Thursday, August 23, 2012

I spend my summers in Maine (or as much of my summer as I can, anyway!) but I conduct most of my business in Massachusetts. When in Boston I see Margaret Karg for body work. She is amazing, and I have gone to her for years. I like her so much I have been reluctant to try anyone when I'm in Portland, even if I really need work done. I finally ventured into the unknown last week, and set up an appointment with Kevin Mackell of The Athlete's Touch in Portland.


I love my Margaret, but next to her work, this was the single best massage experience I have ever had. Kevin spent 15 minutes talking to me before the massage, detailing what he could do, and asking me what I needed. He then spent over 90 minutes doing deep tissue work, ART, and traditional massage.  It was beyond awesome. I highly recommend! I convinced Alina to visit him the Monday after my Friday massage. She was equally-- if not even more --wow-ed than I was. Then I got Angela to make an appointment, too. She goes at the end of this week. I'm not one to advertise on my blog... but I had to say something here. The dude is amazing.

After my awesome massage I rested a day and then, as I reported in my last post, I raced a little sprint in Cape Elizabeth called the Tri for Preservation. (Absolutely awesome race, btw, if you ever happen to be in Maine the third weekend in August...)

I had a decent race, one which I am definitely not ashamed of, but I also experienced the same lack of verve that I have been dealing with all of this season. My run has suffered the most during this time. I think it requires a sort of desperate and frantic energy to really really go hard on the run of any tri, because if you have done it right, you do not come to the run fresh as a daisy. I usually have that energy. I usually kill myself to run girls down. But like during my other races this season, I let two women pass me that had (in my humble opinion) no business passing me. And I didn't hunt them down. Only when I saw my friend Anne who had to DNF b/c of her broken chain/derailleur and she shouted at me to run them down did I find a little spirit to do so, and that ended soon after Anne was out of earshot.  I ended up running those three short miles in a SLOWER pace than I have run an entire half marathon in past races. Not good.

I have been looking for a reason... a reason why my verve has been less than stellar for months now, and why my run has been so dramatically affected by it both in training and racing. The only thing I could come up with is that I have trained too much and not given myself a break. And that's true. But I now have another theory. I think I have been injured for quite a long bit of time, but I think I did not allow myself to recognize this. My body knew it, though, and it refused to work at its usual "level" until I acknowledged and did something about the injury.

I tell my athletes to tell me when something hurts. The fastest way to get through a potential injury is to catch it early and rest it. However, I also know that if we all stopped short whenever something hurt, our consistency in training would be ridiculously abysmal. The trick is to know when something is serious, and to take charge of it when you have a feeling it is.

The problem really comes when you have been training for so many years that you begin to have trouble distinguishing between pain that is going to lead you down a path of peril, and pain that will resolve itself within a couple days or weeks. I have run through so many injuries at this point, and usually come out on the other side somewhat intact, that I have stopped believing that internal sensor that fires when I have a "hurt" that should stop me short.

My foot has been hurting on and off for many months now. This is nothing new. I have bunions and big callouses, and have had neuroma and metatarsalgia pretty consistently since I started doing endurance triathlon. So my feet are truly ugly and they often hurt. But the pain I had early this summer was different, since it was on a bone and on top of my foot. Still, it didn't hurt so badly. It was tender. It was inconvenient. But it didn't' need to shut me down.

After my race on Sunday, though, my foot was more than just tender. In a few hours it was swollen on top of the foot and really quite painful. Still, I wasn't incredibly worried. At least, I wasn't incredibly worried until later that night when I realized I couldn't walk on it without wincing. And then I became more worried when the pain kept me up that night when I wasn't even putting pressure on the foot. I knew I had to have it checked. I knew this was a foot that would be really hard to run on in a half ironman--and I had a half ironman coming up in 6 short days.

So I had it checked.
And it is a fracture of the second metatarsal. And actually, it is likely a re-fracture of a bone that has seen better days and has fractured before.

So sighhhhhhhhh......

I can still swim. And I'm hoping that soon, like a in a few weeks? I might be able to bike. Not sure on the running. That is a big question mark. I'm trying to be patient. I'm trying to deal with the fact that I feel klutzy and heavy when wearing the damn boot they gave me.

Some seasons you rock. Some seasons everything seems to go awry.
I was due for a season gone awry. I've had a bunch of really good ones in a row.
The good thing about having this not so stellar season is that I really feel like I learned a TON in the last few months, and I have knowledge that will not only help me in the future, but also those I coach. And after I heal this damn foot I am so excited to get strong. I will take my time, and not overdue it. And next season is going to be a good one. I just know it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chin UP

I have a bad habit of looking down at the ground when I run. I'm not sure what I'll find there. Some speed maybe? It makes more sense to look ahead, of course. It makes more sense to target what's coming next, not look at the pebbles dotting the street right by your feet.

Nevertheless I must remind myself to look up--to look forward.

I don't actually have a problem looking to the future. In fact, I could argue I live too much in the past and the future, and not enough in the present. But when it comes to my fitness, my training and my racing, I seem to be rather myopic. I'm only as good as my last swim, bike or run. I'm only as good as my last race.

I know that those who race best don't think like I do. They put the bad race or workout directly behind them and move on--chin up--into the future. This, I've decided needs to be my next and newest goal. I need to look up when I run.  Because it's hard to keep loving the work if the work doesn't give you love back, and the work only gives you love back if you don't expect it to be good all the time. It only loves you back if you don't let it define you on a day to day basis.

So that's the new me. Not defined by today's slacker workout. Instead, defined by....


Now that is a question to contemplate. Defined by....
Don't you find it hard not to define by? Like in general? Like in life?

I've noticed this trend among my mom athletes.

Awhile ago they decided to do a triathlon, and they liked it. They liked that they did something scary and hard; they liked that they took on a challenge and conquered it; they liked that they worked to become fit enough to actually complete an event. They liked it so much, they wanted more. They don't ever want to go back to being that other person-- the person before the person that completed the triathlon.

And it begins. They gradually morph in body and in self-definition.

This can be a big ass problem to the others in the athlete's life. The others--like the spouse, the friends, the family--LIKED (usually) the triathlete before she/he was a triathlete. They also depended on her--to meet demands and not to make them. And she tries to still be that person. But she really wants to be the person who trains and races. Because that person is strong and able. That person has her own life--in addition to the life that previously existed pretty much only in service to others.

The woman prides herself on being a mom. But she also wants to be fully entrenched and viewed by the world around her as a triathlete, as a contender, as a person who has the energy and self discipline and life force to both have a life for herself--and the life of a mom.  The training and the racing are emblematic of her ability and desire to do both--to be both. Sometimes the spouse and friends stick around for this transformation. Sometimes they are so angered and bitter about the transformation that they leave.

It's inaccurate to paint a picture that showcases these tri moms as entirely selfless beings who are now, finally, taking a bit back for themselves. Nevertheless, that is how I am painting it, because frankly that is how I view it! haha! I will say, though, that any time a person changes it is hard on those around them. And I will also say that the power of finally feeling good about your fitness, your ability to compete, and your body can be highly seductive.   I have certainly been victim to that seduction.

Over the years I have become more and more entrenched in my life as a triathlete. Next to being a mom and a coach, it is the way I define myself. Which is why it's hard when I fail to live up to the expectations I have on myself in terms of performance--especially with my myopia problem.

So the question remains... how to define myself on a day to day basis if I make it my goal to not define myself according to my training and racing? I suppose not at all? And will I lose my edge if I do fail to define myself this way? Do I have any edge left to lose?

Today I raced -- a little sprint in my hometown called the Tri for Preservation. It's run by my friend Ted and the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, and it's a great little race. It was a beautiful day and a gorgeous place to race.

I'd like to say I had fun when racing. I really didn't. I felt crappy the whole way--not physically so much as mentally. I don't think I had one positive thing to say to myself, just a lot of self-defeating mean and angry at myself thoughts, which is no way at all to go through a race! I DID have fun after the race, chatting with friends and getting awards. (I was second overall right after my super pretty and fast friend Stacy, who kicked my ass on the damn run!) (Stacy is in the PBM kit and I am next to her.)

It was Alina's bday today, and she celebrated by doing a relay at this race. (Happy Bday, Bean!) She was the swimmer and Andy (my husband) was the cyclist and runner. And they won for fastest relay! I was very proud.
Alina had the 3rd fastest swim split of the day, and Andy had the third fastest run split.

My good friend Anne raced too, and likely would have completely kicked my butt had she not suffered a broken derailleur only a few miles into the bike. We started the race together in the same wave, and I though I tried like hell to stay with her I was not even close to doing so! I was in the process of TRYING to catch her on the bike when I saw her stranded on the side of the road, her chain split in half and dangling from the bike. Such a drag. I'm sorry, Anne!

After the race Andy, Alina and I got some breakfast, and then went home to the kiddos. Later that night we celebrated the bday with blueberry pie and ice cream. Yum.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I begin to pursue my new goal.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time Trial

Okay, my mood is not quite as crappy as it was when I last wrote. I received quite a few notes after that last posting, both on and off line, suggesting various methods of relieving myself of my oh-so-bad attitude. Getting inebriated, resting, going to church... just a few of the many excellent ideas.

But I didn't do any of them. What I did instead is a bike time trial.

This is probably that last thing you'd think would be a good idea. I am burned out, so slow I'm beyond slow, and I pretty much hate my bike right now.  But I'm a little crazy, so to me it seemed the right idea.

It turned out to be quite fun! Fun is relative, of course. It wasn't fun like winning a million dollars or going on vacation without children, but it was fun, as time trials on the bike go. I arrived early with my family in tow (man are they sick of going to races!) registered, and was relieved to discover I knew not a soul. I was in no mood to explain why I decided on a time trial at this oh so desperate time of burn- out, and I was also in no mood to make excuses for myself if my ride turned out to be as sub par as I thought it might be.

I was number 15 out of like 40 people to head out on the course. I started off hard--pretty much too hard--because it's been so long since I have done something that is supposed to be all-outish that I have lost touch with the art of going all-outish while still making sure there are reserves to actually finish the race. But eventually I settled in to a pace that had me breathing audibly--occasionally even grunting--and had my quads feeling slightly burned and on the verge of cramping--which is pretty much where time trailing pace is (at least for me).

After riding for about 10 minutes I found myself in a position to pass a few people. Not so bad! Then 4 men passed me all at once... all flying at like 30 mph to my 20. Oh well. So much for THAT ego boost. I kept working away, and eventually passed a few more people. Then a woman flew by me at such incredible speed that I was somewhat taken aback. Not only that she was number 22! That meant she had started the time trial 4 minutes after me! Oh dear God....

But here's the thing. I was having fun! Even after said woman put me to shame, I was having fun. Or at least I was not NOT having fun. Does that make sense?

Just before the end the skies opened up and it started to pour. This was rather unfortunate, but it let up again within a few minutes of it starting. I passed a guy at this point that I had been targeting for awhile. That made number 5! I had passed 5 people! And all men! Not so bad... not so bad...

But then right before the end of the race number 5 passed me right back. Rats. I had nothing in my legs to try to catch him. My sprint speed is pretty much the same speed as my sprint tri speed, and my TT speed, and my Oly speed--that is the problem. But he had another speed... and he used it. OF course, I still BEAT him because he started before me. So that is a nice sliver lining. Not so silver is that I found out he was 64 years old. Damn. 64? Sprinting past me at the end?

After finishing I found my family and we headed back to the homestead in Cape E. I had no idea where I had placed, which was fine by me. There were not that many women there, but the women who were there were cyclists, and I fully expected I placed toward the very back of them. Turns out I was not in the back... but in the MIDDLE. Okay... I'll take that! The women who beat me beat me by minutes--in a 16 mile race--so yeah. They smushed me. But I beat a few women too. Good enough.

More importantly, the race made me feel like I could race... and like I wanted to race.
Don't get me wrong... I am fully ready for this season to end. But I think I can make it the next two weeks, and be just fine.  One more sprint! On more half!

Then one big nap!

These pictures have nothing to do with what I just posted. But I like them. Just proving that other things, like parenting, go on in my life when I am not lamenting my poor sorry season.

Piñata at the annual Ocean Park Fiesta--.

 On Cow Island with Alina, Jordan and Maria--. Kayaking adventure.
Eating Lobster frosted cupcakes on the front "porch" at Cape E.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't You Hate It When....

1. People say you are so lucky, and you know you are lucky, but you still want to tell them to fuck off--what the fuck do they know?

2. You think you are going to be able to sit and read with a cup of coffee and one of eight million things comes up to make that impossible?

3. You think you are running fast, and you look at your Garmin and you are running like a minute slower per mile than you thought you were?

4. Your dog eats a whole can of omega three fatty acid pills and reeks of fish oil and you can't get rid of the stench? Plus your omega three fatty pills are gone and you have to replace them?

5. You need like ONE DAY JUST ONE GOD DAMN day to chill--alone--and you simply cannot get it and it will likely be like 10 more years before you do? And then someone tells you that someday you are going to miss these days and want them back? And you know they are right but you still want to poke their eyeballs out with toothpicks and tell them that they simply don't remember what it is like to have absolutely NO ESCAPE?

6. You think your period is OVER, and then it comes back for a last hurrah and gets you when you are in a bikini and on the beach and cannot get to a bathroom at all?

Okay, I guess that's enough for now.
Feel free to add your own!

Here is an update on training.
It is slow and not going very well.

Here is an update on my mental state.
I am feeling rather DOWN and unable to yank myself back up because I am far too busy contemplating my feeling down.

I am planning to race a little sprint next weekend, and then the OOB Rev Half Ironman the weekend after that. I am frankly not sure how I will finish that half IM since I am really struggling to ride longer than 45 minutes and run longer than 15... but I may have to do it anyway. Why do I need to do it? For the same reason I need to pick the same scab over and over again. I simply can't help my poor sorry self.

You know?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lessons Learned.

When I think about IMLP, I still get a little sad. It was hard to write the result in my side bar on the blog. It's a race that I would for the most part prefer to forget. (Except the swim. Proud of that swim.)

Forgetting those races you'd like to forget, however, is not the way to go.  There is a great deal to learn when a race does not go as planned--often way more than if the race had gone right. I truly believe that my "bad" races contribute to my becoming a better athlete and coach--in the end. That's my silver-lining.

The following is a self-justifying and self-promoting paragraph, BUT.....

The funny--perhaps even ironic--thing is that when an athlete looks for a coach he/she often examines the coach's athletic credentials and chooses a coach, at least in part, based on whether that coach has been successful. Clearly an athlete/coach who can point to a successful career in racing has done a great deal that is right, of course. But it's my (more than slightly biased) belief that those who have experienced both success and failure (that would be most if not all coaches/athletes, of course)--and (most importantly) have dug deeply to understand their failures in addition to their successes--emerge the wiser, more empathetic, and successful coaches.  Additionally, it makes more sense to look at the successes a coach has had with her athletes as opposed to her own athletic record, but that's another post.

The first two days after IMLP I felt to sick to my stomach (still) and too numb to really figure anything out about the race. I just mourned (more than a bit) and tried to put the result into perspective.  After writing about it I felt much better, and within the week I was looking critically at the race to try to iron out the many factors that contributed to it NOT being the race I wanted.

Some of the lessons I took away from the race border on cliche (okay FINE! They are cliche!) they are so well known. Unfortunately, sometimes we must learn things by experiencing them--and sometimes by experiencing them more than once. This is certainly true for me. I'm wicked smart  ;) and know a lot. Except sometimes I just know it and I don't KNOW IT.

Anyway, Here are a few of the things I learned (or re-learned) after my somewhat suck-a-rific race at IMLP.

1. In order to execute an Ironman one must be willing to gut out sickness, pain, exhaustion and sometimes even injury, especially during the run.  

Well, duh.

However, I think some believe that if one has trained well enough, then digging deep shouldn't be necessary--or AS necessary as it always is when you get to the latter stages of an IM. No one would SAY this, but I have certainly encountered this false notion in conversation. It is not that the elites are not as sick, exhausted, and in pain as you are. They are. They just have learned how to fight through it better than you and me--or, more likely--they want to fight through it more than you and me, and they know the only path to success is to do so. There is no training regime that allows an athlete to experience the IM run as anything less than extremely, if not overwhelmingly, challenging. This is as true for Chrissie Wellington and Craig Alexander as it is for us. They may make it look easy, but it's not--not even for them.

In my last race I did not have the will to fight when things got tough. I got sick, and I was unwilling to to everything within my control to finish the race strong, anyway. That will is required.
Had my will been in place I still (almost certainly) would not have PR'd or gone sub 11.  However, my result would've been much better than it was.

Part of my lack of will grew directly out of petty anger. I felt I should not be sick because I had executed the race as one "should" execute an Ironman. I deserved to have the run go well. Of course, that is just about the stupidest reasoning ever.  Ironman is not a kind mistress. She doesn't care what any of us deserve or do not deserve. Most everyone at that race deserved to have a good run, and there were plenty of men and women around me who were also not having a good time of it. I think we tend to believe that those people who navigate IM successfully have done things correctly leading to the race and during the race that we, those who flail, have not done. That may be true. It also may not be. That is the very difficult thing about racing in general, and about Ironman in particular. Sometimes we get the race we "deserve." Sometimes--maybe a lot of the time--we don't--and it's not always because mistakes were made.

But back to will.
It may sound as if I am berating myself for not having enough fight on race day.
Fight is mental... and so it is just that I wasn't tough enough mentally. Right?

Well, yes! But there are reasons I wasn't tough enough on race day. It's not enough to simply say, NEXT TIME I will have the fight! I want it, damn it! It's more important I understand the reasons my fight was not there.

1. In late May/early June I had signs of nonfunctional over-reaching. Over-reaching can be intentional--as when one makes a one to two week push to increase volume and/or intensity in the 4-6 leading up to a race like IM. The athlete does become exhausted, but proper recovery is planned following the period of over-reaching, and adaptation is able to occur. Nonfunctional over-reaching is more insidious. The athlete has not intended to over-reach, and therefore does not recover to the degree she should. On paper I should have been able to complete the training I was doing--at least in my mind. But for whatever reason, my body became exhausted and simultaneously my brain chemistry became slightly altered.

This happens when we over-reach. Hormonal shifts occur, and brain chemistry is slightly altered. It's this neuro-chemical and hormonal shift that signals to the body that it is overly tired. Although not really advisable, one could ostensibly train right through over-reaching--because the fatigue is largely a signal from the brain as opposed to true and serious damage done to physiological systems stressed when training. Unfortunately, these neuro-chemical and hormonal changes may not right themselves for several weeks--and sometimes several months.

I think part of the reason I had no fight at IMLP is because although my body was fully rested and ready for the race, my brain chemistry and hormonal imbalance was still off. I know this partially just because of the way I felt in the weeks leading to the race. My sleeping was off, my moods, my desire to train. My body was rested, but my brain chemistry was not right. In short, my brain worked hard to shut me down on race day, right from the start--probably far earlier than it would've had I not had that period of nonfunctional over-reaching.

All that is a fancy and long-winded way of saying that I trained too much and fucked up my poor little brain. And my body was healed from that period of training too much without enough of recovery, but my brain wasn't. When we use the term burn-out, this is what we are actually talking about.

The lesson here? One, listen to your coach and do not add volume or intensity to your training unless you decide as a team you should. It is not wrong that I wanted to add volume to my training. It was the way I did it that was wrong.  Second, if you feel something is awry--you feel flat, unmotivated, lethargic--then tell your coach! If you insist on keeping it to yourself because you fear she will take away volume, or challenge you about adding more, or she will think you're a wimp, or she will change your training zones or WHATEVER... get over it, or be prepared for a race day like I just had. 

Lesson #2. Nausea often means you should slow down. Nausea also usually means YOU ARE DEHYDRATED. 

I don't know how many times I have to learn this one.  I am a woman who pees-- a lot. This probably has something to do with the three babies I had in quick succession. So the fact that I peed a ton before the race, during the swim, and on the bike--well--it really doesn't mean much except that I am a woman who pees as soon as there is a drop of pee in her bladder. It might say something up how I don't process fluid the way I should -- or something. Who knows.

Anyway, I took in a lot of fluid at IMLP. But it wasn't enough. My nausea, sadly, can be attributed to that alone. When I get de-hydrated, I feel sick. It happens in training. One of these years I will remember that when I am racing... and drink more than I think I need. Because the truth is I need more than I think I need--and perhaps even more than is recommended by others for me.

Less #3:  There are certain "best practices" that a coach should employ when training an athlete for Ironman, especially an athlete new to Ironman. However, if these best practices have failed to produce the desired result in several previous races, then it's time to try something different, because it is foolish to train the same way for a race again and again, and expect you will have a different result. 

What this means for me, is that it's time to try something new! I think we know somewhat intuitively what works for each of us--especially if we have been at this IM game for awhile. This intuitive sense of what we need, however, does not always jive with conventional practice and wisdom.

If you are new to Ironman, then I think it's smartest to suspend your intuition and do things conventionally the first few times out. There is so much cumulative experience and knowledge out there, and a good coach will apply that and get you to the finish line.

However, after the first 2-3 IM's, if things are not quite working, it's time to go back to that intuitive sense and explore it further.

I plan to break from convention when training for my next Ironman. It may not work. But the conventional path has not quite worked for me either, and I'm ready and eager to try a different method.

I have ideas about race specificity that I have yet to really explore. An observation I have made is that it takes me, and others, only about 4-6 weeks to peak for a race once race specificity is added. Typically I have started to become increasingly race specific 10-12 weeks out. Further, I have tried to peak for a 1/2 IM 6 weeks out from IM. But the 1/2 and the full are very different events. What has happened nearly every time is that I peak for the 1/2 IM, and then, because of fatigue, I fail to peak again for the IM six weeks later. For me, at least, the 1/2 IM six weeks out is counterproductive. It may not be if I choose not to "race" the half and hence do no race specific half IM pacing workouts before that race. But that is not what I want for me. I want to be competitive in every race I take on.

Also, I have ideas about what race specificity needs to look like--for me--and perhaps others.

In our final, more race specific build toward IM we conventionally ride the race distance and follow it with a short transition run. We also run long, perhaps even 20-22 mile at once--though this run is separated from our biking. We may do a few bricks each week, but they are not race specific if they involve anything but IM race pace--and long distance.

A race specific brick, in my opinion, involves IM pacing on the bike followed by a longer run with IM marathon pacing targeted within it. I'm not suggesting that people ride 6 hours and then run 4 hours--all at IM pace. That is asinine. But in the same way one trains for a marathon--e.g. repeatedly running longer and longer at target pace until a distance just shy of race distance is achieved in training, I think I (maybe others) need a few race specific workouts that better emulate the demands of riding long on the bike followed by running long off the bike.

What would this look like? It might be a 2.5 hour ride with IM race pace intervals mixed in followed by a 1.5-2 hour run which includes 6 x 1 mile at  one's targeted IM marathon race pace.  I'm fairly certain that this workout would not be more taxing then the far less specific training protocol of running 20 miles straight in the weeks leading to IM, or executing an 112 mile bike ride followed by a 40 minute transition run.

I need to re-iterate that I don't think training that involves this type of workout is appropriate for those new to IM. Ironman training for one new to it requires a coach get the athlete to be able to go the distance. Riding 112 miles or running 18-20 miles prior to race day is crucial for someone who has never completed a century or run that long in training or racing.

Still, for the more experienced IMer, I think it makes sense to experiment with race specificity in the 6 weeks leading to the IM. My body and brain has only been given the opportunity to run long off the bike 5 times since I started this type of training--and all of those times have been during my IM races. Over and over research has shown that one is ready to make a breakthrough after the execution of several extremely race specific workouts reveal that breakthrough can happen. A marathoner knows a sub 3 hour marathon is within reach when she can run 20 miles with 15 x 1 of those miles done at sub-seven minute pace. Likewise, I think one needs to teach the brain and body how to ride at a targeted pace, and then run (long) at a targeted pace after that ride.

I have a brain that needs to be imprinted. Partly this is because I think too much. I am a person who needs proof. I have no proof I can run long off the bike, or run at a pace I want to run while doing it. Therefore I think that I need to show my brain/body how to do it. It can do it. My brain and body can do it, but they have not been taught how to. My next goal is to provide them that instruction in the 4-6 weeks leading to my next IM race.