That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Checking in

The good news is that I figured out how to make running easier and more fun right now, and I still want to blog about it and all the reasons why I was previously struggling.

The bad news: I'm still in the throes of moving, so that'll have to wait!

The good news: we're almost done actually moving stuff to the house, after the husband and I have spent the past two days with his pickup truck and my sub-compact car, moving everything from a third floor apartment (ugh) to a bi-level house. We have one more trip today.

The bad news: I'm probably skipping my long run today and I'm freaking out about it a LITTLE. But I still have over 2.5 months to the marathon, I'm ahead of schedule, a rest day will probably do more good than harm, and my body is feeling like I have beat it to hell with all the moving. Next long run will be my first re-venture into double digits!

The good news: my new 'hood seems to have all kinds of options for running.

The bad news: they're all hilly!!! Or maybe I should look at it as good news, because it'll make me stronger. :) Regardless, I'm probably going to venture elsewhere for the aforementioned double-digit run!

The good news: husband was complaining about his legs being in a world of pain yesterday. (No, THAT isn't the good news!) The good news is that mine weren't. They handled the lifting and repeated stair-climbing like a champ. Proof that my legs are learning to submit to whatever insanity I ask of them.

The bad news: With all the banging and pressure on my still-injured finger, I'm prepared for the doc on Tuesday to say I've set my healing back a bit there. The good news is that it really doesn't interfere with my daily life, besides wearing a mildly annoying splint on it, and having to wear my wedding rings on my right hand. I can even type pretty well. It's also amusing that now my finger has its own doctor.

One more piece of good news: I did a bike/run brick the day before we started moving. The biking was ok (biking's always good, though, so long as it doesn't end in an ER run)...and the run was fantastic. Looking back at all my previous training, it was among the fastest I've EVER run...and it felt slow and easy! Sooo weird feeling like your legs are jello (immediately post-bike) and looking at your Garmin and seeing that you're pretty much at top speed.

OK, I really do need to get back to moving....but I want to share some words of wisdom, as pilfered from fellow multi-sport athlete Big Daddy Diesel. I agree 100% with this blog!!!

(PS to BDD, M and whoever else - I now live 10 minutes from Coney Island; if you Columbus people don't want to get up at dark:30 for Tri for Joe again next year, we'll have crashing room!!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quick notes for now, more to come later

I want to blog about running again soon. I'm still running, but it's hard. If I seem quiet to some, it's because I'm trying to be really self-focused right now. All I can do is focus on me and what I can do and not what everyone else is doing, running-wise. I hope it doesn't sound too selfish; it's my fault and nobody else's, but it's the only thing that remotely gets rid of the mental struggle. I'm not happy with where I am and I don't know when I'll be better, and all I can do is run and accept my running ability for what it is right now.

I've actually considered running without a watch or Garmin and just plotting out a distance, but I don't know that I can do that without making myself crazy. Plus, pacing is important to be aware of.

The good news is that the only time I feel any sort of pain of the injury variety is occasionally during or immediately after a run. Nothing else triggers it anymore; not a long walk, not even spending a day in cheap flip-flops (although I really do try to avoid doing that now.) I'm allowed to keep doing what I'm doing so long as there's no lingering pain. My left hip has been seriously tight, though, despite lots of efforts to stretch and relax it. I want to blame the bike ride, and truthfully, that probably didn't help, but I was noticing it while running last week. The PT finally made casts for orthotics, so hopefully when I get those, they will help correct the imbalances that are causing me to hurt.

When I can make myself quit worrying about pace, I find that I enjoy running more and I'm finding that zen feeling again. I'm considering making one run a speedwork day to see if that does me any good. I also might wait until I have the orthotics.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but we're moving next week - buying our first house. So I've accepted that I can't go crazy with the workouts right now because I need plenty of energy for packing.

My mental state will be explored more later, when I've got more time and energy for it.

What it's like to ride 63 miles on a bike

First of all, I managed to get back on my bike the Wednesday before Ride Cincinnati. I wasn't absolutely terrified of biking, but I was maybe more nervous than I was letting myself believe. I realized that day how much I really had been putting off another bike workout. I ran, heck, I SWAM, but I was coming up with reasons not to ride my bike - too hot, too busy, too tired - when usually I barely think of biking as exercise. I'll jump on my bike for the complete heck of it.

So I came to this realization, and had a small slice of daylight left, and I realized I just had to do it. Had to make sure I could get back on a bike without being paranoid about falling. So I did, and I went fast, and I didn't fall, and it felt great. End of story.

My longest rides have all been around 25 miles. Somehow, I decided that the 62.8 mile Ride Cincinnati was a great idea. When I ride 20-ish miles, I do always feel like I could ride much more, maybe even all day. There were shorter versions of Ride Cincy, but I wanted to do the big one. Bike coach told me I should be able to feasibly triple my normal ride. So I signed up.

That morning, I was seriously nervous. I'm always nervous before a race, but that was the first time I think I've ever felt nervous because I seriously considered that I couldn't physically do that distance. There's gotta be a point where my legs just won't pedal anymore, right? Choked down breakfast, got there with plenty of time, two water bottles (one water, one gatorade) and a brand new flat repair kit. At least I felt like I LOOKED like I belonged. Found the Running Spot group and hung out with them, somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The first thing I was seriously nervous (ok, terrified) about was the start. To me, it looked like it had the potential for all sorts of accidents. I purposely didn't clip in either foot, but it went pretty smoothly. It was slow, and at one point I was afraid everyone was going to slow down so much that someone would crash and we'd all go down like dominoes, but once we were over the bridge, people were moving. Rode with Steve from the group for a little bit, until we hit a hill and he lost me. I suck suckity suck at hills, much like running. I know that just means I need to do them more, but I haaaaate them. Anyway, I was riding right behind others in the group until they, too, got ahead of me on a hill. Actually, for a while I felt like EVERYONE was passing me and that I should change my name to "on your left". It was a bit discouraging, but I was happy with my speed FOR ME, I wanted to make sure my pace was super comfortable, and I reminded myself that it was probably the pack evening out. Some people looked like they were trying to be Lance Armstrong, for sure.

Then I was alone for a while. There were people behind me, there were people ahead of me, and there was me and a lot of open space. I got a bit bored. Plus, I had no protection from the wind. When I found myself starving for human companionship, I managed to match pace with a guy who had done a few bike endurance events. That made me happy. We talked for a bit, but he decided to pull off at a rest stop, and I was feeling good enough that I didn't want to stop.

I had told myself that I could turn around at the 21 mile stop if I really felt like I couldn't make it 62 miles, but I felt great. I even felt like I could go more than 62. And then.....mile 25. A steep effing hill. I tackled the hill at a whopping 6 mph. Thank God that I had done some hill practice, on a bigger hill, because remembering that chased all the "I can't do it" thoughts away. For the next 5 miles, the hills were bigger, kind of rolling but it felt like a net uphill. That's all right, I figured, 'cuz it'll be downhill on the way back. Mile 31 was pretty much all downhill, but not steep. It was kind of deceptive; I almost didn't realize we were going downhill until I saw people struggling a bit coming back.

Stopped at the turnaround and decided to take my time there. I had done 31.4 miles in 2:02, and I was pretty happy with that. I topped off the gatorade (mixing fruit punch with lemonade; pretty good actually) and ate a slice of bread with peanut butter, half a banana, and animal crackers (!!!) I was ridiculously excited that they had animal crackers. I mentioned my theory, that after that first mile back it would be a net downhill, and someone told me that it was actually deceptively rolling. Gulp. When I felt good and ready, I got back on the bike. Oh man. It was so hard to get used to riding again, especially when that first mile was uphill. But after was still a lot of uphill. There were some small downhills but it pretty much felt like I kept going uphill over and over. WTF? I felt like I was stuck in the MC Escher painting with the endless staircase, except this was a road that went uphill in all directions. How was that even possible????

Stop the madness!!
Finally, I hit the mile 25 hill again, which turned into a wickedly fun downhill. My eyes were stinging and I wondered why, until I realized that I had taken my sunglasses off at the turnaround and they were still hanging off my shirt. Post-hill, though, I was pretty worn out. I realized that there was a pretty decent headwind that didn't help matters at all. I was all by my lonesome again. I was tired. I wasn't having fun. I didn't need any food or hydration, but I pulled off at the next rest stop just to regroup and to see some other human beings. I idled there for a few minutes, sipping a little water. I heard other people talk about struggling and I felt a little better. Back on the road. I entertained the thought of pulling off the side of the road and lying down in the grass. I probably wouldn't have the energy to unclip, so I'd just plop over with the bike on top of me and take a little nap there. I came up with a new mantra: "Just effing pedal!" I repeated it over and over. There was a large truck behind me on an uphill, and I thought to myself, "Sorry man, I can't go any faster" and hoped it wouldn't run me over. A pickup truck passed and I thought pretty seriously about grabbing on to the back end. I tried to distract myself. Counting miles was painfully slow, so I started singing. One somewhat-little-known fact about me is that I looove singing. It's stress relieving. For whatever reason, Whitney Houston popped into my head. So I was chugging along, singing just loud enough that only I could hear it. "And Iiiii (pant) eee-iiii (pant) will always love yoooo (pant) ooooou..." An older guy passed me with a cheesy grin and said, "Looks like we've got a little wind, huh??" He looked so insanely happy that I cracked up. I also saw a guy wearing normal athletic shorts. OUCH. My butt was killing me in padded bike shorts. I couldn't imagine the world of pain he was in.

Mile 50. Another rest stop and I was craving animal crackers. I had killed off the rest of the gatorade, and after 32 oz, I was sick of it, so I filled up with water. They had vanilla gel, too, so I had one to compliment the animal crackers. I tried to stretch a bit, but my hips and glutes and quads were pretty much stuck right where they were. I asked a volunteer if they had a taxi service and he said, "Only if you're unconscious!" Back on the trail, I heard a "There you are! We wondered what happened to you!" It was two older gentlemen that I'd been chatting with pre-race. I think they were worried when I told them I'd never ridden even half today's distance. I stuck with them for a while and we chatted. I felt infinitely better. I considered breaking off because I felt like I could go faster, but I decided the comeraderie was helping. Plus, there were more cars passing now, so it was hard to pass anyone else. At times, we just had to ride in one straight line.

They stopped eventually and pulled over to stretch, so I kept going. I felt good and sped up, but a couple of miles later, I was back to "just freaking finish this thing" mode. More singing. I saw the marina 4 miles from the finish and my mantra changed. "I'm gonna make it! I'm gonna make it!" the voice in my head kept singing. Started meeting up with some of the riders from the shorter rides. I don't want to be a bike snob....but there was an obvious disconnect between the 63 milers and the 8 milers. Cotton t-shirts, tennis shoes, and weaving all over the road while chatting were pretty common themes. I passed quite a few people. Got into Bellevue; got annoyed with some of the aforementioned people completely disregarding traffic rules and lights. The couple in front of me ran a red light as a car was about to turn into the intersection. No wonder drivers get frustrated with cyclists. Arrgh!

I've never been happier to see Newport and the bridge. Kept riding to my car, dismantled my bike and put it in my backseat (I have mastered the art of putting a bicycle in a subcompact car, although my seat is covered in grease), thought about hitting up the afterparty but decided I was done standing or walking for a long time.

At home, I took my first ever ice bath. I used to think the ice bath devotees were crazy. To me, a bath/shower isn't hot enough unless my skin is neon pink when I get out, even during the summer, even after exercising. I didn't think I could even tolerate an ice bath, but I felt SO MUCH BETTER afterwards and I wasn't sore at all the next day. I was exhausted, but not stiff or sore. I will make this a regular thing, even though my husband raised his eyebrows at the sight of me, in shorts and a hoodie, sitting in ice water. Nothing much surprises him anymore, though.

Oh yeah, my ride back was 2:24, for a total of 63 point something miles in 4:26. I would've liked to average 15 mph for the whole thing, but I'm thrilled that I did it and finished it!

Random things I learned from this experience:
  • I'm getting better at drinking while riding
  • Proper snot rocket form is an art
  • The human body can create seemingly impossible amounts of mucus
  • Sneezing while riding uphill and breathing heavily is scary
  • Cyclists are pretty nice people
  • I can do anything I decide I want to do!
Oh yeah - no more falling. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Warrior Dash recap

OK, now that I'm in a slightly better mood, having vented a little, I will tell everyone about Warrior Dash. It was fun, although a lot of people are like, "OMG THAT WAS SOOOOO AWESOME!!!" about it. Yes, it was awesome and fun, although I found it super frustrating at the same time!! I think going in knowing what to expect would've helped quite a bit. For whatever dumb reason, I was picturing your typical 5k course, with Double Dare-esque obstacles interspersed.

HOLY CRAP, I could not have been more wrong!

Big Daddy Diesel has a really good race report that showcases his experience and explains some of the obstacles more. I also think it's amusing how different parts of the race were for me, due to some different factors:

I hear the trail got more muddy and slippery as the race went on. By 3:00 on Sunday, when we went, the hills were a big muddy mess. Oh yes, the HILLS. They were insane. They make the entire Flying Pig Marathon look pancake flat. The first one was .3 miles long, and STEEP. I ran for a minute and decided to walk that hill. Someone yelled out that all we needed to do was get to the top and it was alllll downhill from there. They were SO wrong. There were tons more uphills, and steep downhills.

And like I said, they were MUDDY. I could barely make it down the first one before I decided to slide down on my butt. This turned out to be my strategy for most of them, and I passed a lot of people that way! However, when I was inching down the hill before adopting that strategy, the husband passed me. I waited a few minutes at the bottom, thinking he was behind me. After a while, I realized he must have either gotten ahead of me or passed out at the top.

For me, most of the trails weren't runnable at all. They were either too steep or too slippery. On one hill, I was pretty much on my knees/butt/face and sliding backwards with every other step, until a nice guy named Chris grabbed my hand and dragged me up the hill. (Wearing old running shoes was definitely a good idea, as they were pretty much ruined, but the downside is that they had very little tread left!)

I was proud of my endurance, though, in that most of the time, when I was able to run, I ran. I passed a lot of very tired looking walkers.

The obstacles....well, let's see. First were some hanging tire swings. They weren't hard, but I was worried about one of them slamming into my owie finger, so I ran with my finger held high above my head, shoving tires away with my other hand.

I saw the sign for the next obstacle before I saw it. The sign said: "Caution: real barbed wire." WTF?? Then I saw walls to scramble under and over. The first one was up to my chest. Arrrgh - I'm kinda short-legged and I don't climb - ever! I surprised myself by scrambling over the walls just fine. The unders weren't bad either, but I did feel some barbed wire scrape across my butt on the way out.

Then we had to get into a small pond and scramble over floating logs. First of all, the water felt awesome. It was soooo hot that day. However, I must dispute BDD's account that the water was "chest deep". In the middle, I couldn't touch the bottom. That freaked me out a little because swimming in water-filled running shoes is HARD. And I was already tired. For a split second I could picture my shoes dragging me down to my death, and I nearly ripped them off, but I realized I could keep moving forward, albeit slowly!

And then the fun of running in water-filled shoes and waterlogged clothes! Oh, and I had cleverly saran wrapped my splint so as not to get it soaked and disgustingly muddy. Great idea in theory, but the saran wrap trapped about a gallon of water, so my left hand weighed a ton!

There was a water stop right after that. I stopped moving to catch my breath and gulp down some water. Most of it missed my mouth.

Next obstacle: stepping through tires and over old cars. Fun. Goofy. Saw a guy trying to slide across a hood like the Dukes of Hazzard or something.

Next one: a tunnel crawl. The look of this one made me a little claustrophobic, but it wasn't bad when I got in it. It was rocky, though. The girls ahead of me tried rolling through, and all I could think was OW!! I had just enough room in there to get up on my feet and do a kind of ducked-down spider crawl, thus avoiding the rocks and allowing me to move pretty quickly. (Here is where the short legs came in really handy!)

Next, horizontal bungee cords to maneuver through. Again, short legs FTW. I laughed at people getting tangled up in them as I was able to easily duck under most of them. That and the tunnel crawl gave me a pang of sympathy for my 6'1" husband!

Cargo net was next. I was a little wary of this, with my gimpy hand and all, but it wasn't a problem. Here is also where I caught up with my husband, but he was faster on this one than I was. I took it slowly. The top was scary - glad I wasn't the only one who thought so, BDD! - but I managed to get down all right.

Right after the cargo net was a series of balance beams. I challenged my inner 6-year-old who used to love this stuff on the playground, and made it through pretty quickly.

Then we trudged through some knee-deep water. which again felt pretty good in the heat. I wanted to run but found it just deep enough that walking was faster.

Run a little more, and then....a climbing wall. I had been dreading this one anyway. Upper body strength is NOT my thing, which is why I generally refrain from climbing things. People were waiting for ropes to be available, and when it was my turn, I realized I couldn't get a good grip in my left hand. I wasn't about to fall on my head trying, so I asked a course monitor if I could skip it, holding up my funky saran-wrap covered splinted hand, and he waved me on.

Next, fire to jump through! They took a picture at this point. I'm sure I look terrified. :) I screamed like a girl - couldn't help it!

And finally, the mud pit. I was soooo tired by this point, and the mud pit was full of rocks, but it was so ridiculous crawling through mud that I had to laugh.

Husband finished in 50 minutes and change. I finished a minute later. Due to the ridiculousness of it all, I'll take it!! It was craziness and a challenge I was soooo not anticipating, but definitely worth trying!!

Oh, and I swore more in that hour than I probably have all year!!! Pretty much every time I fell, or couldn't move without sliding backwards (and that happened a lot) or was on top of something higher than the ground. My knees are covered in scratches and bruises. Well worth the swearing and owies, though!

Finally, here's the huz and I, in all our disgusting, muddy and proud glory:

some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant

I figured last week's burst of energy wouldn't last.

I'll be honest - I'm fighting a pretty major case of the suck this week. I've got a few life in general things stressing me out, and last week I upped the exercise, probably in part because I was running/biking away from them. This week, I don't have the energy to do it quite as much as I did last week. My anxiety level is up (anxiety fuels my exercise more than you even know), but physically, my body doesn't quite want to match the craziness in my head.

Probably part of the problem is that I know I'm not sleeping as well this week. It's a little difficult when your finger hurts and you keep smacking yourself with a freaking huge, annoying splint. That will hopefully change tonight, since the doctor hooked me up with a much smaller, less cumbersome, less painful splint. The verdict is three weeks in that, go back and see him again. Oh, and no damage at all beyond the dislocation, and everything's back in its rightful place now. That means (a) no surgery, and (b) it'll heal completely in a relatively short time. I just have to keep it protected from being bumped around in the meantime.

This also means I can swim. I tried taping my fingers for my swim Monday and couldn't find anything in my athletic tape arsenal that wouldn't disintegrate in the water. So I tried swimming without tape or the old splint (which could soak up, like, 10 lbs of water, as I found out during Warrior Dash), and it wasn't painful, but my finger was flopping back and forth. It felt too weird, so I cut my swim short. But I can swim in the new splint.

Anyway, I also read once that your body is more physically tired when it's trying to mend an injury. I suppose that's sucking some life out of me at the moment too, although it feels ridiculous claiming I'm running slower because I hurt my finger. Ha.

It's also SO FREAKING HOT AND HUMID. Ugh. I wanted to run at a 9 something pace this morning but I felt like I was running in an oven, even at 7 AM. I know humidity makes a person run slower. It still sucks.

Finally, I'm mildly afraid of the bike. I haven't been back on it since, although I'm considering riding with the group tomorrow. I just know I'm going to be more paranoid about falling, and I feel really dumb about falling for no reason Saturday.

Hopefully this funk won't last. I'm going to keep pushing on regardless, but I'm willing to cut myself a little slack and not be a maniac right now. The mental ickiness sucks, but it never lasts forever, and given recent events (some blogged about, some not), it's probably pretty much normal and to be expected. Gotta love the hard parts.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

eff up my finger. i do that.

I was also planning to post a pic of myself in the new shirt I bought as a congrats to myself after completing tri for joe. It just arrived yesterday. Oh, the irony!!

why you should always carry your phone while biking

So today, I met up with Pete the bike coach for another ride, during which he took me up that freaking hill again! I was still super sore from earlier in the week and I didn't think I'd make it up that hill, but I did. When I told him I didn't think I had it in me, he said, "You always do." Good mantra right there. We went back to the end of the bike trail, but I decided I wanted to do 30-40 miles today and I was almost to 20. So he left and I took back off down the trail.

I then decided to get off the trail about 5 miles up and take a different route home. The problem is that I've never exited the trail at that spot and couldn't figure out where the route out of the parking lot was. I saw it and realized it was a pretty steep downhill and I wasn't sure if I could navigate it without inadvertently flying out into traffic. (as it turns out, it doesn't go right into traffic, but I couldn't tell from my angle.) As I was coasting into the parking lot and entertaining these thoughts, I lost too much momentum, and, still clipped to my bike, I fell over. I caught myself with my left hand and stood right back up. I thought I was fine, then I looked down and saw this:

Called my husband, told him to come pick me up with a bag of ice, flip flops, and my insurance card. It was surprisingly nearly painless. It's very surreal and WTF inducing - looking down and your finger looks like THAT, but you hardly feel anything!! The people who passed me on the trail while I waited for my husband were smiling and waving, and I smiled and waved back - I'm sure they thought I was just chilling there!!

So we went to the ER, where I found out it was dislocated (I was SURE I broke it). The doc shot it up with something to numb it, put it back into place and happily, my rings came off with some ky jelly, rather than having to be cut. They're worried I may have torn the tendon, so I have to see a specialist for that, back at the same office with my leg doc.

The worst part of the ER was that we had ridden through a downpour, so I was soaked and freezing. I hadn't thought to ask the huz to bring me dry clothes, so I sat there wrapped in a blanket and husband's jacket the whole time.

It's splinted and I have a script for some painkillers that I hopefully won't have to take, although they have a decent street value. ;) KIDDING! (Not about the street value, about the implication that I'd do anything with that knowledge!) It hurts a little but not obnoxiously so. The good news is that I'm still allowed to run (duh) and swim and bike!! And I do plan on biking again soon!! And I'm still doing warrior dash tomorrow - if it comes down to it, I may have to skip the wall climb, but I'll do the rest of it!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Updates - all good news!!

*Physical therapist approved my training plan! He said my planned mileage increase is reasonable, and as long as I run every other day, with a two-day break after a long run, I should be fine and continue to heal. Totally fine because of all the cross-training I have planned. I still loooooove me some biking!

*I did a treadmill run the other day and knocked almost a minute off what's been my typical pace recently. The treadmill kind of forced me to step it up a bit, but I had some realizations. Cardio-wise, a 10:00 pace felt really good, pretty much like it used to. My LEGS, however, felt much more tired than they used to at that pace. I could totally make them keep going because I knew I was breathing ok, I imagine my heart rate was fine, and I knew I wasn't really going to die. And THAT must be what's been my problem lately - my running muscles have to get re-used to what it feels like to be used, but I don't think my endurance has gone too far after all. That and just the mental aspect of getting my brain re-used to what it feels like to run. There was a little bit of injury site pain afterward that went away with some TLC. Absolutely nothing to worry about.

*After I realized that I could legitimately stop telling myself that I've lost endurance and become super slow, I did the first long run of my new training plan - a 5-miler. (Told ya I'd have to take this process slowly, but I'm getting there!) I did it at an average sub-10 pace - pretty darn close to where I was pre-injury - and without the treadmill forcing me to speed up. (I've been doing 3 miles at 10:30-10:40 lately!) Even when I thought I had slowed down, I'd look at the Garmin and see 9:30. I saw the number 8 a few times too, and it never felt bad. It felt great! I had even done circuit training class (yay squats and lunges) AND biked 22 miles the day before. My butt and thighs were way sore. I did end up stopping about 2/3 of the way into my run to stretch, and every leg muscle felt as stiff as a board. Despite that, though, it was a great run.

*I think the tri injected me with some confidence and some increased mental fitness. I've been a workout fiend lately, and like I mentioned, my running improved practically overnight. Got my eye on a few more triathlons. Excited about being more balanced athletically and breaking up the routine so much.