Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Post I Never Thought I Would Write

"I got the idea of training for a triathlon in a manner not dissimilar to how one catches a virus.  It happens along, jumps on boards and then just lingers.  I am not a runner.  I KNOW I am not a runner.  I run like a duck.  I am shaped like a Lima bean.  These things might make for a nice dinner but they are not traditional athletic virtues.  Still, as unwelcome as influenza, the idea seeded itself in my brain, admittedly after watching the Kona on TV, and here we are. "

This quote was from the first blog on this site.  How much has changed...

I haven't been on the scale in a while.  I got on the scale today.  The number knocked me to the floor.  Why is it significant?  I have plummeted past the cut off for an Athena.  I am now in the mid-140s.  I have not been this light since I was in the eighth grade.  Literally, the EIGHTH GRADE!!!

I remember after moving to NJ in November of that year, I moved away from my swim team.  I tried for a while to swim on my own, but never really liked the indoor pools.  I didn't have a team and quickly ended up with an injury.  It was probably minor but I walked away and did not return until I was an adult.  By the end of that summer and going into my freshman year in high school, I had put on close to thirty pounds.  I have struggled ever since.

Ok, lets talk numbers.  I tend to refrain from that because I believe it is the road we walk that is important, not the number on the mile marker sign but to gather some perspective.  I have gained and lost weight one other significant time in my life.

When I was study and training in Shaolin-Do, I lost weight but plateaued at 165.  That was an immutable wall that I never got beyond.  Still, since I had come down from 235, this was a significant achievement.  After some major injuries took me out of the game, I gained nearly all of it back.  By the time I found my way into a gym four years ago, I was within 10 lbs of the lifetime high.

I did strength and cardio to bring myself back down to 190 and that is when I bought a bike.  So began the madness of triathlon.  I was able to get down to that 165 plateau rather easily but then stalled and began to gain.  By the time I started with DW I had worked my way back up to 175.

DW's second command as coach was to stay off the scale.  He shifted the focus to fitness, consistency, and sleep/recovery.  I didn't get on the scale again for months.  I went crashing through the plateau that I had come to believe was the true bottom.  I had accepted that I would always race with a weight handicap.  Now I know that is not true.  I can see my body is willing to go the final miles.  I have more weight to lose, possibly as much as 20 more lbs, but I see that I can do it if I do the right things.

From my lifetime high and not considering all of the fluctuations along the way, I have lost a total of 89 lbs.  If I lose another 20-25, that would bring that total to well over 100 lbs.  What startles me most about this revelation is that I never considered myself 110-115 lbs overweight.  I thought I was maybe 50 lbs overweight.  I thought that my body was simple made to be a little fat.  Certainly, there are many parts of my life that need all kinds of work (really, who's perfect?) but this has come from learning to care for myself, to direct some love and kindness inward.  That, more than exercise, more than diet, has provided the key to peeling back some very deep layers to reveal the person I always wished I could be.

I even believe that the Duck is learning to run.

I am feeling pretty good today!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Aching Body But A Happy Brain!!

Today was a good day.  I have been having some issues with various aching body parts, some of which got bad enough to cut short a run at the beginning of the week, and took the bike in to make sure there weren't any fit issues.  I think a few small things got solved and hopefully the aches and pains will subside.  In the meantime, I am rolling and mashing various muscle groups with the evil denizens of my trigger point therapy kit.  I am also a duck served cold as I am icing about half of my body these days.  Note to self: Never, EVER crash bike again!!

Yesterday, I swam for the first time since the crash and it was a little demoralizing since I was feeling really strong in the pool before the crash.  The shoulder wasn't overly offended by the swim but the amount of strength I have lost in three weeks is astounding.  Still, it was a glorious swim.

It's hard to imagine water this beautiful in a lake.  The underwater visibility exceeded any other place I have been, including the Caribbean.  The waters of the East Bay were cool and crystal clear all the way to the bottom.  I spent a lot of the swim positioned over a deep drop off that had a bed of aquatic plants at the bottom.  I could see little silver fish schooling in the beds and something was throwing up streams of bubbles that reminded me of champagne.  It made me realize how long it had been since I went diving.  I may have to remedy that soon.  Some things are just good for the soul.

I was forced to cancel my Colorado trip.  This induced a ridiculous amount of whining and self-pity, eliciting a "there's nothing I can do about that.  Let's move on!" response from DW.  Easy for him to say as he sits in Colorado for the rest of the summer.  I'm not bitter... not at all.

Instead, the Duck is headed to Kentucky.  I will be spending time there working throughout August.  The final weekend I will be there is a weekend that I had originally planned to do a local sprint race to warm up for TriRock Austin.  I did spot a race in Kentucky on that same weekend and will consider doing it if I can work out a day off.

The carrot I offered myself for missing Colorado is that I promised myself I would take two weekends off, one in September and one in October, and add two races to my calendar after Austin.  I am now pointed towards Galveston 5150 and the Toyota US Open Tri in Dallas.  I am looking forward to some great weekends of racing (along with enough nerves to raise Frankenstein's monster from the dead-ish).  After that, I am considering my (very short) racing season over and looking plans for the winter.

SO, about all those aches and pains?  Yeah, they need to GO AWAY!!  I have built some exciting momentum lately and am totally determined to maintain it, body willing.   I am pretty excited for the future and wonder what the next few months holds.  I am bringing the run together, the bike is a rock star, the swim was coming along until the shoulder injury.  If I can get back into things in the next week or so, I am not too worried.  The worst that happens is that I have to lose time on the swim.  Considering that this time last year I was totally crippled with a partial tear of the Achilles tendon, I will take it.
It's really coming together!

I am looking forward to getting some good experience with the technical side of race day, transitions, managing nerves and nutrition, etc.  If I have some quality learning experiences here, I will set myself up beautifully for next season.  Onward and upward!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

VASA Rocks!!

My shoulder injury (from the bike crash) has kept me out of the water for two weeks now.  This has meant that there has been increased focus on the bike and run.  The bike has been interesting since there is a new toy:  POWER METER!!!  Yikes!  No sandbagging for this duck any longer.

But more importantly, I feel like I have turned some kind of corner with the running.  Suddenly, I began having god run after good run, each better than the last.  I am handling my long and fast work easily and wanting more.  I am looking forward to it as a fun experience rather than a chore to slog through.

I had a two hour bike ride on the schedule for tonight but the loaner shoes had bruised my ankles and cut into the soft tissue so badly on yesterday's long ride that I got about 15 minutes into the ride and had to limp home.  The pain was blinding!  So without a second thought, I shot DW a text, rotated Friday's workouts to today and changed into running clothes.

On a whim, I took the VASA trail instead of the TARP (a paved multi-use trail) trail today.  It was a fabulous hike/mountain bike trail through the woods (northern Michigan style- deep and beautiful) and the run was epic!  I did 7.8 miles and it was over in a blink.  I was running fast and light, not even feeling fatigued until the last sandy hill at the end.  I loved every minute of it and at the end felt like I could take on the world.

On one of my runs about a week ago, I clicked over into a slightly more athletic way of traveling.  I am picking up my feet a little differently.  Not just more quickly but in a different way.  I am not sure how to describe it other than to say "lively".  I can certainly push me to a higher heart rate but I think it is the doorway to faster running and since I seem to be adapting to the elevated intensity just fine, I am going to roll with it!  It is the difference between a pained shuffle and a brisk run.  The latter is exhilarating, fun, and something I want to do over and over.  It's also about a minute and a half faster per mile for the same perceived effort.

Not sure what to make of this but I like it.  I'll take it!

A GIANT shout out to my friend Scott who just finished Badwater in 38 and change!!  Dude, you are out of control in the best possible way.  Keep redefining amazing for the rest of us mortals!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Expensive, Emotional, Painful, Good

It has been an expensive week.  It has been an emotional week.  It has been a painful week.  It has been a good week.

I spent the first two weeks in Michigan recovering from the crash.  My shoulder is still pretty buggered up and I start each night hooked up to one of the therapy machines used on the horses.  Unorthodox but effective.  It's not fully healed but definitely going in the right direction.
I guess the camera needed more coffee too!

I had to replace my front derailleur and my helmet from the crash.  Both items were replaced with purchases from the coolest local bike shop in Michigan, Einstein Cycles, and the helmet was a much nicer one that it's dented predecessor.  Of course the derailleur is a Dura-Ace because that is what Seabiscuit sports all the way around.

I also picked up a new set of running shoes since both of my current pairs have more than a years worth of mileage (not so bad when you consider the amount of time spent injured) on them.  They are not shot but I wanted to try something lower profile so I wanted to add it to the rotation while these are still in good working order.  No reason to set myself up for injury by waiting until the current shoes are destroyed and having to abruptly change.

Today, I brought the bike into Einstein's and dropped it off.  I had found an inexpensive (ahem) power meter used and it was arriving today (YAY!).  While I was there, I asked them to replace my cleats since they were totally destroyed and barely held the pedal.  They had gotten dangerous.  In the process, we discovered a crack running across the bottom of the shoe.  They told me to replace the shoes, though I could use them until my size was delivered.  Fine, do that.  Then he picked up the other shoe to remove the cleat....
I believe this qualifies as EPIC!

Um, yeah.  Everyone got a good laugh out of the fact that a "stiffness index" of 8 was not enough for me.  DW thought it was pretty sweet that I managed to crack my shoes.  He said that if I wouldn't put out so much power, the shoes would last longer.  I am thinking he was being sarcastic.  Needless to say, I was not allowed to buy cheap shoes!!  Talk about things adding up!

Emotionally, I have really been all over the map.  I hadn't mentioned it here because I felt a little awkward but I have been dating someone since I returned from Florida at the end of the winter.  I broke things off Friday night.  WHY?  In part, because of triathlon.  This truly deserves its own post and it will get it very soon.  I am still a little unsure of myself here but to sum it up, triathlon had caused friction in the relationship.  I chose triathlon.

The reason runs deep and dark and it is very complicated.  I believed I was starting to see some red flags and chose to avoid them rather than investigate further.  I have posted about the physical side of some of my struggles (digestive issues and the like) but I have not posted a big part of the picture up until now.  I have a lot of trauma in my past, some of it centered around very toxic relationships.  The healing process has been long, difficult, and confusing, but I believe I have come out the other side healthier, stronger, more free than I ever thought possible.  The choice to pursue triathlon was a part of this process.

It was doing something for myself, at first, just for fun.  As I delved deeper, the training itself became a vehicle for healing as it demanded a level of self-care, belief, strength, and confidence.  It also gave as it demanded, rewarding me with the very thing I had to give in order to succeed.  I remember the day that DW told me that I either learned to do these things or I could kiss triathlon goodbye.  It was the slap in the face I needed.  I had to take the healing to the next level.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time have been along for that ride, whether I shared it or not.  I evolved.

In this relationship, I don't have any idea if I made the right choice with regards to the man.  I know I made the right choice with regards to putting myself, my health, my happiness at the top of the priority list and pushing away someone who might jeopardize those things.  It was a moment of strength I did not have the last time around.  That is due, in large part, to the changes that training has brought about in me.

I am not afraid of being alone.  I am strong enough.

Still, something like this is hard.  I am not sure which hurt more:  losing him or losing the possibility he represented.  While I worked on my first horse, I thought about it.  When I moved my ladder to do his forelock, I finally felt it all.  I sat down on my ladder and cried.  Bear (who a few short years ago was pretty traumatized himself.  I spent a lot of long, slow hours working with him so that he would stand to be braided) dropped his head into my lap.  I laid my forehead on his and cried my eyes out into his forelock.  He never moved a muscle until I was done.  I was so grateful to have a friend that night.

Bear, the recipient of extra cookies on Saturday.

I am also so grateful that my life has presented me with the pieces I need to put the puzzle together.  During the process of healing, I spent a lot of time in an online support forum.  There were women there who never found their way.  They carried their burdens and those burdens were crushing them under their weight.  I am fortunate.  I found the way out.  I found a job that let me move forward.  I found a sport that demanded I take that to a higher level.  I found a coach who without knowing it gave me the guidance I needed at the right time.  There is an old saying appropriate here.  "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

I went for my long run today.  It was good.  It was fast.  I felt free.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pics From Monday's Long Ride

Here are some pictures from Monday's long ride.  A couple of them show the vineyards as they slope down towards the bay but the iphone always flattens everything out.  Still, the beauty of the day comes across well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Race Cancelled, Run Done.

I am a little bummed that the race I had picked out as my official return to triathlon competition has been cancelled due to some kind of road construction.  Boo.  On the upside, at least it is not because I have injured myself and cannot race.

I had chosen that race because it had a 24 mile bike but only a 5K run.  It was a chance for me to get my feet wet at the Olympic distance without having to commit to the longer run (the part I fear).  The odds would have been stacked in favor of strong swimmer/cyclists.  It was also a good way to warm up/tune up for the full Olympic scheduled two weeks later.  Now I either need to find another warm up race or go straight into the race on Sept. 3.  That seems so scary since I have not raced in a very long time.

The war wounds of last week are healing well, though I still cannot swim.  I did my long run on Sunday night, then a long ride Monday, and today was an easy, middle distance run.  I am extremely tired from the two long workouts and noticed that while my legs felt a little heavy, my breathing and heart rate were under control.  I simply wanted to take a nap.  I woke up a little as the run went on only to drop back off towards the end.  Still, it got done and that is what matters.

I had a fairly stressful day and did the run without any music.  At times it was nice to just have quiet but at other times, I found myself obsessing about work.  I kept reminding myself to relax, that everything could wait until that run was over, that this was MY time.  It helps to think of it as my gift to myself (although sometimes it is a little reminiscent of getting a bottle of cod liver oil for your birthday) and be happy in the moment.  I really struggle with that on the run.  I get there mentally in the other two phases, but not the run.  On the run, the music is less like an awesome soundtrack and more like a necessary distraction.

I am a firm believer in "fake it 'til you make it" and that is what I am doing.  If I have to remind myself every step to release the tension in my upper body, so be it.  I constantly check in with my trouble spots, shoulder and traps, neck, jaw and teeth, brow, etc to see if I have clenched up.  Usually, I find I have. When I relax, I am usually drop about a minute per mile for the same perceived exertion.  A MINUTE A MILE.... that's pretty huge.  That is all tension and wasted energy.  When I relax, I can also sometimes, even if the moments are fleeting, begin to love it... just a little.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Tonight was my long run.  DW and I have renegotiated the location of the long run in the schedule numerous times and yet it seems to keep showing up on Sunday night.  Sunday nights are a night when I am particularly tired and laying around and eating proverbial bon-bons seems more appropriate than hauling my butt out the door for the hardest workout of the week.  Tonight was no different and I finally got myself in gear and headed over to the Old Mission Peninsula for a run that promised good scenery for my suffer-fest.

At mile 3.75, as it has all week, my hip piped up.  Piping became trumpeting, which escalated into something like a tuba player in an echo chamber.  It did cross my mind to quit at that point but I was so grumpy from my reduced training load that making a decision took a while.  It went something like this.

Angry Duck:  Shut up hip!

Sensible Duck: That feels like an issue with the TFL or maybe piriformis.  It could be caused by lingering bruising and swelling but.... ACK!! GAK!! Help me!!

Angry Duck:  Shut up hip or the same will happen to you!!

Hip:  *gulp*

Anyhow the outcome of the debate was pretty clear and I missed my turn around by almost a mile.  On the way home, I kept pushing until I was really feeling pretty good.  The hip seemed like it wanted to complain but was too afraid.  I got to the end of the run and almost kept going the remaining distance back to the car but by then Angry Duck was appeased and Sensible Duck rose from the ashes like a web-footed phoenix.  The day you push through pain is not the day to tack on extra mileage.  I hit stop on the watch and looked up.  This is what I saw!!

I proceeded to walk back taking pictures as I went.  I have spent every July here since 2008 and every year I attempt to capture the magic of this place in pictures.  But it is like the holy grail, it is not meant to be captured so easily.  Still, I will share a few pictures that I took of the running route (after the workout was over!)  Up here, 'enjoy the journey' is an art form!!

Have a wonderful evening and always, always ENJOY THE JOURNEY!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

TurDucKen Birthday Post!

Well, this is really several posts mashed into one (i.e. TurDucKen).  I have been on the road so writing and posting has taken a back seat to other things… like driving, and working, and healing.

Let's take it from the top.  First order of business, driving.

This marks the beginning of my BIG summer trip.  I left on Sunday and headed 1500 miles north to Traverse City, MI.  I left Texas and it's hundred degree weather in my rear view mirror.  When I arrived, I discovered I had a stowaway… the hundred degree weather.  Yeah, that heat wave hit Michigan too.  Fortunately, at this point, sanity has returned.

I am always amazed by how beautiful this area is, each time I see it.  I forget a little over the course of the year.  Each year I wonder if it is worth the drive.  Each year I get here and remember that there are places on earth with their own quiet magic.  This is one of them.


my office

I have been unexpectedly light at work this week which has allowed me to recover from the long drive.  I still clearly have plenty of time to play around.  I wandered out of the barns the other morning.  It was close to dawn and there was this dim pink light in the sky.  A fog bank was rolling in off the paddocks and I noticed this tree in the parking lot, under a street light, that seemed so awesome in that moment.  I went to take a picture of it and though I never quite captured what I was seeing, I did get some great shots of the early morning stars (planets) and the barns while they are still quiet and sleepy.  Sometimes, I really love my job.  Sometimes.

Last order of business, healing.

"Why do you need to heal?", you say.  "Because I am an idiot", I say.  Sunday I opted to do a local group ride with the new bike.  There was weather rolling in and I seriously considered just hooking up the camper and getting on the road.  Ok, so maybe the consideration was less 'serious' and more  'laughably brief and fleeting'.  I headed out and took Seabuiscuit for his first serious group session.

  Obviously I had been riding him all week (as if there could have been any other possibility) and was totally impressed by the speed and handling of that little bike.  I have never ridden a bike that said "sit down, shut up, and hang on!  I got this!".  SO MAYBE the bike doesn't talk but it seriously managed to get that message across.

My first serious solo ride saw me go blazing across a patch of rough pavement so hard that my bottle ejected from it's cage and ended up in a bush across the road.  I also trashed my wheel and ended up walking the bike several miles home.  (Typical thoroughbred!  Runs really fast then limps home.) **SIGH***  Fortunately, the wheel was fixable and my local bike shop employs magicians (seriously, I think they may ALL have degrees from a certain School of Wizardry).  With my wheel fixed and my ego recovered, I was ready for my next adventure.

On the ride, the route began with some seriously rough, steep climbs.  I was pleased overall with the bikes handling in those circumstances.  I have stepped up to the big boy chainrings (55/42-23/11 on a 650cc from a 50/34-28/12 on 700cc for those in the know) and was worried how I would handle certain climbs.  I felt like I was going SOOOO slow, but seriously, so was everyone else.  I was keeping up with the leaders and there were some very solid cyclists on nice road set ups there.  The difference was that I did not make the same choices.  I often chose to stand when I might have done a seated spin on the old bike.  Overall, I was getting to the top slightly faster and with similar HR data.  All good, I say!

Later in the ride, the terrain became a little less punishing and I took a long pull.  It was fun taking the boys on a merry chase!!  Around the midpoint in the ride, the skies opened up and it began to POUR!!  It rained for the rest of the ride.  I was pleased with how the bike handled the wet roads, seeming largely unaffected in it's ride.

When we were nearly back to the shop, as in making the last turn across traffic about a block away, I misjudged the rider in front of me and had to hit my brakes pretty hard.  The back wheel kicked out forcefully and I went down on my side at 20 mph. Fortunately, since the roads were SO slick, I kept most of my hide.  Unfortunately, I did hit REALLY, REALLY hard.  I was aware of my head slamming into the ground at the temple and the explosion of white when it did.  Thankfully, I had a good helmet and it is sporting the dent instead of my skull.  WEAR A HELMET WEAR A HELMET WEAR A HELMET!!!

I jumped up far more concerned about the bike than my body (after all, only one was new!!) and discovered that aside from some minor issues, it was basically ok.  I accepted a ride home instead of biking home since I was pretty wobbly and didn't quite trust myself.  I was getting waves of dizziness and suspected I might have a slight concussion.  Regardless, negotiating a bike through traffic alone didn't seem all that smart.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon involved getting ready to depart for the drive to Michigan at a much slower pace than originally planned.  While I couldn't afford the time to go to the ER if I was really okay, I wasn't prepared to drive a 40 ft rig 1500 miles with a head injury either.  Regardless, there was work to do which would afford me the time to make a better judgement.  By about 4 pm, the work was done and my head (though throbbing since NSAIDS are contraindicated with a possible head injury) was clear.  I departed Austin and began to take in the scope of the rest of the injuries.

I am still not really training.  Aside from some bruises and road rash on my knee, elbow, hip and side, I have injured my hip and shoulder, as well as given myself a seriously sore neck.  The hip I believe will be fine.  I ended up with a massive hematoma that is now draining down my leg and turning my entire thigh every color of the rainbow.  The bigger concern is my shoulder.  That joint already had some damage from my martial art days and it is touchy on the best of days.  Apparently, when I fell, I stuck my elbow out and jammed the arm into the socket.  (Bad choice, I don't recommend!)  As a result, actions that require any motion under pressure like opening a car door, are excruciating.  Braiding has been misery and biking and swimming are out of the question.  I have had to scale back the numbers of horses on my list, so not only am I not training, I am not making much money either (ggrrrrrr).  I am in this beautiful place, bike heaven, with a heavenly bike and I can't even consider riding.

I have been doing a little running but each run ends the same way.  The concussion going through that hip builds until I can't stand it anymore.  Then I end up giving up on the run and walking home, thoroughly discouraged.  I have tried to keep my head up through this but it is faltering a bit.  I worry about that shoulder.  I had a huge knot in the deltoid muscle insertion that is now bruised over telling me that the impact was enough to do damage to that connective tissue.  The joint itself is not tracking well and full of crunch.  I have spent a portion of each night in the tack room of one of barns with the horses ice boots draped across my shoulders.  The deep penetrating cold of the ice boot is like no other when it comes to pain relief.  It is the thing getting me through the nights right now.  Still, none of this is truly new.  My shoulder has done all of these things before and I was able to quiet it down without surgery once before.  I am optimistic that I can do it again.

The worst part of all, according to the people that are near me, is the total lack of energy expenditure.  Apparently, this duck needs to train to be pleasant.  I will get back on the bike soon regardless, otherwise there may be an intervention at the horse show!!

Today is my birthday.  It is not a birthday that takes me into a new age group.  That is the next one.  I am buying myself a new front derailleur to replace the one that I bend when I crashed.   Appropriate, I think.