Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hope Is Not A Plan.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Christmas has come and gone.  I spent Christmas day with Wilbur, hiding in the camper dealing with some kind of stomach issues that may have stemmed from the loosening of dietary restrictions recently.  Christmas Eve was nice though.  I went to my co-organizers house for dinner and helped him get all the presents wrapped for his family gathering the following day.  He  nearly had an out of body experience when he realized that I spent Thanksgiving alone and when the pestering invites started coming I knew it was infinitely easier to relent and go be merry for an evening.  Regardless of this Christmas papery hitch in my bah-humbug giddy up, spending Christmas day nauseous and covered in hives restored my Scrooge McDuck-ness to it's full glory.  

I have very few days left at home in Texas and some of those will need to be spent doing a little work in Dallas (tomorrow and the next day).  Then I have to prepare for the long drive south to Wellington, FL.  My yearly trek to South FL inspires a multitude of emotions for me.  It is my longest trip, 4 months, and always feels like moving away.  This trip, more than any other, is the reason that I struggle to put down roots in Austin (or anywhere).  I lived there for a while thinking that it would allow me to feel more normal but instead it just meant that the big trip was in the summer instead of in the winter.  Also, now that I have a training environment that includes a variety of terrains, I am reluctant to go back to pancake flat SoFlo on any kind of permanent basis.  So with no conclusion to the internal argument, I ignore both sides and do what I always do... pack.
Florida.  Sadly, the picture will be a little different this year.

The carnage of last year has me skittish and gun shy with regards to training, especially while working.  Obviously, I am going to do it.  Training is too integral to my life and happiness to do make a different choice, but I have so many reservations.  In looking back over the last six months, wish I could sort the WHY and the HOW from the irrelevant circumstances.  I still don't feel like I understand where the mistakes were made and how much each element... work, (over?) training, endocrine issues, dietary mistakes, my sleep and travel schedules, the injuries from the three crashes... contributed to the total shut down that happened.  While I have struggled to wrap my head around it, I don't even for a moment feel like I have arrived at an answer.  I don't feel like I have learned enough from the mistakes to go forward, wiser for the experience, with a solid plan designed to avoid a repeat performance next summer.  

I even boiled up the nerve to email DW and ask for his perspective on the events of Sept and October.  I have no idea if he will respond or offer his advice but I hope so.  Regardless of anything else, he has the most continuous perspective on the events that led to the Great Duckpression 2012.  I hope he offers some advice.  If he does not, I will proceed cautiously and conservatively.  

I handle mistakes and setbacks by viewing them as learning experiences.  I find the courage to try again by identifying the mistake and coming up with a strategy that utilizes the lesson.  Hope is not a plan.  A dream is not a plan.  A plan is the only way forward that minimizes the likelihood of  repeating mistakes and maximizes the likelihood of success.  I draw the strength to keep picking myself back up from the idea that I am learning something, that I the pain of the mistake yielded a wiser, more clever approach, that falling down improves the odds that the next time will be the time you stay on your feet.

Now, I am going to Milwaukee this year.  I will be competing at the USAT AG National Championships.  I intend to arrive healthy, happy, and ready to fight.  That is a goal and a goal requires a PLAN!
Milwaukee.  Milwaukee.  Milwaukee.

That is a goal.  A goal requires a plan. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dressed To Ransack Whoville.

The other night was the Trail of Lights Run is Austin.  I signed up and made it an event for the Triathlon Meetup a while back.  As the holidays (and by default, the run) have gotten closer, my Bah Humbug factor has increased exponentially.  This has been due in part to my decision to not go home for the holidays.  Bah Humbug becomes a proper attitude for staving off any nostalgia based regret over that decision.  The rest of it, I think, might be the result of an emotionally draining fall season, a body that has been fickle at best, not to mention the copious volumes of allergy producing matter that the local juniper trees are currently spewing into the air.
Finished product.  If only I had a Grinch mask and some green tights!

So, I decided at the last minute to dress up... as Santa.  This wasn't going to be a race that I had anything riding on.  It didn't matter how hard I ran, my current fitness guaranteed I wasn't going to set any PR's.  So it was the perfect opportunity to dress up.  I dug out an old red jersey that was far too big for me.  I went to Michael's Arts & Crafts and found some fleecy trim, a Santa hat, and some other odds and ends.  I took this home and set about crafting my costume.

Did I mention that I do not "do" domestication?

I didn't even have any thread.  Minor detail.  I tried the yarn I use for braiding but it was too thick to go through the material.  Hmmmmm...... what to do... what to do.

I dug around in the camper for ideas until I came across the solution.  DENTAL FLOSS!!!!  I had enough dental floss to get the job done and it's minty freshness couldn't be a bad thing!  Mad stitching ensued and before I knew it, Santa was born, Grinch-style, and ready to run!!
I feel like my fingertips are in mortal danger!

I got to the event and met up with a few others.  The run used to be used by this group as the unofficial red speedo run.  With one very brave exception, the rest of us chose costumes over old school!  The honks and shouts of encouragement as the four of us walked through the streets of downtown Austin were, well... mostly for him.  HO HO SPEEDO!!
Four different ways to Ho Ho Ho!!

As it was, I was glad I made the choice to dress up.  The course, while fun to run, included parts that were very dark and with sketchy footing.  It was not a good course to be channeling Dasher.  The costume guaranteed that the mood stayed light and my expectations stayed appropriate.  In all, it was a lot of fun.  And it did a fantastic job of reducing the Bah Humbug factor to a mere scowl before my first cup of coffee.

The Trail of Lights below the city skyline.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I just logged into USAT again and checked my account page.  There was the following message:

Congratulations! You've qualified for the Olympic-Distance race at the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships because you met qualification in the following event(s):
EventQualification Percent
Land Rover TriRock Austin10
Click here for more information about the Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championships

It seems the duck has an "A" race for this year!

Back To That Topic Of Perspective

From an email that I wrote:

I'm including a link to an article that is fairly succinct and kind of sums up where I am with my run fitness.  I did a lot of work this summer to pull my run form together.  Now I run with better form but since that requires more fitness than running with sloppy form where I could ambulate in whatever manner I choose for a nearly indefinite period, I have taken a big step back in the volume that I seem to be able to tolerate.  Since, at present, I am not letting my form drop when I get overly fatigued, I run out of gas and end up at a walk.  I suspect this is still preferable to the alternative since it keeps the issue firmly in the realm of a conditioning problem.  I have seen a big dropoff in my cycling and swim fitness too, but those are more ingrained and less taxing on the body so it's not quite as apparent.  

When you look at my races (female 35-39) and see a great bike split (what it doesn't show is that bike was 1st OA as well) followed by a sad run split, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you are seeing an over-expenditure on the bike.  Rather, that is simply where my run is relative to my bike.  My post bike runs are often very similar to my open run times.  There is a much bigger difference between my tri bike output(all<21mph avg) and my TT results (my only real TT was a very short, relatively flat race where I avg'd 30.5!)  From the beginning of my riding, I have always been a top performer on the bike.  It has actually been a challenge to bring my handling skills up in line with the speeds I was capable of producing... and to be fair, they are still lagging behind.

Over the course of the last year, I saw dramatic gains in the run for the time I was healthy enough to work on it... about 8 mos.  I did a 5K in August a week before the BG race and finished in 28:56.  That was my best 5K time ever with an improvement of over 5 mins on my old PR.  It was also an improvement of nearly 10 mins over the same course two years ago.  Four years ago, I was running 39 min 5Ks. Five years ago I struggled to maintain a 14:00/mi jog for four minutes and at this point last year, I had a torn achilles and couldn't run a step... so I think this is all relative.  It doesn't help that I have sustained as many major injuries as I have years of running experience and each of those resulted in long (6 month) layoffs from running or that the process has been spread over a time when I have managed to take 96 lbs off my frame.  

My point is... I don't think that my running is really that out of place for someone who has walked the road I have walked.  There is so much room for improvement but really, it is probably great progress, all things considered.  The distortion of expectation comes from the fact that my swim background lets me be semi-competitive and from day one (well, technically day 3.  Days 1 & 2, I was figuring out how to turn and clip out), I have been a freak on a bike.  I have actually had pro's tell my that I had freakish ability for the limited background that I had but I am not the only freak in my family so there may be some good genetics happening.  (Incidentally, I am not saying that I am that stellar.. only that I perform at a much higher level than my fitness and experience indicate I should.)  My run is probably a better indicator of my actual fitness level than my bike and fat (oh, I do mean fat) people with no endurance background should not go out in their first race and end up 1st in their div (despite getting lost and adding nearly 4 miles in a sprint race) on the bike.  Honestly, the bike probably distorts the picture more than anything.

The point of this rambling?  I lost a lot of fitness when I was sick/injured but that is not a shock and I am still running better than I was.  I haven't lost all of last years gains, by any means.  If I just look at this as a "where I am at" issue, it's really not a bad picture.  All things considered, my run may never catch up with my bike but if you look at the run as the real indicator (and the bike as a bonus), I have still made steady, respectable progress over the course of my "career"... even though I am not as far along.  Rather, I am right where I should be and in a good position to make a lot of progress this year. 


PS.  I am not telling you this so much as telling myself.  You just got cc'd on the thought process.  

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person."  -Albert Einstein

Hmmm.  I have always judged my abilities based off my bike performance.  If I shift the view to my run performance, I see an entirely different picture.  I see someone who runs reasonably well within the parameters of her peers and is right where she should be given the history.  I also see someone who's swim performance is in line with her running given the differences in experience.  I think that looking at my bike performance skews the view, as that appears to be something of an outlier.  In a way, it is kind of nice to look at things this way.  It makes the bike a bonus to the run's baseline rather than the run a failure by comparison the bikes baseline.

The truth is I have no right to perform the way I do on a bicycle.  I haven't earned it.  I didn't train for it.  I don't have years of anything pedal related in my background.  I just took to it naturally... like a duck to water... and had a very high starting point.  All three sports have improved substantially with the run making the most gains (for hours trained) but also having the lowest starting point.  I have seen the least improvement in the swim but then all those large early gains happened decades ago.  This run focused might be the healthiest mindset going forward.

From this.... this... this... this... this...

....and going forward from here...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jack Frost: Swim Coach And The Secret Of The Power Snowflake!

"Move to Texas" they said.  "It's warm there so you'll be okay." they said. Duckfeathers!!

Today was my first time swimming with one of the Austin Master's groups and it was a cold one!!  It was forty degrees when I headed to that OUTDOOR pool.  I haven't done a team swim practice since I was on the master's team in West Palm Beach before I decided to throw myself headlong into triathlon.  Even though I wasn't there early enough to really socialize, I loved the atmosphere and I loved that there was a woman in the next lane that evenly matched my pace, set after set.  I pushed myself in a way that I haven't in a long time.  I didn't nail everything perfectly, especially since it was all hypoxic work which is a weakness for me, but I found myself digging a little deeper that I would have normally.  It was a great experience and a fun way to knock out 3000 yards.

It also was nice to have someone on deck.  There was some backstroke in one of the sets and I did exactly one pull and my shoulder gave out.  There was no guilt at changing the workout because the coach was right there to say "just do it as free".  I would have felt like a loser if I had been on my own.  By the same token, there was no slacking when it got really hard either.  I was constantly aware of the eyes on my position and effort.  Plus, as I said before, anytime there is someone in the next lane.... it is a RACE!

Last week was the final week of the 2012 season for me (technically, it was the first week of the 2013 show season for the competitors though).  It was the Christmas show in Waco, TX.  The laid back atmosphere is illustrated by the fun that was had with the barns.  Set ups were shockingly involved and we, the braiders, did our part by twisting in festive colored yarn, pom-poms, even ornaments, to the braids.
Stockings hung by the fire and Wilbur looking for toys to steal!!

So that's how Santa got that "bowl full of jelly"!

This is for every kid that every asked Santa for a pony!

What you can't see here is that they wrapped the soda machine in gold paper. 

I had a small package of six or eight hard plastic snowflakes... perfect little glitter covered choking hazards... and tied them into the manes of some of my smaller customers.  I tend to give little things like that to those people that don't have all the money to buy the fanciest horses and show constantly.  It makes them feel special and they always seem to appreciate it more.  Well, one of the snowflake recipients apparently got a little freaked before going into the ring.  The trainer told the child that she was going to be okay.  She had a POWER SNOWFLAKE!!  The snowflake would give the pony power so she would be fine.  In fact, she would be better than fine since none of the other kids had power snowflakes.  When she told me that, it made all the other BS in my job worth it.


Finally, I feel good again.  I don't know how long it will last but for the moment, I feel good.  No fatigue, no hives, the only significant joint pain is the shoulder and my braiding hands.  This is a welcome respite from the misery of the last several months.  It took making certain decisions all week to treat myself very gently but it worked and I'll take it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crash... Mash! Things That Matter and A Few That Don't

Decided to sport the Women On Wheels kit (covered by a jacket. I was cold!)

I am trying to decide what days to stay at the horse show next week and what days to commute.  This show is always difficult because it is about a two hour drive from home.  Last week I tried to commute several of the days but since the interstate was shut down for construction, two hours became three and a half in a hurry.  That meant that I was essentially burning the candle at both ends trying to work, drive, and train.  I did get a couple of quality sessions in but more days than not were sub-standard and the fatigue I carried into this week ruined my best training day of the week.  I would like to avoid a repeat of that, if possible.

Last week was disappointing.  After feeling like I was finally turning a corner the week before, I had a really tough week.  Monday and Tuesday are always my best/long training days (my weekends) and yesterday was no picnic.  I had planned to do a master's practice for the first time in a long time but was so tired that when the email telling me the pool heater was broken came through, I was all too happy about it.  There is nothing quite like a long... oh, like 18 hours long... sleep to make you question your well-being.  Still, when I woke up I was hoping that I had cleared the hurdle and was looking forward to a good workout later in the day.

That afternoon, I headed out for my run and immediately knew that my breathing was not right.  I kept my head up and tried to control my breathing as much as I could but by 15 mins, I was starting to hack and wheeze.  It quickly snowballed into an attack that shut down the rest of the run.  I had been avoiding taking the meds prescribed for my breathing as I felt like I was just drowning in chemicals lately, but when I got up today, I immediately started on them.  I wish I had some answers to why my entire system (oh, yeah baby, absolutely covered in hives today) seems to be in revolt.  I don't really have any answers.

If I can persuade my skin to let me put on cycling clothes, I will head out for a ride today.  A little bike therapy seems to be the cure for all that ails me... except for the times that I don't keep the rubber side down.  THAT is another matter entirely!  I am not sure anymore what is happening with my body and I am no longer sure that I am doing myself any favors by continuing to indulge the problems, but I am tired, itchy, cranky and running low on motivation.  The road back to health for me right now seems to be a long one, poorly lit and full of potholes.  I just wish I understood this more.  It would be easier if I could tell myself, you have "X" and this is what you can expect.  Instead, I am just dealing with a myriad of symptoms and without knowing of a central underlying problem, I feel like the treatments are scattered and disorganized... and an awful lot like the mad scientist's chemistry experiment.

I am making progress but it is not an easy thing.  I will have a couple of good days and then.. BAM!.. back to square one.  Fortunately, the quality and duration of the good days has been on the rise.  Now if only I can keep my frustration levels in check, I'll be okay!

On the upside to last week, I attended the Pedaling For Safer Roads II ride.  It was a large gathering of all types of cyclists at City Hall.  We then rode slowly through downtown, with a police escort, to the (state) Capitol.  There were speakers at both ends and it was an incredible experience.  There is nothing like looking around and seeing everything from hipsters on fixies to racers on $10,000 racing machines, to pedi-cabs, folks on cruisers and commuters... everything.  Some people had their bikes really decked out with  Christmas lights and others had them really decked out with carbon fiber.  It didn't matter.  We were all there to honor some cyclists that had lost their lives and send a message to lawmakers.  It was a great experience not to mention a challenge.  It is not easy to keep a TT bike upright going less than three miles per hour in a huge group!
The riders were beginning to gather at City Hall.

Part of the crowd listening to speakers at the capitol.

Awesome bikes everywhere!

Nothing more to say.

I have come to realize lately how much I like the cycling community.  On the second or third ride I did after getting the bike fixed, I was prepping to leave from where my car was parked when another cyclist pulled up on his bike.  He was returning.  We chatted for a moment and in my insecurity, I mentioned that I wasn't feeling very strong or confident because of the crash.  He offered the customary words of encouragement and concern for Seabiscuit's health (a true cyclist), then I headed off.  That particular ride was... trying.  When I got back, I was feeling a little defeated.  Then I saw a piece of paper stuck under my wiper blade, along with a gel and a little patch kit.  It's things like this and the protest ride that throw everything into perspective.

Mike on a Colnago has no idea how much he helped a duck that day.