Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Santa's gifts to athletes

Sometimes my family loves the fact that I am a triathlete (sometimes they don't. See other posts on, for example, late dinner, up early on weekends, vactions must have fitness centers, etc and etc). One of the times they love it is on gift giving occassions. I am sooooo easy to shop for.

There's always a new gadget, thingie or trend to try. Stuff breaks and wears out (worn out body parts are hard to find on line, however). There are books and magazines and videos, and Lordy, we triathletes certainly know how to stimulate an economy.

I got my "big" present earlier in the year with the purchase of my new Specialized carbon fiber bike (I adore it). Which takes up most of Christmas, anniversary, and birthday for a few years (Valentine's is off limits. The only true holiday where women are not expected to cook. Therefore sacred). But there are a lot of little giflts left, oh, so many to get and give the athlete.

Here's what came from Santa (or family and friends) for me this year that I can use as an athlete:

*Reflective bands for my wrist and ankle. Cheap and very practical. For those winter dark runs.

*New carbon Look pedals and new fiberglass S series road bike shoes. OK, shoes are not carbon, I can't seem to get my hands around shelling out over $300 for carbon shoes at my speed and level, but nearly good enough. Took me an hour and a college degree or two to figure out how to install pedals and cleats, etc.

*iTunes gift cards. Always great for loading more songs on the 'pod to while away the weary hours on the road and in the pool. Especially since the Beatles are now on iTunes--all you need is love, baby.

*Gift certificate to sporting goods store. Here comes new wicking shirts and socks and other cool stuff.

*New Garmim Forerunner 310. OK, I'm using up my second college degree on this one, so far I have learned to charge it up. The owner's manual is on DVD. I'm excited because this one is allegedly waterproof so no need to wear a New York streeter's line of watches on my wrist on my next tri--this one supposedly does everything but pump up your bike tires, and it might do that too. Stay tuned for reviews and comments. It's also so much smaller than my old Dick Tracy Garmin.

*Hammer Gels. Doesn't every girl long for that in her stocking?

*Doorway chin up bar: arms and abs, look out. I'm coming after you. Hope to set that up tonight. Which is why I'm blogging today. Tomorrow my arms may be too sore.

Now, patient spouse got from Santa a Road ID (excellent product--Santa also purchased wristband ones for our adult children too because when you go out anywhere without your ID, this baby can be a lifesaver) and a warm Descent bike jacket so he can no longer complain that it's too cold to ride the bikes. In addition, his big gift was a gently used Specialized carbon fiber bike--well, parts of one, he has purchased the frame and wheels and a few other components but we seem to still be missing the crankset and chain....hopefully those will be bought soon and a complete bike will emerge from all the boxes before the spring thaw.

I can't wait to try out all my goodies (hopefully the weather will improve a bit this weekend and I can see if my college degree assembled pedals/cleats fit together). These kinds of gifts last all year long.

Truthfully, someone asked me yesterday if I had gotten all I asked for from Santa. I said yes, because all I really want and need is good health and a wonderful family. I have been fortunate to be granted both of those, although I realize the good health thing is a gift I have to nuture and watch out for as much as I can from my end. I promise to do that.

I hope you and yours had a great holiday, and are looking forward to a happy and healthy New Year. Good health and a wonderful family to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Bonk

I looked up the word "bonk" in ye old dictionary. It says that the word is slang for "hit, strike, collide." My trusty scrabble dictionary sez it means "to hit someone on the head."

When an athlete uses the word bonk, it generally means a version of Game Over. It's when the body says Enough, I'm Done, No More, We're Outta Here. I suppose in a way that's someone like being hit over the head, or colliding with that proverbial wall. All of us have experienced a bonk, usually on a long run or bike or swim, but sometimes on a short one, sometimes resulting in a Walk of Shame back to the car or a pullover to the side of the road (followed by the infamous Flop On the Back on the Ground).

Although a bonk does not always mean the race or workout is over, it usually means your planned time or distance is over. A true bonk--which is different from the waves of just being tired or feeling gassed that come and go--takes time to recover from.

Bonks are preventable. And we know it, and yet ignore the warnings that could lead to one.

Here are the Five Ways to Bonk:

Overextend without base training. Chances are you aren't going to be able to do a 56 mile bike or a 26 mile run without some training beforehand. Sometimes young and fit persons with a background in one area can "fake it" through another area with minimal training--i.e. a strong runner might be able to struggle through a long bike or swim after only doing some minimal distance bike and swims beforehand, but he or she is definitely going to suffer--but most people can't go the distance without paying the admission price of serious training beforehand. I do so enjoy watching young men (I'm sure women do this too, but I always seem to be seeing the men) dash out on their first 5K with no training beforehand and find out that I am able to chug on pass them around mile 2 when they are wheezing, walking and staggering. Train your distance. Train your time. It takes a long, long time and effort to work your way up to long distances, so be prepared to pay the price.

Lack of nutrition. When I first started out running, I really had no clue about nutrition. I often went out for a 4 mile run on an empty stomach (yes, Jeff Galloway sez you can but I am going to disagree with him). And lots of times I would end up walking around mile 3, feeling out of gas and weary. Your body needs fuel in order to work hard. You don't have to eat a Denny's Grand Slam before a 5K, but a simple glass of chocolate milk or an energy bar, or better, a bagel or some oatmeal, will preload you with fast burning carbs that will become important about halfway through. Slower runners like me are at the most need for pre race or workout nutrition as we simply can't breeze through 5 miles in 30 minutes before our stored fuel starts to run low. For workouts laster longer than an hour, it's important to take in some carbs (and maybe protein, I tend to believe a small amount of protein with the carbs works best) BEFORE you start to hit a depletion wall, which is around 45 minutes or so into the workout, and then every so often thereafter, depending on the amount you ingest and how far you are going. If you wait until you feel tired or gassed before you ingest nutrition, it's too late. You are going to be behind the bonk ball the rest of the workout or race.

Lack of hydration. I know there has been a lot written lately about over-hydrating and I am cognizant that taking in too much liquid can be dangerous, or at least sloshly in the gut. But I suspect 90 percent of athletes are under hydrated rather than over hydrated. For any workout lasting over 45 minutes, you should take in some fluids, and you will be smart to take in some the day before and after as well. Even on cold days when you aren't feeling thirsty, you can dehydrate just as quickly especially in altitude and wind (both of which dry your tissues out quickly). Water or sports drink, you pick, but keep your hydration level constant.

Lack of rest. I am all over the expression that training plus rest equals results. Your body MUST have time to recover from the stress of working out. Training causes muscles and joints to stress and even tear slightly, and in order for them to increase strength, proper rest must occur for healing and soundness. This means a full rest day at least once a week and a good night's sleep as often as possible (the latter being the thing I skip the most of, what with work and family and working out, and believe me, lack of good sleep will lead to a big bonk for me sooner or later).

Lack of planning. Here is where I bonk the most. I do stupid things like drink too much wine and eat too much the night before a long run and then get minimal sleep and then also run in the hottest part of the day....HELLO. You think at my age I'd plan better. Or I'll oversleep and try to race through a swim workout that calls for an easy pace. You've got to plan your routine as best you can (life throwing stuff at you at the worst times notwithstanding) and work out the smartest that you can. Don't overdress on warm days, don't underdress on cold days, don't forget your water bottle on your bike ride, don't forget your swim cap....all of these things that I have done that have caused a mini bonk or at least a bad day.

There is no reason to ever bonk again. I don't plan on it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

More core

As part of this journey into the outer limits of physical activity that I have determined will be fun and prodcutive, I've realized that all the biking, swimming, and running I'm doing does work, but they all work better when I'm stronger at my core. Certainly biking, swimming and running make me stronger in lots of ways (including increasing the strength of my curse word vocabulary), much more so than if I was just dedicated to doing one of those sports, but they still leave a lot of areas untouched.

Core strength and flexibility--to be more precise, being strong around your gut, back, hips, etc.--leads to stronger swimming and biking and easier running. I can personally attest that running long distances, a lot, will pound you into central inflexibity--you may end up with the world's strongest legs, but you won't be able to bend me shape me too well.

Strength begats strength. Therefore, I am trying at least once a week (twice if I can find time) to do exercises that help solidify my core and flexibility.

I am not very excited about going to the gym and doing the weights/balls/elastic bands thing. First, it's a drive to the gym for a short workout, and second, there never seems to be any real room on the mats. So I'm trying to do these exercises at home, which is easier for me (I can do them in the morning before I hop in the shower) and a lot cheaper. I have some small hand weights (10 pounds each, and some that are 3 pounds each) and an exercise ball, and a mat.

My chosen exercises vary from session to session, but they include side and front planks (if done correctly, with a fairly straight back, these will kill you very quickly), leg lifts, lunging squats, push ups (okay, I will fall on my sword and admit that I have NEVER been able to do a guy push up. I'm determined to get to that stage, but right now I'm on 15 girly push ups. I hate that, but upper arm strength has never been my big thing), simple weight lifts for biceps and triceps, and several yoga poses for flex: the tree (I started out on the Wii Fit with this one before the Wii Fit went to Broken Wii Heaven, and I would get mad at the cartoon instructor who would tut tut me when I wobbled and fell over on this pose--and I am proud to announce that now I don't fall over any more), the sun salute and the warrior poses. I do these all on my mat on my bedroom floor and am done in 20-45 minutes. I've also asked for a chin up bar for Christmas (what every girl wants I am certain). I have no illusions that I can lift myself up to a chin up bar, but I have a stool to use, and my upper body strength really needs some help here.

Since I've started the core strength workouts (which I do either on my rest days, or in the mornings when my workout that day is at night, or vice versa), I've noticed a couple of things: one, I can go a lot longer down on my aerobars on my bike without my neck or shoulders or back nagging at me, my posture seems better when I run (I am just more relaxed), and my arms don't get as tired on my long swims.

I am four months away from my 70.3 this week. I am still nervous and unsure, but every week I feel a wee bit stronger (with some limited exceptions, okay, we all have feet dipped in liquid lead days). I have a long way to go still especially with the bike, but I am confident I will improve and dance my way across that finish line!