Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fat and/or Fit?

I have had a couple of runs this week that were really, really awful. Sometimes workouts are just awful because some days are just off days. Still, given my penchant for analysis, I can't help but reflect on what went wrong when a workout falls off the rails.

It could be that my runs this week have been difficult because I'm still not quite over the bronchitis I had earlier this month. Or maybe I'm getting used to working out every day after having had a fairly unstructured and leisurely autumn. The question that always comes to my mind, though, is how much of my trouble is because of my weight. Is it possible for me to achieve the fitness I want and still carry this extra 25 pounds?

I searched the web for some insights into the fat vs. fit question. Generally, it seems that it's better to be overweight and fit than thin and idle, although carrying extra weight still puts a person at higher risk for weight-related health issues. Also, fatness and fitness aren't black and white categories so the relative impacts of weight and fitness are quite individual.

So, what about for me? I can probably survive if I continue to carry these extra pounds and probably accomplish some good things in triathlon. But, I don't really want to be like this and I would really like to see what might happen if I got the weight under control. I would look and feel much better and I might pick up some speed if I didn't have to drag this flab around!

The old adage "you are what you eat" is so true. This is the one thing I have yet to get a good handle on. I have tried before to focus on good nutrition and I do last for periods of time, full of enthusiasm and zeal that just seems to fizzle out over time. It is just going to require discipline, the same kind of discipline that it takes to get the run, bike, and swim workouts in. Maybe eventually eating right will become a lifestyle for me, too. Today I am going to commit to giving it a try again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


January is the time when I am especially thinking about training. Which training plan will I use? Where will I go to train? Who will I train with? Race season may seem far away but it has a way of sneaking up, especially if you're not ready!

I have really wanted to do more group training this year but that is proving hard to do so far. I feeled pulled between groups. I want to do it all but, of course, I can't. I am trying to rotate myself around and stay in touch with my usual spin group at Element triathlon store, my new Edmonton Triathlon Club (ETC) group, and my "maniacs" group. I have been swimming and running more on my own so far, although I have done some group swim training and a few runs with Jordan. Trying to work social time into training makes me unsure about what training program to follow. It's hard to stick to a defined plan while also being spontaneous about where to train and with whom! I may be overthinking it, though (not that I would ever over-analyze anything). I will just take it as it comes and work hard when I work out and I'll probably be OK.

Right now I am doing the 100 Day Triathlon Training Challenge with a group of triathletes who are all connected to Element. We are going for at least 100 swim, bike or run workouts within 100 days. This is Day 11 for me. It's very motivating. Slacking off means owing workouts and I don't want that. I have to keep plugging to meet this challenge. I am hoping that I'll see some improvements by April 25, which will be Day 100 for me.

I plan to do a few tris this summer but my big race is the Great White North half ironman on July 4. I did it last year for the first time. It is a super race - well organized, nice course, awesome race director - and it's local so that makes things easier. I am hoping for at least a 35 minute improvement over my time last year. Every workout I do now is part of getting me there.

There are always days on which I feel less motivated to train than others but I have noticed something this year. I used to force myself to train so that I could complete a race and have the race day thrill. Now I understand better why people call triathlon a "lifestyle." I am actually starting to enjoy the training journey as much as I enjoy the race experience. I enjoy swimming, biking, and running and feel like something is missing if I don't get out there and do it.

One thing that excites me about the upcoming race season is that I will get to ride my new tri bike. I know that I have to work hard to be race-ready but I do hope that my bike will help me achieve my goals this year. The Maniacs have a tradition of naming their bikes, which I think is cool. My bike is a Quintana Roo, named after the Mexican state that includes Cozumel. One Maniac (Carla) suggested that I give my bike a Spanish name to fit with the brand name. I decided to name my bike "Esperanza," which means "hope." I am, indeed, full of hope about what this year will bring and what I can accomplish if I train hard and smart.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We're in this together

I am a triathlete - a slow, old, fat triathlete but a triathlete all the same. I have never been last in a race but I've come close. I wish I had found triathlon earlier in my life but I didn't discover it until I was 42. I don't look like what many would expect a triathlete to look like. I'm a little bit soft and chubby. But here I am, in love with and committed to triathlon, with lots of plans for the future.

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog about triathlon in my life but recent thoughts and occurrences have brought me to the point of readiness. What has really struck me lately is the importance of having each other for support, advice, encouragement, and motivation. My hope is that, through this blog, I will be able to share my experiences and impressions so that I can get feedback from others and, more importantly, offer some support and encouragement to other triathletes like me (and maybe some not like me).

Here are some of the things that have brought me to this point:

This week, a Facebook friend became a fan of a group called "Making Drug Tests Required to Get Welfare." I couldn't resist taking a look at the group's postings. What I read overwhelmed me with distress. This group seems to be founded on contempt for others, a lack of compassion, and ignorant assumptions about people in need. What motivates people to be so scornful and unsupportive is beyond me. I wondered if the people posting such mean-spirited comments had stopped to think about how much support and encouragement they had received in their lives that allowed them to be successful. I'm not sure that any of us can claim to be completely self-made. Even though we may be ultimately responsible for our own lives, we all get by with a little help from our friends. When I need help, I appreciate support moreso than judgement. And I believe that when we give, we benefit rather than lose.

Last night, I went out with my good friend, Jordan, whom I met a year ago through an online running community of which we are both members. She is an experienced and accomplished triathlete and a supportive and sensitive person. I always feel good after a visit with her. When I feel lacking in confidence, she builds me up. When I am celebrating a success, she gets more excited about it than I am! She is also a workout buddy and a source of terrific training advice. Meeting her coincided with my desire to get serious about triathlon and to take on some new challenges; she has been a pivotal part of the growth I have experienced this year.

In my efforts to improve over the last year, I have also sought connections to groups of triathletes so that I can learn from them. The online running community - the "maniacs" - has been a great source of advice and encouragement. No matter how elementary my questions were in the beginning or how slow my race times are, they have always been helpful and positive. Some of them live here in Edmonton and I have gotten to know them. We are workout buddies and general cheerleaders for each other. As well, my spin instructor extraordinaire, Elise, also the owner of my favourite triathlon shop, has pushed me to improve and has always treated me like a "serious" triathlete, which sometimes surprises me because of how I see myself.

Groups of triathletes have always intimidated me but I am getting over that. Recently I joined the Edmonton Triathlon Club so that I can get even more connected to the local triathlon community. I went to my first activity with them just before Christmas and I was amazed at how welcoming they were. I am going to enjoy being part of that.

There is no doubt that there can be elitism in triathlon but I have decided to ignore that. I don't think that makes triathlon or triathletes any better. I have surrounded myself with positive, helpful, fun people who make me feel good and help me get better. There is room in this sport for everyone who wants to do it - even someone like me. I will be so pleased if what I write in this blog is helpful to someone who isn't sure they belong, who doesn't know if they can do it. This is an adventure for all of us!