Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Road to Challenge: Training Week 1 of 40

Total training hours*
00:42 / 1500m
01:00 (spin class)
04:08 / 39.9 km
Strength training
* Not including Daily Challenge reps
(100 push ups, 100 squats, 100 reverse crunch tuck ups, 20 crunches, 20 bicycles, 10 hip raises)

I mentioned in my last post how great it feels to be back in training. And it does. Really. It does. I will confess though, now that it’s the end of the week… I’m tired. Tired in an “I wish I could feed my family cereal for dinner” kind of way. (No need to call social services, they’re getting turkey tacos, not Rice Krispies.) Somewhere in the week ahead, there’s going to be a rest day, and I’m looking forward to it.

This week, the training plan I’m using as a guide had a focus of simply unstructured workouts to get athletes who’ve been taking a recovery period uber-seriously back into the swing of things. I haven’t had an “off-exercise” period to come back from but I haven’t been in the pool. So really, this week, the plan was mine to construct – and that’s what I did, with some structure from my running coach’s half marathon plan and my personal trainer’s recommended workout schedule. This is how the week shaped up – the deets and a photo diary:

10.55 km run (and a very wet run it was!)
Daily Challenge reps
Weight workout at home
Yin/Restorative Yoga class
Daily Challenge reps
Tabata workout at home
Tri-Club Spin Class
Daily Challenge reps
6 km run at lunch (intervals!)
Daily Challenge reps
4.7 km run
1 hour weight workout with my trainer
Hatha Flow Yoga Class
1500m swim
Daily Challenge reps
Tabata workout at home
6.4 km run
Hatha Yoga Class
Daily Challenge reps
12.25 km run (and post-run coffee!)
Daily Challenge reps

Friday, November 22, 2013

I love the swim, I love the swim, I love the swim

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I don't love the swim. It's true, I don't. I wish the first activity in a tri were coffee drinking. I could so kick-ass at coffee drinking.

But alas, swimming is in, coffee-drinking (as a sport) is out, and as of Monday, I am officially "in training" for Challenge. Forty weeks of training lie between me and that red carpet finish! I've built myself a plan using a giant book of training plans that allows for 24 weeks of ironman training following a 12 week transition plan from off-season sloth to athlete in-training. And I've added in 4 weeks of flex to accommodate my on-call schedule. That meant this week required at least one trip to the pool. OK, a trip to the pool that included a swim. 1500m was my aim.

So you know what? It wasn't terrible. I mean it started out and I hated it. The water was cold. The lanes went in and I was sharing with someone I would describe as an aggressive swimmer. And I couldn't get my breathing "right". I knew I had to be out of the water in 45 minutes to get to my next appointment of the day and I was trying to decide whether if I didn't manage 1500m, would I be able to cross this off my training plan or would I require myself to swim a second time this week (God forbid) to get in 1500m.... Yes, I was deep in negotiations with myself. And then... it became... fine. I wasn't working to find a breathing rhythm. I was pretty much unaware of the other swimmer in my lane, and I was able to just zone out and... swim. Oh there was the occasional conscious thought about how sore my upper body was following the early workouts of the day, but all in all, it was... not terrible. I'm not dreading the next swim, and that's a good thing.

So, while I may not love the swim, there are two things I am loving about this week, this day even... and that's:

1) My Garmin 910XT. Bliss to not have to count the lengths. I wish I'd had this training for Oliver. It's so nice to just forget about the counting and swim! The only thing that would make me love it more is if it were pink.

2) And oh man, I love being back in training! Feeling exhausted at bed time, and the commitment to the workout schedule because it's about so much more than burning calories or maintaining fitness. I was fortunate to have the day off today and managed a quad: a run, then a weight workout with my trainer, then a yoga class, then this swim... plus my daily challenge reps. I love being able to pull off days like these. Love, love, love it! I recognize that 30 or 35 weeks in, this may be more of a love-hate relationship.

Look for my recap of training week 1 at the end of this week.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pulling the Trigger

While enjoying my first cup of coffee this morning, I did something a little crazy. A little reckless perhaps? I'd been thinking about it for a while. After volunteering at Ironman this year, I was pretty much decided that yes, 2014 was the year.  It took all of 30 seconds at IM Whistler before I was swept up in the excitement. Then as time passed, I talked myself out of it. Then into it. Out of it. In. Out. In. Out. And then, before caffeine levels had reached a clear thinking threshold, this happened:

That's right... I pulled the trigger on an ironman race registration! I flipped back and forth between Challenge Penticton and Ironman Whistler, finally choosing Challenge for a few reasons:

  • I'm afraid of the Whistler bike course, particularly the 35 km of climbing coming back to Whistler from Pemberton.
  • Challenge has a much more generous cancellation/rollover policy than IMC does. Given my propensity for injury in the last 2 years, this was an important consideration.
  • It looks like all the peeps I admire and adore from my tri club are going to be up in Penticton, doing the full or the half.
  • There's a red carpet to the finish line. Hello! Maybe I'll have some stilettos waiting so I can cross that line in style! No? Yeah, maybe not.
So today, in addition to my #300aDAY challenge reps, I did an 8 km run at lunch with a friend, and then I hopped onto my tri-bike (on the trainer) when I got home and did a 1-hour speed pyramid workout. One thing is painfully clear: I need to vastly improve my fitness in the next 40.5 weeks (but who's counting?).

I am both excited and a little lot freaked out. I'm looking forward to the training (except the swimming), dropping into bed exhausted every night (but not getting out at 4 a.m. for the first workout of the day), and to the race day experience (but not the 24 hours of anxiety and doubt leading up to the start). So here we go!
Image from Challenge Penticton Facebook site
Don't worry. It's not the end of the story. I am sure my training and mental misery at what I've signed on for will provide fodder for several amusing blog entries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Testimonial: Sole Experience & Coach Eric

OK, there was a long break between posts here. Things pretty much went from a marathon race report to a post & pre-half marathon musings with nothing but crickets for the 5 months in between. If you're wondering what happened, here's something: I started working with a coach. Yes, that's right, just like I was a real athlete!

I hired Eric Muller as a personal running coach. Eric is the man behind Sole Experience, a Pitt Meadows running company that offers running clinics, drop in group runs, and personal coaching services. As you know from my mini bioI took up running 5 years ago. When I started doing races, I experimented with generic training plans for various distances. I have never considered myself a fast runner.  When I began working with Eric this spring, my goal was to set a new marathon PR. Unfortunately, during our training, I suffered an injury (tear of the flexor digitorum longus, one of the calf muscles). Eric helped me establish some new goals and maintain my running fitness while rehabbing my injury. (He also put me in touch with some therapeutic geniuses who helped me in my recovery with acupuncture and active release therapy.) Through his training plans and encouragement, I was able to run half marathon PRs just 3 weeks apart, following a significant injury that had sidelined me for about 5 weeks. 

Here we are after my Victoria Half Marathon PR.

Eric's plans for me were well rounded and incorporated speed work that had me running at paces I never dreamed possible. In fact, I placed as 2nd overall  female in one of the MEC 5K races this past summer. It's true! Look... that's really me!

When I signed on with Eric, I expected to receive a personalized training plan for my goal race. I received this plus more: training and race recovery tips, advice for race day preparation and strategy, help with goal setting and lots of encouragement along the way. I am looking forward to setting some new personal bests in my next half and full marathons in 2014, with Eric’s assistance. I would not hesitate to recommend Eric to someone looking for run coaching, whether your goals are to run faster, farther, injury free – or all three.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Race Report: Boundary Bay Half Marathon

So who is ready for an epic race report? Well, you’ll have to look elsewhere. When last I left you dear readers, I was feeling meh with a few questions rolling around in my mind: 
  • To carry water or not to carry water? Not. And I don’t regret the decision the way I did with Victoria.
  • Tights or capris? Tights. New ones.  Nice and warm. Maybe a shade too warm for the day & with a decidedly limiting number of pockets but there you go.
  • Weather? Clear & cold, no wind. Perfect.
  • Time machine? Sadly, no.
I went to bed around 10 last night, set my alarm for 5:30 and good night all! I was up, sitting in bed surfing on my iPad and halfway through my first cup of coffee when I realized I’d forgotten to set the clocks back and it was actually 4:30. Gah! Re-set the alarm, put down the coffee and tried to get another hour of sleep. The reality was I lay there awake and worrying about what to wear, how fat I felt, and whether I had the energy to PR.

We arrived at the race about half an hour before the race start which is actually way later than I would normally arrive. Which is good, because it was c-c-cold - plus too much time just makes me get increasingly nervous, notice everyone else and conclude I am too slow and have no business being there. I had just enough time to use the washroom (line ups) and do a brief 800m warm-up run while Ronald McDonald led a warm-up. Seriously. I could not make this up. Check it out.

We started about 10 minutes late. Very congested at the start given the dyke path is so narrow. It didn’t take me too long to get a good place though and get up to speed. But after walking through the 5K water station, I couldn’t get myself back up to speed. I kept doing the math as I was passing the markers thinking I was going to end up at a 2:06 if something didn’t change. At the half mark, I walked long enough to take in some water and have a GU. When I started to run again, I tried to pick up the pace, and passed all the women who had passed me while I was walking. I settled in at a slightly uncomfortable pace and tried to hold it there. I knew sub-2 wasn’t happening and at this point, I just hoped I could pull off a PR. Garmin told me we were running at 5:54 and kept buzzing me to speed up (I’d set my pace window at 5:35-5:50). 

I was aware that someone was running right on my heel forever. Like forever. I kept waiting for them to pass but nope, right on my heel, to the right. At the 14K mark, I glanced over my shoulder to get a look at my shadow and the woman gasped: ”I need you”.

She said she was crap at pacing and that I seemed to be running right at the pace she needed and that she was aiming to get in under 2:04. I told her that my PR was 2:04:31 and I was hoping to beat that. She said she couldn’t run and talk, she just wanted to stick with me. A couple of times she made small talk about her races, past and future, and said she wanted to take me with her on all of her runs! It was weird to be pacing someone in to a PR that was faster than my own! Although, really, a part of me wonders if she wasn’t pacing me in! Her Garmin had her across the start line about 40 seconds after me which is a good thing since when I picked up the pace near the finish and told her to pull away, she dropped back instead. Here I am concentrating on getting in & pulling off a teeny tiny PR. She’s the last runner in the shot. And yes, she got her sub 2:04. Yay 4096!!

I’m still waiting for official results, but according to Garmin, I came in at 2:04:05. A PR by 26 seconds.  And confirmation that racing half marathons 3 weeks apart isn't a bad thing at all. 

This is the last race of the year for me. I now turn my focus to working with my trainer to peel off those 6 lbs and get leaner, stronger and faster so 2014 can be spent setting new PRs! ...And that reminds me, I PR’d every race in 2013. Happy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Search of Sub-2 - May it be Epic

Hello faithful followers (all 5 of you)! It's been nearly 6 months since my last post. I thought I might be able to post tonight without any mention of the big gap... kind of like a teenager coming home past curfew but pretending everything is fine and not acknowledging the time... but fine, fine... yes, I've been busy compiling posts in my head but posting nothing. They were incredibly entertaining.

Here is the short version of the last 6 months: I completed that Half Ironman and it was epic. I volunteered at Ironman and it was epic. I participated in my first ever back country trail run as part of an ultra marathon relay team and it was... epic. 

The not so epic highlights: I tore my calf muscle in July and spent about 4-5 weeks off running, killing my plans for a fall marathon. I've put on a bit of weight... take it easy, we're talking 6 lbs or so over where I had settled, perhaps a little more since it is post-Halloween... and have re-engaged my trainer. And I ran the Victoria Half Marathon 3 weekends ago, hoping for a sub-2 hour time and, although I managed a PR, I was 4 minutes and 32 seconds too slow to claim the longed for sub-2.

So then what happened? 4 or 5 days later, while killing time (read: counting down the seconds) in my final wall sit of my workout, I got the bright idea that I could try for that sub-2 again at an upcoming half just a couple of weeks away. And with energy levels and blood sugar low, while making dinner, before I could really think through the idea, I registered.

So here we are. Tomorrow is race day. I've gone through the routine: drank way more water than I wanted, eaten a light pasta dinner, compiled a playlist, set up the Garmin, timing chip on my shoe, rummaged through my running clothes trying to land on what will look good in photos work best for the weather. I've got race night questions running through my head: To carry water or not to carry water? Tights or capris? Will it be clear & cold as the weather channel promises or warm & wet like it is now? Can I locate a time machine and undo all the crap I have eaten in the last 3 days in the event fun size chocolate bars are not ideal to deliver up a PR?

Will I get the sub-2? Good question. My coach says if I'm willing to suffer out there, I might pull it off. Will I at least PR? Another good question. The truth is: I'm tired, my knees hurt, and I feel fat. I feel like my belly is a pillowcase full of Halloween treats. I bought a couple of new songs on iTunes for my playlist, some Yurbuds, and new running threads, hoping to give myself a little energizing boost. But... I still feel very "meh" about tomorrow. Not nervous, just "meh". And that's not the attitude of someone who is pumped up, ready to suffer and fight their way to a sub-2. Hopefully by morning, I'll get there. A crisp, sunny day with no wind might help. So would that time machine.

But PR or no PR, sub-2 or not, tomorrow will be a good gauge of whether racing half marathons 3 weeks apart makes for good fun. Because the day after launching a plan to get a girls trip to Vegas next November to run the strip at night, the Rock'n'Roll Marathon peeps announced a Vancouver Half next year! In October. The runs are 3 weeks apart. Coincidence? I think not. Doesn't that sound... epic?