Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Run, Run, Run, REST!

Pace. Push. PR. This past month has been great for me running wise, and I have to say, I'm quite proud of my times/negative splits...especially since it's February and all of my runs have either been on the dreadmill or in the fricken cold! But after three weeks of running it's time to pull back and recover. Now I'm not a big fan of recovery weeks because it actually throws me for a loop. I go from longer/more intense workouts that I need to designate a good chunk of my time during the week, to shorter less intense exercises. And the extra time, what the hell do I do with that? Mentally it's tougher to try and convince myself that I am in fact NOT losing fitness, but rather that my body needs this in order to get stronger. My coach actually wrote on my workout plan: "Be sure to pull back this week so you don't peak too early". Yea, definitely don't want that.

So it was a week of extra swimming. Unlike most triathletes I actually really enjoy swimming workouts. They may not offer the same intensity as running or biking but I find them enjoyable and challenging at times. But with the increase of swims this week I found myself smelling extra chlorine-y and basking in the luxury of putting on a semi-wet swim suit since I swam Tuesday night and then again Wednesday morning. One of my friends who swam in college laughed at me when I was telling her about this and goes, "Such is the life of a swimmer".

During this week I actually spent a little more time in the gym getting a few extra lift sets in too. I do miss those long workouts with my training partner, where we would be in the gym for 2 hours pushing through sets. Obviously I don't have the time or the energy after tri workouts to do this any more but any chance I get to do a quick back/chest/shoulders workout with a few bis/tris I'll take it! But by the time I got to the weekend I was spent. Early wake ups Saturday morning and 4 hours working at the pool is enough to say, "It's going to be a pizza and red box night". I recruited my dad for my veg out night, but sadly ended up falling asleep before him....and before the end of the movie :S

Now before I make myself out to look too much like a wimp, in my defense, I have been trying to find this happy, healthy balance at work. Things have been a little crazy lately and I feel like I am running just as fast to try and keep up as I am in training. Busy adulthood has been bogging me down and I am hoping that with some hard work and determination, I will be seeing some change within my career by May. Fingers crossed! Until then, I will just keep this threshold pace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Threshold Testing

Is it just me or does hearing the word "test" cause extreme anxiety that overwhelms the system? As soon as that four letter word drops from your mouth and immediate signal is sent to the ears and it rattles through your brain. As your brain processes whether this is a flight or fight scenario the rest of your body just freezes up. Your eyes go cross eyed and you begin to you just ate the spiciest food imaginable.....ok maybe, just maybe I'm exaggerating a little BUT! you have to admit, at one point or another there has been one test that really stresses you out. In fact I feel like I was in a constant state of stress throughout high school, from AP tests to ACT, it was never ending. Being honest though, I drew flowers all over my AP Biology test, that was the least stressful test I took (sorry Michele if you're reading this haha).

Anyways! This past week my coach had me do a swim test for threshold time. I knew it was coming up, and heck, after working with Steph for over a year now I knew exactly what it was like. She had me do, I think, at least two last year when I was training for Racine. I looked through my old training logs to see if I could find my times, but no such luck. Either they were rinsed away, because I would bring my book on deck even though I wrote in marker, or I didn't write them down. So I figure that, even though I just got back into consistent swimming last month I should have a pretty decent time having been swimming for a while. The pressure was on.

So on top of the swim test I also had a bike ride and a lift/core I wanted to get in. This is where I knew I hadn't changed much since high school, the procrastinator in me decided, "Lets do those first", even though it was going to wear me out....good plan Sam. The logic in my head though went something like, once I finish those though I can just give it my all. But the stress for this test wasn't stemmed from, "did I study enough? Do I know it all" because the reality is there really isn't a way to "fail" this test. It's kind of like the concept that you get at least a 1 on your AP test if you put your name on it. But unlike most tests, you can't just fill in C.

C is for competitive. As I train more my competitive edge grows. And since I train on my own for the most part I take any chance I get to put it to use. Most times this happens on the lake path when I'm out running, or trying to pass anyone I come in contact with, but this time it came in the form of this test. So I grabbed my bag and drove to the gym. As I walked out on deck, (and believe me I got there early this time, people at my gym get unruly about 6pm on a Thursday night!) I scanned the open lanes and found the "ideal" one and made it mine.

After a nice aerobic warm up I was ready to roll. Also, I should add that I brought a sticky note and a pen out on deck, which made me feel kind of funny, but kind of like Steph always says, "Whatever it takes to get it done". So I was off! 10 x 100 all out: The first four sets were between 1 second of each other: 1:34, 1:35, 1:34, 1:35. I want to say I was ok with this but I also knew I had more in me and wanted to push past this. So I dropped a few seconds in the next few sets: 1:32, 1:32 and then my fastest time, 1:31. I was happy to see that number, especially on the 7th set of 100. Only 3 left, I told myself, and ideally I wanted to drop into the 1:20s (1:29 or 1:28 even) but I even more than that I wanted to hold my 1:31 time. Sets 8-10 I came in at 1:33, 1:32, 1:32 respectively. Not bad. I got out of the pool feeling good about those times, and like I had passed my test. And the pressure, like that was gone...and I rewarded myself with a pita pocket :)

Until the next test, I have a good threshold and also something to work towards for my next test. Better start studying now :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bundle and Bare It!

Every winter I always find myself questioning why I still live in Chicago and how I've survived this long. If you come here from out of town you will probably hear a whole lot of weather talk...and pizza, we do love our pizza. But this year we got off pretty easy I think. No snow for most of December/most of January and highs in the 70s? More recently though we've had rain, snow and sun all in the same week; from no jacket to double-layer north face within the span of two days. But being a runner in Chicago means bundling up and bearing it.

There are few things I hate more than the getting that chill up your spine after you get out of a hot shower, as you run around trying to find clothes, burning your tongue, and biting the side of your cheek (honestly that can ruin even the most delicious meal). But what all of these things have in common is that they are more or less undesirable, avoidable at times, but do occasionally still occur. The ironic part about treadmill workouts is that just a year or so ago I loved them! In fact I did one of my long runs (15 miles) on one. But once you get that feel of your feet on the ground, hitting the pavement and just going to go, it's mentally challenging to convince yourself you're actually "going somewhere" running on a belt.

Some days the elements are just against me though. Especially on Tuesday. For some reason I have less patience than normal on Tuesdays and want nothing more than a few hours of solitude. This is also the day I end up spending hours in the gym....two gyms actually. Funny how these things work out huh? So these days it's been more difficult to "bundle up and bear" my treadmill/track workouts. Instead of layers of clothes I need layers of mental motivation, knowing that the hardest part isn't getting the miles in.

Yesterdays track workout (4 X 800 @ 5k pace) had to be done on the treadmill. Find a good playlist and it's only 4 times, it could be worse, are the words I told myself. But what really drove me was to push for negative splits. All of a sudden my thoughts were consumed by getting faster and even though it burned and it became monogamous, I beared it. And I felt fabulous when I finished :)

Today the temperature is a whole 36 degrees! But at least the sun is out....that's usually the one great thing about freezing weather, it's that much better when the sun is out :)

Push, Push, Pace!

"This is not a sprint, it's a marathon!" I think the last time I said this was back in October before going to a Cubs rooftop game where I knew I was going to be drinking all day. But my all-day drinking PR is anything less than a Boston qualifier, that's for sure. For some reason though, this saying popped into my head this past week as I was lifting....but no, I wasn't drinking while doing so, that would be pretty impressive though.

So I completed my first week of month two. It's safe to say it was a little difficult picking back up on my "regular" routine after a week of recovery. In which time I also did barely any lifting because being sick really just drained my body of energy, and I just did my best to complete my primary run-swim-bike workouts. But more than anything I love leg workout days. Well, in triathlon training everyday seems to be a leg workout day, but on Wednesdays I usually dedicate more time to extra lifting and go heavier. As I was getting through one of my last few sets on upside-down leg presses on the smith machine, the fatigue was really starting to set in. As I laid there on the ground I told myself I had one more circuit of calves & hip abductors before I could throw in the towel.

I know this feeling, this sensation, my internal push. Over the years it's gotten stronger and honestly a lot meaner. It's that voice in between my ears that tells me I'm not going fast enough, haven't done enough sets or that I need to make sure I am dead tired by the time I go to bed and that I need to wake up sore or it wasn't worth it. What a bitch!

But after a couple hours in the gym, for the second time that day, I let up on myself. It was much less about "doing enough" and more about convincing myself that I would be at it again tomorrow and not being able to walk or being too sore really wouldn't be productive for training. And that's been my most recent realization. For the past few months my workouts were mostly heavy lifting and running. I would go for as long and hard as I could, but triathlon training doesn't work like that. Don't get me wrong, I always want to put in my best efforts and go as hard as I can. BUT! What I'm coming to find is that it is MORE IMPORTANT NOT to push to the max....BUT RATHER to pace yourself so that you feel like you've worked hard, but will have enough energy to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Words of wisdom from a triathlete in training. Pushing to keep pace.