Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Here I go again... attempt #..... 6? I am failing my blog big time. I have started multiple posts, finished one only to take that back down because my tone wasn't where I wanted it to be.

It's 7:07 p.m. My husband just left for a meeting. One son is in the room next to me writing a paper. He's making me jealous of today's kids because he has some cool cut and paste  program for the bibliography section. I HATED the bibliographies!!! Sigh... I need to remember.. for the most part, I am happy I lived my childhood back in the days before facebook and texting and tweeting and phones with cameras. What a mess all that has become.

My other two sons are downstairs playing. Right in earshot. Big time. Currently, it's all laughter. Albeit wild laughter.  They're chucking a big physio-ball around the room at each other. It's only a matter of time. I have experience with this game.

When the bell chimes at 7:30 and it's officially, 'time to go up.' We begin showers, and picking up rooms, and trying to put away some of the laundry baskets. We'll brush teeth, talk about the random balls of dirty socks, wet towels and random Tshirts strewn about.  Then it's story time. So I'm almost out of time.

OH wait!!!  Here they are. The 2 wild things.  "What do we do?"  That's what they just said to me.
Um... go back and play more so I can try to write this blog?( haha.. I didn't really tell them that. )
Hey!  That took... 5 more min. for this.

Triathlon. The 3 discipline sport with MEGA gear and gadgets.
It's a blessing and a curse, those gadgets.   I know this as an athlete but now I know it even More as a coach.

Last night ( yes, I ran out of time when I started this post.. kids came up and we played a brief round of charades instead. )I found 3 of my old running logs. They are from 1997, 1998, and 2005. I don't know where I put those missing years in between. Well... actually... I had a baby in 1999. And 2001. And 2004. Ah ha.... it makes perfect sense now that I think about it!!  No log books were kept!!! Yup, that's it. I ran, but certainly didn't keep track of anything other than what I needed to for the babies!

Ok... here are some sample entries from my logs:

Monday 4/7: up and down Paris Hill, 117, Christian Ridge ( the route),  knees hurt, 12.5 miles, 1:50
Tues:  4 miles , 50 degrees ( no time recorded )
Wed  6.2 miles 4p.m., 60 degrees, new shoes ( no time on this either )
Thurs:  End of Christian Ridge, 58 degrees, 4 p.m.a , shoes better, 6.2 miles ( no time.)

and so on... At the end of each week I wrote the total mileage and maybe a comment or two like:
Good week, down 3lbs. Or
"awful week... kids have the flu. I felt gross too."



Simple simple  simple.  No heart rate numbers, no pace, and only occasionally a total time for the run!

Was that better?  There are pros and cons to everything.  Here is what I can tell you about those days.  When I felt good, I pushed hard. When I was tired, I ran easy. When I was sick, I took a day off.  I ran day after day after day otherwise. I varied my distances and I ran different routes.  On long runs, I noted more details. I logged what I ate before and during the workouts and I noted the conditions outside But otherwise, it was all simple and based on how I felt.

It's interesting for me to see, I was running pretty close to the same speed I am now on most training runs.  Does that discourage me? The fact that I'm not faster? NO!! I'm reading from a log book I wrote when I was 27 years old! Ha! I am keeping up with my 27 year old self... and besides that.. more importantly,I'm racing much faster now. So.. no worries.  My mind is stronger for racing than that kid was. :)

Back to my point....
I've been at this for a long long time. Not just triathlon, but involvement in sports in general. I started swimming competitively at a very young age and continued that right through college. Then, I ran and ran and ran. I ran marathons and other short races. And now, I'm into  this sport.  The advantage I have, in my opinion, is that when I was learning to race and train as a kid, I was 100% reliant upon myself and how I felt. It was all about my body and what it could do each day.  Sure, we had watches. I'm not that old.  But, they were just watches.  There was not yet an obsession on analyzing every last split and lap. Swimming is a sport that can be  won or lost by Fractions of a second.  It's not without minute details and focus on times and splits.  How did we deal with that?   We practiced starts and turns and strokes over and over and over and over for hours and hours and hours day after day after day.
And then on the day of the meet, we'd focus our minds, steady our thoughts and go after it.  We'd hit the wall with our heads down and then look at the clock to see the results.

I'm really not old and didn't grow up in pre-historic times before HR monitors or stopwatches. But my roots are in sports that didn't require tons of gadgets and it was before the days of training peaks and power files and TSS scores.  I grew up in the 1980s era of 'no pain no gain.' Now we all know that that is a silly motto because of course, if there is pain, you stop.  But.... I think there's another way of looking at that.

One of the lures of Triathlon, is that it's there for adults. There are adults, like myself, who grew up in the world of racing  who realized at some point in their grown up lives, they couldn't live without it any more.   And then  there are the adults who are new to competitive sports and have set racing Triathlons as a goal to help reach  a new level of fitness and personal accomplishment.  Lucky for all of us, Triathlon has age group racing right up into the 80s! So if one desires they can keep going and going. I love it.

Now here we all are. The 'type A' adults determined to do their best in this fun sport.   They are driven to set goals and work hard and make it happen! Fabulous! Again, I love it.  To make it more fun we now have complex online training logs ( can't live without mine, I know that!) , power meters that measure everything from time, speed, cadence, watt output at that moment, on average, for the lap,  normative power, TSS, IF, VI , kilojoules, and 100 more things. We have garmin watches to measure our average pace, lap pace, actual pace, distance, time, elevation gain, cadence and heart rate. Phew. And, this is just the beginning!!! GOOD stuff! And, used properly, very helpful training tools.

There are just a few simple catches.

We can all be too dependent on the data to tell us how we feel and many take all the numbers way too personally. What do I mean?

I think it's SO important for people to learn to shut off the gadgets and feel how they Really feel.  I think too many people get completely reliant on the Garmin to tell them how they feel. Just go run. Dive in the water and swim down the lake. Turn off the feature that tells you what route you took around Crystal lake. After all, you know. You went over there and then back a ways, around that dock and down to the red buoy. Right?  How did your arms feel? Did your stroke feel fluid? Were you breathing comfortably or was today a struggle?  I don't care if you wear the cool watch, just don't look at it all the time. Breath the air, watch your form in the shadows, play with your pace and see how your breathing changes when you do.  When you're done, hit stop, write things down, and move on. So many people get completely  distracted by data and forget to just ...train.  They forget to listen to their minds & to the cues their bodies are giving them.

Here's what I mean by taking it too personally. It is not healthy or wise for people to stay in race ready form ALL year long. Why not? It sounds appealing! Well, for one thing, you risk burnout.  The level of training we do for this sport with hours and hours  on the bike, miles upon miles of running and 100s of trips to the  pool can't be maintained 12 months of the year.  Our minds and bodies need a break!!!  We need to rest and recover and rejuvenate for the following season.
What happens during this period? We decondition. And that is OK! In fact, it's good. You don't need to turn into a sloth, but cut way way back and lose the schedule and the feeling of , " I have to do a 2 hr bike today. I can't miss it."
As a result, our run paces will slow, our power output fades and you likely will not swim your fastest 100 free during the off season.
Big deal!!! Right? After all... your next race is 8 months + away.  Relaaaaaaaax.
And, do not stress when you look at your garmin.
I can't tell you how many runs I did over the past several weeks that caused me to Laugh Out Loud when I looked down at that 'pace' square on my watch. Ha! Really??? My Heart rate was right in it's happy place of zone 2 but my running pace was about 1.5- 2 min off my norm. Seriously.
I felt heavy, and 'thick' ( not sure....just the word that was coming to my mind while out there), and uncoordinated on the road and in the water. The power readings on my bike caused me to call the SRM and garmin Help numbers to make sure the thing was calibrated.  No joke. It was fine. Darn.
Yes, that slow and that weak. Only 1 month after racing at Worlds out in Vegas.

During that time, I kept my cool. I wore the watches and uploaded the data. Did I worry? No. Ok.... I had occasional fleeting thoughts that went something like this: " Ange, you are about to turn 43. Maybe your day is done. Maybe you've seen your fastest years. Is this the beginning of that turn...??"  
Sure, I had those thoughts. However, pretty quickly I realized this. One doesn't Suddenly slow down and lose all their momentum.  I ran my fastest ever 10K in August. I took a bunch of down time in Sept and early therefore, I am slower.  So Buck up, back off the 8p.m. cookies, and go run some more. And you know what? Starting last week, I began to feel a wee bit better.  Ah ha!!! It just took time. And patience. And consistency.  Now, when I look at my uploaded data, I see a nice rise in the graph. My HR is moderating and my pace is dropping.  Beautiful.  It took a while, but I'm coming back. Slowly but surely.

Faith. And Patience. And Consistent hard work. The numbers are just tools that allow us to track progress. Both the ups and downs. When used properly, it can be fun to see.

But first-- you Must be able to strip those gadgets off and feel the raw effects of the workout and identify what that is like. After all, that is really what it is about. Moving your body across the land and through the water ( if we're talking Triathlon) as quickly and efficiently as you can. So... stop and FEEL that for yourself without the computer telling you all about it.
And second, you must be able to record the numbers with an objective frame of mind knowing that the information is a tool that is used to plan your program and watch your progress.

That post got way too long! Enough is enough!
Get out there and train and eat a whole bunch of Turkey!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!!  Count your blessings!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Step by step

by step by step by step....

And then, one day, when you might not expect it,  you will  feel good.  Ahhh......

I started 'training' again last month.  I didn't take too much time off for my off-season ( another post on this one later...) but my running sure did take a hit. I think when you combine taper with the 3-4 weeks off/ recovery period, you can't expect anything else but a decline in speed and that wonderful feeling of lightness when you run.

It's ok with me. I am not really a patient person in general. This is something I strive to work on in life. And yet somehow, I am totally patient with this process.  It happens every year and eventually, it all comes together. It's important to take a break, to the the body chill and heal and to start fresh again. You aren't really starting fresh after all. If you've been running for years and years and years as I have, you don't Lose that aerobic base and endurance. You just lose your feel. You're no longer sharp and fresh.  You may have gained a few pounds. So what!  Just be patient. Be consistent.  Relax. Go slow. And then go slow again, and again, and again.  Get your sleep. Eat your veggies.  Drink water.

And then one day, you will feel good again. Promise.

Today was my day. The circles under my eyes that were dark and deep have finally started to lift. I was much kinder to myself this week and had a bit of an awakening. I cut myself some slack. It wasn't yet November and I realized, hey, this is just wrong. There is no reason for me to be in such a hole this time of year. It's not right Any time of year but certainly not right now. It's Fall. I have a long way to go.....

So I have been turning the light off a bit earlier and turning it on a bit later. After the first no alarm Saturday I can remember in a long time, I chilled with the boys for an hour, drank a few cups of coffee and then  headed out for a nice fairly long run. My HR monitor was on, but I never looked. My garmin was on the other wrist, and I never looked at that either. I just ran. No music. No watch.

It was cool and fresh. The roads were quiet. I was alone.  When I started, my legs were a bit heavy. I did a bit workout yesterday. I was expecting that. I just ignored and took light easy steps. I relaxed my shoulders. I thought about things....
I just ran.  That is it. I solved a few problems, I wrote a few other blog posts, I made a few lists, came up with some ideas... nothing taxing, nothing that I remember.

Around mile 6 or 7 I snapped alert. Hey! I'm really cookin'! I feel Good! I feel like.... me! I felt like myself!  I didn't need to look.. .I know my pace. I knew what I was running and I knew how it compared to last week.  That run last Saturday with my husband. The one when we finished and he asked our time ( a route we do ALL the time... ) and it was about 5 min slower than 'normal.' We laughed. I told him it was ok. He had succumbed to 'my' pace that day.

I started imagining scenarios. Races. I do that.. it's a secret. Shhh....
I fast forward to races I have coming up. Maybe the race is in a week.. maybe it's 8 months away. It doesnt' matter. I go there. I feel it. I create my finish line. I visualize the clock and what I will do. I write the story myself. I might even tear up thinking of the moment I pass her. It's what I do... I let myself dream it and then I work, day after day, to make it real.

Running.  There is nothing else like it.