Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avoid the Slosh Zone

Something occurred to me while swimming with the Masters this Saturday. For one thing, I got thrown to the wolves... er.... swam in the fast lane. So I got an opportunity to watch the fastest of the fast guys up close. Even when swimming a workout, I'm always observing what the other swimmers are doing, both good and bad. Sometimes my underwater perspective helps me coach them differently than I do when I'm just coaching from the deck. Anyways, we did a really fun workout (fun as defined by "really hard work that was kinda cool") called "Rush Hour". We did 4 sets of 250 yards with 4 swimmers in a lane. The first swimmer takes off, followed closely by the 2nd and 3rd swimmers, all swimming at a moderate-to-easy pace. The 4th swimmer has to sprint by all of them and reach the wall, execute a good strong turn and glide out in front of them to lead the next lap. Repeat with the new 4th swimmer sprinting so that each 4 lengths you are sprinting and the other three recovering. It really gives you some motivation to put on a good strong sprint when you have to get by all of your lane mates.

So what I noticed was that the fastest swimmers were able to move past me without my feeling anything until their feet were ahead of my shoulders. In other words, they had no sideways slosh from their stroke, none of their energy was being used to move water in directions that did not propel them forwards. From swimmers in other lanes to my sides who are not as efficient, I was feeling moderate to severe sloshing, meaning that some of the energy in their stroke was being used to push water sideways. In some cases, this was due to inefficiencies in the pull phase of their stroke, in others it was due to that sideways frog-kick that some swimmers give every few kicks, especially when breathing (the body naturally seeks to stabilize itself by turning your legs into water-skipper legs and reaching out to the sides).

In order to swim our fastest and most efficiently, we have to work diligently to reduce the slosh effect, to direct all of our energy to moving water behind us only. So if you go and swim, visualize yourself moving past an object. How is the water that you're moving affecting that object? Does it reach the object before you do? Some people's hand entry actually pushes some water forward, if the hands are not slicing neatly into the water. Are you splashing the lane beside you as your elbow drops on entry, creating a big sploosh with each stroke? Are you pushing water sideways underwater with your pull? Is your kick inadvertantly moving water down or sideways?

Sometimes in the summer, if I'm lucky enough to get an outdoor lane all to myself and the sun overhead, I can see the shadow created by the water ripples that I am moving. Ideally, this shadow looks like the triangular wake of a boat stretching out behind me, but I'm alert to any ripples or eddies that are extending from my sides. This is a great feedback mechanism if/when you have access to observe yourself like this. You can also ask a friend to watch from above if you have a calm moment when the pool opens and the lanes are empty.

Here's the whole workout from this Saturday:

Skill: Forearm Catch
Drill: Closed Fist

250 Swim
4 x 75: 50 Closed Fist, 25 Open
200 Swim
4 x 75 Kick, Build Each
150 Swim


1 x 250 Pull, work Distance per Stroke

2 x 50 Swim Golf (score is time in seconds plus total strokes)

3 x 200 Desc. @ 3:15

4 x 250 m M. Rush Hour (last in line sprints to start each lap) @ :30 rest

5 x 25-50-75 5 sec. rest @ 1:20 pace (2:15 for each total set, with rest)

6 x 50 Cooling Down

4200 y

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fun on a Bike

This was posted on the Crossfit Endurance blog, and I just had to share. For anyone who loves bikes, this is just amazing. It's not the kind of biking that I do or that I could ever do (I'm way too chicken) but it's just so cool to see someone have that much control of their two-wheeled device that they can do these amazing things. Sometimes when I'm biking I feel like my bike is just an extension of my body, like it almost feels like I've grown wheels, but this guy just embodies that on a whole new level.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Exercises Every Swimmer Should Do (and Probably Every Biker and Maybe Every Runner)

So I've been working with the variety of Crossfit exercises for about eight months now, and while I totally believe the Crossfit methodology of constantly varied workouts, I know that not everyone has the time, inclination, money, interest, or opportunity to train like this. But I think that especially for swimming, there are two exercises that I've learned that really really transfer great power, so I wanted to share them here. Being as both exercises greatly increase your core strength, especially in back and neck, I think they'll be very beneficial in biking and running as well, since often in those two sports it's the tiring of the core muscles that lead to form deficiencies that eventually lead to slowing down (ever watched someone do the leaned-over "Ironman shuffle" at the end of an endurance race? That's core muscle exhaustion right there). Also, these two exercises can be done with a bare minimum of equipment (a kettlebell) in your own living room, garage, hotel room, wherever.

So here they are:

The Kettlebell Get-up
(also called a Turkish Get-Up)

No, not this kind of Turkish Get-up:

By the way, the first time I did a workout with a lot of Get-Ups in it, I couldn't believe how many muscle groups were sore afterwards. Two sheaths of muscle across my lower back took a big hit, along with some fiddly muscles in my neck, and all of those muscles that stabilize the shoulders. This exercise combines a weighted sit-up, a lunge, and a weighted arm extension for an excellent total-body strength workout.

And the Overhead Kettlebell Swing. If you've looked at other kettlebell videos or books (like the wonderful resource Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel Tsatsouline) you may have noticed that the Russian-style kettlebell swing only goes to about chest level. If you're curious why Crossfit (and I) believe that the overhead swing is superior, you can read this really fascinating little essay that, incidentally, also gives a really interesting window into how the Crossfit folks select their exercises for inclusion in the program. In addition to what they've said here, I'd add that for a swimmer, the overhead swing brings your lat muscles into play at the top of the swing because to counter the arc of a heavy kettlebell, you have to start pushing down with your lats before the swing reaches the top extension. Master this one, and you'll have those killer swimmer lats in no time! It totally blows that silly lat machine at the gym out of the water (literally).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Swim Heiroglyphics

For a lot of swimmers, one of the most confusing things is trying to read the sribblings on the whiteboard in the pool area, or on a workout found online. But learning the lingo of swimming can be really useful, especially if you get tired of just going in and swimming straight laps. I ran across this useful website with a glossary of swimming terms and abbreviations, not to mention a description of some of the common strokes and drills to help make sense of the workouts you might run across.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not Designed With a Mom in Mind

I'll just have to say that whoever invented the karategi (or traditional white karate uniform) was probably not a mom. Sure, they have some mom-approved advantages. They're unisex so they can be handed down among siblings whether male or female and loose enough that growing kids don't require a new gi every year. However, white? C'mon, who thought that up? No mom would ask their kids to tussle around in something white and expect it to stay that color for two seconds. And one has to wonder whether the white color was specifically designed to keep women out of karate, or if that was an accidental side-effect of the color choice. Let's just say that there are many times when I really don't appreciate jumping around in all-white, and neither do the rest of my female friends in class.

If I ever get to the point where I can choose what I wear, I think it will be more along these lines! Some senseis wear black pants at the least, and that looks pretty appealing from where I stand. The best thing about gis though is there utter lack of any kind of commercialisation. In a sports world dominated by Nike Swooshes and Ironman M-Dots, the simplicity of the karate gi is refreshing. Until now that is...

Can you believe this? Adidas figured out a tacky way to introduce their three stripes onto the gi shoulders. I can hardly wait for the swoosh version to come out. For some reason, this just bugs the crap outta me, have they no shame?? Obviously not, or they wouldn't have put that much hair shellack on their models. You could break boards over those hairdos!

But in finding those photos, I did unearth this little gem: an article by Chuck Norris, Elvis, Priscilla, martial arts and me about teaching Prisciila Presley and meeting Elvis, who was a lifelong martial arts student who had been awarded a 7th degree black belt. And now it's time to try to scrub the muddy dog-paw stains off the back of my gi pants in time for class tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gettin' All Rocky Balboa in the Garage Gym

I know those of you in the great far frozen North will scoff, but it's been a chilly 12 - 15 degrees Fahrenheit here the last few mornings and that is C-O-L-D to be getting up and getting a workout in. Our garage is approximately one degree warmer than the outside air temp I think, though without the wind chill it feels just a teensy tiny bit warmer. Over the past few months, Wayne has been working really hard to sort through old tools and camping gear and turn half of our garage into a home gym. There has been several motivations for this. The first of course is just that in the long run it will save us a fair bit of money. He was able to drop his club membership and we both dropped going to an outside Crossfit gym, and we will have the equipment for the garage just paid off in savings from all of that within a reasonable timeframe.

There are other factors at work though. For one thing, I hate to drive anywhere that I don't have to. As much as I would've loved to ride my bike out to do Crossfit all the time, the reality of the class schedule there was that I had to wedge it in among other commitments and the kids' schedule and so most of the time I had to drive. There's something in me that really rebels HARD about driving somewhere to go workout.

And then there was the injury/overtraining issue. I found that in doing something as intense as Crossfit in an environment that fostered heavy competition for times and rounds, and in a place where I was being pushed to do more weight than I really should've, I was always nursing some nagging injury. I know I'm a highly competitive person by nature, and so for me it's way better to do the same kind of workouts by myself, or with Wayne or a few friends in a much mellower more supportive atmosphere. I'm getting just as much out of the workouts, but am able to concentrate more on holding good form and on making sure I get the most out of each exercise in range of motion.

So it is that on these 12 degree mornings I find myself in the company of a few solid die-hard friends facing down some tough WODS (Workouts of the Day for those of you not familiar with the Crossfit slang). I love how we look all Rocky Balboa in our sweats and watchman's knit caps. No fancy schmancy gym garb here!

On Monday we did our home garage version of the Lumberjack 20, a tribute workout on Crossfit's main site to the victims of the Fort Hood shootings, 4 of whom (and 11 wounded) who came from one Crossfit affiliate, Lumberjack Crossfit. Since we live on a big hill, by necessity the 400 meter run that repeated 7 times in the workout was down and up the hill, which we have knicknamed Heartbreak Hill. And at a chilly 12 degrees, our lips were about freezing to our teeth during the hill runs! Here's the workout in all its glory:

20 Deadlifts (54 pound Kettlebell)
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Overhead Squats (45 pound bar)
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Kettlebell swings (1 pood = 36 pound kettlebell)
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Burpees
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Pullups
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Double-unders with jump rope
400 Meter Hill Run
20 Medicine Ball Squat cleans (20 lb ball)
400 Meter Hill Run

Yah, I know most triathletes scoff at Crossfit, and many are turned off by Crossfit's own sometimes-overbearing rhetoric. But expect to hear more from me about how Crossfit is having a positive impact on my overall fitness. Sure, triathlon is great for endurance training, something most Crossfit athletes seem to lack, but that's only one aspect of fitness. I'm working on a personal program for ultimate health and fitness balancing out areas of strength, endurance, speed, agility, flexibility, coordination, balance, overall body health, and more.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Survived It

My last brown belt test, made it through. There were a lot of little things I thought I could've done better (aren't there always??) most especially my spinning side kicks continue to falter on the side with the injured hamstring. But nothing big went wrong, I didn't forget any kata or stand there with a blank expression when I needed to demonstrate a technique. And the head sensei stood practically right next to me the whole test, which only puts a teensy eensy bit MORE pressure on! I'm surprised I didn't draw a total blank just for that.

This is also the last test I will do with the kids, ever. We started out together as white belts several years ago. This test was open to Purple (which both of the kids are currently), Green, and Brown. My next test will be when I face all of the black belts and go for black, but that will be at least 6 months and no family or anyone else gets to watch.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'd Prefer Not to be Run Down in the Road

That's why I had to go back and change before going out running. You see, I got this awesome UnderArmour insulated top at Goodwill on their Halloween sales rack. I guess it was there because it was orange (thus Halloweeny??) but it was only $2 and it's a great running shirt. I was about to head out the door when I noticed that had paired it with some black running tights. Ordinarily, you can probably guess that I don't really care about fashion when I'm running, but on the even of the Civil War game that will decide which Oregon team goes to the Rose Bowl, one has to be careful. I live in the land of the green and yellow Ducks and not the orange and black Beavers, so I had second thoughts about going out for a run among thousands of rabid duck fans streaming all sorts of yellow and green banners and pom poms from their SUV antennae. I wouldn't want one of them to get the wrong notion and just decide to run me over or something.

So I went for something a little more orange-and-turquoise. Hey, those are Ironman Florida colors, bring back some good memories while I'm at it.

As for the "O" hands, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of attending a Duck game at Autzen stadium, when the crowd starts in with the "O", and 60,000 fans are screaming, that place is insane. The crowd noise at Autzen Stadium has been recorded at over 127 decibels. That's about the same level as a jet on the runway, or a jackhammer. Loud. Lee Corso of ESPN College Gameday says that "Autzen Stadium is the loudest stadium that I have ever been in my entire life!" I'm thinking it might just exceed that decibel level tomorrow. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Darned Bilateralism

I'm swimming along in the Saturday workout, enjoying the fact that my left hand is about 90% back to normal in my stroke. Just my index finger still doesn't have the strength to pull after being in a splint for so long and tends to bend on hand entry and catch. That will come back though.

I notice something odd though happening in my right hand. My right index finger is also lagging through the water, mimicking the damaged left hand! With all of my force of will, I can barely get the stupid right finger to straighten out, even though there's nothing wrong with it.

I think this illustrates why swimming can be so frustratingly difficult at times. When we run, our hands are pretty much working in parallel processes, swinging or pumping by our side. But when we swim, our hands have to do completely different things. One is pushing while the other is pulling, one is relaxing while the other needs to be engaged. It's like the old pat-the-tummy-rub-the-head thing, and can be really hard to sort out. In swimming, it's often only the force of our will that can improve our stroke. Swimming is a mental sport, we have to be able to bend all of our focus toward making our body do something that is often not very intuitive. It's not normal to have straight knees and floppy ankles, for instance. We can only accomplish that and achieve a good kick by making our body do something it's not really used to doing on land.

Swimming, it's all mental. You can take that as a double entendre!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Life as a Crazed Marsupial

I'm currently reading the novel Once a Runner by John L. Parker. Of course, living here in Track Town USA, I was 28th on the library's On-Hold waiting list to read the copies of the finally in-print new edition that they just got in. If you're a competitive athlete and have never read this cult classic, you absolutely must do so, if only for quotes like this one:
Tired as he was, Monday was a twenty-three mile day.... He lived from workout to workout, hanging on like a crazed marsupial on a branch in a flash flood."

Now who among us who has ever gone through the Ironman wringer cannot relate to that feeling??? It's only one of the little gems from this funny, poignant, fascinating book.

At the same time, I'm reading New Moon, since my teen is reading it and I want to discuss plot points. Let's just say that the prose in that hefty tome is, well, severely lacking in comparison. So seriously, if you like to read and you like to run and you have managed to not read Once a Runner so far in your life, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eclectic Workout Playlist

Burning a CD right now for my garage workouts:

Wake Me Up Inside - Evanescence
This Moment - Disturbed
Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
I Am - Godsmack
Ace of Spades - Motorhead
This Ain't A Scene It's An Arms Race - Fall Out Boy
It Wasn't A Pretty Picture - Social Distortion
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Vertigo - U2
Doesn't Remind Me - Audioslave
Remember the Name - Fort Minor
Dragula - Rob Zombie
Beat It - Fall Out Boy
The Hungry Wolf - X

Monday, November 16, 2009

Swim Workout: Crossfit-Inspired BLAST in the pool

For this week's Saturday Masters, I decided to let my Crossfit training provide the inspiration for a truly taxing workout. For the main set, I got everyone out of the pool and used all four lanes. We did a serpentine swim, entering the pool on one side and swimming up and back in that lane, then under the lane line to the next lane. Up and back in that lane, switch to the next lanes, etc. until you reach the other end of the pool and get out on the opposite side. Since our pool is four lanes, that's a 200 yard swim total. Then on that corner of the pool, swimmers did 10 squats, came back over to the starting side and did 10 situps. We did that all four times, so four rounds of 200 yard swim, 10 squats, 10 situps, for total time.

One thing I noticed as I watched my Master's swimmers go through this workout is that different swimmers have different limitations. For some people, it's flexibility. Some swimmers can't squat without their heels coming off of the ground. This points to reduced leg and achilles flexibility, which can hamper swimming. For some swimmers, core abdominal and back strength is a serious limitation, for others its overall conditioning or swim technique. Since this workout hit all of those areas, if you couple it with a technique-heavy warmup like I did, it's a great one for making sure you are improving across all of the modalities that swimming requires: Technique, Flexibility, Core Strength, Conditioning.


SKILL: Kick Timing
DRILL: Two-beat kick with pull-buoy

Warm Up
300 Drill/Skill by 50
100 Kick 200 D/S 100 Pull 100 D/S

3 x (25-50-75-100 Build reverse IM) r 10

Main Set

4 x 100 Desc. Get warmed up!

4 x All-lane serpentine swim + 10 squats + 10 situps For Time

EZ 100

2 x 200 Pull, 200 Stroke

100 EZ

3550 y

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stopping Knee Pain By Running

So a strange thing has happened to me on my self-imposed running hiatus (6 weeks as of this week): my left knee has started to really bug me. It's an old skiing injury, compounded by an old skydiving injury, but it usually just sings up every now and then and lets me know its there but doesn't really bother me too much. Since I stopped running it has been getting worse and worse and worse, to the point where I was having shooting pains during any lateral motion (one jumping jack during karate just about did me in).

But this week (Hallelujah!) I started running again. Oh, it felt soooooo good. Nothing like having something taken away to make you appreciate the gifts it brings to your life. The first run was a bit of a slog, 3.5 mile punctuated with walking/stretching breaks. But strangely after that run several days ago my knee stopped hurting. Today I just went out and ran, and ran and ran in a brief sunny reprieve from the torrential rains of November. And now my knee feels good as new again. Go figure, I had to run to make my knee injury go away?? Doesn't it usually work the opposite of that?

In any case, with my hand still keeping me out of the pool, I am so very grateful to be back running again. Although I've never considered myself much of a runner, maybe my body thinks differently.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


The news on the hand is all good, or as good as it gets I should say. The break is simple, no problems with the joint, I should only have this silly thing on my arm for another couple of weeks and then I'm on to a soft splint and hopefully being able to get back in the pool again. If nothing else, I've had to get dreadfully creative with my workouts to keep from going bonkers. Lots of time on the bike trainer, combined with Cross-fit style intervals of whatever I'm capable of doing (mostly situps and squats right now).

The good news is that I bunged up my bad wrist doing Crossfit a couple of weeks ago, and now that it's been totally immobilized for a week, it feels so much better. Gee, maybe I should abandon my full neoprene suit idea, and just have myself encased in plaster every so often to let my body rest and recupe. I swear that if you cut me open, you would just find that I'm full of duct tape and bailing wire, it's all that's holding this body together some days.

Still, though I miss my left opposable thumb (such a useful invention that one!) especially when trying to do something like, say, zip up my pants, I am hopeful that I'll be on the mend fast.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

But You Shoulda Seen the Other Guy

Actually the other guy looks just fine. Unfortunately I broke my hand in karate last night. I think it's telling that the first thing that went through my mind was "now I can't swim. waaaaahhhhhh!" Followed quickly by some words I better not retype here. Unfortunately, not knowing it was broken, I taped it up and finished class. Probably a mistake. I should find out today if it's straightforward or in need of an orthopedist. Keep your fingers crossed for a simple break and straightforward healing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sleep Like a Puppy

Boy do I wish I could sleep like my puppy Sophie does! She plays hard, runs around like a little maniac, tries a thousand times to steal my shoes, then abruptly winds down and crashes into a deep untroubled slumber.

However, since she arrived, I myself have been getting less than optimal sleep. A puppy is, of course, just a baby. It's been enough years now that I had forgotten what nights with babies are like... sleepless! Now that she's 12 weeks old, she's down to only waking up once or twice a night, but the first week or two she was up three and four times. And since I'm not the world's best sleeper in the first place, it takes me a half an hour or so to get back to sleep each time. That adds up to one sleep-deprived Robin.

It's amazing how badly everything suffers when you get inadequate sleep. Workouts of course are the first to go. Intensity, stamina, strength, and brain power all suffer mightily when you don't sleep enough. I guess it's a good reminder to try to get those eight good hours in every night. Karate has been the worst because not only is it physically intense, it's very mentally taxing. My poor partners have had to be patient as I stand there with a blank look trying to recall the particular sequence of moves I'm supposed to be doing. It should be right there in my muscle memory, just ready to spill out of my hands and feet and into action. But apparently muscle memory is still memory and still subject to the inadequacies of a sleep-deprived brain.

I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. This weekend the family took pity on me and let me sleep in until 9:00 on Sunday morning, and Sophie only woke once last night, so today I feel almost totally human again. With a puppy face like this though, don't you think she's totally worth it??

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doing the Deck Work

I'm having fun with creative swim workouts lately, and this week was no exception: a new Crossfit-inspired swim workout that I think left everyone feeling taxed in new and unexpected ways. Give it a try if you are tired of just plain old yardage that's not getting you anywhere and want to really feel tapped to your last muscle fiber!

First of all, I'm doing something new with the Master's swimmers. Each week focusing on a certain skill with one specific drill to target it. This week's skill was the High-Elbow Catch, meaning that you shouldn't drop your elbow at any point in the underwater progression from catch to exit. The reasoning is this (try this at home if you don't believe me): as soon as you drop your elbow, you've placed all of your propulsive power in your arm muscles, mostly biceps. Keep your elbow high and you've moved it to the much bigger muscle groupings in your back - especially the lats. The drill for this is the "surfboard" drill - swim like you're paddling a surfboard. No glide portion, just a high elbow catch as if there's a surfboard underneath you. Yes, this is a big exaggeration, but it should give you the feeling of where your catch should be coming from.

Warm Up
300 Drill/Swim by 25s, 100 Kick on Back, 300 Pull, 100 Kick on Side
300 Swim, 100 Kick on Front

1200 y

Main Set

3 x 200 Desc. @ 3:15 (fastest one should be med-fast, we're getting warmed up for the really hard stuff to come)

25 then get out of the water and do 10 pushups, or alternatively do pool pushups from underwater to straight arms on the side of the pool)
50 + 10 pushups
75 + 10 pushups
100 + 10 pushups

50 EZ
2100 y

3 x 150 Desc. @ 2:30 (again, fastest should not be all out but should be med-fast)

25 + 10 pushups
50 + 10 pushups
75 + 10 pushups
100 + 10 pushups

3 x 100 Desc.

50 EZ

5 x 50 Get long – lower stroke count each

3400 y

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Full Neoprene Jacket

Let me just state categorically that getting older SUCKS. Okay, not all of it. I like having some control over my emotions and less impatience, I love watching my kids grow up, all of that kind of thing. But the actual effects of the aging process on the body, now those SUCK.

And I'm not talking about the usual stuff that the media hypes - I don't stay up late at night worrying about my crow's feet, grey hairs, or cellulite. But it bugs the crap outta me when I can't do a workout because something that I injured a decade or two ago is acting up. I get tired of feeling like a whiner when I have to ask someone at karate to go easy on my wrist or tell my crossfit coach that I can't do some exercise because of my hip. The thing is, when I stick to triathlon training, I can feel like I really haven't changed all that much in the last few decades. Endurance sports you may lose a little time here and there, and maybe have to sleep a bit more or take another couple of recovery days a month, but other than that it's pretty painless to age up. But sports that require fast or powerful movements? Volleyball, basketball, tennis, martial arts, Crossfit... in stuff like that there is an enormous difference between say 30 and 45 years old. Things that used to be springy no longer snap back so easily. Or the springs go sprooooiiiingggg, and then it hurts.

I've got neoprene wrist braces, knee braces, ankle braces and elbow braces. How long before I have to show up in a full neoprene suit just to work out?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Next Running Partner

I think little Sophie here is going to be a great little running partner in about 6 months or so. She's definitely not short on energy or enthusiasm, and she's already walking pretty well on a leash. I'm not in a hurry for this puppy cuteness to wear off though...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

At Least in Triathlon I Don't Have to Think

I asked my karate sensei the other day what one thing I need to improve on the most, the thing that would be most likely to keep me from getting my black belt. She says I overthink everything, and sometimes I have to pause and remember what I'm doing in the middle of kata or bunkai. Yep, although I'm older than most of the people in my class (often by decades), it's not my body... it's my brain that's the problem.

I'm off to buy some gingko biloba now, thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Yep, it's the off-season...when triathletes sit back, relax, wait until after the holidays to start base-building again...

Nope. It's the combo of Crossfit and karate that's killing me. Right now by Friday afternoon each week I feel like I've been hit by a bus. Then I swim on the weekend, get all good and recovered and stretched out, and get ready to be run over by the same bus all over again come Monday.

But I'll be all the stronger for it. Right???

Seriously, 2010 is going to be the Year of the Black Belt. I think I am seriously going to commit to not doing a triathlon until that belt o' black is tied around my waist. That will ensure that I attack it with the necessary fervor to accomplish the goal. Right now, I'm aiming my sights at June 2010. If I manage to pull that off, I can still grab a late summer triathlon or two afterwards.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Sweat!

It's happened three times in the last couple of weeks: someone has directly correlated amount of effort in a workout with amount of sweat. As non-sweater I might just start taking offense one of these days. The latest was tonight when our karate sensei had us watch a movie of a karate dojo in Okinawa where a guy wrings his shirt out with sweat. He then asked us all if we would be able to do that, implying that if we worked out hard enough we should all be wringing out our gi's. I answered honestly that there's no way I could. I might be able to work out that hard, but I will never ever fill a t-shirt with sweat. Afterwards, I hoped that he didn't think I was being flip, because I wasn't. I just don't sweat.

Believe me, this isn't necessarily a good thing. I have to pick my triathlons carefully for instance, because above a certain temperature my body just can't cool itself down. While other athletes begin to glow, then positively shimmer with sweat, all of my capillaries are dilating and turning me a brilliant lobstery red in an effort to shed heat while my skin stays dry as toast. I have been out running in the summer and had people shout at me that I was getting sunburnt. "No", I thank them "I just turn this color when I run." It also affects how many calories I can take in via sports drinks. Because I don't sweat much, I can't drink much unless I want to stop at every porta-potty on the course. That leaves me with a nutritional planning challenge that better sweaters don't face.

Interestingly, research has shown that sweat rates vary with ethnicity and gender (as a Nordic-ish blonde woman I must be doubly-cursed since distance from equator in your ancestry as well as the female gender are correlated with reduced sweat rates). Sweat rates are highly variable, ranging from .4 liters per hour to the highest recorded sweat rate for an athlete in an exercise situation: 3.7 liters (125 oz.) per hour, recorded by Alberto Salazar while preparing for the 1984 Summer Olympics. No wonder he stayed cool under pressure.

As for me, I've exercised until I puked. I've pushed myself 'til I passed out. I spent all night once in a Lakotah sweat lodge. All without breaking a sweat. I've never even owned a stick of anti-perspirant. So for all you coaches out there, don't sweat it if your athletes aren't sweating. They might be working just as hard.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Race Report: Black Diamond Half-Iron

Okay, I'm finally ready to write this up. Since doing the race, life has been just crazy. Unfortunately the day after we got back, I had to put my 17 year old cat Noggin to sleep, the last of our two "first babies" to go (our 14 year old dog died 2 years ago). Then it was a whirlwind getting ready to have my two step-sons and their wives here for the weekend, a very exciting visit for everyone in the family - the first time we've all been together under one roof. Wow! We all went to the Ducks-Cougars game together, which was great fun. Then just after they all headed back for Washington it was time for the robotics team practice and then boom! it was right into Asa's 10th birthday yesterday. On top of that, we unexpectedly fell in love with and adopted a 9 week old Australian Cattle Dog - Australian Shepherd puppy that we've named Sophie. Of course, life never settles down around here like I think it's going to. Just when one thing smooths out, we seem to add something else to add to the craziness.

So anyways, on to the race report.

If you've been reading the saga of my summer's experimental triathlon training, you'll know that I went into this race with a big question mark hanging over my head about how it would turn out. Half-Iron is just not a distance you can bluff your way through. Undertrain and it hurts. Bad. Overtrain and it hurts. Bad. Nail it just right and you can have a great day.

Very short recap: Did my normal base training through winter and early spring. In late spring, decided to take a detour and try and experimental triathlon training protocol called Crossfit Endurance that focuses solely on intensity with no slower-paced long endurance efforts in the swim, bike, or run. After several months of this training, I raced an Olympic distance event at the Portland Triathlon. It did not go so well from an endurance standpoint. At that point I decided to jettison the Crossfit Endurance protocol as I was sincerely worried about using it to train for the half-Ironman and having enough endurance to compete at that distance. Then embarked on a totally experimental and crazy self-devised and self-inflicted program to bring myself back up to HIM endurance levels in 5 weeks or less. At the beginning of this time period, just a simple 45 mile bike ride felt overwhelming. But toward the end of the training, I could start to feel my old endurance flowing back, giving me some hope that the race would be doable.

So it was that with 4 weeks of training and a way-too-short 6-day taper, I stood on the lakeshore at Black Diamond and contemplated the day ahead of me. Complicating matters was a nagging left hamstring injury I picked up when I tripped while trail running with my sister. What would the day hold??

Swim: 30:06

For starters, the swim in this lake is always beautiful. The race directors kindly start us off at 9:00 am, a lovely time of day to be standing on a lake shore in the autumn sunlight (as opposed to the cold and almost dark of a 7:00 am start). The weather would be as near perfect a day as God hands out in the Fall in Washington: 70 and sunny. The race is extremely well-organized and the volunteers are plentiful. All is well. The men go first, women and relay swimmers 5 minutes later. I take off at a comfortable pace, the HIM swim is always so nice. You don't have to kill yourself with speed like in a sprint, yet you don't have to swim for an hour like in an Ironman. I felt like I hit my groove like I had done in Portland and swam strong and smooth. Out of the water in 30.06, about a 1:25 pace per 100y, which is reasonable.

T1: 2:55

T1 went well, although I don't care for the long u-turn chute you have to run through with your bike (on grass and mud). A couple of years ago my cleats jammed up with mud in this transition area, but this year's dry weather made for much easier going. Out onto the course in 2:55, which sounds slow for T1 but was one of the faster T1 times (it's a long T1 area to traverse). All is smooth. Practice has made good work when it comes to transitions today. Still, I see in the race results that a couple of folks manage to have sub-2:00 transitions, so there's room still for improvement there.

Bike 2:53:14

I love this bike course. They've changed it up from a couple of years ago, but it's still a very nice course. Course description says its 57 miles instead of the standard 56, don't know what's up with that. Lots of long rolling hills (which I like!), very smooth pavement, very good course marshalling (no drafting going on that I could see due to plentiful marshalls doing their job), wide shoulders for a lot of the course. There are a couple of strange out-n-backs with turnarounds that you hit twice, and this slows you down when you're in the groove. Early on in the bike, I go by the campground where we were staying and Wayne and the kids (and dog) are all out cheering. That was a big boost to start the bike with.

For the most part, the bike is uneventful but not optimal. I can tell starting out that I haven't tapered for anywhere near long enough and my muscles are still feeling flat and a little tired. Nothing to be done about that as it was a limitation of my shortened training timeframe. Still, I manage to hold a 19.7 pace, which is reasonable for the day. My one regret is that as I pulled a gel out of my Bento box on my bike, another one went flying out. Being the nice little competitor that I am, I slowed to a stop, waited for cars to go past, circled back to get it, and carried on. Cost me about 2 minutes on the bike course though. I spend a ridiculous amount of time beating myself up mentally for taking the time out of my game plan to get it, alternating with being aghast that I would even consider leaving litter on the course in order to gain a minute or two. What can I say, you have lots of time to argue with yourself about such trivialities out on the HIM bike course. Eventually, I come around a bend and see the sun hitting the hills and turning the fields to gold and all is forgotten as I enjoy the sheer beauty around me and the fact that I'm still out here able to do this awesome thing. My head is back straightened on again for loop two of the bike.

In loop 2, the old hip starts giving me hell with the hamstring injury. I make a big promise to my hamstring that if it will hold together for the next couple of hours, I will give it a couple months off from all biking and running and let it truly heal up. All of the looping and out-n-back on the course lets me see where the other women are at. There's a bunch in front of me, but many of them are relay riders that I start reeling in. I can see a few really smokin' fast ladies out in front and I imagine there are a few behind me that either will or won't catch me until the run. It all makes for fun headgames on the course. I pass two women in the last mile of the bike course that passed me earlier, just for fun.

T2: 1:50

My cheering section was there again, giving me some great energy. I could've been faster in T2. I changed socks. Then forgot my hat and went back for it. Oh well.

Run: 2:12:19

Well, what can you say with a sucky run time like that? I just didn't have the endurance to run at the kind of pace I would've liked to. Only one run over 10 miles in the last 5 months is probably what I'd lay that at the feet of. But on the bright side, the weather was gorgeous, the course is very very pretty, and I had the extremely pleasant company of a relay runner (and Ironman) from Canby, Washington who kept my mind off it all with some nice chatter about various HIM and IM races.

Unlike my HIM of a couple of years ago, I executed my nutrition plan flawlessly and had no bonk to contend with. In the last mile or so, I left whatever I had left in my legs on the course, and broke into a sprint when I saw Wayne and the kiddos at the finish line.

Finish: 5:40:37. Very very close to my last HIM time - 55 seconds off. 3rd in my AG, 3rd overall Master's Female, 15th woman overall.

With what I had going into the race and all of those question marks, it felt like a respectable time to turn in. Doing this time now with so little preparation jammed into a few weeks makes me feel like I need to come hit this course again in full form and see what I can do with it. I continue to feel like my Crossfit training has been a real asset to my triathlon training this season, and I can't wait to see what I can do with another year of that under my belt as well. As always, I'm grateful to be out here, to feel strong and have this body that can do such an amazing thing, that's the real gift of the day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Hubby Tri's!!

This was Wayne's first Olympic distance triathlon, and serendipitously the Black Diamond race weekend fell on his birthday as well, so it was a fun way to celebrate turning a year older for him. A few months ago he had me write up a training plan, but the real training started when we began working with his swimming stroke last winter. He had not previously been a fan of swimming, for the same reason many athletes aren't - too boring going up and down the lanes, too frustrating when it feels like you're battling the water. Fortunately, it didn't take too long for him to turn the technique around and start moving up to faster lanes in the Master's swim group and then with the addition of a wetsuit this summer and some lake swims, he really took off. That all paid off this Sunday with a rocking 24:27 swim time, putting him as the 32nd fastest swimmer of the day. Yeah!
We had camped out at a campground along the race course, so the kids and I walked out to watch him come by on the bike, and he was right up there with all of the super-aero'd out tri-studs. He looked great on the bike, keeping up a good pace of 18.5 mph despite being on his heavy steel frame touring Bianchi with no aero bars. He finished up the bike strong with a 1:20.

Onto the run, he got to experience that lovely lead-legs feeling that triathletes love to hate, but shook it off eventually. Unfortunately, an injury left him not able to really train for the run this summer and so he missed enjoying some of his usual distance running speed, but he still clocked a respectable 53:59 on the run for an 8:41 average pace (not bad with almost no run training in the last 2 months!) and brought it all home in 2:46:17. Asa asked the race officials if she could run down the chute with him, and so he finished in style with a smile on his face. I'm just so happy to see how excited he was by this race and looking forward to doing some more race weekends together in the future. I think with the addition of a more aero bike position and an ability to utilize his running ability he will be able to kick this time down in the future.

Go Wayne!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

They're Baaacckkkkkk

Just a quick update before I hit the hay... we got back from our weekend of tri-ing. Hubby did great in his 1st Oly distance triathlon (with a time of 2:46, awesome!), and also celebrated his 46th birthday over the weekend. I had much more fun than expected in my half-Iron distance race, placing 2nd in my age group and 15th overall female. Race Reports to follow....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And We're Off...

I've trained as much as I could, given the circumstances. I've tapered for the last week (not enough I know, but it will have to do). I'm packed and ready to go. So cross those fingers for me that the half-Iron feels doable on this amount of training and that all goes as smoothly as possible on race day.

Also keep 'em crossed for hubby on Sunday who is doing his first Olympic distance triathlon. I think I'm more excited for him than I am for myself!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I've come around on my slingshot ride of orbit and am now entering the taper. Sheesh, no wonder I feel so tired. I finished updating my workout log for last week. 21.5 hours. Insanity. I never trained that many hours for the Ironman! Five of those hours were karate (no slacking for us brown belts) and one was Crossfit (meant to do two this week but there was just no way to slot it in). The other 14.5 were all tri training.

And now that it's over, I've spent a few minutes wondering if it was the right way to go about this. It's a bass-ackward way to train for a HIM - do all of your sprint and high intensity work for 4 months, then go back and try to add in a base. Still, I can't help but feel a little bit hopeful that it actually worked. My last long bike ride on Friday was 65 miles and it felt pretty decent for the first 55. That's a long cry from the horrible 35-miler I put in just a month ago. So the endurance has definitely snapped back, if not all of the way at least part of it. And I did a 6-mile tempo run this week that actually felt semi-decent.

So, I'm hoping that this all adds up to a half-Iron that's not half-bad. If anything, I'll be happy if I nail my nutrition and don't end up with a bonk midway through the run like last time. I would be really ecstatic not to repeat that nightmare, at the very least. Repeat to self: Must not forget gels on run. Must not forget gels on the run.

For now, it's taper, rest, let those muscles absorb all of those hours of training and snap back strong and sure. And I tell myself also to enjoy the fact that at 43 I can throw a 21+ hour week of training at my body and still take it. That in and of itself is a victory of sorts, just as standing at the starting line healthy and whole always is, to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On the Dark Side of the Moon

Every time you train for something serious, there comes a time when the amount of effort needed feels like its going to bury you, when the world goes dark and other concerns have to fade away. This week, I'm just going to have to keep on throwing on everything I can training-wise and after next week's taper we'll see what sticks and what doesn't. Until then, well, I'll be exhausted!

On the bike today, random bit of song going through my head, I guess this is where my brain feels like my body is at:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Bit of trivia to go with that snippet, did you know that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon remained on the charts for 741 weeks (over fourteen years!), the longest duration of any album in history??

11.5 hours of training in the last 3 days, I'm going to bed now...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Swim Workout: 9-11

This workout is not an easy one. The 11-length segments are all 275's, which can seem pretty long especially if you're trying to push the pace. Tough. If it starts to feel too hard, you can think back to this day 8 years ago and that ought to take your mind off of your own troubles for awhile.

Warm Up

9 Lengths Swim, 11 Lengths Pull
9 Lengths Kick, 11 Lengths Swim

1000 y

Main Set

2 x (
9 Lengths: 3 x 75 Hard @:10
11 Lengths: Distance Pace

9 Lengths: 3 x 75 Descend @ :15
11 Lengths: Distance Race Pace
3000 y

9 Lengths: 3 x 75 IM No Free
11 Lengths: Pull

Cool Down:

9 Lengths: Drill 1, 4, 7
11 Lengths: Progressively slower, cooling down

4000 y

Monday, September 07, 2009

Train Like Hell, Taper, Pray

Maybe I should've titled this post "How to train for a half-Ironman in 3 weeks or less", since that's about what I'm facing right now. I took about a week of relatively easy training to recover from my Oly triathlon in August, then last week was eaten up by our usual pre-Labor Day camping extravaganza at Waldo Lake, and now here I am staring at going 70.3 in three weeks.

You might recall that my Oly triathlon didn't do much to reassure me that I am just brimming over with endurance, and in fact I haven't trained in any traditional endurance fashion in several months. No long runs or rides to build up that ol' base that I usually depend upon. So I had to formulate at least some kind of plan of attack and here it is:

Basically, I can sum it up in a nutshell - throw the book at my body for 3.5 weeks with everything I think I can take training-wise, then taper for 10 days and pray. So far, so good.

Week 1: 3 days easy recovery, 1 tempo bike, 1 interval run, 1 "long bike" of 35 miles (ye gawds my butt hurt after 2 hours in the saddle, must rebuild my bike butt!) and 1 "long run" of 7 miles. Summary: Depressing. My 7-mile run was 4.5 minutes slower than the same run done 4 months ago before abandoning my regular endurance regime. I could cry. Okay, no time for that.

Week 2: Whilst camping I had plenty of time for open water swimming and did at least 2 miles a day. That felt great. No, better than great, totally awesome. Went for a trail run, which always restores my joy in running (maybe I should enter a trail marathon or something someday, I love it so much). After getting back home this weekend did a long bike of 45 miles (almost 3 hours, lots and lots of hills), butt didn't hurt as bad but my neck was real stiff at the end. And a long run of 9 miles, which felt actually pretty reasonably good. Used the mile markers on the trail to make sure I held a slow enough pace, close to 10:00, trying to go for endurance not speed at this point.

Now I'm in Week 3, plan is for intervals and tempos in mid-week, and the weekends should look like this:

Week 3: 55 mile bike, 11 mile run
Week 4: 65 mile bike, 13 mile run
Week 5: Taper like heck, pray that my body can absorb all of this quick base building and snap back with a reasonable 70.3 that doesn't feel like I'm dying out there a couple hours into the race. Not sure if I'm nuts or not, but this is the best plan I could come up with.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Slowest Runner

Read this great piece written by a friend of mine about finishing her first 5k in last place. She's one of the best writers around, and always manages to find a way to bring out the essential truth in any experience:

The Slowest Runner.

FIVE Real Pullups

Yep, I can do five now!!! I could only do two last week, but that was before the crazy 105 pullup workout (with the help of a band - the rubbery kind, not a marching band, though come to think of it that would've been really helpful too, especially if they were playing the 1812 Overture or something equally compelling). In any case, that must've upped my muscles a ton. Ten is not looking so far away now.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Exactly How Much Life Insurance Does He Have Out On Me Anyway??

I live on a hill. Not a big hill (though it seems that way sometimes at the end of a long hot ride when I'm chugging upwards) but a pretty steep one, with a stop sign at the bottom. So when I start off on my daily ride and go bombing down the hill and grab my brakes a few feet from the stop sign to roll gently to a stop, imagine my surprise when my front wheel locks up and my back wheel rises off of the ground and I almost go endo, ass over teakettle.

Yes, dear considerate hubby decided to install new brakes on my bike "for my safety" but neglected to TELL ME.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Because You Needed a Laugh Today

I think this just might be one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the internet. I absolutely hate this song, and my fave radio station in town has one DJ who seems to pull the @#! thing out of the archives every other day. I almost didn't watch this absolutely frakkin' brilliant Literal Video Version of Total Eclipse of the Heart'cuz I didn't want the song to get stuck in my head. But I'm so glad I did. Everyone needs to fall down laughing once in a while. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

IronMom to a Teenager

The best thing about being mom to Mackenzie is his infectious smile and laugh. From when he was a really little baby, he had this great big laugh. I just can't believe my little guy is thirteen today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So Cool

Boy I missed my regular Crossfit workouts in the taper process! It was fun to get back on the horse today with a workout called "One Minute Pullups". That's 1 pullup in the first minute, 2 in the second, 3 in the 3rd, etc. One of those workouts that seems super easy at first but then gets ridiculously hard. Sometimes its surprising what your limiters turn out to be. Today it was my forearms - not shoulders or arms or back or even my poor blistering hands. Nope, it was the Popeye muscles, those pesky forearms. I bet if I was still riding my old Triumph with the drum brakes I would've had better forearm stamina. I used to have the grip of steel when I was riding that thing everywhere. You couldn't actually stop unless you squeeeezed really hard.

But I digress (so easy to do when you start thinking about old British motorbikes, and isn't mine a beauty??). So anyways, now I'm down to the very last pullup band, the purple one. I can actually do a couple of regular (no band) pullups, but for this workout that wouldn't get me very far so I used the band. Four months ago I tried and COULD NOT DO ONE PULLUP with the purple band. Seriously. Today I did 14 minutes, which adds up to 105 pullups. So today I can only do a couple of regular pullups, what will I be doing in four months?

As for the bike, the kids want me to fix it back up and get a sidecar...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Race Report and CFE Review: Portland Triathlon

First of all, I'd like to state that although I am not superstitious, I lost my lucky triathlon towel this year. It was big and purple and had a cute dolphin with punk rock sunglasses on it and has been to every race with me for 20 years. Well, all but one other. I didn't take it to Ironman Florida because they just have that transition bag system instead of an area. And look what happened there - dislocated toe! Not that I blame anything that happened yesterday on its disappearance, but still...

Second of all, I have to say this up front: PORTLAND TRIATHLON IS AN AWESOME RACE. Seriously, if you're looking for a really fun metropolitan triathlon to do, consider this race. No, just register for it and do it. The course was very challenging (river swim, massively hilly bike course with technical turns) but also very pretty, it was extremely well organized, well marshalled, tons of volunteers, every twist and turn of the course was marked or covered by volunteers or police or both. The run was on a riverside path and crossed two bridges with great views of downtown Portland. You really couldn't pick a better urban race. The post-race BBQ was pretty darn nice to boot, and really, they had FREE BEER and FREE GELATO for athletes. Doesn't get any better than that. My only negative experience with this race is that they failed to close the transition area when they said they would. They shooed all of the athletes out of the transition area and down to the water for the start, but continued to allow latecomers to rack their bikes. This resulted in someone racking their bike RIGHT ON TOP OF my transition area, which made for a pretty infuriating T1 for me. Rest assured that the race directors will be getting an email from me on this point since the rest of the race was such a positive experience.

Thirdly, as anyone who has been reading this blog this summer might already know, this race was my watershed moment to see how well the much-touted "Crossfit Endurance" training program would stack up. You can visit their website to read all about their program, but their main selling point is that you can train for endurance events much more efficiently by training in shorter and more intense sessions instead of in longer endurance-based slower sessions (like the traditional long bike/long run weekend that most triathletes put in). I've been doing only Crossfit Endurance training for the last four months, and have not put in any longer endurance sessions, not adding in anything that was not in their program. I also followed their prescribed taper for this race. Also, I was curious to find out how adding Crossfit training into my regimen might affect my swim, bike, and running abilities.

So that being said, on with the race report... The swim is in the Willamette river, which was about 70 degrees on race morning, and beautiful in the sunrise I might add. The men's wave went first, exactly 3 minutes in front of us women. I don't care for that arrangement because it means I will have to swim through the obstacle course of the men's wave. In fact, it meant I had to pass all but a few of the male swimmers which was a pain in the ass. 5 minutes between waves would've been a lot better methinks. Maybe I'll add that to my email to the race directors, LOL.

When I started out swimming, it just felt so darned good. I started to wonder if maybe the downstream swim start was throwing me off and I was going to end up with a slow swim time. It was hard to figure out pace because I felt like I was flying along, but also didn't feel like I was putting out a whole lot of effort. Still, I could only see one or two red caps (women) near me and the rest of the women's wave was behind me, so it seemed as if I was doing fine. Unfortunately, my goggles got knocked a little off in the start and they kept fogging up. I had so little visibility that I actually had to stop cold and rinse them out several times, which I've never had to do before. I knew that was slowing my swim time down, but it was that or run into a concrete bridge abutment or one of the 200 male swimmers in my path or something. Turning around at the buoys and heading back upstream didn't seem to slow me down noticeably, and that felt great. Hubby said I looked like a shark cutting through schools of fish, my red cap swimming around the herds of silver caps in front of me. The end of the swim was at a dock and there was a traffic jam of men crawling up the netting that we were supposed to use to haul ourselves out. Also a slight disadvantage to the faster women's swimmers as the fast men didn't have to worry about slower people in front of them. Still, all in all even with the goggles and treading water waiting for my turn to get out, I had a killer swim time: 21:58. 10th fastest overall swimmer (male or female or relay) YAH! I'm going to chalk this one up to Crossfit because my swim times in the pool have been getting noticeably faster with every pull-up-and-push-press-laden Crossfit workout I've been doing.

Into T1, I mentioned before that some lame-ass latecomer racked his bike right on top of my transition area. I couldn't easily get to my stuff, and my bike was totally stuck behind his, which was also wedged against the triathlete to my left, leaving both of us struggling with locked handlebars trying to escape T1. 2:22 for T1 was slower than it needed to be.

Onto the bike, I've been doing some of my CFE intervals on hills to prepare, but looking at the course profile was a bit daunting with that 2100+ feet of elevation gain. Still, it didn't seem all that bad once I got out on the course. Most of it was a long gradual climb, and then there was one steepish bit towards the end. I felt pretty darned good on the first round, which took me 26:19 to finish. That seemed like a good pace, felt very much within my usual Oly comfort zone, and would put me under 1:20 for the bike course which was what I was aiming for. I zoomed down the back side of the hill, and into the U-turn for the 2nd loop. This is a great course for spectators with a 3-loop bike and a 2-loop run, and hubby was cheering loudly right before the turn-around which really got me smiling. The 2nd loop breezed by because now I wasn't worried about it, 26:48 was the pace for that one and I was soon watching hubby cheering again. By the time I hit the 3rd loop, the course was getting more crowded with folks from the sprint race all hitting the bike course.

This last loop on the bike was also when I noticed that now that I was about 90 minutes into the race, I was slowing down considerably. I just couldn't seem to get any steam on that last loop, which for me is unusual. I'm usually an endurance specialist. Not particularly quick in the short run, but generally the longer I go, the better I feel. This race was starting to not play out that way, and I could feel that my snap was going. It was a really odd and new feeling and I didn't think I liked it. More and more women were passing me on the bike (this is unusual, usually it's maybe one or two total!). Last bike loop took me over 30 minutes, way slower than the first two, for a total bike time of 1:23:30.

Still, steaming downhill into that last u-turn was great fun, knowing that the big hills of the bike course were behind me and all I had left to do was the run. Normally, the run in an Oly race is pretty fun for me. It seems like I usually run my best after an hour or so on the bike to warm up, and this run course was flat, scenic, and the temperature was balmy and pleasant. After wrestling my bike onto the rack (strangely, there was now a different bike racked right over my transition area!) I was out of the chute and onto the course. About halfway through mile one, it became apparent that this wasn't going to be the race I had hoped for. I just had nothing left at all. It was the weirdest feeling, like running out of gas in a car. Hubby saw me after the first loop and knew I was just having a really tough time of it. The 2nd loop was more or less a death march, just couldn't get going Not really able to even enjoy the scenery. Final run time: 57 minutes, about 5 - 6 minutes slower than I should've been.

So, bottom line report card on the training protocol I've been following: I think I have gained a lot of strength and power, and I could really feel it on the swim and in the fact that the big hills on the bike seemed pretty easy, despite not putting in a lot of mileage on hills like I've done in years past. I felt that I really came up short in endurance though, and for me at least I feel like I can definitively say that short intense training does not train my body in the same way as endurance training. I don't think I would follow this protocol for anything longer than a sprint triathlon. While it might be a fine way to train for someone with limited time who just wants to complete a race, I don't think it gives enough endurance to be able to be competitive. Case in point, this is the first race shorter than Iron distance that I haven't placed in my age group in many years. It was actually kind of humbling to go through that, and probably good for me in many ways. At the very least, it told me something about the way I've trained this year and the way I've trained in years past. I can take the good parts from this year and move forwards, and chalk the rest up to experience.

Swim: 21:58
T1: 2:22
Bike: 1:23:30
T2: 1:28
Run: :57:03

Total: 2:46:21

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Athlete's Garden

As I said in a previous post, I'm thinking a lot more lately about the ways in which optimal health is all tied together. Health for the community, health for the environment, health for the human body. For instance, if we walk more places, we see more of our neighbors, we shop more locally, we strengthen our local ties, we don't use fossil fuels, we increase the health of our air and our environment and the health of our body.

My Crossfit coach Jeremy passed on this interesting article about food shopping by Robb Wolf. If you're not familiar with Robb Wolf, you'll find he's a very opinionated wealth of information about the type of eating that many Crossfit athletes are embracing - a hybrid merging of Barry Sears' Zone Diet (tailored toward athletes and not toward caloric reduction or dieting) and an athletically-oriented paleolithic diet.

For me, this kind of eating dovetails very nicely with a community-oriented, earth-friendly, locavore kind of lifestyle. After all, a processed protein bar is synthesized from dozens of ingredients trucked to a factory in god-knows-where and merged into a shrink-wrapped blob which is then put into a box of other shrink-wrapped blobs to be trucked to your Costco where you will probably drive with a car to buy it. Not local, not community-strengthening, not environmentally friendly (even if some like Clif bars ARE made out of organic ingredients, they still have all the downsides described above) and not all that good for you either.

By contrast, a 4 oz. piece of locally-raised chicken breast coupled with some lettuce, a cucumber, and a few tomatoes from your garden, topped off with yogurt made from milk by some local cows and some blueberries you picked on Saturday, now that's a bit of protein, carbs, and fats that are totally good for you, good for your local community and farmers, and infinitely better for the larger earth around you as well. Now I'll grant you that it's harder to take with you in the back pocket of your cycling jersey. But I've found that I really don't need to have portable protein for anything under about 2 hours of riding or running. A lot of the time that we rely on protein bars it's for a quick before or after exercise snack (at least that's what I used to do) and I'm getting better now at making sure I have some raw almonds and dried fruit available for when I need something less messy than a salad or a handful of strawberries.

While I think Robb Wolf's article about how to shop is great, I'd go one step further. Plant an Athlete's Garden if you can. If you don't have a garden spot, a few buckets or containers will do. Throw in some dirt, some lettuce seeds, a couple of cucumber seeds or a tomato start. If you don't like those options, research what foods you do like and find ones that are easy to grow ih your area. Every climate has plants that tend to do really well there and others that are hard to grow. For instance, after several years I've given up hope of growing a decent melon in my own garden, they just don't do that well here. But I've got 7 blueberry bushes now that are doing just great and my tomatoes are busting off of the vines (I've picked 34 POUNDS so far and they're still producing!). Additionally, if you have any landscaping at all, consider gradually replacing it with foodscaping. There are evergreen berry bushes that make a nice replacement for landscaping shrubs - blueberries, huckleberries, and these nice ground-cover raspberries are just a few. Fruit and nut trees are a great replacement for just-for-show trees as well.

Believe me, I'm the world's worst green thumb, so if I can grow food from plants, anyone can!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Nice Thing

100 Degrees outside today (went for a bike ride yesterday at 2:00, almost melted), but projected 81 for race day. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seven Days Away

It all comes to a head this week at the

Almost six months of Crossfit training, four months of Crossfit Endurance programming and a lot of unanswered questions about how it will all turn out.

Here's my pre-race update:

I'm feeling like my strength and power are greatly increased. I've done some hills on the bike recently that used to seem tough that look like tamed lions now. My leg strength is definitely dramatically increased, and it's really starting to show up in my swim stroke as well. I did an interval workout last week with a friend and easily held alternating 1:15 and 1:20 pace per 100 without too much effort. People have asked me what my secret weapon is, and there's no doubt in my mind that I owe all newfound power to Crossfit. It's definitely a program I would recommend to triathletes looking for all-around total body strength and core conditioning, not to mention to anyone at all looking to get more fit over a broad range of conditions.

Endurance, I'm not so sure about. I am still not feeling like I have a handle on how well I'll be able to last through a 2.5 hour race. I ran a 10k this week at about 85% effort and to be honest it kind of sucked. On the other hand, I usually run better off the bike (emphasis on usually) and usually the longer the race, the better I feel. We'll see if that still holds true.

Taper: I only did two Crossfit workouts last week and none this week, and I'm tapering the Crossfit Endurance workouts this week. I'll do some transition work this week too.

The course:

That's one of three loops on the bike, each of which gains close to 700 feet. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was just a teensy eensy bit worried. Normally, I'm good on flat courses, great on flat windy courses or rolling hills where power works for me and weight doesn't work against me. But the bigger and steeper the hills, the less advantage I have. I don't really know how to predict my times on this course, what with the current on the swim in the river and the hills on the bike.

Looking at times from people I know who have done the course (and who I've done other courses with, so I can get a relative triangulation on what times I might do), I'm going to say I would normally (with my normal training and speed that is) be able to do:

Swim: 23:00 - 25:00 (giving myself a little extra due to current from the river)
T1: 00:2 (Swim and T1 times seem to be long from previous results)
Bike: 1:20 - 1:25 (I'm giving myself 10 - 15 minutes over my usual Oly distance time)
T2: 00:1
Run: :52

Total: 2:38 - 2:45

I have no idea if I'll be on this time, faster than it, or slower than it. It will probably come down to whether my extra power on hills will give me a faster bike time, and whether or not my endurance is compromised and my run time will be slower than usual, or not. My last Oly run time was :50, but I haven't come anywhere near that in workouts in the last few weeks. So it's all up in the air. I'll probably be very nervous this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me that all goes well on race day!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why I Hate Bike Shorts

First of all, you can't fold them. Those stupid big padded parts just make it impossible. They're like those sheets with elastic on the corners. Sure, Martha Stewart can fold them, but for the rest of us mortals they are just one big pain on the closet shelf. Mine are always sliding off the shelf - combination of slick material and unwieldy padded assymetrically-folded piece of clothing.

Secondly of course is that you can't walk around in them. Ever try going into a mini-mart on a long ride wearing some extremely padded shorts? 'Nuff said.

Thirdly, they seem to only come in black. Sometimes this is for a very good reason. But couldn't they just make colored pairs out of thicker material? I do have one well-worn pair of Pearl Izumis in bright purple that have been so beloved they're now threadbare and relegated to the "indoor trainer only" stack. They're like the Velveteen Rabbit of my cycling short collection, at 14 years old and still not totally worn out.

So these days I've fallen in love with tri shorts. You know, the things that have almost no padding at all and seem like they'd be way less comfortable than the ones with the big ol' pad. As it turns out, they're way more comfortable, even on long rides, at least as far as I'm concerned. I bought one pair of Tyrs which never fit right, and one pair of Orcas that I adore and are my current short of choice.

The best thing about bike shorts? They might be the one piece of clothing that looks signifigantly worse on fashion models than it does on us muscular types:

I mean, once you're used to seeing them on cyclists and triathletes' legs, this just looks appalling, no?!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Workin' It Out On the Road

Our family is still up here in Washington, we came up for a family reunion and especially to be with hubby's brother who is still deeply grieving. Although the sadness is there, there's also the joy of seeing family and getting to spend time with people you don't see very often. A real emotional roller coaster this week for sure. Whenever I travel, I try to find ways to slot those workouts in, and especially when things get intense I find that I need that pressure release valve more than ever.

Running is of course the easiest activity on earth for the traveler, so the well-worn running shoes are the first thing to get packed. The family reunion was at a lake, so the swimsuit and goggles were a no-brainer as well. Although the lake was full of waves in the afternoon that kept the kids having fun jumping them and body surfing, the early mornings were like polished glass and so clear I could see the individual leaves on the kelp-like plants growing up from the bottom (is there such a thing as lake kelp? I don't know what that stuff is.)

The bike got thrown on for good measure, though I've only used it once for some CFE-prescribed hill repeats. This morning I payed a visit to a local Crossfit gym as a visitor and got my butt handed to me by the "Deck of Cards" workout (weighted back squats, power cleans, power snatch and push press according to suit, and the number dealt by the card... yes, an entire deck...wow!). I'm hoping I can manage a run tomorrow morning before we head for home tomorrow a.m.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Workout: Running on Water

This is a great workout for working on your foot speed turnover, but I'll warn you it's pretty advanced. You have to really get your legs moving to stay on top of the water. Just kidding, but I thought this pic that hubby took of me at the river this weekend was funny, it looks like I'm running across the water. In actuality, I'm just about to hit the snow-melt cold water and freeze my a** off!

While camping up near the pass, I had an awesome bike workout - intervals on an empty forest service road that was uphill all the way. I did my rest intervals headed downhill, then turned around and hit the uphill for the hard sets. It was a Crossfit Endurance set:

4min on, 3min off
2min on, 30sec off
1min on, 3min off
2min on, 30 sec off
4min on. Done!


Then on Sunday I took a great trail run in my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. There's something about trail running that just makes it so much more fun for me than running on the street. It engages my whole brain and nervous system (otherwise you trip over too many roots) and pulls me right into the moment. It is hot, hot, hot here (and even 1,000 feet higher in elevation at the campground it was still roasting) but I'm making myself try to run when it's hotter and get better acclimated to dealing with the heat, so I went around noon. Another ice-bath in the creek and I was done for the day!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Take This Moment

The only time that counts is right now. The plans you have for tomorrow may come, and may not. What we are doing in this moment is what really matters. Hubby's big brother lost his wife this weekend to heart failure. It's impossible to think about - what if the person you love most is here with you today and tomorrow is gone? I can't imagine being in his place, don't want to think about what he's going through and will have to face tomorrow and the day after and the day after. So hug your loved ones close today, and if you can say a prayer for my sister-in-law. She had a big heart and was full of love for her husband, kids, grandkids, and the many animals in her life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Great Experiment Update

I'm about halfway to my Oly triathlon on solely Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance training. The hard part is I have no idea how to gauge my progress at this point since everything feels completely different and I'm not doing the same workouts that I've used in the past as baselines. I could be doing a bike ride and have done a CF workout that morning where I was squatting heavy weights and in the bike ride I'm supposed to be doing 2 minute sprints. So I really can't tell within all of that where my overall endurance fitness is at.

I haven't done anything over about an hour until a tempo ride I did earlier this week. I really felt like I fizzled out once I passed the hour marker, but I can't tell whether this was because I had been doing some heavy duty Crossfit leg work earlier or because my endurance past an hour is no longer what it used to be. It's hard to say what I'll feel like once I start the pre-race taper and let my muscles fully recover from everything I've been throwing at them.

On the plus side, I feel like I've really adjusted to the Crossfit side of things well and have been feeling strong there in most of my workouts. I'm "making the board" pretty regularly (scoring in the top 5 women at our gym, which is who goes up on the board for each workout), and in workouts as diverse as the 2,000 meter row (1st on the board at 8:12 - our coach took that cute photo above of one of the little ones watching me go at it) or the "Crossfit Total" which is all heavy lifting (total of your Deadlift, Back Squat, and Shoulder Press, mine was 3rd on the board at 410). So I can see myself improving at a broad variety of exercises, many of which I had never done before a few months ago. Today I even got two full body weight pullups in a row! I couldn't even do half of one when I started, couldn't even budge myself toward the bar. For that alone I am super excited!!!

On the "dunno" side, I have no idea yet how effective the Crossfit Endurance thing is going to be for me. I will be very nervous and very much interested to see how this Oly race will go for me. Nervous because normally I know exactly where I'm at training-wise when I toe the starting line, and this time it's a total crapshoot. I could feel totally strong and just bust the course wide open, or I could just totally choke from lack of long-distance endurance training. Once again, stay tuned....

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mom Part of the Ironmom

Probably the biggest benefit of being an athlete mom is the net effect it has on the health of your children. I've never required my kids to play any sports, never signed them up for soccer league, never pushed them in any way, yet they see the healthy vibrant lifestyle of my husband and I (and truth be told I'm sure the genetic desire to move one's body is in there somewhere as well) and over the years they have chosen sports of their own to pursue.

Recently, Mackenzie who has traditionally gravitated to solitary activities like kayaking and archery, as well as devoting time to karate, asked me to take him running. So we've gone down to the local track together and he's done laps while I timed and cheered him on, then I do my Crossfit Endurance workout (often laps or sprints or whatnot) and he cheers me on. On alternating days, he has come and swum laps in the pool with me, employing those "genetically gifted" (read: ultra-large) hands and feet of his to good use as paddles. The only problem is that he continually cracks me up by pulling antics like going into buddha-like meditative poses on the bottom of the pool while I'm swimming, thus causing me to crack up and snort water up my nose!

Meanwhile, Asa has taken up what I knew would be the perfect sport for her: water polo! Between her awesome swimming abilities (there are those hands and feet again, after all, plus the trademarked Ironmom shoulders) and her ruthless killer instinct (a character trait that I don't always appreciate mind you), I knew she would love it. And with only 25,000 water polo players in the whole country, it's a sport where you can actually go somewhere if you have some talent, so who knows.

So it was that this last week saw me on the sidelines for the very first time in my 13 years as a mom, cheering on Asa in her first water polo game. Of course at this age level, they spend more time floating around looking confused and trying to figure out where the ball is and where they should be going, but it's all good fun. We got to watch one of the games with the older kids in the program and all I can say is WOW. The level of play improvement in a couple of years is vast, so I think she'll have a fun time growing in this sport if that's what she chooses to pursue.