Friday, March 30, 2012

Unfortunately, when life gets nutty, something has to give.
Unfortunately, when life gets nutty for me, the first thing to go is writing and reading others' writing.

Alas ,posts I have wanted to write have been sucked into the ever-growing abyss of no time today. Quite tragic. I have had some good posts half written in my brain that will now never come to fruition.  I have also missed reading God knows how many posts by people I really really like to read. Sigh.

Since I last posted I have competed in two swim meets and in a 5k. The swim meets were fun, but as always, humbling. I won the 5k for women, which somewhat made up for my low/average placings in the meets, but I cramped in the last quarter mile of the race, and kinda hobbled in to the finish, missing a PR by about 20 seconds. Rats. As for swimming, I was pleased only with my 200 yard backstroke which I did at the SCY Masters Championship at Harvard in 2:44:00. That ain't bad for me! Of course, I have done very few 200 yard backstroke races in my life, so a PR is a little easier to come by in that event than say, that 100 free. But still. Who cares. It was a P.R. swim.

Here is a picture of Alina and me at the Harvard Meet. I know I look kinda purple. I get cold easily. This was taken after the final 400 yard free relay. Alina and I showered and went out for burritos and margaritas soon after!

Ange wrote this great post yesterday about how she gets in her training each day. It was just what I needed to read when I got up this morning. I have been working super super super hard to squeeze in every minute of my assigned training, and sometimes--(like during yesterday's aborted ride when I 1. ripped out the valve of the tube when pumping my back tire, and then 2. pinched the tube when replacing it...and then 3. pinched another tube on my third attempt at changing the flat and then 4. Realized I had no more 650 tubes and had to go to the bike store to get a few if I wanted to finish the workout)--during times like that, I stop and think, WTF! Why am I doing this? I could be drinking coffee or taking a nap or reading a book or .... anything!  This SUCKS.

It happens.

But usually I remember. Or, I should say, usually I am on autopilot and just trust this is what I want to do: train each day--train hard--train long--keep training. And I know what the reasons are not, at least. I know I am not training like a crazy woman because I want to be healthy. (I am not fully convinced what I do is completely healthy! Lots o' cortisol, methinks.) I don't train like a crazy women to be skinny. I don't train like a crazy woman because I want to be considered a bad ass by the masses (who I know could give a shit anyway.) I don't train like a crazy woman because I want to be "the best person I can be." I don't even know what the hell that means, really.

I train like a crazy woman because I love to chase--and right now I am chasing a P.R. at IMLP. I want to beat Mary Holt-Wilson--the Mary Holt-Wilson who raced last year. I want to crush her. Why? Because I find it really really satisfying to try.

Now, you may think that makes me shallow. And it may.  Who spends hours and hours a day working toward something just because she enjoys the chase of bettering whatever she did yesterday?

But I don't really give a shit what you think. Sorry.

Ange went out and said in her blog that she considers training her job.
When she said this I wanted to shout, Hallelujah! Do you know how many times I've heard or had said to me, Well, it's not like it's your job.....

Oh yeah? Who are you to tell me what my job is? My job is to take care of my kids, my dogs, my husband, my home, and my athletes.
and to take care of *me*.
That's my job. 
The only part of those jobs I actually get paid for is to take care of my athletes, but just because I don't get paid to do those other things, they are still my jobs
So yes, training is not my only job, but it is my job.

Must be nice etc etc etc.
Most of you reading this post have the luxury of choosing it to be one your jobs, too, (even if you haven't chosen to do so) so I'm not going to feel too too too badly in writing it.

This is totally NOT where I intended this post to go! I mean to write something meaningful and interesting--not defensive and snarky.

But now I am out of time. Gotta train before the kids get home. ;)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Volumists. Qualitiers.

How much training does one need to do in order to really race an IM?

As a coach I should have a definitive answer to this question. But I don't. I have had three different coaches, I have trained for and completed 4 Ironman races, and I've coached athletes of mine to do the same, I have read copious books about training and I have completed gobs of course work on the matter. I have been at this for quite a long time now. But I still don't know the answer, or even if there IS an answer.

It's a question that intrigues me--or plagues me--depending on when you ask it. I'm not talking about the training volume required to complete an IM. I think that question is less interesting. I'm talking about the training required to actually compete in an IM; attempting to race the thing and get to the end in as quick a time possible.

There seem to be two general camps when it comes to training for IM: I call them the Volumists and the Qualitiers. Oh sure, there are folks who stand between the two, but in general I find triathletes lean to one side or the other.

The Volumists believe that a great IM time cannot be achieved without logging the necessary hours. What is "necessary" is up to debate, but generally people in this camp get in and/or prescribe plenty of 20-25 hour weeks. The volume isn't necessarily intense. In fact, it can't be if the hours are to be gotten in each week, week after week.

The Qualitiers believe in "quality." They use terms like junk miles to describe the copious zone 1 runs and rides completed by volumists. They use words like precision, targeted and focused to describe their own training. They complete IM after only hitting 20 hours, or close to it, a very few times in the weeks leading up to the race.

There is so much that is complex about this debate between quality and volume.

It is not as simple as high or low volume--zone 1 work or quality work--and I know you all know that. Age comes into play--the fact that when older we recover less quickly--which is a strike against volume for me and many of those I coach. Intensity of training is a part of this too; it is not simply a question of hours, but how those hours are achieved. And then there is the part about how you can believe in volume intellectually before your body follows suit. It takes years and years for some people to build up to the point where they can complete high volume without routinely getting sick or injured, or both.  Likewise, some people can't stand much quality before they break. All quality makes for extremely tough training as well.

This was a rather long preamble to what I felt like talking about when I started this post. What I felt like writing about is my own struggle with volume. I like the idea of MORE as a general principle, and so I have always leaned toward the volume side of things. It makes sense to me that in order to train long you need to go long, and less sense to me that to go long you simply train precisely. This is not to say I don't believe in precision. I do. It's just that I don't believe precision is magic and can make up for the long hours that actually prepare one for the arduous journey that is IM.

So there you have it. I guess I am a Volumist. Interestingly, however, I have never selected a Volumist coach for myself, and I also do not coach high volume. I find it quite easy to see when one of my athletes needs a break, and I don't fear giving that break. I know that recovery can work like magic in reigniting passion for training and also for improving performance. Yet... I am obsessed with hours when it comes to my own training. I spend time comparing this year to last... am I doing more? How much more? Is it enough more?

Last week I did a lot of work. And by Sunday, I was sort of a mess. I'm angry at my body for breaking down before I am ready to stop working. Why do I break down here... at xxx? And if I can move past xxx and get to xxxx, will I do better at IMLP than I have in the past? Can't anyone promise me anything? 

No. And I can't promise anything to you, either!
When we first start our journey in triathlon or running or swimming or anything... improvements abound with consistent work and recovery. But after several years.. it gets so much more tricky to figure out the puzzle of how to eek out more improvement. Do I need more hours? Do I need more rest? What do I need to get more out of myself this year than last?

And then there is the question... why do I need to get more out of myself this year than last?
And onward I go.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gone Fishing

Actually, I don't fish.
And anyway, it's winter. And I definitely don't ice fish, though I did grow up in Maine, where people do, in fact, go ice fishing.

My very very very first boyfriend sometimes went ice fishing. And duck hunting. And in the summer he lobstered. He had these extremely tall rubber boots he would wear to school sometimes after a morning of duck hunting. I loved those boots. Why did I love those boots?

I can't think of a suitable excuse as to why I haven't been blogging lately. So I will leave it as Gone Fishing.

I did write an article for a new online publication called Sparrow Magazine. My friend Emilie (editor) invited me to write it, and I am grateful. It turned out as I wanted it to, in the end, although there were moments when writing it that I wondered what the hell I was saying and where I was going with it. Anyway, thank you, Emilie. I have tried and tried to convey in my writing why triathlon is so important to me. It is hard to convey because it sort of defies logic. Why would I want to add more to an already overwhelming and busy life, and why would I take a "hobby"-so incredibly seriously?

Here it is.