What I Learned Spectating Ironman Arizona

I was going to share a whole list of things I learned while spectating Ironman Arizona — which was actually the first Ironman I’ve ever watched that I wasn’t doing — but there really wasn’t a whole list of things to share.

Spectating is exhausting. The cost-benefit analysis of just doing the damn thing suggests you should just do the damn thing. You’re already awake and there. Continue reading “What I Learned Spectating Ironman Arizona”

Getting In (Or Out) Of My Head

Here are a few observations about perception:

    • In L.A., I am the most intense athlete I know—give or take. (Like, yeah, yeah, everyone is intense in their own way. Some of my friends are taking some time off right now. And, you should, obviously, always do what makes sense for you.) But, the net sum effect is that, generally speaking, I don’t know people doing harder workouts than me. This messes with my head. Because (CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF AROUND HERE), I’m not really a super intense workout person. I’m used to lots of people I know doing crazier workouts than me all the time. I’m used to lots and lots and lots of people being lots faster than me. And, I’m used to telling training partners my workout plan for the day and having them nod and be all, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ When everyone I know is, instead, like, ‘What?! That sounds insane,’ I start to think maybe it is insane. So, if all my internet friends who are Hillary’s athletes (Maggie? Alyssa?) could tell me about their super crazy workouts she has them doing, it would make me feel better and get me back in a good mental place.
    • Friday I bombed a workout. It was 4 x 2 miles and I only did 2.3 of the four repeats. I just was not hitting the times and I had only given myself 1 hour and 25 minutes exactly to do a 1 hour and 25 minute workout. So, when I had to take a loooong bathroom break, I was stuck reevaluating. But, it was easy to cut and I was weirdly not stressed about the fact that I bombed it, because I don’t think I really expected to finish it. This is not good.
    • In the fall, I was very not fit. Yet, I went on a killing-it streak at a bunch of races in October/November. I think it may have been because I knew I wasn’t in shape, so I expected it to be awful and that I’d have to power through. Then, I wasn’t surprised when it hurt. Now, I’m really fit (for me), so I keep subconsciously thinking it won’t hurt. But, it still always hurts.
    • Evidently, somewhere in the back of my mind right now I am expecting an accident or disaster. I’m just waiting for it. Wednesday, I had to cut through a parking garage, because “cycling routes” *shakes head*. And, I had this weird crazy PTSD. It might be the first time I’ve cut through a parking garage since shattering my teeth and I was freaking out. I was convinced that I was going to hit something, or someone was going to hit me, or something terrible was going to happen. Yesterday, Steve and I went cross-country skiing and I was having the hardest time on the downhills, because I was positive, 100% sure, that I was going to have some bizarre accident and end up in the hospital. I’m just too in shape right now, too ready for the L.A. Marathon and collegiate nationals. Something has to go wrong. Something always goes wrong. And, if you really want to get into some Psych 101 stuff, this may be why I’ve been self-sabotaging workouts and races lately, because somewhere in my head I think that I need to balance the karmic universe. (Subconsciously, ok? I’m not doing any of this consciously.)

So, yeah. That’s been fun.

What Does It Mean to be “Good” at Something?

A lot of the girls I know from triathlon have been saying lately in passing, “It sounds like running is going well.” Which is nice of them both to notice and to say something. But, it’s also kind of funny.

I ran really well at the Kaiser Half Marathon. I was really happy with the result. And, yet, I was the 28th woman.

That’s a totally fine placing for a medium-sized running race, but the last time I was the 28th woman at a triathlon was maybe Oceanside 2011. And, that’s a much bigger race than Kaiser and had a much higher-quality field in terms of the crazy talented people and the sheer number of them – respectively, for the sport. It was also the first real half-IM I’d done, without any portion getting cancelled and without me being injured and walking. I don’t think I’ve ever placed that far back at a triathlon of the equivalent size and scope as Kaiser.

At the Chicago Marathon, I was like 280-something woman. I think. At the Chicago Triathlon (biggest Olympic distance triathlon in the country), I was like top 20-or-something the last time I did it.

So, is running going well? Yes. I am the fastest I have probably ever been, because even when I was faster and thought I might make it as an 800m runner, I certainly didn’t have the endurance to sustain that pace for any amount of time.

But, am I good at running? I don’t know.

J. Lo triathloning.
J. Lo triathloning.

Obviously, there are more people who run than who triathlon. [Side note: shouldn’t triathlon be the verb form of triathlon? I run. I triathlon. I ‘compete in triathlon’ is unnecessarily bulky.] For all that triathlon as a sport is growing — yeah, J. Lo — it is still relatively niche. And, I certainly can believe that there just isn’t the same depth of talent on the women’s side of triathlon yet. (Yes, the top talent is untouchable, but what women’s triathlon often lacks is that huge quantity of very good people just below stunningly fast. The men’s side does not lack this as much.)

Part of what may make me believe I am a better triathlete than runner is probably simply that there are fewer people to beat. Once triathlon becomes as deep a sport as running, I may not think I’m so good at it. But, it’s also likely that I am simply better at triathlon than I am at running. Why am I not doing it then?

Most of the time we like the things we’re good at. I loved the Pacific Grove Triathlon, even though you have to swim through an entire farm of kelp, because I set an age-group course record there. My feelings about the course changed after I had to compete in the draft-legal race as a pro and came in DFL. And, obviously, if we always loved what we’re good at then Michael Jordan never would have tried to make it as a pretty ok baseball player.

So, I’m not doing triathlon right now because I didn’t like it anymore. Or rather, I didn’t like a lot of the accoutrements that came with trying to be ‘good’ at triathlon and I wouldn’t have been happy at that time not being ‘good’ at it. And, maybe I partially didn’t like it because I wasn’t ‘good’ enough.

With running, my definition of good changes. 28th at Kaiser is good. Running a 3:05 at Boston would be very good. Good in running, as is being defined by me, is attainable with much less total training time and stress and people getting up in my business. And, it almost definitely isn’t going to include any podiums or many wins.

It would be really easy to say that my definition of good just got a whole lot shittier, in that gold star for everyone kind of way, but I’m not totally sure that’s true. Because I am as fit as I probably ever was, just not in the water. And, when I have raced a couple triathlons in the last year, I did about as good as ever. (Not quite as good, not good enough that I’d be happy if I was training specifically for triathlon and had goals, but pretty good.) So, I don’t think it’s just some vague lower-your-expectations-and-be-happy lesson, because on a practical note, you can’t force expectations to lower themselves anyway. But, there is something funny about how they change without you telling them to.

I will probably go back to triathlon at some point, because I think it’s a fun sport (and if I want to stand on a podium again that’s not going to happen running), but it’s nice for a little bit to have a slightly different definition of if I’m doing good.

[Steve keeps saying, “Well. Superman does good.”]

Top of the podium feels so good.
Top of the podium feels so good.

It Really Depends on Your Perspective

This year, so far, I’ve had a lot of workouts I thought I simply couldn’t do. Lots of 2 x 20′ at 6:40 pace or 7 x 5′ at 6:30 or 30′ in-and-out (7:10, 6:45, etc). And I was just like straight up: nope, Coach Mario is wrong, I’m not this fast. Guess I’ll just try and fail, so he’ll believe me that I can’t do it.

Positive thinking and shit.

But, instead, I have nailed pretty much every workout. I haven’t had a single one (I can think of) that I was unable to complete or hit the times. They’ve sucked, but none have been as bad as I expected them to be, since I expected them to be un-doable. I have been killing it in workouts. [Obviously, me being me, this has also created a situation where I’m now convinced the next one is going to be the un-doable workout. That the magic is going to fall apart at any moment. Don’t look directly at it.]

Yesterday, I had a workout that didn’t sound that bad. It was a long run, 13.5-14 miles, with the last 6-7 miles at slightly up-tempo pace (like 7:30s). Totally do-able. I was not worried.

It sucked. Just blew. I was huffing and puffing and pumping my arms and squinting my eyes and dragging my legs and trying not to dry heave. The homeless people who live under the bridge were very concerned about me. All of that just to run a 7:34 mile. That’s not ok.

There are plenty of reasons this likely sucked more than it needed to:

Absinthe. Apparently not illegal since 2007. And, no longer hallucinogenic. I think.
Absinthe. Apparently not illegal since 2007. And, no longer hallucinogenic. I think.

But, I think it really sucked simply because I didn’t expect it to. In reality, my expectations should have been tempered. I had a long week last Monday-Friday. I then was up Saturday at 6 a.m. and in bed at 3 a.m. — and by bed I mean on someone’s couch. I chased down a ferry Sunday (full speed mile sprint) and missed. With my phone dead and the next ferry not for three hours, I had to improvise. I should have expected the run on Monday to suck and then I might have been pleasantly surprised if it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.

The thing about thinking things are going to be the worst possible is that they’re rarely as bad as you imagine and if they are, well, then, at least you’re prepared. When I swam Trans-Tahoe last summer with no wetsuit, I fundamentally believed I was going to go into shock and drown from the cold as soon as I jumped in. When I didn’t die, everything else didn’t seem that bad.

That’s some perspective.