Thursday, April 28, 2016

This season's race plan... or not

127 triathlons this year, 52 weekends in a year, 2.5 triathlons per weekend.
For the past four years, I’ve kicked off the season with the same race, either a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon over Memorial Day weekend. (Race reports from 2015 and 2014 if you are so inclined.) This year, it looks like I’ll be out of town for that weekend with my husband and a few friends.

I’ve been moderately consistent with my training all winter and spring: Swim, bike and run 1-3 times per week, with supplemental training as I can fit it in. And, this is all without a goal or event to work toward. (Besides generally getting better, of course.)

So… now what?

True to the name of this blog, everything is mediocre right now – swim, bike and run – so I probably shouldn’t be thinking of anything longer than a sprint, Olympic max. I put out a call to our local triathlete Facebook group asking for race suggestions, and got a ton. Just from those suggestions, I could race every weekend (at least once!) from June through September. Finding a race to do isn’t the problem.

The question is: Do I do a bunch of sprint and Olympic races and try to have fun? Do I try to build my speed in all three sports and actually race? Do I build my bike and run training again to take another shot at the 70.3 distance? Do I take the summer off, eat ice cream every day, and put on a bunch of weight? The possibilities are endless!

Skipping my usual race lineup may actually end up being a good thing. I’ve gotten into a groove these last couple of years, doing the same races over and over again, trying to improve my time. Maybe this will inspire me to do races I might not have tried otherwise. I may end up finding a new favorite.

When it comes down to it, I think I do need at least a few races on the calendar. I’ve always been a pretty internally motivated person, so I don’t necessarily need a goal race to get me to train. But, it would be nice to have something to show for these last few months’ worth of hard work, even if it is a 50-cent medal.

Do you do the same races every year, or do you try to shake it up? I thrive on doing the same, usually boring routines every day, week, month and year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Week in review April 18-24: Just the basics and a road ride finale

Actually not too bad.
Guys, I needed to play hooky last night. I was freaking out just looking at my personal to-do list, so I decided it was better for my mental health to stay home from the pool and knock a bunch of stuff out.

For the most part it was a success: I ordered some work clothes, bought train tickets for an upcoming vacation, cooked dinner and prepped lunch for the following days, and even planned a family party. Whew! I didn’t get to everything on my list, and I realize these are all first-world problems, but the necessities got taken care of and I felt better by the end of the night.

(OK, OK — I also re-watched episode one, season six of Game of Thrones.)

I got to bed a bit later than I would have liked (story of my life) and I KNEW it was going to be a bad decision with storms coming in overnight. Sure enough, at 1:11 a.m. there was a terrified dog in my bed, shaking and trying to hide her head under the pillow. I comforted her as best I could because I really can’t be mad at my dog for being scared of thunder. And, like always, my OTHER dog reasons that if her sister gets to be in the bed than she does too. Finally everything quieted down by 2:30 a.m. and I was able to get a bit more sleep. Sadly, it’s never enough!

So, this week is off to a slow start. But last week included:

Swim: Twice in the pool for 5600 meters total in a bit less than 2.5 hours. Eh. Neither of these were great, which I attribute to work stress last week.

Bike: Once on the trainer (I lost a trainer day to some necessary side-job business) and one 35-miler on the ROAD on Sunday for a total of about 3.5 hours in the saddle. I was so happy to finally get outside on the road: The sun was shining! It was warm but not too warm! I was feeling great! The birds were chirping! I was so happy to be alive! And then I got home and downloaded my Garmin data to see that this ride was a bit slower overall than my first batch of rides on the road last year. So….. what the heck did I buy a fluid trainer and do all those hard intervals all winter for??? Ugh. I mean, I was still happy to get out there, but it was kind of a bummer, especially at the end of the weekend.

Run: Twice, both on the road, for 12 miles in a bit less than 2 hours. This included a nice-until-I-ate-a-bug easy-ish run on the trail by my office, and a “long run” of 7 miles, my longest run so far this cycle, on Saturday. My average paces aren’t anything to write home about yet, but, my IT bands are holding up and I’m feeling like I’m getting closer to my groove with each run.

Weights: Ugh – only once after my weekend run, and only the first half of my upper body moves in about 20 minutes, before I started feeling lousy. I’m not sure if this was a blood sugar thing, a too-much-stress-during-the-week thing, a I-dressed-too-warmly-for-my-run-and-am-still-overheated thing, or some combination of the three. Sadly, I had stuff to do later that evening and I never did finish.

Yoga: Again, ugh – only once for 10 minutes before bed Sunday night, and that was kind of a rush job just to get some time logged.

Total: Eight sessions in about 8.5 hours, which, now that I’m actually looking at it, doesn’t seem that bad.

I’m not expecting much for the rest of this week. I played hooky last night, I have a work event tomorrow night, and I have that family party Sunday. So, things are going to be a bit discombobulated around here for a while. I’ll fit in what I can fit in, and try not to stress too much. Easier said than done for me, but I’ll try.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Work stress is affecting my training. Ugh.

Typical week.
It was a rough work week: It was the first time I handled the entire process of something that cost my company a significant amount of money. Admittedly, I am a worry wart, and this wasn't good for my stress levels. I had a hard time sleeping and I've had anxiety-induced chest tightness all week.

Luckily for me, that chest tightness has gone away completely every time I've swum, biked or ran this week. But I've noticed that my workouts are harder than usual this week. I'm swimming slower (and the bar is pretty low to begin with!), I can't push as hard on the bike, and every time my running pace dropped to an 8:something today, my heart and breathing were like WTF STOP!!!

(Disclaimer: I have seen a doctor for this in the past. It's anxiety. It only happens when I get really stressed. My ticker is fine. =) )

Of course, every doctor will tell you that exercise REDUCES stress with the endorphins and everything else. But here's a thing I found that confirmed my suspicions that stress reduces your ability to have a good workout. Like, in this article, number 5, Stress Hampers Your Fitness Gains. I knew it wasn't a coincidence.

Next week should be a lot easier and it's the weekend now, so things are better already. Hopefully my workouts will pick up, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

First bug of the season

Yesterday was the first time this season I went straight from work to a nearby running trail. I look forward to running this trail all day, it has some decent hills, and there's no excuse for not getting it done. Wins all around.

This trail is also on a major flood plain. Which means there's a lot of lakes and rivers. Which means there are a lot of bugs. Running through a cloud of gnats, it was finally unavoidable. One flew right into my mouth.

I stepped off the trail and tried to cough and spit it up, but with no luck. As I also posted on Facebook, "There are few things grosser than the feeling of a bug sliding down your throat." An older gentleman running by the opposite look gave me a strange look, so I told him what had happened so he wouldn't call the police on me.

I'll stick to my Gu, thanks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Week in review April 11-17: Lots of family, too much ice cream, and some running successes

I mean, it wasn't TERRIBLE.
Ugh. You guys. I'm late posting because work has been a challenge. I think I managed a big success today — I'll know for sure tomorrow — so hopefully it hasn't all been for nothing.

Anyway, last week started off great! I did some pre-hab while my early supper settled before my swim Monday, I did a trainer ride and some weight lifting Tuesday, and went for a run followed by the rest of the my weight lifting cycle on Wednesday. Yay, a great start to the week!

And then… training got superseded for family time. Thursday’s ride got bumped for dinner with all my siblings-in-law. I did drag my husband for a run Friday in the nice weather. But all day Saturday I spent time with my family in town, and all day Sunday I spent with my husband’s family in town. Sadly, as a result, I barely got to enjoy the warm weather. (I did squeeze in a run Sunday morning for sanity’s sake.)

I have been watching my sugar intake closely lately and trying to limit myself to one sweet thing on the weekend. Saturday, that one sweet thing was a double scoop of ice cream from a shop near my condo that my cousins wanted to check out. It must have been too much for me to handle because I felt sick to my stomach for the rest of the day and had to lie down for an hour after they left. Nooo! Not my beloved ice cream!

When I wasn’t babysitting family or eating too much, I did:

Swim: Once in the pool for 2400 meters in about 1:07. My legs were tired and I wanted to take it easy after getting short of breath last time in the pool. And running took precedence over my usual Friday evening swim.

Bike: Just once on the trainer for 1:15. No rides outside in the gorgeous weather. Sad face.

Run: THREE times outside for a total of 13.25 miles in about 2:13. Now, this part was a success! According to Daily Mile, Wednesday’s 4.25-miler was my speediest run since September, this week’s mileage of 13.25 was the highest since October, and this was the first time I’ve run three times in a week since October. AND this was the second time since last fall I’ve run a 6-miler, the first time I’ve done it in less than an hour. So, some minor successes here to balance out the fails!

Weights: One round of my body/heavy routine, split up into two sessions, for about 1 hour total.

Pre-hab: One session of hip-strengthening exercises for about 15 minutes.

Yoga: One self-guided session for about 15 minutes.

Total: 9 sessions for just longer than 6 hours. Meh. Considering I lost two whole days, I guess I could have done worse.

Not counted: A bunch of dog-walking time, done a couple of evenings after family went home or we got back into town. They LOVED it, of course. Does pulling on their leashes count as a shoulder workout?

Well, it won’t be the last nice weekend (let’s hope) ever, so while it’s a big bummer I didn’t get more outside training in, it’s a first-world problem that training time got replaced with family time. Even if we (I) did eat too much ice cream.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Week in review April 4-10: A gloriously plan-free weekend means lots of training

Not too shabby!
Last week started off OK. Training early in the week included an OK swim, a decent trainer ride and lower-body weights, and a day off Wednesday because I was tired and decided to accompany my husband to his work party. But, it backfired: I ended up more tired because we got home late. Ugh. I rallied later to finish out the work week with another trainer ride and another trip to the pool.

And then, two and a half wonderful days of NOTHING. No family in town, no work events, no neighborhood parties, no obligations, NOTHING. I got some extra sleep both Saturday and Sunday mornings, I cooked breakfast both days, I went to the market and the grocery store, I drank coffee out of mugs of the ceramic, not travel, variety.

The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. It frickin’ SNOWED both days. But, all the more incentive to hunker down inside, I guess.

Swim: Twice, both in the pool, for 5600 meters in about 2 hours, 20 minutes. I got very short of breath at the very end of my Friday swim, so I did a sloooooooow cooldown.

Bike: Three times, both on the trainer, for 4.5 hours. Nothing special here.

Run: Just once this past week, on the treadmill, because I didn’t feel like dealing with the cold. I did a boring 3 miles in 30 minutes so my legs wouldn’t forget how. My IT band did feel a bit uncomfortable about 2.5 miles in, but I think that has more to do with my old, crappy treadmill jerking unevenly. Time to Google how to tighten the belt, I think.

Weights and plyo: I actually had some success with this, this week! I tried breaking up “weights” into chunks of upper body, lower body, and abs. I did lower body and abs in quick hits during the week, upper and lower on Saturday with my plyo moves, and abs again on Sunday. (Total was about 1:40.) Counting a week ago Sunday it took me eight days to get through the rotation twice, but it’s much better than my previous routine of doing zero.

Pre-hab: Another success! I got through my entire glute routine and some ankle-strengthening exercises with my wobble board on Sunday, in between prepping food for the week and making dinner, over about an hour.

Yoga: One quick 15-minute stretch Sunday night. I could have done 20 of these!

Total: 14 sessions in almost 10 hours, 20 minutes. My best week in at least a month. Yay!

So, the secret to getting in lots of training is to have a clear calendar and not leave the house; basically, become a hermit. Got it!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An IT band update

Confession time.

After my SI joint went out of whack this summer, and I started having debilitating IT band issues, I dedicated myself to a strong rehab program. I had been doing yoga a couple of times a month at best, but after my running started to suffer, I scaled back the runs to very easy only and did at least a mini-yoga session almost every day. It helped.

After my lightning-aborted 70.3 this past August, I took a much-needed break from swim and bike, focusing on those easy runs and yoga. Within a few weeks I had added in a routine to strengthen my hips and glutes (and also my ankles and feet), which I focused on pretty hard in the six weeks leading up to my October marathon. It worked well enough to allow me to finish, and I tried, I really tried, to keep up with the pre-hab and yoga afterward.

I did OK until about mid-January. By February, I was lucky to get in one full rotation of my pre-hab exercises per week. And March was a bit, fat nothing. Yes, today is April 7, and the last time I have done any pre-hab at all was the last weekend of February. And I only did an hour total of yoga in March.

Sad, sad, sad.

My main problem is simply hours in the day. I feel like that joke from college: Good grades, social life and sleep – pick two. I am lucky to get in a good hour, hour and a half of training in the evening between working a full day and cooking dinner and prepping meals for the next day. I already don’t sleep enough, so I don't have any wiggle room there.

The good news is I don't think I'm running enough to really aggravate my IT band. Lately my weekly mileage has been topping out at 8 or 9, on a good week. I haven't done any speed work and my longest run since October was 6 miles. So I'm really not stressing it.

I'm not sure how I'm going to carve out the time to keep my glutes and hips strong once my mileage starts to pick up. Maybe I can invent a teleporter so I don't have to commute to work. Or borrow a time-turner from Harry Potter. It's going to be a challenge to balance that supplementary training with my real life, and I have to keep thinking and working to find a way that works for me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week in review March 28-April 3: A strong start, family time, and a regroup on weight training

Bike, bike, bike.
This past week wasn’t bad. I was able to start the week off strong and get one session in each weekday evening. I had family in town Saturday, and as I was debating whether or not to try for a workout after they left at about 4 p.m., I woke up and it was almost 7. Whoops. So, that day was a wash.

I thought about being lazy on Sunday, especially since it was chilly and I didn't feel like running in the cold, but after grocery shopping and other errands I womanned up put in a hard two hours on the bike. I usually time myself on my phone, but since I updated I have to use the stupid screen unlock every time. It drives me nuts, and is a pain when I’m sweating all over the place. So this time, I used the stopwatch feature on my Garmin Swim. Knowing at all times how far into my interval suffering I was really helped me stay on task. Plus I couldn’t figure out how to pause it, so that was more incentive to keep it going without stopping for a break. My rear end only started to get uncomfortable at the very end, so I consider that a win.

I rounded out the week with weight lifting after my ride, and yoga while watching the ridiculousness that was the season finale of The Walking Dead. (Seriously, I should have gone to bed early.) I have lifted weights in many iterations in the past: machines, body weight, videos, etc. I don’t seem to be getting a grip (heh) on making it work this time around with once per week doing a heavy/body routine, and another time per week doing a video. I didn’t lift at all in the month of February, which not only pathetic, isn’t doing anything to help my IT bands and core get stronger to prevent an IT band malfunction relapse.

So, I’m going to try to shake it up again. Back in the day when “skinny” was my only goal, I would do 75 minutes of the elliptical every morning, and then follow that with either legs, arms or abs. I’m not going to go quite that far, but I’m going to try to break up my weights routine into reasonable chunks, with the idea that more, shorter sessions will be easier to squeeze in. Yesterday I did pullups, pushups, bicep curls, etc. The next session, probably tomorrow, I’ll do some squats, lunges, etc. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

Anyway, last week by the numbers:

Swim: Twice, both times in the pool, for 5200 meters total in about 2 hours, 11 minutes. This included a bomb-ass 1000-meter time trial.

Bike: Three times, all on the trainer, for a total of 4 hours, 30 minutes. This included my usual shorter big-ring intervals and a "long ride" of small-ring intervals.

Run: Just once this week, 4 miles on the road, half with my husband and half by myself, in about 40 minutes.

Weights: About half of my usual body/heavy routine (pull-ups and chin-ups, pushups, bicep curls, shoulder presses, etc.) in about 40 minutes.

Yoga: Some self-guided stretching for about 20 minutes.

Total: 8 sessions in about 8 hours, 21 minutes. This included 1-3 days in all three sports, some complementary training, and a rest day, so I can't be too mad about that. Plus, it's a nice progression in volume from the last few weeks.

I'm hoping to carry this momentum into another strong week. Here we go!

Friday, April 1, 2016

March in review: Some slow but steady progress

Hours trained this month. Not too shabby.
March came in like a lion and out like a ... something. But the training was decent and, more importantly, a consistent build from last month.

I swam, biked and ran one more time each, compared to February. Sadly, I didn't do any weights or pre-hab all month. Ugh. But, I got a bit of yoga in.

I compared this month's totals to last month's and to last March's, just to see how I'm stacking up:
Pretty consistent swimming this season.
Swim: I swam 7 times in the pool for about 18,650 meters, in almost 8 hours. (The chart is in miles, thanks Daily Mile.) Not bad. That's either once or twice per week, depending on the week.

Compared to last month: One more session, so more meters and time overall, too.

Compared to last March: One fewer session.

Bike: I biked 10 times, all on the trainer, in about 14 hours, 45 minutes. Nothing special here: These were all either big-ring intervals or longer rides with small-ring intervals.

Compared to last month: One more session, and about an hour longer.

Compared to last March: One fewer session. (I'm sensing a pattern here.)
Runs by week...
And by month for the past year. I'm getting there.
Run: I ran 7 times, all on the ROAD because we've had a lot of warm days, for 29.5 miles in just longer than 5 hours. Folks, this is why you add up your monthly total a few days before the end of the month. I could have easily squeezed another half-mile in there somewhere. But, they were all enjoyable. (Mostly.)

Compared to last month: One more run and 11 more miles. Yay!

Compared to last March: Again, apples to penguins: Last year I ran 18 times for 125 miles, but I wasn't recovering from IT band weirdness.

I also did about an hour of yoga in March, spread out over three sessions. But I didn't do anything else. Ugh.

So, like everything else, there's room for improvement. But I have improved from February, so I'm making progress. Now to keep building on that for April.