Monday, April 07, 2008

Thoughts on what was, what is and what lies ahead.

There is so much going on right now and I have a bazillion things I want to blog about. However, I can't stand writing without a focus, so I thought a list of things going on might be better. Then I can go from there. Might be kind of's one of THOSE posts.

  • Post race feelings & thoughts
  • Mover's depression
  • Lots of cooking!
  • Setting up another training plan and revising with help this time
  • Understanding the motivation behind triathlon
  • p.s. some SUPER COOL NEWS from the weekend

Last week was difficult. Post-race feelings surfaced and I really attempted to understand what was going on that weekend and what I need to do to be ready to kick some butt at Vineman in July. I realized that while yes, I had some things happen beyond my control, there was certainly a lot that I was responsible for. I can recognize that I did a great job in creating a plan based on the Triathlete's Training Bible and mostly sticking with it. For effort I give myself an A-.

However, in the intensity department, I realize now that I give myself a C. My base workouts, even moderate intensity build workouts - those were all great. But for those select few workouts (i.e. breakthroughs) that you're supposed to just GO, GO, GO, where you hurt and wish it would be over, where you really feel it the next day...I don't think I really pushed hard enough in those.

In swimming the last few months, I never had anybody yelling at me to push harder. At least in master's I had a coach yelling at me to keep going. I can still hear Kevin screaming at me, "PAIN IS THE WEAKNESS LEAVING YOUR BODY!" I used to laugh, but now I realize that his presence influenced me far more than I knew at the time.

Similarly, I always counted on our group rides to really push me over that edge of intensity that made my legs turn to jelly, my heart pound so hard I thought it would pop out of my chest and drive me to wonder why in the world I had subjected myself to this. Riding with guys who can ride is great that way. Except over the last 3 months, those 'guys' are all still in their early-season riding, meaning our paces are much slower than in the summer. Nobody's clamoring to be the KOM, and most posts to the list serve go something like this:

"I'm going out for an EASY 40 - as flat as possible, EASY pace. NO sprints up the hill!"

I tried to just do my own pushes on the group rides, but when you're not trying to beat somebody up a hill or lead a blistering pace line at 25 mph, it just isn't the same.

Finally, in the running department, while I had a treadmill to keep me honest, that, too, didn't seem to quite fatigue me in the way that Track Tuesdays with my friend Megan used to. Megan was always a faster runner than I, so I let her inspire and influence me to push myself out there on our sets. I'll still never forget the day we did a set where we ran from the track on the UC Berkeley campus up the hill along Campanile way, up to the Campanile, up the steps, around the clock tower and back down. Then we did that 2 more times. UGH. She always seemed to think I was better at hills than she was and I wasn't about to relinquish that title. I thought I was going to die on those steps by the third time.

I'm competitive by nature. I like how the presence of others gets me to go harder than I ever could on my own. Yes, I'm disciplined. But discipline is no match for competition in my world. :)

Okay, so I've recognized what has to happen in the next 12 weeks - UP with the intensity.

What else happened during the race?

My spirit wasn't there. I knew it wasn't. But why? I love racing and I love training and I love this sport. Hmmm...

I recently realized that I'm fighting a little bit of mover's depression. That is, the dust has settled, the boxes are put away, the routines have started and I realized something: I have no life.

When I left Berkeley, I was leaving behind a community in my master's team; I was leaving an incredible newfound community at the Embarcadero YMCA; I was leaving friends who also worked in downtown SF that I lunched with frequently; I was leaving close friends in Berkeley and Oakland; I was leaving my beloved Berkeley Bowl (best supermarket EVER - Whole Foods Paycheck, EAT YOUR HEART OUT!) & Cheese Board; I was leaving friends that I had just become friends with; I was leaving behind familiarity - knowing the ins and outs of every street in Berkeley and many of Oakland and where to score parking spots in even the most difficult of places; I also left behind one of the most incredible views my lifetime will ever know. (This photo was one of the many sunsets I snapped from my bedroom window)

AND YET - I was ready to move on with my life. I was moving up to the North Bay because I wanted to train more up here. Most importantly, I was done having a long-distance relationship and I was ready to be closer.

There have been SO MANY positives to being up here. Let me make it clear: there are NO regrets.

I was so excited to get up here, so thrilled in experiencing all of these new things and new places up here that I never really missed ANYTHING for the first two months. I didn't look back. I thought "oh, I was DEFINITELY ready to leave." When I drove that U-Haul down University Ave in Berkeley, I kissed it goodbye and said "ha! I don't have to deal with YOU anymore, University Ave!"

It sort of hit me out of the blue a couple of weeks ago. I missed communities. I longed for that giddy feeling I got when I would head to swim practice for a great workout and seeing familiar faces; I felt sad that Sonoma County people don't seem to share the same love of dance music in spinning class that I do. I'm generally a very upbeat, happy person so I immediately noticed when I didn't feel like doing much. When getting up got harder and harder.

Needless to say, I'm dealing with it all. I'm not using this as a forum to complain; merely identifying what's been going on and how much it's impacted me in the last few weeks, how it likely contributed to my feelings during the race. Even seeing my old Lombardi teammates and cracking up just like old times made me a little sad pre-race.

I'm ready to change that! Over the next 12 weeks, besides training, I'm focusing on getting out there: getting into Santa Rosa Masters; perhaps organizing something at the YMCA for triathletes who are just beginning or have questions; and just making an attempt to get to know some of the people I HAVE met just a little bit better.

Just like training, it takes time. I keep having to remind myself of that. I'm always eager for change, but with change brings new challenges and I don't think I'd even quite understood all of the challenges I might possibly be presented with when I came up here. I've got a clearer picture now.

A cool thing happened today...

I think I'm finally hitting my stride with this new spinning group at the YMCA. I was really beginning to think that maybe this wasn't going to be a good fit. I was this chick from SF who had a propensity for loud dance music and making people REALLY wish they'd stayed in bed. I was used to having a packed class at 6:30 a.m. Up here, I was happy if it was half-full. Not everybody seemed to engage, as hard as I tried.

But clicked. It was there, not to mention 85% full. After class, a number of people enthusiastically said "GREAT CLASS!" I thought "yeah, you REALLY WAS a great class!" Kicked their butts but made them feel good. Must've been my remix of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Yep, that did it. ;)

Lots of cooking

One thing I've REALLY enjoyed has been cooking more. Work is walking distance from home so I barely eat out at all these days. It's SO AWESOME. More on that later. I've even taken pictures of my creations!

Let me just say...when I begin to think "eh, I could probably make something better at home...." that is a VERY good sign. I did NOT grow up thinking "I love to cook."

Highlights include stuffed pasilla peppers, vegetarian macaroni 'n cheese, seared tuna banh mi, grapefruit salad...mmmmm.

Training plans

One of the good things that happened this weekend was that my cycling buddy Tim just recently got certified as a cycling coach (he also used to be a Cat 3 racer so he's got a lot of great experience to work off of). We had a great conversation on our ride about how my race had gone, and we're going to do a little trade; me do some website work for him and he'll write a training plan to get my cycling back up to where it needs to be. HOORAY!!

He really hit it on the nose when he said "the nice thing Sarah is that you won't have to be concerned with what workout you're going to write up. You can focus on DOING the workout instead of coming up with the workout. That's really important." Good call.

Why do I do this?

This is a whole other post but I couldn't resist opening the can of worms. It's been on my mind since the race. I'm not a pro. I don't intend to try to get to pro level. I don't know that I really want to try to get to an Elite level, either. And yet...I'll be honest...I don't just go out and think "well yeah, I'm just going to go out there and have fun and I don't care what my time is!" (Maybe if it were a fun race where they didn't have times. Or it was a costume race. Something like that.) Let's put it this way: while some have goals of 'just finishing' (which is FINE), those aren't mine. My first year racing I ended up with some podium finishes. It left me thinking that I really had some natural ability with this sport that I had never had experienced in any other sport I grew up with (well, horseback riding was really the only other but I knew that wasn't in my future).

We can all agree that it's fun to win. But where do I draw the line? If I'm not going to try to get to an Elite or Pro level, then where do I start having diminishing returns on the time, energy, effort and money that I spend on this sport? If I'm not just doing it for the sake of DOING IT, if I'm trying to pull of some AWESOME time that is a competitive time, then when am I ultimately satisfied? I'm always seeking to make improvements. After every race, I always look at what I could've done better. How to be better for next time.

When do I stop trying to improve, though? Let's be real: outside the triathlon world, nobody really cares unless you're going to compete at Kona or in the Olympics. In spinning class this morning, one of my students brought somebody new to class and she told him proudly, "This is Sarah. Last weekend she did HALF-TRIATHLON!" I said with an encouraging tone and a smile, "I believe you mean half-Ironman. Though I don't really think it's half of anything given the distance we cover!" (ha ha ha...elicit laugh so I don't come off sounding like a jerk)

So this is really about me. The satisfaction I get from having that elusive near-perfect (or perfect, if it exists) race. How long do I chase that, though? Where's the balance in sacrifice of time with people you love/other hobbies vs. just doing enough to be satisfied with whatever the outcome of the race is?

E.G. if I determine that I will not put more than 12 hrs/week in because I want to have time for others and other things, will I be able to come off a PR and think "that was SO AWESOME! I am totally satisfied with that!"

I mean, last year at Big Kahuna I had my best race EVER and finished in 5:10 and immediately thought "I am SO doing sub 5 next year."

As I's a different ball game when you're racing as pro or elite. That I get. But in spite of being passionate about this sport and loving it, it can't be my life.

Hmmmm...the questions keep coming. I'm curious how other people battle this. Or if I'm just crazy. Maybe that's it, too. ;)

Onward! A new week, and it's off to a great start.


While driving out to Dublin for First Friday (every FF is girls' night; however FF is now in its 3rd year and us ladies have really branched out from Berkeley...FF tends to be more of a Fri/Sat thing since people have kind of moved to the far reaches of the Bay Area), I was listening to one of my most favorite radio stations, Energy 92.7.

So the deejay says "and for the first time in 17 years, George Michael is coming back to North America on tour! Tickets go on sale on Monday, but I've got two tickets right here for caller #7."

Yes, yours truly scored 2 tickets to see George Michael at the HP Pavilion (San Jose) on June 19.



Rainmaker said...

Wow - incredible view from your window. That's amazing.

"If I'm not just doing it for the sake of DOING IT, if I'm trying to pull of some AWESOME time that is a competitive time, then when am I ultimately satisfied?"

That's a question I'm starting to wonder about. I'm incredibly competitive and always strive for 'best', but at what point in the future will I realize that perhaps the retunrs are simply not realistic anymore. I guess time will tell.

Just keep enjoying it for the sake of enjoying it.

Paul said...

Lots of good stuff in that post! Moving is always really hard. But you're doing the right things to get settled into your new community :).

It's all for fun isn't it? Not much point if you don't enjoy it.

Devon said...

Girl, I totally relate! It is great that you can understand yourself to know the factors that are making you blue. Having the moving blues definitely doesn't equate to regretting the decision.

I think you are awesome and you balance having fun and being competitive. I think there is room for both. You always push yourself to be your best self in all things and that is what I love about ya!

Greg Remaly said...

I hear you but I think you're overreacting.

Oceanside is a very EARLY race - the season is LONG. Trust me, it's better to be a little undertrained now and be feeling great in July and August, than to be on fire now and burnt out by J/A.

Also Santa Rosa from all accounts is an awesome place to be a triathlete and a good place in general. I wish I was there rather than here.

Glad to hear about the spin class going well. Mine just picked up this past Monday as well - everyone was happy when Haddaway's "What is Love" came on.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Hey Sarah - very thought provoking post!

First - the best way for improvement is to review what you've done and then adjust. Good for you for looking things over, assessing what's working and what's not working, and then moving on from there. Most excellent!

Second - I think you touch on a major challenge of life. If we aren't good enough to be a pro or elite - then what's the point? What can be gained if we can't ever be the best?....

PLENTY - if you ask me. This sport - this incredible sport - teaches us so much more than just swim, bike, run. We grow as people, we learn how to push through challenges, we learn how to cope with good times and bad times, we make lifelong friends, we taste the joys of vicotry in a pr and feel the bitter sting of defeat when we fall... we learn about our capabilities, we learn about our toughness - we become better people. I firmly believe that just because you can't be the best at something, doesen't mean you can't give it your best.

Rationally, I know that I don't have the talent to beat Emma Snowsill... but that doesen't mean that I can't work as hard as she does, and at least give it my best shot.

Why in the world should we ever leave unanswered questions... Is a life without fun, without doing the things we love - even if we don't "win" or "go to the olympics" or "do kona" - is that a worthless life?

No -

It's all about perspective.

Oceanside is a tricky race. Like Greg said - its a very early season race, and the conditions really vary from year to year. Take it as a phenominal learning experience, a great day to see how you cope given the conditions - and go from there...

We can't always have great races - and that's okay. Life isn't always about having "the best" all the time, but about how we respond to the challenges that befall us.

Last year I had an awful bike leg at Timberman 70.3... For the next few weeks, I really thought hard about that race, why I didn't "go fast" or race the kind of race that I wanted to race. Looking back NOW, that's the ONE RACE last season that i did where I learned the most. My other races (for the most part) went really well. But it was through the tough stuff that I gained the most.

Hang in there through this. You're on the right track, asking the tough questions. You'll be fine, I have no doubt. Just because you're asking these questions in the first place, shows me that you're well on your way to a great season. And that sub 5 hour half IM.

rocketpants said...

You have lots going on! That is for sure. Moving can be super me, I know. I've been in SoCal for 6 months now, and I have times when it is just *hard*. It takes some time. Don't be too hard on yourself.

good luck with all the changes and training plans you have as you gear up for your July/Aug races. Since you have done a HIM this early in the season the next bit you can focus on intensity and really crank it up.

There are thousands of reasons to race that aren't even on the 'I want to win' or 'Because its fun' spectrum. I am someone who tends to be mid to back of the pack and has bigger concerns about being last than ever podium finishing. But I have learned so much more about what I am capable of, from the discipline to completing events. is good to sit and sort that out for one's self. I had to come back to my 'roots' so to speak recently which is why my training has changed.

Awesome about the tickets...that is cool!

Courtenay said...

so much to comment about! i have been thinking about what to say for like two days now but still feel incoherent.

ah well.

regarding moving... i KNOW what you mean! i was ready to leave oakland, ready to leave the shadiness of my neighborhood, the ridiculously crowded pool, the impossibility of flat riding, the traffic, etc. but i hated it here at first. change is hard. good but hard - and i bet even if we had megabucks it would still be hard! looking back 5+ years, i recall that it took me almost a year to really love san francisco and to stop dreaming of going back to charlottesville. and in both cases, i have known that moving and moving on was the right thing to do.

you'll have some great races this year - you have a fantastic base and attitude, and aptitude, and in my experience it is always good to question why you're doing what you're doing.

i want to win tickets to see enrique iglesias.

and i am never going to go to greg's spin class. i would spend too much time laughing at his music because i am mean like that ;) but who am i to talk, i just got all sigh-y over enrique!

Eileen Swanson said...


I can't agree more with Marit. She said it perfectly. It is through the toughest experiences that we learn the most. We cannot always have great days or even good days for that matter. But what we learn and overcome on the toughest of days is what makes us have the greatest of days!

Hang in there, cheer up, think about the positives, learn from the negatives, and move on and know the next race will be better!