Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bike Maintenance 101

I depend on the Husband during every training ride.  He chooses the length and route, he leads and I follow, and I know that he'll be there if I need him.  Of course he'll be there if I do something stupid and tip over in the parking lot, but he's also there to fix flat tires and put the chain back on if it falls off.

But not on race day.  It's all me.  If I get a flat, I've got to fix it, or the race is over.  And I've worked too hard for that.  So that gave me a little motivation to learn something that I care absolutely nothing about.  Replacing a tube. 

Last weekend I took Bike Maintenance 101, which was taught by a very patient Husband.  He's been repairing bikes since he was a kid, so he knows the official names for parts like the poky thingy, the spiky thingy, the clicker changer thingy, and the whirly thingy.  But even more important than that, he knows what to do when the parts don't do what they're supposed to do.

I knew I had to learn this stuff before the triathlon, but since I had an opportunity to ride with a friend this week I had to learn sooner than later.  I'd be the one leading this ride, so I needed to be ready in case anything went wrong.

So the Husband took me to REI and I got my own little bike purse.

Or "gear bag".  I was hoping for a pink one, but it's the perfect size for my repair gear, my iPhone, and a pink lip gloss.

And we got this cool tire inflator that works with a CO2 cartridge.  I just love gadgets, and although I prefer gadgets that work in the kitchen, I was quite impressed with this one.  With one squeeze of the trigger my tire inflated perfectly!  Fun!

Finally I got something pink.  The tire pryer, or the "tire lever". 

Oh yes, and the new inside tire, or "tube".

So, I practiced in the comfort of my living room, I passed the Husband's test, and I was ready for my first ride without him.  Although I'm armed with a little knowledge and hands-on experience, I still hope I never have to fix a flat tire at the side of the road!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My First (and hopefully ONLY) Crash

When I started training for the triathlon, the Husband told me that it's not a matter of if I will crash on the bike, but when I will crash.  Yesterday, I had my crash.  And I'm really hoping it counts.

As we were swimming laps, I kept seeing the sky getting darker and darker.  I was really hoping that we could finish our swim before hearing thunder followed by lifeguard whistles.  Thankfully, we finished that portion of our training and headed out to get our bikes.  Maybe my mind was on the fact that the hot and humid morning was starting to feel cooler, and that the wind offering respite from the heat was most likely going to be followed by a nasty storm.  Maybe, just maybe, my mind wasn't completely focused on the mechanics of riding...or even on the balance required to start riding.  Maybe I was a little preoccupied with that unsettling feeling that maybe we wouldn't be finishing the ride that we had planned for that day.  Or maybe it was just the time for my crash. 

Even though the dark clouds continued to roll in, we decided to at least start the ride.  (I suggested a Starbucks stop until the storm passed through, but the pavement would still be wet afterward, and we'd have to tone down the pace anyway.  And what training benefit would there be to riding at a slow pace just to get in the training time?  We agreed that it was all out now or not at all.)  I snapped my shoe into the pedal and BAM!

 I don't even remember the falling part.  I just remember realizing that I couldn't twist my cycling shoe out of the clipless pedal fast enough.  But I do remember the landing part.  It was mostly on my left palm and forearm.  And then what hit even harder than my body on the pavement was the realization that I had just had my crash.  IN THE PARKING LOT!  And if that wasn't bad enough, I wasn't even RIDING!  My first crash wasn't even bragworthy!  I had stepped into the left pedal, lifted my right foot off the ground, and before I could even fumble for the right pedal, I fell hard to the left.  How humiliating!  As I wiped off the blood from my knee, I must have apologized a hundred times to the Husband for ruining our transition time.  (If you know the Husband, you know that he was more annoyed by my apologies than anything else.)  I couldn't believe what a stupid mistake I had just made.  And we didn't have time for stupidity.  We had a storm to beat!

I tried to laugh about my idiotic crash as we started off.  It was mere minutes before the sprinkles began.  A few miles in and the sprinkles turned to rain.  Any hopes of a long ride were dashed as the rumble of thunder quickly followed.

You know that I am completely driven by "the plan".  The schedule dictated an 80 minute ride, and now the weather was, once again, interfering with my plan.  How dare it!

Should we continue?  Should we just bike laps through the local neighborhood and keep it close to the truck?  The transition from rain to downpour quickly made it clear that we were done for the day.

I was one very unhappy rider.  Not only did I have a ridiculous first crash, but now I couldn't even finish the training ride.  I don't even think we made it five miles.

I suppose I should be thankful.  Considering the weather, the wet pavement, and the fact that only a tiny piece of rubber separated me from the pavement, I should actually be extremely grateful for many things:

1.  My injuries were minor.  (Yes, the bruising will be nasty, and the ache in my arm has now migrated to my shoulder and back, but I'm sure that will subside within days.)
2.  I fell by my truck, which amazingly comes with a comprehensive first aid kit.  (Apparently, Nissan understands the type who would buy an Xterra!)
3.  I have a training partner with common sense who shut down the ride when the rain picked up.  As much as I argued against turning back, he was right to call it.
4.  We made it back to the truck on wet, slick roads without further injuries.
5.  I'm going to believe that I've HAD my crash.  As embarrassing as it was, if you're going to crash, doesn't crashing at 0 mph sound ideal?

So, I'm thankful.  I'm a little achy.  I need help gripping to open a jar.  But I'm healthy, I'm safe, and I am ready for a great training week ahead.

Are you ready, Carla?  I have some miles to make up!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rest: The Key Element of Training

I was physically exhausted at the end of last week.  I pulled myself through that last brick workout and was thrilled at the prospect of a Sunday day of rest as well as a week ahead of scaling back.
But scaling back is hard for me, because as you know, I don't rest well.  You'd think that with a household that includes two super sleepers a little of that would rub off on me.

I started the week with what was supposed to be a shorter "long run".  But when I started down the path on Monday morning my legs felt so fresh from a day off that I didn't want to cut it short.  So I ran race distance.

On Tuesday, it felt strange to teach one spin class and have that be the end of my training for the day.  No extended ride, no run afterwards.  Just a 45-minute spin class.

The Husband kept me honest on Wednesday with our 45-minute swim.  It felt great, aside from the bath-like temperature of the water, but I would've gone longer if I had been alone.

On Thursday, again, I just taught my spin class, and it was really starting to get to me.  Triathlon training is supposed to be more intense than this!  I fought the urge to go for a run in the afternoon.  I felt discontent, grumpy, and just out of sorts.  It was almost the end of the week, and I wasn't sore or fatigued.  I was missing those tell-tale signs of progress.

These feelings are even stronger during tapering week right before a big race.  As hard as it is to train for an endurance event for 12 to 16 weeks, it's almost as difficult for me to endure the week of tapering.  At that point, I've worked so hard to build strength and endurance.  I feel so ready to get ON with the race.  So a week of scaling back and resting is torturous!  Light 3-mile jogs, brisk walks, and the dreaded days of no physical activity at all make me feel like I'm losing ground.  I start worrying that my muscles are atrophying, and that maybe I won't be able to ramp up the intensity after a week of slothfulness.

But I KNOW that rest is crucial to the training process. 

I saw the benefits of scaling back this morning during our 4-mile run.  We ran fast, I kept up with the Husband until he hit the turbo boost button at mile 3, and even then I ran faster than my typical pace.  After a week of lighter workouts, I felt fresh.  I usually start Friday's run with that "just make it through" mentality.  I show up to log the time as I will my tree trunk legs to take the next stride.  But today was different.  It was a solid run, and I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's brick.

I know enough about exercise physiology to give some good advice to those that I coach in fitness classes.  But I'm not very good at practicing what I preach.

I tell them to schedule 1-2 rest days each week, but I have a difficult time putting those days into my own weekly routine.  When we exercise, our muscles experience microtrauma, and we need time to allow them to repair and rebuild.  That's how we develop strength.  Without those rest days we are more prone to injury, and we sabotage our efforts to get stronger.  Our bodies also need time to replenish their energy stores.  So when we push, push, push, push, we are operating on energy deficits of muscle glycogen.  No wonder we feel so fatigued!  We may burn a few extra calories, but our muscles aren't rebuilding; our muscle mass is actually decreasing.  So over time, our overworked bodies become less effective and less efficient.  We are burning fewer calories and running the risk of injury which could take away the ability to exercise at all.

I also tell my fitness participants how important it is to get 8 hours of sleep each night.  And then I find myself settling for 6 or 7.  When we don't get adequate sleep, our bodies increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to weight gain.  In addition, our bodies decrease the production of human growth hormone, which is necessary for repairing tissue.  So if we aren't sleeping well, we are prone to weight gain, and our muscles aren't able to recover, leading to weaknesses that beg for overtraining injuries.  So turn off that television and get some sleep!

In addition, the greater the training intensity, the greater need we have for recovery.  So it's a good thing that I have a training partner who has developed a program that follows a periodization schedule.  You can not train with increased intensity over a long period of time.  You have to plan for cycles of intensity and periods of rest.

If we know the importance of rest, why do athletes feel guilty when we have a day off?  It's not ignorance, because we KNOW the value of rest.  But rest feels contrary to meeting the goals that are ahead of us.

How have we drawn the false conclusion that we must be going, going, going all of the time?  It's even biblical to have a day of rest.  It's not just right, it's mandated!  God programmed us to work six days and to rest on the seventh.  He even modeled it for us in His creation of the world.

Why do we ignore signs of malaise, fatigue, muscle soreness, and even mental fogginess?  I wish I had an answer for that.  (You all know that I'm blogging about this topic for the audience that needs it the most, right?  ME!)

So, hang up those running shoes for a day.

The cycling shoes and the goggles too.

The time will come when we're thankful that we listened to our bodies, exercise physiology, and the mandate of the Creator of the Universe.  And hopefully on the day that it counts, we'll be well-rested and ready to perform at our best.
"...And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment."  Luke 23:56b

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tough Training Week

Today ended my third week of training for the triathlon, and it was a tough one.  Each week we increase the training time and intensity by 5-10 percent.  Next week we will scale back and then start building again the following week.  My body is so ready for a week of scaling back.  I can't even tell you.

Yesterday I taught a 45 minute spin class and then immediately ran 4 miles.  I knew it would be a painful run, but I have to put myself through it in order to be ready for race day.  I can't remember when running 4 miles felt so horrible.  The first two miles were like running against the wind through sand.  The last two miles felt slightly faster, and the pain was less, but that's not surprising since I was so fatigued that my body just felt numb.

Today, we swam for 40 minutes and then biked 20 miles.  It was a rough 20 miles.  For me anyway.  The Husband seemed to do just fine.  My least favorite words of encouragement of the day were, "Get right behind me and draft up this hill!" as he quickly pulled further and further away.  I would have needed an electromagnet to catch his draft.

Most of my memories of this ride are of hearing my labored breathing, feeling soaked in the muggy heat, and seeing this.

I couldn't focus on the scenery or the wildlife.  Today, I just needed to get through it.

Pulling into the parking lot, there were no big smiles.  Just a huge sigh of relief.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Ripple in My Plans

Swimming this morning felt fantastic.  It was my first time back in the 50 meter pool since the dreadful diamond incident.  (Still no good news.)  I was in the pool before 6:00am, because today I had to swim for 60 minutes and make it to Young Scholars by 8:00.  We beat the swim team there, so the Husband and I even had a lane to ourselves.

My stroke felt strong.  The length of the pool wasn't overwhelming.  But as I picked up my head between strokes to breathe, I noticed an advancing ridge of dark clouds.  I know the rule.  If the lifeguards hear thunder or see lightning, the pool is closed.

I know my training is about time spend in each sport, and not the distance covered, but I started to swim a little faster anyway.  Could I at least finish race distance before the first rumble?


After 1350 meters I heard the whistles.  "Pool's closed!"  I finished my lap and looked at my watch.  But I had only completed 30 minutes!  I was only halfway done!

"What do we do about this?" I asked the Husband as I cleared the water from my ear and headed for my towel.

"Nothing.  We're done."

"Do we make up the time another day?" I asked, starting to mentally scroll through the schedule on my iPhone to see where I could fit in another swim.


"But, we're supposed to swim for 60 minutes," I said, starting to feel anxious.

"It's all a part of training."

"No!  The schedule says 60 minutes of swimming.  I only did 30!"  I was really bothered by this.

"Some days you follow the schedule, and some days you can't.  It's out of our control."

I was having a hard time dealing with this rude interruption in my training as well as in my day.  Then I realized that it wasn't just about the training schedule.  I have a hard time with a change of plans in general.

I'm a planner.  I put a lot of thought and effort into making my plans too.  So when life gets in the way and disrupts those carefully laid out plans, it really throws me off.

As I moaned about my frustration, I remembered Proverbs 16:9.  "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  How many plans have I made that were changed because of something I couldn't control?  And looking back, many of them were changed to a better plan, a plan that I could not have made on my own.

The Husband and I planned to run a full marathon last April.  We trained in the dark, bitter cold mornings of December and January.  We fought injuries that plagued us all through the month of February.  By the end of the month, we knew we had to let it go.  We were not going to run this marathon.  Oh, it hurt.  It hurt more than my aching hip to think of all the work that we did, and for what?

"But the Lord determines his steps."

Looking back, finishing our training for the full marathon would have been even more disappointing than stopping midway.

No one expected a line of storms to come through Nashville the morning of the Country Music Marathon.  No one expected them to be so severe that they'd reroute runners early to the finish line.  No one expected that their marathon medal would forever symbolize the fact that they had only finished 18 miles and not 26.2.  Now THAT would have been disappointing.

And that would have been US.

And, if not for my injury, I wouldn't have known the blessing of running the Half Marathon with Andrea.

So I didn't get to swim for 60 minutes today.  It's but a ripple in my plans.

I got to swim for 30, and it was a great 30.  Two weeks ago, swimming 30 felt like swimming upstream.  Today felt like jogging in the park.

And instead of dashing off to work after my swim, I had time to sit and enjoy breakfast with the Husband.

I'll keep making my plans, but I pray that God will always determine my steps.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mind Over Muscle

I'm teaching a class at Young Scholars Institute called "Mind Over Muscle" that started today.  We are learning the names of all of the major muscles of the body and what exercises will work them properly.  These middle school students will learn proper form, the components of a good fitness program, and will leave with a personalized summer fitness plan.  I love how quickly the students learn when they are actively engaged.  When your pectoralis major is on fire from the 12th chest fly, you are going to remember the name of that muscle.

I love teaching this class, but it brings back so many horrid junior high memories.

Almost all of us can remember being an awkward preteen.  It was hard enough walking down the junior high staircase carrying a backpack filled with textbooks.  No one expected you to do it gracefully.  We just all hoped we wouldn't be the one to fall that day.  Or what about the school cafeteria?  How many times did you drop a tray, or even worse, drop a tray and go sliding across the floor?  Today, I was helping a student sit back into a basic squat position.  The poor thing looked like a flamingo trying to sit up on a highchair.  "I feel like I'm going to fall," she confessed.  "I'm deathly afraid of falling."  I got it.

Now imagine 8 other preteens who have signed up for their first weightlifting class.  They're all shapes and sizes, from the skinny little boy who still looks like a third grader, to the well-developed 8th grade girl who is busting out of her little girl shirt.  Then there's the boy on the cusp of manhood who thinks that he should be lifting 20-pound weights and doesn't quite understand the concept of 8-12 repetitions in a set, as well as the tiny ballerina girl who is trying so hard to do a shoulder press with two 3-pound weights.  Oh, it's a circus, it's comedic, but it's so much fun.

I love helping an uncoordinated boy feel the balance in both arms as I try to help him build muscle memory for proper bicep curls.  It's just amazing to me that they can't feel when their bodies are out of alignment.  I love helping them balance on the stability balls and try not to laugh as they teeter and totter.  I love watching the joy on their faces as they complete a set of exercises they didn't think they could do.  And I love being the one to start them thinking about having an active, healthy summer.

I'm a little worn out today, but I have a feeling my students will stumble into Tuesday's class feeling a little more than tired.  I think they'll feel muscles they didn't know they had.  At least they'll know the names of them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Top Ten Best Things About Today's Training

1.  I Swam, Biked, and Ran for the First Time; and I Survived!
I completed race distance in the pool, biked 17.5 miles, and ran a mile.  It was a long, hot morning, but it felt great to conquer all three sports in one day.  I'm starting to think that maybe I can do this triathlon.

2.  Spending the Better Part of the Day with My Better Half
Prepping for the day, packing the truck, sharing a lane in the pool, following the Husband as we cycled through the hills of Williamson County, and running through the park allowed for some quality together time.  I love that we can laugh, talk, and encourage each other through some of the toughest challenges.

3.  Having My Best Swim Yet
It was back to the 25 meter pool, but I felt strong and the swim was over before I knew it.  And, yes, I made sure my lone diamond earring was on as tightly as possible.

4.  Mint Chocolate Gu
My new favorite flavor.  It's like drinking a peppermint patty.  Great carbohydrate boost when the energy starts to dip.  Who wouldn't want to taste something sweet and delicious when there are still 10 more miles to go?
5.  Transitioning With the Husband
We've always made a great team.  After the swim, we came out of the locker room at the same time and headed for the truck to get our bikes.  It's amazing how many things you have to think about when changing from swimming to biking:  changing clothes, nutrition, water, Road ID, helmet, biking shoes, gloves, sunglasses, gear bag.  And today we cut our transition time half.  As the husband fastened his shoes I slipped two packs of GU into the back pockets of the cycling shirt he was wearing.  I didn't think about how natural it was for us until a man walking by smirked and shook his head.  I'm certain he was a cyclist.  Too bad we can't work together on race day.

6.  Making it up that Horrible Hill in the Middle Chain Ring!
No granny gear today.  Just a whole lot of cranking away.  THAT felt great.

7.  Running Fast Felt Slow
Left to my own devices, I'd run about a 9-minute mile.  After swimming and biking, I thought that maybe I'd be able to run a 10-minute mile.  I didn't care how slow it was, I just wanted to complete the mile.  The Husband warned me that my legs would feel like lead and that the pace would feel extremely slow.  I thought he was exaggerating.  Oh my freak, was he right!  After just under two hours of training, anyone would be tired as they started to run a mile.  But we had been flying on a bicycle, so our brains were telling us that we were running VERY slowly.  When we finished the mile, the Husband told me that we had run an 8:25 mile.  What???  It felt like we were crawling!

8.  Seeing God's Creation Up Close and Personal

Squirrels darting, birds flying by, gophers standing on hind legs -- it feels different when you're on a bike than when you watch them through the car window.  You also see things that you wouldn't normally see.  When we were unloading our bikes we saw a hawk in hot pursuit of a little bird.  Two others birds were screeching and chasing the hawk.  The poor little bird was so twitterpated that it flew right into the side of our truck, which dazed it enough to give the hawk the upper hand.  The hawk grabbed the bird with its talons and took off with it!  The Husband and I just stood there wide-eyed with mouths agape.  I was horrified!  As I told the Husband, I know these things happen in nature, but I sure wish nature would take care of those things in private.

9.  The Feeling of Accomplishment

10.  Cleaning Up and Going out for the First Iced Latte of the Summer. 
Two weeks down.  Ten more to go.