Saturday, June 29, 2013

LOOKOUT!! There's A Dietitian Loose In The Duck Pond!

Sometimes life presents challenges
but isn't it great when you get to the top of the hill,
look back and say "I did that!"

In the midst of the frustrations I have been dealing with regarding my ongoing inability to complete my workouts, due in part to flagging energy and breathing issues, I consulted a  registered dietitian.  This is a step that I have thought about taking several times in the past but the stars aligned, the need for a change in program was pressing, and after several false starts (interviewed a couple last year but wasn't ready to take advice), I pulled the trigger.

Coach Brain (you know, I'll go ahead and let that typo stand) publishes a newsletter where he recommended a dietitian that several of his pros had worked with... one Tara Martine of Whole Impact Nutrition.  Her rates were reasonable and her philosophies trended towards way I eat.  It seemed like a good fit.

First, there was a period of tracking in My Fitness Pal (great app- get it if you don't have it).  Then she analyzed the information and started coming back with recommendations.  The first thing she did was identify a dramatic shortage in both overall calories and calories consumed during workouts.  The worst part was the majority of the missing calories were carbohydrates.  I was hitting pretty close to perfect for protein intake, a little high in fat, but horribly low in carbohydrates, more than enough explain my weak and inconsistent performances.  She worked up some calorie target for me, roughly doubling my daily intake and insisting that the lion's share of those be in the form of carbohydrates.  She also identified some a few trouble spots in my diet and we have begun the arduous process of figuring out how to plan my diet through the various, inconsistent conditions of my life due to my job.

Colorful carbohydrates!

Another good source of carbs.

I'll admit that while it is not that difficult to eat enough calories if you include a lot of calorie dense foods (like peanut butter, junk food, fatty foods and other things I refuse to have in the house), it can be a challenge to eat that many calories when it is mostly whole foods and plant based.  I kind of walk around feeling a little overfull all the time, except on those days where I get to dinner time and realize I am 3000 calories in the hole for the day.

I am also FREAKING OUT that I am going to gain weight but the philosophy is that if I eat enough calories to support the workout schedule given to me, then I will ultimately burn more thereby getting fitter, leaner.... and ultimately, FASTER.  At present, a week doesn't go by that I don't miss whole days due to being too fatigued to function.  I am also dealing with being too tired to do as much at work and since I get paid by the horse, the fatigue has directly impacted my income.

Other points of interest...

Sodium.  I don't like salt so I don't eat it.  Yesterday, in spite of sodium containing sports nutrition, my total sodium intake was that of a sedentary heart patient trying to bring his blood pressure under control, 1000 mgs less than the RDA.  Awesome... except that my blood pressure is already too low and the workout I did in 85 degree heat yesterday depleting what is probably already a limited reserve.  I also get a fairly high amount of potassium and probably don't have the sodium intake to balance it (though that is my observation, not hers).

Caffeine.  I knew this was going to come up and while I will usually defend my right to drink a ton of coffee, 72+ ounces a day is a little disturbing.  I can only imagine what that is doing to my mineral levels.  EEK.

Observations after the first week and a half....

One.  I am not hungry... ever.  I am not craving... anything.  I have a container full of a trigger food in the pantry and it is still full.  Hmm.  Interesting.

Two.  I am starting to handle workouts better.  This is a tough one to quantify because I also have been breathing better since the mold removal.  But even still, I am noticing a trend towards not being wrecked for the rest of the day.  I am not waking up dizzy the next morning either.
Kombucha and tea, good and good for you.

Three.  I am drinking less water.  I was not spectacular about tracking my water and was seeing about 80 oz a day be the norm in 70-80 degree weather.  That did not include any fluids taken in any other form such as sports drinks (which I mix myself), coffee, tea (green or herbal), kombucha, soups/broths, or even glasses of water grabbed between things or used to take pills, etc, which I suspect easily added up to another 60+ oz a day, and certainly doesn't consider high water content foods such as fruit.  It was simply that I counted up how many 32 oz bottles of water (I refill them and take them everywhere) I consumed during a day.  That's a lot of fluid for moderate temps.  I think I had developed a tendency to drink water, tea, or coffee when I felt hunger pangs but did not want to consume more calories.  This is an often recommended trick for losing weight but it can be taken too far and can be especially problematic if someone also drinks crazy amounts of coffee and takes in very little sodium.

Four.  I feel like I have gained a little weight.  Tara told me to expect that since I was going to start building up my glycogen reserves and for every gram of glucose stored, I would store 3 grams of water.  Right now, I am trying not to panic about the weight gain.  I will be much more comfortable with it when I see that the "eat more + train more = leaner, faster duck" philosophy is going to work.  There is a very scared part of me that is convinced that I am going to gain weight and then really struggle to get it off again.  It's not so easy to shed this thinking and I find myself slipping back into the habits of extreme limiting very easily.  I have decided to give her way a try though, it won't be a fair test of the program to only do it halfway.  Do it right or do something else. (Wasn't there a little green dude that said something like this once?  Apparently algae makes you wise.  It's good for vegans too.)

Wise, he was..
and green... bet he smelled bad too.
Swamps tend to have that effect.

Ok, so that's the conclusion so far... I'm scared but I'm doing it anyways.  Story of my life.

It all looks pretty arranged in front of a window, doesn't it.
I should totally Instagram this.

On another note, a friend stopped by the camper the other day to tell me how impressed she was by everything I am doing with my life, health, triathlon.  She said that usually people get into things like this and they do it for a little while then give up.  Her observation was that not only have I stuck with it, I have made it an essential part of who I am and that she admired that.

That made me really happy.

At first I wanted to TRY triathlon... then I wanted to DO a triathlon... then I wanted to be LIKE an athlete.... then I wanted to BE an athlete... then I wanted to BE a triathlete...

Now I am just me and I don't come any other way.

Just me.  All me. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Big Black Tub Of... Hope?

Sometimes life tosses a surprise your way.  Sometimes that surprise is bad.  Sometimes it is black and moldy.  Why would there be any reason to be happy about that?

At least the P5 got it's Grand Traverse Bay Photo Op.
I have been mentioning ever-increasing breathing problems in my posts.  Things on that front kind of came to a head last week when the shortness of breath not only prevented workouts but normal daily activities as well.  I went over the the clinic associated with the hospital to get some answers.
A one way ticket to jitterville...

Make that a round-trip.

While everyone could tell that my breathing was definitely impaired the test just kept coming back normal.  This actually raised some concern that there might be a clot in the lungs, a pulmonary embolus.  Fortunately, that test also came back clean.  The conclusions were that I do not have any of the big "terribles" associated with the lungs, clots/cancer/etc, but that I have high level of inflammation and irritation, not to mention asthma.

The beautiful Michigan coastline.
It's killing me to not be out there all day every day!

As all of this was conspiring to ruin another training block, I have been doing some work on the camper as well.  I found a great RV repair guy that would work on the camper here in the park and had him come out and get started on a list of long overdue repairs.  I also made more progress on the floor.

One of those long-overdue repairs was to address the fact that the AC wasn't clearing it's condensation properly.  I really hadn't since before I owned it.  As we took the AC apart, we discovered a horror.  The entire inside of the unit was covered in mold with the largest concentration on the fan blades.  In other words, the tactic of controlling mold/mildew in the camper by using the AC as a dehumidifier was actually causing massive amounts of mold spores to be blown into the camper.  By halfway through the clean up process, I was so ill that I had to sit outside in the grass and just focus on breathing.

The mold is all the dark color to the liquid.
The foam is the stuff they used to clean it.
This was just a portion of what came off.
 I won't ever know for sure if the mold is the cause of the breathing issues, but 24 hours after it's removal, I was as sick as I have ever been and 48 hours after it's removal , I had the best workout day I have had in a long time.  They think they got it all, though it will remain to be seen if it tries to grow back.  I won't hesitate to replace it if I start to have difficulty again.  I am not 100% and can definitely feel that damage has been done but this body is surprisingly strong in it's ability to heal itself whenever I stop torturing it, so I am optimistic right now.

This is what I have been missing in favor of clinic walls and nebulizers.

I have blogged so many times about feeling like there had to be a root cause for the sudden downturn in my health about a year ago (fatigue, chronic hives, asthma, etc)... I can only hope I have that answer.  The timeline and symptoms certainly fit but at this point I am hesitant to declare anything solved... largely because I am afraid to jinx it.  Hoping though....

In the meantime... LET'S RIDE!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Change of Place, Change of Pace

What's in YOUR Airstream?
Well, I made it to Traverse City carrying no small load of fatigue and physical baggage.  My first couple of days here were wonderful mentally, if a bit disappointing on the workout side of things. I had huge expectations of enjoying some awesome workouts as soon as I got here.  Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful the location, it cannot undo days, weeks of overwork, stress, and minimal sleep.  My first real workout day was a replay of CapTex in a lot of ways.

This spot is home until I head to USAT AG Nats in August.

I took the bike to Einstein Cycles and the geniuses there undid some of what the drive did to the P5.  Not the least of which was crack the carbon bottle cage in half, break a piece on a wheel, and push everything just a little bit out of alignment.  I have a swanky new bottle cage (It says WHISKEY on it.. operating instructions?), Zipp sent the replacement part on the wheel immediately and free of charge, and the bike is back in beautiful working order.

While they worked, I swam.  That water was COLD!!! It's been cold at night still with many nights in the 40s.  The shallow water near the edge was nice and warm but the deeper water was biting.  Every boat that went by off in the distance sent waves of icy water over to visit.  I seriously almost went out and bought a sleeved wetsuit that day!

I picked it up and took it out for a 90 min ride with threshold intervals.  Midway through getting ready, I remembered to switch from a tubular flat kit to a clincher flat kit.  That disrupted my routine and it wasn't until a critical moment later in the ride that I got to appreciate what that means for a creature of habit like myself.  

I made my first ride the classic ride up the Old Mission Peninsula, opting for the more difficult center route rather than the easier coastal one.  I LOVE this ride.  You get to the tops of these hills and look down over vineyards all the way to the water on both sides.  Spectacular is too weak of a word.
It's a shame the depth is lost with cell phone cameras.
Those vines go all the way down the hillside.
This is a breathtaking vista!

I was feeling a little blah as I had been all day, much like I was before CapTex.  The swim was workmanlike but not awesome (fun though so I didn't much care).  As soon as I reached the parts where the route begins to get challenging, I asked my body for some performance.  Initially, I got it though my breathing was more labored than usual.  I got the end of the first interval and was at the base of the first decent climb.  Rest was not happening.  I basically added about 50% more time at threshold, overshooting the length of the rest interval by 150%.  I hit lap and started the next, knowing that it was probably going to suffer for the lack of rest.  I got my stubborn on and went for it.  About 3/4 of the way through the second, I was barely managing my breathing and trying to crest a hill.  I felt the jagged, wheezy feeling that means that I've lost that round to my asthma.  It was barely there and I knew that I might be able to recover it but not on those hills.  Descending required focus and some of the climbs coming were steep enough to push me well into VO2 range, even anaerobic.  My vision was just narrow enough to know better than to go down the other side of that hill.  I pulled off and dismounted.  Of course, doing that let all of it catch up to me and I had to lean the bike against a tree so that I could sit.  The alternative was to drop the bike as I fell down.  I finally got things under control enough to ride back to the shop, which was good because they were close and I was halfway through an out-and-back.  In all the ride was two hours.  Even without the intervals, still a respectable days work, especially paired with the swim... unlike CapTex.

Oh, and that moment of distraction earlier?  As soon as I felt the need, I reached for my inhaler.  Not there.  Crap!  Ok, back up plan... caffeinated gel (caffeine can help a little at times like this).  Also AWOL.  They were both sitting in the tailgate of the SUV where they were waiting to be packed into pockets when I remembered the flat kit.  Damn.  What a bonehead.  It cost me a workout.  Actually, three.  The two scheduled for the following day were a swim and run.  I did the run first and it was a tragic run/walk death march.  I pulled the plug on the swim and went home to lick wounds.

The season started beautifully and the last two months have felt like a downward spiral of disappointment.  The horse shows have been abnormally busy and I have not handled them well.  While I cannot pinpoint any underlying reason for the uptick in respiratory issues, though I could speculate all day long, I have to realize that this is the hand I am working with right now.  Sleep was last years priority and I more or less got that one nailed down, at least as much as it can be with my schedule.  Now I am nailing down the breathing and next up is nutrition (that deserves its own post).  I am failing in these departments and it not only ruins workouts like the one above, it ruins the following day/days as well.

55 lb, 6 load washer?
Necessary to slay the laundry monster!

Here's to having the right TOOLS...

On the upside, I am getting all kinds of work done in the camper that I had been putting off for ages.  I actually managed to vanquish the laundry monster and a four dollar tool is helping to finish the work that I started ages ago when I ripped up the carpet.  I am really excited to finally have some time off and be well enough at the same time to get to these loose ends.  It's amazing how digging around under the bed/table, etc, pulling rusty staples out of a sub-floor can be so exciting!!

In the end, I am remembering why I chose to hide deep in the north woods between these shows.  I needed a little R&R and this is the perfect place for it!!

...and here's to not using them before I'm good and ready.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Failure Is NEVER An Option!

My motto
(and my drug of choice)

I DID IT!!  I survived the Country Heir horse show.  Seriously, it was a brutal two weeks that kicked off with a bang and ended with me on my knees in a stall in tears.  Typical Country Heir experience.

It started as busy.  It progressed to busy and stressful.  Days were long, got longer, and pushed to 17 and 18 hours without breaks by the middle of the second week.  Training came to a standstill.

It culminated in a night where one of my helpers was over eight hours late and the other two did not help pick up the slack.  At a point when the fatigue and stress were producing obvious physical changes, emotions were running rampant, and every inch of my body and mind were crying uncle, I had to braid as fast I have ever braided to get two lists done before the morning cutoff.  I didn't have time to eat, drink, rest, pee... nothing.  It sucked.  Not to be coarse, but that is the only real description.  My hands were screaming, my legs were shaking, my shoulders were burning but I wasn't terribly interested in losing my clients so I kept moving... as fast as I could.

I had three horses left on the early list.  I was making excellent time and realizing I was going to pull it off.  My shoulder was almost non-functional so when I slid the stall door open on my next horse, I grabbed the bars and slung my body weight against it to slam the door open (necessary since they are so heavy but exaggerated because I was rushing).  As these doors slide across the wall and the bars on the door cross the bars on the wall, there is something of a guillotine effect as the gaps suddenly disappear.  Too bad my fingers were wrapped around the bars.  My thumb, forefinger, and middle finger were all crushed in the door.

The pain pushed me right over the edge and I dropped to my knees and started crying.  I don't think it was the pain, though it was pretty blinding at that moment.  It was all the stress and frustration of the two weeks boiling over.  I let myself have about 2 minutes then I stood up, got on my ladder and started braiding the pony.  I did not have time.  My fingers felt like they were in boiling water and every twist was misery.  I went ahead and let myself cry but kept twisting.  Eventually my fingers went numb and provided some relief.  I just kept telling myself that there is more than one type of training.  Mental toughness matters.  This was still a useful experience.

I finished the list 10 minutes before the cutoff and about that time, my helper arrived to work.  I let her do the one that went a little later and used the time to do my billing.

In the end, it all worked out.  It always works out.  It's actually a braider motto.  It always works out... because you cannot afford to fail.  Period.  It's a physical task which means that you can work harder, faster, longer, whatever it takes to make it happen.  Failure means you are unemployed.  YOU DO NOT FAIL.

They all got knots in the neck!

Sometimes I think this is why I do not train for 140.6.  I don't need to test that grit.  I know it's there.  I know what I am made of because I rediscover it all the time.  Every time I think about racing an Ironman, ultra-marathon, or ultra distance bike race, I just get a little tired and slightly nauseous.  I realize that it's all about refusing to fail.  It's about ignoring pain and discomfort, focusing for long periods on a relatively boring task, keeping your pace up and your feet moving for extended periods of time, refusing to slow down, refusing to stop.  I get paid to suffer like that... why on earth would I do it for free?

Actually, I probably will do it someday but I feel like there is only so many times you want to dig in for that experience and right now, I get my fill... and training for shorter distances with this job is already kicking my ass!

On to happier news... Country Heir is over and...

Today, I am headed to my favorite destination.  Today, I am headed here:

This is where I swim.

This is where I ride.

This is where I run.  

One of the best parts of my year starts today.

Let's review:




My next post will be from my summertime haven.  I can't wait!!  NORTHWOODS! YAY!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I See Dead... Patterns?

After CapTex, I had a couple of days off before leaving for Kentucky.  Traditionally, I don't do well in KY.  For some reason, I always struggle here both mentally and physically. I am not precisely sure why.  Is the fact that there is so much unhappy history with the place?  Is it something environmental? Is it simply the placement in the calendar?  (The last few years have seen me doing the four weeks of shows in August rather than the two in June.)  Is it the fact that I have many old friends here and the desire to see them competes with training for my very limited free time? I don't know.  I have never successfully answered the question but coming off such a bad day at CapTex, Kentucky was the last place I wanted to go.

Even though I felt OK here, I can see that I was worn down from insomnia and a brutal work schedule.
I still like the picture though.

The first week actually went well.  I was still pretty tired at the beginning so I took Tuesday off from training.  After that, each day got better.  It has been very humid here so I am breathing really well and my training has felt better than it has in quite some time, possibly since Florida. It been amazing to reconnect with that feeling of intensity, hunger, focus that has been missing for a while.  It is surprising to find it on the same roads that I traditionally lose it.  Maybe it's possible that you can make peace with a place if enough time goes by.... we'll see.  The fat lady doesn't sing for another week but for today, I am enjoying myself now, and I had a few really fantastic workouts this week.

It does bring up the question that has been lurking in the back of my mind... Is there something about Texas, or more specifically Austin, that is damaging my health?  I have seen a pattern emerge with some of the places that I go that I don't like at all.  It's a perspective that most people would never get but I have seen over the last eight years or so, strong responses to different locations.  I can't even begin to pinpoint causes, only correlations, but it is clear that I am working with a different hand of cards during certain parts of the year.  I follow the same circuit so I am predictably in the same places during those times.  Do I get sick every time I go home because it follows the big summer shows where I wear myself down?  Or is there an environmental factor that is irritating my system?  Is it mental, a self-fulfilling prophecy?

All I know is that a couple of years ago, everything went to Hell in a hand basket and I would love to know why.  I realize I am about to turn 40 but nothing I have ever heard would indicate that life ends at 37.  On the upside, despite all of the mid-year fluctuations, my health has been slowly recovering over the course of the last couple of years.  The three steps forward/two and 5/8 steps back progression has certainly made it easy to lose sight of it but progress is progress.  It certainly fails to consult my timetable and expectations. But I am left wondering what causes all the fairly routine setbacks.  I know I am not the first person with a screwy job or the first to approach 40 or the first to travel (a lot).

I see... patterns?

Maybe it's none of these things.  Maybe its just rotten luck, but I see patterns.  I like patterns.  Identifying patterns helps you to make positive changes.  If I can pinpoint a cause, I can stop suffering from the effects.  But again, maybe I am just desperate for answers where non exist.  I went from feeling like I wasn't much but at least I was sturdy, to feeling spastic, fragile, high maintenance.  An answer to the question "WHY?" would be really nice.

I am grateful for my coach, Brian of Accelerate3,  who only has a here and now view of the situation.  He works with the hand I am holding now and keeps me focused, rather than sitting at the table pining for the hand I had then... you know back when gas was $1 a gallon and I was walking to school uphill, both ways, in the snow.

OK, enough introspection.  It's time to sweat.