Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creative Visualization

When I was a Freshman in college I took this class titled creative visualization. Not because I was looking for find myself or I had some need to be more creative. I simply thought it would a an easy A. I had better things to do than take tough classes and learn. My roommate and I waltzed in to the evening class and found it to be way more than we bargained for. I think we may have been the only ones under the age of 25 which at the time seemed ancient. We were just 18 and felt we knew everything and here we were with these old people sitting in a circle! We glanced at each other and I know we were each thinking if we went for it we could reach the door and get the hell out of there. The door closed and we were stuck. The mild mannered instructor with the soft voice welcomed us all, asked us to introduce ourselves then give a brief description of what we were hoping to get out of the class. Panic bubbled through my veins as I listened to those older well spoken students talk about the deep profound ideas they had of tapping into themselves at a deeper level. My mind was spinning as I waited my turn. I certainly couldn't tell them the real reason I was here. My turn came and stuff rattled out of my mouth I barely recognized. I actually impressed myself. I couldn't tell you what I said but it was deep enough to cause the instructor to bond to me like glue. After the class finished Gogo (yes my roommates name was Gogo and she was awesome) and I laughed our heads off and made serious fun of ourselves and everyone else. Exhibiting behavior you would expect from sure of themselves college Freshman. We stuck with the class. There was no homework and no tests so how bad could this sharing stuff be? If we just kicked backed, smiled, listened and occasionally said something we could score an easy grade.

The definition of Creative Visualization is: the practice of seeking to affect the outer world via changing one's thoughts. Creative Visualization is the basic technique underlying positive thinking and is frequently used by athletes to enhance their performance, or: a meditative technique in which the meditator imagines that the conditions or things he or she desires are already manifest, helping to bring those conditions into being.

Throughout the term we were required to participate in several meditative sessions which if you know me that is a stretch. I barely sit still long enough to write this blog. I didn't know anybody really mediated except in the 60's. In my world as a teen I didn't share my inner thoughts. I suppose that would be extremely normal but here I was forced to share. That was the main requirement. In a circle of strangers we were each required to talk about our life goals, life pitfalls and create a vision to achieve or develop an outcome we sought. This was a long term and it wasn't just some fly by process which I hoped it would be. The whole class was invested in your meditation from beginning to end. We all held hands (yuk) while a student shared what they wanted to achieve. We listened as they took us through each step of gaining on their dream from beginning to end. It might take several classes for one student to get through their whole creative visualization. There were buckets of tears and I was so moved many times I had to fight back lots of emotions. At 18 I was certainly NOT going to be crying in front of anyone. The class became addicting. Both of us anxious to hear what students had to say and more importantly we were drawn to the excitement of another emotional trigger. Sounds sort of crazy but watching folks work through their fears and drive towards their passions would drum up lots of huge emotions. I became deeply invested in almost every students dream as if I wanted to do anything I could to help them succeed. It was a moving experience no matter how much I fought it. I was fortunate to have such an opportunity as such a young age. Most of all I believe it has been a tool that continues to shape almost everything I do. If I can't visualize myself doing something I most likely will not do it. Over the years I have become a master at dissociation. I don't mean that in a bad way however I can get myself in trouble at times. Dissociating with the present and bringing awareness to what it might be like to do something or become something other than what you currently are is pretty fun. I do this all the time in races. When I am suffering I pretend I am someone else. Generally I like to pick runners I admire or see as strong powerful influences. Before I know it I have been running on their legs for an hour forgetting about mine. Since I am so new to mountain biking the visualization has been intense. I am taking this dream very seriously. By the time Leadville events roll around in early July it will be like I have already done it in my mind many times. I can sometimes even feel it as I get myself all worked up dreaming about it.

While at the Lululemon Ambassador Summit I was thrust into another one of these kinds of classes. 3 days of visualizing, dreaming, sharing and making plans. Again I was overwhelmed, better prepared for what might surface but still out of my comfort zone. Coming off a big emotional and physical failure of sorts made the timing of the summit confusing. I wasn't yet ready to tap into my well of dreams. So much change and torment was still settling out. I still needed time to sit with my thoughts before I could commit myself to pressing forward and goal setting. However I knew it was just a matter of time. At the summit we were given a shirt that has a place for your personal goal. I saved mine because I knew I was wanting to do something big for 2011. I pulled it out the other day and filled in my goal. It was a powerful feeling to write "Leadwoman 2011" on that line. With that I wrote my own manifesto. A personal collage of phrases or thoughts I live by. It's an evolving document. Living this dream in my head is step one in achieving it and I am nervous as hell but couldn't be more excited at the same time. It's the perfect storm!

With the close of 2010 it's the perfect time to think about what's next. Lululemon is a ferocious goal setting company. Yes, they make awesome clothes but they do much more than that for everyone who touches the inner soul of the company. The heart and soul of Lululemon is about making things happen in style of course. J Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Baby steps!

It's been just over 1 month since I started training with Matt and learning to ride. I am having some growing pains. Lot's of physical changes are starting to occur. I am getting fatigue and soreness in unfamiliar territory. Along with all the physical changes I am getting a good dose of humility. I am really excited to see changes in my body. Who isn't? As ultra runners I feel like we have some of the strongest legs around when it comes to muscle endurance. All the large muscles are generally well developed and most of all many of our auxiliary muscles are ready to roll at a moments notice. Given the opportunity to show their strength at the slightest ankle roll or toe clip they tend to be there ready for action. Not many sports offer that. I am learning not all my leg muscles are ready to work or at least work very hard for very long. Both my center quads are surprisingly lazy. I guess my lateral quads pick up a lot of slack. With the help of some seriously over defined abductors my two most frontal quads have basically been on vacation. My medial quad gets a bit of work on the downhills while running but it's not super developed either. With the addition of cycling my 2 most frontal quads are pissed! It's like they are having a fight with my lateral quad who seems to be the dominate reliable force in the relationship. The one who always ends up carrying the load. I am certain this relationship is dysfunctional and the co-dependency needs to end. My frontal quads need to man up and do their part. Fortunately I have a brain and I plan to use it. It's as if I'm the counselor who is gently trying to sort this relationship out. In the process of unraveling and retraining this cast of characters I need to tread lightly because at any moment both my frontal quads will just shut down, turn they're back on me forcing my lateral to do all the work. When this happens my poor lateral quad which is used to be the dominate, steady partner gets really tired and tight. This is all really interesting to me. I can feel it all happening while I ride. Everything is as smooth as silk for about 1.5 hours but beyond that my frontal quads ask for a smoke break and leave my lateral to do all the work. That's when I have to counsel them back in game and be vigilant. I always wondered why I have no definition in quads. The answer is now clear. I only have 2! My lateral and medial quads have depth but my vastus intermedius and rectus femoris are lazy and underdeveloped. This is really good news because better running and better riding will occur once they realize their vacation is OVER! With that said I am finding myself having to practice some serious patience. For those of you who are parents you remember all the times you needed to bite your tongue or remove yourself from the situation before you lost your cool. This is similar. I can't bully this process. I need to be mature and practice patience as the muscles mature and adapt to being used. I am beginning to get some useful data on my riding ability. I want to see serious improvement. I want to ride more efficient, faster and with more power. Instead of just going for it I am practicing patience and humility. I am trying to listen to my body and work on my pedal stroke and forget about power and speed. I feel I can't skip this step. I don't want to create bad habits that will ultimately cost me in all areas. It's hard to be so new. It makes me so pissed when I can't generate more power. That's when I have to step back and remember my long term goal. Why? Because the only way I can generate a lot of power right now is by just mashing like a mad woman with my strong glutes and lateral quads. Bad idea for me!

Not only am having some great physical changes I am getting a mental shift. I am going from knowing exactly what I need to do to be successful in an endurance run to being a true beginner. I will admit it's super frustrating and annoying. I am constantly reminding myself to be easy and open to the process. Now I know why people bail when things get hard. It would be much easier to abort the mission. However, I can't. I even gave it some thought but it's not in me. I want this. The vision is sometimes crystal clear. When I get frustrated the vision becomes cloudy. That's when I have step back and remember where I am coming from. Just because I can run 100M in the mountains does not mean I can MTB it. This is going to be long but prosperous process filled with many days of frustration but many days of success. I need to be able to handle both.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just fit enough….

I am just fit enough to be dangerous. No need to worry I am only dangerous to myself. I am certain all of us who participate in any kind of endurance sport have the stamina and strength to pretty much try anything. It's not always the best choice to jump in with both feet. It might be prudent to practice some humility and caution. However, that's so much easier said than done.

In 2007 when I did the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning while acclimating for the Leadville 100M I took the opportunity to watch the Mountain Bike race. It's held the prior weekend. I was immediately all in. I so badly wanted to do that event. It appeared to be incredibly action packed and challenging. When the slam was over my desire still brewed and I bought a mountain bike. Cyclepath here Portland is an awesome store and since my friend Kris is well connected in the community she found me a bike which Cyclepath just happened to have built in my size. I fell in love the girly but bad ass bike and threw my money down. Now invested I was going to learn how to ride. I did some short track racing and a couple of trail outings then winter set in. My bike sat. It collected dust the next year when I didn't get picked for the Leadville Bike Race lottery and then again the following year. In 2010 while in Leadville pacing Micheal I learned you could sign up for the whole Leadwoman which is a series of 5 events in 6 weeks time. One of those

events is the 100M bike race and you are given a slot if you go for broke and do the Leadwoman. I was stoked. I texted Bill and let him know we were going to be sleeping in an altitude tent. I had found my calling for 2011. I signed up the day registration opened.

The Leadwoman consists of:

7/2 - Leadville Marathon

7/16 - Leadville 50M run or 50M mountain bike

8/13 - Leadville 100M mountain bike

8/14 - Leadville 10K run

8/20 - Leadville 100 run

I am so excited but incredibly focused on the 100M mountain bike. They give you 12 hours to ride the course and it's tough. The descents make my stomach gurgle. I don't yet know how to ride a mountain bike but I am learning. This leads me to the title of this entry. I am just fit enough to be dangerous to myself! I hired Matt Hart to help me through this. He is a multi sport coach and incredibly knowledgeable about endurance mountain biking and ultra running. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. My brain is exploding with new information. I am learning so much. At times it's completely overwhelming. To ensure I got my butt on the bike I signed up for a 24 hour mountain bike race in February. It's called the Old Peublo 24 Hr Ride and it's held in AZ. This race was recommended by Kris as a good ride that's not too technical.

It's a 17 mile loop course which is perfect for learning. I plan to see how long it takes me to race 100M so I know how far off I am for Leadville. Given that Leadville will far more difficult this will give me great information about how weak I am on the bike. I am in a serious base building phase on the bike. There is no technical riding as of yet. Currently the focus is time in the saddle and pedal stroke efficiency. This pedal stroke stuff is not as easy as it sounds. If you're a cyclist you know this. If you're not you have to be thinking, "How hard is it"? Well, sitting on a bike for 3 hours (which is my longest ride thus far) is interesting. Focusing on full circles using your hip flexors and quads to pull up and your hamstrings to drive the back portion of the stroke is crazy weird. I am learning terms like "masher" which is what cyclist call runners on a bike. I am total masher. My strong quads and endurance can mash for hours! Well, that won't fly in long haul. It's super inefficient. I am learning all about bike fit. This piece is completely overwhelming. There are so many factors. There's the shoes and the clips and how they positioned. There's the seat height and the forward or back. There's the reach. Sheesh, whoever came up with term it's just like riding a bike needs to be schooled. If I was going to a spinning class or riding for an hour none of this would be a big deal. But, clipping my leg in and sitting my butt on a bike for 3 hours

is a whole other story. I am fit enough to ride hard for long time and my body can handle the task. However, with all the pieces not quite right trouble will brew. After a 2:40 minute ride my right IT Band gave me a serious talking to. In over 25 years of running I have never had and IT issue. I wasn't even sure what it was until I got it checked. I did my ride on an indoor bike at my gym. I thought the bike fit was fine but what do I really know. They only thing I knew was I had workout to do. That's what our kind of fitness brings…reckless abandonment. Sitting on an indoor bike practicing the art of disassociation is cake! Ultra running gives us the gift of disassociation or at least we learn it as we go. Since I am getting schooled quite regularly now my new IT issue is just another test.

I have been injured badly 3 times. The injuries were bad enough to keep me from running for up to 6 weeks. I tore my soleous and was on crunches for a week and didn't run a step for 5 weeks. I ruptured my plantarus muscle and could barely walk for 2 weeks before rehab. I screwed up my left knee pretty bad and didn't run much at all for 5 weeks. I have had other minor stuff but not bad enough to set me back. With all my running experience I seem to know the difference between adaption and injury. It's a fine line right? Sort of like a bell shaped curve and once you topple over it's a fight back to the other side. I would say I am teetering right now. Funny thing is I can run with no issue. This is good. I am getting a professional bike fit on Friday which is going to take 3 hours! This is just another piece of the learning. Who would have thought it would take so long and so much was involved?

Did you know how hard it is to mountain bike in the winter? I am laughing as I type this because it is now obvious to me. It's cold on a bike. The mud and slippery stuff is hard to navigate. As I am out there freezing my butt off (btw: a frozen butt is not a bad thing…lessens the pain) I know this is just helping my non-existent bike skills. I am also learning that most cyclist train indoors. Ok, well how do I put a mountain bike on a trainer? You don't have another bike? Nope! This is when I get the look. Sort of a puzzled you're kidding kind look. Then I get, "How long are you going to be on the trainer"? I tell them it could be 4-8 hours. Then you know the look I get. They are horrified and almost feel sorry for me. I however feel excited! Drake let me borrow one of his computrainers. This is Porsche or trainers and I can't wait. The data and rides you get to do are amazing. But, in order for me to use the trainer I need a training wheel on the back. Needless to say, I have been busy getting this bike thing figured out and I love it. I know there is an inner mountain biker in me. I can see her and occasionally feel her. This is going to be big adventure!