Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Cannot Be Trusted with Granola and Other Randomness

The other day I purchased a box of raisin granola. My plan was to add a little sprinkle of it to the top of my daily helpings of very bland Go Lean cereal or Fage yogurt.

I ate the entire box in two days.

I do not even want to think about how much sugar, how many calories, how much fat was in that box. I am pretty sure that each bite of granola is about 1000 calories. I remember looking once at the calories per serving size and thinking, that's not so bad! until I realized that the serving size was like 1/16 of a cup.

I have no point in bringing this up. I only wish to lament my poor lack of control, and the consequence of it, which is that I simply cannot bring granola into the house. It's really sort of sad, especially since there are other foods I can't bring into the house for the same reason--like brownie mix or chocolate chips.

In other news, I went into lululemon at Legacy Place in Dedham yesterday, and this is what I saw!

A big big big poster of me! I'm famous! Okay, maybe not famous. But there I was, in all my lululemon glamor.
On the side of the poster it says
Triathlon Coach
TriMoxie Mulstisport Coaching
and Lululemon Ambassador

or something like that.

I am very proud.

Let's see. What else is going on here...
Because I am not really working out I have gained some weight, and I am actually FILLING OUT my size A bras! This is very exciting, and also temporary as I will begin training again soon, so I am trying to relish it as much as I can.

I have a swim suit fetish and it is becoming a problem. I simply can't stop buying swim suits. Last week I got two Splish suits on sale. This one:
 and this one:

They are both adorable, and I am excited, but I am also feeling quite out of control. These two suits brought my count up to 18 suits...most of which are in decent shape. This means that if I swim 3 times a week for the next month, I will not have to repeat wearing any one suit.

That is not right.

My husband, I know, is ready to send me to rehab. It isn't even really funny any more. Some women buy purses. Some buy shoes. I buy swimsuits.

AND WORSE STILL. My obsession is being carried to my daughter. Jordan now has 8 suits herself. I recently let her design one from Splish:

It just came and it is so cute...

There is nothing else to say today, except I am thoroughly and completely disgusted with the WTC, and I hope they know they just gave a huge boost to Rev 3 and to all the local 140.6 races. Stupid, greedy fucks.

Here are pictures of my super puppies to negate that ugliness:
Jordan and Ernie
Hazel sitting on top of Ernie

Monday, October 25, 2010

I may have Bad Blood, but at least I'm the Lead Dog

Apparently the composition of my blood is less than stellar.

It could be worse.  It could be very very sick blood, and since I have a friend right now with very very sick blood, I feel blessed that it doesn't appear, at this point, to be that sick.  But it's not good, either. In short, it needs to get better or I can kiss any hard training in the near future good-bye.

During my rest time each year I always make sure to get my yearly physical.  At this year's physical I felt things went relatively well. My pap and mammogram were clear. My blood pressure was low/normal. My colon appears to be in good shape. My weight is fine. I measured at very nearly 5'3" (did I grow taller during pregnancy? I mush have!) All good.

All good until the lab results on my blood came back.

My white blood cell count--very low.
My red blood cell count--very low.
My cholesterol--borderline/high
 (low HDL and high triglycerides. LDL was okay though... so there's that....)
My blood sugar--borderline/high

My doctor had me in to talk about the results. Actually, she really had me into so she could calm me down. I was kind of FREAKED OUT when I got the results.
My doctor is pretty chill, and she is funny, and she has known me since I was 22. She knew exactly what I would say when I came in:

But I'm like in uber shape! I eat well! I take vitamins and iron! I whined. My blood should be perfecto!

Mary, she said in her Indian accent, you are in great shape, and you are fine. You are FINE! We will re-test in a few weeks. We need to see those White Blood cells go up in their count, but I believe it will be fine. If the number does not go up when we re-test, then we will talk about what's next. 

Then she cracked a few jokes and asked me when I was going to get that really ugly  (but not irregular) mole removed from my inner thigh. 

I peppered her with more questions about my blood. I mentioned I'd had a bad virus the week before the blood was taken. Could that be the problem?

Well, of course! she said. That is likely the problem. You have been run down from all that triathlon stuff you do, and then you got sick, and of course your blood is all off! You rest and it will be all better in a few weeks. You cannot worry about it right now.

Then she changed the subject back to the mole. Let's just get rid of that thing. It is just so ugly, Mary. And then, Did I tell you Mindy bought a house? She wanted to move near to the ocean, and I said, No, Mindy! The ocean is tooo tooo sad. It calls to you!  (Mindy is her daughter--the writer for The Office--remember? I love Mindy stories and Dr. C. knows it.)

But what about the cholesterol! What about the blood sugar! I continued on, undeterred.

Argh, Mary. They are not too high. They are within normal ranges. Are they the center of each range? No, Mary. But they are not high. When your cholesterol is over 200 and your blood sugar is over 100, then we can talk about that. You are fine. We will test in a few weeks again and the sugar will be better. Your cholesterol has always been high. You know that. It is genetic. 
And so then Mindy said she wanted to live in the mountains, and I said, Mindy! Do you remember that big mud slide they had in California that took out all those beautiful homes? You cannot move to the mountains! So now she is buying a house on the flat land....

So I'm trying not to worry. I get re-tested in a week, and we'll see what happens. Until then, I'm not really working out. "Not really" is an operative term, of course. I am working out. Just not hard. Or for very long.

(Note: She took the "very ugly" mole off last Friday. Mole removal is just no fun... I tell you. Just one more hallmark of getting OLD, and that needle they use to anesthetize the area hurts like a MOTHER going in--especially in the inner thigh! But it's all gone now, replaced by three neat stitches.)

So what have I been doing instead of working out long or hard?

I've been working at being the Leader of the Pack to my puppies.
I am the Top Dog. The Alpha. I am Calm Assertive. I Rule the School.

Or at least, that is what I'm shooting for. You may recognize those terms as Cesar's Way, the Cesar of dog show fame. I have never seen his show, but I have recently read his book. Cesar believes in treating dogs as dogs--and understanding that they are dogs and not humans clothed in dog fur. This means recognizing that they think in terms of pack mentality, and if you are not the pack leader they will basically rule your life and also become totally neurotic, because they will see themselves as the leader instead of you.

It's fun to work with my puppies, and we are making progress. They don't jump on me. I can give them a look and they sit. They come when I call. They obediently go into their crate when I ask them to. The one problem I have is that they insist on trying to walk in front of me when we go on walks... That has to be fixed.

But enough on dogs. I've been thinking how I need to be Lead Dog--like in my life.

I'm not just talking about being Lead Dog with my kids, or with Andy (snicker). I mean, I need to be Lead Dog--with me--like in me.

That is harder than just being Lead Dog to your puppies, or to your kids, or at your job or in your marriage. I don't think I will be a fully realized person until I figure out how to do be Lead Dog with me--and in me. It is, I think, my life-long task.
(This is Ernie's rendition of being Lead Dog. We affectionately labeled this photo, Hazel is my Bitch! Unfortunately for Ernie, he is actually third in line in pack-ville after me and Hazel, and he knows it.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I'm back at it.
In theory.

My first workout back was last Thursday. I ran a few miles at the slowest pace ever... and it's not like I wasn't working it at all. I woke up sort of achy--achy from a 4 mile run. lovely. Then on Friday I went to my very first Masters swim practice.

I live literally one minute away from a great pool with plenty of good open swim hours. I'm friendly with the lifeguards there, and friends with many of the regular swimmers. The pool's one problem is that it doesn't have a Masters swim team connected with it. I hoped to begin a Masters program, but because of conflicts with the pool director the plan of starting one just never got off the ground. So, all of these years I have been swimming my workouts alone. I'm motivated, and I usually work hard, and for a long time I was making subtle, but genuine improvements in my swim times. That is, until this year.

For six months or so  I have been struggling with my mojo when it comes to swimming. The shift into "struggle" was gradual. First I would just cut back on warm-up or cool-down. Then I would both cut back and not work that hard. Then, when I got to Maine for the summer and pool swimming was not a possibilty, I switched over entirely to open water swimming--which I did without much enthusiasm, all at the same pace, and not for very long each time I went out.

So you'd think my swim would suffer by the end of the season, right?
But it didn't. Not really. My times stayed basically the same throughout the summer, and I actually PR'd at my Timberman swim in August and at the CELT Sprint in late September. Some of my swims were slightly slower in my final races, but in my final analysis of the season I'd have to say my swim times were basically fairly consistent with what I've done in the past.

The conclusion should be, then, why swim? Why bother if I am not getting any faster-- or slower?

But really, what kind of a conclusion is that? A defeatist one. There is a way to get my swim faster. I just haven't really wanted to go there.

My run, too, has stagnated. In truth, the only reason my season was relatively decent this summer is because I have made improvements on my bike. And why have I made improvements there?
I believe it's because I am still relatively new to riding. I'm still in the phase where I can get better just by putting in more hours than before. This phase may end--it may end this coming season.  I don't know yet.

What I do know is that even though I am not a superstar swimmer or runner, I am a true veteran to both of those disciplines. I've been swimming since I was a kid, and I've been running since my early 20s. I can' t just put in hours in the pool or on the road and get better. I may be able to get myself to go LONGER, but I am not able to get myself to go faster. UNLESS.
I need to overhaul both my swim and run training to see  improvement next season. I cannot keep swimming and running the same way in training. It is not working any more. It needs to change.

So, in short, I'm changing a few things.
But how?

Well, back to the beginning of my post....
I joined the Cambridge Masters Swim Club, and on Friday, I swam with them for the first time. They swim at Blodgett Pool at Harvard which is a full half hour away from where I live. There are no other clubs closer to me, and CMSC offered many different workout times, so they were the ones I chose. This was a hard choice, understand, because I live ONE MINUTE from a perfectly good pool.

I was nervous to attend practice. I admit it. I hadn't been swimming in three weeks. I hadn't done ANYTHING in three weeks.

I arrived early. I said hi to people. I introduced myself to the coach. I twitched nervously.
And then I watched as the coach began writing the workout on the board.  And he kept writing. And writing.

5000 yards.
It was a 5000 yard workout. The warm-up alone was 1000.
Oh. sweet. Jesus.

I tried not to panic. I found a lane with swimmers who looked to be about my pace. I slid in quietly, smiled politely, and I made sure to go last and not get in anyone's way. I can be pushy--but God knows, the first day of Masters practice is not the time for that.

We began swimming. And we swam. and swam. and swam. My lane mates didn't take a long time between sets. They didn't chat and bond. They swam.

And then suddenly it was over!
And I had done it! And I only felt like Jell-o--like a little!
I was unbelievably proud--unbelievably relieved. I could do this. Would it make me faster? I don't know. But it is a change--it is different from what I have been doing. That is for sure.

I went to Masters again on Sunday night for a freestyle swim clinic. This is the number 2 way of changing up my swim training. I am going to improve my stroke if it freaking kills me.

I hate drills. I hate kicking. I hate swimming more slowly and focusing on correction. I hate cooling down. I hate anything that is not time efficient in the pool and which requires slow, methodical patience.

That will change. My new theory is that it is the drill work, the kicking, the focusing on correction and the cool down which will make me faster. This may or may not be true. But it is a change. That is for sure. So far I am focusing on not dropping my right elbow, pulling straight back with my left arm, starting my catch earlier by stretching as I enter the water, and working on my SNAP with the pull as I rotate--especially to my left, which is my side which is rotationally challenged.

As for running? This is harder. I have done all sorts of interesting things in the last few years, most of them Jen-inspired. This year I had to reach deep to figure out what new things I could do....
and here they are:
1. I am running the Boston Marathon in April. I don't care if you think this is a dumb-ass idea. It will give me a huge base going into the final three months of run training for Lake Placid. I know the reasons not to do it. But hey, I haven't done it in the past, and this season is all about trying new things, right?
2. I am focusing on changing my form so I do NOT lean back when I run. This is very hard for me.
3. I am running hill sprints, especially early in the season.

I am going to look to Jen for the rest of my running renovation. She just completed a season of run trianing, and I just know she will have good ideas.

The final way I am changing my training...
I am doing strength work--season round. I am little. I am a woman. I am over 40.
And that's all I think I need to say about that. This training is coming in the form of TRX. I plan to be a TRX master, and I plan to not consider strength training less important than my other training.

So there you have it.
Here's to change.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Take It

I'm sure this will go down in history as one of my SHE IS A SELFISH MOTHER posts.

Oh well.

I think we learned from our mothers. Our mother did it all. At least my mom did. By watching her I learned that it was the mother's job to cook, clean, do laundry, be waiting at the bus stop, drive the kids to lessons.

What I didn't see is the background details that made up the responsibility of being Mom. If you are a mother you know what I am talking about... you know when the last time your kids visited the dentist was, you know when you need to write the check for piano lessons, you know where the soccer shirt is, and you are the one who made sure it was cleaned in time for the game, you know how many times your kids have bought lunch this week, and you know how much money is still left in their lunch money account with the school, you planned the bday party, you know who has RSVP'd and who hasn't, you know whether you have enough plastic spoons for the week to put in your kids' lunch boxes when they have yogurt for snack, you know when the dogs need their heartworm tablets and you know if you son needs new underwear because his are all clearly too small now, even though you just bought him 15 pair last spring. You know the size of your kids' feet, and you know how much kibble your puppies need to eat each day because you know to keep abreast of how their weight changes from week to week. You know where you daughter's favorite navy shirt is, and that it is in the washing machine so NO she can't wear it today. You know to the minute the time the bus comes, and that if you don't make your children put on their shoes and socks fifteen minutes before that time, you won't be able to find shoes, and they will miss the bus.

That is, of course, just a partial list of things the mom knows, and it is specific to having children who are 9,7 and 5.  if you are a mom who also works outside of the home, or if you are a mom of an infant or toddler, the list is exponentially longer.

The thing to know is that these things are the mom's responsibility for the most part simply because she is the one who knows to do them. She has to know to do them. No one else will do them for her, and if she doesn't do them it is her kids--the thing that means more to her than anything in the world--that suffer.

I realize this is a generalization to a say that it is only moms who know these things, and this isn't a post meant to attack or accuse dads. Dads have a running list of things they know that mom doesn't... and if a dad is a single dad, he has both the mom and the dad list in his head.  No, I don't mean to attack.

What I mean to do is to say this: a mother's responsibility extends to herself.

You have to take what you need.

You are not going to be given what you need. No one is going to recognize that you need a run today, and they will not accommodate your need to run--unless you make them. Unless you push. Unless you say, This is what I need to do today. How can we make this work? And if there is no one to help you make it work, how are you going to get what you need anyway? How are you going to re-structure your life so that you can take what you need? Because if you don't find a way to take it--you won't get it. It's not fair, but that is the way it is.

I didn't know this when I first became a mom. It took me years to let go of the bitterness that no one gave a crap that I could no longer do what I wanted to do when I wanted or needed to do--ever. I had to become pushy. I had to become a person who took and did not always give. I had to choose to be "selfish", or there would be no self left to be selfish with.

In short, it does not pay to be a martyr. It does not pay to be the one who does it all. No one is going to give you a medal for all that you've done--all that you've remembered--all the YOU that you sacrificed along the way. I'm not saying not to do all that you do. You have to do all that you do. I know that, and you know that. But it is your responsibility to also take what you need.

I know what I am saying seems impossible to do.
Except it's not.
There is always a way around the edge to squeeze in what you need, but it requires your un-yielding "selfishness" to pull it off. It is your responsibility as a mom to find ways to be selfish.

You go. You take it. I give you permission.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Inspired. Not.

It has occurred to me that I might be the most boring person alive right now.

I want to write something riveting, but I am rivet-less. Forgive me, and I will forgive you for skimming my lackluster blog posts of late!

The most exciting thing that happened this week is watching the race in Kona unfold. I almost wet my freaking pants when Raeleart caught up with Macca. Holy SHIT that was a great race. I must say, I wanted Macca to win. I am a sucker for his cocky  bad-boyishness. Plus, he executed such a great race, how could I not want him to win? That said, I think Raeleart did everything he could to get Macca, and I respect him for it. He had no choice but to turn on the jets and run him down, but he just didn't have enough left in the can once he did so. (Boy, he has a nice chest though, huh? Ummm, so sexy compared to Macca with his shirt stuffed with ice....) Of course, Crowie will always be a first true love. The guy has class. And he can close. He just couldn't close the deal this time--even with a 2:41 marathon. 

On the women's side I will say that I was just as shocked as everyone else when Chrissy pulled out. We have heard nothing of her since then, really. Did she turn out to get really really sick? I want to know! With her out, the women's race became a race--or at least I thought it would be a race. Turns out Carfrae just crushed it, and it wasn't a race at all. I still can't believe she ran 2:53, and I LOVE that she was going for sub 2:50. She rocks. I was also inspired by Dibens. She is like the Crowie equivalent in my opinion-classy, determined, and a rock star. I was coached by Cait Snow at one point, and so I always watch her carefully too. I never think Cait will be able to pull it out off the bike because she is so far back. but then she DOES, every time. She ran from 31st to 8th on Sunday. That is just freaking incredible. JUST INCREDIBLE! She has run that fast before, of course. Certainly her run in 2008 at Lake Placid  was equally impressive (and a course record). She is still so young, too. She will be a serious WC contender soon, I think.

The second most exciting thing that happened to me this week is that I ripped out the ten tons of weeds and scraggle from my garden, and prepared the soil to receive the bulbs I ordered from Van Engelen. I like this flower farm b/c you can get bulbs in bulk, and so they are less expensive than purchasing them at your local garden shop. They also have awesome variety, and their bulbs are healthy and fresh.

I have a narcissus bulb fly problem that I can never quite get rid of. These little pests LOOK just like honeybees, but they are flies. The female lays her eggs at the base of the daffodil leaves, and then the eggs hatch and bore down into the bulb and make it mushy. They turn into maggots, and then usually one maggot wins out and inhabits the bulb. Then said maggot pupates and emerges in the early summer as a duplicitous faux honeybee, and the process starts all over again. So this week I have been digging up my bulbs from summers past, checking them for health, and then chucking or replanting as needed.

Here is a really gross picture of the mush they make.
Does that make you want to hurl, or what? That used to be a beautiful fresh daffodil bulb! Little fuckers.

So are you thoroughly bored yet?

I have also been, drumrolllllllll, reading.
I have read a lot of cheesy fiction (like some Madeline Wickham, aka Sophie Kinsella) and some more serious, literary fiction (People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks). Both good reads--but I am admittedly somewhat of a book slut and I like most everything.

I have also been reading triathlon books. This week's reads included Phil Maffetone's book Endurance Training and Racing and also Brad Kearns' Breakthrough Triathlon Training

Both books warrent full book reviews, but I have yet to get to that. I will, though.

For those of you who just want a thumbs up or down? I say thumbs down to Maffetone and thumbs up to Kearn. There is some worthiness in Maffetone, and some annoying b.s. in Kearn, but in general, that is where the thumbs go for these two, in m.h.o.

Maffetone was the coach of Mark Allen, so yah, it takes balls to pan his book and philosophy, but this is my blog, so I can do what I want, right? My basic beef is that he is of the slow and long camp. I have never been a fan of that camp, whether it works or not. Anyway, Maffetone never acknowledges that it is not only "anaerobic" work (by which I think he means aerobic work that is done at a high intensity--since we all know that true anaerobic work can only last about 20 seconds at a time...) that can be a player in injury or over-training. Long long hours logged are equally dangerous--some would argue MORE dangerous. He also has a way of calculating max heart rate that is mystifying; not based on the individual but on a generic formula. Ummmm.... how could someone so respected suggest such a thing? It is common knowledge that we each have a unique max heart rate and using a formula rather than a max heart test to determine zones can result in the use of numbers that are wildly out of whack. I imagine that he doesn't worry about the unique aspect of max heart rate because he is suggesting athletes run/bike/swim in such a low zone that is simply doesn't matter: low is LOW.

Kearns' book was more appealing to me if for no other reason that it didn't smack of quackery (as aspects of Maffetone did). Kearns believes in a holistic approach to training--which I don't believe is especially novel--but I do think he had something to say nevertheless. He really gets at the idea that success is not possible if we don't reassess and temper our Type A, obsessive ways. This definitely struck a chord with me. The book is addressed to the typical triathlete--driven, obsessive, compulsive, competitive, perfectionist. He encourages us to rediscover the joy in our training and racing, and suggests that if we don't, we will never realize our potential as triathletes.

So, perhaps, there is my very first goal for 2011. I aim to cherish my training and racing--and not measure my success based solely on numbers and placings. This is easier said than done, of course--which is the rub.

More next time in the ever so exciting adventures of Mary is BORING! :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Snoozing....and Dreaming....

That's what I have been doing. Snoozing.
I've been taking lessons from my puppies, who know how to snooze HARD.

So, just after my public lament on how I wasn't handling rest well, I became very sick. Not sure what happened. I just completely crashed. I've been sleeping pretty much non-stop since the last post I wrote. I imagine that last week I appeared to be a toddler, throwing a tantrum, screaming, "I'm not tired! I don't want to take a nap!" And then, when no one would listen to my cries and instead rolled their eyes behind my back, I stomped my foot one last time, and then feel fast asleep, exhausted.

I was really sick for several days.

I awoke like Sleeping Beauty--to find my house in shambles and my kids dirty and screaming. It was just like that fairy tale...can you imagine? Anyway, I awoke, and though my head was still pounding with sinus ache, I left the house with the kids. It was the only solution. I took them to get hair cuts, and then we went to paint pottery. We do this often enough (paint pottery) that the majority of our kitchen plates, cups and bowls are hand-painted. It is an escape I use often when my house is too disgusting to inhabit.

I am up today, again. The four Advil I took are somewhat keeping the massive sinus headache I have at bay. I'm not sure what I had/have. A bad head cold. A touch of flu. Whatever it was, it knocked me out.
One of the things I have been advised to do is to NOT THINK about training in addition to NOT actually training. This is like the advanced version of rest in my book. It requires major dedication.

But I'm trying.

There are things I need and want to get done around the house. But they are very very very very very very boring.
So instead I've been thinking about the BIG PICTURE THINGS I would like to do, like in my life. 

Here are a few:

1. I would like to breed and raise a litter of puppies. This is not something I take lightly. I know it would take a great deal of study and preparation to do it right.

2. I plan to have a vegetable garden next summer. I have a very small lawn, and so the garden will take up most of it. I have been waiting to move to Maine or to a bigger piece of land so that I can garden. But I am too old to wait for such things--things that may never happen. So I will have a vegetable garden next summer.  I have been re-reading Crockett's, The Victory Garden and its successor, The New Victory Garden by Thomson. They are my favorite gardening books next to Crockett's Flower Garden.

3. I want to get certified to teach high school English. I spent my first 15 years in education as a sixth and seventh grade teacher of history and English (actually four of those years were spent as a school librarian). I am certified as a teacher of English grades 5-9, as a middle school generalist, which means I can teach any subject in grades 5-9, and I have the credits to become certified in library. I've always wanted to teach high school, though,so that will be my next journey into the world of education.  In a few years, when my kids are slightly older and more independent, I'd like to find a job as a part time high school English teacher.

4. I'd like to buy dozens of book cases and organize my books as a library--according to Dewey. I started this project last year, but I don't yet have the book cases to pull it off well.

5. I'd like to study for and pass the certification test for high school History teachers. This is less because I want to teach history, and more that I want an excuse to do the studying.

6. I'd like to try my hand at writing memoir.

7. I'd like to get certified as a USAT level 2 triathlon coach and also get ITCA certified. Okay, fine. That has to do with traithlon...

8. I'd like to get a Master's degree in English. I have Master's degrees in Children's Literature and in Education, and I was accepted to do doctoral work in English (I had planned to focus on Victorian Children's Lit) before I got pregnant with Jordan. I now have no interest in getting a doctorate, but I would like to slowly and methodically work at achieving a Masters.  I'd like to take one class a semester for years.... and draw it out. Yum.

I am in a bit of a mood slump these last few weeks, so you'll have to forgive that I am not quite so witty as usual. (I'd like to think I'm usually just witty and wonderful.) It is fall. I love fall, but I always get more pensive and gloomy at this time of year, at least until the solstice. Then I start to come up again. I will try to write at least one witty and irreverent post before the solstice, though, I promise.

Kona and Chicago Marathon this weekend and Jordan has a swim meet! Wahoo! Lots of fun sport watching /tracking to be had...
and next week I will be able to run a tiny bit, and maybe swim a bit too! Thank God.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There's a Hole

There's something missing from my life
Cuts me open like a knife
It leaves me vulnerable
I have this disease
I shake like an incurable
God help me, please

Wow. I'm not handling rest well.

This has been made clear to me by the key players in my life: husband, best friend, coach, kids, my dogs. It is also just plain clear to me.

As a coach I have NO problem assigning rest. It is easy to see from the outside when an athlete needs it.  Someone is still tired three days post-race? Okay! Slow down, Cowboy. An athlete is flat-lining in performance? Okay! Let's take a step back here.  An athlete has been training and racing hard all season? Time for a break, Friend!

It's harder to see when you are the athlete in question. We have trained ourselves to fight through fatigue. It's admitting defeat to recognize that we are human, and need to take a break.

Harder than acknowledging we need rest, however, is dealing with our reaction to rest when we actually take it. This is what I am having a problem with right now.

Rest should be lovely. Your life can be unstructured. You can eat what you want.  You can "reconnect" with all that you have cast aside in order to train. The problem is that if you have taken on triathlon as a way of life--as a life choice, as it were--than un-choosing that life, for no matter how short a time, can be very, very hard.

It is a known fact that a common time for indivuduals to succumb to heart attack is when on vacation. There is a reason for that, and it's not just that we eat fatty food when we take time off. It's that taking a vacation--separating ourselves from the rhythm and cadence of our daily lives-- is stressful.  I know I frequently feel I need a vacation after taking a vacation. The vacation I need, though, is in the form of predictability.

I taught sixth grade for fifteen years, and one thing I learned in that time is that children thrive when the work and play patterns of their day are predictable. Even something like an assembly can throw certain children completely off so they became irritable and upset and unable to focus. Though students often look forward to a break in their daily rhythm, the effect such a break has on them is not always positive.

I bring these things up--the stressful nature of vacation, the way kids respond when the predictability of their school day is altered--because taking rest for an athlete who has worked steadily for nearly a year, is akin to those things. You are breaking the rhythm of the established life, and this can feel very wrong.

For me, the first week of rest is the hardest because it is a cold turkey situation. My body and mind do not react well at all. I get sick, I can't sleep, I am uncontrollably irritable. I have long lists of things to get done, but I am at a loss as to where to begin with these things, and what I really want is a nice hard run to clear my mind so I know where to begin. And there's the rub. Nope! No run for you!

And herein lies another problem... many of us really are "addicted" to exercise from a physiological standpoint. It is no secret that addicts often move from an unhealthy addiction (gambling, drugs, alcohol) to a healthy one (fitness). There is an endorphin release when we exercise, and many athletes rely on this release to stave off depression and to help curb another addiction.  I know this is true for me. I use an anti-depressant (an SSRI, Zoloft) year round to keep the major  life is meaningless depression at bay, but my dosage of it is very small. I use exercise to supplement that small dose, but when exercise is taken away from the mix the depression envelops me like a gigantic, dark wave.

I have the impulse to write a list of things that can help one deal with enforced rest, but because I am personally having such a hard time with it this year, I feel, coming from me, such a list would ring hollow.

So instead I am throwing it out to you.
What do you do to help deal with the inevitable unease and stress that results from disrupting your steady dose of training? I know there are those of you that relish your rest, and think this post smacks of unhealthy, deep-rooted psychological discord. Let's just cut to the chase and acknowledge that this is so--that clearly I, and my brethren who struggle with rest in the way I have described, are in need of years of good therapy and maybe some electric shock treatment.
Other than years of therapy and zapping brain waves, however, what other effective ways have you found to help combat the distress that rest, ironically, can cause?

Friday, October 1, 2010

If you can't work out... at least you can read about working out....

The Off-Season.

Boy do I feel NASTY!
It's been three days since my last race.   It occurred to me on Tuesday night that I had to shower.
It has been about 10 months since I needed to shower just because I needed a shower... and not because I had just completed a workout.

A few days ago I wrote of my all-important by wholly unattractive list of chores.

I admit. Instead of attacking my list of chores I have been chatting long hours with Ange about TriMoxie, and I have been reading. I also cleaned out my closest and donated a bunch to the American Red Cross. Some of the nicer, more designer-type clothing I decided to try and consign at my favorite second-hand store. They took NONE of my stuff, however, which just goes to show that I am indeed the fashion loser I have always suspected I am.
 I am clearly better off reading than trying to be a fashion maven.

I have been reading, and thinking how now would be a good time to write a few reviews. I realized, though, that I am intimidated by the idea that these reviews need to be OF HIGH QUALITY.  Intimidated probably isn't the right word. I simply don't want to have craft each review so that it is the perfect combination of witty and wise. I know it just appears that I am witty and wise without trying. Tricked ya! I actually have to work at it. No comment if you find me neither witty nor wise.

In order to get over that it needs to be witty and wise hurdle, I have decided to allow my reviews to be short and snappy--to the point and perhaps lacking humor. If a book is just SUPER and warrants my full attention, perhaps I will slow down and write something of true quality. But for now--expect a succinct thumbs up or thumbs down -- and a short WHY this is so.

Today I reviewed The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee. It's fiction and does not relate to triathlon in any way at all, but I figure if (like me) you are in the off-season, or if (like me) you are just a book junkie (I'm speaking to you, Mom) then perhaps you need a good piece of fiction right now. I also re-posted the following reviews which you may have missed if you are new to my blog.

They are
Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
Age is Just a Number by Dara Torres and Elizabeth Weil
The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg

So ho hum. That's my life.
I just read and think and read and think some more.
AND OKAY! FINE! I ADMIT IT! I ran for 16 minutes yesterday. It was a lapse. I couldn't help myself.
I am never going to make it two weeks.