Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you streaking this December?

It's something that a lot of runners do: a running streak.  You run every day, and as long as you can keep it going, it's considered a streak.  I think it's a neat idea.  There is actually some good evidence for doing it.  One of the best ways to be a better runner is to run consistently.  I also think there's good reasons not to do it...

Having said that, this December, I've decided to attempt a running streak.  A local running store is hosting it for the month of December.  Heather, one of my running friends, mentioned it to me on the weekend, and since then, it's been turning over in my mind.  I won't deny that the fact there are some draw prizes also has me tempted.

The deal: run at least 1 mile (1.6 km) per day for the entire month of December.  I've never consistently run more then 4 days a week (since I bike and swim), so this will be new to me.  Having said that, I enjoy running more when I'm doing it consistently.  However, I am planning to be cautious.

Here's my concerns with streaking and how I'm addressing them:

1. Increasing mileage too much.

I've always followed the 10% rule when increasing mileage, and I won't be making an exception while streaking.  In fact, I'm not planning on increasing my weekly mileage at all during the month of December.  I'm just planning on spreading it out.  It's a bit easier, given that I've recently come off of half marathon training.  I also plan to run only a mile on 3-4 days a week.  Realistically, I have to hold it to a mile on some days, or I will never get my bikes and swims in.

2. Running too hard

When I go for short runs, I am often tempted to go all out and run really fast.  After all, if I'm only running a mile, I can run it way faster then if I'm running 10-15km.  Not a good idea if I'm already increasing my running frequency.  Some of those miles will be very easy miles.

3. Running when you shouldn't

Personally, I think the biggest danger with streaking is that it encourages you to run when your body is saying otherwise.  I am going to attempt a month long running streak.  I think it's a great idea to encourage running on days where you just don't feel like it because you'd rather be lazy.  However, if I am getting weird pains in my knees or other joints, or if I'm getting signs from my body that I just shouldn't run, I will break the streak and take the day off.  I also have no intention to continue streaking when the month is done.  I think the longer you have an unbroken streak, the bigger the temptation to ignore your body to keep the streak.

So, with tomorrow being December 1, the streak begins.  I'm feeling better today (I'm wondering if yesterday was a food related issue rather then an actual illness), so I'm optimistic that I'll be starting healthy. Let the streak begin!

Yesterday's HBBC points: 0
Week to date: 14
Total: 52

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Maybe I need to change my blog name again

Depending how long you've been following, you may or may not know that I haven't always been DebTris.  I started out as DebShrinks, and changed it close to a year ago when I realized my blog had become more of a triathlon blog and less of a diet blog.

Now, I am considering renaming my blog again.  I'm thinking:

What do you think?  Or is it a bit too long for a url?

On the plus side, I am loving the age my children are getting to.  I remember being sick when I had two kids under the age of two.  They slept horribly and needed me so much.  I remember being a pathetic ball of sickness and still having to drag myself around to take care of them.

This morning, Sweetpea thoughtfully slept in until 9:00 am.  Spud got up at 7:00, but I gave him free reign with muffins and told him I wasn't feeling well.  I stayed in bed while he ate breakfast and played.  The only casualty was the muffins which I'd planned to use for school snacks.  They might not have been the best breakfast, but they were homemade and whole grain, so I'm not feeling at all bad about it.  He let me stay in bed until Sweetpea got up.  Life is good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

If it doesn't kill me...

If it doesn't kill me, it will make me stronger.

Or faster.


Actually, I'm feeling pretty good right now, but about an hour ago, I thought I might transpire in the swimming pool if I had to sprint another 25 metres.  Then I sprinted another 25 metres...

I'm still here.

Short update on me: I'm starting to feel more normal again.  Not as consistently crappy as I've felt lately.  Maybe this cold is actually starting to go away.  

My body isn't sore anymore.  Well, that's not true.  My body isn't sore from the fall anymore.  Yesterday, I gave into peer pressure and did a bunch of lunges with my running friends, and now I'm sore.  The moral of the story: don't give into peer pressure.  Wait.  Hang on, maybe not all peer pressure is bad?

Have a good night everyone!

Yesterday's HBBC points: 6 (4.5 mile run, 10 minutes stretching, f/v)
Today's HBBC points: 7 (60 minute coached swim, f/v)
Week to date: 14
Total: 52

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You don't want scurvy

Like many parents, I wish my kids would eat a wider variety of food.  Having said that, for the most part their diet is pretty healthy, and there's at least a few foods from each food group they'll eat.  Lately though, vegetables have been getting the shaft.  Broccoli, tomatoes, and corn have always been pretty reliable, but recently both kids have been passing on them in favour of whatever else is on the table.

Yesterday, Beejay (my husband) gave Spud a piece of broccoli.  "No thank you," Spud told him.

"You need to eat your broccoli, or you'll get scurvy," I commented.

" 'curvy? What's 'curvy?"  Spud asked.

My husband explained that people that lived on ships used to get scurvy because they didn't have fruits and vegetables.  (I am aware that it's mostly a vit C thing, but the scurvy comment just came out and I couldn't stop myself.)

The broccoli went into his mouth.

"Eat your broccoli Sweetpea," Spud told his sister, "you don't want 'curvy."

The broccoli went in her mouth.

The meal continued.  Spud ate more broccoli and periodically reminded the rest of us to do so as well, so that we could avoid 'curvy.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder to eat our fruits and veggies.  If for no other reason, remember that you don't want scurvy.

(On a side note, I'm feeling much better today.  Not nearly as sore, and I'm gearing up for a run with friends.)

Yesterday's HBBC points: 1 (anti-scurvy point)
Week to date: 1
Total: 39

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's great being high, but eventually you have to come down.

I'm feeling kind of down these last couple weeks.  My activity level has dropped (okay, kind of plummeted).  My eating has been poor.  I've gained a couple pounds.  I've had a cold for almost two weeks now, and I still have a bit of a rattle when I breath.  I fell down the stairs this week, and my body is still sore.  It feels like delayed onset muscle soreness, but without having had the benefit of a good workout to get me there.

What the heck?

I think there's a couple things going on, but I think one of the biggest is that I've come off my high.  It was inevitable.  Things were clicking for me, and I was having some amazing breakthroughs.  I smashed through PRs for both the 10k and half marathon distances.  It's also a foregone conclusion that I will eventually destroy my previous 5K record (since I ran both halves of that 10k considerably faster then my current 5k PR).  I've seen considerable and measurable improvements in my swimming and biking as well.

Realistically, it's not always going to be like that.  I'd love to think it was possible, but if I kept seeing improvements at that level and that frequently, I'd probably win Kona next year.  And, while I think I still have a lot of untapped potential, I think it's safe to say that I don't have much shot at winning Kona.  I am unlikely to ever again get a 30 minute PR on the half marathon distance.  I may have the ability to eventually cut off another 30 minutes, but if it happens, it will take years to get there, as opposed to the six months between these two races.

So, it's time to settle in for a bit.  Does that mean I stop shooting to get better?  No.  But, my body can't always be hitting a peak in performance.  Now, it's time to let my body recover a bit and rejuvenate.  Get over this freaking cold.  Let this post-fall soreness go away.  And, while I'm doing all of that, I need to lay off on the cookies and eat my vegetables.  Seriously.

I've been feeling frustrated that I've "only" been working out once a day.  "Only" 45-60 minutes most days.  Seriously?  I remember a time when I would have considered that an amazing level of activity.  So, yeah, I've been tired and run down, and I haven't been getting double workouts in.  Since my half marathon, I haven't done any long runs.  I still am maintaining a level of activity from which I can easily build back up.

I can't stay high all the time, so I have to remember how it felt to be there.  Because, I will be there again.  July 29, 2012 seems like a great time for another huge peak...

Yesterday's HBBC points: 0
Last Week's total: 35

Friday, November 25, 2011

I might have endurance, but I lack grace...

I'm clumsy.

Yesterday, I fell down the stairs.  Today, I hurt.

Now, it wasn't a horrible fall.  I know falls down stairs can be really nasty, and I'm lucky it wasn't that bad.

But, it wasn't nice either.  I landed on my hip, and it hurts there.  Now, today, I realize my left arm is super sore, from trying to catch myself.  Both of my shoulders are sore too.  I probably tried to catch myself on both sides, but the left side is the only one with a bannister, so I didn't actually pull things on the right.


Walking actually feels okay, so I'm optimistic running might be a go.  Biking, I doubt.  Swimming, I think I'll have to take a couple days off.  Disappointing, because I've been trying to focus a bit on my swim, but on the upside, I'd already got a few in this week, so it won't set me back.

I can train to get faster and go longer.  Any way I can train so that I'm less clumsy?  I also stubbed my toe this week hard enough to break the skin, so that's sore too...

Wednesday's HBBC points: 10  (50 minute swim, 4 mile run, f/v point)
Thursday's HBBC points: 5 (40 minute swim, f/v point)
Week to date: 35

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Well, since I like to talk about breaking past barriers...

Over a year ago, when I was a new runner, I wrote this post.  At the time, I was slightly horrified at the fact that I had found myself to be a spitter.

I'm proud to announce that I no longer have any hang-ups about spitting.  If I need to, I will, as long as I'm outside.  (I do restrain myself from spitting while running on the track.)  In fact, given I'm still getting over a cold, spitting just goes along with running right now.

Now, snot rockets, that I can't get the hang of...

Do you do anything that your "old" self would be horrified by?

Yesterday's HBBC points: 0 (yes, I even missed the f/v point.  On the plus side, I'm earning lots today.)
Week to date points: 20

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Form trumps speed, form brings speed...

"Form trumps speed."  It's one of those phrases that Angie said that stuck with me.  It was sometime in the Spring and I think it was the first time she ever had us doing 25 metre sprints in the pool.  The message: don't let go of your form to try to get faster.

It made sense to me.  I got it, in the sense that I know working harder doesn't always make me swim faster.  Sometimes it only means I work harder and go the same speed.  Kind of counterproductive.

Recently, it's become a focus again.  Near the beginning of this session, Angie told me that I swim very prettily when I go slow, and it would be great if we could get my swimming to look that way when I go fast.

But, my fast swimming wasn't so pretty...

"You smash the water," Angie told me.
"Your arms remind me of a hamster wheel, just going round and round," Cindy said, in observation of one of my sprints.
"Swim quietly," Angie instructed me.
"When you go fast, focus on pulling as much water as you can, rather then just moving your arms fast," another one from Cindy.

Swimming well is hard.  I now have a pretty good idea what proper technique looks like.  I can observe it in other swimmers.  But translating that into reality isn't so easy.

I know some people get bored swimming laps.  I don't.  There is so much to focus on.  I try to focus on just one thing at a time, but it takes some seriously intense focus to keep some of my stroke flaws in check.  But, little by little, when I focus on those things, they start to become ingrained.  Then, something else presents itself as important to focus on.  Then, sometimes, I need to go back and remind myself of the previous flaws I've worked on...

And then, I go fast, and I forget everything and I look like a hamster wheel...

Until now.

Okay, I won't say that I'm a perfect swimmer, but once again, things are starting to click.  It began with the "swim quietly" comment.  Then the feedback to pull more water, which also reminded me to pull through the full stroke.

Then last night, we were doing the fist drill.  If you've never done it before, it's where you swim with your hands in a fist, which makes it so you really have to use your arms properly to help pull the water.  I found myself just slightly shifting the angle of my arm, and then it happened.

I was feeling the water.

It's one of those hokey sounding things you'll here people say about swimming: "you need to feel the water".  At least, it seems hokey until it's happened.

On the way back, (when I was swimming with open hands again), I felt like I was completely in control of the water.  I was no longer just moving through the water.  I was using the water to move me.

I got some feedback on my stroke.  I wasn't rotating enough on one side, causing me to do a funny thing with my wrist to keep it out of the water - since my elbow wasn't high enough.  And, since me and the water were connecting, I immediately got what the problem was.  I was able to work on it and could feel when I was getting it right.

Then came the test.  Some fast swimming.  The time when I tend to lose form.

And, I held it.  Pulling all the way through.  Rolling from side to side.  Grabbing as much water as I could.  I didn't smash the water, and I don't think I looked like a hamster wheel.  Wow.

Then, as a bonus, it was the first workout since my race that didn't leave me feeling completely drained and exhausted.  Kind of ironic (given it's my latest workout of the week, ending at 10:00pm), but maybe it means I'm finally kicking this cold!

Yesterday's HBBC points: 7 (60 minute swim + f/v point)
Week to date points: 20

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just a cold?

So, as I mentioned last week, I've been knocked down with a cold.  While I'll take time off for a flu (pretty much have to), I've trained through plenty of colds.  I have kids after all, also known as "plague carriers".  Now, this cold, I didn't need to train through.  Not only did it hit me when I didn't have a race coming up, but it hit me during a post race week, where I only do the training I feel like.  Same as my last post race week, I'd expected to do more, but took extra rest days to feel better.

I ended up taking three rest days in a row.  It's not all good though.  By the end of those rest days, I was getting impatient with my kids and surly with my husband.  Was I just a mean person before I started this?

Then, on Saturday, I ran.  I only did 8 km (5mi), in about 50 minutes.  Now, I say "only" because lately that is a short run for me.  With half marathon training, that's basically the shortest run I've done in a long time.  It wiped me out.  Seriously.  I was so tired afterwards.  I'd been planning on swimming that evening, but that idea got bagged.

Then, on Sunday, I got that swim in.  Although, I was planning on spinning or running as well.  Not a chance!  I only swam for 50 minutes.  (Usually swims are an hour, mostly because of time constraints and lane swim times.)  I was so tired.  Exhausted.

So, either I have lost all of my fitness in the last week, or this cold is still sapping me.  What the heck?  Admittedly, I'm still coughing and sniffling, but it isn't as bad as it was last week.  If I'm honest though, my son got hit harder then usual with this cold (and he gets hit hard anyways).  Plus it hung on for a while.

Ugh.  Not liking this.

Do you take any time off training for colds or do you train through them?

Yesterday's HBBC points: 7 (50 minute swim, 20 minute core/stretching + f/v point)
Week to date points: 13

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cold weather wimp out, and getting sucked into Twitter

Well, the week of doing whatever after my race is up, and yesterday I wanted to run.  The problem was it was cold outside:  about -18c (0f), but with windchill, it was closer to -25c (-13f).

Now here's the thing, I can run in the cold.  I have run in the cold.  In fact, I generally consider about -30c (-22f) to be my temperature cut off.

I didn't feel like running in the cold.  I justified it by bringing into the equation that I have a cold.  I also have asthma.  Between cold weather, asthma, and illness, I can deal with two of them at a time.  All three together and it's more of a challenge, even though my asthma is well managed now.

So, I headed to the track and ran 8km (5mi) there.  Last winter, I ran there a handful of times, and found it a real challenge to keep going in circles.  This time, I didn't find it too bad.  I brought my ipod (which I rarely use outside) and pumped up the volume.  And, I ran.  One thing that helped is some advice from my swim/spin coach to "ovalize" the corners.  Basically, our track has very square corners, but if you cut across the lanes, you can make them much less abrupt, and therefore easier on the knees.  There were only three other people on the track, so that wasn't hard to do.  It would certainly be tougher when the track is busy.

In other news, I've signed up for twitter.  I resisted for a long time.  But, then again, when it seemed like everyone else was setting up blogs, I held off on that too, but eventually got hooked.

I'm still figuring it out, but I kind of feel like the new kid at school.  Having said that, it does look like half the blog world is on there!  If you want to follow me, I signed up as @DebTris.  Pretty easy to find if you know my blog.  :)

Do you have a cold weather temperature cut off?  What is it?  Are you on twitter?  Any tips for this newbie?

Yesterday's HBBC points: 6  (5 mile run + fruit/veggie point)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting in the fruits and vegetables

This morning's breakfast of yogurt, oats, blueberries and apple - a double serving  this morning.

So, if you're a blogger, you're probably signed up for the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge.  If you haven't heard of it, (you must have just joined the blogosphere) check it out on Amanda's blog, Run to the Finish.  It's a challenge to encourage us all to stay active and eat well through the holiday season.  You get points for eating your fruits and veggies and logging activity.  You can sign up anytime, and I believe you're still eligible for the final prizes if you sign up before Nov 22.

So, that being said, with all the ways to rack up points, don't forget some of the little easy ways.  Primarily, eating that produce.  Seven servings may seem like a lot, but it's something we should be doing anyways.  If you're like me though, sometimes you fall out of the habit.  This is a good reminder to get back into it.

It's simple math.  For me, I'm going to remember to have at least one serving (probably fruit) with breakfast, two with lunch, and two with supper (probably both vegetables).  At that point, it means I only need two more.  For snacks, I grab a fruit or veggie plus a protein source.  Maybe apple with peanut butter, grapes with a piece of cheese, raw veggies with hummus...  Seven servings easily achieved!

Keep in mind that the seven servings is a minimum, not a maximum.  There is nothing wrong with having more.  I know that if I have a salad or stirfry as my main course, I might have four servings with that meal, which is awesome!  That doesn't change my strategy to eat well for the rest of the day.

So, get those fruits and veggies in.  Then go for a run!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A jumble of random things

1. Apparently, I better keep racing, because when I quit, I might die...

On my post about getting sick after my races are done, my sister left the following comment: "Loads of teachers get sick at the beginning of holidays (and apparently lots of them die soon after retirement too)."  Um, thanks sis.  You're saying that when I "retire" from triathlons and running races that I'll die?  Well, if there wasn't a good reason to stick with it, here it is.  It shouldn't be too hard to Kona qualify when I'm 90, right?

2. I'm not dying yet.

Speaking of getting sick and dying, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling better.  I still have some annoying congestion and a bit of a cough, but I am no longer feeling tired just by standing up.  I took two consecutive rest days (not sure when the last time I did that was) and I think this evening I'll do an easy run or swim.

3. The other side of my sprint to the finish...

So, in my race report this week, I mentioned John running me in at the end.  How I felt like I was dying and couldn't breath, but he was still talking and encouraging me in that sprint to the finish.  I chatted with him at spin class and told him what I'd written in my blog.  He gave me the other side of it:

He had finished his race about 10 minutes earlier and gone hard at the end.  When he saw me coming up, he thought it would be an easy run in with me.  BUT, instead, I made it hurt for him when I picked up the pace and ran hard.  I thought that was kind of cool.  :)  I mean, there's no doubt he's a faster runner then me right now, so I'm pleased I could make it hard.

4. HBBC starts tomorrow!

The timing of this is perfect for me.  This week has been my "do what I feel like" week after a big race.  Just like last time, I did less then I expected because I got sick during it, but now I'm ready to go!  The thing I like about this challenge is the emphasis on the positive, rather then the negative.  You don't lose points for eating sweets or sitting on the couch, but you do get them for getting in your veggies or running a mile.

5. Skating lessons, the good and bad

So, as I've mentioned in previous posts that I've got Spud and Sweetpea in skating lessons right now.  Well, Sweetpea is done.  The last couple lessons, she's done nothing but sit on the ice.  The instructors won't pick her up unless she at least gets to her knees, and she won't even do that.  Last time, I took her off and let her watch with me and she was much happier.  We'll wait until she asks to do it again before putting her in another class.  (Although, in my defense, she was the one to pick skating for her activity this time.)

The flip side of it is Spud, who has taken off on the ice.  He still falls a lot, but he happily gets back up and keeps going.  Last class, they had some hockey sticks and balls for the kids to play with, which he COMPLETELY loved.  Oh my, I have visions of it now.  5am practices to take him to, thousands of dollars in equipment...  Can't I just convince him to be a runner instead?

6. My oven still doesn't work

My oven has been down for almost a month now.  We're waiting for a part.  Yesterday I called to find out what was happening and apparently it was damaged in shipping, so now we're waiting for another part...

Now, I don't want to be a complainer, but it's getting annoying.  I wanted to roast some vegetables the other day, and did it in my toaster oven.  I had to do 2 batches though, and that wasn't even very much vegetables.  It better be fixed soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting sick after a race

Last week, prior to my race, I was worried about catching my son's cold.  On race day morning, I thought I had caught it, but fortunately, it was mild.  I no longer think that.  What I think now is that my body was holding it off.

Because now I've got it.  No doubt.

Today is my first rest day since the race.  (Yes, maybe I should have taken one already, but on Mondays and Tuesdays I've got my coached swim and spin classes that I wanted to attend.)  Today, I've been hit hard by a cold.  Full force.

Interestingly enough, the week after my Olympic Triathlon (my last major race), I also got sick.

The body is a pretty amazing thing actually.  Now, I realize I won't always be so lucky, but I do think it's pretty cool that my body was able to stay healthy when it mattered, but when I relaxed: BAM!

Now, don't worry about me.  I feel kind of lousy, but I'll take an easy training week.  I'll get some extra sleep and I'll eat some soup.

Since I don't have a race next weekend, the need to do those things won't even stress me out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What changed?

Yesterday, I went to the pool for the coached swim session.  I hadn't been sure about even going, since my body was sore.   I decided to go anyways.  I figured it is way easier on my legs then biking or running would be and it might be nice to move those muscles a bit, in a low impact fashion.  I could always go a bit easy on some of the sets, if need be.

Prior to the swim, I was chatting with Cindy and Carla, two of the ironmen I often see at the pool, who I've always gotten good advice from.  I was recounting my race and celebrating (*ahem* or perhaps bragging) about my THIRTY minute personal record.

Cindy asked a simple question: what changed?

I listed off a bunch of things: better training, better race day conditions, easier course, weight loss, being stronger mentally and pushing through...

And, those were all factors.  There's also the fact that I am still a relatively new runner and triathlete.  Being new means I get the chance to see big improvements.  But fact is, 30 minutes on a half marathon distance is a big difference.  Had I run the police half in the time I expected to, I would have finished in 2:30, rather then 2:40, and I would still have a 20 minute PR.

So, what really changed?

I think the biggest thing that changed for me is I let go of my identity as a "slow runner".  Now, let's recognize that "fast" and "slow" are both very relative things.  For me, I considered my long run/race pace of about 7:00/km to be slow.  I also thought that I simply was a slow runner and I was willing to embrace it.

It can be mentally tough to be bottom of the pack.  Once you know that you are bottom of the pack, you can either quit out of frustration, or you can accept it and embrace it.  You can take pride in the fact that you keep going even though you are one of the slowest ones out there.  In some ways, I honestly think it's harder for slower runners.  The top runners finish a half marathon in less then an hour and a half.  The slowest ones can take over 3 hours.  That's a long time to be plugging along.

The only problem in taking pride in your slowness is if you let it limit you.  Here's the thing I realized at some point: I am not destined to be a "slow" runner.  That was simply my starting point.  When I stopped pulling back my pace because my head said it was too fast, my body found it was able to speed up.

Right now, I don't know what my potential is, but that is what I am trying to work towards.  Will I ever break a 2 hour half marathon?  Yes.  Will I ever place in my age group?  Who knows.  What I do know is that there is a lot of potential there.  More then I realized.  There is potential to go faster, and longer.  I just have to let myself tri for it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Report - Calgary last chance half

So, this race was much anticipated.  In some ways, it was the race that had the highest expectations of the year for me.  There were three races that I considered a big deal: the Police Half, the Banff Oly Tri, and this, the Last Chance Half.

The Police half and the Banff tri were both my first race at those distances.  As such, my main goal in them was (supposed to be) to finish, experience it and have fun.  I was disappointed with how the Police half went though, so when I signed up for the last chance half, it was with a need for redemption.  I'm planning a half ironman next summer, and I need to have some experience doing half marathons that don't leave me feeling broken afterwards.

So, with that in mind, I knew I was setting a time goal for this race.  When I did the Police half, it was with a hope (though not officially a goal) of beating 2:30.  (I don't like to set actual time goals when I'm doing a distance for the first time.)  I didn't make it.  The conditions were brutal, and I fell apart towards the end, resulting in a time of 2:40:08.  With that in mind, I thought I'd be going in with an official goal of 2:30 or less.

As the race drew nearer, I trained more, and I had repeated breakthroughs.  I realized that a goal of 2:30 was far too conservative.  I had done a 22km (13.7mi) run in less then 2:30.  It wasn't that far off from a goal of "just finishing".  I needed a goal that would actually push me.  After some thought and some math, I settled on a goal of 2:15.

I would need to hold a pace of about 6:20/km to finish in 2:15, and that seemed tough, but probably doable.  I had never held that pace for that long, but I'd held much faster paces for shorter distances, and had run further then the half marathon distance at slower paces.  (For those not familiar with run training, you generally don't actually run the race distance at race pace prior to the actual race.)

The week of the race was a tough one for me, with sick kids, and insufficient sleep.  I missed some training due to the fact that my son missed school (my usual training time).  I also caught the cold myself.  Fortunately, it wasn't a bad one, but it was enough that I had concerns about whether it would affect my performance.  Did it?  Truthfully, I'm not 100% sure.  I actually think it may have a bit, but I was still able to exceed my expectations...  Luckily the two nights before the race, I was able to get a reasonable amount of sleep, so I didn't go into race day too rundown.

I arrived at the race site a bit less then an hour beforehand.  For me, that's a good amount prior to a running race.  I appreciate this site, as there is indoor parking available (at a reasonable price) and you don't have to wait around outdoors, which is good for a cooler day.

I took a bit of time to use the facilities, and walk around.  Then I went outside to consider the weather.  After a bit, I went back to my car and dropped off my fall (non-running) jacket and headed outside for a quick warm up run.  I wasn't looking to go fast at all.  I just wanted to get my muscles moving so they remember how and at the same time get a feel for the temperature.  For training, I usually just run my first km really slow, but didn't want to do that in the race.  I planned to be running at a faster pace from the get go.

After a really slow warm up, I did about 100 metres at my race pace.  It felt good.  In fact, it almost felt easy, but I knew it wouldn't seem quite so easy at the end of a half marathon.  I did decide to lose my running jacket, and just go with my long sleeve shirt.  At the same time, I decided to lose my cap and wear my light toque instead.

I headed back to my car to make the appropriate wardrobe changes and saw Garry and his neighbour Gill in the parking lot.  Garry is in the group that I run with on Sundays.  It is always nice to have someone to chat with before the race.  I knew Garry wouldn't be running my pace, and after chatting with Gill and knowing she was hoping for a sub-2, she wouldn't be either.  I was okay with that.  I am used to running on my own and generally do so.

I also saw a couple people from team trilife people, that I know from swimming and spinning, prior to the race and said hi.  Tara, John, and Leslie-Ann.  I've known Tara and John for a while, since they go to swimming.  Leslie-Ann, I had seen, but never talked, to a couple times at spin.

When it came time to line up, I tried to seed myself correctly.  I've had races where I put myself too far forward, which makes it hard to go as slow as I need to.  I've had races where I put myself too far back, which means I'm stuck trying to get around slower people.  Since there was an early start for people that planned to take more then 2:30, there wasn't likely to be many walkers at the start.  I figured I should be back a fair bit, but not all the way.

I said goodbye to Garry and Gill, and lined up a ways back from them.  A couple rows in front of me, I noticed Tara, John and Leslie-Ann.  I knew that John tends to run fast, and was fairly sure Tara does too.  I figured the next time I'd see them was at the end of the race.

When the race started, I just let myself run easy and about the pace of the people around me.  I've made a point in the last couple races to not even look at my garmin for about the first minute.  It just stresses me out if I feel like I need to weave through people, and as long as I don't sprint out from the start, that first minute is not going to make or break me.  As it turned out, I was in pretty much the right spot.  There were very few times when I felt like I was held back or pressured to go faster.

When I glanced at my garmin, I saw that I was holding a nice, mostly even pace.  I was going a bit fast.  At times, I was dipping below 6:00/km, and to hit 2:15, I needed closer to 6:20.  If I went too fast, I was in danger of crashing later.  I reigned myself in a bit, but decided that, as long as it felt easy, I was good as long as there was a 6 at the beginning of that number.

Km 1: 6:06
Km 2: 6:11

During the first couple kilometers, I noticed quite a few times that I was behind the trilife people.  A couple times, I thought I might pass them, but whenever I thought that, I'd check my speed and realize I was going a bit too fast.  About 10 minutes into the race, I announced my presence and told them that I'd run with them, if that was okay.  I didn't know if I would stay with them the whole race, but we were going between 6:00 and 6:10, which seemed to be working for me at the time.

Chatting with them, I learned why they, whom I'd assumed would be faster, were running around my speed.  John was treating it as a training run and was doing the first half easy.  He'd take off later in the race.  Leslie-Ann was shooting for a personal best of 2:08, and Tara was helping her pace for it.

When they mentioned the 2:08 goal, two things happened.  Another woman introduced herself.  Bonnie was also looking for a time around 2:08 and asked if she could run with us as well.  She was welcomed just as I had been.  The other thing that happened is I had to consider whether this was a good fit for me.

There is a big difference between the pacing required for a 2:08 and a 2:15 time.  One reason I am often happy to run alone is: it keeps me from trying to run somebody else's race.  As happy as I might have been with a time of 2:08, I did run a risk if I actually shot for it.  My plan had been to pace for 2:15 for the first half and then pick it up if I felt good.  Continuing to run with them would not be following the plan.

On the other hand, I knew going in that 2:15 might be a more conservative goal then I needed to set.  In addition to this, I was running at their pace anyways.  Knowing what their final time goal was didn't change the fact that I was finding this a good pace.  I wasn't shooting for 2:08.  I was simply running the same speed for the time being.  I decided that, I enjoyed the company and I would run with them as long as it worked for me.  At some point, I might need to drop off, or go faster.  At that point, it felt good.

Km 3: 6:02
Km 4: 6:11
Km 5: 6:22
Km 6: 6:04
Km 7: 6:15
Km 8: 6:05

Around 8 km, I noticed Tara taking a gel, which was a good reminder not to neglect my own nutrition.  I was wearing my fuelbelt for a reason, because I wanted to have water and fuel when I needed it.  I sucked back a gel while running, and Tara graciously offered to take the garbage as we passed a can.

It was probably around this point where we started to see the front runners coming back the other way.  Wow!  Were they fast!  So motivating.  I commented that you can tell who the really fast runners are before the race even starts because they're the ones wearing shorts.  It's true too.  Almost all of them were wearing shorts, and I doubt very much they were the least bit cold.

Km 9: 6:07
Km 10: 6:01

Not long after this, we started seeing a lot of other runners coming back from the turn around.  I also saw Jen (Garry's wife) with Oscar (their very cool dog).  Jen has been a huge supporter of me since I started running, so it was great to see her cheering.  I saw Gill coming back and said hi.  When Garry came by, I yelled at him that he better speed up or I would chick him.  Of course, I thought we were almost at the turn around, forgetting that the way back went by a shorter route then the way there.  This meant that the turn around was still a ways off.  I was about 2 km back from him, so he wasn't actually in danger of being chicked (by me anyways...).

John also took off somewhere in here.  It had been great chatting with him, but he's a strong runner, and went on to finish in about 2 hours, even after running the first 10km at a leisurely (for him) pace.

Km 11: 6:20
Km 12: 6:06

I think the turn around was somewhere in here.  It was great to reach the pylon and know it was actually more then halfway!

Km 13: 6:07
Km 14: 6:11

Up until 14 km, I kept finding myself going a bit fast and needing to reign it in.  It was around this point that I started noticing my pace dropping and I had to remind myself to pick it back up.

Unfortunately it was around here that we lost Bonnie.  She had to make a quick stop and promised that she'd catch up to us at the finish line.

Not long after that, Leslie-Ann encountered trouble.  Since Tara was there to support her, she stayed back as well.  I carried on.  I felt a little bad leaving them behind, but I was there running my race today.  I also don't know Leslie-Ann that well and I knew that my presence would not help.  I knew from the time that I decided to run with them that, for various reasons, we could part company at any time.

Km 15: 6:01
Km 16: 6:43

So, I was running alone.  My pace was a bit erratic for the next couple kms.  I found myself running a bit fast and pulled back.  In km 16, I walked for a bit to take another gel, a swig of water and drop it off in the garbage.

As I neared the end of km 16, I remembered that this was about the point where I let myself start walking in the police half.  When I started letting myself walk that time, I basically lost it mentally.  I was not going to let that happen this time.  There was only 5km left.  5k isn't so hard, right?

Km 17: 6:07
Km 18: 6:14

After I hit 18 km, it started getting really hard.  I realized that the 18 km mark represents a mental barrier for me.  16 might have been where I started walking in the police half, but 18 was where I lost it.  Not this time.  Only 3 km left.  I had to do some serious self talk in this section.  To an outsider, I probably looked like a crazy lady.  "The only thing holding you back is your head", "only 2.5 km to go", "just hold on"...

Km 19: 6:25
Km 20: 6:24

Once I reached the final km, I knew I was almost there, but I didn't feel like I had any finishing push left in me.  I had given everything I had.  I reasoned with myself that I was okay with that.  I'd run a strong race, with more aggressive pacing then planned, and I'd held on.  I just had to hold on for another km.  I knew I'd be happy with my time no matter what.

Then, about halfway through that km, John appeared.  An angel or a devil?  I'm not quite sure.

"Come on Deb", he told me.  "Let's finish this thing."

Unbelievably, I had a finishing kick in me after all.  I picked up the pace.

As we ran over the bridge, I told him that I had just been shooting for 2:15.  A spectator overheard me and joked that I better slow down.  Then the finish line appeared.  I picked it up again and started to sprint.

"Come on Deb!  You can do this!"

He kept shouting encouragement.  How the f*%$ was he talking?  It was taking everything I had to just move.  I was going so fast, I could barely breath, and there he was pushing me on.

Km 21: 5:52

I saw my husband and kids and a guy from spin class.  Oh my god...  This hurt!  How was I moving my legs while I felt this way?  How was John still talking?  How could I possibly sprint at this speed at the end of a half marathon?

47 metres (my garmin measured the course 0.05 km short): 9 seconds

And, I crossed the finish line.

Somebody put a medal around my neck.  I tried to steady myself to make sure I wasn't going to puke.  I staggered over to the water table and grabbed a bottle.

What happened next was a blur.  John came around (he'd pulled short of the finish line since he'd already crossed it) and I thanked him.  Then my family appeared.  Spud got a bit miffed when I didn't give him immediate attention.  Bonnie, Tara, and Leslie-Ann came in not long after, finishing strong, but sadly missing the 2:08 they'd been shooting for.  Sometimes you have the perfect day and everything goes right.  Other days the conditions or your body don't work the way you want them to.  I was incredibly thankful to them for the time I ran with them, and know that another day will bring the 2:08 (or faster).

I let my garmin run a little bit long, so I wasn't sure of my finishing time, to the second, until later.  What I did know was that I far exceeded my goal of 2:15.  I hadn't quite broken 2:10, but I wasn't far off.  If I'm honest, I know a few spots where I could have gotten 5 seconds...  Next time.  ;)


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Calgary Last Chance Half - The quick results

So, the full race report is to come.  But, here's the Clif's notes version.

I went into this race with a goal to beat 2:15

I finished in:

Beating my goal by 4:56
Setting a personal best by 30:04
Proving to myself once again that I am capable of far more then I generally think.  :)

I feel good!  (Okay, actually, I'm sore.  I'm not sure my legs will function this week.  But, hey, I can still feel good!)

Race day! Time to conquer the last chance half!

Well today is here!  Today is the day where I go and run my sub 2:15 half marathon.  I'm kind of nervous, kind of excited.

As is my tradition, I take a really bad picture of myself with my race number prior to the race.  I don't disappoint today.  ;)  Number 1434.  If you see me there, come say hi.  I don't look as scary in real life, and I'll brush my hair and put it in a ponytail before the race.

In my Oly triathlon at Banff, I wore both my fuelbelt and number belt for the run.  It didn't work out so well.  My waist has it's smallest point a little under my ribs, and both of them wanted to sit in the same place.  So, for this race, I went out and bought little thingies to attach my race number to my fuelbelt.  Tried them this morning and they don't work!  They are too far apart on the fuelbelt because of where the water bottles are.  I would have thought the staff at the running store could have warned me...

Anyways, I think I'll try safety pinning the number to the fuel belt itself...

I hope all is well, and I'll see you on the other side of my half marathon!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Five years - Remembering and recognizing infant loss

I'm going to take a moment to talk about infant loss.  Why on this blog?  Well, it might be mainly a triathlon blog, but it's also my blog, and losing a baby is one of the things that broke me, shaped me and changed me.  

Why else?  Because miscarriage is incredibly common.  I believe the stats are that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Not 1 in 5 women, but 1 in 5 pregnancies.  But it's not talked about in our society.  Women (myself included) don't share the joy of their pregnancies until they are past the usual risk period for miscarriage.  Then, if they don't get past that risk period, they are left to share all the sorrow and none of the joy.  Or, they are in a position where they don't share at all, and just leave it bottled up.  That needs to change.

Tomorrow is a day that I recognize, but for my own reasons, this year, it's a day that I need to recognize today instead.  Five years ago, Nov 13 is the day that my first baby might have been born.  Spud was my first born baby, but not the first.  That baby was Bugaboo.

Bugaboo was the baby that never got to be born.

What follows is an account of my miscarriage, a story that I've never fully shared.  If you are sensitive to the subject matter, you might prefer not to read it.

It took a few months to get pregnant, and once it happened, we were overjoyed.  I remember the morning of the positive test.  I was trembling with excitement as I went to tell my husband, waking him up at an early hour.  I held off on baby purchases, but immediately started making plans, picturing our future.  I didn't tell anybody.  Not yet.  It was too early.  I had morning sickness early on, but then it went away.  That happens.  It's common.  I was more tired then usual, common in pregnancies, especially during the first trimester.

Then, when I was 11 weeks pregnant, I had some spotting.  I turned to the internet, a wealth of information.  Common.  Very common.  A lot of women have spotting during pregnancy and go on to deliver healthy, full term babies.

But something just felt wrong.  I went in to see my doctor, who was able to get me in right away.  She couldn't find the heart beat with the doppler.  My uterus felt smaller then it should.  But, that wasn't overly worrisome.  I was only 11 weeks, which is on the edge of when the doppler can find the heartbeat.  I was also obese, making it harder to find the heartbeat, and harder to check the size of my uterus.  She sent me for an ultrasound, and despite the state of our medical system, I got in that day.

I didn't even call my husband at work.  I thought this was something I could tell him at the end of the day.  We could laugh about his crazy, over-reactive pregnant wife.  In fact, the stressful day could turn out happily because I would get to see our babies heartbeat for the first time.

So, I was alone when I went into the ultrasound.  I was alone listening the silence of the technician.  Alone when they left the room to get the doctor.  Alone in my knowledge that they shouldn't have left the room.  If everything was how it should be, they would have shown me that heartbeat; I wouldn't have seen anybody but the technician.  Alone when the doctor came back to tell me that my baby had stopped developing weeks ago.  Alone sobbing on the bed as they gave me a few minutes to compose myself.  And alone, as I drove home and prepared to tell my husband.

What happened afterwards, I remember almost from the outside.  Like I watched it happen to someone else.  My baby had died, but my body hadn't miscarried the way it should have.  The next day, I went to a clinic and was given a choice.  I could wait, for who knows how long, to let my body finish the pregnancy on it's own.  I could take misoprostal, a drug that would cause my body to complete the miscarriage.  I could go for surgery, a DNC, which I would have to wait about a week for.

I needed to move on.  I couldn't bear continuing to carry a baby that would never be born.  I chose the misoprostal, the option which, to me, seemed the most expedient and the most likely to allow things to end quickly.

The drug didn't seem to be taking effect the way it should have.  Hours after, it didn't seem to be doing anything.  And then, shortly before midnight, it happened, and it happened fast.  There was so much blood.  Far more blood then there should have been.  Much faster then it should have been.

I tried to call health link.  It's a local line that you can can call to talk to a registered nurse.  The system put me on hold.  Then 15 minutes later, it disconnected me.  I called the hospital, and they forwarded my call to health link.  Again, after about 15 minutes, I was cut off the line.  I called 911.  From my perspective, this wasn't an emergency.  I just needed somebody to tell me if this was normal.  If it was okay.  If I should go to the hospital, or if I should let the miscarriage continue at home.

They were going to send an ambulance.

I didn't need an ambulance, I told them.  We lived less then 10 minutes away from the hospital.  I could get my husband to drive me.  I just needed to know if it actually warranted that.  Yes, I should go to the hospital, they told me.  I should go in an ambulance.  I turned down the ambulance again.  Did we have a cell phone, in case something happened during the drive?  Yes, I told them.  We did.

So, we went to the hospital.  A hospital that had recently made news for letting women miscarry in the waiting room.  I was in a bed in less then 5 minutes.  And, before the sun came up, I had surgery.

It was over.  I was left empty and broken.

Within a week, I returned to work.  I rejoined life, but I felt like there was no joy left in it.  I went through the motions.  I tried to bury the pain.  It was "just" a miscarriage after all.

But I was broken.  That event changed me.  It wasn't "just" anything.  I changed careers within weeks of the miscarriage: a position that had been available, but I hadn't gotten because I had admitted my pregnancy.  I was offered the position as soon I called to tell them I was no longer pregnant.  Bittersweet.  In hindsight, more bitter.

Unbelievably, against medical advice, and against our own precautions to the contrary, I got pregnant again a month later.  I didn't have the same joy this time.  I had lost all the happy innocence I had felt the first time around.  I was filled with fear, and didn't let myself believe I would give birth to this baby until I was well into the pregnancy.

I had moved into a job working with a lot of disadvantaged youth, some children that were in foster homes, because their parents (for various reasons) hadn't taken care of them properly.  Some of the stories tore me apart, and I couldn't disconnect myself from them.  The bitterness I felt in seeing situations where parents didn't care for their children, when I thought I'd never be able to have one of my own...

One year after discovering I was pregnant with my first baby, I gave birth to my second, Spud.  Some people might claim that giving birth heals the pain of a former miscarriage.  It doesn't.  It dulls it and it helps to get past it, but it doesn't make it go away.  Truthfully, I don't think the pain lost it's sharpness until I got pregnant with my third child, Sweetpea.  This time, I could feel the joy again, and I had a bit of the innocence return.  I knew I could carry a baby to term, so I was able to believe that this was a child that might be born.  And she was.

When a woman gets pregnant, she sees miscarriage as something so foreign, something that could never happen to her, never touch her, something that only happens to others.  Quite likely, she waits the traditional three months to share the news, because that's what you do.  Then, if she loses that baby, she's left all alone.  Either she bottles it up, or she shares.  

I shared, and when I did, I was left sharing only sadness.  People who should have shared the joy in hearing I was pregnant got only the sorrow in learning that I had miscarried.  And women came out of the woodwork.  The more I shared, the more I learned that so many women had a story about the babies they had lost.  Stories that they buried, and only shared when they learned of someone else who shared their sorrow.

So, what do we need to do?  We need to talk.  We need to accept this as something that happens and something that is real.  It's easy to brush miscarriages off as something that just happens, forgetting that this was a life that was lost.  This was a death.  This was a baby.  This is another reason I'm talking about it on my blog today.  Because we need to talk.

I'm not suggesting we walk up to every pregnant woman and remind her of the risks she faces.  That would be cruel and unnecessary.  What we need to do is allow it to be a part of our society.  We need to stop hiding the joys of early pregnancy, and recognize when loss happens.  I will always regret that I never shared the joy when I carried Bugaboo, yet it's not a lesson I learned until much later, because I waited to share the joy when I carried Spud and Sweetpea as well.  If there is someone you will share your loss with, it is someone you should share your joy with too, even if it's early.

And we need to stop burying miscarriage as an unrecognized thing that doesn't really happen.  It happens.  It happens a lot.  If it hasn't happened to you, it's happened to a close friend, a coworker, a sibling, a parent, or a child.  It happens all around you.

Right now, that is all I have.  And I leave you with a poem that I read many years ago:

A different child,
People notice there's a special glow around you.
You grow surrounded by love, never doubting you are wanted;
Only look at the pride and joy in your mother and father's eyes.
And if sometimes, Between the smiles, There's a trace of tears,
One day you'll understand.
You'll understand there was once another child, a different child
Who was in their hopes and dreams.
That child will never outgrow the baby clothes.
That child will never keep them up at night.
In fact, that child will never be any trouble at all.
Except sometimes, in a silent moment,
When mother and father miss so much that different child.
May hope and love wrap you warmly and may you learn the lesson forever
How infinitely precious, how infinitely fragile is this life on earth.
One day, as a young man or woman, you may see another mother's tears
Another father's silent grief
Then you, and you alone will understand and offer the greatest comfort.
When all hope seems lost, you will tell them with great compassion,
"I know how you feel.  I'm only here Because my mother tried again."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Race goals

When I started running, I thought it would always be with the goal of "just finishing".  I didn't see myself as a real runner or an athlete.  I figured doing a race was an accomplishment in and of itself.  That was goal enough.

At some point, that changed.  I think it was shortly after my first 10k race (and second race overall).  At that point, I realized that finishing wasn't a big enough goal for me.  I wanted to get faster.  I wanted to get stronger.  I wanted to beat myself.

I kind of accepted this change in myself, but wasn't really sure why it had come about.  Then recently I read a phrase in a book that clarified it for me.  "A goal should stretch you."  Basically, there's no point in setting a goal that is a given.  When I did my first race, it was mainly to finish, and at that point, it was a goal that stretched me.  Now, when I go into any race, I know I can do the distance.  Barring an injury or something very wrong happening, I'm going to finish.  Planning to do so is not a stretch.

So, having said that, here are my goals for the Last Chance Half marathon on Sunday.

1. Run it in 2:15 or less
2. Pace well, stay mentally strong
3. Push myself, and finish strong

I've been a bit conflicted about the 2:15 goal.  Up until a month and a half ago, I thought I'd be going into this race with a goal to beat 2:30.  Then, I did a 22km (13.7mi) training run, on a somewhat hilly route in 2:28.  The half marathon I am doing is on a basically flat route, and (if you're not familiar with the distance) is only 21.1 km (13.1mi).  At that point, I realized that going into it with a 2:30 goal was not a challenge.

So, my new goal is 2:15.  To achieve that, I have to run an average of 6:20/km (10:12/mi).  (Technically 6:24, but there's always a chance the course will be slightly long.)  The idea of running that pace for that long scares me a little bit.  It seems really ambitious.  I've also caught my son's cold, so I'm not going into the race in top form.

But, then there's the fact that I ran a recent 10k race in 56:33, at average pace of 5:40/km (9:06/mi).  I also ran the 10km at the end of an olympic triathlon at a pace of 6:07/km.  Was it hard?  Yeah.  But, it's supposed to be.  If you're familiar with the McMillan calculator, it tells me that I should be able to do a half marathon in 2:05:50 (based on my 10k time).  So, that raises the question of whether 2:15 is even ambitious enough?

The answer?  I don't know.  I know that I have trained consistently and thoroughly for this race.  I've done 5 runs that were 20 km or more.  I won't say I've nailed every single run, because life has gotten in the way a couple times.  I have nailed almost every run though.

And, I've become so much stronger mentally.  I've gained an attitude that I can do anything.  The only thing that can hold me back is my head, and I won't let it.

So, 2:15?  Too ambitious?


Not ambitious enough?

Possibly.  I'm still figuring out my abilities, and the fact that they keep changing makes it hard to really nail down what I can do.  I'm going in with a plan of pacing for 2:15 - until the last 10 km.  Then, if I've got it in me, I'll pick it up and push.  If I end up with a serious negative split, I'll plan to set more aggressive goals in the future.  If I cross the finish line in 2:14:58, I'll know I gave it everything I've got.  Then I'll train more, and still set more aggressive goals in the future anyways.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three things Thursday - Weather, sickness, and signing up

1. I'm in the obsessive weather checking and guessing stage now.

With my half marathon only 3 days away, I am obsessively checking the weather.  It doesn't look too bad.  A high of 4c (39f) and low of -3c (27f).  In terms of temperature, I consider those almost perfect for a running race.  My only concern is the potential for slippery spots.  It's supposed to snow the day before, and if the temps then get slightly above freezing, it could melt, freeze again and get slippery.  I don't have control over that though, so I'm just going to have to deal with what comes.

2. Sickness

This has been a rough week.  Spud has a cold, and in our house, that means he gets croup at night.  That meant three brutal nights and not enough sleep.  It also meant that I lost my run on Tuesday because he didn't go to school and I didn't want to do it right before spin class.  Not happy about that, but I'm trying to remember that I've done the training already.  Losing one run during taper is not going to make or break my race.  Right?

3. Signing up

Does anyone else have to really pysch themselves up to sign up for your big races?  I'm like that.  If it's just a little race for me, no big deal.  But a new distance, or one that I have big goals for?  I get nervous just signing up.   But...  Now, it's official.  I just finished the registration for the Calgary 70.3.  On July 29, 2012, I will be completing my first half ironman.  What have I done?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swimming - another breakthrough in a list of breakthroughs

Swimming is a pretty cool thing.  You'll work on it for a while without seeing a lot of progress, but then one thing clicks and suddenly you can go faster.  Simply working harder does not work.  It often just means you splash more, and your form is off.  I've actually had situations where I work harder and go slower.

That's what's so cool about getting faster on the swim.  Something just clicks and all of the sudden, it changes your stroke.  This time, it was the phrase "swim quietly" that was said to me a week ago.  Now, that wasn't the only thing that was said.  There was also an explanation of how I was losing form and "smashing" the water when I tried to speed up.

But, it was the phrase "swim quietly" that gave me the clicking moment.  The very first fast length I did with that in mind I noticed it.  I realized how I was straightening my arm and smacking the water with the inside of my arm.  I was smashing the water, and windmilling, rather then keeping any real technique.

Then, last night, at the coached swim session, I had a breakthrough.

Only a handful of times have I swam 25 metres in less then 30 seconds, and before last night, everyone of those times was a full, all out sprint.  Only once before have I swam 50 metres in under a minute.  Again, that was an all out sprint.

Last night, I swam 25 metres, 8 times in a row, all of them 27-29 seconds.  I swam 50 metres in 57 seconds.  And the kicker?  It wasn't a sprint.  I was simply working hard, and holding form.

Now, could I go faster if I sprinted?  Well, yes, I can.  I just don't know if it is now or not. Right now, I need to work on keeping that form regardless of the speed I'm going.

I'm all about breakthroughs right now!  In the last month, I have achieved the following:

Broken the 50 pound lost mark
Run a sub-60 10K
Blown away the 60 minute mark, going way faster then I thought I could
Discovered the ability to go much harder on the bike then I realized I could
Swam my fastest 25 and 50 metres without even sprinting
Ran my fastest km ever (Somehow this didn't even end up in my blog.  What's up with that?)
Fit back into my Xena costume
Set long term goals and allowed myself to dream
Conquered fears and let go
Run my longest distance ever (24 km, 15mi)

Seriously, I'm on fire.  Maybe it sounds like I'm bragging, but this has been one of the biggest months for me ever.  I've let go of one limit after another and now, the sky is the limit.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's your speed limit?

Yesterday, I went for a run with a few friends.  Deon, Garry, and Heather.  Now, from my viewpoint, the boys, Deon and Garry run fast, and Heather runs at a comfortable pace.  Now, that's taking into account that "fast" is very relative.  One person's fast is another person's recovery run, which is another person's sprint.

So, how do I define fast?  Well, for a very long time, I've considered fast to be anything faster then 6:00/km (9:40/mi).  For me to hold a pace faster then that, I figured I had to be working very hard, even unsustainably hard.  The boys run faster then that, so I've never considered running with them.  They go off and I run with Heather, or Jen, who run at a comfortable pace for me.  Everybody gets to run with somebody and I don't have to work too hard.  Win, win, right?

So, today, as we started the run, we were all running together.  Heather, like me, figures she has a speed limit and was setting the pace at about 6:00/km.  She figures her limit is about 6:30/km, but she was running without a garmin and didn't realize how fast she was going until she asked someone.  Too fast.  Must slow down.

Somehow, I ended up running with Deon while Garry was running with Heather.  How did that happen?  I'm not fast enough to run with Deon!  He's the fastest of the group.  He tried running with Jen and I once, and found the slow pace too awkward to even sustain.  Having said that, I've been trying to challenge my self imposed limits lately.  After running my last 10k at a pace that I wouldn't have though myself capable of maintaining for 10km, I've realized that I don't have nearly as much of a speed limit as I thought I do.

Having said that, when I looked at my garmin, we were going about 5:45/km (9:15/mi).  Slow for Deon, fast for me.  (Remember, "fast" is relative.)  I had to work very hard to hold a similar pace during my recent race, and in the past, I've never been able to achieve the same paces in training that I can in races.

Then I realized something.  I was having a conversation while running this speed.  I'm not talking about a few gasped words here and there while Deon kept talking.  I couldn't have sung a song, but I was actually talking in full sentences.  I did not feel like I was dying.  I was working, but it wasn't a full out effort.  That pace was not as hard as I thought it was.  I stopped looking at my garmin.

After a couple kilometers, Garry caught up with us, and then we all went back and joined Heather.  The boys ran together, and I ran and chatted with Heather.  I really enjoy getting to know people while running.  Heather and I have only ran together a couple of times, but I see a lot of similarities between us.  One of them is imposing a speed limit on ourselves.

So, when we were nearing the end of the run (we were doing 14km), I asked her how fast she thought she could run the final kilometer.  We'd run most of our kilometers together at about 6:30/km, but were currently going about 6:15.  She told me 6:30.  I called bullsh*t and said we were already going faster.  So, she suggested 6:15.  I nodded and when we started the final km, we picked up the pace a little.  I tried to pick it up gradually, but I think I did it a bit fast at first.

"6:10", I calmly lied, as my garmin ticked down to 5:50.

"We're going a bit faster," Heather commented.

We kept going, at a speed, which, just a few months ago, I thought was really fast, but now knew I could handle, because I had before.  It was also a speed that I didn't think Heather thought herself capable of (particularly at the end of a run), but she didn't know how fast we were going.  (I am sure she knew we were going faster then we had been, just didn't know how much.)

We ran past the bridge that we needed to cross to get to our cars.  I wanted to finish the run on flat ground so that we could hold the speed.  I gave distance updates as we got closer.  Almost there...

The garmin beeped, the kilometer was finished.  We did it in 5:44, faster then both of us used to have as our speed limits.

The more I train my body, the more I realize that most of it is in my head.  Don't get me wrong, none of us can get anywhere by just lying on a bed imagining ourselves winning races.  We still have to physically train.  BUT, no matter how much we physically train, if we continue to believe that we have limits, those limits will be there.  If we let go of the self imposed limits, we might just find out how much we're actually capable of.

Do you have a speed limit?  Has it changed with time?  Or have you learned to let go of it?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Muscle cramps, hydration and sweating

Lately, I've been getting random muscle cramps.  You know the type.  Where all of the sudden your muscle just seizes up on you.  I've always had occasional issues from this when in my feet when they are pointed.  When I was pregnant, I got it in my calves sometimes while asleep.

The last month or so, it's been more then that.  My thighs as well.  Anywhere in my legs.  The only good part is that it's usually when the muscle is at rest.  Either when I'm sleeping or just sitting around.  Except for swimming.  When I'm swimming, my feet and calves are fair game.  It used to just happen towards the end of a swim, when I was tired, but lately it's happening at any point.

The good part is, I can swim through it.  It hurts like hell and I slow to a crawl, but I can keep afloat and keep moving.  Maybe it would be smarter to stop and stretch it out right away, but I need to know that, if it ever happens in open water, I won't drown.  I won't.  So that is good.

Having said that, muscle cramps = no fun.  I've mentioned them to a couple people and the first question is: are you hydrating enough?  My initial reaction is, of course.  I actually quite like water and I drink a lot of it.  I have at least one glass with every meal or snack and drink more throughout the day.

Then, in spin class this week, Angie commented that I must lose 10 pounds in sweat.  It's true.  I was creating a little puddle.  It was hot in there, but I was still definitely sweating more then most people.  I'd like to think that it's because I was the hardest working, but that just isn't true.  Everyone in there was working hard.  Besides which, I started sweating while warming up, before even working hard.

So, now this has me wondering if I actually do drink enough?  During that spin class, I had 2.5 bottles of fluid, but the bike is where I hydrate the best.  I'll often do runs under 10km (6.2mi) without bringing any along.  I usually have a bottle at the pool, but don't drink much.  I'm not sure I make up for it enough after.

I put in a lot of hours training.  Combine that with the fact that I sweat heavily, maybe hydration is the problem after all?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I am going to really focus on getting enough water.  I've been paying attention for the last few days, and no muscle cramps in that time period.  The other possibility is electrolytes or sodium, so if I keep having issues, I'll have to consider that further.

Do you ever get muscle cramps?  What do you find prevents them?  How do you make sure you get enough fluids in?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Three things Thursday - Spinning, Halloween, and skating

1. I had my second spin class on Tuesday.  It was harder then my first one.  I arrived home and curled into a fetal position.  (Okay, maybe I only actually collapsed on the bed.)  My husband asked how it went.  I told him: "If I keep doing these classes, I might die...  But, if I don't die, I'll be able to blow away my bike split times from this season."

2. Trick or treating was fun this year.  Thankfully, I was able to convince Sweetpea to wear Spud's costume from last year, rather then the one she wore for preschool dress up.  It meant she went out as a warm lion rather then a cold mermaid.  Spud was a dragon, a nice warm costume.  (Halloween tends to be cold here.)

Sweetpea only went for a bit, but Spud was out as long as he could be.  When we were getting to the end of the trick or treating, he announced "I'm getting so much candy!"  I asked him what he was going to with all his candy and he told me: "Save it for later.  If you eat too much candy, you get a sore tummy."  Seriously.  Can I inherit his lack of sweet tooth?  Guess it doesn't work that way.

3. Today was the kids' second skating lesson.  After the first disastrous one, I exchanged Sweetpea's skates for better fitting ones.  I also got hockey shorts and knee pads for both kids and we practiced falling.  Spud was a SUPERSTAR in the class.  When he fell, he just got back up like we'd talked about, and by the end of the class was upset that it was ending.

Sweetpea had just as rough a time as in the first class.  Truthfully, I'm wondering if she's just too young.  I know the lessons start at three years old, but she's only just three.  The real problem is she just won't try.  She mostly sat on the ice and cried.

I am stuck in trying to figure out where to go.  If I push her, am I setting her up for frustration and failure?  On the other hand, if I let her give up, am I teaching her to quit?  Right now, I don't even know yet how I'm going to approach the next lesson.  I want her to have fun with it, and if she's just going to end up hating it, it's not fair to make her keep doing it.

Ever deal with a kid that hated an activity, but grew to love it?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weight loss Wednesday - snail's pace, but even snails get somewhere eventually..

I'm no biggest loser.

I've never lost 10 pounds in a week.

I'll never lose 100 in 6 weeks.

In fact, you could say that my weight loss is incredibly slow.  Like a snail.  In fact, since I started losing weight, I've lost an average of 0.53 pounds a week.

95 weeks ago.

That adds up to 50 pounds.  50.2 pounds, to be precise.

Give a snail long enough, and it can get anywhere.

Give me long enough, and I might just make it to Hawaii. ;)

(I'll post pictures in the next couple days.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I could eat. Or, I could run.

Over a year ago, I wrote this post.  I'd had one of those parenting from hell type of days.  A shopping trip gone horribly wrong.  Today, I had another one of those parenting from hell type of days: The very first skating lesson for both of my kids.

It seemed like such a good idea: waiting until both of my kids were at an age that I could put them in a lesson at the same time.  That's one of the benefits to having kids close in age, after all.  They're close enough to the same stage that you can put them in things at the same time.  Utter convenience.

Or not.

Perhaps, instead, it means one child falls down half a dozen times and decides to quit and cry the rest of the class.  Perhaps the other child is actually doing it, but starts freaking out each time he falls, causing himself to fall more, and therefore freak out more.  Perhaps, I'm left feeling like the one incompetent parent with the only two screaming children on the ice.

And, a couple hours after this draining experience, I get to drop both kids off at preschool.  Thank god.  A breather from the whining and crying.  And, the first impulse is to finish off the Halloween candy.  Instead, I sulk for a while.  Check facebook.  Waste time.  Avoid.  Then, I go run...

And run I do.  I took my music this time and avoided looking at my garmin.  I just went.  Not a long run.  (I have my second spin class tonight, which will kick my butt, so I don't want to be tired going in.)  But a solid run.  And a fast run.  I went at a speed which, on paper, should have been really hard to maintain.  I wasn't leisurely jogging, but I also wasn't pushing as hard as I could.  I think the main reason I held the speed is because I didn't let myself obsess over what it was.

And afterwards, I felt better.

Chocolate doesn't do that.  Not for more then a couple minutes.  This lasts much longer.