Sunday, December 14, 2014

Recovery week

This week was my first recovery week since I started back up again with my training. I could feel some fatigue in my legs at the end of my last build phase, but I was still hitting my workout targets. It was weird to have such a light week, but I know to take advantage of the down time as they will be few and far between. I had two rest days and other than working, that is what I did!!

This week I met up with Danielle for some one on one swim lessons, specifically flip turns.  I understand the concept, but have trouble with the execution.  After some fine tuning and lots of practice I am on pace for nailing it shortly. She also coaches a weekly ass kicking, I mean, swim workout, that never fails to leave me in a trembling, cramping ball of exhaustion at the end. This week was no different. I am playing with a tempo trainer that helps me improve my swim stroke rate. I use it for short swim efforts and it certainly has made a little bit of a difference. My 100/yd times are coming down a little.  Obviously I cannot race with it, but I will train with it and try to improve my stroke turnover.  And after the holidays I will hopefully meet up with Danielle for one last swim stroke to master - the butterfly.

My running seems to be getting better as the weather gets cooler. I hate running in the heat of the summer and count the days for it to cool off so I can run. This week I had two short runs at an easy pace to do.  The paces are coming down and getting quicker, even at an easy effort.  Finally!! I'm not fast by any stretch, but I am not super slow anymore.

I only had two bike workouts this week and it threw me for a loop. I feel I don't ride well with only two rides per week (unless I am totally exhausted). For future weeks, there will be at least 3 rides at varying paces. Today I ventured out with Christa for a short ride. It was a bit chilly out at first, but it warmed up in no time. As usual, we had a blast riding today and I baked some chocolate chip cookie bars for Christa to enjoy post ride as a thank you for coming out to ride the last few weeks.

With the holidays coming up, Christa is traveling and I will be alone to get my swim and bike workouts in.  The Thursday night Iron Fit swims will be on hold after this week until the new year. But between now and then, I will keep my foot on the throttle with no letup. There's too much work to do before my first races of 2015.

My sweet new thermal beanie

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Doing the Heavy Lifting

Last season I admit I wasn't very attentive to my strengthening routine.  While I had a long, PR-filled season, I know I left a lot on the table in terms of performance.  My leg strength was just not there.  Not even close.  I waited until my last big race was over at the end of September and set a target of early October to resume weight training.  I developed a basic routine based around equipment I had at home (kettlebells, jump rope, plyo boxes, TRX, medicine balls, etc) and got started.

It didn't take long (1 workout) to see just how weak my right leg was. I had a lot of work to do. I focused on single and double leg strengthening.  I worked on making myself symmetrical (right vs left equality) for both upper and lower body. My left side has always been the weaker side overall, but I want to change that this offseason.

Once I felt like I was making gains/muscle hypertrophy (~2 months) I headed into the gym for the heavy weights.  Now, you won't find me on a smith machine or any machines at the gym. I strictly use free weights, (barbells loaded with plate weights and dumbbells).  I perform compound movements (multiple joints at once) that target muscle groups instead of working out a single muscle.  Machines serve me no purpose and limit/force you to move a certain way.

I have a few influences that I follow from material that I've read over the years. It's nice to finally put it all together.  My program is basically 3 days a week of focused work (2 at home, 1 at the gym).  I also squeeze in some smaller workouts during the day at work (a set of squats or dead lifts here and there with a patient). I keep my 3 sessions short, less than 45 minutes. 

I can finally see my workouts paying off. On my long run yesterday, I felt my right glute muscle engaging every time I wanted to push off. I can maintain good running form longer into a run before I start breaking down.  When I have been racing, I am able to maintain my pacing over the distance of the race - there is no pace drop off.  I am much less sore and fatigued at the end of a run. I am getting the leg and core strength back to support myself when I run. On the bike, I am finding it a little easier to maintain a higher power output during my workouts.

I am on a recovery week this week, so after that I will ease into plyometrics to help build power/speed to go with my strength. This week I'll write up a basic program for myself and implement it soon.

It's exciting to see what changes this will bring to my training and racing next season, but I can see results already. My plan is to keep up with the strengthening throughout the season.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving Trot

Last Thanksgiving I was unable to participate in a turkey trot for the 1st time in quite a few years.  I was 3 days post-PRP injection in my right patella tendon.  Fast forward one year (and multiple races) later and I am back on the starting line of the Mattituck 5k Turkey Trot.  I met up with some friends down there and was looking forward to going all out.  I hadn't run a 5k in over a year.  It was funny to think that of all the races I did this year, a 5k wasn't one of them.

Bruce, Kristine, Vickie, Me (Scott was MIA for the photo)

I've been trying my best to put small goals into each workout or race. A few weeks ago I ran a 4 miler out in Lynbrook and set another PR. My focus for that race was to not letup for the last mile.  My first mile was the fastest and the last mile was my 2nd fastest.  I was pleased with how I held up (especially since I've done no real speed work in ages).

 Quite awkward looking as I'm going all out to the finish line
(photo courtesy of Jennifer C. - Lynbrook 4 Miler)

 Since I didn't win any hardware, I was trying to steal it ;-)
(photo courtesy of Jennifer C. - Lynbrook 4 Miler)

For the Turkey Trot, I wanted to go all out over the 3 miles and not letup again for the last mile.  I had my garmin GPS watch on, but I wasn't going to look at it.  Once again I was just going to race by feel and worry about the data later.

When the gun went off, I could feel my knee was stiff from standing around in the cold.  It took about 1/4 mile to loosen up and not be cranky. I could also feel I was running a hard pace, but one I figured I could maintain. One thing I forgot is that the Mattituck course is not flat - it's rolling.  I knew I was going to have to work a little harder than usual to maintain my pace.

I got through the 1st two miles feeling good and when I passed through the 2nd mile marker, I knew this was my chance to "go big or go home".  

This is all I thought about over the last mile

I kept a steady pace and knew the last 1/4 mile would be trouble so I had to make up some time in advance for the time I was going to lose going up a short, steep hill near the finish. Most people were running on the shoulder but I opted to run slightly out in the street to save time and my energy and not have to pass people or weave in and out. A straight line is the fastest line.
I made my last slight downhill and then came face to face with my nemesis - The Hill.  Now mind you, this was not a long, grinding hill.  It was very short and steep, but it's location made it difficult. I powered my way up it as best I could, but typical me, I stalled at the top instead of pushing harder (note to self - do some hill training this coming season). Once I got my bearings again, I bolted for the finish line.  I knew I was going to make my goal time, but I started to think about my 5k PR time.  For the life of me, I could not remember it.  Turns out I came up 3 seconds short of my PR.  Had this been a flatter course, or I pushed harder when cresting the hill, I would have broken it. That's what disappointed me the most.  My last mile was my fastest mile, but my happiness was dampened by being so close to a PR. I was searching for another flat 5k to do over the next week or two, but realized I need to keep my eye on the prize.  Specifically, this prize:

Photo Courtesy of Susie R-K.

I am doing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in January in Disneyland.  It's a 10k on Saturday, then a Half Marathon on Sunday.  It'll be an interesting challenge to run back to back races, but I think it's very doable for me. The finishers medals alone will be worth it!