Blogs tagged with "rest"

Enjoying the third day of the off-season surfing in Maui

It's been a while since I had a real off-season, but the planets have aligned this year to provide me with a little post-season, holiday, do-nothing block of time. Even though I ran the New York City Marathon two weeks ago, my post season off-time began the day after Ironman Kona. It started with a trip to Maui and ends right about now, in my kitchen, in front of my computer.

Why now, you ask? Because six weeks is enough! I've realized that there is still nothing interesting to watch on TV. I've fallen victim to the Halloween-candy-at-the-office five-pound weight gain (which, at my advanced age's metabolic slowdown, will no doubt take the next six months to eradicate). And I'm ready to stop looking at the past and now look at the future - a.k.a., my 2012 triathlon season.

To go forward, though, I feel the need to contemplate the past so that I can learn from it. The first mistake I ALWAYS make in reviewing the past is the one I'm going to try to avoid this time: remembering only the failures. In looking at years past, I usually only remember the things I want to change, like my poor performances. That's all well and good if I logically analyze what caused the poor performances. But I always forget to review what went right.

Why do we do that? Maybe the question should be: am I the only one who does that? Why does the negative emotional impact of my bad races outweigh the positive impact of my good ones? In other words: why do we dwell?

I don't have the answer to that. (All the psychologists of the world just breathed a collective sigh of relief.)

So, to focus on a positive review of last season, I will not mention the disasters that were two of my biggest races of the year: the USAT National Championship and Ironman Hawaii. Instead, I will review what went right:

  • I won my age group in Ironman St. George by more than an hour, came in tenth overall and fifth amateur. (Who cares if it was with an embarrassingly-slow marathon?)
  • I won my age group and set the age group course record in Ironman Lake Placid.
  • I won my age group in Ironman 70.3 Muncie.
  • I became the 2011 world champ in my age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.
  • I ran two marathons - Walt Disney World and New York City - just for fun, both with respectable times (and won my age group at Disney).
Punks, me and Ron in Vegas
Unlike last year, I am able to make that list this year because one of the other great things that happened in 2011 was to develop a great friendship with Ron, aka Punk Rock Tri Guy and @PunkRockRunner, who felt compelled to write me a motivational list before Kona - to remind me of the things I should remember about myself. He has been on a mission to turn my thinking around from dwelling on the disasters. Between Ron and my husband Jim (who has been on that same mission since I began running marathons in 1991), it might finally be setting in.
In addition to athletic endeavors, there were other positives in my life this year. I was able to get out of a dead-end job where I lived daily with fear and stress - and started a new job at a world-class institution, The Cleveland Museum of Art, doing something I love (web application development). It's amazing to me that a simple change has done so much for my attitude. I am now surrounded by positive and hard-working people who understand my training (many of whom have athletic lifestyles - and even run marathons). Several of the technical gurus I work for and with are women that I have developed a deep admiration for. Most importantly, people's eyes no longer glaze over when I go all technical (i.e., "geeky"). My favorite conversation of the last week was with our designers who were trying to create a model of our floor based on the terminology from Star Trek. Yep. Geeks. My people.
Elking around in up-state New York
Working at the museum also re-exposed me to the art world, something I didn't realize I missed until I was back in it. I was even bold enough to enter one of my prints in the staff art show. (This is huge if you know that every time in the past I had "chickened out" at the last minute - even after I had framed my art and had it all ready to go.) It appears I am letting go of some of my insecurities. I hope to be working more on my art in the near future because of the daily inspiration I get at work.
Thus, with a new mental foundation, and some successes in 2011, I am inspired to work hard(er) next year to build on the positive attitude and be able to capitalize in big races. If I'm fortunate enough to get another Kona slot, I will take what I have learned this year and apply it throughout training to eliminate more chances of something going wrong again.
Here are the things I've learned from my 2011 season, in no particular order: 
  • Training with power is what works for my biking (thanks to the CompuTrainer). I don't think I can afford a power meter on the bike, so I will stick with the trainer for power workouts, and work hard during the winter months when I can't ride outside.
  • I still need to figure out what is going on with my nutrition in the heat. Apparently, more sodium isn't enough and maybe it should be "lots more, even more than you think after you've taken more" sodium. I will be consulting a trusted nutritionist. I will also look into having these things (like sweat rate and sweat composition) tested. This is where I think my money will be best spent.
  • My swim training this year reached a sort of plateau, but I'm confident I can get through this one because I managed to do the same time in my three Ironman races this year no matter how hard or how easy I trained for the swim. I broke a rib and lost two weeks leading up to Lake Placid and still did a 1:02. I trained mostly two days a week, sometimes three - so, if I consistently get that third day in, I have high hopes to break that one-hour barrier again. I know I'm capable of going well under it, but so much depends on what happens in the race (i.e., if I get clobbered).
  • If I want to race well in short distances, I should not train for Ironman. ('nuff said.)
  • Sleeping the night before a race fully depends on how confident I am that I can sleep before a race. It has nothing to do with how confident I am in my training. (I am NOT making this up.)
  • More on nutrition: the paleo diet works (and I don't even follow it religiously)
  • Even more on nutrition: despite what the guy from Infinit Nutrition told me in Kona, I do believe that protein is detrimental for me during a race. Once I switched to products without a complete protein ( Closing the book on 2011, in Kona
    I'm sure there are many more lessons I will dig up in the next few months as I review my training from last year to revamp my training for this year. I still have not been able to justify getting a coach because of the expense and also because I feel like I know myself very well and I've been able to coach myself pretty well. I am considering it now because my one issue is knowing when enough is enough and learning to take it easy to let the hard work pay off. I read a great article about self coaching in Lava Magazine recently: The Self Coaching Conundrum featuring recommendations from pro triathletes Amanda Lovato and James Cunnama.
    Thus, there is a lot to consider. But first things first. Get back into training. Build that base. Avoid the pitfalls of eating too much at Thanksgiving. Yikes, that's THIS WEEK! Y'all have a great one!

After 27 weeks of hard training, it all comes down to two things: the taper and race-day execution. It's a lot of pressure to put into a three-week period, but ironically, the taper is all about reducing the pressure, both physically and mentally.

Thus, here I am, starting the three week taper to Ironman Lake Placid. I have a lot of questions - questions I probably shouldn't be asking at this point. But, as the Disaster Magnet, I am riddled with them. Did I train hard enough? Did I do enough long runs? long rides? Could I have added another weekly workout to my swim training? Did I do enough race-simulation bricks? Should I have added a second weekly long ride? Am I mentally prepared for this? I don't know if I'm the only one who goes through this, but as a self-trained endurance athlete, I always question whether I've done enough or done it right. If I had a coach, I might be asking the same questions, but I guess someone would be there to answer them.
So, yeah, here I am, starting the three week taper to Ironman Lake Placid. I did my last really intense workout yesterday. A hard 3.5 hour bike ride with hills followed by 1.5 hours of running. It was a good workout and it should have given me confidence. I practiced race-day fueling and learned a few more things -- such as, it's easy to recover from not eating enough on the bike, and, if it's hot, I should back off on eating during the run. More things to pack into my brain for race day.
But, then again, I'm getting ahead of myself... I'm STARTING the three week taper blah blah blah. I should be right about at the breaking point. Am I? My body is wasted. My mind is frazzled. Last week, I dreaded every workout. Sounds about right. All I need to do now is reduce the volume, keep the intensity, and maintain focus. Easier said than done. How much should I reduce? What's the right intensity? What if I do too much and I'm tired on race morning?
Wait.. wait! I'm STARTING the THREE WEEK taper.... Day 1: rest. recover. relax. get a grip. I've successfully executed a taper before. Many times. I know what I'm doing.

After 27 weeks of hard training, it all comes down to two things: the taper and race-day execution. It's a lot of pressure to put into a three-week period, but ironically, the taper is all about reducing the pressure, both physically and mentally.

One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp is the idea of "easy" weeks. As a runner, it took me several years (and several injuries) to finally "get" the idea of easy days and (God forbid) days OFF. But, easy WEEKS? That can't possibly be a good thing. I can understand a couple days of easy training after a really hard race or weekend. But after a few days, everything feels much better and I can go back out and pound the pavement, right?

Wrong. After weeks and weeks of hard training, the fatigue builds up in your muscles and further gains are impossible until you absorb and benefit from the training that went before. I guess a better term to use is "recovery week." As I get older, I find that my body (and mind) need even more recovery after hard training. So, although I've said it many times before, this year I'm scheduling recovery weeks at least every 4 weeks (as opposed to having them schedule themselves when I'm wiped out).
The biggest problem for me has always been figuring out how easy is "easy" to promote true recovery before the next period of hard training. I rarely stick with it the whole week because I worry that I'm taking it too easy and "losing" all the hard work. From a logic standpoint, I know this isn't the case. From an emotional OCD-runner standpoint, it's a killer. But, my plan this year is to make decisions based on science and not emotion. To finally "figure it out" and not make the same mistakes I've made in the past.
My first recovery week was this past week. I did one less workout per sport and dropped the total duration of all my workouts. Will it be effective? Hopefully I will know the answer in a few weeks.

If there's one thing I've learned in my many years of being an endurance athlete: it's ok to take an extra day off. Thus, Monday was an additional rest day after a swim-only Sunday. The obsessive-compulsive runner in me didn't want to do it, but the rational thinking person won out, after very little sleep on Sunday night and a day of feeling tired and run-down. Will it affect my race? I hope not. Time will tell. It would have been a sub-par workout anyway, so I decided it's best to make sure my body has adequate rest for the hard workout on Tuesday morning.

I've been reading more and more about Ironman training lately, and the important thing seems to be quality over quantity. That may sound strange coming from a workout and mileage junkie like me, but it's what the experts say. Yes, mileage is important when you're training for a 140.6-mile race, but that's exactly the point. I'm training to finish 140.6 miles in a row, not a 140.6-mile training week. Therefore, the quality workouts must also include the quantity. I'll get more from one 15-mile hard training run followed by an easy jog or no run the next day than two 10 milers on successive days. Which brings me to my other point. Rest is necessary for recovery from those harder workouts. I'm determined to not make the same mistakes this time.

If there's one thing I've learned in my many years of being an endurance athlete: it's ok to take an extra day off. Thus, Monday was an additional rest day after a swim-only Sunday.

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