Weekly Recap (5/23-5/29)

Monday: Swim—2650 yards; Run—45:00 (5.62 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I woke up in the morning pretty tired after my long day on Sunday.  But the knowledge that it was a recovery week and that my Monday swim would likely be my hardest weekday workout propelled me out of bed and to the pool where we were doing some pace work:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
50 easy
4 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
3 x 200 pace
100 easy
3 x 200 descend
I tried to swim my 200s at 3:20 (1:40/100yd pace), but I started out too fast.  Surprise, surprise.  I swam the first one in about 3:00 flat and the other two in about 3:10.  I did a solid job on the final set of 200s swimming each faster than the last.  I got some good feedback on my stroke, too.  My catch (the first part of the pull) is solid, as is my finish (the final part).  However, I tend to get a little sloppy in the middle of my stroke.  I think I do this as I start to get fatigued, so I asked the coach to keep an eye out for it and let me know when I start to lose form.  I can kind of feel the change myself, but I don’t always realize I’m doing it.

I happened to leave work at the same time as one of my coworkers.  He said, “Man it’s a good thing it’s your recovery week.”  When I looked uncertain as to what he meant, he clarified: “You look like you’re dying.”  That just gives you an indication about how I felt after work.  I was not expecting a good run when I got home.  My legs were tired, and I felt weirdly shaky as I started out.  I just tried to take it nice and easy.  There were some pick-ups during this run, and I tried to use those as a chance to stretch my legs as opposed to an opportunity to tire them out.  Surprisingly, I found myself feeling strong.  I fell into a nice pace and naturally picked that pace up a bit as I continued to warm up.  I ended up keeping an 8:01/mile pace on this run which was both shocking and exciting.  Sunday was a big day for me, but I was able to recover well and easily hit a pace I hadn’t hit since starting Ironman training.  After I got back from my run, I did some strength work as well.

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—1:01:44 (16.1 miles); 8-minute abs
I did my strength and core work during lunch on Tuesday.  It was nice to have the morning off, and the strength work went well.  I had been planning on limiting my workout to strength work, but I realized that I needed to rearrange things a bit so that I could go out to dinner with Rob and his family for his birthday on Wednesday.  So I decided to do my bike ride after work.  I made dinner right when I got home, then put it in the oven and took off on my bike.  I was a little worried about getting caught in a storm because it the forecast called for thunderstorms at some point in the evening.  However, I went out at the right time and it was beautiful.  The weather was nice, but my legs were tired, both from the past three weeks in general and from the strength training earlier in the day.  It didn’t help that I had a pretty stiff headwind on the way back in.  After battling the headwind, I was happy to get back to Rob’s house to eat the quiche I had put in the oven before I left.

Wednesday: Run—31:43 (3.52 miles)
Thank goodness for easy days!  I woke up to sore glutes from my strength training on Tuesday, so I was glad I just had a run scheduled.  I did this run in the morning because of the aforementioned birthday celebration in the evening.  As usual, it was quite slow (which is good for a recovery week, I suppose!).  As I was running, I saw another runner coming my way.  I hopped up on the curb to get out of his way and turned my ankle.  My ankle is actually loose enough that rolling it doesn’t result in an injury.  It does, however, result in a complete collapse of my leg.  It’s totally involuntary—my leg just crumples.  So I just collapsed.  I scraped up my hands a bit and got a little cut on my leg, but I was more embarrassed than anything else.  Overall, it was a nice, easy run.  And it was wonderful to have the rest of the day off.

Thursday: Swim—1500 yards; Bike—1:28.10 (22.11 miles)
It was a blissfully short morning at the pool.  The workout was short so I worked fairly hard and felt awake and ready for the day afterwards.
3 x 100 easy
5 x 200 @ 3:30
2 x 100 easy
I swam the 200s between 3:05 and 3:15.  This pace felt hard, but manageable (not manageable for an Ironman swim, but I could have swum a few more reps at that pace without too much trouble).  My pool swimming is looking good.  I’m excited to get out into the open water and see how my work over the winter translates there.

I planned on going for a group ride with Salt Lake Tri Club after work, and I found myself getting more and more nervous throughout the day.  Apparently, social situations scare me.  What if I get dropped?  What if they all know each other and I’m just weird?  What if I can’t even find the group to begin with?  The string of negative possibilities is always endless for someone like me.  I got to the meeting area with a few minutes to spare and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I was about to give up and head out for a ride on my own when a guy rolled up and introduced himself.  He was the one leading the workout, and we were the only two people, so we headed up Emigration.  It was a beautiful ride and a beautiful day.  Emigration Canyon gets a little brown during the summer, but as you approach the top during the spring, the view is like you are looking out over the Shire.  He and I chatted a bit, and I managed to not embarrass myself too much until I saw a squirrel almost jump into the road and blurted out, “I killed a chipmunk riding down Emigration once.”  It wasn’t until ten minutes later that I considered he may not have seen the squirrel that prompted this memory/random story and may have thought I just pulled it completely out of nowhere.  Whoops.  Oh, on the way down, I had my fastest 5 mile segment ever at 10:55.  So that was fun.

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Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
Rob and I drove up to Idaho on Friday to visit my family for the weekend and pick up “my” “new” car.  The rest was welcome, and the drive up was pleasant and uneventful.  Before we left, I did a little bit of core work, but other than that, I was pretty sedentary (which the five hour drive contributed to).

Saturday: Run—1:33:25 (11 miles); 8-minute abs
I like visiting my family because it gives me a chance to run with my dad.  On Saturday morning, bright and early, my dad and I headed out for a run.  It was a beautiful day, and we went out at a nice, easy pace.  Running with my dad is always one of my favorite parts of visiting Idaho.  This run was pretty uneventful (which isn’t a bad thing!).  We chatted and enjoyed the beautiful weather and finished up the run in an 8:30/mile pace.  After the run, Rob and I headed to Boise so I could get my aero bars installed and get my first real bike fitting.   I’ll include a post on that later this week, but it was fun and productive.  My aero bars are installed, and I’m excited to learn how to ride with them.  In the evening, I did some core work.

Sunday: Swim—30:41; Bike—2:30:13 (37.75miles); Strength—15 minutes
In the morning, Rob and I headed over to Boise (about 30 minutes away) to my favorite pond.  I got to do the wetsuit shimmy for the first time this season.  I forgot how hard it is to get that dumb thing on.  Because it’s only late May, I was worried the water would be frigid.  However, it was perfect water for wearing a wetsuit.  I was, of course, super buoyant, and I could feel the wetsuit supporting my hips and keeping them high in the water.  I swam a lap around the pond and checked the time.  It honestly felt like five minutes had passed, but it was been twenty.  Open water swimming is so much less boring than swimming in a pool.  After thirty minutes, I hopped out an stripped my wetsuit off.  Putting the thing on and taking it off was more of a workout than the swim!   I then hopped on my bike and headed off on my ride.  I decided to go through Hidden Springs, a cute little town that takes some climbing to get to and some climbing to leave.  Getting there was fine, but I had forgotten how tough some of the climbs on the way out were.  I was expecting some nice, easy grades, but I must have hit 8-10% grades several times on the way out.  It was tough!  The Hidden Springs loop wasn’t long enough, so I headed up the one pretty major climb/canyon in Boise.  I didn’t make it to the top (I wasn’t even close!), but I got some more good climbing in before heading back down and meeting Rob and our friends’ house where he had gone while I was on the bike.  We ate lunch with them and then headed back to my parents’ house.  In the evening, I did some strength work and called it a day.

 

 

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Finding Balance: Dealing with guilt

Even after just a few weeks, I’ve learned that training for an Ironman is a big deal.  And it basically consumes your life.  I knew to expect that, but it’s one of those experiences you can’t really understand until you’re doing it.  It’s not that it’s more time consuming or requires more dedication than anything else in the world.  It doesn’t!  It’s just that every experience is a little bit different.  (Like I mentioned in my last post, I don’t even know how parents manage it… hats off to them!)

So,  when I’ve made steps to balance out my life by prioritizing some things over others, I’ve had to make decisions that I’m not comfortable with.  I touched on it a bit in my previous post.  I’ve had to say no to spending quality time with Rob and accept some very generous help from my parents.  When I visit my family, I have to choose to go on bike rides over spending that time with my nieces and nephews.  And it’s hard.  I hate feeling like I’m a burden on people.  I hate not being able to do the things I want to for the people I love, whether that’s cooking dinner for them or spending time with them.  And I hate the feeling (true or not) that I’m taking more than I’m giving in a relationship.

In reality, relationships of any kind are give and take.  In a healthy relationship, you won’t always be splitting things 50/50.  Sometimes, that will be the case, but often, you will support the other person when they are struggling or overwhelmed, and they will offer you the same support when you are struggling or overwhelmed.

Even though I know this is the way it works, I feel so guilty when I’m not carrying my share of the load.  And when you are working hard and chasing a dream—whether that is an Ironman or graduate school or some other entirely different big thing—you can’t always give as much as you’d like in your relationships.  That’s why nearly every article you read about deciding whether or not to train for an Ironman recommends that your loved ones be 100% on-board with your training and with your goal.  During your training, they will be shouldering more than their “fair share” of cooking, cleaning, and being a pillar of emotional support.

I don’t think I’m alone in this guilt.  But finding that elusive place of balance is about more than just the practical aspect of planning tasks and streamlining your schedule.  It’s also about finding a place of emotional stability within that schedule.  And I know that when I am constantly struggling with guilt about what I can’t do or what I want to do, I’m not in a place of emotional stability.  Now, some of this emotional stability can come from the act of streamlining your schedule itself.  When you closely analyze your schedule, you can make sure you aren’t completely neglecting your friends or your significant other.  You can make sure you include short cleaning sessions so that you don’t regress to your college-age self (at least, not very often!).  Still, when you are busy, some things you want to do and would do under different circumstances fall by the wayside.  And that’s where the guilt comes in.

I wish I had a quick fix for this problem.  I wish I even had a healthy list of great options to try!  This is something that I have always struggled with, and that certainly hasn’t changed.  I do use a few techniques to try to alleviate the guilt.

Thanking people for their support. Whether it’s verbal or comes in the form of a quick note, I think acknowledging the sacrifices that people may make for you is not only good for them but good for you.  Just a quick, “I know things have been busy lately.  Thanks for being so understanding about everything” goes a long way.  I think it offers a little moment of connection and often serves as a good reminder that the people who love us actually enjoy supporting us in our endeavors, even if they do face a few inconveniences for doing so.

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Of course, you have to actually write the thank-you notes for them to do any good…

 

Self-talk. I always hate it when people talk about positive self-talk.  I always want to respond, “If I think I’m a piece of crap in a particular moment, I’LL CALL MYSELF A PIECE OF CRAP!”  I realize that’s immature, but it doesn’t help that usually positive self-talk comes up when I’m already in the middle of a mini-breakdown.  But in this case, I do find it useful to remind myself of all the things I’ve said over and over again in this post—people who love me also love supporting me, relationships are give-and-take, you are not a burden just because you inconvenienced someone else, etc.

Do what you can.  When an opportunity arises to help out someone who has been offering you a lot of support and you are feeling up to it, take the opportunity.  For instance, one evening last week, I realized I was feeling pretty good.  I had been planning on asking Rob to make dinner that night, but since I felt just fine, I decided to whip up an easy dish.  I wasn’t being a sacrificial martyr.  I just saw an opportunity to help out without making myself feel overwhelmed and exhausted, so I took it.  In a way, it felt like insurance against the next time that I really did need to ask for help.

I also want to point out that only one of these techniques even begins to address the underlying reasons for Ironman guilt (or grad school guilt or marathon guilt or second job guilt or whatever).  Working on self-talk starts to approach the real issue, but thanking people and doing what you can are definitely Band-Aid solutions (which isn’t all bad—coping mechanisms are important!).  In an ideal world, I’d change your life with a little mantra that reshapes the way you think about yourself in relation to others.  But I think the only thing that can really address that core issue is deep self-reflection, a lot of internal work, and maybe therapy.  And since 90% of the people reading this are probably further along in that process than I am, I’ll leave attempts at life-changing advice to the experts and keep the discussion focused on my personal experiences.

For me, the real work, the work that gets at the emotional issues behind the guilt, is a slow, messy (and very personal) process.  Most of the time I’m not even sure if I’m making progress at all!  But the surface-level coping mechanisms help me keep my sanity as I navigate through my baggage.

Which emotions surface when you are busy that hinder you from finding a place of emotional balance within your schedule?

How to do address these emotions? Have you found ways to truly deal with them, or do you rely on coping mechanisms to get by?

Finding Balance: Prioritizing

I don’t know about others, but I sometimes fall into the trap of feeling like “finding balance” should lead to my being able to do everything I need to do, everything I want to do, and everything I think I should do and still have time to binge-watch Netflix every evening.  I want to fit everything in.  I want to be the adult who is on top of everything and can always be relied on while also being the “cool girl” who is spontaneous and fun and never says no to a fun time.  (In reality, I am the boring girl who always says no to a fun time.)  But I believe that balance is, at its core, more about sacrifices than additions.  What you add into your life matters, sure, but what you take away is more important when it comes to finding balance.

When it comes to deciding what to keep in my life and what to take out, I think it helps to treat your life like you would treat the first draft of an essay.  My writing process doesn’t include a lot of detailed planning.  Brainstorming, researching, jotting down notes, finding connections… it contains all of those.  But when it comes to straight-up outlining, I just don’t do it.  My most structured outlining technique in grad school involved writing brief ideas or quotes onto notecards and then putting them in a rough order.  After that, I’d start addressing them one at a time, always willing to grab a notecard out of order to address if the flow of my writing was pushing me that way.

WritingPaper
This…

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…would turn into this.
So I would end up with a first draft full of all the ideas that had kind of grown out-of-control.  It was wordy and sometimes convoluted.  The ideas were there, but the execution was a mess.  One of the important questions I would ask myself while editing papers was “What purpose does this serve?” followed closely by “Can I take it out?”  Sometimes, the direction of my argument had changed enough in the drafting process that an entire point was no longer really relevant.  Sometimes, an example was relevant, but I could cut down my explanation of it and merge it with a similar example in the previous paragraph.  And sometimes, I found an idea that I hadn’t fully explained and that I needed to expand in order to fully take advantage of it.

I think a similar process can be useful when examining your daily routine.  Look at what you are doing and ask yourself why you are doing it.  If you can’t come up with a good reason, you can cut it out.  I feel like it’s important to note here that something like “It gives me a chance to relax” is a totally valid reason to keep doing something.  Sometimes, I need to space out in front of the TV or my computer and do nothing in particular.  I need to turn my brain off.  It relaxes me, and that’s reason enough.  However, sometimes a task or activity loses its value.  For instance, in the past, I’ve gotten up much earlier than I need to.  I like having some time in the morning to relax before heading off to work.  However, a week or so ago, I looked at my routine again.  Now that I take the train to work, I have plenty of time to relax, check social media, and catch up on blogs before work.  I realized that it is an absolute waste of time for me to get up earlier than I need to.  So now, I give myself just enough time to get dressed and get out the door.  And the extra thirty minutes of sleep is crucial.

This isn’t always an easy process for me.  I want to be a good triathlete.  I want to be a good employee.  I want to be a good partner.  I want to be a good sister, daughter, and aunt.  I want to be a responsible adult.  And sometimes, I run myself ragged trying to fit all this stuff in (a shout-out to any parents reading here—I don’t even know how you all do it!).  I don’t always take out enough, and when I do, my tendency is to focus on taking out aspects of my routine that benefit me (thirty minutes of sleep here, an easy evening in watching TV, etc.).  And while the desire to do everything for everyone does come from a good place, in the end, it’s bad for everyone.  I get overwhelmed and withdraw emotionally.  I get so cranky.  Of course, I can tell I’m being cranky, so then I feel bad for not treating my loved ones well, and you can imagine the kind of negative cycle that starts!

So I’ve had to learn to say “no” to other people or to take them up on offers that I know are an inconvenience to them.  Sometimes, when Rob wants to watch a movie, I have to tell him I can’t because it’s already 8:00pm and that’s too late to start a movie (so sad, but so true!).  Recently, my parents offered to give me my old car from high school because I am currently carless and my daily commute via public transit was absolutely killing me.  I hated taking them up on the offer because I know, at the very least, getting the car out of storage and taking a look at it and transferring the title will be a pain.  But my current commute is simply not feasible while training for an Ironman.  Maybe it would be for some people, but it’s not for me.

In my next (and final!) post in the series, I’ll talk a little about dealing with the emotional downside when you need to make those decisions to value your own time or sanity over another person’s desires or convenience.

Has anyone else taken a hard look at what is needed or not needed in their daily schedule?

What techniques do you use to make the tough decisions about what to focus on and what to say no to?

Finding Balance: Fitting it all in

Much to my surprise, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the idea of balance in the past few weeks.  This surprised me because I’ve never been a huge fan of the idea of “finding balance,” not because it’s not an important concept but because we as a culture talk about it so much that it seems to have lost meaning.  It often falls into same category as phrases like “living authentically” and “finding your bliss.”  My (overly) practical self doesn’t have any way to intuitively process or understand those ideas.  What do they even mean?

Still, for a couple of weeks this slippery idea of balance has been floating about in my head, almost certainly because I’ve been trying to adjust to a new (and busier) routine.  So because this blog isn’t cliché enough already, I thought I’d do a blog series (my first ever! I have no idea what I’m doing!) about finding balance.  Since starting official Ironman training, I have struggled to balance my schedule in such a way that I do what I need to do without completely losing my mind.  I’ve had varying degrees of success, depending on what is going on in my life during that particular week.

When I first started my training program a month or so ago, the hours I spent working out increased.  It wasn’t a huge spike because I had been building a base to prepare myself, but my training time crossed a threshold.  Instead of doing two-a-days a couple of times a week, a morning and an evening workout was the norm.  Instead of getting up at 6:00am most days and having a relaxing, lazy morning, I was getting up at 5:00am most days and rushing off to a workout.  The first two weeks, I thought I was going to die.  Not only was I mentally acclimating to a new, more intense training program, but I was physically acclimating as well.  As anyone who has trained for a long-distance event knows, the struggle is real.

I pretty much became a zombie everywhere except on the roads and in the pool.  I was glazed over every day at work, and I would come home, work out, and then sit on the couch and stare at my computer while wondering when the heck dinner was going to magically appear on the counter.  Dirty clothes piled up.  My plan to meal-plan lay forgotten in my notebook.  My boyfriend sat ignored on the couch (which he may have found preferable to my typical constant bothering…).

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This?  I was handling it.  Everything else?  Not so much.

Finally, one day, I stared at the array of dirty dishes and the laundry basket half full of clean clothes (because the other half had been pulled out and used in the week since the laundry had been done).  “I can’t live like this,” I thought.  “I’m an adult and this is gross.”  The idea came to me suddenly.  If I could do 15 minutes of strength work when I really didn’t want to or go for an hour long run when all I wanted to do was take a nap, I could do the same thing with housework.  So I set my watch for 20 minutes and got going.  I was in a flow when my watch went off, so I did a few more 20 minute rounds.  Pretty soon, most of my domestic life was back in order.

That was the lightbulb moment for me.  I could train for an Ironman and still be a functioning member of society.  I realized that for a few weeks, I might have to obsessively schedule.  I might have to “force” balance.  If you’ve read here long enough, you maybe have noticed that I’m not generally a big fan of forcing things, especially internal, emotional/mental things.  I wrote a post that could basically be summarized as “It’s my training program.  I’ll cry if I want to.  But hopefully I won’t want to for long.”  But I’ve noticed that with any major change of routine (new job, starting grad school, beginning a new training program), I am overwhelmed for a few weeks, certain that this new life is too much for me.  If I want to be at all successful in the “adulting” game, I need to force myself to complete basic tasks for a few weeks while I adjust to my routine to see if it is too much for me or not.

So I busted out some of my planning skills that I developed in college and grad school (some of which I was already using).

What did I need to do?

  1. Train
  2. Sleep
  3. Work
  4. Eat
  5. Bathe
  6. Keep my habitat inhabitable

I was nailing numbers one and two.  The rest were… questionable.  At best.

With this information, I started a new process.  Every week, I look at my training plan for the week and translate it into my own schedule (I move workouts around pretty freely).  After I have a good idea about how much exercise I’m doing each day, I use the same list to plan other aspects of my life.  I keep track of dinner for each day.  This may change throughout the week, and I don’t always have my meals planned out for the entire week.  But I try to have an option in mind for the next day.  And I try to plan dinner based on my workouts. An hour long bike ride after work?  I may throw some potatoes in the oven to bake while I’m gone.  No workouts in the afternoon?  I may plan something a little more time-consuming like quiche.  In the same list, I assign myself a task for each day.  That may be making a phone call I’ve been avoiding or going to a store to get something I need.  If I’m feeling really tired, my task may even be to relax and watch a TV show so that I can sit down without feeling like I should be doing something else.  I also started trying to do at least one 20 minute round of cleaning a day.  (It’s really shocking how much actually gets done in 20 minutes when you just force yourself to do it!)

The thing I like about this list is that it’s flexible.  If Rob comes home from work with the ingredients for a stir-fry, then we can have stir-fry and I’ll make that pasta dish the next day. I typically don’t even fill out the task portion for, say, Wednesday until Monday or Tuesday. If I notice that my laundry is piling up, I just make sure I assign that as my one task of the day.  The one task keeps me from feeling overwhelmed (I’m easily overwhelmed…) and helps me focus.  Maybe I can’t cook and do the dishes and make that phone call and do the laundry and tidy the living room after a long day, but I can bake some potatoes and throw a load of clothes in the wash.  And I can make sure my task for the next day is to clean the kitchen or make that important phone call.

Now, this exact process won’t work for everyone, but my biggest suggestion when it comes to fitting in all your responsibilities is to have a plan.  Write things out.  Think ahead.  Put in two weeks at your new routine to see if it’s manageable.  And if it’s not, you may need to take a closer look and find things to take out of your schedule, which will be the focus of tomorrow’s post.

Am I alone in needing an “adjustment period” before a new routine feels manageable?

How you do fit in all your various, sometimes conflicting responsibilities, especially when training for something important?

Weekly Recap (5/16-5/22)

Monday: Swim—2900 yards; Bike—2:01:02 (33.11 miles)
Monday mornings have become my designated day for masters’ swim team.  So, as usual, this morning I headed off to the pool.  It was a good, tough practice that was mostly pace work.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (scull, swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 125 (75 build, 50 fast)
10 x 100 @ 1:45 (hold same pace)
100 easy
300 pace
The coach suggested I try for 1:30s on a 1:40 interval for the 100s.  I told him I didn’t think that was going to happen, so he suggested 1:35 on a 1:35 interval instead.  I reluctantly agreed, but I felt uncertain I could hold that pace.  I haven’t been feeling all that confident with my swimming speed lately.  However, I held it pretty well and was actually swimming a little under 1:35 for most of the 100s.  The 300 was supposed to be at the same pace as the 100s, and I pretty much hit the nail on the head.  It was tough, though… probably tougher than it should have been.  I think the cumulative fatigue from my training is affecting the speed of my stroke the same way it’s affecting the speed of my run.  I think that’s to be expected, though, and I guess I don’t need much speed to swim 2.4 miles.

My plan was to either ride home from work on Monday or to work on Tuesday, depending on the weather.  The sky looked a little iffy on Monday afternoon, but the forecast also looked a little iffy on Tuesday morning, so I decided I’d rather arrive home wet in 60° weather than arrive to work wet in 50° weather.  My gamble paid off, and the overcast skies helped make my ride home quite pleasant.  There were no major navigation errors this time (thank goodness!) and I got home around 6:30pm, with a two-hour ride under my belt.  Again, it was pleasant ride and, even though there was some pedestrian traffic, it was surprisingly light for such a nice recreational path.

Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Run—50 minutes (6.2 miles); 8-minute abs
Because I did my longer ride on Monday, I had a lighter day on Tuesday.  I got up at 4:30am to do my strength work.  I had my morning timed out so I could catch the 6:11am train.  About ten minutes into my strength workout, I realized/remembered that I totally could have caught the next train instead.  But, since my plan was already in motion, I decided to just go with it and get to work early.  It worked out well because I had to leave a little early too.  Anyway, strength work on cold, sleepy, and tired legs is… interesting.  My balance was poor, but that’s probably to be expected.

I did my run in the evening, and it went surprisingly well.  For my shorter runs, I do loops around a park.  The route is flat, and it’s on a bark path which reduces impact on my joints.  I ran at a comfortable pace, but I did try to pick it up for the last loop.  I ended up feeling pretty strong that final loop, and I finished the run with an 8:04/mile pace.  These randomly strong workouts are big confidence-boosters for me.  They make me feel like I’m still improving and like I’m not overtraining.  After dinner, I did some core work.

Wednesday: Run—1:00:00 (6.38 miles); Bike—1:00:49 (16.42 miles); Strength—15 minutes
On Wednesday, I did my run in the morning.  As usual, my morning run was slow.  The slower paces bothered me more when I first started my training program after training for a marathon using Run Less, Run Faster, but I think I really am making peace with them.  The fun adventure on my run today was sprinklers.  I ran into a bunch of sprinklers I had to pass several times.  I have never seen sprinklers that shoot so far.  I had to run all the way across the street to avoid getting sprayed by them.  Ridiculous.  Overall, this was a solid recovery run.  And at least I’m getting some practice running what will likely be my Ironman pace, even if that hasn’t happened off the bike yet!

During work, I felt simply awful.  I had brain fog, I was tired, and I felt weirdly upset.  I wasn’t actually upset about anything, but the whole day I felt like I was recovering from a good session of crying.  That’s weird, but it’s the only way I can describe it.  But there hadn’t been any crying or drama or anger in my life over the past 48 hours (at least), so I have no idea why I was feeling this way.  I was dreading my bike ride after work.  But somehow, on the train ride home, I perked up.  When I left for my ride, I actually felt fairly strong.  I was only out for an hour, but it was a strong ride.  So far this spring, I’ve made a lot of progress in my cycling.  Some of that is probably artificial because I had a lot of room to improve after spending a winter where I didn’t ride much at all, but it’s still encouraging.  Afterwards, I did some strength work.

Thursday: REST; 8-minute abs
I was undecided which day I wanted to rest this week.  I had finally landed on a Friday rest day, but then on Wednesday night, I had a terrible night’s sleep.  I also didn’t really eat dinner on Wednesday night.  I actually felt pretty awake when I woke up on Thursday, but I knew I was underrested and underfueled for a big day.  Since I had felt so strange the day before, I decided to take my rest day, more for my mental health than my physical health.  I did core work in the evening, but besides that, I was a slug.

Friday: Swim (4000 yards); Bike: 1:31:21 (24.03 miles)
I had my longest swim workout so far during my Ironman training cycle.  Since the pool is always very busy in the afternoons, I worked it out so I could swim in the morning and just go into work a little bit late.
3 x 100
4 x 500 (swim [8:31], kick [11:50], pull [9:09], swim [8:19])
15 x 100 @ 1:50 (easy, medium, easy hard by 25)
4 x 50
I was surprised at how fast this workout seemed to go.  It’s a lot of yards, and I thought it would just drag by the way some of my other swim workouts have.  However, there was enough variety that I got tired without getting bored.  Since this was such a long workout, I didn’t go overboard with speed, but those 100s got tough at the end.  I still felt strong at the end, though, and could have continued swimming if I needed to.  I was struck with how cool it is that I can just go out and swim 2+ miles and feel rejuvenated and ready for the day afterwards.

The wind picked up steadily throughout the day, and someone said it was supposed to be even windier up in Salt Lake than it was where I work (which is surprising because I was half-convinced that the area in which I work was literally the windiest place on the planet).  While it was gusty when I got home, it was still ridable.  I headed south and had some opportunities to practice my bike handling skills in the wind.  The ride out was a struggle with the strong headwind, but I just reminded myself to keep the effort easy.  Of course, once I turned around the wind started to die down a little and by the time I made it back, my tailwind was more of a tailbreeze.

Saturday: Run—2:00:00 (14.08 miles); Swim—2500 yards
I woke up to a rainstorm Saturday morning.  The roads were basically swimming pools, and it was supposed to continue to rain on and off through the day.  I gave it until 10am, and when it was still raining, I decided to run instead of go on a bike ride.  (Of course, while I was on my run, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and it turned into what would have been a beautiful day for a ride.) This was my longest run so far during this training cycle, so I was apprehensive.  I tried to start out nice and slow, but my legs were feeling strong and by the time I hit the three mile mark, I was already under a 9:00/mile pace.  I focused specifically on holding back for the next part of the run.  My legs continued to feel quite strong, and I settled into a pretty comfortable 8:30/mile pace.  However, about an hour and a half into my run, I started to feel nauseated.  That’s not uncommon for me, but it got bad this time.  I had to slow down, not because my legs were tired but because my stomach was not handling any sort of speed well at all.  I tried not to think about how sick I felt, but about a minute and a half before I hit the two hour mark, I hit my breaking point.  I stopped and puked in the grass.  After emptying my stomach out, I sat down for a bit and recovered.  Because I was so close to hitting that two hour mark, I just jogged for the rest of the time.  I finished with an 8:32/mile pace, and my legs still felt great.  My stomach felt better after throwing up, but I still sat around for a while to refuel and let my stomach recuperate.

After recovering for a bit, I headed to the gym for a swim.  In order to convince myself to get to the pool, I told myself I could take my swim easy.  It was a mid-distance workout:
3 x 100 (easy)
4 x 500 (8:29, 8:14, 8:13, 7:43)
200 easy
I felt surprisingly strong during this swim.  I was supposed to swim the middle two 500s at the same effort with the first one easier and the last one harder.  My times reflect that perfectly.  I remember swimming a 500 in around 7:40 last fall during Masters practice. I was very pleased with that time (and also very tired after hitting it!).  Now, I can hit that same time a lot easier.  I’m not currently improving my swim much, but I improved a lot this winter.

Sunday: Bike—3:31:30 (53.3 miles); Run—30:00 (3.33 miles); Strength—15 minutes
Of course, I woke up on Sunday to cloudy, threatening weather.  I decided to skip church and leave around 10:00am so I could try to avoid the worst of it.  This ride ended up being tough.  I was battling with wind and the threat of rain (and a little actual rain) the whole time.  My legs were not as fresh as they usually are because of my long run on Saturday.  And to top it off, I did not bring enough calories with me (three Honey Stinger waffles and a bottle of Skratch).  So it was rough.  I only averaged a 15.1mph pace over the course of this ride, and I spent a large portion of the ride wondering why I couldn’t push the cranks any faster.  However, it was a good ride to practice mental toughness.  Additionally, I got out to the south of the valley to check out the bike course for my upcoming sprint tri (verdict: ouch).  So, while it would have been awesome to have a breakout ride where I blew my expectations out of the water, it was still a solid training ride.  After my ride, I ran thirty minutes straight off the bike (well, there was some chit-chat exchanged with Rob and some pretzels eaten).  It was much easier for me to go slow than it was last time I ran off the bike.  I think it was the hunger.  I tried to just keep going at a “forever” pace, and I ended up running at just over a 9:00/mile pace.  That (or even a little slower!) is the pace I should be running off the bike, and I was encouraged that I could hold that pace pretty easily, even though I was as hungry as I was.  After some relaxation (and food!) I did fifteen minutes of gentle strength work.

GreenMountains
Even though it was a tough ride, I was still surrounded by scenery like this the whole time.

Three month check up

I feel like I start every single one of these monthly posts with a comment about how much I’m panicking.  This one won’t be any different.  I’m panicking.  Despite having a solid month of training, I’m not sure I’ll be ready to complete the Ironman in August.  (Can anyone ever be certain they are ready to complete and Ironman?!)

Physical

Fitness:
Really, when it comes down to it, I couldn’t have asked for a better month, training-wise.  I feel like I’m gaining fitness at a good rate.  I’ve been trying to be very aware of any signs of overtraining, but my body seems to be reacting well to the increased training load.  My paces have stayed the same (or even sped up) as my distances increase.  I’ve had a few less-than-stellar workouts, but that’s to be expected.  For the most part, my workouts have been steady and productive, which is ideal.  I’m really trying to trust my training plan.  I can only hope that good, solid training will lead to a good solid race.

General health:
My health has been solid.  I’ve been starving most of the time which means I’ve been eating.  That’s a plus.  My weight has dropped down, but just a bit, and it’s stabilized.  I’ve still been trying to focus on eating enough.  Fueling is so, so important.  Fortunately, Rob has been food-pushing like mad, and he’s helped me stay on top of the food situation almost as much as my insatiable hunger has.  While I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should be, I haven’t been feeling overwhelmingly tired in general.  I’ve noticed that as the days get longer, I actually seem to need a little less sleep, so I think that’s part of what’s happening.  Best of all, I haven’t had any niggling pains.  My IT band is holding up well under the stress, and nothing new has developed.

Mental

And this is where my struggle has been.  This month has been rough.  After I got in a car wreck, my “minimum daily away from home” time jumped from 9.5 hours a day (one hour total commute plus 8.5 hours at the office) to 10.5+ hours a day (generally 2.5 hours total commute plus 8ish hours at work because who needs a lunch hour?).  That’s a lot for me personally to handle when I’m so deep into training.  Add to that the fact that I’ve had to deal with all the stress associated with a car accident, and I’ve been in a really bad place.  Like, emotional breakdowns on the train into work bad.  Like, staying up later than I should because I simply cannot face the idea of waking up in the morning and doing the whole thing over again bad.  (Oh, in case anyone reads this and thinks I’m a crazy person—you are sort of right.  Money is a huge trigger for my anxiety, which is the reason this situation has felt so completely insurmountable to me.)

Superlatives

Longest swim: 3500 yards

Longest ride: 47.28 miles

Longest run: 11.79 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 2-hour ride at 17.1 mph.  On most of my bike rides, I have been just barely hitting 16mph.  I know that typically, the pace on my training rides is artificially deflated due to stopping at starting at traffic lights and stop signs, but I was still wondering how in the world I could hope to hit even by B-goal (16mph) over the course of 112 miles.  This ride, while it was flatter and faster than the Ironman course will be, gave me hope that I will be able to ride a decent bike leg.

Most discouraging workout: My three hour bike ride (which was also my longest).  Nothing was particularly awful about this ride.  I had been excited to up the distance because my long rides had been so heartening.  However, my legs just didn’t have it this ride.  I struggled more than usual and much more than I expected to.  It left me a little worried about my ability to ride 112 miles if 47 left me feeling so beat.

Average time per sport per week:

Swimming: 168.75 minutes (2.8 hours)

Cycling: 361.25 minutes (6 hours)

Running: 197.5 minutes (3.3 hours)

Other: 82 minutes (1.4 hours)

TimePerSport03.PNG

Looking to the future

More of the same.  I’m in the depths of Ironman training now.  I made that sound like a bad thing.  Honestly, sometimes it feels like a bad thing.  But when I actually think about it, I’m enjoying the training itself.  I can only think of a few workouts where I got back and thought, “Well, that wasn’t fun at all.”  For the most part, it feels like I want the rest of life to get out of the way so I can train in peace.  By “the rest of my life,” mostly I wish my job would still pay me to ride my bike all day and completely ignore my actual job duties. 😛 As my training progresses, I plan to continue watching for signs of overtraining and to be aware of mental burnout.  On the training side, I’m hoping for more of the same.  On the life side, I’m hoping that getting a car (soon!) will put an end to some of the more overwhelming elements of my life.

birds
Most interesting wildlife of the month.  Of course, they looked a lot closer in person…

What I Ate Wednesday

I’ve never felt all that compelled to put together a “What I Ate Wednesday” post even though I see them quite frequently.  There’s nothing particularly interesting about the way I eat.  I’m not paleo or vegetarian, and I don’t eat organic stuff.  To be honest, I’m a little insecure about what I eat.  I’m not a clean eater.  I eat more candy than any adult probably should.  Probably my only healthy consumption habits are that I don’t drink alcohol and that I do drink water.

But this past week, the Ironman hunger I’ve heard people talk about finally hit.  I was starving.  All the time.  So I decided it might be worth my while to document what I eat on a random day of Ironman training.  I decided to document Tuesday, just because it’s easy to document Tuesday and then post on Wednesday.  When I started, I wasn’t sure what the day would be like with regards to food.  I decided to try to eat like I normally would and simply document the results.

I woke up at 4:30am to do some hip and glute strength exercises before going into work.  After I was done with those, I ate a banana.  I didn’t have time for much else, and I’m generally not all that hungry in the mornings anyway.

Banana1.jpg

The first thing I do when I get to work (today at 7:00am, but usually a bit later) is make coffee and fill up my water bottle.  I just have one cup of coffee (with sweetened creamer) in the morning, and I try to drink three bottles of water throughout the day.

CoffeeWater

Around 8:30am, I started feeling a bit peckish and ate a raisin bagel with peanut butter.

PeanutButterBagel

Just a couple minutes later, I passed the front desk on a trip to the bathroom and saw that there was a bowl of candy out.  Score!  I snagged three pieces and ate them immediately.

Candy1

At 9:30am, I had a small cinnamon roll that a co-worker brought in for a group of us.

CinnamonRoll

I ate an apple at 11:00am.

Apple

And around 12:15pm, I busted out my “official” lunch.  Today, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk.  And yes, I am twelve years old, thank you very much.

Lunch

At 1:00pm, I had my daily tea.  Usually in the afternoon, I have some mint tea as a kind of “pick-me-up.”  It’s not caffeinated, so it’s not waking me up physiologically, but I find that the routine of sipping on something while I stare at a computer screen helps rejuvenate me, whether or not actual caffeine is involved.

Tea

At 2:00pm, I ate a banana with peanut butter.  In case anyone noticed the copious amounts of peanut butter in my diet, a few weeks ago, I got a whole flat of peanut butter (12 jars) for $12.  So I’ve been eating it with abandon.

Banana2

I left work early so I could stop by the post office and planned to make up the hour or so from home in the evening.  I grabbed some more candy on the way out and ate it about 3:15pm on the train home while working on this post.

Candy2

I got to Rob’s place and had a little snack before going for my run… a slice of cheese, two slices of lunch meat, and a Honey Stinger waffle.

PreRun

Rob worked late, so I didn’t start on dinner until around 7:00pm.  At 7:15, I felt kind of hungry, but I couldn’t make much since I was, you know, already making food.  So I had a glass of milk instead.

Milk

And then around 7:45pm, I had dinner which was by far my biggest meal of the day.  We had bachelor pasta which is cheesy and garlicky and wonderful.

Dinner
One of my favorite meals… I meant to take the photo before I added quite that much cheese…
One thing that you may notice from this post is that I’m almost constantly eating.  From the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, I consumed something every two hours or so.  I am a grazer at heart.  While I typically do eat a “real” dinner that fills me up, during the day, I naturally tend to eat just enough to take the edge off of my hunger.  This means that I eat often.  Fortunately, eating at desks is perfectly acceptable in my office, so I’ve been able to embrace this tendency.  I also eat a lot of carbs and a lot of sweet stuff, even if that sweet stuff is sometimes healthy, like fruit.  To be honest, I outdid myself a little bit today.  (Sweet snacks and a sweet lunch of PB&J?!)  By the end of the day I was craving something salty, something savory, and something with a little more protein to it. (I didn’t ever quite check the protein box, but dinner fulfilled that need for something salty and savory.)

I don’t generally track calories, but I went through my diet today and came up with a rough estimate of 3300 calories for the day.  It turns out all those snacks throughout the day add up—and that’s a good thing because I definitely need the calories they offer.

How much do you eat while training?

Do you track your food intake regularly?

Weekly Recap (5/09-5/15)

Monday: Swim—2400 yards; Strength—30 minutes
It was Masters Swim team in the morning again.  I’m going to try to keep going at least once a week through Ironman training.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (count strokes)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
n x (2 x 50) decrease stroke count by 2 each set
8 x 75 build
4 x 25 sprint @ 110bpm
200 pull
There was a lot going on in this set, specifically in the stroke count set.  Basically, what we did was decrease our stroke count for each set of two 50s, based on what we counted while warming up.  I started at 18 strokes per 25 (36 per 50) and worked down to 14 strokes per 25 (28 per 50).  This was a technique set, and it was probably good for me.  I have such long limbs (which is apparently great for swimming) but I don’t think I take full advantage of them yet.  So it’s good for me to focus on elongating my stroke.  My original plan for the evening was to either rest or go for a bike ride.  Because it was raining when I got home and I knew I had a doozy of a day on Tuesday, I decided to do the bike ride on Wednesday instead.  So I did a half an hour of strength work and then tried to get my life in order for the rest of the week—meal-planning, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.

Tuesday: Bike—4:19:57 (69.13 miles); Run—30:00 (3.5 miles)
I woke up early to participate in Strava’s Global Bike to Work challenge.  I have a long commute, so it wasn’t a small task.  I left around 5:00am and arrived at work around 7:45am (I had some navigation errors that slowed me down!).  It was a cold morning, but with my Gabba jersey and some heavy-duty gloves, I was fine.  The ride to work went well, though my frequent stops and backtracking bumped my average speed down.  On my way back, I got a little… lost.  Again.  It’s a long story.  It was frustrating trying to navigate my way to the trail, and it ended badly.  Finally, when I was minutes from giving up, I saw that I was fairly close to an access point.  The ride home was mostly against the wind, but I got into a groove near the end and was holding a pretty decent speed, despite the wind and my fatigue and frustration.  It was my first brick workout of the training cycle and immediately after getting home, I donned my running shoes and hit the road for an easy thirty minute run.  I tried to focus on running slow because I know I will need to run quite slow off the bike in my Ironman to avoid completely bonking.  However, despite trying to run slow, I still hit an 8:34/mile pace.  I know that’s too fast for me.  I have read way too many race reports where the racer starts the run and says, “I hit the first mile in 8:30.  That’s fast for me, but I felt great so I decided to go with it!” only to report crashing and burning later in the marathon.  That’s something I can control, so I’m going to try.  Next time, I will try to run no faster than 9:00/mile off the bike.

Path
I liked this shot of the path with the little elm seeds everywhere.

Wednesday: Swim –2000 yards; Bike—1:30:20 (24.59 miles); 8-minute abs
I went to the pool in the morning for a shorter swim that included a lot of shorter reps:
300 (50 swim, 50 kick)
20 x 75 @ 1:20
200 easy
I didn’t have any gas in my tank for this swim, and I struggled through the 75s.  I swam most of them in about 1:10 which isn’t terrible… I was just surprised at how tired I was when swimming at this fairly generous pace.  I think my shoulders were feeling the effects of holding myself on up on my bike for four hours the day before.

I was not excited for my bike ride after work.  I was worried about how tired my legs would be after all my miles the day before, but mostly, I knew another long ride would mean another day where I worked out, ate, went to bed, and got up to do it all over again.  Once I got out on the bike, I actually had a good ride.  I was surprised at how fresh my legs felt and how fast I was going (maybe my Garmin is off!).  I feel like something clicked in my pedal stroke, and now a higher cadence feels more comfortable and more natural.  My ride ended up going quite well, and I actually did not feel exhausted at the end.

Thursday: Swim—3500 yards; Run—45:00 (5.55 miles); Strength—15 minutes
This was my longest swim workout so far in this training program.  The meat of the workout was two 1500s.  That’s a lot of laps.
3 x 100
2 x 1500 (26:09, 26:43)
4 x 50
I slowed down some during my second 1500, but it was only a few seconds per 100 yards.  Even my slower one was faster than my targeted Ironman pace.  I worked from home on Thursday, so I got to skip the million year commute into work which was a welcome change.  Instead, I spent the day working away at my laptop at Rob’s place with him (he took the day off) and the cat.  During the middle of the day, I headed out for a run with strides every five minutes.  I felt terrible the first fifteen minutes or so, but once I started actually warming up, I felt much better.  Funny how that works.  After I got back, I did fifteen minutes of strength work.

Additionally, my new swimsuit came in the mail!  I have a sprint tri coming up in a few weeks, and the swim is in a pool.  This means that I won’t be wearing a wetsuit.  I wanted a low-drag option to wear with my tri shorts, but I didn’t want to swing for something expensive and/or super specific to this particular race, so I decided that a bikini top would work really well (I don’t need much support, so I would be able to throw a tri top on for the ride and run).  So I went to the TYR website and ordered a grab bag bikini.  You can pick the size, but the color and style is a random selection from their older stock.  It’s a great deal, and it only cost $20.  They have a similar grab bag option for one pieces as well.  I first randomly learned about this from Rheagan over at Hardly Awesome.  It’s a great option for anyone who wants a swimsuit for training purposes only.

Swimsuit
New swimsuit!

Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
Thank goodness for rest days.  I needed this one to maintain my sanity.  It was great to sleep in (which now means waking up at 5:45am…) and be done with my day early (which now means 5:00pm…).  Seeing that written out as my totally-relaxed day is unbelievably disheartening.  But the evening was relaxing.  I took a walk with Rob, did some core work, watched some TV… all things that normal people actually do!

Saturday: Swim—30 minutes; Run—1:40:00 (11.79 miles); 8-minute abs
I woke up and headed to the gym right when it opened to swim.  I tried out my new swimsuit, and it worked great (even though, as a life-long one-piece gal, I felt a little exposed!).  I just did an easy thirty minute swim.  I didn’t count laps, but I’d guess I ended up going either 1600 or 1650.  When I bothered to check, most of my 50s hovered right around :55.

Afterwards, I went to Rob’s house and ate second breakfast before heading out on the run that I had been dreading all week long.  Running is the discipline that I enjoy the least of the three.  I know runs are going to be hot and tiring.  I know I’m going to feel gross at the beginning and gross at the end.  This run in particular was scary for me because it had a tempo element.  I was supposed to run the first 75 minutes at an easy RPE 3 and then bump it up to RPE 5 for the final 25 minutes.  I’m not accustomed to bumping up my effort at the end of a long run.  I tried to focus a little more than usual on holding back and keeping the pace easy.  When I hit the 8-mile mark, my average pace was around 8:46/mile.  Just a little under half a mile later, I hit 75 minutes and bumped up the effort.  The last 25 minutes were pretty tough.  I tried to keep a quick turnover when I was going uphill and stay quick but controlled while going downhill.  I also tried to minimize the pounding on my knee by keeping good form going downhill, and sometimes speed and lightness work against each other when running downhill.  I picked up the pace quite a bit and averaged around 7:40/mile for my tempo effort.  That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds once you take the elevation profile of my run into consideration.  The run finishes up with a pretty significant downhill portion, so I think I did a good job on the tempo effort without overdoing it. A little later in the afternoon, I did some core work.

100minutes
See what I mean about the profile for the last couple of miles?

Sunday: Run—1:00:00 (7.3 miles); Bike—2:01:01 (34.55 miles)
I was a little uncertain how my Sunday morning run would go, considering my hard effort the day before.  I started of pretty slow, probably due to a combination of cold muscles and tired muscles.  However, my legs picked up speed naturally as I warmed up a bit.  Plus, I knew that once I climbed the initial hill that the hardest part of the run was over.  That’s always a nice mental boost.  Starting at ten minutes, I did 20 second pick-ups every five minutes.  I think this may have helped my pace as well.  Focusing a little more on speed for short bursts keeps me from losing focus and falling into a slower turnover.  I ended up having a strong run and finished up with an 8:13/mile pace.  I didn’t have any IT band pain, despite the fact that I did two reasonably long runs in two days.

I skipped out on church and spent some time relaxing, planning meals, writing a grocery list, and working on a blog post. Rob and I headed out for a bike ride around 1:00pm.  I didn’t want to do my typical route.  The climbing just seemed like more than I could handle emotionally.  So we tried out a trail his neighbor suggested.  Basically, it was the trail I rode to work earlier this week, except we rode north instead of south.  It was an awesome path.  The surface was great, and it was overcast and threatening rain, so there was hardly anybody on the trial.  We saw maybe 3-4 groups the entire time.  The other benefit of this ride is that it was flat as a pancake, which is pretty atypical here in Salt Lake.  At least, it is for me since I spend a lot of my time in or around canyons.  Rob and I were trucking along at a pretty good pace.  I actually beat my 40k PR on my Garmin with 1:25:19 which averages out to a 17.5mph pace.  Overall, I hit 17.1mph.  Once I got back, I ate, showered, and then did some strength work.  Another hard (but good!) week of training in the bank.

Global Bike to Work Day

Strava hosted their first ever Global Commute by Bike day on Tuesday, May 10.  When I first read about it, I decided that I wanted to participate.  I miss commuting to work by bike.  When I lived up in Idaho, I worked about 15 miles away, and I commuted by bike about three times a week.  I loved it.  In the mornings, once I got out of the city, I was riding through gorgeous farmlands.  Every day, I rode past a field of mint which always smelled heavenly.  I would welcome in the morning on my bike.  And even though riding home could be hot and miserable, I loved getting home and feeling accomplished.  It also (perhaps ironically) helped me avoid the post-work slump that I get when I commute by car, commonly referred to in my family as the knock-down-drag-em-out-driving-home blues.

But when I moved to Salt Lake City, commuting by bike (at least regularly) stopped being feasible.  My work is about 30 miles away via bike.  Thirty miles a day is totally manageable.  Sixty miles a day is far less manageable.  I decided that National Commute by Bike day would be a great opportunity to experience that commute, even though it wouldn’t be a regular thing.  So I scheduled my long ride for Tuesday with the idea that commuting there and back would likely last three and a half hours, which was the duration of my long ride.  Usually, I wouldn’t split up a long ride like this, but it was for a special occasion.

Utah loves to play up its outdoorsy culture which makes it an awesome place to live if you are involved in any outdoor and/or active hobbies.  Case in point, there is a paved bike trail that runs from north of Salt Lake City all the way down to the city where I work (and beyond!).  After posing the question to my triathlon club, I determined this was the best route to take.  Thirty nearly traffic-free miles before work?  That doesn’t sound so bad!  I was going to go on an adventure!  I was going to ride through beautiful landscapes and welcome in the morning alone with my bike!  And it was going to be totally awesome!

When I had mapped out the course a few days before, it came out to 31.5 miles.  So I planned to leave at 5:00am and get to work around 7:00am, though probably a little later because of brief stops and such.  I knew I wouldn’t face much traffic, so I thought my dead time would be minimal.  On Tuesday morning, I set out and was excited to see a new trail and get in some good miles on a weekday.

Two hours and forty-five minutes (and 34.5 miles!) later, I arrived at work.  It turns out that my assumption that following the main trail south would be completely intuitive was… well, a bit Pollyanna-ish.  I made several wrong turns and had to backtrack several times within the first seven miles or so.  It’s hard to navigate in the dark when you’ve never seen the area before.  My terrible sense of direction certainly didn’t help.  After one particular error that left me at a busy cross-road, frustrated with myself and with no idea where to go, I busted out my phone to use Google maps which I then consulted whenever I had a question about the route.  For a while, this meant stopping every mile or so to pull up my route and see if I was heading in the right direction.  Fortunately, my work hours are supremely flexible, so I knew the unplanned for time wasn’t a huge deal, even if I got in an hour or more after I had planned to.  The frustration added a little stress to the morning ride, but the majority of the trail was so pleasant that it would have been impossible to be too terribly stressed.

Dawn
It was still pretty dark when I took this photo, hence the poor quality.

My actual ride time was two hours and ten minutes.  I faced some fatigue during the ride about an hour and a half into it (complete with crushing Ironman doubt!), but I got a second wind for the last half hour or so of the ride.  I was feeling strong when I rolled in and was riding the high of 34.5 miles before 8:00am.  And, since I had worked out all the navigation kinks on the way to work, I had no doubt that the ride home would go much more smoothly and be much less frustrating.   I felt surprisingly good throughout the day.  I wasn’t consumed with an insatiable hunger.  I wasn’t terribly cold from the chilly ride in.  And when the end of the day rolled around, I was ready to have a pleasant ride home, this time without the navigation mishaps.

I suited up, got on my bike, and was blasted with a truly vicious, likely sentient, headwind.  It reminded me of a comment by Boromir in The Lord of the Rings as the Fellowship tries to cross Caradhras: “Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.“  The wind was an ill omen.  The first few miles of my ride where there was nothing at all to break the wind were miserable, especially the miles that were uphill.  Finally, finally, I reached an area with some buildings.  The wind was more manageable and I was just watching for the entrance to the Jordan River Parkway trail.

Somehow, I missed it.  I’m still not sure what happened.  I was looking exactly where the map said it should be.  Maybe I’m blind.  Maybe the map wasn’t 100% accurate.  I suspect I was expecting a paved entrance when there was actually a long-ish dirt path going down to the trail.  Whatever the reason, I started looking for alternate entrances to the path, using an app on my phone as a guide.  Finally, after rolling around one particular neighborhood for a good fifteen minutes, I saw a dirt path (although the word “path” is generous…).  My phone said it connected with a larger trail, so I decided I’d brave the brush to get to the main, paved trail.  I picked up my bike, cyclocross style, and started the cross-country trek.  So there I was, ducking under branches, trudging through mud, and constantly checking my phone to make sure I stayed on the trail, all while wearing the full spandex cycling get-up and carrying a way-too-expensive carbon road bike.  I finally reached the trail.  At least, I did according to my phone.  I looked up at the vehicle tracks in the mud in front of me and then down at my phone.  I looked back up, just to confirm that I was not, in fact, standing on asphalt.  The truth began to dawn on me.  I scrolled farther left on the map and saw, to my dismay, that the Jordan River Parkway trail was quite a bit farther west.  I had someone found my way to a random (completely unpaved and probably no longer used) vehicle path.  “No.” I said, despairing.  “Nonononononono.”

Being tired and hungry and (in general) stressed really makes situations like these seem world-shattering instead of actually kind of hilarious.

There was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t just sit down and wait there until I died (although you better believe I considered it!), so I turned around and hiked back up that hill in my cycling cleats and carrying my trusty bicycle.  I had just about given up on the trail and had almost decided to go with the shorter, but more traffic-heavy route back up to Salt Lake City.  However, when I searched for a route home on my phone, I saw that there was an access point that I actually remembered seeing on my way down just another mile or so north.  So, after digging out the mud in my cleats with a tire wrench, I headed in that direction with a healthy dose of pessimism.

Miracle of miracles, I found my way onto the trail.  When I saw the sign reading “Jordan River Parkway Trail,” I swear I learned how the pioneers felt when they first laid eyes on the Willamette Valley.

CanopyTrail
Glorious, beautiful pavement!!!

There were a few small navigation errors throughout the rest of my ride, but for the most part, I was familiar enough from my ride that morning to find my way.  Now that I riding in an area with quite a few trees, the wind wasn’t nearly so bad.  Still, I was tired and hungry, and I couldn’t get home fast enough.  I retreated into my thoughts, which soon took a turn for the worse.  The barrage of insecurities that had started that morning picked up again, stronger than ever.  If I couldn’t even handle a broken-up 70 miles, how would I ever be able to ride 112 miles followed by a marathon?  I knew once I got home (and finished my half hour run!), I’d have about an hour and half before I had to go to bed and wake up to face yet another long, exhausting day.  How could I maintain that until the Ironman?  I was stressed and cranky and horrible enough already.  How horrible would I be after three months?  Maybe I just needed to drop out.  Maybe I just needed to admit that it was too hard.  I wasn’t ready.  It was all just too much.  I was a failure.

Somehow, these dark thoughts seemed to power my legs forward.  Or maybe it was just a desperate, innate homing instinct.  Whatever it was, over the last three or four miles, I was pushing a nice speed (17-19mph) despite the headwind, and even despite a slight incline for a large portion of those final miles.  I got to Rob’s house and wheeled my bike in.  “Good job!  You did it!” he said.

Despite my horrible attitude just minutes earlier, this made me break out into a giant grin.  “Sixty-nine miles,” I said, reporting the total mileage for the day.

“Sixty-nine?  You aren’t going to go out for a few more minutes to hit seventy?”

“Nope.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Yep.”

I left for my run, and while I was gone, Rob made dinner.  I got back and inhaled probably half a bag of pretzels while he finished up dinner and then sat down to a glorious, cheesy plate of pasta.

I had an adventure all right.  But I think Bilbo Baggins had it right when he said about adventures, “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

Weekly Recap (5/02-5/08)

Monday: Run—1:00:00 (6.6 miles); Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
Today’s run was a bit of a test.  Up until recently, my morning runs have ended with some IT band pain, so I’ve avoided them.  This was the first time I had tried in a while.  And I basically went for gusto.  I was out the door less than half an hour after I woke up and before 5:00am.  When I run early, I try to keep it easy.  I run a flat course and try not to think about how slow I am in the mornings.  First victory: My knee didn’t hurt at all.  Second victory: I actually felt pretty relaxed.  Often in the mornings, I run at a higher effort just to be much slower than I am in the afternoon.  This time, I ran at an easy pace and was still a bit faster than I was during my last morning run.  Now I feel confident planning a run as a morning workout which will be convenient.  In the evening, I did a bit of strength work (my glutes were still sore from Sunday which means I’m still building strength!) and then some core work.

Tuesday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—2:03:25 (33.15 miles)
My swim this morning was a long set of 100s, bookended by a fairly long warm up and cool down.
500 swim
15 x 100 @ 1:45
500 swim
I figured I would swim the 100s in about 1:40 each, but I actually ended up doing them all between 1:30 and 1:35.  Even at the end, I didn’t feel like I was going all-out to keep that pace.  I maintained a hard but manageable pace for the whole set.  Considering I didn’t feel all that strong when I first got in the pool in the morning, I was very pleased with my performance.  I did start to wonder if I’m “wasting” training time by swimming so much.  I know I could go out right now and complete the Ironman swim.  I’ve been swimming 2.5-3 hours a week.  Is this too much or am I getting aerobic benefits from it that extend beyond swimming?

I worked from home as I’m getting all my stuff together to commute via train/bike, so I took a long lunch and went for a bike ride.  It was a perfect day for a ride—sunny and in the mid-60s.  I did the same route I’ve been doing all spring where I ride to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, come back north, and then go partway up Emigration before heading back to Rob’s place.  You’d think I’d get sick of it after a few weeks of doing the same ride, but I’m not sure I ever will.  Once I start heading back north, I’m right at the foot of the mountains, which means I’m up pretty high.  The road I ride back on looks out over the valley, and I love seeing a blanket of trees and houses with the mountains to the west in the distance.  There’s a particular bend in the road.  Once you ride around it, you can see the buildings of downtown Salt Lake City in the distance.  It’s one of my favorite views because the skyline looks so far away.  I love seeing it and thinking, “Wow, I started there, and now I’m all the way out here!”  Not much stood out on this ride, but I’m thinking of trying to tackle Millcreek Canyon sometime in the upcoming weeks.

Wednesday: Swim—3000 yards; Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
I did a distance set in the pool today with the longest continuous swim I’ve done throughout the whole training program so far:
200 easy
2500 (43:18)
300 easy
That was 50 laps, and I counted them all.  I broke the set up mentally into three sets of 15 laps, plus a mini-set of 5 laps at the end.  I felt strong the whole way, though I could feel myself getting fatigued at the end.  I could feel the workout from Tuesday as well… my stroke was relaxed and strong, but I didn’t feel like I had quite the “oomph” in my arms that I usually have.  My final pace was 1:44/100yds which I was quite pleased with.  It was a solid training swim.

After the swim, I hopped on my bike and rushed to the train.  I planned on taking one train to work, but since I got done swimming earlier than expected I thought I might be able to make the earlier train.  And I juuuuust barely made it in time.  I got to work thirty minutes earlier which gave me time to do my strength training during lunch and still leave work at a reasonable hour.  My legs felt very fatigued, probably because of my long ride yesterday.  I worked through it, though, and I know it made me stronger.  In the evening, I did some core work as well.

Thursday: REST; 8-minute abs
Ahhh, a rest day.  Thank goodness.  I still had to get up before 5am so I could get to work early and not have to stay super late on Friday, but the physical rest was nice, even if it wasn’t all that restful of a day.  Even for my rest day, I was up at 4:45am, caught the 5:41am train, was at work from 6:30am to 4:00pm, then rode the train back to Salt Lake and rode my bike to Rob’s house and got there just past 5:00pm.  Then I quickly did my core work and we went to his parents’ house for dinner.  I realize that this kind of business is par for the course for a lot of people out there, but I just don’t know how they do it.  I’m not sure if it’s sustainable for me…

Friday: Swim—Masters swim team; Run—1:00:00 (7.5 miles)
I was not feeling life when my alarm went off in the morning.  I actually hit the snooze twice (I plan for once and almost never hit it a second time), and I even felt tempted to skip exercise.  In the end, I went to masters, and I’m glad I did because we had an open water simulation day.  The coach moved the lane lines over so we had half the pool, just open.  We started with some laps around the outside of the area and then moved into drills.
5 laps (clockwise)
3 laps (counterclockwise)
5 x 25 (eyes closed)
6 x 50 (open water start)
Buoy turn drills
Drafting practice
I thought I had gotten better at swimming straight over the past few years, but the 25s with my eyes closed taught me that I haven’t.  I always swerve way left, so it’s probably a good reminder to try to aim slightly to the right when swimming in open water to mitigate that leftwards drift.  It was a fun day.  It wasn’t too terribly intense, and that was what I needed on a morning like that one.

I watched the forecast all day because it was overcast and stormy outside.  I knew I’d probably be running in the rain.  And I dreaded it all day.  One hour might as well have been a marathon.  I did not want to do it.  I was tired and depressed and overwhelmed.  I didn’t get home until about 5:30pm.  I stretched and headed out around 6:00pm.  It was raining, and my legs felt pretty heavy as I started out.  I tried to run by effort and was surprised when I crossed the first (very uphill) mile in around 8:44.  I tried to remain at that effort through the rest of the run, and I ended up having my fastest run in a while at an 8:00/mile pace.  And the entire thing ended up not being nearly as miserable as I had anticipated.  After I got back, though, I crashed hard.  It was a long, stressful week, and I needed to spend some time sitting and doing nothing.

Saturday: Bike—3:01:23 (47.28 miles); Strength—15 minutes
The weather was iffy on Saturday.  It wasn’t terribly cold, but it was overcast with the threat of thunderstorms.  I headed out with arm warmers, leg warmers, knit gloves, and a wind vest in my pocket.  My legs were a bit tired from the get-go, maybe because of my faster-than-usual run the day before.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t going to have an amazing break-out ride and that I needed to focus on effort as opposed to speed.  Usually, when I start climbing Emigration Canyon, I’m surprised how strong I feel.  This time, I could feel the previous hour and a half on my bike.  I tried to ride at a manageable pace because the last bit of the climb to the top of Emigration Canyon.  My plan was to crest Emigration then ride down the backside for a bit before turning around, climbing back up to the top, and descending the canyon back to Rob’s place.  Of course, right when I reached the top of the canyon (the highest, and therefore coldest point of my ride), it started raining.  The rain continued for a good fifteen minutes or so and got pretty heavy for a while.  Descending in the rain is sketchy.  And cold.  I was glad that I had brought the wind vest because went a long ways towards keeping me warm.  Fortunately, the rain died down as I descended the canyon and before I was terribly cold.  Once I got back, I vegged out for a while before forcing myself to do my fifteen minutes of strength work.

20160507_131635
Back from my ride.  Rob said I looked like I knew what I was doing. 🙂

Sunday: Run—1:00:00 (7.25 miles); Bike—1:00:00
I wish I could report that I recovered well from my long ride on Saturday and was full of energy and ready to go on Sunday. But in reality, I felt like crap on my run. I ran in the morning before church. It was a bit chilly and rainy out, and the whole run, I felt like I was running at a snail’s pace. This run called for 20 second pick-ups every ten minutes, and each one was miserable. I stopped to go to the bathroom about halfway through. Honestly, it wasn’t an emergency, and it probably could have waited, but I wanted a break. I was really surprised when I got back, mapped my route out, and realized I had averaged an 8:17/mile pace. From the way I felt while running, I would have placed my pace just around 8:30/mile.

It was raining hard when I got done with church.  I wasn’t sure what to do about my bike ride.  I was supposed to go out for an hour and a half, but I did not like the idea of going out in that much rain.  Not only would it be a cold and miserable ride, but it can be unsafe and isn’t great for the bike.  So I decided to cut my ride down to an hour and do it on the trainer instead.  The trainer sucks, but I can usually manage an hour or so, if I listen to a podcast.  So, I cued up an episode of This American Life and went to work.  It was kind of miserable, considering it was the trainer, but I managed alright.

20160508_134236
Gettin’ it done on the trainer.