Monday, June 23, 2014

I Quit!

How is my Half Ironman Training going people ask.

I quit!  

Every week I reach some point in my training schedule , usually a swim day, when I say


When I jumped into this sport last year, I did just that, I jumped in.  I fell in love in with it, but I jumped in with my eyes closed.   I did not know enough to have a fear of open water swimming, I did not know enough to know that the swim in 99% technique and you better nail that technique to have enough energy to finish strong on the bike and run.  I did not know that your legs feel like rubber when you come off that bike and start running, and I certainly did not know that I would find the running leg the easiest leg, even with   rubber legs. 

In some ways, IGNORANCE IS PURE BLISS.  I conquered open water triathlons with zero fear and knowledge, and finished fine, even podiumed.    I swam three days a week in a pool and one day a week in the lake with little thought to technique.  I ran when I wanted to run, usually 3-4 days, and a rode at most weeks 2 days never more than 25-30 miles.
Then I got this bright idea that I want to attempt to conquer an Ironman the year I turn 45, which is 2015 by the way.  To help prep I determined I needed to do a Half Ironman this year.  So here I am training for the Austin Ironman 70.3 (the 70.3 represents the half the distance of an Ironman.  In the 70.3 you swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.2 miles).  The race is in Austin, TX., or otherwise known as Texas Hill Country.  Seriously, can I pick them or what?  Regardless, I jumped in, again, with little regard to what it would take.   

I am in my 12th formal week of a training plan (yup I have quit at least 12 times since I started), and boy things are getting serious.  First, I eat, breathe, dream, half Ironman training.  At least that is what it feels like.  If you are considering a long distance triathlon, you must consider the time it takes to train.  These are hours away from your family, and if your family is not on board with this, then it is just not worth it.  In all honesty, even when they are on board, there are some days it just does not seem worth it, and there are some days they will not be on board.  There are days that your training trumps a day at the pool with your kids, or a day at Six Flags with the family.  There are some days you will be too tired to even consider a 1 hour date night with your spouse.  When you train for something this big, yes you may realize you will sacrifice a lot, but you need to realize ahead of time that your family sacrifices a lot too!   Oh and your social life, basically your social life is your training time.  If you train alone, well then you have no social life.  My recommendation, find a group or two or three so you can train with people.   Last year I did all my running and biking alone.  I swam with a group.   Three hour bike rides all by your self are extremely lonely and dull.  It’s amazing how fast 40 miles screams by if you are biking with at least one other person.  I actually am affiliated with two Triathlon Groups right now. I have to be because of my work schedule and travel schedule, it affords me the maximum amount of group workouts and gives me plenty of location options.  Since I work in the extreme northwest area of the DFW metro, I need options near where I work.  But I live closer to metro area, so I need options there too.   I’ve met awesome people in each group and it almost guarantees I do not have to work out alone, although I do prefer to run alone, it has always been my me time, my quiet time.  But there are benefits to running with a group at least once a week.  

As I mentioned, I am in my 12th week. I follow a written plan the best I can. I have learned through a coach, my swimming technique leaves something to be desired I have also have learned there is even a strategy for the swim part of an open water swim race.   I actually know a lot more things than I did last year during my blissful ignorance stage. I am reserving judgment as to whether that is beneficial or now.  I suppose I will render my judgment on October 26th at about 3 pm after I have crossed that Ironman 70.3 finish line. 

 The goal of any triathlon is to have enough energy to get through the entire race with adequate energy for each leg.  It is easy to use up all your energy on the swim if you are inefficient in the water, and apparently I am completely inefficient.   And my goodness, there is a whole lot of stuff that has to go on simultaneously to have an efficient stroke. As an engineer I totally get the dynamics, but it is executing those dynamics where I struggle (I can only imagine the contractors reading this thinking, yeah, try executing one of the projects you designed, real life is different than the bubble you design in).   And I have to be honest, I come away from each swim somewhat disappointed in myself and very discouraged.   But I will keep on keeping on.  There are some things I am really good at, but there are other things where I am just not so good.   I am currently trying to swim 3-4 days a week (per plan), one technique day where I concentrate on technique and do drills to help improve technique, one speed day where I do speed drills, one long distance day where again this affords me an opportunity to focus on my technique and then I always try to get one open water swim in a lake every week.  If I slack, I always slack on speed day.  But one day someone said to me: 

“You have to go fast to be fast, you will learn to love that speed work”.

So I am trying to embrace the speed work.   If you were not counting, that is about 3-4 hours of swimming each week.  

Even while out of town, find a pool and swim.  In Orlando Mothers Day weekend.

Biking is probably my next weakest discipline.  I am horrible at hills and the wind kicks my butt.   And I am not fast.  I can get better at hills and consequently even get faster by doing hill repeats. Again, like swimming, I have not been really good or consistent on speed work.  But as I read about the science and sport of triathlon and as I talk to various coaches and more experienced athletes I am realizing I need to embrace this speed work. “ You have to go fast, to be fast.”    The good news is I am fast enough to make the cut off times in a 70.3 with room to spare, as long as I make the swim cut off time with time to spare, and I really think that I can, even though I am a slow swimmer I think I can finish that 1.2 miles in just a little under an hour.  I also think with consistent riding, I will pick up speed and become faster.  It has gotten easier to accomplish my longer rides now that I have found some fellow gals who ride about the same pace as me.  Biking is a minimum of three days a week .  There is always a long ride which are now running 3 hours or so, but that will increase weekly.  There is always a speed day (either a time trial, or intervals etc.) and another day of just riding for about an hour.      Biking right now is 5 hours a week, and increasing weekly.

Running is my best friend and first love.  Running helped take off 120 lbs.  Running and I have a nice easy intimate relationship.  I get running; running gets me.  Speed work on the schedule, no problem, I can tackle that alone and with gusto or with a group.  Out of town, no problem, even if there is not a trail or track or some running friendly place around I can make my own.   Mall parking lots, movie theater parking lots, and large apartment complexes make great long loops if you run the perimeter.      Again I am not the fastest runner, but I am average, even above average.  But running feeds my soul.  It has always been my “me” time, a time that I can 100% clear my head and reflect, pray, admire the beauty around me or simply think about noting if I choose. I do not even care or get discouraged if I have a bad running day.   No pride thing going on with running at all.   I run 4 days a week.  My schedule has a long run day, a speed day, a plain ole run to run day, then it always has running after some of the bike workouts, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing how to overcome the feeling of those legs after coming off the bike.  It is indescribable until you experience it, and the best way to know how to overcome it is to run after biking.  Running is probably 4 hours a week right now, I actually have to hold myself back from running too much.  
Speed work at the track
I am trying to trust the training, and know that if I follow the plan I will finish my Half Ironman in October.  I am learning not to beat myself up if I miss one workout.   I am learning how to adapt when on the road.  I have already mentioned running when traveling is no problem.  However, swimming gets interesting when in small towns.  I am learning some of these small YMCA’s do not have day passes so if you are not a member of a Y somewhere else and they do not permit day passes, I am kind of out of luck unless there is a gym with a pool, but we are talking rural Louisiana, those one-light towns just do not have those sorts of facilities.   Biking can be a challenge too, especially if the hotel gym has nothing more than a recumbent bike.  In larger towns I can always find a shop to rent a bike from or a local gym with spin cycles, and my last resort is a regular stationary bike in the gym. 
I have quit every week for the past 12 weeks.  Something happens and I say, I just cannot do this, I am quitting, it is too much time, it is too hard, I am too discouraged.   There is always some reason to justify my quitting.  I will tell my husband I am quitting and he will look at me and smirk and say: 

“Why don’t you think about that first before making a rash decision”?

There have been several times where my training gets in way of family schedule and I will make a comment about it, and he will say:
“You said it, not me”.

Of course I latch onto that and say, if this is a problem for our family, say the word now and I am done.  To which he replies (probably rather wisely):

“Oh no, you are not using me or the kids as an excuse to quit”.
Love that man.  

So about 8 hours after I quit, I am back on the wagon working out my training schedule for the rest of the week.

I really only have a one goal for my first Ironman 70.3.

Just Finish

I want to finish what I started.   I want to cross that finish line.  That is it.  

I have 8.5 hours to finish, including transitions. I am starting to get a little more worried about fueling and hydrating myself during this event. But that is a part of training, I am practicing that as well.  

I am reminded of a quote I saw from Muhammad Ali:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.' ”

I hate almost every minute of training, but, I know all that will disappear when I cross that finish line.

I have faith with preparation, training and most importantly the full support of my husband, family, and teammates.  I will finish. 

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