triathlon training

Adjusting My Sails

“I can’t change the direction of the wind,

but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Jimmy Dean

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So before I update you all about my latest big decision, let me fill you all in on the latest going ons of the week.  No big surprise that’s it’s been a busy one!  Let’s break it down shall we:

The Good

On Saturday I went for a Daffodil Group Ride with some peeps from the Tri Club which entailed a very scenic 26 mile ride through the countryside.  It was loads of fun, and I was able to keep up this time without any real trouble.  It also was a great opportunity to meet some new people and get some mileage in on my bike.  Due to the frequent stops for photos (and chatting) it was terrific practice for clipping and unclipping too!

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Lately, I feel like every time I get on my bike, I get more and more comfortable… and consequently that much better.  I have been extremely fortunate to have joined an exceptional Tri Club (through our local YMCA) with members who have been beyond supportive.  I was so afraid initially of people getting annoyed with me for being too slow or a giant chicken, but in reality everyone has been nothing but encouraging.  The group ranges from elite athletes (who –ahemwin Ironmans) to novices… to train wrecks like me.  Sometimes I feel like the only newbie in the group, but I think that is primarily because I am always trying to push myself to do the harder rides and workouts.  At no point, though, have any of them made me feel like I don’t belong or am not good enough to train with them.  I have truly enjoyed getting to know every member I have met so far.  

Plus, I have found that group riding has done wonders for my comfort level with cycling.  I am so much braver when I am with the Tri Club peeps.  I think a lot of it has to do with being distracted by the company.  Making conversation with the people around you is a great way to relax, as it turns out.  Who would have ever guessed?  

Anyway, the ride was by no means easy.  There was a long steady climb for a good part of the way out and lots of quick winding downs coming back.  I spent most of the trip trying to catch the two gentlemen ahead of me, which was perfect for motivating to move faster without getting freaked out about it.  They were both very warm and friendly, and the fact that one of them happens to be a minister only added to my ease about being around them. (I told him I felt much safer riding with a minister.. maybe that’s why I worked so hard at keeping up!)

I definitely came off the ride on a high note.  I managed a moderately difficulty route… (Did I mention all the left turns, traffic, and intersections (ie cycling hazards) at the beginning?) AND I wasn’t even that tired at the end.  Mostly I was hungry, but that seems to be my biggest issue with cycling.  I suppose I will have to work on balancing well enough to eat without stopping… mental note to add that to my goal list…

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The Bad

Now that we’ve covered the highlights of my weekend, let’s recap where it all went down hill, shall we?  

Having conquered my Saturday bike with dignity still intact, I was feeling pretty optimistic going into my first open water swim.  After all, I am a swimmer now.  I go to the pool and turn out laps like it’s my job.  I just keep going, and all is good and right in the world.  

Enter the wetsuit…

I thought it was a great sign that I scored a great deal on The Clymb, and that my wetsuit came in time for the first session.  However, I was slightly nervous having read all the horror stories about first time experiences with open water swimming and wetsuits.  I expected the suit to feel tight.  I expected to feel anxious about not being able to see more than a few inches.  I even expected the water to be really cold.  Somehow, though, I did not expect to struggle as badly as I did.

Image  On the bright side, I did have a few things in my favor.  The first is that swimming, in general, causes me anxiety and makes my heart rate skyrocket.  In that sense, I am very accustomed to having to calm myself, slow down, and get my heart rate under control.  This came in handy when the discomfort (and resulting anxiety) associated with the freezing water and tightness of the wetsuit caused my my pulse to quicken.  I spent almost the entire first half of my swim doing a modified version of breast stroke (speaking of strokes… Coach M may have had one if she saw my technique) so as to keep my face out of the water… which just happened to be a cozy 64 degrees.

Being completely stupid and delusional a glutton for punishment, I had decided to forego starting simple and went straight for the half ironman course instead.  After all, if I can swim over 2 miles easily in the pool, then 1.2 miles should be no problem, right?  Yeah, not so much… There was a point when I considered turning around sooner, but I knew there was a dock waiting at the turn around for the HIM where I could get out and warm up before heading back.  Had I done a shorter route, defrosting was not an option.  

By the time I reached the dock, I was managing 6-10 strokes at a time before my heart rate would climb.  I considered this a major victory.  I was very grateful to have my own personal Triathlon Guardian Angel looking out for me (the same Tri Club member who offered reassurance and called me a rockstar at the duathlon).  I hadn’t realized that he kept an eye out for me the whole way, and I actually felt guilty that I had caused him to stay in the freezing water so much longer than he would have otherwise.  He kept telling me how great I was doing and meant it sincerely (which is especially amusing when you consider that I probably looked like I was drowning).  In the beginning, he tried to swim beside me and give me advice on sighting and my stroke.  Eventually he gave me space to sort it out on my own.  It wasn’t until I saw him at the dock that I was aware of how long he had been keeping tabs on me.

Once he saw I finally had the hang of things, he headed back.  Meanwhile, I only stayed out of the water long enough to warm up enough to breath before hopping right back in to start the swim back.  Because they were already taking down the course, I had my own personal kayak escort for the entire stretch back (sort of the equivalent of the running sag wagon).  I am proud to say that I did at least front crawl the entire way back.  I only stopped twice briefly to change strokes and catch my (frozen) breath.  I finally was getting the hang of sighting and was kicking harder than I probably ever had in my life to get to that shore (and my fleece pants!).  

Even though I should have been proud of myself for sticking it out, I wanted to cry.  My half ironman dreams seemed so out of reach at that moment.  Here I had invested so much time and effort, but it did nothing to prepare me for that swim.  The open water swimming was a whole separate beast.  It was yet another hurdle I needed to overcome, and it made me realize how badly I wanted it.  

I was surprised when I got out of the water that I was greeted not just by other people, but by some cheers.  I thought everyone would have already packed up and headed home, but instead they were there encouraging me.  They said they were impressed by how much I had swum (especially given how much extra I did going off course) and were surprised when I told them it was my first open water swim.  I think one woman’s mouth even dropped when I told her I had only first started swimming in October.  So all in all, I guess it was not as epic a failure as it seemed at the time.

The Ugly

As I said, I am a glutton for punishment.  I think we are all well aware of that by now.  Any normal person who had an exhausting morning of fighting a wetsuit in freezing water would probably call it a day, but I needed to know if the REV3 bike course was doable.  I had heard it was hilly and challenging, however, I also have heard that triathlons tend to be less hilly than regular cycling.  I convinced the hubs to ride it with me, and within 10 miles I was ready to turn around.  My body was exhausted, and to be 100% honest- I WAS SCARED $H%TLESS.  The course was all up or down.  It was really steep at parts, and the wind was so bad it was literally knocking me off balance.  Since the last miles of the course are a repeat of the beginning anyway, we basically covered over 20 miles of the course.  I felt completely defeated.  I couldn’t believe I had worked so hard, and yet I was light years away from what I needed to accomplish for this race.  

Being the most supportive husband on the planet, the Adam rode the course on his own yesterday to see how bad it was.  He biked all 56+ brutal miles just to see how long it would take and gauge if I could do it.  I had no idea what he was up to until I saw him this morning.  He finally agreed with me that there was no way I would make it through in the allotted time.  He is a FAR superior cyclist than me and it took him 4 hours.  He said he had every faith in me that I could handle the course, but didn’t think there was any way I would do it fast enough for the cut off, especially after swimming.  It must have been far worse than I ever could have imagined for him to concede this.  He did finally admit that it only became progressively harder throughout the route.  

The Silver Lining

Obviously, I was disappointed, but he only confirmed what I already knew in my heart.  The race I have had my heart set on for the past year is a greater monster than I ever could have imagined.  I am not giving up on my dream to finish it one day, but it won’t be this year for me.  Instead, I went ahead and registered for the Olympic Distance.  Given that I am still scared to death, I am pretty sure I will still be challenging myself… which also means I should be able to live with this decision without being too disappointed.  As Swim Bike Mom likes to say, the important thing is to Keep Moving Forward.  

I may not meet my goal in the initial timeframe I set for myself, but I am also not giving up.  I still want to do a half ironman this year, and I still want to do the REV3 Quassy (someday).  In the meantime, I will continue to take steps to get there- even if they are baby steps instead of giant leaps!  Right now, the next step is the REV3 Olympic Course.  

In the words of Diana Nyad (my idol who I tried to channel during my freezing, anxiety provoking swim):

 I will find a way.

 

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The Next Step

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

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Can you all guess what I did today?  Anyone?  Okay I’ll just tell you then.  I started my book!  I wrote the whole preface/introduction today.  That means that writing a booking has gone from being one of the dreams I want to accomplish someday to one that I am currently making a reality.  Holy cow!!!  It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few pages because it’s started, and someday it will be finished.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is ever published.  It’s more about the principle of following through on something I’ve always wanted to do.

Up until this point I’ve have been doing the ground work.  I’ve gotten into the habit of writing regularly.  I put a lot of effort (and myself!) into this blog.  I have found my voice and identity as a writer, and been more open and honest than I ever thought I would be.  I’ve even built up my media presence.  All these smaller goals I’ve set for myself have been stepping stones for this major leap.  

I’m sure there are people who will be surprised or think I’m not qualified, but as far as I’m concerned their opinions don’t matter.  Every great author was once an everyday guy or girl just like you and me.  People aren’t born into greatness; they set out and create it.  I will succeed because I am crazy enough to believe I can.  I am a writer not because I have been published, but because I write.  My message to the world is no less valid or needed than any other work out there today.  

I believe in leading by example, and I want the world to know that you don’t need to have a perfect life or upbringing to get somewhere in life.  Every life is full of setbacks and failure.  It’s how we deal with them that builds our character.  Does surviving trauma leave scars?  Yes, absolutely!  Does it mean that you are damaged? Heck no!  

I would never wish the trauma I’ve experienced in my past on anyone, not even my worst enemy.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from it.  We all know that bad things can happen to good people.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that good things can come from bad situations, good things like growth and strength. 

I want people to know it’s ok to embrace your past along with your present and future- even if it’s ugly and full of mistakes.  Take what you’ve learned and draw from it.  Don’t for even a second stop to be ashamed.  We all have made poor choices in our lives.  They make us human.  They don’t define us.  It’s never too late to let go and start living fully.  Nor is it ever to late to set a new goal or chase your dreams.

It’s not about living a perfect life.  No one is perfect.  Perfect is the enemy.  It’s unachievable.  Authentic, however, is achievable; and it’s a great way to go.  

There is nothing particularly original about sharing my story from victim to survivor and ultimately thriver, however that is the point.  I’m not some elite super athlete.  I am an everyday women who took a rather round about journey to finding herself, a journey that involved a lot of anxiety, tears, self doubt, and crazy mileage and dreams.  Never in a million years would I have ever believed that I would be a survivor of domestic abuse, but I also never dreamed I would be a marathoner, ultra runner, swimmer, cyclist, or triathlete.  I am not fearless.  If anything I am a huge chicken.  I’m clusmy.  I was cut (repeatedly) from my track team and kicked out of swim class, but I never quit.  Now I am training for a Half Ironman.  

Believe me when I tell you that “If I can do it, so can you!”

Becoming a Gear Girl

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.” 
– Little Engine That Could

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Hello My Lovelies!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, especially all the moms out there!  I had an unexpectedly prolonged weekend due to be home sick from work on Thursday.  That means I have been off from work for almost a week… Unfortunately, I spent more than half that time too sick to move from bed or the couch.  I know!  It was a total bummer and definitely threw a wrench in my training plans.  The good news is, I still made it to our Tri Club Brick and BBQ with the hubs.

So here is the thing about that…  Back when the hubs was in the Marines, he decided on a whim that he was going to do a Half Ironman (IM).  Mind you, this was before he ever owned a bike.  His training consisted of borrowing a bike from a friend and doing some swimming.  Of course, he finished without a problem.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am almost 9 months into training (including learning to swim and bike), and I still don’t feel prepared enough to meet the time qualifiers.  Why?  Because I am not where I need to be with my cycling.  This is something I have been aware of, however it became more abundantly clear at the duathlon… and even more so this weekend.

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Now granted, I went into our group ride this weekend still under the weather, and most definitely dehydrated and short on calories.  The hubs also skipped out on a real breakfast, but a 30 mile ride is a walk in the park for his cycling-loving-self.  I have read in triathlon books that people who do Full IMs average 17-18 mph on the bike portion.  Up until this weekend, I had no concept really of just how fast that is.  Then our group ride started… and I was left in the dust.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was literally last.  I did actually catch up with two people in front of me, but the rest of the group was not even within viewing distance for the rest of the ride (aside from when they all pulled over and waited at the first few intersections… yeah, that didn’t last long).

I have to be honest when I tell you it was somewhat demoralizing.  While I understand I am still a newbie cyclist, I have been on other group rides where I was not utterly annihilated by the rest of the riders.  These people, on the other hand, were completely out of my league.  Thankfully, the only two people I could keep up with were a married couple I knew from my swim class.  However, even they were light-years ahead of me on every downhill due to my over generous utilization of my brakes.  Did I mention I was the only one actually using them?  I repeat, Out Of My League.

 

ImageAt least the view was pretty!

I was incredibly grateful to Tammy (the wife of the couple, who I happen to know better from our traumatic experience in beginner’s swimming) for keeping pace with me to chat for a while and waiting at intersections to make sure I wasn’t lost.  There was also a more experienced rider from the group who periodically circled back to make sure we were all ok, and I was beyond appreciative of her as well.  (She even gave me tips on climbing the hills, and was incredibly patient with my slow-as-heck self. God Bless her!)

In all honesty, if it had not been for Tammy, I probably would have broken down in tears.  The ride was by no means an easy one, and the descents were nerve-fryingly, white knuckled, terrifying.  The roads were wet which did not help my fears, and my husband was somewhere off in the front of the pack leaving me in the dust along with everyone else.

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More beautiful scenery as consolation…

I kept telling myself that I am not a bad cyclist, I am an inexperienced cyclist.  I also reminded myself how terrible I was when I first started swimming.  At least no one was kicking me off the route!  Instead, I heard only words of encouragement.  After all, I was the only newbie cyclist out on that loop, and it consisted of a lot of killer hills.  Here I was sick, dehydrated, and alone (for at least a good part of it), and I didn’t break down or quit.  I stuck with it- even when I got super dizzy and light-headed.  I drank from my water bottle, took some cliff bloks, and got back to pedaling.

I am pleased to report that I only toppled over once due to bumping a curb on my way up a steep hill.  I also had one near miss, but was able to correct myself.  I finished behind every other cyclist, but I finished… and I wasn’t far behind my back of the pack buddies.  The hubs and the more advanced riders finished a full 20 minutes ahead of us… which I suppose isn’t too bad considering it was a 30 mile ride.  Their average speed was in the 17-18 mph range, which consisted of riding between 40 and almost 60 mph down the hills (Um, no thank you...)  I headed off on my run just elated to have survived (I think I exclaimed something to the effect of “Yea! I feel so much safer!”).  Meanwhile, the hubs skipped his run and took a nap instead of finishing the “brick”.

I suppose when you achieve celebrity status with the Tri Club for your superior cycling talent, the run isn’t necessary.  That’s right, my super shy and antisocial hubs is now Mr. Popular.  Apparently when you ride in a group there’s a lot of chatting that goes on.  I suppose I would know these things if I actually rode fast enough to keep up with other people…  Can you believe he is already friends on Strava with all of them?  One bike ride, and they are all BFFs.  Go figure.  I guess that’s what happens when you put a bunch of like minded, uber competitive, cycling fanatics together.  How did I not see this coming?

What’s better is he even impressed Coach M and kicked her butt (her words) on the ride… though she admittedly likes the bike considerably less than the swimming and running.

In general, I have to say that I am pretty happy for the hubs.  I do find it slightly ironic, though, that I am the one who dragged him into joining the YMCA and Tri Club with me; and now he is the popular one and I’m struggling (and failing miserably) to keep up.  I guess that just means I have more work to do.

The good news is, I am getting the hang of bike maintenance a lot faster than the actual riding.  I currently am able to de-grease and re-lube my chain.  Plus, I now know how to get my wheels on and off to get all the nooks and crannies clean.  The hubs even taught me how to floss my cassette with a rag to get it extra clean.  Oh! And he happened to puncture one of his tires on the ride, so I got extra practice on changing flats.  Pretty soon I think I will be at the point where I can do these things all on my own without the hubs for supervision. 😉

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I biked today and lived! And I’m still smiling!

Today I spent the morning doing P90X chest and back, and then took some more time getting used to my bike.  I spent 30 minutes focusing on starting, stopping, coasting, balancing on one foot, letting go of one hand, starting and stopping on hills, and then I tried to practice climbing the really steep hill next to my house…  I had to stop when I started freaking my neighbors out with my wipe outs.  So instead I came in and did another 14 miles on the bike trainer… in 80 degree heat and humidity.  Can you say good time?

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So sexy… I know you’re jealous…

It wasn’t glamourous, but I got it done.  The way I figure, any time I spend on my bike is better than nothing!   My next task (other than getting generally comfortable) is to start familiar with some of the nearby triathlon courses.  In fact, I already mapped the REV 3 Half IM course in Map My Ride… I know it’s ambitious, but I figure I can do sections of it at a time and work up to the whole 56 miles.  Hopefully. it shouldn’t take too long to get there.

That’s all I have to share for now.  I hope you all are off to a terrific start to your week!  My goal for this week is to survive work and continue to work toward becoming one with my bike.  What are you hoping to accomplish?

Another Day of Milestones

“Little by little, one travels far”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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Today’s blog post has been brought to you by Instacollage, RunKeeper, and the number 3.

(Just kidding about the number 3. I don’t even know him)  

Good Morning Friends!

Yesterday was pretty epic on a lot of levels.  For starters, I took a rest day on Saturday and spent some quality time with my family.  I got a chance to hang with my mom and buy some new workout gear (yea!!! I love Marshalls!), and then we binged on junk food and watched Frozen with my sister.  I must have really needed the break because yesterday I completely blasted through my workout and felt great while doing it (ok while doing most of it.)

I got to the YMCA early, and as you can see from this pic of the parking lot there were not a lot of other peeps excited to be up that early on the weekend.

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Good thing I beat the rush!

My day started with Spin Class.  I was pumped to be there because the Mr. PEDAL HARDER! (the hardcore military instructor) had been replaced with one I hadn’t met before.  Granted his workout could have been equally sadistic, but he was good eye candy so I figured it was still a win regardless. Plus, I got to wear my new neon orange polka dot capri pants (orange pants and polka dots- like I said: an epic day).  Nothing like new workout gear to improve the motivation!

Since class was almost all sprints (including hills sprints… boo!), I was able to get in over 26 miles.  Thanks to the fact that it was more speed than endurance, my legs were feeling pretty good after.  I decided to take advantage and do a brick workout (in the correct order for a change).  I must have accidentally left my self preservation instinct at home because for some reason I thought it would be a really good idea to use the super incline treadmill.   I started out a 7 mph pace and quickly decided that 13%-15% incline was going to be a bit much to sustain for an hour, let alone the incline adjustments up to 30%!  I dialed it back a bit, but still did enough uphill to burn almost 1200 calories in 7 miles.  That was on top of the hour of spin.  Given that I was feeling pretty extremely dizzy and nauseated, I thought it best to take a short break before attempting to swim.

Ok, now I know what you are going to say, but I just got all this cool new swim gear in the mail and I REALLY wanted to test it out.  I also finally loaded music on my Waterproof IPod and I couldn’t wait to use it (literally couldn’t wait).Image

So as soon as I was feeling like I wasn’t about to die better, I pulled out my new suit, cap, googles, zoomers, and IPod and got ready to swim.  Just in case you are wondering, I had to get a new suit because my first one was getting loose and worn out.  The extra goggles and cap I bought because I read in numerous places that it is a good idea to have spares.  As far as the zoomers, Coach M recommended I get them to improve my kick (she says I need to spread my legs more).  Oh and the IPod you already heard about. 🙂

Before I left the locker room, I got a bunch of congratulatory emails from RunKeeper (Love them!.. They sure know how to make a girl’s day).  They wanted to tell me what I stellar job I am doing on tackling my mileage goals for the year.  According to their emails I am 25% done with the biking AND running. *happydance*  They also gave me props for my super fast spinning skills.

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For the record, I did restart the treadmill and get in that last 0.1 miles!

Okay so back to the swimming.  All the new gear worked great.  In fact, my new TYR suit was super comfy and fit way better than my old one.  In fact, I think I may even return the speedo one I purchased (which fits like a straight jacket even though they’re the same size) and exchange it for the same one in a different color.

TYR I love you.  Thank you for making a comfortable, functional swimsuit that doesn’t make me feel like a stuffed sausage.

As far as the IPod, it was surprisingly simple to set up and use.  I do have to admit I had to have the hubs help with the safe lock things for the earbuds because I didn’t think it looked right when I did it.  Ultimately, I had no issues swimming with it.  The sound was great and the earbuds stayed in without a problem (I usually have trouble due to small ears but used the medium size provided and they fit great).  I choose classical music for my inaugural voyage and it definitely helped to keep me relaxed- which is generally my biggest problem when swimming (At least in my opinion, Coach M’s may differ).  Overall it gave me added ability to zone out, which is the reason I love swimming in the first place.  Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can read Swim Bike Mom’s review here.

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Perhaps it was do to my grooving tunes (or my inability to count laps even with a Garmin Swim), but I managed my longest distance yet in an hour of swimming: over 1.3 miles!  I used one of Coach M’s more advanced workouts and then added 200 meters of pull as a cool down.  I had to re-total the mileage of the workout 3 or 4 times before I believed I had swum that far.  I felt so slow during the workout that I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  After logging it, I got yet another congratulatory email for RunKeeper on my new distance record.  (Aw thanks guys!)

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Slightly edited to improve accuracy

Then as if that were not enough epic accomplishments for one day, I got this notification on my twitter account last night…

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The Bloggess, supreme queen of the blog-o-sphere is following my Twitter account.

My response:

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She had me at Beyonce

Ladies and Gentleman, I have arrived.  Who needs thousands of followers when I have The Bloggess?  She is one of my top lady idols of all time ALL TIME!!! Not that I have a lot of male idols, but the fact that she is a woman makes her that much more awesome in my book!  Someday I hope to be as successful at being my snarky self as she is.  In the meantime I will bask in knowing that she is aware I even exist.

So that, my friends, is all the epic awesomeness I have to update you on so far.

Happy Sunday!

#thriveon