Thursday, March 22, 2012

Satisfaction

St. Patrick’s Day: corned beef, leprechauns, green beer, parades.  For the Irish, it’s probably an equation that couldn’t get any better.  For the non-Irish, it’s a reason to run a 5K along an already closed parade route.

I needed to run a 5K.  Direct orders from Kurt.  One a month.  Why?  To remember how to hurt.  If given the choice of pounding your foot with a mallet or running a 5K to “remember” how to hurt, which would you choose?  I’ve said before that you need to do the opposite of what you want to do.  So there I was, St. Patrick’s Day morning at the local 5K. 

The race was set in downtown Naperville.  I warmed up along the Riverwalk, one of the gems of Naperville and also the site of the women’s and sprint triathlons.  It’s always good to come back here to run, reminds me of where I got my start in this sport and that always leaves me feeling energized.

I did a long warm up.  The shorter the race, the longer the warm up.  It almost wasn’t necessary today.  How many times in mid-March, still winter, can I say that at 8 am it was already 60 degrees?  We’ve had a string of 80 degree days, one during a hard run a few days ago with 5K pace intervals that I will only describe as a hot mess.  Summer came early and I’m not ready!  I need about 2 more weeks to acclimate.

Around race time, I migrated towards the start line.  Oddly enough, there was no one there.  So empty that a woman came up to me said: this is where the race starts, right?  I thought maybe I was in the wrong place but then remembered that about 50 percent of the people in this race were wearing green knee high socks, shamrock headbands and I saw a grown man dressed as a leprechaun.  Safe to say, most of the runners today are in it for the free green beer at the finish line and not to race.

Yes, I’d say we’re in the right place.

As the start time ticked closer, the line started to fill in.  In front of me lined up some of the local collegiate circle’s best runners.  North Central College has some of the best runners in the nation.  Pretty sure I weighed more than they did.  And I’m just talking about the guys!  I believe two of them were right in front of me, about to run their way to a 14:30-something finish time.

That’s a 4:41 mile, folks.

My directions in Training Peaks were simple.  “Get to 13 minutes and then fucking hurt yourself.”  If Kurt is anything, he is to the point.  There’s no fluff, no bullshit.  If you sucked, he says so.  If you did well, he might say so.  Might not.  When I first started working with him last year, his silence troubled me.

Why isn’t he saying anything, I’d think with day after day of notes and data uploaded into Training Peaks.

It took my husband to finally say:

Liz. 

What (said in my most polite, patient voice ever)

Are you getting faster?

Yes.

Are you staying healthy?

Yes.

Then WHAT does he really need to say?

He was right.  These days, if I don’t hear from Kurt, I know everything is going ok. 

There was some chit chat at the start line, mostly from a guy who I ran track with many years ago trying to tell me to get in front!  Get in front!  You’re faster than me.  You belong up there.  Jesus, who gave you green beer early?!  I’m fine right here, thank you.  Far behind me was the 7:00 mile pace sign.  Ahead of me was a pace sign that simply read: FAST.  How do you go from 7:00 miles to FAST.  Where is the in between?

Was I fast?  Not sure.  But I feel the same way about my swimming: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  So, yes, I’m FAST today!

The gun went off and the leaders took off fast, just like the sign said.  I felt like 100 people passed me, including 3 women, including the guy who said GET IN FRONT OF ME!  Maybe a leprechaun?  All of this within the first .1 mile.  In most 5Ks, I feel smooth and light for the first mile, like the hard effort is effortless.  Today, the effort felt violent from the gun and didn’t let up.  I felt hot (who invited summer early?), I felt foggy (am I running or racing?), I felt like my form was all over the place.  But by mile 2 I found a rhythm.  Right on the shoulder of one of my athletes.  I knew his pace and knew we would run within a few seconds of each other.  I also knew that running into a 10-15 mph south wind, his shoulder would be a great place to find a 1-2% draft.  

A 5K goes by at a speed where you can hear your name being called, you can look at their face but you can’t process it quickly enough to say, I recognize that face and smile back at them. Instead, you get a look on your face like you’ve seen death at the last mile marker.  Since when did 3.1 miles feel so long?  How is it that just a few months ago I did an Ironman?  Around mile 2.5 (still, ONLY at 2.5!?!) I found myself thinking this is a good place to be – save it.  HUH?  Save what?  Point taken: this is not an Ironman, get a fire under your ass!  It reminded me that I need a complete overhaul of my mindset this year.  There isn’t any time to save it.  If you save it, you’ll come up short.

When I found myself approaching the finish line with the race clock reading in the 18’s I thought I’m in good shape but not that great of shape.  I’ll never refuse seeing my name next to a 18-something 5K but I’m thinking someone had a little too much green beer when measuring the course out there.  Or maybe it was just luck of the Irish. 

I read somewhere recently that if you can tear your number off your race belt once you cross a 5K finish line, you haven’t gone hard enough.  I had the wherewithal to think about it so I could have gone harder.  After crossing, I did the huff and walk around in circles with that “why did I pay money to do that” look on my face, and more importantly, did I get my $12 per mile’s worth?  Looking around, I see a few others doing the same (but also a few doing the “I’m just going to bend over, hold my knees and consider vomiting”).  My effort, hard or could have gone harder, was good enough for winning my AG and finishing 5th overall. 

Back at home, I told Chris I didn’t quite hit my goal pace.  I thought I could average about 5 seconds faster per mile.  There is work to be done and in the next 5K, I will go faster.  I will go out harder, I will surge out of corners and dig deep into my gut to the finish line.  His reply: Liz, you are never satisfied with yourself.  He is right.  It is rare that I step away from something being satisfied.  But this dissatisfaction drives me to keep getting more out of myself.  To expect big things.  To set the bar high.  When the time is right, I will be satisfied. 

Later that day, we forgot we were triathletes or parents or homeowners with a to do list about 3.15 miles in length (measured correctly, thank you) - and did like you should do on the weekend: we went to the wine shop – me, Chris and Max.  Then we went to a barbeque.  We drank wine, we laughed, we ate a lot of meat.  We got home at 8 pm and it was still 78 degrees.  In my nearly 30 years of living in the Chicago area, I do not ever remember it being this warm on March 17th.  Days like this are memorable and must be enjoyed.  And so, the Waterstraat’s went for a family bike ride.  I pulled out the Surly.  Chris put Max and Boss into the Burley and we rode through the night.

There is something magical about riding through the suburbs at night.  It is a tangible quiet of life lived behind picture perfect houses.  It is streets with no traffic except for some other kids on bikes who also just couldn’t resist the warmth of a mid-March weather oddity.  Myself – I felt like a kid again.  It was one of the perfect examples of be here, now, enjoy this moment and forget there is a tomorrow.  We rode along down Loomis when Chris said this was a great idea.  I made it even better when I suggested we get some ice cream.

While there are few times in life I find myself satisfied, this was one.  Here, in the suburbs, tonight, as Max’s giggles floated out of the Burley while tugging at a very patient Boss, here life was perfect and I was satisfied.  It’s a lesson I need to remember in all areas of life – whether in sport, my business or in parenting, sometimes we just need to stop, look at where we are at and say – I’m happy with where I’m at.  Nothing right now could be done any better.  Life in this moment is perfect. 

Friday, March 02, 2012

About Time

Snooki’s pregnant and I’m not.

FML.

The good news is that maybe with the birth of a child she will outgrow her self-centered, reckless ways to become a more mature, grounded and selfless being.  Then, again, that hasn’t worked for the other 99% of celebrities so why should it work for her.

In between packing my bags because this is a SURE SIGN that the apocalypse is indeed coming in 2012, be ready, I sat down to recap the rest of my weekend.  Surprisingly, a mere 5 days after the Monster Swim, I am not only able to lift my arms above my shoulder but put together cohesive sentences.  I cannot, however, make the 1:10 interval which I learned today while at masters.  

We were doing a set of 10 x 100 on a descending interval.  I suggested our lane start at 1:30 and end at 1:10.  THIS IS CRAZY TALK.  But every once in awhile, fueled by enough “fuck it” or coffee, I talk crazy.  Marty, being the only one in the lane with me and the only one capable of making that interval looked at me with eyes of you’re crazy but knew better than to go against the woman in the lane.  As we later told a single swimmer in another lane, a married man knows to always listen to a woman.

Why?

Survival.   

Here’s a shocker: I didn’t make the interval. Nor the one before it, nor the one before that.  It was one of those days in the pool where I was pretty sure it was uphill with a current.  Rarely do I sit in the hot tub after practice (for so many reasons, among them HAIR) but a practice this bad needed to be melted away.

After 5 minutes in there, Marty says to me:

You made me do those intervals then you sandbagged.

If sandbagged means fantastically blowing up after number 6, putting on paddles and only going SLOWER, then yes, I sandbagged.

You’re just using me to pull you to perfection.

I’m only swimming with you because my new lane husband, Timmy, is out of town.  And until he returns, I will sleep around in assorted lanes using each one of you for your draft.

You need me in your lane, I’m pushing you. 

The problem is you’re going to make me really fit.

THAT’S WHY WE VOTED HER OFF THE ISLAND (that would be Tom, shouting from the corner of the hot tub)

I see someone is still bitter about our divorce.

The next day I wish I could say that I felt better swimming.  I did not.  At times like this, to make it through swim practice, it helps to heckle the shit out of other swimmers.

The coach says: I have 3 mainsets.  You have your choice of back, fly or breast.

TOM CHOOSES THE FLY MAINSET.

That went over well.  Along with my own adventure in the fly mainset.  Yes, I made that choice because someone signed up for 200 fly at state.  Honestly, it was a strategic move.  At state, you only get points for being top 8 in your age group.  I chose to swim every event that had less than 8 last year.  That would be 200 back.  400 IM.  And 200 fly.  Somewhere, a “real” swimmer just shuddered.  Last year one woman in my age group did 200 fly and this year if I come back as 200 fly state champion I’m sending out freshly baked humble pies to everyone.

WHO WANTS SOME PIE!

I’m hoping to get my swim arms back some time by the end of the week.  Seems like last weekend’s swimathon swallowed them up and left me with sore noodles.  Might have also had something to do with what I did on Sunday.  Back on Sunday, the day after the monster swim I woke up and thought to myself, you know what I could go for right now?

Not eggs.  Not waffles or pancakes.  Nope, not coffee.

How about a little indoor rolling 10K time trial?

Why didn’t I choose pancakes?

The other day I read an article that said to ask yourself what type of training sounds better: a long slow workout or something short and fast.  Your answer is the type of training you want to be doing.  But your answer is actually the opposite of what you need to be doing. 

Truth be told, indoor time trials are not my favorite events.  I’ve done a few of these in the past.  They are short.  They are hard.  They are pure power.  Constant force on the pedals whether you are going up or down.  

Lucky for me, the TT would serve as my bike test.  No waffles and a bike test?  I know, it just keeps get better.  My last bike test was back in January.  I took my time easing back into things after Kona.  I ran some.  I swam some.  I TRX’ed some.  I biked ONCE a week, easy.  In early January, I did a bike test to see where I was at.  To my surprise, I was only 5 watts off from my peak in the summer. 

So that pretty much blows the whole theory on specificity.

For the past few weeks, I’ve seen frequent bike workouts on my schedule.  Seems like every 3 days or so, I’m standing by the basement stairs when Chris asks me my workout for the day:

FTP Intervals

Three days later, I’m standing by the basement stairs again and Chris asks me my workout for the day:

FTP Intervals

It was like Groundhog Day except without the love story or the groundhog.  And Bill Murray wasn't at my house. 

I knew the indoor TT would be a great venue to push myself and see where the power is at.  My best power output on a test was back in 2008.  Since then, I’ve been 10 watts or so away from that point but knew I could get back.  Just had to be the right place, the right time and the right attitude.  Bike tests hurt.  Like I told my athlete, Jill, who was also racing on Sunday:  if it feels like 400 fly about 5 minutes into it, you know you’re doing it right. 

And if you’ve ever done 400 fly, you know that about 25 yards into it, you start fearing death and about 50 yards into it you start fearing something even worse - that you might shit yourself.

I arrived early enough to do a long warm up around the other cyclists.  After yesterday’s 10,000 yard swim fest, I was thrown into yet another world of sport.  From swimmers to cyclists.  Whereas a swimmer will stand on the deck rattling off all of the shots he took last night, cyclists are talking about their bike, their power to weight ratio, the watts they put out on last year’s time trail in Kenosha.  The room dripped thick with testosterone and smelled like wet chammy. 


A long warm up and then it was time for me to race.  Before racing, you have to get weighed with your cycling shoes on while holding your bike.  Something I learned in Kona – never look at the numbers.  I rarely weigh myself anymore.  I know when I’m feeling good and eating well.  I also know when I’ve eaten a half a bag of peanut butter MandMs (Friday – and in case you’re wondering, running 8 ½ miles after doing this is not recommended).  As I got weighed at the race, I managed to look the other way.  When the staff wrote my weight on a card, I didn’t look at it.  Managed to hand off the card to the bike handler without seeing the number.  And then once sitting on the Computrainer, managed to LOOK AWAY when the screen was set to enter all of the riders and their weight.

1*1 WITH YOUR BIKE?!  WE GOT A LIGHTWEIGHT.

That would be the 70 year old man racing next to me. 
 
I was in a Computrainer bank with about 7 other riders.  We started spinning easy, getting calibrated, waiting.  Meanwhile, the announcer beckons on to the microphone.

Liz Waterstraat is here.

Look around, look around, Liz Waterstraat is here?  Crap, that’s ME!  I’ve been spotted.  I purposefully searched for any water bottle at my house that didn’t have the word IRONMAN emblazoned on it. Apparently hiding behind that one water bottle didn’t offer much protection.

Liz Waterstraat has one of the more entertaining blogs about triathlon.

Wait.  People read this thing?

No pressure, no pressure.

Let’s see if Liz Waterstraat can bike as well as she blogs.

NO FREAKIN’ PRESSURE NONE AT ALL.

3-2-1, I started pedaling.  Ben tipped me off to be in a big gear right away because the course immediately went downhill.  The problem with a downhill on the Computrainer is that in a race situation – you cannot coast.  You start pedaling like crazy to get the watts and speed up.  That is how you find yourself 1:36 into the race looking down at your Power Tap thinking….whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK AGAIN.

The race course went up, it went down.  I was in the saddle, out of it, sweating, trading positions with some little dude a few bikes down, all the while the announcer announced:

LIZ WATERSTRAAT IS GOING AFTER IT.

Liz Waterstraat is actually in a world of pain!  She is pretty sure if this lasts 1 minute longer she will vomit. And WHEN will that damn fan oscillate in my direction!?  Liz Waterstraat sees the clock ticking towards the women’s best time and also sees a .5 mile hill in front of her.  Liz Waterstraat is out of the saddle watching the mileage click slowly up towards 6.2.  6.1, 6.12, 6.15…oh come on already!  Liz Waterstraat just wants to be done already!

I missed the women’s best time by 20 seconds but then got outridden by 3 other women in the later heats.  Ended up 5th overall.  Felt like a solid effort.  Confirmed by the little dude who came up to me after the race:

Nice job.

Thanks.

I was going back and forth with you.

Yeah, I noticed.  (give him the boost of confidence he really needs by  pretending like (a) you care and (b) you are impressed that he beat you)  When did you pass me?

I got you on the last hill.

That was a hard hill.  Good work on that.

Yeah, well I only race criteriums so this really isn’t my thing.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was a triathlete. 

Or a woman.

After the race, I was in for a long cool down.  Thanks to Jennifer Harrison who stole my riser, this cool down was entirely downhill.  As she walked by me before the race started, I gave her one piece of advice:

Don’t let me beat you.

Driving home I felt content with the effort.  But it wasn’t until I looked at the power file that  realized I had set a new personal best for my bike test.  Since January, I’ve found 20 watts.  Which means I’m 5 over my all time high.

Sometimes I wonder if I can keep improving in a sport I’ve been doing since 1999.  Sometimes I wonder if I can get faster as my body gets older.  The problem with getting older is that your mind keeps thinking like your young self.  I often wonder if we didn’t have mirrors, would we have any problems associated with aging?  Is it more about what we think or expect rather than what’s really going on? 

Maybe it’s wisdom.  Or experience.  Maybe I just know how to hurt more now.  Or maybe I’ve realized that if I’m going to keep improving, I have to keep raising that bar for myself.  Keep putting myself in situations that make me uncomfortable and make me prove it to myself.  Kurt’s told me I need to race a 5K every month for the next few months.  I signed up for 200 fly at the state meet.  All of these things are a little scary but even more frightening – the thought of accepting age and slowing down. 

I’m not going to do that.   

I dare time to catch up with me.  I just bought new racing flats so time – you’ve got your work cut out for you.  You'll find me doing 400 IM at the end of masters just to prove myself I can do it - tired.  You'll find me at the next local 5K.  You'll find me on the trainer probably doing FTP intervals.  If you find me, catch me - if you can, eh?