It is a Tuesday evening and I just finished the saddest “strength” workout of my life. I am feeling frankly a little unmotivated and frustrated by some pain in my back and how it is holding me back from where I should at this point in my training cycle. While I was starting dinner and pep-talking myself, I thought maybe someone else needs to hear what I am telling myself too…so here we go!
First off, it is OK to feel like this! It is NORMAL! Whether you are working through an injury, work is taking extra energy out of you or you are just plain not feeling it – it is perfectly OK to just not want to train.
The catch is, you still owe it to yourself to show up for yourself.
Your training plan has a run you just aren’t up for? Make a goal to at least lace up your shoes, get outside and do the warmup and see how you go from there.
A nagging injury or pain keeping you out of the pool? Skip the pool, grab a yoga mat and stretch or do some light core work.
I can’t run right now, which is disappointing, but I decided to get in a strength workout. And to be honest, it wasn’t the best either because my muscles are still fatigued from my long ride Sunday and I had a heck of a busy 9 hours at work today that zapped a lot of energy. But I am so proud of myself for even putting in the 20 minutes that I did. I moved my body, got some fresh air and reminded myself it is OK to feel off and that it won’t last for long.
There are a million reasons to not train, but at the end of the day you owe it to yourself to show up for yourself and do whatever you are capable of accomplishing that day. That is a total success.
My very first Ironman VR was an olympic distance and included a 24.8 mile ride. Keep in mind I have never, ever raced even a sprint triathlon. Quarantine made me bold and I went after that bike ride and I did it!
What came after that accomplishment, I wasn’t ready for though. My back, shoulders, neck and even my hips hurt and ached in a way that I had never experienced. That’s when I knew it was time to get my bike fit specifically to me.
I was referred to Dynamic Bike Fit in Roanoke by my mom who had heard great things so I signed up for the first available spot! And here is how it went…
After confirming my appointment, I was sent a survey to fill out a ton of information regarding why I am riding, what my habits are on the bike, any aches and pains, what my goals and life dreams are…No just kidding. But it was a very thorough survey all for Lisa and Craig (Dynamic Bike Fit) to understand the kind of rider I am even before I showed up.
Time for the Fit!
I will admit, I was pretty nervous to show up. In my head, bike fits were only meant for serious racers with super a serious bike. Well I am happy to be the first to admit, that is absolutely wrong! Bike fits are for anyone who spends any amount of time on a bike and wants to do it comfortably.
First up, I met Lisa who performed my physical evaluation to see what my tendencies and strengths are to help her with the fit itself. She tested my flexibility, asked me to do pushups, squats, one-legged exercises and just observed my walk.
After this it was time to hop on the bike and get hooked up – literally!
With these data points, Lisa and Craig were able to see a stick figure Alex on their computer. This view really breaks down my movements and the inefficiencies they are looking to correct.
The fit lasted about 2 hours and it was full of riding, tweaking my position and the bike and hanging out with Lisa, Craig and others in the shop! It was actually a ton of fun, see…fits are nothing to be afraid of!
At the end of the day, I walked away with a new saddle and smaller handlebars and stem. Doesn’t seem like much, right? Those adjustments made the BIGGEST difference in the world.
Post fit life
When I ride now, I don’t have to expect an aching back or shoulders anymore. Now my biggest concern is how sore my quads and calves will be after my ride! I am able to focus on my performance and not how to tweak my positioning to hurt less.
So if you’re on the fence about getting a fit or not…get it done!! And if you’re near the DFW area or up for a drive, check out Lisa and Craig at Dynamic Bike Fit.
Ok – let’s just go ahead and start this out by saying, this is how I thought I would feel…
But, this is how I really felt…
Open water swims are HARD and are absolutely no joke. To give you my full swimming background for context, I started swimming to train in January and was in full COVID lockdown, meaning no pool access, at the beginning of March. So with a mediocre two months under my belt, safe to say I struggled with the open water swim.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it though! It was honestly such a great workout both physically and mentally. Physically, the difference between lap and open water swim is clear, there is no pausing at the end of a 25 or 50 yard lap. It’s maybe a brief pause at the end of the 100 or 150 yard lap, which is a huge difference to get used to. And mentally, even though there weren’t more than 20 people in the water, swimming in that proximity, maintaining my strokes, breathing and learning to sight while also simultaneously trying to keep up, not hit or stray into head-on traffic was a mental challenge to say the least. Talk about sensory overload.
But here are a few things that I did right for my first open water swim
I went with a familiar buddy
It is always easier to try something new with someone who isn’t new! In my case, I was so happy that my mom came with me. She has been swimming in open water for a few years now and is comfortable with the scenario, which in turn made me feel more comfortable as well.
I joined up with a larger group and coach
Instead of my mom and I just heading out to a lake and paddling around for a little while, we joined up with the local Playtri group for the swim. Playtri had a beginner and more novice-advanced swim group option and a coach accompanied both swims to give guidance and direction. Being in a structured group with others who considered themselves beginners made it much easier to relax and feel comfortable in the water.
I was patient with myself
I know that I have mentioned this in other blog posts, but just to reiterate something about myself: I am not a good beginner! As competitive as I am, it is so hard for me to try something and not automatically be fighting for the top spot. Knowing this about myself, I went into the swim being OK knowing I wouldn’t be leading the pack or swimming circle around my other beginner swims. I certainly got frustrated (especially with sighting), but when I need to, I rolled onto my back, took some deep breaths, calmed down and kept trying.
If you are in the DFW area, I highly recommend checking out Playtri! They helped make this experience much more successful than otherwise. Here is a link to their open water swim page.
I can officially say I am 12 weeks into my Ironman journey! My journey to Ironman is a consistent build from sprint to olympic to half-Iron to full-Iron. To start myself out, I have been following the Lifetime sprint triathlon training plan. It’s a 12-week program meant for novice triathletes. Having the base fitness I do, I felt like this was the right plan for me.
Now I will be honest with you, I completed this program in the most basic way possible. I didn’t pay too much attention to heart rate zones, or other training measures outside of the basic amount of time prescribed for each activity. My goal was simply just to get it done! I needed to learn how to follow the plan and let my body ease into each of the disciplines comfortably and at its own pace.
I grew so much during these 12 weeks. My running became stronger and I learned to trust my bike, how to clip in (and maybe most important…how to clip out) and I found that this is a good journey for me. I loved every bit of this program, even the parts I didn’t want to do! There were definitely days, more than I should admit, that I did not want to go out and run or bike, but I made the effort to always push forward. Even if I wasn’t going to run the whole time, I at least went out and completed the time as a walk. I learned a valuable lesson in showing up. And in doing so I accomplished some awesome things! I completed my first (second and third) 10K, road my longest bike distance of 25 miles and completed 3 Ironman VR challenges.
Being a beginner isn’t something I am generally good at as someone who chases perfection and really, really, really likes to compete. The 12 weeks reinforced the value of challenging and allowing myself to be new at something and enjoy the full ride and all of its up’s and down’s.
I have so enjoyed this first step of training and I can’t wait until I can compete my first triathlon. It has been amazing to become part of a truly inclusive and supportive community of other athletes at all stages.
So what’s next? I am embarking on another 12-week sprint triathlon training plan, this time, it is one created by USA Triathlon. This go around, I will be focused on all the fun data, HR zones, improvements and pushing as prescribed to truly track progress. Also this time…I am betting on getting to swim (wasn’t able to swim 99% of the program due to COVID closures).
If you’re considering starting a new challenge, whether it be triathlons or anything else, as a reformed perfectionist, I highly recommend it.
I’ve done it. I have cracked the code for not hating Sunday runs. In runner communities Sunday’s are generally dubbed long run days. And let’s be honest – calling a run “long” is not the least bit motivating or exciting to me. Last Sunday I did 7 miles and it felt awful and for a few reasons. I had unrealistic expectations, I pushed myself into a run I wasn’t properly prepared for and I was dreading it the whole time and even during the run.
I went into this Sunday with a different goal for my run. The new goal was to take the run as a time to recalibrate my body and set my mind up for a successful training week.
I did three things in particular to achieve this:
Choose a manageable, but challenging length. For me this week, it was 4 miles. My goal was to not walk – no specific pace goal.
WARM UP (goes for every training set). I haven’t been doing a good job at all of warming up my joints and I could really feel that pain after last weekend. Taking the time to warm up allows you to acknowledge your body, the work your about to do and call to mind your goal for the run.
Visualize how I want to feel during the run, rather than focus on hitting a specific pace. My goal was to feel strong and feel every step and acknowledge the work I was putting in. So instead of working on my pacing, I felt my body and adjusted throughout the run accordingly. I strongly believe in the power of visualization and also thought about my goals I had for the week to come.
By doing these three things, I achieved so much in four miles that I am proud of. And most importantly, I am motivated and energized to take on the training week ahead. Bring it on!
That’s right – I did another one! This weekend marked my third Ironman VR experience. This was the second sprint tri simulation. The challenge consisted of a 1.5K run, 20K ride, 5K run.
I was hoping since this was my second sprint tri simulation, that my time would be the same if not a little better, but actually, it was about 7 minutes slower. Disappointing, sure, but I wouldn’t have changed one thing about it. I will tell you why as I relive each activity in the challenge.
This was arguably the most extra way to do a 1.5K run. But I will let you in on a little secret about me…once I set my mind to do something, rain or shine, I get it done.
I knew I wanted to break apart this VR series, instead of completing it all in one go like last weekend. My plan was to do the 1.5K run and ride on the same day with the 5K the next day. So that left me with completing the 1.5K run on Saturday. And guess what. The weather forecast Saturday was torrential downpour. Did I postpone my run to Sunday? Psh, what fun is that? Nope – I suited up in my best rain deterrent gear and headed out.
This was the only event in which I beat my prior time (the rain is a great motivator). Bested it by a minute and in pouring rain. Something to be proud of!
The ride was fun and challenging for a couple of different reasons.
It was my first Zwift experience (makes a heck of a difference when you can’t coast down a hill!)
I rode my mom’s Felt tri bike
I had just run a dang fast mile in a torrential downpour
Zwift was so much more challenging than I anticipated. It was both my first time on a smart trainer and off my Litespeed bike. I think it’s criminal that you can’t coast. It was a tough ride for sure. The time was nearly identical to my first 20K ride outdoors.
Ok so I will just put it out there that I had big plans for this 5K. It was going to take me 28 minutes and I was going to feel like a champ. That absolutely did not happen, but for a few reasons.
Some of which are: I was up until 3am the morning of helping my brother with a project, Zwift really kicked my leg’s into sore mode and the absolute worst one – the weather. It was one of those really sunny days after a downpour and the streets are even sweating and you are breathing thick air and let’s just put it out there…It’s the worst weather ever. And I can’t forget this, my family made me laugh so hard before running that my abs were sore and I was out of breath. This kind of laughing followed me for half the run coming from series a reality series worthy family. Note to race creators: comedy 5Ks will yield the slowest times ever recorded.
Although it was not quite the amazing time trial I was hoping for, I had so much fun getting to complete this one surrounded by my family and I wouldn’t change a thing. Check out some of my favorite moments below!
Even more videos of the rain run are up on my instagram (@watchalextri).
What a time to be a triathlete. What a heck of a time to be a beginner triathlete! When I began this journey in January, I planned to participate in two sprint triathlons – one in April and one in May. Of course those have both been cancelled and I am just about finished up with my 12-week lifetime sprint triathlon training plan that would have finished this Monday for Captex tri.
Now on my final week of that plan, I have been struggling with how to continue training. Do I train to an imaginary race date? Do I just train by saying I bike 3x a week, strength 3x a week and run 4x a week? What on earth are we supposed to be doing??
While I figure out the best way for me to continue to train, I know there are 3 goals that I want to work toward before my first race:
Build endurance. This is a no brainer! My athletic history is not full of endurance sport. I ran sprints in track, 2-mile races in cross country and skated 3.5 minute programs as a figure skater. I have a lot to learn about building and maintaining endurance not only through runs, but through triathlons of various lengths! My specific goal here is to be able to get off from an 20K bike and immediately jump into a 5K run that I can complete at least at a 10min/mi pace.
Work on speed. This is where my short burst activities come in handy, but I have a lot of work to do to find those fast-twitch muscles again and learn to incorporate them with the new endurance side of training. My specific goal here is to move my base 5K pace from 10min/mi to 9:30min/mi and my mile time to a consistent 8:30min/mi pace.
Dial in on strength training. I have a lot of extra time on my hands now and that is giving me more of an opportunity than usual to focus on cross-training, preventing injury and making me stronger through each part of a triathlon.
As part of working toward those goals, I identify benchmark activitiesthat indicate my fitness and race readiness. This could be a specific workout every two or three weeks, one of the Ironman virtual races or even a homemade triathlon.
How are you training during this time? Have you had to modify your training method?
In the meantime, however you train, I hope you are still having a blast with this. I know I am.
This past Saturday I completed the Ironman VR6 in a special way…more on that later. Now, three days later with my sunburn fading and my joints much happier I can reflect on the challenge I conquered!
I have to admit when signed up for the challenge I misread the distances a little bit. Instead of a 40K ride, my mind saw a 20K ride. And rather than a 3K run, I saw a 5K run. Luckily, the night before I set out to race, I opened a text from my mom asking where I was planning to complete my 40K ride. That’s when it hit me that I would be riding my highest mileage yet and I hadn’t mentally prepared for that. Thank goodness she texted me otherwise I would have been in a pretty crummy mood after completing a 20K ride to figure out I then had to go do an additional 40K. Feeling grateful for a mother’s intuition that caught at least one of my mistakes.
My race plan was to wake up early around 7:00a Saturday, pack up my bike and snacks and head out to White Rock Lake. The order of events would be: 10K run, 40K bike and 5K run (remember…I still don’t know it’s just a 3K).
Unlike the majority of athletes partaking in virtual race, I wasn’t planning to break the activities apart throughout the weekend. I wanted to challenge myself to complete 53km of work in one day. Something I have never done before.
The morning started out great with an evenly paced 10K, finishing out at about 1:08. My husband and I did the run together, which kept us both way more honest with our pacing. I took a little time after the run to re-fuel and then hopped on my bike for the 40K.
My legs felt GREAT for the first 10 miles of the ride and those were a fast 10 miles too! But something happened around mile 11 and I could feel some strain in my hips, but I reminded myself that I still had 13 miles and a full lap around the lake the go. That kept me going for another 2 miles, then at mile 13 I had to stop eat some pretzels, drink water, question all my life’s decisions leading up to here, then decide to keep pedaling for the remaining 11 miles.
For the most part, those were some pretty bad miles. I can’t even describe the tightness in my hips. But I. Did. It. And just like that, 1:43 later, I was off the God forsaken machine.
Now for the real butt of the joke! Remember I thought I had to do a 5K now. So what did I do? I hobbled off my bike, knees and hips questionably in order, and set off to walk the final 5K and feeling like a true athletic hero for doing it. I didn’t realize until 10 minutes after completing the 5K (in the car on the way home) that I only needed to do a 3K. And Ironman VR rules say they won’t accept lengths more than a kilometer over the mandated length. Oops.
On the way home, stewing over the 5K and knowing I needed to do a 3K, I decided to be dropped off exactly 1.86 miles away from home (because I am sure as heck not doing more than the minimum at this point) so that I could still complete Ironman VR6 in one day. So that’s what I did – I walked home and finished the race and felt like a dang champ for doing it.
5 final lessons from VR6:
It’s not always about winning the race, sometimes it is just about the challenge of completing the race. In this case for me, my time would have been astronomically better if I had done the ride on another day. But my purpose was to challenge my body to completed 53K of work in one day. And I am proud of that accomplishment regardless of my final standing!
It’s VERY important to say “on your left” when passing on a bike. What was up with so few people doing it???
Take more than 2 water bottles.
Snacks save lives.
Last and certainly not least – WEAR MORE SUNSCREEN THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. Oh but you think you move so fast the sun rays can’t catch you? Think again!
So now, after taking my well deserved and enjoyed rest days, I am getting back up heading out on a nice run and moving on to the next challenge!