Saturday, November 12, 2011
I had a strained conversation with a client this week that had me thinking about this. He asked me what seems to be a simple question, "What is the better way to train, aerobically or anaerobically?"
My answer was, "Well, that depends." Then I asked him what his goals were. His answer was to be fit. Then I said, "What does fit mean to you? What is your specific fitness goal?" He didn't have an answer for me. He wanted me to give him the one right answer. What I told him was that there is no one right answer. There is only knowledge to draw from and to help us find our way but only if we know what our goal is.
In my experience, that is precisely what most people do not want to hear. And I wonder why that is. Is it that people don't want to have to ask themselves the questions they need to to define their goals? How can you find the right path if you don't know what the desired destination is? If one person wants to go to Alaska and another to Europe, it makes absolutely no sense that they would follow the same path to their destinations.
So if we're willing to accept that each of us is different, how can we expect simple answers to our questions? There is no black and white, only shades of grey. Why are people so uncomfortable with grey?
Sunday, October 2, 2011
As part of this plan, I will be posting examples of overviews of some workouts we do do in my Strong Chicks Strength and Conditioning class on my blog if you're interested in seeing what we've been up to.
The goal of these classes is to get in a whole body workout in one hour. We use body weight based exercises including some plyometrics, some light weights, kettle bells and resistance bands. I try to change it up frequently in terms of the types of exercises we do and the speed we do them. Usually we use a circuit format to minimize down time between exercises.
All of my classes emphasize functional strength, core strength and balance work. Not only will the exercise help people perform better in their chosen sport but it works as great injury prevention.
Here's what we did last Thursday night:
• Medicine ball warm-up
• Dynamic warm-up to prep for running
• 6 times through very short (around 10 sec) hard fast running drills
• Running against band resistance and band resisted biceps
• Pull-up (assisted), partial body weight push-up using exercise ball, squats
• Beginner kipping pull-up, Bosu push-ups, glutes!!
• A whole bunch of different core exercises and triceps using the Bosu ball and medicine balls.
Classes are Tuesday and Thursday at 6 pm. I keep the class size very small (5 maximum) so that I have time to help people with form and adjust the exercises according to a participant's ability. As such, I cannot take no notice drop-ins. If you'd like to attend class, please contact me directly to confirm that I have room on the night you wish to attend.
The cost is $15 per class but a discount is available if you turn out to be a regular and wish to pay for several classes in advance.
Have fun and play hard. Life is too short to do it any other way.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The race started from Wanoga Snow Park outside of Bend OR at 5:45 am. The race was presented as a 100 miler but in the previous 2 years it had been closer to 98 miles. This year we were told that it would it would be 103 miles with 14 000 feet of climbing. It turned out to be 108. It doesn't seem like much, 5 miles, but those 5 miles turned out to be very significant.
I won't bore you with excessive details of the race. Suffice to say that there were a lot of ups and downs. Moments when I was miserable enough to cry, and moments when I giggled with delight as I floated down beautiful single track, swooping on banked corners and easily gliding over drops and log overs. Then I came to mile 75.
The Swampy aid station was the first time cut off. I had just struggled through several miles of climbing with nothing in the tank, a back that was so sore I couldn't climb more that 50% of the time, even on the low grade hills. I made it to Swampy with 30 min to spare, but based on my last few miles, there was no way I was going to make it to the finish line in the light. Tom was there and with his encouragement I continued on to the next aid station, in spite of the fact that I had already been in the saddle for 11:30.
I made the next aid station cut off by less than 10 min. I was in decent shape, still feeling like I had no power but I knew that I had the endurance to make it home. After all, I expected it to only take 2 hours, I was already at mile 87. Unfortunately, I didn't know that I had another 21 miles (the course was longer than advertised) including a huge climb.
2 hours passed, dusk came and I hit 100 miles. I still had to find my way back to the finish in the dark. It turns out, I wasn't alone, there were 14 other riders still out there. I was very happy that I had the foresight to put a headlamp in my pack. It was still a nerve racking hour trying make my way back without overshooting my headlamp, trying to stay alert for course arrows.
When I crossed the finish line. Tom was anxiously awaiting me. He didn't know I had a light and was very worried. I got a big hug from Tom and congratulations from several people. The best was from Justin who manned the last aid station. I can't quote him exactly but it was something to the effect of good job, you probably hate me a little right now. All I could do was stare at him in disbelief. Yes, I did hate him at that moment, 16 hours and 13 min after I had started this crazy adventure. But, in reality, I love Justin. He's worked at several events that I've attended and he does a fantastic job. But sometimes, you have to hate someone when they push you to your edge and he certainly did that.
So here we are 3 days later. I'm still fatigued but not really in pain. This is a vast improvement over my inability to bend over the day after the race. I can stand up for longer than 10 min at a time. I can stay awake for more than 2 hours and I'm not waking suddenly from dreams of falling off my bike. The numb spot on the base of my neck is almost gone, my hands have stopped cramping and I am ready to get back on my bike.
After I've done something like this I always get asked if I had fun. No, I can't really say that it was fun, but there is nothing like pushing yourself to your limit to help discover who you are. That is priceless.
Monday, May 2, 2011
The Race, Day 1:
The first day was wet and very muddy. Kate, a Canadian-Norwegian was bitten badly by a large dog but still managed to come in 4th overall. There are some very fast women here this year.
Tom had a tough first day. No major problems but lots of little issues that added up to a frustrating day that was slower than he had hoped for. Three mud was horrible and in spite of being very tired he had to do a loot of work on his bike. On the up side, the route was beautiful, the day not too hot and our hotel was a lovely stone B&B in a farm setting. Homemade everything for breakfast including yogurt. It reminded me of my grandma.
The massage area was chaos the first night. We all did our best, but it was tough. All of us working until 11 pm at least. I did 12 massages. This will be my own endurance event of sorts.
Riders were already starting to show signs of fatigue. Kate had another great day in spite of her dog bite. A lady in an older age group is also doing very well, Anne Van de Broeke. In this race people start at different times depending on statistics related to gender and age. This means that Anne starts earlier than anyone else. But whoever crosses the finish first winds the stage regardless of how they started. It makes it very exciting because it is quite possible for a woman to win a stage and the young boys all have to chase her down.
Tom had a great day. He felt good, rode all the technical parts well and finished much better than the previous day.
I got worked. 13 massages and couldn't fall asleep until 1am. Back up again at 7 the next morning to eat and head out to the first check point for today.
Anne and Kate came through the first check point first as expected. I became worried when Tom did not come through with his group. It got later and still no Tom. Finally Tom's brother Rich, came through and let me know that Tom had a flat. Not good, but better than an injury. When Tom came through he let me know that he had already had many adventures I will get more of the story later.
Off to the fancy hotel. If we get there soon enough I will get to swim. By the time any one at home reads this, I will be elbow deep in massages.
To be continued...
Tom and I rode for a total of about 4 hours, climbing climbing climbing. Much of it very steep and rocky. At one point we came across a large herd if goats. As we got closer two HUGE dogs jumped up from their nap and started barking. There was one older dog and a younger dog. Three older dog got a good look at us, figured out we were no threat, laid down and got back to his serious business of napping. The other dog marked at us for at least another 45 min. What amazed us was that they were out there, guarding the goats without any human in sight!!
We finished the day with some splashing about in the pools, indulging under the massaging waterfalls then an excellent dinner.
One more night in the fancy hotel. Then slowly driving upheading up to race.
Friday, April 29, 2011
We were the first in The Cathedral that morning, pleasantly surprised to have it nearly to ourselves and with free entry since it was Revolution Day. I do not have words that can describe our experience adequately. Awe inspiring grand spaces. Stone ceilings so high they seemed impossible. Does gravity not have the same effect in these places? Brilliant stained glass casting bright butterflies and stripes of light on the walls and the floor. Stone carvings so delicate, how did the stone not fracture? All of this done with technology that is more than 500 years old!
Try to imagine what life would be like to live as a worker during the construction. You'd be born into your job and die before it's completion.
We left Batalha to head to the mountains. On the way, stopping at a Roman ruins site. Awe inspiring in a different way. Walking on stones, worn deep by people who walked there as many as 2000 years ago. Coming from North America, it's hard to grasp.
We decided to stick to larger roads to get to our fancy hotel in the mountains sooner rather than later. This is not really in keeping with our road trip style, we usually much prefer to get off the beaten path. As we got closer to the mountains, l asked Tom if he'd like to take a "short cut". He looked at me skeptically and asked if I was sure I could navigate us through it, especially given our somewhat serpentine route the day previous. I was confident, so off the beaten path we went.
Now, before I go further I feel a need to defend my decision. Everyone told me that there are no real mountains in Portugal and the roads on the map looked pretty straight. Well, l am here to say that there are serious mountains in Portugal, they may not be tall but they are really steep and the roads look straight on the map because they wind so tightly it would be impossible to map it. Instead they just draw a line in the right general direction. Add this to the fact that there are a million little towns to get turned around in, built in impossible ravines with seriously inadequate signage and you have a recipe for disaster.
I will save you the gory details but in summary:
An extra 2.5 hours traveling time
Roads with grades up to 16%
25% of these roads single lane
Traveling speeds often as low as 25km/hr
1 goat herder complete with herd in the road
Sheer drop offs with no guard rail
The most beautiful villages I have ever seen
We arrived at the fancy H2otel later than planned but much richer for the journey.
Tom and I had loosely planned to head to two towns that had very old architecture but we left it all open for interpretation and changes on the fly. We started out properly by sleeping in for 2 extra hours to recover from the ride the previous day. In Portugal that means you miss breakfast. So off we went weaving our way out of Lisbon. Cafes are plenty and we found pastries and coffee without trouble.
Our first stop was Tomar, to see a 500 plus year old monastery. Unfortunately, we couldn't go in as it was Easter Sunday. But we had a great look around the outside and snacked on lunch while sitting on an ancient cobblestone road. By road I mean something akin to a sidewalk just wide enough for a horse and carriage.
With some time to absorb the atmosphere, we headed into the town square where we watched children feed and chase the pigeons. It was a perfect afternoon, warm, interesting light created by the high cumulus clouds and happy portuguese taking advantage of their holiday time. Just as we were readying to leave, we heard music. Bagpipes? Really? Yes, bagpipes, drums and a sax, played by men in striped costumes, with face paint. One of them on stilts. It was great. My cheeks hurt I was smiling so broadly.
We left Tomar to head for Batalha to see what promised to be an amazing gothic cathedral. Excited to be on our way, we left Tomar without ensuring that we were on the right road, both of us trusting that we were headed in the right general direction. Wrong, we ended up too far north, had to triangulate our way back to the right road, getting caught again in small towns with narrow one way "you can't get there from here" evil alleys. Finally back on track (our mistake only cost us an hour really) we headed into town.
The cathedral was not hard to find. It's spiked pinnacles visable from all over town. We found a quaint Residecial close by, dropped off our things and scurried over to the cathedral to catch it in the quickly fading afternoon light. Not only where the light angles perfect, a double rainbow appeared. Right over the cathedral. We have the photo to prove it.
Had we not gotten turned around on our way to Batalha, we would have missed it I'm sure. Our photos would have looked like every other tourists and we wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't seen the rainbow ourselves.
We ate at a nearby restaurant and when we left, the square was dark but the cathedral was gently lit up making it loom eerily in the late twilight.
It was a day full of serendipity and joy.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
describe it. But more about that later. I am trying to keep this chronological.
So let's go back 3 days to our last adventures near Lisbon. I briefly mentioned a ride Tom and I did with friends José and Rui. My description did not do the ride justice. We started out in a small, typical Portuguese village south of Lisbon. We found our friends by following the GPS coordinates José gave us. After two attempts to head south on a bridge from the city (which looks an awful lot like the Golden Gate bridge by they way) we finally managed the task only to get trapped in small cobblestone alleys in the village of our destination. Many villages, well cities too really, have a bad case of "you can't get there from here". We arrived at the appointed meeting area slightly late but ready to ride.
The rest of the day was full of fantastic double track dirt roads, single track through mud and a little pavement to get us to the next village and cafe. We started out in fall weather, drizzle and mist that turned into a full on downpour, at which time we took shelter in a village cafe. We sampled pastries of the area and sipped coffee while trying not to get mud on the white marble tile.
When the rain slowed we continued on our way. Eventually the sun came out and we were treated to beautiful views of the ocean, followed by riding through wine growing areas and cork trees. Mixed in was another fantastic degree stop. The pastries here are amazing!
All tolled, we rode close to 60 km (36 or so miles), 5 hours plus including our time in the cafes. A great prep day for Tom, I was trashed. Big thanks to Rui for loaning me a hard tail, titanium mountain bike (light!!) that was great for this ride. And huge thanks to José Carlos, who led the way, directed us to a room for the night and led us to a fanastic restaurant to help us replenish.
A great day by any standards.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Our first night was spent on the coast at a hotel we chose in large part for it's oceanside 100m plus pool. Unfortunately, it was closed for repairs. But I did swim and play in the ocean waves. There is nothing like ocean water to cleanse you soul.
The next day was spent exploring areas around Lisbon. We explored food and art, including amazing works related to maps. Then we got tangled in the craziest traffic ever in Lisbon, trying to park and meet a friend for dinner. We finally found under ground parking, waited in a central square where it rained profusely, watched an insane running race begin from the square and head off into the insane traffic, (I was sure they would all die, but amazingly all the cars made way for the runners). This was just the beginnings of an amazing evening of real Portuguese culture.
The rest of the evening was spent with Patricia, a good we met at Trans Portugal the last time we were here. She and here boyfriend took us to a very authentic restaurant where the waiters were surly, the customers smoking but the good fresh and fantastic. It was a great, fun evening. Then we wandered through historical Lisbon at night over small, wet, square cobblestones. I have no idea how Portuguese women do it in heels.
Yesterday we got up, surfed then walked, through lush forest to fantasy palace in the mist.
Today was another ideal day. Mountain biking south of Lisbon with plenty of stops for coffee, rain storms, wild roses and sunshine. All thanks to Jose Carlos and Rui.
Tonight it was a meal of grilled pork for Tom and cod for me. Time for sleep.
Friday, March 25, 2011
There are plenty of you readers out there that I am sure lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle, this is not about you. It's about those of us that are walking on the edge of a precipice and are about to fall. I am seriously alarmed by the number of people I have encountered over the last year alone to whom that analogy applies.
Yes, strength to weight ratio is important for racing. But you're not going to be any faster if you're starving. Worse than that, when you get too lean (less than 7% body fat for men, 12% for women) bad things start to happen. Your organs don't work right anymore. Your heart starts doing the funky chicken, not to mention your other organs and immune system. And yet every issue of every mag about running, cycling or tri that I have picked up in the last year seems to have an article on how to get leaner. I have yet to see one that cautions against getting too lean.
So I am here to tell you that you can die from being too skinny. If you are trying to optimize your strength to weight ratio, get you body fat tested to get an idea of how much weight you can safely lose. Don't assume that less is more.
Eat well, eat responsibly, enjoy life.
This post was inspired by a friend who fell from the precipice but clawed her way back into competition, at a healthy body weight.
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Monday, February 28, 2011
Since I wasn't convinced training with power was all it's cracked up to be, I went the cheap route and bought a computer that is calibrated to estimate power when used with my Kurt Kinetic trainer. Not the most accurate tool, I know but it was less than 1/5 the cost of some other power meters. I've been using the trainer and power meter over the last couple of months and I hate to admit it but it does work much better on shorter interval workouts than heart rate data.
Heart rate takes a while to creep up when you are doing a hard interval. So it doesn't give you good feedback on your effort if you are doing shorter intervals, like 1 or even 2 min. You get immediate feedback on how hard you are pushing with the power meter. That's key when you're trying to improve your high end output. Since this is my primary limiter... I guess I should stick with it.
The down side: It really effing hurts to push that hard and I highly recommend you keep a bucket close by. I guess I should also add that it takes some homework to find out what your ideal wattage for training a given interval length should be. That's something that a lot of data hounds out there will embrace. For the rest of us, it's a hassle.
You can download a pdf file at www.trainingbible.com that thoroughly explains training with power called, you guessed it... Training With Power.
The first person to puke wins.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I set out on my ride today feeling good about how it should go. I was relatively well rested, given that I had been sitting on my bum for two days learning about joint surgery and rehab, (more on this later). I thought that I should have plenty in the tank. I was wrong.
Lesson 1: it's not a ride if you have to walk up 80% of it. Yes I was on a single speed. Yes it was silly steep. Yes it was narrow and off camber and exposed and slippery and sketchy and had deer poop on it...
Lesson 2: sometimes there is crying in mountain biking.
Lesson 3: no matter how safe someone says it is, sometimes your limbic system and adrenals just don't agree.
Lesson 4: the ride can still get better no matter how it starts.
Lesson 5: there is an appropriate time and place for tree hugging, on a mountain bike ride is not usually it.
Lesson 6: every ride turns out well when it ends at Everybody's brewing.
When will I ever actually learn how to rest on Sunday?
Saturday, February 12, 2011
It was 6 weeks before my second Ironman Canada. I showed up at the track for my once a week workout with my running coach. We went through a really light warm-up, then did a few form drills and he declared the workout over.
Me: "What?" I said. I couldn't believe it. I thought we were going to put some finishing touches on my speed work. Didn't he realize that Ironman was just around the corner? I was running out of time.
Coach: "You're exhausted, I can see it in your eyes."
Me: "But I haven't been over-training, if anything I've been missing workouts!"
Coach: "Life is like a water chute. Only so much stuff can flow through the chute at one time. That stuff isn't just your training, it's work, it's your relationships, it's your responsibilities. If you try to fit too much through the chute, there's going to be a mess when things burst apart."
Me: "Life's been challenging as of late, but what am I supposed to do? I need to get ready for the race!"
Coach: "Over the next 6 days, I want you to use every minute that you would to train, to rest in a horizontal position. You don't have to sleep. Just rest."
I thought he was nuts but I also knew that I was tired and I did as I was told. The first 2 days were tough because I felt guilty for being lazy. Then I started to recognize how truly tired I was. It took 6 days for me to get the training/racing itch back. He was right on the money. The decision to have me rest that week likely saved my Ironman. I was on the verge of disaster.
The moral of the story. Sometimes life is demanding. As an athlete it's hard to give yourself permission to do nothing, especially when you haven't been able to train much because of other factors. But those other factors drain you, as much as training, if not more. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best training you can do.
This 20 min of writing was done in the horizontal position. My goal to day is to stay like that as much as possible. Time for repairs before the water chute bursts open.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I know that my frustration harms my spirit/psyche/emotional health - whatever you want to call it. It does nothing to help those who have come to me for aid.
I had a very difficult day yesterday. A day dominated by clients with chronic conditions and negative behaviors that perpetuate their situation. It had me exhausted at the end of it. Fortunately, the wonderful positive energy of my Strong Chicks brought me back to life. It was a good reminder. A reminder that our behavior affects those around us. A reminder that my frustration radiates to others and that's not good. A reminder that I can change my behavior and my attitude, my world. A hope that if I change myself, I will create a ripple effect that will change the lives of others... in a good way.
So why did I call this post "Compassion"? Compassion is the keystone in my character arc(h). It is the antagonist of my frustration. If I can truly incorporate compassion in my day to day life, integrate it, breathe it, the frustration will disappear and I will be a better person.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
This spurred an online discussion about getting lower on the bike to allow for better handling. The comment also included advice on using your core to support your trunk so that the rider could let his arms relax while riding. Not unlike this:
I agree that the changes suggested would improve handling on descents. But sometimes a body just can't do it.
I did a bike fit for the rider in question with the focus on trying to relieve any pain issues while riding. We did that successfully. While the lower position described may help with handling on descents and other technical riding, the rider has to have a body that will accept that position as well which requires sufficient core strength, hip and hamstring flexibility. *IF* the rider can get into the position, maintain a good low back and pelvic alignment, the neck might be able to take the posture. If the low back and pelvic position and stability aren't there, neck posture will be crap and there will be huge compressive forces through that part of the spine. Even with perfect low back/pelvic positioning, the neck will take more strain due to the way the head has to be lifted to look forward with the lower stem/handlebars. A younger spine can take that strain fairly easily. Older spines (greater than 35 years old) start having bone spurs and things that complicate the issue.
The comments made by others in the discussion about riding posture were absolutely correct, not just about the position but also about having to use your core to support your trunk instead of having a lot of weight on the hands. Unfortunately, a lot of riders do not have sufficient core strength to do so, or insufficient muscle endurance to maintain that core support over longer rides.
So this is perfect example of fitting a bike for performance versus ergonomics. In some cases, you have no choice but to give up one for the other. Finding the right bike fit is a balancing act. It's not black and white.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I have a good excuse though.
We did it! We did it! We did it!
Tom is moved here and we are in our new home. Now if only all these boxes would unpack themselves and contents sort themselves into piles for donation/recycle/trash/keep.
Truthfully, I'm exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for about 24 hours straight. In fact that's what I should do. It might be time for a black curtain day or two.
On that note, let's keep it short and sweet.
Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Most bell peppers we get here in the PNW this time of year are grown in hot houses. So even if the pepper is not organic, a lot fewer chemicals are used to grow it since the environment is more controlled. I like to eat them raw in slices or cut into 1 inch cubes and sauteed with onion, garlic and sometimes mushrooms.
If you live less than 5 miles from your workplace, try commuting by bike a couple of days a week. You don't have to do it every day and it's an easy way to add 30 to 45 min of exercise to your daily routine. Just make sure you're visible. Having fenders with reflective tape, a red rear blinkie light and a good commuter jacket with reflective material should do the trick.
Now get out and play.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Chicken wings are powerful bad for you and should not be eaten unless you've ridden your bike for at least 4 hours. Really. I put 12 wings in my food diary today and I couldn't believe the calories, more than 1200!!! Just say no.
My exercise tip for the week:
This is one of my favorite hamstring exercises. It's guaranteed to kick your bum into shape.
On a personal note:
I am very fortunate to be enveloped in love. The love of my boyfriend, my family, my friends. 2010 was a great year and I want to thank you all. Those words don't seem enough. Language is limited. I wish I could find a better way to communicate what you mean to me.
What did I do in 2010? It all seems a blur now. I know I skied... a lot. I know I rode... a lot. I loved... you get the idea. Life unfolded and shit happened. Tom, who rarely crashes on a bike, had not one but 4 significant falls. The worst resulting in rib fractures that took a couple of months to heal. Meanwhile, we got to dive into new depths of our relationship and I found a nurturing side I didn't know I had.
2010 was also the year of my fastest Ironman to date. I'm fitter now that I was 10 years ago and it feels good to have crushed my previous best IM time in my late 30s.
Beautifully, things are falling together and a new world is opening up for us in 2011. Tom should be moved here with his business in about 2 weeks. We will finally live together in our own home. We'll be returning to Portugal in the Spring with Tom racing at TransPortugal and I will be working as part of the medical team. Then there's my big goal for the year, the 100 mile mountain bike race. I must be crazy.
Looking forward to a 2011 full of promise and adventure.