Workouts can be convenient, social, or good for your training. Never all three. Pick two.
- Do not try to run hard 800s for the first time in months at noon, when it’s 90 degrees out, immediately after eating leftover pizza because you were starving.
- Do not forget to eat to the point that you get starving right before a workout.
- Do not make training schedules for yourself when you’re sleep-deprived and delirious.
- Do remember to sleep.
- Seriously, sleep.
- Maybe eat something too, besides Oreo-filling-filled Chips Ahoy cookies and wine.
- Don’t follow an Ironman with three weeks of nothing and then expect to be in half-Ironman shape three weeks after that.
- Eh, try the half anyway.
I haven’t done much in the last three weeks. I mean I’ve done plenty, but not working out or triathloning stuff.
Usually, when I take a hard core break, I aim to hit rock bottom. My goal then is to let the fire go all the way out, so it can be restarted again — though I’m not actually sure that’s how fires work. It’s a good mental exercise to do NO exercise until you want to do exercise. (Of course, most athletes tell you this is hard because they want to get started right away again. For me, it’s hard because it’s easy to wait too long and then you can’t even find the fire under all the brownies.) But, usually, I eventually feel like doing some easy trail runs and fun bike rides again. I do those for a bit and then that builds into for real training as plans start to form in my mind and ideas take shape. And, then we’re back at it.
(This is pretty much Tupac the Cat.)
I’m having a hard time getting back at it this time around though.
Partially this is because it’s hard to hit bottom when you have to go to all-day class every day, and learn how to shoot and edit a video, and learn street photography — and learn that it is not your strong suit. And the minor breakdowns — because fuck, moving without actually moving sucks — don’t help the general feeling of exhaustion. But, partially it’s been hard to get back into training because I’m not sure if I’m getting back into a season after a mid-season/post-Ironman break or if I’m going into an off-season. I don’t know how Ironman recovery works either, but it seems a little longer and rougher than regular race recovery.
Usually when I start Googling races and jotting down ideas for what I want to do next year that means I’m ready to start training too. But, like everything else in my life right now, what I want to do is up in the air. Should I race collegiate? Should I do an Ironman? Maybe I’ll just run since I won’t even have my TT bike down here. There’s nothing I’m super excited about this fall — besides Big Kahuna in four week, which I’m signed up for and hoping to get through on the basis of my existing fitness — so maybe I just do the LA Marathon and Oceanside 70.3 in the spring. Without knowing what my schedule is going to be like really it’s hard to say.
All that has meant getting moving is hard. And when I do get moving it hurts.
So last weekend I ran half of a half-marathon with my friend, which was definitely as much as I had any desire to run. Then, I tried to ease back into some light workouts last week: easy short swims that were slow and sucked, one day of yoga, and a six-mile run on Friday. Today I went to a Masters practice because I thought it might kick me into gear and also because I wanted to see what this Masters was like.
And, of course, because swimming is stupid, after not being able to swim faster than 1:22s for months, today I was dropping 1:15s all over the place.
Then, I had to take a two hour nap.
See, back at it.
I’m taking a poll. Clearly, I drink throughout the year — as almost everyone knows. But, many people lay off the alcohol when preparing for a race. And, even I tend to tone it down in the weeks before a big target race — if for no other reason than to get down to race weight. I know there are studies saying that alcohol causes all kinds of muscle damage and/or is detrimental to training gains. It also tends to make you eat poorly and more, and make it hard to recover well, sleep enough, and get all your training in like you should. Also, it’s empty calories.
For me, though, creating arbitrary restrictions stresses me out and makes triathlon a chore, instead of fun. The last thing I need is more stress about triathlon. It’s not that I want to party hard every weekend, but I want to drink a glass of wine without worrying that means I’m throwing away a Kona spot.
Am I alone? Do you lay off the alcohol during the season? Part of the season?
“Calling” a workout, knowing when you’re just done and need to lay down, is not easy. It is an art.
But, it’s an important art. I believe, with very little basis for this belief, that part of the reason I have, on the whole, done better coaching myself than being coached is because it’s hard for coaches who are not right there with you to make decisions about when to call a workout. Unless they happen to be crazy fast with the text/email responses — and I have sent some hysterical texts/emails. You are still the best equipped to know when you are exhausted.
There are some general rules I follow for calling it, though:
Recovery days should make you feel recovered. Yesterday was an easy day. But as I was on my bike, I felt terrible and not at all like this was easy. I decided that unless I called the workout there was no way I’d be able to run hard in the morning.
But don’t be stupid about the other recovery things. I also ate like I was a moron yesterday. This did not help. If I keep forgetting to eat lunch and then feeling awful and calling workouts I won’t be well-rested, I’ll just be out of shape.
Unless you’re a total mess, start the workout. There are days I don’t even make it out the door. Generally this has happened when there are lots of other reasons I feel wiped out: too much work, not enough sleep. Sometimes those things are just going to be too much. But, most of the time, I try to follow that 5′ rule: do it for 5′ and see how you feel. Once you get moving you often feel better than you thought and there is no need to call it. (This is not true of swimming for me. Swimming is usually a constant battle not to quit in the middle.)
Only call hard workouts if you have a really good reason. I call easy workouts all the time. (OK, not all the time.) But that’s because those are often there for recovery and if they’re not making me feel recovered then *shrug*. Hard workouts, though, the kind you only have a few times a week, you better nail those. I try to only call hard workouts if I’m a hot mess, hurt, or can’t do them. That equates to: if I’m drowning in work or life and having a breakdown (see: when Floyd died), when I have a physical injury, and when I’m just totally missing the times.
Don’t lie to yourself. This isn’t easy to get right. And I screw it up a lot. Everyone screws it up a lot, because it’s hard to do honest self-assessment. Consider the general rule that you should call a hard workout if you’re missing all the times you’re supposed to hit. What if you’re just missing them by a little, but you set them too hard in the first place? What if you’re not missing them, but you feel super awful terrible? What if that super awful terrible is how you’re supposed to feel because it’s not an easy workout? What if you’re secretly self-sabotaging because you subconsciously believe you can’t hit the times and just want to be done? Self-coaching (or, even if you have a coach and you start questioning the schedule) is constantly tinged with self-doubt. You have to know when you really are not doing something for the right reasons and when you’re just being lazy.
Like right now: I am avoiding heading out the door for my hard run. Because I’m tired and it sounds shitty. But, it’s time to go. This is not a workout I should call.
Yeah, yeah, it’s Wednesday. There’s a segment of the blogging internet that believes you should post something every day. I tried that for most of the first year of Sunny Running. I’m not sure I believe in it. Also, I do believe that I have other work to do. But, I should be more on top of things. So, we’ll add that to the list of New Year’s resolutions.
Last week was a rest week. It was supposed to be a rest 3-5 days. But, then my body sort of crapped out on me and I had the last of my journalism school apps due on Friday. And, it just sort of became a really easy work. Ah well. Isn’t the resting when you’re actually getting fitter? Right?
Biked about 20 miles easy to the ferry IN THE DARK and then to the KQED office and then back the other way in the evening — again in the dark. I generally wear cycling clothes and change at work, so it’s an actual ride at paces ranging from leisurely to ‘oh shit, I’m going to miss the boat.’ But, still, there’s a certain amount of dicking around and coasting that happens riding through the city, etc. On the way back, I didn’t really feel like changing into tights, so I just wore my skinny jeans the whole ride home. They’re basically the same thing.
OFF. I have no recollection of what I actually did, except that it didn’t involve as much work as it should have.
Yoga class in the morning and 1,200 yards of easy swimming.
Ran 4 miles in the hills above my house easy. Did 20′ of very light core and PT work. In case you were wondering this almost always involves: a combination of different kinds of sit-ups totalling generally around 100, leg raises, bridges (one-legged and otherwise), hamstring curls on a ball, clamshell PT exercises, planks of varying lengths and on each side, push-ups, squats (one-legged and normal), wall sits, side-stepping with band around ankles and then usually some balance and foot strength stuff. What exactly of this I do exactly depends on my feelings that day and sometimes it includes other stuff too I throw in.
Swam 2,050 yards at Masters. It was a low-key Masters day and they were preparing for a race next weekend, so in classic Masters fashion I spent a good amount of the workout practicing my turns and block starts. Something I totally need for Ironman obviously. I was 1 for 3 in not losing my goggles on the dive. The 1 was my first one. Then I started thinking about it.
My body fell apart sometime Friday. It was awful. My hip flexor was all messed up, my knee, my back. I don’t know what happened. I ran a very hobbling 9-something miles on Saturday on hilly trails with eight hill sprints in the middle. Then, did drills and strides in the grass.
Swam 1,500 yards easy. It was supposed to be more, but my heart started doing some crazy stuff in the middle and I couldn’t catch my breath. That pretty much never happens swimming. So, I got out and ended up spending an hour fighting the Safeway Super Bowl crowds, still having a hard time breathing right.
This week was supposed to be 3-5 days easy and then jumping back into training after I recovered. That was the plan. But, oh man.
By the time I was ready to get moving again on Thursday my legs felt terrible. Driving the car with my right foot, moving from the gas to the brake, hurt my hip flexor and I stopped being able to bend well. I got the leg worked on to loosen it up and then the whole thing was covered in bruises. Last night, I rolled over in the middle of the night and couldn’t bend my left leg either anymore and a giant knot appeared in my right shoulder.
This is pretty much what I look like now:
Somehow the recovery week screwed up my body. I’m sore and aching and having a hard time gaining momentum again. I thought I’d at least get some work done with all the time. But, man, this month has just not been my month.
Today, I was supposed to ride with a friend and, of course, it actually started raining finally. Ah well, we have to feel good about the rain!
For me, running a 20′ 5K is not easy. It’s hard. It hurts. Sometimes I feel like I might pee myself. I am, every time, 100% convinced there is no way I could run any faster. It is not possible.
And, yet, I have run an 18:58 5K. Which hurt on a whole other level of hurt.
Running four or five 800s in training at 5K or faster pace is hard. For me, that’s somewhere in the 3:03 range. It’s challenging. It hurts. And, yet, I am capable of running 10-12 at that pace — and subsequently not being able to pick my arms up the next day.
There’s hard and then there’s HARD.
I have this conversation with my high school kids a lot. They’re always telling me that they ran their hardest, that it is not possible to run any harder. And, I’m always like yeah, well. It is possible. Apparently, though, I need to have this conversation with myself.
I bombed a workout yesterday. Or, maybe I didn’t bomb it. Maybe I was just physically incapable of hitting the times. I’m still not sure. There’s no sign that tells you when you’re crossing over into HARD or when you’ve actually already passed that line and are about to run off a cliff. So, you have to guess.
I was supposed to do 5 x 3′ at 5K pace. Which should have been fine. The problem was that the day before, Wednesday, I did my first hardish workout of the season on the bike in the afternoon. It wasn’t supposed to be that hard. It was supposed to just be some big ring, low cadence hill repeats. You really aren’t supposed to do those HARD. But, I went nuts. I was feeling good. Or, rather, I just wasn’t feeling terrible. Even as I was on the last two repeats I realized this was killing my legs. I thought, hmm, tomorrow’s run workout is going to be rough.
And, it was. Halfway through the second 3′ effort I just couldn’t hold the pace. I stopped. I tried to pull it together and rest a bit and go again. I stopped again.
The problem is if some coach had given me this workout I probably would have done it. It would have sucked and I may have screwed myself up, but I would have done it. I can count on one hand the number of workouts I’ve bailed out in the middle of that someone else gave me — and one of them I was apparently not supposed to succeed at, but I didn’t know that and then it sort of killed my confidence and for another month I kept wondering if I was ‘supposed’ to bail this workout too. But, when you coach yourself you’re never sure if coach messed up, if coach gave you too many hard workouts in a row, if this is too hard. If this is just hard or HARD.
Partially, yesterday, I probably just wasn’t ready for that, my legs were beaten up. Partially, though, I need to just need to remember it is possible to go faster.
I am in off-season right now. That’s sort of weird, since I was basically not really “in-season” for a large part of the middle of the year. But, I still think it’s important to take at least a week or two to really chill out after getting through something hard — even if it was just hard, not fast.
The thing that’s really weird about this week, though, is that the lack of training has coincided with a lack of other stuff to do as well. Steve is really busy and gone most of this week and next. I always work from home, but usually I have meetings and interviews to do; I typically work out of different offices and places most days. But, this week, I got nothing. High school cross-country practices are over too. So, I’m really chilling out. This has really made for an incredibly low-key/boring week. My biggest problem is that if you leave the TV on court shows all day, DISH keeps asking if you’re really still watching??
I think it’s good, though. I think I’m going hit rock-bottom soon and be ready to bounce back. I’m already making plans and getting fidgety. Not that I’m actually doing anything about those plans yet, but it’s a start.
If you want to do off-season right, here is basically what I did yesterday:
6:45: Steve’s alarm goes off, because he has to head to Sacramento. Tupac the Cat is very excited about being up earlier than 8 a.m. and jumps on my head. I yell at him, kick him out of the room and go back to sleep.
9:15: Tupac’s banging on the bedroom door finally becomes impossible to ignore. We sit in bed and check the internet. Or, one of us checks the internet and the other bites a lot. Not telling you who did which.
9:45: Eat breakfast, browse internet for story ideas, send emails, etc.
10: Pull together a short “This Day in History” post for Yahoo! Travel for Thursday. End up opting for the first motel opening on Dec. 12, 1925 in San Luis Obispo. Read up, write.
10:55: Waste some time on the internet.
11:10: Realize if I want to shower before my 11:30 call I should do that. Shower, put on actual clothes for the first time in days — jeans + t-shirt.
11:20: Get a text message from a friend telling me there was a bank robbery at the bank down the street. I am such a terrible news reporter that I had no idea. The TV says the robber was shot by police and all the streets are closed. Guess I’m not going to the mall afterall.
11:30: Call with founder and editorial manager to talk about RootsRated, for which I’m supplying San Francisco Bay Area coverage. It’s live now, but there’s still little kinks to work out and plans to make for January.
12 to 1: Not totally sure what I do for an hour. In theory, I work on a story about food technology. Really, I do stuff. Lots of reading online and sending emails and Googling. Write a blog post. I become convinced that I don’t have a firm enough grasp on the of-the-moment internet and must create a more complete daily news round-up of things to read. HOW AM I EVER GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL IF I CAN’T DO THE INTERNET!
Realize the 4 p.m. yoga class down the block that I wanted to take is cancelled. Decide this means I should definitely go get sushi in the evening instead.
Decide I don’t care about the internet.
1: Aw, shit, I really do have to write that post for Bay Area Bites about food delivery technologies. Write. Get massively sidetracked looking up apps that will deliver food from restaurants for you, so that I could just have sushi delivered to me and never have to leave the house. But, stupid apps don’t cover Marin County very well.
3:15: Send piece to editor. Get email about motel story going on homepage, but they need more photos. Look for public domain photos, which is very, very challenging.
3:50: Bundle up and deck out my bike with the two working bike lights we have. Bike over the hill.
4:20: Talk to the owner of Marin Running Co for a bit.
4:30: Hang out at the San Anselmo Library. Pick up Beautiful Creatures. Read.
5:15: Sushi!! (I don’t care if everyone thinks Sushi Ran is so much more prestigious and fancy, Sushi 69 is the best. THE BEST.)
6: Bike home. It is so cold. So cold. My fingers hurt.
6:30: Oh shit, how did I get this cold. It’s not even that cold out and I’m wearing so many clothes. How am I ever going to train on my bike over the winter? This is ridiculous. No person could ever bike in 40 degrees. It is not possible. Bundle up and drape myself in a Snuggie to sit on the couch and read.
7 to 10: Read, read some more. Watch some TV, eat the last of my cookies and play with Tupac.
10: Talk to Steve for a bit, who is still in Sac. Do a bit more work, send emails, make a list of numbers I need to call in the morning, put away some laundry. Browse the Competitor issue I picked up at the running store. They profiled Marin County as a running destination! Sweet. How did I miss this. Of course they told people to go to Sol Food, of course. EVERYONE goes to Sol Food. I am over Sol Food. Think about this for a bit.
11:15: Decide to get ready for bed.
11:30: Tupac shits all over the bathroom. Clean it up. Decide it can not be cleaned up to my satisfaction; throw the mat away.
11:50: Get in bed. Read some more.
12:30: Turn out the light.
As you can see, it was a super busy day.*
*Caveat: This is not typically how life is. And, yes, I do have bigger projects I could work on, but I’m ON A BREAK.
Last week, Steve and I were visiting my parents both for Thanksgiving and also to go to my ten-year high school reunion, which was sort of awesome in its ridiculousness. Part of the thing about that kind of a trip, particularly since my parents now live about a mile from where I grew up in Chicago before we moved to the suburbs (*boo hiss*), is the reminiscing and the stories and the ‘remember how Kelly used to be so much cooler than she is now.’
Since they live very close to the park where I learned to swim and spent most of my afternoons as a kid, some of the stories were about swimming. Including my favorite story:
When we moved to Chicago, my parents signed me up for swim team. I had, theoretically, learned to swim in the backyard pool of the guy who owned the daycare I went to in Florida. In reality, I had not learned how to swim. But, I didn’t know this. When I got to swim team, the first thing everyone had to do was prove that they could swim one lap. The coach said ‘Swim a lap.’ So, I did.
I didn’t think about the fact that I couldn’t or never had or didn’t really know how. I jumped in and started “swimming.” Since I was 100% convinced that in order to swim good you needed to breathe a lot — like really a lot, like every time my arm left the water I picked my head up, every single time — I mostly was flailing and gasping and swallowing gallons of water. It looked like this:
But, and this is my favorite part, I didn’t stop. Just as it never occurred to me that I couldn’t swim a lap before jumping in, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it even as I was failing. Because safety, we were doing our lap in the lane right next to the wall. I was “swimming” along the wall and could have just reached out to touch it if I needed to. In theory, that was the point. In theory, if a kid was drowning, they would stop. I didn’t stop. It never even crossed my mind to grab onto the wall until the coach looked down and was like ‘Whoa, kid, stop.’ And, then, I basically thought the coach was telling me to stop because I was doing so good.
I failed the ‘can you swim a lap’ test and got put in Remedial Swim Team or Adventures in Swimming, which met an hour earlier. I actually learned how to swim and moved out of Swimming Adventures pretty quickly and up through the swim team lanes. Maybe it was because I went to practice a lot — swim team practice was every day but most kids only went 2-3x/week; not me, I had nothing else going on — or maybe it was because it simply never occurred to me that I couldn’t do what the coaches said.
By the time I was 9 or 10, I was good enough that I supposed to move out of the medium lane, where the 8- to 11-year-olds were, and into the fast lane with the middle school and high school kids. I hated it, though. I didn’t know the older kids, they hadn’t moved up from Adventures in Swimming with me, they didn’t like me. And, worse, I couldn’t do what the coach said, I would get lapped and struggle through workouts. So, I discovered that if I told the coach I didn’t feel good and wanted to swim down a lane, with my friends, then the coach thought I was being a trooper for still coming to practice when I felt bad and I didn’t have to swim with the high school kids. It was a win-win.
Or, I guess, it was a lose-lose. Eventually, I did that less and less, until I was always swimming in the fast lane. Eventually, another kid moved up with me and a few of the middle school girls took me under their wing and I got faster. Eventually, I actually got pretty good and started making finals and semi-finals at city-wide meets, something that never happened for the kids coming out of my tiny park district pool. But, I had learned how to make excuses and you can’t unlearn that. Once you realize that you can grab onto the wall, that it’s right there, you really can never go back to when quitting never occurred to you. Once you know that’s an option, you really can’t unknown it.
I kind of wish I could go back to being that stupid kid.