10 Ways to Fall in Love With Your Training

I often hear from people who’ve lost their healthy mojo. Whether running’s your thing, or CrossFit, or sampling every single group class at your gym… you may come to a point where you just don’t love it the way you used to. It’s a routine. No longer fun.

Before you have the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk with — well, yourself and your fitness routine — please reconsider. Think of all the good times you had and how you felt back then. Can you bring those times back?

Try these 10 simple ways of spicing up your training — and fall back in love with it:

1. Find a friend and be fun and fit together
To state the obvious: a running buddy, a swimming partner or gym companion will keep you accountable and motivated. You can each show the other your favorite routes or fitness routine and have fun with new things!

2. Challenge yourself and win!
Climb a big scary hill on your bike (seven times?), run up a challenging trail, try a new class at the gym. Find something that scares you and show that big scary thing who’s boss and be proud of yourself. Lost mojo? It’s been hiding right there behind that big achievement.

3. Ride under that rainbow
Like the darkest of rain clouds, the exercise slump will pass. Help it out by taking your butt out there and back at it sooner. And enjoy the rainbows.

4. Try something radically different.
Like horseback riding. Or paintball. Dodgeball? Tough dodger? The whackier it gets, the more you’ll appreciate the beauty of your sport or exercise of choice. Running: so simple, yet safe from flying balls of paint or horse poop!

5. Remember the good times.
Every mojo-less day, take 10 minutes to sit down and think of nothing but how you felt after a particularly memorable workout, training session or race. What did you wear? Who was with you? What did you eat for breakfast that morning? What’d you eat afterwards? Now you want to go do it again, don’t you?

6. Explore a new place
Head out on an unfamiliar route. Have absolutely no idea where it will take you and no expectations about it whatsoever. Take it easy, discover new things and take lots of pictures. It’s like exotic travel, but sweaty. Feeling better already?

7. Make new friends
Join a new training group or club, gym or class. Before you know it, you’ll have at least three new friends to motivate you and keep you accountable.

8. Make a list of all your achievements
And proudly display it — or them! They’ll be looking you in the eye every time you feel tempted to hang on the couch with Netflix instead of head to the gym to train.

9. Movies, books, songs
Speaking of Netflix. It’s got a whole big ol’ section of sports movies. Funny, romantic, tear jerkers – watch them all! While walking on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike on a rainy day.

10. Jump right in!
Don’t wait around. Don’t toe the water. Get back into it, all in. So what if you’re sore for a week afterwards? It’s your muscles thanking you for the wake-up call.

From one endorphin addict to another, cheers! And happy LOVE day!

How many hours does a triathlete train in a year?

Have I told you that triathlon is amazing? (Yes, many times, but I’ll say it again.) It’s a lifestyle. It’s challenging, but empowering. It’s time-consuming, but so much fun! It’s competitive, but your competitors will become your friends quicker than you can set up your transition area, I promise.

It’s addictive. And so is all the data about your training that you’ll undoubtedly begin collecting as soon as you get into it. With Strava, of course, where all runners, bikers and triathletes go to have fun obsess over their segments and course records immediately after they get home from training.

So it is courtesy of Strava that I give you the sum-total of my training in 2014. The miles and training hours, and a few select racing highlights. If you ever wondered how many hours a triathlete spends in training, or how many miles they swim, bike or run, here’s a glimpse at mine:

To Chicago and Back

Together, my swim-bike-running miles for 2014 would have taken me from my doorstep to the tip of the Pier in Chicago and back, with 145 miles to spare for sightseeing… Or running the route of the Chicago Marathon approximately five and a half times. Wait… That’s not a bad idea, someone should try it. Dean?

Miles: 4,422.5

Of those, just under 1,300 were on the run. Let’s make it a trip to Denver, Colorado, with 50-ish miles to spare… I’ll use them to get to the airport and fly back home!

Highest mileage month: June, 555 miles. Remember, this is swim, bike and run together. Summer months mean more riding, plus these were peak training weeks for Ironman 70.3 Vineman. It makes sense.

Lowest mileage month: April, 166 miles. I hardly rode a mile in April, dedicating the month to a ramped-up training plan for the Big Sur International Marathon. Makes sense again. Don’t you just love numbers?

Notably, December mileage was 196, nearly all of it running in prep for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. ‘Twas the season!

Working Girl

Let’s talk hours now. Care to guess how many hours a triathlete spends in training? Days?

I don’t know what the “normal” is, but these are my stats:

Hours training: 517

That’s 64 and a half 8-hour work days, FYI. No time for lunch runch.

Longest hours: June and July, with 55 each, or an average 13:45 a week.

Shortest hours: December, 30 hours or an average 7.5 a week.

Hey! Kind of like the calendar. Long days in the summer, short in the winter. Makes sense, right?

The (Twice-)Daily Grind

As for number of workouts (or activities), that’s 633 for me, or an average 1.75 per day. I do count things like riding a bike to the gym or work an activity (hours in the saddle are hours in the saddle, regardless!), but let’s face it: twice-a-days are a way of tri-life, and super fun once you get used to them. Also, twice-a-days are usually big appetite days, just so you know.

And, since the average American coffee drinker drinks 3 cups a day and triathletes love coffee and it’s a performance enhancer, an average of a cup and a half per workout per day is a perfectly normal thing to do in your life.

I totally just justified two-a-days, someone please make a meme out of this or I’ll just put one here that hardly has anything to do with anything:

Speaking of Marathons…

(And see? Marathon meme completely appropriate now.)

A few fun racing stats:

Total miles raced: 401

That’s 14 races, of which:
3 x 70.3-distance triathlons (half-Iron)
one 56-mile bike leg in a half-Iron distance race relay
one 50K (that was really a 51.5K due to a last-minute course change)
one marathon
2 x sprint-distance triathlons
two half marathons (I can’t believe I only raced two in 2014!)
two 10Ks
one 5-mile run
one 5K

P-to-the-R trivia

Clocked a few PRs last year, including:

5K: 23:11 min (on tired legs while building mileage for Big Sur; can do better in 2015!)
10K: 49:13 min (also tired legs, during peak week for Ironman 70.3 Vineman)
Half marathon: 1:49:19 at the Giant Race in SF.
70.3: 5:36:50 at my third try at that distance, a full hour of improvement over the first.

Let’s play favorites

No year-in-review is complete without mentioning a few of my favorite races, so here we are, in no particular order:

The Big Sur International Marathon. One for every runner’s bucket list! It was my slowest marathon yet and worth every minute on this incredible course!

Ironman 70.3 Vineman for the beautiful course.

Challenge Rancho Cordova for the pristine swim, a very smoothly organized inaugural event and great race experience overall.

Ironman 70.3 California (Oceanside) for my favorite medal and best birthday party ever!

It’s been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it! (Sorry, Facebook, couldn’t help it.)

If you’d like to follow my swim-bike-run shenanigans in 2015, head over to Strava, Instagram and Facebook, and let’s be friends! I’ll continue to post race recaps here, of course, or other big/ interesting announcements.

Here’s to a healthy, sweaty, injury-free and PR-full 2015!

I’m (not) an Ultra Trail Runner, After All

On December 6, 2014, I ran my first ultra marathon, the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, San Francisco. Though, to be completely honest, I didn’t consider a 50K much of an ultra back then — it’s not a 50-miler or a 100+? We’ll get back to this later.

(If you’re looking for turn-by-turn directions or a detailed description of the course, by the way, you won’t find it here. I lined up at the start completely unfamiliar with the hilly route. But I do have lots of pictures to show you.)

Also, a flooded footbridge on the course caused a last-minute change that tacked an extra almost-mile to the 31. The North Face Endurance Challenge Tough Mudder 51.5K, is what it ended up being — and this is how I ran it.

On race-day morning, I showed up at the start feeling unprepared and a wee bit nervous. I didn’t train properly for this race, focusing on running only for about eight weeks and my longest runs clocking up to 2 hours on a trail, and 14 miles on a flat paved road — also in 2 hours. Still, I was excited and expecting a long day of running in the beautiful green Marin Headlands.My friend Tiffany and I met at the start and had a good laugh at our completely matching, yet unplanned, race outfits:

This provided comic relief throughout the day, for which I am grateful.

I was seeded in the wave right before Tiffany, based on who knows what impossibly optimistic finish time I provided at registration. So I started a few minutes ahead of her and immediately got a question from a passing runner: “Hey, where’s your race twin?” Not to worry, she’d catch up to me later – and just at the right time, too!

The first climb came right around mile 2, and it was steep enough that we had to walk. Great, I thought. Not even two miles in, and I’m already walking. Just a hint of the tough (mudder) times we would all be having that day.Runners lining up the trail as far back as the eye can see. Always a thing of beauty. Some 25 minutes into the race, we entered an enchanted forest: An enchanted forest that gave us our first taste of the many a mud to come:So much mud, it was like a thing with a mind of its own. And it was saying, I will swallow you whole, you sad little humans, I am the boss of you and you are not the boss of me!At 8:06, the sun came out. (I know this because iPhone has a time stamp for each photo. Super helpful for cases where amnesia kicks in to obscure painful muddy experiences.)See the tiny dots on the side of this hill? Runners climbing.Walking, actually. Then running again.About 10 miles and two hours into the race (yes, two hours to cover 10 miles!), views of the ocean materialized. And we were climbing, yet again.But, the views were stunning.

And ten minutes later, mercifully, a downhill.A downhill swathed in mud of such epic slippery proportions, that all we could do was walk, elbows to the side, hoping we don’t slip and slide down the hill and plunge into the abyss.And the next minute – because things weren’t interesting enough already? – stairs:I remember telling one of the guys around, What a waste of a descend. Under normal, mud-free conditions, we would’ve all charged down and make up some time for all that crawling up. Still, the vistas were gorgeous.

The next climb I’ve got documented came around an hour later. I’m sure that’s not really the case, though. We were probably going up and down and up and down over this hour, and my memory blocked it. What I do remember is the toughest part of the nearly five-mile 1,300 feet (?) climb to Cardiac: a single-track trail of a muddy mushy-gushy mess of constant switch backs that looked like this.Four hours 20 minutes into the race, still climbing… but now in these beautiful, elven woods:And somewhere on the way, Tiffany caught up! She was thoroughly enjoying the slushy mud and told me to “just embrace” it. Right. Ugh.

We talked and walked, and trotted from time to time, until we arrived at the peak completely exhausted but in good spirits. Shoe situation:. And still race twins, of course:

Tiffany’s main man David snapped this pic of us, my race-day favorite. I had just announced to everyone, at the top of my lungs, that I’ve never in my life been happier to see an aid station. Tiffany was still talking about embracing the mud? Whatever. We were delusional and low on sugar.

I addressed the sugar situation, pronto, by drinking four cups of divinely carbonated Coke. I had eaten a Picky Bar on the slow trek up, and had been drinking one Nuun tablet dissolved in 6 oz water at each aid station. (I had 7 Nuun tabs during this race, and ate four Hammer gels.) A kind volunteer refilled my hydration pack too, 1.5 liters of water gone over the first four hours of the race.

After several minutes there, I started feeling cold and decided there’s no use in hanging around much longer. So I charged down and ran the entire 5 miles, sloshing right into the mud and thoroughly embracing it. Amused myself by thinking up movie sequel titles. There was the Western with a touch of horror called There Will be Mud, and this holiday season favorite, Mud Actually.

Except once I hit the bottom and had to run one of the few flat stretches of road on the course, it quickly became apparent that I can only shuffle. Then another climb came, and I was walking again. The miles went very slowly then. I remember looking at my Garmin unbelievingly, How can this still be mile 24?!!?! Telling a guy who walked beside me on the course that, Dude, if only I had signed up for CIM instead, I’d be so done with it by now! Then I hit mile 26.2 – the marathon mark – and realized I have another six miles to go, and came as close to a complete mental breakdown as I’ve ever been to my entire life. If I had seen a familiar face or called my family at that point, I would have for sure cried and asked to be picked up and driven home. Good thing cell coverage was spotty or non-existent the entire course. I did get a tiny little “bar” at the one-to-last aid station, enough to post the picture above on Facebook, with the following:

I am not doing this ever never ever NEVER again. 5 miles to go.. — feeling tired.

That’s how strongly I felt about it at the time. Because we were climbing again, and in 15 freakin’ minutes I had only covered a half mile, and there were 5.5 – not 5 – miles to go, and three of them were up and it seemed like that up would never, ever end. But the views were still pretty good.Now, focus on the space between the two mountain tops – I said focus on the space, no really, the space… Oh, I give up. You can see San Francisco there. That’s what I meant by the views were good!

Once we reached the last aid station, we only had 2.8 miles of downhill to go. It was painful, but like one gal told me out there, At least we’ll run to the Finish!

And so that’s what I did, until I finally crossed that line at 2:06 pm. Seven hours six minutes to run 32 miles, with 5,888 ft elevation change and a gazillion tons of mud.And now I know why any distance longer than 26.2 deserves to be labeled an “ultra.” Because trust me, once you get past that 26.2 mark, something mental happens that will make or break you. I’m still here, and – I like to think – I was made and not broken. But I stand by what I said that day, too: Never again. There are many challenges to take up in life and I’m glad I made this one of them. But for now, I’ll be sticking to the good ol’ 26.2, 70.3 and, one day, 140.6. How’s that for a plan?