Wednesday, April 25, 2012

down, but definitely not out

Reporting from my bed at 3pm in the afternoon isn't all inspiring.  I know.  But that's where I am.  I would rather be busying myself with work and enjoying the 'easy' taper workouts that you're supposed to be rewarded with after months of training.

I've been rewarded with 3 boxes of kleenex, violent sneezing (demonstrating my core strength abilities - bonus?) and a itchy face that I would really just like to dunk in a bucket of ice water.  Or smash into a wall.

Welcome to the taper.

For me, this often means facing a short period of illness that usually comes on 2-3 weeks before my big races and then vanishes in the nick of time, but nevertheless always challenging my mental state at what I would call, my weakest mental point - the end of the build.  Bad timing?  Well, maybe not.

The body is a funny thing.  I should know, as working on bodies is one of my jobs.  I got 3 jobs, mon (if you count laundry).  But my body seems to like to be run hard week after week, like a racehorse on a winning streak.  It doesn't like to stop.  Not dissimilar to a racehorse that stops and then starts running in circles destined for the glue factory.  Luckily, I think I can avoid the factory...

So, I have 'forced rest'.  Every article you ever read will tell you 'undertraining' at a certain point is much better than 'overtraining'.  I agree, but, dealing with 'undertraining' is a bit of a mental blow.  However, I think it's a good challenge.  All of a sudden you're 'forced' to think.  You think, "Oh my god, this is the worst timing ever".  Then you, or someone who cares about you, tries to explain the positives to you.  You agree, but are still irritated, but eventually you're also so irritated from being sick somehow they cancel out.  And you're left with a strange sense of clarity.

Who am I?  What am I doing?  What is the point?  Where am I going?


I don't have all the answers, but this 'forced rest' has helped me slow down, take stock of what I've done to get my body and mind to it's current state (minus a pesky cold) and appreciate that my body has more influence over me than I think.  I can be stressed with my upcoming race (and often, I have been) but really, no matter how much control I think I exude over myself, no matter how much mental toughness I can dish upon myself, it's kind of interesting to realize that my body can have a whole other level of operational power.  As in, it will do what it wants to do.

And here is where I think that is most useful.

In a race with many factors, variables, etc and on and on, there's a lot to focus on, freak out about, blame, whatever.  In my best races, I've stopped thinking (almost) altogether.  My body just does what it wants to do. (Because honestly, what kind of normal person thinks, "Sweet, I'm going to pee in my pants now"? No one - so I'll chalk it up to letting the body 'rule')

In a weird way, my body is doing the same thing now.  It is, essentially, "in the zone".  Now the jumpy quick to judge part of me is thinking being sick is bad.  But, the older-is-wiser (and influenced by other more logical people who are getting full nights sleep) part of me is also helping me learn that the sickness is also part of training, a good learning and reflection tool, and ironically, a confidence builder.  Because, at a certain point, constant positive feedback isn't going to help you get stronger.  Like telling yourself you're a really good singer when you're tone-deaf awful, you're not going to strive to be better.  So my body reminding itself that it has variance in which it can be rendered useless (or so it feels) to absolute limit breaking efforts, is all part of getting better.

Triathlete, know thyself.

I worried, should I write this blog and then have people read it and, oh no, what if that makes them feel better about themselves because I'm sick and they're not and that will give them superpowers??  Well, I guess I decided I don't really care how me being sick will make anyone else feel (except the person that lives with me, who luckily knows the routine and is not phased by the crazy up and downs of it).

So I am sick, but it won't be too long until I'm not, and my body is patched up and I feel better than ever.  Better than ever?!  What a nice thought.

We leave tomorrow for a roundabout road trip before arriving in Utah next week - first to Bend, Oregon, then Moab and then in this very very hot place they call St George.  I couldn't be more excited to be going to such a warm place.  My last 2 (of 3) Ironman's were done in the 34+ C temperature range, so it's only natural to continue the trend.

Happy training, and if you do get a sniffle leading up to your next big race, don't let it get to you.

Here's to the booger.  Yippee-kay-yay :)

(really channelling my inner Samuel L. Jackson but that is for another post entirely)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run 1/2 Marathon 2012 Race Report

I just flew in from the Sunshine Coast and boy are my arms tired.

But seriously, folks...

But seriously..... my legs really are tired.  And my epic bonk 5km into an easy run today was proof.  I know I'm in rough shape when I'm scavenging the road for any silvery signs on life in the form of a dropped GU, run over Powerbar (they're indestructible), a stick of gum (non chewed, I have standards). Anyways, moving on from the things I shouldn't write for the public arena...

Hills, hills, and more hills.  Every year, once we peel off the upper highway and take the low road into Roberts Creek, I think, "Wow - here we go".  I'm really not sure if when I do this race, the hills seem to get bigger, or smaller.  Sometimes you can run up a hill enough times that you actually flatten it.  Last year I was a little tentative on the hills, worrying the after effect of dire speed of downhills on my legs.  But hey, everyone was doing it and I didn't want to get left behind.  So now I'm paying for it with my baby deer legs, ones that on Monday morning, buckled at the sight of stairs.  It's good for the muscle to really destroy it, isn't it?  A beautiful duet of character and fibril building.

I now find running races really simple to report on, compared to some of my longer triathlons which really seem much more complex.  So in this story of how my race went, I will keep it simple.

Here is my "I" list:

-I ran my race at the paces set out for me, despite wanting to break the rules and chase a little faster.
-I had great company in fellow triathlete Rachel Kiers for over 1/2 the race, so much nicer than running alone.
-I tried to run a progressive pacing race, but I wonder if I went to la-la land a couple of times, based on a pretty big 'miss' of my goal time.
-I started thinking that really training on hills really does help you run up hills (I've been hill-less for a couple of months due to an achilles issue).  It didn't sink my attitude during the race, but it made me think it's really time to go back to hills (just have to not sprain my ankle any more and I'll be right on track)
-I pushed myself to run hard into no-man's land because it is good mental practice, chasing empty space
-I realized running a hilly course isn't hard.  Calculating your splits on a run course is what's actually hard.
-I was actually happy while running.  Usually I feel a combo of desperation/hallucination, but I was running a strong, controlled effort & that makes for some happy thoughts.
-I also thought, yes, I love that the finish line is closer this year (I know the race is still 21.1 but it seems closer).

In retrospect, I tried my best on the day, and there's a lot of comfort in that.  I missed my goal time, I missed my PB, I finished way behind people I wanted to be competitive with, but I ran true and it felt good.  I think I've said before, I think sometimes we fixate too much on numbers and times.  I ran a sub 3 hour race in Eugene last year, but that wasn't my most memorable marathon.  There are so many moments to a race, so many pieces, and final time is really just the last, and only one, piece of the puzzle.  Which is funny, because races always seem like puzzles to me, before I race them, as I'm racing them, and often after I race them.

But not knowing everything is ok, and being a bit puzzled is fine too.  We can't figure out everything we need to know in life, and I think figuring out everything you need to know in racing is just as impossible.  I think that's why I have been drawn to triathlon, because I really just like figuring things out.  Getting better at things, and enjoying the little tiny rewards along the way I think, is the most satisfying part.  And for the race on Sunday, I enjoyed the tiny rewards all the way along the coast, starting my day in the snow, and finishing it up in the warm sun.  Being surrounded by yummy food is also a big plus!

My thanks in this race are multi-pronged.  Firstly, I had the wonderful opportunity to have a homestay with the wonderful residents Tanya & Rod of Roberts Creek, who opened up their home to me and gave me a wonderful place to stay, and some great people to meet.  If anyone had followed my experiences last year in our Westfalia & my definite lack of sleep due to the Roberts Creek Park truck party, then you would understand that sleeping in a house before a race is a total luxury!  It was such a nice treat, and such a nice way to be more connected to the community of the great people that surround this race.

I'd also like to thank Teresa Nightingale, who works so hard to put on an extremely well run & well supported event.  I don't think people ever recognize how much work race directors selflessly put into races, so if you can do one thing this year, thank a race director - face to face.  From what I hear, it's the feedback and appreciation of the effort that make them feel like taking on the responsibility all over again that really makes it worthwhile.

I'd also like to thank the Gibsons branch of BMO who graciously sponsored the prize money to the top open & masters, women and men runners.  It is a real treat, as that much money is not usually offered and it's so nice to be able to take a little extra home to get a 'bonus' new pair of shoes, or two :)

I also love my ever growing collection of Fool's Run mugs!  And the 35th anniversary logo this year makes this one extra special.  It will be my mug of choice for post-ride hypothermia, which will likely continue until some time in May.  C'est la vie.  The mug will get good use.  Ovaltine, mint tea with honey, chai tea lattes - it will be the official 'treat' mug.  As in, do the ride, get the treat.  Story of my life.

If you've already run this race, I'm probably preaching to the converted, but if you haven't, I really recommend you book off the weekend next year, drive over on Saturday, enjoy all the lovely things the Sunshine Coast has to offer.  I love it, and will certainly be back.  And I'll try to improve on the perennial 3rd place finish that I seem to be getting consistent at.

For me, I'm excited to jump back into the Sun Run in, eek, 10 days? and then onto my first triathlon of the year at Ironman St George.  I love how tough a race I seem to be getting myself into.  Now, just to love it when I'm actually in it.

Here's to the tiny things and the pieces of the puzzle.