Winter Training Woes

Chicago winters are dark, dreary, cold, windy, LONG, icy, boring, and did I mention long?! The winters around here can do a few things to training. They can kick start the mental toughness that comes along with endurance sports, and/or it can start a process that saps you mentally so you might not want to train! For me it does both. But if I can keep coming back and waking up to train when I am mentally drained I know that I will be ready to go when the season comes along.

I don’t mind riding on the trainer as long as I have some good music of TV to watch. I don’t mind running outside in the cold. What really gets me is waking up early to go swim and it is pitch black outside! I then have to drive to the pool, get in the “cold” water and swim. But once I am in the water things change, well usually. There are times when I am swimming and I think “man I wish I was a duathlete!” But I feel like this is all a part of the process of becoming mentally strong. Winter training separates the weak from the strong and it is the building block to a solid season.

I do get a bit worn down around this time because I want to get outside and ride my bike! Even during the season when the weather is nice I don’t ride outside all of the time. That is mostly because I live in the city and riding, or driving, to an area that is good to ride take a bit of time. But it is also because I know I can get a lot of great quality training done on the trainer since there are no stop lights, no coasting, nothing but me and the numbers!

I am VERY excited for this upcoming year. There are a lot of things that will be going on and triathlon is only a small portion. 2016 is going to be a great year!

Motivation

It has been way too long since I have posted, and I know it has been since my best friend who isn’t a triathlete commented about it! I have been kind of busy but also just wasn’t sure what to write about. But last week I started to think about my motivation to train then today during my cool down I started to think about what I would write about motivation. So here goes!

Everyone has to motivate themselves on a daily basis. Do I wake up 10 minutes earlier to make breakfast or grab a pop tart (my pre race breakfast!) on the go? Do I eat the donut in the kitchen at work or just drink some water and eat an apple? Do I go out to eat with coworkers even though I made my healthy lunch? Do I order pizza or Chinese instead of cook at home?

These are all questions everyone has on a daily basis. Okay maybe not those exact questions but ones that are very similar. I go through those questions everyday as well too but because of the amount of training I do I have added questions that come up. Do I wake up at 5 to go for this swim? Do I take a nap after work and push back my run? Do I do 5×1 mile repeats or 4? Do I push as hard as I know I should even though I am tired? These questions happen sometime but sometimes training is just, well training. I get through it and I enjoy it. But on other days those early wake ups are really annoying and on days like today I just want to relax with my fiancé and watch Fixer Upper.

Then I get to thinking…why am I doing all of this training? What do I get out of it? Do I enjoy it because it is fun? Do I enjoy it because I am pretty good? Am I just scared to suck so I make myself train? I think at different times I train because I love it, because I am scared, because it is fun, because I am good at it, and because I want to get better.

The tough times are when I REALLY think about it. I do a lot of thinking on long swims, rides, or runs. So I get to go through many different things everyday. I really do enjoy training and racing a lot. Like A LOT. I LOVE pushing my body to see how far it can go and how well I can do. But then part of my knows that I also train so much because I am scared to fail. I train so much that when I fail I not only feel bad for myself but I feel bad for my family and friends that I take time away from to train. I know they are all happy with whatever place I come in and no matter how I feel but I want to do well FOR them almost more than me.

There are times where I do think that I need to cut back a bit on training to just let loose a bit. Not worry too much about what I am eating or drinking but that will come. I think I have come a long way with being so structured and regimented. I still am that but just a few years ago I was so paranoid that if I had one bad meal, or one bad part of a meal I would regret it. Like I would get mad at myself and be very frustrated. But now I know that if I have a piece of cake, or two, if I have fries, or a beer (which I am enjoying now!), I won’t automatically gain a pound or two.

I am very happy that I have a race coming up in two weeks so I will be able to have all of this hard work and dedication pay off! I might post before then since I need to get back into the swing of it. I am not sure what other races I am doing this year but right now the ones that I have signed up for are Challenge/Rev3 Knoxville, Pleasant Prairie Olympic, and the Chicago Marathon. I will add a mock schedule to the site and add the races I think I am going to do. Well, as always, thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions on what to write about let me know! I am always up for some reader feedback!

Mysterious leg issues

Well I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to write a post like this but after my leg issues came back last week I figured I would write down some thoughts and my feelings so I can get things out.  If you have been following my blog for a few years you might remember my leg issues I had before and during IM Wisconsin in 2012.  I never got an answer on what went wrong and why it happened but I talked to triathlon author and coach Matt Fitzgerald and he said that sometimes the muscles protect themselves during taper by basically shutting down.  Thus, I couldn’t get my body to move the way I wanted it to because my brain shut my muscles down to prevent injury.  The body/mind is a crazy ass thing.  It is so smart and how it can prevent injury but also so frustrating when this happens.

I will try to describe what the pain or feeling is like but it is so hard to put into words.  Basically what it feels like when it happens is my muscle cramps up, contracts, then does not let go.  So working out is impossible and depending on where the “cramp/spasm” is walking becomes painful.  And the worst part about these issues is how they just pop up randomly.  They did not happen last year and I was fine until last Monday when on the trainer my quad went to crap, then my calves, then other quad.  I got a massage from a sports guy and he said I had a weak right glute which caused my left side to overcompensate and my calves had to prevent my legs from straying from the correct gait.  And thus they were over worked.

I have been trying to think of what differences there are between this year and last year to try to figure out what it could be.  The only thing I can think of is me going gluten free last year.  So maybe I will go back to that and see how my body reacts.  But either way this is very frustrating to lose a week of training because my legs can’t work.  But hopefully all will be good going forward and if there are any PTs or docs out there reading or if anyone might have suggestions I am all ears!

My Boston Marathon Experience

I am going to try to put together a little post about my experience before, during, and after the race.  I will not make this into a race report or anything like that.  I will write one up if, and when it becomes appropriate but right now is not the time.

I arrived in Boston Saturday morning and I was immediately greeted by thousands and thousands of fellow runners.  I took the train downtown, with the train full of runners and their family members.  When I made it downtown I was amazed by how busy the area was.  I assume Boston is always pretty busy but the sidewalks were almost can’t move busy.  So needless to say that the town was taken over by the race!  It was so cool to see all the runners from different countries and backgrounds and see how welcoming Boston was to everyone.  Everyone was very nice, from what I encountered.  Made my way to the expo then headed to the North End for some good ol pre race pizza (and gelato and canoli, oops!).

Race day comes and I am excited, nervous, anxious to race.  I had my race plan nailed down and I was ready to execute it.  The atmosphere during the race is one of a kind.  The mix of fans and runners was simply amazing.  I have run the Chicago Marathon 3 times and they have over a million spectators so I thought nothing could come close to that.  Well after a few miles I knew I was wrong.  Since Boston is a point to point course spectators from all the different towns come out in heaps to support.  Little kids handing out orange slices, dixie cups of water, flavored ice pops.  Then you get to Wellesley College and the noise they make is deafening.  Then we make our way further down to Boston College where they are handing out adult beverages.  Then the infamous Newton Hills await and they do not disappoint.  Fans cover every step of each side of the street cheering.  And lastly, the final few miles are covered by countless spectators which drive you to the finish no matter how much pain you are in.  The final 600 meters down Boylston St. is so loud I literally said “wow”.

Finish line picture I took before the race.  The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish.  Still in disbelief.

Finish line picture I took before the race. The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish. Still in disbelief.

I finished the race with my best time yet by like 6 minutes.  Legs felt terrible but was happy with my time.  Made my way to get my bags then plopped down at a restaurant a bit further down from the finish to eat and relax.  At the time I sat down the Red Sox were just winning on a walk off hit so everyone in the restaurant/bar was going nuts.  I made my calls/texts to family and friends, tried to eat some then instead of watching at the finish for a bit I decided to just head to the airport early to sit there.

Well once I got to the airport I had all sorts of messages asking if I was ok.  “Yeah, I’m fine, just a bit sore.” was my common response.  It wasn’t until I checked Twitter that I figured out what happened.  I was already still in disbelief about  my race and how I should be happy but it hadn’t really hit me yet.  Now I forgot about my race and was fixated on figuring out what happened, who was hurt, how it happened, and why this happened.  I was also trying to comprehend the idea that if I had been a bit slower or I decided to stay and watch I could have been there when it happened and those are not happy thoughts.  When I got on the plane I had even more messages from some people I hadn’t talked to in like 10 years.  The news was also worse, more injured.  Now a day after it still has not hit me exactly what happened and how close I am to all the runners and spectators who were out there.  My thoughts go out to everyone impacted by the bombings.  Right after the race I thought, “I cannot wait to come back and race here again” but I was not planning on doing it in 2014 but I think I am going to go back next year to show whoever did this that they will not win.  We are a strong nation and runners are a rare breed.  We will get through this!  I am happily sitting here typing in my Boston race shirt which I will probably wear for a few days to show my support for everyone in Boston.

My race shirt!

My race shirt!

And I have to send HUGE thanks to everyone that reached out to my family, my friends, or me to see that I was safe after they all heard what happened at the race.  The outpouring of support and thoughts is indescribable and those texts/tweets/calls/fb posts were about the only thing that put a smile to my face after I heard about the sickening tragedy.

Boston Marathon!!!

Starting line!!!

Start line!!!

I cannot believe it but tomorrow I head out to Boston for the Boston Marathon.  I have been wanting to run this race since I started running.  It is the oldest, most historic marathon, and maybe race, in the world.  It seems that everyone who runs wants to run this race and anyone who has any knowledge of running asks if I have done this race.  Being a runner and triathlete I always get the question about Ironman and if I have done that one in Kona.  But the difference between the Boston Marathon and Kona is HUGE.  This year’s race will be the 117th Boston Marathon which makes it the oldest annual marathon in the world!  That’s pretty damn cool.  I am super excited and cannot wait to get out there tomorrow and soak in the expo then relax Sunday then race Monday!  If anyone wants to follow me I am bib #2709.