Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where do I go from here?

You are so very welcome.

With it being the end of the year, I've seen many posts and articles about goal setting.

Everyone is signing up for races. Coaches are writing articles about how to set up goals. Yet, here I am; at a loss. I haven't even wanted to talk about next season because I don't know. In typical Tea fashion, I let those feelings be. I didn't know why I felt that way, but I did.  I know the more I push to figure it out, the more resistance I was going to feel. It has nothing to do with feeling burned out or anything. I just don't know what to do.

For those of you who know me, I'm a goal oriented person. I always have the next big thing lined up.

I let it be. Anyone who asked about my schedule, I replied, "I'm enjoying my time not thinking about next season."

Weeks have gone by. I started putting the pieces together and figuring out (without thinking about it) what's going on.

When I qualified for Nationals and then raced Nationals, it was the biggest goal that I had. It was a monster goal for me. It was a 5 year goal. Of course I didn't need a goal after that. Five years was a long time.

Then, I hit my goal 3 years early. Technically, I guess it was 4 years early since it was my first year with Liz.

Athletes have those little short term goals: What am I going to do at my next race?
Then, they have the season bigger goal: What do I want to accomplish at my big A race?
Finally, we have the BIG SCARY GOALS: What do I want to accomplish somewhere down the road that scares the pachookie out of me? (Things like qualifying for Kona.....or say Nationals).

I accomplished my big scary goal. Now what?

Yes, I've talked about working my way back to Ironman, but can I commit to that training? Is there something else I need/want to do first?

I've mentioned this before. Several years ago, I had a conversation with a friend. I told him that I don't even know what my best distance is. He replied, "I do."  But he wouldn't tell me what it was. He could have been bullshitting me, which is more than likely the case, but the conversation always stayed with me.

What is my best distance? I don't think anyone else that I know, thinks about this. 

So, I went to Nationals, raced both distances in a weekend. 

I accomplished my big scary goal, but was it enough?

At 48, I'm now in the best shape of my life. My nutrition/fueling/training is allowing me to give my best. 

What if I have more to give at the shorter distances? What if I I gave my best for where I was? How could I have really given my best if I wasn't at my best? Clear as mud?

But, there was more than just short course. There are other things I want to do.

Over the weeks, I was able to narrow my focus. 

I came up with TWO big scary goals.

1.) I want to go sub 6 at the 70.3 (half iron).
2.) I want to qualify for Team USA at the sprint distance.

Maybe not the BIG Scary Monster goals but very big.

My last 70.3 was pretty far off from sub 6, but given everything I've been doing, I can get there. (Also remember, my last 70.3 was in 2014. I wasn't really into it.) It will hurt more than anything I've ever done. The 70.3 that I chose has a very fast bike course but a tough run course. But, I can do it. 

My best sprint race was 1:16. In order to qualify, (based on last year's times), I have to race better than 1:15. (To make Team USA you have to finish in 22nd place or better after the age up rule is applied).  22nd place came in at 1:15 last the 45-49 AG. However, I turn 49 next year, which means that in order to qualify, I would fall into the 50-55 AG (because that's how old I would be for the next World Championship.) Those women are very fast, but so am I. I can do it.

I decided on a 70.3 for the first half of the year. 
I decided to race the Sprint National Championships (in Omaha) in Aug.

When I laid out my plan, Coach liked the plan, but she asked, "Then what? What's after that?"

I told her I wanted to leave it open. She and I already talked about leaving the Fall schedule open, so it was no surprise to her.

Why? Because I'm looking at something really big. I've learned that I can do things I didn't really think were possible. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I believe I can accomplish every goal I set my mind to. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Greatest Day

Today is my birthday.

On Sunday, I ran my birthday 5k.

I popped out of bed. It was dark and cold. I knew it was going to be the greatest day.

I grabbed my running clothes and stepped onto the cold cold bathroom tile.  I ran downstairs to get coffee and breakfast.

I saw that Mr. Tea left me a note to wake him at 7am.  Next to the coffee maker, JMan left me a note saying, "I'm home."

Today is my birthday 5k.  Googs was planning on meeting us there. I knew they both had Halloween parties the night before.  It could be a little ugly for them today.

Everyone wakes up, and we head to the race. Mr. Tea drops me at the start, so I can do my warmup. The one thing I noticed immediately was that the course was extremely hilly. The race is in a suburb, very close to Denver. Denver is flat. I knew the course would probably not give me the PR I wanted, but I was going to run hard. I've been running hill repeats. I've been running surges up hills. I was ready for this course.

I met up with JMan and Mr. Tea at the start. The race starts in 2 minutes. Googs is nowhere to be found. I was a little sad, but I said "have fun" to Mr. Tea and JMan and head to the front of the line.

The race started, and I ran. I took off on the steep downhill to get my position past all the slower runners. I know how to run hills. I passed people on the uphills (first time ever). I never backed off.

It was the longest 5k of my life. Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill.....are there any flats here?

With the last half mile, I went into an all out sprint. I crossed the finish line and immediately turned around to run back and find JMan and Mr. Tea.

Around the 2 mile mark, I see them in the distance. They are having an animated conversation. Seeing them made me smile. I ran up to them. JMan immediately said, "Googs is here. AND HE'S RUNNING."

Running in an extremely hungover state.

Just then Googs appeared out of nowhere and jumped on top of Mr. Tea.

We walked the remaining mile as a family. I watched them. I listened to their crazy conversations. I couldn't stopped smiling. I was so happy my heart hurt. This is what I wanted.

We crossed the finish line.

Afterwards, we spent 20 minutes looking for Googs' car....who couldn't remember exactly where he parked in his rushed, hungover, and tired state.

We loaded up the cars and head to breakfast.

Seeing them all together, having a great was the best birthday present I could have asked for.

I'm not perfect. I'm not the stereotypical woman who goes ga ga over babies. I don't even like kids. I didn't want to have kids. I had no idea how to be a mom.

I looked over at them, joking around, talking.....but, somewhere along the line, I got things right.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

OSF Update & the Race Weight Myth

I started OSF around the middle of September. Truth be told, I started the end of August. (It didn't occur to me that I was doing it earlier than the middle of Sept).  August was more of an off season or as I prefer "transition season". My pool and back up pool were both closed. I rode my bike maybe twice. I ran every day....if walking the dog counts as running.

During that time, I came off my  transition season. With Coach's recommendation, I hired a nutritionist. I have been working on my run form more than I ever have. I have been strength training 3-4 times per week.

In a very short time, I have seen more improvements than I have never seen. 

Working with Dina (nutritionist), I am now:
1.) Sleeping better than I ever have. (It took a few weeks. It wasn't overnight. #nopunintended #orwasit)
2.) I'm now down 14lbs and so many inches that it seems unreal to me. Several years ago, I was part of a kickstarter campaign. I received two pairs of pants. Sadly, when I got the pants, they didn't fit. They were so tight that I couldn't even pull them up past my thighs. This week, I slipped into them with ease.  Let me stress this....I haven't been this lean in YEARS. I mean, YEARS, not 1 or 2 or 3 but +5 years. I don't even know the last time, I was like this.
3.) No more counting. No counting calories. No counting macro-nutrients. Her plan is so simple. At the beginning, I struggled a little bit. With her guidance, we made 1 change every 1 to 2 weeks. 
4.) No more Hangry.
5.) I have even blood sugar all day long.
6.) I can complete workouts with ease. I'm stronger and faster. (Emphasis on the stronger).
7.) And....the side effect that is unexpected but pretty cool.....getting compliments from my lanemates at masters about how lean I look. I didn't do this for vanity reasons. My confidence doesn't come from how I look. I guess, that's why it surprised me so much. I don't focus on my physical body as far as how it looks, so it didn't occur to me that other people would notice.
8.) I have abs....real abs....Can you believe it? And apparently, I have really great shoulders. 
9.) I never feel deprived.
10). This is something that I can do for a lifetime.

I already updated you on my running. All I want to say is that, running is a natural thing for humans. However, IMHO, running efficiently is not natural. (Yes, some people are natural runners just like some people are really awesome at cycling or running or baseball or or or any other sport. The rest of us have to work on it).  

It's something we have to work on. I'm thrilled with where I am now, but it has taken me months of hardcore focus on running. I didn't just go out there and do a few drills expecting to improve. I've done that. It's gotten me nowhere.

Liz and I worked together. I gave her feedback (from my bike fit). I told her what people say to me at races. She would come back to me with more questions. I would pay attention during my next run and then send her more feedback.

We worked on this together to come up with a plan that worked. She has me doing some of the weirdest shit I've ever done, but it is working. 

Race Weight Myth
This week was my last week of working with Dina until early next year. One of the things I told her is that over the past 2 months, I've learned that race weight is a myth.  

When I signed up with her, all I wanted was the dump the 10 extra pounds I had been carrying around forever. 

I learned that it's not about weight. It's about eating healthy, not depriving yourself and allowing your weight to settle where it needs to be to give you the best performance. You can celebrate during the holidays. You can have those "treats". However, I don't even crave them anymore. I don't even think of having sweets any more. But, if I want it, I have it. 

Here's the thing: If you are eating right, none of that will matter. Your weight will stay where it should be. There isn't that holiday weight gain.

Trust me. I didn't know this at first. We started the plan. I had my "miss" meals. Over the following weeks, I realized that I didn't want the miss meals any more.

I'm saying this because I know where you are. I read articles about what to eat. I know about whole grains, unprocessed foods versus processed. I thought I was doing everything right, but I wasn't losing the fat.

This is all just my opinion. You can disagree. This is what works for me. 

No matter who you are, though. No matter how fast or slow you think you are, you can be better, stronger, faster by getting help with your nutrition. 

Tomorrow, I get to put it all together at my Birthday 5k

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The realism spectrum

The realism spectrum.

I made that up in the hopes that it makes me sound super smart.

I have decided that realism is a spectrum rather than a point.

I have always asked myself, "What is realistic?" in terms of how fast I can run a particular distance.

If you are running a 12 min pace for a 5k, it's probably not realistic that you are magically going to pump out a 7 minute pace at your next 5k.

I have my paces. I know how fast I can run a long run. It's been a few years since I've run a standalone 5k. (Not exactly, but the 5ks I run in the winter are usually through snow and ice, not really conducive to a fast 5k).

I've always been stuck in this mode of "So what's realistic now? Can I run an 8:00 pace 5k? Is that too fast?" much as I'd love to believe I can do something, there are some paces that are just not realistic.

EVEN with a favorite quote of mine, in mind, "When you believe it, you can achieve it," there's a line between being realistic or unrealistic.

And of course, I've heard stories of people blasting through a to a PR.

HOW do they do that? HOW? I've been running for over 30 years now. HOW do these PRs happen? You go into a race, particularly a 5k where there isn't a whole lot of time to go too slowly. There's still an aspect of pacing. Pacing at much higher output but still pacing.

And yes, I tend to over-analyze.

And no, I haven't told any of this to Coach. I would prefer that she remains my Coach. On second thought, if I haven't scared her off yet....

Let me step back and 'splain this way.

I had a pre-race prep run today. My goal was to run intervals at my 5k pace. This is ridiculously hard for someone like me who:
1.) Over analyzes everything
2.) Hasn't run a standalone 5k with clear roads since Nov 2012. (That just happens to be the last time I PRd the 5k).

As I was running, I started thinking that there is a lot of space between what is clearly realistic (like me running a 10:00 pace for a 5k) and what is on the very edge of realistic (like me running a sub 8 minute pace for a 5k)--still I consider it realistic, even if it's on the furthest boundaries. (With my most recent PR being in the middle).

Maybe, just maybe the boundaries of the spectrum aren't really boundaries. Maybe they're more like a rainbow, you can see it, but they always seem to be just out of reach.

I realized that in order for me to make sense of this, realistic goals cannot be points on a line.  I need to work within a spectrum.

From a 10:00 pace to a sub 8 pace, any one of those paces are realistic for me. This gives me a feeling of success as well. In the past I'd say, "I'll run a 7:00 pace" and if I miss the 7 pace but hit an 8:00 pace, I would have been disappointed only because I didn't hit some randomly selected point on a line.

If I view it as a spectrum, anything within my spectrum is a WIN.

For me, the best part is that I don't have to face my race with a time goal. I know I simply need to put together my best race. My time and pace will fall somewhere in my spectrum.

I guess the easiest way for me to say it is that my goal for my 5k is to chase rainbows.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Birthday Wishes

Who didn't love Michael?

Guess who's birthday is coming up?

Unlike some people, I'm looking at you Ms/Mr. 100 x 100's, I don't like doing those crazy birthday workouts. In fact for a long time, I just ran my birthday in minutes. Since I started with Liz, I don't even put my birthday in my TP log. It's a day for me.

With adult kids, I've struggled to figure out how to celebrate my birthday. They're on budgets, and I hate for them to buy me presents. To make matters worse, being on this nutritional plan, I don't have any desire to have cake or any type of dessert. We used to go out to this big birthday dinner. It was a blast.

On 10/25, I'm running a 5k. I had this idea to wake up my two college students to run with me. I sent a text to the family. Immediately, I heard from Googs. I told him that I'll wait to hear from JMan and Mr. Tea.

To which he replied......

Then, Mr. Tea finally piped in that instead of running, he'll make us breakfast.....
And no....Mr. Tea does NOT have a blood clot.

Just wait until JMAN finds out that he's running a 5k on the 25th.

This is going to be the best birthday ever.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Removing Hope

That sounds odd, doesn't it? Remove HOPE?

"What's your plan for your half marathon?"

---Oh, I'm hoping to.....

"What are your goals for next year?"

---Oh, I'm hoping to.....

Most of you know, that I'm constantly in the pursuit of being better today than I was yesterday

I have always been one of those incredibly annoying athletes because I'm constantly asking my coaches for feedback. If I hear, "You're doing everything right", I know they're lying.

This year, 2015, I found that I was analyzing myself a lot more than I have in the past. I want to stress this point. I was not being critical of myself. I look at myself as a whole person, the good and the bad. The incorrigible and the

This was also a year of waiting. Constantly waiting. I had big plans for myself this year. Unfortunately, things happen that get in the way of the BIG THINGS, sometimes. Although I accomplished everything that I had wanted to accomplish AND I hit my 5 year goal THREE years early.....there were a few things that I had to put on the back burner.

Once my season ended, I was able to address the back burner issues.

One of those issues was my use of the word "hope".

I use that word as my excuse. I use that word as a means of saying, "If I don't hit my goal, that's ok. I was only hoping to do it." FINGERS CROSSED!

It took away my control of the situation. I can hope the donut shop has some chocolate donuts left when I get there.

But I shouldn't be hoping for anything when it comes to a race.

I'm either ready, or I'm not.

I either have the guts to go for it, or I don't.

I either eat pain, or I spit it out.  #tasteslikevinegar

For the past 6 weeks, I've been seeing those small but significant glimmers of awesome in my running.  I started thinking, "What if I really believed that I could accomplish something?"

There's a saying. Something along the lines of  "It doesn't get easier. You get better."

I can see that. Last year, I held plank for a minute, and it hurt like hell. This year, I hold plank for a minute, and it hurts even more because I'm doing it better. I'm stronger than I was last year, so it hurts more this year. Muscles that haven't worked since....well....maybe EVER....are now getting their chance to shine.

When I run hard, it hurts more this year because I'm running harder.

Every single one of those little steps means I can push harder than I have before.

I want to believe that I can accomplish certain goals, but I'm not quite there. The good news is that I don't have to believe it today.

For now, I'm going to grasp onto those small glimmers of awesome and believe that they are the building blocks for the EPIC SHIT that I'm going to accomplish....very soon.

Now. Let's run  that 5k.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Relationship Status: It's complicated.

I've learned a lot about running this year.

The best part is that Coach has figured out what works for me.

Running is so much more complicated than I ever gave it credit.  It's not difficult, necessarily. It's complicated.

You can do speed work. You can log hundreds of miles. Of course, that makes you a runner, but it doesn't make you a "good runner".

My running (specifically recently) has improved by leaps and bounds.

This year, I did a lot of reading (articles on running). I watched a few athletes that I consider to be very good at the whole running thing. I listened to a couple of people....some....complete strangers.

I noticed there was a trend to what people were telling me.

Then, I had the most horrifying experience of watching a video of me finishing a race.

I took all this information, and I started really paying attention to Liz's workouts.  Liz always tells us why workouts are important, and what it will teach us.

I took those lessons to an even deeper level.

Here's what I've learned about myself.

1.) When I got my bike in April, one of the things that bike fit dude told me was that my left leg is longer. Now this is totally normal, but all of a struck me that I was running differently on the two sides of my body. On my left side, I was dragging my left leg. It was almost scooting along the ground.

I passed along the feedback to Liz, who promptly gave me brand spanking new drills to address this issue.

For months, I had to focus on picking up my left leg. The weirdest thing was how weak I was. I was constantly having to work out this sore spot in my left hamstring because it wasn't used to be worked like that.

2.) Overstriding/Heel striking. There's a lot of debate about this issue. Believe what you want. Logic eventually won me over on this issue. I didn't care about articles telling me that heel striking is wrong. I didn't need to be lectured. I needed to figure out on my own, WHY this would be practice that I'd want to get out of.

I watched videos. Not "how to run" videos. I watched regular videos of people running at races...home videos, news coverage.....and I looked closely at runners' feet.

I started counting points of pressure. Heel, midfoot, front foot. That could be 3 seconds of contact with the ground.

I counted midfoot landings. There was really only one point of contact: mid foot then push off.

Three seconds, per leg, per step? That sounded like an awful lot of time. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the longer your foot touches the ground, the slower you go. (It's the same concept as overgliding in swimming).

This is NOT easy to change. I had to slightly shorten my stride. It was so slight of a change, but required so much effort!

It required a lot of lower body strength because I'm changing my stride. Whether it's habit or my natural running form, it has taken a lot of work on my part.

3.) Cadence: Hand in hand with shortening my stride (slightly) was cadence. When I shortened my stride, I noticed my cadence picked up. That's good. It's exactly like riding a bike. However, I quickly learned that at a higher cadence, I only had two speeds FAST and ALL OUT.

It took me months to learn how to have a higher cadence even while running at an easier pace.

A few things that we did to address this:

        a.) Very fast cadence work on the bike. Get off the bike and go run immediately. The high cadence work stayed ingrained in my brain. It transferred over to the run.

        b.) Treadmill/Outside running. Earlier on, there were a few sessions that Liz specifically wanted me to do on the treadmill. They were very fast, high cadence. The first few times, I thought I was going to fly right off the back of the treadmill.

I didn't take long for me to realize that a 7:40 pace feels very different with a faster cadence than that old 3 points of contact running that I had been doing. (For the record, I can now do these at sub 7 pace).

After awhile, I realize that the treadmill completely took out the opportunity for me to heel strike. It also ingrained how FAST certain paces felt. When I went took the exact same workout outside, I knew how a pace was supposed to feel. Then, I learned how hard an effort felt.

4.) HOW to Run Hills: This was one of those times where the light just came on, and I thought, "Why am I doing it that way?"

There have been many many articles and videos about how to climb a hill on the bike. The concept is that effort should remain the same but speed will drop.  On the downhill, effort remains the same but speed increases.  That's how I've always ridden.

But I was doing the exact opposite on the run. WHAT?! Most recent research shows that runners who maintain a consist effort (allowing their pace to drop on uphills) run the fastest!

Well, I'll be damned. Here, I was relaxing on downhills and really pushing the uphills.

5.) Arm swing: There's no better way to turn your legs over faster than moving your arms fast.
At every race, I hear people yelling at me "MOVE YOUR ARMS". I never understood the connection. I felt like I was moving my arms.


All of this requires incredible strength. Liz and I have been hitting strength training hard. I am do a lot of core work. I do a ton of leg work.

For the first time ever, I understand how important all of these pieces are and how they work together.

I always thought running was just about moving your legs faster or slower.

I had no idea how hard it was to learn how to run efficiently.

For many years, I thought those fast women runners had a secret.

Now I know I was right. They did have a secret. They knew how to run.