Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Numero Cinco. Definitely Not A Magic Number.

Well, my fifth Ironman is in the books.

I competed in Lake Placid in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
I competed in Coeur D'Alene in 2010, and Kona in 2011.

So, in short, I've competed at the IM distance five times in the last three years.

My results at Ironman have been quite consistent. I have never crushed a race at the IM distance. I have also never bombed one. I have raced between 11:13 and 12:02--in terms of time--for all five. My first IM in LP I finished in 11:45. My fastest IM was CDA, which I finished in 11:13. My slowest IM finish occurred yesterday, in my fifth IM, which I completed in 12:02.

I'm really disappointed but, honestly, not that surprised.

I have never put more time into my training than I did this spring. I went against Kurt's wishes every week, completing more in terms of volume than I ever have before. I wouldn't listen to reason. I knew I needed more – and I was going to do more.

Unfortunately, and perhaps as a result of adding this volume, I never felt praticularly good or strong in my training this spring, except in the swim. My swim seems to respond well to greater volume. Perhaps under the right circumstances, my bike and run would respond to greater volume, too. But they didn't this time. Instead, the greater, unprescribed-by-coach volume spun me into a physical and mental hole.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First let me say a little about yesterday's race. Ironically, in yesterday's race I did everything right leading up to the run. This made it all the more frustrating that my marathon was the slowest I've run in a marathon—ever.

Here is every little thing I did right:

Leading up to the race I felt pretty good. I got lots of sleep the preceeding week, I ate well, I kept the stress levels as low as I could considering I have three awesome-but-demanding kids. I went to bed by 8 the night before the race, got up at 2 to eat and again at 4, and made sure my stores were topped off in terms of hydration, calories, carbs and electrolytes before the swim start.

I got in the water early and swam to the center, front row of the line. I knew I would get crushed, but I've learned that it doesn't really matter WHERE you start the race—you're still going to get crushed—so I made the decision to go for it and deal with whatever came my way at the gun.

It was bad. But honestly, no worse than IMLP in 2009 and 2011. Mirror Lake is just too small to accommodate the number of people IM squeezes into it. I swam straight for the buoys at the gun (or tried to swim). I was pummeled with pretty much every stroke. But I stuck with it, and made the first turn RIGHT at the buoy (as opposed to taking it wide) something I've never dared to do before. By the second lap the slower-than-me swimmers had fallen back, and the speedier-than-me swimmers forward, and I was with my people. We all drafted off each other, bumping and hitting the whole way, but it was good—good because we were equals, working our way to our respective, one hour finishes.

I got out of the water at 1:01—my fastest IM swim ever. IMLP is a fast swim (when wetsuits are allowed). The whirlpool effect is huge. Even if you don't try to draft you catch the collective draft. Still, I am pleased because I was able to PR the swim without working hard at all. This was definitely my goal and I feel great about it. My approach to the swim was to not let my heart rate get high at any point. Any time I felt adrenaline shoot through me and felt the subsequent desire to gun it, I held back. I just swam. I enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a contact swim like that). I'm pleased about my swim. This is good, since at least it gives me one aspect of my race to feel really awesome about!

I was thrilled when I saw my time getting out of the water, but I kept my emotion in check and made sure to take the transition run easy—and then took my time in T1 getting ready for the bike. Out on the bike I stuck to my plan flawlessly. My VI was very good for both laps. My first and second laps were nearly exactly the same in terms of speed (the second lap a strong wind came up so the speed was a little slower) and my watts were identical each lap. I ate every 15 minutes, at the beep of my watch. I had a bottle of fluid every 45 minutes, like clockwork. I peed five times.
I felt strong and in control, and like I had a ton in the tank to give to the run.

My bike split was 10 minutes slower than in 2011. Part of this was the strong wind that came up this year that wasn't there last year. Part of it was by design. My goal was to have the run of my life off the bike, and so I kept my watts under what I am capable of doing—less than 70% of my FTP.

Because my bike split was so much slower than last year, I still didn't know whether I could PR the race when I got off the bike. But I knew I had done everything I could do to ensure a good run—and that includes doing much greater bike volume in my training leading up to the race.

It was not to be.

This post isn't funny or chipper. I want it to be! I'm sorry.

I could tell you how I bonded with the two men I lined up with at the swim start –and how we put our palms together 30 seconds before the gun, and said May the Force be with you! And agreed to do our best not to pummel each other.

I could write about how proud I was to ride past my coach at mile 2 on the bike, knowing that he would realize what a fast swim I had had. I wanted to raise my arm in triumph, but I didn't because I knew I should stay aero. :)

I could write about how at one point I was sandwiched between two women on the bike, and we ALL started peeing at the same time. The spray got on my sunglasses, my kit. But I had to laugh! The timing was flawless! We all started peeing at once! The poor woman behind me got it just as bad as I did.

Or I could write about how my Powerbars melted together into one mass in my Bento Box so that they looked like a gigantic chocolate peanut butter turd. But hey! I still ate that turd!

I could tell you that TWO different people (who I had never met) rode up next to me to tell me they loved my blog. That was AWESOME! (Thanks to both of you.. you know who you are!)

But mostly—I have nothing fun to say. Because I never felt... fun. I never felt happy. I felt focused—I felt determined not to fuck up my plan—but I did not feel happy.

And in the end? It was THAT that did not allow me to have a good run. I wasn't having fun—I wasn't totally invested in my race—I wasn't willing to give it all I had.

Here is the thing about IM: You have to really, really want it. You have to want to do well so badly that nothing-- not nausea, not dehydration, not shitting your pants, not even vomiting all over yourself and in front of the crowds, will prevent you from continuing to give it everything you have. If you want to win—if you want to place well--you have to train and execute flawlessly, but you also must really want it.

Because no matter how well you execute, something—or many things—will not go to plan.

I ran out of T2 feeling pretty good... certainly better than I have ever before coming into an IM run. But within a ½ mile the nausea came up. And by mile 2.5 I puked for the first time. It was quick and dirty—and I kept running right after I finished.
But it was over for me right then. I simply did not have the heart or the will to get through another IM marathon throwing up. I wasn't willing to go there. I did not care enough. In fact, in the moment when I started running again--I did not care at all.

It didn't help that I knew that I must have been 8th or 9th AG coming off the bike. SO many women in my AG had passed me on the bike—way more than I had had thought would, even given my conservative wattage. It turns out I was actually 7th coming out of T2, but it didn't matter, because in my mind I was already slightly convinced that I could not run my way up to a top three spot, which was what I had wanted going into the race. I wasn't gunning for Kona—and I have achieved a top five spot before at IM. I wanted more. And if I didn't get it—I simply could not muster the care that would've earned me a slightly more respectable place and time than I ended up with.

That is not good—or at least it's not good if you want to be able to tell yourself you left it all out on the course. I ran /walked a 4:44 marathon. What you need to know here is that I did not walk the whole thing. You can't actually do a 4:44 and walk the whole thing. I ran a lot--. I did not run fast. But I ran a lot. But every time a wave of serious nausea came over me I would slow to a walk. I chewed on ice, I tried to get down some chicken soup, or an electroylte tablet, or a part of a gel. I took in water at every stop, and sometimes Coke, too.

But I didn't smile and I did not fight the nausea by continuing to run. My friend Anne (from Mooseman? You may remember I drafted off of her and as a result had a kick-ass swim there... ) and I were out on the run course together for the first loop, and she kept trying to pull me along. And I would try to rally—but then I would fade again, and finally I let her go. Later we met up for a PowWow in the medical tent—both of us really dehydrated and puking. (Thanks, Anne. I was so happy to have you with me that first lap, even though I wasn't willing or able to show it. It was really the ONLY redeeming aspect of my run... having you there!)

I managed to run (as opposed to walk) by my friends, family, my atheltes on the course and my coach (except when he rode his bike with me for a longish stretch and I fell back into walking—cursing him and wishing he'd leave me alone to my walking ways.) And I waved to my friends! And I smiled! But I was unhappy. I had done everything right—and the run still had not gone right. I hadn't made mistakes. And I had still failed. And I did not care anymore.

I ran the last 1.5 miles of the race. It was not fast or pretty, but I did run it! I followed a girl in a blue Nytro kit that I realize now must have been Julie Dunkle. I tried like hell to stay with her—and then I was able to pass her toward the end. We finished close to the same time. Clearly she did not have a great day either—because she usually kicks my ass at the IM distance! (Sorry I didn't say hi, Julie! I was a little too depressed to make conversation.. and I also wasn't sure it was you...)

When I crossed the finish line I smiled for the camera. I put my hands in the air. I hadn't wanted to do well badly enough, and I didn't push through it when it got hard—but I had still finished in 12 hours, and I know that that time is respectable—no matter what fool expectations I place on myself. I won't put that time down. I am proud that even when I didn't give it all I had, I finished in that kind of a time.

Some volunteers took my arms once I crossed. After walking a bit another wave of nausea hit, and I pulled away from the volunteers to puke. It was mostly dry-heaving, but the volunteers took me to Medical anyway. I am old hat at Medical now! Since 4 of my 5 Ironman marathons have been puke/shit-fests, I have spent some quality time with the wonderful people who volunteer there. There are no better people—I'm convinced. They weighed me. With my sneakers on I was down 3 pounds, but that's not SO alarming. They put me on a cot and I just lay there until I felt I was okay and could move on. They discharged me, and on my way out I saw Anne and went over to chat with her. Within a few minutes the nasuea came back in full force and I turned blue and started shivering. Re-admitted. They gave me anti-nausea medication and some fluid. Same old.

Usually in the Med Tent I feel grateful and so happy to be done and to be taken care of—finally. But not this time. This time I just felt sad. And done. I felt really done.
I felt no joy. I had finished my fifth Ironman event—a huge accomplisment no matter what the finishing time or place. But I felt no joy.

So there is the question...
What happened to that care when I was out there on the course? Where was my joy? Where was my love of competition? My verve? My fight? I have always been able to depend on my fight...
So where had it gone?

I had a lot of time to think about this—on the bike, and on the run, and in the last 48 hours since I finished the race.
And it's simple, of course. I'm just burned-out.

I have been chasing a sub-11 hour Ironman and a Kona spot since 2009. I got the Kona spot, but never felt I had really earned it. I wanted to qualify (still want to) for Kona by finishing at the very top of my AG. And I have not yet gone sub-11.

And I have worked hard—very hard—to get those two things. And I know so many of us work so hard—and so many of us don't always get the result we have worked for and deserve. I know I am not unique or special that way. Still, I'm slightly in mourning, so you'll need to cut me some self-absorbed slack.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that in working so hard, I let my joy for the sport waver—and then blow out—until I was operating only out of habit and fear. Who am I if not a long course, endurance athelte? What would happen if I finally let up on my goals—and let go? Would I still be me? Would I still be worthy of being a respected coach and athlete?

I didn't blow up on that run yesterday. I started slow, felt sick, got sick, got slower, and gave in.
The puking? Yeah, that's me. The giving in? No—that's not.
And so, I've decided, I am not signing up or competing in another IM until that –that desire and joy and that will to not give in--comes back to me.

So, unless I miraculously find my missing MOJO in the very near future, I'm not racing at IM Cozumel this fall. I am going to rest a bit, then race either one or both or neither of the 70.3 races I have on my racing docket for the late summer. Then I am going to rest a bit more.

And then I am going to focus on getting back the joy!

I have talked with Kurt a bit—and I think it will involve doing some things I haven't really done before. I may do some short course work—some track—some strength training (in earnest) and some shorter, but hard, bike workouts. And it will involve some shorter racing—and no plans for a full IM, as I said, for awhile.

Here is the really good thing. Having my time freed up slightly from training will allow me to focus more on my coaching, and my kids and Andy, and on having a garden, which I have really, really missed. (Hard to be an excellent gardener when you are training all the time, and coaching, and parenting.) I'm excited to coach my athletes who have signed up for IMLP next year to IM greatness. I'm really excited to go to IMLP next year and cheer them on—as a coach only, and not an athelte! I'm really excited to host a training camp for my IM athletes next spring knowing that I do not need to schedule my own IM training needs around that camp. I am really excited that Ironman is still mine to have—as a coach, and someday, when I feel it again, for me, as an athlete.

I had a bunch of friends and athletes who race Sunday.
My athlete, Kelly, who has been working so hard for months and months, had a really solid race. She had an AMAZING swim, a really solid bike, and never-give-in run. I am so proud! Other TM athletes, Marisa, Tammy and Mike, also swam really well, played it smart on the bike, and gutted out the run to finish strong. (I think a lot of people had trouble on the run yesterday... not sure why... ? A little heat—and the wind on the bike did not help much. Lots of vomiting and shitting on the course and in the med tent this year!) I also had a bunch of friends who rocked it. My friend Amy, a PBM coach, got 5th AG group in 30-34 and had an awesome run that led to an IM PR. My friends Angela and Rob also had really strong race and placed well in their AGs. My Iron-virgin friends Marc, Melissa Caron and Anne (all PBMers) raced with patience and intelligence, and really excecuted flawless races and earned stellar times—a huge feat for any first timer. My friend Melissa B, who had never done a triathlon before Mooseman of this year, powered through the race—proving that hard work and determination does get you to the finish line—with time to spare.

I also had a few friends who, like me, didn't have great races. Most of us who did not have been around the IM block before. All of us who have been doing this tri thing for awhile have a slew of good and not-so-good races to our names. No matter how well you prepare, sometimes you have a great race, and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you can trace the reason why the race went sour. Sometimes you can't.

It happens.

My husband, Andy, has put up with me these last years as I tried again and again to get Kona and a sub 11 IM. I owe him the hugest love and thanks. Andy does not jump up and down when he is charged with picking up the slack when I train and race. But he always stands by me and takes that charge. I'm grateful.

I need to thank Kurt, who has put up with me these last few years, despite my constantly challenging him and messing with his plans. I know I am a difficult athlete to coach. Thank you, Kurt!

I also want to thank SO many of my athletes and friends for coming up to cheer me on this year, for texting and emailing and calling me this weekend. The support was huge and meant a lot, and I thank you all! I also want to thank Angela and Marisa for hanging with me all weekend... You guys are the best! Finally, I want to thank my athletes, who allow me to be both an athlete and a coach, and deal with it when I flake out for several days straight come race time! I also want to thank my sponsor, TriBike Transport, who has provided me with goodies and kits and free bike transport for several years running.

I haven't written a lot in the last year or so. Part of that has been my gradual move toward burn-out—and my unwillingness to write boring, tired, burned-out posts. I'm hoping that this little IM hiatus will fuel more writing verve, too. I need to get my humor back. It's gonna come—just like my verve for racing long. I know it. I just have to rest and wait.

Until then...

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Week Until Ironman

I recently read Marshall Ulrich's memoir, Running On Empty. For those of you not in the know, Ulrich is an ultra-endurance runner. He has done some SICK things... like crossing the Badlands four times in a row--RUNNING--and circumnavigating Death Valley while RUNNING--and climbing all seven of THE summits in fewer than three years duration. But the sickest thing he did was to run across the USA, in just 52 days, at 57 years old.  He averaged 400 miles a week. That's like running 2 marathons and a 10k EVERY DAY... for almost 2 months straight. And he didn't do it when he was some young buck.

Think about it.

Now that is sick.

Of course, in my opinion, it's sick in an awesome way. Whether you have any interest in endurance running or not, I highly recommend you read this book.

In his book Ulrich lists out his 10 commandants for endurance running.
I think they are perfect. Perhaps difficult to abide by... but perfect.
I have written a few down here... but I feel like I shouldn't list all of them because wouldn't that violate copyright? Hmmmm.
Here are a few of my favorites.  I plan to call on them during my IM next week.

Here they are:

- Focus on the present and set intermediate goals.
- Suffering is okay.
- Transcend the physical.
- Accept your fate.
- Have confidence that you will succeed.

I know you have heard variations of these pieces of wisdom before. But have you actually called on any of them during an endurance race? More often I, at least, start to feel sick, or overwhelmed, and then I allow myself to drop into what I call *race despair*. This is NOT to say I don't finish... or even finish well. But I think most often I do not call on commandments such as these and end up wallowing in my world of hurt instead.

For me, the first one is huge. I have the biggest problem when I come off the bike, and realize, within a mile or two, that I have 24+ miles to go. This is the WORST thing you can think when you have just biked 112 miles and you are... not very fresh. So far I have not had great success exorcising this thought --which attacks me every time with a strength I didn't realize was possible. The BEST thing to do in this case, however, is to turn off the brain and just run to the next aid station. And do that 24 more times.  I will attempt to do this. If I can, it will be my first time!

Suffering is okay.
I know this... but in IM I think I have trouble KNOWING this. If I suffer (in what I consider) too early in the race, I start to worry about the suffering. My thought process goes something like... OMG--it's 10 minutes into the swim and I'm tired! or worse, when I'm 70 miles into the bike. I will think... Oh Dear God-- I hurt--and I have 40 more miles and a marathon! I'm screwed! Better is to think... suffering is okay. Expect it. You will feel it at different points all day--sometimes when you least expect it and sometimes in a really deep way. Deal.

Transcending the physical is something I have yet to achieve, but I am hopeful that I someday will. I am capable of continuing to put one foot in front of the other for quite a long period of time, but I note my pain every. single. step. I imagine transcending the physical to be like floating inside the pain and continuing to move as opposed to fighting with the pain--or worse--lamenting it.

Accept your fate. This goes along with suffering is okay, I think. The thing is, it's going to be hard until it's not hard anymore. So just let it be. If you are experiencing a killer headwind going up through the gorge at mile 95...Well, accept it. If you are barfing... well you are barfing. Accept it. Continue on and accept it.  You will keep going until you are able to stop--which is not until you finish. So just accept that.

Have confidence that you will succeed. I'm not too awesome at this... but I just read a GREAT post on it by the all-knowing Liz.
Here it is:

I have a few to add to this... but they aren't so wise as they are practical.

Here are a few of my personal commandments:

1. When you think, drink.
This does not mean to go get hammered. This means that when riding or running, if you think you should drink--like the thought crosses your mind--then take a sip. It's kind of like a college drinking game... only ... in an Ironamn and with EFS.

2. Nausea means slow down.
If you feel like you are going to barf, it's LIKELY because you a. are going too hard and 2. you are not eating, drinking or both. and 3. you are short on electrolytes.
So, the answer to nausea is to ACCEPT YOUR FATE and slow down. Then eat and drink. Then take a salt tab. Don't speed up again--or at all. If you do, then you will spend the whole race puking. Trust me.
I know.

3. If you keep running, the race will end sooner.
This is kind of obvious and stupid, but at mile 18, trust me, you fight this logic.

4. If you want to chase that girl--do it when you hit mile 20. NOT NOW.
I have thought this repeatedly in my IMs so far. So far I have hit mile 20 and been able to actually take myself upon the adage once... and that is because I obeyed number 2. (unlike other IMs...)

5. Much like the case with child birthing plans, your plan will not work come race day. Or at least it won't work the whole day. It might work for a few hours. Accept your fate. (thanks Ulrich!) and adapt. Your plan should be to have a really good plan--and then to adapt it when that great plan fails.

I will do my fifth Ironman in a little over a week.
I plan to follow these commandments.
(even though the plan to do so will need to be adapted....for sure) ;)
and I accept that fate.
Bring on numero cinco!

Friday, July 6, 2012

And Speaking of Reading...

Before I talk books, I want to just make clear that although I am truly sick of being told I think and read too much, and that that fact is to my detriment as an athlete, the coaches I have had (and still have) have dealt with me... really well. I am exasperating. Hell, I wouldn't want to coach me! I know I am difficult. I know I challenge way too much. I know I rarely follow directions--and that must be infinitely annoying to those who have worked with me. So--in short--I know I am not easy (to coach ;). I have loved my coaches. Both Jen and Kurt have been awesome to me. Kurt--still my coach--still is. Just saying.

I don't devour books like some people I know, like my mom, who makes it through 2-3 books, if not more, within a week, or even like Alina, who doesn't really profess to be a reader, but every time you say something like, Hey! I just read this great book, she responds by saying.. OH right! I read that one. She reads so much she often forgets the books she's read, and upon picking up a "new" book discovers a few pages into that she has, in fact, already read it.  She is also one of the only people I know who actually reads The New Yorker--cover to cover--every issue. Now THAT is a reader.

Anyway--I'm not really like that, exactly, but I'm pretty steady. Recently I have been on a biography / memoir featuring endurance athletes binge. The binge continues because so many of these books I've read have struck a deep chord with me. (I say so far because I am still in the midst of the binge...)

In the last month I have read:

A Life Without Limits, Chrissie Wellington
Finding Ultra, Rich Roll
Beyond the Iron, Wayne Kurtz
Running on Empty, Marshall Ulrich
The Thrive Books, Brendan Brazier

I'm in the midst of Eat and Run, Scott Jurek

and I have on my bedside table:
Running With Kenyans, Adharanand Finn
14 Minutes, Alberto Salazar

I think to talk about each of these books in depth would be laborious for me and boring to you... so I'm going to write on what STUCK with me in each of these books (that I have read so far). Here goes.

Wellington's book started my kick.

I like Wellington. Really, how can you not like her? She's an amazing athlete, but also quite humble while still being super confident, and she is giving--like, to the world.
That said, I know I would not be good friends with her. She would intimidate me way too much, and not because she is so good at Ironman.

In short, as I read her words I puzzled less about her meteoric rise to greatness under the tutelage of the controversial Brett Sutton, than about how she traveled the world as a younger person--alone--with seemingly very little fear. Sure, she is World Champion 4 times over., but way more astounding to me is her fearless world traveling.

I, by contrast, am really quite terrified of traveling alone, let alone living, to/in foreign countries. 
I don't want to be this way. I am in awe of people who travel alone consistently, as a way of life. Wellington spent her young adulthood traveling and working in South Africa, vacationing in New Zealand and Australia, traveling alone across Asia, and biking, climbing, and working in Kathmandu. She did not require companionship to make these travails. In fact, her writing conveys that it has perhaps not even occurred to her that such solo traveling and living might scare the shit out of someone else. I find her fascinating and awe-inspiring and extremely intimidating because she has lived, and continues to live, this way. She is independent and courageous in a way I have always desperately wanted to be--but have not had the courage to become. 

Somehow--and I'm not sure I can articulate how or why--but I believe her courage in being able to travel and live like that is connected to her success at Ironman. If she has fear, she apparently rolls over it in favor of doing, seeing, and accomplishing what she wants.  People like that achieve their dreams.

Of course, it does help that she is clearly insanely gifted when it comes to endurance racing. That also has helped in achieving her dreams.

The other aspect of the book that stuck with me is the idea that one might be able to "train" something out of oneself. Chrissie describes herself as clumsy and accident-prone. She likely is. But Brett Sutton told her to simply train this "undesirable" trait out of her--especially when training and racing.
This made me wonder--what do I want to train out of myself?

Well, fear of traveling alone would be one such thing.
But I'm not sure that is what others I know and love would like trained out of me as much as a few other things...
And anyway, is it really an achievable thing to train out a trait?

I loved the Rich Roll book.

I need to start by saying that the book is part biography and part training and eating guide--and the two parts by no means flow together seamlessly. This is a flaw in the book for sure. But I still liked it.

One thing I noted is that basically all of these endurance memoir type books start in the same way: in the middle of a race in which the athlete is struggling.  It works fine as a device, I suppose. Perhaps readers do need to be hooked in at book's beginning.
But I found each of these beginnings cliche. Just saying.

Okay. Onward. Rich Roll is interesting because he was quite the athlete as a kid (as opposed to Wellington, Kurtz and Jurek who describe themselves as more average as athlete children.) He swam Division 1 at Stanford and was really very good. The unfortunate thing here is that he also discovered alcohol during his college years, and descended into full blown alcoholism pretty darned quickly.  A lot of the first part of the book describes this descent, and then his slow climb out of it into sobriety. That was the most interesting part of the book, I thought.

He had another epiphany years after he got sober, during which he decided he was basically fat and out-of-shape, and would die young if he didn't get his shit together. So he decided to get fit and get healthy.  BAM. After a bumpy start, he moved to an entirely plant-based diet and signed up for his first real endurance event (not including an early-on, half-hearted stab at the half IM). He signed up not for an Ironman, but a DOUBLE Ironman.


He trained for the ultra--and completed it--in like six months. And he did it while eating only plant-based food. No sport drink, no synthetic gels, no protein recovery beverages out of a can. Just a lot of avocado sandwiches and super green smoothies. Sure, he had been doing some solid training, with a coach, prior to taking on the training for the ultra. And sure, he pretty much eats perfectly (minus the usual fare one USES to train for such events.) But still!

I think I was struck by the way he just took on the ultra because we advise that triathletes take their time getting to Ironman. One needs to build up gradually in order to be able to absorb the heavy training that a SINGLE (let alone a double) Ironman requires, we argue.

And this dude just goes out there and says, HEY! I'm going to do this, and I'm going to do it on this plant-based diet. Just see if I can't. And he did! And he did it well! A few years later, looking for a still greater challenge, he describes how he and a friend completed five-iron distance events in seven days--each one on a different island of Hawaii.  And again.. he did this basically while eating like 1000 avocado sandwiches a day and drinking coconut water.

What I find fascinating is that we have these ideas about how the body should be trained, and how much it can do, and what the body needs as fuel in order to do those things. But it can do much more than what we believe, and it can do it on avocado sandwiches. Should it? Oh, I don't know. But the body can. That's what's cool. The mental hurdle of believing it's possible is insurmountable to most people, but it's not actually insurmountable in a physical sense.

That said, there are some nasty things that happen to you mentally and physically when you do push the envelope so far. Reading about the feelings/emotions and physical effects of doing something so extreme helped me to make light of the Ironman. Not that the IM SHOULD be made light of. It is a very difficult event. But it did put into perspective some of the things I have experienced in endurance racing and training, and put them into perspective. Barfing? Pretty darned common. Extreme chafing and saddle sores--yes. Totally normal. Seeing double--having hallucinations and visions--transcending the body? Par for the course if you do that ultra stuff.

Last year I was so dehydrated after barfing throughout the bike and the run at IMLP that I experienced some of that weird out of body, double-vision, hallucination stuff. I wasn't frightened when I experienced it, but after the fact, looking back, I became pretty freaked out. Was I about to pass out completely? Was I about to go into cardiac arrest?

Yep. Probably not. I was just messed up and needed a few bags of fluid via IV. And I wonder, now, how long could I have gone on before actually expiring for real? 10 more miles ? 20? 1? 100? I asked my body to make it 26.2.... and even though it didn't do it very quickly, and even though I couldn't hold my head up and I couldn't see straight and I didn't recognize my own son when he was waving in my face... my body still did it.

Fascinating. And kind of cool! (in a really twisted kind of way.)

Okay. I can't wait to talk about The Ulrich book and the Kurtz book. You think 5 IMs in seven days on the  5 different islands in Hawaii is bad ass?
Just wait!
But enough for now. I have to make some avocado sandwiches for dinner.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading: It Does an athlete..... ?

Those who have coached me (namely Kurt and Jen) have told me I read and think too much. Obviously they were not referring to my reading novels and thinking about what to serve for dinner, but about reading too many triathlon-related blogs, too many swim/bike/run magazines, and too many books on training. I counter that I am not just an athlete, but a coach, and I need to be current and well-versed in all recent literature on our sport.

Which is true. To an extent.

But mostly I read such things because I really enjoy thinking about how to train and about those who train all the time. I actually can't get enough of it. I get giddy when I find a new swim/bike or run training book I think might be a worthy read.

As a coach, I can vouch that it is easier to coach one who does not read and think about our sport. Athletes who read and think want to know why you have assigned what you have assigned. This desire to know why makes the coach accountable for what he/she assigns, which isn't a bad thing in my opinion, but it's also a major time suck for said coach--who must constantly explain and justify his/her coaching to the thinking/reading/questioning athlete.

The best athletes (to coach--and also, perhaps, in general) don't think so much as act. They get out there--and they do it. I'm partially convinced it is not so much how they train (as in what methodology their coaches are using)--but the fact that they JUST train. They look on Training Peaks, do what it says, recover as instructed, report back in, and then go about the rest of their day. The don't fret. They don't question. They always trust. They don't do more or less than asked. They do as told. They are, in short, "good soldiers." (FYI, this is Kurt's favorite phrase to describe this type of athlete--a gem if you get one on your coaching roster.) And the same thing happens when they race: these athletes don't over -think it. They just do it.

I know I'm better suited to being a coach than an athlete. This isn't to say I don't consider myself an athlete, or that I don't love to train and compete. I do. It's just I enjoy the reading more than the training--(maybe not more than the racing). I enjoy the planning more than the training as well. And most of all I enjoy debating and talking about training with other coaches more than almost anything.  I think these facts make me quite suited to coach others.

Unfortunately,  these facts also make me extremely difficult to coach. And unfortunately, the coaches I have had (or still have in the case of Kurt) become exasperated by me pretty much on a daily basis.  I read and think too much, they say... but the thing is... that ain't gonna change, even if it does hinder my progress as an athlete.  I don't want it change. It is, at the very core, who I am: a reader, a thinker, a debater, a planner, a writer.

I write all that out because I'm really quite tired of being told I think and read too much, and this is my response. (Kurt and Jen--I know you both love me anyway.. admit it!) I feel better now. Thank you.

Also, if you are a thinker who is reading this blog, than perhaps you, too, can relate to this reader/thinker conundrum:  how does one act the "good soldier" and also manage to be the person she *actually* is?