Saturday, August 27, 2011

FiveHundredTwentyFiveThousandSixHundred

This Sunday is the one year anniversary of my first race as a professional.  This Sunday I will celebrate baby's first birthday by starting my eighth race as a professional.

This Sunday also marks the second anniversary of my first Ironman race ever, as well as the fourth anniversary of the first Ironman I sherpa'd.  (The person for whom I sherpa'd is celebrating four years on by getting married.  Congrats MP and KD!!)

I wish I could say I saw my current life coming those four years - or even those two years - ago but I can't, and any fortune-teller who does likely has a scratch on her crystal ball.  See, I am one of those people who, at the age of six, knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and didn't change it when they turned seven.  But with the scuttling of the Space Shuttle program and something like 300 trainees in the astronaut corps who had yet to leave this planet, I thought it was fair to say my childhood dream could finally be shelved.  But what to replace it? 

If you had told me four years ago tomorrow that I would ever do an Ironman, I would have laughed in your face.

If you had told me two years ago tomorrow that I would ever race as a professional, I would have laughed in your face.

But here I am, four years after four years ago tomorrow, and I'm not laughing.

To be honest this was never my dream.  Because I never thought to have this dream.  Sometimes we get luckier than we could ever have imagined and find things in life we could never have known to wish for.

But now that I'm living this dream, I realize there is more than one way to reach our own stars.  Who knows where I'll be one year from tomorrow.  Or four.

Friday, August 26, 2011

OMG! GRN!

I'm back in the land of Bob Ross and happy little trees.  

Ma Support Staff and I flew into Spokane Wednesday, drove to Penticton, BC, Canada, Thursday morning, and then drove the 1-lap bike course that afternoon.  Thanks to spending lots of time sitting and staring out a variety of windows, I got to see a whole heck of a lot of a part of the country and continent I've never really had the opportunity to see before.  Let me tell you, it's beautiful.  And not only that, it's green, sometimes in places where it's supposed to be green.  After the last five months, I will never take "supposed to be green" = "actually green" for granted again.

Here is a photographic tour of GEG - KOMK - YYF - IMCAN:

Heading west from Spokane

Officially in wheat country

One seriously big pile of gluten

Not a tree for MILES.  Do they measure the crop by loaves/acre?

Leaving the rolling plains for river-carved valleys and bluffs

Can't leave well enough alone

Happy little trees!!

In the high desert...Rocky Mountains HO!

Rough, rugged, beautiful, high desert country

Good Bye, USA...

Hello, Canada!

Vineyards and fruit groves of every variety

Further up the valley we come upon the 'burg of Penticton

Heading south out of Penticton on the bike and run course

Well, hello there.


Tight curves, close quarters, and chip seal

Exploring some farm land west of Okanagan Falls

Back along the lake(s)

Starting the 11km, 4 stage climb up to Ritcher Pass

Coming down off Ritcher...the descents are as epic as the climbs

The rollers on the back side of the course

The top of the next big climb, Yellow Lake Pass

The whole trip was one big mind-bend, the type of mountain travel where everything looks close enough to touch, but takes hours to reach.  I hate to be a lacking in originality, but the course reminds me so much of IM Lake Placid: big climbs, big descents, tree-covered mountains, lots of water, undeniably challenging but not impossible.  And most of all, something gorgeous to look at the entire length of 140.6 miles.

The notable difference is the sheer openness of the course.  Where the roads in Lake Placid are closely lined by trees, the roads near Penticton are almost entirely un-lined...unless you count flanked by mountains miles away.  A good (read: bad) wind and the day gets even more epic.  Either way, it's going to be a memorable time.  And green.

Oh, No, You Dit-Ehnt

Oh, yes.  Yes, I did.  I had the audacity to bring up living the good boring and expect it to stick around.  Instead I woke up the next day with a head cold and spent the next 72 hours either on the couch or in it's near vicinity. 

I always have this moment as an IM approaches on the schedule where I think I'm supposed to do WHAT in X days.  It doesn't matter that I have finished them before, done well in them before.  In that moment I simply cannot wrap my mind around being 100 miles into a 112 mile bike ride, with a marathon after-party to attend.  Can't do it.  And of course for IM Canada I had to have that moment during the second day of having a head which feels like a balloon, the second day of doing nothing in order to pummel a cold into submission before it can travel further south than my uvula, so the mental projection of racing IM was about as ludicrous as tele-porting to Mars.  As ludicrous as the possibility of every feeling healthy again.

There is nothing like an illness in the middle of a hard training block and after some of the most promising workouts in recent weeks to reinforce just how necessary an exacting balance of health, physical integrity, daily rhythm, and luck is to do what I do.  And how rare it is to find and unnerving it is to lose.  Not only because my entire day is structured what most people put on their to-do list as "go to the gym" so my schedule is thrown for whack, but because being an athlete is central to my identity, it has been at the very core of me since seventh grade.  Take that away, diminish or redefine it, and sequester me to the couch and it's not just my sinuses which are out of order, but also the way that I understand myself and my choices which is dinged.

All of this two weeks before IM.  Consider me thrown for a serious loop.

The other thing I unbelievably did was laugh during a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. 

When I simply could not sit on a couch and watch TV one second more, I decamped to sit on a movie theater seat and watch Harry Potter.   Alamos are great: fully functional movie theaters with fully functional restaurants inside, plus first-run movies and low matinee prices.  But there is no talking.  Zip, zero, nada.

And if you're not clear on that, they kindly lay out the tenets of the no talking rule in two-story tall letters backed by Psycho shower scene-esque music.  You can read the rules starting at 00:23.

One lady needs to have her prescription checked because she couldn't read the two-story tall letters, sent text messages during a movie, got thrown out, and left this **NSFW** voicemail ** NSFW**.  Oh, yes.  Yes, she did. 



I have to respect an establishment that elicits this level of drunk and disorderly vitriol.  If I can't be out swimming, biking, or running, I will happily be not talking in their theaters.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On Dollar Bills, Gel Wrappers, And Winged Dreams

I recently changed my training tires for something a little more up to the challenge of not melting on roadways in 105 degree heat, and found a long-forgotten surprise waiting for me.


A used Gu wrapper inside the tire bead that I permanently "installed" when a piece of quartz wanted at my tube so desperately it ripped right through the tire.  This wrapper has lasted through several subsequent flats (due to sharp objects in other sections of the tire).  Paper money work equally well - a one-dollar bill has been a linchpin in one of my rim-strips since June 2008(!) and it's still going strong - but I remember I didn't have any singles on me at the time. 

Now you know what really holds the ship together on a daily basis.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Good Boring

The past few days I've really been drawing a blank on what to blog about.  I started wishin' and hoping' and thinkin' and prayin', also plannin' and dreamin', that something funny or at least note-worthy would occur so I could regale the interwebs.

I had a ride/run brick yesterday and took the Mobile Tri Shop to nearby Manor (pronounced "Mainer," like a person from Maine, rather than "Manor," as a manor house), Texas, to test out a reportedly awesome road for doing long intervals.  Highway 973 did not disappoint in delivering the horrible in a totally awesome way, or the awesome in a totally horrible way: 18 miles pretty much Northeast-Southwest, straight into the maw of the wind of the Texas plains, through pancake-flat farmland, with wide, chip-sealed shoulders - but like many small-town beauty queens, photos can not display it's best features.  

Hours of fun and the most note-worthy occurrence was being chased by two Chihuahuas on the run.  Far from being scared, I found it freaking adorable.

I drove home, had an ice bath, wrote schedules for my athletes, made dinner, and went to bed.  And just like that I killed Saturday, crushing it like a beer can against my forehead.

Interwebs, I am trying not to despair over my life of the antithesis of crime.

I once had a discussion with a friend and former training partner about why this person has thus far elected not to take their elite card.  The reasoning came down to the fear that if/when racing professionally, they would become obsessed about swimbikerun, that it would take over their life.

News Flash: THAT'S.THE.WHOLE.IDEA.

Every profession has periods of required intensity - med school, law school, dissertation research and writing, grant writing, licensure studying and testing - when day becomes night, week becomes weekend, monk-hood resembles the clubbing lifestyle, and the living room floor becomes the dining room table.  Ok, maybe that last one is just me.

It's boring, it's lonely, it's alienating, and it's limiting, in its own way.  But as I live and train, two weeks before IM, it's absolutely necessary, and in fact, preferable to unpredictable happenings which are fuel only for crazy.

So Interwebs, I will not despair over my life of the good boring.  I will not despair over having no beautiful pictures or funny stories to share.  I will despair over only the state of my living room floor and the limited endurance of Chihuahuas.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

People I Swim With

And by "with," I mean "half a pool over from."  [Although the pool in this video is where we have our masters practices.]




Here is an article about the second world record they set that weekend.

I would be happy to be fast enough, one day, just to choke on their wake.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fool Me Once...Fool Me Twice...

My drive to and from the Texas Swim Center for masters practice is pretty straight-forward and short.  At least when conscious, caffeinated, and after dawn.  Otherwise it is a tricky obstacle course of traffic signage right up there with the Mensa test.

The longest drag is along a main street, deserted at 5:40 A.M., with 10-12 cross-streets along my route, and either a stop-light or -sign at every cross-street.  The order of lights and signs isn't orderly; a lot of lights, then a sign or two, then a light or two, then a sign, then a light, and the lights are rarely in-sync so I get caught a lot.  Stop, start, stop, start, stop. 

Sometimes my sleep-cob-webbed mind gets lulled into a sense of rhythm - a reassuringly safe rhythm! - and I'll realize I've been sitting at a stop sign.  For several minutes.  With no other cars in sight.  Waiting for a green light.  Ya Know, No Green, No Go.

I think "fool me twice" is a tad optimistic at this point.

It's a really good thing that the only thing I have to do once I get to the pool is swim.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Never Undersestimate The Power of Falafel

 The fourth installment in the Motivation Series.  The first three discussed failing in order to succeed, not sabotaging yourself, and pushing your boundaries.

True story: My Sunday afternoon run ended at the all-you-can-eat-toppings falafel restaurant a few blocks from my apartment.  It was not a fluke; I arrived with cash in hand and long sleeve shirt to ward off post-run shivers. [Ok, that was a true story back when I started writing this post, about creating motivation out of a lack thereof, way back in October in DC..., but definitely a topic for every season in every city.]

Another truth: being an athlete does not come with a bottomless well of ready motivation.  But being a good athlete requires that undefinable force, sometimes from an unidentifiable source, that gets us off the couch, out the door, without delay, often multiple times per day, sometimes in crappy weather, frequently when exhausted and stiff, and many times when simply bored by the idea.  People throw around lots of terms - commitment, concentration, confidence, dedication... - but a rose by any other name is still required to get out the door without second-guessing or delay.

Sometimes you simply have to create it from [pfft] thin air.

Hence my sweaty arrival at a falafel restaurant.  It was a simple 40 min run.  Runs like that mean nothing - and everything.  On their own they hardly seem worth the dirty laundry, but combined and compiled, they are miles and fitness.  The mortar between the bricks.  The third leg of the stool.  I had been dreaming about falafel all weekend, I had one last workout before dinner, and well, I know myself well enough to know that sometimes I am happy to run for food.  That was the button that got pushed to get me out the door that day and I'm not ashamed of it.  The stool's gotta stand! 

Another truth:  Inspiration comes from without, motivation comes from within.  So when the internal well runs dry, make MacGyver proud and use what you have handy: shoelace, gum, paperclip....the food, iPod mix, or route that inspires you.  

Motivation is as much knowing about yourself as it is knowing about your options.  Do you thrive on: group rides?  Or solo rides with music?  Morning workouts to get workouts off the to-do list early?  Squeezing an 1:05 into your lunch hour?  Late night runs?  Trails?  Country high-ways?  Tracks?  Open water swims?  Long course pools?  Short course pools?  What gets you out the door: The carrot (or falafel)?  The stick ("I can't do X, Y, Z until I do A, B, C.")?  Learn what you like and that not-so-bottomless well of motivation will gain a few feet of depth.

And keeping that well filled is as much about not being bored as it is being interested.  Do any of these ring a bell?  "3...2...1...step over that crack they still haven't repaired" "just a little faster so I make this series of lights" "careful now, this is the stop sign every taxi cab driver blows through" "31:15...light post..31:53....mailbox...32:49...garbage can"  Who really wants to get out the door, let alone push some limits, when the view never changes? 

Last truth: with motivation, sometimes you simply have to fake it until you make it.  Don't be ashamed to use whatever works and change whatever doesn't.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Rendition of AC/DC

About a year ago I was suffering from an acute Achilles thing (sadly, totally my fault) and my DC PT pulled yet another trick out of her bag: dry needling.  The science behind dry needling, at least as practiced on me, is to break up muscle tension (knots) by causing a twitch response in the tense tissue, working along the affected muscle/tendon/ligament chain.  I was impressed by the results, which were a cured Achilles tendon in about a third of the usual healing time.

After IM Brazil I developed a niggle which I thought would respond well to the same or similar treatment.  The referral system running just beneath the calm exterior of the Austin triathlon community pointed me toward a great woman named Karen who specializes in acupuncture, aided by e(lectrical)-stim(ulation).  The innervation of our bodies' muscles is essentially a house wired for the highly sophisticated flow of electrical current.  When that flow is misdirected or disrupted completely, Karen's practice tries to re-start it by reconnecting the points of the muscle chain through which the current would - should - flow.

Specifics and semantics aside, both treatments do their magic by sticking needles into your body and hooking you up to a car battery.




You can barely see the needles in my ankles...to literally GROUND ME

I exaggerate only about the size of the battery.


I swear it does not hurt.  Ok, the one needle I had inserted directly into my Achilles wasn't too pleasant, but other than that, a pin-prick then [pfft].  The application of the current, whether car battery or e-stim unit, is a deep throbbing, not a shock.  Think an over-zealous massage chair, not sticking a 9V battery on your tongue.  In dry needling's case, the current is not applied for very long, just long enough to elicit the twitch, the sign that your muscle has "let go" of its tension (aka the knot).  Karen's practice is a longer application, waiting for the current on each needle to become apparent, then for the entire chain to throb as one, and then the area to go numb as the system through which electricity would normally, but does not currently, flow once again finds it totally normal that electricity is flowing.

But as someone who has a very tentative truce with needles, I think it was best that I was face down.  Here's what was sticking into my glute.


I did flip over for the "system reset," during which I kept my eyes closed so I did not see the needle stuck right between my eyes.

Aaaaaaauuuuuuummmmmmm
I am always searching for effective therapies and treatments to add to my bag of tricks.  No one treatment solves every injury and (almost) every injury is best solved by multiple treatments, so having as many options as possible at your disposal is invaluable.  Check out a therapist in your area, SSPT in DC, or if in/around Austin, I'm happy to put you in touch with Karen.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Airing Dirty Laundry

No, really.  All the clothes I used today, airing.


It would seem that other than in the pool, I am the least colorful person alive.  Take note athletic clothing designing companies excluding Speedo: if you don't make it in black, I won't buy it.

So nearly eleven hours, three sports bras, three pairs of shorts, two pair of socks, two pairs of running shoes, one jersey, one swimsuit, one towel, and one toe nail - yup, another one came off - later, I am wearing a robe, literally chilling out post-ice bath.

Upside of the 105 degree heat at 6:45 PM: all the clothes and shoes will be dry by the time I start over again tomorrow!
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