Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Hola friends.

Do you find that you most often become sick when you are really busy sitting on your ass, eating leftover Thanksgiving day desserts and contemplating the state of your out-of-shapeness?

I was sick just a few weeks back with a lovely stomach virus, and now I have a nasty head cold. whimper whimper. I give in to thee, oh Gods of sickness! Forgive me! I will do your bidding from this day forth!

Of course, I have no idea what that bidding might be. Scratch that idea.

I took DayQuil, which seemed a good idea at the time, but I am now a little light headed and woozy. I'm wondering how the bike ride coming up is going to go. Maybe I should do it on the trainer....hmmmm?
I foresee a bit of a problem with balance...

Because I have this DayQuil-treated head cold my ability to think coherently is limited, so bear with me. I want to write about PLANS.

So much of training and coaching is about planning. This week and last I have been steadily working on the ATPs (annual training plans) of my athletes. ATPs are fun to make (at least I think so) because so much is possible before any of the minutiae gets in the way. Your athlete wants to achieve X. You start playing with phases and hours and prep races and soon you have created a path to get from where the athlete is today, to where the athlete wants to be to achieve X.

It's fun.
And full of promise.
I love me a good plan.

Problems ensue, however, and this is where the challenge of being a coach comes into play. The plan is the easy, fun part. Detouring effectively when life gets in the way of the plan--that, like in life--is the hard part.

We (the athlete and I) are traveling down the beautiful, planned out road to achieve the golden X. All is good. And then BAM! The athlete's Aunt Esther dies and the weekend workout you had planned so carefully will not just be reduced--it will not happen. So you carefully manipulate the week--which affects the next week, which affects the whole mesocycle.

So you navigate that little snafu, get the athlete back on track and you are still on the way to the golden X, albeit having experienced a small, unexpected bump in the pavement. But then the athlete gets a cold that he doesn't tell you about, and it turns into a major illness that knocks him out of 5 days of training.

Now there is a major snafu for you.

So once again you carefully manipulate the plan so that the five days is just a nice break-- a needed break. You gently push the athlete back onto the road to X again... and you are back! The golden X is in sight once again!

And then the athlete decides, on a whim, that he NEEDS to do this upcoming 5k, and do you think he can PR? And it's in the middle of a build week, where you hadn't intended to taper him at all, but he won't PR if you don't taper him a bit...

It goes on.
It's definitely a craft.

What is interesting to me at this point is how my coach constructs and deals with my ATP. Because I craft my own athletes' ATPs so carefully, and then I spend the rest of the year navigating the inevitable detours the athlete experiences, I am acutely aware of how much I don't want to fuck up the ATP  made for me. But sickness, vacations, knock down dead spousal "disagreements" that leave you without a night's sleep, your kid's swim meet, a sharp little pain that might turn into an injury, a new race I JUST HAVE TO DO--they all happen to me, too. And it's sometimes hard for me to see that it's okay to have my own own ATP manipulated to accommodate such roadblocks. I want to get to X. I know what is required to get to X. I want to steamroll any roadblocks and get on with the PLAN to X!

We Type A personalities are practiced in the art of not letting the roadblocks get in the way. But the tricky thing about triathlon (and running/swimming--or any other endurance sport) is that if you steamroll the roadblocks because you want X so desperately--it often backfires.

Which is why it's good to have a coach. Because usually the coach can convince you that the road to X is not, despite what you once thought, the original PLAN that was made. It can't be.

And so we plan. And then accommodate the roadblocks and plan again. and again. and again.

But right now... ahhhhh.
Looking out at the landscape of winter and my neat, orderly, clean ATPs so carefully constructed and untainted by the roadblocks to come, I feel excited. You are all going to make it to X! All of you! And so am I!

The ATPs are ready to be wrecked. And I'm ready to redirect. We will all get to X! WOOT!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Bad Do You Want It

Really the LAST thing I should be doing right now is writing a post.
It's the day before Thanksgiving. I should be hitting the grocery store, packing up my kids' stuff so we can travel to Maine this afternoon, writing my athlete schedules and making sure they are all set for the weekend, or completing my assigned bike workout.

But I'm not doing those things.
I'm drinking coffee and writing.
In case you're wondering, this is a good example of poor allocation of time. It is also a good example of defiance, and how defiance can really screw you even if it feels right in the moment.

Which brings me to my next topic:


I recently purchased a coffee table book by Bob Babbitt entitled 30 Years of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. In the forward, Babbitt discusses Julie Moss's famous finish in 1982 when she collapsed meters from the finish line, but still managed to claw and crawl her way to the finish. "Her finish proved once and for all that Ironman might be a race," Babbitt writes, "but in the end the struggle was strictly personal and that eventually it would come down to you against you. How bad do you want it? That is the Ironman's bottom line."

Many of you who read this blog want it.
And you want it bad.

It's hard to articulate where or why the want is present, but it's urgent and powerful, and it creates a formidable drive that people on the "outside" cannot understand.

In Babbitt's example the implication is that you must want it, like Julie Moss did, DURING the race. This is true. Ironman is not for the faint of heart. Executing an Ironman requires a focus and will that is unrelenting. What Babbitt doesn't get at, however, is that that focus and will must be present for months and months--even years leading up to the race.

I'm not telling you anything you don't know.  You already know that you have to want it BAD in order to train for and complete an Ironman. What is more difficult to see is the ways in which many of us, with our focus and wills of steel, thwart the very thing we ostensibly want most.

Yesterday Kurt shot me an email. It contained only one line:


Truthfully, I had not actually been screwing with his workouts. I had simply ADDED workouts.  Kurt often has his athletes take this Thanksgiving week off.  I had workouts slated for Monday through Thursday, but no workouts assigned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Last week I was sick for several days and missed a bunch of my workouts as a result. I hate missing workouts, and those free days just beckoned to me. You can make those sick days up! Just add them in this weekend! Voila!

That did not make Coach very happy. Clearly. Hence the email.  I had not yet actually screwed with the plan, but I was planning to screw with the plan, and I wasn't even trying to make a secret of it.
What seemed perfectly logical--even dedicated-- to me, was met with frustration and exasperation on his end.  In his words, "I will say it again-- this time of year is the most frustrating for me. Athletes think about their mental state on November 23rd and disregard their 2012 prep and race prep."

Well, there you have it.

How bad do you want it?

Do you want it so bad that when your coach says to take three days off, you TAKE THREE DAYS OFF?
Do you want it so bad that when you are told to keep a workout easy, you actually keep it easy?
Do you want it so bad that when asked to do three repeats you only do three and not five?
Do you want it so bad that you don't log extra miles, and those keep those miles a secret from your coach, your spouse, your workout log?

Do you want it so bad that you are willing to trust your coach and have faith in his/her plan?

Something to think about--
from one will of steel to another.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sharp Turns

This morning I got in touch with an old friend of mine, a professor in the English Department at Simmons. I earned my Masters in Children's Literature at Simmons back in 2001, and Susan taught many of the courses I took there. She remains, in my estimation, one of the best professors I've had, and I have had many many professors in my life--given my predilection for all things school.

Anyway, when getting in touch it occurred to me that I would have to somehow articulate to her the turn my life took in terms of career in the last few years.  When last in touch with Susan I had just been accepted to do doctoral work in English at Boston College. My intention was to become -- a Susan: a really really competent, fascinating and engaging professor of English.

And I ended up becoming a run and triathlon coach and an endurance athlete.

Life is weird.

The abrupt turn away from academia occurred when I became pregnant with Jordan. Or I should say, it occurred when I realized what being pregnant with Jordan MEANT. It meant we needed an income. It meant I would need to prioritize looking after a little baby over my studies. Looking down at my growing belly, it began to slowly dawn that earning a doctoral degree in English didn't seem to make quite as much as sense as it had when I applied.

And that was that. My academic career came to a screeching halt in favor of changing diapers, singing Hush-a-Bye and keeping us financially afloat (Andy was already half way down Doctorate Road; no making sharp turns for him) with my sixth grade teaching.  And that dream, the dream of professorial greatness, faded, faded, faded.... until it was no longer a dream at all, and I was attending all female, neighborhood book groups in place of classes on The English Novel; discussing the latest Jodi Picoult, (quite contentedly, I will add) while sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Isn't it interesting how sometimes life stops you cold, and then takes you for an incredibly sharp turn, and even though you don't quite realize it at the time, your life path has been irrecoverably altered? What would have happened had I NOT accidentally gotten pregnant at that time? I would've started doctoral work at BC; of that I am certain. Would I now be in Kansas trying to make it as an English professor, struggling with the thought that I had not yet become the next Susan? Would I be totally pretentious and annoying and trying desperately to publish meaningless articles on obscure topics in never-read journals? Would we still have had three kids? Would I have ever gotten into triathlon?

I don't regret that sharp turn. I don't want to go back and earn a doctorate. And I like that the life turn gave me, inadvertently, triathlon. I became both incredibly bored and incredibly overwhelmed trying to keep up with my career as a teacher after Jordan was born, and that state of affairs just got worse and worse with every child I bore. By the time Lara came around I needed an outlet so badly that my running took off in a way it never had before. And then I began triathloning. And here I am.

So from time to time I reflect on the whole "could I have ever been anyone other than me?" question. My little brain struggles to imagine a world in which I didn't travel on this road as opposed to another. How much of this life have I designed? How little?

I wonder these things as my children rage around me, setting fire to the furniture and hiding pencils and old plastic toys into my dogs' alimentary canals. Occasionally I wake from this reverie, fend off the vague sense that some children need guidance and disciplining, and then return and think, "Wow, man. And here I am."

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Cleanse

My good friend Rose practices as a nutritionist. For a long time she has recommended this cleanse which involves eating primarily fruits and vegetables for two weeks. The first six days you only eat fruits and veggies. On day seven you can take in quinoa or the like. During the last three days of the cleanse you may have lean meats in addition to the quinoa and the fruits/ veggies. The cleanse also includes taking these colon blow supplements that help to "repopulate" the good bacteria in your colon while ridding you of the nasty bacteria. How that works I'm not quite sure.

So this week, Andy and I decided to try it. My training currently doesn't involve much training, so it seemed like the right time to mess with my diet. I went to the grocery store at the beginning of the week and filled the cart with things I previously couldn't even identify: leeks, bok choy, kale, persimmon, beets... (Okay, I can recognize beets). My plan -- make a billion different vegetable and fruit soups and ingest them all week.

This plan appears intelligent, but it didn't factor in something very important: I don't like to cook; nor do I cook well. Hence, two days into the cleanse I found myself at Whole Foods purchasing million dollar veggie soups by the gallon. My current favorites are carrot ginger soup and pumpkin curry soup. Unfortunately, both these soups, though tasty, make me fart up a storm. Actually, the whole only eating veggies and fruits thing has had a rather flatulent effect. You really don't want to be near me until this cleanse is OVER. How do vegans do it? Do their colons just eventually adjust?

Andy, though not overly competitive with me, has gleefully kicked my ASS in the cleanse department thus far. I have cheated with the following foods: coffee, almonds, pumpkin seeds, Lara Bars, and cottage cheese. (I also went out to dinner with Alina, who was down this weekend, and had bread, enchiladas and wine, but let's just forget that little transgression.) Andy, conversely, has been perfect, which is probably why he has already lost weight and is feeling all cleansed.... and I have not and do not. I just want a freaking peanut butter sandwich already.

The benefit of the cleanse, for me, has to do with requiring myself to figure out what to eat. My daily intake generally involves peanut butter and bread... and that is about all. Occasionally I have almond butter instead of peanut butter if I am feeling a bit nutty.  I also drink water. And sometimes I have salad. But if we are what we eat--I am basically a larger peanut butter and wheat bread sandwich.

This adventure has required I NOT EAT bread (kill me now) or peanut butter (can you say quivering withdrawal?) for two weeks. I happily report that I have now made it FIVE DAYS without peanut butter and bread. To boot, I have figured out some cool things, like you can't taste kale in smoothies or if you eat ENOUGH salad you can actually get sort of full. Here's someting else interesting that Andy learned yesterday. He had made a kale, squash and corn soup and had added too much cayenne pepper to it. It was so crazy hot that neither of us could eat it, despite being really committed to eating it no matter what--so as not to waste all that kale, squash and corn. To cool his mouth after forcing down a bowl, Andy ate some grapefruit. Then he decided to add grapefruit juice TO the soup.

And it neutralized it! Amazing! It also make it slightly sweet, which was very yummy.
So, kale, squash, corn and GRAPEFRUIT JUICE soup. Not bad! Who would've thought?

In other news...
Oh wait. There is no other news because I'm not training.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow Down, You Move too Fast.

You've Got to Make the Good Times Last.

I should change the pronoun YOU to I, of course.  I'm listening to that disc now--the concert in Central Park--in an effort to get myself to calm down. Just callllmmmmmm downnnnnn. Woah, girl.

Before racing in Kona, I now realize, I felt relaxed. Ironic, I know, that my anxious, crazy brain fell silent before that race, but now that I'm home and should be preparing to hibernate for the winter, I have transitioned into a ball of frenetic, manic energy. I think I need Valium. Or maybe electric shock treatment. My eyes are pried open, I am radiating twitchiness, and I'm scrambling manically to get everything done that has been on my list of "things that must be done" since my last off season-- a year ago.

And this, my friends, is why I do and coach long course triathlon and running. If I had to deal with this list all year, I would be in a mental institution--there is no doubt in my mind. So I created a world in which I must train hours a day and spend the rest of my free time making schedules and conversing with athletes--and THEN I do not have time to attack that list! It just grows and grows... and I think, NO WORRIES. I will attack it in the off season.

It's the off season.  And I only have about a month before the off season is no longer the off season. MUST. GET. STUFF. DONE.  MUST GET IT DONE NOW!  Hence, the crazymanicfrenticinsane pace at which I am moving currently. It's rather frightening. Yesterday Ange, via cyberspace, told me to just SLOW DOWN.

Weep! Okay.

Enough on that.
Let's discuss a more soothing topic:
Next season's race schedule! Ahhhhh.... I can feel the rush of relaxation in allowing myself to be transported into that safe realm....

I'm not totally sure of the early season races.  There will likely be a 10 mile road race in my hometown, and maybe a few indoor TT on the bike. 

But starting in May:

Sudbury Sprint  (Jordan will do this one with me! :)
Mooseman Half
Ironman Lake Placid
OOB Rev 3 Half
Pumpkinman Half

Yes, I am signed up for IMLP once again. I toyed with IMFL or IMAZ but finally decided they were too late in the season. I have a hard time cooking much past October 1st. Both of those races are still on the someday list, however, of course!

I have been regretting not signing up for IMLP since the race this year. The only way into the race at this point is by purchasing an IM Foundation slot, and after probably not quite enough thought, I pulled the plug and decided to sign up that way.  ueueeu! I'm excited!

I plan to crush the course and take back my barf-filled race day of 2011. I honestly can. not.wait.
Unfortunately, though, even if I earn a Kona slot at IMLP this year, I will not be returning to the Big Island in 2012. I would *love* to compete in Hawaii each fall. Alas, until it starts raining money I will be unable to do so. Hopefully I will save enough of my pennies and be able to return in 2013.

Are you training for IMLP 2012? If yes, I would love to arrange a bloggy meet -up! Also, I'm thinking of taking my IMLP athletes to train in Lake Placid sometime in May. Anyone interested?  This reminds me that Ange and I are still filling our roster for 2102. Shoot us an email if interested!

 Ahhhh.... I feel so much better now! Simon and Garfunkel + thinking about next season...
Who needs to hang those pictures? clean the basement? wash the rugs? dust the floorboards (more like SCRUB them since they haven't been dusted..... ever.)
Not me!