Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In the spirit of #WCW

Apparently there is some phenomenon going on on Facebook. Its called #WomanCrushWednesday (or #WCW). Well, today is Wednesday and this is a woman who has inspired me from the moment I started reading her book.  Her name is Chrissie Wellington.  She was a late bloomer into the sport of triathlon, as was I.  She and I have a lot in common, and so she has inspired me and gives great hope and insight into triathlons and life.

Chrissie discusses her need to control, her need to self improve.  I feel the same way, an anxious when not able to do so.  When she was young, she had a modest sporting career, but impressive academics.  Lets just say that my sports career left something to be desired but my grades got me the scholarships I needed to help finance college.

Chrissie dealt with the fear people of judging her negatively.  She is a sensitive soul, always wanted to be liked.  I've been struggling with that as well. She disliked the intraverted person she became, wanted to be energetic and confident, to light up a room when she walked into it.  She tended to try to gain the approval and appreciation of others, which, in turn, reflects the lack of self confidence.  Still working on this one, but (as I'll write about below) knowing what to judge yourself by, knowing your self worth standards, this puts it all into perspective.

Her obsession and concern about body image mirrors my internal struggle.  Thankfully, due to a change in nutrition (adhering to a clean eating regimen) and the addition of world-class supplements, my body image has improved tremendously.  I realize looks are NOT everything, but when you don't see in the mirror what you want to see, you are hard on yourself.  I am still working on it to this day, but the positives are becoming more and more evident.

Chrissie also has difficulty being in the now, being present.  I am always thinking about "what's next," planning my next step, always thinking ahead.

And then what really spoke to me was when she said, "All that hard work put in at school and [college] would be vindicated by a high-flying job that labeled me as being somebody."  I graduated as valedictorian, went to college, graduated law school and passed the NYS Bar Exam.  Being behind a desk was never something I wanted, but it seemed that was what was "expected" of someone with the level of education I received.

She writes about how she missed the sense of achievement that comes from working hard and the creativity and the learning; missed using her mind.  I could not agree more.  It's actually part of the reason I began reading more and writing.  I feel that this allows me to hone my communication skills, to keep my mind sharp, rather than bombard it with useless visual media.

Chrissie is a sentimental gal.  She has keepsakes and still has many of them, making reference to "still got them/that/it."  She keeps things that, from an outsider's perspective, would seem minuscule.  My mother would probably laugh, considering she knows how "sentimental" I am.  Though my mother has been trying to instill in me that it's more about the memories and less about the "stuff."

What I love about Chrissie is her appreciation for the age-groupers, the "weekend warriors," the triathletes that do it for the love of the sport.  She will celebrate her victory, but then go down to the finish line and volunteer to grace finishers with their coveted medals.  She gets her inspiration from those who do it just because and it's not their job.  Pretty cool to know that someone who is PAID to do what I love considers people like me an inspiration.

The fact that she appreciates the "normal triathlete" (who works full time, has a family, and other outside responsibilities), it just makes her so humble.  This is a job for her, but it does not come easy for her.  But she does not harp on her records, she emphasizes the hardships and hard work she engages in, the mental mind games.  She writes about how she needs to be mentally tough too.  It's encouraging to know that it's not easy for her, despite it looking like it is.  In a previous post I mentioned that we are our own worst enemy, we can mentally defeat ourselves before the physical setbacks do so.  To know that a professional struggles too, to make it so clear, evident, and out there, it gives me a sense of relief.  She quotes Lance Armstrong, saying, "Pain is temporary: quitting lasts forever."

She continues, stating there will be ebbs and flows and hold onto the knowledge that you have been there before and come through it.  Knowing you were there before, and came out on the other side, that's what will get you through this time.  

She warns readers to not fall for external measures of worth, ie - the clock.  Know that you gave it your all, and that will leave you with the greatest satisfaction.  Do not be left wondering, "What if?"  The limits she had set for herself disappeared and she crushed every goal she set for herself.

One day I would love to meet Chrissie, tell her how wonderful it is to know that I am not alone in these feelings; to feel vindicated and have my insecurities validated.  It is amazing to know that someone as accomplished as someone who has won 13 Ironman races feels the same way someone who has the anxiety of completing one in her future.

Monday, October 20, 2014

10 Essential Winter Running Tools

Many of the areas around us have experienced.....SNOW! This can only mean that winter is soon upon us.  So it's only fitting to get the proper gear to keep up the running progress made so far during the warmer months.

Here is a list of 10 essential pieces of gear a runner should aim to have to have a warm and safe run outside this winter.:

There's the typical "cold weather gear.":

1)  Gloves to keep the digits warm. A runner's extremities are especially vulnerable to the elements.  There are some fancy ones, ones that allow SmartPhone usage, but if a little inconvenience does not bother you (ie - removing your glove to use your phone), just basic gloves would be sufficient.  But make sure they wick away moisture (to prevent cold hands).

2)  Proper shoes.  Winter running shoes should have tread to better able traction for those slick conditions created by snow and ice.

3)  Socks.  Winter running socks should wick the sweat away, but still keep your feet warm.  Top brands include:  Thorlo, Balega, and Smartwool.  Runners should consider getting longer socks (they will add to the warmth of pants and keep the lower part of the legs dry, as compared to the short anklet socks worn during the summer).

4)  Base layer.  This layer will wick sweat away, which allows you to stay warm and not get chilled by the evaporation process.  Popular fabrics include:  wool, polyester, and silk.

5)  Running Tights.  Keep the legs warm; the colder the weather, the thicker the fabric needed.

6)  Hat.  Something to keep your ears and head warm.  Make sure it wicks away sweat, or you'll end up with a sweaty, cold head.  If a hat is too warm, try a headband that will help to keep your ears warm.

7)  Neck warmer.  Keeps the neck warm and prevents burning lungs.

Then there's some things that are ancillary that will help you keep up the fitness you've gained.:

8)  Headlamp.  Less daylight means possibly running when the sun is not out.

9)  Reflective Gear. Runners should have this in their attire anyway, but winter hours mean it starts getting darker earlier and stays darker longer.  Most likely some of those miles will be logged at less than ideal sunshine hours.

10)  Treadmill runs, Plans for when it's too cold or too snowy or the weather just isn't cooperating.  These will help to keep things fresh. No need to pay for the plans, it is possible to find free plans online.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's Next...

After an improvement in my triathlon season, I jumped right into training for a full marathon.  Went from swim, bike, run, to just a run (just a run?! Eh, what's 26.2 mile).  But that will not be the only focus before I gear up for a half year training program for IMLP 2015.

Back in high school I never enjoyed running, even in college when I first began running for exercise, I still thought it was not fun.  But now I'm looking forward to getting out and hitting the pavement.  My times and effort expended have greatly decreased.  I credit not only another year of training under my belt but also a switch in nutrition and more of a focus on food as a fuel. I have incorporated AdvoCare into every aspect of my life,  whether training or overall wellness.  (If you're interested in clean eating, jump starting your weight loss goals, or at a plateau in your performance, this has helped me IMMENSELY.)

Mohawk Hudson Marathon was a success.  I did not hit my 4 hour goal, but I did get under 4.5 hours (4:19:17).  Next is the Goofy Challenge in Disney (a half on Saturday with the full the next day).  My goal is sub-2 hour half and sub-5 full (I'll already have a hard half under my feet the day beforehand).

In the "off season" I'll be incorporating more weights and lifting to not only strengthen the muscles but to give my mind a mental break.  I have already been doing that and feel great!  The mental break was greatly needed; feels good to regroup, refocus.  Sometimes you just need to shift gears and that makes all the difference in the world.

I'm sad this triathlon year is over, but I am so grateful and amazed at the outcome.  I feel I have made great strides. This is evidenced by the significant drop in my finish times for the races I participated in. I look forward to the grueling training I will embark on (weird to think I would ever think that!).  But for now I'm going to recharge by doing some other activities, other fitness avenues.

I'd like to thank my family especially for their love and support.  Without them, none of  this would be possible.  Their sanity and perspective have helped keep me focused.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lessons for longer distances and life

While doing my post-lifting fat-burning 30 minutes of cardio, I read books. At this point, I'm reading "Running on Empty" by Marshall Ulrich. This man is nearly 60 years old he RAN across America! His book has greatly helped me to understand the challenges and mental toughness required to conquer long distances.
This was quite appropriate as I completed my first ever marathon.  WOW!  What an amazing course.  The Mohawk Hudson Marathon is well organized and is first-time marathoners' top-choice for a reason.  The course is downhill and flat.  But even with that advantage, I began hitting that proverbial "wall" around mile 20, which is really when the race begins.  I started to get in my head and feel every little twinge.  At that point I was just merely surviving, not thriving.  I focused on my music, kept in step to the tunes, and aimed for each mile marker, knowing with the passing of each one I'd be closer to the finish.
There is much truth when Ulrich states, "We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to those doubts and negative self-talk."  I tell that people all the time when they say I'm crazy for pursuing longer distance races, particularly a marathon and Ironman Lake Placid.  Once you have defeated yourself, you are done.  But if I can train my brain, just like I do my body to make it through the miles, I'll be successful in completion in my endeavors.  Just like in life, if you tell yourself you can't, then you won't.  But if you believe in yourself, you'll go much farther.
Ulrich talks about having an "out of body experience" and disowning the pain, not letting it get to him.  That's what I tried to remember as my feet started to ache and I stopped to stretch as my hamstrings tightened.  I kept shutting out the thoughts of feeling the pain, I said to myself, "It's there, but you are closer to the finish than the end."
Ulrich writes, "You remind yourself that it you quit but hard to live with afterward."  I may have read that passage after the marathon, but that definitely holds true.  I thought about giving up multiple times, but then I realized how disappointed I would be in myself.  I also realized that even though I would not make my 4 hour goal, I would still finish, which was more than those on the couch had done.  Quitting will follow you the rest of your life, whether in a race or in a job pursuit or in whatever your goals may be.
I ended up finishing 4 hours, 19 minutes and 17 seconds after I crossed the start line.  It took longer than I expected and wanted, but I finished and never actually gave up.  Click here to see:  Video of My Marathon Finish