I'm not as despondent as I was about racing last week. 8 days of recovery and then a good first day back will alleviate the darkest doubts, although I've now come full circle and deeply regret dropping out of Ironman St. George. It was such a hard race, and I could have finished it—there is beauty in finishing any Ironman. I was just feeling a bit overconfident and poncy about the whole thing. You have to race the whole time—nothing gets handed to you, especially in long-distance racing.
OK, enough philosophizing for now. One of the things I need to address is my core and stability work. If I only suspected they needed work last week, my worst fears have been confirmed by one strength session with zen guru physiotherapist/triathlete/coach/counselor Chris Ramsey (whose name I have finally spelled correctly). Chris is a veteran of many Ironman races, pulling off a 9:10 in his career, which is nothing at all at which to sniff. Chris agreed to help me with my strength issues, and we met in the beautiful (beautiful to an athlete) gym at Portland Center for Athletic Excellence (which has the somewhat head-tilting acronym PACE to go with its name)—if you haven't been to PACE, you should go sometime. They gym floor is old-school astroturf, and there is a skull with crossed battleaxes on the wall, grinning at you through the unmistakable circle of chainring. Think Rocky crossed with Breaking Away and you're pretty much there. Don't laugh, though; there are several Stars-and-Bars jerseys on the wall and—be still, breath—a medium blue jersey enlivened by rainbow stripes. There are Olympic weight racks and buckets of foam rollers. Kettleballs and stability balls. It smells of chamois cream and chalk. That is, to anyone who loves sport, it is the most beautiful place in the world.
OK, enough overblown prose. Here's what Chris did to me:
Pushups on a stability ball ("the point isn't doing pushups," Chris said. "The point is holding your core in the right place while you do pushups. You've got strong arms. You can muscle out some pushups. But do you see that your hips are sagging? That means you're not working what you're trying to work. Do them from your knees.") Doing pushups from one's knees is a humbling thing. We all knew what we thought of the guys on our soccer teams long ago who did pushups from their knees. Sigh. I was able to do two sets of six before throwing in the towel.
Pullups from Olympic Rings: as cool as this sounds, this is actually a modified row exercise. You grab the rings and take about six steps backwards, so the rings' strap to the ceiling forms the hypoteneuse of a right triangle. You lean back so your arms are straight, and then you pull yourself forward, "keeping your elbows straight!" If you do this, you'll feel quite a burn between your shoulder-blades. As with the pushups, you've got to keep yourself plank straight.
Side Planks: pretty obvious, right? Still painful.
Standing Hip Abduction: Let me just say directly that I hate these. Here are Chris's directions:
1) Lift one foot off the floor (slight bend in the leg you’re standing on)
2) Lift the “up” leg out to the side
3) Slowly lower back to the start but keep the foot up in the air
Done correctly, this really, really hurts both sides of your hips. If you have "The hips of a fifteen year-old-girl, as I appear to do, this exercise really hurts.
Squats: I managed 2x12 reps at, oh, 65 pounds. I used to squat hundreds of pounds when I used to play soccer. Sigh.
Standing/Squatting Jump-Thingies: Here's how you do these.
1) Stand with knees bent, as if you're about to sit down on the toilet
2) Raise your arms in front of you, pointing straight out (unlike sitting down on the toilet)
3) Hop quickly for thirty seconds, landing "lightly" ("try not to make any sound when you land) so your quads soak up the contact. Don't aim for height. Aim for quality and speed.
Mountain Climbers: I basically couldn't do these, but Chris says the most important thing (for when I can actually do them) is not to touch one's toes to the ground at the top of the motion. Keep them in the air. It's harder.
Plyometrics: I did so many of these back in my goalkeeping days that it seems totally unfair to be doing plyos again. We did use those cool rope-ladder thingies that you see NFL players using on Nike ads on TV, the ones where each bead of sweat has been placed and lovingly photographed.
Combination Pushup-Walking with Superman: Say what? It's almost impossible.
OK, that's all for my running update for this week. Stay tuned for the Fantasy Tri minute on Friday.
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