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2011 Year in Review

December 31, 2011

LPBC crew practice [I’m wearing the white hat, on the left of the photo].

With 2011 coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on my training and racing over the past year. I also have some training-related New Year’s resolutions and goals (no shock there), but I’ll save those for a later post.

Overall: I had a major setback this year when I had to take three months off for a shoulder injury. But it was otherwise a very successful year. I’m stronger and my run and erg speeds are faster than this time last year. I’ve tried new races along the way, and for the first time volunteered at an aid station in a local 5k. First workout of the year: 45 minute erg steady state on Jan 3rd. Last workout of the year: team WOD at crossfit, later this morning (December 31st). Weight and resting heart rate on December 31, 2010: 170.5 lbs, 48 bpm. Weight and resting heart rate on December 31, 2011: 174.5 lbs, 44 bpm. Weight was down to 165 during crew season, up during my injury rehab, and now going back down. Resting heart rate got down to the low 40s by July, then up to the low 50s when I was off for injury, and now also going back down.

Race recap: Chicago Indoor Rowing Championship, Wisconsin Marathon (Kenosha), Warrior Dash, Grand Rapids Regatta, Chicago Sprints Regatta, Tough Mudder, ET Marathon (Rachel, NV), Bucktown 5k (as a volunteer), Hot Chocolate 15k Run. Races in four different states, including marathons in two states (bringing me to six marathons in five states). Proved that the crossfit approach to endurance training works, after long runs of only 7 or 8 miles before both marathons this year, and running 13 straight miles uphill in the ET marathon, despite training in flat-as-a-pancake Chicago. Finished the Hot Chocolate run 4 minutes faster than last year (at a PR 8:36 mile pace). Had a blast at Tough Mudder, which was as much about mental challenge and team work as it was about personal physical challenge (a lot of fun, but some of those obstacles are pretty insane). Raced in a strong lightweight men’s 8 lineup in the spring season, before injuring my shoulder and ending my crew season early.

With other athletes from my Crossfit gym, in front of one of the 10 foot walls we had to scale during Tough Mudder.

Next to the Black Mailbox, near Area 51, at the start line of the ET Marathon. The marathon started at midnight (I finished barely before sunrise) and ran along the “Extra Terrestrial Highway.”

High points of the year: (1) The whole second half of Tough Mudder. Just the most incredible feeling of camaraderie and support from being with a team that was pushing me to do things I would have never considered a year ago. I am so glad we decided to stick together as a team. After I did a faceplant while running through the field of electric wires on the last obstacle, I said I was only able to run through the wires because I was already so tired that I didn’t care. And maybe that was partially true. But it was also true that being with a strong team helped me dig deeper and find courage I didn’t know I had. (2) The last ten minutes of the ET Marathon. There’s something incredible about spending the last mile of a marathon, racing against the rising sun. I reached the finish line just before the sun actually rose above the horizon. I actually really enjoyed that whole marathon. At the start line, I wasn’t sure how I would do on the mountain, but even then I never thought “I just want this to be over.” There was something absolutely exhilarating about running through the desert in the middle of the night. Even as my legs were aching during the race, mentally I stayed in the race.

Low points of the year: (1) Finish of my 2k at Chicago Indoor Rowing Championship in February. Combination of insufficient winter training and not setting a specific enough goal. I did not do as well as I hoped to or should have. (2) Lying on my back after being hit by a cab on July 28. I was riding my bike home from Crossfit, and a cab turned left into me. I saw it happening and knew impact was coming, but there wasn’t much I could do. I hopped up slightly on my bike and leaned into the cab as it was going to hit me, so at least my weight would hit on the top of the hood, and I kept my hands on my handlebars, so no broken wrists or elbows from trying to break my fall. The cab didn’t hit me that hard, but I was going around 20 mph, and landed on my right shoulder. At the scene, I didn’t think I had any major injury (I kept telling the paramedics “well, I’m sore, but I think that’s just sore muscle from the crossfit workout I just did”). But three days later my shoulder still hurt, so I had to go in for Xrays. The doctors originally thought I fractured my collar bone. Fortunately the bone was fine. But I bruised the joint, which still meant I couldn’t seriously work out for a few months. That ended my crew season early and took me out of crossfit. At least my shoulder fully recovered, no lingering damage. It’s just been slow getting back into crossfit. It’s frustrating coming back and not being able to do as much weight as I could pre-injury.

Becoming really serious about Crossfit: I’ve been doing crossfit since November 2010. At the beginning of this year, I loved the basic concept, but I still sometimes cherry-picked workouts. I didn’t normally cancel workouts I had signed up for, but I definitely signed up for workouts when I thought they played to my strengths, and then I wouldn’t sign up for other workouts later in the week. Crossfit was still an “add-on” to my training, not the core of my training. To be fair to me, it’s hard to really do crossfit the way it’s designed if you’re also on another team (crew in my case). But I wasn’t in the crossfit mindset. Somewhere during the year my whole approach to it has changed. I try to make sure I get in at least 3 times a week, so I’m sure to get enough variety in my workouts. I sign up for my workouts at least a few days in advance, and only cancel if I really have to for schedule reasons. When I see workouts that focus on arms/shoulders, I remind myself that I need to work my weaknesses, and I embrace those workouts. And I’m loving it!

Lessons learned: (1) I need to set harder and more specific goals for myself, and then commit to them. My 2k time at CIRC last year probably suffered because I didn’t have a specific goal, and once I started, I let myself “feel out” where I should be. My Wisconsin marathon time definitely was slower than it should have been, not because I didn’t have a specific enough goal, but because I didn’t commit enough to training for that goal. I don’t have a specific goal for IM AZ yet, but that’s because I have nothing to really go off of for bike and swim pacing. I’ll use tris I do in training next year to come up with some projections. I will definitely have specific goals long before I actually get to Ironman Arizona. (2) Train hard to race hard. I used to do a lot of long, slow runs and erg workouts. Much slower than what I would want to do in a race. I do still enjoy a long slow run once in a while, but more because it clears my mind than for the physical training. I do a lot more shorter, more intense training now. Long runs might be an hour at race pace, not 2-3 hours at slower than race pace. Most training is faster than race pace. Physically, it builds the power and efficiency to go fast. Mentally, training hard builds the mental frame I need to be in to race fast. I’m going to need that mental focus just as much as the physical to get through Ironman Arizona.

Resolutions to come in a post after New Years. Happy New Year everyone!

323 days till Ironman Arizona.

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From → life, motivation

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