Is my trainer out to embarrass me? Or is it all part of the process?

The workouts with my trainer have been getting more and more strenuous, which is to be expected, but with a side-effect: they’ve also become more and more ridiculous.  This week, I’m doing lunges on an inflated disk, followed by bringing my knee up like a majorette and then sticking my leg out to the side in a lateral raise.  I’m also assuming the crab soccer position, sticking a leg into the air, and pumping my body up and down for  a triceps/bootie exercise.  I’m lifting an eight-pound med ball over my head, leaning forward (again, on one leg), and assuming that yoga balancing pose where you try to form a T perpendicular to the ground, holding that for ten seconds, and then moving right into a one-legged chair pose.  And then, of course, repeating with the other leg.  I’m doing flutter kicks and hip-thrusters and cobras and triceps dips with my feet on the inflated disk, and, oh, I start all this off by holding a med ball at my chest, stepping up onto a bench, hoisting the other leg into the air majorette-style while lifting the ball over my head, and then returning to the floor to do it again.  From every level, people can see me.  There’s no multi-purpose room I know of where I can do all these things in private.  No.  They watch, and I do my best to pretend they’re not there.

But I do look foxy in a bathing suit.  Funny how so much humiliation can lead to such confidence outside of the gym.

Aside from attempting this workout for the fist time without my trainer, I also did my first brick workout of the season: a 35-minute bike followed by a 20-minute run.  And I did it!  The biking was no problem, though my legs were heavy after Saturday’s gym workout.  The run scares me, though, especially following the bike.  For the tri in two weeks, I want to run the whole way.  That’s going to require practice to build both muscle and confidence, and it’s going to require at least one brick workout a week.  I can do it!

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In which I get blisters

I’ve been competing in triathlons for a few years now.  Let’s not go crazy or anything–these are sprint triathlons, and they serve to (usually) help me feel good about myself, motivate me to exercise on a near-daily basis, and offer me connections with other like-minded people.  This season has been challenging.  I signed up for a series of three sprint triathlons, plus one Olympic-length tri, one a month, from June through September.  In May, my cycling friends and I participated in the MS 150, a two-day, 150-mile bike ride through Florida’s orange groves and farmland.  The night before leaving for that ride, the klutz that I am tripped over a laundry basket and fell hard on my hip, seriously straining some muscles in my lower back.  I made it through the MS 150 well, though stiff.  Then, I took it easy with training.  I must not have taken it easy enough, though, because that lower back pain turned into hip pain and then into IT band pain and then, of course, into knee pain.  This knocked me out of competing in the first tri of the season.  Instead of competing, I accompanied a friend and took pictures of friends who participated.  Yeah, suck.

Fast forward four weeks, and I was stoked for the second tri in the series–my first of the season.  It was a hot, clear morning in July, and I was excited, even though I’d been running very little because of my healing knee and IT band.  My goals were to swim my best and bike my best and then take it easy during the run.  I wanted to run the whole time, even if I did so very slowly.

Well.  I arrived early, in great spirits.  I set up my transition area, stretched, and then swam a bit in the lake.  When the race began, though, I started swimming too early in the shallow start, and I ended up way behind where I like to be in the line-up.  I worked hard to catch up to the others, but I still felt good.

Then came the bike.  Here was my time to shine!  I skipped socks, as I usually do during tris, donned my helmet, and ran my bike out of transition.  I went up the first hill, up the second, and then bent down into my drop bars, in the top gear my bike would allow.  I felt incredible, especially during this one sweeping downhill portion.  Only super-skinny and muscular girls were passing me, along with a few guys, which made me feel awesome.  Then I hit the last hill.  I saw it ahead, as we all came down hill, into an intersection.  The vertical slope was a slap in the face, but I knew what to do from the hills on the MS 150: stay in top gear as long as possible, dip into the intersection, and then take that resistance off and pedal fast uphill.

Suffice it to say that something went wrong with my gearing.  Maybe I geared the wrong way with my left hand, with which I have less practice, in the seconds I had to gear down.  Regardless, a little of the way up the hill, I was still in my highest gear, and then I felt my chain slip, the pedals frozen in place. I unclipped, dismounted, took a deep breath, pulled off to the grass on the side, and adjusted my chain.

A man went by and asked if I was okay.  “Yep!” I said.

“It’s going to be hard getting back up that hill once you’ve stopped,” he said.

I considered this.  Without going forward, I wouldn’t be able to finish gearing down, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to go forward at this steepness.  I thought back to Spinning classes where I’d let up for just a split second and been unable to finish my pedal stroke because my resistance was too high, and I also thought about the real possibility of falling off my bike.

So what did I do?  I turned around, went back to the bottom of the hill, geared down, and then turned around, heading up again.  It was slow going, but  I was moving, and I didn’t need to get off and walk once (though at times I wondered if that wouldn’t be faster).  I still finished the 10-mile bike in 40 minutes, of which I’m quite proud.

Last, of course, was the run.  Frustrated, I pulled on my new Mizunos, race belt, and visor, and walked out of transition.  For the next three miles, I jogged and walked and threw cold water into my face.  I winced every time my feet touched the ground.  Apparently, not wearing socks was a major mistake, as later I had two blisters the size of dimes in the middle of each foot.

I had a good time, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed by my performance.  That’s what being an athlete’s all about, though, right?  Sometimes, feats that others consider amazing just because they’ve been accomplished just aren’t good enough for us, even though we know we’ve done our best for that day, in those conditions.  I needed to protect my knee.  I was getting blisters.  I’d screwed up on the swim and that hill.  Every time I walked, I thought, “Will I regret this?” and then I thought, “No!”  If the answer was yes, I ran again.  Now I kind of regret it.

Next time, I will run the whole way.  This may mean I have to compromise my bike time a bit to save energy–I don’t know.  It may mean I have to wake at 5:00 to run before work.  It may mean running more after biking.  Next time, though, I want to run the whole time.  No regrets!

In which I get locked in and then saved by a curmudgeon

Adventures in triathlon training: this past weekend was the 4th of July, and for this holiday, I went to my parents’ place in Sarasota.  In case you’re not familiar, Sarasota is a beautiful city on the Gulf of Mexico, known for its pristine, powder-white beaches and green waters.  Sarasota is a city filled with retirees, rich old women, and middle-aged gay men; there is an abundance of theater, art work, and early-bird specials.  I was born and raised there before moving to Orlando for college, and one of my favorite (and least favorite, honestly) things to do when I visit is to run or bike through the old neighborhood to see what’s changed in the past 20-odd years and what’s stayed the same.

I’ll tell you one thing: the humidity hasn’t  changed.   This past weekend was as drizzly as ever, though without the hurricane-style rain and wind that actually prohibits outdoor activity.  No.  This was the kind of drizzle that made me want to stay inside with a book or movie or even to join my dad on the back porch, watching the trees and grass turn more vibrant shades of green as the day dimmed.  The voice of my boyfriend, though, spoke to me through the rain and through all of my desires to sit.  Before I’d left, I’d spent more than my fair share of time sleeping–after work one day, after work the next day, and late Saturday morning–and he’d said, “What are you paying a trainer for, if you’re just going to sleep?”

This was countered by my usual tactic, which involves a pouty lip: “Why are you being mean to me?”

“I’m not being mean, I’m being honest.”

Damn.  He came back with analytical thought.  That’s what we are–emotion vs. analysis.  Like hot water on dry ice.  He had a point–he usually had a point–but I had feelings, and I always felt that they should count for more than they did.

That day, I took my guilty conscience with me to the gym, where I ran on the treadmill and did my latest strength-conditioning workout before driving to my parents’ house. I’ll admit, it felt great, especially before the two-hour drive.

Seeking to replicate the feeling of a gym high, I decided to run through the drizzle on Sunday night.  What was drizzle, anyway?  I donned my running shorts, bra, and tank (which I later realized was inside-out), along with my new pair of Mizuno Waverider 13s, and I hit the old pavement.  I surveyed the houses I passed, judging new coats of paint and landscaping, of course.  I stopped to pet a dog that ran across the street to greet me.  I ran into the next neighborhood and through the pedestrians’ gate to the next neighborhood, noting that the gate would close at sunset.  What was sunset, anyway, in this drizzle?  I ran the loop, waving at people who were walking their dogs (I have to admit, I love the attention I get in Sarasota), and then made my way back to the gate.  As an incentive to sprint, I pretended the gate was closing.  But I knew it wasn’t, so even though I ran faster, I didn’t run the fastest I could.  I thought, “It’s closing, for real, run!”  And then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if it actually closed?”

Well, of course, at that second, wouldn’t you know–the gate moved.

And it moved fast.  I ran faster, but it didn’t matter.  I missed it by mere seconds, and then it was closed, its magnetic lock holding tight.  I tried wedging myself between the edge of the gate and the next one over, and I tried going underneath, but my ribcage was too big for both tasks (more about my humongous ribcage later).  I had no choice but to make my way backwards down the street, looking for one of those friendly dog-walkers.  The street was deserted.  Finally, I found an older man working in his garage.

“Excuse me, sir.  I got locked in.  Can you please open the gate for me to get out?”

The man grunted at me, sighed, and started up his truck.  I took off again, running toward the gate, a good quarter-mile away.  He stopped at the gate and then started pressing buttons on the keypad.  “This doesn’t always work, he said when I reached him, breathing heavy.

Well, the little gate opened, and I dashed through, saying, “Thank you, thank you.  Happy Fourth of July!”

He grunted in response, and the rain fell hard on my shoulders.   I would have loved to stop and rest, but I know Florida rain, and it was only going to get worse, so I ran all the way back home.  When I got there, I stood in the driveway, looking at all the shades of green, wiping my slimy face, and considering the slight  pain in my left knee.