Monday, March 24, 2008

Training With Kids: Part 1

After reading The Dread Pirate Rackham's interesting insights into Training With 5 Year Olds, I thought I'd riff off of that and offer up a few bits of wisdom (or not, you decide) I've discovered over the years of training and racing as a mom with young kids.

Early Years (0-3):

Accessories Are Your Friends

When friends at our church offered to throw us a baby shower for our first-born, the only thing I really wanted and needed was a running stroller. I'd already gotten a heap of cloth diapers, we'd planned to have the baby sleep with us, and with a pair of boobs already in place there was no feeding equipment necessary. So they had a money tree and bought us this great running stroller. Later, we added a Burley bike trailer and a Rhode Gear Limo bike seat to our stash and I was ready to roll with the baby. Unfortunately, the baby had other plans, which brings me to....

Be Flexible

Our son was one of those "extremely high needs" babies that you hear about and secretly wish won't happen to you. Never slept (so neither did I), hated the car seat, the stroller, the bike trailer, and anything that didn't involve being bounced up and down in the sling or nursing 24 x 7. We learned later that he had Sensory Integration Dysfunction (the world was too loud, too bright, too rough, too scary for the little guy) and also food allergies. So our world was turned upside down. Being flexible was the key to getting anything accomplished at all. For many months I couldn't swim - he would start screaming in the daycare at the gym and the ladies would have to come and get me out of the pool. Running sometimes worked out, sometimes not. Sometimes I had to take him out of the stroller and nurse or bounce him once a mile. Being flexible helped me find creative ways to workout whenever I could grab a minute, and I completed my first post-baby triathlon when he was 10 months old, so it all worked out in the end. His needs got met, mine got met, and though I wasn't the active mom-on-the-go I'd pictured myself to be ahead of time, we both were fine. Our second baby was happy as a clam at the gym, in the stroller, or wherever we wanted to drag her along, so things were actually easier with two kids than they were when I just had one. I found that a lot of working out with a baby is finding ways to work with the particular baby you happen to have!

Title Nine Sports Rocks

You might even be too young to know what Title Nine refers to (Google it, girlfriend), but this is hands-down the best place to buy running bras online. When what your husband might happily refer to as the "Boob Fairy" visits, it can be downright upsetting for an athlete who is not used to worrying about the Bounce Factor. Title Nine has a 1, 2, and 3-barbell rating system for bounce control, and sells everything from the Superwoman bra to The Last Resort bra. Don't worry, these things do go back down in size (husbands can get disappointed now), though they may never return to their pre-baby size.

Get Your Workouts In While You Can

When our 2nd kid came along, I got smart and bought a bike trainer and an indoor elliptical machine, so I could work out if they were napping, or I could put on a video for them and get some exercise time in. I would run in the mornings, the evenings, whenever my husband was available for kid duties. We moved to a new town and I started biking everywhere with the kids - trips to the library now doubled as a workout. You might think that miles around town on an old beater bicycle don't count, but I've discovered otherwise. Looking through my last season's journals, I never logged more than five hours on my road bike per week, but managed a 1:09 Olympic distance bike time and a 2:52 Half-Iron bike split, mostly due to a lot of bike commuting and tandem riding with my kids.

There Will Always Be Another Season

As trite as it might sound, babies grow up very quickly. At times, it can sure be frustrating to try to train and compete as a parent of very young kids. But looking back, I'm glad that I made the switch to "triathlete lite" during those years when my kids were babies and young toddlers. It went by all too fast as it was, and while I kept my feet wet with swimming, biking, and running whenever I could, and always did a couple of tris a season, I didn't really turn my head back to getting serious about tris until they were about 5 and 8 years old. By that time, they could ride bikes beside me while I ran, and each of them has done their own triathlon now so they know what it's all about.

Oooooh, Uggghhh, First Brick of the Season

How is it that I can forget every year what it feels like to run off of the bike? I ran for 30 minutes after Saturdays 1:00 Team in Training bike ride, and that first mile was a killer. A couple of years ago I learned that high cadence on the run off of the bike makes a big difference for me in getting through that first mile and luckily I kept that in mind this time around and I always feel better after that first 8 minutes or so. It will be a short and fast Tri season for me this year, probably one sprint and one Oly distance tri is all I'll be fitting in this spring. So I can concentrate more on speed than long distance for the first time in a few years.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More On That High Elbow Catch

Here's a great video that demonstrates the high elbow catch with Sheila Taormina. Another one show's Ian Thorpe's high elbow. And here's a great swim technique video that touches on several points (including the catch) from Dave Scott.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Swim Workout To Be Eager For

Since starting as the Team in Trainng coach, I've missed my Saturday morning Master's swim workouts, so I have to be content to just do the Master's workout on my own steam when I go in to swim (not nearly so much fun, I have to say).

This weeks' was a good one though. If you want a tough set that will keep your technique tight, try this out:

6 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Focus on technique
5 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
4 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
3 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique
2 x 100 Fast
2 x 50 Technique

Total: 2500 yard main set. I really enjoyed this set as I felt able to swim the fast 100's with really good technique and not let it degrade over the course of such a long and hard set. The good news is that my swim times are continuing to improve. Though my right ankle is still not anywhere near 100%, I am back to a good pace for my fast 100's, stillabout 5 seconds (per 100) off of my pre-injury pace, but much better than a month ago!

It's encouraging to see the speed trickling back in, and although my shoulders are still sore after every swim workout, the new "barrel catch" I mentioned in this previous post is coming along nicely and I can feel the power there that I know will grow over the next six months as my muscles adapt. I can now pull with the pull buoy at a 1:26 average pace, where I was never able to go below 1:30 before (my kick is still a big part of my stroke, I guess I'll never be a true long distance swimmer!), and I think that's all due to that new catch.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Eagerness, The Next Level

After our karate belt tests, Albert Sensei who runs our dojo always has everyone sit down for a pep talk. You never hear the kids moan or groan about it either because he's such a dynamic and engaging speaker and what he has to say is always meaningful in a personal way. Yesterday he was talking about levels of commitment - Obedience, Willingness, and then Eagerness. He stressed that he wants all of us at the dojo to not just be willing to practice karate, or participate in anything in life (even taking out the garbage) but instead be eager to do it.

It got me thinking about my mindset and how it affects my training. For years, I was such a reluctant runner. I only ran because I had to in order to compete in triathlons. I was somewhere between obedient and willing to do it, but I was never ever eager. I would even tell people that I only ran because they had no Swim/Bike duathlons. Then a couple of years ago I decided I really wanted to become a better runner. I asked good runners and coaches about their favorite drills, I checked out books like Chi Running, and I really put some effort into my runs. I did hills, I did strides, I did form drills. And you know what? I not only became a better runner, but I really began to like running. I became, in fact, eager to go for a run. Now that I'm suffering through the rehabilitation of my sprained ankle, I've even found that I've missed running.

There are so many areas of life that one can work on the eagerness factor. Last night, my husband and I cooked a meal together. To say I'm a reluctant chef would not be overstating the case at all. I actually love to cook and am really pretty good at it (my grandfather even owned his own restaurant, so I must have some cooking genes in there somewhere), but I hate deciding what to make and I hate the mess it makes in the kitchen (that's my engineering brain talking there). But we've decided that, in honor of our upcoming trip to Italy, Saturday nights will be "Italian Night" in our house this year. I checked out the Everyday Italian cookbook from the library, and last night Wayne tackled making a grilled seafood salad (with squid and scallops) and I made a mushroom risotto that was quite heavenly. And we really enjoyed ourselves, you could even say I was eager to get cooking! We all went to the store together and picked up fresh ingredients, stuck an Italian language learning CD in the player and repeated "buona serra" to each other as we cooked.

This week, my aim will be carrying this eagerness forward into all areas of my life. There's no real point in doing anything grudgingly, when you can actually enjoy it (even running, or cleaning up after our Italian feast.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

So, How Lucky Am I ??

When I joined this amazing sport of triathlon in 1986, I was just occupied with trying to stay on my bike without falling over in my toeclips, and finishing the run without walking. Meanwhile, on the international scene, Dave Scott was busy winning his 5th Ironman. Ten years later in 1996 as I temporarily hung up my running shoes during the summer of my first pregnancy, he was coming out of retirement for the 2nd time to place again at the Big Show in Hawaii. He's definitely an icon in the sport, and someone who is still actively competing but also coaching, consulting, commentating, and speaking about triathlon.

He's also the National Advisory triathlon coach for Team in Training, and he'll be conducting the coach training session that I'm going to in two weeks! So, how lucky am I?

And by the way, I'll be a nervous wreck come the end of this month - the training is all the way across the country in Washington D.C., and will be the first time ever that I've gotten on an airplane and flown away from my babies. Okay, well they're hardly babies. My big guy borrows my shoes and just got braces, my not-so-little gal grew an inch this month and regularly updates my iPod with bands I haven't even heard of. But still. Yeah, they'll be fine. I'll be a wreck. Luckily, I have the fact of getting to go learn how to be a better tri coach from Dave Scott to keep me cheered up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Power Juice

Everyone around me is sick, getting over being sick, or starting to get sick. So here's my power drink for the week:

1/2 glass carrot juice
Fill rest of glass with water
Stir in 2 tsp. pomegranite syrup
Dump in a packet of Emergen-C to make it fizzy and high in Vitamin C

Yumm!! My kids think I'm crazy, but I think it's pretty darned good. I'm also cooking about 5 cloves of garlic in everything I make this week. Hopefully the combo will ward off the bugs.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

You remember reading that corny story about the Little Engine Who Could when you were a kid? My son was so into trains that I read any book with a train theme to him approximately 10,000 times. So I read "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" many times over those years. Yesterday in karate we were doing pushups and our sensei had us yelling with each pushup "" over and over. The ol' Power of Positive Thinking gig. Sometimes we can let ourselves believe that this kind of stuff is "just BS" or really doesn't work. But lately I've seen the results of positive thinking in a big way that confirmed what I've known anecdotally throughout my life.

Just recently, the kids on my robotics team have shown me all over again what kind of power you have when you refuse to be told you can't do something. I have to admit, as they dreamed big about going to the World Championships, there was that nagging adult voice in my brain that said "Don't let them get their hopes up too high or they'll be disappointed." So I tried to be the voice of reason, I tried to tell them that the odds were big, we were one small, relatively new team out of 10,000 teams worldwide. It was all stacked against us, but I was all for them trying. But they knew better. Somehow, they knew that they could do this. When I gathered them together at a local ice cream shop and told them the exciting news, there was no outburst of surprise. They blinked a few times and then smiled. They knew. They knew they could do this all along. I was the one who was not with the game, and that's a great lesson for me to take away. We can do so much more than we think we can if we refuse to let ourselves be limited.

This week, I checked out the DVD of Rudy from the library for our family to watch. If you love sports, any kind of sports, or cinderella stories, you've got to check out Sean Astin in this role. It's not a recent movie, but it's the true story of a kid who really wouldn't take no for an answer. From a blue collar family, he dreamed that one day he would play football for Notre Dame. Despite economic & educational obstacles and his own short stature, he refused to stop believing in his dream, and you know, he accomplished it too.

When I think about my Team in Training team members, the obstacles they're facing and overcoming on a daily basis, it inspires me. I love getting phone calls like the ones I got this week from team members: "I swam and it felt effortless!", "I ran for over an hour, can you believe that!", and all of this just because people think they can do something as amazing as a triathlon!

So yes, when my karate sensei has us all hollering about being a blackbelt, I'll yell it out "loud and proud" as they say in class. Because I do believe it. I can already see that black belt out there in my future, just like my kids could see that world championship in front of them. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Trip to Seattle and Some Amazing News

We took a short trip to Seattle this week for my sister's birthday. It was beautiful there, reminding me of what a lovely city Seattle is when it's not raining. The snow-covered Olympics and the glassy blue Lake Washington greeted us as we spent a day wandering around the Woodland Park Zoo. I got to run with my sister - it's great to have a little sis' who is active and fun to hang out with. An hour's run gave us plenty of time to catch up, and was the first time I've run more than 4 or 5 miles since my ankle sprain. I had to walk up the steeper hills due to some lingering tenderness in my Achilles tendon, but otherwise was fine!

While we were there, I got this amazing phone call from the woman in charge of Oregon's FLL Robotics program. She told me that the kids' robotics team (that I've been coaching) was nominated to go to the FLL World Festival! They'll be competing with 84 other teams from all over the world (of the 10,000 FLL teams worldwide) in Atlanta, Georgia in mid-April. This will be just an amazing opportunity for my kids and the rest of the kids on our team as well. We are so excited!

It's not looking like this will be a year of triathlons for me. In fact, it's looking like it will be an extremely light tri season with everything else we've got going on. Maybe that's okay though. The last time I took a season off was 1999 when I was pregnant with my daughter, and after 9 years maybe it's time to have another little break.