I could just work, have someone else take care of my kids during the day, come home for dinner, put the kids to bed and hang out on the couch watching TV. But that doesn’t really appeal to me. Instead, I have a part time teaching job, a reasonably full docket of triathletes to coach, an ironman to train for (LP2016!!), as well as three crazy, young boys to chase after. I have chosen this path. This lifestyle full of twists, turns, changing gears, and non-stop action. A typical day for me consists of a 5:00AM wakeup to workout for a couple hours followed by breakfast with the kids. Then I run off to school to teach high school seniors a lesson on game theory. I maybe try to squeeze in a quick 30-minute durability run before rushing home to partake in monster truck races, bouncy house games, and perhaps a pile of fun (jumping off the couch into a pile of pillows) with my three boys before the dinner hour strikes. After dinner, I get the kids cleaned up (maybe), watch a couple episodes of Curious George, and put the kids to bed. Then I feed the dogs (wait, did I remember to walk them earlier??) and hop on my computer to check out my athletes’ workouts for the day and analyze their progress. I work on training programs and answer emails until the clock hits the bedtime hour (no later than 10:00!) as I know that my lifestyle is not conducive to being overtired.
The dreaded FTP test…. A test where you are asked to ride your bike as hard as you can for twenty minutes straight. Most would think this test strictly evaluates your strength as a cyclist. However, in order for this test to be accurate, you need to have the mental fortitude to push yourself as hard as you can for twenty LONG minutes. From my perspective this sort of test is as much a test of mental strength as it is a test of physical strength. Twenty minutes is a long time to push yourself as hard as you can! And how do you really know if your effort is at its maximum? Honestly, you don’t! And you probably can always push yourself a little bit harder as 99.9% of the time, your mind gives up before your body does. These sorts of prolonged “best effort” tests, such as an FTP test, a 6-minute run test, or any sustained max-effort interval, can be quite daunting for many athletes. Below are some mental strategies that I have found to be effective in helping survive and even thrive in these sorts of max effort intervals.
For many of you reading this blog, exercise is your go-to method of reducing stress, clearing your mind, and simply making yourself feel good. Some of us can’t start the day without it. Some of us need it in some way, shape, or form each day to feel complete. But it’s useful to have a toolbox of other outlets which you can utilize to help improve your mental state when you are feeling a bit “off your game.” For me, I like to have at least two mental lifts each day. I start my day with exercise, but then by early afternoon those endorphins have worn off. At this point in the day, I need another pick-me up – another mental boost. My body and schedule do not always permit another round of exercise at this point in the day. So here are some other strategies I employ to provide myself with an afternoon “mental boost” to help me get through the day.
The colder weather and the shorter days signal the off-season for most of us here in New England. So in place of race reports and descriptions of in-season trials and tribulation, I will be sending this blog in a different direction for a while. The posts will be comprised of tidbits of information and advice on triathlon training, sports psychology, mindfulness, or anything else that strikes my fancy. So stay tuned if you are interested!
The Top 5 DO’s and DON’’T’s for your Triathlon Offseason
The last big race of my season was on the horizon – Pumpkinman Half Ironman. After my performance at Timberman 70.3, I was very optimistic about earning a solid result at this race. Leading up to the race, I felt mentally and physically ready to roll. I was confident. I was hopeful. I was excited. I had trained hard for months and this was my last chance to cash in on all the time I had devoted to training. This was it — my final long race.
Ordinarily, I prefer the day before a big race to be relatively mellow. We had some childcare lined up for the day, so my husband and I decided it was a good opportunity to go car shopping. Our outing was initially targeted toward “seeing what our options were” by visiting a few different car dealers. Not surprisingly, our exploratory car search turned into a full-fledged car buying experience. As a result, the evening turned into a bit of a frenzy… My husband was at the car dealer haggling over floor mats, seat covers, and roof rails for our new minivan, while I spent the evening preparing dinner, scrubbing grime off of our dirty children, and trying desperately to get the kids to close their eyes and drift off to sleep. Not the relaxing evening I had hoped for the night before my BIG race! Knowing that I had to get up at an ungodly hour to drive up to Maine for the race, I was hoping to settle into bed early. That was not going to happen on this night, as I hadn’t finished getting my gear ready for the race. Life with young children… Things rarely unfold as scripted!
Last weekend I was in New Hampshire for my third race of the season, Timberman 70.3. The first two races hadn’t been the triumphs I had hoped for, so I was fired up and ready to fire on all cylinders. I took a 17-mile detour in my first race back and my second race was cancelled before it started due to violent weather. Based on the way my season had gone so far, I honestly didn’t expect this race to go according to plan either. But I was prepared for whatever was to come and I was ready to tackle the day.
The IRONMAN. For most, it’s an incomprehensible feat — one that is not appealing in any way, shape, or form. For these people, the thought of spending most of the day physically exerting oneself sounds like a medieval form of torture. It’s utterly insane and completely unfathomable. When witnessing exhausted athletes crawl to the finish line during the telecast of the Hawaii Ironman on TV, these people respond with comments like, “why would anyone EVER do that?”
“So let me get this straight – you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and then run a marathon?! All in one day? Why would you EVER do something like that?” As an ironman athlete or an endurance athlete of any sort, I’m sure you field questions such as these from non-endurance athletes on a regular basis. Most probably respond with a chuckle, a smile, or simply a nod of the head. After shrugging off this question from a “casual Joe”, you stand around awkwardly, not quite knowing how to move past this moment of division in understanding. Do you shrug off the question because you think the “casual Joe” just wouldn’t understand? Or do you shrug it off because you actually don’t truly know the answer to his question?
Just a few days after taking the 17 mile detour at the White Mountains Triathlon, I contemplated my next move. I was eager for a respectable result. I wanted redemption. I was in search of an outcome that would validate all of my hard work, effort, and sacrifice that I have put into my training for months on end. I felt the need for validation. I had signed up for two other half ironman races in August and September, but I couldn’t wait that long. I longed for a satisfying result.