Friday, December 16, 2011

All is Well

Things are ticking along. I am swimming, biking, running and lifting weights as I should be. I feel good and my body is happy. My “gurus” are wonderful. They are providing me with structure, advice, support, and the occasional chill-out-and-stop-panicking-about-signing-up-for-an-Ironman talk. The workouts are building now, although the balance among them is good. I have also lost nine pounds since I started training in earnest (September), half of them this month, and that feels good, too.

Today is my last day at my awful job in the hospital. (I wrote about this earlier.) Although I am now quite used to working in a structured, full-time job, the job itself has been dissatisfying and I am glad to be moving on. I will be teaching three courses in the sociology department for the January to April term so it will be crazy but it will also be very nice to be back in academia. I have also just accepted an offer of a professor position at the university, which will start July 1. That gives me May and June off, which might be just perfect timing because I’ll be doing some long, long workouts then and I’ll have time for them!

Hopefully, I will be an Ironwoman when I start that job! I’m doing all I can to make that happen and I am grateful for the friends who are on this journey with me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Beginning

I have been training faithfully over the last three months, since starting the training plan with my coaches. As you know, the training hasn't always gone very well, particularly the running. I tried to work things out with my coaches but it was hard to negotiate a different approach to running and, although my one coach did "allow" me to do some water running, I was still running five days a week, which was just not working for me. As well, I was starting to worry about my swimming volume (or lack thereof). Swim training has focused on technique, which has been excellent, but it has been at the expense of distance. Some weeks, I was swimming a grand total of 1200 metres and I was starting to think that maybe I should pick that up a bit. My coach just told me not to worry. More and more it seemed like we just weren't seeing eye to eye completely. They were very kind and positive and I know they have a lot of knowledge but there was just a disconnection philosophically. So, two weeks ago, I very kindly thanked them for what they had done for me and told them that I was going to launch out on my own.

It was the right decision and I don't regret it but for these last two weeks, I have felt a little bit lost, unsure of how to fill in my training plan. I looked at a few plans, got some ideas in my mind, and continued to work out but I felt I was floundering a little. Then a wonderful thing happened....

My friend from my triathlon club, who has done seven Ironmans, and her friend, who has done two, decided they wanted to support and guide me through my training. They won't be official coaches but they will be my cheerleaders and gurus and they will provide me with a training plan and some answers to the questions that will inevitably arise as I go along. I asked them why they wanted to do this for me (for free) and they said it was because they cared about me and just wanted to see me do this.

We met over coffee today and talked about how I should structure my week as far as workouts go. For now, I will swim three times a week with the swim training group that is offered through the City. I'll spin twice a week with the triathlon club and I'll run three times a week on my own, scaling back a bit to allow myself to recover from all the running I did this fall and then gradually building back up. Eventually I will do more than this but this is how it will look for December and into January. Their philosophy is that I should focus more on the swim and bike than the run so I can get out of the water feeling good and gain some time on the bike course so I have plenty of time for the run. This makes sense to me and it is the opposite of what I have been doing, which was to run and run and run and then fall apart! They expressed confidence in my ability to complete this crazy race and reminded me, when I seemed uncertain, that my training has only just begun and that I will feel strong and confident by the time I'm standing on that beach.

I feel good about this. With them, I have some support and structure and also some flexibility and understanding. I am motivated to do this training and I have a basic idea of how to get it done but it'll be great to have guidance and a sounding board and some experience to tap into for this first time through.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happiness is...

…a revised training plan!

After swim practice this morning, I talked to my coach about moving forward with my training in a way that won’t destroy my body. He had told me a couple days ago that I could substitute water running for running on land so today he gave me a quick lesson on how to do it properly. It isn’t difficult and I got the hang of it pretty easily and he told me a trick I can use to monitor and correct my form from time to time. So, I should be good to go. I’ll still be doing 5 runs per week but I think I will be able to handle that if it’s in the water. It hasn’t been the volume of training that’s been difficult (not yet anyway!); it’s just been the impact of running.

He also said that he is going to add another swim to my schedule so that I have an opportunity to do some long, continuous swims. I’ve been swimming with his training group twice a week but we focus a lot on technique and don’t actually do a lot of distance – often only 800 metres in an hour. It’s fantastic instruction and over time we’ll be going farther but I am glad that I’ll be going to the pool for a third workout each week from now on so I can build my endurance.

I get back on my bike, on the trainer, this weekend. I’ve missed my bike and I hope I haven’t lost too much fitness. But heading into spin season with my triathlon club will take care of that for sure!

I am optimistic that I am on a better path now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Learning to Trust Myself

Friends who have done an Ironman have told me that I will learn a lot about myself during my training. At the beginning of Week 9 of my training, I can already say that I'm learning, but it isn't what I might have expected. I thought I would learn about perseverence or how much inner strength I had or something like that but instead I am learning that I should trust myself more.

A couple weeks ago, I posted a question on a running forum asking people to share what they had learned about themselves during their own Ironman training. I got three or four very personal and inspiring responses. The rest, however, were not helpful. A couple of people, one in particular, read into my question and made some assumptions about my motivations and the importance I was placing on my training experience. All I wanted to know was what others had learned about themselves. Instead what I got was a lot of condescending advice that wasn't relevant to me, based on what someone who doesn't know me and didn't listen to me thought they needed to say. I regretted asking the question in the first place and figured that I should have just waited to see what learning emerged from my own training.

This week, I am having a very different experience but one that is leading me to a similar conclusion. I am having a lot of trouble with running. As my three faithful readers will know, I have bad arthritis in my hip. My sports doc and physiotherapist said I could train for an Ironman, as long as I "trained differently." My coach interpreted that to mean that I should run short distances very often. So I am running 5 times per week. I am swimming only twice and haven't been cycling at all for two months, except for one week last month when I took a break from running. My coach has a lot of experience and I trust that he knows about training. When he gave me this weird training program, I trusted that this was going to be right for me and that his rationale made sense. Still, he knows training but he doesn't know me. I know me, though, and I need to step up to the plate and represent myself. I know that this is not going to work. I am falling apart. Five runs per week is not allowing me to recover. I am at the point where I can hardly walk, let alone run. Meanwhile, swimming and cycling, which do not hurt me, are taking a back seat. I feel like maybe I should be swimming and cycling more. My coach has told me that I can substitute water running for running on land but it doesn't sound like the proportions of training for the three sports will be adjusted in my plan. I get it that I need to trust my coach but I also hope to see some flexibility in light of the evidence that things are not going well. For some people, this would just be an ordinary conversation with their coach but for me it takes a conscious level of trust in myself to acknowledge that what I'm experiencing is valid and therefore worth bringing up.

Although this is not a sport-specific example, I had another moment that prompted me to think differently about myself. This past week, I had an interview for a faculty position at the university. During the interview, one person asked me what I would do to begin to develop my work independently. I had been talking about opportunities I could see for collaborative research and I guess he wanted to clarify whether I was also thinking about myself as an independent researcher. It was a little "aha" moment for me. Making the transition from doctoral student to faculty member means that I would have to focus on the unique perspective that I would bring to the faculty and learn to trust it so it can develop.

Now, I do believe in learning from others, seeking advice, sharing knowledge, and working collaboratively. But, I think I need to start thinking of myself as someone who already knows something, someone who is ready for a new, important, independent, personal challenge - whether it be taking on the Iron distance or becoming a professor. I need to do this in a way that fits for me, in a way that respects what more seasoned people can offer to me and includes my own perspective and knowledge.

It's amazing how life experiences come together to create a lesson. This is a good one for me and I'm sure there will be more as I prepare for next year's BIG adventure in triathlon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Off Kilter

The last two weeks have been incredibly stressful for me, physically and psychologically. I would say that if you added up all the stress I had in the six years it took for me to do my PhD, it would not be as much stress as I have experienced in the last two weeks.

A week after starting my formal Ironman training program, I started a new job in nursing administration at a major hospital. I had misgivings about the job going into it; I did this kind of work before so it was familiar to me but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it again. Still, I needed a job so when I was approached about this one, I could hardly pass it up. Plus, it's flattering to be sought out, but that can cloud one's judgement. My worries about the job were valid and I now find myself in a troubled organization that has values and practices that are completely incongruent with my own. As well, I don't identify very much with nursing anymore but this job requires that I do. I feel duplicitous as I try to put on a happy face and appear enthusiastic about the hopes they have for my role, while all the while wanting to leave and never go back. The people in my department are very nice and there are little rays of sunshine that make me think I'll survive but so many distressing things happen that it overrides the hopeful moments. Friends and family tell me to give it time but it is much more than that; it just isn't a fit.

Now, my intention in this blog is not to discuss my career angst but to talk about triathlon. But life cannot be compartmentalized and my job has upset the balance of my life and impacted my training tremendously. In part, it's just that I have to get used to having a much more structured workday than I have had in years. I can do that - lots of people work full time and train and I can do it, too. But, more than that, it's the psychological toll that this has taken on me. The stress has made my training more difficult and I have not been able to enjoy it on the same level.

At the moment, I am swimming two times a week, running five times a week and doing two strength workouts per week. The swimming and strength training are fine. It's the running where I see the stress and fatigue affecting me. I had been getting progressively faster as I trained more often but I have seen a huge drop in my performance in the last two weeks. I have had some runs that are over a minute slower than my usual pace per kilometre. This past Wednesday, I had absolutely the worst run of my entire life without a doubt. My pace was barely faster than a walking pace (more than two minutes/kilometre slower than usual) and I suffered through the whole thing. My legs would hardly move and they hurt! Thursday's run was a little better and yesterday's run was actually my fastest run in the last year so I went from being profoundly discouraged to as happy as can be in three short days.

I know that I have to keep this in perspective. Every run won't be wonderful and I know that some of these awful runs are directly attributable to my current life stress. It's not that I just suck. Even during the terrible run on Wednesday, I tried to view it as perseverance training so I could learn how to keep myself going when I felt as bad as could be, which is probably how I'll feel at some or many points during my Ironman race. It's all worth something - even the bad days. But what distresses me the most is that my job stress has taken away from me something that was going really well, something that I was so excited about getting into. I haven't lost my will to train or my excitement about Ironman but the positive energy I had is being pushed aside because I am directing energy toward coping with the job.

I am plotting my escape. Two things are very important to me: That my work is an extension of what I believe in and that my life has balance. I need to set these things right. I don't know where this will lead me but I will seek something that puts my life in order again so I can train with a renewed spirit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Official Beginning of my Ironman Training

In the last three weeks, I have been building in a few more workouts and developing some structure to my training, in anticipation of the official beginning of my Ironman training. I've done two swims, two bikes, two runs, and three strength workouts per week. I've noticed the increase in activity; I've felt a little tired but it's been OK. Yesterday I met with my coaches to review my strength training program and to receive my training schedule for September.

The strength training is going well and I am already noticing improvements. One of my coaches has me focusing mainly on learning to recruit my glutes and on strengthening them as well as my core. I will carry on with this for a while and she has increased the effort for some of the exercises by increasing the weight or reps or modifying the technique to make the exercise a little harder.

My other coach has written out my training plan for the year and has given me a detailed daily plan for the next month. It actually starts tomorrow. Because of my hip arthritis, I have to train for the run differently than most people would so what my coach will have me doing is lots of shorter runs rather than fewer runs of longer distance. The longest run I will ever do is 90 minutes but I will be running five times per week from now until taper time next June. The idea behind this is that the training load will come from frequency rather than distance, although, of course, the mileage will accumulate over all those runs. But my hip will never have to endure a lot of mileage at one time.

I will not be doing any cycling between now and the end of October, which means I'll pretty much be on the trainer the next time I ride. It seems weird to me to drop cycling off altogether but the idea here is that I need the time to get the running in and to focus on strength training, which my coaches say will make a huge difference to my cycling capabilities. At the end of October, I'll add in 2 hours of cycling per week, gradually building to the point where I will be doing six rides of six hours each during April and May.

I'm a pretty good swimmer but I'm not super fast. I will be swimming with a small group that my one coach leads, starting on September 6. Here we will focus on the development of technical swimming efficiency to minimize energy expenditure, with the goal being a relaxing, comfortable swim at Ironman that will leave me feeling good for the bike and run. I think that with the next 10 months of training, I will be able to do the swim in 1:30 and feel good when I'm done.

I asked my coach about weight loss during training. He said it will be a byproduct of the increasing training volume, if I focus on good healthy eating. I hope he's right. I seem to have the slowest metabolism in the world but I can certainly help it along by choosing better foods; I hope I can lose at least 15 pounds by race day.

My coach had a great idea for rewarding myself as I train. He suggested that I get a big jar and put a coin in it for each day that I stick to my goals for that day, including eating well, drinking enough water and doing the workout for the day. Over the 10 months, it will add up to a lot of money (if I am a good girl!) and I can use it to buy myself a nice Ironman Coeur D'Alene souvenir. I will have to work hard every day just to give myself a few cents but I know I will want to be able to drop that coin in the jar everyday so I can see this working well as a motivator.

My other coach assured me during our conversation that I am not alone in feeling like a bit of a rickety old lady sometimes. Things just aren't what they used to be when you get to my age. But that doesn't mean any of this is impossible! They both also told me that of course I was going to finish this race. No doubt. It's nice to hear that from him. I am actually pretty sure I can do the distance. What worries me is the time limit! But with the training, I should improve my speed enough to make it!

I felt encouraged and excited when I left them yesterday morning. It's exciting to see the plan and to think about how fit I will be next June! Let the games begin!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Swimming Practice

In an effort to address the swim issues I had in Chelan (and also, to a lesser extent, at Great White North in 2009), Dan, Adam and I drove up to Jasper National Park for a swim in Lake Annette. It's a four hour drive (one way) for us to get there but it's worth it to be able to swim in a lovely mountain lake. We also just wanted to have a beach day and what nicer place can there be? It's amazing to sit on the beach and look up at Mt. Edith Cavell. Just gorgeous.

Dan and I put on our wetsuits and hopped in to the water. It was cold and I didn't want to put my face in! But, I got used to it pretty quickly and off we went. We swam parallel to the beach but a ways off shore, crossing a small cove. I mapped the swim afterward and we covered 500m. It wasn't a totally serious swim as far as distance and effort went! We stopped and talked along the way. Still, it was a worthwhile swim because I learned something. First, the water was cold and it does take your breath away a bit. It wasn't that cold in Chelan but it was still chilly there and it seems that hitting the chilly water affects me and makes it a little harder to catch my breath. Perhaps if I try doing a warm-up swim just before a race, it might help me get used to the water and swim without trouble. People have since suggested that to me, including my coach, so I will give it a try next time I race. Second, I noticed that my wetsuit is kinda tight. *Blush* A little more room might help with the whole breathing thing!


I'm a little late getting my race report posted but here it is nevertheless! I did the olympic distance triathlon in Chelan, Washington on July 16. It was wonderful in many ways and disappointing in others.

The area is gorgeous - much like the Okanagan - and the lake is beautiful, clean, and clear. It's like swimming in a sandy basin filled with tap water. The bike course went out along the lake and was really beautiful. The run covered the first part of the bike course, again along the lake. The weather was nearly perfect, about 70 F with a few clouds. It rained while I was on the bike but I was really only aware of it for a few minutes, probably at a moment when it was raining a little harder. (I started the race with Sister Madonna Bruder right beside me on the beach and she passed me on the bike but when we got to the top of the biggest hill, I saw them leading her off to the side, wrapped in a blanket. Perhaps she fell; I heard afterward that there were a few minor accidents on the bike course because of the rain. She did, however, do the sprint distance the next day!)

I started the swim in a wave with about 100 people. I got right in there and started swimming. Things were going along tickety-boo until about the 100m mark. Suddenly, I couldn't breathe. I stopped swimming, sort of bobbed and breaststroked along, trying to catch my breath and get myself under control. I don't know what caused it. It wasn't really panic or anxiety. I wasn't overly nervous about the race, I didn't mind the other people in the water, the lake was nice, I was OK with the distance. But, wow, it took a long time to pull myself together! I just told myself to keep moving forward while I waited for it to pass. At about the halfway point, I did get myself under control and could put my face in again and the rest of the swim was super.

Swim time = 49:56, about 10 minutes longer than I expected.

T1 = 4:21. I was very dizzy from the swim and couldn't move very quickly.

The bike was very nice! The scenery was just beautiful. I felt strong and good. At the beginning, I rode past Dan, who had just started out on his race (he did the 10K run). He cheered me on and that was nice to hear. I drank most of a bottle of Gatorade and ate six Clif Blocs on the bike. This was a very enjoyable part of the day.

Bike time = 1:47:49. I expected to be 1:45 for the bike. The course was actually quite a bit hillier than they describe on the race website so I am OK with my time being a couple minutes longer.

T2 = 3:31. I had to pee, darn it.

The run was mostly a walk! When I finished the bike ride, I hardly had legs to stand on. I had trouble even getting off my bike! I tried to jog out of transition, just for the sake of saving face but that was hard. The run starts uphill! I didn't expect much from the run because I have done very little running in the last couple months. Although I walked a great deal of it, I suddenly found a little something in my legs near the end and I ran the last mile.

Run time = 1:33:55. I expected to do the run in 1:20 so I lost some time there but, in retrospect, it's not a shock that it took the time it did.

When I crossed the finish line, a guy also crossed with me. He was finishing up his half iron. (They had started 40 minutes before my wave but he was still pretty darn fast!) He turned to me and shook my hand and said congratulations and I thought that was a pretty nice touch!

Total time was 4:19 (but I was not last!). I would love to have done it in under 4:00 but the swim issues and lack of running and brick training made that unreachable this time. Still, this was my first olympic distance and I felt happy when I finished.

I plan to work on identifying and learning to deal with the swim anxiety issues or whatever that was. Training will take care of the rest!

My brother, Paul, and my niece, Lizzy, who live in Seattle, met us there for the weekend. Paul did the sprint and Lizzy did the kids' splash and dash. It was great fun to watch them. Adam (my son) also came along and he had a great time cheering us on and taking pictures of the weekend. And of course, being in wine country, we had to stop by and visit a winery and do a little tasting after the race!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Found my Coaches

Since signing up for Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2012, I have been thinking about getting a coach. I wasn't totally sure if I needed one but I posted the question on the running forum I am part of and I got some answers that helped me decide. Besides providing me with structure, accountability, and general wisdom and advice, a coach will help me by determining an appropriate training volume and keeping my program flexible for life, age, injury, etc. So, with this in mind, I have been looking for a coach.

My iron friend, Christine, suggested two names to me. Either option would have been good but I happened to meet with one before the other and decided to go with her. Her name is Rachel and she and her husband, Glen, will be whipping me into shape for next year. Glen has coached for 25 years, including some of Canada's elite triathletes, and Rachel was, herself, an elite triathlete but both of them seem quite happy to work with me. In fact, it sounds like both of them are really interested in ordinary age group athletes and Rachel has a particular interest in helping people with injuries get to the start and finish line.

They will provide me with a training plan that will come to me in 4 week blocks. The plan will be customized for me, my age, goals, and injury status. I also have the option of some one-on-one time with them, which I will probably take advantage of from time to time, just to be sure my swim form is good, my bike fits me, and that I am doing my weight training properly. In September, Glen is going to start up group swim training sessions at the neighbourhood pool and I will go to those. Rachel is going to get me going on strength training, which they said will help my performance immensely and give me a way to train effectively without an intense volume of running and cycling. That will make my hip happy. I can spin two days a week with the Edmonton Triathlon Club, from December to March, and then get out on the road for some long rides in the couple months before the race. They said that I will only have to run about 16-20K as my longest runs and then they will create a plan that will incorporate plenty of walking into the marathon run portion of the race. Finally, they said that they would help me train my nutrition, too, so that I don't bonk during the race and can finish feeling good.

All in all, I really liked their approach and plan for me. It sounds very doable and I will have the right balance between one-on-one advice, group workouts and structured time on my own. They will help me with mental preparedness, too, which might mean that I don't have to burst into tears on the beach next June, like I do at almost every race!

Talking to them made me feel relieved that I don't have to go into this epic adventure on my own and it also made me very excited to think that, with guidance, hard work on my part, and faith in myself and my training, I might just cross that finish line in under 17 hours.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Iron Idiot, PhD

Well, 12 days ago, I defended my doctoral dissertation and finished up six years of study. It was very nice to finish that, put that stress behind me and look forward to a new and exciting future. Well, I guess I don't do well without stress because it took only 12 days until I threw myself right back into the deep end.

Today I registered for Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2012.

A while ago, I told my friend Jordan that if I ever did an Ironman, it would be a bigger deal to me than getting a PhD. I still think that. Academia comes naturally to me. Being an athlete does not. I suppose that's why it's so important to me to show myself that I can do something amazing like finishing an Ironman.

I was lucky enough to get a general entry spot online. After I registered, I sat at my computer and cried about what I had just done. I am a slow, fat, arthritic triathlete and now I have committed to doing this amazing thing. Wow!

But I know in my heart I had to do this now. I think about it all the time and I knew I would regret it forever if I didn't. I think I can do it and I think my hip will hold up.

This will be a big year for me. I will have to find something inside of myself that I sometimes don't believe is there. But I want to find it, I want to nurture it and I want to show myself that this is possible.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Better Get Some Training In!

Yesterday was the end of a very long period of pretty significant stress and I am enjoying a bit of a breather today. Since January, I have taught two university courses and finalized my doctoral dissertation. I also squeezed in a little trip to London, England and Bruges, Belgium, which was very nice but it was kind of in the middle of it all. It's amazing how productive one can be when there's so much to do but it sure is nice to back off a little now and again. Last week was the high point of it all - I successfully defended my dissertation. After a few days of post traumatic stress disorder, I am feeling good!

I did a lot of spinning over the winter but when spin season ended, I didn't get out on the road that much. I have only done a little bit of swimming and an even littler bit of running this spring, too. I did do the MS Bike Tour a couple weeks ago, which is always good training, but otherwise it's all been a little sporadic.

Despite a slight lack of training, time is still moving on and I have an Olympic distance race approaching in 20 days! I will be traveling with Dan (husband) and Adam (son) to Chelan, Washington to meet Paul (brother) and Elizabeth (niece). Paul is doing the sprint race and Lizzie is doing the kids' splash and dash.

In an effort to get a little training in, I have gone for a couple of runs this week. Oh boy do I suck! I'm very slow and can't go very far. I've been afraid to run because of my hip and now I'm paying for it. But today was a little better. I went a little farther at a slightly faster pace and it felt good. I'll keep it up for a couple more weeks and do what I can for the race.

This will be my first Olympic distance race. All things considered, I don't have a huge time goal. I want to see how my bike time is because I think I'm somewhat faster this year. My swim time will be as it usually is. My run time will be brutal and will pretty much ruin my overall time but it is what it is right now.

It's nice to have my mind free to focus on some training now and think about enjoying that race, which I will do regardless of my time!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Still Here!

Well, it's been a very long time since my last post. There hasn't been a lot to report.

Our spin season is now over. I think I probably rode about 1000 km on my bike during spin this winter. It was fun for the most part. That one spin instructor we had really started to get on my nerves (and a lot of other people's too). His workouts were monotonous and his style of motivating was to put people down. Didn't work for me. But I did all the workouts anyway, with him and the other spin leader who is wonderful. I think I made some progress.

It's hard in Alberta to end the spin season in March. We had a lot of snow this year and there was still snow on the ground for most of April. Now that it's almost all gone, there is just so much gravel and sand still on the roads, which makes riding treacherous. It can be June before the City has that all cleaned up. I haven't ridden more than a few kilometres since spin ended so I've probably lost some of that hard-earned fitness.

I haven't been in the pool much either and have just run a little bit. I don't have much mojo. I was quite sick with bronchitis in March/April and then away in Europe for two weeks of April so the training hasn't been what it should have been. Now I am in lazy mode!

I did register for the ChelanMan olympic distance triathlon, held in Chelan, Washington in mid-July. My husband and son and I will make a little holiday of it and meet my brother and niece there so they can race, too. I enjoy doing races with my brother and his daughter, who is six, is such a sweet and keen little triathlete that it's a blast to watch her.

I best find that mojo and get ready for that race!