Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring? What's That?

Mid-April. The mind starts wandering towards the end goals: June racing at Rev3 Quassy. July workouts leading into August's Rev3 Maine, which all builds to September's Cedar Point adventure.

You then flash to Kingfield, home of Sugarloaf Mountain, and discover fully covered trails, high elevation, cool temperatures, and plenty of vibrant sun.

Yep, it's allegedly spring, and yet there's so much snow here that you'd swear it's merely the January warm cycle. For the uninitiated, without fail there is always a January thaw where we have temperatures in the 40s, and then it ducks well back below freezing again. Hence the term "boilerplate" snow. Some will mistakenly call this "ice." It can't be ice, as there are no fish beneath it.

Spring in Maine can be something else. Take, for instance, this past week worth of workouts and the clothing range required:

Monday: 10 mile run; needed hat, gloves, tights, two layers on top. Temperature: 31 degrees.

Tuesday: Run around Back Cove. Base layer and short sleeve on top, shorts. 50 degrees.

Wednesday: Master's swim (aka attempted drowning).

Thursday: Two hours on the bike. Tights and cycling shorts, but just a base layer and jersey on top. Gloves and hat. 45 degrees.

Friday: Day off.

Saturday: Heavy rain for the run. But warm, so base layer + waterproof jacket to go with the tights. 50 degrees.

Sunday: Three hours on the bike. But it's a mind-numbing 31 degrees. So we've got tights, shoe covers, hat, gloves, three layers on top, etc.

And then we're skiing on Monday with a super light jacket, no thermals needed.

Yep, just Maine for you.

It's why I've come to embrace the journey along the way to my goals. One of the things I've learned to appreciate more are the moments in a workout, or the workouts themselves. Yes, keeping the goal in sight is important. All of the work is building to a moment. But also being lost in the fun of skiing moguls, climbing and descending on the bike, running in a great city, swimming with good people...there's a lot of fun to be had along the way.

It's also about discovering more about yourself. Unlocking the doors in your own head to tap into your potential. Discovering what products work for you to help you reach what your mind unlocked. (Note: blog posts forthcoming about some new stuff from Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, and Compex that I'm VERY excited about).

So...is it spring where you are? And what are you finding out about yourself as we swing towards the proving grounds of race season?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


There are few things that I can possibly write that will ever be able to provide comfort, or ease the burdens, of those who lost loved ones or those who are still battling for their lives after the events of Monday afternoon in Boston.

I've heard this said before in the coverage a lot, but it rings pretty true to me: this cuts so much closer to home than 9/11 has. I lived in Boston for six years; it is a city that is a part of what defines me as a person. Hell, Portland is often referred to as Boston North. I ran Boston last year, and I was in Boston this weekend for the Marathon. I was in town Thursday night into Friday, walked around that Marathon Sports store on Boylston, and was supposed to be in town on Monday.

Fate kept me away.

I've said this multiple times, but being a runner (or any individual sport, for that matter) brings you into a wonderful community that often gets taken for granted. It's those smiles, waves, "how are you's," nods of appreciation that bring us together. In races, it's the camaraderie of meeting an athlete that's running near your pace, and trying to hold onto each other, pushing each other for your best. You see it all the time; the hugs and handshakes of a personal best reached, thanking one another for the effort.

It's a family. This is why I work in the industry that I do; we get to hear your stories, and help you reach for those dreams, on a daily basis. It's an honor to get to do so.

Which brings me back to Boston: it was an attack on our family. But through running, through being back out on the starting line, we as a community can give ourselves that collective hug of those smiles, waves, "how are you's," and nods of appreciation. And we'll run in honor of those who were lost or hurt on Monday.

It'll never replace or properly honor them. But we'll try to go forward and do the best we can.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wasting Light: Project All-In Update

As I sit here this morning, we sit but 8.5 weeks out from Rev3 Quassy. (Side note: the half is sold out. But the Olympic still has spots, and it is one hell of a race, too!) It's a balmy 29 degrees outside. This time last year, I'd been riding outside for a month and was getting ready for the Boston Marathon.

This year, I'm still to put the rubber to the road on my bike, and instead have put my focus into CompuTrainer efforts and joining a masters swimming group.

One of the things that I've managed to slowly but surely put together over time is that I'm overly analytical. I get so mindlocked that I wind up not performing to potential. I've been allowing my mind to wander into the work, rather than simply focusing on the task at hand.

This off-season has been a lot of focus on, to use a phrase from my coach, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It requires an awful lot of mental focus to want to stay in the hurt locker when your mind is saying, "Nope. I can't do it. Back off."

The best example of what has happened with my mental ability comes from two CompuTrainer efforts in the past month. The first was one of the last Friday Night Fight efforts; the course was a rolling 7 miler. You climbed for the first couple of miles, before having to really lay the power down on the downhill using a pretty high cadence.

It's easy to lay down the power when the course is trending uphill; you simply have to put out more power in order to maintain your speed. But it's when the course flattens out again that you really find out who's got some strength. And then on the downhills, you really need to want it.

On this night, the legs were quite strong out of the gate: pushing about 4 watts/KG the entire way through the flats and uphills. We crested, flattened out, still holding strong. Then the downhills came, and I was still right there.

Until one of my co-workers came in to check on things. I lapsed briefly to look up, see he was there, he tried to issue some words of encouragement, and I said something back.

In that moment, I'd dropped off the pace I was holding on the downhill. It took all I could to get back in the game. I think overall, it might've cost me 5 seconds. Nothing to worry about, right? Well...until the results posted, and I lost out on a position by two seconds.

Mental focus, indeed.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks to the Tri-MANIA expo in Boston. I was down with some friends, family, and got to meet up with Team Rev3. I was entered into the CompuTrainer Time Trial with the Team, so away we go. 6.6 rolling miles of torture.

We warm up, and the gun hits.

I mentally was not letting go of the moment this time. I knew that it'd be about a 17:00 effort, so I focused on the knowledge that I'd hit some pretty big workouts over the past few weeks: 3 x 20:00s in the middle of a three hour brick; 3 x 8:00s at a real high effort, etc. The fitness was there. It was merely a matter of tapping into it.

Head down, do work.

This time, as the downhills came, I made sure the power didn't dip. Stay in the moment. Breathe. Relax.

Finish line sprint.

Boom: 6th Overall. Nipped by a couple of seconds for 5th, and then the remainder of the podium were some pretty beastly cyclists. Can't complain about that.

The difference? Focus. The fitness has been there. It's just letting the mind get out of the way, and instead of thinking about anything but the effort, keeping the mind on the task at hand.

It's this kind of approach that has me excited for Quassy this year. I've been focusing my efforts on where I'm weakest. I finally decided to hop into a master's swimming program. I've gone through two workouts so far and I'm absolutely in love. It's crazy how fast I've been able to make improvements. Whereas before, I'd struggle to hold 3:10-3:20 for a 200, I'm consistently nailing down 2:50. The difference? Head down, do work, and don't lose the feet in front of you. (Or, in the rare case of me leading, OH GOD THERE'S SO MANY PEOPLE BEHIND YOU GO GO GO GO GO.)

I'm also piecing together my nutrition strategy, both in-race and just during training. I'm really enjoying the new PowerBar Energy Blends, which are nothing but pureed fruit and a little bit of sugar. Great for the bike segment to supplement with. Then outside of training, really focusing in on not just caloric intake, but also better foods to get those calories from.

On the equipment front, really looking forward to the Pearl Izumi footwear. Everything I've heard thus far from those running in the EM line-up has really, really enjoyed them. Still love my Tri Fly IV Carbon shoes. Incredibly comfortable.

Overall, the pieces are starting to really come together. We've got 6.5 weeks to really get where it is I want to be. Then it's two weeks to settle on in and get ready for Quassy.

Project All-In keeps rolling on.