Sunday, October 25, 2015

Part Two: The Training and dropping 20 pounds in 9 weeks

Part two…

I would describe my training as old school for sure.  I have a power meter on my bike, but don’t use the data like most of triathletes with a power meter.  I have never plugged my Garmin into my computer and looked at my data files.  I have never done an FTP test.  I don’t even race with power and hardly look at my watch during a race.  At IM Wisconsin I had no idea what my finishing time was going to be…not that it would have mattered because I couldn’t have went a second faster that day. 

The majority of my training and 100% of my racing is all on feel.  In my opinion, athletes lose the one thing with the most “power” on race day when they put too much emphasis on the data from all the gadgets.  That one thing with the most power is our brain…our mental strength…the mind and body connection…the ability to dig deep when everything is telling us we are racing beyond our limit.  Our mind wants to quit on us long before we physically have to quit.

Wes getting ready to get a pin in his toe.
Mitch...still smiling!
Back to my training….I had a limited amount of time to climb a big mountain.  When I decided to race IM I still had a few weeks left of master’s program, was writing curriculum for a new PE course, and 5 boys who seemed to be dropping like flies with their own injuries.  Over the summer we had 2 broken bones, 2 surgeries, a mono diagnosis, physical therapy appointments, chiropractor appointments, a full set of braces, and that was only 3 of the 5 boys!  I’m very thankful to get to be their mom because I get to live one very exciting and interesting life.  There is never a dull moment and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Westin's new braces.
So with a short amount of time I knew I needed to be as efficient as I could with my training. One thing with training is there needs to be consistency and the person needs to believe in what they are doing.  If we question each session then the benefits of that session are being lost.  The majority of my training was solo in my training room.  I’ve been racing for years and knew the endurance was there.  The issue was finding the speed and finding it quick enough without getting injured.  Along with that I wanted to drop some serious weight and keep all the power/strength (muscle) I could. 

I spent 99% of my run training and bike training in my training room with the heat on high.  I tried to make the conditions as hard as possible.  The mental part of an IM is huge and I knew it was an area I could get big gains in 9 weeks.  Maybe more than some who have been training all year because I hadn’t went to ‘that” place since Kona.  When I refer to “that” place I’m talking about the moments towards the end of a race when things get dark and I feel like I’m separate from my body.  I have tunnel vision and every ounce of my being is completely focused on the task at hand.  I can hear everything around me, but I can’t talk or even give a high five because it would take too much energy.  I haven’t had to dig that deep very often and it’s not a place I want to frequent.  It takes a special race and special day for me to really be able to dig deep and put myself all out there on the line. 

I was asked early on from a friend what my goal was for IM and my goal was always to win.  I’m not sure if I sounded arrogant when I said, “To win.”  My attention wasn’t arrogance, but I do believe there needs to be a level of ownership in our destinations if we truly want to arrive there.  What we say to ourselves out loud and inside our head have a huge impact on what ends up happening on the race course and in our daily lives.  There needed to be a winner at IM Wisconsin 2015; why couldn’t that winner be me?   

The training part of ironman triathlon is one of my favorites.  I say one of my favorites because I think my favorite part of an ironman is the mental game which we play with ourselves on race day.  Winning that battle and figuring out how to win that battle is a life skill we can carry over into so many other areas of our lives.  When we think something is impossible and there isn’t a way to accomplish a certain goal we need to change our self-talk and create a strategy to make things happen!

So first, there probably aren’t many coaches out there who would advise the type of training or style of training I did since it’s pretty much not by any book out there.  I have never had a coach.  I love figuring out my puzzle and finding the workouts and other aspects of training I need to pull together to be able to arrive at the starting line in the best possible physical and mental shape I can.  Creating the training is half the fun for me.  I knew with 9 weeks to go I had to do some things I may not have done in the past or do things a little differently.

Our bodies are amazing!  They are extremely adaptable and if we are willing to use that adaptability to our advantage with training and nutrition we can create a machine which can accomplish just about anything. 

There is no one swim, bike, or run session I did which helped me to win Ironman Wisconsin.  I even gave out my log book to my training friend for her to see if there were any sessions I had done in 2012 which may help her in her training for ironman.  I don’t believe there are any secrets to my training and I believe we all have ‘it” inside of us.  We just have to figure out our own puzzles.  We are all so unique and what works for one person wouldn’t work for another.  There are so many paths to the same finish line. 

I tried to swim, bike, and run most days plus yoga sculpt except on Saturdays and Sundays. Here is what a typical week should have looked like…I’m saying typical because over the 9 weeks this was my plan and it may have only worked 3 times.  I had to adjust and modify with the boys’ schedules and you all know…life…stuff comes up. 

Monday -
Yoga sculpt
swim @ 1 hour and (sauna with cold showers for 30 minutes)
Long run on treadmill with .8 mile repeats and .2 jump off to recover or a tempo long run
If time in the  late afternoon or early evening a recovery high cadence spin

Tuesday -
Run - @ 45 min speed set plus Spin – 30 minutes high cadence recovery
Yoga sculpt
Swim @ 1 hour and (sauna with cold showers 30 minutes)
Run – hill repeats at the Arboretum
Trainer - *Key session – legs are spent and I would put my earbuds in to do a 1-2 hour session with 2-8 minute high intensity intervals.
Brick run10-20 minutes on mill FAST

Wednesday -
Long swim session 90+ minutes and (sauna with cold showers 30 minutes)
Med long trainer ride with some longer steady state intervals
negative split run 20-60 minutes (depending on how I’m feeling)

Thursday – (same as Tuesday morning…may tweak the run a bit depending on how the legs feel)
Run - @ 45 min speed set Spin – 30 minutes high cadence recovery
Yoga sculpt
Swim @ 1 hour & if time (sauna with cold showers 30 minutes)
Bike – outside – no power or speed concerns just time in the saddle being relaxed and aero.
Brick run 10-20 minutes

Friday -
Yoga sculpt
swim @ 1 hour and (sauna with cold showers 30 minutes)
Run – speed set
Trainer – high cadence recovery

One of several mini golf games this summer.
Saturday and Sunday I wouldn’t train. 

This is what my outline kind of looked like, but things were tweaked with me getting sick, the boys having surgery, or being out of town with them, etc.  I have a sign above my TV in my training room that says, “You are never getting this run back. Make it count”
I tried to train by that saying a lot.  We never know what tomorrow will bring.  I may not be able to train the next day so when I had the chance to get a quality session in I made it count.  I didn’t schedule any down weeks, but life just handed those to me.  If I ended up missing a planned session I let it go and moved on.  More than likely it was what I needed (the rest).
Most Sunday mornings were spent kayaking with Lee.

The swim –
In reality with me and my swim ability … if I worked really hard I think my IM swim could be a 1:05…at Kona I was 1:09 and I think in a swim like IM Wisconsin I could have been a little faster…closer to 1:05 (with my fitness back in 2013).  On a really bad day with very little swim training I think I would be about a 1:15.  So I knew there wasn’t a need to spend lots of hours in the pool since it would have equated to a few minutes give or take.  I knew I needed to work on being efficient and smooth with my swimming so I could swim 2.4 miles and not be exhausted.  Those were my goals with swimming. 

I had a swim workout of 40X100 on the 1:45 I wanted to complete 2 weeks out from the race.  For Kona 2013 I did 40X100 on the 1:40 and nailed all of them…coming in under 1:30.  This time around the swim workout came and I started doing my 100’s and after about 20 I threw in the towel.  I was bored out of my mind on that day and just quit.

I have a saying I repeat to myself when I’m training…..
If you quit on yourself in training then the chances of you quitting on yourself in a race are exponentially higher. So suck it up and get to work!

I knew me quitting in the pool that day had more to do with my mental state than my physical shape.  I knew I had to create a workout to prove to myself I was capable of swimming at least under a 1:15 for IM.  There wasn’t a need to come back and do that exact same workout that I bailed on.  Instead, with 10 days to go I created a different version and said….nail this and you’re golden.  There wasn’t anything special about the swim session.  It was a mix of some 200s, 100s, and 50s…it was all just for my mental state.  The session went great and I felt ready.

Core Power week - so lucky!
My swim hours ranged each week from 2 hours to 6 hours and 45 minutes.  The two hour week was the week I spent in the Minneapolis with 3 of  the boys at a hockey camp.  Training wasn’t idle that week, but I had my trainer in the hotel room and was able to have a whole week at Core Power Yoga.  Amazing!

The bike –
I had a lot of work to do on the bike!  That is for sure.  The first week of training I attempted a 90 minute trainer session that left me lying on my training room floor seriously questioning what I got myself into.  I was spent after 90 minutes and couldn’t imagine riding for 5+ hours.  I continued to tell myself….be patient…this is where you are today and tomorrow is a new day.

I did all my sessions on the trainer for 9 weeks except 6 sessions I rode outside. 
They were
Training partners in Madison:)  
1.           The Friday before race day when I tested out my rented race wheels for 10 minutes.
2.           The training day in Madison with friends
3.            A social ride with the LAMS group on Memorial Day
4-6.            Three Thursday outdoor rides (7/16, 7/23, 8/13) when I rode outside anywhere from     80-110 miles.

There wasn’t anything special about my bike sessions I was doing, except they were on my trainer and it was hot in my training room.  Each week I would do a session that required my earbuds and blaring music.  I could only do the session 1x a week cause it took so much out of me and I was doing the session on pretty tired legs.  In the first few weeks I was working on getting my body to switch from burning sugar for fuel to using fat.  My daily diet had been a higher amount of sugar (pizza and cookies) so in training my body was craving that same type of energy to get through the sessions.  Once my daily diet switched over my training got easier and my recovery from my sessions were much quicker.    

My bike hours in those 9 weeks ranged from 3 to 18 hours.  The 3 hour week came the week which was going to be epic.  I was heading to Madison to train and ride the 300K at Dairyland Dare.  I ended up getting really sick and just drove to Madison, drove the course, slept, and drove home.  It was terrible, but maybe that was the few days of rest I needed.  I can’t say the long drive to Madison and back was wasted because it was on that same drive back in April I realized I didn’t want to be there racing IM Wisconsin and my heart was with Lee and being business owners.  Now months later and so many things had changed.  I was driving out there and knew I was doing what I needed to be doing.  I was happy with my decision and knew…I got this!

The run –
I knew there wasn’t much in my training which was going to bring me huge gains in my swimming.  I knew I had a lot of hard sweaty trainer sessions I needed to get done to get my bike where I wanted it to be and I knew my run was there if I could drop the pounds and this is where nutrition falls in.

I love running.  I have always loved it.  Running is my meditation.  Most days I would run even if it was a 15 minute treadmill session of the trainer. 

Nutrition –
From 139.2 On Wednesday, July 8th to 119.4 at race weigh-in on Thursday, September 10th
How did I do it? I ate a lot of fat.  Seriously

I love nutrition.  I love food.  I love the power of food and the ability it has to change our bodies.  In my opinion, food can be the best medicine or the worst poison.  If people follow me on FB they probably think I only eat pizza and cookies.  Yes, I do love both of them that is for sure.  However, I really love fresh local food cooked from scratch.  Usually the pizza I pick is loaded with all kinds of veggies on a very thin crust.  I mean I don’t discriminate and have no issues with Dominos.

In my opinion, being healthy and being fit is not the same thing.  I know many people who are very fit, but not healthy.  For me, being healthy is getting enough sleep, being happy, being able to be functional in our daily lives, and eat nutritious foods…and enjoy them too!  I think it can be a slippery slope with food and nutrition when someone is trying to lose weight or get to their race weight. 

I had a few people make comments to me before IM about how “fit” I looked.  The thing is….I wasn’t healthy.  I may have been fit, but I manipulated my body with food to create a vehicle to win a race.  Do I live each day eating the same way I did to get to that weight for ironman?  No, I don’t because I enjoy food and I enjoy baking.  Life is short.  I’m still very healthy and eat very healthy the majority of my time, but I’m not planning to be at race weight 12 months out of the year. 

So what did I do?
My first thing I knew I needed to do was get my body back to being able to use fat for fuel and not rely on sugar.  I believe a huge part of my success on the Big Island at the world champs in 2013 was not having to take in so many calories during the race and I was fat adapted.  So, I changed my daily eating, by cutting out a lot of the carbs I was eating; especially in the first half of the day.  If I was having carbs it was usually in the evening before I went to bed. 

Dropping weight is hard when a person has a lot of stress in their life.  Ironman training is very stressful.  So to be able to manage training stress is very important when trying to get as lean as possible.  We all have other stressors in our lives from raising kids, to working full time, to getting the bills paid, groceries bought, and the laundry done.  Trying to do everything and be perfect doesn't work. There is no way I could have had all those balls in the air at one time and get to the starting line of any race as healthy as I could be if it wasn't for Lee and the boys during specific times of my training pulling more than their fair share.
Team Andres

I often tell the boys….You can do everything….just not everything at the same time.

So I minimized stress, changed my daily eating to be more high fat foods and protein.  Evenings I added carbs if I needed.  Then I started by doing my morning training fasted and used just water for my bike and run session.  In the beginning it was hard and I would end of totally smashed…bonking.  Over time it slowly got easier and the longer the training sessions went the stronger I could feel myself getting.  It’s hard to explain, but I can tell when my body switches over to using fat for fuel and not relying of sugar.  The foods I eat in my daily life play a big role in what I need during my training sessions.  If I’m eating a pretty high carbohydrate diet then I will need more during my training sessions to get through.  If I’m eating a high fat diet then I can get by on very little in my training sessions and racing.  This is the way I like to train and race since my chances of GI issues pretty much disappears. 

You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. Most main stream nutritional advice for losing weight, getting lean, fueling for a race is pretty much garbage (in my opinion). I lifted 4 of the 7 days in my training.  My lifting was a yoga sculpt class… (Thank you JoleenJ).  I used pretty heavy weights too.  To gain muscle and lose fat you need to be lifting and you need a calorie deficit.  So along with cutting out stress, changing my eating habits, fasted training sessions, I made sure I took MAP (master amino pattern) so my body would have something to burn when fasted instead of muscle.  Then I added in the sauna and would alternate cold showers with the sauna. 

The last thing which I think is so important in IM training and for anyone wanting to lose weight is sleep.  As often as I could I would sneak a nap in and try to get 8-10 hours of sleep each day…sometimes more.

The mental training – I did this every day and in the final two weeks this was my focus.  There are so many things come race day we have zero control over.  The one thing we can control is our attitude and how we react to all the situations which present themselves on race day.  I knew I would be prepared and mentally I was going to dig deeper than I ever have in a race.  I knew I wasn’t in the best physical shape of my life, but mentally I was fitter than I ever have been.  Every evening I would soak in Epsom salt and then smear magnesium oil all over my legs and send them up the wall.  I would close my eyes and go through the race.  I would come up with scenarios like flat tires, my googles coming off, a rainy day, a hot day, and then I would practice changing a tire in my head or finding a kayak to get goggles.  I practiced breathing, I practiced self-talk, I practiced visualization and seeing myself running to the finish line in first place. 

In the final 13 days I controlled the things I could.  I created a food log and was 100% disciplined on what was going in my body and how much sleep I was getting each day.   I was making up for the lack of physical training by making sure I was on point with all the other areas that would affect my race: sleep, nutrition, mental training, rolling/stretching, feet up the wall, stress levels.

I made a 10 day plan so no last minute stressful situations. Each day I had a checklist of what I needed to get done and my training.  It was extremely helpful.  I’ve used similar versions for 2012 and 2013 at Kona. 

My training wasn’t what one would have organized for someone wanting to win an Ironman title.  Even Lee looked at me surprised when we were having coffee 3 weeks out from the race and he asked, “What are your goals?” and without a hesitation I said, ‘To win”.
I wish I could have taken a picture of his face because it said…oh babe…I know you really want to win…but you haven’t been training much and it is an Ironman
That is what the look on his face said, but he actually said..  “Ok…great….awesome….you can do that!”
The last part I wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement.  Either way it made me smile.  I like being the underdog and coming in under everyone’s radar

You have to want it.
In the end we have to just simply want it.  We have to want it so badly that we are willing to dig deep and not ever give up.  On October 14th, 2014 I jogged/walked myself off the marathon course in Chicago. A race I've ran several times and in a city I love. Yes, I had some nagging pains/injuries but nothing so extreme I couldn't have gotten myself to the finish line. I simply quit. I just didn’t have it in me that day. 

Less than a year later I was running to a first place female Ironman Wisconsin win.

Was I a better athlete 11 months later? Physically I don’t think so, but mentally yes!

Our mind is powerful. It can be our best friend or our worst nightmare. I believe we can train our minds to overcome obstacles we didn't think were possible at one time.  

Coming soon...
Part 3: IM Champion...Did that really happen?!
Part 4: The Next Adventures for Team Andres

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Part 1: Not according to the plan

My #1 favorite...even more than cookies and pizza!

It’s the off season and you may need some extra reading material for all your free time…well here you go… my 4 part blog series.  I’ve been jotting notes for months and have slowly compiled them.    

5 of my favorite people!

                         My disclaimer...These are my beliefs, my philosophies, my experiences, my truths… I am not saying they are your truths or your beliefs or the training principles you should follow.   These are just what I believe to be true and I believe everybody has their own journey and their own path to whatever their finish line may be in sport or in life.

If there is one tidbit of something I have done that could help you or someone out there in their journey then please take “it” with you, but know that this is my crazy puzzle and slowly I am putting it together.  However, my finished puzzle seems to keep changing on me.  I’m learning more each day about who I really am and how much I can handle along with seeing the true colors of others around me.  No matter the struggles, failures, and disappointments on the race course or in our daily life…it is those struggles which shape who we are…more so than our triumphs.   

Part 1
What happened? 

(FYI…Part 1 doesn’t have much to do with triathlon or training)

I was signed up for a lot of big races in a short period of time with big goals.  It was going to be an epic year. 2015. I had 4 big races on my calendar and was ready to get some serious training in along with graduate with my master’s degree.  You know…typically Michelle Andres style.  How much can I pile on my plate?

IM Canada – with a goal to qualify for Kona 2015
IM Wisconsin – with a goal to qualify for Kona 2016 and set a new CR
Worlds in Chicago – Have funJ
Kona 2015 – go as fast as I can

Then spring came and I bailed on everything…Canceled out of my races, sold my race wheels, bike box, and thought about selling my bike. Thankfully I didn’t sell Black Beauty at that time!

So why did I bail?

I feel I need to tell the “before” story to give the true picture of how sweet the victory at IM Wisconsin was for me.  Lee and I had an opportunity in front of us at the start of 2015.  It was an opportunity Lee had been working his whole adult life for and one we had always planned together.  It was part of our “plan” since we were 18. Over the last 20 years there were times when we thought it may never happen, but now here it was…Lee’s dream was happening.  He has always been 100% supportive of the dreams I have had in sport and now it was finally my turn to get to be there to support him.  I was 100% all in! I was ready to give everything I could to take on a new business venture with Lee. Something we have always wanted to do...even before kids or marriage.

Super long story short….
Sometimes we think we know where we are headed only to find out the path was actually a dead end. No business deal.

At that point, as hard as it was, I made a decision to walk myself back to the Y in my journey and head in the other direction.  Not away from Lee, but away from negativity.

Life is short.  We all need to do what you love and follow our passions along with being true to ourselves. Sometimes when we hit those dead ends and bumps in the road we think it's the end of the world.  Well anyway I did at that moment, but it's THOSE hard times that build our character. It's those moments when things are hard…really hard…and we decide how we are going to proceed with life.  It’s the moment when a person can find the champion inside and rise to the occasion. 

I have grown more in this last year of my life and learned more about myself and the people around me than any other year I can remember.  Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us. 

It took me a couple of months to figure things out and in reality “it”/life is never really figured out.  We are constantly changing and growing.  Being able to accept change and grow from it is a life skill many adults still haven’t learned.  It wasn’t until after the 4th of July the thought about actually completing, not racing, IM Wisconsin started floating around my head.  There was very little biking or running and I never went to the pool.  I was 20 pounds over my racing weight and the thought of just being able to finish IM Wisconsin in 9 weeks with all my triathlon friends made me smile.   
My thought when I stepped on the scale...9 wks out

So, as a family we all decided we were “all in” for IM Wisconsin.  This time around it was going to look different.  Evenings and weekends were open for family stuff.  Training was going to be compacted to a few hours each day.  I’ve always believed the best way to parent is through our actions more so than our words.  I want my boys to the value the importance of having a goal and working hard for it.  I want them to know their finish line is in their hands and with some self-sacrifice and hard work anything is possible. 

There are plenty of things I have no clue on, but one thing I know for sure... I'm a good person. 

Coming soon...
Part 2: Training and dropping 20 pounds in 9 weeks - Yikes!
Part 3: IM Champion...Did that really happen?
Part 4: The Next Adventures for Team Andres

Camping Trip summer 2015