Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Orleans Half Iron...ish (Pre Race)

Get a nice cup of coffee, or beverage of your choice, sit back and relax...this is going to be long (maybe even in parts!).

Non-race stuff...I LOVE New Orleans.  It's one of my favorite cities in the world.  Yes, it's dirty.  Yes, there are a lot of homeless, drunk and sketchy people all over the place.  Yes, parts of it smell like booze and urine.  However, other parts smell like crawfish, gumbo and beignets.  And don't even get me started on the sounds--jazz, blues and tap dancing in the street!  I've been there many times, including one time as an insurance adjuster just weeks after Katrina, and other than the utter devastation I saw, I've loved every moment in the Big Easy.  This trip was no exception; the town never lets me down.

Because a friend knows someone, I got to stay with 3 other gals in a sweet condo about a block away from the Quarter.  It's a time share place and was perfect-full kitchen, 2 bedrooms, quiet, great staff.  I certainly want to go back there.  Although there was a big group of people going down, because we were all taking bikes, and because I am NOT a plan-ahead kind of gal, I ended up not being able to ride with anyone.  It turned out to be a good thing after all because on the way down I was able to mentally plan out some Spinning class playlists...and was able to keep my nerves at bay (believe it or not).

When I got there, my three roommates were waiting on me so we could go over to athlete check in.  We had planned on going to an athlete briefing, but we weren't quite sure if it was at the host hotel or the convention center so we missed it.  We were able to get checked in and pick up our numbers, swim cap, timing chip, awesome bag and not-so-awesome race shirt.  The expo was small, but had everything you could imagine needing for triathlon for sale.  It was the most laid back expo I've ever been to--probably because it was Friday evening.  I bought a NOLA 70.3 sticker and some Tri Slide to help me put my wetsuit on without having to rub Body Glide all over me.

Afterwards we found a place to eat.  This was a little hard because I know I can't eat certain things (especially before a race) but, man do I LOVE cajun food!!  I kept my race goal in mind and chose wisely (fish soup and rice).  I had planned on going for a short run, but didn't end up doing that Friday night.

Saturday morning I woke up, ran a couple of blocks over to another friend's hotel.  A group of us went over to the race briefing together...and found out, as predicted, the swim was (most likely) going to be cancelled...they made if official about an hour after we left.  Instead of being a 70.3 half Ironman, it had turned into a 67.1 duathlon (2 mile run, 52 mile bike* and then 13.1 mile run...*the bike course had to be shortened because, apparently, part of the course was underwater or had some storm damage to it).  They also changed the 13.1 course to be a double loop instead of a big single loop (which would have been my preference).  Although I was slightly relieved about not having to think about the swim...I was more than a little bummed out about the changes.  But, I always said it would be my first not my only...and since I had a feeling it was coming, I had already decided the race was going to be about taking whatever was thrown at me.

Because of the changes, Saturday's bike check-in became optional so I decided to wait-no need to get my car out both days.  I finally got to get a little run in...and it was so amazing I didn't want to stop!!  I felt like I could run all day long.  My right calf had been feeling like it was on the verge of cramping up, but it was fine as I was running.  I left my watch at home since I knew I wasn't going to wear it at the race so I just ran what I thought was about 20 minutes and made myself stop.  After a shower and some much needed make up we were off to dinner.  We went to Louisiana Pizza Kitchen ...and I had... salad.  It was surprisingly easy to stay away from all the food I wasn't supposed to have because all I could think about was the race!!

Early to bed and early to rise.  I had gotten everything completely ready the day before so all I had to do was get up, get dressed, eat and go.  The one thing I didn't account for--really cold weather!  I didn't have a jacket or even anything long-sleeved!  When I got to transition, there were two super nice LSU Tiger fans parked beside me, one of whom let me borrow a Tiger sweatshirt which I gratefully accepted (that's just how cold it was out there!).  I found out later it's owner was just about to put it on when I walked by shivering to he shivered to death in my place!!  How sweet, right?!

Since the race changed from a tri to a run-bike-run I had to rethink my transition area just a tiny bit.  I also had a difficult time figuring out where we were starting and where the first run in was.  I asked several people, but no one seemed to be able to give me a straight answer until just before the race.  Even one of the directors couldn't seem to understand why I wanted to know (he said I just needed to follow everyone, unless everyone else was going to be running to MY bike, that wasn't going to help me get oriented in transition).

One stop off at the portopotty and it was time to take the sweatshirt off and get ready to watch the pros start!!

Thanks for stopping in....come again soon for the race recap! :D

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Value of Coaching

I'm getting ready to leave for New Orleans....packing....checking my packing list....rechecking my bag to make sure I did pack the things marked off the list.  You know how it is.

As I am starting to "unravel" my mind is continually brought back to the words of Coach Eric in my first Olympic distance race, "relax".  I had just come off the bike and out of T2 for the run.  I was FREAKING OUT because although I had done MANY brick workouts, I hadn't done them after riding as hard as I just had (and this after swimming harder/longer than I ever had before).  Eric was right there at the "run out" lane, telling me to "relax".  His voice was so calm, cool and collected I think my heart rate instantly dropped about 20 beats!

A friend and fellow e3 Multisport tribemate, Gayle, said it best the other day on FaceBook:
People ask me all the time if what I pay for coaching is "worth" it. It's always hard for me to verbalize what I "get" besides a personalized training plan. I get someone to cheer me on or cheer me up or kick my butt! Someone to help me overcome my fears one climb, one interval, one workout at a time. Someone to help me tell the difference between time to push through the tiredness and time to rest.

After a year of self coaching 100yd swim = 2:08
After 9 months of pro coaching 100yd swim = 1:42 and still improving

In case you're wondering that translates to a 17 minute difference in an IM distance swim. The difference between coming out of the water in 1:30 feeling beat and 1:12 feeling great!! So yea it's soooo worth it:-)

The past couple of months have been difficult because of some health issues I've been having and without a coach to help keep me on track when I can't follow the plan I probably would have quit.

Thanks Eric Doehrman for helping me become a better swimmer, a more confident athlete and stronger person!!
I wish I could say my swim has improved to a 1:42...I'm not THERE, but I am swimming distances I never imagined would be possible for me.  My body is stronger than I even realize.  When I go to do a workout my mind is saying, "No way" but my body says "Let's roll, I got this!"  It's not until I'm done that my thoughts get on board (most of the time...other times my first thought is, "well that was a fluke, you can't/won't do it again!").

The real value in coaching for me is the training of my thought life.  When I ran McKay Hollow last month, I could hear Eric and Karen in my head telling me to "relax", telling me "hills are our friends...we love hills", telling me "it's a race, it's not going to feel good while you're doing it-that comes at the finish line", telling me to "let go and let God", telling me to "trust my training" (all my paraphrases of their words).

The hard part about trusting the training is the nagging thought of all the missed workouts and all the workouts I didn't give my all.  I think I would give myself a solid B- (a solid B if I were grading on a curve with the knowledge that NO ONE gives 100% in 100% of planned workouts).  All things considered over the last 4 months,  I'm happy with that.  The hard part for me is not thinking I've let my coach down by not being perfect, or that the improvements I've made won't be readily apparent.

The true value of a coach is not measured (solely) in the success rate of their athletes (as in reaching the podium or their swim/bike/run/transition times).  To me, it is most accurately measured in my rate of growth, the delta between where I was and where I am now, how far I've come with the addition of the coach's influence.  For some athletes that IS measured in terms of time.  Those athletes had a different starting point than I did!! 

I have had to learn to think, "I CAN DO THIS".  I've had to learn what my mom tried to teach me my whole life: "You can do anything you put your mind to."  It was the "putting my mind to it" that needed some help!  I know I'm not going to podium.  But I have NO doubts I WILL finish this race, and finish feeling STRONG, and THAT should be considered a WIN in my book. 

I have finally figured out what it means to "run my own race"--to go out and do the VERY BEST I CAN DO on race day under race day conditions...that's all I can do....and that's what I WILL do!..and THAT has been the value I've received in coaching.

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon.  :D

BTW, if you have an iPhone, you can download the IronTrac app to follow me on race day!!  I'll post my number in the comments below after I get my packet.  :D

Saturday, April 14, 2012

FOCUS, Let Off the Brakes and Just RELAX

Has it really been almost two whole months since I've posted??  I haven't been gone for this long since I started this blog in January 2010.

I've started several posts, but haven't finished any of them.

My life feels like it's spinning out of control; there is so much going on right now.  It's ironic, because my natural reaction would be to "throw on the brakes" but I'm beginning to learn that might not be the very best option for me.

Everyone is different, so I want to be clear, I'm only talking about me here.


When I was about 17 I went on my first "mountain biking" adventure.  I was in Les 2 Alpes in the south of France.  A group of my friends and I took a lift to about the middle of a mountain, rented bikes and were going to ride down.  Thye all told me how important it was to test the brakes, which I did.  However, as soon as I got to going very fast...toward the edge of a cliff (which was protected by a giant pile of rock)...I couldn't get the bike to slow down.  I hit the rock and flew off the bike which then landed on the inside of my thigh.  I rode my brakes the rest of the way down the mountain.

It was NOT fun.

Fast forward to present time.  I actually LOVE riding down hills.  I'm able to tuck in and just fly, unless there's someone in front of me who doesn't enjoy that experience.  Unlike hitting the brakes going UP hill (which causes me to fall over), hitting them going down just slows me down.  Just tapping them one time makes a HUGE difference in speed and effectively ruins the rush for me.

My first half ironman is in EIGHT DAYS!!!   I'll leave for New Orleans on Friday; the race is on Sunday.

When I said my life feels like it's spinning out of control...the truth is it's my thoughts that are out of control.  My thoughts are like my hands tapping (or in most cases SQUEEZING) my brakes. 

(Going with the bike analogy/experience...)  As long as I know I have a properly functioning bike, when I'm careening down a steep hill toward a huge pile of rock meant to block a cliff, all I really need to do is, focus, steer the front wheel, tuck in, and enjoy the ride.  My first (and ONLY) mountain biking experience would have been much better had I done just that.  There was no need for me to freak out thinking I was going to DIE.  There was no need for me to freak out because my brakes weren't slowing the bike as fast as I wanted them to.  There was no need for me to learn the hard way that a) I wasn't going to die because the pile of rocks were going to stop me from going off the cliff or b) my brakes were working just fine-I had checked them earlier-I just wasn't in control because I was freaking out!!

One more story...I'm now teaching preschoolers how to swim!!  ((I know, right??  Maybe I'll get around to telling that story later on.))  It's funny because most of them beat the water up trying to swim.  They kick with all their strength and flail their arms about, splashing water in a 10' radius!  And...they go NOWHERE.  When they begin to relax and focus their energy on moving forward they swim right out of my class up to the next level. 

Same goes for floating.  When they are TRYING to float, they usually sink!  When they learn to RELAX they naturally float!  I had a child the other day trying to hang onto me as I was trying to get her to float on her back.  She couldn't understand she was sinking because she was hanging on.  You should have seen her face when I got her to trust I wasn't going to let her sink.  She let go of me and just relaxed her body...just like that, she was floating.

Focus and relax have never seemed to go together to me.  It seems one is counter to the other.  But I'm beginning to learn that is not the case.  For someone whose mind tends to spin out of control, the key is to focus on relaxing!!  That's what this week will be about.

I can't say enough good things about my coaches, e3 Multisport.  Eric and Karen have done so much more for me than just given me daily workouts.  You can get that anywhere.  Coaches are more than just a training plan on paper.  They continue to remind me to slow down, relax and FOCUS.  When I think I'm not ready, they remind me I AM.

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!