Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blue Ridge Vistas and Happy New Year

I am staying a few days with MVF, The Cycling Fiend, and she led the way this morning on a fiendish ride in the Blue Ridge region of North Carolina.  I have a new respect for the fortitude of the people who venture out on two wheels in this area.

First, let me say, there is nothing quite like climbing a hill that makes you whimper and as it curves you see that you are really at the bottom.  The rest of it reaches the outer layers of the atmosphere!

Second, I have never spent quite that much time in my (ahem) granny gear with my heart rate so high it could have acted as a metronome for an aspiring speed metal musician.

Most importantly, I found out what it means to get to the top of that hill and have 360 degree views of the mountains and valleys.  TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!!

Take a look.  (Please forgive my very old phones interpretation of majestic views.  Also, in fairness, two were taken from the car because some of the shots are a little hard to get when you are hurtling back towards earth!!)

Today is a good day to RIDE!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On The Road Again..

I am heading out this morning from NJ.  I have been here since the 9th.  It feels like a lifetime.  There has been a lot of emotion involved in this trip for me and I am certainly ready to point the truck south and say "Mush!"

I learned a lot about myself, my body, my family (more on that in a moment) and my training.  I understand now that nailing difficult workouts is more than just a decision.  It's having the confidence to push when it gets a little hard.  It's believing in what you do enough to be an athlete at all times, not just during the hours a day that you train.   And so much more.

Yesterday I delayed my departure a day to reconnect with an aunt and cousins who I have not seen in many years.  As we sat around the dinner table, we discussed health issues and it was like talking to myself.  My aunt and one cousin have the same issues right down to which joints are affected by pain.  Gluten has put them in the hospital over and over again.  It was validation and understanding that really helped.  I am not alone, and I am not imagining things.

My next stop is TN where I will pick up the airstream and then carry on to NC.  The plan is to stay a couple of days there with  MVF, the cycling fiend.  Apparently she got a donut maker for Christmas and found a gluten-free, vegan pumpkin spice donut mix.

Oh my.

I am quite sure I will get plenty of exercise though, as she lives in really big mountains and thinks the best way to the top is by pedal power!!

Life is good and life goes on.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Confidence Is Key.

Lance Armstrong once said "Endurance athletes are running away from something inside of themselves and that is one of the reasons they do what they do." 

(not that I look anything like this)

I have been really struggling with my workouts lately.  Even the easy ones feel hard and the hard ones are impossible.  Yesterday I had a swim workout that included 8 x 100 starting at a reasonable pace and descending to 5 seconds faster per 100.  I started 5 seconds over the starting pace and was only ever able to descend to four seconds over the lower target, before falling completely apart and finishing up at three second slower than the first 100 (which was SUPPOSED to be the slowest). 

I finished not even that winded.  My muscles were a little fatigued but really, what I lacked was not a physical endurance.  I am forced to confess that I didn't try that hard.  I thought I tried… but I didn't.  I gave into all of the negative emotions and "I can'ts" and guess what… I couldn't.  

I was reading through Meredith's page (, a blog that I follow closely because I often find it's a little like looking in the mirror, and saw an older post where she talked about those " fighting through all those I can'ts".  I digested that for a while and came to a few conclusions.

One, athletics may breed confidence but they also require confidence.  I went into that workout after reading an article about mental toughness where the author talked about pushing yourself and going into each workout with an "I'm gonna nail this workout" attitude.  (I would post a credit but honestly, I don't remember where I read it!)  I went into it telling myself that, but I realize now that I didn't believe it.  So when the going got tough, the duck curled up into a mental fetal position and stayed in her comfort zone.  

Two, you have to get outside that comfort zone… a lot.  Steel is not forged at a nice room temperature.  'Nuff said.  

Three, there is only so much you can manage at a time.  If you are in a period of great stress, you can only add so much before your cup runneth over.  Perhaps, if I am honest with myself about how stressed I am I can be honest with DW.  At present, I am not talking about a tough day at work and traffic on the drive home type of stress.  I am talking about wallowing about in all your life's baggage and facing the worst of your demons before breakfast type of stress.  I am talking about feeling like you are spinning out of control because you have eliminated all of the comfort foods from your diet.  You know, the ones you used to use to keep yourself numb at times like this.  

Due to the gluten intolerance, I have a new relationship with food.  I have cut out the "drug" and I have felt like a raw nerve this holiday season.  I feel like I have a lifetimes worth of skeletons coming out of the closet.  When I train, while the endorphins may be what's keeping me sane, the baggage carousel in my head is kicking on high.  Even though I have been pretending to be fine, my confidence and sense of well-being are in the gutter which truly means "I can't".  Not today, not right now, not when all I really want to do is curl up and cry.  Not a lot of iron will kicking here these days... more like a deflated balloon.

I keep realizing that for me training means sorting out that tangled ball of christmas lights inside my head.  If I do that, the physical will follow, though the physical realm has become the staging ground for the mental battle.  I am not without my strengths and talents, but as my own worst enemy, I am a formidable foe. 

In a few days, I will be returning to my own life.  I am sure that by itself will help.  But I think the revelations of the past few weeks might be with me for a while.    I will not be returning to a life of medicating with food, or anything else for that matter, so I will need to learn how to live with it all.  And I need to rebuild my confidence.  There was a point, recently, when I never would have backed down from a challenging workout.  I would have nailed it out of sheer stubbornness (at times I am far more mule than duck).  I need to tap that B*TCH and use her strength find my way past the edges of my comfort zone, out into that great wide (painful) world where the real work gets done.

So in summary, in order to change my body, I have to have the confidence and strength to test myself, put discomfort into perspective, and face my demons.  I doubt I will ever get my head screwed on so straight that I don't have plenty to run from... but getting my head sorted well enough to run a little faster would help.  It lessons the chance of those demons (and the other people in my age group) chasing me down and devouring me!!

It is a long, long road.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve!!

The holidays come with it's own unique set of struggles.  We are faced with food challenges, scheduling challenges, stress, anxiety, traffic and weather, not to mention that we crawl inside our emotional baggage and try on every pair of underwear stored inside.  Training through this can be difficult  A COMPLETE NIGHTMARE!!  It can also be the best way to alleviate the stress of the season.

I remember when all I wanted for Christmas was a pony.

 Now I name bikes after famous ponies and, so I guess very little has changed!

 In lieu of that, I can at least give myself a little kindness.  When DW asked if I needed any of these days off this week, I said no.  It adds a little bit of a scheduling challenge but it also means that I will carve out time from the day to be good to ME!  It means that part of each day will be spent in service to my own well being.  For one hour today, I will stop being someone else's someone/something and only be myself.  Then I can dive right back into the madness.

If you can this season, give yourself the best gift you can.  Take a little bit of time to devote to your own well-being.  It doesn't have to be a workout.  Walk the dog, hide in a room and read a book for a half hour, take an extra long bath, whatever.

Be your own personal Santa!!

Give yourself a gift.  




Thursday, December 22, 2011

Danger! Learning Curve Ahead!

A little misery and I appear to be putting the latest reminder of my food intolerance behind me.  It does bring me to a different question though.  Although I have said very little on the topic so far, I have been very degrees of vegetarian, even vegan, for quite a while.  I really like the idea of an existence that minimizes my impact on the world around me.  It is guilt free and off-sets some of the same generated by the great ridiculous SUV I drive (because I need the power for towing and the space for work).  I like the ideology and since I really enjoy veggies, it seems win-win.

Except for one thing.

I can't seem to get enough protein and levels of certain vitamins.  It could be due to poor absorption.  Gluten sensitivity can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine and a gluten free diet tends to be deficient in some as well.  Of course, that list is the list that a vegan diet struggles with.  Iron, B vitamins, Vitamin D, and a few others.  And then there is the fact that I am on the road so much, frequently unable to prepare foods with the types and variety of ingredients necessary. There are a variety of ways to combat this if any one condition is present but with them all in play, I am coming up short.
(I am missing two and a half segments!)

Over the last two weeks, I went into a block of training that increased volume and intensity.  I was fine at first but then I started feeling really weak.  It was like I wasn't refueling between sessions, except that I was.  I would get just past the warm up and my muscles would be burning.  I was failing to get my heart rate into the desired zones (and wonky readings from the overlord was confusing that issue further) and couldn't stabilize my breathing in the pool.  My perceived exertion was off the charts but my performance was in the toilet.  I couldn't help feeling like the problem was coming from within, a problem with nutrition.

I got a chance to pow-wow with MVF, the cycling fiend, and she asserted her opinion that I wasn't getting a balanced diet.  Perhaps I should say reasserted, as she has made that point many times regardless of the fact that I never listen.  Her master's degree in human nutrition and status as a cyclist and certified personal trainer gives her opinion a certain credibility.

Since stubborn ducks who never listen often end up on a plate with orange sauce, I decided to heed a little advice.  At her urging, I took stock of my diet for over a couple of days and found that I was getting less than half of the protein in a day that I probably need, not to mention low levels of several vitamins and sodium.    That came as a big surprise since I make an effort to include protein at every meal, but I realized that is was usually about 7-8 grams.  And who really thinks of vitamins or sodium when making food choices.

I realized that what she has been saying for a long time is true.  An entirely plant based diet is a great diet, but not for me, not right now.  I have not been successful in getting what I need and my performance is paying the price.  I feel rotten most of the time and little things like what gear I can push on the bike have, over time, dropped off.

I have introduced free-range eggs to my diet, but without dairy, it will be difficult to get everything I need without a least a little guilt.  I also began supplementing a few things in low doses.  So far the difference in just 48 hours has been pretty profound.  I am still falling short of my protein needs by 30-40% but at least I feel a little better.  I have had two workouts now and haven't seen any walls.

I realize that perfection is impossible.  This learning curve is all a part of the experience of training.  I am finding out that training your body is also training your mind.  I worry (because that is what a duck does best) that DW will get fed up with my cluelessness, that there is no hope for me as an athlete, that I am too deluded to realize how stupid I look.  Then I remind myself that all of those things are about pleasing other people and that triathlon is the thing I do to please myself.

The news, trade publications and websites, etc are peppered with stories of people who have overcome huge adversity to accomplish great things.  The reality is that their journeys, like my own, were full of wrong turns, mistakes, pitfalls and learning experiences.  They succeeded because they accepted imperfection as a compass for learning and every time the needle moved, they responded and most likely, still do.

In the words of  Ted Kennedy "Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Accountability, Responsibility.

After a miserable night and a (ahem) turbulent morning, I think I am mostly over the results of yesterdays little wheat germy mishap.  I keep wanting to be pissed at the manufacturer for not having the allergen info in bold on the label (ie. NOT YOUR NORMAL ALMOND BUTTER!!!! BEWARE!!!)... Oh wait, they did.  I simply failed to read it before I ate (or should I say OVERATE) it.

Accountability.  It is at the heart of the issue for me.  I screwed up and I want someone to blame.  I don't want to be at fault.  It is far easier to accept that I have been victimized by the evil corporations in charge of ingredients and labeling (not that they aren't villains most of the time, but that is another topic), than that I was so sloppy and neglectful of my own health and well being.

Accountability.  It's why I have a coach.  It's why I keep a blog.  It's why I try to surround myself with people who pursue wellness and athletic goals.  There is so much in life that I have no control over that I scarcely need to voluntarily give up the control I do have.  I made a choice to eat something without reading the label.  Of course, I also chose to buy it without reading the label.  And I chose to eat something that someone else prepared instead of making sure I had enough safe, healthy food available at all times.  I chose not to prepare for the post-workout meal.  I left the house without any safe nutrition in my bag (or water, I might add) so when I left the pool I was ravenous, light headed and desperate for something, anything.

All of that set the stage for the scene that unfolded later.  I got home from the grocery store and ripped into the almond butter (about the only comfort food left to me) and gluten free bread (which I never buy unless I am having control issues) and set about eating too much of something that made me ill.

DW has stressed to me that I need to always have water on me, always be hydrating, and that I need to make sure I have safe nutrition at appropriate intervals, regardless of how much forethought and planning it might require.  Simple concept, but like a threshold workout, not always easy.

But then who promised that changing the body and the habits I have had since childhood would be easy.  It is not.  It's not supposed to be easy.  If it was, there would be no obesity, no heart disease, and people would all decorate their perfect bodies with all the medals from their Olympic achievements.  But the difficulty of the task does not absolve me of the responsibility I have to my health.

I TRI for fun, to provide an outlet for my competitive nature, and to feel good.  Training also involves doing something.  For me, doing is easy.  It is a positive quantity, something I can understand.  Often times, however, good nutrition is as much about what you don't do as what you do.  The negative quantity that is not about exerting force but restraining action.  This is SOOOOO much harder for me to manage and from the looks of national statistics, I am not alone in this canoe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WHO Puts WHEAT in Almond Butter!?!?

Yesterday was a good day.  Had another run-in with that wall during some threshold intervals.  I am convinced that the culprit is nutrition (more on that in a moment).  Still, I recovered quickly and got to play in NYC for the day with MVF, the cycling fiend.  For a change, we wore things like denim and wool instead of spandex and well, more spandex.  We knocked around all day, walking everywhere, and finished up with an opera at the Met!  It was sublime!  Then we concluded the day with a crazy 34 block speed session to catch a train!

Today, I started the day with swim that got postponed from yesterday (with DW blessing) to facilitate the trip.  I actually felt ok.  It took forever to warm up but then I felt stronger with each set.  A big relief after so many workouts this week feeling so rough.  Then I ran some errands, including grocery shopping, and headed home for lunch.

I couldn't find my usual brand of almond butter or sunflower butter, not uncommon when you are traveling, so I grabbed another that wasn't too terribly expensive.  When I got home I made a quick sandwich with gluten free bread and some apple slices.  I was ravenous and it needed to be quick.  The almond butter had flax in it, but that is okay, and I didn't think a thing of it until I got the splitting headache and my stomach swelled to "seven months along and it might be twins" proportions.  THEN, I read the label.  WHEAT germ.  Damn.

I have been really struggling and suspect that the poor performance and digestion this week may be due to the chronic, low-grade irritation that my system is getting from preparing food in a VERY contaminated kitchen.  I just felt deficient all week.  It was like I hadn't refueled after my last workout... but I had.  Now I am hoping that I can get things quieted down in time to finish what is on the schedule for today.  Ugh!

I cannot let my guard down like that.  The price has gotten too high.  I have a choice.  I can either continue to muck around inside my own head, not doing the right things nutritionally, or I can get it together.  I will not get as fit as I hope to if I do not figure this out.

Of course, this is why I got the Airstream.

I have 38 weeks of traveling ahead of me and I can't keep getting sick.  When I leave my mother's house after Christmas and pick up the camper, I need to go through it and clean it thoroughly.  And then I need to make my well-being my number one priority, no matter who thinks it is silly, is inconvenienced (including me), thinks I'm being hysterical or high maintenance or a baby... Those judgements will not keep me healthy.   Only I can do that.

But it's really, really hard.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


On my run today I noticed a big grassy hill and decided to run up it a few of times.  I may be under instructions to go slow, but he never said it couldn't be vertical!  After two loops, I had a sharp pain in my upper thigh.  Apparently, the hip flexor or one of it's buddies took exception to my little Heartbreak Hill.

I need to get it through my head that while I may have some fitness right now, my running muscles have been on a beach with a fruity drink since the summer.  I spoke to DW and he suggested an easy 30 min spin to keep it loose.  That helped, as does staying in motion.  Every time I sit still for a few minutes, it stiffens up.

I don't think it's serious but I might be living like a shark for a while.  You know, move... or die.  Still, I like sharks and I can think of worse animals to emulate.

He Said Fartlek... hehe.

So next weeks schedule contains all kinds of complexities.  It reads like a real athlete is going to be performing these workouts.  Apparently, DW still has not found this blog.

This weeks schedule was not complex, just fairly hard.  More intense workouts, longer workouts and more of them.  But hard I can do.  Grrr!!  I'm a tough duck!  I don't back down from hard!!!


......SIR!!  YESSIR!!.........................!!!!!

But complicated?  DW, do you actually think my brain gets ANY blood flow once I put this body in motion?  Oh dear.

To punctuate the fact that I am completely lost in a complex landscape, I had to email the boss a long list of questions...

for example:

How do I determine a 1/2 IM race pace?  Two of my workouts use a 1/2 IM race pace.

My first thought was "butterfly-backstroke-breaststroke.... no wait, that can't be right!"

Half-ironman race pace?  GOOD GOD!  That would be about three days assuming there was a wheel chair for the last third.  The most impressive thing I have done so far is a handful of 5ks, a half-marathon, a couple of sprints and a big, fat injury.  While I have total faith that he has a very logical, calm answer for this, I have between now and when his reply arrives to flap about it!

and another thing...

WHAT is a FARTLEK swim???

Ok, so probably not that.

I realize I could act like an adult and google the term, wait for his response and perform the workout in a poised and mature fashion.

Yup, I COULD.  But I won't.  Not when I can entertain myself with fartlek jokes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thoughts for Today

To all the waterfowl out there:

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. Sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”  -Vince Lombardi

“The very little engine looked up and saw the tears in the dolls’ eyes.  And she thought of the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain who would not have any toys or good food unless she helped. Then she said,  ’I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.’” The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

"Today's mighty oak is merely yesterdays little nut that that managed to hold it's ground" -from a page a day I saw in 1999.

A lot of people tell me I can't.  I should be realistic.  Don't put too much emphasis on a hobby.  Etc. Etc. Etc.


Do whatever makes you happy, however it makes you happy.  Kiss the sky!

(Thank you to Brooks running for inspiring the train of thought)

Sir Ego-lot Has Green Feet!

Well, there is no run on the schedule for today so the locals in this sleepy New Jersey township will not need to report a sighting of the New Jersey Devil in Technicolor DreamSocks racing around neighborhood streets.

Oh yeah... And by "racing" I mean something that lands squarely between 11 and 12 minute miles.

I had to slow waaaay down for my second run.  My first was halfway respectable but I ended up with a sore foot and tendon to show for my effort.  (There might have been a reason DW put slow in all CAPS!) My second was a few seconds shy of heartbreaking.  Even still, by the third five minute jog interval (I use that term loosely here), the injury started to ache sharply.  I slowed down even more, so much that I might have traveled back in time.

I think the hardest part of an injury is coming back.  Taking that great big ego and putting it on the shelf long enough to tolerate shuffling through the neighborhood.  Long enough to allow yourself to be as bad at something as you need to be to find the baseline, the only point from which you can hope to improve.

I think we all can tolerate a lack of ability in a new activity, whether it's knitting, golfing or triathlon.  No one expects to be accomplished at first.  Learning is fun.  There is camaraderie in shared terrible-ness found in a beginner group of anything.  And to have to be that "terrible" again, once you've cleared the hurdle the first time, is anything but fun.  In fact, it blows duck feathers!

The thing is that I really have very little that is worth defending.  I will be far better served by checking my ego like a coat and bringing some humility to my workouts instead.  And when it's time, when the going is tough or you need just a little more, bring all that ego, all that competitiveness out and use it like a tool, rather than letting it herd me like a cow straight into my limitations.

Easier said than done.    I'll have to get back to you on this one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pheidippides Wore Hot Pink!

This week makes few demands of my time, though it still demands much of my patience and cold tolerance.  Consequently, DW is pushing me a bit more physically and there are several double workouts on the books.  Today I have a somewhat challenging swim workout and a light run.  Since the last one happened without too much consequence, I get to try again today.  Hopefully, this time I will not try to break the sound barrier (HAHAHAHAHA) and do the run as light and easy as I am supposed to.  Also the sun is bright today so I may be able to get away with fewer colors and avoid being reported as an escapee from the local institution.

I had a thought about running in crazy colors.  It is OK.  It is even cool.  It is somewhat desirable.... IF you are fast.  Fast people wear neons and sometimes run in their underwear.  Fast people look good regardless of their combinations of shorts and knee high compression socks.  Fast people can combine colors and fabrics in visually abusive ways, even getting away with things like polka dots.  The fashion police give you a bye if you streak by looking like the logo for a floral delivery service.

SO, if you need to don your curtains to stay warm, just make sure that anytime you go past a car your form and foot turnover make you look fast and really pick up the pace if there is a pedestrian nearby.  It doesn't matter if you turn the corner and have to cling to a tree trunk for ten minutes to catch your breath, your dignity will be intact.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Color Makes You FAST!!! (max pace 2:36? HA!)

Yep.  The Garmin Overlord is doing some serious drugs.  I know for a fact that ducks cannot, even for a moment, move that fast.  Not even ducks from Kenya.  I would have to be getting chased by a giant, hungry cheetah.  Seriously, it also tried to tell me I had a max pace of 4:34 in another interval.  I was trying to run easy so I think it is just trying to mess with my head.

Let me tell you about the running outfit.  First, realize that since the beginning of my running career, I lived and trained in South Florida (except for July-August) so I have not had a need for much cold weather running gear.  So when I head out in twenty-something degrees, I simply layer everything I have.    The look goes like this:

Electric green shoes
Matching electric green knee high socks
Black capris (over more black capris)
Hot pink turtleneck rash guard
Black pullover
Mustard yellow vest
Blue ear warmer
One Multi colored striped glove (white, tan, blue, green)
One sock (red, grey, white snowflakes)worn as a mitten
One orange Garmin Overlord

Yeah, baby!  It was hot!

I tried to get a nice family to take a picture but they hurried away as I jogged up to them.  Fortunately, since that is my only cold weather running outfit, there will be other photo ops.  I promise not to leave NJ without posting one.

Oh, and another thing....

Did you notice?

It's pretty cool.

It... was... a....  RUN!!

Tonight was my first run since the injury.  I felt pretty good and really had fun (even if the fashion police were scrambling to get there).  Fingers crossed that there is no soreness later or tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feather Brained Plans!

Tonight I am sitting in a camper with a space heater and lights, recently showered and only kind of freezing.  This is a vast improvement over the earlier portions of the week.

The Plan:  *Work Saturday night, finish about 5 and head 100 miles to Austin.
*Get some sleep.  Pack the car.
*Sunday evening, leave for Plano to pick up the camper.
*Start driving.  Sleep as needed.  *Drop the camper at a friend's in NC on Tuesday.
*Arrive in NJ for Wednesday.
*Be there for Mom during her surgery on Thursday.  Stay until after Christmas.
*Head to FL whenever the customers start showing.  Pick up the camper along the way.

The reality:  *Help another braider Saturday night and not get done until 11 am.  Drive 100 miles home.  *Sleep 2 hours.  Get up, mainline coffee, throw stuff in car.
*Hit weather on the way to Plano.  Finally arrive at 1 am.
*Learn to hook up camper ad sway bars in pouring rain at 40 degrees and strong wind.
*Learn to drive camper in same conditions.
*Lock up brakes trying to stop.  Notice that brake controller was never installed!
*Stop at a gas station and sleep in car because it is raining too hard to get to camper (which has sprung a leak so the interior is soaked).
*Stop in Bossier City, La and have brake controller installed.
*Travel 50 miles.  Hear engine go BOOM! followed by BoomBoomBoomBoom.
*Call AAA.
*Sit on side of road for hours waiting for a tow truck before they call back to say no one is coming.
*Get rescued by state police.
*Spend night in dark, wet camper in wrecker yard.  Tow truck driver has pity and buys breakfast to be nice.
*Get car repaired.  Empty out bank account.
*Get back on road.  Travel 4 hours until sun starts to go down.
*Notice that the dashboard lights are not working.  Stop at rest area to investigate.  Discover that the entire rig (truck and trailer) is dark.
*Realize thanks to iPhone maps and Google that you are 50 miles from the nearest gas station.  Confirm suspicion with nearby trucker.
*Settle in for a night in the wet camper with no heat (furnace is broken and replaced with space heaters) and no power.  Note that the weather is predicting temps in the 20s.
*In morning, try to figure out where fuse box might be.  Consult owners manual.  Ask for help deciphering owners manual.  Give up.  Call RV place.
*Spend too much money to have a fuse upgraded.
*Continue driving into night.
*Stop for coffee two hours from planned stopping point.  Find out that just ahead there is a weather system.  Note truckers comment "the mountain is WHITE!"
*Do GPS search for nearest KOA.  Follow directions.
*Discover directions are wrong.  Back slowly down the country road to a parking lot big enough to allow a turn around.
*Get back on highway.  See sign for KOA at next exit.  Follow signs.
*Spend an hour trying to figure out why the camper won't get power.  Think of breaker.  Discover it tripped.  Flip breaker.  Get power.
*Wonder how the next 800 miles of the trip will go.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Same Old Question

I suppose that DW will get to answer this question the next time I talk to him.  I probably should pose it to him today while it is fresh... but I won't. I know (because his wife blogs... sneaky way of keeping tabs on the one keeping tabs on me.  When, you ask, will I apply my superior mental resources to something grand?  Like world domination?  More on that after I figure out how to un-kink my neck.  See previous post.) that he is out of town doing important coach and family things.  P'raps he is not paying attention.  (Riiight.  I'm so sure.)  Thankfully, he does not read this blog.

The question that I keep coming back to is when is it right to say "I'm tired.  It is better to rest than get this workout done" and when do I say "Suck it up Princess!  You are always tired and you've got to get used to it sometime!"

I blogged about my bendy nap taking the place of a workout the other day.  Monday, which is a day off from work, I literally slept half the day.  I was totally exhausted so my swim lesson, which was more intense than usual, was the only workout that day.  The problem is that I am barreling down to the end of the week, the busiest part and I am a full day behind in my workouts and operating on 3 1/2 hours of sleep for today.  I already replaced my day off with Monday's bike intervals.     I will get today's workout done today and tomorrow's done tomorrow if I am disciplined.  Time will be short and sleep will be shorter.  I could, conceivably, hit the pool after I work tonight before I drive home.  The concern though is that I will dig myself into another hole, sleep and energy-wise.

Sunday night, I leave for a 2000 mi drive that needs to be completed in two and a half days.  I will be the only driver and I will be towing a trailer for 1200 miles of it.  This is going to be exhausting.  DW has kindly given me three days off, and is allowing me to just get whatever exercise I can along the way.

I would claim extenuating circumstances and not worry about the workout but this is my life, my job.  This kind of thing is normal.  I am on the road 30-40 weeks a year.  I MUST find a way to manage my life with my athletic pursuits.  If lawyers and doctors and wall street types, many of whom work very long hours and are under tremendous stress, can train for 140.6 successfully, then surely I can pull of putting an aerobic fitness base on my body.  Few of my workouts exceed 70 mins right now.  I only see two in a day if I have several days off in a row.  DW has given me license to judge my own exhaustion levels.

I understand that one workout will not make or break my program, but it seems like every week I am making allowances, making changes, etc.  If I continue to be in the habit of not being in the habit, of not pushing through when it is harder, I won't have the fortitude to get the job done when it does matter.  When the intensity is dialed up and missing or rearranging workouts changes the effect they have within the program.  AND... if I don't get the consistency, I may never get fit enough for it to matter.  Then all of this is wasted effort, even if it is fun.  I may as well just do 30-45 mins of cardio and call it a day.

That is all the whining I have time for today.  Tic Toc... time to get on the bike before I end up with another workout I need to make up!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sleepy. Bendy. Duck-y!

This morning I had to wait for almost four hours for my last two horses to arrive at the show grounds.  I knew this in advance.  Going home was out of the question as I have a 200 mile round trip commute to work this week, but I had better plans.  I had located the local YMCA pool (2.7 miles from the show and happy to let me swim for a modest drop in fee) and packed my swim gear.  I was all ready to enjoy an excellent, productive morning... the result of superb time management and dedication to my training.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

What did I do?  Did I do my workout?  Nope.  I curled up into a ball on the front seat of my SUV and slept.  Yes, it was intentional.  I was tired.  I planned a thirty minute nap before heading to the Y.  Instead,  I hit snooze for three and a half hours while I napped sitting behind the wheel with my head on the armrest. (My chiropractor can go ahead and buy that new sports car.)

I am now having to rearrange the end of the week to accommodate the fact that I did not make it to the pool during one of the few opportunities the weeks schedule offers.   I am going to enjoy every moment of the confession to DW as to why I totally rearranged to schedule.  Fortunately for my guilty conscience, DW is pretty convinced that I am going to suddenly implode due to my pathetic sleep patterns (it's possible) and never challenges me when I choose sleep over, well, anything.

I suspect that all those super productive gazelle-like athletes (see gazelle and lima bean criteria in original post) would not have chosen to sleep in the car.  They would have gone to the Y and later, slept in a bed like a sane human.  Perhaps that is why I am not a gazelle.  Perhaps that is why I do not qualify as sane (or arguably, human).

What puzzles me is that I had last week off and spent the whole week tossing and turning.  Now that I am back to work and my sleep patterns have been obliterated,  I sleep like a corpse packed in a suitcase.  Oh well, at least I am getting some sleep.  That's no small thing in this duck's pond.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duck, duck..and AWAY!!

So I am barreling down to my very, very long trip this winter.  I will go to NJ for the holidays and then to FL for the winter shows.  I have decided to skip coming back in between as the week at home doesn't really justify the extra 3500 miles of travel.  I also spoke to DW and once I get to NJ and get settled we are going to add the running back into the program.  In other words, after Sunday my life will be totally unrecognizable.

In a weird way, my travel schedule for the next year creates it's own plan for development.  I will do roughly a month of indoor training in NJ then head south.  There I will spend three months training in flat, windy conditions.  Then I will return to Texas and train on the rolling hills (mountains, I tell you, mountains) here during the spring.  After that, I will travel to Michigan which situates me close enough to ski country to up the ante a little more, then head to the Rocky mountains (real mountains... *whimper*) for the remainder of the summer.  Then I will return home for the fall.  Presumably fit.

This schedule, by itself, should lay the ground work for athletic development.  I'll admit it feels a bit like I am getting ready to leave for boot camp, or college, or rehab, or something.  It will be the duck, living in a 35 year old airstream with the dogs, traveling like a vagabond, working and training... and little else for ten months.

Along the way, I will no doubt do a lot of hiking, maybe some camping.  I will train in a variety of beautiful places.  Perhaps I will get over my mental block regarding picture taking.  I suspect I will find out how many ways an old camper can break.  No doubt, there will be plenty of interesting things to post to this page.  If I allow it, these months should be powerful, transformative, and cool.

DW feels that in 8 months or a year, the duck will be a whole different bird.

All I can say is that if I can stay the course, I don't doubt that I will see massive change.  I just hope that the change does not include becoming a certain yellow skinned cartoon character who has lost the power of speech and resorts to throwing cats.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gluten and Dairy Make Duckie a Dull Bird

I want to touch on something that I feel is very important.  Ask any good triathlon coach and they will tell you nutrition is a critical part of the equation.  It is fueling.  It  needs to be done at precise intervals.  How else are you going to recover fast enough to do it all over again tomorrow or even later today?

Not only because I try to tri, but because my digestive system has chosen to rebel against many common foods, nutrition has become a huge obsession for me.  I was walking around the grocery (health and natural foods) store today and found myself suddenly so demoralized and frustrated, it was all I could do not to just sit down and cry.

You see, I cannot tolerate gluten or dairy.  I don't know why.  I got very sick a few years ago and the docs spent a lot of my money not coming up with anything conclusive.  I have that vague group of symptoms that are associated with Thyroid, auto-immune, etc.  At first it was fatigue, pain (some generalized, some localized), digestive upset, bloating and water retention (at times I gained water so fast I had to change clothes), weight gain, migraines, etc.  Later the symptoms started to include bloody stool, dangerously low heart rate, high cholesterol (over 300), fainting, rashes, crippling muscle, tendon, and nerve pain.  These things were enough to spur them to splurge on another round of inconclusive tests.    They still had no answers and I was getting sicker.

One day I had a fainting episode and due to my  already dangerously low heart rate and blood pressure, my heart stopped.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to drop in a doctors office so I am here to tell you about it.

I decided on a lark one day to try an elimination diet.  I was broke and my insurance had dropped me but it was free, and I didn't need a doctor to tell me I could or to interpret results.  I dropped almost everything from my diet, using a diet book written by a triathlete* as a guide.  When I added gluten back, it became crystal clear that there was a problem.  (I did not at that point check dairy because I continued with a vegan lifestyle for some time afterwards.  When I did add it back, the results were, well, dramatic.)

Do I have celiacs?  Who knows.  I know that I have no intention of going back on gluten so that they can draw more blood to find out. The stakes got a little too high there at the end.  Most literature says that the most conclusive test for celiacs is an elimination diet anyhow.

For a while, I could get away with things that did not have gluten ingredients but did not specifically state gluten free.  Then recently, I was eating meal replacement bars that were manufactured on shared equipment and started breaking out in an awful rash.  I now have scars on both arms from it and it continues to flare up a few times a week.

My sensitivity has increased to a level comparable to any celiac patients and that is the reason for the frustration.  I was in a health food store, looking for gluten free cans of beans so that I could find a veggie based protein source and I couldn't find any.  They had soup and chili that was appropriately labeled but no beans.  I went to the bulk foods section thinking I could soak my own and realized that I no longer trusted the bins.  I feel like these food reactions have me cornered.  I bought eggs.  I train too hard to not have a reliable protein source in my diet and the lack of gluten makes getting carbs hard enough.

I am also afraid to introduce many other common allergens that were also in the foods I was eating at the time of one reaction or another.  I am suspicious of soy, leery of corn, worried about too many of the common ingredients in food.  I find I worry about almost everything I put in my mouth now.  If it was not a whole food, purchased and prepared by me, it is dangerous.

I remember a time when I loved gourmet foods.  Grocery shopping was an art form and brought a lot of joy into my life.  Of course, the sit down and cry moments happened when I went clothes shopping.  Now I can barely navigate a grocery store without needing therapy but buying clothes is not a problem.

On Thanksgiving, I was grateful for not being invited anywhere.  I had peanut butter and banana slices on gluten free bread and went to bed early.  Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat and the duck is trying to figure out how on earth to navigate this holiday without ending up seriously ill.  I don't post this because I have answers.  I post it for the same reason I post most things.  The honesty is cathartic and if someone reads it, identifies with it and feels a little less alone this holiday, then it was worth it.

*Don't know the rules of mentioning published material here so I will refrain from giving this man a well deserved shout out.

TurDucKen... minus the Tur.

Ok, so the Duck chickened out.

I was so anxious that I actually lost sleep.  I gave myself the option of riding with the women's group leaving from a different shop.  That ride left later and was local, diffusing two of my imagined gripes with the ride that intimidated me.  Plus the later time meant that if I procrastinated my way out of a ride, it was no excuse.  The bases were covered.

I woke up and got every layer I own onto my body (not much for a Florida duck) and headed out the door... AND got smacked in the face with a strong, bitter north wind.  It blew my hatch closed while I was trying to load gear.  It cut through all my layer like a knife through butter.  My hands were numb in moments.

I went back in a searched (again) for an ear cover that would work with my helmet.  No luck.  If I did this it would be with no protection from the collar bone up and the wrists/ankles down.  I could likely keep my core warm but my extremities were on their own.

I texted the conditions MVF, a cold weather die-hard and got validation for my whimpiness.  She said that my cycling clothes were totally inadequate for the conditions and I risked terrible, dire things if I rode in that.  Okie dokie!  Good enough for me.

I did swim later, doing my best impression of a submarine with nothing but an eyeball out of the water between intervals and ultimately did my hours on the indoor trainer.  Thankfully a certain tv streaming website is willing to keep the Law & Order coming while I ticked off 124 minutes of intense boredom and profuse sweating.

Then I ate homemade soup for dinner.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cold, FREEZING, Wet, Sorry-For-Itself Duck!

Cold water does not roll off this ducks back!

I was feeling all proud and dedicated when I headed off to the outdoor pool to get my workout done.  Never mind that it was 60 and falling with a strong wind blowing out of the arctic north!!  I was a hardy duck!  I was a dedicated duck!  I was a duck that would have no trouble finding an open lane!

Ok, seriously? Was everyone in Austin logging a swim workout today?  What is wrong with these people?  Don't they know it's freezing out here.

So, I managed to be so obvious about my displeasure at the wind... taking my rest intervals with little more than my eyeballs above the water and ultimately doing a few extra laps because I didn't want to get out ... that I had half the penguins there laughing at me.  Stooopid penguins!  They may think ice flows are fun but I do not!!  (Actually, it was all in good fun and I am sure that their mental acuities equal or exceed my own.)

Tomorrow I am going to try for my first group ride in Austin.  I am worried because I am still so weak on the hills.  I find that my ego makes it difficult for me to tolerate the beginner group but I am worried that I will not be able to handle the climbing with the intermediate group.  In Florida, I was at the front of the intermediate or "B" groups and at the rear of the advanced or "A" groups.  I just don't know if I will be able to enjoy myself if there is no challenge but the hills in the area mean that I could easily get dropped on a long climb even if my overall pace for the ride was comparable.  I know DW would prefer the no-drop beginner group but I am not sure that one will be entertaining enough to even warrant loading up the bike.  Now I realize I am being childish, but... well, no "buts"... I am being childish.

I'll let you know how it works out.  If it is 30-something degrees like it might be, I may opt for the trainer!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Runs like a Turkey!

Last year at this time, I was in South Carolina enjoying the holiday with some of my very favorite family folks.  In a moment of inspiration (insanity?), we decided to enter a turkey trot as a team.  Perhaps we finished last but there was an awful lot of winning going on that day.  It is the only time I can remember doing something so positive and active as a family.  My mother completed her first 5k on two artificial hips and got her t-shirt, side by side with her sister.  My uncle was at the finish rooting for me as I crossed and we were there for my other aunt.   It was really pretty cool.  It made for a memorable, wonderful holiday.

I also got to watch a dude dressed in a full turkey suit blow by my, followed by a giant headed pilgrim.  Really?  Did they find Kenyans to wear the costumes?  I am forced to the conclusion that while ducks may not embody ideal running form, turkeys and pilgrims are clearly part greyhound.  Maybe someday I can rename this blog "Runs Like A Turkey!"  Of course, right now I'd be pretty thankful to run at all.

This year I am enjoying some downtime at home with the pups.  After the grueling year I have had and looking forward to another very intense one, I am choosing to be thankful for a day on the couch wrapped in a blanket.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Humor of the Veloway

One of the things I find distinct about Austin is the underlying sense of humor that can be seen almost everywhere.  The place I have been doing a lot of intervals, boring though effective is a looped bike path called the Veloway.  The other day I bothered to read the sign at the entrance and had a good laugh.

Raining in Austin

Yesterday I had a swim lesson with the Texas Fish, AF.  I haven't had one of those since prior to puberty.  Still, it was a great lesson and the drills translated almost immediately into a smoother, more powerful stroke.  The drills were sculling and one arm drills.

Sculling is this exercise where you wave your hands back and forth through the water and go absolutely NOWHERE!!  One arm drills are where you swim with one arm relaxed at your side and try not to drown.  Both are useful.

Then I went to the veloway to do some intervals.  On the way there, the skies opened up.  When I got there it continued to rain lightly.  I did a half loop and couldn't go fast enough to get my heart rate off the couch or forget that I was wet and freezing, without risking a trip to the hospital.  The bike got loaded back up, taken home and the intervals got done on the trainer.  The thing about the trainer is that by the time my heart rate reaches the desired zone, my perceived exertion is off the chart.  A steady state interval felt like cycling to the moon and back.  Still, it got done.

This morning at 4:30 a storm came through the city.  I am awake and blogging because I woke up not only due to the sounds of the storm, but the presence of two very concerned pooches.  You see, the best way to shelter from a storm is to occupy the exact same space as Mom.  Laws of physics be damned! Sleep, after thirty minutes of that, seemed like a lost cause.

However, disrupted sleep and ruined ride are not enough for me to complain about the rain.  It is so desperately needed that is is most welcome here.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revenge is Ice Cream

I went to the pool again today.  After a perfectly acceptable swim (had the lane to myself but would've shared), I went to the bathroom to change.  While I was in there, someone tried the door and found it locked.  As all mature people do, that person then violently jiggled the door... just to be sure.  About fifteen seconds later, they violently shook the door again.  Apparently, the fact that there were other bathrooms and locker rooms was lost on this poor, door-jiggling soul.  And shortly thereafter, yet another attempt that would have made any good tornado proud.

I walked out and set my bag down outside to put my jacket on.  The person in question came storming around the corner, shot some eyeball daggers, then he went into the ladies room and slammed the door.

Did ya see it?  It's right there in the text.  HE went into the LADIES room.  HE felt he had more of a right to be there than I.  HE preferred not to use any of the available restrooms designated to HIS gender.

You ASSHAT**.  You just earned a blog entry.

I then drove to my favorite bike spot and did a few intervals.  I froze my tail feathers off!!  I got back in the car, cranked the heat to 90, and even texted DW:  "Must.. Get.. Warmer.. Cycling.. Clothes!"  Feeling all dedicated and Popsicle like, I checked the temperature.

It was 60 degrees...

I am gonna die this winter.

So in the spirit of the evening, I will leave you with this:

Revenge is sweet.  Revenge is a dish best served cold.  Therefore, revenge is ICE CREAM!

**Big props to the iconic Jen Lancaster for enriching my vocabulary with that perfectly delightful colloquialism.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Never Praise The Horse Until The Ride Is Over

It was a beautiful Fall day in central Kentucky and I was hacking horses with my boss, who was virtually iconic in the fox hunting and steeplechasing scene.  I was on a particularly squirrel-y customer.  The ride on this beastie fell to me because, well, I was hungry enough to throw a leg over almost anything.  Normally, he would prank, prop, spook, buck, plunge, bolt and prance his way through our rides but that day, he was hacking along on a loose rein like an old plow horse.  We were nearly back, maybe ten minutes out, after an hour and a half ride.  He had been a prince the whole time.

I turned to CM, a lifelong horsewoman made of Irish steel, and said "I can't believe how good he's being today.  What a pleasant change of pace.  Maybe he's deciding he likes this job?"

She scowled at me and responded "You'd better watch your mouth.  You're not back yet!"

And like the prophecy come to pass, he put his head between his knees and started bucking like a mechanical bull.  We then galloped sideways all the way home.  CM arrived back shortly after I did and simply shot me a wry smile.

That was how yesterday was.  I woke up early and over coffee blogged about how great I was doing.  By mid-day I was totally wrecked and in need of a nap.  I ended up bagging the day's workouts in favor of crawling back into bed.

I tried to redeem myself today, but totally butchered my interval workout.  You see... math is HARD!  And counting to six is still math in my book.  **sigh**

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thirty Days

I was looking back over my posts from the not so distant past and realized something.  I blogged and slogged my way through a pretty tough time recently.  I guess I vaguely realized that I was struggling at the time but now that I am in a better head space, I see it by virtue of contrast.

What changed?

Very little.

I am still dealing with all the same stresses: still unable to run, still running the risk of turning into the crazy cat lady if I don't seek out human contact in the new city.  There is, however, one critical difference.  I have strung together nearly thirty days of putting one foot in front of the other in training and in life, thereby making progress in spite of the storm raging on around me (and often inside my head).

No matter how many times in life I go through tough times, doing this one thing remains as difficult as ever.  It is not a big dramatic cure or fix for what is broken and ailing.  It is simply letting time and life do its work.  I guess it is not so different than riding on a windy day.  You probably aren't going fast and it can be totally demoralizing, even dangerous, but if you keep the rubber on the road, the bars pointed forward and turn the crank, you WILL get where you are going.

Happy riding, my friends!

(since I have no flesh and blood readers that I know of, I now have imaginary readers.  Hey!  It makes me happy.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Locker Room Pep Talk

Yesterday morning I got home from work about 11, slept until 3 and then spent a rather embarrassing amount of time trying to motivate myself to do my swim workout, pack and drive home.  I decided that the best way to make sure the workout got done was to not allow myself to leave the city until I had completed it.  It was a watery toll booth on the exit ramp to the weekend.

As I was getting ready in the locker room with this feeling exhausted, bitter and sporting an "I don' wanna!!" attitude, I stopped myself.  I said to myself "This is what it's about.  Right here, right now.  Not when it's fun, or easy, or when there is someone watching, or when there is some perceived glory to be gotten.  Now.  Do you want this or not?"

That swim was the best workout in a long time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Needs No Caption


ODM:  "Oh, DAMN!" moment.

-moment when you realize that all your best laid plans will have to go awry because of THAT DETAIL that you totally overlooked, and of course, it is far too late to do anything about.

Yesterday, I had a great day.  It included a bike handling skills session with DW and an appointment with a new chiropractor.  The skills session was a blast.  It was like games on bicycles.  We did it in a field so the fear of road rash was eliminated making me willing to test the boundaries a lot more.  I had a blast!  And came away a lot more comfortable with my bike.  I didn't really feel like I was uncomfortable.  But now I know that I can stabilize the bike while doing a variety of fairly drastic movements and it opened my eyes to a level of precision that I certainly did not have.  More practice is in order, but since it is a lot of fun, I suspect that won't be hard to accomplish.

Immediately afterwards, I went to an appointment with a new chiropractor.  His practice is a part of a wellness group focused on athletes.  His approach was very different but I get the impression that he may be able to get me on the road to an injury free athletic life.  His techniques for the repetitive motion injuries to my hands, while not pleasant during, have produced a greater range of motion than I have had in two years.  We ran out of time and so I am scheduled to go back today so that he can work on the tendon.  Hope springs eternal!!

I am almost giddy with the possibilities I see right now.  I feel like DW is a very good fit and his willingness to persevere with the old injuries and the scheduling difficulties makes me very hopeful about the future.  I found that the Doc had the same attitude.  The challenges my situation presented weren't barriers, just logistical problems to be solved.  If I can go forward with good training, stay healthy and have the support necessary to find my way through the tough times, I have high hopes for my future as an athlete.

On the heels of that success, I scrubbed my kitchen floor, made a meal loaded with natural anti-inflammatories, drank LOTS of water, and concluded the day with a cup of tea.  Do you know what is missing from this list?

Plug in the Garmin Overlord.

Take the trash cans to the curb.

Thus setting the stage for this mornings series of ODM's!!

Looks like I will have to do an afternoon workout and avoid throwing things away for another week.  Fortunately, the world will not end over either of these things.  Besides, now I have time to write.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pee On A Tree, Not A Lane!

Went to my new favorite pool today for an easy swim and asked two ladies if I could rotate in with them as all of the lanes had at least two swimmers and they appeared to be of an intermediate level.  It was a formality since every posted sign informs you of the requirement to share lanes.

No?  REALLY?  WTF!!!

You can't circle swim because you... did I hear correctly... have a bad shoulder?  That is like saying you can't drive on the same highway because I have a bad knee.  How is that relevant?  In what convoluted way do these two things relate to each other in your feeble brain?

Cows, one and all.

Fortunately, the advanced swimmers, who while they were a fair bit better than me, were more than happy to share.  We circled and when necessary, they passed.  Not rocket science, and in no way, debilitating to a bad shoulder.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Slight Backslide in Progress

Well, for all my tough talk, the dog did not encounter a tough cyclist ready for a battle.  Instead I chose the live to fight another day approach and found another road (and another dog, but I saw him first and got out of there).  I finished the week in Tyler a day early and headed home for a few days of R&R before the next adventure.

I am really dismayed that the tendon is acting up a bit.  I have an appointment with a new chiropractor on Monday that has a holistic wellness clinic and I am hoping he has some solid suggestions.  I have been icing since it got cranky but I really wish I knew why.  Nothing is really different this week than last and I can't find an explanation for the problem arising again other than some massage work I had done.  She worked on a lot of adhesions she found in my lower calf which are most likely related to the injury.  This could have caused the slight flare up.  It has been my experience in the past with injuries that breaking up the adhesions can make it seem like the injury has occurred all over again.  Still, the tendon is snapping like it used to which is a tell-tale sign of tendinitis, the starting point of the whole issue.  Hopefully, I am not dealing with a backslide in my progress.

I was just starting to feel optimistic about the possibility of progressing into some running at some point but right now I am having trouble with the pressure from simply swimming.  Running seems a long way off, right now.  Really, I am just tired and being a total pessimist.  Perhaps a little down time and some icing sessions between now and Monday will perk that tendon right up.

In fact, I think that is exactly what I am going to think until proven otherwise.  Otherwise, it just becomes a pity party and I can't stand those!!

Tomorrow is a swim and Monday a bike handling skills session with the coach.  All good stuff...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tyler and Dogs... take 2!

Once again, I found myself cycling in Tyler, TX and being run down by a large, slavering, LOOSE dog! What do these people have against fencing?!?!

I think there is a vial of bear spray in his future.

In the meantime, I did back-to-back interval workouts this week.  I am still weak but slowly feeling like I am coming back to life.  There is a long road between me and where I want to be with my training but at least I am moving forward again.  :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Here. Now.

There is a blog that I follow.  It is one of those well designed, visually entertaining blogs that attracts followers.  It is written by a witty, enigmatic woman who has chronicled her journey from couch potato to Ironman athlete.  She finished Miami 70.3 today, as did a number of my flesh and blood friends and former training peeps.  These people rocked it!  They are their own heroes today and they all earned their pizza and beer!!

The energy and excitement of their posts, blogs, etc was positively infectious.  I wanted to be there.  Not there as a spectator, not simply entered in the race in my current half-hobbled state.  I wanted that feeling. The fit, ready, wound like spring excitement before, the intensity and focus during and the total exhalation afterwards.  Looking at the photos, I could feel the butterflies at the start, the euphoria at the finish, and digging down to your bedrock between the two.  It is what makes competing so much fun.  

But.. there is always a "but"... it is more than that.  I wanted that sense that I had systematically worked for something and seen it through to its logical, wonderful conclusion.  There is no joy in being broken.  If the injury is acute and heals quickly, it is easy to assimilate it as a lesson, find the silver lining.  When they are long, chronic, recurring injuries, they suck the soul and motivation out of an athlete.  You begin to lose touch with the person who could do all of that.  It becomes easy to identify with your disability more than your ability.  

It has seemed like the last six or eight month have been about what I can't do, not what I can.  I have come to the conclusion that my journey right now is not the swim, bike or run.  It is the mental journey.  It is finding the tenacity to keep myself inspired when no body is posting support on Facebook.  It is figuring out how to see myself as an athlete when my body feels like an over-baked potato.  It is how to corral my ego so that I can just be as slow, as weak, as underdeveloped as I need to be right now.  Why?  Because without this mind frame and an honest accepting of my new baseline, I have no hope of getting to the first paragraph of this post.  Period.

JS, MA, RW, TS, and all the others.... CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mind-Injury Link

I had a good week and in spite a small bout with a bug on Thursday and Friday, was pretty pleased overall with getting all the workouts done more or less as planned.  I did get a little confused at one point and did a swim when a bike was on the schedule.  I can't explain that beyond sleep deprivation.  I was just a little confused.  :P

I did a field test yesterday and it was the first measured workout since starting back.  I was so nervous it felt like I was prepping for a race.  I couldn't figure out why I was so anxious at first until I realized that this workout would quantify all that I had lost in the last 6 months.  Or at least that is how I was looking at it.

DW has given me the speech about clearing the slate and not worrying about where I was vs. where I am.  My friend MF, who got held my hand while I purchased my first bike gave me a similar pep talk, even citing the recovery of her sister who came all the way back from barely riding to the podium!  I realize that to many athletes "where I was" isn't anyplace worth mentioning.  But to me, it was all that I had worked for.  That has left me wondering why I have so much of my fragile ego wrapped up in it.  The last six months haven't been about the quality of my physical training.  They have been entirely about the mental journey.  So I guess this is the next paver along the path.

I do have a lot of ego wrapped up in this.  I have always been the "fat" kid, even when I was not really fat.  I have a linebackers build and a little body fat goes a long way towards making me look like an overstuffed sausage.  Body image issues aside, I don't think I look bad these days.  I would classify my body type squarely in the normal or average range.  I don't think I "LOOK FAT" in street clothes or by street standards.  Except that I feel fat... even when I am feeling pretty darn thin and fit.  But I am a very competitive athlete that wants to succeed.  And that does not jive with what is in the mirror.

The thing that cuts through these issues like a blade through paper is my bike performance.

When I show up to a new group ride, I see it.  I hear it.  I am told that the ladies at the back keep a nice easy pace that I should be able to maintain.   If it is a fast drop ride, the guys just roll their eyes.  Then the ride starts and I depart just behind the leaders.  I take my turns at the front unless I don't know where I am going.  I keep up.  I turn in a performance that raises eyebrows, that takes that body image and shreds it into a million little pieces.  I earn their respect and my own.  I am not the fastest on the bike, nor am I going to beat anyone who is far beyond my ability. It's not that.  It's more that my performance on the bike  validates me.  It makes me a consideration rather than a preconception.  If you assume I cannot.. am not, you may be stuck trying to catch me.

It provides me with a buffer for the constant tearing down and demoralizing workouts that running produces.  It can be summarized by one incident.  I was running on the track at a group workout.  Due to this injury that has gone on so long, I can't even relate to a running performance that is not diminished, and so it was that day.  As I shuffled along, getting passed over and over, watching people who had once been just starting out, pass me like I wasn't moving, hyper aware of the fact that I had not only not improved but gotten worse, a girl (BB) that was not particularly friendly towards me (in fact she would tear me down at every opportunity), passed me while running beside a new member doing her first workout.  I heard that new member make a comment about how slow I was and BB cautioned her not to make that assumption because I was so strong on the bike.  Intellectually, I know that if I had not gotten injured, my run would be much farther along, but intellectualizing doesn't help me.  This is a matter for the gut.

The bike is what gives me permission to call myself an athlete.  The bike is what allows me to forgive myself for being so weak in other areas.  The bike is what lets me stand up tall, even while wearing spandex which creates a most unfortunate sausage skin effect.  It validates me as an athlete.  Losing bike performance is like losing a bit of myself.

I suspect the two should not be tied so closely and that there are people (if anyone actually read this blog) who would probably slip me the name of a good therapist.  The Dalai Lama would frown on this attachment, as would almost anyone with a healthy relationship to their athletic goals.  But there it is, as I promised at the beginning, honest.

There is more to this thought, but a blog entry should not be a novel, so I will cut this short.  But I need to, and will, revisit this, because it is this connection that will answer the questions concerning why I overtrain, train through pain, etc.  It is the mind-injury link.

Another thing... the field test went really well.  It wasn't as bad as I had feared and I got a chance to reconnect to something very important, something I can only seem to remember when I am actively doing it.  I ride because it is fun and it makes me feel great.  My memory for this critical detail is so very short, and my memory for the debasing, self-abuse seems so long.  I guess that is true for a lot of people, but I am not hanging out inside their heads.  Seems I have a lot of work to do in my own attic.