Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Motivation and Affirmation

Just a quick post on this rainy day to remind you that whatever it is that you are chasing, be it a 5k, a marathon, an Ironman or any other goal in life that you can do it if you dedicate yourself to it.

I strongly recommend signing up for daily emails from Tut's Adventurers' Club. It's a little new agey sometimes for my taste, but then I get emails like this:

The presumption, Mia, at all times and under all circumstances, should always be that you are good enough, worthy enough, and lovable enough. And that you are exactly the right kind of person, in the right place, at the right time. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been instilled with such dreams in the first place.
Ain't that the truth.

From the girl who never thought she'd run more than a 15 minute mile, let me promise you that amazing things are possible if you believe you can do it.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Man, the Myth, the Boyfriend

I am lucky enough to have an amazing man in my life, aside from my Dad (who taught me the value of valuing myself and finding a companion who would do the same), who has supported me in all my crazy endeavors. I'm sure I've told this story to many of you, but if you don't know how I started running, you can thank Chadd. Or blame him, depends on how you read this.

Chadd and I met in high school. This is the first picture of us together, taken my junior year or high school and Chadd's senior year. I look klutzy because we're on roller blades at my brother's 12th birthday party.

We dated from my Junior year until halfway through first semester of my Sophomore year in college. We were lucky enough to wind up (I assure you, accidentally) in the same city. When he broke up with me I was devastated for a few weeks, but then I was mad. How could he leave me? We'd dated for over 3 years. He'd told me he loved me, he cared about me, why would he do this to me? Of course, in hindsight, without him forcing us to take a break, we'd never have become best friends and have the healthy, balanced relationship that we do now. Don't let him know I told you he was right or I'll never hear the end of it. Anyway, I went from bitterly sad to raging angry in the span of weeks. And what did I do with pent up rage? 

I ran.

I ran laps upon laps around the GW soccer field by my dorm. I usually spent that time in burning anger or in silent prayer. About this time, Mom suggested that we consider doing a triathlon. The idea percolated in our minds, but by the time we decided to get serious about it, we'd missed the registration deadline. I was still running like a mad person, fueled by hurt and want and other icky emotions. One of my girlfriends half-jokingly suggested that I run a marathon to prove to Chadd that I was "over it." And so, I did. 

I bought a book on running (Jeff Galloway's "Marathon - You Can Do It!"). I read maybe 10 pages of it, because I'm a Gryffindor and choose a training plan and went out and ran 9 miles. See yesterday's blog post about how that turned out. I started dating again (my apologies to those first men who were brave enough to weather that storm...) and by the time the Marine Corps marathon rolled around, I had a new boyfriend and was confident I could prove to Chadd just how "over it" I was. 

I remember very little of my first marathon, but I do remember this one thing: somewhere around mile 11, I saw my mom (and Chadd). I stopped, hugged them both and shouted an "I love you" to my mom, and Chadd said, "I love you, too." He'll tell you this was accidental, the kind of auto-response that happens when you call your boss "Dad" or your coworker "honey." And perhaps that was true. But I held on to that for the next 15.2 miles. I crossed the finish line and the very sweet man that I was dating at the time found me sitting on a curb, near tears. He pulled me up, hugged me and, ugh, Mia, all I could say was "where is Chadd?"

So much for doing a marathon to prove I was "over" Chadd. I saw him in the crowd and lurched forward. He put his arms around me and I said "I did it. I did it in under 4:30. You owe me dinner." (we'd had a bet)

The demise of my relationship with then-boyfriend was inevitable and happened within a week or two.

A few years later (3), and a lot of support (regardless of relationship status), Chadd asked me to be his girlfriend (again). 

And since then, we've been through countless races, bloody blisters, lost toenails, vomit, stinky shoes, lots of whining, driving a Ragnar van and a lot of other special things that come with running. And he's never once complained. He didn't think it was at all an imposition to take off my shoes and bloodied socks after I ran 20 miles. What a man. He's supported me taking on a half Ironman and aside from being upset that my bed time cuts into our X-Files watching, he's responded to my hours at the gym with support and love. In essence, my relationship with Chadd made me a runner, an endurance athlete. And that is a big, wonderful gift to have been given.

It's my turn to tell you how incredible Chadd is and brag about the amazing things that he has done. Last May, Chadd, myself and a few others did the Metro Dash race, which was punishing to three of us. But Chadd was energized. He sought out this horrific workout at local gyms and started going to Urban Evolution or Primal Fitness, spent hours lifting and running and totally transformed himself. He learned more skills in 6 months than I could possibly hope to obtain in 6 years. And yesterday, he turned in his video for the American Ninja Warrior competition.


This is his Ironman, his marathon. And I'm so proud and impressed by his dedication. I may deal with bloody blisters on my feet, but he's lost skin on his hands, spent several hours in the ER and weeks in a neck brace, and ices his arms almost every night. 

We may have entirely different passions in fitness, but our dedication is the same. And since he's asked nothing of me over the past 10 years, I thought he deserved an unsolicited round of applause for all the work he's done (he made that video himself!). 

Good job, Honey.

Monday, February 27, 2012

When Running Becomes Who You Are, Not What You Do

The first mile I ever ran (without stopping) took me 15 minutes, flat. Huffing and puffing, I hit STOP on the treadmill and felt like I had just climbed Everest. I felt so proud of myself. I ran a mile. Without stopping. I can still feel the blood pulsing in my temple as I woozily got off the treadmill at the Y in Oviedo.

Thursday night after my spin class, half way through my half hour core workout, I was thinking about how I'd found myself on the road to an Ironman 70.3 and, let's be real, a full Ironman. I thought of myself on that treadmill and the dogged pursuit of a full, running mile.

Chadd is fond of reminding me that I can run a half marathon with very little training when I'm down on myself. How did I get from that 1, 15 minute mile to a half marathon in the tank? I wished I knew. I felt like I had accidentally stumbled into this life. Don't get me wrong, I still felt very grateful, but it felt less like a goal, more like an accident on Thursday.

Sunday afternoon, while I was cleaning the house and Chadd was at the gym, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. Bryan, the voice of sanity in my crazy workout world , and I made a pact a few years ago: I would do an Ironman if he would do a marathon (right, Bryan? I can't remember the exact terms, but they were outrageous). I was at a point in the job I held then where I was so miserable and down on myself (just like I felt before I registered for the half Ironman) that I was ready to take the deal. Whenever Bryan or I have been particularly down or in need of encouragement, this video gets passed back and forth via email. Maybe y'all think that's the exact opposite of encouragement, but between Bryan and myself, it's the perfect medicine.

My joints aching, I decided to watch that video again. Halfway through, I totally lost my cool and started crying. As I described to Bryan, "I legit had a 'hold the cat and sob' moment while watching the 'you will do this' video." But I wasn't crying from sadness or exhaustion (ok, maybe some exhaustion). I was crying because I so clearly saw myself on that treadmill, 10 years ago, begging my body for that mile and because I am so proud of myself. It was like watching myself through all my running accomplishments:

- the first, wretched mile
- the first long run (9 miles, in a victoria's secret cotton outfit - bad bad bad plan)
- the first time I did 20 miles
- my first expo (Marine Corps marathon!)
- running a 5k turkey trot with my brother and mom
- the first time I ran after foot surgery
- the second marathon and all the tears, toenails and blood that came from that one
- Ragnar.
- Ragnar Ragnar Ragnar
- My first sub-8 mile (downhill at the 4 courts 4)
- The first time I pulled a half marathon out of thin air on no training (Marine Corps Half Marathon)
- My brother's first half marathon

The list goes on. But suddenly, running didn't seem like something I became something I am. And I was so damn proud that all I could do was cry. I clutched our big, stupid cat, crying into his fur and said, "this isn't very iron, is it?" Or maybe that's what being Iron is all about.

This week was a great week in training - I almost hit 9 hours of training, and minus a very tweaky shoulder, I felt fabulous. I can see myself getting in better shape, stronger, healthier. I learned how to swim effectively (and less scarily!), ran 12 miles at a decent pace and got away with not being sore on Sunday.

Best part of the week? My Saturday run showed off weather like this:

So, moral of the story is this - you have it in you, whatever it is that you want to do. Sometimes, you just have to make it past the first 15 minute mile of your life with one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Lesson in Listening to Your Coach

My head feels like it weighs 50 pounds right now. My lower back has revolted - my spin is broadcasting that it's in about 3 pieces and I think I had the deepest sleep I've ever known last night. Further, my quads may have issued a hit on me (and I don't blame them).

In short - track practice was last night!

I really love track practice. There's something about being around a bunch of runners, all with the same goal in mind: speed work. The key, without giving away too much of this post, is knowing how much speed to use.

Last night's workout consisted of:
1x3200 at race pace (for me, this is roughly an 8:40-8:50 or a 2:10-2:15 lap time)
1x1600 at race pace
2-4x800 at threshold pace

After my 3/4 mile warm up, I went out for my 3200. "Keep your pace in mind," Coach T said to our group, "I'm keeping my eye on those of you who are going too fast." (Cue foreshadowing music)

First lap: 2:01 (hmm a bit fast)
2nd lap: 2:04 (come on, slow down)
3rd lap: 2:03 (no, still too much)
* join two other ladies running about my pace*
4th lap: 2:07 (come on, slow down)
5-7th laps: between 2:05-2:10.
8th lap: NO IDEA (Houston, we have a problem)

Y'all, I did my 3200 in something like 16:20. I run sub 8s when I am LUCKY and running down hill in a 10k. 10k pace was not the goal tonight. Marathon pace was the specific goal. Epic fail. It was so hard to stay in pace, though.

The 1600 was a similar story. I just really wanted to run with my two groupmates! Too bad they're hella fast. I KNEW there was bad news coming as I huffed and puffed through my last lap - specifically what Coach T told me NOT to do.

In all fairness, were you outside last night??? The weather was second only to how amazing it was tonight. Nothing short of perfect running weather.

Coach knocked me down to 2 800's because I was already trashed. I did those two sets at what SHOULD have been my 3200 pace. If I'd held on, I probably could have shredded 3 800's in sub 8's...but instead, I barely got through 2x800 and my 3/4 mile cool down.

Lesson learned, Coach. I promise I'll slow down!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Swims

Part 1: The Bad Swim

Today was my "hang out and relax before I start the new job" day, but it wound up being anything but. Definitely enjoyable, but my day is better titled "how is it already 6 and why do I have to be in the pool again?"

I got up, put in my morning shift at Miriam's, then headed home to have a leisurely breakfast of a waffle, homemade apple pear butter (patting myself on the back for how amazing it turned out) and pears, courtesy of Washington's Green Grocer (if y'all are in the market for weekly amazing produce at incredible prices, I strongly suggest you check them out). And then I realized I needed to get some pool time in and fast if I was going to make it in time to have lunch with Chadd.

My pool workout was grueling. This must be what it's like for someone who is starting a couch to 5k program to be faced with running a 5 miler. I'm sure it didn't help that I spent last night working punishing my upper body with Blair (I hurt oh so good this morning).

I jumped in the pool a little after 11am, which is apparently geriatric hour. The upside is that everyone is very nice and has no problem chatting or splitting lanes. The downside is that my ego got a bit artificially inflated lapping the septuagenarian in my lane who was swimming with full use of 1 arm and 1 leg and questionable amounts of his other limbs. I suppose I shouldn't leave out that he wasn't huffing and puffing and clinging to the side of the pool every few minutes. You read that right. I got schooled by a retiree recovering from a stroke. Humble pie.

But, aside from 1 300 set, I did finish the workout. In total, the swim was 2300yrds. I don't know if that's a lot or a little, but it felt like a lot and I felt like a badass leaving the pool. It may have something to do with the awesome swim cap mom and dad got me for my birthday:

You should know I have a thing for pink and skulls.

After a lunch with Chadd where I calmly ate my sandwich (read: inhaled food like a vacuum), I ran to Costco, got my watch resized and other random errands...

Just in time to get changed for the pool. Again.

Part 2: The Good Swim

What makes my tale of two swims even worth blogging about is how different they were. I went to a swim clinic tonight that my coach and Mei Mei Connors put on. I was both excited and terrified. Excited because I really wanted to love the pool and swimming and fearing it because, well, I'd just finished a brutal workout and oh hell I was going back to the water.

I also learned this crucial tip: have two swimsuits. If you don't, when you put your same suit back on from this morning's swim, you will be cold and damp. I'm in the market for a bright pink swimsuit with skulls. Project Runway, get on that, ok?

After a couple of minutes of talking about pool etiquette, we changed into our gear and headed into the pool. In case you didn't know, the Wilson pool is HUGE. Like...50 meters kind of huge. I have a hard time making 25 yards in my pool at the Y. 50 meters looked like sure death.

I had a choice at this point: cling to the side like I did when I was 6, or sack up and swim. It's not very iron to IM your best training buddy (Hi Bryan!) and say "I wimped out on the swim..."

When Mei Mei told us to swim to the end of the pool, I took a deep breath and tried to think of nothing. I made it to the end, nails dug into the ceramic edges. Then back to the other side. I was proud of myself, but panting like a dog. Mei Mei reminded me that it's okay to be afraid, that my body's reaction is normal, and that it's going to get better. Then she told me to slow down. But how?? My new favorite swimming tip is to reach for an extra inch per stroke because once I did that, I slowed down. I found my happy pace. I actually...get this...loved swimming.

I feel like I've been sprinting my workouts instead of actually doing intervals. What a massive change this is going to make.

I left the pool excited to go back for my next workout and really excited that I've found a pool with a hot tub.

And thus...a slightly less paranoid swimmer was born.

Monday, February 20, 2012

And then I slept for 12+ Hours

Saturday's workout(s) were AWESOME.

I'm finding it easier and easier to get up near the buttcrack of dawn. Maybe I really am a morning person - who knew!

I met up with the distrance running group that Coach T trains at Peirce Mill. I've never been there, even though it's ridiculously close to my house, and had first run nerves. One of the traps I get into is not trying new routes. It's a lot easier, mentally, to have mental landmarks. But, this whole triathlon thing is most certainly about trying new things.

When I run on my own, I usually clock around an 8:40-9 minute mile time. This is slightly deceptive since I tend to take a walk break every 2-3 miles (I chalk this up to when typical water stops show up in races). But Saturday's run was 10 miles, averaging a 9:30-9:40 pace (no faster) and with the goal of not stopping. That was a mental barrier waiting to be destroyed.

I got to meet Victoria in person, which was really cool. She's a blogger celebrity and my own personal hero (especially for her swim prowess). She very kindly offered to run with me and not let me get lost on the trails. And off we went. It was a gorgeous day for a run, especially along Rock Creek. We finished up around 1:35 (she went on to do another 2 miles): average mile time: 9:30 - bingo.

I had my first back to back workout scheduled for Saturday, so I got home, ate some pretzels (yaay salt!) and headed down to the pool. What I didn't know was that from 9-11 at the pool is basically kids-a-palooza. Incredibly frustrated, I left, intending to call my coach and ask how to fix this situation. I had plans in Baltimore, then I needed to be available all the rest of the evening to support Chadd for the Ninja Warrior stuff. Thankfully, I had my times wrong on my Baltimore plans, so I walked back over to the Y and pulled off a very bad 45 minutes in the pool. I started out frustrated. My form felt bad, I felt slow (and was certainly the slowest in the pool, save for the gentleman in lane 3 learning to swim) and it was crowded and I felt like a huge inconvenience to everyone.

Then I remembered the crucial swimming tip Victoria had given me: look down.

This sounds like an incredibly easy tip and one that I'm sure many of you have been doing without thinking. This was a huge lightbulb moment for me. My form improved dramatically. I still struggled with the endurance side of swimming, but at least my butt wasn't 6 inches lower than the rest of my body.

I guess this is the equivalent of when someone tells me they're struggling with running and I have 3 guesses on  form problems that, when fixed, dramatically improve the person's experience.

In case you were wondering, those tips are:
1. Run neutrally. I see a lot of people slumped forward, which cuts off your lung capacity. Sit up.
2. Tuck your hips under. This should take some pressure off your knees and engage your glutes. Big muscles give you a big hand.
3. Relax. Arms should swing naturally, shoulders away from the ears, look ahead.

I was surprised with how great I felt Saturday after both workouts. I jumped in the shower and felt awesome driving out to see some of my favorite Ragnarians (def: people who run Ragnar).

We gorged on wings and bbq: (seriously, do yourself a favor and go to Kloby's in Columbia)

Happy Ragnarians were we:

I jumped back in the car to Alexandria (my muscles weren't really happy with the hour plus I spent in the car). After watching Chadd do ninja stuff, we headed home. I managed to eat a little pizza (ok, a lot of pizza), and have precisely 1 beer before passing out at the amazing hour of 9:30. I had promised Chadd we'd watch more X-Files, but instead, I slept for 12 hours. Bless his heart, he didn't wake me and instead let me sleep until I woke up at 10 the next morning. Talk about starting a rest day off the right way.

Of course, why would one really rest on a rest day? I spent the majority of yesterday getting an unintended workout: Ikea. There's nothing like walking what feels like miles through DIY furniture and modular living land then spending 3+ hours in heavy lifting mode. But, the condo is almost re-done. Pictures when it's done, I promise!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rest Day

I quit my job yesterday.

I wasn't blogging regularly back when I got this job, so that might not sound like as big of a deal as it is. I started with my current employer on January 11th of this year. You did the math - I've been here a little more than a month. I won't talk much more about this because I really do enjoy the people that I work with, but in the end, the opportunity I'm taking is a much better fit and I'm really excited about it.

In the short term, I'm so thankful for the mini-vacation that I get over the weekend. Instead of having to go to work on Monday, my new company takes that day off...and I also decided not to start until Wednesday. Talk about getting some rest.

Tomorrow I have my 10 mile long run (at a 9:40 pace...this is going to be interesting) followed by a 45 minute swim then I'm going up to Baltimore to see some of my Ragnarians and then I'm going to Chadd's gym to support him while he tries out for Ninja Warrior. You can imagine how Sunday will look: restful.

It's interesting what letting someone else figure out your training schedule will do. I woke up at 5 this morning because for the past few days, I have been getting up at 5 to go to the gym, put in my time, and then come back for a 30 minute nap. Today, I had the luxury of sleeping in until 7:30. Unbelievable. I don't have a workout scheduled tonight. In fact, after the goodbye happy hour I'm going to, I intend to come home, throw on a pair of yoga pants and foam roll my legs and back until all the little kinks and knots are gone. It's a struggle to tell myself to not hit the gym tonight for an hour on the bike or something...but Coach T did tell me that the biggest adjustment for me would be training LESS.

I do feel 0 guilt, though. I'm looking forward to taking care of my very tired muscles and prepping for the abuse to come tomorrow (my first back to back workout!).


And I'm home. After nearly strangling whichever cat peed on the freshly laundered (but not folded) clothes, I can finally grab my foam roller and get to business. Tomorrow's schedule:

- 7:30 - 9:00 - 10 mile run
- 9:45 - 10:30 - Swim
- 1pm - lunch with Ayla and Justin
- afternoon: watching Chadd try out for ninja warrior

If I get lucky, I'll have time for some active release stretching and I can already tell you that it's going to hurt so good.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taking it to the Track

Track practice last night when remarkably better than expected - I held a fairly consistent lap time of around 2:10 - 2:20. We did a 3/4 mile warm up, then 3x2000s (five laps around the track) with 3 minute breaks between then a 3/4 mile cool down.

I was surprised at how "easy" it was for me. I suppose when you get to take a 3 minute break between 1.25 mile runs, it's not cardio strength you're testing, but instead, consistency. I was so incredibly mindful of pace, form, stride. It was a real eye opener, I actually felt myself speed up and slow down. When you're just trying to hit miles, you really lose this perspective. I really believe that track practice is going to improve my mile time. Oh, and I can't leave this out...having Coach T cheer me on every lap was a real booster. Man, I love having a coach. 

Another big change for me was the group workout. I know I'm a fitness instructor, so working out in groups shouldn't be anything new, but it certainly was. A track is a really intimidating place if you've never been and since this was my first track workout when it was busy (all my bootcamp experiences were at like...6am), I was really glad to have a team around me, even if we didn't run together, it was fun to belong to a little cluster and chat as we were leaving the track.

Since I kinda lambasted swimmers yesterday, I'll give y'all a few tips I learned last night about track practice, least I show favoritism. Runners, especially those on a track get irritable when some basic rules are broken.

When on the track, think of yourself as a car and the track as a highway. This means:
  • Use caution when entering/exiting the track. Don't cut people off with sudden movements.
  • Check your blind spot. Especially since a lot of runners are mindful to run quiet, you may not hear someone coming up in the lane you're about to move into. Look over your shoulder.
  • Lanes determine speed. Crazy fast? Have fun in lane 1. Moderate speed? 3-4. Walking? Lane 5. Just like driving - faster cars to the left.
  • Pass with care. Lane 2 is primarily for passing. Check your blind spot and make sure you don't ride up on the runners in front of you. No one likes a bumper rider.
Runners on a track are usually there for business. Get in, run your laps, cool off, get out. So, it won't be any surprise if you suddenly find a surly bunch of runners at the track. Friendliness is saved for long runs and solo runs. I have no idea why this is, but, there you have it. But, I promise to always give you a smile.

Also - go ahead and break out the neon. I was so in love with my bright pink arm warmers last night (thanks, Mom!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To The Other Morning Swimmers

Dear fellow morning pool goers,

Unless you're one of a small number of people, I'm sure you don't like being up this early, either. Much less in lycra, a tight plastic cap and googles. Maybe you do, but you certainly don't act like it.

I really don't think I've seen an angrier, more sullen group of people in an athletic setting...ever. I know there's not much time for small talk between laps and I'm certainly not expecting an invite to coffee right after we've spent an hour ignoring each other while sharing spit and snot in the pool water around us, but is it too much to ask for a "good morning"? I even accept a brief nod or a smile or eye contact. We runners do this without breaking stride. It's considered good form to acknowledge others dedicated to the pursuit of athleticism and health at an ungodly hour. Ignoring each other doesn't make you look more elite on a long run...just like more of an asshole.

I'm really trying here. I want to be one of you. I do! I read all the pool etiquette rules at the Y, stood at the edge of the "slow" lane so I could let you know that I'd be joining you without making unexpected waves (literally). I actually waited 5 minutes without you acknowledging my presence, so sorry I'm not sorry that I jumped in and started my workout without informing you. Sorry that this is a public pool and you have to share. I hear that it's not uncommon for you swimmers to ignore people in hopes they'll go away and choose another lane. Ain't gonna happen. The other slow lane already has 3 people and they're faster than me. You're outta luck.

Look, I know I'm not one of the cool kids. Those are the people who swim laps without stopping then block up the end of the "very fast" lane, chatting, laughing and, in the case of one couple, canoodling (please, can you not? it looks unsanitary). I'm just trying to get my laps in so I don't drown in this upcoming race. I'm sorry if my flailing is ruining your flow.

I have to buy a new bathing suit and I don't to be "that girl" at the pool, but I like colors and my black bathing suit is boring (though the chlorine is destroying it, so it's almost see-through...less boring?). Runners trend towards neon, but I don't want to out myself that quickly. Then again, I'm getting so confused and tired of looking at suits, I'm 5 minutes from buying something garish anyway and continuing my drown/crawl along side you sleek, pool savvy people.

I also don't appreciate the loud sighs that you exhale when you have to go around me as I'm taking a minute to calm my about-to-explode heart at the end of the pool. The cool kids get to sit there without hunching into a corner and they can swim continuously...why not me? I know I exhale in an annoyed fashion with other runners on the trail, but that's only when they're running in a pack of 3 abroad. That's just rude and last I checked, taking a break in the very far corner of a lane is not. You're just pissed I'm making you swim in a circle instead of getting your own half lane. At least, that's what I'm assuming.

So help me out here, you guys. I want to become one of you. I want to glide effortlessly through the water without concerning the lifeguard. I want to move out of the slow lane and into the medium lane. I want to look like I belong here. Or we can agree that you can sigh if I can wear neon.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding a Triathlon Coach

That last post wasn't my best, mostly because I wrote half of it on Friday while watching the second hand tick VERY slowly to an acceptable leaving time at work and the other half this morning, realizing it was half written and my coffee was kicking in.

So, quick update. I got my first training schedule from my coach last night. I am so excited to have a coach, you guys. She's amazing. I'm really glad I met with her in person before signing (this is a must do, do not sign with a coach unless you've talked in person.)

If you are looking for a triathlon coach (or a running coach, whatever), here are my quick tips for finding a triathlon coach.

1) Do your research. Check around on local tri blogs and forums. You'll see names named of people who don't live up to their hype. Anyone can make a website and get good recommendations, so don't fall prey to self-promotion. You can do what I did and reach out to local bloggers who you identify with and see who they use.

2) Determine what YOU are looking for. Don't mold yourself into a potential coach's style. There are great coaches out there who would not be a great fit for me just as mine may not be a good fit for you. Before you start contacting coaches, know what you need.
- Do you need someone to hold you accountable?
- Do you need daily/weekly checkins?
- How often do you want to see your coach in person?
- Do you want someone who has experience with nutrition and injuries as well?
- Do you want someone who is warm and fuzzy? Or do you prefer more of a drill sergeant?
- Write 2-3 sentences about what your ideal coach would provide
- Make a strict budget.

When you know what you want and need, you're a lot more likely to wind up with a coach who you won't regret a few weeks in.

3) Let potential coaches speak first. When you send them an inquiry email, ask them generic questions (How often do you communicate with your trainees? What is your theory for training someone for X race? How many people do you take on at a time?) after giving them a brief profile of yourself (just what you are training for and what your goal is). Let them give you their standard plan, instead of tailoring it to your email. It's important that a coach knows how THEY best work. A match is a lot more genuine this way.

4) Meet in person. If you feel after a few emails that this is a good fit, schedule a time to meet in person. Just like with online dating, it's easy to fall in love via email, but just as easy to fall out when you meet in person.

5) Go with your gut. Do you have a bad feeling about a coach, but they said everything you wanted to hear? Pass. Want to hug your coach after talking with them for 10 minutes (this was my experience)? Sign the paperwork.

I signed the paperwork last Friday after meeting with my coach on Thursday night. I told her yes a thousand times yes in person and emailed her my paperwork on Friday morning. I was giddy with excitement. I was even more excited when my should-have-been-14-but-was-10 mile run went badly. That's what you get for not working out for a week. I'm hiding behind the stomach flu excuse and running with it.

I got my schedule yesterday and am excited to start the week. Three rest days! Who knew!
- Tuesday: Swimming
- Wednesday: Track workout
- Thursday: Spinning
- Friday: Off
- Saturday: 10 miles, 1 hour in the pool
- Sunday: Off

I have to add teaching spin on Tuesday night and a morning run with Liz on Wednesday, but so far, this is easy!

I'll let you know how I feel after I'm crying in a corner on Sunday.

Being 26

I am turning 26 tomorrow. (Too late, I turned 26 on Saturday. This is what I get for not finishing a post in time)

Some people, when they turn 26, apparently take it in stride and feel like this is a kind of "non" birthday because there isn't really anything significant attached to it. 25 is the big quarter century, rent a car without a ridiculous surcharge year. But at 26, some people do dinner and drinks and then go back to work the next day.

Other people, myself included, suddenly realize that aging is actually something that is happening, the march to 30 is very very real (as if it hadn't been before), and basically stick their head in the sand (or in a jar of anti-aging cream) and wait for it to pass so they can repeat the process at 27.

I should clarify. I have no problem with getting closer to 30. I have a lot of friends who are or soon will be 30 and they are people I absolutely look up to. They've got a great handle on their careers, they're independent, funny, confident and smart smart smart people.

My bigger problem is with a certain nostalgia. Hell, I sat at my desk in college the day I turned 20 and said to myself "I will never be a teenager again." Perhaps we're all programmed to think that we get do-overs or we can relive things. But we can't. I've loved my 20's and hell, I'm only half way through them.

It also doesn't help that I saw "signs of aging" in a photo of me for the first time ever about a month ago. Cue freak out. Since then, a steady diet of water and 4 anti-aging skin products have made me feel pretty radiant, so perhaps the freak out was for the best.

Anyway. What got me from freak out to waking up calm and radiant on Saturday morning was this:

Life is what you make of it and I know I'm not the first to say it or realize it, but at the end of life, what you did was what you did and that's all that you can do. You cannot go back, you cannot change it, and you can't affect everything around you. But, you can affect some things. You can set goals and challenge yourself and live the life you want to as best you can. And that is where a life is made: in what you choose to do and how you touch the people around you. I know it's all very Hallmark, but have you really sat down and thought about that? I mean, really really thought that eventually, it all does end. We all die. So, why waste time?

I'm taking solace in my training. I'm proud of myself for taking on a half Ironman. I'm proud of myself for training for another marathon. And I'm excited. I feel like 26 is going to be a great year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Sickness and Health

Prior to this weekend, the last time I was honest to God, thought I was dying, please make the world stop sick was my junior year of college. I got so sick I couldn't even leave my bed when my fever broke. I sweat so much that I soaked my mattress and I lay there for another 3 hours, unable to move.

This weekend was only slightly better. On Sunday, things started out nicely enough. I had a fabulous brunch at Masa 14 with Chadd and his mom who has been in town for a little bit (side note: I had no idea how much more glad I'd be to have her in town in less than 4 hours...). We came home, passed out from an epic food coma, then woke up around 5 to go to a Super Bowl party at Chadd's coworker's house.

This is when things started to get weird. We stopped at the grocery to pick up the obligatory 6-pack and a diet coke for me since I don't drink on nights before I train. I picked up a pack of gum last minute because I was starting to feel a little nauseous.

I'll spare y'all the details, but I only made it through the first half of the super bowl before I threw up in this poor kid's kitchen sink (mortified) then again in the bathroom....and again in a garage parking lot trashcan when I left under some stupid guise that Chadd's mom had locked herself out. I couldn't drive. I couldn't move from the back seat. I know we're all saying I should have made Chadd take me home, but the reality was that I was so confused and sick that I truly thought I just needed to lay down.

Oh so wrong. There was barfing on the way home, barfing when I got home, barfing all night and then a billion degree fever (102, but who's counting). I actually remember about 10 minutes of Monday and those 10 minutes that I do remember went something like this: hot, cold, hot, hot with chills, cold with sweats, searing burning in my joints, hot, cold, bizarre dreams. It was awesome, let me tell you.

Tuesday I actually managed to eat half of a piece of bread and half a potato (again, major props to Chadd's mom who not only fed me, but cleaned the house and went to the grocery before she left).

That disgusting story aside, it gave me a lot of clarity (between spikes in fever, so how clear, I'm unsure) of what it means to me to be training for an IM70.3.

Laying in my bathroom, I felt so far away from who I had been on Saturday - the runner who went through 12 miles of mist, drizzle, rain, then snow and sleet to stay on my training schedule. I kept trying to picture myself, happy, healthy, running. All I could picture were the intricacies of my toilet.

When I have a bad day, I usually find myself in my mental trophy room (admit it, you have one, too). I look at every race bib, pick up every medal, look at every PR time. I imagine myself in those last miles of every race that is painful, that makes me want to stop, and every time I kept running anyway. In those moments, I am the person I want to be, that I am in my best moments. I am strong, I am tireless, I am determined.

The most incredible part of my journey as a marathoner (can I call myself that if I've only done two?), is that I feel that I've accomplished and become familiar with a major milestone. Training for a marathon isn't Chadd was showing me a blood blister he had on his fingers from training for Nina Warrior (you can see him training on his blog here, Chadd the Ninja) and I responded with "yeah, I've had blisters that have at LEAST a tablespoon of fluid in them! Then I lose my toenails. I know the feeling." He turned kinda green. But marathon training gives you an amazing gift: the ability to do a marathon, cross that finish line and feel like you are someone different and special and accomplished. You're not just another person. You are a marathoner.

Now, training for my third marathon, it's beginning to feel a bit like a half. In no way is it as easy as a half...but it's a known quantity. I was explaining to my mom this weekend why I signed up for the IM70.3 and why I want to do it. I want to face the unknown, the un-done, the impossible and see if I can do it.

If I can't, then, I can't. But if I can...then I'm halfway there to being an Ironman. And that is worth the pain.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thoughts on Coaches and Training Groups

Hi again. See, I really am back (and blogging)!

I'm really hesitant to write what's on my mind because I don't want to offend anyone and I'm sure that no amount of caveats or clarification will keep someone from being upset, but ya know what, this is my blog and it's something I'm conflicted over so there.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I'm in the process of looking for a triathlon coach. I've gotten a few leads here and there, but more than anything, I've seen a slew of tri discussion board comments that have relay big problems with tri coaches - not emailing, not helping, bad workouts, etc. I've seen prices ranging from the couple hundred to the thousands for a few months of training. 

Don't get me wrong, in my spare time, I'm a trainer myself, so I know that a lot of it is dependent upon who you want to train and if it's your full time job or not. I use my training money to purchase impractical shoes, so there's that.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I know I can't train without a plan, or even a plan that I found online. I need someone to help me with swim form and frankly, help me train beyond where I think I can go. I think that Victoria said it very appropriately in her last blog post about Coaching and Goal setting, "The athletes can't really do this [goal setting] alone, since they lack outside perspective and ability to assess objectively." Amen. I could not agree more.

I contacted a tri coach and basically threw it all out there - I'm a marathoner, but not the kid of person you see and go "oh she must be a runner." I can teach a great spin class, but I have yet to try and take my new bike out on the road and I can't even talk about swimming.

I decided that while I was waiting for her response, I'd flip through a other coaches' websites in the area. Holy smokes, so many coaches, so many endorsements, but I've also been in advertising. Who really IS good? Who will fit my personality? I don't have months to figure out that I don't like someone...or even really weeks.

I read an opinion on one tri forum that kinda talked smack about coaches and how most people benefit from doing programs (i.e. TNT) instead. Interesting perspective and since I have so many friends who have taken up the noble cause of raising money for a cure for breast cancer/lung cancer/diabetes/blood cancer/leukemia, etc., I can say that almost all of them have had an excellent experience through this approach. The fundraising feels good, the coaches are usually wonderful, and the camaraderie through the networking is top notch.

But it's not my thing. I want it to be! I am so blessed to not have been close to anyone who has been seriously affected by these horrible things and so, while I know the x thousands of dollars I would raise would be helpful, I don't think I'll join a fundraising team because: 

- I feel, personally, disingenuous asking for someone to pay for my training, essentially. I know the money goes to the research and cure and treatment of said ailment, but since the real point for me would be to take the training, I feel like I'm just asking someone to cover a fun activity for me. I feel the same way about doing a charity slot for a sold out race. If the non profit for which I am fundraising is not near to my heart, I feel that I am essentially asking someone to pay for my extracurriculars. 

Does this make any sense? No. I volunteer regularly with Miriam's Kitchen and I don't know anyone who is homeless and I have no problem telling someone they should buy a ticket for our gala. Maybe it's because the person who donates gets pretty awesome food out of it. (btw, the gala is coming up and you should totally buy a ticket!)

Also, before I get a firestorm of comments about this (I'd be so flattered! It would mean y'all read my blog!) I am 100% behind donating to my friends' causes (if you've sent me an email lately, I AM donating, I just need another paycheck first!) and think it's a great system by which non profits can raise money and provide a service to people and empower them. Good on y'all! It's just not for me.

- I'm selfish. As in, I want the focus on me selfish. The life of a runner is pretty solitary. I'm alone for most of my training and if I'm going to pay for a race entry and a trainer, I want that focus and attention on me. I'm glad I don't have a twin, because this may cause some conflict. When I finish a race, I don't want to see other people other than my family/support crew and whoever did the race with me (usually 1-2 people, tops). Ragnar doesn't count. That's a party on wheels/feet.

- I'm surprisingly shy. I became a runner because when Chadd left me, I needed to be alone to deal with well...everything! And may I just say, blood, sweat and a lot of tears later, I could come home from a long run and face the world. I just don't know if I could face a group workout where I flail in the water or fall over in my clips on a bike. If a coach is there with me, and it's just us while I puke on a track, I can come home and look myself in the mirror. One group workout with an epic fail and I'll be terrified to go back to workouts. 

The good news is that while I was panicking and writing this blog post, a trainer emailed me, let's just hope I don't need to grab a third job to pay for her...

And PS: I know precisely 0 about triathlons. What I said above may be bunk. Feel fee to disagree.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm back

And I'm still pretty impulsive.

Hi, your friendly distance idiot here.

After a particularly unique evening of partying with friends, I woke up disappointed with myself and 2012. What is wrong with me? Why do I feel unaccomplished, sluggish, fat and all that.

Oh I know. I haven't done anything challenging in a long time. I love my Ragnar races almost as much as my cats and Chadd, but while challenging, I see them more as fun, me time with my running friends...traveling, exploring, hilarity - not a challenge that I don't think I can do. The hardest part of a Ragnar, for me, is the logistics. Being Captain Logistics gets you that worry.

Half marathons are a good way to force myself to keep running but I'm blessed to be able to do that without training.

I'm registered for the Flying Pig full marathon in May. I know, I know. I said I was done after my second one, but y'all, let's be serious. That 4:08 still haunts me. I may say that about a 3 something that is over my Boston Qual time, but...I did say I reserved the right to run a 3rd if I didn't beat 4 hours.

So, I did something impulsive when my amazing cousin - hereafter, Alison- (she's doing two IM70.3 AND a FULL IM!) mentioned that the National Harbor (Maryland) is getting it's own Ironman 70.3 in August of this year. I signed up.

Y'all, I don't even have a road bike. Well, didn't. I do now.

I don't swim well, but I'm working on that with Bryan's help, slow and steady practice (including minor panic attacks in the pool!)

Between writing reports at work and commercial breaks during The Biggest Loser, I built out 7 weeks of prep training. None of them are at all where I need to be for doing an IronMan 70.3 (I need a better way to write that out, IM70.3?), but since Flying Pig is approaching quickly, my main focus is there.

In the mean time, I'm going to start interviewing tri-coaches. I need someone who can give me the workouts that will give me confidence that I won't drown.

Til hard and be well.