Saturday, May 28, 2011

Recovery Ride

The nasty allergies turned into bronchitis, sidelining me for most of the week following the Lake Carlyle triathlon. I stayed home on Monday, made a brave attempt to gut out a full day on Tuesday, made it half a day Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were very long days at the office, full of coughing and repeated dosing with Robitussin.

The worst part of being sick, as everyone knows, is missing the workouts. I envisioned the ailment stretching into the next week and robbing me of precious training time.
Saturday was supposed to be a 3:30 ride, outside if possible. Weather forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, so Reindeer Mary and I set up a ride for 7:00 a.m. A new girl wanted to join us, she was in my Abes Army group last year and is a great runner. She's giving multisport a shot this coming weekend, having managed to procure a spot in the Tri Shark Classic in Hudson, Illinois.

I rode to the designated meeting place and saw a hybrid camped out, complete with a kickstand. So it was going to be a moderate pace, at least for part of the ride. New Girl also did not have a helmet, which bothered me but I kept my mouth shut. She did just fine and promised to get a helmet.

Had a pretty decent ride and no problem with coughing as long as I kept moving. Zyrtec twice a day and a new inhaler are in my arsenal now.

Reindeer Mary and I parted on Koke Mill and I opted to take a different route home. There was a bit of a southwest wind and I wanted to ride against this, rather than avoid it like I usually do. A little rainstorm opened up about 8 miles from home, it was almost refreshing although the pavement seemed a little slick.

All in all a decent recovery ride. Will try running tomorrow and see how the lungs hold. up.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lake Carlyle - Epic Olympic Fail

I will preface my race report by stating that I have MILD seasonal allergies and a touch of exercise-induced asthma. So mild in fact that I ditched the inhaler a couple of years ago, feeling that the slight improvement in breathing wasn't worth the anxious jittery sensation and high heart rate.

Sometime during the night before the race, I woke feeling like I couldn't catch my breath. It was a scary, suffocating throat-swelled-shut sensation. I got up and paced around the hotel room and guzzled some water. The feeling passed although my throat felt strange and raspy. There was a strong smell of fresh cigarette smoke, perhaps from the room next door.

Crawled back into bed and slept for a couple more hours. At 5:30, my voice was raspy and my throat sore. Chest felt tight. I'm no doctor, but I'll guess that exposure to the smoke triggered some kind of allergic reaction.

Mary and I loaded up and headed to the race site. Weather was good, clear blue skies and warm. It was almost too warm.

Transition spots were assigned by your bib number. Being Number 8, I was in the first row, near the bike out. This meant that once out of the water I would have a longish hike up a hill and then go all the way across the transition area. It also meant I didn't have to worry about counting rows of racks, or losing my bike as I did in Petersburg the month before.
Got set up and went down to the water for a warm up swim. Wearing the full wetsuit in the sun was HOT. We stood in the water and I immediately recognized Derek from the Running Center, who had decided to drive down that morning. Felt pretty calm and composed.

There were three waves and Mary and I were in Wave 3. Watching the two waves before us go off, I started to get nervous. For the most part, however, the swim went very well. I forced myself to hold back and focus on just breathing and not worry about keeping up with anyone. Just took long, easy strokes and moved from buoy to buoy. I caught up with some of the women in my wave who had gone out too fast and even passed a couple of men from the prior wave.

Got pretty tired on the return and took a few breast stroke breaks. Chatted it up with a gal who was not only doing her first Olympic distance, but her first open water swim. Yikes! Kudos to her for bravery!!!
I came out of the water feeling extremely fatigued but pleased that I had met my goal time of 35 minutes for the 1640 yard swim. Walked to the top of the hill peeling off the wetsuit. The warm sun felt good. I jogged across transition and saw Steve and Carol O'Connor cheering me on. This perked me up considerably and I got out on the bike and took off.
This is where things started to go to crap.

I was cruising at 20-22 mph and it was feeling way too easy, which usually means there's a tailwind. At mile 8 I came to the first of a couple of good hills and noticed that my throat felt really dry and scratchy. I was taking water and GU and chewing gym, but by the top of the hill I was even wheezing a little. That is a definite first. I watched my speed drop to 7 mph on the hill and I wondered if maybe I should unclip in anticipation of falling over.

At the turnaround, the headwind blasted me. Nothing pisses me off like a sturdy headwind. After the rainy, cold and windy spring we have had, I am so over the wind. I pedaled grimly back, pissed off about the wind and mad that I couldn't breathe. I was just so pissed off. I had trained really hard for this day and my allergies/asthma were teaming with the wind to screw it all up. Passed a couple of people who were having just as much fun as I was. Comments ranged from "this wind sucks" to "this fucking wind sucks."

It seemed to take an eternity to get back to transition and by then, I was done. Instead of the 1:15 I was hoping for, my time for the 24 mile course was 1:35. 20 minutes is a lot of lost time to make up, especially for someone whose weakest sport is running. My legs felt great, no fatigue at all, and despite the bright sun and temps close to 80, I did not feel overheated.
I just...could not...catch my breath. My throat was closing up and my lungs were burning. It felt like I was breathing through a tiny, tiny straw.

And that is how the entire 6.2 miles went. Pollen and the ammonia smell of fertilizer being sprayed on a farm field nearby only made the sucktastic run suck more. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst run, this was a -2. I crossed the finish line with a 10K time of a blistering 1:29:41. Total time was 3:40

Still, on the upside I had finished my first Olympic distance and by virtue of having a bad day, had set the bar so low that there was nowhere to go but up. I had entered the Athena category, and since there were only three women in this category, I won a great beer glass as a trophy.

Mary had a great race day, coming in just a hair over 3 hours. She is smoking fast!

After the awards ceremony, I drove home alone (Mary's husband and daughter had come down to watch and she rode home with them) and splurged at the drive-through McDonalds in Greenville. A fish sandwich and chocolate shake really hit the spot.

The allergy issue turned into a nasty respiratory infection, so three days later I am coughing up pieces of lung. I did manage to get a new inhaler prescribed, plus now I'm on Zyrtec twice a day. When this crud clears up it will be fun to see if the new meds help.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lake Carlyle Olympic Tri -Gearing Up and Getting There

My first Olympic distance triathlon was Sunday. In a rare moment of lucidity, I realized that I had NO IDEA what people do with spare tires, CO2 cartridges, etc. on these races. All I have ever raced are sprint distances and I figure if I get a flat, I am a DNF since it takes me about a day to change a tire. Normally while out riding I wear a jersey with huge pockets that can carry pretty much everything one would ever need.

But I would be sporting a Tri singlet - not much room there. There are two tiny slit pockets on the side, enough to hold a GU maybe. A bento box would hold important nutritional items like GU, fig newtons and possibly a ham sandwich. I realized that I had no idea what the big kids do with this kind of stuff.

Email advice from Coach Joe was "just use a small seat bag". Well duh...So off to the LBS I went to spend some money. I settled on this great little kit. I love that it is pretty much self contained and compact.

While at the LBS, I bought some new water bottle cages that actually MATCH. I then went over to the Springfield Running Center to pick up some sundries and talked up the race to Derek, co-owner of the store.

Back home, I laid out my practice transition area in the middle of the kitchen. The cats, in true cat fashion, realized that something was up and attempted to block my escape.

Reindeer Mary worked at the Girls on the Run 5K Saturday morning and then came straight over. We loaded up my Escape and hit the road for Carlyle. Weather forecast for race day looked terrible -- wind and thunderstorms. The rain would be ok, I would take that over wind on a bike ride any day.

The drive to Carlyle was uneventful. Getting there is easy. You hop on I-55 and take that south to Raymond, then follow 127 the rest of the way. You pass through a lot of little towns that have been hit hard by the recession.

In Greenville we stopped at McDonalds and got grilled chicken sandwiches. It seemed like one of the healthier options. There are some very cool old mansions in Greenville and the town has a distinctly southern feel to it.

Once through Carlyle, we took Route 50 to Salem, Illinois and passed through more sleepy little towns and rolling pastures. Lake Carlyle is a Corps of Engineers lake that was formed by damming the Kaskaskia River and there has been a LOT of flooding this spring. So much in fact that as recently as a week before the race, there was some question about whether or not this event would actually occur.

I had made reservations at the Comfort Inn in Salem, so we went there first and checked in. It was hard to find a hotel room for the weekend. We learned that there were graduations going on, plus there were two huge weddings, so hotels were at a premium.

Dumped my stuff in the room and although it had a "nonsmoking" sign on the door, I was pretty sure the room had a distinct odor of stale smoke. Being in a hurry, I thought nothing of this.

We got to packet pickup, which was uneventful. They checked licenses and USAT status. Mary had mistakenly grabbed her Blue Cross card rather than driver's license. Fortunately the good people at pickup accepted this as a form of identification. We were handed shirts, race bibs and bright yellow swim caps.

We Meet Some BT Folks

Walking through the parking lot, I saw a guy who looked really familiar. He looked like Mike (code name ransick) of Beginner Triathlete fame. We introduced ourselves and exchanged phone numbers. While typing in "ransick" my iphone autocorrected his name to "ransack". I knew better than to fight an iphone and left it.

Down to the water we went for a practice swim. While shoehorning ourselves into our wetsuits, I noticed another BT'r, also named Mike. He was there camping with his family and had just tried out the chilly waters of Lake Carlyle. Mary and I stood on the shore and looked out across the waters at the orange buoys. This picture doesn't really do it justice. It looked like the last buoy was at least a mile out there.

The water was a brisk 65 degrees and kind of a murky greenish brown. You couldn't see much more than a foot in front of your face. We decided to swim out to the yellow buoy that marked the sprint course and then come back. This went well although I could feel the slight wave action on the return. We clambered out onto shore, went to the restroom/bathhouse and hosed the skanky lake water off.

It was getting late in the afternoon. JHouse and his lovely wife, Michele, their baby William, and their giant dog Haans rolled into town. They had missed packet pickup by about a half hour. The website for the Gateway Olympic gave two different times, so it was a litte confusing. We sat around on a picnic table and searched for a restaurant on our iphones. Ransa(i)ck made a call to his brother-in-law to get a recommendation and came up with nothing.

Applebees in Salem seemed to be the safest option. Everyone piled in their cars and drove the 24 miles. The House clan were lodging at the Super 8 next door to the Comfort Inn (dog friendly kind of place) and went to check in while we got a table. The place was absolutely packed with softball players, triathletes, and some people who had so many tattoos that I wondered if a carnival was in town.

We had some pretty good fare at Applebees. This is a cajun shrimp pasta that was tasty and came with a nice breadstick.

Mary enjoyed some kind of shrimp-on-a-stick that looked really nice. Coach Joe's baby enjoyed what I think was some kind of pureed chicken with vegetables. It was about the color of Lake Carlyle.

A highlight of the dinner was watching Suzie the Giraffe be tortured in a deep pool of ice water.

After dinner it was off to the hotel for an early bedtime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open Water Swim is Good Stuff

Reindeer Mary and I have been trying to get an OWS in for a month, ever since temps started creeping up. Just when it seemed the planets were aligned, Mother Nature would turn mean and pelt the area with cold rain and wind. We decided we had to go for it, cold weather be damned. With temps in the 60s and a water temperature hovering around 59 degrees, Mary and I headed to Lake Petersburg, where the parents of a friend live. They are gracious hosts and always have beer.

This is their back yard. It's a gorgeous private lake (which means no idiot party cove types) with clean, spring fed (which means COLD water). I think that trout could live in this lake, it's so cold. You go down a very steep hill to a dock. The yard is full of oak trees so you are stepping on acorns and sticks and crap and wishing you had remembered to wear flip flops. At the dock is a pontoon boat, a motorboat and a kayak tied up.

And (right) here is Kenny, landowner and kayaker supreme. His awesome wife Bev helped him disembark on the little craft while Mary and I wedged ourselves into our wetsuits up on the back deck.

Xterra ran a sale earlier this year so we both bought the same wetsuit. Worked just great although getting the darned thing on is a little tricky. (left) Mary did a strange dance while (below right) I fought, in true straitjacket mode, to get my second arm in. I need to practice a bit.

Handy Tip: I had read somewhere that people swimming the English Channel used to slather themselves with lard for warmth. Not having any lard handy, I used plain old vaseline on my face, feet and hands. This trick actually seems to help keep skin warmer and I am not sure but it seemed like it made me slip through the water more efficiently.

Getting into the cold water was the worst part. I stood on the edge of the dock and stared out at the greenish-grey water and wondered just what it would feel like. Remember the movie Titanic where Jack is explaining how falling into cold water felt like "thousands of needles all stabbing you at once"? That line was going through my head. I sat on the edge of the dock and stirred the water with my toes, screaming silently inside "This is too fricking cold!!!".

Best to just get it over with, I pushed off the dock and plunged into the water. At first it was shocking. I had also read where putting your face into the cold water can make your lungs contract and induce panic. I think I need to stop reading so much because this DID NOT HAPPEN. I put my face in the cold water and...nothing! It was just like swimming in Eisenhower Pool (public pool in our area that is notorious for the heater breaking).

I heard Reindeer Mary splash in and make some comments about the cold. We griped for about a minute and then struck out.

It was amazing and awesome. Out in the open water, away from the crowded lap lanes and 25-yard limits, it was easy to stretch out and fall into a groove. We swam about 500 yards total, circling a buoy at the end of a cove and back to the dock. Not a long swim but I feel confident about sighting (siting?) and swimming in a straight line. I discovered that it is easy to sight when I breathe to the left and am not sure exactly why this is, but I can live with it.

We plan to test the water at Lake Carlyle Saturday afternoon when we get down there and also drive the bike course. I feel like I'm pretty much ready for this race. Starting to get the pre-race jitters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Current Read: Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

I loved Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training for Runners and am now working through his book on nutritional advice for athletes. So far it's a pretty good read. I'm not going to go into book review mode, but will say that this is the first bit of documentation where I was able to learn what my weight should be. This does not mean what I would like it to be, but rather my optimal racing weight. And there's a handy method of calculating just how much food you need to be eating to get to and then maintain your "racing weight".

I have about 5 pounds to lose to get to this magical number. This should make me super fast.

OK, the book doesn't promise that you will be super fast if you get to your optimal racing weight, but it does give some real life examples of what a difference a few pounds makes.

A nice perk is a chapter about resistance exercises that are tailored specifically to different sports --- rowing, cycling, running, triathlon, etc.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Swim Workout and Mr. Speedo

Today's workout was a swim that went like this:
200 swim / 2 x 100 kick / 4 x 50 choice
Main Set:
5 x 200 w/20 sec rest
Warm Down:
2 x 100
The 200s were as follows: 4:03, 4:03, 4:05, 4:06, 4:03
Flailed through it, didn't quite break the 2:00/100 mark today. :(

Mr. Speedo. There has been a new guy showing up at lap swim, he is right about my age (i.e. old) and in pretty good shape. He has chosen to swim in one of those tiny little Speedos that were real popular about ten years ago. Today he chose my lane to share. I had to keep averting my eyes when we would pass. I was also concerned about accidentally snagging the Speedo with my long flailing arms.

The Plantar Fasciitis Monster

After the Flying Pig Marathon in 2008, my right foot staged an angry revolt. For several weeks, I stomped around with an irritating “rock under the heel” sensation. When I broke down and went to a podiatrist, the foot was diagnosed with a textbook case of PF. The treatment was a nightmarish cortisone shot to the affected area (can you say 10 on the pain scale?), some static stretches to be completed before and after running, and a custom (read expensive) pair of rigid orthotics to be worn AT ALL TIMES during the waking hours. The diagnosis was also accompanied by the warning to never go barefoot and absolutely no flipflops. To do so was to risk permanently damaging my feet.

This seemed unnecessarily dire, but visions of my old self gimping along in a walker due to wearing flipflops haunted me. I tried to be a good patient. I had been cautioned to break the orthotics in gradually. I did. Running in the darned things felt like I had tennis raquets strapped to my feet. My legs ached and protested. I switched shoes. Walked more. Took them back for an adjustment. In the end, there was no getting comfortable in the damned things. Besides my running going straight to hell, my feet got lazy and weak. Stand on tiptoe? Forget it. All the life had gone out of them.

Eventually I ditched the orthotics, switched to Nike Frees and went barefoot as often as possible. Over the course of a summer, the PF first receded, then went into dormancy. I felt I had won and pummeled the monster into submission. Anytime that the foot began to complain, the sure cure was to back off running for a couple of days and alternate between the Frees and a pair of Lunar Glides. This worked without fail.

After the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February, my right foot started aching again. It was a little different, more along the side of the foot, but it seemed plausible that I had angered the PF monster and it was lashing out in a new and different way. Not a problem, I thought, and took a week off. Take that, PF.

Things did not improve and in fact were worse after a week. An attempt at a one mile stroll around the block was so uncomfortable that it occurred to me I might have a stress fracture in the foot. A phone conversation with a physical therapist friend suggested the possibility of a fifth metatarsal issue, possibly a fracture.

Scared and unhappy, I made an appointment with a sports ortho guy. An X-ray quelled the stress fracture threat. It was not a fracture, and indeed, not even PF, but rather a case of the dreaded tendonosis, brought on by overly tight hamstrings and Achilles tendons. WTF? This is foot pain, my hamstrings are just fine, thank you.

Simple really, as I learned in PT sessions over the next six weeks. Running can screw up hamstrings and in really unpleasant ways. You have to do things to keep them flexible. This becomes more crucial with aging. Left to its own insidious devices, the hamstrings and achilles tighten and tighten and pull against tendons in the foot. You get some tendonitis out of this. Time goes on, the aggravated tendons and ligaments form scar tissue.

Now you have tendonOSIS. Continue to ignore this (although how you could is beyond me because it's pretty uncomfortable) and calcification sets in. I don't want this.

So now the daily drill is a series of exercises designed to stretch out the hamstrings and achilles. It goes like this:

- 4x around the dining room/kitchen loop

  • Walk on tiptoes

  • Walk on heels with toes up

  • Straight legged walking

  • Traveling lunges
- Stand on steps and let heels sink down, stretching hamstrings, hold for 2 minutes
- Lie on floor with leg up against the wall, stretching hamstrings - 6 x at 30 second each
- Lie on floor, stick leg straight up in the air, loop what looks like a dog leash around foot and pull it - down hard, 1 minute each leg
- Kick forward 10x, then backward 10x, then sideways 10x
- Core work on the ball

When this is done, I sometimes have time to get a run in.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Poo Pods and Rainy Day Training

Woke to temps in the 50s, drizzling rain and wind gusting 15-20 mph. Rolled over and slept until 7, cursing Mother Nature. Here's a shot of our back porch. The lumpy things on the table are "pods" for want of a better word, of bird poo. Every spring the blackbirds see fit to clean their nests and hurl these pods at the glass-topped table. I read somewhere that they like to throw the pods in water, so we speculate that they think the table top looks like a pond.
Whatever, birds.
Today's workout was a two hour bike ride followed by 35 minutes of running, to be done as a brick. Nervous about slippery pavements, I had to default to the trainer. I am pretty sure that Jack-the-tri-bike was crying as he was bolted back into the trainer.

It's a nice setup, really. Our basement is finished and there's a good-sized TV with cable a few feet in front of me. There's a bathroom right there, a ceiling fan and a floor fan to keep things cool. There is Chamois Butter in the bathroom. There's no excuse to skip a trainer workout except for boredom.
Mind numbing boredom.
Two hours is a long time to sit and spin. It's almost as bad as the dreadmill. I have a friend who does a lot of marathons and she has been known to run 22 miles on a trainer at the health club during winter months. She has nerves of steel.
For the first hour I watched reruns of Scrubs, then switched over to Animal Planet and found a Wild Kingdom show about a family of otters living in the harbor in Monterey, California. This kept me entertained until the momma otter was mauled by another otter and found near death. This is entirely too much drama for a training show. Near tears, I finished up the ride and changed into running shoes.
The run was great. The noodly leg sensation seems to have gone away, and I got 3.3 good miles in. The rain and wind were actually a little refreshing.
Dairy Queen this afternoon!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Cleats and OWS Fail

Last weekend I took Jack-the-tri-bike out for a nice long ride and realized that I had procrastinated on getting new cleats for my shoes a tad too long. Here they are in all their worn out glory. It looks like I have been walking through the yard in them but that's not the reality, they're just worn out.

Note to self - don't try to get your money's worth out of Keo Look cleats, replace them every year.

Training: Today is Saturday. I lined up an OWS at Lake Petersburg for 9:00 this morning, with my big sis riding kayak. We have had temps in the 80s most of the week and I have a new wetsuit to try out before next weekend's Lake Carlyle Olympic Triathlon. Which might turn into a du since the entire area is flooded but that's another story.

Anyway, got off work Friday at 3:00 and made a run to Country Market to pick up some annuals and a couple of steaks. Perfect weather to finish up the last couple of planters and then grill some tasty New York strip.

By 4:00 the southwest sky was dark and ominous. By 4:20 as I drove home, big fat raindrops were hitting the windshield. By the time I pulled in the driveway it was raining heavily with angry thunder.

And such has been the weather through the night and into the morning. Looks like I will be fighting for a lane at the Y this morning.

Workouts Today: 1 hour swim, 30 minute run
Sunday: 2 hour bike/short run brick

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pioneer Sprint Triathlon - April 17, 2011

Petersburg, Illinois plays host to a series of well-run triathlons in April and August. I did a bunch of graphic work for the race director and as a result, was comped in. Free races don't come along every day.

Being early in the spring, the race is held at 1:00 in the afternoon in the hope that there will be some sunshine and warmth for the racers. So I had all morning to be nervous and start beating myself up mentally for not being better prepared, not focusing more on the run, not losing weight, blah blah blah.

On the drive out, a deer darted in front of my vehicle, narrowly escaping death by about ten feet. I could see the individual hairs on its haunches as it skidded across the road. The adrenaline rush was awful and added to the general feeling of illness.

The swim is indoors in a heated pool. You guestimate your 300 yard swim time and line up accordingly. I bunched in with the other >6:00 group and we were slowly funneled up the side of the pool. Got caught behind some breast strokers but otherwise my swim went ok. Passed a few.

Felt off on the bike, couldn't really get into a groove. I passed a lot of people on the hills and felt pretty cool about that.

The run is my worst. I absolutely dread the run. I am slow and I know it and I am ok with that. Decided I would not use the Garmin and just run by PE, which actually seemed to work pretty well. Found my legs pretty quickly, even after losing the bike in transition, and kept a slow but steady pace.

I placed first in my age group, which shocked the hell out of me since a) my time was 1:30 and b) I was not the only one in the AG. Drove home thinking maybe the training was paying off. Reindeer Mary also placed first in her AG. Above is a pic of us smiling happily with our plaques.

Tri Season 2011

Someone recently told me I needed to update my blog. So in the spirit of cooperation, I announce that I, in a moment of weakness, signed up for Ironman 70.3 Racine. Under the gentle guidance of Coach Joe, Reinder Mary and I have been swim/bike/running in a somewhat organized fashion since December.

This will be my "A" race for 2011 and my first 70.3 distance. Practice races include a sprint and two Olympic distances.