Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do you "do triathlons", or are you a "triathlete"?

4 days until my first triathlon. Current weather forecast for the day: Sunny with a high of 18c (64f).

A topic up for debate in the tri community: what makes a person a triathlete? Is it anybody that has ever done a triathlon? Is it somebody that continues to do triathlons? Are only the pros triathletes? Do you have to do an ironman to claim the title? Perhaps only Kona is good enough?

Here's my personal opinion: a Triathlete is somebody that has done at least one triathlon and intends to continue doing triathlons. If you've done one, checked it off your bucket list, and never intend to do another, you are not a triathlete. You are simply someone that has done a triathlon.

Sort of like golfing. A few years ago, I learned how to golf and went golfing a couple times. But, I don't continue to golf, so I am not a golfer. On the other hand, my father in law is a golfer. He golfs every week when the weather is nice enough. He isn't a professional, but he still has the right to use the title of "golfer" in reference to himself.

I also don't think you have to do an ironman to call yourself a triathlete. You only need to do an ironman if you want to call yourself an ironman.

So, by my own guidelines, I could claim the title of "triathlete" Saturday evening after I have completed my first triathlon, but I'm hesitating. Why? I'm not sure I think it counts because it's a pool swim. I kind of feel that I need to experience the open water swim in a race before I claim that title.

What do you think? When will you call yourself a triathlete?

On another note, check out this post at Racing with Babes. It's a post that really strikes a chord with me and I suspect may with a lot of us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to feel like a really weak cyclist

Ride uphill into a strong headwind. You start questioning what gear you're really in and whether there's something wrong with your bike.

On the plus side, when you go the other way with a tail wind, it feels really easy and fast.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three things Thursday

1. I just completed a 6 km (3.7mi) run in the rain. I always think it's going to suck running in the rain, but it's usually very pleasant. This time, I headed out, ran about 100 metres, turned around and came back for a jacket. Then after about 1 km, I was too hot, so I tied it around my waist. One of these days, I'll get better at dressing for the temperature and trust myself even when I'm a bit cool at the start.

2. Speaking of the weather, my first triathlon is now 9 days away, and I'm starting to check the long term forecast. Really, it's a little obsessive and a lot silly. 9 days is way too far away to trust any forecast. I'm hoping for a nice rain free, warm, but not too warm day. Anybody have some pull with Mother Nature?

3. Speaking of my first triathlon, I won't be the first triathlete in my family. Spud is also doing a triathlon that day, and his heat is about 2.5 hours before mine. Before anyone thinks I'm pushing my kid too much, let me just say that he loves it and is super excited. For his age group (under 8, though he's only 4), he'll be doing a 25 metre (with life jacket) swim, 800 metre (with training wheels) ride, and 250 metre run.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Training, hunger, and weight loss

I train a lot. I actually train more then I really need to for an olympic triathlon that is still 15 weeks away. I didn't want to drop my run volume too much after the half marathon and I swim more then most plans call for, since I feel I still need so much technique work. I do 9 workouts a week, the majority of which are in the hour time range. One of those is a long run and one is a long bike, both of which are nearly 2 hours.

With that much cardio, you would think I'd have no trouble at all dropping weight. Except for one thing:

I am hungry all the time.

We're talking about a legitimate hunger too. It's not a mild nagging that I know I can ignore, wait for my next snack and it will help my weight loss goals. It's more like a wild beast inside of me that starts tearing apart my insides when it's not fed enough.

Sunday I did a 15 km (9.3mi) run, with some serious hills involved. It took me about 1 hour, 45 minutes. Afterwards, I had a glass of chocolate milk (my normal recovery drink) and a giant salad. Then I headed out shopping for a few hours. I didn't bring any food along.

By the time I came home, about 3.5 hours had passed. I had a massive headache and my body felt like it was shutting down. I was feeling nauseous and weak. I needed food. Pure and simple and I hadn't given my body enough.

Now, this isn't always the case. More common is the similar hunger and poor planning (of not bringing along food) and I grab something on the go. The something on the go doesn't tend to be the best choices. While I do try to avoid cookies or pastries, it's commonly a cheese bun or a muffin. Still not the best choice.

So, my weight has not been budging.

Having said all that, I would feel pretty good about my eating habits if I didn't want to lose weight. I eat pretty well and basically balanced overall. I have a high level of activity, and I need to fuel it. Yes, my weight hasn't budged, but it also hasn't budged in the upwards direction. I've spent most of my life on a weight gain/loss yoyo, so the fact that it remains stable and I am actually eating to my needs is kind of cool.

But, I feel like I have some free speed inside of me that wants to get out. Some people spend thousands of dollars on their bike to get more carbon and shave a couple grams. I have the ability to drop a couple dozen pounds and automatically improve my bike and run.

The plan for this week? Simply to track everything I eat. I want to get a better sense of where I am in terms of my intake so that I can look at where to tweak it. I also need to find the balance of how much I can cut without negatively impacting my training. The intention is not to actually cut calories this week; just to observe.

I believe that I can continue to lose weight while training for an olympic. That may not hold true when I start training for longer events, so I better get on it now. I plan to get to a healthy weight over the next few months, and when off season hits, I'd like to figure out what my optimal weight is.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Up the hill, up the hill...

When we go hiking with the kids, they sing a little song that Daddy taught them. It's pretty simple. Up the hill, up the hill. Up, up, up the hill. Down the hill, down the hill. Down, down, down the hill...

Today, I was doing 15 km (9.3mi). My husband had mentioned to me that there was a path that I hadn't taken before. It goes by a golf course and would probably have a pretty decent view. I figured, what the heck. I love my regular routes, but they can be a bit repetitive. It was on the other side of town, but since I was doing 15 km, I would go that far anyways.

First I had to run to the red park, a place where I take my kids sometimes. I biked up that hill with a friend a week ago, and it was tough to keep my bike moving forward. Granted, there was a head wind that day...

So, up the hill, up the hill. Then up some more. I headed towards the path and went up, up, up the hill. The way back was going to be shorter because of the route I planned to take, so I told myself I had to get to at least 8km before I turned around. There was one big thought in my head: this is worse then weaselhead! (That's the brutal hill in the half marathon I did last month.)

I kept going despite the protests my legs kept lodging. When I finally turned around, I was rewarded with a full mountain view. Wow! That is one of the reasons I do this. Then, I had a super easy, but fast, 2 km while I ran back down.
(I'm cheating. I didn't actually have my camera with me, so I'm just throwing in a mountain picture from last weekend's hike.)

Why are some of the things that feel the best to complete so painful while in progress?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One year later... Beating mediocrity.

When I started this blog, it was a weight loss blog. I promised my readers that they could follow my journey to lose 60-80 pounds. I'm still on that journey, but along the way, I found another one. One that took my life in a whole new direction.

One year ago (technically a year and a day, but my internet connection was down yesterday), I wrote a post titled "Mediocrity". In it, I talked about my lifelong habit of never trying too hard. If you don't really work to achieve your dreams, it doesn't matter if you don't get there.

At the end of that post, I set a goal. On that day, it was almost a whim. I wrote:

"Next summer, I'd like to do a triathlon.

Overly ambitious? Maybe. For one, I can barely swim, so I'll need to take lessons and get some serious practice in. I also don't run. I'm still worried about the impact the extra weight I'm carrying will have on my knees. I do bike and I figure the 70 pounds of kids I pull in the trailer is a bonus for training.

I am setting a goal that I don't know if I can complete. But, I do know one thing. This time I'm going to try. Actually try."

On that day, the idea of doing a triathlon - any triathlon - seemed huge to me. Today, that goal is almost in reach. In 16 days, I will do my first Sprint triathlon, with a 500 metre pool swim, 15km bike ride, and 5k run. In September, I will complete an Olympic length triathlon, with a 1500 metre open water swim, 40km bike, and 10km run.

The last year has been a big year for me. I've done things that I never dreamed myself capable of. The girl that was afraid to enter the deep end of the pool now swims three times a week. I had never run before, and I completed a half marathon a month ago. I can almost take for granted my ability to swim, bike and run.

Almost take for granted?

Now, there's a danger in there. A danger of complacency.

So, I am going to admit something that's been going on in my head lately:

I believe myself capable of much more then I've been doing. I believe myself capable of going much faster then I've ever gone before. If, I'm only willing to work for it. If I'm only willing to take the risk and let myself really tri to do it. When I talk to people about running, I often throw in the fact that "oh, I'm not very fast". And, I'm not. I'm okay with that.

BUT, I think I am capable of being a heck of a lot faster then I ever go. I don't think it will be easy. And don't worry, I don't think I can run out the door today and run a 2o minute 5k. I have yet to run a full length 30 minute 5k, but I believe I can smash that barrier. And then? 27? 25?

Here's the thing, I don't work that hard. Yes, you don't want to be too rough on your body. Most of your runs should be easy. But, I never worry about whether I can complete the distance. I rarely feel like I have to really fight through anymore. If I feel like walking during a run, I evaluate whether it is my mind or body that really wants to. It's almost always my mind. My body is almost always capable of more then I can throw at it.

I hold back. In last week's swim, we were doing 100 metre and 200 metre swims. We were supposed to hold the same pace. I swam the 200 metre swim significantly faster - meaning I was holding back on what I could do in the 100. I was keeping something in reserve to prevent failure.

Truthfully, I don't know what this post means. Right now, my immediate goal is still completing my first triathlon. But, somehow, I know that I am not going to be happy with "just finishing" every time. Deep down, I'm fiercely competitive. I know that I won't be a top finisher, but I do need to beat myself. I need to see how far I can go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Get yourself a swim coach

Another swim session, another stroke adjustment, another light bulb moment.

If you are a new (or not so new) triathlete, I'm going to give you one piece of advice. Get some swim coaching. Seriously, unless your swim stroke is perfect, get yourself a swim coach.

There are a lot of things you can do on your own when you embark on a triathlon journey. Consistency goes a long way. Building volume will do a lot of good for you when it comes to running and biking. When it comes to swimming though, get yourself a swim coach.

If you can swing it financially, you might be able to get private coaching. Otherwise, look for a coached program somewhere. Make sure it's somebody that knows what they are doing and knows how to refine technique. I took an adult swim course and a "stroke improvement" course prior to this one, and all they did was teach me the basic motion. Working with a triathlon coach is nice, because they understand how it all goes together, but working with a good swimming coach could be equally beneficial. You just don't want the kid, with a few months of experience, that has just been moved up from teaching the 5 year olds.

I actually think I benefit as much in this program as I would from private coaching. Sure, somebody could look at me and give me a list of everything I need to fix at once, but I wouldn't absorb it that quickly anyways. In the group program, I receive the feedback at a rate I can absorb, and I also get the benefit of working out within a group.

I'm lucky. I don't just have a swim coach, but I have a bloody amazing swim coach. I guess technically, she's not "my" swim coach, but rather the coach for the program I'm taking. No matter. The progress that she's helped me make in my swimming has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Almost every week I have an "aha" moment of some type. Frequently, she changes something about my stroke which turns out to be an important change. I then focus on it for a while to cement it in. She times the next change perfectly. If she tried to change all those little things at once, I'd be totally overwhelmed. She seems to have a sense for when I'm ready for the next thing.

I read. I do online searches. I watch youtube videos about swimming. I did all these things before starting this swim program. I intellectually knew a lot of technique, but either had no idea how to put it into practice or had no idea I was or wasn't doing it in the first place. In fact, prior to starting this program, I thought I was rolling onto my side. Suffice it to say, I wasn't. At most I did a slight rocking motion back and forth.

It can be intimidating to join a program. I was terrified about it the first night walked into a room full of triathletes. If you're on this journey though, part of it is about taking risks and pushing yourself. May as well start now.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Looking at my blogger stats...

If you're a fellow blogger, you should check out your stats periodically. I find it interesting to see what posts have been viewed the most as well as where my audience is coming from. One aspect of that is which search words people have used on google to find your blog.

My most read post ever is the one in which I reviewed the C25K program. Other posts that have commonly been found through google searches are my race reviews, as I suspect people who have done those races are searching for similar entries.

Since I posted this entry, I have had a number of people reach my blog after searching "pantyhose pee". Now, I will admit to occasionally being naive, but I couldn't think why people would be searching it. A quick google search of my own showed me that, not only am I on the second page of that particular search, but I could get myself a whole new audience...

What are some google searches that have led people to your blog?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Windy Day

Yesterday was my long ride day. My plan called for 97 minutes. When I'm riding on the road, that's nothing, as I've already extended a couple previous rides beyond that. It's nice when you know you're not training purely to train, but also because you like it.

It was windy yesterday. Sustained winds of 30km/h (19mi) and gusts of 50km/h (31mi). When Mountain Man (my husband) first suggested I wouldn't do it, I was annoyed. I only have so much time to get my long rides in, and with the three week (bikeless) vacation we'll be taking in June, I just don't feel like I can afford to miss any.

We headed to the mountains in the morning instead and went for a bit of a hike with the kids. Since we were mostly going at the pace of Sweetpea, it wasn't super challenging. Next time, we'll bring along the backpack carrier for her and go at Spud's pace. At four years old, he's got quite a bit of stamina.
When we got home, I decided it was time for that bike ride. Wind or no wind. Mountain Man took the kids to the park so I could have some time. I pumped up my bike tires, got changed and headed out. I was riding into a headwind, and I figured I could manage. More work, no doubt, so I might go slower, but doable. Then a gust hit me. It slowed me almost immediately to a crawl and the grit it picked up stung my legs as it blew against me.

I turned around and went home.

I could have rode in the wind, but at this point, I'm not feeling totally ready. I'm still getting used to riding my road bike, and don't feel like my bike handling skills are there yet. I'm concerned about getting one of those gusts as a crosswind rather then a head wind and what it would do to my stability and position on the road. Plus, it wouldn't have been any fun. Part of the reason I ride that bike is because it's fun.

So, I came home, and put the bike on the trainer. I put the 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet into the dvd player and cycled away. Surprisingly, the time went relatively quickly and I was able to get it all in. Plus, I got to watch one of my chick flicks.

I'll ride in wind like that at some point. I live in a place where I get enough of it, and races will still run. First, I'll get more confident on my bike.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pantyhose, pee, and neoprene

I am a tall woman. Most women are familiar with the "joys" of pantyhose. Let me say, if you are tall, those joys are even moreso because pantyhose aren't really made for any woman taller then 5'8. You put them on, pull them up a bit, and the crotch is at your knees. If you're lucky, maybe it gets midway up your thighs.

Then you have the battle pulling them up. You have to grab the fabric and gradually pull it up a bit at time. Don't put a fingernail in it, because then you'll cause a run. Catch it quick enough, and you can stop it with clear nail polish. Don't and it travels the length of your leg and the pantyhose are ruined.

So, what does this have to do with triathlon, which is usually the focus of my blog? Read on.

There is a lot of gear that is needed for this triathlon thing. Proper running shoes, a bike, bike shoes, lots of socks, goggles, swimsuits, sports bras... The list goes on and on. Some of the stuff you buy are luxuries, but there are a few things that are non-negotiable. In that list, you could include running shoes, a bike, and if you live (and plan to race) in a colder climate, a wetsuit.

According to most triathlon rules, wetsuits are not allowed until the water is cold enough. There are some climates where none of the races are wetsuit legal. I don't live there. Where I live, every race that includes an open water swim is wetsuit legal, and there are even some where the wetsuit is required. A lot of people rent wetsuits, since there aren't too many open water swimming opportunities. But, the cost of renting adds up very quickly.

Now, many months ago, I discovered the reality that some triathletes pee while riding their bike or running. At the time, I was shocked and horrified by it, but I've come to accept it. It doesn't mean that everyone does though, and I have not yet come to accept that I am going to pee while continuing to ride.

Having said that, I have heard the expression, "there are the triathletes that pee in their wetsuits, and then there are the triathletes that lie about it."

Now, I can accept that many triathletes pee wherever. I can even accept that I might pee in a wetsuit. I can not accept wearing (and possibly peeing in) a wetsuit that has previously been peed in by Joe and Marsha.

So, when I saw an excellent sale, I made the decision to buy one. It cost me only a little bit more then renting would for the 2 races and at least one practice I'll be doing this summer. It also gives me the ability to get more practice in, which is a very good thing. And, if I need to, I can always resell it. (Because while I don't want a second hand wetsuit, there are still those that will.)

After chatting online with a customer service representative, I was convinced to order a men's size, because of my height.

Yesterday, my bundle of skin tight black neoprene arrived.

Upon taking it out the package, I looked at it. Despite being a men's version, it had a rather hour glass like figure. With what seemed like a very small waist. My first thought was, how is that waist going to get past my hips?

I was soon to learn that the waist was going to be the easier part.

Following a suggestion I read online, I put some socks on to get the wetsuit over my feet. And pulled one side up - to about my knee. I pulled the other side on, and like all those times I've attempted to don pantyhose, I found the crotch in a much different position then it belonged.

Hence began the battle. I gradually inched the wetsuit up my legs. The technique really is a lot like pantyhose, as is the care. You grab a bit of it, and pull it up your leg a little at a time, being very careful to use the pads of your fingers rather then the tips, because of your fingernails. You won't cause a run quite like pantyhose, but you could cause the neoprene to tear, and it's not nearly as easy to just grab a new wetsuit like you might with pantyhose.

Now, having said that, if I once thought pantyhose were a challenge, they've got nothing on wetsuits. Wetsuits are supposed to fit tight, and I ordered smaller rather then bigger since I intend to continue losing weight...

I realized the wetsuit was just sticking to my skin because I was getting stressed out and sweating. I remembered reading a tip that you could use baby powder. I've had babies! Surely I had baby powder somewhere. Only thing is, I never really used it, so I had to go searching. With the wetsuit around my waist and the crotch still a bit to low, I looked under the bathroom sink where we keep all sorts of products that never get used. There it was.

I peeled the wetsuit down a little bit and applied some baby powder. When I went back to the job of inching it on, it happened with somewhat more ease. Once I had the crotch in the right place, pulling it up around my waist was the easy part. Then came the arms and shoulders.

When I tried to pull it over my hand, my first thought was that the hole was simply not big enough to fit a hand through! Now, while parts of me are as big as a lot of men, my hands are actually a lot smaller then a man of similar size - and this was a men's suit! It had to be possible to get my hand through.Sure enough, I was able to squeeze it through and get the sleeve onto my arm. The arm battle was a little easier then the leg one had been, since I preemptively used baby powder on any sticky sweaty spots. It still took a bit of time, and I concluded that I might want to arrive at triathlons the night before to insure I have time to get the wetsuit on.

Then came the moment of truth. Zipping it up. It's common to need help zipping up a triathlon wetsuit, so I wasn't sure how this would go. My husband wasn't home, and I didn't really trust Spud or Sweetpea to do the task. I gave it a go, and amazingly the zipper slid easily up. I had my wetsuit on!

That mirror has been living in the basement for quite some time, and is in need of a cleaning!

So, open water, I'm ready for you! And the only pee I'll be swimming in is my own.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Letting go of parts of your identity

Yesterday I did something that I rarely do. I bought some cookies.

Let me explain that. I have always enjoyed baking and I'm relatively good at it. I make good cookies, muffins, pies, cakes, etc...

When I became a mother, I saw that as an even bigger part of my identity. I was to be the super mom. Yes, I'm a 21 century woman, with a not so small helping of feminism, but I wanted to be the ultimate homemaker and mother too. To me, amongst other things, that meant home cooking and baking.

So, we were in the store yesterday getting supplies to have a picnic for dinner. We picked up some fresh strawberries, and some tortillas to make wraps. We already had a lot of the other fixings, so we were moving on when my children asked about the chocolate chip cookies.

My first thought was: if we are going to have cookies, I need to make them.

I've shown this stubbornness before. Despite my tendency to get overwhelmed, I always insist on making pies at Christmas and other holidays - because I CAN'T serve store bought ones. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a snob, and I am perfectly happy to eat store bought pies at someone else's house. They have every right to serve them.

But, I am Deb, the baker. Somehow, I had allowed myself to let that become part of my identity.

Then yesterday, while standing in the grocery store, I let go of that part of my identity.

There is nothing wrong with the occasional treat, and I have no problem with my kids having cookies sometimes. However, I don't do well with them in the house. At this point, baking cookies means I'll eat too much batter before they're even made and then I will have dozens of them haunting me. Buying a package of a dozen allows my family to have a treat, with only a small amount left over later.

I am not Deb, the baker.

I am a person who occasionally bakes. I am also a person that frequently runs, bikes, and swims. I am a person that enjoys gardening and hiking. I like theatre and I have an artistic side.

More and more, I am wondering which of these things actually defines me? If I injured myself and could no longer run, would I lose part of my identity? Part of me says yes. That would be a label that would hurt a lot more to give up. Yet, at the same time, none of it is me. It's just things that I do that sometimes allow me to be me.

I left the store with some cookies, but without a label that I've let hold me down.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just like riding a bike?

Today I headed out for another road ride. I love spending time riding my bike on the country roads. I'm meaning to bring a camera along, but today the forecast was calling for rain, so I didn't think it was the best day to risk it. (I did manage to go out and back with no rain. It still hasn't rained.) For now, you'll just have to take my word for it that it is spectacular scenery with rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

Anyways, the point of this post is to discuss the oft heard saying: "it's just like riding a bike". This phrase is usually used to describe something that people haven't done lately, but expect it to come back easily.

Having been riding my road bike outside for a couple weeks now, I have to say, riding a bike is not quite as simple as it once was.

First, there's clipless pedals. In case you missed my post a couple weeks ago, suffice it to say that clipless pedals aren't really that simple.

Then there's taking your hands off the handlebars. Why would you want to take your hands off the handlebars? Oh, I don't know... maybe to drink some water or wipe your nose on your sleeve (yeah, I'm classy like that). While I've long been able to do this on my hybrid bike, it's much trickier on an ultra responsive road bike. Today I actually managed to drink my water while riding, and let me tell you, it was no simple thing.

Then there's the whole speed thing. I admit to being a giant chicken, but I am still working on staying off the brakes on the downhills. Today I reached my fastest speed yet of 42 km/h (26mi/h). That was coasting down a hill. My bike is currently much faster then I'm able to ride it. I ride in a hilly area too, so there are some serious opportunities to go fast, and I'm going to have to really let go of inhibitions to take advantage of it.

There's the gearing, which I'm finally getting a hang of. Previously, I had to think about my shifting every single time - and I still messed it up sometimes. Nothing like going up a hill and trying to shift to make it easier, just to make it harder. Or going down and shifting and all of the sudden spinning without resistance.

Suffice it to say, that while it is one of my favourite things to do, riding a bike isn't easy. And riding a standard two wheeler at the age of 10 certainly doesn't equip you to take off on a modern road bike.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do you ever have stupid doubts?

Early this morning, I was getting ready for my run. The alarm was supposed to go off at 5:00 am, but I woke up before it, so I was getting ready at about 4:45.

As I strapped on my garmin, I was struck with the thought that I didn't know if I'd be able to complete this run. This 6 km (3.7 mi) run. Like, I wouldn't have the stamina or something.

It's ridiculous. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I completed a half marathon a few weeks ago. I've regularly been running at least that distance, multiple times a week, since September. Yet for some reason, I still regularly wonder if I can do it.

It's like I think I wake up again in my old obese body. The one that huffed and puffed when I walked up a steep hill. Sometimes, I don't really believe I can run until I'm a few minutes into it. Then I hit my rhythm and start feeling good, and start feeling confident.

I'm not sure what's up with this. Maybe it's some buried self esteem issues that I still need to deal with. Maybe it's normal? Maybe it's just a sign that I just need to keep running regularly.

For the record, I headed out the door and did the run. If anything, running has gotten easier then it used to be, meaning that I had no trouble finishing the 6 km. It may also mean that I should start pushing a bit harder.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Being pushed vs pushing yourself

Last night, I had my tri swim program. Now, in case I haven't already gushed about what this program has done for my swimming, let me just reiterate that it is amazing.

Yesterday, we had a warm up and then we started doing sprints. First of all, it was a set of 6, 25 metre sprints every 60 seconds. It takes me about 30 seconds to sprint 25 metres (I've gotten faster, but I'm still slow), so that means in the first set, I got 30 seconds to rest after each all out sprint.

After explaining how it works, Angie reminded some of us less experienced swimmers of something important: STROKE TRUMPS SPEED.

The first set was hard. I gave it all I had, but with the 30 seconds to recover, I caught my breath and felt ready to go for each new sprint. After we finished each set, we got to do 50 metres of super easy swimming.

The next set was on 50 seconds, so less time to recover. The first couple sprints, the shorter time didn't seem so difficult, but then I started feeling the difference. I no longer had all my breath back, but had to go anyways.

Every time we finished a set, I waited to see if Angie was going to have a different drill for us to do, but no. More sprints. It made me want to collapse and die.

On the fifth repetition of the fourth set, Angie told me that I was getting tired, shortening my stroke and losing my form. She reminded me: STROKE TRUMPS SPEED. For that final repetition, I focused on my form again while continuing to push myself. The result? It took less out of me and I was actually faster.

Angie had told us earlier that by the time we were done, we should feel like our arms were going to fall off. She didn't lie. If I was working out on my own, I'm sure I would have stopped after that set, if not sooner. I felt exhausted.

She told us to do another set.

I did it. I truly didn't know if I could actually get through it, but my speed only dropped a little bit. I think my theatre background helps me in situations like this. I used to hear what a director said and try it even if I didn't agree with it. Now, it's a coach that says to do it, and I swam, even when I wasn't convinced I had it in me.

But the thing is, I did have it in me.

I like to think I push myself hard. I've achieved tremendous things in the past year, and I've broken down a lot of barriers. Regardless, sometimes, it takes somebody on the outside to push you a little bit further.

I may know my body, but I'm a novice at my sport. Learning to trust an expert's judgement can be hard, but it makes a huge difference. Sometimes we think we are pushing our limits, but we are capable of pushing even further.

How do you push your limits?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Following your training plan

The past week was the first week that I have followed a full fledged triathlon training plan, and I nailed it! No more neglecting my bike. I'm getting some solid mileage in, on both my road bike and my hybrid. I've dropped my running mileage from where I was at for my half marathon, but even so, my long run was 12 km (7.5mi) this week. More then I need to train for an Olympic triathlon 19 weeks from now, but enough to keep my running in shape to contemplate another half mary in the fall.

The thing with training plans is, you have to follow them. Until now, the only training plans I'd been following were running ones. I have always kept up with the swimming, but that's because I'm afraid I'll drown in a triathlon if I don't improve. Since the bike was never an official part of my plan, it was always the first thing dropped.

The thing is, if you can't follow your plan, you need to re-examine it. Following it is obviously key to get into the physical shape you need, but it's also mental. I entered my recent half marathon having missed numerous runs due to sickness. I knew going in that I wasn't as well trained as I liked. When I hit the wall towards the end, I know part of it was physical, but I wonder how much was mental.

If you plan to get up at 5:00 am to run, do it. If you can't, change your plan and set it up in a way that you will follow through. Don't set yourself up for failure by choosing a plan you don't have time for. Make a decision about what you can do and follow through. Obviously there are going to be times that life throws things at you that messes with your plan. Rather then ignoring the plan, that's when you have to re-evaluate and make a new one.

My biggest kink in my training plan is going to be a 3 week vacation in June during which I probably won't have my bike. I haven't figured out how to work out that kink yet, but before I head out, I can tell you one thing. It will be with a plan.