Friday, January 20, 2012

It's not Supposed to be Easy

The boys made a cake for me-- 100% by themselves. :)
I'm back. I cleared the post- vacation can't stop daydreaming fog and now I'm running along through life once again. I feel fresh and refreshed.  Life really didn't allow me to do much else, actually.  Of course. What fun is life if not busy and full of excitement! I had to even chuckle to myself when last night, at bedtime, my littlest vomitted alllll over his bedroom floor. Poor little guy.  But what better welcome back to reality Mommy gift could there be??  Actually, I felt very relieved and lucky to be Home for him instead of 3000 miles away wishing I could hug him and rub his back.

I've been thinking about a post I wanted to write for the last week or two. In fact, the first paragraph was written last week. I was fresh and refreshed at that time,  but since then, I've had two long sleepless nights, several 4 a.m. wake up calls and well, life just does that to ya!  You all know it well. It can be tiring. But hey! It's Friday, there's fresh snow on the ground which means nice skiing this weekend and, it's Friday! Yes, that Friday part  gets two nods.
My work for the week is almost done, the kids will be home soon so it's time for me to get these thoughts on paper!
Let's talk racing.  Yes, racing. I know it's only January. I know the lakes are frozen and the roads are likely covered with snow. Well, they are if you live up here in the Northeast. Your first Tri of the season is likely months and months and months away. Right?
That means you have time. Time to think and plan and work your tail off.

This can be the hardest time of the year to train.  As I mentioned, your first races are not even on the calendar screen yet. You are probably a few pounds over the svelte racing weight you achieved last July.  ( as you should be...) It's dark in the wee hours of the morning when many of us like and need to train. It's dark in the afternoon. It's cold. It's windy. The roads are caked in snow. Or ice. Or, both. The pools feel chilier than usual and, your bike is hooked to a trainer. I'm a Northeastern girl so bear with me if you are blessed with warm sunshine and dry roads right now. We are not. I Love winter. You know that if you're a regular reader here on my blog. But I fully admit it adds extra challenges to the swimbikerun obsession many of us are trying manage in our lives.
What was I saying... oh in the winter. It is hard! It is often boring. ( note: 90 min treadmill run haunting me as I type... ) It is lonely. ( I  miss my  lake swims with friends that I enjoy on Friday mornings all summer!!! )  The need to get workouts done because that important race is around the corner does not seems so pressing.  After all....we have lots and lots of time! My first big race isn't until June 24th! Sure, I'll run a few road races between now and then. I'll race in a Sprint Tri ( shhh.. I care a ton about that one too actually) but truly, my first "A" race isn't until the end of June.

With that in mind, training doesn't need to be very serious right now. Right? I can miss a swim or two each week without it realllyyyy impacting my training. I can do most of my runs and parts of the bikes that my Coach assigns.  Because after all, it's only January!!! There is so much time!

WRONG!!! Insert annoying buzzer sound

That nonchalant attitude was ok. Back in late October, after Kona. And even November. Sure... I was rather lazy that month. I let things go when life had me running in 16 directions. ( I say life that way because this is my life too. It is. No matter how I cut it.) December was pretty loose as well. Though I began to get my mojo back and started paying a bit more attention to my long term plan. I began to think about my goals. I refocused on 2012. I had spent some time savoring the success of 2011 so I could feel ready to hit the next year.

Now, the off season is over. Hopefully you have all rested and recovered from the 2011 racing that you did. Because now it's time  to work.  The winter is the hardest time to train but it's very important. It's time to put hours on the bike, pay attention to your stroke in the water, and build your aerobic engine and durability for the run.  One very key way to get the most out of your training is to be Consistent!!!! Do the work. Day after day after day.  Whether it's cold, or lonely, or boring, or too far away from your next race, just do it.  Your work this winter will pay off greatly on race day.

Speaking of race day, there's one more thing  I want to talk about. It was recently pointed out to me that, apparently, it's not clear that in order to achieve personal greatness, you must HURT!!! In other words, if you want to have a breakthrough performance that bests what you've ever done before, or if you want to beat the person you've been chasing for years, it's doesn't just happen  in the excitement of race day. There is a place you must go, in your head and in your heart , that allows you to Fight through all phsyical and mental "pain" to reach your success.

Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae, Craig Alexender... the best Ironman athletes out there right now. They make it look easy. They are so strong and so fast it must not hurt them the way it hurts those who finish in 16 hours. Right?
oh so so wrong.
I've seen these athletes up close and personal in Hawaii.  Let me tell you, they were fighting. With every ounce of everything they had.  I ran towards Mirinda when she had 2 miles left to go... Chrissie was only minutes in front of her.  Rinny's teeth were literally gritting...she was digging as hard as anyone I saw that day. 

I had great successes last year in my racing.  Before I lined up in the water on those big days,  I had done hours and hours and hours of solid training. I worked hard all season to prepare for my events. Some of my workouts were knock down perfect write home to your Dad and gain tons of confidence workouts. Some of my workouts made me want to crawl into a hole and cry.  But I did all my workouts. I rested when I needed rest. I pushed my limits when it was time to do that.  Did that mean that on race day, it would all be easy? After all, I trained hard, I did all my long workouts, my short fast workouts, got to race weight, rested and was mentally ready for the distance. So then, why wouldn't it be easy?
I'll tell you why.
Because I wanted to go faster than I had ever gone before.
I wanted to beat anyone who came near me.
And that, is never easy.

It hurt. My big huge PR in Lake Placid hurt me to the core.  I had to dig so deep to keep moving forward. My legs felt like lead weights, they ached, they were cramping, I desperately wanted to lay down in the middle of the road. You see, with all that training and preparing, I gained a huge amount of fitness, strength and confidence. I knew I could do it. I knew I could take all that preparation and make it happen.  I could have just 'run' that 140.6 miles in a respectable time without too much suffering. The distance wasn't my challenge that day. Yet what I wanted was more. And to get that, I had to break out of my comfort zone. Out of my happy place. I had to dig. I had to believe and keep at it the.entire.way. And guess what, it worked.
And for a week after, my 7 year old had to help me walk. not kidding here...Nick held me up on many occasions that week...and if he wasn't there, the wall held me up. 

Yes, you have to train and you have to train hard. Sometimes hard training means running multiple 18-20 mile runs over a month or two, sometimes it means riding your bike at supra-threshold power levels, sometimes it's swimming 3500 yards with faster intervals than ever before, sometimes it's a 100 mile bike ride one day with a 10 mile run the next,  sometimes it's super fast runs on the track, and sometimes it means doing 14 days of training without  day off.  Hard training takes all different forms, depending on the athlete and depending on your goals.

Do the work. Keep at it. Start now. Don't skip workouts for no reason. Be tough and put on a neckwarmer and maybe hat.  Ask for help when you need it. Get your rest. Eat well.  Day after day after day. 

And then, pack your bags. It's race time.
Race day is exciting and full of adrenaline. The crowds are a bonus and certainly help the miles go by.  Let's imagine it's a marathon day....
Those things will give you a boost for oh...say... 6 miles? I'll be generous and say 6 miles.  It depends on the course. On the weather. On the town....
So if you want a PR and you want to breakthrough to a new place in your personal performance... that leaves you 20.2 more miles to go... all on your own. 
Can you do it???
Are you ready?

I think those cold winter runs and rides and swims are a good time to start thinking about it. Crawl back into your head and dig into your heart and decide how you're going to do it on race day? Will you take the comfy way home or will you make it hurt, give it more than ever before  and cross that line with shaky wobbly legs that will refuse to walk another step forward once you finish?

Think about it. What kind of finish line do you want?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Time Away

Today is transition day.  Just like in triathlon....the time spent between two different things.  Ideally, it's quick and easy. Just like T1 and T2. Make it fast. Get in and get out.  I am tryyyying very hard to make this transition quick but my brain is hanging on to the past 5 days and I'm having a hard hard time letting go.  My husband and I just got back from a 6 day vacation, alone. We met someone there that asked us if our kids were there. When he heard they weren't he replied, "Ahhh yes, that's the difference between a trip and a vacation."  So true!  My boys are the light of my life, truly.  However, I would be lying if I didn't say that being the mom to 3 boys wasn't exhausting and challenging.  It is. It's hard. And quite often, I find myself beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how to be a better parent. Tomorrow! Tomorrow I will be a better Mom! I say that a lot. I am trying. But it's hard. Anyway, I think maybe, I hope, those are typical feelings for many parents.  The past few months have been a blur. Hectic to say the least. Loads of fun and lots of special memories but I was Wiped out. Mentally. Training has been easy since Kona. I can't pretend I needed any kind of respite from working out.  But I did need a full blown detox from life. And, lucky lucky me, I got it. I just feel incredibly lucky to have had this getaway.  You see, Mark had some meetings in Puerto Rico. I know I know, what the heck kind of meetings happen in Puerto Rico when your company is in Maine? He's on an executive board for a national group of contractors and they meet in 4 awesome places each year. I'm invited to tag along and attend a few beautiful social engagements but otherwise, I was on my own.  It was amaaaaaaaaazing. I had the best time. It was mellow and quiet and all in the hot sunshine. I was catered to and fed delicious food.  I slept in, watched movies in bed, drank coffee on a deck and had frozen grapes poolside every day at 1:00. I was totally spoiled. And I loved it. Mark and I had hours and hours of quiet time together and that was perfect. Neither of us knew just how much we needed that.  I felt very lucky and enjoyed the time to the fullest.  Yesterday, was my birthday. I started the day with a run in the super hot sun and while I felt incredibly bad running ( ha...yeah that's what I get !), I was so happy. I ran by the ocean and felt the hot sun on my face. Then I got back to the hotel, called the kids and told them we were on our way. The day was spent travelling but by 9 p.m. I was back with my 3 guys. Pretty close to a perfect birthday really.  Right now, those same kiddos are attempting to make their first Birthday cake without Any help.  I guess my diet will start tomorrow. 
Getting back into real life has been kind of sluggish today. I didn't want to get up at 6:00. The house is somehow a mess even though none of us have been here for a  week.  Of course, we had no food and loads of laundry need to get done. But all that aside, my biggest problem has been my brain. it is SHUT OFF! I'm having a little trouble turning it back on. My mind keeps wandering to that cushy lounge chair I sat in for hours and hours each day last week.  sigh...... Poor me. haha..... You know what helped ?? It's no surprise but.... I got myself moving again. I hopped on that dusty trainer and busted out an hour on the bike. There. I'm back. I can focus again and I'm not daydreaming quite as much as I was this morning. I'll start tomorrow with a super early swim, I'll get a lot of work done and NO MORE excuse that it's "Christmas, Thanksgiving, new Year's, Vacation,  or my Birthday" so    of course I'll have that to eat mode. I'm ready! 2012 is here and I'm ready to make it awesome.  One more Puerto Rico burst here... a few pictures from my vacation!

from our room.....loooking out onto the golf course.

Getting ready for a run on day 1

 The main Plantation house....
My poolside lunch...yummy greek salad that I ate nearly every day.

 Crazy huge iguanas all over the place. I encountered the 1st one on a run... scared me JUST a bit when I saw it on the path in front of me.

 Giant iguana crawled right under my seat, across the deck and Into the pool!?
 Mark... dressed up and looking handsome for dinner with me!
 Where I spent most of my day.

At an AGC function...they even had a cake for me.

 looking from the pool out towards the ocean.
 Dinner our last night was out on a lawn, under a full moon.
These boardwalks surrounded the property.

our casa