Saturday, September 24, 2022

On Channel Swimming

Recently I had the opportunity to act as 'feeder' for one of the athletes I work with as she made her second attempt at swimming the Kaiwi Channel (Molokai to Oahu, ~28 miles). There are probably other blogs/articles written about what channel swimming entails, but I will add my thoughts to the mix. This won't be from the perspective of the swimmer though. It'll be from the perspective of the coach.
Your athlete wants to swim a channel. What all does that entail? A LOT. Full disclosure- this was the first time I'd coached a swimmer to accomplish something like this. I've been helping athletes finish Ironman races for almost 14 years now though and feel confident in my understanding of endurance physiology and all that entails... Additionally, I live in Hawaii where we have adequate access to the ocean for training so I figured that I could piece it together and help Terri in an appropriate way.
Terri didn't grow up as a competitive swimmer. She's 52yo now and when we first started working together ~3 years ago, swimming a 10k was the big scary goal. I state that partly in admiration - acknowledging that Terri had a really steep hill to climb to get to the point where she could swim 28 miles across an ocean channel - but also as maybe encouraghement that this kind of goal can be accomplished by anyone who has the mindset that Terri has. That might make it seem flippant. I can't estimate the % population of people who possess the kind of determination and persistance and never-say-die attitude required here. There aren't many people in the world who actually have that. From what I saw overnight, through tthe day, and into the next evening in that channel, the mindset is probably more important than the skill/fitness for these things.
So the training for Terri involved a lot of swimming, obviously. Looking at her training data in Training Peaks, in the first 9 months of 2022, she spent just over 400 hours swimming. 750+ miles so far in 2022. Over the last 6 months, she avg 11+ hours of swimming each week. Some weeks in the summer were obviously way bigger than other weeks. Her basic week looked something like: Monday: Rest. Tuesday: Mellow ocean swim w friends 60-90min. Wednesday: Long pool intervals 5-7k. Thursday: Rest. Friday: AM ocean easy 60-90min; PM Pool intervals 3-5k. Saturday: Long Ocean 3-6 hours. Sunday: Variable depending on specific area of focus. Commonly another ocean swim 2-4 hours.
The year built to the point where every 2-3 weeks, she'd do a 3 day block Fri-Sun accumulating 30k+ of swimming. At first that was exhausting but after a few times completing it, she was getting through without issue or need for excess recovery and that's when I had reasonable confidence that she had enough fitness to swim the channel. Her training went way beyond physical though. We knew that mental state was going to be a HUGE factor in her ability to continue on when things got ugly out there (and they always get ugly, fyi)... Terri took on a lot of this on her own and I just kept encouraging her to practice quieting her mind; listening to her intuition; calming herself so she would not waste energy. I could see her growth in this area from the notes she was writing about her training sessions. Obstacles and road blocks that would stop most other people became oportunities for problem solving for Terri. The ability to stay calm under stress is a superpower that is overlooked by many, but accessible to anyone should they choose to train their minds in this manner. Of all the growth I've seen from Terri over the last few years, this is probably the most important aspect, and the one that's most applicable to every other area of life.
Terri took care of most of the logistics, which was a feat in and of itself. It's not just about finding a boat captain to take you across. What's important to know is that conditions in the channel are extrememly challenging on the best days... So the boat captain needs to be: ~100% on board with your mission; ~Experienced in crossing; ~Able to read tide charts and predict how currents run; ~In possession of an appropriate and reliable boat; ~Available to go with just a few days notice when forecasts indicate an opportunity; ~Obsessed with your safety but willing to allow you to endure; ~Not already booked. This is not a cheap combination. Finding a good boat captain is harder than it sounds. But if you skimp here and try to wing it, your chances of making it across reduce.
Then you need a first mate of sorts. Terri found Mark Spalding- a Hawaii Swimming Hall-of-Famer who had swum the channel himself, was capable of navigating and driving the boat, and literally understood every aspect of the attempt. Avoiding potential pitfalls is important and having him there as a guide was integral to her success. Based on the tides and other known dangers of the channel, Mike decided on the start time (11pm) and having seen what I saw, that was a good call. Goal was to time Terri's finish to Oahu when the tide was coming in (vs going out) bc fighting a strong current after 18+ hours of swimming has crushed dreams for many who didn't take that detail into account. Then there were two of us on the boat acting as 'feeders'. We also took turns swimming with her at different times. For a swim that long, 2 people are required for this job. It's harder than it sounds.
We packed our backpacks and hopped on a one way flight over to Molokai on Wednesday afternoon for a Wednesday night start.
We dropped off most of our stuff on the boat at the pier near the airport, then drove over to a little resort on the west side of the island where the final mental preparations took place. Terri was calm and ready. We spent a really nice evening eating pizza and looking at the stars and talking about life... At ~10:30, Terri started lubing herself up with layers upon layers of sunscreen and anti-chafing ointments. The boat captain had driven over to the beach where she planned to start and was waiting for us just off shore. The three of us (Andrew, Terri, and I) swam out to it right on time (ok, we were eager beavers and we started a few minutes early!). Andrew acted as the official time keeper. Channel swims have all sorts of rules to follow and if you want your swim to be 'official', there's paperwork to fill out and validate that the swim was a legit success.
Night swimming isn't as scary as it sounds. It's true that its blacker than black if you stare straight down, but water in that channel is as clear as water can possibly be, so you can see your hands entering and pulling, and there was a fair amount of bioluminescence, which was unspeakably cool (it looks like bits of neon green!). I took the opportunity to spend ~30min swimming with Terri (around 1AM), mostly because I figured this would likely be my only opportunity ever to do that and I just wanted to experience it. Honestly, it was magical seeing the stars and the moon with every breath. I think the keys to enjoying night swimming are being extremely comfortable in the ocean during the day time, and then just not letting your mind think about anything other than how beautiful the moon is. Our minds can spin out of control if we let them. But we can choose what we focus on, and when you choose to focus on what an incredibly cool thing that is to do, night swimming in the ocean is amazing.
That said, I was only in it for 30min. Terri spent ~7 hours swimming in the dark. Her eperience may vary. ;) We knew though that if she made it through the night, her chances of finishing the swim would go way up. So when the sun started coming up, we all got a nice burst of energy. The sun def has power in that way. My estimation was that if she made it through the night, chances of finishing were high. If she was still swimming at noon, chances of finishing were VERY high.
By noon, she was still swimming. It wasn't pretty by this point... I'll spare you all the details, but 13 hours into an ocean swim, you can't expect to be happy and comfortable. Your swim suit is chafing. The sun is piercing its way through your layers of sunscreen. Your tongue is swelling from salt exposure. You're puking up most of what you've tried to consume as fuel. You've been stung by multiple floating organisms. You spontaenously shit in your suit (ok maybe I'm not really sparing you all the details). Your forward progress is slow. You're exhausted. And you still have ~7 hours to swim. This is the part where mental skills become all important. Not once did Terri make a single complaint about any of that- she was suffering, but she was suffering well. Sometimes we'd hear her shout out ELECTRIC! She would roll over on ther back, take a few breaths, then roll back over and resume swimming. File that under How To Deal With Man-o-war Stings.
My job at that point really became one of trying to find ways to keep her focused on the task at hand. Every 30ish min when we would stop her to feed, I'd relay a message I'd gotten from a friend on shore who was cheering for her. I got to tell her about how when her husband was flying home from Molokai, he told the pilot that his wife was swimming the channel... and the pilot (ever so cool OMG) flew his small plane a little lower than normal and spotted us in the water and announced to the passengers what was going on and they all cheered! When he landed, Don sent me a few photos and relayed the story. Hearing that made Terri's eyes well up a bit, then without a word, she got back to swimming.
Around 1PM I jumped back in to swim with Terri. The water out there in the middle of the channel is bottomless ... ok not really... it's 2300ft deep... but it appears bottomless. When the sun is shining you swim and just stare stright down at these incredible rays of light that pierce the water. I can't describe them, but its mesmerizing. Anyway, Terri was sort of out of it at this point, just mindlessly trucking along. #QuietMind I still had my wits about me though and when I was staring into the deep blue, I saw a shadow figure of sorts, directly underneath me. It took me a minute to process what I was seeing. While I'd seen sharks in the ocean before, I'd never been the one to spot one- it was always someone else who saw it and pointed it out to me. Immediately upon seeing it, I popped my head up and told the guys on the boat that there was a shark. I remembered what I'd been told about sharks- if you see one, it's fine. If a shark is going to attack, it'll do it so fast that you'll never see it... so ok, I saw this one, it wasn't swimming fast, and my gut said it was actually a super cool opportunity to swim with one of these beautiful creatures in the wild. If I'm honest, when I see/hear that other people swam with a shark, I tend to find myself feeling a little bit jealous. So I decided that this was a cool opportunity. I mean, who gets to say that they swam in the middle of a channel with a shark?? Ok, some of my friends can say that (I have some really cool friends), but now I can tooooo. ;)
An hour or so later, I'd lost sight of the shark so I started looking around more. I looked sort of behind us to the left and saw that the shark now had a friend. That was a little concerning, but I wasn't super alarmed. I popped my head up again and yelled to the guys on the boat that now there were two sharks. I'm not sure why I didn't point them out to Terri- I think I just didn't want to freak her out. Anyway, not too long after that I looked around again... this time behind me and to the right I saw a third shark- this one was way bigger and it was swimming fast and my gut was screaming at me to get back on the boat. I think I yelped out loud THREE SHARKS!!! then swam as fast as I could (the whole 10 feet) to the boat and beached myself onto the sled thing that was there for that purpose. (stock photo- but those rays of light- that's exactly what it looked like)
At that point we had a decision to make. Terri still didn't really know what was going on... Mike instructed Andrew to get in the water and "keep an eye on the sharks". (Raise your hand if you're jealous of Andrew's job in that moment.) We didn't want to pull Terri unnecessarily, but at the same time, if one of those sharks decided it wanted to know what this thing in his channel tasted like, how could we live with ourselves?? I told Mike and Keith (boat captain) that I was not going to make that decision. This decision making was in their wheelhouse. A deciding factor was me telling them that I had my period... Given that, maybe I was the one attracting the sharks and if I got out they'd lose interest? Turns out, 'sharkbait' isn't just a nickname for women who are bleeding. It's really a thing. After I got out, one shark hung around for a little while longer (Terri finally saw it!) but then they all left her alone. So ladies, if you have plans to swim an ocean channel, maybe add that to your list of things to consider... Time it so its a night/day when the winds are light *and* you don't have your period. #YoureWelcome
We were getting close, but close is a relative term. Terri was exhausted. Sometimes she would ask how much further and I'd smile at her and enthusiastically point to Oahu and say "You're close! It's right there!! SEE!?!" But the reality was, she still had like 10k to go. I really didn't want to give her numbers like that, but at one point she said to me very directly, MICHELLE I NEED TO KNOW HOW MUCH FURTHER. So I told her "About 4 more hours". She swore out loud for the first time then quietly resumed swimming. It was slow going at that point but progress was being made and she trucked along. She'd been reduced to coke and sprite as pretty much her only fueling options, feeling that she was incapable of chewing. Any other fuel source we tried to give her induced more vomiting. We were glad for how much coke and sprite they'd bought as the 'just in case' option. I mean I think she went through something like a 12 pack of each... Anyway, I'd been texting friends and updating them with our estimated arrival time and location. We live on a small island with a close knit community and word spread pretty fast. I was getting word that people were gathering there... that a news channel had been contacted and was waiting for the story as well... I relayed all of this to Terri and I think that was a HUGE inspiration to her. Knowing that so many people care about you and what you're doing somehow makes it all more meaningful.
I got in again to swim with Terri when we were about a mile off shore. It was getting dark again. We couldn't really see what we were aiming for but we were told to 'swim to the light'. Apparently a few folks associated with the news had a camera there with a bright light so we used that as our guide. I'll never know why they decided that that rocky spot was the best one for our exit- hands down the most dangerous part of the swim was that part getting pummeled by crashing waves in very shallow water over reef. Part of the deal to make the channel swim official was that we were not allowed to touch Terri or assist her physically in any way. I was worried about how exhausted she was bc navigating that part required being astute and aware and I wasn't sure of her capacities by that point. Andrew had joined us by then too so he was verbally giving Terri instructions how to manage herself through. Eventually we all made it to sand. After 20 hours being horizontal in the ocean, she crawled up onto the beach. It took Terri a minute to get her legs to work on land. Once she was above the water line, I grabbed her to help a bit and then... the elation arrived!
Friends on the beach adorned her with so many leis she could barely see. I tear up a little thinking about how awesome our community is. She was interviewed by the news team, we all stood around and shared stories for probablty an hour, then went home to finally get some sleep. That was the first time in my 48 years that I'd ever stayed awake for almost 40 hours straight. It wrecked me for several days. I've been asked if I am glad that I went with her overnight. 100% without question I am glad I did. I'm not sure I'd want to do it again (!) but truly, the respect level I have for those who cross that channel is just so much higher having witnessed how challenging it actually is. Ironmans are hard, but Ironman has nothing on a 20 hour ocean channel swim.
While I was watching Terri swim out there, I wondered (deeply) about her 'why'... Why would someone put themselves through that? It looked like voluntary physical torture at times. Now that its done, I think that we put ourselves through physical challenges like that because when we do things we aren't sure we can do, we come out the other side with a sense of confidence that is not possible to have otherwise. 3 years ago she was afraid of swimming a 10k. Last week she swam the Kaiwi Channel. What's she going to do next? Whatever she wants. That's the answer. She can (and will) do whatever she decides she wants to do. How cool is that?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

On Conscious Choices

I wasn't sure if I was going to write a blog post about that race in StG, but every once in a while I sort of enjoy going back and reading some of my thoughts from years past and I think it might be an interesting thing one day to go back and read them all together and see what kind of 'evolution' I've had over the last decade+... Plus, as some who know me well already know, I've been "trying" to retire from triathlon racing for the last probably 5-6 years. How many times have I said, "I'm never doing that again!" only to sign up for the same races year after year hoping maybe it would be different/better somehow next time? I have never been able to just let it go. Why is that?? I've seen other people let it go. I remember very specifically one post-race experience with an athlete I was coaching... it was 8 years ago. We'd both just finished IM Cozumel. She was happy with her race. I wasn't. You know what's funny? I cannot remember the outcome of that race (ie my time/place or whatever). All I remember is not feeling satisfied. She did though. She said, "I feel at peace." I was jealous. That's how I wanted to feel.
After this 70.3 race in StG, I remember feeling like I was at peace. What's funny is that it's not like I look back at my time/place and feel like it was exactly what I wanted. It wasn't. And yet, I had this novel feeling of "peace". I think I always expected that "peace" comes when you absolutely crush/nail every aspect of a race... Like, you finally achieve your perfect race then you can be at peace. But that's not how it works. Or I should say, that's not how it worked for me.
I've spent the last year or so working on a remodeling project of sorts. It's been both an internal and an external remodel. I think the internal part is the most important part. It's really hard to summarize in words what all I've done (or how), but since I always try to be upfront and honest in my blogs, I'll try. The short version is that I've done a deep dive into better understanding my nervous system; I've learned to use my breath to help me not only read my state but to change it when I want to; I've learned to quiet my own mind and create space for objectivity and analysis; I've learned to not be a judgemental wench, especially when it comes to how I talk to myself internally (this has been a huge win); I've greatly improved my CO2 tolerance; I've improved my posture; I've developed more patience. I suspect I could go on, but I'll leave it there for now. Suffice to say, positive changes that have been a long time coming.
Leading up to StG, I was really trying to focus internally on myself. I was trying to remove any judgemental comparisons of myself to others, and to that end, I took a few steps to help myself achieve that goal. One of which was disconnecting my garmin from my Strava profile. That lifted a little weight off my back. I felt more free to just do what I wanted to do with my training without having a little birdie in the back of my mind worrying about other people silently judging what I was doing (or not doing). Turns out, even when you take those steps, you'll still get judged. Maybe not even silently! I was accused repeatedly of "secret training"... That made my head spin. There is no secret training. Training methods in this day and age are VERY well known. I was swimming and biking and running consistently. Mostly easy but sometimes very hard. That's it. No secrets.
I had the thought that the only 'secret training' I was doing was happening on my living room floor. And even that wasn't secret. I told anyone who would listen what I was doing there! It's not easy work, remodeling yourself from the inside out on your living room floor. Most people are unwilling to do it. Progress with it is slow. The process is tedious. You have to just sit there, quietly, focusing on your inhales and your exhales and then come back to that focus every time your mind wanders ... over and over and over. Every day. I found motivation to keep going with it though when I started seeing signs that I was making progress. What did that progress look like? For starters, I started noticing pretty flowers on my dog walks. I found that I had more patience with people and situations. I felt calm. I was more creative. My memory improved. I could make reasoned decisions eaily. I slowed my life down. I was sleeping better. I did less mindless eating/snacking. I felt happier overall as a wife and a mom. All great reasons to continue down that path!
I sought out other learning opportunities and enrolled in courses titled "Art of Breath" and "Skill of Stress". Wow. Mind blowing information there for anyone on a path of self-improvement! When you learn how your breath is connected to your physiology, and how you can take conscious control of that when you decide you want to, it feels like a superpower. The night before the StG race, I was flipping through some of my notes trying to remind myself what exactly I wanted to focus on the next day. I found this note from the Skill of Stress course and decided it would be my race day mantra. I had no idea at the time how impactful it would actually be.
So I probably don't need to recap again the drama that was race day weather conditions for those who started the race in later waves, but since I can see myself reading this again a decade from now, I'll describe the whole day with a bit of detail.
My wave started late. Like, almost 10am. The pros went off at 7. I had rented a house that was like a mile from T1 so I had the most relaxed race morning ever. Woke up with no alarm. Drank my coffee and ate my oatmeal while watching the live coverage of the pro race on my ipad. Used the nice bathroom in my own house (several times ha ha!). My husband drove me over to T1 and dropped me off and I was super relaxed as I was putting my bottles on my bike. Waiting in the corral with my fellow W45-49, I chatted light heartedly with several of them. The sky above us was blue was we entered the water. I saw the black cloud off in the distance but didn't give it any power. Instead, I kept my focus on the present moment. While I was swimming, I was 100% focused only on giving whatever effort was necessary to stay on the feet of the gal who was doing a brilliant job of weaving her way through the swimmers who had started ahead of us. I wasn't as cold as I'd anticipated I would be and I was very much enjoying the swim. I could feel some chop picking up as the swim finish was nearing, but truly didn't give it a second thought. Just stay on her feet. Simple. Not easy. --- Running through T1 was where I started to understand how conditions had changed while I was in the water. Yikes. It hadn't started hailing yet, but the wind had blown some of the fencing in the transition area away. I had a hard time running with my bike to the mount line. The most interesting part was that through it all, I was laughing. I suspect that laugh was actually a stress response, but it was a better stress response than freezing in fear, or getting angry, or any other common reaction to stress. --- I am consciously choosing to engage with this storm/stress.
In the first 10ish miles of the bike (for me), the conditions were among the worst I'd ever ridden in. Strong wind, hail, lightning. Utah flash storms are legit. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't comtemplating quitting. I absolutely was. There were a few women riding aggressively, but most were riding as carefully as I was. I heard or saw 3 ambulances. What was I doing? Is this worth it? Should I stop? Where do I go if I stop? I mean, the reality was, I needed to get to T2. That's where my family was. I had some awareness that the storm was unlikely to last all day. And I didn't want to live with the regret of quitting a race because the conditions were ugly. I knew I'd regret that choice if I made it. So I kept riding and eventually the storm did pass. Roads were still all wet but it felt less scary overall and I just kept repeating my mantra to myself. --- I am consciously choosing to engage with this storm/stress. --- The only time I had dry roads on that ride was the climb through Snow Canyon. And I was super happy at that point! My legs weren't tired since I hadn't given a lot of physical effort in the first 40 miles (that was all mental effort I was giving, which is still a lot of energy, but at that point my legs felt pretty good). I was climbing and happy and singing out loud... The other thing that struck me during this race was how nice I was to those I was riding around. Normally in a race situation if an athlete was riding in the middle of the road and therefore not leaving room for others to pass on the left, I'd yell something very direct. MOVE OVER! Maybe even MOVE OVER BITCH depending on what kind of mood I was in. On this day, when I encountered that exact scenario, I calmly said to a woman, "It would make it easier for everyone else if you moved over to the right." And I pedaled on. Who was I anyway???
Last 6 miles were all downhill to T2, which could have been super fun, but that's where the sky opened up again. Flash flood style dumping rain in drops so big an iphone camera could capture them in an image. It wasn't actually as fun as I'm making it look here. Lol.
I am consciously choosing to engage with this storm/stress. --- It's possible that was the most relieved I'd ever felt in any T2 in any race in almost 25 years of racing triathlons. There was a volunteer in T2 telling me to go slowly over some very wet carpet as I was on my way to grab my T2 bag. No worries lady I was in zero hurry and walked through T2 soaking it all in. My lack of desire to RACE others in this race meant that rushing through transitions wasn't something I was going to do. I mean, I didn't have a picnic lunch or anything but I walked and took my time putting my shoes on (no speed laces required) and I joked with some others around me about how happy we all were to be off the bike. I found that the majority of women around me all day had amazingly positive attitudes. Given everything that was thrown at us that day, it was inspiring to see/feel. Female triathletes are bad ass, you guys. We endure.
Immediately onto the run I saw my family and also Tia, which was fun! There were thousands of spectators - some all dressed up in costume while others were half naked in crazy hats. That part felt somewhat chaotic but it goes with the territory of big races like this and honestly, that's what makes a race a 'big' race. It's not just the athletes that make a race a big deal. It's the spectators who care about the race that make that happen.
The run course was harder than I expected. I mean, I knew it was going to be hilly but when I read 1200ft gain in 13 miles I just totally assumed that was a misprint. Somebody's garmin had to have been drunk when it measured that I mean anyone who pays attention to elevation gain on their training courses knows that 1200ft gain in 13 miles is insane. I was wrong! I'll tell you- I'm super impressed by everyone who completed that run course. It went up up up forever then DOWN this crazy steep pitch for something like a mile... then repeat! I've worked hard on my run this past year and I know it has improved. It didn't come out on that course on that day, but that doesn't deplete the confidence I have that my run is improving.
I finished that race feeling more proud of myself than I expected. Given a week removal from it, I think the pride I felt was more about how I handled the whole situation with the course/conditions than anything else. My goal going in, as stated the day before the race even started, was to choose to engage with the storm/stress, to consciously carve a new canyon of healthier response, widening my response options and tolerance to stress of all kinds. At the end of the day, that's it, isn't it? The reason we challenge ourselves to do hard things?
This morning as I was rolling out on my ride, it started to rain. It was just drizzling though. It wasn't hailing and there was no lightning and no garbage cans were flying across the street. Little bit of rain? Zero issue. The race last week served as a vehicle to allow my Window of Tolerance to widen. --- Goal achieved. After 25 years of racing triathlon, I feel at peace.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Quit being Such a Judgmental Wench

 Turns out, a year and a half away from racing was a good thing for me personally.

I very much enjoyed training this past year+ and genuinely wasn't sure if I was actually going to enjoy racing again. But here's the thing! 2020 taught me that I do not *need* to race triathlon to be happy. So hypothetically speaking, had I not enjoyed racing Honu, it would have been fiiiiine with me bc the alternative (just train, yo!) was something I'd come to realize I could do quite happily for quite some time. I think this was a huge piece of my ability to go into the race weekend feeling literally zero stress. It wasn't that I didn't care about my performance - I did! - or that I wasn't going to give my best all day - I would! - but just that I was not very concerned with the outcome of how it would all play out. 

That was brand new mindset for me.

What's interesting is that I had a coach a few years ago who tried to teach me this mindset. Looking back I can see now that I was simply not ready to learn it at that time. To me, RACING meant it was me against you. One of us wins, one of us loses. My focus when racing would often be more about what other people were doing instead of what *I* was doing. That takes a lot of emotional energy. And spoiler alert, it was not working for me. Read back to just about any of my race reports over the last decade. Just about all of them include an element of dissatisfaction (sometimes deep/severe) and I can see now that was all stemmed from the fact that I was trying to satisfy my ego more than my soul. #deepthoughts

So what was the big change in 2020? Good question! ;) I can trace the origin of it back to the fact that Lawrence van Lingen modified his business plan to start presenting his knowledge online, which allowed me to have easy access to it. (Mahalo, Lawrence!) He started hosting live online classes and seminars, teaching athletes how to let go, unwind, reduce tension, live at the bottom of your breath... I'm not sure that's a method I would have necessarily embraced had life not taken such a drastic turn, but the timing of it was right for me last spring. My mind was open, I was eager to learn more, and as I immersed myself in his methods, I felt immediate and lasting benefits not only in the way I was physically moving, but also in the way I was seeing/interpreting the world around me. 

When I get into something, I tend to jump in with both feet, and that's what I did with Lawrence's InneRunner stuff. I did all of his weekly mobility classes, Slinky Spine course, InneRunner course, etc. Then eventually I discovered that oh wow breathing deeply and slowly does actually make a big difference in how much tension I'm carrying around... so I added those weekly breath sessions in too. The meditation stuff he does took me a little bit longer to embrace but now I'm into it. I still have a lot to learn there but my Headspace streak is currently at 87 days in a row. A couple months ago I created a new morning routine for myself that includes a 10min brain training session via that Headspace app and given how I'm feeling it changing me for the better, there's zero chance I'm going to give that up any time soon.

So it was from this perspective that I went into the Honu race weekend. I had enough experience to know what to expect, but also with what felt like a brand new brain which allowed me to race with more of a Beginner's Mindset. I wanted to race with a sense of curiosity about what I could do, instead of with a tension filled sense of needing to get to the finish line at any particular time or before any particular person. If that sentence sounds completely foreign to you, trust me, it would have to me a few years ago toooooo....

Anyway, I'll keep the race recap to lessons I took away from the race experience. And I want to start with addressing the wind on the bike. The forecast was calling for 25mph winds, and it was not wrong.

So I don't have any real issues with riding in headwind, and I'm normal (in some ways!) so I enjoy tailwinds. I do not, however, enjoy riding in strong crosswinds. So when I got out on that ride and felt the first wobble with that wind pushing me sideways into the road, I tensed up and pretty much remained that way for the rest of the ride. I tried talking myself out of it... positive self talk!... Relax, breathe, keep pedaling, you're fine, etc. I tried singing songs in my head... Look around look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now... Angelica remind me what we're looking for... Eliza I'm looking for a mind at work WORK I'm looking for a mind at work... I remembered some of the brain training work I'd done... The problem is not the wind, the problem is your perception of the wind... I tried to stay present in the moment, while at the same time trying to just steel my brain that I was going to be out there riding forever so just settle in, while at the same time promising myself that this would not indeed last forever and at some point I would be able to get off that bike. So ya, I probably have more work to do there on that mental piece. #progressnotperfection

But you guys, what I did NOT do was start beating the crap out of myself for riding like a pussy. This is such a big win I cannot even tell you. It genuinely is fascinating at times to think about the way we talk to ourselves and compare that to the way we talk to others. I would never berate others the way that I used to berate myself when I'm not performing up to my own impossible-to-reach expectations for myself. So I'm currently in this place where I can accept that I need more practice again riding in strong crosswinds to redevelop my ability to do that confidently while at the same time not being a judgmental wench to myself about not nailing that part of the race. Whoa.

Here's another piece that's fascinating> Post race we're all standing around chatting and some people are with me whining about that wind so scary! Others, though, acknowledged that it was windy but mostly just brushed it off. What? How could they just brush that off? It was freaking SCARY out there!! Or was it? 

The problem was not the wind. The problem was my perception of the wind. 

Let's relate this back to the swim. Post race everyone has the same story... I couldn't see the buoys on the way back at all! There was genuinely a lot of concern about this, posted onto the Facebook groups and everything. You know what? I couldn't see the buoys either. You know how much that bothered me? Not at all. So why is that? Why were some people bothered by not being able to see the buoys but I wasn't? Probably for the same reason I was bothered by those crosswinds while some others were not. Likely our own perception of how big of a threat these things are to us. I'm super confident in my ability to ocean swim and I swim ocean all the time without specific buoys to aim for so I am comfortable just heading in a general direction and not giving it a second thought. For others with less experience in the ocean, I can absolutely see how that mindset would be as foreign as I think it is that they were unconcerned with the crosswinds... Our perceptions matter.

Anyway. Since I had no particular time goals, I left my Garmin at home on race day. I think that was one of the best decisions I made over the weekend bc it truly helped me to do what I suggested my athletes do out there: Focus on WHAT you are doing, not on HOW you are doing. I think if/when we start judging our performances in the middle of the race, we start going down a slippery slope. That's when it becomes really easy to throw in the towel... or even if you technically finish but you know in your heart that you gave up on yourself and didn't really give your best the whole time. That just sucks, right? So I eliminated that variable for myself by racing without a watch and I'll probably never use a watch in a race again. (I have also said with 100% confidence that I would NEVER do another full Ironman... #spoileralert #neversaynever)

Ok so the run story. This is how I ended up running with the CEO of Ironman for ~90 minutes. ;) My plan on that run was to be pretty conservative. I wasn't hugely confident in my run fitness and I've melted down on that course more times than I can count in years past, and I just really really really didn't want to have that experience again. So right from the start my plan was to walk all the little kicker hills but to not let my walk breaks ever be longer than ~20 steps. But I gave myself permission to take a walk break whenever I felt like I needed ones long as I got back to running as soon as I felt ready to do so. Very early on some guy next to me asked, 'What's your pace?' I showed him my naked wrist and replied, My pace is whatever I feel like running in each moment! I might have mentioned at that point that this wasn't my first rodeo... I can't really remember... but I think I did mention that this was my 14th attempt at this course. After a few minutes where he parroted my run/walk/run pattern, he asked me what my name was. Then, because I am not rude, I asked him what his name was. He told me his name was Andrew and honestly that was the first time I even looked at him and that's when I knew... Holy shit I'm running with Andrew Messick. So it took him a second but eventually he said, "MamaSimmons. You skewered me on social media!" 

OMG talk about a moment... Ha! I mean all you can do is own up to that, right? So I laughed and admitted that I'm sure I did! The crazy part is that he remembered specifically at least one time where I was ripping him for the decision to start women's behind the men instead of one big mass start... People who know me know how I feel about this and that was an open invitation to discuss it again so oh man... I started into it... again... I got all riled up! Like to the point where I had to take a short walk break on a flat section because I needed to calm myself down... It went on like that for the whole first lap... then the second lap... He told me that he was genuinely interested in my opinions. I mean, as a CEO maybe getting to hear what people who have been at this for a really long time experience when they're out there on the courses is a good idea. I could tell he was listening so ya, I continued to just open my mouth and spill it! I was fair though and I gave credit where credit is due (yay return to racing!) he told me about the different caveats that different race venues were requiring and how it varies so much depending on the location. WTC as a corporation has been under massive stress (as you can imagine, if you think about their position at all!) so he said he's just happy the whole company didn't go under last year. And as much as we gripe about how WTC does some things, I mean, lets face it... How sad would we we if WTC folded?

Anyway, in our conversation, he asked me if I would take the local Hawaii Resident slot to Kona if I earned it. I replied that I was not sure. My thinking going in was that 1) I did not want to be concerned with whether or not I would end up in a situation where it was offered to me and 2) I was not going to put myself through that brutal Ironman again if I did not truly enjoy myself while I was out there racing. And since we were at mile 1 or 2 of the run when he asked that question, I could not give a straight answer. So far I had been happy enough, but 13 miles is a long way to go on a golf course in 90 degrees with full sun. As they say, anything can happen.

Let's sum this up, shall we? I ran the third lap on my own and was absolutely amazed that while it was certainly challenging, I was doing an amazing job at staying in the moment and running and being happy and cheering other athletes on and not even for a half a second being a judgmental wench to myself about not running faster. My legs functioned reasonably well all the way to the finish line and for the first time in a very long time, I threw my hands in the air and smiled so big as I crossed that line. I did not know my time. I did not know my place. But none of that mattered. I had achieved my goal of racing happy. Being kind to myself. It's the way, you guys. I'm telling you.

The next morning I got a text from a number I did not recognize...

So I currently find myself in a pretty cool position. I get to coach 8 athletes through Kona this year (!), one of those athletes being myself. I've never done that before, but I am very much interested in attempting it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Zwift For Dummies

Ok so I don't think you're Dummies :) But I thought a post that explains the very basics of Zwift for people who have just started (or are thinking of getting into it) might be helpful. Of note- I have no affiliation with Zwift other than being a paying subscriber. I am not trying to convince you to sign up but rather just going to explain how it all works so that if you do, you'll have at least a basic understanding of what you're doing. 

NOTE: I am SURE there is WAY more to Zwift than I am going to mention here. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to Zwift. If you want that, go to This is just information from the perspective of an athlete who just recently started figuring it out! 

Set up: There are a bunch of different ways to set up Zwift for yourself, and lots of info already published about this so I'm not going to dive into it. I'll just share my personal experience- its best for me via iPad. I tried it once with my laptop and the connection (bluetooth) dropped out a few times. If your laptop has better bluetooth than mine (it might! Mine is old) then laptop might be fine. My phone says it doesn't have enough space to load the Zwift app. So my set up is typically to use the Zwift app via my iPad and then sometimes I have the Zwift Companion app running on my phone. 

Zwift uses a ton of battery to run itself. I have to make sure my iPad has plenty of battery and even then it needs to be plugged in while running the program or else the battery dies out quickly. If I start a ride with 80% battery life and ride 2 hours with it plugged in, I finish with like 65% battery life. So heads up on that. Zwift Companion on your phone also uses a solid amount of battery so potentially you might need two power sources depending on how long you plan to ride.

I tried Zwift once a few years ago when I first got my Kickr and I didn't like it at all. To be fair, I didn't understand it at all! And I didn't try very hard to understand it... Generally I'd say I'm not much of a video game person and I don't need a lot of interaction with other people to get my training done, so Zwift didn't hold much appeal to me at the time. 

NOW THOUGH, it's a different story! I suspect my change of heart has a lot to do with the fact that we're not training specifically for races this year but rather training because we enjoy training as a lifestyle... and along with that looking for little carrots we can earn/achieve along the way. Zwift absolutely meets this need in many really great ways. So keep that in mind- ZWIFT IS A GAME. And turns out, a fun game at that! The developers of Zwift have done a great job tapping into the addictive brains of athletes. 


When you first start, Zwift gives you 3 bike frames (in your garage). I did not know this for the entire first month I rode on Zwift! But depending on what route you're riding, you can choose a road bike or a TT bike or a mountain bike (my Zwift Mountain bike is still brand new I wish I could sell it lol). Zwift calculates your speed in the game based not only on the watts you're pushing but also according to the bike you're riding! So if everyone seems to be riding faster than you, know that its possible they have a better faster lighter bike (or wheels!). As you earn points in the game, you can accumulate enough to upgrade your bike frame(s) and wheels several times over. I'll leave it there for now but just know that if you want more detailed info about any of this, find it at that Zwift Insider site.

Like most video games, Zwift uses levels to motivate us to ride more... (LEVEL UP!!). Commonly when you Level up you "unlock" options and prizes... Things like jerseys, helmets, socks, sunglasses, etc become available to you at different levels. For some bike frames and wheels you also need to achieve certain levels in the game. You level up by earning points and typically you get points for distance ridden so the more you ride, the more points you earn! #addiction

You can choose to do workouts (these can be standard or custom but I'm not going to go into all those details here) OR can free ride in different Routes. Zwift uses several 'Worlds' where you can choose to ride. Watopia is always there then the others switch out day to day or week to week. You can plan ahead by checking the calendar on the home page when you first open Zwift. They color code each day so you can see what worlds will be offered on what days.

If you're trying to earn points and level up, a good way to go about things is to specifically ride ROUTES. If you want to geek out on it you totally can- research your route ahead of time via Zwift Insider so you have an idea what you're getting yourself into. Some routes are way more challenging than others and you can't always tell just by looking at distance and elevation. If you want to get credit and earn a badge for completing a route, you need to specifically choose that route before you start riding. Then you need to know how long the lead in is for that route- sometimes there's no lead in or very short lead in... other times the lead in is long! If you didn't research ahead of time how long the lead in is, you can tell when you've hit it if you're on a road bike bc you'll get a 'Power up' once you officially start the route. So for example, if you chose a route that said it was 26k long and the lead in is 3k, then you'll need to actually ride 29k before earning the badge (and the bonus points!) if you want the badge, you have to keep riding until the 'Achievement Unlocked!' note shows up on your screen. If that alert hasn't popped up, you're not done so keep riding. If you weren't paying close enough attention though, you might miss it. I think that alert shows up on your screen for maybe 10 seconds or so then its gone... IF you miss it and want to know if you passed it, you can hit the iPad screen to get to menu (can do this while you are riding) and from there can check your badges to see if it gave you the badge. This happened to me one time so I'm glad this option is available! The last thing you want to do is get almost to the end of a long route then stop unknowingly and miss the bonus points for the badge because you didn't' know where the end was! One last note about Routes- if you're trying to earn a route badge, you need to ignore all the options to make turns along the course as you're riding. After you get notice that you completed your route, if you want to ride more you can keep going and from there can choose to turn and explore different areas. You'll get points for the extra distance you ride but not for another specific route.

The most frustrating thing for me has been to not really know how long different sections are (climbs, specifically). Some are short and some are really really long... Yes, you can research routes beforehand and get an idea, but when you're new to it, there's definitely an element of needing to let go of knowing what exactly is coming up. #justkeepriding Zwift does give you hints- I recently just figured this out and it helps a lot- if there's a sprint point or QOM section coming up, you'll see a box pop up on the left of your screen with the name of the section... It'll also show you the distance and avg grade if its a climb. If you've done that specific section in the last 30 days, it will remind you of the your splits. It will also then show you the splits of others who are currently riding who have also done that section... This can be motivating! I'll use an example... A box pops up on the screen indicating that a sprint point is coming up. It says that the fastest current female time is 28.6 seconds. It says that I did this section a few days ago and hit 29.2 seconds... So depending on how I'm feeling and what my purpose of the ride is, I might opt to go for a green jersey on that sprint! IF I am riding a road bike and have a "power up" to use, I might hit it if its an aero advantage or a drafting advantage... Don't hit that until the sprint actually starts... you'll see a colored/dotted line when the segment starts and you'll see an arch indicating the finish. I was super stoked the first time I figured out how to use a power up to help me earn a green jersey! #strategicgameplay Yes, it's dumb, but you guys we NEED these carrots right now! :) 

So on Zwift you can choose to do a specific workout in erg mode, free ride route on your own as you feel, jump into a 'group ride' at a specific time, or do a race. You can also initiate more private 'meet ups' where you can arrange to ride with your friends who are also on Zwift. (The meet up is one I haven't actually done yet so I cannot comment on how this works.) 

Group rides are pretty fun! You can find the options for what's available in the Zwift Companion app. I've done a few groups rides now and this is what I've learned... Something like 200 people might show up from all around the world. Sometimes they're grouped by levels according to watts/kg you push, but commonly in a group ride, all levels are there are people who are fast and want to race it start super hard and everyone else is more relaxed at the start. So depending on your goals for the day, you can choose to start hard and find the fastest group you can stay with, OR you can be more relaxed at the start and see what kind of group you land in after a few minutes of riding. Zwift gives drafting advantages, so just like real world you'll be at an advantage and riding faster with a group vs if you're riding alone. Don't use a TT bike in a group ride. The game will not allow you a drafting advantage if you are on a TT bike. You also don't get power ups if you're on a TT bike. I've found group rides to be pretty fun and entertaining! There's something pretty cool about riding "with" people from all over the world and trying to hang with a group... You might get dropped but if you do you can be pretty sure there are more riders coming up behind you so there's pretty much always someone to ride with on Zwift. Depending on your personality, group rides on Zwift might get you in trouble. Just like in the real world, group rides can end up being hard efforts bc people just naturally get competitive (even when they SAY they are just going to ride easy #lies) so I'd def say the fastest way to overtrain yourself would be to jump into group rides all the time. Be strategic about how you use these.

I've only done one race so far. I cannot say I really understand these that well but I'll note a few things then maybe come back and edit this post once I have more experience racing on Zwift... Races tend to have fewer people than group rides. If you're looking to just ride hard with people, a group ride might be better option than a race. The race I did there was some confusion about which 'group' I was in (at one point I accidentally ended up at the start line of an "A" group race... I def had no business being there and I have no idea how that even happened but I managed to leave that start line before the race started... I ended up in the "D" group (again not sure how this even happened) but figured I'd go with it and just see what happened... Ended up a very diverse group but only 8 people total. I rode with the front group of 3 guys for maybe 12min before getting 'dropped' and finishing by myself. It was for sure a way harder effort than I would have given on my own, but I'd say maybe not as much fun as the group rides I've done. There are races specifically for women. I might play around with those more in the future, but racing on Zwift is not my priority so doubt I'll give a ton of energy to that. If you want to get serious about racing on Zwift you totally can... There are teams and everything! But given that this is a 'Zwift for Dummies' post, we'll leave that for another day.

Anyway, will leave it at that for now. I'm sure there's 100 other things to know about Zwift but these are the things I've learned so far... Just keep in mind that ZWIFT IS A GAME and if you play it strategically, it can be a super fun way to really bump up your bike fitness even in this crappy year we're calling 2020. ;)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

So You're Saying There's a Chance

It's amazing how much can change in a month.

At the beginning of April, I launched this Gold Star Project for TeamBSC. My vision was that maybe each athlete would pick 1-2 specific targets (short ones) and train specifically to hit a personal best (as recorded in Training Peaks) at that target. Training Peaks keeps track of specific distances/durations for bike and run so those were the ones we were going to use. Since races are far away, I figured focusing on short distance peaks (5" up to 10min) made more sense bc long distance peaks would mean you're in race shape (!) and well, we don't really want to be in peak race shape when there are no races right now!

This project taught me so much this month... Both as an athlete and as a coach. Initially I just sort of thought maybe it would be a decent distraction from the wacky world we all find ourselves living in right now, but it morphed into a motivating quest for personal bests! It also ended up being a really great team building thing as we cheered each other on with our attempts.

As a 46yo athlete with 20+ years training for triathlon and 8+ years of pace/power data recorded in my Training Peaks account, some of my All Time Peaks are pretty solid. In all honesty, I looked at my top 3 all time run splits for 400/800/mile and thought there wasn't a snowballs chance in hell that I was going to be able to hit those this month. I mean, no way. I was way too far off. Part of me definitely thought that it was silly to even try.

But here's the thing. My athletes were trying! And many of them were surprising themselves! It seemed like every time I logged into Training Peaks, there was another file from an athlete who had just achieved a new personal best at a short distance. I do believe that leaders should model the behavior they expect from their people, and I decided that the behavior I wanted to really emphasize was the effort... I kept saying, The value is in the attempt. And I totally meant that! Some of my athletes have crazy huge peaks in their past. I definitely didn't want them to be discouraged if they were trying but not hitting them. So I figured that it truly made sense for me to try as well, even if I didn't really believe I'd hit any running peaks.

So 4 weeks ago I headed out and attempted a 'fast' mile. I was almost a full minute off my best mile time! Ha! Kevin attempted a mile as well. His initial report was that he wasn't even in the ballpark. Casey had a similar story the first time he tried. I kept preaching that it was fiiiiine... the value is in the attempt! So we all tried again the next week, and we got a little closer.

After one of my key runs, I studied the file and thought, I'm in the ballpark here... Like, not that far off... Maybe there's a chance? At the same time, some of my athletes were posting files that showed giant gains in their fast running paces. If they could do it, maybe I could too? Heidi knocked out a run where she just nailed it- fastest splits ever from 400 up to the mile! She's turning 50 next week and she also has a long history of training recorded in Training Peaks... She was making my excuses invalid. Hmmm.

So then a few days ago Casey posted a run file that showed he'd hit All Time PRs at the 400 all the way up to the mile. Wow! Solid Gold! Casey is also my age, with a long history in Training Peaks. What was my excuse again?

Momentum is a powerful force, you guys.

Today was officially the last day of the Gold Star Project. Last night, as a team, we had 185 total stars (counting 1st, 2nd, or 3rd all time bests as recorded in Training Peaks). I mused that it would be fun if we hit 200! Could we hit 15 more today?? That seemed like kind of a big ask. Several of us had planned attempts on our schedules but I wasn't sure if those would be successful attempts or not? Maybe? I threw it out to the team thought that if anyone had any more that they thought were possible to get today, take one for the team and go get it! Monika and Michelle both did that (!) so we ended up with 7 bonus stars that hadn't even been planned attempts... That put us right in the ballpark to hit 200. So you're saying there's a chance?

I was so inspired. I got all dressed up in my Coeur team running kit and I planned my route and I ripped my own legs off (panting wheezing breathing hands on knees afterward kinds of efforts) but I managed to get Top 3 All Time stars in all 4 distances today. What?!! I wasn't actually planning on going for all 4 distances but I was motivated to help the team get over 200 and I thought maybe I could... Its amazing what happens when you start to truly BELIEVE. Then I got home and checked Training Peaks again and saw that Kevin went out and did it tooooooo. In all we had our biggest day in star collection today, with 25 more stars collected. 210 in total!

I am incredibly impressed and inspired by this team. I feel like this project was a success beyond my wildest dreams and that's a credit to the tenacity of the athletes I have the honor of being able to work with. On Saturday we're going to have a team Zoom Party to celebrate everyone's accomplishments (there are so many individual stories of success!) and to share some 'war stories', because isn't that the best part of racing? Sharing your stories afterward?

I'll keep processing the valuable lessons learned this past month. But off the top of my head right now, I'd say that success seems to come from an idea/goal that you find motivating... believing that it might be possible to achieve... watching other people do it... and being motivated to contribute to a cause bigger than yourself.

Congratulations to everyone on TeamBSC! I'm super proud of you all. ⭐

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Inspiring a Sense of Personal Pride

We're half way through April!

I feel like I'm settling into a new routine of sorts. I sense that we all are. Much of the unsettling upheaval feeling has dissipated and now things are sort of rolling along in a way that feels like a new normal has been established. It's one I think my family and I can live with for a while.

How have things shifted for you? Generally speaking, these things come to the top of my head:

~Everything in our days (speaking about my family here) seems to have been shifted back an hour or so. We wake up a little later (ok I don't but husband/kid do), lunch is a little later, dinner is a little later, bedtime is a little later, etc. I don't feel like I'm in as much of a rush to get things done 'on time' bc time is so abundant. That said, sometimes days just FLY by and I'm like HOW is it 4:00 already!?!

~I spent a lot of time learning how to use new apps. Its easy to see why Zoom is popular. It's so simple to use. No learning curve required! Just download the app and put the meeting code in and you're there connecting with your people! I've started hosting weekly TeamBSC Zoom meet ups just so we can connect and chat and that has been a positive change that we will keep going even after society goes back to 'normal'.

~I've also been playing around with the new 'group ride' option on Trainer Road. This one was a lot more complicated for me, but I think it was because the new desktop app that is required had some bugs when it was first released. After ripping my hair out in frustration trying to get it to work, eventually I did, but not without unloading and loading the app a bunch of times. That said, once you get it set up, I think its potentially quite a 'value-add' for coaches and athletes because we can be riding at the same time together. I've sort of come to the conclusion that for *us* *right now*, the best use of these group rides is just to do our aerobic rides together. That way we can actually talk! We tried a harder ride but I think most of us are pretty good at pushing hard on our own so we'll probably do more of our aerobic riding together and consider them more like social hour spins. :)

In a weird way, I feel like this recent upheaval has actually been a good thing for me as a coach. It's forced me out of my comfort zone, forced me to find new ways to connect with my athletes and motivate them since races (as we are used to them) seem to be a ways off. Though maybe not too far off?? WTC announced a new dates for Puerto Rico 70.3 today (Sept 6) so there must be some officials somewhere in Puerto Rico who are at least mildly optimistic that they'll be allowing travelers in by then. So maybeeeeee....

It's been good for my kid (in some ways) too. Right now, as I type, she is on a Zoom Meeting with some of her neighborhood friends as they conduct a "Book Club". They came up with this idea all on their own... They picked a book, gave each other time to read two chapter, and are meeting right now to discuss it. They are 8-11 years old. So impressive.

So we're half way through the month with our TeamBSC #GoldStarProject and I have to say, I have been FLOORED by the peaks my athletes are achieving right now. I mean, ok maybe some have some low hanging fruit if they've never *really* attempted specific peaks for short durations, but I'd say the vast majority of the stars they are earning are just outstanding efforts and its been so inspiring for me to open files all day long and see star after star after star pop up. ⭐ We're mostly going for short distance peaks from 5" to 10min on the bike, though some people have earned peaks over longer distances if they're jumping into other challenges like the IM Virtual races and such... I don't think anyone has earned Gold Stars for all 4 short power peaks YET (5sec; 1min; 5min; 10min) but a few are close with 3 achieved already! Personally, I've got my 1min and 5min peaks... I've earned a 2nd and 3rd best all time 5 second sprint peak and am still trying to mentally prepare myself for the effort required to hit my 10min one... I have a distinct memory of the effort I put out to achieve the one I did several years ago and would be lying if I didn't admit I have a little bit of fear about whether or not I can do that again! I will give it a go though! If I hit my all time 5min peak then it makes sense that I have the fitness to hit the 10min one too so... #confidence

Keeping track of the peaks on the graph Moana created has been a fun project too! I swear, I thought *MAYBE* if we had a great month we might collectively hit 50 peak performances by the end of the month... But here we are half way through April and we have 67! I've had to rescale this graph several times already to make sure all the stars can fit. #triathloncoachproblems

Some of these are short distance running peaks as well. I'm a little more hesitant to tell some athletes to go after the shorter run peaks bc the potential to hurt yourself is way higher... I don't want anyone ripping their hamstring or groin in an effort to get Training Peaks to award them a gold star! But as they're ready some are going for it and its been invigorating! Truly. The feeling of personal pride is something everyone cherishes regardless of the crap that's going on in the world around them. I'd argue that the feeling of personal pride might be even more important now than it's ever been. I mean, you can just feel how stoked Casey is with his shiny new All-Time 5min peak power effort!! This is what I was hoping this project would inspire...

Monday, April 6, 2020

In Hindsight...

When I was a freshman in college (at University of Hawaii), I lived in a little dorm room (Johnson Hall B, baby!). I had a really great roommate from Kauai. This was 1992 (I'm aging myself, yes!) so internet was only just sort of becoming a thing. I didn't have a TV. I didn't have a computer nor a cell phone. How did we even survive? Can you imagine? Lol. Somehow though, we managed. I even had a social life! It was called, go to the one bar that most of my friends would go to most often and see who else might happen to be there. That was our social life. If we needed to communicate with each other, we used landline phones and left messages on answering machines.

One early morning I remember hearing a really loud siren... over the public emergency broadcast system. I don't have a great memory of a lot of past events, but I have some vivid memories of that. It was a Friday morning, around 4AM. Someone went running down the hall shouting HURRICANE IS COMING! HURRICANE HITS AT 4! CLASSES CANCELLED!

I was from Ohio and honestly didn't really even know what a hurricane was, but I remember feeling somewhat grateful that classes were cancelled, because I was kind of hung over.

With absolutely ZERO understanding of what was coming, we did all the dumbest things one might think people could possibly do in that scenario. I remember watching one of my friends get on the bus with his boogey board. I was like, "Where are you going???" He replied, "To the beach! Surf's up!" The rest of us headed to the store and got cases of beer and spent the day drinking together. Things get a little fuzzy in my memory around that, but I do remember that night being outside as the wind was ripping and it was DUMPING rain and the street outside my dorm had morphed into a raging river and we danced outside in that rain and honestly I remember it being super fun.

The next day, I remember my roommate being super upset. She told me that the restaurant she used to work at on Kauai had been flattened by Hurricane Iniki. That storm brought winds of 145mph and damage to the state of over $1.8 billion. 14,000+ homes damaged. 6 people died. Meanwhile, I was the dumbass out dancing in the rain.

Knowing what I know about hurricanes now, my/our behavior that day was ludicrous. Having full access to news and such now (pick a source! There's access to news everywhere.) I know that they warn about hurricanes coming 24/7 for at least a week before the hurricanes get anywhere near our islands. That day in college, the first I'd heard about any hurricane was when the sirens went off. Seems crazy now, but that's the difference between paying attention to news vs not paying attention to news.

I share this now mostly bc I suspect that even though access to news these days is abundant (for most of us), I suspect there are a lot of people (young people especially) who actively disengage from the news. Shoot, our own president* has tried to drill it into our heads that any news we don't like is #fakenews. Given that backdrop, is it any wonder that we're having a hard time coming together and acting collectively as a society to combat a pandemic virus?

Whenever I read comments people make about this whole thing being over-hyped, my first thought is that they do not watch/read the news. I suppose it's possible they just watch different news, because for sure there are some networks that were actively downplaying the threat of this virus. I think a lot of that has stopped this week, as the death toll across the country continues to rise (and that's hard to lie about). Even then though, watching the news at all has become an act in critical thinking, because there is a ton of bias. Trying to figure out who is telling the truth vs who is exaggerating for effect vs who is just straight up lying to cover shit up is one of the major challenges of our times. Given all that its really no big surprise that many people just tune out the news altogether. That is a big systemic problem in our fight against this new virus.

I suspect that in hindsight, some people might view their actions during this pandemic differently than they currently view them. I can say 100% that I view my actions during Hurricane Iniki differently now than I did then. #themoreyouknow