Saturday, January 01, 2011

End of 2010/Beginning of 2011

Yesterday I did my longest swim ever--13,500 yards--to cap off a great 2010:
  • PR'ed the marathon plus combined 1/2 plus full at Goofy Challenge in January
  • Won my AG at the Midwest Indoor Triathlon Series (all 3 races)
  • Finished Ultraman Canada (oldest female finisher!) and therefore qualified for Ultraman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (racing in 2011). UMC featured my longest ride and run ever!
  • Did my 4th "full" NothingMan
  • Ran another marathon just for fun at Ironman Florida
  • Weathered a cornucopia of foot/hip issues--still working it all out--and still managed to race
  • Worked through a lot of self-confidence issues en route to UMC
I really can't complain about 2010. Stepping up to the Ultraman distance was the highlight, and not completely blowing myself up in the process was the reward. In retrospect, making the decision back in 2009 to do it was one of the biggest decisions in my life. I still get asked every so often (yesterday being the most recent) how training/racing Ultraman compares to Ironman. IMO the training is much harder not so much because you might be training more than you would for Ironman, but it does test your mental fortitude in a much different way. And the Ultraman race itself gives you 3 straight days of holding it together mentally vs. the single day of Ironman. To me, that is what makes Ultraman the bigger challenge--many people who are capable of a strong Ironman finish might have the physical goods to finish Ultraman, but you can't know of the mental component until you actually try it. Also, whereas with Ironman you can't get by without being a strong cyclist, for Ultraman everything is magnified--each leg is long enough that you can't afford to suck at any of them.

For those of you who are number junkies, below is a calendar year summary of my training for the last 4 years:

As you can see, I did a lot of swimming! My bike and run mileage came down from 2009 a bit, but overall what this shows me is that I can (sort of) sustain around 840 annual training hours. For 2011 and UMWC training, I hope to bring up the biking hours, since UMWC will have a much harder cycling portion than UMC did. I am going to take a chance on my run volume--while it would be nice to sneak in a 50-miler, I'm going to err on the side of biking more. That is the puzzle that is Ultraman--how much of what to do based on your strengths. For me, I know that the stronger I can bike, the better I will run.

Now about that longest swim yesterday. I was for sure going to do at least 10k (11,000 yards), but since I'd gotten ahead of myself on long swim for the prior 3 weeks, I figured I should be good for 12,500, which is just over 7 miles. That would make for a nice, overdistance swim. I can't get more than 3.5 hours of contiguous lap swim time at my Y, so when I want to swim more than that I have to go to Good Samaritan and pay to swim. I don't mind paying for this amount of lap time, since the Good Sam facility is really nice--the pool is always cooler than at the Y (81-82 typically vs. 84-85 for the Y), the lap lanes are never crowded when I go there, and there's a huge hot tub that is awesome for the post-workout relaxation.

Usually I make up how I am going to break up these long swims before I get to the pool, and since I had 12,500 in my head, I figured on 10x1,250, which is odd since I like doing even 100's! But then I thought about my refueling plan, which is to gulp down Infinit every 30 or 40 minutes, so while I was doing the first 1250, I had a bright idea of doing 250 kick or backstroke or drills or something after the straight yardage, and that would bring me to 1500 before I'd need to drink Infinit.

So now in my head I am doing 1500 repeats, and now I'm doing math to get to 12,500. 8x1500 is 12,000. So I settled on 9. Don't ask me my logic! 9x1500 comes out to 13,500, and I began thinking whether I could do this much--last week's long swim was 9800. That's a pretty significant jump, but I've done 11,000 before so I figured that 2500 more would be doable.

I did the first 4 rounds of 1500, then I got bored and decided to do intervals of 250's, which was good mentally, because I could do 5x250 of something and then my 250 of kicking or whatever to give my face a break from the goggles, give my arms a slight break, or whatever I wanted to do for it.

Much of doing this long stuff is about managing those voices in your head--the ones telling you that what you are doing is boring, that it hurts, that you don't really need to do this. You need to be calm and relaxed mentally while working through the pain and boredom issues. Although I don't really experience it as boredom so much as staying in the moment--focusing on the next goal, which is to finish the current repeat or the current set. Then once I finish one piece, instead of focusing on how fucking awesome I am for having gone so far, I forget about that and look to the next goal.

I had just about finished 12,000 when a guy I know but haven't seen in about a year showed up. I was unusually lucid at this point in that I recognized him and got a huge grin across my face. A part of me thought I'd done enough and could just stop. After all, 12,000 would have been my longest swim ever. But I got to talking to Shawn a bit and he asked me about my last year and I was wearing the swimsuit that I wore at UMC and also my race swim cap (in retrospect a good idea for these long swims--the race caps don't compress my head as much as my regular swim caps!), and as we got to talking it was fun to see his eyes bug out when I confirmed that yes, I had done Ultraman 5 months ago!

Shawn said he only had time for 1500, and I told him that was "all" I had left, and so off we went. I don't really think I was going to bag that last 1500, but sometimes the universe steps in just to make sure I stay true to my objective. Shawn finished before me (as I expected--I was a bit tired at this point), we chatted a bit more, and went our separate ways.

I don't think it was such a big deal for me to swim that much, although I was very happy at how much stronger I've become in the last year. I won't say that swim was a snap, but it didn't tax me as much as the 10k swim I did a year ago did! I even had visions of maybe doing some sort of ultra swim event, but I know I would need to develop some more speed before I do that. I'm thinking 2012 may be the year I get that swim coaching I've talked about and cut back on the yardage. Funny how these things come to me.

I have no plans to swim longer than I did yesterday during 2011, but I did make a few changes to my training plan and will do another 4.5-5 hour swim (crap maybe I will go longer!) 3 weeks out from UMWC. Now if I can just fit in another marathon someplace...

The thing I've learned about training plans is that it's good to set down your overall plan (ATP), fill in the blanks, and then make adjustments to things based on actual performance along the way. Which might mean going faster or longer at times than initially planned. It makes me feel like I'm not so locked into my original plans. But some of that comes with the years of long distance experience I have, and that is a great thing.

I am going to kick off 2011 training with a 2:15 trainer ride and my first brick run since...NothingMan IV!!!

May your 2011 see you hitting your goals--not just the original ones you made, but the adjusted ones you make along the way!

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