I couldn't do it justice on its debut?? Dumb thought maybe but that's what I was thinking! Then I decided that I was going to just swim as hard as I could with what I had today and if I did that, as long as the EFFORT was Bat Suit Worthy, I'd be happy.

So that's what I did. And you know what? I think it helped! I had the thought several times during the race this morning- Is this effort Bat Suit Worthy? Most of the time, it was. :) I wouldn't say my swim was brilliant or anything, but it was solid, and good enough for 2nd in my age group and also 2nd for the series. And given how yesterday my goggles were filled with tears, I'd say it was another good lesson in the fact that a couple of crap training days means nothing in the big picture. During any bad streak, you just have to take a step back and assess why it's all going wrong and then figure out what you need to do to fix it and get back on track. Need to eat better? Sleep more? Reduce overall life stress? Fix that and your fitness will once again have the opportunity to shine through.

Riding home from the race... everything is back to normal... Until this condo sells and we have no place to live and I cry in my goggles again...