fitness and nutrition

Keeping Pace

When I was growing up, July was all about the Tour de France. It was on TV for hours a day at my house. Before TiVO, my Dad would get up in what seemed like the middle of the night to watch. For the most part, I found it completely boring. Hours and hours of rolling along. The scenery was nice…French towns and the occasional sunflower field. I was mainly irritated that the TV was occupied for so many hours a day.

Inevitably, my Dad would try to explain some of the strategy to me. How the teams worked, drafting, and so on. After many years of boredom, I became sort of fascinated with the many roles on these teams. Most of the athletes were not there to win for themselves. No, most of the guys had specific jobs that served to ensure the team’s leading rider came out wearing the maillot jaune.

Imagine it: you’ve been chugging over kilometers by the hundreds, even the thousands. You’ve summited mountains, taken treacherous downhill curves at high speeds. You’ve churned your legs day after day, through training and trials, and it all comes down to the final mile of the day. It’s a sprint finish. Your team sets up, a few of you lurking toward the front of the pack, staying out of trouble and in good position. Watching…watching…as so many other teams are doing the exact same thing….then….

BOOM. Almost imperceptibly, there’s a nod and someone flies off the front of the pack, his trailing teammates sprinting to stay in a cluster. Over a few hundred yards the tip of the spear, then his right hand man eventually peel off, their work done, their legs spent. If all goes as it should, the team leader comes out the winner of the day. Wears the yellow. The leadout men, who did the heavy sprint lifting, are left to come in 18th, 20th, 40th, who cares. Wherever their spent legs will coast them in.

After years and years of watching, I came to appreciate the pacers and their role. The dedication to a leader. The special craft in that support. All the teams working and split second strategy did make it an exciting few seconds of sports.

Sometimes pacing isn’t so hectic. We ran a half marathon a little over a year ago. One of the surprises at the pre-race expo was learning about the pacers. There would be people in the race running while holding up signs with times. Fifteen minute increments…2:00, 2:15, 2:30 and so on. If you were trying to meet one of those finish times for your race, you could hang with that pacer. In my case, I found a pacer and kept them in my sight. She had a flock of people running with her. Interestingly, she would stop and walk every once in a while, I guess to be sure she was hitting her goal on the nose. I passed the pacer a few miles in and in my mind I knew if she was behind me I was doing ok. I later wondered, was she a professional pacer? Her whole job was to make sure people made that goal?

I’ve noticed this in other contexts. Hearing my daughter tell stories of running alongside her teammates to help them make their benchmarks. People in health and fitness challenges jumping in to pace others over their personal finish line. And then there are people I pace off of, in the gym and in other areas of life, who may not even know they’re playing that role for me. People who just work hard naturally and I use their example as a model to keep in my sights.

It’s not really keeping up with the Joneses. There will be people who have habits and lifestyles I admire but pacing off them doesn’t make sense. It’s more about knowing the path I am on…sometimes the path I want to or need to be on, and finding partners or examples to pace off of. They’re moving along that path, ideally a little bit faster than me. Hopefully they’re willing to let me draft off of them for a while to make the path easier. At some point, like in the Tour, it may be my turn to take the headwinds at the front.

I am a helper. Maybe that’s why the idea of pacing people to their goals fascinates and resonates with me. Being a part of them moving along. Helping on the way. I’m not often the leader but I like being on the team that helps a leader succeed.

Who is pacing you out in life? Who is on your team, explicitly or implicitly? Who is on your path, smoothing the way or lighting the direction? Lifting your cadence?

On the flip side, are you pacing someone else out? Maybe without even knowing it? What does that mean for the choices you make? What direction are you leading in?

Another little something to think about.

challenges, fitness and nutrition

Duathlon DIY-Style, and 2021’s OLW

One of my goals last year was to challenge myself to a duathlon. I ended up registering for a summer triathlon which was pushed back until next year.

I had all but given up on this goal at the end of the summer. After the race was postponed, I lost my excitement and drive to train and learn for the event. It wasn’t until a friend rallied a group of gym women around an engine building cardio challenge that I found the will to run and bike again with any kind of regularity.

I knew I wouldn’t tri this year, but a duathlon wasn’t out of the question. I decided not to register for an official race at year end. But I wanted to at least complete a “ceremonial” sprint duathlon to have a benchmark and a check mark. So I went for it one frigid December morning just after sunrise. Just me, my playlist, my essentials and my mileage counters. On my mark, get set, go.

3.1 mile run. The mist was rising off the lake. Bridges were still slippery from the chill and the dew. Three loops, making my way along. Not too fast, but not too bad

Transition to the bike. Fleece hat off, helmet on. Legs adjusting to the pedals. Skittering along. Ups, downs, loops. The sting of the cold on my face. Losing feeling in my hands as I watch the miles tick, tick, tick away. Singing along while avoiding potholes and traffic. I finally found a quarter mile loop for a soccer field off the beaten path. Rode it again and again and again for about 8 miles. Only a quick stop for a carb boost in the middle. Then back to dancing on the pedals. Saddle soreness set in at mile 8. Toe cramps began at 10. I held on to finish the 12.4 mile stretch. Ended this leg averaging 10.9 mph which is actually a decent pace. If I had been on flats the whole time it would have been quicker. Lifting and loading my bike with frozen hands was a challenge all its own.

Then the final crunch. The one you train for. The one that hurts. Off the bike and into the last run. When I trained for the tri early this year, I read about this transition and how brutal it is. The quick pace of the bike makes that last mile grueling at best. I started pretty well then it quickly deteriorated. As the mile wore on, I just willed myself forward. I passed a committee of vultures. Keep singing. Dodged piles of goose poop on the path. Keep moving. Step after step. One at a time. No stopping. Knees hurting. No breaks. Just all ahead as much as I can.

I finished. No crowds no medals no beers or cokes. No parades or high fives. No banana no T-shirt. But I checked it off. I don’t need festivities to know what I have done. Didn’t quite make it under my two hour goal, but sometimes completion is the victory in that moment. I will get that goal next time. I’ll take my imaginary participation ribbon thankyouverymuch.

A DIY-duathlon gives you a lot of time to think. My mind couldn’t help but wander as I looped around and around. As much discomfort as I felt, I thanked my body for carrying me through those 17-plus miles. My mental and physical stamina made it a successful effort. A year like this one makes me realize all the more how much these different types of health are worth.

I’ve shared many times how much I love words and wordplay here on the blog. In those bike miles, I found my mind playing with the word duathlon. I bet many people didn’t even know that was a word. Then I broke it into do-athlon. Which led to a good long think about the word “DO.” I am such a thinker, often an overthinker, and not always such a do-er. I decided in those miles that my word of 2021 will be DO. It will be my year to jump in and get things done. I’m still settling into this word and what it will mean for me. I hope you’ll read along wherever the path leads.

challenges

Turning 50

A group of my fitness friends and I are building our engines. In addition to CrossFit and extra cardio, this crazy group of ladies throws in challenges here and there just to keep it fun and interesting.

Chick 1 got the honor of throwing October’s challenge at us. And it was a doozy.

“Pick a day. Any day. Hop on the bike erg and ride for as long as you can without breaking. Also for socktober you need to wear crazy socks while doing it and document your duration here with video or photo proof. Ready set go!”

Of course being my PhD self I had to ask questions. Is this for time or distance or both? (Honestly, did it really matter?)

I wanted a marathon distance at least. Had to find a day when I could get to the bike erg at the gym for at least two hours, just to be safe. Finally, a night when I had a 7:00 pm meeting not too far from the gym. I get out of work around 4, so that should be just enough.

Preparation: Pack my bike shorts for extra padding. This would be an endurance challenge for my mind, my legs, and for other body parts, too! (If you’ve spent much time on a bike, you know what I mean.) Take Tylenol a couple of hours before. And stop drinking water at noon or so, to be sure my bladder doesn’t shorten my ride! Checked the gym schedule to be sure the bike wasn’t in the workout – whew!

I raced to the gym on the appointed day. I packed things to read, things to do, my AirPods, and so on. Walked in and thankfully the bikes were empty. I was there before any afternoon classes so I got setup, got my tunes going, went to the bathroom one last time, and off I went.

I just went steady most of the first hour. Saw the 4:30 class come and go. I did some video editing one-handed for my daughter’s college recruiting. Read some old articles on my phone. Just kept pedaling. When the second hour started I couldn’t really focus on anything else anymore. My brain just couldn’t do it. So it became just pedal pedal pedal. 42,195 meters – just gotta keep pedaling!

I did take a photos at milestones, like 20 miles. This was to keep things interesting because honestly, riding on the erg for long periods bores me. I’d rather ride my road bike and go places. I also started to worry that the monitor battery would crap out and I’d be stuck with no proof.

After nearly two hours, I hit the marathon distance. And as I had hoped, I still had a little time and I still had life in my legs. So I did what a crazy person does, I kept going. It’s less than 8,000 meters to 50k. Why not try?

I pushed when there really wasn’t much push in my muscles. I just hunkered down and kept going. Watching the number click, click, click over. Praying the monitor kept working! Watching the minutes tick, tick, tick by. Hoping I’d get done in time!

Finally, I got to the last 500 meters. I was going to do it! Video in hand, I taped the monitor so I could see it click over to 50,000. I was going to take selfies and celebrate next to that big number. 300…200…100…and…ready for my close up…but instead….

Apparently no one is crazy enough to bike 50,000 meters, because after 49,999 the monitor starts back over at 1. 1!

I burst out laughing.

What else can I do but laugh? Sure, I didn’t get my photo opp. That doesn’t change the crazy effort or what I know I completed. Just means it’s time for something new.

Sometimes you work your butt off to get to a goal, then get there only to find out someone moved your cheese. Or that goal wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. Or actually, there’s another goal over the horizon. Victory party sure, but keep it short lived. Start over. Get racing. It’s a never-ending process of challenge and improvement. Maybe this is what turning 50 will be like, too. You get there and look around just to say, what’s next? Every finish line is really a start line.

So I waddled off the erg, packed my things and got to my meeting. Chick 1 gave me groovy Nerds socks as my challenge prize. Bring on November. New goals, new challenges and a great group of friends to conquer them with.

perspective

Shifting Gears

I shift gears often. I recently hit 200 miles on the bicycle I bought during corona. I thought how valuable those miles were in solidarity. How I shifted through the gears much as I had to shift through life during turbulent times.

Then I thought a little more about how I drive a stick shift some days and how I shift gears multiple times a day not only to get where I am going but to manage the variety of tasks I have on my plate in a day. Some say driving a stick shift is a lost skill. Some say it’s an anti-theft device. I say if it was so easy everyone would do it.

Now as I write I think of the shifting of gears in my mind. The multiple domains within my brain that I tap in to each day. My executive functions, reasoning, memories, and so on. How oiled are my gears?

Gears are all around us. Many have to shift gears each day at work, at home and of course when dealing with people. It happens. Many people need motivation to get their gears going each day. What do you to to gear up for the day?

Shifting gears for me is variety. It’s options. Do you go from 1st to 3rd gear? Do you go in order of 1-2-3? You decide how you shift your gears when you want to increase speed, torque or just plain results.

What gear do you drive in life?

adventure, fitness and nutrition

I Took the Plunge

I signed up for my first triathlon. It’s a pretty big deal in my mind. A challenge I have never done and a test of my fitness at a different level.

Those of you who follow my writings know I am an avid CrossFitter. I also supplement my weekly CrossFit regimen with trainings for events or competitions of sorts.

I have done some 5k’s, 10k’s, 15k’s, a half marathon along with the odd runs. The color run. The mud run. The bubble run. The jail break run. The terrain race. The obstacle-type adventures definitely make the runs a little more fun and a little less boring. They all fill a spot on my calendar. So do CrossFit competitions and the CrossFit Open. Each year I challenge myself and this year is no different. Good thing I got this badass bling holder to hang onto all my keepsake medals or badges of honor!

500m swim with a grand entrance via water slide into the river. I am pretty excited about this feature. Onto a 12-mile bike ride on a road bike that I have yet to procure. Wrapping up with a 5k run on a relatively flat course. Did I mention this was in the heat of July?

Nonetheless the planning has begun or it’s been in the works before I even knew I would sign up. I started my 2020 mileage goal back on 1/1/20 and since then I have done a lot of biking on my stationary bike erg. Over 500 miles of training to be exact so I am confident I will have no issue with the bike portion.

The 5k I should be able to handle as well given my race history the past year however I have been told it’s a grueling run because your legs will be toast from the swim and bike ride. I will soon find out my fate.

And then there is the part I must work hard to train for. A 500-meter swim. I can swim but I’m no superstar. I’m definitely not conditioned to swim. Rather I am a recreational swimmer who takes a lap here and there. Time to buckle down and establish a training plan.

Off I go to work on my overall strength, endurance and positive mind set as I take on a new challenge. My first triathlon. You will be lucky enough to have a front row seat in my journey via this blog.

Gotta go find that perfect road bike stat. Can’t ride without a bike and my beach bike just won’t cut it for this event. Time to power up mentally, physically and emotionally. Wonder if I will have any buddies join me this year.

As a footnote to this post: I often write my posts and sit on them for some period of time before they go online. Maybe I need to finish my thought. Maybe I need to think about how one will view it. So many emotions.

For this post I think to myself, how important is it for me to post? It’s very important because in these uncertain times we see to look ahead and see what is possible when most things seem impossible. Today I’m investing in a new bike. I could go online and buy one on Craigslist or another online site and get a good deal. I’m opting to run to the local bike shop pay a little more and know I did my part to stimulate the economy and help another small business out.

I can ride my bike and socially distance myself while getting some exercise and training for an upcoming event. I hope this post makes you think about what you can do on your end while we face uncertainty in our lives.

There it is. My shiny new red ride. Together we will be knocking out some miles in 2020 together. Just me, the bike, some sweet tunes and a little pavement. #first10miles