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Finish What You Started

This will be my final communique before our trip up to Baraboo.  As things stand, we all have bikes.  We all have wetsuits.  I have a lingering chest cold and possible PMS.  But we have been preparing for nigh on six months now, and I’ll be damned if I let some phlegm and pre-menstrual bloating stand in the way of me accomplishing what I set out to do!

I am absolutely confident that I will finish this race.  I’m pretty sure I will stop during the swim, but that’s okay.  This is my first race, after all. Everyone’s support has been greatly appreciated–it has certainly kept me going when I began to drag ass.

And I’m so glad I got to experience this with Phil and Josh–it was tremendous.  That’s what she said.

I’m not sure what else to say.  We’ll see you on the other side, I suppose.  Ward, over and out.

At Last

I’m not sure that this will be my last post before the race, but judging from the frequency of my posts of late, it might be safe to assume.

Anyway, we’ve been working out A LOT.  Not so much hard workouts, but we’ve been getting at least one of the events in pretty much six days a week.  We’re sort of getting some last-minute stuff together: we finally got our wetsuits, and we’ll all be borrowing bikes for the race since some degenerate stole Josh’s bike this week.

Speaking of wetsuits, why is it that every idiot who walks along the lakeshore feels the need to call out to people swimming, “What’s the water temperature?”  Do I LOOK like a thermometer, old man?  Why don’t you jump in and find out?  Athletic tourists… Also, after Phil told one of the guys that the water was cold, he asked, “75?”  So clearly, you have no gauge of what is cold or warm in terms of water temperature–so why the hell are you asking?

The bike I borrowed [from an honest-to-goodness Iron Man] is sweet. It had road pedals on it, though, so I took it in to a shop and switched those out for these bright green pedals that make me kind of happy inside. The only thing is, it’s got the ten-speed handlebars, you know?  That look like ram’s horns? I’ve never ridden a bike with those, so it’s something to get used to.  The heels of my hands, oddly enough, are what get the most uncomfortable when I ride this bike.

So tomorrow we’re meeting to do a little mini test-run–swimming in the lake, biking up the lake shore, and then running around North Pond.  We’re not going to do like, a full fifteen mile bike, because what we’re focusing on is transitions.  I’ll also be glad to get some more swimming in because to be honest, that is the part of the race I’m most nervous about.  I mean I know I can swim the quarter mile, I’ve done it a bunch of times; but never without stopping.  It’s not like it would be the end of the world if I stopped during the race, but I’m going to try my hardest not to.

After tomorrow, we’re going to try and carb-load–not with pasta [womp womp], but instead with fibrous carbs like broccoli!  We head up to Baraboo on Saturday.  We’ll check out the race site and ride the bike course, so as to get a feel for how it will go on Sunday.  Then I guess we’ll all hope to get enough sleep before the big day!

We’ve been preparing for this for about six months now and wow, what a journey it’s been.  I was looking back at old entries and reading about how I couldn’t hold a thirty second plank, or how hard ball crunches were, or how I couldn’t even run a quarter mile when we first started.  That is crazy!  I’m sure six months from now when I’ve been running for a lot longer, I’ll be shocked to read this post, but for the time being, I’m proud of us.

Fight the resistance!

Grey Ice Water

So, we’ve been swimming a lot. Our past week looked like this: Thursday is the day off, but we still do a brisk thirty minute walk; Friday we ran, Saturday and Sunday we swam [we were supposed to do all three on Sunday, but Phil and I both had to work and we figured the swim is the part that’s giving us the most trouble, so we doubled our usual length and did a half-mile], Monday we spun, Tuesday and today we swam.  Tomorrow is our day off.

We have been seeing improvements in our swimming–Phil is improving by leaps and bounds [or breaths and strokes, as someone really dorky might say].  He’s been counting his breaths and he can do over a hundred without stopping.  So he is getting really close to being able to go the whole quarter mile without stopping.

I’ve been trying different things–seeing how many breaths I can take without stopping swimming, trying to make really tiny kicks with my legs really close together so I don’t tire them out as much, trying to focus on looking at the bottom of the lake to keep my body in more of a straight line, trying to go into a rest stroke when I feel tired so that I don’t stop but I do get my breath back.  Some of these have been more successful than others.  What I’m finding to be most successful, however, is just keeping calm while pushing myself as hard as I can.  That doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but it does.  I am trying to keep an even pace with my strokes, not trying to hurry or sprint, while forcing myself to push past that barrier at which I think, “I’m tired, I’m going to stop;” or “I’m getting short of breath, I’m going to stop;” or “I got water in my nose, I’m going to stop.”  Because I’m never going to reach the end if I keep stopping.  That is obvious, but it has taken a while for that to click in my brain.  I’m not going to get in the water one day and magically be able to just keep swimming until I reach a quarter-mile.  Just like everything else we’ve done, this will be hard work and will only happen if I continue to push myself.

That being said, as the weather is getting colder, so is the water, and you know swimming in cold water means… wetsuits! [Why, what were you thinking?  Cheeky monkey…] We have all purchased our Xterra Wetsuits, and they should be arriving any day now.  I’m just really excited to see how they will affect our speed because the people I see at the lake swimming in wetsuits like, coast above the surface of the water. I know it would be really hardcore if we did the race without wetsuits, but… shit, I’m going to need all the help I can get!

Basically what we have to look forward to is focusing on our transitions [people have told us, do not underestimate the transitions], running distances longer than three miles, more brick training, and me getting better at swimming.  And then carbo-loading.  THE RACE IS ONLY SEVENTEEN DAYS AWAY!

Nice work!

The Shape I’m In

Check out those delts! I also realize I look super triangular here–like Michael Phelps or something, but that’s not how I normally look.  At least, I don’t think so.

So yesterday Phil and I did a three-mile run on an outdoor track.  This is the first time I’ve really had to deal with things like wind and sun and heat on a long run, and I think those factors certainly affected me. I did the run in 30.13, which was about a minute longer than it took me at the gym.  Then today we did a forty five minute spin, which was hard, but surprisingly went more quickly than expected.

Other than that, we’ve been trying to get at least one of the events in every day, which means a lot of swimming in the lake, and a lot of biking down TO the lake. The lake swimming isn’t so much different than the pool.  I mean, the waves can hurt or help you, but I don’t know how much, if at all, I’m improving because it’s hard to tell how far I go without stopping in the lake versus the pool.

We’ll be purchasing wetsuits soon, so we’ll all look as dorky as the other people who swim at the lake.  And eventually we’ll start carb-loading before the big event.  Can’t wait for that!

Pump em!

Well, it was only a matter of time before I used that title.  It seemed fitting for this post because we are beginning to work hard on becoming truly conditioned for this event.  That means focusing on transitions and bricks.  [For those of you not in the know, “bricks” are transition workouts, back-to-back, intended to prepare your body for what it will be like to move from one discipline to another.]  I’ve heard a lot about how difficult it is to get off the bike and start running, and this week I experienced that firsthand.

On Tuesday, Phil and I took the North Shore bike trail, which I had never done before.  I’m used to biking my usual routes to and from work, to and from improv, etc.  So biking on a path where there were actually hills and sharp turns and no stoplights was kind of a shock–I got tired!  I’m getting over a cold, so I was kind of phlegmy to begin with, but my chest and throat were burnin!  We biked the trail for a half hour and then stopped at the North Park University track which, you may remember, was the site of many a breakdown for me at the beginning of our training.  The last time we were there I couldn’t run four consecutive laps.  Phil and I did an easy half hour jog, taking a little break for me to try and do a chin-up on the monkey bars in the playground.  It didn’t work.  But we both noticed how stiff and heavy our legs felt coming off the bikes.

Since we’re entering our Serious Training phase, we worked out Wednesday, too.  We started with eight laps in the pool [which is now shut down for renovations, just in time for us to start swimming in the lake], then moved on to a twenty minute interval spin, and a half hour run outside.  My god. Afterwards, Phil mentioned that our run was so slow, he could have walked more quickly than we were moving.  But I felt like I was just going to give up.  As soon as we started jogging, I accepted the fact that I was going to walk for part of the run–that was just a foregone conclusion.  Luckily, Josh and Phil kept the pace slow enough that I never did stop to walk, but man, the first ten minutes of that run were brutal!  Not only were my legs so tired from the swim and spin, but we were jogging all over Lincoln Park–up and down hills, in the tall grass, in between trees, around a statue of Goethe. I’m used to running on a treadmill or on a tiny little track, dodging vacuum cleaner cords and bands of douchebags who wear Converse to the gym.

And apparently I swear a lot when I run, frequently in close proximity to small children.  For that I suppose I should apologize.  But I had to know what you are supposed to do if you shit your pants during the race!  I mean, that happens to people!  I’ve seen pictures.  Or, a picture.  And you can’t unsee those kinds of things.  Do you just stop running?  I imagine it only happens during the run. Or do you just drop trou and continue on, naked from the waist down? Are there clean-up crews at the ready with baby wipes and one-size-fits-all running shorts?  That would be ideal.

But I digress.  Tomorrow we are doing a swim and a bike.  We’re meeting at the lake, ideally biking there and back home.  It’ll be a long trip for me, but I’ve got to get serious here.  Go into Sarah Connor mode.  I mean Judgment Day Sarah Connor, not “In the few hours we had together we loved a lifetime’s worth” Sarah Connor.  I mean “You’re the one livin in a fuckin dream, Dr. Silberman!” Sarah Connor; chin-ups on an overturned hospital bed Sarah Connor.

The WORST thing would be to shit your pants and then not finish!

Long May You Run

Mark it!  Another big day today.  We started with some really quick core work and then got right in the pool, intending to swim for twenty five minutes.  However, once we got in there, that place was like Amateur Night at the Apollo.  One lane is some Andy Warhol-looking lady doing the strangest version of the backstroke I have ever seen; another lane is this Rocky-guy running from one end of the pool to the other; another lady is not even kicking, evidently, and just splashing her arms in and out of the water and somehow making it down the lane.  Naturally, I shared a lane with Ms. Warhol.

So because we’d had to wait, Josh told us to just swim eight laps–a quarter mile.  Phil obviously finished ahead of me, and I did find the swim challenging.  I took about twenty minutes to finish the eight laps.  I’m hoping the the more swimming we do in the lake, the easier this will become.  Duh, Liz.  That’s like the most obvious thing you’ve ever written.

Anyway, after our swim we did a super fast transition and met back outside the locker rooms, where Josh told us he wanted us to run at least two miles on the track.  He said he would join us shortly and that he was going to do three miles, which we were welcome to try as well.

WELL.  I certainly did run three miles, yes I did. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that.  I kept track of my laps, and kept myself motivated, by imagining sports commentators discussing my performance: ‘Now, if you’ll remember, the most laps Liz has ever done on this track is nineteen.  Today, she intends to break that record.  Bob, what do you think is going through her head as she finishes up her eighteenth lap?’ ‘Well, Steve, I imagine at this point she’s just trying to focus on keeping track of her laps!’  [They both chuckle.]  ‘Liz says she draws inspiration from her younger sister Katie, who is a Division I rower.  I bet Katie’s sitting at home right now, counting those laps with the rest of the family. AND, the rest of the world.’

But I just tried to keep a good pace, and I wound up finishing in 29:10, so I was averaging just under ten-minute-miles.  Before I’d ever tried running three miles, I optimistically figured my pace would be about that.  So now I have improvement to look forward to!

Good job today, guys!

Oh yeah, we’re bringing it back with some Aaliyah/Timbaland collaboration.

Starting a new job and upgrading our workout schedule from three sessions a week to six has been a bit stressful and incredibly time-consuming, so I apologize to the legions of devoted readers I know were waiting for my next entry with bated breath.

Anyway, like I said, we’ve begun the training phase in which we need to be working out six days a week, each time getting in at least one bike, swim, or run.  As far as progress goes, I’ve noticed my running is a lot stronger.  I feel like I can kind of just… go for as long as I need to, so long as I keep a steady pace and keep an eye on my heart rate. The biking has never really been easy or difficult, but I do feel like I’m getting a lot more practice now that I’m using my bike in the city a lot more.

…And then there’s the swimming.

Phil has been able to start swimming in the lake, and that has evidently helped his swimming improve vastly.  The last time we swam together, Josh told us to swim eight laps.  Phil was three laps ahead of me, and was able to do multiple laps in a row without stopping.  I, on the other hand, was only able to do a handful of lengths without stopping.  I got pretty down on myself, down on my new job for taking up so much of my time that I’m too tired to swim when I’m not working, and even down on my swimsuit, for having gotten so baggy that I’ve been putting off swimming in the lake until I get one that actually fits.  Needless to say, I snapped at Josh later.

But here’s what I’m thinking.  I’m starting to settle into a routine at work, and the pure stress of making a big life-change is starting to wear off.  I just need to focus on making the time to get to the gym, or the lake, or onto a bike path.  Because this race is fast approaching–we’re looking at a little under a month until D-Day.  [See, I can say “D-Day” and it actually works because it’s the Devil’s Challenge.]  And on the plus side, I’m feeling pretty confident about the bike and the run.  I’ve just got to commit myself to improving my swimming and practicing my transitions.

We’re going to get through this together!