28 February 2013

Let's Talk Fuel

Before I hopped on the trainer this AM, I searched our cabinets in vain for something quick for breakfast, forgetting that we'd finished off the loaf of bread the night before and I had no bagels left from the Great Bagel Heist of The Previous Friday (loot=9 bagels, a new record). We don't buy cereal because it doesn't last more than 5 minutes in this house anyway and I didn't want to take any time to fry up some veggies and eggs.

So I had SportBeans and a lemon flavored HoneyStinger waffle instead.

There is something inherently wrong with eating those things for breakfast and consuming something so sweet as SportBeans before 7am (and I like sweet things, so this is saying something). I gave up chocolate for Lent this year, and I'm also making an effort to stay away from sweets in general - chocolate or not - and practice the whole mindful eating thing (in terms of what I'm eating - no crap - and how much I'm eating - I do not need a billion snacks). I'll still indulge in my favorite snack - apples with sugar and cinnamon - but that's about it in terms of crap. Long story short - it has been a few weeks since I've been on a sugar high and this morning I did not feel great after eating the sport beans. Bleck.

This morning made me think about what I'd like to do about my fueling for training, racing (and specifically Ironman) this year. Not to beat a dead horse, but almost every time I do Ironman, I have some type of nutrition fail that usually manifests itself on the run. I eat mainly gels (18 gels on 112 mile bike ride, anyone?) and that's alot of sweet stuff - no wonder I don't feel awesome. I've tried the liquid calorie thing (complete disaster) and I've also done the sandwiches, cookies, crackers, and chips on the bike thing (not a complete meltdown, but that is alot of food). I received the Feed Zone cookbook for Christmas from Mr. Sweetie and it has a whole section on making your own portable nutrition for the bike. I've already made their banana rice muffins and they were yummy and filling. I think this weekend I may try to make another recipe. In short, I'd like to incorporate more real foods into my training and racing. I think on the run I will still need to stick with gels and whatever else I can shove down from the aid stations (mmmmm chicken broth) because eating alot of solid food during the run is just gross. But for the bike, I'd like to gravitate towards something that isn't a gel, sport bean, or chewy blok for the majority of my nutrition. I'm glad I'm starting to think about this early, before the season really gets going, so I can experiment with stuff this spring during training. I'm also open to hearing what other people have used/done/found what has worked for them. I really thought in 2011 I had it all figured out with gels, but 2012 proved me wrong. Back to the drawing board.

27 February 2013

Spring is in the Air

Growing up in New England, summer was - hands down - my favorite season. There were only a handful of days each summer that were unbearably hot, school was out, there were always multiple trips to the beach, swimming in friends' pools, etc etc etc. I couldn't understand how anyone could have a favorite season that wasn't summer.

And then I moved to DC. I still love summer - who couldn't love the season that lets you swim outdoors in a 50m pool while the sun rises and then bike to work still soaked from swim practice. But spring has become my new favorite season down here. In New England, spring is marked by a couple warm days interrupted by snow, MUD SEASON, and consistent warm weather doesn't settle in until sometime in mid-to-late May and by then it is practically time for summer to roll in. But here in DC, spring arrives early in comparison - like March. There isn't such a thing as mud season, and once the warm weather starts to move in, it is usually here to stay.

And then there are the Cherry Blossoms:

While the cherry blossoms haven't bloomed yet for the year, there are some other signs that spring is coming. On the metro today, I saw an ad for the Crystal City Friday Night 5k series that begins in April. The Rock and Roll DC marathon/half marathon is in just a few short weeks (last year it was close to 80 degrees during the race). The weather was on the warmer side today and I didn't have a jacket for my commute home, nor did I miss it. The sun is setting closer to 6pm than 5pm, stores are stocked with Easter candy, and I'm starting to think about bike commuting in to work in the near future. I'm also super antsy for race season to start up. All good things.

24 February 2013

Dahlgren Trail Half Marathon - Race Report

Staying warm by the bonfire after the race 
Let's just get one thing straight right away - today I was a sandbagger and I am not proud of it. I did not intend to be one, I've never run a trail half marathon so I wasn't sure how to compare those times to road half marathon times. In looking at the finish times last year, I thought the times from the elite wave looked relatively speedy for a trail race. I wasn't sure how technical the course was going to be; once I found out it was on an old railroad bed I figured it probably couldn't be too technical, but you never know - there are always exceptions (I would say that the Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney is on the technical side). I had decided about a week ago to run this race - it would be perfect as I had a 90 minute trail run workout on my schedule anyway. Jen instructed me not to kill myself out there and simply have fun and run smart - next week is not a recovery week and Monday is not a rest day. So I decided it would be smart to just run in the AG wave rather than the elite wave. I didn't want to be *that girl* who tries to run with the fast people and can't keep up and then runs her legs into the ground in vain. So AG race it was! Though within about 5 minutes of starting, and nobody running with me, I realized I would instead be *that girl* who was a total sandbagger. Sigh.

Kendra was super sweet and offered to drive. I showed up at her house ON TIME (go me!) at 5:30am. Her friend Adam joined us for the car ride down and the race (how I didn't know Adam before today, I do not know - according to Facebook we have close to 30 mutual friends). As we all expected with a small race (about 200 participants), everything was very low-key and everyone was super friendly. The bonfire near the start line was a bonus - great way to keep warm after shedding your layers as you wait for the start. Because the trail was relatively narrow, they started us off in waves - elites would go first, and then they sent off another group every two minutes. I went 10 minutes after the first wave. I made the dumb mistake of deciding to switch out my laces on my shoes (was wearing my old Kinvaras because I didn't want to get my new pink shoes dirty. Vanity) just a few minutes before the start. Disaster. Couldn't get the lock laces out, ended up trying to put my shoes back together with the original lock laces (now half undone, all tangled, and definitely not in any position to be relaced up. Sigh). I made it to the start with about two minutes to spare.

The race start was uneventful. I ended up at the front of the 30-39 AG wave within the first two minutes and I was hoping someone would creep up and keep me company, but no dice. The race was a simple out-and-back on the trail from the 0.0 mile marker to the turnaround point at the 6.5 mile marker.  The trail wasn't very technical, just some gravelly sections which had loose footing. It wasn't very muddy and there were sections both going out and coming back that were false flats. After about 10 minutes, I caught up to the girls in the wave ahead of me, and then caught up to some more people that were in earlier waves. I felt like I was running a comfortable pace (wasn't wearing a HR monitor because I just didn't want to). My first mile was the slowest and then I picked up the pace and kept things relatively consistent for the rest of the miles. I saw Kendra and Adam as they were looping back and I still had about a mile to go to the turnaround point, they both looked strong. I felt super happy to be out running, my legs felt good and my mind was in a positive place. I wasn't out there trying to set any records, I just wanted to run a smart race and I'd be very pleased if my last few miles were my fastest ones (this ended up happening). Before I knew it, I reached the turnaround point and headed back. Everyone was so friendly out on the course and it was so nice to exchange hellos and waves with the other competitors. I didn't hit a low point until about miles 8-10 in the race. At that point, I was mostly alone and I couldn't really see anyone ahead of me to try to catch. My legs were starting to feel fatigued and I was breathing a bit heavier. I definitely didn't go to any dark places during this race - things were mainly rainbows and unicorns, but during miles 8-10 the unicorns looked a little more like regular horses and there was no pot of lucky charms at the end of the rainbow. I snapped out of it by mile 10, started to see some other runners come into view ahead of me, hit a long section with a slight downhill (the false flat on the way out was good for something!) and my pace fell accordingly, letting my last 3 miles be my fastest ones. I will say that the last mile seemed to go on FOREVER and it felt really good to stop running once I hit the finish line.

Post-race with Leslie and Kendra
Post-race I caught up with Kendra and Adam and Leslie while we stood in front of the bonfire and had soup and crackers and oranges. The event coordinator got right down to the awards nice and quick so there wasn't too much standing around. Kendra and Leslie went 1-2 in the elite wave! I ended up first in the 30-39 AG by 15 minutes. See, sandbagger. My time of 1:36:54 was good enough for 4th fastest time for women. My legs actually feel quite good, no worse for the wear than my usual weekend long run and I did some quality foam rolling when I got home from the race, so hopefully I will survive my long swim tomorrow morning!

21 February 2013

A Thank You to My Coach

I've been working with my coach, Jen Harrison, since January 1, 2010. I had been doing triathlons for a few years at that point, I'd done two 140.6 races as well as a number of half Iron and sprint and olympic distance triathlons. I was part of a big triathlon team here in DC and had plenty of awesome training partners. I was investing a fair amount of time and energy in my training and decided I wanted to work one-on-one with a coach to see if it was possible to get faster and find a little more success in my races. I was usually middle of the pack, nothing fantastic, and my race goals were often finish without feeling like I was dying and enjoy the race experience enough that I want to do it again. I podium'd once in a blue moon, always at very small races, and I was terribly weak in my swim and my bike. Sidestroke, anyone? I used a training plan but was constantly altering it and changing it around and I probably didn't take recovery days seriously and I probably didn't work hard enough on hard days, I let everything migrate towards the middle of medium effort.

In order to find a coach, I turned to blogs. Yes, blogs. I had been reading a number of blogs and Jen's name kept popping up on many of them. And they were good athletes too. Fast. Maybe this Jen Harrison could figure out a way to make me fast. I also liked how in every single one of the blogposts I read, her athletes really liked her as a person and it seemed like she was a friend in addition to being a coach. I knew that I would likely mesh well with someone who I could feel comfortable sending an email or text to with a dumb question and know that she wouldn't make me feel dumb for asking it. So that's basically all the research I did (granted, I had been reading the blogs for awhile, at least a couple of years, so before I had even contacted Jen, I felt a bit like I already knew her).

Old habits were hard to break and Jen, bless her, put up with a fair amount of my crap for that first year. 2010 was not my best year, I was a hot mess. I was still moving workout around to suit what I wanted to do (oh, I do not feel like biking today, I will run instead or I don't think I have enough run volume, let me tack on some extra miles to my long run or - and this is the best one - recovery day is a perfect day to make up all those workouts I skipped earlier this week when I kept oversleeping). I was going out alot on weekends with friends and I did a few too many trainer rides in January and February 2010 feeling socially hungover. I ate the double-wide dinner (mac and cheese and hot dogs) at least 2-3 times/week My mindset was this: even though I've committed to a coach, even though I'm investing alot of resources into this sport, I'm never going to be super, super great so why bother giving up my social life and double-wide dinner for the sport? Why make huge lifestyle changes if I don't have confidence in myself and my abilities? I simply wasn't invested mentally in myself as an athlete and I had zero confidence.

Fast-forward three years and I feel like I am a different athlete and a different person. I won't get into the nitty gritty details because I've hammered most of them to death through various blogposts over the years. The short and sweet:
- I eat much healthier
- I understand the importance of recovery days and I leave them alone
- I don't screw around with my schedule - if it is in Training Peaks on an assigned day, I do the workout on that day
- Speaking of Training Peaks, I actually update it after workouts
 - Positive self talk and confidence: they don't make you an arrogant jerk, they make you a better athlete (when done in moderation, obviously)
- You are supposed to feel like a suffering pig on a spit when you are out there, going fast is not supposed to feel good
- Nutrition is the 4th discipline. Conquer it
- Don't half-ass your workouts. Do hard days hard, easy days easy
- Do all strokes at the pool, not just free. And flipturn. And swim more.

So I wanted to say Thank You to my coach. Not just for helping me become a faster and more confident athlete. More valuable to me is the friendship/mentorship that has developed over the years - I value that more than any PR. I appreciate the small things - you always respond to texts/emails and always with thoughtful, positive answers (and you've also not let me wimp out on workouts when I've texted trying to weasel out of them). You always give good feedback in Training Peaks and always seem to know when I needed that peppy response or advice on a workout. I realize you coach ALOT of athletes, but you never make it seem like you are too busy for me or my questions. I feel like I'm your only athlete and that's pretty neat (and probably takes an impressive amount of juggling and time management on your part). Your swim workouts are the new definition of awesome. The annual Tucson Tri Camp is one of the things I look forward to most every year because of the camaraderie created by your athletes and the challenging workouts. You expect alot from me as an athlete and you've taught me to raise my expectations about myself too. Just from an athlete's perspective - coaching someone well seems impossibly complicated - there's the physical workouts and the mental fitness and how they come together and you have to figure out what makes an athlete tick in order to tease out the best mental and physical performance simultaneously. I know that I am still learning how to put those things together to create a little race-day magic, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your patience and guidance and advice as I figure things out with every race.

20 February 2013

Soon I'm going to have to walk through doorways sideways

Today was a first - a double swim day! I've had double run days before but never a double swim. While neither swim session was ridiculously long by itself, put together they were more than enough to leave me STARVING for dinner by the end of the day and tired (in a fulfilled way). I don't think I timed my afternoon nutrition of a banana and peanut butter quite correctly, as I was hungry and bonking halfway through my second swim. I'd love to see another double swim day show up in Training Peaks (hint, hint, Jen!). I feel like I'm going to sleep really well tonight.

So about a year ago I wrote a post on body image. The whole idea of a triathlete's body being different than a runner's body came to mind again yesterday. I (unsuccessfully) tried on one of my button-down short sleeve work shirts purchased back when I was just a runner. My arms looked like sausages in the shirt and I was pretty sure I was going to pop the buttons off the sleeves. This is the first time I really and truly could not fit into a shirt. I think this is probably due to the fact that I'm swimming more now than I was a year ago and I'm not skipping TRX workouts. All good things, but darn I really liked that pink shirt. I'm also surprised at how my body shape continues to change, even though I've been doing triathlons since 2007. Oh, and Monday the lining to another work skirt bit the dust. Blame it on the TRX lunges and time spent on the trainer? It can't be the chocolate since that's a nonexistent part of my life right now (thank you Lent).

I signed up for the Rev3 Quassy half ironman this week - it was on pace to sell out and I didn't want my procrastination to wreak havoc on my race schedule. Now I need to sign up for the Monticelloman Oly and the Kinetic half ironman. I'm so excited for race season. Training has been going more smoothly this year than it has in previous years, it's as though a switch has flipped in my head and I don't find myself waking up in the morning trying to make excuses on why I should push my workout off until the evening. This has resulted in much more productive mornings, evenings that are less busy, and I'm generally in a better mood. I always am when I do at least one of my workouts in the morning before work.  

19 February 2013

Self Control

Last week was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I know this is completely un-Christian of me, but fasting is one of my absolute least favorite things to do. I wake up on the days that require fasting (only two days a year - Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and I am not looking forward to a day without eating. Ask anyone - I love to eat. And I swear, the day after Ash Wednesday, I woke up to birds singing, the sun shining, and a giant plate of pancakes - all was right in the world again.

Part of Lent is doing something for self-improvement. That isn't the only part, but that's the part I'm going to focus on. I really, really enjoy chocolate and cookies and brownies, etc, etc, etc. One of the things I wanted to work on in 2013 was eating better - and giving up chocolate, highly processed foods, baked goods, etc for Lent would serve two purposes then. I was starting to feel like my sweet tooth was  a little out of control and I wanted to rein that in before triathlon season was in full swing.

Another part of my Lenten self-improvement kick is self control, especially when it comes to food. I have a terrible habit of keeping a jar of peanut butter open on my desk at work - you would be surprised at how quickly a jar disappears when you take a bite here and there and here and there and... you know how it goes. I'm also a habitual snacker between the time I get home from work and the time I eat dinner. Then there is the bowl (or two) of ice cream for dessert. And let's not talk about bagel Friday, the number of bagels I've eaten is embarrassing. Anyway, maybe I am paranoid or maybe my metabolism really is slowing down, but whatever it is, I can't eat junk and just get away with it anymore. I physically do not feel great when I eat poorly - or overeat - and I need to work harder than I used to in order to burn off the excess calories. All this has lead me to pose the questions "Am I really hungry or just bored" and "does my swim really justify three bagels" etc etc etc. I'm going to need to leave second breakfast and third lunch solely for the times that I am in the thick of Ironman training and I'm truly earning those extra meals with 5 hour bike rides and 3 hour long runs. An extra 500yds in the pool does not warrant 5 extra pancakes as a snack.

Granted, it is still early in Lent so there is still lots of time for error, but so far my approach to mindfully eat has been going well. I don't leave the open jar of peanut butter on my desk so I'm now on week two with the same jar. Apples with cinnamon (and some sugar) have been my dessert of choice. Portion control and waiting a few minutes to see if I'm really, really hungry for a second helping of dinner has made me aware of whether or not I truly need the extra food (typically I do not). I'm not snacking a ton at work (I will have something small in the afternoon and sometimes a little something mid-morning) and I try to make it until at least 11:30am before digging into my lunch. Snacks have been mainly fruit and sometimes a piece of toast with peanut butter. No chips or chocolate granola for me! Even after Lent is over, I'd like to keep these new habits up - mindfully eating and having chocolate only once in awhile rather than multiple times a day. The trick will be figuring out the self control once I let chocolate back into my life. Both Mr. Sweetie and I are terrible about this - give us a little and we take a mile. I've been known to eat entire bags of chocolate chips just because they are there (and if I eat them all now, I won't have to eat them later - seems rational at the time). Typically the best way for us to maintain control is to simply NOT keep junk food in the house.

16 February 2013

Longest Swim!

I did my longest swim ever today - 6,000yds! I needed to use one of those online metric converter calculators to confirm that today was indeed my longest swim - last spring I swam an open water 5k, but it turns out that 6,000yds is just a smidgeon longer than a 5k so today's swim was the winner!

I swam with a great group of girlfriends. It is days like today that I am reminded of how lucky I am to have friends who are such good people, and fantastic athletes to boot. We all learn from each other, encourage each other, support one another, crack each other up, and push each other to go faster (and in today's swim case, further) than we would ever go alone. The pool was relatively empty when we jumped in at 9:30am and we managed to secure two lanes next to each other, giving the seven of us plenty of space. Kendra put together a fun workout, with a mix of long and short sets, pulling and kicking. Kendra and Sara and I all shared a lane and Mindy and Sarah and Georgeanne were the speed demons in the other lane. I love watching speedy swimmers. I read somewhere (can't recall where) that you can actually learn quite a bit and even improve your own swimming by watching good swimmers - what their technique looks like, what their stroke and kick look like, are they rotating their hips, what does their pull look like, etc. And then think about what good form looks like and try to emulate it in your own swimming.

The swim FLEW by and we were done in just over two hours. I made it to just over 5,000yds before my arms and shoulders started to burn and my pace was starting to slow down a bit. I tried out my new Blue Seventy goggles and they were great! I love new goggles - thanks Blue Seventy! We headed to Kendra's for brunch post-swim. Breakfast burritos, fruit salad, and tea have never tasted so good.

Do you want to hear the sweetest thing? On Friday night I whipped up an easy dessert to take to the post-swim brunch. I put it in the fridge and completely forgot to grab it in my hurry out of the house to go to the pool. I remembered when I was a few miles from the house and I was already running late, so Mr. Sweetie said he would drop it off at Kendra's for me while I was swimming. He is SO NICE. But it gets better - not only did he drop off the dessert, but he also picked up some prosecco and orange juice for mimosas. It was really, really thoughtful and such a nice surprise.

Today was the first long day of training of 2013, between the 2+ hour swim and the 2+ hour bike ride on the trainer. I've missed this tired, sore, could-collapse-into-bed-and-fall-asleep-with-my-eyes-open feeling. I'm so excited for 2013!!!

15 February 2013

Swim, Run, and Valentine's Day Fun

As far as training has been going this week, it's chugging along just fine. On days that I swim, I usually hitch a ride to the pool from Mr. Sweetie, as it is on his way to work. This also prevents me from taking my sweet time when it comes to getting out of bed and getting moving - Mr. Sweetie is much more punctual than I am and he WILL leave without me. And then I would have to run to the pool. This morning I was really proud of myself because I got up early enough to fit a run in before we left for the pool at 6:40. This meant I had the evening free, free, free!!

Swimming is going fine, I swam with Kendra a few times and I'm starting to recognize alot of the regulars at the pool. I like running into people I know (or am getting to know) when I go to the pool because it makes me feel like I belong. Speaking of swimming, I bought a pair of fins last weekend. I haven't tried them out yet, but they are short ones and will hopefully be much less awkward during flip turns than the Scuba Steve flippers I usually borrow from the pool's flipper bin.

I've been doing short hill repeats every now and again during my run workouts - for these shorter repeats I've been going to the Walter Reed Dr hill (site of the long, not-so-fun hill repeats I do every so often). I think I need to take my shorter repeats to another hill because, after doing short ones, it's going to make the longer hill repeats (all the way to the top, not just halfway) feel mentally 100x harder. Speaking of running, I've been running to work here and there after swimming. It's not quite as scenic as when I run from my house (and end up going over the Memorial Bridge and down the Mall), but I've gotten to see more of downtown, non-touristy DC. The first few times I got a little turned around, which is sad considering the fact that DC is laid out like a grid and the streets are labeled in a very methodical way - nothing like Boston). But now I have a decent route mapped out and it's actually a pretty quick 6.5 miles.

Mr. Sweetie and I had a nice Valentine's Day. It's not a big holiday for either of us (I tend to only get squirrely about my birthday and Christmas when it comes to gifts). I gave up chocolate for Lent (womp womp, day before Valentine's Day, womp womp. And today there was chocolate cake in the 12th floor kitchen at work, womp womp woe is me) so he smartly decided against purchasing anything chocolate for me. I got up early and made him pancakes (and didn't put up a fight when he asked if he could take the leftover pancakes into work for a snack). He made homemade gnocchi for dinner that night. It was a typical evening, which was what made it so nice. It doesn't take a special occasion for Mr. Sweetie to make a yummy dinner, he simply does it because he knows I enjoy it and he likes to cook. That is true love.

10 February 2013

Under Pressure

I came across an article in the NYT Magazine today titled Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart? While it has an education-focus, I found myself thinking ohhh, that and that and that can also apply to racing. 

Thinking back to my childhood, I'm pretty sure my parents would say Oh Caroline? She is definitely a worrier. I remember being in my grandfather's small motor boat when I was about 7 years old and when we were in the channel on the way back to the small bay where he docked his boat, the motor died. We were in the middle of the [narrow] channel, with land only about 30 yards away on either side of us. We had oars. We weren't far from the bay. There was NOTHING to panic about, yet I spent the rest of the time screaming "help, help" to the other boats that were passing by, absolutely convinced we were never going to make it back to the bay and we'd be lost and perish at sea. After that, I think I became my grandfather's last choice as a boat companion, ha!

And then there were the numerous times in high school where I found myself so stressed out about an upcoming cross-country or track meet that I didn't look forward to competing. I'd also get a bit worked up about tests or big papers (but when it came down to the wire with studying and writing, I'd stop procrastinating and just get it done). In short, growing up I didn't thrive on competition.

Anyway, how do these anecdotes relate to the point of the article? Researchers have found that "our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors - how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses. There is also a genetic component: One particular gene referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable - more of a warrior." The article then goes on to talk about how, if dealt with correctly, short-term stress can actually be beneficial to people when they are in a competition. Alot of this change is mental - reframing the way you approach a stressful situation. The article gets into the science behind it (I'm not going to), but the short of it is this - training yourself to perform well in a stressful situation and not avoiding those situations are the best way for worriers to reframe their response, "training, preparation and repetition defuse the Worrier's curse." Instead of seeing stress as detrimental, it could instead be viewed as energizing and a way to make yourself focus. I remember in college I felt like I did my best research and writing for classes when I was up against a deadline. I was forced to focus. 

As I mentioned earlier, I used to get very anxious the day of my cross-country and track meets in high school. I wasn't a standout in any of my events, my coaches weren't terrible people who put undue pressure on me, I put the pressure on myself. I was afraid to fail and I absolutely did not thrive on competition. Same with my small stint on the diving team in college (I. Was. TERRIBLE). I took a break from organized sports for a few years before doing my first marathon in 2003 - the Vermont City Marathon. This was the first time I was doing a race/sport simply because I wanted to - something just for myself. There was no outside pressure, it wasn't going to matter what my finish time was - I was doing it simply to do it (I also expected the marathon to be a one-and-done for me, a mere cross-this-off-the-bucket-list). I was very nervous the day of the race, but it was a different kind of nervous; I was excited to see how I would do in this unchartered territory. Once I started doing more marathons and half marathons and then moved into triathlons, I felt like I was a different athlete than the one I was in high school. Instead of viewing races as a threat - a way to see how I could fail - I began viewing them as a way in which I could measure my growth, both in speed as well as mental fortitude. As a result, racing has become a fun game rather than something I dread. It's a change that I actually haven't given much thought or analysis to, but I think the catalyst was when I started doing races for only myself and my own enjoyment and didn't let outside pressures - real or imagined - interfere. I also think that racing often - whether it is triathlons, road races, trail races, cyclocross - has gotten me used to competing, to the point where it is no longer a novelty or something to be feared. I like familiarity and racing often gives me insight into what to expect.

I am still a worrier, do not get me wrong. During the bike portion I'm always thinking please don't get a flat tire please don't get a flat tire please don't get a flat tire and during the run I'm always worried I'm going to have some sort of nutrition fail. I'm not always the calmest person out there if/when things go wrong. But at least it usually isn't the competition/race itself that is getting me riled up. 70.3 Worlds was probably an exception - I felt like I didn't belong there and, along with my various nutrition fails on the course and my inability to thrive in 100+ degree weather, I let my mental jitters get the best of me. I had been more nervous for that race than I usually am for races and I simply didn't harness those nerves for good and let them get the best of me instead. It seems like one of my triggers for cracking under pressure is feeling like I am not good enough to belong. Cockiness can be a pretty negative trait but I've found I need to be a mentally cocky jerkface (in my mind, NOT out loud to others) if I'm going to toss aside my worrier status and try on the facade of a warrior instead.   

06 February 2013

Recovery. Of the athletic and non-athletic types

This week has been a recovery week, something that I see as a bit of a treat - a chance to sleep in a little bit some mornings and have a few evenings free of a workout. A good mental and physical break. Sadly, I still struggled a little bit with fly in the pool today, I think my arms were a little tired from strength training yesterday and maybe the timing of my kick is off, but I felt like I couldn't get my shoulders and arms out of the water. I've been watching a few videos of good swimmers doing fly just to see how it is supposed to be done (and in a desperate attempt to have my body learn through visual osmosis). I'm sure I'll figure it out in the end, it's just a little frustrating because - for a time - it seemed like things were going really well and I was on a fast-track learning curve.

Today was one of those days where I wished I had a gold star calendar. I was awake at 5am, out of bed by 5:10am, and out the door for my run by 5:20am. This is a very rare occurrence (SO lazy, SO tired, SO unmotivated 99% of the time) - so rare that I don't remember the last time I had my running shoes on before 6am. Let's add to this list of anomalies - after my run, I went to the pool, arriving at my usual time. When it was all said and done, both my swim and my run were done by 8am and I felt like I had conquered the world (or at least my typical morning laziness).

I've been on a book-reading hiatus for the first 6 weeks of 2013. After cramming 7 books into the month of December, I wanted a break. Anyway, tonight I finished my second book of the year - Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff. As the title says, it's a father's account of what it is like to have a son addicted to meth (among other drugs) and the effect the recovery-relapse cycle has had on him and the rest of the family. He talks about his son's life, from the very beginning, and the signs of how experimentation turned to addiction, changing his son into an unrecognizable, hollow, terrible shadow of who he once was. I know I was (and still am) completely naive about the prevalence of drugs and, in particular, their availability to kids in middle school and high school. Perhaps it was because I hung out with a squeaky clean group of people, but I wouldn't have known who to buy drugs from in high school and I always figured the worst drug on school grounds was pot. Reading this book was eye-opening. It is easy to view drug addiction as a choice (nobody forced you to take a hit of something) and blame the addict for relapsing and making a mess of his/her life. But this book was a visceral description of the day-to-day struggle addicts go through. Every day was a struggle. It's something I can't fathom because the closest thing I have an addiction to is chocolate, completely not in the same stratosphere. As a reader, it was difficult to see all the ups and downs, lies and deception, pain and heartache that the author's son put his family through. Each time it sounded like he was getting better, he would relapse. You could see the transformation in the father over the course of the book from his high hopes for his son's recovery, doing anything and everything necessary to facilitate it, his happiness completely dependent on whether or not his son was using or clean - to a person whose feelings have been hardened by the lies and deceit and disappointment. Gosh it was so depressing. If you have someone in your life that you care about who is an addict, this was a good - depressing, yes - but extremely good book to read. Eye-opening, really.

03 February 2013

And I'm spent...!

This weekend was full of good stuff - food, friends, bikes, and running.

Yesterday Mr. Sweetie and I gave our kitchen a workout by cooking up a storm. He made homemade pizza dough and whipped up some arugula pesto for the sauce. Meanwhile I put together a few chicken pot pies, Oreo Balls (which I've now decided should be renamed Oreo Bombs), and I tried out the banana rice muffin recipe from The Feed Zone Cookbook. It is high time I stopped dropping a money bomb every week during peak Ironman training and hopefully some of these "portables" recipes will do the trick - and they were super easy to whip up. The muffins were great on my ride today, not super sweet, a hint of almond and they kept me satiated during the ride. I do, however, think it will be difficult to stuff 18 rice muffins down my sports bra during Ironman (my bento box of choice since my actual bento box is not roomy enough and - sadly? - my sports bra is). I'm going to need to work on this crucial part of my race day nutrition strategy.

I think I am going to like running in pink shoes.
New running shoes! In hot pink! Lightweight! And they are super comfortable! Over the years I've worn Nikes, Mizunos, Sauconys. And now the K-Swiss joins the list. I took them out for a spin on my long run today and they felt good, so perhaps I will be sticking with them for awhile. These are triathlon-specific shoes with fewer seams (or maybe none) on the inside of the shoe so you can wear them sockless and have less risk of blisters. I don't know if I'm brave enough to try that - maybe for a shorter tri. They also have holes on the bottom of the shoe to drain out water from when you douse yourself at aid stations during hot races. But the hot pink color is my favorite feature, for sure.

It was a little chilly
Long run with friends!  I do most of my running solo so it was a treat to run with a friend today. Kendra and I normally meet up and do swim workouts but today we got together for a run. We zipped down through Arlington and onto Roosevelt Island on the Potomac. Even though the snow made spots a little slick, it was worth it for how pretty it made everything look. And we didn't need to rely on social kick during this workout for our social catchup time - it's quite nice how much more chatting you can do when you aren't spending 90% of a workout underwater.

See - you can't miss the shoes! It's like a florescent color stolen straight from the '90s.
Biking! Outside! In snow (flurries)! I haven't biked outside since probably November, maybeeeee early December. I'm a weather wimp and if it's below 40 (heck, if it is below 50), I'd take the trainer over outdoors any day. But today Tri360 was holding their Hilly Chilly Chili ride. I made oreo balls for the occasion and the temperatures warmed up a bit by 10:30 and with my mittens and warm clothes, being outdoors on my bike was bearable - even pleasant. I caught up with a few friends during the ride - this was purely a social occasion for me since I didn't have a ride on my schedule today. Towards the end, the snow flurries picked up and even though none of it was sticking on the roads, snow in the air did make me feel like less of a weather wimp. After the ride we had chili and corn muffins and apple cider. Thanks for a fun event Tri360! I love the idea of a ride with seasonal-themed food and drink at the end (or any food and drink, for that matter!). I'll bring the strawberry muffins and mint juleps for the spring-themed ride!

01 February 2013

Weekly Wrap-up!

I don't even know where this week went. This week was busy at work, all in a good way. Every day I went home feeling pretty satisfied with my day. I ended up working a few hours longer each day than usual, but I still managed to get all of my workouts in. This was mainly due to getting my workouts done in the AM, especially on days which I knew would be late ones at the office. On Thursday I almost slept in a little bit and considered pushing my bike ride to the evening, but when I got home from work after 9pm, I was pretty glad I sucked it up and got my trainer ride over with earlier in the day.

I did two run commutes to work this week from the pool - I have been making a ton of use of the Blue Seventy Brick Bag that I bought earlier this winter, I can fit toiletries and work clothes and even a small lunch/snack in the bag and it's still comfortable to run while wearing it. The first one was on Wednesday when the weather was beautiful, warm, and kind of humid. It was a shorts and t-shirt kind of day and a completely enjoyable commute. Bonus points that I ran into one of our friends in the middle of DC - Kym and Mr. Sweetie grew up across the street from each other out in California. During my run I had actually been thinking about Kym and how we've been meaning to get together for dinner and how I should send her a FB message to set something up, so the fact that we bumped into each other just a few minutes later on a random street made my day. DC is a small-town city and I love it.
The second run commute was today, sub-freezing temperatures and snow on the ground from the snow squall that came through while I was at the pool. Even though the sidewalks were icy in a few places, it was a quick commute in (thank goodness for the decent downhill down to Rosslyn and flat the rest of the way to the office). By the time I got to work the sun was out, snow was blowing around, and it was a beautiful day. Things were even better when I got into the office and saw an abundance of my favorite flavor of bagel in the office kitchen. SO GOOD.

This morning's swim was NOT quite was I had hoped for. At least in terms of IM. Every time I think I'm becoming a pretty stellar swimmer, a pretty good smack of reality comes flying down the pipeline to remind me that I have a loooong way to go. On Wednesday night it was reading the winning splits of some of the high school swimmers in the local meet (their 100yd time is like my 50yd time - WHO swims that fast and how can I do that??!!). And today it was the fact that I couldn't get my arms and shoulders out of the water during fly and felt like I was sinking. Maybe I was just tired, but I felt like a lump on a log in the pool during my IM sets. Boooo.