Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A return to physical therapy

This morning I began my second round of physical therapy this year. Or ever, for that matter. While I'm assuming my knee is all better, I haven't done enough running mileage to confirm that. And I won't be doing that high running mileage any time soon, since my back hurts. That's why it was back to PT.

I have the same therapist as last time. As I said to him after our greetings, all things considered I'd rather have a sore knee than a sore back. Hopefully with the electrical stimulation, heat, gazillion exercises and whatever more, I'll be fine soon. He agreed that swimming, cycling and walking were ok, as long as I kept it to reasonable levels and didn't aggravate the problem. He thinks we'll be able to fix this up before the tri. Yay! Of course, he didn't say we'd fix it in time to train for the tri.

We got an email from our coach that we're supposed to pick up the intensity, along with the volume of our training in all three sports. Otherwise we'll be pokey during the tri (I'm paraphrasing here). I think at this point even low intensity is outside my comfort zone, so I'll have to train smart and do the volume while keeping intensity low enough to not cause additional pain or injury. It's one thing being uncomfortable, another thing ending up prostrate for a month.

Last night's swim was supposed to be 2900 yards. Yikes! That's hecka further than I'll need to be swimming in the tri, but since it's only a 25 yard wide pool, it's much easier. Phil, Claudia and I picked a different lane than we normally use and were surprised when the water was over our heads. It made it an itty bit more challenging, primarily during our rests between sets. I ended up skipping 2 75-yard sets of high intensity swims because the high intensity hurt my back. I also changed from kicking (which is normally my favorite part) to swimming 200 yards because using the board hurt my neck. I ended the night with 2750 yards which is still a long swim, about 1 hour 20 minutes total. I think if I'd thrown in the additional sets I would have been kicked out the pool when they closed. As it was, I pushed myself to the edge to complete what I did.

Now I have to find the time to complete my PT exercises three times daily. In additional to the tri training and work. But the biggest challenge will be to tiptoe that fine line between exertion and pain, between stress and strain, between building and injury. I don't have any time to waste!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wetter than I thought

Saturday morning was the Aqua Challenge - my very first open water swim race. Well, my very first swim race of any kind. The team was doing the race in wetsuits, for practice and to see how we'd perform under race conditions.

Claudia and I carpooled to Lake Del Valle in Livermore. Neither of us had been there before and being the compulsive little things we are, we planned to leave my house at 6:15 am to be there at about 7:00. That was the plan until Claudia overslept. Ooopsie! She called and offered to meet me at the park but I figured we had built in enough time that even running late we'd be on time.

And then some. We were among the first people there so at least we had no problems parking. Some of the team had arrived and we joined them to pick up our bibs (which were really little strips with our numbers) and get marked. Marking was a challenge since we were all wearing long sleeved wetsuits, so our numbers went on our hands in red permanent marker (and several showers later mine is still there).

We waited around, had a team meeting, waited some more. Most of us were registered to swim the 1 mile, but those doing the sprint tri were signed up for the 1/2 mile. The 1/2 mile swim started at 8:30 (a little after actually) and we had to wait for all those in the water to finish and get out; some people were doing both races. While we waited we squeezed into our wetsuits and then went into the water to wait some more. It was already too warm to stand around in form-fitting rubber. Finally, it was almost time for the 1 milers to start.

We were shown the course, with big, bright orange float/buoys as markers. We were to go out straight, hang a left at the first buoy across the lake, head way out to the last marker, turn around and head to shore. It looked pretty far away and I started to get apprehensive.

The race started and although I had tried to seed myself at the back, there were others who had the same idea and got behind me. Although the water wasn't freezing, and I was certainly warm enough in the wetsuit, my body freaked out. My breathing was rough and rapid, fast heartbeat, mind frantic. Wha?? People were swimming into me, over me, kicking and hitting me and although I continued forward, I was doing very poorly.

One of our coaches behind me kept saying things like "good job Amy" and "looking good Amy" and I wanted to bop him upside the head because it was truly obvious that I wasn't doing a good job, nor was I looking good. I did some side stroke, some breast stroke, but when I put my face in the water I just couldn't get it out fast enough to breathe. My thoughts were along the line of "maybe I can switch to the sprint tri" and "maybe I won't be able to do a tri" and "what the hell was I thinking" and "I'm going to have to get a ride back to shore in a boat" and "the doctor was right, I'll have a back spasm and drown" and so on. Not quite the positive thinking that gets you going. Righteously freaked out.

On the other hand, my sighting was pretty good (since I couldn't get my face in the water), I was moving forward in a straight line, and headed for the right place. I firmly told my brain to just shut the hell up, and was surprised when I reached the first big orange buoy, the left turn (about 300-400 yards from the start). I made the turn around the buoy and forced myself to try to swim, even though I had to take a breath every single left arm stroke. That was fine, I was moving forward.

I had more trouble sighting in that direction; the lake was way the hell long, and I don't see distances that well. Compound it with the sun in my eyes and watery goggles and it was tough. While focusing on figuring out where to aim I managed to get my stroke under control; one two three breathe left, one two three breathe right. I saw one of the guards on a surfboard and sighted on him, then when I passed him I saw the big orange buoy off in the distance.

I was a little confused that I might be going off course since there were people waaaay over to the side of me. Yup, they were off course, not me. I was headed in a mostly straight line, that I'd straighten out when I sighted every fourth or fifth breath. It had thinned out back where I was and I didn't care if I was last because very few people were in my way or obstructing me.

Finally I reached the big orange buoy, got ready to scoot around the side and realized that everyone else was still going straight. Oh holy crap! There was that other big orange buoy, way the hell out there, that I had forgotten about. Here I thought I was doing great and I still had a hella way to go. Oh well, at least I was in a groove.

When I got to the buoy and turned it got more crowded; I was catching up to a few people in front of me and all those people swimming way off to the side had closed in. Also, the placid smooth lake had developed quite a chop. That was a surprise, something I hadn't expected in the least. I started getting water up my nose, into my mouth and decided that it was excellent training for the tri which wasn't going to be in any smooth lake.

I sighted on the buildings that I thought were at the finish line and swam swam swam. Then I passed the building because the finish line was farther away. Darn. I kept swimming. There were few enough people that I was able to hug the line and cut the final corner close. We had been told to keep swimming until our fingers touched the sand and I kept thinking it would be any minute. The water was clear there and I could see the bottom, but it was still deeper than I thought. I was kicking (which I hadn't been doing much of during the swim) to get some circulation back in my legs, moving forward quickly, and finally scooped up some sand. I got my wobbly legs underneath me and ran for the beach. Ran, hah! Staggered, more like. I was trying to unzip my wetsuit, trying to run, smiling like a fool because I was thrilled to be done, and finally crossed the finish line in 48:04 by my watch. Since that included almost 400 yards of dog paddling, I was happy.

There weren't too many of our team who finished after me, but since some people were doing the 2 mile swim (hello IronTeam) there were still people in the water. I walked back to where we had staged and stripped out of my wetsuit, glad to have it off. It was very warm by then, and in fact several times in the water I had cooled myself off by pulling out the neckline to let water in.

After the swim we were scheduled to do a trail run and, yeah, I was almost happy that I wasn't joining the rest of the team. I didn't mention that my doc told me no running for now. No running, in fact, until 3-4 days have passed pain free. Since I'm not up to pain-free day 1, it'll be a while. I didn't mind too much, I don't really like running on hilly fire trails in 90 degree heat with blazing sun and no shade. Instead I changed into dry clothes and waited for the team to drag their sorry, dehydrated, tired asses back. No, not sorry at all in that instance that I was benched (but I'll be singing a different story when I can't run Monday night).

I'm glad I did the race and realize I have to work on my body's reaction to swimming in open water in a crowd. Since Pac Grove is a double loop course, there will be people around me and over me the entire swim. I'm glad I have a couple of chances to work on that. Heh, maybe I'll ask all the coaches to swim close to me and keep kicking and hitting me for practice.

Saturday night was Pam's goodbye dinner. Sob. Denial isn't helping any, she's moving in a couple of weeks. Dinner was supposed to be Pam, Bree, Anita, Sandy and me but Sandy had to hare off to New York to find somewhere to live, so it was the 4 of us. We met at Stanford's in Walnut Creek, a central location with lots of choices of food and drink.

Anita was running a little behind and the rest of us sat at the table, chatting and checking out the menu. We were all hungry and everything looked good. After Anita arrived we ordered our drinks and continued talking up a storm. The waiter brought the drinks; ice tea for Pam, draft beer for Anita, cocktail for me, cocktail for Bree oh careful lookout watch it oh shit! Bree's entire drink, about 10 ounces of cold booze, mixture and ice, right in my lap. Soaking, drenched, cold.

After the initial horror I actually found it pretty funny. In retrospect, I find it hilarious. But my pants, and the bottom of my shirt, were dripping wet. Luckily I was wearing black, light weight cotton capris that were easy to sponge off. Not dry off, mind you, but I could get the drips off and squeeze out the excess water. The poor waiter was horrified and scared and probably thought I'd clobber him and pitch a fit. I just wanted more towels, more napkins, and when he kept asking what I needed I kept saying "dry pants." Right. At least I insisted on his bringing Bree a drink to replace the one I was wearing.

One hostess came by and was pretty ineffective, then the waiter again, and finally the manager. She asked me what size pants I wore and was going to run next door to Macy's and get me a new pair. Bwahahaha! If I were that easy to fit I'd have a lot more clothes in my closet. I told her it wasn't necessary. She insisted that I send them the dry cleaning bill. Again, bwahahah! As if I own anything that can't be thrown in the washer and drier. She asked what she could do for me and I said comp our meal. She agreed to comp my meal, and buy the table an appetizer. which we weren't going to have anyway, but what the heck. I think she would have bought me cocktails all night long but because I reeked of alcohol I didn't want to take the chance of being stopped on my way home and arrested because I smelled like a distillery.

Despite that little incident, or maybe because of it, the night went very well. We had a great dinner, a nice send-off for Pam. I'll at least get one more run or walk with her next week, so it wasn't a final good bye. But I'm really going to miss her. Our Monday and Thursday night runs were always high points of my week and I looked forward to resuming them when my knee healed and tri training finished. Pam's a great friend, a good therapist, and the perfect running buddy. Good luck, Pam!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another little setback

Everything was getting better, then I tweaked my back. Again. So I had to bow out of almost all of last night's training. We were doing bricks so I hauled my bike to Alameda Ferry after work. We were starting with a short warm up run and I knew after a few steps that it wouldn't work. I gutted it out for the five minutes in one direction, the five minutes back. I transitioned to cycling shoes, helmet, gloves. Then realized I couldn't lift my leg over my bike. Ruh-roh.

So that was my entire workout. I'm skipping tonight's swim, going to the doc tomorrow. I'm not going to screw around waiting for the healing magic. I fully intend to do the Aqua Challenge on Saturday, no matter what!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame

Last night was the 3rd Annual Stitch 'n' Pitch night at the Giants in San Francisco. Claudia and I, as is traditional, coordinated the ordering, buying and distributing of tickets to our group. This year we outdid ourselves with 25 people - amazing! Along with our tickets and premium, we were supposed to get a message on the welcome board.

Try to find a witty, concise, meaningful message that contains 25 characters. That includes punctuation and spaces. It took us weeks days hours many minutes to come up with our message. We all watched while the messages flashed quickly on the screen. The next screen. The one after that. And again. Then waited some more while they played baseball and darn! They didn't show it! What we originally wanted was "Amy's & Claudia's TnT Alumni Marathon Knitters." What we ended up with was "Amy/Claudias TnT Knitters." It would have been very nice if it had actually shown up!

The premiums also seem to be getting smaller. The first year we got lots of stuff, the second year we got less, this year we got a cap. A very nice cap, but only a cap. With a Giants/Stitch n Pitch logo on it. Frankly, I'd prefer something more knitting related but I wasn't asked.

The past 2 years I've gotten the tickets from group sales. I had a great rep who actually placed us in better seats, although they were away from the knitting crowd. This year we were right in the middle of the knitters, although in our crowd only a few of us actually did any knitting. It was tough because we were under the overhang and it got too dark to see anything. I did get some knitting done, although not much.

Many of us ducked out of the game early. I would have liked to watch it until the end but I knew it would take me at least an hour and a half to get home. BART may be convenient but it can take forever at that time of night. I got home a little after 10:30 pm which is too late for me on a work night during training season. It was lots of fun seeing everyone, having dinner beforehand, chatting and knitting.

And the game? The Giants won beat the Nationals 6-3! Go Giants!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just like old times

Last night I met Pam for our formerly regularly scheduled Monday night run. Olivia was out of commission so it was just going to be the two of us. I wasn't sure how my legs would do after the long bike ride, short run and swim over the weekend, but I was feeling ok and decided to give it a go.

It went very well, although slow. We ran, talked, ran, talked talked talked. It was great, catching up on each others' lives. The weather was perfect for running; cool with a breeze. I'm trying to take these last few runs as they come, but knowing how much I'll miss them makes it very bittersweet.

I have high hopes that my knee has, in fact, magically healed itself. I'm having no problems with it at all right now. My legs are tired, but nothing in either of them hurt. Unfortunately I can't say the same for my back. As I was driving home last night I was having spasms, not a good thing while you're trying to drive. I had to get together my stuff for tonight and my gear for tomorrow night and by the time I finally sat down I had forgotten to take any advil and totally forgot to ice it. D'oh! It's very sore this morning so after I finish my latte I'll take some drugs.

Tonight is the Stitch n Pitch at the Giants and most of the gang is going. We can't go to the A's SnP this year because it's the weekend of our tri. I'm not looking forward to staying out late on a school night but I'm very happy to skip tonight's swim and to spend a night with friends!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A dip in the Bay

We were apprehensive. Scared. Butterflies in our bellies and lightning in our brains. I was not looking forward to this swim for many reasons, not the least of which was my dismal performance at the Tri For Fun when I totally freaked out in the water. So of course I didn't sleep Friday night and my stomach was in more turmoil than it's been. Funny how easy it turned out to be.

Saturday morning Phil and I met up with Claudia and we carpooled into the City for our Team workout at Aquatic Park. It was to be our first swim in the Bay, the first true swim in our wetsuits and our introduction to what we could expect from our tri's. Although I've lived in the Bay Area for -- uh, longer than Claudia has been alive (heh!), I've never had the inclination or will to jump into the Bay, for any reason whatsoever. Sure, I've been on boats on the Bay, but I haven't been IN the Bay. Because, for the most part, ew.

The team gathered, we all chattered and talked and then sat and listened to a talk on nutrition. Sure, it's important stuff, but we were waiting to jump in the water and hurry up! Then we got hints on sighting in the water ("swim completely differently than you've been practicing for the past 2 months"), swimming in cold water, and so on. Then it was into our wetsuits.

Good thing we weren't in a hurry. Since it was only the second time most of us had suited up, we were plenty slow. Body glide, booties, wetsuit, squid lid, cap, goggles. Sheesh, we looked like a bunch of aliens. Then we were split into a group of people who knew they'd have no problems and a group of scaredy cats. Guess which group we went with? Rightio, the weenies. Coach Paul led us across the sand and toward the water and told us to just dive in! Get it over with! Like ripping off a bandage!

One by one we flung ourselves in. Aye-yi-yi! A huge shock to the system, but I was determined to do it and do it well. Determined wasn't quite enough. I managed to start swimming, with my head up, then with my face in the water but breathing after every left stroke, then finally I relaxed enough to get on with it. I actually started swimming as if I knew what I was doing. Stroke-stroke-stroke-breathe, stroke-stroke-stroke-breatheandlook. I fell into a rhythm, and started regaining my confidence.

Then I swam into a buoy. Oh, not hard or anything, no clunk, but I realized that I was focusing on the distance and didn't even see what was in front of my face. I had problems with that the whole swim, not seeing people in front of me, not seeing the buoys, only seeing the distance. Something to work on.

The water, while cold, wasn't absofreakinglutely freezing. My head was warm with the extra squid lid (although water would just sit inside my ear), my feet were warm with the booties (although water pooled there too) and the wetsuit kept the rest of me warm enough. Except my hands, which rapidly became numb. My arms felt (and were) much heavier than normal because of the restrictive suit and the water inside. But it was great having my legs float up and rotating my hips with each stroke was simple.

We only swam for about 35 minutes, enough for me to go around the markers about 1-1/2 times. Slow as can be, but at least I was comfortable enough to actually swim. Getting more speed will probably take some time. Or maybe I'll just stay this slow, which is ok by me too.

After we got out of the water it was time to run. Holy rubber legs, Batman! Our transition was less of an actual transition and more of a leisurely change, but I was still wobbly when we started running. Especially since there was a short, steep hill about 200 yards into our run. I walked it, feeling I didn't need to leave it all out there in the first few minutes.

I planned to run for 50 minutes, with a 9:1 run:walk. As I ran on I felt better and better, and when I turned around I was a little disappointed that the run was so short. My quads felt worn out, but the rest of me enjoyed that run entirely. I lucked out on the return when my scheduled walk came right at the uphill. I finished with just over 4 miles, pretty darn speedy for me. And I felt great, mentally and physically. Again, my knee didn't hurt at all and my back wasn't hurting either. A good swim and a great run.

The good vibes continued this morning, despite a very sore back. No, not from the run or the swim, it was from lifting my gazillion pound tri pack loaded down with wetsuit, swimming and running accoutrement. How stupid is that, to hurt my back just shlepping around my gear. But anyway, I was ready to ride for however long was scheduled, no whining involved.

Bree had decided to join me for the bike ride, and blended in fine with the team. I really don't think anyone knows who's on the team, so it was pretty funny that people thought she belonged there. In fact, once out on the road Coach Paul gave her a few riding tips. Heh. Bree wasn't expecting a lesson when she joined us. And just for the record, I know it isn't approved to have people join our training, for liability reasons. But first, Bree is alumni. Second, she's an experienced cyclist. Third, it's a public road. Last, she drank my glass of water at the water stop and ate my gel, so it's not like she was taking extra team resources. Finally, I was tired of doing all my rides alone so I'm very happy she came, so there. (And I have no idea why I feel I have to justify this, or to whom I'm explaining it. Sheesh, defensive much?)

We were riding from Walnut Creek, through Alamo and Danville, then out Tassajara. The half-ers were scheduled for 140 minutes, the Olympic'ers scheduled for 100, so I arbitrarily decided we'd ride for 120. Well, not so very arbitrary, I wanted to ride for 2 hours to see how it went and see how much I could get done in that time. Bree, Claudia and I stuck together for a while, got separated, rejoined, then lost Claudia for good on the return.

My very favorite place to ride is a stretch of Camino Tassajara between Crow Canyon and Sycamore, going west (north?). It's a couple of miles of downgrade all the way, wide shoulders, widely placed signal lights and you can absolutely bomb it. I popped it into my big gear, the one I hardly ever have occasion to use, bent into the drops and pedaled my heart out. I love riding there because it makes me feel fast and competent and cool as hell. I was going, oh, I dunno, about 20+ mph and felt great.

After we turned off and finally got to Danville Blvd. I was tired but still feeling good. We had a tail wind there, it's still somewhat downgrade, and I powered merrily along. When we finished and pulled into the parking lot it was just under 2 hours and just under 25 miles. I felt great, exhilarated. Tired, sore, worn out, but great.

This was probably the best training weekend since I started the whole tri thing. Although I still think I'm going to take close to 4-1/2 hours to complete the real race, I think I'll finish feeling good instead of at death's door. I know that I'll have setbacks, but know I know I'll have good training days too.

That has to be worth something.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

(my legs felt like) Bricks

Last night's workout was our official introduction to bricks. A "brick" in this case refers to training in two sports or disciplines during one workout. Specifically, last night we cycled and ran. Then cycled and ran. Then ran again.

It sounds easier than it actually is. The team met after work at Moraga Commons. We started on the bike, just like we would in a normal triathlon (not counting the swim part). That meant starting with a helmet, gloves, and cycling shoes. These shoes have a cleat on the bottom to connect to the fancy-schmancy pedal that helps you use your legs for the entire revolution instead of just the down stroke. The latest shoes have a rigid sole, lots of air holes and velcro for quick closure. We pedaled westward, towards and up the hill(s) leading ultimately to Oakland. I didn't make it too far; we rode out for 10 minutes, then turned around and came back. Since it was mostly uphill in the outward direction (if you're a slow rider), it was a nice downhill coming back. I was feeling good and pedaling my heart out.

Back at our transition areas we stripped off our shoes and helmets. I decided that it would be easier to leave on my gloves (which was a mistake, I didn't need the extra heat of even fingerless gloves), tied my shoes with only a single tie (I normally double tie them so they don't untie), pulled on my cap and started away. I could have skipped the cap part but I need it to keep the straggly hair out of my face and the sweat out of my eyes. Running was a challenge, both because my legs were wobbly and because my breathing wasn't optimal.

The run was along the Lafayette-Moraga Trail which I know well. Five minutes out and 5 minutes back and it felt like much more than that. I was just getting used to that movement when it was time to change again.

Off with the cap and helmet and running shoes and on with the helmet and cycling shoes. Hop on the bike and off westward ho! Only this time I took it easier. I knew the hill was ahead of me and didn't want to go back down the other side again. Also, the sun was setting right in our eyes. I couldn't see more than a few inches in front of me once we got out to the hill. It was pretty scary, avoiding other cyclists and trying not to get hit by cars (of which there were plenty, commuters cutting through the hills on their way home) and truely not seeing anything. Good thing I was going so slowly. I topped out the first hill and decided that although I was a couple of minutes short I'd just turn around. I really was scared of continuing on into the sun when I couldn't see.

Back to the park, strip off shoes and helmet and one glove (it was so hard removing the tight, damp glove that I left the other on). Put on the running shoes and cap and off we go again! The run this time was just as hard to start, but my breathing was a little easier once I'd run for a couple of minutes. Again it was 5 out and 5 back, a very short run.

Then one final time of taking off shoes and cap, replacing them with helmet and the other shoes (and the other glove), back on the bike. This was supposed to be a cool down/recovery ride and I made myself go slowly and easily. I didn't want to get to the turn where the sun was directly in my face. I leisurely rode out and back and my workout was done.

I was tired! My legs, particularly my quads, were definitely feeling the burn. I certainly felt like I'd been doing more than an hour's workout. The good news was that nothing really hurt, I was just overall sore. I mean, my knee and my back didn't hurt, although my shoulders and arms and legs were workout-sore. The type you know will go away. After some sleep. And some advil.

We have many more bricks to go before the tri. Makes me feel nostalgic for the "easy" run workouts!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Did I mention the wetsuit?

No, I guess I didn't. At Saturday's training we received our wetsuits. Um, yay? When I started the season this was one of my biggest nightmares, the whole stuff-your-fat-body-in-formfitting-rubber thing. Kind of sad, that I was prepared for the training, the event, the fundraising, the whole shebang, but the idea of putting on a wetsuit gave me the willies. It turned out to be not as bad as expected.

Because of my stomach problems (and intense daily workouts) I've lost close to 10 pounds in the past couple of months. This made squeezing into the wetsuit considerably easier than I'd thought. The best part? There were no mirrors at the pool so I couldn't see how I looked. And if I have a choice, I'll never see myself in that wetsuit.

We were given instructions on care and feeding of our new wetsuits and instructions on how to don and doff them. Wow, these things can really be a pain to take care of: don't leave hanging too long, fold in half and store flat, don't use this or that on your skin or the suit, etc. After the demonstration our mentors handed us our neatly bagged suits and bitty containers of Body Glide and it was time to put them on.

It took a while, pulling and tugging ("careful of your nails") and shifting and bending and whew! I was worn out without even starting a workout. We were given 5 minutes in the pool to see how they felt and I tell ya, it's going to be a challenge to swim in that thing for a mile. The floating part is nice, I don't have to use any effort at all to keep my legs buoyant, but my arms felt heavy as anvils. And the suit rubs my neck and I think it will annoy the heck out of me. It's warm though, which will be needed.

Much easier to take off, once I managed to undo the very tight velcro at the neck. Tug down the zipper, pull out my arms, toe off the legs, and it's off. I was surprised at the ease of removal. Of course, when I'm really swimming in cold water I'll also have my brand spanking new head and foot covers to strip off. I don't want to take chances on freezing out there. It'll be hard enough to transition with frozen fingers (gloves aren't allowed in competition so we don't train with them. And what's up with that? It's not like they're webbed or anything or making my little fingers bigger than some other person's bigger fingers.) so I'm glad the rest of me will be covered.

Our first real swim in the suits will be this Saturday at Aquatic Park. I'm excited. And terrified. In the 32 years I've lived in the Bay Area I've never ever ever gone for a swim in the Bay. Because, ew. And because, why would I? This is going to be interesting!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To run or not to run

I miss running. Until this morning the most I had run at one time, for the past 6 weeks, was about 3.5 miles. Sure, I've been beating my brains out swimming and cycling, and adding in some walking when the air quality was vaguely decent, but 3.5 miles. Last year by this time I had run 300 miles more than I've run this year. I miss it. A LOT.

With that in mind I decided to see how much running I could do, see if my knee was ok, see if my back was ok, see if I could breathe in this cruddy air. Although it's been upgraded to "moderate," that means the air quality is still bad. The team run was scheduled for 8:30 am this morning, in Walnut Creek, with my group running 40 minutes (it's another recovery week). Since I don't sleep I decided to get out there earlier, before the heat, and see what my body could do.

I felt tight the first mile or so, then it started to flow. My breathing wasn't great but it wasn't awful either. I walked up the big hill but it was during my regular 9:1 break anyway. I ran to just past the 3 mile turnaround and headed back. I ran down the big hill, trying out my knee, and it still felt ok. I was still feeling fine until about mile 5 then I hit the wall. Apparently not eating well for the past couple of weeks didn't work well. Go figure.

I slowed down a bit but made it back to the parking lot with close to 7 miles. I was tired and I wasn't going to run any additional miles with the team, but after a break of about 5 minutes I was feeling marginally better and decided to go back out for a mile or two. Which turned into a decision to go the scheduled 20 minutes out, 20 back.

I was slow as molasses and tired but I continued running. I switched to a 4:1 just to keep going and that worked fine. I had to run around the parking lot to get it in, but I finished with 9 miles. Nothing hurt. Not my knee, not my back, not anything. I felt pretty darn good physically and the mental improvement was incalculable. I needed that run.

So now the decision is whether or not to run the San Francisco Marathon, second half. I have a bit of a streak going at that race; since 2002 I've run the half 5 times and the full once. That makes me one of their "loyal runners" (even though for some reason their database isn't showing my 2003 half). I like the race (although I don't like their shirt), I like supporting a local marathon.

In my real, tri training the race is the day of a long bike ride, scheduled for over 2 hours, with a 15 minute run to follow. An important brick and one I hesitate to miss. But I want to run. I think I need to run. The decision will be imminent.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fresh air is on the way

That's what they're forecasting for the weekend: cooler, cleaner air. It can't come too soon since my lungs are feeling like sandpaper has been repeatedly rubbed on all surfaces. I can deal with the heat, even training in the heat (although it's much tougher) but this air quality is something else.

I was very surprised when they held our training yesterday despite temps in the 100's and air quality that was declared "unhealthy." From Phil's description they had a full circuit workout with the intensity decreased. Strange, I'd think TnT wouldn't want its athletes to destroy their lungs. When the local Air Quality Board says that active people should do their activity indoors, that would seem to be something you'd listen to.

Claudia and I didn't pay much attention either, but we decided on the wetter option. Since the pool had been closed on Tuesday and we missed that workout, we decided to go with the swim last night. So did everyone else in San Ramon. It was very crowded and many people don't know that the lap lanes are supposed to be used for, uh, lap swimming. We got in our entire workout despite one woman who couldn't swim the entire length at one time and another woman who kept zooming past us.

Even though this is another "recovery" week the workout was pretty intense, 2650 yards. That's going back and forth a whole lot of times! The workout included levels 1 and 8. Bwahahaha! I don't OWN a level 8. Frankly, I think of my intensity levels (for almost all activities) as 1-3: 3=bursting my lungs and eyeballs popping; 2=regular movement; 1=walking (or drowning).

Maybe that's an exaggeration, there's a slight difference I can do in the mid-levels, but it's so very slight and depends on a gazillion factors. I try to swim at 8 and I think I'm just flailing, I don't think I'm really moving any faster or more efficiently. At level 1 my feet sink and again I feeling like I'm flailing around and getting nowhere. So to me the levels on the workout are more of suggestions such as "swim easily" and "swim normally" and "swim your ass off."

I'm still trying to get back to a smooth swim after the remedial swim lesson I had a couple of weeks ago. I'm thinking of so many things at once that it's no longer as easy as it was. I think I'm being hypercritical of form instead of concentrating on moving forward. I know that form is very important, but my tri for fun showed me that it's all going out the window once I hit the race. I'm not feeling the comfort that I had, too much thinking. And counting laps/sets/breaths confuses my brain.

No doubt, running is easier. For someone of my talents, "move forward" is the best instruction. I can do that!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Swim? Nope!

I was looking forward to tonight's swim. Not because it was 107 degrees out (although it was); I figured that would just make the pool more crowded than normal. But because the scheduled workout had yards and yards of kick repeats. My favorites! And because I had one of those days and felt swimming for 90 minutes would work out all the tension.

I was getting ready to put my gear in the car and leave and Claudia called: the pool was closed. Apparently something was broken so they just closed it down. On the hottest day of the summer. When I really really wanted my workout. And by the time we could drive through traffic to another pool the lap swim time would be over.

So we went out and ate Chinese food instead.

Hot, hotter, hottest

Temps blazing, skies full of schmootz; it's ugly out there. Well, the red sunrises and sunsets are pretty, but the gray/brown sky that matches the brown golden hills is scary. The heat around here rose to 105 degrees yesterday afternoon and only cooled down to the upper 70s. The winds shifted from our lovely, clearing westerlies to ones bringing smoke from the fires along the central coast.

Here are some frightening statistics about California burning for the past two and a half weeks:

Statewide Fire Statistics
Total Fires at Peak: 1,781
Total Fires Contained: 1,451
Total Active Fires: 330
Total Acres Burned: 614,808

These numbers are total fires and acres that have occurred from state, local and federal firefighting agencies beginning June 20, 2008.
Being only the beginning of fire season, these numbers are certain to grow in the coming weeks.

Last night Olivia and I had a fast run brisk walk leisurely stroll along the Iron Horse Trail in Danville. Pam was busy so it was just the two of us. At the start it was still over the magical 100 degree mark but we started along, talking and walking. We got to the 2 mile mark and realized we really should turn around since we had to walk back again. Parts of the trail were shaded and it was still toasty in the sunny parts, even though the sun was very low in the sky by then. By the time we finished our 4 miles the temp had dropped all the way down to -- 95 degrees. Uggg.

I'll bet that tonight's swim will be in a massively crowded pool. Hopefully moms will be smart and keep the kiddies inside their air conditioned house, instead of letting them out in the polluted air. I'm not counting on it though!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Learning how to change a tire (in)correctly

Saturday morning our team workout was scheduled for only a bike ride and bike handling clinic. The pool at Foothill High was hosting some sort of meet, so we were going to do a longer ride. To absolutely nobody's surprise, the "surprise clinic" was that we all got to practice changing our rear tire. D'oh! I had some practice doing that when I flatted with Bree, but although I helped she did most of the work.

Yeah, it was a pain. Yeah, it was messy. But yeah, it was good experience. The millions of coaches and captains and mentors wandered through the team members changing tires, giving advice, correcting mistakes. I had several people show me how to do things, then they'd replace whatever they'd done and watch while I did it on my own. It was harder and easier than I expected; my hands are weak so it's difficult for me to strip off the tire, and I had a tough time replacing the tire correctly, but I got it all done by myself. I received a bit of assistance from one of the coaches in replacing the wheel back on my bike; I wasn't sure where the chain went or how tight to tighten the whatchimajigger (hey, I said I changed the tube, not that I learned the names of everything). He rechecked and tightened it, we spun the wheel, put the brake thingie back how it was supposed to be, spun the wheel and made sure the brakes worked and it was ready to go. Then I wiped the grease off my fingers and got ready for the ride.
It wasn't quite a real field change, we all used floor pumps to re-air our tubes and none of us tried the crappy hand pumps from our bikes or used the gas canisters we carry. Otherwise I'll have to admit it was a good experience. Unfortunately it wasn't done entirely correctly.

Dun dun dun! That's the foreboding music for what happened next.

The groups left, first the Half IMers who were riding 130 minutes, then the first batch of Olympic-ers who were scheduled for 90 minutes (there are too many of us to all leave at the same time), then the rest of us. As I headed to the street my pump popped out of its brackets. I don't know why I even carry it because it doesn't work very well, but whatever. I had to stop, replace it, then I was caught by the red light for a couple of minutes. Once again I was left behind.

I started up and my legs felt flat. I thought it wasn't too surprising, my oatmeal had been several hours earlier and had maybe worn off. We headed down Foothill towards Niles, a pretty, narrow, rolling hill route. And I was dragging, going very slow. Coach Paul rode past me and said I was looking good, good form and cadence; we chatted for a minute and he headed off.

And I plodded along. The uphills were treacherous and I just couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. Another coach came by and said she thought she heard something rubbing and that the brakes were probably doing it and I should check it at the waterstop. Alrighty. Another coach rode past and told me my seat was too low and he'd raise it at the waterstop. Okey dokey. I arrived there, he changed it, I went on my way.

And went slower, and slower and slower and it got harder and harder and harder. Finally I gave up and stopped to see what was going on with my bike. I turned the pedals and looked and the chain appeared to be stuck. I thought it was probably that I hadn't done some stupid little thing after the tire change, but the wheel was no longer turning. The coach who thought my brakes were rubbing saw me standing forlornly on the side of the road and called the sag wagon. Sigh.

The mentors picked up my bike and me and took me along for their ride to the end of the course, out Calaveras Road. I was happy I wasn't riding that far (and I wouldn't have, I would have had to turn around long before I got to the steep, twisty, narrow, cliffy parts) but I wasn't too thrilled to be benched. They talked with yet another coach who said when we saw him on the return journey he'd look at my bike to see if he could fix it.

And it turned out to be rather simple. My wheel had slipped and the tire was rubbing against the forks. As in, a large blob of rubber completely rubbed off. As in, the entire wheel could have fallen off. As in, thanks heaps helpful coach who showed me how to put it back on my bike and tightened the thingie and said it was good to go.

I was given the choice of finishing the ride or sagging back and took option A. So I was the very last person out there, with only the coaches sweeping the course. Amazing how much easier the return trip was. And unlike most of the time when we ride and ride alone, for most of my return 7 miles I had the company of Coach Paul. Who wanted to know how training was coming, how my back was, how my knee was. I wasn't going to lie, but I wasn't being completely forthcoming either. I will make it through this season and none of the staff need to know what's hurting, what I'm having trouble with, how I'm feeling. So I smiled and painted a somewhat rosier picture than was entirely true. Sue me.

I wasn't the last person back but only because about a half mile out, the person in front of me got a flat tire. My little 14+ mile ride took forever. The first 7 miles were incredibly hard, the second 7 were tough but I felt like I was flying in comparison.

So, another learning experience. At least I made it through the whole thing without bursting into tears, which is much better than I've been doing.

At this point I'm guessing that my tri will be 4:15-4:30. I'll probably be closing the course down there too.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Swim swim swim

I think I'm swimming in my sleep now. The little sleep I'm getting, that is. Last night's training swim took me an hour and 20 minutes to complete. Back and forth and back and forth and back and repeat. This morning in our coach's weekly email we were told that we should register for the 1 mile swim at the Aqua Challenge at Lake Del Valle in 3 weeks. Yes, that's a 1 mile open water race swim in a wetsuit in 3 weeks. Holy swimmers' itch batman!

This shouldn't surprise me or concern me since we're swimming more than that at our weekly training. Last night Phil, Claudia and I swam 2600 total yards. Of course, that included some 15 second breaks in between sets and a wall to kick off of at each turn-around. Less breaks for me than them since they literally were 300 yards ahead of me by the end and had to wait 10 minutes until I finished even without my taking all the breaks. And the pool closed 10 minutes after I finished so I don't really have time for breaks. But anyhoo, a 1 mile swim. A 1 mile open water swim in a crowd. Yikes.

I did the math and a mile is 1760 yards. My triathlon's swim is 1500 meters. That converts to .932 miles or approximately 1640 yards. It's good that our training incorporates a longer swim without stops. It's good that we train in the wetsuits in a race setting. It's good that we're doing a training run directly after the swim (and the faster guys will have a nice rest waiting for us slower peeps to finish). So why am I not feeling good about this??

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Week 4 training recap

This was the toughest week yet, based entirely on the air conditions. Last week there were more than 1000 fires burning in the state, many of them burning out of control. We had winds from the north and the south and the east, a smorgasbord of bad air. Our air quality went from dangerous for sensitive individuals to plain old dangerous. Absolutely not what you want when you're training for an event. But did that stop us??

Monday was an off day, celebrating a friend's birthday instead of gulping in bad air. Tuesday and Thursday were swim days with increasingly high yardage. I skipped the track workout on Wednesday to avoid the bad air and instead did cross training in my own home. Friday was the normal off day. Saturday was scheduled for a run and a swim. Although there was improvement in the air it was still too cruddy for me to run so I walked once around the circuit - just over a mile. Swimming was drills and a long swim which I missed while I was instructed in remedial swimming. Apparently I'm doing it all wrong -- who knew? Sunday was a bike ride along the route I used to ride with my cycling buddies a decade ago. I think I did about 17 miles and coughed pretty consistently, but enjoyed being out and about.

The winds are pouring in from the west now, cleaning out the air and bluing up the skies. This morning there was even a teensy bit of drizzle on my windshield. Although the fires continue to burn, they aren't spewing schmootz in our air so training will be easier this week.