It is the last day of February and the Spring equinox is twenty days away. This marks the first day of Spring and the turning point when day light hours will begin to exceed night time. As I write, Northeast Ohio is expecting another winter storm this weekend with a total accumulation of up to twelve additional inches of snow with temperatures in single digits at times – courtesy of the Polar Vortex. It is times like this that optimism, patience, and mental toughness are necessary. These dark and cold days will eventually pass and it will warm up to Spring.
Today also marks the end of my first four weeks of training for my 2014 triathlon season. I began the program knowing I had quite a way to go to first to regain my strength and endurance as well as significantly build on that base to finish two half iron triathlons and a full Ironman triathlon this year. Like the long drawn out winter, I am finding I need to be optimistic, patient, and have mental toughness to believe I will see the training pay off. So in order of the sports – here is how February has gone –
The swim. Early this month I had a swim session with Ed, one of my coaches. He watched me swim and identified a few areas I need to work on. The biggest improvement I will benefit from is on my stroke. My left arm has very good form but my right arm falls short. It didn’t take long for me to feel the difference when I focused on proper form. Three years ago I strained the muscles in my right shoulder blade area in yoga and the lasting effects have left the area weakened. Many of my swims now include drill work and strengthening exercises. I am seeing improvements in my times even though I am working through the pain of strengthening my shoulder. I also met with Heidi and she gave me a workout plan to help strengthen my core and my back/shoulder area.
The bike. I bought a Computrainer in anticipation of cycling inside through the winter. It is far more than a bike trainer – with computer integration, it simulates a multitude of courses. It is very cool, but fun is not a word I would use to describe it. Training is tough, painful at times, and exhausting. My coach Mark reminds me often that is tough and frankly requires an aspect of suffering to get stronger. I am learning that quickly. I did one workout where I had to increase my watts (power) on the bike in three 10 minute intervals with a 3 minute recovery. The third round when I hit the high end of the power I literally felt like I was hauling a horse behind me. That round only lasted five minutes – I am determined to make it through the entire 10 minutes eventually. I am feeling the pains of the strengthening process, especially when I walk upstairs.
The run. I am a detail junkie and I love gadgets to help me gather the details. One handy tool I use is a foot pod to go along with my Garmin Forerunner 910XT watch. It is worn on my running shoe and wirelessly communicates to my watch. With proper calibration it calculates the distance I run on the treadmill as well as counts my steps per minute. A drill I have been given when running fast is to count foot strikes on one foot in a minute with the goal of 95. When I am running fast that is possible to achieve. After looking at my data from the foot pod, my coaches noticed that when I run an easy pace I am loping – running with a long stride for anywhere from 78 to 82 steps a minute on one foot. Loping may work for a horse, but for a runner it is better to be over 90 steps – easy pace or fast. Once I get this down, Mark thinks I could easily shave a minute off my mile time. It is going to take work and won’t come easy.
February has been a tough month, but a very good month. I feel great, the only pain I have is from muscle strain due to training, and I am seeing subtle improvements. So I am optimistic my training will pay off, patient that improvement will come in time, and I am working on my mental toughness which is not only necessary to get through tough workouts but also challenging races. The snow will melt eventually and the weather will warm up – Spring will arrive one day. And I will be able to swim, bike and run outside surrounded by sunshine.