Monday, February 27, 2012

My hairy armpits

I found myself in a bit of a bind last Sunday, in what started as a mad spiral downward in my attempt to stay afloat. Issues and roadblocks kept cropping up to cause incredible frustration and uncertainty on an evening when I should have been trying to mentally relax and prepare myself for the week ahead. Let me explain…

Last week, in a nutshell, was the second of six weeks I am house sitting for a lady with two old cats. An easy job, really, except for the fact I’m living with two of the most obnoxious old men with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a house. If I had enough room to write out everything their owner asked me to do for them, it would fill up this page. I simply confided to them the next six weeks were going to be the longest weeks of their long hairy lives, because this girl didn’t have time to do half of the unnecessary things their momma swore was pertinent to their existence.

For those of you who live out of a gym bag, you know there is nothing quite as ridiculous as having to pack all your shower paraphernalia, clothes for the workday, and extra workout clothes for the second training session after work. My week (and those weeks to follow) was further complicated by the fact that I’m driving back and forth between school, said house, my home, physical therapy, gym, and social workouts (trainer rides and group runs). The odds of forgetting some crucial undergarment or pair of socks are compounded significantly. If remembering all my clothes wasn’t hard enough, I’ve been hauling my bike, trainer, swimming bag, and running gear everywhere I go. If you thought living out of a gym bag was hard, try living out of the trunk of your car! I have sports bras and underwear sprawled across my trunk with wet clothes and towels hanging over my bike to dry.

Midweek, I finally resorted to making lists of everything I had to accomplish and needed to remember so I wouldn’t forget. I confided to a friend during one of my social runs that I actually have to write out what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what I’m taking every hour of every day. The problem was that each time I erased something off my To-do list, I remembered three more tasks I needed to complete. It looked something like this:
Write integumentary paper
Complete pediatric project
Read knee anatomy
Review patient case
Look over cardiac rehab virtual case
Study pediatric notes
Grocery shopping
Make food for next week

In an effort to make a difficult week and turn it into something more positive, I leave you with a song my good friend and DPT soon-to-be, Caleb Foss, shared with me when he sensed my stress level spiraling steadily upward. Which reminds me why I titled this post Hairy Armpits. You’ll notice on my list above I failed to include Shave your armpits. A few days ago I happened to look down after my morning swim to notice considerable undergrowth where it should be clean-shaven. It’s funny how, when I’m completely overwhelmed by life, some of the smallest daily hygiene tasks pass me by.

Somehow, I remembered to shave my legs midweek in preparation for my musculoskeletal lab, much to the appreciation (I’m sure) of my lab partner. Yet looking down to see what I’d forgotten made me remember the time I’d witnessed my first hairy arm-pitted lady swimming in the pool. I can only recommend that you not do what I did and open your mouth in complete surprise while you’re in the middle of a stroke. You’ll swallow more pool water in that one moment than you ever wanted to taste in your entire lifetime. I didn’t want to cause anyone the same disbelief that lady afforded me, so I told myself I’d remember to shave when I went home the next day, where I knew I had a razor. See, living away from home makes you realize how much you forget to pack when you need it most midweek. As I write this, I can proudly say I remembered a couple nights ago (before masters swim yesterday). Seeing as it's already two days out, and hair don't quit growing, I better write it on my To do list after I’m done listening to Little Secrets by Passion Pit. Enjoy :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pain loves misery. Misery loves company.

I remember running through complete darkness along the paved trail between Moscow and Pullman during my years studying at University of Idaho. Five years ago, my training consisted entirely of running. Cycling served as something to do on the weekends, and swimming didn’t even exist until my sophomore year. What I remember most, however, revolves around the early morning runs. I awoke at 4:30, donned my warmest clothes, started my GPS, and turned my headlamp on in preparation for eight to ten miles of farmland along a lonely stretch of highway. Running served as my outlet. I buried myself in 20+ credits of biology, chemistry, physics, and human anatomy courses to fill my time. And fill my time it did. So running every morning was my recourse to stay sane. Every. Lonely. Morning.

It wasn’t until the thrill of riding my bike overtook me did I realize riding alone—training alone—hardly compared to the enjoyment of working out with other people. My dad always stressed the importance of riding with other people, mostly for safety’s sake. Being a girl in a college town, riding alone on country roads ruled by old farmers driving big grain machinery didn’t instill pleasant images in my dad’s head. So I got involved with the University’s cycling club. I was hooked.

Each Saturday, we met at the trailhead and rode miles and miles into the surrounding towns of Palouse, Garfield, and Troy, exploring countryside I could never have discovered on my own two feet. Thirty, fifty, seventy miles flew by without me even knowing it. The scenery certainly helped, but what inspired me most centered on the camaraderie and conversations I had with those riding with me. By the end of my stay in Moscow, I no longer felt intimidated by the guys with shaven, chiseled legs clad in spandex. In fact, I even challenged them to a few hills, but I was a lady and always humbled myself enough to let them pull me home on the flats 

The point is that, while training alone is a necessary component to everyone’s training, especially during the week when juggling work, school, and kids; finding the opportunities to workout with other people should be just as important. Even if the weekend is the only time to do so, I say DO IT. My involvement with Trifusion and those associated with the group has taught me the benefits of leaving hard workouts for the weekdays when I have to train alone. That way, I can gravitate toward others during the weekend and enjoy the company I come to crave during the week. What eludes me during the week (like swimming lap upon lap of drills and backstroke) suddenly becomes possible when I look to my left and my right to see everyone else suffering through the same misery that I am. Pedaling nowhere in a 70-degree basement for one to two hours makes the sweat dripping off my face (and other places I care not to share) taste a little sweeter knowing I can bitch and complain about the single-leg drills and 20-minute tempos with everyone else in that room.

And running. The final two months leading up to my marathon required Tuesday speed work on the University track (aka punishment). Yasso 800s awaited me after a 2-mile warm up. Sets of four turned into six turned into eight turned into ten. Starting out, I dedicated each 800 to someone in my family, my greatest effort reserved for the brother who needed extra motivation on a test, for the mom who went through similar pain (ok, more pain) giving birth to me, for the dad who always pushed me up every damn hill we scaled together on feet or on wheels. I may have been alone, but I finished each lap with them in my head when they couldn’t occupy the empty position alongside me on the track.

Photo taken by Jessi Thompson. From left: Jarod Crooks, Bryan Rowe, Jennifer Little, me, Adam Little, and Jeff Wilcox.
Yesterday was the first time in two years that I stepped on the track for my first speed workout, led by Josh Hadway. For the first time, nine other people joined me. I may have ran slower than I did two years ago, but I ran happier seeing everyone else running in circles for no particular reason other than to challenge themselves and to reap the benefits of enjoying others’ company. It felt different. It felt better. And a 40-minute, 5-mile speed session never flew by so fast.

To that end, I simply encourage everyone who’s made it this far into the post to simply try it. See what others have planned and coordinate a trainer ride or a run. Just ask. I guarantee others are looking for the same opportunity that you seek. Be grateful. Thank those—like Josh Hadway, Roger and Jessi Thompson, and Michael Woodward—for taking time out of their schedules to facilitate these opportunities to socialize, learn, and exercise.

Now that I’ve convinced you to involve yourselves in group workouts, I have an 8-minute run test scheduled for this Wednesday morning, about 6am, at Mead High School track. Don’t let the fact that we’ll probably be dead by the 4th minute as we attempt to run all out for eight. I can’t promise you’ll feel great when we’re finished, but I can guarantee feeling miserable together is a little more tolerable. I promise to cheer you on if you do the same for me. Anyone care to join?

Friday, February 17, 2012

I am a patient

For nearly 12 weeks, my coach has been laying out daily training workouts for me to follow. I am 12 weeks into a training plan that, really, I have not even started. Next week marks my first “official” week of Base 1, yet it feels as though I should be in Base 3 by now. And for those of you who have no idea what Base 1, 2, 3, then Build 1, 2, finally Peak, then race actually mean…I don’t know either. Well, I kind of do, but I don’t. So much of the triathlon world is rooted in lingo to which I’ve only been briefly exposed. For instance, there’s swim lingo: overkicking and kicking in streamline, doing variables, ladder drills, ascending and descending sets. Then there’s bike lingo: single legs, fast pedals, tempos, and steady intervals. Even when you ask different people about the meaning of different lingo, you get similar, but different definitions of the lingo. I’ve resigned to accept the lingo, but not know the lingo. Lingo, lingo, lingo. Lingo.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle I’ve encountered is training with heart rate zones. It took me about 4 weeks to realize I couldn’t outsmart the heart rate monitor. (I may be a graduate student in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program, but don’t underestimate the opportunity for serious inanity). No more running or cycling balls-to-the-walls each time I mounted the saddle. No more pretending my effort ranked a 3 on a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale of 1 to 10 when it actually scored more like a 7. No more kidding my body, my mind…or my coach. It was like keeping a food journal: I’d gingerly type all of my workout information into my training log—average heart rates included—and prepare to hear that my effort was too hard this early in the season. I needed to exert some self-control and practice patience in my training. I don’t practice patience.

So now I prepare to dominate a 20-week training plan in preparation for my 2012 season. I am not a swimmer. I am not a cyclist. I am not a runner. I am a triathlete—or maybe just aspire to be like one. My background resides primarily around running, and while I’ve made noticeable gains in my swimming technique, I still feel so far behind in my speed and consistency. The bike? I’m stuck on a trainer dying to be outside tackling hills my dad taught me to love when he first got me out on a road bike. I’m a perfectionist, and seeing so much need for growth and improvement has me sitting on the edge of my seat, worried I’m falling behind.

I realize this is exactly why I have a coach. He afforded me two hours of his time last night to answer all my questions and reassure me my progress was right on track. In all honesty, I’ve never had a coach before to guide me through the world of triathlon. So I don’t know if I’m just incredibly lucky or if this is the norm. Either way, if anyone can teach me patience, it’ll be him. By the end of 2012 I hope to confidently say that I am a triathlete. I am patiently waiting for success.