May 31, 2008

Well, the big race is one week out now. My race kit arrived today. It’s pretty sweet although I am extremely self conscious in it and with good reason since it’s a little on the teensy side. But I doubt I’ll notice that on the day. Besides, I did not go into triathlon because I look good in spandex (i don’t) so maybe my results will speak louder than my appearance.

I had a solid bike ride today and get this…a RUN off the bike.  Not far, but faster than I have been running.  I don’t think the cortisone has taken full effect although I am no longer limping around like my knee is broken (which I was immediately after the injection).  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping a few more days will do the trick.

GB and I had a remarkably productive day around the house today.  We did domestic things like buying a sprinkler for our vegetable garden and a hanging plant for the back deck.  Spring has got us tightly in it’s grip.  Of course, as we predicted, the purchase of a sprinkler resulted in an onslaught of thunderstorms and heavy rain, but we’re okay with that.  Anyway, we’re settling in for a nice snuggly evening in our cozy little cabin-home.  No complaints here today.


May 30, 2008

Last night I set a new 100 PR in the pool.  Bigtime.  The kind of PR where you are grinning from ear to ear for the whole drive home and later that night when GB looks over at you while watching a movie, you are still sitting there with a silly grin on your face.  Your eyes are watching the TV, but your mind is watching you wail on yourself in the water and smash into the wall, looking at the clock in disbelief.  You are now faster than your old, teenage self.  Life is good.

Anyway, sometimes it’s too bad that life is not all about swimming.  My mother (who is not normally especially involved in my life) has apparently been so thrown off-course by my leg injury that she has declared her dream for me to become the next Dara Torres.  I did not ask out loud if she would be willing to pay the $100,000 a year for my traveling team of recovery, massage, and stretching specialists.  I think she has always harbored secret dreams of me being a competitive swimmer for life (and why shouldn’t she? – it is she, after all, who drove me to countless practices at ridiculous hours of the morning throughout my youth).  In her words, I had my swimming career ripped off by a shoulder injury when I was sixteen.  Shoulder injury or not though, I think I was ready for a break.  I was pretty burned out and ready to diversify.  And that was when I lived in a place warm enough to swim outside.  I don’t think I could handle doing all that training indoors, I’d go nuts.

So my Mom keeps bringing up the idea of me competing in masters swimming and now even GB has jumped on the bandwagon.  I will confess that I had some nostalgic stirrings when I thought of my weekends spent on the bleachers at swim meets.  I mentioned something to GB about maybe considering it if not just for the fun of sitting around in a towel playing card games between races.  It was suggested to me that perhaps in the adult world of competitive swimming, there is no card-playing on the bleachers.  Is this true?  Jen H?  If so, what a tragedy!  What to people DO in between events???  I will need to get to the bottom of this before I sign up for any meets next year.  Anyway, I can just as easily sit around the house in a towel playing card games….and I’ll save on gas and entry fees.

On a completely different topic, today I am seeing a doctor for a possible cortisone injection.  It occurred to me this week that if my life depended on me running 10km at a very fast clip, this would be my last cup of coffee.  With that in mind, I need to figure out some way to get through my race next week so I am exploring my options.  Many thanks to Rachel Ross who has endured a multitude of annoying and detailed questions about having steroids injected into one’s leg and to my infinitely patient coach who is probably ready to bike out here and give me the injection herself if it will make me shut up about it.  Also, my future mother in law has been very helpful (she is a PT) and has put in more than her fair share of time on the phone with me.  Certainly I appreciate her advice to a) find a doctor who knows where the needle should go in my leg and b) make sure s/he uses a clean needle.  It does concern me a little that she apparently thinks I get my medical care from a back alley somewhere, but it’s valuable advice that I shall heed nonetheless.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend.  Beth, I hope you bring home that PA spot for BOUS.  I have no doubt that you will.

When To Say When

May 28, 2008

This whole ITBS thing has had me thinking a lot about training and racing psychology.  When I started working with my current coach, one of my biggest goals was to learn to push through pain more.  I have historically tended towards wimpiness when the pain sets in which has resulted in some slow runs during which I cheer on my competition.  Let the record state, I am an EXTREMELY competitive person, but being uncomfortable on the run has eclipsed even my most competitive races as I have allowed myself to ease up for comfort’s sake.  In January I decided no more.  And anyone who has visited my blog more than a few times has read lots about me pulling myself out of my comfort zone on the run.

I think it would be safe to say that I have had great success with this.  Along with my skilled and very perceptive coach, I have learned how to be a runner and how to make peace with physical discomfort.  HOWEVER, I now have a new condundrum: when to listen to the pain.  Now I have to figure out when enough is enough.  I have to discern when something is run-through pain versus injury pain.  My last six weeks of running hiatus are a direct result of several things.  One of these things was not stopping when an injury arrived on the scene.  There were two runs in particular:

1) I had a run on the track during which I was reduced to tears of pain and frustration and STILL I kept trying for more.  I could not tell my injury apart from my need to be faster and stronger.  I pushed too far and made things worse.

That in itself would be fine if I had learned from the experience and not repeated the mistake several days later:

2) I had a long run with some efforts thrown in.  It was a key run for me, mentally, and I refused to give up long after it was time.  I pushed through discomfort, then through pain, and then even further until I couldn’t walk.  And what did I have at the end?  An incomplete workout an a fully-established case of ITBS.  Was I a stronger person for pushing through?  No.  Was I fitter for pushing through?  No.  In fact, it resulted in weeks and weeks of no running, lots of tears, millions of desperate emails to my coach, and a solid amount of extra stress on my relationship and personal life.  Nice.

When I set out to get tougher on the run this year, I thought swallowing the pain would  be the hardest thing.  Boy was I wrong.  The hardest thing by far is listening to the pain and decoding it.  Is it the type you make piece with or is it your body giving you a clear signal that you need a break?  As athletes, it’s very difficult to admit when we have to step it back a notch.  We don’t want to be weak.  We don’t want to risk losing our fitness gains.  We are stubborn and we ignore the signs.

I have been doing triathlons on and off for more than fifteen years.  Every time I learn something new about myself, I discover something else that I need to learn.  It’s constant, the learning.  Between rest, and recovery, and intensity, and time, and nutrition, and coaching, and weather, and equipment, and mood, and life circumstances, there are so many variables.  I often wonder how will I ever solve the puzzle of being the fastest and the best I can be.  I guess that’s part of the beauty of this sport.  You can learn, and learn, and learn, and there’s still lots to learn.  Which means you always have the potential to be a faster athlete and a better person.

Things are pretty good in the world of Ness.  I’m feeling great in the pool and my spanky new Blueseventy wetsuit is on it’s way to me in the mail.  This is my first ever wetsuit.  In the past I have used my Dad’s old one (from the eighties back when triathlon was sponsored by BudLight and wetsuits were red and made of 3-inch thick neoprene.  I have enjoyed my years of being sussed up by the competition as ‘nobody to worry about’ and then surprising everyone with a strong swim in a red wetsuit patched up with duct tape.  I decided, however, that it’s time to try out the new technological advances (ie those from the last 25 years or so) and see if I can swim faster in a black one.

My IT band continues to be a bit of a pain although I did run pain free for THREE MINUTES at PT this week.  Yesterday it was a little stirred up so I didn’t get through my bike ride, but I took out my feelings about this on myself in the pool which was entirely satisfying.

The BIG news around here is that our wedding invitations are printed and in our possession.  They look very cool and we’re happy with them.  EXCEPT I am kicking myself for one thing:

When we were going over everything at the printer’s there was a wee debate over whether it is “Two thousand eight” or “two thousand and eight”.  An English major and english language fanatic, I was certain that the “and” needed to be present.  We discussed at length before deferring to the printer who said we should copy the printed example (upon which was INCORRECTLY printed ‘two thousand eight’).  In an effort to be more flexible and less anal retentive, I agreed to go with the ‘expert’s’ choice.  However, now that they are printed, I’m practically losing sleep over the error.  So much for being less anal retentive.  GB thinks I’m a bit of a lost cause and thankfully thinks my freakishness is endearing and funny.  I did mention that it may take me 50 or 60 years to stop bringing this one up.

Anyway, the good news is that we have invitations which is one more step towards actually being married.  Now to write all the addresses on….

ART Therapy

May 22, 2008

Well, I had my first ART Therapy session and was very relieved to see that there were no drawing or painting materials in the office.  The assessment portion of the appointment was pretty long and she asked a lot about what treatments I have been doing.  I mentioned all of them, as well as my treatment from my chiropractor friend with the addendum that “I HATE chiropractic”.  She gave me a funny smile but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

She then proceeded to produce all sorts of pain from all sorts of areas in my leg.  I was fine with this because I’m starting to realize with IT band rehab that more discomfort in rehab now means less discomfort in training later.  There were photographs of triathletes all over her wall, many of them breaking finish line tape.  In my head I thought: “Wow!  How good IS this woman???”.  Maybe this ART Therapy stuff is more than I had bargained for!

Anyway, after an hour of various burning sensations and watery eyes, she handed me a card with my next appointment time on it.  She caught me staring at the business card logo and asked what was up.  I looked up slowly from the card which had her name on it followed by the letters “D.C”.  “Uhh, welllllll…..I was just noticing that you’re a chiropractic Doctor.  And I walked in here and promptly announced that I HATE chiropractic”.  She laughed.  I assured here I wasn’t referring to HER in particular but rather to the process of having my bones forcefully shifted around in my body.  She understood what I meant, but I felt like a bit of an idiot.  Who goes to a practitioner without knowing what kind of practitioner they are???  As if this would make it better, I told her my story of originally thinking my coach wanted me to go to art therapy (the drawing and painting kind) and of me actually being willing to try it!  I’m not sure I made the best impression on her, but I’m also not sure it matters.  Especially if her fixing my leg means that soon I can send her a picture of me breaking some finish line tape!


May 21, 2008

You know it’s bad when you find yourself googling “IT band miracle cure”. No surprise, I didn’t find any, really. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Things are progressing pretty slowly with my leg and running is still a no-go, but otherwise, training is going well.

I raced my bike yesterday. Although it was a hill climb, so it’s probably more accurate to say that I slogged uphill for 5 miles on my bike yesterday. And got my ass handed to me by a guy on an old Peugot steel frame with shifters on the downtube and that classic old brown suede LeMond seat. Mortifiying, really. I was a little disappointed with my time, but it was a great experience and fun to race with roadies for a change. It was also fun to draft, which I don’t get many opportunities to do. Sadly, I am lacking in drafting tactics. I went out hard to chase the first pack (which was beyond stupid but gave me a little bit of a high), got stuck by myself, and then was too tired to stay with the next bunch for very long, so my drafting advantage was sorely limited. My legs are nice and wasted today, which feels good.

My new work schedule has me doing some longer days and only half days on Wednesdays. Thus I have renamed Wednesdays as Rehabdays. Today I have my first ART therapy appointment. People around town have raved about this woman, so I’m very excited to see what she can do for my leg. I also have a possible hour in between appointments today and I’m considering using this hour to sit in a coffee shop and read a book. How novel! (like the pun?)

My coach and I had a wee discussion yesterday where I considered the possibility that I may not be able to run on my leg prior to my next race. I am learning so much about attitude this month. Learning to make peace with the fact that I have an injury is an interesting process that some days feels good and other days feels like I have failed somehow. I have big dreams of a career as a triathlete one day and I know that this is just another thing that will help prepare me for that. Fortunately, it’s starting to feel a little less like a roadblock in my training and a little more like an opportunity to shift my thinking. With swimming going so well and feeling strong on my bike, I’m feeling pretty confident in my training and my body otherwise. In fact, one of the riders last night who I know from various cycling events asked me how I was doing. I was pleasantly surprised to hear myself say “Great! My training is going well and I really don’t have anything to complain about”. I was also pleasantly surprised to realize how true that was. Now I just have to learn to love water running!!

Go Fish

May 20, 2008

Masters swimming was the perfect way to kick of a busy Monday morning.  I had a nice hard swim which refreshed me for the day.  We seem to have had a weather change lately and we’re back to March weather again with cold, windy days.  But at least the sun has been out.  I had a ride on the schedule for last night so I chose to ride home from work.  It was pretty cold out but I enjoyed finishing up my work day on my bike.  Too bad I can’t start and finish every work day with workouts…

After my ride we went over to friends of ours’ for dinner.  They have a 2 year old and a 4 year old – 2 of my favorite ages.  I have always felt more at ease with kids under five than I have with grown-ups.  Perhaps there’s a part of me that is still under five (I’m sure GB could confirm this!).  When we walked in the door I was greeted by a running hug from four-year-old Morgan who was as excited to see me as I was him.  I was immediately dragged around the house so he could show me everything new and different from our last visit.  This included him putting on a 30-second demonstration of virtually every toy in the house: “This is my snake, I like to stomp on it’s head [stomps on the snake’s head to demonstrate].  This is my very own chalkboard.  You can draw on it!” etc. etc.  “Hey NESS!!!!!  Wanna make a Lego camel??”.  So we made some Lego things including the world’s tallest Lego palm tree and Morgan regaled me with tales of daycare and naughty children who stick out their tongues at the teacher (he, of course, is not one of these naughty children).  Also, Morgan told me about the family pig who is (according to him) having a HUNDRED piglets soon!  Then, clearly not identifying me as the adult I pretend to be, he showed me his stash of secret granola bars in his bedroom and offered me one.  He was disappointed at my suggestion that it might spoil our dinner.

After dinner we read a book about Sprocc the rock star which was pretty cool and had awesome pictures and rhyming words.  Then we played Go Fish with Morgan and I teaming up against the grown-ups.  We won.  Both times.  Morgan kept saying “Boy, I am AWESOME at this game.  I am WICKED GOOD at it aren’t I?”.  By the time Morgan’s bedtime rolled around, all the adults were fading too, so GB and I left sometime during the toothbrushing struggle.  I didn’t get to see my grown-up friends much last night but I think they were relieved to have a little quiet time without Morgan.  They are farmers and work long, long days and I have no idea how they parent two children every single day.  I was tired just from one evening!