Sunday, January 22, 2012


I've spent more hours at the gym since moving out here than I accumulated in probably 5 years in Memphis. This doesn't even  include time spent working in an office that happened to be housed there, either. And I've learned something about myself. I'm not a "fitness" person. I'm not talking about specific fitness here, such as swim, bike and run fitness. I want to find success in racing, so of course I want to gain specific fitness in those sports.

I guess I'm truly a triathlete, because it's this "general fitness" fitness I can't get into. Recently there was an article on the Science of Running blog about Crossfit. He had some really great points that I'd have never taken the time to research thoroughly or write out. And it got me thinking about the big Crossfit Endurance guy (I don't know if he developed it or what) who trained for and completed an Ironman and maybe a 50 miler? There are a lot of people who now subscribe to his theory that all you need is this program to make you strong enough to do it. I say sure, but most people could finish an Ironman or 50k given a few months and a little SBRing. But did they COMPLETE it or COMPETE in it? I would put this guy in the completion category. Which is totally fine, if that's your goal. That's not my goal.

I'm all for strength training to boost endurance sports performance. But I think there needs to be a lot of specific training in there too. When I was racing well years ago, it was nothing for me to pop out 10 pullups or bench press close to my weight, or any of these other things that the general fitness population feels is so specific to general fitness. What irony.  And I wasn't even doing crossfit or spending over an hour a week on strength training.

Core fitness is another big fad that's everywhere lately. Someone actually said to me yesterday about her half marathon, "My legs got so tired at 9 miles! I think I used my legs too much, and I should've been using my abs instead." What a rookie mistake to use your legs the whole time while running. What was she thinking? I did ask her what her long run was, and yes, it was 8 miles. So it's gotten into her head now that if you don't have a "strong core," you won't perform well in anything. Off she went to a 30 minute core specific fitness class. I promise I had a 6 pack from doing nothing but endurance exercise in the past.

I found a great article on the same Science of Running blog about exactly this, the fad of core training  (this might be my new fav blog-- they even reference my friends and professors' articles from grad school). They've summed up some research that shows that the core muscles are activated more by actually running than doing back extensions, for example. Again, not to say strength training is unimportant, but that there are better, more efficient ways to see benefits in the weight room. Like Olympic lifts. There's another point in the article about unstable surfaces for core training, which I am just now learning about. Maybe I won't waste my money on another Swiss ball anytime soon. But if someone's goal is to be the best cruncher in abs class, then by all means, keep crunching.

Since I'm defining fitness differently these days being pregnant and all, I've really started to appreciate how consistent my runs have become. I felt like the last two years were filled with regular training that produced random results. I never knew when I'd just melt down on a run or feel unusually fatigued on the bike, doing the same workout but taking 20% longer. These days I run my long run of 8.25 miles in almost exactly the same time every week, despite the weight gain (which is not so consistent lately, and mostly trending up sharply). Today was surprisingly an exception. I was sore from squatting and not feeling "on" for the run. I got to the first mile 30 seconds faster than usual and continued that trend for a few of miles. I ran 3 minutes faster than I have in months. I might credit the beautiful weather and the fact that I could wear a tank top and shorts. Maybe the smell of sunscreen does something for me.

While gaining weight I'm determined that some of it will be muscle.  I'm actually liking having a little more mass on me. I recall more than once when I've had friends (usually guys) comment on my slightly bigger size in a complimentary way. And thinking back, I was faster with that extra muscle. Recent browsing through old pictures gives me proof that I am actually scrawnier now. Time to fix that! I really enjoy TRX and Olympic lifts, so I plan to stick to it and start seeing some strength gains. 

Another encouraging trend for me is the way Jeremy's running has suddenly gotten fast. I think I had lost all faith in this whole "training" concept for a while, but now it's working for him. He's doing long training runs faster than I ever recall doing the distance in training. My faith may be restored!

What really makes my heart rate go up when running. Bear track or barefoot runner track?

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Since my reference levels of "normal" and "fit" have been somewhat distorted lately, I have made up my own definitions. And by my standards, I've been feeling pretty good fitness-wise. I do realize I'm only three quarters of the way into this pregnancy.

Side note: It occurred to me that I only started getting a real belly at 20ish weeks, which was 10 weeks ago, and have expanded rapidly since then. With 10 more weeks to go, I'm expecting at least that much more expansion. I'm religiously applying the Burt's Bees honey flavored scented belly balm, even if there is no evidence for it. It makes me crave baklava.

So back to feeling good about myself. I was chatting with a guy who told me about his friend's wife who got third in a major metropolis's marathon 3 DAYS after giving birth. Yeah yeah, so you say she is an elite runner and was running 10 miles a day through pregnancy, but THREE DAYS? Did you get "days" confused with "weeks" or even "months"? Still impressive, but really, does she not have a sane and caring husband that prohibited her from this? No doubt she went against any reasonable medical advice. I guess that pregnancy brain + postpartum hormonal thing really did her in.

Then of course there was the woman who ran/walked a marathon then gave birth that night, at 38 weeks. she says she ran about half, walked the other half, and finished in around 6:30. I obviously have no issues about running while pregnant. I just can't imagine doing something that boring. I've spent over 6 hours on a marathon course (at least Coeur d'Alene is beautiful), and I wonder why you'd want to do it on purpose? I don't need to prove that I can do 26 miles during these 9 months; I'm pretty sure I could if I wanted to. But why?

I read of women back in the '70s from the Eastern Bloc countries who competed in the Olympics in their first trimesters. I couldn't find any good proof of this. All I can think is, that combined with the drugs they were supposedly forcing on these athletes makes me scared for those poor babies. Recently, though, there was another better documented pregnant Olympian. A Canadian curler was 5 1/2 months pregnant when she was to be an alternate on the team. I don't claim to know much about curling, but it doesn't appear to be affected by extra weight, a larger waistband, or fatigue that could alter the speed, endurance, or balance of other types of athletes. The article says she is the third known competitor at the Games, preceded by a figure skater 90 years ago, and a skeleton rider(?) sledder(?) a few years ago. The latter must've been early in pregnancy, lying on her stomach on a hard surface while speeding headfirst through icy chutes.

Despite stories like these, I'm still feeling fit with my 25 miles a week of running with some spinning a swimming and maybe a little weight lifting thrown in. While my abdominals are getting nice and loose and stretchy, my leg muscles may even be seeing some strength gains from just running under these extra pounds. I'm using my weight and the extra drag all to my benefit. I'll be lighter, stronger, and faster by summer. It's almost guaranteed.

My pool buoy. The lifeguard told me that I don't need the one between my knees anymore. My rear end floats just fine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One more hobby to occupy my time

I keep starting to write blogs, then think of other things I need to be doing, like cooking something edible for Jeremy, or finally doing my 3 weeks worth of laundry (it's amazing how infrequently I can get away with it when I'm not outside sweating all the time), or maybe vacuuming the pounds of cat hair out of the carpet, curtains, rugs, etc. There's a lot of stuff on my pre-baby to do list as well, but I keep putting it off since I have 10 more weeks. At least I hope I do.

The cat hair has become more prominent in my mind due to all the lying on the floor. This is caused in part by my discomfort in sitting too long in any position. The baby keeps curling up under my ribs on the right, and I get stitches while doing nothing at all. But I am also lying on the floor taking pictures. I got a new camera for Christmas (my first DSLR!, a Canon Rebel T2i), and while I still stink at photography, it's been a lot of fun. My roommate hairballs (the cats, not Jeremy) have suffered through hundreds of pictures this month, but they should know that when this baby is born, I may forget they exist and wonder who keeps leaving little mounds of partially digested cat food on the floor every so often. So enjoy it while it lasts, kitties. Instead of actually writing any more about this, I'm going to share some pictures of the last 11 days of my life.

My favorite new ornament. It's for the baby, made by his cousins!

Hairy Roommate #1, Sammy. She's always dirty due to a daily rolling on the porch floor.

I interrupt Sally's nap once again.

The Lady of the Mountain. With 2 week old snow in her hair.

I made Jeremy ride around the neighborhood with me at sunset

I'm trying to take a picture a day, as long as I can keep it up. They may start to get a little redundant.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Base Training

It's really 2012 already? My pregnant brain is slipping away and I had to ask Jeremy yesterday if it was New Year's Eve. I didn't mean to wait until a whole new year to blog again. The past few weeks just got so darn busy with Christmas shopping, Christmas present-making, and traveling back to the southeast. It was a great holiday to conclude a great 2011.

I painted two pages from the future classic Little Blue Truck  for Megan

I made a big photo monogram for Jenny
Now it's time to recap the year and focus on goals for the new one. Except that there's not much for me to sum up in the triathlon world. Maybe a couple of overall wins while pregnant to be excited about. I didn't even muster up enough long distance motivation to do a half Ironman this year, for the first time in 10 years. Instead, I did what I felt like doing at the time, which was riding my bike in the mountains and learning to really like running again. And I guess I started learning a little about pregnancy.

The first three months of 2012 I have covered as far as goals are concerned. This specific training leads to a culmination in the form of an ultra-endurance event, the likes of which I've never experienced before. The fun part is that I don't even know the exact date. How do you taper for that?

For now it's all about the base training. I'm not using a heart rate monitor for exercise these days. Dr. Clapp says it's pretty much useless; your HR will vary tremendously just given the stage of pregnancy. I have considered using it just because I'm curious what my heart rate is while panting up a small incline at a 10+ minute pace. Plus, one extra strap cutting off my lung flow shouldn't matter when my sports bra is squeezing my poor expanded rib cage while the belly band is mashing my bladder. It's really comfortable.

As soon as I hit publish on my last post, my running pace took a drastic turn for the worse. I have a hard time keeping a 9 min average now, even though I still warm up and start feeling pretty good about 25 minutes in. Returning to sea level for 11 days made me feel super fast, despite the Little Rock inclines and the stomach bug I picked up from the family (Jeremy got it too, as did about 14 other people to date). I didn't gain as much weight as I had thought I would thanks to the late night puking, but I continue to reach new highs on the scale. I'm up about 13-14 pounds from my low point now.

So it's all about the slow and steady. I really like zone 2, which I've determined, based on my RPE, I spend most of my exercise time in, and when I get a little antsy to go faster or harder, I get a quick reminder from my poor rectus abdominus why that is a bad idea.

Never before have I seen ripped abs in a magazine and been envious. I'm not sure I've even really noticed them before, but suddenly I find my attention caught by those damn Victoria's Secret commercials with their flat (and in comparison to mine, super defined) abs, and I wonder if mine will ever again resemble anything other than their current bowl full of jelly. No really, my stomach jiggles like Jello when the baby starts doing his flips.

Honestly I'm really enjoying the base training. I love not worrying about time and knowing that I'll get even slower yet. Plus I figure with a good 8 or 9 months of it, followed by a slow return to normal exercise, I should be ready to race some long stuff in the fall. I hope I'm not overly optimistic in thinking I'll be ready for a half Ironman in September, because I'm getting the fever.

 I did some recruiting for my 27 week picture

Happy New Year!