Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I have heard that blogs are going out of fashion. Fuck that. I write because I find that when I go back and reread things that I had some clarity of thought at the time.

I had made my blog private because I thought that when I meet someone new that I didn't want them to Google me and find this blog and they go into the archives and see all these wacky pics of me and some of my prior ramblings. But you know what? That is who I am/was at the time, and I am OK with it. There is really nothing in this blog that is (pick one):
  • illegal (I don't think so anyway)
  • pornographic (that is a subjective statement)
  • libelous 
Now, I know that there are some things I write that are inflammatory. But no more so than some of the stuff I see on social media.

Anyway, back to what I want to write about today...

I have heard in the past that the only thing anyone wants to read about on this blog is my triathlon exploits, so I shall basically stick to that with occasional sprinklings of other stuff.

I was depressed earlier this year. It got kicked off by the incredibly harsh winter here in Chicago area. I know that I experience some amount of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In fact, I felt it yesterday. Monday I went for a swim (and for the first time tried something that I think might help me which was to wear a paddle only on my left hand since my left side still doesn't have as much "feel" for the water as my right and may actually be weaker), and was also supposed to run. But the week prior I was in a 3-day training class for work and couldn't work out much during it, so I had purposely stacked a lot of workouts over Friday-Sunday:
  • Friday I swam 3100 and ran for 1:45
  • Saturday I swam 2800, then ran :40, then rode 1:40, then ran :20, since I'm preparing for a duathlon on 9/21
  • Sunday I rode about 3 hours and ran :20 off the bike
Now, if you have known me for over 3 years, the above looks like nothing compared to some of the shit I've done in the past. But here's the thing--I've learned how to manage my "total stress load" a bit better, and frankly, being in a class where I have to be all smiley and participatory wears the hell out of me, because I am intrinsically an introvert (I draw my energy from within and being with a lot of people exhausts me).

So while I swam pretty well on Monday (I am back to swimming 3x week and regaining some form and speed!), I found that I was still pretty shelled from the weekend and decided not to run. Of course, this created a mind fuck in the sense I wanted to "make up" the run, even though technically I didn't need to (I'm only training for a 1/2 marathon at this point, for fuck's sake!). Also, I was on the fucking Food Channel, even though lately I have been feeling like a total fatty.

I divert again. Remember those 13 years I spent doing Ironman-level training? I was so used to my ultra-lean self that it has been hard for me to accept a little more fat on my body. Although people are telling me I'm more muscular, which might be true since I've been the Queen of Squats for the last 2 years. In truth, I'm only 2 lbs. off my "Ironman weight," and it's all in my legs and butt.

One of the decisions (and in addition to SAD earlier this year, I decided I needed to completely change my life!) I had made earlier this year was to back off from long course triathlon. And I have. Why? Because I want there to be room in my life for romance, friends, family and a general buffer zone to account for unintentional stress.

While that was a logical decision, implementing it made me depressed, because for some reason, I didn't know what to do if I wasn't training for long course. Old habits die hard! Then I rediscovered the joy of shorter races, and found I still had some fitness. I have yet to get a 1st place in AG this year (4 2nd places), so that tells me I'm not where I want to be, but it's a start. I have done this mostly by biking less, which sucks. I FUCKING LOVE RIDING BIKES!!! But I am finding that 5-6 hours a week is still respectable.

Anyway, so I'm fat, I didn't run on Monday, I was depressed from March-June. I did go to a therapist, and she wanted me on meds. I tried some and decided I didn't want to be on that train. Mostly, I just needed time to realize that I was overloading myself with the desire to make huge life changes all at once (in addition to giving up long course triathlon, I wanted to sell my house and move and downsize and get rid of 1/2 my possessions), and wasn't cutting myself any slack. Not that I've ever been good at that!

One of my personal issues is an addiction to achievement. So when my job changed at work in April, I was thrown for an additional loop in terms of the depression, since I felt temporarily incapable of succeeding and believed the workload would get excessive. So I'm going to give up long course triathlon, sell my house, move, downsize, get rid of 1/2 my possessions and significantly change my job! No pressure! Fuck, I was really losing it. But the job thing actually helped because it caused me to focus on ONE THING and solve that problem (how I did so I will not write here), and then I was able to see that as an ACCOMPLISHMENT, which of course made me feel better about things, and once I realized I could still work and train a fair amount, I was able to see that I had overloaded myself, so I quit seeing the shrink and got on with things.

Another nice thing that helped me to be OK with no long course triathlon was being given the gift of being asked to coach a friend for a short while (or maybe it will turn into something more, who knows?). I truly do love sharing my knowledge of triathlon with anyone who wants it! And so I began this little adventure maybe 10 weeks ago, and got back onto Facebook and now here is my blog.

So you all (all 5 of you) reading this see that I am quite fallible and now I am able to be upfront about it. As for the long course triathlon, we will see how that pans out. There is still a part of me that would like to do Ultraman Hawaii since I am qualified for it. Maybe at age 60. Wouldn't that be a trip? I have tentatively agreed to do another Ironman in 2016. Or not. I do want to do a 1/2 NothingMan on Thanksgiving weekend.

Oh--about my right foot. I have a confirmed Morton's Neuroma, but it's not as bad as some people get. It only hurts at "some point" into "some runs." I also discovered that I am wearing the WRONG FUCKING SIZE RUN SHOES. Do people at running shoe stores not think to remeasure your feet when you are asking them how to fix problems? Oh well, I am figuring it out on my own. I got new custom orthotics that will help, will be changing shoe sizes again (larger size is not the answer--I need to go with wide width now), and we will see if that completely stops the foot pain. It won't FIX the neuroma, it will just help me manage it, which is all I can ask for. Then if I'm able to run 15 miles pain free, well...the next logical step would be...

OK so Monday I skipped my run. I did get it in yesterday, though, in 2 increments--:30 of really slow on my treadmill, then later I went outside for :20 hard effort followed by a 1:30 ride. I was still tired from the weekend festivities, but I needed to BE OUTSIDE since all I did on Monday was swim.

So through all this past 9 months I've learned I need to be more careful about SAD (maybe I need a light box), that I still love triathlon, that I need to workout a good amount for my own mental health (and that amount appears to be about 14 hours per week don't judge me!), that my life isn't so bad, that I can deal with this whole aging thing for now, and that I'm OK with who I am.

One of the themes of this blog is letting go of attachments. While trying to let go (or not) of an attachment to long course triathlon, I discovered that I have an attachment to achievement. Not necessarily of being #1 or some amount of something, just goal-->plan and work towards it-->achieve.  That one will be tough to break, and I may never succeed at it. Ha! I just figured out my own existential conundrum--trying to SUCCEED at being detached from SUCCESS!!!

I might not be Crackhead anymore, though. If I'm not, that's OK, and if I AM, that's OK, too!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hey Carbs, Fuck Off!

During the last year knowing I'm hypothyroid, I mostly observed what my body was doing with calories, as it had been a good while since I'd been formally training, and while I had thought I had all that dialed in perfectly in years past, I wasn't so sure this time around.  I am fairly certain that right now I am having a hydration issue (I seem to need a shit ton of fluids to the tune of maybe 2 gallons/day) that will hopefully resolve once we get my TSH level back to a reasonable level.

Meanwhile, I wasn't exactly delighted with my body comp these last few months.  On the one hand, I'd had several people tell me how muscular I appear, which I sometimes took as code for fat.  On the other hand, it wasn't like I was busting out all of my clothes.  I just wasn't my usual lean as shit Ironman self.  It's possible that some of this is just aging, particularly being firmly post-menopausal, it's possible that some of this is thyroid malfunction, but it's also possible that some of it is a lack of focus.

But cramming for an Ironman is not the time to do any sort of calorie restriction.  Still, I was somewhat careful, despite my joking about candy and such.  Once upon a time, I though 116 was plenty small for me, until I got down to 109-110 in 2009 and felt outstanding training and racing at that weight.  I've been around 113-116 this year, which isn't a complete tragedy, but still more than I would have liked.  From a calorie perspective, I knew I was fueling appropriately for the most part, and when I'm training around 20 hours a week, some candy/Pringles/Cheetos are almost required because they lack bulk, and after all the "regular" food, they are a good way to get in needed extra calories.

While in Cozumel, I looked forward to coming home, training less, and doing a cleanse of sorts on my diet.  Well I got the jump start to the cleanse by having a bit of Montezuma's Revenge or whatever it is I had for 3 days.  Much as I'd wanted to avoid Gatorade or any engineered nutrition for 2 weeks, Gatorade is the perfect antidote for severe hydration, so in it went and it fixed me up.

I'm not one to go on a 2-week eating binge after an Ironman, because a) I'm hypothyroid and b) I don't want to deal with having to drop 5+ pounds--it's just no fun when I am already tiny and don't need that many calories to maintain my weight, especially with reduced amounts of training.  So after I got over the brief illness, I stocked up my fridge with my low training staples--lots of salad ingredients, fruits, veggies, cottage cheese, yogurt.

It's been 2 weeks since IMCOZ and while my weight has changed only maybe 1 lb., my fat distribution is changing already.  I am reminded once again how simple it can be to drop weight if I just focus on less starchy (and thus overall as a % of daily calories) carbs.  Cut out the pasta and rice and presto.  I'm aiming for improved body composition more than weight loss, although mentally, I still have this picture of myself from 4 years ago when I was a lean, mean, ab-tacular fighting machine.  I did receive some comments on my abs in Cozumel, but I was like shit they're not all there yet! 

I have begun training again, but will only be in the 10-15 hours range for the next 6 weeks.  At that weekly volume level, I will stay off rice and pasta at dinner time (I may have some rice at lunch after my second workout of the day), and the leaning out should progress.  I will also be upping the intensity of training in a big way, so you put these two things together and voila, I should be good to go!  I am already back on the Gatorade during workouts, and Endurox R4 (only 1 scoop) for recovery (plus vitamins).

For my desired weight (110) and 10-15 hours of training per week, my handy carb chart tells me I should be doing about 3.3g carb/lb. of body weight daily (assuming 60% of daily calories from carbs), which is about 1450 calories/day from carbs.  Pretty sure I'm doing a bit less than that, and making up the calories with protein.  I want to get back in touch with hunger.  I'm not starving myself, but it's OK to be a bit hungry at times, and I will let my body catch up to calorie needs as I add training/intensity.

I am always amused at a person who asks me for weight loss advice when they tot out all their alleged good habits like "I eat really healthy and yet I can't lose weight."  My first question is, "What did you eat yesterday and about how many calories was it?"  Blank stare.  Wrong answer.  While some people think I count calories daily and track it, I don't, but I can tell you what I ate and about how many calories it was.  You learn and eventually it becomes automatic. 

I am starting to see some of the definition in my lower abs again, and that means I'm on the right track.  Next up I hope to add a bit more strength training to firm things up a bit more.  I have no idea whether I can get back those bitchin' abs I used to have, but I am going to give it the old college try.  I do know that I am already getting stared at at the Y while I'm on the treadmill, and I don't think it's because I look disgusting.  Maybe I will ask someone the next time I'm there!

Here I am in 2009 with my friend Brad:
Call me vain, but damn!  Can I get back in that shape at the ripe age of 57?  Give me 12 weeks.  I hope to be running the Red Rock Canyon Marathon in that kind of shape!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fuck fuck fuck

I don't have a glamorous medical condition--it's not cancer, diabetes, heart disease or anything that requires invasive treatment.  You can't tell by looking at me that I even have a problem.  But it's there.  Today I got test results from yet another thyroid blood test, and I'm worse than I've ever been since we started measuring.  Based on the ups and downs and further downs I've had in the last 12 months, this confirms that my thyroid is crapping out, and I don't know how much longer before it just gives out and I can get off this rollercoaster.

In a way, it confirms that despite a decent training cycle, I just didn't feel right at IMCOZ.  Someone asked me if the thyroid gyrations are due to training--my doctor claims no.  I am seeing an endocrinologist in 2 weeks, and we will see what he thinks. 

Meanwhile, I am going to press on with my training and racing plans.  It may be that I just need to go into every race with no expectations other than to finish.  I can live with that.  Some of the things I'm doing would be considered a stretch for people younger than me, so I feel fortunate that I've built a relatively strong engine that can get through this shit in one piece!

I do know that I need to be as good as possible with my diet, try and get enough sleep (and I'm sleeping 8+ hours again, so that seems to be back on track or maybe it's because I'm even more hypo?), stretch, get massage, do more strength training and manage stress where I can.  And stay connected with friends and family.  Despite what my body is doing to me right now, at least I am not depressed like I was most of last year!

While I am tired of this rollercoaster ride, I'm going to press on because this is what I do. But you have to know that sometimes it sucks to be me, and to have a metabolic problem sometimes feels like the biggest slap in the face, and it makes me cry because it's taking so long to get me regulated.  But it could be worse, and unless and until this or something else takes me down, I intend to keep at it and see what I can make this old body do.

Fuck it, I'm still Crackhead.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Ironman Cozumel 2013

This was my 17th Ironman+ distance (18 if you count Ultraman Canada as 2 of them) race.  That number includes 4 NothingMans, so technically 13 (or 14) "real" ones.  However you count, that's a lot of stuff over 13 years.  IMCOZ was my one and only triathlon for 2013, unless you count that 1/2 NothingMan back in July.

I had not done an Ironman or run a marathon since 2010, and while I would generally not advise (in a coaching capacity) someone to run a marathon in training for an Ironman, in some cases it makes sense, and I would say that would be when you are in your late 50's, as I now am.  Or at least I feel like I was missing some leg toughness that you can only get by subjecting yourself to that either through an open marathon or Ironman.  In 2010, I did Goofy Challenge in preparation for Ultraman Canada, and the 3 prior years I did an IM plus a NothingMan, so this hiatus left me lacking in leg strength.

Regardless, I had no clue how my body would be working for this race, with all the gyrations I'd been through with my thyroid.  I have never felt so out of touch with what/how much fuel my body needs as I have for the last 15 or so months.  I had had all that dialed in with a fair degree of precision.  Not that I tracked everything I ate and drank, as I haven't done that for years, but being able to tell at the end of the day whether I had taken in enough calories to support training.  Then I had that little episode with sodium which led me to believe that not only was my body misbehaving calorie-wise, but in many other aspects as well.  So, as should always be the case for an Ironman, goal #1 was to just finish.

One of the things that guides me in feeding myself on a daily basis as well as during a race is the degree to which I am experiencing hunger, specifically mechanical and chemical hunger (read this excellent piece which describes the types of hunger).  Needless to say, I have a pretty good amount of control over aesthetic hunger (except for beer and candy LOL), which is where I think most people get into trouble in their diets.  From fall 2012 through even now as I sit here writing this, I haven't felt that I've been dialed into mechanical and chemical hunger feelings as much as in the past.  Perhaps it is just being out of practice, but I honestly think it has to do with my thyroid hoops.  That is the one thing I am looking forward to getting "fixed," because when you are trying to do something as metabolically demanding as long course triathlon training, it's pretty much priority #1.  In fact, I would say that when athletes err on the calorie intake side, it's because they have never really been in touch with mechanical and chemical hunger as much as they should be.

Sure, I practiced all my sports nutrition as best I could, only because that is job #1--take in Ultrafuel for training sessions of 4+ hours, use Infinit for any 3+ hours otherwise Gatorade, drink Endurox every day after the first workout on a day when training 1.5+ hours (pretty much daily).  So that is what comprised my sports nutrition plan, and that takes up quite a bit of calories.  I did not have to think about it--I just did it--because I know that is the baseline.  Then "regular food" fills in for the rest--to make up for whatever calories I'd burned plus what I need on a daily basis just to exist.  But I never felt like I knew whether either the sports nutrition or regular food was enough, too much, or whatever.

Now, you might say that I would know depending on whether I was losing, maintaining or gaining weight.  I went through a number of weight fluctuations during the year, too, sometimes seemingly justified, other times puzzling.  That's the thing with a wacky thyroid (and wacky drugs, in my case!)--you are constantly experimenting.

Well enough on that.  Let's just say that all during the race, I never had the sense of I have it right or not, could not sense fullness or full hydration or lack of it or a need for more or less calories.  It fucked with my head and I knew it would fuck with my body, and that played a big part in my inability to run, I think.

So, anyway, I did enjoy the race!  The race was really well run with my only complaint being not enough porta-potties on the run course.  Other than that, it was superbly run.  Young children manned most of the aid stations, and they were so enthusiastic and helpful it was crazy.  And almost all of them looked to be in good physical condition--I can't recall any that weren't on the thin side.  Many of them knew English, but a lot of my Spanish came back to me while I was down there, so whenever possible, I tried to go with their native tongue.

Race morning: I had set my alarm for 3:15, and had told my compadres, Brad (the young man I coached to a 1+ hour PR!) and his mother in law, Melinda (who is in my age group and also racing) that I was NOT GOING TO WAKE THEM UP.  But we'd agreed that we would leave for the start at 4:45, so a little after 3:30, I began knocking on bedroom doors, and probably said WAKE THE FUCK UP!

It's annoying that I have to take the thyroid meds and then wait 1/2 hour to eat anything, although I was used to it during training.  On a race morning, it sucks, because you want to start getting calories down, and it was like I was pacing waiting for 30 minutes to pass, but it did, and I had my usual Power Bar Triple Threat, then at 4AM I drank 400 calories of Ultrafuel.  I felt full-ish, and had a bottle of Gatorade to sip on until the start.  I tried to be social and not flip out, but the truth was that I was nervous as could be, only because I felt like I was stepping into the great abyss.  You'd think that with all the races and such I've done that I wouldn't feel like that, but I just didn't have a sense of this going one way or the other.

Let me back up a few days.  On the day we arrived (except for Morgan, Brad's wife, who arrived on Thursday), Wednesday, the winds were kicked up pretty good, making for some challenging surf conditions.  No small craft were allowed to leave the harbors until Saturday.

The Three Amigos went for a :30 run on Thursday morning, since we couldn't pick up our bikes until later that day.  Along the way, we saw 4 penises spray painted on the sidewalk alongside the ocean--2 were pointing north, and 2 were pointing east.  We don't know the significance of them, but they certainly made us laugh!

By the time we shlepped around Thursday (we didn't yet have our fabulous cat piss jeep) and collected our bikes, I didn't ride that day, but Brad and Melinda did get in a short ride.  Our condo was about 1.5 miles from the expo/bike to run transition, and maybe 6 from the swim start.  We all walked a lot, but Brad won the prize for walking that day.  He tried to secure a rental car on Thursday, but he ended up walking all the way to the Cozumel airport to pick up Morgan and ended up with no car.  I secretly think his 6+ mile walk was the reason he did so well in the race ;)

Brad and I did another :30 run on Friday morning, once again laughing about the sidewalk penises, and the Three Amigos went for a 1 hour-ish ride after that.  We had an amazing tail wind going south and then a good headwind back north to our condo.  Here's the view from our condo:
That's the biggest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.  Cozumel is the world's largest cruise ship terminal, so we got to see many, many boats docking and leaving while we were there.  We all became cruise ship aficionados!

The winds were still really hefty on Friday, and at the race meeting the officials (Michael Lovato and I can't remember the other guy's name--some Aussie) were confident they would die down and we would still have a swim on Sunday, but it sure as hell didn't look good on Friday.

We all got tired of walking so much so on Friday we also became hell bent on getting a car.  We (or I should say Brad as he acted as the negotiator) tried several different places, but it was tough with all the cruise ship traffic and it seemed we might be out of luck.  Finally, though, this guy Victor guaranteed we'd have one at 5PM.  We placed bets on whether it would actually materialize, and were pleasantly surprised when there was actually a vehicle waiting for us not even a block from our condo!  It was a deep green jeep of some sort with many charms--a little string to help close the driver's door, missing snaps and such to secure the "hood," and the whole thing smelled like cat piss.  Oh well, at least we had something!

We were able to drive down to the pasta dinner, where we met up with Brad's parents, Darcy and Jim, and his sister, Caitlin.  It was like a big family reunion, even for me, since I feel like I'm part of their family now.  The dinner itself was nothing to write home about (and there was no dessert, WTF?), and while I'd expected some sort of local dancing extravaganza like they'd done in Brazil, there was just a video about a physically challenged athlete, which was still cool.  We said our goodbyes, knowing we'd meet up with the rest of the family again soon enough.

Saturday morning all we'd planned was to check in our bikes.  They'd told us at the pre-race meeting that we could drop our T2 bags at the same place, and then the race people would transport them to T2, but when we got there, we were told that no, we had to take our T2 bags there ourselves.  Whatever, we were getting used to "Mexican time" pretty well by now.  At least we had a car, and Morgan met us after we dropped our bikes, then we made a trip to drop our T2 bags, and then we decided to go for a drive to see the other side of the island, aka the rest of the bike course.

Here we are somewhere in our fabulous jeep contraption:
Pretty flat, huh?  Decent enough roads, though.  We ended up heading east near town (there is really only one town on the island, San Miguel) to get to the coastal road where there is pretty much nothing:
Well, except for a lot of beautiful waves and sand and wind!  Here I am pointing at some Punta (it means "point") or other:
We knew there would be a shit ton of wind over on that stretch of the bike course.  After we finished our tour, we went to Brad's parents' resort to try a little swim (and also indulge in free food and drinks as it was all-inclusive).  The winds on the west side of the island, where the swim took place, seemed to finally have calmed down.  I really needed to get in the water, as it had been almost 2 years since I'd even been in open water let alone ocean!  Brad and I got in and swam against the current for maybe 200 yards or so, and it wasn't too bad, and then got a little push on the way back in.  I felt like I would be able to survive the swim, which was supposed to be 700m into the current, and then you turn and go with it for 2100m, plus some turns at both ends.  We'd heard stories about last year's swim where several hundred people didn't make the swim cutoff because of the currents.

I was glad I got in the water, and this lessened my jitters about the open water swim with currents.  We went and had dinner just a short walk from our condo at the same place we'd gone on Thursday night.  Here's what we had on Thursday:
 Here's Brad and Morgan, one of the cutest couples I know:

I had the fish sandwich on Saturday.  It was huge.  I felt like I got in enough calories and was full, but in retrospect, maybe not.  Who knows?  We talked to some folks at the next table while there.  2 guys were doing their first IMs, and were self-proclaimed "bike gods."  One guy predicted a 9:35 finish (he came in at 10:3x, still pretty good), and the other was going to blast the bike course and then walk the marathon because he had a bum ankle.  He put on this skinsuit for the ride that looks like a woman wearing a bikini.  I saw it and got a kick out of it.  Turns out Brad beat his bike split (way to go!), and the dude gave up on the marathon because he just didn't see the point in continuing.  I think it was because he didn't meet his objective of crushing the bike course.

I failed to check my email that night which would have told me that they were shortening the swim course and making it point to point all with the current, but we found out right away on race morning, as they kept announcing it over and over again.  This, of course, made me feel even better about the swim, but part of me was disappointed in not getting the full challenge of the course.  I heard several repeaters remark that in normal years, IMCOZ is the most challenging swim of all the IM races, and I can believe it.

The swim course was going to be 3.1k, or 1.9 miles, in a bracket shape, and they bused us just a ways north to get to the start.  The Three Amigos should have been the last people let onto the bus we took, but then 2 more guys snuck in, one of them saying they HAD to get on the bus.  I turned and said, "What, are you pros?"  Yep.  One of them was Peter Kotland, and it took a few minutes for my brain to kick in and recall that I'd met him at IMFL in 2008, when he was training for Ultraman Hawaii and pulled out after the 1/2 marathon.  Here we are back then:

Peter said he remembered this, but who really knows?  I told him that I went on to do Ultraman Canada, and I had a lot of fun chatting with him, and I think some people around me were like WTF she knows this pro dude.

We got off the buses and walked in our bare feet down to the swim start area.  It was a tiny little bay, and I couldn't imagine how all 2800 or however many there were of us, would fit in there.  I hope eventually there are pics posted from that, because it was really cool!  I chatted up a Canadian guy, and we waded out to near the start line and just floated, talked, and treaded water.  He asked me how long I thought my swim would take, and I pulled 1 hour out my ass.  Turns out I was dead on!  Anyway, we'd watched the pros start, and then we were waiting our turn, when my watch said it was nearly 7AM and somehow all those other bodies got into the water, and then I don't remember hearing a cannon or anything, but it looked like people were going, so I just started swimming.

The water temperature was awesome--maybe 80--and clear as shit.  Also very salty, but that didn't bother me.  I just swam and swam and swam.  Most of the athletes were quite polite--only one guy grabbed the middle of my calf a few times and the last time I shook him off and stopped and said, "GET THE FUCK OFF ME!"  Everyone else was good.  I saw divers on the bottom waving up at us, and that was cool.  Some fish, but I really wasn't looking at fish.  Somehow I could just tell how far we'd gone, and when it had been about an hour, and I looked up, and we were making the turn for shore! 

I'd heard it could be tough to swim back in, but there was such a pull from the hundreds of people around me it was no big deal.  I got to the stairs that went into the water about shoulder high (for me, anyway), and grabbed on and waited a few seconds to get my slot up onto them and I was out.  I looked at my watch, and 1 hour on the nose!  I was good with that, as I am the world's crappiest swimmer.  Still, with all the people getting out with me, I couldn't have done that badly.  Here I am coming out:
The skinsuit was great for just holding the clothes tight to my body.  I couldn't imagine swimming without one, so that was $250 well spent, I guess.  I ran through the crappy showers (hanging hoses) and tried to rinse off, including my mouth, and went to grab my T1 bag.  It was mayhem with so many people coming out of the water, but I knew where mine should be and got it fairly quickly.  I went into the tent and found a chair, and a chica offered me some mouthwash to rinse out my mouth, which was such a great idea!  I already added that to my awesome packing list and bag checklist.

I got changed fairly quickly and we had to take our T1 bags with us to our bikes and leave them there.  That turned out to be a great idea, as there really wasn't room near the tents to collect them, and that way, the volunteers could grab them in numerical order for transport down to the finish.

I got on the bike all soaked with salt water, and of course, I wanted fresh water, but I needed to wait.  I just started pedaling, and there were so many bikes around me, but I tried to stay to the right.  There was an aid station quickly enough so I could grab a water bottle, and right away, I was like, I want to keep one of these!  I managed to keep 2 of them, and gave one to Melinda, since she hadn't saved any.

Pretty cute, huh?  I saw athletes out on the bike course stashing 3 or 4 of these in their jersey and cages just because they are so cool looking!

Anyway, I'm pedaling and have a slight tailwind and life is good until we make the turn around Punta Sur (South Point) and get on the east side of the island.  Right away the winds were kicked up we had a good headwind and there is also a slight elevation gain over there, just enough that combined with the headwind makes you go hmmm...maybe I should dial back a little.  So I just went into my small chainring and spun, even letting my watts dip lower than I might otherwise, so all was good.

I got caught up in a drafting pack and was like WTF none of us are winning anything and was conflicted as to what to do.  I almost needed to come to a full stop to let them pass, but it didn't take very long for me to just kind of shut things down and let them go by.  I saw a number of blatant drafters--people wearing the same kit riding side by side ("drafting buddies") and groups of 3-10.  I didn't get pissed about it, since none of us were going to be winning the race.  There were penalty tents, and there was always at least one person in there.  It was tough to distinguish a race official from a bike support guy, as everyone was on scooters, so you just had to be careful, and I was.  Still, there were some times along this stretch where I would just go ahead and pass the person in front of me as they were struggling.

We made 3 loops around the island, and on each pass, the wind got worse on the east side.  Oh well, it was the same for everyone.  I did not pay attention to my speed, and just rode the appropriate effort/watts for the conditions.  I came to refer to all the various points jutting out into the ocean on the east side as Punta Fuck-o.  Every time I'd see one, I'd say in my head, "Yay, we're at Punta Fuck-o!"  You have to find a way to make the ride festive, as it's otherwise just grinding away on the pedals.  It got hotter on each lap, too, but I wasn't sure if I was guzzling water or what.  I was on top of my Infinit consumption, and never felt hungry, but that is not normal.  So either I need less calories than I think or my sense of hunger is fucked up.  I'll take fucked up for $400, Alex.

Here I am coming back into town, I think this was the last lap.  I always try to smile for the spectators and photogs no matter how crappy I feel:

Anyway, on each loop when we turned off the Punta Fuck-o road to head west back into town, it was cool because locals had line the road and were cheering their heads off for us!  There was an aid station in this stretch that I chose for my 3 potty stops, one per loop.  Of course the porta-potty was disgusting, but that's what happens in an IM.  All I know is that on that last lap I was plenty ready to be done biking.

When I dismounted my bike, I could feel that my legs felt like someone had been pummeling them with a hammer.  I have no idea whether I was dehydrated (probably to an extent), out of shape (probably to an extent) or I had just forgotten how bad this feels.  I am going to say (a) and (b).  I never felt like I was riding too hard, and my watts bear this out.  They were pitifully low.  Also, I ended up with 117 miles on the bike computer.   Now some people say it was 113, others 114, but I did not think my computer was off.  At any rate, the bike was long, and it more than made up for the shortened swim!

I did not change clothes, but I did change socks, and was glad I did.  I didn't pee on myself on the bike, but it was still nice to change into fresh socks.  My feet had felt like they were on fire on the bike for the last lap, and others commented the same thing, but I was glad that it was BOTH FEET for me, since I'd had trouble with my right foot on and off during training.  I put on my run hat and sunglasses.  I already had the number belt on since we had to wear it on the bike, so sadly, I wasn't able to wear my streamers.  I'd wanted to, as it's been a tradition, but unlike some of the other recent IM races, we were required to wear the bib on the bike.  My bike time was something like 6:44, which was slow for me, so maybe I am just slow now or maybe I paced right, or maybe I just suck.

In starting to run, I couldn't believe how trashed my quads were, more so than any other IM I've ever done.  I still chalk this up to having taken a break from IM and marathons, and will never do that again!  I know part of it was the constant pedaling on the bike, but still, I'd done plenty of that in training.  Oh well, gotta do whatever I can now.

I saw Brad pretty early on as I started the run and he looked great.  One of my secret goals for this race was for him to have the race he deserved, regardless of how I did, and that goal came to pass.  I couldn't even hold 11:30 pace out of the gate, and I knew this "run" would be a struggle for me.  The entire time, I just couldn't tell if I was on top of or behind on calories or hydration.  In retrospect, while I liked the compression shorts I wore, I may never do that again, since I like having my belly free to roam and distend, which I think is helpful for sensing whether I need calories or water.  I like the compression on my legs, but not on my belly, and even though it's less there, I think it might be too much for racing conditions.  So I will do something different for my next IM.  Also, it feels really good to fully change in T2, so I will go back to that mode again.

I was only able to run with Brad for a few blocks, and then I let him go.  I felt good in knowing that he seemed to be on track for a very good race, and now I just needed to suck it up as best I could and get this thing done.

I forgot to mention that we did get rained on on the bike, and my bike was sprayed with sand and shit, so when I get it back I will need to clean it up in the house!  I had no sense of my body temperature, and it wasn't until the third lap of the run that I decided to put ice down my top and what the fuck do you know, I was OVERHEATED because the ice felt great!  So fucked up thermoregulation and sensing and calorie/hydration miscalculations.  Oh well! Still, I tried not to revert to complete walking, and I ended up with a "run" split less than my bike split, so oh well, I'll take it.  Here I am on the run looking WAY better than I felt:
It rained on the run, and HARD.  The streets don't drain too well there, so we were running through a bunch of puddles, but in the big scheme of things it didn't bother me, as I felt like ass anyway.

My legs felt so rotten I couldn't even pick it up as I approached the finish line.  Trust me, I tried!  But then as I got close to it I saw they had put a ramp there, and I was like WTF???  You can see me saying this:
I had to pick up my left foot like I was marching to ensure I wouldn't trip.  Oh well, it was over.  I had some pizza (again, just because I thought I should not because I was particularly hungry), got a cool beach towel, finisher shirt and giant medal:
So, I have some work to do, and that work begins next week.  Training for a March marathon, then Triple T, the Chicago ITU Olympic, 24HOT, and then Leadman. I get a blood test next week, too, and we will see how my thyroid is doing.  I have a feeling I need a tad more Synthroid, but we shall see.  I'm also getting a complete blood panel, so it will be interesting to see what everything looks like post-IM.  And then hopefully I can start to get my body back in touch with the sensation of hunger and adequate nutrition and such.  I am not implying that I am all that special, but being small by nature with a thyroid issue I think makes it even more challenging to manage myself.  I am glad that I was OK with this race being a crap shoot, and I could have done worse.  At any rate, I gave my legs some much-needed toughening up, and I think that will help me in my training over the next few months.  Hell, I only trained for this thing 20 weeks and I'm pretty old now, so I shouldn't complain, right?  Still, I want that IM PR! 

If you made it this far, congratulations!  You just won nothing!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Almost Ready

Here's what's going through my head right now:








T minus 6.  Head adjustments in progress...

Monday, November 18, 2013

It Takes Big Balls register for and put in the hard training to achieve a decent result in an Ironman (or in my case, something even longer).  The time commitment to do the training and everything in support of it is staggering.  Yet, it's one of the stupidest things in the world to do!  Most of us aren't making a living at the fine art of demonstrating just how much we can exercise, and yet we do it.  It makes us feel alive, powerful and focused.

I'm in a full taper right now, and there have been other tapers where I've been full on serious and bothered by everything and anything, and while I am sure I will get there eventually, right now I have an attitude of sheer joy and fun about it.  It's traditional for me to post a picture of a tapir on my blog so here he is:
Notice what big balls he has!  This is what you get when you are either a) an actual tapir or b) tapering for an Ironman.  I couldn't stop laughing this morning in the pool thinking about the tapir, and how ridiculous this passion of mine can be!  But when you do it, you make friends who are just as crazy about this pursuit of extreme fitness and you find they share many other qualities with you besides just being really, REALLY good at exercise.

How is it that it became almost enjoyable to mentally torture myself on the trainer for up to 5:30? Because I CAN.  Because I have big, huge fucking balls.  Because that's what it takes.  Because I knew in signing up for a winter Ironman that that is how it would go.  I've set up my Iron Kingdom (family room outfitted with bike trainers and a treadmill plus kick ass sound and video system) to support this silly passion of mine.  I'm obsessed with it, and I'm OK with that.  Despite all the shit that has gone on in my life this past year, I feel great, if only because I got through the training and that is the hardest part!

It takes big balls to be an Ironman at any age, and I think even more for a woman my age.  What the hell was I thinking to sign up for another one of these?  I was thinking I LIKE HAVING BIG BALLS MAY AS WELL USE THEM!  Perhaps that sounds boastful, but I really don't care.  I love it when someone complains to me about some little thing that hurts or how hard it is to eat healthy and then I give them the laser stare and tell them basically to HTFU.  Most people don't know what hard is.  Hard is not having legs or having your house destroyed by a tornado, like the ones that hit not too far from me yesterday.  Hard is losing your job through no fault of your own and incurring the scorn of people who think that everyone on welfare is a lazy freeloader.  Hard is knocking on death's door due to a disease you had no control over and needing to decide how to live the precious time you have left.

Most of us, fortunately, don't have much uncontrollable HARD in our lives, so some of us self-induce it.  I know that by doing what I've been doing the last 13 years that when something truly hard enters my life, I am a little better able to weather it.  But mostly, I just really like being fit.  And being hyperfit.  And smiling about it, joking about it, and occasionally racing.  And sharing all of that with other like-minded people.

So here's to all of you with big balls.  Show them off proudly!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why I Don't Mind Winter So Much

It's not that I actually prefer riding on the trainer or running on the treadmill, but when I train this way, it saves me tons of time.  Unless it's a ride over 3 hours (2 more coming up this weekend!), I only need to go into my fridge and grab a bottle of Gatorade and/or Coke to drink.  So I save time because I don't need to:
  • Mix up one or more bottles of Infinit or defizz Coke
  • Load up a Fuel Belt (I have 3)
  • Wash said bottles
  • Spend time figuring out what to wear based on the weather
  • Obsess about the weather
  • Drive somewhere cool and/or safe to ride long
  • Remember to put on my Road ID (yes I have one now)
  • Pack a cooler so my bottles stay cold if I'm riding in Fermilab
  • Transfer my "wallet" (it's a small case from a bike ride LOL), phone and spare keys to gym or bike bag
  • Choose a nice looking outfit (I must represent, after all!), although I do do this indoors at times
  • Load bike into car, take it out, load it back in, take it out, put it into the house
  • Remember to pack a bag for dirty clothes
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Pack extra food if I'm driving somewhere
  • Clean bikes
Swimming is pretty much the same for me year round since I swim indoors, although it actually takes a bit more time in the winter because I have to wear more clothes just to be outside and in my car for the short amount of time it takes to drive to/from the Y.  I know, I could walk, but that would add time with boots and all.

Maybe it doesn't seem like that much time that I'm saving during winter training, but trust me, it adds up quickly.  Now, you might think that is balanced out by the monotony of trainer riding and treadmill running.  Well, there's that.  But I have a good TV and a great sound system and I can have the music LOUD, and all my fluids are COLD. 

I also tend to train less in the winter months, and were it not for winter, I would probably kill myself year round!  Seriously!  Much as I'd enjoy living in a warmer climate, I just don't know how I'd stop myself from wanting to be running, riding and swimming outdoors A LOT all the time!

And since my winter indoor sessions (except for long runs when I'm training for a marathon which I will be after IMCOZ) are typically shorter than in-season, it's an opportunity for me to build/reinforce my personal HTFU, because I hate steady-state stuff on the trainer/treadmill, and typically do progressive rides/runs.  That IM-pace ride on Saturday bored the crap out of me to ride steady for such a long time, for example.  Rides like that are the exception rather than the rule.

The time I save from training indoors gets reallocated to other pursuits that I really enjoy, like cooking, reading, sewing, more strength training and relaxing.  Then there's that lack of yard work in the winter.  And you might say, but SNOW!  Well, yes, there's that, but I don't mind shoveling when it's just 1-2" and fluffy.  To me, it's an opportunity to be outside in it.  I should do more cross-country skiing, too, but oh well, not this winter.

I also like drinking wine in the winter with a good, hearty meal.  I'm just not into wine in the warmer months.

Finally, my house is much, much cleaner in the winter.  There isn't bike and run gear all over the place!

But hey, I'm leaving for Cozumel in 2 weeks and get to temporarily put winter on hold!  I used to regularly take a winter vacation somewhere on a beach before I started doing triathlons.  I'm going to start doing that again, even if it includes some sort of race.  In 2014, I'm going to Vegas in March, and in 2015, it's back to Orlando (can't believe I haven't been to Florida since 2011) for Dopey Challenge.  I am also going to try and get down to Florida this coming spring to impose on some friends that said I could come and visit whenever I want.

So as much as winter can be a pain in the ass at times, I'm going to keep my positive attitude about it being an opportunity for me to switch gears for a few months.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Final Assault

I sit here with sore legs.  They were sore on Monday from serious biking over the weekend.  They were sore on Tuesday from Monday's biking.  They were sore on Wednesday from Tuesday's biking and running.  They are sore today from yesterday's 16.5 mile hard run.

Why do I do this?  Because I can. Because I delight in seeing just how far I can push this one incredible piece of machinery that is my body.  Because when I push my body and it rewards me with endorphins, I feel good about myself.  Because I love the look on peoples' faces when I tell them my age and they can't believe it.  Because feeling so strong in my body makes me feel so strong in spirit.  Because when I do this to myself it makes so many other life challenges that much easier to handle.  Because when I can quiet my mind during training and let my body go on autopilot, I can quiet my mind in other circumstances where I might otherwise become overwhelmed.  Because I get a kick out of feeling like I'm 25 when I'm really 57.  Because I love setting an example for others of how GREAT you can feel.

I fully realize that this is a frivolous, unnecessary passion.  Nobody needs to exercise as much as I do (and I am careful to point that out to those who question how it is that I look how I do).  Some might even say it is unhealthy. But I would rather die doing this than some of the alternatives.  I would never say my lifestyle is for everyone.  In fact, it's not for very many people at all!  It's all for me.  Because by indulging this passion of mine, it makes me a better person.

I'm in the last 2 weeks of hard training for IMCOZ.  My run taper officially begins Sunday, but there's one more week of heavy biking to seal the deal.  In a way, I crammed for this race.  I only officially began training 20 weeks out from race day.  But I have the accumulated fitness to cram, and despite various other annoyances, I've enjoyed every single minute of it!

One of the things I am particularly enjoying is watching my friend, Brad, go through the same training that I am doing.  That was the deal for me coaching him, as he was stupid enough to ask me if he could use my training plan.  He's 26, and I've always wondered over the years whether I was more tired than I should be at various points in training cycles, so it's fun for me to hear a 26-year old reporting in that this is hard!  I hope he's realized that this isn't hard just to demonstrate just how Crackheaded I am--this is serious, elite-level Ironman training.  I am still amazed that I can train at this level.  Believe it or not, I have dialed back on some things, but I would need to go into too much detail for others to understand.

I know this will sound like a broken record, but I have always attributed my ability to train like this to doing all the right things:
  • Daily stretching
  • Frequent massage
  • Continuous self education about my body, including musculature (to self-diagnose potential injuries), nutrition, exercise modalities, etc.
  • An appropriate diet (regular and training nutrition) for my goals (that will always include BEER!)
  • Proper training methods (periodization and all that)
  • Strength training--I'm still at it and haven't broken my 20+ year streak!
  • Sleep: while my need for sleep seems to have diminished, I must be getting enough to keep this up, right?
  • Support system.  It goes without saying that it helps to know and hang out with other crazies!
  • Keeping it real.  As serious as I can get about all this, I keep it fun.  Ask anyone who rides with me how much we are laughing.
  • Staying on top of health issues
This is hard work!  I've also always said that actually doing the training is the easy part.  It's all the other things that enable that to happen. 

Today I do yet another 5K swim, which is really no big deal, as I've swum a lot farther than that.  But the middle 4200 will be where the action is at.  Tomorrow is my race rehearsal ride/run.  I will ride on the trainer since it will only be maybe 30 degrees when I start, but will change clothes quickly and run outside.  I will ride 5:30, which will end up being more than 112 miles, but I want the 5:30 of training stimulus.  Then I will run 6 miles at my Ironman pace.  Then I will have a food extravaganza!

Next week is less running, but 2 long rides on the weekend--5:30 and 4:00.  That will be tough, but oh well!  Like I say to many people, "it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!"

My legs are sore.  I love this stuff!  I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I Should Write a Blog Post

I don't really know how many people read my blog, but I'm pretty sure that the ones who do anxiously await my next missive, so here goes.

I've been on the non-generic Synthroid for 5 days, and I am optimistic that it is making a difference for me.  My heart no longer feels jumpy 2 hours after I take the meds, and I just feel more "level."  But as to how I should feel, I still have no clue.  I am less than 4 weeks out from another Ironman, and while I have been able to execute most of the training in my plan, some of it has been at less intensity than I would prefer, and I couldn't tell you whether that's due to:
  • Age.  Yep, I got older.  How the fuck did that happen?
  • The underlying nature of hypothyroidism, whether or not medicated.
  • The meds themselves
  • I need to HTFU
  • I really did get out of shape for over a year
So when somebody asks me, "How do you feel?"  I am not really sure what to tell them.  Overall, I would say I feel pretty great, considering how much I am training, that I'm 57, and I'm going on my 17th Ironman.  I mean, what the fuck, how many people are in that category?  I've noticed that I can't get my heart rate up much at all beyond maybe 110, and again, I am not sure what the reason is.

So based on the above, I have no fucking expectations going into IMCOZ, because there are too many variables in play at the moment.  That's OK, though--I am pretty sure I can finish the thing and not do too poorly.  I am not sandbagging here, either!  I know some people on the sidelines are thinking WTF she has trained like her usual beastly self, she ought to come out really well, and to you I would say why don't you try stepping into my shoes?  Yes, I have retained this freakish ability to train a lot, and yes, I still enjoy it in a perverse way--the pain, the mental suffering, the stupid things that come up and my ability to get past them.

Just yesterday, for example, I didn't sleep enough, which I blame on the stupid time change.  I had settled into waking up around 3AM, which is still a bit earlier than I would like, but even still, I would get so many things done in the wee hours.  In case you are wondering, that is when I perform my coaching duties, clean my house (because if I wait until later in the day, I will be too tired and just go FUCK IT), wash the dishes, fix bottles for biking, catch up on email, write blog posts and generally organize myself.  Anyway, my legs were also quite sore yesterday.  From biking.  See this last push has me biking 4 days straight, and none of it is what I would call easy.  Plus I shelled myself a bit on Saturday with that 114 miles in 4:30--but I am also quite pleased that I did it!

So what did I do yesterday?  I started out by raking my entire back yard, and I think that took about 1.5 hours.  I tend to rake competitively, so it's like another workout in a way.  I thought that might tire me out enough to make me go down for a short nap, which I attempted, but failed.  I also felt nutritionally depleted, so after I raked, I ate another breakfast--2 eggs fried in butter with 2 slices of buttered toast.  YUM!  Then at about 11AM, I thought I'd eat lunch and have a beer and see if that would get me to nap, but again, I failed.  But after laying in bed for maybe 20 minutes, I did seem to feel better (sometimes a beer "resets" my brain don't ask me why), so I got up and decided to motivate and go work out at the Y, since I needed just to be around other people, since I've been doing a lot of training in my house.  I packed a Coke and a bottle of Cheaterade to fuel me for a 1:30 ride and :40 brick run.

Now, many people would have bagged their workouts given my lack of sleep and sore legs.  And I get that.  And there are times when I would make the call to bag it, too, but yesterday was not one of them, being close to the race, and with this and next week being the real tests of HTFU and final fitness building.  Plus, in the back of my mind is always the thought that there will be periods during the race where I will feel this shitty, so might as well get used to it now!

I got on a Precor stationary bike, and predictably, didn't have much power, but I had enough for the circumstances, and the Coke helped the time pass quickly, but near the end, I began dreading the run.  I just didn't think I'd be able to hack it, but I transitioned quickly (I wore my running shoes on the bike), and went to the indoor track, and figured I'd just start out nice and easy, see how I felt, and if I really felt too tired to keep going, it would be OK to stop.

My first mile was 10:05, which would be too fast for being in the race, but slow for me in training, but hey, I was running when I felt like shit, so I was OK with it.  Without even feeling like I was pushing any harder, my second mile was 9:34, then 9:27, then the last one was 8:47!  The entire time I was running, I kept thinking I will feel like this in the race, so just feel it and be OK with it.  And I would say that during the 3rd mile, I began smiling and that old feeling of how cool is this came back to me and how awesome is it that I am fit enough to do this shit, and I knew I would finish the workout.

Of course, when I was done, I felt absolutely great, took the BEST SHOWER EVER (I was moaning in there, though because I was pretty wasted), then hit the sauna for some stretching, put on compression tights and headed back home to work some more.

After I was done working, I stretched some more, then I headed over to my friend's house down the street, as she'd invited me for dinner, how nice is that?  We had a nice time talking about this and that and laughing, and I would have stayed longer, except for I was really tired.  When I got home, I stripped, got in bed and passed out in like 2 seconds, and woke up right at 2AM because I had to poop, and this is what happens, and it's hard for me to go back to sleep after that.  I tried, though, but I was glad I'd made it all the way to 2 (the former 3) without waking up once.  So I know I will be a bit tired today, too, but I will get through it.

I am having some work done inside my house next week, and in preparation, I have to move things around in my bedroom, which means, you know, cleaning, too, and I'm getting there.  Behind my big dresser, I found this:
It was my Mom's.  Isn't it garish?  But I love it!  I wish I could wear it during IMCOZ!  Wouldn't that just be a fucking hoot? You never know--maybe I will pin it to my race belt.  It's about 2.5" in diameter.  I would be the most sparkly Crackhead ever!

On that note, today I swim 3500 and then run 1:10 later, and while I feel a little worked, I'm pretty sure I can HTFU and get through it just fine.

Have a great day!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the 2014 Annual Training Plan (ATP)

First, let me say I love robots.

Second, the whole sodium thing was just me OD'ing on sodium when I didn't need it.  My weight is down to 113, which while I would prefer it to be about 2 lbs. less, is still going to be just fine for racing.  After 2 days on the mild diuretic and then just watching my other sodium intake, order has been restored!  I'm really not a fatty!  Even my massage therapist, Mike, said he could tell the difference between this week and last week.  I don't feel completely bloated anymore, and my skinsuit felt GOOD when I wore it for another 5K swim yesterday.

Third, I decided early this week that I was getting tired and frustrated with the management of my thyroid, and so I called to schedule an appointment with my doctor.  Only she's out for 2 weeks, so I decided (with help from a friend) that it couldn't hurt to speak with a different doctor at the same practice.  Of course, in preparation, I summarized a bunch of data and wrote up all the questions and concerns I had.

I had seen this doctor before, but he didn't remember much about me, so I led off with, "I am pushing the metabolic boundaries of my body."  He looked at me all puzzled, and I explained that I do marathons, Ironmans, the occasional Ultraman and sometimes ultramarathons.  I could tell by the look on his face that he understood what I was saying.  You don't say all those things in one sentence and not be taken for a serious athlete (or complete lunatic).

We reviewed my up and down thyroid tests, I explained that I was frustrated that we'd been at this for nearly a year and I am still not stabilized, and that I still didn't feel "right."  Now, don't get me wrong--in some ways, I feel fucking fantastic--but I can also tell things just aren't right.  I am hypersensitive to my heart performance, body composition, sleep, bowel movements, all that.  This doctor listened to me, and then he grilled me as to whether I was taking the meds properly (YES) and whether I was messing with the dosing on my own (FUCK NO I WOULD NOT MESS WITH THAT, although I did not actually say FUCK NO, although I thought it).

He paused for a moment and then said that we need to get me off the generic.  THE GENERIC???  I didn't know I was ON a generic and that there was NOT A GENERIC.  He said some people just don't do well on the generic, and the fact that I was forced to be cutting pills meant I wasn't getting a precision dose.  So here's what we are going to do: I started on the non-generic today at 75mcg, and we will see at my next test whether we are achieving the desired result.  He also gave me a referral to an endocrinologist, which I will utilize if I don't start to feel "right" in the next 3 weeks or so, i.e., right before IMCOZ.  Now, I recognize it will be hard for me to tell, because as you know, I have so much HTFU and I get so excited about all this shit and I will be tapering so how could I not feel great?  But I think I will know when all my bodily systems are synchronizing properly again.

The best part of my office visit was at the end, when the doctor looked me in the eye and said, "You look AMAZING for someone your age, and the fact that the only meds you are on is Synthroid speaks volumes about you."  He also said that anyone going through my metabolic ups and downs would be driven mad, let alone someone like me training for an Ironman!  You cannot imagine how great that made me feel.  Because I thought I was pretty damn healthy and that I was (despite the extreme endurance exercise) taking pretty good care of myself.  And that this science experiment has been a clusterfuck.

Oh and the other great part of the visit was that my blood pressure, despite the fact that I felt all jacked up when I walked in, was a beautiful 117/72.

So I am optimistic that perhaps we may have cracked the Crackhead thyroid nut, and if not, well then off to the endo I will go. 

Switching gears, I've been working on my ATP and came up with Version 1 earlier this week.  I know from having done this exercise several times that I always come up with something that's psycho initially.  I've learned more about myself including respecting the fact that I'm older and how much I can tolerate.  I've also learned just how incredibly fit I am despite thinking I did almost nothing earlier this year and most of last year.  I may not be fast, but hey, I can go all day and then some!

So I sat on the first psycho version of my 2014 ATP for a couple of days, then revisited it, because you really have to look at the numbers multiple ways in order to know you've got it right.  So I updated workouts and such yesterday, and this morning I checked my work and found out I'd made a few mistakes (this all comes from my actuarial side--it's called "reasonableness checking") and a few other things still weren't quite right.  Now I'm happy with what I've got, and it it still subject to change as I go along in the plan.  I'm tapering more on the front and back end of races, and there is still some wiggle room in there that I am sure I will need to take advantage of here and there.  But it's still a fucking awesome plan, and it's below.

My A race for 2014 is 24 Hours of Triathlon, or as Brad and I call it, 24 Hours of Crack!  Brad is in charge of creating the strategy for us to break the record based on our individual strengths.  Right now, Brad is the ace cyclist.  I might have him on overall swim and run endurance, though, but in terms of pacing, early on Brad will have me beat.  But he knows that the longer the event, the less I slow down compared to other people, so this should be interesting.

Red Rock Canyon marathon should be fun.  I should even have a chance at qualifying for Boston there, but if I don't, I won't cry.  I won't be doing straight-up marathon training for it, and will continue to bike and swim moderately throughout that cycle.  But if I rest appropriately after IMCOZ and can nail all the quality runs in training, I should do well.  I did go 4:20 at Goofy Challenge in 2010, and that was the day after a 1/2 marathon, so a 4:05 is a definite possibility, which is all I need to BQ.

Triple T in May will be a "train through" race, but I need to be in Ironman shape for it.  I love that race, and can't wait to see who else I know that I can con into going and sharing the Crackhouse (cabin) with me.  So far, it's just Lori, but I know there will be others.  It's nice to have a cabin full of people you know and love there!

Leadman 250 will be like my 3rd Ironman distance race of the year.  It's 5K/223K/22K, but one needs to build better than Ironman bike fitness (which I have and love maintaining), a bit better than Ironman swim fitness (which I have but it's currently dormant), and you might think you don't need to do Ironman-level run training, but yes you do!  Unless your Ironman marathon is under 3 hours ;)  So doing Triple T and 24CRACK in the leadup will be perfect preparation, and then just a bit more than my normal amount of bike training for part of the time.  Actually, I should close out 2013 with about 334 hours of biking, and the 2014 ATP plus estimate of the remainder through year end will put me at about the same amount.  So actually, in aggregate, I won't be biking more next year than this year--it will just be concentrated into less time, since I will go really light initially.

Oh yeah, there's that Chicago ITU Oly in there in June, but that's a "just for fun" race.  I will do however I do.

All in all, 2014 looks to be a great year if I can execute it.  So now I can just finish up the last few weeks of heavy training for IMCOZ knowing that I have other great things on the horizon no matter how that race goes.  I am grateful for being able to nurture such incredible fitness despite:
  • Being on a thyroid rollercoaster for well over a year, including a scary hyperthyroid incident
  • Landing in the ER for we still don't know what
  • Overcoming a virus that took me completely down for 3 days and that lingered for 4 weeks
  • Crashing while running and being beat up a little from that for about 2 weeks
  • Self-diagnosing and overcoming a sodium overdose
  • Experiencing on and off issues (and experiments) with my right foot and lower back in general
All in all, I will have only formally trained for IMCOZ for 15 weeks.  All of the above happened in that space of time.  Fuck!  That's a lot of shit for 15 weeks, isn't it?  But all of us go through bunches of shit--I am so grateful for the family and friends that stick by me through all of this.  Really, most days I have to pinch myself for all the goodness that is in my life, including right now.

Enjoy the Crackitude below!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Challenge Met and Nearly Conquered and Crackhead Nutrition 101

So, I've been puzzled by some weight gain since August--about 4 lbs.  There is no way I could be gaining weight at the level I'm training at, while being hungry most of the time and nearly bonking during many workouts.  I asked the nurse at my doctor's office last week, and she said maybe it's muscle.  Um...NO.  I told her we need to figure this out or else I am going on a crash diet, and she shouldn't want me to do that because I will starve myself and disappear!

Still, I figured this was an opportunity to clean up my diet a little bit, so last week I started watching what I was eating--eliminating any candy, less beer, less pasta.  Weight was not budging, and it should have at least .5 lb.

On Saturday morning, I put on a pair of bike shorts that just a few weeks ago fit fine and they were TIGHT!  I was like WTF is this?  So I got on the scale, and THREE MORE POUNDS ARE THERE!!!  Clearly this is not regular weight gain, and on Friday I'd realized that I'd been drinking my sodium-laden (although not excessive for intense exercise on a hot day) Infinit a lot more than I ever have at this time of the year, and I typically get all salt cravy (cravy is a new word I just invented--you're welcome), so I thought I might be OD'ing slightly on sodium, but still...

I ordered a reduced sodium custom Infinit mix on Friday, but it hasn't arrived.  It has 32% less sodium than my "hot weather" mixture.  I am going to make one more custom formula with even less in it that I can use during winter months.

I talked with my nurse friend, Lori, about this while I was on the bike Saturday, and she suggested I just drink clear water during my ride.  But I was riding 5 hours, no way I could survive that without calories--I know my body pretty well.  So I looked at what I could switch to, and I ended up eating a Clif bar and one gel.  For the 5 hour ride I took in only 600 calories, but I had 750 in before I started so I was OK and didn't bonk, and I even did hard intervals.  But, I have so much HTFU, don't I?

I tried to eat well right after the ride, and then I had sushi for dinner with my brother Mike, and fuck, I really wanted the soy sauce, but I only let myself have a tiny bit.

Yesterday morning, I weighed myself, and those 3 additional lbs. were still there, and I rode Death Machine for 3.25 hours on 366 calories of Infinit, so I had some sodium going there AND CAFFEINE!  For lunch, I had some mostly plain pasta with barely any homemade salmon sauce, which still probably contained a good hit of sodium, but not too terribly much.

I baked some banana wheat germ muffins to begin eating for breakfast, as it turns out my beloved English muffin has too much sodium for my own good.  I even left out the pinch or so of salt in my muffin recipe because as it turns out FUCKING NO SUGAR ADDED ALMOND MILK HAS A BUNCH OF SODIUM IN IT!   Not enough to be lethal to me, but enough that it warranted not adding additional salt to my recipe.  You see what's going on here--you try and eat/drink something you THINK is healthy, but it really isn't.  Ugh...  I started using almond milk in my muffins 2 years ago as a way to reduce the fat in them, but guess what?  EXCESS SODIUM!  Fuckers...

For dinner, I had a salad with no added sodium and some sirloin steak with no salt, and then I had a Fage yogurt, which FUCKING YAY, barely has any sodium in it.  Not sure if I got enough calories, but today I only have to swim so I should be OK.

I was feeling puffy still, though, so I talked to my friend's wife, Nancy, since I know she is all over various sorts of things with her body and figured she might have some advice for me.  She did, and suggested some natural diuretic pills, which I immediately went out and bought and took one with dinner.  THANK YOU NANCY!!!

I don't know if it was the pill by itself, or the pill plus my reduced sodium yesterday, but I weighed myself and 3 lbs. is gone.  FUCK YEAH!  Now I need to see 4 more go.  It will be interesting to see what my "real" weight is--I'm guessing maybe 111--but we shall see.

So I'm now watching my sodium intake like a hawk--I still want some during training, and cut my Infinit by half so I still get some plus some calories, and Coke is OK since it isn't sodium laden (THANK GOD OTHERWISE I WOULD KILL MYSELF), and I can even do Gatorade.  I just need to keep my non-training sodium intake to a minimum.

At the moment, I don't know if this sodium episode is a direct result of the hypothyroidism, or whether it's just that since this is the first time I've trained for a winter Ironman and used so much Infinit during training that I just kinda OD'ed on sodium.  Whatever.  I will report this to my doctor today (including that I'll be taking a mild diuretic for a few days), and see how I do with less sodium during training the next few weeks.  I have a feeling I will be OK using the full-strength Infinit on race day in Cozumel since it will be hot.  I don't care if I"m puffy for a few days after that race--I just need to be sure my body can handle it, so this will require a decent discussion with my doctor.

I thought I'd reprise some of my general nutrition wisdom in this post as well. I try as best as I can to follow the guidelines for carb intake based on training hours from an older version of one of Monique Ryan's sports nutrition books.  Here's the table for low to high training hours:

And here's the table for excessive amounts of training, i.e., a Crackhead:
In order to achieve this easily (i.e., without keeping track of precise calorie intake daily) at different levels of training throughout a season, I've made some rules for myself:
  • If I'm training < 12 hours per week, no rice or pasta at dinner.  Just salads loaded with veggies.
  • If I'm training 12+ to 14 hours per week, I can have rice at dinner.  Gives me a boost in carbs.
  • If I'm training 14-16 hours per week, I can have pasta 1 or 2 times per week at dinner in addition to rice the other days.
  • If I'm training 16+ hours per week, I can have pasta as often as I like.
  • If I'm training 18+ hours per week (as I have almost every week for the last 17 weeks), then I can even have things like candy, Cheetos and Twinkies.  Again, not excessive amounts, but just as "treat" foods, because at this point, it actually becomes difficult to EAT ENOUGH calories, especially on days when I train > 4 hours.
Now, you must realize that as training hours increase, the amount of carbs you are taking in DURING TRAINING SESSIONS naturally goes up, and you have to consider your total carb intake including all regular food PLUS all the training nutrition.  This is really important, and why some people (I even did this once) PUT ON WEIGHT while training for an Ironman--they think they can eat with abandon, and you really CAN NOT.  Especially a small person like me.  

Now some other things I do include:
  • I drink Endurox R4 as a recovery drink on days where I train 1.5 hours or more, which is pretty much every day until I rest a few weeks after IMCOZ.  But I only use 1.25-1.5 scoops, as I am small, and the serving size of 2 scoops is calibrated for a larger person.  I have used Endurox for years.  It's expensive, but I feel better for using it, plus it has a good dose of vitamins in it.
  • I use Ultrafuel before training sessions of 4+ hours.  If I'm doing 4 hours, I will use 3 scoops (300 calories), and if I'm doing 5+ hours I will use 4 scoops (400 calories).  This stuff also has some vitamins and minerals in it.  It's basically sugar with some flavor and vitamins, and is relatively inexpensive.  It was recommended to me by my very first triathlon coach, and I swear by it for preloading on heavy training/racing days.  I know so many people who begin an Ironman with maybe 300 calories in their bodies and that is just FUCKING STUPID, and they wonder why their performance suffered.  When you do this, you basically dug yourself a hole that you cannot get out of that entire day!  You burn through 300 calories maybe halfway through your swim meaning you are starting the bike depleted already.  So before a 1/2 or full IM, I will have about 800 calories in the tank before I start--400 calories of Ultrafuel, plus about 400 calories of actual breakfast plus sips of Gatorade.
  • I have had my BMR measured so that I know that I am dialing in my calorie intake appropriately.  I want to get it done again, but not until we have my thryoid meds dialed in.  No sense doing it until that happens, because I will get a false reading.  The last time I was measured, my BMR was 1950, meaning when I do nothing for a day I need that many calories, and then I expend on average 500 calories/hour doing any form of exercise, so you can see that when I'm training 2-2.5 hours on weekdays, I need to take in over 3,000 calories!  If you don't know your BMR, though, your nutrition can be a crap shoot, which is why I suggest you go with the tables above FIRST, and then see how you do.  If you get it right, it becomes stupid easy to lose weight--you just drop say 200 calories per day, and in 2.5 weeks you should lose 1 pound.
  • I always fuel during workouts, even if they are 30 minutes, just so my brain is happy.  The biggest user of sugar in our bodies is our brain, and it's the reason we bonk, too.  Unless you are training like 5 hours a day or something like that, you have plenty of fat reserves to power you for a long time, but your body won't switch over to full fat metabolism any time soon.  Your brain will shut down your muscles, though, in an effort to save itself when it thinks you are low on sugar.  Now, I would not recommend this to someone training only 10 hours per week.  In that case, none of your sessions are very long, and so you can go plain water much of the time.  But I would say that 12+ hours per week, you might want to always be taking in some sugar, but don't forget this counts towards your daily carb total.
  • If I'm swimming 1.5 hours or more, I will switch from Gatorade to Infinit, because the longer the session, the more your body needs the calories especially if you are going to do another workout the same day.  I learned this while training for Ultraman, when I was swimming 2+ hours on most Fridays.  I also had to eat another breakfast right when I was done with those swims, because even though 2 hours of swimming doesn't burn the same calories as 2 hours of running, the fatigue on your body is nearly the same, and so you EAT.
  • The calories per hour I shoot for while biking are about 35% of what I'm burning, which I can know from using a power meter.  All other ways of measuring are WRONG--so unless you ride with a power meter, you probably have no clue how many calories you are burning because CALORIES = WORK and the only way to calculate WORK is by POWER EXPENDED.  Some people can go higher than 35%, but in an Ironman I would never go higher than that, as it can be a recipe for GI distress.  Remember that the faster you go, the less calories your body can process, so slower people can generally take in a higher % of calories burned than the faster folks, and liquids are always better than solids because your body can process them easier.
  • The calories per hour I shoot for while running are maybe only 25% of what I'm burning, because jostling makes it tougher for your system to digest, and during a triathlon, if you've nailed your bike nutrition, that's sufficient calories to get you through the run.  You never see pros eating fucking sandwiches on the marathon, do you?  You also don't see them chewing bars and shit--too hard to digest.  Plus they are going so fast that it's hard to digest much of anything.  So again, all liquid, unless you really want something else, and don't forget to give yourself SOME sodium on the run if your race is warm, since you WILL need it.  This is why they serve chicken broth at Ironman races.  Because some of us idiots will revert to all Coke, which doesn't have enough sodium to support the electrolytes we are sweating out.
I have guidelines for the day before and morning of a race as well--if you want that, I have a .PDF of a nutrition presentation I've given several times to athletes with all that in it, just message me on Facebook and I'll send it along.

If you are training for Ironman or I would even say half Ironman, and you think you can just wing it on your nutrition, I would tell you that you are DEAD WRONG.   This training places heavy demands on your body, and to treat it any less than the beautiful, complex, awesome machine that it is is to fuck with your karma!  Do you put crap into your car?  Do you feed your pets crap? Just as I believe that daily stretching and frequent massage fall into the category of "cost of doing business," so does good nutrition.

Even me, who thinks I'm doing everything right, can always improve my nutrition.  And so I am.  I'm going to be extra careful about sodium now, and that means the Cheetos and Pringles are off the table.  I can look forward to that McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with Egg after IMCOZ!