Musings

When motivation deserts you

It’s the end of the season, all the hype is over. Everything we have been training for all year has come and gone and it’s common for athletes to fall into a bit of a ‘funk’ at this time of year. Suddenly our goals are all complete (for better or worse) and we don’t know what to look forward to anymore.

I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

But it did.

I spent almost a year working up to Ironman, every spare minute seemed to be devoted to training and my life operated on a schedule. This ended with me crossing the finish line at Ironman Canada, and whilst I was ecstatic at the achievement, there was an air of anti-climax to the whole thing.

How do you top Ironman?

Another Ironman? A harder one? Something longer? Or faster?

As I cast around for my next challenge, my training foundered.

Here are the tips that work for me when motivation deserts me.

Forgive yourself

It’s a vicious cycle. You miss a workout, you get stressed about missing a workout, so you miss more, this weeks a bust already right? You’ll do better next week.

Now, whilst I don’t think we should just turn into couch potatoes, it is OK to take a short break, especially if you have just completed a major race. In fact, it’s something you probably should do!

Make it Fun

Try some fun workouts, do something different. Many cross training activities will benefit regular training and it can offer a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family (who can sometimes get a little neglected during peak training sessions).

Maybe a mountain bike ride or hike, cross country skiing, paddleboarding or a class at the Y. Doing something is better than nothing.

Remember why you like to train for your sport and what makes it fun.

Phone a Friend

Everything is better with friends. Having a friend waiting, makes me far more likely to show up, and usually makes the workout more enjoyable as well. Can’t find a friend? Go make some new ones. Join a club or sign up for a series of classes.

Alcatraz

Set a Goal

Scheduling the next season can be a big motivator, and always lights a spark of excitement in me. It doesn’t have to be another monster like Ironman. Maybe you want to get stronger or faster and that’s a perfectly good goal.

Write down you goals and remember to keep them SMART:

So for 2015 my goal was

Specific Complete Ironman Canada
Measurable Easily measured by my crossing the line
Achievable Past experience indicates that this is achievable
Realistic Finishing in 10 hours would not be realistic, 16 is
Time based Race date was about a year away, and fixed

Maybe you aren’t there yet. Maybe your current goal is just to exercise every day. Whatever it is, write it down and start working towards it.

Just Do It!

Sometimes just getting out of the door is the biggest barrier. In this case, getting ready and forcing yourself out of the door can be the best strategy. Promise yourself that if after five minutes you still aren’t feeling it, you can stop. Often once you start, you realise it’s not so bad after all.

The five year old in me still loves the visual and tactile sticker chart. It allows me to see progress at a glance – a chart full of stars always makes me smile. There are of course numerous online tools for this as well.

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Staying Accountable

When considering a workout, I find it useful to ask myself:

Will I be happier?

Will I be stronger/faster?

At least one has to be a yes!

Most importantly, equating a missed workout to a major failure in life is a mistake. Motivation ebbs and flows and accepting that will go a long way to fixing it.

What are your tricks for staying motivated and accountable?

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Ironman Training, Musings, Triathlon

Five things They Never Told Me About Ironman Training

Training for Ironman is pretty much a full time job, it consumes your life for much of the year.

Here’s five things I really didn’t fully understand before I started training for Ironman Canada.

You are always…

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You are always, on your way to another workout! I was warned about the volume of training required before I signed up – up to 20 hours a week. Sounds doable, until you realize you have to schedule that around work, buying ever increasing amounts of groceries, family commitments (My family aren’t nearby, but my cats are at risk of forgetting who I am), and the usual time-wasters like sleeping and eating and well, everything else. So now my life is scheduled around my workouts. Seriously, if you don’t swim, bike and/or run, we just can’t hang out!

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As a consequence, no doubt, of the aforementioned busyness, you are always tired! 5am workout? Certainly (when else am I going to fit it in?). 8pm hang out?  Are you kidding? I’m already on my way to bed! No I can’t come out this evening, I just finished a five hour ride and I just can’t move. If they do see me, my cats know to aggressively request food immediately – lest I fall asleep and they are unable to wake me!

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Hungry. I am always hungry. And I don’t mean in a “Oh, I’ll have another portion of salad or a small handful of nuts” kind of way. I mean if you sit too still nearby I might consider you food! I have become that person at the buffet with a heaped plate, then going back for more. At a pot luck event, I will be found hovering around the food table. Who ate my Kale salad with extra burger on the side? Why is there never any food in my house?

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Like seriously! How can those tiny pieces of Lycra make soooo much laundry? Do I even own this many clothes? Two or more workouts a day creates a laundry mountain of epic proportions, there are random pieces of sportswear air drying all over the place. I’m considering buying shares in laundry detergent.

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David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

This one was sneaky. Ironman is expensive! I consider myself a generally frugal athlete, but even I had a rude awakening to some of the costs. First, you have the eye-wateringly expensive registration fee; then there’s no end of gadgets, bike parts, nutrition products, coaching costs, training events, physiotherapy, accommodation, travel, and the list goes on. And that’s quite apart from the costs associated with the increased eating and laundry previously mentioned.

What has your Ironman training experience been like?

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Musings, Race Reports

Testing the Waters

I joined the Okanagan Masters Swim Club two years ago, after my first triathlon, and with a view to swimming across Okanagan lake.

I had watched the masters sessions from the public lanes for a few weeks before I was convinced to give it a go (thanks Jeanette). I was sure I wasn’t good enough, I mean, these guys were Masters afterall.

That first session ended with a set of sprints:

“Just dive off the blocks and sprint 50m down the pool”

10 times.

“Can I run away?”

Oh these people are so fit, they would probably catch me anyway.

I was so scared!

Blocks, dive sprint….

I had never successfully dived (and some might say that’s still true), much less of starting blocks. And sprint? 50m was such a long way.

What on earth was I thinking, I’ll just slip off back to my safe public lane……

Well, you probably guessed that I did it…

Very badly!

My fastest sprint was around 66 seconds and my best dive could possibly, if one were very charitable, be better defined as a flop.

But I didn’t die…and the only way was up.

That summer I did swim across the lake, and it turned out I rather enjoyed open water swimming.

Fast forward to today and I’m still there, still slow, but we are a ‘seriously social’ swim club and it’s (nearly) always fun.

“So, when are you going to enter a swim meet?”

Oh probably…Never.

I’m too slow

I can’t dive (still)

I can’t turn

Did I mention how slow I am?

Theres so many technical rules

Its too exposed, in a lane on my own…it’s just TOO SCARY

I’ll just volunteer, we need volunteers right?

Recently the club President had asked me what needed to happen to encourage me to enter a meet.

Oh, so many things: Dives, turns….etc etc… I’d probably enter the next one…

He probably didn’t realise that in that moment I made a scary promise, that I would now be honour-bound (if only in my own head) to keep.

All too fast, a couple of months later, chatting in the hot tub after practise (I only swim so that I can sit in the hot tub afterwards), my friend tells me that there is a meet in a couple of weeks…I should enter.

Emergency, emergency! Sirens started going off in my brain.

They had an encouraging answer to all of my reservations – Masters is very inclusive.

And I signed up for my first swim meet.

I’d spent some time working on my dives and turns over Christmas, so whilst still a long way from technically perfect, they were slightly less of a gamble.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all

O woke up on the day to find it had snowed overnight, thus followed a nerve-wracking hour of driving along the highway to Vernon. A spin around half way really got my heart-rate up and did nothing to improve my stress level.

I bumped into my team mates just outside the pool, further ensuring that I couldn’t run away. We changed and headed poolside. As we checked the heat sheets, I felt totally out of my depth, a fish out of water – this is probably how these idioms originated!

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Everyone jumped into the water to warm up, I hung back, maybe they won’t realise I’m an imposter.

I tested a couple of dives and turns, which seemed to go quite well, I felt slightly better.

The first event was 400m freestyle.

As I stood shaking on the starting blockone of my teammates shouted my name – I hoped I wouldn’t let them down or do a spectacularly bad dive in front of everyone. I decided to just aim to complete this first race.

The whistle went, deep breath, dive.

That was OK…now, swim.

Here comes the wall, deep breath, turn.

Still OK…keep swimming…I’m going too fast, that’s bad, but I can slow down, not a crisis.

Wall again, deep breath, turn…

…and crisis!

The turn didn’t go well, I came off the wall at the wrong angle, and I took breath that consisted largely of water…keep swimming, slow down.

Can’t breathe

I tried swimming slower, breathing deeper, I swam with my head up for a bit, but I couldn’t get it back. I couldn’t stop (actually I was later informed that I could have stopped to catch my breath and then continued).

The realisation hit me – this isn’t going to work.

And so, in the first event of my first ever swim meet, I recorded the first DNF of my life.

My teammates were very supportive, but it felt like I’d proved that I shouldn’t be there. I consoled myself with the fact that the next event was unlikely to go worse than that, the only way was up!

There was a short break before my next event, 50m breaststroke. This was the event had been most worried about; I was worried that getting my stroke wrong could get me disqualified.

In the event it was fine, I concentrated hard on getting my stroke right. I could hear my teammates cheering, which made me smile. As I came to the wall I saw Brent there, encouraging me.

Don’t screw this up now

Two hands together…and go.

It felt really good. My time of 56:25, whist not groundbreaking in the slightest, was the fastest I have ever recorded. Not so long ago, a 50m breaststroke sprint was nearly impossible for me, so definitely an improvement.

100m freestyle came next. I was still jittery about those turns. I made the first one, but then my nerves go the better of me, I decided to err on the side of caution and finished the race with touch turns. I was definitely getting tired by the second 50m but I kept pushing on.

1:42:85, I’ll take that.

50m freestyle, I’ve already proved I can do this, just need to do it again.

47:88, cool, that’s quite a bit under a minute.

So all in all, the day turned around pretty well. Thanks to my OMSC teammates for their support… and for refraining from laughing (at least whilst I was in the room).

It’s clear I won’t be breaking any records in the foreseeable future, but that’s OK, we are a seriously social swim club after all.

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Musings

Crossing Over

How do you become a faster runner without running?

I didn’t really think it was possible until this summer, when I proved myself wrong – rather comprehensively.

Running had never co9me easily for me and whilst there had been some limited improvement over the years, being “fast” appeared to be an unrealistic goal at best, and persistent injury conspired to keep it that way.

When I started training for triathlon, part of my rationale had been the notion of cross training. Varied training makes a more rounded athlete; helps strengthen the body and prevent injury – it’s pretty much common knowledge, so of course I knew it, I just needed to see it.

I have already written about how general strength training began to improve my overall performance and endurance, and I was enjoying the results. They just didn’t seem to translate to faster times….

Yet

Last summer, in the absence of any other permissible lower body workout, cycling took a bigger role in my training. I joined a local ‘no-drop’ ride (so at least I wouldn’t be abandoned in the middle of nowhere) and started riding with them once a week.

I was last.

This is, even now, a pretty common place for me to be. In part because I’m still just not that fast, but also due to the fact that I have a sometimes demoralizing habit of spending time with people who are much faster than me – not really a bad thing, it makes me better in the end, but now and again I just wish I could be up front…

I would get faster, I was assured by the fast guys – clearly on some kind of rota system to babysit the slowpoke at the back, just keep doing it.

And it did!

The hills got easier, and sometimes, just sometimes, there was someone behind me (probably wishing, like me, that there was someone slower than them!).

When I started running again in September, I found myself posting times I have never seen before, and with more ease! My friends commented on how much my running had improved.

“I should take the summer off every year!?”

Presumably cycling offered a low impact way to increase my fitness and cardio and also perhaps strengthen some pertinent muscles in the process.

This is a very encouraging development. It seems that my body is not nearly so enamored with running as is my mind, so knowing that there is the possibility to train running fitness without subjecting my body to the impact associated with running (and without the excruciating boredom of pool running) is exciting.

I don’t doubt that there are many combined causes behind this recent improvement, the body is a complex machine, and certainly I have been working hard to strengthen many areas. Of course nothing trains better for running than running, specificity is important in any sport, but for the time being we are having to think a little outside the box in this area and make the most of it.

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Musings

Looking Forward

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Now that 2015 is underway, it seems like a good time to look back at 2014 and make some plans for the coming year. (I have deliberately waited a few weeks so as not to get swept up in the New Year’s Resolution wave of excitement).

2014 was a very up and down year for me; the highlights were very high, but the ‘lowlights’ very low.

Let’s start with the bad and get it out of the way. If you have been reading the blog, you already know…

I developed a stress fracture in my ankle.

Yes, I haven’t shut up about it for months!

I was off training for weeks, and it pervaded everything I did (training and otherwise) for months – the entire summer. I was really miserable, as many of my friends will likely attest!

But every cloud has a silver lining…

In a strange way, the injury motivated me to achieve even more than before. Perhaps because I always had an excuse for any failure (which it turned out I didn’t need, but offered a psychological safety net).

I got to focus on swimming, and made some exciting advances.

I reintroduced myself to cycling, met some great people, and started to learn to love it again.

I learned many lessons about perseverance and some about patience.

I watched  more television (and learned a lot of really useless facts and a few useful ones too).

Which leads me to the highlights:

I completed 19 events including:

9 runs of varying distances

3 open water swims

4 sprint distance triathlons

My first ever 100km cycle ride

7PB’s (plus a bunch of firsts)

I found new friends, and new focus

I signed up for Ironman Canada!

Pretty good for such a *bad* year…

So now to look forward.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. They rarely get kept, and sometimes even turn into demotivators as I realise my failure, so I have simply chosen 3 areas that I would like to work on throughout the year.

To train harder, but with more focus and consistency.

Well training harder probably goes without saying, especially with the Ironman goal hanging around, but now that my capacity is growing, harder comes more naturally. More important I feel is to improve the consistency with which I train and to train smarter, to maximize improvement whilst minimizing injury.

To make better nutritional choices.

This was also a goal in 2014. I did better last year but I think there’s still room for improvement – there probably always will be.

To enjoy the journey – not just the destination.

This is the most important of the three goals. I have a tendency to be rather ‘end-point oriented’ causing me to miss much of the beauty along the way (it can also be crushing if for some reason one cannot reach said end point). Ironman training is going to be long and hard. Merely enduring this (and putting all my eggs in one basket for one 17 hour day in July) would be such a waste, not to mention, incredibly boring.

Well, you probably guessed that my major race goal this year, is indeed those 17 hours (hopefully less) in July, other highlights will hopefully incude:

My first Olympic distance triathlon at UBC in March

A half-iron distance triathlon, location TBD

Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (160km)

Across the Lake swim

A swim from Alcatraz

A sprinkling of sprint triathlons and maybe some runs, if it feels good.

A whole plethora of new experiences – because you should never turn down a chance to try something new! (Unless it’s drugs – don’t try those kids!)

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Ironman Training, Musings

Going From Strength to Strength

A couple of years ago a visit to a new chiropractor resulted in the recommendation that I “Really should think about some kind of strengthening program” After manipulating joints (push against my hand…I am …as hard as you can…I am), poking muscles and taking some official looking measurements he proclaimed that I was utterly weak and inflexible. (OK he didn’t put it quite like that, but that was definitely the message). He posited that increasing my all round strength offer improvement in all aspects of my day to day life, not to mention my athletic performance.

The good news was, the only way was up.

I decided to join a ‘bootcamp’, a twice weekly fitness class. I had tried this type of class before – more than once – and had never had much success. Large groups of people with varying abilities doing the same workout. Often exercises were impossibly hard, inadequately explained, or both. The instructors didn’t have time to help each person. I always ended up discouraged, and perhaps never kept going long enough to see real change. I had always wanted to do a pull up, a completely arbitrary goal and it seemed ridiculous even to me…

So, I was nervous as I headed to my first Designer Fitness session. The group was smaller and the instructor immediately welcoming. Everything was explained clearly and the instructor was approachable and always made time to answer questions. Those early sessions were fast paced and hard, but never impossible; there was always a modification to allow everyone to achieve. The classes took place outdoors which was pleasant and the other participants turned out to be a great bunch too!

This time I did begin to see changes. Those push ups which I had never been able to do, were starting to get easier and soon I was able to keep up with the workouts. It wasn’t until a few months later though, that I realised how much change was occurring.

My running was improving.

That year (2013) I ran my first non-stop 5km, no walking! Followed swiftly by a non-stop 10km. I hadn’t been running much that year due to injuries, the only difference was the bootcamp.

The progress continued through the winter until disaster struck in the spring.

Stress Fracture – No running, in fact, no extraneous weight bearing activity.

I delivered the bad news to Katie – I was clearly going to have to take some time off – but no…

Rather than let me spend the summer feeling sorry for myself, or falling off the fitness wagon altogether, she proceeded to modify my workouts.

All.          Summer.          Long!

My arms and core were just not expecting this sudden change of focus!

“Engage your core”

“You can do anything for 20 seconds”

And by the end of the summer, muscles I had never seen before seemed to be growing out of nowhere and I was redefining possibilities with respect to my fitness.

I continue to attend the bootcamps, my favourite being the Cardio Core Climb at Beyond the Crux climbing gym (How could that not be fun?!!) and having made so many gains I am motivated to continue.

Cardio Core Climb

Now that I have located it, engaging my core is proving useful in many different areas of life and sport.

The pull up might still be a way off, but I know for sure I will be able to do it one day.

And, you know, you really can do almost anything for 20 seconds…which was really a far more valuable lesson in the end.

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Musings

Building Up Racing Karma

The other week, I spent the day volunteering at our local marathon.

Five hours handing out water to athletes as they ran past.

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Each year I try to volunteer for at least one for every two events in which I participate; sometimes I am left with the dilemma of whether to volunteer or run in a race.

Races don’t go ahead without volunteers. They setup, tear down, direct athletes and man aid stations.

Since I tend to race a lot, I use volunteers a lot.

I’m thankful to each and every one of those volunteers, giving up their weekend to allow me to do something I love. Often they spend longer out on the course than the runners, and at this time of year, that can get cold. Sometimes after a long volunteer shift, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to have run the race.

A great volunteer can really make your day, they help everything go smoothly and offer encouragement. Yes, they cheer! (some of them dance as well) At some races they are the only ones doing that. I know it always gives me a bit of a buzz to hear someone cheering for me, even if we have never met, and very probably never will.

I always try to thank volunteers on the course, though honestly, oftentimes all I can mange is an exhausted smile and nod. I hope they get the message.

This year, since I was unable to run, I had lots of opportunity for karma building.

Here’s my top five reasons to volunteer:

it, sometimes it just makes me feel totally inadequate as well.

1. To give back.

Yeah, you can’t beat that warm fuzzy feeling of helping in your community!

I choose to be a part of an athletic community, so I should be a part of sustaining it. If no-one volunteers, I can’t race either, so I help out so others can race.

Pay it forward.

 

2. Get Inspired.

How can you not feel good watching 5 year olds going all out in their first triathlon?

Or seeing people achieve goals that they thought impossible?

 

Ok, I admit that the guy who consistently finishes first on a local cross country course, in half the time I do, pushing his daughter in a stroller, does make me feel rather inadequate.

And volunteering at Challenge Penticton, not long after signing up for Ironman, both inspired and terrified me in equal measures!

But on the whole I leave motivated to achieve new things. Every time.

 

3. Spending time with friends.

Or meet some brand new ones!

It’s great to spend time with friends when you aren’t both running as fast as you can during a hard workout.

Volunteering on the course also leaves you perfectly positioned to give a few words of encouragement to friends competing that day, this was the highlight of my day at Challenge Penticton.

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Karis and I volunteering at the Apple Tri

 

4. Check out the race.

Volunteering offers a great opportunity to check out a new race or course.

Before entering my first triathlon, I volunteered at the event, I got involved and decide that, yes, this was something I wanted to try.

Try it today – you might never look back, like me!

 

5. Swag.

Some races give out volunteer swag, draw prizes or appreciation events.

Ok, so it’s not really an altruistic reason to volunteer, but if it gets people out of the door and makes them feel appreciated, then it can’t be that bad.

Sometimes, they even feed you! When I was a penniless student, volunteer meals got me through many a weekend.

 

…And if you are in need of another garishly coloured T-shirt to add to your collection, this is the place to be!

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So, get out there and build up some running karma. Hope to see you out there soon.!

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