Friday, April 29, 2011

The age old debate: What age is old in triathlon?

It has come to my attention that next week I will be expected to celebrate another birthday.  What? Didn’t I just turn 40? I have written about aging on a few occasions (here and here), but the theme of age and athletics seems to pop up regularly in my life. Just last week, I was interviewed for an article for espnW about how women are staying fit in their sports longer than ever.

If athletes in their 40’s and beyond are “old” the corollary must be that athletes in their 20’s are young. The lore that is handed down from generation to generation is that younger athletes recover better, they can train harder, and they are resistant to the pitfalls of the older athlete. Youth almost begs for recklessness in training as the mistakes are seemingly easily forgiven.

I beg to differ.

 I recently started working with a very young triathlete at the beginning of her career. She came to me tired, over-trained, and verging on burn out. Her situation has made me rethink about age and athletics.

There is no magic formula to longevity in sport, but here is a truism. You can be old at 25 and sprightly at 50. Much of it depends on your outlook, resourcefulness, and willingness to change.

It is the willingness to change that I want to embellish on. Longevity embodies durability, prolonged survival, sturdiness. How does one achieve such things? Doing the same training, year after year, expecting the same results is foolhardy. The mind and body change over time and so must training.

A key, then, to longevity, is a willingness to leave your comfort zone and modify your daily routine. It is recognizing that without varying your workouts you will stagnate. There are endless ways to keep training exciting, to move yourself forward, to postpone the effects of time.  It may mean joining a new Masters swim group. Finding new training partners. Hiring a coach. Adding intensity to your training. Doing less mileage. Purchasing a power meter. Running new trails. Getting a massage. 

There is no doubt, with age comes the baggage of age. But learning from the mistakes of the past and incorporating change into your present will keep you young and fresh and help you find your fountain of youth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Perfect Snack

Even though I eat three meals a day, I constantly snack. This habit began during high school and was so pervasive my mother would often tell me that I grazed like a cow and to please close the refrigerator door that nothing new materialized in the five minutes since I last opened it. I have had many years to perfect my art of snacking. I have tried everything from Little Debbies to beef jerky. In this snacking pandemonium, I have discovered that there is no one perfect snack. Snacks are situational, and the food must fit the setting.

Driving in the car

I confess that I eat in my car often. I have inhaled bagels (sesame seeds bagels are the worst. I end up with seeds all over my lap, the crevices of the seat and the floor) and have been spotted balancing a sub in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. The best car snacks, though, are ones that meet several criteria: they don’t melt, they don't freeze, they don’t leave a residue on your hands, if you drop it no mess will occur, they don’t go stale, and they don't ruin your next meal by filling you up. After trial and error, my number one choice for the perfect car snack is pretzels. They are crunchy, salty, and not messy.

I go to meetings armed with food. I never know when one might run too long and my stomach starts making embarrassing noises. I cringe when people bring apples or other such loud edibles to meetings. The noise of a person masticating their food is very off putting. I, myself, prefer to eat yogurt. It is noiseless, filling and simply delicious (I am currently on a Chobani kick). There is also the added benefit of using the empty container as a receptacle for chewed gum and used tissues.

Between Workouts

I often do workouts back to back, going directly from the gym to a swim, or running shortly after a swim. It is not a brick, per se, but the workouts are stacked close together. The between workout snack is pivotal. It must provide the calories needed to fuel the next workout, but must not sit too heavy in the stomach. It must be portable and not spoil if sitting around too long. Between workouts is when I rely heavily on energy bars or gels. My favorite right now is the PowerBar Gel Blasts. They are chewy like candy with a surprise center. They are edible if they melt or get a little stale and hey I am sponsored by PowerBar, so they deserve a plug.

Sitting at the computer

Eating while working on the computer is risky business. Spill something on the keyboard and your work day is done amid a storm of profanities. I have sat at my workstation and snacked on crackers, fruit, cookies, and chips. Many of these snacks leave my hands sticky or filled with residue which then ends up on the keyboard, so I have ruled them out at the perfect computer snack. Trail mix wins this category. The combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft is delectable. My favorite brand, of course, comes from Trader Joe's and is therefore imported, like fine wine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sick as a dog

This blog details the past few days in the life of Diesel the dog, as told to me by Diesel.
Here I am lying on my bed feeling sick

Saturday was the best day ever. I hiked in the morning on my favorite trail with Deep Voice. Then, in the afternoon, Deep Voice and Crazy Blonde took me to swim at the lake with my buddy Bogart. We had so much fun! I used to be scared of the water, but apparently Crazy Blonde is some kind of swimmer and she was insistent that I become a water dog. So, now I love it.

After swimming we went to see some friends of Deep Voice and Crazy Blonde. They have a huge backyard and I got to run after a ball. I love to fetch. We finally went home and I got to eat dinner. I have a habit of eating really quickly, and today I scarfed my food down. I was hungry after running around so much.

We went to Bogart’s house for some kind of food ritual in which the food was cooked outside but everyone ate inside. Suddenly, out of nowhere, all of my food from dinner reappeared on the carpet. It was a magical moment. I created more food. Of course, I started to eat it, until Deep Voice shooed me away and put it all into a bag to throw away. What a waste of a perfectly yummy second dinner.

By the time I went to sleep, I wasn’t feeling that great. In the middle of the night, I woke up and more food came out. It made me feel much better.

On Sunday, I felt just fine and got to chase my ball and play some Frisbee. I was given some strange concoction of food that was soft and white and chewy. I ate it with gusto, as I do everything, but it was not as tasty as my normal stuff.

I went to sleep feeling fine. Imagine my surprise when I woke up and more food came out. Now Deep Voice and Crazy Blonde seemed very concerned. They were talking in very serious voices.

This is where I get to play sometimes. I also go here when I am sick.
The next morning, Crazy Blonde didn’t give me any breakfast. I was so mad until she took me to the place where I go to doggie day care. I got so excited to see the nice ladies who work behind the desk. This time, though, they didn’t take me back to play with the other dogs.

I had to go to the small room and sit on the cold floor while Crazy Blonde talked to somebody for a while. Then, my privacy was rudely invaded so they could get my temperature. I had to stay at the place all day while they poked and prodded me.

They gave me some medicine and I felt better and then I got really hungry. Finally, someone gave me some food. It wasn’t very much, though. The vet said I am high strung. Well, duh. I haven’t had good meal or exercise in a while. That’s enough to make anyone antsy, especially Crazy Blonde.

 Deep Voice came to get me. I was so happy to see him; I jumped up and down and looked my cutest. I was hoping he would give me a treat, but he didn’t.

When we got home, Crazy Blonde was making dinner. Wow, it smelled good. I followed her around the kitchen giving her my best sad eyes. Usually, she sneaks me a little bit of whatever she is making, but not tonight. Boy, was I annoyed. I sniffed the floor for scraps, but there was nothing.

Today has been a very frustrating day. I am hungry, but all I get is a few spoonfuls of mushy food every few hours, and nobody will take me to play fetch. I keep giving Crazy Blonde the googly eyes, but she just laughs and pats me on the head. At least she took me for walk.
This is my favorite food.

This is the yucky mush the vet makes me eat when my tummy hurts

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

My advice to all of you doggies out there: if you think you might throw up, hold it down if you can.

And for all of you dog owners: get pet insurance, it helps!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Choosing races

Normally, at the beginning of each year I map out a race plan for the season. This year, I put the ritual on hold. My uncertainty about racing triathlon, or even racing at all, led me to procrastinate until I could no longer ignore the truth. I will not be racing any triathlons this year. I am no closer to successfully riding my bike than I was 6 months ago. 

My five week riding experiment in February ended without success. The symptoms I was experiencing last year in the rib and chest wall areas all returned with vigor. I hung up my bike again and prepared for the LA marathon wholeheartedly. After the race, I was left with a void, as we often are after a major race. 

It was time, then, to create a race schedule. As a very goal oriented person who loves racing, I needed to put something on the calendar quickly, something to refocus my energies. The majority of my races will be running races, with perhaps a few open water swims thrown in for good measure. Here is the thought process that went into developing my race schedule.

Of course, the main goal is the Olympic trials standard, which I missed by two minutes in LA.  After chatting with Coach Darren, I decided to run the Twin Cities marathon in October. The course is supposedly fast (well, it’s fast if I run fast) and it is the masters marathon championships. Yippee. I get to race “old” people! Don’t be deceived. These women run FAST.

In order to improve my marathon, I also need to run a faster half marathon. I chose two key sea level half marathons, both in San Diego. How convenient is that (mom and dad, if you are reading this, can I stay with you?)? First is the Rock and Roll race in June and then America’s Finest City half in August. 

My first post-marathon foray is the Colfax half marathon May 15. Can you believe this race starts at 6am? That is earlier than any triathlon I have ever done! Is it even light at 6? I may have to sleep in my car at the race start to make sure I am there on time.

The rest of my schedule will be populated with local races from 5k to half marathon which I will spontaneously choose to do when it fits into the training. A rather rogue approach compared to my normally meticulous planning.

Now that I have some races planned, I better get running.