Friday, May 25, 2012

Pain Train And The Time Trial... Ride and Race Report

This past week has been a pretty awesome week on the bicycle.  Last weekend saw brutal, long, and exhausting hours working on the ladder.  I came into this week knowing that I would be tired.  Monday I ran with a friend and logged a surprisingly sharp pace given the level of fatigue in my legs and a relatively low perceived effort.  Tuesday night was a group ride and what a group ride it was!!  It is called the "Pain Train Race Ride" for a reason!!  Wednesday was a moderate length run with speed intervals followed by a time trial yesterday.

Oh wait?  What was that?  TIME TRIAL!!  Yes.  For the first time in a year…. the Duck toed the starting line of a race.  It was a short time trial held by the Tyler Bicycle Club and the East Texas Triathletes.  I haven't found the results posted online but I think I finished second among the women… though that could be waaaay off base since I determined that by scouring the time sheets for times faster than mine.  EIther way, I am thrilled with the result.  The photographer was a volunteer and she is going to send me a disk with my photos on it.  I will post them when I have them.

The course was 4 miles and I did it in 7:41.39.  I was a little too conservative at the start.  There was a tail wind and I went out determined not to blow up.  The other riders had made a big deal about two hills at the end of the course.  I knew I would need to have something in reserve to deal with hills and I was wary of the intense week I had loaded into my legs.  They have let me down before when they get deep into overload.  When I started, I felt great and quickly ran to the high 20's for speed.  I remember thinking.. "ease off.  You've got a ways to go!"  I cautiously pushed to speeds up over 30 and let myself off the leash at 2.5 miles.  I crossed the finish line still accelerating and felt like I could have gone twice the distance!  What hills?  Oh yeah, crested those going 29 and my max speed on course was 37.  I am a little sorry I didn't fire earlier, but I am glad I stuck to my plan since I had no idea what to expect.  Without that tailwind, those speeds would have felt a LOT worse.  Now I know how fast a short course feels (everyone kept saying how long it felt) and I will follow perceived exertion a little more closely next time.  An old riding instructor once told me that showing is a skill that must be learned and practiced like any other.  Same idea applies to racing.  I am just thrilled to be back in the game after SOOOO long!!  I finished the race on my toes and hungry for more!!

Rewind to earlier in the week and there is the group ride I mentioned.  Don't let the word "group" fool you.  It was a crit style race ride with a ruthless pack of excellent riders jockeying for position and taking corners at astonishing speeds.  This duck was in some deep water here!  I had expected a fast ride but assumed there would be a pace line, which I knew I would be dependent upon to maintain averages in the low to mid 20's for 40 miles.  Nope, sorry, Duck.  No pace line!  I found myself at a huge disadvantage since I did not know the route.  Never really knowing when to floor it and when to back off.  Also, I was not confident cornering at those speeds on some really sketchy road surfaces.  After having to chase out of every corner for 45 mins, I finally got dropped on a hill where I made a bad choice in gearing and lost some momentum.  The pack was going to fast for me to make it up.

I rode briefly with a couple of other riders who were recently dropped but ended up being happier finding my own space and stayed a short distance behind them, maintaining the same speeds.  This worked well until they turned a corner and disappeared!  I am serious!!  Disappeared!  As in abducted by aliens!  Then I was alone.  Ordinarily not a concern as I usually ride alone but since I was in a strange town, on an unfamiliar route, and totally disoriented…. Well, I guess that is why I had a gps in my pocket.  I pulled up a map and got a route back to the shop.  The road home was some kind of crazy packed gravel for six miles so I had to watch that pretty average speed plummet as I felt all of the fillings in my teeth rattle loose!  After that, the road changed to smooth asphalt and I could not have been more grateful.  In the end, it was still a respectable average pace and I was pleased that I hung on as long as I did.

It was a great week.  I felt like I was outside my comfort zone and developing as a cyclist, athlete, and racer.  I will be back for more abuse the next time I am in Tyler!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tyler Group Ride

One of the nice benefits of spending all your time traveling around in a stinky old camper, aside from the fact that you get to feel like you live in a locker room, is the opportunity to ride with tri and cycling groups all over the country.  I meet all kinds of interesting people on these rides.  This week I am in Tyler, TX and had the privilege of riding with the Tyler Bicycle Club.  The ride was a blast, wound through some beautiful farmland, and finished with a meal at Jason's Deli.  The best part was the warm, friendly atmosphere of the group.  I felt very welcome and when I was pulling, they were all great about shouting out directions!

There were some very solid riders in this bunch and as I am continually reminded, never judge a book by it's cover.  Just because you are spotting that guy a couple of decades doesn't mean he is going to spot you even a couple of seconds on that bike!!

There were also a few really interesting people.  One woman was very forthcoming about the fact that she had previously suffered from a stroke.  She considers herself very lucky and is totally humble about the tremendous hurdles she has overcome, relearning speech and getting back to the point where she can really hang in there on that bike!!  It makes me realize that self-pity truly is the most useless emotion.

Next week, the club is holding a time trial.  Provided that I can work it out with my schedule, I plan to be there.  I have never done a time trial or ever taken off with someone holding my bike, and hope... HOPE... that I don't just fall over when they say GO!

Wish a Duck some Luck!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paleo Diets and More On The Topic Of Boulders!

I read an article today on whether or not the paleo diet is right for runners.  I almost never comment on articles like this, especially when it involves using my real name!!  However, I did comment...

from the article... link above.

The picture is the best part of the article. I tend to think articles like this are dicey because every body is different and will ultimately thrive on a different diet and the more rules there are in a diet, the less it becomes a self-honoring, accountable way of life. However, processed food is generally bad news for almost anyone. I don't follow a Paleo diet but have found that the more I listen to my body, which thinks gluten and dairy are pretty evil, the less I have. Once I got the "poison" out, my desire for anything processed is pretty limited. I have, however, noticed a drop off in digestion and well-being if I stray too far from what works for me... primarily whole foods, mostly veggies, a lot of fruit and plant proteins, a little fish or egg most days. My starches come from sweet potatoes, and occasionally ancient grains or brown rice, and rarely processed gluten/diary free breads or pastas. My primary fat sources are avocados, fish, eggs, and a minimal amount of olive or sesame oil. Aside from being mindful of my protein needs (a banana does not a meal make!), I just find that when in doubt, it should have leaves. The fewer hard and fast "rules" there are, the more likely I am to make a good choice because I want it. Has it worked? Yes... to the tune of 80 lbs and a major leap in performance and overall well-being! Is it a "diet"? No. It's simply what has worked for me.

Diet for me has become less about doing what I am told (unless it is my body doing the telling) and more about figuring out how the components in my diet affect my body, my training, and my life.  If I can identify a need or deficit, I fill it.  If I find a habit or food that is not working for me, I eliminate it or change it's context (meaning anything from not eating solids before a workout to not allowing containers larger than a single serving of certain foods to live in my house to adding a fat source to my smoothies to increase the staying power.)

I experiment with things the way a child tries different puzzle pieces in the space, setting aside the ones that weren't needed at that moment.  The only thing that causes a food to get eliminated is if it causes significant cravings that undermine everything else that I do, or really irritates my GI tract.  So far, the list of foods I refuse to touch is relatively short, but the list of things I will not do at certain times or in certain ways (example: nuts or nut butters kept in quantity in the house or solid food with a high fat content less than four hours before a workout.... all bad plans!)

If something is bothering me or affecting my performance, I pay attention, try to notice a pattern.  Is there a root cause?  Can I tweak something to make an improvement?  My food is my fuel and if I am putting diesel in a gasoline engine then I should expect sub-optimal results.  If I overfill the tank and it overflows onto my shoes, I try to identify an indicator that the tank is nearly full and respect it in future situations.  If I run the engine out of fuel all the time, not only will it refuse to run, but the fuel filter gets all clogged and it affects future performance.  You get the idea.  I actually don't know enough about cars to use an automotive analogy but I am just reckless that way!

Eliminating the scale was a big component for me.  Taking away the obsession about my weight and focusing solely on performance allowed me to begin to develop this attitude about food.  If something doesn't work, I don't have a meltdown, I just don't do that again.  The trial and error process needed the freedom to have error as well as trial to be successful.  When I was monitoring my weight like an overeager investor hovering over the scientist who's research he is funding, I can't be objective.  I can't make training and performance the meters on which I measure the value of a food or habit.

The other big component was coming to terms with my sleep.  By recognizing that I have a broken sleep cycle, and treating it aggressively as a condition rather than simply accepting a sub-par waking existence, I have finally overcome most of the insomnia that has plagued me nearly all of my adult life.  Getting enough sleep.... and staying HYDRATED... curb cravings, allow my body to relax and heal, reduces cortisol (which is basically the on site manager for The Fat Storage Warehouse), and banishes my Chicken Little mindset.

Do you remember my post about the boulders?  These are boulders in the path.  If you find they are there,  then try to push them out of the way to no avail, what do you do?  Well for years, I sat down in front of those boulders and said, this is where my path ends.  Now, my plans include levers, pulleys, and a book titled "How To Move A Boulder" by DW!  And guess what?  It's working.  I feel better and look better than I have in years, not to mention that I am happier and more confident.  Am I done?  Heck no!  I have a huge pile of BIG A$$ ROCKS in my path!!!  I am working on them, chipping away, moving them aside and making significant forward progress.  Some days I achieve great leaps, some days baby steps.  Other days, I am simply treading water or even backsliding a little.  Overall, though, my good choices are outweighing my bad ones and everything (including the ratio of good choices to bad) is trending in a very positive direction.

It doesn't matter what boulder you have in front of you... There is an video article in the Twitter feed about a triathlon camp for veterans that DW and some pros put together.  These men and women have different boulders, but boulders nonetheless.  They are having to figure out their own pulley and lever system.  Whatever your issue is.... If you can take a step back from it emotionally and begin to look at it as a problem with a solution that you simply haven't found YET... then progress will be made.

Monday, May 14, 2012

THAT Girl!

I have posted recently about feeling like I had backed off when the going got rough.  I had noticed this in a few workouts lately.  I am generally pretty tenacious but lately, I have been a little short on grit.  This weekend's long ride turned into a workout I can be proud of (and feel the effects of) for quite some time.

I went out with a group, something I am rarely able to do, for what was supposed to be a moderate, 36 mile ride.  I needed something a little longer and so I biked to and from the ride and the day's total ended up at 54 miles.  Perfect.

The group started off with the advanced group, mostly pros, leaving first, followed immediately by the intermediate group.  The intermediate group eventually broke into a faster and slower group.  I went right with the fast group, sticking pretty close to the ride leader and the front of the pack.  The ride was a little hilly at first and then there were some fairly significant hills on the loop around the lake.  I was pretty pleased with my performance until I miscalculated a hill... or more specifically, did NOT see the rest of it... and ended up losing all my momentum which sent me down to the granny gear by the time I reached the top.  For this girl who learned to ride in flat, windy South Florida, the hills of Austin present not just a cardio and strength challenge but a technical challenge also.  If you screw up your gearing, go with too small of a gear and lose your momentum, it can cost you 10+ mph by the time you spin your way to the top.  Fail to get into a small enough gear and you will burn out your legs too fast.   Also, a flub in the nutrition plan caused me to have some ground to make up at one point, but fortunately, given even a little gas, this engine is really pretty responsive.  Another tri guy and I took off after the pack at a blistering pace down in a tuck, burning around a curve, and blasting up the hills like the devil was on our heels!   It was like a little slice of TT heaven!

All this was all well and good.  As the ride went around the lake, the hills got a little bigger.  Also fine.. except... wait.. what the?!?!  My bike wasn't shifting.  I was headed up a monster hill and I didn't have a functioning front derailleur.  Oh, and I was in my big chain ring because I was just blazing down a hill like my life depended on hitting 40 mph!  Uh oh.  Screwed doesn't begin to describe this.  The little pack dropped me and it was all I can do to keep them in sight as my quads fill with lactic acid.  Suffer.  Suffer.  Suffer.  However, I did keep them in sight, which is fortunate since I did not know the route or the way home.  There was never any question in my mind that I wouldn't give up.  I was a long way from done, quitting.  I couldn't maintain as much speed as I had been earlier but I was still fighting it out at a pace that took me sailing past a number of riders from the intermediate pack that had passed the leaders when we stopped to deal with a mechanical issue.  I was attacking the hills because deep down I knew it was the best way to handle it.  Keeping that bike over 20 mph was the only thing standing between me and complete misery.  Momentum was the only thing going for me at that point.  I had to keep the intensity up.  I had to keep going.

That girl who decided to step up and fight the men, who finished the fight with her ribs smashed in, who climbed on unbroken thoroughbreds and rode her best when the horses were at their worst, who has never truly found the bottom of her physical reserves, who survives and thrives because of grit, tenacity, stubbornness, and toughness, ... yeah, she's still there.

...and she likes this video.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The TImex Overlord and The Flying Wheel.

After last weeks discovery of weight loss, a significant amount that took me through a plateau I had been stuck at for many, many years, it was easy to want to slack off a little.  It was also easy to fall right back into obsessively checking the scale.  Bad choice.  I jumped right back on that emotional roller coaster and honestly, my diet, my training, and my emotional well-being have suffered for it.  Back to the information black out!!

Speaking of information black outs.  I got my new Overlord the other day.  I have now become a minion of the Timex Overlord (also known as the Timex Global Trainer.  I like Overlord better!) and my data files are once again full of detailed information.  Hopefully, it is accurate information.  I don't know exactly how long the Garmin had been lying to me but it's possible that it has been quite some time.  I did an interval workout on the trainer the other day and was greeted by horrifying results!  My RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and my heart rate didn't match up AT ALL!!

I did seven threshold intervals that were (at least to me) fairly long, followed by a long block of steady state.  The total workout including time between intervals, warm up, and cool down, was a little over two hours.  Lately, my interval work has been on the roads and based solely on RPE, as the Garmin Overlord had gone the way of King George.  I returned to the old format of doing the intervals on the trainer and using the HR info to provide the markers for a solid suffer-fest.  And WOW!!!  Suffer I did.  I didn't even make it to threshold on most of the intervals and some of the averages were closer to endurance than threshold.  I found myself blowing the intensity out of the water trying to bring my HR up but then being unable to sustain even a lesser intensity for the remainder of the workout.  I didn't feel like I was not willing to suffer but rather like I was going all out, far harder than I should have, and blowing up without ever seeing my heart rate reach the desired levels.  (Of course this is a question for DW, and I have no doubt it will get discussed at length during our phone conference Monday.)

Still, the point is that it was a humbling workout.  After feeling a bit invincible, between a really killer run workout the day before, and the weight loss, I then felt totally let down by this performance.  I think, though, that is is something that is probably pretty common with athletes and it is just an indicator of the fact that I may not have been working at the desired intensity for a little while.  Also, having the numbers in front of me again, I got so wrapped up in them that I lost perspective, hammering to reach a numerical goal and tossing the more subtle feedback coming from my body right out the window.  It was like I got a little taste of success and made a greedy grab for more.  Of course, the monkey cannot get his hand out of the jar while holding ALL of the dates (Aesop)!  Adhering to heart rate data is a little bit of patience with a little bit of intuition, and a big blob of common sense.  It takes time for the ticker to respond to the workload and when you are working close to your max, it is easy to go out too hard trying to get to the target number.

Another thing in play in that workout was my trainer and bike set-up.  I have had chronic issues with this for a while and the consequences have been breaking loose once and crashing, once breaking a skewer, and often times having so much inconsistency in the resistance it feels like the bike is leaping between it's chain rings.  This time I could feel an alarming lateral wiggle.  Then the bike started shifting on it's own.  I looked down and could see the wheel sliding sideways so far it was pulling the chain onto different cassette rings.  This is not good!!  I had visions of cracks in my frame and ruined cassettes and derailleurs. No matter what, NOT GOOD!!  I finally called my local bike shop back in Florida since I have yet to develop a relationship with any of the shops here, and they helped me to trouble shoot the issues.  TJ also reminded me that I owe him a pizza because my bike was so trashed the last time it came in for a tune up.

I love my old local shop, The Flying Wheel, in Royal Palm Beach, FL.  The shop owner, Gary, has a true love for the sport and takes any new riders under his wing, offering advice and assistance.  His enthusiasm is infectious and he qualifies as an ambassador for the sport.  TJ is "wrench extraordinaire"! The atmosphere is wonderful, low-key and I really, really miss it!  I really hope I can find a "home" in Austin like I had there.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I saw this over at SwimBikeMom and felt it embodied what I am trying to say here at Runs Like A Duck so I decided to share it.

Change is a hard, awkward, painful, ugly process with beautiful results.  This man takes courage to another level.

I cannot find words that say it more eloquently.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crashing Through Barriers!!!

This week has been interesting.  I am still sleeping like Rip VanWinkle and training like a fiend.  Work has been light, and oddly, my social calendar got dusted off as I enjoyed some time with other human beings!!  I had been feeling a bit like I needed to sharpen up my game since I had several nights over the last few weeks where I went out to dinner or (gasp!) had a gluten-free beer or a glass of wine.  I was a little concerned about the impact of the relaxed diet on my weight so I jumped on the scale the other day.


There has been a plateau that has been an immutable barrier most of my life.  I have gone crashing through it, flying past that dreaded number by not one or two, but eight pounds.  No wonder I have been feeling a little weak and lightheaded during hard training sessions (there are other factors too but I do have a pattern of this when I drop weight until my body adjusts).

This is significant.  Beyond all of the obvious ways it is significant.  That plateau, that number, had been a part of my life for most of my adult life.  I passed it on the way up during puberty and it represented the best I could do through all of my efforts at athletics throughout my teen and adult years.   I truly believed that whatever athlete I was going to become, I was going to do it from behind that line.  I believed I could perform well in spite of this but never thought I could be free to perform without it.

Now I know that I can achieve my dreams.  I can become the athlete I truly want to be... not a good or even great athlete handicapped by 25 immovable pounds... recognizing my full capacity.  I don't even have a definition for what I think that capacity might be.  I have truly never considered it a realistic possibility.

I thought I believed in myself, my journey before.  Now I realize that it was limited, with a caveat, strings attached belief.

No longer.

Now I know it will happen.  Fully, truly, and without reserve.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Turning Boulders Into Pebbles

Convincing my body that a normal sleeping pattern (what's normal?  I work insane hours!) is a good idea is harder than it seems.  After blogging all winter that I couldn't sleep, now I can't seem to stay awake.  After finding a formula… a mix of Valerian tea, magnesium, probiotics, and varying doses of melatonin… I not only have been sleeping, I can't seem to stop!!  Forget eight hours a night, it's more like nine, ten, twelve, throw in a nap (two hours today) for good measure!  I realize I was in a very, very deep deficit and a certain amount of recovery is going to take time.  I also realize that I periodically (like twice during my week in Tulsa) still work/train for periods greater than 24 hours without any sleep, but still!  I keep thinking that at any moment, I should emerge from the phone booth with a big, red letter emblazoned across my chest (SUPERDUCK!!  I like it!)

I have been able to cut back on my caffeine and feel pretty good most of the time. if I had an ounce of perspective on my training would probably acknowledge that things are trending in a good direction.  Unfortunately, all I can see is the shortfall.  DW has been having me do these longish (OK, short to some of you but long to me!) runs and now we have added speed work to them.  I keep thinking that they will get easier if I keep doing them.  It's not that I expect them to be a walk in the park but right now they are holding my feet to the fire and I am coming out of them totally trashed.  Plus, I am consistently falling slightly short of the goals.  It has been a little difficult to sort all of the physical input because of various extenuating circumstances but the constant is that I am not finishing these well at all.

Today was no different.  The run was shorter, though still longer than anything I had done prior to three weeks ago, and just supposed to be endurance miles.  The long run with the speed work is looming later in the week.    Yesterday was my long ride paired with a swim so I went into it a little fatigued and in spite of that felt pretty good through most of it… until the last half mile.  I had an original goal of finishing under a certain amount of time (1:06).  I got within a mile of the end and realized that I was going to beat that by a lot.  Then I got greedy and tried to push that last mile trying to finish as close to 1:00 as I could.  That would have put the pace well below my 5k pace for a much longer run and would have been the fastest time I had ever completed a longer run, racing or training.  I was 4 tenths of a mile from the goal and I blew up like an atom bomb.  Feathers and webbed feet went everywhere!!  (not really, but it's a great idea)  Less than .3 miles from being done, I broke to a walk.  I honestly didn't even know I was going to do it.  One minute I was running and pushing as hard as I could, the next I was walking.  Once I did, it was over.  I immediately tried to run again, not even trying to go fast.  Nope.  Walking again in a few hundred feet.  Each time I broke, I walked a little more and ran a little less until I couldn't even pull off a few steps.  I walked most of the last .25 miles and didn't even realize that I then went a .1 too far.  I was toast.  I finished in 1:08.

This is the second roasting of poultry that has happened lately.  First, I can't even tell you how pissed I am that I could have had a more modest accomplishment without any change in effort but didn't even make that goal because I got greedy.  Two, I am so disappointed in myself for yet another missed workout target.  I don't think the plan is for me to walk part (even a small part) of the assigned distance.  I think the point is to keep moving and to establish a sustainable pace.  There was very little wrong today except perhaps I am not someone who can go for that long without some electrolytes but really, all I had to do was keep fighting and trying.  I was so close but I was a greedy, greedy duck.

I also realize that at some point in that last part, I gave up.  I stopped trying and pushing.  I resigned myself to the failure and just walked.  That bothers me most of all.  It's one thing to miss a target when you try and struggle to the bitter end.  Lately, I have been letting myself off the hook a little too often.  I have had so many physical hurdles that I have learned, grudgingly, to be gentle with myself.  Now, it seems I am having trouble calling up the tenacity that I have always depended upon.  Had that been a race I would have been so disappointed.  I lost the mental game, again.  I have lost it a few times lately.  I think a little toughening up may be in order.  I suppose the balance between the two is a target in motion.

During the pre-bonk portion of the run, I did some thinking.  I have been feeling a little bit like a hopelessly bad athlete.  It seems like I headed down this road and a short distance into the journey, I rounded a bend and found the rest of the road blocked by a landslide.  In order to continue on this path, I have a whole mess of boulders that need to be moved.  Those boulders each have a label.  Extra weight, old injuries, arthritis, gluten, poor sleep, bad habits, poor nutrition, bad equipment, etc.  Some boulders will move more easily than others and a few will bring on another landslide if disturbed.  I would be great if I could clear every last pebble from my path, but really, I just need to move enough to pass.

I have begun this journey of taking care of myself, addressing as many of these limiting factors as I can.  I alternate though between being totally determined to do this and thinking I am just completely deluded.  It seems like I keep going over the same ground and not actually breaking through to the next level.  I ran like a duck when I started this blog and guess what… I still do.   Still, I guess I believe that at some point, I am going to break through this stuck phase and see significant progress because I am still trying, still working at it.  I still want to go down this path that is covered in all these big FREAKIN' ROCKS!!

Years ago, I frequented an online support forum that described trauma as a boulder.  I agreed at the time.  I felt like Sisyphus, pushing my boulder up the mountain.  The quote went on to promise that as time went on the boulder would become smaller and more manageable until finally it was nothing more than a pebble that could be slipped into a pocket.  It would never go because you cannot change your past but it would be a light burden.  That proved true.  That pebble is in my pocket and at times, it gets a little heavy and I have to hold it in my hand, but it is no longer a boulder that takes all my strength to move.  None of the challenges I am facing now will require that much strength.

Training, especially for someone with a lot of boulders, is a process.  It is a physical process, a learning process, an evolution of lifestyle.  These boulders in my life now are all much, much smaller than they were even six months ago.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell how many more still need to be moved before the path is cleared.  Each limiting factor is something that can be identified, addressed, and ultimately, hopefully, managed or removed.  As I learn to manage each, it takes less thought and becomes simply a way of life.  In other words, they become pebbles.  I will always be running with a pocket full of pebbles but that is a lot easier than being crushed under a landslide.