Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week Fifteen: "Step Away from the Ledge..."

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to's about learning to dance in the rain."

This week's training brought many new challenges, most of which were mental challenges. This was one of those weeks where Murphy's Law seemed to rule, and the theory of bad things happening in three's came to fruition. Life continuously tried to derail me by throwing an obstacle in front of me seemingly every day. It began with a brother-in-law who had a serious stroke, followed by a mother-in-law who might need our long-term care, and ended with a dear co-worker's untimely death. Although feeling rather fragile and teary-eyed most of the week, somehow I managed to get in all of my training except for one scheduled run. It could have been executed better, but it got done. 

In the process, I learned Lesson Number 21:
"Drinking heavily and staying up till 1 a.m. does not bode well for a good training day to follow."
In layman's terms, I have sworn off alcohol until after my race. I don't do hangovers well, and although it was nice to have a few hours of obliviousness to forget my stress-filled week, I think I will stick with the coping technique of over-exercising next time around.

On the brighter side, I have been pleased with my fortitude in the midst of emotional stress this week. I managed to pull through a timed 2100 yd swim soon after receiving some really devastating news about my friend's death. It was a good exercise in focus for me, and it strengthened my resolve that I could control my breathing in the most stressful of circumstances if I just focused on it. Completing that swim was huge for me, because my desire to undertake it was poor at the time. Every time I started to let my emotions creep in, it was a matter of having to 'get it under control' or 'suck in a lot of water'. I was able to keep it under control and complete the task. For that I am proud of myself.

The weather also had a nice way of helping me stay positive this week. Finally we are seeing spring-like weather, and today's ride was a perfect chance to enjoy the change in temperature. It was also great to be back with my training partners that have been away for a while. I was able to work through some goal setting for my upcoming race and have finally established some challenging, but hopefully realistic goals.  These are as follows:

Swim: 50 minutes 
T1: 3 minutes
Bike: 3:30 minutes (avg pace 16 mph)
T2: 2 minutes
Run: 2:50 minutes (pace 12:58)
Total: 7:15 minutes

"You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do except the limitations of your own mind."

I've been reflecting a lot on where I am at in my training right now, and where I've come from since I started. Considering I couldn't swim more than a lap and a half in the pool last year at this time, and now I can do a 2100 yd swim in around 43 minutes, I am satisfied with my improvement. I may not be a #10 "Michael Phelps" on my 0-10 rating scale, but I am no longer a complete 0 (non-swimmer; totally suck). Now I am a proud #3 (won't drown unless left in open water for a long period of time; don't completely suck). Thanks Coach!

Where do I strive to be this time next year? I want to be able to swim a straight line in the pool while incorporating consistent flip turns; I want to learn another stroke besides freestyle/backstroke; I want to increase my speed noticeably (however that can be made objective is up to Coach). I want to conquer any and all remaining water anxiety that I have so that it is no longer an issue for me.

"I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet."

My run has probably been the most dramatic improvement I have seen in my training. A year ago I went from being winded going to the neighborhood stop sign (maybe 200 yds) to now having run a half marathon in what I consider to be a respectable time. My goals for next year's improvement? I'm gonna throw it out there and say that I want to drop my average pace per mile to under 9 minutes (for a 10k or less) from what is now around a 10:20 pace. Lofty you say? I say do-able. (grin) And endurance? Shall we throw down a full marathon next year? That is yet to be decided...

And for my bike (who dutifully answers me when I call her by her name... C.D. - Carpe Diem). Well, we are still getting to know one another. She often reminds me that she at times likes to be in control of me. She tells me this by making my crotch hurt on long rides, she occasionally throws my water bottle onto the ground as it speeds by us, and sometimes she mysteriously seems to change how the gears work. I am trying to tame her but she is hard-headed and makes me work hard, as if she knows how much money she is worth - as if I am not worthy to sit on her throne. My goals for our relationship are to master her gears and learn to transition smoothly through them, to ride on her saddle without grimacing in pain, and to learn to make her more efficient and lead her to greater speeds as I know she is capable. We have the most work to do I believe. Many hours of training I see in our future...

"To succeed you must first improve, to improve you must first practice, to practice you must first learn, and to learn you must first fail."

So in closing this week's posting, I have to say that although this week has been very trying for me, I continue to learn more about myself with each new obstacle that I face. I don't think that a year ago I would have handled these challenges with as much fortitude and optimism as I feel I have approached them with now. I know this relates directly to my training and improved "mental toughness" that I have been trying so hard to achieve.

Thanks go out to my training partners who have had so many kind words this week and to my dear coach and friend who keeps me focused. Without you guys my life would be average and without much flare, and not nearly as fun and rewarding as it is now. Thanks for all your support both with my training and on a more personal level.

When reflecting on life and on how quickly it can change, I will leave you with one final quote that says it all for me ~

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
                                                                                                   Mark Twain


  1. Wow, what a week. Glad you were able to get out there and train anyway. I find that endurance exercising is one of the best things I can do for myself when life gets hard. So sorry about your brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and co-worker. :(

  2. What an honest and beautifully written post, Coug! Proud of you for pushing through this week...I know it wasn't easy. Keep your 'chin up' (see it gets annoying doesn't it ;)) and know we are all rooting for you! I'm so impressed by how far you've come! That Half Ironman has nothing on the COUG!!!
    Love you!!!

    PS---I will be happy to provide proper professional training in Lesson is a shame FitShit doesn't incorporate that into your training regimen. She could probably use some training herself :)

  3. Love you attitude about this journey.... I am glad you have discovered the magic of being an athlete-the never ending quest and the adventure of it are intoxicating.

    Best Wishes,

    Ingrid Loos Miller

  4. Janie, once again I find myself awed by your journey and impressed by your words. You have tremedous character and strength. I admire you so much. I am a real fan of le Cougre.