Sunday, March 30, 2014

Of Hotels and Expos

Hotel elevator selfie
Triathletes are a little weird.  It's just true.  We get up at horrifically dark hours of the morning to jump in cold pools.  We spend weekends on bikes and doing something called "bricks" that has nothing to do with landscaping.  We are way too used to wearing spandex in public.  Moreover, we do something that, in my opinion, kinda freaks most people out.  The idea of doing a race is hard enough.  You're out there.  You're alone.  There's no team - just yourself and your body and your mind for one hour, two hours.... 140.6 miles.  Then we go do that in three different sports.  Ha!  The possibilities of messing up just got three times more complicated.  Why embarrass and torture yourself one way when three is so much better?

Triathletes "get" this

My weirdness was reinforced this week at my conference for work.  Every year, all of my division is shipped to Boston to a conference center for two days of fist-bumping and team building.  Many grumble about this, but I was just psyched to be put up in a fancy schmancy hotel at no cost and sleep in a bed alone for once.  Plus - this particular hotel had both a lap pool AND a first class gym in it.  Skip sessions anyone??  Anyway, my coworkers [good-naturedly] ridiculed me for leaving the open bar reception early to go swim laps.  I also ended up running around the hotel in my sweat-soaked spandex after my morning workout, because my room lost power and I had to find a coworker's room to shower off in (awkward!!).  So yeah.  I'm a little weird.  But it's all good.

Pretty hotel flowers....

Tuesday:  25 minute continuous swim in the itty bitty but very nice hotel lap pool

Wednesday: 3.3 mile speed workout on the treadmill while watching storm waves in Boston Harbor

Thursday: 1 hour swim with kids (yes I count this as training), then 2 mile easy run after bedtime followed by 40 minutes of yoga to loosen tight hips

Friday ended up being a rest day due to that pesky day job, and this little number:

Monster's Inc. birthday cake.
Piping that much fur frosting
totally counts as forearm strength training.
Do you use your forearms ever in triathlon?

Then Saturday was......

Yay!!!  The Trimania Expo in Boston!  Heading back to the city with several hundred (thousand?) of my fellow weirdos to spend a day of seminars, clinics, races, and vendor expos....

My coach's advice

I was super excited to have my best girl Gypsy with me.  We started this sport together after all, so it's always extra awesome to have her by my side for anything athletic related.  Actually - for anything not athletic related too (though come to think of it I'm not sure we've ever done that.... hmm.  A social occasion with no running.....)

Anyway, my first task of the day was a gait analysis I'd signed up for.  When I first got my running shoes back more than a year ago, the seventeen year old kid working at the store said, 

"Wow, I've never seen anyone run like you do...."

Hmm. A suite of injuries has followed, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to be checked out by someone who knows what the "right way" to run is. It was very helpful.  And a little humbling.  As the videos the coaches took and sent to me crashed when I tried to download them, I had my kiddos reshoot that evening so I could share (make sure you have the sound on.  They are hysterical).

I have a lot of "pathological" gait characteristics.  The biggest one is that I literally put one foot in front of the other.  Like running on a tightrope.  This twists my hips around a lot (hello, hip pain??).  I also twist a lot on top.  And I bounce up and down at a super low 152 cadence.  The physical therapist filming me said "you have kids, right?"  Not "a kid" - kids plural.  Clearly she wasn't taken in by my youthful good looks.  She went on to say that I have tremendous weakness in my core due to childbearing, and possibly even diastasis recti.  Which is the separation of your abs in front to make room for baby.  This doesn't always heal.  In my case, having two kids right on top of each other could have done some damage.  This came as a decent surprise to me.  I've done yoga and pilates on a regular basis since well before I became a mom.  I can plank with the best of them.  But my bouncing, rotating rear end tells the story.  I need more hip strength, glute strength, and core strength.  

So this morning I snapped a chalk line down the center of my 'mill, set a metronome to 170 bpm and set out on my new quest to correct my running form.  Guess what, I feel really good doing so.  Way less hip pain that usual.  Who knew running didn't have to hurt so much?

Saturday (today): 5 mile hill run on the treadmill at 50:45, followed by 20 minutes of hip/glute/core strength

Back to the expo.  Another highlight was helping Gypsy try on and purchase a wetsuit.  I already have a sleeveless wetsuit, so I couldn't justify buying myself another (sigh).  Gypsy had never worn a wetsuit, so out of solidarity I put on my swim suit and tried them on with her.  Let's be real - the grunting, sticky, awkward horror that is trying on your first wetsuit ranks right up there with other loss-of-virginity activities.  Friends don't let friends do it alone.  Plus it's just the sort of embarrassing goofball activity that I enjoy.  I'll skip the details and just say that while Gypsy's first fitting experience was a little rocky, we both had fun in the pool and she left the expo with a pretty purple and black new full sleeve suit.  Jedi would later ask how I could call any wetsuit pretty.  Hers is pretty.  We make them look pretty, Jedi.....

I bumped into so many friends and training partners that day.  It was just so amazing to be around so many other triathletes.  It sounds cliche, but it was so very inspiring.  I love that there were ages from teenagers to folks in their 80s still racing.  Men and women.  Little skinny folks and not-so-skinny folks.  Fast people and slow people and everyone in between.  But every single person there was a triathlete because something in the sport speaks to them.  About getting out of their comfort zone.  Of doing things that are scary.  Of learning how to translate the lessons of triathlon into their regular life.  Mental toughness.  Physical discomfort.  How to improve.  How to win.  How to lose.  How to be somehow better than you were before you started....

The keynote speaker was world champion Siri Lindley.  She was not at all what I expected a world champion triathlete to be like.  She was funny.  She was self deprecating.  She told the story of her first race, where she didn't know that she was supposed to swim with her head in the water, road a mountain bike, and did 100 m sprints on the run until she puked.  

I don't aspire to Kona, but knowing that Siri started the same place as the rest of us.... that is powerful.

Tomorrow starts a new week of work, a new week of training.  Spring is creeping closer - I have the photos to prove it! 
Even better than hotel flowers.
Crocus emerging from the snow.

What have you learned (or do you hope to learn) from triathlon?

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