three million things thursday

1. I figure it's time for a SBR (that's swim-bike-run for all you non-abbreviating heathens) update since I haven't bored you with the idiosyncrasies of my training for a while, and what is this blog for if not self-absorbed yammering about my life?  Swimming is going quite splashingly.  I'm going to be racing the 1000 yards in a few weeks, which will be the first time that I have ever been in a swim meet possibly in my life to date.  I have a very hazy memory of doing the one-arm backstroke as a tiny little Katie, but I'm fairly sure no coach would have actually put me in a real meet due to my refusal to use both arms to swim instead of just one while the other held my nose.  I've been seeing slow but steady progress in the pool, most of which I attribute to having some fast feet to chase on the weekend recently.  My victory this week was finally breaking 1:20 for 100 yards (as part of a larger set) after swimming a very frustrating 482 1:21s in a row last weekend.  It has absolutely nothing to do with ironman and is completely meaningless in the long view of my training, but it made me happy so all you fast people can just put a lock on it.  Also, for the first time in two years of swimming I care about the time on the clock because it finally means something to me.  I have no idea what to expect from the 1000 yards and actually can't quite remember where I seeded myself, but as long as my goggles don't fall off and I don't get a giant wedgie on the way into the water I feel like I'll have a pretty good time.  

Cycling is having it's bumps up and down.  I got my old crank put back on, which meant I rode my road bike for a week and a half while the QR was in the shop and my adductor got a chance to calm down.  I took the QR back out for a long ride this past weekend.  I did notice a big difference in my adductor pain - as in, much less of it - when I got off the bike, but by the next morning that cranky sucker had tightened up quite a bit.  I went immediately to the internet to see what else could be causing adductor pain on the bike (probably should have done this before switching my crank back).  It looks like I should either move my seat further forward OR further backwards OR get a less-wide saddle.  The science behind those theories being that it is highly likely that I am compressing the attachment of my adductor to my groin between the saddle and the bone which is royally pissing it off.  Yesterday I checked out where my seat was - very far forward - and after carefully examining the pictures of all my bike fits (many) to date, slid it back just a smidge.  My trainer ride felt okay after making the change so clearly the world didn't explode, but I'm worried that I just wasted a bunch of time swapping out my crank when my saddle might have been causing the problem (that sound you hear is my coach smacking her forehead, then me).  I did have quite a bit of inner thigh chafing when I first started with this saddle, which I thought it was just the adjustment of the difference in my body angles, but now I realize that it could just be the nose of the saddle is too wide.  So I'm frustrated with my crank, I'm frustrated with my saddle, and I'm frustrated with the fact that I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time and can't get a good clear answer on what exactly is going on from any of my internet resources (yes, I do expect the internet to answer me when I talk out loud to myself).  Not to mention that cycling has always been the thing that I didn't really have to worry about and now it's yelling and throwing up in the corner.

The good news is that next week while I'm traveling for vacation-a-training-camp-a-palooza, I'm going to be able to drop in and get fit by the superhero that did my coach's fit, and I'm hoping that will calm down my cranky fast-talking crabbiness about this bike.  In the meantime, I will continue to longingly look at my road bike every time I pack up the QR to head out on a ride.  I know that I will get this figured out, I just am incredibly impatient when things do not work perfectly from day one.  Which brings us to running.  My calf is significantly better but still less than 100%.  As soon as it stopped preventing me from being able to walk I got a lot worse about remembering to ice it constantly and, of course, after a few days of this it threw a rod.  I'm now back on the all-natural anti-inflammatory train and am trying to remember that not every twinge in my body is a cycle-ending injury.  To that end, I'll be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler this weekend, a race I have been signed up for THREE times and not been able to run.  I haven't wanted to mention it because a) it feels jinxed to me and b) I'm not racing it, I'm using it as a MAF test because the total elevation change for the entire race is 11 feet.  

2. Speaking of MAF test (see what I did there?), I've finally been making progress in the big yellow book that I refer to as the "Mr. MAF encyclopedia."  It's time to take some notes, get your pencils out.  MAF means maximum aerobic function (I learned this two nights ago) and it is the HR number that my training has been based upon since I started with my coach in December.  The number is not based on data from a LT or max HR test, which is what makes it different.  And the "test" is merely an objective way of checking your training for progress.  I don't want to give away the intellectual farm but I don't train by zones, instead I train by a HR number and I like it so much more than the zone training I was doing last summer.  Zones can be big, and the top is totally different than the bottom, but with a number to nail, it's precise.  

There are lots of good reasons to train this way - I'm only about halfway through the book - but one of the big takeaways for me so far is that it puts far less stress on your body.  Running easy requires less recovery than running hard.  There are also a lot of "fat-burning" and "carbohydrate-burning" reasons that I would probably butcher if I tried to explain (I'm actually probably butchering most of this, but I find it so interesting!!), but it's essentially all about balance.  Trying to keep your body in a state where it's not inflamed.  When your body isn't inflamed, you recover better and fast, you sleep better, your sex life gets better (it actually says this), you are less likely to over-train, and most importantly, your endurance and efficiency can improve.  And that's how you start to get faster.

At some point in December I took pace information off of my Garmin and have been doing 100% of my runs with only my current heart rate showing on the screen.  I have another screen that I will flip to that shows me total time on the run so I know when to go home and average HR, but for the most part, I'm seeing HR only.  It's removed a lot of the emotional attachment to pace that I didn't even realize I had.  Before this, a recovery run was 9:45-10:00 pace, no matter what.  10:01 pace or slower felt embarrassingly slow.  I almost never ran in the low 9s except when I passed by there on the way through a progression run, and once I hit low 8s I was in tempo zone.  All of that is gone.  I remember, back in January, complaining about how slow the splits were from a long easy endurance run (I still obsess over the data after the run, obviously) and my coach telling me - good.  Telling me, before this you would have dug a deeper hole into training debt instead of doing what your body wanted to do that day.  That's what HR training is teaching me - to actually listen to my body, and not in the idiotic "I listened to my body and slept in instead of going for a run then had diet coke and swedish fish for breakfast" way that so many other bloggers are "listening," but tune in closely and learn what hard and easy feels like, especially on the run.  I don't know what 9:45 pace feels like anymore but I can tell you the exact second my HR goes even one beat over 145 on a recovery run.  It still stings to come home and look at my data and see splits that start with an 11, but I'm trying hard to just let it go.  To understand that I'm training a system of my body by running at the right effort level and to ignore the mile splits - because in all honesty, pace only matters on race day.  I'm not quite sure, but I think I might be growing.

3. I got a taste of all of this when I ran RnR USA last weekend.  I ran a 2:01, which is exactly what I ran in Philadelphia last November.  But such a different 2:01 that I ran.  On the left is my HR data/splits from November, and on the right is my HR data/splits from last weekend (no, I have no idea why they aren't lined up together and I don't care nearly enough to try and figure it out).  And I have extra splits on the right because I lapped my watch to catch up to the mile markers and lapped the 13th mile, which I didn't do in Philly because I was blacking out.
My average HR was 10 beats lower and I ran the same race.  Fascinating.  Not only that, but my average HR was essentially my MAF.  In an actual MAF test I have a lot less variance in the averages and highs (a lot of this due to the fact that the race was hilly and I take the test on a track).  These are the splits of a test that I did on a pretty windy day, which accounts a little bit for the max HR numbers being so far off the average.  
In a perfect MAF test, as I understand it, the average/max numbers would be identical from the second mile until the second to last (to account for the ramping up into MAF and the teeny bit faster you might run at the end to make up for the ramping up of the first mile so the overall average is the right number).  And when I took the first test, I had to stare down my Garmin to make sure that I wasn't popping over - or, more truthfully, to make sure I was slowing down into the right number over and over - but now I've gotten to the point where I think I could almost run it by feel.  Not quite, and sometimes the conditions of the day screw with me, but on a normal day where nothing is throwing me out of whack, maybe.

But my point is, and I might actually have one, I feel like I'm doing things the right way, even if I keep getting derailed with cranks and calves and saddles.  I feel like this is the way that I'm going to accomplish the things I want to even if my journey is a little disjointed because I can't seem to stay out of a physical therapist's office for more than a month at a time.  Reading this book and trying to suck all the brains out of my coach (ew) and figuring out that training is not just the work, but the work plus the rest plus the food plus the stress, it all just makes so much sense.  Every time I turn a page I say, "OHHHHH" and you know what, it's about freakin time I got my act together in this way.  I'm still not doing a great job of focusing on my own training and not obsessing over what everyone else is doing, but all I can do is keep trying.  A lot of people told me that ironman training would be a lonely road and I'd need lots of support, and of course they were right.  And I'm owning it, I chose that sacrifice for myself.  I don't want this to turn into a rant about feeling lonely, because I knew it would be, but I'm more surprised about the places in my life where I've unexpectedly found support - and just as unexpectedly not found any at all.  I'm less than three months out from my first ironman and the road has been very different than the one I envisioned last July.  I thought I knew what I was getting into, and thus far, training hasn't really been anything more than I expected.  But I know now that I didn't really understand these other pieces of it then, not even close, not at all.  I do know that I need to stop wasting energy being upset about it and instead just be grateful for the support I do feel.  And maybe part of it is that I don't know how to ask for it when I need it.  Because it is there, and I'm going to need it more and more in the weeks to come, and really, I'm lucky to have it at all.  


  1. I've mainly run by heartrate except speedwork since I started back running in January and it is so freeing. I have no idea what pace I'm going for once, but I'm enjoying my runs and that makes all the difference in the world (of course the gait clinic helped with that!)

    I think the first Ironman was the hardest to train for, after that, you know what to expect. Embrace the suck now and look forward to the finish :)

  2. Summary. Ironman training (done the right way) has made, is making, can make you a better person.

    You are a great person and I am proud to stand with you (next to you (ok, behind you (admiring your sweet sweet ass))).

  3. Your husband says the sweetest things

  4. I recently started hr training too. I totally agree that the focus on the HR number takes the focus off the pace numbers, and I hadn't realized how attached I was to the pace until I had to ignore it. Good luck on the calf front!

  5. Hello Dara Torres! Nice 100 splits.

    My magic Sock Doc in N. Carolina is a Maffetone protege. I really believe in all his recommendations and he is a big believer in training by HR the MAF way. All that said--I am a loser and have never committed to it. Good for you for doing it.

  6. This is all exciting and fascinating stuff. Love the two half marathon numbers side by side. And love that you are training using heart rate.
    I've been doing almost all slow easy running with only heart rate showing. I too can tell my base is better. But I'm not running fast.
    It certainly is different than the early days of running, when one goes out and kills it most of the time because that feeels great and badass and burns off all the stress. I still miss doing that sometimes.

  7. I think I may be the only one not on the HR training boat. It just feels weird when I wear it.

  8. You've inspired me to at least try out my heart rate monitor. I've had it for over a year now and I've never worn it.
    I'm glad your training is going well and I hope you get your bike issues figured out. Enjoy your vacation/training trip!!

  9. Wow great work on the HR training I'm not that disciplined! 3 months how exciting you are getting so close!!!!

  10. I need to start working on the HR training, I started do it intermittently. Great post!

  11. I feel that with the number of words and paragraphs in this post, it is no longer a "three things Thursday" but "three post Thursday" :) Love it.

    "It has absolutely nothing to do with ironman and is completely meaningless in the long view of my training" True. But it still feels damn good to go sub 1:20!

  12. You lost me at SBR. But I understood all the commnts and, it's always nice to have a man (who is not a creepy weirdo stalker) behind you, admiring your ass.

  13. Favorite all-natural anti-inflammatories: GO! (seriously. I'm anti-anti-inflammatories in pill form and nobody understands why.)

    I am afraid of getting a heart rate monitor because I already have, uh, a lot going on in the chestal area and adding another strap sounds like a terrible idea) but reading this makes me curious what else I could learn about myself if I at least tried it.

  14. you are a FAST swimmer! oh my goodness. and if I understand correctly you are an adult learner like me right? it gives me great hope.

    the HR training stuff is really interesting because I've never tried it-and to be honest, I have no desire to for the running I'm doing now, but I can see how it would be a godsend for Ironman. so do you base your during-race pacing off of HR as well? I am wondering how that would play out in the "F it, this number might kill me but I'm going with it" moments...

  15. Sub-1:20s and swim meets make me happy! As does the 2:01 heart rate comparison which I know is an improvement, even if I don't understand all the science behind it.

  16. The thousand was my favorite event back in the day. Good luck girl-you will do fabulously!

  17. I may just up and steal this post and run it on my blog.

    When I got into triathlon and did my first 70.3 I thought anybody could jump right in and do a full without going through the rigors of Olympic and 70.3 first and I was wrong. There is so much to learn about this distance and the training.

    As Jeff Irvin told me for a year......Ironman is a different animal. Last year I ran and ran and ran training for the Las Vegas Marathon and blew up. Now when IM training kicked in I really focused on going slow to go fast (TY Mark Allen) and it is paying off. I'm running 9:00-9:30 with my HR at 140 and previously this would not have been close to true.

    I am focusing on running negative splits and not being a wild man out of the is crazy but this journey has taught me so much. Reading about your training has taught me so much. Just following everybody's journey to their first IM is a learning experience.

    Thank you for writing this post.....I truly appreciate what you have written here.

  18. This post is too full of smarts for me. But I do like Traumeel as a natural anti-inflammatory cream. But then, I also swear by Epsom salt baths. Just DON'T DRINK YOUR BATHWATER.
    You've been warned.

  19. As I'm just focusing on my first 70.3, I certainly can't compare and I think that there is a huge gap between a full and half IM.
    Sounds like you are making some cool realizations about training (and maybe some of those "bigger" things too) through the process. Thanks for sharing!


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