Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Being "Lucky"

I got a comment from a friend yesterday about how I am "lucky" that I'm able to swim. I'm pretty sure I understand what she meant, because I've had similar feelings about those little gals who run a lot faster than I do. I've thought, with a hint of jealousy, about how "lucky" they are. But the reality is that the vast majority of those gals have been running most of their lives. And they probably eat less than I do. Those things aren't luck. They are choices.

To be honest, it bugs the crap out of me when people call me "lucky". I remember when I graduated college and landed my first teaching job. My grandma told me I was lucky. And immediately I thought, NO. I am not lucky that I got that job! I worked my ass off in college and graduated with a 4.0 with a degree in Elementary Education. I took jobs working in after school care positions so I would have something about experience with kids to put on my resume. I sent in a lot of job applications and prepared for my interviews and showed up on time and did everything that was expected of me (and more!). I didn't feel lucky that I'd landed a job. I felt I'd earned it. There is a difference.

Back to swimming. I didn't learn to actually swim until I was 8. I don't remember a lot about that time except that my mom told me she felt bad that she'd waited so long to put me in swim lessons. I got put into the beginner "Minnows" group with all the 5 year olds because that's the level I was at. I learned how to swim that summer and competed in the 8&U division at the swim meets, swimming 25's. I have no memory of how any of that went, but I do know I looked forward to summer every year because it meant I could go back to morning swim workouts.

I continued that summer league swimming through middle school... I'd ride my bike by myself to the pool every morning, do everything that was expected of me at swim practice, then was a pool rat for the rest of the day before riding my bike home in time for dinner. I was never the most talented swimmer but I worked hard and never skipped out on anything. This continued though high school as well. In high school we practiced every day after school. I remember our coach opening up morning swim practices. Some parents thought that was too much (including my own mom), so coach made them optional. I always opted to attend. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from adding up how much I swam each day. Between the two practices it was often 7-8K/day. Am I lucky that I chose to do that? Maybe just lucky in the sense that I enjoyed it?

I do remember feeling a sense of jealousy toward the gals on the team who were more talented than I was. I really wasn't as fast as my friends on that team but I made up for it by working really hard and being willing to swim the events that the others didn't want to do. That's why I swam fly. And the 500. It's where I found I could shine, but only because no one else wanted to swim those events!

I took ~3 years away from swimming as I focused on my collegiate diving career (I had more talent for diving than I did for swimming, so diving paid for my college. No swim coach would have given me a scholarship to swim on his/her team.) But eventually I went back to swimming and joined an adult 'masters' group which rekindled my love for the sport. Since then, I don't think there have been many weeks where I didn't swim at least 3x. I used to teach math but adding up all the swimming I have done in my lifetime would be a pretty near impossible task. Let's just say it's been A LOT. I'd guess I average 10-15k/week now, depending on the time of year. I don't take extended breaks away from the water. I don't skip swim sessions. I don't cut sessions short. I time everything I do. I write detailed notes about every main set I swim.

33 years of consistent work. Does that make me lucky?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon... And On Racing By Feel

Well we are in the thick of the racing season now, eh? Races every weekend are fun to follow along and regardless of outcomes, always a good learning opportunity.

This past weekend we had two races here on Oahu- a small local one up on the North Shore and a bigger one on the South Shore (Honolulu Triathlon). While small local races are always super fun (and racing with your friends is more fun than racing against a bunch of strangers), I chose to do Honolulu triathlon for a few reasons... #1) It's the only race on Oahu all year long that has a legit swim for the bike/run distance. Every other race around here has a short swim, and as a swimmer, I feel it's my duty to support with my dollar the race that is more fair to swimmers. And #2) The feel of the 'big race' environment is a good one two weeks before Honu. Walking around a giant transition area 30' prior to race start, surrounded by a 1500 athletes you don't know, brings butterflies to your belly in a way that little races just don't.

To be honest, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get to the start line of this race. Last week Moana got pretty sick (lots of throwing up, followed by some nasty diarrhea explosions). Scott and I thought maybe she'd eaten something bad (??) but then 36 hours later it was my turn to spend some violent time in the bathroom, followed by ~24 hours flat out in bed... Then it was Scott's turn... On Wednesday when I couldn't lift my head off my pillow I pretty much wrote off the idea of racing this weekend. But the good thing about those kinds of viruses that come on really quickly and hit you like a ton of bricks is that they tend to lift just as quickly and then suddenly you're back to normal. I felt normal by Friday and was able to eat again so the race for me was back on!

Since I'm a female, and now that I'm 'old', I tend to get shunted to the last wave with these race starts. As a strong and well trained swimmer this can be frustrating because it means my swim becomes more about dodging all those people who started before me but don't regularly swim train. Yesterday, the horn went off, I ran into the water and swam alone in clear water for ~3 minutes before I started running into the wave that started 3' ahead of me... then for the next 19' passed probably (and I'm not exaggerating here) 500 people. In good news I managed to do this without a) ending up with a black eye or b) getting pissed off, so we'll call it a successful swim. I will admit though I had the thought "These people really need to swim train more."

On the bike it was kind of more of the same... I tend to enjoy racing by feel more than racing with data so I don't start my watch or wear a garmin. At this race I ended up with a false sense of how fast I was actually moving. I kind of knew I wasn't really pushing very hard but I was passing so many people the whole time that it seemed like I was moving really fast! Unfortunately my bike split shows I was not moving as fast as it may have appeared. DOH! The lesson from this race that I'll take with me will be to focus more internally on my own effort and not judge my own bike performance based on the others directly around me.

The last few years I've blown up spectacularly on this run, so on purpose I took it out a good bit more relaxed than normal. This strategy worked for me and I felt like my legs kind of came around and I was able to go a little faster as I settled in. Again, without a garmin I didn't know how fast I was running but I did a few gut checks, asking myself if this was as fast as I could go in that moment and the answer was always yes this is the right effort right now so just kept doing what I was doing. My run is a constant work in progress but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I ran a pretty even/steady 10k that didn't result in any meltdowns. I didn't have the energy to pick it up and go faster at the end, but I didn't feel like I slowed significantly either. Finishing feeling like that left me satisfied with my effort for the day.

In my post race recap to Marilyn, I wrote the following:

Thanks! Ya as I was finishing up yesterday I did not know my time or place, but I had the thought that I was pleased enough with my effort and execution of the day so I figured no matter what the time/place was, I'd be satisfied. It was reminiscent of how I did things toward the end of my diving career in college- I'd gotten to the point where I knew how to do all of my dives really well. Whether or not I executed them well in a meet was up in the air, but I knew I was capable and I always knew if I did them well or not. Anyway, toward the end there I got really tired of 'being judged', which is how we won or lost diving meets. I would, on purpose, hang out under water after every dive and decide for myself if I'd done it well or not (vs coming up in time to see the judges' scores). So I'd go through the meets not knowing what any of my scores actually were! It was my way of judging myself vs allowing others to judge me and it worked well for me once I'd gotten to the point where I was capable of accurately judging for myself how I'd performed. I feel like I'm there with triathlon now too- like I KNOW if I'm moving well and working to the right effort swim bike and run and focusing on that while I'm racing works better for me than focusing on numbers. I think good/fine to watch numbers in training b/c it helps me hone that feel and helps me keep track of how the training is working for me, but racing by feel is where I get the most out of myself (most of the time!)

To be honest, I was shocked when I heard my name coming from the announcer's mic... I wasn't paying attention and didn't even know they were doing awards (they did the OA really early like as soon as I crossed the line?!) and I was like What?! I got 2nd?! Sweet! I hadn't even really had time to digest my race and wonder about placings before I found myself up on the podium. So that was fun!

Anyway, I think the experience I had out there starting behind all those people was actually a good one going into Honu- they've changed the start format there so that women 40+ go off last... So yesterday was actually good practice for what I'll experience on another big stage in less than two weeks. I'm excited to tackle that challenge!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Two Week Progress: Clif Notes Version

I thought I'd share some of the notes (directly quoted) from my Training Peaks account over the last two weeks as I've been working on fixing this aerobic efficiency thing... It feels weird to share all of this because it's almost like publishing my personal diary, but I think this tells a great story about how much fitness can change in a very short amount of time with high frequency fairly high volume running. I ran a total of ~80 miles over a span of 11 days, and with very few exceptions at HR 140-150. Here are some of my daily notes from some of my runs:

~Kept HR 140's and was strict about this and in great news- didn't have to walk at all! Even up the hills to my house! This might be the first time I've ever 'run' up these hills while also keeping HR from going above 150.

~In good news, my body is responding really well to this aerobic running. This run this afternoon I did pretty much right off the bike and it was 25"/mile faster than the run this morning at the same HR... yay!

~Not a ton to say about this except that I kept HR <150, only had to walk a few times up hills, and had the thought that these long 'durability' days I think give me the most return on race day... As hard as it is to train for 5.5 hours in a day, I think this is the kind of thing that really helps me the most! And really, to avg <10' pace on a run this long at the end of a training day like this with HR low shows giant improvement already over last week when I couldn't run 2 miles at that HR <10' pace... So even though I'm super tired right now, I feel like we are on the right track here so it's easy to embrace the fatigue I'm feeling.

~Since I was in Kailua for the swim (where it is flat!) I figured I'd do this run on that same flat loop where I did the HR Benchmarking last week... just to see how it has changed in the last ~8 days. It's not an exact comparison b/c today was much warmer than last week (9:30-10:30AM and no cloud cover at all!). So still showing a significant slowdown though not as drastic as last week (most of the miles today were 40-50" faster than last week, so, yay).

~HR was much better controlled than it has been recently- and it didn't seem to drift much over the course of this run like it has been drifting lately. I drank a bottle of Osmo before I went then carried a bottle of Osmo and drank that, then refilled 2 more times w/ water... That seems like a lot of fluid but I think it was perfect... staying hydrated helped a ton. also, full cloud cover was nice!! It's still hot out but without the sun beating down on me it was way more comfortable. Anyway, kept HR <150 and didn't have to walk much except on a few big hills (Haiku/Heeia/Lanipo loop is quite hilly) and I slowed at the end to keep HR low but that was mostly a factor of it all being uphill. Today was one of those days where had it been a progression run I felt strong enough where I could have picked it up and run a good bit harder in the last few miles... I wasn't slogging it in just trying to finish today. yay! Left achilles is talking to me. Am taking care of it and just got done voodoo banding it- that took care of it temporarily. will stay on it.

~Headed out around 4PM for this and it was drizzling rain which was awesome. I took really good care of my calf and achilles all day so it was fine during this whole run no issues. And, this was the same route as I ran Tuesday morning but was almost a full minute faster today at the same HR (avg 144). I'm super happy with the progress I've made running this week! Physically and mentally I feel really good and I totally enjoy this game of "How fast can I run while keeping HR <150?" It's addicting b/c I see that almost every time I head out the door I run faster than the last time so it makes me want to head out all the time! :)

~Ran Ben Parker out/back which is pretty much 2 miles down then 2 miles back up. I've done this run a lot over the last 1.5 years since I've lived in this house- often by HR and rarely under 40' when I'm trying to keep HR <150... but today what I was doing was more like running vs slog/trotting and I did it in 38:02. Pretty sure that's the fastest I've run this route while also keeping HR140's. Felt good!

~Did this at ~2:30PM (~3 hours post bike finish) on the TM mostly b/c I was curious about HR drift if I controlled for temperature and hydration... so I had a big bottle of Osmo that I drank during this run and I'm sure that helped. First mile HR 130's was pretty slow like 10:20ish then 5 miles straight at HR148-150 interesting there was very little (if any?) drift going on here... super interesting to see that HR didn't drift when I was inside and not hot. At the end of this run I added in 6x20" strides with 20" straddle TM rest... started at 8:00pace for those and each one bumped up the pace by .2 so finished last one at 7' pace and felt really good. HR got up to 153 on those.

~Can definitely tell that we are making change in my fitness- today was the first time I felt like I was more limited by my legs vs my heart rate/breathing- especially on the way back. Ran aikahi out/back from 9-11ish AM... some clouds and I wouldn't say I felt super hot but I was sweating like a fountain and drank almost 5 bottles of fluid during this run (2x Osmo + 3x water). Also took gels at miles 5/9. On the way back I def felt like I had some fatigued legs and had the thought that I want/need to do more long runs until the distance is not hard anymore... come home to log this and see next weeks schedule yikes 2x long runs but yep I'm with you there... anyway, today was almost even split out in 60' and back in 61' avg HR 145 so it was more controlled than it has been for sure.

~Holy cow I feel like a completely different runner than I was 2 weeks ago. Did this in the afternoon after the core work and felt good right from the first step. Was sunny but still super windy so that helped keep me cool. Ran the same hilly loop as tuesday morning but was a full 90" faster today at the same HR. I feel like unless I'm going up a steep hill, I'm actually able to run at an effort that feels comfortable- this feels a lot less like I'm having to hold way back and more like I'm just out for a cruise run. Still have a bit of an issue on the hills but only if/when they're steep. Shallower hills no problem now. I'm super happy with the progress I'm making here. Of note though: I am aggressively managing my left calf/achilles. It's ok but only b/c I'm spending a good bit of time throughout every day being really really nice to it.

Anyway, I'm not 'done' with this process because I'm still seeing improvement just about every time I head out the door... I will caveat this with a couple of thoughts:
1) I think I respond really quickly to this type of training because I have been through the process before (and have seen great results so I truly believe in it).
2) I was super diligent about keeping HR in the right range and I didn't fudge it. Not even on days when I felt really good and wanted to just say screw it and run faster.
3) I have both the available time and the durability to handle a lot of miles. Plus, I sincerely enjoy running a lot.
4) I am a conscientious NUT about doing all the body work necessary to keep myself healthy through a lot of miles. I can pretty much guarantee that had I not pulled out every trick in the book, I'd be nursing a calf/achilles injury right now. Every day I was massaging, rolling, stretching, voodoo banding, and e-stimming my calves... and they responded by letting me continue to run. :)

In good news, I got to test myself out with a little local sprint triathlon this morning. I haven't tried to run 'fast' in a few weeks so wasn't 100% sure how it would go but I figured no matter what it would be better than 2 weeks ago, and I was right. :)
4 weeks till Honu.