I suspect that anyone who makes the leap from doing whatever activity seems fun at the time to establishing goals and making plans to optimize training time to achieve those goals probably has at least a little bit of an obsessive streak. If those goals involve triathlon, it’s probably more like full-on obsession. We think hard about what we need to do to get better in the ways we desire, and we think just as hard when we look backwards at our results, both good and bad. We seek to explain why we went faster, lifted heavier, or had a bad day, both because we want to use that success or failure to our advantage and because we just have to know. Our minds won’t let us rest until we’ve generated an acceptable reasoning to support our actions.

On that note, then, why did I miss so many swim and lifting workouts over the past few months? The answer exposes one of the truths of hard training: commitment has a lot less to do with logistics than it does with a determined, unwavering mindset.

After my mediocre swim performance at the Cooper sprint, I decided to recommit myself to making swim workouts. I pulled out all the motivation tools at my disposal, including little home incentives and public accountability (by posting some of the workouts on Facebook and Twitter). And it’s working. So far this week I’ve not only made all of my swimming workouts, but also all my running, biking, and lifting workouts as well, perfectly to schedule.

That’s awesome, but it shoots the hell out of my reasoning as to why I didn’t make the workouts before. Dammit.

See, my first thought was that the “overhead” of swimming just made it too hard. It is, no doubt, a pain in the ass. Whereas it takes about five minutes to get ready to run — throw on running shoes, HR strap, Garmin, maybe a hat, and hit the road — a one-hour swim workout is really a two-hour task. A normal swim workout involves printing the workout, gathering up the gear required, finding my swim suit and a change of clothes for before/after (if needed), finding a towel, throwing it in all a bag — and sometimes selecting a bag, as I have a couple for swimming. Then I drive at least 20 minutes to the closest pool and sometimes more like 30 minutes to better pools.

My swim workout from this Monday -- relatively straightforward.

My swim workout from this Monday — relatively straightforward.

The gear for Monday's swim workout: fins and pull buoy for specified drills, plus goggles and swim cap.

The gear for Monday’s swim workout: fins and pull buoy for specified drills, plus goggles and swim cap.

On arrival, I check in — either signing in at 24 Hour Fitness where I have a membership or stopping at the front desk, waiting in line, and paying a fee at one of the city pools where I sometimes swim — change clothes (if needed), then find either an open lane or a lane where no one’s circular-swimming so I don’t piss them all off by doing drills. Finally, I hop in and can start the workout.

Ready to go. I cut corners by dumping gym short and a wicking workout shirt poolside w/my shoes and hopping in.

Ready to go. I cut corners by dumping gym shorts and a wicking workout shirt poolside w/my shoes. 10 min of locker room time saved.

I snuck out for my swim between meetings Monday, and scored an empty pool. Win.

I snuck out for my swim between meetings Monday, and scored an empty pool. Win.

Reverse all this afterward, with the added benefit of remembering to unload the bag when I get home and hang up the swim suit (to avoid mildewy nastiness). Like it said: it’s a pain in the ass.

The trick, though, is that it’s not any more of a pain in the ass this week than it was last week. Yeah, I’ve been more careful to lay out my gear early and to watch the calendar a little more actively to slip workouts in at the most opportune times. But that’s not what got me to the pool (or gym or on the bike, etc.). What got me moving was a strong training mindset. I’m simply not gonna take no for an answer when it comes to workouts this week.

I’m not claiming that I always have this attitude, though I damn sure try. What I’m getting at is that engaging that mindset this week made the difference.

Audra’s been reading a lot about race-day preparation, and one tidbit she related to me recently had to do with walking during the run leg of triathlons. No one wants to walk on the run. (It’s not called the walk leg, right?) But sometimes walking a bit can make sense, like, for example, when you want to grab water from an aid station. For the most part, I’ve passed aid stations by on the sprints that I’ve done so far, partly because if I drank enough on the bike I don’t need additional water on the run during a sprint — but mostly because I always end up looking like a monkey f***ing a football whenever I try to drink out of a Dixie cup while running. Seriously, try it. Anyone who can get more than 20% of the water in the cup down their throat while running (without choking) should be put in charge of manually docking cargo vehicles with the International Space Station.

Audra’s sources suggested walking through aid stations, then, but also establishing a pre-determined, quantified distance that you’ll walk before you run again. They recommend this because of what they call “the overwhelming desire to continue walking.” This makes a lot of sense. Even on my run workouts, I experience it. Often my mid-week workouts will consist of zone 4 or zone 5 intervals interspersed with walk breaks to lower my heart rate and “reset” me for the next interval. And often the desire to continue walking after a difficult interval is powerful.

Case in point: when I first started working with my tri coach, I’d program the “easy run for the remainder of the time” on run workouts into the Garmin as a “no pace” interval. But when the alarm went off after the programmed rest period from the last interval, I’d keep walking. Technically, I wasn’t outside the programmed workout, so what the hell, yeah? Later I switched that to my “easy” or zone 1 pace, so the Garmin would nag and nag if I don’t run (albeit slowly) for that remaining time. More importantly, I know that if I don’t run that period, I’m not really completing the workout. It sounds cheesy, but it works.

Making or missing workouts works the same way. Once I allow the idea of missing the workout into my mind, that overwhelming desire to keep not working out kicks in. It also gets easier to miss subsequent workouts. Three swims a week becomes two, which becomes one, which becomes habit. And once that process begins, the obsessive explainer fires up, too, explaining away my actions: You sure feel beat up, it’s ok to walk.” “Today was just a really bad day. you had to deal with nasty personal and financial problems, and work was a bitch.” “The gym was really full at 6p on Monday night, it made more sense to skip and try to make it up later.” The only answer I find is to not give into this kind of thinking. And as a bonus, the mental fortitude required to get off one’s ass and do the training pays off on race day, too, in an ability to continue in spite of adversity or discomfort.

Fact: despite everyone’s mouth doing six-minute miles in the corral before a run, the only thing that makes anyone faster is completed hard training and, to some extent, an increased willingness to suffer.

The Week (So Far)

After last week’s recovery week, I’m back on a relatively familiar training schedule. Tuesday was brick day, though my bike workout was a bit longer at 1:20 instead of an hour flat. I’m still working on my “get everything ready the day before” initiative, but I had most of the bike gear laid out and ready to go when I rolled in to hop on the trainer.

My phone, Bodybugg display, a snack, tools -- everything's ready to do.

My phone, Bodybugg display, a snack, tools — everything’s ready to go.

This particular bike workout was fun because I had a new piece of gear to play with. Ever since Kerry left his Garmin 705 on the bike he loaned me at Rocketman, I’ve wanted a bike computer. My 910 does a fine job as a bike computer, and I have a little rubber device that lets me take it off my wrist and strap it to the handlebars. (You can see it in some of the pictures in other posts.) But there’s not time to pull it off in a tri, and — as I discovered at Rocketman — it’s nice to just look down and see my HR and cadence. As I move into longer rides — my training rides are in the 80+ mile range now as I approach my upcoming century, and I foresee more long rides as I move into long course tri down the road — I’m starting to see the advantage of mapping on a bike computer, especially for me; I love zoning out, focusing only on my form and performance. That’s one of the reasons I like group rides. They worry about where to go. I just follow along and suffer.

There’s no way, though, I was going to spend $500 on a bike computer. I thought about picking up something cheap for HR and cadence, but nothing cheap would read my ANT+ sensors. And it seemed kinda pointless to spend $250 on something like the Garmin 500. Recently, however, the new Edge 810 has taken over the “top spot” on Garmin’s bike comp totem pole, which has led retailers to begin deeply discounting the older (circa 2010) Edge 800. I noticed this a month or two back, and did some reading. The uber-detailed Ray Maker over at DC Rainmaker offered detailed reviews of both the 800 and 810 and neatly summarized the key differences: the 810 offers improved menus, easy-to-select “profiles” which include not only bike settings but also overall settings (like disabling GPS and/or grabbing other sensors for indoor trainer rides), and some minor low-power Bluetooth capability, allowing it to pull weather information from your phone and push ANT+ data to the phone for transmission back to Garmin Connect and live track.

This is all cool stuff, but $500 is a lotta cash. Considering that I can get tracking already with my phone (sans ANT+ data, but really, does my mother care what my cadence is when she’s looking to see when she can watch me finish at the Hotter ‘n Hell?), maybe a discounted 800 wouldn’t be a bad deal. Ray thinks so, and claims to still use his 800 as his prime bike computer. Consider, too, that my friend Kerry’s now-ancient 705 performed admirably at Rocketman.

What pushed me over the edge, though, was a discount to $270 total, including tax and two-day shipping. That’s pretty much the price of the 500 for something that’ll do more than what I need. I finally ordered one.

The Garmin 800 even looks good on the bike.

The Garmin 800 even looks good on the bike.

It's not as big as it looked in pictures.

It’s not as big as it looked in pictures.

The 800 arrived Monday, so I did the basic configuration, paired it with the Orbea’s sensors and my HR strap, and loaded up my bike workouts for the rest of the week. I also installed it on the bike so it’d be ready for Tuesday’s brick. When I did the workout, I actually ran both the 800 and the 910 just in case I screwed up the workout on the 800, but the 800 turned out to be excessively easy to use. The menus are super-simple, and the workout functionality works exactly like the 910, with the exception that it shows you a lot more information such as the last and next steps in the workout. Since I haven’t been outside on the bike yet (and I’m lazy and want to let the 800 auto-detect wheel circumference), I checked the average speed on the 800 against the 910 and saw little or no difference, so I used the 800’s data for my TrainingPeaks upload. Later in the week I picked up a microSD card and loaded up a set of bicycle-routable free maps so I can use the turn-by-turn routing on my long ride this weekend if I choose. I also picked up the HHH and Red River Rally routes and pre-loaded them.

I need a fan, bad. The pad below the bike is a swamp during workouts. It's nasty.

I need a fan, bad. The pad below the bike is a swamp during workouts. It’s nasty.

The rest of the brick went well, too. I’d pre-loaded the whole week’s workouts into the 910, so it was just a matter of turning on GPS (it was off for the trainer portion of the brick), choosing scheduled workouts, and hitting enter on “do workout.”

Easy peasy.

Easy peasy.

Tuesday morning turned out to be perfect for running. It was overcast and cool(ish), if a bit muggy. Back when Audra and I first started running, I used to post our runs each day to RunKeeper and to Facebook with a count of the number of rabbits and ducks that we saw. For at least six months now, there’s a group of three ducks that hang out at a specific spot on the path every morning, and they were there waiting as usual.

Audra calls them "the guys." There's one female duck that hangs out with them from time to time.

Audra calls them “the guys.” The one on the right is saying “Make with the Cheerios!” in duck.

They trimmed back the “blowy grass” (Audra’s term) a few weeks ago, and it’s growing back now. Before it was so thick you almost couldn’t get through the path.

I like the smell of the blowy grass. Audra doesn't.

I like the smell of the blowy grass. Audra doesn’t.

On my way back I ran into a mother and her daughter happily feeding the ducks, including a group of “teenage” ducks that I like to think are the grown-up versions of the “baby” ducks I saw earlier this spring.

Note the bread caught in mid-flight and the expectant duck.

Note the bread caught in mid-flight and the expectant duck.

Almost done. I swear I'm smiling. I need to practice in front of a mirror. That's sad, I think.

Almost done. I swear I’m smiling. I need to practice in front of a mirror. That’s sad, I think.

On my cool down, I checked out the Bodybugg’s calorie burn for the run. (I’d reset the trip counter at the start of the brick.) For years I’ve worn the Bodybugg day and night, but recently I’ve been experimenting with wearing it only during exercise and working the calorie burn calculations based on BMR plus an estimate of my activity. It seems to be working so far, but I’m considering investing in NewLeaf testing to update the Garmin’s tracking to get more accurate calorie burns so I can eliminate the Bodybugg altogether.

Total burn for the ~1h50m brick came out to ~925 calories.

Total burn for the ~1h50m brick came out to ~925 calories.

I need to write up a more detailed post about this, but the short version: from what I can tell, the Bodybugg, especially in its new format, is oriented primarily toward weight loss and doesn’t translate well (even as well as the early version) into performance use. I’m also considering working my own calculations based on Bodybugg data and time in HR zones, but I need to think all this through. In the meantime, I’m using the Bodybugg numbers plus my own BMR + activity guess, and I’m monitoring my weight closely to make sure I’m close enough to get by.

This is what everyone wants to see from the time they hit "start."

This is what everyone wants to see from the time they hit “start.”

I also got a good chest day in Tuesday, plus a good run this morning and another good swim at lunchtime, which brings my completed-on-schedule swim streak to four. Audra grabbed our packets for Saturday’s Melon Dash yesterday, yoo. The Dash is a 5k benefitting a cat rescue. Bonus: There’s a cat on the back of the event tech shirt. (Kittehs!)

It’s looking like a decent week — assuming I can keep my strong training mindset.