Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not so Much with the "Versatile," but I'll Always Take an Award!

My lovely bloggy friend Grace, from "Grace, It's Amazing" bestowed the "Versatile Blogger Award" on me and I happily accept.  Why?  Because I am rather tired today and had nothing clever to say.  So I totally scored on this and just need to come up with 7 things to tell you about myself.  Here goes:

1.  I LOVE bulleted lists.  Really, almost any kind of list will do.  Seriously.  I make a To Do list almost every day and if I do something that wasn't on it, I will write it down just so I can check it off!

2.  In my life, I've had three dogs and one cat and they've all been named after flowers:  Petunia, Daisy, Rosy and Blossom.

3.  In general, I'm a "do it now and get it done" kind of girl, but I can let laundry sit in the dryer for days.  Eventually, I will re-fluff it and put it away.

4.  Go ahead and laugh - I'm afraid of balloons.  Isn't that the stupidest thing you've ever heard of?  There are apparently enough people in the world with this fear, though, that it has a name:  globophobia.  I read that in People magazine, so I know it's true.

5.  I listen to my old fogey music so much that my kids know the words to "Nights on Broadway" by the Bee Gees.  They can also recognize numerous songs by ELO, Cheap Trick, The Beatles, and The Cure.

6.  I'm a terrible passenger in a car.  My official reason is that many, many years ago I was in a rollover accident while I was a passenger, but in my heart I know the real reason is that I'm just a control freak.

7.  Before I started reading blogs (and writing my own) about a month ago, I had never heard of Marathon Maniacs, and now all I want in the world is to be one.  I'm planning October, November and December marathons - w00t!

So now I'm supposed to tag more Versatile Bloggers.  I know lots of you have been tagged already, so how about this?  If you haven't been tagged before and you'd like to tell us 7 things about yourself, then TAG, you're it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Marriage in Training

Nine times out of ten it is completely excellent to have a husband who also runs, bikes and swims.  A husband who pushes me to my limits and beyond, a husband who understands why I want to eat pasta three nights a week and don't keep sweets in the house.  A husband who knows what it's like to give up most of your Sunday to a long run, a husband who can converse for hours about lactate thresholds and electrolyte replacement.  And then...well...there's that tenth time, when it leads to a day like yesterday.

The Hubs and I are kid-free this weekend (I take back almost every nasty thing I've ever said about my in-laws; they adore my children and take them off my hands for a few days every summer), so we planned a nice long bike ride on a beautiful nearby bike trail.  The Hubs is training for his first Half Iron distance tri and this weekend called for a 50-mile ride.  Since my previous longest bike ride was a 20-miler and I ride significantly slower than my beloved, we agreed to do our own out-and-back distances, but meet up several miles before the finish and ride in together.

The bike trail is an athlete's dream:  the main path is over 30 miles long (and there are miles and miles of offshoots), the scenery is fabulous since it follows a river, it's nicely paved, clearly marked, wide enough to ride two abreast, and there's a hard dirt shoulder for runners, too.  It's a moderately challenging path, with lots of hills and twists and turns.  Most of my experience with the trail has been as a runner, so I was really looking forward to approaching it this time on wheels.

We set off nice and early from the bottom of the trail, our thought being that the net downhill on the return would make the day a little easier overall.  We stayed together for the first two or three miles, but I knew The Hubs had a time goal in mind, so I cut him loose to ride at his own (much faster) pace.  He said he would call me at his turnaround, so I could turn around also, then we'd meet up about ten miles from the end.

Even though I thought I might take a leisurely ride and just enjoy the trail, as soon as I started pedaling I started to push my pace.  Bike in the distance?  Well, you know I have to chase that slowpoke down!  Here is the inherent problem with being a racing athlete (even an average one):  the competitive juices never stop flowing.

The Hubs called me just about when I expected he would, so I turned around and started chasing people down the hill, too.  I arrived at our meet-up spot a few minutes before him, so while I waited, I got off my bike and stretched my legs a little.  When I saw him approach, I smiled broadly and waved, ready to enjoy a chat on our ride back together.  He braked abruptly next to me and snapped, "I thought you would just keep going and I would meet you!" and then took off.  TOOK.  OFF.  I didn't even have my feet on the pedals and I had been dropped.  Grrrrrrrrrrrr!

I didn't take this turn of events very well, I admit.  I spent several miles contemplating divorce or dismemberment.  I plotted revenge and I swore I would never, ever get over being this angry.  When The Hubs was waiting for me at the end of the trail there was some swearing from me before I initiated the Silent Treatment.

After numerous heartfelt apologies from The Hubs (which I ignored because - hello! - I was the wronged party here and I was planning on pouting all day), he explained that he had been playing leapfrog with a group of cyclists all the way down the hill and he just couldn't let them pass him without giving chase.


Yeah, okay, I totally get that.  And just like that, all was forgiven.

Final stats for the day:  42.62 miles @ 16.9 mph.

So, for all of you with athletic spouses:  Has your marriage ever gotten a little competitive??

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tryin' out my TRI

You know the Principle of Specificity?  Well, I took it to a whole 'nuther level today and did a swim, bike and run on the exact course where my TRI will be in two weeks.  How did that work out for me?  The short answer is "It kicked my booty."  The long answer is much more detailed.

Here's what went poorly:
  • I'm tempted to say "everything," but it wasn't quite that bad.  It took me a really long time to feel good in the water.  There was panic, there was crying; it got ugly.
  • I need different goggles.  Mine fog a lot and it really made sighting difficult.  Swimming in the actual lake in the actual direction I will be swimming at the actual time I will be swimming showed me that I can't see where I'm going!
Here's what went well:
  • I love how buoyant I am in a wetsuit.  At one point when I was trying to calm down, I realized that even if I did absolutely nothing, I would still be sitting right on top of the water.  Good to know.
  • Once I (finally) got going, I got into a really nice rhythm.
The bottom line:
  • Swimming in a pool really does NOT prepare you for swimming in open water.  At all.  I have never worried about Creatures from the Deep while in a nice clean pool.  I have never swum through a school of teeny, tiny fish while in a pool (this was much freakier than you might suspect).  While in a pool, the worst-case scenario is that you have to swim another 90 meters before you can grab onto the edge and catch your breath.  There are no edges in a lake!
  • I need to get in another OWS before race day.

Ready to get in the water...sort of.

Here's what went poorly:
  • Almost nothing.  I felt great on the bike!  The course is non-stop rolling hills, some of them bigger than others and not all of them have a downhill on the other side, so I was pretty tapped out when I was done, but I felt like I stayed strong for the whole ride.
Here's what went well:
  • I ate a Clif Bar Mini Energy Bar before I got on the bike and it went down well and stayed down (always good).
The bottom line:
  • I'm not super worried about the bike portion of this race anymore!  I don't get the chance to ride a lot of hills where I live, so I'm really pleased with how I was able to manage them.
  • Even though my overall speed was a little slow, I might take it easier on race day to make sure I have something left for the run.
Safety first!  Even before shoes apparently.

Here's what went poorly:
  • Umm, pretty much the whole thing!  OMG, the run was really, really, really hard!  Surprisingly hard.  My bike/run bricks have been going so well that I simply couldn't believe how difficult this run was.
  • I was completely out of energy.  I have never bonked like this before.  It brought me to tears about mid-way through the run (yes, I cried twice during today's workout!  I think that's a new record).
Here's what went well:
  • When I finally gathered my wits and just willed myself to run, I was able to get through it.  I was even able to finish pretty strong, which is always a good end to a workout.
The bottom line:
  • I think I need to eat something before the run.

"Are we there yet??"

What sucked:
  • This outfit.  It looks cute in pictures, but it became obvious immediately out of the water that I need actual TRI gear.  Even in today's heat, I was still soaked to the skin at the end of the run.  No bueno.
  • My shoes.  I have become a total convert to Newtons and the Newton way of running, but mine are still pretty new and I didn't want to get them dirty (the run portion of this course is almost all hard-packed dirt), so I wore an older pair of another brand.  I spent the entire run wishing I was wearing better shoes.
  • My Garmin set to "Auto Multisport."  I usually manually change from Bike to Run modes during transition and I think I will take the extra time to do that even on race day.  The Auto Multisport mode didn't show my run pace and I realized today that I really depend on that feedback to keep me motivated.
What worked:
  • I was happy with my hair.  You know this is important!  I have very curly hair and it looks wild after a run, so I knew that adding a swim and bike (hello helmet hair!) wasn't going to do me any favors in the finish line photos.  This is a Nike headband I was trying out for the first time and I think it did the job nicely.

SOOO happy to be done!

All in all, I think today was great training.  I'm super happy that I had the chance to work out some kinks before race day and even though it was MUCH harder than I anticipated, I still think I can hit my goal of a sub-two hour race.  Final stats:  Swim 600 meters (this is 100% conjecture - I swam about 20 minutes but who knows how far that actually got me) @ hope-I'm-not-last-out-of-the-water slow; Bike 16.39 miles @ 17.4 mph; Run 2.24 miles @ 8:57/mi.

I hope you're having a fantastic summer weekend!  I can't wait to read all the race reports!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I {heart} Speedwork!

Yes, you read that correctly, I love speedwork! Up until now, you might have been able to pass me off as just a little nutty, but that phrase sits me squarely in the bat-crap crazy category. It's okay, I already knew.

I woke up this morning to much cooler temps - hallelujah! - and I thought to myself that it seemed like a good day for speedwork. Well, it is Thursday after all, and Thursday = speedwork, or at least it used to. On my marathon and half marathon training plans (which accounted for almost all of my training in the last year), Thursday's workout was either speedwork or a tempo run. My current triathlon plan doesn't include any effort-based running, because the run portion of the race is only three miles long and I really felt like I needed to concentrate on my biking and swimming skills (or lack thereof). This means I haven't done any speedwork of any kind for about three months - yikes!

I pre-program my speeds and distances into my Garmin so I can do speedwork on my regular running routes. I'm not a big fan of running around a track. Today's workout was 5 miles total distance with a 1.5 mile warm-up, 2 x 1 mile repeats @ 7:40 pace with .5 mile recovery, and 1 mile cool-down. When I set the repeats, I really debated if 7:40 was too aggressive, but thought I would give it a go anyway.

As I set off from my house, I turned directly into a headwind. Not much, maybe 8 mph, but enough that I felt like it was work, and wouldn't you know it, here came my old arch-nemesis, Creeping Doubt. I hear Creeping Doubt in my head somewhat frequently on my runs. Some days he's just a shadow flitting through quickly, and other days he'll stick around long enough to make a snarky comment or two. Well, today he brought his luggage and moved in with his cousins Nagging Worry and Mom Guilt. Ugh!

I struggled through the 1.5 mile warm-up, listening to his chatter: You'll never be able to run that fast. You've just been lucky before. You'll always be slow. You'll never make Boston because you're just not good enough. He's a mean little sucker, and he knows exactly what to say to make me feel bad.

But then something awesome happened: my Garmin beeped, telling me it's time to hit my first repeat. Like Pavlovian dogs, my legs started to FLY and we left Creeping Doubt in the dust! Oh, sure, I had to walk a little on the recovery to catch my breath, but then Garmin beeped again and there was nothing to do but run.

So, here's what I really love about speedwork: hitting your goal time makes you feel like you've accomplished something amazing. It is real, quantifiable proof that you can run even faster than you think (even if it's only for a short distance). Speedwork makes you feel like this:

Final stats: 1.5 mile warm-up @ 8:03, 1 mile @ 7:10 (!!!!!), .5 mile recovery @ 8:54, 1 mile @ 7:16 (again with the !!!!!), 1 mile cool-down @ 8:14, 5 miles total @ 7:50 average pace.

What's your relationship with speedwork? Love it, Hate it, or "It's Complicated"??

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Running out of Energy

I have already mentioned once or twice that I am a creature of habit. I love me my routines. Just about the only thing I love more than my routines is my cup of coffee (umm, which is a routine!) So, imagine a day without my morning routines and without my coffee in which I attempted to run - ACK! Yes, I discovered yesterday that hell on earth is a run without coffee.

No sooner did I reclaim my house from the screaming boys, when who should arrive but my in-laws. Big Boy graduated from 6th grade on Tuesday morning, so MIL and FIL darkened my doorstep about mid-day on Monday (which also threw off my scheduled swim - I still got in the pool, just much later than anticipated. This got the visit off to an inauspicious start.)

My house is exactly the right size for four people. Luckily, there are four of us in my family. Unluckily, having no guest room means that visitors sleep on our pull-out sofa sleeper in the family room. Also unluckily, our family room is a "great room" with the kitchen. Where we keep the coffee pot. So, most unluckily of all, when I get up for a 5:30 am run and I don't wish to disturb overnight guests, I don't get to drink my morning coffee. At this point, we've gone from "unlucky" straight to "tragic."

But, being a girl who doesn't waver from the plan, I obviously had to run, coffee or no. So off I went, uncaffeinated, for an easy two-miler. I chose the hard-packed dirt trail near my house because I thought the uneven footing would be a nice distraction from my plight. It definitely was; no sooner did my feet hit the path than I could feel the rush of the very best routine of them all - a run. Aaahhhhhhh.

I promised myself I could run easy, but I'll be honest - I don't think I could have run any faster, either. My coffee-less body just didn't have its normal get-up-n-go. I briefly entertained thoughts of going 4 miles, but less than a half mile in I realized I was going to be happy to finish up 2 miles without any walking.

Final stats for the morning: 2.08 miles @ 8:25/mile. *whew* The next time we have visitors, I'm seriously considering moving the coffee pot into our bathroom!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekend Recap

Somehow, several days passed me right by without blogging, and what busy days they were!

Friday I had planned to do another Open Water Swim, but wouldn't you know it the wind kicked up again and I just didn't have it in me to face that choppy water. So I busted out 1200 meters in the pool and went about my day. Can I tell you how awesome it feels to say that? Like 1200 meters is no big deal?!? On my homemade training plan, I built up my swim distance very, very slowly in anticipation of dreading every swim day and feeling nothing but panic in the water. On the plan, I was supposed to swim 500 meters on Friday and I went more than twice that distance! Of all the fitness gains I've made in the last few years, I think this is the one of which I am the most proud.

What did I do with the rest of my day? Well, thank you for asking, because I made this:

I'm no Martha Stewart, but I think it looks good in low resolution.

My son's birthday is next month, but we have such a hard time getting kids to attend his parties in the middle of summer, so I've moved his celebration up a month for the last two years. It works out great, you know, except that part where I have five screaming boys in my house for a sleepover...but I'll get to that in a minute.

Saturday I went out for a bike/run brick. After last week's race distance brick, I cut back a little on the bike and the run to a 12 and 2. It was windy again and I struggled a little mentally to keep focused (I knew those screaming boys were in my near future and I admit, my brain was nagging me about all the little details I hadn't finished for the party). My bike route was uneventful, which is a good thing. It was nice and early so I had very little traffic but somehow I still managed to hit every single red light on the route, can you believe it? I chose a running route that takes me on a hard-packed dirt trail for almost a mile, as practice for my tri which has similar conditions. The tricky path (don't get me wrong, it's not very technical, I just mean that it's not a paved street) definitely slowed my pace, but it was exciting to do something so different. A workout for my brain and my body, trying to figure out every footfall. Between the wind on the bike and the slower pace on the trail, I was convinced that the numbers would look like a crappy workout, but my final stats were still very respectable: 12.2 miles on the bike @17.8 mph, 2.07 miles on foot @8:17/mi.

By mid-day Saturday, the screaming boys had invaded. For many long hours I endured (without the help of The Hubs, because he was at work) the Nerf wars, the Super Smash Brothers Brawls, the water gun fights in the pool, Guitar Hero (the Metallica version, which is even louder), more Nerf wars and then, finally, the snoring of little boys. It will come as little surprise to you that, even though I was scheduled for a day off today and even though it was Father's Day, this morning I laced up my shoes and left the screaming boys to my husband so I could steal away for a quick 3-miler!

And, wow, it was really quick: 3.14 miles @ a 7:36 pace! I guess I had a little steam to run off, huh??

Well, thankfully, the screaming boys were gone by mid-morning and after I Lysol-ed every hard surface in the house I got on with the business of spoiling my husband for Father's Day. Somehow this "spoiling" involved me spending lots of time catching up on every else's blogs and I am officially JEALOUS of all the racers this weekend - Whitney and Average A and Kristen and MissZippy and ROJ and ajh and Julie and Cynthia. I haven't raced since March and I am absolutely itching to toe the line! Not to worry, though, I have two races in the next three weeks, so I'll get my fix soon enough.

In the meantime, happy training to us all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's So Special about Today's Run? Nothing.

I went for a four-mile run today. There was absolutely nothing awe-inspiring, breathtaking, or thought-provoking about it. I ran, I did my distance, and then I was done. As runs go, it was a real worker bee: nameless, featureless, going about its business of keeping my heart and lungs healthy and then, its job done, never thought of again.

I've been running for almost four years now and I can think of probably 20 or so runs that were truly memorable, whose details are still vivid to me. My first run, for sure. The morning I saw a shooting star blaze across the whole sky. That time I saw a coyote chasing a rabbit not 30 feet from me. The day I crossed my first finish line. Christmas morning, when the air was sharp and I ran the fastest five-miler EVER. For being an average runner, I have had some pretty phenomenal runs. But not today.

Let's do some math here (not my strong suit, so bear with me while I noodle it out): I have been running for 196 weeks (you do not want to know how long it just took me to come up with that number!) and I average about three runs per week, so I've run approximately...carry the two...588 times. That's over 560 unremarkable runs!

Ahhh, but where would I be without them? Probably slower, heavier, and unhappier. So, even though I have nothing at all to say about today's mediocre run - cheers to many more just like it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Habits and Routines

I was so happy to go for my bike ride this morning, I got up extra early to make sure nothing got in my way (you know, like a creek mishap). I cruised through my favorite not-quite-nine-mile loop at a lovely clip, then cleaned up and dashed off to work. At work, I did some strength training after my shift. When I got home, I was hungry for lunch but made myself hop in the pool before I ate (because once I sat down with lunch I would start checking email, reading blogs, and playing on Facebook and before you know it, the kids would be home and we'd be off to their activities and I would still be swim-less). I powered through 800 meters - and by "powered" I actually mean "crawled" - and then settled in for an afternoon of internetting. [final stats: 8.72 miles on the bike @ 18.1 mph, 800 meters in the pool untimed but most certainly slow]

Before you can compliment me on my drive and energy - thank you, btw, that's my favorite compliment - let me tell you what I didn't do. I totally didn't do my core workout. Boo, me. I always do my core workout when I come home from a bike ride. Bike rides and core workouts go together like PB & J, but today I didn't have any J. Of course, my official excuse is that I had to get to work, but in reality, I plain ol' forgot to do it, which isn't like me at all.

I am a girl who loves a routine. Gimme a rule and I'll follow it. If it's on my training plan, by golly, I'm doing it (okay, except for yesterday - but that was a serious anomaly). The truth is, I'm not a real motivated person, I'm just a creature of habit. So, here I am at the end of the day, faced with a dilemma: do my core workout now (which would feel strange because exercise is a morning thing for me) or skip it today (which would also feel strange because now I know I forgot it earlier and I was supposed to do it)?? Hmm, or Door #3: do it tomorrow after my run? That sounds sorta like a peanut butter and banana sandwich - not quite a PB & J, but still delicious.

Is exercise a routine for you? Or do you squeeze in what you have time for/feel like?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sh%t Happens

And, unfortunately, I mean that almost literally today.

It was a pretty regular morning, in that crazy we-still-have-to-go-to-school-even-though-we're-mentally-already-on-summer-vacation way (my kids are on a year-round schedule and are FINALLY off next week). I had four miles scheduled for this morning, and someplace to be by 9:30, so getting my kids to school at 8 left me just enough time to run and get ready.

By 7:40 the kids are on their bikes, my shoes are laced up and we're out the door. I run them to school about a mile away and then finish up my run on the way home. Little Boy had a project to turn in today that required him to bring his guitar to school, and it's a kid-sized one, so I said I would carry it. Have you ever run with a guitar in your hands?? Me either, before this morning. It's pretty fricken awkward, in case you were wondering.

Our route in the mornings takes us on the same paved nature trail we run together on weekends, but we have to cross the creek to get to school. At 7:45, Little Boy goes careening toward the narrow mud-and-stick bridge that we use to cross and as the words "SLOW DOWN!" are leaving my lips, *splash!* into the muddy, disgusting, goose-poop-filled creek he goes.

At 7:47, when I have stopped swearing, I send Big Boy on to school and hustle Little Boy home for his second shower of the day. (The silver lining here: I was running a very low-7s pace on the way home! LOL).

By the time we got home, it was touch-and-go whether or not he would make it to school on time and even less certain that I would have time for a run. Little Boy stripped off his craptacular clothing in the garage, and while he was cleaning up I threw away his shoes (less than a month old, of course) and socks and decided to see if washing his shirt and shorts would remove the gawd-awful stench and stains.

At 8:05, we screeched into the parking lot - school starts at 8:07, we weren't late! - and off he went, along with my hopes of running this morning. By the time I got home, got the laundry going, cleaned the mud out of the garage, off his bike and out of the bathtub, it was time to hop in my own shower and get on with my day. *sigh*

After dinner tonight, I took Little Boy to get new shoes and discovered that he has gone up another half size just since his last pair of shoes a month ago - yikes! When we got home with the new pair, though, I made the joke that his feet must be as big as mine now - ha, ha! Well, he needed to compare and wouldn't you know it, my 9-year old's feet are the same size as mine! Wait a minute...a light bulb goes off in my mind...Little Boy, would you like to try on my old running shoes??

Yes, Little Boy is now the proud new owner of a pair of slightly used, neutral cushioned Mizuno running shoes in light blue.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Swim Day

I did it!! I swam a whole MILE!! I had to post about this because The Hubs is already quite tired of hearing about it ("Sorry I didn't get dinner started yet, I swam a mile." "Oh, yeah, earlier when I swam a mile, I was thinking about your dentist appointment." "I'm a little gassy tonight because I swam a mile." There is no sentence in the world that can't have "I swam a mile" inserted into it today, baby!)

My favorite thing about swimming a mile (I swear I'll stop soon!) is that it wasn't really that hard. I mean, yeah, it was a good effort, but it wasn't drop-to-your-knees exhausting like I sort of suspected it would be. Obviously this is because I swim so slow, but I'm gonna take my victories wherever they come.

Today's stats are easy to calculate: 1 mile in 45:15 = 45:15/mile. :-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Long Run Day

Well, after all the preparation for yesterday's brick, today's long run seemed like a pretty half-a$$ed affair. Yesterday afternoon was spent in the sun and the pool, we had pizza for dinner and I think I had maybe one glass of water all day - yikes! But I was up and at 'em nice and early this morning in an attempt to beat the heat. (No such luck, by the way, but I tried.)

I took my sons - Big Boy, who is 11, and Little Boy, who will be 10 next month - out with me this morning on the first 2 miles of my planned 8-mile jaunt. Big Boy used to be a frequent running partner (his 5K PR is four seconds faster than mine), but about three months ago he began having migraines, which has dramatically changed his running schedule. Little Boy would rather sprint than run for any distance, so he was on his bike.

We are lucky enough to live very close to a beautiful, paved nature trail near a creek which is almost exactly one mile long. The nearly 2-mile round trip is a really perfect distance for Big Boy's long run. I turned Little Boy loose to ride as fast as he could up and down the trail while Big Boy and I ran. We saw egrets, ducks, geese, and numerous other birds whose names I don't know. It was a really lovely run. Little Boy ended up riding the trail twice for a total of four miles.

As we were heading back to the house, Little Boy piped up, "Mom, you know how I kept riding really fast the whole time? I imagined there was somebody on a bike right in front of me and I wanted to pass him really bad!" Oh, how my heart swelled with pride at those words - that's my kid! Then Big Boy announced that he spent most of the run thinking about what he was going to eat for breakfast! Okay, whatever works.

On the 6 miles I ran by myself, motivation was pretty hard to come by. Between yesterday's brick and this morning's heat (don't ask, it wasn't really that hot, maybe 70 degrees), I wasn't in any shape to run fast, so I kept assuring myself that today's run was about endurance, not speed. My mind wandered through many, many topics and strangely kept returning to the image of the Newton Running Shoes stick figure. Ha, ha! I guess my mind was trying to make sure I kept my form even though I was tired! After the 3-mile turnaround mark, I settled into my main motivational image: finishing strong at my next race. Happy thoughts of running hard and fast through the finishing chute carried me back home. I would venture to say that the desire to race well is what keeps me running on most days.

What motivates you?? Do you reward yourself at the end of a good workout (like my son and his much-loved breakfast)?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bike/Run Brick

Most of the time, when I'm done with a workout, I feel pretty awesome. The endorphins have kicked in, I'm feeling proud of myself for getting my booty out the door and I gave it my best shot. Sometimes, and this is very rare, I'll have a tough day on the roads and I need to remind myself, "Any exercise is better than no exercise." And then sometimes...the magic happens. Oh, today was one of those wondrous, happy, magical days where I walked in the door after my workout and felt like a SUPERHERO!

A little backstory first: yesterday, I was mindful of the brick I had scheduled and, knowing that it was likely to be a warm day, I pre-hydrated a lot. I ate a lovely spaghetti dinner and got to bed at a reasonable hour. It's true, I am really boring on a Friday night!

This morning dawned like any other morning, albeit much windier than usual, with 15 mph winds again today. I'm not a fan. I drank my coffee, had a little more water, and got my bike and "transition area" (aka, the garage) ready, then I took off!

The first part of my bike ride was a strong tailwind, which is a lovely confidence-builder at the beginning of a ride, but also means that I'm gonna face the headwind about halfway - ugh! And what a headwind it was! There was some swearing, I'm not gonna lie, but I fought my way through it and still felt good. Before I knew it, I had 16 miles done and I was ready to run.

The feeling of running on "bike legs" is something you never get used to - or, at least I haven't. It's very, very similar to running in Jell-O. I haven't actually run in Jell-O, of course, but I know for sure that it feels just like this. The great thing is, even though I felt like I was barely moving, every time I checked my Garmin, I was in the mid-to-high 7's, pace-wise.

I ran a great 3-mile path with two notable highlights:
~ I saw a group of runners as I was starting my loop, then again as I was nearing the end. Yep, I ran two miles in the time it took them to run one. Not that I'm competitive with random strangers...
~ Who am I kidding? Of course I am! The best part of my day was when I chicked a runner guy while facing the headwind more than halfway into this run!! Can I get a "Hell Yeah"?

Final stats: 16.11 miles on the bike @ 17.5 mph, 3 mile run @ a 7:53 pace. I would have been incredibly happy with either one of those times by themselves, but back-to-back is where I'm going to claim Superhero status - woo hoo!!

What's your "Best Workout Ever" story??

Friday, June 11, 2010

OWS? More like OUCH!

Okay, no it wasn't really that bad, but today was my first Open Water Swim, and let's just say: it wasn't pretty. I realized on our way to the lake that the last time I did an open water swim was my one and only triathlon in September 2008! I was actually pretty excited about wearing the wetsuit, getting in the water and giving it a go, but I kept my expectations for the day very, very low. I hoped to be able to swim about ten minutes and if I was having a great day, maybe twenty.

When we arrived at the lake, it became immediately obvious that today wasn't the best day for the first open water swim of the season, because winds were sustained at 17+ mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Holy cow that water was choppy!

Oh, sure, it looks pretty in a picture.

The Hubs and I getting ready to get in the water. What's that saying? "The family that wears neoprene and risks giardia together stays together!"

Getting in the water wasn't bad. It was chilly but tolerable. Getting started wasn't too bad, either. I told myself (again with the low expectations) that I could stay in the shallow water today. But maybe three strokes into it and Toto, I don't think we're in a swimming pool anymore! The chop was tough, to say the least. I was swimming parallel to the shore, which meant the chop was perpendicular to me, pummeling me from the side. Which therefore meant every time I took a breath to the chop side, there was no breath, just lake water! I managed to swim a little distance...umm, to be honest, a very little distance...before the urge to put my feet down was just too strong to resist. Two minutes of swimming - done!

I caught my breath and soldiered on, sort of enjoying the bouyancy of the wetsuit in the waves, but also feeling like my form was as sloppy as a wet noodle. Several times the waves were big enough to roll over my head, so I started breathing only to the shore side to avoid swallowing any more water. I tried counting strokes to give my mind something to focus on, telling myself to just make it to 100 strokes. Yep, I made it to 40 before my feet were on the bottom again. Two more minutes of swimming - done!

I continued on like this, swimming a little, taking a short break, swimming some more. After 25 minutes in the water, I decided that was a good first session. Not the wildly successful swim I had dreamed of, but definitely not a complete failure, either. Here's what went well today:

1. I never felt like crying. You laugh, but I have come out of the water in tears on more than one occasion!

2. I never choked, even though I swallowed a lot of water.

3. I never felt panic - this was a HUGE step for me! I've become pretty comfortable in the pool, but I wasn't sure if that calm would translate to open water.

4. I was in the water for 25 minutes and actually swimming for about two-thirds of that time (roughly 17 minutes) so I totally made my time goal. Don't you love massaging numbers like that??

I did it!! You know, sort of...

I ended up not using my stopwatch at all, and I'm glad, because I think I would be disappointed with the cold, hard facts! So my time and distance estimates are as rough as they come: 400 meters (you know, +/- 300 meters!) in about 17 minutes = the slowest swim EVER. Yay me!

Have a happy and safe weekend!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bike and Swim Day

Today was the first day of what I think will be the "new normal" for me: I went to work very early and worked out when I got home, rather than the other way around. I'm a big fan of routines and it has always been my routine to exercise before work, so getting used to this might take some doing. My job is part-time, so it was still morning when I got home (in fact, it was about the time I would normally work out! Sorta funny that I had already been up for over 4 hours at that time of day), but I was almost out of gas before I even got on the bike.

Today wasn't a long ride - 10 miles - but I was definitely struggling to finish. It wasn't physical tiredness so much as mental fatigue. In fact, thinking about it now, I was probably just hungry, but on the bike I was beating myself up for not being able to pick up the pace. I generally feel that if I'm going to bother working out, then I should be giving it my best effort (not necessarily measured by speed; more based on my ability to focus and achieve the results I'm aiming for). This is a topic I've wrestled with occasionally since becoming an athlete - it's such a fine line between cutting myself some slack on tough days and letting myself slack off when I could do better.

File this under, "Childhood Issues Never Really Go Away, Do They?": when I was a kid, I was allowed to quit everything. My parents signed me up for T-Ball and I sucked at it, so I quit. Took swimming lessons and I was scared of the water, so I quit. Piano lessons? Quit. The first three colleges I went to? Quit. (I did graduate from the 4th one, in case you're wondering.) The thing is, when I started running...I didn't want to quit. Suddenly, there was this foreign sense of accomplishment when I didn't quit. I started feeling it regularly and I wanted more. In spite of 36 years of evidence to the contrary, I realized when I became a runner that I am NOT a quitter! But I still hear that quitting voice in my head sometimes, and that's why I struggle with cutting myself slack. Do I need to slow down or am I just letting myself slide?

I could analyze this to death (I was in therapy a long time ago...wanna guess how that turned out?? lol.) but in the end, I have to be okay with the fact that today's training was...fine. *shrugs* For the number crunchers, here's how it shook down: 10.1 miles on the bike @ 17.6 mph, 500 meters in the pool @ 43:26/mi.

To make a broad generalization, I think athletes - even average ones! :-) - push themselves pretty hard. Does it bother you to cut yourself some slack?? How do you accept and let go of not-your-best training days?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Easy Run Day

First, let me tell you about the latest giveaway I entered (because I LOVE these things!): Running with Whit is the Hostess with the Mostest for this one, and it's for the book Delivering Happiness (link takes you to to read all about it). Entry is easy as pie, and you don't even have to be her follower, but you might as well because she totally rocks the multisport blog scene. :-)

In other news, I got the job I was interviewing for - yay!!! I'm super excited because it's my first job in the fitness industry (I've been a preschool teacher for the last five years, talk about your career changes). I decided while looking for a job that I wasn't going to settle for "just a job." I wanted to pursue something that I could feel passionate about, and pretty much the only thing that fit the bill was in the exercise/nutrition/coaching field. My new position seems like it's going to be a really perfect fit for me.

It's strange, though, because I haven't had a new job in so many years, I'd sort of forgotten what it feels like to learn all new information, all new names, all new everything. So, I'm feeling a little stress from that. In addition, there was some household stress over the last few days and it led up to one of those mornings where I couldn't tell if I was running...or running away! LOL. I tell ya what, though, this is why I love to run so much; I could feel the worries pouring out of my skin with the sweat. The farther I went, the less tension there was in my shoulders. My head started off cloudy and came back clear. Aaaaaaaah. 4.3 miles, 7:56 pace.

Here's wishing you all a happy-running and stress-free day!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Swim Day

Well, clearly the silver lining to all the heat during the day is that my pool is now a really awesome swimming temperature - yay! It's gone up at least 8 or 10 degrees since last week (when it was in the 60s, brrrrrrrrrr).

I had another terrific swim day today - I went 1200 meters!!! This from the girl who, just a month ago, was ready to quit swimming altogether because it scared me too much. Here's what I love about pushing your limits: when you fail, you just keep trying, and when you finally succeed, you pretty much feel like a ROCK STAR! In my case, that would be a painfully s l o w rock star, but still.

So, I took the plunge - *groan* - today and timed my swim. It wasn't pretty. But it did give me sort of a baseline time that I can look back on in a few months or next year and say, "Damn, I've gotten a lot faster!" 1200 meters (I can see already that I'm going to be throwing that number around a lot in casual conversation today. "Oh, yeah, this morning when I was swimming 1200 meters..." "Well, on my 1200 meter swim today...") took me 31 minutes and 39 seconds, which is 42 minutes per mile. Is that how swimming is paced, per mile? See, I'm so non-swimmer-ish that I don't even know how to express my pace. That's why I'm sticking with subjective descriptions such as "turtle-like."

On a very happy note, I love, love, love my SportCount lap counter/timer gadget! Actually, it belongs to The Hubs, but we live in a community property state. :-) This is it here:

As you can see, it goes around your finger, and you push the button with your thumb to track your laps. Super easy, super convenient. If I didn't suffer from "fogging issues" with my goggles, it would be easy to read, too. Initially, I worried that it would fall off or maybe feel bulky and awkward, but after a lap or two I honestly didn't notice it at all. It makes me so happy when gadgets work like they're advertised!

Happy Monday - I hope your week is off to a wonderful start, too!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Long Run

I hope you have some cheese handy, because I'm about to whine...

Oh my goodness, it was HOT on my run this morning! A quick disclaimer here, I am a complete and absolute weenie about any sort of heat while running. In my "real" life, I'm a summer girl - give me a bikini and an umbrella drink and I'm as happy as a clam. But in my running life, I like it c-c-c-c-cold. Optimal running temps for me are between 30 and 50 (yes, Fahrenheit.)

By any measure other than my own, today is perfectly pleasant. Mild. Perhaps even cool to some. I saw a woman running in long sleeves this morning. I couldn't help but think she must be a masochist. Of course, she probably thought I looked pretty silly in my lightest weight sleeveless shirt and booty shorts.

I wore practically no clothes (see above), drank my whole bottle of Nuun, and stayed in the shade as much as I could, but still came home looking like this:

Red-faced, sweaty and wild-haired. Yep, that's me post-run.

Sausage-fingers, blech.
So, let's put this in perspective with some numbers, shall we? I went 8 miles at an 8:22 pace (I thought I was going much slower, so even though it wasn't fast, I was happy with my pace). The temperature outside was 65 degrees, with about 60% humidity. I see you rolling your eyes at me! I told you I'm a weenie. I totally, totally am. It's gonna be a long summer...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Head Games

Today's bike ride was a thing of beauty: 16.5 miles in the early morning (still cool) weather, and I rocked an 18.3 mph pace. If there is such a thing as "biker's high" I was feeling it. Adding to my joy was the sense of accomplishment that came with it. This was a pretty long ride for me, at just under an hour. I still think of biking as cross-training for running, so I've never really built up mileage. Riding a bike has definitely helped make me a better runner, though, and probably vice versa.

I've found that I use a lot of the same mental tricks on my bike as I do on my runs.
For example, one of the ways I keep my mind occupied is by looking at the strange things people lose on the road. I've seen forks, CDs, shoes, money, and more. Don't get me wrong, I live in the suburbs so it's not like the streets are littered with trash, but I do wonder how it's possible to drop a belt without noticing. Often, I find that there's a lot of one kind of thing (I call it the Item of the Day, or IOD) on the roads - today it was clothing. I saw three shoes, at least seven socks, a hat and the above-mentioned belt.

I can also count the animals, both alive and dead. This morning's ride had quite a few dead ones, but in the past I've seen a family of skunks, bunnies, snakes and coyotes. Today's ride also included many, many dog-walkers but not a lot of runners and no other cyclists (it's a big triathlon and road race weekend, though).

When I'm not scanning the sides of the road for stuff, I like to focus on a mantra. I pick a new word or phrase almost every time I'm out; today's was relentless. I pictured myself not giving up, pedaling hard, and staying strong for the whole ride. It definitely worked for me today - I went race distance at a racing pace. I realized near the end of the ride, though, that relentless was also a fine description for the discomfort of my girly parts - yikes! Today's choice of bike shorts will not be repeated on another long ride. :/

I think my favorite way to pass the time and miles, though, is plain old Fantasy Land. There I am, feeling strong and looking fabulous, crossing the Finish Line with a Boston-Qualifying time. Or, whoosh, I'm slicing through the water, clean and easy. Before I know it I'm outta the water and ready for the bike. I've read that elite athletes use visualization (just a fancy word for fantasy) to enhance their performance, so it's not just me!

Do you play head games, too? (BTW, if you're old enough to remember that song, it'll be stuck in your head now. You're welcome.) What's your favorite way to get through a long workout?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Five Goals Friday!

Alright, I'm a newbie blogger, so bear with me while I figure this stuff out and get the hang of who's who.
I entered my first giveaway today - I'm so excited!! Check it out here: Running on My Time Sweaty Bands Giveaway. I adore Sweaty Bands! I saw them at Fleet Feet and pretty much needed one just from looking at it, so I gave 'em a try. In a word, they are awesome! They never slip, never bunch, never do anything, in fact, except look great and hold your hair back perfectly. So, hopefully, I'll be adding to my collection of them soon. *fingers crossed*
Also, I'm stealing the idea for today's post from Erica at RunMommyRun. I hope these links I said, I've just moved to BloggyVille. :-) I am a HUGE believer in setting goals, and I love to make lists, so this idea totally appealed to me. If it actually originated from somebody else, please let me know so I can give props!

So, here are my Five Goals:
1. Swim for a whole mile. I had the very best swim in the world this morning. So good, in fact, I am a little sore from it - I went 1000 meters!!! And I probably could have kept going, but I didn't want to push it too far too soon.

2. Get comfortable on my bike - a two-part goal. I love my bike and have made a lot of progress in my riding skills, but I still don't wear clip on shoes, which I know makes me look like a geek on my fancy bike. So that's part one of this goal. Also, even though I have practiced on the aero bars, I'm still pretty nervous about using them. That's part two.

3. Get through my To-Do List. This is a very short-term goal, as in, I need to get this done TODAY! I have been slipping a little farther behind every day lately, like for a week, so today is the day I get caught up. No slackers!

4. Pick another TRI. I've already got one on the books (more accurately, it's on the refrigerator - that's where I hang my training schedule) for July 10th, but I'm loving this training so much that I'm gonna do two this summer, possibly three. I can't believe I'm even thinking about this, to be honest. A month ago, I was terrified but determined to do one, but now that swim training is going so well I don't feel like stopping!

5. BQ. Yep, there's the biggie. I'm planning a November marathon and what a wonderful birthday present it would be to myself to accomplish this goal. *sighs dreamily*

To me, it feels good to have goals, and a plan, and a direction. How about you? What are your Five Goals this Friday??

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Honkin' Great Day!

Happy National Running Day to you! I celebrated by...not running, but pretty much everything else. What a loser, huh? :-) My training plan called for a bike/swim day, though, plus I had a scheduled strength training session, so there was no way I was gonna squeeze in a run on top of all that. The good news is that all my activities today went really well, yay! Today was a short bike ride (not quite 9 miles) with an average speed of 18.1, w00t! I'm happy with anything in the 17s and thrilled when my speeds hit the 18s. So, thrilled it was. My swim also made it into the "good swim" category, with no noticeable choking, panicking or, you know, drowning. Hooray! I made it 700 meters and came out of the water feeling good. Then it was on to strength training, which isn't normally part of my routine, but I had a job interview (!!!!!!!!!) this weekend with a company in the fitness industry (I'm being vague on purpose because I don't want to jinx my chances - I really want this job!) and they invited my to come and work out. So, it was sort of a job interview and sort of a workout. Pretty cool beans. All in all, it made for a pretty vigorous morning, though, so I'm definitely looking forward to tomorrow's rest day/core work.

Something funny happened on my bike ride this morning. Well, not funny-ha-ha, but funny-odd. I was waiting at a red light to cross a busy street when a guy in a car honked at me. Honked. At. Me. WTH??? I have no idea why a person would do that, but here are the possibilities I came up with:

1. He's somebody I know. Nope, I looked up quickly and didn't recognize the car or the driver.

2. He thought I looked hot in my bike skirt. Bwahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah! Okay, probably not.

3. He's a fellow athlete who was expressing some cycling solidarity. By honking. This doesn't make sense either, because anybody who has ever ridden a bike knows how heart-stopping it is to hear loud, unexpected noises on the road.

4. ?????

That's all I got.

He must have just been saying, "Hi." Ordinarily, I'm all for that. I'm the girl who smiles and waves to anybody else on the sidewalk or the in bike lane when I'm out exercising. I think that's just polite - you're exercising, I'm exercising, we clearly have enough in common for me to ackowledge you in public. I'm not a honker, though.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Easy run? Not so easy today...

I had one of those runs this morning where I just wasn't feeling the love. Much as I enjoy running, there are some days that I absolutely slog through the miles, and today was that sort of day. I went through the usual excuses in my head: it's a little windy, it's pretty warm out, my dinner last night wasn't exactly "run food," etc. but the fact is...I was just flat. But you know, in the long run (*groan*) a day like today is really important training. It's good to know that I can keep myself going even when my mojo is droopy. I dug into my bag of mental tricks and distractions and finished the distance I set out to do (which, for the love of Pete, was only THREE miles! Seriously, who has trouble running three lousy miles? Apparently I do.) My pace ended up at a perfectly respectable but not speedy 8:03. I can live with that. Sometimes having a mediocre run or race can really set me up for a terrific one next time, like I've got something to prove to myself. So, I'm looking forward to that!