Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pain and Emotions part 2

Giving more thought to this subject, I often do things first, then think back and learn from them, instead of learning in the process. I train a psychiatrist, Dr. T, who is also fascinated with how we, as people, deal with pain. His perception is that this trait comes more naturally to me whereas most need to think about "how to deal" first. I don't know if that's the situation or if I'm just dense. Thinking back to my second IM, I mentioned in my last post that I was more nervous and scared having already experienced the pain I was about to put myself through. I asked some women with a few kids which was worse, pain and anguish wise, their first or second pregnancy? All of them said without a doubt, their second because they were anticipating the pain they remembered so well from their first birth. The pain of an Ironman is simple I suppose compared to what women must go through during childbirth. Anyway, I got through my second IM by focusing on the process, thinking about the finish line, thinking about the feeling the Sunday after the Saturday race while lying on the beach. I also stayed in the moment on race day and tried not to focus on what was still left to do in the race. I've mentioned before that if you are at mile 78 on the bike and you are thinking that you still have to ride 34 more miles then run 26.2, you are in some deep shit. I didn't have a plan though to focus on these things I've mentioned. they just happened on race day and I've used these mental tools in all my later Ironmans. Perhaps some may benefit from learning this ahead of time rather than searching for something to focus on on race day.

The other interesting situation that I have encountered is that every time I have had a let down, race wise, I've followed this up with a stellar (for me anyway) performance. This usually happens with me in life in general. Take the 98' Hawaii IM; I was in great condition and going back for my third race on the Big Island. I caught bronchitis on the flight out that got worse as the race became closer. On race day, I made it 1/2 way through the bike and pulled over in a cough fit and shivering even though it was 90+ degrees out. My day was over. Reflecting back on my 98' race, I started to get a bit overconfident and take things for granted. I didn't get the sleep I needed before the long flight and trained harder than I should have in the taper mode. I was depressed for some time after the race until I shifted my focus from my past, most recently participated in race, to my next, big race goal. Long story short, I was very focused, learned from my mistakes, and in the 99' Hawaii IM, I set a pr including a fast marathon in tough conditions. Same thing in 2002, when I blew up bad at St. Croix. About two months later, I had a huge day at the Buffalo Springs 1/2, placing 1st amateur and second overall. It's funny, no matter how deep my resume goes, it seems that I'm only as good as my last race. Thinking about this now, I need to figure out this state that I create when I'm coming off a downer experience. I need to figure out how to create it regardless of my past performance or present situation.

Speaking of the present, or just past, we had a great ride on Sunday morning around Lake Warmaug. Greg P. and a group from Bethel Cycle showed up and we kept the pace conversational on the way out, although I told Lisa I'd be back by 10:30am, so I upped the ante a bit on the way home. I'm still surprised more don't take advantage of a group ride, especially those here who have the opportunity to ride around Lake Warmaug.

Next week is the LP camp. I have a great group of 16 attending. I will be blogging daily from there, and I'll recruit a few of the campers to post as well. I will also be writing up an article for the home page about the bike and run course at LP and how to break it down and race it optimally.



Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pain, emotions, blah, blah, blah

My first Ironman in 96' is still very vivid in my memory. I remember reading beforehand that an IM is a test of mental strength and fortitude, one that forces you into deep, dark places of your mind. That it'll become a huge metaphor for how you deal with life. I remember thinking "puhleeze! Give me a break. Sure it's a tough event, but it's just that, an event." Of course I was a naive, cocky young bastard back then. Now I'm not so naive and not so young. During the race, the swim was not bad, the bike was challenging for sure, but I felt pretty good. Then, the marathon. I felt like crap right from the beginning and then my stomach started to go south. It was close to 100 degrees and humid, and I still had 22 miles to run. Doubt started to creep in, and the pain started to become immense. My emotions were getting the best of me. I was going through the self sympathy mentally, with the devil on one shoulder doing her best to convince me to "just stop and end the pain!" Every step hurt like hell and I told myself 10K in, 12K in, 15K in, ... that I would never do another IM. I couldn't wait to finish and I did whatever I could to mask the thoughts in my mind. I did whatever I possibly could to make that pain disappear for even a minute. I was definitely in that deep, dark mental place that forces you to show what your made of. 5K to go and it still seemed like forever, yet in 3 miles I'd be done and never, ever do this stupid event again. Every step sent pain through my aching quads. The blisters were so bad that I had to run on the outer edges of both feet. My stomach was gnarly and not absorbing any nutrition or fluids I was forcing in. And my head was about to explode from the pressure of the sun beating down on me. Then, the last 1/2 mile came. Everything disappeared. I didn't want the race to end. The emotions did a 180, as well as the pain, and I was on cloud 9. I had to somehow get back to this event! I couldn't wait to start my training to qualify again for 97'.

So I rode that cloud for awhile and then qualified to compete in my second Hawaii the following year in 97'. The problem is that as the race got closer, I was scared. The pain and negative emotions of 96' were prevalent in my conscious, and I couldn't escape them. The thought of putting myself through this pain again was anything but pleasant. To deal with these negetive emotions, I would divert. I would focus more on the last 1/2 mile of the race and on the excitement of traveling back to this great Island. This, for the most part, worked, and I had a solid race in what were some extremely extreme conditions even for this race. (1997 and 2004 were the worst two years weather wise on race day in Hawaii).

As I've matured, I've learned that pain is best handled by not diverting or masking, but by rather tackling it head on. I was raised a catholic however I'm not very religous. But I do believe in this buddhist trait. Buddhism accepts and perhaps even proclaims the fact that life inevitably involves and requires suffering. This, however, is merely the first step. Only after we accept and take this step which is truly accepting the reality that life does and must contain pain, suffering and loss – can we hope to transcend it. One might indeed ask whether a life without an awareness , recognition, and a “respect” for suffering can be anything but a rather empty and shallow existence. Can we really connect to the suffering of others if we have not suffered ourselves? Perhaps we should not be afraid to suffer but welcome each opportunity as a means of deepening our consciousness and our real connection to others. No, I'm not becoming a Buddhist! I have learned that by dealing with pain instead of masking it, I have grown.

On a smaller scale, Many of us "overthink" our training sometimes, and let it de-motivate or get the best of us. I have many clients that will justify missing training. It's easy to talk yourself out of something. During these moments, stop thinking about it, change your clothes, begin the training session and focus on the process - the biomechanics, the simpleness. Before you know it, the session is almost done and the impending guilt of missing a training session or justifying to yourself why you missed it is irrelevant. The same with racing. What are your true fears in a race? Deal with them head on and the race will be all that more fulfilling. I'm not saying that if the swim terrifies you, line up front and center at the next mass start race. But be smart, seed yourself accordingly, and focus on the process. Talking yourself out of racing can happen easily. Facing the challenge head on is where the reward and growth comes in.

Hope some of this kind of makes sense. Because if it does, this thinking opens up the door for huge gains in ability and growth.



Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy Anniversary Lisa

Lisa and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary this week. As I mentioned in a previous blog, these have become great journals for myself, so this blog is about her. If you don't want to be bored with this stuff, you can stop reading this one now.

Lisa and I met in college and have had an amazing journey thus far. We have been through the typical 13 year anniversary items like becoming homeowners twice and having kids. One thing that we have both been adamant about since having kids is getting away together at least one time each year to reconnect with each other. Truth be told, we spend quite a bit of time together and we actually really enjoy each others company. We have been on some incredible adventures together. She has been with me through 9 Ironmans. Hawaii is an incredible race, but one of the main reasons I like it so much is that Lisa and I really make the most of the trip and have such a great time after the race there. We have repelled down a 90 foot cliff inside a cave, have whitewater rafted on class V rapids, and rode horses through amazing mountainsides. We have explored some beautiful unknown beaches, climbed the Pyrenees (myself on a bike, her in a car!) and laughed our way through the Louvre. In fact, the thing that we do the most with each other is laugh. Yes, we have been on some life changing adventures, but the bottom line is that we can have a lot of fun just hanging out on the sofa at home watching TV. How cool is that?! She's just an amazing person, mother and spouse and I am extremely lucky - simple as that.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Close Call

I'm contemplating racing a duathlon this weekend although my allergies have been on fire the past few days leaving me a bit drained. I finally finished building up my race bike and thought I should get out on it at least once or twice before racing on it. Today was a gorgeous weather day and I had a small window to sneak in a ride, so I took advantage and headed out. Up untill now, I had only been on my road bike outdoors. Indoors on the computrainer, I ride in a time trial position. I find the combination of switching back and forth between positions suits me well. Plus, when I do get on my tri bike outside, it feels fast! I headed out over some rolling hills at first and the bike felt great - my position felt comfortable, yet powerful and I felt very aerodynamic. About 20 minutes into the ride, there is a steep, short hill that I usually jump out of the saddle and jam up over. I wanted to see how solid this bike was with some serious torque on it, so I hit the base of the hill with some speed and as my right pedal came over the top and was in the 1 o'clock position, I jumped out of the saddle and applied a great deal of force to the pedals. Immediately, I heard a big CRACK as my right leg jerked downward and I slammed my inner thigh into the top tube. Two inches to the left and I would have been castrated. My bike dropped quickly to the left and I swerved and leaned to right myself. I still don't know how I stayed up. The axle on my pedal snapped in half, as you can easily see in the above pictures. The return trip turned out to be a killer left leg workout! Next time you get a chance, try riding uphills with one leg unclipped and you'll see the challenge here.
Thankfully, I came out unscathed. I just had a conversation with a buddy of mine this weekend - he was checking out my bike and asked why I was using the heavier chromoly pedal set instead of their light weight titanium one. I mentioned that I don't trust some light weight products. He came back with the fact that their is no rider weight limit on their titanium ones, to which I replied that I didn't care, I still didn't want to take the chance. Three days later, my steel pedal snapped! In all fairness to the pedal company, I have been riding these pedals for three seasons now and I am pretty abusive on my equipment. Recently I gave up on carbon seatposts and stems, just not wanting to take a chance of these two components breaking. When they go, the accident caused is usually quite severe. The funny thing is that you can get stronger aluminum stems and seatposts that are actually lighter than carbon - but carbon is "sexy", carbon sells. I will definitely analyze my equipment more thoroughly and more often from now on.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Personal Training

After 18+ years of training people, I have seen my fair share of "entertaining" situations. I have witnessed a few decent treadmill wipeouts, thankfully none that I personally caused. If you ever want to be entertained, give someone a physioball that has never used one and sit back and watch.

Lisa often brings up the funniest situation I have ever seen. She does so because it always gets me laughing uncontrollably. She brought it up recently, and I thought I'd write about it even though it will display a twisted sense of humor. But hey, I'll take one for the team because there are a few of you out there that I know will enjoy this story. Yes, that's you Molson.

About seven years ago, I was working with this nice woman. She was overweight and had bad knees, making it difficult to maneuver quickly, or even slowly. I brought her through a solid workout, and finished up with some assisted stretching. I then told her to take her time getting up. She rolled over onto her stomach and then got on all fours. This is where it gets interesting.

She had a large black standard poodle. I won't incriminate with names here and god I hope she never by chance happens to read my blog. If she does though, she has to realize the humor in this. That's how I justify telling the story.

Again, with the weight and bad knees, she moves very slow. While catching her breath on all fours and getting ready for the next move which I would guess is to get one leg under her so she could stand, her large standard male black poodle races up behind her. He then moves into position, front paws firmly on her upper back, and begins gyrating the hips faster than a jack hammer.

All this happened so fast yet lasted a lifetime. Me the idiot just stood there and watched. The right move might have been to yank the dog off of her but no, this was to good. Instead I was probably thinking "where's Baker with the video camera when you need him?!" She kept yelling "no" at the dog, but it kept going. That poodle is a stud!

I was trying so hard not to laugh that I was shaking and tears were in my eyes. She finally somehow got the dog off of her and we were going to do some upper body stretches while she was standing, but I couldn't stop laughing. I swear the poodle was smoking a cigarette in the corner afterwards. I finally just said to her, "listen, I think it's best if I go now."

For the next three or four days, I'd be working with a client, or at the grocery store, or out for a run, and just start laughing uncontrollably. In fact, to this day, I could think of that situation and just loose it. I know, not very mature, but I think most in this situation would have reacted just as I had. At least that's how I justify it.



Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Great Wednesday!

I had a few clients away today and I knew the weather was going to be great so I took the afternoon off to get in some training. I've been focusing this season on gaining back some lost speed. Focusing on Ironmans for 10 years can dull the sharpness. The day here was ideal - high 70's and sunny. I began with a run; out and back including a very tough ridge to go over 5 minutes and 55 minutes in. I ran out at a steady pace, in my mid to upper B zone. I arrived at the base of a short, steep hill, 26 minutes into the run. I then did 10 X 20 seconds bounding hill reps, focusing on my form and treating these like a plyometric exercise, and jogging easily back down the hill for recovery. After the tenth, I ran easily for 5 minutes to recover, then ran tempo in c until I was 1/2 a mile out from the big hill, I ran easy until the base, then hammered up the long hill going into my D zone. I finished the run at an easy effort over the last 5 minutes, changed quickly into my bike clothes, and headed out on a 35 mile loop.

I like reverse bricks occasionally. They are very beneficial in that you can get in some great quality and form focus for both the run and ride. Usually in a regular brick, the run form or quality is sacrificed due to riding first. Both bricks have there part in a training program. I rode at 90+ rpm's in high B for the first 20 minutes over rolling terrain to the base of a big climb, then stayed seated and hammered up the climb, averaging between 400 and 450 watts. At the 45 minute mark, I spun easily for 10 minutes and drank a full bottle of gatorade and then I rode tempo back. I came through Sandy Hook up route 34 and then up Toddy Hill Rd. I have a love hate relationship with Toddy Hill Rd. It begins with a solid 1 mile climb. Two years ago in the early season, I rode over this in my big chainring and I vowed to never drop into my small ring on this road at that time. Stupid, stubborn, foolish me has seriously kept that vow, as though breaking it may make me soft or bring bad luck. I know, foolish. Some days, I ride up it with strength and spring, attacking it, and then there is the return trip on the Vermont rides when I do everything possible to stay in that damn big ring and get up the damn hill. Today, I had the strength! I flew up it seated, only standing at the crest. The road then rolls upwards at a lesser grade for another mile and a half, and then there is a fast descent where if you know the lines, you don't have to brake and can even pass cars.

This was a great double session that left me wasted. The kind of drained that I haven't felt in awhile from shorter training. I've felt this in the past few years, but usually after longer training days. It's that cool spent feeling where you feel tired to the bone and a bit lightheaded. The day told me two things - my fitness is pretty good right now, and I need more of these sessions!



Sunday, May 04, 2008

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Ellison

Lisa and I had the honor of attending Gus and Laura's wedding this weekend. We even had the privledge of sitting with the bride and groom at the reception, although I just think it was so that Gus could keep an eye on me. He didn't want me making up any good stories for the new relatives.
I began coaching Gus probably four or five years ago and he's become a great friend. He and Laura make a terrific couple, and we couldn't be happier for them.