Thursday, April 9, 2015

on training camp

I almost didn't go to Arizona (and let the selfies begin...).
In the week before I was supposed to depart, everything that I had planned in terms of travel & lodging went completely to hell.  I lined up a bunch of plan Bs and then half of that fell through, I was frustrated, to the point where I ended up standing in the backyard picking at my half marathon blisters while explaining to Michelle that I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to listen when the universe wings a wheelbarrow of bricks at me.  
She told me, in no uncertain terms, to tell the universe to go fuck itself, to drink a glass of wine and get on the (delayed by 3.5 hours if it was leaving at all) plane.  And I did.  The universe made a couple more half-hearted attempts to keep me in Colorado but sometime after 1am, I gratefully collapsed onto a futon in Scottsdale and said good night to one of my best friends, Jen, who wins an award for saving my but I swear I was so organized I had everything lined up ass on this trip.

Krista ran an awesome camp, let's start with that as a sweeping, grandiose but incredibly true fact.  Friday morning she arranged for me to get a ride out to the lake, which meant I missed about 20 miles of riding but meant that I got four (instead of two) hours of sleep and didn't have to put my bike together in the dark at 2am which, in my opinion, completely saved my training day.  Tracy kindly dropped me off at the top of the descent into Bartlett Lake, so I got a bit of a warm-up before joining everyone else for the open water swim.
We swam pretty easily, the lake was quiet and we did a few laps of the buoy line and then hopped out, changed back into our bike kits, loaded up on fuel and rolled out.  My legs felt pretty crappy coming down and I had been given broad "as you feel" guidance on the day so I decided I'd climb at roughly IM power for a while and see how that felt.  It gave me something to focus on as I poured OSMO down the hatch by the gallon and worked through the stash of Twizzlers I had pocketed before we left the lake.  
My legs came around in there somewhere and I started smiling, happy to be in the boiling hot sunshine, I pushed the power as I climbed, got in a groove and all of a sudden the top was there.  We took selfies for a bit while waiting for everyone to circle up and then swooped on back to Krista's in a rolling pace line of chatty happy (mostly) girls.  I got off the bike feeling like that was a good solid ride but I hadn't burned any matches for the weekend.  Jen and I decamped immediately for a burger place that came highly recommended and I'm certain that we were tucked into bed well before 8pm.
The Saturday morning ride was with a bigger group, and I sat back a bit while we looped through neighborhoods to warm up.  The first set of climbs I was chatting with a couple of girls and almost didn't notice as we rolled up and down, spikey little efforts that felt good.  There was a long descent and then we pulled over to circle up and stuff our faces.  I love how everyone in this picture is eating.
We had just rolled out when Krista blew by me like a locomotive and yelled get on my wheel NOW over her shoulder.  My mouth was full and I was holding a water bottle but somehow I had just enough of an clue about what the hell was about to go down to make the split-second decision to hit the lap button, shove everything away and latch on.  My eyes were watering too badly to be able to see my Garmin so I had no idea what kind of power I was putting out and that's probably a good thing, I know for quite a few minutes we were hauling well over 30mph and then there was a little climb and I sat up and that millisecond was just enough for a tiny gap to open up.  As soon as I saw it I went into red alert one thousand watts mode red alert your ass is about to get dropped but I couldn't close it and then we hit a downhill and the Emily-towing-Krista train was gone.  I took a few seconds to recover, I looked over my shoulder and saw no one so I settled back down into the bars and got grooving again.  I actually flew past the water stop and it wasn't until I heard Krista yelling that I looped over and in and unclipped with a very serious what in the actual fuck was that. (This is me teaching Heidi, okay this is how you take a selfie, look at my finger and smile!)
We did a short out-and-back where I got to chat with Emily and shovel about 7000 calories down before heading up the nine mile climb that was the last everyone stomps it surprise! piece of the ride.  I had no idea what my legs/brain/crotch/power meter would be doing after a couple days of riding but we started up and I was holding back to see numbers that I'm not really used to seeing when I feel like I am holding back, if that makes any sense at all.  I had been let off the leash for the day and I spent about a few minutes giving the Garmin the side-eye and arguing with myself, do I? don't I? do I? don't I?  I know that the 20 minute effort/test on the bike is not the be-all and end-all of ride data, I know that Michelle can look at my files and know exactly what I need to be doing without making me smash myself and call it a test.  But goddammit, the last three months of work and riding have made me really curious about what that number would be if I ground down and went for it, I knew the climb wasn't much longer than that and I was itching to find out.  So after another few minutes of dicking around, I hit the lap button and went, because why the hell not, life is short let's chase the big watts and drink beer when we're done.

I rode at what felt like a reasonably hard effort for a couple of minutes without watching the numbers, and then I spent the last 16 minutes desperately trying to hang onto lap power, and I mostly did and that was all I wanted.  I pulled into the gas station to refill and texted both Michelle and my best friend I either just did something really awesome or really stupid.  I was pretty firmly convinced that after that effort I was going to end up getting repeatedly dropped from the sweet draft all the way home.  But instead I was a little surprised that once I got some coke down me I felt fine, good enough to hop on a wheel off the front and hang, chatting, stoplight to stoplight until the ride was done.  
My run off the bike was a bit of a shitshow, I left my bottle sitting on the front steps and made it about 2.5 miles before I got run over by the Bonk Express.  Jen saved my ass for the millionth time by feeding me TUMS and OSMO and somehow I checked the box on the "descend every mile of this run" instructions and dragged myself back into Krista's backyard where we all dangled our legs in her pool and tried to figure out which weather app was showing the highest temperature.  Eventually we made it home for lunch and then over to the pool, where I followed my very strict instructions to chill out and not smash anyone (after the first interval, Krista says, okay if you are going to go THAT easy then you can swim at the back).  We filled our bellies with carbs and climbed back in bed.
Sunday morning our alarms went off at WTF-o-clock so we could drive to Tucson.  I didn't get much sleep Saturday night, a normal side effect of wrecking the shit out of myself, and was happy to curl up in the back seat and grab another nap on the way down.  We parked and changed and rolled out and I knew it was going to be one of those days, where all you have to do is empty your mind and get to the end of it.  I've had plenty of those on the bike in my life, the days where you are completely exhausted and you can choose to whine and bitch and complain or you can make the choice to draw inwards and devote all of your energy to survival, and that's what the climb up Mt Lemmon was for me.  It wasn't a bad climb, it was just long and I was tired (we're all tired!), but I wasn't completely miserable except for a couple of miles about an hour in where I daydreamed about the mountain erupting like a volcano so I could turn around and descend.  By this point in the weekend, I was completely sick of sugar, I stood at the SAG truck at mile 15 telling Shane (best sherpa/SAG ever!) I hate sugar actually I just hate eating I hate food I hate chewing but I hate sugar the most, all the while I was shoveling Bobo's bars and potato chips into my mouth and washing it down with miniature cans of Coke because I knew I needed it.  It didn't matter how much I didn't want to eat, when you're in a hole like that you HAVE to eat and it was the only thing that was going to get me to the top.  I spent at least a mile thinking about the workout comments I was going to upload at the end of the day and it was going to be something like, I'm in hell, my vagina is in hell, my adductors are on fire my knees are on fire my neck is on fire everything is on fire because I AM IN HELL It was a long day of convincing myself, over and over, to take one more pedal stroke, and I've been there in training plenty which actually does make it easier to work through, over time.  But then a bit of relief showed up, a long down and then a short one and then I was at the top.  Tired, hot, salty, sweaty and with my chamois wedged somewhere in my intestines but there.  A cookie sounded terrible so instead I ate the best worst piece of pizza of my life, we took a few pictures and then headed out (Jen looks so much happier because, as I explained to some of my athletes, she did a far better job of riding like a responsible adult the day before).  
I absolutely love to descend, but I haven't done it in a while because there are no hills in my basement and the wind was ripping on some of the corners so I took my time.  It warmed up pretty quickly, I tried to nod sympathetically to the riders that were still climbing, I yelled heyyyyyyy Jen Harrison when I saw her pulled over somewhere around mile five, I passed some people and let some people pass me and finally we hit the flat and I could pop down into aero and cruise the rest of the way back.  Shane very kindly racked out bikes while we got naked in the parking lot and then we ate junk food and listened to someone's accidentally-left-running Garmin (mine) set new Strava records the whole way home.  

I try to be pretty careful about what I eat, especially since I've learned certain food groups make me have to poop on the run bother me, but at training camp all that goes out the window and it becomes an act of calorie-replacement-desperation.  We ate dinner, and then I think we ate dinner again, and then I ate a pint of ice cream (foreboding music) which I would normally never do the night before a long run but all I wanted was to get enough calories in me so I could sleep without waking up at 2am to stand in the kitchen in my underwear eating another fucking Bobo's bar.
Monday morning was the long run, and there were three of us that needed (need is such an interesting word here) to run twenty miles, which is something I have never done outside of the six times I've done it in races (although maybe only one or two of those counts as an actual run).  We started out an hour before the rest of the group, and I had to drop off the loop into a well-placed gas station less than two miles in to empty my very upset stomach.  I hoped that would be it and I'd be okay from there, but I wasn't.  I think I made at least four more stops over the next three hours (lesson learned: the entire pint of Talenti is never your friend).  My legs felt okay for about the first fourteen miles and then, like a thunderclap, the wheels didn't just fall off, they plain old exploded.  My glute med completely shut down - nope sorry fuck you I'm out thanks I'm going on strike someone else is just going to need to stabilize your pelvis because I'm fucking done here peace - which made my IT band freak out and all sorts of wonderful things start pinging down in my calves.  I stopped and stretched my hips and dug around in my glutes a few times to try and get things going again, I put the brakes on then finally gave up on pace and sorta just jogged it on it.  I had some pretty low moments, I got passed by a few girls who were only running fourteen miles and snarled some grumpy things at them inside my head, I prayed for Shane to roll by in the SAG wagon and scrape me off the ground, I gagged down chews and TUMS and pulled down inside myself.  I spent the last four miles swearing that no matter what the mileage said on my watch when I got back to the car, I was done, I wasn't going to run around the parking lot like a fool to make it get to 20, but then I got back and had .08 left so down the sidewalk I went and then my watch beeped and it was over.  The run, the weekend, everything, and it was good.
I'm so glad I went.  Or, more precisely, I'm so lucky that my life is such that I have the ability to pack up and go.  Anytime I can hop on a plane and spend a weekend riding with a group of riders that are so much stronger than I am, I come away inspired and motivated (and completely fucking trashed but that fades after a few days while the rest does not).  It's not at all that I have a false sense of strength, training mostly alone here in Boulder, it's more like I think I have this slightly false sense of weakness, especially on the bike.  When I went to Hawaii back in February, I was startled to find out that I could hang.  That the little hey come on you guys wait up! dork in me wasn't getting left behind by the cool kids.  And I spent the first two days at camp mostly sitting in, but still found it surprising that I wasn't getting constantly dropped...and when I finally did get dropped midway through the Saturday ride, my brain didn't explode, I didn't rain down F-bombs of failure, I simply collected my shit and got back to hauling ass.  Sunday I didn't ride particularly well but I did ride steady with whatever I had left in my bicycle tank.  And I still think it was worth it for the effort I put out on Saturday, how good and confident that made me feel, so I didn't mind being the caboose hardly at all.  This is what I get for riding like an asshole, I joked to one of my training buddies when we chatted about it later that day...and all of this, the whole weekend, it reminds me that there's still a lot more out there, if I want to work for it.  More depth to come for me in this sport, it's one thing to ride strong for a day but as the miles pile into my legs, year over year, I have to believe that I'll eventually be able to stack up day after day after day of strength (and maybe learn to show a bit of restraint when I'm feeling fresh, someday).  That's fun to think about, that makes me feel excited that we're coming into spring and I get to emerge from my basement in a couple of weeks and see what kind of creature has been built there.  All the training in the dark, in the snow, in the blasting freezing wind, this morning I ran off the bike in gloves & tights & a winter hat but those days are almost over.  It's just about time to dig out the race belt and the tri kit (spandex ugh) and see what happens when someone writes on me at 5am with a sharpie and then we wait in porta potty lines and bike check-in and why is putting the wetsuit on more exhausting than the entire race and then we wait some more, it's all just one big waiting game from now until the gun goes off.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Canyonlands Half Marathon: race report

Last year I raced here and I felt lucky to have a breakthrough kind of race.  Nearly every step felt light and quick, add a couple of hard miles at the end and hey presto: PR.  It wasn’t quite that simple at the time, but in hindsight, it feels like I moved calmly, maybe with a little bit of restraint, throughout the day.  And I loved the race, running down through the canyon makes me never want to run a race on city streets again.  I was happy in the sunshine and it's definitely up there as one of my favorite half marathons.  So when my athletes rallied together and picked a spring destination, I was glad that it brought me back to Moab with them.  
Going in, I didn't taper like this was a high-priority race.  And a few days out, I was bitching and moaning about how much fatigue I could still feel, I wasn’t shedding it like I am accustomed the week before, but the thought that comforted me was this:  Michelle knows what I want.  She knows what my goals are and I trust her implicitly to take me there and if that means that I don’t deeply rest and properly peak to run a stand-alone half marathon in March, then I am on board.  However, it still felt like a "season opener" and I wanted to run well.  I haven't run an open half since this time last year, I had some vague ideas about what a good day might look like but I was more interested in chasing the pain than anything the clock might say.  It’s become more and more clear to me over the past six months or maybe five years that I need to get the fuck over the crazy fear I have of suffering.  Instead, I need to find a way to embrace it, to open myself up to it, maybe even to enjoy it.  I have a good friend that I train with quite often who can hurt himself in a race unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and that was the specific feeling I wanted to find.  I was chatting with him the night before the race, letting him try to calm my flailing brain and he shared a quote that stayed with me (as this crap tends to do) all throughout the next day: We are beautiful things, wild things, searching for the brilliance within us.
My shake-out run the afternoon before the race felt like complete garbage but that’s pretty standard.  I did some strides and that felt more like I was opening up, but once I finished up it was back to sluggish and heavy and tired.  My warm-up jog the next morning was about the same, my heart rate was slow to rise even with some drills and bounding and jumping jacks and bopping around in the corral, but again, that is normal and I hoped that as soon as I started running my legs would turn up.
I crossed the line, started my watch, and ran about twenty seconds before I had my answer, nope, today is not going to be a gift, if you want it you are going to have to fight for it.  I had a screen on my Garmin showing only lap pace and lap time, but instead I let my legs carry me through the first mile by feel.  To be honest, it felt harder and faster than I thought that 8:16 on friendly terrain should have felt, and I started to prepare myself for how bad the race could actually go, for the explosion.  I shoveled in some calories right then, worked on my bottle of OSMO that I was carrying for the first hour and tried to find the edge of oh shit this is too fast I shouldn't be going this fast but I am so here we go.
I kept the effort at that slightly unreasonable level for the first 4-5 miles, and once I got through the 10K I was pretty sure that I was going to squeak by with a PR.  But what I would usually do with that information is back off and coast in on the small win and it's a little bit of a breakthrough that instead I started doing the math to figure out what I needed to do to break 1:50.  I didn't flip over and check out total time until mile eight and I know it was going to be close but I went for it.  There’s a pretty steep hill somewhere in mile nine and running up it hurt so badly and I was going so slowly that just for a minute my brain went shit 1:50 is out of the question and so is a PR and if this is how bad things are feeling you might not even break two hours today what the fuck is happening why is everything all bad.  Which is exactly what brains do when racing gets hard but man, for about ten seconds I let it eat into me.  And then I did the only thing that I know to do when I start falling apart which is to shovel down all the calories I am carrying and force my mind not into I feel great this feels great! because that is complete bullshit but instead straight into oblivion while I wait for the sugar to save me.  And it came through, it didn’t help me run any faster but it dug me out of the tiny hole I fell in for a few minutes and got me focused.

There was no wind this year, which was a bit of a blessing but without the wind the course was hot.  Last year I remember running and being cold well into the halfway point, this year I was warm before I got through the first mile.  So when the course spat us out on the highway, it was a minefield of salty sweaty suffering runners.  I knew the splits I needed to crack the 1:50 mark and I was running on the edge, desperately trying to force lap pace down and it wasn’t happening, it was drifting up and I reverted to counting my steps, tightening up my form, keeping my eyes ahead, swinging my arms, trying to open up my stride, get feet turning over quickly, I thought about Michelle talking about sprinting in the pool hands hands hands and I was thinking feet feet feet and my hips were ripping in pain and I know I was heel-striking and over-striding and doing all the things that I’ve spent so much time trying to train out of my body but all I could think about was getting to the line.

We made the last turn and then I saw the sign for mile thirteen and I had about thirty seconds to make it over the finish and I knew that I wasn’t going to but I sprinted for it anyway, as hard and as ugly as I could and then I was through and it was over.  No magic, no sparkles, no calm and swift, instead just a little under two hours of using an ax on the floor of my pain cave.
And with that, the end result is all I could ever want out of a race: to sit on the ground, empty, exhausted to my core, but at peace with the fact that I gave everything I had.  I didn’t have twenty less seconds in me to crack 1:50 that day, I don’t think I even could have found two, but I know with complete certainty that I have never suffered like that in a half marathon in my life.  I went out to work, I worked, I hurt, from mile two onwards my brain was shrieking fuck I really don't think we should be doing this and I didn't hold it, it wasn't a beautifully executed negative split with a special blast in mile thirteen but I also didn't blow.  I kept it floored even when I was desperate to ease off, hoping for an untied shoe or maybe a meteor to hit the earth directly in my path so I could stop punishing my body with pain for just one second.  And when it was over, I was content.  It was everything I had.  The sweet peace that follows the pain, it doesn't seem to matter if it's a sprint or ironman or any distance between, there aren't many better feelings in the world then the one that comes when you hit stop on your watch and bend over, hands on knees, hoping you won't blow chunks all over the nice person trying to hang a medal around your neck, gasping sorry I'm sorry I just need a minute and realizing that all the voices in your head are silent.  The joy of the hissing silence that follows the fight.  I've spent so many years racing, so many years being disappointed in myself on the far side of the line because I know the feeling when it's late in the miles and I almost imperceptibly let off the gas, not enough that I actually slow down but enough that the pain relents, I'm not even sure if it can be seen in a Garmin file but it sure as shit haunts me when the day is done.
Racing is fun, going fast is fun, but that isn't why I stand on the line.  I do it because I want to be that beautiful and wild thing, I want to find the brilliance within me.  And yeah, yeah, I know, that sounds like a bunch of hokey vomit-inducing bullshit, but everybody has different reasons why they race and right now, this year, these are mine.  It's laying flat on my back in the sunshine listening to everyone babble about their races and smiling privately to myself because I got the day I wanted and that is because I reached out and took it.  It's the sound of the moto starting up because I am the one heading out of transition, it's grinding down into the wheel of someone who is a fuck-ton stronger than me and not getting dropped, it's hitting the lap button and standing, coughing and spitting, on the bike path alone in 20º staring at my watch in disbelief.  All this shit in my head about not being a good runner, every time I tell someone I swim and bike and then watch the parade go by, it's time to let that go and for real.  More than that, it's time to atom bomb those thoughts out of existence.  Thinking about the races that stand out to me last year, they aren't the PRs or the wins or the special days in a pink helmet.  They are the ones where I got tired of my own shit.  Where I didn't think, I just ran, I didn't let up, I didn't make a lot of noise, I didn't barter with myself, I didn't try and convince my brain that I felt amazing like a special fast sparkly butterfly in spandex, I just.fucking.went.  I sank into the suffering, I smothered myself in pain and I quietly moved through the day on my own terms.  So now it's April.  The snow is melting, the pants are getting tinier, the races are getting closer.  And I feel ready.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

training and fun and fire

It's been a while since I've talked about training as it is, and I've had some fun crap roll across my plate in the last few weeks soooo here goes a blog post that isn't particularly interesting to anyone except to me (hashtag winning).
I ran a 5K the weekend before I went to Hawaii, it was a hard as shit course and I was so grumpy about my time that we piled in the car and left.  I found out a few weeks later than I placed in my AG and missed sticking around to stand on the box or just tiny dirt smudge and get the glass.  Lesson learned, don't be a snotty jerk.  And my heel-striking soldiers on.
A few days after I got back, Colorado was blessed with one of those bizarre spring days that pop up in the middle of weeks of snow and negative temps.  I managed to ride somewhere sort of around 80 miles if I remember correctly.  My arm warmers were crusty and my lips were chapped for a week but being outside on my bike in the sunshine, that's about as good as life gets for me.  That's my zen, that's where I recharge, selfies and singing Florida Georgia Line at the top of my lungs and all.
Since that weekend, we've gotten absolutely whomped with snow so I've been spending all of my time in the dark of my basement (or someone's basement) sweating my ass off, face down on the power meter.  It means that I don't have any idea what the hell is going on with my bike right now.  I feel like I'm doing good work, having fun chasing the crazy video game of 10s watts, and here and there some numbers float by that make me think hmm maybe I am getting stronger.  But for the most part, I'm not thinking too much about where it's taking me or what it's doing to me, in the spirit of not losing my mojo I am doing my best to whack each session with 100% intention and not really give it much more thought than that.  I am desperately waiting for the day when I can get outside (hopefully tomorrow!) and start doing some work there, mainly because I know having to watch the power meter AND watch where I'm going will feel like a brand-new experience.  

Back in February I hosted a run-focused training camp for about a dozen of my athletes.  I recapped the weekend over on the coaching blog that Jenni and Heather and I run so I won't take up lots of space here, but it kicked ass.  The best part of the whole thing was being able to see my athletes in person - I learn so much from face-to-face interaction, our relationship improves, I understand the kind of athlete they are far better after just a few days.  And for me, I got to run over two hours on trails chattering away, hang out with an awesome group, eat, swim, and run some more.  The fact that my fitness was coming up and around to a place where I could drop a long run like that into a week already packed with training and travel stress and hosting camp stress made me pretty happy about where I was.
February also brought the mama's birthday.  She was graced with a birthday swim set from her coach and handed it out to a few of us as well: 4100 for time.  After some shit-talking throw-down on Twitter, she set us all up to try and finish around the same time (breaking an hour) which for me in short course yards meant the worst: NO TOYS!!!  So, I don't drink coffee, although I'm not sure I can say that anymore since I learned the magical fairy dust BLAZAMMO effect it has on my swim.  That morning I drank a cup of something frothy with about 17 shots of espresso in it and then vibrated my way down to the pool.  I think I dropped my keys six different times trying to get up the stairs and into the locker room.  I don't often talk about times and shit like that in training because it's not really important, but I was happy to pretty evenly split that sucker: 14:32, 14:41, 14:39, 14:30 + 1:27 for a 59:51, and don't even be pissed about the picture of my Timex because I've got one of my Garmin coming up in another minute or so.
I felt like a beast for swimming that hard and long, and also it completely slaughtered me (the caffeine crash is a such a dick).  I spent the next couple of days holding my eyelids open with toothpicks and bitching about where all my watts went.  But I want to remember that my swim is changing.  My workouts in the water have been starting to address some of the holes/next steps that I need to take which means sometimes I swim 5K and don't get to put on paddles which is insane, and I spend a lot more time wanting to puke than ever.  I also stopped going to the super early morning master's swim with all my boyfriends because the coaches and schedule have all changed.  Instead I'm going to one workout a week where I am the slowest person in the entire pool by a LOT and yesterday the (very cute with a little accent) coach on deck tried to explain to me where my lats were.  My first day testing out the session I think I went in too smashed and maybe slightly under-fueled and inside fifteen minutes I quit swimming, triathlon, wearing a bathing suit and leaving my house ever again as I got neatly lapped every 300 yards.  I've gone back since and it's much better when I get a real warm-up and have enough food in my belly.  There's less laughing and shit-slinging and quoting Caddyshack start to finish but there's more getting my ass absolutely fucking handed to me and for now, in a twisted way, I am having so much fun, that is what I want.  My swim has been relatively strong for the past few years and I think that's part of why I've been coasting, because as everyone has constantly told me, there is so much gain to be found in the other two sports.  But I also think the truth is that I love it and if it makes me happy and fitter and even a little bit faster, if it's not hurting me, then why shouldn't I be working on it?  Why not fill my life up with that which makes my heart explode?
I've still been lifting, it's just about time to start turning the focus of the work there but I did have a good 6-8 weeks of solid heavy sessions in the weight room coming out of the off-season.  It makes me happy for no other reason than the big lifts feel good, I feel strong and solid and unbreakable when I'm doing this kind of work consistently.  This winter I was able to PR my deadlift, my front squat, how many pull-ups I can do before giving myself a hernia and quite a few other things including the number of times I hit myself in the face with the resistance band doing shoulder mobility before I actually tie it properly to the bar.  I also have a secret weapon which is not multiple pairs of ridiculous pants but does make me feel like I am lifting smarter than I have ever before.  We have been specifically addressing my weakness in triathlon which we all know is the run.  I've learned a lot about the body and function and progression and movement patterns and I feel lucky that I have so many smart people in my life that work hard to keep me from falling down a flight of stairs in the dark and no I have never dropped a weight on my bare foot.
So what's left is the run.  I did a long run in Hawaii that was cruisey and felt good especially because I got to be warm but was otherwise unremarkable.  I really like the work I've been doing, it's been specific and interesting to watch what it's doing to my body, it's been hard work and I am not breaking.  I did the long trail run with all my athletes but I was able to run most of it with one of the fastest runners that I coach and my heart rate was not one billion (he did run a half marathon about five minutes before and was in recovery from that but let's pretend I'm awesome too).  
But even with that in the bank, I felt like the run wasn't coming around the way the swim and the bike and the throwing heavy shit in the gym all were.  And I said that exactly out loud to a few people, the poet and my training buddies and Michelle, I feel like my run is just not coming around but I wasn't worried about it, more noting it as I went by.  After a few weeks of still feeling like that, I dug back through my training log from last winter and found January through early March covered up in exactly the same comments.  That made me laugh, at least I'm consistent, and then it started to pop up just a little.  Tiny little fitness flowers poking their heads out of the ground.  I had a few good moments in a midweek run, then I felt amazing running off a hardish bike, and then last week I went out to do the longest run that I have ever done that wasn't during a race, and there it was (told ya it was coming).  Hi.
It wasn't the time or the pace or the distance, it was how absolutely effortless the miles felt.  How quickly the time went by, I dropped bottles for myself earlier in the day and I was so surprised when I realized an hour had passed and it was time to swap out the first.  It wasn't perfect, I didn't eat the best lunch so I blew through my fuel pretty quickly and it got REALLY cold in the last hour once the sun went down and I got a nosebleed on my pale blue shirt.  But that's all just stupid crap, the fact of the matter is that I went into this being worried about the slog and ready to ignore the splits and pop out the miles, just watch the heart rate and keep it grooving, check the box, my mind was in a good place and my britches were not twisted and somehow I ended up having the best long run of my entire life.  And I was jazzed up from it, I texted all my girlfriends and made them listen and poor Rosalyn was visiting and had to hear about it 16 times over the next two days.  I didn't even care that it smashed me so hard I missed every single interval in my swim the next day even the easy ones, I couldn't believe that I had something like that inside me and it just fell out when I wasn't even looking (more coffee paired with swimming, no it did not help).
When I can't sleep at night, I look at instagram feeds and hashtags.  I read a really good article lately on using instagram for inspiration instead of just clicking like on all the pictures of your friend's babies that are showing up over on Facebook anyway.  So I've been trying to adjust my view, to make it a place that I go to for the very specific and bizarre kind of inspiration that I want.  And it's a crazy mishmash of golden retrievers and ocean photographers and female weight lifters and other people obsessed with speed shorts, but it works.  I follow the guy whose handle is a bunch of letters and posts the pictures of typewritten words on the page, and a few days ago he posted something that said: we have more in us than we want to believe.  more life, more fire, and more soul to burn.  sometimes nothing is something, even if we cannot see it for ourselves.

More life, more fire, and more soul to burn.  
In some ways I haven't changed, in some ways I never will.  I shove my foot in my mouth all the damned time and I sing along into the mic while teaching spin and I take so many selfies that I felt the need to hang a warning sign on all my social media feeds.  But life is great.  Training, is great.  It's bringing me joy.  It's work, it's hard and it's uncomfortable that I like to dig around in my guts trying to figure out how to work on the things I want to change and there are still days where I jog my twenty minute warm-up and then stand at the bottom of the hill with the Garmin paused in a blizzard and say to myself, fuck.  But my fire has come back.  I'm starting to get excited to race, not because I want to see a time on a clock somewhere, but because I'm curious about what it will be like to take this always-in-progress experiment of one out and see what happens when the gun goes off, when it's not heart rate or send-offs or watts or anything except ability, brains and heart.  To see if I will fall into all the same old traps and have more work to do, or maybe I'll skim over all my old shit and make completely new mistakes.  I don't know.  But I'm just about ready to find out.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

just...different

I posted my last emotional internet missive the day before I left Hawaii.  I thought that I had had some good lightbulb moments, I realized that back home in training I had been coasting a bit, I had a few days of experiencing what it meant to actually bear down and work, to chase a wheel, to swim hard on not enough rest, I thought I knew.  I even had a really nice chat with Michelle after a glass of wine about how I felt like some of the things I thought to be true about myself had been broken a bit after the week of training.  And then I had one more day of swim bike run in the sunny hot sunshine.  We started out with a pretty hard swim.  Coasting on the success of my Monday morning time in the water, I slaughtered it, I felt great, I swam my ass off...and got out of the water so smashed that I had the thought umm I really wish that was the only workout I had to do today because I might have just emptied my tank.

Got home, stuffed some food down, and rolled out.  There were four of us, and Michelle was good about planning our ride, this person rides here and gaps back from this wheel etc, so we would get our work done without tripping all over each other.  It was one of those days where you groan, loudly, when you push the first pedal stroke around because your quads are not particularly interested in waking up.  But we got going, and I started putting calories down (act of desperation), and then it was time to start the work, so I sat up and soft-pedaled so that I could peel off the back and when I was far enough out of the draft I popped down into my bars and hit lap.
The first few minutes of an interval are always chasing power, first it's 700 and then it's 50 and then back to 700 and it takes a moment to dial in the effort.  But once I did, I was inching up on our quarter-mile long pace line, and I didn't really think I was supposed to be, so I stayed glued to the meter and was really careful to not be overly hammering.  As we worked through the first one, I crept around and ended up sucked onto Heidi's wheel who was sitting on Michelle's, and there were four more minutes to go, and my power dropped into the basement and there was a literal shitstorm going down in my head.  Somewhere along the way, I've been taught that going off the front can be taken as a huge sign of disrespect, and I've ridden with people who have felt the need to say fuck the workout I'm going to teach you a lesson for doing so.  But that was crossed with, oh man, my power numbers aren't even close to where they should be and I'm going to get in so much trouble for this (which is also, of course, completely ridiculous, but like I said, shitstorm).  Another minute went by and I finally decided that not hitting numbers was the worse sin so I swung out and pushed past, yelling I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry over my shoulder as I went.  I spent the rest of the interval wanting to jump out of my skin, waiting for I'm not even sure I knew what I thought might be coming but it felt bad.  It ended, I hit lap and sat up into the recovery and a moment later Michelle pulled up next to me and hollered GOOD GIRL!! at just about the top of her voice and I almost burst into confused-and-relieved-head-case tears right there on my bike somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  
But it isn't the breakthrough, exactly, that matters.  The breakthrough is fun, and that day, on the bike, I rode exactly what I supposed to ride and I surprised myself and something broke, something small but definite, shattered.  We got off the bike and ran hard downhill repeats and I surprised myself a bit more, and I'm sure I slobbered all over the place trying to explain to Michelle why I was such a freakin' bag of crazy, but that's not what is actually important.  A breakthrough is just one day.  And there are a shitload of Nike commercials and instagram quotes that say something along the lines of doing work, quietly, where no one can see it, day in and day out is what builds a champion.  What matters is the aftermath.  It's what I do with the breakthrough.  Do I write it down, chalk it up to an awesome experience, and fly back to Colorado and fall back into all my same old patterns?  Because it's easy to shake my sweaty hair out of the bike helmet after a ride like that and declare to myself everything is going to be different now but to come home, to hold myself to that thought, those ideals, day in and day out, when I'm tired and it's cold and snowing (or, all right, 65º in February and perfect sunshine) and I'm not in Hawaii being sparkly in front of my coach anymore, can I still find this feeling?
The first few days, it was easy.  Colorado was graced with a magical slice of spring, and it's not hard to be motivated and at the top of your game when you can be running around outside in shorts.  But I feel, quietly, a little bit different.  My attitude feels different, the work feels different.  I'm not drifting towards the future, I'm not doing much wondering about what this will look like in a few months, I'm simply trying to start every day with the intention of giving 100% to everything I do, including mid-ride pit-stop selfies.  
I read an article just this morning about expectancy theory.  A coach creates expectations about an athlete; expectations influence the coach's behavior towards the athlete; the athlete becomes aware of expectations and adjusts self-perceptions and behaviors; athlete performance falls in line with initial expectations.  I find this kind of thing utterly fascinating.  And to remove the coach-athlete relationship, and replace it with my relationship with myself as an athlete, there's something fun to chew on.  If I believe that I have high expectations for myself, I'm going to be pleased when I perform up to those expectations and unhappy when I don't reach them.  But what if I am actually holding myself back with these expectations?  This is the shift I'm working on.  One of the first hard workouts I had back in Colorado was in the pool, and instead of looking at the send-offs and calculating what I needed to swim to make them, I swam as hard as I thought appropriate and then was startled by the time on the clock.  I continued that way through the workout, to the point where I actually adjusted the send-offs down by 10" because it was more than enough.  I removed the expectations I had placed on myself and my performance and over the course of an hour, surprised myself over and over in the water.  I wonder what in the hell kind of athlete I would be if I could do that day in and day out?



It won't always work out, it won't always be a grand slam.  This past Sunday, I was tired in the water, I had a 1K to descend and the 200 split I caught made me snort, stop, and pull on gear to finish it out.  But then I got pissed off at myself, I spent 300 yards arguing about why I had done that, returned to my coasting behavior, and I ended up taking off the paddles and descending that motherfucker right down.  I had some hard 50s and 25s to swim after that and I know the difference between good enough and the best I can do.  And it's just some 50s at the end of a long day that capped off a long week, it certainly would have been acceptable to swim a bunch of 38s at the end of that session but being able to write in my log :35 :34 :36 :35, it made a difference to ME.  The same thing happened in my long ride on Saturday, the same thing happened during my hill repeats, this tiny weird crazy argument with myself is showing up all over my training and there's no wonder why as I've been giving into it for a long time.
I work hard, I'm a workhorse, it's what I do.  I'll never forget talking to my horn professor in graduate school after a disappointing performance and telling him that I thought I needed to work harder and him telling me, no, you don't, it's what I tell so-and-so, no one works harder than Katie.  But I wonder if sometimes I hide in this work ethic.  I'm checking the boxes, putting in the miles, but I'm holding back in small ways that sure do add up.  When we got off our bikes in Hawaii, Michelle looked at me and said, this is a good thing but now my expectations have gone way up here (imagine holding hand above bike helmet) and that was a little bit scary, but it's what I need.  This is why we have coaches, by the way, because someone else standing outside looking in might be able to figure out the tiny little key to unlocking your bullshit and then pushing you up and over the line.  So I'm back in Colorado, I'm surrounded by friends and training partners alike, and every day I feel a little bit more like something is rumbling, getting ready to turn over.  Different.