Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

The legs, the lungs, the head, and the heart.

On Saturday, I had an eight mile run on the plan.

Eight miles for me is not extraordinary.  It’s a weekday run during marathon or half ironman or ironman training.  It’s something that is 90% of the year totally within my comfort zone, as it is right now.  It’s one of those runs that’s not long enough to really be daunting, but definitely not short.

However, five of those miles were planned at half marathon pace.

For someone who’s spent the majority of the last few years running anything over a short handful of miles at a pace in which I could carry on a full conversation and probably also juggle, that was intimidating.  My original plan with this training block was to do a lot of these, but when it decreased from 10-12 to 5 weeks, I barely got comfortable running anything with two digits at significantly slower than race pace.   However, I had been diligently (at least, for the last four weeks) doing my speedwork, and that had gone from hilariously bad to actually being able to hit the paces I should most of the time.

I needed to know where I stand eight days out from the race.  I knew this was a run I needed to do.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t procrastinate the eff out of it.  I mean, Saturday mornings without alarms are precious things, and I’ll enjoy them while the cold lasts, but I woke up and read for a long time and then dithered around the house until my husband got annoyed enough with me he started warming up on the bike, convinced I was just going to sit on the couch all day.

I didn’t even though it was tempting.  I got my warmup in on the bike, and we decided to hit the gym instead of running outside because my eyes were already itchy from just existing.  Over an hour outside sounded like a death wish.  The air filters at the gym are AWESOME, and I knew that it would be the best thing overall for my health and well being.

3M 2017 – 2:13:40.  

I started up the treadmill, and the first two miles seemed to go on forever.  I was straight up dreading these five miles.  Anything below 10 minute miles scares me nowadays.  I can hold it sometimes, but recently, it’s a toss up how long.  I’m decent at running slow forever, I’m decent at running pretty fast (for me) for short stints, but approximately 45-48 minutes just outside my comfort zone?  Ick.  Worst.  Give me a 20 mile long slow run instead.

1.98.  Sighhhh.  1.99.  Eeek, ok, let’s get this over with.  2.0.  I clicked the button to increase the speed from 5.5 to 6.3 on the treadmill.

I went through the five stages of grief within the first half mile.

Denial.  “Hey, this isn’t so bad, I just feel like my feet are turning over a little faster than normal.”

Anger.  “F#%k, never mind, this s#&t feels pretty f@%$*#g terrible.  What horrible coach put this on my schedule?  I hate this!” (keep in mind that coach = me)

Bargaining: “Ok, well, 6.3 pace isn’t soooooo bad.  If I get too thrashed later in the workout, I should be able to come back and hold this 9:30/mile pace alright and still *technically* complete the workout at the minimum acceptable standards.”

Depression: “Oh. em. gee.  I’m at 0.3 miles into my 5.  This is going to take sooooo long.  I’m never going to make it.” *cues the dramatics*

Acceptance: “Right.  I’m a half mile in now.  Just nine more of that same distance to go.” (maybe a little bit of bargaining still, but I was in…)

3M 2016.  2:11:02

By the end of the first mile, I realized this was doable.  Slightly uncomfortable?  Sure.  But my legs were turning over and my lungs were holding out.  I had calmed my brain into submission to accept that this is where we are suffering right now.  And my heart felt the importance of this run.  I tend to lack the confidence to really hold my foot to the gas pedal when things feel tough because I’m scared I’ll crash (even though I have plenty of reserves).  I have been building confidence by holding pace for quarter miles and half miles and miles, and now it was time to prove to myself that I could string miles of that pace together, enough to approach half the race distance.

The second mile, as each subsequent mile, started with a little adrenaline rush as I hit the UP arrow on the treadmill (was this going to be too much, would this send me over the edge?).  Then, around a quarter to halfway in, it got tedious (ackkk, isn’t this mile over yet?).  Then, around  three quarters in, I felt confident (I have survived, I got this), and then it started all over again when the mile ticked over to SOMETHING POINT ZERO.

Every mile, I checked in with my legs, my lungs, my head, and my heart.  My legs started the run feeling great and had moments where they felt heavy, but it definitely wasn’t a slog at any point and if I focused on my form it felt better.  My lungs felt taxed by the end but not maxed out, well within the place where they could keep this up for longer.  My brain had many moments of wavering motivation and focus, commercials on spotify were an absolute TRAVESTY to me while grinding out the last mile, but once I realized that the first two components of my body were actually doing just fine, I told it to shut up and deal.  I think one thing that helped was tapping into my heart near the end.  My heart would REALLY like to prove to everyone (though mostly myself, ’cause I can’t imagine anyone else gives a shit about my 13.1 PR) that I have a better half marathon than 2:08 in me.

The last quarter mile, I found myself tired but not crushed, so I “sprinted towards the finish” envisioning the last part of the race and the finish and I was about at my half mile repeat pace by the end of it.  I needed a few moments to catch my breath once the mile ticked over, but the cooldown mile followed the same formula – mentally tough (you mean, I didn’t *actually* just finish the race and I get my bagel and beer now?), but my legs and lungs felt so good I sped up the pace to about 10-10:30 min/mile (since I knew I got an extra 10 minute bike cooldown anyway).

3M 2014 – 2:10:02

I find myself going into race week feeling a little anxious about the preparations (or lack thereof) I’ve made, but more confident than I was a week ago.  The little training I have been able to complete has been pretty specifically tailored to THIS race, and I haven’t been able to do that for a long time.  3M has been a stepping stone to a marathon, a longer triathlon, or just weeks after coming out of hibernation or a project as a pacer.

As an aspiring coach, I do a heck of a lot of reading about training and bodies and how to structure the former so the latter performs well.  What’s hilarious is there are perfectly valid theories that are mutually exclusive.  Maffetone would tell me I’m a flipping idiot for doing any training above 143 beats per minute.  Almost ever.  Bill Pierce and Scott Muir would wholeheartedly concur with my training program (in fact, I’ve based my weekly schedules loosely on their wisdom).  I think the difference is the quick fix vs the long game.  The 3-day a week but serious business technique will eek some fitness out of you fairly quickly without a huge time commitment.  MAF is the long game where in six months, you’ll have a huge transformation, but it’s going to suck in the meantime.

I realize I’m playing the quick fix card here.  I know to realize my true fitness, I need a lot of base building first, but I’m choosing to sharpen the stick I have instead of hunting for a new one.

Chasing whatever magic I found that morning over 7 years ago with my 2:08:08 at Rock and Roll San Antonio.

Sunday, I need to bring out my best version of SAPPHYRA the barbarian warrior racing badass to conquer the course.  I need her strong and capable legs.  I need her large, hearty, and conditioned lungs.  I need her head, the one that stays cool in the heat of battle.  But most of all, I need her heart, the one that fights until the end, the one that doesn’t give up when she’s tired, but when she’s done.

She’s ready to line up with that 2:05 pacer and find a new PR, even if this cycle has been imperfect and even if my longest runs were 10 and 11 a few weeks ago and even if the idea of low 9 minute/mile pace for two hours scares the bejeezus out of me and even if even if even if…

I’m ready to go for that PR or fizzle out trying.  If I don’t hit sub-2:08, it doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s 2:10 or 2:15 or worse.  After 22 of these things, it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s my third or fifth or twentieth best result.  I want it to be FIRST.  So, I might as well go for it with all the fight I have in my legs, lungs, head and heart.

Winter Solstice Bike Adventure

On December 21st, 12 days into my 24 day winter break, I set my alarm for 7:30 am.

Normally, this would be sacrilege.  The initial reason for it was my bi-annual dentist appointment at 8am and I had to be up and out and not underfoot for our cleaning service at 9am anyway.  However, instead of looking at it as a drag, I figured it was a good opportunity to embark on a bike adventure.

The day started a little rough because I had a few too many beverages and stayed up too late the night before (it’s vacation!), and forgot my backpack (with my ID, credit card, etc) at home.  Not a big deal for the dentist appointment, which went quickly, smoothly, and was over with before 9am and paid up by insurance.  It was only kind of a big deal because I needed it for the rest of the day’s adventures and going back home meant I had to descend the half of Steck-o-slavakia I had already climbed and resummit it.

When I got home, I *almost* thought about just calling it.  The last three days I had spent at home, doing chores, writing my book, working through my To Do list, and I wasn’t even close to complete.  A whole extra day of progress, I thought, that would be incredibly valuable.  Then I realized that was bullshit.  This was my day.  I had been looking forward to this adventure for months.  The weather was AMAZING.  I was just being lazy.  So I grabbed my backpack and took off again.

I had an engagement after work in which I either had to meet Zliten at work at 6pm on my bike, or drive there in my car.  We all know I’m anti-car.  I’d rather bike the 11+ miles unless it was sleeting if I had the option.  So, I had and endpoint and about eight hours to kill with a few destinations:

  • All great bike adventures start, end, or have an interlude with Rudy’s chopped beef breakfast tacos.
  • It was going to be 75 degrees that day.  I would be passing within a mile of the gym.  A swim HAD to happen.
  • Lunch’s destination was Jinya, at the Domain, which seemed like a great place to kill time as well.

Other than that, the town was my oyster.  I had my biggest backpack, the basket on my cruiser bike, a sunny day, enough layers to keep me as warm or cool as needed.  As I cruised down Jollyville with my stomach rumbling (I was approaching three hours awake, over 10 miles ridden, and zero food), I knew the first stop would be Rudy’s.

I pulled into the parking lot and practiced the ritual of the day.  Helmet off, in the basket.  Grab lock and wind it around my bike’s frame (not that anyone was looking to steal my 10 year old rusty Schwinn, my helmet with the headset is worth more than it is, but it would suck to be stuck about town without it).  Make sure to secure key somewhere I wouldn’t lose it.  Garmin off my bike and in my pocket or backpack.  Unzip phone from carrying case.  Switch out sunglasses for glasses.  It felt awkward at first because it’s been a while since I played cruiser bikes, but it became routine after a few stops.

The spicy, meaty, carby taco went down within a minute or so.  I splurged and sipped on a coke (I figured I could use the caffeine) while I tinkered with my phone, updating Zliten with my whereabouts, and surfing instagram.  While I didn’t want to spend all day on this bench, it was a breath of fresh air that I could.  After the conclusion of a very busy work year, a vacation that was FREAKING AMAZING but very active trying to cram in as much water time as possible, and three days of chores and productivity, it was refreshing to take fifteen minutes, just wasting my own time, with nothing, no one, and nowhere specific waiting on me.

My next planned stop was the gym, but I realized that I was also halfway to Cornucopia, one of our holiday traditions, so I set sail north instead of crossing under the freeway.  On the way, I realized that we needed to pick up an Academy gift card, and I figured I’d pop in and take care of that.  An hour later, I emerged with a new pair of swimsuit bottoms, a black hoodie, some new shirts, yoga pants, and said gift card – after trying on a metric butt-load of coats I was hoping would look better than the one I had on (and none did, even if they were cute on the hanger… wah…).

On the way to Cornucopia, I noticed a new indian and BBQ restaurant.  I made a note to check it out later (and that was interesting when we did, but that’s another story), but I had lunch plans already and was full speed ahead to the ‘corn.  I intended on getting maybe 2-3 small bags of different flavors, but I went in hungry and tasted all of them about three times, ending up with six after narrowing it down.  I ate a LOT of popcorn over Christmas break.  Me: I want to try to maintain my weight loss over the holidays.  Also me: *buys approximately 100 cups of popcorn*.  Ah well.

At this point, my backpack is fully stuffed and part of my basket is taken as well.  I have to be careful about acquiring anything else large for the rest of the day.  My trunk, it has the junk.

I headed back down south and hit the gym right around 1pm, which was perfect, because all the lunch swimmers were out of the water and I had a lovely pool almost completely to myself.  I’ll admit, on one taco and some popcorn, 90 minutes biking, five hours sleep, an a *wee* hangover from the night before, I was not 100% impressed with my performance, but considering the circumstances, 1k in a little over 19 minutes swim time was just fine.  When I changed back into my clothes, I couldn’t bear to put my jeans back on and was thankful that I had purchased a new pair of yoga-ish capri pants from Academy.

Finally, it was lunch time.  I finally had the opportunity to take the new pedestrian bridge from the quarry to the Domain, and I made it to the holy grail of ramen, Jinya.  Again, I was very glad I was “behind schedule” (I figured I’d be there closer to 12:30-1) because they were still busy and I snagged a seat at the bar.  I was waited on by the spitting image of one of my friends – she had the same look, personality, and even vocal tone.  I had a nice, leisurely lunch, revisiting a favorite meal of mine.  Honestly, if I had a top ten of all time, the spicy umami pork miso ramen would likely be somewhere on there.

I was amazed with how my day had shrank so quickly from “how am I going to fill eight whole hours” to “oh my gosh, I need to leave here in about TWO hours and I could easily amuse myself for another eight”.  It was the ultimate day of freedom.  I am generally a solitary person, and I would have loved my partner in crime if he wasn’t stuck at work (I was doing my best to take him along with me via texts and pictures), but I was having a great day just hanging out with myself.  I was the opposite of lonely.  I was out and about, enjoying someone’s company I don’t often get to spend a whole day with (the last time was Ironman Texas, in a sense).

I popped my head into Bird’s Barbershop, since I had a free haircut coupon, but they were paaaaacked, so I figured that long hair is just fine for colder weather and I’d deal with my mop later.  I was on a mission to find some of the last gifts on my list, ones that I didn’t just want to order on Amazon.  I happened into a new store called Limbo, and found some very beautiful, extremely appropriate, if a little pricey, earrings.  I spent the next hour popping into a million different other stores and found nothing else that even came close, so I went back to Limbo (the first store I visited…) and had the pleasure of purchasing the earrings from the lady who made them and owned the store.  It was definitely worth the extra $$ to avoid the cheap, mass produced crap and get the perfect gifts.

The Domain, that day, had began it’s transformation from work to play for me.  While my old work building loomed in the distance, and I remembered some of the times I walked out of that building to take a walk on those same streets to clear my head, sometimes during the roughest periods not *entirely* sure I could make myself go back, six months of distance definitely helped (and things have been MUCH better since then for me).  I don’t miss the traffic, the rude people, the middle-aged pillheads, and that finding lunch under 10$ a plate is laughable, but as an entertainment destination, it’s a lot of fun.

After I got the gifts worked out, I did a little looking for myself and actually had some restraint, and settled on some peppermint gelato as a snack and fuel for the next bike leg.  I figured I was 7-8 miles away from new work, but I miscalculated and I was almost 11 – plus it was getting windy (and I was heading into it) and daylight was not on my side.  Along with that, I had been on my feet or pedals pretty much all day, so I was not making great time.  This was the first time all day since Steck-o-slavakia that felt like work and took me a little over an hour to roll into the parking lot, when I anticipated maybe 40-45 minutes.  Since it was the shortest day of the year, I was pushing it for the last 15 minutes and it was flat out DARK for the last five.  And, I left my lights at home.  Oops.

I snuck in one more gift shopping stop in our area and met up with Zliten as he left work.  Unfortunately, I forgot to stop my garmin so I don’t have an exact mileage or time, but I think it was about 28 miles in about 2 hours and 45 minutes, both of which are a PR on my cruiser bike.

So far, the last two years, I’ve had a bike adventure day on the winter solstice.  I think it’s a fun tradition, bucking the motivation just to stay inside, curled up in bed with a blanket.  For months, I’ve watched the sun dip lower in the sky earlier and earlier, and this is the day I’m out playing bikes celebrating the fact that IT JUST GETS BETTER FROM HERE!!!

I wonder where I’ll ride on December 21st, 2018?

Finding my stride

So, I got a good deal on THIS BOOK and devoured it on vacation.

Actual proof on my flight to Bonaire.  Yeah, this is my idea of fun people.  Shut up.

Then, I had to re-read it and take notes at home because the absolute worst place to read a book about form and drills is on a long plane flight where you can’t move at all.

I’ve been talking about improving my running form for years now, and I’ve done very little about it.  After being schooled on what to do by Jonathan Beverly, and spending a few weeks trying it, I’ve come to some conclusions:

First, being conscious about a small handful of things while I run really helps my stride.  I was overwhelmed previously – I didn’t know what was wrong, and I didn’t know what to do to fix it.  Now, I have a handful of cues I can think of while running that instantly perk me up and make me more efficient.

Second, dynamic warmups/drills are not just wastes of time.  Honestly, I’ve been iffy on the first mile drills – they’re inconvenient when I’m running on the treadmill and they can irritate my cranky ankle/foot, but the dynamic warmup is AWESOME and has helped me pinpoint some spots where I need more flexibility and strength.

Finally, there are tons of things you can do in your spare time without much interruption to your daily schedule to improve your strength, flexibility, and posture.  You just have to make them habits.  That’s the hard part and from the last few weeks, I’ve found that doing them in stages is helping.

So, consider this both a book review and also an action plan, but definitely not a “how to fix your running stride” guide because I’m three weeks in and I’m still VERY new at this.  Let me summarize what steps I’m taking going forward to help my running stride transform from a tight-hipped Frankenstein to a lithe gazelle this year!

Hopefully spending more time HERE will help.

Pre-running program:

  • Find my balance posture (get my hips stacked properly – weight off heels and on your midfoot, can see tops of shoelaces).  If you’re not normally in the right alignment, this feels a little weird and takes some adjustment to get into but feels awesome when you do.
  • Contract my transvers abdominal muscle (TVA) to activate 5-10 times
  • Lunge matrix (front, front w/twist, side, 5/7 o’clock, backwards).  Here’s a video showing what to do.  I’m actually glad I found this because there were two I wasn’t doing correctly (twist, 5/7 o’clock) and one I forgot (back).
  • Leg swings 10x each leg (just as it sounds, stand in a doorway holding the frame and swing your legs from front to back).  This makes it pretty apparent if you have tight hips or not (I do).

Things I would like to include in the future:

  • 10xeach side single leg squat with quad stretch
  • Forward lunge with leg drive
  • Wall push offs x5 each side

However, I want to get to the point where the first four things are completely ingrained in me before I pile on more.

As run starts I do some drills within the first mile to loosen my stride up – at least, when I have been doing it.  Once I resolve the cranky ankle issue (orthodics, apparently…. whomp whomp), I plan to be strict on this:

  • High knee running (make sure you’re stretching your hip flexor not contracting it)
  • Skips – just like when you were kids (focus on tall posture and downward drive of leg)
  • Butt kicks
  • Caricoa
  • Backwards running

Now, you’ve warmed up with a dynamic warmup and you’ve done drills.  You’re done, right?  Nope.  Fixing your stride will take a conscious effort for months until it feels natural, so I’ve been working on keeping these few cues in my head and trading off focuses every mile so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Push your arms back (if you can see your hands during the full running stroke, they’re too far forward). Every stride they should graze your waistband or at least dissapear from your field of view.
  • Run tall. Head up over shoulders, look to horizon, chin back, chest up, shoulders back, hips aligned.  This sounds SO EASY but it’s the thing I have to remind myself of most often as I like to look down just in front of my feet, and that tanks the rest of my posture.
  • If you feel fatigued, change up your cadence.  Sometimes that’s all you need to shake yourself out of it.  I find doing a mile of higher cadence early in the workout usually naturally improves my cadence the rest of the run without thinking about it.
  • Run quiet/soft (this usually helps me increase my cadence).
  • When you feel slouchy/saggy – do the hallelujah drill (arms up, opening chest, then circle back down).  It puts you in a better posture.  You don’t have to SAY Hallelujah! though (but you do you).
  • One thing that helps me a lot is concentrate on driving my stride with my hips (which helps me work on hip extension).  This wasn’t in this particular book but something I was working on last year.
  • Run some strides every run (quick as possible while staying relaxed, shut down as soon as you get to top speed, about 10 sec).  I have been… iffy on this.  I was doing them at the end of each run if the run itself didn’t have speedwork and then I kind of tapered off…

Whew, that’s a lot!

That’s not the only piece of the puzzle, though.  We spend a handful of hours per week running, and then those of us with desk jobs spend the rest of the week ruining that work hunched over, sitting, and can even wreck it depending on how we sleep.  How do you counteract that?  More stretching and strength work.

Stretching/rolling program (the goal is to get through these all 3x week):

  • 3-5 min hip stretch each side (foot up on chair or counter)
  • Shoulder mobility test (5x each side)
  • 2 minutes tennis ball on shoulders (lying on your back)
  • 3-5 min foam roller chest stretch
  • 5-10 min forearm roller lat stretch
  • 3 min doorway lat stretch
  • Foam roller lat release (shoulder to mid-chest each side)
  • Shoulder passthroughs with stick x15-30
  • Towel pull/sideways pull with foot – essentially put a book on a towel and use only your toes to bring the book to you (two towel lengths)

I won’t lie – this is a lot all at once and the 3-10 minute price tag on some things means I haven’t been following this yet.  However, I am working on establishing at least A stretching and rolling routine DAILY and once that’s a habit, I’ll work on upping the times and doing more of these specifically.  I’ll also talk about these more once I’m doing them.

Then, there are some things you can do on the daily without really impacting your life that can help.

Every day at work sitting at my desk (starting this week):

  • TVA contractions (like in the warmup) x10
  • Foot splays x30 (spread your toes out as much as you can)
  • Foot yoga (big toe up, other 4 up) x30
  • Short foot (contract arch without using toes) hold for 6 sec, 5-10 times

Here are some things I would like to work up to:

  • Ankle resistance (basically pushing against your ankle – up/down, forward/back left/right) hold for 10 sec, repeat 5 times
  • Arm swings (open the chest, hold 2 sec) x10
  • Single leg balance with eyes closed (30 sec each side)

Stuff to help posture on the daily:

  • Balance on one foot while brushing teeth/putting on shoes and socks
  • Pull shoulders back and raise your head high whenever you see a certain color or walk through a doorway
  • Anytime you’re standing and waiting for something, rotate hips and focus your weight on your feet (not heels) – just like in the warmup.
  • Squat when you’d usually bend

The last IG proof of stretching and rolling is back in March 2017.  While that’s not completely factual, I definitely did fall off after IM peak training.

The last key is strength.  Most of us, if we have imbalances, are quad dominant, and have glutes that don’t fire properly because they’re weaker and our bodies are incredibly good about benching inefficient muscles and subbing in ones that are stronger – even if it’s at the cost of form and efficiency.   While the key with your hips is generally flexibility, with the glutes, you have to first make sure they’re actually firing at all.  I find that the cue “drive with your hips” sets my glutes active, but you might need something else but once you get it, you can feel your glutest contract and if you haven’t been doing it properly in the past, your glutes will tell you after the run :).

So, the other key is to make buns of steel.  Here are some exercises to make you sure get buns, hun.

  • Bridge/marching bridge
  • Air squats (with good form – with the chair of death to check it, hold pvc pip on your back and make sure it stays on), once this is comfortable jump squats, single leg squats
  • Donkey kicks (advanced – from plank position)
  • Clamshells
  • Side leg lift (against a wall to ensure form)

In my Oiselle Dozen, I’m getting the essence of THREE of these.  However, I know I need to start squatting next month with heavy things, so adding some air squats to work on form first won’t be the worst idea in the world.

Once you’ve got the technique, he suggests that you strength train to develop POWER.  Some examples are:

  • Ladder drills
  • Micro hops
  • Quick feet drills

I am not there yet but this will hopefully be a spring thing for me.

We disagree on core – he says that planks done properly are all you need.  I think you need to work different muscles and change up the exercises so they don’t get stale.  But, if you’re doing nothing and only have time for a few minutes to work your abs per week, that’s probably the best and safest thing you could do.

I’m going to include some other notes below from the book.  I don’t have much other comment on them besides they were things that stood out as something I wanted to consider for 2018 (when planning training/purchasing new shoes).

Right now, the Hokas feel like the least amount of shoe I need for longer distances but we’ll see about that later this year…

Changing it up:

  • Vary run types/surfaces as much as possible. Don’t do the same loop at the same pace over and over. Jump over obstacles. Chase faster people.  Play running sometimes.  Wear different shoes, not the same ones every day.
  • Consider some barefoot work. Start with easy strides on grass (or the treadmill).

Some notes on shoes:

  • Run in the least shoe possible
  • What feels right is right
  • Fit matters more than features
  • Vary your shoes
  • Make sure to replace and wear comfortable daily shoes (also consider getting a lower heel/toe drop casual shoe to see if they work better for running)

He recommends a sequence for days you’re time crunched (do this 5-8 times per leg), but honestly, the lunge matrix is working for me right now, so I’ll just leave this here as a possibility for later:

  • stand tall
  • lunge with hands over head (hip flexor)
  • bring hands down, arm crosses over leg, drive right hip forward
  • track start position, stretch heel, calf, hamstring
  • stand up, drive back leg up to high knee position
  • pull to chest, stretch glute
  • kick leg back out, touch ground with opposite hand
  • stand up straight and repeat on other leg

I’m doubtful I’ll see much improvement during 3M from any of this, but hopefully by the spring, I’ll be a little stronger, a little more flexible, a little lighter on my feet, and a little faster.

What I did on my winter vacation + January goals

While this might contradict my 2018 resolution to post more interesting stuff, it’s time for a recap and my January plans!

So festive the last day before break.  Can’t believe that was less than a month ago.  So many adventures since then!

December was a welcome break from routine.  The 8th was my last day of work for the year, and the next day, I hopped a plane to Bonaire for a week.  Then, I had five days at home by myself, and since where I was on holiday was two hours ahead, I was naturally up at 7:30-8 most mornings without an alarm (it was nice for the week it lasted).  I spent the days working on my book, getting the house back in order with the kitchen remodel explosion and the vacation luggage explosion, wrapping presents, editing vacation photos, and getting in my first week of actual 3M training.

I did take one day and go on a bike adventure (blog post forthcoming) from 8 am to 6 pm, but for the most part, I was actively productive with projects because I figured the next week wouldn’t lend itself to that sort of focused work (which it didn’t).

The holidays were fantastic – we celebrated with family on the 23rd and had a decadent meal of lasagna, brisket, so many side dishes, and way too many deserts. There were fun presents, card games, and fun times.  Then, we had our Christmas Eve tradition with the neighbors, which involves a double digit run first to mitigate the indulgences of past and future, Din Ho family style food, a trip to the bar next door, and hanging out all evening watching random Christmas movies and having festive cocktails.  With all this going on, we waited until the actual day to open most of our own presents, and holed up on the couch all day.  It was a perfect three days.

The next week felt like errand and kitchen central – we spent a lot of the daytime hours either tracking down tile or running errands or working in the kitchen, though we did make time at night to see the new Star Wars movie (I loved it), and marathon some shows and movies on Netflix and play video games.  Friday, I wrote a choose your own adventure story, and after some MOAR errands, we ended up at a random Indian/BBQ place that took forever and had a weird dance class going on at the same time… but the food was so amazing once we got it, I’ll give it another try once they have some time to settle in (the place is very new).

Zliten was getting a little despondent about his winter break being full of crap to do, so I declared Saturday HIS DAY and let him choose whatever we did (within reason, no hopping planes back to Bonaire and we had to run the next day).  Sadly, the plumbing broke in the kitchen so the first thing on his day was fixing that, but that was done in a jiffy after YET ANOTHER trip for him to Lowes  Then, we went on a bike adventure but it got cold quickly, so it ended up just being a ride to get Jinya ramen the long way.  We holed up the rest of the day and played video games and watched TV and I said I owed him a day of his own when it was nicer.

Bike love while biking with my love!

And, on the last day of December, we put the finishing touches on our kitchen, and I spent spending 90 minutes scraping paint off the floor, and then called it officially done!  I may have been procrastinating a 2 hour run in the feels-like-20s, but I saw enough people on social media doing their own runs in that or colder so I bucked up and went outside and it wasn’t bad at all!  Since 2018 is about HTFU’ing, it was a nice way to ring in the new year.  And so was our 80’s PJ party (which is why I wrote the choose your own adventure – it was our party game!)

Here were my specific December goals:

Build up my run miles and start incorporating a little speed 1-2 times a week.  YEP.  I’m on about 20 miles per week now, with one speedwork session, one easier run with a race pace mile in the middle, and one long run.

Resume strength training NOPE.  I was so sore the first week of running I decided this needed to wait.  I started this week.

Resume tracking negative diet quality – NOPE.  Maybe I paid the price for this because the scale is fairly unkind this week, but I needed to let go a bit.  This month is the time for tracking again.

Write four chapters in my book – MOSTLY YEP.  I got to about 3.25.  I lost steam and then never had a chance to spend focused hours on it while Zliten was home with me.  I’m really happy with the progress I made, though!

Yes, I’ll keep posting this picture forever because OMG my kitchen is done and looks great!!!

Finish the kitchen – YEP! There is one little piece of trim left, but we’ll do that… later.  Someday.  I’m at the point where it’s now my kitchen, and I don’t have to work on it for a month or a year or a lifetime.  Whew!

Write a personal mission statement.  YEP!  New years resolutions are great timing for that one.

Travel lightly.  YEP!  I was able to put all my clothes and scuba gear into one big bag that weighs just slightly less than 50 lbs.  With my normal backpack, and one carry on split with Zliten with our camera equipment, scuba trips will be just fine with one checked bag each.

Take my annual FB/Twitter break.  MOSTLY.  This didn’t stress me out as much as the end of 2016 post election, but I made sure to keep myself logged out on my phone of social networks besides Instagram and that was all I really needed.

Play Games!  YEP!  More than any month so far, and it’s carrying into January nicely.

Catch up on my reading.  YEP!  Done with Carl Sagan (picked up at the end but the middle was a slog), 7 Habits (great read that influenced some of my NY resolutions), Bedtime Stories for Triathletes (motivational but a little disjointed), and Runner’s World – Your Best Stride (which has influenced my training, stretching, and actually made me start regularly doing drills – more next week).

Relax.  I actually think I kind of sucked at this one.  I only had two of my 24 days where I didn’t do anything productive.  I’m happy with what I accomplished, but I feel like I need some downtime after my downtime!  January is for rest and recovery and some days of just doing effing nothing above and beyond the normal.

It’s a new year so lets sparkle like unicorns, bleaches!

So, January.  This is usually the month where I go mega-maniaic on goals and stuff.  The motivation is there, but there’s also the nagging in my brain reminding me that I just finished a kitchen remodel and did A LOT OF SHIT in the last few months.  So, I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm with kindness to myself and a dose of reality.

January Training:

Let me first tell you a story.  Tuesday, I had some quarter mile repeats on the schedule after work.  Outside, it was in the 20s and icy, and I’m not going to risk running on that.  There were so many accidents that literally every road to my gym was at a standstill.  At home, I have a treadmill that tries to buck me off when I go faster than 9 minute miles.  This was a huge test of my resolution as an athlete to HTFU because I had roadblocks on every path.

However, there is HTFU’ing within reason.  Running outside in icy weather when I don’t have the shoes for it is madness.  Waiting in traffic for 1-2 hours to get a mile down the street is sheer lunacy.  I opted to trade Thursday’s slightly easier (4 mile with 1 at race pace) run and brave Danger Treadmill (who only tried to kill me once during the race pace mile).  While it’s not exactly EVERYTHING AS PLANNED WHEN ITS PLANNED, this wasn’t a lack of motivation.  This wasn’t me being lazy.  The universe put up enough road blocks that I had to change my plan.

Since I haven’t talked about it much, the last two weeks have been successful but a little rough getting back into being a runner.  My first speed workout, I was barely able to pull 400s under 9 minute miles.  Last week, I ran my fastest 400m repeat at 7:30 min/mile pace.  I have to remember that it doesn’t take long for my leg turnover to come back, it does take pushing through being uncomfortable for a while to get there though.

Proof I HTFU’d in the below freezing and feels like 20s on NYE for 11 miles.  Add night + icy and I’m out because I don’t want to FOMA (fall on my arse).

Week 1 (Dec 18):

  • 18 miles running – 1 speed (5) , 1 easy w/race pace mile (3), 1 long (10)
  • 56 miles cycling
  • 1 swim (because it was 75 degrees out and I had to)
  • 8 hours total

Week 2 (Dec 25):

  • 19.5 mile running – 1 speed (5.5), 1 easy w/race pace mile (3), 1 long (11)
  • 20.5 miles cycling
  • 5.25 hours total

So, here’s the plan for Week 3 of 3M training (Jan 1):

  • 22 miles running – 1 speed (6), 1 easy w/race pace mile (4), 1 long (12)
  • ~20 miles cycling
  • 2 light weights sessions (Oiselle dozen or similar)

Each run is also prefaced with a dynamic warmup and drills that I will talk about more in another post.

Week 4 will be similar, with a shorter, faster long run (8 with 5 at race effort).  Week 5 will be some short speed workouts, and then I’ll see what I can do at the race.  My plan right now is to line up with the 2:05 pacer and see if I can hang on for a PR.

The subsequent two weeks are ill-advised, but I’m doing them anyway.  First, I’m going to do the Indoor Tri and see if maybe I can eek out another “podium” (I placed 3rd last year, I’ve won overall once).  Then, I’ll ride bikes as long as I can stand, because the week after, I’m doing a 6 hour bike ride.  My longest ride since Oct 22nd is a little shy of 3 hours on my cruiser bike.  What could go wrong?

But how could I resist another “Official Badass” medal?

After Feb 3rd, I resume reasonable person status and start an intentional training plan that will guide me through a little offseason weight training and then into hopefully crushing the heck out of some spring sprints.

In January, I do a streak.  In 2015 and 16, I did a run streak.  Last year, I did a bike streak.  Neither of those make sense in terms of my body condition and training, and swimming is right out.  So, 2018 is the year of my stretching and rolling streak.  Every day in January I will spend 5-10 minutes working on my flexibility and five days a week (at work), I will work on my foot strengthening exercises (more on those next week).

January Consumption:

I’m facing the fact that I need to track and quantify again.  Not forever, not even for a long time, but after vacation and holidays, my level of what’s acceptable to eat is set at a lower bar than normal.  I need to bring it back up to that diet quality average ~20 level.

To that end, this month, I’m going to track my food and log my diet quality, with the intent of dropping it again soon.  It was a pain, but I think I need to reset my normal back to the healthy normal where cheetos and cake are very occasional sometimes foods.  I’m not even too worried about my calories in vs calories out, but I’m more concerned about what those calories are.

Tuesday, I tracked and ate 1800-ish calories.  I logged a 20 on the diet quality scale.  Yesterday, 1700 and 24.  So far, so good!

Still some of this.  Especially the good stuff.  But less.

As for booze, I’m trying to moderate my moderation.  I’ve tried to do a dry January (made it 11 days before caving and definitely drank LESS but not NONE), I’ve done a reasonable-quantities-of-beer only January (made it but I was definitely over beer by the 31st), and they’ve had their merits, but neither felt like they enriched my life.  The three reasons behind reducing booze consumption are a) the calories in alcohol b) my tolerance is huge and I’d like to scale back to being a cheaper drunk (see above, less calories) and c) it’s the one thing about my lifestyle my doctor complained about and I know having a lot of drinks per week doesn’t help me feel my best or recover quickly from workouts.

But, there’s a place in my life for whiskey.  Even in January.  So, what to do about making my doctor, my liver, and my inner child 21-year old happy?  I’m doing a portion control January.  Basically, I have the alcohol I plan to drink for the month already sitting in my cupboard – a nice bottle of whiskey for sipping, a bottle of vodka for mixing, and two bottles of post-race champagne to split with my husband on Jan 21 and 28.  That’s approximately the maximum recommended amount of booze in a month.  Once those run out… I need to wait for February.  If I end up going out, I will subtract that portion from my home stash but I don’t have a whole lot of plans to do so, which actually works out well for me right now.

January Life:

I’ve had an epic couple of months of doing ALL THE THINGS.  This month is definitely about less.

Resisting the urge for big plans or adventures this month.  I need to do a bunch of this.  Except inside.  Because it’s fugsnickling cold.

  • I want to at least finish the one chapter I started in my book.  If I could do 2 this month, that would put me back on schedule.  My goal is to at least sit in that room and write for a few hours once this month unless the muse strikes me more.
  • Get Christmas stuff put away and get the garage full of tools and kitchen remodel remnants cleared out so we can actually park our cars inside again.
  • I’m doing exactly ZERO other productive adulting things this month.  This even sounds too productive but they both kind of need to be done sooner than later.  Everything else can wait.
  • I want to spend some of my free time playing games.  I’ve started Hearthstone, Grand Turismo 5, I’m working on getting caught up in the games I work on, and if I can find some time where my legs aren’t too sore from training, I’d like to make some progress unlocking things in Dance Dance Revolution since I’ve started over again and crack open Just Dance.
  • I want to post a video 3 times per week, and to make it less stressful, they are ONLY going to Instagram stories this month so they’re totally throwaway.
  • If I get some additional free time where I’m not too dead to the world and don’t feel like gaming, I’d like to drag out my paints and/or beads and do something crafty.

January GO!  What on tap for y’all this month?

New Years Resolutions – Focus, Intention, and Purpose

2017 was freakin’ epic.  I finished an Ironman!  I did my first official century ride!  I went on amazing vacations and got a camper and spent a ton of time outside!  We redid our kitchen!  How the heck do you follow up something that crazy and grand?

By doing less.   Oh yes, by one hundred percent absolutely positively for sure doing LESS.  2018 is about doing less with purpose, intention, and focus.

This will be my junior year with Team Bicycle Sport Shop.  Looking forward to training and racing with them again!

Racing/training:

I want to strengthen the bond between coach and athlete here.  Yes, I am that person in both aspects, so this will take myself being kind, patient, and firm with… myself.

As a coach, I will schedule myself like I was scheduling another athlete.  I will not put crazy sessions that make no sense on my list just to see if I can do them.  I will not fill my week too full without good reason.  I will consider both what the sessions mean to the athlete in the context of goals for the season and also what’s going on in life right then.  I’ve been coaching myself long enough to know how I operate.  I don’t do well undertrained, but I also need to watch my tendencies to want to do way too much and then disappoint myself by either failing sessions or burning out right before races.

As an athlete, I will HTFU this year.  If coach does her job and schedules things better, it is my job to actually complete the sessions AS INTENDED.  If I have 6×400 with a one mile warmup and cooldown, starting with drills and ending with stretching and rolling on my schedule, that’s what I do.  And, I’m going to do my best that if it’s scheduled for Tuesday morning, I do it Tuesday morning because I put the session there for a reason.

I feel like this will help grow my experience as a coach and also my confidence as an athlete.  If I could sum up my athletic goals in triathlon in a mission statement, here’s a go at it:

I am a strong, fit triathlete who is rarely injured because I have good stability from weight training and flexibility/form work.  I have the confidence because I complete my training sessions.  In races, I take that confidence and head close to the front of the pack in most races where it’s appropriate to start the swim, and I’ve closed the gap between my decent pool swimming and subpar open water form.  I continue to do well on the bike because I train and race with power goals.  I leave the bike and can now chase down people on the run.  As a coach, I will set reasonable goals for my athletes (me and Zliten), and include only the necessary training on their schedules to succeed.

Here’s this year’s plans so far:

Winter:

  • Jan 22: take the little bit of training I’ve been able to do and see what I can do at 3M.  My new A+ goal is to PR.  With the paces I’m running, sub-2 is not reasonable right now, but my legs are showing some promise, so, on a really good day, I may be able to come in under 2:08.
  • Feb 3: do an ill-advised-but-it-will-be-fine 6 hour cycling event.  I’m here for the fun and to support the team and go camping.  I may not hammer this one but I know I’ll survive it.
  • Take at least a month after this with minimal swim/bike/run and get into the gym and lift heavy in preparation for the rest of the year.

Spring: goal is to get fit and then race a LOT of sprints to try to qualify to nationals. I want to shift my mindset at the shorter distances to actually racing for the podium vs getting my heart rate up.

Summer: cut off the racing with enough time to give myself an offseason before getting back to it for Nationals (if I make it) in August and then Cozumel in September.

Fall:

Sept 30: Cozumel 70.3.  I have some outcome goals here.  First, sub-6:30 or better (PR).  Second, I’d like to finish far enough up in the results I actually go to the rolldown for Worlds (as a super longshot, I’ve heard rumors of people being in 20-30th place and getting it).  But honestly, I want to race this to force myself to figure out one of my biggest triathlon problems – I do not love hot weather but I’ve had my two best half runs in sweltering heat off of my two fastest bikes those two years (though I’ve also had some pretty critical explosions).  I need to figure out how to succeed in the heat, be it training, gear, or just HTFU’ing.

After this, I’ll make some decisions.  Ironman Waco 70.3 or Oilman last minute?  A fall half marathon?  Offseason?  I’m not committing to anything after Sept 30th.

You will notice there are no marathons, no ironmans, no century rides, no 10k swims on this list.  Will I haul off and randomly do a long bike ride because it sounds fun?  Probably.  But I’m keeping my focus (after Feb 3rd) on one thing: triathlon, and succeeding at the distance that my next race is at instead of random long base training for no reason.  I’m running the longest right now that I need to run all year and that is super refreshing to me!

Less of this face in 2018, young lady!

Human Being-ness:

As a human, I want to be a more patient and kinder person.  I feel like in relentless pursuit of goals sometimes I get a little snitty and self-centered.  I get annoyed by the MOST ridiculous things that shouldn’t even register on my radar.   I joke that I’ve gone from being a people person to an anti-people person – that grumpy 80s TV dad that just wants his underwear and his recliner and silence.  However, in going from a state of fluctuating between mega-maniacal (DO ALL THE THINGS) to burnout, I’m definitely finding human connection challenging to enjoy more often than I’d like to admit.

I actually like people.  I am actually probably more of an extrovert on the spectrum than an introvert.  I love random conversations, and I’ll talk your ear off and listen to just about anything with a few beers in me (i.e. – when I’m finally relaxed and not thinking about the next thing on my TO DO list).  Sure, I’m a little socially awkward at first with people, but I’m mostly comfortable in my skin as long as it’s not a “hi, will you be my friend” situation.  It’s that my brain is so far up inside itself thinking about what’s next and goals and achievements that it’s hard to focus on anyone else.

Yep, my problem is that I’ve become a bit of a selfish asshole.  The way I fix that?  By committing to less and really and truly being IN when I do commit.  If I can have more space in my life between TO DO, then I can actually enjoy these things instead of feeling obligated to do them.

Yes, I GET to have a great group of people in my life that want my time and attention.  I’m not burdened by it.  That is a very negative way to live and I’m going to leave that one behind in 2017 in the rear view mirror where it belongs.

If I had to pen a mission statement for this one:

I will do my best to be present in the situation I am in, instead of having my thoughts stray to the future.  If I’ve committed to something, I will give it time and attention to the best of my ability.  If I’m feeling overscheduled and overwhelemed, if I’m fumbling at life, I will take a good hard look at my goals and to do list, and I will prioritize until it feels reasonable.  I will approach social interactions as a pleasure instead of a chore.

Food/Scale:

It’s nice to weigh a little less than I did last time this year.  Obviously obsessively tracking my food and diet quality didn’t work.  I seemed to only make progress when I actually let go a little and ate… dare I say… intuitively.  I gave my body a break and trained INCREDIBLY minimally.  Or maybe turmeric is actually the magic anti-inflammatory bullet, so obviously I’m going to continue to take that.

So, obviously I want to continue to take steps back towards my race weight, but I don’t honestly have much to say here that’s revolutionary.  Just keepin’ on keepin’ on with what’s *slowly* working.

  • I want to continue (after a slight holiday feasting break) with my diet that’s at least half fruits and vegetables.  I feel the best when I’m consuming a diet high in plants in their truly natural form.
  • This is accompanied by making sure I continue eat my my normal breakfasts and batch cook my meals to get enough lean protein, whole grain carbs, and snack on things like almonds and pistachios instead of chips.
  • I want to limit my indulgences to ones that I truly enjoy and that will will be a fun and relaxing diversion from my normal.  For me, that means most of the sweets I get go into the freezer and I’ll dig them out once a month when I have a craving, but I’ll consume alcohol in moderation on Saturdays and there will be Desano’s Pizza or after long bike rides.
  • If not tracking, I will at least be conscious about what I put in my mouth is going to help me towards my goals or not.  It doesn’t all have to be positive diet quality (just most of it), but if it’s not, it should be for a reason and not simply because it’s there in front of me.

Self-enrichment:

This is another place where my life needs focus.  My eyes are now open to all the things I want to do and learn after a period of just being happy existing as a game developer and triathlete.  But, in true form, I want to do and learn them all NOAW.

The last two years, I’ve had this giant, big, varied, scary to do list.  I was trying to be a jack of all trades, master at none.  I’m going to pull back and pick one focus this year:

2018 is the year I focus on becoming a published author of a non-fiction book.

I’m pretty sure that’s my mission statement right there.  Here’s the steps I envision taking next year:

  • Finish my book.  I have about 3.75 chapters left to go.  My goal is to finish the first draft by my birthday (or at least birthday month).
  • Put it on the kindle and read it myself.  No taking specific notes, no editing, just read it as if I was reading another author’s book it to see if it’s interesting.
  • Ask my husband for help with his dialogue.  I’m a fairly prolific writer with a lot of strengths, but dialogue is not one of them.  If you could, why not ask the character what he would say in those situations?
  • Edit chapter by chapter.  I know I need more environmental description and cues.  I can see and smell and taste and hear all the things that happened to me.  The problem is, the reader can’t unless I describe them.  I know I need to make things a little more cohesive because I wrote the chapters out of order (as in, don’t describe things five times, describe it once and go back and reference).
  • Get some beta readers.  Some that are familiar with triathlon, some that are not, to see if it’s interesting to either/both groups.
  • Become knowledgeable about the industry.  Read books and devour websites about publishing, editing, agents, and marketing your book.  Stuff like this.  While I want to know so much more about marketing in general, I’m going to take 2018 to focus on this slice of marketing.
  • Continue to read in the non-fiction genre.  1-2 books per month in between my pulpy sci-fi 25 book series that will likely never end…
  • If it gets this far… build a website for the book.  Contact publishers about the book.  Get an agent (or not).  This stuff is so far away and I need to learn what half of this means, but my goal by the end of the year is to have a finished manuscript I’m proud of and at least know where to go with it next.

The Lists

Here’s where I break my mold of focus and intentions, because I am me, and I am not doing away with TO DO lists.  However, I’m still trying to stick with the intention of planning LESS.  I’m trying to keep the first list reasonable. I am also trying to leave off a bunch of fluff so I actually do the things I really need to do, like actually see a financial planner for eff’s sake.  Focus.  Intention.

The second list should be FUN!  I will do these things as they sound pleasurable and enriching to me, not as TO DOs I need to check off.  These need to be things I GET to do, not that I *have* to do.  If my sewing machine stays hidden, that’s ok.  If I post weekly recaps because I’m pouring my time and energy into my book, that’s totally acceptable.  They are here simply to remind myself there are better ways to spend free time rather than Netflix and dorking on social media on my phone.

Now that this is done, we can do smaller, bite size projects.  After a break, that is…

Adulting List:

Yep, a lot of this is carryover from this year that didn’t get done.  Still want to do them.  Will try again.

  • Wills
  • Financial planner
  • Fix our occasionally around kitty stray
  • Organize our entertainment center and pantry
  • Build leezard a lounging platform she can’t knock her plate off
  • Probably some other small organizational projects that emerge as I check these off.

Mostly take the year off adulting because HOLY HELL we adulted pretty hard last year with house projects.  Actually taking January ENTIRELY off any sort of TO DOs minus the normal cooking, keeping the house to the point where the cleaning service can do their thing, and laundry.  I need a friggin break.

Fun List:

  • Resume monthly-ish game night with friends in February.
  • Camping! ‘Nuff said.  Especially in the spring when it’s nice out.
  • I love pictures but shy away from video.  I had a blast playing with it underwater, and I want to do short videos about random stuff 3x per week, if nothing else, posted in my Instagram stories.
  • More video games.  I’m serious about this.  I got Grand Turismo 5 for Christmas and we are going to stream “Drunk Driving Saturdays” (i.e., having a few beers and playing GT in the comfort and safety of my own couch) for a while and I want to actually feel like at least a casual type gamer again.
  • Vacations: Cozumel for the half IM and then a week of diving, family cruise in May, family trip to Port A or Galveston, maybe a long weekend in Chicago, maybe somewhere snowy (with the camper?) in the winter to cross country ski or snowshoe?
  • Painting… I’ve been having a lot of fun with minis but I also would love to expand to canvas again, even if only on camping trips.
  • More bike adventures.  I mean, the kind where it’s beautiful outside and we hop on the cruisers in the morning with backpacks and baskets and only have a vague plan for the day and coast back in at (or after) sunset.  I’m open to the other kind with clips and kits and friends as well, but I want to do more where the bike is just the transportation, not the focus.
  • Posting more interesting things besides weekly recaps.  It really helps me when I’m training towards a goal race, but other times it’s like… yep, rode my bike some miles, ran when I could be arsed to, ignored the pool and weight room, and ate, drank, and slept a lot.  You don’t care.  I’d rather write something else with focus instead of this being my glorified diary all the time.
  • Crafting.  I recently found my beads and I really want to spend some time playing with them and making new pieces (I did one over break, and I love it.  Moar!!!).  I would really like to get my sewing machine out long enough to be comfortable getting it set up and stitching things.

2018.  Let’s do this.  But not too much of this.  Because it’s the year of LESS.

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