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.