Monday, January 2, 2012

No Outside Assistance

This entry was begun in November, and has been sitting in my 'drafts' section of my blog.  Figured I might as well post it...

One of the rules of triathlon is that there is 'no outside assistance'.  If you get a flat; need water, something to eat, you cannot get any outside help.  If you do, you are out of the race.  Disqualified.  You are on your own, this is a test of your own fitness, strength, mettle.  While swimming, you are allowed to pause, rest on a buoy or a kayak, but no forward movement is allowed.  While biking, you cannot draft behind another bicyclist - easing your own energy expenditure and allowing you to go faster than you normally would.  Finally, while running, you cannot have any one not in the race pace you or come give you a hug or a banana during the race.  These rules apply to all triathletes - both professionals, and age groupers.

These rules, in a way, reflect the American value system, the "American Way".  Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, entrepeneurship, fulfill the American Dream by beating the odds and 'making it'.  Everyone is on a level playing field, only dependent on how much time you put into training as well as your innate talent.  This is what inspires me to discipline myself to get up in the morning to go out to run or bicycle.  The accomplishments of this past season were purely a result of my own will, temperament and self-discipline.

But is this really true?  Is my triathlon experience purely a result of my own drive? 

In addition to the above rules of no outside assistance, there are other rules as well.  People on kayaks, and others giving directions, volunteers doing all sorts of tasks to facilitate the triathlete's race.  The police and others control traffic.  Helmets are required and no headphones are allowed which keep the triathlete safer.  Although there is no drafting allowed, blocking is also forbidden as is crossing the center line - avoiding people going in opposite directions crashing into eachother.  All triathletes are reminded that they are not the only ones on the road and that they must be mindful of traffic and rules of the road.  Triathletes are not allowed to litter on the race course or they risk disqualification.  There is food and water provided along the way that will aid an individual in keeping adequate nutrition and hydration.  If you become a member of the USAT, you also have additional insurance coverage, in case you have an accident.  As far as I know, there is no one suing the USAT for requiring all of their members to have this insurance...

What if this country were run on USAT rules?  Wouldn't we all be better off?  Sure, there are the professional triathletes that we all admire, possibly aspire to be. They are professionals because they put the work in to be so.  They were also able to take that initial leap of faith that I'm sure is involved when first starting out.  Let's say, they are the very talented 1 %.  That leaves the rest of us 99%.  The race could not really be held without the 99% involvement (aka race fees).  But when we go out on the race course, each and every one of us tries our very best to meet our previously set goals.  How well we do is based on our effective training effort and luck.


Oh yeah, this is a blog about triathlons and my own experience with them.  It has been difficult to write about triathlon and my tales of woe:  I haven't been exercising as much as I should, and I don't have enough money right now, probably not enough even to enter races next year.  Why don't I have enough money?  Because I need money for a new roof that is leaking; repointing of the chimney, and other extensive electrical work.  I tried to refinance the house but to my surprise, I actually owe more than the house is now worth.  It is worth $100,000 less than it was worth 3 years ago.

This brings me back to my initial comments on the rules of triathlon.  As far as I know, the rules apply to everyone and the support is provided to everyone as they need it/request it.  There are people that break the rules and that are possibly not caught.  But there are no triathlons where people just throw their garbage all over the road or in the water.

I've been having a hard time figuring out what to post lately.  I'm struggling with exercise; getting sick; and having financial issues:  I have a lot more time on my hands.  Was I really exercising that much?  I am at home in the evenings, wondering what I should be doing.  I managed to start my bicycle commute to work a couple weeks ago, (in November)10 miles round trip.  Not too bad.  I then got sick which stopped that for a week.  Recently, I had applied to refinance our house in PA in order to get the roof fixed, and get some repointing for our chimneys.  The leaks are coming through the roof and it was now a pressing issue.  I had no concerns about this refinancing,and was hoping to have some money left over to get rid of credit card debt and possibly a new bike.  But, unfortunately, this was not going to be so easy.  In one fell swoop, the appraisal came back at less than the purchase price of the house 9 years ago; even less than what we currently owe.  We were now officially 'under water'.  Goodbye refinancing.  Goodbye new roof, goodbye getting rid of credit card debt, good bye, good bye, good bye.

What does this have to do with triathlon?  Only money.  I have a little piggy bank where I was setting aside money for my new bicycle next season.  Now, it's the 'new roof' piggy bank.  Will I be able to do tris without a new tri outfit?  How about the new Garmin watch that just came out, don't I need that?  Am I just another cog in the machine of mindless consumerism?  How can I complain about the above, while other people have lost their homes, their jobs and are barely able to make it day to day?     This year I'm going back to the land.  No Computrainer for me; it will be bicycle rides in cold weather.  What a concept!  I am even going to get a second job in order to save up money for this new roof.  Our house will be like all the other houses out here in the Poconos, with a blue tarp on the roof.
I will continue commuting to work; possibly go fishing in the Hudson for dinner; home cooked meals from here on out: no Chinese take out nor any other type of restaurant food.

It's hard writing any of the above stuff, with OWS rolling in my head and knowing that there are so many people out there who have lost their homes, and people who do not have jobs.  I actually took an action against the fracking that they were proposing for the Delaware River Basin - although it was a small action, it was my effort at coming out of the semi-conscious state of blind consumerism I had fallen into.  I am fortunate to have a job.  I don't have to feel guilty about it and not think about triathlons or whatever I want to do.  But it is also imperative that I become/remain a participant in the community of the human race.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

built in forgetter / mental discipline

My brain has a built in forgetter.  No matter what my motivation, or past good behavior.  Once I stop for 'a little while', it's as if I had not had any motivation or desire to begin with.

What am I talking about?  Exercise.

First off, let's ignore the fact that I wrote down my exercise plan here in this blog - almost 2 weeks ago. (I had to look because in my mind, it was ages ago).  I thought this would be an extra motivating force to get me out the door...

The first week of my master plan I did not exercise at all.  I was not able to exercise in the morning due to not being able to sleep.  I could barely get myself out of bed to go to work.  Reason? Excuse?  It certainly caught me off guard.

Then there were the evening workouts during that first week that also went out the window, mostly due to valid reasons, but were they?  I probably could have worked my way around these other commitments.  During that week I barely gave not exercising a second thought; I 'forgot' about my commitment to exercising and let the various schedule conflicts override my original plans and did not give it a second thought.

My commitment to exercising started coming back into my consciousness on Saturday but then I couldn't go on my scheduled long swim due to the blizzard here in PA.  Didn't want to drive the 17 miles to the gym. Reason? Excuse?  So that left running on the treadmill in the garage.  By running on the treadmill, there was no distance to drive or schedule to work around.  Nonetheless, the amount of effort that I had to expend hemming and hawing was extraordinary.  And all of it was spent mustering up the motivation to get dressed and out to the garage.  The idea of running felt as if I had not done it in an year, and I felt I was going to be back at square one.  I wasn't, of course, and after running a bit all those negative thoughts began to dissipate.

This past week has been a little better: I ran on two mornings.  I also went to my core class this evening.  As each activity comes to pass, it gets slightly easier to get up and out the door.  It is easier, but not easy.  It helps to have a schedule and I am hoping to develop a back up plan that allows me to be more flexible.

Something else that has been helpful is not flagellating myself for not having followed my plan while at the same time forcing myself to walk out of the door.  Small lapses quickly degenerate to complete inertia.  Change is difficult.  I don't know if exercising will one day become 'second nature'.  Sometimes I hear of people who 'impulsively' go out for a run.  I only do bad things impulsively, not things that are good for me.  

My sleep, you ask?  It's a little better.  Thanks for asking.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Current Exercise plan

As I stated in the previous post, I am currently focussed on losing weight as my primary goal during these winter months.  Now that it is the 'off season' I can reduce the number of calories I take in and not worry about the impact it would have on my training.  You can't focus on building up speed or strength for a race while at the same time losing weight. 

Of the three activities, swimming, biking and running; I am only going to be doing my spin class for the bicycling during these winter months.  I did set up the trainer in the living room on the off chance that I may get on it, but I am not especially thrilled about this.  My main goals for this winter are to improve my swim technique/speed and improve my run.  To this end, I am doing strength training - weights, and a 'body sculpting -core workout' class at the gym.

Having a good core is the foundation for remaining injury free and being able to have good form in each of the three activities.

Tuesday morning: swimming 1/2 hour - drills: this link talks of various drills that are good to do on a regular basis.

Saturday: long swim

PLEASE check out this video (link below)- I had never seen anything like this up until a few days ago.  I tried it for the first time today, and it is quite hard, but it acutely shows you what angle your arm should be in during the recovery phase.  A running analogy may help visualize what I mean: - in running, the general consensus is that as a 'heel striker', you are braking on your momentum forward and thus creating a higher risk for injury, and slowing yourself down.

Swimming a freestyle stroke completely underwater lets you feel the resistance with the water in the recovery part of your stroke, and enables you to shift the hand re-entry to reduce the 'braking' action that would occur with a different angle.  It's hard to explain, but watch this video, and then try it the next time you swim, and you'll see what I mean.


Friday morning: bicycle spin class
If I can get my act together, I will commute to work.


Tuesday evening: speed work - alternating weeks
   week 1:  intervals : run at a fast pace for 5 minutes, then recovery pace for 1 minute.  Alternate for 3.35 miles,  which is 1 loop of the park that I run in.

   week 2: hill repeats - run up the same hill, approximately 1/2 mile long 4-6 times

Thursday morning: 4-6 mile run

Sat/Sun runs 5-7 miles
every other weekend: long run: 10 miles on Saturday or Sunday.

Strength Training:
Monday evening - weights
Thursday evening: body sculpt/core building class at the gym

So, what is your exercise routine? - I would love links to training tips that you have found informative - they always help.  Happy exercising!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nutrition Pt. 1

Now that I have finished the Poconos Half Ironman, 69.1, I 've been focusing on losing weight over the next 6 months.  Ideally 10 lbs, but I'd be happy with anything.  I had lost 40 lbs and have been able to maintain it for about 1 1/2 years now.  I have not wavered more than 1-2 lbs up or down - so this makes it the most successful weight loss I have ever had. All other times I lost weight, I quickly regained it back once I stopped 'dieting'.  I am grateful for having been able to stay at this weight and not regain the weight lost, but I am also frustrated that I have plateaued at this weight and have not been able to move further down. 

Since my last post, I have wanted to write about nutrition for women; for women in triathlons.  I found various sources of information and although there were some consistent bits of information, there was also varied opinions about nutrition/weight/loss.  Some are very detailed and scientific looking, but it is hard for me to translate talk of grams and ratios and know how that translates to what I should eat.  I am not a nutritionist, but I wanted to write down what I  have gleaned from everything that I have read as well as from my own experience.

In order to lose weight, you have to eat less.  Eat less, but not so much that you are starving.  Eating from 250 up to 500 calories less than what is needed daily is the general guideline.  This is a guideline I saw often for people that are training for races as it is not extremely painful to do, especially if you are exercising.

Guessing at your calorie consumption is impossible.  Using a handy log helps raise consiousness of exactly what you are eating.  I use the LoseIt app on my iphone.  It is excellent, and handy since I usually always have my phone with me.

The only day you have is today, and the only meal you have is the one that is just about to happen.  You can't lose weight on the meal you will have tomorrow, nor will you get anywhere berating yourself for what already has been eaten.  I have used all sorts of mental tricks and excuses to justify eating what I shouldn't, putting the healthy eating off until tomorrow. That never works.

Eating well is a lifestyle change.  Included in this lifestyle change is all the food you love to eat, just less often and/or less of it.  Getting to know your body, and what it says to you  -you can enjoy your food and lose weight too.  While in weight loss mode (as opposed to maintenance) you may have to be more strict with yourself regarding your favorite foods.  The bottom line though, is the number calories you consume.

You need to find out about how food is made. What are you really eating? Read Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma. If the food you are eating did not exist 100 years ago, it probably has less nutritional impact than more 'modern', processed foods. If there is less nutritional impact, your body will continue to crave until you give it what it wants. 
Cravings are your body's way of telling you what it needs.  If you feed it junk, low quality food, or very processed food, it will continue to request what it needs until it is satisfied.  If you were able to season and cook styrofoam to make it taste extroardinarily delicious - your body would not feel satisfied and crave more, despite also feeling very full. 

Processed food is the crack of all food - a brief burst of good feelings followed by depression.  Find the coca leaves version of your food, and you'll be ok.  The more organic, natural it is, the more satisfying it will be without the highs and lows and less hunger overall.

You are not only what you eat, but what you eat, eats.  It's difficult to learn about all of this but there is no alternative if you want to eat consciously.

Avoid liquid calories, they are the easiest to eliminate from your diet.   From the obvious unhealthy sodas to the 'healthy ' juices unless you make them yourself.

Avoid high fructose corn syrup.  Look for it on all labels -both sweet and non-sweet items.  If you focused just on this one diet change, you would probably lose weight.

Exercise does not give you a get out of jail free card, but it helps.  On two separate occasions, a few years ago, I tried commuting to work on a regular basis.  On the mornings I'd bike to work, I'd treat myself to a 'Morir SoƱando' - a mix of orange juice and milk.  I would slowly and steadily start gaining weight.  It took a long time to figure out that the amount of calories in my after exercise treat, was way more than the calories lost during exercise.

Eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. ( and this does not include the $1 menu!)

to be continued...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

learning - Nutrition

So far, this is the weakest link.  I have drank/eaten too fast/too much in the Black Bear, the NYC tri, and the Poconos HIM; leaving me feeling bloated on the run.  I have read how you can lose 600-800 calories per hour in a triathlon, but your body cannot take in more than 200-300 calories per hour.  I was trying to adjust my nutrition plan to that calorie count but I never even come close to eating everything that I put in my bento box and still feel full/bloated.

I have felt satisfied with my pre-race hydration plan - I have drunk just Gatorade in previous races, and during the HIM, I also took in some Nuun tablets in my water.  I wonder if that is why I look like I am 20 lbs heavier in the HIM photos.  As soon as the race was over, by the next day,  I lost that bloated, fat feeling I had been having....maybe too much sodium? 

I like to eat my usual oatmeal with strawberries and blueberries, approximately 3-4 hours before the race start, then a piece of toast with butter and jelly a couple of hours later.

I have generally used Cliff bars; Cliff shot blox; more recently, I have tried the honey waffles.  During this last race, I did not feel much improvement in energy except when I ate 1/2 a banana at a couple of different points in the run.

I have to find out if the calorie counts cited above apply to a woman who is 5'2".  Most triathlon data assumes the reader is a young male; so maybe the caloric needs are less...

Journey Review Year 1

So, this year's journey has come to a close.  What did I learn?  What did I get out of it?  Is there any valid purpose to this blog?

I started to reread my earliest posts.  They were surprising to me, partly due to their honesty; partly due to seeing that I have progressed somewhat in fitness and basically remembering where I was this time last year.

I had started out the year obsessing over training schedules, both handwritten ones as well as online.  I was using Ontri, Runkeeper, and a log book.  I started and quickly stopped the log book;  I used Runkeeper fairly diligently through my Iphone until I bought my Garmin 310xt.  I no longer use Runkeeper.  I was quite obsessive, reading all the posts on the Ontri website; reading the race reports trying to glean any sort of information that I could.  I have not been doing that these past few months - I found myself reading more than exercising...

I started training fairly early, and happily remember the races that I entered in January, February - including the cold weather half-marathons, which I biked to, unbelieveably so.  This ended up helping me in this HIM because I knew to wear toe warmers (like the kind used in skiing) in order to keep my feet warm.

Another change that I noticed is that in the early months, I posted my thoughts/feelings fairly unselfconsciously, I believe that I have been a lot more self-conscious in these past months which has made it more difficult to post what is going on.  I also believe that the negative comment at the NYC tri impacted me more than I would have it liked to.

omg, reading these old posts makes me feel like I am getting to know myself in a different way.  sometimes, I find myself funny and wonder if anybody else does.  I don't really have any feedback about this blog except for a couple of people that are closest to me; otherwise I don't really know if anybody is out there - oh of course, except for my stats.  The stats show that people are reading, are there people that come back, or people that accidentally fall on this site and move on. 

There are so many things that I didn't write about as well....Anyway, there has been some movement forward this year.  Imperfect movement forward, AND, I did complete the Poconos Half Ironman, sans swim segment.   There are so many things that have changed, I think I will focus on each area in separate posts.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Poconos HIM Race Report - Run Segment

I got into T2,  planning to go to a medical tent and get the diagnosis of broken toe and then released from the need to do the run.  I did not see a medical tent; got to my spot, racked my bike and took my bike shoe off expecting to see a purple, swollen toe.  There was a slight swelling, a little red mark, but no broken skin.  I carefully stood on my pain!  It was kind of disconcerting that I had so much pain earlier, and it was no longer there.  Nothing.  Now I had no excuse to avoid running, but could not imagine doing so.  So I changed my socks, put my sneakers on, took my jacket and t-shirt off (turns out in my nervousness before the race, I had forgotten to take off a t-shirt that I had worn just to keep warm before the race).

I put one foot in front of the other and essentially count down 13 miles to go; 12 miles to go; 11 miles to go.  Around the 3 mile mark I fantasized about turning around and going back.  But no, I couldn't do that.  'Let me try just one more mile'.  The first half of the run was basically uphill.  Everyone was in their own zone at this point, just trying to finish.  Saw Scott - fellow Brooklyn Tri Group member - sweating it out on the final leg of the run.

On the return, a couple of people passed me - turns out that the woman had been helping the guy pace himself, and now he was encouraging me.  So we ran together for a few miles, his name was Angel (no surprise I suppose) and I was able to finish the second half of the run a whole lot faster.  After we went our separate ways, I went back to running slow / walking.  I have to figure out how I can push myself to go faster on my own without someone else running with me.

Around the 12 mile mark I saw Janna, from Brooklyn, her excitement gave me the final adrenaline push to finish the last mile.  Turns out she texted Theresa and Jennifer and told them where I was so when I made the approach to Main Street, there they were!

Bike:  3:50:38 avg speed: 14.6mph
T2: 6:24
Run: 2:56:28 avg pace: 13:29
Total Time:

I was 43 out of 49 women in my age group; 283 out of 316 women overall;

1245 out of 1331 on the bike
1282 out of 1331 on the run. So I guess, I was in the 96th percentile - 96 percent of the people were faster than me; but that only includes people that were in the race.  In terms of health, fitness, fun I am way ahead of what I would have ever imagined for myself at this point in time in my life (or at any point in time for that matter).  Woo hoo!