Monday. Well made it through Training Camp #4, slightly sore this morning but I’ve lived through worse. Not pain, just a little stiffness and nothing my massage gal Lesley can’t fix up (Lucky for meI had scheduled a massage before I left just in case!) On a scale of 1-10 I would say the first day appeared to be a 7 — above average hard but nothing I felt wiped out about or couldn’t do. The run on Sunday might have been the hardest run I’ve ever done, giving it a 9 because 10’s are reserved for future challenges.
My difficulties were due not so much to the terrain but due more to the residual muscle fatigue and the cold, cold (okay throw another cold in there) weather. The casual observer might think tieing tires to our waists and running while dragging them up a mountain would be the hard part — honestly I think the weather was the hard part. It taxed every part of me — mind, body and spirit. Good thing I came well equipped right off of a great WW meeting on Friday that in a weird way got me through the camp.
Friday was a special meeting at Weight Watchers — we said goodbye to one of our members who is moving to Colorado (Bolder Boulder run in our future?) We’ve become more than a meeting group, more than a therapy group, we really root for one another and have each other’s backs so I would call us more like a family. Two years now I’ve been going to my Friday morning meetings. I was actually up .2 pound this week but I’m okay with it — I have a feeling this week we’ll see me down. (It’s a recoveryish week in training and I always seem to lose weight during recovery weeks — will expand on my theory as to why that is another time.)
The Bee story (you know by all principles of aerodynamics the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly but nobody told the bee so it does anyway) has become a kind of mantra for our group. One of the gals has labeled us the hive, we keep coming up with corny sayings like “Be the Bee” and “Bee-lieve.” Soon we will have gone over the edge with abusing this metaphor but for right now we are getting our money’s worth out of it. Before leaving for out west, our friend made us all book marks with an illustration of a hive and some inspirational quotes on it. It’s really lovely so I’ve attached it to the handle bar of my refrigerator right above my picture of Natasha Badmann (a great Ironman Athlete who inspires me because she is always smiling — and winning!)
As usual when someone leaves the group we start to ask them for some parting wisdom and then we all start throwing out our own pearls. Sometimes something sticks for all the right reasons. We talked about the technique of the one-minute-motivator (what do you want to have happen? what must you do to make that happen? can you? will you?) It’s a very powerful technique that I have learned can get you out of more than just an eating slump — you can use it for anything.
One of the gals shouted out “Feedback, not Failure.” We talked a bit about separating actions from identity. For example there is a big difference between saying, “I’m an overeater” — that’s an identity, vs. “Last night I overate” which is an action. If you identify yourself as an overeater that’s what you become. (Remember what you focus on expands!) But if you look at one night out at Babo as an special event or that tub of Ben & Jerry’s as an anomily instead of a usual behavior — that’s different. You can be a healthy and strong person who has an occasional meeting with a bag of Doritos. Okay, okay everyone knows none of those are my vices so let’s be honest — you can still be a healthy and strong person with an occasional visit to the wine and cheese bar (still off limits for me right now though.) Can you beleive I approaching 2 months without one sip of red wine? Unheard of!!!
I bring this all up not because I’ve been bingeing — actually I’ve been doing okay food-wise. Rather I bring up Feedback not Failure because this weekend I had to have some real conversations with myself on the trails. In the end I was okay with myself which is a success in itself.
Saturday we started with an hour Core session. We reviewed all the family favorites, planks, abdominal compression, situp/rollup variations, bridges, etc. I’m still at a loss to figure out why I can do a plank in my living room better than I can at practice, but okay, I’m going to let that one go. I’m definitely having side-plank issues so I better get back on those right away. I’ve been concentrating so much on my pushups that, oops, I forgot to throw in side planks (yeah, big accidental oversight…)
After the core session we set up our bikes for an indoor training session. The goal was to start doing some over-gearing (putting ourselves into harder gears than usual) to fatigue and eventually strengthen the muscles. The idea is we learn to run through fatigue. We also did some step ups on the bike (increase and decrease gears) to practice controlling our heartrates at different levels. I’m actually starting to get the hang of this although I don’t get my heartrate up as high on the bike as I do out running. I think this is one of my issues of heartrate vs muscular strength. Like last Thursday in the park, I had more muscle to give but no more heartrate (my heart was about to explode but my legs really wanted to pound a little harder). In the indoor training session, my legs were maxing out on the harder gears — I had nothing left to give after awhile, but my heartrate was lower. I’m still working on reconciling all of this and I think I have to use my breathing as a guide right now until I get it all figured out. Overall I think I did the training session as prescribed — 2 hours of good work.
Then we went outside for a run. We jogged about 5 minutes to a starting point where we started a series of out and back runs. Up a little hill, onto a flat and back down. As soon as I exited the building, I was aware of something really different. My legs felt fine. Usually after I get off the bike I have a good 20 minute adjustment period before I can even feel them. But on Saturday I went right into a little 1-2-3-4 and had no problem maintaining it. I practiced what Charlee and I did last week which was to keep my heartrate at the same rate regardless of what the terrain was and no matter how slow I had to go. I did that well. I kept it at 143 going uphill, on the flat and back down. It was a short enough course that I could get down the hill before my heart rate started to drop. I wasn’t going fast (feedback not failure) but I was very even, painfree and in control. So that was good.
After about 40 minutes of running we ran back up to the training room and did another 10 minutes on the bike just to loosen up our legs. Day one of training camp workouts were over and I immediately started to feel guilt. Uh oh. I’m not wiped out, I’m not exhausted like I usually am (remember last week when I felt so tired after a 1 hour swim and 2 hour bike)? Now I feel fine, more than fine. I felt zippy. Guilt started to settle in. I must not have worked hard enough. Usually the idea of eating dinner with the team is just too much for me after one of our workout days — I just want to read a book and go to bed. But I felt like I could go play Tennis or go shopping — I still had a lot of energy and that was making me worried. I don’t want to miss out on the goal of the workout. I thought I should be more tired.
We had a nice team dinner and I was very aware that I wasn’t remotely tired which was worrying me — please God, don’t do this, let me sleep this weekend please…. They started talking about the following day’s workout and they are going to split us into teams of 3. The three people on the team will alternate dragging a tire while running up the mountain (this is the mountain that just goes up hill all the way — not flat parts like the other one we did). Okay, believe it or not the dragging the tire didn’t bother me. I’ll do anything assigned — I may not be fast but I’ll do it. The part that bothered me was I didn’t want to let down some teammates who would be much faster and held up by me.
When they announced the partners they gave me Nathan and Stacey and I knew it would be alright because even though I am always saying that every single person on our team is so nice, Nathan and Stacey are super, super nice — and tough!! Nathan a workhorse — he could pull that tire all the way up the mountain on his own and still probably beat most everyone. Stacey has done the ironman and has been very sympathetic to me telling me she was a slow runner last year and always very nice and encouraging. I immediately started to think about what I could bring to the team. I couldn’t keep up with them even on my best day and their worst days I would be so far behind them. I decided that the one thing I could bring to the team was a plan — I may not be fast but strategy I got. I am all about the properly planned and paced race. I may not come in first, but I will cross the finish line using every dirty little trick I have to come up with.
So in the morning I gather Nathan and Stacey and tell them my plan. I’m going to start the pull because that would probably be the only time I can keep up with them, with me pulling. Stacey keeps running ahead, Nathan runs with me. After 5 minutes, Nathan takes over the tire and runs until he catches Stacey. Then Stacey takes the tire for 5 minutes while Nathan runs an out and back. In theory if I hustle I hopefully can catch up to Stacey while she is pulling the tire. Unfortuantely I wasn’t able to catch her, but I had told them to keep going and if I had to meet them on the way down that’s what I would do.
So I started with the tire pull. I was starting on a little down hill so I started running as fast as I could. I think a little too fast because my heartrate went through the roof. I figured okay for five minutes, for my teammates, I’ll kill myself. It was the longest five minutes I could imagine. Because in addition to the tire, I discovered that my legs were like lead posts. Both my quads and my hamstrings felt like huge iron slabs tied to my legs. Well, I guess I did work hard enough yesterday afterall because I can’t move. My lungs were frozen, the temp was really cold and I thought once I started moving I would be better but I couldn’t tell if my legs were lead from yesterday’s workout or just frozen slabs. OMG, this was going to be a hard workout. I know how hard it was for me to get up that mountain last time when we did it as the first thing of the weekend. Now I have to do it with fatigued legs, cold air and a tire. Oh God, they shoot horses, don’t they?
Nathan, Stacey and pretty much the whole team were gone from sight pretty fast. Then I saw that I wasn’t that far behind one of the teams when the road did a switchback. Okay, revised goal number one. I can’t catch Nathan and Stacey, let me just try to catch the next group. Just try to catch them. My legs won’t move, my lungs won’t open, I still feel like I’m pulling the tire even though the tire is long gone. I’m carrying my water bottle and Stacey’s water bottle in a fuel belt but I don’t even feel them. I’m just trying to drag these two logs I call legs up the mountain. Oh God, what am I going to do?!?!?
That’s when my WW group came to my rescue. I heard everyone’s voices from Friday chiming in with all kinds of encouragement. There was a literal buzz in my head when I then clearly heard one of the voices say “what do you want to have happen?” Ah, the one minute motivator. Okay, okay, let’s try to work this out. What do I want to have happen? I want to catch up to my team. What do you have to do to make that happen? I have to get up that mountain as fast as I can. How are you going to do that? Well it’s not going to be by this little jog that I’m doing because that is getting me nowhere. I’m going to have to open up my stride and walk as fast as I can with as big a stride as I can. Can you? Yes. Will you? Yes. So that’s what I did. I stopped the little jog and started to stride very long strides. I definitely started covering more distance. Okay good, so far so good. I’m covering more distance.
But then I looked at my heart rate. Ugh, it dropped to 126. That’s not the goal. The goal is to work hard while we are fatigued. Catching up with my team is really NOT the goal afterall. The goal is to get up that mountain working hard. Okay, okay, revamp. I am going to have to start running to get my heartrate up. So I did the old, pick a pair of trees and start running. I found a nice straight incline up that I remember I definitely ran last time so I said “okay, from here to the top of that corner, run until you get your heartrate back up to 145.” So I started running and then I when I go to the top I did the old walk one minute with wide steps and run two minutes to keep my heart rate up. Then I started to get a groove and I looked at my watch it was thirty minutes. Okay thirty minutes it took me to get warmed up. Some of the people are probably already at the top. But I had a plan, I knew my goals and that was what I was focussed on. Now I was able to keep running and I was at a respectable heartrate (145) and not tiny-tiny steps, just small steps.
Then pretty soon the first team started coming down. It was Dennis. My God he is so fast. He was just whipping down that mountain like there was no tire attached to him at all. He is just a wall of lean muscle. His teammates were struggling to keep up with him. Ooph. Then the next group came and the next group. All of sudden there was my team! Nathan and Stacey.
When I reached them, Nathan dropped the tire and gave it to me and we sent Stacey ahead like before. So now Nathan is running next to me and I’m all warmed up and now we are running downhill with the tire. So now I need a new goal. I decide that for five minutes nobody is going to catch up with me. I am going to keep us ahead of the next team if it kills me. We start running down the hill and I’m just praying to God that I don’t fall flat on my face because I’m trusting Charlee who’s words are echoing in my ear “just let the hill do the work, fall into it.” I’m figuring okay maybe the tire will help me a little so I try to fall a little into the tire.
Then Nathan says 1 more minute, 1 more minute. I turn to look behind me and I see Jen pulling her tire rounding the corner with her partner Mike. I let out a little scream and start running wildly down the hill. Jen sees I am trying to out run her for one minute and she starts to chase me. So I’m running like I’m ten years old with three brothers chasing me across the field and for 60 seconds which is all I have left in me I just run as hard as I can until Nathan yells done and I drop the tire and Jen runs past me. We are all laughing at our 1 minutes race but now Nathan and Mike pick up the tires and they start racing each other down the hill and in less than an instant they are out of sight…. So fast, they are soooo fast.
So now I just continue down the mountain with my regular pace. I’m still trying to learn to run downhill without slamming my legs. I’m not delicate enough yet. It like the difference between standing at net and hitting balls without moving vs. dancing on your feet and hitting balls. In the end you hit more balls when you are dancing on your feet. But I’m trying to dance but I only know how to dance laterally, I don’t know how to dance forward. I figured I’ll just make it to the bottom and keep running until someone tells me to stop. But then all of a sudden I see Nathan and Stacey coming back up the mountain. What are they doing? Are the coaches making us do the mountain again? That can’t possibly be. When they reach me I ask them where are they going? They said “to get you.” I was so taken aback. That was the nicest thing I could imagine. I felt a little lump in my throat that they would be so kind.
Nathan tells me that they dropped the tire a little ways down the trail and they had run back UPHILL to get me (Okay, I’m not sure I could have run back uphill to get anyone). They both ran with me down the hill encouraging me to run faster. Then Nathan said “here comes the next team, c’mon let’s get to the tire before they reach us.” So, motivated by short points (that’s why I think I would do well at Lake Placid if my friends just keep throwing tennis balls in front of me along the marathon route) I start running harder down hill to get to the tire. But the tire is gone! Someone took it — probably thinking we abandoned it. We are all disappointed because we all wanted me to finish the last part with the tire.
Then Stacey grabbed her water bottle from the fuel belt I was wearing which sparked my idea. I said, “Nathan, you’ll be my tire! Grab my fuel belt and I’ll pull you down the moutain.” So Nathan grabs my fuel belt but he’s not pulling hard enough. I tell him to really pull and then I feel like I am dragging a car behind me. It was much harder than the tire. I was pulling and pulling going down hill and I can feel my heart rate going up and up and up. Then finally when I couldn’t pull one more second I said “Okay!” And he let me run free and for one second I was doing okay. But my heartrate was through the roof. I told them to run ahead I would catch up to them on the road after I picked up the pieces of my lungs on the trail (we are not supposed to leave anything behind.)
Then I jog back to the road chatting with one of the coaches and I realize my heartrate is high and my legs are still frozen and my watch still only says 1:17 and I know we are doing 2:15. Rut ro, can I really run for another hour? I’m really ready to go home, really. I’ve worked hard. I get the point of the workout. My muscles are fatigued, I just don’t know how in the world I am going to do another hour running.
Then coaches send us out on the road to run 1.2 miles down and 1.2 miles back. I’m definitely doing a 12+ minute mile here and I’m really hurting. So again I try to refocus. What do you want to have happen? I want to keep running for the entire time, I don’t care how slow, I just want to run. What do you have to do to make that happen? I have to think hips, hips, hips, feet, feet, feet, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. No matter what don’t stop, no matter what. Can you? Yes. Will you. Yes.
Then I see the other teammates coming back from their out and back. I know their faces pretty well by now. None of them look happy. Every single one of them looks in pain. Okay, okay, well I’m not suffering alone — everybody is miserable. Instead of the normal “you look great! and great job!” I usually get from everyone, I’m getting little nods of the head and occasional grunts. I start to feel sorry for everyone. My pain starts to go away a little worried about them. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. I’m probably not counting at the right speed but I’m counting. The littlest bumps seem like big hills and finally I make it to the stop sign and make sure I pass it just to let it know who’s boss and turn around back. I reach one of the teammates what was stretching at the stop sign (a luxury there was no way I could afford, if I stopped for one second I was going to be out for the count.) I said “that was the longest 1.2 miles I have every run.” He nodded in painful agreement.
I would like to know the law of physics that allows there to be all uphills in one direction and all uphills in the return direction? Where are the downhills? This is not the first time I have been faced with this phenomenon. I thought I had been running up little bumps on that 1.2 mile. How is it I turn around and all I see are little hills up all the way back? I just keep going. I’m not thinking Ironman, I’m not thinking of anything long-term. My entire goal in life is to get up that little stinking hill 100 yards ahead of me and to that little bridge overhead. It’s the distance from “here to Daniel Webster” (an old joke from a race when Melissa was trying to tell me it was short distance when I thought it seemed long.) I finally got to the bridge and said DONE!! I jogged up to my car and dumped the water bottle and holder and headed back to the start point when Michelle said “we have 15 more minutes.” Oh Lord, I looked at my watch and realized she was right.
I started to head out for a seven minutes out and back when it occurred to me that I had had to walk up the the little hill at the start of the trail twice. Once during the warmup and once when we were returning from the trail run. It made me kind of mad that I was going to leave that workout after working so hard but that little bump had beaten me yet again. (It’s like that annoying little bump up to finish the marathon in Central Park — deceivingly annoying.) So I turned around and headed back to that hill. I decided I would be victorious over this workout if I ran down that little bump and back up it. So that’s what I did. It really, really hurt but I felt I needed to do it. To remind myself of why I was out there — to leave no challenge unaccepted. I did it to leave nothing out there, to leave everything out there, for my WW buddies, for my teammates for my everyone who shows loyalty and support in this crazy effort I am undertaking. I did it for me.
Our final assignment was to go back to the hotel and do a final spin on our bikes (coaches decided too cold for effective spin on the roads). Michelle and I hooked up our trainers in her room. We moaned and groaned a bit — it hurt to climb back on the bike and I could barely spin my wheels for the first ten minutes but then they loosened up. Then fini, complete, done!! Yeah!!! Training camp #4 under our belt.
So was I pleased with my performance? Yes and no. Of course I was sad that I wasn’t faster, that I didn’t plow up that mountain and keep up with someone, anyone, even a blowing leaf, but I conquered a lot of demons out there. I fended the castle from the dragons of defeat. I refused to quit which is always big in my book. And I think I used my head to strategically make the best out of a painful situation. So for that I am pleased.
Back to the idea of action vs. identity. Yes, I ran slowly but for now on I am not going to say I am a slow runner. I am going to say I am a determined runner. I may run slow on certain days but I may surprise a few people come race day. Because I’m developing another muscle — one that can pull me even further than my quads or hamstrings — I’m developing the determination muscle. So when I’m going up the degree of difficulty at Lake Placid on race day, I know I will find the wherewithall to think it out and say “So what do you want to have happen?” I want to make it into that oval ring before the clock stops. “What do you have to do to make that happen?” I have to get up and over that hill without stopping — I have to keep moving. “Can you do it?” Yes. “Will you do it?” Yes. Emphatically yes.
“When the soul is well nourished the body wants for little….”
from my WW group buddy