One month check up

One month until my race.  I want to go back and punch Past Katie right in the mouth for signing me up for this monstrosity.

Other than that, I guess I’m feeling okay, though.

The upside to being so close to the race is that I’ve actually experience moments where I feel like I’m prepared.  My 6.5 hour ride following by a 25 minute run last weekend was one of those times.  I actually felt absolutely fine on the bike for the last thirty minutes and was holding it together during the run without too much trouble.  The downside of being so close to the race is that during moments where I feel like I’m decidedly not prepared, the panic is real.  There’s no more months of training to help relieve my fears.  It’s coming.  And I better be ready.

Physical

Fitness:
My fitness is as good as it’s ever been.  I PR’ed in every leg of my recent Olympic triathlon (by a lot!).  And for the first time during the run, I didn’t crack.  In fact, I think I ran just about even splits for the first and second half of the run.  In general, I feel good about where I am fitness-wise, but I do wish I were a little further along in my cycling fitness.  There’s nothing I can do about it now, and I feel like I did about as much as I could during the training cycle considering my relative newness to cycling.  But, as I’ve said to Rob, I feel like I’m the cycling equivalent of a runner who can go out and run forever at a 12:00/mile pace with no trouble at all but can’t seem to break 4:30 in the marathon.

General health:
No nagging aches and pains.  No colds.  No weight loss.  Ironman training suits me! (Ha.)  But really, I feel good, considering everything.  The only thing that keeps getting me is just being tired.  There is a bone-deep, soul-crushing fatigue that comes with Ironman training, and it’s been a struggle to keep that at bay.  That fatigue feels abnormal and unhealthy (as opposed to just normal tiredness or even “normal” exhaustion), so I’m doing what I can to avoid it.  Last week, that meant taking an extra rest day.  This week, I’m feeling better on that front, and since it’s peak week, I have hope that I’m in the clear.

Mental

I’m a bundle of nerves.  An overworked, cranky bundle of nerves.  I’ve noticed that I’m pretty constantly one minor incident away from a bad day.  I think it’s the stress and the fatigue.  I’m probably horrible to be around, and I’ve apologized to Rob on several occasions, but he’s said I’m not much different than usual.  I don’t know if that means I’m doing better than I thought or just that I’m always horrible.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 4000 yards

Longest ride: 107.3 miles

Longest run: 20.7 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 107.3 mile bike ride.  If my ride on race day goes this well, I think I’ll be in a good spot.  I managed to do this ride at an average speed of 16.5mph, even with 8000 feet of elevation gain (the race has just about 6000 feet).  And the kicker?  At 6 hour and 15 minutes, I felt weirdly great.  I didn’t even hate being on the bike!

Most discouraging workout: My hour long run the day after the aforementioned bike ride.  If I was certain of my success after the bike ride, I was certain of my failure after this run.  Every step was a struggle, and the entire time I fretted about how I would run a marathon after 112 miles on the bike if I could barely manage an hour run the day after a long bike ride.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 167.5 minutes (2.8 hours)

Cycling: 453 minutes (7.55 hours)

Running: 252.5 minutes (4.2 hours)

Other: 67 minutes (1.1 hours)

TimePerSport01

Looking to the future

There’s not much future to look towards anymore (at least in regards to the Ironman).  But I’m approaching taper, and I intend to take it seriously.  I’ve put in the hard work.  Looking back over my training, I don’t have any major regrets or misgivings about my dedication and effort levels.  I’m going to work hard for the rest of peak week and stay focused during my taper.  Hopefully, that leads to the race I want.

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Two month check up

I feel surprisingly calm considering it’s only two months until my Ironman.  For the first time during this training cycle, I’ve thought that if I had to do the Ironman next week, I might be able to complete it.  I wouldn’t be as fast as I could be, but I may be able to complete the distance under the time limit.  And then I swing back to the “No, I’ll never be able to do this!” mentality.  But the fact that I’m not spending all of my time convinced that finishing an Ironman is impossible for me is an improvement.

Physical

Fitness:
I’m currently getting ready to head into my final set of hard weeks before I taper.  I know I’m in the best (long-distance) shape of my life.  Sometimes I’m kind of amazed that I can just go out and run 15 miles or ride 50 miles or swim 2.5 miles.  The really crazy thing is that, even with my current fitness, I don’t know if I’m ready for an Ironman.  It’s just that intense of an event.  But instead of thinking about where I wish I were I’m trying to think about how far I’ve come.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter how fit I am—I could always dream about being faster.  Now, I’m trying to appreciate my hard work over the past year.

General health:
So far, I’ve been hanging in there.  I’ve been sleeping a little less (falling asleep before the sun sets is hard), but I haven’t felt overtired very often.  I’ve noticed a scratch in my throat the past couple of days, so I guess time will tell if it’s a fluke (I did choke on a waffle during my ride…) or if I’m coming down with a cold.

Mental

Now that I have a car and therefore more free time, I’ve been feeling much less stressed and overwhelmed.  Plus, Rob has really stepped up the last couple of weeks to help me out when I’m busy and exhausted.  I think I only made myself dinner once last week.  I need to up my mental game in regards to my actual training at this point.  I need to start making an active attempt to build my confidence, even if that just means telling myself I can do it.  I think that confidence in my ability to finish the race will help out a lot on mile 70 of the bike and mile 16 of the run.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 4500 yards

Longest ride: 77.27 miles

Longest run: 17.7 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 17.7 mile run.  This winter while I was training for my marathon, a run this long would have completely wiped me out for the rest of the day.  However, after I finished this run, I went for a long swim that afternoon and then later went for a pretty long walk with Rob because I was bored and wanted to do something somewhat active.

Most discouraging workout: My 3.5 hour (53 miles) bike ride.  I felt slow and tired during this ride, and I felt like I was behind where I should be in cycling fitness.  My recent 5 hour (77 miles) ride helped me regain some of that confidence, but I worry about the cycling leg in general.  I know I’m training on hills and at elevation, but I can’t expect the conditions at Coeur d’Alene to be perfect.  It will be hilly there too, and it will probably be windy.  I’m worried about hitting my goal (or even getting close to it!) for the cycling leg, and since that’s the longest leg of the race, it’s a little disheartening.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 148.4 (2.3 hours)

Cycling: 405 minutes (6.75 hours)

Running: 201.4 minutes (3.3 hours)

Other: 82.4 minutes (1.3 hours)

TimePerSport02

Looking to the future

I’ve got some really tough weeks coming up.  But—and this is both comforting and terrifying—I’m actually in the home stretch.  In just a couple months, I’ll be toeing the line in Coeur d’Alene.  I’ve started working on my race nutrition, and I need to continue to refine that plan.  I also need to get a few more open water swims in.  There honestly aren’t that many good places to swim in Salt Lake.  There’s nothing (expect the Great Salt Lake… ewww…) as big as Lake Coeur d’Alene here, so I’d like to take a day trip and get a swim in somewhere that I can really experience some chop.  And, of course, I want to stay healthy and really take advantage of the next few weeks to gain fitness.

MountainRoad

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)

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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…

Four month check up

I panicked a little when I realized my Ironman was only four months out, but I’m doing a little better now.  I just keep reminding myself that I’m putting in the work, and that’s all that I can do.  It’s been a busy month full of physical therapy, working out, and getting on top of my sleep and nutrition.

Physical

Fitness:
I’ve been feeling fit and healthy this month.  Physical therapy has helped my knee a lot, and I realized that my focus on recovery did not, in fact, cause me to lose all of my fitness as I had feared.  In fact, when I compare where I am in all three disciplines versus where I was in those disciplines when I started training for my half Ironman, I can see that I’m in a good place.  I’m a stronger swimmer, a stronger cyclist, and a stronger runner.  I’ve been trying not to focus too much on times and paces, but my strong showing (and negative split!) in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon gives me an indication that my endurance is in a good place right now considering how early it is in my “official” training plan.

General health:
I spent the first two weeks of Ironman training certain that I was doomed.  I was exhausted.  All the time.  I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was just tired.  I just kept telling myself to give it a month.  I’ve noticed that whenever my routine changes, my new life seems impossible for a month.  It happened when I went to grad school.  It happened when I moved to Utah and started my new job.  So I knew that my exhaustion didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t ready to jump into the training plan.  Fortunately, I have felt much better this week.  I’m starting to get into a groove.  I’m sleeping better, and I know what to expect.  I’ve also been eating really well (as in, enough).  I’ve gained a few pounds and have been able to listen to my hunger cues instead of forcing myself to eat.  I’ve also found myself gravitating towards foods that are good fuel instead of only straight-up sweets (though I eat plenty of those too!).

Mental

Right now, at this moment, I feel very positive about how my training is going.  That wasn’t necessarily the case a week ago, and it may not be the case a week from now.  We’ll see.  I was really on edge for the first couple of weeks of training (sorry, Rob!), but I’m doing better now.  However, I know I’m still being a little obsessive.  And I’m still working on balance.  I want to do an Ironman, but I don’t want to become a difficult person to be with during the process.  For me, it a matter of balancing my training, my job, quality time with people, and regular adult responsibilities (like doing the dishes), all without being so stressed out that I make the lives of the people around me miserable.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 3000 yards

Longest ride: 34.3 miles

Longest run: 13.1 miles

Most encouraging workout: The Salt Lake City Half Marathon.  Despite a month full of frustrating runs, I ran a great half marathon with almost no pain last weekend.  Physical therapy worked it magic, and my knee is pretty much back to normal, though I’m still working on strength and trying to maintain good running form.  And even though I was certain I had lost all my running fitness (because my runs have been slower), I had no trouble holding a good pace throughout the entire race.  I even had my fastest miles at the end!  It’s a good reminder that slower training runs are not necessarily a bad thing.  Recovery runs are okay.

Most discouraging workout: My split 60 minute run.  If I remember correctly, this was the last straw for me and was the run that finally prompted me to get to physical therapy.  I was only able to run for 30 minutes in the morning before I the pain in my knee hit the point where I worried that running more would set back my recovery.  It was very discouraging at the time, but as you can see from this post so far, it’s not really discouraging at this point because my knee is doing so much better.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 112.5 minutes

Cycling: 178.5 minutes

Running: 136.5 minutes

Other: 99 minutes

TimePerSport04

Looking to the future

Just keep swimming/cycling/running.  And stay healthy.  That’s the name of the game for me.  This is my first Ironman, and that means it’s basically about putting in the miles.  I’m going to continue trying to slow down and not worry about pace.  From now on, I plan on trying to run my long runs no faster than an 8:30/mile pace.  That will likely happen on its own once my runs get long enough.  (I suspect I’ll be running no faster than a 9:00/mile pace when my runs really get up there).  However, I may have to focus on running a little slower while my long runs are still in the 90 minute range.  I just need to remember that I won’t be running my Ironman marathon at an 8:00/mile.  (Heck, I won’t even be running it at an 8:30/mile or 9:00/mile pace.)  I spent the winter doing hard running workouts on (mostly) fresh legs.  It’s time for me to dial back my pace on those long runs to account for fatigue.

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think I was mid-laugh when Rob took this one.  Goofy as always, and feeling “thumbs-uppy” about my race!

Five month checkup

Five months?! Nope.  Nopenopenope.  Except… yep.  My Ironman really is only five months away.  It’s terrifying and exciting all at once.  When I think about it logically, I think I’m in good shape.  I just recently ran a marathon (run portion, check) and earlier this year I did a swim workout that was 2.5 miles long (swim portion, check).  Additionally, my recent return to cycling went better than I expected (bike portion, getting there).  However, my visceral reaction when I think about the fact that my Ironman is five short months away is just a few levels shy of panic. At least the panic will serve as good motivation when the training hours ramp up!

Physical

Fitness:
I think my fitness right now is stronger than my recent performances indicate.  Recovering from a marathon takes time, and I’m trying to be patient with myself when an 8:30/mile pace feels hard and when my knee starts aching a bit after 30 minutes.  I just try to remember that this winter, I was in the best distance-running shape of my life and that fitness built over four months like that does not just evaporate, even when you need to take some time off due to a bum knee.  I built a strong base this winter, and it’s still there.  It helps that I’ve maintained more of my cycling fitness that I thought I would.  Some of that might be due to my awesome new bike, but I’ll take the credit anyway.  I think my rapid swimming progress has come to an end, but it was a great ride, and I’m pleased at where I’ve ended up.

General health:
My knee is still bothering me.  But anyone keeping up with this blog knows that.  I’m doing what I can to be responsible and get better.  I just need to focus on what I can control.  Otherwise, my health has been solid.  I didn’t have to deal with any colds or other sicknesses this month.  My weight has generally been pretty stable.  More importantly, my appetite has been pretty stable.  As I’m paying more attention to what helps my appetite and what suppresses it, I’m getting better at maintaining a healthy appetite and eating enough to fuel what I do.  (Spoiler alert: Turns out if I try to eat the exact same lunch every single weekday for a months, I end up not eating much of my lunch after the first few weeks.)

Mental

This was a tough month mentally.  I was coming off a very bad, very disappointing marathon and dealing with an overuse injury to boot.  Not only that, but I was still dealing with the financial fallout of having my car stolen, and I had an upheaval in my social life that was… unpleasant.  Plus, it was still winter.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am a delicate flower emotionally, so all these unrelated stressors took their toll on me.  Fortunately, I think I’m on the upward path again.  It sounds strange, but being able to ride my bike helps.  Of the three disciplines, cycling is the one that brings me the most happiness, and spring means that long rides are both feasible and enjoyable again.  I don’t always have control over the stressors in my life, but one thing I can be consistent about is getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  I am not one of those people who can function on six hours a night regularly.  Sleep is vital to my mental health, and as my training hours increase, I need to make sure that I don’t steal those extra hours from the time I normally spend sleeping.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 2500 yards

Longest ride: 42.65 miles

Longest run: 7.17 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 40+ mile bike ride this past weekend.  I did not know what to expect when I got back into cycling after spending so little time on my bike this winter.  I did not expect to be able to bust out a forty mile ride and stay strong the whole time.  A couple of years ago during the summer did my half Ironman, I rode a very similar course as the one I rode today and I was absolutely wrecked at the end.  It was a nice reminder of the cycling progress I’ve made over the past couple of years.  Sure, I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m starting from a much better position than I thought I would be!

Most discouraging workout: My pathetic five minute run.  I’ll be honest.  I cried a bit after this workout.  I just feel completely out of control, like all the good decisions and rest in the world won’t actually do anything to make my knee begin to feel better.  At this point, I’m pretty convinced I’ll be doing a swim, bike, walk in August.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 116.25 minutes

Cycling: 178.75 minutes

Running: 31.25 minutes

Other: 90 minutes

TimePerSport05

Looking to the future

Official Ironman training is almost upon me.  For the next few weeks, my goal is to prepare my body so that I can transition seamlessly into my Ironman training plan.  In regards to swimming, this mostly means maintaining.  For cycling, it means simply getting out there on my bike and racking up some miles.  For running, it means primarily working on fixing my IT band and secondarily trying to get some miles in so that I’m not overwhelmed by my long runs during my training plan.  I plan on continuing with my strength work and implement some form changes to get my IT band back in working order.  Additionally, I want to get some other aspects of my life in order, mainly meal-planning and sleep.  Jellybeans are not dinner!  And I cannot survive on 6-7 hours of sleep a night.  Some people can, but I am not one of them.

MountainsSky
The spring colors aren’t quite popping yet on the flora, but look at that sky!

Six month checkup

I sat down to begin writing this post with my marathon looming and with a hypersensitivity to any twinge in my right knee. As I sat down to the empty Word document, I thought to myself, “Okay, how many months until my Ironman again?” And then the answer hit me. Six. Six. A half a year until my Ironman. And then, magnified by the non-training-related stress I’ve had in my life lately, every single bit of fear about my Ironman hit me like a load of bricks. Six months? I can’t do that. I can barely run. I don’t even have a bike. And even if I did, I haven’t been on a bike ride for longer than an hour in months. This was a terrible mistake. Why did I buy the insurance policy for the race?! So that’s where I am right now. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that my first major freak out before the race didn’t happen until now. But I’m using all my brain power just to stop the incessant refrain of “youcan’tdothis youcan’tdothis youcan’tdothis” from playing on repeat in my head.

Physical

Fitness:
Other than cycling-specific fitness, my fitness is in great shape. I’m fully trained for a  marathon. I’m a faster runner than I’ve been since college. I’m a better swimmer than I’ve ever been. I honestly feel strong. I don’t feel overtired. I think my legs (well, my leg muscles, at least) are in excellent running shape and ready to transition into some hardcore cycling to build up that area of my fitness. I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was this time last year in terms of general fitness.

General health:
Of course, the issue on my mind is my IT band. At this particular moment, I’m convinced it’s a life-long injury that will render me incapable of running for the rest of my life. I realize that’s more than a little silly, but I do think I’m justified in being worried (although my worry is almost certainly overblown). IT band issues can take a long time to heal up, and the last thing I want to do is to deal with an overuse injury through the five months of Ironman training.

Mental

If you’ve read this far, you can probably tell that my anxiety and I are not co-existing peacefully right now. Getting my car and bike stolen kind of overloaded my coping mechanisms, so other problems that are relatively unimportant in the long run (like, say, knee pain) seem much more serious and are difficult for me to handle. My appetite plummeted for a few days, and I was worried I was in for another streak of forcing myself to eat, but it seems to have picked up again. I’ve had some trouble sleeping too, which is par for the course when my anxiety gets bad. Fortunately, my family offered to help me buy a new bike, so a large part of my financial burden was lifted. And, while I’m still on edge and snippy (Rob has been a saint!), I think I’m finally starting to feel better.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 4400 yards

Longest ride: 13.79 miles

Longest run: 26.2 miles

Most encouraging workout: My ePostal One Hour Swim where I hit 3600 yards. I really thought I was setting a goal outside of my reach, and I reached the goal anyway. It was a great indication to me that my stroke and fitness have both improved over the course of the winter. It’s the one discipline I’m feeling really good about right now.

Most discouraging workout: My marathon. This was supposed to be good for my confidence, but all it did was convince me that performance is completely out of my control and that it doesn’t matter how hard I train or how much I prepare—a race is just a roll of the dice anyway. It also convinced me that I am incapable of doing an Ironman and was stupid to ever think I was athletic.

Average time per sport per week

Since I’ve been doing ab work and non-impact cardio lately and plan on implementing some injury-prevention strength training after my marathon, I’m adding in a category for “Other” exercise.

Swim: 75 minutes

Bike: 34 minutes

Run: 184 minutes

Other: 45 minutes

TimePerSport06

Looking to the future

Well, the marathon is behind me, and it’s time to switch focus to recovery and my Ironman. Before my knee started acting up, I hadn’t planned to cut back on running as much as I plan to now. I had hoped to run (and PR!) another 5k and have a really good race in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on April 16. Instead, any 5k race is postponed indefinitely, and I’ll settle for a solid and hopefully pain-free race in April. I’m going to spend the next few days putting together a routine that will help me build hip and glute strength to prevent any recurrence of my IT band pain. And after a week of easy workouts to recover from this marathon, I’ll start cycling. A lot. Or, well, a lot more than I have been! Because my new bike isn’t built up yet, I’ll have to spend a lot of time on a stationary bike at first, but I’ll deal with it. I’m hoping to start riding three days a week for a total of 2-3 hours a week at first. And then, the plan is to build up the length of my rides so that my weekend ride is at least 90 minutes and my total time on the bike each week is around 3-4 hours.

BLUE
Expect this guy to be on the road by the time I post another monthly checkup.

Seven month checkup

Well, here we are.  Ironman Coeur d’Alene is happening this year in seven months’ time.  I’m still on track, and my fears of burning out over the winter are proving to be unfounded.  I’m actually feeling remarkably engaged mentally with the process so far.  What I’ve managed to do is essentially up the intensity of my routine while decreasing the time spent.  I think that has helped me remain excited about it and not overwhelmed.  Blogging about it has helped too, I’m sure.  I think I’ll be in more danger of burning out in the summer when I’ll be logging 12-18 hour training weeks.

Physical

Fitness:
My marathon training is going well as it hits its peak.  I ran my first 20 miler this month, and I hit an 8:11/mile pace—that’s faster than my pace during the run portion of my Olympic triathlon this summer.  I honestly never thought I’d be able to run that fast for that long, so this whole winter, I’ve really been riding the improvement high.  My swimming fitness is also improving, although that improvement has slowed down now.  I’m in a good place to improve even more, though, once I start swimming more often in the spring.  It’s been hard to watch my cycling fitness decrease.  It’s discouraging to compare my rides this summer with my rides now, especially when I think about where I’ll need to be in August.  I know it’s part of the process, and I’m glad I didn’t devote this winter to three hour trainer ride, but it’s still frustrating.

General health:
Other than a somewhat nasty cold I came down with right after Christmas, my health has been solid.  My weight is mostly stabilized, although it stabilized slightly lower than it was before I lost it this summer.  As near as I can tell, instead of having a range of 130-134, my range is now more like 128-132.  It’s not a problem now, but it could be when I start training more in the spring.  I’ve had a few aches and pains after my long runs, but nothing has materialized into anything that I need to be worried about.  My knee has been a bit sore off-and-on but has only given me real pain during one 15 mile run, and my left hip flexor was quite sore after my 20 miler, but that went away in a couple of days.  I’ve had a few weeks where I found myself overtired from not getting enough sleep, but that has been easily remedied by simply going to bed earlier.

Mental

I had a few low spells this month, but I was able to work through them mostly by getting more sleep.  For the most part, I’ve been very encouraged and engaged in my training, even when that training requires me to wake up at 4:00am.  Now that I’m approaching the end of my marathon training cycle, it’s easier to find the motivation to do the hard workouts because the finish line is in sight.  The fact that I’ve been hitting my paces on my runs and swimming well also helps.  Additionally, it’s hit that point in winter where I feel like I’m on the downhill slope towards spring.  Since spring means better weather and longer bike rides, I have something to look forward to.

Superlatives

Longest swim: 3000 yards*

Longest ride: 15.1 miles

Longest run: 20 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 20 mile run.  I feel like running your first 20 miler is, well, a milestone in marathon training.  It signifies that you have “made it” and that you could go out there and run the full distance, even if the missing weeks of training may cause you to run slower than your potential.  I know the real pinnacle of marathon training is the marathon, but the 20 miler comes close.

Most discouraging workout: My 15.1 mile bike ride.  It was the longest bike ride I did this month.  Of course, I enjoyed it because it was a bike ride.  And it didn’t go poorly.  But this is by far the shortest “longest ride of the month” I’ve had in a long, long time.  I miss the days of getting up at 6:00am to ride 30-40 miles on a Saturday or going for a “short” ride up Emigration Canyon after work.  This bike ride stood out because it reminded me exactly how far I’ve fallen in regards to cycling.  I know that my focus on running this winter will help me pick up cycling again quickly in the spring, but it’s still discouraging.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 75 minutes

Cycling: 63.75 minutes

Running: 238.75 minutes

TimePerSport07

Looking to the future

The theme for this winter carries on: Running and swimming are great, but what about cycling?  I know spring is coming, though, which means I only have one more month until cycling can take a front seat in my training again (weather permitting, of course).  At this point, I’m starting to think beyond the marathon.  I’ve got my race calendar mostly worked out for the 2016 season, and I’ve started studying the (free) Ironman training program I selected.  Oh, and I’ve finally managed to make core work a regular part of my routine.  I’d like to expand how much I’m doing.  I hope to eventually be doing ab exercises four times a week, with a shorter session (8 minutes) three times a week and a longer (length to be determined) session once a week.

Mountains

*My hour-long race was more than 3000 yards and took place before the 21st, so it technically happened during this month.  However, when I come up with the averages, I only use completed weeks just to make it easier.  So since I will be using that swim towards my averages next month, I’ll use it as my longest swim that month as well.

Eight month checkup

Every month as the 21st approaches, I panic as I realize I’m one month closer to my Ironman.  I’m fully immersed in marathon training now, and I’m sad to report that my bike and I are not spending much quality time together recently.  But that’s how it goes.  Winter solstice is on Tuesday which means that the days will start getting longer again and spring will officially be on its way.  I’m already looking forward to its arrival.

Physical

Fitness:
My running times have continued to improve dramatically this month.  Last month, I struggled to run seven miles in a 7:47/mile pace, and this month, I easily ran eight miles in a 7:40/mile pace.  I’m very pleased with my continued progress.  I know that I’ll probably stop improving so quickly soon, but I thought the rapid “hey, I’m actually focusing on running!” stage of improvement would end sooner than it has.  I’ve had a few really solid swim workouts this month as well.  Additionally, while my swimming improvement has slowed down, I don’t think it has stopped yet.  I feel strong and comfortable in the water and recently had a very encouraging 1000 yard time (16:12).

General health:
I’ve had some trouble sleeping, so I’ve been a bit tired lately, but nothing that has been too frustrating.  My appetite has been solid, and my weight has stayed stable.  Of course, there’s that little matter of my leg pain that started last week.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the second I felt the discomfort/pain on the outside of my leg, I was reminded of my stress fracture from college.  The pain was on the lower outside of my left leg.  It was barely there right, but I remember noticing the pain from my stress fracture for the first time, and it was barely there too.  It may be paranoia, but I want to be careful, so I’m going to watch it really closely.  Based on my Googling, I suspect it’s just some tendon pain.  But if the pain gets worse and sticks around, I am going to cut way back on my running and maybe abandon marathon training all together.  My goal is the Ironman, and this marathon is just a training run.  It’s not worth it to hurt myself over it.  And the benefit of being a triathlete is that, in the case of injury, you have two other disciplines to focus on.  If this pang does turn out to be a real injury, I’ll just have to spend the rest of the winter on a trainer and in the pool.  And, I mean, the trainer sucks, but it’s better than the elliptical and pool running, which was my sentence during my last running injury.  The good news is that I don’t think any of that will be necessary because it’s been feeling fine the last day or so.

Mental

I’ve had some real low moments this month.  I “quit” running and triathlon after my speed workout last week, struggled with some real motivation issues with both running (normal) and swimming (not normal), and I faced some anxiety after my leg started hurting.  But I’ve worked really hard to keep these low moments in perspective and not let them bog me down.  And I’ve been pretty successful, too.  I generally struggle (to put it nicely) with keeping my perspective when things go wrong or when I feel crappy.  For some reason, I’m much better at remaining positive regarding triathlon.  Letting myself feel bad has helped.  My leg feels weird.  I may be imagining things or I may not be.  Regardless, I’m worried and it’s okay.  I can feel worried and not break down.  I was discouraged after my speed workout.  So I let myself be discouraged without beating myself up.  I knew I would feel better the next day, and I did.  Recognizing and accepting unpleasant emotions actually helps me process them.  Now if only I could do the same thing in non-triathlon life…

Superlatives

Longest swim: 3050 yards

Longest ride: 25.72 miles

Longest run: 17 miles

Most encouraging workout: I would have said my 17 mile run with my dad, but my weird leg pain/discomfort disqualifies that one.  So I’ll go with my masters swim workout where we did eight 200s.  I didn’t think I would be about to hold the 3:05 pace for all the repetitions, but I did(and even went faster on a few!).  I surpassed my expectations and showed more speed and endurance than I had earlier this fall.

Most discouraging workout: My seven 800s.  I’m not entirely sure why these were so discouraging because, in general, it was a strong workout.  But during the entire workout, the thought “I don’t want to be here” was floating around in my head.  As I walked back to my car, I was sick of training, waking up late, being tired, being thirsty, etc.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 96

Cycling: 68

Running: 200

TimePerSport08

Looking to the future

Just like last month, I’m pretty happy with my running progress.  I think my history of running and my decent aerobic base from the last few years of triathlons are the reasons why my running has improved so quickly.  It’s funny that when I first conceived the notion of running a marathon, I was hoping to break four hours and now I’m starting to wonder if I could hit an unofficial BQ time (unofficial because my dad and I aren’t running a real race—just doing a 26.2 mile training run).  If my leg (well, my body in general) holds up and if I keep training like I have been, I will feel great about my running when I start my Ironman training plan.  My swimming is going well, too.  My only perpetual worry is cycling.  It’s probably my weakest discipline of the three, and I’m not really giving it much love over the winter.  I just keep reminding myself that it’s the off-season and that I can’t focus on everything.

12317787_1010999392274770_1020421048_n(1)

Nine Month Checkup

And, in the blink of an eye, Ironman Coeur d’Alene is only nine months away.  It’s been an interesting month.  I’ve transitioned from spending most of my time cycling to spending most of my time running.  I’m not sure how I feel about that change.  I’ve seen definite improvement in my running, and I’m faster than I have been for years.  But I really miss long, early morning bike rides on the weekend, and I know I’ll only miss cycling more and more as winter progresses.  Hopefully, missing it during the winter will leave me extra motivated to start cycling again in full-force come spring.

Physical

Fitness:
My running and swimming have both been going well.  I’ve seen consistent improvement in my paces for my runs, and if I continue to perform the way I have been performing, I will feel very good about running come spring.  This month, I ran 13 miles at a 7:52/mile pace.  A few months ago when I signed up for the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon, I estimated that I would run the race at an 8:20/mile pace.  Needless to say, even I’m surprised at how fast I’ve, well, gotten fast.  Swimming has been a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t really plan to focus on improving my swimming over the winter, but since I’ve been attending Masters swim team, I feel like I’ve already made some small improvements and may continue to improve throughout the winter if I keep pushing myself.

General health:
I’m tired.  I don’t know if it’s the bump-up in my training or the onset of winter or a combination of the two, but I’ve been feeling it start to wear on me.  I have been getting more sleep and going to bed earlier.  In fact, I’ve been in bed before 9:00pm on several occasions recently.  My training plan calls for 2-3 days of cross-training in addition to my three key runs.  I’ve been doing three days of cross-training, so I may lower that number to two if I don’t start feeling more rested soon.  I’ve struggled some with my appetite this month (see below), but winter is coming, so I’ve put on a little weight anyway.

Mental

Some of my tiredness may be a result of not sleeping all that well, too.  Over the past month, I’ve experienced an uptick in my anxiety which always messes with my sleep.  I fall asleep fine, but I toss and turn.  (In a cruel twist of fate, when I tried out an anti-anxiety medication last year, the main side effect I had was waking up at 2am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.)  Additionally, it messed with my appetite some for a couple of weeks.  I was feeling pretty poorly fueled for a while, but it’s been much better this past week.  In regards to how I’m feeling mentally about the Ironman… I’m still feeling pretty good about my progress.  I’ve noticed myself become increasingly worried about losing bike fitness.  I know that taking time off intense training is important (and that I may be pushing myself close to the line with conquering a marathon on my off-season), so I’m pretty sure my fears about losing bike fitness are unfounded.  One of the skills you need to learn to deal with anxiety is a decent ability to tell a real fear from an unfounded one.  I think the fear of losing bike fitness with plague me throughout the winter, but because I’m pretty sure it’s unfounded, I won’t let myself “give in” to it and start riding five hours a week.

Superlatives

Longest swim workout: 2750 yards

Longest ride: 30 miles

Longest run: 13 miles

Most encouraging workout: My thirteen mile run in Boise with my dad.  I honestly didn’t know I was capable of running as fast as I did (7:52/mile) over such a long distance.  I ran almost thirty seconds per mile faster than the pace I predicted for the Salt Lake City Half Marathon I’ll be doing in April.

Most discouraging workout: Probably my climb up Little Cottonwood.  It wasn’t horribly discouraging, but I either underestimated the difficulty of the climb or overestimated by own fitness.  That made the climb itself quite discouraging (I almost turned around and gave up!).  But it also made making it to the top a little discouraging.  I wanted to conquer it, but I just survived it.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 82.5 minutes

Cycling: 110 minutes

Running: 138.75 minutes

TimePerSport09

Looking to the future

My marathon training is going well, and my running is improving faster than I thought it would.  I spent quite a few years forgetting that I had any talent for running whatsoever, and it’s been fun rediscovering that talent (as moderate as it may be).  I’m looking forward to seeing further improvement throughout the winter.  I’m hoping to continue seeing improvement in my swimming as well.  As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t expecting to improve my swimming much between now and the Ironman.  However, attending the local Masters swim class has already made a better swimmer.  I think I may improve enough to take a few minutes off my expected time.  Granted, a few minutes doesn’t mean all that much over the course of a 12-14 hour race, but it’s something.  Oh, and the core workouts I was going to do?  I think I did core after a run once this month, which is an improvement, but still really shoddy.  I’m adding that to the “try again next month” list.

LittleCottonwoodBright

Ten Month Checkup

It seems like just last week that I wrote my eleven month checkup.  I cannot believe how quickly the time is passing. When I initially decided that I would do Ironman Coeur d’Alene, the race was in late June.  They changed it just this year to late August, and I am so glad they did.  Those extra two months seem absolutely vital at this point.  Those extra two months are giving me the time to complete a whole marathon training cycle this winter which will be a huge confidence builder for me.  I’m a little bit disappointed because I know I’ll likely be racing in warmer weather than I would have been, but this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene was in June and was still over 100°, so at least I know to prepare for warm weather.  It won’t sneak up on me.

Physical

Fitness:
Cycling is winding down and running is ramping up.  And, right on schedule, I’m feeling great about my running.  I’ve been hitting paces I haven’t hit in a long time, especially when I visit Idaho and have the elevation advantage.  I wish I could match my Idaho performance here in Utah.  The elevation matters, but I think I also run faster when I’ve got a running partner.  When my dad is there to talk to, I forget how miserable running is and don’t have trouble keeping my pace up during the middle miles of a long run.  Regardless, I feel well-prepared to start marathon training in a couple of weeks.  Looking at my recent paces, I’m even considering training a little more aggressively than I had originally planned.  My long runs are currently slated for a 9:00/mile, but maybe an 8:45/mile would be more in line with my current fitness.

General health:
I’ve had a lingering cough for a long time now, but it hasn’t bothered me much recently.  My appetite has been much better, and I’m back up to a (mostly) healthy weight.  Really, my biggest issue is general fatigue.  I’ve just been tired lately.  The reason for that?  I’ve been staying up too late.  Simple as that.  I need to get my act together and put myself to bed 30-60 minutes earlier in the evenings.

Mental

Despite a slight panic when I realized the Ironman was only ten (TEN!) months away, I have been surprisingly tough mentally.  I’ve been working on positive self-talk, at least in regards to triathlon.  It’s strange, but positive self-talk is easier for me in the realm of athletics than it is in real life.  I can’t find my keys?  I’m a loser who never should have graduated high school!  I have a seriously bad workout?  I do what I can to finish it and plan to try a similar one the next week.  In addition to positive self-talk, I’m focusing on staying realistic.  I’ve been reading Ironman Coeur d’Alene race reports so I can try to anticipate and train for the very real difficulties I’ll face on race day.  So far, the most common issues (besides the fact that it’s a freaking Ironman!) seem to be choppy water and hills on the bike.  Next summer, I’m going to take a few day trips to Bear Lake to practice swimming in a large enough body of water to experience some noticeable chop.  And you better believe I will be prepared for the hills with all the canyons around here.

Superlatives

Longest swim workout: 2800yds

Longest ride: 37 miles

Longest run: 9 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 51:58 climb up Emigration Canyon.  I had been chasing that PR since June.  I knew I had it in me, but I was beginning to think the conditions wouldn’t align before winter hit.  I felt strong and fast, and I think I’ve finally learned how to push myself to the point of exhaustion on the bike.

Most discouraging workout: A really tragic speed workout on a treadmill during my lunch hour.  It was inexplicably bad—I still haven’t come up with a plausible theory for what happened to me that day.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 60 minutes

Cycling: 121.25 minutes

Running: 121.25 minutes

TimePerSport10

Looking to the future

I’ve done a good job preparing for the start of my marathon training.  Now I just need to keep up with my cycling and swimming even when I’m focusing on running.  I will be running three times a week.  I’d like to continue to get at least one good weekend ride in every week, at least while the weather stays pleasant.  However, I suspect that as the weather gets colder, I’ll start swimming more.  During the winter, I’d like to start attending masters twice a week instead of once.  Additionally, I want to add some core work to my routine.  For my next checkup, I want to have started doing a short ab workout 2-3 times a week.  I can’t tell you how many times I have decided I should probably do this and then have just never gotten around to it.

East Canyon earlier this month
East Canyon earlier this month