Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hope Is Not A Plan.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Christmas has come and gone.  I spent Christmas day with Wilbur, hiding in the camper dealing with some kind of stomach issues that may have stemmed from the loosening of dietary restrictions recently.  Christmas Eve was nice though.  I went to my co-organizers house for dinner and helped him get all the presents wrapped for his family gathering the following day.  He  nearly had an out of body experience when he realized that I spent Thanksgiving alone and when the pestering invites started coming I knew it was infinitely easier to relent and go be merry for an evening.  Regardless of this Christmas papery hitch in my bah-humbug giddy up, spending Christmas day nauseous and covered in hives restored my Scrooge McDuck-ness to it's full glory.  

I have very few days left at home in Texas and some of those will need to be spent doing a little work in Dallas (tomorrow and the next day).  Then I have to prepare for the long drive south to Wellington, FL.  My yearly trek to South FL inspires a multitude of emotions for me.  It is my longest trip, 4 months, and always feels like moving away.  This trip, more than any other, is the reason that I struggle to put down roots in Austin (or anywhere).  I lived there for a while thinking that it would allow me to feel more normal but instead it just meant that the big trip was in the summer instead of in the winter.  Also, now that I have a training environment that includes a variety of terrains, I am reluctant to go back to pancake flat SoFlo on any kind of permanent basis.  So with no conclusion to the internal argument, I ignore both sides and do what I always do... pack.
Florida.  Sadly, the picture will be a little different this year.

The carnage of last year has me skittish and gun shy with regards to training, especially while working.  Obviously, I am going to do it.  Training is too integral to my life and happiness to do make a different choice, but I have so many reservations.  In looking back over the last six months, wish I could sort the WHY and the HOW from the irrelevant circumstances.  I still don't feel like I understand where the mistakes were made and how much each element... work, (over?) training, endocrine issues, dietary mistakes, my sleep and travel schedules, the injuries from the three crashes... contributed to the total shut down that happened.  While I have struggled to wrap my head around it, I don't even for a moment feel like I have arrived at an answer.  I don't feel like I have learned enough from the mistakes to go forward, wiser for the experience, with a solid plan designed to avoid a repeat performance next summer.  

I even boiled up the nerve to email DW and ask for his perspective on the events of Sept and October.  I have no idea if he will respond or offer his advice but I hope so.  Regardless of anything else, he has the most continuous perspective on the events that led to the Great Duckpression 2012.  I hope he offers some advice.  If he does not, I will proceed cautiously and conservatively.  

I handle mistakes and setbacks by viewing them as learning experiences.  I find the courage to try again by identifying the mistake and coming up with a strategy that utilizes the lesson.  Hope is not a plan.  A dream is not a plan.  A plan is the only way forward that minimizes the likelihood of  repeating mistakes and maximizes the likelihood of success.  I draw the strength to keep picking myself back up from the idea that I am learning something, that I the pain of the mistake yielded a wiser, more clever approach, that falling down improves the odds that the next time will be the time you stay on your feet.

Now, I am going to Milwaukee this year.  I will be competing at the USAT AG National Championships.  I intend to arrive healthy, happy, and ready to fight.  That is a goal and a goal requires a PLAN!
Milwaukee.  Milwaukee.  Milwaukee.

That is a goal.  A goal requires a plan. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dressed To Ransack Whoville.

The other night was the Trail of Lights Run is Austin.  I signed up and made it an event for the Triathlon Meetup a while back.  As the holidays (and by default, the run) have gotten closer, my Bah Humbug factor has increased exponentially.  This has been due in part to my decision to not go home for the holidays.  Bah Humbug becomes a proper attitude for staving off any nostalgia based regret over that decision.  The rest of it, I think, might be the result of an emotionally draining fall season, a body that has been fickle at best, not to mention the copious volumes of allergy producing matter that the local juniper trees are currently spewing into the air.
Finished product.  If only I had a Grinch mask and some green tights!

So, I decided at the last minute to dress up... as Santa.  This wasn't going to be a race that I had anything riding on.  It didn't matter how hard I ran, my current fitness guaranteed I wasn't going to set any PR's.  So it was the perfect opportunity to dress up.  I dug out an old red jersey that was far too big for me.  I went to Michael's Arts & Crafts and found some fleecy trim, a Santa hat, and some other odds and ends.  I took this home and set about crafting my costume.

Did I mention that I do not "do" domestication?

I didn't even have any thread.  Minor detail.  I tried the yarn I use for braiding but it was too thick to go through the material.  Hmmmmm...... what to do... what to do.

I dug around in the camper for ideas until I came across the solution.  DENTAL FLOSS!!!!  I had enough dental floss to get the job done and it's minty freshness couldn't be a bad thing!  Mad stitching ensued and before I knew it, Santa was born, Grinch-style, and ready to run!!
I feel like my fingertips are in mortal danger!

I got to the event and met up with a few others.  The run used to be used by this group as the unofficial red speedo run.  With one very brave exception, the rest of us chose costumes over old school!  The honks and shouts of encouragement as the four of us walked through the streets of downtown Austin were, well... mostly for him.  HO HO SPEEDO!!
Four different ways to Ho Ho Ho!!

As it was, I was glad I made the choice to dress up.  The course, while fun to run, included parts that were very dark and with sketchy footing.  It was not a good course to be channeling Dasher.  The costume guaranteed that the mood stayed light and my expectations stayed appropriate.  In all, it was a lot of fun.  And it did a fantastic job of reducing the Bah Humbug factor to a mere scowl before my first cup of coffee.

The Trail of Lights below the city skyline.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I just logged into USAT again and checked my account page.  There was the following message:

Congratulations! You've qualified for the Olympic-Distance race at the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships because you met qualification in the following event(s):
EventQualification Percent
Land Rover TriRock Austin10
Click here for more information about the Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championships

It seems the duck has an "A" race for this year!

Back To That Topic Of Perspective

From an email that I wrote:

I'm including a link to an article that is fairly succinct and kind of sums up where I am with my run fitness.  I did a lot of work this summer to pull my run form together.  Now I run with better form but since that requires more fitness than running with sloppy form where I could ambulate in whatever manner I choose for a nearly indefinite period, I have taken a big step back in the volume that I seem to be able to tolerate.  Since, at present, I am not letting my form drop when I get overly fatigued, I run out of gas and end up at a walk.  I suspect this is still preferable to the alternative since it keeps the issue firmly in the realm of a conditioning problem.  I have seen a big dropoff in my cycling and swim fitness too, but those are more ingrained and less taxing on the body so it's not quite as apparent.  

When you look at my races (female 35-39) and see a great bike split (what it doesn't show is that bike was 1st OA as well) followed by a sad run split, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you are seeing an over-expenditure on the bike.  Rather, that is simply where my run is relative to my bike.  My post bike runs are often very similar to my open run times.  There is a much bigger difference between my tri bike output(all<21mph avg) and my TT results (my only real TT was a very short, relatively flat race where I avg'd 30.5!)  From the beginning of my riding, I have always been a top performer on the bike.  It has actually been a challenge to bring my handling skills up in line with the speeds I was capable of producing... and to be fair, they are still lagging behind.

Over the course of the last year, I saw dramatic gains in the run for the time I was healthy enough to work on it... about 8 mos.  I did a 5K in August a week before the BG race and finished in 28:56.  That was my best 5K time ever with an improvement of over 5 mins on my old PR.  It was also an improvement of nearly 10 mins over the same course two years ago.  Four years ago, I was running 39 min 5Ks. Five years ago I struggled to maintain a 14:00/mi jog for four minutes and at this point last year, I had a torn achilles and couldn't run a step... so I think this is all relative.  It doesn't help that I have sustained as many major injuries as I have years of running experience and each of those resulted in long (6 month) layoffs from running or that the process has been spread over a time when I have managed to take 96 lbs off my frame.  

My point is... I don't think that my running is really that out of place for someone who has walked the road I have walked.  There is so much room for improvement but really, it is probably great progress, all things considered.  The distortion of expectation comes from the fact that my swim background lets me be semi-competitive and from day one (well, technically day 3.  Days 1 & 2, I was figuring out how to turn and clip out), I have been a freak on a bike.  I have actually had pro's tell my that I had freakish ability for the limited background that I had but I am not the only freak in my family so there may be some good genetics happening.  (Incidentally, I am not saying that I am that stellar.. only that I perform at a much higher level than my fitness and experience indicate I should.)  My run is probably a better indicator of my actual fitness level than my bike and fat (oh, I do mean fat) people with no endurance background should not go out in their first race and end up 1st in their div (despite getting lost and adding nearly 4 miles in a sprint race) on the bike.  Honestly, the bike probably distorts the picture more than anything.

The point of this rambling?  I lost a lot of fitness when I was sick/injured but that is not a shock and I am still running better than I was.  I haven't lost all of last years gains, by any means.  If I just look at this as a "where I am at" issue, it's really not a bad picture.  All things considered, my run may never catch up with my bike but if you look at the run as the real indicator (and the bike as a bonus), I have still made steady, respectable progress over the course of my "career"... even though I am not as far along.  Rather, I am right where I should be and in a good position to make a lot of progress this year. 


PS.  I am not telling you this so much as telling myself.  You just got cc'd on the thought process.  

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person."  -Albert Einstein

Hmmm.  I have always judged my abilities based off my bike performance.  If I shift the view to my run performance, I see an entirely different picture.  I see someone who runs reasonably well within the parameters of her peers and is right where she should be given the history.  I also see someone who's swim performance is in line with her running given the differences in experience.  I think that looking at my bike performance skews the view, as that appears to be something of an outlier.  In a way, it is kind of nice to look at things this way.  It makes the bike a bonus to the run's baseline rather than the run a failure by comparison the bikes baseline.

The truth is I have no right to perform the way I do on a bicycle.  I haven't earned it.  I didn't train for it.  I don't have years of anything pedal related in my background.  I just took to it naturally... like a duck to water... and had a very high starting point.  All three sports have improved substantially with the run making the most gains (for hours trained) but also having the lowest starting point.  I have seen the least improvement in the swim but then all those large early gains happened decades ago.  This run focused might be the healthiest mindset going forward.

From this.... this... this... this... this...

....and going forward from here...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jack Frost: Swim Coach And The Secret Of The Power Snowflake!

"Move to Texas" they said.  "It's warm there so you'll be okay." they said. Duckfeathers!!

Today was my first time swimming with one of the Austin Master's groups and it was a cold one!!  It was forty degrees when I headed to that OUTDOOR pool.  I haven't done a team swim practice since I was on the master's team in West Palm Beach before I decided to throw myself headlong into triathlon.  Even though I wasn't there early enough to really socialize, I loved the atmosphere and I loved that there was a woman in the next lane that evenly matched my pace, set after set.  I pushed myself in a way that I haven't in a long time.  I didn't nail everything perfectly, especially since it was all hypoxic work which is a weakness for me, but I found myself digging a little deeper that I would have normally.  It was a great experience and a fun way to knock out 3000 yards.

It also was nice to have someone on deck.  There was some backstroke in one of the sets and I did exactly one pull and my shoulder gave out.  There was no guilt at changing the workout because the coach was right there to say "just do it as free".  I would have felt like a loser if I had been on my own.  By the same token, there was no slacking when it got really hard either.  I was constantly aware of the eyes on my position and effort.  Plus, as I said before, anytime there is someone in the next lane.... it is a RACE!

Last week was the final week of the 2012 season for me (technically, it was the first week of the 2013 show season for the competitors though).  It was the Christmas show in Waco, TX.  The laid back atmosphere is illustrated by the fun that was had with the barns.  Set ups were shockingly involved and we, the braiders, did our part by twisting in festive colored yarn, pom-poms, even ornaments, to the braids.
Stockings hung by the fire and Wilbur looking for toys to steal!!

So that's how Santa got that "bowl full of jelly"!

This is for every kid that every asked Santa for a pony!

What you can't see here is that they wrapped the soda machine in gold paper. 

I had a small package of six or eight hard plastic snowflakes... perfect little glitter covered choking hazards... and tied them into the manes of some of my smaller customers.  I tend to give little things like that to those people that don't have all the money to buy the fanciest horses and show constantly.  It makes them feel special and they always seem to appreciate it more.  Well, one of the snowflake recipients apparently got a little freaked before going into the ring.  The trainer told the child that she was going to be okay.  She had a POWER SNOWFLAKE!!  The snowflake would give the pony power so she would be fine.  In fact, she would be better than fine since none of the other kids had power snowflakes.  When she told me that, it made all the other BS in my job worth it.


Finally, I feel good again.  I don't know how long it will last but for the moment, I feel good.  No fatigue, no hives, the only significant joint pain is the shoulder and my braiding hands.  This is a welcome respite from the misery of the last several months.  It took making certain decisions all week to treat myself very gently but it worked and I'll take it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crash... Mash! Things That Matter and A Few That Don't

Decided to sport the Women On Wheels kit (covered by a jacket. I was cold!)

I am trying to decide what days to stay at the horse show next week and what days to commute.  This show is always difficult because it is about a two hour drive from home.  Last week I tried to commute several of the days but since the interstate was shut down for construction, two hours became three and a half in a hurry.  That meant that I was essentially burning the candle at both ends trying to work, drive, and train.  I did get a couple of quality sessions in but more days than not were sub-standard and the fatigue I carried into this week ruined my best training day of the week.  I would like to avoid a repeat of that, if possible.

Last week was disappointing.  After feeling like I was finally turning a corner the week before, I had a really tough week.  Monday and Tuesday are always my best/long training days (my weekends) and yesterday was no picnic.  I had planned to do a master's practice for the first time in a long time but was so tired that when the email telling me the pool heater was broken came through, I was all too happy about it.  There is nothing quite like a long... oh, like 18 hours long... sleep to make you question your well-being.  Still, when I woke up I was hoping that I had cleared the hurdle and was looking forward to a good workout later in the day.

That afternoon, I headed out for my run and immediately knew that my breathing was not right.  I kept my head up and tried to control my breathing as much as I could but by 15 mins, I was starting to hack and wheeze.  It quickly snowballed into an attack that shut down the rest of the run.  I had been avoiding taking the meds prescribed for my breathing as I felt like I was just drowning in chemicals lately, but when I got up today, I immediately started on them.  I wish I had some answers to why my entire system (oh, yeah baby, absolutely covered in hives today) seems to be in revolt.  I don't really have any answers.

If I can persuade my skin to let me put on cycling clothes, I will head out for a ride today.  A little bike therapy seems to be the cure for all that ails me... except for the times that I don't keep the rubber side down.  THAT is another matter entirely!  I am not sure anymore what is happening with my body and I am no longer sure that I am doing myself any favors by continuing to indulge the problems, but I am tired, itchy, cranky and running low on motivation.  The road back to health for me right now seems to be a long one, poorly lit and full of potholes.  I just wish I understood this more.  It would be easier if I could tell myself, you have "X" and this is what you can expect.  Instead, I am just dealing with a myriad of symptoms and without knowing of a central underlying problem, I feel like the treatments are scattered and disorganized... and an awful lot like the mad scientist's chemistry experiment.

I am making progress but it is not an easy thing.  I will have a couple of good days and then.. BAM!.. back to square one.  Fortunately, the quality and duration of the good days has been on the rise.  Now if only I can keep my frustration levels in check, I'll be okay!

On the upside to last week, I attended the Pedaling For Safer Roads II ride.  It was a large gathering of all types of cyclists at City Hall.  We then rode slowly through downtown, with a police escort, to the (state) Capitol.  There were speakers at both ends and it was an incredible experience.  There is nothing like looking around and seeing everything from hipsters on fixies to racers on $10,000 racing machines, to pedi-cabs, folks on cruisers and commuters... everything.  Some people had their bikes really decked out with  Christmas lights and others had them really decked out with carbon fiber.  It didn't matter.  We were all there to honor some cyclists that had lost their lives and send a message to lawmakers.  It was a great experience not to mention a challenge.  It is not easy to keep a TT bike upright going less than three miles per hour in a huge group!
The riders were beginning to gather at City Hall.

Part of the crowd listening to speakers at the capitol.

Awesome bikes everywhere!

Nothing more to say.

I have come to realize lately how much I like the cycling community.  On the second or third ride I did after getting the bike fixed, I was prepping to leave from where my car was parked when another cyclist pulled up on his bike.  He was returning.  We chatted for a moment and in my insecurity, I mentioned that I wasn't feeling very strong or confident because of the crash.  He offered the customary words of encouragement and concern for Seabiscuit's health (a true cyclist), then I headed off.  That particular ride was... trying.  When I got back, I was feeling a little defeated.  Then I saw a piece of paper stuck under my wiper blade, along with a gel and a little patch kit.  It's things like this and the protest ride that throw everything into perspective.

Mike on a Colnago has no idea how much he helped a duck that day.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The MoPac Comeback.

I had a really, really good ride today.  Actually, my twitter post was much less delicate about it than that.

When I went to bed last night, I knew with certainty that I was going to back out of the group ride this morning.  I did.  Then I had to really struggle to get myself on the bike.  The winds were rocking the camper and coming in from all directions.  It was going to be a tough day on any bike, much less an ultra twitchy, super-aero, non-kamm tail TT bike that I am already afraid of.  I knew that it was going to be another white-knuckle, exercise in terror that would shave yet another few years off of my natural life.  How did I know this?  That is what all of my rides have been lately.

I have been dreading my rides, procrastinating until it was nearly too late each time, forcing myself onto the bike, then hating every last second of it.  I have been totally terrified since coming back from this latest crash. The only reason that I didn't give up is that I have been through this before.... with horses.  And I did give up.  I let fear rule me and ruin me as a rider.  It is why I "retired" from the saddle.  I loved riding horses and I love riding my bike.  I cannot, will not lose another passion to fear.
Yup.  This is about how it goes.

In recovering myself as a cyclist, there is one distinct advantage.  As long as I don't respond to the fear, my bike could care less.  (Horses, however, figure if you are afraid, they should be twice and afraid and the situation gets worse.)  The last few rides have had their fair share of scary moments.  Moments when something would trigger a memory... looking at the edge of the road, seeing a bug or bit of debris, cornering and descending, anytime the wind blows, and pretty much any other situation... and I would FEEL the bike going down and make corrections in response to imaginary sensory input.  More than once, I swerved dangerously into the road to avoid... um, nothing.  I was too afraid to drink without pulling over and putting a foot down.  At those times, I would be shaking so badly, it was difficult to continue or control the bike at slow speeds.  And compounding the problem was the fact that the new cockpit was causing a lot of pain and impairing the bikes handling.  The data from the last ride showed me climbing at 19-20 mph and descending and cornering at around 10.

So when I woke up this morning and felt those winds, I almost didn't ride.  Instead, I went to the veloway.  This is the epitome of a comfort zone.  It is short and winding with rapid little hills and offers no chance to think about anything but what you are doing.  It is two wide lanes for bike and rollerblade traffic only.  It is one way and very simple, though challenging to cornering skills.  Most of all, it is as safe as a person can get on a bike.  I went there.  Just being on the bike was enough of an exercise outside my comfort zone, especially with all that wind.

Good place to work on cornering.

I went round and round (and round and round and round...) until I could shift, get in and out of aero like normal, drink and put my bottle away on the fly, and released my death grip on the bars.  Then I took the show out to MoPac which is also something of a comfort zone for me.  There I did a 10 mile loop several times.  

Also, after the last terrible ride, I also took Seabiscuit in to Austin Bikes where Sol and I had a meeting of the minds.  Or more specifically, I whined and he listened, wrenched, and sent me on my way.  Thank you Sol for taking the pain out of the equation and returning my bike to normal (actually, slightly better than normal) handling.  It made all the difference in the world today.  I owe you all the chocolate in Switzerland, dude.

The result?  

By the end of 45 miles, the old duck was back in charge.  I felt great.  I hunted down roadies, hammered into the wind, stayed in aero (even when a wind gust moved me several feet to the left), and was really sinking my teeth into the effort.  I ended covered in salt and full of attitude.  I even made snarky comments on twitter about the guy posing at the veloway in an orange aero helmet.  I got on facebook and told everyone that we needed to ride soon.

In short?  I fell back in love.

I needed that.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!

It's not triathlon but it sure is awesome!!!!!

Enjoy.  The best is just after 9 minutes.  You'll know when you're there.

The Biscuit's Got A New 'Do'.

Seabiscuit came home today with his new cockpit installed.  He is sporting a new style of bars, brake levers, cables, and colors.  I decided to coordinate with the white accents instead of the red this time.  I have always loved white on a bike.  I will withhold my final opinions until I have the race wheels on and the picture is complete.  I am will also need to replace the red bottle cage with a black or black and white one.
The base bar has a drop but the pads sit up too high.

Extensions are still uncut and cables need to be trimmed.
Not liking the red bottle cage anymore.

Aside from a different look, the new set up has a substantially different feel.  For one, the base bar is narrower and has a drop.  Also, the pads and extensions have considerably more stack.  The brake levers are spring loaded and so have a much different articulation.  I don't like the extra stack or the fact that the new brake levers are too large for my hands but I love the braking action and the drop in the base bar.  It's a trade off but I suspect that in my quest to get the stack down on this bike, the final result will end up being a new frame.  Since I am not ready to make that leap so soon after getting this bike, I will live with too much stack.

I rode today for a little over an hour.  Not far, maybe 18-20 miles.  I forgot to turn on the watch until ~30 mins into it.  When I was trying to power up the hills, I was okay.  Horribly out of shape, but okay.  On the descents and anytime I had to stop, shift, or otherwise do anything technical, I was terrified.  My cadence read an avg of 72 and I was initially horrified but then I realized that I was either climbing or not pedaling at all while braking.  I couldn't bring myself to handle a bottle to take a drink.  I had to stop and put a foot down for that.  The first time I did, I realized that I was shaking.  I relaxed a lot as the ride went on but still couldn't quite get over it.  I let myself descend at a reasonable speed (maxed at 36 mph) in a tuck (pedaling for greater speed was beyond me) twice.  The second time I caught a crosswind and almost blacked out I was so scared.  I figured the right answer was to just keep pedaling.

The fear is (largely) irrational so nothing will be accomplished by indulging it.

So the only answer is to keep doing it.  Do it over and over until I have forgotten what there was to fear.

On the upside, I went back for a swim lesson today.  I haven't seen the Texas Fish in a year but she is so good at what she does that I am still benefiting from previous sessions.  It was a great lesson today and we focused on the tiny form details that might be affecting how I load my shoulder.  The result?  My shoulder hurt more at the beginning than at the end.  I would call that a resounding success.

Finally, I went to the grocery store starving.  NEVER, EVER DO THAT!!  I might need to sell the car to cover the bill and I have five different varieties of kale in large volumes.  I am going to sprout leaves by the time I eat it all!!!
Holy leafy greens, Batman!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pieces Of The Overtraining Puzzle

Well, I am nearly over my cold.  I blew through my braiding list (I had finished the same number of horses by 5 am as I had by noon the previous week) and while I was tired at the end of a very busy night, I was not "incoherent, falling asleep on my feet, barely able to move" tired like I have come to expect.  I felt like a normal person at the end of an 11 hour day.  Not exactly ready to jump tall buildings in a single bound, but ready to go home and not ready to die.  I seemed more resistant to the cold while working... I felt it but it didn't shut me down.  I slept 7 hours and woke up feeling... normal.  I think that I finally feeling restored. I did a few light workouts this week and, again, did not feel sapped at the end.  It has been two full months getting to this point.... Oh, and medication.

I guess I didn't mention that part.  My trials and tribulations with doctors have been so frustrating that I didn't want to post about this right away.  I am being treated for hypothyroidism.  I haven't been on medication for all that long but the type that I am on includes some fast acting hormone (T3) that is immediately available to the body as well as the slower, more commonly prescribed T4.  I researched response times and most people seemed to start feeling the effects of T4 within a  couple of weeks, though it can takes months to fully balance the body.  I don't know if what I am experiencing is an immediate response to the T3, because it is certainly too soon for a response to the T4, or a placebo effect of some kind.

I am not sure I care so long as it works.  I believe at this point that the reason that I succumbed so dramatically to overtraining was a drop off in thyroid levels.  No matter how careful we were (and we were not all that careful), my body changed and it's tolerance for work dropped.  Add to that a couple of traumas from the bike crashes and stress from the loss of Sera and it's the formula for disaster.  I do keep having to remind myself though that the brutal, crippling bout of exhaustion happened BEFORE the crashes or the grief, leaving only the butler (thyroid) and the maid (training volume).

I make this point because human beings do not live in clinical trials.  There is no separating the person from the athlete.  It's all one body, one energy system.  If it gets overloaded with stress, it responds with overtraining symptoms.  There is a tendency to assume that if you are experiencing overtraining or overreach symptoms that it is because you made a mistake.  The kind of mistake that is recorded in training peaks.  Not enough time off, too many miles, too many intervals, not enough recovery (grab your pitchforks boys!  The coach just scooted out the back!!) etc.  I think it is much more involved.  This summer I was handling a workload that I built up to slowly.  I don't think DW was wrong in assigning it.  Rather there was a loss of perspective on the athlete as a whole.  He was busy and our communication broke down... at a time when my travel and work schedule took a long walk off a short plank.  My body went with it.

It was more like this...

... and less like this.  Not all "planks" are created equal!

Did the workload tip my already failing thyroid over the edge or did the failure of my thyroid result in a reduced capacity for work volume?  How did the travel and work load play into this?  What about the races?  How about the overuse injuries that developed this summer?  I'll never know.  The reason for the strain on my relationship with DW was a sense that while this situation may not have been preventable, there was a certain lack of due diligence at the critical moments.  I don't think we know the answers even as much as we could.  It makes preventing future mistakes very hard.  He blamed me for not communicating my fatigue levels well enough.  I was frustrated with him for being (in my perception) virtually unreachable for two months.  Round and round we go.

None of this was his fault.  He spent a great deal of time building up an athlete that could handle a certain volume and suddenly that athlete was replaced by one that was much weaker- a sheep in wolf's clothing.  It is reasonable that he was surprised when the wheel fell of the bus.  My takeaway?  It doesn't matter what caused what.  The situation, probably as it will always be in these cases, is far to complicated to reach conclusions.  We both played parts and there were factors outside both of our spheres of control.  In the end, his program is designed for athletes that do not require intensive monitoring.... like me.  Square peg... round hole... 'nuff said.

You get the idea.

What matters now is going forward.  I have been working with a woman in NC (poor girl) on a consulting basis.  I was referred to her by another coach (he must like practical jokes) as being the right person to help me pick up the pieces and find the lessons in it all.  She has been doing just that.  I kind of feel bad for her because there were some seriously, stressed, frantic conversations/emails, especially at the beginning.  We seem to be through that phase and now, armed with an RBC that has returned to normal ranges, a thyroid that is supported by medication, and after two months of unwelcome R&R, Monday morning I will return to active training.  The goal now is to recover and reinforce the foundation so that the house doesn't blow down quite so easily the next time the big, bad wolf happens by.

On the downside, another condition that I have not posted about that has been plaguing me since before the medication change is hives.  Red, welted, itchy hives.  It started when I came to Houston this time.  It started with my hands and feet and soon the breakouts covered half my body.  I had to do a short course of Prednisone to break the cycle a couple of weeks ago and now they have decided to return.  I was eating a lot of nuts at the time and took those out of my diet.  I had some last night and by morning my legs were covered again.  I HOPE I am not seeing the development of another food allergy, though it would make sense as angry as my immune system has been recently.  Hives and food allergies, along with itchy skin, are all symptoms of thyroid malfunction.  I am hoping that perhaps with the new meds, this train can be derailed.   I am running out of things to eat!!

In brighter news... Seabiscuit returns home tomorrow from his surgery.  They tell me he is fully recovered and I owe them most of my life savings... and a kidney.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Undersea Underpants And Other Adventures

Things that are or look fun to me:

Climbing mountains (not the snow covered kind though.  I hate ice!)

Climbing Rocks

Mountain biking


Trail running (possibly even the Ultra kind)


Going down rivers in all manner of floating things

Diving below the oceans surface

Any of the above in strange, exotic places

I just finished Chrissie's book and what struck me was how functional her fitness was.  She was going and doing intense, crazy things that had nothing to do with training.  There was a point when I was doing things like that (see below!).  Now I seem to be so fragile and limited.  My fitness is all one-dimensional.  I love triathlon but I want to return to a state of being where I can trust my body to answer when I challenge it.  I want to feel strong, fit, and alive.  Right now, I don't feel that way at all.  I feel weak, tight, limited in my movement, painful and achy all over.  I do believe some of that is endocrine malfunction and we are working on getting to that answer.  I am not sure when these changes took place.  It was slow and sneaky for sure, but getting back to feeling alive and strong, indulging my sense of adventure, THAT is now a priority.  Training for triathlon might mean you don't have time for these things but I do not believe that it should mean that you don't have the strength.  Something went wrong.  It was never meant to be this way.
I won't tell you what went through my mind here.

Some waters were cool, some were boiling.
"Don't hand on, you'll trigger a rock slide" he tells us.

Halfway through an all day hike.  Lunch at the largest (second largest?) boiling lake in the world. Boiling Lake, Dominica

That crevice led to a hot, mineral spring.  Only way down? JUMP!

Boulders MUST be climbed.  Trafalgar Falls- Part of Pirates Of The Carribean 2 was filmed here.

Undersea underpants.  Johnny Depp lost something during the filming.

I am forty lbs lighter now but feel half as alive.  These were taken in 2010.

Discovering The Protest Ride.

One of the cool things about traveling all the time is that you get lost... often.  My GPS has decided that with it's latest update it was going to forget the ideas of right and left, particularly as they pertain to North, South, East, and West.  Way to GPS.

So in a recent trip, on one of those occasions that it was saying turn right on North Blah Blah St., when in fact a right would put you onto SOUTH Blah Blah St., I followed the wrong part of the direction.  I ended up wandering off down some road for a while before I realized my mistake.

Sometimes, getting a little lost can be very rewarding.  I discovered this incredibly cool bit of sculpture on someone's lawn.  I just couldn't resist and pass it by.

It had a plate that was difficult to read but named a ride and a date that this apparently honors.
It reads Protest Ride, CAG 2011.  Most protest rides are in honor of or prompted by a cyclist's death.
This is certainly the best bit of lawn sculpture I have ever seen.  Each rider is an individual piece cut from sheet metal and there are a variety of rider positions.  I don't have any idea what the yellow rider signifies but in light of the plate, I suspect it may represent a fallen member of their personal peloton.  Regardless, it was an amazing thing to see and getting lost TOTALLY worth it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Just Saw This...

... and had to share it.

Seriously.  Feeling.  This.

Bringing You Up To Speed.

Monday I drove to Austin for a doctor's appointment and to meet with the Austin Area Triathlon Meet-Up Group.  I took over organization of this group in September to alleviate some of the isolation of my lifestyle, to make connections, and to have a project while my athletic well-being was going up in smoke.  As it turns out, I am really enjoying the work.
The Duck is in appropriately colored duck-foot shoes (orange-yellow)

We had a double event.  The first was a running form clinic at Luke's Locker.  It was basic but didn't offer anything overly trendy or dangerous.  It was run by a local athlete/coach named Raul Garcia.  (Former workout buddy of Leo Manzano, the Olympic silver medalist, who I met not long ago.  Raul knew his stuff.)  He discussed the advantage of a high cadence, the biomechanics involved in different types of foot strike, posture and lean, etc.  We did some exercises to illustrate various points and he also filmed each of us running shod and barefoot.  He played the video back in slow motion then found a freeze frame where he analyzed each of the clinics topics as they pertained to that person.  It was enlightening and informative.  Apparently, the duck has very good running mechanics.  I find that slightly depressing because it implies that I am just slow... and for no good reason.

Then the second part of the even was a group of triathletes descending on Baby Acapulco's on Barton Springs.  This is basically a part of the Austin woodwork and a great little Tex-Mex place.  I had to drive back to Houston afterwards so I did not take part in one of their signature purple margaritas.  Several of the others did though and we all had a great time.

Yesterday, I took the bike over to Bicycle World (on Rice Rd.) and dropped it off.  When I see it again, the entire cockpit will be different... right down to the color of the bar tape.  Seabiscuit has always worn red and now it will be white.  (I harassed each and every long suffering soul in that bike shop while making THAT decision!)  I don't know how  it will look but perhaps it will lighten his attitude a bit and he will stop bucking me off!  He comes home Sunday night.
Bye, bye red... hello black and white.

By the end of the day, I was so sick with the creeping crud going around the horse show that I took the night off of work.  Even though no one else got all that sick, my traumatized immune system felt the need to have a meltdown.  No molehills around here... Only MOUNTAINS!!

Today, I got the results of my blood work back and the doc feels that perhaps some of the results may be why I feel so terrible so much of the time.  He has decided to take a proactive approach to treating it.  Fingers crossed, this could be a turning point for me.

I also tried a pomelo.  It is a fruit similar to the grapefruit that is as big as a cantaloupe and has a flavor that tastes the way some flowers smell.  I realized at the store this week that I hadn't tried something new in a WHILE.  It was rather tasty.
This thing is HUGE!

Then this evening, I got over my creeping crud enough to enjoy a light swim and strength workout.  Nothing crazy... a handful of 200s and a short posterior chain/core routine.  Just enough to get the blood pumping and leave me craving Pho.  Huh?  Oh yeah, did I ever mention that I love Pho.  I am so glad more and more places are leaving out the gluten.  It is a primo indulgence!

Well, there you have it.  You are now up to speed.  :)