Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Birthday Peloton

My teammate and friend, Will, just had a birthday.  And for his birthday he decided he wanted to bike 100 miles.  Big goals and accomplishments are no stranger to Will.  Over the last couple of years he has set out to transform his life and he has.  He's lost tons and tons of weight and added tons and tons of strength.  He doesn't acknowledge "can't."  In fact, he's removing the "t" from the word one goal at a time.  The picture below is a list of items he physically couldn't do not terribly long ago.  As of early this morning, there were only two things left on the list with one to be accomplished today.

So this morning the Birthday Peloton met up just as the sun was rising to join Will on at least a portion of his journey.  We didn't ride terribly far with him because of varying personal obligations and not everyone had 100 miles in them.  But we got him started.  I was able to get in a total of 35 before my day was done.  And it was a ton of fun and meant a lot to me to be a part of his journey.  A few accompanied him all the way.  And he did it.  In fact he did 115.  There's one less red T on the board tonight.  And none of us had a doubt about it. 

Happy Birthday Will.  I can't wait to watch you crush this year.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

So This is Forty

I woke up 40 years old on Monday morning.  It's been a long time coming (40 years in fact) and it didn't exactly sneak up on me.  But the feelings about being 40 absolutely snuck up on me and didn't really surface until last week.  I had actually been surprisingly comfortable with it until I wasn't.  After all, I took my 30s by storm, and isn't 40 the new 30?

The first real acknowledgement of my new age for me came back on October 1 when I completed the registration for my first international distance triathlon for 2015.  When I finished registering I received a confirmation email with the following information:

Registration Options:  International Triathlon
Age Division:  40-44
T-Shirt Size:  Women's Large
Age on Race Day:  40
Oh god I'm in a new age group!  And let me tell you, the women from 40-44 are FAST!  A whole ton of them blew by me on the run during my last race of 2014 and I remember thinking that I had a lot of offseason work to do to be competitive with this group.  But I put those thoughts aside and just kept training.
Fast forward to last Wednesday.  I injured my knee back in high school and it has given me trouble for years.  It has really been bothering me since the fall so I finally went and saw an orthopedist to find out if it was the arthritis I knew I had or something more problematic.  Unfortunately, it WAS the arthritis I knew I had, but it was way more problematic than I realized.  Apparently mine is so severe (they keep using the word severe - doesn't ease the mind at all) that it would not be inappropriate to have my knee replaced.  At 40.  But once it's replaced, no running forever.  The replacement device simply can't take the impact.  But guess what's bad for a knee like mine.  Running.  Even without the replacement the doctor cautioned me not to run. 

Not much cushion left between those bones.

Red circles are around bone spurs that have grown on my knee.
The ones in the back likely are contributing to my
limited range of motion when I bend my knee.

The good news is that this doctor is also a realist and understands that I'm not ready to completely give up running.  So we are going to work on physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles, explore knee brace possibilities, and try anti-inflammatories to keep things under control.  In the meantime, with sage advice from my coach and discussions with Hubby, I'm going to significantly scale back on my longer distance running while I shed a fair amount of body weight.  The less I weigh the less stress on my joints.  So regrettably I am going to withdraw from the Rock and Roll DC Half Marathon that I've been training for.  There are some other races on my schedule that I won't register for.  It is what it is.  I have to take care of my body.
I came into triathlon as a way to keep exercise fun and interesting so that I could lose weight.  The sport changed me and my outlook on exercise and triathlon became something I do for the activity itself and my love of the sport with weight loss being increasingly secondary.  Yes I lost some weight, but even with the extra padding I got into the best adult condition of my life.  My goals continued to include losing weight, but the focus prior to now was really more on my athletic condition and less on pounds.
Now, however, I find myself thinking more about the long term health benefits of exercise and putting myself in a position to continue long term exercise.  It's very chicken and egg, but I need my body to do my exercise and I need my exercise to keep my body.  A recent New York Times article hit the nail on the head when discussing older age athletes getting into triathlon.  They quoted a 61 year old triathlete who stated that "When you're going to be 50, you realize you'd better get on it."  Sadly I'm having that same realization at 40.  It's not a bad one to have, it just makes me feel old.  It definitely takes away some of the fun "40 is the new 30" mantra and makes reality settle in a bit more solidly. 
I'd be lying if I said I've handled this news with even an ounce of grace.  Yes I am completely cleared for swimming and biking, but triathlon is three.  Running is required.  And I don't want to settle for Aquabike.  Not yet.  And I want to complete an Ironman some day.  That calls for 26.2 miles of running.  I can't stop running yet. 

Lifted this photo from Hoka One One - the company that
makes the running shoes that makes my joints happy.

There were daily tears and lots of donuts.  Because, naturally, when you realize you need to take drastic action to lose weight the correct response is to eat loads of the most damaging food possible.  Sigh.  I blew off 3 days of training to sit on the couch and wallow in my own misery.  Then on Saturday I reluctantly got back on my bike for a trainer ride.  After each workout I load my data into a website that sends it to my coach with a note from me about how it went, any issues I had, etc.  This is what I wrote after Saturday's session:
So I know this workout was short and not even particularly hard, especially after a week off.  But here's what it told me.  For some fucked up reason I spent the last 3 days making excuses to not train and just feel sorry for myself while sitting on the couch.  Today I get back on the bike.  And I'm reminded that the only time I feel like myself is when I'm training.  It's the only time that I actually feel like I know what I'm doing.  So we need to kill it moving forward.  I'll do whatever it takes.  Let's go.
Sunday was in the mid 50s and I was able to get outside on my bike and meet up with some friends for an easy outdoor ride.  It was invigorating and every minute a complete pleasure.
So its time to pull myself out of the misery and move forward doing things I enjoy.  My 40s are for me.  To find pleasure in the little things.  To slow down and enjoy life around me.  To watch my kids grow and learn and spend less time annoyed at their messy rooms or lazy homework habits.  To remember to spend quality time with Hubby and not have our lives just be about getting the family schedule accomplished.  To spend quality time with friends and continue to grow and cultivate adult relationships.  To enjoy my extended family at every possible moment.  To not give a rats ass about what other people think because it doesn't matter what they think - only what I think. 
Is it going to be difficult?  Of course.  Am I still going to cry sometimes?  Yes, I'm a wreck more often than not.  Am I going to keep running?  HELL YES, but carefully.  On treadmills, on cushy tracks.  Less pavement than before.  Shorter distances.  And I'm going to get the weight off because I have to.  But I'm going to work harder at embracing the accomplishments my body gives me along the way.  The challenges will be difficult, but they will make me stronger.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Product Review: Endorphin Warrior Training Ring

Last summer I saw a post on Facebook about a ring that a fellow triathlete had ordered.  I liked the look of the ring and thought about getting one for myself to help keep me motivated.  I went to the Endorphin Warrior website and checked out the Warrior Training Ring.  I thought it looked pretty cool, but before making the purchase I made a deal with myself.  If I forced myself to get out in the ocean and swim that afternoon (we were on this vacation) then I would buy myself the ring.  If I chickened out, no ring.  And chickening out was a big possibility because ocean swimming scares the breath out of me.

Good news!  I got it done.  So I ordered the ring.  What follows is not so much a blog on the product itself, but on the amazing customer service from the company.  And let me be very clear, I am just another customer to them.  They have not paid me, I have not received anything other than what I am outlining here, and they have no idea I'm writing this post.

I chose the "Limitless" ring.  I am the first person to doubt myself and I wanted a daily reminder that the only limits on me are those I place on myself.  (And my degenerative knee, but that's a blog for another day).  As long as I believe that I have no limits than I truly have no limits and I can achieve all of my dreams.  I placed my online order and in a few days it came in the mail.  I was pretty excited.  Unfortunately a short time later, all of the black inking in the lettering started to wear off.  I emailed the "Contact Us" email address on the Endorphin Warrior to inquire about a replacement.  The emailed me back within an hour and offered to replace the ring or refund my money.  They admitted that they were having some problems with the inking and were going to redesign the rings so that this didn't happen.  They suggested I keep the faulty one if I wished while I waited for the replacement.  I decided to keep it and, actually, once all of the black wore off it looked kind of cool.

A few weeks later I received an email that they had updated the inking they use in their rings and that my new ring had shipped.  I never had to follow up or stay on them.  My new ring in the correct size came days later.  Unfortunately, over time the ink on this one started to wear off as well.  Before I could reach out to the company they sent a blanket email to customers that had purchased the ring indicating that they knew there was still a problem with the ink and once again they were offering refund or replacement - my choice.  At this point I was so sold on their customer service that I again opted to get a replacement ring.

About a month later, my third (and hopefully final) Warrior Training Ring arrived in the mail.  So far, no issues. 

I really like the weight of the ring and its feel on my finger.  But more than that, I cannot tell you how many times I have looked down at the word "Limitless" during a workout and its given me an extra mental boost.  It's helpful to have something so small, simple, and portable with me when I need that extra reminder.  And as a bonus, since I now have three of them, I wear the worn off ones to the pool and wear the good one the rest of the time.  It's just a nice motivator and a reminder to me that I am limitless.

I would highly recommend products from this company.  It seems as though they have the ring issue sorted out.  And while I can't speak for their other products, the customer service was exceptional.  It's the first time I've dealt with them but I guarantee it won't be the last.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Melancholy

I really haven't been inspired to blog lately.  Maybe its because the dreary winter weather just won't end.  Maybe its because I'm sick for what seems like the millionth time since the first of the year.  It's been one cold after another with a fun bout of pink eye thrown in for good measure.  We were thrilled for some 40 degree weather earlier this week so we could throw open the windows for a couple of hours, wash all of the sheets and bedding for everyone, and dust and vacuum from top to bottom.  Hopefully we ushered our persistent germs out for good.

Today we are getting reports of another 6-8 inches of snow headed our way tomorrow.  While this is certainly not Boston snow-pocolypse accumulation, everything is relative and DC is ready for some spring like weather.  I'm ready for warm temps, and ice-free bike and running trails.

What all of this amounts to is that I've lost a lot of training time over the last 8 weeks.  I'm not worried so much for triathlon season as my first real race isn't until May and my "A" triathlon isn't until June.  Plenty of time to get ready for those.  But I am supposed to run the Rock and Roll DC half marathon next week and I'm not trained for it like I wanted to be.  And candidly I'm afraid to do much running right now since my lungs are not happy with me.  My cough is severe.

I am struggling with how to balance sick v. training.  And I'm struggling with whether I should just give the half marathon my best effort or should I admit defeat and look to cancel my registration (I always pay the extra for registration refund due to unforeseen circumstances).

I'm not sure that there is a right answer.  My gut isn't feeling strong one way or the other.  This one might actually come down to a flip of a coin.  But for now I'd welcome a cough free night of sleep to think on it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter Training

DC is no Boston, but we've had our share of snow and ice and cold and I'm more than ready for some warm temps and sunshine.  More than anything, the weather requires some flexibility for triathlon training.  The cold also requires a whole lot of extra motivation for me.  I just want to cuddle up with a good book under the covers and wait for spring.  So unless we are going to get enough snow to rock some awesome bike tunnels, I'm over it.

In my opinion, the most important piece of training equipment for winter is a bike trainer.  While I did get out on the bike in 30 degree temps a couple of times, generally I've needed to do my winter riding indoors on the trainer.  Without this equipment, I'd be really behind in my bike training.  Indoor cycling is boring (although not as bad as the treadmill for me) but I've been making my way through all of the episodes of West Wing and that has kept my legs spinning and spinning.  I also try to keep my pain cave decorated with things that motivate me - medals from last year, trophy from last year, poster of my triathlon hero Mirinda Carfrae.  There have been times when I wanted to cut a ride short or take the intensity down a notch.  This may be incredibly cheesy, but at those times I look over at the Carfrae poster and tell myself that Rinny didn't become World Ironman Champion by quitting and I shouldn't either.  It works for me.  Find whatever works for you.

Swimming has gone on relatively uninterrupted.  I swim indoor year round so the cold hasn't done anything except made the walk to and from the car really bitter.  But we've had a couple of snow days that have closed the pool so I've kept an extra eye on the forecast and my scheduled workouts.  So far I've been lucky and managed to keep swimming moving forward.

Running.  So much time on the treadmill at the gym.  Yuck.  I really do not care for running inside.  It is monotonous and my hips don't like it much either. 

I've had some solid outdoor runs in the cold including a 6 mile run in 30 degree weather and a quick 1 mile transition run when the wind chill was -5.  Both times the cold wasn't the issue for me - I tend to run hot and I've done well layering.  The issue is snow and ice.  I do not want to slip and fall causing an injury that will keep me from training while I recover.  So when in doubt I go to the gym and trudge through it.  Yesterday I logged 90 minutes on the treadmill.  It was pretty miserable.  I chafed, I cramped, I thought about quitting.  A lot.  I took a bunch of quick breaks.  But in the end I powered through the full workout. 

Mentally it was much harder than I expected (and I expected it to be bad).  And I learned from it.  I learned that it was terrible.  And I learned that I need to buy a pair of Yaktrax for next year.  This week my long run is on Saturday and is scheduled to be 2 hours.  My fingers are crossed for Mother Nature to cooperate and let me do this outside.  Otherwise I might go to the gym for four separate 30 minute runs.  I don't know.

Despite the challenges that winter has brought, I've enjoyed staying in a workout routine and following my training plan.  But to say that I'm ready to put the cold and wet behind me is a major understatement.  And I am not alone.  Lil Buddy's picture is worth a thousand words. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sick. Again.

So sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I've spent the last 2 weeks fighting god knows what complete with never ending congestion and coughing.  And each time I think I'm better I train and then find myself back in bed miserable.

Last Sunday I headed out for a run while Big T was at baseball practice.  It was a sloppy run and I tripped and fell about halfway in.  As I hit the ground...hard...the very first thought that went through my head was to stop my watch.  Wouldn't want the time on the ground to interfere with my pace (hanging my head.  sheesh.)  Second thought was please don't let my running tights have ripped. I really love these and don't want to replace them.  Never fear - I both stopped the watch and ensured that my wonderful running clothes were still in tact.  Can't say the same for my knee.  It's healing slowly and this photo is about three days post injury.  Nicely scraped and bruised wouldn't you say?

To add insult to injury, I woke up Monday morning feeling like death warmed over and the crud I thought I had beat was back.  I spent this past week fighting the congestion again.  It kept me home from work for a day and a half and hacking up a lung the rest of the days.  My work back looks more like a traveling pharmacy.

So on Tuesday as I laid in bed I made an important training decision.  Instead of impatiently chomping at the bit to get back to the swim bike run routine, I was going to take the entire week off.  Weekend too.  Not worry about missed workouts or red boxes on TrainingPeaks and just rest.  Go to work and come home and rest.  Because if I don't get healthy than I can't train.  In many ways this has been a relief.  It's been kind of nice to have one less thing on my daily to do list.  And this was the week to keep the list short because I've been in trial and coming come later than usual every day.

But on the other hand, when I'm not training a part of me is missing.  My me time is removed and all my time becomes "other people" time.  Each day this week I got crabbier and crabbier.  The grouchiness is threatening to take over.  And while it has only been one week, it feels like an eternity.  I feel like I've missed a month or more and that I'm ages behind everyone else that has been hitting it hard this whole time.  I'm crazy, right?

I saw a tweet earlier this week that really hit home:

Cindy Smith (@iTRIswimbikerun)
Early tri season training is time to focus on form and laying the base for upcoming build. Patience is a major requirement.

So true, so true.  This is also the perfect time of the season to focus on health.  I can't move forward if I'm not healthy.  Patience is a major requirement.  So despite the warmer temps this weekend and the allure of group spins, runs, and rides, I'm sitting on the couch watching movies.  I'm resting.  And I'm blowing my nose over and over trying to get the rest of it out.  I hope to get back in the saddle on Monday and make some much wanted forward progress. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Race Report: Tropical Splash Swim Meet

A year after my first US Masters swim meet I was back at Tropical Splash in Alexandria to measure my progress.  We had a great turnout for Arlington Masters with 14 swimmers in attendance.  As we did last year, we cheered each other on and had a good time at this very laid back meet.

I signed up to swim the 100 Free, 100 IM, and 50 back.  Last year I swam 100 breaststroke but I'm avoiding it since the kick aggravates my knee.  I figured I'd do the 50 back since my backstroke turns suck and one turn is better than 3.  More than anything I just wanted to have a fitness benchmark that could somewhat accurately measure my swim progress from last year.

I got there ridiculously late and did a quick warm up while the first events were going.  It wound up being plenty and I had all the time I needed before the 100 free.  When it was finally go time I dove in and went for it.  It felt like swimming through wet cement.  I even entertained the possibility that they had somehow lengthened the lanes.  How else could 100 free feel so hard?  But despite that feeling it turned out that I swam pretty well for me with a final time of 1:21.89 which is 7 seconds faster than my fastest last year.

Later in the morning I climbed up on the blocks for the 100 Individiual Medly - one length each of fly, back, breast, and free.  Typically the 25 yards of butterfly is so taxing that I spend the rest of the event trying to recover.  I put out a strong effort but made sure to stretch out my stroke as long as I possibly could.  I finished the butterfly thinking "that wasn't as bad as last year by a long shot."  I had a smooth backstroke, a passable but ugly breastroke, and then put everything I had left into the free to bring it home.  I was close to the swimmers in the lanes next to me and used them as motivation to haul ass and leave them in the dust.  Final time of 1:38.34 a full 6 seconds faster than my fastest time last year.

Finally I swam the 50 back.  I realized that I hadn't done a proper backstroke start since I was 18 years old.  It wasn't my finest moment, but it got me moving in the proper direction.  I worked on a strong solid stroke and obsessed over the turn.  While I have a lot to work on for the future, I didn't get a ton of water up my nose which is usually what happens so I call the turn a success.  Final time 44.81.  Will have to wait until next year to have something to compare it to.

It was a good day.  This meet is fun because it awards ribbons for first through third place for each age group in each event.  And here's where my faithful readers get more info than those that just follow on facebook or instagram.  I posted my award ribbons right after the meet showing that I got a first and two thirds.  And this is absolutely true.  What I didn't mention was that the first was for a relay that I completely sucked in and we only got first because we were the only all women relay - the others were mixed gender.  So we were first out of first.  The third place ribbons were for 100 free and 50 back where I was 3rd out of THREE.  Ha!  I got fourth out of four on the IM.  But really what matters is the improvement on my times.  I'm within striking distance of the times of one of the slower swimmers in lane three at practice - getting to lane three is one of my swimming goals this year.  So I'm getting there.

After the meet I needed to do a 35 minute run.  It was warmer out then I expected so I headed to Haines Point so I could run outside but also have access to a bathroom.  I arrived, went to the bathroom, and began my run in clothes that were woefully inadequate for the temps.  It was about 50 degrees, but Haines Point is right on the water and it was chilly.  About a quarter mile into the run I realized I grabbed the wrong car key when I locked up the truck and was now locked out of my car.  I had to stop, beg a stranger to call Hubby, and then finish my run while I waited for him to show.  And with my luck this of course happened while Lil Buddy was napping so a sick Hubby had to wake a sleeping toddler to come rescue me.  Hardly ideal.  But despite these interruptions I ran a steady 3 miles at a decent pace despite being pretty worn out from the swim meet.

The day ended cozy on the couch fully exhausted but satisfied with the days efforts.  I'm very pleased having these fitness markers so early in the season and knowing that I'm just getting started for the year.