what a pain in the…back

2 Dec

I was happily jamming right along with triathlon training when, after a pretty basic 10-mile bike ride, I got a pain in my back that started after the ride.

Despite foam rolling, stretching, finally taking anti-inflammatories, deep tissue massage, alas, the pain in the back continued, sometimes even extending into my glute and becoming, quite literally, a P.I.T.A.

So–I did what any normal hippy-dippy Californian would do.

  • I juiced some beets, because they reportedly contain all of these wonderful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • I got in a visit with my chiropractor, who is a freaking genius. He’s such a freaking genius that he has a full practice simply by word of mouth, without a website to link to. I tried very hard to keep my whining about injuries to an absolute minimum.
  • I signed myself up for some heated vinyasa yoga classes and paid particular attention to strengthening, lengthening, and stretching my back. Woot woot!

Amid all of this nonsense, the heater at my pool went out, and didn’t get fixed and up and running again until just today, so that’s a week worth of skipped pool workouts, and thinking about that admittedly had me losing sleep, last night, as I tossed and turned thinking about how it’s now something like 30 weeks to 70.3 and I’m not even as far along in my base-building period as I had wanted to be.

ALSO, California is getting unusually pummeled with rain this season, and I had planned to be set up with a bike and getting out to ride by now, but with the rain, that hasn’t happened. I don’t dare ride the stationary bikes at the gym again, as I believe that it’s an ill fit on the bike that triggered the back pain.

So, okay. Again, more pieces of the puzzle of how to train for endurance events fall into place. They contain basic things like:

  • Duh, Kate. Don’t think that because you did a “basic” 10-miles on the bike, and don’t feel like you really exerted yourself, that you get to skip some foam rolling, afterwards.
  • Best to go ahead and pre-schedule your appointments with your chiropractor, as opposed to simply calling him up whenever you’re injured.
  • Strengthen the kinetic chain with Vinyasa yoga.

 

December Training Schedule

I’m making a formal announcement on my professional website about my 70.3 plans, next week. I’m doing that because I need the increased accountability. But here’s the basic outline of a plan for December:

 

Sundays — reserved as “long run” days, but right now that’s “long walking.” I’m doing a lot of walking in minimalist shoes, to strengthen the small muscles and fascia in the feet. By the end of December, workouts will include things like “walk three miles, run 5-10 minutes.” Also, vinyasa yoga. By the time 70.3 rolls around, these will have become days when I run 8-10 miles.

Mondays — Pool days. Since Mondays will be hard days to drag my ass to the gym (it’s Monday, after all!), I’m going to simply time myself. 30 minutes, 45 minutes. As long as I’m in the pool for X amount of time for that training day, all is good.

Tuesdays — Arms and abs, again to further strengthen the kinetic chain, adding in X minutes of walking and X minutes of running (examples: Walk 30 minutes, run 15 minutes). Also, possibly a day I’ll work with a trainer once or twice a month. When I get closer to 70.3, this will also probably be a day when I get some miles in on the bike.

Wednesdays — Pool drills. Instead of simply doing a basic freestyle, I’ll do kickboard drills, speed drills, and vary my strokes. This is also the day I’ll reserve for chatting up a swim coach, should I decide to get in a few lessons (probably will happen, as swimming is my weakest event). Also, yoga.

Thursdays — Reserved as a bike/run day. For December, that’ll be pretty basic. Low-mileage on the bike (10-15 miles) immediately followed by walking to get my legs accustomed to the transition. By the end of December, the plan is to be able to do 13 miles on the bike, followed by walking for 3 miles and then a short 15-minute run. By the time my 70.3 comes around, that’ll mean actual true “brick” workouts, where I do a decent mileage on the bike, followed by legit mileage on the run.

Fridays — recovery day, but more accurately, a day where I’m hitting up a massage therapist or making the trek to my chiropractor. Also, yoga.

Saturdays — recovery day, with literally nothing going on other than being as lazy as possible.

 

Some other time, I’ll have to do a post on how exactly I will manage to fit in all of these workouts. That should be interesting.

Week One: Done. Oh, and–thoughts on wetsuits and feeling stupid.

24 Nov

Week one of 70.3 training is complete. I didn’t miss a single day. My singular focus for the first 4-8 weeks is simply to build a strong base. By “base” I mean–build a strong foundation.

I want to strengthen the chinks in the chain, by working on my core and spine, doing exercises that strengthen the small muscles in the feet (so lots of walking around in minimalist shoes, though no running in them), and keeping my heart rate low.

Once my gym puts out their annual discounts on training packages that always come out around the holidays, I’m hiring a trainer who works very specifically on strengthening in a core, foundational way.

Then I’m hiring the trainer who is known for completing triathlons, to see what she has to say.

 

The one tiny-big, possible, (but maybe not) setback?

I’m not yet running. My training plan includes running, but right now I’m simply walking those miles, not running them.

I have an appointment with a podiatrist in early December to check out my feet. That bruise that appeared on my foot from a few weeks ago was probably a soft-tissue irritation–inflammation of the joint, I’m guessing–and since I know that I can wait until mid-January at the latest to start running again, that’s what I’m doing. Why not? I’ve got the time, so let’s not push anything.

Two separate x-rays were done and no stress fractures have turned up, and it isn’t hurting to walk. So–let’s just walk.

The annoying thing, though, is that I’ve had some back pain since starting cycling. I haven’t yet bought my personal bike and am using the ones at the gym. I think they’re not fitted for my body–and I’m short, so I’m already at a disadvantage on most gym equipment–and I’m guessing my sacro-iliac joint is tight, or perhaps my psoas muscles. Date with the chiropractor is being set.

The good news? I’m back in the pool, again. I’m swimming after a few months’ hiatus. While I’ve lost speed, I don’t think I’ve lost technique. When I started swimming over the summer, it had been so many years since I’d last swam that I felt nervous even putting my face in the water. A panicky sensation would start.

To go from that to swimming laps, even if there’s a lot of huffing and puffing happening, is a big leap. Now I’m refining.

 

Wetsuits and Fear

Have you ever pulled on a wetsuit?

Let me rephrase: Have you ever pulled on a wetsuit when you are 5’3″ and 145 lbs, with D-cup breasts because your auto-immune condition threw your hormones out of whack, causing you to (uncontrollably) gain 15 lbs, with the person on hand to help you a…guy?

(Actually, it was 20 lbs that I gained, but I’ve lost 5 since starting medication).

Only those people know what it felt like to be trying on triathlon wetsuits, which are not really cut for the curvy set. The wetsuits that were big enough to handle the curves were too loose in many other places. The wetsuits that were smaller couldn’t handle the D-cups.

So I was in the dressing room, trying to peel on the gazillionth wet suit–an aerobic feat in and of itself–and the inner critic voices started to really get going.

You are going to look so stupid in this. Who the hell are you, anyway, training for a half-Ironman when you’ve never even done a sprint triathlon? This is so stupid. You feel stupid. Why are you doing this?

But then I gave myself a little pep-talk, namely one that reminded me of a few facts.

Fact: I already know that I can do a sprint distance.

Fact: My 70.3 is still a long ways away.

Fact: The wetsuit will feel awkward to try on the first time, but if I just keep pulling it on and off, eventually it will feel…normal. Totally normal.

Then, at the end of the day, I ended up not getting one because the sales associate in charge of renting them realized that I was going to be swimming in a chlorine pool, and these wet suits were only for open-water swimming.

Well, then.

My gym pool is heated, and I’d mostly wanted the wet suit as “insurance” against freezing cold winter days to come, but I left without the wet suit. Then some other swimmers at the pool tipped me off that you could get skin-tight, very fitted long-sleeve tops made out of swimsuit material, and this could help to provide some added warmth on the colder days.

 

But the point is…

The point is that everything that is practiced eventually starts to feel normal and natural. The voices that tell you that you’re stupid, or so behind? They’re not the ones you want to act upon. Sure, listen to them. Hear what they have to say, because embedded in there is some clue as to what’s really going on underneath the surface (i.e., I’m feeling insecure about completing a triathlon of this magnitude, and that’s something to take into account).

But just don’t take action because of them. By the time I’d peeled and unpeeled several triathlon wet suits that day, I no longer felt afraid, and my critic wasn’t so harsh. It was just a triathlon wet suit, after all. Nothing to be afraid of.

Coming soon: Buying a bike. I’ve avoided doing it because I feel so overwhelmed by the options, but clearly it just isn’t working for my system to be on those sucky gym bikes that are so terribly mis-aligned.

endurance high and when life calls

14 Nov

Mike Atkinson, a researcher profiled in the book Iron War, began researching triathlon after this experience:

“With a flash of inspiration, Mike rediscovered triathlon as a sort of international community centered on suffering. He recognized suddenly that the pain that everyone acknowledges as a big part of the triathlon sport was in fact the very essence of the sport and that it served distinctly social purposes, helping men and women satisfy needs not met in their everyday lives.”

The author of Iron War, Matt Fitzgerald, goes on to write:

“Driving your muscles, heart and lungs against the gravitational press of extreme fatigue does indeed make you feel as alive–as fully present in reality–as any experience life has to offer. It’s an acquired taste but, once acquired, addictive.”

I read that, and I thought: Those are the words that would describe why I’m so into endurance sports, why I train for them, geek out reading about them, and don’t drop out of them even after multiple injuries.

I’m into endurance because the pain feels oddly enlivening, such that the pain isn’t even really “pain.” In fact, I’ve felt far more pain during The Summer o’ Stress Fracture than I’ve ever felt in any race, because that pain has been emotional.

The past two weeks have been rough. I’ve been sick, and waking every day riding that line where I knew that if I tried to work out, I’d not get a healthy flush to my cheeks–instead, I’d get sicker. I could feel The Sick deep in my bones, waiting to bloom more.

The wedding has come and gone, and it was a truly beautiful day full of joy and connectedness. I’m still recovering from all of the activity, and given how much this sickness is sticking around I’m reminding myself that I’m lucky the illness didn’t blow up and become something truly awful. I’m lucky that I wasn’t sick on my wedding day.

Okay, total truth–the past two weeks, I’ve been sick enough that I’ve not done any of the workouts I’d planned, which means that I’m two weeks down for the count on my half-Ironman training, and that is so supremely NOT GOOD. I’m obsessing about it a little bit. Even I understand that the road to half-Ironman is an “ambitious” one as my new husband puts it.

I’m realizing though that excepting the pros, I think this is how it goes for a lot of us underlings who train for events. We love them, yet we struggle with the daily effort of getting in there and getting it done when life throws challenges our way. The pros have money and fame on the line, and the underlings do not.

We do it for the rush that’s described above. We do it because we want to push up against all the voices inside that say that we can’t do it, and we want to come out on the other end, sort of amazed because we didn’t think we could do something, and then–it turns out–we could.

I remember how I felt that way running my first measly 5k race. I had started the race genuinely feeling that I didn’t know if I could finish it. I was so afraid that I started to cry in the parking lot, away from the start line of the race. My 5k time was 36 minutes, which is definitely not fast, and I suffered through much of it, really having a tough time pushing that pace.

But when you finish?

The high is like no other. All the “suffering” is worth it. And yes, chasing that feeling does become a bit addictive.

So–the plan is to get yet another long night’s sleep (I’ve been crashing at 9:00, 10:00 many of these nights, and then sleeping until 8 or so the next day) and hope that tomorrow will be the day that I feel I can rouse myself. On the schedule is nothing too complicated: 10 miles on the bike, some arms and abs for strength training. Very do-able.

“Holy shit” is the phrase that comes to mind

3 Nov

It has been quiet on this front for several good reasons. Launching this product, planning my wedding, recuperating from all of the activity.

Oh, and–running. I’ve been running again (!). Post-stress-fracture, the progress has been slow, but steady, with only a minor setback in the past week (well, what I hope is a minor setback!). I did a run on the treadmill with a 0% grade and this must have changed something about my gait, because immediately afterwards, I had a bruise around the area where the stress fracture was. I waited 90 days before returning to running, so I know that I gave the area plenty of time to heal and time for the bone to re-calcify, but this is how these things go (I guess) so it’s back to rest.

Except, it’s not back to resting, because as you might have figured out from the image above, I’m pursuing another half-brained idea:

A half-Ironman.

 

You’re f***ing crazy

I actually already know this.

Reason #1 why this is a crazy idea: I’ve never done an actual triathlon. Wouldn’t it be better to start with a sprint or Olympic distance?

Reason #2 why this is a crazy idea: I’m not 100% back on my game from the stress fracture, given this minor setback from this past week.

Reason #3 why this is a crazy idea: Open water swimming with 2,299 other people. Enough said.

Reason #4 why this is a crazy idea: It’s a half-Ironman. The only thing crazier is a full Ironman.

So, okay, we’ve assessed the insanity of this plan. Here are my rebuttals:

#1: Even though I haven’t done an actual triathlon, I already know that I can do a sprint. I was doing 1/2-mile swims followed by 10 miles on the bike this summer, while I was waiting out the stress fracture healing process. After finishing those workouts this summer, I could have easily thrown a 3-mile run on top of that.

Endurance for a sprint triathlon is definitely something I think I’ve already got under my belt. I would agree with anyone who pointed out that the racing environment itself would wear on me more than going from a swim to the bike at my local gym. Nonetheless, I just know, based on how many of those “brick” workouts I logged this summer, that the endurance for a sprint would not really be a true challenge.

The Olympic distance, yes, would take some more training, but that goal holds far less allure, for me. It feels like a challenge, but not a nearly impossible, gargantuan challenge.

More on impossible challenges, in just a moment.

#2: I’ve looked into the 24-week 1/2 marathon training plan offered by Nicole at Nicole is Better. My half-Ironman is 40 weeks away, so I reason, if I followed that plan, I have until mid-January before I absolutely, positively, MUST start training for running. That means that all of November, all of December, and all of January–nearly another 90 days–could be cross-training and training in swimming (my weakest sport) and the bike.

That would put a full 6 months between me and The Stress Fracture, and if it ain’t healed up after 6 months, then hey–I gots bigger problems than how to complete an Ironman (paramount among my concerns is the possibility that, given my auto-immune disease, my bones are not getting enough calcium and iron to re-build).

#3: Clearly, I’ll have to practice some open water swimming with other people. This will mean that smaller sprint and Olympic distance triathlons will be in my future, in anticipation of the half-Ironman.

#4: So now I can touch base on the allure of the “impossible” challenge.

I do not know what it is within me that has been drawn to the BIG challenge, the one that feels hard and insurmountable, but there it is: I’ve always been this way.

I was a kid when I started declaring to the world that I wanted to write books. Then I started writing them. (Publishing? That’s harder. But I was never unwilling to put in the work on my end).

I played not just one instrument in high school, but several.

I had not just one major in college, but two (and a minor).

I don’t believe I’ve done any of this because I wanted to be “better” than anyone else. It’s never been like that. And sure, I think there have been times in my life when I’ve pursued ultimate limits because I felt inferior, and wanted to compensate.

But a half-Ironman doesn’t feel like that. It feels exciting. Hard work? GIVE IT TO ME. Lay the challenge before me, and I’m intrigued, rather than defeated.

When something intrigues me, I just have a natural proclivity to follow it to its end point, until it no longer intrigues me, any longer. I see this as a very natural passion for life and living.

I don’t want to sit on the periphery of most of what I pursue, in life–I want to be in the thick of it. I’m fascinated by being in the thick of life, in the muck and mess and glory and joy. And what I love most about running, or anything endurance-related, is the way that I push up against the “can I do this?” within me and then come out at the end.

Go ahead, push me until I almost want to puke. It’s more fun at the finish line, that way. There’s something primal about it.

This passionate desire to push it? It’s also my nemesis. It’s also the thing that shoots me in the foot (haha, no pun intended). I already know that I can “dig deep” as they say, and that’s exactly why I’ve been injured so chronically. I don’t always know when digging deep is a matter of spirit and will versus when it’s utter stupidity.

It’s not all a journey of “how badass can I be,” either. There are some things that I have zero desire to do. I love running, and want to run a marathon, but I have zero desire to do the Western States 100–even as I geek out and watch Unbreakable for the gazillionth time.

Besides, I think that at the end of the day, triathlon will probably be a safer option for me. When all of my energy is poured into running, I get running injuries. I’m seeing triathlon as an option that intrigues me yet will get me off of my feet. I’ll get that endurance rush that I love, and be able to take part in racing events (also a love) but without the sole focus being on my feet, potentially racking up ever-more running injuries.

So, there you have it.

Forty some-odd weeks from now, the goal is to make it to the starting line of the Vineman 1/2 Ironman in Sonoma county.

The second goal is to make it through a 1.2 mile swim without being kicked or punched, and the third is to make it through the swim without being kicked or punched so severely that I cannot compete in the rest of the legs of the race (you see how I’m setting this up?).

The fourth goal is simply to finish. 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and a 13-mile run.

I could give two shits about times, or being able to “podium” or any of that. Just making it to the starting line without being sidelined by an injury will be a huge accomplishment, in and of itself.

So that’s why I titled this post, crassly, ” ‘Holy Shit’ is the phrase that comes to mind.”

Because–wowza. Holy shit!

licking my wounds

26 Sep

One of the hugest misconceptions that people have about getting through anything difficult in life is that there are two ways:

  1. There is the way of the optimist who will look for the bright spin, or
  2. There is the way of the pessimist who will complain and whine.

 

I think there’s a third way: The way of the person who maintains continual presence to what arises for them, and then sits with it as it is.

That sounds like a lot of work. It’s really not, once you get the hang of it. It’s far more effective, I think, than either putting a hanger in your mouth and smiling all of the time or bogging down in Life is Shit mode.

In essence, I think that we all need time to lick our wounds. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re a sad sack. It just means…well, that you need a bit of time to be sad, because you just do.

I’ve not been writing here because I have been off, licking my wounds. The disappointment of my health problems hit full-force in the weeks after my last entry. It wasn’t so much about the running as it was about a whole host of other feelings that were coming up, related to my auto-immune condition and other complications that are arising out of that.

People, lemme put it this way: I am actual living proof that you can eat your veggies and do all of the supposedly healthy stuff, and you can still get a major health issue. I have needed some time to be in the actual, suffering unfairness of that, because it is suffering and it is unfair.

Having duly had some time to do that, I feel myself slowly returning and coming back.

For the past several weeks, realizing that my December marathon was definitely not going to happen, I settled into gym workouts that felt lackluster but that helped me get my sweat on. I’ve been woefully inconsistent about all of it, which has been an anomaly for me–I’m not fast, and I’m not the best athlete, but dammit if I am consistent.

I like having a goal to aim for, and have needed to orient myself around a new one because my first several forays back into running have brought back a slight return of my symptoms, a minor ache, and the last thing in the world that I ever want to have happen again is another stress fracture. That was pretty damned awful.

So here I am, looking at options. I am scanning the horizon for what would excite me. Thirty days of yoga at a local studio? Plotting out a new training program? A tough mudder?

I need something that’s the right blend of challenging and motivating without aggravating the injury. It’s my sincerest hope to be back to running regular 5ks again by the end of the year. It takes work not to get attached.

I don’t think anyone really reads this blog, but nonetheless I post it all here. It’s a record of where I’m at to look back upon, and it helps me to be able to write about running and athleticism.

bummmmmmer

11 Aug

Well, I tried running on 08/05 and was fine that day, but 24 hours later that familiar “bruised” sensation was back–not nearly as bad, but definitely there. I gave it another 24 hours just to see if it was the tendon or muscle, but if I pushed on that area of my foot, it was clearly an “Ouch.”

So, okay. I’ve taken off of working out most of the past week, and at this point, I’m 99.9% sure that the December marathon is not going to happen. For the most part, I am not too in my head thinking that this is completely f**k-tastic.

I’m reminding myself that I’m grateful just to be walking again, because the levels of depression I felt myself sinking to when I was putting zero weight on my foot was just beyond any sort of despair I’ve felt since I was an angst-ridden teenager.

So, the slightly amended plan for the next two weeks is that instead of running on the days when I’m slated to run according to Kate’s Crazy-Ass Marathon Plan, I’m going to try doing the stairmaster at the gym. Stairmaster equals: massive cardio, works many of the same muscles as when running, a good workout.

Accountability time: I completely blew off all of my workouts this past week, which I already mentioned, but I could have done them, so that means I was…well, being lazy. For one, I was on vacation, and for me a vacation is any time when I don’t have an appointment or something to do on my “to-do” list. Working for yourself has its perks, but one of the major downsides is a perpetual feeling of “always something else to be done.” For another, there’s a part of me that’s kicking in pretty quickly with, “Well, you’re not going to make that marathon happen, anyway, so what’s the point of 5-6 day a week workouts?”

The point, of course, is that a.) I feel badass when I do them, and b.) I feel better when I do them, and c.) it’s great for my health when I do them, and d.) if I don’t want my return to running to be a hellish, out-of-shape endeavour, I need to get myself to a gym. Pronto.

Also, I do still like the idea of doing a triathlon.

Side note: I’m getting some more insight into why I got a stress fracture in the first place: finger is pointed at the auto-immune disease, again, which screws up my thyroid which screws up my periods. I forget which website it was on, but I read something today about how women with irregular cycles are 39-45% more likely to get stress fractures because of the way that irregular cycles effect bone density.

For sure, I just amped up my mileage more than it was smart to do, but–at the same time–that couldn’t have helped.

the vegan plant based debate

8 Aug

There are, like, a lot of athletes that swear by a plant-based diet. The day of the fateful half-marathon where I acquired the stress fracture, I showered and pulled on sweats and sank onto the couch for a day of complete and utter laziness–which included reading Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra, a book I’d ordered for myself as a “treat” for finishing the half and had not cracked open in anticipation of rewarding myself.

Finding Ultra is an inspiring book. On one hand, yes, it’s the pretty prototypical story of an athlete who is “surprised” at what they can accomplish, despite the fact that they were athletes for many years when they were younger.

The twist with Rich Roll is how he navigates the worlds of getting sober and eventually, going plant-based as he fuels his endeavours. The guy is, of course, no slouch–he completes 5 back-to-back Ironman distance triathlons over the course of a week.

So I read his book and I think, “Rich Roll says it. Scott Jurek says it. No Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier says it. Maybe plant-based is the way to go.”

See, I tried vegetarianism. I was a veggie for fourteen years, and finally got sick so often that I gave it up. To be fair, though, I was more of a “eat cereal and call that vegetarianism” kind of veg-head, which means that I didn’t really eat salad or vegetables so much as I ate carbs.

For the past four years, I’ve been eating meat, again–I’ve seen Food, Inc., though, so I was sticking to only the hormone-free, sustainably-raised, non-factory stuff.

And even though I noticed an uptick in my energy when eating meat, particularly red meat, I never particularly liked that I was doing it. Of course it doesn’t feel good to think about animals dying so that I can eat. And I did try a lot of other options prior to going back to meat–raw foods, fasts, etc., and my health just never quite got back on track.

The one thing I felt I could say in my defense? A VEGAN nutritionist once advised me that I was someone who probably actually needed to eat meat. Apparently, there are people who truly do need meat to balance things out. If a vegan nutritionist says I need to eat meat, I probably need to.

But to read all of these ultra-runners, swearing by a plant-based diet? And given the fact that I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease in February 2012?

Okay. I’d try a plant-based diet.

 

The plant-based experiment

I’m now a little more than eight weeks into eating a plant-based diet (I’m using the term “plant-based” because I don’t see myself as vegan).

I wish I could report to you that I feel all glowing and amazing, with limitless energy, but…

…well, no.

I feel, basically pretty much almost you might as well say, the same. I already ate a reasonably healthy diet prior to starting this. Kale and quinoa were staples. I made a point of getting in a salad 5 out of 7 days of the week. I stopped drinking soda a long time ago. My only real vice? Soy lattes, one packet of sugar tops. But just having a soy latte…the entire ritual of it is, like, my favorite thing.

Now, in an attempt to see if it has any effect on my auto-immune disease, I’ve ramped up the plant-based side of things and have added into the mix a cleansing cocktail of supplements that were recommended to me for doing a “candida cleanse.”

The theory behind this is that we all harbor some kind of candida or yeast in our bodies, and that an overgrowth of this is what causes a lot of illnesses. If we take the right pro-biotics and stomach enzymes and Omega 3’s, we can get the candida to die off.

I’m combining this supplementation with no sugar (because that feeds candida), green juice (kale, celery, a green apple and a lemon), no grains, and mostly eating salads (it’s already getting old).

I keep wondering when I’m going to have that “miraculous” awakening of energy and mental clarity and reduced inflammation and all that jazz, that so many people talk about.

I’m intensely curious to see if doing this will do anything for my bloodwork; I genuinely hate taking medication for my condition, purely on principle. I believe that the body, given the right help, can heal itself just as it heals a stress fracture or a scrape quite naturally on its own. My job is to get out of its way.

I’m always curious as to what others say about the vegan/plant-based debate for athletes. Do they really think that it helps athletic performance all that much?

I want to know the answer to that from the “everyday” athletes, not just the people who can run 100+ mile races like it’s nothing. Oh, and–no proselytizing for your particular diet, okay? I’m interested in hearing about your experience

What experiments with diet and nutrition have you made? Has it had any noticeable effect on your athletic performance?

accountability 08/06

7 Aug

Sunday, 08/05: Decided that doing a bike AND a run would be a bit much for my first day trying out running again after the stress fracture, even though everything seemed to be on the up-and-up. Saturday evening, I went on a one-hour brisk walk, which is seen as the “test” for whether or not the foot has healed up enough. All was well.

I did 1.75 miles of walk/run intervals, with total mileage coming to 3/4 of a mile. Running pace was 15:40, about 6 minutes slower than usual. I took it slow and stayed connected to the principles of Chi Running. It felt great to be running, again!

Monday, 08/06: Had a swim scheduled for today, and made an appointment for a 1/2 hour swimming lesson with an instructor at my gym who is also a triathlete. My swimming form is off; I know that I’m fit enough, cardio-wise, to complete a 1/2 mile swim, but something about my breathing and form has me huffing and puffing for air pretty quickly.

She gave me great tips on form. Namely, when I tip my head to the side for air, for some reason I lower my opposing arm while the other arm strokes, rather than keeping my opposing arm straight out in front of me.

I had planned to do more swimming time after the lesson, but felt a bit nauseated because of a cleanse that I just started (No, not one of those ridiculous “master cleanse” deals where someone drinks sugar water. We’re talking the real deal, hyper-nutrient doses, all that: massive amounts of pro-biotics, garlic, caprylic acid, and enzymes combined with lots of salads, fresh green juice concoctions, etc.).

Note: The area where my stress fracture was feels ever-so-slightly tender today, a light bruised feeling, so I’m going to pull back on the running for the rest of this week and just continue with biking and swimming, the old program.

That probably means that the marathon dream is slipping through my fingers–I can’t imagine how I would ever get my shit together for that if I can’t start training by the 12th of August.

Nonetheless, I’ve been prepared for that possibility, and in the meantime, will do whatever it takes to not re-injure.

Another month of sitting, immobile? I don’t know that I would survive it.

in it for the long haul

5 Aug

The most helpful reminder I could have given myself during the past 8 weeks was this one: I’m in it for the long haul.

My first marathon is set to be the California International Marathon, which is a flat course that’s local to me. I literally scheduled my morning around being able to be on the computer to register for it on the day that registration went live, afraid that a bunch of BQ-hungry maniacs were going to beat me to it.

I have no interested in BQ’ing; I’m interested in finishing. Flat sounds good to me, for a 26.2-mile race.

Even though I’ve seen clear attachment within myself to finish this particular race, I also keep reminding myself: I’m in it for the long haul.

God knows there will be another year, another marathon. The last thing I need to do is over-train and get another stress fracture (the real kicker about the stress fracture I have been recovering from? That I had scheduled a backup half, just in case I wasn’t feeling ready for the one that I ended up doing. Turns out, “feeling” ready and actually “being” ready are two different things–who knew?).

Cross-training is going really, really well. I got into the pool for the first time in years just a few weeks ago. I went from aqua-jogging where it took over an hour for me to complete a half-mile, to completing that mile in under an hour, to completing it in 45 minutes, to swimming a half-mile with a lot of rest breaks in an hour, to now–sheesh!–swimming a half mile in just under 30 minutes, with fewer and fewer rest breaks in-between.

Seriously–I am thisclose to signing up for a private lesson with one of my gym’s instructors, so that I can learn how to do that cool flip-around thing that I see other people doing at each end of the pool.

Biking is still not my favorite. That is about the kindest thing that I can say about stationary biking. Moving on…

I’m walking around normally, again, and have zero pain. Other than the fact that I’m getting itchy to run again and need to restrain myself just a bit longer, I can almost forget that I was ever injured.

The plan is to begin, this upcoming week with a walk-run test drive that’s very slow and low-mileage.

It feels vulnerable to even talk about that; I cringe at the thought that I’m going to come back here in two weeks and post about how I’m hurt again or something. But nonetheless, I know I’ve been smart about this. My stress fracture was minor, and I’ve taken the full 8 weeks off to recover, and really did observe the laws of not walking or weight-bearing any more than I absolutely had to, and I integrated non-impact cross-training.

Basically, it all boils down to releasing total control: if it ain’t happening, it ain’ happening. I’ve done all that I could do to both recover and maintain a basic level of fitness.

So that’s why I’m committed to being in this for the long haul–if this race isn’t it, this race isn’t it. There will be another race.

And–exciting!–the triathlon idea has officially taken hold (see the Law of Unintended Consequences). I’m happily scouting out the possibilities. The only hesitations at this point are that triathlons cost twice or three times as much as a typical road race (!!!) and I don’t own a bike or a wet suit. I hesitate to drop that kind of cash until I really feel solid about my recovery.

I also know nothing about bike-buying, and the discussions I’ve read so far about aluminum versus steel versus carbon and the right chains and blah blah blah just start to confuse me. I always thought bikes were bikes. Apparently not.

I’ll keep you updated (all 2 of you who are reading this!).

the law of unintended (and awesome) consequences

23 Jul

Two years ago, my mother quit smoking after just a few sessions with a hypnotherapist. I was so excited by its efficacy that I said I wanted to hire the guy so that I could get rid of a few bad habits of my own: like nail-biting, or judging, or…

She stopped me: “No, no, no,” she warned. “Beware the law of unintended consequences.”

The Law of Unintended Consequences is pretty simple: We might think that by pursuing a particular action, we’re going to get a particular result. We might get that result, but there might be some unintended consequences along the way. Her point was that if I were hypnotized out of judging, then what if I didn’t apply critical thinking at the appropriate moments?

It’s a good point.

But–I am here to report that there the Law of Unintended Consequences has been at work with this foot injury, and with it comes a whole side helping of Awesome.

It boils down like this:

Okay, marathon is in December. Stress about being able to train in time is high. I’ve added biking and swimming to my repertoire, figuring that cross-training is my only hope.

I started out with a half-mile of Aqua Jogging and then that became a half-mile of swimming. Then I got cleared to put weight on my foot, and added in 30 minutes of stationary biking, where I’ve averaged 6-10 miles depending on the intensity I’ve selected on the machine.

You still with me?

So during this time, as I am wont to do, I was devouring more books on athletic endeavours, and one was You Are An Ironman. It’s all about the people who are even more crazy-ass than me, the Ironman triathletes.

Whereas I am a mere mortal trying to just run one marathon, Ironman triathletes are gods. In case you didn’t know, these are the people who swim a few miles and then bike 100+ miles and then run a marathon.

The book explained the differences between the various triathlons that are out there. I hadn’t even been aware that there were differences.

Then it hit me: I am already completely and totally equipped with the capacity to do a sprint triathlon, which is typically less than a half-mile swim, 8-10 miles on the bike, and then a 5k (3.1 mile) run.

Then I checked around, and found a sprint triathlon to be held shortly before my intended December marathon.

So here’s my Law of Unintended (and awesome) Consequences at work: Had I never been injured, I never would have started swimming, and I guarantee you I never would have gotten onto a stationary bike (blecch. vomit. gurgle. ick. yuck. Can you tell I despise stationary biking?).

I never would have learned that I have the capacity to swim a half mile (that was seriously a surprise) nor would I have learned that I can bike 6-10 miles in a half hour.

I never would have realized that adding “triathlete” to my repertoire was a possibility. Now it seems like one. It even feels like the kind of “back up plan” that I can get behind, to salve the wound of not being able to compete in my December Marathon, if that’s what ends up happening (I’ll be making that decision, officially, sometime around November).

This has had me thinking about other unintended and possibly awesome consequences, such as:

  • What if this time off is actually something that will hyper-repair muscles, joints, and tendons that have been working hard for the past few months, and I’ll come back stronger than ever?
  • How might the swimming and biking be stabilizing things I need for running?
  • Getting me back into the Bikram yoga room, again.
  • It has been pretty nice getting pre-board authorizations on all of the flights I’ve taken, recently…

Okay, that’s the update for now–will report back more after I officially register for my triathlon!