Archive for category Thoughtful Thursdays

Social Running

There was a time when nearly all of my runs were solo runs, and I “hated” running with other people. Really, I just wasn’t comfortable enough to run with anyone else. I thought I was too slow and too out of shape to be a good running partner, so I never even tried. After being a runner for nearly 7 years, I still do the majority of my runs solo or with the dog, but in the last two years, I have learned how motivating and fun it is to run with a friend and even with a group.

These are my top 4 reasons to run with friends.

1. Accountability

Picture this, it’s a cold, gray, and rainy Sunday morning. You have a 10+ mile run planned and you have no desire to drag yourself out of bed. You only do because you’ve scheduled to run with your training partner at 8am. The entire time you’re getting ready to go, you’re hoping that she calls you to cancel, but she doesn’t. When you get to the trailhead, it’s raining just enough that you know you’ll be soaked by the time you finish the run. Your training partner shows up and you get moving. You both joke about hoping the other called to cancel that morning. The run goes faster than you expected even though the sun stays hidden and you really are soaked by the time you get back to the car, you finished your run and it ended up being a pretty good day.

(via Pinterest) And it always looks better when you don’t have to face it alone!

2. Great Conversation

Lots of miles, lots of hours, lots of conversations. All those crazy thoughts you have on a solo run now have a sounding board, grat advice, and feedback. You get the added bonus of looking less like a crazy person because you no longer have to talk to yourself to keep entertained. Nothing is off-limits in a long run conversation and what’s discussed on the run, stays on the run. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

3. Motivation and Mental Toughness

On those days when you need an extra push, you get it. A running partner or training group can bolster your mental toughness. They can support that all important mental will to keep you going or get you through a rough patch.

“You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn’t getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape.”
-Amby Burfoot

4. Getting You Over the Hump

Whether it’s a little friendly competition or running with a group that goes a little faster or a little farther, social running can help you take your running to the next level when you’re finding it tough to do it on your own.

(via Pinterest)

This week, all of my runs, except today, will be with friends. I know I will always enjoy my solo runs, but it is a great treat to mix it up!

What do you like about running with others?

Today’s Training:

9 x 200m hill repeats @ 5K pace (solo)


  1. 1:01.3 (9:03 min/mile)
  2. 56.9 (8:43 min/mile)
  3. 55.4 (8:19 min/mile)
  4. 54.4 (8:17 min/mile)
  5. 54.2 (8:20 min/mile)
  6. 56.3 (8:45 min/mile)
  7. 52.9 (7:49 min/mile)
  8. 53.9 (7:56 min/mile)
  9. 54.8 (8:28 min/mile)

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What Works for Me

A recent blog post (sorry no link, can’t remember where it was!) started me thinking about the latest trends in fitness culture. From minimalist shoes and barefoot running to Paleo/Primal nutrition to Crossfit and more, it has become almost a rite of passage for fitness fanatics to try and in some cases cling to these fads. I freely admit reading Born to Run and promptly transitioning to a minimalist shoe. I even tried on some Vibram FiveFingers, and still think about going back to buy them. I’ve mentioned that I’ve recently made a foray into the world of Paleo/Primal eating, and the main reason I haven’t tried Crossfit yet is the expense.

Sometimes I find it hard to remember that just because these things are trendy doesn’t mean they’re what works for me.

Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky. Knock wood, I am not injury prone. My IT band used to act up occasionally, but a little extra attention with the foam roller and I am good to go. Minimalist shoes were no big deal to transition to wearing. I already preferred lighter weight shoes. I’m a very neutral runner with minimal pronation and I naturally mid-foot strike pretty consistently. Minimalist shoes were practically made for me! Are they for everyone? Heck no! But they do work for me.

Let’s talk paleo/primal.

It started as something Curtis mentioned, then I grabbed onto and ran away with it. The transition was easy for me – I had to trade my morning oatmeal for eggs and veggies and my dinners of rice- or pasta-based dishes for more meat and veggies- but as long as I had time to plan and shop it was no big deal. I didn’t experience the first few days of headaches or strange symptoms that I’ve heard are common, and the only unexpected side effect I had was increased thirst over the first few days. My dear hubby, on the other hand, felt like crap the first few days. He bounced back over the next week, but after struggling with the very restrictive plan while out of town and eating at other peoples’ homes, he has opted out of this style of eating. It didn’t work for him.

Does it work for me? Yes and no. I feel no different eating in the primal style than I did before, with the notable exception that I no longer feel hungry all the time. I can actually eat a meal and feel satisfied for more than 20 minutes afterward! I love that about it. But…I still love pasta, bread, rice and all the other “no-nos” that are not consistent with primal. Because of this, primal isn’t going to work for me. I’ll complete my 30 day challenge in just 6 more days. After that, I plan to stick with some primal tenets for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but if I want to have some grains with dinner or eat dessert, I will with no guilt about it. They don’t give me overwhelming inflammation, nor do they sap my energy.

Will a strictly primal or paleo nutrition plan work for you? Try it and see. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, keep the parts you like and get rid of the rest.

There are no hard and fast rules to fitness and nutrition! What works for me won’t always work for you. I may fall for each passing trend in running faster, eating better, or being healthier, and that’s ok, as long as I remember to listen to my own body and pay attention to what works for me without trapping myself into what works for everybody else.

Have you tried any fitness trends? What works or doesn’t work for you?



Today’s Training:

4.66 mile run

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Thoughtful Thursdays: Adventure

The July edition of Triathlete magazine is dedicated to off-road triathlon, and included the article, “Adventure: The Antidote to Fear”, which had an excerpt that I just love from Mitch Thrower.  I thought I’d share it today instead of my normal long-winded comments on an aspect of triathlon.

“Now if you are training for a triathlon or have participated in one, guess what?  You are forever a triathlete, and that distinction is for life.  Once you have done a triathlon you will always belong to a very special group of people who decided to replace fear with adventure.

Fear, reluctance, intimidation, trepidation.  They’re all the negative faces of creative imaginations.  It’s a universal adage that freedom from fear unleashes the best of our physical capabilities, the daring of our souls.  In that sense our adventures in triathlon trigger confidence and productivity.  In turn, this raises the limits of what we can accomplish in our work and family life.  So keep swimming, biking and running away from fear–always in the direction of your next adventure.”

I know some of you are coming up on your first ever triathlon, and since I’m going to be away for some of them and out of touch of the blogging community, let me just say: Congratulations, Triathlete!

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Thoughtful Thursdays: The Open Water Swim

In this edition of Thoughtful Thursdays, I thought it might be helpful to talk about the open water swim a bit.  It seems to be the most daunting event for many triathletes.  And in fact, I’d guess that many prefer the relative safety of a pool swim.  There is a lot more to think about with an open water swim; rather than just worrying that you seeded yourself correctly and making sure to touch the wall at both ends, there are weather conditions, water conditions, sighting, and wearing a wetsuit to consider- just to name a few!

In my opinion, the single-most important thing to a successful open water swim is simple- RELAX.  I must admit I have been very lucky in this arena, since I grew up swimming on a swim team and taking many trips to lakes and beaches.  These experiences instilled a great level of comfort in water, which usually keeps me from going into panic mode if and when something goes wrong.  I know that thrashing and flailing about will not solve my problems, but almost always, relaxing my muscles and floating for a moment is going to re-orient me and eliminate some of the initial stressful thoughts.  The biggest hurdle of the open water swim is the mental aspect.  After you have trained in a pool for a certain distance, whether Sprint or longer, you know you can swim that distance.  But for many reasons, it just seems different in open water- it is no longer nice and neatly broken into clear swimming pools with sets broken into specific distances.  In open water, it is a some-what defined route you have to follow through often murky and sometimes tumultuous water.  In a race, you add in the other swimmers you have to worry about, and it can seem to be an overwhelming task.  But let me stop before I psych you out, that is not the goal of this post.  I want to share the things I’ve learned to be helpful in making the open water swim a success.

First things first, determine whether you are going to wear a wetsuit.  USAT rules say that you can wear a wetsuit when water temperature is 78°F or lower.  Between 78.1° and 83.9° wetsuits are allowed, however competitors will not be elligible for any awards.  At 84° or above, wetsuits are not allowed.  The reason wetsuits make competitors ineligible at higher temperatures is buoyancy, which is exactly the same reason I would highly recommend anyone to wear a wetsuit when it’s allowed (74° or under).  The wetsuit is going to keep your body more level in the water, particularly if you have trouble balancing or keeping your body horizontal.  Also, if you get in a pickle and get tired or cramped or have some other issue preventing you from continuing, the wetsuit is going to keep you afloat.  Very strong swimmers may not see the same performance enhancements as weaker swimmers, but they still do offer warmth in cold water.  The real drawback to wetsuits is the cost, at $200+ they’re not cheap, and for beginner triathletes buying a new wetsuit may not be a viable option.  There are options to rent, and you could always try and borrow one first or buy one used.  Just make sure it fits well and you have good range of motion in your shoulder area.  And like anything else, don’t try it out for the first time on race day.  Of course, I’ve broken this rule in just about all of my races, so I’m not one to talk.  For a wetsuit, though, you don’t want to be learning how to get it on and off on race day.  Try it out ahead of time, in open water if possible, but a pool is fine too (remember to rinse thoroughly with cold water if you take it in a chlorinated pool).  Ok, now that you’ve determined whether your race is wetsuit legal and decided whether or not to wear one, you’re heading to the race to set up.  Always bring two pairs of goggles, you do not want to swim in open water without them.  Usually the colorful caps indicating what wave you’re in are handed out at the beginning of the race, so you don’t need to worry about that as much.  I’d still bring one to be on the safe side.

Equipment? Check.

When you go to line up with your wave, consider the course and your expected strength compared with the other swimmers.  If you are a strong swimmer, you may want to line up toward the front.  Weaker swimmers will want to line up toward the back.  The swim start is going to be chaotic, and you are going to get kicked, pulled, shoved and swum over (or you might be the one kicking, pulling, shoving and swimming over people!), so you want to carefully consider where you want this to take place.  In my (not so vast) experience, I think in the future I will try to line up near the front toward the outside (farther from the buoy markers).  I may initially add a little bit of distance to my swim, but in the end I believe it will be worth it to avoid as much as the inside thrashing as possible and get into a rhythm quickly.  Once to the first turn buoy, I would want to be right on it.  I think that if I were expecting to be one of the weaker swimmers in the group, I would still line up on the outside, but toward the back of the group.  Since in that case I wouldn’t be as concerned about keeping up with the group as setting my own time, I’d definitely want to get into my rhythm without worrying too much about other people around me.

Chaotic start? Check.

The swim is by far the loneliest part of a triathlon for me.  Not that that’s a bad thing!  But it can be unnerving when you are swimming along and have no idea who’s close to you or where the pack is.  Particularly when the visibility is poor in and out of the water, you can find yourself wondering where the heck you are and whether you’ll ever get to the next buoy!  Relax. Practice sighting ahead of time in the pool so you are prepared to look for the buoy yourself.  Don’t rely on following other people.  I’ve heard horror stories of whole packs veering off-course and adding a lot of distance to their swims.  Even if you are drafting on someone, make sure you continue to sight for yourself.  (Side note- I have never been successful at finding someone to draft, and usually end up swimming up between their legs.  If you are good at this and have tips for finding a “draft buddy” please comment and share!).  In my last race, I planned to sight every 6 strokes, but I think that was a bit too often.  My plan for my next race is to practice sighting once per length of the pool, so in the OWS, I’ll sight every 10 strokes.  This is a personal thing, you just need to figure out what works for you.  If for some reason you lose sight of the buoys or can’t find it on a sighting, don’t panic.  Again, just relax, take a couple more strokes and try again.  It’s all downhill from the first turn buoy!

Swim? Check.

You did it!  Now that we’ve reached the shore, it’s time to get out of that pesky wetsuit.  Don’t get too ambitious and try and take it off all at once- you’ll end up waddling with it stuck around your ankles!  I don’t know how other people change this up, but what I do works pretty well for me.  As soon as I exit the water and start running toward transition, I move my goggles to my forehead.  As I’m running, I unzip the wetsuit and pull the top half off.  Then I take off my cap and goggles and continue running to my transition station.  Once there I discard the cap and goggles and immediately take off the bottom part of the wetsuit.  It’s easiest if you let it go inside out and just pull over the ankles that way (same goes for getting your arms out earlier).  There will be plenty of time after the race to straighten it out.  Now you’re out of the wetsuit and ready for the rest of your transition into the bike!

Transition? Half-check (since we didn’t talk about getting into bike gear- that’s a post for another time).

The absolute best thing you can do to prepare for an OWS is to actually get into open water and swim.  Even if it’s just to get comfortable, every chance you have to convince yourself that you are calm and comfortable in the water is going to help you on race day.  So, when the winds kick up some waves in an ocean swim, or the lake you’re in has zero visibility with the added plus of a rather dark and cloudy day, you will be relaxed and ready!  Just keep swimming!

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Thoughtful Thursdays: Triathlon Training Plans

I’ve decided to try and do a weekly column on some aspect of triathlon.  Hopefully some of them may actually be helpful in your training and racing.  Though I am by no means an expert, I would like to share my learning experiences with you.  The standard disclaimer applies: I am not a medical or fitness professional and all information presented here should be used at your own risk.

Now, that the administrative stuff is out of the way, on to the topic of the week: training plans.  As beginners and mostly self-coached athletes, you have probably scoured the internet (as I did) in search of the perfect triathlon training plan.  Sites such as have a number of free options for training plans, as well as paid options with the various membership levels.  The free beginner plans, offered for each of the major triathlon distances, are broken up by training minutes for each of the three sports.  I have used one of these plans in the past, and at the time I had no complaints.  It got me to the point where I could finish the sprint distance triathlon.  More recently, I used a training plan from Triathlete magazine.  They have an annual “beginner’s issue” that typically includes a beginner sprint program.  In addition to the minutes of each sport, it offers some guidelines on intensity using a perceived exertion-type system.

While these programs are great jumping off points, they will likely need to be “tweaked” to fit your fitness background and schedule.  For example, I’ve been a swimmer all my life, so the distances/time mentioned by the plan were usually far shorter than what I am used to.  As a result, doing this workout wasn’t improving my speed or strength. So, I almost entirely disregarded the swim training and made up my own workouts to increase my swim fitness.  I didn’t want to “go backwards” by reducing my swim intensity just to meet the training plan.  This same principle applies to both cycling and running.  If you have a running background, don’t give up your run fitness just to make sure you are following the training plan.  That being said, if you need a lot of improvement in one of the three sports, more than the other two, by all means increase the amount of training you do for that sport.  Don’t neglect it in favor of something you like more!  For example, you may want to do only two days a week of running and cycling, but three days of swimming if its your weakest event.

Also, of the plans I’ve seen, they rarely mention any type of cross-training or strength training.  It seems that a lot of people get into triathlon to give themselves a target for exercising to lose weight.  From my experience, triathlon training and endurance sports can only take you so far if your goals are weightloss.  While I can’t speak for everyone or even assume that it will work for everyone, I’ve found that including regular weight training has caused me to lose weight (even though that hasn’t been a goal), gain muscle and lose fat.  I also attribute resistance training to my continued improvements in the triathlon sports, particularly in the bike leg.  Additionally, for all you strong women, keep weight training (at least for maintenance) throughout your season.  From what I’ve read, we aren’t as well-equipped as men to maintaining muscle mass, so while they may be able to greatly reduce the amount of weight training they do and retain their muscle, we will lose it faster.  (Friel talks about this in his Triathlete’s Training Bible). My two cents on the matter is that since our natural state is to have a greater percentage of body fat then men, our bodies naturally try restore the higher fat to lean mass ratio when we aren’t constantly forcing it to grow muscle.  That’s not based on anything scientific, just my own brain, so don’t quote me on it!

My final comment on training plans is quite possibly the most important.  Make sure you take rest and recovery weeks at least every 4 weeks.  These weeks of reduced volume and intensity are when your greatest fitness gains will be made.  I can’t stress how important it is to NOT omit these.  I know how easy it can be to see the gains that you’ve been making and just want to push harder and harder.  This is a recipe for overtraining and poor race performance.  This is probably the hardest bit of advice for me to follow.  I can get into such a groove of training that it can be hard to really step back even though I know how important it is.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on the matter.  If you caught my post last night, you probably know that I’m exhausted and actually considered the fact that I might be overtrained.  I’m going to take it easy tomorrow and make sure to get a lot of sleep.  Hopefully that’ll sort things out!  Also, in the spirit of training plans, I’m going to be creating a new page that will map out my training plan for the next few months till Nation’s Tri.  It’s mostly so I can track my planned workouts versus my actual workouts and look back on it for planning next season.  As I’ve mentioned, my goal is to do a half-Ironman in Fall 2010, and I need to be really meticulous to make sure I can meet that goal.  So, look out for the new page in the next few days.

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