Reflection Time

After the completion of Harvest Moon relay, it was time to reflect on my first Triathlon “season” and contemplate what I wanted to pursue going forward.

Also, I was ready for a break.  I’d trained hard since registering for the Ft Collins Club Sprint event which meant 9 months of focused triathlon training.  Now, the amount of time I committed to training on a weekly basis, generally 10-12 hours, didn’t come close to what Ironman level athletes deliver week after week.  But, in my own humble way I had put considerable time and effort into my swim, bike, run.  I didn’t want to burn out and…more importantly I didn’t want to lose the support of my personal fan club (guys #1 (Husband) and #2 (Son)).  Striving for a reasonable balance between training-family-work is tough!

In 2012, I would “age up” and coincententially become eligible for AARPaaargh!  That really conjures up a visual that is SO contrary to Triathlon.   Yes, I would be competing in the 50-54 age group… OUCH!  But on the bright side, I would be the youngest in that age-group and hopefully being youngest would provide at least some small advantage.

Reviewing my 2011 season results highlighted a glaring weak spot and an opportunity for improvement.  My area of focus during the off season…would be my run.  To highlight how weak my run was in comparison to swim and bike, my results included:

  • SheRox (out of ~300 participants) – Swim (8%), Bike (5%), Run (38%)
  • TRI for the Cure (out of ~2500 participants) – Swim (6%), Bike (2%), Run (31%)

Also Lance Armstrong has been heard to say “Ride for Show, Run for Dough”, my Run wasn’t gonna win me any dough.  Yes, there was a clear area of focus for my winter training.  It would be running.

But, before embarking on more training, @CoachCary recommended I take a break from structured training and focus on flexible “workouts”.  For about a month my www.TrainingPeaks.com training calendar was left blank.  Going back to just “working-out” was an adjustment.  I had become so use to living by my training calendar.  While I missed the structure in my life that the training calendar provided, I also felt that my body (and mind) and family were benefiting from my resting.  Cary assured me that I’d come back better and stronger…and hopefully faster if I took a break.  So I followed my coach’s guidance.  Rest was at the top of my training plan!

Taper Week

Time marches on quite quickly when the starting line is staring you in the face and before you know it we were in early May 2011.

Heading into the week of the race was “taper” time or winding down the intensity and duration of the training to allow for recovery.  This is a little difficult as by this time you’re fully amped up on training endorphins and taking what seems like a break is uncomfortable.  You wonder: Will it make you slower? Will you lose your endurance?  Will you lose your mind?  True, you become ingrained in and dependent upon the routine of burning serious energy and how that makes you feel.  Also, your nutrition leading into the race is slightly different, higher in carbs and higher in fluids.  The term carb loading is maybe over used but the carbs, or grains do provide fuel that takes longer to burn and is beneficial for endurance racing.  It just isn’t carb loading meaning the meal before the race.

Denver area weather, is as its reputation, includes severe weather fluctuations.  Mid May you’d think sunny, blue skies etc..  Yes, that was true early in the week of the race but as the week wore on it became clear that Sunday, May 15th would not be an idyllic spring day.

Swim, Bike, Run

My first lap swim was interesting.  In my days as a swimmer I would compete in the 500 yard freestyle which is 20 lengths of the pool.  So I thought, I’ll just swim a nice easy 500, of note is the fact that the swim portion of my first TRI was  a 450 yard pool swim.  After two, yes 2 lengths of the pool I was completely winded and thought how on earth did I EVER race a 500 free.  I was concerned, if I couldn’t easily swim 50 yards how was I going to comfortably race 450 yards and then tack on a 12 mile bike ride and then run a 5K?  Hello friends at Swim Labs (www.swimlabs.com), one 30 minute lesson to tune up my breathing and stroke technique and I was off and running…or rather swimming.  Was I headed to the Olympic swim trials? Nope, but I could feel my groove again in the water.

Next challenge was running.  First time on the treadmill I could not run a quarter mile, approximately 3 minutes, without being anaerobic.  This isn’t just breathing hard but truly out of breath.  Really, how could I be fit and not handle a short run?  I soon realized that each of the different components of fitness and triathlon training require difference types of skill, technique and endurance.  After a running lesson with Cary, I started to improve my ability to run for longer periods of time without feeling like I needed “the bucket”.

On to the bike, enter Zen, or actually “Zen Boy”, (doesn’t everyone name their bike?) my beautiful Giant Avail Advanced road bike.  I shopped pretty extensively with the help and research efforts of #1 guy Keith.  I looked at Cannondale, Trek, Orbea, Specialized and Giant road bikes.  While I liked all the bikes, I fell in love with Giant.  Plus the guys at Giant Cycling (http://giantdenver.com/) were great!  Now this may sound stupid, but bikes have changed considerably since my old ten speed days so I needed help with the fundamentals.  Like how to shift, break, plus there was the small matter of bike shoes.  Talk about being patient, and thankfully NOT making me feel like a total doofus, Joe V at Giant Cycling coached me through shifting, breaking, clipping and unclipping on the in-store Cycleops trainer.  Thank you Joe V!

2010 – Transformation from FAT to FIT

I was determined, that this time would be different.

This was not a diet, as diets have a defined end, and then what?  This was not focused on weight or size.  This was not focused on calories.  Simply it was focused on becoming fit and healthy— “mindful” healthy eating coupled with frequent vigorous exercise plus adequate rest.

Now, what does “mindful” eating mean?  It means (to me), that you do not deprive yourself, because that just makes you want (dream about, negotiate with yourself, pine for and eventually shovel in as quickly as possible) whatever you tell yourself that you cannot have.  Mindful eating is, being aware that if you have French fries, or cake or a cocktail or whatever makes your taste buds sing, that’s ok, you just can’t do that with every meal and you need to do so with reasonable portions.   Reasonable portions means just that, no need to measure, weigh etc. but a whole pie, or cake or sheet of brownies is not reasonable a single slice is just fine.

Workout and mean it.  Make regular vigorous exercise, meaning most days of the week, a high priority part of your life.  Is working out always fun?  No.  Can it sometimes be fun?  Yes.  Is it more fun after the first couple of tough break-in weeks?  Usually.

Adequate sleep is different for everyone.  Just make sure you get enough quality sleep to recover from your frequent exercise.

This is what I did.  I worked-out 5 days per week and worked-out hard.  I plugged music into my iPod that got me energized.  I joined a gym that was convenient to remove any obstacles meaning excuses.  I committed to myself that this was a priority, that this was important for my health, for my wellbeing, for…me.  OK, now that’s key.  I was doing it for ME, not anyone else!  I also posted an 8×10 copy of the original offending photo that I refer to as “Fat Ali” in a place that so I (not everyone that came to my house to visit) would frequently see it; to remember, how that felt and how I was on a path to change that feeling.

We went back to Hawaii for Spring Break 2010, five months after the infamous photo shoot previously mentioned.  New, better (not great) photos that were starting to reflect the transformation underway were taken.  A representative photo was posted (8×10) beside the original as would other periodic swim suit clad photos which eventually formed a wall of photos that visually tracked my progress.

I continued on this path throughout 2010.   Frequent vigorous workouts, mindful eating, rest—repeat.  I do need to give credit where due to my fabulous husband.  He has always supported me, my efforts and my whims.  In this case he, as the chef of the family, ensured that we had quality meals and fresh foods on hand.  He thinks he’s an OK cook, I think he’s great…I think I’m right, anyway…quality ingredients, lots of fish, lean meats, fresh veggies, fresh fruit—YUM!  At the end of 2010 I gave away the 2 largest sizes of clothes I owned (14 and 12) and packed away in storage 1 additional size (10) with the goal of reviewing in 12 months for future give away if I stayed the course.

In December 2010, @KirkMac asked me “What’s next?” stating his opinion that I needed to have a competition to keep me on track.  Hmmm, now that’s interesting, those that know me know that I’m competitive by nature and was a athlete through high school (yes, that was close to a thousand years ago, but so what!)  Kirk suggested…Triathlon. Now, that was really intriguing.