Sunday, June 29, 2014

When the going gets tough, the tough put on a race shirt

This is actually my weekly training report, but it was a tough week, and I'm going to share one of my motivational tricks.

I raced on Sunday, and although I felt great at the end of the race, as the day went on, I realized how tuckered out I really was. I had pushed myself, hard. But since I am training through that race, I couldn't just take a week off, especially since I don't feel anywhere near ready for my next race, which is coming up in mid-July, my goal race (aka, my first olympic distance).

So Monday I was in the gym. I did a short treadmill warm up followed by sets of various weights for my arms, and more core work than I've done in a while. Ouch, my middle still hurts days later!

Tuesday was a rest day, imposed by my family schedule, and which I really needed.

Wednesday's plans were for a combination run with hill work and a long run. I know that this doesn't seem to make much sense in terms of training for distance, but it was really about mental training. You see, I was tired, and grumpy, and I didn't want to train. But I couldn't take a day off again. And besides, I needed the mind-over-legs practice. So the long run was to simulate a bit of how I'm likely to feel in my next race. But I had to use my favorite trick for when I'm really feeling like I can't do my planned training session - I wear a race shirt for my work out. Then, when I'm feeling all "I can't do this" I remember "I'm a triathlete" and think about my shirt. It's my proof that I really am a triathlete. It always gives me a boost of energy and fortitude and sometimes even a little spring in my step. I don't use this trick too often - I'm worried it'll stop working - but it's a great one to have on those days I really need a boost (or a kick in the pants) to even get going. I added about 1-1.5 km to my regular 10 km run to get to my trail hill. It's about 12 minutes into the run. I did 7 hill repeats there, before heading out for the long slow portion of my run. In the end, I ran longer than I've ever run before continuously, 1:36. (I've run farther in less time, but the hills added a lot of time without much distance.) I got a boost at around the 1 hour mark, and then at around 1:25 I had to remember the t-shirt again to keep going. (It's again because the last 2 hill repeats were pain-ful.) But I did it. And I taught my legs a lesson, one that hopefully they'll remember come July 13.

Then Thursday was a write-off. Husband was supposed to take the boy to swimming lessons, but he was sick, so I had to. That meant my work out time was gone.

Friday I did a hard ride in the gym. 1:17. Again, longer than I've ever done before, and it was all at a high cadence. I threw in some 'hills' too to make it even more challenging. Then finished it off with 1 km on the treadmill in 5:37. I am a big fan of doing bricks and so often do a quick run off the bike at the gym.

Saturday I headed to the pool to try and get in an easy 1500 m. I stayed away from the walls to make it more challenging, and more like open water swimming, and managed to finish in 39 minutes. I was going at a really easy pace, so I'm really happy with my time. I'd like to be able to do the swim in under 50 minutes at my next race, and it now seems doable.

So all in all, at the end of the week, I now feel like I can finish my olympic distance race in 2 weeks, which for me, is a successful week of training. It was really a week of getting myself mentally ready, and I think I've managed that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Qualicum Beach Triathlon 2014 Post Race Report - PB by 5:11!

(I'm running so fast my feet aren't even touching the ground!)

This race was my introduction to triathlon last year, and it got me hooked. I can’t recommend it enough, especially for people who are interested in trying triathlon but are intimidated. It’s a pretty casual race, in a really nice little community, and it’s short. A 400 m swim, followed by an 18 km bike (4 loops around a circuit), finishing with an almost 5 km run that’s mostly in forest trails (2 x around a loop). People cheer you on from their driveways which feels great. Not to mention that my in-laws now live along the bike route, making it really convenient for the family to come out and cheer for me. (And they cheer for other people too. Just not with personalized signs.)

As I said, I did this one last year, so I had an old time to beat. Initially my plan was to try and better my time from last year by about 2 minutes. That seemed like a reasonable goal earlier in the spring. But my training has been really interrupted of late, so in the end, I changed my goal to one of just finishing in time to watch my son race in the tiny tri. (I didn’t know that they don’t start the tiny tri until the last adult runner has crossed the finish line.) The change in goal was good for me, as it released me from any pressure and let me just have fun, which apparently makes me faster...

So how did I do? Well, I started the day by biking to the race (I biked back too). It didn’t matter that it was somewhere around 1 km from my in-laws’ house to the race start – it made me feel really hard core and put me in a great spot mentally. This is a pool swim race, and they group swimmers by time, with the slowest swimmers going first. Last year I was in the second group of adults to start, this year I was in the third. I did the swim in 8:39. Not super speedy, but better than the 8:50 I posted last year. The bike timing includes both transitions (no chip timing in this race – they record when you exit the pool and when you exit transition on to the run). My transitions were likely a little faster, I now have triathlon bike shoes which are a little faster to do up and elastic laces on my runners, but frankly that’s not where I’ve been putting my efforts. I have been working on my cycling legs, however (mostly in the gym though). My bike time this year was 42:02 (again, that includes 2 transitions), beating last year’s 45:48 by 3:46! And I did the run in 25:44, shaving 1:14 off of last year’s run time. My overall time was 1:16:24, good enough for 78th place overall (with overall placements including the relays) and 4th in my age group, F40-44 (not including the relays). That’s 5:11 faster than last year, 1 place higher in my age group (I was 5th last year at 1:21:35, same age group), and better overall by 32 places!

I checked to see how my last year’s time would place me this year, just in case the race was overall slower. My last year’s time would have put me at about 112th this year, so about the same. Clearly, I need to work on my swimming, but in terms of pay offs, given that they’re much better on the bike, I think I’ll stick to focusing there for now.

2014       Overall           Age Group              Swim                 Bike                   Run
1:16:24    78th               4/14                         8:39 (101)          42:02 (81)          25:44 (71)

2013       Overall           Age Group              Swim                 Bike                   Run
1:21:35    110th             5/13                         8:50 (112)          45:48 (125)        26:58 (91)

I felt really great at the end of my race. I was so much faster than expected, my family hadn’t yet made it to the finish line! And then I got to have even more fun and help my 5 year old son in the pool for his tiny tri. Watching him enjoy his race so much was the best part of my day by far.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekly training report – June 16-22 (pre-non-goal race week)

Although I am training through a race this week (an expression I learned recently) as my real goal race is 3 weeks away, I had a relatively easy week of training planned anyway. Basically my plan was to do a nice long slow effort in each event this week.

Monday I went to a local outdoor pool with a really wacky length (137.5 m I think) and swam 12 lengths (1650 m). I didn’t really time myself, but it took around 51-52 minutes. I went really slow on purpose, and did not touch the side of the pool once, so as to better simulate the open water experience. I was happy that my really slow non-effortful pace was fast enough to be within the cut-off time for the 1500 m I’m going to have to swim in 3 weeks.
Tuesday I cycled, as I usually do for reasons having to do with the family schedule. I went for an easy ride for 1.5 hours, and covered about 32 km. Not as far as my race will be, but since a chunk of that time was spent going up a hill that hits 16-17%, I felt OK about it. Apparently my husband did that same hill 4 times last week. I was pretty happy to make it up once. Maybe by August I’ll get up it 2x in a workout.
Weds was a rest day, and Thursday I went for a really slow 6 km run in the woods. It took me about 2 mins longer than it does when I’m trying to get in a good workout, so apparently my attempt to go slow worked really well. I do know that when I was heading up the last hill in the route, the one where I usually am muttering under my breath to myself about being crazy or something like that, I was thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why is this usually so hard?” I guess my legs still had a lot left in them.
Friday was a travel day. Sat I went to the pool with my son and his cousins, and stayed afterwards for 15 mins of flip turn practice. Good thing I didn’t have bigger plans because I had another migraine aura. Thankfully, it wasn’t a bad one – I could sense that with the right response I could avoid the headache and nausea, and I was right. And then Sunday was my race, which gets its own post (at some point). (I will let it slip that my more relaxed week seems to have worked out well for me.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly training report - with lots of interruptions

It's rather ironic that my last post was about my training philosophy where I made the point about being flexible, because this past week I have had to be very flexible.

Usually I ride on Tuesdays (due to my son's activity schedule) but I decided to ride on Monday this week instead. I did my favorite hill route three times, and would have done it again if I hadn't run out of time. I was breaking in some new tri shoes, and I don't have the cleats adjusted quite right yet unfortunately, as evidenced by my (thankfully slight) right knee pain that followed the ride. The only thing of note on the ride was a jerky older guy who passed me very close without warning. He was on the left, which is good, but at most, there was 2 inches between our handle bars. I was over to the far right, so it wasn't like I was riding in the middle of the road and he needed to do it or anything. He was just a jerk.

On Tuesday I had a migraine, so my planned gym workout didn't happen. I'm beginning to think it might be time to go back on the preventative meds. Ugh.

Wednesday I did a track session: 8 x 400s. My fast 400s were all between 1:45 and 1:57. That may not sound fast, but it's pretty good for me. And I upped the number (from 6 to 8) without changing the time, which made me feel pretty good. I had had other plans, but we had a surprise visit from my in-laws (we were maybe expecting them on Thursday) which was lovely. We hadn't seen my MIL for about a year, so it was a great reason to change up my workout plans.

Thursday was a planned rest day, not only because of the possible visit that happened a day early, but also because another friend we hadn't seen in a few months was coming to stay with us for a few days. So chilling with some good food and drink seemed like a good plan.

Friday I did my 10km trail run with fartleks. I did the run in just over 56 minutes! I remember the first time I cracked 60 minutes on that run last summer. It's so nice to see progress, not just in how I feel, but also in my times. Work really does pay off, it's just sometimes slow.

I had planned to trying to get a workout in on the weekend, but that plan didn't work out either. It was rainy on Saturday, the little guy had a birthday party, and I was on the verge of a migraine. And then on Sunday morning I was in the ER with the boy (nothing too serious, thankfully, but something that couldn't wait until Monday when the doc is open). It wasn't too busy, which was good. But that blew up any plans I had for a swim (which I desperately need!).

Why am I bothering to post my training? First, it keeps me honest. If I have to post it, I'm more likely to do it. Second, and this is really my main motivation I think, is to have information out there on the web on how real people train. There are lots of plans available, and I have no doubt that lots of people follow them. But not all of us have time. But we all have time to do something. This way people can see what kinds of results I do (or don't) get and with what kind of training. I have gone looking for this kind of thing (a 'regular' person's routine) many a time, but couldn't find it. So I'm putting mine out there. Feel free to use it as a guide on how not to train to succeed in triathlon!

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Training Philosophy

I decided to do a triathlon last year so that I would keep working out. I knew that without a goal of some kind, whenever things got hairy at work or at home (which is pretty much always), my commitment to my physical health would disappear, or if not disappear, take a back seat to all the more immediately urgent things I constantly have to deal with.  So I committed. But that also meant a shift in the way I worked out. It was no longer just going for a run, it was training. Training is different because everything has a purpose, and that means having a plan. I am good at planning (less good at execution, but that’s a topic for a different day). Very good at planning. I went about devising my own training plan and accompanying schedule based on the book Triathlons for Women (by Sally Edwards) and various websites. I kept to my plan as much as I could, and loved my first tri. Then, I decided to do another one, and that meant more training, and so more planning. And my training quickly took over my life. I thought about triathlon and training all the time. That’s fine if triathlon is your life, but it’s not mine. Or it shouldn’t be. I tri to live, I don’t live to tri. I got stressed out when I had to adjust my plan, and quickly got burnt out. I realized that I can’t work out hard for 3 days in a row, and doing more than 1 2 a day a week is too much for me. I got frustrated and discouraged. And then I remembered why I was doing training in the first place – I wanted to be healthier and this was just a route to that for me.

Plans to race again this summer kept me in the gym over the winter, mostly doing strength training to improve my running, swimming, and biking. But now that the weather is nicer, and the races have started, I’ve moved back outdoors and am training again. But this summer, I am way more relaxed. I forget to record everything in my spreadsheet, and am constantly changing things around. I make sure I get some time at all three sports each week, and what I do in each has a purpose, (although I'm sure I don't get the maximum benefit out of everything I do). I don’t just go out for runs, I do hills or track work, or fartleks if I’m in the trails. And on the bike I do hills or distance (I need to increase my distance for my goal race in July), and have just started adding in some intervals on the bike. I do bricks when I can. And will start joining an open water swim group next week (as long as the beach reopens – there was an oil spill this week). But I am much more relaxed. When we have sudden company, I don’t freak out about not getting in the right workout, I adjust to something that is still going to be useful if shorter, and enjoy the visit. Or when my migraines strike (as they have been doing again with increased frequency), I just accept that my races this year aren’t going to be great. But I will still finish them. And my son will be excited watching me race and cheering me on. And will give me a big hug at the finish line. And it’s all worth it. I need to be healthy to stay alive for him. I don’t need to win any races. I’d love to podium, but my life just isn’t one that will allow me to commit the time to do that without sacrificing things I’m not willing to sacrifice. And getting to the point where I’m OK with not being the best I can be at something is hard. It is not in my personality to do something at less than 100%. I am intense. I will just have to be the best I can be given the effort I am willing to give.

Monday, June 9, 2014

2014 Race Schedule

The races I have on the schedule for this year are:

May 25 - Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon (sprint)

June 22 - QF Qualicum Beach Triathlon (sprint)

July 13 - Subaru Vancouver Triathlon (olympic - my goal race for this season)

and then a break.

I plan to race the Cultus Lake Triathlon again this year in September, but haven't yet decided on a distance. (It depends on how I do in July.)

And I've registered for the GoodLife Fitness Victoria half-marathon on October 12. I am toying with the idea of a half-iron triathlon, but need to know if I can run the distance first. If I can, then I'll mull it some more. I did the same thing last year. I ran a 10km road race (my first ever running race) a week after I did Cultus Lake. It went well enough that I decided to try an olympic distance tri.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Weekly training report - with a lot of stuff about self-talk

I’m having one of those weeks, you know, the I’m fat and sluggish and there’s nothing to be done about it weeks. I think all women have them. I ended up having a great hill running session on Sunday, and so didn’t do it on Monday, which is when I have been doing hills. Nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit to keep things fresh. But you see, I really love running. Especially in the warm sun, and it was warm and sunny on Monday, so I just wanted to run. But I had brought my swim gear with me. I really need to ramp up my swimming, not for speed, but for distance, if I’m going to finish my goal race in July. As I headed to the pool I suddenly felt like ‘why am I doing this? I don’t want to do triathlons. I’m never going to be good at triathlons. I’m never going to win a triathlon. I’ve got work I could be doing right now, so I’ll just skip the swim.’ I then proceeded to have a little chat with myself. I am not good at doing things half way. But I have to have a relaxed attitude about triathlons, or I will crash and burn (out). I do them so that I keep working out, so that I keep working towards better fitness. My goal is to finish, not to win. Or my win is a finish. So I went on into the pool and had a great swim workout. 100 m warm up followed by 800 m at a steady pace, paying attention to form, and doing flip turns. Then another 400 m without touching the wall. I read about it somewhere as a good way to practice for open water swims in a pool. And then another 200 m with wall touches and a final fast 100 m (to practice speed even when tired). So all in all I swam 1600m. I did the final 1500 in just under 36 minutes, which is great for me. So now I’m feeling like I can finish the Olympic distance swim (with some open water practice beforehand too of course), and I’m recharged and ready for more training.

Tuesday I went to the track to do 400s. The plan was to do 5 Fast-recover sets, with the option for one or 2 more, and I ended up doing 6. I ran to the track, did a warm up lap, some dynamic stretching, then started my repeats. I have to admit, it was a rough work out. I felt like crap before heading out. I have a son who doesn’t sleep well at all (so neither do I) and I hadn’t eaten properly through the day. The latter was expected due to a perfect storm of work and family obligations that are making this week tough, and I guess I should have expected the sleep issues too, since they’re pretty constant. Anyway, I felt awful. I wanted to bail on my workout. I knew I was going to be slow. But triathlon isn’t just about the physical, it’s also very mental. And so I decided that fast or not, I was going to stick with the plan, if only to train my mind to keep my body moving when it really doesn’t want to. (I know, I know, I’ve only done sprints so how mental can they be? During the first 2 km on the run, very.) But once I got to the track it got worse. There was a woman there who was so obviously not a runner, but clearly in great shape. She looked like she was a lifter or some sort, and could easily have been a fitness model. She was the stiffest runner I’ve ever seen. And had very obviously had some work done. No one with that little fat has a ‘front porch’ of that size. That and the fact that her chest defied gravity – she didn’t bounce at all despite wearing a yoga bra – made it pretty obvious. But lest I sound too catty, the rest of her looked like the product of a whole lot of dedication and hard work. Anyway, despite the fact that it was clear she was not a runner, her slow laps were faster than my fast ones. This was really getting me down. But I checked my thinking and remembered that I was there for my workout, not hers. I am preparing for my races, not hers. And living my life, not hers. I frankly don’t have the time to look like that, even if I did have the self control and determination. I have a great kid, a terrific husband, live in one of the best cities on the planet, and have a job that I sometimes love. And I realized that she was about half my age, and the idea that I could keep up with a very fit 20 year old is ludicrous.

Wednesday was a planned rest day. It was hard to stick to the plan, as the day was beautiful and it was National Running Day in the US, so twitter was full of running stuff. But if I want to get better, I have to respect my body’s need for rest. Especially at my age. So I resisted, and didn’t work out.

Thursday I did bricks, my favorite workout. Seriously. I love doing them. I’m a very ‘in-my-head’ sort of person, and bricks are totally mental, as in, it’s really about your mind making your body do something it doesn’t want to do, until it feels OK, which if you keep going, it eventually does. It wasn’t’ a particularly challenging session. I cycled fairly hard for 16 minutes on the bike in the gym, went and ran for about 6 mins outside, then back on the bike on a harder setting for 12 mins then the same run circuit, then on the bike for 12 mins again on the same harder setting, then the run circuit again. Then I did some core work, and it was painfully obvious that I’ve been slacking off in that department since the weather got nice and I’ve moved out of the gym and onto the trails and roads for my workouts. I’ll have to make sure to be doing core work at home I guess.
Friday I went for a quick 600 swim. I was glad that I opted for the swim, as I found out that the pool where I train is closing for a month (again) for mechanical repairs. Not a good time, as I have 2 triathlons coming up in the next 5 weeks. I was just getting into the swing of swimming regularly, and my swims were starting to improve. I’ll just have to deal with another summer of crappy swims I guess, and focus more on my cycling.

Saturday I ended up going for a lovely run. It was pretty much unplanned, and I treated it as a treat, not as training. It was an old local route of mine that I really like. I started my watch, but since I couldn’t remember how long it used to take me to do, or what the distance was, I wasn’t racing myself. I just went for a slow, enjoyable run through the neighborhood. It was fun to remember how much I enjoy running. And then on Sunday I went for a bit of an impromptu run when the family went to a local lake park with some friends. Everyone but me had their bike, so I ran alongside my little guy. He tired out quickly, so it was good I didn’t have a bike, as I ended up pushing him (on his run bike) a lot of the way, and piggy backing him for another decent chunk. So I got more of a workout than I had anticipated, but it was enjoyable, and so didn’t feel like work. Family time in the woods in the summer is a good thing.