Friday, October 24, 2008

Looong Overdue Update

Well, I'm not sure if any of my readers are still out there, perhaps hoping for an update from me so that they know I'm still alive and kicking, or if they've given up and moved on to more interesting blogs, but just in case, I'm finally ready to post...something...

I'm not sure where I left off this summer, probably something along the lines of being busy, overwhelmed, studying harder than I ever had...well, this semester has put all that to shame. So between that and some not so fun physical stuff, I haven't wanted to post. But today, in the midst of my 15 miler, I decided to come out of hiding. But it's been so long, I don't even know where to begin. Let's see, school is going well and I love what I'm learning, when I can pause long enough to appreciate it. In particular, I'm loving learning how to self diagnose and treat, although a little bit of knowledge can be very dangerous :)

In September, I did my one sprint tri of the season in Rhode Island, my first duplicated race. It was such a great opportunity to see if I'd really improved as an athlete over last year and I was very pleasantly surprised. I took about 9 minutes off my total time, spread out over all three events, and more importantly, was fully functional upon crossing the finish line. Last year, I was sore and tired for a couple of days and this time, I was up and literally running the next day. That rapid recovery was such a good feeling and really solidified that I have improved my overall strength and endurance. I think my half iron training has really transformed me. And even more, I'd been nursing an IT band injury along for all of August, so being able to complete the run at all, let alone in a new PR for me was great.

Aside from that race, I've just been concentrating on marathon training for Vegas, keeping my IT band under control, and working through a new flare up in pain in my left hip. Training has been going pretty well, I'm running as fast as I've ever run, but my hip pain has been keeping me held back. I finally went to see a PT about it this week and have been told that I have torn my labrum. For those who don't know what that is, it's a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip socket and keeps the head of your femur in place. Once it has torn, your femur isn't held as securely and all of the muscles have to compensate to keep it where it needs to be. Thus explains the excessive cramping of my external rotators, adductors, and hamstrings when I run longer than 8 or 9 miles. I most likely tore it a few years ago when all of my troubles began and have been running on it ever since. In some ways, I'm relieved to hear this because I was starting to believe that this was all in my head or that perhaps I was not meant to be a runner biomechanically. I'm not crazy, always good news. The bad news, I may be doing damage to the bony surfaces and won't know until I get an MRI and a definitive diagnosis. If it is indeed torn, I'm not sure what will happen then, although I think surgery will be in the picture somewhere. It's also unclear what my future of running will be, and until I know for sure, I'm trying not to think about it. The way I see it, I've been going this long on the injury, what's one more marathon? I know, not smart, but if this is my last chance at this distance, I'm going for it, come hell or high water. I'm trying to let go of the idea of qualifying for Boston and focus simply on finishing (really frustrating considering I'm fast enough to qualify with my eyes closed).

Anyway, I'll try to keep up with these posts and give updates on my hip as I get details. In the meantime, I keep running. And if for some reason I get directed to no longer run distance, I'll become the best damn sprint distance triathlete I can.

Friday, July 4, 2008

How I roll

In the last three weeks, I've crammed more information about the human body into my head than I have in the past 10 years since I took my first Wilderness First Aid class, and thus far, we've only covered the trunk. My first exam was yesterday, so I enjoyed a well deserved day off, and of course, decided to do a triathlon. You see, after my first week or so of class during which I did no exercising whatsoever, I realized that lifestyle wasn't going to fly. I am at a decent fitness level and find that I only want to get better, and really believe that I can. But how to fit it all in when my priority is studying, and I'm a complete overachiever who won't settle for less than an A? Well, luckily I'm in school with some creative athletes who are inspiring me to make it work. So my training these days is a bit haphazard, but I'm getting it in. I bike to and from school every day, about 10 miles round trip. Not a great distance, but done every day, I get a minimum of 50 miles a week. There's also some great bike routes that head out of the city so on the weekends I've been fitting in a 25 or 30 mile ride. And to top it off, since my baby was stolen, I've purchased a city commuting bike, basically a hybrid. It's heavy, upright, and no clipless pedals, so my quads get some decent training in. As for running, one of my classmates is an insane runner, so once a week on our lunch break, she kicks my ass for 4 miles, giving me a great speed workout. And then another friend in school is training for her first 10K, so with her I get some nice, long slow distance in a few times a week. Thus far, I've managed to do some form of running or biking every day.

Swimming has been the tough part since I haven't been able to join a gym yet (although that will change this week)...hence the triathlon last night. I blogged about these free weekly tris that take place on the north shore of Boston and yesterday, to celebrate having a Thursday night off and exam one behind me, I drove up there, through weekend beach traffic, to do the race. The swim was short, 1/4 mile, and there were only 6 of us, but I was second out of the water, litterally on the tail of an Ironman (who I later confessed to that I'd given him the swim since I wasn't sure of the bike route). I beat everyone else out of the water by about 3 minutes. Not bad... The bike started great, despite the clunker I'm on these days and I would have maintained second, but I got lost and had to stop and wait. Oh well, it's a good thing these are just for fun. Unfortunately, one of those great New England summer storms blew in during the bike with winds strong enough to knock me over and fill my eyes with sand, so we skipped the run and grabbed some beers instead. The best part about it all was meeting some local triathletes and having someone who could really understand that part of my life. I was bummed to miss the run since it would have made for 4 days in a row of running, the most I've done in almost 2 years, but the tradeoff was ok too! Today was a planned day off to catch up on some work, nurse my hangover from late night dancing, and watch the Pops and fireworks in the city, but tomorrow I'll get my ass handed to me again by my fast classmate. All in all, I think I'm starting to make it really work as a student and endurance athlete. It's taking discipline of course, but I'm lucky to have motivation in the form of training partners again. In fact, I've rallied about 10 classmates to do a sprint tri in September.

In other news, I've officially registered for the Vegas marathon and am determined to qualify for Boston this year. And I've registered for a tri I did last fall. It was one I did well in, but know that I can do so much better. I'm psyched for the challenge, and now have plenty of reasons to get my training in.

Here's a couple pics from Mooseman. They aren't the greatest, but I think they capture the day pretty well. I parcticularly like the pensive wetsuit pose as I contemplated the hell I was about to do :)

Friday, June 20, 2008


My thanks again to those who managed to plow through my recent post on the half, and sorry again for the length.

Life has gotten very crazy for me in the past week, as if it wasn't going full tilt prior. I started my gross anatomy class for grad school, so in addition to moving to Boston and meeting 42 new classmates, I'm now engrossed in the most academically rigorous class of my life and everything that I used to recognize as normal has completely disappeared, including training. I have been so pumped up post half to do another one, and went so far as to find one in Rhode Island in September, but since I now start studying at 6:30 in the morning and usually wrap up at 11pm, fitting in a workout has become almost impossible for me. I hope that once I settle into a routine I'll find the time again, but I know it will not be consistent, so I do believe that another half this year is off the table. I'm hopeful that I'll get some shorter distance races in because I think I could be so much stronger this year than I was last, but I'm not making any plans yet. At this point, my day consists of trying to remember if I've brushed my teeth, eaten, showered (post dissection, yes), and gotten all my work done.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, last week I finally got back in the saddle (literally and figuratively) but doing the swim portion of an unofficial mini-triathlon, a run around the river, and a really nice long ride, all last weekend, and I was fairly twitching with the excitement of the three sport race. I can't wait to do another race, to feel that rush of excitement, overwhelming nerves, and the thrill of the accomplishment as I cross the finish line. Even the mini tri I went to had me pumped and wishing I'd brought my bike and running shoes (I placed second in the swim, just behind a good friend from college who actually taught me how to swim--he wasn't pleased to see me catching up to him!). There's something about the tri that speaks to me. It's different from a marathon, and no less thrilling, but I think the tri is more for me. At least that's how I want to identify myself, as a triathlete...who also runs marathons. Maybe I feel the potential for improvement, or maybe it's really just a simple as the fun that I have in the race. Whatever the reason, I can't wait to get back out there, whenever it may happen.

On a final note, it's time for me to say goodbye to the general, the trusty touring bike that has carried my so many miles in the last 7 years. After nearly parting with him when I upgraded to my racing bike, I retired him to being my commuter bike here in Boston, a role he only filled a handful of times before some absolute wanker stole him off the bike rack at school. I'm bummed, and angry at this individual, and know that I won't see the bike again, but what gets me the most is that whoever took it will have no appreciation for what he and I have been through together. This thief will hop on the bike and discover the stretched chain and worn cogs, the brake handles that rattle and the handlebar wrapping that's peeling away and will most likely strip the bike of all that's valuable (pretty much just the seat) and leave the frame behind. It's not how I wanted that bike to be retired and that just saddens me. Additionally, my Mooseman water bottle, handed to me as I crossed the finish line and only obtained because I completely the race, is now in the hands of someone so less worthy. So to the general, goodbye, and thanks for all the miles.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Long Awaited Post...

Or maybe not...but to my few readers, it may be interesting. More for me though, it will be nice to go over the race in my mind now that a few days have passed. To be honest, I think the only reason I avoided a feeling of massive letdown post race was that I jumped right into school on Monday and moved officially to Boston. However, as a result of that, I haven't been able to think about the race, or my accomplishment, and that in itself is a bit of a letdown. Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, the race went well overall and I was so proud of myself for finishing it. I wasn't sure in the immediate aftermath if I'd ever want to do another but now I know, I definitely do. In fact, I'm a bit antsy to get going and find one, but I probably need to figure out my school schedule first. But rest assured, there will be another one. Now, before I get into a report on the race, I need to say a special thank you to Scott and Rebecca DeWire for not only creating my training plan but for acting as great coaches along the way. I would not have been nearly as successful without their advice, support, and reminders that this was all supposed to be fun. You both were right, it was amazing. So here we go...

Final time: 6 hours, 14 minutes. I placed 406 overall out of over 700 athletes, and I believe 19th in my age group.
Swim: This was the leg I was least worried about right up until the morning of the race when I saw what 1.2 miles looked like stretched out. I got pretty nervous so decided to be conservative and put myself at the back of the pack, thinking that I wasn't as strong of a swimmer as I thought. This turned out to not be the best decision as almost immediately I was crawling all over people. I kept stopping to let the space open up a bit, but then I'd start swimming again and within two strokes, I'd be crawling up on people. I guess I'm stronger than I thought. I think I could easily shave some time off this event by positioning myself a bit better, and learning how to swim straighter! Practice... I got out of the water feeling a bit disoriented but fired up and in retrospect, I think I had more that I could have given to the effort. But now I know a bit more about pacing, so that's really positive.

Bike: I ran into the transition area, flopped on the carpet to have my wetsuit stripped (and pretty much giggled to whole time) and shoved a banana in my mouth. I had expected to take longer in my transition in order to get some calories in, but my shoes went on quickly and I was too pumped up to wait. And I felt great! It was such a rush when I ran my bike out of the area and heard my name announced. I booked it! A mile or so in, I remembered what the course had to offer and decided just to try to settle in and see what happened. At the base of the first real climb (and the worst one on the course), a woman was there dressed in a devil costume, blaring music from her van. I couldn't help but relax and smile. Again, the reminder that this was for fun. I dropped my gears down and began the climb, and to my surprise, passed every single person in front of me on the hill. I heard so much complaining, and people lamenting their lack of training and I was suddenly grateful for my hill training (despite my endless complaining along the way). That trend continued where I pretty much dominated on hills, but then on straightaways I would get passed again. So something to work on, keeping that pace going beyond the hill.
The bike was a two 28 mile loop course, and after an uneventful, wonderful feeling first lap, I cruised back by the race start and was again given such a boost by seeing my family and friends there cheering me on. The second lap felt much faster, although I believe it wasn't, and I met up with a woman who I had evidently passed on the swim (she was two heats ahead of me) and we proceeded to push each other--I'd pass her on hills, she's pass my on the straightaways, but for over 20 miles, we were in each other's sights. She was fantastic, really helped me to dig deep. Whoever she is, thank you!

Run: Again, my plan had been to take my time in transition, stretch, get some calories in me, and get on my merry way. Once again though, the adrenaline took over and I just wanted to keep going. I can't even describe how great it felt to know that I was 2/3 of the way through and I'd completed a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike ride. I was so proud at that point and really felt strong. And then I started to run... I had expected the usual disembodied feel to my legs, and was fully prepared for the first few miles to be awkward and uncomfortable before settling into my pace, but I hadn't noticed during my ride that it had climbed to over 90 degrees outside. The run course had very little shade to speak of and even with water and sponge stations every mile or so, I was still hurting. Ordinarily, heat doesn't bother me too much, but two days before the race it had been in the 50's and raining. I had no acclimation time and even though I was hydrated, I just couldn't make myself keep going. I had moments on the run when I thought I couldn't finish, but I finally reasoned with myself that even if I walked the whole course, I was strong enough to finish. I have to say that my only disappointment with Sunday is that I couldn't run the whole course. I don't believe that this particular race really tested my abilities and I got a bit frustrated that I just couldn't keep my feet moving. But the weather was out of my control, and when I saw a woman get taken away in an ambulance for a heat related illness, I realized that my health was more important, and finishing the race on a stretcher was not what I had in mind. I have to give a special shout out to the race organizers (as well as the people who lived along the course) for having enough water (for drinking and dousing) to go around. I'm sure the weather caught everyone off guard and the 2007 Chicago Marathon kept playing in my mind in which all kinds of runners had heat related problems due to a lack of water. I've never run so wet, and my feet definitely blistered, but I wouldn't have been able to get through the course otherwise. So while I'd gone in expected to run at my slowest 9 minute miles, but more like 8:30, I ended up at a 10:15 pace (I guess that's what happens when you walk all the hills!), but I wasn't alone in that. Everyone who finished around me ran similar paces, and it wasn't until you got into the top 100 places that most people were putting out stronger performances. So I wasn't alone in my misery. I actually started talking to a guy at the end of my first lap (of 2) who was finishing up. We got chatting and really kept each other going (he'd give me shit when I stopped and vice versa). It was his first half iron as well and I hope he finished strong.

Well, that's probably more of an update than most people bargained for. I won't be offended if you don't read it all the way through, I just needed to relive at least one more time. I'm still in awe of the accomplishment and am looking forward to really seeing what I'm capable of at this distance. My friend Anna asked me what was harder, this or a marathon. It's a tough one. This one didn't leave me feeling as physically wiped, and I really haven't been sore at all. The half also keeps you from getting bored because of the variety, but I'd say overall, this race caused me to dig deeper than ever before, and really made me feel like a fantastic all around athlete.

Thanks to all of you for your support!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Quick Note

It's done!  I'll write a real report later but I just had to say that it was awesome!  I don't know my time yet, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 hours, which given the 95 degree temps and complete lack of shade on much of the run, I'm ok with.  But it was amazing and I'm really glad I did it.

Final moments

I have only a few minutes before I need to head out but I had to put this post up for myself more than anyone else, just to note how I'm feeling in the final lead up this morning.  I feel good.  Maybe not as fit as I'd like, but still ready somehow.  I was nervous yesterday right up until I checked in and then, despite the crowd of hardcore looking triathletes, I still felt up to this challenge.  I think it will be the hardest physical event for me to date, but I think I finally have the right perspective that time doesn't matter, I can finish this and that's what my goal has been since the very first time I got the idea to do this.  I need to periodically push the limits of my own expectations, abilities, and mental toughness and for the first time when one of these events is upon me, I know I'm ready for it.  I'm still nervous, but I'm sitting here, eating my eggs and toast, I've done yoga, and I've got classical music on my IPod to relax me and my overwhelming feeling is one of excitement.  I wanted to put this post up before I left because I have no idea how today is going to go.  The heat and humidity worry me a bit, as does the possibility of a thunderstorm.  My hip is always a concern and I know enough now when to push and when do listen to my body.  When I walk out the door in a few minutes, it's all unknown, but for the first time in a long time, that's ok.  Maybe that was the point of this all along.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Home Stretch

Three full days, plus tonight, and counting...and overall, I'm not nearly as nervous as I'd expected.  I did just spend 3 days in my new place in Boston, unpacking and exploring, so I've been able to keep myself distracted.  My only concern is that out of nowhere on Sunday, every time I took a step on my left foot, my sciatic nerve would be pinched.  A couple times it hurt enough to drop me to the ground.  Needless to say, I got a bit panicky and did not do any training on Sunday.  Or Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I'm still feeling twinges and really reluctant to push it.  I just really hope that I have what it takes on Sunday this week.  I'm not too worried about the heat predicted--I do well in heat and humidity and I believe the course is relatively shaded.  But I'm worried that the bike will aggravate my hip and I'll spend the entire run stretching out my hamstring.  It's hard to post a good run time when you have to stop and stretch every mile or so.  But, I'm hopeful that I'm stronger than I feel (and I now completely understand everyone who complains about tapering!) and that this week of doing nothing but yoga and hopefully some swimming tomorrow won't hurt me.  I'll admit I'm scared.  More often than not though I'm pretty excited to see what I can pull out and the fact that I've taken this much time off is honestly helping me relax and recognize that this isn't a competition, it's, to quote Scott, a hobby.  So I'm pretty pumped and will be excited to cross this off the life list.