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Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 signs that Jennie has finally returned to training

   Well...offseason has now officially come and gone (thankfully!).  After a hard-fought year with five Ironmans over a 12 month span, I was forced into some downtime-5 weeks of it, to be exact, with some light 30min workouts started after a couple of weeks.  The extra time was nice for a bit-we got new flooring for our kitchen and den, we put a new backsplash into the kitchen, I indulged my desire for junk food (absence makes the heart grow fonder in my case), we raked a whole ton, a bunch of my laundry actually made it into my drawers, a bunch more of my laundry ended up in bags to be given away (thanks to my family), I vacuumed far more often than I normally do, I began to get anal about things being left places, I cooked, I baked, I took the dogs on lots of walks, I slept a bunch, I caught up with friends, I knitted a sweater (just kidding)...you get the idea.  I generally tried to get myself ahead on life to minimize the time-related stress breakdowns that will inevitably come as the training load increases.  At times, I felt like I was preparing for a hiberation of sorts-how many sports bras could I stockpile?  What about pairs of athletic socks?  However, towards the last couple of weeks of that time, when I was matching socks for hours on end (who knew I had that many matching pairs/), I was REALLY wanting to ride my bike again.  So, here I am, nearing the end of my first week of training.  It hasn't been pretty, at all.  My training numbers, particularly on the bike, are pretty abysmal.  But, I'm starting to feel like my life is getting back to its weird state of normal.  So, without further ado, here's my top 10 signs that training has been resumed:

1.  Hanger
After a couple weeks of being off, I started to notice something peculiar.  Mainly that I...wasn't hungry?  I've never understood certain things about normal people, like how they get full on what seems like such little food, how they get to the point where they can't finish a couple of bites of food, and how they can go out to dinner on a Friday night and not dissolve into a ball of upset and sadness when told that they have to wait an hour for a table alone.  I mean, I spend a great percentage of my life thinking about my next meal.  On Tuesdays, when I work 11-5 without a break, I get scared, because I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to eat lunch.  I don't like not knowing when my next meal is coming.  However, after a few weeks of not really exercising and catching up on the junk I'd been denying myself most of the season, I suddenly started to get it.  I'd get to a meal time, and I'd realize that I wasn't really interested in food.  Huh?  What?  But, thankfully, as soon as I started training again, this feeling became short-lived.  Within a few days, I found myself having to hold myself away from the fridge.  At 5pm on Thursday, when I was within 1.5 hours of dinner, I still found myself digging around in the work fridge, just praying that I'd have an emergency apple in there.  I did.  The world could continue to revolve around its axis.  Earlier today, I told myself that if I managed to finish out a miserable 4 hours on the bike, that we could get some Great Northern Pizza Kitchen on the way home, because darn it, we haven't had it in a long time, and I'm already down one of the extra pounds that I was supposed to gain (As an aside, the gain wasn't hard.  At all).  We split a piece in the car on the way home, because we couldn't make it the 15 minutes back to the house.  Ahhh.  Normalcy.

2. I've already gotten comments that I'm walking funny
On my first day of training, Monday, I swam, biked, and lifted some anemic weights for the first time in ages.  On Tuesday, my legs were crying.  Both of my bosses and a couple of our receptionists commented on my waddle walk.  Darn it!  I couldn't even hide it for a day!

3. I've crouched down at least once, and contemplated staying there because A. the quad stretch felt awesome and B. generating the muscle power to stand back up sounded hard.
This generally happens under two circumstances at work-crouching down to adjust the stop on one of our machines, the Wall Crawler, and when getting iontophoresis pads out from underneath the sink.  It just feels SO good to sit there for a second, until my calves start burning when I try not to fall backwards.  Luckily, by now I've figured out that I can grab the bars on the wall crawler to pull myself up, and I use the cabinet doors near the sink to assist my return to standing.  

4. I fantasize about naps
Self-explanatory.  I had an hour of computer work to do at work on Thursday.  It was one heck of a struggle.  Keeping my eyes open requires a LOT of work sometimes. 

5. Shower recovery beverage has happened.
 What's a girl to do when she finishes her workout at 12:45 and then immediately has to get into the shower to get ready for work?  Why, mix up a tall glass of Endurox and bring it upstairs to the shower, of course.  Nothing adds to the bathroom decor like a nasty glass with chocolate powdery residue, after all.
Contact solution, toothbrush holder, Endurox glass.  Makes perfect sense to me.

 6. I've stopped giving a flying crap about matching my socks.
Seriously.  As long as both feet have socks on them, I'm good.  I hate you, socks.  I don't have the mental power to play freaking memory matching you anymore.
Jerks.

7. Really small things start qualifying as legitimate entertainment.
When training, I sort of exist in a lower level of consciousness, so it takes less to make me happy.  One of the highlights of my week is always taking the Irondequoit Bay outlet bridge home on Friday evenings after work.  It's as close to a social outing as I get on Fridays, and I weirdly enjoy the alternate route.  Other things that entertain me when training are searching for new music on Amazon, checking the hourly forecast before I run, and looking at pictures of dogs on facebook (however, on the flip side, any sort of video of some sort of emotional dog thing makes me all overly teary).  Doesn't take much. 

8. Someone's got a case of the dropsies.
With training comes an extreme lack of coordination.  I'm not coordinated on a good day.  Add in fatigue and slow reaction times, and it gets even worse.  I've already started to drop my stupid pen repeatedly at work.  Yesterday, I sliced my thumb open cutting up a beet.  Then, I went upstairs, ironed my clothes for work, and then tripped over the iron cord when I went to turn off the closet light.  The still on iron teetered precariously on the ironing board as I looked at it in horror, imagining the burns I was about to sustain.  Somehow, I managed to react just in time as the iron crashed to the floor, mere inches from where my foot had last been.  Perfect.

9. Brain fog.
Ahhh, brain fog.  On the bright side, time seems to pass more quickly, because I begin to hone in on the ability to create a time warp that comes SO in handy on long trainer rides.  My commute just sort of happens some days.  When I wasn't training, I probably spent a lot of time telling people crap about myself that they didn't care about at work and talking about the weather just for the sake of talking about something.  When training, I'm more than happy to sit there in a semi-conscious happy little state when conversation reaches a natural end.  I've already found myself staring at charts and screens, not really thinking about anything, just staring.  Earth to Jennie...earth to Jennie...  And if I don't write something down on a post-it or text it to myself...it doesn't happen.  
The portrait of brain fog-it's debatable who's more blank, Jennie after a long, hard workout, or the Bailey.
10. My couch has disintegrated into a pile of garmins, ANT+ agents, USB cords, newspapers, coaching notes, and Normatecs.
I refer to it as my home office.  It's so comfy, though.
Going to watch some webinars now...living the high life!   

I have to say, though, all of these things make me feel normal, and when I feel normal (i.e. my entire body hurts a bit), I'm happy.  My life without training was ok, but it really made me realize how much I love the life that's chosen me.  A new backsplash is nice, but I get more pleasure out of finishing a long ride than I do out of looking at the area between my kitchen counter and the cabinets.  I'm certainly looking forward to the upcoming season, and all that it brings!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The year review part I: Swimming (Jennie's favorite)

   Now that I'm (mercifully) 3/4 of the way through my offseason, I've had plenty of time (mostly while putting things away and cleaning things out-yikes) to reflect a little bit on where I've been and how I've come along in the past year.  I thought that some sort of year-end reflection would be appropriate.  Summarizing a year, though, is really kind of difficult-how do you organize it?  What's relevant?  With that, I decided that I'd just go through and give a little synopsis of what I did/changed training-wise on the swim, bike, and run, and how that translated on the race course.  Tonight's version?  My favorite thing to talk about (sarcasm): the swim!

The swim

   So, obviously I made a good deal of progress in swimming this year.  In 2011, I was generally a ~33-35min 70.3 swimmer, and my training consisted of two swims per week, totaling about 8-9000 yards.  Not much.  In 2012, Mary took over, and I began swimming four days per week, totaling about 15-16000 yards in my build weeks.  As for my race times?  Well, they didn't really budge much.  My 70.3 swim times still hovered at 33min (on the reasonably accurate courses), and I swam a pair of 1:09's in full Ironmans.  This was frustrating, for sure, but I at least finished the season with a glimmer of hope, as my 1:09 in Florida was swam in rougher, slower conditions than my 1:09 in Placid.  Still, I lost out on a lot as a result of my swim-so again we looked at ways to increase the swim stress. 

   So, this past season, every Monday-Friday, day in and day out, I started out in the pool.  5am alarm (sometimes snoozed to 5:10...or 5:20), 3k-5k yards/day, 5 days/week, ~20k/week most non-recovery weeks.  In addition, Mary made nearly weekly trips up to the pool, which proved to be invaluable.  We tweaked parts of my stroke-first we worked on my catch, then we worked on the back half (finishing my stroke led to some big breakthroughs in pool TT times), then we worked on bringing my left arm out and my right arm in.  Targeted drills were introduced on recovery days.  Mary didn't throw too much at me at once-swimming isn't natural to me, so giving me 30 different things to focus on all at once would have just led to complete implosion.  It wasn't rocket science or magic; it was just solid work and thoughtful guidance.  And at first, I just chipped away a bit.  High 31's in 70.3s.  A 1:07 non-wetsuit effort in Texas.  Nothing huge, nothing breakthrough.  I kept at it, though.  I kept the stonecutter in mind-"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before."  It would give eventually, I kept telling myself.  Just put in the yards and the effort.  And, sure enough, the rock finally did crack in Placid.  I pr'ed my first loop on the way to a 1:03 day-I wasn't going to be leading any races with that, but it did enough to keep me in the game.  Still, I felt like it was a fluke, just a result of having a nice whirlpool thanks to the rolling start- my pool times hadn't really budged in a few months.  But then I managed to back that up with a 1:02 in Tremblant three weeks later-a time that I thought would only happen years from now.  In Kona, I lowered that non-wetsuit best by another minute. 

   The race improvements weren't all strictly from fitness, though.  A good portion of that came from tactics.  In the past, I'd shied away from swimming in groups, and I just had flat out been getting dropped in the initial sprint off the line.  Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that my pathetic, asthmatic little lungs suck the most in the early stages of any swim workout I do.  600-800y, with a little bit of pushing, is really what it takes to get me into the groove.  So, my "casually stroking around a little bit while dreading the impending swim" version of a warm up just hadn't been cutting it.  In Placid, for the first time, I really made a conscious effort to get into the water early, warm up for an extended period of time, and throw in some ~30s pickups in there.  I also figured out the start-start next to the women you want to swim with, not behind them.  The very slight amount of energy I saved by doing that meant that I could dial down the effort just a hair for the first 50 yards or so-which mean that several minutes later, when the pace settled, I'd still find myself with others.  I was fortunate enough to get into some good for me groups in my last few races, which pulled me to some breakthroughs.  Even with those breakthroughs, though, my swim is still my obvious weakness, and I'm losing too much time in the water.  But, shaving off seven minutes was more than I had been hoping to achieve, so I'll take it for the year. 

   As I move forward from here, I know that I'm going to have to push twice as hard to squeeze half as much (if I'm lucky) improvement out of myself.  I have, very reluctantly and with a great deal of complaining about my feeble lung capacity, my overwhelming desire to breathe, and Gus, the wad of phlegm that lives in the back of my throat and chokes me when I swim, started doing flip turns.  I just decided to start doing them after Tremblant (I think I just wanted an excuse for sucky swim splits other than over racing burnout), and I discovered that I had some residual muscle memory from my days of swim club at the age of 12.  They're literally one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done in the pool, at any speed.  My swims these days more or less go something like this: swim, slow down, try to breathe and finish my last stroke close enough to the wall that I don't have to go too long without air, flip turn (usually I make the wall, although sometimes I end up at some weird angle as I try to push off), frantically flail to the surface, gasp, spastically resume swimming while being absolutely sure that my lungs are in fact exploding, regain some semblance of lung composure, realize that the rest of my body feels weak from the lack of oxygen, regroup, swim normally for about 5 yards, by that point, and then repeat.  It's fun.  Unfortunately for my lungs, Jesse already had to go and issue the "all flip turns" ultimatum (I had worked out some little "open turn every 100" bargain with myself beforehand), so awful discomfort it will be!  Other ideas that have been thrown out there for my swimming have so far included a sixth day in the pool (aww..bye, weekends off.  Bye), and master's swimming (which scares the living crap out of me).  So, time will tell, but I do know that hard work and consistency pays off (novel concept). 

   Therefore, even though last year I put up some splits that I sort of doubted would ever be listed next to my name (I swam a 1:37 100y free-breathing every stroke-at that swim club's "C" meet-that is, the consolation meet for those that couldn't make the A or B standards.  Seriously, I sucked), I'm going to just convince myself that maybe I don't have to be terrible at swimming.  If playing swimmer and doing fancy swimmer things like flip turns is what it takes-then so be it, I'm game.  2014 is certainly going to take more work in the water, but if I can get myself to T1 with less of a deficit to make up, the end will justify the means!