Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ways to elevate your mood into the stratosphere after three weeks of miserable rainy weather and a bad bout of the taper crazies....

Hop on a plane to the Mexican Caribbean, and find an awesome condo with a killer oceanfront view.  Sit on the deck and watch the boats go by in the aquamarine sea.

View from the deck.  Not shabby at all!
Go for your first outdoor ride on your tri bike in months (yes, months!).  Pick a nice, flat road with a swift tailwind for extra exhilaration.  Live in the moment, relishing the feeling of an effortless (tailwind aided) 38kph in the aerobars, willfully choosing to forget how the return trip in the headwind is going to feel.  Wheeeee!

Turn off to Chankanaab, the swim venue.  Lots of flat, flat, flat roads!
Make tracks to an isolated white sand beach for an incredible swim in crystal clear, bathtub warm, calm reef-protected ocean.  Yes, I really did use the adjective "incredible" to describe swimming.  Hello little fishies!
Playa Palancar...beautiful!
Enjoy an amazing dinner of freshly pressed corn tortillas, local avocados and peppers, grilled skirt steak (with the hottest damned jalapenos ever), yummy green salsa, beans and rice.

Muy bueno!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taper crazies

With one week to go until Ironman Cozumel, I am smack in the middle of my taper and have lots of extra time on my hands.  You would think that being able to relax and essentially do nothing would be a luxury...but it's not.  The taper crazies have fully set in.

Some sure signs of the taper crazies:

1.  You remove 15 hours of training volume from your weekly schedule.  Instead of feeling perky, you feel tired, lethargic and exhausted.  A 20 minute run feels like 20 miles.

2.  You randomly burst into tears and/or freak out on anyone offering any type of suggestion and/or criticism (constructive or otherwise) concerning your race plan, equipment or pretty much anything.  Sorry to the person who suggested that my bike isn't fast and whose head I promptly chewed off in spades.  I'll forgive you in eight more days.  Maybe.

3.  With the extra time on your hands, you scour training blogs and twitter posts to use as ammunition for continuously second guessing your own training. (i.e., I have a rest day today and have done nothing but eat quinoa and bananas, yet so-and-so is doing an eight hour ride followed by a 30k brick run and 50 x 100's on 1:15.  All that on the Sunday before race day!  I must be doing the wrong thing!!!).  Then you promptly remember how painful it is to run 20 minutes, abandon the thought of any such brick workout and go back to the blissful ignorance of eating quinoa and bananas.  (Refer to #10 regarding abandoning thoughts.)

4.  You make a race checklist and check it.  Every day for a week.  Twice on weekend days for good measure.

5.  You remove caffeine from your diet so you feel a little crazier than normal.

6.  You get up a 4:30am for four days in a row to validate that no caffeine makes you crazier than normal.

7.  In conjunction with #5 and #6, you remove sugar and wheat from your diet for a dose of super-crazy.  Convince the people at work that you are totally nuts when you cannot participate in any social activities or lunches because every item contains sugar and/or wheat in copious quantities. For even more fun, inform them that you are on a "caffeine-free, gluten-free, low sugar, low dairy, high protein diet" and watch them look at you like you are really strange.

8. Extra weirdness points when asked by people why you are not eating anything but rice cakes and respond that it is because you are about to swim 3.8k, bike 180k and run a marathon, successively on one day and completely on your own free will, not because you are being held prisoner or being chased by a voracious animal of some sort.  

8.  At the same time as you espouse the aforementioned ridiculously clean diet, pack your bags with race "nutrition" including maltodextrin and fructose laden gels, caffeine pills, salt tablets, immodium, naproxen, tums, a precautionary dose of broad-spectrum antibiotics and aloe for the nasty sunburn you are about to get.  (Yes, there are two #8's.  See #10.)

9. You experience arbitrary aches, pains and twitches and convince yourself that they must be the manifestation of a chronic injury.  Then you take random internet questionnaires to analyze all said aches, pains and twitches.  You successfully self-diagnose yourself as a borderline exercise addict.  However, you score very poorly on Cosmopolitan's "Are you Good-Girl Hot or Bad-Girl Hot" quiz because there is no such thing as "Crazy-Taper-Girl-Hot".

10.  You act antsy, irritable and demonstrate no attention span whatsoever.  Squirrel!  What IS this blog post about anyway?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Staying in the game

Lost:  Mojo.
Reward offered.

When I signed up for a November race, I had not fully appreciated how much motivation impacts preparation for a late-season race.  It's easy to say that the reason I participate in triathlon is because I love it but I'd be lying if I said that staying focused and positive over the last couple weeks has not been a huge challenge.

Big volume is tough, even at the best of times. A rigorous training schedule forces you to be diligent with nutrition, rest and balancing the rest of your life with the physical demands of training.  Juggling workouts, laundry, meal planning and a (more than) full-time occupation is a sport of its own.  Nasty weather adds a further layer of complication, as does the loss of willing training partners.  While many of my friends have been kicking into their off-seasons, I've been slogging out the miles in the rain.  (A friend of mine commented yesterday that he'd rather stick his Remembrance Day poppy in his eye than join me for run intervals.  I kid you not.)

Add to all of this a loss of spark....and it's not a good thing.

A discussion with Coach Bjoern about my waning enthusiasm made me feel hopeful that what I'm going through is somewhat normal for a late season race and he made a number of helpful suggestions.  He has an incredibly positive and experienced outlook, and it is one of the reasons that I really like working with him - he knows that training isn't solely about logging miles, but also about keeping yourself psychologically in the game.  Four weeks before race day is where the mental aspect comes into play, and like it or not, the reality is that the mental aspect of training is just as challenging as the physical.

Staying focused on a late-season race requires a lot of mental reinforcement.  This includes not only positive thinking, but a re-examination of the goals I set for both my upcoming race and next season.  Why am I doing this?  Are those goals attainable?  This evaluation exercise was somewhat helpful in tempering my flare-up of demotivation because it reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.  I was so mired in the details that I was forgetting what the big picture was.

Quite the opposite of the big picture, I have also discovered that compartmentalizing the task at hand is helpful in staying focused.  By taking one step at a time, breaking each workout into pieces and mentally reinforcing success at each stage, it is much easier to maintain mental focus.  Not a 4000m swim, but a series of smaller workouts each with an intention.  Not a 30k run, but a warm up, main set and cool down.  A 18 hour training week taken as a whole is daunting - eleven specific workouts with stated goals, however, are less so.  

Mental reinforcement has also come in the form of keeping negative thoughts from occupying space in my head, especially while training.  Last weekend I spent twelve hours on my bike(s), the last four of which I did alone in nasty, rainy conditions.  I literally saw only 3 other cyclists the entire time - it was cold, wet and lonely.  In order to get through it and stay focused on my goals for the workout, I broke the ride up into one hour pieces at the end of each of which I was allowed to have a "treat" provided I met my stated goals for that block.  I know it sounds silly, but it worked.  I "treated" myself to a 5 minute rest stop to warm up my hands, an extra peanut butter bonk bar, and a mango smoothie. extra bonk bar.  Pretty lame, right?

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool and it is amazing how much a little extra reinforcement can make your body more willing to do what you are asking it for.

And sometimes, like yesterday, there is simply no reinforcement strong enough.  I had a tough run workout - 8 x 1 mile at threshold - and only managed 5 repeats.  While I've realized that occasionally failing workouts is a reality, it is still hard at the time to rationalize why every inch of your body simply says "no".

And yet, I know that after this week that the taper will begin and this will pass.

One day at a time.

Trust in the training.

Eat.  Rest.  Stay positive.