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When A Plan Comes Together (and WWW: July 17)

July 25, 2011 Fear, Fitness 1 Comment

You set a race goal.


You develop a training schedule.

You do the work.

Why, then, is it so shocking when the plan comes together? This is a simple cause-and-effect relationship that never ceases to amaze me.

I guess it’s because the wheels fall off right before everything solidifies. I had lost so much speed and power on my swimming. I could get through a long bike ride, but it felt like work. My legs felt like logs while running, which is to say nothing of my mental weakness just thinking about running. Pre-race anxiety was really taking its toll.

And then, just like clockwork, everything clicked:

  • My swim intervals came back to pre-injury times and my first open water swim since Wildflower went very well.
  • On the bike, I looked at my Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to see my average speed was 0.5 mph faster than the last time I rode that course without an increased HR or feeling fatigued.
  • I have been running hills like they are flat roads. My mind has been focused on other things and not riddled by pain and self-defeating thoughts.

The work is done.

All that’s left to do is enjoy the taper. And enjoy the race.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 1600-yard swim + 30 minute bike ride

Monday – 5.5 mile run

Tuesday – 30-mile bike ride

Wednesday – 1.3-mile open water swim

Thursday – 4-mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday –34 mile bike ride + 1.25 mile run


My Workout Classifications (and WWW: July 3)

July 11, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

Not all workouts are created equal, and I’m not just talking about length (I ran for an hour) or distance (I ran 8 miles). In order to get stronger, faster, and build more endurance, we need to train our bodies accordingly. That is not accomplished by going out for as long and fast as possible every time. There are specific ways to train to achieve different things.

Admittedly, I used to scoff when I saw a 3-mile run as part of a training plan. I took it at face-value and dismissed this distance as too short to be doing any good. Not any more! I can tell you that some of the hardest workouts I’ve done were only three miles long and I was begging for them to be over.

You may hear me talk about completing “a long run” or some such verbiage. I’m going to give you a sense of what I mean by that and how I classify my own workouts.

** Disclaimer: I am not a coach. I am not a Certified Personal Trainer. I am an amateur athlete largely doing my own thing and these are my own opinions. **

<20 miles: speed work or SFRs/hill repeats
Contrary to what I used to believe, I don’t always need to go all-out to get in a good cycling workout. This distance is great for doing drills with sprints or hills. Otherwise, if I am going out for fewer than 20 miles, I consider it “recreational” riding or errands. Still burning calories (and not burning gas)!!

20-40 miles: intervals and/or power work
This distance is long enough to get in some decent HR intervals and even some one-legged drills while maintaining good speed and building endurance. Examples — I will work on maintaining cadence over varying terrain or reestablishing my average pace after a long climb. For me, this cycling range is my go-to for most training rides.

40+ miles: endurance
This is butt-in-saddle time for me. I will sometimes incorporate some intervals, but it’s largely a time for me to settle in at race pace and grind it out. I watch my HR and average speed, but also keep in mind the need to go the distance and pace myself accordingly. This is what I will refer to as “a long ride.”

<4 miles: sprint intervals or recovery
Nothing wrong with a good recovery run, and anything under 4 miles ought to do it. That said, if you’re looking to get faster, I dare you to go out there and sprint for 30 seconds at every half mile for four miles. You will be tired (and faster) when you get done.

4-6 miles: anything goes
This distance can do anything. You can go for a tempo run or mix some sprint intervals in. Run on trails or hilly terrain to mix it up. This is a go-to distance for me because I can vary it so widely.

6+ miles: endurance
My average pace settles around 8:20-8:30 these days, so most runs over 6 miles get into the hour range. I consider that a long run. These are usually tempo runs, but I have been better about mixing in hills to acclimate myself better for race conditions. The goal is then to get my average speed back up to where I need it on the flats.

This is an entirely different beast.

Again, the time or distance doesn’t matter — it’s what you do with it. You can build a speed workout that is 1000 yards or 2600 yards. The same goes for a workout that focuses on form. The takeaway here is to not just get in the pool and grind out some set distance and think you are helping yourself. Go in with a goal and work toward it. If you need to improve your form, stop looking at the clock. If you are doing speed work, you better have a shit-ton of intervals planned.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 54-mile bike ride + 2 mile run

Monday – 2600-yard swim

Tuesday – Track Attack + 7 mile power walk

Wednesday – 21-mile bike ride + 7 mile power walk

Thursday – 7.5 mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 2550 yard swim + 8.5 mile run


Don’t Just Stand There

June 23, 2011 Fear, Fitness 9 Comments

Today’s workout included my longest run prior to the race on July 30 — I needed to run 11.5 miles. I already had plans to be in San Francisco for a meeting, so I figured I’d do the long run there for a change in venue.

I love running along the water in San Francisco! The Marina Green, Crissy Field, The Presidio… and of course THE BRIDGE!

I’ve never actually run across the bridge. I’ve biked and driven over it too many times to count… but never made the trek on foot. Today was the day! It was relatively nice weather (very windy over the water, but not cold and foggy) and it would be a good way to add mileage without going too far out of my way.

Do you know how long the expanse is? *leave a comment!

The most treacherous thing about crossing the bridge is navigating the tourists! I don’t have a whole lot of patience for people who are oblivious to others around them and space they are taking up. Making it worse — erratic behavior is just plain dangerous when you’ve got pedestrians, cyclists, and workers trying to use the same narrow path.

But, it was a weekday morning, so I went for it. The trip to the Marin County side was worse because all the tourists were huddled on the Bay side of the bridge taking photos. The return trip wasn’t so bad as long as I stayed all the way to the right and gave plenty of advance notice I was coming; sudden movements by the tourists are the worst.

I made it to the second tower on the way back and noticed a young policeman kind of “standing guard” there. He had been looking over the railing on the north side of the tower on the trip out and I thought to myself, “I wonder if someone jumped!” But I dismissed it because there are also painting crews working on the bridge and he could have been doing anything. Your mind will wander like that 7 miles into an 11.5 mile run…

I kept going and the crowd along the pathway had thinned out entirely. I noticed this because it was so blissful to have a long expanse all to myself. It was just me and one other guy who was minding his own business. I was really getting into a great stride!

As I approached this lone guy, I watched him put both hands on the railing and hike one leg up, making the move to climb over it. I stopped running and stared at him. I was totally dumbstruck. He hadn’t looked around like he was trying to make sure no one saw him, so I questioned his motives. I had about a thousand thoughts in the space of three seconds:

“Is he really jumping?”

“This must be a joke, right? He’s just playing around.”

“I bet he dropped something and is just going to retrieve it.”

“No, I think he’s jumping. Areyoufuckingkiddingme?”

“Maybe he’s a construction worker. He’s kind of dressed like a worker.”

“Should I call out to him?”

“If I call out to him and he’s not jumping — what if he’s crazy and comes after me.”

“And what if I call out to him and he still jumps? I don’t know if I can handle that kind of pressure.”

“Where the hell is that cop/guard dude?”


While I just stood there. By this point, there were a few tourists who had passed and they turned around and were taking photos of the jumper (see what I mean about tourists??). I’m sure they also got me with my mouth hanging wide open…

What I didn’t know at the time is this: there’s a narrow platform under the edge of the railing. A person doesn’t just plunge immediately to his/her death once you’re over the railing. There’s a “grace period” of sorts. The below is a stock photo of the bridge that shows the narrow ledge just below the railing (the net has been added graphically to show the proposed solution for suicides — it IS NOT there now):

By this time, the policeman was running up to the scene shouting, “No! Don’t do it!” Another man was with him, though he was dressed in construction-like clothes (not in a uniform). Me? I continued to stand there, paralyzed with disbelief. The men were exchanging words with the jumper and the worker-looking guy pulled something out of his pocket — a tin of chewing tobacco. Maybe the jumper had asked for a cigarette? The cop was looking around, very unsure of himself and the situation. I made eye contact with him and asked if I could help, gesturing to my phone. He said no and motioned for me to keep going.

Of course, part of me wanted to stay and watch this tragedy unfold… I suppose this is human nature. Most of me was still in utter disbelief that it had happened at all — and mostly that I had done nothing to stop him. Now that I am home with the world at my fingertips, I have read about would-be jumpers who went out to the bridge saying to themselves, “If one person notices me and asks if they can help, I won’t do it.”

You can imagine how I feel.

But the reality is this: it isn’t about me. This man felt he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and it was a burden he could no longer carry. He almost jumped to his death right in front of me and only me AND I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

I make this promise to you, fellow man/woman/child/tourist: I will do better next time. If I am placed in a situation where I am questioning my ability to help, I will at least try. Perhaps it will do no good, but I will not let you harm yourself or anyone else while I stand idle.

I don’t know if this man was talked back from the ledge or if he ultimately jumped. My last four miles included running to Hooper’s Hands, and kept my eye on that part of the bridge the whole way, though I saw nothing one way or the other. News reports are generally very scarce on bridge jumps, as not to sensationalize them. I will let you know if I find out one way or another.


Wildflower Race Goals (and WWW: April 17)

April 25, 2011 Fear, Fitness 3 Comments

The first race of the season is a week away. I’ve done what I can do training-wise. I’ve put the work in — hopefully it was enough. Depending on what my race goals are, I can rig it so that it is! Ha!

I mentioned in my last post that Greg’s Sea Otter race goal was not to win or necessarily place high in the rankings. It was to work hard. He considered this a “B-level” race and he successfully achieved his goals of working his race legs to prepare for Wildflower this coming weekend.

So, what are my race goals for Wildflower?

  1. Sub-30 minute swim. I hesitate to write this. I was solidly on track for a great swim this year before the rotator cuff injury. I worked hard on my swimming all winter and even had a great first (and possibly only) pre-race open water swim. My time last year was 0:30:36 and I really want to break the 30-minute barrier this year.
  2. Faster transitions. My transition times last year were horrendous at 4:40 and 2:12, respectively. Admittedly, it’s a long run up the boat ramp from the water to the far side of the transition area… but I am clearly not being as efficient as possible once I get to my spot. Maybe I should practice this week like these guys?
  3. No walking. Before you write me off as a pussy, let me explain. There are actually people who RECOMMEND walking the hills on this course, saving their legs for the flat and downhill sections. This is not my run strategy. I tested both approaches in my training over the last three weeks and I shaved 2:30 off my run time by running all the hills (even though my lungs were burning and my HR was nearing danger levels the first time). My problem is this: my tendency is to leave everything I have out on the bike course. This is a hilly run course — 518 ft of elevation gain over 6.2 miles — and it is very exposed. My race starts at 10:35 AM, which will put me on the run course around 12:30 PM. My goal is to run all of it.
  4. Finish sub-3:00. Last year’s official race time was 3:00:07. I’d really like to come in under the three hour mark and I think it’s possible. If I plan to shave a couple of minutes on both transitions AND the swim and the run, this is doable. Right? Tell me my math works. My bike leg was very good last year at 1:29 and my cycling has been inconsistent this year. I don’t know that I can expect to do much better than that this year, especially since one of my goals is to leave enough for a strong run. I hope my savings in the other areas are enough…

It’s scary for me to write these down. I have created a space that can be filled with disappointment by saying it out loud. Greg suggested that maybe I’m sand-bagging and I should be more specific on Goal #4 and shoot for an overall time of 2:50. But he also said it’s up to me based on how I feel. I’ll tell you how I feel right now: tired and injured. And accountable.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 21-mile bike ride + 3.5 mile run

Monday: Bike — hill repeats

Tuesday: 5.25 mile run

Wednesday: 20-mile bike ride

Thursday: 1600-yard swim + errands on the bike (10 miles) + chiropractic

Friday: OFF

Saturday: 34-mile bike ride


Stuck (and WWW: March 27)

April 4, 2011 Fitness, Friends 3 Comments

I went from snow bunny to dancing queen in a matter of 6 hours on Saturday. I rushed home from Tahoe, showered, and put on some go-out clothes, donning a lovely cocktail ring given to me as a hand-me-up from a friend. I don’t know why I’d want to draw more attention to my man-hands, but it really is a lovely piece.

It went on with no trouble. No trouble at all. I realize this may be hard to believe from the looks of those knuckles… I went out that night in San Francisco, celebrating a dear friend’s upcoming nuptials. I was on good behavior, though, because I had to drive myself home. When I got home at 1:07 AM, I quickly undressed… except for one thing. I couldn’t get the ring off.

Between two days of skiing, coming back down from altitude, a fancy dinner, and a few glasses of wine… This ring was settling in as a permanent fixture. I went to bed, exhausted, and figured I’d get it off in the morning.

Dehydration = water retention.

The morning situation was worse. I tried soap, oil, butter, an ice bath, and more oil. Nothing. I had to do a long brick workout, so I did it with the fancy cocktail ring. I think it added a certain panache to my workout ensemble. It actually worked kind of like compression socks, but on my middle finger — an obvious spot for needed relief.

I definitely wasn’t any less puffy after the workout (33 mile bike + 4.5 mile run), and I began to look at My Life With A Cocktail Ring as my new existence. I pictured myself swimming on Monday morning with the cocktail ring. I had a babysitting gig on Monday  as well — I’d look complete in the sandbox with such a lovely bauble.

Greg and I took Argus over to Coyote Point for happy hour on Sunday evening. At his suggestion, I kept my hand elevated above my heart. Also, the wind was cold. My hands do that crazy Raynaud’s thing anyway, so I was kinda hoping they’d become numb enough that I wouldn’t care if I scraped the hell out of my knuckle getting it off.

It worked! We got home and I juiced my finger up with dish soap and the ring slid off. WHEW!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 40-mile bike ride + 3-mile run

Monday: 2100-yard swim + 4 mile hike

Tuesday: 45-minute run with Sherpa + Tracy Anderson

Wednesday: Bodyrock.tv strength training

Thursday: 21-mile bike ride

Friday: Skiing

Saturday: Skiing

NOTE: My entire outfit is an ensemble of hand-me-ups: hoodie + T-shirt from Sarah, shorts from Mel, flip-flops (not shown) from Jane. The cocktail ring is from Tina. I am a grateful beneficiary!


Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

March 6, 2011 Fitness 3 Comments

This post is not about food, but I hope you have that song in your head now. Hello Meatloaf!!

(You’re welcome.)

Even with mid-week travel to/from Oregon to help a friend move, I had a pretty good workout week. Two weeks ago, we were given a “free” day off mid-week that I moved into this week, knowing I’d have a rough schedule. So glad I did! I put myself through 11 days of back-to-back workouts and looked forward to this Thursday with every one. I spent Thursday on two turbulent flights getting home from Eugene, basking in the rest. Did you know that Horizon Air offers free local wine/beer on all flights? Bonus!

In the workout world, my swimming has been solid all through the off-season. My interval times are improving and the best news of all is that I don’t hate the very thought of going to the gym for a swim workout. I am even mentally preparing for my first open water swim. Props to Caryn who has already been in the lake a few times!

Even my running is coming around after a slow start. I pushed myself last Sunday to complete a four-mile run after a 15-mile bike ride, just to see how bad it would hurt. I purposely chose a hilly course to mimic the run course at Wildflower. Considering I completed 41 miles on the bike (including climbing Old La Honda) on Saturday, it felt pretty good. I did my track workout on Monday, which left me VERY sore for two days. The kind of sore where it hurts to have to get up/down from the toilet seat… I ran 6.5 miles in the rain on Wednesday in Oregon, and then did a swim/run brick yesterday that entailed 7 miles after a 2300-yard swim. I feel great! I have been using the foam roller and icing my right knee about every other time and it must be working.

The trouble is the bike. I’m really struggling to stay motivated. I dread all the usual routes around here and I don’t have interest in driving to a new starting point. Even once I’m out there, I feel lackluster at best. There is no fire in my legs. My average speed seems to be down. Blech. The bike has always been my strong suit, and I want to believe there is latent fitness hiding in there and it will show itself on race day… It’s just that motivating myself to get out there was always easiest with the bike, so it’s frustrating to have lost that edge. Greg says I must not have taken enough rest in the off-season, and he’s probably right. But it’s too late now. Wildflower is 7 weeks away and I’d like to beat last year’s performance, so I can’t back off now.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up: February 27

Sunday: 15-mile bike ride + 4 mile run

Monday: Track Attack (5 miles total) + core

Tuesday: 1600-yard swim

Wednesday: 6.5 mile run

Thursday: OFF

Friday: Tracy Anderson + 30-mile bike ride

Saturday: 2300-yard swim + 7 mile run