Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Runners High

I've talked about it before. The endless IT band struggles. The never knowing if I can run from one day to the next. But somehow (with the help of my ART miracle worker, any maybe some common sense) I've been able to dig myself out of some pretty big holes when it comes to injury prevention lately. You would think I would get over my fears some day, but maybe there are just some things we'll never be fully confident in? My IT band is definitely one of them.

Well, after an amazing IM training year (5 weeks to go!) I found myself back in the familiar scared out of my whits, the world is gonna end, my stupid IT BAND I'M going to cut you off scenario. I noticed some tightness 2 weeks ago at track. It wasn't bad, but it didn't feel right. The scary part was the pain was actually on the side I had my IT band surgery (this side hasn't bugged me for years). The pain subsided after the track workout/swim on Wed, but I woke up Saturday morning with my entire hip and knee throbbing. It seemed fine Friday, but as I was packing my bag to race and brought my bike into transition on Saturday I had a very uneasy feeling. The race didn't mean much to me, and I was fully prepared to drop out of I needed to. I was also really worried about all the stairs we had to climb during the race (anyone with IT band problems knows that stairs plus ITBS = no bueno). However, the race went on without a glitch and if anything I felt some tightness on the bike on the left side/hip area. I never felt any knee pain during the race and had a great day despite being a little bonky on the run.

I woke up Monday morning with a LOT of pain. The frustrations set in, complete paranoia and thoughts of how could this be happening AGAIN to me. Not now, not when I'm doing SO well. I feel so amazing and I'm in the best shape of my life. Was it the 20miler I just did? Was it all the big gear stuff? Track? Of course I could play what ifs over an over again, but none of it mattered. I was jumping to every conclusion there was and completely overwhelmed with fear. I got in with my ART guy for treatment on Monday where he worked me over. He even brought out the scraper and scraped over my surgery scar. Oh my mother of holy crap pain. For the 4 years I've been working with Mr. Miracle worker I don't know that I've ever felt that kind of pain. I iced 3 times a day both my knee and hip. Rolled 3 times a day. Lived in my compression tights and applied MYOMED to my hip and Voltaren Gel to my knee twice a day.

Tuesday I switched up my big gear intervals to faster cadence intervals and ended up crawling back into bed after I got up and started to get ready for track at dark:30am on Wed. While I ended up nailing my swim and PR'ing my 100s during the workout, it still didn't make me feel (that much) better about my knee. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in pain still. And, trying to be the smarter athlete these days, yet balancing that with my determination to still get long workouts in (5hour ride/4mile t-run at race place Thurs followed by 20mile run Friday) was really starting to worry me. I hate missing workouts, and I hate even more missing workouts because of stupid injury.

So, I headed back to ART for another treatment Wed in hopes that the miracle work would take place while I was sleeping and I'd be good to go in the AM. He dug really deep into my hip area, did every special weird release move on both IT bands. Used the stem unit around my knee and then applied Kinesio tape to my right knee area. I got home and immediately put my compression tights on and put my butt on the couch.

I spent 5 lonely hours on Thursday once again in fear. Fear that I would feel a twinge on 9 mile hill, then next climbing up Legend Trails. Fear if I pushed too big of a gear I would once again be back at square one. Fear that when I got home and put on my running shoes I wouldn't be able to run my transition run. A transition run that was to me a test of hitting a pace I didn't know how my body would react to. Fear that if I did that run I wouldn't have a chance of running 20miles the next day.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not naive enough to think if wasn't able to get these workouts in that I wouldn't be able to have a good Ironman. I know I've got the fitness, but that's not what it's about to me. It's about having something that you want taken away. Having the freedom and the ability to do things you love because you CAN. Not that I'm out to win anything, but just being healthy and enjoying the entire experience of any race I'm training for to me is a win, and when there is a chance it could all be taken away (again) I take it pretty hard.

As I made it past mile 1 of the transition run and noticed my AVG pace was actually faster than planned and my HR was still aerobic somehow all these stupid paranoid feelings suddenly started to subside. I felt like I was flying and I had such relief come over me.

And you know what? That relief carried me all the way through 15miles the next day until I reached the 16/20miles and that relief turned into joy. Joy for having an incredible run. Joy for not giving up that week or 5 years ago when my surgeon told me he didn't know if I would ever be able to run again. Joy for having a kick ass run at a faster pace then 2 weeks ago and most of all joy that I for the first time in a long time felt as if I was a runner again.

And that is what we call a Runners High, and it lasted the last 4miles of that 20mile run.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tempe International Tri

I meant to blog last week, but I was too tired and busy drinking airborne like it was going out of style and stuffing my face with every healthy fruit and veggie I could get my hands on… All in an effort to build up my immune system to enter THE TEMPE TOWN LAKE.

Barf. This race was full of hypocrite-isms like: 1. I'm done racing at Tempe Town lake. I can't believe people still swim in that nasty thing. 2. Tucson racing events are awful, I'm so over them. 3. I am so NEVER wearing a stupid aero helmet. They are SO lame.

But, sure enough last week I checked each one of those things off my lists of things I'm not going to do. Again, never say never or you'll just end up eating your words.

It seems like I've been on an endless Ironman build including a few century rides including 2 back to back at the Answer, and my first 20mile run of the season (last Sunday). Come to think of it, I don't know that I have EVER run 20miles during Ironman training (at once). The long run went off quite well, I kept my pace easy and got a massage the following day to help speed recovery. I also managed to register for the Olympic race I said I wasn't going to do just a few hours after finishing the run so I guess it wasn't THAT bad.

This race is the AZ club championships so our club leader was not shy with the peer pressuring/guilt. He laid it on, and I sucked it up. Without any sort of taper, although I didn't have to do a LONG ride Saturday I spent Saturday afternoon on the couch in my compression tights after a shorter ride. For some reason I woke up with my IT band/knee area incredibly sore so I was a bit worried about the race. It felt a little better in the am, but was definitely not 100%.

Race morning was a typical CLUSTER. This race director is infamous for putting on less than organized events. He had moved transition to the North side of the lake putting us under the freeway and giving the entire T area shade. It turned out that was a good idea for AFTER the race, but it sure made getting into transition tough.

After a :45 minute delay to the start of the race, I think my wave (first female Olympic) started just before 8am. Does anyone know how HOT it is in AZ at 8am this time of year? Yah, pretty stinking HOT.

Swim: I started up in the front row towards the buoy line. Since we were doing a clockwise loop, I wanted to stay close to the line and try not to swim any extra. I started out like a BAT out of hell in front of the group and could see I was not losing ground until about 100meters when I realized I was KILLING myself and backed it down. I had a couple of girls around me and desperately tried to grab their feet, but it was just a bit too fast for me (should have started out a little less aggressive and probably could have grabbed the feet). I could see a couple of pink caps (my wave) pull out in front and I ended up swimming almost the entire way by myself. The sun was directly in our eyes and the glare of the water made it difficult to see the first turn buoy. About 100meters form the first turn I realized that myself (along with several others) were aiming more towards the SECOND turn buoy and had to adjust my direction and head a bit out of my way to the left to catch the buoy. It appeared that some people didn't catch the memo you have to go around ALL the buoys and I could see several people completely cutting it off. Cheaters. Didn't matter to me, I didn't see any girls doing it, just men in the wave ahead of me….

I got into a groove and came out of the water with 1 other pink cap at 23:56. I'm happy with that! I think I could have been closer to 23 if I stayed on course and grabbed some feet at the beginning. I think my Oly swim PR is just under :23 mins at lake Havasu so this is a solid swim in TTL for me.

Getting up to Transition was a KILLER. It was probably about 200 yards uphill including a set of steep stairs. This time was reflected in my swim split adding to it for an official swim time of: 24:55.

Shane screamed at me in transition that I was in 3rd place. I knew there was a pro in my wave so I figured she was #1 and a little miss speedy girl in my tri-club was #2. I had no visions of beating either of those two at this race, so I thought maybe I could just hold off anyone else from passing me, that would be fantastic.

I have to admit I had a GREAT time on the bike course. I must have actually come out of the water in 4th because I quickly passed one other Oly girl. The course is two loops with so many turns and out and backs it almost makes you dizzy. It does allow you to see who is in front of you. Sometimes you can't tell because of the loops, but since I was the first female wave and you could tell by race numbers who was in the sprint it was kinda fun. I saw the pro on the first out and back section - she was probably already 2 miles ahead of me! Next up I saw the speedy pants girl in my age group. At each out and back I realized I was actually gaining on her! Now, this girl can RUN. Like, at our track workouts she is up with the fastest boys. Yah, WAY fast so
I knew I could never keep a lead until the finish, but I decided to have fun and just go for it & made it my mission to CATCH her. I did it. I finally caught her on about the 3rd mile of the 2nd loop. I told her to stick with me (secret hopes of helping to push her to an overall placing and I could take her AG award) and just moved along.

There was one other girl out there, not in my AG but she had beat me at another race and I knew she had a STRONG bike. While I wasn't worried about her beating me, I kinda wanted to not let her catch me on the bike. I'd be lying if I said I was a big fan of this person based on some snide comments she gave to me at another race, so I kinda had a little ego here. I saw her gaining on me on some out and backs and it definitely fired me up!

I gave it my all on this bike course and am definitely most proud of it! I finished in 1:09:39, fastest bike split in my AG and came into T-2 as the first AG'er. (not officially, because there were other women's waves behind me and they did have faster bikes than me for sure!)… This is a Oly bike PR for me (last Oly was .8 short). So cool tho to be the first AG girl out on the run course!

The run was HELLA hot. I immediately started pouring water on me to keep myself cool. I was feeling a little sluggish and while my legs felt FINE (thank you e21), I felt like I didn't have any get up and go. I made it until mile 2 or so until miss speedy pants caught me (YEAH ME!) and she said she was HURTING. I tried to at least keep her in my sights, but clearly she found another gear cause I soon lost sight of her. I don't actually think I slowed my pace much throughout the 10k, but I just never had any true speed. I felt tired, not sore. Sleepy almost. My guess is I needed more calories on the bike, especially given that we started the race :45mins later. I should have done an extra gel or something when I realized how late we were starting. I did plan on having 3 gels, including a caffeine one for the run but I lost one out of my bento box on the bike so only had 2 (note to self - GET NEW BENTO BOX and stop losing shit). One 20mins into the bike and the other one as I left T-2.

My knee held up on the run, including going down 2 sets of steep stairs and a volunteer trying to direct me the wrong way in the last .2 of a mile where I did a little wobbling trying to get turned back around in the right direction.

I finished strong with my entire team cheering me to the finish. Run time = 51:15. I know I've got more in me than THAT…..

I finished ~4mins behind my AG winner and club teammate. I'm proud of that, she is one of our best female athletes, amazing runner & Kona Finisher. I also finished 7th OA, including the Pro. A fantastic day in my books.

I'm very happy I caved and did the race. It was a fun mix up to the long training, and had such great time with our club! Of course it never hurts being able to give Baxter "his" medal :-) Juliette was also insisting on posing with one too!
P.S. I heart my incredibly nerdy aero helmet :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2011


So I got back on my bike today for the first time since the Answer. Saddles sores healed, feeling (mostly) recovered I looked at my training peaks plan for the day and followed the instructions….


There is a Tues/Thursday group ride that I've never participated in. Sure, I do the same routes at slightly different times and see the group out there a lot, but, I've never actually met up with the group & ridden with them. I know some of my training peeps do and I talked my ATC buddy Karen to meet me for the ride today. She frequently rides with the group, but she is also one of the strongest female cyclists I know and can hang on for the most part.

The Thursday ride is also the "hill ride" with 3 pretty good climbs in the middle of the 30 or so mile ride. I do the hills on my own quite often as they are just a couple minutes from my house.

Up at 4:30 this am so I could be on my bike shortly after 5 to meet the group I felt pretty good. Hip flexors and quads a wee bit sore from yesterdays track workout and my lats screaming from my crazy hard 4k swim. Thanks coach.

Anyway, I met up with the group about 4 miles into riding and quickly jumped on the middle of the pack. I was able to chit chat for all of about 2 miles before I realized my HR was 170, my legs and lungs were screaming and oh my hell what have I gotten myself into? The gradual uphill starts and I swear those crazy ass roadies picked up the pace. Only about 4mph FASTER than I would normally go.

We make a turn heading to the first stop light (it's red) so I grab my water bottle and try to catch my breath. Next thing I know, the light turns green the group takes off like a freaking bat out of hell to make the light and I'm hanging on for dear life.

And that was the end of my group ride :-) Yes, I was dropped after about 5 miles. I laughed and figured out plan B. There were a few stragglers so we got together and paced up the road slowly losing sight of the group as they made a turn to go up the first of 3 major hills. I was riding beside one of the guys in the "we got dropped group" as we passed by the turn I thought we would make. I asked about it, and they said - yah, we skip that one and they catch us on this hill.

Oh…. crap. Now I'm thinking not only did I get DROPPED, now I have to get passed after skipping a hill. I'd rather be in the back of the pack. That's like being lapped in the pool on a short swim set. NOT cool.

I decided I was just gonna ride hard and see what happened. I worked my way up to the top of our little group and cruised up the first hill. I asked when they usually get caught and one of the ladies told me any minute. I was bound and determined NOT to get caught before I made it up this hill (the largest of the 3) and by God I did it. Barely :-) As I cruised down the hill I noticed that the group really fell apart. I found my gf Karen at the bottom of the hill and decided to turn around and go back up again with her. She was struggling and realized she was in no way recovered from the Answer yet so we just cruised up the hill together. My HR was 20bpm lower up the hill the second time, so clearly I was working way hard the first time!

The second hill is a 2part hill. The first hill is a more gradual grade, but the second part you go through a residential gate and go up about a half a mile with a much steeper grade to the turn around. There has been much drama with the neighborhood about letting cyclists in the gate, so the trade off of the gate being left open for us = BIG ASS SPEED BUMPS. I hate these damn things. They are big, obnoxious rubber speed bumps that hurt like hell going over. There is no way around them. You can take them fast, you can take them slow, but no matter what they are a pain in the ass. The last time I went down this section one of my brakes broke. People lose water bottles (saw that today), nutrition - you name it. Not to mention it sounds like your bike is going to break in half every time you hit one. I'm pretty sure last time when my brake broke I said I was never going up this section again.

Sure enough here I was going up and down it not once, but twice. As I hit the last of 3 (maybe 4) of these speed bumps on the way down for the second time I realized something was wrong. I stopped at the gate, looked down and realized that my handlebars had slipped about a half an inch. I could barely reach my brakes and had to stretch way too far to grab onto the hoods.

So here I am only an hour into my first group ride. Dropped from the group, then back with them and now I have to either A) finish the ride riding in my drops or B) roll on down the hill and head home and hour short on my ride time.

My legs were feeling better, and I now had company so I made the turn to go up the 3rd and final big hill. I stood up to catch up to Karen and realized how uncomfortable this made me and made the better decision to head back home.

So there you have it. My first group ride. Dropped, jacked up handlebars and cut an hour short. You know what the crazy part is? I still had fun :-) I tend to get lazy on the bike and never have that feeling of OMG I'm going to die. I think this is probably the best thing (and most painful) I could do to help improve my cycling!

I think my crazy coach is rubbing off on me. Bring it. Maybe next week I can hold on for like 6miles before I get dropped :-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Answer to the Challenge

All I can say is what a difference training makes. Seriously. I know it's kinda common sense, but oh my god was I a completely different person this time around. I was bound and determined not to fall apart, break down, cry (although I did come VERY close) or have a bad attitude. I think I hit all goals, and even surpassed what I thought I was capable of doing. All while having an absolutely amazingly fun time. This smile below taken around mile 50 or 60 of day 1 pretty much sums up the look on my face the entire weekend (minus a frozen bit on day2).

Day 1: Scottsdale to Strawberry. 94 miles, ~10,000 ft of climbing. Friday took me just over 6hrs to complete (ride time). We had a lot of stops due to flats, regrouping etc, but I stayed 100% on top of my nutrition and hydration so never once felt fatigue. In fact, I actually felt my strongest with the toughest part of the day - the last 17miles of CLIMBING from Payson to Strawberry. Some of our group had a very extended pit stop (and cocktails) in Payson, but remembering my breakdown last year on day 2 when I didn't refuel/recovery properly on day 1 I decided to head out fairly quickly after the last sag and get to the finish. While I may have missed out on a little bit of the festivities, I'm happy with my decision.

Our group of ~30 people took over the little cabins in Strawberry. Karen organized a fantastic meal catered by a local restaurant which was absolutely perfect. It was like an impromptu little party in the woods. Shane drove up with some extra supplies and my dogs :-). The dogs had a BLAST showing off for everyone, sneaking in some food (bad Baxter!) and exploring in the woods!

The rumor was we were expected to have winds up to 50mph on Saturday so we made plans to depart at 6am. In bed shortly after 9, I unfortunately didn't get any sleep. The winds were howling and so strong it kept me (and many others) awake all night. Before I knew it, it was 6am and I was dressed in a million layers and dropping my bag off for the sag. This is where everything changed. About half of our group, still in their pajamas watching us head out had decided to bail. They were not going to risk (or endure) the crazy weather and decided to head home. I was bummed to say the least, but I still had some die hard and crazy friends to gut it out!

With about 10 of us heading out, I felt safe with the company and also new there was another group leaving a little later with their own personal (bitty bitty cycling group) sag. Day 2 starts out with about an hour climb through the woods. It was around 30degrees, but the climb helped warm us up. The winds were extremely strong and a little swirly, but we seemed to be partially protected the trees.

After the climb came a huge 26mile descend into Camp Verde. I remember enjoying this part of the ride last year, as my legs were so trashed from day 1 I just coasted down for the hour. Unfortunately this year it was completely the opposite making for the most miserable, painful and down right toughest ride of my life. There were 4 of us girls who quickly fell off the group. We were so cold we couldn't feel our feet or hands, which when you are descending switchbacks that just happen to have "fresh oil" signs does not equal safe. At one point we actually pulled off the road, almost in tears not knowing how we were ever going to make it down the mountain. We warmed up our hands best we could and then the pain of them thawing out made everything worse. I had every negative thought go through my head, but saw that I actually wasn't the worst off here so I tried to hold back my thoughts of calling Shane for a rescue pick up.

Somehow, VERY slowly we all made it down the mountain and pacelined our way to the next sag. We had a group of 4 (the Lewis sisters and our new adopted Canadian gal, Trish) and we all worked extremely well together. We dropped off some layers, headed to starbucks for a bite to eat and some caffeine and made our way to the base of the infamous Mingus Mountain. This climb where I had my complete meltdown last year starts around 3500ft and climbs up to ~7000ft in 13miles. The first 4 miles gets you to the ghost town of Jerome where we had a brief stop (these 4 miles are STEEP) to stretch out and take in some nutrition. I headed out keeping pace with Karen who I'm pretty sure kicked my ass up that hill last year by a good 20mins or so. She got a second wind about this time and really was pushing the pace. I made sure to stay with her and definitely dug deep as she stayed strong the entire climb.

We reached the top in 1:30 beyond my expectations and STILL smiling!!! I'm so thankful to Karen for pushing me up that hill and keeping me strong...

The last 25miles of the ride start with a decent down the mountain, then a tough 15ish miles into Prescott, infamous for crazy strong headwinds. Thankfully we had the Bitty Bitty boys to pull us into the finish.

I can't say enough great things about these boys. They are some crazy strong riders who not only kick ass at riding, but don't take anything too seriously. It's all about fun for them. I didn't think twice about joining them for a little celebratory almost to the finish roadside "bitty."
Day 2 included ~7000ft of climbing, 97 miles & took about 6.5hrs!
We had a group dinner full of laughs and free entertainment from the boys.
The last 4 girls standing (or sitting rather) before heading back to the hotel!

Once again I was more than impressed when our bitty train of boys who played harder than they rode (and they rode HARD) showed up at our hotel ready to roll at 6:45 am!

Here we are after the last climb on day 3!

And finally, the finish in Wickenburg day 3, STILL smiling! The boys had smell the barn syndrome and got us through the last 60miles of the weekend in dead on 3hours!

What an amazing, fun adventure we had! I had one of the best training weekends of my life and finished feeling strong! Thank you to a great group of friends, and of course my amazing sponsor e21 who kept me recovered enough to never slow down! I brought lots of extras and shared the love with my friends who seemed to have great feedback as well