Category: training

Triathalife

Pinch me. Is it really the end of May, already? Time since January has evaporated. My words and posts must have evaporated, too.

This break from writing for inTent, was unplanned and has felt beyond my control. My training didn’t come to an end, but it often didn’t match my training plans during the 2nd half of the off-season. What happened?    My life.Triathalife

Triathlon training is a juggling act – the natural state of training in three different sports. And sometimes life throws in more, additional (curve) balls than it’s possible to juggle without something dropping.  This has been my 2014.

While managing family challenges this winter and spring, I missed workouts. Frequently, I easily blamed our ridiculous winter, pool closings, etc. But a good deal of time, my body felt fatigued and I just didn’t “have it” that day. I was in my head a lot, trying to figure out how to get re-inspired and questioning my motivation and my commitment to my goals. I was always hoping the worst was behind us and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But 2014 just continued like a roller coaster ride.

About a month ago, I changed tactics and decided to accept my circumstances as my new norm. I looked at the big picture of my life and my personal values.  Understanding my intentions as a parent, provider, and athlete helped.  I went through my calendar and emails that were waiting for replies and started pulling back from the number of things I was trying to do. It wasn’t easy; I like to help people. But being halfway involved wasn’t really helping anyone. Being realistic about the time I have available for my whole life, has helped a lot.

I grabbed a Triathlete magazine on a recent flight to visit my 94 year old grandmother. The Performance Paradox, by Matt Dixon was the perfect read for me to put all of my 2014 experience with stress into a healthy perspective.

[For amateurs]…the goal is to maximize sporting performance within the restrictions imposed by the need to maintain a balanced and successful life. After all, if you win your local Olympic-distance triathlon but  you get fired, or your spouse leaves you, or your house is repossessed, it would be hard to argue that the win represents “success.” Thus, for most of us, success can be more broadly defined as improving in the sport, performing at work, thriving socially, and nurturing positive relationships (with spouse, partner, children and friends).  With this outlook, the goal of the amateur triathlete should be to maximize training load as one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.  …the full picture of your life inside and outside sport [is] your global stress environment.  The amount of training you undertake needs to fit within the constraints of that environment in order for you to be successful.

Unintentionally, I’d been balancing my global stress.  There were simply periods where my recovery was slower and where non-training stress was enough to create fatigue. This is my triathalife. My training is just “one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.”

The Performance Paradox article was based on elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon's forthcoming book, The Well-Built Triathlete.

 

Negative Splits – Positive Thoughts

Garmin - lap 1Workout #1: Endurance Run with negative split
Type: Run Planned Duration: 1:20
Description: 15 min gradual warm-up, the keep effort in check, last 15:00=steady state effort (aim for ~half marathon pace, strong and steady)

As I was “gradually” warming up, I started thinking about my target pace for the run. I was thinking 8:40/8:45 for the first 1:05:00 and then maybe 8:25/8:30 for the 15:00 negative split.  Do-able, I thought.

About 15 minutes into the run, I realized that my pace was under 8:40 and feeling like pretty low effort.  I started to worry that I was going too fast and that I wasn’t going to have enough left in the tank for the negative split. This is also when I realized that I have this worry a lot.

Mental instruction review: “keep effort in check”.  Ok, I decided to primarily pay attention to my heart rate (note: I haven’t used heart rate for training before).  I decided that I felt like my effort was in check around 142 bpm – high 130s on the flats/downhills and up to 145 on the uphill.  It felt like a happy run.  25 min into the run, my pace was down to 8:29, but my heart rate was “in check”.  I started my worrying again and trying to figure out why this was happening.  Maybe it was just one of  those really great runs.  Maybe it was just the perfect temperature – I do love 45 degrees. Maybe I was getting stronger.  maybe I didn’t go as hard as I thought I had on the computrainer the day before. Whatever it was I decided to try to just accept  it and enjoy it.  I was keeping my effort in check, I kept telling myself that I’d have plenty in the tank for the negative split. (And it was pretty awesome.)

The course was an out-and-back.  At the turn around, I was still feeling strong, fast and still pretty awesome. And then it hit me; woosh!   Damn, it was a tailwind!

As I turned into a full face of cold wind, it was so clear I laughed out loud. With all my theories and worries I,  tailwind never came close to crossing my mind. Wow! What a dope slap. (I’m still cracking myself up.)

On the return, I kept my plan and maintained the same effort level.  I watched my pace creep up, of course. And I had to fight my impulse to kick it up to keep the faster pace showing on my Garmin. Every workout has a purpose – this workout was a negative split at 1/2 marathon pace, so killing myself for the Garmin display’s sake, was the wrong choice. I finished the split and maintained my 142 bpm average.  Pace: 8:37 for the first split.

Garmin - lap 2The negative split  portion of the run was almost a loop, so I assumed the wind would be heads & tails.  I decided to run the negative split by heart rate vs. pure pace and targeted between 145 & 150 bpm for an average pace – which seemed like a reasonable bump up for simulating a 1/2 Marathon race pace.  (I was completely making this up, too – I have no idea what my heart rate has ever been in a 1/2.)  It panned out interestingly.  My pace was 8:10 – which was lower than the 8:25 I had guesstimated.  But I felt great – had plenty in the tank and was feeling pretty awesome again.

I can’t actually recall a single time when I completely emptied the tank and run out of energy to finish. And still, I’m always worrying about “saving enough to finish”.  I think that in this realization, there’s a huge opportunity for me to train differently.  If I want to go faster (which I do), I think it’s time to start using something other than moving pace – and saving enough to finish as my primary metrics.

Let the research begin – HR, Power, Thresholds – bring it on! Any suggestions for books, websites, or places to start?

More on Swim Pacing

Set back to come backAfter reading my last swim post, “All in a winter’s swim“, my coach commented,

Pacing takes practice.

She also included the following link to a great blog post about the value of swim pacing.  http://www.feelforthewater.com/2013/12/but-i-was-just-chasing-ray.html.  (for those of us who love data this article will not disappoint.)

Reading this completely confirmed my summary: Finally, in hindsight I can figure out that …this means I went out faster than I could maintain.

Coincidentally, the next workout my coach had planned was a perfect opportunity to test this hypothesis (and my willingness to slow down to go faster).

Workout #1: Swim
Planned Duration: 0:45
Description: (warm-up) 3 x 100 @ 1:45 100 easy (25 backstroke/ 25 free) 3 x 100 @ 1:45 100 easy (25 backstroke/ 25 free) 100 BTTW FAST

My Post Workout Comments:
Rather than focusing on speed, I focused on good form and being strong. Specifically: “head down, don’t lift head on breath, relaxed hands, core engaged like vacuum exercise, rotate, & kick from butt” –  repeat

1st 3×100@1:45: 1=1:30, 2=1:38, 3=1:40
ok – still went out too fast on the 1st 100 – regroup, try again.
2nd 3×100@1:45: 1=1:35, 2=1:35, 3=1:37  YES!
What struck me most was that both sets actually averaged 1:36.  BUT…I wasn’t as fatigued on the second set AND I felt like I could have kept going and maintained the pace for another 200 yards.  I can only imagine this bodes well for wishing to ride a bike and then run after a swim, as well. I was incredibly pleased with the results.
100 BTTW fast: 1:25 (a personal best)

I was thrilled with a PB on this 100, but even more so with having maintained my even pace.  This feels like amazing progress for me.

Swim Smooth logoOn a side note.  The website, Swim Smooth, that Kelsey sent me to is a fantastic resource for swim information. This is another great post on how the most improved swimmers made the greatest improvements in 2013.

My happy pace

Wednesday December 18, Workout #2: Base Run with Drills
Planned Duration: 0:55
Description: 15 min gradual warm-up Base effort throughout
End with 4 x (:15 skipping/ :15 jog/ :15 grapevine/ :15 jog) 

text to coach

Post-activity comments: This is my happy pace. I love this. When I run like this (without a watch) I think to myself about a hundred times – “I love to run”. My arms are low and swing happy & free. My hands are easy. My face is relaxed. I smile and wave a lot. I feel like the ambassador for running & endorphins. My actual pace varies. It’s faster downhill, like a 6 year old running down a hill.  It’s slower uphill. If I’m still thinking”I love to run”, without wanting to yell at myself or throw my toys, that’s my happy pace.

My happy pace. It makes everything seem ok. What swim? 🙂

All in a winter’s swim

Lap pool5:00 am: Wake up. Check the pool website.  Yes! The pool is open for morning swim. 

5:05 am: Tip toe downstairs in the dark. Praise the joy of a remote car starter. Oh, right…the car is covered in half a foot of new snow. First workout: shovel to and remove snow from car.

5:25 am: Car is clean enough.  I can see out the windows and won’t be “that SUV” that dumps snow on all the cars behind me. (not sure of the risk this early, but I feel like a good citizen)

5:45 am: Arrive at pool. Run out of car. A fellow swimmer has slipped and fallen in the snow. It is one of the pool’s “most experienced” swimmers.  She has someone helping her up, but I stay with them to make sure she’s ok.  She’s not hurt badly.  She shares that the most damage was to her pride. The first inspiring moment of the day: Here she is at the pool in the dark before 6 am.  There’s over half a foot of new snow on the ground.  There are only 4 other cars in the lot. She has dusted herself off and is heading in to do the swim she came to do. She just turned 87 and she is so AWESOME! (I make a mental note to be this awesome when I’m 87)

5:55 am: Enter the water. Wow! It’s so warm, almost hot. It’s like bath water, very relaxing, but I note that it feels problematic for the time I was hoping to get for my “cruise-finder” this morning.

6:05 am: Notice that my fellow non-flip-turn swimmer, Jeff, is becoming a flip-turner. I watch him somersault in the deep end several times.  I then witness him complete 2 very smooth turns in the deep end. I applaud. The second inspiring moment of the day: I am so impressed by his tenacity and by how well he’s executing the turns. If Jeff can be brave enough to try, maybe I will. He is so AWESOME! (I make another mental note to be this awesome soon)

6:15 am: 1000 yard warm-up complete. Dave’s ready with the stopwatch and the lap numbers at the far end of the pool. I go. The first 100 felt smooth, I felt good, but warm. The second 100 felt okay.  The third, I just felt sluggish and anything but smooth or coordinated. I start repeating in my head, “I’m a strong swimmer, I’ve got this, I’m a strong swimmer.” Things came back together. I felt more coordinated to the finish, but didn’t get much speed from my BTTW finish. I didn’t hold back. I was exhausted. Not as fast as I want to be, but spent.

6:25 am:  My 500 time was 8:40. 5 seconds slower than my time from 5 weeks ago. I feel very disappointed. My 100 split times told the same story as my feelings.  (1=1:34, 2=1:42, 3=1:55, 4=1:44, 5=1:45)I was hoping for a little progress. A sign that the hard work was paying off. Today, the sign isn’t going to come from my time.

6:30 am: I start my 400 yard cool down of choice. I know I need to shake it off. I know that I am getting stronger and feeling stronger. My disappointment feels like slime, like defeat. I focus on how the water feels moving over my skin and I keep moving.  I’m calming my thoughts. Like with all disappointing results, I shift into analytic mode. +5 seconds. It’s only 1 second per 100.  It’s not awful.  What did I really hope for? I didn’t know. I hadn’t been clear. I just knew I wanted “better.” Crap.

7:00 am: Drive home. I’m now in determined mode.  I want to ask my coach for specific interval drills to remedy this.  My speed/endurance needs practice.  I’m back into intent. This result isn’t a setback; it’s feedback.  What I do with it is my choice.  And I choose to harness it as motivation to get faster.  The third inspiring moment of the morning: This was becoming one of my fastest recoveries to date. I drive home, still thinking and analyzing. Still doubting my abilities and frustrated. But I also know that it’s in me to get faster. It occurs to me that this is actually the exact motivation that I need for my swimming. This is so awesome!

Now am: Sit down and look at split times. Finally, in hindsight I can figure out that a second faster per 100 would have felt like good progress to me. And this means I went out faster than I could maintain. With less disappointment, I can see that 4 of 5 100s were better than this target. I can also see a whole lot of progress since last spring. (I make a third mental note: remember that I do better when I know my goal, clearly. )
Here it is plainly: I will swim 1:43 per 100, for 500 yards. (I’m still working on when)

For the love of gore-tex

messy roadsTreadmill, oh how I loathe thee.

My sister has trained for whole marathons on a treadmill. I have no idea how.  4 minutes into a treadmill run and I’m looking for my escape. If there’s even a faint possibility of being able to run outside (reasonably safely) in the winter, I seize it.

Luckily, I’ve collected a solid assortment of New England Winter weather gear. Yesterday was mid-20s and quite windy.  Time for the Craft thermal base layer and the Gore Windstopper jacket. This is one of the coldest running outfits I use. After that I add the fleece lined wool hat, neck gator, & additional tank base layer.  After that it’s the treadmill.

The roads were not great. I fit in 7 miles into just over an hour & 5 minutes of running and completely disregarded the “surges”. About a mile of the route would have been safer with Yaktrax, but there were 3+ miles where pavement was exposed, so I felt OK having left them behind.  The wind was freezing on my exposed face, but my core was warm enough. I had waited until lunchtime to run – in order for the sun to be at its highest and strongest. This would provide the day’s maximum ice melting for the roads.  On a crisp fall day, I can cross paths with many runners at lunchtime.  Yesterday I crossed only one – the roads and the mush were ours alone.

December 16: Workout #2: Endurance Run w/ surges
Planned Duration: 1:10
Description:  20 min gradual warm-up Include a 30 sec surge every 15 minutes
Focus on good form with a strong core throughout

Post-activity comments: Decided not to “Focus on good form with a strong core throughout” – opted to focus on black ice, slush puddles, & foot placement. This I did successfully, I’m happy to report.