Saturday, October 26, 2013

Whatever it takes?

I couldn't sleep last night. I'm laying in bed, and my mind starts wandering.

I don't exactly know how I got on this topic, probably a stream of consciousness.

I started thinking that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to reach my goals. Then, I asked myself, "Are you? Are you really willing to do that?"

It's a logical question. I've always wanted to think that I have been, but reality is different. "Whatever it takes" is all nice and warm fuzzy on a beautiful Spring day.

Whatever it takes is truly WHATEVER IT TAKES at 5am in January when it's 10 degrees, and I have to swim outside.

Whatever it takes is more than just training and weather. It's getting that training done no matter what. Work is too stressful? Family is too stressful? It doesn't matter.

I admit to wanting to do this in the past but being to "weak" to do it. I know "weak" can sound harsh, but I've said this over and over to people.

I mean "weak" as in "I don't really want to get out of bed to go swim or bike or run" when there's really nothing wrong with me.

Being tired is an excuse. EVERYONE is tired.

Unconsciously, I guess I've been working toward WHATEVER IT TAKES. Each new "thing" would always take me awhile to adapt.

You want me to bike how far? OH HELL NAW. You want me to do WHAT race? OH HELL NAW.

I throw a tantrum. I kick and scream. Then, I do it. That's my history.

If I'm going to end up doing it anyway.....Maybe, just maybe, I could use the energy that I put into my tantrums....into REAL training...instead of complaining?

Novel idea.

Over the past weeks(?), I don't know how long it's been. Let me set the stage a little bit. In triathlon, unless you are doing Austin, Miami, B2B, Arizona, FL, your season is pretty much over (in the Northern Hemisphere).

I hang out with a lot of triathletes nowadays. The questions always goes to the "off season" training. I know everyone always means well, but invariably when I tell them what I'm doing, I get the exclamation, "It's THE OFF SEASON. YOU NEED UNSTRUCTURED TIME OFF."

This has been going on for a few weeks as triathletes compare notes to see who is doing what.

I'm laying in bed thinking about these conversations.

I think I have changed over the past year because my relationship with my Coach has changed. Last year, I didn't always do what he said. I wouldn't say that I was argumentative, but...well, I was argumentative. We tried a swim-focus, and it didn't go over fact, it lasted all of a week. I had too many other things going on at the time. At THAT time, I wasn't willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES.

A few weeks back, he told me we're going to do a swim focus again, 6 days a week of swimming. I didn't ask him "why". I didn't argue. I started formulating my plan. I told my friends and family. They took bets. The over/under is two weeks.

But I ignored them and took a look at why it didn't work last year. I am determined to make it work this year. Instead of saying, "Yea. They're right. I can't do this." I sat down and came up with a plan to make it work. Fortunately for me, my friend Suz is willing to help me through it. She's volunteered to swim with me as much as possible.

This year, I'm excited about the swim focus. I'm going to do WHATEVER IT TAKES.

Then again, I always seem to do better when I know someone else thinks that I can't do something.

Last week, it happened again. Coach informs me that I'm not eating enough. I'm listening to him, and I start thinking, "What do I have to do to make this work?" I don't know how much I'm eating, but from the sounds of it, he wants me to eat double what I'm currently chowing down on. I don't track my food, and I hate tracking food.  But I'm willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES. So, I went to the store and bought a week's worth of "new" groceries, and I logged back onto MyFitnessPal and started tracking my food again. .

I have to admit that the first days were really difficult. I don't think I've ever felt so sick. But he warned me it would happen. Over the next couple of days, I still felt full, but I started getting hungrier and hungrier.

The week's worth of groceries that I bought...lasted me 3 days, but I feel better than I have in a long time. It really isn't easy. It requires a lot of planning. I have a list of "emergency foods" that I can grab when something unexpected happens or I'm running late or I'm hungrier than normal.

I explained this to a friend, and her response was, "Why are you doing that? Aren't you afraid of gaining weight? That's too many carbs."

I didn't even know how to respond to her. That perspective is so wrong on so many different levels.

I have to be honest....that thought NEVER even occurred to me. Coach told me to do it, so I'm doing it. PERIOD.

The only thought I had when he told me was just like when I found out about the swim focus: "How do I make this happen?"

I know I will always have days where I just don't want to get out of bed or feel like I can't leave work to do my swim.

For those days, I've posted this at work and at home.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The last year

My youngest son is a senior in high school this year. It's a big deal. There are times when I'm excited about the future, and there are times when I break down thinking about the years of trick or treating or Easter egg hunts. I am not going to be able to handle graduation.

I don't think I'm alone when I look back over my life and can see sections or the start and end of big phases.

One of those phases started in 2004. That's when I left my old job. I went from travelling all the time and missing my sons' games or having to be on a plane on Sunday to be in another country by Monday am, and worst of all having to show an id at their school because the school didn't recognize home for breakfast, helping out with their homework, volunteering at their schools and being home when they got home in the afternoon.

You only have one opportunity to raise your kids.

Even when they got to high school, I made sure that I was there for breakfast, and I was there at the end of the day. I got to go to practices, bring drinks for their teams and watch games that I would have otherwise missed.

Now, JMAN is a senior. That means that each day his schedule changes. Some days he has to be at school at 6:50, some at 9am, some at 7:30, some at 9:30. Likewise, every day he gets out at a different time. Some days he comes home for lunch and then he's home for the day by 1.

I want to be there for that. I like having breakfast and lunch with him and hearing about his day or what is going on, what's important to him, what makes him happy or angry.

This is the choice I've made because we only have one opportunity. I love doing it, and I want to do it.

But, I'm not writing this to talk about my own personal parenting philosophy.

This is about stages. When I started doing triathlon in 2005, I didn't know anything about anything. I
was so very lucky to meet a few really great guys like Bill and also Tom and Dan (from Ranch Cycling of London---now global). For what I lacked in everything and anything related to cycling, these guys knew their stuff. I would get so frustrated with my inability to even go up a small ant hill. Yet, they were there constantly offering support and advice.

Bill probably doesn't even remember this conversation. But he told me that it takes 5 years to really get good at riding. Of course, back then, I blew him off with a "Yea, Bill. WHATever."

I mention them because if it weren't for these guys, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today. I probably would have quit triathlon. I am lucky to have people who are better, stronger, faster athletes than me....telling me that I *CAN* do this. 

When I decided to do Ironman Coeur D'Alene. It was the wrong decision. It was the wrong time. It was wrong on every level.

But....these guys helped me through it. They probably didn't even realize how much they were helping me at the time. I remember sending an email to Dan in which I was pretty much yelling/screaming/throwing the ultimate tantrum. Of course, Dan responded as though he was speaking to a rational adult.

Of course, Tom had a way of making me laugh, one laugh could wipe out an entire bad day.

These guys were like long lost brothers to me: teasing me over my attempts to be the "cool cyclist" and supporting me through my worst of races. Over the years, as people moved or family or work situations changed, I don't really talk to Dan or Tom much anymore. I'm fortunate that Bill is still around to keep me in line.

Ok. I know. This is becoming a little warm fuzzy, but I am getting to my point about stages.


The other day, I mentioned to the world's greatest coach that for a long time I was afraid to go back to Ironman, but I'm not afraid anymore. Now, I can't commit to the training.

The reason I can't commit to the training is because it's the last year. I am not going to skip breakfast with JMan to swim 3000m. I'm not going to miss him coming home from school because I'm running 10 miles.

But, I'm getting close.

And, I'm starting from a different place. For me to start thinking about doing Ironman, I need to be in a place of confidence because there will be plenty of days during training where my confidence will be shaken and days in which I question what the hell I'm doing. For me to be successful, I need to do it on a strong foundation. The foundation is there now; and in another year, the time will be too.

I won't be ready next year. What I hope is that the people that were there for me in the beginning will be there for me again...because it's coming. And, this time it'll be different.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Out with the....uh....slow?

It occurred to me this morning that I am about 12 days from my first half marathon of the fall/winter.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am. Some people love the marathon. The marathon is just not my thing.

I love the half marathon. I love everything about it. I love the training. I love the distance. I love the challenge. We all have our distances, and this is my favorite.  If there was a way for me to run more half marathons throughout the year, without sacrificing on my triathlon times, I would do it in a heart beat.

Besides loving the distance, the race that I'm doing is RNR Denver. I've been doing this race FOREVER. Literally, I ran it before it was RNR, when it was the Denver marathon, then there was a time that it disappeared and then came back. Over the years, the course has changed as RD's changed. It's been pretty much the same course for the last (maybe) 3 years, now.

I have a history with this race. This morning I wanted to see what my PR was for this particular course.

This might sound odd, but I needed a little bit of a confidence booster. I'm not really all that interested in Denver as much as it's a stepping stone to my PR attempt in Vegas.

I pulled up my times.

I realized that even when I've run slow, my current times are faster than my last PR on the Denver course. Not only do I have an opportunity to get a course PR. I could possibly get a half marathon PR here in Denver. It's not unrealistic.

Here I was thinking that it was going to be tough to even get a course PR, now I realize that I'm set up to have a really great race not just in Denver but also Vegas.

As I was writing down my previous times, I thought, "They don't even matter. All they'll do is hold me back."

Those old PRs don't mean anything anymore. Instead, I wrote down my goal for Denver and stuck it on my computer screen.

Running a half marathon isn't easy, but I'm ready for it. All I really have to do is focus.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 2: Total Body Breakdown

Desert Edge Triathlon

Sunday rolls around, and I'm suffering from Total Body Breakdown.

TBB is when you are BEYOND soreness. Soreness has turned into pain. I wake up, and I realize that I'm in trouble.

I mentioned in the previous report that it's COLD. Sunday morning was warmer (33 degrees), but add in the fact that this is a triathlon, and we're supposed to hop on our bike soaking wet....well, the day is going to be tough for everyone.

I get up and have some breakfast, trying to figure out what to do. Do I take a *DNS*? Do I go and support my friends who will be there? (Including Coach Mike and Jeff---both of whom did the 60ish Tour on saturday).

I decided to give it a go. Looking back, I think this was the wrong decision made for the wrong reason. I shouldn't have done the race.

I get in the beep beep and turn on the heater to HIGH. I turn on the heated seats. I'm doing everything I can to try to alleviate the pain and loosen up my muscles. My back upper and lower is killing me. My arms are wiped out, but the worst part is my legs. I have never experienced pain like this, not after marathons, not after half irons.

I don't know what to do.

Mistake #1: Starting the race. I shouldn't have done it.

The Start:

The water temp is 64 degrees (which for me is perfect swimming temps). I get overheated very easily while swimming because of that I swim sleeveless, and the colder the better. I wasn't concerned about water temp as much as getting on the bike.

As soon as we started, I was struggling.I had no power. I couldn't swim. I let everyone take off ahead of me and just maintained my own stroke. I felt like I'd been out there forever when I hit the first buoy. I tried to look at my watch but I couldn't see it.

3/4 of the way through the swim, and I stop. I'm exhausted. I feel like I've been swimming for an hour. I'm having trouble breathing. I'm staring at the finish. All I could think was, "I'm not going to make it. I'm going to DNF on the swim. I can't even believe this." I tread water for a little while longer. I just need to go slow. Get to the shore and decide if I'm going to get on the bike.

A normal oly swim time for me is 24 minutes. My swim: approximately 33 min.

I got out of the water. I can't even reach my strap to get my wetsuit off. I must have looked like I was going to fall over because some guy grabbed me and asked if I was ok. I nodded and kept walking.

T1: As one of the CU Tri kids said, "The longest transition in the history of transitions".

EVERYONE is changing clothes, adding layers, socks, pants, etc.

I put on a jacket with a hood, socks and gloves. I can't get my gloves on. My hands are wet and numb. I can't even feel my fingers to get them into the gloves.

The whole time, I'm thinking, "Just try the bike. Give it a go."

Mistake #2: Getting on the bike. 

T1: Had to be around 6 minutes. It felt like 10, but I don't think it was that long.

I get on the bike within a mile(?) there is a hill. It is super short but super steep. At that point, I realize I have nothing left in my legs. I almost fell over sideways getting up the hill.

I'm shaking (with cold), and I have nothing in my legs. I can't see my garmin times or distances because I can't push the buttons with my gloves on.

I have no idea why I'm doing this. I hurt. I have no power in my legs. I should have turned around. I kept thinking 40k....on a bad day....I should be able to do 1:20.

Throughout the ride, I'm doing the calculations to figure out about where I am. I figured that the multi-time on my garmin should be at about 2:05 when I finish the bike. (Remember I didn't know how long transition took).

Oh. how.wrong.I.was.

The bike was hell. Around mile 5? Coach Mike blows past me going the other direction. Are you kidding me? He's almost done. He only started 3 minutes before me. How slow am I going?

I just want to get off this bike. I just want to get off the bike. I keep going in and out of aero to try to stretch out my back. I can barely support my own weight on the bars.

I pulled into T2 at 2:10.

I strip off my jacket, gloves and decide to run. It looks like every bike is back.

I can't even call what I was doing "running". I'm telling you. I can't even begin to explain the pain that I was in.

At a half a mile into the run, I can't run anymore. I considered turning around.

Mistake #3: I should have turn around and quit at that point.

The people at the race were so nice. They kept saying "almost there."

What they didn't realize is that I wasn't even close to being almost there. I was just starting my first loop.

At about 1.5 miles, Jeff passes me. He doesn't even recognize me. I don't say anything. He looked GREAT and very focused.

The run for this race is pretty much single track. As a walker, that means I keep having to get out of everyone's way. I just wanted to find a rock and sit down.

As I'm thinking that, a guy runs by and yells at me, "GET OUT OF THE WAY. Some of us are RACING."

A few seconds later, I see Coach Mike, and he asks why I'm walking. How do you take everything that has happened over 2.5 hours and sum it up in 20 seconds? You can't.

I don't even know what I said, but I feel tears welling up. I turn away just as I felt tears rolling down my cheeks, and I keep walking. I knew right then that I couldn't go on. I just wanted to go home.

By the time I got to the finish, I got my act together. I told Jeff that I was taking a DNF. He said, "I'll walk it with you."

I couldn't walk anymore. If I could, I wouldn't be stopping. I was already over 3 hours. Another 5k was going to take me another hour at the pace I was walking.

It wasn't the outcome I would have chosen, but I'm ok with it. I know a lot of people struggle with taking a DNF. (Trust me. Read the comments on my FB wall). But I don't have a problem with it. If you've never had one, you can't understand. This "race" was part of a challenge. I just didn't get there. It's not the end of the world. It's the end of my season.

Once I made the decision, I felt so much better. I just wanted to go home and start recovering.

The weekend was just too much for me. I wasn't "physically" ready for what was involved on Saturday.

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson that I learned is that I'm not going to be so agreeable to doing these challenge weekends. It brought back memories of all those races that I've done over the years and not being prepared for them. I've suffered through so many half irons and even olympics where I was out there for hours upon hours. I don't want to go back to that place.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." --Arthur Ashe    (Thanks LBTEPA)

Challenge weekend is over, and I'm moving on.

Tour of the Moon Report

I don't even know where to start this report. There were so many fun little things that happened in no particular order.

I'll keep this quick. Tour of the Moon is not a race; it's a tour. There's no timing. You just ride.

Originally, the plan for the Tour was a 60ish and a 40ish ride. Because this is through a national monument both courses were changed, and my 40ish became 30ish.

I was very happy about this. While other people in my group were trying to convince me to do the 60ish, I was *thrilled* that I was only going to ride 30. I'd been really sore since Thursday and didn't really know how I was going to do.

BONUS #1: Shorter ride

The next thing that happened. We had a cold front move in that brought snow and sleet and different things depending on where you were in Colorado. Because of this, I opted to bring only one bike. I could have made two work, but I just didn't want to deal with it. I knew the Tour could be difficult on a TT, but I thought, "What the hell? It's challenge weekend. I can go super slow if I need to".

On Friday, I get checked into the hotel. For the price I paid, this hotel was unbelievably nice. I still can't believe how cheap it was. The thing I like the most is that they had a kitchen and started serving a HOT, sit down breakfast at 6am. So many times I've gone to races and had to bring my own food because 1.) They have a crap continental breakfast. or 2.) They don't open until after the race starts.

BONUS #2: Hot breakfast

I got unpacked and worked that afternoon. I was really tired from the drive. I had dinner plans that night that I was going to cancel, but then I thought that it would probably be good for me to get out and take a break.

I had the pleasure of having dinner that night with Coach Mike and 2 of his friends. One of the guys reminded me so much of one of my sons. I was trying not to stare at him. Physically, he didn't look like him, but it was his mannerisms. I wanted to take him home and tuck him into bed. But, he's in his 20's, and that probably would have been weird.

Saturday morning is SO COLD. I layered up. My roomie and I had our nice hot breakfast, and we head out.

I was meeting up with a group of people and with Coach Mike for the ride. We were supposed to start at 8am. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, they were unable to start at 8am, so Mike and I took off.

BONUS #3: Hanging out with Mike for a few hours

I'd looked at the map. It looked like we had anywhere from 10-15 miles of climbing. You know how maps are.

Knowing it's coming, but not knowing HOW BIG THE CLIMBS are......well.....ignorance is bliss.

Remember this: I haven't done any climbing. The rides that I have done were on my road bike.

In a nutshell, there was a lot of grunting. Believe it or not, I don't believe I cursed once. That's only because I couldn't curse. I could only grunt.

Meanwhile, Mike is holding full conversations, while we're moving at 6mph up this ridiculous mountain.

Me? I'm still grunting.

And trying not to laugh at Mike's horrible Rocky Balboa impersonations. (Yea. Mike. You need to work on it. Aren't you Italian? Shouldn't that

Mike rides up ahead to leave me with the few other people who are grunting and moaning and.....STOPPING....yes. People were stopping to walk.

I didn't. I wished like hell that I had a 3rd chainring, but I never stopped (except to take off and put back on layers). I never walked. My legs felt like they were going to explode.

BONUS #4: Doing something I didn't think I could

I took this picture from the top. I wish I'd gotten a better picture of the road to give you an idea of how steep is was going up and down.

   ^^This^^is good old Bionic Thighs (Coach Mike) doing a photobomb in my beautiful scenic picture.

Then we had to go back down. The downhills scared the hell out of me. Steep, hairpin curves...oh and you're looking over a mutha f*ckin CLIFF. Hey, no big deal FOR EVERYONE ELSE. Big freaking deal for me. I did what I could....road my brake....the entire time.

We get to basically the bottom, and Mike has to leave for the 60ish. Meanwhile, I'm SO HAPPY that I'm only doing 30ish.

BONUS #5: Having a great time with Mike BUT trying to get over the guilt of how much he kept stopping for me. DUDE: You're training for IM Austin. It's cool. You could have gone on. Thanks though. It was a lot of fun.

I had planned on 3-3.5 hours for this ride of 30 miles. I finished it in about 2.5. I don't know what my actual "ride" time was. I just let my garmin keep going.

BONUS #6: Exceeding my own time goal. 

I got back to the convention center. There is literally NO ONE there except maybe 5 riders. The 5 I rode down with.

They had a big lunch prepared for us, but all I wanted was to warm up. I grabbed a cup of super hot coffee and loaded up my gear to head back to the hotel.

Shower and hanging out that afternoon was glorious.

That night I had another great dinner with Coach Mike, Coach Dave and the CU Tri Team.  I'd met Dave before, but this was the first time that I was able to talk to him. He's a really great guy. He's one of those guys that you could just hang out with. CU tri team was awesome. I met some really great "kids". That team really loves their coaches.

When I went to bed that night, I was laying there thinking, "WOW. I just can't even believe I did that today." Throughout the day, I met some great people and learned a lot about riding as they were giving me pointers or giving me advice about which other tours to do. (I've only done Elephant Rock and the MS 150).

A GREAT day in the books.

Day 2 of the Challenge, up next.