Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let me explain. No there is too much. Let me sum up

Since I've been holed up recently, I've had a lot of time to look back over my 5 year training cycle.

When I started this plan, I knew (research has shown) that taking "off years" is as important as taking an "off season". Looking over personal commitments, work, volunteer work & my sons' schedules (as well as all the other things that going along with having a life), I realized 5 years ago that the cycle would work best if I can schedule my lowest training years with the highest commitment years. 

Afterall, training for Ironman is one of the most selfish races a person can do. The commitment from family and friends is critical. The training hours are long. Family & friends know they won't see your for weekends. You'll be gone in the morning before they are even awake. Training time & quality family time....don't exactly mix. If you have small kids, it's a huge burden for the spouse at home who finds themselves doing more than their share of housework.

As it turned out, my "off year" matched up perfectly with this year (2010), the year that I've had increased hours of work & increased personal commitments. The year that I don't have to get up early on weekends to head to a race was the year that I had to get up early to drive crazy distances to baseball tournaments, tennis tournaments, attend school events, work longer hours, get JMan to early morning football camp, and the list goes on and on and on. Getting up at 6am and crashing at 10pm....well, I was pretty happy that I didn't have any races schedule that I risked missing. 

The reality is that you only have one opportunity to raise your kids. If there is a year that they require more from me then I'm going to give it. I couldn't imagine having missed Jman's baseball state championship WIN because I had a race to do that day. Missing the winning run, witnessing him playing the best game of his life? No way. No race finish is worth missing that. 

That's the background. What do I mean when I say: I'm taking a year off? Does it mean I'm sitting around doing nothing? Hardly. It's a year where racing is reduced & training can take on many different forms. The point is to give your mind and body a break. 

I've been criticized for this. I've been questioned. I *think* people/friends/associates forget that I have a Master's degree in Exercise Science, certified in Sport Psychology & was (until I did not re-certify recently) an NASM certified trainer. 

Education aside, why would I do something that would negatively affect my health or training? 

I justified it this way:
1.) Many people are paranoid about their weight. Without "racing", they won't exercise and  their weight will increase and/or they will put on what they lost. I don't have that problem. I've been at the same weight for the most part since high school. (Pregnancy weight came off pretty quickly).
2.) The ego-battle. I don't use racing and training to define who I am. Distances, speeds, races I've done mean nothing compared to what I have accomplished outside of athletics. In other words, I think I'm a pretty cool person whether or not I race. I don't have any empty spaces that I fill by doing race after race. I used to ask *clients* "Why are you doing this?" People always give the answer they think they are supposed to give instead of probing deep inside. 
3.) They are Type A personalities and jump from goal to goal without taking time to enjoy life, laugh at themselves or otherwise appreciate the journey. Symptoms of Type A Behavior: Time urgency and impatience, easily irritable, can become easily hostile (think road rage or the person behind you honking when the light turns green), which can be triggered by even minor incidents. Competitive, achievement oriented--causing them to become stressed due to wanting to be the best at whatever it may be i.e. sports or in work. Btw--Type A personalities are more susceptible to health problems such as heart attacks & sports related injuries.

So, I've patiently answered questions about (aren't you afraid of gaining weight? No. Aren't you afraid of getting slower? No. Aren't you afraid of losing focus? No. Aren't you afraid of not getting a PR? No. No. NO.) 

I've learned that these questions are more about THEM than they are ME. What they don't understand is that because I'm taking a year off, I WILL be stronger, faster, leaner & have better focus.

Last year in particular, I was getting tired of getting up early to do races. I didn't want the pressure of doing a workout because I had a race coming up. 

This year, I've slept in on Sunday/Saturday mornings. If I didn't feel like swimming that day, I went hiking or did some strength training or did what I felt like doing.

The most important piece of this is that I now WANT to race again. I am looking forward to  focusing on training, nutrition & going long again. 

The timing was perfect. I'm in a place where I want to do Ironman again. My sons are older. Next year, they will both be driving, and my taxi requirements will be significantly reduced. On a personal level, my focus is back, and I'm stronger than I've been in previous years. I'm not doing it because I have anything to prove. I'm not doing it to impress the masses. (I'm not someone who feels the need to list out my accomplishments to strangers). I WANT to do it. 

Most importantly, I have family support. The boys are teenagers. They don't need Mr. Tea to make them breakfast and lunch while I'm out training. They don't need us to drive them around or entertain them. We've attended their practices, games, tournaments, events at school. We've supported them through their academic accomplishments. 

Now, they support me in mine.

Taking a year off might be something for you to think about...but only if you want to come back faster, stronger & more focused than in previous years. 

Go ahead ask me questions but don't criticize me for doing things differently than you.

See you at the starting line....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Front Back Side to Side

Isn't it funny how one small change or one small action can change your day, week or month.

In my case, it was several unlikely variables that came together.

I went running yesterday.

3 miles (which was a change of plans)
in the afternoon (which was a change of plans)
on a different route (which was also a change of plans)
in windy conditions (which was unexpected)
without bringing a cell phone (which was not normal behavior on my part)

On the return, I noticed a large truck in my path. As I got closer, I realized that it was a landscaping truck. 

At that moment, the thought registered "Why is that landscaping truck here? There's nothing but weeds"

As I approached, I had a decision to make: Do I stay on my path and run next to the truck or do I step out into oncoming traffic?

With multiple cars heading toward me, I realized that I couldn't safely run in the road.

With caution, I approached the truck. It was quiet, and I started thinking that the landscapers had simply stopped to have lunch.

Just as I ran next to the truck a landscaper on a giant lawnmower type of machine (used to chop down weeds) pulled out directly in front of me. I gave a little scream and jumped to my right. The driver misses me by centimeters. 

As soon as I left my feet, I knew it was going to end badly.

Everything seemed to go in slow motion. I hear the driver cut the engine as my foot lands in a hole and I feel my body go slamming into the ground. My right knee skids across the ground. I can feel the stinging of blood running down. My hands slam to the ground and then my left knee.

I end up laying sideways on the ground not really knowing what just happened.
Then everything started hurting. My knee is stinging. My ankle is swelling up quickly. Likewise my left knee is blowing up. The palms of my hands are scraped and bruised. My left side just hurts.

I look like I was just hit by a car instead of barely missing a tractor. 

That's when I realized that I was 1.25 miles from home.

Then I realize that I didn't bring my cell phone with me.

I noticed the landscapers staring at me but not moving.

I stood up and almost collapsed from the pain in my ankle. I looked at it and did some motion tests. I knew it wasn't broken. I knew that I needed to get off my ankle.
I remembered Mr. Tea saying that he would be leaving work early. 

I look at my watch. If he left on time, he should be driving by here within the next 15 minutes.

I started the zombie walk home. 


15 minutes passed, 20, 25, 30. No Mr. Tea.

I make the long painful walk home amazed that not one car stopped, even to see if I was ok. Blood running down my leg, one knee really swollen & limping wasn't enough to stop anyone. 

Maybe I really did look like a zombie.

Once home, as much as I wanted to sit, I had to get myself cleaned up. I checked my cell phone. 1 message. It's from Mr. Tea. "I'm leaving late, be home soon."

For the rest of the day, I have my foot elevated & iced & bandaged. Today, the same thing with rehab exercises thrown in: writing the alphabet, stretching the calf, singing the song from the Kia Soul commercial: front, back, side to side, front front back back side to side.

I can't help but think about how lucky I was. My ankle is sprained, but it's not broken. I've know other women who have taken lesser falls and broken bones: ankles, hip, legs. 

I regularly do core work, balance exercises & strength training. As violent as the fall was, I can't help but think how lucky I was that I didn't sustain more injuries. 

I think it's because of the balance work, the core work. Accidents happen. They can't all be prevented because of strength training and flexibility, but they can be less harmful. 

I'm out of commission for a little while, but I feel so lucky that it's not for weeks or months. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ain't no shame in walking

Once upon a time, there was a race. It was a half ironman race. The 70.3.

The race that tests your ability to go as hard as you can for as long as you can.

At this race, there was a female participant. A regular little hottie, if I do say so myself.  Little Hottie was setting up her transition, going over her race day plans and apparently mumbling to herself when the guy setting up next to her turned to her and asked, "Are you talking to yourself?"

Unashamed at quiet mumbling, she replied, "Yes, I'm just going over my strategy."

Mr Dude replied, "Ah. Well, just remember, there are few things that you can control. You've done the training. Now, just trust that you have the tools to do what you want to accomplish."

Curious as to Mr. Dude's quiet demeanor, she asked, "Have you done an Ironman before? I'm doing my first next year."

Mr. Dude, smiled, and replied, "Yes, I've done 12 of them. I've had 8 finishes. 2 barely finished & 2 DNF's."

Little Hottie now staring and this wealth of knowledge that dropped into her lap said, "I'm worried a bit about the run."

Mr. Dude replied simply, "Ain't no shame in walking. Run the downhills and walk the uphills. Keep looking forward and if something bad happens....well, sometimes a finish just isn't in the cards."

Then he disappeared.

not really, he more or less went back to setting up his transition.

Those words stayed with Little Hottie. Regardless of the race distance, she always remembered when things got tough "walk the uphills, run the downhills."

Many moons later, Little Hottie was out doing a long run that wasn't going very well. She wasn't disappointed in the run. She wasn't upset with the run. She'd been running for more years than most people and knew that there was no such thing as a "bad run"....only tough, grit yer teeth, tough runs and great runs.

So it was a grit yer teeth kind of run when she realized that she wouldn't be able to run much more. (Plan A)

Then the words of Mr. Dude came back to her, "Run the downhills and walk the uphills". (Plan B)

Then she realized that, even Plan B was feeling a little too aggressive. "I know" she smiled to herself, "I'll switch to Ironman run plan. Run 5 walk 1". (Plan C)

Soon however, it was obvious that Plan C wasn't working out. It was time for more drastic measures and Plan Wes went into effect: Keep moving forward.

With one foot in front of the other, Little Hottie chugged her way home....walking.

It wasn't a "walk of shame".

She didn't place a rescue call.

She could have quit.  She could have called it a day.

Instead, she simply adjusted her plans. Sometimes a finish isn't in the cards. This, however, was NOT one of those days. Because just like on race day, you can choose to give up or you can choose to bear down and get'er done.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Run P-Nut Run

For as long as I can remember, Mr. Tea & the boys have had nicknames for me. 

I've always been one of those rare moms where when a little kid screams out "Mom!" I didn't turn around. 

Some of the nicknames were downright funny and would require some rather extensive explaining when people would hear them call me.

The boys are (almost) 15 & 16 now.  

They are both bigger, stronger & heavier than I am.

When we walk as a group, and I'm flanked by the men-folk, you can't even see me.

So, it seems appropriate that a new nickname was necessary to fit in with the changing times.

Thus, P-Nut was born.

P-nut as in peanut as in something tiny, petite, delicate, and a little crunchy.

Given the fact that I am WAY taller than the average woman--not to mention my sort of loud-in-your-face-personality; the name seemed appropos. That along with the fact that I am MUCH smaller than the men-folk, this new nickname seemed rather, well, fitting.

Yesterday as I was getting ready to run, and the boys were leaving for school. JMan says to me "Run Pnut Run".

Today, I had a speed session on the schedule. 

I HAVE to do speedwork. I know that I fade horribly in long races. I know that running is my weakness. 

I know the only way to get faster is TO RUN FASTER.

I know speedwork, works, but it's also painful getting there.

To top it off, I have to do it on a treadmill.

Of course I was nervous. Of course,  I doubted if I could do it. Every time I do a tempo run or speedwork or have to maintain a long run pace, I do it for Billy. Knowing that I'm going to be running a marathon with a friend has put me in a frame of mind that I always have to do my best because I can't bear to let him down. 

So, I run. I do my speedwork. I notched the treadmill up to a speed slightly faster than I was supposed to run. The first two intervals were ok. I knew the next two were going to be hard. When I got to the 3rd, I started thinking that I might not be able to hold on for my last interval.

When the last interval came, I had to focus on .25 miles at a time. 

It was hard. 

First I thought of Billy. I can't let him down.

Then, I thought of JMan, and I thought of Run PNut Run. 

Then, I went quiet. The kind of quiet where you just do. You don't think of the pain. You don't think about whether or not you can do it. Stare straight ahead. Keep moving.

It's the point where the voices stop but your body keeps moving.

Because you know if your body stops, the voices never will.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And the cowboy waved

Many of you know that I feel very fortunate to live where I do. Many of my rides and runs are sidewalk free, dirt roads that travel past ranches and farms. In order for me to run sidewalks, I have to run into suburbia. 

Today, I decided to avoid suburbia.

Maybe one of the best parts of where I run is that fact that everyone waves when they drive by. Farmers have allowed me to re-load water, and the sheriff drives by checking on me when I'm going long, even offering a ride home when I had 2 flats on one ride. When I run in suburbia, the courtesies are gone, and I have to be on high alert for drivers that don't stop at stoplights/signs, drivers distracted by screaming kids in the back seat in the rush to get somewhere fast etc.

My run was short today. The mornings are so cool now, and my runs have become my favorite way to start the day. Today, I left later than normal. The sun was already up and overhead. 

I was running into the sun, staring out into rolling hills that I still have a love/hate relationship with. If you live in the city, I don't think you can understand how quiet it is in places like this. I'm not talking about driving up to the mountains to go camping.

I'm talking about being a solitary person running along dirt roads with nothing but open land for as far as you can see. 

The road was empty. In the distance I could hear something coming. I knew it was a big something.  As I saw the truck coming up over the hill, I stepped off the road to give him as much clearance as I could. It was a truck pulling a trailer filled with horses. He slowed down quite a bit so I wouldn't get sprayed with cloud of dust.

When I looked up to watch him pass, I realized he'd reached up to the brim of his cowboy hat and gave me a big good morning wave.

I couldn't help but smile and wave back, very happy that I took the path I did today.