Monday, January 30, 2012

Duckie The Grouch!! (and Pictures!)

So I am benched from training, or should I say couched, sitting in a blanket, surrounded by tissue carnage and generally feeling a little murderous.  WHY???  Because all sleep and no training makes Duckie a DULL BIRD!!

See what living in FL does for your tan?  I'm all pasty white now!
So to temper my evil... and trust me, as of this morning, it is full blown  ("Duck a la Sarcasm", "Crispy Duck in Evil Sauce", "Roast Duck with Bitter Vegetables"...   You get my drift)....  I decided to look through some old photos of taken on race days.  Admittedly, the smile I am sporting is likely nerves or possibly stomach cramps, I choose to remember them as happy days, illustrated by the light in my eyes.  (I dare you to argue.)

I thought I would share them with you.  Apparently, this makes me feel better.. or at the very least kills twenty minutes, which is also important right now.

Exiting the swim flanked by guys from the previous wave.  I was hoping I had swum to the right spot.

See, I look happy! ( and tan.  and I got a medal!)

After the half last Feb.  Never met these guys before this moment.

OK, so feelin' a little pain here!
Once out of the water, I remembered.. It's a RACE!!

One of my faves.  Honestly don't belong in this company.  These two elites are over the top!

 DW has passed down the edict that I cannot train until the last cough or other symptom has been history for at least 24 hours, and I have to phone in before I start back.  Since I get laryngitis first and it is often the last thing to leave, my voice will absolutely rat me out if I try to start back to soon.  I suspect he knows this.  He knows me well.  Too well.  Hmmmm... I may not be able to let him live.

Yup.  There's that pain, again.

Oh!  Haha.  Just kidding.  (Evil Genius Duck apparently has been watching too many Pinky & the Brain episodes again.)

The fact of the matter is... I love to train.  I love to race.  That is totally evident in these pics.

And don't worry... DW is quite safe.  He's an incredible coach who manages my strong, turbulent, obsessive personality very well and not only has he helped me to avoid re-injury, but he has helped me to start integrating my work and my training into one livable life.  Up until now, training happened when the horse show was over and was always at odds with my work life.  Both things wanted a piece of me and I tended to feel like I was torn in two.  Now we are trying to find a sustainable balance where I can work, train, have a social life and be fully successful for the long term.  If it works, I will finally be able to break through the glass ceiling I have, up till now, just been decorating with glow in the dark stars.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Duck's Down For The Count!!

Um, remember that cold?  Not really a cold.  More like a demon from the pits in germ form.

In my last post I mentioned the swim/run day.  I did the run first (fewer showers) and had a really good run, though I faded badly towards the end.  I had my swim gear packed and went back to the camper to get some calories, planning to head straight for the pool.  I felt really wiped out so I decided to let myself recover for an hour or so in between.  Within two hours, I had email DW saying that I needed to postpone the swim.

The next I woke up feeling pretty rough.  I took the day off from my workouts and went to work that night.  By the morning, I was so weak I could barely drive home.  I had the next night off and slept 20 of the following 24 hours.  The effort of walking the dogs was almost more than I could handle.

The following night I visited the ER.  The diagnosis was viral infection, acute bronchitis, pneumonia.  No wonder I felt a little rotten.  I don't think that I would have gone but I knew that the person I most likely contracted the virus from developed pneumonia, and the weakness and fatigue were really startling.

Needless to say, I am taking some time off from training to heal and really questioning my health over the last few weeks.  I have been very hard on myself for making some mistakes with my diet and compromising my training.  THIS, however, I could not have prevented.  The virus simply overwhelmed my immune system.  I am actually much better off than most of the people that contracted it and that can probably be attributed to lifestyle.  Mostly though, I am just trying to get as much rest as I can.

I now have a ton of time on my hands, between not working and not training, so I am suddenly regretting choosing a lifestyle that does not include a television.  WHAT was I thinking?!?!?!

Time to go back to bed.  Night Ya'll!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sound Familiar?

Usually, with these videos there is a certain personal distance between myself and the butt of the joke.  Hmmmm... not so much this time.

(Sh*t Triathletes Say)

Kudos to the makers of these videos.  They are really funny and I always need a good laugh.  Plus the tone of this blog has been entirely too dour lately.

Anyhow, I once again have a cold.  Hopefully, this time, I will not develop a leak under the sink to go with it.  I am not sure if there is an air quality issue in the camper, if this is an extension of the physical stress I have been under, or if after years of not getting sick, I am just due.  Regardless, it is proving to be annoying, though, thankfully, not debilitating.

I am really slow at work this week and trying to use the time to lay a  organizational foundation for the rest of the season.  I am also grateful for the rest and lessening of stress (though I anticipate a certain increase in financially derived stress when I sit down with the books next week).

Yesterday was a nice bike ride.  Today is a swim run day.  I am trying to focus on lessening the mental intensity and enjoying these workouts.  I can worry about my paces/speeds/form with my usual obsessive intensity next week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grateful For A Good Day

Today was a good day.  I woke up feeling like I was getting sick again and thought the day would be a washout.  But as the morning wore on I felt better and ended up going for a nice ride with an old friend.  I definitely felt as though the pace was off a little from the last time I rode with him but if it was, who cares!  I was on the bike and did not feel like dying!  I got to work on my bike tan (sexy, let me tell you) and ended the day by going to dinner with another friend.  This was also very cathartic.

Right now, I feel OK.  I feel mellow and pleasantly satisfied.  I don't feel overwhelmed, isolated, stressed out, or under any kind of pressure.  I have a light night at work tonight, which while that creates financial pressure at this time of the year, it also allows me to physically relax.  This is something I kind of need right now.  I didn't realize how much until I had it.

It is week three and so I am almost a quarter of the way through this run of horse shows.  It has been just over seven weeks since I have been home and I have seven more in FL followed by three in Houston.  I have been craving Austin lately, though I don't know that there is any particular thing that I miss.  More that I miss being in the place where I am trying to make a life.  While I am away, I cannot develop my life in Texas, or my business there, and it feels like the whole world is moving while I am standing still.  It's a little like looking at your life through a pane of glass.

I am not complaining, simply musing.  I don't have anything to complain about today.  I am where I am and it is what it is.  I am a little tired both from not being well lately, and being very worried about that fact.  That is all.  I know that if I don't do anything stupid, make any adjustments that I need to as my body gives me feedback, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, time will pass and so will this rough patch.

The important thing is that I am in a better place than I was yesterday, physically and, consequently, mentally.




Monday, January 23, 2012

Wake Up Call

Last week was something of an epic fail for me physically.  I am not really sure what happened but either I got into some gluten (or some allergen I haven't identified??) and was not aware... and had a really powerful reaction, or the stress I put my body under on Tuesday caused a flare up of the autoimmune symptoms.  I don't know.  I won't ever know, most likely.  The fact remains, it happened and I was very sick all week.

In dealing with the details I do have, the latter explanation is the most likely and going with that is my only real option.  I spoke to DW today, like I do every Monday, and it was a raw conversation, full of honesty and very eye opening.  We talked at length about the changes I need to make to attempt to manage my health with my job and balance triathlon in the mix.  The biggest thing is my tendency to prioritize my health, physical and especially mental, very low on the list and that needs to stop.

Diet is a big thing (that means preparing safe foods and eating in a reasonable, regular pattern), but so is sleep and keeping a consistent schedule.  It's not very exciting but in order to treat these symptoms and manage the inflammation in my body, I have to make sameness a part of my routine.  That means everything from planning my meals throughout the week to setting boundaries with my customers and coworkers so that I can have as constant a work/sleep schedule as possible.  Applying the same discipline and stubbornness that I reserve for my training to self-care and self-respect.  I have to muster the mindfulness to eat, sleep, work, and train on a constant schedule.  I need to care for myself and with the same intensity and professionalism I provide to my customers.  My health and well-being must become and stay my top priority.  Without that, I will do nothing else... well, or at all.

We also discussed acknowledging and honoring my need for downtime, me-time, when I am off the hook.  No demands can be made of me and that time is mine to spend as I wish.  Right now, I get to the end of the week with my mental fortitude expended.  I feel run down, exhausted and "under the whip".  It means that while I get my workouts done on my days off, I may not get anything else done.  I literally get so over scheduled that I rip me time out of the schedule at the expense of things like laundry and grocery shopping.  I mentally shut down and disassociate from life.

WHY?  Because I am forcing productivity out of myself even when I am totally sick and exhausted and I am doing it entirely on will power.  I work on it, train on it, take care of my dogs on it, never say no to anyone because I know I can make myself do it.  Until I can't anymore and the only thing I am willing to sacrifice is chores, personal time and my social life.  Work and training are too important... one pays the bills, the other makes me happy.

DW said to me today that my current life was not sustainable.  If I did not make some fundamental changes that I could "kiss triathlon good-bye".  That was a huge wake up call.  Especially since I know he's right.  Too right.  That terrifies me.

But then so does my health.  My fathers family has a colorful history of serious GI conditions and his sister and her daughters health is a mirror image of my own.  I do not know if he had Celiac's but he certainly struggled with GI health daily.  I suspect that he did.

I am two years older than he was when he ran Western States.  I am eight years younger than he was when he died.  That would be the definition of "not sustainable".  (RIP Dad.  I love you and miss you still.)

Today, the silver lining is that I see this.  I have a plan to deal with this.  I spent the day, as I will spend at least one of my days off every week from now on, preparing for next week.  I cleaned.  I went to the grocery.  I spent a little time visiting with a friend.  I ran and will here shortly head to the pool (open until midnight for all of the crazy night owls like me).  I contacted dietitians.  I wrote myself reminders.  I took tangible steps towards fixing the problem.  I put notes on duct tape on the fridge!

My fridge with my mantras
Stress, overwork, lack of nutrition and unstable sleep patterns are bad for anyone.  If you have to manage any kind of autoimmune condition, it is toxic, deadly.  As of today, I am changing my focus and perspective to one that prioritizes my well-being above all else.  Without my health I cannot train, I cannot work.  I am no good to anybody.

The devil is in the details, the simple, little, day to day details.   I am no longer willing to sacrifice everything just to please another person or simply because being organized is hard.  I must stop living like I am about to die.  I am worth more than that.

Isn't That The Truth

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Putting Pain Into Perspective

So far this week has been very difficult for me physically.  It has been a bad week for fatigue and joint/muscle pain making work and workouts very unpleasant.  I realize that I am going to have these weeks and there is nothing to do but get through them.  Since my attitude is flagging a little bit, I am trying to put some things into perspective.

As a rule, my workweek defines my health week because of the patterns of my sleep schedule.  Tuesdays is the first night of work and generally speaking, I do not sleep at all.  I wake up Monday morning and then go around the clock until Tuesday morning.  Then I am on a daytime sleeping schedule until Sunday, when I nap during the day but sleep a full night.  Mondays are a day off and my patterns are normal.  I have tried on occasion to stay on a night schedule on Sundays and Mondays but it is too hard and I require at least one day of sunshine and normality.  The body knows that night is the time for sleeping and unless I am forced to stay awake, it's just not happening.

I made a mistake on Tuesday for which I am still paying dues.  I ran myself into a state of total depletion by forgetting my nutrition.  Tuesday night I paid and paid and paid for that.  I managed my workouts on Wednesday, although I felt miserable, and on Thursday I got  so dizzy and lightheaded during my intervals that I cut the workout short.  I took yesterday off.  I will run and swim tonight and revisit those intervals tomorrow.

Still, even if I get it all done by the end of the week, somehow I feel like I have failed.  Usually I refrain from writing posts when I feel totally dejected about my performance until after I have spoken to DW.  His way of showing everything in a positive light really helps.  But this is something I need to find terms with on my own.

The effects of the gluten and dairy sensitivities, the raging inflammation that they cause, all of the autoimmune issues that result are something I need to learn to live with.  I made a mistake on Tuesday.  For me, the price of mistakes like that is very high.  However, I am as human as they come and mistakes will happen.  These mistakes, when they happen, feel like huge setbacks and can be very demoralizing.  It does not mean that I am hopeless, a bad athlete, or that I should give up and resign myself to a two dimensional life.   They are just mistakes, albeit painful ones, and the longer I do this, the fewer I will make.

During my twenties, I was a successful martial arts practitioner, undefeated against the women for a number of years before I began seeking special permission to compete in the men's divisions.  While I trained very hard and took care of myself the best way I knew how, I was very, very sick the whole time. The fact that I was young and stubborn allowed me to compensate for this with will and discipline.  That fell apart after a series of injuries that led to two knee surgeries and over a year of physical therapy for my back.  I had to take downtime to heal.  A LOT of downtime.

I always had a saying that if I ever stop moving, I won't be able to start again.  I was about to find out how true that was.  For the next seven years, I froze up, fattened up and got progressively more ill.  I began to genuinely believe that I was fundamentally unhealthy.  I also believed that I was going to die young.

By the summer of 2008, I was in so much pain I could not perform my job, I was nearing 100 lbs overweight, my athletic life was totally trashed, and my body was a mess.  I remember one morning after calling someone to finish my work, something I had never done before, I stood in the bathroom in front of the mirror.  The spasms in my back had twisted my left shoulder down several inches below the right, springing my shoulder blade outward and causing my collarbone to point at a 45 degree angle to the floor.  I was taking 25 ibuprofen to get through a night and the doctor handed me a prescription for oxycontin to manage pain without destroying my heart.  I was totally shocked!  I tore it up as soon as I got into the car but refused to take any more ibuprofen.   I quit my steady job and began working on independent basis so that my obligation was never more than two weeks long, since I had no idea on any day if I could manage it again tomorrow.  I limped through the end of that year, barely functioning.

By January of 2009, I felt like I was totally out of options.  I did the one thing I knew how to do.  All that martial arts training taught me one thing... when in doubt, go to the gym.  I walked into the gym and met a brilliant personal trainer.  We began working together and I started a very long road back to health.  At that point, I couldn't life my arms up high enough to wash my hair.  Every night, working had me gasping for breath and to the point of tears.  Slowly, CE's program began to stabilize my body.  I started dropping some of the weight and the pain began to subside a little.  As I got stronger, I added cardio to the program.  A little swimming, biking and running, but not too much of anything so that I didn't irritate any old injuries.  (You might guess where this ended up going.)

As time went by, I got stronger and stronger.  The more I demanded of myself, the more apparent it became, to CE and I both, that something was wrong.

However the illness was progressing.  It came to a head roughly two and a half years ago when after a particularly bad bout of fatigue, I sent myself in for some blood work.  After the tests, I became lightheaded.  My blood pressure and heart rate plummeted.  I passed out, "brady-ed out" and departed this world for about two minutes.  After my return to this material world, I then found out that I was going to spend all my money on cardiologists and their tests to determine what happened.  (Of course thousands of declined-by-my-insurance-company dollars later, they have no clue.)

Today, I understand that I what is going on with my body.  I am working on controlling it.  I am accepting that it will not be perfect.  There is a learning curve but I am healthier than I have ever been.  I am gaining more and more control by the day and even though sometimes it seems like I am making so many mistakes that make me so ill, at one point I was so much more ill all the time that I thought it was normal!  It is by comparison to my now much healthier self that it seems like such a diseased state.

Sometimes it seems like I have so much road ahead of me.  It seems audacious to the point of ridiculous that I would attempt to train this broken body into the well-oiled machine of a triathlete.  I have a system wide problem plus a laundry list of old injuries.  It feels hopeless.  Still, my worst day today is far better than my best day two years ago.  For once in my life, it seems prudent to save for retirement.  Perhaps when the road ahead seems too long, I need to turn my head and take a peek at the road behind.

But while I do, I'd best keep the handlebars steady and keep turning the cranks or I might fall over!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Duck In Winter

After a couple of rough nights at work, the result of careless nutrition and sketchy sleep patterns, I slept well today.  The RV park decided to repave the road under my window while I was sleeping today.  I woke up to the noise long enough to think "Oh great!  Now I'll never get back to slee..... ZzzzZzzzzZzzz."  Isn't exhaustion a beautiful thing?

I also need to mention that while my life has been a little intense with the start of the horse show, the camper gremlins have been mercifully quiet (and yes, I just knocked on wood!).  So far, life in a vintage Airstream has proven, well, nice.  There is certainly a lot of though that needs to be given to placement and storage, as well as discipline when it comes to tidying the work/living space often.  But as with nutrition awareness, that mindfulness is a skill I need to cultivate anyhow.  I see this lifestyle as good for me.  On the upside, 200+ square feet is easy to clean if you do let it get dirty.

There is another airstream that has all kinds of plastic flamingos two spaces down from me.  They even have black skeleton flamingos.  Kinda weird, but I definitely feel like the Tri Cave is not keeping up the standards right now.  I wonder if I can get swim-bike-run flamingos?  I also wonder if they have bicycle light strands.  All the cool campers have light strands.  Ooof, seems complicated.  Maybe I'll just settle for a potted plant.

Florida: A1A at sunset taken from the bike

Anyhow, after pondering how I could rearrange my schedule so that I did not have to ride indoors on the trainer, I realized that even though it's 78 degrees outside, it IS January.  Being in the tropics doesn't change the fact that daylight hours are scarce and sometimes you just have to SUCK IT UP!!  I haven't been on the trainer (except the computrainer at the Doghouse) since I got to Florida.  I also realized that while I was feeling sorry for myself because my 3rd shift hours mean that I sleep away these beautiful days, every office worker in the world is no better off.  They spend the time indoors.

Biking in Michigan in July 

Trail running in NC in January

Broad River: taken on a trail run in January
I guess I have very little to complain about, since my job allows me the flexibility to often adapt my work schedule to accommodate the things I want to do and takes me to the most beautiful places in the country.  I get nice weather year round and a variety of training conditions to work with.  Not exactly suffering.  A little gratitude, as well as a little fortitude (get thee on thy bicycle) might be just what this duck needs.

I still miss home, though!!

Austin's skyline and Town Lake Trail

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bonkety-Bonk Bonk BONK!!

I rode at The Doghouse, a very cool indoor computrainer center in Delray Beach, with friends.  I turned in a stable effort even though my heart rate monitor was predicting all kinds of cardiac doom and gloom.  (Dear Garmin Overlord, if my heart rate was REALLY 235, I doubt I would be feeling so casual about it.)  As a result, I scrapped my intervals and did Thursdays long ride on several computrainer courses, including Mont Tremblant.  Overall my heart rate stayed pretty steady after the first 20 mins or so (apparently the Garmin Overlord got over it) and my effort was mostly high endurance range.

All that is fine except that I left the little bag of nutrition at home.  I ate fairly lightly yesterday and had very little this morning so by the time I got to the end of the ride, I was toast.  I realized I was in trouble when I couldn't read a flyer or write a check.  It could be referred to as glycogen confusion.  (And here I thought that referred to all of the conflicting dietary information available online.)

I have to work tonight and now I am scrambling to salvage my energy levels.  Unfortunately, I am sitting here with a case of the shakes and an upset stomach.  I don't know what can be done other than eat a meal (it's cooking now!) and try to squeeze in a nap.  A nap would probably help the most.

I am definitely careless with my nutrition.  I seem to handle the discipline when it applies to deprivation but can't get on board when it applies to fueling enough.  Perhaps a little pain at work tonight will encourage me to PAY ATTENTION!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Balancing Acts

Well, overall last week was a huge success.  The challenge for me lately has been learning to balance my ever fluctuating work schedule with my workouts.  With that in mind, I am really pleased with last week.  In spite of some mistakes, there was a lot to learn but in all, I was able to overlay a solid week of training onto a solidly busy work week.

I rode with MV, the cycling queen on Saturday and got myself into a bit of a deficit.  The night before had been really slow so I had gone to bed early and gotten up around 1:30.  That evening I ran before work, worked at a furious pace to get all of the horses braided by 6:30, then rode out at 7:15.  By the time I got home from the ride, it was 11:30.  It was the length of the day and the fact that I let myself get dehydrated that caused far more problems than the work-workouts combo.  That led to fitful, restless sleep and I created a deficit that I felt all night the following night.  Sunday, when it came time to head to the pool, I was mentally toasted, I accepted an invite to go out to dinner instead.  (While this is a bit out of character for me, a little bit of a social life is not going to kill me!)

I am now stuck making up a workout turning a relatively hard training day into a really hard one or accepting that a mistake cost me a valuable training session.  I don't think DW would demand that I make it up but I feel like I have let myself down if I don't.  There are times that I have to miss a workout and making it up is not an option.  Consequently, I don't want to miss one when it's only for social or laziness reasons, and especially when it is due to poor preparation or planning.  Consistency is like a savings account that accrues interest for future situations.  The more you string the days together, the more the whole becomes greater than the sum of it's parts.

Still, a certain amount of balance is necessary.

I realize that Sundays mentally are a tough day for me to train.  My brain and body want to let down after a hard week.  Training needs to happen on Sundays because there are often other days when I need to suspend training in favor of working like a beast but those days offer no mental (and little physical) relief. They are not really rest days.  I see this topic coming up in a future conversation with DW.  I am not sure how to handle it.  Intuitively, I know that constantly flogging myself is not the answer but also, I cannot always afford to take time off just because the going has gotten a little rough.

Balance.  It all keeps coming back to balance.  I feel I am walking a tightrope between the acrobatics of my work schedule and the consistent daily "grind" of my training schedule.  Two workouts, ten hours of physical labor, going to bed 23 hours later in a state of dehydration will never be a part of any successful equation, though, and guarding against that type of overload is paramount.  If I control the parts that I can, the workload will stay mostly manageable and rest days can include mental R&R, as well as recovery and sleep.

On another note, MV is truly inspiring.  Simply grabbing her wheel and trying to hang on was an education and motivation for me.  She is a consummate professional on a bicycle and absolute poetry in motion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Feeling Vaguely Like A Snack... Something's Snack.

I am all a flutter with anticipation.  My friend MV, the cycling queen, (kid sister to MVF the cycling fiend) is in town and we are going to ride this weekend and next.  I am soooo excited!!  MV is a former state champ who rode in the women's Tour De France (aka Tour De France Feminin) when it was run over the same course as the men's.  She still races and is no stranger to the podium.  I am warming up my tail feathers for the pending kick-fest.  It will not be the duck doing any of the kicking.

Lately, I have been making a habit of training late at night before I head to work (I work the graveyard shift) and it has led to some interesting experiences.  For starters, there is a different crowd in the pool.  More specifically there is no crowd in the pool.  Still, I was in the middle of a strong swim session the other night and when I got to the wall for a rest interval between 400s, the guy in the lane next to me asked me what kind of fish I was.  HUH?  He said I swim so fast I must be some kind of fish.  I laughed, thanked him and pointed him towards the local triathlon clubs.  I guess it's all relative, still it made me feel good.

Also, lately runs have been solo and in the dark.  I have taken to running in the campground where I am staying, which is actually in the middle of a safari park.  Between the alligators, snakes, and bobcats that are wild in this area and the lions, tigers, and whatever else is in the park,...




(because no bloody Hollywood flick can be without them)


... I keep thinking this is like a scene from a Jurassic Park style summer action flick.  You know, the early scene, where the dumb jogger gets eaten.

Tomorrow I am planning a long sunrise ride on the ocean but for tonight, I have a date with the pool and a run in the park.

(heeeeere...jogger, jogger, jogger)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


"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

Now get thee to the pool and get thy tail feathers wet!!

What Do My Sinuses And My Sink Have In Common?

Last week I fought a little bit of the flu-like creeping crud and seemed to handle it OK.  By the end of the week though, I probably could have been a little nicer to my body.  I added the missed workouts due to travel and illness back in at the end of the schedule (which right now ends on Monday).  Last night I went to the pool at 8 pm and made the last one up.  I was rather proud of myself for pulling that off until I turned in a poor performance last night and woke up with my crud kicked up a notch.  I realized then that I may have chosen quantity over quality.

(my nose)

I have an off day scheduled today and since today is a day off from work, I will rotate it to a later point in the week.  My plan is to do the offending workout today, followed by a run pulled from the end of the week and give myself some flexibility as the week gets busier.  However, I suspect I may be in need of an R&R day and I should mention that the workout mulligan is not replacing anything, it is simply piled on top.

I should also mention that there is ZERO chance I will take an R&R day today.  My brain is kicking on overdrive and so is the water leak that developed under the sink last night.  I decided that I couldn't deal with it without a cup of coffee so I wrapped it in duct tape which reduced it from a spouting leak to a dripping leak and stuck a bowl under it.  Problem solved (er... sort of?).

(my sink)

What to do.. what to do... What to do?  Go fix the geyser that is drenching the sub floor and assess the workout situation from there.

(this is how you over think a workout)

One final thought... I have heard of these athletes that live in campers in order to support their ultra ambitious ultra goals and I have one thing to say.  There is NO WAY this is more relaxing or conducive to recovery than a hotel room.  It is, however, quite a bit more interesting.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Camper Gremlins Ate My Sock!

Week one of the winter circuit is in the books.  The real horse show starts next week but the adventure is well underway.  At the beginning of the week, I arrived and settled myself in Florida for the winter, after an uneventful drive down.  The next ten weeks of my life will be spent here, working, training and dodging camper gremlins. 

The first official week in the Airstream proved eventful.  First, the wrong type of electric was installed and the electrician didn't know that campers ran on 110.  Without my permission, he plugged my camper into 220 and fried the electric water heater.  SO, no I have no hot water.  While it is a pain, it could have fried the whole camper so I am considering myself lucky.  It did, however, result in missing an entire days workouts.  Fortunately, I had a day off at the end of the week that I didn't really need.

Then there was that little mishap with the black water tank.  Oh yeah, that is as bad as it sounds.  When it overflowed into the bathroom (which is bare sub-floor right now because I ripped all the horrid, moldy carpet out), I grabbed a pile of utility towels marked for washing and threw them down to do damage control while I realized that my sewer hose was ten feet too short.  I ended up hooking the camper up and repositioning it with astonishing speed (if only I could run that fast).  Later, the towels got scooped into a trash bag and deposited unceremoniously in an outdoor can, with no regard for their sacrifice.  Unfortunately, the pile of laundry next to them included my bright green compression socks.  I am afraid one of them may have gone down with the ship, as it is nowhere to be found.  I will mourn them for some time.

This is a sad day for elf feet everywhere.

Then I got a nasty virus that made me thoroughly miserable for a few days, long enough to lose Saturday, or maybe it was Friday.  I don't know.  All I know is that my customer sent me a text with the horses that needed to be braided for the Parade of Champions on Sunday and I finished my work and went home to bed, setting an alarm to get up Sunday morning to braid them.  I woke up thirsty at 10:30 and saw a note saying the Parade was at noon.  I texted back, "Yeah, but that is on Sunday, correct?"  She replied "Today is Sunday."  

OH CRAP!!!!  

I had 90 minutes to get out of bed, get dressed, drive to the property and do 90 minutes worth of work.  

I got done and I think the trainer felt it was worth some sub-par standards given the fun he had with it.  Everyone was snickering when I walked in the barn.  Awesome.  (Note to self: Deposit dignity in same trash can as black water towels and your favorite sock.)

On one of those days midweek, I am not really sure which, I had a run and swim scheduled.  I did the run with the plan of heading to the pool afterwards so that I could shower at the gym (note dead hot water heater).   It was a good plan, except for that was the exact moment that my body decided to succumb to it ornery invader.  Chilled and feverish, I wrapped my slightly sweaty body in fleece and crawled into bed, passing out without even taking the HRM strap off.  (That leaves a mark.  I don't recommend it.)  

The next day, I had a great ride, even though I started off feeling like death.  Still, DW didn't want me trying to make up the missed swim while I was under the weather.  Letting go of that though, is not really my style.  Obsessive, hyper-vigilant worrying combined with ditsy moments of pure oblivion, now that is my style!!  Needless to say, I have hatched a plan that will let me get every missed workout done within the allotted seven days.  I am one day and two workouts away from the goal.  

THE FINISH LINE IS IN SIGHT!!!  (Of course, that is assuming that I know what day it is.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Altered States of Perceived Exertion

"It never gets easier.  You just go faster."  -Greg LeMond

(And he would know.)

This came as an epiphany when I read it.  Of course!  For some reason, I always assumed, expected, at some point it would get easier.  I suppose the effort necessary to produce the same result seems easier, but unless you work at a higher effort, even that won't be true for long.  

I did my tempo intervals today outside.  I think the biggest surprise was the speed and intensity necessary to keep my heart rate in the tempo range, which I have traditionally felt was pretty easy.  I did a half-moon loop backwards and forwards many times and as it turned out, wind was blowing diagonally across the long turns.  It meant that I spent a great deal of time turning a crosswind into a headwind.  But the moment I turned to a cross or tail wind, I was barely able to keep my heart rate out of the endurance zone.  

I was a little stunned at the level of perceived effort necessary until I realized that I was confusing effort with result.  In other words, I was going really fast so I assumed I was working really hard.  EHHHHXCEPT that I wasn't'.  I wasn't working nearly as hard as I thought or, frankly, needed to be.  

I have noticed the same is true of my pedal stroke and breathing.  If I am using a smooth pedal stroke and controlling my breathing, my perceived effort is much lower than if I am jerking, choppy, and gasping for air.  I think this is because when I really am wasted, these conditions are inevitable so in my subconscious brain the two are directly associated.  Clearly my subconscious skipped Aristotle's lecture on correlation vs. causality.  TWO DEMERITS!!

Of course, I have also realized that the same holds true in reverse and I can trick my brain into thinking I am suffering less than I simply by focusing on a smooth pedal stroke and even, deep breathing.  This is extremely useful during the last few threshold intervals or the latter parts of a race, but it requires a lot of focus, something I may la…. OOOH!!!  SOMETHING SHINY!!!!….. ck.

While I am sure it will take far too long to truly internalize this, the conscious awareness is a huge leap in the right direction.  It also lets me know that tuning in on my workouts and later on in my races is going to be far more helpful than my standard dissociative response to discomfort.  

In some respect this is an evolution of the blog on confidence, which addressed mind frame and performance to some degree, but to me, today, it feels like a huge revelation.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Virtual Peeps Make The World Go 'Round!

Throughout this holiday season, I have been a good little duck, training (and blogging) consistently.  I have also been away from home, isolated, thrust into family obligations and left in the wake of an emotional baggage garbage barge.  I have had issues with food, insecurity, people, training, injury, even fashion.  

Anytime I travel, I also deal with managing my food, workouts, and rest & recovery.  Things that seems second nature can seem overwhelming or impossible when I am on the road.  Even the simplest tasks require a strategy session. But the biggest challenge, by far, is the isolation.  Until you go day after day, week after week, living in hotel rooms, never quite able to relax, with no trace of yourself in your surroundings, you cannot imagine the loneliness of life on the road.  It would be very easy with no one watching, no one setting an example, no one caring what you do (you are just another face in a crowd at a truckstop), to let all of your goals and discipline slip away and float down the river of ease and convenience.  For me, that would be as deadly as a hunter with a duck call and a retriever.

With none of my support network within a thousand miles, I survive on on the road due to the merits of my virtual life.  My coach was in regular contact through emails, training peaks, and telephone.  I have friends that I talk to regularly, with whom I can be completely honest and depend on the favor being returned.  And then there is the vast online triathlon community.  

I blog to provide accountability, allow me to gather insight into myself, to polish my writing skills and for fun.  However, I read blogs for different reasons.  I read them to feel connected, to see how other people are dealing with the same issues I am and to stay immersed in a healthy, motivated group of like-minded people.   Nothing helps me more than opening up a page and finding out that Meredith from is struggling to manage  similar food issues,  that she is also learning to be an endurance athlete and that she is making progress in the face of being human. Finding out that a runner in a nearby TX town who runs marathons is also going crazy during the holidays, or that an K from,  an ultra marathoner, dealt with a "wonky Achilles" during a race and survived, helps me from feeling overwhelmed. It's nice to know also that DW's wife, the star athlete and blogger (who shall remain nameless lest I seem like a stalker), has had a her share of disappointments (though it bears mentioning that her way of dealing with them is ultra positive) and her words often put things into perspective.   I have a tendency to put people on a pedestal.  This helps me see that you don't magically transport to the finish line because of some freakish genetic ability, but rather by putting one foot in front of the other, doing the work, sometimes falling down but always getting back up and arriving there with loads of other people just like you.  Sometimes, they just make you laugh out loud (that would be you Meredith!).

If you can't surround yourself with athletes who lead a healthy lifestyle, then you will find yourself immersed in the real world where chicken belongs in a basket and pizza is a vegetable.  In order to be successful, you have to be around successful people.  The Internet is a valuable tool and while I would never advocate replacing real life relationships with virtual ones, the online community can help fill in the gaps when your peeps aren't around!