Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Overdue Post--Crisis of Confidence

I was admonished by one of my 5 blog readers that it had been awhile since I'd posted, so here goes.

After getting back from Florida, I had a few weeks to recover and reacclimate to work and prepare for another trip. I felt out of sorts as the weather was still in transition (still is) from winter to spring, and having come from the warmth of Florida I seemed to feel extra cold. I took one down training week (recovery) then returned to more or less full strength.

It was hard to get back on the trainer after being in Florida. REALLY hard. So much so that I just didn't give a fuck how slow I was going, but I let it be knowing that I had a fair amount of running coming up.

I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Lori while she was at her house in Fort Collins, Colorado, for 4 days. It is truly fun to stay with a person that lives more or less like I do. We did the Platte River 1/2 marathon the day after I arrived. I sucked, but I expected to. Even though the course was a net downhill, I was at an altitude that my body had no clue what to do with. So I just ran as best I could, and enjoyed it and the great after party for a bit. No PR on the day for sure, but still a good endurance run. We hiked a bit after that and then went to a Cubs-Rockies game in Denver. What a beautiful stadium! I haven't been to a baseball game in years, but as usual, the Cubs sucked. Still, it was a gorgeous, sunny day and the beer provided the requisite post-race-sitting-in-the-sun buzz.  The next day we hiked a bunch in Horsetooth Resevoir. I didn't really have the proper footwear, but I did OK, only refusing the final short, steep climb up to the very tip top. Another sunny day in Colorado! The next day, we (well really Lori) swam a bit, then we ran about an hour and hiked some more and then we rode bikes into town for lunch. I really fully enjoyed my trip and was sad to leave, but I needed to head further southwest to Vegas.

Well, actually, Pahrump, where my best friend Susan lives, to be in her wedding. My flight there was delayed about 2 hours, but no worries I got in and drove to Pahrump from the airport. Susan's Mom was staying with her and her husband Wolfgang, and one of Wolfgang's German-only speaking friends, Juergen, was also staying at their house. The next day, I drove to Red Rock Canyon to do a nice long run. I'd been there last year, and was supposed to run the marathon, but I was injured and only did the 5K in run/walk mode. So I was excited to go run there for 1/2 marathon or so. I have much respect for anyone who does the full marathon there--it's about 2000 feet of elevation gain over the distance. I ran 14 miles--I went out for 7 along the scenic road and then back. On the way down, I got a better idea of just how much climbing I'd done! This was the most beautiful run I've ever done. The scenery is just stunning, and it was crystal blue sky in the 50's, so perfect running weather.

The next day Susan and I got mani-pedis. This was a first for me, and I did enjoy it very much, but I don't usually do my fingernails (I do too much with my hands and don't want nails and they make typing difficult), and don't really have the time for the pedicure. But it was luxurious! Then we had a brief rehearsal for the wedding in Vegas, and I was actually feeling nervous. This was really going to happen!

Saturday morning I went for a run from Susan's house. I ran west to California and beyond, for a total 1 hour run.  I saw a sign for Badwater 27 miles and wanted to keep going! One day I will do that and have Susan just pick me up there.  Then Susan and I had our makeup done (I haven't worn makeup in a few years), and then we hauled off to Vegas for the ceremony. It was beautiful (I will post a link to pics when they are available) and the weather was awesome. When it was my turn to give a toast, the best man shouted that he bet I couldn't do pushups, so of course I had to prove him wrong. IN A DRESS!  I dropped and did 10 and said I could do more (I could have) and somehow got up in a ladylike fashion. I can't wait to see pics of that!

Sunday morning the entourage all had breakfast and then I left for home. It was nice to get home, as it always is, but I was in the wrong timezone. It took 3 days for me to be able to wake up at 5 again, and I started feeling very tired and overwhelmed by all the things I needed to do. I think the vacation was such a nice break for me, but it surely made me realize all the things I do on my own on a daily basis, and I wondered whether I would regain my organization skills. They are slowly coming back.

At the same time, I found myself very weary and feeling like I sucked and couldn't train. I really didn't do any intensity the first week back, and I started thinking about all the races I have planned and especially that damn Ironman. I had planned to go riding in Wisconsin this weekend, but realized I have too much yard and housework to catch up on to justify driving 6 hours. I feel like crap on the bike and just don't have any power. Swimming has been iffy with my right arm injury, but it's a lot better than it was--I'm thinking another month and it will be 100%.

What's odd is that right now my best sport is running. Not that I'm a great runner, but as long as I keep the easy stuff easy, I can pound out speed work. Today I ran 9 miles "just because." Because it was a nice day. Even though my legs were tired from yesterday's biking and running, and I swam 3100 this morning. I ran easy, and averaged 9:07/mile. Not bad. So maybe there's hope for me. I need to see this week through and see how close to the 10.5 hours of biking I can get in. The weather is getting better. I had this thought today--what if I suck at swimming and biking but can run decently in IM? I guess that's OK. As of right now, I had zero desire to do Ultraman. I suppose every time I get to this point in an IM training cycle, I wonder how the hell I did this before and how the hell I am going to do it again. I have days where I absolutely hate training. But I make myself do it because the alternative is hating life. I need to have a big training week where I nail swim, bike and run. It's been awhile since I've done that. I'm talking 10k swimming, 150+ miles biking and 35 or so miles running. That's a solid IM training week. I suppose if I get there and hate it, then I will know it's time for a change. Stay tuned...

For the time being, my thyroid meds are dialed in. I will monitor that and see how it goes. I would like to not have to worry about that anymore, but that's my fate.

I am definitely a creature of habit. I thrive on routine. So even though I very much enjoyed my time away from work, it was a deviation from the routine. I'm still not back on my routine--my house is a mess, my yard is a mess, and I have to give myself pep talks to get out and train. But it will come together and I will either love it or not. I do know I am looking forward to all my shorter races--it's just that IM I'm not so sure about right now. But having written this post, and thought about having my usual springtime routine thrown off, and being respectful of my body's need for rest (I'm back on 9 hours of sleep nightly!), I know I have a few months to see whether I still like riding long. As I said, my running is pretty decent. Of course, that's when it's outdoors. Things will change once consistently warmer weather is here. That always changes things for me!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Clermont Intimidator (1/2 Ironman) and Oly Race Report

So on 3/17, after 5 days of working far too many hours to be mentally prepared for 2 races, I drove to Indy to stay at Shelley's house for the night, and we would leave for Florida the next day. Good thing she'd had the foresight to rent a large vehicle (Chevy Suburban) to hold all our crap. I (as usual but I will try and break this habit) brought way too many clothes, and having had race weather change at the last minute, had extra tri crap that it turned out I didn't need.

It was a long haul to Florida, and we were on our way to Clermont, but detoured a few hours out as it turns out our host was in Leesburg. No biggie. We stayed with a pro triathlete that is a friend of Shelley's for 2 nights in Leesburg, then 2 nights in Clermont.

On Thursday, we first drove to Silver Lake where I and our pro ran. I only ran 1 lap plus a little more, about 5K. It was hot. I wasn't dying, but knew the heat was going to be a huge factor for me on the weekend. Shelley stayed with the dog while we ran (she is currently unable to run), then we all drove back and got on our bikes, rode back to the lake and did some laps. The heat didn't feel so bad on the bike, but it was no picnic, either.

On Friday, Shelley and I went on our own to the National Training Center in Clermont. Shelley hit the pool while I did a short run. I had wanted to run on the outdoor track, but it was closed to the public at that time. I ran :20 on the treadmill then hit the pool, which was nice--50 meter outside! I had swum in that pool maybe 8 years ago during a side trip to Clermont when I had been in Orlando on business. I only swam 1000 meters, and I was really slow. The heat and travel was taking its expected toll.

Since it was late in the day, Shelley and I went and grabbed some dinner while we were out and about. In retrospect, I should have eaten more.

Saturday was the 1/2 Ironman. I got myself up at 4AM (for a 7:30AM start) since I like to have my breakfast in me with 3 hours to start for a 1/2 or longer race. I didn't feel particularly nervous, except that I did wonder what I should expect of myself.

I tried to keep things light as Shelley and I drove to the race venue. I know what it's like to not be able to run. There was a year when I was supposed to do a 1/2 IM in Kona, and I couldn't run, but even worse, I couldn't bike except on a cushy bike saddle. I still went and cheered on my friend and others, but it was difficult. I've DNS'ed a number of races when I've been injured or life otherwise got in the way.

I was in the first wave. The swim was wetsuit legal, but the water was warm-ish. I'm sure they dropped the thermometer in the deepest, coldest part of the lake. I wasn't in the mood to swim without a wetsuit, so I didn't. The lake is that black coffee water. I'd swum here in 2005 when I did the Great Floridian (IM), and I am not in great swim shape anyway, but it sure was hard to sight. The swim seemed a tad long, but then again, it probably wasn't!

They had wetsuit strippers, which was nice, except that you ended up with wet grass all over yourself. Oh well, I took my sweet time in transition so I could try and have dry-ish feet and be sure I had my shit together to bike.

The heat just kept on coming, and while it started out with some clouds, the sun came blazing out, and we immediately were into decent rollers. Having not ridden a single hill since...IMWI last September, my hill fitness was non-existent. But, I still remembered how to climb and not kill myself. And it just got hotter. I drank my high octane Infinit and a few bottles of water. I wasn't as slow as I thought I'd be, and in truth, I was trying to keep my pace at or below IM pace in the interests of being able to show up and do an Oly the next day.

Even though I went super easy on the bike, the run was super hot. I later found out it was in the low 90's during the bike and run. I definitely wasn't acclimated to it! On the run, I did a 5' run/1'walk most of the time, just to prove to myself that I could run some of it! Luckily, they had ice and Coke on the run, and I put ice in my hat, my chest and groin to try and keep me cooled somewhat. I don't remember thinking very often that it sucked, because I was doing this of my own volition! My legs never hurt too bad, and my right foot (the one with the Morton's Neuroma) only bothered me once or twice, so I would just stop briefly, curl my toes, and press on.

Before I left for this trip, I was thinking I could manage a 6:30, but with the heat, I ended up at 6:55. Really slow for me, but I have been slower in the same heat and with less hills, so I can't complain too much. Again, at dinner, I should have eaten more, but I think in part that the heat stunted my appetite a bit.  Plus I didn't want to be too big of a pig in front of my host and friend!

Sunday morning I set my alarm for 5, but I woke up at 4 anyway. Race start was 7:30. Shelley did the aquabike the day before, but took me down to the race and stayed until I finished. That was really special to me! My plan for the day was to just go easy and finish well. Kind of like in Triple T. I swam just as slow as I had on Saturday, but biked and ran a bit faster. It wasn't as hot, the bike course wasn't hilly, was SHORTER!

Once I was on my bike, I just decided to enjoy the fact that I was riding outdoors in March in Florida, and so I did. I didn't really push it at all and still rode a bit faster than I thought I would. I had a blast on the bike! A lot of people commented on how cool Skull Kingdom looks, and that made me smile every time. When I got to the run, I knew I was good to finish, and I didn't feel too bad at all. I just thought to myself, hey, I'm an old lady and I did a 1/2 IM yesterday and now I'm doing an Oly! This old bag still has endurance legs! Once again, ice and Coke were my friends on the run, and I actually had some nice conversations with a few other racers. One guy, when I told him I'd done the 1/2 the day before, called me "Double Duty." I love it when other people in a race have a sense of humor. It really takes away some of the pain!

I finished the Oly in 3:24. Pretty damn slow for me, but really not bad considering I was baked in a 1/2 the day before. If I'd had a gun to my head, I could have done a 1/2 on Sunday. So all things considered, the racing was a success--I got a good dose of serious endurance and mental toughness. It would have been easy for me to just give up and completely walk either or both days during the run, but I didn't. It would have been easy to be crabby all day because it was so hot, but I wasn't. Sure, I didn't really like the bike course on Saturday (we rode on open, dangerous roads with semis speeding by at 65mph with a very narrow shoulder), but you can't like every place you ride. I just enjoyed the fact that I was riding.

After the Oly, Shelley and I packed up and headed to my friend's new home in Lithia, where we were treated like princesses--being fed and cared for like hotel guests! The next day, Shelley, Carole (her husband Al did not join the girls) and I went to the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg. It was FANTASTIC! Dali is one of my favorite artists, and I practically salivated over every painting. I learned a bunch about Dali that I didn't know and developed an even greater appreciation for his art and talent.

In summary, my race times were nothing to write home about, but I got a good dose of long course in the sun and some culture! I have to admit I got a huge ego boost about being told by a pro that I didn't look anything like my age. I don't do triathlon for vanity, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit vain. I found I felt very depleted once I got home, confirming my suspicion that I hadn't been eating enough, but I have fixed that. I do believe that the higher dose of Synthroid is kicking in, too, and I've started sleeping more again! All of these things bode well for a slight break and then hitting the training hard again. I did less than I'd planned training-wise last week, and feel well rested and ready to go today, beginning my transition to mostly outdoor biking and running. I'm glad I did the 2 races as an early test of my overall endurance. Now I get to work some more on SPEED!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Clusterfuck of Failures

I'm batting 1000% for things failing on me in the last 2 months. First, there was my lungs, and then my suspicion of thyroid malfunction. We can now add elbow and furnace failure,--although there's my ever present Morton's Neuroma. I won't even go into all the failures I am managing in my job!

My lungs are OK, as it turns out. I was having an allergic/asthmatic episode. I had full lung function tests that confirmed my lungs are OK--no COPD, no asthma, no nothing. So running a good air cleaner in my bedroom plus using albuterol before workouts plus daily Nasonex seems to have fixed that. Yay! The initial chest tightness I experienced may have been a combination of the episode plus tight pecs. After I was off the prednisone, it came back, but my massage therapist confirmed it was muscular.

As to the thyroid, I was correct in that it was underperforming. I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an auto-immune disorder basically meaning my thyroid gland is under attack. Different people experience different rates of decline in function. While mine isn't horrifically bad (yet), it's enough that coupled with the intensive training I do that's it really noticeable to me. I'd noticed I'd put on a few pounds after increasing my training volume, and while I have indulged in more frequent treats, it's not been enough for me to be gaining more than a pound or so. And then even after paying careful attention to my calorie intake, the number wasn't budging.

I got tested in January and we upped my dose of Synthroid, but no weight came off, so my guess was that at my next test we would need to up the dose again. I was right! If this dose is effective, I should know in another week or so. Last time I was in this situation, 3 lbs. disappeared rather quickly without me even thinking about it. Good thing I pay attention to the nuances of my diet and weight, huh? My doctor said, "Maybe you are just getting old." I schooled her real good on that!  We also had a chat about testing me more often, and she's on board--all I have to do is indicate, "I don't feel right." I've known I've been off, and it's subtle for me to know it. I hope the new dose works, but at least I will get tested again in 6 weeks. Doctor said it might be hard to keep my TSH where I want it, but at least I will know we are doing everything we can. I would really like to be able to do Ironman Louisville while I am properly regulated. I have never experienced that, but I give myself some credit as to what I have been able to do all these years despite a fucked up thyroid.

Last week, it had been 2 weeks since my right inner elbow was sometimes hurting. I thought it might be from changing my swim stroke, and that may be a factor, but I went to ortho, and she confirmed what I had surmised from Internet--medial epicondylitis. Layman's term "golfer's elbow." Isn't that funny? Like I will ever golf! Anyway, it's overuse and it's on my right arm, and I'm right-handed so it makes sense. I think it's from increasing weights (and maybe once or twice using incorrect form), changing swim stroke, sewing, shoveling, basically using my good old right arm A LOT. Doctor says it can take 3 months to heal. I'm doing my 4x daily stretches (it's overuse of the flexors, particularly when twisting my wrist) and icing after I swim or lift. I am also being left handed whenever I can. It does seem to be a bit better after only a week. Of course, I asked if swimming was OK, lifting pianos (just kidding), and what kinds of lifts to avoid. Really it's open palmed biceps curls, but I notice that I need to be extra careful to lock my wrists on any overhead moves, and it seems to work. Swimming seems to aggravate a little, but again, if I lock my right wrist, it feels just fine.

Of course, the Morton's Neuroma in my right foot gets aggravated from time to time when I push the envelope. My toes were being tingly and numb last few days from the weekend festivities, but they seem fine today.

Last night, my furnace failed. I had a repairman here and went to sleep, only to wake at 2:45AM and notice the house was rather cold. Failure again. I've just had a part replaced that may be covered by warranty, but I don't care--I need heat! Luckily, since my house was all sealed up nicely a few months ago, the temps didn't drop too precipitously, and I had a ceramic heater laying around from when I'd had burst pipes a year ago. The new part is in, and fingers crossed, we are done for now, although I will probably have a new furnace installed in the spring (long story here that I will not go into--it's related to my 2012 Catastrophic House Failure episode, which spanned 7 months and included central air failure, full electrical service failure and contractor failure).

So that's 5 things. Am I waiting for 6? I sure as fuck hope not.

Monday, March 02, 2015


IWBMATTKYT is the motto of The Sufferfest. It stands for I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow. While I am admittedly competitive, it is mostly a result of pushing myself harder so that I can...PUSH MYSELF HARDER.

It's been a few years (6) since I've trained for an early season long course triathlon. 6 years ago it was American Triple T in May. This time it's Clermont Challenge 1/2 IM and Olympic in just 3 weeks. Shit! While I don't have huge expectations for my upcoming race performance--for one thing, all my bike training will have been on the trainer--I still do not want to suck, so I've been hitting it hard since I officially began "training" on December 1:
Although if you remove the strength training hours, it's really not that much. Thank you Chicago winter for the opportunity to shovel snow! It would actually be reasonable training without all that. In these 13 weeks, I have:
  • Finished the grueling Tour of Sufferlandria (week of 1/26).
  • Won my AG at 2 supersprint triathlons (weeks of 2/2 and 2/16)
  • Did back to back Olympic+ NothingMans (this past weekend).
Those 3 things above were crammed in the space of 5 weeks. It's been interesting riding the waves of fatigue followed by increased endurance/strength. I felt really good this weekend--much better than I thought I would--considering how much I've been doing. I usually do a 1/2 NothingMan around Thanksgiving, and when I am training for Triple T, I'll do several weekends of them. This past Thanksgiving, I did sprint/Oly/1/2 IM on consecutive days. Maybe I should have included that one more week above! That would make the training block even more impressive (to ME--I'm the only person I need to impress!).

NothingMans are opportunities to test out nutrition and pacing, which are really one and the same. Whenever someone says they had stomach issues in a race, well, it means they screwed up their pacing, too. You can't practice one without practicing the other. When I have a NothingMan (more than a sprint) on the menu, I am thinking about it and preparing for it several days in advance, the same as a "real" race, because I need to be in good nutritional (and sleep) status in order to perform well. I take my NothingMans seriously!

For this weekend, I used my old wetsuit for the swim, even though I swam in a pool. Once again, glad I did--I had a bit of mid-back soreness after wearing it Friday and Saturday, so I did some additional stretching Saturday night since I was wearing it again Sunday. It also let me get my arms used to swimming in the suit. I will wear it at least once a week up until race day.

The original plan for this weekend's NothingMans was to do Olympic distance (1500 swim, 25-mile bike, 10k run) both days, but on Friday I decided I wanted to swim 1/2 IM distance on Saturday, since I hadn't done that (straight swim--most of my swims are about 3,000 yards lately) in awhile. I also decided I would just bike 1:30 both days, because that would give me good bike volume for the week.

My pool was fucking hot both days. I was overheating wearing the suit, but it was still worth it to wear it. On Saturday, a woman in the locker room told me I should be a wetsuit model! How sweet of her to say that! I was actually worried I might not fit in the thing because I'm up a few pounds up (which I think is due to my thyryoid petering out more--will find out today), but it fit just fine. But I was a total spaz, and forgot to put on Bodyglide, so it was tough getting it on Saturday morning. I also forgot to bring a towel with me! I had just put my crap into a locker and realized I had no towel. I was like, fuck it, I'm not driving back home--I will just have to drip dry!

Once I got in and started swimming, I played games in my head--I didn't really need to swim 2100, so I just made myself a deal that if I didn't feel like I was slowing down too much by the time I hit 1500 that I'd just keep going. Well, I was fine, so I finished out the 2100. It was great to get the suit off. I changed into my biking clothes in the locker room and drove home to bike.

I was using a custom Infinit mix after the swim and for the bike and run. I'd queued up music to listen to (random older dance CDs) while I biked and ran, and had fun listening to stuff I hadn't heard in a few years. On the bike, I did my typical :30 warmup, then I did 4 intervals of mostly 1/2 IM watts plus. Getting off the bike, I did a relaxed but not lollygagging transition to get on the treadmill. After I ran for about :10 (I started out super easy), I started thinking that it would be good for me to get in 13.1 miles of running across the 2 NothingMans, so I made an executive decision to do 6.6 miles on Saturday and 6.5 on Sunday. What's a couple more tenths of a mile, anyway?

I felt pretty good running. I was actually surprised, since I'd beaten myself into submission a week ago between the warmup, actual race, and then running after that race. I kept in mind that I had to do this all over again on Sunday. I ate well at lunch and dinner, and aside from grocery shopping and cooking a nice meal (strip steaks Italian style in a tomato paste/Marsala/red wine/garlic reduction and sauteed Belgian endive/carrots), I laid around. Saturday night it was supposed to snow, and I was hoping we didn't get too much because I didn't want to have to shovel a lot just to go to the pool and swim 1500!

Here's my finishing sticker for Saturday, which was a 2100 swim, 32.5 mile bike and 6.6 mile run:

I actually slept until 5AM yesterday, which is odd for me, but hey, I'll take it! But I didn't want to start too late in the morning, either. Since I'd failed to take my Synthroid in the middle of the night, I had to take it right away and then wait 1/2 hour until I could eat or drink anything. I washed dishes, knowing I'd be creating 4 more bottles that day, and still had to wait a few minutes before I could have coffee and breakfast. Even though I could get away with eating maybe 1.5 hours before starting, I don't like doing that, especially since I wasn't particularly hungry when I woke up. But I got on my breakfast just after 5:30, and figured I'd start at 7:30. Well, we did get about 1/4" of snow, and I wanted to get that off the driveway anyway, and figured it would be a good little warmup. It only took me about :10 to do it, but I felt like I hadn't fully digested my breakfast in order to start by 7:30.

I ended up starting at 8:05, but even then, I felt queasy in the pool, because even though this was just a NothingMan, my body reacts the same as for an actual race, and it had only been 2.5 hours since I'd eaten, so that combined with a hot pool had me feeling like I would puke at any moment. Oh and I remembered a towel yesterday, and I also remembered Bodyglide, so my wetsuit went on quite easily. I kept wanting to slow down because I SO wanted to puke, but I didn't, and I finished and got the suit off, stretched a bit, suited up to bike and headed home.

It was snowing very lightly, which was nice to look at out the window while I was on the bike. My legs felt somewhat worked over from Saturday, but not too bad. My warmup pace was a little slower than on Saturday, but then I picked it up and ended up riding faster/harder on Sunday! But then I was wondering how I'd feel on the run. Same as for Saturday, I transitioned quickly (after throwing a load of laundry into the washer), and did my warmup same as on Saturday. I was surprised that my legs didn't feel so bad, so I figured I'd try and run just a bit faster than the day before. About :43 in, I accidentally stopped the treadmill instead of a pause (to get another bottle of Infinit out of the fridge), and was like now I have to do math to figure out how much more to go. I got my shit together, and since I wanted to end the run at a full minute, ended up running 6.52 miles. So Sunday's NothingMan was 1500 swim, 33.3 bike and 6.52 run, giving me this awesome sticker:
So across the 2 days I went well over 1/2 IM distance in total, felt like I had a decent pace throughout, practiced my nutrition, practiced swimming in the wetsuit and enjoyed myself! The spoils of this were 2 glasses of this:
I can no longer drink anything but French champagne, and this was the first French rose I'd had, and it is excellent! It's still dry, but just a hint of sweetness.

I have one more "big" week of training (although today is a much needed rest day) and then I actually sort of taper--well not really--I am considering this a "train through" set of races. I'm doing a 4-hour ride on Saturday and a 2-2:15 run on Sunday, so another 1/2 IM plus across 2 days, which is no big deal really, but that 4-hour ride will probably suck at some level.

So part of me wants to change the Sufferfest motto to IWBMATTKMT: I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Mine Tomorrow.

Mission accomplished!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two for Two (Everything is Awesome!)

Yesterday was the second (out of 3--I missed the first one due to Tour of Sufferlandria) indoor triathlon, part of MITCS (Midwest Indoor Triathlon Series). I'd done OK 2 weeks ago and handily won my AG, but hoped to do better this time. I knew one thing that impacted my race 2 weeks ago was that I trained 4.5 hours the day before. Now, I know most sane people wouldn't do that and expect to win their AG in a sprint, but I'm not sane.

Since I believe in full disclosure, I should note that in the women's triathlon age groups, there is a steep drop off in participation in the 55-59 group, at least that's my observation. Why is this? I can speculate--grandchildren, menopause, loss of competitive desires, health issues--I just don't know. But the other thing I've observed is that if you weren't good at this until that age, it is incredibly difficult to get good at it around this time of life. I've witnessed, and I'm a good case study, women who take up aerobic sports in their 40's and become really good at it. I can also attest that menopause does a number on female physiology. Sometimes I feel like I'm just hanging in there, but for the most part, I feel outstanding, and I could not be doing what I'm doing now if I didn't make a concerted effort to retain my underlying strength and just, well, work my ass off. I feel pretty confident that as long as I don't completely annihilate myself, that I will continue to be at the top of my game for at least a few more years. But I don't want to just be at the top of my game--I want to be at the top of the game in many age groups and also among men! Perhaps that sounds asshole-y, but I put in the work with a strong desire to win.

I know I can't win every race I do at every distance--it depends on who shows up, whether or not I tapered, weather, gremlins, etc., but I will always go in knowing I trained to the absolute best of my abilities and gave it my all. I am no good at Olympic distance, for example--I just haven't done enough of them and it's that distance between sprint and 1/2 plus. But I'm racing a few of them this year and we will see how it goes. For another thing, I still don't consider myself a good runner--in a pure footrace, I more or less suck compared to pure runners, and I'm not the fastest swimmer, either. But I can bike like a demon, and I know how to race. Every time I toe the line I am happy to share some little tip (or five) with newer racers that they tell me made a huge difference in their day. That's the other thing--I really love giving back to others in the sport through coaching, mentoring and general spouting off of my mouth. I do have a little experience at this!

The art and skill of racing is developed by careful attention to detail both in training and in the lead up to a race--taper (if you do it!), nutrition, mental preparation, gear selection. Yikes I have all these little things that I do that work for me that make a huge difference in my mental state come race day, and despite the contribution that training makes to one's performance, the mental aspect is huge. For me, I tend to experience an appropriate amount of nervousness. If you lived with me, you'd experience it as me telling you to shut the fuck up, don't whistle, and stay out of my way. Then come race day, I can be pretty talkative with other racers and volunteers. Sometimes I can tell that other racers have that "deer in the headlights" thing going, and I try and help calm them down just a little. It's good to be nervous, but not too nervous. I am a non-stop laugh machine, as really, this is all just one big hoot to me, although the ability to laugh about it, I think, stems from all the hard work I've put in.

I like to sport temporary tattoos (still don't have any real ones!) for races. I have a huge envelope full of them. Some are funny, some are mean looking, some are gifts. For yesterday's race (I forgot to put any on 2 weeks ago), I picked 3: I had one more Iron Man left that I put on my left inner forearm:
Since I was feeling in a fun mood, I picked a dollar sign for my right calf
And BOOM! for my right arm (a bunch of these were given to me)
Just some little things to introduce some levity into the day! I wore my custom HTFU swimsuit

I need to back up to what I did in training this past week in the lead up to the race. I didn't think doing a 3:30 ride/:30 brick run the day before was a good idea (although in retrospect maybe it was!), I only wanted to have to run for an hour after the race (that's about all I can tolerate--trust me, it's hard to get out and run after one of these), and I planned on doing a better warmup on race day. To accomplish these objectives, I ended up riding 2:05 on both Tuesday and Thursday, and then only 2:00 on Saturday. I added short runs on Tuesday and Thursday (not bricks) of :20 and :15, and then I planned for a :20 run/:20 bike warmup at home and a :05 run/:10 bike warmup onsite yesterday.

It was challenging doing those longer midweek rides on top of everything else, including that I'd decided I was ready to move my strength training from 2x10 to 3x8! Doesn't sound like a huge change, but trust me, it is! That alone added :15 to my strength training time, a little DOMS here and there, and some nice added fatigue.

Then on Friday, I did a stupid thing (that I will keep doing LOL!)--an ultrarunner friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about doing steep incline walking/running (IF you are able to even run) as part of training for hills and such. I don't usually run with an incline on the treadmill, but figured I could get all over walking--that was something I did to prepare for my first 50-miler. I'm also a big fan of using the Cybex Arc Trainer during the winter to prepare for stair climb races and general cross training, so I wasn't worried about my ability to go balls out walking on my treadmill at a steep incline. But I don't do anything the easy way, do I?

I had a :40 run scheduled for Friday, so I decided to do :35 of steep incline walking, and then :05 strides. I cranked my treadmill up to the maximum incline, 15%, and got to work. I was able to vary my speed from 3.6-4.1MPH walking. I was warned that my calves would take a huge beating, but I figured that my calves were used to having the crap beaten out of them in my bike workouts, and I was right! I got a massage Friday afternoon, and felt "appropriately" tired.

Saturday morning when I woke up, my calves were just fine, but my quads were a bit pissed off at me. I laughed, thinking, well this is what happens when you cram about 12.5 hours of training into your 5-day work week! It made my 2-hour ride interesting, but I was happy I'd moved things around so I could get a bunch of other stuff done on Saturday, since Sunday would be devoted to racing and recovering. I dropped off a package to send to a friend, went grocery shopping, bought some goodies at a specialty market, stretched, did some sewing, and made my final plans for race day.

When I woke up yesterday, I felt pretty good because I'd managed to get 8 hours of sleep. My legs were worked over, but too bad, that's how it goes when you're training for an Ironman to be strong enough to train for an Ultraman. Still, I figured I could do OK at the race, but if I didn't, I was happy knowing I was training well and meeting the higher objective. I'd slacked and hadn't actually picked my tattoos until yesterday morning, but then I had fun in choosing them and putting them on. I know it seems like I'm a bit silly for a 58 year old woman, but I really don't give a fuck what anyone thinks. All I know is that my silliness wears off on other people when I see them smiling, hear them laughing, and lightening the mood, because life can be a downer much of the time.

I picked out my warmup and race clothes, and began my warmup at home at 5:30. My start time was 8:00, and the race venue is only a 10-minute drive from home, and the club opened at 7AM, so all good. I ran for :20 on the treadmill, took a 5-minute break, then got on Skull Kingdom for :22. Things felt good, and I was hydrating and sweating normally. I had a bit of time to kill before I left, and I cracked a Coke at 6:30--I want to be done with the caffeine about an hour before race time. I left my house at 6:50 and finished my Coke on the way there.

I went to registration and asked if they were giving medals to the AG winners. They no longer give medals, which is fine by me--I had so many of those that I tossed over 20 of them from prior years a few years back! I went to the locker room and put my crap in there, then headed to the upstairs track and ran 1/2 mile rather easy, and I remembered to check where the buckets were in case I had to puke when I finished.

I went back downstairs and hopped on a bike for just over 10 minutes. There were a bunch of people warming up on the bikes, and I'd timed things so basically I hopped off, changed into my swimsuit and headed to the pool.

A girl numbered me up and I asked her to put a big "X" on my left calf as a joke (that I won't explain here). She was puzzled why I would want an X, but she did it, and then I told her to make it a "smiley X," and she did.
I was all set! But I only had time to swim 100 as a warmup. The water was hot--I'm guessing 85 or 86--which is unusual for this venue. I was sharing a lane with the oldest person racing--Kirby Anderson--and so I let him choose which side of the lane he wanted, which put me in the gutter. Also, this pool is a U-shape, so my lane was half walled off, then half opened up to the next part of the pool on the other side of a partial wall. This didn't bode well for my swim, but whatever.

Before I got in, I chatted with 3 young volunteers and found my guy, Pranav. I asked them if they knew what HTFU means, and they didn't, so I explained it to them. This resulted in a boisterous laugh from everyone. I told Pranav that I wanted him to yell that at me while racing (although he could just use the letters) and also GO FATTY. This made all the kids laugh, too, as while I feel I could stand to lose 3-5 lbs., I'm not really "fat" fat. I explained that this comes from years ago when a group of friends decided we would yell this at one another during races--none of us are fat--but it sure grabs your attention when you hear someone yelling it! Maybe some people think it's mean, but it's really just funny to us.

My swim was predictably slow for me, as I was getting pushed towards the wall and had to look out for my lane mate who ended up smacking me pretty hard on the right hand (not my fault--I have a nice, narrow stroke and body profile--he got a little rambunctious), but I was OK. I got out and headed to the locker room to quickly shower off and change.

I'd told Pranav what height to set my bike seat at, and he'd done it, so when I got there, I reminded him of HTFU and GO FATTY, and we got started. Turns out in my wave (the first of the day) there were a few other AG leaders, so it was cool to have some good competition on the bike! I just looked down and rode as hard as I could for 20 minutes, and I hit the same mileage as I did 2 weeks ago, only on more training this time, so all good! Pranav fanned me with the paddle number (they put the bike numbers on a big stick so your volunteer can raise it and the people monitoring the leader board can move your little bike over another mile).

At this point, you are probably wondering why all the fuss about such a tiny indoor race? Because many competitive people show up--that's why! And it's just such fun, and in many cases, the volunteers are having just as much fun as we are. You will see volunteers jumping up and down, waving on their athlete and others, fanning us on the bike, hooting and hollering, and it's all such an intimate thing, which is why I keep coming back. It is just such a great feeling to be taken care of while doing something inherently silly, and even though I put on my game face, inside I'm smiling and having a great time.

At first, Pranav was trying to have a conversation with me on the bike, but I quickly pointed out that if I could talk, I wasn't working hard enough, so it was time for me to STFU, but I said he could talk at me! Which he did. He would ask me how I felt, and at least once I flipped him double birds, which made him laugh, and he did fan me which was great, and he was really attentive to being ready to hold up my number (I was bike number 8) when I hit another mile.

When I finished, I'd given it all I had and laid down on the floor for a few seconds, then got up and was like, oh fuck, my legs are toast, but hey--that's what happens in these things, right? All I could think was just make it through the run. As we lined up on the track, some people told me to go to the front that I was fast, and I was like, "I don't think so!" Still, there were 3 much younger and faster people on the track that lapped me a few times, then I was the next fastest, lapping everyone else. I was wearing a visor, but after maybe 1/2 mile, it was making my head too hot, so I tossed it into the volunteer area. It was a rather dramatic move, I think!

All in all, I swam a tad slower than 2 weeks ago, but did the same on the bike and run as 2 weeks ago, so I can't complain. I'd hoped to be faster across the board, but a hot pool and stupid Friday training trick conspired to hold me back from that objective.

I knew because of how hard I went on the bike that I was probably going to feel like puking when I was done, and I did, but I was about 1/8 lap from a bucket and I didn't want to backtrack. I thought maybe I could hold it back, so I walked back to where the volunteers were, and asked Pranav if there was a bucket there, and he said NO but pointed to some trash cans, so I bent over, grabbed onto the sides and hurled (just water). It felt so good to do that, I wiped off my mouth, stood up, and there were just so many smiles all around! I felt like I'd put a good effort out for the day, and people were snapping pics, but I didn't have my phone with me, so I asked Pranav to take one of me and his friends to get us together:
The first one is me just after I finished puking and collected myself, then I perked up for the one with Pranav. I asked him about his life, and he's graduating high school this year and then going onto law school at BYU. I am always happy to hear from young people pursuing big goals, and so grateful for people who turn out to volunteer at races! I said goodbye to Pranav and his friends, then went downstairs to get a massage before I ran some more.

The massage was great, and the young man who worked on me was a joy to talk to. We talked about music, math, massage, art--my favorite things! I grabbed some more water, went to the locker room and changed into compression shorts and a fresh bra top, grabbed my bottle of Powerade, and headed to a treadmill. I always get odd stares being on a treadmill all numbered up, because it's obvious I already raced, and why would I be running more? Because I need to keep up my long run, that's why! But despite how much it sucks to run after one of these races (I'd already worked out about 1:45 including my warmups and the race itself), it's not so hard when there is so much energy in the gym while other people are still racing. I toughed it out for :55, then in between waves, ran my last 5 minutes on the track. I was well and thoroughly thagomized. The origin of that term is from this cartoon:

Now I could get another massage and then EAT! The second massage felt great, and my legs reflected the additional running. Earlier, they had sandwiches, but now there was PIZZA! I practically inhaled my first slice, then they brought some hot, fresh ones and I had another one. I chatted with some people I know and some strangers while I ate and talked off the racing energy. I laughed that when I finally got to the locker room that my face was still very rosy!

I took the BEST SHOWER EVER, fixed my crazy hair, packed up and went home. I'd won my AG again and won the series, but more importantly, I'd had an outstanding training week, somehow putting 17.4 hours in against a plan of 17, so all good!

This week, I have an "easy" week, since today is a rest day, Friday is sort of a rest day (just a short swim), and then on Saturday/Sunday, I am doing an Olympic NothingMan both days to prepare for Clermont Challenge, where I will do the 1/2 IM on Saturday and the Olympic on Sunday. Nothing here I haven't done before--I've trained like this for Triple T, Ironman and Ultraman. I'm looking forward to the weekend already, as to me it's as much fun to do a NothingMan (well almost) as an actual race, and now I can start dreaming about my first big race in 4 weeks!

I did just a little happy dance yesterday afternoon, most of which was spent laying around and eating. I knew I'd fall asleep during the Academy Awards, and actually I was asleep before they started, but I was so happy that I woke up to see the Everything is Awesome (from The Lego Movie, which I must see) performance which was like capping off a great day!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

All Recovered--Full Steam Ahead

It's now 2 weeks since Tour of Sufferlandria ended, and I feel 100% recovered from that as well as from my little race a week ago. I could tell yesterday while biking and hitting the target wattages, and then I had a great 13.1 mile run this morning. Of course, it helped that I haven't needed to shovel any snow for 2 weeks! That makes a huge difference, as I don't cut back regular training except for strength due to snow.

I was shocked to check my training spreadsheet and see that my average training hours since 1/1/2015 are over 17. WTF??? I guess shoveling and a little extra swimming make a big difference. My biking hours are right on target.

I've needed to adjust my strength training for recovery purposes, after realizing I was overly optimistic about increasing my sets and reps the last few weeks. On the plus side, though, I'm staying at a higher weight across the board, and it feels like I'm well adapted to it. So I think that after my 1/2 Ironman in March, I still have some play in the strength training to up the sets and reps. Especially since my Ironman isn't until October, which is still a long ways off. I typically go into maintenance mode 4 months out from an IM, which means I have until June to continue building strength! That will be perfect, because June is when all hell breaks loose in my training.

It's been awhile since I've done an IM at the back end of summer (except for Cozumel which was an aberration), meaning I have all of glorious summer to bike long and enjoy the fucking hell out of training outdoors.

Meanwhile, it's fucking cold in Chicago, but I am going to Florida in March and Colorado/Vegas in April, so those trips will get me some sunshine in anticipation of summer, which I love where I live most of the time. I don't like it too hot, but I don't care if summer is cool, even though it drives couch potatoes nuts--they complain that it's not hot enough. I challenge them to go ride for 5-6 hours when it's 85+ out. Not my idea of a good time!

I got a very nice non-verbal compliment from a meathead after I finished my long run on the treadmill at my Y today. He'd gone up and down the ramp between the machines and the free weights several times--laced with tattoos all over his arms and chest. I just kept running. When I finished, I wiped down the treadmill, gathered up my bottles and headed for the door (to go upstairs to swim). He nodded as I left, indicating he'd been "observing" me. It's pretty obvious, I think, that I lift, as I'm not skinny and you can pretty much see the cuts in my upper body, including abs, and pretty developed quads, glutes and calves. I.e., I have a big ass ;) But it's a working ass, much like this one:

I am going to jimmy my training this coming week so I can do better in my race next Sunday. I should be able to be in the top 10 females overall. I wasn't a week ago because I trained so much the day before, but I can fix that, and also I need to do a better warmup. I'm looking forward to going 120% and puking my guts out at the end. There are some other subtle changes I will make, but they are a secret ;)

I'm still waiting for the higher dose of Synthroid to kick in, but meanwhile, I'm being a little more attentive to my diet (QUIT EATING FUCKING JELLY BEANS EVERY DAY), and some fat is coming off my midsection. I know this because of the stares I receive when I am running at my Y. I am thinking that I actually have increased the muscle mass in my legs and ass in the last 3 years, as I've been doing a shit ton more squats and lunges than I ever used to do. All good, since guess what? RUNNING AND BIKING BENEFIT FROM A STRONG ASS AND LEGS. I need to build and keep muscle mass if I'm going to do another fucking Ultraman anyway. Even though I'm training like a maniac already this year, it is only going to get worse, and there will come a point when it becomes difficult for me to stuff down enough calories to maintain where I'm at right now.

So, in summary, it's FULL FUCKING STEAM AHEAD for 2015. I intend to crush this year and anything that gets in my way. I realize that sounds somewhat arrogant, but I work my ass off. I do this because I love it, because I love how my body and mind feel (hence the title of the blog) while I do it, and I enjoy being a shining example of what someone my age can do. It's just my thang.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Winning Makes Me Happy!

I don't care what anyone thinks--winning my AG in a race makes me happy!

Yesterday was my first race of 2015--a supersprint indoor triathlon, where you swim 10', bike 20' and run 15' on indoor track. In years past, I have won my AG for the series (at one time there were 4 races all 2 weeks apart; now there are only 3) 4 times. This year, I couldn't make the first race because I was starting the Tour of Sufferlandria, but I registered for the 2nd and 3rd races.

I have never done any semblance of a taper for these things because why would I? But I can recall that in prior years, I wasn't training as much this soon in the year. Why am I training so much now? Because I have a 1/2 Ironman in 6 weeks, and I don't want to suck!

Let me back up to the beginning of last week. I had just finished Tour of Sufferlandria, and on Monday I was completely and thoroughly shagged. One of the data points I keep in my massive training spreadsheet is a rolling 7-day training total. As of last Monday, I was at 19 hours. All I did on Monday was shovel snow for an hour (recall Chicago had its 5th biggest snowstorm the day before--I got 19.1" at my house!).

Since I didn't know if I'd even be able to finish Tour of Sufferlandria, the training I planned for last week was, shall we say, a "tad" aggressive. When it came time for me to ride on Tuesday, I was like FUCK THIS WORKOUT and I shortened it and had to go much easier than planned. Which was fine. I always need to respect the recovery process despite what training I've planned, and my bike legs just weren't recovered. Plus I had run 30' and swum 3000 in the morning before I biked, so that added to the fatigue. At the end of Tuesday, my rolling 7-day total was back up to 20 hours.

On Wednesday, I shoveled over an hour (we got another 2-3" overnight), then went and swam 3000 and ran for an hour, including some track intervals just for fun. I was surprised that my run legs weren't kaput. Rolling 7-day total still at 20 hours.

On Thursday, I figured I should get back on my strength training, so I got in about an hour of that, then hit the bike, and again felt like my bike legs weren't back yet, so I held down the time and intensity a bit, but my rolling 7-day total stayed at 20 hours.

On Friday, I finished my strength training for the week, about 45', then swam 3200 (that before work), and later I ran 40', pretty easy. Yay--rolling 7-day total finally dropped to 19.4!

On Saturday, I was thinking how should I adjust things if I expect to race decently, then I decided I didn't really care since eye on the prize--I'm training for a 1/2 Ironman. But in the back of my mind I'm thinking I still want to win the stupid race. In the end, I cut back my scheduled 2:45 ride to 2:40, and my scheduled :30 brick run to :25. Some reduction, huh? And my bike intensity was still not there, but I didn't really expect it to be. Rolling 7-day total now down to 19.1. Yay! After I finished working out, I ate lunch, stretched, bought groceries, and then gave myself the gift of laying around the rest of the day in the hopes I would gain some recovery for a race the next day.

When I woke up yesterday, I immediately felt nervous. When I am nervous, my stomach does flip-flips. This goes all the way back to childhood. I had slept well, and my legs didn't feel bad. Then I had to decide how much warmup for the race to do. In retrospect, I should have done more biking, but I'll fix that in 2 weeks.

At home, I ran 5', biked 5', ran 5', biked 5' and ran 5'. Most of that was fairly easy, with a few accelerations in the last 10'. I started in on a Coke, that I would finish on my drive to the club. After I put my crap into a locker, I went and scoped out the bikes. They were different than the ones I'd used the last time I did this series, which was 3 years ago (and I won my AG for the series that year). So I got on the one spare, which really wasn't a spare--someone had been a no show. Thank God I was able to try out one of the bikes, because stationary bikes are all geared differently, and the key to winning these races is ALL ABOUT THE BIKE! And I am ALL ABOUT THE BIKE! So I gauged what I should shoot for in the race. Then I went upstairs to the indoor track and ran an easy 1/4 mile, then another 1/3 mile. I could tell my run legs weren't going to be great, but whatever, right?

Then I just hung out until it was time for me to start. My massage therapist has students from his school at these races, so I availed myself of one of them to just work on my upper back, since it was gnarly from Friday's swim with paddles. She was like we're not supposed to work on anyone until after they race, but Mike came over and told her it was OK that I know what I'm doing. That felt so good!

My start time was 10:05. A guy I know who was the announcer while I biked was on deck and numbered me up and drew a shark fin on my calf. He said he wanted to do some art on me, so I asked for the shark fin. I got in the water, and it was pleasantly cool--I'm guessing 82 or 83. My home pool is always too warm--usually 85. So I was grateful for the cool water. I swam an easy 200, and again, I could tell I was still pretty well fatigued from the past weeks of training, but whatever, right? At least I got my own swim lane!

My volunteer dude (who follows you around and tallies your laps and mileage) was Walt. A nice man, who plays tennis as his primary sport. He was a pretty quiet man, but smiley, and I appreciated that. I tend to joke a lot when I am racing--it helps me to calm my nerves. With my cumulative fatigue, I decided I would just swim steady and not try and punch it. I felt great, felt like my stroke was the best ever, and didn't feel like my heart was going to jump out of my chest as I exited the water.

In years past, I'd wear a 2-piece bikini to swim in and keep the top on and just change into bike shorts, but this year I've been feeling flabby and that I wouldn't look good enough in a bikini, so I wore a one-piece suit, my lucky suit:
The ladies in the locker room were all commenting on my cute suit. Until I stripped it off and then warned everyone I was going to start swearing pretty fast while I put on my bike shorts. Some of the ladies were watching me strip or something, and someone commented on how great my abs look. I shrugged it off, saying that I was a little fat, and one of them said she hadn't been as small as me since she was 13, and someone else said NEVER. It's all relative, right?

I managed to get my CwX tri shorts over my fat ass, got my socks and shoes on (I put talcum powder into my socks just like in longer races because it dries up the excess water in a flash), and headed out to the bike. I had Lane 1 in the swim, but Bike 2. WTF, right?

I was ready to suffer on the bike. I figured this couldn't be as hard as the shit I'd done the prior week, and I felt VERY well prepared. There was a guy in my wave that had his name on his tri suit, so I figured he was a player, and I was right. There was another young man that also looked to be quite fast, and I was right about him, too. But I was the fastest female biker in my wave, and also the oldest. I tested out my "system" for achieving maximal bike distance, and I know I can go faster in the next race. I just love crushing people on the bike! Especially people younger than me! After I finished, I threw my towel on the floor and laid on it for a few seconds. I figured my run was going to suck, but them's the breaks sometimes, right?

I went upstairs to the track and jogged around once. I decided I wasn't going to look at my watch, and I was just going to try and run steady, which is what I did. There was a girl in front of me for about 4 laps that I figured was going to crap out, and I did pass her. The speedy young dudes were just flying. Since it's been a long time since I've gone so totally anaerobic like I did on the bike, I was pretty sure I was going to puke my guts out when I finished. It was all I could do to not slow down on the run. I'm not happy with my run, but I've learned that for me to run effectively, I DO actually need a taper--swimming and biking not so much!

I managed to hang on and not slow down, and I did puke (it was all water) in a bucket, and it felt good! At least I knew that I had gone as hard as I could on the day! First order of post-race business was to go and get a massage. They had pizza, fruit, water, Gatorade, sandwiches and energy bars for us. I longingly looked at the pizza, which I couldn't have, because I still had to run another hour. But I ate 1/2 banana and grabbed some water, then went and got an awesome leg massage.

I had forgotten that at this club they don't let you use the treadmills because they are inside the track and don't want people in there. So I decided that since I was going to run real easy anyway, that I'd do some of it on elliptical. I did 15' on there while one of the waves was going. It was way more motivating to do that than just on my own. I hate elliptical. The other people on the machines were giving me weird looks because they could see I'd already raced because of my sweat and the numbers on me. I was still working harder than they were!

After that wave finished, I went and ran 1/2 mile on the track real easy, and could tell I was thoroughly shagged, but I still had more running to do. I saw another racer on a treadmill, and I figured if he could do it, then I should be able to. I asked someone who works at the club, told him I promised I wouldn't die, and he said it was OK. It was really cool to be on the treadmill with the music blaring (they have awesome DJs at these events) and people literally running circles around me! It made the suckage of running 40' on the treadmill not so bad.

But then I was FUCKING DONE! I went back downstairs with one thing in mind: PIZZA! I don't eat pizza very often, but this was well deserved. I think I inhaled the first piece of sausage, then they laid out some fresh ones that were pepperoni, and I ate 2 slices of that. I drank another bottle of water, then went and got my 3rd massage of the day! My legs were a bit more gnarly than immediately post-race because I'd run more, so it really helped to get another massage.

Then, of course, I had to go and check results. While there was at least 1 more woman in my AG that wasn't yet posted, I'm pretty sure I won. I actually placed pretty well in the overall rankings, too, for an old lady.

For the next race in 2 weeks, I am going to shuffle my bike training so I don't do 3:30 the day before! Even though I might still win my AG after that, I want to have a good run, and so I will limit my biking to 2 hours the day before, and we'll see how it goes.

I was so shagged yesterday after I got home that I immediately changed into pajamas (2:30!), and alternated laying in bed watching TV and/or reading with eating and drinking beer. This morning, as soon as I woke up, I thought, "I fucking won that race yesterday!" and got the biggest grin on my face. I know it's not much of a race, but still, it felt good to do that on top of all the training I've been doing, and it was a great way to kick off the 2015 racing season. I did do a happy dance in my living room. Now I have to keep up the momentum and not burn myself out, as my A-race, Ironman Louisville, is still 8 months out.

Oh--I had my lungs checked out and they are FINE! The tech at the hospital agreed with me that because I'd had my house all sealed up that my allergies had flared, and possibly I had an infection that the steroids helped clear up. I told him that usually after a really hard effort I have a coughing fit, and since I've been regularly using the albuterol before workouts that doesn't happen so much. I just realized that even though I puked after the race yesterday that I didn't have a coughing fit!

I also had my yearly mammogram, and this time it was 100% normal without a follow-on diagnostic, so that made me happy, too. Now I am just waiting to see the higher dose of Synthroid kick in (I don't think it's quite there yet), and then I will see if I feel even better. I decided to stop taking the CoQ10, because I think it's contributing to my lessened sleep and/or weight gain, so we'll see how that experiment goes.

So all in all, the physical systems are in good shape, I'm training like a maniac and WINNING! I couldn't be happier today, even though I am so tired it's crazy! But today is a rest day, unless I decide to try a short swim (which I think would be helpful). And I am HUNGRY!


Monday, February 02, 2015

Finishing 2015 Tour of Sufferlandria plus 5th Biggest Snowstorm = Much Awesome!

There it is. Everything I did this week! It was pretty epic to end the TofS with a snowstorm (the 5th biggest recorded in the Chicago area--officially 19.1" in my town!), and I even managed to shovel yesterday (before and after riding). I keep track of shoveling as strength, because that's what it is. It doesn't include time using the snow blower--just shoveling by hand. The calories burned are approximations, but probably not too far off from reality.

I felt so much better prepared for this year's TofS than last year. Last year, I tried to do Sufferfest videos on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the lead up, which I now realize wasn't enough recovery in between those rides, considering everything else I was doing. This year, I did a Sufferfest video on Tuesday and Saturday as part of my regularly scheduled workouts, and I typically added on a long warmup.

This year, I also have been in strength building mode for the last 6 weeks, and I think that made a huge difference in my ability to complete this. Even though there are no studies to show that strength training has a lick of impact on swim/bike/run, my N=1 experiment has always shown otherwise. I mean, what is the difference between a really hard bike ride and a bazillion squats? My legs can't tell.

I think it also helped to have some close friends doing this, too. Peer pressure never hurt anyone! Plus I had something to prove--I've done all sorts of crazy shit, and it was time for me to do something I'd never done before. Fuck--9 straight days on a bike, all on a trainer!

Finally, I can attribute my success at finishing, in part, due to drinking Infinit during every ride. The rides were all pretty intense, and Gatorade just wouldn't have cut it. Plus, all my Infinit mixes (I have 3 or 4 different custom formulas) have caffeine in them. I simply could not have done all this training without caffeine!

What I am really proud of here is that there were FOUR DAYS this week where I swam, biked and ran! Should I count them as NothingMans? LOL. I think it actually helped with the way I scheduled things to swim (and I did the main sets on Monday and Wednesday with paddles and those were the only scheduled swims!). But I knew that all the running had to be super easy. In fact, all the running was technically optional, but I found that holding the intensity to Zone 1 (actually low Zone 1) was perfect, and on 2 of the 4 S/B/R days I ran right before I biked, so my legs were nice and warmed up.

I did not do the Tour of Sufferlandria using Trainer Road, so I am not eligible for any prizes. That's OK, because I bought myself my own prize:
Actually, I ordered 2 of them ;) I do have a bar that requires glassware from time to time! I already had the official Sufferfest shirt:
So how do I feel today? Rightfully shagged. But not from the biking--it's from the 4+ hours I spent moving snow yesterday. And there is more to go! I was supposed to swim this morning, but I just don't feel like going out in the blowing snow to move it, and I am sure my street is a mess still. I could walk, but my snow boots make my right foot hurt, so that's out of the question. I may or may not swim later today. I have a :30 easy run scheduled, and I'm pretty sure I can do that. Or take a nap! Or both!

Life is good!

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!