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.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cosmic Justice

I wish this happened every single time someone threw a flaming cigarette butt out their window. I'm tired of getting hit by these things on my bicycle! This is one reason that I insist on the kids (and myself) always wearing sunglasses while cycling. And in the summertime, the odds of starting some kind of brush fire or forest fire is also high. Besides, who do they think picks these things up? Even my kids know to pick up after themselves and never litter. Sheesh! Cosmic justice if you ask me...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's Good For Your Body is Good For the Planet

It's funny how we athletes train so hard, look at all of our metrics, try to improve in ways large and small and yet....when it comes to nutrition there we are unwrapping a blob of processed soy protein isolate, fractionated Palm Kernel oil and even the devil incarnate high fructose corn syrup and wolfing it down. No, not even wolfing it down - I'd put a bet that any self-respecting wolf would turn up its nose at such a concoction (just as our family dog once turned up his nose at my offer of a tofu hot dog - HE knew it wasn't a meat substitute!)

So in my ever-ongoing process of synthesizing the various elements of my life into some sort of a meaningful and coherent whole, it struck me that what is good for the planet (there's that tree-hugging side of me) is best for our bodies (there's that triathlete side) and vice-versa. I'm trying to move in a mostly whole-foods direction for nutrition, which has left me strangely deprived of power bars, drink mixes, and gu-like substances for all of my training so far this summer. I'm trying various combinations of dates, sunflower seeds, coconut, and dark chocolate for training fuel and the rest of the time trying to stick to a loosely paleolithic (plus raw milk and eggs) kind of nutrition plan.

Post-workout re-fueling has been supplied by smoothies consisting of raw goat's milk, our own chicken eggs, and various berries that we've picked locally and frozen.

In so many races I just feel sick of eating sweet stuff (especially when downing a drink mix, even one as mild as the Accelerade that I like to use), so for our upcoming Cascade Lakes Relay in a few weeks, I'm going to try out the Slipstream cycling team's Rice/Egg cakes. Here's a great video with their team chef explaining how (and why) he makes these for the team. Don't those sound great in place of yet another sweet gooey energy bar?? I do have to note though that if he was using eggs like the ones we get from our free-ranging chickens, they would look much nicer and yellower in his pan than those pale versions he's got going there. Just for comparison, here's a store-bought egg (and mind you, this is an organic "free range" storebought egg, not just a regular factory-farmed egg) on the left in the pale yellow, and one of our chicken's eggs on the right in the rich deep gold/orange. Notice how the white parts of the storebought egg have run all over the place while our chicken's egg is standing firm. Yep, even when you get down to splitting hairs like buying your organic eggs from the regular grocery or from someone whose chickens you can see running around the pasture, sourcing it locally matters. It may even be the case that to reach your full athletic potential, a few workouts could be swapped with time in the veggie garden.

What's good for our bodies is good for our planet is good for our communities and our farmers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just the Facts Ma'am

My dad was a career law-enforcement officer all the years of my childhood, going from a police officer before I was born to the FBI to a rural county sheriff in Oregon to a US Marshall. So it was no surprise that shows like Dragnet and Columbo are the ones I remember gracing our old cabinet TV in my childhood. I have vague before-bedtime memories of Columbo's flashlight searching through the darkness and Joe Friday's gruff voice through my bedroom walls Although Sergeant Joe Friday never actually said "Just the facts ma'am" ("All we want are the facts." was the actual phrase used), this cultural idiom is more or less one of my triathlon training mantras.

So it is that I couldn't resist going out yesterday and trying another 10k time trial to see if my iron regimen is having an effect. I've had the general feeling that it is for sure as my workouts have improved greatly this week but I'm the kind of triathlon geek that wants the cold hard facts (Ma'am)

Two weeks ago, in a red-blood-cell deficient oxygen debt, my 10k mile splits were:
8:45 pace, 8:50, 9:07, 9:20, 9:43, and 9:58. Total: 55:37 or a 9:16 average

Yesterday I went 8:49, 8:51, 8:53, 8:51, 8:50, 8:45 for a 10k of 54:35 or an 8:47 average. Not yet into my normal zone for this year but signifigantly better than two weeks ago! And best of all I felt like I was cruising at a steady hard aerobic pace, not falling apart at the seams like two weeks ago. Yippeee!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kick Your Ass Up and Down the Pool With This One

One thing I'm really loving about doing the Crossfit Endurance (CFE) workouts is that its got me thinking of new and different ways to approach swimming sessions. I have to say that many of the CFE workouts just don't translate all that well to the pool. Like the 20:10 workout for instance. You're supposed to sprint for exactly 20 seconds, then stop and rest for 10 seconds. You can imagine how well that goes over in the lap lane of a public pool. Sure, go all out, passing everyone right and left, then stop dead still and watch everyone pile up behind you like a traffic accident in rush hour. That would really make you the most popular person in the lane, right? Luckily, a 50m takes me just about 20 seconds exactly so I just rest at the ends, but it leaves me wondering what other folks whose lap times don't coincide so neatly do in their lap lanes.

Nevertheless, I've been thinking more on how to translate intensity in new and different ways into my Master's Swim workouts. After all, there's only so many ways you can slice and dice lap swimming before it gets repetitive. The set I wrote up for this morning's Masters workout ended up being a really good one:

6 x (25
75) all on the :60, no rounders.

These are ALL hard. So you do a hard 25 on the :60, then a hard 50, then a hard 75. You can pick a different interval than :60, but it should be one that you can BARELY complete the 75 on with maybe a couple of seconds rest, then you're back into the 25. Don't let the 25 become a cruise, you've got to hit it just as hard as the 75. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. It's a toughie!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hemo Back At Work

I'm happy to report that all of my little bone marrow factories are once again in production and I can feel more of those lovely little red blood cells circulating around carrying oxygen to brain and muscles. Does anyone else remember this terrific film that they showed in 6th grade science class, Hemo the Magnificent?? I think of this whenever I have to worry about my body's blood-cell-making capabilities... I think I might just have to order a copy to show my kids, it's really a classic and the best explanation for the circulatory system I ever remember having seen...

In any case, I'm feeling much friskier and I'll have to try another time trial in a week or so to see if things are really back on track. In three weeks we're going to run the Cascade Lakes Relay again, and since the legs of that race take us runners up to 7,000 feet or so, I'll need a few oxygen-carrying blood cells on my side!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


At the end of every karate class, our sensei says "Kaizen!" and we clap three times. The translation according to our dojo is "Constant, Never-ending Improvement". Wikipedia gives it as "a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life."

There is power simply in the saying of a word, especially saying it so emphatically, like an exclamation point at the end of every karate workout. It's a reminder that when we go out the door, our commitment does not end. And not just our commitment to the practice of karate, kaizen is a principle that can be applied to every aspect of life. Of course, kaizen appeals to the engineer in my brain: "Is there a more efficient way to hang and fold my laundry?" I try hanging the t-shirts together so that I can fold them all at one time, matching the socks up as I pin them out. I think about kaizen when I prepare food - is this the best most nourishing thing I can give my body right now? Give my kids' bodies? And of course kaizen goes hand in hand with triathlon training. How can I make my hand position more efficient in my swimming stroke? Increase my running foot turnover? Make my bike position just slightly more aero? And it's tailor-made for the Crossfit approach. Crossfit is nothing if not the practice of kaizen.

Even my work encompasses kaizen. One thing I love about coaching, in fact, is the notion that all of the people who come to me are there because they are in search of improvement, and I love helping them achieve that goal. No matter where they are in ability, they are each striving to make themselves better. It's really a brave act, when you think about it (especially as an adult) to come and seek out a teacher, to try to improve. There are many who never do. I see the same swimmers in the pool year in and year out who never change their stroke, never vary a nanosecond in their lap times. Perhaps they are practicing something else, something more zen, more appreciative of the present moment, I don't know. But I do know that the people who are seeking kaizen are the ones that really appeal to me.

And of course, all of us who have taken the parenting leap benefit from the notion of kaizen. I hope I never get to the point where I believe I am a "good enough" parent. I rarely read the "mommy blogosphere" for this reason, it seems that there has been a swing or shift, almost a rebellion against the notion of trying to become a better parent. Instead, mommy bloggers in droves are embracing and even elevating their moments of mediocrity, laughing about investing in their kids' counseling funds, and handing themselves a "bad parenting award" as if that's a good thing. I'm sure much of this is in response to the perfect-parenting notions of the early internet days, the "I breastfed my cloth-diapered organically born-at-home baby longer than you did" competition that seemed rampant for awhile. But somewhere in between the two is more than enough room for some kaizen, I think. I don't need to be a perfect parent, but I never want to stop striving to become a better one.

Student, athlete, employee, parent, spouse, friend, even blogger - the concept of kaizen can bring all aspects of life into sharper focus. Hmmm, now how do I blog better..... all suggestions are welcome...


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Yah, I'm Thinking That's It

My Crossfit workout today SUCKED... wind that is. I was gasping like a fish out of water, seeing dark spots in front of my eyes. Things that are normally relatively easy like wallballs were killing me. I was getting kind of pissed with myself to be honest 'cuz I hate it when I can't seem to do what I know I can do.

And a few other things have fallen into place, like the fact that I've had RLS (restless leg syndrome, for those of you never plagued with this horrible feeling like electric ants are crawling all over your legs when you're trying to sleep) and the fact that I've been munching on ice like crazy (though I could excuse that with the fact that it's in the 90's here for the first time this summer). Those are both good indicators for me that the ol' red blood cell count is way low. It's like living at 10,000 feet elevation, anything you try to do is twenty times harder.

So in the end, my little temper tantrum with myself being over and all, it's a good thing, because it means that most likely everything else is on target and once this gets cleared up I'll still be on track for a good race or two this year. Stay tuned....

Made of Iron, But Not the Kind You're Thinking Of

Looking back on my 10k TT debacle this week, I'm also looking at another possibility: my old friend Anemia might be back in town. Just realized that I ran out of iron tablets a few weeks ago and it's been on my to-do list to pick up some more. The way anemia works is it sneaks up on you. One day you're running 10 miles and before you know it a week or two later you're gasping for breath when you walk up the stairs. Luckily, there's a pretty easy fix, and since I started taking iron tabs again last night, hopefully I'll know whether or not that's a contributing factor soon enough.

I know some people get anemia in pretty mild forms, in fact it's common in women and very common in athletic women. For some reason, I seem to have a real problem making red blood cells, and have since I was a kid. Various tests have been run over the years with no conclusions about my faulty blood cell factory (no I don't have leukemia, no I don't have nutritional deficiencies, etc. etc.) In fact, it was serious, life-threatening anemia that derailed my first Ironman attempt and had my doctor threatening me with a blood transfusion (not to mention threatening to take a baseball bat to my bicycle if I even got on the thing again until my hematocrit came back up).

From as early as eight years old, I had pica, a condition in which you crave eating strange things (dirt, chalk, ice, paper) and which is frequently caused by anemia. While I was a vegetarian later in life, my family definitely wasn't that way when I was growing up. I remember once when my dad was the grand marshall of the rodeo, one of the bucking bulls threw his back out and they had to shoot him. So we had 400 pounds of "Black Magic" or "Hell's Fury" or whatever the bull's name was in our freezer that year. Needless to say, I wasn't anemic for lack of eating red meat. But I got in trouble frequently at school for eating chalk and paper, and at home I ate so much ice that my dad dismantled the ice maker in our refridgerator. Of course, no one knew that my strange eating habits were really the result of a medical condition, which was very curable.

Once in college, I unknowingly compounded my problems by becoming an athlete, and then a vegetarian. What followed was 20 years of serious battles with anemia in which my blood count would get so low that my doctors couldn't believe I was still standing in front of them (not to mention training for triathlons, climbing mountains, etc.). I'm just stubborn that way I guess. The red blood cell count of a dying cancer victim and I can't be dissuaded from my plans. Eventually after my docs endless pleading and the fact that I could no longer tolerate the massive amounts of iron I needed to take just to stay on the low end of normal, I gave up my vegetarianism. That was just a few years ago and though it took awhile to adjust to eating meat again, I think that's what allowed me to train and complete the Ironman finally (and no, the pun of that name wasn't lost on me at the time!)

So now, I really only have to take one small iron tab a day to stay in the boundaries of low-normal. It's not too much to stay on top of, except that for some reason my brain thinks I can slack off on this and still be okay. Until I'm not. Right now I'd place money on the fact that I'm not. Maybe that's not the only reason I had such a crappo run this week, but I'd bet that it's a big contributing factor. So if you've made it this far in this blog post, keep your fingers crossed for me. And if you know anyone who ever confesses to feeling urges to eat strange things like freezer ice or paper straw wrappers, maybe you'll know why!