Strong Like Bull = ?

Tomorrow I head off to Spain for 10 days of training. I have been looking forward to this week for 18 months.  And the day is finally here.

It was 2009.  Although on Twitter since 2008, I began to use social media for my triathlon motivation around spring of 2009.  Twitter became a daily reality check and kick up the backside for me as I followed athletes and coaches, amateur and pro triathletes.  I started to soak up their tweets, finding a stream of hope and motivation, especially when things got tough (ankle tendonitis, knee problems, changes to my goals).

Somewhere around that summer 2009 I started to follow John Hirsch.  John is a pro triathlete.  And a defense attorney in New York City.  He’s a straight talker, a top performer.  And he is a coach.  He works with Team Continuum and their runners as they gear up for the New York City Marathon.  He works with his own athletes, as they build to ironman success.  His tweets filled me with a determination to dig in and to keep pushing my boundaries.

At the end of 2009, John began to tweet about his training camp, Strong Like Bull.  Oh, to go on such a camp.  In the hills of Spain, to ride daily, to be able to focus on becoming a better triathlete.  But I knew that by February 2010 I would not be ready.  I decided back in 2009 that 2011 would be my year – my year to go on Strong Like Bull and to see what I was made of.

Throughout 2010 I grew in my physical strength and stability and I pushed and exceeded what I thought were my limits.  I grew confident that, despite my challenges, I would be able to benefit from Strong Like Bull.  I asked John if the doors would be open for me to attend, although I am not an ironman athlete and indeed a paratriathlete.  His answer?  Of course.  Strong Like Bull is for anyone – but be prepared.

When I signed up for the Houston to Austin MS150 (April 2011 – just around the corner) I knew that Strong Like Bull, its hill training and hours in the saddle, would be perfect training for me to complete the 300k ride without issues.  It was all coming together.

Then the icing on the cake – Strong Like Bull 2011 would also include nutrition and yoga by Christine Lynch, the Holisticguru.  I think I may have started following Christine before I started following John on Twitter.  Her ideas about a body-mind-holistic approach to healthy living resonate with me.  I have written before that I worked with Christine through the latter half of 2010 on getting balance and building lasting healthy habits into my daily routines.  10 days of access to the Guru… To learn from her.  To peer over her shoulder while she is in the kitchen.  Perfect.

So for about 18 months I have been gearing up for Strong Like Bull.  I started the new year with some nice miles in the saddle, having spent the week after Christmas in Suffolk riding.  I had a few things to sort out before the trip – like new bike setups to alleviate some of my ongoing issues.  But I was ready to hit leg strength training hard in January and February, to be in the best possible shape possible for some amazing rides in Spain.

But you know, sometimes the best laid plans just don’t happen, and the unexpected does.  Who could have predicted that I would contract a chest infection following a long haul flight to Asia at the middle of January?  And that it would knock my lung capacity down by 25%?

For weeks I have been wondering if I should even go on Strong Like Bull.  DH and I have been talking about this nightly, for the past 3 weeks.  Something I had aspired to for 18 months seemed to be slipping away – along with my fitness, my strength, any inch of athletic ability I had…  But after discussing with Coach T, I decided that rather than being stressed out by my circumstances, I would instead treat Strong Like Bull as a chance for training, rest, recovery and respite.  Rather than being upset by where I am compared with where I had hoped to be, I would change my perspective.

So what do I hope to achieve while in Spain?  I am keeping my list realistic, and achievable.  I hope I can walk away on the 28th, having accomplished the following:

  • Training:  helping my lung capacity to improve (85% please thank you!)
  • Rehab:  working on my physiotherapy as prescribed to lay the foundation for improved running in 2011.  Rehab forms the foundation from which I will be able to be a competitive paratriathlete.
  • Experimentation:  getting comfortable with my new bike shoes and pedals – I will be using Shimano shoes / Look Keo pedals for the first time on this trip, and I hope that the combo, plus my new set up (thanks to CycleFit), will prove to be significantly more comfortable and leave my ankle tendons feeling a lot better than my previous Specialized / Shim SPD set up
  • More Experimentation:  trying out a new saddle position (with my existing saddle) as well as an ISM saddle as my quest for comfort in advance of the MS150 continues.  Special thanks to Tamsin Lewis for letting me try out her saddle on this trip.
  • More Training:  getting back in the pool.  I have not swum since January 25th.  This is an eternity for me.  I am ready to get back in the pool, and to start building my training for the 4.4 mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.
  • Holistic Living:  learning some tricks from Christine.  I cannot wait to see how she approaches food for athletes, and training.  I’m hoping she makes her lentil loaf, and other food that I have not dared to attempt or try yet.  I also look at SLB as a chance for us to wrap up the work we have done for the last 6 months – it will be so nice to do this in person.
  • Recovery. Respite. Rest:  The three Rs will be crucial this week.  I know that it will be so tempting for me to try to keep up with the others on SLB.  But I have to accept that I can’t, I have to remember not to push things, and I have to keep in mind the three Rs.  I need to walk out of SLB healthier than I walk in.
  • Motivation:  learning from and being surrounded by the best – from John, from Sean, from Christine, and from the others on SLB that have kept my tweetstream littered with motivation since 2009 (@ironmanbobby, @co2legs, @triguinness)

A long list!

How do I feel? 

Entirely unprepared.  Heart racing, nerves on edge, butterflies in my stomach.  But I’m ready to have the experience of a lifetime.

One response to “Strong Like Bull = ?”

  1. THIS IS GOING TO BE SUCH A BLAST!!!!  You’re going to destroy the MS150 after this training camp.  looking forward to meeting you…IN SPAIN!!!!

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