Thursday, July 13, 2017

In the moment

I have a few (very) long time readers. People who have followed me from an old forum to my first blog to this one. If you are in that group, you might remember this story.

I have been running for a very long time. Many years ago, about 20, I started a light yoga program. I bought videos and did what I could at home.

At one point, I had a minor accident that resulted in a fractured heel. I went to a sports doctor, who I thought I could trust.....I mean really a sports doctor would do anything to help someone get back to running, right?

When I asked this doctor when I could run again, he said, "Run?! You'll never walk again without pain. You won't ever run again".

Running was everything for me. I had two sons, Mr. Tea, and a job that required a ton of travel (across the US and internationally). Running was the only real time I had for myself.

Believe it or not. I wasn't discouraged by what he said. In fact, what I thought to myself was, "That's bullshit".

There's more to that story about how I recovered. This post isn't about that.

I went home. Walking was incredibly painful. I was doing the light yoga. I decided to throw myself into a more significant yoga program.

I had read a lot about the healing ability of yoga. I believed that yoga was going to help me get through it. I did it daily. Some days, I only did 15 minutes. Some days I did 1.5 hours. Some days, I did two shorter routines, but I did it every day.

It took two years. Two years, and I did my first pain free run. During that time, through yoga, I'd learned how to be in the moment. We don't know what the future will hold. The past is done and can't be changed. The only thing we can change or be is the moment we are in.

The accident above is also what led me to triathlon.

As my interest in triathlon grew and the training hours increased, I slowly dropped out of my yoga routine.

For a couple of months, I have been struggling personally. In a way, I have felt lost, like I don't have a purpose.

Several months back, I started working with Jyoti, a sports massage therapist. He is absolutely fantastic. At one point, he asked me if I do yoga. I told him that I did many years ago. He said, "Good. Then, you'll be familiar with the homework I'm going to give you".

He then showed me a number of poses that he wanted me to do at home to help regain flexibility and improve my posture and mobility. He worked with me to show me how to adjust moves to my current ability.

All of the poses were yoga poses. Of course, I had to adjust many (and by many I mean all) of the poses because of my lack of flexibility.

He asked me to spend at least 15 minutes a day working on the poses.

15 minutes. That's a commitment I can make.

For months now, I have been doing these basic yoga movements. This past month, I started adding more moves.

I have been re-learning how to breathe and focus on relaxing the muscles (or as Jyoti says "image butter melting in a pan". Who doesn't love butter?)

In doing this, I have found what I lost: being in the moment. Taking a breath and focusing only on the breath.

This time is allowing my subconscious thoughts to come to the forefront without forcing the issue.

This morning I woke up at 4:30, wide awake.

I woke up, and I realized what had been missing from my life over the past months.

I knew what I had to do to change it.

I no longer felt lost.

I, once again, have a purpose.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Head games: Mental block

A few weeks back, I got tired of my own bullshit.

Around the same time, Coach Liz attended the GAIN Symposium.

For me, it was a perfect storm. She returned full of new ideas. She emailed me and said, "Wait until you see what I have planned for you".

And I was....tired of my own bullshit.

Throughout the month of June and (I guess) part of July, we had ongoing discussions.

I'm going to mix up the order of events. Please bear with me.

One day, she gave me some cadence drills. I'm so over cadence drills. I actually hate them because I cannot do them.

I told her this. She ask, "What's holding you back"? I said, "I don't know. I physically cannot do the drills. I mean. I can do them for a few seconds. That's it".

She explained to me that this isn't my fault. And that she suspects it is due to weakened muscles due to all that baby making I did.

You have no idea how good this made me feel. (I probably should have brought it up to her sooner). The fact was that I'd been told....I'd read articles....over the years...SO MANY PEOPLE/ATHLETES/COACHES have told me about how importance cadence was. They all just said, "Do these drills".

I was afraid she was going to say the same thing. You'd think I'd have known better since we've been together +3.5 years.

Sometimes, drills aren't the answer. Sometimes it takes having a coach willing to listen to you. We've been together long enough that she knows when I am giving it everything I have. She knows when I'm frustrated. This was one of those times.

She set me up with a routine that I do 2-3 times a week. The very first day I looked at the workout, and I thought, "This is weird. How can these possibly help me"? Sure enough, there were several exercises that I couldn't even do and even more that I could do, but I couldn't do the number of reps.

The exercises are still hard for me, but only 2 weeks into it, and we saw an improvement in my cadence (particularly on the uphills).

Now, you might be thinking, "How is this related to head games"?  This WHOLE cadence thing became a mental block. When I ran and had to do the drills, my entire body tightened up. I was no longer relaxed when I ran.  I was starting to think that I was different. (For those of you who have been long time readers, you might remember a few posts about how NONE of us are special. Very very few of us have actual issues. The rest of us fall under the bell curve).

It became a mental block. I couldn't get past it. I was mad at myself. I was mad at Liz for asking me to do it. It was Newton's 3rd law in action. There can be no acceleration when two forces are working against each other.

Then, an easy conversation with her, new exercises, and I'm already seeing progress. What used to weigh me down is now a work in progress.

Moral of the story: Mental blocks can and will slow or derail your training. You need to know when to ask for help. I didn't know there was something that could help me until I asked. Maybe you haven't been able to break the 2:00 per 100 pace in swimming. Sometimes it's more than just swimming harder. Maybe you can't seem to climb hills the way you want to on the bike. Sometimes it's more that just working harder. We all have physical limiters that we aren't aware of. Those physical limiters can actually become mental inhibitors if we allow them to. Don't let them. Ask for help. You can't always power through things. Sometimes, the devil is in the details; and a very simple, easy fix is all it takes.

Up Next
Head Games 3: Going to failure to reach your goals

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

IM Madison 70.3

Another great race report from Coach Liz: how do you approach a race when you don't feel like you are really ready to race?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Head Games

For the last two months, I've had a lot going on in MA HEAD.

Each race has brought out more feelings of frustration on one level or another.

I have an amazing team of coaches that I work with. I am so genuinely taken by how much they care about me and my performance.

I decided it was time for me to write about some of this.

I'm going to speak in general terms because in races there are tons of nuances and small things that take place that can affect pace or time. These are things we cannot control. I don't worry about them.

I have been swimming faster (in the pool) than I have ever swam before. This speed has not been translating to open water.

It's been making me a little crazy. I haven't been able to figure out why. In open water with wetsuit or with a swimskin, I should be swimming substantially faster.

After my first race of the year, I went back to Coach Liz. We talked through some issues. She felt that the cold water impacted my speed. (Especially since swim times across the board were very slow for an oly, and I got out of the water with a 5 minute lead).

She set up my training with with open water swims that would help me translate pool speed to open water.

I went to my swim coach. At masters, he started spending more and more time with me (which he tends to do in the Summer) correcting some minor things in my stroke.

In my most recent race, I had my best swim of the year (3 minute lead getting out of the water), but I STILL wasn't doing what I am capable of doing.

I went back to Coach Liz. She recommended that I stop killing myself on the swim since I'm getting out of the water with such a huge lead.....I should put my energy into my bike and run.

I chewed on that for a bit.

I relayed this conversation to my swim coach, "But I'm not killing myself. That's the problem. If I finished feeling completely wiped out, it would be one thing. But I'm finishing, and I'm like, "LET'S DO THAT AGAIN"!

I knew it was something about open water. Something was happening in open water that was causing me to slow down.

I had to figure it out.

I had another race coming up.

As I was racing, I remember thinking "I'm moving really quickly".

When I finished, I'd had my best swim so far, but I was far from "moving quickly".

After the race, I realized what was happening.

Then, I remembered something my swim coach had said months ago.

He had me do a long course meters 900m time trial. When I finished, he asked me, "How does swimming fast feel"?

Breathless.....I said, "Good".

He stared at me for a second and said, "Let me know when you figure it out".

For months, I thought about that conversation. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then, a few weeks later he made the comment, "Swimming fast is different. It feels different. People swim differently when they are swimming fast".

I started putting two and two together.

Because I work by "feel", this can be hard to explain.

I realized that the difference was the controlled environment of the pool versus the very uncontrolled environment of open water.

When I swim in a pool, the water is nice and calm. When I am swimming fast, my breathing is labored and (this is the important part).....the water is moving over my head very fast. I know I am moving fast because of these external factors.

The water is moving fast AND my breathing is labored.

When I get to open water, I am dealing with other people, the current, wind, sun.....etc.

I start swimming in open water, and the water is already moving past me very very fast. That led me to believe that I was actually swimming fast. But the effort (on my part) was not there.

It was the external factor of how the water felt, that fooled me into thinking I was swimming fast.

Could that really be it?

I had to try it. I was looking forward to my next open water swim. My goal was to ignore how the water felt and pay attention to every aspect of my stroke (diversion technique) and most importantly constant do a system check, "How do you feel"?

For my first interval, I noticed right away that YES the water was moving FAST.

How do you feel?

I'm not struggling at all.

I paid attention to every part of my stroke: Hand entry, PULL, PUSH, LIFT. Entry, Pull, Push, Lift. I ignored the people I was passing. I ignored the water speeding over my head.

All of a sudden, I realized I was swimming very fast. My effort was much harder than normal but sustainable. I felt efficient. Which each stroke, I felt a power that I had never felt before.

When I finished my swim, I looked at my interval paces. For 3:00 intervals, I swam the following paces :59, 1:06, 1:13, 1:16, 1:13.

Considerably faster than my races.

I was so excited that I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and my swim Coach.

When I went to masters the other day, the first thing I did was call him over to tell him about my mental breakthrough.

He smiled and said, "You get it. Now you know what swimming fast feels like".

Now, I'm never fooled by ONE good workout. One good workout can happen for any reason: a great night of sleep, great fueling, proper recovery.

As I told Coach, this will take some work on my part. Now, I know what the issue is, and I know how to work through it.

The timing couldn't be better with my next triathlon coming up and an open water swim race coming up.

Get ready.....there's a Head Games parts 2 and 3 coming up that deal with the bike and the run.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twas a mixed bag

I have never been more excited, ready, geeked, race than I was today.

For weeks, I have felt like I was on the brink of a breakthrough.

I had a race plan unlike any I've written before.

I was so ready for this.

The weather was absolutely perfect racing weather.

Luck of the draw gave me the very first spot on the very first rack near the bike exit.

I felt great.

When I got to the race venue, I thought to myself, "the stars are aligning for a great day".

Then, I realized that based on the way they did the bib numbers, I was the only person in my age group on the rack.

I took this as a sign. This will force me to focus on my race and not pay attention to how many bikes are racked after the swim.

Normally, I don't worry about what other women are doing, but I do take note of who's out of the water or who has already started running.

I thought about it. This is really good for me.

My wave started at 7:30. I thought, for sure, the sun would be up and well out of our way before we started swimming.

I was wrong.  No one could see anything. This was across the board. Small groups of athletes were checking with each other to see if anyone could see the buoys.

The RD repeatedly told us, "You can't see the 2nd green buoy. It's out there. Trust me. That's where you turn".

Staring out on the water, for a split second, I thought I could see a buoy.....wayyyyyy out there......I had to come up with a strategy.

The buoys didn't really line up. Three were in line. One was out of line. I looked out.

I thought, "everyone is going to attempt to go from buoy to buoy. That's going to add distance".

I opted for what was behind door number 2.

I wasn't going to chase buoys. I was going to beeline straight to the dam wall. (Oh. The sun also made it impossible to see swimmers off in the distance. So, trying to follow them was impossible).

The olympic distance group started before the sprinters. My plan called for trying to stay focused. I was shooting for a focus rate of about 90%.

As soon as I ran into the sprinters, I would go after a fast one and draft off of him.

We took off running into the water. Immediately, everyone veered to the right, except me and another woman. Throughout the entire race, I didn't know if I was following her....or if she was following me....or a mix of both.

We stayed neck in neck the entire time. Twice I pulled into the lead. Twice I stopped swimming to try to get a visual of the buoy. I should have trusted my internal gps instead of stopping.

....because all of a sudden I look up, and the 2nd green buoy is directly in front of me.

Me and the other woman had already caught the slowest swimmers of all previous waves. As we made the final turn, I see the sprinters merging with the olympic racers.

Find your guy. Find the guy you can draft off of. Unfortunately, this plan didn't really go as expected. I had started to pick up speed and was passing guys like crazy.

I caught the other woman in my sights. She was picking up speed. DRAFT HER. GO NOW.

As a side note: my open water swim speed (in races) has been lacking.

Although I was first out of the water, I did not hit my training paces. Granted some of that had to do with stopping three times.

Still, I got to shore and I thought, "Best effort this year. Let's go crush the bike".

Swim result: MIXED: not as fast as I can swim; first out of the water; best effort this year.

OH LAWDY was I ever ready for that bike.

The minute I jumped on my bike, I knew I had a problem. I'm trying to change gears, and I got nothing.


Well now. Isn't that sucky.

I look down at my gearing. I'm in the big chain ring (in front) and about the middle cog in back.  I decide to stay in the race.

I think, "Use what you have. Do what you can".

I know I will not be able to hit top speeds. (There is an awesome, super fast, steep, with no curves descent on the course. I was going to tear it up).

BUT, I could push it on the uphills.

I'm catching and passing sprinters.

I'm catching and passing people from the oly race.

I'm too focused on the job at hand to notice that I hadn't seen any women, any women +40 since...well, since we were talking at the racks.

When I get to the top of the big descent, I notice that the road was all chip seal. Well dammit. I'm still going to go as hard as I can, at least until I get to "spinout". Then, I'll have to coast the rest of the way.

For the entire bike, I averaged almost 21mph, which is a huge PR for the course. My previous best was 18.5 mph. My top speed was 33.7 mph. That was disappointing. I could have easily hit +45mph. I love going fast.

Bike result: MIXED. I'm happy that I PR'd, but dammit, I could have really blown away my previous time.  Best Bike Split said I could do 1:12. I finished in 1:16. Four minutes doesn't seem like much, but when the swim and bike are your strength, it's kinda a lot.

When I pulled into transition, the thing that struck me was HOW MANY BIKES were already racked.

WOW. Am I in last place?

I committed to this race. I might be in last place, but I am going to run like I'm in first.

I have an opportunity to PR this run. I'm not going to give up on that.

I won't drag you through step by step of the run. Except to say that I was running and didn't see any women, again. Oh, I saw a few young'uns, but that was it. I thought about all the bikes that were already racked when I pulled into T2. I kept thinking, "Holy cow. Am I THAT far behind"?


It was awesome seeing Coach Amanda from MSM out there. (Amanda is a coach and pro-triathlete).

She was saying stuff to idea what....but all that came out of my mouth was: EVERYTHING HURTS.

She said (at this point, I might be making up what she said), "You're in the last mile. You'll be hitting the downhill. Everything you have right now"......or some kind of coachy-motivational-talk.

Oh, and she took this picture of me.

When I crossed the finish line, I met Tara (another MSM) athlete. She and I met up with Coach Amanda. I went over to the results table.

I came in 2nd.


I don't even know how it happened.

The entire race ended up being a +7 minute PR for this specific course and tied with my all time fastest oly. (NOTE: This bike was a longer than normal bike course).

RUN RESULTS: MIXED. I tied my all time 10k off the bike run. Could I have run better? Yeah. I think so.

So, what was up with all those bikes in transition?

For some reason, this race had a very high DNF rate. It was very strange. I had 3 friends DNF on the swim. The woman who was next to me in transition took a DNF. And I saw an old coach of mine (from years ago) walking his bike back on the side of the road; I can only assume, with a mechanical issue.

As I was waiting for the awards ceremony, I was talking to a guy. He'd never done a triathlon before. He asked to see my results, and I handed him my sheet. He said, "You guys are the toughest athletes I know. It just seems so hard".

Triathlon is hard. And it can be frustrating at times. And progress can feel slow. Then, to have a day like today that was set up to be one of my best races.....only to end up with a mixed bag of can be hard.

I'm not disappointed. It's kind of hard to explain what I'm feeling. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit about my weaknesses and strengths in each of the events. Things that I would have never noticed before if:
1.) I hadn't been chasing sprinters on the swim.
2.) I hadn't had the bike failure.
3.) I hadn't thought I was in last place on the run.

The pursuit of my best race; the one that I know I have in me, continues.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ICYMI: MSM results

This weekend was a HUGE racing weekend.

More impressive results came in after this post was published.

The coaches of MSM are hands down the best coaches. If you are an athlete (single or multisport) and you want to become a better athlete, you owe yourself to contact Head Coach Liz

Anyone can throw a training plan into trainingpeaks and call it "coaching". The difference with the MSM coaches is that they coach the mental side of racing and develop athletes. Afterall, we can't improve our speeds if we don't improve our minds. This is in addition to putting together highly effective, individualized training plans.

Still unsure?

When you are shopping around for a Coach, the #1 question to ask is "Can I talk to those athletes you have taken from beginner to top age grouper?" Or middle of the pack to PRO.
That's how I met Liz. I personally knew 5 athletes who started with her as beginners or back of the pack athletes. I watched them grow into World Qualifiers (for all distances).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Running ugly

Yoda was full of shit.

A couple of weeks back, I was physically tired and had masters on my schedule. I showed up and thought there was no way I was going to keep up.

We ordered the lane, and I was second. The entire time I said, "I'm going to stay to the right, pass me if you need to".

I was determined to give it everything I had even though I felt like I had nothing.

Something magical happened. I was swimming fast. I switched places with the leader and was lapping the last people in the lane.

Afterward, I sat in the parking lot, completely amazed at what I did. I furiously typed up my notes in trainingpeaks.  Coach Liz responded with, "Sometimes all you have to do is try".

Once again, it's simple but not easy.

On various social media sites, I see comments such as "I didn't have it today. I called it quits. My legs were dead. I'm too sore. LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY"!

These are precisely the days that we need to push through.  If you are working with a coach, your coach knows how you feel. There is a reason for that workout.

For those of you who have been following along for at least a year, you already know this. For those of you who are new, you might find this interesting.

Last year, Mr. Tea......the BEST man, almost died due to a major health issue. When it happened, he was over 100lbs overweight.

Unlike many people, he took this incident seriously and set out to change his life. He has now lost 119lbs; eats an incredibly healthy diet and exercises every day.

Because he was overweight for so long, he has to re-learn what "healthy" feels like. It's uncomfortable getting healthy. On almost a daily basis, I'm sore or my legs feel dead or I'm tired or.....there are days that I'm just not right. (A good example was yesterday's open water swim. I felt uncoordinated and couldn't fix it).

I'm not one to complain. You'll never hear me complain about the heat or about a course being too hard or water being too cold or *me* being sore or any of that. Likewise, I never use any of those at an excuse for race times or training paces. And, as I said, I don't use them as an excuse to quit a workout.

After the open water swim, I had an hour run planned.  I'd had a weekend of very tough workouts. I was feeling the open water workout. Running was the last thing I wanted to do.

Of course, I knew I would do it, anyway.

Several months ago, Mr. Tea made a comment that I make training look easy. The comment stuck with me. It takes a ton of scheduling and re-scheduling. It takes a ton of prep. It takes a ton effort to get out there day in and day out.

Because I don't complain, it comes across as though it's easy for me.

With Mr. Tea taking on new exercise challenges and learning how his body will feel, I really wanted to make sure that he understood that what I isn't easy.

Before I left for my run yesterday, I said, "I want you to know. I'm tired. My legs are sore. I don't particularly want to run, but I'm going to do it anyway. This is what people don't see. When you drive by me, know this......I'm struggling".

I was running ugly.

After a 30 minute warm up, I ran track intervals. The entire warm up, I kept saying, "All you have to do is try".

And I did.

When I got to the track, I gave it everything I had. I emptied the tank.

I've never emptied the tank before.

I ran my fastest intervals ever. I saw paces that I've never seen before.

I sat on the side of the track and sent off my notes to Liz. I could barely contain my excitement.

This is what people are missing out on when they quit a workout. They are denying themselves the chance to breakthrough, mentally.

The next time you're tired or slow or feel the dreaded dead legs; hell, if you are getting off the couch for the very first time, remember.

Sometimes all you need to do is try.