Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Chicken Little and Trigger Wins The Day

Well, I am happy to say that the sky is not falling.  I survived my tired end to last week, took the rest of Monday off and got serious about some rest.  (Of course, I am getting ready to dig a great big hole again starting tonight.)  DW managed to keep any eye rolling or smirks out of his tone of voice, though I did get the distinct impression that he wasn't nearly as concerned as I was.   My text to him today, sent after a wickedly aggressive not-quite-three hour ride (moderation?  WHAT'S THAT?), announced that the sky wasn't falling and "I suppose I am prone to hysterics".  

I have a theory on why I am always so sure I am dying.  I have been an athlete for a large portion of my life.  The periods where I wasn't able to claim that title were very dark times for me.  I have come to this point, this level of fitness, this precipice where I am trying to break through the glass ceiling with my fitness several times before.  Every time, I have fallen apart.  I have broken catastrophically.  I have sustained injury that proved to be "career ending".  I think with triathlon, with DW, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I think some part of me truly believes that any moment now, all this happiness will come to a sudden stop.  Of course, if I continue to think that way, it will.

Really hard to feel anything but good when it looks like this!!

On another note, I had another beautiful 2:45 beach ride today.  It was really windy so every stranger I passed tried to grab my wheel.  One guy hung on for a while and when I realized he was lurking back there, I ran us through a puddle to inspire him to announce himself.  He turned out to be very nice and very appreciative.  Another guy was not so nice.  After I pulled him into the wind at 20+ mph for 45 mins, I stopped at a red light.  He made a snarky comment as he ran the red and then sprinted away from me.  I caught that arrogant son-of-a.... about thirty seconds after the light turned green.  He jumped on my wheel again.  Repeat experience.  Then I got really angry, "I WILL DESTROY YOU! I WILL CRUSH YOUR SOUL!" angry, and when I caught him from a standstill again, I was burning about 26 into the wind and still accelerating.  He tried to grab my wheel for the third time and I dropped him hard in less than 10 seconds.  Jerk.

Okay, so maybe I exceeded the endurance heart rate zone by just a bit but I got back to my car bouncing, feisty, and ready to take him on all over again!!  Thank you DW for all those threshold intervals!  On the way home, the bike got dropped of at Flying Wheel for some love that it earned today.  New upgraded tires, a tune up and deep clean, and swanky new Italian-made bar tape.  Trigger, you're all right, even if you weren't designed for this.  Even when I get something new and flashy, you'll get to retire to the leisurely life of a commuter/pleasure bike because you were my first.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Sorting Out A Rough Week

Well, I am sitting here on my day off, drinking coffee and waiting for my scheduled phone call to DW.  I posted mid-week about suddenly getting tired and skipping a workout.  I wish I could say that did the trick but I was totally wiped out for the rest of the week and in all, missed three workouts, though I put in at least one effort every day but Sunday (my scheduled day off).  I was totally wrecked all week at work and even though my workout efforts weren't terrible, my attitude about them was.  I was bitter and reluctant all week.

I lay in bed last night (something I get to do on Sunday and Monday nights only- the rest of the time it is during the day) and wracked my brain for the answer.  WHAT HAPPENED???  I felt as good as I have ever felt at the beginning of the week and work-wise, this was a very light week.  I have a lot of possibilities, but no answers.

*I started a strength training program which made me very sore early in the week, but by the time I fell apart I had recovered from that.  I trained just two days and it was after the second day, when I was much less sore that I ran out of gas.  I realize that I had an elevated need for recovery during this period, which is probably why I listed it first.

*I started working with a sports massage therapist who's technique shares a lot in common with rolfing, though admittedly, at a more patient pace.  Still, due to the light week at work, he was able to do some serious work on my shoulders, arm, and hand.  The injuries there are deep set and old.  He worked through a lot of tissue adhesions but it was the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

*I slept, but not enough, nor was the quality what I would have liked.  I don't think there was a day when I didn't have at least 5 or 6 hours of sleep, though I never got more than seven.  The difficulty lies in the fact that it was a series of naps.  Two hours here, three hours there.  I never felt fully rested and recharged.

*I was ever so slightly dehydrated all week.  I drank water, lots of it, but far too many times found myself at the dog park after a workout without my water bottle.  I forgot to bring water to work a couple of nights.  They were short nights (2-3 hours) but I still would normally have polished off a liter or more.  Work is one of the places I rehydrate, since it is difficult to do while working out or sleeping and there is little else in my day.  I think there is a timing issue here.  It's not that I didn't drink the water, but I would down a couple of big glasses after I was already in a little bit of a hole.

*My nutrition could have been better.  My timing here was also a little off.  I wouldn't bring a snack to work because the night was short and then later be really hungry and make poor choices.  Plus, the more tired and dehydrated I became, the more I craved sugar and overate.  Sugar consumption always replaces water for me and sets off horrible food cravings setting up a vicious cycle.  I also consumed a lot of salt.  As a person with low blood pressure, there is not the usual health concerns there but I have noticed that it makes me retain water which has a negative psychological impact and screws up my thirst signals.  I turned into an eating machine by the end of the week.

*It got hot.  I did two bike rides in the afternoon heat this week and even though it is February, that didn't stop South Florida's temps from soaring to nearly 90.  I have been working out almost exclusively at night and the weather during the day has been mild.  I don't know how much of a contributor this was but I find it suspect that when I hit that wall initially, it was less than an hour after one of those rides.

*Emotional stress.  I have had two weeks in a row where I have gone to great lengths to help people who I believed to be friends (one a long time, close friend) and I have been lied to and let down.  The situations put me in a compromised position professionally, and cost me money.  But honestly, for someone who's lifestyle imposes so much solitude, it was the betrayal that hurt so much.

By the end of the week, I was a mess, physically and emotionally.  As I lay there last night, honestly wishing I could relax enough to have a that good cry that felt stuck in my throat for several days, it dawned on me... Why didn't I call my coach? Why didn't my workout updates include an indication that ANYTHING was amiss?

I didn't call because I didn't have the answers.  It is one thing for me to call when I know what is happening.  I will seek advice on how to organize the solution when I have already figured out what needs to be done.  But to call in the state I was in... that would have been admitting to the vulnerability I felt all week.

I still don't know how to let people help me.  I will bitch about a problem, laugh about it, wax poetic about the solution to anyone that can't run away... but to call before I have the thing in my rear view, to truly reach out for help in the moment I needed it, that is something I don't know how to do.  Even now, I am procrastinating on making this phone call until I have my thoughts sorted.  I am cramming for a solution before the clock inevitably runs out and I have to make that call.

Honestly, that bell rang 25 minutes ago.  I guess I'd better get my game face on.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rest...A Good Decision, I Believe.

After a few intense days that included a couple of threesomes and the start of a strength program, I found myself standing at the edge of a great big recovery deficit.  I was extremely sore, avoiding complete lock up by never sitting still and when the big blanket of exhaustion fell over me yesterday, I knew what was happening.

I am very light at work this week and felt I could push the envelope just a bit.  In addition to adding two lifting sessions, I wanted to include an extra easy 60-90 min. bike ride (because I wanted to ride with a friend).  I did the ride yesterday and then took the dogs to the park for an hour.  While I was sitting there, I went from feeling fine to being so tired I could barely stand myself.  I didn't initially decide to postpone the remaining two workouts (the two DW had written) because I thought I had the night off, which would have allowed for a lot of good quality sleep and recovery.

When I got back to the Airstream, I looked at my phone.  Two little text messages were waiting to ruin my day.  I had to work that night.  I had been fairly casual about getting enough sleep that morning in anticipation of a large block of quality pillow time that night.  THAT would not be happening.

I made an executive decision and scrapped the rest of the days workouts in favor four hours konked out on the couch.  Then when I got done with work this morning, I logged another solid 7 hours.  Apparently I was tired.  Fortunately, I also feel rested and ready.  I am blogging right now because I decided that I needed more coffee before I could tackle the challenge of figuring out where to re-insert these two missed workouts into the rest of the schedule without overloading myself.  It may mean that I have to workout in the morning after work this weekend, which I HATE.  (After work is for sleeping and sleeping only.  Such is the life of a night shifter.)

Aside from creating a scheduling challenge, and perhaps being a bit overly ambitious with my schedule (I don't doubt I will hear about that on Monday), I am really pleased with one thing.  I had noticed that Tuesday night I had started to be a little cranky.  Wednesday the fatigue set in.  Rather than beating myself down that black hole called overtraining (a place in which I have been known to pitch a tent and stay a while), I recognized the signals, backed off, got the rest I needed and am once again feeling fairly fierce!  For once, I was smart enough to recognize the signs and make a better decision.  I also don't feel like I have failed, only that I may have made a mistake.  I can live with that.  Plus the upside is that I pushed myself close to my limit, then rested adequately and came back feeling strong.

Tonight I have bike intervals and then a bodywork session that will mean that there will be no further training today.  I figure if I do my missing run on Saturday and then the swim Sunday morning, I will be able to get it all done and still have Sunday night off!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Amazing Day On A1A!

I had an absolutely spectacular day.  It started with waking up after a night of wonderful, deep sleep.  After a grueling day of training and intense body work, I got home last night and fell asleep on the couch at 7:30 pm.  I put myself to bed around 9, then slept like a log until 6 this morning.  I woke up feeling rested, loose, fantastic all the way around.

A spectacular day for a spectacular ride!!
I cleaned and took care of things around the camper while waiting on a repair man to come and look at my defunct hot water heater.  Then I headed to the beach for an afternoon ride.  It was one of those clear, bright days that just takes your breath away.  There was a decent wind coming off the ocean and I got treated to a fine mist for portions of the ride.  I rode an out and back from Lake Worth, south to Boca Raton, North to West Palm Beach, then back to Lake Worth.  It was just over fifty miles.  I enjoyed every minute, every inch.

I felt good all the way through, stayed fueled, stayed hydrated (even had to make three bathroom stops... oops).  When I was done, I felt like I had really turned in a nice workout.

Throughout the day, and really for quite a while now, my nutrition has been working really well for me.  My sleep was a little sketchy last week but maybe that is why my nutrition (and hydration) has been so good.  I know that if one leg of the table isn't holding it's ground, the others better work overtime.  Whatever.  The point is that it is feeling second nature and I am certainly reaping the rewards.

I am also glad that DW and I decided to switch my long ride to a day when I am off and awake.  It is so nice to have the time to go ride A1A (the road that runs along the Atlantic in South Florida) instead of grinding the hours out on a trainer or  racing circles around Wellington because I have run out of daylight.  I started today feeling great and now, pleasantly tired, I am ready for bed.

Too bad I have to work tonight but I refuse to think about that right now.  Right now, I am just savoring a bit of bliss.

Monday, February 20, 2012

More On Confidence

After surviving the carnage of last week and having it all turn out okay in the end, I was more than a little ready for some downtime today.  I got up early and ran, then had a good talk with the coach.  That was followed by a wicked strength session with my old friend and former rookie roomie JS (triathlete extraordinaire), then a long, intense body work session aimed at addressing some of the locked up muscles in my body, particularly my hip and shoulders for today.

I am still pondering what the thought processes of the beginning of the week mean and want to update my conclusions.  I realize that I am slowly internalizing and becoming comfortable with the idea of being a triathlete and taking that to the next level.  Where I once felt that I wasn't good enough to treat myself like a true athlete, prioritizing my health, happiness, and well being, I am starting to do that as a standard of living.  By the end of the week, I felt that I was good enough and my dream was worth making substantial change.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I have a lot of old injuries, I am just looking for solutions, even when those solutions push me outside of my comfort zone.  I am also now willing to be organized and focused with my time, in part because I now provide myself with quality down time... and don't apologize for it.  It is a very good way to live.  

I don't expect it to be all smooth sailing from here.  Rather I fully expect the journey to continue to demand difficult and sometimes painful change or sacrifice, but I am committed to it and for today (and today is the only day worth considering), I believe in my ability to do what is asked of me.  Going forward into this week, I have a full but (hopefully) not oppressive schedule.  I am planning to take the week head on and be as true to myself through care and disciplined training as possible.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

If You Hit The Ground, BOUNCE!

This week has been a mixed bag so far.  I have had some massive stresses at work, both due to the fact that this is World Hunter Rider week in Wellington and that the person that I hired to take care of my work back home decided to quit and leave the state without telling me.  There is nothing worse that seeing something that you care about deeply twisting in the wind 1500 miles away and being nearly powerless to stop it.  Fortunately, I was able to get it resolved without having to get on a plane and head back to Texas, which due to the magnitude of the classes here would have been very damaging to this side of my business.

Sleep was the sacrificial lamb.  I have had very little enough for about two light nights since Monday.  Insomnia has meant that I have had more hours in the day to deal with the crisis and get my training done.  It has also meant some long, difficult nights on the ladder feeling like I was ready to drop, and moments of "raw nerves" frustration.  However, it also meant that I had to cry uncle and recruit some help for the work load here in Florida, giving a nice girl a chance to make a living and possibly developing a future working relationship, as I cannot do this alone (no matter how much of a control freak I am).

My hip has continued to be a problem, though today is the best day so far.  I did some ROM exercises after my last run and found a huge weakness in the adductors.   Now I am trying to gently work it so that the muscle can unknot and hopefully begin to get strong enough to avoid this in the future.  It also pressed me to find someone for sports massage and chiropractic work down here, head back into a strength program to address weaknesses, and pay better attention to some of the awkward positions I tend to hold while working or even just sitting on the computer.

In the middle of all of this, my foot which had been causing mounting concerns, very quietly got better.  I am not sure if it is 100% since I have not run yet today but I certainly can report a marked improvement over the last several weeks.  I have been icing it religiously and becoming increasingly aware of imbalances in my way of moving and standing.  It took a while for the improvement to be seen (it waited until I wasn't paying attention to it... watched pot syndrome) but I am grateful for it.

All of this, along with really giving the problem solving skills some crazy hard workouts has yielded a nice result.  My melodramatic crisis of confidence has resolved itself, at least for now.  All the way through the week, I have been dedicated to caring for my body, making the healthiest choices, and continuing to strive for consistency in my program.  I have become aware of just how much damage I have to to my body (something I knew but never understood and appreciated).  I realize that the struggles I am facing right now are the result of poor choices in the past.  I have never done the things necessary to allow this body to heal itself.  As a result, I have a lot of physical baggage, most of which can be resolved with a focused, consistent, ongoing effort.

I am trying to shift my outlook a little and realize that every time an old injury flares up it is not the end of the world (I do dramatic well), but rather an opportunity to identify and correct damage.  It is another layer of the onion to be peeled back, revealing (what I hope is) a better athlete underneath.  I spent 30 years breaking myself, it is not going to be right in 30 days.  Patience is going to be the most critical component to getting to the finish line now.  But seriously, this will definitely make for a better athlete and a better person.

In other news, during my bike session on the trainer last night, I had the first of two good, old-fashioned slapstick moments.  During a threshold interval, I was in a big gear and out of the saddle hammering when the bike suddenly broke loose from the trainer.  I crashed ungracefully into a picnic table.  I picked myself up, remounted the bike, went right back to work.  I only lost about three minutes and had little more that a cut on my arm to show for it.  Later that night, one of the horses hooked my ladder with his foot and jerked it right out from under my feet.  This one was a little more graceful.  I fell/leaped backwards and got tangled in the ladder on my way down but somehow managed to land on my feet.  Aside from not scoring a 10 for my dismounts, I am pleased to announce that I did not suffer injuries to anything but my dignity.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Letter and Some Facts

I wrote this note to DW then elected not to send it.

This may seem kind of whiny but it's been burning a hole in my skull.  I feel like right now my body is really resisting the changes I am trying make.  I think this is probably pretty accurate.  Up until now I have either worked or trained, never both at full volume.  I always trained some while working but I never attempted to do any kind of volume other than a successful strength training program when I was working with Charles.  It is really exposing the (considerable and numerous) holes and weakness in my body and in my program (or lack of program).  I also seem to be getting more of those moments where things are going right.  (In horses, we call that flashes of brilliance.  At least in horses, it is a window into the future and green horses often go through rough patches in the early stages of training.)  I am kind of walking a line between feeling like I have too much baggage and this is totally hopeless, and feeling like I am about to turn a corner with this and see some real progress.  There are times when I see the effects of some of the changes I have made already and I can see what a handicap I have given myself up until now, but there is a lot of time when I kind of zero in on that word "handicap" (and others.. like old, fat, and slow).  

There are a lot of ways I have learned to abuse myself and I am quite sure that we will be finding many more issues that require some lifestyle or program change.  There is an attitude in horses that humans are expendable and the welfare of the horse is paramount.  People work sick, broken, day, night, 365 days a year in conditions that the average person would find deplorable.  It is considered weak to take time to care for yourself.  I labored for years in a job where I worked 7 days, got three hours sleep a night, and taking a day off would mean I was fired.  It literally freaks me out and I get a fair amount of ridicule from my peers for doing simple things like taking meal breaks or making time for sleep.  That is not to say I am not doing it.  Rather, I am all in, but this is really unfamiliar territory for me.  I guess I have no paradigm from which to determine how much effect these changes will have in the long run.  I have no sense of whether or not this will work.  I get so overwhelmed by how much damage I have done and sometimes it seems really hopeless to even try.  Problem is, I want this so bad I can't stand it so I've got my jaw set and I have no intention of giving up unless forced.  But, I don't know how to do this.  (I realize that is why I hired help on the project.)

I am prepared to make a lot of sacrifices to get what I want.  (I am even willing to not be right about everything.) While some days it seems completely logical, there are days that it seems utterly ludicrous and others where it is completely terrifying.  

Forgive this.. it is basically a dose of the week 6 blues(World Hunter Rider week causes a lot of anxiety), but I really wanted to have a week where I reported in with no complications.  I didn't pull that off that last week.  

"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

For some reason, I have been reluctant to discuss this confidence crisis I have been in lately with him.  I suspect he would dispel it immediately in about two sentences but poor confidence being what it is, I am afraid he'll decide I am too high maintenance and dump me as a client.  Plus, there is something else.  I feel like I need to do this on my own.  

When you are training or racing (or living through the hard times), you have to draw your strength from within.  You can get insight or support from others but really the battleground is inside.  I keep thinking about a post that Cort The Sport which talked about slaying your dragons.  I also recently read an article about the effect of the internal dialogue on your training.  I thought it was particularly appropriate for me since my internal dialogue is incredibly self-deprecating, right down to the name of the page.  I know I am limited so I use humor and sarcasm to shield myself.  It is okay to be the fat kid running if you are funny about it.  Anything more genuine leaves you incredibly vulnerable.  

The other issue at hand is the fact that I have a very weak support system.  Everyone falls down sometimes and they have to pick themselves back up.  Being in very unfamiliar territory, I fall down a lot and find myself wondering if I should be doing this at all.  The uncomfortable comfort zone is to not change my body, not change my mind, not change my life.  It is easier.  Easier is not better, only easier.  But I am going to have to do it alone.  I don't have people in my life to act as pit crew, cheerleaders, or even just a shoulder to cry on.  I run my races alone.  There is no one at the finish line.  When I come home from a long trip, I come home to an empty house covered in dust.  (Thank heavens my dogs travel with me or I'd be insane.)  My job, my travel, my training, it is all very solitary.  It is just a fact, one that I can either deal with or get upset about, but for the moment there is only so much I can do about it.  

I have been reaching out lately to people to try to get the affirmations I am craving.  Affirmation that I am good enough, that I can do this, that I have not totally lost my mind.  It is interesting how many people think that the right answer is to encourage you to give up the sport.  Yes, the sport causes a degree of suffering which is why people focus on it.  Lose the sport, lose the suffering.  Well meaning people seem to feel like derailing you from athletic goals is the kindest thing they can do.  Perhaps they don't really believe in your ability to accomplish them and they don't want to see you hurt.  However, what you really need is for someone to fan the flames a little.  Life without challenge and passion is a thin, dry, papery existence that holds no appeal for me.  At this point, my passion for training is providing me with purpose and adding dimension to my life.  Since I don't appear to have anyone that fully understands this (and if one more person gives me permission to quit, I'll start screaming), I'd better start blowing on coals myself.  

Fact 1:  I do not exhibit much talent right now.  

Fact 2:  I love what I do.  

Fact 3:  If I work hard, identify the limiting factors and target them directly, I will see some measure of success.  There is no way of knowing your limitations until you reach them.

Fact 4:  I was waaaay more hopeless than this when I started in the martial arts and I ended up being undefeated for several years.  

Fact 5:  According to DW, stubborn is a good thing and I have stubbornness in spades.  

Fact 6:  No one else needs to get it or care.

Fact 7:  I have a right to be here, to do this, to love this, to want this... even when I am not completely sure what "this" is.

Fact 8:  If I don't find enough strength to reach a goal, then I simply won't reach a goal.  The world is not interested is seeing you rise to a challenge.  It is interested in seeing you conform to a norm.  Anything more makes people itch.

Fact 9:  Even with all of the mental turbulence, I have gone out every day and done my job.  I have completed my workouts and I have improved, however slowly, and improvement is not always a linear concept.  Sometimes is a winding path with set-back balanced by exponential leaps forward.  Other times, it is climbing a mountain or knocking a golf ball out of a sand trap.

Fact 10:  It is time for today's workout.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That Breaking Point Should Be Here, Somewhere...

Well, I managed to get through my conversation with DW today without dissolving into a hopeless, quivering mass of self-doubt.  I actually didn't even bring it up.  I had a hard enough time explaining that my back (and consequently my hip) act up sometimes and that is just the way it is.  He definitely has a tendency to hone in on whatever the problem is, and insist we hash it out until there is a viable plan for eliminating it.  I know what the problem is... I haven't been to the chiropractor in forever, it's been slightly longer than that since I had a massage, and I deleted strength training from my program a year and a half ago, though I have sworn daily I would put it back in... tomorrow.  I hate being reminded that my current pain is the logical outcome of my endless slacking.  It was exacerbated by the cold snap but had I been doing my job, it wouldn't have been nearly this bad.

Fortunately, by the time I spoke to him, I had already managed to get in to see a chiropractor and had scheduled some time with my old roommate JS to put together a resistance routine.  I wish I could say that the pain in my foot was getting better but to be honest it may be slightly worse.  There is no way around the fact that standing on a ladder all night for work keeps the achilles and the plantar inflamed.  It hasn't gotten out of control but having already been down that road, I am not happy with the low grade constant pain that I am feeling.  There is the possibility that if I get my back/hip issue resolved it will lessen pressure on that foot.  Right now I have the feeling like I am one bad step or movement away from another injury.  I don't feel solid or stable at the moment.

I am heading into a brutally busy week at work and I am worried about my body.  There are things, at the top of that list is the severe repetitive stress injury to my hand that plagues me through every mane I braid. It has been really painful this season and I have not had to face a week anywhere near this busy.  I am worried.

Tail with fake tail added

Some of you may not fully understand what it is that I do for work.  Hunters at the big A and AA rated shows are turned out with their manes and tails braided.  The work is fairly difficult and the standards at this level are very high so it is common practice to hire professionals to take care if it.  I am one of those professionals.  I follow the horse show circuit, work at night, and go stall to stall, standing on a ladder and twisting hair.
I made a unicorn!
It's a living.  I do between 30-45 horses per week.  I don't do anything other than the mane, tail, and forelock (which I do NOT leave standing straight up!)  Everything else is someone else's job.  You can probably see why an injury to my hand is such a serious issue, yet when do I get upset about it?  When it messes up my catch in the pool or screws up my shifting.  We are funny creatures, aren't we?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cheerleading Tryouts At 3 In The Auditorium.

Well, the results are in and Lance has made a big splash.  Second place in the Men's Pro division.  I don't know what other athletes DW had in Panama but his wife placed second in the Women's.  Well done, both!

As I said in my last post, I was going to wait a few days before wailing that my (pathetic) hard won gains in running were gone forever.  NOW, I will cry about it!!  My fastest run last week was 40 seconds off my fastest run before getting sick and 15 seconds slower than my slowest.  Worse, I didn't regain speed as the week went on, I lost it.  (**sniff**)  I haven't even had the nerve to broach the subject with DW about how badly I run.  I am afraid he will tell me I am totally hopeless or worse, tell me something encouraging while believing that I am totally hopeless.

So many people get into this sport and are fast right away.  I feel like this great, heavy, dead- legged whale when I run.  Is it the weight?  Is it the form?  Both are issues, though I have overhauled my form quite a bit, with some good results, though I am technically not one bit faster than I was when I ran my second 5K, even though I am working MUCH, MUCH harder.  My second 5K time and my PR (only seconds faster than my best tri run) are only seconds apart with some wildly vary results in between.  One day I can jog happily at a 9:45 and sprint at a 6:45, the next the same jog is a 13:30 and sprinting doesn't even get me below 10:00.  I look at my fast times and if the ground is level, my max speed as recorded by the Garmin Overlord and tell myself "Once upon a time, you could only run for  one to two minutes at a time and it was at 4 mph on a treadmill.  Now you can go much farther much faster.  If you can move that fast for a minute, you can work to extend the amount of time it can be sustained.  There is a glimmer of hope and that is all you need."  Then I go out and my legs feel like lead, and my hope fizzles.  

I can seem to do everything right and no matter how hard I try, there is no speed to be had.  They just don't want to do their job.  It is intensely frustrating.  It is a frustration that I have in the pool and on the bike as well.  I did a set in December where I timed an all out 100, recovered and then keyed off that pace for several more hundreds.  My all out time was 1:27 and my follow up paces were in the 1:30s.  Then DW put workouts on the schedule that were based off that performance and I never got close to it again.  The harder I tried, the slower I swam (managed to slow down to the high 1:40s over the course of several attempts), the more frustrated I became until finally the workout I could never manage to pull off just stopped appearing in favor of more forgiving ones.  I am completely aware of the omission, though we never speak of it.

And don't even get me started on the bike.  Coming back to Florida meant returning to the old routes I used to ride and the computrainer center I used to frequent.  My average speeds over the same roads is several mph slower and the wattage I am pushing is significantly lower.  In all, I am slowing down in all three sports.  I am getting steadier, and perhaps handling it better, but going slower, without a doubt.  My strength to weight ratio has clearly gotten worse.

I find myself analyzing the course of events in my life.  I have now been on the road for 11 weeks and have 5 more before I go to Houston for 3, then I will finally see home... after 19 weeks away.  I have had huge stresses emotionally, gotten sick physically, etc, etc, etc.  Really?  I am just looking for there to be an external reason, something I can change, take away, make right, whatever.  I am trying to understand why someone can work so hard and see such limited result.

The same holds true for weight loss.  I am relatively disciplined, no gluten and dairy ever sees to that, and yet weight loss is erratic at best.  I lost 6 lbs in one week in December, and that brought me back down to my summertime low from before I got hurt.  But I have only dropped a total of 6 lbs for all of 2011.  I have over 30 I could stand to lose, and perhaps more.  30 would put me at the top end of a healthy BMI and all the weight calculator's ranges.  I am only 5'4" and I carry the weight of a 6' man!!

I realize that there are a variety of body types that can be successful in triathlon, just look at the top two women in Panama.  They are both dead fit but one is compact and strong while the other is lean and slender.  I would be in that first category, but with a lot of extra padding.  I know I won't be the athlete I want to be unless the weight comes off, and I know that is going to take a lot of hard work, but the puzzle for me is this... I do not believe my eating is out of control.  My calorie consumption (around 1800 per day holds me steady.. recommendations have me at around 2400 with my workload, training and my job, to lose a lb a week) is well below what it should be to lose weight and has been for years.  When I try to eat the calorie ranges that should produce a weight loss of a pound a week, I gain weight at an alarming pace.  I rarely skip a workout unless I am forced to by injury or illness and while my training load is conservative by triathlon standards, (6 hrs of bike and run, including threshold intervals, plus 7000 yds in the pool last week, a recovery week), it is more than enough to meet weight loss goals.

I believe I can do this.  I believe that if I do the right things, if I work hard enough, I will lose the weight and improve my speed.  I believe that even if I have to redefine my ideas of an ideal weight (though I doubt it will include a lot of jiggly bits), my performance will dictate when I have arrived at that goal.

I am considering the possibility that I need to reincorporate a weight program into my training.  DW has been reluctant to do that since I have so much muscle (which is apparently useless) and so little time.  Still, I think it is time to revisit the topic with him.  There is no way around the fact that my explosive power as well as steady strength have fallen off considerably, not to mention that my core has gotten so weak that I am once again starting to have issues with hip and back pain.  I don't know if this is the answer, but I am convinced that there is an answer.

I don't believe that I am JUST slow.  It is never that simple.  I can't handle the possibility that I am JUST slow so I will keep working and searching for an answer.  I didn't achieve some of my past athletic goals by accepting that I was just limited.  Instead, I challenged every one's ideas, including my own, until I became and undefeated fighter who finally crossed over to the men's divisions because there were no more challengers in the women's.  I was hopeless when I started that, too.

When DW returns from Panama, I am going to ask him some pointed questions about his program and how it is going to develop.  He clearly has a plan (he assures me that the athlete I will be in a year will be unrecognizable to the athlete I am today), something I was not confident of with my last coach, but it is time for me to understand that plan because I need to find a little faith.  I need to give him the feedback in this post.  I need to know there is hope.  I can't even say for what, because the loosely formed, long term goals I have seem (right now) totally outlandish.  I can't bring myself to tell anyone what I want from this.  It seems too presumptuous.  However, maybe I need to put it on the table.  If I state the goal, then perhaps he can help me to understand what to expect in terms of sacrifice to get there.  I am just terrified that he will say "Forget it.  THAT will never happen."  I need to know what steps I need to take to get where I want to be.  Right now, I am going forward, blind and fumbling, and following his instructions like a player in an game of "warmer/colder".   I am torn between truly believing in my coach and needing to understand the lay of the land to get a sense of perspective.

I certainly hope so.

In essence, I need a cheerleader right now.  (Not a skinny girl in a short skirt that makes me feel rotten in gym class, though beating one of those up would most certainly make me feel better.)  I need someone who will tell me I can, even if they are lying to me (just please be convincing).  Otherwise, I am working awfully hard to no effect.  As a completely goal/results driven person who struggles with confidence, I know that I cannot sustain this forever without a sense of some success.  I don't even need much success, just a firm belief that if I do THIS long enough, THAT result will happen.

I guess today I feel a little lost.

I also know I can accomplish something that is really difficult.  I can persevere when others would quit or just enjoy it as recreational.  I am stubborn as a mule when I put my mind to something.  Without an understanding of the scope of the challenge, I can't apply my considerable bull-headedness to the problem.  It is time I got that so that I can put my head down, get it done and know I am pointed in the right direction.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fierce, Feisty, Feathered!!

Every day this week I have been feeling great.  I'm nailing my workouts and hungry for more.  My energy levels at work have been fantastic.  I even begged DW for some extra workouts on the (fairly conservative) schedule this week.  I can't remember when I last felt THIS good.

It makes me wonder how long I had been rundown prior to getting sick.  Even in the weeks before I got sick, I was just getting by, going through the motions, with little excess energy or passion for the task.  By contrast, this weeks workouts have been full of drive and focus.  I just did a 2.5 hour bike ride where I was sprinting off and chasing cars for fun.  I noticed several times I had a big grin my face and was full of the unbridled joy that made me fall in love with this sport in the first place.  I think I have my mojo back!

I have always been the type of athlete that is pushing the limits.  The limits of my body and the limits of my coach's patience.  I am stubborn as a mule and fiercely competitive, with everything ("Oh HELL NO, birdie!  You did NOT just fly past me!!)  When I am just competing the assignment, especially if I am barely completing it, checking the box, and glad it's over, then there is something wrong.  I think that is as much of a symptom as swelling in a joint or pain in a tendon.  Going forward, I plan to consider my levels of "feisty" a literal gauge of my overall condition and general fatigue.

Needless to say, DW has been very pleased with the workouts that are being uploaded and I expect I will see the bar raised a bit in the next training block.  That is fine with me.  My progress been stagnant since the first of the year. I am really looking forward to sinking my teeth into the upcoming weeks.

Also, for DW and all his athletes racing in Panama this weekend.... GOOD LUCK!!!  I'll shake a tail feather for you!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Perfection, Practice, and Parking Lots

A swim and a run yesterday... All is right with the world.  The run was a little slower than the same run the day before I got sick.  The pace was off by :12/mi.  I will see where I am next week before I totally overreact ("OH NO!  Not even two weeks off.. *sniff*.. and that speed was the only speed I had.. *sniff* and NOW IT'S GONE FOREVER!!!.. ***WAIL***)

Then I headed to the pool for a swim.  I had one of those swims where a good catch was just beyond my reach.  I could feel it (and the immediate increase in speed) and then it would be gone.   It was just enough to focus an already intense mood into a needle point of focused blackness.  I went to the parking lot and updated the workout on my phone and while I was typing it, someone sat in a car wanting my parking space (there were others).  To express their desire, they kept beeping their horn.  I sent an abbreviated note to DW and somehow managed to avoid it transforming fully into a scene from a Peter Jackson blockbuster.  "THOU SHALL NOT PARK!!"

The workout note, (which I later decided sounded really b*tchy prompting an email apology) addressed a conversation that we had last week about some lost efficiency in the water.  DW had essentially said that it was okay to not achieve full efficiency (in the face of the many challenges I face as an athlete).  On the one hand, he's right.  I may not be able to achieve the form I know I should have because I am, well, old, fat, and broken.  But I do not want to be let off the hook like that.  Not now, not yet, not ever.

By letting myself off the hook, I may get some mental breathing space but I am practicing and ultimately perfecting bad form.  I have enough limitations as an athlete to willingly accept one that I could prevent.  Sometimes that error is not a limitation now, but becomes one later, requiring correction.

When I used to teach riding, proper form was paramount.  A kid could probably get around with big position mistakes but as the jumps got bigger, tiny little mistakes would be magnified into huge errors, inhibiting the balance of both horse and rider.  SO, every moment of every ride was done with purpose.  Every time you sat in the saddle you practice something that will either help or hinder you down the road.  Same is true for triathlon (and life, I might add).

Every time I get in the pool, lace up my shoes, throw a leg over my bike, I am going to practice something.  Whatever I practice, good form or poor form, will become habit.  Those habits will shape my body, either making it stronger and more balanced or imbalanced with injury producing compensations.  Those habits will form the foundation that will determine how far I can go before I reach the limits of my talent (ahem).  Talent, determination, and correctness of form are the three elements of the equation that determines your limits.  A person only has control over two of those.

There is a reason Vince Lombardi said "Practice doesn't make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Back In The Land Of The Living

Well, I am finally feeling back to my old self again.  I just met friends in downtown West Palm Beach, not far from where I used to live.  That was a little surreal.  After the way it all came to an end last May and June, I guess that is to be expected.  Anyhow, the game was FANTASTIC!!  The Giants pulled off an impressive come-back victory.  Even for someone who can barely follow the score, it was exciting.

I believe tomorrow DW will start me back into my regular program.  I am alternating between being pretty fired up to work and being a little apprehensive over all of the bumps in the road so far this year.  I have felt like I haven't been able to find my feet.  Of course, that is partly because I have been weathering a storm of upheaval and change in my life for about 14 months now.  While I have gotten to a point where I have almost forgotten what it feels like to sail in calm waters, I think that my body and mind are exhausted.  I keep saying it and yet I keep succumbing to the belief that I should feel strong and resilient.  That is not the case.  I should feel exactly how I am feeling right now.

I know the last year has been hard but I also realize that I have evolved as a human being.  I cannot measure everything in my life by my stagnated athletic performance (and it's not really stagnant, I have just had quite a few setbacks).  I was reading through some of my older posts and remembering where I was, who I was, when I wrote them.  The last year has been tough but I am a much stronger, empathetic, less material, more mature, and more respectful of my body and mind.

I keep reminding myself that the best way to go forward is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I saw this today and wanted to share it with you...

I am grateful for the life I have and realize that there is a lot more depth to human courage than I have had to draw upon in it.