Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adventures in Weeks 19 - 21

Some mornings, I lay in bed thinking:


Welcome to week 22!

I’m getting bigger.  There is no mistaking that I am pregnant and even strangers enjoy asking me questions about my belly, my due date and frequently remind me of this very obvious fact:

You’re going to be pregnant through the summer.  You poor thing.


I’m getting bigger in ways that I didn’t get bigger with Max.  Nothing accentuates this more than clothes shopping.  I’d blame the funhouse mirror that seemed to be in every fitting room but I know that it’s really me.  I just have to accept it.  And when the nice girl at Lululemon said you have a really cute figure for being pregnant I wanted to shake her, screaming BUT I JUST TRIED ON A SIZE 10 COAT AND IT DIDN’T FIT SO TELL ME HOW CUTE I AM AGAIN!?

I’m coping very well with my maternity wardrobe.

Let’s go back to week 19.  During that week, my mom, Max and I traveled to San Diego for “vacation” – in quotations because one cannot really vacation with their 3½ year old, can they?  Though I will say this turned into my child’s dream vacation.  Every day was an adventure from park to park in the greater San Diego area where every kid is named something kitschy like Asher, Ava or Sage.  Every park had a sand pit.  And every day was 68 and sunny.  Let’s talk.  If you train in San Diego and you are not fast then you are doing something wrong because you have perfect conditions every day.  EVERY DAY!  Except for the 30 minutes it rained on Tuesday morning.  I can only imagine how tough it was for Southern California athletes to muster up the courage to put on their rain gear for their ride’s warm up that morning.

The first day on said “vacation” went very, very well.  We did a scenic drive through the mountains to Palm Desert to visit the Living Desert (well worth it) and then on to Palm Springs for Village Fest (not worth it unless you want to buy candles, carnival food or be the only one pushing a stroller with a child – around there, strollers are reserved for dogs apparently!).  That night, my throat felt itchy.  Desert air, I said to myself.  The next day I woke up feeling like I had run a half marathon.  I thought maybe I was dehydrated, maybe I walked too far the day before, maybe after the 50 minute run on the treadmill that morning I had proved I was really, REALLY out of shape.  Each day I got worse and worse until Sunday when I made a trip to urgent care because I could not handle the headache, cough or fatigue for one day longer.  Bronchitis and sinus infection.  I have not been that sick since I had the stomach flu in 2005. 

Which incidentally was a fantastic way to get to race weight by March. 

Week 20 I returned home and stayed sick for a few more days and continued to nurse the 10+ day headache that was resistant to sleep, hydration and even coffee.  Yes, gasp, I gave in and had some coffee.  Something had to give!  In this week, nausea also returned.  Remember that second trimester honeymoon – STILL WAITING!  Feeling so bad for so many weeks I have learned to really, REALLY appreciate how good I feel in my normal unpregnant Liz life. 

Baby still doesn’t have a name and Chris and I still can’t agree.  The other day I threw out Sophie to which Chris immediately said – NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, NOT THAT NAME. He came back with Teagan to which I immediately listed out 3 reasons why we should not name our daughter Teagan.  Every name seems too cute, too popular, too formal or too hard to spell.  At this rate, we will have her named by her 18th birthday. 

Moving on.

She has been kicking a lot – mostly when I sit down and work or when I eat pizza.  No kidding, she likes pizza.  I usually don’t like or eat pizza but remember – I have a thing for cheese right now.  A really bad thing.  I have absolutely no thing – no taste, no love, no inclination for anything green.  I have to force myself to eat vegetables every day.  And a few weeks ago I had no shame when I texted a friend to say I’m eating Swedish Fish and chocolate milk for dinner.  And I’m ok with that.  Baby also likes Swedish Fish.  Kicked like crazy.

Workouts are going well.  I still swim and still haven’t slowed down that much.  I have no idea how this is possible.  I continue to swim with Marty who declared me BEST LANE MATE EVER after he came back from state with 8 wins in his age group.  I declared him biggest sandbagger ever – if you can swim a :51 in the 100 at state and come back to swim with me then there is something VERY wrong with your training plan!  We still swim on the same intervals but these days I am getting much less rest.  Safe to say I have mastered the art of touch and go or the art of just go go go with no rest. 

I bike.  I told Chris the other day that I’m starting to get bored of the trainer.  He says, do a workout.  He should be a triathlon coach with that type of wisdom.  I’m not sure what type of workout I would do other than holding hardly any watts or hardly any watts plus 10

Running – I’m about 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 minutes slower per mile than usual – depends on the day.  The treadmill feels better than the road and every incline in my neighborhood feels like a mountain.  I came back from my second outdoor run since October and Chris asked how was your run – I mumbled: bathroom, BATHROOM!  Some days it’s 3 potty breaks before the 20 minute mark.  But at least I’m running!  The other day, I felt all bad ass when I realized I had chafed to the point of bleeding.  This used to be a proud battle wound!  Except on this day, it happened after I ran 3 miles at a 10 minute pace.   

Not the same.

I have been strength training 2 to 3 times a week because I know from last time that strength work is very important to include!  It helps with recovery and toting baby around.  I have my built into strength program every day I lift my 33 pound son but I also do some weights, TRX, bands and medicine ball.  I have reached the point in pregnancy where people at the gym give me googly eyes and tell me how cute I am.  This precedes the stage in which they get a look of horror on their face as I lumber around very large while doing things like pistol squats or push ups.  When you reach that point, be warned as the general public has no shame about coming up to say: if you’re not careful, you’re going to give birth to that baby right here.

CAREFUL?  If that happened, I’d consider myself LUCKY!

A pregnant woman seems to give some people (mostly old men) license to unleash an unfiltered flurry of whatever they are thinking.  Almost right on cue, an older man approached me last Monday:

Can I ask you something?

(thinking to self) HERE IT COMES...tell me I’m gonna give birth to that baby if I do one more rep at a monstrous 12 ½ pounds with these cable weights. 

How do you pregnant women look so beautiful?  There is just an aura and warmth around you and your smile.  Gosh, I didn’t see it when my ex-wife was pregnant with our 4 kids but seeing you makes me think she also had this in her.

In his defense, he was over 70 years old and probably didn’t see well.  But it made me think that one man’s aura of warmth and beauty is another man’s aura of progesterone, headaches, sassyness and gas.   

That other man would be the one who has to live with me on a daily basis. 

In week 21, baby and I passed the Level II ultrasound.  This one scared me.  Enter a dark room at the maternal fetal medicine office – a special office with special ultrasound machines and a lot of quiet.  You sit in the dark room waiting.  The sonographer scans every part of baby and points out what she’s looking at on a giant screen.  No mention is made is everything looks right or wrong.  You just wait.  Then, she leaves.  You wait more.  The doctor comes in and repeats the entire scan.  You’re STILL waiting to hear if everything is right or wrong.  The good news is that everything on baby looks OK.  And she is STILL a girl!  The next big test to pass it the 24 week fetal echocardiogram.  Almost there!

In week 21 I also found myself still swimming in my old lane.  Each week I can claim that I feel a little more excitement!  At the end of our workout on Monday, Marty said I can’t imagine doing that workout with 10 extra pounds.  10?  Try 22!!  He gave me a high five for best effort at weight gain (NAILED IT!) and then commented how strong I will be after pulling myself around with the extra weight in the pool.  Yes, that’s it – I’m spending a season training heavy.  My belly is my new weighted vest!  After the swim, I went into the gym to do some lifting.  I realized that I just barely squeezed into my shorts and now those shorts will go into retirement phase until about 6 months post-partum.  Sigh.  A few reps into the routine I was approached by a local tv station who was filming some shots around the gym.  So there I was sitting in the sled in what can only be called short shorts with a big belly and pushing the sled with NO weight.  Embarrassing on so many levels but at least the camera man said “I won’t film the fact that you are not pushing any weight.”

Thank you … ?

Have I captured all of the glory of pregnancy yet?  I can’t complain too much because I asked for this and waited for it for a VERY long time.  I remind myself of that often.  I remind myself of how lucky, honored, dare I say #blessed I am to be carrying this weight around.  And every day I make it closer to my due date is better than the day before.  As I got my body ready to do all of this, I viewed every step like a stepping stone.  And I celebrated every little success!  I never looked too far ahead just took it one shot, one scan, one day at a time.  Here I am less than 18 weeks away from the end and when I find myself wondering if we’ll be ready, if the room will be ready, heck if the crib will actually arrive on time (pro parenting tip: order the crib very VERY early, 8 – 12 weeks in babyfurniturespeak usually means 4+ months), I remind myself of everything that went right leading up to this point and know that everything will be alright.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting Race Ready

Early season racing has arrived.  Most of you have spent a winter on the trainer, treadmill, sweating in the sauna to prepare for your early season races.  Generally, athletes have no problem knocking out the training sessions.  The day to day grind of workouts is a rhythm that is easy to sustain once started.  But on race day, we know that success is more than just the training sessions. If that was the case, the most consistent, fastest trainer would win every time!  Hardly the case.  Let's look at some of the other things it takes to put together a successful race.

Start with why 

What drives you to train or compete?  What made you spend months preparing?  What goes through your mind when the alarm clock goes off at 4:55 am?  This is your “why” and it’s a very powerful motivator en route to your success.  In Start with Why, author Simon Sinek describes the starting with why as starting with clarity.  In his words, you have to know why you do what you do.  To inspire (yourself), you need to start with the clarity of why.  Think about what brings you to the race – personal enjoyment, competition, fitness, vanity – there are many reasons why people participate in triathlon.  Think through what your reason is and revisit it over and over again – this “why” should pick you up when motivation is down and give you that feeling of completion when you cross the line.  

You gotta believe 

Top performance comes from a place of confidence and trust in yourself.  In Bounce, author Matthew Syed states it best:  to perform to your maximum, you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification.  No top performance has lacked this capacity; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.  The what if’s, the questions in your head will often speak louder and get harder to ignore the more you are under stress.  You must 100 percent believe in your ability to do what you are setting out to do.  Where does this belief come from?  Preparation and training.  Revisit your training – the good and bad sessions – for confidence in your abilities, whether to perform, hit certain paces or simply overcome adversity.  

Train ugly 

Recently, I read a fantastic blog at Championship Basketball School about training ugly to get to greatness.  Training ugly means allowing yourself to make mistakes, training when conditions aren’t perfect, making things, well – difficult for yourself.  Racing isn’t easy, comfortable or flawless.  There’s no option to ride indoors if it’s too windy or too hot.  You can’t put on your favorite playlist to get through mile 18.  Training doesn’t need to be ugly every day but more often than not, be sure that you’re training ugly enough to feel the pain, get out of your comfort zone, sweat a little, suffer and risk failure.  One of my favorite sports books, Go Girl by Natalie Cook quotes Steve Anderson: The willingness to risk creates the opportunity for success.  Play it safe, comfortable and pretty and you’ll never taste the discomfort it takes to be a success. 

Understand the physiology of competition 

In Top Dog: The Science of Competition, the authors describe how testosterone allows you to take more risks and better respond to challenge with intensity.  When your mind recognizes that a competition is a challenge, testosterone gives you a boost to get ready for it.  Both men and women have testosterone.  In fact, a woman’s testosterone will respond similarly as it does for men before a race – with one caveat: women must see themselves as a serious competitor and care about the outcome.  Interestingly, chatting with your competition and making friends before the race can actually defuse the testosterone response in both sexes.   What to do?  Save the socializing for after the race.  Prior to the race show up with your “game face” on and race mindset ready for action. 

Research the race  

Legendary coach John Wooden once said, confidence comes from being prepared.   Preparation is more than just training.  Know everything you can about the race – read blogs, race reports, websites, forums to find out any little detail available.  Oftentimes you can learn which goggles to bring, tips and tricks about typical weather patterns, road quality, etc.  When you arrive at the race, take the time for a complete course preview.  Know the weather forecast; what will the temperature be at the start, when you’re on the run.  What about wind direction – where on the bike will you encounter head or tailwind?  What’s the water temperature?  What’s the quickest “line” to swim, the fastest way through transition?  This knowledge is free speed available to anyone regardless of age, talent or equipment.  

Know your optimal level of arousal  

Some people thrive on stress - they need it to get properly fired up and need pressure to perform at their best.  Others get easily overstimulated – preferring quiet time to gather their thoughts.  Find your level of optimal arousal.  Look back to your best races – did you travel alone or solo?  Did you feel stressed during the week or totally relaxed?  Know your level and then determine, on race week, how you can properly time yourself to get there.  And if you are anxious on race day?  Don’t worry about it!  In Top Dog: The Science of Competition, authors Bronson and Merriman discuss how lower anxiety doesn’t always lead to better performance.  In fact, most elite athletes are moderately anxious before their race.  The difference between elites and amateur is that the elites recognize their anxiety but remain confident that they are still prepared and in control.  

Rely on your routine 

Routines make things automatic – giving us a sense of control over the little things we can control.  In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg discusses how coach Bob Bowman taught Michael Phelps a series of routines to help him pave his winning ways.  By the time the race arrived, Phelps had already been victorious in half of the steps in his routine.  This continual pattern of success was empowering and winning the race became the natural extension of everything he had done prior to the race.  Create your own pre-race routine from breakfast, warm ups, checklists, even songs and then execute.  Nail the steps to put yourself at ease that you are prepared to continue on to your personal victory.   

Plan your race and race your plan 

Showing up to a race without a plan is like getting in your car, driving and hoping you’ll end up in your desired location.  Like the famous quote: if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!   Write out a race plan.  For some, this is a detailed outline.  For others, it reads like a movie script.  Write the story of your race in a style that works for you – from start (race week) to finish (race recovery).  Include a timeline, pacing, fueling, strategy, mental tactics.  Review this plan a few times before race day.  As you review, visualize your success in executing the plan – literally see, feel, smell, hear the race.  And, don’t be afraid to visualize yourself making – and then correcting – mistakes.  On race day, you simply race your plan and troubleshoot as needed.  

Control the controllables 

In Choke, Sian Bellock discusses how athletes choke because they worry – about the outcome, the consequences, what others think of you.  Instead of worrying about things you cannot control, free yourself up to focus on what you can control.  What can you control?  Effort, attitude, pacing, fueling/hydration, mindset, action – in other words, the process.  In Choke, Bellock offers how taking the time to write about your worries can improve performance.  How so?  When you describe and confront your worries, this act of disclosure actually lessens negative thoughts and frees up mental space to handle whatever comes your way.  Before the race, make a list of everything that you worry can or will go wrong and how you will respond.  I call this the “what if” list.  What if you get a flat?  What if you drop your nutrition?  Having a road map of how to respond will give you a sense of control, calm and confidence on race day if and when things go awry.    

Adapt and overcome 

Rarely will racing unfold as the perfect day.  Expect to encounter obstacles many times throughout the day.  In Developing Resilience, author Michael Neenan talks about strategies to change how you view and respond to obstacles.  Rather than asking yourself why me instead look at what you’re facing and say why not me?  Why not me implies that you were thrown a challenge because you are tough and equipped enough to handle.  You shift from victim to victorious.  Draw from times in training when you overcame similar obstacles to find proof of your resilience to better deal with adversity.  Remember too that what happens after adversity is often entirely within your control.  Martin Seligman, in Learned Optimism, reminds readers you can set off a “giving up” response by neglecting this simple equation:  adversity leads to beliefs which lead to consequences.  Be aware of your patterns of dealing with adversity and how it impacts what happens to you.  The most successful athletes encounter obstacles – and then adapt and overcome.  Simply put, they don’t get stuck.  They deal and move forward.  

Anticipate you vs you 

At some point during the day, the biggest challenge you will face will be you versus yourself.  This is why training solo during key sessions can really give you an edge.  You’ll be prepared for how to manage the conversations and battles in your head as the ‘competitor’ you faces the ‘I don’t like to be uncomfortable’ version of yourself.  Your brain is constantly seeking ways to keep you comfortable and safe.  Any threat is going to be met with resistance.  You must welcome and deal with this resistance in training – whether it’s through solo training, heat training, training when it’s cold, etc.  Author Steven Pressfield talks about resistance in his books The War of Art and Do the Work. In short, resistance is the enemy and if you listen to it for just a moment, it will find excuses and a million reasons why we shouldn’t do what we know we need to do.  Ignore the chatter, resist the resistance!  

Leave the race with no regrets 

When traveling to a race, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking myself what will it take for you to sit on this plane/in this car on the way back with no regrets?  The pain of regret is worse than any physical pain you will feel during and after the race.  It’s the missed opportunities that leave doubts in your mind and questions about your abilities.  And sadly – there are no do-overs!  In Bill McKibben’s book, Long Distance, he describes his journey into competitive skiing.  He says, about training and racing, I want to gain an intuitive sense of my body and how it works.  And at least once I want to give a supreme and complete effort in a race.  Define this for yourself – what truly is a complete effort, one that will leave you with no regrets?  Don’t return home with a list of couldas, shouldas, wouldas in your head.  Give a complete effort in your race. 

Take the time to recap 

Every success and mistake in a race is a learning opportunity only if you take the time to reflect.  Evaluate yourself on pre race preparation, race day execution and post race recovery.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What can you do better next time – and how?  Write out detailed notes on the timeline, pacing, hydration/fueling and strategy that you followed.  Keep a journal of these notes and revisit them before every race to build on what you've already learned.  Remember, there is a finite limit to how much we can train, recover and improve speed-wise but you can always race smarter.

Good luck to all those racing in the next few weeks!