Saturday, March 7, 2015

(Un)comfortably uncomfortable, Part II

I raced uncomfortable. It didn't feel comfortably so, however. I'll save you from my excuses. I don't exactly have any to share. Yet I will say I think I had a bad day (at least I hope I did). Is that an excuse?
Attempting to represent Team BSR. I feel as contorted as I
look in this picture. That finish line couldn't have come
soon enough on a bad day. Photo courtesy of Cecil Williams.

Sunshine graced us upon our descent onto Wawawai Landing. Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees. The day looked spectacular. Wind raced through the valley, but it always does. I'd sipped on PhD nutrition's Glyco-Durance drink on the way down, feeling rather hydrated in strawberry kiwi. After finding a parking spot, I started to don my race garb so I could complete my warmup before the gun sounded to initiate the start of the race. I slathered Ruby's Lube under my heart rate monitor strap, as well as in areas of my shoes I always feel hot spots.

Warm up done, I waited in the group of approximately 750 runners, facing out toward the course and into the oncoming headwind. The gun sounded, and I set off at my planned pace with a pack of runners that I hoped I could work with to cut through the headwind and disperse some of the effort.

My pace started to slip by mile four, which seemed to coincide well with the strength of the wind. My breathing felt comfortable, but my legs ached. This didn't feel right, especially just going into the turnaround to signal the half-way point. I hoped upon turning around the cone, my effort wouldn't feel as great without the headwind to fight against.

It felt just as bad. Uncomfortable doesn't begin to describe it. Heaviness. Lethargy. Giving up. It's as though with the turn of the course, so too, did the temperatures escalate. The games I'd started with myself at the beginning of the race seemed to take a turn for the worse. I lost control when I lost my air conditioner in the way of the headwind. The irony of it all killed me, and it showed in miles six through eight. I downed a gel in an effort to ignite the fire that seemed to have faded to a flicker. It took about two miles of significant effort to trot along at what is normally a comfortable pace. My legs seemed to respond to the gel, just as fire seems to strengthen with more air.

Mile twelve finally rolled into view, and with a strengthened flame, I busted my butt to finish at a respectable pace, the one I'd set out to average at on this day. Of course, my day had finished miles before, but I needed to prove to myself that, really, this was just a bad day.

On my first race of this year, I've been humbled. I set out to PR; I arrived home to analyze the day and determine what needs fixing to successfully move forward in this 2015. These kind of situations make me uncomfortable. Yet they encourage me to look forward. Thankfully, I have another opportunity next weekend to test my speed at a St. Paddy's Day 10k race in Nashville, Tennessee. (Bryan and I don't normally travel cross-country for a 10k, FYI. We simply enjoy turning business trips into race weekends.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

To be comfortably uncomfortable

Over the last couple of months (hence the lapse in posts...seriously) I've "enjoyed" learning the concept of training to feel comfortably uncomfortable. It seems fitting that I've chosen to partake in a sport that gives me at least three different opportunities to fine tune this ideal. I knew TRIathlon had its perks. Yet don't be fooled by the fact that, because triathlon is comprised of three different endeavors, that I have just three areas where I can push myself to the point of feeling comfortably uncomfortable. Weather, strength training, and micromanagement seem to wiggle their own ways into my life. Suddenly, I realize my coach never explained a significant chunk of my discomfort in the conversation we had last week. I suppose he knew I'd figure it out eventually. I'm cool with that.

Truthfully, I've embraced the learning process. Early morning (I mean starting in the 4 o'clock hour) trainer rides make that cup of coffee taste so much better. There's something satisfying about taking opportunistic sips with each passing rest interval so that I may bust my butt over the course of the next 8 minutes in zone Calgon-take-me-away. It's not until I'm at work, rousing my patients out of bed for physical therapy, that I'm thankful the hardest part of my day is complete. Done by 0730? Sounds good to me.

Patient treatment only truly becomes challenging if it follows an evening of strength training. As if the workouts my coach schedules for me aren't hard enough, Bryan and I take about 30 minutes out of some of our evenings to spend quality time breaking each other down. With weights, of course. What were you thinking? Please, Forty Shades of B**ll**it doesn't even come close. I remind myself the reason I can't bend over for that ankle weight on the floor is a direct result of me getting stronger. Or, the reason I groan in an attempt to demonstrate the next exercise to my patient is simply because I'm learning to cope with (appreciate) what's uncomfortable. Nevermind my patient looks confused by my methods. This is fun.

I usually feel confident that I'll find enough energy for any given workout, even if it means having to build to 5k pace in a 45 minute run after a full day at work. Thoughts of getting home, enjoying the dogs' company, and sipping on a cup of tea usually try to derail my efforts, so I've adopted some strategies to hold me to my discomfort. I don my running gear before I leave work. If I don't run at work, I run before I get home. I drive in the direction of home, and I park just a couple miles from home. This way, the only thing keeping me from home is a short, hard, gotta-get-it-done kind of run. It's a short drive home when I'm done. Nevermind the way my legs feel. I'm getting faster. Bring it.

The weather has treated me well. These mild temperatures almost attempt to make what's supposed to be uncomfortable, too pleasant. I leave it to Sunday workouts to make up for that. This morning's 17 degrees at 0700 felt anything by cozy and comfy. The first of March felt colder than the middle of February. Bryan and I waddled off into Riverside State Park, but soon found ourselves flying down Aubrey White in an effort to maintain balls-to-the-wall effort for 15 minutes. Yet 15 minutes isn't enough, so we do it again for another ten. Sucking on 17-degree air feels wonderful. It'll likely prepare us well for next weekend's Snake River Half Marathon. Secretly, I hope we're in the clear as far as weather is concerned. Today's pain translated into a faster interval split. Right on.

Confidence only lasts a short while. Upon returning to the truck, we sat in Bryan's truck, the cab as cold as the air outside, cursing a heater that only throws out warm air if he throttles it past 2000rpms. Given the drive from Riverside state park to the north YMCA doesn't afford many opportunities for that kind of speed, we shivered our way to the Y so we could wait in line like all the other gym rats eager to get in before it openned. Finally, once inside, we decided to jump in their pool. Bryan says he never warmed up. I reveled in how gummy my arms felt during each 100yard sprint. Somehow, I managed to overlook my unease by imagining the fruit smoothy with PhD nutrition and the peanut butter bonk breaker waiting for me in the car. This, only after my (finally) warm shower with SBR TriSwim to finally conclude the day's uncomfortable training efforts. I'm happy with the results.

I can't wait to see if racing comfortably uncomfortable feels this good next weekend. If there's anything I've learned, Ruby's Lube will take care of any pain the mind can't ignore. And so, I'll look forward to kicking off the 2015 race season next weekend as a Big (comfortably uncomfortable) Sexy racer, with coach Derek Garcia of DG Multisports and Bryan urging me onward.