March 29, 2010

Creative Planning

I've discovered it will take some creativity to get through this year's Ironman training. Unlike last year, I'm not willing to force everything else in my life to take a backseat to the 140.6 mile mission. Instead I'm experimenting and discovering new ways to arrive at the start sufficiently - albeit slightly less - trained than last year, but hopefully more grounded and balanced.

One such creative approach involves my new weekend "fun/cross-training" day. I worked with my coach to clear my Sunday to allow me to go on a hike, hit the rock climbing gym, ride with a group for fun or simply have brunch with friends. The advantage of this is that my day off from structured tri training is a real day off versus a work day. The disadvantages are that I no longer have a true rest day and I'm obligated to train on all work days. It's a small price to pay for a slice of normalcy and we have designated a weekday I can knock off if I'm feeling exhausted. This isn't the most aggressive approach to Ironman but I'm not planning to KQ anytime soon so I think it will do.

So what sort of fun did I have this weekend? I did a lot of rearranging to allow my fun day to be Saturday and attended an all day backpacking workshop about an hour north of the city. We're already into hiking and have been thinking of backpacking as a fun extension. The workshop was good if a little basic, but mostly it was a pleasure to spend the day thinking about and doing something else. To make this happen I did Saturday's ride Friday and shifted Friday to Sunday. Overall it worked but I did miss a short bike in the mix. It's not the end of the world.

But the highlight of my weekend was a breakthrough run on Sunday. After my speedy session Wednesday I experienced some foot discomfort, mostly cramping and tightness, so I eased up a bit and pushed the next run a couple days out. The added recovery time set me up for my best "long" run yet - 7 pain-free miles at a pace I thought wouldn't be possible this season. I had a few 8:30s in there balanced with some slower miles for an overall average of 9/mile. Having come from being unable to walk just a few months ago and wondering if I would ever really run again, it's an incredible feeling. I'm somewhat afraid to celebrate knowing the road ahead is long, but at least for today I can feel happy and look forward to my continued recovery and return to running.

Today was a bust due to a very long work day so I'm getting some forced rest. Rather than beat myself up about it, I think I'll have a nice dinner, a glass of wine and spend some time on my couch reading. That sounds like perfect rest to me.

March 25, 2010

Wake Up Call

This morning marked my first 5 a.m. wake-up for training this season. I've skillfully dodged it thus far by setting the alarm for 6, only allowing one snooze and then stepping out of bed and immediately into my training gear and starting the scheduled workout half asleep. I've also looked highly disheveled at the office and have been late just about every day. However, after I was forced to swim in the evening on Monday, which means I sat waiting by the pool for 20 minutes fighting the urge to just get dressed, go home and park myself on the couch with a book, I vowed there would be no more after work swims unless it's an emergency. Besides, today was a single so swimming in the a.m. meant I got to come home and be a normal person in the p.m. so I had two incentives.

Once I've pried myself out of bed I find it's really not that bad. It's just the initial shock of the alarm jarring you awake at a cold, dark hour that's hard to handle. But the reward was a virtually empty pool for much of my workout, which allowed me to be more thoughtful about the workout. This was a really good swim for me... finally. I've been really inconsistent with my swimming, sometimes going two weeks between sessions, so my form has deteriorated to something that resembles attacking the water and my fitness is nil. But today I felt like I was swimming fairly strongly and while I'm still much slower than last year (note: I was slow then, too) I am definitely improving even if marginally. And best of all I'm not as repulsed by the thought of swimming so hopefully I'll be motivated to pay the pool another visit soon.

I had a breakthrough run last night as well. I joined my tri club's group run for the first time and ended up running with one of the guys also training for Lake Placid. Normally he would leave me in the dust, but he's also dealing with some injuries so we kept the pace moderate and talked the entire time. I felt I was exerting a bit more than usual, but didn't realize how much until we hit the first mile - 8:40. I was simultaneously elated and terrified. I haven't done more than a couple minutes at this pace since my injury so holding it for a mile was a big step. I was also pain free. The next mile was 8:26 so we slowed it a bit to just around 9, which I held for the next few. I ended up running 4.6 miles at just under a 9:00 pace. Last year I did my long runs at about 8:30-8:45, and my shorter runs at 8 or less. I have no intentions of trying to get back to that this year, but it is heartwarming to know I should be able to eventually.

Last, but definitely not least, my bike is here!!! It arrived yesterday and we put it together last night. It still needs some adjustments and I'm scheduling a proper fitting so I'll take a more formal picture after. When I think of all the fun miles I'll spend on this bike I instantly smile. I love my P2C but I don't always want to be on a time trial bike. Sometimes I just want to sit up, feel the wind on my face and enjoy the view. It makes me look forward to the offseason even more!

March 23, 2010

New Goal?

After I finish my two-Ironman season, I think it's time for a new goal. Something that involves a physical challenge, but includes more experience and pleasure than racing. After the first Ironman, the injury and the incredibly long road to recovery that essentially eclipsed my offseason, I'm yearning for something new. And I think I've found it.

This past weekend, the New York Times ran an article about one of the world's top treks, the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. This has been at the top of trekking lists for decades, but by 2012, there will be a paved road over the storied trail and the trek will no longer exist. The average trip is 21 days and covers a distance of more than 150 miles on foot, reaching an elevation of over 17,000 feet. Your daily view is of scenic Nepalese towns, lush river valleys, and as you ascend higher, the breathtaking Himalayas.

My friends know I've been on an Everest kick (don't worry, I'm too broke and not nearly daring enough) so the idea of being in the shadows of great mountains is very appealing to me. Plus it sounds like one of those profound, life-changing experiences we so seldom get to have. Imagine being cut off from the modern world for three weeks, forced to slow down and absorb the world around you rather than rely on your iPhone or laptop to keep you entertained. It sounds magical to me. And knowing this year or next may be the last chance to do it makes it even more appealing.

You can read the Times article, the Wikipedia page, this detailed blog or just look at these photos and tell me what you think. It seems like a very inspiring next step in my life's journey.

March 22, 2010

California Dreaming

I may not have dropped off the face of the earth, but I did drop temporarily into heaven. My California vacation was just what the doctor ordered and felt like it lasted forever - how often does that happen? I was more relaxed than I've been for as long as I can remember and yes, that involved blowing off a hefty chunk of training, but I think I needed it.

There is no way to truly share my experience out there so I'm going to share the most important things - the restaurants I visited and the food I ate. The dining was phenomenal; there just weren't enough meals in the day for me to try everything I wanted! The wine was truly incredible as well, but it would take weeks to document my experiences there, so here's the eating rundown:


Saturday - Dinner at Bouchon: Oysters, scallops, duck and of course, the signature chocolate bouchon for dessert. Magnificent.

Sunday - Morning snack at Bouchon Bakery, and by snack I mean huge chocolate almond croissant. Brunch at Ad Hoc: Monkey bread, steak and eggs and carrot cake bars. I didn't leave a morsel behind. Dinner at Ad Hoc: Yes, I liked it that much. Smoked trout salad, seared ahi tuna, espresso panna cotta. I shared this meal with two Napa winemakers so it was incredibly fun.

Monday - Another breakfast at Bouchon Bakery, this time a divine bacon cheddar scone. There are not words to describe it.

Lunch - Taylor's Refresher: Bacon cheeseburger and garlic fries. Oh my. Dinner – Redd: Oysters, lobster risotto with meyer lemon, crispy duck confit with foie gras meatballs and spaetzle. Not surprisingly, no room for dessert.

Tuesday - Last breakfast at Bouchon Bakery. I think I shed a tear on the way out. I bought so much it required a small shopping bag! I had a pressed ham and cheese croissant, a bacon scone for the road, an oatmeal cookie with brown sugar and toasted nut goodness and the fuhgettaboutit - a rice crispy treat with a layer of salted caramel on top, all dipped in chocolate with more salt on top. Heaven. I stopped for lunch in the Russian River Valley for more oysters and another trout salad before heading to San Francisco.


Chez Panisse: Pea soup, grilled shrimp, berkshire pork and tiramisu. I've wanted to eat at Chez Panisse for years so it was quite a treat.

Cheeseboard Pizza: I'm a New Yorker and we're pizza snobs, but this was outrageously good. It was a style unlike New York so a totally different experience. I sat in the grassy median in the middle of the street to eat it along with all the other in-the-know patrons. I loved the experience.

Cafe Fanny - Another Alice Waters stop and one of my most favorite places. I felt I could sit there all day ordering small, perfectly made snacks. I had a hot chocolate after my Cheeseboard lunch and returned at breakfast for the poached eggs and some beignets to go.

San Francisco

Hog Island Oysters: We hit this for oyster happy hour to indulge in the $1 oyster special. My friend and I each had two dozen and shared some mussels. This is a happy hour I could go to every day!

Slanted Door: Simply amazing! I had yellowtail sashimi with crispy scallions, cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab and two different types of spring rolls. Both were shrimp and pork, one in a cellophane wrapper and steamed and the other fried, but served with a lettuce leaf wrapper, fresh mint leaves and noodles. You dipped the noodles and roll in the sauce, tore off some fresh mint and then wrapped it all up in a leaf. It was incredibly messy and incredibly fun, a huge explosion of flavors.

Did I train at all? Yes, but barely. I didn’t do anything while in Napa aside from take a one-hour walk around town after our huge Ad Hoc brunch. But when I got back to San Francisco, I did a 45-minute run, which was pure misery aside from the view, a medium swim and then my longest run to date since the injury. I covered 6.12 miles on Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to Aquatic Park and back with some excursions on piers. It gave me a chance to do some sightseeing that wasn’t on the way to a restaurant. And it earned my Slanted Door lunch.

Now that I’m back I’m kicking it into high gear. I feel a little weak from the breaks I’ve taken, but I’ve got a fitness base to build from and I have four months until my first race. I’m not worried and I’m just going to try to enjoy my training and keep some balance in my life.

March 12, 2010

Napa Style

I'm so long overdue for a vacation so I'm finally taking one. Right before the Olympics I took a week off work but hadn't decided where to go. I was looking into a hiking trip in Death Valley, a spa in Arizona and Belize, but just couldn't decide. Then two weeks ago, on a whim, I texted a friend in San Francisco and asked if I could come visit. Not only was she thrilled to have me, but it turns out that tomorrow is her birthday. So I'm flying to San Fran in the morning and we're driving up to Napa Valley for the weekend to celebrate. I couldn't be more excited, it's been so long since I've gone anywhere that didn't involve schlepping my bike and racing.

By this time tomorrow I'll be at my first wine tasting appointment at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville. My wine industry connections have served me well so I'll be seeing a few very interesting places and likely will have a much more personal and real experience. My friend can only stay with me Saturday night and then has to head back to the city for work, but I'll be staying in Napa until Tuesday morning, then will drive over to the Sonoma Coast and take my time heading south.

I'll be without a bike, but as you can imagine, will have the most stunning place to run so at least I'll mix a little training with pleasure. I'm mostly looking forward to the eating. The culinary scene out there is phenomenal so I've made reservations at Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Redd and Chez Panisse and am planning to drop in on several more. It won't be on the training diet, but perhaps this last hurrah is what I need to snap me back into Ironman life.

March 11, 2010

New Addition

Since last fall, I've been wanting a road bike. I've missed that feeling of riding simply for pleasure that you just can't get on a time trial bike. But road bikes are expensive so after all the money invested into my foot I decided to wait. I still wasn't 100% ready to pull the trigger, but then the amazing deals started popping up. I continued to resist.

Finally, last week, a new deal emerged and I lost my battle. Competitive Cyclist had the Cervelo S2 with SRAM Rival in small frames only, marked down 40% due to a discontinued paint scheme. It was the perfect deal and the perfect bike, I had to have it.

While I wasn't deliberately aiming to own two Cervelos, I really can't complain. They make beautiful, high quality bikes that fit me well. I don't care enough about being different to compromise on comfort. Hopefully she'll arrive just after my vacation and we can have our maiden voyage by the end of the month. Maybe it will be the jolt of motivation I've been looking for.

March 10, 2010

We Now Return to Regularly Scheduled Programming

Well folks, after a couple weeks away I'm going to attempt to get back to my regular posting. Not only have I missed seeing what others are sharing, but I've had some thoughts on my mind that have no other outlet but here so it's time to write.

First, a little update on what I've been up to. I took a break from work and life to rest up and re-connect with myself after the Olympics. I needed it. I trained a steady amount during this time, but also blew off just enough of it to be with friends and feel normal. It worked. By the time I got back into the game I was feeling much more energized and engaged, where before I was a lost cause.

I'm experiencing a new challenge and am curious if other Ironman veterans have felt the same. Last year when I embarked on my Ironman Wisconsin journey, I swore I would give it 110%, that nothing would be compromised. If I was going to do it, I wasn't going to do it half-assed. Everything took a back seat to my training. I missed out on countless social activities, sleep and just general down time. I didn't have a Saturday or Sunday all summer that didn't involve 10+ hours of cumulative training. So as I start down the path to my second and third Ironman races I expected to feel the same... only I don't. I've opted to forego training for social reasons at least once a week for the past several weeks. What's more surprising is that I don't feel guilty at all whereas last year I was riddled with guilt if I missed so much as a 20-minute swim.

It's not that I'm unmotivated, but I don't feel the same pressing urgency to log every mile and minute on the schedule. Could it be because the distance is less of a mystery and therefore less scary? Is it because I was injured and perhaps my drive to go further and do more is lessened? Or could it just be that like so many things in life, shiny newness is always more exciting than tried and true? I really don't know, but I'm curious to see if it lifts as I progress in my training. What I do know for sure is that I have a healthy dose of respect for the Ironman distance and would never go in unprepared. I just might go in a little less prepared than the first time and who knows, I might end up with a better race in the end.

March 1, 2010

Winter Olympics Photos

I'm easing back into training and back into blogging, I'll post an update soon. In the meantime, here are the photos from my Winter Olympics journey. Enjoy!


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