Category Archives: Triathlons

The Fall Goal

Without really meaning to, I somehow came up with a fall racing schedule that I instantly fell hard for—as in, head-over-heels obsessed with.

I commiserated to all of you about how I felt goal-less, restless, and lost after Eugene. I think the post-marathon blues hit a bit harder than expected. Okay, a lot harder—and I can admit it now.

I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that while I was really excited to have accomplished a big bucket list goal, it was actually really hard to wave goodbye to that goal and look out into the great beyond. Qualifying for Boston had been my baby for so long, and I think I had this idea in my head that once I’d done it, all the running happiness would be mine forever and ever. That’s exaggerated—but you get the point.

But I didn’t feel like that, and it wasn’t just because I had a hard, less-than-perfect race. Yes, Eugene wasn’t as satisfying as I might have hoped, but I’m realizing now that it had less to do with the race itself and more to do with my lack of direction afterward.

I know I should have let my unrelenting goal-setting brain kick back and take a break, but that’s not really how I work. Even when I’m between training cycles and running less frequently, I still like to know that a new possibility is out there, waiting for me to take it on. Without a defined goal, I was left with a very jumbled mess of potential ideas, and consequentially a very blank drawing board.

I went back and forth on running a fall marathon, on committing to triathlons, on working solely on speed, on jacking up strength training (no pun intended). Around and around it went, until all I had was more confusion, too many “potential” race options, and not enough enthusiasm to even make a decision. In retrospect, this is one of the reasons my blogging went down so much after Eugene (okay…one of the reasons). I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, so what was the point of lamenting those frustrations to others?

So I kind of gave up. Not because I no longer wanted a goal, but because I decided a “roll with it” approach was going to be more tolerable than orchestrating a race schedule that I wasn’t totally psyched about. Sure, I had races lined up, but none that had a sparkly “goal race” asterisk attached to them.

But now, approximately 48 hours after a light-bulb went off, all that’s changed. I think the light-bulb may have actually broken with how much intensity the idea came to me.

FYI, this is a very long-winded explanation for my decision making process. Sorry…there was just a lot of build up.

It all started with a little triathlon last Saturday. I had such a great time at this race, and it left me hungry for more. Admittedly, when it comes to triathlons, I’m more interested in the distances that have an “iron” in their name. But it was too soon for that. There is a chance that I could do the 70.3 distance this fall, but I feel like it would be a little half-assed. I’m not experienced enough on the bike or in the sport itself to have a real go at it, and it’s not really my style to commit to a serious distance without a decent training cushion to go off of.

But I still wanted more from the tri. I wanted to become a “bike rider” and get more acquainted with my beautiful baby bike. And I want to open the option for a half-Ironman next year. That requires more practice, more training, and less marathoning.

Which all ultimately brought up the idea of the Black Diamond Olympic Tri in September. Arielle first mentioned this race to me last year, and it seems like this year there’s a lot of blogger interest. It was also far enough away to get in some actual tri-specific training in—and far enough after my second ultra-relay to allow for some recovery time.

So yes, I was on board for Black Diamond. But it still wasn’t clicking. It felt like a means to an end; a stepping stone, if you will, toward what would be an actual goal race next year. Therefore, I still felt as if I was winging it in terms of training and racing, and I was okay with it. Black Diamond would follow a lot of summer running, and eventually I’d figure out some more fall/winter plans.

But then, THEN…an idea came to me. I shouldn’t take credit actually, in fact—credit goes to a Twitter conversation between Lauren and Larira two nights ago. I spotted them talking about the Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon this fall, and I had to chime in since it was my own first half-marathon almost three years ago. I started thinking then about how much fun I had at the race, how nice the course was, etc.

Somehow, then, after remembering how much I loved that race and how much I wanted to run it too—it all came to me: I want to run a goal half-marathon this fall.

And not just any goal. No—that’s the fun part. This goal would be hard, elusive almost, and perhaps the most intimidating training I’d ever have to take on.

And I was hooked. This is exactly what I wanted to commit the rest of the summer toward, and it seemed silly I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I have never done goal-specific half-marathon training, in fact—I’ve never actually done intentional half marathon training, and I figured why not start after already running 6? 🙂

I considered a few options for races, but Bellingham just felt right. It’s close by, it’s cheap, and it’s a PR-ready course. I considered a few other options, but after navigating a few scheduling plans, this was clearly the best option. The best part was that I could still do the Olympic tri as it’s a full two weeks before Bellingham, leaving enough time for recovery while still gaining the tri experience.

So basically, I’m obsessed. For a number of reasons, but mainly:

1) I’m sticking to my no fall marathon plan 

I really wanted to try and commit to saving myself for Boston next year (assuming I’ll get in), but I could feel that commitment slipping away when I felt completely goal-less. It would be easy for me to just plan another 26.2 training schedule, but that wasn’t ultimately what I wanted. This plan totally fits the bill for maintaining distance but without going all out marathon.

2) Speed!

I have been wanting to focus on speed forever now but never fully could because marathon training + excessive speed work is kind of a recipe for disaster. At least for me. With a goal for a half instead of a full, I’ll be able to really narrow in on speed workouts, which will be very new to me in some respects. I can’t wait.

3) Forced cross-training

By keeping the Olympic distance tri on the schedule, it will not only force me to spend more time on my bike and in the pool, but also off the roads. Cross-training, IMO, has a direct correlation to decreased injury risk. Double wins all around.

4) Tempering the sadness of no fall marathon

Despite my aforementioned goal of not doing a fall 26.2, I knew that when the time came and everyone was after their respective marathon goals and running 20 milers, I would be seething with jealousy. Having a distance goal of my own will (mostly) help offset that little green monster and keep me focused on the Boston end-game.

5) Lots of work to do

No sugar coating…this goal is a big stretch for me. It is going to require more discipline and probable more puke-inducing workouts than I’ve ever done. And while that probably sounds awful to some, it’s exactly what I need right now. Feel free to remind me of this at my 4:30 am alarms 😉

6) It doesn’t feel possible (yet) <— Biggest reason of all 

Here’s the honest truth about training to BQ in Eugene: I was nearly 100% sure I could do it. The required pace was something I was already comfortable with, and without the injury when I ran Chicago, I’m almost certain I could have done it there. Of course, I wanted to work hard and I wanted to secure my confidence, but I never really had a doubt that unless disaster struck—I could do it.

This goal? Not so much. In the name of full disclosure, let’s get real with numbers here:

I would like to run a 1:35:xx half this fall.

That would require dropping nearly 15 seconds off my current half-marathon PR pace. And here’s the biggest kicker: I’m still convinced my current half-marathon PR was a fluke. Yes I’m proud of it and I’m happy it happened, but I still, to this day, have a hard time believing it wasn’t a lot of luck.

Which makes shaving 3 minutes off that time even scarier.

So no, I’m not totally sure if I can do it. Do I believe with the right training it’s possible? Of course—which is why I can’t wait to dive into the horrifying place of having a very big reach goal.

This whole agenda, tri and all, feels like the perfect formula for all the things I was hoping to take on this fall season, and I can’t wait to get started.

In fact I did start, yesterday, with a 5-mile tempo at my previous half-marathon PR pace. It wasn’t the easiest, but it happened—7:30s on the dot. And it’s a start.

Time to get uncomfortable folks, I can’t wait.

 

Advertisements

50-Mile Weekend

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a great weekend full of whatever-it-is you like to do.

We had a lovely time here in Seattle. While the weather was a little indecisive at times (sunny? cloudy? sunny? cloudy?), it was warm which meant I spent as much time as I could enjoying the vitamin D.

This weekend I managed to combine my current ultra-relay training and “triathlon training”* into an unplanned hefty number of miles and enjoyment.

*Quotation marks added since I’m not actually really training for this race, I just happened to practice tri-related things for the first time on Sunday.

I’m happy to report though that it all felt great! It seems as if my legs have finally shaken all the post-marathon cobwebs, and I’m feeling 100% normal again. Thank goodness for that. My speed still feels a little slow, but that’s not necessarily the focus for the time being.

Anyway, the deets:

Saturday AM: 16 miles

Watchless, sunny, happy running. Good stuff. So much salt on my face.

Saturday PM: 4 miles

My original plan for the day was 14 AM and 5 PM, but since I felt great in the morning I decided to switch it up a little. And really…doing 19 miles seemed silly. I like round, even numbers.

The best part was that the PM miles felt great! Much better than a couple of weeks ago. I’m thinking these occasional two-a-days are going to be clutch in terms of relay prep.

Sunday AM: Dilettante Sprint Tri bike course (~14 miles) with Lindsay and Becky!

+

Open water swim around the lake

This was HUGE in terms of comfort for next weekend’s tri. Not that I was necessarily nervous, but getting a firsthand feel for both the bike (my biggest trepidation) and the swim was really helpful. Also (please judge away) this was my first time going on a real bike ride on my new bike. So yea, I would say that was a good idea to do before race day 🙂

But I forgot my bike shoes!!! After totally psyching myself up to practice a clipped-in ride with my shoes and my bike, I failed to bring the separate bag my shoes were in. And, as I discovered, it is hard to ride with flimsy flat pedals in your regular shoes! I found myself concentrating on my feet way more so than I would have otherwise.

The course consists of 2, 6.8 mile loops around the lake, and overall I’d say it’s pretty moderate. Excited to ride it again next Saturday!

We also tested out the Becky-proclaimed “brown water” (she’s totally right about that), and swam a little out and back. Open water swimming is definitely a little alarming at first, but after settling my breathing I felt fine. The wet suit really helps with buoyancy too (Thanks Nicole 🙂 )

The morning was totally great overall, and I’m SO thankful to have had a little experience on the course (and on the bike and in the water) before I “race” it next week.

The only glitch though was my lack of clip-in practice, which leads to my spontaneous Sunday afternoon decision…

Sunday PM: 15 miles, around Alki and back, CLIPPED IN

I was so excited about this! I kind of just kept going and going and enjoyed the feeling of really riding. I rode my standard long run route and, no surprise, it goes by A LOT quicker on the bike 🙂

The best part was that I felt completely natural with the clip-ins. It was really weird actually…when I first started, it was like I instinctively knew what to do no problem. As if I was picking up an old habit again. Which doesn’t seem right, because I only learned to ride clipped-in last weekend.

And by learned, what I mean is…I fell on my butt a few times and at the end of the day managed to somewhat mount and dismount without toppling sideways.

But yesterday? No problems! I felt like I’d been doing it for years.

Maybe this is only a hurdle for me and everyone else thinks clipped-in riding is NBD, but either way…it was yet another confidence boost.

My little bike was oh-so-happy to feel wanted yesterday.

So there it is: nearly 50 miles in running and biking this weekend! Did I mention I also took a two hour nap between rides yesterday? 🙂

I love that I finally feel capable of someday being a real biker. I’ve always loved the idea of it, but I’ve held back since all the logistics seemed so technical and beyond my expertise. But practice makes perfect, and little by little I think that I’m actually getting the hang of it.

Alright, rambling over. I’m sorry I suck so bad at having visual proof of my life, and hopefully it doesn’t make my posts too boring. I think I included enough smiley faces in this post that there’s at least a little color.

Will get better at that.

Tell me about your weekend! 

Tri-ing it out and other upcoming races

Hey, Hello, Hi out there!

My head all week:

“ROBYN, write a blog post! You like blogging, just write something! ANYTHING! Post one picture and gif, SOMETHING!”

My reactions:

…no.

Yada, yada, yada…lots of work, lots of life, and lots of “I’d rather watch reruns of Grey’s than look at a computer screen for another second.” It happens.

But wouldn’t you know it, I do have some news to share. Exciting news! News which has slightly dented my previously mentioned lack of direction in the running/racing world.

In just one week, I have gone from being registered for zero races to being registered for three. Three! Exciting stuff. And the best part is that two out of those three are within the next month or so.

So with that said, let’s take a look at what’s coming up:

Dilettante Women’s Sprint Triathlon

You guys, I did it.

Finally.

After over a year of circling around the triathlon pool lake, I finally decided to get over my fears and jump in head first.

And I mean that quite seriously. I’ve done very little specific training, I know close to nothing about transitions, and don’t even get me start on the clip-in pedals (Read: biggest fear OF ALL.)

Essentially, if you consider how much I mentally and physically prepare for running races (a lot) and take the opposite of that…that’s basically how I’m approaching this first sprint tri.

And I kind of love it! It’s a short enough race that I can kind of get away with this method, and it totally takes any pressure off. I honestly have NO idea as to what a “good” sprint tri time is, and this whole endeavor is more to get a taste of the sport in general. I’m excited.

The best part is that some local friends are doing it too, and they had the brilliant idea to do some open water swimming and biking on the course beforehand. (And they’re letting me tag along 🙂 ) So this Sunday, exactly one week from race day, I’ll be starting my triathlon training.

So smart.

But in all seriousness, I’ve been in the pool and on the bike recently enough to where I’m sure that short of complete catastrophe, I should be fine.

And I actually have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it more than my wallet is prepared for…

See Jane Run Half-Marathon

You guys! I won something! RoseRunner hosted an awesome giveaway on her blog a few weeks ago: she gave away three spots in the See Jane Run race series. I was psyched to see something that I actually wanted in a giveaway, and somehow I ended up snagging one of the spots!

Side note: If you don’t already, check out her blog. Girl is stupid fast, smart, and isn’t afraid to call out the bullshit in the “healthy living” blogging world. One of my favorites in my reader.

This race is in mid-July, so it will potentially be warm, but otherwise I’m looking forward to it. I’ve flirted with the idea of making it a goal half race, but currently it’s scary to do one mile at my would-be goal half marathon pace, let alone run 13.1 miles at it. We’ll see.

Seattle Half-Marathon

Okay, so this race is eons away, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to have on the calendar! I absolutely loved this race when I did it for the first time last year, and at that time I promised myself to run it again. And with a coupon code in hand and a lingering price increase deadline, I decided to go for it.

There is also potential that should I not get into Boston for 2014, I may decide to do the full instead. Essentially, I’d like to keep the option of a fall full open for now…and this one is late enough that I could still do some solid training after knowing for sure about Boston.

But in the meantime, I’m still hoping for/planning on being in Bean town next April, in which case this will just be another fun, cold, post-Thanksgiving coma half-marathon.

Hooray races! Sorry paycheck, you were fun while you lasted.

I am really psyched to have some things on the calendar in additional to the crazy ultra-relay extravaganza I’ve gotten myself into.

Lots more to share, but for now I’m interested in what races YOU have planned for the upcoming couple of months. It seems like people either go crazy with racing during the summer or avoid it altogether.

So…what races are you signed up for?

Also, how do you “do” a sprint triathlon? 🙂

“What’s Next?”

That’s the question I can’t quite get out of my head lately. Since finishing Eugene, I’ve had a hard time coming up with exactly where I want to focus my goal-setting energy. There have been lots of potential ideas out there, but none of which have really stuck. The only thing I do know for sure is that I’m someone who needs a goal, even if it’s in the distant future. And right now, considering I’m goal-less, I’m going a little stir crazy.

And the relays don’t count…those are really just for fun/I’ll be happy if I simply survive.

There are lots of factors to consider, some of which are out of my control, but here’s my attempt at conveying the big, jumbled picture. Be warned, it’s somewhat all over the place and almost doesn’t even make sense to me.

Since even before I ran Eugene, I was not planning on running a fall marathon. Assuming I got into Boston, I wanted a break for a little while from the 26.2 distance and to save my legs for Marathon Monday in 2014. Had I not qualified, obviously this would have been a whole different story 🙂

There was one exception to this plan though: if I got into the NYC Marathon.

I entered the lottery, just like everyone else, and honestly didn’t expect to get in. That didn’t stop me on Wednesday though (the day of the marathon drawing) from refreshing my bank transactions and NYRR status way too many times. Spoiler: I didn’t get in. As expected.

But what surprised me was just how bummed out I was about it. It made me think that if my one fall marathon prospect gave me such high hopes, maybe I want to/should do a fall race after all?

Who knows.  I do really like the idea of a fall marathon. I absolutely love fall races (way, way, WAY more than spring), and undoubtedly I will be seething with jealousy if I don’t get in on the action.

However, this desire is not at the expense of Boston. I really do like the notion of bottling that 26.2 energy and focus up until next April…and if I was guaranteed an entry, this decision would be a no-brainer.

But that’s the thing. I’m not guaranteed an entry. And with every article and headline that comes out about 2014 being the “Biggest Boston Ever!” I get more and more skeptical of the likelihood of getting in. That would suck, frankly, but it’s a fact that everyone who qualified will have to face. Except probably Shalane…homegirl doesn’t need to worry,

Essentially, then, I don’t want to sacrifice a fall marathon and then not be accepted into Boston. We don’t find out about Boston until the end of September, leaving little to no room to “salvage” a fall/winter marathon.

Then there’s the other options: the ones that completely eliminate any thoughts of a fall marathon in favor of other sports.

There was a point in time when I declared 2013 “the year of the triathlon,” and in case you were curious on how that plan is going…it isn’t.

But! There is that option. Which both excites me and further confuses me. It would be a huge change in gears and a complete overhaul in the training I’m used to. And while I absolutely love the idea of competing in triathlons, I’m not quite sure if I’m up for it right now. Maybe that’s just fear of the unknown talking (or laziness) but something just doesn’t feel quite right about it yet.

So that leaves me with the next choice (the third choice? I lost count): getting away from distance and working on speed.

This is the decision I find myself leaning toward, as I feel like it’s something that I’ve wanted for a while but haven’t really had the chance to really take on.

I constantly feel like there’s an untapped reservoir of improvement that I have yet to really dig into. At the risk of sounding like a total d-bag, I’ve relied a lot on natural ability ever since I started running and racing. Yes, I put in work, but more often than not, I shy away from anything that sounds too “hard.” Essentially, I stay in a comfort zone. And while it seems silly to call the still relatively high number of miles I run a “comfort zone,” it is what I’ve been used to over the past few years.

I really hope that last paragraph didn’t sound too jerky, because that’s not at all what I intended. In fact, my intention was to state that in a lot of ways, I don’t try as hard as I think I could be. And I’m becoming more and more anxious to get over my fears of the unknown and bust a gut for a little while.

I recently realized that I’ve either been training for a marathon or injured for the past three years. Neither of which is very conducive to really working on speed. And it’s kind of funny, since sprinting and speedwork were the only types of running I did when I ran track so many years ago.

The times when I have done a little speed work here and there within marathon training—I actually loved it. There’s something so rewarding about a hard interval workout that feels so different from a long, single-speed run, and despite my self-proclaimed love for the long run…I think I’m ready to shake it up.

…..

I suppose my little narration about the confusion that is my running brain actually turned into a little bit more clarity than I expected. Isn’t writing nice that way? 🙂 Essentially, I think what I’ll do is a combination of all ideas, in smaller proportions. There are some races out there that I’ve all but pulled the trigger on, and I think once I do that, the rest of the specifics will fall into place.

Eugene Marathon Training Week #1

Week 1 is in the books!

I felt great this week, and I think this Pete Pfitzinger program and I are going to get along swimmingly. It’s a great balance of what I’m used to and new, exciting things—which means I feel like I have the tools to take it on, but it’s still interesting and fun. Here’s how this week looked:

M: 8 miles w/ 10×100 m pick-ups

T: REST

W: 10 miles

T: spin + 20 min stair-stepper

F: 6 miles, easy + BodyPump

S: 14 miles LR w/ 8 miles @mgp

S: spin + lifting

Total= 38 miles running

*LR= long run, mgp= marathon goal pace, m= meters, pick-ups= 85% sprint effort

I stuck to my prescribed workouts to a T this week, which ideally will happen more often than not. It was a little daunting to start week one with 8 marathon goal pace miles plugged into the long run, but it turned out to be successful and actually made the time go faster. The long run was admittedly a little fast, especially my non-goal pace miles, so I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to that (I didn’t really look at my watch until it was time to start the goal-pace miles), but I felt great during it. Here’s a look at the splits:

Capture

 

So yes, too fast—but that’s fixable. Right now, I’m playing with a 7:55-ish marathon goal pace. We’ll see. It felt good during this run, a little fast but not hard. Just need to start working on slowing down when goal pace isn’t required. I also headed to the Burke Gilman trail for this run which was highly enjoyable. Lots of people, dirt to run on, and just enough up and down to keep things interesting. BF went with me and did 10 on his own, then we headed to brunch. Long run + good food= Saturday morning perfection.

image (1)

 

Lots and lots of coffee.

I don’t know if there will ever be a time when a long run doesn’t exhaust me. Perhaps it was the faster miles, but anything over 12 tends to set in that familiar post-long-run energy drain. It’s a good tired feeling though, albeit a little inconvenient on Saturday nights.

Also, in keeping with the theme of workout recaps, BF and I have continued our PSJJ streak! For those of you who didn’t read about our hair-brained resolution, we decided to do a push-up, a sit-up, and a jumping jack per the day in the year. Jan 1=1, Jan 2=2…and so on. It’s ridiculous, however we’re now on 42 and there’s no stopping in sight. It’s already a little difficult, but I’m trying not to complain yet…on the bright side, my push-ups are definitely feeling easier! Will keep you posted on how this progresses…

In OTHER news…something so very exciting happened yesterday:

image

 

I finally got a bike!!! I’ve been joking about, stressing about, and longing for a good, quality road bike for probably two years now, and I finally took the plunge yesterday and couldn’t be happier. Also, please excuse my “Sunday best” attire.

If we’re being honest, my main intention in buying this pretty little bike is to get into triathlons. I have crazy, far-fetched dreams about a possible tri-career, and if I’m not mistaken, being comfortable on a bike is *kind-of* a necessary skill to have. Out of the three disciplines, the bike would definitely be my weakness—as I just don’t have the riding experience. And I’m pretty sure spinning doesn’t qualify.

Anyways, while my focus right now is 100% on Eugene…I’m so happy to have finally bridged a big gap between my own planning and actual tri potential. One ride down the street on that baby and it was love, I was a goner.

BF wouldn't let me take her to bed, jerk.

BF wouldn’t let me take her to bed, jerk.

Now accepting possible names for her.

I also got clip-in pedals, cleats, and a big ‘ole lock. Now all I need are shoes…and to figure out how the hell to clip in/out without dying. Also now accepting proper bike riding lessons.

That’s all folks! A good weekend and a great start to marathon training. I feel good about this one, and I’m hoping for nothing but positive forward momentum. Let’s go!

How was your weekend? Do you have a bike? Have you done a tri? HELP ME.

Book Review: A Life Without Limits

Something that I do a lot of, but don’t talk enough about, is reading about endurance athletes. I spend a good amount of my reading energy (and my money) on absorbing as much written information I can from the memoirs, biographies, instruction manuals, and general musings of professional athletes. I find it incredibly motivating and ridiculously intriguing—especially those athletes that started out just like any of us: with a desk job and a keen interest in living their life to the fullest.

There are a lot of books I’ve read—primarily about running, but most recently I decided to check out the world of Ironman, via world champion Chrissie Wellington’s memoir, A Life Without Limits. Chrissie was a bright, athletic, and driven girl who didn’t even consider being a professional athlete until her mid-20s. A year later, she was being crowned Queen of Kona at the Ironman World Championships—a feat she admits she would never have imagined possible.

life-without-limits

If you’re curious, here’s my review of her book—both in the two-sentence variety and the extended version. Please note that informality is my speciality, and I tend to find enjoyment out of most everything I read. You can read more “professional” reviews on Amazon, or just use your friendly neighborhood Google.

Two-Sentence Review:

A Life Without Limits is a powerful exhibition on the capabilities of both the human body and the human spirit. For someone so decorated with accomplishment and praise, Chrissie is relatable,  hilarious, humble, and genuinely inspiring in her exploration of the limitless potential that comes with hard work and determination.

Extended Review:

This book is very much about Chrissie’s journey toward becoming a professional triathlete—not just her accomplishments themselves. She certainly spends a good amount of time detailing her training, racing, and career, however it’s not without a good description of her life pre-Ironman.

Not to downplay her early years, but in many ways, Chrissie was really just an average girl for the first part of her life. She went to school, felt like an outsider, struggled to find her passion, and went through a lot of the same trials we all go through. She spends a good amount of time talking about her experiences with bulimia and eating issues, and I thought it was refreshing to read about how even for the world’s greatest athletes—body image can still very much be an issue. It seemed that her issues started to go away once she found herself as a triathlete, but it just goes to show that none of us are immune to it—and I thought it was an important point for her to highlight.

Some of the early chapters detail Chrissie worldy adventures. She spent her first years post-grad as quite the world traveler and humanitarian. She spent a while working for the UK government—which fed her desire to aid in global development and to help others. She also spent time in Nepal, New Zealand, and South Africa.

I thought the additions of these details were important in showing Chrissie’s evolution as a person, and it also gave her a much more well-rounded presentation. I think it’s a little too easy to write off professional athletes as a little self-centered, as they focus so much of their energy on their own personal successes. Chrissie is quite the opposite, and I enjoyed reading about this whole other humanitarian side of her.

However, the reason I picked up the book was to read about swimming, biking, and running. Which there is plenty of. In fact, admittedly I found myself wishing there were a little less about her pre-Ironman life.

Chrissie’s transformation from a sporty, “average” chick into a world-class athlete seems to happen a bit overnight. She goes from performing well in a few pick-up triathlons, to turning pro and living at training camp fairly quickly. I loved the depictions she gives of her first coach, Brett, who made seemingly the biggest impression on her out of anyone else coaching wise.

You get a really good sense of not just the physical training she went through (a LOT) but also the mental training. Chrissie struggled with a lot of self-doubt in the beginning, and once again I really liked reading about this much more human side of someone who is seemingly so superhuman.

My favorite parts of this book  were each of her Ironman race descriptions, particularly her world championship wins (Kona) and her unofficial world record ironman at Roth in Germany. I think the most intriguing part of this mother-of-all-races for us mortals are the specifics of each discipline. I always wonder, “What is it really like to swim with hundreds of other people around you?” and, “What is running a marathon after 112 miles of biking really like?” 

Chrissie does a great job at addressing these types of inquiries. Her accounts of each race are remarkably detailed, and it’s clear that she’s been able to take lessons from each of them. She performs multiple times with lingering injuries or illness, and it’s incredible to read about how she not only triumphs over her competitors—but also over her own personal predicaments.

Chrissie’s athleticism is undeniable, which I found was most obvious in just how easy she makes an Ironman sound. Sure, she describes the tough parts and how much of a mental game it is, but with each win and each new PR, it becomes obvious that some—like Chrissie—are built for the sport.

She trains incredibly hard, some would argue too hard (how about biking the same day you break your arm?), but my impression is that Chrissie has a lot of natural talent to back her up. There are people who can do an Ironman, an incredible accomplishment in and of itself, and then there are people that win these monster races. Chrissie’s expedited road to the top shows that when untapped potential meets a concentrated discipline, incredible things can happen.

However, while Chrissie may be exceptional and “made for triathlon,” this doesn’t mean her book is any less inspiring or that she didn’t work hard for her accomplishments. Heck, by the end of the book I was Googling Kona-qualifying Ironman races and plotting my own triumphant entrance into the tri-world. Do you think I should start by finally buying that road bike?

The point is—Chrissie allowed me to dream, to think beyond the limits I’ve set for myself, and I think this is the goal of her book. When a reader can transcend into the mind and lifestyle of a world champion athlete, there becomes a moment when we recognize our own potential—and maybe, just maybe, we decide to dig a little deeper. This is why I love books about the best of the best—and this is why I loved Chrissie’s book.

One final thought: my most favorite thing about A Life Without Limits was Chrissie’s endless search for “the perfect race;” a race that in preparation, execution, and finale goes exactly as planned. This is something I can absolutely relate to—as I’m constantly choreographing the details of my own “perfect race.” This made her so relateable to me—and I loved that as an amateur recreational runner, I was able to make a direct comparison to a world champion. Because that’s the thing about sports—no matter our level or title, we’re all after the same end goal: to do the very best that we are capable of. Chrissie is constantly on a mission, both athletically and in her life, to reach these capabilities—and in doing so, she manages to break through the glass ceiling of limitations over and over.

….

I recommend this book to anyone interested in endurance sports, running, triathlon, Ironman, or general athletic accomplishment. Chrissie’s combination of self-deprecation and detailed narrative really draws you in, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be waving your “Team Chrissie” flag before you’re halfway through. I could hear her voice throughout this whole book—charming British accent and all—and that level of authorial intrigue speaks highly of her passion and likeability.

Have you read A Life Without Limits? What did you think? 

*Disclaimer: I’m a terrible English major and read most of my books on my e-reader. Therefore, my sharing ability is very limited, so when you ask to borrow something and I say no—well, you know why.

Tri-Curious

If you couldn’t tell from my oh-so-clever play on words post title, I’d like to talk about a whole new type of endurance animal, in the form of swim, bike, run.

Triathlons

Now, running has and will always be my first love—I bestowed it with soul mate status in my Valentine’s Day post, in fact.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, I do have some devotion to other sweat-enducing activities, namely—spinning and swimming. I like these two things because they are great supplements to running, as in great cross training, but I also like them because on their own—they’re a whole new physical challenge.

I feel like running gets all the credit sometimes as the most effective way to test and improve your fitness. I admit, I am totally guilty of doing this, because there’s no workout I prefer more than a long run. However, I really don’t think that biking and swimming should be given the shaft so quickly—because these can both be just as, if not more, effective in terms of boosting endurance strength.

Yes I just said that.

But, as someone who is currently out of the running game and needing to push herself otherwise, I’m finding a greater respect for these alternatives. Seriously though. If you haven’t swam laps since you first learned to swim back when you were a kid, I challenge you to get in the pool and knock out some freestyle. I think you will be amazed just how tired you get, even if your running strength is superb.

The other reason I’m a big proponent of these cross training activities is because they help our muscles recuperate from the wear and tear of running. Fact: running is not very good for your joints. Dean Karnazes and all you other freaks who never get injured and have perfect, unbreakable running genes—screw you. These specimens are rare. For the rest of us, running is a constant game of working hard, training hard, and all the while avoiding injury. If there were some magic pill that made running impact-less and perfectly healthy, I’d be first in line at the doctor begging for my prescription. But, that’s not the case—which is one the reasons I’ve steered my marathon brain slightly in the direction of multi-sport events.

As of right now, I am still planning on at least two half marathons and one full this year. One of the halfs is in question with my current asshole of a leg, but otherwise I’m all set for this running schedule. I’m probably definitely going to add more, let’s be honest, I just need to pull some triggers. And by “pull some triggers” I mean “get more paychecks.”

But anyways.

While I love running training, I am also getting more and more interested in adding some additional challenge into the mix, in the form of triathlons.

Fun fact: I actually did three sprint triathlons long before even considering a running race. They were back in high school, when I somehow magically just whipped out these events despite never doing any of the activities, and they were definitely fun. So, I’m thinking for a starting point—I’m going to register for a sprint tri near the end of the summer (cough Nicole Danskin cough). I should probably put a bit more thought into this, but the fact is that I swim, “bike,” and run enough to where a sprint tri should really be no problem. However, like I said—it’s a starting point.

Now, this is still under some consideration, but as of right now—I am planning on signing up for a half Ironman next summer.

Yikes, just said it. Scary.

I know that the training is hard, but I know it’s exactly the kind of new challenge I’m looking for. I love the idea of block workouts (consisting of two endurance-related activities) and learning how to balance my energy over a long period of time. Additionally, I feel like this will keep my love for running alive and well by mixing up back-to-back marathon training cycles with something different.

Ultimately, I want to reach for something higher. Crazy, indeed, after my brush with casualty in the marathon two weeks ago, but this is honestly the way I operate. Yes, I got knocked down, but I know when I get up again (meaning, fully functioning IT band and absolved fear of running on hills) I am going to be stronger, smarter, and more anxious to challenge myself.

The thing I’ve taken away more than anything from that ill-fated race is that the brain and the body must always work in harmony; even when they’re fighting with one another, battling over pain versus persistence, we must know each of them well enough to know which to listen to. This is something I had lost touch with—and for the first time in my life, my mental game outweighed my physical capabilities. It’s one of the hardest parts of being an athlete, and it’s something I’m looking forward to exercising (pun intended) in my future endurance endeavors.

Oh, and I also took away the fact that I was a cocky little shit and the marathon is really, really, hard…no matter how well your first (or many) may have gone.

So there you have it Internet. This birdie is slotting July 2013 as the month of her first half Ironman, with some warm-up tris beforehand. I’ll write more on my approach to this endeavor when it’s not over a year away, but for now I’m excited to have something different on the horizon. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to running soon.

Rest, rolling, ice, and froyo people—and your IT band will slowly but surely start to like you again.

Fingers crossed 🙂

Have you ever done a tri? Do you think there’s a difference between tri-people and marathon-people? Do you think I should probably go and buy that road bike already? Yea, me too.