Swim – Cruise Finder #1

U R Here

The 1st step in any good planning is to figure out where you are.

My coach, being a really good planner, needs to know where I am with my swimming.  So today’s swim workout was geared to finding my baseline.  Kelsey tells me that this will be my “cruise time”.

Today’s cruise-finder workout:
  • warm-up (my choice – as long as it includes a include 4 x 25 build @ :15 rest (which means I start out easy and increase my speed so I’m sprinting by wall touch.)
  • Cruise-finder: 5 x 100 fast with 2 seconds rest after each 100.
  • cool down (my choice)

My cruise time is: my total time, minus 8 seconds, divided by 5.    8:35/5 = 01:43 /100y

The high school swim coach was nice enough to time me this morning.  He commented that I was exactly at 4:00 at 250y, then I slowed, and then picked my pace back up.  His observations coincided perfectly with how I was thinking.   Just after the half way point, I started to worry that I might not have enough in the tank to finish.  Then that thought led to a bunch of other concerning thoughts.  When I touched the wall with 75 yards to go, I noticed that I wasn’t focused and put my attention back to the task at hand.

My thoughts on today’s workout:
  1. I always feel like I’m swimming so much faster than I really am. 🙂
  2. I really don’t know what I am capable of for the swim.  I know what “all-out” is for running, but no idea for swimming.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone all-out.
  3. Focus and positive thinking is really important under water.
  4.  I wish I could do flip-turns.
  5. I wonder how fast I can get?

My coach – preview

whistle“There is hardly anything you can’t do if you have, and you nurture, the proper support systems.  Don’t lower the goal, increase your support.” ~Jim Hayhurst Sr

I have my new, big goal – competing strongly at the 2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships – Olympic Distance. Now I need to increase my support and hire the right coach to help me achieve my goal. I’ve connected with Kelsey Abbot and finally returned my Athlete History form to her (after stalling for weeks). I sent her my goals, yesterday, and here’s her awesome response:

“I think top 25/worlds’ qualifier at nationals is awesomely outrageous–a challenge obviously, but if a human being can go from a couple cells to a human-like clump of cells to cells that function to cells that function on their own in 9 months and 1 week, then dammit, you can drop a chunk of time for an olympic in the same amount of time. I can work with you if you can accept the following: 1.) every race is different so times may or may not be comparable and 2) we can’t control where you end up placing because we can’t control how other people do, but we can turn you into a superhero.”

“1.) every race is different so times may or may not be comparable” – Yes, I’m flexible in my mindset to allow for the surprise uphill swim, random summer blizzard, or sneaky ninja ambushes. These races may not give me a PR, but they certainly make for great stories.
“2) we can’t control where you end up placing because we can’t control how other people do, but we can turn you into a superhero.”- YES!  This is a VERY important to me – because I’m not really motivated by besting other people. I am VERY good at focusing on my own goals and running my own race. It makes me feel smarter on race day to follow my plan. If I meet my time goal and don’t wind up placing well, I rarely care. (OK, If it’s close, then I do replay the day over & over and second guess everything for a few days.)

I don’t know if you watched the World Series, but here’s my analogy…In game 1, David Ortiz hit a grand slam home run.  Carlos Beltran reached over the wall and into the bullpen and caught the ball outside of the park. So, the result wasn’t a home run and David Ortiz still hit a home run.  My goal is to hit the home run.

Yup, I found the right coach for me.

updated: my coach is this awesome! Click here to see a picture of Kelsey winning 2013 Rev3 Venice Olympic Distance.

Athlete with Asthma

Asthma Inhaler

I find it frustrating.  As I head out for my long run this morning, I knew it was going to need to be an easy pace. Some days are better than others, and today was one of those “others”.  My allergies this fall have been much worse than usual and it’s been almost 2 months of strained breathing. I’m ready for snow.  not really, but I just want to have a full breath and be able to run up a hill without gasping.  OK, I’m grouchy.

I’ve had allergy induced asthma most of my life. (which is better than chronic asthma, so it really could be worse) As a child it was terrifying to not be able to breathe.  The tears and the anxiety would make the breathing worse and then the fear greater.  Asthma is really awful for a child.  Thankfully as an adult I can manage my breathing and my anxiety.  Well, truth – I still struggle with guided meditations that ask you to relax and focus on your breath.

In my early 30’s I developed exercise induced asthma – which I consider to be the biggest insult in the breathing department.  I know it could be worse, but come on!  Seriously?! Exercise induced lung problems? 1. Exercise is good for my lungs and 2. I need them to exercise.  What a terrible invention.  Wouldn’t it make more sense if someone who didn’t exercise had this one?

So what does this really mean for me? (just me – everyone with asthma is different)

  • It means I work very closely with my doctor to make sure I have an asthma management plan that supports my life and my goals.  Some seasons it’s allergy meds and inhaled steroids.  Sometimes I am fine with just a couple of puffs of albuterol before a run.
  • It means that sometimes, I have to cut my runs short or run flat roads because even with management my breathing is too constricted to provide the oxygen my muscles need.  It’s hard give in, but I have gotten better at it.
  • It means that I need to remember to use my inhaler before races, even if my breathing feels OK.  This is especially true for triathlons with open water swims. When I forget –  my legs turn to lead and the only way to finish is usually flipping on to my back and backstroking in.
  • It means that I need to warm up and cool down really well.  An abrupt demand for oxygen is painful and futile for these lungs.  And an abrupt stop, without cool down also creates painful constriction.
  • It means that sometimes it’s too cold in the winter to run outside.  It’s just too hard to warm up and get past the constriction.

I’ve kept exercising throughout my life with asthma.  Despite the frustration, it really has strengthened my lungs.  I’m sure my lungs wouldn’t be as strong as they are if I had opted to avoid the discomfort and the hassle.  I imagine my lung capacity is probably stronger than a good deal of the population because I opted to keep at it.  Just not as strong as an athlete who trains the same as I do who doesn’t have asthma.  And other athletes have other challenges. And others have challenges that prevent them from training all together. I keep all of this in context.

I know I’m not alone.  I had the pleasure of sharing a bike rack and an inhaler with a fellow triathlete this past September. Right before we both got into the water to warm-up long enough to get our lungs ready.  We both had to swim the full course as our warm-up that day.

Unexpected Joys of Running

Monster Inc.
image courtesy of Pixar

Sully and Mike Wizowski were right.  There’s more energy in laughter.

This past Sunday, I ran the Ashland Half Marathon.  The plan was to leave the garmin at home and run in a tutu and fairy wings,  1. It was so close to Halloween and 2. To remind myself that I was doing this one for fun.  Somewhere, maybe 15 yards past the start line, I started making plans to ditch the wings which were flapping all around.

And then I ran past a group of spectators.  The youngest were toddlers.  I was unprepared for their un-containable excitement.  There were squeals and smiles and exclamations – “mom, look there’s a fairy!”  Wow!  You can’t get that from from two cups of coffee!  And it was contagious – I smiled.  All the runners around me smiled – and we kept running.

13.1 (hilly) miles.  It never stopped.  The squeals, the excitement, the smiles.  They came from toddlers most readily, but there were no shortages from parents and grandparents. Each and every time it happened – I smiled wider and felt a surge of energy.  The wings kept flapping and bumping my arms, but there was no way I could ditch them, anymore.  I was hooked on this and I was actually having a blast  – running a half marathon.

When the race was done, I waited in line for my complimentary massage. It was such a hilly course, my quads were burning and my hamstrings were tight, as expected.  But for the first time, I was aware of sore muscles where I’ve never felt sore.  My cheeks.  The muscles in my cheeks were actually tight and ached from smiling for 13.1 miles.

I accomplished my race goal for Sunday – “have fun.”  And as an added bonus, powered by laughter and joy, I also set a new half marathon PR.  Go figure.

I may re-examine my perspective on endurance and trying hard.

Alex running in a tutu
this is why my cheek muscles ached.

Up hill

InspirationI have one rule for running up hill.

I never ask myself how I’m feeling when I am running up a hill.  My answer is never positive.  And worse – listening to my answer creates an opening for more negative thoughts and almost always spirals right down into ” I don’t think I can do this – maybe I should quit.”   It’s so much harder to run up a hill when I’m telling myself I can’t do it.

Running up hills, like the one on Green Street in Ashland’s Half Marathon, is just hard.  The energy requirement creates enormous physical stress on the body.  This physical stress triggers our hormones and becomes mental stress or a negative perspective.  The fact is that the hill will always be easier to climb if you tell yourself that you can do it.  (think little engine that could – “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”)  The second fact is that there will always be hills – so it’s best to have a strategy before you are halfway up and thinking about quitting.

Here’s some good news.  If you happen to find yourself without a strategy tomorrow, while running up Green Street – we have added affirmations on the course for you.  So one step at a time – you can conquer the Green Street Monster.  If you find yourself running next to a woman dressed as a fairy muttering “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” – say hi.  That’s me!

Good luck tomorrow to all the runners!