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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Aquabike for Joe - race recap!

Yeah, yeah, it's Tri for Joe. I did a bit of running Monday - 1:1 and 2:2 walk/jogging. Well, I pushed it a little hard during the jog, up to 10k pace at one point. The result was that I was kind of owie all week. Not back to limping, not at all, but the leg hurt more than I'd like. At this point I'm hoping it's just normal twinges, and the hypersensitivity to anything weird that goes along with injury recovery, but I haven't seen the doctor yet. I was already signed up for Tri for Joe, and I could've survived the 5k by walk/jogging or even walking, but I know me. NOT run when I physically can (as opposed to when the injury absolutely would not permit it) and NOT push myself during a race?

I was gonna end up refracturing the stupid thing, let's face it. So for once in my triathlon career, I made a very good, wise, mature decision. I switched to the aquabike category.

It was not an easy decision. I got to the point where I almost felt good about it, and then I nearly cried when I tried to spit out said decision at packet pickup the day before. It did not help that the woman at packet pickup didn't even know what an aqua bike was, and then the guy there said I didn't get to cross the finish line, I would just run my bike into t2 and.....find someone to hand my timing chip to. Way anticlimactic. Way to make a hardworking injured triathlete feel special.

But I was happy I did it. It was good swim training, good bike training, and I set goals for myself and met them. I wanted to improve from last year, and I did. I felt like I had the energy to run a 5k race, and run it well, after I was done, which bodes incredibly well for future triathlons and is a testament to the endurance I'm gaining. (As opposed to last year, when I was thinking, holy CRAP I have to RUN now??) I got to race with a few friends, I got to use the new trisuit in a race, I really can't say anything bad about the race except that I didn't get to run it. I won't pretend that doesn't suck, but I won't pretend that being an aquabiker for the day wasn't pretty freaking fun.


The Swim

The pool wasn't freezing like last year, thanks to the warm weather, and I was more used to swimming outside, swimming in water that's a hair colder than most gyms, and swimming around other people, thanks to Masters. Those things definitely helped. I did fight the initial adrenaline rush/panic that makes it really hard for me to breathe, but now I've gotten used to it and I know what it is and once I forced myself to start swimming, I got over it pretty quickly. I swam the whole thing freestyle (as opposed to the doggie paddling I did last year!) I know my form wasn't as good as it could be. I tried to remember proper form stuff but let's be honest, my brain was a bit of a mess. The bilateral breathing I've gotten used to went out the window, but it worked out because I prefer my left side, which, due to the course layout, was usually the side without another person in my way. What got screwed up was that I kept taking the looooong way.

All those diagonals?? I didn't follow them very well. I kept finding myself way to the outside. I don't think it was a sighting issue (although when I start practicing open water swimming again I'll see how that goes); it's more like I just kept getting disoriented. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see which way I needed to be heading and I never figured it out until I realized there was nobody around me. Going around the buoys was super congested and I was always to the outside of the crowd swimming around them. At one point (going around the red buoy on the lower right hand corner) I was swimming next to Splashy McSmackthewater and couldn't get a breath due to the mass quantities of water going into my face. At that point, I switched to a breast/doggie hybrid (since I can't do a good breast stroke) so that I could see better to maneuver around the people.

So yeah, course following could've been better, but I kept a good head on my shoulders and didn't panic during the swim. That was the plan. I also kept with all the people I entered the water with, so I knew I wasn't the worst one out there!

Had to walk in the shallow end. Walking in that water was HARD WORK. Got to do my bit of running by running to transition. Lots of people at that point were walking to transition. I ran.

Swim time: 16:52. 3:20 faster than last year.


Not much to say here. I did save a second or two by riding sockless. I had tested it the other day and it worked well, although the other day I didn't have gravel stuck to my feet like at tfj. However, once the shoes were on I didn't notice it. I sucked down a gel but lost a little time because I couldn't coordinate my breathing and swallowing. Arrgh.

The Bike

Started out a bit off here. The tiny little bit of an incline required me to actually shift to adjust to it, which has never happened before (and I've ridden that road quite a bit.) My legs felt dead, I felt tired, and I had an oh crap moment. I saw two people ahead of me and knew I could pass them, and I did. Then I got passed by a really fast guy who was on his aerobars. Aerobars!!! I've been slowly getting used to mine and decided to try them. That was about a mile in, and pretty soon, that post-swim suck started to fade. I got my breathing and my legs back and took off. I had my garmin strapped to my bike, but it twisted so that I couldn't see my stats. That wasn't a problem, I just settled into a comfortably hard pace, passed people back and forth, and enjoyed the ride. I know the landmarks pretty well by now and I was surprised at how FAST I seemed to be getting from one point to another. I was in aero almost the whole ride and it felt great!!! I did get out of the position on the hills, turnarounds and one really bumpy stretch, but I felt like a badass on my bars for the rest of it. TFJ has great volunteers, too - they were ALL cheering. I thanked some of them when I could catch my breath.

I was still feeling a little tired - not used to the swim before biking - and I was worried about the one hill on the course. It kicked my butt last year. It doesn't kick my butt anymore, but I thought maybe part of the butt-kicking was due to swimming beforehand. Nope. The hill felt like no more than a speed bump. I even cheered a guy on as I passed him while he was struggling.

I felt like I could've biked like that all day. I felt like I totally could've run a 5k afterward, and I'm glad I didn't bring my running shoes with me. (I almost had, just in case!) I seriously considered doing the run barefoot, but I held myself back. NOT worth jeopardizing higher priority races for a sprint tri.

Bike time: 38:38. 4:57 faster than last year.

Total time: 57:02.

My goal, pre-injury, had been to do TFJ in less than 1:30. When I changed things up, I hoped to do the whole thing in less than an hour and the bike in less than 40 minutes. Obviously, I nailed both goals. And the improvement from last year is fantastic - not just in the timing, but how I felt. None of it was a struggle. It was a challenge, but I never struggled. I had fun the whole time.

I'm looking onward to other things. Given the rest of my training, I'm feeling pretty decent about doing a 70.3 now....and training further to go after that 140.6. With my recent mindset shift, I've come to realize that I still AM run training, in a way - improving my efficiency and comfort with the swim and bike will set me up to have a much better run. As far as the swim and bike goes, I'm pretty confident that I'm exactly where I should be in my training.

I go back to the doc on Thursday to see how the injury is healing. I feel good about it. I notice some improvement since I got the diagnosis - walking, balancing, running (breaking out into impromptu runs without thinking about it, same thing that was happening last year when the stress reaction was over). I feel like I have a lot more strength in that leg. I get NO twinges with swimming or cycling, even if I ride hills and even if I stand up on them.

I really, really want to do Muncie. I know it's not a lot of time to get my run fitness back, but I'll be content with just being allowed to attempt it. Cross those fingers hard for good news from the doc.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

now, and future...

I'm back to running! I did a 5k! Kind of.

I've been coaching a 5k training group called Sit to Fit for about a month and a half now, and today was the 5k everyone has been training for. I've been coaching walkers in the morning group, but a lot of them didn't actually participate in the 5k today, so they had enough walking coaches. I'm getting to the point where I've done a little bit of trial running (not TRAIL as in dirt, but TRIAL as in, hmm, can I run yet?) and I was feeling awesome awesome awesome this morning. And, for the first time, I did the hop test and I could hop on the bad leg. So I volunteered to coach run/walkers and ended up one on one with a girl from the group who was doing her first 5k.

We completed the 5k in about 40 minutes, doing a 1:1 walk/run ratio. It felt great...for two miles. It hurt for the last mile. The last mile was downhill. I remembered too late that when I was coming back from a stress reaction last year, I was put on restriction from running on hills and, oops, that was a really hilly course.

My leg is complaining now, but I don't think it's anything horrible. Husband even said I'm still walking better in the aftermath than I have been in a while. For a while, though, I think I need to stick to finding flat places to train. I don't have any really hilly races on the horizon, so it's probably safer to run on flatlands and try to stay uninjured until the ironman. What sucks about that is my neighborhood is a mess of hills with nary a flat spot to be found, unless I want to run .1 mile loops around the cul-de-sac. Time to venture out.

Next week is Tri for Joe. I'm going to try a little more running this week and see if I would be up to attempting a (flat) 5k. I know I'm going to want to beat my time from last year and I KNOW that if I do the run part of the tri, I'm going to be very tempted to push it, which will be different from today. So I'm seriously considering downgrading to aquabike. Luckily, that can be a last-minute decision. And luckily, the TFJ course is flat IF I run it. If.

But I've signed up for a couple of things and I think I have some cool stuff on the horizon to look forward to. Here are my current plans:

June 10 - Ride Cincinnati (metric century that I did last year)
June 30 - Hyde Park Blast 4 miler (maybe signing up, husband is doing this)
July 7 - Muncie 70.3 (Not signing up just yet but I hope beyond hope that I'll be back to being unbroken and able to run 13.1!!)
July 21 - Color Me Rad 5k!! So stoked about doing a color run and I have some friends to run it with! The Great Ohio River Swim is also this day. I may do it just for the heck of it.
August 11 - My birthday AND the Newtown 5k (that I run every year) AND Mudathlon!! I'm trying to get a crazy Mudathlon team together!
August 19 - Little Miami Half
September 10 - Umm, hello? IRONMAN TIME!!
September 16 - Air Force Full Marathon. I'm officially signed up, because I lost my freaking mind.

Oh, and there's other stuff. I'd love to sneak in another short distance tri, one that I could do uninjured. I'd love to do another fall standalone marathon but I really really need to see how I'm feeling.

I'd love to do lots of stuff. If only my body didn't put such limits on it. :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

brain emptying

Brace yourselves, I have so much going on in my brain today that this may be a very, very long entry.

The diagnosis

First things first. I followed up with a doctor, who listened to my encyclopedia of symptoms, examined my xray, and was able to give me my first definitive answer in almost 6 weeks.

I have been hobbling around due to the f-word. Not THAT f-word, the nastier one - FRACTURE. On the tibia, right under the kneecap. Crack.

However, there is good news. First of all, it makes sense. The diagnosis came with a bit of relief (ok, not gonna lie, AFTER I bawled my eyes out) because I knew this had gone on too long, with too little relief even though I'd done everything in theory that should relieve a calf strain. I'll be 100% honest here, I have suspected a stress fracture for a while now. I put it out of my head at first because according to my research, a fracture that high up seemed to be pretty rare. The spot that hurt (the one spot where I had a pinpoint pain) was the same exact spot that hurts due to patellar tendonitis. Therefore, I chalked it up to PT, even though my wonderful knee strap not only did NOT alleviate it, it made it hurt worse. (Well, no wonder. I was putting a tight strap right over a fracture. Ow ow ow.)

I did put the thought out of my head, because the onset certainly didn't point to fracture, but over the last few weeks, the recovery has been eerily reminiscent of the stress reaction a year ago. No pain, but the same weakness, the same fatigue, the same general "wtf, my leg doesn't work" feeling, and oh yeah, I couldn't hop on it. So yeah, I can't say I'm surprised.

The optimism

The good news is that I feel pretty hopeful that it'll be better soon. I'm already walking much, much, much better. No limp. I catch myself unintentionally speed-walking and jumping around a little. It doesn't hurt during, or after, walking around for a while (or doing yardwork, which I've been doing alllll week.) NO issues with any activities other than running. I have a feeling - and it's rooted in experience - that I can try some running soon. I want to see how the 5k group goes on Monday, and then I'll be able to gauge my recovery a little better.

Yeah, I'm still coaching. I moved from coaching run/walkers to coaching walkers, and the walkers are an, errr, older crowd than myself! For a while I could barely even keep up with them. We walk on some HILLS. However, the doctor said that I can continue to walk with them. I think it's even been helping my recovery in some strange way.

The biomechanics

After talking to a physical therapist, and the trainer/massage/ART guy who's been working knot after knot out of my leg muscles, I've come to the conclusion that I really, really need to fix my lower half. Since I was a kid, I've been knock-kneed and pigeon-toed and have weak arches. Orthotics can keep my arches in the right place, but they can't do anything about the fact that my entire lower leg up to my hip rotates inward. It's gotten better in adulthood - as a kid I would literally trip over my own feet at times - but it's still there. I can turn my feet inward so they almost face behind me (was one of my favorite "gross everyone out" tricks in high school), and I can barely turn them out at all. It's obviously not good at all for everything below my knee. As for the arches, I want to strengthen them rather than relying on orthotics.

It's going to take some time but I'm amassing a variety of exercises - core exercises, hip flexor exercises, glute exercises, resistance band exercises, foot exercises - that I hope will strengthen everything that keeps normal people's legs and feet pointed forward. I have a goal to do at least something every day to address my crazy legs. I'm starting to self-correct when I walk, when I stand, when I do yoga, when I sit. 30 years of default posturing that I can hopefully undo.

I will take any tips and tricks that ya'll have got. This is GOING to go away, and with it, my insane injury prone-ness.

The mindset

The other thing I'm working on is that, in the wake of this injury, my mental well-being collapsed faster than my arches. I won't lie. I've battled depression and anxiety in my life and they came back with a vengeance when I stopped running. Trouble sleeping, headaches, craptastic eating habits, irritability, went through the motions of doing my job and got insanely far behind on everything and I didn't care. I could cry or get insanely pissed off at little things. I KNEW that if I could go that crazy because I couldn't run, that meant that running had taken on way too big of a role in my life, but I didn't know how to fix it. Heck, the only thing that would clear my head enough to allow me to reprioritize would've been a good run.

I'm fixing it. Aforementioned massage guy, who works with lots and lots of crazy runners, said something to me the other day that pretty much smacked me in the head. He said (and I can't remember, so I'll paraphrase) that I need to start running as just one thing that I do, not because I'm a runner, but because I'm a healthy person who likes exercise and values being fit. It may be my favorite, but it's not the only thing in my life and it will no longer be the thread that holds my sanity together. He's right. I don't know how it got to that point - holy crap, probably millions of times I've thought back to when I intensely hated the very idea of running, and wondered how the heck I could evolve into a creature so dependent on it. But that's done. Running is a part of the whole picture. Running is something I enjoy. And it's turned into this ugly monster that is fueled by numbers and desperate fights for PR's and training plans. Not that any of those things are bad - they're great in their place. But for me and my brain, running has become much more of a big deal than it should be. It's turned into an obsession that didn't feel unhealthy at all until it was gone and I probably would've sold my soul to the devil for a good 15-miler.

So I've made a conscious mindset shift, and it's going well. I'm no longer obsessing about following the IM training plan. Of course I'm still working out and (at least the swimming and biking) as if it's my goal, and using the training plan as a guide, but it's become a more fun, less obsessive and desperate, more logical pursuit. My goal is no longer "complete 140.6 in the best shape and best time possible", it's "I will work on becoming stronger, more fit and healthy, and in four months, I will be fit and healthy enough to complete a 140.6 mile triathlon." And I'm feeling much better about everything, even not running. I still love biking. I don't love swimming yet, but I like the master swim group so I'll keep going. Every workout is making me a healthier person, and THAT is a goal that makes me happier than trying to be faster and able to cover a certain distance. And some days NOT working out and NOT running and NOT following the training plan will make me healthier in some way, and I'll do that too. Health is not just physical, peeps.

Not to mention, a big part of the reason I do all this craziness is because I know that exercise is GOOD for my mental health. I'm going to keep it in the place in my life where it stays that way.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pig Recap - the nutshell version

My Pig decision ended up being to walk the half marathon. I got a new friend out of the deal, and as we were both injured, it ended up being a fairly therapeutic experience. It was mentally harder to walk that half than to run a marathon, for sure. I have a new respect for those who walk distance races. It's easy to take walking for granted when you're a runner, but that was SO not easy, and I don't think it would've been too much easier even with no injury. My feet!! OMG, my poor feet!! Feet hurt WAY worse when you walk on them - I guess more steps and more time on them really do make a difference.

I did get them a nice pedicure yesterday (one of the few girly things that I will indulge in) and I think they forgave me.

Sexy feets!! (I need a tan!)
 Check out that scrape on my right foot. That's my first swimming injury, folks. The pool where I swim for Masters is made out of that bumpy concrete (the kind that tears up your swimsuit when you sit on it) and I scraped my foot on the wall trying to circle swim. Ouch.

Oh! Masters swim is going great. I'm going to use that to replace my boring solo workouts for a while. It's SO MUCH BETTER. I'm one of the slow kids in that group but I'm catching up. Plus I get to swim OUTSIDE!! Wheeeee!!!!

AD/HD moment. Back to the Pig. I was going to mention, I don't think I made anything worse, injury-wise. I wondered for a moment after a big hill - I was HURTING - but after a couple of miles of relative flatness, my leg felt fine. It still feels ok. My glutes were pretty sore from the walking (again, newfound respect for walkers!) and my calf tightened up a bit, but it's not painful. I almost tried running yesterday but I think it still would've been hobbly. I have PT this morning and I'm not leaving without some answers. I haven't been in much actual pain for a couple of weeks, but my leg is stiff and weak enough that running is still not possible.

I have not run since March 31. Arrrrrgh!

But, back to the positives. There were some unique things I got to do Sunday that I never have done, and may never do again, during a race:

-Ate Oreos and a slim jim. (I can't imagine being able to stomach that while running!)
-Booty danced with a random volunteer at a water stop. (With a gimpy leg, combined with the fact that I can't dance anyway!)
-Crossed the finish line with a beer in my hand.

I will say more about that later. I may even post pics. There are no booty dancing pics. This is probably a good thing. I have seen a few of the official race pics and there's enough blackmail material there.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I gotta be honest....

....I can't wait until the Pig is over. My current plan (that changes by the minute) is to walk the Pig half, but it's not the same. Better than being totally sidelined, but I'm finding that I really can't get too excited about it. All the excitement in the air is killing me a little. Time to hide from the running world for a bit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An update

Wow....I didn't realize people actually read this blog, but I got a comment on my last entry, so at least one person reads this and wanted an update. :) So here ya go!

I haven't updated this lately because I haven't had a lot to say. I haven't been doing a lot. I've been Grumpy McIrritablepants. I still can't run. I attempted over the weekend and it was a pretty ridiculous effort - four very hobby quarter mile repeats at a slow slow pace. I've been trying to cross train but I've been slacking a bit on that, too. For a couple of weeks, my knee hurt to do ANYTHING - cycle, swim, anything but, oddly enough, the stairmaster. Umm, that thing kicks my butt.

Ultrasound, electro-stim, and ART treatments have pretty much taken care of the knee problem. In its wake, the calf is still mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. I went to the ortho yesterday because, man, it's been over 4 weeks. I was starting to worry that it was more serious than I thought. The good news is that it's not. It's still a calf strain, but a pretty hardcore one, and it's right at the top of the muscle where it meets the knee, so it's in a crappy place. It's healing much, much differently than the last one did. Basically, according to the doc, it's got my whole leg shut down so it can protect itself and heal. The result isn't so much pain as it is weakness. My leg feels so weak and unstable. I've tested it on weight machines at the gym - my left leg currently has half as much strength as my right. It doesn't HURT, it's more like things just don't compute, if that makes sense.

It does seem to be healing, but so so so slowly. I can walk a lot more than I did, and I can swim and do easy cycling. I still walk a little like Bambi on ice at times. As for the Pig, I do have the doc's permission to ambulate through it however I choose without making things too much worse. I still don't know what I'm going to do, and I probably won't decide until the absolute last minute. I'm very, very bummed about it, but a spirit of acceptance is starting to take over, and I suppose it will be in full force after the race is over and Pig-mania leaves Cincy. What's helping is knowing that this is the year of the Ironman. It doesn't sting as much as last year when I had to put off my first ever marathon. I have an even bigger goal that I'm looking at - two, really, if you count the half IM in July. And the heart half marathon was not only a 9 minute PR, but hands down the most solid race I've ever done, EVER. I still have that. That's my spring 2012 victory.

I'm trying to motivate myself out of the funk I've been in. When this injury kicked in, I slid waaay down. I'm going back to eating healthier again, and eating regularly (when I'm in a funk, I have a tendency to barely eat, and then when I do it's crap) training regularly (even if it's not running, I'm going to try to get back to the number of hours I was doing IM training and sub something else for the running), and I'm joining a Masters swim group THIS WEEK. I've been so bored with swimming lately and I can't tell if it's genuine or just a product of the grey "no running" cloud hanging over my head. Regardless, I think I've gotten as much as I can get out of swimming solo and now it's time for a coach, and other people, to kick my butt in the pool.

I'm never as happy when I'm not running as I am when I'm running - and not necessarily while I'm actually running, but when I have running in my life, it affects my brain so so so much. Remember, I was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds before I discovered running. I can slip back into that so easily (which is why I've now seen SIX health professionals for one injury - obsessive much?) and I need to regain control again. I have next week off from work - it was going to be my Pig recovery week, but it's also my week to tackle a growing list of house projects.  It will also be a chance to refocus my training and clear my head. Meanwhile, I have been so inefficient and fuzzy-headed that I am insanely far behind on work paperwork and trying to catch up by the end of this week. This Friday, I will be locking myself in my office until that's done!!

My husband should be a candidate for sainthood after everything I've put him through this past month. If he thought my hours and hours of training were bad, it's nothing compared to dealing with being around me when I'm NOT training. I have been a HOT MESS.

But I'm gonna reclaim my sanity. Then I'm gonna reclaim my calf muscle and then I'm gonna reclaim my running and then I'm gonna CLAIM my 70.3 and my 140.6. I promise.