Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Lost A Person!! (and Why I Needed To)

It took me several days to write this post.  I took the picture for it over the weekend and have just now decided to do it.  I don't normally let post ideas percolate because they just become post ideas forgotten.  This one wasn't going to get forgotten.
Me and my lost person!

This is D.  She and I ran into each other at the time trial last weekend.  During the course of a conversation about weight and metabolism... she struggled to gain, I struggled to lose... we realized that she weighed the same amount I had lost.  It had to repeat that several times.  This was a whole person.  She might have been very slender but she was not unhealthy and she was quite a bit taller than me.  I used to carry an amount of adipose tissue equivalent to ALL of her, from the tip her nose to the top of her toes.  All of her.  All of this living, breathing, vibrant human being.  Skin, bones, muscle, blood, hair, teeth... ALL... that is how much extra fat I had on my body.

I don't think I could pick her up and carry her through a race.  I don't think I could navigate a flight of stairs with her on my back.  And yet, I lived my whole life like that.  I don't have any vast words of wisdom.  I am just a little dumbstruck.  I knew I needed to lose weight but I never, ever realized HOW MUCH!  Part of obesity is a certain numbness to the reality of your situation. You disconnect, disengage, disassociate, distance your mind from it.  The moment you really see yourself, you cannot live like that for a single minute so you keep it toned down.  Nobody can tell you and you probably won't even come to fully understand it until you are well into the process of change.  It's just not something that can be faced head on, at least it wasn't for me.

That disconnect happened when things got to be more than you could handle.  It probably started in some area of you life, perhaps not weight related, and spread like a cancer.  It started as an essential defense mechanism.  It was a way to quiet your brain up when it is totally horrified or outraged  to the point of wanting to stop the show but life MUST go on anyhow!  I still struggle with it every day.  I can disengage and procrastinate my way into a corner.  I can disengage my way out of a job.  I can disengage my way into years of misery in unhealthy, destructive relationships.  I can disengage my way into gaining more than 100 lbs.  There are many areas of my life I still struggle to face head on as is evidenced by the fact that this understanding came as such a shock.

If you know someone who is morbidly obese, they are most likely dealing with some powerful underlying emotions.  I am not talking about the guy who could be thirty pounds thinner if he'd lay off the beer and pizza.  You know who I mean.  If you stop for a moment, set all judgement aside, allow yourself to really have empathy, you know.  Pain radiates from people no matter how hard they try to hide it.  If you are someone who is like me in this respect, you may not know.  You may think you are 30 pounds of pizza and beer guy or heavy set with poor genetics girl, but there is more.  To see yourself without that filter you will have to reconnect, engage, bring it all into focus and that is truly too much.

For many people like myself, bringing life into sharp focus all at once it completely out of the question.  The demons that got me to this point didn't just decide to vacate the area and move to the tropics.  They are all still there.  What worked for me was taking the focus away from the weight.  I made it not about the weight.  I started with a personal trainer and it was about showing up for a scheduled appointment.  That's it.  Then I would shut my brain off again to get through the workout.  Then when I gained a tiny bit of fitness, I enjoyed it enough to focus on the task at hand.  That became the focus for a long time.  Once I had already seen some weight loss, I started making the dietary changes that were easy.  Cut out the calories that you weren't all that attached to, leaving all the tough fights for later.  I also didn't think I was capable of being a SMALL person so when I did start thinking about weight loss, I set my goal weights much higher.  I truly believed I was a fundamentally large person that had about 40 pounds to lose.  

As I worked my way through this journey, I got stronger and each step was manageable.  What would have been way too much at first was a manageable change later on.  You don't start off running 26.2 miles.  You start off running 26.2 seconds.  Then much farther down the road, you realize that ten miles didn't seem like much because last week you ran nine.  Then one day it's fifteen, then twenty... until finally... 25 becomes 26.2.  It is the same way with weight loss or any other radical overhaul of your life.  Take on too much, too fast, and the race is over.

After we talked for a while, took pictures and talked about the fact that I wanted to write this post, I told her the name of the blog.  She freaked a little.  She knew me, my name.  We had met before.  I knew her when I lived in Florida but we hadn't seen each other in a couple of years.  She didn't recognize me without the extra pounds.

I am now at a reasonably healthy weight and focused on weight loss for performance's sake.  I have probably 25 pounds left to lose, maybe less, but somehow that doesn't seem that hard anymore.  But if you'd told me a few years ago that I needed to lose 115-125 lbs?  I'd have shut down and given up before I started.

Me and my former roommate.  She is another person that didn't recognize me at first on Sunday.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Case Of The Runaway Cone: Race Report

You KNOW what this means....

If the Zipps are out, it's time to race!

It means a RACE!  This Sunday was my first race of the season.  It was a 15K Time Trial in Loxahatchee, FL.  I have never done a 15K TT or a TT that involved a tight U-turn.  Aside from my first two 5Ks before I got into triathlon, I have never attempted a race after standing on my ladder all night.  This was going to be fun.  It was also my debut start under DD and as a member of the Austin Bikes/Revenant Records racing team.  I really wanted to do well.

The night preceding the TT was probably more entertaining than the TT.  I was buzzing on so much adrenaline that I braided at a blistering pace.  I was diligently hydrating because it was hot and muggy (100% humidity) so I sweated the whole time I braided.  I got home, cleaned the bike, switched out the race wheels, loaded everything into the car, then went to get into my bike clothes.  Oh yeah, laundry.  I meant to do that.  The jersey I wanted to wear was, um, not clean.  Not even a little.  Oh, it looked fine.  But it did NOT smell fine.  (I must clarify that it was not my AB/R jersey.  That has not come in yet.)

What to do... what to do...

Ok, so MAYBE I febreezed the jersey and hung it in front of an AC vent.  Don't judge!  It worked.  I went to the race smelling all febreezy-fresh!  No ruffled feathers this race morning.

Race morning weather.

I got there, and got registered, then jumped on the bike for a warm up on course.  Registration opened late so I only had about 18 mins to the start of the first rider so doing the whole course was out of the question.  I also had very specific warmup instructions.   I did about half the course and found out that the fog was even denser further down the road.  My glasses were a huge liability, so those got ditched right away, and without gloves, my grip on the bars was sub-optimal due to condensation.  Every time I tilted my head, the condensation ran off my helmet into my eyes.  I made a few notes to myself, and didn't really worry about it.  Everyone would be dealing with the same thing.
Seabiscuit lounging by the start.

I got clipped in, the bike was held, the starter said go, I was in the right gear.... and away we went.  It was eerie riding into this fog at that pace and I found myself reluctant to really drop the hammer with the road ahead disappearing into the mist.  I held a reasonable pace, seeing mostly 22-23mph when I looked at my watch.  I figured the wind would be on my side going back so I planned to make up some time there.

I didn't know where the turnaround was but a man passed me and when I saw him coming the other way, I knew it had to be close.  All of a sudden, the cone materialized in the mist.  It was a fuzzy orange shadow and it was off to the right!  I figured that there must be a turn lane and they were utilizing it to keep the turnaround out of traffic.  Then it moved to the left!  About that time, I realized there was a huge tractor trailer, the size of the Titanic, bearing down on me!! Then I saw the volunteer for the first time.  I was already braking hard at this point.  The moving target and the tractor trailer were enough to get me out of aero and onto my brakes.  Then the volunteer did something really surprising.  He grabbed the cone and ran away!!

Ummm.... dude?  Ummm.. Uh... crap!  What do I do?

The tractor trailer went roaring by.  At this point, I had braked to that slow roll you do when you really don't feel like clipping out for a traffic light and you are hoping it will turn in a second.  The volunteer reappeared, traffic cone in tow, and put it in the middle of the road.  This section of the road was in a curve so it was deeply cambered and the turn was up the grade.  I was essentially taking off from a stand-still.  Now, do you know what I failed to do prior to this moment?  If you don't, I'll tell you.  Drop into an easier gear.  The gear I was pushing coming into this situation was fine for a 23 mph effort, but to turn up a hill from a near standstill?  Oh, no no NO!!  I started the turn up the grade as I began to pedal again and suddenly realized my mistake.  It took 100% of my strength and weight to simply turn the cranks.  I almost wiped out due to a lack of momentum.

I heard the volunteer exclaim "Uh, oh!"  My brain is screaming "oh, SH*T!  Don't fall down, don't fall down!  Pedal!!!"

Somehow I made it through the turn then I was still in the wrong gear heading away.  I did a standing sprint and dropped the gear but it was still far too long before I got the bike back up to speed.

Things went along well from there for a while.  I passed several people and no one else passed me.  I wished desperately that I had some idea how far from the finish I was but as is common on race day, button pushing was not my forte and my garmin had half my warm up and some time in line recorded so the number on the watch was meaningless.  Next time I will display distance instead of time.  Finally, I saw a tree line emerge from the fog.  That had to be the finish since it was the only point I could think of that had trees running perpendicular to the course.

I dropped the hammer.  Even if I blew up here, that was fine.  I did not intend to finish with anything in the tank.  Then I hit the patch of really rough pavement.  It was a significant section and I had to back way off to keep control of the bike but once I was through it, I poured it on again.  Suddenly, I realized that I had misjudged that tree line.  It wasn't the finish, it was a curve in the road.  I had forgotten about that!  I racked my brain trying to remember how far from the finish that curve was.  I decided it could be as much as a few miles away.  I had been blowing out the engines for a while and I knew I didn't have a few more miles in me.  I panicked, dropped several gears and spun down to try to recover.  I got through the turn and saw the finish.... 500 yds away.  DAMMIT!!!  I laid it on but was still accelerating as I crossed the line, winded for sure, but still had another couple of minutes of max effort left in my legs.  Rookie mistake!

As I came through that turn, I saw the clouds break and the fog started burning off.  Within a few minutes, the air had cleared considerably and the pavement was almost dry.  It was the wrong day to be one of the first on course.  Every eventual winner went in the last 25% of starters.  Still, as a learning experience, it was invaluable.  And the effort WAS good enough for a piece of the podium.
Duck on a podium.  I feel like I am at a carnival and some kid is aiming a little plastic rifle.

AAANNND.... now I feel really weird.  I am not used to that cycling arms-up tradition.

After the TT, I went back to the camper, laced up and headed out for a run with Wilbur.  Later that night, I had dinner with my friend Jeanine (who is one of the models for an earlier post) and her family, then headed to the pool for a swim workout.  Clearly, there was too much left in my legs after that race.  I would say that I definitely need to learn HOW to get to the bottom of the tank.  Homework for the future.
We did good, coach!!

In all, it was a good day.  I got to race alongside another of DD's athletes, Adam, and we both medaled so we took a picture and sent it to the coach.  He featured it in one of his blog entries which for me was a great feeling.  I have often felt in the past like my coach's lowest priority, to the point of being unwilling to tell people who I work with for fear of embarrassing them.  It felt really good to have my coach not only happy to have me represent him, but put it out there on his own site.  That was a first for me!  I can honestly say that it is really motivating.  My desire to work hard for myself and to represent him immediately increased.

In all, a good day spent with good people... and another medal!

An old acquaintance  Debra, who didn't recognize me from two years ago because of weight loss.
Jeanine and I.  It was great to see her!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Double Century (plus one) Post!!

Well, due to rain and the show schedule I have an unexpected night off from work tonight.  I made a appointment to go pick up my new aerobar extensions and have the bike refitted in the morning.  (Basically, the parts and the fit are trashed and every day I try to salvage it or mourn it is a day lost training and living my life.  On with it!!)  I am taking a risk postponing my interval work on the bike until this is done as I will be tired but I don't think I can get through a hard workout with the current set up and not risk injury.  I am going to take a long nap after the laundry is finished so that I can handle being awake that long.  After all, I still have to work tomorrow night.

So as I write this, reflecting on the fact that 24 hours ago I was having a total meltdown about everything, I am drinking a beer (gluten free, of course and don't judge... I'm off tonight!) and feeling pretty good about life.  What changed, you ask?

I got a win. It was a small thing that just made me see that the sky was not falling.  SOMETHING went right.  This morning after work, I went to the pool and did that swim workout that I couldn't do the day before.  I did it.  It was not 100% pain free but as close as I get with my shoulder.  It was a good swim, with some fast work in it, for a total of 2650 scy.  It felt really good and then I did the run that was actually on the schedule for the day and that also went well.  It did not take anything else.

Ok, maybe running into my first coach, RW, and his wife and having them not recognize me because I was "SO SKINNY" (their words not mine) didn't hurt but really, it was the swim itself.  I had done it, my fitness handled it just fine.  My stroke has gotten progressively weaker but that is not surprising considering I have not had any consistent swim blocks since last June.  My set included a two sets of 3 x 100's descending and I started on 1:35 and went from there.  Not blazing but not horrible for a fish with a crippled fin.  But mostly, it was getting it done... no complications, no adjustments, no drama.  Just done.  It made all the difference.

Since I meant to make a fuss about my 200th post, but forgot in all my angst... I'm giving you a laugh for my 201st.  I saw this today and got a most excellent belly laugh out of it.  Enjoy!

Happy Double Century Post!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cracking Under Pressure And Throwing In The Towel

This week I did something I can't recall ever doing before.  I cried on my bike.  Not sad crying... angry, frustrated, this-is-legal-killing-is-not crying.

This past week has become increasingly frustrating.  Each time I think I have gotten the bike sorted out, a new problem arises that seems worse than the last.  By Monday, when I went to do my VO2 intervals, I headed out towards the loop I had planned to use.  The bike was making a terrible noise and with each bump in the road the entire cockpit was collapsing further.  I stopped at a local shop to get everything tightened up enough to head home, figuring I could make a go of it on the trainer but by the time I got home, even the pursuits wouldn't support any weight.  The bike was finally declared unrideable.  Each time I took it to a wrench, I had a bigger problem than what I started with.  It finally came to a head.  The lop-eared bunny won.
The problem has gone from this..

I replaced the clamps with some parts that the manufacturer had sent me to attempt to solve the problem but once again, there was a missing piece and so the end result of that experiment was...

This: this...

...and this.
The carbon is damaged at this point and I question the safety of the parts.  

I sent DD an email and he said not to worry about the intervals, just do the triple the following day as planned.

Tuesday, I got up early and spent most of the day trying to track down parts that would let me get the bike to a usable state.  I did finally find the parts.  I had them installed and when I did, the wrench moved the seat to put the bike on the rack.  I don't know if he did not get the seat back where it belonged, if the seat slipped because it had been loosened, or if the position relative to the armrests was so different that it felt much lower.  All I know is that I took the bike out that afternoon and had one of the most miserable rides I have ever endured on a bicycle.  I was not only uncomfortable, but I was unable to generate power or bring up my cadence.  I was struggling to maintain a cadence roughly 20 rpms lower than what I would normally have and it showed with about a 4 mph difference in speed.

I finished the ride with my back screaming, shooting pains in my hamstrings, my quads burned up, and my shoulder totally flared up.  I could barely put on a shirt and I still had a swim, run, and a nights work ahead of me.  I decided to put off the other two workouts until after work.  A workout can be changed to accommodate an injury but I have to work so sometimes, I will err on the side of caution here.  I popped some ibuprofen and took a nap hoping that the pain would subside some.  No luck there.  It b*tched and moaned and popped and cracked all through the night.  The next morning I drove to the pool, then as I sat in the parking lot with my now nearly useless arm in my lap and realized that I had forgotten my towel.  That was pretty much the last straw.  I went home.  

The last few weeks have been extremely frustrating.  It seems like there have been events (pretty much all related to this one bike issue) that have made accomplishing my workout goals nearly impossible.  I am struggling to feel like I am getting it right.  I never want to let myself down or my coach but also, I am trying to find out how to keep things from becoming excuses.  Lately, it has seemed like all of the normal levels of planning and determination have fallen far short of the Herculean efforts it has been taking to put "the check in the box", to complete my assigned workouts.  Sadly, they are not particularly difficult at this stage.

The bike has been a monstrous source of frustration but the true demon I can't seem to conquer is attaining consistency right now.  I would be thrilled if I could have one week where I did everything I was told, as I was told, and did not have to send one email to DD asking him how I needed to modify things.  WHY is this so important to me right now?  Because I am not working that hard.  My job has been slow this circuit, I am in a familiar city, I have a pretty stable schedule, my training load is not crazy... I should be able to make this happen.  It can AND WILL get a lot harder.  What then?  If I can't make this happen now, what am I going to do when it gets hard, really hard, like it does in the summer?  At this point last year, I was a fairly low-maintenance client.  This is the easy part of the year and I can't seem to pull it together.

I have also felt like I was fighting a virus and took a few days off last week.  My customers have been waiting until the last possible minute to tell me their plans so I am always in a state of reaction rather than planning.  I have been struggling to get the winter weight off which is starting to mess with my head.  I have not been able to enjoy the fact that I am down here, having made it down to the coast only once to ride.  My running shoe situation has been slowly arriving at a critical state for months now.  This is my fault.  As I have learned in the past, the slightest disruption to the status quo throws my body into a state of hysteria, so naturally all my old running injuries have been popping in for surprise visits.  I'll be honest, I feel stressed and overwhelmed but there isn't enough (other than the evil lop eared bunny) going on to warrant all of this.  Is it that I am underestimating my current stress load or am I just that dependent on my long rides on Mondays and Tuesdays to maintain my sanity.  Or has a month of driving 2-3 hours on each of my days off to deal with this bike finally caught up to me.  Laundry, cleaning, shopping, paperwork, etc is not getting done on schedule because I am having to devote time to this and it's taking it's toll.

I find myself looking around at people who seem to get it down without much interruption, flowing smoothly through their days and wonder why my coping mechanisms are so underdeveloped.  In reality, I am sure I am not aware of all the turmoil boiling under the surface for them too.  I am just seeing the calm presented to the outside world.  And more importantly, it doesn't matter if they are Gandhi, they are not me.  I would do well to realize that it could be a lot worse but also realize that if I do not bring my stress levels down a notch, it will be.  It's too early in the season to be struggling.  I MUST get this solved.  I MUST get my shit together.  

Really need to find my happy place.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Princess and Her Stinky Shoes.

I have spent the last half of this week "warming the bench".  Midweek I felt an uptick in plantar/Achilles pain and like I was getting the flu so I emailed DD.

"I felt like crap at work last night and tonight I have felt progressively more tired as the evening has gone on.  I have taken two naps already and ingested enough caffeine to power the space shuttle.  It's not helping.  My foot is screaming as well (though the Achilles feels pretty good today).  This feels like one of those moments I could look back on and regret. "

I would call this progress, especially given my history.  I was awarded a couple of days off to which I replied:

"OK. Thanks... Even if I do feel a little like I just got a timeout for bad behavior."

OK, so progress does not imply perfection.  Still, it is better than my usual response: ignore it until it becomes pneumonia (2012) and a torn tendon (2011).  (I also asked him if I needed to "tell the Princess to stuff a sock in it."  He ignored that one.)

In the meantime, I still haven't been able to get Seabiscuit out on the roads and he is so pent-up he is about to pull the barn down around him.  Perhaps that's me projecting but go with it.  At the beginning of the week, we (or more specifically, George at Tri Running Sports- a Felt dealer with a very solid reputation) banished the lop-eared bunny and reinvented the handling by changing the stem and moving the bars into a more normal arrangement (while putting the fit back to what had been working.)  The result was a bike that was immediately more lively, fun to ride, controllable, and by virtue of the other qualities, safer.  I haven't been able to ride outside since so it's kind of killing me.  OK, not kind of... TOTALLY killing me.

They gave their all and will be remembered with honor.

From the looks of it, my foot won this fight.
I also have gone back to the drawing board again for shoes.  I have been running in Saucony Kinvara 2s and Brooks Pure Flows.  These are both great shoes and I got a long streak of injury free days in them.  However, neither one is as good of an experience as it could be and I settled on them as something of a lesser evil but then grew to like them with time.  The Kinvaras are great, once broken in, though if I am struggling with any plantar Achilles issues they only work in a window between broken in and blown out.  They are a shade too stiff early on and can aggravate things but once they wear out, they are too sloppy.  During that window, they are awesome but they are also replaced by a slightly stiffer 3rd generation and given the fact that I struggled with 1 and 2, I am reluctant to give them a real chance.  The issue isn't the money if they don't work, it's the injury I might suffer finding out.

Eat your heart out Cinderella!  I'm all matchy-matchy in my Pure Flows. 

The Pure Flows, while fine... even awesome for long or easy runs... don't give me the confidence during fast work or on trails that I would like.   I don't think this is a flaw in the shoe but rather the result of my personal conformation and style.  I have very long femurs and stubby little calves which means I don't get a lot of ground clearance at the toe.  I have fallen several times and tend to get a little hesitant running in shoes that accentuate this.  Otherwise, this is a nice, springy middle of the road shoe that I intend to keep in the rotation.

Picture was captured at an awkward moment
but stubby calves are apparent here! 

This still leaves me searching for that perfect partner for speed work and racing.  I went to Tri Running Sports in Juno Beach and had a heart to heart with Linda.  I have to tell you that it is nice to know that the person fitting you is an accomplished iron distance athlete.  She gets it.  (She also gets why you absolutely tortured her husband about the front end of your bike.)  She put me in a number of different shoes and let me go for a short run outside in each.  I tried several of the odd brands that had been peaking my curiosity: Hoka One One, Newton, Innov-8.  In the end, I ordered a pair of Newtons.  Only time will tell if I made the right choice but I am considering picking up a pair of Hokas just for work.  It would be a shame to destroy a nice shoe like that but each night when my feet hurt, it seems totally worth it.
Newton Distance: Neutral, lightweight, low drop.

Just a note, the Innov-8s were much too small and she did not have an appropriate size in stock.  I did not order them because I like the Newtons but also do not feel like I have tried them yet.

I am hoping that the Newtons come in soon.  I am curious to see how they handle for an actual workout.  I will be sure to let you know.  ****One comment here... I am a forefoot runner used to a low drop shoe.  The trouble I have with my plantar and Achilles are the result of injuries incurred while in another style of shoe.  I am (in theory) the rare exception to the rule when moving to Newtons.  For most people, this switch can result in heightened load on the plantar and Achilles.  I am making this switch cautiously but with the blessing of the expert DD had me consult.  Sufferers of PF or AT should be extremely careful with a move like this.****

One last thing, if you take your bike to someone whining about the fit and handling, someone who rides the same frame (or similar) is a great choice (especially when that person is tolerant of hysterics and has a cool, understanding wife).  When I put the new bars on the bike, the shop switched the stem to a longer size.  I felt like the handling was adversely affected and since the bike had to be somewhat refitted after the previous weeks escapades, now was the time to address that as well.  I asked for a smaller stem.  When I went in to pick it up, he had gone to a REALLY short stem (70mm).  I kind of freaked.  I had wanted to drop down one size to what I had on there previously.  But it was on, so I buttoned up and gave it a try.  It took about three seconds (the first time I turned it) to fall in love.  The bike handled... AWESOME.  I took it for a ten minute ride up and down a portion of Ocean Blvd between each adjustment and fell in love with that bike all over again.  After we finished, I gushed for a while about the handling and he told me he rode a Felt and had done the same thing to his own bike (with the same results).  <------ Moral of the story.

Too bad I have been either on the trainer or sick ever since.

Must.  Ride.  SOON.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Body Of Evidence: the picture of success

(photo credit)

There's an old saying about advice "take what you need, leave the rest behind".  This can be applied to most of the information that is rained down upon our brains.  Body type is a funny thing. We are a society in love with a particular body type, regardless of any real ability to achieve that standard.  The backlash response is to accept our bodies as is, willy-nilly, never leveling a critical eye at areas that could use some attention, even for the sake of health or performance.

As an athlete, it is imperative that you recognize and work with your body type, and yet it is practically a taboo subject, thanks to mainstream media.  Lately, I have been studying athletes, from images of professionals at Kona to the person jogging down the side of the road while I am driving home from work.  I have noticed a tendency to compare myself to everyone who has a style that is pleasing to the eye.  It's not so much a "better or worse than" analysis as one of those childhood games where you find the differences between two seemingly alike pictures.  I have been sorting all of this into folders in my brain for future jumbling and misinterpretation during my next crisis of confidence.
Can you spot the differences?  Same concept.

I kid.

No I don't.

Seriously though, a lightbulb went on for me in 2012 when I watched every minute of the pro races on the live feed from Kona.  Mary Beth Ellis... there she was.  Built like me (minus roughly 30 lbs) and using her body's unique morphology to harry the leaders like a pit bull... or, as is being touted on twitter, a Honey Badger.  Someone with a compact, heavily muscled body COULD do it.  I watched her legs move like pistons, not so much flowing but driving and powerful.  Her expression was the definition of determination.   Mary Beth Ellis doesn't lose much so clearly what she has going is working for her.

I have seen Kelly H. Williamson running and swimming, live- up close- personal.  She has shared a lane with me on more than one occasion and I have been running on the town lake trail when this Zoot clad jackrabbit blew by my like I was standing still.  Watching her move, both on screen and in life, is like watching human poetry.  She is tiny (REALLY tiny), slender, and all limbs.  She moves accordingly.  

For a while, this was my gold standard for movement and in some ways still is.  However, I am not built anything like that.  I am short (like her) but thick, muscular, stocky.  I have broad shoulders and massive leg muscles.  The ratio of length to thickness in my body is much different than Kelly's.  Plug one of my numbers into her equation but keep the ratio the same and she would be Alice, either as tall as a giant or able to be held in the palm of your hand.  

As I watched Kona unfold, I watched Kelly struggle on the bike, lacking power, but then tear it up on the run.  This is not a scenario I would ever find myself in.  My bike power is more than enough but convincing my body that those short, powerful, heavy levers can turn over quick enough to run well is another story.  I listened to the commentator talke about Leanda Cave and her long levers.  I watched a tiny, well- proportioned Rinny do what Rinnys do.  It was enough to make me believe that my boxers build would never be able to run well or be truly competitive.

But then I also watched Mary Beth Ellis.  For the first time, I saw a body whose dimensions and type were like my own.  Obviously, there are some differences and she is not carrying any extra weight, but the similarities are unmistakable.  She even runs a lot like me (albeit MUCH, MUCH faster)  Her ratio of torso to limb, the muscle mass she carries, all of it... it was like looking into the future at my "after" pic.  And that "after" pic was flat killing it!!  I had a new gold standard.

It was possible.  Why?  Because Triathlon is three phases, two transitions, nutrition, and cardiovascular development wrapped in a mental toughness burrito.  What might be great for one element might not be so great for another.  Different body types offer different advantages and weaknesses, like a physical hand in poker.  You can't control which cards you have but you can control how you play them... and even a "weak"** hand will win the game if utilized correctly.    

**I use the word weak with intense sarcasm.  Most people are so focused on the differences between what they want and what they have, they fail to see how strong they really are.  Tell Mary Beth Ellis her hand is weak.  I dare ya.  Go ahead... no wait, let me get the camera first.

Don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that only one body type can be successful or comparing yourself to someone who is fundamentally different.  It's pointless and unproductive.  Instead, take cues from those people who have similar attributes and learn how they leveraged them to be successful. To do this, first you have to determine your body type, then you have to find people that have made similar body types work for them.


Remove the emotion, the media programming, the social pressure for a moment. Ditch the insecurity and self-loathing and, for a moment, be completely objective.  Take a hard look at your body.  You have a set of attributes that you cannot change, some things that you can develop into strengths.  You also have weaknesses that can be minimized through training.  The old saying goes "Train your weakness, Race your strength."  You can only do this if you are aware of which is which.

Jeanine of One 2 One fitness.
Mainstream media?  They wish they looked this good.
Hollywood's definition of beauty should have no home in an athlete's mind.
Being long limbed may be in the job description for a super model, but it is not the end-all and be-all for performance in triathlon.  In fact, it only helps so much and in certain phases.  In other phases, having an enormous engine might be the fastest way to the front of the pack.

Does this picture even need a caption?

Take a look at these two galleries from Slowtwitch... go ahead.  I'll wait.

Notice the vastly different body types among the leading women?  You can also see a difference between the two years in some of the returning athletes, keeping in mind that muscle mass can look totally different depending on camera angle and where in the stride the image was captured.  Obviously, they are all incredibly fit.  There is not an ounce of extra fat between them.  But beyond that, you have long legs, short legs, balanced proportions, heavy muscling, light muscling,  broad shoulders, narrow shoulders, all varieties of styles, footstrikes, exaggerated angles in the knees and ankles.  This is a very wide range of types for a very narrow field in a very specific pursuit.. elite iron distance racing.  The picture would get even more colorful if you included shorter distances, ITU, elite amateurs, etc.  Most people will find many examples to follow here.

Jeanine (center) held the Ducks hand at her first race! She gave me the best pep talk ever.  "I don't think I am better than you, I have just been doing it longer."  There was no single sentence that has ever motivated me more.
(Note: the Elites and First timers had the same cap color.)

Here are several pictures of two age groupers, Cortney and Jeanine.  Both are wildly successful at the highest level of AG competition and represent the bodies on opposing ends of the spectrum.  They have different strengths and weaknesses, but because multi-sport is just that, MULTIPLE SPORTS, they are able to race smart, race their strengths and routinely find themselves on the podium.  It would be silly for someone with my build to model myself after Cortney just as it would be futile for Cortney to envy the muscle mass that comes so naturally to Jeanine. Both are dead fit, lean as a mean old steer, and I'd lose money trying to bet which is faster.  They are both beautiful women and great examples of how differing body types can excel.  I cannot express how much respect I have for both.
This athlete has far more in common with Leanda Cave than Mary Beth Ellis.

With her powerful quads and long waist, this athlete could find inspiration in pictures of Rachel Joyce.

Two fit women, two entirely different body types.

Again, this body type is what is referred to in riding as a "long drink of water". This results in a beautiful, swinging running style that someone like me would be at a loss to emulate.  Frustration would be the only possible outcome.  If you are long-limbed though, take a look.. learn.

In a word... Power!  If I need inspiration for my own body type, I need look no farther. Examining this athlete's style could give me valuable insight.
It would be a mistake for the Santa below to try to hold herself to the same ideals as this Santa. The converse is also true.
Do reindeer pull Airstream trailers?

Someone once gave me some advice about becoming a person I admired in life.  She suggested that I find someone that I like, that has the qualities that I would like to embody, and study them.  Learn what makes them tick and how they came to have those qualities.  THEN, apply whatever is appropriate.  Good advice but that last sentence is the kicker.  If what you learn is inappropriate to you, then it is not going to help.

If you want to look into pro fields for inspiration, make sure that they are enough like you, that their hand has enough of the same cards, that what you learn from them is appropriate.  I still look at Kelly Williamson for inspiration because she is a good person and candidly posts about the her struggles, but I will never compare my stride to hers.  Instead, I look at the people who have the physical qualities I posses.  It is a much more accurate after picture and what I learn from them is much more likely to apply to me.  ALSO, I realize that by doing this, I shift my interpretation of subjective standards like beauty and success.  It means that I am much less likely to become discouraged or start down that destructive path of self-loathing (a place you find many, many women).  

Choose your heros wisely.  And now that you've done that, GO!  Go train.  Don't sell yourself short.  Train like you believe you're worth it... because you are.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

In Response... my last post:

How An Effervescent, Lop- Eared Bunny Destroyed The World!

And this is exactly what I did.
This week was interesting and not in a particularly good way.  It was one of those weeks that keeps your feet to the flames until you totally freak and learn a little something about yourself.

That day, that Stick-a-fork-in-my-eye day that started Tuesday, did not end when the clock struck midnight.  Rather the fallout from that day carried into the rest of the week.  When I left that shop, tired, hungry, pissed and trying to put a positive spin on the whole wasted day, I did not notice one little detail.  That little detail came up to bite me a few days later.

Let me rewind a bit.  After Tuesday, I had a recovery day.  Wednesday had nothing on the schedule but a short, easy run.  I was busy at work that night but light the next so between Tuesday and Thursday, there was a fair bit of rest.  In the wee hours of Friday morning, which is still Thursday (the new day starts when you mark it with a pot of coffee. Sleep is nice but not always necessary and midnight is an arbitrary marker) to us denizens of the graveyard shift, I set the bike up on the trainer to do a short-ish, fairly intense workout with VO2 intervals.  Wriggled into some old workout clothes that are too, ahem, revealing for anything other than a 1am trainer ride, mixed up a diluted sports drink, etc, put on my shoes and away I went.

No, wait, that is not how that happened.  Remember that detail?  That detail was a small, black bag with a pair of shorts... AND my cycling shoes.  It was sitting in that shop in Boca.  Locked up, because that is what shop owners do at 1 am, and over 50 miles away.  Now at 1 am, having already run today, my options were a little limited.  VO2 intervals were a little too intense to do without being clipped in.  This was yet another workout screwed up.  It was like an animation of a circuit board starting to spark and short.  My brain was twitching and threatening to completely dissolve like an effervescent frustration tablet.
Fizz, fizz, crackle, pop... SNAP!

I decided that my best option was to get done with work, go to bed, get up early and haul ass to Boca Friday before they closed.  This was going to mean shoehorning a three hour round trip into a pretty tight weekend schedule.  At rush hour on Friday, that 50 mile drive is about a 3 hour round trip so I called to let them know I was coming and managed to squeak in at closing.  Bag in hand I headed home.  I figured if I did the intervals that evening and that days run in the morning after work, I would be golden.

I got home, tossed the bike on the trainer and jumped on.  My entire cockpit was wrong.  Immediately, the left armrest had collapsed, the bars were so uneven that only way to keep my shoulders square was to turn the wheel to the right, and I was far too stretched out.. at least on one side.  Within ten minutes, I was in agony.  Frustrated nearly to the point of tears and feeling incredibly helpless, I got off, grabbed a Park Tool and set about making the problem worse.  In the end, I said "f*** it" and rode lopsided.
Like a lop-eared bunny.  

I decided that I could salvage this with a really solid performance.  When the first interval started, I jumped to my big chain ring to quickly and befuddled my front derailleur.  As the chain skittered around, I finally had to stop pedaling and help it catch.  My brain exploded.  I spun up into the effort far too quickly (I think there might have even been a frustrated Yawp heard 'round the RV park) and.... Oh yeah, I have asthma.  I can't do that.  I can't bolt into an effort like that.  BAD, BAD plan.  I spent the first rest interval fumbling for an inhaler and while I finished those intervals on schedule, they were half the effort they should have been.

Because I was so wound up, it took a much higher dose of albuterol than usual to bring the attack under control.  Because I had been tired, I had already had far too much coffee.  The albuterol overloaded my system and I was shaking like a leaf.  Shaking hands don't do fine motor work.  I ended up giving away a lot of my work that night because I could not produce the quality I guarantee my customers.  That cost me a lot of money, which always freaks me out.  Between the frustration of screwed up workouts and my baby, I mean bike.. no.. I mean baby, being all fuggled up, sleep was a disaster.

The next night I had a fairly long ride and run.  I woke up late, found out I had some adds at work (good for money but now I was short on time).  I started monkeying with the bike... no, actually, a monkey would do a far better job.  I am truly a tragic bike mechanic.  Anyhow, I set about trying to fix my bike by making it worse, frustrated to the point of tears that after spending SO much money and time getting the fit right, I had no idea how to get it back to that spot.  I sent a borderline hysterical email to my coach (I tried really hard to hide my crazy, but seriously, I'm better at wrenching a bike that doing that.)  15 emails later... damn, this dude deserves a medal... I wasn't any closer to a bike solution but at least my training plan for the weekend no longer included 5.5 hours on the bike.
For you DD...

...Unless you'd prefer these.

By the time we get to tonight, and the point of this post, I realized that through all of this, the biggest source of stress was my own insistence that those workouts be perfect.  By the end of the week, my mind was so blown by having to change the schedule so much that I didn't want to do anything but take my toys and go home.  I was having trouble doing the workouts I COULD do, because I was upset about the ones that I COULDN'T.  My perfectionism, with the help of a small band of radicals led by General Hysteria, had staged a brilliant coup, wresting control of my brain from reason and rationale. Negotiations for their release are now in progress.
Get 'em boys! There will be no logic while I am standing!

In other news, there was a point in there where a deep breath and a little letting go might have averted this crisis but that did not happen.  To the delight of weathermen everywhere, this tsunami of neurotic tendencies was able to gain strength in the warm waters off Boca Raton and made landfall Friday night, obliterating everything in it's path.  A state of emergency has been declared and residents of  My Brain Township and The Duck Pond are left picking up the pieces.  No report yet on the amount of damage to training and nutrition.  At the time of this broadcast, Sanity is still missing and residents have begun to fear the worst.

Reporting live: Duckie.

Hurricane Duckie off the coast of Florida.