Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Here Goes Nothin', Again

Today marks my first real run since December 18, 2013.  There were three or four kinda-runs in there around the first week of January, but they barely qualify based on the criteria by which I normally classify runs.  Then again, I don't think today's run counts either.  Technically, the drought continues!

But I did put on both a sports bra and running shoes this morning with the intention of moving my legs in a running-esque motion so...

This return to running isn't actually the first time I've done this, nor is it the return from my longest time off.  It isn't even my second in either of those categories.  It's more like my fourth and third, respectively.  Yeah, I had a few years where I would break something (shin), take 2 months off, run for 6 months and break something new but related (hip of the same leg), take 4 months off, and on and on. 

I went through a couple of months where I had to walk with a cane, but was cleared to ride a bike, so I commuted to work on my bike, with my cane strapped to my backpack.  What the cars behind me must have thought.  A friend actually made stickers of flames so I could be like Dr. House.

Usually, my return is as ill-advised as my preceding crash-and-burn.  After I ran Boston 2007 on an amazingly resilient stress fracture, I took 2 months off and my first run back was the first 4 miles of a friend's tempo long run.  When I missed New York 2007 with a broken hip, I returned in March of the following year by, I think, running a 5k time trial with my triathlon club.  I ran New York 2008 and shortly thereafter elected to start working with a triathlon coach, except that by the time our coaching relationship began in January 2009, I had broken a shin again.  I can't remember if it was the same one or the other one. 

To keep with history, today I rabbited the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games.  Kidding!

But I did only run about a mile.

The only time I laughed at my ortho when he said to take so much time off was when he suggested how my return to running should look.  We were decidedly on different pages.  Maybe even reading different books.  I thought an easy 20 minute run should do it.  He wanted me to walk/run.  And even worse than that, walk for a minute and run for 30 seconds, for a total of 10 minutes.

I...Is that...there has to be a rule against putting on running clothes for such an insignificant event.

Of course before I even went out I adjusted it to 1 min running/1 min walking because a run can't be more than half walking.  And then once I went out, I adjusted it to 90 sec running/1 min walking, for a total of 20 minutes. 

The worst part of returning to running is always the stress of expecting the pain to return, proving the time off wasn't the correct or whole answer.  Shoulders are up to ears for the entire first (and first several) run because pain was the last sensation you remember from running and pain could be just around the corner again.

Anyway, it was mostly fine.  It seems a decade's worth of medical training might be worth listening to, every once in a while.

I'm sorry to all the Austinites who saw a very out of shape women running the trail in her pajamas this morning.  I promise to dress properly once my runs get long enough to warrant it.  Although, by that point I'll probably just be injured again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

QOTD (Via The Grapevine)

My masters coach as people are getting into the water for a 5 AM practice and complaining: "no one made you come this morning"

55 year old man who swam for and graduated from Harvard and is now a cardiologist: "my mom made me come"

And here I thought I was the only one.  {Hi Mom! xo -KB}

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Today's Sign of the Apocalypse

An olive branch has been extended.  But only after negotiations involving much frankincense, myrrh, and wet cat food.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blog Follower Spotlight: Ella

Meet Ella, one of the newest followers of the blog.  She is a saucy grey Russian, with eyes that purrfectly convey "oh, it's still you?  I thought my real owner would be back by now.  Fine, I guess I will eat the food you put out for me.  But this doesn't make us friends.  Oh no.  Friends we are not." 

I love animals, but I have never really lived a lifestyle that could accommodate pets.  Someone start a time-share program for pets.

Instead, I cat-and-house-sit and live vicariously through Ella's owner.

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Two Trutes"..."did you say trutes"..."oh excuse me your honor, two TRUTHS about swimming"

Sorry for the glut of swim-related posts, but swimming is pretty much all the exercising I have been doing lately.  In fact, I'm swimming as much as I did when I first started swimming in 2007 and 2008, maybe even more yardage-wise.   All of the chlorine soaking into my brain has helped me remember two truths about swimming that I had forgotten.

A solid 4000-5000 yard workout where I hit my intervals can overcome some of the worst vagaries of life.  In 2006-09 I worked a high pressure job that I eventually came to hate.  Whenever I was made to feel stupid or something well-planned turned on its head five minutes before a committee meeting, I would just think "I swam nearly three miles really well already day, try me and good luck."

Earlier this week I was reminded exactly that when I was pulled over just after practice for having lost my front license plate.  I then spent the day navigating the Texas license plate replacement system and the auto shop gender discrimination system.  When I say I need a #8 screw and a 3/8" socket wrench, I don't need you to measure things, I need a 3/8" socket wrench.  "Try me and good luck."

I then spent the afternoon making the BlueCross BlueShield claims department and the Chase business banking system defer in the face of my rampage.  I actually got a bank to give me money back.  "Try me and good luck."

The second truth is less "positive," but no less true.  In fact, it could be considered the first half of the pick-me-up in the first truth, because before the pick-me-up comes the crash.

A good friend and training partner, AK, once said as we headed to work after morning practice: "If my boss knew what swimming entailed, he would never have hired me, because when I get to work, I'm operating at 80% at best."

Holy cow does the drool factor increase exponentially for every additional practice you complete each week.  Thank god I didn't swim in high school because I don't know how I would have survived first period calculus.  Barely, is what I'm thinking.

And I am suddenly realizing why I didn't really discover coffee until I started that job - because I started swimming around the same time.

So I guess I can blame and thank swimming for just about everything.  #truth

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Missing Time

After so many years my brain operates as a convoluted mix of athlete and coach.  Like an athlete, I do what I'm told without questioning.  Like a coach, I am always keeping track of distance, pace, purpose, and accumulated time.

So then, thanks to the scientist in me, I calculate missing time.  When the time eaten up by the swim workout on the board doesn't fill the total time available for the workout.

I am very suspicious of missing time.

I am always the first person in my lane to bring attention to the fact that hey, after we finish the main set as written there will be 30 more minutes to fill.

I think it is prudent to be nervous about what can fill missing time.

So I was the only one not surprised when those 30 mins were filled with 20 x 100 best average on 1:20.  Glug, glug, glug.  I was even less surprised on Tuesday when it was 4 x 400 IM containing hypoxic work.  I'm actually writing this from the bottom of the pool.

Be suspicious.  Be nervous.  'Cuz missing time'll kill ya.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wherein My Brilliance Is Proven Questionable, But My Timing, Impecable

Those of you raptly following along at home know that I recently pulled the plug on My So-Called Career.  For those who joined at the commercial break, well, the recap is....that I recently pulled the plug on My So-Called Career.

As a serial athlete (it's genetic I swear, when I visit my parents we assemble and trundle off to the gym together, like cowhands to the dinner bell or lemmings over the cliff), this change meant very little changed.  I immediately settled on a basic and repeatable training....ahem, exercise regime, which looked suspiciously like my previous normal training regime, and stuck to it.  I mean, the day I don't run three times per week is the day they put me into the ground.  I've been running regularly pretty much since I was 14; kids old enough to drive were born after I started running.  [BTW, that makes them young, not me, old.]

Anyway, my point is that the day they are scheduled to put me into the ground is...just about any day now.

Back in October, when I was struggling over the sincerity of my decision but still training full-time, I went for the next in the long line of runs in my life and something broke, for lack of a better term.  I would say I was shot, but I am lacking a bullet wound.  It was sudden, extremely painful, and very localized, and happened while running straight ahead on flat ground.

Of course I kept running.  For two more months.

I thought it would go away.  [Don't we all?]  I thought my decision on My So-Called Career could be put off by the decision to take this injury seriously and vice versa.

Eventually I couldn't walk correctly.  I took three weeks off.  It stopped hurting and I could walk pain-free.  SEE: it would go away.  I started running again and by day 3 I couldn't walk pain-free anymore.


That was now three months after whatever broke and I had partially torn an attachment tendon for one of my glute muscles.  That part of my approach to the injury is pretty normal for most athletes I know.

The rest of my approach to this injury is unrecognizable to me.  The ortho was clearly bracing for a massive fight when he told me that I had to take 6 more weeks off running (on top of the first 3).  He even switched to the chair clear across the room before breaking the news.  I was building to my usual reaction of "wwwwwhhhhhhhhaaaaAATTTTTTTTT? nope. can't. nuh uh.  ur crazy." when I just...smiled and said "ok."  I went straight past the first four stages of grief and landed on acceptance - I had no reason to fight it.  And it was incredibly relaxing.  The ortho didn't know what to do.

Thus begins the rest of my athletic life.  As a civilian without having to bargain for the newest fangled treatment protocol and worrying about how much fitness I will lose (oh, who I am kidding, I am WELL AWARE of just how much fitness is leaking out of my ears) and how far back this will set me for the upcoming season.  

So which happened first?  Being in pain for every step of every walk and every run for three straight months probably made it easier to walk away (and with less pain).  But it is entirely possible to recoup the losses of 9 weeks off running, and it could even be considered healthy considering I never took an off-season.  However, I was noticeably unhappy in September after Branson, and as my ortho will testify, I am in a much more copacetic place now.

Right now is the time for a lot of firsts.  One of them is certainly that for the first time ever, I got injured at the right time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Which Way To Antarctica?

It seems winter came to Austin a few Thursday nights ago: wind chills in the mid-20s and icy roads.

Perhaps predictably I was the only one who showed up for swim practice on that Friday morning, where I was met with a locked pool door.

My excuse: I'm from the Midwest and drive one of the heaviest commercially available models of SUV.  I'd probably show up for swim practice in Antarctica.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mommy, That Man Is Flying Through The Air!

Setting aside any discussion of where these winter Olympics are being held and that country's lack of grip on security and hotel construction and belief that entire classifications of sexuality simply do not exist, I am really excited for Sochi 2014.

Why?  Because the winter Olympics is comprised almost entirely of sports I have never tried to be good at.

When I watch the summer Olympics, I am constantly amazed and inspired by awesome performances, but I am also constantly comparing those performances to my own, and needless to say, I am found (seriously) wanting.  Well, pretty much every swimmer in the world is found wanting when watching Michael Phelps in Beijing or nearly every female distance runner in the world is found wanting when watching Deena Kastor in Athens.  The summer Olympics puts me firmly in my athletic place in swimming, running, cycling, gymnastics, softball (formerly), fencing, soccer, crew, tennis, and basketball.  [Man, I have played a lot of sports.]

By comparison, the winter Olympics I watch with a child-like enthusiasm that can only be elicited by watching a sport that you simply can't imagine yourself ever being able to do.  People flying through the air with two (or less) planks of woods strapped to their feet, or people sliding around on slippery solids with two thin pieces of metal (or wood) strapped to their feet or decidedly non-protective vehicles.  I mean...HOW?  WHAT?  At least PRETEND like you are trying to obey the laws of physics and gravity, for goodness sake!  

The only winter sport I have ever attempted with any amount of consistency is cross country skiing and I am not ashamed to admit that the version in the Olympics looks absolutely NOTHING like my version.  And that is even before guns are added to the mix.

So for this fortnight you will find me camped in front of my TV with popcorn and look of awe on my face.  Because they might as well be sprouting wings and flying about.


Oh, what am I saying.  Of course I have to discuss Russia's stance on queer sexuality.  There are two gay clubs in Sochi, but the Mayor claims there are no gays in Sochi.  No, there are just a lot of confused straight people.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ten Fingers To The Sky, Back To The Wall, White Flag High

You may have noticed a recent and huge out-pouring of posts, by 2013 standards anyway, in order to catch up to present day.  I needed to finish with old business before moving on to new.

Some of you blog readers receive my family's year-in-review newsletter, and can anticipate what is coming next.  For the not so lucky amongst you, surprise!

I have decided to no longer race triathlon professionally.  Pretty much effective...retroactive to about 5 miles into the bike leg of my last race in September 2013.

I hesitate to say I am retiring because to me that indicates one or a combination of three things: 1) that it was a career to begin with, 2) that someone noticed you for doing it successfully and/or that someone will miss you doing it successfully, and 3) that the decision is forever.  Instead it it probably more accurate to say I am making a 270 degree turn towards things I would rather do in the immediate future.

My decision precipitated from two equal factors.  Other, smaller ones certainly weighed in as well, but I promised myself that this post wouldn't devolve into a diatribe on the disingenuous treatment of professionals by race production and commercial athletic companies, or the increasing likelihood of racing against dopers.   Suffice it to say, I will not miss being simultaneously heralded and marginalized, or being behind before the gun even goes off.

Anyway, the first important reason is that I wasn't having much fun anymore.  For example, my favorite part of my last race in Branson, MO was seeing friends who no longer live in Austin or whom I know on the circuit, catching up with them at the pro meeting and chatting with them in the parking lot after the race.  I'm much more of a "trainer" than a "racer" and when the part of the weekend you are looking forward to the most isn't the race, well...

In fact, my race in Branson, MO, ended up being probably the most determinative race of all my time racing.  The whole weekend was a series of giant billboards pointing to the fact that I no longer enjoyed racing and all of the intrinsic processes therein.  Wanting to punch the smirk off the ticket agent’s face when she asked how I wanted to pay for flying with my bike was a good first sign.  Somewhere about 5 miles into the bike it dawned on me that I really wanted to be anywhere else but there.  It sounds childish and naïve because very few people have the freedom to use "having fun" as a professional determinate, but I wasn’t having much of it – and with so few rewards beyond personal enjoyment and fulfilling the intense drive to improve as an athlete, racing triathlon at least needs to be fun.

The second reason is that my brain is bored, and if I'm honest, has been for a while.  Coaching and racing have provided a lot of incentives – travel, meeting interesting people, a flexible schedule, physical health, helping other athletes reach their goals - but a unique mental challenge is not among them.  I need to take the ol’ neurons out of the mothballs.  I will keep coaching until no one wants me to coach them; what I envision "for next" is pretty much coaching without....well, the coaching.

I came north in mid-November to again spend an extended holiday period with my parents.  During my time in the Midwest I visited several universities to explore graduate programs in sports psychology, counseling, exercise physiology, and/or applied sports science.  Age-group coaching requires wearing many hats, one of which is amateur sports psychologist, emphasis on amateur.  I want to put the emphasis on a different word.  At the very least I will put my practical experiences of the last five years to good use, and remain among “my people,” meaning jocks and apparently, former jocks who now use their brains to help current jocks. 

Many thanks are of course due: my parents for supporting pretty much every hare-brained idea I come up with; Phil for simultaneously bringing me back from the hormonal brink and training me to professional standards; Lesley and Mel for being my confidants and partners in crime; and Kevin for indulging my need for regular massages and questionable gossip.  The list goes on, but they represent the day-to-day team of duct tape suppliers and mental release valves.

Thank you too, to you, people who I have met along the way and/or chose to read this rag.  This blog will not die.  It will change direction, and probably titles, but what else does an aggressive non-adopter of Facebook use as an outlet for their trivial thoughts?  Just expect a lot more about my newly earned license to perform frontal lobe lobotomies.

[In the video below, skip to 4:40.]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rev3 Branson Half Rev: Who Has The Biggest Balls

[Raced September 22, 2013; Posted February 6, 2014.]

Skipping to the end, for me, this race ended after the bike.  At which point the sun was out, the temperatures were up, and the course was flat.

At which point the biggest balls competition was already over.

Race morning was cold.  And not just for someone coming from summer in Texas.  My car said 47 leaving the hotel.  It hasn't been 47 in Austin since February?  2012?  And then we rode in open-air Duck Boats for the 20 min drive from T2 to swim start/T1.  I was cold.

The inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe was being held the same day.  Their race morning weather forecast was 27 and snow.  Everyone in Branson just looked at each other and said "at least we aren't in Tahoe."


The first time I wasn't cold was getting into the water to warm-up.  Pun intended natch!  Before race start, the race director called us out of the water to go over the timing mat.  No one moved.  Again he called.  Again we stayed huddled in the shallows, with wild eyes and facial expressions that clearly said "nuh uh."  A third time he called and we all practically sprinted up the beach, around the barriers, and back to the water's edge.

By the gun I had my arms wrapped fully around my torso and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. 

The water temperature was nearly 80 degrees, with a sub-60 air temperature.  Those who know science know where this is going: fog sitting on the water's surface.

When the sun started to come up, the light diffused through the impenetrable fog and that whole half of the horizon just glowed and gave up no directional secrets.

I was swimming into a cheesy horror or alienation abduction movie.  And getting very lost.

But I wasn't alone!  A couple of us realized we were lost together.  We would pop up, survey our current section of fog, ask the paddle boarders for directions, and then strike out again.

It was a long swim.


Back to goose bumps and chattering teeth.

At mile 10 we entered the real downhills and the testicle comparison began.

See these hills cared more about how fast you could down them than how fast you could go up them.  50mph?  60mph?  70mph?

Throw in some wind from the side and uneven pavement, and testicular fortitude comes immediately into play.

Pull your ejection handle (your brake levers) when you are ready to exit the ride (slow the ever increasing rapid rate of descent).

The Run That Wasn't

Due to a resilient deep-seated chill and other reasons that you can read about in my next post, my day ended in T2.  I packed my bike in the parking lot, caught up with my friends as they finished, and was back in Austin by sun down. 

Still, I enjoyed the town of Branson, or I took to calling it, “Hillbilly Vegas”.   I found a great Tex-Mex restaurant run by Mexican brothers who had lived previously in Austin, and the surrounding area was very naturally beautiful in a West-Virginia-In-The-Ozarks way.  Believe what they tell you about the hills, but be more worried about going down them.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

GPOY: Am I Alive Edition

[Taken in July, 2013; Posted February 5, 2014, when I only have scar tissue to show for it.]

Stop, drop, and...slide.  But alive.

I never expected my first selfie to have blood in it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rev3 Williamsburg Half Rev: A Race Of Ear Worms

[Raced June 23, 2013; Posted February 4, 2014]


Of course my swim featured fewer Kabuki masks than this video, but the James River was just as angry and spiteful.  It dragged us out of our homes in chains to meet the tar-and-feather mob: no pro woman swam under 30 mins and the fastest pro man went 26 mins.  That's slow.  I swam nearly 10 mins slower than I did 3 weeks ago, but then again, everyone who didn't get dragged from the water for safety reasons had a similar story and margin of dis-improvement.  A first-race female pro was in the water for an hour and 10 mins.  Yeah.

This Delta Rae song actually was on the pre-race playlist that I made for all the shuffling around by shuttle required on race morning.  As soon as I started doggedly fighting the waves the lyrics started cycling through my head on an endless loop.  Yes, the irony of the choice is not lost on me.


Of course I needed a new ear worm when I got on the bike.  This Uncle Lucius song struck the right plaintive balance between a hard work ethic and "can I be off the chip seal now?  can I be through the twisty turny hills now? can I be done now?"

Plus you gotta love a man who can whistle in tune.

Bonus factoid: this live session was recorded about 300 feet from my apartment in Austin.


At the pre-race pro meeting, the terms "flat" and "fast" were thrown around by race management.  A local pro replied that they clearly hadn't run the run course.

Yup, just wake me up when it's over.

Bonus History Lesson

The race finish was only two miles from Colonial Williamsburg.  (In fact, the whole race was quite scenic, and very well run, as per Rev3's well-earned reputation.)  I hobbled over and laid on a bench under a tree and watched the fife and drum band strut their stuff.  Apparently, band membership is based on a wait list and prized among the local familiesBoys' names are added to the wait list at birth.

I was previously unaware that colonial Americans circa the mid-17th century purchased their kitchen wares at Williams-Sonoma.  Once again I am failed by my public school education.
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