Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Failing, getting mad, trying again

A few weeks back, I had a really bad time.

I wrote about it.

Of course, I did.

There was one workout in particular....I had a colossal fail.

I opened TrainingPeaks today and thought the bike workout looked familiar.

I looked at it again.

I compared it to the workout a few weeks back.

Yes. It was the same workout.

I wasn't super surprised to see the workout on my plan again. Liz does that. She's done it to others athletes. When you fail at a workout, she'll put it back on there to show you that you CAN do the workout. The workout itself doesn't even matter. What matters is that YOU DO IT. You PROVE to yourself that you can do it.

Of course, it's not that easy. There's a mental hurdle. I've gotten stronger. I've nailed every single workout over the past two weeks.

But, I failed this one.

I started doing the maths. Last wednesday, x.y, z. On Sunday of this week, I did an even harder workout for a longer period of time.

I looked at the one scheduled today. I'm not going to do it.

I'm going to go longer. 
I'm going to crush this thing.

Before you say anything, I'm not going rogue. The point of the workout is to go 45 minutes bouncing between 90 and 95%.  Liz gave me a short "out" to collect myself.

I decided I wasn't going to use the out.

And it sucked.

It was miserable.

At one point, I really thought I was going to give up, but I didn't.

After the colossal fail a few weeks back, I got really mad. I was frustrated with myself. People telling me I was over training or going too hard or this and that.

It was NONE of that. It was a mental failure.

When I signed up with Liz and told her my goals, she said, "This is what it is going to take. It's going to be the hardest thing you've ever done. You're going to want to quit. Are you game?"

I said, "Yes."

What happened to me a few weeks ago is what happens to athletes when they are pushing their own limits.

It's at that point that some athletes back off or quit.

For the rest, it's a turning point. That's what it was for me.

I got mad. I started making sure my nutrition was where it needed to be to support this level. If I needed to sleep in, I did. Most importantly, I came up with new ways to get through the fight.

Progress isn't linear. If it were, more people would succeed at reaching their goals.

We all go through it. Don't be the athlete that gives up.
"When you feel like your back is up against the wall and your confidence has been shaken, dig down deep. You can do what you think is impossible."

Hey, if it's in a country song, it's GOT to be true.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Surprise yourself

I recently had a conversation with Amanda. I hope she doesn't mind being called out here. (Don't bother clicking the link. She's too busy to update her blog).

It was one of those conversations that wasn't particularly deep. It was mostly just me whining about the sh*t I whine about.

She said something. Honestly, I can't remember exactly what she said. Yeah, it was THAT good.

The conversation left me thinking for a few days.

There are a lot of triathletes that I respect for many different reasons. I started following Amanda's training a year and a half ago.

One of the reasons I respect her is because she demonstrates what mental toughness is. You can read a ton of books or articles or cute little meme's about WHAT mental toughness is, but SHE lives it.

You know what I've learned from watching her?

Mental toughness is not the absence of fear. It's not the absence of doubt. It's managing to be your best in presence of those things.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that I'm a completely different person than I was 2 years ago. I know that I've made strides. BIG HUGE strides.

But over that time, my goals keep growing, getting bigger and scarier.

When I hit a little goal but miss the big goal, instead of being happy.....I was disappointed that I didn't hit the big goal. The BIG goal. You know the HUGE goal that is meant for a few years down the road and quite possibly might NEVER happen.

On top of this, Liz posted an article about infinity. You know. You want to get to Point B from Point A, , but you are only allowed to go half the distance at a time. When you arrive at the first halfway point, you must stop and recalculate the new half point … and on and on and on. You will never arrive at B, because as you move closer to your target, you see how many halfway points there are between you and your target: an infinite number. (The section is bold is taken directly from the article The Pursuit by Christen Press).

I saw myself in the article, but I had twisted it all around.

How did I get into this mindset? Each one of those halfway points are successes. They are the opportunity we have to surprise ourselves.

They have to be celebrated because we may or may not reach the "real" end point.

Amanda said, "You've had a great year."

And she was right, but I had become so focused on those really big goals that I was ignoring all the little ones that it takes to reach the big ones.

I had put so much pressure on myself to get to those big goals that it was affecting me physically and emotionally.

When I used to race, I used to surprise myself constantly. Now, I was just disappointed in myself.

I wanted to start surprising myself again, but how do I do that?

I sat down an outlined a race schedule for next year.

I started thinking about my nationals races. I know that my oly race time is nowhere NEAR Team USA times.

So, I'm going to a race where I have no shot at a podium, no shot at a slot.

But, what I can do is go out there and make the best run I can at an Oly PR. I'd be racing for me....just me doing my best.

With that in mind, I went into my workouts with a different attitude this week.

I started swimming stronger.

Instead of thinking, "I can't do this. I'll never be as fast as those other women when I'm running." I went out there, and I never looked at my garmin. I started counting my steps and focusing on my running. I ran a 7:40 interval off the bike. That's FAST for me. That's really really fast. I turned around and did it 5 more times.

The next day, I had more intervals. On tired, sore legs, in the heat of the day, I nailed every single one. 

I'm going to Nationals not because I think I can get a spot. I'm going because I've never gone before. I'm going for me. I'm going to see if I can get a PR at the Oly distance.

It will not be easy. I know I'll doubt myself. I know I'll be afraid, but I'm going to go full speed ahead anyway.

I'm out to surprise myself.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

YOLO Race Report: Getting more than I gave

I don't know if any of you even knew I was racing. I don't believe I had mentioned it.

Several weeks back, Coach Liz recommended that I find one more sprint before Nationals. To me, in my opinion, I had a lot of loose ends I needed to clear up.

She wanted me to find a race where no one knew me, so I could take risks, be crazy and not feel any pressure. As luck would have it, I found the perfect race within walking distance from my house. It was made even more perfect by the fact that the Boulder Peak was the weekend before. The Peak is a regional qualifier for Nationals. It's a highly competitive event. So I knew competition would be other words....there wouldn't be any pressure to perform.

Interestingly enough, I ended up running into and seeing a ton of people I knew. MY good friend Jeff was there and we transitioned next to each other. There were other women that I race with regularly. It was really great to see them all after the race.)

I've had a rocky year with sprints: some uncontrollable issues, some completely controllable.

The point of this race was to get ready for Nationals. I had no finish time goals, nothing. I simply wanted to accomplish a few things.

Come on, now. This is a SPRINT. LET'S GET PUMPED!

Some of the issues that I wanted to address going in to this race:
1.) At my last sprint race, I bonked. I didn't fuel correctly going into the race. It was the first time it had ever happened to me (at a sprint), and really ruined my race. Even taking in calories during the race, I lacked power. I lacked any speed. A sprint (depending on the distances) requires pre race fueling for a 10k or half marathon.

For this race, I really took in calories prior to the race. I mean....I really ate. I would ask Mr. Tea: Are you hungry? He would say "No", and I would go find something to eat. The morning of the race, I used my NEW prerace fueling. I usually have a problem taking in calories on race morning. It might be could be anything. My new pre race fueling requires 100g of carbohydrates. (btw: I have been practicing this every morning for about 3 weeks).  I don't worry so much about the calories. I just focus on getting in my carbs.

My breakfast consisted of a bowl of cereal with milk (27g), 1 glass of orange juice (25g), 1 shot of beet juice (27g), 1 glass of chocolate milk (26g). I also have coffee with cream and sugar, but those amounts of carbs are sort of negligible when you're trying to hit 100.

In addition to this, 30 minutes before race start, I have my crank gel which is 150 calories (less sugar than most gels and more electolytes) and 37g of carbohydrates. Most gels have around 30% carbs from sugar. Crank has less than 20%.

If you are interested in trying Crank Gels, please message me. I can send you a link that will give you a discount. I can't post it here. They offer a sample box, so you can try all of the flavors. You can certainly order without my code by visiting the website.

2.) Dehydration: At my last oly, I was dehydrated right from the start. What? Really? How did this even happen? I was fully heat acclimation, only to get blind sided by dehydration.

First thing in the morning, I drink 12oz of water. I have breakfast. Take vitamins with another 12 oz. I also have 1200mg of salt tablets at this time. For the rest of the morning, I lick Base salts and drink another 36-48oz of water. During the morning, I keep track of how often I need to pee. I (now) know when I'm peeing because of nerves, or I'm peeing because I need more sodium.

Again, 30 minutes before race start, I take the gel with about 12oz of water. (The gels are larger than regular gels. I need more water to get it down.)

On the bike, I usually shoot for ~320-350 calories per hour and 1200mg of sodium. Cut that all in half for a sprint bike. (I went slightly higher because this bike course is a tough course, and I knew I would be out there for more than 30 minutes for the 12 miles).

I used 1.25 scoops of my custom infint blend + 1 additional scoop of Base salt (roughly 1/2tsp). (approximately 16oz of water mixed with the infinint).

In addition to that, I brought 24oz of water. On a hot day, I will go through the entire bottle in under an hour. For this race, it was cooler than expected, I drank about 18oz.


3.) I have been having an issue on my swim races. When I'm not racing, I average 1:22 per 100yds at an easy pace. AS SOON as I race or do intervals, my pace drops......we have been trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing. At a 1:22 easy pace, I should be rocking a 1:15 and better.

This race was set up to be PERFECT. Instead of starting by age group, they seeded us by swim times and did a time trial start (one swimmer every :03 seconds). My swim time for a 750m is 10:20ish. I was the 5th to start. That meant, for the first time since I was in my 30's, I didn't have to fight my way through the slower swimmers from ALL previous waves.

Sadly, I fell right back into my poor swimming technique. I raced at a 1:30 and was passed by the 2 people behind me.

Although my swim was slower, 3/4 of the way through the swim, I realized what I was doing wrong.

In that regard, this was a very good swim. Even though it was slower, I ended up being 1st in my AG. I was really shocked by that.

For the next three weeks, every time I'm in open water, I'm going to work on my "going fast" issue, er, lack of going fast issue.

4.) The bike. In April, I bought a new bike. I love my bike. It feels like we were made for each other. This bike is so much faster than my old bike. On the other hand, I have been racing WAY below my power zones. Liz and I talked through this. I'm going faster at lower power zones. The bike is considerably more aero than my previous bike. I believe that, in the 2 months that I've had it, I haven't gotten used to it yet. For example, I did my oly at 144 I'm not kidding. 144 is the bottom of zone 2 for me.

My goal was to get to at least 30 watts above that, or around 174. My NP was 172. HUGE improvement. For a sprint, I should be 195-200.

I got on the bike. I could only think of one thing.

I was 2nd on the bike behind 1st by :15 seconds. I just didn't know it at the time, and I didn't care. I felt GREAT about my effort. Even though, it was quite Oly pacing, it was my best effort to date on the new bike.

5.) The run. The run was the great mystery for me. I really wanted to pace this as I would an oly because I haven't successfully paced a 10k off the bike run.

I thought start at a 10 minute mile pace. I thought I would finish at faster than 9:40. Now, this isn't exactly my 5k race pace.  It wasn't really risky....and remember as far as I was concerned this race didn't mean a lot. I wanted to figure things out.

mile 1: 10 min pace feels really slow, but I stuck with it. I forgot how hard mile 2 is with the hills. It's only 1 mile, but 1 mile running at 5k pace on those hills is tough.

Instead of speeding up, I slowed down......which is my history.

THEN, something great happened. Starting my 3rd mile, something snapped in me. I finished the really tough section. I had rolling hills from here on out. I RAN. I saw my pace dropping 10:00, 9:45, 9:30, 8:30.....when I got to the last half mile, I was running as hard as I could, as hard as I could go.....7:15 pace. I was never more happy to have suffered through Liz's run workouts that had me running intervals at sub 7:30 paces because I knew the pain. I ran. I thought, "This pain is familiar to me."

At the finish:

I went into this race not completely rested, not fresh at all. I didn't have any hopes of breaking my own records or getting a podium.

Since I hadn't seen but one woman in my AG the entire time (due to the TT start), I wanted to see where I stood. I was hoping for top 10. I got 3rd. I was quite shocked actually.

My 2nd epiphany of the week

I ended up sitting around for over 2 hours waiting for the awards ceremony. My friends had all left, so I had time to think.

The opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author and are not meant to be presented as factoids.
If you take offense, stop being such a baby. It's ok to disagree.

I had a big takeaway from this race.

I finally get what Liz was talking about. The OLY is a damn hard race. It's the hardest distance.

In a sprint, we go all out, but it's short enough that I don't feel the physical pain. Sure, racing hard isn't easy, but it's more of a gasping for air type thing.

When I did the 70.3 last year, I had a 40 minute PR. Liz had me in such great shape, that I never really felt it. Pacing for a HIM, doesn't put the toll on my body. I remember being on the bike and saying to Mike, "This is a piece of cake."  Keep in mind, I don't like going long because it's boring. I've always enjoyed the challenge of seeing how hard I can push. BUT, I also understand the challenge of going long. I understand why it's enjoyable for my friends. At my 70.3, I felt good for the duration of the race. The physical pain was very different and tolerable when compared to the oly. Think about. Usain Bolt can't hold his 100m pace for a marathon. The body would break down. I understand why Liz told me she prefers to race the 70.3 over the oly. It's a matter of outlasting your competition.

We get to the oly where we're racing very hard AND we're going far. When I'm racing an oly, I feel the breakdown happening. (That's what I call it anyway). The swim, not so much. On the bike, once I'm about halfway, I can feel my legs burning. I think, "I can't hold this for another 12, 13, 15 miles" whatever it is. I get off the bike, and my legs HURT immediately.....They aren't sore....they aren't tired....THEY HURT. I have to run 6.2 miles with legs that hurt like hell. Last year, Liz told me that racing an oly is about pain management: You either ignore it better than your competition or you embrace it better than your competition.

I can't say I love the oly. I do it because I think it is going to make me stronger. I realized yesterday that it HAD made me stronger and better able to handle a sprint.

I don't know if I will ever get really good at the oly, but I don't know if I care about being GREAT at the oly anymore. I see the benefit of using it to learn mental toughness (which I lack). I will keep racing them and learning how to race, but if I never break X time.....I'm ok with that because I learn much more from racing the oly than I learned from ANY other distance.

I think that's a good thing. I think it's going to open new doors for me. I'm considering doing things that I hadn't considered before.

I'm doing a half marathon in January. I can't wait to race it. I haven't run a half marathon in THREE years. I've come so far in that time. I can't wait to see how hard I can push myself for a stand alone half.

That's it. I really did get more than I gave for this race and just in time for AGNATS.

If you made it this deserve a fucking cookie or something.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

You've got time

There are athletes who have epiphanies every time they train. I wish I had that level of introspection.

I guess I have to take my moments of clarity as I get them.

Here's my epiphany for the year:


OBVIOUSLY, I must be a direct descendant of Einstein.

For the past....3 weeks or so, I've had a really hard time with the workouts. Not all the workouts....but the big important workouts of the week have pushed me past whatever pain tolerance I had.

What I'm trying to say is that "I've failed workouts." 

I took it personally. I was really upset with myself.

Over the weekend, I couldn't do it. The workout was (without going into all the details) holding 90% FTP for almost an hour. I kept giving myself outs. I'd go as long as I could, and I'd take a minute breather. That wasn't how the workout was supposed to be. 

I should say this: I nailed the run off the bike. That made me feel better.

I told Liz. She wanted to know if my legs gave out or if my lungs gave out.

I said, "My mind gave out."

That's the truth. I'm just not mentally strong enough to power through these workouts.  I want to be, but I'm not there yet.

Today, I was on my way to masters. STILL thinking about the ONE bike workout this weekend. 

This is all new for me, right? I came to Liz as some soft little fuzzy ball. 

A very determined soft little fuzzy ball but still. I had the mental toughness of a guy with man-flu. (Man flu. It's a thing).

I've had to learn how to get tougher. My moment of clarity came when Liz said, "I'd rather you try and fail. This distance is very difficult."  

Sometimes I put ridiculous standards on myself, forgetting that I don't have to be perfect in my workouts. I should work on being just a little bit stronger than I was last week. I read blogs. I track people at races, and I think, "How do they do that? How did they get so tough?"  

I know the answer. It took time. They worked on it.

I'm 47 years old. I'm not a top age grouper. I wasn't even on the All American list last year. Each year, my goal is to move up in the rankings, and I've done that. 

Any pressure, any rushing to accomplish things is on me, and I've got time.

You know what? After the light bulb came on, I felt so much better about the past few weeks and about where I'm going and what I want to do this Fall and next year. 

I don't have to work on being perfect. I will work on being a little better this week than I was last week.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


I have read a bunch of articles lately around the topic of confidence. I could write an entire post on the topic. Instead, I'm going to tell you two quick stories and let you read the articles yourself; if you are so inclined.

I read blogs. I really enjoy reading blogs from coaches. One Coach in particular had been writing about how he is "slow, fat and old"....over and over. Several of his posts mentioned how GREAT he used to be. I'm sure this coach wouldn't tolerate this type of language from his athletes, but it seemed to be ok in talking about himself. We say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to other people.

Then, AWESOME happened. He claimed it was his "never give up" attitude (or some such thing), but I saw it differently. He packed away his triathlon gear and was giving up the sport. Shortly thereafter, he did a race....and WON....for the first time ever.

He did, indeed, give up. He gave up all the negative thoughts that were affecting his performance.

Do you see what happened? He finally let go of who he used to be. He freed himself from all those negative thoughts. All that noise in his head.....was gone....he was freed up to be the great triathlete he could be. When we release the clutter in our heads, we can be great.

Remember Katie? She has some open water issues that she is working on going into her first IM. I don't like to give advice to people. I've learned that (for the most part) people don't want your advice. So when Katie messaged me asking for help, I was hesitant. There was something in her message that made me think she really wanted advice.

I told her, "Everyone is different. This is my "pre-open-water-swim" routine." I explained why I did it. My process is very different from most people's approach. It's a very calming strategy.

Today, I got a text message from Katie saying that she did what I do, and she had her first ever successful open water swim. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am for her.

The point of my own strategy is to relax and not think about swimming. I've talked about this over and over.

When we free our minds, we give ourselves the chance to be great. Do. Don't think.

Along those lines, Coach Liz recently sent out a few short articles about confidence and mental toughness. You can also get the awesome information that she sends out by following her on Twitter. When you read the articles, you'll realize that success doesn't breed confidence. Success is external. Confidence is internal. This goes far beyond sports. The people with the greatest confidence are confident because they are internally accepting of themselves; the good and the bad.

The articles are timely for me because of my rough week last week. Without further ado, I present you some good reading.

This one is my favorite; from the author of StillPower. Confidence

Mental Toughness is the key to Carli Lloyds' success.

For those of you who enjoy Coach Liz's blogposts, she has a new one. Although she covers quite a bit in this post, I was most interested in her approach to coaching athletes without using data....instead....putting a challenge in front of them to see how they respond.  (How many times have I talked about her "challenge" workouts?)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bad days, bad weeks & dark places

Ironman Boulder is less than a month away.

Nationals is the weekend after IMB.

This means that emotions are pretty jacked up right now. I did a swim race yesterday and met up with friends. Friends who are on edge. They are starting to doubt themselves. They are tired. The training has been going on for months now.

Today, I had two back to back phone calls from people. They are a mess. Everyone has their owns fears and the same fears.

How am I supposed to help them feel better?  It's been way too long for me to remember what they are going through.

Yet, I'm going through the same feelings they are. The days of struggle. The days of self doubt. The days of thinking "What am I doing? I can't do this."

Maybe my job is not to help them feel better. Maybe they just need to hear that they are "ok".

I'm no Coach, but I'm not new to the sport. Even though, I have bad times, I know that training ebs and flows. We go through bad days, bad weeks and dark places. The dark places are the hardest to deal with.

I started telling them things that I know....but when you're in a dark need to hear from someone who has nothing invested in your success. FRIENDS, not coaches....friends who want you to succeed for no other reason than they believe in you.

Last week was my dark place. I was riddled with self doubt. I gave up on my workouts. I'm close to the end. My thoughts were filled with, "I can't do this. Why am I even trying?"

I considered not even going to Nationals. I was going to cut my season short. I waited to tell Mr. Tea. I thought, "Let me make sure I'm committed to doing this. Once the decision is made, I can't go back."

I waited a few days. Things didn't get better. I was sitting at the table. I heard him coming down the stairs. I opened my mouth to say the words when he said.

"I can't wait for this trip. It's going to be so much fun."

I froze.

He went on "You're so fast now. It's going to be so much fun. I'm so looking forward to this trip."

On Sunday at the race, when Katie said to me, "Tea I can't do this. I can't swim 2.4 miles."

I turned to her and took her hands and said, "I know you're feeling like you can't. You can do this. We are not talking about the swim. I know what you are going through. I've seen you come so far....from the woman who couldn't even the woman who has put everything into your training."

This morning, she called me. She was really upset because she didn't swim the 2.4 miles. I thought about what Mr. Tea said to me. I knew she was in her dark place.

I didn't exactly know what to say. So, I just let the words come out.

You are normal.

You are getting near the end. It's been a long road to get here. It's OK to not feel good. It WILL come together for you. Your biggest, most important training is done. It's time to recover. These weeks can test you more than any of the previous weeks. People like me can see the great and the strong in you. You can't see it right now. That's why we are here. We believe in you. We believe in what you can do. Trust in us. Lean on us.

When we were done talking, I realized how hard this sport is and how important it is to be part of a community that will be there for you when you feel most alone.

We all go through those dark places.

Just remember, when you're going through hell, keep on going.