Monday, July 27, 2015

Galveston News Press Run: Entry Giveaway

Although racing along the Texas Gulf Coast presents a handful of challenges climate-wise, I have always liked going down there and running. Not far from the Island on Surfside Beach was where I ran (and somehow won) my first marathon, so when I was approached to partner with and run The Galveston News Press race on September 12, 2015, I was happy to oblige.

Galveston Island hosts several events annually, including an Ironman 70.3 events and several road races. The News Press Run features a unique course on the Galveston Causeway (who's up for a challenge?) and supports local education. Both the 5k and 10k are chip timed and the post-race party promises more energy.

Wanna race a 5k/10k on the Galveston (TX) Causeway for free this fall? Here's where some shameless self-promotion comes in. My summer intern Connor has put together a great twitter page for my sport psych consulting practice covering all major sports (running and triathlon included, of course) and features some great articles and tips for improving your mental game. To win an entry to the distance of your choosing via random selection, simply go to Twitter and follow @ALSportPsyc. Deadline is Monday, August 3rd and winner will be selected by that evening.

I'll be running up this thing in September. How about you?

Stay the course.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Colorado Training: A Photoessay

Yesterday I returned from an amazing and running-filled trip to Colorado. For eight days I ran, hiked, gawked at the natural beauty of the state, put a ton of miles on the rental car, gawked some more, and took in the local culture of Boulder and the surrounding areas. I have wanted to try my hand at running at altitude for a while now, and with work doing well but not crazy enough for me to get away for a little bit, I took advantage. I put in a little over 50 miles while I was there and loved the challenge and beauty of it all.

Runs ranged from 5400ish-8600 ft. above sea level. I had done a couple runs on a ski trip this winter and survived those, so I had some frame of reference for how it felt. What I found surprising was the range of difficulty was at different paces and inclines. In Boulder, I was lacking 7% my usual oxygen availability in Texas, and running my typical easy pace actually felt considerably easier than back home, a lot of that had to do with the dry climate at higher elevations. After nailing my first moderately-paced run at the Boulder Resivoir, I giddily texted my coach "OMG I love it here!". Running at paces 6:30 or faster or climbing the rolling hills was another story. I was challenged both cardiovascularly and mentally on those runs; vs. in more humid climates, these more 'hurt so good' than the overheating feeling I have been struggling with this summer.

Every run was different by design and instead of throwing down my usual post-novel, I thought I'd summarize a little more with pictures. I had a list of trails and places to run before leaving, and
my good friend Justin B. over at agreed to housing me at his place in Westminster, a Denver suburb just about 20 mins outside of Boulder.

I had my training schedule with me giving the daily miles and each day I picked a destination and went after it...

Day 1 was a rest day where I simply drove around in my nicer-than-expected rented Nissan Altima and got a feel for things. And looked at pretty scenery. Lots of it.

Day 2 was Justin's race day at the Boulder Peaks Triathlon, an Olympic Distance. He and his fellow competitors did work on a tough course that included a 15% extended climb through Gunbarrel and a basically shadeless run afterward. Me? Once J. was outta the water I headed out to a adjacent dirt road with some hills that the CU team and a number or triathletes train on regularly. I also did a fartlek run there running 6:30 pace as best I could off and on on Tuesday. That was the first run where I could feel my lack of acclimation to the altitude. But gotta give it your best to get stronger! Day 3 was just an easy 6ish in Westminster with the baby bunnies and prarie dogs.

Awesome view of the Flatirons in the distance at the "Rez".

Simple, yet perhaps one of my favorite runs of the week.

Run # 2 on Tuesday/Day 4 I just put in a handful of easy miles on the Doudy Draw trail that was recommended to me by locals. Just awesome.

Day , 5, Wednesday, was pretty epic. I hooked up with Colorado local and one of my favorite run bloggers, Jill, how knows how to pick a heckuva trail. We ran along a ridge line in the Golden/Morrison area and finished up on the Red Rocks Trail, right by the ampitheater.
Somehow I'm glowing in my Oiselle top here....not sure why! ;) Thanks for the run, Jill!

Recovering from 7000 ft with about 1000 ft of climbing in a mountain-fed stream

Day 6 was Mags day. Magnolia Rd., it's proper name, is known for it's awesome views and unrelenting rolling terrain at 8600 feet. This was an experience for the Texan. the first 4.5 miles I did not attempt because it climbs so steep the 240 horsepower car I was driving seemed to have some difficulty getting up in spots....maybe later, but not this trip! As I had been told, once you get to where the pavement ends, the fun begins. The difficulty was another level up there. I absolutely flew in some spots; running as fast as 5:20 pace or so on some downhills and the small flat areas were very smooth, but the way up on the hills there....OMG! I both felt on top of the world (well, I sort of was on top of Boulder) and demoralized in the same 5-mile run. I was prescribed 7:30-8:30 pace that day, and I somehow squeaked in a 7:59 pace. Thank you downhills. Lesson of the day: Even pace does not equal even effort.

Mags, I'm comn' back for you later!

Day 7 was my last running day there and I went ahead and did my long run to avoid rushing in order to get to the airport on time. I ended up splitting it up into 10 along Boulder Creek Path that runs straight through the eclectic Boulder downtown and CU and finished up with 5 more in the afternoon in some neighborhoods with more bunnies with Justin. It was on the path where I saw a 'who's who' of distance running. Several Sketchers team members were out, a handful of Japanese elites flew past halfway through the 10, and a pack of CU Buffalo men were walking to do a workout near Potts Field on campus. This was another run where I could feel the lack of oxygen, but managed to stay on pace, my Honey Stinger gels were very helpful in my heightened metabolic/catabolic state. After that one, I lost count of how many ounces of Gatorade I consumed . I could not get enough of it! Clearly, while I didn't get as offensively soaking wet, I still sweated a ton out there.

Eben G. Fine Park, my starting and finishing point on Friday. In the background is the start of Boulder Canyon.

A little post-run downtime with the training journal at the base of the Flatirons. Incredible.
The trip wasn't all running. I had a lot of time to hang out in Downtown Boulder and get my fill of the local coffee shops and breweries, with my favorites being The Cup and Avery Brewing Co. After the Red Rocks Trail run, I headed to Estes Park for the day and took in some ridiculous Rocky Mountain scenery. My last evening was spent in downtown Golden, a very cute town with an old west feel to it. Being a pretty independent and introverted girl by nature, I found having the keys to a car and time to just drive around the state a great vacation seeing new and different things.
Long run aftermath. The struggle is real!

So 50 plus run miles later, I'm back in The Woodlands with a busy but exciting week ahead at the practice (that I started to miss a little when I was gone), a perfectly-timed cutback week of running, a more refreshed outlook and hopefully a little stronger from the rugged challenges of last week. I see what all the fuss is about with running at altitude, and I hope to go back up there sooner than later, as there are many other places I didn't have time to explore in a week.

In the meantime, I have a couple small races next month to prep for, and I guess I need to pick some Fall/Winter events soon!

Stay the course.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Time-Management Conundrum Revisited

"Put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise you won't be able to help anyone else...." -A Former Professor.

Today I'm talking a little about the challenges of being a busy professional and athlete in training. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it is tiring. Ultimately, I am always in a fair degree of control if I choose to exercise it (and so are you!). The vast majority of us have numerous commitments and many have much more than yours truly, but the balancing act is science and art and those who pay the most attention are the most successful. This post is written for me as a permanent 'note to self', but it is also for anyone who strives to give 100% all the time. SPOILER ALERT: Sometimes 80% works better! 

Week before last was challenging. Not in a negative sense per se, but positive stress is still stress for a busy working athlete. Funny thing about these weeks is how I feel 'like I'm being squeezed through a metaphorical tube that makes me more tired the further I travel down it' that I walk away satisfied that I a.) got so much done and perhaps more so b.) I persisted yet again in the face of my own questionable decision-making!

Generally speaking, I like to plan and most of my life revolves around the hourly schedule (hey, its part of working by the appt., after all) and I get stuff done without coming home mentally and physically zapped.  It's when I say 'yes' without fully considering the whole picture: other commitments, training, family and friends. Of course I have good intentions: making person X happy, being a good friend/family member, consultant, boss (ok that sounds weird), and of course, runner. Can't say I don't try extra hard! 

So what made this week so intense? Perhaps it was a collision of my different 'selves'-professional, personal, and athletic; each trying to run through a three-way intersection. There was no damage, but a few close calls and tricky maneuvers involved. Each has it's turn and space on the road, but has to wait it's turn from the others. Bad analogies aside, within a 72 hour span I had seen over a dozen clients, given two presentations, rolled along 18 holes of a golf course, ran 12 miles, dropped my dog off at the kennel, ran more miles, and drove three hours to see my nephew for his 5th Birthday. I'm sure there was a meeting or two that goes in there too somewhere! 

While I was so tired I barely made sense when I got to my sister's house (two workshops scheduled within 18 hours of each other in different communities-ouch!), I did feel accomplished for all I got done in a short time, but was the extra stress and juggling act necessary? Not really. 

Here's where I think I succeeded: 

What I did to work training and recovery in was to move my weekend long run to Wednesday morning. The heat and humidity have been making me a cooked chicken lately so I hit the treadmill for the whole thing before work. Not that bad, actually. In order to get my PT exercises and drills in, which are AS important as the actual miles themselves, I skipped my morning routine of staring at random nothingness on the internet before hitting the more important things. A small change, but changed the complexion of the morning and I walked out the door earlier than usual and warmed up to run already.

To recover from the run and conserve energy for a thirteenish hour day and short night's sleep I took Thursday as my rest day instead of Sunday and moved a Friday workout to Saturday when I could get a full night's rest in. I give myself a pretty good grade for training, it just took being flexible and balancing hard and easy. Training's like a math equation, you can move numbers around and still get the same answer. Boom!

Somehow, and with the help of my wonderful intern, all the work was done and both talks were successful, even if they couldn't have been more different. One was in front of medical staff and community members at a hospital, the other at a cross-country practice. I say it all the time but it's true, my job is dynamic and FUN. 

Adjustments and 'do-differentlies'

While there were moments of fun and accomplishment, It didn't have to be as hectic and rapid-fire. Knowing myself and how I like to focus on as few variables as possible ran into a lot of times I found myself ruminating about how much I had to do and how the heck I was going to fit it in (great strategy, right?!). Some people thrive on multitasking-good for them because I ain't one of them! A starting point would be to simply focus on approaching one task at a time. I relentlessly tell clients this-because it's often the best strategy for managing life's busiest points. Even if you have 100 things to do in a day. You gotta start at one. 

Other things to implement are making sure I take a step back and prioritize. Colleague Brian Cain uses the acronym "W.I.N." which stands for 'what's important now?".  Simply asking oneself "can this be done another time" is a good starting point. If the answer is no, do that thing first. Thinking about EVERYTHING all at once usually keeps you awake, makes you grouchy, and causes intense caffeine cravings. 

Trim Distractions. Facebook, mindless TV, and any other time-wasters can wait-especially in the beginning of your day. Being intentional in what you're doing saves a lot of stress. 

Communicate. Sometimes, you have to lighten the load in the planner and you need to talk to others about it. Usually they understand and it feels great after you do it. 

Be nice to yourself. We don't always have to get everything right and we're often doing better than we think we are. You have to fill yourself up in order to really give to others anyway, whether it is in relationships or in my line of work helping others. 

Perspective. Give it your best and realize life wasn't made to be easy, but you feel like a boss when you tackle your longest days. Just don't forget to rest afterward! 

Cut the comparisons. Others are probably capable of doing and handling more than I can, Good for them. 
Long story short and backed by research, one of the biggest causes of stress in most people is the feeling of having too much to do in too little time-this goes for busy adults and the younger crowd, especially HS and College students. Those of us also working on athletic goals while working have a unique dynamic. I myself am constantly testing (even if not intentional) my limits of what load I can take on and realizing that I have more control than I usually think I do. One thing is for sure, I have no interest in being a one-dimensional individual.

Looking back I'm happy with both the work and training I did, and once I finally stopped moving-really enjoyed the visit with my family. Although at times I felt like I was launched from a cannon, I got it all done. Now I am counting down to a low-key trip to Colorado next week to get re-centered and run the trails of Boulder likely with a recap to follow. 

How about you? What are some strategies you use to help manage your busy life and training?