12/2/14

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8K - race reflection


The beginning of every season is an exciting time for me. It's a fresh new start to build from the past, to re-create the present and to plan for the future.

As athletes, we know that it is necessary to progress through phases in our season in order to enhance performance systematically.
But what about the first time you train for something for the very first time?

You see, there are stages of learning as athletes and we must go through these stages as we progress with our skills and fitness. 

But the really neat thing about being an athlete and training for an event for the very first time is that we don't necessarily know the stages that we should be experiencing yet we put our trust in the process and simply enjoy the journey to train for the first ever, longest distance ever.

Once you become a veteran to a distance, things change. There are more gains in fitness to be felt but the mind also changes. No longer are you seeing challenges for the first time or experiencing exciting first-ever moments but instead you reflect...a lot.
There was once a time when you thought you were super fast, really in shape, exceptionally strong and it likely all felt so natural. These thoughts come and go at random times throughout a training journey.

When you, the athlete, trains for a new distance for the first time, there is little awareness of what you are doing wrong, if you are doing things wrong. How do you know if you should do better or differently? There is no past in your athletic career to recognize what should have happened at specific phases in your training. Although this may look like a very scary time for you in terms of you lacking an understanding as to how to train for an event for the very first time, there is a special period during this training when you do begin to refine skills and feel more prepared with each training session that you put behind you.  

As we continue our journey as athletes and train for another new distance, the journey becomes a lot less scary and a lot more exciting. We begin to gain confidence. We often make mistakes but overtime, we learn from our mistakes. We begin to call these learning lessons in an effort to train smarter. 

Every year I am building fitness from the previous year. Over the past 8 years, I have never experienced a new longer distance for the first time. For the past 8 years, I have taken my body on the same Ironman journey. For nine times in the past 8 years, I have trained for the same distance event. 140.6 miles. 

Yet every year I find myself refining my skills. Recognizing weaknesses and discovering a smarter way to train. I still get nervous on race day, I still question if I am doing "enough" and I still fist pump my way down the finish line because I am so grateful for my amazing body.

As athletes, we have an unique opportunity, every year, to begin a new season of training. We get to build a new foundation that will stand as the platform of our season fitness progression. 

During this time, there is the opportunity to get excited about the journey ahead. To be OK with the progression of fitness and that yes, it did feel easier at one time. But, we have this beautiful blank canvas ahead of us as to how we will paint our season. There is a tendency to think back and to feel frustrated about fitness (and perhaps skills) in the beginning of the season but recognize that this is normal and necessary. 

Remember that time when you trained for an event for the very first time? You had nothing to look back on so all your energy was taking you toward the present. You probably felt frustrated at times that it was hard but that's also why you signed up for your journey in the first place.

So why should now be any different just because you no longer a newbie?

Once you find yourself years into a sport, you begin to accumulate PR's, best performances and times when you feel/felt in the best shape ever. No more do you get excited about doing something for the first time but instead you get excited to do it again...but even faster.

You begin to train with higher expectations as to what you feel you should be doing at this point in your journey. Whether it's because you did it in the past or you have confidence that you should be there right now, this is often one downside of being a seasoned athlete.

There's always that one time. 

After 6 weeks of no training, Karel and I began our foundation phase of training. We focused our energy on strength and skills. We are in the pool a lot. The ankle strap has become a daily training partner in the water. We perform single leg drills on the bike and often ride with a fast cadence. And sometimes push heavy gears really slow. We don't workout very long but we train frequently. And this include strength training. We have frequent short runs, slow as possible with good form. Karel learned how to run 7:45-8 min/miles and I embraced 8:45-9 min/miles. Yes, there was a time that I ran a 1:31 solo half marathon and Karel ran a 1:21 solo half marathon but that was in the past when we trained to run fast in a running event.
Yes there was a time when I could swim a 1:11 x 100 breastroke in college and a 2:19 x 200 butterfly but now I get excited if I can hold repeating 100's on a 1:30 cycle. Yes, there was a time when Karel had a higher FTP on the bike and he could push more watts but that was before he found a way to ride strong and run a 3:11 marathon off a 112 mile bike ride. 

There will always be a time when you were faster and I never want you to forget that time. Rather than wishing you were there, celebrate what you once did and then think about the future. There are so many ways to get fast but if you put all your energy into the past, you will lack the fundamental skills of how to train smarter for the future. 


On Thanksgiving morning, Karel and I ran the TreesGreenvill 8K. My first road race in 2 years. There were no expectations for Karel and me because well, we haven't done any speed work since well before IMWI. As I mentioned above, our running has been short and frequent and slow. But we are doing exactly what we should be doing right now in this phase of our training. 
This race was all in the name of fun. If anything, this was a great way to give thanks to our healthy bodies.
This was our first event in Greenville and a great opportunity to be around other runners. 

On a hilly course, I went solely by RPE. There was no pacing strategy aside from hold back on the first 2 miles to make it feel easy. Without any speed work, I was running almost 2 minutes faster per mile than any run I have done since IMWI in early September. Sure, there was a time when I could run faster but when I was racing for almost 5 miles, I was not thinking about the past.  I was thinking about where I see myself in October at my 4th IM World Championship and 10th Ironman and where I am right now in my season journey. 

Running fast is not in my plan right now and that's because I am in a specific phase of training that does not emphasize speed. If I am not training for speed, why should I expect myself to be fast? I know this because I am no longer a newbie athlete but instead, an athlete who knows how to train smarter. I made mistakes and I learned and I also like to try new things.

The beautiful thing about being an athlete is never losing the athlete that lies with us. Regardless of the fitness, the love of competition, pushing and refusing to quit still comes out on race day.

So even though  I may not have ran my fastest pace in a running race (technically it was a PR since I have never ran an 8K before :) I was incredibly proud of my body that it knew exactly what to do on race day.
Give the best effort possible with my current level of fitness.

Karel and I both surprised ourselves as we never thought we'd both run so fast without any speed work in our body.

Although we have no way to predict the future, this was a great confidence booster that our transition plan is working.
Get stronger to get faster and then go longer. 

This is my favorite part of the training season. To dream big and work hard but remain patient with the journey.

A new journey of training for the same distance triathlons. 


Marni 910 Garmin data 

Total time: 34:40
Distance: 4.95
Average pace: 6:56 min/mile
3rd age group, 13th overall female
Mile 1: 6:49
Mile 2: 7:17
Mile 3 6:52
Mile 4: 7:10
Mile 5: 7:05


Karel Garmin 910 data

Total time: 29:01
Distance 4.95
Average pace: 5:45 min/mile
2nd age group, 10th overall
Mile 1: 5:15
Mile 2: 5:53
Mile 3: 6:02
Mile 4: 6:07
Mile 5: 5:29