Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

My cousin is a piano teacher and this is a conversation between her and a six year old student that she recently posted to Facebook.  I repost it here with her permission.

Me: (to my six year old piano student). A TRI-cycle has three wheels, and a TRI-ad has three notes in it. What does "TRI" mean?

Isabella: Try means you never give up!

Got that folks?  

TRI means you NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

Case closed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stick A Fork In My Eye Kind Of Day

Today was one of those ill-fated, stick a fork in your eye kind of days when it seems like the world conspires to interfere with your plans.  In reality, it was just another day.  I am on an accountability kick right now.  I believe that life is nothing but a big vault of excuses.  Whatever type of excuse you need, life's got it at the ready.  The only way to progress is to refuse to accept those excuses and find a way.  Sometimes this takes a little patience or a lot of creativity.  It also involves a learning process.  Learning to identify how you could have taken control of the elements that you might have otherwise classified as out of your control.  And finally, it involves learning when to let it go.

I woke up this morning tired.  My body felt like wood and no matter how much coffee I drank, it wasn't helping.  I had determined that for my day to work out, I needed to kick off certain events by a certain time, counting backwards to the buzz of the alarm.  (It's ironic that I have to set an alarm on my days off but not on work days.)  The first mishap was simply the fatigue.  No matter what I did, I couldn't shake the sluggishness.  That dulled the edge and made being on the ball difficult for the rest of the day.

First there was the run, which included some speed work and I was really hoping to hit some time goals during the pickups.  There was nothing specified from DD, just "Fast" and "EZ".  That meant (in my mind) that I was free to find out what my legs had in them.  The pickups were descending in length, as were the rest periods, but based on some speed work on Friday, I thought I could find some real speed in the final shorter sprints.  Waking up feeling like a slug was a little depressing, especially since once the workout started, I knew I wasn't going to be showing my best today but I threw some heart into it and it felt worse than the data looked.
This is SOOO how I felt today!

When I went to start, I realized that my Garmin had done it's occasional trick of discharging it's battery while on the charger.  I was time to start according to my plan but this wasn't happening without the Garmin.  I didn't panic... too tired... just stuck it on the charger and curled up for a 20 minute nap.

Once that was done, the time I lost I could make up by skipping lunch and sucking down a shake. I had 15 mins to load the bike and get down to the computrainer studio in Boca where I had made an appointment to get my lopsided aerobar fixed and ride on the trainer so that I could do "hills".  The ride wasn't supposed to be intense but I felt like I could use a little practice on terrain that wasn't pancake flat, even if I took it easier.

I got turned around on the way, ended up a few exits past where I needed to be, blowing through a toll booth by accident, and was running about 7 min behind.  When I got there, I found the place closed.  It was then that I received the message that the mechanic/shop owner was not able to make it until at least 3:30.  At this point, it was 2:30, I had been up since 8 and had yet to consume any solid food.  I went and found some lunch (not much- pickin's are slim with food allergies), then curled up on the front seat of my car and took another nap.  It was after 4:00 by the time I got on the trainer and since there was a class, I was booted off by 5:00.  Had I known, I would have gotten the bike fixed and ridden my full workout (75:00) on my trainer at home.

He then tore the front end of the bike down only to find out that the parts wouldn't work.  I then headed home only to catch rush hour traffic.  As I drove home, I got more and more upset.  My body was shutting down and I knew getting on the trainer and trying to salvage that shortened workout was not happening.  In fact, neither was laundry.  It had come down to all further activities were cutting into the few hours of sleep available to me before work tonight.

I started to get angry.

I showed up.  I did my job.  I was butt tired and yet I did my run.  I gave it my best.  I got myself an hour south to Boca.  I got on that trainer and tried to ride honest and smart.  I fully intended to put in the time and effort.  I had put my shoulder to the yoke, even though I felt awful, and given an honest effort.

Then I asked myself what I could have done differently.  I could have had my full riding gear in the car, then having to wait would not have delayed my workout.  I could have made sure that the part would work before we started.

Most of all, I could have valued my time and agenda more.  Had I made it crystal clear that I needed to be on that bike for 75 min, had I said "No, I cannot wait that long" and headed home earlier, I would not have been grabbing Zzz's in my car, or have gotten home lightheaded from needing food after spending 6 hours with a saddle sore gaining tsunami strength in slowly drying workout clothes getting nothing done.  This is all on me.

I got home and I cooked myself a nice meal.  I needed to care for myself a little.  That was a good choice.  I got into comfortable clothes and I thought about the events of the day.  It was not a bad attempt at planning, just not perfect.  The best way to salvage the day is to get some sleep, learn from this, and confess to DD about the shortened workout when the tidal wave of guilt subsides a bit.

Who knows.. maybe I'll be on that trainer at midnight finishing up before I have to go braid.  For the moment, I have given myself permission to let it go but that doesn't always mean I do.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Exhibitionist Wear and Pig Buds: Formula For A Great Day!

Forecast for a PERFECT Sunday ride!

Yesterday was one of those absolutely perfect days that makes South Florida the place to be in January!  I was scheduled to do a 3.5 hour ride with an old buddy.  He is a bike mechanic and BMX pro that dabbles in road and mountain bike riding.  He has a fantastic sense of humor and is really strong on a bike.
TJ.  Wind is not kind to him.

We headed east into a stiff headwind and he took the first pull.  At the first stop light, I realized that it made much more sense for me to pull since he was a big guy on a road bike and Seabiscuit and I are fairly aero.  He had clearly been working hard and I was barely warm.  I took over the lead and maintained it for the rest of the ride.  Unfortunately for him, Seabiscuit and I ARE fairly aero and don't really provide much of a draft benefit.  Still, to his credit, he let me have the lead and he soldiered on without complaint.

Manly tires... LOVE it!

Of course, TJ is one of those super secure guys that can't pass up a good deal on tires.. or headphones. 

Even manlier earbuds!

We got to our turnaround point at the inlet, topped off water bottles, and I snapped a  couple of pictures.  I was sporting one of my strappy Castelli tops that is marketed as exhibitionist wear.  I love that I get the sun on my back while still enjoying BIG, proper cycling pockets.  And to think I thought I'd never wear them.  Paired with my favorite tri shorts, I looked more like I belonged at the beach than on a bicycle.  HOW awesome it THAT in January!!?!?!?
Not really going any further down this road, am I?

Every so often you see something that stands apart.  I had snapped a picture of this catamaran sailing through the inlet when suddenly from the ocean, here comes this incredible work of art.  It came gliding through... fast... and immediately shamed every other boat on the water.  It reminded me of a dragon the way it owned the inlet and slid menacingly through the water.  No matter how I try, I WILL fail to describe it well.  I am not completely sure what type of boat this is but the way it sliced the water, I can only imagine it is some type of racing vessel.  Either way, it really took my breath away.
I thought "Oh, pretty sailboat!"

Then I saw THIS!!

Words will never do this beautiful work of art justice.

After a short break and some photo ops, we headed back the way we came.  We enjoyed the tailwind we had earned on the ride east for about ten minutes, then the wind died completely and we had still air the rest of the way home.  Figures.
Seabiscuit: hanging in GOOD neighborhood

How often does the water under a pier look like this?

This is winter at its finest!

I got home with that awesome sense of peace and satisfaction that you get from a really great ride.    Thank you Palm Beach for being my winter home!!

The road back.  What a wonderful place to ride.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Skirting The Issue.

Recently, I was watching another episode of "How I Met Your Mother" while on the trainer grinding out endurance minutes.  I was struck by how close to home they hit with the character "Robin".  In the later seasons, her issues are my issues.  Not the part where a whole bunch of hot, awesome men (and Barney) are lining up to be the love of her life, but the part where her choices regarding home, family, children do not lead her down the beaten path.  I can relate to those choices and the ensuing scrutiny and insecurity that comes with bucking the most ingrained trend in modern society.  I really liked the fact that those choices were directly associated with her ability to live the life of her dreams... full, interesting, and not lacking for love or happiness.

I am not married (though that is not an active choice as much as a refusal to conform and the result of a very unconventional lifestyle.  Contrary to popular suggestion, I am not a lesbian, closed off emotionally, or afraid of commitment.  I simply am not afraid of being alone and prefer it to lousy company.)

I am not a mom nor do I ever plan to be one.  I am not a wife or a girlfriend or anything else.  I am an individual and an athlete.

I chose to live my life against the grain, continuing to focus on my dreams and keeping my own life as the central theme.  I have been called short- sighted (who will take care of you when you are old?), unaware (You'll want them later), selfish (There are too many to list here), etc.  I am left feeling alienated and isolated much of the time, especially when I make the mistake of allowing Hollywood into my living room and into my head.

Most of the women's specific tri companies, sites, etc. may as well be called "Mom specific" or "aimed at the fairer sex".  There is an archaic stereotyping that often happens when things become "women's specific".  Things become instantly related to being the archetypal female pillar of the family.  It's hard to blame them when there are all kinds of media that cater to "mom's who... fill in the blank".  (I saw a funniest Mom contest online recently.  I thought what about being a mother lends or detracts from humor enough to justify a specific category.) And if you watch the tube, even the most independent characters would leap into bed with domestication if the opportunity ever presented itself.  What about the women that are pure grit, want to compete and train like and with the boys, women who don't care to be defined by their reproductive organs or family choices.

Some women, regardless of life and family choices, are people first.  These women, these athletes, deserve to be viewed as any other person, any other athlete.  I really applauded Cervelo when they avoided the women's specific bike saying that there was often more difference between two different women than between any given woman and man.  They view them as individual athletes that need to bikes fitted to the body and the task.  I am not a gender.  I am an athlete with certain body proportions that needs to get as low as I can while still maintaining about a 400mm reach.  I am flexible and powerful, making a truly aggressive TT position attainable if I can find a frame with a low enough stack to accommodate my diminutive height (why I ride 650cc wheels).  I don't need a women's specific basebar, I need a 40 cm basebar based on the width of my shoulders.  I certainly don't need someone to imply that I should ride a specific gear ratio based on gender.  That value is based on terrain and my strength to weight ratio.  Period (no pun intended).

This is not a plug for Cervelo bikes.  (Frankly, I've never ridden one, though it made my short list of bikes with appropriate geometry for my body.  As you all know, Seabiscuit is a Felt... a men's issue in a small size.)  It is an acknowledgement of an outlook I wish was far more prevalent in sport and in life.  I also have wide feet so I wear men's shoes and wide shoulders so many times find men's jerseys fit the best.  I wish that many of the color schemes were available in men's sizes or even more that a size was a size and a color was a color and there were no gender markings at all.  In this case, I prefer "shrink it and pink it" to "dumb it down and make less functional.. then slap a flower on it."  At least with "shrink it and pink it", I get the advantage of the technology and research given to men's products, even if it does look stupid in pink.
Seabiscuit... Felt B2 Pro.

Sure, a different aesthetic is fine but many female athletes have a surprisingly gender- neutral opinion of what looks good so be careful there, but a product line aimed at the serious athlete should be just that.. serious.  Take the chamois, for example.  Please don't make it puffier because me arse might be more delicate but do make the shape a little different (hard to argue that anatomy addressed is inherently different) and put it in a short that conforms to a slightly different body type.  That is appropriate.  Stop there.  Don't make changes that assume a less aggressive athlete will be wearing it.  Remove the assumptions and look at the athlete as a set of values and measurements, not a gender or a societal role.  If the item is marketed to serious athletes then get to know these women.  They are hard as nails.

SOME companies should absolutely address gender differences, particularly apparel companies.  I think that certain apparel companies do a brilliant job with women's specific products, not just with colors and patterns but with the more important function and performance.  They don't assume that the female athlete wants something substantially different in quality than the male athlete.  Thank you to those.

Some of us are here to live our lives, keep living our lives, and in some cases finding our way into the paths that we were always meant to walk.  In sport, business, politics and other competitive arenas, there is a fine line between being a woman and being a person doing a job.  For men, there is no need for a distinction but sadly, with women, there very much is.  As someone who has spent her life crossing gender barriers, I have become very accustomed to but never comfortable with this distinction.  Somehow, even in my own mind, to be a woman and to be a competitor can exist contiguously but never simultaneously.  There always seems to be a degree of "one OR the other".  I think that is a shame.  Ultimately, being a woman is a matter or chromosomes, not choices, and we should be judged as individuals.

And we, as women, need to do our part as well.  Stop thinking of yourself as a piece of someone else's puzzle.  Be yourself, own it.  If you are an athlete, never let it become an excuse.  Simply view yourself as a human with "X" stats and in "Y" condition.  Don't limit yourself.  Be willing to suffer and work, just like anyone else... no more, no less.  It's not important that you are fast or slow, it is important that you are recognizing your potential, however vast or limited it may be.  I don't care if you have kids, don't have kids, whatever.  One person juggles a family life while another struggles with a disease while a third has a soul-sucking job.  Everyone has their demons, including me.

When I cheer a woman on in a race, especially if she is older or heavy or still running after most people have finished, I am not cheering her gender but instead, her courage to rise above the roles we are herded into as children and letting her know that there is life beyond our limitations.  I am rooting for a person who is "embracing the suck" right at that moment.  If she has a different take on gender roles, that is okay.  All she needs to hear from me is encouragement and she is free to interpret that any way she wishes.  I applaud the companies that market to women without corralling them into stereotypes.  I love it when they manage to hit that balance but I think we are actually a long way away from true integration.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I used to have a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle named Roger.  It was painted two-tone primer and one day when I tried to get something out of the back seat, I ripped the seat free from the floorboards.  You could see the road beneath your feet and that also served as extra ventilation.  The carburetor was bad so it took careful clutch work with a running start to get it going and idle was not in it's vocabulary.  I named it Roger after Waters of Pink Floyd because it was incredibly cool but kind of falling apart.
Not quite, but close.  Roger was primer red and primer grey though similar in road worthiness.

I know I keep babbling on about how different I feel these days.  I don't feel hyper or nervous or jittery or high.  I feel NORMAL.  I feel FINE.  I know that may not seem like much, but to me it's everything.

If you are struggling with a similar condition, seriously, "bug" your doc.  It's totally worth it!!  My whole life my energy levels have been sub-optimal.  I haven't recovered well.  It wasn't that I couldn't do things, even things of great difficulty, but that the minute I wasn't fiercely focused on being in motion, I would stop.  It was like my body was my old VW Bug with the bad carburetor.  It took creative efforts to get it going and the minute you took your foot off the pedal, it stalled.   That was how I lived my life.  Push as hard as you can to get as much done as possible, then succumb to the inevitable crash and burn.  Recover.  Repeat.

Why didn't I just moderate my efforts?   Because this was the only way to be in motion at all.  It wasn't like I was achieving Herculean results or trying to make it to the moon.  I was trying to live like a normal person but that was nearly impossible.  The older I got, the worse the fatigue, the greater the effort and the longer the recovery.
This is about how most days feel with a fatigue producing condition.

Now I have a whole host of ineffective life habits that need to be addressed but at least I am able to maintain normal momentum.  I am no longer fighting drag, like a rubbing brake on a spinning wheel.  It really does feel good.  Now I have to learn to be a more effective human being but then, who doesn't.

These days I may be road worthy, but I refuse to be NORMAL! I wonder if Seabiscuit would look good in this paint?
Oh, and Roger?  I traded him for $50 and a bicycle!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Duckie Got Back!

I have seen a lot of posts on running form, some good, some not.  Recently, Cortney over at Cort the Sport posted about how she re-introduced the glute action in her stride.  She also provided a link to an excellent article that examines the general correlations between stride and speed.  As I was mulling this over on my 4:30 am run today, I was acutely aware of the lack of rear extension in my own stride.

Like many endurance athletes, I struggle with tight psoas muscles.  The problem that I run into is an overall flexibility that makes targeting these bad boys tough.  Instead of stretching the psoas, I end up collapsing my lower back into extreme lordosis (my massage therapist has fits about this) and cannot get the psoas to stretch.  There is a point in every stretch where you cannot go any further because of the laws of physics... there is no where else to go.  If the muscles hasn't been targeted by that point, you are out of luck with that stretch.  I came across this video lately on  a more functional way to do the pigeon pose in Yoga.  While I am not a lover of Yoga, this pose done this way truly targets the psoas while keeping the lower back from compensating.  I tried it.  It works!!!  This is going to be incorporated into my "Duckie Got Back" routine.  The video is a bit long but really worth it.

It was the addition of the blocks and alignment of the pelvis that got it for me.  Even with this, I have to really focus to keep the stretch in the psoas and not let it migrate into one of the more flexible muscle groups.  It's amazing how the body gravitates towards efficiency.  Muscles that are most able to do a job are the first to volunteer!!
When I stretch or incorporate a rear swing, my lower back collapses inward because the psoas are too tight.  This eliminates all the power and putting pressure on my lower back.
It's these bad boys that are to blame.

I have discovered the "spring" in my step and when I am sprinting, my stride looks pretty good, but at an outrageous aerobic cost.  What I can't seem to manage yet is a swinging stride.  When I am going hard, I drive through like pistons.  When it's supposed to be easy or relaxed, I am shuffling badly.  Even when I add a little spring to my step, my stride is so short that a marked increase in cadence offers very little speed.  Of course, that piston like motion is exactly what serves me so well on the bike and the short, straight-legged movement is very similar to the sprinter's kick (swimming) I used for so many years.   It seems that running simply arrived late to the party and forgot it's invitation.

Last year, I took 5 minutes off of my 5K PR.  I still have a lot of room for improvement but I have seen exponential gains with each year.  That is what happens when you start extremely overweight and out of shape.  I'd say the jury won't return a verdict on the duck as a runner for at least another season or two.  In the meantime, I am shooting for consistency and correct habits.  The speed will come.  Speaking of... time to run!!

"You must do the very thing you think you cannot do." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, January 18, 2013

In A Word... DUCK!

There was a recent thread in the women's forum of a popular triathlon website that was titled "Dumb Sh*t That Guys Say...".  The responses were a hoot.  It got me thinking about the odd things that people have said to me over the years.  Many of these were during my days in Martial Arts so consider the context.  I thought I would share some of them with you.  

One of the masters and former champion in sparring ringside before one of my most intimidating matches: "If you can kick ME in the cup, you can beat anyone."

Same instructor during a particularly tough conditioning class "GET THERE, G.I. JANE!!!!" (I was thinking "I hate you")

A former classmate after we reconnected on Facebook:  "It's legendary.  I still tell my student the stories of how you would enjoy kicking guys in the cup."  (Enjoy?  I'm not a sadist.)

(are we sensing a theme here... don't judge, it was legal!)

Another former classmate via Facebook:  "I still can't watch 'The Matrix' without thinking of you. That scene where Trinity says 'Dodge THIS!'... That was so YOU!"  

A teacher from another school (who I happened to think was really cute): "Your feet are HUGE!  You must have great balance!"  (Seriously???)  

And in the same vein... 

On a date recently in Austin, the first thing he said after hello was:  "Look at your calves!  They're HUGE!  I mean they are bigger than MINE!" (Awesome.  Date over.)

A personal trainer who used to have his female clients sometimes workout with guys to build their confidence said this when I asked why he didn't do that with me: "It's one thing to give a girl confidence but you would crush some poor guy's soul!"  (Spiders, dude.  I am putting spiders in your bed.)

A competitor, as she passed me in the last .25 mile of a race that I had dominated on the bike.  "I thought you'd WON it!"  (ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!)

A lifeguard at a local pool:  "You must lift a ton of weights.  You're huge!"  (Really, buddy?)  "I mean you're just super stacked!"  (Nope.  Not a save.)

A co-worker describing how I look when I am stressed at work: "You have this walk.  You're shoulders get really broad and you march... looking down but not like you are looking away... more like you are daring anyone to meet your gaze."  (What am I?  The Terminator?)

Another co-worker:  "I don't have to see your face to know it's you.  I can tell by THAT WALK!!"

A former riding instructor: "You walk like you are on your way to kill someone."  

OKAY, OKAY!  So I have a purposeful walk... I get it.  It doesn't change the fact that I run like a duck!

DW, after I sustained a concussion in a bike crash.  The ER docs wanted someone to call me later to make sure I was making sense before I went to sleep:  "So I'll just give you a ring before I go to bed and make sure you are not talking crazy.. well, no crazier than usual, anyhow." (I might just leave that one alone.) 

The owner of the bike shop I frequented when I first started riding:  "My God!  Look at those quads!! You are gonna be Hell on a bicycle!"  (Oh, yeah.  Big thighs.  Every girls dream.  Took that one as a compliment though.)

Then there was today... a car pulled up behind me while I was on the bike, stopped at a light.  The guy rolled down the window and gave me a thumbs up:  "You are in amazing shape!  Great work!  Keep it up!"  (Thanks) "How many miles are you going today?" (about 25)  "Oh WOW!!!  God Bless You!"  I rode away with a smile.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Feel Great. No, Really!!!

I did something remarkable today.  I got done with work and I went to the gym.  THEN I went to the bank.  THEN I drove back to the camper without nodding off even once.  I did all of this without pain or exhaustion, then I ate a light snack, went to bed, slept just eight hours and woke up refreshed.

This was not possible as recently as three months ago.  I have had a lifetime of fatigue and exhaustion.  I am being treated for a thyroid condition for the first time, even though I have been symptomatic for many years.  I am finding out what it feels like to be able to think clearly, get a normal amount accomplished in my day, to exist free of the waves of tingling pain that would run through my body when I tried to push through that fatigue.  I feel truly good for the first time in a LONG time.

I mentioned to someone on Twitter last night that I wished I had not waited so long to lose the weight and clean up my lifestyle.  I did a lot of damage in the years that I was more than 100 lbs overweight, smoked, and generally abused my body.  Now I can add the years of not treating this condition to that list.  I truly feel like I have lived my whole life with the lights off and someone finally flipped the switch.

This may sound silly but in all these years I always assumed I was not that much more tired and foggy than anyone else.  I desperately wanted to go back to school but hours of being unable to do simple math for billing left me believing that the thought was ridiculous.  If I couldn't think clearly enough to write out a bill, I certainly couldn't learn something new.  TRUE.  I couldn't.  I just had no idea how much of that was an endocrine deficiency.  I began to believe that it was a personal deficiency.  I thought I was truly lacking the basic material to live the life I really wanted to live.

What is changing with the treatment?  Everything.  Aside from the specific symptoms, there is the fatigue and brain fog that comes with thyroid deficiency.  That is the hardest to prove and define, yet it is such a powerful life killer.

My house has been a mess.  The last few weeks I have found myself cleaning as I go, without any real thought.  I still need to think and focus if I want to scrub it spotless, but maintenance is becoming a lot easier.

Procrastination.  It used to be the result of exhaustion.  I am noticing that when I procrastinate that I am doing it out of habit.  The feeling that basic tasks were going to take a Herculean effort is gone.  Now I feel like I can, I just have to beware of bad habits that I have developed.

Driving.  This is a scary one.  I used to nod off regularly every time I got in the car.  By nodding, I mean seconds lost and the car in the shoulder of the road.  I would often times drive in circles because I was too foggy to focus on where I was going or sort out what I needed to do next.  I was routine to pull over and sleep for 45 mins on a 20 min drive home from work.  I continued to drive because I had to.  Nobody was going to do it for me and I had to work.

Sleep.  Wow, so this is what it feels like to have 16 hours to work with every day.  I used to sleep much more than 8 hours just to function.  If I only got 7 or 8 hours, I would have to nap or risk falling asleep during tasks.  Now I have ALL THIS TIME!!

RPE.  Life had an inflated Rate Of Perceived Exertion.  Every task was so much harder than it had to be.  Basic activities felt like the last six miles of a marathon.  So often, I would feel like I didn't have the strength to keep moving.  When the exhaustion got bad enough, I would have waves of pain running through my body.  I would eat, drink, take naps, do whatever I could to relieve it but in the end I always just had to block it out, put my shoulder into it, and push through.

I have lived so much of my life disassociated from that feeling that I was barely conscious.  When I was mentally present, I would feel like I was drowning.  I retreated into obsessing about hobbies and passions, sending my focus in other direction.  I lived for my sports because as soon as I stopped them, I couldn't regain momentum.  In the years that I was not obsessed with swimming, martial arts, horses, or triathlon, I quickly dissolved.  I have gravitated towards sports where you feel weightless, that have an adrenaline component, and make you feel like you are flying.  It was the only time I felt alive.
How can something so little have such a big impact?

If there was one good outcome to Duckpression 2012, it is the fact that I finally found a doctor that was able to crack this nut.  I finally started getting treatment for something that has been with me (I believe) nearly my whole life.  I have only been getting treatment for two months and it has really been since the last adjustment to my meds a couple of weeks ago, that I have seen the full effects of a healthy body.  It both thrills and terrifies me.  I am afraid to truly enjoy it because that little prescription seems like such a thin tether.  I am afraid that if I let myself celebrate it, it will go away.

I hope not.

Right now, I can see possibilities for the future that I never thought I would see.  I don't want to lose that.

I'll let you know where I am going as soon as I figure it out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Changing of the Duck Pond Guard. Again.

The "Biscuit" In A Bathroom Stall has quickly become the most viewed post in the history of the Duck.


I guess there is a certain promise of stinky goodness in the title that I doubt is actually delivered.  At least I have some insight into what drives traffic across the site.
I know this is not what they were hoping to see.

Recently, I have started and in some cases finished a lot of posts that I chose not to publish.  In part because I was using the written word to work through some personal decisions and in part because they were, frankly, boring.  Boring as they may have been, they were extremely helpful to me in dealing with transitioning between coaches.  I read back over them recently and I wanted to air my thoughts on my recent experience.

Week One of WEF is in the books and I have started with a new coach.  I did work briefly with someone this fall but truth be told, it was a terrible match.  I learned a little something though.  Coaching relationships are complicated.  I parted company with DW for reasons that I have already discussed, and for one that I didn't mention: financial considerations.  DW was at the upper end of the price scale.  I can say that if money were no object, I would probably have strongly reconsidered my decision to leave.  There were a few things wrong in that relationship, but there were a lot of things that were right.  One of those things was the way I responded to him.  I found myself genuinely motivated to do what he suggested and listen to his advice.  Another was the fact that in the time that I worked with him, I saw real results.  Unfortunately, as mentioned in a previous post, I am trying to find ways to lessen the impact of my job and cutting my expenses is one of them.  Having one of the most expensive coaches available to me is not the way to do that.
DW's words were written on the fridge and on my arm. They always made an impact.

By contrast, the person I hired to replace him initially, had the opposite effect.  Why?? Beats me, but that was the way it went down.  I really liked her in the initial interviews but with each passing week that we worked together, it became more and more apparent that we were clashing.  Soon, I found myself in a situation where whatever she said was the opposite of what I wanted to do.  I felt like the dynamic was becoming toxic and my training/fitness and mental well-being were paying the price.  I parted company with her after just a few weeks.  I pondered how I could have misjudged the dynamic so much but ultimately, chalked it up to a learning experience.

Fortunately, there was someone else who could not take me on at the time of my initial search that would have been my first choice otherwise.  I started with him this week.  I find a lot of similarities between him and DW but also a few key differences.  He is more accessible, for one.  He strikes me as less elite, though in reality I think that is only a perception based on the accessibility.  He reacted surprisingly well when I threatened to put spiders in his bed, a go-to threat reserved for whatever fitness professional I am working with at the time.  (The only one who actually worried was a personal trainer a few years back that was my roommate.  I think it was effective on him because his bed was actually down the hall and we did have a lot of spiders.)  Though by no means cheap, he is much more affordable.  (You do get what you pay for sometimes.)  But the similarities.. or should I say similarity... are what's most important.  I find myself listening, trying, and positively reacting to his input, even before we had formally started.

With coaching, the relationship involves trust, communication, motivation, perspective, etc.  In some ways it is a very involved interpersonal relationship, and yet it is just business.  It is not a marriage.  If it is not working, end it and find one that will.  Staying in a dysfunctional or toxic coaching relationship can do unnecessary harm and is pointless.  As soon as you realize it's not a good fit, don't waste any more of your money or their time and energy.  Terminate the relationship as honestly and fairly as you can.

HOWEVER, I also believe that there is a learning curve for both coach and athlete.  The greatest gains come when you can stick with the program for successive seasons.  Athletic development does not happen overnight and the longer you are with someone, the more subtle the relationship will become.  Your coach is not there to tell you what you want to hear.  You can and should expect moments of disagreement.  These things need to be worked through and worked out.  If the relationship is yielding positive results, don't bolt over something trivial.  Rather realize that this is a major relationship in your life, for me ranking right up there with your closest friends and probably your boss (or teacher if you are still in school).  It is a disservice to yourself as an athlete and unfair to your coach to bounce around too much.  But it is an even greater disservice to stay in a negative relationship.  The key is to know the difference.  Sounds like most aspects of life, huh?
Watch your back Pitino!  Wilbur would be happy to coach any sport that involves a ball!!

2013... Welcome DD.  (He would be BS but I just can't foresee typing that with a straight face so I am going to abbreviate his nickname.)  DD, you have my full attention.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The "Biscuit" In A Bathroom Stall.

Yesterday, I did my first long ride in Florida.  I always love them since the pancake flat profile and comparatively smooth roads make it easy to just have fun, clear your head, and (honestly) not work too hard while spending a lot of time at a high speed and cadence.  While I love the charge I get from an intense hill or trainer session, this low intensity ride scratches a different itch.  One can never replace the other.  I'm always glad I get to come down here and log these miles.  It's where I learned to ride, it's my comfort zone, and always feels a bit like a "reset" button.    During my time in Florida, my cadence always goes sky high and I acclimate to spending 99% of the time in aero.  But I am equally glad to leave and go find bigger challenges with hills and road surfaces later in the year.
Not looking so fantastic.  New tires are on order.

At the start of yesterday's ride, I happened to check my rear tire.  I realized that it was totally wasted.  It was squared off, thin, and sporting cuts every few inches.  I recalled the bike shop guys mentioning that the tires didn't have much life when I got the bike.  That was June and since then the tire has progressed to looking DONE, even to my untrained eyes.  I scrapped my plan for riding along the ocean and decided to do the Tour De Wellyworld, which would greatly reduce the walk home should the tire fail.  The ride went through a number of circular subdivisions and looped back on itself 5 or 6 times.  The map looked like a hyperactive dreidel and a drunken mouse threw a party.  How else does one log over 50 miles in a three square mile area?

There was a 50% chance of rain, which in Florida means that there is a 100% chance it will rain 50% of the time.  This was only the second time I have been on this bike in the rain.  The first time led to the crash in June.  I found out the hard way then how slick my tires were when wet, and the fact that I had noticed how bad the tires were before the ride didn't help.  I nearly had a panic attack.  Initially, I pulled over and contemplated going home but I was on the far side of town and decided to suck it up for a little while in the hopes that it would pass.  It did and another brewed up in minutes.  The result was that almost the whole ride was on wet roads and about half was in actually rain.  The negotiations going on in my head could have gotten me a job as a hostage negotiator, but I won.  I stayed out there for 3:15 and got my job done.  I even relaxed quite a bit by the end.
Found a stall big enough for both of us!

Another thing about Florida is that bikes are stolen all the time.  Whereas in Texas, you might prop your bike outside the gas station and run in for a mid ride "drain and fill", you DO NOT do that here.  My mid-ride pitstops have seen me do a lot of crazy things, not the least of which is take my bike with me into the stall.  Call me crazy, but I am taking NO chances with my beloved Seabiscuit!!

A moment of silence for a trusty steed lost to Florida's bike thieves.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Leave The Excavation Equipment In 2012

It is actually a few days in but I have been on the road and if they frown on texting and driving, I know they would take a dim view of blogging while hurtling down the highway with a 40' truck/camper rig.

First the good news, I feel pretty damn good.  I feel rested, refreshed, and happy.  I arrived in Florida early enough yesterday to get a short but brisk ride in before the sun went down and enjoyed every second of it.
Sun setting over the Intercoastal.

My energy is solid and the doc called yesterday to tell me that my test results were back and that he wanted to bump the medication levels up even further.  I should expect to feel even better than I do now.  That is amazing news.  For the first time I feel like we are taking a crack at solving the root of all the problems instead of just treating the symptoms.  Now, I have no idea exactly how much my body was having to work to compensate for the sluggish thyroid but I know it had to have impacted my recovery.  I am expecting to tolerate training better this year, I just wish I knew how much.

I heard back from DW and he was incredibly helpful.  He brought the failure of last season down to two critical elements:  Sleep/recovery and diet.  He questioned whether I would ever successfully tolerate a training load with my sleep/work/travel schedule and suspected with the limitations in my diet that I might be falling short of nutritional requirements.  The latter is easy enough to solve.  I will see a nutritionist and arm them with the results of lab work.  I explored the possibility last year but then it seemed like I figured out a decent balance (by balance I mean I was losing weight and that was really all I cared about) so I back-burnered the idea.  In hindsight, perhaps I could have salvaged the season if my nutrition had been spot on.

The other element, sleep/work/travel, is not as easy to solve.  DW's comments: "The sleep patterns though are what I think is/was the biggest issue, and it was clear when you could get a few weeks of normal rest and low stress your body would respond really well to it but then when you got out of that the training and often everything else deteriorated. I've worked w/ pilots, doctors, firefighters and others w/ really crazy schedules but I think your's was the toughest and it was compounded by the travel/driving that you would have to do. I think you are going to really be up against the 8-ball when it comes to training at any level beyond a 20min run or short ride/swim a few days a week while you are juggling the work/life balance that you have."  He also added "Hindsight is always 20/20, I think we always thought that you could/would just be able to catch up and then hit it hard again but this seems to have been developing over time and your body just began to shut down no matter how strong your will to push forward may have been."

Wow.  It took me a few days to digest that.  I realized that he was right on many levels and that if I did not really appreciate the impact of the lifestyle, then that last sentence was, well, my sentence.  I lack the necessary recovery to sustain normal steady progress.  I also think that there are a few things contributing and clouding the issue here, though I don't dispute for a moment that he is right.  Without the recovery, the outcome is basically predetermined.

Since 2007, I have gone from Michigan in July to Kentucky in August.  Since 2007, I have fallen apart physically and seen major medical issues arise during the weeks following that transition.  There was one notable exception, the year I skipped most of the Kentucky weeks and took a vacation in the Caribbean.  That year, I sailed through the fall physically (though financially was another matter).  I believe that I have a breaking point and the tremendous stress of the summer shows pushes me past it every year.  During those years, I have been fat, fit, training, not training, focusing of strength, focusing on endurance, eating, dieting, sleeping, not sleeping, staying in hotels, campers, friends homes, on gluten, off gluten, carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, coached, uncoached, happy, unhappy... in other words, the culprit is not any of those variables.  The culprit is the job and the stress of that MI-KY block.  Short of getting another job, I have only one option: try to modify the job I have so that it stops killing me.  Break those summer shows up and  accept the lowered income as my new reality.  For the sake of my health, I need to lower my expenses and live more frugally.

I also realize that I need to stop digging holes where they don't need to be.  I might have recovered enough, I might have gotten out of my hole if I HAD EVER PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL!!
By shovel, I mean THIS.

If I hope to avoid a repeat of this year, I will have to leave all the excavation equipment in 2012.  I am now realizing the need for a 500 mile per day driving cap.  No more will I respond to sleepiness towards the end of a long day with more coffee and 250 more miles.  I will respect (as much as I can) a 10 horse per night limit.  When I can't, I will no longer use my recovery days to compensate for brutal work hours.  I used to move my recovery workouts or days off to the busiest nights, when I was so exhausted and short on time, nothing else was possible, that way I would be able to do all the really wicked ones while I was fresh.  But since I have a physically demanding job, that meant that my body had a constant elevated workload with no downtime.  Going forward, I am going to respond to days like that by taking extra down time. Recovery will be protected even at the expense of a certain amount of forward progress, at the expense of key workouts, at the expense of my income.  Besides, I will probably see more progress through a slower pace that is sustainable than lots of results followed by devastating injury/illness.  I lost more fitness and more money during Duckpression 2012 (this fall) than I would have by tempering things all season.
By recovery, I mean taking a tip from Mr. Wilbur J. Rotten!

I am going to carefully monitor my blood work and thyroid levels.  By the time, Duckpression was in full swing, my RBC had bottomed out in the low 3's.  That is NOT GOOD.  I am going to respect the added load that injuries and stress place on my body.  THREE bike crashes and the grief surrounding the death of my dog, those were all contributing factors.  I read somewhere that your body can't differentiate between types of stress, be it exercise or emotional or otherwise, they all elicit hormonal responses.  They all require the body's energy.  I guess I kind of see the body like a bucket.  It has a maximum capacity before it can't hold any more.  Everything you put in that bucket, whether it's water or rocks or styrofoam peanuts, counts against that total volume.  When that limit is reached and the bucket won't hold anymore, either you stop adding or it will overflow (Overflow= Duckpression).  When you rest, you get to take a little out of the bucket.  It is possible to go for quite a long time adding more than you take away, but eventually the inevitable happens.

I am going to ignore DW's advice about giving up on training and push forward but with a number of changes that will hopefully see me operating in the black energy-wise (even if it means being in the red in other ways).  I think last year, I took a situation where I was under- recovering slightly, where the bucket was getting a little more water each week than was getting removed, put it under a leaky faucet (thyroid, nutritional deficits) and then I threw a number of rocks (long travel days, back to back weeks of heavy work/shows, days of working around the clock), three medium sized appliances (crash, crash, and crash) and a Volkswagon Beetle (the loss of my dog).  Perhaps this year I can avoid the solid objects and fix the leaky faucet.  Then with careful guidance, I can make sure I don't overflow that bucket again.

I am okay with three steps forward, two steps back if that is all my lifestyle will allow.  It is still progress, even if it is disappointingly slow.  I am not okay with three steps forward, three steps forward, fall off a cliff.  It hurts when you land!

Some things are just worth the struggle.