214 Days of Training: The Reward

Yes, there is one although I’d be lying if I said it’s all glory and greatness to train for an extreme Ironman like the Norseman. It’s long hard days of training your body and mind. It’s equally about mental workouts as it is about physical endurance training. That duality is why I love it so.

This past weekend was, admittedly, a bit overkill for this time of year (for me). I was going to skip my running speed workout on Friday in order to rest up for the snowshoe race on Saturday morning, but as the weather was nice and I was feeling good, I went ahead and did the workout. Besides, it was January 1 and that was a good way to start the new year. It was a good workout that I enjoyed fully.

There was even a little Strava crown for coming in first place (this year- um, this first day of the year) on a tiny stretch of my route only because no one else had run it yet. Hey, I’ll take it. Normally, I would rank closer to 470 on that bit of road so that was a fun little result. Motivation comes in small packages sometimes.

Then came Saturday and the snowshoe fun. The snowshoeing isn’t training per se, but snowshoe racing is the best cardio workout there is during the cold season that’s also a lot of fun. Mike Coldwell of the Mad Trapper organizes wonderful events so I’ve signed up for the series this season once again. This time, I am the 5th female. Olympian Lise Meloche holds the first place in the 5km distance. She is fast. She is five minutes faster than I am and I’ve gained only 1minute since last year. Other than that, there are some seemingly younger females ahead of me.

Spot the snowshoe runners in the woods

Snowshoe running is hard work and I really enjoy these races, meeting the nice people who come out, our post-race chats, and the good food served by Monique, Mike’s partner. Mike has also secured pretty cool sponsors, but you can read about those on his website here. Do check these events out and come out if you’re in the area. The next race is on January 23rd and that’s an evening race so it will be even more fun while we light up the forest with our headlamps. [note to self: skip the Friday workout that weekend!]

After the snowshoe, it was time for me to get ready for Sunday morning Hammertime with Rick Hellard of Zone3sports. This session is endurance training that’s not for the weak. If the paraphernalia of Ironman race gear sported by the participants doesn’t intimidate, the workout certainly does. Getting ready starts the night before. We have friends over for dinner and I’m feeling sleepy (and rude) by 8pm. Training and social life do not go well together, but we do our best to enjoy time with friends. I keep telling myself to have a list ready ahead of time for the preparation so that I don’t forget anything, but as I’m short on time, I wing it.

On Sunday at 7am, I’m almost well organized, but not quite. I can’t find my water bottle. I have one, but will need two for the duration of this workout. Of all the things, I think, the silly water bottle is what I forget? It’s the little things, I tell you. It’s ridiculous, but there are life lessons in all this. I take one regular bike bottle and one plastic bottle with a screw cap that will have to do. Yes, the devil really is in the details, and water bottles.

This week, just back from holiday break, is no break at all. We start at 8am sharp with a 1:45 spin followed by 1:45 run. The spin is good. I enjoy it and have enough fuel and energy to get through it well. However, the second part of the run is hard. I am paying the price for overeating during the holiday break and for not resting enough this weekend. At least, it’s not very cold outside and dressing right is easy. Small wins. But, I go out too fast, wanting to stay with the bigger group and I run out of steam halfway in. It may also be the snowshoe race effect that holds me back from enjoying this run as I could. I don’t normally run very fast on long runs so I take it relatively easy, but this session wears me out and I struggle although I finish bit by bit working through various cramps and levels of unhappiness.

The soft snow on the unplowed parts of the route just adds to my misery. I briefly think about snowshoes. Workouts that aren’t great, like this one, are an excellent opportunity to work on the mental training and finding my ‘happy’ or mental distraction. This is when staying focused is the only way to finish (and not finishing is out of the question). Yes, the mind plays tricks on me, but I visualize my race experience and remind myself that it won’t all be pleasant and I have to be prepared for that. I visualize a good experience and this helps.

So why do any of this, one might ask? I don’t have the answer. Why do anything, I guess? Life isn’t easy and learning to find our ‘happy’ is the only way to strive for a good life experience, I suppose. Having a big goal like the Norseman requires some sacrifice and a whole lot of focus. In the end, all sorts of things could happen at or before race day. The physical and mental preparation and all that process is what appeals to me. Yes, with all of these ups and downs.

The harder the workout, mental or physical, the greater it feels to say “I did it!” and the discipline that comes from overcoming mental obstacles and hurdles at each step along this journey is well worth the effort because it equates to a type of freedom formed, shaped, and created by ourselves in the end.

That is the reward.