Monday, November 17, 2014


It's been exactly one year since I crossed the finish line at Ironman Arizona (swim, bike, run, recovery).  I know, I know, I keep talking about this race, maybe even more now than I did last year BUT it really was a moment of change for me inside and out.  It is in moments such as that one that you learn about yourself, what you are capable and how very grateful you should be for every moment in life.  

Today, I am grateful for this memory which has impacted so many moments in my life since.

Be grateful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Top 5 Learning experiences from having a coach

What I’ve learned from having a coaches for two years has been invaluable.  Both of these ladies, Coach Laura and Coach Jen, got me through injuries and helped me achieve goals I never thought possible.  I’m shocked that I have taken my body to such amazing places.  A top 5 list of lessons I’ve learned:

1.  Do your research and then trust your coach.  This seems like a no-brainer but for some of us it is hard to put our training cycle in someone else’s hands.  But if you’ve done your research, you should know what approach your coach will take to training, their style, how they have trained other clients (when interviewing coaches ask to speak to one of their other athletes), the success stories they have achieved, etc.  Trust that your instinct on choosing a coach is solid and if it isn’t feeling right, express your concerns and ask to make adjustments.  A good coach is wants a happy (and hardworking) athlete.  Don’t be afraid to push back on something but also hear them out, if you’ve done your research, you have already chosen a solid coach who has experience and knowledge.  Once you’re in the throes of a plan follow it, provide honest feedback, upload your data and TRUST that your coach knows what she/he is doing.  Even if that means cutting back/adding volume outside of your normal comfort zone, this is the whole point of having coach--getting you to realize your potential and pushing you beyond your comfort zones.

2.  It is okay to “fail.”  Part of what I’m learning about having a coach is that some training sessions are designed to be really really really hard to execute and that’s part of the grand plan.  What I mean by “fail” isn’t so much that you don’t achieve a goal, more that, a workout was so hard you were forced to make adjustments along the way, learning where you still need more work and where you were just hovering not getting faster/stronger/tougher.  I've had a few workouts this year where I really tried to hit X pace for X time/distance and got close but didn't quite make it.  Each of these have been learning experiences.  Learn and move on.

3.  Don’t stress over the data, this is why you have a coach.  I used to analyze my splits like crazy, now, I review them sure and gain some insight from them BUT this is why I have a coach.  It is their job to review your data and make adjustments going forward and to point out areas to work on. 

4. Communication is key. This goes hand-in-hand with trusting your coach and #5 (below) but communication is key.  You can't expect your coach to help you progress if you are not communicating your progress or what is going on.  If your shoulder is acting up, you should tell your coach so they don't schedule a 4k swim workout.  Communication doesn't pertain to just injuries either.  Communicate on life...if you have a big work or personal trip coming up, let your coach know and they can work with your schedule.  If you have a big stressful event coming up, also important to note, as your body doesn't know the difference between physical and emotional stress.  Also, if a workout was hard/easy/moderate/etc communicate it.

And, probably the most important...

5. Be honest.  Be honest with your coach and with yourself.  If you aren’t honest, you’re not likely to make improvements.  You and your coach learn from honest feedback. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Embracing the woo-woo: Part II

For Part I go here.  I didn't realize I would need a Part II of embracing the woo-woo until a few days ago.  But I wanted to make sure to highlight "woo woo" activities or introspective topics outside of just meditation.  Pick one and try it, I bet you won't be sorry you did, even if it is a little "woo woo."

1.  Timed writing/journaling is different than blogging. Using a pen and paper is totally different than typing on a keyboard.  If you've never tried journaling I encourage you to try a timed session.  Sometimes for me it is only 3 minutes, sometimes 5, 10, 20.  When I started I would pick a theme or a word and try to center on that theme/word.  Now, I literally write down whatever comes to mind.  This often means I'm frequently changing topics and sometimes I write sentences that really don't make any sense until I later reflect on what it is that I wrote.  Try it.

2.  Owning up to inner struggles. Acknowledging that you don't always have to know what do with said inner struggles but that you're committed to figuring it out.  I live in a city full of people who have moved here without jobs and are just "figuring it out."  I struggle with this.  Part of me really wants to be that person, the person who can say, "I'm just going to go figure it out," whatever, "it" is.  However, that's not me.  I like structure, I like to plan, commit and execute.  There is a reason that I get along well with TrainingPeaks and having a schedule.  However, I do have this inner struggle where I'm conflicted about what in life makes me truly happy.  Knowing that I need (and want to be) responsible, I need to find a balance between doing what truly makes me happy and being responsible.  Part of what I am learning is that to do this and find that balance I need relationships that also align with what makes me happy.  Use your inner struggles as a way to grow.  Reflect on them, write about them, talk to someone about them and then, find YOUR balance.

3.  Accepting who you are and being happy with the you of right now.  This speaks a little to #2 and, I think goes along with a meditation practice, but goes even further on the spectrum of accepting you and being grateful for you.  As I've gotten older, I have become a lot more comfortable in my own skin.  I'm comfortable knowing what makes me happy and what doesn't and doing more of the former and less of the latter.  Now of course we all have to do things we don't really want to do BUT I think you can and should be okay with accepting who you are, finding what makes you happy and pursing those things. Something I struggle with is being present in 'the now.'  While I may be happy with who I am, I am always in search of the next thing.  This is partly healthy as searching and reaching beyond your current space is what helps you grow but it can also be limiting your ability to be grateful for the YOU of this present moment.

4.  Learning how to breathe.  I suppose this one really does go hand-in-hand with my meditation practice. (see Part I) Meditating on a regular basis has helped me learn how to breathe.  We are all confronted with stressful situations or irritants on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) but learning how to find your breath in those moments puts whatever said stressor or irritant into its proper place.  For example, the other day at yoga, I was about to set my mat down and the girl next to me said, "I'm holding that space."  Nevermind that the yoga room is a no talking zone (more on that in a minute).  Fine no problem, I simply moved over a bit.  This was a minor irritant.  Not that I had to move over but the way in which I was told "move over."  I sat down on my mat before class do some simple movements and  forgot all about that moment as I focused on my breath.  A few minutes later her friend arrived and the two started chatting it up. Well, quiet space was being interrupted, another minor irritant.  However, a funny thing happened a few moments later, as I was re-focusing on my breath, I literally didn't hear them anymore.  It wasn't until someone else told them to be quiet that I actually remember hearing anything.  Learning to breathe and be able to focus internally is so important.  While I'm not excited about the next really stressful situation that comes my way, I know that if I can focus and find my breath that I'll already be getting ahead of whatever it is.

Some of the above are actual activities you do/practice but others are just general concepts that I hadn't really explored until recently.  Until I was ready to give up the connotation that thinking introspectively was something only "hippies" or irresponsible people did.  Honestly, I think it is irresponsible NOT to think big and introspect on your life--past, present and future.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embracing the woo-woo

This IS going to be one of THOSE posts.  A few posts ago I talked about how I was embracing the woo-woo and letting go of pre-conceived notions I have about things like meditation and "soul searching."  I have always thought of these things as "silly" or things that "hippies do" or, to be honest, "older people."  However, I am finding myself embracing introspective activities I previously thought of as silly/fill-in-the-blank judgement.  I am now happily enjoying (almost) daily meditation and have been really trying to get in touch with my inner hopes/dreams/desires.  

Meditation is one of the "woo woos" I am wholeheartedly embracing.  I have never been one of those people who is good at having a "still mind."  I find myself always on the go.  However, unlike many of my friends or even my wonderful hubby, when I'm home alone I don't like to have music on or the TV or a podcast even.  Most of the time, I relish in the silence.  I have always been this way.  Call it the product of being an only child in a divorced parent household where it was always just me and Dad or me and Mom.  I like to think that I have always been wanting to let myself have a still mind but it wasn't until recently that I've actually let myself indulge.  

I found a couple of podcasts and an app to help me get started.  If you're looking for some help and ideas on how to start meditating I highly recommend the following:
Yoga and Meditation App (small fee) (Yoga and Meditation with Janet Stone)
Headspace Meditation Podcast (Free)
Simply Being ($.99 apple and android)

Here is the list I consulted when I went looking for an app.

This weekend Mr. Pi ran a 50k at the coast.  I went for my own mini run in the morning, completely unplugged, mind open.  Later in the afternoon I went for a leisurely walk with Zoey and at one more I found a bench and just sat down for a few minutes.  I'm not sure how long I was there but it was a great meditation session.  I was reminded that once again, meditation isn't about being in the same space every time with your legs crossed a certain way but rather, meditation is about being able to clear your mind and embrace the present moment.

Also along that walk with the dog I was reminded about how much I really belong at the ocean.  Some people are mountain people, some people are city people, I am 100% an ocean girl.  Whether it is a beach-y tropical location or an angry sea coastline, I am always calmed by the waves lapping (or crashing) on the shore and am able to find an introspection that no other place really offers.  Maybe someday I'll find myself in a place where I can wake up to the sea everyday but for now I will absolutely relish in the opportunities I am able to visit.

Angry seas in the morning...

Giving way to a beautiful evening sunset...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Training for...and some workouts that BURN

Yes, yes, this still is a training blog.  As I am gearing up for my 6th marathon, my first standalone since way way back in 2011 Goofy  which technically is a standalone but also not your typical standalone marathon (Part I and Part II race recaps).

I'm excited to see what my body can do and grateful (there is that word again) that I am healthy enough to be considering taking this on and also for my amazing Coach Jen Harrison who kicks my butt and makes me stronger every day--TRUTH.

Let's recap.  So, on July 26th the "foot slam" happened before my self-supported massive PR half ironman.  I didn't run one step until September 4th and that was only 15 minutes.  Here we are in October, roughly a month later and a few days later and I'm up to several runs a week (even a couple of double run days) and feeling good.  Pace-wise I didn't suffer too much and have been doing well at maintaining speed while increasing distance.  I'm not doing any huge mileage yet but  feeling good about where my progress is heading.

I thought it might be fun is to share some of my favorite run workouts.  Like I said, Coach Jen Harrison is doing her best to push me physically and I'm doing my best to push myself on the mental side of running which I think has always been my biggest limiter. Alright, favorite run workouts of late.

*The timed interval.  I love these workouts.  They basically consist of a warm up (15-60 minutes depending on the length of the total workout) and then a set of timed intervals.  For example, 5 "on"/5 "off" or 10 hard, 1 off, repeat, sometimes a ladder of 1 hard/1 easy, 2 hard, 2 easy, on up the ladder.  These workouts are great.  They force me to get outta my head on splits (aka mental training) and focus on time.  For these workouts I switch my Garmin to total time screen or lap time screen and use that as my guide.  I will turn off any mile split notifications and save the splits for review later.  I've found this helps me run FASTER when I don't know what my splits are.  Continuing proof that for me, my biggest hurdle is sometimes my own head. 

*The no-data run.  These workouts are a welcome respite from specific intervals, hill repeats, fartleks and long runs.  These are literally, go out and run X number of minutes.  Have fun.  These runs are all about being social, enjoying the scenery, being grateful to be out there and remembering why I chose to take up this sport in the first place.  While I absolutely love triathlon and I am not planning on hanging up my goggles or bike anytime soon, there is something about running that really neither of the other two sports can bring.  The no-data runs are a great way to reconnect with whatever THAT is about this sport.

*The long run.  Of course being the endurance junkie I am, I do love me a good long run.  At this stage, long is a relative term but they are getting longer every week.  My long runs are also different than any other time I've trained for a marathon.  They are less about just running the distance but rather about training the body to run varying paces during the longer efforts and really getting in tune with how I handle different variables over the course of progressively longer and longer durations.  It used to drive me nuts not to have a set number of miles to go run, now I am embracing the "run for time" mindset. During my long runs I often have a set or two of specific intervals or goal pace miles but also things like leg turnover sets and watch your form sets.  All of these things are making me a better runner.

There you have it, a few of my favorite run workouts that are regularly incorporated into my training.  And, just for fun, a couple of strength exercises that may sound easy but these will make you feel the burn...

*The plank set.  (This workout takes anywhere between 20-45 minutes depending on number of sets.  My core curses Jen during this workouts but thanks her the next day...only curses when I have to laugh or sneeze.)
Straight arm plank 30-60 seconds
Right into pushups (10-20)
Reverse bridge hold 30 seconds
Right into tricep dips (10-20)
Straight arm plank for 15 sec into hover pushup (think chaturanga yoga pose) for 15 sec--repeat 2-4x
Side plank 30-60 seconds
Right into side dips (10-20)
Other side plank 30-60 seconds
Right into other side dips (10-20)
Straight arm to forearm plank (10-20)
Plank right leg hover 30 seconds, then left leg hover 30 seconds

*Scorpion on a stability ball.  (YouTube link)
Sounds easy, it is not easy, at least for me.

*The donkey whip.
Go here for explanation.

*Squats and lunges.
Duh, these burn and are so good for you but ouch.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swim, Bike, Run, Inspired

So, I last left you with a rather wandering post about what's been going on inside my head---this time I'm going to get back to a swim, bike, run post--well, sort of.

Good news is, I'm back to doing all three!  In one of my timed writing sessions (no, this post won't devolve into one of those posts again, well, not entirely) I recently wrote the words "inspired by."  So I'm bringing to you some of the places I've experienced recently through swim, bike, run.  I've been running without music or with podcasts for the last year or so.  One of the podcasts I listen to regularly always ends with an assignment/message--my message today is get outside, embrace the beauty of wherever you are, soak up the sun and the clouds.  Be grateful...

Volunteering at the Portland Triathlon--giving back to a sport that has given me so much

Hiking with a friend

On the way down from said hike with a friend

Exploring the world on two wheels--soaking up the sun

Feeling small next to giants

Experiencing a real life version of Fern Gully

The ocean--my happy place

Traveling for work with views like this makes long days completely 100% worth it

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tap Tap Tap...

Is this thing still on...?!?!

Yes, I guess it is.  Good.  Since I last left you all, I recovered from my freak toe slamming injury, not even really sure what to call it, and am back out on the roads on my two feet and on two wheels.  I never really left the pool but yes, I am still swimming too.  But this post is going to be a lot less about swim, bike and run and a lot more about the me outside of those activities but always influenced by them.

Throughout the summer and really this whole year I have been doing a lot of introspective thinking.  Mostly about gratitude.  The word that my application for coaching from Jen Harrison centered on and the word that I keep coming back to.  I have so much to be grateful for.  

I had originally thought I would just share that I'm grateful about being a triathlete and that when a door closes on one activity it is great that usually two others are available but that didn't seem like enough.  I was then thinking I would talk about how grateful I am for Jen Harrison and while I absolutely am grateful for the experience of working with her this year, that didn't seem like enough either.  So, instead I'm going to share a few words that came from a timed writing session I did the other day. 

When I sat down at the end of a meditation session (yes, you heard that right, I'll get to that in a minute) to do a timed writing session, the first thought that came into my head was, "letting go."  So I went with this thought and wrote down all the things that came to mind...
perceptions, over 30, woo-woo, holding me back, people, what's not important, uptight, anxiety.  Now, during my session I also elaborated on a few of these like, "over 30."  What that really means is that I am letting go of the fact that even though I'm over 30, it's okay that I don't have X,Y, or Z figured out yet.  I think that coincides with "perceptions"--I perceive that I should be at X place in my life, doing X things and well, earth to Alisa, you are on your own journey.  "Woo-woo" refers to, letting go of my preconceived notions about things like meditation and timed journaling-I'm embracing the woo-woo.  "People" was a hard one for me to really examine.  What I wrote down next to "people" was, "limited time, what's important, who is important, what are my priorities."  I'm a people pleaser by nature and I'm someone who really likes to give a lot in relationships and be as supportive of a friend as I can be, what I've had to realize is that I'm the type of person that really likes to have a few close relationships, rather than a lot of superficial ones.  Hence, to me, what I wrote down reinforced that I am choosey about my friends and that's a good thing.  I want to have people in my life (whether I see them a lot or not) that I can share my journey with.  I recently had a long conversation with a friend that I don't see very often and we talked about this very thing.  Meaningful relationships are so important.

What does all of this have to do with being grateful?  I think what I'm learning is that I am so grateful to be in a place in my life where I am really proud that I'm going through this introspection, embracing the woo-woo and spending time being grateful for the relationships I've built.  

I'm comfortable enough with me to reflect, realign and grow.  

A lot of this may sound trite or cliche but it's real and it's me.