Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking to the Future

With 2011 getting ready to sneak out the back and 2012 shoving its nose through the crack in the door, it's that time when I reflect on the past year and look toward the upcoming one. I don't really make resolutions so to speak, but I do like to make plans and set expectations. These are my 'sporting' aspirations.

In 2011 I learned a new 'sport'; swimming. Although I officially started swim lessons in December of 2010, my progression in swimming really took off in 2011. Learning something new is a theme for me and I try to do it every couple years; it works my brain, engages different muscle groups and produces a steep learning curve that reaps huge quantities of satisfaction. I went from barely being able to swim two lengths to being able to complete a hard, hour-long swim workout of up to 3000 meters. Pretty satisfying! I am proficient in freestyle and the back stroke and finally getting decent at the breast stroke. I still struggle with the fly, but who doesn't?

Photo cred Jesper Kristensen

More important than being good at it, I simply LOVE swimming. I am a little surprised how much I love it. I'm not really an indoor sport person, but being in the pool is different. I enjoy working hard in my Tuesday/Thursday Masters Classes, 'competing' with the other swimmers and pushing myself through the sets. I enjoy quiet swims by myself, often in the morning before work, where I work on my technique or endurance without feeling the need to compare myself to others. Regardless of the type of swim workout I do, I am usually WORKED afterward! That being said, swimming is a nice compliment to all the hard running and biking I do; it is not pounding on my joints and it stretches me out. Finally, I feel like I have added an activity to my 'quiver' that I will be able to do long into my old age. I plan to continue my swimming in 2012 and to add open water swimming and triathlons into the mix (more on that below).

2011 was also a year to learn of limitations; MY limitations to be specific. I got sick this June with pneumonia. It happened while I was training for an ultramarathon; a trail run of 50km (31 miles). I developed a chest cold that would not go away and I stupidly jumped back into training before fully recovering. It took two rounds of antibiotics, a round of steroids and an inhaler to get the illness under control. But even once the pneumonia was under control, I was less than 100% all through the summer and fall (I am almost there now).

At first it was frustrating to get winded doing things I had previously taken for granted. But after talking with my doctor and other people who've had pneumonia, I realized I was lucky things were not worse. I began to feel a deeper appreciation for my previous good health. I vowed NOT to make my condition worse or allow myself to get pneumonia again (as several friends did) by pushing things too hard while my lungs healed.

So, I stepped back and took things easy. When I ran, I did not push it. When I rode my bike, I dialed it back. I put swimming with my class on hold for a while, since its difficult to do the class without pushing hard. All to keep myself from irritating my lungs and coughing. I wanted my lungs to HEAL.

I'm almost back to 100% now and able to push myself hard again without gasping for breath. Although I am still competitive (I doubt THAT will ever change), over the summer and fall I learned that it's OK and even fun to take it easy some of the time.

Because of my pneumonia, I was unable to compete in the ultramarathon and in what was to have been my first triathlon. I was disappointed, but at least I got to cheer Jesper on to his first, very successful ultramarathon!

Now, with my healthy lungs back, I have signed up for two XTERRA triathlons for the summer of 2012! XTERRA triathlons are held off road, so the biking is with a mountain bike and on trails and the run is a trail run. Since I am pretty decent at trail running and mountain biking, XTERRA's seem like a good entry into triathlons.

The first race is in late June up in Curt Gowdy State Park in Wyoming. The XTERRA Curt Gowdy Triathlon features a 1200m swim (~3/4 mile) in Granite Reservoir. Then it's on to a 14 mile singletrack mountain bike over every type of terrain imaginable; aspen groves, open meadows, narrow evergreen trees, and even slick rock. I've ridden there before and it is fantastic and beautiful! To finish the race, the 5.5 mile run will cover many of the same singletrack trails.

The second race, held at the end of August, is just up the road at Horsetooth Reservoir. This event, called the XTERRA Lory Triathlon, features a 1/2 mile swim (~800 meters) in Horsetooth Reservoir; it's reportedly one of the most scenic swims in the state with canyon walls on both sides. Then it's on to a 12 mile singletrack mountain bike over rolling terrain. I'll get to finish things off with a fun and challenging 5 mile run on a steep and rocky singletrack trail, finishing the race on a Slip-N-Slide!

I might squeak in a trail half marathon in early June; the 12 mile version of the Dirty Thirty. In 2011, this was the only race I was able to complete, since it was before I got sick. I thoroughly enjoyed it and did pretty well, even though I did it as a training run. I like this distance, since it is easy to get enough miles in to be well prepared without dedicating my life to running.

To 'train' for these races, I will continue to take the twice weekly Masters Swim Classes at my club and then I will get my butt into Boulder Reservoir as soon as I can in the spring to practice open water swimming. I have a wetsuit and will be hitting up all my triathlon friends to give me pointers! I have been running and will continue through the winter to maintain a solid base. Then in the spring, when the snow goes away, I'll ramp up the running to incorporate hills, intervals and speed work. Finally, I'll throw biking into the mix, maybe even do some spin classes over the winter. As you can see, I don't really have a 'formal' training plan and may not ever develop one beyond what I've described, with the foremost goal to have fun! And the great thing about 'training' for multi-sport events is that I get to do a whole bunch of things, things I love to do anyway!

Photo cred Jesper Kristensen

Photo cred Jesper Kristensen

Photo cred Jesper Kristensen

I'm curious to see if I will like triathlons. Who knows, this may be the beginning of a new phase for me. Or, I may decide to try something else completely different in 2013.