Monday, March 28, 2011

3 breakthrough workouts in 1 week.

Last weeks training started with just striving to maintain consistency in the face of fear. Four previous open water (OW) swims in the last two weeks had me feeling choked, stressed, hyperventilating and returning to shore with my inner voice screaming, "Don't drown!" well short of my intended goal, a full 1 mile lap. 

On Thursday, my training partner and I headed to the lake for a mid week swim. I have swam this lake, this location over six years. I knew if I was consistent, if I just focused on the basics and not dwell on failure I would be out of this mental block. Standing in the 60* water I said to my friend, "Lets see what happens," and stroked out to the buoy and then headed into the canyon. My stroke, my breathing and my hips finally began to work in unison and albeit slowly I made my way past my previous freak out spots and made my way to the back of the canyon. 

At the turnaround I was able to kneel on a rock along the side, defog my goggles and do a little fist pump congratulations to myself. I scanned the water for my partner to see how far ahead he was, when I heard, "Good job", echo off the canyon walls. He was on the other side of the canyon watching and waiting for me. What a pal. 

Swimming slowly back and beginning to fatigue, I cut the buoy and headed straight for the beach. On unsteady legs I emerged from the water feeling as if I had broken through my mental barrier. Breakthrough Workout #1

The previous week a teammate was commenting on a difficulty of a particularly hard bike course, (St. George or Silverman). I remarked, "Want to train for the hills, ride hills. Want to train for the flats, ride hills." Reflecting on that comment a bit later I realized I was not focusing enough on my cycling, defaulting to a task I truly enjoy, running. Now, I can run. I'm not a rabbit, but I can run far on little training and run far, faster when I train for something specific. Cycling to me is a chore. I enjoy it but I focus more on the flaws than the success. 

So last week I dropped my run mileage by almost 75% and increased the cycling consistency to buildup that area of training. Friday morning, after a week of consistent cycling blocks and my still on a swim high, my training partner sends me a text, "Lets ride EOP (End Of Pavement) before the swim Sunday." EOP is a well known segment of road that wanders through the desert, past our swimming lake and ends in the middle of the desert. The last nine miles of it that we would ride is a particularly nasty grade.  My mind said, "Ugh", my thumbs typed back, 'Sure'. 

I've ridden EOP before, driven it and run it as well. Even though it had been a couple years since riding it (due to my injury) I know the course very well. Especially all the places I've practically fallen over for not pedaling fast enough to maintain any forward motion. Practically. Its times like that I whine for a third crank up front but really its an admonishment for not having stronger cycling legs. 

I wouldn't say I blasted the ride but it was much easier than I remember it. Perhaps a trick of the brain, perhaps a testament to the cycling base I've created the last few months. Whatever it was I made it to EOP without any problems. I was able to stand at the roads end and revel in the accomplishment and not dwell on the effort. A little or a lot, it was enough to see me to the top. The cruel joke of EOP is that the decent is epically fast. Descending in 10 minutes what took 40 to climb. This completed Breakthrough Workout #2.

Aside from my Thursday swim success, I was planning on being too neuro-muscularly wiped out to swim after my first EOP ride of the year. However, I felt good enough to put on the suit and head out with a dozen other cold souls. Again I made it all the way to the back of the canyon, and felt even better than Thursday. I was able to focus on finer swimming reminders and not continuously stay in my head. This time I swam back to the buoy before returning to the beach and completed my first 1 mile OW lap of the year. Breakthrough Workout #3.  

It is not often that multiple breakthroughs occur in one week. It is reward enough to just complete the key workout in each discipline.  So I take the week as a large step forward for me, personally. Looking forward, I'll start putting more run mileage together and continue to challenge myself with hills and swims. It's starting to look like a triathlon could make it on the race calendar this year. 

It is uncommon I survived the injury I sustained in my last triathlon.  Its amazing two years later to prove all the medical experts wrong who told me if I worked out again, I'd die. It's satisfying that the limits I have now are all self induced and I know I can conquer those with a positive mental attitude, determination, consistency and most importantly, for me, to finally have the humility to listen to a team mate say, "Dude, thats enough."  

Its not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Goals beget Goals

A goal is a really hard thing to live up to. In endurance terms, it is a race, event or test against the clock, that we can not hide from. Our illusions, our sleeping in, our improper nutrition, our alibi's are all laid out in front of our friends, our family, our team mates and our competitors. At best we succeed because those concessions did not matter we did the due diligence. At worst, we blow up or give up on the course, often wearing the most unflattering outfit we've ever owned. But it will look great when your down another twenty pounds.

But we can't stop making goals, can we?  We need them. They focus our life, they create new opportunity, open new doors. Finishing a goal increases our self-esteem, gives us a since of accomplishment, makes us feel like we have won something. And winning breeds winning. These winners say, "Bring on the challenge of the goal", using that emotion to carry them long term through a racing season, or short term just to finish an hour on the trainer.  

For those that can't complete a goal, it is the opposite. They feel defeated. They feel they put so much effort into the last goal and that didn't work out, so why keep putting myself into that position. Goal expectations become cheap Chuck E. Cheese trinkets rather than shiny finish line medals. 

It is never too late to set a goal. Even the same goal, over and over. You fail, the opportunity passes, life gets in the way. Nothing is impossible. It is just a matter of how much education, motivation, accountability and investment you want to put into it. 

Education. You cannot expect to any goal, professionally or physically, to be obtained if you don't have the proper tools required to do the job. Can't be an engineer if you didn't graduate from high school. Hard to lose weight when you don't know how to count calories or know how many calories to consume each day. 

Motivation. No matter how strongly we feel about our goal it's hard to keep that focus every single day, almost impossible without a plan. Motivation comes not in the ultimate goal but surviving a short term goal and putting those together so it matters in the end result. A decreasing scale can stop late night snacks, clothes fitting better, completing a shorter distance event, completing a school course, all these things fit into the goal or Definite Chief Aim. 

Accountability. It can not be done alone. Create or have created for you a training plan. Have a mentor. Tell your goal to all your friends, co-workers and family. Get them bought into your goal and encourage them to hold you to it. Ignore the Dreamkillers, those that speak failure to you because they were not successful with that goal or they have personal fears that they cannot overcome. Some people are afraid of success and will try to undermine your goal so they feel better about them self. 

Investment. We need commit all our willpower to a goal but the fact is that personal sacrifice is sometimes not enough. School costs money. Personal trainers cost money. Recovery supplements and healthy food cost money. That investment however will usually pay back ten fold in results. Many goals fail because people expect something for nothing. Expect to buy a $1 lottery ticket for $100 million dollars. Expect short cuts to reap the same results as hard work. I can tell you that buying healthy food costs a lot more than buy junk food. I can tell you that buying the services of a certified professional in the area of your goal will not only help you achieve but dominate your goal when put to the test. 

A goal is a tough thing to live with. Instead of sleepwalking through life, you are challenging yourself to be better. To do better. The cool thing about a goal is that it is contagious. Its viral. Tell someone your doing something and often enough that person will want to do it too. From personal goals we inspire others. Can it get any better than that. 

It's not enough to exist. I'm going to live. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I haven't written much about Mae Leilani, who turned two last month. Or as she would prefer it, "A pretty pink princess, beautiful butterfly." I like to call her LIMBO, Little Infant Must Be Obeyed. 

She can count to ten on her own. She can see and know the word, 'dog' among others. She has complete conversations with us. Best of all, unlike her big brother, very healthy. Except in one regard, Night Terrors

Mae has had night terrors for as long as either Mistress or I can remember. She is almost always asleep but 3-5 times every night she cry's and moans very loudly, as if she is having a nightmare and usually one or two of these times it is a blood curdling scream from a horror movie and she is flailing about. One would think Freddy was in her dreams. 

It is very difficult to calm her down, as she is usually asleep during this but sometimes her eyes are wide open and her face is a fear mask. This used to scare the crap out of us, but we know that she is in no pain, she doesn't recall the episodes, it doesn't affect her very loving, talkative mood during the day. She wakes up happy, happy, happy, signing and humming and playing with her animals and dolls. Giving each family member a hug first thing in the morning. 

It really affects Mistress the most, as she has that bionic mommy hearing who in bed can hear a child breath differently. She bolts out of bed with each night terror just to make sure she doesn't hurt herself. In fact the reason I write this tonight is because she had a particularly bad night terror where she came screaming out of her room. 

Luckily Mistress can fall asleep in seconds so she loses only a 5-10 minutes every couple hours, whereas if I wake up, I am up. For a half the night at least. So Mistress has no expectation that I will assist unless I am already up or it's really bad and she needs help. 

Hopefully more pictures of her will be forthcoming, but to be honest, she hates the camera. She rarely will smile for it as evidenced in the pictures that accompany this post. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Race Report #2 2011: Spartan Race (Super distance)

There are just some races that regardless of what goals you have going on in your life, you should take time from your schedule to do. I would place the recent popular swing into obstacle course races as one of those times. This is look back on the inaugural Spartan Race at Rawhide/Chandler, Arizona. I also decided to bring a waterproof disposable camera with me to take shots on the move. As you will see, the camera got pretty beat up and mud covered the lens in many pictures. 

Some of my triathlon teammates had decided to do this race months ago and trained for it with a weekly boot camp of functional training. I forgot about committing to the event and signed up the day before packet pickup. On the positive side I have spent my whole life incorporating crawling, climbing, running and ducking, so these events are not so much a race and as what I would prefer to do with my down time. If there was a course like this set up permanently someplace close I would probably be there 1-2x a week. This blog is Endurance Pursuits for a reason. 

The Spartan race I completed in Arizona was an eight mile course with 15 obstacles. As this company hosts events around the country, I suspect that each events distance is based on terrain, elevation, time of year and available assets on the property.

Without getting into the specific details of each obstacle, I will say that you get very wet. Over your head swimming across creeks, getting blasted by fire hoses wet. And muddy. Shoe sucking, wall climbing, belly crawling muddy. Some events challenge your balance, others your ability to perform a mental task (ours was completing the white side of a rubics cube), others are just tests of your raw power. If you fail at the task or decide you do not want to do it or cannot complete it, there is passing penalty posted for each obstacle, these involved exercise like burpees, push ups or jumping jacks administered by a safety officer. In between this you run. Sometimes through mud or water, always dirt, hunched over going through a tunnel or just to put distance between you and the last obstacle you thought would be the end of you.

I think what appeals to this form of racing is that it is not entirely based on speed which would appeal only to runners. The race also attracts regular gym members, Crossfit and P90X groups. This is my second obstacle race, I completed a similar race called Tough Mudder last year, and functional training clubs were well represented at both. They don't always do well as individuals because their training style is too off balance to incorporate distance running, but they do well with the power, strength and grip obstacles. Conversely, true runners have problems with tackling the climbing obstacles like walls and ropes and power obstacles like pulling and carrying heavy weight for distance.

As for me, I loved the mud, I enjoyed the scenery running, I got thoroughly wet and used up. I climbed through, over and under a lot of obstacles with a smile on face and I did it with friends. Many who are training for ironmans.  Check out the links for events in your area, there are usually discounts for teams, and jump through some fire, run through smoke grenades, get wet, muddy, twisted around, a little freaked out and then celebrate the accomplishment of something really unique. Something I hope only gains more traction in our fitness world.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Upcoming last minute race

I was minding my own business this morning when I got a text, "you're still doing Spartan this weekend?". Uh-oh. I forgot.

Thankfully there was still online registration and I've got a good running base for the eight mile obstacle course. Of course the best racing strategy is having one and I don't have one. This has certainly shaped up into a year of organic racing. Meaning, as long as my base training grows I'll drop into anything short of a half iron ultra 50k and do alright. At least that is my thinking.

In fact I've been training well this week, putting together my first bricks of the year. So much so that I went to bed early last night but awoke at midnight with the hot legs or Jimmy Legs. Man that hurt. So I went downstairs and tried to solve that for four hours. I was going to take today off but after signing up for the Saturday race I decided to run today and rest Friday the day before the race.

Running on dead legs is not fun. Only two minutes in I was walking and ready to quit, my HR already in zone 4. I did a gut check and reminded myself of my running mantra, "just vet through the first ten minutes.". Of course at ten minutes I was okay and finished my five miler. It wasn't fun and it was over 80 degrees but I got through it.

Just seems like a metaphor for life, Start something, even with doubt, keep going, build momemtum and the things that bother you you find really are not that important.

It's not enough to exist. I'm going to live.