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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.

HALF IRONMAN

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

To Chase Or Be Chased?

July 18, 2011 Fear, Fitness, Friends No Comments

I was having lunch today with a couple of girlfriends who just completed the Vineman 70.3 race yesterday. It’s the same course as Barb’s Race that I’m doing on July 30, so I was getting the nitty gritty race details from those in the know. I love hashing it all out!

I was remarking that Caryn and I are doing Barb’s Race together, but we are not in the same age group. I’m younger, so I will likely start 5-10 minutes ahead of her. She has been razzing me about my mental block on the run, talking smack about how she’ll be “chasing me down.” Admittedly, this scare tactic is working.

Do you push harder when you’re chasing someone? Or being chased?

I think I push harder when being chased. When Greg and I ride together, I’ll purposely try to get a head start on him and push as hard as I can to see how far I can make it before he catches me. I attribute this internal competitiveness to my improved bike speeds in recent years. At the race, I know I’ll be pushing to make it as far as I can before (IF?!) Caryn catches up to me.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 50-mile bike ride + 5K run

Monday – 2400-yard swim

Tuesday – 20-mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Wednesday – 90 minutes yoga + 2100 yard swim

Thursday – 5 mile hill run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 52 mile bike ride + Tracy Anderson

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. **

CYCLING
<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.”

RUNNING
<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.

SWIMMING
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

Barb’s Race Recon (and WWW: June 26)

July 6, 2011 Fear, Fitness, Friends 2 Comments

It’s three weeks until Barb’s Race (Half Ironman triathlon) in Sonoma County. Caryn and I drove to the race site to ride the entire bike course and part of the run course on June 30. I still have a bad taste in my mouth.

Yeah. It was bad.

But first things first. Barb’s Race (and Vineman) is a two-transition-area race. The swim and bike start at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville and the run start/finish is at Windsor High School (about 17 miles away). The swim is in the Russian River. The bike course takes you through the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys — to say it is stunning terrain is an understatement. The run is hilly.

Caryn and I were prepared. We met at Windsor High School, put her bike and cycling gear in my car and drove together to Johnson’s Beach to get a true sense of the course at the actual distance. We were all ready to go — bikes put together, directions taped to aero bars, nutrition on board — and Caryn made a glaring discovery:

I hadn’t left my running gear in her car at T2!

We figured out a way to get my shoes and visor there, though it wasn’t pretty. I’m just so glad she thought of it before we left my car! It would have been heartbreaking to have gotten to the high school and not been able to run. (Actually, maybe that would have been better.)

The ride was fine. Nothing spectacular (other than the views – which I did not slow down to photograph for your benefit), but not horrible. Both of our legs were tired from previous workouts, so we weren’t killing ourselves. I rode this race course last year when Greg was training for Vineman, but my intention this year was to figure out my nutrition, when it’s beneficial to be in the aero bars, and how much Chalk Hill will hurt this year. Mission accomplished on all three: 1/2 PB + apple sandwich and two hydration bottles, miles 20-40, and mildly.

A few additional notes about the bike course… 1) The roads are rough. It’s very hard to relax because the roads are full of potholes, repairs, and cracks. 2) I hope the race officials minimize car traffic on race day because there is no shoulder/bike lane in most places and it’s a little scary sharing the road with drivers who have been wine tasting all day. 3) I also hope the race officials have the roads swept before race day. The amount of broken glass and loose gravel on the road is bad news.

We got to Windsor High School and made a not-so-quick transition to the run. I had been talking about how much I didn’t want to run since about Mile 22 on the bike, which certainly didn’t help. It was hot and later than we intended it to be. Quite simply, I was over it by that point. I stopped at 1.5 miles and declared, “I don’t want to do it anymore.” Caryn concurred and we turned around, cutting our intended distance in half.

We headed back down to Johnson’s Beach to retrieve my car and I drove the run course. HILLY. Now, I’m totally psyched out. Also, I did not do enough research on the Barb’s run course versus the Vineman run course. For Vineman, the course is a loop that includes running through La Crema winery. It’s hot and exposed, but not hilly. Barb’s Race is an out-and-back that does not run through La Crema. In addition to having to run all of those hills twice, we have to run clear back to the transition area and then head back out onto the course for 2.2 miles before finishing. I just can’t imagine how defeating it will be to run to the finish area and then have to run back out.

So now I’m contemplating going back up to Windsor for a day trip that will allow me to run the course and properly set my expectations for how bad it’s going to hurt. I just don’t want to defeat myself before I even start, which is pretty much how I feel now. I did a 54-mile ride + 2 mile run this past Sunday, talking myself out of the prescribed 4-mile run. I have a mental block on running.

Any one up for a trip to wine country? My run will take about an hour and then I’ll treat you to a tasting!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: Active recovery – 12 mile bike ride + core + massage

Monday: 2000-yard swim + 4.5-mile run

Tuesday: 90 minutes cycling (45 mins SFRs)

Wednesday: 1750 yard swim + core

Thursday: 56 mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Friday: 2000-yard swim

Saturday: Active Recovery – 2 mile walk + a few laps in the pool

Perspective from 245 Feet (and WWW: June 19)

June 27, 2011 Family, Fear, Friends 2 Comments

Last week’s excitement was the would-be jumper on the Golden Gate Bridge. The GREAT news is that he didn’t end up jumping! Several friends have sent me links to news stories that ran about this man and another person who was talked down on Wednesday. What a relief!

I promise I won’t go on and on about this incident beyond today, but the dichotomy between me and a fellow human being was just so stark. Thanks to all of you who have reached out via email, blog comments, on Facebook and Twitter, and over wine. I suppose that level of support adds to the dichotomy… which is where I’ll pick this back up.

Most days, I have the luxury of waking up roughly 9 hours after I went to bed. For the last week or so, there has even been sunshine streaming through my windows. Have you heard? I love sunshine! Thursday was one of those days where I woke up — and STAYED — grateful for the wonderful life I live. I knew I had a long run in front of me. I knew it would be the longest distance I had run since the Big Sur Half Marathon and the longest distance I would run before Barb’s Race.

But I couldn’t be bothered to let this run loom over me and bring me down. I drove to San Francisco, fighting traffic to get to the Marina Green, parked my car, and set out. If you’ve done anything like participate in endurance events (long distances could mean 4 miles if you’ve never run beyond a 5K before!) or suffered from an injury, you know that the battle is at least as much mental as it is physical. It’s best to start off with positive thoughts and let them snowball. The worst thing you can do — AND I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE — is start off in a negative frame of mind. So I was out there with the feel-good vibes going right from the get-go, and they were sincere!

What a beautiful day!

I am so fortunate to get to run in such a beautiful place!

Hell, who am I kidding? I’m so fortunate that I can walk without a limp!

I’m meeting with someone about a Big Idea after this. How exciting!

I love having a lemon tree in my backyard. Every time a recipe calls for lemon juice, this is such a blessing.

I have such good friends. I saw friends Tuesday night and I’m supposed to meet up with more friends tonight at a free concert in the park. There will be wine.

I realize my car is 15 years old, but I love it when we get 10 convertible-perfect days in a row. And it’s paid for!

I am so lucky my skin deals with sun exposure well.

I can’t believe Argus has lived almost two months longer than the doctors predicted, and he isn’t showing signs of nearing The End yet.

Ooooh, looky! The Golden Gate Bridge!

Admittedly, the mind wanders a bit during a long run, but I was really feeling good about how the run was going (despite the hills and getting lost in the Presidio construction mess) and life in general. I was excited about running across the bridge for the first time and let the good times roll all the way there… and almost all the way back.

Having another human being almost take his life right in front of you will really put a damper on things.

When the police officer told me to keep on running, I did. But I couldn’t keep my brain from going right back to the situation, wondering what I could have/should have/would have done differently. There was also the incredulous almost “giddiness” (and I feel terrible saying that) about having witnessed something so raw. A la, “My friends are never going to believe this!” And that made me feel bad. I was nothing more than a rubber-necker at that point (although I had more couth than to take pictures, like the tourists had…).

I went from being really high to being really low in a matter of about 90 seconds.

But even so, I was nowhere near as low as that man was. And I never have been. I am sure it’s a combination of a lot of things — a great support network of family and friends, an ability to put things in perspective, a love for (but not addiction to) wine as a means to take the edge off,  an optimist’s disposition. Hell, maybe it’s just a fear of missing out on something when I’m gone! Honestly, I don’t know what separates me from people who have the courage (some call it cowardice) to take their own lives.

I got home from my meeting that afternoon and canceled my plans to meet friends at the free concert in the park. Greg was mountain biking with his buddies and I was relishing the alone time in my house, thinking about the events of the day. I found myself even more grateful for all the things I had been thinking about.  And for even smaller things, like how pleased I am that I cleaned out my refrigerator last week and that the shelves are still shiny.

I rode my bike across the Golden Gate on Saturday. It was much busier with tourists, which made it more miserable (in that sense) than Thursday had been. I kept my eye out for anyone suspicious-looking, but mostly did my best to remain considerate of others taking in the majesty of the bridge and its views. I made a commitment to myself to do a better job of living among a population of people who may not have such a positive outlook on things. They are the ones that need a smile or a dose of patience the most.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 1500-yard swim

Monday – 21-mile bike ride (first time with aero bars!)

Tuesday – 5 mile run

Wednesday – 90-min bike ride with 45 mins climbing

Thursday –  11.5 mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 67-mile bike ride

Swim Like You Mean It (and WWW: June 12)

June 20, 2011 Fear, Fitness 3 Comments

My doctor is pretty sure that my shoulder injury isn’t a tear, it’s just an impingement — an inflammation of soft tissue. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d certainly go get that MRI that he has recommended “just because he’s curious.”

But I don’t have either.

Money is one thing that I certainly do not have lying around, but the more important (!!) issue is my race on July 30. After a bunch of hemming and hawing (usually around Mile 5 of a run) that the shoulder injury is a perfect excuse out of it, I have decided that I am officially racing. And with that, I don’t have time to wait for MRI appointments and then physical therapy appointments and then for someone to decide if I can swim or not. Rather, I am falling back on my ol’ stand-by:

The power of positive thinking.

Laugh if you want, I don’t care. Sure, I’m icing semi-regularly (maybe 2x/week instead of every day) and using ibuprofen semi-regularly (maybe 3x/week instead of 3x/day)… but I simply decided I’m going to swim and it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be better than fine. It has been. It will continue to be.

My 1.2 mile (~2100 yards) swim time at my Half Ironman last year was 36:39. In the pool on my first day swimming since my race on May 1, I swam 500 yards in 9 minutes without really trying. I hit that time again a few days later, and I swam a mile (1760 yards) in 29 minutes today. I will be “fine” for the race. The best news of all is that the pain isn’t nearly as acute during the swim OR as lingering afterward as it was before May 1.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep riding and running and chanting:

“I am so grateful I can compete in Barb’s Race with Caryn and the tri club!”

“I am so lucky my shoulder has healed and I am able to swim!”

“My body is an incredible machine that responds whenever I ask it to.”

“I am a triathlete! I will swim! I will bike! I will run!”

“I’m not crazy, no matter what anyone else says!”

Sure, it’s corny, but as much as I can’t afford an MRI, I can’t afford any negative talk around here. It serves no one and won’t get me any closer to competing, setting reasonable goals for my race, and accomplishing them. My riding and running have come too far for me to bail out now. I’m going for it!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 49-mile bike ride + 1 mile run

Monday – 20-mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Tuesday – 10.5 mile run

Wednesday – 60 minutes Jefferson Ave hill repeats (bike)

Thursday – 6.5 mile run

Friday – OFF (+ Book Club hangover — ugggghhhh)

Saturday – 45-mile bike ride + core

Week In Numbers (and WWW: June 5)

June 13, 2011 Fitness, Food, Fun 4 Comments

Here’s a snapshot of how my week went, by the numbers:

Fitness miles achieved: 76.5

Peanut butter cups consumed: 18

Hours of sleep attained: 57

Showers taken: 3

Dogs petted: 6

Babies held: 4

Bottles of wine imbibed: 7

Hangovers suffered: 0

Anniversaries celebrated: 1

Birthdays celebrated: 2

Jobs applied for: 3

Jobs landed: 0

Dinners cooked: 7

Sunny days: 2

All in all, it was a pretty good week. My training is going well, especially considering I’m getting into the longer runs. My legs were tired on Saturday, so I took the day off in prep for a long brick workout Sunday. It went well! I’m glad I’m getting better at listening to my body rather than my guilty conscience…

I have a follow-up appointment for my shoulder tomorrow and will hopefully be able to test out swimming on Wednesday. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t feel any different (read: any better) than before the cortisone shot… so I don’t know what that means. I have followed the doctor’s orders and haven’t gone swimming or done yoga or any other strength work. I miss all of those things so much!

Stay tuned for an update on Argus this week as well.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 10 mile run

Monday – 20-mile bike ride

Tuesday – OFF

Wednesday – 31-mile bike ride + strength/core

Thursday – 6.5 mile run

Friday – 9 mile run

Saturday – OFF

Stunning Santa Barbara (and WWW: May 29)

June 6, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

I spent Wednesday through Sunday in one of my favorite places: Santa Barbara! I was helping a friend after surgery, though I am sure I got even more benefit than she did. I enjoy helping others and this trip included hanging out with a cool 3-year-old, a Goldendoodle puppy named Henry, and celebrating a friend’s milestone birthday with the whole gang. On top of it all, running and cycling amidst such beautiful scenery helped motivate me. It was a great training week!

Here’s a shot from the trail that runs along the cliffs above the ocean, then winds its way down to the waterfront (taken with my phone):

My Saturday morning ride was overcast, with fog rolling over the hills. This shot (also taken with my phone) looks over the valley toward the ocean. It was a great 38-mile ride through the mountains and along the water. It doesn’t get better than that!

But it wasn’t all palm trees and sandy beaches. We did spend a couple of hours here, though it was a false alarm:

If you’ve been following along with my training for Barb’s Race, my long runs are up to 8 miles (which I completed on Friday this week). My SB tri girlfriends were going out for a recovery run on Sunday and I opted to join them. I’ve never considered a 10-mile recovery run (!!), so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel… but it went well. I wouldn’t have guessed I had it in me, and wouldn’t have even tried if I’d been on my own. So glad for the positive peer pressure!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 4 mile run + downhill skiing

Monday: 19-mile bike ride

Tuesday: OFF

Wednesday: 5 mile run

Thursday: 23-mile bike ride

Friday: 8 mile run

Saturday: 38-mile bike ride

Technology Fail (and WWW: May 22)

May 30, 2011 Fitness No Comments

Holiday weekends kind of screw up my internal calendar. Sure, “every day is a Saturday” for someone who is unemployed, but I do find myself feeling off when Monday rolls around and Greg sleeps in. I’m not complaining!

I went for a bike ride late this afternoon, and I was thinking about what I’d feature on my WWW summary this week. I had settled on a few pictures of our false start to summer — the snow in Tahoe that we took advantage of. And then I looked down at my Garmin to see how far I’d gone. This is what I saw:

And that’s all I saw for the rest of the ride. And it’s all I see now that I’m home. The device is frozen!!

The trouble is this: I don’t download my workout data from my Forerunner 405 after each workout. My whole week is lost! It’s like it didn’t even happen!! I had a kick-ass workout week, but it all seems a moot point now. I live and breathe by my stats and the “proof” that I did the workout. I’m sure I can do some kind of hard reset and get the device working again, but for now, I’m mourning the loss of my precious data.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up (You’ll have to take my word for it…)

Sunday: 19-mile bike ride

Monday: 17-mile bike ride

Tuesday: 10-mile bike ride + core

Wednesday: 5.5 mile run

Thursday: 48-mile bike ride

Friday: 54-mile bike ride

Saturday: 4 mile run + 2 hours downhill skiing

Running High (and WWW: May 15)

May 23, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

It was a big running week for me – almost 20 miles in just 3 runs. There are several things to be happy about:

  • My knees are not threatening to give out on me. In fact, no pain at all!
  • My new shoes are finally comfortable.
  • I don’t need music (or even an audiobook) to talk myself into a long run.
  • I’ve got my bathroom situation figured out to where there are no “emergencies” mid-run.

Best of all? I am approaching a consistent 8-minute mile.  Here’s to the up-side of my shoulder injury!

I must admit, though, I really miss swimming. I never thought I’d say that!! I’m a little burned out on running and riding all week, and it’s hard to do any other cross-training like yoga or weights with the shoulder. I’m just not a Zumba girl… My plan is to see a doctor to finally diagnose what’s wrong. My request will be a cortisone shot that will allow me to train hard in the two months leading up to my Half Ironman on July 30, then get to work on physical therapy and proper healing. This is the plan as long as doing the swim training won’t further injure it or cause permanent damage. Has anyone taken this approach?

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 7.25-mile run (Bay to Breakers) + 12-mile bike ride

Monday – 17-mile bike ride

Tuesday – 5-mile run (in VFF)

Wednesday – 20-mile bike ride

Thursday – 7-mile run + core

Friday – 17-mile bike ride

Saturday – 48-mile bike ride