Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Abs of Jello

My holiday week in San Diego was perfectly relaxing, but it also went by unbelievably fast. I had two sessions with DTM of hurt-so-good ART pain, and while the constant burning in my left glute (tissue damage and scarring from my Ironman Cancun 70.3 bike crash, which DTM worked over real good) had me wanting to curse him all week, in reality I am nothing but grateful. DTM is an amazing practitioner and my body is already beginning to feel better aligned and on form. Of course, I still have a long way to go, a fact which was highlighted by my weight training gym session with MJ. I’ve been doing the same monotonous gym routine on and off for the past 10 years. Talk about boring - and talk about wrong! MJ set me straight by demonstrating a variety of free weight exercises and machines that I had never before tried, as well as instructing me in start-from-scratch relearning of those which I thought I was performing properly. She very aptly pointed out the weakness in my core muscles, which contribute to poor posture and a poochy belly. It’s wonderful to have a friend and coach who is so obviously knowledgeable, who patiently explains the method and reasoning to all that she’s teaching me, and who’s also stern enough not to let me slide into poor form or unsafe practices. She’s honest in her assessment of my body’s strengths and weaknesses, and is gentle but clear in pointing out where I need improvement. With some disciplined practice, I hope to master these exercises in no time. And I am so looking forward to my 6-pack abs!

Side note: I thought that for the viewing pleasure of my readers, I would provide before and after photos of my soon-to-be-ripped-and-toned biceps (sorry, I’m a bit too body-conscious to take a close up of my belly!). While attempting to take the before image myself, I was so focused on perfecting a pose that I let the camera slip from my opposite hand, crashing to the tile floor below. Lesson learned: vanity has a price. $299 to be exact.

Birthday Boot Camp

Last week marked two festive occasions: my 41st birthday as well as Christmas. MJ invited me down to her North County San Diego home for a holiday week filled with great friends, delicious food, inspired shopping, girlfriend giggling, miniature dog snuggling, Mama Mia viewing and, of course, Birthday Boot Camp. It’s time to kick off Ironman training, and trust me, there’s no better way to get motivated than to stay in the home of your coach. Of course, seeing MJ head out on “short” 3-4 hour rides while I’ve only been on my bike 3-4 times total since my crash in late September is a bit daunting, but I have to remember that she does this for a living. I had to start somewhere, and in regards to the bike that somewhere was actually the garage. The cold and sometimes rainy week of boot camp inspired me like never before to befriend the bike trainer. I suddenly found myself hopping aboard with a smile, grinding out sweaty gleeful spin intervals. I’m not sure what caused this mental shift, because I’ve always despised the trainer, but suddenly it’s become a welcome tool in my training arsenal, one which I believe will help me combat the challenge of minimal daylight hours. Plus I can crank up the TV and sing my heart out to ABBA tunes– does it get any better than that?

Given that there were four fairly Type-A athletes spending Christmas at MJ’s house, even the holiday-specific festivities inspired competition. Namely, we had a decorate-your-own stocking contest. A week later I am still picking bits of glitter glue off my skin.

I think Tinki (one of MJ’s two miniature pinschers) ultimately earned the most votes, though each of us tried to proclaim ourselves the victor. Regardless of who won, we were all lucky to find the stockings brimming with treats on Christmas morning – obviously Santa is an unbiased judge.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lane 6 Kicked My Ass!

It was a whirlwind holiday week in San Diego, and I’ll blog all about it in the next few entries. First, let me just say that while I was once a middle-of-the-pack swimmer, I now officially and completely suck. I’ve been fooling myself for the past year and a half, since I moved away from the Masters program where I was accustomed to swimming, that my solo workouts were anywhere near the level at which I need to be challenging myself. I only get in the pool every so often these days, and when I do it’s usually for a nice relaxing recovery 2k. My limited time in the water has seriously reduced me to straggler status. Twice over the holiday week I accompanied MJ to San Diego’s North County Masters program and had my you-know-what handed to me in the slow lane.

I mean I could barely keep up. The coach during the first workout immediately and gently pointed out two of the major flaws in my stroke. First, I tend to cross my hands over in front, which certainly inhibits fast and smooth forward motion. Second, I seem to put my right hand up in a “halt” motion as it enters the water, rather than cupping it down and pulling the water back alongside my body. In effect, I am pushing the water away from myself, which is obviously a bit counter-productive. But even with a minor effort to correct, I found myself gliding much more smoothly, so I do believe there is hope for even the most aquatically impaired. Now the trick is to make the corrections stick, as well as to incorporate them with other key features of the freestyle stroke, such as proper body rotation and remembering to breathe. On the second workout I was asked to lead the lane as we churned out multiple sprints. I felt great through the first set of intervals and was energized to be leading my fellow slowpokes, but about halfway through the workout I literally thought my arms might fall off, dead weight hitting the bottom of the pool, never to be seen again. But despite a few toe-taps from the other Lane 6-ers, I held the starting position, and refused to give into fatigue until I saw MJ exit the pool (via Lane 1, of course) and knew it was time to stop. Lesson learned: I need to be in the pool a minimum of 3x a week, ideally at Masters, but at the very least putting myself through the paces of timed intervals and stroke drills. My goal, by April, will be to swim well enough to comfortably lead Lane 5!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Journey To Oz - Welcome Aboard!

I am not the world’s fastest triathlete. I’d classify myself as decent, but only slightly above average. And while I don’t feel I’ve reached my greatest potential, I have no one but myself to blame for any shortfalls. In the ten years I’ve been racing competitively, everything from sprint triathlons to full-distance Ironmans, I’ve never once sought the guidance of a coach. Sure, I’ve followed bits and pieces of advice and cut-and-pasted a compilation of online training plans, but I’ve avoided a serious commitment to being coached. Perhaps I’ve been too lazy, perhaps too stubbornly independent or perhaps too averse to being accountable thus far. But after three Ironman races with finish times ranging from 12:11 – 12:38, I’ve decided to change my amateur ways. Hooray for consistency and all, but that collection of results verges on boring. I need some help if there’s hope of making a serious dent in my dozen-hour Ironman day.

Coincidentally, I’m lucky to count Michellie Jones as a close friend. Who better to employ as my coach than the World Champion herself? I figure she knows a thing or two about proper training, and if I can glean a fraction of improvement with MJ as my guide, I’ll be on the right path. Even better, MJ and I and another friend, Pablo, have all signed on to race the 2009 Ironman Australia on April 5th. We’ll train, travel and race together – well, at least simultaneously – and this journal will document the highs and lows, the agony and ecstasy and most of all, the humor, of the experience.

There are so many questions swirling in my mind. How will being schooled by MJ impact my performance, and also my enjoyment and understanding of the Ironman? Will I reach heights of athletic success never before imagined? Will I suffer at the hands of my coach? Can I truly improve, or am I too set in my ways? How will this journey and the coach and trainee roles affect our friendship? When will I reach the finish line in Port Macquarie, and what will I learn in the four months en route? How soon until my skinny jeans fit?

The first few weeks will be about prepping the base training plan, laying down the ground rules and getting in the disciplined workout groove. The real training program will kick off during the holidays, when I spend some time in San Diego for a self-imposed boot camp. I’ve agreed to follow MJ’s every direction, and I’ll tally my progress each week, as both the Test (what I’m supposed to accomplish) and the Truth (what I actually do).

Like any epic journey, there’s a cast of characters who will frame this experience with support, love, professional know-how and sarcastic wit. I’ve assigned each of the major players a nickname and accompanying set of initials, with which I will refer to them henceforth:

MJ = Michellie Jones, of course. Also known as My Justice – my justice for having raced 10 years without a coach. It’s due time I get my butt whipped into shape.

HPP = Paul “Pablo” Healing, aka the Healing Power of Pablo – the third in our trio of IM OZ racers. HPP can always be counted on for his light-hearted humor, a reminder to us girls not to take things all too seriously when we get our panties in a bunch. He also muddles a mean mojito, providing perfect inspiration for a post-race celebration.

MM = Chris Miller, aka Michigan Man - my number one, albeit long-distance, source of emotional support and encouragement. He delights in teasing me and is guaranteed to send amusing text messages throughout the course of the project. He’s also likely to be green with envy when the rest of us board the plane for OZ.

DTM = Dan Selstad, aka Dan The Man - proprietor of Dan’s “House of Pain”, DTM runs one of the most successful Active Release Therapy practices in Southern California. On my occasional visits to San Diego, DTM will be employed to help heal the havoc I have wrought on my body.

The foundation is in place, and now it’s time to get to work - not just talking the talk, but walking the walk (and swim and bike and run). I invite you to witness my progress via weekly updates. Wish me luck and welcome aboard the journey!