Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Facing the Demons

Last week, my trusted advisor, Margie, asked me what put me in a dark place after I reported "battling demons" and ALMOST skipped one of my runs. Not running for no good reason is sacrilege to me and Lauren, as we just can't afford to miss a day. After some thought, it was obvious that the demons were of my own design--that week I lived large and the lack of sleep caught up with me. By Friday night I was throwing a pity party: perched in bed in my reflective bike gear, cold, snacking on peanuts and mindlessly clicking around on the internet.

I read something sensible--which took an hour of browsing to find--that made me realize I was being a big baby. I pulled myself out of bed, put on my running clothes, grabbed my gaga-filled ipod and ran. These demons I battled? Turned out they weren't so threatening, although, this discussion helped me realize a DEEPER DEMON WITHIN.

Here is my neighborhood YMCA pool--the basement/dungeon pool

Do you see all those red tiles on the other side? I've counted most of them--several times over, during aqua runs.

Back to our demonic discussion... in recent years I have done LOTS of 400s in this pool. There are an infinite number of ways to do a set of 400s. To get the creative juices flowing, here are a few examples: 6 x 400 zn 4, 3 x (3 x 400 w/ varying rest), 6 x 400 desc 1-3. 400s with toys. Your imagination can really run away with you.

I know the 400 times I have swum in my beloved SCM (short course meters) pool in the past and with my year's exodus from training, I DARED NOT swim a 400 as of late, for fear of what the clock might say. I did NOT want to see the slower times so I simply avoided doing them.

This morning, however, I jumped in my own lane and figured, what the hell, I'll do some 400s... I initially set out to do 4 (not fast or anything, just testing the waters) then a few more with paddles. I peeked at the clock after my first 100 and knew I was good for 5.

I held the same time for each one--they weren't my best times, but not bad either. It's a marker and it's reality. I know that doing the workout a few more times (with 6 repetitions as originally designed), I'll learn to do the set again and bring my times down.

That's my success story of the day. I battled my demons and looked reality in the face.

A special thanks goes to Lauren and Kloner for sharing their tales of 400s over the past couple months while I worked up the courage to do them myself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Yoda Gift for LAHP

With a collective 3 season of elite racing under our race belts, LAHP and I kick start the 2011 season on the first weekend in April. Lauren is racing the California 70.3 at Oceanside, the season opener world championships, and on the East Coast I'll be running the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.

Yoda footage to brighten Lauren's day:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ANOTHER Slog Hero: High Notes and Low Notes

LAHP and I recognize women on The Slog who provide us inspiration. These champions of life have a knack for athletics and are ass-kickers in all life pursuits. For round three, we turn to music, though the woman of note, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, is more regarded for her influence in the political sphere. Please note that we DO NOT endorse political views here on our blog.

I am zipping through Rice's self-authored book: Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family and no, we aren't turning into a book club. A passage about her early piano playing days parallels the principles of sports and triathlon (found at 41% if reading on a Kindle!). I took the liberty of embellishing with CAPS, though the italics are Rice's flair.

On balance, though, I loved my life in Denver. I kept the same rigorous schedule of piano and skating that I'd established the year before. I made rapid progress in piano in particular, competing in statewide and regional competitions. My first major competition was something of a disaster, though. Playing a Mozart piano sonata from memory, I lost my place a few minutes into the piece and wound up at the end before I'd played the middle. I was DEVASTATED, although the judges said that what I had played was very good. It was the first time I'd really bombed playing the piano. My parents tried to be supportive and kept talking about how good I'd sounded. I learned at that moment that some failures are best absorbed alone. I thanked them for their concern and spent the night replaying the disaster over and over. I knew that I had not really been prepared for the competition. Perhaps because playing the piano is both a physical and a mental challenge, it's not possible to "cram" for a performance in the same way one can for an exam. In other words, practicing eight hours one day will not produce the same result as practicing one hour a day for eight days. I'd left my preparation to the last minute and it showed.

A couple of days later I asked my piano teacher when the next competition would take place. It would be the Young Artists' regional competition in the winter. I entered immediately.

Rice's narrative is an example of how to process feedback--in this case, failure--learning from it and moving on. Though failure doesn't feel as good as getting a first place prize in a piano competition, it's meaningful information that helps you modify your preparation for what's next.

Plus, Rice hits the nail on the head about the consistent practice required for mental/physical pursuits like playing the piano, painting, swimming, or holding your breath for 17 minutes like David Blaine. You have to keep slogging away, ideally with a smile.