Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Of Brides, Drunks, And Dry Needles

Technically, this weekend started at 6:30 pm Friday.  But as I reflect back on it from the vantage point of Tuesday morning, the weekend also started last Monday night, or the Friday afternoon before that, or could even claim to have have started last December, just before Christmas.  Invites, appointments, and circumstances originating on those days all remixed into one utterly whirlwind weekend.

Last Monday I was invited to be a wedding crasher.  No, really.  Brian, an acquaintance from college with whom I serve on the local alumni club's board, was getting married and a guest changed their RSVP at the last minute.  Brian's invitation was dear and sincere, and I was honored he would think of me, but my interpretation of the between-the-lines involved my usual sarcasm.  "Kelzie, you're single, conveniently located in Austin, and a plus over someone off the street, you know the groom.  Please come fill a seat."   In fact, Brian was the only person at the wedding I had ever met, not the bride, not a single guest.  Though first, I needed a hair-cut, stat.

Friday I crammed in training before my weekly massage and then attended the rehearsal dinner.  The younger guests gathered to eat all-you-can-eat BBQ at The County Line On The Lake, and I do believe that that meal is what sustained me through midnight on Monday.  Because it certainly wasn't sleep.

Saturday was training, writing schedules, and putting another layer of seasoning on the wedding gift.  Every wedding I attend I gift the couple with a hand-seasoned cast iron skillet, which involves oiling, baking, and cooling the skillet as many times as possible before wrapping.

The wedding was Saturday, late afternoon, and although relatively small and not opulent (thank goodness), it involved a lot of small meaningful gestures that said "we are soul-mates."  And if not, she now has a cast iron skillet with which to brain him.

I wore a new emerald green gown I bought over the winter, when all I had to go on was faith that I would one day be able to zip it up all the way, and I was at the wedding for such a short amount of time that I don't even have a picture to share.  See I was double-booked on Saturday night: wedding and pub trivia.

I play pub trivia quite seriously, meaning with a team, several night a week.  And we don't suck.  Occasionally we compete in pay-to-play events, featuring prizes in the thousands of dollars and open bars.  We didn't win anything on Saturday, except maybe Best Dressed Team and Most Empties Accumulated.

Which explains how I ended up kicked out of the event venue and standing on a downtown sidewalk at 12:45 A.M., wearing my formal wear from EIGHT HOURS EARLIER, with a teammate draped over my shoulders in an effort to keep him from alternatively running out into traffic and crumpling to the pavement, while other teammates brought a car around.  How did I survive four years of that?

Bed at 2 A.M., up at 8 A.M. Sunday to bake a skillet and pack for the military-precision-like operation to come.  We haven't even gotten to the sport-oriented portion of this weekend and I'm already tired!

Sunday was - with only the shortest breaks between that I could manage for food guzzling and traffic - wedding brunch, long ride, long swim, and long drive.  I was emailing back and forth with an athlete of mine throughout the day, referencing where I was with each response, and I think I kind of freaked her out because there was no discernible pattern.

And for my next trick I will teleport across the state of Texas.  Sadly, no.  I had to drive, during which I drank the majority of a gallon of water and stopped to pee only once in 4+ hours.  Dehydrated much?

Where I did finally surface at 11 P.M. Sunday night?

More specifically, the next morning I was scheduled to see The Guru again.

Last December, just before Christmas, I made the first pilgrimage and we set late April as the return trip.  What a pair John and I made: he jet-lagged from recently returning from the Philippines and I sleep-deprived from playing "college" and glassy-eyed from driving.

John and I finished much earlier than I expected, and I was faced with a decision.

Two Fridays ago I developed a stubborn knot in a hamstring.  I attacked it vigorously, as did two massage therapists, but it would hide deep down during each siege only to resurface later.  I could feel it, lurking, during my entire drive to Tyler, and knew, had known since much earlier in the week, that the true final solution was dry needling.  Except while Austin may have a lot of things, but a dry needler is not among them.  When I woke up Monday morning I texted a friend in Austin for a reference to her dry needler in Dallas.  With a name and number in hand, I started hatching a plan.

By 2 p.m. Monday, the plan had grown into a decision to make: did I drive back to Austin and hope continuing the therapies I had already tried would eventually ease the stubborn tissue?  Or did I head towards a massive metropolis that I did not know, timing to arrive there at the brink of rush hour (a rush hour that I have heard requires snacks be kept in the car at all times because the traffic jams can last for hours), and hoping that I could make the last appointment so I wouldn't have to lay out even more money to stay over night?

Well, I hear Dallas is lovely in the spring.  Off I go on a 100+ detour before heading home.  You know you are in Texas when...

President George Bush Turnpike

I got caught in a not one single slow-down (you know, those dreaded precursors to full-on parking lot) and made it to Frisco with time to spare!  The next time I am in Dallas I am guaranteed eighth-circle-of-hell-level traffic.

Athletes Performance in Frisco showed me the love by beating me up a little bit.

I've written about my previous needle experiences here (which a friend told me is NSFW, so I offer the warning: THIS POST IS NSFW).  Dry needling is somewhat different, and for knots, in my experience, infinitely more helpful.  Essentially, a dry needle is inserted into the knot and its origins (not always at or near the knot itself).  The goal, to adopt a computer analogy, is to reset the muscle/tendon: the hour-glass is spinning and spinning and the blue screen of death is imminent, so you push Ctrl-Alt-Del.  [Dry needling is also potent after the blue screen of death has appeared - post-strain or -tear - and I've had success with that therapy as well.]  The needl-ee receives either a sudden "thwump" of tighten/release, a shock "kzzztt" of electricity-like nerve sensation, or both.

Some places in the body get knots (or trigger-points if you have heard of those) again and again, because they originate or transfer a great deal of our power and movement, and others develop knots "randomly," although a good PT can usually explain exactly why tension had chosen that spot to gather.

My hamstring is a random spot.  Which I guess why it deserves extra needles.  See that one needle, lined up top-to-bottom, at the very bottom of the picture?  The lightening that accompanied that needle so surprised me it nearly sent me off the table.

My calves are pretty regular customers.  I bet they could be released nearly every day of my life, although I don't know if I could deal with the unique pain of a needle being inserted into my Achilles tendon every day of my life.

But the real fun had not yet begun.  This here is Sheri.  She looks nice and all that - and is - but, when working with her needles, can give Nurse Ratched some good competition.  Sheri will now take each needle and "piston and twist."  Yes, move the needle in and out and twist it around.  It really is (almost) as bad as it sounds.  

"Normally" a dry needler would be satisfied with a release, or apply some current (yup, current, as in battery) to encourage a release.  But after experiencing the "piston and twist" method, I am a convert.  It felt like the reset is so much more "for good," if only because some of my needle-holes bled and subsequently bruised.

There is nothing like seeing a PT to make me feel like a slacker.  It's not their fault; they want you to be your best self - or body.  So I drove away resolved to once again up my body-maintenance game. 

I was in Austin 4.5+ hours later, 11:45 p.m. on Monday.  I had driven 11+ hours in 31, with only every Top 40 and Classic Country radio station in North-East Texas for company.  

There really isn't a moral to the weekend, but what comes to mind is: you do what you can.  99% of the time I interpret that as "my choices are limited so I will choose as best I can and make do."  This weekend was the 1% of the time: "my choices are vastly inclusive and broadly divergent so I will take an unlikely opportunity and do whatever necessary to make the best use of it."  Even it means missing a little sleep and listening to Justin Bieber and Willie Nelson on repeat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bueller? Bueller?

Now that I've admitted that I have fatigue and opened myself up to the idea of a bit of recovery, I am examining past errors with the help of a sponsor....Wait.  No.  Wrong blog.

I am dealing with the weird phenomenon known as "I'm recovering, why do I have to train?"

You laugh, but it's real and has been documented by reputable and published scientists.  Or at least by me.

Training during recovery weeks, despite there being less of it, is harder.

Today, for instance, someone *cough*Zebra Poacher*cough* decided part of my schedule was a nice little 40-ish min run with some short efforts to keep my legs up-to-date.  My mind = not interested.  My body = not amused.  My reaction = "That is the hardest run I've done in a while.  Thank goodness it's the shortest run I've done in a while."

It's like a switch was flipped as soon as I accepted recovering into my heart.  On Monday, I looked at Tuesday's workouts and laughed at their puniness.  On Tuesday, I looked at Tuesday's workouts and shuddered in terror.  My mind is totally ready to watch TV.  My body is totally ready to wear sweatpants and not work(out). 

I cannot be the only person who experiences this phenomenon.

Anyone?  Anyone?

Ok, just lie to me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Negotiating My Own Mercy Killing

Not much has been going over here apart from training and training shenanigans, which explains both the lack of posts and the origin of this particular post.

The context for the email exchange below is this: I've been putting in a solid work, nothing that I couldn't overcome with a well-timed recovery shake, a good night's sleep, and a weekly massage, but good sessions day in, day out.  I tend to operate better with a bit of fatigue already built up, kind of like a pump being primed, but late last week I noticed I was actually tired, and not just before bed.  Dutifully, I noted such an event in my session notes, and should have gone to Vegas on what would be coming next...

Dun.  Dun.  Dunahnaaaaa.

Zebra Poacher:

"Concerned about your fatigue level. I'm thinking a recovery week is in order here."


"I was afraid you were going to say that, but I write practically everything else about my workouts so I figured saying I was actually (finally!) tired was as authentic and honest as I always am. 

In my defense, or perhaps just a better explanation, it's never painful or sore muscles (well, except after last weekend's 5k) that I could isolate as "this muscle here is the one that is tired/over-used", but rather just "I could use a nap."  Only Saturday and Sunday did it become specific enough - and only during intervals - to say "oh, it's my legs" that are tired.  And it's never been enough to think about skipping a workout, let alone not hit a workout (unlike after the 3.5-hour-sleep night in Galveston), or *gasp* even consume caffeine.  I figured it was just a natural result of doing the work day in, day out. 

For all I know I just described your perfect recipe for a rest week!"

Notice that my first response was to try and explain it *more* clearly.  As if I hadn't already done that in my session notes, which said something like "still tired, just a full-body tired, not an achy DOMS/over-use kind of pain.  What I wouldn't give for a full 12 hours of sleep, but my body keeps waking me up after 6 and then dozing for a couple more."  I get points for admitting it and not trying to rationalize my fatigue away, but I definitely was trying to parse "tired" into the 1s and 0s. 

Leave it to the Co. of Cost to bring truth and light into the world.  I was leaving their parking lot when I saw something very clearly, which I felt compelled to share when I got home.


"I realized that the reason I was chaffing about having a recovery week, and trying to describe why I might not need one, is because I feel like I have let you down by needing one.  Like I've failed somehow because I can't recover enough to just keep chugging along.

So there you go, your daily dose of self-aware psychoanalysis on Kelzie, by Kelzie."

Zebra Poacher: 

"You have not let me down. Don't be silly. The body, and the impulse-response models that describe it, require recovery to achieve a new level of performance. It's the way it works at a very fundamental level. The nonspecific 'tired' you are is one of the main signs that it is time for a bit of recovery. You may not need a whole week. In fact, you probably won't. But we'll play it by ear."


"See, I *know*, on a fundamental level, that I haven't.  "Gains are made during rest, not training" yadda yadda yadda.  But after dealing with highly-functioning and -performing individuals for years, and probably being one yourself (or doing a damn fine impression of one), you have to know that we simply do not show or admit weakness/failure well.  Many times the failure to admit weakness is the weakness itself.  We haven't made it this far by admitting these things and gosh darn it, we certainly are not going to start now!

One of the ironies which arises from being both athlete and coach is that while wearing my coach "hat" I often give my athletes support to make (sometimes glaringly obvious) decisions that I myself canNOT make alone when wearing my athlete "hat." 

This is when we sing kumbayah, FYI."

[End transmission]

As a coach, I have a front row seat to how many other athletes react to their fatigue.  I see:
  • not admitting it, and thus not dealing with it, and three weeks later, falling *splat*
  • admitting it, but rationalizing it away (it could be caused by all of these other X, Y, Z things)
  • admitting the earliest scent of it, welcoming all it to come in and co-habitate with their motivation, and eventually letting it move into the master suite and dictate the household grocery list 
I have learned how each of my athletes translates and emotes "being tired", and I help them navigate their particular dictionary and deal with it appropriately.

As an athlete, I need to know how I react to my own fatigue - and identify the emotions that come with admitting it.  Only then can I really be open to someone else helping me deal with it.  [Which is good, because the historical record shows I'm not at all adept at dealing with it in myself, myself (and I clearly state it for the record above).]   

If I can be aware enough of my own response - the "I'm letting the Zebra Poacher down" or the "I'm not really tired" or the "I'm super exhausted so I'll just skip the next three days because in my fatigued state that seems to be a rational response" - then I can just cut it off at the pass, get help, do what's necessary, and move on.  Right into that giant transition area in the sky.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The First United Church Of Open Roads And Country Highways

Happy Easter from all the bluebonnets and Bevos in Texas!

Please don't tell God I was riding my bike instead of going to Easter service.  It will be just between the two of us, 'k?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Three Strikes And You Get A Measly PR

I'm going to look into my crystal ball and go out on a limb here and say that USATF is never going to come knocking on my door to fill a lane at the 5k event in the Olympic trials.   

This morning I ran my third and last little community race of my running-only season.  Kids, the Easter Bunny, a search for little plastic eggs, and two laps around the driveways of a Texas state mental hospital.  So much fun and a only 6 second PR.  Because there were still 2.1 miles after I ran the first mile in my third-fastest recorded mile time ever.    

What I lacked in pacing while running fast, I more than made up for in comedic effect of running like a three-legged dog and sounding like a three-legged dog with one lung.  Oops, I think that smell of smoke was my race pictures meeting a match.

I completely embrace the need to train fast running and to run fast.  I even...kinda...enjoy these little episodes of pain and quasi-blacking out.  And who couldn't get behind being done in 20 minutes and home before I would normally wake up?  But laps around a mental hospital are just not where my meager talents are put to best use.  

You know what I mean.

But I've learned a whole heck of a lot in this little running season of mine.  Like the faster you run, the sooner the pain stops.

In other news: the Flopper ran today and finished without crying.  A hearty way-to-pull-up-your-big-boy-pants to him.  And a woman one age-group above me said that I look an age two age-groups below her.  Bless her.  I guess all those Diet Coke preservatives I drank in college are paying off.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Galveston 70.3: Here Be Lance And Zombies

On Friday of last week, I made a relatively snap decision to drive down to Galveston and watch the 70.3 there on Sunday.  A nice change of scenery for some longer training and Lance genuflecting.  Added bonus: providing on-course motivation for high-quality female athletes and out-of-town friends, Sue Aquila and Debi Bernardes.

Late Saturday afternoon I did my long ride down the coastal highway that makes up the bulk of Sunday's bike leg.  70 miles later, it was clear that flat is a state of mind (read: boredom), and that I need to be in the rebuilding-palatial-homes-in-the-path-of-hurricanes business.  I did not see Lance.



I was tickled by the local beach past-time.  In what must be the regional cultural cousin to ice fishing, people drive their trucks, SUVs, and horse trailers right out onto the beach, and swim, fish, and horse back ride in the surf.  Lance was not on the beach.

Sunday morning, while the elites were out on the bike, I did my long run along the coast.  I found this guy, who was very reassuring.  Check out his shirt, too.  But why was it not LiveStrong?

He must be related to the guy I saw at IMCDA in 2010 whose sign simply said "Don't Suck." 

Lance was not sucking.  When the elites came back from their 56 mile out-and-back, I finally saw him.  He was winning the race.  Obviously.  I considered just leaving at that point.

If you read or watch the news, mainstream or triathlon, you would think that Lance was the only race participant; the other 1999something racers, including both winners and 70+ professionals, were something approaching chopped liver.  And I not quite accurately quote, but do summarize the general media vibe: "Tim O'Donnell had the audacity to pass Lance during the run and finish 6 places ahead of Armstrong.  Oh, and Tim happened to win the event, the bum."

The Audacious Pass In Question

After I returned from my own run, I worked my way through the looping maze of the run course to find a spot away from the easily accessible spectating areas.  I personally get such a kick out of the single spectator in a totally desolate area who is cheering with all of their energy and might (extra points for rocking a boom-box with AC/DC), so I was determined to be that for all my friends (minus the boom-box).

Basically, I sidled up to an aid station manned by a local Catholic high-school and started handing out Gu chomps and gels alongside the students.  The students weren't familiar with chomps (which are a chewy energy product, like a slightly more solid jello) and gels, so to demonstrate I opened and consumed each, which combined to be my only "food" between 5:30 am and noon.  Spectating is hard and hungry work!

Wait, did I forget to mention that Lance was there?
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