Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Big Reveal!

As you know if you have been reading this blog for a while, I have a trusty steed named Trigger.

He's dependable, safe, hardworking, attractive... but let's face it, he's no thoroughbred.  I have been working the wheels off of him for some time now and he has done his best.

He carried me through learning to clip in, my first tri, my first time placing, my first time trial, countless hours of training and travel all over the country.

  His unassuming posture and kind ride have been ruined by my efforts to achieve an increasingly aero position.  He has been torqed, tweaked, and frankly, tortured, as I have asked this kind everyday mount to perform the duties of a racehorse.

 In fairness to Trigger and with respect to my back which is forever at odds with him, as of today my stable now has a new horse.


 Seabiscuit is a thoroughbred through and through.  He has the pedigree, the looks, the arrogance, the performance record....  yes, that is right!  Seabiscuit has already carried one woman all the way to KONA!!!  Now he is here to teach me how to truly go fast.

I rode him for the first time today and he is a ROCKET!!!  His handling is responsive and lightning fast.  He reminds me in every way of riding a real thoroughbred racehorse, loaded with piss and vinegar, on it's toes and ready to explode from the gate.  Just before you think it, they finish doing it.

One of the reviews I read of this bike, the Felt B2 Pro, described it as "excuse destroying".  That was the review that tipped the decision for me.  No more excuses.  It's GAME ON!!!

And for anyone that is worried about the fate of Trigger, at least for right now, he is safely stabled in my living room next to his new stablemate, enjoying the easier days of semi-retirement.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sneak Preview

I took a quick peak at the progress. I nearly squealed and started jumping up and down. I don't think I will be able to manage that level of composure tomorrow. Fortunately, DW said squealing and jumping is perfectly acceptable.

Tomorrow is the big day.


I hate waiting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Patience Is For Grasshoppers. I Am A DUCK!!

It has arrived in Austin.  I went to a local business which is closed on Tuesdays but the tracking info says that that "Murray" signed for it at 10:29 this morning.  I will see it for the first time tomorrow.  I'm six years old and it's Christmas Eve all over again!!  Deep breaths... Patience, Grasshopper!

Now that I have that out of my system (yeah, right), on to the point of this post.  Last week was a tragedy.  It took until Saturday to recover fully.  I really scaled back the workouts, battling both fatigue and mental burnout, even going ballistic with some gluten free banana cake one night.  I focused on rest and remembering the joy of it.  If I didn't want it, I realized that was my body not being ready to go back to work.  

The good news?  It worked.

Saturday night I did a spin on the trainer and while the first 45 mins felt rough, right at the end I began to pick it up and there was a glimmer of hunger there.  I took Sunday off and came back Monday with a vengeance.  I did a LONG ride with a good amount of climbing and was joined by a new riding buddy.  It was nice to try a new route and to not be alone for a change.  I turned right around an hour later and put in a solid (but slow- it was 105 degrees and the pool was probably in the 90's) swim workout.  

What was really significant was bouncing up at 5 this morning to do a run with speed work, immediately followed by a ride with fairly long threshold intervals averaging 23-25 mph.  I never really got to threshold, both because I ran out of gears (and it was SOOO hot) and because my heart rate has been staying really low lately, but the perceived effort was appropriate.  I finished before lunch and temps had already reached 103, a few degrees more on the road.  (It is around 110 now, but I am safely sequestered in the AC for the rest of the day.)  I turned in a solid effort on both workouts.  I feel like a new athlete after some rest.  

 I had to laugh at myself.  I still judge a book by it's cover.  I met this new riding buddy on the Slowtwitch forums and when he rode up to our meeting place I almost died.  He was dead fit, shaved legs, fancy kit, FANCY bike.  He was one of those people that just LOOKED wicked fast.  I was sure I was in over my head.  So sure in fact that I totally panicked when I saw him and considered backing out of the ride.    As it turned out, it was a good ride for both of us.  It's not that he isn't fast, it's that I have gotten much stronger, even on the hills (though I am still not going to be wearing polka dots anytime soon).  I am looking forward to hurting him (and most likely getting a little hurt myself) a bit when I get back from Colorado.

Sunday I leave for Traverse City.  I will say goodbye to triple digit temperatures and say hello to 70's and 80's.  My only regret is that I feel like I have finally started to handle the heat a little better and I will not experience it again for two months.  Then a week after I return to Texas (mid AUGUST) I have a race!!  I will probably really struggle with the heat there if I am not careful.

But tomorrow?  I have to get through tomorrow.  Why?  Because Thursday is right behind it.  10 am Thursday morning the magic will (hopefully) happen!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lessons From Last Week

This weekend is proving to be slightly lighter than the last, which is good, but it is still a slammed week by normal standards.  I jumped on the trainer tonight for a quick spin and for about 45 mins, felt really weak.  Then it was like my legs finally woke up.  I finally started spinning with some energy and my HR was.. well, at least I had a pulse.  But the biggest part was that I finally started to enjoy it and feel a little desire to work.

What has been startling about this week is the fact that when I dug that deep hole last week and Monday, I buried my motivation, determination, drive, and enthusiasm in it.  It wasn't just my body that went off-line, it was my brain as well.  I am cooling my jets this week and trying to recover physically and mentally.  It does seem to be working though I am surprised by how long it is taking.

DW has been underground for the last two weeks and I will be glad to finally get a chance to go over all of this with him.  I feel like there is a stout lesson here with regards to the big summer horse shows and I would be wise to learn it now.  I head home for a week and then it is off to Michigan followed by Colorado (LOTS of pictures, I promise).  I have my first tri in more than a year a week after I get home.  There will be no room for mistakes like this for the next six weeks.

I am not too worried about my enthusiasm though.  I should have all I need by Thursday.

Still WAITING....

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Coming and I Am Waiting

It got on a truck in Los Angeles around two am.  It will roll down the highway towards Texas for the next couple of days.  This is worse than waiting for Santa.  

In other news, last week was officially the biggest week of braiding I have ever done.  I braided 63 horses.  The most remarkable part was the fact that I was done at a very respectable hour each day.  It did however result in impaired training efforts culminating in a total breakdown of the program by the early parts of this week.  

Monday's long ride turned into a test of mental endurance.  I planned to ride out to the lake, do three small loops and ride back which should have given me the requisite three hours with a bunch of climbing.  I rode out and did one loop and barely survived it.  I was struggling so badly, I resorted to my granny gear on the smaller climbs that normally don't even warrant a switch to the small chain ring.  My back was screaming!  The biggest limiter to climbing for me isn't leg burn or breathing (though those are always present), it is back pain.  As the terrain points up, my back clamps down.  I know this is a function of bike fit but I have never seemed to have any success relieving it at all.  Some days are just better than others.  This day was developing into one of the worst I had ever had.

At around an hour, I was pretty waxed and I fumbled around in my jersey pocket to find the sleeve of Cliff Shot Bloks I had stashed.  I pre-tear these when I use them to make it easy to eat on the move.  The jersey du jour had only one large zippered pocket.  The package caught on my cell phone and when I finally wrenched them free, the bloks shot forth like slippery little cannon balls!  I didn't have the presence of mind to stop the bike and pick them up.  Normally, that would have been out of the question but I was already so trashed, it might have been a good idea.  Later, when I rode past them again (and again), I deeply regretted the decision to leave them there.

I came to the first place that I could turn to do the planned small loops.  I made a decision to call the ride and head for home.  My back was screaming, it was close to 100 degrees, I could barely turn the cranks, the water in my bottle was blazing hot, I barely made it up the bigger hills as it was and the wind was picking up... and home was still a solid 40 mins away which would bring the ride to around two hours.  

On my way back, I stopped at a light.  I was pretty wobbly and the hill was steep, so I was rocking the bike back and forth (not intentionally).  I realized that the bike wasn't rolling. In fact, it was resisting me so strongly, that I couldn't make it move without a big effort.  Front brake check... good.  Back brake?  Oh WOW!!  At some point the back brake had clamped down and gotten stuck.  I had been riding with the brake on.  No wonder I was hurting.  I reached back before the light turned green and gave it a push, then stopped where it was safe and properly fixed it.

At that point, I wasn't far from the last place I could turn back and go for another loop, so I decided to go for it.  Sometimes if I commit to the task, I find the energy even when it seems like there's nothing left.  Turning at this point made the loop much bigger, possibly even bigger than three of the small loops.  Too bad I wasn't really up for it (remember those Shot Bloks?).  I got three quarters of the way through the second loop and when I turned towards the biggest hills, I turned around.  I knew deep down I wasn't going to make it to the top.  The pain in my back exceeded any kidney punch and it was robbing me of all my ability to generate power.  I was running 10-15 mph slower than usual on the flats and downhills.  Barely making it to the top of the climbs.  I was DONE, bonked, trashed, waxed... pick your colorful term.  I was also out of water.  

I had been going slower than usual and ran out of water early.  I didn't really consider this when I turned around.  Had I kept going I would have come to a gas station in a couple of miles.  Instead, by turning around I added miles to the route and it meant no place to stop and fill up.  I did finally get water at a store not far from home but by then I was already really dehydrated and the damage was done.  

Later that night I tried to swim.  With each push off the wall, my quads would seize up and my knee, still swollen and bruised from a fall (see this post) would get this lovely, exploding into pieces feeling.  Since that knee has already seen a surgeon's knife twice, it gets a certain amount of respect.  After an 800 yd warm up, I called it.  I got out, limped to the locker room and toweled off feeling more than a little dejected.  

I paid for this for days,  I tried to run the next day... not happening, not even a little.  I immediately developed a screaming headache and could barely lift my legs.  I logged 1.6 miles at 12:28 per mile... a true personal worst.  I could barely function, laundry may as well have been conquering Europe.  Tuesday night (Tuesdays are the days I don't get to sleep) was pure misery, Wednesday I slept ALL day!!  Thursday night I ran but only an easy run.  I ran out of steam quickly.  And tonight, I am looking at a weekend as busy as the last but with temps soaring up towards 105+.  (FWIW, they will reach nearly 110 by Tuesday.)  I realize that I sacrificed an entire weeks training to that busy week and that tragic ride.  

Enough about that and on to happier things.  I have a present coming.  It is almost my birthday and I have something special on it's way.  


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

There is something coming.  Something VERY exciting.  It left Honolulu and has arrived in California, en route to Austin.

It's coming....

It will be here Tuesday....

I will meet it for the first time on Thursday....

Wednesday will be the longest day of my life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

...Father's Day

Lately, I have had some really cool settings for my workouts.  Here are a few of the pictures I have taken.

These were taken along the Town Lake Trail in Austin, TX.

I took these on a day when I had a bad run and took a minute to take a deep breath and look around.  It kind of changed my attitude that day.

Then another day, after a GREAT swim in a new pool, I snapped this.  It was a swimmer's paradise!!  How often can you enjoy an outdoor long course pool with five lanes and only one other swimmer!

Most recently, I have been training in Waco, TX.  I wasn't sure if there was any nice place to train until I discovered Cameron Park.  At the entrance, it looked like a nice, pleasant park trail.  

As I went deeper into it, it turned out to be a fantastic, challenging hike/mountain bike trail which was a blast to run on!  I did not, however, handle that trail like a sure footed... anything.  Ten minutes into the run, I caught a toe on a rock and went sprawling on my face.  I got up, dusted myself off, and headed on down the trail.  Aside from getting some knowing smiles from other runners ("Since you are clearly going to slow to be evading an assailant, you must just be clumsy!"), I was really no worse for wear!  

On another note, this weekend was Father's Day.  I have no pictures of my father as they were destroyed in the water/mold incident.  My father was, among other things, a runner.  He ran Western States in 1981. He told me about triathlon when I was a little kid, and triathlon wasn't much older than I was.  I never imagined it would become the love of my life.  He gave me many gifts, that is one.  He succumbed to cancer 21 years ago.  He chose the music to be played at his funeral.  He chose this.


Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I miss you as much today as I ever have.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Miss A Run and Evolve!!

Lately, my workouts have been fairly challenging.  Even the ones that I look at in the schedule and fail to respect.  On the flip side, I have been consistent about completing them.  The only exception being late last week when I had a major problem sleeping and ended up pretty deep in deficit.  The issue really boiled down to a decision that I made to commute back and forth to the horse show last week.  It was about 100 miles each way and I decided that I preferred to be home each day.  The problem was that I had to drink huge amounts of caffeine to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel after the first night (I have one night a week that I am awake around the clock).  That led to disrupted sleep that day, putting me two days out from any real sleep (and the previous day had been two long workouts in the Texas heat).  The following night and day were a compounded problem and it took even more caffeine to get home, disrupting sleep even more (woke up after 45 mins!!!)  By Sunday, I was pretty much totally trashed and my run got cut from the schedule.  I made a note in the schedule for DW and went to bed!

What I am pleased about is the evidence of what I believe is a deeper understanding of balance and appropriateness.  I did not try to make the workout up.  I did not stress about it.  I just recognized the fact that my body was done and respected that.... and slept for close to twenty hours!  It was hard, fast confirmation that my exhaustion levels were pretty critical.  I woke up the next day and felt a hollow and flat, but this time, I put my head down and did my job.  I pushed at the right time, I rested at the right time.    I would love to put a check in every box, to complete every workout every week specifically as written.  But I am not a machine.  I am a human being, made of flesh and blood, and nothing is ever truly constant in a living body.

Responding to that has been a very difficult lesson.  The training I have been doing with DW has been very good for other parts of my life as well.  Not only have I become much more forgiving of my human-ness, but I have become significantly less dramatic and more proactive about controlling what I need to control.  Example?  Instead of getting all depressed and angst ridden about the failed weekend, I simply did what I need to for damage control (rest) and made sure the week didn't repeat itself.  I have a camper spot on the show grounds for the next two weeks.  Problem solved.

I have begun to develop an attitude towards mistakes that is much healthier.  Once I recognize them, I acknowledge them, make a plan to avoid them in the future, implement that plan ( and revise it 70 million times if necessary), then let it go and move on.

I may never achieve all of my athletic goals, some of which are somewhat lofty, but if reaching for those goals makes me a better person then I have won.  That, by itself, is a reason to keep reaching, keep believing, so that I keep evolving.  I am okay with that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Run, A Walk, And A Smartphone Goes Swimming

Today I added some length and speed work to my run, with DW's blessing, and had what turned out to be a challenging workout.  The last couple of weeks have been more bike focused and the swim training has stayed pretty steady, so the run was backed off.  I had been on the bike since Sunday and frankly, it wasn't my legs that needed a break.  I decided to switch the run to today, build it up to a harder workout and do the bike/swim tomorrow.  I have to work tomorrow night but it is easier for me to work after a bike and/or swim than a run.  ALSO, it let me dial up the run without risking a flare up in my foot, not to mention reducing the potential for saddle sores.  WinWInWin!!

The run was a 5 mile conversational run.  I added some speed work at five miles and took the whole thing out to seven.  I was hoping to make it to ten which is where I was with speed work just a few weeks ago.  It is truly amazing how not doing the mileage for a couple of weeks can impact my ability to do it at all.  Same with the speed work… it was like I forgot how.  I got to mile 6 after a few little pickups and suddenly I was experiencing something that prior to this I had only read about.  My gut shut down.  I had water and a gel in there and it was not interested.  I felt hypoglycemic but also had an uncomfortable sense of water in my stomach.  Compared to some of my runs, I really hadn't even taken that much water or nutrition but there it was… not going anywhere.

3..2..1… CRAMP.  I nearly doubled over.  I really wished it would just come back up because I knew it would ease the discomfort.  I broke to a walk, and walked slowly for a little while in the shade.  Finally, eventually, with a mighty gurgle and a few good burps, things got moving again.  I gave it a few and slowly began jogging again.  I was able to pick it up a little and turn in another decent mile before I really started to fade.  At that point, I was of the opinion that I had exceeded the assignment by enough and there was little to be gained by going on at a snails pace.  I had accomplished all of my goals today, save one and that one got replaced by pulling it together and getting back in motion after a significant GI issue.  I then walked the FOUR miles back to the car.  It was 100 degrees according to a friends thermometer.

You know, the Town Lake Trail is beautiful when you are not so focused.  I took a couple of great pics and can't post them since I have since dropped my phone in the dogs water bucket.  Ummm… yeah.  Water may roll off a duck's back but it does not roll off her brand new smartphone!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Still Running Like A Duck!

This week was certainly better.  As I had posted previously, I had one big hiccup on Wednesday due to gluten.  I ended up missing the day of training and turned temporarily into Rip Van Winkle (slept all day).  Since then, my body has rebounded nicely.  Thursday ended up being a nice, sharp run and the rest of the week followed (except for a horribly slow run Saturday, but more about that in a moment).  I did a group ride Sunday and was thoroughly challenged but still was able to put in a good session in the pool a few hours later.

Today was an easier day with a simple ride and continuous swim.  I almost got into trouble on the ride with nutrition.  I was in a really good head space, totally in the moment, riding well.  There was no chatter in the brain, just pure, simple, relaxed focus.  It's a state of mind that I find tough to reach outside of swimming.  I did a loop that I did a few weeks ago with the group and finally managed the whole thing without any wrong turns.  I still had my directions on a piece of tape on my handlebars but as it turned out, I rarely needed them.  I just rode and it was just right.

The aero bottle bracket serves all kinds of purposes.

On the way back into town, I passed another cyclist on a TT bike and it broke my focus a little.  It was probably a good thing since a few minutes later, I BONKED.  I was going 25 and then I was going 7... mph.  I realized that I was well into a long workout and a little late for a second gel and should have been halfway through my second bottle of water.  I hadn't touched either.  That is a big no-no for me... really for anyone in Texas on a mid-nineties day at noon.  I actually pulled over, ate a gel, and drank a half a bottle of water.  I was worried that my stomach would revolt, but it handled it fine.  I started back and a few minutes later, I was back in action.  I finished the ride feeling really strong.

I have been riding really well lately.  Even my pool work has been strong in spite of struggling a bit with some slipping form.  I can really tell I am getting stronger.  SO... that run can come together anytime.  ANYTIME.  please?

It is extremely frustrating how slow I am running.  I have lost a great deal of weight (still have plenty left but if you go by :02/mile per lb then I can attribute about 140% of my current pace improvements to weight loss... haven't even seen the full :02/lb yet), I have been training diligently, I feel like I have earned this.  I expect that the overall trend in my running is better.  I have more days than not where the pace is approaching reasonable (not fast, but not humiliating) and fewer days where the workout reports make me want to cry. I guess I just didn't expect it to be this stubborn.  To be this HARD to improve my running.  I look around and I see people who I know have less overall fitness than I do, often rank beginners and people with a lot of weight to lose, and they can run two, three, even four minutes faster per mile than I can.  I can't honestly figure out what I am doing wrong.  Or is it just this tough?

I feel like this waaaay too much!

I can accept it if it is just hard.  I worry that I am innately flawed and inadequate to the task.  Perhaps running is just not in the cards for me.  Perhaps.  I am not willing to give up until I have exhausted all the possibilities.  One person suggested that I put the bike in the garage and hang up the goggles... and just run for a year or two.  And he was the owner of a local bike shop!  I think I would stick a fork in my eye if I had to do that, but I have actually been considering it.  Maybe I would find peace with the process.  I LOVE to ride and really enjoy swimming as well.  I could easily be a pure cyclist and have been a pure swimmer in the past both as a kid and in a master's program.  But could the Duck JUST run?  I don't honestly know.  I might break.  I might break physically.  I might break mentally.  Testing those waters seems extremely dicey to me.

I think that I get outside my comfort zone but maybe I am really just comfortable with a certain level of suffering.

For now, the jury is out... and probably hung.  I don't have an answer or any wisdom to quote but I know that something is out of balance with my run and I don't know what is going to correct it.  Maybe it's just going to be a slow process.  Maybe I need to find a running group.  Maybe I need to consider doing my speed work at a track.  Maybe I need to strap rockets to my shoes!!

I have a scheduled call with DW tomorrow.  I have spent so much time whining about my run that doubt I will even bring it up... for now.  In the meantime, I will continue to put one proverbial foot in front of the other. 

I hope so.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Beating That Gluten-y Horse!!

I hate to do it but I can't seem to help myself.  I keep revisiting the ol' gluten issue.  I let something creep into my diet last week and didn't realize it until early this week when the rash came up.  I know what it was.  It was something that I started eating, regularly, and it was manufactured on shared equipment.  That is always the toughest for me since I can rationalize the reason why it is most likely safe.  But then someday I will learn that "most likely" doesn't mean "IS" safe.  In fact, in that situation, I usually don't have a strong immediate reaction.  Instead, I have low grade symptoms that build over time and are often mistaken for things like a mild virus, nervous stomach, dehydration, or training fatigue.  I may at this point overlook the fact that there was that subtle little warning on the label and continue to eat the culprit food.  Then the rash comes and it becomes clear why I have been feeling lousy.

I spent last weekend feeling miserable and did not workout at all over the weekend.  You don't need to know the gory details but suffice to say, I felt miserable.  I thought I had the flu, was really run down, that my joints were killing me from working too much and my GI tract was angry from coffee.

Then the rash came up.

Gluten.  Dammit!

Wednesday, feeling mostly recovered I had a dish at a Vietnamese restaurant that should by all rights be gluten free.  The waiter didn't really understand but the recipe is generally pretty safe... unless they use cheap rice noodles that have a percentage of wheat flour in them.  I believe this is what happened.  I was horribly ill all afternoon.  I missed both my workouts for the day and slept most of the afternoon.  I was awake for a while in the evening with a crushing migraine, then went to bed and slept it off for twelve hours.

The next day I felt a little better but I was still getting sick following each meal.  I had to take a nap after each time I ate, like digestion was an exhausting process.  Fortunately, I felt fine otherwise and logged two very sharp workouts.

The problem is three missed workouts in less than seven days.  That is not okay.  I am trying to maintain a modicum of consistency and that becomes impossible with these health issues flaring up.  If I continue to make mistakes, I will have to go back to logging every bite of food that I eat, tracking my sleep, and monitoring my well-being, not to mention avoid eating out and boil myself back down to the very basic (boring) diet that I was using when I was first trying to get this under control.  If I make another bone-headed mistake, this will need to be my next step.

These days, I have the healthiest relationship with food and my body that I have ever had in my life.  I am eating intuitively, losing weight at a healthy pace, feeling good (when the gluten isn't a problem), training well... all good stuff.  If I bring back the food journal, I am afraid that I will go back to a less healthy outlook on food which can be a very slippery slope for me.

Over the years, I have struggled with my eating, probably to the point of disordered eating (having bounced from binge eating, to binge/purge, to starving myself, and back again), and the freedom from that in recent months has been a blessing.  I have worked to separate my emotions from food, to address things at their source... if I feel out of control, instead of responding by either binging (mirroring the feeling) or starving myself (manipulating food for a feeling of control), then I try to fix the part of my life that actually IS out of control.  Food has been relegated to it's proper place... as fuel, and meals have become low stress, sometimes social events.

That is all wonderful, except that I have basically poisoned myself twice in recent weeks.  That cannot keep happening.  It is interfering with my training and straining my overall health.  Today I feel better than I did yesterday and with care, I should feel even better tomorrow.  I understand that I am having to relearn more than three and a half decades of eating habits and that is not a quick or foolproof process.  I just hope that if I have to go back to journaling my food that I can keep it in perspective and not lose the intuitive, relaxed quality of my current patterns.

Life has a learning curve.  It looks like this.