Wednesday, June 20, 2012

big travel and slow volume uppage

I'm letting my training volume creep up slowly, which I think is a smart way to get back into it without getting injured. The first couple months were pretty low volume (i.e. low pressure), where I just tried to string in as many 10-hour weeks as I could (I've always measured my training volume by hours since my teenage triathlete days, courtesy of Joe Friel and the original Triathlete's Training Bible). There were six's, eight's, a few tens.

Then June hit, which is a very ridiculous travel month for me. After all the pro triathloning, I wanted to make up for time not spent with family and important events. Unfortunately a lot of these important events happen in the span of this month. 2 weekends ago was spent in Las Vegas for the Sherpa's sister's wedding, last weekend was a nice reprieve at home, this morning I head off to Alaska for my sister's (the WongSiSTAR) first marathon I've been quasi-coaching her for, and home in DE for 4 days and then the weekend after home to San Francisco for my cousin's wedding, then a red-eye back to arrive home (Delaware) on 4th of July. (I still get confused which place to call home, bear with me.)

Then PHEW, no more travel, and I can start ramping up the training again.

I figured I could use the trips to help me improve or motivate my triathlon-ness in different ways.

In Vegas, I made sure to meet the sharks and jellies and gigantic sting rays and sea turtles (over at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay) to scare me into wanting to swim faster in open water.

In Alaska, I originally was going to try to ramp up my running to do the full with the sister, but my shins told me early on what a dumb idea that was. Then I planned to run the half-marathon, which I haven't done in many years, but as I only started running 2 months ago and have done nothing for speed or intensity, I really don't feel like spending $85 to run a slow half marathon. I've done a couple 2-hr runs in training and will probably just meet the sister at the half-way point and be her unofficial pacer for the second half. My top priority is to be there as her sherpa, and we can't both be wiped out from the marathon. Someone's gotta fetch the milkshakes and french fries!

In San Francisco, mentally and emotionally it will be great to reunite with my family and some of my best friends. They keep me grounded and remind me of where I came from, and love me no matter how I do (or what I do) in the sporting world. I called my Pop for Father's Day and I can tell he wants me to get back to triathlon racing in some sort of shape or form. He doesn't want me to waste all those years I spent training! Always my biggest fan. Thanks Dad!

Last week I finally trained for more than 10-ish hrs, bwahaha. I went an entire 13hrs. This finally puts me in the teens. I hope to get up to the mid-teens over the next few weeks, despite (or after) the travel craziness, and then up to the higher teens. I really like being in a triathlon training routine again. I anticipate this coming week to be lower volume, what with traveling to Alaska (it's effing far from here), probably being without a pool or bike, and Alaskan shenanigans with the sister. Oh, and that half marathon. I'll think of it as a taper week!

As far as big volume goes, I'll see how close I can get to 18-20 hrs in my biggest weeks.

As a full-time pro I was going 25-35hrs/week, which is too much to handle with working full-time and puppy-rearing (and Sherpa training, heh heh) now. Unless I don't sleep. But then I'd be bad at my job, and bad at being a triathlete "for fun". So I'm scouting a more realistic work/triathlon balance. When I was checking my old training logs and programs for what I did when working full-time during residency, it was 18-21 hrs. Then there was a point when I was working part-time at 25hrs a week post-residency, and Brett put me on 31-hour training weeks. WHEW! Both times I was living at home and didn't have to worry about stuff like cooking and buying groceries or having a social life or paying rent. (Just having to deal with the guilt associated with that.)

When I hit 18hrs again, it will be exciting. But maybe I won't. We'll see if it's achievable and sustainable. Just trying to find the best balance in all of this work and training stuff, and still keep it fun and happy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

how to not burn out.

age grouper triathlete, round 2 *ding!*

Now that I have been working a big girl job that has kept me busy for almost a year (my anniversary is on 7-11 day next month), I can ease back into figuring out how to be one of those working age groupers. I will admit I tried to take on way too much following the car accident last year, in my work life, triathlon life, and personal life, but being a chronic overachiever, I just thought I could do everything. Then we also got our puppy in January. Good grief.

Anyway, when things started to settle down somewhat and I decided I wanted to train again just a couple months ago, I made some pretty good rules to follow:

  • workouts after 5pm on work days are optional (although I try to get done by then on weekends too, if not by lunch time!)
  • workouts in inclement weather are optional
    • during winter, biking should be indoors only, and only if you feel like it
  • days when you have girl cramps during that-time-of-month, train as you feel. Or rest as you feel. And have chocolate ice cream as necessary!
  • emphasize morning workouts on workdays, but if super tired, sleeping in is ok!
I figure, it's not my job any more. I want to keep it fun and not have it add more stress to my life. One thing I didn't anticipate when I started working was how mentally draining it can be when you are dealing with the general public from 8:30am to 5pm (or longer if there are hospital calls). Remember that I went from not really having to deal with anybody as a full-time pro athlete (other than the random training partners when I wasn't being totally antisocial, and internet interactions), so it was a bit of a shock to go from being very reclusive to having to interact with so many people for so many hours a day again!

It is not just time away from training, but mental energy. Some days I get out of work at 5pm or 6pm feeling fine and ready to go, some days I have had to work with really needy patients that leave me feeling like I just did a half ironman or something. (A friend gave me a book about will power last year that is about research trying to quantify and explore this type of mental energy vs. physical energy. Perhaps I'll post more another time on it.)

Or my jaw is sore. I've come to realize my jaw gets sore when I'm stressed out (my previous dentist once said I must clench or grind my teeth at night, but only sometimes). I've notice my jaw gets sore on a certain occasions: finals week during school, when living with my mother (haha! not kidding!), and stressful days at work.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job and love working again. But I am better at listening to my body these days, and don't try to force more training than I feel like.

As far as winter burnout goes, I think it's actually luckily I live in an area that has real seasons now. I think California and Florida people have it both easy and hard, because you can train there the whole year, but you also get burnt out from training all year. I got burnt out living here and trying to train through the winter, when I had to do all my bike sessions indoors and swim by myself, because it was everyone else's off season (and I didn't want to slip on ice on the bike and die). So I've decided I'll cap my triathlon season before Halloween--that way I can have lots of Halloween partying fun, and that's before Daylight Savings Time too, when it gets dark before 5pm. And then chill out over the holidays. I might focus on more running throughout winter, and shoot for a fast marathon or something. We'll see. And not start racing triathlons again until June or July. Just some ideas. We'll see.

So maybe only 6 months out of the year, I'll be a triathlete. And I am only planning to go to races that are within driving distance for now (money and time constraints). As stealthy as I am about getting to fly my bike for free, it is still a complete PITA to haul your bike around an airport.

This morning I went up to Chadd's Ford to swim at Mac's pool with my old friends up there. It was really good to see them again too. (I used to swim with two squads, Mac's crew on Wednesdays and the Tri-Dawgs on Saturdays.) In fact it had been so long since I was there, that I found my favorite Georgia Tech hoodie I had left in the bathroom, and Mac pointed out that I had left a wetsuit there. Ha!!! I didn't really know where either had went. Now I have my 3 wetsuits from my time as a TBB athlete.

So that is all. Now I think my girl cramps have subsided and I can try riding my bike. (I had chocolate gelato yesterday, it definitely helped!) As yucky as it is to actually have a time-of-the-month, the upside is that A) it means you're not preggers, and B) it means you are not starving yourself (I had a few long stretches of amenorrhea during my training camp days) and possibly damaging your girl bits for when you do want to have kids (no, still NOT any time soon for me).

have fun and take it easy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

LOST: fun, fitness, and confidence. FOUND: motivation.

hey kids.

Thanks for letting me have my triathlon temper tantrum. I fell in love with a sport that burned me...physically, mentally, emotionally, and yeah, let's not forget financially. Back in October, I was so angry and frustrated with everything that I had to leave. I felt like I had given so much to this sport for 4 years, and for what? Races would get cancelled. A car got in my way. I felt fat all the time. I got so much anxiety about what people thought of me, that I couldn't even swim properly at half my races. I was too paranoid and self-conscious to train with other people. Prize money rules kept changing. I stopped getting faster.

It took me this long to realize I have been giving myself a ginormous pity party of sorts, only I didn't even know it. I was angry, I was upset, I was depressed. I wasn't having fun any more. Training was a slog. I didn't want to swim, bike, or run, but I "had to" swim, bike, and run, because it was my job. You might think this all just started after the car crash at Ironman Korea, but much of it has actually festered since the winter after the greatest sporting year of my life, the pro debut of 2009. It only grew worse and worse as time went on.

I got tired of the travel, of never having a real home. I got tired worrying about money all the time, and if I was gonna "make it". I got tired of feeling like a stupid, worthless human being (since I was not working). I got tired of team politics. I got tired of getting yelled at over email (getting yelled at in person was fine) and being told I would amount to nothing if I didn't do X, Y, Z. And it's only now I realize I put off going back to a real job for so long, because I was told that I could never be a really great triathlete if I wanted to hold down a real job...even part-time. And that at the same time, I was told I would never be able to make a real living out of the sport even if I did everything I could.

Oh, the hypocrisy.

I built up a wall of anger and hate and hurt, and I thought if I could just (race)walk away, I could ignore it. Maybe it would just go away. I wasn't having any fun any more, my confidence was weakened, then of course 6-7 months after I just stopped training completely, my fitness was gone too.

Motivation has begun to come back. I went to the Challenged Athletes Foundation run clinic in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, which is always fun and puts things in perspective. This was where I met my current boss a year ago (well, it was in NYC last year), when I was still a full-time athlete, and contributed to my decision to finally leave teamTBB. This year, I went as a prosthetist-orthotist with 3 co-workers, and 4 of our patients. I finally got to meet Scout Bassett. Motivation.

she makes me look gigantic.

I bought Macca's book "I'm Here to Win" when it came out last year, back in September, before the shit hit the fan and I got completely disenchanted with triathlon. I didn't actually finish the book until last week. One of the final chapters I missed, "A Goal is a Dream with a Plan," touched a nerve. Motivation.

Then I ordered Chrissie's book "A Life Without Limits" and finished it over the weekend. It is one word...SPOOKY. In other words, creepy, gave me chills, creepster. Perhaps I'll go into more details later. Let's just say I could write a Wongstar version of the same book, and just substitute "world champion" for "triathlon superstar".

Speaking of Wongstar and superstars, I changed the title of the blog again. After my last post, Mr. Tritwins send me a nice message on how being "Wongstar" could mean whatever I wanted it to mean. So I started thinking up a good acronym for the "S.T.A.R." part of "Wongstar". And now I am a "sandbagger triathlete adjusting to real life." Brilliant! The picture is of me racing the last Ironman I ever did as an age grouper, dressed up as SuperGirl at IM Canada in 2006.

It's been almost 2 months since I started training again. I can now do a 3-hour bike more or less in the aerobars and not feel totally whupped afterwards. I can run slowly for 90mins, after some shin issues from trying to switch to flashy lightweight shoes (give it up already). I could swim 45mins easily, but the 90min swim practice with my local Tri-Dawgs club on Saturday kicked my butt. The torn quad injury has gotten better the more that I've trained. I don't even notice it.

Best of all, I am having fun again. I am feeling motivated. I am even thinking I want to be fast again. But I'm not giving up my day job. No freakin' way. Hence the "sandbagger" title. Women of W30-34, beware. I am reclaiming my fitness one of these days, and wherever my confidence went, I will find that too...