Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Consistent pacing, looking for 1:XX...

When it comes to running, I'm extremely good at pacing.  When it comes to the bike, I'm pretty good.  When I'm swimming, however, I usually think I'm pacing well, but I'm not even close.

When I first started getting coached on the swim, I saw huge, measurable improvements.  In a matter of a few months, I went from swimming 500 metres in 15:00 minutes to swimming it in 12:00.  I had constant breakthroughs, and they showed in my times.

Lately, the improvements aren't quite as measurable.  My feel for the water has improved incredible amounts since the fall, but truth is, I'm not that much faster.  Intellectually, I know that I will never see the same leaps that I did when I was brand new.  Intellectually, I also know that improving my pace by a few seconds per hundred is now considered a great improvement.

And, that's what I'd like to see: a few seconds per hundred.

Because, I have yet to break 2 minutes on a hundred metres.  The best I've done is 2:02.  I easily break 30 seconds on 25, and I consistently break 1 minute on 50, but that 2:00 per hundred has remained out of reach.

Monday night, I thought it might be my night.  I went in feeling great.  We were doing some speed work and some pacing work.  We were doing a lot of 100s, so I figured I'd have a great chance.  But, I just couldn't get it.  First we were supposed to do them at a steady effort, then negative splits, then fast.

Here's the thing, when I try to negative split, I fail miserably and relatively consistently.  I always start off thinking I'm swimming strong, but pacing well.  I generally finish the first half at a faster pace then I can sustain for the whole thing.  Then, I try to hold it together.  I try to go faster, and think I am, but end up slower in the second half.  Arg!

When I got home, I told my husband that, just once, I'd like to see a 100 metre time under 2 minutes.  That's a lie though.  I would like to see it once.  Then, I'd like to see it consistently.  Then, I'd like to see an average pace under 2:00/100 on a longer distance.

It will come.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I've become soft

Last winter was my first winter running.  I was tough.  I was hardcore.  I ran on some of the coldest days of the year.  If it was really slippery, that might have been enough to send me to the track, but for the most part, my runs happened outside, in any weather.

This winter we bought a treadmill.  I've become soft.  Today, it'll be around -10c (14f) and I'm considering running on the 'mill.  Wimp.

Just for fun, here's a couple pictures from a run this week.  Just because you see snow doesn't mean it's that cold.  I think it was around freezing (0c, 32f).

That snow is fairly well packed, and not at all slippery.  It does slow me down a bit though, as the footing is less even.
See, I even have my jacket unzipped, and that hat came off during the run.  Practically balmy.

The pathway in that direction has less snow, but I actually have to be more careful.  There's been some melting and refreezing, so more ice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winner, winner!

A couple of weeks ago, I won a contest from Steve.  Now, I don't win things super often, and some contests don't allow Canadian entries, so I was stoked to win this one.  The winnings?  A thermal run hat from Pearl Izumi and 20 Roctane Gu gels.


Now, sadly, the hat arrived last week - along with a $25 cash on delivery charge.  Unfortunately, UPS is not the most friendly for cross border shipments.  (As in they charge criminal brokerage fees that they don't tell you about ahead of time.)  While I know the hat is worth about $30, it was not in a colour I would have chosen, and it would just be another hat in my collection of running hats.  I declined the shipment.  :(

The Gu on the other hand...

Gu is the only brand of gel that I've tried and like the consistency of.  While chocolate mint is usually my flavour of choice, I've been wanting to try the Roctane gels.  I'm now looking forward to trying a whole bunch of Island Nectar!

There was also an unexpected bonus, a tube of gu brew.  I often have trouble with muscle cramps and have been debating the use of an electrolyte drink.  I guess this will be the first one I try!

Yay for winning!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do something that scares you

I firmly believe that as human beings we should do things regularly that are uncomfortable.  Things that scare us.  Those are things that make us grow.

For the last year and a half, triathlon has generally fit that bill for me.  I was afraid of swimming at all.  I was afraid of swimming through the deep end of the pool, of swimming in open water.  Afraid of falling over on my bike.  Afraid of going down big hills.  Afraid that I wouldn't be able to run.  Afraid of trying and not succeeding.  Afraid when I pushed my limits in search of new personal bests...

But, in all honesty, my current triathlon efforts are pretty within my comfort levels.  It's winter right now, so my biking is on a trainer.  Swimming is in the pool.  Sure, sometimes I push myself, but I know what I'm in for.  There isn't any real risk in my mind.  (Not right now, at least.)

But, there are other things that scare me.  One of those things is something that I really felt like I should do, but kept putting off.

One of those things was ice skating.

Now, if you read my blog much, you probably know that I'm Canadian.  You may have a perception that Canadian kids all learn how to skate.  Not true.  I remember going skating with a group once or twice as a kid, but I certainly didn't do it enough to actually learn how.

In the fall, I put both my kids in skating lessons.  The first lesson was a disaster.  Parents were encouraged to come on the ice to help the kids. While other parents confidently skated out, I tentatively went out in my boots, taking tiny steps, careful not to fall.  My children had a rough, rough time, and there were many tears.  Mine were held in, but they were there under the surface.

After a couple lessons, Spud recovered from his falls and took off, loving the whole experience.  Sweetpea never did.  Before long, she refused to even try to stand in her skates, then refused to let me put them on her.  And, underneath it all, I couldn't help but wonder if the parental example was partly to blame.

Plus there's the fact that ice skating is simply a great family activity.  There's a couple nearby places to skate that are free, so after the initial investment of buying the skates, it costs nothing for each time.  I knew I should learn how to skate.  I knew I ought to.

But, it terrified me.

What if I fell?  What if I injured myself?  It could screw up my entire triathlon season if I broke a leg.  Maybe I'd just look like a fool?

One way to get past fears is to just suck it up and do it anyways.  I remember doing that the first time I swam through the deep end of the pool.  I still remember the feeling as I swallowed my fear and kept swimming, trying not to think about the fact that the bottom was no longer in reach of my feet.

So, my husband and I bought skates.  And, we went to the pond...   

As I laced up those skates, my mind and stomach were both rebelling.  "NO!  Don't do it!  Ack!  Not feeling good.  Not excited about this!"

I carried on.

Then, I bum shimmied to the edge of the ice and stood up.

And stayed still.  I could barely balance without moving.  How the heck was I going to skate?  As I stood there, the thought crossed my mind many times that I could just practice standing up and call it a day.  But if I did that, would I ever get on the ice again?  I'm not sure.

I think I stood there for a solid ten minutes.  Spud came on the ice and started trying to tell me what to do.  "Try standing on one foot Mommy!"  I just stood there trying to feel like I wasn't going to topple.  He started going around the ice.  Every time he came back, it seemed like he was on a collision course with me, but then veered off at the last minute.

Then, I started to move.  Slowly at first.  Just moving my feet a bit to get a feel for it.  Partly letting the wind push me.  Then, I moved a bit more.  I discovered I actually could pick up one foot.  I could sort of glide.  Back and forth I went, in a relatively non busy section.

Meanwhile, Spud skated circles around me.  Literally.  (And if you know me well, you know that I don't use the word "literally" outside of it's correct usage.)

Perhaps the best part of the whole thing though was seeing Sweetpea skate with Daddy.  Now, Beejay also hadn't skated for about 20 years, but he actually knew how at one point.  It came back for him pretty quickly.  And, he got Sweetpea on her skates, taking little steps.  Giggling while she went.

And, I reached a point where I even felt stable enough to skate with Sweetpea, holding her up sometimes, helping her get up when she fell.

And, not a single tear was shed.

Not even by me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm not that easy to kill afterall

I started doing coached triathlon spin classes in the fall.  After my second one, I posted the following on my blog:

 "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."

Since that time, I've kept doing the classes.  They haven't gotten any easier.  I frequently feel that a class is the toughest or most challenging one yet.  But, something has changed.

I no longer feel like I'm going to die.

The first time I did one of Angie's spin classes, it was a harsh reality check.  It was a lesson that I am capable of pushing myself much harder then I had previously realized.  But, now a new bar has been set.  Do I think I've reached the limit of how hard I can go?  No.  But, I have learned something.

I'm not that easy to kill.

And, I already have a sneaking suspicion of something else:

I'll be able to blow away my bike split times from last season.

Monday, February 13, 2012

That's Okay

Spud's teacher has something that she says to the kids regularly.  "That's okay."  Four year olds sometimes get worked up over little things, and sometimes they're bigger, but usually it's no big deal.  She'll put her hands out to the side and say "That's okay."

Last week I had a good solid week of training.  I felt like I was really getting back into it.  Some of my workouts were easier and some left me in a fabulous state of utter exhaustion.  Friday came, and after 6 solid days of training, I had a planned and deserved rest day.

Then, Friday night came and I got slammed with the illness that Sweetpea had come down with the day before.  Within the same hour, Spud and my husband started feeling sick as well.  The weekend (when I had planned to do a long bike, long run, shorter run, and a swim) became a write off.  Sweetpea was the sickest of all of us.  She was coughing so hard she was vomitting and getting bleeding noses.  Rather then spending a couple hours on a bike, I spent a couple hours in an urgent care clinic.

It's Monday morning, and everyone is feeling somewhat better.  Not perfect, but better.  Spud will probably go to school today.  The husband is taking a sick day from work, but he's recovering.  Sweetpea is still sick, but the medication she got yesterday allowed her to cough less actually sleep for the first time in four days.  I'm still congested, but feeling well enough that I might attempt a short run if I can fit it in and am optimistic that I can go to my coached swim this evening.

I won't get that missed training from the weekend back.

And you know what?

That's okay.

The thing is, I'm a mother first.  Sure, my children are like little plague factories, but I love them.  They're going to keep bringing home germs and I'm going to keep getting sick.  Sometimes I'm going to have perfect weeks of training, and other weeks I'm going to miss my key workouts and have no way of fitting them back in.

That's okay.

I am dedicated.  I am consistent.  When I can, I will follow my plan to a tee.  When I can't, I might miss some of it.  Will my performance on race day suffer because of it?  Possibly.

That's okay.

I'd like to look at it as my performance might be different, rather then it might "suffer".  I'm confident that I can pull off a solid race despite the occasional training gap due to illness.  What I want to do is race the best that I am capable of.  There are plenty of things that limit me, and short of becoming a pro and dedicating all my days to training, there always will be limiters.  (Having said that, even pros have limiters.)  Dealing with sick kids and them spreading their germs is simply one of my limiters.

That's okay.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 - the year of the bike

When I decided to pursue this triathlon thing, it was without any experience running, and no ability to swim.  The one discipline I had some experience in was the bike.  I knew how to ride a bike and even occassionally took my kids out with me on my hybrid and them in the bike trailer.

So in May of 2010 when I decided to do a triathlon, I jumped headfirst into C25K, while simultaneously taking my first swimming lessons.  I think it's fair to say that running was my focus that year.  I did my first two 5k races and my first 10k race.

Then in 2011, I continued to make huge amounts of progress in my running.  I started a coached swim program, which has probably been one of the best things I could have done.  I increased my swim speed by about 20% and discovered that I am not actually destined to be a "slow runner".

Meanwhile, I did get a road bike, Bella.  And, I did ride it.

I did some okay mileage.  I got almost all my long bikes in, but at best, I usually rode twice a week, while I ran 3-4 times and swam 3.

Whenever something had to give, it was a bike ride.  If I had to miss a run, I'd make it up during the time I would normally do my next bike.  I already knew how to ride, I'd tell myself.

For some reason, it just didn't hold the same priority for me as running and swimming.

Yet, oddly enough, in a triathlon, the bike is important.  Very important.  Generally comprising about half the time of the triathlon.  If there is a discipline that it's the worst to be weak in, it's the bike.

Oddly enough, almost two years after starting this journey, my weakest discipline is the only one I was capable of when I began.  The bike.

So, with that in mind, I declare 2012 the year of the bike.  Since it's February, and I'm in Alberta, Canada, it's trainer time.  I still have a month before my HIM plan officially starts, and that will include 4 rides a week (one of them a brick).  

The plan for right now?  Be ready to start that plan.  Go to spin classes once a week, and spin on my own 3 other days.  Keep my posture strong, and my arms soft.  Push myself at times, and give a steady effort at others.

The long term plan?  Get those rides in.  Give up the death grip I still sometimes have on the handlebars.  Reach the point where it feels natural to keep my cadence up.  Become stronger on the uphills and braver on the downs.

There's a term in cycling known as T.I.T.S - "time in the saddle" (I assume it's a cycling term, even though I know about it from tri circles).  Basically, there's no substitute for it, and the more you can get of it, the better.

Bella and me are going to become good friends this year.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I've become that kid again

A few decades ago, when I was a wee little lass, I was an eager, enthusiastic student.  I had a thirst for knowledge, even from an early age.  I am quite certain I was called things such as "teacher's pet" and other less polite terms.

Then I got older.  And "cooler".  I didn't allow myself to stand out so much.  I wasn't willing to be so eager.  I stopped trying so hard.

Tonight at swimming, Angie gave me some feedback on my stroke.  After swimming a couple laps, she asked me how it felt.  I mentioned that it was good; I could feel a difference, but I was going to have to focus on it over the next week to make it feel more natural.

"And you'll do that!" she said.  "That's why you've gotten as far as you have."

Ever the eager student, I nodded like an excited puppy.  "Yes!  You can give me homework!  I'll do it!"

I'm that kid again.  One that tris.  Screw being cool.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It wasn't what I thought

So, on the weekend, I had my first couple workouts after being sick.  To say the least, they were discouraging. I felt like my fitness had gone out the window.  I felt wiped and exhausted upon being done.  I felt like months of hard work had suddenly vanished.

Then, in the last couple days, I've had some really strong training.  Monday, it was my coached swim session.  Yesterday, it was a short run and then my tri spin class.

Swimming was challenging, but I was never left feeling like I couldn't do it.  On the contrary, I absolutely could do it and I did.  A lot of short hard efforts, and I discovered that I still had my form.

My run yesterday still wasn't that fast, but it felt good.  I did an easy 5.5km.  My final 1.5 km was along one of my favourite sections of river pathway.  As I ran, I felt myself getting into a rhythm.  The whole world melted away and I was just running.  I could barely feel my legs working, and yet at the same time, I could feel every part of my body moving in sync.  There was no effort to it, but when I looked at my garmin, I could see that I was going the fastest I had that day.  Afterwards, I was tired, but rejuvenated.

Then, that evening at spin class, I worked my butt off.  It hurt.  It burned.  I wanted to die.  A typical spin class.    :)  Then it was done and we did some core work.  Um, have I ever admitted that I don't really do core work?  (Bad Deb!)  That hurt too.

Today, I'm sore.  My muscles are tired and a bit achy.  I can feel every one of them, and I'm trying to figure out if there's a part of me that doesn't hurt a little bit.

I'm feeling something else too.  Every one of those sore, achy muscles feels alive.  Completely, undoubtedly alive.

I realized that is what I missed.  It wasn't the speed.  I can get that back.  It wasn't the endurance.  I may have lost less of that then I initially thought.

It's that feeling of being utterly capable.  Finishing a workout, and maybe being tired, but at the same time being rejuvenated.  That feeling of life in every part of me.

And that is why I do this.  That is why I tri.