Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When Stopping Is Progress

I am facing some really tough decisions right now.  None of them are cut and dry.  None of them are easy.  None of them are anything but shades of grey.  I hate decisions like that.  That's really as specific as I can get tonight.  I just wanted to whine about it.

Yesterday was the Frankenworkout.  I ran 15 mins, then did a nice long weights session, followed by a swim.  The total workout time was completely respectable, though I cut the swim short at 1200 yds when my shoulder started complaining.  It felt awesome to get a good solid, endorphin producing workout done.  In fact, today I am sore and love it!

Today I just did a short swim.  Really short.  As in blink and you missed it short.  1500 sad, sorry little yards.  I had planned to do 600 wu (200 swim, 100 kick, 100 pull, 200 swim), 10x100 at lively pace (nothing specific these days, just focusing on turnover, catch, and reducing dead spots), 500 swim/cool down.  I made it to the 8th 100 and my shoulder started to hurt so I threw in 50 with a kick board to rest my shoulder, then tried to resume but after another 50 I knew it was time to throw in the towel.  You know what I did?  I stopped.  That may be progress unto itself.

hardest thing to do sometimes

Live to fight another day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baby Steps

Baby steps... That's all I've got right now.

Always look for the rainbow.
When you have a total breakdown of your body and training, you take a very hard look at the foundation.  For sure, there were some unavoidable circumstances but they are more of a distraction than anything.  They distract from the fatigue and exhaustion at the end of the season, the IT band and knee that REFUSE to heal.  The shoulder that has dogged me through every yard in the pool, every braid, every mane pull since June... that too.

There is no doubt that I am very strong.  It takes at least one partially functioning eye to see that.  I am no longer muscle-bound but still much more stacked than the average endurance junkie.  That is a gift/curse from genetics.  I can push a monster gear on a bike and push it at a high cadence.  I can (usually) stabilize the bike even in strong winds. I have a strong pull in the water.  OK, so maybe my kick in running is more of the fend off an assailant kind than the propel yourself at speed kind but... whatever.  Point being, there is muscle on this frame... and a LOT of it.

So, how come I am so weak?  Why am I freakishly flexible in spite of being all muscle-y?  Because I have "hypermobile" joints (you'd have to ask someone smarter than me exactly what that means).  It's why they break so much.  The connective tissue stretches before the muscle tissue.  I have had many endurance experts steer me away from strength training and towards flexibility training because of my muscle mass but that is not the right answer.  It is the opposite of the right answer.  I think the right answer may be pairing massage/bodywork and ART/ Chiro with corrective strength training.

I also think I need to go back to basics in all three sports.  For as much of a foundation as was laid last year, it wasn't enough.  I am looking back over a short season where I really only made it to one race as planned.  I did make it to a second, but had to shorten it to a sprint because the knee was so painful.  And that anorexic little season nearly killed me.   SO.... it back to the drawing board.  It's back to basics.  There was a point this summer when things were clicking (and I mean in more ways than just my knee)... WHAT A GREAT FEELING!!  I totally believed it was going to happen, that I was going to realize my full potential as an athlete, but it was the definition of a fleeting (fleet?  Did I really just use that term in reference to my running?  HAH!) moment.  I really want to get back to that point but when I get back there, I want the moment to last.

I still believe it is possible, but it is more of a puzzle than I thought.  I should have known.  My history indicates that this is the case but there for a minute, a simple approach seemed to be working.

My job and lifestyle complicate everything.  Right now the challenge is not just figuring out what I need to do to be successful, but how to do it with the time and resources that I have.  It sounds easy but somehow, it is not.  I think it can be done.  I am going to give it my best effort.  The alternative is something that I have already tried... sick, fat, broken.  No thank you.  Not for this duck.

Runs like a....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Success Illustrated

Sidekicks Exraordinaire

I started working again last night.  I had totally underestimated the physical toll it would take but it was good to be back in it.  Unless a person does my job, they have no ability to fully grasp the role our dogs play in our lives.  With all the traveling and isolation, they become a lot more than a pet.  They are a sidekick, companion, friend, confidant, protector, and the only consistent "person" in our lives.  The job brings with it a brutal loneliness that cannot be emphasized enough.  The only answer is to manage it the best way you can.  For many of us, our dogs are the key to doing that.  They become a part of our identities and an extension of ourselves.   (Now many psychologists are probably having fits over this paragraph but I think that talking to my dog is far preferable to talking to my beer or my prescription bottle or my imaginary friend.  We all just do the best that we can.)  I don't mean to say that a dog is as significant a loss as a member of a persons immediate family… unless you are one of those people for whom your dog IS your immediate family.  Being at work last night was cathartic.  Everyone understood.  Everyone got it.  They treated me gently and kindly and for that I am grateful.
Little guy has some BIG shoes to fill!

I am taking yet another day off from my workouts, making three in a row, but my body had nothing left to give after a night of braiding.  I am torn since I don't think there is a lot to be accomplished by pushing myself into workouts right now but the mental clarity that comes as a result of a good workout would be an asset at the moment.  However, I am substituting aimless miles for true rest and since the shoulder and ITBS is still a raging problem, maybe the best thing that will be a starting point a little further down the road that is not carrying so much of the season's baggage.

DW and I talked yesterday.  I found myself barely able to get through the conversation without breaking down, though I found that my traitorous voice was all too willing to crack and betray me!!  His verdict was that I needed some time, however long it took, to heal and come back to the game fresh and eager.  Until that point, there was to be no focus on training but rather recreation, activity for the sake of enjoyment.   Honestly, I was crushed… and pissed… and a whole bunch of other things that were probably no more appropriate to this than those two.  I am simply taking some unstructured time in the off season.  WHY do I feel like I am being punished or sent away?

By mid-August this year, I was looking at races and already starting to struggle.  It wasn't everyday.  It was sometimes, a bad workout here or there, a really rough night at work, a subtle loss of motivation manifesting as procrastination or even a little fear going into harder workouts.  I didn't recognize the shift in motivation from passion and desire to determination and stubbornness.  As a shift worker, it was all too easy to discount the implication of that extra cup of coffee that it took to get through the night.  I was so focused on getting good rest I never stopped to ask myself why I was sleeping more and more, and yet not waking up refreshed.  By the beginning of September, I was bargaining with myself to just keep it together and get through the planned races.  After that, I could take some MUCH NEEDED downtime.  The off season was dangling out in October there like a big, tasty carrot.

Now, I am getting it but under really different circumstances and that seems to be all the difference.  I had planned to come to end of the planned race season fit and with a sense of accomplishment, reward myself with a little free time, have some fun then get down to the business of working on my run, doing a few running races for fun and experience, and revisiting the swim lessons that were helping to dredge some of the bad habits from my stroke technique.  Instead, well… you know the "instead".

I'll be honest, my reaction to the decision was a mix of frustration and anger.   If the stages of grief are accurate then I seem to be fluctuating between depression and acceptance.  I was looking forward to getting myself back on a program and back to work, using my job and training as a distraction.  I was hoping to use the structure of my workouts and the endorphins that follow to combat the depression.  I am acutely aware of the fact that I am in no shape mentally to really limit my diet to compensate for the sudden loss of training volume, so that was adding to my impatience as well.  Turns out, I am not in control of how this is going to go down.
No one said this was supposed to be easy.

If I believe myself and all the claims that I have made, this is a lifestyle not a diet/exercise "program".  My training is not centered on a single race, a single season, or a single goal.  If I am in this for the long haul, then this, like all the good times, is just another paver.  I will come out of this.  I may gain a couple of lbs, I WILL lose some fitness.  But this, like all things is temporary.  I am further along than I was at this point last year and my foundation going into next year is broader and stronger.  To allow my insecurities to drive my into bad decisions now is going to chip away at that base far more than taking the time I need to return rested, healed, and refreshed.

I am reminded of a diagram that I posted at an earlier point, illustrating the path to success.  It applies to triathlon and it applies to life.  I thought you might enjoy it.

Success Illustrated.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Did Not Run Today

I did not run today.  I ran the last three days.  Four miles on Saturday, six Sunday, and four Monday, but nothing today.  Today I felt totally wiped out and lightheaded.  I didn't run.  That should be no big deal considering I am nine days out from laying in the ER screaming in pain.  My blood work supports the notion that I probably do feel pretty rotten.  I probably could have justified not having gotten back on my feet yet at all.  And yet, I miss a day and I feel worse for having missed it than I did physically, which was the justification for taking a day off in the first place.

I am off the pain meds (THANK GOODNESS) so that is not a contributing factor.  My blood work is probably normalizing to it's usual sub-par state.  I had some pain today but nothing unmanageable.  I really have no reason to feel the way I do right now.  Except for that tiny detail:  The absolutely shitty F****** month I have had that is always lurking in my peripheral.  I felt a little like a human the last few days and I realize it is because I ran, even though it was slow and painful.

I didn't run.  Instead I spent the day in a ever increasing fatigue induced funk.  Apparently, I am hardwired to train.  Like some of aero loving shark, I have to keep moving or suffer the consequences.  I will run tomorrow.  I don't care how slow or painful it is... I must move.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

It Will Hurt

Anytime the going gets really rough, I revisit why I train.  It is natural to question in when everyone around you starts that well-meaning speech that ends with why you should not "tri" so hard.  People are concerned and that is natural.  As anyone who lives a less than conventional lifestyle will attest, there is constant pressure to "normalize" your life.  It is paired with the implication that a totally conventional existence would somehow eliminate the risks and compensate for every short coming.

There are parts of my life that still need a lot of work.  That does not mean that I should not live fully while I continue to try to close those gaps.  At one point, nutrition was one of those blind spots.  I was 100+ lbs overweight and didn't even recognize it.  I thought I had about 50 to lose.  That is a 50 lb blind spot.  I am fairly sure that the health issues I would be facing without these changes far exceed the bruises and scrapes (OK, massive hematoma and road rash... point still remains the same) that I am suffering now. Changing my relationship with food and a consistent training program has brought me farther than I ever dreamed possible.  The good far outweighs the hardship.

That same consistency has allowed me to achieve results in races, develop my life in a way that focuses on health and well-being, changed my relationship with my job, my body, other people.


I love to train.  I love to race.  I love the challenge and direction of my life.

It doesn't mean that I have everything figured out.  It doesn't mean that I ever expect to be done.  It simply means what it says.  I am not going to stop because of a rough patch.  I won't quit riding or riding hard... training, racing, and giving it all I've got.  It would be selling myself short.  This is all part of the process.

I never expected it to be easy...  or painless.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Topic To Come: Bike Handling Skills

I will soon be revisiting the topic of bike handling skills... for obvious reasons.  In the meantime, here is some food for thought:

The Worst Pain Of My Life And Picking Up The Pieces.

It is time to write this post.  I have been unable to pull these words together until now.  Saturday and Sunday developed into the most painful 48 hours of my life to date.
Sera and Wilbur doing what they do best.

As of the last post, I was healing from the last bike crash.  Since then, I had been having significant issues with shortness of breath and had suffered a number of attacks that were painful and terrifying.  A return to the hospital after the last confirmed that I was dealing with uncontrolled asthma exacerbated by a low blood count.  I left armed with prescriptions and mixed feelings.  I have managed to make it almost 40 years without being on any major medications.  (Probably due more to inconsistent, shoddy medical attention than any great accomplishment but I make everything into a goal or competition.)  However, I hoped it would provide a turning point for my training and my life.  I have been struggling with this as a handicap without even realizing it for a long time and finally having it treated is akin to removing a huge burden.  So, in spite of the struggle and the expensive, demoralizing trips to the hospital, I view this as a potential silver lining of the crash.

The ribs were coming along well, the breathing issues have a learning curve but over the course of the week following, I started back into a regular workout schedule and was feeling pretty good about things.  I did a number of solo workouts and planned for a 56 mile group ride over the Austin 70.3 course this past Saturday.

Friday night, my dog started acting like she wasn't feeling well.  I realized I was probably going to need to take her to the vet first thing Monday morning and just to be safe, I looked up the emergency clinics in the area.  She seemed to rally a bit later Friday night and was not far from her normal self early Saturday morning... or I NEVER would have gone on that ride!!

But I did go.  And while on that ride, I crashed again.  This time there was no bug, no rain, no circumstances that would contribute to a crash.  I was soft pedaling and putting my bottle away, which is on a torpedo mount between the aero bars.  I was in the lead group and we were loosely arranged and waiting on some others to catch up.  Suddenly, I was tumbling into the pavement.  My reactions were a mix of pain, anger, surprise, and frustration but I pulled myself together and rode 45 mins back to the car, escorted by another rider.  I chose to take a slightly longer but flat route back because I had some serious pain in the hip flexor area, the result of hitting the back of the aero extensions.  I was concerned about my ability to generate the necessary power to get up any hills.
torpedo mount

I hit the rear part of the aero bars.. OUCH!

I made it back to the car with nothing more dramatic than a few tears.  Along the way, I heard myself tell my companion that I thought I might be losing my dog soon.  He questioned why I was on the ride and I responded that it wasn't like "she was going to die while I was on this ride", I just knew deep down that it was coming.  She was old and this time it seemed different.  That is the best explanation I can give you.  I was unconcerned enough to stop by the bike shop and drop Seabiscuit off with the declaration that I believed there might be something loose in the front end. After that, I headed home.
Posing comes naturally to these two.

I walked in the camper and immediately saw my princess.  She was gone.  I had gone on that ride and she died while I was away.  The rest of the day evaporated.  Nothing else mattered.

I gave my own physical condition no consideration as there is an unpleasant but necessary logistical issue when dealing with the death of a large dog on a weekend.  I pulled myself together enough to get the details taken care of... with a huge amount of help from a neighbor, MVF the cycling fiend, and a local vet who agreed to receive the body even though they were closed.  I finally settled down and got out of my cycling clothes late that evening, took a couple ibuprofen, slapped an ice pack on the swelling on my pelvis, and let grief take it's course.

The next day the swelling was... impressive.  I took some more ibuprofen and began icing it, aware that I had made a mess for myself by not treating this immediately.  Before I knew it, the selling was increasing by the minute and so was the pain.  I barely made it to the ER and by the time I got through the doors, I was in shock and hyperventilating.  My body was threatening to shut down due to lack of oxygen.  As it turned out, that pelvic injury was a ruptured vein that was still bleeding into my pelvis.  Because the pelvis is like the head, all bone with no where for the blood to go, the pain was excruciating.  There was also some significant potential issues with complications if the bleeding could not be stopped.  They finally brought the pain under control and eventually released me from the ER with a referral to a general surgeon.

The following day I went back to the ER after the swelling started to rapidly increase again and that now familiar burning sensation began to return.  Fortunately, this time a period of immobility in a hospital bed was all it took to bring it back under control.  They decided to change the referral to a general practitioner rather than a surgeon, which is excellent news.  I was assigned basically bed rest, with the exception of going to the bathroom which was about all the movement I was supposed to have, for a few days.  They also said to keep my overall activity to a minimum for at least a week to a week and a half, though they suspected pain would keep me benched for longer than that.  When I begin to return to regular activities, I am under instructions to keep it very slow and easy but if I do things right, there is no reason I can't make a full recovery in a reasonable amount of time.  (If I try to do too much too soon, there are some really nasty chronic side effects if that vein does not clot and heal correctly.)

The face that charmed the world!

Cuteness in 2010.
Now I am resting, sidelined from work and training, and trying to get used to life without my big dog.  I still have my little dog and he has been a true companion these last few days.  I am so grateful for his loving, positive demeanor.  I am including some pics of Sera, the most perfect princess, in this post.  She was a joy, my rock, and the heart and soul of the trio of misfits living, working, and traveling in this camper.  Sera, Wilbur, and I, we were a team.  There is a huge hole left from her passing and I don't expect to get over it soon.  But she was a wonderful dog who had a great life and passed from this earth as gracefully and she lived.   She is missed.
Naps are serious business.

Trigger and Sera.. both brought great happiness and both are gone.

This may be a creepy motel but you still need to wash behind your ears!

The couch in the camper may be ugly (it has been covered since) but it passes muster.

The last few hours of her life.  I couldn't get the lighting right... though now that seems appropriate.