Monday, November 9, 2015

Where I Stand in the Three Sports of Triathlon

I was out on a nice run yesterday.  Cool Kansas City morning, nice and sunny.  The word that comes to mind is "crisp".  I pondered where I'm at in triathlon, with each sport.

I'm an average swimmer, maybe slightly above average.  I'm certainly not the fastest in my age group, but I'm usually right in the middle of the pack.  Furthermore, when I get out of the water, I'm very rarely tired or worn out.  In the pool during my workouts, I'm generally in the low 2's per 100's.  If I'm having a good day, I'll swim sub-2 min per 100, and other days, I'll swim 2:10-2:15 per 100.  

The ironic thing is, swimming is the one area where I will have to put in a ton of work to see minimal gains.  It's gonna take hundreds of thousands of meters to gain seconds per 100.  And yet, out of the three disciplines, I'm willing to work the hardest at swimming.

I'd rate myself a just-below average cyclist.  There are days where I'm riding outside or on the trainer and I'm just crushing my workouts.  There's other days (like Silverman) where my weakness in cycling is evident and how much work I need to put in.

I love to ride my bike.  I love being outside.  But I will say that cycling is the one of the three sports that I seem content to be "average" in.  I know how much work I need to do, and right now, mentally, I'm not willing to take the steps necessary to grow in it.  I have no doubt that when Ironman comes along I'll do what it takes, but I need to be doing these things NOW to build up the base and get stronger.

I'm definitely not a good runner.  There are moments, and sometimes I surprise myself, but running I am not good at.  Furthermore, unlike the previous two disciplines, running is one where if I am not consistent with it, I lose it very quickly.  

Running is also the discipline where I make the most excuses.  I'm tired.  The temperature isn't right.  The treadmill isn't a brand I like.  And on and on.  Don't get me wrong; I have flashes of discipline with running too.  If I sit down and force myself to schedule a run, I'll 90% of the time stick to it.  But running isn't one of those things I just do.  I have to force it.  Furthermore, it's the one of the three sports I consistently have a love/hate relationship with.

What I pondered on this short run yesterday is that right now, November, is not the time to be striving for ridiculous gains.  We're in the offseason.  November and December aren't times to be stressing about getting faster.  But stressing discipline and consistency?  Definitely things I need to be working on.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

October Round-Up

Oh hey look, another month.

This month started shittily, with the Silverman DNF, but as Brandon alluded to below, it's been nothing but focus since then. It hasn't been anything crazy, but we're mainly (or at least I'm mainly) focused on consistency. Spoiler: it's paid off.

Swimming: 18,200m (11.3 mi)
% to goal: 40.7%
Cycling: 150.77 mi
% to goal: 29%
Running: 34.95 mi
% to goal: 50.4%
Lifting: seven sessions (2:50)
Other: one walk (2:00), six yoga sessions (2:34)

This was my biggest swimming month by far this year, and that is thanks to simply consistency. Since Silverman, I haven't swum all that far (longest I built up to was 1500m), but I swam often. Four, five times a week, at least 1000m at a time. It adds up. I'm also slowly building distance and would like to be around 2400m by the end of 2015.

After August, this was also my biggest running month - also just thanks to consistency and getting out there. I'd like to build up to about eight miles - be able to run five fairly easily and have long runs of about eight - over the winter. I was thinking a bit further, but if it's as bad of a winter as they're saying ... I don't want to get too crazy in case I have to make the treadmill my life.

The bike was a little disappointing, but I'm also having some fit/comfort issues on the trainer. I'm slowly working through them (I also may need to finally pitch some ancient cycling shorts of mine ...) as I don't want to get a new fit until 2016. However, I have a grand plan for November's mileage - Turbovember. Basically, it's a commitment to get on the trainer (turbo trainer in some parts of the world) every day in November. I'm amending it to getting on my bike every day in November, for two reasons: one, if it's nice out, I'd like to get my ass outside; and two, I have the goal of getting an outside ride in at least once every month this year. So thirty days in November; hopefully thirty rides.

I'm also working on recommitting to building a base and staying healthy, which means more strength and more yoga - ideally at least twice a week for both things, hopefully more.

So. October - started out bad, ended up okay. November - rough start so far (oh god send sleep), but even though I've been exhausted as hell, I have my two days of trainer work in thus far.

Answering the Tough Questions

I have been pondering this blog now for nearly a month, so I guess it’s time to dive into this subject head-on and open up to my readers.

As all of you know, my last two tris were not good.  At Harvest Moon, I could not continue on the run due to illness, although my day was going so poorly that finishing the race was not guaranteed.  And 70.3 Silverman had its own set of issues, with lack of proper training becoming evident on the bike.

So, the question I’ve asked myself is simple.  The answer is complicated.  There's a phrase from one of my favorite bands, Shinedown: "Don't ask the question if you fear the answer".  Well I'm finally asking it.

“How did I get here?”

Where is here?  Here is a broken triathlete.  One who has talked the talk but not walked the walk.  One who has preached the benefits of the sport, the joy derived from it, himself not finding that joy since Ironman Arizona.  Here lies a triathlete who can call himself an Ironman, yet like a high school football player or former Miss America, the title eventually fades without building on it.

So how did I get here?

I’ve pointed to a few factors, some of which are in my control, others are life.

-       Upgrade to captain.  Work has simply taken priority in my life, and with a more erratic schedule that goes along with being the low man on the seniority totem pole, my schedule has been at times a convenient excuse to miss training, and other times a harsh reality that I do not work a normal job.  Factor in the active job search for my dream airline, job fairs, etc. and training for triathlon really gets pushed into the background.
-       A belief that I am Ironman; therefore I can carry the title forever.  While that is true in a sense, what I’ve learned is that the title alone cannot push you to the finish of a race.  The course doesn’t give a shit about what you’ve done in the past; it cares only how hard you’ve prepared for it.  There are no gimmes in our sport.
-       Lack of racing.  To be good at racing, one must race.  Let me explain that concept.  When I was in high school, I played ice hockey.  Transferring in from playing city hockey to high school hockey was a big transition, and I had the talent to easily succeed on the ice.  However, my coach and I clashed early and I saw limited action in the games.  This led to me being nervous every time I got a shift, which limited my performance even further.  Eventually, lack of experience at the higher levels led to the demise of my hockey career.  It’s the same way in triathlon; I haven’t been actively racing, so toeing that starting line is, at this moment, a daunting challenge.
-       I’ve gained some weight.  Since IMAZ, when I toed the starting line at 191 lbs, and spending most of the season in the 180’s, I’ve put on 15-20 lbs.  I’ve been very lazy and downright disgraceful in my eating habits.  Things that used to be “forbidden” in the diet have become staples.  I’ve always shied away from alcohol, but beer has become a beverage of choice when on the road.  When training for an Ironman, it’s easy to joke about the “bottomless pit” stomach, but in reality, I’ve learned and absorbed the tough lesson that what you put in your body makes your body.
-       A seemingly never-ending amount of life happening.  I think it was Lennon that said “Life is what happens when you make other plans”.  Yo, he’s right.  Dad’s health, mom’s health, a desire to be more social with my friends, buying a house, work, and even other interests/hobbies have all emerged since IMAZ and thrust themselves into our lives.
-       Getting comfortable. 

That last one is the most true of all of them, and the harshest criticism I’ll level on myself.  I’ve gotten comfortable with myself.  I’ve grown content with being Brandon the Ironman.  Everyone at work knows me as Brandon the Ironman, and the title has stuck.  Hell, my ID holder around my neck is an Ironman lanyard.  The problem is, it’s been nearly 2 years since I toed the starting line of IMAZ.  Since then, I’ve finished ONE triathlon.   ONE! 

What I’m telling you right now is that I’m not comfortable.

I’m angry at myself.

I’m angry for two DNF’s on my record.  In the same year, the same distance.  I’m angry that I didn’t take the races seriously.  I’m angry that I didn’t respect the sport, the courses, my competitors, my fellow athletes in the community, and my teammates by toeing the starting lines ready to work.  Instead, I showed up unprepared and I paid for it with the dubious distinction of having a DNF on my record.  Times two.

So you might be asking why I’m blogging instead of changing my habits?  After all, it’s easier to bitch about this then it is to fix it, right?

Because it’s time to hold myself accountable. 

It’s time to be honest with myself.  It’s time to change. 

T and I gave ourselves 3 days after Vegas to mope/contemplate our future, and then we said enough was enough.  The day after we returned to Denver, we committed to change.  No more unconscious eating.  No more working out for the sake of working out.  No, food that we put in our body is going to have purpose.  Water consumption needs to skyrocket.  Working out has to have a purpose.  It’s very obvious to me that while I toed the starting line in shape, I was not in shape for the courses I tackled.  My workouts the majority of the year have not had purpose.

Where am I at, 3 weeks into the lifestyle change?

-       Water consumption has been amazing.  80-100 ounces a day
-       I’m building endurance in swimming.  Focusing in the water. Taking my swims seriously
-       I’m riding for fun, but also building endurance again
-       I changed out my running shoes and am ready to tackle running again, building once again from the ground up
-       I did a lifting session the other day that hurt really bad.  And hurt so good

The scale has been trending in the right direction.  While I’m not a huge advocate of tracking weight, for me, right now, it has to be done.  I’m overweight, plain and simple.  While the number might not be as significant as other things, it’s a good sign that the trend is indicating lower.

The final thing I ask in this very long muse is that you all hold me accountable.  Keep me honest.  Remind me that there’s always work to be done.  Remind me that while I have achieved great things in my life, there are many more things to go out and get.  Remind me that I can be so much better.

Because I refuse to DNF another race due to my unpreparedness.