Season preview

Despite not blogging all winter, I did plan my season out.

After a season full of 100 mile bike rides and 15+ mile runs, I’m looking forward to a season that’s a little more relaxed and that allows me to do more on a Saturday than just work out and then groan on the couch for the rest of the day.

I’m doing a string of Olympic triathlons later in the summer. My goal is to PR and go under 2:30 for the full Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run). My current PR is 2:32:59 from the Echo Triathlon last year. If I’m being honest, this goal feels like a stretch for me this year. I took a break this winter, and my fitness took a hit. When I hit that time, I was in the best endurance-shape of my life. I’m not sure I can reach that level again with the effort that I’m willing to put in this year.

But the training program is still young, and I know that all the work I did last year didn’t simply disappear over the winter. So I’m willing to give it my best shot for my three bigger races and see what happens.

Races

Echo Triathlon (July 8, 2017)

Echo

This is the first triathlon I’m planning on doing in 2017. It’s a relatively flat course that lends itself to good times. I really do not think I’ll be in PR shape at this time, but it will be a good way to judge my current fitness level and make some adjustments for the rest of the season.

Jordanelle Triathlon (August 12, 2017)

Jordanelle

I’ve done this race before. The run portion of this race isn’t the full 10k, so it’s not a race that will allow me to meet my goal this season of an official PR. However, I’m excited to try this course again. The last time I did this race, I cracked on the run. The website mentioned that the run course contained “maintained paths” which I took to mean flat, hard-packed dirt. What it actually meant was short, steep uphills and downhills on some soft, rugged (for this non-trail-runner) dirt paths. This year, I want to feel good about my run.

The Brineman Triathlon (September 16, 2017)

Brineman

This race is new to me. It’s held up near the Great Salt Lake. The swim, however, is in some freshwater man-made lakes in a residential community. The bike course is flat (but probably windy!), and the run course is flat as well. This should be a fast course, and it’s probably my best chance at a PR.

Training

This winter, I bought and read The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel. I created my own training plan based on the principles (and detailed instructions!) contained in the book. I’m planning to write a review of the book eventually, but I’d like to see how this season turns out before I do so.

With a new training approach have come some new training techniques. Not surprisingly, I’m doing a few things a little differently than I have in the past.

Weight training

While training for triathlons, I’ve never lifted to gain strength. I’ve done strength work, but it’s been for injury prevention with some core strength added in. Because true strength work is a suggested part of training in The Triathlete’s Training Bible, I’ve decided to give it a shot. I am confident enough in my form and my knowledge of my own limits that I am not worried about injuring myself. So I’ve been doing two 30 minute “heavy” (lololol) lifting sessions and one 15 minute injury prevention session where I do body-weight exercises to strengthen my stabilizer muscles (e.g. MYRTLs).

Weekly planning

In the past, I’ve had a training plan that is more or less “set,” with the specific workouts for each week determined from the beginning. This time around, I set the weekly hours and the types of workouts for the week (speed skills, aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, etc.) right from the start. But each week, I assign those hours out to specific workouts. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s making me more thoughtful (“I feel like running was underrepresented last week… I should make it more of a focus this week”) or less thoughtful (“Crap, it’s Sunday night! What am I doing tomorrow? What am I doing all week?”). More to come on that as the situation progresses.

Muscular endurance and anaerobic endurance

When I was training for my Ironman, I did almost exclusively slow aerobic work. However, for shorter distances, Friel suggests doing muscular endurance and anaerobic endurance workouts (which basically amount to interval work). The idea is that, after establishing a strong aerobic base, you get your legs (or arms) used to pushing faster paces for a sustained time. Muscular endurance workouts are going to have longer, slightly less intense intervals than anaerobic endurance workouts. I plan on including these workouts in my training as suggested, but I’m a little skeptical simply because of my own strengths and weaknesses. My strength and background is in faster, shorter events, and I set my PR in a relatively short race last year after doing almost all endurance work that season. I do intend to focus a little more on endurance than Friel suggests for someone aiming to compete in Olympic-distance races, but I’ll add in the muscular and anaerobic endurance workouts as prescribed too.

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On taking a break

I didn’t really mean to take the kind of break I took. My intention over the winter was to keep blogging, keeping running and cycling at least once a week, and focus on my swimming.

One of those things happened.

I stopped blogging. Obviously. And, as the temperature dropped and the snow drifts grew, my determination to keep running and cycling waned. I did, however, focus on swimming. During the latter portion of the winter (the portion I wasn’t taking off entirely), I was in the pool constantly. Or, at least, it felt that way. And it paid off with PR after PR in the pool. Turns out that swimming hits all my training necessities: intense, plenty of room for improvement, enjoyable, and satisfying. I admit that I briefly considered giving up triathlon all together and just becoming a swimmer.

And a break from running (and maybe even cycling) is exactly what I needed.  By the time I ran my PR at the Thanksgiving 5k last year, I was teetering on the edge of a full-blown burnout. The rare workout that wasn’t a mental battle was still mentally and emotionally draining, as melodramatic as that sounds. I had spent the entire winter the year before training for a marathon. I spent spring and summer training for an Ironman. And I kept training relatively seriously through the fall while aiming for that 5k PR.

So of course I needed a break.

It was both inevitable and surprisingly difficult. I was hitting the point where I would have needed super-human motivation (the likes of which I just didn’t have anymore) to keep training hard. But I also faced some real guilt when I just allowed myself to relax. I was in the best shape of my life, after all. I worried I would lose all of that fitness if I didn’t keep pushing. When you train consistently, aim to perform well, and love PRs, it’s hard to just chill when you’ve still been seeing results.

After a month and a half or so, where I really did just do what I wanted when I wanted to, I dove into my swim training. I attended Masters all three days every week, as well as swimming on my own most of days Masters didn’t meet. As I mentioned, I intended to keep running and cycling a little during this period, but I just didn’t want to. So I didn’t. And, you know, my swimming improved. I hit plenty of milestones (under 30 seconds in the 50 free, 4000 yards in the one-hour swim, and sub-15 [14:34] in the 1000yd time trial, to name a few), and I feel like I made some serious progress towards becoming a Swimmer instead of just a person who swims.

All that while spring (and triathlon season) slowly crept up on me.

It wasn’t long before I couldn’t really ignore the beautiful spring weather and the advancing calendar any more. I had to start running and cycling again. I’ll admit, though, that even then, I was dragging my feet. I briefly regretted signing up for those triathlons because now I felt obligated to do them, despite my lack of excitement about the season.

It didn’t help that, a couple weeks before my training plan officially started, I took a lovely spill during a run (thanks, overly-long-shoelaces-trend!) which left my hand pretty chewed up and kept me off the bike for a few days and out of the pool for a week or so.

So when my first “training week” approached, I was a bit nervous about how I would handle it. The fact that I came down with the worst cold I’ve had all year that very week didn’t help, either. Here I was, after swimming 5-7 hours a week all winter, suddenly doing 8.5 hours of training a week, complete with running, cycling, and lifting weights. But I made it through the first week week. And the next one. Some of my runs were a little painful (going uphill with a nasty cold at a slightly higher elevation than usual after not running regularly for a few months doesn’t exactly make your lungs feel great). My second “long” ride (1.75 hours) was a rude reminder that climbing is hard and that swimming is not great cross training for cycling up hills. I had to push away thoughts of how much fitness I must have lost and force myself not to think about how tired I was after what would have been an easy recovery workout last fall.

But overall, I was surprised at how good I felt. I refused to time myself for the first few weeks in an attempt to quell insecurities around lost fitness and slow paces. I just did my best to enjoy the workouts and get used to the routine again. After a few weeks of training, I’m surprised at how natural it all feels. Though I do kind of miss lazing around with no responsibilities on weekends, it’s been wonderful to get outside again and enjoy my beautiful city.

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This view is literally 8 miles (and a nice bike ride) away from my office.

And, after an initial period of getting used to running and cycling, I do feel refreshed. While I’m still uncertain if I’ll break any PRs this summer or even approach the level of fitness I had during Ironman training, I’m excited about my workouts again. I feel lucky to be running and cycling instead of obligated to do so. And, while I’ve obviously lost fitness and endurance, I’m not nearly as bad off as I feared I would be after my first couple lung-busting jogs.

When I think about how I feel about training now compared to how I felt at the end of November, there’s just no comparison. Despite being in much the same position otherwise (still a little depressed, still binge-watching way too much TV, still struggling to keep up with other “adult” things like cooking and cleaning), my workouts and my routine are making me feel better and not worse. That’s not to say I don’t sometimes dread a steep run into work or that particular section of a climb on my bike or a particularly painful set in the pool. But it’s something I ultimately want to do. It’s not a burden.

Ultimately, I think for me, taking a break was an exercise in trust. The fear around a break (in anything) is that I won’t want to go back, that taking time away from, in this case, running and cycling will make me realize how much better life is without the pressure. But, whaddya know, here I am. It turns out we come back to the things we love, even if we do initially leave feeling burned out and washed up and even if it does take a little motivation to take those first steps out the door or pump up those tires again for the first time.

Weekly Recap (9/19-9/25)

Monday: Swim—2450 yards
I stayed up fairly late on Sunday (impromptu movie date, which is always fun!), so I wasn’t really happy about getting up early to go swimming.  Once I went, though, I ended up having a good time.  We did a lot of kicking which is one of the weak parts of my stroke.  So while it was a tough workout, I know it was the kind of workout I need to do more often.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
5 x 50 (catch up)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
Whistle kicks (250 yards)
200 build
Whistle kicks (250 yards)
200 easy
4 x 100 (kick)
100 easy
The last 100s of kicking were hard, and they left my legs burning.  However, I felt good about how my kick is progressing.  One woman that I swim with used to have a much faster kick than I do.  Now she just has a somewhat faster kick than I do.  Progress!

Tuesday: Run—6.5 miles (54:59); Strength—15 minutes
I went on my run in the morning from my office.  I felt better than I did Sunday, and the run was actually almost pleasant.  The route that I run from my office is actually remarkably scenic.  It takes me by a river and onto some country roads.  So it was nice to get out there again and be all alone with my thoughts.  I actually managed to run under an 8:30/mile pace on a run that was longer than a couple miles for the first time in who-knows-how-long.  I also hopped back on the preventative strength training wagon.  During lunch, I did a short 15 minute session.  I need to get back into the habit of strengthening my hips and glutes so I can avoid future injuries as much as possible.

Wednesday: Swim—2600 yards
On Wednesday, we typically focus on a single stroke.  Today, much to my elation, that stroke was freestyle.  Because the focus of this workout was on form, we did more drills than usual.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (kick, swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
200 easy
3 x 50 (10-kick barrel roll)
3 x 50 (10-kick barrel roll, ¾ catchup)
3 x 50 (catchup)
3 x 50 (¾ catchup)
3 x 100 (build and descend)
100 easy
2 x 100 (build and descend)
100 easy
100 fast (1:15)
I noticed a slightly different metric of progress during this workout.  I am so much better at meting out effort than I was when I first started swimming with Masters.  For the build and descend sets, we were supposed to build speed throughout each 100 and swim each full 100 of the set faster than the last one.  In the past, I would have felt totally blind starting a set like that, with no idea where my starting effort level needed to be.  However, I felt much more comfortable approaching the set on Wednesday.  And I did manage to both speed up throughout each interval and get faster overall for each 100.

Thursday: Swim—3000 yards
It was a distance day at Masters.  I got some good feedback on my stroke early on (my hand is misplaced during my midpull), so I spent the practice concentrating on that particular aspect of my stroke.
500 swim
300 kick
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
200 (catch and midpull)
250 (breathe every third stroke)
300 (6-beat kick)
250 (breathe every third stroke)
200 (catch and midpull)
100 easy
500 negative split (3:50, 3:30)
200 easy
This workout didn’t look too hard up on the whiteboard, but it ended up being a tough one.  I swam hard, so by the time I was coming back down the ladder, I was really fatigued.  I took a decent break before I did the 500 at the end.  As usual, I wasn’t sure quite how fast to start out.  So I took a guess.  I ended up starting a little too slow.  Ideally, the negative splits would have been closer to each other (say, 3:40 and 3:35).  But I still felt really good about the workout.  I made an adjustment to my stroke that should have me swimming faster in a few weeks.  I really pushed myself.  And I am getting better at judging my pace.

Friday: Rest
I took a rest day because of my race the next day.  I enjoyed the rest, but I did notice I was bouncing off the walls at work.  Usually, I go for a walk during lunch, but I couldn’t do that either because of the rain, so I suspect that was part of it.

Saturday: Run—5k (22:30)
I ran the Paul Moore Foundation 5k on Saturday.  Despite the cold, rainy weather before the race, it went fairly well.  I’m not sure my time reflects where my fitness is currently (more to come in the race report), and I’m somewhat interested in signing up for another race with a larger field to see what I can do.

othertrees

Sunday: REST
I had planned on exercising, but I woke up and didn’t really want to.  So I didn’t.  I’m really enjoying that aspect of recovery—guilt-free skipped workouts.  The off-season rules!

Weekly Recap (9/12-9/18)

Monday: Swim—3000 yards
I didn’t feel great when I woke up.  I was tired and feeling a bit run-down for whatever reason.  I even briefly considering skipping practice and went with the idea that I’d work hard but not beat myself up if I wasn’t swimming well. And it ended up being a lesson in not judging how a workout will feel by how you feel beforehand.
500 swim
300 kick
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
10 x 100 @ 1:35
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
8 x 75 (kick) @ 1:35
200 strong
We finished our warm-up and the coach showed us our workout.  The workout is generally the same for all lanes, with the interval being different depending on what the “speed” of your lane is.  When I saw 1:35 for our lane, I almost nope’d out of there.  I held 1:35 for five 100s a couple weeks ago, and it was rough.  No way could I do ten.  But the lane one below mine was only holding 1:45, and that’s relatively easy for me these days.  I knew at least one of the women in my lane was around my speed and that if I failed to make the interval, she probably would too (which is kind of a jerk thing to think, but that affected my decision).  So I stayed in the lane and decided to go for it.  And I made it!  I made the interval every time.  By the end, I was holding just around 1:30 for each 100.  I was pretty stoked that I nailed this workout.  I knew I was close, but I thought it’d be another month or so of swimming 3-4 times a week before I’d get 10 x 100 @ 1:35.

Tuesday: Rest
I took a rest day.  I was able to get some stuff done around the house and get to bed nice and early (before 9:00pm).

Wednesday: Swim—1750 yards + open turns
It was IM (individual medley) day at swim practice which means we did work on all four strokes.  It was absolutely exhausting, but I know it was good for me.
200 reverse IM
200 IM kick
200 inverse IM
4 x 50 (kick, swim; IM order)
4 x 50 (closed fist; IM order)
6 x 125 IM (rotating fast 50)
Turns
For the 125s, we would do 25 of three strokes and 50 of one.  We were supposed to swim the extended stroke fast.  So we started with a fast (ha!) 50 of butterfly followed by 25 of each of the rest of the strokes.  During the next 125, we extended the backstroke leg to 50 and swam 25 of each of the rest.  You get the picture.  It was hard.  I was swimming with the faster of the two lanes I use when I usually choose to swim with the slower lane during workouts that aren’t focused on freestyle.  So I was struggling to keep up.  I was definitely bringing up the rear, but I never really got left behind, so I was pleased with my performance.  At one point while swimming the butterfly, I actually thought, “This doesn’t feel completely horrible!”  We did open turns at the end of practice, and it’s clear that I need more practice on that front, but I have no plans to race anything other than freestyle for a long time, so needing more practice isn’t a bad thing at this point.

Thursday: Run—10,000m (6.2 miles)
Track day!  I decided to do a 5k predictor workout.  So I turned to my trusty companion Google and started looking.  I saw a few options, but the one I decided on was 4 x 1600.  Simple and elegant.  I had no idea how easy or difficult this workout would be, and I wasn’t even sure what pace I should be targeting.  I decided to target a 6:59/mile pace which comes out to a 6:56 for each 1600.
1600m warmup
4 x 1600 w/400m recovery (6:54.1, 6:55.2, 6:51.8, 6:53.3)
800m cooldown
This workout was harder than I had hoped.  I had hoped I would nail it and feel great the whole time and realize that all that time away from any tempo work hadn’t affected me negatively at all.  Not quite.  I hit all my paces, but I had to work for it.  And while I currently have a large aerobic base and my baseline anaerobic speed, that area in the middle is not quite up to par with the other two.  I’m still pleased with how the workout went.  I hit my pace for each repetition even with the jogging recovery.  I got faster instead of slower towards the end (and would have been able to run that last 1600 faster than I did if I hadn’t developed a nasty side stitch).  I feel comfortable pegging my current 5k pace around 7:00/mile, which was the point of this workout anyway.  I just wanted it to be epic and groundbreaking, and instead it was just a regular ol’ solid workout.

Friday: Swim—1750 yards + sharks and minnows
I did not want to go to the pool on Friday.  I was tired and had stayed up too late the night before and was feeling lazy.  But I dragged myself out of bed and went, mostly because I wanted to ask the coach about recommendations for warming up before a meet.  It was “fun” Friday, so we played a game after a short workout.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
6 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 25 (underwater)
2 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
20 x 25 @ :30
100 easy
Sharks and minnows
The 25s felt hard, but I was swimming them almost as fast as I could.  My time slowed down pretty significantly over the 20 reps.  I started at 16ish seconds and my last ones were almost 20 seconds, but I think that’s to be expected when you are swimming so many fast intervals in a row.  Then we played sharks and minnows which was fun, but eh.  I wasn’t too into it (see above reasons for not wanting to get out of bed in the first place).  But once I got to work and drank my daily cup of coffee, I was feeling a little better.

Saturday: Swim meet (650 yards)
I had my first swim meet!  I’ll save the recap for a later post, but it went well.  I warmed up by swimming 300 yards and then doing two 100 yard builds.  I also did a couple starts.  I raced the 50 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle for a total of 650 yards.

20160917_153135

Sunday: Run—7 miles (1:01:56)
This was my longest run (by a long shot) since my Ironman.  It’s strange… while I returned to swimming and cycling with no trouble after my race, running has taken a little longer.  I didn’t feel awesome on this run, partly because my calves were still a little sore from speedwork and probably partly because I haven’t been running much.  I’ve enjoyed the speedwork I’ve done lately, but I haven’t really wanted to do any tempo runs or longer runs.  Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for focusing on the 5k this fall, but I’m still in the “do what I feel like day-by-day” stage of post-Ironman life.  After my 5k next week, I’m going to start finalizing my off-season “plan.”  And, whatever my focuses end up being, finalizing my off-season plans will likely mean biting the bullet and adding some more running into my schedule.

On looking stupid

Last week, I registered for my first ever swim meet.

Our Masters coach mentioned it to us as a good meet for beginners because it wasn’t sanctioned by USMS (US Masters Swimming) which meant that you didn’t have to pay the $40+ USMS membership fee to participate.  Plus, it was relatively inexpensive in general.  It would only cost me $18 to sign up for the two events I wanted to do.

fallintoswimming
Any skill level?  It’s so welcoming… what could go wrong?!

However, the other effect of this meet not being by USMS is that it’s an all-ages meet, meaning that anyone aged 6 and up can participate.  There are age groups, of course, with the oldest group being all swimmers who are 17 or older (this is obviously the group to which I belong).  I had a niggling worry in the back of my head from the moment I heard about the meet.  It just sounded like it was a meet geared towards kids which is great, but imagining myself competing at a meet full of kids made me feel a bit like a creeper.

So I asked our coach about it.  “If I sign up, am I going to be the only adult there?”

“Well, there you’ll probably see a few other adults, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was going to be mostly kids.”

Great.

If I signed up for this meet, I was going to be the tall, gangly, creepy 28 year old lining up behind a bunch of 12 year olds, all of whom would be faster than me.  It would be me and a bunch of kids competing, and their parents (who would probably be my age, by the way) would all stare at me and wonder what in the heck my deal was.

In other words, I was going to look really stupid.

I immediately started reconsidering whether I wanted to do this meet or not.  Now, the odd thing is that I wasn’t worried about my performance, per se.  I wasn’t worried that I would swim way below my ability (I’m pretty consistent in shorter races).  I wasn’t worried that I would be bringing up the back of the field (I already knew that was probably going to be the case).  I was straight-up scared of looking stupid.

It wouldn’t be the first time I let “looking stupid” be a huge factor in making a decision.  And, to be honest, if I had been on the fence about the swim meet, “looking stupid” would likely have been the reason that tipped the scales towards me not signing up.  But I wasn’t on the fence.  Usually, I race reluctantly and because I like the way I feel after.  But my swimming has improved a lot, and I wanted a chance to see what I could do in a race.  I was actually uncharacteristically excited about racing.

I see-sawed back and forth for a bit before I realized that literally the only argument my “don’t do it” side was making was, “But what if you look really stupid?”  And regardless of how pervasive that fear is, it’s not a strong enough reason to change my mind.

So I drove about a thousand miles out of my way (well, 15 miles, anyway) on the way home from work and dropped off my registration.

That night, I had a dream that I showed up at the meet and it was literally just me and a bunch of six year olds.

It’s a very real possibility that said premonition won’t be too far off the reality.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay if I get weird looks from twelve year olds who are wondering why a grown-up is swimming with the high schoolers.  It’s okay if some of the moms wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life if I’m still competing with kids even though I’m clearly no longer a kid myself.  And if I look stupid?  Oh well, I guess.  It wouldn’t be the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Weekly Recap (8/29-9/04)

Monday: Swim—2500 yards
I felt infinitely better during Masters on Monday than I did the previous Thursday.  I actually pushed myself fairly hard and performed fairly close to how I would had I been fully recovered.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (fast kick, easy swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
10 x 100 @ 1:40
4 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
25 easy
100 sprint (1:11)
75 easy
I was the only person in my lane, and I was given the choice of doing the 100s on 1:40 or on 1:45.  I waffled between the two options, unsure of what my not-yet-completely-recovered body was capable of.  In the end, I swam the first 100 as a test.  When I came in at 1:20 (ugh, too fast…), I decided to go on 1:40.  The rest of my 100s were fairly consistently, falling somewhere between 1:25 and 1:28.  I did the 100 sprint at the end from the blocks.  Considering my bad start (I was expecting three commands and forgot that swimming only has two), I was relatively pleased with my time.  I think that I could break 1:10 swimming fresh with a decent start.

Tuesday: Rest
I’m still recovering, and I definitely needed a rest day.  My muscles are pretty much back to normal, and my swim on Monday indicated I can bust out a solid workout.  However, I am consistently wiped out before even the end of the day.  It’s a strange feeling!

Wednesday: Swim—2000 yards
I’ve decided to stop avoiding swim practices where we focus on something other than freestyle.  We did the backstroke on Wednesday, so the whole workout was backstroke, unless noted otherwise.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull (front)
4 x 50 (10 kick barrel roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
3 x 50 (rock and roll drill)
3 x 50 (Eiffel tower catch-up)
3 x 50 (one arm each way)
3 x 50 (six beat kick)
100 easy (freestyle)
3 x 100
Backstroke is hard, and I’m am not good at it.  Still, it was a good workout and the focus on drills was very helpful.  I actually felt like I was improving a bit and getting more comfortable doing the stroke by the end of the workout.  I couldn’t believe how tired my neck got, though.  I did some Very Scientific Googling afterwards, and I think that’s normal when one is just beginning to practice backstroke.

Thursday: Run—30:00 (3.27 miles)
I was going to enjoy a nice, easy run in the neighborhoods around my office.  However, I planned to run in the morning, and when I went outside after dropping my things off at my cubicle, it started raining relatively heavily.  I don’t really mind running in the rain, but I didn’t want to get soaked and then spend the whole day in my freezing cold office building.  So I took it to the office gym and ran at an easy pace on the treadmill instead.  I thought about just taking the day off, but I didn’t.  I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not (is it in the spirit of recover?), but I was glad that I did it afterwards, so I think it was right decision.

Friday: Swim—1600 yards + starts
I was excited to practice starts all day on Thursday, so even though I didn’t sleep well, it wasn’t hard to get up and go to Masters.  We did a warmup and short workout before doing starts:
200 reverse IM
200 IM kick
200 inverse IM
6 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 25 (underwater)
20 x 25 @ :25
75 easy
Starts
25 fast (from blocks)
I enjoyed practicing starts, and I’m getting much better at them.  I only lost my goggles once, and that was when I was focusing so hard on one aspect of the start that I failed to focus on entering the water in a streamline position.  My starts aren’t great, but they are sufficient for a beginner.

Saturday: Bike—1:28:59 (21.86 miles)
Rob and I climbed Emigration Canyon together.  I took it fairly easy during most of the climb but I really laid on the gas the last couple of miles.  It was nice to get some hard work in while overall enjoying an easy ride.  Not much to say about this ride, other than that fall was in the air!

Emigration
An old photo of Emigration because I was too #lazy to take a new one.

Sunday: Rest Swim—1600 yards
I planned on going for a ride before church in the morning.  However, I didn’t sleep well, and I woke up feeling tired and not all that excited to ride.  However, I had planned it, so I felt some internal pressure to do it.  I realized that was completely not in the spirit of “taking things day by day” and “mental and physical recovery,” so I made the decision to skip the ride.  And later, I made the decision to skip church as well.  And despite some residual guilt over the day, I’m glad I did.  So far, I’ve been getting some housework done and watching Rob play video games.  Good decision.

EDIT: Scratch that.  Later in the day, I started getting bored and decided to head to the pool for a short swim.  Most of the swim was my warm-up (fairly easy), but I did some fast 100s too.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (3/4 catchup)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
5 x 100 @ 1:35
100 easy
I eventually want to be able to do ten 100s on the 1:35 interval, so this was a good test of how close I was to that. I could have probably done one (and maaaaaybe two) more repeats, but I couldn’t have done all ten. My times for these 100s ranged from 1:20 to 1:24.

Weekly Recap (8/22-8/28)

Monday: Rest
On Monday, Rob and I drove back to Nampa to spend one more night with my family.  My sisters and nieces and nephews came over and we had a little party with pizza and ice cream cake.  It was a fun way to celebrate my accomplishment!

KidsCake
The older two are learning to look at the camera for pictures, at least!

Tuesday: Rest
And on Tuesday, Rob and I drove back to Salt Lake.  We were 100% exhausted by the time we were done with the drive.  The adrenaline from the weekend was wearing off.  Neither one of us even unpacked.

Wednesday: Rest
It was my first day back at work.  I was actually glad to get back into my regular routine.  Fortunately, my day-to-day work has been light lately (I’ve been working on project-type things instead), so I didn’t have any catastrophes or any build-up of work waiting for me.

Thursday: Swim—Masters swim team
I ventured back to the pool for my first post-Ironman workout.  We did a distance set in Masters, but I took it pretty easy.  The workout was as follows:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
6 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 25 (eyes closed)
3 x (200 build
5 minutes swim)
150 easy
I was surprised how rough this workout was on me.  For the rest of the day, I felt like I had done a long run or bike ride in the morning instead of an easy swim.  Ironman fatigue is real!

Friday: Run—30:00
I kind of felt like being active on Friday, but I wasn’t feeling an early wakeup and hard swim in the morning.  So I brought my running clothes to work and did a quick and easy thirty minutes during lunch.  I took it very slow, and I was still feeling pretty tired and ready to stop by the end.  However, it didn’t seem to wipe me out as completely as my swim the day before had, which surprised me a bit.

Saturday: Bike—1:00:20 (16.47 miles)
On Saturday morning, I took my bike out for the first time since the race.  It was remarkably easy getting ready for a short morning ride as opposed to a 6-7 hour long one.  My legs were a little slow getting started, but once I warmed up a bit, I felt surprisingly good.  I couldn’t have handled any serious hills, but the route I did felt just fine.  This was the first workout where I wasn’t thinking that I was tired/stiff/sore from the Ironman the entire time, so I think I’m recovering well.

Sunday: Bike—1:00:28 (16.43 miles)
I did another easy ride on Sunday morning.  It almost exactly the same as my ride on Saturday morning, and I felt equally okay.  I’m definitely not fully recovered yet.  These short workouts are fine, but I can’t believe how wiped out I am at the end of a remarkably relaxing day.  I know I’m getting there, though, and I suspect that after another week or two of taking things easy, I’ll be able to start thinking about what I want to accomplish between now and the start of the next triathlon season.

Weekly Recap (8/08-8/14)

Monday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—1:01:21 (17.21 miles); Strength—15 minutes
Because the pool was closed for repair, the Masters group met at a local outdoor pool instead.  Swimming outside was absolutely wonderful.  It was a bit chilly Monday morning, so the pool water felt warm.  And welcoming the sunrise in the pool is a wonderful thing.  I swam the workout hard, so even though it was relatively low yardage, it was tough:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (10-kick barrel roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
50 easy
4 x (4 x 25 strong kick
2 x 50 focusing on push-off
100 fast)
250 easy
I noticed that I finished this workout about the same time as the really fast woman in the lane next to me.  I suspect she was still swimming faster, but perhaps she took a little more time between the four main sets of the workout.  I considered this a big win in the pool, and I felt justified in being totally gassed at the end of each set.

After work, I headed out on a short bike ride.  I’ve read that during taper, you should lower the time and up the intensity, and since my training plan seems to follow that advice (this ride included a 40 minute tempo section in the middle), I have been trying to keep my workouts more intense than normal.  Because of that, I rode fairly hard.  I tried to keep my tempo up and power up hills a little more than usual.  I ended up having a strong ride and averaging close to 17mph.  After my ride, I did some strength work.

Tuesday: Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
Tuesday was a very welcome almost-rest day.  I slept in until 6:00am and did my strength and core work during lunch at work.  After work, Rob and I went over to his parents’ house and played with their adorable and crazy new puppy.  I did some laundry and some cleaning as well.  Overall, it was a very productive day of rest.

Wednesday: Run—40:00 (4.88 miles); 8-minute abs
Man, I am loving taper!  On Wednesday, I did a short run with some strides thrown in.  I tried to take it a bit faster than my normal “cruise” pace, but I wasn’t supposed to push this run too hard.  I ended up finishing this run with an 8:12/mile pace.  It was a solid effort, but I didn’t struggle during it.  It was also surprisingly cool during this run.  I was actually a bit chilly going out in my tank top at 7:00am.  The running temperature was just perfect, and it was a welcome change to feel a little bit cold upon first stepping out the door.  In the evening, I did some core work.

Thursday: Bike—1:30:00 (26.11 miles)
The workout on Thursday was a ladder on the bike where I increased and then decreased the effort over the course of 90 minutes.  The breakdown was as follows:
10:00 @ RPE2
15:00 @ RPE5
40:00 @ RPE7
15:00 @ RPE5
10:00 @ RPE2
I rode hard, and I was surprised at how good I felt, considering the early morning.  With the help of decent conditions (the headwind at the Point of the Mountain was no more than a pleasant breeze), I demolished my best time so far for this particular route to work.  I managed to average 17.4mph, even with a little headwind and a net elevation gain.  This ride gave me hope for future triathlon seasons.  If I can hold 17.4mph on that route on a training day for an hour and a half, I can train to ride that speed for longer (say, 56 miles… not that that particular distance has been on my mind lately…).  It was a nice little pick-me-up to start the day.

Friday: Rest
I wrapped things up at work on Friday—last day of work before the Ironman!  I had a fairly relaxing evening and watched Stardust with Rob for the first time ever… how I went so long without seeing it I’ll never know.  On the workout front, it was a complete rest day.  The nerves have really been ramping up this week, so while the rest is nice, it doesn’t help much with the nerves.

Saturday: Swim—45:13; Bike—1:56:58 (35.21 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I had a really great plan for my work out on Saturday.  I drove up to Bountiful Pond for some open water swimming and brought my bike with me to ride afterwards.  I was going to ride three hours, end up back at my car, and drive home.  The swim went well.  I felt strong and smooth in the water, even if my goggles did keep fogging up.  After my swim, I got my bike put together and headed out on my ride.  It was still fairly early, so the first fifteen minutes or so was cold.  It’s something to remember for race day.  I was a bit tight at first (again, cold!), but I loosened up and was feeling strong and enjoying the ride.  It was flat, so I was going fast.  And then, almost two hours in, I felt the suspicious sluggish feeling that every cyclist hates.  I looked at my back tire and saw I had a flat tire.  And then when I stopped, I saw I had a goat head in my front tire as well and that it was losing air.  Here’s the thing—I only had one spare tube with me.  Rob was helping his aunt move, so I had trouble getting a hold of him which led to me just calling him over and over again until he happened to be in the same room as his phone.  The whole fiasco cost me a bunch of time, and since I had other things to do that day as well, I stopped my work out there with the intent to make up that final hour the next day.  I did some strength work in the afternoon as well.

Bountiful2
Throwback to the last time I visited Bountiful Pond because I forgot to take a picture. 🙂

Sunday: Bike—1:01:34 (16.9 miles); Run—1:34:37 (10.89 miles); 8-minute abs
I got up early and did an hour on the bike in the morning.  It was typical, and nothing stands out, except that it was actually a little cold in the morning—a sign of the coming fall!  Afterwards, I did my run.  I started off strong, but apparently, I faded a bit on the second half.  I think I may have started out a bit too fast up the first hill, and I also didn’t have any mile markers to track my pace on the second half of my run.  I was a little bummed out that I only hit an 8:41/mile pace, but it is what it is.  It was still a strong run, and I felt good at the end.  Since my IM pace is at least :30/mile slower than the pace I ran today, I’m trying not to let it bother me at all. I did some core work in the afternoon—my last core work before the Ironman!

Highs and lows of Ironman training

I’ve been training with an Ironman in mind for about a year now, and race day is almost upon me.  I shy away from using words like “journey” or “adventure” for the things that I do (if I ever have to destroy a ring or kill a dragon, I’ll start).  But it’s certainly been an experience.  Training for an Ironman is by far the most physically taxing thing I’ve done in my life.  And, like anything tough, it’s had its ups and downs.  There have been times when I have felt like I’m on top of the world.  And then there have been the times when I break into tears for no real reason.

These moments obviously stand out, and I can recall several of each on a moments notice.

The highs

Coming in as the second woman overall in a local sprint triathlon.

Taking well over a minute off my 1000 yard time trial.  I’m not sure exactly where I was a year ago, but I think I was somewhere north of 17 minutes.  A month or so ago, I did 1000 yards in 15:24.

PRing in every leg of my Olympic triathlon.  By a lot.

Going for a 17.7 mile run and a long swim on the same day and still getting antsy enough to go for a walk in the evening.  Long runs that were 15+ miles used to wipe me out completely for the whole day.  Now, they’re rather pedestrian.

Taking in the beautiful views of Utah, whether that be on the bike or on the run.

Feeling excited to be on my bike riding at mile 101 during my first 100+ mile training ride. (That’s not to say I felt amazing at every mile before that, but it was a great way to learn that I can be sick of the bike and then get over that and be excited about it again.)

Finishing peak week, the one I couldn’t look at when I first started training because I thought there was no way I could possibly do all that.

Completing my 2-3 hour long runs with no IT band pain whatsoever.

20160709_095446(0)
On my way to a massive PR!

The lows

Getting my bike and car stolen in one fell swoop.

Sitting on the side of the road crying because my IT band pain was too bad to finish running home.

Failing to hit my marathon goals rather spectacularly.

Getting hopelessly lost on the way to and home from work when I decided to commute by bike.

Having an emotional breakdown on the train on the way to work because I thought the title for my wrecked car was lost in the mail.

Crashing on the bike and spending the next three weeks gingerly favoring a nasty contusion on my upper thigh.

Every single part of my body aching around mile 80 of my long training rides.

Riding 35 miles home against the wind and completely demoralized.

ScratchedBike
Aftermath of the bike crash.

These high and low moments stand out in training, but this collection of moments doesn’t really relay what Ironman training is like.  Most of it is neither demoralizing nor inspiring.  Like anything in life, it’s rather pedestrian.  Putting in the time and effort becomes the new normal and simply becomes another part of your routine.

And, while the moments of either extreme are the ones that stick out, they aren’t the important part of Ironman training.  It’s the consistency that matters.  And while a stellar sessions stands out and boosts your confidence, what matters when tracking your progress is how a perfectly average training session goes the first month into the training cycle compared to how a perfectly training sessions goes during the peak of your training.

Earlier this week, I was looking through some old blog posts.  I saw that I mentioned doing a swim workout of 10 x 100 @1:50.  I described a workout that was exhausting and absolutely pushed me to my limits.  And I realized that now, I can do a set of 10 x 100 @1:40 without much trouble at all.  I’ve even started to wonder if I could manage a set of 10 x 100 @1:35.  I’ve seen similar improvements in my running and cycling over the past year.  And it was every moment in my training that helped me make that progress.  It was the breakout sessions.  It was the workouts where I just felt flat but worked hard anyway.  It was the times that I stepped out the door even though I was tired and frustrated.  It was the times I realized that my body truly needed rest and I took a session easier than initially planned.

The workouts and moments that stand out are the ones that are both easiest to remember and ripest for inspiration.  I use the memories of good workouts to inspire myself and memories of hard ones to remind myself that I can keep going.  But really, the daily grind is where the magic happens.

20160614_175109
Injury prevention.
20160508_134324
Trainer rides.
WinterTrack
Track repeats in the snow.
20160518_182937.jpg
Consistency is where the magic happens.

Weekly Recap (8/01-8/07)

Monday: Swim—3000 yards; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I went to Masters swim team in the morning.  We did a distance day which was probably good for me.  It was one of those workouts that looked easier on the board than it ended up being which is really the best of both worlds.  I get the physical benefit of a hard workout with the mental anguish of seeing what looks like an impossible set written up on the board:
500 swim
300 kick
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
50 (closed fist)
3 x (100 build
200 pace
300 form)
150 easy
I always do the pace intervals faster than I should.  Every time I think, “Hey, I’ll just practice my Ironman pace!  That’ll be easy!” And then I end up practicing a way faster pace.  This time, I was probably swimming at my 1000 yard pace.  Still, that made the workout tough, and tough workouts are a good thing.  I had a surprisingly busy evening after work.  I had to go pick up a few things at the grocery store and go get my bike adjusted a bit.  After that, I squeezed in some strength and core work, ate dinner, went home, showered, got everything ready for the next day and then collapsed into bed, pretty exhausted.

Tuesday: Swim—3000 yards; Bike—2:00.05 (36.16 miles); 8-minute abs
I had another early morning at the pool.  I did some longer, low-intensity sets.  Despite the fact that it was my fourth day in the water in a row, I felt fairly strong throughout the workout.
2 x 250
3 x 750 (12:40, 12:28, 12:21)
2 x 125
I swam my main set at pretty much an even effort, so I suspect the slightly slower time for the first 750 is because I wasn’t really warmed up yet.  I felt like I was just cruising even though my pace was around 1:40/100yds.  A year ago, I never would have thought that pace could feel easy and sustainable for me.  Heck, even a couple of months ago, I didn’t think I could hold 1:40/100 over a set of ten 100s.  (I totally could, but I was still so used to my previous times that I didn’t think I could.)

I rode home from work.  I took the multi-use trail instead of the roads to avoid rush hour traffic.  I also hoped the trail would be a little cooler because it was in the mid-90s when I left.  Fortunately, the heat kept the trail pretty empty, and some clouds rolled in not long into my ride and kept the sun from beating down on me.  It was a surprisingly pleasant ride.  My water got warm but not hot.  I didn’t get overheated on the bike.  And it had been a while since I rode that path, so it was nice to get back on it.  I was also flying.  The ride back from work has a net elevation loss, and I think I had a light tailwind for most of the ride, so I was cruising.  I worked pretty hard as well, trying to keep the pace up.  I ended up averaging over 18mph on this ride, which is the fastest I’ve ever gone on a ride that long.  When I got home, I did some core work before heading off to bed.

Wednesday: Bike—1:32:10 (25.38 miles); Run—1:00:00 (7.27 miles)
In the morning, I headed off to work on my bike.  Because this ride was supposed to be shorter, I took the roads to work instead of the path.  I ride to work so early that traffic is never an issue.  Of course, going to work has a net elevation gain, so the ride wasn’t nearly as fast.  In addition, I had a stiff headwind climbing over the Point of the Mountain.  However, instead of just hating my life today, I acknowledged that there is a very real possibility I will be climbing into the wind at Coeur d’Alene and welcomed the chance to practice in race conditions.  I still managed to have a fairly strong ride, especially considering I worked pretty hard on Tuesday.

My run after work was not nearly as encouraging.  It was hot outside, though less so than it has been recently at 91°.  Instead of doing a few flat and mostly shaded loops around the park, I decided to do my “regular” hour long route with more climbing, more asphalt, and less shade.  I was hydrated, but I still struggled.  I think the process of driving home with no air conditioning wipes me out.  About half way through my run, I stopped at a water fountain and covered my face, neck, and arms with water.  I couldn’t believe what a difference it made (for, you know, three minutes).  But I pushed through the run and ended up finishing with an 8:22/mile pace.  It took a while for me to recover, though.  After downing two bottles of water (I think I have a drinking problem…), I took a shower and then had to sit around for another hour or so until I felt up to eating.

Thursday: Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
I had a very light day on Thursday, and my body appreciated it.  I slept in (until nearly 6:00am!) and just did some strength and core work during lunch.  I returned to my longer strength routine this week because I had the extra time.  I was surprised at how good it felt considering I’ve been doing lighter strength work for the past few weeks.

Friday: REST
Come Friday, I was surprised at how sore I was from my strength work the day before.  I am always a little sore after my longer strength routine, but my time off from the (relatively) more intense exercises killed me.  I was waddling around all day.  I made the executive decision to only do lighter strength work next week and to abstain from my strength work for the entire week before the Ironman.  There’s no sense in risking unnecessary soreness or muscle fatigue when I won’t be gaining any extra strength in a week anyway.

Saturday: Bike—4:04:37 (68.98 miles); Run—20:00 (2.27 miles)
I woke up still embarrassingly sore from my strength work on Thursday, and I headed out not long after waking up and before I had a chance to work out the stiffness from my legs.  As such, the first half of the ride was a bit of a struggle.  I wasn’t exactly sure where my legs were, and I started to worry that my last long ride before the race was going to be very discouraging.  However, partway through, I started feeling better.  My only guess is that my legs started to warm up and stretch out.  I felt quite strong the last half of the ride, and I ended up averaging 16.9mph over course of the ride when I had guessed I’d average around 16.5mph.  I made sure to ride a relatively hilly route as well, covering around 88% of the elevation gain in Coeur d’Alene in about 62% of the distance.  After hopping off my bike, I threw on my running shoes for a quick transition run.  I felt great on the run and, for the first time in months, actually accidentally went significantly too fast, hitting an 8:48/mile pace instead of the 9:15-9:30/mile pace I try to run off the bike.  The shorter workout was quite nice, and I got to spend the rest of the day relaxing and recovering (and watching the Olympics).

Sunday: Bike—1:00:18 (16.14 miles); Run—2:00:00 (13.44 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I didn’t know what to expect for my short bike, long run brick on Sunday.  I was doing the workout from Rob’s parents’ house because I was puppy-sitting for them, so my routes would be different than usual.  Plus, I stayed up way too late watching the Olympics, and the puppy ended up getting me up a little earlier than planned.  In other words, I didn’t obsess about this workout beforehand.  I got on the bike a little later than planned, but it went relatively well.  It was slow (uphill) to start and fast (downhill) to finish.  I had a fairly quick transition and headed out for my run.  The first four miles of my run were uphill, and then I ran downhill back and added on some distance going the other direction after passing Rob’s parents’ house.  I mapped out my general route, but I didn’t take note of any mile markers or pace checks, so I was just running by feel.  However, based on what I did see when I mapped out the course, I thought I was running relatively slow, somewhere between a 9:30-9:50/mile pace.  I wasn’t sure why I didn’t have more energy, but since this was a run based on effort, I didn’t push too hard, despite what I thought was a slower pace.  I just accepted that I felt more fatigued than I expected and went with it.  However, once I got back and mapped out my exact route, I found out I had run longer and faster than I thought and had finished my run with about an 8:56/mile pace.  With the hills, my ride yesterday, and a bike ride before the run, I was very excited about running that pace (though I will need to make sure not to go out that fast during the race!).  Later on in the afternoon, I did some light strength work.

LittleCottonwoodAgain
I know I always post photos of the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, but it’s always so pretty!