Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey With A Side Of Suffering.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ready to roll, layered up..
 ..about to SUFFER!
Don't let the sunshine fool you the way it did me!

This has been a great couple of weeks for me.  I've been at home in Austin, enjoying the roads and the city (though the weather has been less than stellar).  I've reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones.  I spent the day eating turkey with my awesome neighbors.  I even got a deck compliments of the awesome folks at my RV park!

LOOK! I have a deck!
No photography skills... but a deck!  

I took a new-to-me bike for the first time and did a little  recovery spin today.  My legs told me they were on holiday and were not going to be answering calls.  I was to ride without them.  It was an enjoyable little ride and the one time I put in a request for power, my legs referred me to their answering service.  NOPE.  Big fat SORRY ABOUT YOUR LUCK!

Alright Blackie, lets see what you are about.

Why the attitude?  Well, keep reading.

Coach Brain, as I said before, put a little slack in the lines on this schedule and I am getting to stretch my legs.  There have been a couple of deliciously challenging workouts in the mix, though some were challenging for more reasons than just what was written.  There were a couple of interval sessions that really reminded how much I like to dig down and hurt.  You know, the crunchy ones where you end up shouting at your legs for trying to slow down.  (not that it takes much to get to that point these days!!) Still, those workouts... the ones that leave you in a crumpled heap... those are the ones I like the most!

Then there are another kind.  They test you, not because the effort is challenging but because the circumstances are.. like the long trainer ride.  I had a couple of those this week.  Coach Brain gave me permission to shorten it to a brief warmup and cool down, plus the main set.  That would certainly have made it more palatable but I finally realized that there are so many reasons for me to shorten or skip a workout, that I did not need or have the luxury of a cop out based on boredom.  The workouts got done in their entirety.

The trainer workouts paled in comparison to the outdoor workouts though.  With a horrid cold front pushing through.  I found myself riding in weather that I would normally leave to.. well, ANYONE else.  Again, with all of the trouble that I have had in the last couple of years, I feel like I have used all of my “get out of jail workout free” cards.  I layered up and headed out the door the moment it stopped spitting ice from the sky.  The first day was so painful, it inspired three days on the trainer as the worst of the front pushed through.  Then, I headed back out to see if I could freeze out the princess that seemed to be rearing her tiara-ed head.

Full finger gloves and arm warmers.  Yeah, that's all that's in my arsenal.

First was a hill ride with one of my Austin Bikes teammates.  It was a great ride with great company, a good pace, and one of those times that fighting a 30 degree, 20+ mph headwind up some big hills seemed more tolerable when you are not alone.  By the end of that ride, the cold was causing my back and quads to cramp pretty badly.  I was quite happy when that was over but equally happy that I had the guts to get out there and do it.  I finished the day with a body weight resistance workout and felt pretty solid about how the two weeks were shaping up.  Only, those cramps, that cold, that strength workout, those hills... they would come back to haunt me.

The next day was a 3.5 hour ride with a decent block of tempo work.  It was a couple of degrees warmer... like two.... so confident from the previous days ride, I headed out the door in the same layers that had worked the previous day.  I was fine.. for about 90 mins.  Well, sort of fine.  I caught a long red light in the first 15 mins of the ride and after that point noticed a strange sound coming from the front of the bike.  About an hour later, I was feeling like hell.  I knew I had a tailwind but I just couldn't make that bike GO.  My legs and back were starting to cramp up again and I felt HORRID.  I stopped to check out the sound only because I needed a rest.  The sound?  The front brake was almost fully engaged.  It had been since that light.  I was hearing (and smelling) the brake pads burning off the rim.  AWESOME.  After I opened the brake, I rode a little further, suddenly feeling like I had wings, then got a my turnaround and went into the wind.  It was like the brake was back on.  DAMMIT.


By the time I got to the tempo block, about 2 hours into the ride, I was really suffering.  My legs were dead and painful, my back was locked up, my feet and hands were blocks of ice, my face was chapped (nope.  Didn't think to bring chapstick.  Too obvious!).  I was looking at my power and it was showing numbers far below the suffer factor.  My cadence was horrible.  My legs were totally unresponsive and no matter how hard I tried to spin up to a higher cadence, even in an easy gear, it wasn't happening.  Same was true for applying any real force to the pedals.  Every pedal stroke shot pain through my knees and up my legs. My legs tendered their letter of resignation while I sucked down every bit of nutrition I had packed looking for salvation in a gel packet.  I got through that ride.  Every. Last. Hateful. Minute.   I was prepared to be proud of my fortitude but really, I was a little panicked that I had overdone it and it was going to cost me the rest of this training block.

I came in from that ride shaking.  My legs and back were tender to the touch they were so sore.  It had taken all the stubborn I could muster (and honestly, I have a LOT of "stubborn" at my disposal) and then some to finish the ride.  I knew I had found that hole that I like to fall into and hoped I had not gone over the edge.

Maybe it could be argued that I would have been better served aborting the workout but honestly, I think I wanted to remind myself that I can still get it done.  I did my best to salvage the situation with nutrition.  I shot emails to my coach and dietitian... (slightly panicked): What did I do?? What do I do??  Since they are both athletes and professionals, they kindly refrained from actually penning an eyeroll or facepalm and gave me some simple recovery tactics that basically amounted “eat, drink water, and go to bed... dum-dum!”

When I woke up today, I discovered something.  I hadn't died overnight.  So on this absolutely FABULOUS day, I took that new bike for a ride.  And (properly dressed for the weather) enjoyed every last second of it.  I am thankful to have something in my life that cleans the slate so gracefully.  I am grateful for the ability to ride my bike today.

Wilbur had other ideas on how cold should be handled.

Oh, and the new bike?  AWESOME.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Something You Don't Know About Me

Most of the people who read this blog know that at one time I was much heavier.  What they don't know is that starting as a child, I was an avid artist.  I stopped in 2007 cold and never picked up a brush or touched clay again.  I don't know why. In 2010, I destroyed my entire portfolio.  Again, I don't know why but I do know it was a part of a huge purge of belongings that seemed to be tying me to a painful past that I needed to let go.  It was literally and figuratively, taking out the trash. The sculpture pictured here is part of what I destroyed.  The paintings and drawing were not as they were sold as commissioned work years earlier.  Sometimes you just need to cauterize the wounds of the past.

I had no idea that I still had these images anywhere but I found them saved in an album on facebook.  This is far from the scope of what I produced, only the couple of pics that I ever loaded to facebook.  I guess that site is good for something.

For your enjoyment:

Some decisions you live to regret.  This may be one of those.  The jury is still out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Losing or Gaining Weight... One Choice At A Time.

The kids lining up for a ride!
"Pick me! Pick me!"

In the few weeks since my last post, I have done one thing in particular... ride my bike.  I have ridden a lot.  Not always a lot on one day, but often.  I have gotten back into the habit and tonight when I decided I would err on the side of caution and take a rest day, I felt like I had forgotten to brush my teeth.  Something was missing.  I wasn't freaking out or jonesin' to ride, just that I hadn't done something that is a part of my normal daily routine.

I've been thinking about this and how, after a while, things become a lifestyle.  It becomes part of your identity.  People who have known me for a long time remember when this wasn't a lifestyle.  Some remember the shift in focus, the often turbulent change that took place in my (very thick) skull.  But most?  Most can't even imagine me any other way.  They identify me as a small person, fit, feisty, and active.  For me, the transformation has not been nearly so complete... or has it.
This picture was taken in Michigan while braiding.
Here I was roughly 215 lbs, 20 less than my lifetime high weight.
I am not tall (see photo below for evidence of shortness).  That weight on my was crushing.
I was miserable, felt like hell, and avoided mirrors like the plague.
Nobody should ever choose to stay this unhappy.

I still see myself as the fat one.  I still look at every picture and expect to be unhappy with what is there.  I check every mirror, every window that throws off a reflection, even at my shadow, always expecting to discover that I am suddenly fat again.  But fat doesn't just happen.  It's isn't something that you wake up and find like a wart.  It is a state of mind and a state of life.  You don't put on a 100 lbs at once nor do you take it off that way.  You take it off one choice at a time.  Each good choice changes the way you see yourself a little bit each time. However, you put it back on the same way you take it off: one choice at a time.  You put it back on by failing to identify with yourself as a fit person living a healthy lifestyle.

Why is it so easy for some people to make the right choices and not for others?  Well, I don't really know... but I'll venture a guess.  People tend to make choices in accordance with how they see themselves.  Anyone can make the easy choices (I think I'll ride my bike on this beautiful day when I have nothing else to do), but you make the hard ones (riding in the weather, working on your weaknesses, or choosing not to indulge every last craving your body throws your way), based on your perception of yourself and how that person would choose.  Foodies will choose to spend more for organic or gourmet items.  Athletes will choose to follow a strict diet regimen and train through adverse conditions.  Animal lovers will choose to stop the car to rescue a turtle.  Hipsters will choose to challenge the laws of physics to wedge themselves into a pair of skinny jeans.  Do people who don't identify with an archetype make those choices as well?  Of course.  But making them a lifestyle without that perception is very, very difficult.  Someone is not a hipster may turn themselves into a denim sausage a couple of times, but sooner or later, that person will most likely choose circulation over fashion.

Over the last few months, I have been stuck in idle.  My training has been on pause.  I have ridden but not trained.  My perception of myself as an athlete who is willing to go the extra mile for fitness and performance has waned.  My connection to why I make certain choices, particularly the hard food choices that usually only come when I am locked on a race target, has weakened.  And all of this is evident in some of the tragic food choices I have been making, particularly in the last few weeks, and the most recent 5 lbs (above the acceptable off-season gain) that have taken up residence on me arse.  I haven't been drinking enough water either, and my performance has suffered... but then, if I am not an athlete, who cares?  If I am not an athlete, I can settle into a steady weight 10-20 lbs higher, still fall into acceptable ranges for good health, and still be attractive (because really no matter what your weight, you will be just perfect for someone).

In the last couple of weeks, Coach Brain and I have exchanged a series of email sporting content volume that would make "War and Peace" seem like a little light reading by comparison.  We have agreed it's time to push forward, though there is still some question on the best way.  One thing is certain, I have a very narrow margin for error.  I am going to support my body with proper nutrition and care if I am going to get even marginal performances out of it.  The choices that I struggle the most with, the ones that I usually leave until I am fully absorbed in training with impending competitive goals sharpening my focus... those will have to come first.  If I hope to train "for real" or ever find a starting line...much less the finish... or podium... again, I will need to make these choices and changes first.

Yep, I do like that spot!
I hope to return regardless of whether it is triathlon or cycling.
The sport is merely the tool used to create change.

At work last night, as I was walking by a trash can, I reached in my pocket where several Snicker's minis had taken up residence and evicted the little goal-wrecking bastards.  That was the line in the sand.  I am not who I once was.  I am the product of my better choices and who I will be a year... five years... ten years down the road will be the product of the choices I make from here.  I am actively choosing to reconnect with this identity and re-immerse myself in the mindset.

Here I am still roughly 15-20 lbs over my eventual goal weight for racing but I am healthy.
In the end, it's about taking control of your life, your health, your happiness.

I am an athlete and choose to remain an athlete and that will only happen if I train, eat, and live AS AN ATHLETE.