Ironman Training Log – The Power of Tests

When I first talked to my coach Michael Krell, he told me that I would have to do tests in all three disciplines: A 400m swimtest, 7x 1km running starting from a low heart rate to a high heartrate and, eventually, a bike test.

The first set of swimming and running tests was pretty sobering. Not only because I realized I cannot even run 1km as fast as German legendary triathlete Jan Frodeno’s average km during an Ironman, but also because these tests brought back some memories of the pain one has to go through.

That being said, this past week was test week – after another 7km on the track, another 400m in the pool I wanted to share two take-aways…

 

I. Have Faith in Your Training

I have put my trust into Michael and done my best to execute the weekly training plans he is writing for me (which is a strenuous adjustment to daily life: less spontaneity, better food planing because you are either starving or eating bullshit food, sleep discipline and,  by far the hardest for me, you’d better get used to a one-drink-rule because your tolerance is becoming pretty ridiculous compared to – how shall I put it – journalist & grad school times). For a control freak like me, with coaching experience in rowing, that leap of faith presented a challenge. Some days seemed so easy, some days I either felt like vomiting, did vomit or really tortured myself into training in the first place.  Besides that, I was always hungry, but tried to keep myself from eating more.

Second set of test results are in. I have increased my 400m swim-time by 45Seconds, about 10seconds per 100m. Since September, I have for the first time in my life ran a 10k race and a Half Marathon and I have been able to improve my fastest km time by 30seconds. In the Tufts Pool in Boston there was a massive poster reading “Have Faith in Your Training”. I never really understood what that meant, but now I do.

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II. It does not get easier, you just get faster

As thrilled and motivated as I am about my improvements, the tests as well as the longer runs every weekend have shown me that feeling better is not part of the deal. Sure thing, I have had some gorgeous forest runs that come with a therapeutic side effect, but the body also goes through phases of protest that the mind has to counter. During my run test I felt like my legs would just give in, my lungs were exploding and I had already mentally prepared myself for worse test results. Funny enough, I found cyclist’s Greg Le Mond”s quote “It does not get easier, you just get faster” very fitting.

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca is three months away and I’ll keep you updated on the journey.

The German World – through His Eyes

Be careful what you wish for: When Pouya and I decided to relocate to Germany we were telling our friends that it would be an adventure. It’s surely been adventurous, but maybe not the adventure that we had associated.

  • Schorle!

The first word he perfected was “Schorle”, that is the German’s drink of choice: Juice mixed with sparkling water (that kind of sparkling that makes you burp immediately). After a few weeks in the country of Schorle, he was “Schorle’d out” and now we have been trying to order tab water – something that still seems to be an offense in German restaurants, which is funny given that German water is pretty clean on a world scale.

  • Amt!

The first world within the German world he detected was “Amt”, the public administration. When he registered in the town of Aalen the lady behind the counter asked him if he had already registered for “GOA”. He was a little confused since we will be traveling to Goa, India later this year and he was wondering how that lady possibly knew that. Goa, however, is the local trash agency, also called the trash-mafia. Trash is a serious matter in Swabia.

  • Wochenmarkt-Bag

Last weekend he came home in the morning from the baker. Since we’re living in the middle of town we can watch the crowds walk towards the local produce market on saturdays. He dragged me to the window and told me that he has a hypothesis: You are only an eligible member in the Aalen weekly market when you are carrying a wood braided basket. And he was right, every one was carrying the same bags.

  • No!

No, there is no good customer service here. No you cannot return something after 2weeks. No, there is no services that offer convenience services. No, the concept of good enough is not present: You do or you do not and if it is not built to last forever it shall not be build at all.

We are currently in Canada. At Thanksgiving dinner a family member asked Pouya what he thinks is so different about Germany, how this small country is able to compete on so many levels globally. And he told a fascinating and complex story of a nation that values work-live-balance, efficiency and incremental improvement.

The adventure in my head has little to do with what reality currently provides. Administrative craziness knows no boundaries and I have no more conniption fits to give. Yet, there are also wonderful things: weekends with friends from school, great healthy food, enough time for sports&family

It has been five years in the United States and I slowly understand I have hit a point of no return: I am the one who has changed and now experience the country with a different mindset. It is hard to discuss this with Germans that have not left as they think I am pissing on my home turf or think of myself as deserving more when openly admitting that I am struggling with being in Germany. The concept of home is something many of my international Fletcher friends have redefined for themselves and I am currently doing the same. It certainly helps to do this with Pouya whose eyes are open to the small things that I am sometimes not able to appreciate anymore.

This is us last week at the Munich Marathon where we both ran a 10k race – at freezing temperatures.

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Peter Drucker made me quit my job…well kind of

When the 100-year old writings of an Austrian Business dude totally throw you off…

Peter Drucker is the ultimate dude when it comes to leadership advice. Although his works date back to the early to mid 20th-century, his writing still holds true in times of Twitter, digital everything and snapchat.

The Austrian dude has a chapter about time in his book “The Effective Executive”. As he goes explaining how time is the only true scarce resource he consequently states: If you are doing something that is not contributing to your goals, you are wasting your time.

I was listening to that chapter after a not so great day of work that had already been preceded by many not too great days of work which had already been foreshadowed by a couple of meh months at work, you get the idea. And the only thing that kept me sane during this time was my workouts, weekends filled with skiing or other fun adventures and my friends in Germany, in South East Asia, in Boston that never get tired of listening to vents, to complaints, to doubts.

 

You will just have to listen to the Dudes…

I would not go so far as to say that Peter Drucker told me through the grapevine to put in my 2 weeks notice, but that night when I was chopping vegetables in my beautiful Boston apartment I felt that change was going to come my way and that I would embrace it: The uncertainty, the angst, the excitement, the freedom, the opportunity to work more focused towards my goals.

And enjoy the moments of deepest uncertainty

Yesterday Pouya & I walked to cozy Spy Pond in Cambridge on the first day of sunshine after three days of icy rain and snow storms in Boston (yes, Germans, I knwo . We carried with us the Greens from the Persian Sofra. Tradition has it that on the 13th day of Persian New Year you are supposed to tie a knot into your greens while making a wish and then sending the greens into the water. Obviously, I cannot tell anyone about the wish that I made while brading the greens. I can tell you, though, that sitting by the water, enjoying a sunny afternoon moment filled me with inner peace. After all Lichtenberg said “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”
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Thanks Dudes! Peter Drucker and Georg Lichtenberg

I am hugging my conniption fit inner child on this sunday morning

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King)

Once again I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial in DC and, in deep admiration, paused for a moment in front of his quotes; They are humbling. The above one captured my attention so much because I currently find myself confronted with some life challenges.

When you want it all…and end up on the couch with your solace giving jar of Peanut Butter

Last week I tried it all: working out, eating clean, enough sleep, performing well at work and packing up my apt for a move on saturday. And this is the situation I found myself in most nights: Cancelled all workouts, munching on potato chips with Peanut Butter, sleep-deprived, insanely frustrated at work because for the first time I have taken on a project that does not have clearly defined goals and I am suffering. And instead of packing smartly, I ended up packing “miscellaneous” boxes – basically just randomly throwing stuff in so at least one thing would be DONE in my head.

There is a stubborn inner child taking over at times that can be quite annoying

Surely I could have asked for and I certainly was offered help. But I wanted to get it done by myself. I want to say it’s not me, it is a very stubborn, unreasonable part of me. Once set on an idea or task, however insurmountable that workload may look to a reasonable person, there is no turning back. Or accepting help. I call that part of me my annoying inner child. Why? Have you ever seen a young child throw herself on the floor in the supermarket, screaming, wanting something. Yeah, that’s how I feel at times of challenge.

Letting go

Just like the child’s conniptions in the supermarket only last a few minutes, my inner child gets appeased fairly easily; Or defeated by exhaustion. Maria Rita reminded me this week that while welcoming bad feelings is crucial, it is just as important to let go of them as easily. So, after a good night’s sleep, after moving out of my apartment and in with my boyfriend and after waking up next to him with the Boston sunlight announcing my favorite day, I am hugging my inner child this morning and tell her: You’ll be fine. I don’t want to get rid of you, I am accepting you as a part of me.