Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crossfit Update #2

This last week was my third week of Crossfit workouts, and so far I have nothing but good things to say about the program. It has really challenged me in ways that I hadn't thought about. Being a coach, I think it's good sometimes to put yourself in the position of being a beginner at something, of being new and maybe intimidated and frustrated with yourself. It definitely gives you a lot more compassion and insight into how the people you're coaching feel.

That's how I've felt from time to time with Crossfit. Many of their exercises do intimidate me. I've never done any kind of powerlifting moves like the clean-and-jerk or the deadlift. Even though I've intermittently gone and hit the weight machines in the gym for years, I've never done any kind of lifting that maxed out my muscles. All of the coordination necessary to do these moves is new and feels awkward to my body. Even looking at the big round black weights on the bars kind of wigs me out a bit, to tell the truth.

To the credit of our Crossfit coach Jeremy, I've felt very comfortable with the level of skills instruction in the Crossfit program. Each time we did a move that was new, we practiced it over and over with a piece of PVC pipe while Jeremy gave individual feedback on technique and position. Despite my worries (especially with my recent back injury), I never felt so much as a twinge when we moved on to doing these moves with weights. I've lifted way more than I ever have in my life, with way more repetitions than I imagined I could.

The great beauty of the Crossfit program though is the intensity of the workouts, the fact that they're timed, and the fact that you're doing them with other people which ups the ante and makes you really really push yourself. On Wednesday I tried to swim right after the Crossfit workout and it was hilarious because my body really just didn't work, at all. My muscles were limp noodles, I could barely raise my arms to take a stroke. After about 800 yards or so, I felt like everything started responding again, but that was a really strange interlude, and it shows how taxed you get during these crazy intense workouts.

So bottom line is that Crossfit has exceeded my expectations for workout intensity, general fun, safety, and good technique. I feel like I've learned a lot and been able to push my body in new ways. I'm starting to feel good results in my swimming and running too. My hips especially feel stronger in the run (all those squatting moves) and my lats and shoulders in swimming.

So far, this program gets an A+ in my book.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Swim Like an Egyptian

For this week's Master's swim, I reprised an old favorite workout of mine, the Hardcore Distance Set, which if you ask me every triathlete should be doing at least once a month or so. As I told the Master's swimmers today, if you don't feel like a quivering bowl of jelly when you're done with this one, you didn't do it right.

But since that workout is already on my blog, I'll write up last week's pyramid set instead. This is actually a reverse pyramid, which is psychologically a little harder than a regular pyramid (which, once you hit the top, gets ever shorter in distance). For this one, you'll want to pick the interval that you would come in on, then add the amount of rest indicated below. Keep your interval consistent throughout the whole workout. For instance, if you normally swim 100 yards in 1:30, the first 300 should come in on 4:30 and leave on 5:00, the last 300 should come in on 4:30 and leave on 4:45, and the same for all the other intervals in the set. Keeping your pacing consistent while reducing rest will give you a great edge in your distance swimming this summer.

Warm Up
200 Swim, 200 Kick, 200 Drill, 200 Swim

Build Set
4 x 125
1 & 3 Swim, 2 & 4 Kick
Build each 25, last 50 hard

Reverse Pyramid
1 x 300 interval + 30
2 x 200 on interval + 20
3 x 100 on interval + 10
4 x 50 on interval + 5
1 x 50 Active Recovery on 1:30
4 x 50 on interval + 5
3 x 100 on interval + 5
2 x 200 on interval + 15
1 x 300 on interval + 15

200 Pull

100 EZ

Total Yardage: 4050

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Anniversary Baby, Let's Tri!

It's now official, Wayne and I signed up to do the Black Diamond race weekend. He's doing his first Olympic Tri (he's done a sprint before) and I'm doing my 4th Half-Iron (2nd on this course). I'm so excited to be signed up for this race and training with my guy. We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this week with a quiet dinner at home with our kids. Yesterday went out for a five-miler run together. Life doesn't get much better than that.

When we met, he had just gotten out of the army, still had a military haircut and wore his camo pants everywhere. He was a pilot, just started flying jump planes at the drop zone I was skydiving at and I had sworn not to date another pilot or skydiver, ever. But you know, those magnificent men in their flying machines and all that. He won me over with his charm and his earnest plans for his future. I knew this was a guy who would always be moving forwards, never be dull or boring. Well, it hasn't been boring, I can say that much! From the depths of the ocean in Belize to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raising our kids together, it's been an adventure.

So here's to love, and many more miles together!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tale of Two Books

When I used to skydive, we had a nickname for those non-skydivers who didn't really understand the lifestyle of those of us who lived to jump out of airplanes 12,000 feet in the air. We called them "Whuffos", as in "Wha-fo' you want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?" (there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane, but I digress). It's a good question, and one that any sports nut or extreme athlete considers at times. Of course it's a question you get asked, whether it's "Wha-fo' you want to swim 2 and a half miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon?" or "Wha-fo' you want to climb that mountain?" but it's also a question you ask yourself. Often in the darkest moments of self-induced athletic torture, say at the infamous mile 21 of the marathon, you have undoubtably asked yourself something along the lines of "Why the hell am I doing this???" Usually, your brain is too fogged over to come up with any kind of meaningful answer in the moment, but the next time you sign up, the question remains.

Two autobiographical books that chronicle the different adventures of very different athletic extremists are Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes, and Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest by Lincoln Hall. Both of them take on this question of Why as they tell their stories of pushing themselves to the edge of human endeavor.

Of the two, I really enjoyed Dead Lucky a lot. For one thing, Lincoln Hall, though one of the world's top mountain climbers is an incredibly centered and introspective human. His Buddhist practices show through in the way he steadfastedly refuses to pass judgement on himself or on the actions of others. In this way, he is able to show us clearly through his own eyes, his amazing ordeal on Mt. Everest. After a successful summit attempt, he experienced mounting confusion (probably associated with cerebral edema, a not uncommon side effect of extreme elevations) and despite the valiant attempt of sherpas to get him down the mountain, he was eventually left for dead only a thousand feet below the summit. Climbers the next day were amazed to find him still alive, and his rescue and eventual recovery (minus some fingers and toes) make for a compelling story.

One of my favorite quotes:
Of course, all mountain landscapes are immutable and emotionless. There is a purity that exists in the absence of life there, and perhaps it is to make that beauty a part of ourselves that we climb mountains. Looking from afar is not enough. As climbers, we need to sacrifice or comfort, our safety, and arguably our sanity, as a tithe to the mountain. But no matter what homage we pay, we are the losers, spurned in love. A summit reached can be a one-night stand, big on experience but empty of meaning -- except to our egos. We need the mountains, but the mountains do not need us.

He also explains very well that feeling of rapture, often described as a "runner's high" that happens to many athletes when pushing their bodies and minds the furthest:

I had experienced thi kind of connection to a world beyond oneself on the hardest of mountains, when danger had put all of my senses on red alert. Afterward, as I descended from the last of the snow and steep rock, my senses remained tuned to the present moment. The sounds were more insistent, the colors were brighter, and my eyes seemed to take in everything around me without my mind asking them to look. It was an extraordinary feeling -- one of the reasons I climb.

I liked UltraMarathon Man a lot less, though there were moments of humor and insight. Though in many ways, the forces that drive someone to run 200 straight miles and the forces that compell them to climb the world's tallest mountain might seem similar, Dean Karnazes seems a lot more ego-driven and it shows in his writing. Not two paragraphs into the book, we're treated with "At less than 5 percent body fat, my body is ripped like a prizefighter's", a fact that he manages to repeat several more times throughout the text.

The quality of writing is also on a lower scale, with prose like "The night air was dry and fresh... I was able to enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings. It was a rare moment of serenity in an otherwise frenetic life."

The most interesting part of the book for me was the descriptions of the Western States Endurance Run, which I'd never heard of (probably like many folks). The course sounds intense and brutal, and the elevation chart in the text comparing it to the Boston Marathon is highly entertaining. However, some exaggeration on the part of the author lets skepticism sneak in to the reading of the rest of the pages. He ought to know better than to type something about his shoes falling off and shirt "dangling by threads" only to be followed with an actual photo of him at the finish with all clothing miraculously intact.

All in all, it's a quick read and with some interesting bits (the South Pole marathon is one of them) but overall the author's smug tone and continuous self-praise ("Sure I'm ripped, but it's not for the sake of vanity" is one gem) gets tiring after a while. Though ultra-endurance sports are appealing to me, this book sadly was not.

Friday, March 20, 2009


So whaddya think....tomorrow would be a bad day to pick for a long bike ride????

Good thing I kept an eye on the forecast this week and got out for a nice one on Wednesday, followed by a terrificly warm run on Thursday. Tomorrow, it's strictly indoors for me, lest that lightning bolt strike anywhere nearby.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crossfit Update

I'm in my 2nd week of Crossfit classes and am really finding it challenging and fun. I went last Tuesday and Thursday, and when I swam on Saturday I even thought I felt a little more power in my stroke. Maybe all those pullups! This week I'm going Monday, Wednesday, and Friday which is a little more challenging since on Monday I also have karate and swimming and by the time I was done with 3,000 yards of swimming on Monday night I had to call it quits. I could feel a soreness in my arms and legs that didn't feel like good soreness, it felt more like if I swam another yard I would regret it tomorrow kind of soreness.

So I think the challenge for me with Crossfit will not be in the workouts (though they're seriously challenging, but in a good way), it will be in how I manage to get my regular triathlon workouts in without either blowing up my body or just having fatigued tri workouts that are mediocre in nature. I'm still trying to work out how I'm going to accomplish all of this. I have nothing but good things to say about Crossfit though so far!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I have studied martial arts off and on for a good deal of my life. As a teenager, I took Judo at the YMCA from Sensei Santoya, a large, gruff but terrific teacher who intimidated the heck out of me (and whose son Teddy I had a mad crush on). Later in college I took Judo again, but found the level of instruction to be much lower, the testosterone quotient much higher, and the injury rate in the class too high for my liking (including my own broken toes).

When I worked at Microsoft, I started studying Goju-Ryu karate with Sensei Brent Hartwig, who was an excellent instructor. I really enjoyed the classes and improving my karate, beginning to learn kata, etc. but a former knee injury (skiing) came back to haunt me and I eventually had to quit again. Round kicks were my downfall.

So fast-forward to three years ago when I started training in Shūdōkan karate here in Oregon. I wasn't yet sure if my 39 year old body could take what my 16, 20, and 24 year old body couldn't, but I wanted to try. At any point I knew I might have to cut it short again. But I remembered in all of my martial arts studies looking up to the people who had achieved brown and black belts, seeing how proficient they were, and wanting to achieve that same level of proficiency.

Now I'm 42, and this morning I received my brown belt. I couldn't be prouder or happier to have made it to this milestone. I now have a year or more in front of me in which I'll be preparing for my black belt. I know it's still a long road, but this time I'm pretty confident that I will make it there, and hopefully beyond. I would like to keep martial arts in my life from now on.

I'm also incredibly proud of my kids, both orange belts/brown stripe. Besides their own proficiency in karate, which is important to me because one day it could even save their lives, I am proudest of their Excellent marks in the class in Confidence, Effort, Respect, Attitude, and Citizenship, and of the fact that our sensei remarked about how respectful they are to me and to each other in class as well. It's not always easy for a kid to study something alongside their parent, so I'm very grateful that it has worked out so well for all of us.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Swim Workout: Finish Hard

My swim workout for the Saturday Masters:

"Finish Hard"

2 X (200 S, 75 Dr 75 K 75 Dr 75 K)
3 x (100 S, 100 P ) Descend

Main set

Distance Pace _________________Hard
rest 10 sec ___________________rest 60 sec
425________________________ 75
325________________________ 75
225________________________ 75

Warm Down:

6 X 50 – 2-turn 50’s

6 X 50 – Stroke/Free by 25

100 Cool Down

3800 yards

You can think of the main set in terms of broken distance swims. For instance, the first one is a broken 500. 425 is at a distance pace, you rest 10 seconds, then the last 75 is hard. With 60 seconds to rest after that, you should be going very hard on that 75 hard. This is a tough set, but gets you used to finishing stronger instead of petering out at the end of your distance sets.

The "2-turn 50's" are for work on turns - swim at a moderate speed, and take an extra turn at the end, accentuating the glide and kick-out.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Brown Baby Brown!

Just a short note since it's a hectic day, I tested for my brown belt last night in Shudokan Karate-do. I haven't gotten my results yet, but the sensei who was grading me approached my partner and I after the test and said that it was a pleasure grading us because it's nice to be able to give out really high marks and we did great! Phew!!!!!

For this morning's swim workout, I felt a bit like I'd been run over by a truck, especially my arms. All of our defenses for this test were jujitsu throws using this torturous hand-twisting, and my right wrist is killing me. But overall, am very happy with last night's test!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Spoiled Little Pool Girl

I went swimming with two friends this morning at a local public pool and came shortly to realize how utterly spoiled I really am. The pool was about 84 degrees, I was sweating by the time I got halfway through my first set. Undoubtably it was the perfect temperature for the aqua-aerobics people causing the tidal waves in the first three lanes. There were of course no wave-breaker lane lines, just ropes with little plastic buoys every few feet that kept swinging wildly into my lane with every gyration of the aerobics grandmas.

Of course, there's also the stunning variety of swimmers, none of whom can organize themselves into anything resembling Slow, Medium, and Fast lanes. No, for the record, sidestroke doesn't count as fast. And just like on the roads here, you pass on the left, this is not Australia or London. Even my good friend Kay who I was swimming with who really is certifiably British passes on the left whilst swimming, so the rest of these people have no excuses.

Pleas to the lifeguard to open another lap lane fell on deaf ears as apparently the 6 aerobics people needed an entire half of the pool, as opposed to the swimmers crammed into the 3 lanes.

Ah yes, I really have no room to complain, I'm just another spoiled rotten private club pool swimmer. Times like these are when it really hits me between the eyes how good my life really is if this is all I can find to get worked up over. And sitting in the hot tub with my friends in the afterglow of swimming with the ice cold morning air contrasting nicely with the 102 degree water. Well as they say on the ads... Priceless.

Monday, March 02, 2009

First Crossfit Experience

I did my first Crossfit workout this week and so far I really like it. I'm not doing any this week, since my karate test is this Friday and I don't think it would be a good idea to be all sore and stiff before that. I am testing for my brown belt (ulp!)!!!!!!!

Overall, I think it's a great addition to a training routine. For me, I am especially interested in adding strength and power. I know I have good endurance, decent flexibility, and through karate I have been developing my speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, etc. My weakest link is strength. For instance, I cannot do even one pullup, and never have been able to in my life. I don't think I have very many fast-twitch muscles, I'm just a slow-twitch kind of gal. So, since I think we should always push our limiters, Crossfit is right up my alley.

I went to an early morning class, along with several other people. I was impressed by the level of technique instruction and monitoring for good technique. We started off with a warmup, then had some technique instruction on the clean and jerk, just using a piece of PVC pipe. Then we did some standing floor jumps, measuring how high we could jump. I can still jump a foot and a half into the air, not too bad. Before long-distance endurance training and 20-some odd years ago, I had a helluva vertical leap so I think I could improve on my vertical leap again with some practice and strength/power work.

We progressed onto using a medicine ball and the WOD (Workout of the Day) was 21 medicine ball cleans then 21 pullups, repeated 3 times. For me, I used the assistance of a big rubber bandy thing to do pullups which was great because for the first time I could get the feel of the total pullup movement, even though I can't fully support my own weight yet. I made it almost through two repeats, having to stop in the 2nd set of pullups after 16. Still, that's 37 more pullups than I've ever done!

It was a very positive experience with the other people there all encouraging each other and me. I really liked it. I knew I'd be sore the next day, but thankfully I stopped before I really wrecked myself.

I'm looking forward to more workouts!