Life after Ironman…

It’s been two blissfully “uneventful” months since Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I have been meaning to post, but, well, there’s frankly not much to say.

As you are aware, the weeks leading up to Ironman were jam packed with activity. Mostly training. And planning in the spare time.

Believe it or not, I have not done any other races since Ironman. I hemmed and hawed about picking up the Lake Stevens 70.3. Or the Priest Lake Olympic distance. Or… something. But nothing really caught my fancy. And those things that did seemed to conflict with work or other pre-existing life plans.

The physical part of the post-race recovery was quick it seemed. Well. Hubby was in a cast up until a week or so ago, nursing that annoying little wrist break that preceded IMCDA by 16 days… But other than that, neither of us were hobbling in a distorted fashion across the finish line. No blisters, no torn muscles or ligaments from a crash or overtraining. We are lucky in that sense.

In fact, I took the week off and ran again the following Saturday. Nothing serious, mind you. Just a simple, easy jog. And I’ve been about 3 times a week with some friends training for the Portland Half Marathon in early October.

The mental recovery is trickier it seems. Faaaaaaaar trickier.

Here’s the big piece: I’m super unmotivated. About working out. And about food. And about everything in general.
Frankly, I would be happy to lay my happy butt on the beach day after day with a book and some Cheetos and read/nap my summer away in a orangey fake cheese powder haze. (That’s right – in this delusional scenario, work would pay me to do this…)

Yes – I just did an Ironman. And yes, I should take time to recover. But I feel like I have and I’m slipping out of the “just” did Ironman and into the phase were I should probably start doing something again. Probably.

I need a new goal… something exciting (and that is the trick, isn’t it?).

But alas, nothing is really speaking to me. I know I will find something. Stay tuned.

Any Ironmen out there have any suggestions for mental recovery and/or new epic things to do/conquer?

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weekend failings…

This past weekend was the last big weekend of workouts before our two-week taper period leading up to Ironman.

Now, at this point in the game, long workouts are L-O-N-G. Like eat breakfast before you go and don’t get back until dinnertime long. And also at this point in the game, long workouts are hard workouts. Whether they’re hard because they’re long or hard because you’re tired or hard because you know how long and hard they’re going to be is anyone’s guess.

Dig deep and get them done, right?

WRONG.

Saturday was my last chance to get a 19 or 20 mile run in before race day. A couple of weeks back, I got a 17er in and on Monday I was hoping to fit in 20 miles after work but I was running alone and ended up no getting an early enough start at calling it at 16 when it was dark (you know, for safety’s sake).

Saturday was a trainwreck from the start. All I wanted to do was sleep in for once. So we did. Kinda. And then we had a late breakfast and went to the farmer’s market and the tree nursery and it got warmer and warmer as the day went on and I frankly spent the better part of the day dreading the 20 mile death march I knew I was going to have to log.

Finally I was able to drag myself out of the house but it was truly doomed – my mental game was absolute crap. After two miles, I almost called it. After 3, I was sitting on a curb literally trying to pep talk myself into pulling it together. It was pathetic. Mile by mile, I pieced together the most mentally miserable run perhaps of my life. And my times were slow to boot because mentally I couldn’t get out of my own way.I know how much your brain plays into this and yet, I could not get my head in the game to save my life.

So there I was, slogging out the miles. Ever so slowly. Ever so painfully.

Now. (Warning: potential TMI ahead…) I was running in my tri shorts in order to determine whether to run in them on race day or change pre-marathon. I had 16 miles in them earlier in the week and had started to chafe ever so slightly, so I had lubed up extra carefully and brought a reserve for mid-run lubin’. Around mile 9, I made a stop at an outhouse and reapplied, early I thought. Better safe than sorry… only it stung and I knew that was the last straw. Seriously, the straw that broke this camel’s back. I called in the reserves, duked it out for another mile and hubby came to the rescue.

Sunday, we thought we might get one last training ride in – a good 70 or 80 miles or so. But my mental game was STILL not in it. We took a turn onto the bike course and I couldn’t hack it. Twenty-five miles was enough for me that day. Too bad I messed up my hubby’s training day along with my own. (Thankfully he’s the most patient and forgiving person on the planet so he just picked up the miles today while I was at work…).

Apparently after 22 weeks of 9 workouts a week and being tired and hungry and rushed and cranky ALL of the time and just digging deep and getting them done, I was pretty much spent. I have sometimes halfway worried that I have only a limited amount of willpower, only so many times that I can dig deep before my reservoir is empty. And this weekend, I apparently just didn’t want to take the chance that these workouts would be the last ones I could grit my teeth, grin and bear it…lest I attempt Ironman with an empty willpower reservoir.

I had a hard time after each of the failed workouts, trying not to see them as bad omens or epic fails. And it took me some time. I’m not a quitter. Truly. But this weekend sure made me feel like one. Each workout that has not quite gone as planned (and there have been a few over the past 6 months) has an opportunity to be a learning experience. This weekend I learned that I will be changing my bottoms after the bike. But mostly I have learned that it’s good to take a break when you feel like you need one. Body or mind. And not feel guilty about it.

This weekend’s workouts were not exactly what I had planned. But even so, I can’t let doubt get the best of me – I’ve gotten the miles in, I’ve put in the work. Now to enjoy the taper weeks and try not to throw up every time I think about race day and  the fact that it is just 13 days away…

on confidence builders…

We all need them. Confidence builders. Building blocks for our egos to stand upon. Things to make us climb over our doubts when they persist. Kick them to the curb. Tell them stupid, good for nuthin’ what-ifs and mebbe I can’ts and what-if-i-can’ts to go find a home somewhere else.

You know, I’ve been doubting a bit lately. I think it is a natural stage of training, I guess. You’re on a path that you hope leads you to success – the finish line in this case – a 24 week journey in which everything and anything could go wrong. It’s natural to think that, maybe, perhaps, you’re not doing quite enough. But week by week, workout by workout, you build your strength and endurance and your mental strength and stamina alongside it.

Last weekend, I passed one minor hurdle and gave myself another ego building block: I took a short bike ride up the first hill of the Ironman CdA course. It was only a 17 mile ride, but it was enough to know I made it up the first long hill. And that was good. Good to know I can do it. Good to know my indoor training rides and (thus far) relatively short outdoor rides have done enough  to make it that far at least once.

Now I know that 16 miles is hardly anything when you think the entire course is 112 miles. It’s peanuts, really. But I did feel better. And I think its important to remember and record these things – to celebrate the little things – especially in times of doubt!

This weekend, I was able to add more building blocks for my feeble mental game to stand upon and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Hubby and I were able to ride 52 miles on Sunday – the bulk of which was on the actual course. So now we’ve seen ALL the hills on the course and we’ve been at the top of them. And I was able to do that just 18 hours or so after I ran 10 miles. Again, that may not seem like much. But I ran 12 tonight and it was easier than I anticipated.

So right now? Right now I feel pretty good about things. And I think I’m gonna try to stay on top of that positivity wave just as long as I can make it last!

Top ‘o’ the hill!

Bring on Week 13!

music to motivate…

Week 10. I’ll admit I’ve been dragging more than a little bit this week. Feeling a little rough around the edges. Feeling a little less than motivated. I have literally been forcing myself to just. go. workout. Must. go. workout. Makes for a long week.

This morning, I had a running date with some girlfriends who are training for their 1st half marathon this fall. Every Saturday we meet for a handful of miles and once upon a time, we used to meet at 9 a.m. It keeps moving up – earlier and earlier. This week was the first week of 7:30 a.m. and feeling unmotivated and drained as I have felt this week, I was tempted to bail. But the great thing about meeting up with people is that it really does keep you accountable. So I drug myself out of bed. It took every bit of my willpower to shove the covers aside and put my feet on the ground.

I gave myself just enough time to get dressed and run out the door. In the car on the way, I put a good trusty stand-by song on – it always picks me up and gets me ready to roll.


I’m hoping with some sleep this weekend, next week will be a little better. But just in case, what gets you moving when you are short in the motivation department?

being chased by a lion…

Earlier this week, as I do so many times in a week, I was doing a bike ride after work. On the trainer. Indoors. Booooo.

To help pass the time (and give me some change in ‘scenery’), I had the TV set to Animal Planet or Discovery Channel or something along those lines and a funny thing happened. I realized that every time they showed a chase scene with a predator chasing their prey, I sped up. Not intentionally, but it happened. The best I can figure is that 1) the music usually was a little more driving (due to the urgency of the situation) and 2) I was trying to get away from the lion, ahhhhhhh! Conveniently, it mixed up my sprint workout nicely.

Next time you’re stuck in your basement on the trainer, check it out. Be the warthog and RUN PUMBA, RUN!

no failure in trying…

I ran across this the other day – it comes from a Tedx event in Spokane, WA last year. I found it at a time when I’ll admit I’m fretting (just a smidge, and against my best efforts) about the possibility of failure. What if I put all of this time and effort into training for Ironman and I fail to finish it?

Dr. Bliss is a very impressive lady with a good reminder for me as I walk along this road to Ironman, and for all of us, for that matter – “We should try the things we think we cannot do because that’s where we’ll find the reward.”

There will be much to learn throughout the course of my Ironman journey. Without trying, we’ll never know what we’re capable of doing. And if at first you don’t succeed? Learn, adapt, and of course, try, try again.

on setting goals, ironman and going long…

Ok, so confession time: I’m really not much of a “One day…” type of goal setter. I don’t look real far off into the future. Never have. I have always had a hard time with that question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” It’s always been that way – when I was just a wee little tyke and grownups would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I NEVER knew what to say. I think I usually either changed the subject (they probably though I was ADD before it was an official diagnosis…) or just said “Teacher” or something I’d heard one of the other kids say.

I’m a “hey, I think I’m gonna do that” type of person. Not “one day” or “some day”.  Usually as soon as legitimately possible. NOW, if at all possible. Decisions to move cross country? Yup, do it this week. Going back to grad school? This fall, pretty please. True stories – that’s how I roll.

Those “One day goals”? “Some day I’ll…” to me means, whatever, you’re never gonna do it.

M-dot sticker – just a little reminder of what’s coming up.

I can’t confess that I started this process two years ago with the explicit goal of doing an Ironman. I don’t want to say it’s been inevitable. But I will say that with the local Ironman race rolling through here each year since we moved here and watching some of the people roll across the finish line at 14, 15, 16 hours, and especially those who roll through at 16:55, mere minutes before they yank you from the course, you find yourself thinking and sometimes even saying out loud, “Hey, if they could do that, I could do that…probably…”. Let’s just say we get a little closer to signing up each time. Plus, the longer we live here, the more people you know that do it.  And not to mention, we’re not getting any younger… it’s not going to get any easier…and all of this training that I’ve been done over the past couple of years and the training we’re currently doing for the 70.3, it’s the question that’s been swirling around our household these past few weeks. And it gets to be a slippery slope.

So, you might as well know that today, the first day of open registration for Ironman 2013, I pulled the trigger. Hubby and I are signed up. That’s right. Ironman? 2013. We’re in and we’re going long and it’s gonna be awful and epic and tortuous and painful and amazing and likely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wanted to throw up a little bit just thinking about it. Honestly. But the cool thing is, I know there is a lot that can happen between now and then, but I really think I can definitely do it. And once I do it, that’s something I’ll always be able to say: “I’m an Ironman.”

I may not be able to tell you what I want to be when I grow up (the real answer is RETIRED on a beach somewhere in between international trips with an airport close by and a passport full of stamps), but I can tell you that in 363 days, I will be on the beach in a neon pink swim cap with 2800 other wetsuit-clad crazies ready to dive into a cold (but hopefully not freezing cold) lake hoping that before midnight I will hear “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” over the loud speakers as I cross the finish line. And that’s good enough for me. All of the rest of the stuff will work itself out. My journey will unfold in front of me as I go. That’s what keeps it exciting.

This will be hanging on our wall for the next 363 days as a reminder!

rain, rain go away…

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before (though I’m sure I probably have…), but every single race I had back in 2010, with 1 single exception, was in the cold and the rain. It was absurd. I mean, to the point where you couldn’t help but wonder if the big guy upstairs was trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t be doing triathlons or something. Since we’re here, 2 years later, you can assume (correctly) that 1) I am stubborn and 2) I don’t listen very well.

The night before my first-ever 70.3, we camped in a supposedly racers-only campground (that’s a whole ‘nother story…) and there was a seriously epic thunderstorm. Complete with booming, holy crap, right-on-top-of-you claps of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and some serious driving rain. Big ol’ rain drops, pounding heavy on the tent. Not that I was sleeping so very soundly to begin with what with the pre-race nerves and such, but I remember waking up around 2 a.m. and saying out loud to my also awake hubby, “Seriously?!” And then thinking something along the lines of “Not again,” “Why me?” followed by “Un-freakin’-believable.” Which was then followed by a series of words that are not appropriate to list here and a list of potential accident scenarios that could happen between 2 a.m. and the 7 a.m. start that would be ‘ok’ reasons to NOT do the race (should it decide to keep on storming, that is). You know, along the lines of somehow slipping on something and breaking my ankle getting out of the tent in the a.m. Or maybe I would get attacked by the mythical grand Elk-asaurous Rex and his partner in crime, Big foot.

The chilly swim during the “calm between the storms” – Ghost Reservoir, AB, CAN. Calgary 70.3, August 2010

In the end, it ended up ok. At least in hindsight I can say it did. The water was freezing, thanks to downpour. It stopped raining in time for bodymarking and the swim (where it wouldn’t have mattered seeing as we were already cold and wet).

And then started again while I was on the bike (where it definitely DID matter). But the weather was perfect (by my standards) on the run – overcast and cool. 60-something. ­I guess there was a silver lining. It just took ¾ of the race day for me to find it.I was reminiscing about this earlier this evening as I was being drenched by a sudden downpour that consumed the last 18 miles of my 40 mile bike ride tonight. (According to weather.com, there was only supposed to be a 30% chance of rain until 9 p.m. tonight, so while I figured I might get some sprinkles, I didn’t think I was taking THAT big of a chance… though clearly I was wrong.) The deluge brought back memories – Ironman is in town this weekend, and I can only imagine the thoughts that are going through the athletes’ minds tonight as they all hope and pray for better weather on Sunday. Because you know, it’s not like there aren’t enough battles in a 70.3 or 140.6 mile long day. Clicking mile after mile under your own power present plenty of challenges without rain in the equation.

Tonight there was nothing to do but laugh and shake my head at the downpour. I had to get back to my car; I had no choice but to deal with the rain. Race day weather is just like that. You’re ready for the event. You’re trained up. Hopefully you did some training in the elements because let’s face it – the weather gods are not always nice come race day. There’s not a thing you can do about the weather but curse it or just grin and bear it. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be signed up for a race that I’m doing, you can bet that you’re gonna get rained on at some point in the day.

But I sure do hope that it clears up for the racers by Sunday…

My view of the storm I was stuck in… glad I only had it for 20 miles and not 100 miles! Since you can’t see the actual raindrops in this photo, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

open water swims…

A few years back, I signed my mother up for her first triathlon. She had been saying for years and years that she always thought about doing one, that she thought it’d be fun. And she never signed up. So one year, for her birthday, that was her present. Happy birthday, Mom! Now before you deem me to be an evil child, you should know 1) that I flew home and did the race also, and 2) my mom was perfectly capable of finishing a sprint tri, probably without even training for it (she just needed a little push. You know, in exchange for all of that love and support she gave me when I was growing up. Oh, how the tables had turned, haha).

Having said that, my hubby put together a training program for her to follow. Which she did, to a T. Except for the part where you have to get into the open water. Despite my strong encouragement to go find a lake, ALL of her swims were in a pool. Which is fine, except that race day open water swims are not pool swims. Dark, murky water. Cold, sometimes chest-freezingly, brain-numbingly cold water makes you gasp for air. Makes your lungs freeze up. Makes you want to get back out (the same way you came in – the short way!). Add the hundreds of other people splashing and kicking around (and the stress of potential fist or foot to the face hazards) and the open water swim can be enough to sink anyone. Now my poor mom learned this the hard way. She made it through and she completed the race, but not without some emotional scarring. She has since completed a half marathon and last year, a full marathon. But I’m not sure that I will ever get her in the open water again…

English: Open water swimmer

Open water swimmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Determined not to face the same traumatic experience as my mom did, my hubby’s taken a different approach and yesterday faced the freezing cold lake for the first time. Mano a mano. Fifty-five frigid degrees seemed not to deter him though I’m not sure why. Perhaps one part of why he has already hit the cold water is because he knows that he might well be facing the same conditions on race day. When I went through this two years ago, with the exception of 1 Olympic distance race, every single one of my race day lake swims was in water temps between 55-58 degrees – not exactly tropical soaking temps. Regardless, I’m proud of him for facing the open water swim. And not only that, but for spending a full 25 minutes in it! He goes into this weekend’s 1st tri, and the tri season, wiser and more experienced than those who haven’t yet braved the cold, dark open.

It’s funny, the things that wear you out when you’re swimming in the open water. It’s tough to fight your natural instincts to gasp for air as your chest and lungs submerge. You can’t see the black line on the bottom of the pool because the water is dark and gloomy and murky. Mentally, it is exhausting to try and NOT lose your cool when you see something dark and shadowy below you. Especially if it’s big. Or moving. Toward you. Even perfectly logical and rational people like myself can easily imagine the fictitious black octopus of death swimming menacingly towards you with its eight poisonous legs ready to grab you and drag you to the depths so he can eat you for dinner. You’re such easy, unsuspecting prey. Oh wait, that’s just a tree branch. Safe…? For now…The point of all of this is to say, I highly recommend you don’t make race day your first open water experience. First of all, if you live in this neck of the woods, you can wait for the water to warm up, but really – there’s a chance the water really might not be any warmer on race day and you’re certainly going to have to deal with it then, aren’t you?

And perhaps most important (at least as far as I’m concerned), you’ll want to learn what your personal reactions to things may be – both physiologically and mentally. For example, I know I need to get in to the water and submerge myself just before the swim starts. So that initial panicky cold has faded enough for me to control my breathing. If I don’t, I spend the first leg of the swim trying not to hyperventilate. Also, you will probably want to check out your wetsuit before race day. I have a friend who didn’t and found out at the start of the swim that the neck of her wetsuit were like tiny little angry toddler hands strangling her as she swam. Joy. At least it was just a sprint distance. It was not her most favorite triathlon experience.

And I know that I’m comfortable in the (pool) water, but open water makes me J-U-M-P-Y! But the more I’m in the open water, the more I’ve “survived” the open water – maybe it IS safe after all? And I’ve found that orangey-amber colored goggles literally brighten my view. Rose colored glasses. Think about it- nothing bad or scary ever comes from somewhere bright and sunshiny. Yes, it’s a total head game. Mock all you want, it works.

Sure, you may get a little cold venturing out into the cold, dark. But all of these little things could really save your tush on race day. Doesn’t that make it worth it?