Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am a Triathlete

I talk about Coach Eric a lot... because I trust what he has to say. 

Before this training group I wanted to hire a swim coach, someone who could watch me and help with my stroke, to make me a better swimmer.  However, one of the things Coach E says, frequently, is I'm NOT a swimmer or a runner or a biker.
I am a triathlete.

"We" don't run like runners, bike like bikers, or swim like swimmers.  For example...swimming in open water with a lot of other bodies means I can't extend my arm out and glide through the water like a longer distance swimmer would.  I have to focus on propulsion that is protected underneath my body and fast turnover.  I also shouldn't rely on my legs since I need them for the bike and the run.  And since my run will follow the swim and  ride, my stride is most likely going to be shortened therefore I have to work with that and put my focus on a much faster cadence.

More than the competition in the individual sports...there are the transitions between them to consider.  Transitions can make or break a triathlete.  If I'm first out of the water but don't have all that I need to get on the bike quickly, I won't hang on to the lead for long.  Something as simple as easy laces can save enough time to make a podium appearance.

I dearly love this three-in-one sport.  I'm training myself along the way to stop thinking I wish I was a better swimmer or biker or simply thinking I'm training to be a better triathlete!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Yes, I've talked about "the wall" before...but that's not the kind of brick I'm talking about today.

A "brick" workout is basically a bike ride followed immediately by a run*.   I'm told it's so nameed because your legs feel like bricks; I can attest to that!!  The first time I did one, I kept having to consult my watch - I didn't believe I was actually running.  It felt like more like the "running man" (although NOT the running man featured in the link--amazing dance moves I have to say!).  Shockingly enough however, almost every time I've done a brick I'm moving much faster than it subjectively feels.

Today was no exception.

The workout was two and half hours on the bike (consisting mainly of intervals) then a fast two mile run.  Last week was my first solo long ride.  I noticed I wasn't nearly as fast as I am when riding with other people, so this week I concentrated on pushing myself.  I like intervals because the hard work is done in small chunks.  I tell myself I can do anything for X amount of time (and if X equals something believable it works!).  Knowing the run was going to be short I mentally prepared to give it all I had.  When I got off the bike and started moving, as usual it felt unbelievably slow.  However, I was ready for it.  Instead of looking at my watch and being overly concerned with the deceptive feeling of sluggishness...I just simply RAN.  I thought about leg turnover and keeping my stride short and quick**.

(Okay, so I did look at my watch...but I didn't study it as usual...and I didn't call it a liar as usual.)  When the split timer beeped at me, signaling the end of the first mile, I smiled at the result (9:02).  (Yes, I know that's not fast compared to some...but it's good for me, especially considering it followed 40 quality miles on the bike.)  I slowed a little on the second mile (9:20), but not much.

It's exciting to me to think I'm less than halfway through this training program and have seen huge progress in every sport.  I think we're going to be doing time trials soon so I'll have a quantitative picture of the improvement.  Bricks might not feel great, but they are producing RESULTS so I have to say I love them!!

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!!

*A brick can be any workout followed by another very different workout (a swim/run brick for instance) but, from what I understand, the bike/run brick is the most common.

**Interestingly enough, Coach Eric says a triathlete's cadence "should be" about 96 whereas a runner's cadence "should be" about 85.  And...I can say I'm much faster, and more comfortable, running with a shorter quicker cadence coming off the bike.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Not me...

I'm a little more than just a little embarrassed to admit what I'm about to admit to you...but I decided to go ahead and write about it just in case there are others out there who have this same "problem".

Let me start by telling you about yesterday's workout - power intervals.  It was a brick workout on the spin/stationary bike and treadmill.  I start out on the bike with a warm up then do intervals of very hard and very easy resistance for an HOUR followed by a cool down...then I go straight to the treadmill for a 10 minute warm up, some very fast/easy intervals and a cool down for a total of 30 minutes. 

I've done this workout four times now.  It's hard.  The resistance on the bike should be such that my cadence is 40-60 rpm (normal bike riding is about 85ish).  If you're a bike rider, you know how tough 40-60 is...if you're not, take my word for it.  The treadmill speed should be set so that it's CONSIDERABLY faster than I usually run.  (I comfortably run about a 9:45 pace interval pace is anywhere from 6:00 to 8:20.) 

Yesterday I told myself to make the most out of the workout, not to settle for anything less than my best.  ((I've written before about not knowing exactly what it means to do my "best", and I can say I still have no idea!!))  Every time I increased the resistance I told myself to PUSH; there was not a single time I didn't have more in me than I initially thought. 

Let me cadence (how many times the pedal rotates in a minute) during the easy minute would average around 75-85.  If I wasn't paying attention it would fall to around 60.  When I increased the resistance (from 2 up to 17 or 18 on the digital readout on the bike) my cadence would drop down to 39ish if I wasn't paying attention.  My old self would have decreased the resistance--making it easier to get the cadence up to 40-60 where it was supposed to be....or maybe pushed enough to make it up to 40ish.  However, yesterday I tried each time to make my legs work to get the cadence up to the 50s (sometimes even going above the 60 mark--which told me I needed to increase resistance).

Not me either...
What shocked me was how much I would sweat during those tough intervals!  I know some of you are laughing.  ...Yes, I was shocked working hard made me sweat.  When I told my husband this story he knew EXACTLY why it shocked me---I'm NOT used to working hard!!!  I'm not lazy (or maybe I really have been).  I always feel like I'm working hard when I think I'm working hard.  However, I've been finding out my definition of hard may not be accurate.

Eric was talking about power intervals the other night; he said if you're doing it right you are slinging sweat everywhere.  I thought to myself what I always think when that topic comes up..."I'm sure glad I don't sweat like that!!"  I have always thought I just don't sweat a lot...but yesterday's workout gave me a different perspective.  I want to be clear here--I do sweat when I work out...but yesterday I was POURING BUCKETS, but ONLY DURING THE REALLY TOUGH SECTIONS WHEN I WAS CONSCIOUSLY CHALLENGING MYSELF. 

Hear this---I'm not saying how much you sweat is a perfect indicator of how hard you're working...however it was remarkable how I started dripping ONLY when I was pushing "as hard as I could".   I could have made the cadence be in the appropriate range with a decent resistance (40ish at 17)...and be sweaty and breathing hard.   To anyone watching it would appear I was working hard.  But when I told myself to work HARDER--to make it HURT and not be afraid of that pain--(pushing up to 60 at 18) it was as if my body turned on the faucet!!

It's funny...I usually take a towel when I workout...most of the time it's fairly dry (not completely, but FAR from soaked) when I leave (again...keep in mind, I thought I wasn't a profuse sweater like "those other people").  Yesterday, my whole hand towel (not small rag) was wet. 

As I have been writing this I've been thinking maybe yesterday was a fluke.  Maybe I really don't sweat that much...yesterday I was simply expelling some retained water and it won't happen again.  ((I've never even really sweat that much in a sauna...but I haven't been in many saunas for very long-it usually gets too hot!!)) However...from what I understand, sweating is the body's reaction to muscular activity.   It would stand to reason more activity would equal more sweat, right??

So...I've said all this to say...  I don't trust my perception of exertion anymore.  In addition to my heart rate as an indicator of how hard I'm working, I'm going to pay attention to my sweat!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Big Girls Do Cry...

...but trail-running big girls wait until after they finish their workout!

Remember my story about The (Almost) Princess and the Blister?  I told you my theory on pain--it's relative.  For the princess, sleeping on a pea caused her GREAT discomfort (and bruises if I remember the story correctly) whereas someone who was used to sleeping on rocks would have been able to rest like a bear in hibernation on that "lumpy" bed.
I went on in that post to tell you about a blister that had me limping around until I saw a picture of Eric Charette's, foot which caused me to realize just how much of a ...princess... I really (was).

 That post was written in May of last year. 

Since that time, I've written several posts about pain and how running through it has helped me find out what I'm made of.  My very last post (ironically) was on the Pain Garden.   I talked the big talk about how I planned to toughen up, find my pain threshold and get comfortable being uncomfortable.  (I didn't use those exact words, but that's what I meant.)

***FOR THE RECORD***  Let me be perfectly clear...there is NOTHING about pain that should EVER be associated with a garden, unless it looks like this:

Well, you know how the saying careful what you wish for....

The inside of my elbow..
I started my yesterday at the pool.  Several times during my 50 (long course) laps, I smacked my elbow on those things they mislabel as "lane ropes".  Who are they trying to fool?  "Ropes" don't hurt like that!  I remember thinking how bruised I was going to be all because I wanted to take up as little space as possible in the lane (since I was sharing with four very fast men).  I dressed to go run trails and winced with pain as my clothes brushed against my near-hematoma.

I made a note to self:  don't write about pain again.

My running buddies are both out of town so the plan was to RUN HARD.  It was early but already hot and humid.  I did not get enough shut eye the night before (for some reason I haven't been able to sleep well after our group workouts).  I'm struggling with "fueling" banana really isn't enough to get me through 2500 meters and a 3.something mile trail run.  I was dragging, but fighting it.  I kept thinking pain wasn't the right word to describe what I felt...more like just pain TIRED.  I kept trying to increase my heart rate, but fatigue held me back.  It seems I usually tire out LONG before I hurt.  I wondered how to get past THAT.  I mentally smirked over how easy it is to push past pain, but much harder to keep going when you're depleted of all energy.

As I occupied my mind with thoughts like, "listen, run hard just three more minutes and then you can walk" and "pick those feet up girl, get some pep in your don't want to---"  IT happened.  I became a full-fledged, honest-to-goodness TRAIL RUNNER as I tripped over a root and flew through the air with the greatest of awkwardness...sliding on my hands and knees, all the while praying I didn't break anything.  ((Go back to this post where I tell you my greatest fear, related to solo trail running, is having to limp/crawl out of the woods!))  As soon as I stopped sliding, my second thought was for my new watch and my phone (which was strapped to my arm).

I'd like to say I got up and just started running again...and I did, but not without yelling out a pre-school curse word (...fart...) MANY, MANY, times.  Unfortunately for me this couldn't have happened in a secluded section of wilderness.  Oh no, it had to happen RIGHT NEXT TO OCCUPIED CABINS.  How did I know they were occupied?  Because the people were coming out as I was blasting my quasi-obscenities!!  I'm sure they were having a good laugh...or maybe they didn't see/hear me because no one even asked if I was okay.

Anyway...after only a few seconds (enough to say the word of the day about 6 or 7 times), I told myself I needed to get back to the car.  My first thought was to walk-okay, who am I kidding, hobble- the rest of the way.  That's when it hit me!!  THIS was my chance to push through pain.  I remembered all the stories I've heard of runners who have fallen and gotten up to finish strong.  I remembered a video I saw not long ago...

and I pushed as hard as I could to finish STRONG (much harder than I imagined possible for a "princess").

When I got back to the car, I washed off the blood and proceeded to call my husband... and to cry like a big baby!  He basically told me to put my big girl panties on and thank God for the opportunity to work through some PAIN allowing me to toughen up!!  (But only after he asked if I wanted him to come home and take care of me...I LOVE THAT MAN!!)

I know I've whined in the past about minor issues, and I know it could have been a lot worse...but, see for yourself, this is more than just a scrape.

...after I washed it off...

For the record, this morning I rode 29 miles with the big boys (on average they were at the low end I was at the top end of easy, pushing middle effort at times).  I then spent 30 minutes on the elliptical.  All proof I am NOT actually a princess.  Just don't tell my husband!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon! :D

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Pain Garden

The other day I was doing some reading about tri training (yes, I am obsessive, but you should have already known that by now if you've read much of anything I've written!). I googled my Tri 201 coach, Eric Doehrman of E3 Multisport. Naturally he had a few Ezine articles out there. One of which was particularly interesting to me about the "Pain Cave".

I've heard about the "pain cave" before, but I can honestly say I don't think I've ever found mine. The truth is, I don't like pain. I avoid it like vampires avoid crosses or garlic. My philosophy has always been, "no pain, no pain" or "if it hurts, you're doing something wrong so stop." I used to think it was an effort to avoid injury, but the truth is, it's been an effort to avoid pain. However, I've come to realize if I want to seriously improve (and I do), I am going to have to get over my aversion to being uncomfortable.

Everything I've ever read in the past has basically said, in a nutshell, "HURT". So when I saw the title to Coach Eric's article, "Refine Your Mental Flexibility by Making the Most of Your Pain Cave", I was more than a little intrigued. I've read and re-read it several times since then in an attempt squeeze every drop of wisdom out of it as possible.

((Warning...for the rest of this post to make much sense, you should read the article--it's worth the click over, I promise!))

The same day I found the article, we had a group bike/run brick training session. As we were riding I kept trying to tell myself I was sitting on my pain cave couch watching Survivor. I remembered Rob's efforts in one particular challenge, obviously giving all he had to eek out a victory over much younger competitors. I thought of all my other favorite Survivor challengers (Stephanie, Matt, Colby...even Russell) and how they all gave ALL they had. (Stephanie even dislocated her shoulder in one battle, popped it back into place and then got right back into the fight.)

What was so ironic about it all (what I didn't realize until after the fact) was the fact I was imagining myself sitting on my comfy pain cave couch watching TV!!! I had skipped down to step five without an understanding of what he was trying to say. Was I uncomfortable?? Well, yes, a little bit. Was I even close to hurting? Not really. It's going to be hard for me to believe pain is a cross I can even get close to much less carry and bear.

The thing I think I "like" most about the article is the idea that I'm in control of my pain cave. I can leave it anytime I want. It seems silly because you might think I've exercised that option (leaving) pretty much my whole life. But, I think the option I've actually taken is the one not to find the address in the first place. To go on a recon mission to find willingly drive up the set up house make it my home--not options I've explored.

Until now.

I've started wearing my heart rate monitor again. I'm in so much better shape now than I used to be. I will have to work considerably harder now than I did a year ago to get my heart rate up to the optimal training zone. It's time to stop cheating myself. It's time to make my workouts count toward my goals. I feel like up until now I've been liking the idea of being in a pain cave more than the idea of doing the work to get there.

One of my favorite books of all time is "The Secret Garden". I used to dream about having a garden like that. I have bought more magazines and books than I care to admit to in an effort to learn how to keep plants alive (I have a black thumb). I've done "research" on what to plant and where. I've gone so far as to plan out my ideal green space. The most forward progress I've made toward that end is to purchase sacrificial plants that have given their lives over to my dream but have not actually been released from their plastic containers to do what they do best-grow. To plant that garden will take WAY MORE work than any amount of planning or dreaming. It would require sweat and dirt and time. Not only that...I would have to devote countless hours pulling weeds, deadheading flowers, pruning...and all that work still might result in dead plants.

I might not ever be willing to invest my sweat and time into planting a "secret garden" of my own...but I AM willing to invest in my body. I want to know where my limits are...and I want to find ways to push past them. I want to find my pain cave...but I think I'll call it my pain garden. That sounds so much more inviting!!

I'm off to the pool to begin my journey.

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!