Saturday, May 31, 2008

How To Fail

I'm low right now, lower than dirt. Lower than the compressed layers of sedimentary rock that lies underneath the dirt. It's bad enough to fail yourself. That's not a fun thing. But those of you with kids know that nothing is worse than failing your kid.

Our karate dojo was having a "girls night out" sleepover. My daughter was soooooo excited, she's been counting down the days all week. They were going to have games and movies and pizza. I brought home the flyer and put the date on the calendar. You probably know what's coming, right?

I mixed up which night it was on. She got to karate this morning looking forward to the sleepover tonight, and it was last night. All twenty of her friends had just had their fun sleepover and were all talking about it this morning. She calls me on the phone just sobbing as I was out on my bike ride with the TNT team.

I feel like absolute and utter crap. Words fail me.

The only consolation available to me at the moment is that TriGirl Thea linked to Local Girl's very funny blog entry on FAIL, which in turn led to the incredibly funny FAIL Blog. Nothing like having a good laugh at other people's failures to almost let you forget your own. I've also promised my daughter a sleepover on the trampoline in sleeping bags tonight, complete with story-reading by flashlight. Small consolation I know, but thank goodness she has already forgiven me. It's considerably harder to forgive myself.

Friday, May 30, 2008

And That's Why They'll Call You An Ironman

I was in my karate class the other day when something that looked like a drowned rat in a plastic wrapper showed up. It was my karate training partner's husband, who had accidentally picked the rainiest day of the week for his 100 mile training ride for Vineman. It was cold, it was wet, it was windy, and he had 60+ miles left to go.

Since I was in the middle of class, I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but if I could've, here's what I would've said:

They don't just call you an Ironman because you cross the finish line after swimming 2.4, biking 112, and running 26.2.
They call you an Ironman because you get up when you don't want to
They call you an Ironman because you push past the feeling of wanting to give up
They call you an Ironman because you go out on your ride anyway, no matter the heat, the wind, or the rain
Because you move your body so long and so hard that you almost fall asleep on your feet at work.
Because you search the inner depths of what you are capable of, and reach for more.
They call you Ironman because that's what it takes to even make it to the starting line, let alone the one at the end of the race.

So Rich, although they won't say those specific words at the end of the Vineman, you'll be an Ironman nonetheless. Wishing you bluer skies for the rest of your long hard days...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Summer Without Racing

So with that first and last hurrah, my racing season is officially done for the year. I haven't gone a summer without racing since I was pregnant with my almost-9 year old. I've promised my hubby that we'll take this summer and focus on bike touring with the kids, gardening, building a front porch onto our house, and getting everything ready for our bike trip in Italy in the fall. It's not like I'm complaining or anything, but I'm not quite sure I'm going to know what to do with myself. It's one thing not to race when you're pregnant, big as a beachball and too uncomfortable to run ten paces, it's another thing altogether when you're feeling froggy and full of energy.

I definitely have no plans to stop swimming, biking, and running. But I've always used my races as a focal point for my training. I'm not the kind of person who can go to a gym and hit the treadmill and exercise just for some nebulous goal like "staying in shape" or "having a good body". Good health, good shape, and great fitness are all side-effects of the triathlon lifestyle in my book. Hubby has started running with a running group, which is great for Mr. Talkative, who really loves having the company out there on the road, but it's not my thing. Still, his group is doing one of those 200-mile relay thingies and I'm going to be on their team for that. Which means I'll have to at least keep enough running fitness to go three 6-mile legs in the altitude (it starts at 7,000 feet) and heat of August. And swimming is never a problem because I so love swimming outdoors in the summer. My parents had to drag me by both feet out of any body of water larger than a puddle when I was a kid and I haven't changed much since then. And of course, we'll be on the tandem bikes all summer. So I guess I can make it through.

But you know, when I'm reading all of the triathlon blogs I love to follow, I'll be jealous of those race reports rolling in through the summer months. There's something so beautiful about testing your body out against a course and the other athletes out there. I don't know what it is, because there are many times when it doesn't feel all that terrific in the moment, and you're asking yourself why the heck you're not still in bed, but in the end I'm always grinning when I cross that finish line. I'll let you know how my withdrawals go...

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Meat is Rotten But the Vodka Is Good

When I was taking computer science classes in college, we read about a language translation program that had been developed. To test it, they ran some standard phrases through different languages and then back to English, and the results were hysterical. One that I still remember is that the phrase "The flesh is weak but the spirit is strong", which got translated into "The meat is rotten but the vodka is good." All humor aside, the original phrase could easily describe my triathlon yesterday.

Yep, I definitively proved that you really can't train to do an Olympic triathlon well on only about 5 hours a week. If you only swim once a week, have only done one bike ride over 25 miles this season, and have only a couple of 6 mile runs under your belt, guess what? An Olympic tri is going to hurt like hell. Interestingly enough, since I do a lot of other sports like karate and volleyball, and actually train about 15 hours a week total, my cardiovascular system was just fine. My heartrate never moved out of the aerobic zone, but my sports-specific muscles just couldn't respond the way they would've if I had been training properly.

Even the swim hurt. Now that's a new one on me! Usually I love the swim, it feels great to be out there in the lake and I just cruise along having a good time. But with coaching Team in Training taking up my other pool night and my Saturday morning Master's swim time, I've only been swimming Monday nights. Obviously. Not. Enough. The bike ride was gorgeous, but plainly just hurt. And people passed me on the bike who never pass me on the bike, {sigh}. My feet, still frozen from the 60 degree water and chilly morning bike ride were completely numb as I started running. I had to walk much of the first mile to let them thaw, because I was running oddly and my injured ankle started really hurting.

Now the good news is that this race, The Duck Bill Thrill is really a lovely little early season Olympic distance here in the Pacific Northwest. It was mostly local athletes with a few driving down from Portland. The field was overall quite fast, with mostly experienced athletes (the kind who get out and train in our lousy spring weather) making their early season appearances. The course was just gorgeous. The bike ride is rolling, with bubbling creeks, lake views, and even a ride through one of the area's many covered bridges. The run is also rolling, after a straight section right across the reservoir's dam. It's pretty and forested and I think ordinarily this would be a great course for me, rolling hills usually make for a strong race for me when I'm in decent condition for it.

All told, my time was relatively terrible: 2:49, when my end-of-season Oly last year was 2:28, yikes! But I didn't do too badly overall - 2nd in my age group and something like 12th or 13th woman. So this course is definitely not a super fast one, especially this early in the season and being wet on the hills and corners meant the bike course was slower than it could've been. The swim course was definitely marked long, and I think the run course was a little long too.

So overall, a lovely race, a gorgeous course, and one I should definitely put the time in to train for next year. I think I could really enjoy this race instead of having it, in the words of the John Cougar Mellencamp song which was, not surprisingly running through my head during the race, hurt so bad.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My New Lake Buddy

Last weekend was my mom's birthday, so we met up with her halfway between her house and ours (about an hour and a half drive for each of us) at the lovely Umpqua river. The great thing about my mom is you'd never know she's 67 years old, certainly not by her energy level! We met up, went for a beautiful hike to a waterfall, then we found this cute little reservoir and she pulled her kayak off of her car and took the kids kayaking around the lake. Mackenzie decided he wanted to try it out on his own and she let him borrow her kayak. He proceeded to pretty much monopolize it for the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day, he was moving a kayak to the top of his next birthday list.

The fun bit was when I went for a swim and he kayaked alongside of me. He was quick to point out that one advantage of getting him his own kayak would be that whenever I want to do open water training, he could paddle along next to me. I have to admit, it was really fun to swim and watch him smoothly maneuvering through the water next to me. My mom is all for the idea. Being a mom (and I do understand now!) she always worried about me going out into these lakes by myself and swimming. You know, the Loch Ness Monster might eat me or something. And my hubby who is much more of a mother hen than I'll ever be pretty much feels the same way about it. So I've taken to scanning CraigsList for a Swifty kayak like my mom's, and maybe I'll have a little buddy to head out on the lake with me this summer!

So, here's to my mom: 67 years young, a hiking, kayaking, fun-filled dynamo of a lady. She's inspired me in so many ways, and she's a great friend.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Long Course Mornings

5:30 am, the alarm goes off. What to do, what to do.... hit the snooze, turn it off, get up and go swim.... It's hard to believe, but I got up to go swim! Now, you have to know that I don't swim in the early morning, it's an aversion developed in way too many college swim workouts at ridiculous hours in the Ante Meridian. But my friend K. talked me into it, wooing me with word of fifty meters of outdoor long course pool awaiting us.

Actually, it was glorious. Starting before the sun comes up, the steam rising off of the pool and all of those arms flashing through the water. The bottom of the pool looks periwinkle blue in the early morning light (is there anyone else who can't say the words periwinkle blue without cracking up over Brad Pitt's hysterical turn as Mickey in the movie Snatch: "And she's terribly partial to the periwinkle blue, boss.") I'd almost forgotten how fun it is to count 100's in just two lengths instead of four, and how nice it is to smell the fir trees in the early morning air and watch the flash of sunrise sparkle off of the water drops. Yeah, it even made the 5:30 wake up call worthwhile.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Pressure Cooker

Bonny commented here with this question, and I think it's a really good one to think about so I'm posting it here for pondering:

do you have any advice for a 15yo girl who has trouble performing under pressure?

Her ability is REALLY *there.* Obviously developing still. She's only 15 LOL. But she doesn't do well under pressure. I think that most of her obstacles are mental ... and I'd love to see her work through some of this (and I know that any help she gets isn't going to heard if it's from her mama ...)

I've been actually thinking on this topic a fair bit lately, since all of my Team in Training folks are quickly approaching their Big Day and I've heard from more than one of them that nerves are starting to become a factor. I have a very distinct memory of the first time I felt really good and nervous and my mom told me I had "butterflies in the stomach", an expression I had never heard before. At the time, all I knew was that I hated the feeling, as I suspect most of us do. I also knew that I myself didn't perform well under pressure. As a kid, I could play something absolutely perfectly in practice and get all worked up and blow it in a performance. It took years and years to realize that becoming nervous under pressure can be a good thing once you learn how to channel that energy into the right direction.

In general, the folks who have the most trouble performing under pressure are perfectionists. We struggle because we so want everything to be just right. It can be an awesome trait to have, because perfectionists often work very hard at whatever they're doing, and can really blow you away with their abilities. On the other hand, perfectionism can be crippling when we let it get in the way of just doing something, even if it's not done perfectly. I love some of the things The Flylady has to say about this, especially her little mantra about housework done imperfectly still blessing the house. You can really extrapolate that to just about anything - anything we do imperfectly is still a blessing. It's hard for us perfectionists to recognize that, however. As a kid and a teen, I could occasionally be seen to fake something, anything (illness, injury, dog eating my homework) to excuse the fact that I hadn't done something perfectly. It can take many years, or even decades maybe for us to learn that it's okay. We can just do something. That's why I love bowling. I totally and utterly suck at it, and what's even better: I don't care. Bowling is the first thing that really saved me from perfectionism.

If we can get past a fear of making mistakes, then we can start channeling our nervous energy into the kind of energy that carries us through a race or performance. One technique that I use to direct that energy is that of positive visualization. In the days or weeks leading up to an event, whenever I become nervous about it and get that butterfly feeling, I stop and take the time to visualize myself performing in the event exactly as I would like myself to. If it's a race, I visualize myself feeling strong and smooth, moving through my transitions with ease, feeling relaxed and loose on the course, moving across the finish line with energy left to spare. The real key in visualizations for me is to make them as specific as possible. I really use my imagination to see everything exactly as I want it to go.

Another thing I find really helpful is to have little mantras that I repeat to myself. One from my competitive skydiving days is this little conundrum: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, therefore slow is fast. That keeps me from getting amped up and wasting energy in random directions. Another mantra that I use whenever I start letting myself get whiny about whatever situation I'm in is: It's a privelege and a gift to be here today. So you're running and it's a million degrees outside and you have a blister and your Accelerade is sloshing around in your stomach and you want to puke?? Well, it's still a privilege and a gift to be doing that. It is, it really is. Sometimes it takes a few times of repeating that one for it to sink in to my brain though, LOL. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the passage in The Hiding Place where Corrie's sister Betsy says a prayer for the fleas of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Now there's a book to remind one of what to be grateful for.

So these are the things I'll be talking over with my TNT folks in the upcoming weeks: letting go of perfectionism, creating positive visualizations, using mantras to remind ourselves of what is really important. Hopefully some or all of those will be helpful.

And This is Why I Coach

This last week I've done marker sets with my swimmers, both my Team in Training group and with the Swim Conditioning folks I'm teaching. It's always so very cool to see how much people improve and how excited they are! One of these years, I'm going to video every swimmer when they start with me, and then video them again six months down the road just so they can see the difference. I see it from the pool deck, but it's tough to put into words and "you're doing great!" just doesn't do it justice.

One of my TNT swimmers took two minutes off of her 500 yard timed swim in just a few weeks, another just blew right past his estimated time in the triathlon we both did this last weekend. Two of my guys from Swim Conditioning dropped 10 - 15 seconds and 5 - 10 strokes from their timed 100 yards! One of my guys there is now swimming a 1:25 for 100 yards, and his first 100 with me was 1:57. Now this is the reason I love to coach, when I can really help someone make a difference like that. Of course, it takes a whole lot of dedication and hard work on their part, and I'm just excited to be there helping them out with the details and technique.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Run in the Heat and Hubby Does a Bun

Last weekend we had frost and snow levels down to 2800'. Today in my first tri of the season, it was 95 degrees (probably more on the nearly-shadeless run course). No time to train in the heat since it has been unseasonably chilly, but I ventured forth anyways with one of my Team in Training members, Steve who was doing his first tri ever! To give credit where credit is due, I could only do this race today because my ever-fearless hubby took our daughter to her Dance Team photos. This meant he had to do her hair and makeup. I can see all you men out there cringing now!! Plus, we don't call her the Diva Girl for nothing, she actually called a friend over to do her makeup (not trusting The Dad) but he managed to get her ready for her four costume changes and two hairdos. Now that's a man!

As for the race, it was a sprint, and since I've got an Oly next weekend the plan was to just train through this one. Nevermind that this plan has never ever worked out for me (the last time I did this, I gave myself a major quadricep injury just a couple of weeks before a marathon), reigning it in has never been my strong suit. But I'm older and wiser now, right? Well, I'm older at least. So I was shooting for a 1:15 as a reasonable time that should leave me fresh enough for next weekend's race. Surprisingly, I hit very close to this time with a 1:14:23.

This was a nice little race, the kind that just takes me right back to my first triathlon ever in 1986. Some sawhorses and metal bars set up in a parking lot, a few volunteers taking down your race numbers on corners (no timing chips) and a home-made banner for a finish line. Beautiful! I was excited to see Steve able to take advantage of such a nice homegrown race for his first, I think it's much more relaxing than facing a large and aggressive crowd of racers. Though there were some very fast folks here, it had a very friendly feeling.

Most of the race felt great for me. My swim was right on target, my 12.5 mile bike was on some of the most beautiful rolling green-hilled country roads I've ever seen (and with a gentle breeze, the temperature felt mercifully decent on the bike). My bike was 36:30, which is a great early season sprint time for me! The run was flat and should've been fast but my body just shuts right down in the heat. The muscles are willing but the brain-body connection is not. My first mile was about an 8:15, the 2nd was a 9:00, and I think the last was around 9:30. Not pretty, but I finished. I didn't stick around to see them sort all the results out as they were having troubles. I think I was 5th woman overall and probably 1st or 2nd in my age group.

Next week the temperature is mercifully going to go down to around 75, which should feel great!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Big Blue Lake Beats a Bouquet

Hubby is not a Hallmark Holiday kind of a guy. I think another wife might even get disgruntled at the lack of bouquets, cards, or other trinkets. But the thing I really love about him is he knows me so well, he always finds the perfect gift. Like a Mother's Day camping trip where he says the magic words "Why don't you bring your wetsuit and we'll go to the lake." So Mother's Day found me on the edge of this gorgeous lake on the Oregon coast, not a boat to be seen, ready for my first open-water swim of the year.

I can't say it wasn't cold. While we're supposed to hit the 90's later this week, the night we went camping the freezing level dropped to around 2800'. The water was not exactly toasty but it was swimmable, which is all that really counts. I managed about 40 minutes before my toes refused to bend anymore. Of course my daughter, who has the impermeable skin of an eight year old, was jumping in wearing nothing but a pink bathing suit. I remember swimming in the ocean off of the Oregon coast at her age and never feeling cold, but now I can say I fully understand why my mom refused to join me - she didn't have a wetsuit of course!

So after my swim my kids had a captive mom in a wetsuit, in a lake known for it's newt population. This time of year the little buggers are all hiding out in the weeds in the shallow parts (probably trying to keep warm) and I was dispatched to try an capture one or two. Not trying to brag too much, I do have to say that I have quite a reputation among my kids and their friends as a Newt Capturer. I have the requisate amounts of patience and can be still long enough for them to practically swim into my hand. So into the weeds I went and emerged with a newt or two for holding. The Oregon rough-skinned newts are actually poisonous. A small fraction of the poison found in the skin of an adult newt is enough to kill a human. Now as far as I've discovered, the only verifiable newt-related death was an intoxicated man from a coastal Oregon town who swallowed a newt on a dare. Still, it's not a good idea to handle one if you have any broken skin on your hands, and I always get my kids to wash their hands so they don't accidentally transfer newt poison to their noses or mouths.

All in all, it was a wonderful water-and-newt-filled Mother's Day. And at home the kids made me home-made cards (my favorite kind) and Asa drew this on the driveway for me:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Eureka, the Perfect Bar!

I've been looking for a very long time for a good real-foods energy bar that wasn't high in soy (which I can't eat due to only having half a thyroid gland - soy is a thyroid inhibitor), or powdered whey, which I think is of nebulous health value. Also a bonus would be made from actual whole foods, preferably organic, even better if it's raw. I've tried all of the different bars out there and finally found one that meets all of these criteria, plus tastes absolutely awesome!

So meet The Pro Bar. It's: delicious, organic, whole raw food, vegan, non-GMO and in short just about perfect. And it comes in flavors like Superfood Slam, Cran-Lemon Twister, Koka Moka, Cherry Pretzel, Maple Pecan, and my total favorite, Cocoa Pistachio (and several more flavors)... yummmmm!

Now my only caveat is that I haven't tried it out during intense exercise yet. Raw foods are often harder on the stomach in high-stress situations, so I may have to revert back to the always-digestible Powerbars during races (I once lived on Powerbars for three days above 15,000 feet while mountaineering when I couldn't choke down a single other thing, so I know this for a fact: I can always eat a Powerbar). But for all other times, this will be my bar of choice. The hardest thing is to leave them in my backpack for workouts and not just snarf them for lunch. Yep, they're that good!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cool Treats for Warmer Weather Workouts

Here's a terrific, easy, nutritious post-workout treat for the hot weather to come. Take two cans of pineapple and one can of coconut milk and throw them together in a blender. Whirl them up and pour into a container and put it in the freezer. Voila! Instant pineapple coconut gelato. If you need it a little sweeter, you can throw in a tablespoon or two of your favorite sweetener, but I've found that it doesn't need much. It's got a great consistency due to the coconut milk, but mostly tastes like pineapple. Yummm! The problem around here is the kids eat it up before I can even get to it!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Endorphins and bicycle wheels go hand in hand in my life. There's something incredibly joy-producing about being on a bicycle for me, especially once the weather gets warm enough to ride in shorts. Oh the happiness of not being bundled up like an arctic explorer just to go for a ride. It's a mystery to me why that "runner's high" so rarely happens when I'm running, but pops out almost the moment I get on a bicycle. And it doesn't seem to matter what kind of bicycle it is - tooling around town on my junker, or out on a tandem ride with the kids, or on my lovely piece of rolling titanium tri-bike (the one my daughter dubbed "Hi Ho Silver"). It seems that any bike will do. I can wax nostalgic about past bikes, too: my college cruiser, with one gear and pedal-backwards braking. I bought it for $25 and spray-painted it red, rode it for four solid years and then sold it for $75 because cruisers had just then come back into style.

Going into a bike store is like heaven and torture at the same time. I could probably use about five more bikes - a touring bike for sure, a much-cooler updated cruiser with comfy seat and town gearing, a recumbent just because they look like fun, a road bike just in case I ever take up riding with a group, oh the list goes on.

So this week the warm weather came out, presumably just for another teaser because now it's cold as an icebox again. I got to do the first real brick of the season with some of my TNT teammates. We did some hill repeats and then an easy run. Went out on a longer ride with another TNT teammate and enjoyed my favorite rolling route along the river. There were these huge black clouds threatening us, which had me worried because I had forgotten to bring any sort of jacket at all, and lately when those black clouds show up they dump either buckets of hail or torrents of water! But a fortunate little blue hole appeared above us and followed us for the entire ride, only to close up as we reached the end when it started to hail. Lucky! I'm woefully underprepared for my first Oly distance race this year in (gulp) 3 weeks, but with the weather and my crazy schedule this winter/spring, I'm just going to have to tough it out and survive it, I think.

Wishing you happy pedaling this week!