Planning For My First 70.3

I’ve recently decided to pursue a 70.3, a half Ironman. (Well, technically the Ironman is a branded event and I am not actually attending an Ironman race, but it is the same race but from a different company. Sorry, that’s my marketing background talking.)

There’s going to be lots of planning involved. For me, that’s the fun part!

Some things I need to work on:

  • Swimming endurance: I have very little of it. To address this I will attend a swimming boot camp class 2-3x a week.
  • Swimming consistency: My swimming is quite irregular. To address this I will not only enroll in a swimming boot camp but also go to the pool 2x a week on weekday mornings, for a total of 4-5x per week swimming.
  • Open water swimming practice: I’ve only done this twice (once during my last sprint triathlon). To address this I will aim to substitute two weekly swim sessions at the pool with the beginning ocean swimmers meetup group here in LA.
  • Biking consistency: I need to ride more often and for longer periods of time. To address this I will bike at the gym during the weekdays when I can’t make it out too far. I’ll have one long ride on weekends, most likely after my group run on Saturday mornings.
  • Running: I’ve been sidelined with injuries and illness which have both prevented me from being consistent with my long weekend runs. I need to be more mindful of stretching, icing, cooling down, nutrition, and rest so that these problems do not become too large to handle.
I have 12 months to work on all of this. What I’m aiming for is to be as proficient in my swimming as I am in my biking. That’ll take a lot of work since I don’t deem myself a particularly strong swimmer. I have a few races coming up — Tri Carson on the 15th and the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on the 30th — but the most pressing event is my marathon on November 13th. I’m running out of weekends to accomplish my long training runs so I may have to start sandwiching them into the week.
After my marathon, I will have to start working out twice a day: Start the morning off with a swim and run in the evenings, or vice versa. One evening a week my runs will be swapped with a long bike ride (either stationary or road). On one weekend day I will have a brick workout (long bike ride to be followed with a run) and on the other weekend day I will have a long run (10+ miles). For two weeks I will swap out a few morning swims with a bike ride so that I can take a few ocean swimming clinics on weekends.

  • Month 1: November 2011 – Swimming proficiency, run Athens Classic Marathon
  • Month 2: December 2011 – Swimming proficiency, cycling emphasis
  • Month 3: January 2012 – Swimming proficiency, running emphasis
  • Month 4: February 2012 – Swimming proficiency, running emphasis
  • Month 5: March 2012 – Swimming proficiency, run LA Marathon
  • Month 6: April 2012 – Swimming proficiency, cycling emphasis
  • Month 7: May 2012 – Compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon
  • Month 8: June 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 9: July 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 10: August 2012 – Open water swimming endurance emphasis, cycle, run
  • Month 11: September 2012 – Peak training month(s)
  • Month 12: October 2012 – Peak training month (s)
  • Month 13: November 2012 – Taper, Race
From a macro view that all seems very feasible. Now all I have to do is plan out what the day-to-day will look like. My short term goal is to get comfortable enough with my swimming where it’s the last thing that causes me pre-race anxiety. My long term goal is to work towards the full 140.6 distance. I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge and I feel that this is within reach if I plan for it and execute on that plan. I’ve been reading up on 8-12-16 week plans but they all seem so rushed and hurried. I need to be able to account for things like life getting in the way, getting sick, injured, family, friends, etc. I think a one-year plan gives me enough time to build endurance and proficiency in all three sports to perform well and race confidently on the big day. I hope that my friends and family will be patient with me as I slowly end up disappearing into my training…

My First Triathlon Experience: The 2011 LA Triathlon

Ah, the LA Triathlon. My very first triathlon experience is under my belt. I’m glad that the anxiety is all over and now I can focus on bigger and better things (to be announced at the end of the post…don’t skip down!).

Despite having shown up at the expo later than I wanted to, I sat through all of the course talks and newbie clinics. I felt a little less nervous but little did I know that the panic would set in at the 11th hour.

After leaving the expo with my new iFitness race/hydration belt and a shuttle ticket, I ran some errands before getting things set up at home. My wetsuit had a few tears in it already and I needed to grab some energy gels. I also had to test out my bike one last time before the race so I took it for a spin to the bike shop — who knew that bike patch glue works well for wetsuit repair? — and then to a friend’s house.

On my way back from her place, I began noticing a grinding sound. Something was amiss and my sanity was about to unravel for an hour. As I started inspecting my bike, my chain decided to jigger itself loose. Then I noticed that the gear was grinding near the deraileur. I took my allen wrench and went to town on my bike. I also looked up about 10 different YouTube videos to figure out how to fix the darn thing. By the end of an hour — and about a dozen expletives later — things were back to normal. I packed my T1 bag, double checked the glue on my wetsuit, laid out my trisuit and armwamers. I ate dinner and tried to go to bed.

Usually the night before a race is nervewrecking. I get nervous. I start overanalyzing whether or not I’ve trained enough or properly. I took solace in knowing that there were probably many hundreds of other newbie triathletes up at that very moment thinking the exact same thing. By the time I fell asleep it was 10pm (quite early on a pre-race night) and I awoke at 2:30am, 3:30am, 3:45am, and then again at 4:15am.

I got up and threw my clothes on. I packed my breakfast and headed out the door with all of my gear in one go. I’ve always been a fairly light packer. I sped to Downtown LA via 6th Street, which has always been my little secret. Very little traffic the morning of the race. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t find a parking lot with an attendant so I went to the same one I parked at for the expo, put a $10 in an envelope, marked it with my license plate number, and tossed it into the kiosk hoping that I’d see my car again come that afternoon.

I rode down Figueroa to 12th Street, where the shuttles were lined up and ready to take athletes to Venice Beach. As I boarded the shuttle with about 50 or so more triathletes, it was slightly comforting. Nervous energy was in the air. Everyone was pretty quiet and focused. Some people put on headphones, others gazed out windows, and no one fell asleep. The energy was a little intense but I felt strangely at home. I was finally with my people — the Type A’er, the planning and rehearsing and thinking and reflecting types — and it felt nice. Our driver got lost a few times but we finally made it to Venice Beach. The guy next to me chucked and said that we probably could’ve biked there faster. (I kind of agree!)

T1 wasn’t too hectic. By the time I got there some of the other athletes were already set. I took awhile to get everything set up — bike on the stand, appropriately placed towels, socks, shoes, etc. When everything was done, I decided that it was finally time for breakfast. I was pretty nervous and I rarely have an appetite on race morning, but nonetheless I inhaled 6 or so bite sized brownies and a packet of PowerBar energy blasts. I downed some water and headed to the volunteer station to get myself marked up for the race ahead.

As the transition area closed, everyone was called out to the water for the morning remarks and the national anthem. They began to call the waves — all 16 of them — and it started off with the elites and pros first. It was inspirational seeing how laser focused they were and how they entered the water with such strength and purpose. Right at about that time I remembered that my open water swim coach had mentioned that it was best to get into the water prior to the start of the event to acclimate to the temperature. Even though the water was actually warmer than air temperature, it was probably a good idea anyways so I left the race area to join the other athletes who were doing the same thing.

I practiced a few dolphin dives as the waves began to pick up. I was feeling strong about my training at that time and ready to just get started. I still had about an hour to go before my wave would be called, so I did my best to stay warm. I jogged up and down the beach in my wetsuit, dunked myself into the water, swam a little bit, chatted with some of the other age groupers. It was fun connecting with others who had been training for months leading up to the event, just like me.

Before I knew it, we were up to the start line. We ran down the beach, into the water, and dove right in. Even though I had warmed up prior to this, the water temperature just sucked the air out of me. I was only completing the sprint distance (1/2 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) but about 0.1 mile in to the swim I was already panicking. It was partially because I had only truly been in the ocean once before. Another reason was that the wetsuit had settled into me a sense of claustrophobia. The people around me didn’t freak me out as much as I had anticipated, and there were lifeguards everywhere. It almost felt like the number of lifeguards outnumbered the number of athletes. One quickly paddled up to me to see if I needed help, but I turned it down and kept going. I tried to get into a rhythm and to put myself into a calmer mindset. I told myself that I had trained hard for this section. I tried to remember the words of encouragement I got from everyone. I told myself that I had finally committed to a goal and was in the process of achieving it if I could keep my bearing. My endurance needed some work so I flipped between freestyle and backstroke. I made it to buoy 1 just fine and had two more and a coastline to go. My Coney Island Crawl ended up leaving me with pretty bad chafing on my neck, days of neck cramps, a lot of spent energy, and bout so breathlessness. Having to switch to backstroke for about half of the swim meant that I ended up swimming in zig zags around the remaining two buoys and back towards the ocean. I honestly probably ended up swimming more like 0.6 miles.

I was swimming with all the energy I had. I felt pretty spent in the water. As much as I was reaching for the shoreline I felt like I was moving inches at a time. I kept trying to remember what my swim instructor told me — reach as far as you can with your fingers, push back with your arms, repeat — but each time it felt like the shoreline was barely moving. A lifeguard paddled to me and coached me back to the shoreline to keep me from zigzagging back towards buoy 3. I was incredibly grateful for them. I kept swimming and swimming as far as I could until someone told me to just stand and run out. (I had remembered hearing advice that I should swim until my fingers can hit the ground before getting up, since you swim faster than you walk. I suppose for me that was pretty arguable!)

I got out of the water and was pretty dizzy. From the race pictures my cheeks were rosy and I was looking down most of the time. Sounds about right. It was difficult getting my bearing, getting my wetsuit off, and getting my shoes on. My transition time was four and a half minutes long, which is a pretty long time. I walked my bike out of transition and got on to it and started enjoying the experience.

As I rode down Venice Blvd. I couldn’t help but think to myself that the hard part of the triathlon was over. Just a few short months before I was absolutely terrified of the water and signed up for lessons. Did I really just finish an ocean swim and NOT get plucked out by lifeguards or deemed unfit for participation? I guess in this case, you really need to fake it until you make it. If you had even looked like you were doubting yourself they’d pluck you out of the water. I was glad that they didn’t do that to me.

I kept riding, being very mindful of any sort of clicking in my bike. I was a bit scared that things were going to fall apart since I don’t really deem myself a bike handyman. I tried to shift gears but things felt awry, so I loosened them up and just rode on the 1-1. As the race director had said the day before, biking isn’t so much about the equipment as it was about the engine. I pedaled as hard as I could up the hills I never anticipated, tried to rest my numbing hands every mile or so, and kept focus on Downtown LA. The bike portion was definitely the most exhilarating part of the entire event, equipment withstanding. I rode through familiar parts of my city and hoped to see a few familiar faces out there but it wasn’t in the cards that day.

T2 was a piece of cake, mainly because I had nothing to change. I parked my bike, grabbed a drink, got my GU on, and started running. I had practiced this transition often at the gym, so the rubber legs were completely expected. Even though I am not a particularly fast runner I deemed this segment to be my strongest. I had been running the longest, after all, and it was the thing that got me into training for the triathlon in the first place. I enjoyed seeing all of the other athletes make the climb up to the Disney Concert Hall. On the way back down the hill, I was enjoying myself so much that I tried to crack a joke with an older man also running. He seemed like he was struggling and as I cracked my very silly joke, he seemed to just get angry with me, so I wished him a good run and kept pushing. By the time I made it down the hill the 3rd mile marker welcomed me home and it was a fairly strong finish. I tried not to sprint all the way down to the finish, only picking up my stride just a little bit. I had learned from my Disneyland Half Marathon that you definitely shouldn’t gun it at the end, especially if you had not trained at those speeds…it only leads to injury, something that I am unfortunately still dealing with to this day.

All in all, the LA Triathlon was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself in the process. I was kind of sad that it was all over! I tried to look at it like this: my training was the journey, and the event was the celebration of said journey. When I convinced myself of that, and the fact that training is never really over until you say it is, I felt a lot better.

My final times were pretty decent. I finished on 2:05:39. My swim took 28:39. My bike took 1:01:57. My run only took 27:48.

The night before, I had been eyeing a few different races…one was another local sprint triathlon in October, and one was a half/70.3 late next year (1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 run). In the 7 days after the LA Triathlon I ended up treating myself and registering for both. I’m very excited about the prospect of doing the half. It’ll require lots of training. Lots and lots and lots of training!

I chose the HITS Half Triathlon in Lake Havasu for a number of reasons. It’s close enough to home that I could take vacation time and just drive myself out there (much cheaper than shipping my bike). I’ve also been to Lake Havasu City before so I know what to expect. Plus, I think it’s close enough where my family and friends can come out for it if they choose to. I’m excited about the adventure ahead. Partially terrified, but mostly excited. Reminds me of when I first decided to register for the LA Triathlon.

See you at the next finish line!


The Big Day Is Finally Here

After months of preparation, the big day is finally here! The LA Triathlon starts in less than 12 hours. OY!

I’m incredibly nervous but mostly excited. I think I finally have all of my effects in order — wetsuit, trisuit, arm warmers, racing belt, bike (and all the things that come with it), helmet, shoes, towel, tools — and now I can finally relax for the evening.

The last time I ran a benchmark race was the 5K in March. Everything in between has been pretty fun, but mostly filler. I’ve been nervous about those other races before, but the anxiety I feel tonight is similarly reminiscent of that first 5K. I suspect I won’t feel this way again until Athens, which will be a mess all in itself…and I’ll be in a different country to boot.

After sitting through the course and newbie briefings at the expo today, I feel a lot more comfortable and I think I’m just ready to go have a good time. I’m excited that the LA Triathlon is my first. I love the city I was born and raised in and would not want to share this first experience with any other in the world!

In keeping with tradition, whenever I cross off a bucket list race or milestone, I register for another one…so I think I will wrap up my dinner and do exactly that. See you at the finish line!

Beginning Ocean Swimming Is Not As Scary As Previously Imagined

After a lot of reticence and procrastinating, I finally attended my first ever open water swimming clinic. I have pretty much been terrified of the water since I started training for the LA Triathlon and since it’s coming down to crunch time, I started doing my research about a month ago.

I was unsuccessful at cajoling some of my friends to join me in an open water swim, since they were unavailable. I met someone at a running store who recommended an open swim training group but it turned out to be incredibly expensive (over $100 a session). Lastly, I went onto Meetup and luckily I came across the Beginning Ocean Swimmers clinic. Sessions were only $10 a pop and they had clinics nearby that introduced newbies like me to the ocean. I RSVPd and I was in.

When I’m super nervous about something, I do two things: I eat (a LOT) and, if it’s an appointment, I leave/arrive obscenely early for it. So, bright and early on this Sunday morning, I loaded up my brand spanking new wetsuit and gear out to Seal Beach to meet with the group. I was so nervous and scared when I first arrived at the beach since I was the only one there. I found a secret hidden nook in the parking lot (yeah, they exist) and tugged on my new wetsuit. I had put on my wetsuit for the first time that morning, and since it took me so long, I wanted to save myself the embarrassment of feeling slow again later in front of the group while getting dressed (and again while swimming)…so, I dodged that bullet by getting dressed early.

When I arrived, I was the only one wearing a wetsuit (totally noob move). Plus, I awkwardly didn’t talk to anybody and cracked open some trail mix and begin munching away (reference above nervous tendency). The instructor arrived, cool as a cucumber, and reminded me a lot of Jeff Bridge’s character in The Big Lebowski…except without the hair. Cool!

He briefed us on the conditions and coached a bit on what to look for when getting in and out of the water. Before I knew it we were lining up to swim out and in a few times. The first swim out there was scary. I waited for most of the pack to go before heading in to the water. In an effort to make it through the clinic I tried not to expend too much energy, thus taking the swim in a really calm, relaxing, and slow manner. It could have been compared to the swimming version of a Sunday stroll, which I guess at that time it was exactly that.

The first few times I tried to swim out I was greeted with breaking waves. Luckily, no saltwater was snorted yet. I eventually made it out to what felt like the middle of the ocean but about 50 yards from the Seal Beach Pier. We caught our breath and waded around a bit. I was surprised at how I was holding up, given that I hadn’t done much pool training. Whenever I get really tired in the pool I have a tendency to just stop swimming and stand up in the pool, or hang on to the side, but in the ocean none of that exists. All I could do was wade it out…and that I did.

The instructor then had us swim back to land and repeat the exercises a few times. Before I knew it things were looking rosy. I was actually keeping up with the pack and was swimming. I suppose what was scary to me before was the depth of the water. When swimming though, it’s easy to forget how deep the water actually gets, since you’re always swimming near the surface of the water. For all I knew the floor was right underneath me…but at the time, it didn’t matter. I was in the moment.

It then came time for us to swim parallel to the beach, from one lifeguard tower to the next. This was more of a long haul for me. After all the outs and ins, I was beginning to feel taxed. My stroke weakened and got rather sloppy (it had been progressively gotten sloppier over the course of the morning) and I was feeling out of breath. Something I learned from a friend who once completed an Olympic-distance triathlon was that since there were no limits to the swim strokes you could use, the backstroke was completely acceptable. I rolled over and paddled as much as I could without expending too much extra energy and when I caught my breath, I rolled over and continued swimming. I knew that if I spent too much time on my back that eventually a wave would crash over me and that I’d get saltwater inside my nose, mouth, eyes, etc., so I really had to keep it to a minimum.

The swim back to home base was the most difficult. By the time I was a few minutes in I was already pretty much tapped out. I slowed down considerably and strayed pretty far from the group. The idea was to swim back in to shore in the L formation in which we came in, but I ended up doing some sort of cut around that ended up being the same distance to begin with.

By the end we all met up at our original starting point. Everyone seemed very accomplished and the newbies (like me!) were getting all of the attention. It felt nice to finally overcome something that I had previously deemed incredibly scary! By the time I got to my car I was super elated that I couldn’t wait until the next swim clinic. I’m hoping to catch some ocean swimming sessions (either solo or with a partner) quite a few times before the BIG DAY.

When we were all done, I was incredibly thirsty. I drank and drank and drank but my thirst was insatiable. I couldn’t figure if it was because of my perceived exertion or if it was because of all the saltwater that I probably ingested! All in all I had a great time, I felt accomplished, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to do it again.

In retrospect, it was such an amazing experience. Being around other triathletes and people who have trained in the water was incredibly inspirational. Being in the middle of the water with no land underneath my feet, surrounded by people who were sort of like me was great. It was like my own little place on earth that no one could touch. And, even though I was surrounded by other people in wet suits, it still felt like one-on-one time with nature. I was finally opening myself up to what the Earth has to offer…and it felt great.

A Saturday of Personal Bests

My Saturday = 4 + 0.5 + 19.39

Needless to say, my Saturday was pretty intense. It started off slowly enough with a steady 4 mile run, which 1) was a catch-up from from the other day and 2) served as a warm up for the rest of the day. I took it at a nice pace, down the street and back to my friend’s house where I retrieved my newly constructed but ill-fitting bicycle. The run was a little more difficult than usual. I’m not sure what happened but something on my run triggered some flashbacks from some prior events in my life and I suddenly started crying. It wasn’t the feeling of sadness, anger, or release. It seemed to be an autonomic reaction to the psychological stimuli. Despite the disappointment from having purchased a bike that I really liked but couldn’t use, I tried not to let it get me down.

But it did.

After I got home from my “walk of shame” I felt super lazy. I ate breakfast, read a little bit, laid around and did nothing, clicked around online, and mentally procrastinated on dealing with anything remotely important. I was feeling a little bit demotivated and mopey and still a bit teary for reasons beyond me. It was a strange funk to be in, but awhile ago I figured out that the time you should be training most is when you feel like doing it least.

So, I lathered up the sunscreen and headed down to the pool for my double session with my swim instructor. I was a bit tense from the day already, and compounding it with not really wanting to be in the water wasn’t good. The two shallow ends were taken and since she noticed me at the open lap swim earlier that week, she deemed me ready for the deep end. (My heart was pounding so loud I could hear it in my ears!!)

We worked on diving today: diving from the seated position, the track runner dive, and the jumping-into-the-pool dive. I struggled with it a lot since I wasn’t as confident in my abilities in the water. My swim instructor does it so effortlessly. Her freestyle stroke is so deliberative. She never seems to gasp for air. Again, that’s years of training staring me back in the face, but she is gently encouraging and only slightly pushy. After our session was over, she went to write out a workout plan for my swimming component and I made nice conversation with another swimmer who thought I was with a team. She complimented me on the strengths of my stroke.

It’s interesting to see how much of your perception of yourself is really all in your head. Things are never as bad as they appear to other people compared to what it looks like in our minds. I’m positive that I’m the belly flopping adult attempting to dive into the 8 foot section as 10 year olds are cannon-balling around me. I’m pretty sure my Coney Island Crawl looks ridiculous. I’m pretty sure I’m overextending my stroke to a point where I’m exerting twice the effort…yet this other person who swam in high school and college thought that I was doing a great job. When I told her I was working on obliterating a list of fears and that swimming was on the list, she seemed impressed. Strange how that works!

When I returned home from my swim session, I was feeling a little better about my training. Even though I feel that I’m behind with my swimming, that’s something I have complete control of. I can always add more swimming and detract something else. I prepped my bike for the long ride and took off.

The ride down Fairfax was smooth. I took it all the way to Venice Blvd and then headed west towards the beach. It was a gorgeous ride — started off in the early evening and ended with the beginning stages of sunset. The ride was very smooth. When available, it feels like riding the bike lanes is a whole lot safer than riding sidewalks. On sidewalks you have to deal with people walking around and getting in the way. You also have to deal with driveways which are pretty dangerous. However, on a bike lane, you have the right to that lane. You get to use it as you would a car lane. By being reasonable and following the laws I got to Venice Beach in one piece!

When I got to my friend’s place we completed another short bike ride around Venice and Marina Del Rey. Biking along the beach bike paths were gorgeous. I’d love to go back and get some riding done there since it’s continuous and scenic.

So, all in all, this Saturday I completed a 4 mile run, a half mile swim, and nearly 20 miles of biking. No day like today!

The Feeling of Liberation on a Bicycle

There’s something really amazing about being able to experience the city on two wheels instead of four.

The weather has been absolutely great for riding lately. Even if it’s a bit on the warm side, there’s nothing like the feeling of wind in your hair to keep you cool. I’m riding a mountain bike and most of the time I ride on the sidewalks. Hop, skip, dodge a pedestrian, stop for a car, ride, repeat. There’s a feeling of liberation — freedom from the tether of a desk or a car, escalating gas prices, parking tickets, worries. Instead of contributing to a problem I’m trying to fix it. Instead of worrying about the minutiae I’m focusing on my journey and my destination.

I go up and down sidewalks and, in my mind, I imagine trail switchbacks that I hope to one day ride. I see the Hollywood sign but all around me I see evidence of real life, not the contrived or imagined that is so typical of Los Angeles. I see faces, people walking to and from work, excited tourists from all over the world visiting Tinsel Town hoping to catch a glance of the next up and coming starlet. I see homeless people pushing their carts and huddling together in the evenings. I hear international exchanges everywhere. I ride through quietly privileged neighborhoods and bask in the foliage, ample sunshine, and impossibly wide streets.

Every so often I end up riding on a major street. Most of the time I’m cruising around sidewalks and residential neighborhoods. The whistles and cat calls come…it’s pretty much expected. What’s nice is when I pull up to a stop sign or crosswalk and catch eyes with a driver. They’re usually surprised by a bicyclist, for one. Two, they’re usually surprised that I’m a girl. (The males here seem to outnumber the females quite a bit.) So, I might get a few choice words or a silent acknowledgement, but then I’m back in my world again.

It’s not very often that I get to catch a ride with someone. When I do, I honestly feel like I connect with them on a different level. There’s almost a silent understanding, some sort of positive waves being exchanged. The feeling of being able to experience something so liberating and so joyous with someone else is indescribable. It’s like a new invisible bond is formed and sealed between you and them in that space and in that time. It’s irreplaceable. It’s not the same feeling that I get when I’m walking with someone, sitting next to or across from them, running, or even swimming. It’s a feeling I only get when I’m on a bike.

It seems as though when I want to let off some steam or think, I go for a run. When I want to challenge myself, I go for a swim. But, when I’m looking to return to a “happy place,” I go for a bike ride.

Then there’s the feeling of coming home safe…that always makes me happiest.

Recent Read: Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul – How to Create a New You

I’m currently working through an amazing book by Deepak Chopra on how people can essentially reincarnate in real time by making small adjustments to their thinking and being. It’s something I’ve believed is completely possible (see previous blog: My Theory on Reincarnation) but it was great to actually read it from someone else!

Change is difficult. The body fights for stasis, whether or not it’s bad or good. By humming along at the status quo, people don’t achieve what they aspire to. Just know that you can take small steps and change your thinking to achieve this.

Here’s a great snippet on the connection between mental activity and ability:

The researchers were elated with their findings, because this was the first time anyone had shown that mental activity alone can alter the brain. It was already known that the brain could be trained in its physical performance — athletes, for example, get better the more they practice. We praise them for having talent, will, and courage. All of that may be true. But, to a neurologist, the greatest runners, swimmers, and tennis players have highly trained their motor cortex, which is responsible for coordinating the complicated movements needed in any difficult sport. Now it could be shown that the mere whip of desire — in this case, the desire to be compassionate — trains the brain to adapt in the same way.

Early in the book, Deepak discusses that the nonphysical aspect of life is stronger than the physical. “Once you stop clinging to the idea that your body is a thing, you realize what should have been obvious: your body is the junction between the visible and invisible worlds.” The way to affect change is to take subtle actions. He lists five ways for people to make this happen:

  1. You go inside and make your intention known.
    i.e. I’m going to swim/bike/run the LA Triathlon…and survive. 
  2. You believe in getting results.
    i.e. I will make a tri training schedule and hold myself accountable. 
  3. You don’t resist the process of change.
    i.e. Everyone in my life gets annoyed that I can’t hang out as much because I train in my spare time. I deal with it. 
  4. Your body shifts effortlessly at the physical level.
    i.e. My sleep regulates itself. I have more energy and am overall more cognizant and alert of my physical being.
  5. You repeat your subtle action until you have mastered the change you desire.
    i.e. D-Day (well, I suppose it’s really T-Day) is only 72 days away!

By quietly encouraging the change you really want, you are able to achieve it.

How are you trying to change your life with subtle action? Is it working?

Giving Blood as an Athlete

A friend invited me to donate blood sometime this week. If you’ve ever been curious about donating blood and how long you’ll need to scale back and for how long, here’s a pretty reasonable answer I found after doing some quick research.

A healthy athlete should be able to recover completely from donating blood in eight weeks, but he may lose some of his ability to train for a few days. Following a donation of one pint, blood volume is reduced by about ten percent and returns to normal in 48 hours. For two days after donating, you should drink lots of fluids and probably exercise at a reduced intensity or not at all. Donating blood markedly reduces competitive performance for three to four weeks as it takes that long for blood hemoglobin levels to return to normal.

You should not donate blood more often than every eight weeks because it takes that long to replace lost nutrients. If you donate blood frequently, you need to make sure to replace the B vitamins and possibly the iron that you lose with the blood. You can meet your needs for iron by eating meat, fish or chicken or by taking iron supplements; and you can meet your needs for the B vitamins with whole grains and diary products. Donating blood at least four times a year may help to prevent heart attacks by lowering blood cholesterol levels significantly and reducing iron levels. Iron in the bloodstream converts LDL cholesterol to oxidized LDL which forms plaques in arteries.

-Dr. Gabe Mirkin
I’ll have to give it some serious thought. I’m on a pretty tight schedule right now! I don’t have any races until September so it shouldn’t effect me too much, but I’m just starting to ramp up my running for my marathon training class so I guess we shall see.

Going Through The Motions of Bricks

Every few weeks or so I get motivated enough to try my hand at a brick workout. (Brick workouts consist of back-to-back training exercises to prepare you for multi-sport competing.) This is my second full brick workout where I’ve done the swim-bike-run combination. The first time was actually 2 weeks ago: I did half distances of the sprint triathlon I’ll be participating in. That means that I only did a 0.25 mile swim, 6 mile bike ride, and a 1.6 mile run.

Today I was completing my first week of scheduled training (instead of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants training) and I had some make-up work to do, so it ended up being a brick workout of complete sprint triathlon distances. I started off with the half mile swim, progressed to the 12 mile bike ride, and ended with a 4 mile run.

Needless to say I was pretty exhausted! With 14 days in between the complete brick workouts it seemed as though I was spending my time in-between well. There was a marked improvement in endurance. I’m getting smarter about hydration and fueling. It all really just comes down to listening to your body! Fortunately I’ve been doing these brick workouts at the gym so everything’s pretty convenient. I realize that I’ll eventually have to move this outside to the real world, but I just want to make sure I’m ready first! For now I can be that crazy lady who jumps out of the pool, rips off her swim cap and googles, and heads to the bike with a funky tan lines and marks on her face! My times are still pretty slow, but hey, I finish fairly strong! Here’s an awesome video of Julie Moss, a college senior who crawled to the finish line of the full-blown Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run).

I’m working on the endurance aspect right now…when I get more comfortable with the transitions and the bricks I’ll work on my speed. But, for now, I’m strictly focused on just finishing the swim-bike-run trio!


Prepare to Fail if You Fail to Prepare

My boyfriend never lets me forget that I’m a J. (First search result: “ISFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.”)

I have a pretty set routine when it comes to my running. Not necessarily with routes, although I have a tendency to run the same one again and again out of habit. My routine of preparation has been key to my success. In this case, success is loosely defined as: “showing up on time and running my personal best” and is not locked to a timed performance.

Last week I failed to prepare for my 15K. Hence I essentially prepared to fail. My nutrition and hydration the days leading up to it were off. I was exerting myself in ways that were foreign to me. I didn’t sleep well, nor did I sleep in my own bed. (Aside from traveling to races, which I’ll be doing towards the end of the year, that has been my cardinal rule!) I wasn’t sticking to any semblance of a training schedule but really just training whenever I felt like it and whatever I felt like doing. A ton of no-nos!

I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself. I showed up just a few minutes after the race started. It was a small race, so there weren’t any route signs nor were there street closures. I was half a mile in to the course (or at least what I thought was the course) and couldn’t find any of the runners. I stopped, on a residential street somewhere in Santa Barbara, after a long weekend of anticipation, and started jogging back the way I came in with tears streaming down my face. I was completely disappointed in myself that I hadn’t prepared fully and that I had allowed myself to come that close to a race start again. That’s right, again. I’ve done it a few times before but lucked out. Not this time!

I was very disappointed and disheartened. Spent a few moments that morning with my boyfriend moping around and tearing up but for the most part I’m now over it. He bought me these little silver eagle earrings from a little knick knack shop somewhere on State Street in Santa Barbara and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They remind me that I can be as fast and on top of my game as much as I want to be. All I need to do is take a bird’s eye view and assess the situation.

So, if I must disclose…this is my pre-race routine. I’ll have to be pretty flexible when I go abroad or travel for races but it’s pretty much solid and has worked for me so far.

My 12 steps to successful race/long run preparation:

1. Sleep in my own bed, the night before. Try to sleep for a whole eight hours. I usually only manage 6 since I get nervous and I wake up a few times before the alarm is set to go off.

2. Sleep in some of my race clothes. That way all I have to do is pull on a few items and head out the door.

3. Prepare only 1 serving of Muscle Milk. If I drink 2 I generally have an upset stomach early on in the race.

4. For runs longer than 6 miles, I’ll consume half or one packet of Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts. I’ll also pack out a full Camelbak of water with another energy gel and a bar, just in case I get hungry en route.

5. For runs longer than 6 miles, I wear cushioned running socks. For anything shorter, I’ll wear thin running socks.

6. My hair must be out of my face. One strong elastic band and two bobby pins. Nothing more or my head hurts!

7. Fully charge my iPod shuffle the night before so I’m not bummed if my music quits out halfway. (I’m trying to wean off of the iPod but for now it’s a necessary evil.)

8. Do a very small morning warmup. I usually park a few blocks away from my apartment so the jog to my car is about 3/10ths of a mile. It’s a nice jaunt in the morning before things get hot.

9. Charge my phone during the car ride to the race. Nothing bums me out more than not being able to use RunKeeper while I run!!

10. Wear running clothes that I feel comfortable in running in that day. Being a woman means having to deal with fluctuating sizes during different times of the month, so I make a point not to squeeze into anything too constricting. Function over form prevails.

11. Hydrate on the way to my race…but always making a point to go to the bathroom before the race starts! (Otherwise it’s a disaster…)

12. Never mess with the lacing on my shoes. (I never untie/retie my shoelaces once I get the right fit.) If I find that my shins start hurting the week of the race I’ll order a replacement pair from Zappos since they’ll overnight them to me.

What’s your routine? How do you prepare for your long runs or an important race? Let’s swap some tips!