Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recovering faster, getting stronger, staying healthy.

These are all things that I always strive for after a big race, though it seems to have come easier this time around. I took it easy last week for a few days after the 70.3, but by Wednesday I was itching to run again. I held off until Thursday to give myself time to recover not just from the race, but also to adapt to returning to work after nearly a month off. I think a month is long enough to forget exactly how physically demanding my job is. I might as well count it as working out for the whole day. I actually lost weight the first week back, despite not doing much more than walking until Thursday night. Once Thursday afternoon rolled around, I was beyond excited to run again and felt like I could run forever (if it hadn't been for that insane thunderstorm, I might have!). I attribute this to my solid recovery plan. I stepped up my fruit, veggie, vitamin and probiotic intake on Monday and got myself a full 8 or more hours of sleep almost every night since the race. One difficult thing about working with so many children is that my exposure to germs is very, very high. Many of my kids have difficulty swallowing and therefore have trouble controlling their saliva and, well, I tend to get drooled on. It happens, I just have to be hyper-vigilant about keeping myself clean in order to stay healthy (same for the kids!) especially after a big race where my immunity is already compromised. The research is there, we're more susceptible to getting sick right after a big endurance event. Pair that with the first weeks of school and you've got trouble!
Sleep, eat your veggies, wash your hands, repeat.
In addition to resting up and trying to stay healthy, I'm hoping to maintain my fitness and build on it for a strong fall/winter. Since my training load dipped way down I have more time to focus on the things that get tossed out the Window when I'm busy- mainly strength training. I went to the gym on Monday and did some strength work, puttering around the weight room trying to remember what I'm supposed to do, when I finally decided to ask for help. I'd been considering a personal trainer for a while, but was reluctant to pull the trigger. I thought I could just do it myself, I am a PT, after all... But no. I'm pathetic and need some new ideas and someone to give me feedback on what I'm doing. Sure, I could do it myself if I really hunkered down and brought some sheets of exercises to the gym, but the odds of following through with that are slim. So slim. Anyway, I met a trainer who is also a runner and got a mischievous look in her eye when I mentioned wanting some plyos, core work and targeted strengthening for running and swimming. I think I'm in for an ass kicking tomorrow, but I'm actually looking forward to it, which is more than I can say usually. She was excited that I could do squats, push ups, step ups, bridges on a ball because apparently most people can't do those things. Bring it on! I'll let you know if I can walk on Saturday morning.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Toughman Half, Part 2


I left off in Part 1 after what felt like a spectacular 56mi bike ride, despite the return of the right knee pain devil and some other completely weird aches and pains. Luckily for me these pains tend to disappear once I'm off the bike, so I was really glad when that happened right on cue on Sunday. 
I'm going to be honest right from the start: I didn't pay enough attention to the elevation profile of the run portion of this race. I'm sure I looked at it long ago, saw the hills, shrugged them off and never looked again. It turns out there's a reason for the name "Toughman" and I suspect that has everything to do with the fact that you run around the base of the new Croton dam and then make your way several hundred feet up to the top. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
The run started out great! My friends Erin and Mookie (is that the right spelling? No idea) were cheering like crazy for me in the first half mile and Erin trotted with me for a bit, checking in. That was really nice, and then I was on my own for a bit. I trotted along, really feeling good for a mile or 3, running into my bike buddy, Carolyn, but losing her somewhere in the Van Cortlandt Manor as I trotted on ahead on the shaded, soft, mulch trail.  My legs loosened quickly and I was ready to crush it....until the nausea hit. I felt sluggish and sloshy and worst of all, I needed to burp but couldn't. I tried to make myself burp, but that was too close to making me nearly hurl. I went through a LOT of long, uphill miles on dirt and road with a horrendous mental battle against the nausea, a pain in my left upper ribs and the hills. The worst part was that my legs felt GREAT, they wanted to tear up those hills, but I was hurting and doubting from the waist up. The pain in my chest/ribs/stomach on the left side was alarming. Sometimes I hate knowing anatomy so well because I was going through a checklist of what could be wrong. Several miles went along like this in my head:
"You're probably having a heart attack, you have pain in your left shoulder. You might want to stop." 
"No, it's gas, just keep going." 
"I'm definitely dying."
"I should stop and find help."
"Okay, I'm just going to walk to that tree....oh, the pain is gone. Hmm, not dying." 
It went on and on like this for quite some time, with me dying to burp or hurl or some combination of the two until I hit an aid station and a very small child gave me a salt tab and flat Pepsi at the top of the dam. I was walking here and there, just absolutely miserable, but in good company because so was everyone else. I have never seen so many people walking and we were not slow runners. The hills were grueling and once my stomach settled, I reminded myself that this was MY race. I had a piece of duct tape on my bike that said just that, it was a reminder not to follow anyone else's lead in this race but my own. I refused to stop and walk just because others were walking up the most ridiculous hill around mile 9 because I knew I had the legs for it. I walked the section between two cones on that hill, about 8 ft, and never stopped running again. The last few miles were great because the course tucked back into the trails and was quiet, and suddenly I was all alone. The applesauce packet I'd been holding the ENTIRE TIME became the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted, though I still sipped gingerly, worried it might fight back (it didn't). I hadn't taken in a single calorie the entire run until that point. I'd passed a number of my old walking mates as I regained my mojo and was running through neighborhoods and Van Cortlandt Manor on my own. There were a ton of aid stations on the run and it was fun to pass them again and hear "wow, you're looking strong!!" Once I got back to the road section with a little over a mile to go, I could really feel the heat, despite dumping tons of water over my head and back along the way. Bless those lovely people with the sprinkler who held it up so I could wash some of the salt from my face as I ran by. The final 2 miles included a nasty uphill, a road crossing at a big intersection (thank you Croton Police Dept!) and the sunny and hot train overpass and park drive. I ran toward the murmurs I knew to be a finish line announcer, but I have to say it was difficult. I was going through an assortment of reactions to what I'd just done. There was the initial "well, I'm never doing that again" followed by a little disappointment in my time (I had no idea what I was getting into and hoped for sub 5:50) but luckily that was followed quickly by the realization of how challenging the course was. We'll call that the moment of acceptance. I had Erin and Mookie cheering again with about 0.2 to go and I was searching for Dave and his camera, but didn't see him. I was briefly worried that he'd miss my finish, but he was waiting on the other side of the finish line to get great pics. I bolted down the grassy finish chute, so, so happy to be finished and stop moving forward. 70.3 miles and 6+ hours is a long time to be moving your body forward. I have so much more respect for Ironmen and Ironwomen now that I have an appreciation for what it feels like to do HALF that distance. Whew.
So the run was hideous, I think I'd really enjoy running that course with a settled stomach and without stabbing pain in my shoulder because it was truly beautiful. For the record, I knew it wasn't a heart attack or anything serious (just gas! Ha!) or I really would have stopped and sought help, I'm not an idiot. 
As a sub 1:38 half marathoner, it pains me to share these stats, but here they are anyway: 
I still managed 7th in my age group on the run, which goes to show you what terrible runners triathletes are. Ha! 

2:04, ugh. 
Elevation gain was no joke at 1223 ft, also the same amount lost ( ouch, downhill makes me nauseous on a good day)

My first and last miles were exactly the same at 8:15! Things were real ugly around mile 6. 

While I've moved on and am pretty proud of my accomplishment, I'm still annoyed that my stomach nearly did me in. I have lots to work on in terms of fueling and over-hydrating. I am most happy with the fact that I definitely had the legs for this race, they weren't the least bit cranky the entire time. I'm curious now how much I can improve on a flatter course with a better fueling plan. 
I recovered so quickly that I was a completely normal person by Wednesday and have forgotten most of the terrible bits and am secretly hoping to find one more late season race in the area... 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Toughman Half : Part 1

It's hard to believe that half Ironman training is over, just like that. Poof, one exhausting morning/afternoon and my months of training are over. Well, that's not true but it feels that way. Just like after every marathon cycle, I have that "what do I do now?" feeling. You didn't come here to read about my post-race slump, however, you came to hear about those 6 uphill hours that were the icing on the cake of 4 months of training.
The swim:
As usual I had no plans to wear a wetsuit and despite 15 mins of getting stares (I kid you not, someone pointed at me and whispered to a friend) because I stuck out like an albino dolphin in a pod of Orcas, I have no regrets about my decision. I stood there among the wetsuited, fielding stupid questions and comments from idiots who said "I could never swim without one, it's my security blanket" (do they wear them in the pool? I don't get it) and "why don't you wear a wetsuit?" My response to that is always simple: I don't need one. The proof is in the numbers, I placed 4th in my age group for the swim. The swim was warm (72-74 degrees) and a little murky. We had to walk/run out probably 150 yds before being able to dive in and swim. The field was spread way out and I didn't experience that washing machine feeling at all. Whew, it was nice not to get smacked by a flailing orca. I suspect that this was due to a combination of smallish waves and the fact that the buoys appeared to be drifting hard to the left. The course is a "V" with the point of the V being the turn buoy, which I made a beeline for while many others hugged the drifting buoys. Everyone commented on how close it looked and I'm not sure if it was an optical illusion, but my watch clocked the swim at 0.86mi vs 1.2 mi, but it's not always that accurate. Oh well, I swam it in around 25mins and only whacked one guy on the side of the head. He popped up to look around and I accidentally gave him a slap on the side of the head, it made me laugh underwater and still makes me giggle. I ran out of the water (another long walk through the muck from 150yds out!) and charged into transition. I noticed with a little bit of glee that there were no wetsuit strippers. They're part of the wetsuit cheating scheme, no one's ever helped me change my outfit in transition...
T1: As usual my transitions were too slow, I try to hurry, but I worry about forgetting something so I just use the time to catch my breath and make sure I have everything I need.
The Bike:
I dropped off my bike in transition the day before the race and was glad to not have to worry about it early Sunday morning, but riding home on Saturday gave me a chance to preview the southern section of the bike course, so I had an idea of what I was getting into. The first uphill, which we did twice, was a steady, long 8% grade. On Saturday I saw an oil truck struggling up it with his flashers on, so I knew to get into an easy gear pretty quickly and hang on. I felt great as I headed up the hill and south for the several miles to the turnaround. The course consisted of two 28 mi loops on RT9A from Briarcliff to the south up to Peekskill at the northern turnaround. The section heading north was great, there was the downhill on the 8% grade (Weeee!) and then a somewhat flat section for several miles with views of the river to the west and some cliffs in Peekskill (I think) to the north. Much of the road heading north was smooth and the hills felt like speed bumps in comparison to the big hill. I made a friend at the first southern turnaround and we chatted for a few minutes while we recovered from the first big ass hill and we met again in the exact same spot on the second loop and stayed together for quite a while. We were working hard, but it was really nice to talk to someone other than myself! I mentioned that my knee was bothering me and she offered to pray for me and my knee. The Atheist in me stepped aside and I thanked her for her really sweet gesture. I really enjoyed talking to her and was glad to bump into her again later on the run. Thanks for the company, Carolyn!
It's kind of funny, going into the training I was most concerned about the bike. Was I really going to be able to do those LONG training rides and not be a complete poke? I mean, I'm pretty fucking slow on the bike because I'm either daydreaming, sightseeing or just worried that I'm doing something wrong or I'm going to fall over. After months of training and actually enjoying the long rides for their solitude and scenery, I went into this race without a thinking twice about the bike ride. I was ready, I knew I could do it and I really enjoyed it. Now, it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, I actually had to take my inhaler around mile 48 because I had tightness at the top of my inhalations and felt weird, but it eased up a bit after two puffs (the first one landed on my upper lip, eww). I also had a lot of knee pain from the nagging hip and ITB tightness I've been working on and holy crap were my neck and shoulders painful!
I'm really proud of my ride though, I placed 12th in my age group (out of 24) in 3:30 or so and I rode on my aerobars nearly all of the flat and downhill sections of the race. They're so much fun!
While I think my fueling was really good while I was riding, I think it contributed to the rough run I had, but we'll get to that.
56.3 mi, elevation gained (and lost) 3,218.5 ft
Avg speed 16.0 (the range is crazy) with Max speed of 37.7mph! Wow, that's fast!! 

Next time: the run and the elusive burp.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Surround yourself with the very best.

I was swimming at the pool after work a few weeks ago, getting in a short workout on my own in a mostly empty pool, when I overheard the pool's director giving a lesson to a young woman in her ~early-mid 20's. Now, I presume she was paying for these lessons and had willingly subjected herself to this in order to improve her swimming skills so keep that in mind. I think she was nearing the end of what is usually a 30 minute session and she stopped at the end of the far lane as I was getting ready to hop into my lane. She was not what I'd call a great swimmer, but she had the general rhythm down and was moving along well. When she stopped and looked over at her coach, he suggested that she do two more repeats of whatever it was that she was doing (I think it was 50's aka 1 lap down & 1 lap back) and she said the strangest thing- She said, in a whiny sort of voice, "I can't." She just stood there, fussing with her saggy lycra cap, but she did not swim. Her coach, a friend of mine, looked at her and simply said "yes you can, just do 2 more", but she still remained there, not moving and no longer out of breath from whatever previous set she'd done. Again with the whiny "I can't do 2 more!" I was inexplicably flabbergasted. I couldn't figure out why this was striking me in such an odd way, but it was almost as if she was speaking another language. Finally her coach looks over at me and yells across the pool, "Amy! Please tell her she can do 2 more!" I don't know this woman from Adam, but she looks over at me and in my state of bewilderment I nod at her as if to say "of course you can do 2 more, why can't you? You don't appear to be injured or struggling in any way..." but I don't think my message gets across because she's still just standing there, now minutes later. Eventually she slides her goggles back onto her eyes and says, "I can do one more, but not 2" and her coach just waves her on, clearly used to this business of not completing workouts. I slipped quietly into the cool water and pushed off, delving into my first 500yd set, but still thinking about what just happened and wondering why it seemed so odd. Was it because this woman was paying good money for lessons, but not doing the workout? Was it the saggy lycra cap? 
It hit me a few hundred yards in- that woman said "I can't". I don't hear that on a regular basis these days. I haven't heard a whiny "I can't" since I stopped coaching elementary school children a few years ago. She was a grown woman, presumably trying to better herself with lessons, but here she was wasting this opportunity to get better, stronger, more efficient. I probably had a big smile on my face when I finished that first 500yds as I thought to myself, "I surround myself with the very best people. There is no I CAN'T in our vocabulary, we just do it." What a wonderful thought. 

Last month was my biggest training month for Toughman 70.3 (it's tomorrow) and not once did I wake up, look at my schedule and say "I can't". Not once did I sit on my bike at the bottom of a giant hill and think "I can't". I just did. So for anyone out there who has ever asked me how I do the training for big races or told me that they don't think they could do it for XYZ reasons, the answer is simple: I never say I can't and I never accept that from the training partners around me and hope they'd never accept it from me. 
This is the elevation profile from my longest training ride this cycle (and ever!). It looked crazy, but I got up that morning and just did it. I got lost at the end and ended up with 64 miles, but it was such mental practice for my race. 

If all goes according to plan, tomorrow I'll also be able to say I did this: 
                                                  There is no "I can't".