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.  :)