Looking Forward and Back

With the New Year upon us, many people look to make resolutions to improve themselves in the New Year with the hopes that they will be better for it. I’ve done it and have been disappointed each time.

This never works.

Resolutions only leave me frustrated because it implies that I wasn’t good enough last year–that nothing is ever good enough. What does work is knowing that there is no finish line, no end in sight. Sometimes I’ll get lost on the course and start a century ride over again (did that before realizing what I did and called for my personal SAG vehicle, thanks, Phil!), other times, I’ll come out with a shiny new PR and reach that 5K finish line in record time, and sometimes, my daily workout sucks ass on the treadmill with a side stitch because I ate too much garlic bread. Through all of it, I am consistent, accountable to my training plan, and am flexible as needed.

Consistency is key.

Consistency is also boring. I go to bed and get up at roughly the same time, I have meet ups for some workouts, virtually or socially distant now, for accountability (it’s hard to sleep in when someone is hopping on their bike trainer at 6am waiting for you to ride, but a virtual breakfast after the ride with coffee is the best!), and I pretty much eat the same stuff throughout the week. Boring. Not the “get off my lawn” old person kind of boring, well, sometimes I’m like that. Damn kids.

Accountability goes along with being consistent. Who are you accountable to? Your running, riding, or swim buddies? Do you have a coach? Do you have a friend who expects you to run fast once a week with her so you work hard all week just to keep up? Do you have a training plan or schedule? Adapt your plan day to day, but be consistent with your workouts. If you’re accountable, you’re also consistent.

Lastly, be flexible, but not to the point where accountability and consistency are forgotten. Move your workouts around based on your schedule, but make sure that you get most of them completed with the proper training intensities. Grab a coffee on the go, but maybe not a mocha. Keep your priorities in mind, but have some indulgences every once in awhile. Be kind to yourself. This has been an interesting year, and the next one will be too. Happy New Year!

Go By Bike

Going by bike is best the way to get around your neighborhood, and if you can substitute one car ride with a bike ride per week, you are helping to reduce your impact on climate change. Here are some tips for getting around town by bike:

Make sure you ditch the fancy cycling gear for everyday clothes and some Vans over your road shoes for a meandering ride around the block or running errands. Yes, my road bike hub has 108 points of engagement and wants to go fast, but when I ride around, I take my time. Even though I have clipless pedals, I can still ride my road bike with a pair of stiff shoes on my feet and not clip in as long as I’m not going too far. If I’m going more than a few miles, I’ll take a backpack with an extra pair of shoes for more comfortable riding.

Say hello to everyone. When I drive, I have a tendency to get annoyed by pedestrians and everyone in general because I should have left my house ten minutes before I actually did, but on a bike, I wave and say, “hi”. It’s just more enjoyable.

Remember the times you were a kid on a bike while you ride as an adult. As a kid, or a college student studying abroad in England, a bike was freedom and transportation. It still is. The leaves are falling and crunching under the tires, the wind might blow, it might rain, yet you get a better sense of your community from behind the handlebars since you see your neighbors outside rather than passing by them in a car, or going from your house to your car. The point is to get out of your car and outside.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. I didn’t say that, but I stole it from a Scandinavia phrase. It’s true though. You can go out in all kinds of weather if you have the right gear and layers, which I’m sure you have somewhere in your closet for most weather conditions.

Last of all, wear a bike helmet and attach some lights to your bike so drivers can see you. Follow all traffic rules and signal where you are going so everyone knows. Get out there and ride! Trek Bikes started the movement, so when you do ride, snap a photo and tag it with #GoByBike if you would like to share it.

Tell Me Something Good

Flats happen, the hour falls back, the moon stays up late, and sometimes my feet carry me faster and faster until I fly above the ground. Gravity can’t hold me down.

With all the craziness going on in this world, tell me something good. Just one thing. It can be a small thing too. I’ll start, but please leave yours in the comments:

  1. I fixed Phil’s flat on the side of the road with freezing hands so that he was able to ride home.
  2. What’s yours?

Stronger

When I was little, I used to want to grow up to be strong enough to beat the crap out of any bully I encountered. No matter what their size, I wanted to be able to take them down to stop them from picking on other kids or getting their way. I wanted to be the Karate Kid who wins the tournament just because I wanted to win and to show the bad guys, once and for all, that I can kick ass. But, I’m not a big person or the strongest or the best athlete.

I never took any form of martial arts. Standardized tests told me I wasn’t smart enough for scholarships to go to my college of choice, or get a master’s degree. I’m 5’4″ and still have to climb the shelves in the dairy section to get milk for my coffee. I ride a small frame bike, and the wind can blow me over while I ride. I am facing the fact that I might get shorter as I age, but I hope I can honor the legacy of the 5’1″ force that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There’s a step stool in my kitchen for all of the things out of reach that has more or less become a metaphor for life. RBG made some of those things easier to reach for women: she gave us a step stool to level up in the eyes of the law. I used my step stool and climbed higher, getting the much needed scholarship and degrees along with the milk for my coffee too. For that, I am grateful for RBG.

I continue to climb above the bullies, the naysayers, the doubters, so now I don’t have to worry about beating the crap out of them. Instead, I’ll lend them a hand if they’re willing to change and accomplish more than just getting ahead. Let’s keep moving forward and continue the work that so many women have done, the work that RBG continued throughout her career. It shouldn’t end with her, but continue with you and me.

Get stronger. Know you can. And then, go and do it. There is no before or after, there’s only now.

Calling All Athletes

Anyone who’s been around the fitness industry knows that before and after pictures are powerful advertising tools, as in, look how great Brittany looks since she’s lost weight, or look at Bill who now has six-pack abs! Well isn’t that fantastic? Yeah, but (you knew there was a huge but coming, referring to the conjunction, but not a big ass), what about the athletes who alter their nutrition, train, and do awesome things, but are essentially the same afterwards and don’t fit the definition of what most people think an athlete should look like? Where does that leave them? And what about the Brittanys and Bills before they lost weight or started training? Does that mean they were somehow not as good as their new and improved selves?

Look. Training and proper nutrition doesn’t “fix” people. In fact, most people don’t need “fixing” because we’re all on this journey called life (insert eye roll here), and everyone is simply doing the best that they can do with what they have right now. Consistent training and eating properly does provide overall better health and sleep, but it’s not going to “fix” an athlete. That work is done in your brain and by you.

The story I want to hear right now is the story of the busy mom who runs every day but never races, the IRONMAN rocking a dad bod who skips a long ride to be with his kids, the cyclist who rides an e-bike to and from work every day and gets others to ride too, and all the athletes who don’t seem to fit inside that athlete box because some arbitrary expectations say they don’t look the part.

That’s the story I want to hear right now. Because it’s my story too. If you are training for events, training for a healthier life, training because that’s how you make friends, but you’re essentially the same lovable you at the end of the day, spreading the joy, I want to hear from you.

Email me your story to be included as a series in this blog about how you got to be where you are today. Here are some guiding questions to consider (thanks, Jamie!):

  1. How did you get started in triathlon?
  2. How has triathlon contributed to you life?
  3. What has been your experience as a triathlete in regards to performance and self image?
  4. How can the sport of triathlon be more inclusive to all athletes of all backgrounds?
  5. What motivates you to get up before dawn and do a workout?
  6. Which of the three sports is your favorite and why? Don’t forget the WHY.

Here are the details:

  • 1000-2000 words, or enough for a “chapter” (or the standard 500 words is OK too)
  • Names are changed to protect others’ privacy, but the story is true.
  • I have your permission to publish the story on my blog and edit for grammar, spelling, or clarity. You’ll see the final copy before publication on the blog.
  • I also reserve the right to not share the story on my blog if it’s inappropriate.
  • If you have a totally awesome story, I’ll send you some swag. I have shirts and hats, and in a year with very little racing, free stuff is the BEST!
  • Please email your story me at laurie@vformationmultisport.com

Training in the Time of Corona

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite authors, and if you haven’t read “Love in the Time of Cholera”, you should. This is where I borrowed my blog post title from. Many athletes have a lifetime love affair with the sport in much the same way Florentino loves Fermina in the novel, so here goes.

Athletes without access to a pool will while away their time with dry land and strength exercises before returning to their love of the pool and open water. So, be patient, and while you wait for the pools to reopen, here is a dry land workout you can do:

Warm up for 5 min on the bike, walk, or run briefly and then:

10x double arm freestyle pull
5x single arm right
5x single arm left
REPEAT

Dead bug
https://youtu.be/I5xbsA71v1A
3-5 min plank–rotate between all of the plank exercises

10x Chest Fly
10x Reverse Fly
REPEAT

Bridge
Monster Walk

10x double arm freestyle pull
5x single arm right
5x single arm left
REPEAT

Don’t worry, pools will reopen, and you will get stronger in the interim. For the bike, most of us can still ride outside. Use this time to explore new routes in your neighborhood, practice on hills, and ride with your family, if possible. The other great thing about the bike is indoor training if you have a bike trainer and a subscription to Zwift, Trainer Road, etc. You can decrease your time and focus on intensity, which will make you even faster when you do get back to riding outside. Also, you can virtually ride with friends on Zwift and other platforms to help stop the spread of the virus. Ride on!

Last of all, for the run, embrace running solo and without music. If you’re in an area where you do not have to shelter in place, go it alone and easy to maintain your aerobic base. Conversely, you can also take your workout to the track or treadmill to increase your speed and strength.

Here’s one of my favorite run workouts for the treadmill from my running journal from Runner’s World. The treadmill keeps you honest and your pace steady, so use it if you have one and are stuck inside (this workout can also be done outside):

3, 2, 1 Repeat Workout

Warm up for 10 min at zone 1 pace

Run 3 min at 30s faster than 5K race pace with 3 min recovery

Run 2 min at 1 min faster than 5K race pace with 2 min recovery

Run 1 min FAST with 1 min recovery.

Repeat 2-3x

Cool down for 10 min at an easy pace.

There you go! Stay true to the sport, but please rest and recover, check in with friends, family, and your neighbors, find time to read non-triathlon related books, catch up on home improvement projects, and sleep in! We got this! Practice social distancing and take care of yourself and others.

Latte O’Clock

I understand, for a coaching blog, that discussing coffee, lattes, and mochas can seem counterproductive from a nutrition standpoint, but I’m here to tell you it’s not a distraction: some version of latte o’clock can be a boost to your well-being.

I’ve noticed patterns in my mood throughout the day, and by far the most difficult time is in the afternoon before the kid gets home from school, before the dinner-making frenzy, and before after school homework or activities. This was true when the kiddo was a baby and Phil was out to sea somewhere in the Pacific, and it’s still true now that we’re all together under the same roof with no deployments in sight, whether I’m at work or at home. This was the time I would call my friend, Becky, just to talk, or we would go and do something together when the kids were little–like make dinner or go out to Ayase Town Hills for a mocha at Tully’s and to take the kids to the giant ball pit for 300 Yen. That’s really specific, I know, but it doesn’t have to be (it certainly doesn’t apply today since neither of us live in Japan anymore near Ayase-shi).

What does help is something to look forward to, and that is: latte o’clock. Instead of throwing all of my money at Starbucks, which I do anyway and need no help in doing so, I make my own whole milk latte when I get home with either caffeinated coffee or decaf, depending on how late I plan to stay awake. I save a few bucks and sip my latte in the peace and quiet of my home. If I do go out to actually purchase a latte, I take my own travel mug and include the latte in my daily macro count, so it works.

A latte might not make you feel better, but it is something to do that’s not working or being productive, and that is something to look forward to indeed because all of us do not have to be so efficient all the time. Maybe you carve out some time to read, meditate, or binge on social media for a five to ten minute break. I know that around the same time in another city and state, Becky is also making a latte for herself. And, even if I don’t call her every afternoon, we still have latte o’clock together.

Tri AC

Atlantic City’s neon skyline lights up the predawn sky across the back bay. The buoys are out for the swim course on the black water. There was no need for headlamps with the the huge spotlights flooding Bader Field. I easily found my racked bike and started setting up transition, keeping an eye on the time so I could check on my athletes racing today as well. Phil’s bike was next to mine on the rack as he set up for his first Olympic distance event.

At 6am, I met up with my athletes at the bike out for a quick picture, but one of them wasn’t there after waiting for a bit. I hoped he would make it in time for the race (he did, I checked his bike before leaving transition). Even though I’ve done many of these events, I’m always nervous before the swim start: I want to see what’s below, and I don’t want to see what’s in the water, all at the same time, so I tend to focus on eating my pre-race bagel with jelly and chatting with my athletes to see how they’re doing.

I timed the line for the port-o-potty to fill up the last thirty minutes prior to swimming. John Kenny of French Creek Racing was there with Christina, whom I met for the first time. We discussed the swim and the incoming tide, the water temp, the usual swim stuff. Soon, I went back to where Phil was waiting, gave Kathy a big hug before her swim start for the sprint race, and went to find Jamie and Margaret again so we can start swimming at the same time. Megan spotted me, and we talked for a bit before she went to find the rest of her Philadelphia Triathlon Club teammates. It was then that Geoff stopped by to stretch and warm up for the swim. The triathlon community is one big family, which is why I love the sport so much.

It was time to line up for the swim; Phil went to his swim wave and put on his cap and goggles. Jamie and Margaret were there as we made the slow walk to the swim start. Five athletes went into the water at a time off the boat launch to spread out the swim and bike course. Our turn came quickly, but we let the other two athletes in our group of five go ahead, and the three of us entered the water and started the swim. With a temperature at 81.5 degrees F, no wetsuit was needed. The saltwater instantly pickled my mouth, but it was smooth and calm. I passed lots of swimmers, and a few passed me, but I found my rhythm and had space to settle in.

Out of the water, I ran to my bike, quickly donning my gear. The wind was strong on the way out of Bader Field and on the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 5, but I hunkered down in aero and kept going. I got off at exit 5 and flew down the Expressway back to Atlantic City with the tailwind pushing me along. I kept up the pace for the second loop, trading places with Anne Marie from time to time. Christina passed by me and cheered me on. I kept waiting for Phil to pass me on the bike, but he didn’t catch me, and I didn’t see him until the run.

Into T2, I flew off the bike, racked it, and was on my way on the run. Police held back traffic for athletes on the way to the Boardwalk for the 10K. The boards were soft and springy on the run, until I hit the sand. Then, my legs felt like lead. There is always sand on the run at a DelMo Event. I ran with a few other athletes on course, one who was doing his first Olympic distance race.

I enjoyed every moment of the race, and I know my athletes did too. One got 2nd place in his division, another conquered fears of the swim, and others did their first tri ever. Phil isn’t new to the sport, but he did his first Olympic distance race! All of them finished strong, and I couldn’t be happier. I was on my way to getting a PR at that race, but with the shortened swim, it doesn’t count as a PR even though my pace per 100 was seven seconds faster than the last time I swam it. My bike time was three minutes faster too. I would love to do this race again, maybe next year?

What Motivates You?

It’s 4:30am, and my alarm is going off for the third time. I set it for three different times in case I accidentally turn one of the alarms off. 4:03am. 4:20am (because it’s funny for this former high school teacher who’s students got a kick out of this particular number and begged to write the date on the board). 4:27am. I choose weird times so my brain doesn’t know when to expect the early wake up.

It doesn’t matter. I’m up at 3:50am.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to stay up way past midnight and get up no earlier than 8:00am. That’s all changed with trying to fit in triathlon training around family and work schedules. Getting up early ensures that I get at least one of my two to three workouts for the day completed.

So, how do I motivate myself? Lots of ways! Please add some comments below and tell me how you motivate yourself to workout early in the morning, after work, or even late at night:

  1. I lie to myself. “It’s not that early.”
  2. New gear helps: “I get to wear my new swimsuit today!” Woohoo! Or, “I get to test out my new shoes, watch, tights, shirt, hat…”
  3. I joined US Masters Swimming, so my coach and teammates will wonder where I am if I miss a practice.
  4. I organize a 5am Meet Up run, so I know my running buddy is waiting for me on the corner at 4:45am in order to run up to the meet up location. No kidding. I used to think 6am was early.
  5. I get to show off my race gear. Yeah, I like to silently brag while wearing my Ironman Maryland cap.
  6. Strava will show that I didn’t train today.
  7. My friends on Garmin will rack up more miles than I did.
  8. I can go to Starbucks later and get a mocha and not feel that bad about it.
  9. I have a race or event to train for, and if I don’t workout, I won’t be ready.
  10. I can watch the sun rise while I run.
  11. I can run or bike through a new neighborhood or check out a new trail.
  12. I overcome my fears and know that anything is possible, especially in the open water.
  13. I meet the best people through triathlon and running.
  14. I can post another swim, bike, or run post on Facebook because that’s what I do all the time besides writing, reading, gardening, doing crafts, drinking decaf coffee, eating chocolate, or driving the kiddo to gymnastics.
  15. I am going to realize my dream of kicking butt into my 90s. Keep moving!

What motivates you? Leave a comment below!

Almost 2019

Darkness arrives unannounced just as I begin to make dinner. I didn’t ask darkness to come over or darkness’ friend, freezing cold weather, but they sat down at the table anyway so I set extra places because what could I do? Shortly after dinner I fall asleep on the sofa under a blanket because it seems like it’s been midnight since six o’clock this evening even though I know it’s not, yet I don’t want to go to bed before 7pm or do the strength workout I had planned. And, on top of all of this, my 5am morning swim seems to have happened yesterday because it seems so long ago.

All motivation disappears after dinner under that blanket. I want to eat mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies all day with a mocha to drink.

If many of you are feeling like this, please give yourself a break and peek out from under your blanket, especially as New Year’s approaches with resolutions that seem to negate all the things you’ve done in 2018 in the hopes that you will be a better you in 2019. Remember, you are perfect as you are right now. Always. Even if you are like me on the sofa and not at the gym right now.

In fact, if you’re going to make any resolutions, I suggest changing the way you talk to yourself during training:

Instead of: I’m trying to survive the swim and not drown.

Say: I am learning how to swim more efficiently.

Instead of: I am terrified of riding my bike.

Say: I am practicing my bike handling skills often. 

Instead of: I’m a slow runner. (one of my own that my coach told me to never say)

Say: I am working to improve my speed in running.

Besides changing the way you talk to yourself, start planning out your race year with family and work in mind. I cut way back on what I normally do because I’ve been feeling burnt out lately. I decided that this year is the year that I will do at least one distance swim of 2.8 miles (maybe a 5K swim), improve my times in the sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, and maybe do a 70.3 near the end of the season with the goal of a possible PR. The swim is my big goal, and if I don’t PR in the other distances, I’m OK with that. I train for one thing at a time. I’m committed to three races, but I might do five events, and I chose local races to save on travel costs (2018 was an expensive year with the Ironman, hotels, and travel).

*1. Fort Ritchie Swim Fest-2.8 mile swim or 4500 meters in a lake, May 2019, splitting an Air B and B with my BFF from high school who’s also swimming!

*2. Philly Women’s Tri-sprint distance, July 2019–near me, no hotel needed.

3. Tri AC-Olympic distance, August 2019??? I might do this with my swimming friend…

*4. Waterman’s Triathlon Festival 70.3, September 2019, staying at my triathlon friend’s house three hours away.

5. Richmond Marathon–not a definite…yet., November 2019–Phil and I LOVE this marathon and have run it three times.

All of this takes into account time to visit family and friends, our family’s work schedule, my daughter’s camps, and family time at home.

If you’re short on funds, organize a fun swim, bike, or run with your friends with a plan to meet at a restaurant so that it has the same feeling as a race without the cost or travel. Plan within your budget and look for off-brand races, choose one big goal, and change the way you talk to yourself. Now, when darkness comes over for dinner, you’ll be focused on where you are now and looking to the light of summer. You will see improvement. No resolutions necessary.