Friday, March 30, 2012

random friday facts

1. I had one of those "I can't sleep and I have no idea why" nights last night.  I drank my sleepy tea, I was in bed, allergy medicine taken, book read, and just....nothing.  

2. So this post might make significantly less sense than usual.

3. I don't hoard running shoes anymore.

4. I can't sleep on airplanes.

5. When I first met my husband, I made him a playlist of music called, "thom starter kit."  It's still on my phone.

6. I'm kind of excited about the pile of hills I'm going to climb tomorrow.

7. The only reason I haven't purchased a new dishwasher is because the one I have is only three years old.  But I hate it with every fiber of my being.

8. I don't read or watch the news, I don't listen to the radio and I have no idea what is going on in politics.

9. I never make a list of things to pack before I go on vacation.

10. I found a huge knot in my calf last night and panicked and beat the crap out of it.

11. When I was in elementary school, my book bag was checked every day to make sure I wasn't bringing extra books to/from school after I got in trouble for the 954th time for reading under my desk.

12. I wish I could figure out how to like eggs.  I really want to like them.

13. I have my appendix and my tonsils and my spleen.

14. We're thinking about shaving the puppies again.

15. I miss football season.

16. Tree pollen.  Good God.

17. Last night I looked in the mirror and realized that my boobs are basically gone.  Last year triathlon ate my ass.  What happens next year?

18. I think the mouse has moved out.

19. I haven't had a burrito in at least a month.

20. The more I read about nutrition, the more I am convinced that it is impossible to get it exactly right.

21. Dara Torres is my current girl crush.

22. I only like to eat apples if they are sliced.

23. My wish list of "weird crap that is sort of related to being healthy" just got longer - who can tell me about this TRX thing?

Happy Friday everyone!  Leave me an RFF, let me know if you RFF'd or if you are racing this weekend, and have a fabulous day!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

three million things thursday

1. I figure it's time for a SBR (that's swim-bike-run for all you non-abbreviating heathens) update since I haven't bored you with the idiosyncrasies of my training for a while, and what is this blog for if not self-absorbed yammering about my life?  Swimming is going quite splashingly.  I'm going to be racing the 1000 yards in a few weeks, which will be the first time that I have ever been in a swim meet possibly in my life to date.  I have a very hazy memory of doing the one-arm backstroke as a tiny little Katie, but I'm fairly sure no coach would have actually put me in a real meet due to my refusal to use both arms to swim instead of just one while the other held my nose.  I've been seeing slow but steady progress in the pool, most of which I attribute to having some fast feet to chase on the weekend recently.  My victory this week was finally breaking 1:20 for 100 yards (as part of a larger set) after swimming a very frustrating 482 1:21s in a row last weekend.  It has absolutely nothing to do with ironman and is completely meaningless in the long view of my training, but it made me happy so all you fast people can just put a lock on it.  Also, for the first time in two years of swimming I care about the time on the clock because it finally means something to me.  I have no idea what to expect from the 1000 yards and actually can't quite remember where I seeded myself, but as long as my goggles don't fall off and I don't get a giant wedgie on the way into the water I feel like I'll have a pretty good time.  

Cycling is having it's bumps up and down.  I got my old crank put back on, which meant I rode my road bike for a week and a half while the QR was in the shop and my adductor got a chance to calm down.  I took the QR back out for a long ride this past weekend.  I did notice a big difference in my adductor pain - as in, much less of it - when I got off the bike, but by the next morning that cranky sucker had tightened up quite a bit.  I went immediately to the internet to see what else could be causing adductor pain on the bike (probably should have done this before switching my crank back).  It looks like I should either move my seat further forward OR further backwards OR get a less-wide saddle.  The science behind those theories being that it is highly likely that I am compressing the attachment of my adductor to my groin between the saddle and the bone which is royally pissing it off.  Yesterday I checked out where my seat was - very far forward - and after carefully examining the pictures of all my bike fits (many) to date, slid it back just a smidge.  My trainer ride felt okay after making the change so clearly the world didn't explode, but I'm worried that I just wasted a bunch of time swapping out my crank when my saddle might have been causing the problem (that sound you hear is my coach smacking her forehead, then me).  I did have quite a bit of inner thigh chafing when I first started with this saddle, which I thought it was just the adjustment of the difference in my body angles, but now I realize that it could just be the nose of the saddle is too wide.  So I'm frustrated with my crank, I'm frustrated with my saddle, and I'm frustrated with the fact that I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time and can't get a good clear answer on what exactly is going on from any of my internet resources (yes, I do expect the internet to answer me when I talk out loud to myself).  Not to mention that cycling has always been the thing that I didn't really have to worry about and now it's yelling and throwing up in the corner.

The good news is that next week while I'm traveling for vacation-a-training-camp-a-palooza, I'm going to be able to drop in and get fit by the superhero that did my coach's fit, and I'm hoping that will calm down my cranky fast-talking crabbiness about this bike.  In the meantime, I will continue to longingly look at my road bike every time I pack up the QR to head out on a ride.  I know that I will get this figured out, I just am incredibly impatient when things do not work perfectly from day one.  Which brings us to running.  My calf is significantly better but still less than 100%.  As soon as it stopped preventing me from being able to walk I got a lot worse about remembering to ice it constantly and, of course, after a few days of this it threw a rod.  I'm now back on the all-natural anti-inflammatory train and am trying to remember that not every twinge in my body is a cycle-ending injury.  To that end, I'll be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler this weekend, a race I have been signed up for THREE times and not been able to run.  I haven't wanted to mention it because a) it feels jinxed to me and b) I'm not racing it, I'm using it as a MAF test because the total elevation change for the entire race is 11 feet.  

2. Speaking of MAF test (see what I did there?), I've finally been making progress in the big yellow book that I refer to as the "Mr. MAF encyclopedia."  It's time to take some notes, get your pencils out.  MAF means maximum aerobic function (I learned this two nights ago) and it is the HR number that my training has been based upon since I started with my coach in December.  The number is not based on data from a LT or max HR test, which is what makes it different.  And the "test" is merely an objective way of checking your training for progress.  I don't want to give away the intellectual farm but I don't train by zones, instead I train by a HR number and I like it so much more than the zone training I was doing last summer.  Zones can be big, and the top is totally different than the bottom, but with a number to nail, it's precise.  

There are lots of good reasons to train this way - I'm only about halfway through the book - but one of the big takeaways for me so far is that it puts far less stress on your body.  Running easy requires less recovery than running hard.  There are also a lot of "fat-burning" and "carbohydrate-burning" reasons that I would probably butcher if I tried to explain (I'm actually probably butchering most of this, but I find it so interesting!!), but it's essentially all about balance.  Trying to keep your body in a state where it's not inflamed.  When your body isn't inflamed, you recover better and fast, you sleep better, your sex life gets better (it actually says this), you are less likely to over-train, and most importantly, your endurance and efficiency can improve.  And that's how you start to get faster.

At some point in December I took pace information off of my Garmin and have been doing 100% of my runs with only my current heart rate showing on the screen.  I have another screen that I will flip to that shows me total time on the run so I know when to go home and average HR, but for the most part, I'm seeing HR only.  It's removed a lot of the emotional attachment to pace that I didn't even realize I had.  Before this, a recovery run was 9:45-10:00 pace, no matter what.  10:01 pace or slower felt embarrassingly slow.  I almost never ran in the low 9s except when I passed by there on the way through a progression run, and once I hit low 8s I was in tempo zone.  All of that is gone.  I remember, back in January, complaining about how slow the splits were from a long easy endurance run (I still obsess over the data after the run, obviously) and my coach telling me - good.  Telling me, before this you would have dug a deeper hole into training debt instead of doing what your body wanted to do that day.  That's what HR training is teaching me - to actually listen to my body, and not in the idiotic "I listened to my body and slept in instead of going for a run then had diet coke and swedish fish for breakfast" way that so many other bloggers are "listening," but tune in closely and learn what hard and easy feels like, especially on the run.  I don't know what 9:45 pace feels like anymore but I can tell you the exact second my HR goes even one beat over 145 on a recovery run.  It still stings to come home and look at my data and see splits that start with an 11, but I'm trying hard to just let it go.  To understand that I'm training a system of my body by running at the right effort level and to ignore the mile splits - because in all honesty, pace only matters on race day.  I'm not quite sure, but I think I might be growing.

3. I got a taste of all of this when I ran RnR USA last weekend.  I ran a 2:01, which is exactly what I ran in Philadelphia last November.  But such a different 2:01 that I ran.  On the left is my HR data/splits from November, and on the right is my HR data/splits from last weekend (no, I have no idea why they aren't lined up together and I don't care nearly enough to try and figure it out).  And I have extra splits on the right because I lapped my watch to catch up to the mile markers and lapped the 13th mile, which I didn't do in Philly because I was blacking out.
My average HR was 10 beats lower and I ran the same race.  Fascinating.  Not only that, but my average HR was essentially my MAF.  In an actual MAF test I have a lot less variance in the averages and highs (a lot of this due to the fact that the race was hilly and I take the test on a track).  These are the splits of a test that I did on a pretty windy day, which accounts a little bit for the max HR numbers being so far off the average.  
In a perfect MAF test, as I understand it, the average/max numbers would be identical from the second mile until the second to last (to account for the ramping up into MAF and the teeny bit faster you might run at the end to make up for the ramping up of the first mile so the overall average is the right number).  And when I took the first test, I had to stare down my Garmin to make sure that I wasn't popping over - or, more truthfully, to make sure I was slowing down into the right number over and over - but now I've gotten to the point where I think I could almost run it by feel.  Not quite, and sometimes the conditions of the day screw with me, but on a normal day where nothing is throwing me out of whack, maybe.

But my point is, and I might actually have one, I feel like I'm doing things the right way, even if I keep getting derailed with cranks and calves and saddles.  I feel like this is the way that I'm going to accomplish the things I want to even if my journey is a little disjointed because I can't seem to stay out of a physical therapist's office for more than a month at a time.  Reading this book and trying to suck all the brains out of my coach (ew) and figuring out that training is not just the work, but the work plus the rest plus the food plus the stress, it all just makes so much sense.  Every time I turn a page I say, "OHHHHH" and you know what, it's about freakin time I got my act together in this way.  I'm still not doing a great job of focusing on my own training and not obsessing over what everyone else is doing, but all I can do is keep trying.  A lot of people told me that ironman training would be a lonely road and I'd need lots of support, and of course they were right.  And I'm owning it, I chose that sacrifice for myself.  I don't want this to turn into a rant about feeling lonely, because I knew it would be, but I'm more surprised about the places in my life where I've unexpectedly found support - and just as unexpectedly not found any at all.  I'm less than three months out from my first ironman and the road has been very different than the one I envisioned last July.  I thought I knew what I was getting into, and thus far, training hasn't really been anything more than I expected.  But I know now that I didn't really understand these other pieces of it then, not even close, not at all.  I do know that I need to stop wasting energy being upset about it and instead just be grateful for the support I do feel.  And maybe part of it is that I don't know how to ask for it when I need it.  Because it is there, and I'm going to need it more and more in the weeks to come, and really, I'm lucky to have it at all.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

wordless wednesday: ass & puppy

Ass (excerpted from more gait analysis):
And the best of both worlds, puppy ass:
That's my life in a nutshell, folks.  Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

triathlon is throwing up on my life

And I love it.

I'm in the middle of a few mellow weeks of training before it gets hot and heavy on the downhill ride to CdA.  Every day last week, I had only one workout to do and most of them were under an hour.  And it was enough.  Not tapering into the half marathon had me running very close to an empty tank post-race, and I soaked up the easy light days.  This weekend things started to go back to normal.  On Friday, I finally got my bike back, with the old crank on it.  I did my 765th quick fit of the season and things seemed good to go. I actually went back and looked at the pictures of all the fits I've had, and to me - someone who loves bicycles but does not know a whole lot about them - they look identical. 

Initial fit:
Fit after crankset replacement:
Fit after crankset un-replacement:
Bike nerds, what do you think?  Other than I should maybe own a second pair of tri shorts.  And I got kinda fat in January.

Saturday morning I managed an hour run with some slightly-faster-than-extremely-slow miles in it, with nary a calf complaint before, during, or after.  I've got some lingering tightness today, but I think for the most part, I'm about ready to close the chapter called, "I Tore My Calf, Yes That Was Stupid."  I jumped straight into the pool for a fantastically hard main set, which included tying the fastest 100 I had swam (swum?) to date.  On Sunday I managed to convince three separate people to come ride with me on a route that I vaguely recalled being pretty flat.
Not terribly hilly, but certainly not flat.  Having my crankset swapped out means that yet again I have to relearn where all my gears are, and I miss the little climbing ones I lost.  However, my extremely cranky adductor behaved very well for 3+ hours of riding and I spent almost the entire ride comfortably in aero, which is a fair trade.  I'm still trying to figure out what a good compromise is for gearing on this bike for CdA - I'm back to 53/39 on the front (compact was 50/34) and 11/25 on the back (swapped down from 11/23).  I'm thinking that going to 11/28 on the back might make up some of the gears that I lost from the compact.  But I'm not going to do anything for a few rides to let my body readjust to the changes (and to let the bike shop guys have a few days off).  
We've also reached the eight weeks of the year where I wish I had taken the time to spend two years getting allergy shots.  Last week was pretty miserable, and I'm in a fight with my insurance company about getting my allergy meds refilled.  But when I got home from the ride yesterday - a rainy, damp ride, which usually tamps down the pollen - I felt like maybe instead of an allergy attack, a cold was trying to sneak in.  So I canceled all my plans for the day and fed my body a big stack of things that I hope will help it fight whatever germs are trying to invade.  I woke up this morning feeling still a bit tired but more like myself, so hopefully I knocked those bitches right out.

How was your weekend?  What are you training for right now?  Did you have to clean a pile of dead worms off your bike this weekend too?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

three things thursday

1. My calf behaved better than I expected last weekend at the half - I didn't even notice it during the race.  Afterwards, once I got blood moving again and then sat down for a while, it stiffened up and felt really sore in the area of the tear.  I knew it was possible that running would open up the tear again, so I wasn't too worried.  I don't like taking advil/ibuproufen after a race, so I spent the first couple of days alternating ice baths and epsom salt baths, doing some light stretching, and just in general trying to treat my legs with sparkly kid gloves.  Once I got through my post-race Oreo-and-BBQ-quesidilla bender, I hopped right back on the recovery food train, and I've been sleeping 9-10 hours every night.  So there's some serious healing going on over here.  I saw my "doesn't hurt me" PT on Tuesday morning, and she said that there's a lot of scar tissue and inflammation and adhesions just floating around in the calf right now.  She dug around in there for a while, and I've done two pretty painful at-home sessions and go back this afternoon for another round.  As of this morning, it's still pretty sore and swollen, but I feel like I'm on the fast-track to complete recovery.  My body just needs to flush all the crap out of there so the muscle can rebuild.  And to be quite honest, this is probably the least post-race-carnage I've ever had, so I'll take it.  I managed to crank out an extremely-creaky-and-fragile 40 minutes this morning and it felt worse than the race itself, so I know I'm on the right track.

2. I'm starting to get excited about triathlon season, but I'm also feeling the push of an early-season A race.  I'd like to bang out some sprints and maybe even an olympic to shake out some of the cobwebs, but I feel like there's just not time for that before Coeur d'Alene.  I know that I will have the entire rest of the summer to jump in smaller races, but that interferes with my sit-on-the-couch-and-drink plans for the month of July.  One of the many reasons why I chose IMCDA was because I didn't want to be doing peak training in July, but now I'm seeing the flip side of that decision.  Time is just starting to feel....short.  

3. Our house is extremely weird.  On the top level, there are two small bedrooms that have angled ceilings because of the roof and no closets plus a small bathroom (shower but no bath).  On the main floor, there is a full bathroom and a bedroom with a half-closet (think linen closet).  In the basement, there is a bedroom with the only full-size closet in the house plus the full bathroom that we redid last summer.  Since I moved in, I've lived in the bedroom on the main floor.  It has wood floors and big windows and the full bathroom is the largest and has the most storage out of the three.  I don't like living on the main floor but the no-closet and angled-ceiling situation made me not want to live upstairs.  Also, the air-conditioning does not work quite as well on the top floor during the summer, to the point that I bought window units two summers ago because of how unbearable it was (we used to rent out these two rooms).  The air-conditioning works moderately well on the main floor and like a champ in the basement.  So here's the dilemma.  The poet thinks we should move our bedroom to the basement to take advantage of the air-conditioning situation (we both like to be really cold when we sleep, plus it would save money because we end up blasting it all night in the summer just to get some sleep) and the full-closet situation, but I think it's even more weird to live in the basement of my house than I do to live on the main floor.  Also, there are spiders in basements. Thoughts?  Tell me about your weird houses and what you would do, please.  

Happy Thursday, friends!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

wordless wednesday

This morning on my ride I blew through a smell that reminded me of Sofie.  Probably the closest I will ever come to feeling like a mama.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RnR USA Marathon: race report (guest post)

The Marathon is an emotional distance, and I am an emotional guy. The only problem with this match made in heaven is that you (or at least I) can't sustain the level of intensity needed to run for four plus hours. I learned this in Philly last November. At that race I high-fived everyone. I noticed every sign. I road every downhill and fought every uphill with my intensity. I fed off the crowds and the start and the thousands of runners all oozing good energy and good vibes. I was the perfect empath, and for it, I had a great half. Then we split. The cheering crowds, the good feelings, the Rocky music. And for the second half of Philly I felt all alone - at best, surrounded by people in bad shape - at worst, the perfect little empath.

For National I had a different plan. My first goal was to run my own race. And that meant turning down some very kind offers from very cool people who were willing to do some, all or any of the course with me. It is not in my nature to turn down help, and I felt bad doing it. But, I had to run my own race.

My second goal was to be able to sing the last mile. I was informed this was a waste of pace and heart rate and looked silly and was really not a very good idea. But, I had to run my own race and I wanted that in my pocket in those last miles. To be able to, to just be able to.

My final goal, which I did not know was a goal until just a few days before the marathon, was to not get involved in the emotions of the day. Again, this is not in my nature. I am essentially all heart. But, I kept telling myself there was no race until the last 5k. Until then I would trust my training and my pacing and my coaches, and all the work I had done to get there. I would just be a calm animatron until somewhere near mile 23. That was the plan.

Race day came. I was seated next my calm and zen-like coach and wife who reminded me quietly in the car about focused breathing and remaining centered. OR, I was next to super-Katie who was already having a great day and who, if we had run out of gas on the way to the race, could have still powered the car with her awesome race day energy. And I stayed calm. I saw all the girls and was part of a team for the first time in my racing, and I was calm. I ran into an old boss of mine who was running her first race, and I was calm. Me. Spastic me. Calm. And with a kiss from Katie we were in our corrals and off.

Katie gave me a perfect race plan. It started with me going out at around a 10 min pace for five miles, no audio. Mile 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 49m 58s. Oh, one more thing, not only am I emotional, I am also verbal. WAY EXTROVERTED. So, I had no inputs and was not involved with any other runner around me, so I talked. Out loud. Too myself. And here is where I learned my biggest lesson for the day. If you are going to be in your head, be in there doing good work. I spent those five miles saying, "Good good, perfect perfect. You are doing great. Perfect. Perfect." The runners around me also appreciated the critiques, I am sure. Miles 5-10, take it up a notch to 9:30-9:45. Good good. Perfect. Perfect. Miles 10-20 just roll off 9:15s.
Here is where some decision-making had to be made. I didn't feel like I could go 15 seconds faster. I wanted to, but I had those goals about not wanting to race until 23, sing the last mile, and mostly don't hate the last 10 miles of the race. So I chose to stay around 9:30 pace, fight every hill, relish every downgrade. And I would love to say I saw signs and spectators and sights and wonderful beautiful race things. But, honestly, I was a robot through most of this. I remember seeing my in-laws. I remember seeing the tall girl. I remember Allison offering water at mile 12 (awesome!). I also vaguely remember seeing Mr. Incredible, but that might have been a hallucination.

From mile 20 things started to fall apart. The world had fallen away from us. There were no more buildings, no cheering. We passed the industrial park and what passes for trees in Anacostia. We were in that weird zone between the apocolpyse and coming back home. It was just long and brutal and hot. This is March, right? And somewhere in there I hit the wall, walked the water stops, got in my head (not doing good work) and then just screamed foul language at the top of my lungs and restarted running.
At mile 24, I hit the warm up music. Not the finishing playlist but the one just before that. I was still mostly trying to hold it in, but music helped and it was bubbling. At the end of the three songs I was ready for my last mile playlist, but before I got there, the prelude to one last song came on: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure..." This was the quote on my Philly jersey. This was the quote that kept me going for those last 10 agonizing miles in that far off city. How far I had come. This was the point where I could hold myself back no more. Flood gates. Anger. Tears. Desperation. But out of it all, in a surprise to me, determination. I would run the hell out of this last mile.
My last mile playlist can go one of two ways, uplifting or angry. I was glad it went uplifting. "Don't wanna wait until tomorrow. Why put it off another day?" Oh, and to the people just in front of me heading back towards the stadium a) Yes, that is my favorite Van Halen song, b) sorry for busting your eardrums while I screamed it at the top of my lungs and c) I couldn't hear a word you said to me as you passed or were passed by me. 
After that, with my hands and feet going numb, my sight blurring, and no idea why the finish was so far up the hill around the stadium, Forever. "It's like I waited my whole life for this one night. It's gonna be me, you and a dance floor. All you gotta do is watch me. Look what I can do with my feet." And there was my wife to sing to, and my family and my friends and the crowd. Later I found out that what Katie said, so calmly and lovingly to me, in that brief moment we ran together was, "Stop singing and f'ing run."
And then I was done. I nearly passed out on the bagel guy. I made love to a constantly shrinking block of ice I met in a water bucket. And everyone was so lovely and supportive and happy for me.
I did this. I made it. Not just the miles, but I held back my worst instincts. I listened to the good voices. I held onto my training and my coach's advice. I kept my head in the game and I had a great day. Running a marathon I had a great day.
I still contend it is too much. It is not a distance anyone should run. It's too emotional. Too detrimental. And we should all be a whole lot smarter. But I did it, and did it well. And I will do it again, for the same reason I did it the first time and this time, because I don't know, yet, until I get there, what I can do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

RnR USA Half Marathon: race report

Race morning is my favorite.
It's better than Christmas, it's better than vacation, it's better than the day I got to pick up my new bike and ride it.  On most race mornings, I've spent the better part of the preceding days being crabby and stapled to my couch, and I finally get to let all that energy explode out of me.  I blast music, I bounce off the inside of the windshield, and my shoes appear to have been overnight loaded with springs.  It usually hangs around until I get into my corral and then I try to suck it all back inside me and save it for mile 11.

Saturday morning went perfectly.  I ate and drank the things I needed to eat and drink, I had not one but two successful deliveries to the porta-potty wizard, I mixed up my race fuel and even managed to spray the poet with sunscreen a few times when he wasn't paying attention.  For the first time in a long time, the entire mafia was going to be out there racing, all of us with different goals but all of us with a fire lit.  I saw two of my girls in the armory and was overwhelmed with relief when I stumbled across the third on the way to the starting line.  That checked my last box.  I was ready.
I'm not sure how my predicted finish time put me in corral three, but I decided to stay there to get as far ahead of the heat that I could.  I knew that meant thousands of runners would stream past me all day, but it also meant I would get to see most of my friends as they rolled by.  And I did.
I think the best thing about the race was that it was generally unremarkable, and based on the recent disaster that's been going on in my brain, that's actually pretty remarkable.  I set up my Garmin so my screen was telling me total time, total distance, and lap pace, and it was exactly the information I needed and none of it stressed me out.  Based on the loose race plan I had for myself, I knew that I might PR, but I also knew that I might not, and I wasn't going to waste the whole race doing math trying to make it happen.

I went out at exactly the speed that I wanted to go out at - 9:30s - and I stayed there through the first four miles and felt amazing.  I had to hit the brakes over and over to keep it there, and once I realized that there were mile markers on the course I turned off auto-lap and had to lap my watch to catch up, so my splits don't look like that is what was going on, but that's what I did.  When I lapped my watch at mile 4, I decided that I would try and push just a little up the hills that were coming, and that worked well, too.  I popped out of the other side of the Dupont tunnel and thought of where I was last year, and how my friend Cris jumped in and ran me up the hill, and I let her run me up it once more.  At the top of the hill, I slowed at the water station to slug down half my flask of magic beans and chase it with some water.  The whole day, I had been thinking about mile eight.  When I got to eight, it was time to see what I could do.  

And it all just went well.  Miles eight through eleven were solid.  I was holding a pace that didn't terrify me to hold and just felt slightly a little bit too hard.  I tried to ease up the rolling hills and let my heart relax and breathe on the downhills.  A lot of people think about the half marathon in terms of a 10-miler and a 5K, but I hate the 5K.  The 5K sucks.  So instead, I wanted to wait until I hit mile 11 to turn on the turbo boosters.  I know that I can run two miles in 15-16 minutes at the end of a long run.  I did it a month ago during the last long run I had before this race, and I was hoping that my body would respond to my brain and let me pull that out at the end of this race.  But it didn't, and maybe for the first time that day, I could feel that piece that was missing from the last month of my training - the long run.  Mile 12 was the slowest on the day, mostly because I stopped to walk a few times.  My body tried to distract me with a cramping quad, and I ended up bending over and yelling, "STOP IT" at the top of my lungs directly at it.  Once I went past the last mile marker, I pushed every single thought out of my head and rewound that stupid Jessie J song one more time and tried to just let it all go.  I did not hear a single solitary person cheering during that last mile until I caught Jon and Beth right before the 13-mile mark, and when I twisted my head to look at them, I thought I was going to black out.  
I stopped as soon as I crossed the line, and a volunteer patted me on the back and said, "great job!" and it felt like she hit me with a sledgehammer.  I managed to grab onto the fence and hung out there for a few minutes while my body put blood back into all the places I needed it.  But pretty quickly I felt just fine, and was able to stuff bananas and chocolate milk and granola bars down my pants before I went to find my family.  And this is how I looked when they found me.
When all the dust of the day settled, the only thing I am left with is peace.  I still haven't been able to put the parts together to race this distance in the way that I would like, but I am pleased with how Saturday went down.  I had a lot of successes that were not related to the time on the clock.  I got to wake up happy, run hard, then spend the day with my friends and family, and that has got to be what this is all about.
Maybe my glory days aren't meant to be fast, to be filled with PR after PR after PR.  Maybe I'll never put the pieces together in the right order to run a 1:49 at this distance.  I'm starting to realize that I'm okay if that is the answer, if that indeed is my journey.  Maybe the glory about these days is the fact that I can love my body, I can move my body and I can use it to celebrate how lucky I am to be living this life.
And I am, indeed.  Lucky.

Friday, March 16, 2012

random friday facts

1. I don't have any idea what "TMI" means.  I mean, I know what it's short for, but it's an alien concept to me.

2. I actually left my watch at home this morning while I ran.  It was bizarre.  I will never know what my HR was for those 30ish minutes.  No one will ever know.

3. I think red peppers taste better than green peppers.

4. I talk.  A lot.  All the time, but when I'm in pain, it's a lot faster and all jumbled together and you can't make it stop.  Just ask anyone in my farm of physical therapists.  Or the crazy woman that does my bikini wax.

5. I am 5lbs lighter than the last time I raced.  I do not think it matters.

6. I sleep on my stomach with one leg bent out to the side like the tree pose in yoga.  

7. A tiny space opened up in the past year behind one of my side teeth.  The dentist calls it a "food trap" but I call it "the thing that makes me actually floss."

8. I've blocked out time this morning on my calendar called "respond to all those emails wench."

9. I'm really looking forward to the oreos I will eat on Sunday.

10. I took two semesters of guitar lessons in college and still can't play the stupid thing.

11. I almost strangled two of my dogs yesterday.  I hope to never again have to clean poop off of a face.

12. I told the poet last night at dinner: I really, really like our marriage.

13. I've completely stopped wearing deodorant.

14. James Taylor is one of my favorite musicians. 

15. There was some chatter last night about athletes focusing on ice, compression and stretching but ignoring sleep and fuel.  It makes me feel better about ten hours of sleep in one night and eating spinach and blueberries because I think they have magic.  But I also wear the hell out of my compression socks.

16. I never realized that people from Philadelphia had an accent until I went to college in southern Indiana.  

17. I've wanted to live in California since I was about fourteen years old.  I think it might happen.

18. I'm closing in on the first year in my life since I was four that I wasn't either in school or teaching it.

19. I hate making decorating decisions.  I feel like I have no taste.  This is why all the rooms in my house are some shade of blue/gray.

20. I love the smell of fabric softener, the one with the green cap and the mountain in the background.

21. I think my hair has stopped growing.

Happy Friday, all!  Drop me a link if you RFF'd!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

three things thursday

1. A month or so ago, I put a compact crank on my bike.  It also had shorter crank arms.  The first day I had the new crankset, I went out for a spin and pretty immediately felt stabbing pain in my right adductor.  I thought it was my fit, and when I bumped into Darrin a few minutes later, he did a side-of-the-road adjustment for me.
But I was still having problems, so I went into Bonzai for a complete re-fit.  And then another one.  And then stopped by during a ride for another one.  And I'm still having the exact same problem.  Stabbing pain and tightness in my adductor.  When I go see my PT, he loosens it up, and it feels like a million bucks until I get on the bike, and then BAM, pain and tightness.  It's actually quite amusing, because I'll try to swing my leg over the bike seat to get off, and it's so tight that I can't get my leg clear of the seat and end up just kicking myself in the wheel until I lay the bike down on the ground and step over it.  Fabulous.

Last week I had two back-to-back long days on the bike, and it finally pushed me over the edge.  My adductor got tight enough to start pulling on my psoas and hip flexor, and that in turn pulled my back out of alignment which made everything flare up almost as badly as it was, in one of life's great ironies, this time last year.  I attacked it with icing and stretching and rolling and realigning, but it's been VERY slow to calm down.  The one piece of good news is that it doesn't bother me while running.  However, I'm concerned about the long-term implications, so after a sleepless night of conversation with myself and an email with my coach, I'm switching back to the old crankset.  Just to try things out, but if it's better, there's my answer.  I completely am on board with the pedagogy of why I should switch to shorter cranks and my Ironman elevation profile says that a compact is a pretty good idea, but above all things, I need to be pain-free. And sadly, I am not a millionaire and cannot continue to buy crankset on top of crankset until I find the "perfect" one. If my old works pain-free, I will swap out the rear cassette and try to find a way to survive until my money tree sprouts.

2. As poor as my running has been lately, my swimming has been fine.  I PR'd a couple of small and inconsequential distances in the pool this week, which in turn made me even angrier about how crappy my running is going right now, because as much as I love swimming, I don't really care about the numbers or being much better at it than I am right now.  Life, in general, is rude.
3. I do not have a goal time or pace for the race on Saturday.  I don't even have a super-secret-I-won't-tell-the-Internet goal time.  I've thought it through, and I have a rough grasp on how I'm going to execute, but I haven't estimated or totaled anything up to see what the final result will be.  I know that the trendy thing right now is to be REAL BRAVE!!!! and not wear a watch, but when I've done that in the past, it's actually screwed me because I convince myself that I've slowed down so much that I shouldn't bother to keep running when in fact I was doing just fine.  That said, I'm thinking about not wearing a watch (no one said I was smart).  If there was ever a time to experiment with race execution, this is it, and I'd like to be able to pull something productive from the day, even if it's not a PR.  I honestly can't decide and will probably just flip a coin Saturday morning in the parking lot after driving everyone crazy about it for two days.  If you're racing on Saturday, and I know many of you are, feel free to hang around at the finish line and make sure they don't tear it down until I pull through.  I'll be wearing this:
Although I'll probably be slightly less pleased with life in general when I roll in, and any "abs" I was rocking last summer seem to be hibernating for the winter under a cozy layer of beer.

Even though I'm not chasing any dreams this weekend, many of you are, so I'll leave you with something that my best friend recently told me.  You are enough.  It doesn't matter how much or who or what you think about yourself.  You are enough, and you always will be.
Go get it, my bitches, I'm cheering your names.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

wordless wednesday

My love affair with running?  Not going so well these days.

Monday, March 12, 2012

bunny rabbits

I've had some good workouts scattered throughout the past few weeks, ones that keep me going through not being able to run and then returning to running only to see that I still have to run at the same slow paces I was running at before (two weeks off didn't make me faster at low HR?  Rude).  I don't really ever talk about my workouts here anymore, not because they aren't interesting, but there are only so many ways I can talk about trying to keep my HR under 145 while still making running motions with my body.  But a few have stuck with me.

A week or two ago, I hit my target HRs on the trainer for an entire 2.5 hour workout.  (Dramatic pause for effect).  ME, who can never get my HR over 130 on the trainer and when I do it's for 5 seconds and my heart feels like it's going to explode and I look down and see - 131?  Are you kidding me with this?  But I hit all those little windows for an entire workout, and I walked around cocky, strutting my big game all day.  I looked at the even flat lines on the graph of HR more than once.  I made sure my husband was up-to-date on how awesome I had become.  I kept my heart at 150 for ten whole minutes on the trainer, more than once, baby!  The next afternoon I strolled down to the basement to do my workout, confident that I would crush it - trainer?  HR?  I GOT THIS.  And instead, it ate me up, I pushed and pushed and put my head down and the sweat dripped into my mouth and up my nose and I couldn't even blow it out and looked at the monitor and saw - 133?  Are you kidding me with this?  Triathlon training is such a great equalizer.  You can have one hell of a smashfest one day, and then you show up the next day and it bends you over.  

I got handed a big swim workout and the pre-workout comments really talked it up.  BE READY.  The first time I read through it, I thought, hmmm, really?  But once I wasn't reading it on my phone with one un-contacted eye at 5:45am, okay, yeah, sounds tough, but I'm loving all the work in the pool right now, so let's roll.  Then I got to the pool deck and we had to actually figure out what exactly was meant by the rest and the math, and, whoa, crap, are you sure about this?  I am NOT A SWIMMER.  But I do have blind trust in my coach, so even when it sounds a little crazy, I'm in, and you know what?  Those thoughts, let's just pitch them right out, whatever happened when I was six and held my nose and did backstroke with one arm, forget it.  I'm a swimmer now.  I thumped like a dump truck through the workout, I swam my little brains out, I chased the other two (much faster) girls that I was swimming with every time I saw them go by out of the corner of my eye, and there were a few times where my body tried to slow down and I kicked it in the ass and said NOT TODAY, JERK.  I missed every single one of the intervals, every last one, and not by one second but actually by a lot, and I'm sure I had the form of a drowning zebra with a broken neck, but I didn't care.  I was actually happy to have a workout where I could put my balls RIGHT UP against that wall and still miss my targets.  Sometimes you kill the workout, sometimes the workout breaks you, it's all work, it all goes in the deposit window, it shows me where I am, keep on keeping on.  This is what I'm learning.  Trying to learn.

Holy cats how I laughed when I got the email back saying that I had done it wrong.  Made it harder than it was meant to be, subtracted time off the interval, sigh.  But my coach is right, sometimes the vagueness in training is good for you, maybe I wouldn't have worked as hard if I didn't think I was missing every single interval.  Food for thought.  It makes me think that maybe I should swim with a master's group even though I'd be eating fin in the last lane.  Makes me itch for that Monday night no-drop-but-drops-me-anyway hill ride to start again.  Attack at the bottom of every hill so I can't even see the back of the pace line after the first mile?  Bring it on, you big swinging CAT 4/5 dicks.  Maybe I need to be chasing more rabbits.

Last week at PT, Dr. Paul pronounced me "healed" and gave me his blessing to run the half marathon this coming weekend.  I scrambled straight to my phone to find out if I also had the blessing of my coach, and as of right now, it's happening.  When I signed up for this race back in August or whenever, I was out for revenge.  I've referenced this post so many times that I can practically type the URL in my sleep, but last year, this race, it was ugly.  I ran what I ran and I'm not going to talk about what I "should" have run because the only thing that matters is what I did run, but the race was definitely the slowest long run in the training cycle and I'm almost positive that isn't how it's supposed to work.  And this year I wanted it so badly, I had the burn to lay waste to this distance, to bury what happened the last time I raced these streets.  But laying waste isn't how my day is going to go, I'm not making excuses but the reality is I missed some key weeks of training dealing with my calf.  I have no idea what my race plan is going to look like, I have no idea what I'm going to try and do on Saturday or what the clock will say when I roll in.  I do know that you can't always make plans.  Your training has bumps and blips and sometimes you slip off the cliff and fall screaming through a canyon for what feels like forever but is actually only a moment, suspended.  So I'm going to run this race and it's going to hurt, I'm not even sure that I remember what it feels like to hurt on the run after spending that past three months doing fat aerobic training, but I do know that I'm going to use the tools I have, I'm going to actually look at my watch and do my best to execute whatever plan I get handed and when I see the mile 12 sign roll by I am going to put my nose down and shut my brain off and run like hell for that finish line.  

So that's how my training is going.  Humbling, absolutely, every day.  But, maybe it's time to chase some rabbits. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the ground is rumbling

I was really pleased to find that my ugly Monday post generated a lot of great discussion, both on- and off-line.  Many both people that read my blog have commented, both this week and in the past, that part of the reason why they like reading is because I'm very honest about my life.  It's been described as "raw," and I don't find anything wrong with that.  The problem with being open and honest and raw, though, is that it works against me in situations like this.  Maybe if I wasn't sharing every detail of my life with an audience, there would be less stress placed on me by myself.  Huge food for thought.  I've been blogging for a few years now, and there are parts of it that I love.  There are people that I've met that I otherwise never would have known, very good friends that I've made, experiences that I would have missed out on, all that grew from sticking my nose (ass?) out onto the internet and telling my little story.  

But since we're being honest and raw, there's a lot about it that really pisses me off.  A perfect example is going on right now.  Yesterday was registration day for the Marine Corps Marathon.  My twitter feed - and later, my google reader - became filled with "oops, I didn't mean to register," and "wow, made a bad life decision today," and "why did everyone make me do this?"  It made me want to fling my laptop out of my second-story window.  Here are times when it is acceptable to feel that way.  I am three years old and wet the bed, oops.  I am thirteen years old and the mean girls made me snap the bra strap of the new kid, why did everyone make me do this?  I got drunk and slept with the kid next door's cousin visiting from college in the front yard, bad life decision.  (note: I don't think [?] that I've done any of these things.)  But if you are 29-years-old and you fill out a registration form of your own accord, check the box that says, "Yes, I understand what I am doing and take responsibility for my actions" two dozen times and then hit "register," that falls under none of those categories.  Take responsibility for your actions, for pete's sake.  No one is MAKING you run a marathon.  You know what?  I DON'T want to run a marathon (unless there is a 112-mile ride first), so I didn't sign up.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  If you're wondering what the correct response is to signing up for a big scary race, click here.  You're allowed to be scared, you're allowed to feel nervous, but stop acting like a child and own your life choices.  And while this is first time I've ranted about this on the blog, my real friends, I'm sure, are nodding and skimming because they've heard this exact rant from me five dozen times in the last six months.

And it's things like this, I think, that are leading me - and this blog, by extension - down the road of change.  I think that part of what needs to happen is quieting of my mind.  I need to strip my life of all things that stress me out and holy CRAP is that a long list.  Like I said, I've been really involved in the blogger community for a long time now.  I decided right off the bat that I was going to put up a post every workday, and with very few exceptions, I've done that.  Five posts a week for two solid years.  There have been times where I haven't had much to say (puppy pictures) or have been grasping at straws for a way to talk about yet another aspect of endurance training (granola bars) or just simply am out of content that will generate interesting discussion (the creation of random friday facts, yes I did create it and all you bloggers with your rip-off memes can bite me).  But as I've been doing a stress-cleanse of my blog reader, I've noticed something about the blogs that I want to keep reading.  The authors don't necessarily post every day - although I wish a lot of them would.  Instead, they post when they have something to say, and it's not, "look, I signed up for this race!  Here are ten screen shots of my registration and a picture of me clicking the mouse!"  They post when they want to generate interesting discussion, when they want to talk about training in a way that is not just a simple post of their dallies (although the ones that do simply post dallies don't irritate me, it's just different), or sometimes when they just want to post thirty pictures of their dogs.  But it's not by a forcing of the hand, and I think that's the direction I'd like to go.  I want to keep the people in my blog-life who stimulate my own thinking, and you should do the same to me.  Go ahead and dump me if I stress you out.

The final piece of this puzzle is the comment game, and I've said before that I hate the popularity contest of the comment game.  For the most part, I want to comment on things, I want people to know that I am reading and understanding and reacting, but I also think it's part of the stress that I'm feeding back into my day, the pressure to read and react and write instead of just process.  I feel like over time, I've gotten sucked into the popularity contest and I hate it.  I'm still going to be here, I'll still be keeping up with all of your lives and adventures, but for a while I need to absorb instead of compute and spit out a reaction.  Will I probably lose followers because I don't comment on someone's blog every single day?  Probably.  Are those followers that I mind losing?  Not at all.  Will I be upset if this post generates zero comments because everyone just said, "HRRMPH" and gave me the finger?  Okay, well, maybe just a little.  

I spend a lot of my professional life in meetings and I think part of the way I've learned to be effective, at times, is to listen a lot and speak very little.  It's time to do that here as well.  Please don't be offended if you don't here from me for a while.  Or if you don't hear from me for a while, drop me a note.  Pick up the phone.  Go ahead and facebook friend me if you like pictures of my dogs and complaints about my pool.  Don't rely on my blog to keep you informed about every single detail of my life, but instead, let's just be friends.  And I promise all of you, it's not's me.