Sunday, March 22, 2009

You Know You're Getting Old When...

...You have one more hard workout before an easy week and you can't motivate yourself to walk out the door.

How is it that I managed to ride my bike trainer for 5 hours yesterday, a feat that is mind-boggling even for me (someone who's done it before), and today I can't get psyched for a 2:45 run? It's the last hard day of three hard weeks. Next week I get to take it easy and recover. All I have to do is get through today's run. Why is that so difficult? And I only drank a small amount of alcohol last night, knowing I had a long run today.

I guess it's time to think about my Ironman race. When I get off the bike after 112 miles and I'm tired and my legs are jello and I have 26 miles left, do I give up? Heck no. Time to dig deep.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When You Least Expect It

A miracle happens...

I managed to win an iPod Nano from the Comedy Central show: Important Things with Demetri Martin. I've been entering their picture contest weekly but I finally gave up looking at the winnners because.. well, because I didn't think I had a chance at winning. In my pictures, I was trying to be all clever and "Demetri-like," but that wasn't working. And those weren't winning. So I decided to just do what I do best. Draw something. With a pencil. Something scary. Oh, yeah, the topic that week was "Chairs." So I decided to draw a chair. With a pencil. A scary chair.

It won.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Excuses

Today I wrestled. With the wind. With my progess. With my attitude. It was a beautiful day to ride - just warm enough to wear shorts but needed gloves. I felt fast. But my times did not reflect "fast." It was very frustrating after the last few weeks of really hard bike workouts. So I worked on my excuses.

  1. I'm old (do the payoffs take longer? Am I just, gulp, going to have to accept being slow? No! Shake it off.)
  2. I'm riding all hills with wind. (Argh! This is also unnacceptable. I ride this route all the time with wind.)
  3. I ran a 20-miler the day before. (hmmm... this one has possibilities...)
  4. I drank too much wine playing Balderdash last night. (Heck, I had to guess what tantony and proggers mean and desperately tried to recall what enticing behavior is against the law in my home state of Connecticut. (We have a winner! An excuse, that is - I never win at Balderdash).

Now with a believable excuse, I can enjoy the ride. I still ride hard - afterall, I only have 3.5 hours to get in a long-ride/short-run brick before the in-laws arrive. I focus on the amazing blue sky and the scenery. And I even stop for a few moments to take this photo. Because the light is so great today. This old service station is one of the sacred places along this route. It reminds me of one of my favorite paintings: "Gas" by Edward Hopper. Ironically it is now an art gallery.

The run proves to be the hardest part of the day. My legs are cement, and yet I put in 4 miles at close to 7-minute pace. Interesting. Week 14 begins tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fighting Fatigue - or NOT Fighting It

During Ironman training, unlike marathon training, the biggest struggle for me is the exhaustion and fatigue. For a runner with a tendency to overtrain, triathlon training is a good way to stay injury-free and still get the endurance "high" on a daily basis (what drives my no-rest mentality). But Ironman is a different story. Unlike cross-training for running, the cross-training now becomes the sport, and I can no longer escape the muscle and mental fatigue of 2-3 hour training days because I now have hard bike rides and hard swims. Training has become a second job. And the thing I hate most is that sometimes the only thing between me and my next workout is my bed. Sleeping often takes precedence over eating -- being so tired that you can't chew is usually a dead giveaway of which one to choose. As I get older, sleep has become even more important -- to heal, to regenerate, to recharge my brain, and, obviously, to spend more quality time with the cat.

But I'm not complaining. I'm just learning to balance this thing again. It seemed easier 6 years ago -- when I was younger. I often wonder if I'm training harder now or if I'm just not recovering as fast because of age. One thing is for sure, the difference this time is that I've learned to listen to the fatigue and the pain now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When Lightning Strikes

Get out of the pool!

Brecksville Recreation Center kicks everyone out of the pool if they hear thunder. What? Thunder? In Cleveland? In March? Yes. And not just once this week. But TWICE. Remember who I am. Disaster magnet strikes again.

So what's an obsessive-compulsive athlete to do when she is cut off in mid-swim? Well... nowadays... laugh. Then take a shower, go tell Jim (my husband who is in the midst of his workout), blog it, and regroup. There's always the rubber-band workout at home. But most importantly, live and learn: from now on, always pack clothes for a weight workout. Rain or shine. Afterall, this IS Cleveland, folks.

Training Mistakes

If there's one thing I've learned in my many years of being an endurance athlete: it's ok to take an extra day off. Thus, Monday was an additional rest day after a swim-only Sunday. The obsessive-compulsive runner in me didn't want to do it, but the rational thinking person won out, after very little sleep on Sunday night and a day of feeling tired and run-down. Will it affect my race? I hope not. Time will tell. It would have been a sub-par workout anyway, so I decided it's best to make sure my body has adequate rest for the hard workout on Tuesday morning.

I've been reading more and more about Ironman training lately, and the important thing seems to be quality over quantity. That may sound strange coming from a workout and mileage junkie like me, but it's what the experts say. Yes, mileage is important when you're training for a 140.6-mile race, but that's exactly the point. I'm training to finish 140.6 miles in a row, not a 140.6-mile training week. Therefore, the quality workouts must also include the quantity. I'll get more from one 15-mile hard training run followed by an easy jog or no run the next day than two 10 milers on successive days. Which brings me to my other point. Rest is necessary for recovery from those harder workouts. I'm determined to not make the same mistakes this time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mental Callouses

I learned a new term on Friday: "Mental Callous." I don't know if it was coined by my friend Julie or if she had heard it before. Either way, she used it on me when I suggested bagging my long ride because of the wind. She said: "What if it's windy in Idaho? ... You need to be ready for anything."

Julie always gives the best advice. (And, besides my husband Jim, she's the best person I could ever ask to have at my side the morning of an Ironman.) So I took the advice. I dismissed my wind concerns, prepped my bike and headed out the door for a 5-hour ride, deciding to do loops, just in case my mental state failed me and I needed to throw in the towel.

I wanted to throw in the towel. Twice. My ride out was south into a 20 mph south wind. This was my first ride outside this year, having conquered three rides over 4 hours on the trainer (if that doesn't build up mental callouses...). But my trainer doesn't give speed/distance readings, and my slowness on Friday was disheartening to say the least. Although I tried to convince myself I was riding against the wind, I was miserable. Thus, with misery, what does a masochist do? (1) never look at the spedometer or odometer, and (2) make the ride infinitely more difficult by throwing in the worst hills you can find. Why is it that riding slow on hills is easier to shrug off than riding slow against the wind? (Does anyone else have this problem?)

Long story short: 80 miles in under 5 hours. First loop, out south and back north, including the nastiest hill I know of and a quick glimpse at the intersection of my 2003 bike vs. truck accident (for exorcising demons). Second loop, big hills at the start and finish. When I turned onto the second loop, I wanted to give up and ride the 15 minutes home. But I reminded myself of what Julie said and forged west into a southwest wind. After 3 hours, over halfway to my goal, something unexpected happened. I started to enjoy it. Partly because of the accomplishment, partly because I got in a rhythm, and partly because I am, still, a masochist.

One of these days, I want to be able to say "I love biking" the way I love running and swimming, but I think I'll have to wait a little longer for that. Until then, I'll accept the newest mental callous.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Nickname, the Blog Title

So, first things first. Why "disaster magnet"?

I've had 4 nicknames in my life. The most recent one is "disaster magnet." It was given to me by my good friend Mickey Rzymek (with me in the photo). I met Mickey sometime around late 2001, when I started doing triathlons. The first race I did after meeting him was Ironman Utah in 2002. There is no more Ironman Utah. The morning of the inaugural race saw a freak windstorm whip up 3-4 foot waves in Utah Lake, enough for the race director to cancel the swim. Unfortunately, the swim was called after the swim had started. It was a disaster to say the least. One man drowned. Many triathletes never even got in the water. And when it was decided to shorten the remaining two legs and make it a duathlon, many triathletes never even started the race. Disaster. It was almost a disaster for me as well, but I managed to work through the turmoil and qualify for Ironman Hawaii (if you want more, here's my personal account of IM Utah).

Ironman Hawaii 2002 was the second disaster. It was not a complete disaster from a race perspective - although there was an unusual unstopping rain on race morning - but it was a complete disaster from a personal perspective. I vomited no less than 13 times on the run course. I was lucky to finish. Disaster. (If you're interested, here's my experience at IM Hawaii).

The third disaster came in May 2003. I was hit by a car when training to go back to Utah (for a Half-Ironman this time). That ended my triathloning for several years. I did try to come back that same year, but I got a little over-optimistic in my expectations and it ended with a DNF at Ironman Florida in November 2003. Disaster. Disaster.

I decided to make a triathlon comeback of sorts in January 2008 thanks to some timely realizations. I had hoped to put the "disaster magnet" nomenclature behind me. So what happens in February 2008? I slip and fall on ice, land on my digital SLR, and break a back rib. The emergency room doctor said he had never seen a broken rib with displacement that bad. He even showed us on the x-ray. Then he broke the bad news: "You won't be doing any triathlons this year." Disaster.

But I did do triathlons in 2008. I did quite well, won 4 out of 5 races entered. But the disasters continued to follow me during the season: Steelhead 2008 (Michigan) - disaster - swim canceled due to high surf; Greater Cleveland Tri - disaster - swim canceled due to higher surf; Firmman Half (Narragansett, RI) - disaster - entire triathlon canceled due to Hurricane Hanna. Of course, I found out after we drove the 11 hours to Rhode Island.

Will 2009 be a disaster-free year? Who knows. What I do know is the best way to deal with disasters is to count your blessings and do your best to weather the storm. And I've been lucky enough to have many second chances and good friends to get me through the rough times.

15 Weeks Tomorrow

I don't know exactly what's going to happen on Jun 21, 2009, except that, barring any natural disasters, I will start an Ironman triathlon in Coeur D'Alene Idaho.

Of course, ironically, as soon as I typed that, I received a phone call from the City of Brecksville Emergency Notification System. AND, as an additional warning, the sirens all over Brecksville (signally 12:00 noon) just went off as well. In the immortal words of Dave Barry: "I am NOT making this up."

So begins my blog. A chronicle of how I deal with the next 15 weeks + race day. And the fallout. And anything else that happens along the way.