Off Season Focus

Once training resumed I did as @CoachCary suggested.  I focused on two things:

1)      Becoming STRONGER with the help of my new strength trainer Barrie at FORZA fitness and performance center.  Barrie is USAT TRI Coach and Iron distance triathlete who also specializes in strength training for triathletes.

2)      Becoming faster, specifically RUNNING faster – this required focus on dynamic stretching prior to running, refining my running technique, hill intervals and speed intervals or Fartleks.

Previously I had not given strength training the attention that it needed.  While I lifted weights I did not put the energy into my strength training that I did into my Swim, Bike, Run.  That needed to change and I started to strength train “like I meant it”.  The dividends paid back pretty quickly.  With Barrie’s workouts and coaching I quickly started to notice an improvement in not only my strength but also my balance, my coordination and my muscle definition.

My running program included a higher percentage of my “training pie” allocated to the run.  Prior to each training session I logged time doing dynamic stretches which are basically moving stretches things like “soldier legs”, “butt kicks”, “high knees”, “skipping” etc.  All intended to get your muscles loosened up prior to starting the actual run.

Over the next few months my allocation of training time spent on running was 35% and strength training/cross-training was 20% — 55% of my total training was dedicated to those two elements with remainder obviously assigned to swim and bike.

I also competed in a few of road races over the off season to keep be comfortable with race events.  These included:

The Stride – a 10K fund raiser for Littleton Public Schools.  A fun family oriented event with guys #1 & #2 running in the 5K and me running with my friends Nico and Erin in the 10K.  This was my first time running any race longer than a 5K.  Nico being a runner and ultra marathon pacer did me the favor being my pacer; having a pacer helps SO much!

Christmas Carole Classic – this fund raiser 5K in December included several of my TRI buddies.  It was a fun event in that we all went out for brunch afterwards but the run itself was brutal.  Running “fast” when it’s below freezing outside does NOT feel good.  Actually it feels pretty darn horrible and I decided NOT to do that again.

Runnin’ of the Green – this 7K St Patty’s Day event also included some friends and training buddies.  This event is huge…as in TOO many people (~5,000) done and off the list for future events.

Cherry Creek Sneak – 2012 was the 30th anniversary of the Cherry Creek Sneak but the inaugural for the 10 mile.  This was the first time I had raced in a longer distance running event.  This run was also important in that it was a gauge of my ability to run 13.1, which coincidentally is the distance for the run distance of a 70.3 long course event.

Nico and Heather ran the ten miles with me with Nico pacing us and taking photos…it was great!

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!

Training Buddies

One of the things I immediately found compelling about triathlon was the camaraderie that comes with the TRI community and the friendships that can form around common training, events and goals.  No doubt that training and completing events with friends makes it that much more fun!

I was fortunate in that I had a number of friends that trained with me and some that also opted into events.  Special call outs to @KirkMac for your support, encouragement and training advance.  Bernie for “going breathless” at CAC spin classes.  Anne, Beth and Erin for joining me on those early morning runs and Heather for open water swim practices and later season training.

Erin and her sister Heather are natural born athletes who have competed in triathlon for several years.  Training with folks that are experienced, younger, stronger and faster than you is a great way to take your game to the next level.   Also, at least for me, creating a core group of committed training partners helps ensure that you stick to your training calendar.

Training and participating in events as a “lone ranger” may work for some but I enjoy traveling the road with other like minded athletes (still feels weird calling myself that).

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!

Who’s that Stranger in the Photo?

My family including my parents went on a lovely vacation to Maui, Hawaii in October 2009—a family favorite locale that we’ve enjoyed for many years.  After the trip, I was back home reviewing the holiday photos with the intention of selecting one for inclusion in my traditional photo calendar. Now, while I knew that I was chubby at this time…I was quite frankly shocked by the photos of myself on the beach.  To be clear, I am not a candidate for The Biggest Loser.  But my “chubbiness” or really fatness had transformed me into a woman that I didn’t know.

Looking at one photo after another I saw:

  • A woman that had bad posture
  • A mid-forties gal that looked at least 10 years older
  • I looked tired and frustrated

Reflection time…these photos reflected the image I was projecting to others, which was scary.  Not the typical high energy, can do, positive gal that I consider myself and am generally (I think) known to be.  The seeds were being sown for change.

Coincidentally my friend, colleague, mentor and former “fat guy”, @KirkMac, who, by the way, is now an 8 time (and counting) Ironman finisher, including Kona, mentioned a book that contributed to his personal transformation Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley @CrowleySpeaks www.youngernextyear.com  and Henry S. Lodge.  Being the supportive guy and fitness focused individual that Kirk is, he gave me a copy of the book for Christmas 2009.

Loved the book, if you haven’t read it I’d highly recommend it to anyone that is interested in optimizing health and fighting the general “decay” (yes, that term is used a ton in the book) that comes with the aging process.  In a nutshell, Younger Next Year speaks to the physiological benefits that result from vigorous exercise…not the “ho-hum am I done yet?” type of exercise that I mentioned earlier.  But, the kind of workout that gets your heart pumping and sweat pouring, the kind that taps into those endorphins that people love to talk about.

New Years resolution time…2010

As we all know, resolutions that tie into January 1st have a very low level probability of sustained success.  Still it was that time of year and an opportunity for me to jump into the deep end of personal transformation.