Saturday, January 29, 2011

And I didn't miss any workouts and everything's great...

...and if you believe that!

It's week 10 and I'd love everyone, especially the coach, to think it's all rosy and we're all systems go to Ironman Coeur D'Alene, a PR, and a trip to Kona. But that's fiction. Yes it is all systems go (so far) for IM CDA, but that's about all we know. The past few weeks have been rough. I've gotten little road running in, something about that white stuff, but more than that has gone on. While I have successfully managed another SAD episode, I did end up getting sick and generally ready to sell all my gear and join the donut eating set.

It's during this (very regular, very predictable) episode of despair and self-loathing that something kicks in. I disgust myself to such a degree that I decide to kick my own a--. But this time it's not about working out more and harder. Part of kicking my a-- is forcing myself to realize that, yes, I'm about to miss a few key workouts while I shut it down and get rid of the cold. It doesn't really help that manic part of me, but it helps prepare me for what comes next. Likewise I refocus on my nutrition. See a theme here? It's not so much the exercise that pulls me out of these periods. It's the restoration. Once the energy levels begin returning then I crush it like a fiend resume activities as prescribed and just let what is gone be gone. It's just the best long term plan. Do I think the missed training volume could cost me in June? Maybe, but maybe not. I do confess I am most distraught over missing my mile repeat test. I know I'd be much better than I was at the end of December and frankly seeing that difference works wonders for the mind. Instead I need to try and be okay with simply knowing I am better. (Or am I?)

All this work and anxiety and depression may make it sound like I'm not enjoying the training. In truth at times I am not. But those times are fewer than in other years and they are really an indicator that I'm not doing it correctly anyway. Usually it means I'm pushing too hard too early. By backing off the throttle a bit it feels like much of the "burden" of training is lifted and I can, say, just hang out on my bike for a while. I don't need to obsess about whether or not I'm putting up better watts per heart beat than I did last session.

Oh, and adding to the "fun" was my I'm on the team, I'm not on the team, I'm on the team drama (self-inflicted). Well I'm on the team, albeit in a different capacity than before. Doesn't change a single thing about me as an athlete. It just changes the page on which my name appears on the website, and oh yes, you don't get to see my smiling face! Never fear, I'll post some pictures in case you find yourself longing for my lycra clad body!

This week marks the transition to "build" activities as opposed to "base" training. I have always liked build more. There is more variety. You do learn during the build whether or not you have a proper base, because if you don't you break down pretty quickly, and if that's back onto the emotional ledge!

(So far so good, including the best paced 800TT I've ever swum.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

5 more months

I'm in an in-between time where race day seems pretty far away and right around the corner all at the same time. Every time the workout ends up in the cellar, well, the summer seems far off. Hey, it's only mid-January after all. Most years I'm just getting started. I'm just doing adaptation workouts to get ready to train for real. However this year I'm almost to the "build phase" of training, which is when the real effort starts. Wow, building already. There's not much time left. Am I really ready? Will I be ready?

I've had some real doubts about my ability to get it done. It's pretty hard to imagine being significantly faster at 45 than I have ever been in my life. When taken event by event I am not faster. I've run faster; there was a time when I could run miles under 5:00min. I've ridden faster; there was a time when I could average more than 26 mph for a 10mile time trial. The one exception may be my swim which is marginally improved. So I need to focus on the following truthes: it's not about running sub 5min miles, it's about running 7:40/mile for over 3 hours after riding 112. It's not about riding 26mph for 23 minutes, but rather 21mph for over 5 hours. And while there is some hope in the fact that the race is not about how fast you can go, but rather how long you can go, I still have doubts. It's just difficult to wrap your head around the effort when it's 18 degrees out and you're riding in the cellar wishing you were riding anywhere but there!

And then there's the cost, though this really falls under a different heading. This is an expensive venture no matter how you slice it, expensive enough that at some point you have to seriously reconsider the "value" of a personal quest. I have one last thing to prove to myself, so it's still full throttle ahead, but this time around, win, lose, or draw, it'll be time to reconsider the future. I can't see myself leaving the sport, but to be honest I do not really like the direction. At the forefront is the M-Dot thing. In so many ways they set the tone that this is an activity for the privileged: if you've got the money you can buy a spot in a race! There's the equipment: "entry level" bikes now cost $2K. The upper limit is well...mostly undefined. Take a $5k bike add electronic shifting, an SRM power meter, some top end wheels and before you you know it your bicycle costs more than a car, a NEW car. And then there is the training: monthly personal training plans frequently cost more than monthly car payments. I do see the value in it for many people, especially beyond the value of high end carbon fiber toys. I question the ongoing value for me. I've got two young children who one day will no longer be young and will (hopefully) want to go to college. Top colleges already cost $60k+ per year in tuition. What will that be in 11 years when Alexandra wants to go? When we decided to become parents that was a statement that we were prepared to no longer have things be all about us. The kids and their future are the primary concern. The amount of money going into this Coeur D'Alene adventure alone would make a nice 529 plan contribution.

Which brings me around to my doubts. I'm beginning to think that there is more than a little element of guilt in here. I've committed to seeing this through, as planned, for the next 5 months but then maybe it is time to move forwards. Athletics is part of my legacy so I expect to stay involved, but in a somewhat different manner. I think M-Dot branded racing is done. After all I could probably prepay Pumpkinman, a wonderful independently run race in Maine, for the next 5 years for what this trip to Idaho will cost. And you know, I suspect the kids won't care if we race only local and shorter events. They may well prefer it, after all we could do more. That's more medals and trophies for Daddy to give them! I'm probably done getting coached as well. It is a means to an end, so once I've ended... Maybe I'll finally "retire" to that dream job as a Bill Bowerman-esque track/x-country coach. Or maybe I'll focus on community family fitness. I've long considered the possibilities presented by the very nice track and field facility we have here in Middletown. Or maybe I'll finally buy that open water single and simply return to rowing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It's been a struggle the last 2 weeks or so. Happens within a few weeks of this date every year, and in fact I've written about it previously. Fortunately good hard workouts help. They don't fix everything, only spring seems to do that, but they help. I got outside today. Cold, but sunny and calm so it wasn't too tough to warm-up and get moving. Finished the day with a much better time than I expected, which in turn proved that the negative thoughts have little to do with reality. Having the hard numbers really helps.

I've also spent some time chatting with my Dad the last couple of weeks. In fact I owe him an email this weekend. I decided if I can't be in Pittsburgh to talk about nothing with him, I'd write him from Rhode Island and "challenge" him with bigger topics. We discussed the nature of God and the theological understanding of God vs. what many churches still promote. It's actually astonishing to me that such a separation exists. Turns out I fall into the theologian camp more than I ever thought possible. Yes stunned even me! After all I'm the kid who hung the "WARNING: Theology Area" sign on my Dad's home office! Now this discourse doesn't mean I'm running down to the nearest church and signing up, but he has given me some things to think about.

The hardest thing to overcome is the feeling of isolation. Well in the past week I had to make a decision based on my "thinking" brain, to the objection of my "emotional" brain. It was the right decision, but frankly did not help the perception of isolation. The emotional brain really does not like losing! I elected to not be part of the QT2 Team this year, though I am still being coached by them. It really changes nothing, though maybe the clothing...we need to work that part out, but it feels like things are different. As rowers we all did ridiculous workouts in miserable, dare I say medieval, conditions at times and thrived because we did them together. Even if you were off your game, chances are someone was still holding it together and they'd help you through. That's what teammates do. So emotionally I feel like I'm cutting myself off from my teammates, turning my back on them. The reality is not quite like that, but again the emotional brain doesn't listen too well to the thinking brain.

We went skiing today. It could have been a total disaster (okay maybe it was somewhat of a train wreck), but amazingly I kept my patience. Being out in the sun definitely helps. I have a few hours of trainer riding ahead of me and am dreading decending into the cellar, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. I'd like to think things are heading north again and maybe they are, or maybe it'll just last as long as the sunshine. Either way I plan on enjoying the moment.