What's Next - Fall 2016

I’m starting to get a bit of a pet peeve when people say “just” a 5k.  Or “just” anything, for that matter.  If you’re heading into a race saying “just” then you’re either not pushing hard enough, or selling yourself incredibly short.  Either way, that’s something people need to get out of the habit of.  I’m including myself in people, by the way.  I’m equal parts excited, scared, and embarrassed by my chosen end of season race.

All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

Excited

I’ve been looking forward to ending my season with this 5k for over seven months now.  I’ve raced on this exact course twice already this season, and my goal at the Veteran’s Day 5k is to get a new PR.  I’m running more than ever before, and feeling physically really good while I’m at it.  The BarryP plan is where its at!  If you aren’t familiar with the plan, click the link to get the full read.  In a nutshell, the plan has you running nice and easy 6 days a week.  In the beginning, you don’t increase your total volume at all, only your frequency, so for me that meant spreading 10 miles a week out over 6 days instead of 3.  You run easy, and you increase volume modestly.  Anecdotally, it seems that once your volume builds to a certain level, your paces start to come down.  Granted, I likely won’t see those paces change too much before race day, but I’m still excited to see what kind of benefits I’ll see from these eight weeks of running more.

Scared

Stepping outside of the comfort zone is always a bit scary, right?  Add to that the fact that my training times seem somehow slower than ever before (???) and I’m anxious that I won’t be able to meet my goals for this race.  I could get out there on race day and not be able to pace myself properly.  Or maybe I peaked earlier this summer, and the speed isn’t there anymore.  This is the first time that I’ve actually put time based pressure on myself.  Its an interesting experience in and of itself.  Setting goals based on feelings or actions is a very different game.  You can remind yourself during the race and change accordingly.  Had a goal to smile?  Smile!  No walking during the run leg of a sprint?  Just keep running!  But running at a particular pace?  Ooooh, now that’s scary.  Kind of a good scary, though.

Embarrassed

Just a 5k.  Sigh.  I’m quick to correct anyone who says that to me, but I still do it to myself.  Sometimes I’m clicking through my feedly, and it seems like everyone is prepping for more traditionally impressive fall races.  Even harder this week, since its Kona week!  On the local scene, there’s Marine Corps, Philly, Richmond, and all the big fall half and full marathons.  There seems to be more glory in long course racing.  Or, perhaps that just me hearing the siren call of endurance?  At any rate, I’m struggling a bit with feeling proud and confident about my goal race.  This is compounded by my paces, which feel “too slow.”  Slow and fast are such relative terms.  I’m sure there are people who would be over the moon to have a 5k PR of 30 minutes, and others who would be mortified with anything over 20.  In addition to being irritated when people say “just” a 5k, another pet peeve is when people, especially women, apologize for their speed.  Fast, slow, it seems like women can’t start apologizing for their paces fast enough.  If you’re slow like me, there’s the “Sorry, I know X:XX doesn’t sound fast, but for me it is” rhetoric.  For the speedsters, there’s plenty of “I was practically crawling at X:XX (sorry if that offends anyone).”  Can we all please agree to stop apologizing for our performance?

So that’s what’s on the horizon.  I’m running more frequently than I ever have before, and really enjoying doing lots of little miles.  There are some brewing nerves about whether or not I’ll be able to reach the goals that I’m setting for myself, but I’m going to embrace the anxiety and use it as fuel for the fire.  And most important of all, I’m racing a 5k, and I’m proud of it.  No apologies!

When Consistency Falters

This past winter I wrote about motivation, consistency, and discipline.  It’s really funny that, as someone with less than one full season under her racebelt, I thought I had any right to speak authoritatively on the subject.  Not to say I don’t agree with everything I wrote then…I still do!  But consistency looks a lot different during the back half of the season.  I can only imagine what I’ll have to say on the subject a few years from now.

The fact is that I’ve been slipping.  Nothing terrible.  There have been missed workouts, but the wheels haven’t come completely off the bus.  If you were to just analyze my training graphs from the last year, nothing would really seem to be out of place.  In fact, July was my biggest month ever, volume-wise.  But still, I can feel myself cracking along the edges.  Truth be told, I never really got my mojo back once I got back into training after the Reston Sprint.  And therein lies the problem.  I can see it, staring at me: I never took an off season.

Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

I had this big plan, starting as a resolution in January of 2015.  First I was walking, then in May 2015 I added swimming.  August brought Peggy and time on the bike, and October was when I started adding run intervals.  Then it was headlong into sprint training over the winter, getting up to speed on the road bike, and suddenly it was June 2016.  I toed the line at Reston Sprint feeling almost over prepared.  I took a full week off after that race, and then eased back into training as I prepped for my first Olympic distance.  When you count strength training sessions, I was clocking two workouts a day more often than not.  Oh, and rest days?  Hardly ever took one.  “Easy swim!” I would declare.  “My volume is low, so I don’t need a full day of rest.”  In race terms, I went out too hard, overcooked it, and now I’m limping my way toward the end of the season.  I’m constantly rearranging my schedule, trying to find the combination that feels fun, and keeps me from feeling exhausted.  After all, it wasn’t so very long ago that I was completely sedentary, spending every waking minute sitting in a chair at the office or on the couch at home.  Did I really think I could be Instant Athlete – Just Add Water without consequences?

Consequences makes it sound so dire.  I’m not injured, I’m still getting most of my workouts done, and I have every confidence that I’ll finish my Oly in style.  Slow style…but hey, it was never part of the plan to be speedy this season.  Mentally I’m just done, though.  It is a lot harder to get up in the morning and make it to the pool, and sometimes I have to really argue with myself to get on the bike.  Running is a little bit easier because I don’t have to drive to the pool or concentrate like I do when cycling.  In fact, I’m really looking forward to the fall running season.  It used to just be part of the routine to hit the alarm, get out of bed, and start my workout.  Now I have to play mind games with myself to get going.  I remind myself of my goals, both long and short term.  I reread old training logs from years ago, when I did nothing but make excuses.  Do I want to be like that again?  Of course not.  Yet sometimes the idea of spending a very large chunk of time laying on the couch watching Star Trek sounds really good.  In case you’re really interested, I went with Deep Space Nine.  For an entire weekend.  And you know what happened?  I didn’t feel any better.  Between this mental fog and my missing weekly training recaps, I had reached a tipping point of mediocrity.

What’s the point of mentioning the lack of consistency if it hasn’t been particularly noticeable?  Accountability, I suppose.  That, and I try my best to keep things in perspective, which often means working through stuff like this.   Like I said, I’m healthy.  We’re not hugely wealthy or anything, but we’re living a pretty good life, and it feels wrong to whine when in the grand scheme of things, I have it pretty good.  Boo ooh, I don’t feel like working out for the expensive race I voluntarily signed up for?  Ridiculous.  Yet the feelings are there, so I must share.

And there we go.  A bit of a ramble, but I think I got there eventually.  Takeaways:

  • I’m not a robot, and rules about rest do apply to me. 

  • I’m looking forward to structuring my season better for next year. 

  • My life is pretty great. 

That is all!

checking in on: April Goals

April is not going to go down as my favorite month of the year.  Too much heartbreak, too many missed workouts, and not nearly enough good times to balance it out.  Even so, time marches on, a new month has started, and the time has come to see where things stand for my yearly and monthly goal.  I spent a good portion of April distracted, so I’m writing this in the unusual position of not actually knowing where I stand.  Let’s find out together!

Swim:

  • 91,700 out of 325,000 total yards

  • 2300 out of 3000 yard workouts

  • Average sub 2:00/100yd in races

  • Get a 1:35/100yd set in a workout (best on 2/21/2016 = 1:41.4)

I missed several swim workouts last month, but I believe I’ll still be able to make my yearly yardage goal.  I put together some more challenging workouts of 2300 yards, which is a two prong victory.  For one, I felt in March like my workouts weren’t hard enough, and I chose my April workouts more thoughtfully.  Second, the extra hundreds yards I’m adding in each month are part of my plan to work towards 3000 yard workouts by the end of the year.  That’s where the victories end, I’m afraid.  Once again I made no progress on my training pace goals.  Part of me is wondering if the longer workouts are too taxing, that maybe if I went back to doing 1800 or 2000 yards, I’d have more in the tank and could swim faster.  I’ve also wondered if perhaps my stroke has developed some bad habits.  It has been several months since my class, so it is certainly possibly that I’ve trained my way into some bad form issues.  I just don’t know.

Bike:

  • 20.92 out of 300 miles on Peggy the City Bike

  • 71.23 out of 500 outdoor miles on Sadly Unnamed Road Bike

  • Road Bike Skill work - one handed (in progress), drinking from water bottle, easy mounting/dismounting (in progress)

I felt like April was a good month for cycling.  No, I didn’t get to the Farmer’s Market at all, so poor Peggy hasn’t moved from her spot.  I think it is safe to say that my 300 mile goal isn’t going to happen.  Something interesting has happened, though.  A month without riding the city bike, and I really miss it.  Who would have thought?  I admit that most of my effort has been on my road bike.  My weekend rides topped out at over 18 miles, and my average speed is creeping up, as well.  All good things.  The skill work is a work in progress, and I should have made more of an effort.  I can ride one handed for short periods of time, but I have to really psych myself up for it, and make sure conditions are correct.  I can’t randomly wave or anything without thinking.  Starting and stopping is still not second nature, but it is easier every time.  It helps to have to stop for so many street crossings!  It would be easier if I had a bike with better standover clearance.  I came to an abrupt halt once and SLAM...lady bits into the top tube.  Ouchie!

Run:

  • 89.96 out of 385 total miles

  • Track HR for all workouts - check

  • Build up to 7 mile long run (currently 3.28)

Running continues to go well.  I had a few days at the tail end of April where I was having some foot and ankle discomfort, but it subsided pretty quickly.  I do feel a bit sore in the evenings after my long runs, but I think that may have more to do with coming home and plopping down on the couch for hours after.  Perhaps if I did my long runs on Thursdays in the morning, then I’d have the rest of the day to get up and move around to keep things from tightening up?  Worth giving a try, right?

My April goals were to have a sub 1:41/100yd set and a sub 0:47/50yd set for swimming, three sessions of bike drills, and build my long run to 3.25 miles.  Swimming was a failure for the second month in a row.  I only got one session of bike drills in, but brought home a 3.28 mile long run.  Looking at it that way, April seems a bit of a wash.  I had wanted to get in one foam rolling session a week, and got zero for the entire month.  Like I said at the top of the post, April was a bad month.  I had high hopes, but life got in the way and my focus drifted.

So here we go.  May.  In fact, the Reston Sprint Triathlon is in exactly one month.  I’m going to make these last few weeks good ones.  May goals:  For swimming, it seems silly to repeat for a third time, but I’m not really sure what else to do.  Third time’s the charm, I suppose.  Sub 1:41/100yd set and sub 0:47/50yd set.  For cycling, I want to focus on improving my handling skills.  I will set my watch to beep every ten minutes, and I will attempt to drink each time it beeps.  This can start out small, like just reaching down and touching the bottle, but hopefully the large number of times I’ll get to practice this means that I’ll be drinking water on the move by the end of the month.  Running I have my sights set on a 4 mile long run.  Totally achievable!

 

Motivation, Discipline, & Consistency

I’m part of an online mentor group, and there was a string of comments on the forum asking about motivation.  The person in question was asking for tips to help them find their motivation, and a lot of members of the group chimed in with comments about needing to harden up mentally.  People in sport often seem to comment about lacking motivation, and while that may be true, this particular series of comments made me think a lot about my past issues with motivation, and how motivation isn’t the same as discipline and consistency.

In the past, I struggled with all three: motivation, discipline, and consistency.  In simple terms, I consider motivation to be the “why” I do triathlon, discipline is the rules I set for myself in how I approach my hobby, and consistency is how well I follow those rules.  When I first got into triathlon, I didn’t really have a good reason for doing it, beyond the fact that I thought it would be cool.  While that is good motivation for getting to the first starting line, it isn’t enough to keep triathlon as a lifestyle.  My discipline was quite loose, as I didn’t give myself any concrete goals, and didn’t have any rules for how I would train.  This left consistency languishing, because when there are no rules, then there are no consequences for breaking them.  Needless to say, when looked at from that lens, it's totally understandable why my past forays into triathlon ended with me phoning it in for weeks before the race, and giving up entirely after the face.

When compared to this time around, it's a complete 180.  My motivation now is based in a big BIG dream that I’m not quite ready to share.  With such big dreams, and such a very long way to go, I have to have a plan and pack my patience.  I will do the work, and keep working until I get there.

Which leads to discipline.  I have to set up some rules for myself so I know when I’m on track to meet my goals.  For the 2016 season, that means following the BT 16 Week Sprint 3x Plan, followed by the BT 16 Week Olympic 3x Plan to gently build my volume up.  In addition to the 9 planned triathlon workouts a week, I have two strength training sessions, along with stretching and foam rolling.  The rules are simple: follow the plan!  In the event of weather, workouts can be moved indoors or shuffled around.  In the event of illness, workouts can be missed if I’m too sick to go to work or otherwise sick in bed.  If I’m contagious, I won’t do workouts at the REC.  Other than that, find a way to get the workouts done.

Consistency for me is adherence to the rules.  I think that this is the one that people really mean when they say they’re lacking discipline.  Sleeping in, shortening workouts due to bad weather, or skipping workouts due to not “feeling it” are all things I’ve used as excuses.  I’ve wondered why I lack motivation, but with my definitions in place, it’s easy to see that what I really was missing was consistency.  Like brushing my teeth and eating my vegetables, sometimes the right path isn’t always the one that sounds most immediately appealing.  But with time, these right decisions pay off.

Here’s the end of the analysis, and the interesting part: now that my motivation and discipline are taken care of and humming along, the only thing I really have to worry about is consistency.  And because letting go of consistency means possibly missing out on reaching my BIG DREAM, it is an easier decision each day to get the workout it.

I started out talking about my mentor group, so it seems a good thing to come back around to my favorite quote from the thread to round out this ramble.  A wise person said, “I have never regretted doing a workout, but I always regret missing one.”