Thursday, December 29, 2016

I've got friends at fast paces.

God, I love a cocktail.

Gin martini.

Or wine.

Occasionally a beer.

I was recently engaged on a Facebook post where someone jokingly said I should skip a workout and buy a round of drinks, whereby my coach chimed in and said, "My athletes don't drink."

Ton of bricks. Whack.

I'm not a good person to preach about abstinence (oh trust me), but it has recently become crystal clear how much of my life was spent sitting on a barstool. The reason this comment hit me so hard is because I used to be that person who would skip that workout for a drink, or two, or three. Or would put a few back the night before, and suffer through the next day. It's extremely difficult to get out of bed early in the morning after punishing your internal organs with cocktails the night before. Although, (sorry coach) I DO still enjoy a couple of beverages during the weekend, my life no longer revolves around the time of the next happy hour. It revolves around the time of my next long run.

The other reason I don't drink as much as I used to is completely vain. I want to look good. Think about it . . . 20-year-olds who hang out at bars can manage to stay pretty attractive. But, 40 year olds at the bar every weekend? Not so hot. 50 year olds? Yikes.

It used to be fun to get caught up in drama, but my tolerance for it is very low now. The drama I used to encounter stemmed from my social activities, which were mostly drinking-related. So many ailments (sadness, weight gain, bad relationships) are formed at the pub. It's still a complete mystery to some people that when you spend so much time using drinking as a way to socialize, your entire life suffers. Weight, for example. How many times have you seen someone complain about their weight, but have a million pictures with a drink in hand? It's science folks, not too difficult. Pretty basic actually. There is NO health benefit to drinking that can't be obtained in another way. Drinking makes you fat, and lazy. Have a nice day.

There becomes a certain point in the life of an aging body where you can't handle putting crap into it anymore. Unfortunately this rule also applies to other delicious things, like pizza.

People who used to know me as a "fun" person are always confused to why I don't have time or make a lot of time to meet for drinks. They make me feel like I'm really missing out. Most of the time, I'm not missing out at all. By EOD Saturday I've seen a few friends, had a good conversation or two, laughed, got my sweat on, seen a pretty landscape, and eaten 2,000 calories. I've likely already had plenty of "fun" that day, and now I'm ready to sit around the house in my soft pants and watch House of Cards. (Soft pants is the indicator that I am no longer leaving the house.)

I am still so ridiculously fun. Just in a different way.

As many contemplate their next trip to the bar, I think about the next time I chase people up Old La Honda Road. While many are looking at sad people - I am with happy people. And the view from behind isn't bad either, if you like spandex and nice calves.

Instead of having friends in "low places" I now I have friends at fast paces.

The TEN worst Facebook posts of 2016

Disclaimer: I have to put this disclaimer at the beginning because most will not read to the end. In the process of writing, I have not only written an article that attempts to shame most Facebook users, but I have named “shaming” as the worst posts on Facebook in 2017. Isn’t that ironic?


The TEN worst Facebook posts of 2016

# 10. Yelling about sports
“GOOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL SHAARARRRRRRKKKSSSS! Those who care about these games are probably watching the game. No need to post every detail. If they missed an awesome play, there will surely be a playback. Even the ability to rewind exists!

# 9. Beautification filters
“Just me in natural light…” yeah right. We all know you don’t look like a porcelain doll in person. And don’t say it’s “good lighting,” when you know it’s a filter. You can turn that filter off, and you should! Be proud of the face you actually have, and smile please! No more duck face!

# 8. Challenges for awareness
I’m all about physical challenges to raise awareness for worthy organizations, but these organizations actually need your money, not your muscles. As much as the ice bucket challenge is funny the first five million times you see it, you should be using your Internet fame to benefit the organization by raising money, or volunteering. Also, if you want to do your body a favor, you should do 5-10 push ups with good form instead of doing all 22 and straining a back muscle. Ouch.

# 7. Showing off your possessions
The economy has been really good for some, and really terrible for others. It is my opinion that showing your most prized possessions publicly on social media is SUPER tacky. I try to keep my stuff off of the Internet for two reasons, 1.) I don’t want to get robbed. 2.) Some people have nothing. Nothing. Think about that for a minute. . .

# 6. Videos of really disgusting recipes
“Yum, I think I’ll make this for my kids tonight!” There is a reason why Americans are the most constipated nation in the world, and the reason is cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese too, but too often there is a recipe called, “Vegetable bake” that starts out pretty good: some broccoli, some carrots maybe, then literally COVERED in orange cheese.  So, not only have you ruined the vegetables by baking them into oblivion, but your body is confused by the vegetable to cheese ratio.

# 5. Gory pictures of injuries
There is nothing like scrolling past a photo of a yummy casserole followed by a glimpse of a bloody open wound, some stitches, or your kid's broken arm. Also, asking your friends, “Do you think this is broken?” is a terrible idea. Go to the emergency room. Seriously.

# 4. Blaming 2016 for celebrity death
People die all the time, guys. First of all, because of MTV and various new genres of movies and TV that came out in the 1980’s, we who lived through that generation remember A LOT of famous people. Second, there were A LOT of baby boomers, and many people who passed this year were getting older. Third, often because of their fame, many lived super stressful lives and suffered from mental health disorders Lastly, drugs. Lots of drugs.

# 3. Not checking your sources
You had the time to read the article, so now take the additional step to think critically and assess whether or not it comes from a credible, or biased source. Adults should be able to read well enough to determine the tone of an article, find the source, and the author. Our reading skills are so poor that now Facebook has to label articles for us – and people are going to trust Facebook? Sounds like a terrible idea.

# 2. Turning things political for no reason
You’ve been seeing it all year.

Suzanne asks: “I’d like to better understand the electoral college. . . .”

Smart person: “This is a great website that explains it in easy to understand terms.”

Suzanne says: “Gee, thanks, smart person. It is really confusing.”

Argument person says: “Well Donald Trump didn’t win the popular vote, and we should get rid of the electoral college because he is a big dumb, orange idiot.”

Rebuttal argument person says: “Oh yeah, well the electoral college is awesome because Hilary is a big fat liar, so someone had to stick up for the people….”

Again, reading comprehension is important, people. Also, maybe take a debate class or read a book or two. Any debate that results in an insult is null and void. 

# 1. Online shaming
The most annoying trend of 2016 is online shaming. We shame people constantly on Facebook because we are too much of a coward to shame people to their face. We shame people by saying things like, “I’m going to delete anyone who doesn’t tell me why they are my friend,” or “If you don’t repost this, then you don’t care about people with cancer.” Do we really think we are better than everyone else? It’s time to stop the shame.

Shaming yourself.
We all have bad days, and Facebook can be a good source for sharing personal stories and getting positive feedback or reinforcement. But too often, your friends are off put when you constantly shame yourself online. At that point, there is nothing they can do or say to help you. If you are shaming yourself vaguely for attention, just stop. Call a good friend. Facebook isn't going to make you feel better. There are studies that suggest Facebook makes you feel worse about your life.

Shaming your ex.
Putting your former relationship on Facebook is one of the WORST ideas. First of all, going after advice or condolences from your friends on Facebook is a terrible idea. You probably need to talk to a therapist. Also, retaliation is real. If you put out your disgust on a public forum, your ex CAN retaliate if it hurts their reputation, especially if you have kids. So just fucking stop it. Keep your dating/marital/friendship problems off of the book of faces.

Shaming your children.
There is a certain age when taking pictures of your children doing embarrassing stuff is completely out of line. Weren’t your preteen years difficult enough without your parents divulging your every move to an open forum of people? Seriously, no wonder so many kids are in therapy.

Shaming strangers.
Instead of taking a video or photo of someone acting like a royal a-hole, why don’t you take the opportunity to call them out on it in person? The fact is, I doubt most of us have the chutzpah to call them out in person, and would rather quietly stand by, take a video, and post it later. It would be much more effective if you did something immediately, no?  By taking the video, you are not solving the problem. In fact, you are just ENRAGING your peers who feel the same way you do. Take it directly to the source and call that person out on it in public.

2017 Facebook creed: Post positive actions into the universe. Act on Facebook how I would act in person. Do not use Facebook as a vehicle to shame other people, or myself.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Ugly Truth.

Now that you've heard the heroic tale of the Ironman race itself, here is some of the negative aspects of training that you may or may not have heard about. When training for a first Ironman, people tell you the most terrifying stories. The stories usually revolve around, 1.) lack of sleep, 2.) being really really hungry all the time, and 3.) injuries. 

First, although my days of sleeping in were very few in the past nine months, there was only one or two distinct weeks when I was an "Ironzombie."

Second, yes, the food thing. I was definitely cranky when I didn't get enough food but I didn't wake up in the middle of the night with an empty tummy either. For this I am very grateful as it may have also contributed to many nights of uninterrupted sleep.

My #1 goal for Ironman training was - DO NOT GET INJURED! Months went by and I was in tip top condition, feeling like a champion in the making. There was no way I was going to over train. In fact, I would often stop my workout five minutes early, or at 9:99 of a 10 mile run. 

Rebel.

It wasn't until the last six weeks of training when things started to get really wacky.

Cyclist Palsy

About three-quarters of the way through a 90 mile ride along the Vineman course in Sonoma County, I realized I no longer had the ability to shift with my left hand. At first I thought perhaps my shifting mechanism had somehow been bent, or broken. But I soon realized that my hand no longer had the strength to push the shifter without using the strength of my entire arm. 

After the ride, I assessed the situation. I could no longer move my pinkie or ring finger, nor could I cross any of the fingers on my left hand. 

I promptly made appointments with a physical therapist, and called a doctor friend - completely freaking out that I had somehow suffered a traumatic brain injury, only to find out that something called cyclist (or handlebar) palsy is quite common. In short: Being in the drops for an extended period of time caused a pinched nerve which lead to immobility in my fingers and hand. I couldn't do the Vulcan hand (not that I needed to), cross my fingers, button my pants, or hold a fork in my left hand. Luckily, with some massage and riding out of the drops - it just went away.

Lesson learned: Use your core, and don't put too much pressure on the handlebars.

Calf Cramp

About a week later, I had to go back to my physical therapist about a massive calf cramp that started when I was running easy off the bike. I'm not sure if it was a cramp that was so severe that it hurt for a few days after, or if it was a nerve in my leg that shot pain down the back of my leg. 

"Sounds like you are ready for Ironman!" my PT said, meaning that everyone seems to have mysterious injuries and sicknesses leading up to the end of training.

Again more massage, rest, and stretching.

Cold

Between cyclist palsy and calf cramp, I also had a cold which put me out for a week. I definitely did the typical, "F#$% this, I'm going to ride up Montebello Road anyway, so suck it!" attitude.

Fun with Physiatry

I went to a physiatrist because it's covered under my medical insurance. I made the appointment when I had the mysterious hand palsy, and although the symptoms were gone I thought I should keep the appointment just to "pick his brain." 

I'd never heard of a physiatrist, and I bet 99% of people on this planet haven't either. A physiatrist is an internist who focuses on movement specifically. They are not physical therapists, or chiropractors. It seems their best qualification is the ability to prescribe drugs. The physiatrist didn't tell me anything a PT didn't tell me. He told me that my left side is generally weaker than my right, and ordered an MRI to figure out if I have nervous issues that stem from my back.


"So, Doctor, I have Ironman in 3 weeks. What should I be doing?"

He put his head in his hands and got kind of flustered. "Um your core - weak. Need to strengthen core. Pick one exercise and do that everyday and keep increasing the exercise." We decided on planks.

Great. So now my entire left side is weak, and also my core, which is like 80% of my entire body. Good to know.


Then, he decided to also give me a prescription for anti-inflamatory steroids "just in case" I feel something coming on. I felt he was on the verge of saying, "Well, just stop doing what you are doing," which, of course, won't happen.

I haven't taken any of the steroids.

PIMS

Unfortunately I did not coin this term, which is sad because it is SO GOOD. I'd love to claim it. Pre-IronMan Syndrome is when your emotions are on a roller coaster and sometimes you cry because you miss a green light and stop riding your bike, or you get really irritated with a waiter for not filling your water glass for the 5th time. I never thought this would happen to me, but it unfortunately creeped in around the time I got sick and lasted until I was on the flight to Canada. I stressed out and cried for no reason a couple of times: on a bike ride in Tahoe, and while trying pack my bike for the trip.

The Quest for Rock Hard Abs

My (faux) New Years Resolution for as long as I can remember is to get rock hard abs. I felt pretty svelte maybe two weeks prior to Ironman and realized it was probably the closest I've been to attaining #RHA status since I was 18 years old. If the closest I've gotten has been through 12-13 hours of exercise per week, then this should deter most of you from desiring to have them. Seriously? Do you have an extra 12 hours to spare? And then, is it worth it to have a washboard as a mid-section? Your answer to this should be - No. Keep baking. And running the 5k fun run. Rock hard abs don't make you a better person. 

Are you in the best shape of your life?

Difficult question. Can I move my body for an extraordinary amount of time? 

Yes. 

Is my body in the best shape? 

Probably not. I've had all kinds of strange (although luckily minor) injuries in the past few months. You kind of beat yourself up training for one of these long events.



Post-Ironman Goals

Made Post-Ironman Goals
1.) Go on bike rides for fun.
2.) Work on my swim technique.
3.) Do some trail running.

Stretch Goals
1.) Become a stock photo model.
2.) Take up some martial art so I can beat people up.
3.) Rock hard abs!

Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm only happy when it rains: An Ironman Canada Race Report.

I'm only happy when it rains. I'm only happy when it's complicated. -- Garbage

Speaking of complicated: notice my use of the metric system throughout this post. Not only did I do an Ironman, but I learned math. 

The weather report was not ideal: there was great potential for 50F, 10C temperatures and a downpour during Ironman Canada. The Whistler area had been plagued with fires (poor air quality) and hot weather in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was grateful for cooler air. Fortunately, I had packed some extra gear, and was ready to spend some extra time in transitions to change into dry clothes. I borrowed some thicker arm warmers and shoe covers from super-Sherpa Kathy.

Assessing the situation before the swim start.
Swim: The swim was in Alta Lake - fresh water and about 21C, 70F. The weather didn't affect my swim because no matter what, it was wet! The only part of the swim that worried me was the mass start and where to position myself among 1,600 other athletes. I picked the back-to-mid right side of the pack. I didn't want to be all the way in the back, but I was willing to swim a little extra to the right of the buoys in order to maintain sanity.

The rest of the swim I tried to maintain a very zen-like state. When I felt like I was losing my focus, I tried to draft for awhile, or would pick a swim focus between each set of buoys. (Between this set, I'll think about relaxing my head, next set I'll think about reaching, next set I'll think about pulling, etc..)

There is a point in every swim over one mile where I think, "Geez, am I done yet?" I thought this would happen after the first lap, but instead of being negative I thought, "This is going to be the longest swim you've ever done - good job!"

My worst fears 1.) total panic, and 2.) being kicked in the face, didn't happen.

A 1:23 swim time made me happy. I would have been happy with 1:30, or even 1:40. I just wanted to get on my bike!

Pleased with swim time.
T1: Transition #1 was long because I decided to change most of my clothes and put on dry capris, a bike jersey (with my nutrition in it), a vest, arm warmers, full gloves, and socks. Oh yeah, I also grabbed the wrong transition bag and had to run back out to return it and grab the correct bag. Sorry, #609, I hope you found your stuff ok. :)

At least there was no lighting!
Bike: This is Ironman. It's not supposed to be easy. So, the rain was going to make it more difficult. So what? Just keep pedaling!

My heart rate was off the charts for the first 10 minutes - about 170 or so. I knew I needed to settle in and just enjoy the journey as much as possible in the pouring rain. My shoes were drenched in the first 30 minutes. My arm warmers were drenched at about 60 km. I had to keep my body temperature up!

Luckily the first hill was early into the ride, which kept me warm to some extent. There were many athletes coasting on the downhills, but I took the advice of my coach who says to keep pedaling, even when breaking. This kept my body temperature up on the downhill, and shielded my legs from lactic acid build up. Thankfully, I also enjoy downhill sections and didn't feel out of control descending, even on the wet roads. I passed A LOT of people going downhill because I refused to stop pedaling. I was a pedaling machine.

Pedal smooth up.
Pedaling down.
Pedal all day.
Pedal to the metal.
Pedals and pearls.

The rain caused two rivers of water on the road, so you had to make the decision to swim on one side or the other - or you'd just get yourself (and the person behind you) wet. No one wanted to be up on someone's wheel when they are spitting water back at you, so drafting didn't seem to be a problem.

Passing through Whistler was fun with the crowds of happy, soaked, cheering Canucks. I got a glimpse of Marek and Brian standing in the wet (bless 'em). About half way through the course though, I worried that if it kept raining, I would be completely soaked and very uncomfortable. Fortunately, as we approached Pemberton, the rain subsided.

I decided that I would stay at a low heart rate at the TT portion beyond Pemberton and save myself for the final climbing section, and the marathon. I stayed below 150, closer to 145 and still felt like I made good time through the flat section. I also felt like I had enough time to stop at the port-o-potty. My coach believes you should just pee on your bike, and that's fine. But she never said anything about #2 on your bike - and I was wet enough already.

I saw Deirdre after she had turned around from the out and back at Pemberton. She was "faffing" with her watch, but looked strong. I timed myself from the location where I spotted her and figured 20-25 minutes behind SpeeDee was fine with me!

The climbs out of Pemberton were not as nasty as I imagined. Instead of a steady climb, there were three or four moderate climbs with some downhill and flat sections between. Another cyclist commented, "There shouldn't be many more of these - we are running out of kilometers!" Right he was.

About seven salty balls got me through the bike. Nom, nom, nom.

Grab bag! Go! Sun is shining.
T2: Ironman volunteers gave so much help in the transition area. The gal who helped and set out all of my essential run items for me while I changed was really awesome and encouraging. Hats off to all of the volunteers throughout the day! They really make the experience.

I ate 1/4 of a turkey sandwich. It wasn't as delicious as I had imagined.

More rain. 
Run: Kathy gave me a little pep talk out of T2, and asked me if I needed anything. I couldn't believe I was going to run 26 miles. My longest training run was 14, and I think it's because I went over the planned workout.

The run course had two loops - starting and ending in Whistler Village, where most spectators are out on the course. The turn around was by the beautiful Green Lake, a glacial lake with very pretty colors! The two loops gave me plenty of "fan" sightings (Kathy, Brian, Mel, Marek) and also competitor sightings (Dee, Brynje, Tana, Stephen, Jeff to name a few). Mentally, seeing others out on the course was so motivating!

The few kilometers out of Whistler Village were slightly uphill and I had shin cramps.  I walked a bit and adjusted my shoe laces. Once the cramps subsided, I picked up some time on the downhill.

Going into Ironman my goal was to "run" as much of the run as possible. Too many times I had heard about the Ironman-shuffle, which is often more walking than running. Although I walked a little bit and through a few aid stations, I was able to use some of my CIM training and keep a pace throughout. I tried to think of it like a slower marathon; I kept a pace where I felt that I was holding back slightly. Once my pace got below 5:30 per km, I backed off the pace. That was going to be too fast to sustain for 26 miles. I tried to keep the pace closer to 5:45 throughout, which is about a 9 minute pace per mile.

Another trick that worked really well to break down the marathon, was envisioning the race at four 10k races. (Thus my love of the metric system really began.) The first 10k was adjusting. The second 10k was settling in. The third 10k was maintaining. The fourth 10k was giving everything I had left. I'm not sure if I negative split the marathon portion - but the second loop of the race was much more comfortable than the first.

Best things on the run besides seeing my friends on the course: pretzels, and chamois butter. (My arms and thighs were chafing like no body's business.)

It started to rain again during the last 2 km of the run, and I was starting to get cold. But I remembered thinking, "OMG! I'm not going to bonk or have gastrointestinal issues! This is fabulous!"

You can't just finish. You have to do something with your arms to show that you are still alive. Unwritten rule.

Finish Line: I had done the math, and realized I would be finishing in under 12:30. There was still plenty of day light, despite the rain clouds which had accumulated overhead again. There was only one more little loop through Whistler Village.

I saw the red IM rug appear under my feet, lifted my arms above head. Finished. Hugged a volunteer, then Kathy, gave Brian a sweaty kiss. Kathy made me take a finishers picture because she knew I would just walk by, then she made me get in the massage tent.

It was only then that I felt any pain. Yep, my body hurt. I kind of wished I was still running. It was so much harder to stop - it hurt much more to be finished. What an awesome journey!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Go. Be. Du. Tri.

Early March, I wrote an email to my coach, telling her that I had the itch to race. Her response,

"I was waiting for you to say something."

After only three months of working with me, coach Liza was on to me. With two racing options in the coming weeks, the Stanford Treeathlon, and the South Bay Duathlon, I decided to do my first duathlon. Besides, water is still cold. Very very cold. Coach's instructions were clear though - I would need to do the Olympic distance Duathlon (run 6.2, bike 24.8, run 3.2), and I would need to ride my bike for 2 hours after the race. The South Bay Duathlon would be a training day more than anything, but I was secretly hoping for some podium placement - I mean, no one races this early in the season, right?

I found my way to the transition area so early that I parked my car right in front of the finish line. After packet pickup, I set up my gear in the transition area. My friend, Paul, laughed that I had chosen to wear an aero helmet with winter tires still on the bike. I reiterated, "This is a training day, Paul!" :)

At the starting line before the first 10k run, there was a female competitor in her USA Triathlon jersey. I might have underestimated the talent pool just a smidge. We were off, and I settled into 5th or 6th place in the run, and was only passed once by a woman running a relay (score). I kept the words of my friend, Deirdre, in the back of my head, "Most people go out too fast on the first run, and they kill themselves for the bike." I knew this was true, but decided to go with the Chicago Marathon method. Basically - go fast, and if I die, I'll deal with it.

First 10k was my fastest 10k ever.

The bike was quite interesting. I had never practiced biking after a fast run, so my legs were shot for the first of four loops. They finally started cooperating on the second loop, and I settled in. The bike course was SO FLAT. One hill in the last turn, which was annoying after doing it three times. Overall, my aero helmet and winter tires did just fine.

The final 5k was definitely an experiment. I was just glad to be running marathon pace most of the time. Instead of worrying about it, I focused on the upcoming two hour joy ride after the race. I did think I still had a chance at the podium. There couldn't be any more than five or six women ahead of me.

I was correct - there were 6 women ahead of me, and 3 of them were in my age group! So, I finished 7th overall, and 4th in my age group. Never underestimate the power of women ages 35 to 39.

My first duathlon experience was a positive experience. If I really wanted to do well in the duathlon world, I would practice more run to bike transitions - and I probably would heed the advice of a wise friend and not go all out on the run.

After trying to convince all of my friends, and a few strangers to ride with me after the race for two hours, I ended up going out by myself. But, it was one of the first really beautiful spring days in south Santa Clara county, so I was grateful to be out there!

_________________________

First official race of the season, the HITS Napa Valley Olympic Distance Triathlon is one of my favorites. A few friends and I signed up in 2012 when it was in it's first year - because it was $50. The 2012 race was my second Oly tri ever. It was so early in the season, that I just wanted to finish. That year, the water was in the low 50's, and the course was much hiller than expected. The bike course has around 1,600 feet of climbing. The run course seems straight uphill most of the time. My friends hated it. I was neutral.

I revisited Lake Berryessa in 2013 much more experienced, and completed the race in under 3:00 hours - a first. It was very exciting to PR on a "not easy" course.

Fast forward two years, and I was back! 2015 baby! Lots of training under my belt already. I was ready to kick some ass.

There is definitely something to be said for experience.

The swim this year - a mild 60 degrees. I laughed (in my head) as others referred to it as "too cold." Har har har. With one open water swim experience this year, I wasn't sure what my sighting abilities would be, but figured the swim wouldn't be my forte anyway. My goal was to kick butt on the bike.

The swim was a swim. I swam further than I wanted to because I tend to pull right (away from the buoys) but I didn't feel alone, so I knew I was still in the competition. Most importantly, I don't spend the first five minutes in a panic, and I don't feel like I'm drowning by the end of the swim.

Transition 1 took forever. I got stuck behind a few people who were walking out of the transition area with their bikes, and could not pass them because the sprint athletes were coming down the other side. Very frustrating, but after looking at the T times, it must have been shorter than I thought.

The bike was rad. I kept my pedaling cadence as high as possible, even on the climbs. As usual, I passed a lot of people on the bike because I am so far behind on the swim. It was when I started to pass some pretty fit men that I felt like I was among my equal cycling competition. The bike is an out and back, and I had decided that I would try and pass at least six women on the way back. I passed eight. Most of my racing competition was with the men, who would come past me on the climbs, but I would come back blazing on the downhill. So fun.

At the start of the run, I followed a very quick gal who I had passed at the very end of the bike, and she was full speed. I knew I couldn't keep up. Then, the shin cramps started. I don't call them shin splints, because they eventually go away, but man my shins really cramp sometimes at the beginning of a run. I'd almost rather run a half marathon - longer, and gives me more time to catch up. Because the course starts with a few uphills, my shin really gave way about 3/4 of the way up the second long hill and I stopped to walk and stretch. About 4 women passed me, and I felt defeated.

The rest of the run was fine. The cramps subsided, and I found myself getting comfortable in the competition again. I passed a couple more women on the way back, and was relieved to have the last 1.5 miles of downhill to pick things up. Overall, my run was pretty solid, even with the stop at mile two.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

5:30 AM Wake Up Call

Those who say that Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” are sadly misinformed. Clearly the happiest place on Earth – is my bed. When I jump under the covers at night, I declare, "I LOVE YOU, BED!" Being wrapped up with my head on a fluffy pillow and drifting off to sleep is like heaven. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, my day begins with denial and sadness, as I emerge from my happy place to take on adult responsibilities. 

I may have inherited the love of sleep from my father. Dear old dad was always a hard worker, but he was also a big fan of naps. Not those short, 30 minutes naps either - like falling asleep for a couple of hours in the middle of a Saturday. Now retired, he sleeps in until 10 AM, only to the chagrin of my mother who has always been an earlier riser. “People wonder if I’m depressed,” Dad says, “I’m not depressed. I’m so happy – it’s almost like meditation.” 

I hope I can retire someday and be just like him.

People claim that all kids get up early, and that I probably just don't remember waking my parents up at 6 AM. But, as long as I can remember, I've loved sleeping. Here is where I admit to my parents that,  as a pre-teen/teenager, I switched off their alarm clock on Saturday nights a few times – because I didn’t want to get up early and go to church. It worked once.  Another time, mom and dad made us get up anyway and hurry to service. We were half washed, and half asleep, and we had to walk in late with the good Christian folks looking us up and down in disdain. 

Have you heard of these crazy people who actually choose to sleep less in order to work more? I don’t get it.  As Steve Wozniak once said during a talk, “People are so worried that robots will take our jobs. But, if we don’t have to work, we can sit around and watch movies. I like movies.” Touché, Mr. Wozniak. If I could get a robot to do my job, I could sleep more.

Then there are people with children, who really don’t have a choice. They make me feel particularly spoiled, and I get no sympathy from them. They roll their red, sunken in eyes as if to say, “Suck it up, bitch, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

With Ironman on the schedule this year – how on earth can I train myself to get up earlier? Or do I just need to learn how to endure the early mornings?

While half Ironman training fit nicely into my sleep-heavy lifestyle, Ironman training has been different. I’d heard about these “double days” – when you do a workout in the morning, then another at night. I thought I could easily adjust my schedule, but it’s not that easy. I’ve so far had one week where I was up before 5:30am three days (thank God not in a row), and I walked around work in an “Ironzombie” state.  Still I have not yet gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to eat because I’m hungry. How long will it be before I need to put food on my bedside table so I don’t have to walk 100 feet to the kitchen? Further, when will my stomach ruin my sleep cycle?

The most difficult part has been going to bed at a decent hour. Sometimes I don’t get home from a workout until after 8 PM, and then I’m tired and hungry. I’ve found some quick cooking options, which are usually healthy. (It doesn’t take long to bake fish and vegetables, and it’s also rather healthy.) The trick is just to get myself into bed as early as possible, and read. Unfortunately I often get stuck in my Netflix cue, or chatting with a friend online. This turns my brain on more than off.

When I do get up early and complete a workout before my day job, I do feel really accomplished. I don’t feel like the workout was a waste of time or energy. It’s worth it to get up. It’s convincing myself that this feeling will be worth the drudgery of pulling myself from my cozy quarters. Still, I lay there weighing the options while I hit snooze. If I sleep one more hour, will I still have time after work? Will I still have the energy? Will the pool be open, or will the sun still be out long enough? Will I get wrapped up in work and not be able to leave? It would be nice to get home and just make dinner and watch TV? Oh wait, it’s a double-day. Ok, I need to get out of bed. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Why hasn’t some pharmaceutical company invented a pill that releases a sleep aid at night then releases caffeine 30 minutes before you are supposed to wake up? This would be helpful to more people than Cialis. I’m sure, like depression medicine, they would find other useful applications. I'm sure there would be more sex going on if people were better rested! This is definitely the year I become addicted to caffeine.

If only I could wake up like the late, great Dicky Fox (Jerry Maguire movie reference), “I clap my hands together and say, ‘This is going to be a great day!’”

Never happens.  

The days are unfortunately not getting any longer. We are stuck with only 24 hours, and I am stuck on loving sleep. The hours I’m awake need to be used wisely – working hard, training the smartest way I know how, spending my time on projects that inspire and fulfill me, and surrounding myself with quality people who make me better.  Anything else is a waste of time, and cuts into my beauty sleep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pacing, Not Racing

This post is two months in the making (errr, writing). It's not late, I was just pacing myself.

After the cancellation of Ironman Tahoe 70.3, I had no excuse not to jump right into marathon training for the California International Marathon. CIM is coined "The Fastest Course in the West" and is often used as a Boston Qualifying race since the course has negative elevation*. I had the fitness, but needed to make sure it would translate into running fitness, so I mostly put away my bike for a couple of months.

*(Note to future CIM runners: It's not a "flat" course, and there are a bunch of rolling hills in the first half. But technically, you run downhill more than you run uphill.)

I followed the "Run Less Run Faster" (RLRF) training plan for a 3:40 marathon time which is the Boston Qualifying time for my age group, but had to modify slightly since I only had 11 of 16 weeks to train. I wasn't too upset about skipping three 20-mile training runs, and only completing the last two. RLRF is great for triathletes: three days of running (track, tempo, long) and two days of easy cross training.

The run days are really intense though. I think I saw Jesus a few times. He says, "Hello."

My running buddy, Matt, likes to say things like, "Hey, Suzanne, why don't we run every 200 of this 1,600 at exactly the same pace?" This is Matt's very kind way of saying, "Why don't you back off so you don't die in the middle of the interval, you big idiot?" Matt has run enough track workouts with me to know that my tendency is to go out too fast, slow down, then hammer the last bit to make the interval time. Converse to my Chicago Marathon experiment where I decided to run the first half close to a half marathon pace (then almost died), Matt ran the New York City Marathon, and consistently clocked around 8:45 per mile. It was decided - this was the year I would learn to pace myself. Whether or not I hit a Boston Marathon qualifying time was less important.

Why is pacing so difficult?

Everyone knows the scenario when you realize your gas light is on in the car. So, what do you do? Do you fly down the street to the nearest gas station to get there faster (and probably burn more gas)? Or do you slow down and follow behind a large-moving vehicle and take your time (a la Driving Miss Daisy)? I tend to charge forward and hope that I have enough steam to get to the end. So far, I trust that the car has warned me far enough in advance and I live in a city where gas stations are everywhere.

Unfortunately our bodies don't have a very good gas light. In fact, by the time your inner gas light goes on - you are probably going to bonk, or shit yourself. The goal is to get your body to the finish line on one tank of gas. Knowing what pace you can handle is part of the battle. (The other HUGE part is eating/nutrition. To be continued.) Run Less Run Faster holds you to very specific paces for each workout. To do it "right" you have to chose a realistic goal time that you know you can achieve, and use the pacing given for each workout.  If you are pacing correctly, it often feels like you need to hold yourself back from running too fast. Matt called this, "Run slow to run fast."

It seems counter intuitive to slow down when you feel good and want to pick up the pace. But, as it is with life - sometimes the right thing to do is slow down, hold yourself accountable (to a pace), and manage your expectations.  Trust that the universe (or your good training) will get you past the finish line.

I did not enjoy training for previous marathons. I went out and completed the mileage, but I didn't know what pace I should run or what my time should be. In fact, my long training runs were well over 9-minute miles. When I saw a 20-mile run at an 8:30 pace on the RLRF training plan, I thought it was impossible. But, I trusted that I'd chosen a reasonable goal based on other race times. October was difficult; I almost threw up during an early track workout, and shin splints plagued my first significant long run. (This run was quickly followed by a trip to my physical therapist, and many weeks of butt-strengthening exercises.) By November, I was on fire; my paces were slightly faster, and my legs felt great!

The days prior to CIM, I didn't really know what pace I should run. A 8:23 pace would lead to a 3:40 marathon, but I wanted to be at least one minute under. I also took into account that runners usually end up going further than 26.2 miles, there are aid station stops, hills, and possibly other obstacles along the way (i.e. people, the need to use a port-o-pottie). So, at dinner the night before the race, I talked to my pacing buddy, and we decided to stick around 8:18 per mile for the first half, then see if we couldn't run the second half slightly faster. Easy pace, plenty of room for error.

On race day, our three-person pace group went out too fast for the first couple of miles, but were able to hang back for the rest of the first half. I felt like I could pick up the tempo, but knew it wouldn't pay off in the end. This was pacing, not racing. There was no way I'd let my Garmin tick below 8:15, and I wouldn't freak out if it ticked at 8:20. I was in the zone.

The second half came on, and our pace group was separated, so I was on my own. The second half, in theory, should be run slightly faster. I felt good with 8:15-8:20 and wanted to pick it up a bit, but made deal with myself to hold back until mile 17. I had been fooled by this feeling of second half exhilaration before - but not this time.

At mile 20, it was on! I had paced long enough, it was time to make sure all of my limbs were still attached, and pick up the tempo. I tried to imagine the last six miles as a 10k race, or the 10k after an Olympic distance triathlon. Now it was a mental game. Tired, but pushing through, I realized that I had enough left in the gas tank to make it to the finish line by my goal time. I wasn't going to bonk, shit myself, or see Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for all of those tempo runs.

I am grateful for the training, the day (perfect weather), my friends . . . and the Boston Qualifying time is nice too. I want to thank Matt (deemed "Run Husband" from henceforth), Gemma, Deirdre, Andrew (the 3:40 pace team), and everyone on our Facebook page for helping to keep me on pace - literally and virtually. I will use my new pacing abilities in every aspect of my training. But, I will probably still panic and speed to the gas station when my gas light goes on.