Thursday, December 26, 2013

100x100 Birthday Swim Report (or, How this Christmas Was the Greatest Day Ever)

I’m not sure but I think the 100x100 Birthday Swim was invented by our beloved Grand Coachie Hillary Biscay. This is when you get together with your friends and celebrate a birthday (or any special occasion, really) by swimming 100 100s (and now, for the feats of strength!). If you swim in a pool that’s measured in meters, that’s 10,000 meters, or 6.2 miles, aka swimming a 10k; how super cool is it to be able to say you’ve done that!?

Obstacles to doing this on my birthday:
  • Gyms (and the pools within) are closed on Christmas day.
  • Everybody’s busy (rightfully so, it’s a family day!).
  • It’s cold outside, so nobody wants to!
Waaaa… poor me.

Note: Be careful what you wish for. About a month ago, I was indulging in some complaining on this subject and Linda (high school swim coach extraordinaire!) said, “Hey, maybe I can open the pool at Blossom on Christmas day. Let me check with my aquatic director.” And just like that, we were able to get into the beautiful Davis Pool and swim 100x100 on Christmas morning!

Before - all smiles!
 Linda’s swim kids wrote the set for us and Dawn weighed in. On Christmas morning at 6:30 am, Linda, Orissa, Dawn, Herb and I met at Blossom to start our swim.

The set.
At first, we all had our own lanes, but after the first 20 100s, Dawn told me to come and share hers. “Sit on my feet for these band-only 100s,” she said. Band-only is where you tie your feet together and swim with only your arms, dragging the rest of your body behind you, and it’s hard. The most I’ve ever done is 25 meters at a time with a bunch of rest. So basically, 45 minutes into our 4-hour workout, I entered hell, even with the benefit of drafting off Dawn.

She dragged me through the next 15x100 too, telling me to “fight” and “stay with it” as I gasped at the wall, touching and going, while she and Linda got AT LEAST 10-15 seconds rest on each interval and didn’t even look like they were breathing hard. “I can’t believe I asked for this. It’s my birthday, I did this to myself, what the f, OMG we’re not even halfway through this, it's my birthday and they are HAZING ME” is what was going through my head. Herb was doing his own thing in the lane beside us, Dawn and Linda were gliding effortlessly side by side as I gasped on Dawn’s feet for 25 meters and then lost her on the first turn each time, and Orissa tried valiantly to keep up in her own lane on the other side of Linda.

As we worked through a set of PBB (paddles, buoy, band) with aching shoulders, Dawn commented that she needed to leave for Santa duties. At this exact time, Brian showed up to join us. We all hugged and squealed and took a photo for posterity, and then Dawn left after 5400 total meters. And Linda said the best words of the day, “I hate PBB! Let’s get rid of it! Let’s kick with fins and kickboards instead!” A glimmer of hope – the workout was changing. Orissa and I smiled joyfully as we kicked and gossiped and chatted for 1000 meters.

Halfway through!
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Linda made us work hard after that, but finally we were finished, and after congratulating ourselves and each other, we headed out to spend time with our families. I can't even describe how grateful and filled with love I am for my fun, fearless friends who came to swim with me early in the morning on a day that’s reserved for family.

Finished! Success!
That wasn't all for the day, though...

I would already have chalked yesterday up as one of the greatest birthdays of my life due to the swim party. But I had another surprise in store. Later that evening, I opened my present from Robert. The packaging said Quarq on it, but I couldn’t believe that that's what was really inside the box. It’s probably just an accessory of some kind…nope – it’s a power meter. Quarq Elsa power meter OMG and it’s mine!

Matt and Dawn have been preaching power to me forever and for almost as long as that, I've been trying to figure out how to get my hands on a power meter. It's certainly not a "need" but it is most definitely a "want." I don’t understand how all three of them were able to keep this a secret from me, but they totally did. I was even in Bicycle Heaven on Friday, crying about power to Matt as he kept a straight face and told me not to believe in Santa Claus. And Dawn, who can never keep a secret but always tells you not to say anything, was able to hold it in while I begged her on Saturday to hit up Meredith Kessler for a used Powertap hub. Even Hillary knew…sneaky sneaky sneaky. It's so cool that the people that I hold in highest regard were all conspiring together on this fabulous surprise.

The best gift, though, is that my amazing hubby totally gets it. As I sat there speechless over his gift, he quietly said to me, “You had to have it. I want to help you to be great at this.” He gets it, he gets me; I am the luckiest luckiest luckiest.

Alright, I've gushed enough for one post...but finally, here's a little inspiration from a super cool RALLY TOWEL that Linda had made for all the Iron Whiners. I love love love this quote:

Happy holidays and happy training, and here's to a fantastic 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Hate Math but I Love Numbers - Staying Motivated through the Holidays

About 6 weeks ago, I looked at my running log and thought, "Awesome! I have 2 months until the end of the year, I'm going to hit a thousand miles EASY!" I was sitting at like 930 miles for the year so far. For the last few years, my standard running goal has been to run at least a thousand miles in each year. The first time I accomplished this, I was in Las Vegas with Robert celebrating New Year's Eve and our wedding anniversary...and at 6 pm on New Year's Eve, I was on a treadmill running 7 miles because I needed to make a thousand. (I think/hope I'm not alone here with silly goals like this. There was a storyline on a recent Modern Family in which Phil set and accomplished a similar goal of walking "to Canada" on an elliptical trainer. So at least the guy who wrote that part of that episode knows what I'm talking about here.) That experience taught me two things about myself - that I enjoy fun, ridiculous, useless goals. And once they're set, I'll do anything to achieve them.

So...6 weeks ago when I looked at my running log, I could have stopped there. But I didn't. Instead, something in my brain said, "Ok, you're going to get a thousand running miles easy. But how does it compare to last year?" Hmm. Now I needed 77 more miles, to make it to 1077 and match last year. And I could have stopped there. But I didn't. Instead, I thought, "Hey, I wonder how this year's bike and swim mileage stacks up to last year's?" The bike was easy peasy to achieve, just 200ish more miles. But the swim was not such a piece of cake.

I sent a note to Coachie - "In each of the next five weeks, I need to swim 8625 yards, bike 30 miles, and run 29.8 miles." and she replied back - "No problem." I saw her the next night for a pain cave trainer session, and we talked about the goals. She said she totally understood because she loves numbers too. And then she said something like, "I think you got this, you can totally run 30 miles before the end of the year *eyeroll*" and I said, "You know those miles I sent you were per WEEK, right? Not total." And she said,"Yikes! Ok, yeah, I think you can still do it for the bike and run...but probably not the swim goal."

And with that I set out to do it. I crammed 30 miles of running into the next 3 days. Of course, then I promptly went back to Las Vegas on vacation for Robert's birthday and missed an entire four days of workouts. As soon as we got home, I once again became laser focused on the goal. This meant that in addition to my usual daily workouts, I was running 1 or 2 miles at work during lunch with a couple of my coworkers (trying not to get too sweaty while running during the workday is fun - and by fun I mean not fun). I've been adding an extra 200 or 500 or 1000 to the end of swim workouts.

I'm 100% aware that all of this is "junk miles" but I don't care. I have become obsessed with making this happen! So here I am with 11 days left in the year and I need 12,000+ yards of swimming and 55.5 miles of running before end of day on December 31. I met the bike goal earlier this week (woo hoo!).

I told the girls about my ridiculous self-inflicted challenge, and Aixa decided to join me on my quest - she's aiming for 1000 miles of running this year too, and she's got about 50 miles to go. I think we're going to make it. And FABULOUS LINDA, our fishy friend, the high school swim coach, has determined that she'll help me out by swimming a 10K with me ON CHRISTMAS DAY - my birthday - how cool is that!!?

We'll see how this all shakes out. It has certainly made the last few weeks of training more fun and motivating at a time of year when it can often be anything but. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Strong, Calm, and Confident - Mental Training

This weekend, a few weeks into the "off season" (which actually means marathon season - which is really not "off" at all), I took Coachie up on an offer to ride with her. It would be foolish not to accept an invitation to ride with Dawn - my take on this is always that if I ride with her, it's going to hurt but I'll get so much more out of it than riding by myself (or with the girls for a donut) that I have to do it every time I can.

So I went with her a couple of weeks ago and it was a total sufferfest (for me. For her, it was a "social ride" which meant she chattered easily the entire time while I tried not to die). It ended up being a 4 hour ride, during which we rode down Krueger Canyon (the last time she rode there, she crashed and broke her collarbone, so that was a fun memory to revisit), and back along some horrible new chip seal and down some access roads to major highways that I'm still trying to block out of my memory. The last hour and a half was torture for me, but afterwards, I thanked her and told her I would love to ride with her again, anytime she'll have me.

That opportunity came up again this weekend. She extended an invitation to the Tri-Belief group and I was the only sucker taker. It was cold and windy and we headed up Blanco Rd. at 12 mph. At first I wondered if she was waiting for me, but of course she was struggling too, leading us into the 15-25 mph headwind and providing a (very welcome) draft for me.

I love riding with Dawn because I can watch what she does and copy it. Just like following Hillary down Mt. Lemmon at camp, I followed Dawn through all the twists and turns, up and down hills, watching how she turned and how she leaned and when she stayed in the bars and when she sat up. By trying to do what she does, I'm learning to be more comfortable on my bike. Woo hoo! Oh, and also we took a break to take some photos of the cows.

At one point, Dawn had to do a 15 minute effort into the wind, along a straightish road with rolling hills. As I watched her disappear into the distance, I concentrated on my own effort - stay in the aerobars. Keep making smooth circles with your feet. Don't let up, keep riding strong. Thoughts came up, "I'm afraid of the crosswind - what if I crash? I'm scared to turn corners." I refused to let my mind use those words - scared and afraid. Instead, a mantra bubbled up, which I repeated throughout the ride - "I am strong, I am calm, I am confident." (Sounded quite a lot like Stuart Smalley or the nanny talking to the little girl in "The Help" - haha - but it worked!) I thought about racing - I don't have to catch up with her, I just have to know I'm going as fast as I can. When I finally did reach her (she had turned around for me), I felt proud of my effort.

The reward was a screaming tailwind on the way home. Of course by this time, almost 3 hours later, I was cooked. Dawn instructed me to get on her wheel, never falling more than a bike length back - we only had an hour to get back to her house. So we blasted back down Blanco Rd, this time at 40 mph. And although I was suffering, I continued to repeat my mantra, and I stayed on her wheel (in zone 4. Zone 4!!! On her wheel with a tailwind!!!).

I'm putting this in the bank for the next racing season. I am strong, I am calm, I am confident (and doggone it, people like me!). Ride on!