Monday, October 8, 2012

What if? Organizing marathon fears

As we embark on the second week of training, I'm struck by fear. Here are my biggest fears about this marathon:

I'm scared out of my mind about re-injuring my hip. It's not like I can stop running and focus on my swim and bike while my hip heals. I cannot, absolutely cannot, inflame my hip. It CANNOT happen. To combat this problem, I'll be doing a strength workout once a week. This, combined with the change in my run gait I worked on this past season, should stave off any injury. If it doesn't work, I might cry.

The timing of this race is a little nerve-wracking for me. The race is Feb. 17. In Pennsylvania, February tends to be very cold. In Austin, it'll be beautiful. However, all of my training will be done here, not Austin. Once it gets cold, I'll only be able to run in the the bitter cold for so long. After about the 35 degree mark, I have to move inside because my lungs cannot handle the cold. Dry, cold air literally closes my lungs and I cannot breathe. I'm pretty sure I'll be doing a majority of my long runs on the treadmill; the thought of which makes me cringe.

Paging Dr. Ross... Regarding the above two concerns, I will be coming to the Performance Lab again very soon.

What if it snows? OK, so I know this fear is a stretch, but I have a plane to catch. If the weather is bad, will I even be able to get to Austin? Will I have trained so long, spent hundreds of dollars on airfare and race registration for nothing? I will not know the answer to this until the day my plan is set to fly.

Time management
When the going gets tough, workouts tend to fall by the wayside. Let's be honest, I have a lot of things going on right now. Between a full- and part-time job, the kids and my new relationship status, things are getting a little hectic. I think I'll manage to do all my running workouts, but will my swim and bike may suffer? If they do, what does that mean for next year's triathlon season?

What if I can't run 26.2 miles? I'm not even talking injury.. what if I just cannot run 26.2 miles? That's some serious distance. I can tell you that during the last 5k of any half marathon I've ever run I thought my legs would fall off... what happens when I double that distance? First off, I train for it, that I know. It just seems so huge to me right now.

Phew... Now that all my concerns on in front of me in black and white, I feel a little better. Organizing fear, anyone else find comfort in it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Triathlon is a part-time job I need time to do

Here's the thing, I LOVE that I have a coach to get me through my training, but I hate not knowing the future. When I would get weekly workouts from Joanna while training for Eagleman, they were so packed with goodies that I only focused on getting through each week. Now that it has only running on it, the schedule looks weak. I can only guess that's going to change, but I don't know for sure since I cannot predict what torture training Joanna has in store for me in the following weeks.

This week my schedule includes speed work, an easy run, a tempo run and a long run. Mixed in are a few gentle reminders to get my ass on the bike and swim, which I have woefully neglected. But I have an excuse. A good one: There are only so many hours in the day and I can only be so many places at once.

How did I ever manage to train for three sports? I better figure it out ... and fast.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Triathlon training goals for 2013

My life kinda fell into shambles after Eagleman in June, hence my lack of posts and my lack of miles. My husband and I decided just two weeks before Eagleman that we were going to separate. Not a huge shocker to me, but a life-changing event nonetheless. Two months later I raced Steelman, which I did on Joanna's encouraging so I'd have something to focus on to keep me motivated. I raced, I had a great time, but I really felt pretty down when all was said and done.

But, during this time of flux, I've been reevaluating who I am, who I want to be and what I want out of life. What I've determined is that I'm not going to let a change in my relationships status determine the outcome of my life. So I began plotting out my race schedule.

Every good triathlete has a night of drinking with an equally crazy friend to determine their race schedule for the following year, right? No? Well, that's what I do. Don't judge. Anyway, we started researching Ironman race courses. We wanted a flatter course, but not pancake flat, but shouldn't be major hills, like Lake Placid. We found Ironman Cozumel, and fell in love. But the realist in me knows that with my life influx, maybe an Ironman in 2013 isn't a great idea. However, if I make 2013 a building year, and Ironman in 2014 is a certainty.

Here are my goals:
First, I'm going to run a marathon. Probably a good idea if I'm considering an Ironman, right? This was another decision made during a night of drinking, but this time it was with my cousin, who was up this way from Austin.

She said, "I think you should run the Austin Marathon. It's in February and it's a great time to be in Austin. Plus our condo is 2 miles from the start, right along the race course." While sitting at the bar, I sent a quick email to Joanna asking her if she thought I could be ready for a marathon by February. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, if we start soon, I think you'll be ready.

A few days later, I registered, booked airfare and committed my brain to a marathon. Beginning Oct. 1, Joanna will be helping me train for my very first marathon.

Heaven help me.

Next on the list are a few Olympic distance races for 2013. I'd like to do Red Bank again. It was a beautiful course and I'd like to redeem myself from my terrible showing on the bike. I also want to do Steelman again because it was so much fun. My crazy triathlon friend suggested the Bethany Beach Triathlon, that I'm considering that as well as New Jersey State Triathlon.

As far as another half distance next year... I haven't decided yet. I think it might be a good idea to do one, but I don't know which to do. Eagleman was too hot and really early in the season. Diamondman was fun, but I'm not sure I want to repeat that again. So, I'm open for suggestions. I'm thinking Pocono 70.3, but I'm not 100% sold on it yet.

Monday, September 10, 2012

VIDEO: 7 tips for bicycle safety

A few weeks ago, I got up at the crack of dawn for work to help put together a video on bike safety with the help of some of my fellow coworkers. This is basic bicycle safety, but extremely informative for drivers as well as cyclists.

Here is the video. It's totally ok if you laugh at my expense.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Steelman Olympic distance race report

The sun coming up over Lake Nockamixon.

Knock-knock. Anyone there? Yes, I have been MIA for the last two months because, I will be totally honest, I have a lot going on in my life right now. Most of it I can't write about, which absolutely effects the stuff I can write about and makes the stuff I can write about far less interesting. At least to me. BUT through it all, I managed to get in one final triathlon this season: Steelman at Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown.

Let me start by saying the two months since doing Eagleman my training has been less than stellar. In fact, I can honestly say I've been in the pool maybe twice and been swimming at the lake twice. That's a grand total of four swim sessions in two months. I've ridden my bike a little more frequently, once a week on most weeks, and I may have logged 15 - 20 miles running. Seriously, I was behaving as if this race wasn't going to happen.

Yes, every picture I have is before sunrise because I got to the part before 5 a.m.!

But as I stood among 2,000 athletes ready to start a race they actually prepared for, I completely questioned my sanity. I tried to remind myself that I did finish a 70.3 two months ago. I can totally do this distance. But the buoys looked so far away. Everyone around me was smiling in anticipation. I was shivering with fear. In fact, I spend the whole weekend fighting off the fear that something terrible was going to happen to me during this race. I was going to a race with no one. I had no support with me. Just me. Alone. I wrote my kids a note in the morning reminding them that I loved them, just in case.

Clearly, I was feeling out of my mind.

See those buoys? Can you see them? Look how far they look?

Back to the water's edge. Lake Nockamixon is actually a really beautiful lake, but on Sunday I didn't see its beauty, I simply focused on its size. With a water temperature of 80 degrees, it was not a wetsuit legal race, so I wore my skin suit. We had the option to wear wetsuits, but you'd be disqualified for awards. I sort of wish I had chosen to wear mine. I'm not winning any awards, but I wanted to try without it. In hindsight, I should've worn it. When the gun went off, I started swimming. It seemed to take an eternity to get to the first buoy. The next buoy also seemed very far away. I focused on swimming buoy-to-buoy. One after the other I swam passed them. None seemed to come faster than the next. I got out of the water and saw the :40 min mark and although that time was disappointing, I knew I had no business expecting to swim any faster than I did. My official swim time was :40:03

I will admit I heard nothing but horror stories about the hills on this ride. I had no expectations other than to ride as hard as I could. That's what I did. The climb out of the park was tough, but not nearly has hard as I thought it was going to be, and the rest of the course pretty much followed that same line of thinking. There were a few pretty good climbs, but nothing that was insanely difficult. During the first climb out of the park, the little packet in my pocket that held my Enduralytes fell to the ground. Fortunately, it fell right in front of a volunteer who ran to it and yelled what's your number, I'll get it back to you. I panicked for a second worried that I'd cramp like crazy without them. But sometimes you just cannot worry about things beyond your control. So, I just let it go and focused on the ride. My ride time was 1:31:22, that's a 17.7 mph average. I am happy with that.

I started this run waiting for my legs to cramp. Having no Enduralytes to help if they did, I was just waiting... but guess what. They never cramped. This was encouraging. I felt strong the entire run. It was a beautiful paved, shaded course through the park. I really enjoyed the run. Water stops were frequent and stocked with Gatorade, water and ice. I was feeling so good, I really thought I was going to make the 10k in under an hour. I was close, 1:02:43, but not quite. I finished feeling great. I was a little disappointed to not have my kids meet me at the finish like they normally do, but I was happy to see Joanna there at the end.

I finished this race with the time of 3:19:17. This is 15 minutes faster than my previous best Olympic distance time. Seriously, I cannot believe it. I didn't really deserve to PR during a race I wasn't prepared to do, however, I will take it. 

Overall, I thought Steelman was a great race and we were blessed with beautiful weather. As an athlete who is not finishing in the top half, it was nice to see volunteers at all the stations throughout the entire race. I hate when you're running and you come to an aid station that just has cups and coolers because the volunteers left. It's defeating, but this was not the case at all at Steelman.

I'm glad I did this race. I wasn't going to, but Joanna helped make it possible for me. Thank you Joanna. It was a great race to end a tough season. Oh, and as a side note, my packet of Enduralytes were sitting at my transition when I got back to it. How awesome is that?!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ironman Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

I've been working on this post for months. The whole reason I started this blog was to write about this triathlon, Eagleman. The race that was going to take me to the next level. Instead, I was humbled by this race and this report is just not writing itself. So, let's start at the beginning.

We had plans to stay at my friend Tammy's in-laws place in Lewes, Del., about an hour and a half away from the starting line. This wasn't an ideal situation, but it was free accommodations and there wasn't a hotel within 50 miles of the race that had any open rooms. But, in an extraordinary stroke of good luck, Joanna had a nutrition client who booked an extra room and offered it to us. So on Saturday, I met Tammy and fellow dailymiler Patrick, in Media to start our trek to Cambridge, Maryland. 

I had no idea until I got here that Ironman was such a community event. Clearly businesses welcomed us.

Once in Cambridge, we went to the race expo and packet pick up. There was a pro athlete forum that was going on while we were picking up our race packets. We stayed just long enough to take a blurry picture ...


... and pick up our race numbers. It was so hot and crowded.

Packet pick up and expo

Next stop was the transition area to rack our bikes and check out the transition area. We did some stalking while we were there... you know, killing time.

Transition area with bikes racked

Yeah, so it's not every day I come within feet of Ironman Champions

After checking into our hotel room, heading to dinner and packing, unpacking and repacking everything we needed for the next morning, we settled in at about 8:30 p.m. for our 4:15 a.m. wake up call.

"Shuttle," AKA school bus, we took in the morning to transition. Patrick is pictured.

I have to admit, I was not nervous about the race. I did have a few moments of anxiety, but generally I felt pretty confident that I was going to conquer this race.

We quickly learned that if Patrick was anything, he was positive.

We learned that for the first time in two years the race would be wetsuit legal, so my confidence was pretty good. The pros started at 6:45 and Tammy and I had an hour to walk around and wait for our wave start.

Transition area set (sort of) and ready to go.

The swim:
At 7:40 exactly, our wave was ushered into the water. As we walked toward the water, volunteers handed us safety pins to put on our timing chips if our wetsuits didn't cover them. I thought this was a brilliant idea since at my last half iron, my timing chip fell off twice during the swim. Anyway, two minutes later, the blow horn sounded and we were off.

Choptank River, not nearly as scary as described by athletes.

I will admit that the stories of jellyfish, sharks and rough waters of the Choptank River (you can't make up that name), scared me a little prior to the start. But I found the waters to be cool and lightly salted. Not nearly has salty as the ocean. I had some trouble sighting because my goggles were super foggy (Patrick, the defogging stuff did NOT work) and the buoys were a little further apart than I'm used to in races. I stayed pretty wide and to the left throughout the swim because I did not want to get kicked in the head again. The first half of the swim I stayed calm and took my time. About half way through I remember that there was no reason to hold anything back today, and I picked up my pace. Before I knew it, I was coming into to the swim finish. I felt strong and ready for the bike. I finished the 1.2 mile swim in 44:49. In transition, I stripped off the wetsuit, took a long drink and hopped on my bike.

The bike:
I pushed the entire time on this ride. The course was completely flat, not a single hill. We road through some scenic parks with a lot of trees. Of course there were stretches with nothing more than an open field, but my confidence was high. I was passing a lot of riders on the course and with little effort maintaining an easy 18-19 mph pace. Around the halfway mark, maybe a little further, I was honestly trying not to look at my bike computer and only watched the time, I hit some headwind that pushed me to a pretty steady 14 mph. That was a little harder to recover from, but I kept pushing. This was about the time I saw a woman throw up twice while riding. My first thought was, "That woman is hardcore." My next thought was, "I wonder why she's getting sick."

The last 6 miles seemed to take forever, but those last six miles is where I started to see the runners. Many were walking. No one looked happy. At the end of that 56 miles, which I did in 3:11, I walked my bike back to my transition spot. I was in no rush to start this run.

Picture of the sun taken by my husband while waiting for me to finish the race.

The run:
After putting socks and sneakers on and taking another long drink, I trotted out of transition and onto the course. Immediately my quads cramped. I tried to ignore it and took two Enduralytes, but the cramps coupled with a shooting pain on the right side of my right foot forced me to a walk. Less than a mile into the course Tammy caught up to me. I think I said outloud, "Oh seriously." She was in good spirits and walked with me for a bit. I encouraged her to keep running. A few feet later I met Dan, an athlete wearing a knee brace. He and I walk about 3/4 of a mile together until the first water spot. He walked through it and I stopped and strategically placed ice in my tri suit and wet my sun sleeves hoping to stay cool. After that, I walked/ran the entire course.

I stopped at every water spot and poured ice water all over myself. The temperature was 100 degrees and there wasn't a single patch of shade anywhere. Patrick described it as a death march and I can't think of a better description than that. I watched seasoned triathletes walking. Men and women who I am sure are much stronger and fitter than I am put their pride aside and simply walk. Where there were neighborhoods, many residents had tents out and sprayed athletes down with garden hoses. If any of them ever read this, THANK YOU!

After the first 6.6 miles, I realized my hopes of having a half iron in the 6 hour time range was not going to happen. I ate a snow cone, and the sugar helped push me the next 4 or so miles.

The last mile and a half was the absolute worst. I felt my body actually falling apart. I had been drinking water and electrolytes and taking Enduralytes like they were candy, but I wasn't eating. I would've killed someone for a pretzel or potato chips. I needed salt, I needed calories. I had three Gus in my pocket the entire run, but I couldn't bring myself to eat them. Probably my downfall. But the heat called for drinking, not for eating. With each step I took, I felt weaker. With one mile left, I choked down a Gu and it only served to turn my stomach.

With 400 yards left, a group of athlete sat in the shade encouraging, no, yelling at us to run. "There's only 400 yards left, one loop around the track. Run! Don't be weak," I heard them shout. So I ran. I ran and I have no idea how I did it. It was the longest 400 yards of my entire life. Each step was filled with pain. Every muscle in my body hurt, my feet burned and I was crying. I saw my kids right at the shoot and I lost it. Crossing the finish line I just bent over and sobbed. 3:09 was my run time. A medic came over to me and put a wet towel on my neck, held me up and asked me if I wanted to sit down. No, I wanted to see my kids.

Hobbling toward the finish line.

The entire time I was walking/running, all I could think of (when I wasn't in shock at how my body felt like it was falling apart) was all the time I had spent training. All the hours, all the effort, six months of training and nutrition and my half iron time was 4 minutes better than the last one.
4 minutes.

After cooling off, eating and pulling myself together, I texted Joanna. I said, "Finished and getting ready to leave. That may have been the hardest thing I've ever done. Wow" She called me immediately. I don't know how I managed to not cry while talking to her, but she was nothing but encouraging. She knew my goal and I failed. I failed. She said, "I don't think you would've finished the race at all if you didn't train the way you did. You can't prepare for that heat. You did the best you could. I am proud of you." Those words meant the world to me.

The truth is that I didn't fail. I finished a race where many did not. I improved my swim time by 11 minutes and my bike time by 7. I took an extraordinary 6+ minutes in transition from bike to run this time and my run time was increased by 11 minutes from the last race. The heat was brutal, my nutrition fell apart and therefore my body fell apart. I have always been my biggest critic and I continue to be that critic.

I did it!

I walked away from the race with a few thoughts: 1) I will never do a half iron again. It's just not my race. Eagleman decided that. 2) I am strong. Those were two facts I held fast for the last two days as I've hobbled from one place to another. I held fast as I suffered through dehydration and the inability to keep food down for the last two days. I held this truth until I thought about my next race. When someone said, "So, what's next?"

Truth is, I will race again because I am racing against myself. Probably not this year, but I will next year. Actually, who am I kidding, as soon as I am able to train again I will probably find a race and shoot for it. I will not let this stop me from doing what I love. I am a triathlete. I am strong. I will reach my goal of a 6 hour 70.3. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Red Bank Triathlon race report

Calm waters in Red Bank Sunday morning.

Sometimes the hardest lessons in triathlon are the ones you learn on race day. Yesterday I had my first race of the season: Red Bank Olympic distance triathlon. Before the race, I felt calm and completely ready. I picked this race because it was three weeks from Eagleman and, I thought, a flat course similar to Eagleman.

Guess what. I was wrong.

Here is the course map provided. Looks innocent enough to me. But clearly I am not well versed in reading course maps. But before we get there, let's start at the beginning.

Race time was 7 a.m., my heat was set to leave at 7:16. Transition was set to close at 6:50. None of that happened on time. My friend Tammy and I showed up at 5:20, parked and set up our transition area. We walked around, looked at the water and around 6:30 did a warm up swim in the bay. Water was cool, but not freezing cold. My confidence was intact.

My transition area all set up and ready to go.

At 7:05, transition was still not closed, bikes were all over the place because the race coordinators did not set up enough racks. People had bikes and equipment all over the place, against gates, in patches of grass, it was chaos. All the athletes lined up around the dock until two people started screaming at us to move back. A megaphone would have done them some good. I don't know what time it was by the time my heat got in the water, but we were guessing that it was after 7:30. Waves were leaving every three minutes.

With some time to kill, my friend Tammy and I take some pre-race pictures.

I have never been a strong swimmer, but over the last six months, Joanna has helped me get stronger and faster in the water. This put me mid-pack when traditionally I would have been bringing up the rear. It was pretty awesome to be swimming with the pack, but about 1000 yards into the swim I got a swift, but good kick to my left eye. It jogged me a bit, but I held it together and finished the swim in 33:58, which is a significant improvement from my last Olympic swim of 46:23.

First lesson: Try not to get beat up while swimming in a pack. Maybe next time I'll swim a little wider to give myself some more space, especially towards the end. 

After the swim, we had to wait in a line to climb a ladder out of the water and run into transition, which I did, grabbed my bike, ran out and mounted my bike. I started the ride feeling great, like super great... for the first mile, until I realized this ride was not as flat as the elevation map may or may not have suggested. At this point I broke down mentally. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been able to climb those hills, I need to work on my climbing confidence.

My legs were heavy and I just kept thinking, "Seriously, this is going to take forever."

And it did. Every person I was ahead of in the swim caught up and passed me like I was standing still. The bike is supposed to be my strong event and yesterday I broke down. One hour and 51 minutes later, I finally made it back to transition for the run feeling defeated, but determined to finish.

Second lesson: Have a second person read the elevation map and maybe find someone who has done the race before you decide to register.

Starting the run I saw my family waiting for me, which lifted my spirits and pushed me along. I felt good running and was focusing on my form until I realized my armpits were burning. My tri top was actually giving me brush burns, so I unzipped the front and pulled my arms out of the sleeves. Yeah, I ran 6.2 miles with my top around my waist... but at least I only have minor abrasions on my armpits.

Third lesson: Best to test all equipment, even clothing, before a race.

About two and a half miles into the run, we head into some woods and this was welcomed as the sun was out in full force. At the same time, my legs start cramping, so I reach into my pocket to get an Enduralyte and I trip over a tree root, cutting up my knee and wrist.

Fourth lesson: maybe on a trail it's not the best time to stop watching the course.

A finishers medal is still cool!

In the end, I have a few scrapes and bruises, a bruised ego and a lot of lessons from which to learn. The good news is that I have three weeks to workout some of those issues and I'm so glad to have learned these lessons before my A race.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Triathlon speed suit: Do you wear one?

I've been obsessively tracking the water temperature for the Choptank River since Eagleman is only a few short weeks away. I'm fully prepared for the fact that it will not be a wetsuit legal race since the water temperature is currently 71 degrees. Ironman rules state the water temperature must be 76.1 degrees or lower to be wetsuit legal.

Because of this, I've been exploring the whole speed suit thing and I'm not sure exactly what the benefit of one is and if it's worth the cost to get one. Here are my questions:

Is a speed suit legal in ALL water temperatures?
Is there a benefit swim-wise for wearing one?
Is that benefit worth the cost?

What are your thoughts/opinions on the matter?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Digging deep to find my game face

Transition setup at Diamondman 2011.
As time ticks on closer and closer to race day, there is a tiny bit of panic brewing in my head. Truth is: I’m tired. Very tired. I feel like I’m at the point where my body is screaming for a day off, but it’s also the point at which I need to listen to my coach the most. I need to trust her. I’ve come this far following all of her triathlon and nutrition instructions and workout plans, now is not the time for me to fall off the wagon. So I trudge on, trying to keep my head in the game and focus on form and technique as the miles get longer and longer.  

Along with this physical exhaustion I’m feeling, I’m having some mental “game day” issues. You see, I have a reoccurring problem associated with “racing.” As race day approaches, I start to distance myself mentally from the event. Eagleman is less than 6 weeks away. SIX WEEKS! I think back to when it was six months away. I was calm, cool and confident. Now, as we get closer, my once cool demeanor is changing to denial.

I can remember specifically standing at the edge of the water before Diamondman helping my fellow athletes zip their wetsuits (by the way, an absolutely fantastic way to distract yourself if you need it) thinking, “I cannot believe I’m about to do this.” What a ridiculous thing to think when I had spent the last 6 months preparing for that exact moment. Even as the race started and I took my first couple of strokes through the water, I could not wrap my head around the fact that I, ME, of all people, was there.

This is where I am mentally right at this moment. I hope it passes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I am not an android... I'm a triathlete

After breaking the VO2 testing machine the last time I was there, the Performance Lab let me come back last Friday. Turns out, even though I resemble one in this photo, I am not an android at all.

The first time I found myself in the lab, it seemed so surreal. Here I am, regular old Diane, standing in a room with real athletic testing equipment... for real athletes. Like real, serious athletes. I couldn't help but giggle pretty much the whole time I was there. How did I end up here?

The Performance Lab, located in Cherry Hill, N.J., is "powered by" the Rothman Institute, which is a super awesome orthopaedics specialty group that I went to as a last resort to work out this hip issue of mine. Basically I thought, if they can't help me, no one will. 

Enter Dr. Michael Ross, fellow member of the Philadelphia Triathlon Club. After meeting him at his office and getting X-rays of my hips, he determined some physical therapy would help my hip... but wanted to take it a step further. He wanted to find out why my hip injury will not go away and stay away. He suspected it had something to do with my asthma and the way we figure this out is we test. 

As a less than amateur triathlete, the idea of getting these complex tests done was super cool. I mean, really, how freaking cool is it that I can learn how my body burns fat, carbohydrates, at what point lactic acid takes over and learn about my overall lung function from the inside out? Pretty freaking sweet in my book.

The first thing that happens is they fit you with this very android looking device, see above photo. Next they measure, I think, my lung capacity. I take a giant breath in and then blow it out until my lungs are empty. Next is a hyperventilation test where I breathe in and out quickly (hyperventilating). I will be honest, I have no idea what that measures. I didn't take notes. Bad blogger.

After doing those tests, the real testing begins. Starting out walking on the treadmill, we increase the miles per hour every two minutes until I can't run any more. 

This doesn't take nearly as long as you'd think. At least for me.

I topped out at the end of the 2 minutes at 8 mph. This is a 7:30 running pace. I can't run faster than that. I simply could not keep up with the treadmill any longer.

What we learned:
My asthma is not nearly as controlled as I thought. My large airways stay open, in fact, they actually increase as I exercise, but the small airways do not. They get smaller and decrease by as much as 50%, which significantly decreases the amount of oxygen getting to my muscles, which speeds up fatigue. This, in turn, makes my small muscles work harder than they should and helps contribute to my hip injury never really staying better. So, Dr. Ross prescribed some new meds that seem to be really working. We'll retest in a few weeks.

We learned lots of other things like where my body stops burning fat and starts using carbohydrates, my lactic threshold and how I can get faster, but I don't really want to bore you with all of it because it really is only interesting to me ... and Joanna. What I will tell you, is that the longer I'm in triathlon, the more I learn about myself. Whether it's that I sometimes shock myself with my competitive nature or how lung function can directly effect muscle fatigue, the real lesson in triathlon has less to do with swim, bike run, and much more to do with what the individual athlete learns about themselves through the training process. 

Oh, quick update: I was supposed to run the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbus, MD, Sunday, however both Joanna and Dr. Ross decided it wouldn't be a great idea for me to try and muscle my way through a half marathon and potentially injury my hip even more, which could ruin my chances of racing Eagleman in June.

Monday, April 9, 2012

It's good to know people in triathlon

I've been a bad blogger, a very bad blogger. I haven't written in some time because, to be completely honest, I've been struggling with some mental setbacks. I haven't run more than 12 minutes in a row in nearly 3 weeks and I have a half marathon scheduled for April 29. I've been assured by my doctor and Joanna that I'll be able to run the race, but I'm starting to wonder if it'll really happen.

Shhhh! I snapped this picture while I waited for the doctor. 
Oh, what lovely bones I have...

Last Thursday I went to the Rothman Institute for an appointment to find out, once and for all, what is wrong with this hip of mine. As you can see in the above picture, my bones are fine. But, turns out, I have injured my gluteus minimus because my gluteus maximus is weak. Everybody laugh... I'm a weak ass. But what it means is that I'm not using my rear to its full potential while running.

That's not all... on Friday I went in for a VO2 max test at the Performance Lab (which was a really super awesomely cool experience that I promise to write about before the end of next week) to see if my asthma may be making my smaller muscles work harder. The test showed that my asthma is under control (good news), but my muscles aren't storing sugar for very long. This means that when I do longer, faster runs (bike rides or swims) my body doesn't burn fat for energy unless I'm running really, really slow - instead it's burning muscle. According to the test, I need nearly 200 per hour from carbs while working out. That's two Gu's an hour! From what I can tell, it's a vicious cycle for my body that nutrition counseling and physical therapy should fix.

Thank goodness my coach is also a nutritionist... who knows my doctor who happens to be a fellow member of the Philadelphia Triathlon Club, which takes me out of the translation loop. That's great news, since you can tell I'm terrible at explaining medical garble. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trying to overcome the mental setback that comes from injury

Today marks exactly one month until my half marathon. Before this injury sidelined me, I was well on my way to a PR. It's still not out of the realm of possibility, but my confidence level has certainly been hit hard.

This week I've done a total of 12 minutes of running -- that's right, 12 MINUTES, not miles -- all of which have been virtually pain-free. This is exciting and I'm anxious to start logging miles again, but I'm not naive enough to simply start right where I left off, I'm taking things slow and really waiting until I see a doctor next week. This is the part that concerns me. I feel like I had finally gotten to the point in my running that I didn't find myself mid run thinking that I'd better slow down or else I won't be able to finish. I started having positive thoughts race through my head during each run... more "Run Faster" and "Let's Go" and "You Can Totally Do This," instead of "Just run to that tree and you can walk." This injury is a setback, and it's less about ability and more about mentality.

I'm really new to the sport of running and I've been plagued by a hip injury since the very beginning. I often wonder if maybe triathlon is not going to be the thing that keeps me healthy as I get older. I'm seeing a specialist next week, and, frankly, I don't get paid to do this... but I love it. Seriously, I LOVE everything about it. From the 4:30 a.m. wake up calls to the anxiety on race day. I love seeing how far I can push myself. I love proving to myself that my asthma isn't an excuse. I love showing my kids that grown ups can and should be active and healthy. I love that my own kids want to be triathletes. How can I walk away from that?

How young is too young for a trainer?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The newest member of the disabled list

I'm on the DL. Yup, that's right, I have literally run myself right on to the disabled list.

About 2 years ago, when I really started running, I injured my hip. I was diagnosed with some mysterious hip injury that I can't seem to remember or find out from anyone. Six weeks of physical therapy and a therapist who boldly stated, "Some people are meant to run, others aren't. You just aren't one of them," I was able to run with no pain and have been relatively pain free since. Although the therapists comment is one of the catalysts that put me on track for my leap into half iron distance triathlons.

Anyway, 've done it again. Two Saturdays ago, I was in Delaware visiting my sister and ran what started as a really great 10 miler with my husband. About 8 miles into the run, my hip started bothering me. Ever the go-getter, I stopped, stretched and kept pushing... in fact, I pushed so hard that we were practically sprinting the last two miles. In a lot of pain and holding back tears, I gritted my teeth and just ran. When we got back to the house, I popped some Motrin, rubbed some Biofreeze on my hip and stretched, hoping it would be fine in a day or two. I got a massage that week and basically didn't do anything that would aggravate my hip further

But the pain persisted. I waited a full week before trying to run again. Last Saturday I tried again. I made it 4 miles. That's it. I limped for the rest of the day. Today is Thursday, the fourth day of my recovery week, and I am still in a bit of pain. I'm able to walk without limping, but if I try to run or do anything that involves impact, I can feel the pain. Thanks to some great suggestions by my fellow Philadelphia Triathlon Club members, I made an appointment to see a specialist at the Rothman Institute, but I can't get in until April 5. Until then, I just have to wait it out and focus on swimming and biking.

It totally sucks, but I'm pretty sure I will get through this. I made it through before and I'll make it again. It's just a little glitch in my plans, but I'm thankful to have a really understand and helpful coach and great support group of friends.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ask the coach: Triathlon training cycles

Last week I did not train at all. I had some very important personal issues that needed my complete attention so training was put on hold. Fortunately, it couldn't have come at a better time because last week was an "easy" week.

Joanna has me training on a four week cycle. We build for three weeks and recover on the fourth. I can't tell you how happy I am when I get my weekly training schedule on that fourth week and it says EASY week. By that point I'm spent.

Anyway, the last time I had a recovery week, someone asked me on dailymile what I was "recovering from." So, I asked Joanna to explain training cycles and recovery. Here is what she said:

Recovery weeks are there so your body can recover from the usual three weeks of intensity building workouts. Without the recovery, you can keep pushing and pushing, but your body will crap out on you after about six to eight weeks. OK, maybe not crap out but your body will slow down and you will be very tired. 

Your performance will suffer as your body will not be able to push as hard as you need for any length of time. During workouts your heart rate will either rise really fast and get to its max number when at 75% effort quicker, or you won’t be able to get that heart rate to move up at all. 

You are usually at your best performance-wise after a few days or weeks of rest or easy workouts, which is why we taper for our races. As fatigue goes up, performance usually goes down. But there is that little window where the performance remains high while fatigue starts to fall - that is when you want to race or do your monthly testing to see if you are improving. Then once that fatigue falls, you still have a week, sometimes less depending on the sport, to start that training all over again and build for three weeks until the next rest/recovery cycle.

I usually say you can choose to take an easy week now, sleep in and recover, or you can wait until you have no choice but to sleep in and recover which usually is when you are sick, injured or are so tired that even easy workouts seem difficult.

So next time you see a post on dailymile where someone is recovering, it might not be from an injury but that they are taking a break from the intense workouts so they body can heal and be ready for the testing, racing or another training cycle ahead.