Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mary the Grouch

I have a t-shirt of Oscar. It's lime green and sort of scratchy. It doesn't say anything. Oscar's face says it all.

This morning I should have donned that t-shirt.

I opted for Snoopy instead, sleeping on his doghouse and dreaming of hearts and x's and o's in sparkly letters. My Snoopy t-shirt is from the kids' section of Old Navy, and was purchased when having a girls' day with Jordan and Lara. We were looking for turtlenecks for Jordan that day, because apparently the cool girls are wearing turtlenecks right now. We didn't find turtlenecks, so instead we all  got Snoopy shirts with sparkles, which are much cooler than turtlenecks if you ask me. But I'm not a third grader. I just wear t-shirts made for third graders.

Anyway, my Snoopy shirt, purchased in a fit of youthful giggling with my girls, isn't a fit shirt for today. It's gray out again, and the ground is that murky, sodden swamp green of March. It's the kind of morning where I woke up and realized there was no more milk, and so I put chocolate Ensure into my coffee. It's the kind of morning on which my youngest came downstairs proudly dressed in a sundress and sandals, giving me the choice of being a bitch by making her change (draining her of her pride), or getting looks in the grocery store b/c a good mom wouldn't let her daughter out in July attire when it's 30 degrees out.  It's the kind of morning where the kids keep screaming at each other, You're not the boss of me! which then descends into an argument about who gets the most attention, and each ends up stomping and screaming that Mom loves ____ better.

and on which I put my head into my arms and think loudly to myself Just shut the fuck up! which isn't what a  mom, who loves all of her kids desperately and equally, is supposed to think.

So I'm on my third cup of coffee (with chocolate Ensure), and hoping that will snap me out of this place.
And you know, I'm writing about this so you'll know that you're not the only one in a crappy mood. And if you're in a good mood, well--fuck you.

In a bad mood kind of way.
Today I was supposed to be in a swim meet, but it was canceled due to low enrollment. I was planning on swimming the 100 fly--as well as the 200IM, 100free, 100 back and 100 breast. But I was most pumped for the fly. I think I can do it under 1:15 if I don't fall apart on the last length.

But now I won't find out.

I know I could just dive off the blocks and time myself. But it's not the same. I may do it anyway.  In a couple weeks I have another meet, but in this one I'm just swimming the 1650. I'm excited for that too, but the problem I have with the 1650 is that it means something. You know? It can be translated into a measure of possible swimming success or failure at any triathlon distance.  However, the 100 fly means nothing for our sport. It's a challenge--but whether I do well at it or not is in no way a measure of how well I will perform in the swim at IM or 70.3.

Yesterday Jordan swam in the final "championship" meet of the season. She placed third out of 12 kids in the 25 fly (8 and under) with a time of 23.8, and she was 8/67 in the 25 backstroke, finishing in 25.8. I think I was most proud, though, that she was selected to anchor the age 8-18 medley relay. The other three girls were 13. She looked liked a six-year-old lining up with them, but she held her own, stayed strong, and helped them to win the whole thing. She's pretty good under pressure. She swam 19 seconds for the 25 free in that relay, which is a P.R. for her.

I love to compete. I think I may like watching my kids compete even more, though. It doesn't matter how they do. I just well up with this enormous pride--that is MY child, and she has worked so hard, and can do this amazing thing.

This morning after I completely lost it on all three kids and told them to give me 15 minutes to myself  PLEASE, she (Jordan) went to the kitchen and made melted marshmallow, graham cracker, peanut butter and chocolate syrup swirls. She gave them to the kids, and left one for me on the counter.

I'm pretty sure I don't deserve her.
The irony is that she believes I love my other two kids more.

Weird how that is, and hard for me to understand.

My next post will be full of vim and force, b/c being Oscar can only last so long. Right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Machine in the Garden: In Defense of Data

There is a movement going on in the world of triathlon. I've been reading it in the blogosphere, and I heard it again and again in my coaching seminar this weekend. I call this movement the Down with Data movement. It goes something like this:

  • We are slaves to our gadgetry, and it is leading us down paths of destruction. 
  • We are cut off from our bodies.  
  • We can no longer discern how we feel because we have conditioned ourselves to use our heart rate data or power meter to determine our effort for us. 
  • We believe we need to have this gadgetry to achieve at a high level, when all we really need to do is to listen--listen to our bodies. Let them tell us what is going on....
 Most of thsee arguments smack of the whole pastoral vs. the machine ambivalence that we have here in the west, and it's probably for that reason they bug me so much.  We love our gadgets, but we love even more to denounce them. Humans are better off eating like cave-people, sleeping in yerts, wearing hemp and keeping things "simple." You'd think we would have all embraced an Amish life by now--except that we don't really want to live like the Amish. We don't really want to live without our gadgetry. It's not that we are so disconnected from our bodies--it's that we are disconnected from our true wants and loves. It's one thing to acknowledge that it is a healthier choice to eat organic kale rather than Duncan Hines brownies hot out of the oven. It's another to be so disconnected from our true wants that we actually believe we want kale over a brownie. You know?

But enough on that.

The real  problem with the Down with Data movement as I see it is that those advocating a return to working out without data are rejecting the wrong thing. Data, in itself, is not bad. It is how we relate to the data that is the problem, and more specifically it is how we relate to the data as we work out that is (perhaps) most problematic. If we feel great but our heart rate monitor tells us we are in zone 5 and we believe it--that is the problem--not the data itself. Gadgets can run out of batteries and such, and then the data they provide may be flawed. We should be bright enough to pick up on that in those infrequent circumstances. Really.

I've never met a person who is so disconnected from his body that he cannot distinguish a hard effort from an easy one, but just say, for a minute, that such a person does exist. If he has become this way because of his reliance on gadgetry like his Garmin, which will tell him his pace and heart rate, then the argument goes he should LOSE the Garmin. He needs to get back to his roots. Listen to his breathing. Feel the wind beneath his feet. (He could probably only do the last thing if he were barefoot, of course, which, I should add, is the way he should be anyway b/c it's is closer to the pastoral than that evil machine...., right?)

Bullshit. He could do this... He could lose the Garmin. It wouldn't be the end of the world if he did. However, what is his goal? Is it to get faster? Better? Stronger? Then the data will not hurt him. In fact, I would argue it will help him. Information does not hurt people. Information informs people. Information educates people. Information helps us to become more evolved people. Are we really saying that being ignorant about pace, heart rate and power is better than knowing it?

Bear with me here. When an athlete is new to running or biking he has no idea how hard is really hard, how easy is really easy. He has no sense of pace--and no clue about heartrate or power. That's probably okay at first. The goal at first is really just to run or bike for a stretch of time without stopping. But as the athlete becomes more at ease with running or biking, he is ready for data. Far from disconnecting him from his efforts, this data gives a label to his efforts.  He measures out his routes, and for the first time realizes that he has been going at roughly say, 8 min. pace per mile. Interesting! As the athlete becomes more experienced he is eager for more and more data. This is not bad. This is evolution.

After years and years in sport, many runners and cyclists know exactly what their efforts "mean".  Andy has told  me that when he was in college they used to have a competition to see who could run 200 intervals within 1/10th of a second of each other.  After running 200 after 200--year after year--the runners on his team were able to that. But is it because they were running on feel? Well yes! But only after having years of data that enabled them to first label that feel, and then replicate it! Assessing one's perceived effort in a very general way is not hard. It hurts. It doesn't hurt. Becoming acquainted with the full variability of the perceived effort for any given measure and being able to label it accurately--eg. this is a 28.8 second 200--takes years of experience and years of KNOWING the data--data that can be used to label the effort and own it.

Today I had a run that was primarily a base run, but I had a few tempo miles in it as well. The instructions were to run at 10K pace minus 10-20 seconds for 3 mile tempo bit. I know what that pace is--on paper-- but that pace feels different to me every time I do it. I started out the run and felt great. I noted that I was running faster than normal while maintaining a zone 2 heart rate. Nice! When I began the tempo portion of my run I expected the ease to continue. I was having a good day! Hence, when I looked down at my Garmin a couple minutes into my effort I expected to see a pace that would cause me to think, Whoa, Nellie! I know you are a speedy woman, but let's slow down here. That's more like 5K pace! Ummm. No. I looked down and was like FUCK! Pick up the pace sister you are a slug! I found the pace with the help of the Garmin (it hurt more than I thought it should at first and then felt right after a few minutes). But my point is that using the Garmin helped me achieve a specificity in my workout that without it I would not have been able to achieve. I was able to find the pace, and feel it. I hope that someday I am able to find that pace -- or any pace-- with no help at all. But how will I know? I WON'T. Because unless I'm racing (where pace always feels different than in training anyway) I won't have the data to tell me!

Here's the real irony. The very devices certain people are advocating to take away so they can become reacquainted with their bodies are the very pieces of gadgetry that might enable the athlete to get to know his body better. It's easy for those with tons of experience in sport to suggest that we go without--because frankly, they are so experienced they can better trust perceived effort than those who are more inexperienced.

It's so easy to believe that simplicity is superior--that we would be in better touch with our true selves if we just shed the trappings of modern, technological life. Maybe this is true to some extent, or in some cases. But here?  The machine is not ugly and littering up the garden. Really, it's not. The garden is a beautiful place-- I agree. In this case, however, the machine is just helping us to get to know the garden a little better.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Charlotte. Did That.

I got some awesome comments on my last post. Really it was amazing... The three questions got me a billion awesome book suggestions (I made a master list), a book suggestion and a seminar suggestion for how to use power on the bike, and a dozen incredibly helpful and supportive comments from parents who have dealt with amblyopia (lazy eye) in children and also adults who suffered from amblyopia as kids. One of the suggestions I received was to look into felt patches. I found a great company online (Framehuggers) that make soft patches that go over the glasses. They are more comfortable than the type that stick to your eye. Also, she got a bear that says "Lara's patching pal" on her dress (the bear's dress). Pretty cute, huh? She still doesn't want to wear the patch, but I think we are making progress.

Onto triathlon news!
This weekend I went to Charlotte, N.C. for the Level 1 USAT coaching conference.   I don't even know where to start with all I have to say about it, so I'm going to address one lecture per blog post.

I will say I had  a GREAT weekend. I met cool people (like Donna), Charlotte had some great restaurants, I ran outside in SHORTS and I got to hang with Andy without the kidlets around. (That was truly awesome). The only bad thing about the weekend was that Andy had to rush out on Sunday morning and catch an early flight back. My mother-in-law, who was taking care of the kids with my father-in-law, was brought by ambulance to the ER late Saturday night. She has pneumonia. She is doing well now--and has a room and seems to be stable. But it's scary and upsetting.

The conference was excellent--with the exception of one presenter. I'm not going to focus on that one presenter, though. He was like a stain in an otherwise perfect slew of presenters and it's not worth spending time on how badly he sucked.

The first presentation was by Bob Seebohar. He is a coach and sports nutritionist. His whole gig is that one needs to train the body to use fat as a fuel source rather than glucose/simple sugars. One does this by training to be metabolically efficient--which one does by limiting carb intake in the diet during the preparatory and base periods, (also to some degree during the build and racing periods) and by limiting the amount of carb intake during exercise as well. You must stay primarily at 65-75% effort (when exercising, of course) most of the time (esp. during the base period) to achieve this adaptation.

I've heard this viewpoint from other coaches. At my RRCA certification training (running) they gave a presentation on why this works, and also I believe that Jesse etc. from QT2 believe that this is a necessary training mechanism for IM, and my blogging, uber ultrarunning superman buddy Lucho also believes this, I think.  I bought Seebohar's book, and in my annoying way asked Bob questions until I GOT the concept. I'm still not sure I buy it, however. Nothing is as clean cut as we would like to believe. There is a line--but it is a blurry line-- between when the body begins to utilize fat for a fuel source and when it relies more heavily on glucose.Also, it is never using exclusively one or the other except in the extreme (eg you are sprinting versus walking). This is the same problem I have with the energy system argument. People talk as if you are always using one energy system or another--but don't acknowledge that it is simply not that clear cut--that energy systems overlap, and that they overlap to different degrees in different people. It is not RANDOM how the overlap occurs. My point is only that we never use exclusively one system or the other, unless we are sprinting 100 yards or walking for days on end. I have a problem with standpoints that rely heavily on making things black and white in order for them to be sound.
I also don't quite understand the thinking behind why when one trains to be metabolically efficient in one zone or using one energy system, that a transfer occurs when one begins to incorporate training or racing outside of that zone. The principle of specificity holds that we become most efficient at running 7 minute pace, for example, when we practice at running at seven minute pace--not at eight minute--not at six minute pace. Why then, is one metabolically efficient when training in zone 4 if he has only adapted to being metabolically efficient in zone 2 and 1?
Another problem I have is the idea that athletes that race IM or ultra running by taking in few calories are able to do so b/c they have become more efficient at utilizing fat early in their training. Is it that, or simply that a body races better when it is not burdened with calories it cannot digest when exercising?

Nevertheless, his thinking is something to mull over. It is also something which requires more research on my part. I want to review actual studies that substantiate his claim. I will need to start with his works cited and work from there.

Not fiesty today. My depressive dip has lightened slightly, but I am still heavy in reflective land. No idea why. I need a race or something to zip me right up. :)
Or maybe I just need to allow myself to be a snorefest for a bit.
Maybe I'll dye my hair purple. I bet the kids would love that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nothing to Say

I'm all out of spunk.

Reminds me of that Reo Speedwagon song--I'm all outta love--I'm so lost without you....
The you would be my body. The lost would be the fact that it demanded a little vaca....
This, naturally, is lost on you if you didn't play Reo Speedwagon on your turntable in junior high.

Anyway. I'm sort of bipolar, I think, when it comes to training. I was like HIGH on training and life and WOAH! FUCK YEAH! GO GET EM'! just a little while ago....

And then two things happened. One, I got a nasty comment from a reader which I deleted. I was reminded in this comment that I am not all that, that I am obnoxious, and I am a subpar athlete, at best. This is not news to me, but it always hurts when someone else declares it. And then I got sick with Lara's chest cold. And then the swinnnnnngggggggg.

And fuck ya turns into a big sigggghhhhh. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm sick. I'm lackluster. I'm depressed.
See? Totally bipolar. Are you bipolar if you realize you are bipolar? That is the question of the hour.....

So I'm takin' a little break. I WANT to have a rocking body -- young and alive and able to take whatever I hurl at it. Unfortunately, I have a 40 year-old body that can only take so much rocking and rolling before she decides it's time to sit her ass on the couch for a few days. Luckily I'm off to North Carolina tomorrow for this coaching conference. Lots of sitting to be done....

I have a number of controversial posts brewing in my mind... but they are still brewing. They need a few days before percolation is complete.

I do have a few questions for you all:

1. Have any of you ever had to patch a child's lazy eye? If so, please email me (you can get to me via the TriMoxie site) or leave a comment and I will get to you. I'm trying to patch my youngest's eye, and she will have none of it, and I'm losing sleep knowing she could go permenantly cross-eyed and lose all vision in her weak eye.

2. POWER. Any of you bike gurus out there have suggestions on the best books to read about training with power on the bike?

3. I need a few good books (fiction) for my trip. Any suggestions for moi? Page tuners preferably... but no mystery. Not a mystery fan. Books on training are also welcome as suggestions.


Monday, February 15, 2010

I got sick of the old look. I tried a bunch of pink backgrounds, but it was so bubble gum I had to go with just white. It still is slightly bubble gum, but I do like pink, and I like the way this template stretches across the screen.

On Thursday morning I head to Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm attending the level 1 USAT coaching conference. You may recall that a few months ago I was sarcastic and pissy when I didn't get into it. Then a few weeks later I got in off the wait list. So, naturally, all of my ranting and righteousness was neatly put to the side, and I signed up. I'm annoying like that.

I'm looking forward to it for a few reasons.

1. I love to sit in classes and take notes. Really. I really like that. I've spent a good portion of my life in class taking notes. If I could do it as a living, I would.
2. The kids and my ancient pooch are going to be with my in-laws. They LOVE going to my in-laws. I love that they love to go there, because then I worry less when I'm away.
3. Andy is coming with me. He's not attending the conference. Instead he plans to work and work out and sleep, and go out with me to dinner.
4. I like hotels. When at a hotel I can escape clutter and toys. I also don't have to do laundry, dishes, vacuum, or clean up little boy piss off the toilet.
5. I get to meet and hang out with Donna.

The only problem with leaving on Thursday morning is that the bulk of my working out this week is condensed into like two days. I had a big week last week (for me) and I was tired today. Monday is usually my rest day on which I just swim and lift. The pool was closed because it's President's Day, and so I just lifted and did a little biking today--putting me into even more of a deficit coming into Tuesday. I don't even want to write what I'm supposed to do tomorrow through Thursday morning. It troubles me. It troubles me greatly.

I also promised I would take my kids shopping and to Friendly's tomorrow, and I'm supposed to take a conference call from my biggest sponsor, TriBike Transport. (Love them. They are truly fab. I'm only slightly concerned about wearing their kit this season--which is WHITE. Hopefully it won't appear that I'm racing naked.) And I need to pack. And print out the five billion power point slides for the presentations. I don't want to go to bed because when I get up the craziness begins. oh mammmma.

On the working out front:
The news is, I've been working out.

I am getting slightly--ever so slightly--more powerful on the bike. I'm also not detesting the bike, which is kind of stunning, really.  I feel rather friendly toward Mrs. Z right now.

My swimming is blahhhhhhhh. I'm hoping that someday I will break out of 1:20 mode. If I work hard, I hit 100 on 1:20. If I work really hard, I hit on like 1:17. If I loaf, I hit at 1:26. The numbers just don't seem to change. At all. Even though Jen gives me the coolest, most interesting, balanced workouts. Even though I swim more than many of my tri friends. I. am. stuck.
Good news on the swimming front is that in a few weeks I'm in a meet. At said meet I decided to swim 200 IM and four 100s--back, breast, fly and free.
I am most excited about the fly. I am least excited about the breast. I fear it will take me five minutes to finish. I really, really suck at breast. (This post is boring, and that's my best line, so enjoy it.) But when I signed up for the other three I just felt like I was neglecting the poor breast again. So I signed up for it too.

I'm still smarting a bit from my race. I feel like I need to brush my teeth of it.
I know that expression doesn't make sense, but I have decided I rely too heavily on cliche, and it sort of works, doesn't it?

Anyway. I have Lara's stinking cold right now ( which is probalby why this post is lackluster). Consequently I decided that yesterday's lonnnnng run (which is not long compared to those of you training for marathon and beyond, but long for moi right now) should be run in low zone 2.
OH man. I have forgotten how truly peaceful and beautiful zone 2 (low) can be. I could have run for hours and hours. I was just zoning... it was fabulous. Best of all, I was running a fever, and the cold outside was perfect--which is probably just wrong. But who cares. It felt good.  I love running hard, but interestingly one of the gifts of running hard quite frequently is that when you just run easy it feels awesome.

Ange and I have gotten a few bites since we launched our snazzy new website.
We know it will take a long time to build what we want to build.
But that makes it even more cool and exciting. I love beginnings.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And so we begin.

Ange and I have both been coaching for several months now, but it feels much more official now that we have a website. If you haven't check our site out, please do! :) I couldn't get the logo above to link, but if you click here or on the side bar it should load.

We have lots of other ideas for the site... We want to have a blog attached to it, and a discussion board. I also want to create a book review page, where you can link to reviews of the trillion books I've read on training for run, swim, bike, tri.  All eventually! I was surprised out how long it took us just to build the site!

On a different note, I've been thinking about confidence versus arrogance. I think I like arrogance in others better than confidence. True confidence is threatening, but arrogance is usually a veneer, and once you strip back the layers a bit you see that there is a vulnerability. Finding a person who is truly confident is unusual. The truly confident have a calmness to them that cannot be easily ignited. There's no need for bravado when you truly believe in yourself, your rightness, your ability and your performances. There's no need to go on the attack if you believe inherently that you are right--and what others think cannot affect that belief.

I've spent most of my life feeling less than confident. Even my stabs at arrogance are more comical than genuine--more Will Farrell in their bravado than Lance Armstrong.

It takes genuine confidence to launch a business like Ange and I are.  You must believe that you have something to offer--something that is worth others paying their hard-earned money to get.
 I think I'm going to be a good coach. I get people, and that's half the package. My confidence has also been bolstered by my teaching, reading, performing, observing, and blogging. And I trust my passion to carry me. I want to know--I want to figure out--I want to understand and I want to do it right. For me, want translates to work, and I do have confidence that I am a very hard worker.

But, I need to add, I've realized I'm easily shaken. One carefully placed insult can spiral me back into the frame of mind of a the little girl who wasn't sure she could do much of anything.

This will be a big test for me.
I'm excited. and a little nervous.
and I'm trying to armor myself in a chainmail suit of confidence. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


This is Andy. My one-hour, ten-mile man. Have I MENTIONED how happy I am he's racing again? That is the man I fell in love with~!

Those of you who raced when you were in college or as a sponsored athlete after college will understand this better than I ever will, but for a long time Andy gave up racing--and I believe it was because it was too depressing for him. He ran so well-so fast at William & Mary (he would argue he never ran fast enough, but...) that he won't ever see times like those again. He ran very close to a 4 minute mile. He did the steeple in 8:49. He ran a hilly 15K in 47 minutes on a lark. He ran a 2:40 marathon without doing more than a couple months of training. For those of you who ran super fast in college and beyond, those times might seem solid, but not like OMG,  he was some Ryan Hall! But to those of us who haven't spent time in the world of track, those times seem unbelievable--just unbelievable.

But then he grew up, got married, had babies (or I had them, but he slowed down and ate ice cream with me), moved on to a normal weight (as opposed to the bony, anorexic look of most college runners) --and most importantly, he couldn't train the way he had, nor did he want to. And so he didn't race. What fun is it to race if you are not what you used to be? (I guess--but this is honestly what I don't get, I think b/c I simply was not a collegiate athlete and never experienced the glory of running a 4 min. mile.)

Over the years I've missed Andy racing. I love racing together (or separately, but together, if you know what I mean.) Racing and training is something we had in common when we were first together so many years ago--and it was sad when we weren't sharing it these last years. Anyway, I find it so exciting that he could be a top Master in New England if he even puts in a small effort--and will be top AG in tri, too (he is doing his first 1/2 Iron this summer) if he spends plenty of time on the bike. I want this for him--but I probably want it just as much for me. I love this stuff. It's always more fun if the person you are closest to shares your passion.


Onto to moi. Of course.
I have been anayzling my race last weekend, and trying to discern why I am not thrilled with it. 
I am thrilled I PR'd. That is true. 
But the bigger truth is I think I'm not totally thrilled in general because I. got. beat. 
While I hate to admit that this is the the cause of my unease, I think it IS the cause of my unease. What good is it to PR if you don't beat everyone? 
Precisely the wrong attitude, so I am working on adjusting it. The first step is to admit I hate to get beat. Second step is---- ? not sure yet. Maybe to slap myself and say--You PR'd you dumb shit! Celebrate! It is good I want to beat everyone--but bad if I let it affect my feelings about an amazing performance on my part. You know? The truth is, I ran a stupid race (went out too fast--albeit on purpose) and I still PR'd. That's saying something.

I am also thinking about my jack rabbit approach, and how I succeeded in getting that very feeling that now has me deflated. Oh, the irony. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm smarter than I think I am, and I think I'm pretty smart. When you are in a race and you get passed--especially by the very people you don't want to pass you (ahem. Jeff. ahem. Steve. ahem Stacy. ahem, almost Erin.)--then you become deflated. It's hard enough to just run yourself into the turf. It's harder still to overcome the defeat of things not going well while still running yourself into the turf. I wanted to give up--I wanted to just reign it in and slow down and say, well! I guess it's a bad idea to take a 10 miler out at 10K pace! 
But I didn't. I need to learn to overcome that defeat--b/c that emotion is exactly what stopped me at Lake Placid. I need to master that emotion--feel it-get it and put it away when I am in a race. So I'm glad I ran the race stupidly. You just don't get the feeling of emotional defeat if you run intelligently and finish strong. We learn to overcome by having to overcome, right?

The problem is that when you race stupidly, even if you mean to so you can learn to battle a particular emotion head on, you still feel crappy after the fact because you wonder--could I have held my own if I just ran smart? Could I have stayed strong and challenged those who passed me? 

I think that's why I am deflated. And I have to learn to deal with that, too--because no one likes a person who can't cherish her successes just because someone else (or many someone elses) ran a better race than she did. Right? (Notice I keep asking you to affirm that my think isn't totally looney.)

One thing I did note is this: When you take it out too fast, the effect later on is that you feel like you SHOULD have it in you--but it's like you can't GET to it. It's a weird feeling. You can't access the speed in you... 
I wonder why that is? 

Another thing I have been thinking about: If you always race intelligently, than you never launch yourself into the unknown. What if I had been able to hold that pace? What if my 10k Pace really is my 10 mile pace, and I just hadn't pushed myself enough to discover this? Sometimes you have to be stupid to discover what you may not know. 
Not sure that made sense. 

On a final note: Ange and I are about to come out. 
No, we aren't lovers.  
Actually, we are partners, though. In coaching. 
TriMoxie Multisport Coaching is now our official gig
The word Moxie is a neologism which derives from the trademark Moxie Soda, which was invented by Mainer Dr. Augustin Thompson in the 1870’s.
Since that time it has become an Americanism which has come to mean energy, courage, determination, skill, grit and guts--as in That girl’s got Moxie!
As you know from reading our blogs, Ange and I definitely have moxie.
We want you to have it, too, so if you are interested in our coaching, then email us at 
Our website will be up at the beginning of next week. 
We. are. pumped.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cape Mid-Winter Classic Race Report

My second race of the 2010 season, and another P.R. Wahoo!! I'm two for two, baby!

I've run this race six times now. I first ran it in 2004, three months after my middle child, Noah, was born. I finished in nine minute pace, which at the time was a huge achievement since I was just barely back in shape and still portly from giving birth. I also remember I was nursing at that time. Alina agreed to watch the kids, and I nursed Noah, booked it out of her house, raced, scrambled out of there, and went back to Alina's to nurse again. By the time I got back from the race my boobs were like a size D and I was in pain. (Andy loved those years.) The last miles of the race I kept thinking, You can nurse in a 1/2 hour. Just keep going. The faster you go, the sooner you can nurse. Those athlete mommies out there who nursed know what I'm talking about...Running when you need to breasfeed just--well, ouch.

I just was looking at the race results from 2004, and I noticed that my friend Stacy finished just ahead of me that year.

Yesterday, six years later, we both finished in the same positions--Stacy just ahead of me--only this time we both ran  faster than that year. We are six years older and have five kids between the two of us, and combined we are 40 minutes faster than our younger selves. That's pretty fucking cool.

Okay, onto the race report. My previous fastest time for this course was a 1:11:45, which I did in 2007 when I was running 50 miles a week, training for Boston, and wasn't yet doing triathlon. I ran faster yesterday, in 1:10:59, on only 25 miles a week and while training for IM.

Yep. I'm pleased.

Here's how it went down:

Andy and I came up to Maine on Saturday night with the kids. Ange wasn't racing, and she agreed to watch all my kids (and hers) while we raced.  (Do I have the BEST friends, or what?) Anyway. We arrived at the race and found all of our tri/running peeps. As always, this race draws everyone out, and the field was huge and competitive--820 strong--and that's for a race in small town Maine. Last year I ran pretty well and beat a few of my friends (many of whom I rarely beat) and so this year I knew I  had a big ol' target on my back. Yikes! Still, I've been running very well this winter, and I knew if I just ran hard I could PR, even if I didn't beat all my super fast, super tough friends.

I warmed up alone, and tried to get my focus. I had a plan for this race. It was the same plan I had for Derry two weeks earlier.
There are different types of suffering while racing. Right now I want to distinguish between two types:  In one type of suffering you race smart,  build your pace, and then blast the final miles and really bring on the pain. In another type of suffering you take the first mile out way too fast--you blow your wad, as it were--and then suffer more and more until the final miles, during which many people pass you, you lose confidence, and nearly hurl because you are so wasted. I think both types can hurt equally--but the second type  is the harder type to deal with from a mental standpoint and it better replicates the suffering you might experience during IM, so that's the suffering I wanted. I need to practice getting over the defeat of killing yourself yet still slowing down, the defeat of having others pass you, and the defeat of knowing you didn't leave enough in the tank. I need to practice this over and over again until it isn't defeating and isn't scary.That's the goal of all of my racing from now until IM CDA.

That wasn't Jen's plan for me. She said expressly, Run the first mile hard, but do not blow your wad. (I'm a fan of that metaphor. So apt, even though I'm not a guy.)

I agreed. But it still wasn't my plan. My plan was exactly that--to blow my wad early. I planned to take the first mile at 5K pace. That, I figured, would do the trick.  I told as many people as I could that this was my plan, because I didn't want my friends to think I'm a total dumb-ass, jack rabbit under normal circumstances. (I actually am a dumb-ass, jack rabbit under normal circumstances, but that's beside the point.) I blasted at the start. I know I was blasting because I was only a few steps behind Andy for the first half mile,and Andy planned to run the race in an hour. I knew the majority of my friends were behind me, and that was hard. To say I was racing aggressively? An understatement.

From the first step of the race I didn't feel my usually race zing. This could be because I hadn't rested for the race (14+ hours last week and 15 the week before + Derry). It could be because I am bloated and awaiting my dear monthly pal. (You all are pretty familiar with my cycle, now, eh? ha!) It could just be that I was scared of my own plan. Anyway, I didn't feel light. I felt like I was working--and some. As I blasted the first mile I talked myself through it-- I'm glad you don't feel light. That's good, Mary! That's good! GOAL = as much suffering as humanly possible--and then to get over it and beyond it. Feeling heavy just added to the possibility that it would be a tough run. Perfect. At least, that's what I tried to convince myself...

First mile was 6:40. In the next few miles we hit some substantial rollers, and my pace slowed. I was hurting already. This is good, Mary. This is good. I decided I wanted to hit the five mile point in under 7 minute pace. In front of me was my friend Carrie. She was running steadily and strong, and at exactly that pace, so I decided I would just keep her in my sight no matter what. And I did. I hit the 5 mile point in just about....

(Thanks for the pics, Jodi!) (The two men above are Bob and Mark. Mark is Ange's husband.)
Anwyay. In my opinion, this race really begins at mile 5. The first part of the race is very rolling, but you are relatively sheltered from the wind. At mile 5.5 or so you turn a corner onto an open road (Rt. 77) which is just a wind tunnel. The hills become longer, though not as steep as the earlier hills, and combined with the wind you can just get worn down, especially if you took the first 5.5 way too  hard. Which is what I did.

I was pretty beat at mile 5, but I decided that I would hold 7's as long as I possibly could anyway.  I had been running with Ellie Tucker, a Masters runner who was a great pacer. I would pass her going downhill, and she'd pass me back going back up, but mostly we stayed shoulder to shoulder. I'm not sure I could've kept pace if she hadn't been there. At about mile 6.5 Steve (MaineSport) passed me with definitiveness that rocked me. He had clearly been just behind me for awhile, and had simply decided now was the time to step on the gas. I was almost out of gas at that point, and I felt a wave of defeat. Get over it and run faster. I told myself. This is IT! This is what you need to feel and then get through! Move it!

My voice talked me through it, but I could feel my body rebelling. I quickened my cadence and stayed on Ellie, and  tried to relax. At mile 8 the wind came out in full force and we started up a long, gradual hill. I went from holding 7's to running 7:30 pace. I pushed and slowed and pushed and slowed.  I got passed. I got passed again. Then Stacy passed me--and like Steve, she passed me with an assuredness that immediately made my heart sink. She shouted at me to come with her, and I wanted to so much. I pushed--but I just wasn't moving!  I was so frustrated and I hurt.  This is the point. Move! Move! Don't let it defeat you! You will P.R. You CAN P.R.! And I watched Stacy move powerfully into the distance.

I started to get annoyed with my mental talk, and it was then that my second self came out. Fuck you! Great fucking plan, Mary! Who gives a shit! Just slow down before I BOOT! In retrospect, this is good. My two selves--the self who hates me for making me suffer and the self that wants me to bring the suffering on, only do battle when I am in a very bad place. The last time  they fought like that was at IM LP during the marathon. I had successfully obtained the state I was shooting for.

When I rounded the corner off 77 to finish the race I was so shot I couldn't even focus on catching Ellie, who was just ahead of me. Another girl shot past me with a quarter mile to go and I just gritted me teeth. I could see the clock ticking, nearing 1:11. I would get in under 1:11 if it FUCKING KILLED ME.
And I crossed.
1:10:59. In the last two miles I had gone from averaging 7:01 pace to 7:06 pace, but I had still gotten in under 1:11.

I had P.R'd by 46 seconds, but I didn't feel triumphant. I had survived. That was all. Erin, another good friend and rival, finished right behind me. In fact, all of my peeps/rivals/good friends (seriously, like 10 of us) finished within about a minute and a half of each other. We had all PR'd--all totally suffered. Andy, I learned, beat all of us and came in just over an hour, just as he had planned.
(I will add here that-- ahem, in case you have forgotten, I am coaching him--Mr. one hour ten-miler!)

I am still trying to tell myself that I succeeded. But I'm finding it strangely hard. Is there a lesson here? If you know what it is, please tell me. I'm sort of baffled at my lack of enthusiasm over having both PR'd AND achieved my suffering goal.

After the race I talked with everyone and relived all the gory details of the race. I love catching up with my Maine peeps. They are truly good folk. We then got lunch with Bob and Jodi (tri friends) and Ange and Mark and their brood. I had a really good, dark beer at lunch. I love a really good dark beer. :) Then we went off to celebrate my nephew's birthday and catch up with my sister and her husband. It was a great, great day.

The end.
Pics of the race--courtesy of Jodi:

Mark--Ange's husband. He broke 1:10 and beat Ange's record, so the duel between them is on!

Stacy, looking strong and on her way to a massive P.R.

This is Sheri Piers, the women's winner. She finished just after Andy, and they did battle for much of the race.

Andy, suffering up 77 --running uphill and straight into the wind.

Mile 9.5. Steve (left), Mark, (front), Bob (right). My Maine friends know how to suffer, and they know how to get it done.
Mike. The rivalry begins for 2010. Mary's is UP ONE, baby!
Erin (left) and Stacey) hot on my tail.

Tim (center). I beat him last year, but this year he got me by almost three minutes!

And me. A half mile to go, and ready to hurl. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sick Day and Sweat

Lara and Jordan on Tuesday morning.

Don't they look cherubic? Of course, if you could see the book Jordan is reading to Lara you'd realize it was Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Good stuff. Really appropriate for a four-year old.

Both Jordan and Lara were sick at the beginning of this week with some sort of cold/stomach yuckiness. Both are back at school today.  I love them at home... but I admit, I love them at school, too.
Too much Mastermind. Too much Sorry. Too much Zingo.
Too much, "Mommy, please can you get me a drink? No! Not that cup! I don't like that cup! No I don't want orange juice-- I want milk!"
Too much begging for movies "on demand" (but WHY can't we watch G-Force again?! Please Please Please? But I'm sick and I don't want to play! I want to watch TV!")
Too. Much.

But today everyone went back to school, and I had a whole three hours to myself. I spent it......
drumrolllllllllll pllllllleasssseeeeee
working out. Surprise!

I went to the gym to do a run workout. Normally I run outside. I really can't stand the gym. However, we had snow last night and the roads were slushy and wet.  Because I am racing on Sunday I had a bit of fast, race pace interval kind of workout scheduled, and I didn't want to do that in slush.

Dumb move.
I should have gone for the slush.

First, I had to wait for a treadmill. They were all occupied by women who were walking, chatting, and watching TV.  Can I ask, how much is that REALLY doing? Huh? Does strolling on a treadmill really qualify as aerobic activity? Brisk walking... now that's one thing. But strolling? After ten minutes a few women got off to take a Zumba class. Finally.

Second, it is a thousand degrees in the gym. This is probably because everyone strolls on the treadmills and gabs rather than running. God forbid--they may get chilly if the temperature is set lower than 80 degrees.

Third, there is a 30 minute limit when there is a wait for the treadmills. At 30 minutes, sure enough, a woman asked me to get off. I flung my head around to face her so she was sprayed with my sweat and then smiled sweetly. "Oh, is my time up?" I said without making any motions to get off. Just then another treadmill opened up. The women took off and got on the open mill.
I may be a bitch but I am not getting off the fucking treadmill at 30 minutes. Who the hell made that rule? 30 minutes does not even a run MAKE!

Okay, so those are the three big reasons I should have gone outside instead of going to the gym. Lesson learned. I need to rel-learn this lesson every few months, or so. I forget.

The best part of the run today is how fantastically sweaty I got. It was unbelievable--totally nasty and totally awesome. As everyone strolled on their mills in their fitting sweatpants and cute little Athleta sweatshirts next to me, I tore up that damn treadmill. Ten minutes into the run I was sweaty. By 30 minutes into the run my tank was soaking wet--and I don't mean just soaking wet- I mean SOAKING wet. When I finally got off the treadmill and changed I had to wring it out in the sink before packing it in my bag. Also, my hair was drenched. Usually I remember to put it into a bun when running inside because the tip of the ponytail flops around and sprays sweat pellets everywhere. But today I forgot. Anyway, because I wasn't just a little sweaty, but a lotta sweaty,  my ponytail didn't just set off pellets of sweat. Instead a stream of water flowed off the end of my ponytail as it swayed rhythmically from side-to-side, dampening the fashionable Ahtleta tops of the women around me.

So that was my run.

When I got off the mill I just looked around like, Right, Ladies. That's how it's fucking done.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In Defense of Racing

Derry Baby! 
I'm not looking too gorgeous or svelte here, so you'll have to take my word that I am, in fact, gorgeous and svelte in real life. snicker.  In addition to not looking my best in this picture, it's also clear that my form sucks. I am leaning back and sticking my belly out as I attack the downhill. Still, I like this picture because my face is registering that I am definitely hurting, but I'm doing it, man! I'm doing it!

Some people love to train, but really don't like racing that much. Some people like racing, but only reserve it for special occasions because their higher priority is one, particular A race. And then there are some people who love racing so much that they can't bear to live without it.

I  respect athletes who fall into each of those categories, but frankly, I'm of the third.

When I was "just" a runner my running friends did not think it weird at all that I raced incessantly. Of course, that would be because the majority of them did the same thing.... Runners, at least in my experience, tend to race a lot, sometimes even twice in one weekend. If you do this in the running community you are not scoffed at as idiotic. Rather, you are revered, at least to some extent. You are recognized as someone very tough, very intense, and very committed to your sport.

No so in the triathlon community. When I began triathlon and hired a coach, it was made clear to me that if I wanted to achieve at a high level, I would have to stop racing so frequently. The A race dictated everything else; other racing was done only in support of that larger goal.  Reluctantly, I agreed to stop.  I understood the reasons why I should not race every weekend.

  • It would tire me out for the week so I couldn't complete my "key" workouts.
  • It would expose me to greater risk of injury.
  • It would tax energy systems that should not be taxed until the "race" phase of training.
  • It would cause me to never race well, because I would never allow myself to hone in on one race, build for it,  taper, and then execute. All of my racing would be lukewarm, and not on fire
Who can argue with these reasons?
They are sound.

The thing is, though, when racing was taken from me, I lost my fire altogether, and I couldn't seem to get it back.

When racing every weekend I had developed an edge that drove me. I wanted to win. I was fresh to the hurt of racing and not intimidated by it or shocked by it. Most importantly,  I was indulging a passion that made me feel alive.

Without racing I became dull and my workouts became lackluster. When I did race I was shocked by the pain of it, and I let that shock slow me. I had a rather lame season of sub par performances that year in both triathlon and running. I briefly contemplated giving up triathlon altogether, just so I could start racing frequently again. Instead, I switched coaches to Jen, who listened to my woes, heard me, and promised she would encourage me to race as often as possible while simultaneously not allowing me to be stupid and not allowing me to jeopardize my chances of competing at a high level in triathlon.



I want to take this in two directions now.

One direction brings me back to a post I wrote in January about a coach's responsibility to understand WHO she is coaching and working with as opposed to steamrolling over the individual in favor of the "system." As I stated earlier, some individuals do very well when focusing on one A race and racing only in support of that A race. Some individuals love to train, but want to avoid racing if possible (although to be honest I know few of these athletes. They are uncommon). Finally, some people (like me and many athletes I know), thrive on racing.

My point:

If you ignore a person's basic temperament and passion, then you end up with an unsuccessful, unhappy athlete, even if you are using incredibly sound principles to guide them to success. You have to work with the person first, and do your best to figure out the right formula of THAT person + your training protocols to get the most out of that particular athlete.  It's not really "coaching" if you simply only take athletes that mesh seamlessly with your favorite protocols, and it's not really coaching to take on athletes and expect them to conform to the way you know works best. Frankly, I believe any Joe can do that. A truly excellent coach has to work hard to "get" who she is working with so that she can honor the individual and keep his passion for the sport alive while simultaneously adapting protocols to get the athlete to achieve at the height of his potential. True coaching is an art, not scientific implementation.

The other direction I want to take this, though, has nothing to do with the individual. It has to do with the benefits of racing as a training protocol.

Frequent racing is not just an indulgence.
Frequent racing is not just for fun.

Frequent racing has physiological and psychological benefits that cannot be acquired simply when training, and I would argue that if you have your athletes racing infrequently, you are doing them a terrible disservice.

The interesting thing about all training is that the physiological and the psychological are wedded. You can't completely separate the two. What I mean by this is that the physiological adaptation that takes place following a workout carries with it a psychological adaptation as well. Psychological adaptations, in my opinion, include things like attention span, confidence, self-reproval or self congratulation, and adaptation to suffering.  In short, just like we become physiologically adapted to the stress of working out, we become psychologically adapted to the stress of working out as well.

In Fitzgerald's Brain Training for Runners, he discusses how fatigue related pain is the brain's way of attempting to convince the body to voluntarily slow down or stop in order to save itself, and the body, from imminent disaster. The thing is, though, our brains are programmed to send out the pain signal long, long before the body is actually in peril. As we become more habituated to pain, we literally train our ourselves to stop responding to this signal with such force, and we are able to run through it more effectively.  Just as you stop flinching every time a gun is shot if you hear a gun shooting incessantly for an hour straight, you stop reacting to the pain signal the brain sends out with such  urgency if you expose yourself to that signal again and again and again.

There ain't no better way to get the brain to bring out that signal then to race and to race hard. You can execute many a breakthrough workout, but I would argue that a workout can never really compare to the brain message of pain sent out during a race. In a race you are exposed to a different level of pain that can only be replicated in a .... race! In short, to race well in your A race, you need to have habituated to the brain signal of pain. You need to hear the signal, know it, feel it and run right the fuck through it--and you can only learn to do that if you actually race.

I find the athletes that are able to pull out great performances even when they don't race a ton are those who have a long history of racing in the past. Your basic elite triathlete most likely competed in high school and/or college in one of the three sports--or in all three--or in rowing or skiing or whatever. In high school and college the coaches don't pussy foot around their athletes and have them race only three or four times in a season. The idea of that is comical! In high school and college sports you race hard and you do it every damn weekend.  The elite triathletes who have a past as a collegiate athlete have vast experience racing. They can re-adapt to it more quickly than those who have not been confronted with it at all.

I understand that as athletes age they can't take a ton of racing abuse, but to shun racing and its benefits in terms of brain adaptation to race pain also seems ludicrous. I also understand that newbie athletes, though they really need racing the most, run a huge risk of injuring themselves if they go at it too often. Still, I would argue it's imperative to have newbie athletes race at least one every month or so. To have them race less than that risks having them race poorly not for lack of training, but for lack of adaptation to race specific pain.

On that note, I need to get my ass on the bike.