Sunday, November 17, 2013

A new concept in my life: Playing with others

While I like to be social and value the friendships and relationships that are a part of my life, I consider myself to be quite an introvert.  I need that "alone time" to recharge, regroup, gather thoughts and then I can be with people.  When I don't get that time to myself, I become extremely cranky!

Which brings me to the swim/bike/run question.  When I first started out in 2011, I was a solitary swimmer, biker and runner.  I did take some swim classes at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center and Michael would occasionally accompany me on the rides and runs, but I was pretty happy tootling along on my own and winging it, for the most part.  Last year, I sporadically attended a group ride or two and quite a few runs with a local tri group and connected in a non-organized way with other people for runs and rides, but I mainly stuck to the solo approach for the majority of my training, even for my first venture into the 70.3 distance.

I still prefer to hit the road on my own, either hoofing it on my feet or coasting along on the bike, and swimming alone is one of the most zen experiences that I know.  BUT, I've also come to realize that group rides, organized runs and swim practices can reap huge benefits.  So, I have pushed myself to overcome my hesitancy to train with others and my preference to enjoy the time to alone that training affords me.  The hesitancy - or maybe it's a lack of confidence - is a huge part of why I prefer to train on my own.  Hello, I have a complex because I just hate being so slow on the swim and the bike.  Actually, I don't care that much about the swim, but I am terribly slow on the bike (still), and I feel pretty self-conscious when I bike in a group.  And running on my own?  I said that swimming alone is a zen experience, which is true, but there is nothing that can compare to being on a trail or a road, feet hitting the dirt or the pavement, mind focused yet also freely wandering - it's my moment to daydream and to think about the "what ifs" in my life while also focusing on pace, breathing, environment.  I always feel so alive, alert and also relaxed when I'm running.  Even on a hard run, when I feel that I'm suffering through it, I can find great moments in the experience.

Despite this tendency and preference to go it alone, I've looked to running and to swim/bike/run as a way to connect to other people through shared experiences and as a way to improve my own level of fitness.  What a concept!  I'm still reluctant to head out on group rides, but I know that they are a. fun and b. great training.  The same can be said for group runs, when I push myself a bit more because I'm trying to keep up, somewhat, with the faster people, who are probably slowing down a bit for the slower people.  Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently joined a master's swim group at the Rose Bowl.  Since this past spring, I've been swimming on occasion with a friend from work.  She is WICKED fast, despite the fact that she considers herself slow because she compares her current times to those of her former self.  We made a pact, joining master's together, and while it is still a bit scary for me, the experience improves as the weeks go by.  And I definitely see improvements in my swimming - not that I'm fast, but I am more comfortable pushing myself more, in terms of speed and distance.  And there are those occasional surprises.  Last Tuesday night, I pulled up in the lane next to someone that I actually knew from the tri group, and we had a great time sharing a lane - it wasn't scary and I didn't berate myself for being so slow (after all, he was in the same lane as I!).

So, I suppose I'm learning that, as much as I'd like to spend all of the hours of training on my own, it won't necessarily push me like training with other people.  Nor is it as much fun - and that has to be a huge part of the "why".  Not that I'm giving up on my solo training - I enjoyed a great run today which made me so happy to be able to lace up my shoes and pound out an easy yet speedy for me 6 miles.

I suppose it's about finding the balance between my introvert nature and the benefits that can come from working and training and being with others.  So, I'm trying to embrace the fact that playing with others is not just an important concept for small children - it can also apply to my own life, and not just in terms of training!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kind of inspired these days

Usually, I hit November feeling kind of blah about things, but this year seems a bit different.  I dragged a few days after my 10K race, but last Friday, November 1, I felt pretty energized and ready for a new month.  It doesn't hurt that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, yes, I'm totally looking forward to the break.   But a positive attitude in November?  I'll take it!  

Most articles that come my way via talk about the off-season as if it's starting now.  I think that I had a serious break in August, September and October.  Not that I was a total couch potato, but I didn't try to force too many workouts or stick to a rigid schedule.  So, now that it's November, I feel somewhat ready to recommit to to the whole swimbikerun thing.  In past years, I've sort of fallen off the swim and bike wagon during the fall, but I wanted to keep those skills somewhat sharper this fall so that 2014 doesn't come as a shock to the system.

So, after flirting with the idea of joining the Rose Bowl Master's Swim group and attending a few practices "just to see" in October, I plunked down the cash and joined up.  Not that I'm going all that often, but the workouts are HARD and they push me, in a good way.  I still feel intimidated about the experience, but I actually don't mind that I'm in the slowest lane.  Well, I did the first time I went because one of the other people in the lane was a total ass, but since then, things have been quite fun.  Even better, I think that I've already seen some results.  Amazing how practicing harder and longer reaps rewards.

Also, now that the 10k is out of the way, I'd like to settle back into longer runs and get more miles under my legs.  I enjoyed speedier and shorter runs in September and October, but I have a half-marathon in January that I'd actually like to train for it.  What a concept!  So, this past Sunday, I pounded out 8 miles - my longest run since July.  That piece of information depresses me a bit, but the run felt fantastic, so I'll take that as a positive sign.  I should see double-digits again soon which will be fun!

And, the third skill, biking.  Ah, the weak link, always.  But I'm slightly more dedicated to my saddle at this point than I was last year.  Having the trainer at home does let my legs do more spinning on my bike which should help in the long run.  I realize that there are TONS of videos and resources out there and I can/should probably push myself a bit more on it, but as long as I work up a good sweat and get my heart rate spiked, I'm okay with the sessions at home at this point.  And as long as I can get outside a few times this month on the bike, it will be tons better than last year (when I logged in zero rides in November.  Lame).

So, that is the swim/bike/run off-season for me.  I haven't turned into a total slug, but there is still time, especially with Christmas right around the corner!  But even more exciting this year, my body has stayed relatively healthy (please don't let this jinx me!).  I continue to get the occasion "tune-up" for my calf and foot with ART, but so far I've continued to keep a flare-up of plantar fasciitis at bay.  Also, my knee has cooperated.  I plan to see the knee doc before Christmas just to make sure that all is kosher before I spend a day or two skiing on it, but no cortisone shot since the end of January - this is the longest stretch that I've gone since I started getting them, so I'll call that progress!

Finally, a few "inspirational" thoughts that made me smile recently:

"Paris. New York. Milan. The fashion Meccas of the world don't want to see your muddy plaid anywhere near their glitzy runways. That's okay. You don't want to see their Louis Vuitton stilettos on your trail. Behold, trail-inspired apparel for style-conscious women with active lifestyles."  This was from the - one of my favorite on-line discount websites for gear.  

And last night, as we were drinking margaritas and sharing great company, the waiter said "At Amigos, everything is possible here."

Yes, I definitely like the idea of everything being possible, even in November!