I can’t believe it’s already been 5 months since my half Ironman training began, and that means there are only 3 months left until race day. There’s been a lot going on over the past month, so this recap will focus on how my training has changed since the last check-in, motivation struggles, and how I’ve been fitting long training hours into my normal schedule.
Things definitely started to get real this month with more of my workouts being intensity-focused rather than pure base building zone 1 heart rate work. While weekly volume has only increased a bit (the past two weeks have been between 13 and 15 hours), higher intensity speed work has been thrown into my rides and runs, and there have been plenty of best effort 100 yard sprints in my swims as well. While these often feel like death during the time I’m doing them, it’s been rewarding to look back and see that I’m making progress, especially in terms of shaving a few seconds off my swim times.
It’s amazing how you can feel so unfit at a particular sport (in my case, swimming when I started training for all this back in December) yet with only a couple of months of practice, feel so much more comfortable with it. Swim days used to be the ones I didn’t look forward to as much as rides and runs because I felt tired after only a short period of time (like 20 mins), but now, sometimes my biggest endorphin rushes come after these sessions. I think people naturally get motivated when we see positive results, no matter what activity we’re doing. In running, my improvements are there, but they’re small. But in the pool, since I started out feeling so out of shape 5 months ago, the progress seems even more satisfying.
Technique wise, the main habit I’ve been working on is not rolling over so far to the side when taking breaths. This is one thing my coach pointed out while training in Vegas, and something I’ve been very conscious of ever since. It’s most noticeable when I’m getting tired, but I think I’m improving… or at least I hope so!
As I’ve mentioned before, cycling is the one sport of the three that I have the least experience in. (I swam competitively between the ages of 10 and 13, so I did have an idea of what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this.) Last month I turned my tax return into a new road bike, and every Wednesday in May I’ve been attending a cycling clinic where myself and the other women participating have learned all about cycling technique, tips for climbs and descents, cornering, sprinting, double pace line riding, and bike maintenance. It’s difficult for me to find the desire to do anything after work (this grandma likes to have dinner and an early bedtime!) but each session has left me feeling super thankful that I attended.
Another thing I did this month to build confidence on my bike is join a 50KM ride with MEC a couple of weeks ago. There was a 100K option but because I’d just run a trail race the day prior (more about that in a second), I opted to do the 50K on the road, then do the remainder of my coach’s prescribed ride for the day at home on the trainer at my own pace.
In retrospect I totally could have done the 100K because the 50K didn’t quite turn out to be as good of a workout as anticipated. Nevertheless, it was SO nice to get out and ride for a good 2 hours with a group of like-minded strangers. The weather was beautiful and the atmosphere was 100% non-intimidating. MEC did a fantastic job of organizing the ride and I left feeling stronger and more confident in my riding abilities than when I started.
I integrated one trail race into my training schedule this month which was 5 Peaks Golden Ears. The enduro course was about 14km with one enormous 1km uphill stretch that was really gnarly (I did a mix of short-stride running and power hiking), and the scenery was stunning.
It was my first real trail run since last fall, but the atmosphere was just like I’ve come to expect from 5 Peaks (aka fantastic), and I managed to place 3rd in my age group. Not bad, considering the BC trails have a lot more to them than the ones I ran in Ontario!
Speaking of 5 Peaks, I have a giveaway happening on my Facebook page starting tomorrow (Tuesday May 26th) for a FREE entry to the next race at Alice Lake in Squamish, BC on June 6th. If you’re in the BC area and want to try a trail race (I’ll be there and it’ll be a party!) be sure to like the page and check back tomorrow for details on how to enter! Alternatively, you can register using the discount code ANGELA and receive $5 off.
The Motivation Rollercoaster
I’ll be straight-up honest and tell you that this month has been a series of highs and lows as far as motivation goes. There have been some training sessions where my mind wasn’t in the right spot at the beginning, which as you can imagine, doesn’t bode well for the hours that follow – especially if they’re spent with a bike saddle under your butt that feels more uncomfortable by the minute. Even when I’m not training, sometimes I question whether I still want to do this any more, especially given the fact that since moving to Vancouver, there has been SO much other amazing stuff competing for my time and attention.
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like all the training, early-to-bed nights, and time preparing in between sessions are getting in the way of other things I want to do. I’ll also be honest and tell you that I truly do miss the simplicity of running – the beauty of getting up, putting on shorts, a tank top and a pair of shoes and being out the door in less than 10 minutes. My long runs are definitely my favourite part of my entire training schedule, especially when they involve the Sea Wall on my right and Stanley Park on my left.
Of course, there’s also the financial side of triathlon – dropping money for new swim suits, pool memberships, bike accessories, coaching, food, and races. (Triathlons cost a lot more than running races!) At the end of the day, it often makes me wonder if it’s all going to be worth it. Will the satisfaction I feel from completing a half iron-distance triathlon outweigh the sum of the tough days?
Then there’s the voice of fear in my head that speaks up from time to time. The one that feels scared about the things that could go wrong during the race itself, from mechanical issues on the bike, to nutrition, to weather, among so many others. Will I actually be ready?
So what do I do when my mind is in these terrible places and I can’t seem to dig back out? Thankfully, there are a few sources of inspiration that have yet to fail. I do things like watch Ironman coverage on Youtube, which allows me to see that Ironman triathletes come in all shapes and sizes. From 18 years old to 65+, able bodied and those with disabilities – they can all do it, which means that I can too.
Another great source of inspiration has been pro athlete interviews. I’ll watch some of my triathlete role models like Mirinda Carfrae, Rachel Joyce, Jodie Swallow, and Angela Duncan Naeth talk about their races, training, and how they stay mentally sharp. These ladies are all killing it on the triathlon scene and I love learning from them. I had the huge pleasure of getting to know Angela (who also happens to be my coach’s wife) while back in Bahrain in December, and two weeks ago she won Ironman Texas. (#kindofabigfreakingdeal) This means she’s got her ticket to the Ironman World Championship in Kona this fall. It doesn’t get much more inspiring than that!
Fitting Triathlon Into Life
So just how does 13-15 hours of training fit into the life of a 26 year old who also has a full time job and a blog? Sometimes I have to wonder the same, but I think it all comes down to priorities and making sacrifices when they have to be made. Once I pull my head out of the negativity that occasionally creeps in, I realize how important this goal is to me for so many reasons. So to set myself up for success, I do things like:
- Go to bed early – crazy early by some people’s standards. Most nights I’ll pass out between 8 and 9pm. (At this rate, I’ll probably be asleep by 4pm by the time I’m 70.) 😉
- Get up early. Most of you know I’m a morning person, which I think is definitely a skill that can be learned. Most mornings I’m up at 4, working out for about 2 hours per day during the week and anywhere between 2 and 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This allows me to get what matters (the training) out of the way when I’m in my prime, before anything else competes for my attention.
- Eat like an athlete – That means eating clean, always conscious of the fact that the way I eat and drink today is going to influence my workouts over the next 2 or 3 days.
- Schedule time to see friends, work on the blog and do other projects – If it’s not in my calendar, it won’t get done. So I allocate specific amounts of time during which I tell myself that the task – whether that’s a blog post, social media interaction, emails, cleaning my condo, or running errands – needs to be completed. The important but less-urgent stuff gets slotted in around that.
- Schedule time to relax – One of the most overlooked parts of training is recovery, and in addition to my early-to-bed regimen, my weekends lately have been very relaxing and low key. I’m getting over the FOMO I first felt when I moved to Vancouver, realizing that if I want to be at my best at the times when it matters, I need to give myself a chance to recharge the batteries.
Phew. That’s it for now. I’ll talk a bit more about my training goals for June in my monthly goal check-in coming up next week, but for now, I’d love to hear…
- For those of you who compete in any sport, what do you do when you need to get your head out of a negative space? Who are your role models?
- Did you tackle a race or test of your fitness at some point over the past couple of months? How did it go? What did you learn about yourself?