Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy!

Sometimes I wake up and pinch myself because there are so many good things in my life. Today is one of those days.

Ostensibly, I should feel like crap. Today is Day 6 of the Tour of Sufferlandria. From Monday-Wednesday this week, I've already put in 8 hours of training. What I've needed to do is eat like a champion to keep up with this. My legs are alternating between feeling like concrete and "not too bad." Daily stretching and trigger point work helps with that. Swimming seems to help, too. I don't have a swim scheduled for today, but may go anyway just for an easy 1500. It seems that running super easy is helping, too. Finally, caffeine. Yesterday morning I felt like I feel during a 20+ hour Ironman training week (which isn't that far off--13 weeks!) at some point where I would rather not work out but know that I can get through it. I debated whether to skip the swim, and decided what the hell, let's swim, but let's drink Coke. So I drank a Coke (in a water bottle) while I swam, and swam like a champ. The workout had a really long warmup and then 15 50's alternating speed with easy. A short and sweet workout. I nailed the 50's--and I even used paddles. Then I ran :15 on the treadmill super easy, then headed to the track and did a bunch of running drills alternating with fast laps. It was fun to zip around the track, since I'd been doing solid track workouts for 8 weeks. Despite having drunk Coke, after a few hours of work I went down for a short nap. It seems my pattern of working out some early, working super early a few hours, then a nap is good for me, although I don't know how much longer I can keep it up. I have never napped so much in my life! I am fortunate to work at home and be able to manipulate my schedule.

I ate 4 meals yesterday. First up was my usual banana/wheat germ muffin and hardboiled egg for breakfast. Then I swam and drank Coke during that and a few sips of Gatorade while I ran. Then I drank Endurox R4 and had a toasted, buttered English muffin with lox on top. Then I had a Lean Cuisine before I got on the bike, and for dinner I had a big salad with about 3/4 lb. of broiled sockeye salmon! Initially, I ate 1/2 the salmon filet, thinking I'd wrap the rest for today, but it was so good and I still felt hungry, so I ate some more and then wrapped the rest. About 2 hours later I polished it off! I think I also ate a banana, some prunes, some almonds, some jelly beans and string cheese. I have no idea how many calories in all that, but this morning I feel ready to eat again, so I must be fueling myself well.

So the first thing I'm so happy about is that I don't feel like complete and total crap despite the training load I'm carrying, so soon in this training cycle.

Another thing is that the dress I am sewing for my friend's wedding is nearly finished, and it's absolutely beautiful! It occurred to me that I have a warped perception of my body size--I wouldn't say I'm completely dysmorphic, but I think what's happened is that since I don't wear dresses very often I forget just how small I am. I look at this dress I'm making and think, "how the fuck am I going to fit in that?" But then I put the pieces on, and it's fine. I actually bought a dress recently, too, and when I took it out of the package, I wondered how the hell I would fit in it, but I put it on and voila! I'm a size 0-2 depending on manufacturer, I guess. I am still used to how sizes used to run years ago, when I was a perfect 3 and sometimes even a 5. So in my head, I'm a size 3, so 0 and 2 don't make sense to me! Back to sewing--the dress is an Oscar de la Renta design. The pattern is from 1989! I had the pattern and the fabric that long and never sewed it. It's simple yet elegant. I will post a picture of the dress when it's done. I'm making it out of raw silk, which is very delicate and will snag at the slightest wrong touch, so I am being very careful to have clean hands and filed nails as I work on it.

Another source of happiness is that a friend I am coaching is doing quite well in her training. She's only raced once so far, but I have very high expectations for her and will just have to see how it goes, but so far so good. I really care more about how well she does than me. Although good thing she's not in my age group! Another friend that I gave a training plan to is working through an injury (not caused by my training plan!) in a way that I think will leave her in a much better place. I think this will finally be the impetus for her to get on a regular strength routine, which I've advocated to her for years. But other than not being able to run temporarily, I think she's doing well, all things considered.

Another really great thing is that a friend of mine is moving to Cincinnati from Dallas area, so we will be close enough to drive and train with one another! I coached him in 2013, and he's less than half my age, but we have a great time together always. I've been at a few of his Ironman races, and we've done a few together. He even offered to help me out with my Ultraman training! Even if we get to spend 2 or 3 times a year together, that will be just great. He is one of those rare athletes who is not afraid of anything, training or racing-wise. Sometimes when we talk, we make up stupid shit that we want to do. Brad came up with this:
Well, he came up with the format--I came up with the name and T-shirt logo. I may end up doing this as part of my Ultraman training. Doesn't it look stupid? We even thought how funny it would be to do the last day, a sprint, in an actual race. We'd be dying and going so slow, maybe even DFL, even though we'd look like these fast racer types. I've done sprint/Oly/half IM a number of times, and I've done sprint/Oly/half/full IM once in 2009 to prepare for Ultraman Canada. Working back down the pyramid would be the tough part! But doing these things is all about pacing and letting go of your ego. But there is a tremendous training benefit to these NothingMan events. They just toughen you up and give you this incredible confidence in yourself that you can do ANYTHING. Brad is that rare young man (a talented triathlete!) who understands that you can't go out and hammer every workout all the time. I think that's from his background as a bike racer, among other things.

Anyway, how much fun would it be to do Tri Like an Egyptian? If I can swing it next year, I'm doing it, but at least 4 months out from Ultraman. If I don't do that, then I'm hoping Brad will team up with me for 24 Hours of Triathlon. That's something we've been meaning to do together so maybe next year will be the right time. Luckily, he has an amazing wife that I am also friends with who would help crew for us. Morgan is an awesome woman! I got to witness the marriage proposal back in 2010!

I think it's hilarious that a guy less than half my age wants to train and race with me, considering I have other men friends that feel like they are competing with me (and I am faster than some of them) whose egos get bruised easily. Poor babies!

While I haven't yet raced in 2015, that's coming up in about a week! Shit! Then I will truly know how I'm doing. I actually didn't race too badly in 2014 considering my late start, so it will be interesting to see how I do.

In 7 weeks I'm going to Florida with a friend to race a 1/2 IM, and then I'll also be doing an Oly the next day. Because I'm stupid. But I will get to see some friends down there that I haven't seen in awhile. So the racing part is just an excuse to go down there!

I've been moved up a notch in Synthroid dose, and soon I will have enough data to present to my doctor to show that I will probably need to cycle dosage and be monitored closely while I am in these big training cycles. I went to see a pulmonologist, and have a full lung function test next week. It will be good to have that data, again, so I can check that regularly and know what constitutes 100% for me. At the appointment, they said my blood O2 was good and my lungs sounded clear. The test will verify whether what I'm experiencing is asthma or COPD. It could be either, but treatment is effectively the same. I got an air cleaner, and that is already helping, so for sure I know that my allergies have been acting up. It's possible I also have GERD--I'll get that tested, too, and while I hate taking meds, I have reconciled myself to doing what I need to do.

I feel pretty optimistic I will finish the Tour this time, although I have a healthy fear of Saturday--there are 3 videos strung together, starting with one of the hardest of the bunch! But, I am discovering that not everyone can do every workout exactly as specified. I feel pretty strong, but I'm evaluating whether to try and actually do a long run tomorrow. At least I have a massage scheduled! Every time I do these crazy things, I learn more about what my body can handle and what constitutes a reasonable training load. I am still pleased with how much I am able to do at my age, all things considered.

So today I am going to just be happy for all the wonderful things in my life and be optimistic that in general, things will continue to go well, that I can keep training like I am, and that I have some decent race results this year. I'm trying not to look too far ahead, but 8 weeks out is reasonable, I think.

Life is great!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Critique my Refrigerator and Pantry

From time to time, I catch shit from people about things I choose to eat and drink, like Coke, jelly beans, Pringles, etc. But unless you've been inside my fridge and watched me eat on a daily basis, what the fuck would you know about my day to day diet?

So in the interest of full disclosure, I hereby present pictures of my fridge contents:
Above is the business part.

Top Left:
  • Bottles of Gatorade. These are used during swimming, biking and running. Behind the Gatorade bottles are my bottles of Endurox R4, which has been my preferred recovery drink for 15 years.
Top Right:
  • Coffeemate, low fat Hazelnut. Yes, it contains sugar. I like it.
  • Behind the Coffeemate is coffee. For years I used to ship 100% Kona coffee here, and it was delicious, but I don't drink as much coffee as I used to (3 small mugs in the morning), and I am good with Starbucks or Gevalia or whatever looks good at my grocery store.
  • Bottles of Infinit. These are here for the Tour of Sufferlandria. Normally, I only use Infinit for rides of 3+ hours or when I both swim and run in the morning before work. For the Tour, I'm drinking it every stinking ride because I want the caffeine and race-type fueling. I have 3 custom Infinit mixes that I use as needed--for Monday-Friday of the Tour I am using my lower calorie mix, and for Saturday and Sunday I'm using my fairly high caffeine, higher calorie mix.
Second Shelf, Left:
  • Eggs, eggs, eggs! The small bowl has hardboiled eggs. I eat one for breakfast every day.
  • Herring. This is a snack food for me. I like it from time to time. 
Second Shelf, Right:
  • One container of brown rice.
  • One container of a chicken/vegetable dish that was in my freezer, that I will eat either for lunch or dinner today depending on how I feel. It will go over rice.
Drawer, Left:
  • Various protein snacks live in here, such as string cheese (sometimes Cheddar), braunschweiger (yep, I love that stuff), regular American cheese, Canadian Bacon and Lox, depending on what I'm in the mood for. The lox and Canadian bacon are for when I do a swim/run combo and I need to eat a significant snack after, which consists of an English muffin buttered with one of them on top.
  • Corn tortillas (you can't see them). For when I want a bit more carbs with dinner (to soak up some sauce) or an ad hoc tortilla wrap.
Third Shelf, Left:
  • Homemade banana/wheat germ muffins (in the bags). I eat one of these for breakfast every day, with a hardboiled egg. Gluten! GMO wheat! Sugar! Canola oil! These things will surely kill me!
  • Behind the muffins is a big chunk of Parmesan cheese, that I periodically grate to go on top of salads or rice.
Third Shelf, Right:
  • Cherry tomatoes, for salads
  • More containers of brown rice. I made about 8 cups for the week, and it keeps well.
  • Yogurt. This is what I consider dessert, when I want it.
  • Bread. GMO wheat! For when I want toast or the odd sandwich.
Bottom Drawer, Left:
  • Lemons. I use these when I roast a whole chicken. The chicken is stuffed with 2 separated heads of garlic, a halved lemon and some rosemary.
  • Salad greens. I could buy the greens loose, but I'm lazy and I like the easy variety of the packaged ones.
  • A small container of pignoli. For salads.
  • Garlic. You can't see it, but there are 4 heads in there.
Bottom Drawer, Right:
  • Coke! Because I like it during long runs on the treadmill in winter, to load up calories before long workouts, or when I've delayed a mid-day run or bike past lunchtime and need calories but can't eat lunch because then I'd need to wait even longer. On average, I probably drink 1.5 Cokes per week.

Above is the door. It contains condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, Chinese sauces), grated Parmesan (in the Jewel container), Starbucks espressos for emergency caffeine, almond milk (used in my breakfast muffins), a package of coffee (because it wouldn't fit in the freezer), bread crumbs, lemon juice, spare Coffeemates, Kringle Cream (it's awesome), Limoncello (it's also awesome), English muffins (which I will swap out for the homemade ones in late spring) and...BEER.

Above is the main part of my (smallish) freezer. In here are chicken (whole roaster and drumsticks), some steaks, some fish (salmon), a chuck roast, coffee, meatballs (in the Dean's containers), a Lean Cuisine (I usually eat one of those for lunch), and various containers of tasty things I've cooked in bulk and then frozen so I can use them on weekdays when I have zero time to cook. Also stuffed in there are a couple of slices of my deep dish pizza and lasagna in the tinfoil.
Above is the door of my freezer. Butter (butter keeps extremely well in the freezer), more coffee, and containers of various tasty things like pesto (I make a huge batch every August and dole it out as needed throughout the year), pasta sauces and rice toppings. And a few small ice packs.

Above are the top shelves of my pantry (it's a closet). Some cooking vessels, including a lobster pot, a tart pan and my good cookie sheets, and on the lower shelf are my flours (gluten! GMO wheat!), rices (brown and jasmine), sugars (brown and white granulated), and spare food wraps.
Above is the remaining shelves of my pantry. Lots of good things in there! Various sauces for Chinese cooking, couscous, sardines, tomatoes and tomato sauces, Chinese vegetables, olives, anchovies, beans, soups, sauerkraut, salsa, wheat germ, almond milk, ketchup, pickles, coconut milk, chile sauce, canned fruit, garlic chili paste, and there's a bunch of pasta in there.

So yes, I do eat some processed foods, I do eat some sugar (aside from naturally occurring in the fruit I eat which is typically bananas, dried figs, prunes, and seasonal fruits like berries, mangos), I do drink beer and the occasional aperitif or cordial (I have a pretty good wine rack in my dining room, too!), and I do take in engineered sports nutrition. I prepare my breakfast and dinner foods from scratch, and go out to eat maybe once a week or every 2 weeks, preferring sushi, good Italian and lately Caribbean.

I didn't take pictures of other food areas, like spices, oils and crackers. I use a lot of olive oil. Salads are topped with olive oil and creme of balsamic. I have fallen in love with the specialty Triscuits--cracked black pepper, sweet potato and roasted sweet onion. Sometimes I'll have a few with cheese on top as a snack, or have a few with dinner. I have a bag of fun size Paydays that are in reserve for long bike rides or whenever I feel like it. I have a package of Keebler cheese/peanut butter crackers that I like when doing long (3+ hour) rides. I have some jelly beans.

I cook on weekends only unless I have a day off work. Broiling a steak or fish or chicken does not constitute cooking to me. Cooking is a dish requiring prep time, at least 5 ingredients, and some watching. I've come to know a bunch of recipes in my favorite cookbooks that I make over and over. Pasta sauces are for when I'm training > 15 hours per week. Rice toppings are good any time. The pizza and lasagne are once a year deals, since they take a shitload of time to make. I'm still trying to decide if/when I will make my annual batch of green chile--it's another dish that takes the better part of a day to make, but I have no room in my freezer currently! I can now start extracting containers from my freezer, and when I have removed 4 or so, then I can make my next thing and freeze it. What happens is that by summer I have a whole bunch of different things in there to choose from, which is really nice, and they supplement grilling outdoors. In summer, I'm usually training like a beast and eating more pasta, and there are many pasta sauces I like that require very little time, and so I will make one when I feel like it (spaghetti carbonara, walnut pesto, sausage/cream, on and on!) and eat it for a few days.

Could I eat more cleanly? Of course. But I do pretty OK, I think, eating appropriately for the amount of training I'm doing, a good amount of fruits and vegetables (I have fruit for morning snack and on top of salads and in some rice toppings, and dinner features a lot of vegetables and some at lunch), a good amount of lean protein, appropriate use of starches, and I'm not a big dessert person. I do indulge in the occasional McDonald's, but that's about it for out to eat junk food. In my daily diet, most of my sugar comes in the form of sports nutrition. There's that little bit in my coffee, breakfast muffin and lunch. Sometimes I go through a phase where I'll have tuna and vegetables for lunch. It's healthier than a Lean Cuisine, but I also like a hot meal at lunch. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing. EVER. Do I think my racing would be better if I cleaned up my diet even more? Fuck no. It's important to me to enjoy life even though I train fucking hard. Good food is one of the rewards of hard training. I'm cognizant of the need to replace and top off my glycogen stores, not get fat, and time my meals and snacks based on my training. This is what works for me. Time to finish breakfast!

I love food--I love shopping for food, I love making food, and I love eating it. But I am also aware of nutrition, and I think I have it covered!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tour of Sufferlandria 2015

Last year, I attempted to do the Tour of Sufferlandria for the first time. I failed at completing it, miserably. In retrospect, I failed to recover properly from Ironman Cozumel.

This year, no Ironman to recover from, and I've been doing 1 or 2 of the Sufferfest videos for the prior 7 weeks. And I sort of tapered this week--while I did some tempo running on Wednesday, I cut back my long run from 2 hours to 1:30, and ran it super easy on Friday.

In scheduling training for next week, where the Tour is in full swing, I've noted that all running and swimming is optional. I will swim tomorrow morning, and I have one more swim planned, but if I'm dying by Wednesday, I will skip it. Any running will be super easy, Zone 1 stuff.

Yesterday, the Tour kicked off with an easy video, Elements of Style, followed by The Long Scream. The Long Scream is a :30 Time Trial! Well, I'm still a triathlete and not just a cyclist, so I ran :25 before I hopped on the bike. The run was to be easy, and I went outside and had actually a pretty damn good run for going easy! I averaged 8:58/mile, in part because I saw the girls' cross country team running towards me for about 1/2 mile so I had to look good for them! But I also know that because I ran so easy Friday that I was able to go faster than I needed to.

Elements of Style was fun, and it made me realize I need to focus more on engaging my left calf muscles. I'm right-handed, and very right-body dominant, and my left knee is the one missing the ACL. My right calf is always more gnarly than the left one after biking, so maybe I can work on that. Then The Long Scream. Fuck. I forgot it was a TT. Now, many of the people doing the Tour are just biking or haven't been training a lot, unlike me. So I am doing the Tour rides as "best effort." I'm still putting forth a really strong effort, but typically I'm riding one zone lower than they are asking for some of the time. Still, I knew I'd ridden hard when I got off the bike and my legs felt like jello, and I disconnected my laptop from the TV and then yelled FUCK OFF at the TV as if that would turn it off!

But I didn't feel too badly, because I'd drunk a Coke before I ran, and I drank Infinit (with CAFFEINE!) on the bike. I'd planned a :30 swim after. I've been doing a :30 or so swim on Sundays after my long run, and I did one Friday after it, and wanted to do one to recover from the biking. I started drinking the Endurox R4 after I got off the bike just to keep some calories going in, and also a big glass of water.

I got to the pool, put on my flippers, took a big gulp of Endurox R4, and swam 1500 straight! I don't know what possessed me, but I felt good and didn't feel bored by swimming straight (and fairly easy). The power of caffeine! I finished up with 200 kick and got out and showered, and then went into the sauna to stretch a bit. As soon as I laid down in there I was like FUCK I'M HUNGRY, but I managed about 5 minutes of stretching. I don't expect to be too hungry after just 2:15 of working out (the total for yesterday), but I was. When I got home, I had another 1/2 chicken breast fricassee leftover, and on Friday I'd made about 8 cups of brown rice in my rice cooker, so I scooped out about 1 1/4 cups of rice into the bowl, microwaved it and ate it standing up in the kitchen because I was so damn hungry. And I cracked a beer, since I'd already drunk my recovery beverage!

And then I realized I was pretty tired. I was going to immediately go to the grocery store, but my body said LAY THE FUCK DOWN. So I did. I needed some more calories so I grabbed a small handful of jelly beans and ate them in bed watching whatever was on TV. After about 45 minutes, I motivated and went grocery shopping, and luckily I hadn't planned anything for the day, because the rest of it basically consisted of laying around doing nothing. Which I need from time to time.

I had the filet part of a huge porterhouse steak and a giant salad for dinner and another beer, then I had a generous shot of this stuff and passed out pretty early.

As I sit here writing this my legs don't feel too bad, but today's Tour stage is Blender. 1:40 of you want to kill someone. But that's all that's on my schedule today aside from maybe a little snow shoveling.

Next week, the Tour includes about 9 1/2 hours of riding. While I do that much many times during the summer preparing for an Ironman, um...the Tour intensity is just over the top. Still, my objective is to finish the damn thing this time, even if I have to tone down the intensity. Last year, I was toast on Friday. I'm sure I will be hurting badly by then, but I hope not enough to quit! I am going to mix up 11 bottles of Infinit for the biking and my alleged long run. There is no way I can get through all this without caffeine!

Huge props to anyone who does this and finishes it. It is not your average week of biking! If you think you train hard and have never done one of these videos, then you are delusional. These videos are the real deal and aren't intended for daily use! That's why this is such a fun thing to do in January!

Good luck to all Tour contenders, this is going to be epic!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Seven Weeks In

It's 7 weeks since I officially began training--training like I do over the winter in preparation for an Ironman. I've got meds now that seem to be helping my lungs with whatever is going on there. I'm not wheezing when I wake up in the morning, and I'm starting to feel like I can breathe a lot better while working out. I'll know I'm 100% on the lung front when I can sing while running in Zone 3!

It's been tough going from arbitrary run and bike workouts to full out gonzo training. Here are last week's workouts:
I skipped the Tuesday ride because I crashed after having been on Prednisone for 5 days, but I did go for a walk and lifted that day. I extended the Thursday and Saturday rides by :30, so I almost made up for the miss.

During Wednesday's track workout, I told myself it would be OK if I toned it down a little, but I ended up going faster than all the prior weeks. Instead of coughing up a lung after the intervals, I just breathed more deeply! That is progress!

I seem to be nailing all my swims now. I am still not fast, but coach said I look like "I'm just swimming and not trying" now. All the things I've done to correct my stroke have worked! I haven't gotten too much faster, but we'll see what happens over the next 12 weeks or so. If nothing else, I should be more efficient.

I had some good running results last fall, but my running has suffered as I picked up the hard, focused bike workouts, although all my track workouts have been awesome. I felt pretty rough on Friday, but ran easy (as I was supposed to!), and enjoyed running outside.

Saturday I did a bunch of chores and didn't start biking until 10:30. Since I'd still be rolling through a normal lunch hour, I chowed down some leftover pasta about 1/2 hour before I started. This had the bonus effect of keeping my effort easy for the first hour. I was a bit concerned I would have shit for watts the entire time, but once I started ISLAGIATT, I'd burned off the pasta, felt great, and had good power. But I didn't expect to be able to run for shit off a ride like that. It was decent out, so I took a little over 5 minutes to towel off and change and headed outdoors. I ran by feel, so super easy, but right off the bat I was running maybe 9:45/mile, which would be just perfect (actually too fast) for an IM marathon. My legs actually didn't feel too bad, and I picked it up on the way back and ended up averaging 9:32/mile. Not too shabby!

A friend came over for dinner Saturday night and we got takeout Caribbean. YUM! Fried plantains, rice with pigeon peas, slow roasted pork and beef. I made a taco out of some of it, and felt I really carbed up well, but had no clue how I'd feel Sunday.

My legs were predictably a bit sore Sunday morning, but I loaded up 1/2 bottle of Infinit, a Coke, and some Gatorade and headed to the Y to run there on the treadmill (I don't like doing my long runs in my house) and then swim after. Happily, my legs felt just fine running, and I got in about 12.2 miles in 2 hours, which was just fine, and the best I've felt during a long run since November. I swam 1350 after (it made me nuts to end on not a multiple of 100!) super easy. After 500, some lady was sitting with her feet on the ledge in my lane! She was talking to someone in the adjacent lane, and I was like I don't want your gnarly feet in my face! I told her to, "Get your feet out of my lane, PLEASE!" She acted perturbed, but WTF, right?

I stretched some in the sauna and then finished up at home while cooking (for FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT) and then some more after I finally ate dinner. All told, I put in just over 17 hours last week, and a bit more the week prior. I have increased my weights and reps over the last 5 weeks, and that has had an impact on everything, but it appears I am adapting to all this and feel rather great now.

This week is a bit of a step down (only 14.5 hours of training) in preparation for beginning Tour of Sufferlandria on Saturday, although I am doing the 2014 route since I didn't buy all the new videos. Then the Tour continues the week after with very light running (I learned my lesson from 2014 that you can't run much during this!), featuring 9 hours of biking! The week after I have my first race of 2015--an indoor supersprint!

Yikes! Good thing I'm adapting to this otherwise I would be a complete mess! But it's totally fun. I'm used to the cycle of fatigue/soreness/invincibility. That is how it goes when you keep up aggressive strength training at the same time you are doing a lot of intensity work.

Today I have the day off from work, and I've got a swim threshold test and an easy :45 run is all! I will get all the dishes done from my cooking festival, work on the dress I'm making for my friend's wedding, and that will be that for today!

Oh, and I just discovered that I need to get a TUE (Therapeutic User Exception) by WADA because I take raloxifene HCL for osteoporosis treatment. The odds of me being drug tested are probably small--still, I want to be 100% legitimate!

Have an awesome week!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mystery Science Theater 2015

I am in science experiment mode again. After experiencing what I initially perceived to be a minor infection (as in "maybe I'm getting a cold") and sensing I could swim faster if I could just get more O2 to my muscles, 2 weeks ago I contacted my doctor to get a refill on an albuterol inhaler. I'd had one laying around from a prior cold/flu incident that wasn't used up, and had been self-administering just a little as I felt necessary since beginning of October. I wasn't full dosing it, as I thought I only needed a little bit.

As winter arrived, and finally really cold weather, I noticed this slight shortness of breath wasn't going away, and I was running out of inhaler. It was also time for me to schedule my annual (that I will attempt to begin doing quarterly) blood work roundup consisting of CBC, liver enzymes, thyroid, cholesterol, fasting glucose, etc. I scheduled the blood work, asked for the inhaler, and my doctor said I needed to come in for whatever I thought I needed the inhaler for. Smart move on her part!

So last week, I went in, to get both the blood draw and the evaluation. First thing I got was, "Who ordered your blood work?" Then they said it needed to be authorized, and I was like, OK so I'm seeing doctor make her do it. That was taken care of.

Now, in addition to the breathing thing, I had really felt like I'd put on just a few pounds that shouldn't be happening as I've increased training and am pretty good about matching my calorie intake to my outgo.

During the appointment, this was first time I was tested on a spirometer. My readings were "normal," and I told the nurse practitioner (PAC whatever that means) that I should be off the chart given my aerobic capacity. She listened to my lungs, and of course, said they sounded normal. I said they aren't. I listed a whole pile of observations I'd made as to what's been going on as I've noticed this issue with my lungs:
  • Increased my training load
  • Moved most of my training indoors
  • Cold weather
  • Tightness in chest
Now, there are other things at play here that wouldn't make sense to anyone except another athlete:
  • Changed my swim stroke. So there is some left pec soreness/tightness still lingering. I know this because I tested myself. When I shovel snow right-handed (which is my natural), it hurts a bit, but not when I move to left-handed shoveling. Therefore, my left pec is still getting used to the new swim stroke.
  • This is first fall/winter in my house since I've had it air sealed. It's great, because the house is no longer losing all the warm air, but bad, because it's trapping in a million things that I'm allergic to.
I failed to mention the air sealing and allergy thing at the appointment. I spaced out! When I was in college, I became quite sick once and was put into the infirmary. My lungs were messed up. I had a history of recurring bronchitis as a child, so once I was well enough to be discharged, they sent me for allergy testing. Turns out I'm at least mildly allergic to almost everything except foods--so pollen, mold, dust, pet dander, air... It's just enough that if I catch a virus, I can be severely impacted. So I went on allergy meds that at the time were like speed! They were great--you put speed on top of my normal high energy level, and I was basically bouncing off the walls constantly. Until they took that drug off the market, LOL! A few years after college, I was switched onto Claritin (which was prescription at the time) or Allegra, and I also took desensitization shots, as I had a cat, and the cat was a major allergen. Not as bad as some people who can't even be around them, but just enough to be a bit wheezy.

I kept taking allergy meds until I no longer had cats, in 2005. I love cats, but my last pair went psycho and had sprayed all around my house, and I just have not wanted to get more, plus the care and feeding. But I adore cats. Someday...

Anyway, once I no longer had cats, I tried going without the allergy meds, and seemed to do OK. Until this year. It didn't dawn on me until after my doctor appointment.

Back to the appointment: the PAC gave me a 5-day prescription for prednisone (sadly, the last day was yesterday), and sent me to get a chest X-ray. I started on the prednisone right away, and went and got the X-ray. The radiologist said my lungs look fine (no spots or anything odd), but that my diaphragms are "flat." This can be indicative of COPD. So that's what the PAC told me. I was, of course, like, FUCK! But I'm lucky to have a close friend who is a nurse and said just wait it out. The PAC said I should go see pulmonologist.

So after this little wakeup, I remember about my allergies and that I've not been being treated for them, and when I think about it, this is exactly how I felt when I failed to take them. I also think I may have exercise-induced asthma. COPD? It's possible due to my history of bronchitis, but I am hoping that is off the table.

The interesting thing is that through these last 3 months, I've become faster at Swim/Bike/Run and stronger in the weight room. So yay for me overcoming whatever the fuck is wrong!

So...well let's just say I love prednisone. Me on steroids is pretty entertaining. I felt no pain, although I don't think I actually over-extended myself. I just knew I should be way more tired at the end of each day than I was. But I wasn't. No wonder people become addicted to the things! I will surely crash today, though. I had these nice rosy cheeks, smiling all the time, and was very chatty. Also a little more "don't fuck with me," but I was able to keep that at bay.

I have the pulmonologist appointment set up. I asked my doctor for Advair, as the albuterol isn't cutting it now, and even if I do have COPD or allergies or asthma, they'd probably put me on that, so yay for me asking for it, and I have it without another doctor appointment.

Now onto the blood work. My cholesterol is awesome (HDL 72 / LDL 110 / triglycerides 59). CBC looks good, although I will need to compare to my last results. What is fucked up? TSH. I learned from 2013 that when I am feeling great and nearly hyper (even without steroids!), that it can mean my thyroid is underperforming, or more accurately, I don't have enough to meet the metabolic demand I am putting on myself. And I was right!

Now, my suspicion is that my body can only produce so much thyroid hormone, so when I start ramping up training, I tend to go more hypothyroid, as my body plus existing meds can't keep up with what my body needs in order to do the training. This I will share with my doctor. I had thought she said they wouldn't give me more Synthroid, but she is giving me more, and then I will need to be tested again in 6 weeks to see where I stand. Ugh...this is the part I hate.  The waiting to see if the dose works, etc. It is so ridiculous that a test hasn't been invented yet for measuring thyroid function that you can do at home with a prick of your finger, like you can to check your blood glucose. I would do it daily. conclusion, I have some lung shit to get sorted, and I'm back on the thyroid testing/dosage adjustment train again. Which means I still haven't been through a full Ironman training cycle with my thyroid properly regulated. EVER. Not in a single one I've done, since I know that I've been hypothyroid way before I ever started all this--it's just that the acceptable ranges have changed, and if you're even a little off doing what I'm doing, it's a huge impact. I have a feeling that what I will need to do is modify my dosing based on my training cycle, so I will talk to my doctor about how we can best manage this. I think at a minimum, I need to be tested every 3 months to see where it's at. But in a way, I'm happy this is all happening to me, and glad I'm doing this now. Because I think I have time to get myself better adjusted and functioning properly again!

How exciting will it be for me to have my 100% lung power plus having all the thyroid hormone I need? I am optimistic that my athletic performance will finally rise to the level of training that I do. It's not been poor, by any means, but I know I can do better. I will also once again offer my doctor the opportunity to write me up as a case study. She should welcome the offer, but you never know. If she wanted to run blood work on me monthly, I'd do it.

So yay for me for demanding the blood work now, even though technically some of these things didn't need to be tested until April. But it was time, I had the feeling my TSH might be off, and that is something I have to attend to. The difference in how I feel at various levels can be subtle, but now it makes perfect sense to me and I'm learning to interpret how my body feels at different levels. Last time I'd been tested was in April, 2014, and TSH was fine, but I was hardly training at the time. So this correlates to my theory of how much hormone I can manufacture, and that when I'm not training much, it's enough, but dump on more training, and it's not.

My pharmacy fucked up my Synthroid prescription, though. They gave me generic. Luckily I caught this last night and called them. It was their mistake, not my doctor's. I can't take generic--I went through that fucking shit in 2013 of being on a rollercoaster because my body is sensitive to the drug purity. So glad I didn't take that. I will pick up the correct Synthroid this morning, and off we go! Recall that for Ironman Cozumel, I was still on generic levothyroxine, and I wasn't being given enough of it, and so I had a craptastic performance in the race. I am very excited to see how I will feel when we synch up the brand drug Synthroid at proper dose with my training!

Based on all this, I highly recommend to anyone doing Ironman training to get their blood work done at least twice a year, quarterly if feasible. The training puts such a high demand on your body that it's imperative to ensure it's in perfect working order, and as happened to me, the high training load can reveal issues you have that you might not otherwise find out about until years later. And things will change throughout the training cycle, so just because you were fine 3 months prior doesn't mean you should just live with the status quo.

Happy training and science experiments!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Getting Stronger!

You all know how it happens. It's by doing this, right?
"Harder, longer, faster, tougher, repeat."

There really is no other way. I've been on my plan now since December 1, 2014. 5 weeks in, and I'm lifting heavier again while increasing my FTP, my VDOT and my swim T-pace (all of which were in the toilet for well over a year). I would consider this week a marker of just how well I'm doing, because on Tuesday this week I:
  • Shoveled snow for an hour (used the snowblower, too, but I like a really clean driveway), then
  • Warmed up for :30 followed by a 1-hour Sufferfest video, The Downward Spiral, on the bike. While I wouldn't say it felt "easy," and I may regret saying this in 2 weeks, I enjoyed it. The video is basically a descending ladder of FTP efforts, starting at 2:00 (same rest as the interval) down to 15" by 15" decrease each one. And you do it twice.
  • Lifted for :43. Mostly core and upper body
  • Had my first MAT session, which did require me to move around a bit and do a bunch of isometric contractions. Received a compliment from the practitioner that I am quite limber in my hips for someone my age. NO SHIT!
Now, I should have been completely waxed after all that, but I ate well, and got up yesterday and did this:
  • Swam 2500 (I'm doing shorter swims but am building them up again) with some fast intervals in there (for me) that I didn't feel like I was dying.The last 600 was pulling with paddles.
  • Did my 2x10 press outs in the pool before leaving. Got a compliment from a guy who has previously scorned me for how much training I do--he called me Iron Girl and said he hoped some of my strength would rub off on him. He said maybe he could be Plastic Man! I smiled and tried not to laugh too much at that, as I was thinking of my Barbie dolls when he said it:
  • Headed to the indoor track for my track workout. On my last 400, I went faster than I've gone in years. Maybe it is faster than I've ever gone doing intervals.  But on the LAST ONE! I pumped my fist in the air then stopped my watch. There was a young couple there that I'd seen on the track the last couple weeks. The guy (who looks like your typical sprinter--what a physique on him!) said I must have hit a PR. I told him I did, and he told me what great shape I'm in! I mean the dude knows nothing about me, he runs like a bullet (he ran track in college and also for Nike for a time), and he's telling ME I'm in great shape? I think I was blushing, and he said it a few more times as we continued to talk. I'd been feeling out of shape and a bit on the plump side. Maybe I've been hallucinating.
  • Later in the day, I did another :30 of strength training, this time attacking my upper body but also getting some of my leg work in there. This week is week 2 of 2 sets of 8 reps at higher weight than I was at 4 weeks ago.
Today I just need to lift for maybe :30 and do a 1:30 bike workout, and I feel G-R-E-A-T. Sure I have some soreness here and there (I stretch :15-:25/day), but I could be a whole lot more fatigued. Last week, I was pretty rough, but knew I would adapt to the load. It's tough when I'm going through an increase in weight/sets/reps strength-wise, but I expect it and love when I can feel the results of everything coming together. Sure we all have our on and off days, but you don't put together what I've been doing randomly or without planning and purpose.

Today I might have shit for watts on the bike, but the overall trend is UP. And that is a great feeling. Only 3 weeks until my first "real" race (a supersprint), and only 10 weeks until a 1/2 Ironman, so this is all good. I am so happy to be back in the swing of "normal" winter training! It's been 3 years since I've been at this level at this time of year, and it is just an awesome feeling. Now is when I get faster and stronger, and then beginning in April I add the "far" so I am faster at farther. I wish everyone could feel this great. It's a shit ton of hard work, but I am happy to do it!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Choosing to Struggle

I have written on this blog about plenty of physical training stuff with a smattering of mental stuff. Today is mental stuff.

It being the beginning of a new calendar year, many people have thoughts about renewal, starting over, taking on new challenges and refocusing on the ones they were already pursuing. Many of my friends are embarking on their push towards an Ironman. Others are marrying off their children or having grandchildren. Some are getting married for the first or not first time.

I spent the first half of 2014 swimming in a morose stew of self-doubt, misguided self-analysis and general shiftlessness. I've gone into before some of the things that led up to that, and recently figured out (from analyzing data!) that I need to structure my intentional athletic struggles in a particular way.

Choosing to master something is making a choice to struggle. You don't get good at something accidentally, or without making countless mistakes and possibly making a fool of yourself. You may even be ridiculed along the way if your something is considered frivolous--such as making art or conquering long distance triathlons, or setting an official world record for miles cycled in a year (I know some people making that attempt).

I've had some things come to me without too much struggle--in grade school, I loved reading and math and foreign language study. I think I inherited a gene from my Dad that made it easy for me to excel in those areas quickly. However, being good at the level I was deemed to be at was never enough for me. Even in 3rd grade, I craved challenge, but was deemed too young to determine my own destiny. By 5th grade, though, it was too obvious to my teachers that they needed to do something extra with me or else I would be far too bored. And my parents did not have the money to send me away to a special school. I worked with my teachers to come up with a way for me to move ahead and be challenged without too much extra effort on their part. I would help the Spanish teacher teach the other kids. I would pick up advanced math books and study on my own. It worked well for a few years. 7th and 8th grade were challenging for me, though, because I acquired a new set of teachers that weren't interested in learning about my history--I was to go with the flow. But I supplemented the lackluster schooling by teaching myself to sew. It seemed like a fun, useful skill to have, especially since my Mom was back working again and had precious little time to be making clothes for me.

To make it mentally challenging for me, I went to summer school. I took a typing class (which I excelled at because I'd played the piano since age 4), and I took a history class (which I hated, but understood that my emotional struggle would contribute to my need to feel challenged). I did continue to be ahead of my peers in math and Spanish, so much so that when I entered high school, within the first week my teachers knew they needed to do something special with me. I was taking Spanish, but the teacher discerned I was about 3 years ahead of everyone else (by my own doing--all I did was retain what I'd learned during the prior 4 years), and decided I could tutor the other kids, and he gave me self-study for the level that I was at. On a dare, I signed up for Russian and German, because what the hell, it sounded like fun. My math teacher figured out the same and I was put into a class with kids 2 years older than me. As to the rest of the curriculum, I couldn't have cared less, as I was able to spread my wings in math and languages. Oh but there was English. One would assume that my proficiency in foreign languages had something to do with English, and it did. I absolutely loved learning about the structure of language, and ingraining all that in me is what enabled me to pick up the foreign languages so easily.

Unfortunately, being the weirdo smart girl who was paid special attention by many of the teachers put me in an odd position socially, and as well, within my own family unit. My 2 brothers and one sister older than me had gone to the same high school, had done fairly well and even had some of the same teachers as I did, but I was always compared to them as light years better. As much trouble as this gave me, I felt it was worth it for me to pursue my own struggle to exploit my natural talents and work ethic.

This desire to go beyond has stayed with me. I fast tracked in my career during my 20's after discovering the joy of computer programming and actuarial science. As you can imagine, regularly being singled out for special attention in school and at work put a damper on my social life. Well, to an extent. My first 2 years of college I was the Social Chairman in my sorority. I figured doing that would be a good way to "learn" more social skills--by doing a bang up job of making other people happy! But college was a struggle for me because I really felt the social toll all my years of excelling (and also having a 20-hour per week job to fund college) had taken. It seemed all I knew how to do was excel at stuff. And I was always rewarded for it in some fashion--either money or accolades. Somehow I think that I became set up for a lot of external validation.

I was 25 when I was raped. I was doing exceedingly well at my actuarial job, living in my own apartment and being self-sufficient. The rape threw me for a loop for awhile, but mainly in terms of my ability to feel safe and trust people. Although the people I worked with were absolutely wonderful in giving me time off, and my landlord easily agreed to let me break my lease so I could move to a safer neighborhood.

Fast forward to my 30's when I was married and puzzled at how to make a marriage work. So I did what I knew how to do--be good at stuff--taking care of the home, making lots of money and looking good. But it wasn't enough, and I realized there needed to be some pinnacle of moving ahead at work and acquiring stuff and having a perfect house that I needed to accept as "enough."

But it wasn't enough. But it was enough to contribute to the end of my marriage. Which was an extreme blow to my self-confidence. I fucked up and got drunk one day and went rollerskating, crashed and broke an arm and got a concussion, then a few weeks later, I was laid off at work (not due to my performance). I thought I'd never find a new job, and was deeply shaken for a few weeks. But I acted "as if" I was still the same confident person, and soon had 3 good job offers.

The job I accepted was intentionally going to be a struggle for me, as I would need to be on the phone with customers and visiting them in person frequently. Two things I was not a big fan of. I did not enjoy talking on a phone (I couldn't see the person and figure out what they were really thinking/feeling), and yet I didn't like the in-person meetings, either, because I had to be on my "best behavior" which to me was always an act. But I took the job anyway, and discovered there were other people like me with the same social challenges (maybe not as stunted as me, LOL!). I learned new things, new skills, and someone invited me (this was within just a few weeks of when I started the job) to attend a "cardio step class" at the gym located in the building where I worked.

I had never considered myself athletic or particularly coordinated, but the step class had structure to it, so I quickly adapted, to the point where I was teaching the class when the instructor got sick or had other personal business to attend to. So once again, I was flexing my mastery wings. But I loved the exercise--I'd rollerskated and lifted a ton in my 20's, and got away from all that while I was married, and the exercise seemed to feed my mind and get me back to that sharper place I'd been in my 20's.

I fell into a small group of runners, and along the way, captained softball, volleyball and stair-climbing teams. I've always enjoyed taking a leadership role, especially when nobody else wants to do it! One of the runners told me about 5k races, then "suggested" I do a marathon, and from there it all escalated to Ironman and beyond.

While I periodically have a conversation with myself (and sometimes close friends) about how this behavior of constant struggle and achievement might be self-destructive, I hope I have finally given up on looking at it as a bad thing. It's just how I'm wired. I never know when my ability to do all this might be taken away from me. I sit here this morning with sore arms and pecs from swimming with paddles yesterday followed by a stint on the assisted chin/dip machine, then a run where I could tell my legs were still sore from that obscene bike workout on Saturday, and knowing I need to go outside and shovel my driveway so I can leave if I need to, but I'm having someone come to my house tonight to begin some MAT sessions. I look at the workouts and events I've got planned for myself and think it's fucking crazy--why am I putting myself through this? But, the thing is, that it is this physical "excess" that feeds my mind. I know it does, and I can't object to it. Some days I am afraid of my own drive, as I feel like I'm overflowing with energy and happiness for just being who I am.

At the end of every day, I don't expect anyone else to be like me. I can't tolerate people who denigrate me for being the way I am anymore. My ex-husband did that, and some male friends have done that to me recently. It cuts deeply to my core when someone tells me I do something too much. What the fuck is too much? Am I living too much? Am I being happy too much? Am I being introspective too much? Am I trying to encourage others to be their very best too much? Am I being an example of what a person can do too much? Nobody can know what the rest of my existence is outside of what they see me doing without making an effort to get to know me better. Because while the too much is pretty evident, my inner struggle to be just enough so that someone will love me is very real. I know the doing is not what I will be loved for--it is the being. And there's a whole lot of being inside me. It is just my unfortunate luck that the way I get at it is by struggling and doing. Sometimes it's hard for me to explain this to others. I think it may be because they are so caught up in the excess of my external presentation that they don't have the energy to dig within. Their loss. I believe that I do this with my own friends--I know that whoever they are on the outside is just a skin they wear, and that they are far more to me than that. This is why I have very few close friends. It's those who also have the energy/desire to spend to probe deeper, and/or I've tried to show them how. Sometimes I just have to ask them to do that, but that's OK. All a person can do is say no. Some people do say no, and then I need to let go of them.

Wow--this was enlightening to me. I begin today wondering how the hell I am going to have the energy to shovel the snow off my driveway, do a fucking hard bike workout, get some strength training done, do my job and then be ready (and energetic enough for, if that's required) for some MAT. And probably wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. It's a daily struggle--even as I've at times said that training is easy. It is! The struggle is doing the training but doing all the other shit, too!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 is My Time to be Great

It's that time when people summarize their training data for the prior calendar year. I've been tracking my training for years, and in fact, I scrounged up back to 2000, and I can see it in all its glory:
I highlighted the cumulative total through 2013, because that's when I went over 10,000 total hours of triathlon training. I assume that most readers have heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to become good at it. At least at sports. Read this for variations by pursuit.

Now, based on my attainment of the magic 10,000 in 2013, one would think that 2014 would have been a banner year for me. But it wasn't. It turned out to be a "rest year." What I can now see by looking at this view of my training, and knowing my race performances, is that on the macro scale I need to take entire REST YEARS in addition to scheduling rest days and weeks. Cool, huh? This is what you can figure out when you keep the data on yourself! This is why I tell people it's important to track your training if you are in this game for serious performance goals, OR to get a high-level view of why your performance might be declining or you keep getting injured. From my own data, I can deduce that I should take a rest year every 3 years. This is great, because 2014 was rest, then I will build into 2015 and do an Ironman, build more and do Ultraman Hawaii in 2016, and then 2017 will be a rest year.

So 2014 was a rest year, which means that 2015 should be awesome! I have my "final" lineup of races/events through IMLOU:

Holy shit! Looks like a fucking shitload of fun! To say I'm excited to get on this (and I have been since 12/1/2014), would be the understatement of the century! My 2015 ATP has me at 680 hours through IMLOU. I will take some rest after that, and then begin training for Ultraman Hawaii, so I expect I will close out 2015 at around 825 hours. That's a big jump from 2014, but I've done that much before, so it should be no problem. Plus, it's highly likely that I won't bike as much as I've scheduled this year. I will still get in probably 13 century+ rides, which should do the trick. Still, this is an aggressive schedule, but I've got my 10k training hours in so all should be good!

It is hard to describe how great the above analysis (which I just did on the fly while writing this post) makes me feel. Turns out that all along there has been a method to my madness, and while some people think I'm totally fucking nuts, it all makes perfect sense to me.

Here we come, 2015, and as usual, the Crackhead Motto shall reign supreme:

"Harder, longer, faster, tougher, repeat."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I'm not unlike many triathletes in that I begin selecting and registering for races and training events well over a year in advance. Time was that every Ironman race filled up within hours of online registration opening (usually the day after the race that just took place), but now there are so many of them that many stay open for months, even close to the race date. This makes me extremely happy, as I went through a bunch of crap this year, and by the time I decided I wanted to do an Ironman in 2015, there were still a few with open spots (I picked Louisville).

I take my planning for the next year 2 zillion steps further, though. After picking my primary race (Louisville is just a required stepping stone to get into Ultraman Hawaii), I scout out all the local organized bike rides and some shorter races, consult with friends (some of whom are twisting my arm to do particular races with them), decide on what fits in the big scheme of things, and usually spend November and December making my grand plan for the coming year.

I finally finished signing up for races on 12/19. Well at least through IM Louisville. There will be some races after that, but nothing I need to worry about at this time, although I am already assembling a list of things I want to do in 2016 in addition to Ultraman Hawaii.

Once I have my races on a calendar, I plan for:
  • Days off from work that I need to travel or to rest up for a big weekend
  • Haircuts every 5 weeks or so
  • Massages every 1-3 weeks
  • Miscellaneous life stuff like recurring medical and dental appointments and house/car maintenance
All this goes onto my one huge Excel spreadsheet that has all this information in it since fall of 2007! Although I may need to archive off part of it, as the spreadsheet sucks a bunch of memory now because of all the formulas and such.

Next, I fill in the workouts required to train adequately for the races, review the week to week progression, go back and adjust, and repeat this cycle about 3 times until it all looks "reasonable." I'm a trained actuary, and one of the activities you do when you are doing actuarial stuff is called "reasonableness checks."  I'm glad I was trained in that particular skill, as it has application in many areas of life--not just triathlon planning! I need to look at the data in many ways--each sport individually, each day on its own, week in aggregate, week over week increases in training load, deciding how much to taper for various races, when I should schedule rest days (YES I ACTUALLY DO THAT). This is hyped up version of "stare and compare." After each instance of looking at the data from one viewpoint, I pencil in changes, and put it away until the next day. Because I know that what seems rational one day might appear stupid the next.

When I'm all done, I print out the full calendar version and the individual swim workouts (I have it set up so that I can print them and fold 1-2 weeks worth into a quart-sized baggie to take with to the pool) and bike workouts (which during the winter I keep next to the trainer and in spring-fall I cut them apart and put into my bike jersey or Bento Box).

I am done!

I am almost done doing this same process for a friend that I am coaching in 2015. It's doubly maddening to be doing this for myself and someone else, but that's how I roll.  While I could make up her training along the way, I intend to sit down with her and show her the plan in aggregate so she can plan her life around it, because she's as dedicated to the process as I am, and I want her to be successful. I never liked getting training blocks 4 weeks at a time from a coach--but that's just ME. I like knowing what it's going to be ahead of time. Of course, I can make adjustments along the way depending on how things go, but really every coach has to make an ATP (Annual Training Plan) that accounts for all the races in order to begin sketching out the general plan for where to take the athlete.

While this process can be quite maddening and keep me awake longer than I should be (or in my case, prevent me from sleeping as much as I should since I am an early morning person), I get an incredible sense of joy and accomplishment from the process. A well-built training plan is a thing of beauty to me. It's something I've learned to do (self-taught--no certifications here!), and it's helped me to take a lot of stress off once I actually begin the training cycle.

Now, you might ask, what do I do when shit happens? It depends whether it's small shit or big shit. Most shit is small, and requires minor adjustments at best. Big shit can derail the entire year, and this has happened to me--in 2011, 2012 and 2014. 2011 and 2012 ended up being no-ops (that's a technical term Google it), although I managed to salvage 2014 from July on.

I'm an ON-OFF person. I'm either 100% fully fucking committed to something, or I'm not doing it at all. Some people call this being ALL IN. I'm ALL IN right now for Louisville and Ultraman Hawaii. Given it's a 2-year process, you might think I should just relax for the time being. I don't see it that way. For the process of getting to the outcome is just as (if not more) important as the outcome itself.

It made me a little sad to read this story where the winner of this year's Ultraman Hawaii said, "People who are looking for pure performance, nothing else, should watch the top athletes at IM or Olympic distance races. It is highly unlikely to find athletes of that potential at Ultraman. It is a race for amateurs and more a race to be a part of than to watch it." To me, the statement might make someone think it's no big deal to do Ultraman. But it is. I would not say that anyone who can/has done an Ironman can do it. Physically, perhaps, but mentally it is a whole different animal. You can slack a little and cut corners and still finish your 12-17 hour Ironman, but you can't do that and finish Ultraman. You just need too many miles in your arms and legs just to cross the finish line.

So in the spirit of piling on the mileage on my arms and legs, I'm ALL IN. I will finish out 2014 with some pathetic training totals compared to my prior years (I will write that blog post in a few days once 2014 is over), but the accumulation has begun for Ultraman. I'm done resting. I am already experiencing some big fatigue due to the combination of high intensity workouts and increased weight in my strength training. That is to be expected. I actually enjoy being sore for a few days at a time. I know it will pass, I know that my body will adapt, and I know that I am becoming stronger.

People who know me well know how focused I can become when I'm on one of these missions. I have one more project to complete (finish sewing the dress I will wear in my friend Susan's wedding next April), and then I am not committing to anything else big (in terms of my contribution) for awhile. It will be all I can do to do my day job, do my training, stretch, get massages, recover, keep mentally sharp and hang with my friends who support me and get my passion for this. I will have no time for detractors. I have already eliminated a few of those. This may all appear silly to outsiders, as I know how focus-crazed I can get. It's who I am, I make no apologies. You don't like it, steer clear! If I shatter myself in the process, oh well--I gave it a shot! I honestly think there are people gunning for me to totally destroy myself. Maybe I will. But maybe I won't. The only way to know is to get with the plan!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bikes are "Done"

 Skull Kingdom in all her glory. She is my Oly+ bike. New this year: SRM, Hed Jet 90's.
My trusty Bitch. She's 14 years old and has done 15 Ironmans. She is now my sprint bike. New this year: she inherited the Zipp 404's from Skull Kingdom (including Power Tap) plus brand new wheel stickers, she inherited the crankset from Skull Kingdom, and went to black bar tape.

Well bikes are never completely done, but they are for now. Except that I will be switching out the bar tape on Skull Kingdom for hot pink in the spring. The above modifications have been in progress for almost 3 months.  It started with finding a really good deal on an SRM. I had an SRM from 2004-2007, then I switched to Ergomo, those died and I got a Powertap when I had Skull Kingdom built in 2010. I've never really liked the Powertap--its readings are jumpy, and I didn't want to get that big Joule head unit. So when I saw I could get a new SRM (and I'll be able to switch out the PC7 for the PC8 in another month or so) for a great price, I acted quickly.

Then I thought, well, if I'm putting an SRM on Skull Kingdom, I can move the Zipp wheels over to Bitch. But then I'd want new wheels for Skull Kingdom. So I decided on the Hed Jet 90's, since I wanted deeper rims.

But then I'd been meaning to get rid of the Elite stickers on the Zipps and get some custom ones made. So I removed the Elite stickers and found a guy on Slowtwitch who makes custom stickers (not just for wheels--he can do helmets, too).  Then I figured that as long as I was going to doctor the Zipps that I may as well get custom ones for the Heds.

So when I ordered the wheels from Hed (over the phone--they are awesome people!), I asked if they could leave off the decals, and they said sure!

Let me backtrack a bit. This all began with me making appointments to get Bitch and Skull Kingdom tuned up, since it had been awhile. That started in October, which is when all this other stuff began falling in line!

So I found myself needing to design wheel stickers while waiting for my Heds to be built. I don't remember when it came to me to just get Crackhead on the Zipps, but it was brilliant! The guy who made the stickers asked me why I wanted that, in the Coke font. His guess was that I just really like Coke! But I explained that Crackhead is my nickname and I gave him a link to this blog. It made sense!  When he delivered me the first mockup (he uses CAD), he showed me the wheels with 3 and 4 Crackheads per side, but he said we could go as high as 6. Well...6 it is! More Crackhead for me! After the guy at my bike shop put them on, he commented on how precise the curvature matched the rims. Well, yeah, that's required for this sort of thing!

Then I had to think about what I wanted on the Heds. I had known for some time that I wanted skulls and flames, to coordinate with the frame. And then I decided I'd like a touch of pink, as pink coordinates well with red, and then I can wear pink kits, too! It's not a requirement that my clothes match the bike at all times, but sometimes it's just better!

The initial mockup from Nick (sticker guy who just does this on the side) was pretty cool, but the skull's teeth were too pointy for my liking. So we fixed that, Nick did round 2, and voila! These stickers would have been ready sooner, but the place where he orders the vinyl sent the wrong pink. But it was OK because my Heds weren't done.

Hed came through on schedule (4 weeks). I figured the wheels were done when I saw the charge pop up on my credit card, but they didn't send me a shipping tracking number. So I called, and they arrived the next day. I was so excited when I took them out of the box! But they were missing the Ti skewers, rim tape and valve extenders. I called right away and emailed to let them know those items weren't in the box, and they shipped them right out and I had them 2 days later.

All the timing of these things was working out well. I kept telling everyone that I was not having a wheel emergency at any point in this process, so minor glitches that came up were no big deal. But I was trying to keep my trips to the bike shop to a minimum. The day I picked up Bitch, I dropped off the Heds for stickering, then last week I took Skull Kingdom with me (and my old Cane Creek wheels which I'm selling), picked up the Heds, and before I left the shop, I had a discussion about tubes, valves and valve extenders. I need to decide how I'm going to manage spares for both bikes so I'm prepared while training and racing.  I'll get all that finalized over the next month or so. Right now, I have motley tubes/extenders, and since I'm a little OCD, I won't be able to live with that for very long.

Oh and La Gazza Ladra (LGL) was also tuned in the process and she got recabled. She's still such a beauty:
 La Gazza Ladra, aka LGL. She's my go to for easy rides and super long hilly rides, so she'll get plenty of use during Ultraman training!
I needed to have the red Nokon cables removed at the recommendation of my LBSG, as they were adversely impacting the shifting. So now she has pretty silver cables! I still love her so much and will ride her in the spring from April through May and when I have easy rides scheduled.

All this was part of my master plan for attacking Ultraman Hawaii in 2016. For that race, I will ride Skull Kingdom with the Hed on the rear and Zipp on the front due to the Hawaiian winds. Won't that look bitchin'?

I can't believe I just wrote an entire post about my bikes. But, as you know, I FUCKING LOVE RIDING MY BIKES!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Orthorexia, Food and/or Grocery Store Nazis, Fat Acceptance and Mindful Eating

I do triathlons. Long distance triathlons. Ironman and beyond. I've been told I'm a badass, but I believe that one should not call oneself a badass. I always say that I am just doing something I love!

Speaking of things that I love, I love food. Not in a "I will eventually weigh 400 lbs." sort of way, but face it, food is...tasty. And when you are eating for performance, as I do much of the year, pretty much anything that goes in my maw is tasty. What I mean by that is go ride 150 miles and then eat kale with turd sauce. It will taste awesome because your body craves the calories, and when they hit your bloodstream all that wonderful insulin is secreted, beginning the process of replenishing the glycogen in your muscles. Although I hate kale. To me it tastes like grass, and not grass growing on a tropical island--grass growing in my neighbor's shitty, weedy lawn.

I grew up in a family with 5 children, and Mom and Dad did not make very much money, so we tended to eat rather frugally. Mom was a decent enough cook, and she could bake some great bread and cookies--although her pie crust left something to be desired--but we didn't care because the filling was always good! When she returned to the workforce when I was in 7th grade, I took up helping her prepare meals, and then when I was in high school, I completely took over making the family dinners, including a really nice dessert. My older sister was already off to college, but my 2 brothers, younger sister and Mom and Dad really liked my cooking, and I took to reading cookbooks and expanding my repertoire.

Fast forward to me being done with college and living on my own and deciding I wanted to sort of specialize in Italian cooking. So since I'm a tad OCD, I bought some cookbooks, studied them and had at it. I expanded into some Chinese and Mexican. Cooking is basically following instructions, and from repeated following of instructions, learning how to alter the basic recipe and then progressing to creating your own variants or completely new things. I still cook a lot of things from recipes, only because I believe they were already spot on! Some I have memorized, but many not--there's not enough room in my brain for all that in addition to everything else I need to keep on top of.

My love of Italian cooking and cheese got me in trouble once upon a time, because I was just eating too many calories for my activity level, and that combined with an adverse cholesterol test result spurred me to change my diet. Well not so much my diet, but my approach to food. What I really needed to learn was...wait for to eat anything I wanted in moderation. At some point, either through deliberate action, or through serendipity, everyone realizes that you can't just eat with abandon, and either counts calories or uses some method of keeping the calories in/calories out in balance. I'm assuming here a person who has a realistic definition of what constitutes a healthy weight/body composition. Last night, I watched about :15 of a program about BBW women and I found it extremely sad that these women saw absolutely nothing wrong with carrying around an extra 100-300 pounds! But that's another topic for another day.

It took me a number of years to get the whole moderation thing, and along the way, I discovered a key aspect of my personal weight management methodology: many foods should be categorized as treats, and you can't have treats every single day and expect to maintain health/healthful weight unless you are exercising a shit ton. Whenever someone approaches me to discuss weight/dieting (and this happens frequently enough at my Y because I guess I look like someone who would know about this), this is one of the first truths I cover with them. You can't eat cheese burger and fries today, pizza tomorrow, huge dessert next day, and so on, and expect it to have no impact on you when you are barely exercising.

And that's the second shocking fact I give them--you are barely exercising. Your 30 minutes or 1 hour a day isn't much at all, and it's certainly not enough to give you free rein to eat whatever the hell you want all the time.

But, if you start to accept that you can't have everything you want to eat all the time, but you can have it sometimes as a treat, then over time, you will come to actually enjoy the core healthy foods: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and less refined grains.

I don't espouse any particular "diet" like Paleo or Atkins. I focus on eating an appropriate amount of carbs for your activity level. That's it. I came to this revelation from a sports nutrition book I read years ago combined with an exercise physiology book and of course, lots of Internet reading. My Mom had Type II Diabetes, so I learned about that, and all this heart disease and weight management basically comes down to one thing: carbohydrate consumption. You eat too much for your activity level and your body (because it's really good at it) tries to put the excess someplace for immediate or future use. That will be fat--subcutaneous at first, then intramuscular, and finally within your organs (which is how you end up with fatty liver disease just by eating excess carbs!). And oh by the way you will have excess sugar floating around in your blood and become diabetic at some point. Oh joy! It's not a question of if, but when. It doesn't matter what type of carbs were eaten in excess, but usually it's not vegetables. It's usually processed crap which is nutrient deficient yet calorie rich.

Fuck, I completely digressed. The point of this post is that I don't have a list of "foods I should never eat." Now, there are many processed foods I just have no desire for (what the fuck is "Texas Toast?"), but hey, if I really want gas station brownies because my blood sugar is plummeting, then I'm going to eat them.

Recently, in a Facebook group containing triathletes (mostly Ironman level, although for some reason they let in those loser sprint people--ha ha, just kidding), someone who was stepping up to Ironman distance asked for people's nutrition recommendations. And she was smart, in that she said her biggest concern was eating enough for performance. Someone else posted about how Paleo eating is the best thing since sliced bread.  I posted my handy carb calculator spreadsheet, and added comments about how when I'm training a lot, I add in things like Pringles, Cheetos, Twinkies and candy.

Well someone got all bent the fuck out of shape and went on a rant about how those things are horrible junk food that nobody should ever eat. Like I'm stuffing my face with huge amounts of those things! I have personal rules about certain treat items and my starch consumption that I have found help me to keep my weight/body fat in check throughout an annual training cycle:
  • Under 10 hours of training per week (which is rare for me), I'm a fucking rabbit--dinner is lean protein and a big salad--no starch. 
  • 10-14 hours of training per week and I get to have rice more often than not at dinner time, because I am needing more carbs. But no pasta. And rarely Coke.
  • 14-17 hours of training per week and I pretty much need starch at dinner every day, and pasta 1-2 times per week. Coke becomes necessary once or twice a week, either to wake the fuck up (from boredom at work) and pre-load for a workout, or to keep from killing myself while I'm doing hard bike or run intervals.
  • 17+ hours of training per week and all bets are off--pasta, rice, and that's when I buy Pringles and candy. And if I feel like it, Cheetos, Twinkies and anything else.
So I get a kick out of someone going all nuclear on me for saying I eat certain foods when they have no clue about exactly when I do it. I also like Coke. A LOT. It's training fuel for me--all that luscious sugar and caffeine!  I smile whenever I see a semi-trailer carrying Coke, and if I'm close enough to it, I will wave at the driver!

Well a number of other people chimed in to support my POV on nutrition, including one guy who said he "eats like a goat." That's a good way to think about it. Now, I have complete respect for people who want to maintain a pristine diet, either Paleo or some other variant that includes zero processed foods. That's fine. I personally don't have 4 hours a day to spend on food obtainment and preparation, so I do utilize some processed foods. But in general, at dinner, I am eating home cooked goodness.

I know a couple who shops only at Whole Foods (yeah, them I'm sure you know them, too) and has at times gotten on my case about some of the things I eat. Oh but so why are you fat and I'm not? I guess it's better to be fat from eating only shit from Whole Foods than it is to be appropriate weight and eating like a goat? The thing about food is that once you eat it and burn it it's out of your system!  Who knew? But sometimes when people say "you are what you eat," I respond that, "then I'm a can of Pringles with a side of Coke and Gummi Bears." Even if you are eating your so-called organic food, it's being grown in the same air that the Pringles grow in. I know this.

The other component to my nutrition plan is that I can review at the end of a day and recount everything I ate. So while I don't count calories, I know whether I've been good or not. And I've been not great lately, but with just a little bit more focus, the 3-5 lbs. I want off of me will be gone. I know it's shocking that I can get overweight, right? When I'm up even 2 lbs. I start telling people I'm fat, and I know it makes them nuts. But then I say, "well if I don't care about 2, then I'm not going to care about 5, and then 10 and so on." There was a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, when most of the US population thought the same way that I do--that 5 extra pounds was something that needed to be taken care of right away. I remember it! But that attitude has degenerated into "fat acceptance" and blaming the food industry for making us fat.

I don't buy into that. Sure the food industry compels us to purchase their cheap carb-laden products, and they are tasty. But unless you have some standard about the way you maintain your machine (i.e., your body), much as you probably have standards about how you perform at your job, then you are going to blame all sorts of external factors for why you're fat.

This blog is and always has been about the mind-body connection. If you do anything mindlessly, you will suck at it. When it appears a person is doing something in a state of flow, you can bet that they have put in countless hours to get to the point where they can be on autopilot. When you introduce mindfulness into eating and consider your perception of pleasure vs. sustenance, you either learn that pretty much any food is OK, or if you feel you need to control it precisely, that's OK, too. But don't get on my case and I won't get on yours. Both ways are OK.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fashion Update

I know there are people reading my blog for the first time this year, so I should probably explain what a "fashion update" is. Years ago, while working for PeopleSoft (which no longer exists as it was bought by Oracle where I now work), there was a group of us who were good friends. This was back in the late 90's, and it was then acceptable to have a fridge stocked with beer for employees to raid whenever they felt appropriate. We only did it on Friday, beginning around 3PM. Anyway, anyone who works in an office (which I no longer do) knows there is always a lot of gossip and grapevine stuff going on. So whenever one of our group had "news" to share, we would use the code "fashion update" to signal to one another that we had important information to be shared--at the time, it may have been during a smoke break (yes, I smoked from 1995-1999 after getting divorced SO FUCKING KILL ME).

I have remained friends with many of those people, and my best friend, Susan, was in that crowd. We adopted the fashion update term for whenever we would just want to share news about our lives, since we now live far apart (she's in Nevada). I will be the Maid of Honor for Susan's wedding next April.

So this post is a Fashion Update. Say that phrase aloud about 10 times and it will start to sound weird.

This is week 2 of my ATP. I started hating my coach (me!) this past weekend, as the assigned workouts are NOT easy except for the Monday and Friday runs. Everything else has some (and by "some" I mean "a lot") hard efforts included, so recovering from the shit is super important. But the hard shit is fun, you know? It sucks, it sucks, it sucks while you do it, but when you're finished and you executed the intervals properly, it's a fucking awesome feeling!

Saturday was a 2:30 ride including some suck-ass intervals followed by a :30 brick run. I was hating the bike ride only because the goddamn SRM keeps telling me just how much I suck, so I try and overcome it by going as hard as I should and maybe then some. The brick run actually felt GOOD! I hadn't done any brick runs since early September when I did a duathlon, and oh well I guess I forgot about TDD 2 weeks ago. I constantly tell triathletes that you don't need to do bricks all the time--running well off the bike is about, well, running well and frequently. When you are used to running frequently, then you

Sunday was a progressive long run, where you start out easy and build. So far, only building to Z3, but the Z4 (aka tempo) will come soon enough. Those runs are fun! Even when I do them on the treadmill! After the run (only 1:40, as I've stepped back a little on the running), I went and swam :30 just to relax and recover.

Monday is now a swim and easy run. I do the swim AM and the run mid-day. I thought I had a pretty good swim, and I felt like my form was good. As you know, I've been getting coaching from Magic Mike and while it's only been 4 weeks, my stroke has changed dramatically, and it's really cool to feel the difference as well as see some increased speed!

Tuesday is a hard bike ride. Right now on Tuesdays, I'm doing my typical warmup and then a Sufferfest video. Those things are fucking hard. If you aren't hanging your tongue out and just looking down at your power meter and hoping to die when you are :20 in, then you're doing them wrong! When I finished on Tuesday, I began choking/dry heaving, which is always a good sign that I worked hard enough. I also did some strength training on Tuesday. I'm finding I need to NOT do any on Mondays, as I'm usually trying to recover from the weekend.

Today was a swim and track workout. I do them both in the morning, because it's winter and I like running on the indoor track at my Y. I had a late start for a variety of reasons, but was in the water at 5:55 with coach Mike. The way it goes is he stalks me underwater whenever he feels like it, when we are both at the wall I ask stupid questions and try and get a reading for how I'm doing, and he stays until about 6:30 and then I keep swimming.

Well today, he'd watched me for awhile, and we were at the wall and he said, "You look good." I'm like WTF and all giggly inside like I'm 12.  I subsequently swam a fast 100 (for me) and I was like WTF is happening? That was when he told me I looked good. So I said, "So now what?" And all he says is "Keep doing that." I must have had the hugest stupidest grin on my face. I'm not there yet, but what the hell, I KNOW that my stroke is much changed from what it was! I am so fucking happy! I asked Mike how long before it feels "normal," and I know it will be awhile.

Meanwhile, I got my Bitch all doctored up:
The wheels are, well, how can I say this best? FUCKING AWESOME!!!

Now I am waiting for my new Hed wheels to be artistically doctored--they will go on Skull Kingdom:
But I digress. After today's swim, I did the track workout, and I hit the same paces as last week, which are paces I have not seen in about 5 years! I was wondering today whether I would be able to have a repeat performance, and apparently so!

I think I really played out the last 5 months by holding back on specific intensity workouts, so that I was well-prepared for the SUCK. I sit here writing this with sore pecs and wasted legs, and I couldn't feel better!  Tomorrow I get to do a "regular" bike interval workout (no fucking Sufferfest), and I'm now looking forward to it!

The thing is (that was a favorite saying of my Mom) that when the shit is working, you need to WORK THE SHIT.  I have finally learned that when shit is going well, to just keep going. Believe that it will keep going well and keep pushing on.

On the sleep front, apparently I am still good on 6-7 hours. I don't know whether it's because I am just so happy (for numerous reasons which I will go into in another post), or because I'm finally training hard again, or because I feel like I've locked into a rational training program for the next 2 years, or because I finally gave into who I am and that ultra-endurance is my thing, or because I am gathering only those people who support me around me. But it's working, and I am loving life right now. What a great feeling! I wish it on everyone reading this!