Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My relationship with swimming

I know it is taboo. But I have a confession to make. I hate swimming. I know, it is shocking.

It was almost two years ago when I began swimming regulary. After only a few months I explained to a friend how I felt about swimming: I hate going to the pool. I hate getting in the water. I hate swimming laps. I hate getting out of the water. I hate getting showered and ready at the pool.

So that about sums it up.

As time has gone on, the strong feelings have lessened, but I still really dislike swimming. I’ve gotten better, and that helps, but I just can’t seem to learn to love, or even like it.


Monday night I went to the P!nk concert. It was so great! I knew ahead of time there was no way I’d make it to the 5:30 am swim practice. Therefore I planned to swim after work instead.

All day I dreaded it. When it came time to head to the pool, my feelings about swimming intensified. I just couldn’t bring myself to go. So I didn’t.

I don’t really feel that bad about it. Well, a little bad. But not bad enough to make up the workout.

My current feeling is that after Ironman I am just may give up on swimming.

Next year I can run and bike, and I can do relays at the races with my teammates. That wouldn’t be so bad.

I mean, I’m all about self improvement. I know I won’t get better without time in the pool. But isn’t two years of suffering enough?

Clarendon Day 10k

Here is my shortest race report ever.

This race was not on the schedule but I couldn’t resist signing up. It started in my neighborhood. Five miles easy was on my training schedule… At the time I thought “well, that isn’t that different from 6.2 miles…raced.”

Yeah, I know, it is different.

It was a good event. Although it was advertised as "downhill and flat" there were some little uphills.

I set a PR: 57:16. I’m happy with that.

I expected to set a PR. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have only done 2 10ks before and neither of those were ideal conditions. One was on a hot (86 degree) summer evening and the other was cool, rainy, and uphill. So I was destined to succeed.

Although it would have been better to go into this build week (and next weekend’s half Ironman – a training day) with rested legs, if I had it to do all over again I would do the race again. That’s just the kind of crazy girl I am.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


It is 2 am. I cant sleep so I'm doped up n a sleeping pill. Why not try to type this anyhow. I should be asleep.

I don't know what EMG stands for though I do have some current suggestions. It just sucked!

The test was two parts. The first part was electricity (they put sensors on different parts of my hands and arms and shot me with varying levels of shocks to determine where the problem is located).

Nahhh [chest out]... I am an Ironwman [to be], I can hande this.

The tech listened to me and told me what he was going to do, and how long each part would take. My kind of guy. He answered all of my question and was compassionate and conversational. He shot me with electricity and when the senseation got intense I focused on breathing and the second hand on the clock. He said that many people usually stop him 10 minutes into the test, but not me, I an an ironwoman!!

The hour passed and I was happy get the first part done. How bad could the needles part be? The doctor who did the needle part of the test told me it is like a acupuncture needle. Right. I've never done acupuncture, but it looks really gentle on tv. This was not gentle.

The doc stuck the needle into my hands and arms one at a time and asked me to engage the muscle by pushing on his hand. The needles felt like they were going deep down into my muscle. With each prick I would hear the sound waves on the computer. I was breathing. I was surviving. But it hurt like hell.

In an unexpected change of events, the doctor announced that he needed to work on my neck. He gave me a couple of different options but at this point I was pretty worn out. I just told him to do whichever was the least painful.

So I laid face down with my chest on a stack of pillows and my head hanging off the front. Then the real fun began These needles were deeper and way more painful.

When they got to the area of my neck where I have chronic issues (diagnosed as a pinched nerve years ago) things seemed different. My professional diagnosis (I haven't been given one yet) is that the source of all of these finger/hand issues is my neck. When each needle was inserted you could hear the sound waves but when he put worked on the left part of my shoulder/neck, the sound waves were different. Quieter. And the doc stayed there for much longer than the other areas - maybe 20 seconds versus 5 in other spots.

It just sucked. The pain was so intense and ongoing (1 hour for the electric portion, 30 minutes with the needles). I will never make it as a torture victim. That hour and a half took everything out of me. The doc rushed out and when he closed the door I just starting sobbing.

Believe it or not, I still hurt. When I left there I felt like I got stung by a swarm of bees. Painful welts all over my neck, shoulders and arms. The one on my spine actually has a huge swollen lump that is sensitive to the touch.

I never want to do that again. I think that was the most painful experience I've ever had. I hope I don't have to do it again. Ever.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Weekend Report

Last week I sent an email to my team along the lines of where should I ride my 110/who can ride with me. One of the many nice replies I received was from my teammate Teaka, who I had gotten to know while watching Patriots last weekend. Teaka is an amazing inspiration to me because of how she handled a series of unfortunate events at her first IM last month.

She wrote that I should remember that it is "supposed to be hard" and she told me how she felt pummeled after her toughest training weekend. She also told me about the self doubt she had. I can relate to that.

I'm the kind of person who wants the dentist to tell me before he hurts me. It also helps if the dentist tells me how long he will hurt me. Then I can suck it up and get through it. Maybe that is the key to my success.

So, Teaka's advice was pretty helpful. It wasn't that I wasn't expecting it to be tough, but knowing that it could be, and that it would all be okay, was comforting in a way.

The Plan
Run: Saturday I planned to run solo on the Arlington loop (Custis trail, to the Mt. Vernon trail, to the Four Mile Run trail, to the W&OD trail, and back to Custis). [We are SO lucky to have such great trails around here!!!]

Bike: After MUCH deliberation I finally decided to begin my ride at Hains Point. HP is a local park (actually, the called East and West Potomac). It has a huge loop where many cyclists, runners, and skaters like to train because of the open roads. It isn't closed to traffic, but because there is a 2 lane, one way loop, it is pretty safe. There is a 3-mile loop, which you can make a 6-mile loop by going further out and turning around in a traffic circle right near the Lincoln Memorial.

The biggest advantage to this idea was that it gave me the flexibility of having my car as a home base for refueling. It also allowed me to plan to have people join me for parts of the ride.

The disadvantage, obviously, was the painful monotony. However, I'm being honest when I say that it really wasn't that bad.

The Execution
Run: Saturday's run went exactly as planned. It was a perfect day for running. Temps in the high 60's/low 70's. I really enjoyed it. I was tired at the end, but this is where my experience was an asset. Knowing I could work through the soreness (and pain) helped me to push through and maintain my pace. Overall, a very satisying workout.

Zone 2 the whole time, 1 mile run/1 minute walk. Finished in roughly 3:15. Not bad for a training day.

Bike: The Knight and I arrived at HP early and headed to the Mt Vernon trail for a little jaunt. We rode to the end and back or a total of 34 miles. On the way back I remarked that when we we got back I only had  75 miles left. Ha! I remember when a trip down the MVT was an entire workout!

When we arrived back at HP in time to meet up with our friend Joe and teammates Tania and Kim. Then we all rode around in circles... for hours...and hours on end.

I'm not going to lie. It was a hard day. I started on extremely tired legs. I was slow. The ride did not boost my confidence that I will make the bike cutoff in Florida.

But the good news is that I did it. It really wasn't that bad. I got it done! It is an incredibly wonderful feeling.

While I didn't feel great, I didn't feel that terrible either. Previous issues like sit bone discomfort or neck pain were barely noticeable.

So all in all, a great training weekend. I'm one step closer to achieving my goal.

And yes, as Teaka suggested, I am feeling pummeled. I'm exhausted. I am having the sleep issues that I have after tough training days and that doesn't help matters. On top of that, work has been really stressful. Everything is manageable, but it is all challenging.

I am still so happy that I have endeavored to become an Ironman. Although I somewhat expected the physical challenge, and the time commitment, I didn't quite expect to feel so worn down. I know it has a purpose, and knowing that others have gone through this helps a lot.

After giving it a lot of thought I am feeling more optimistic about IMFL. I realize that when the big day comes, I will be well rested, and won't be riding on tired legs. I will have tons of support out on the race course, including aid stations and helpful volunteers.

I can do this!

First Freak Out

OMG! I just got an email stating that the IMFL athlete guide is now available. Holy $@#$!

I can't bring myself to read it. This is very exciting because it makes this all seem really real. You know?


PS - I have a post about this weekend's training half drafted. Crazy week so far, and it doesn't promise to get any easier.

PPS - Think good thoughts for me. My EMG (needles and electricity) is in the morning. Hoping for some answers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keep on keeping on

I know, it has been a while since my last post. All is going fine. Thanks for the reminders to post an update.

Nutshell version:

--My new bike stuff didn’t work out exactly as I hoped but I am still working on maximizing the potential.

--My hands are still numb. I am a bit bummed out that the neurologist didn’t really have much to offer other than painful tests and far out follow up appointments.

--I purposely skipped a couple of workouts and the coach prescribes even more rest since my body seems to be saying it is needs rest (and food).

-- 110 bike miles and 18 run miles are on this weekend’s agenda. I am looking for a route and for slow training partners.

Here’s the rundown:

Bike stuff

  • The new bike geek stuff wasn’t quite what I hoped. As for the gel flask, the chocolate gu needed to be greatly diluted in order to flow through the flask. It was pretty gross! Think about trying to dilute frosting. Yuck. It tasted like gritty chocolate syrup and it made me choke. I plan to try other gels and see how they do. Any suggestions?

  • I haven’t quite worked out the aeronet thing yet. Regular bottles did not work, and my aero bottle just arrived. I’ll work on it and report back.

  • The salt stick apparently only holds three s-caps. Hmmm. I guess I could have read that in the description. I haven’t done a long enough ride yet to need them. But it installed pretty easily (or so I am told – hahaha).


The weekend

  • Last weekend I skipped my workouts (yes, intentionally) and went down to Williamsburg to cheer for the knight and my teammates for the Patriots Half iron-distance race. It was a great weekend and I’m extremely proud of the knight for becoming “half a man” as he likes to laughingly remind me several times a day in a cartoon narrator kind of voice.

  • Although my schedule called for an 18-mile run and 110 mile ride, I decided to postpone them (read: blow them off) until next weekend (see more below) and instead do a short run and ride this past weekend. But oops, I forgot my running shoes. So I took a rest day Saturday while I watched the race and did a measely 16-mile ride on Sunday. Then I rested again Monday [because I had not yet hit the Adidas outlet where I got two new pairs for about half of what I usually pay. Score!]

  • I only feel moderately bad about the missed workouts. I have reminded myself that it won’t stand in the way of crossing that finish line in Florida.

This week

  • This morning’s track workout called for a 10-minute warm up (which means I run from home to the track), followed by 2 2-mile repeats in zone 4. Tough stuff. (Last week I misread the schedule and did the 2 2-mile Z4 repeats followed by one mile in z4. Oops. That workout actually comes later in the month.)

  • Anyhow, today’s workout did not go as well as it could have. Last week’s times for the 2-mile repeats was approximately 16:30 and 17:30. This morning was 18:00 and 19:45. The second one was *painful*. Lungs hurt. Legs felt like I was wearing ankle weights. I was nearly in zone 5 running at a 10 min/mile pace. What happened?! I made myself push through and told myself I didn’t have to run fast but I did have to keep running and stay in zone 4.

  • Afterwards I had a little chat with Coach Ed and he said (I am paraphrasing here), my logic was wrong and I should have stopped. We talked a little bit and determined: a) I should rest a little; b) I probably shouldn’t be trying to watch calories at this point since I need energy to train at the level I am.

  • I know…it makes perfect sense. I just thought…well, now would be a good time to focus on losing a little fat (just a little). Sigh. I know what you’re going to say, so no comments…

Numb hands saga

  • Last week I went to see the neurologist and I was really depressed after my appointment.

  • The good news: He is a cyclist and he didn’t tell me to stop biking.

  • The bad news: The cause is likely compressed median nerve(s) (as Dr. Keith said). At this rate, it will either heal within a year of the injury (by May) or never. I may need surgery.

  • He ordered a test which sounds pretty unpleasant involving needles and electricity and such (and EMG). While they could schedule the test next week, the soonest follow up appointment to examine the results is October 7. Ugh. I don’t yet know how much all of this will cost and I am partly inclined to just ignore the whole thing and just live with it. The doc recommended wrist braces to keep my wrists straight to allow maximum healing. I'm just not in a hurry to add that style to my wardrobe, nor am I excited about sleeping in them.
  • See why I was so grumpy afterwards?

Regardless of all of the above, things are good. I am feeling ready for what lies ahead and I am excited about becoming IronwomanCat. I am grateful that unlike my tri-club friend Tuan, I am healthy and not injured and I can continue training to meet my goal.

This weekend I will make up the 18 mile run and 110 mile ride. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to it. The run more so than the ride, of course.

I need to find somewhere flat to do my 110. Right now it looks like a choice between the W&OD trail (convenient but a pain with all of the obstacles) or driving 90 minutes out (and back) to (and from) Easton. There are a couple of organized century rides going on this weekend, but I don’t think any of them are the requisite flatness. Any ideas or suggestions?

If you would like to join me for all or part of my (slow) ride on Sunday, let me know. It would be nice to have some company.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm Begging!

Hi. Yup, it’s me. And yes, I am making another plea for you to help me meet my goal of raising $1000 for Doorways for Women and Families. That’s not a lot, is it?

There are some of you who’ve told me that you’d like to donate but you just haven’t yet. Cool. Others haven’t said so, but I just know that you really want to donate. The rest of you just need to be convinced. Hmmmm….how to do that?

I’ve already told you how great Doorways is. What I didn’t tell you is that Doorways was given the "2009 Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management" by the Washington Post. Impressive, eh?

Want more info? Check out this evaluation of Doorways by Charity Navigator which gives Doorways four stars! Or see Doorways’ own website which contains lots of information including how you an become a volunteer.

And if that’s not enough, well, consider how great it makes me feel when I get an email telling me that one of my wonderful friends or family has made a donation to Doorways through my site. Really, it makes me so happy and I truly appreciate your generosity.

Finally, if we can accomplish this goal sooner rather than later, you won’t have to ready many more blog posts about fundraising. :)

We’re almost half way there. Please help if you can. *Any* amount is appreciated. Thank you so much!

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm a bike geek!

This morning it hit me. I've become a bike geek!

My order from trisports arrived yesterday. I was so excited. Thanks to their email offering me 15% off everything, I got a whole bunch of little items that I never know I needed.

What did I get?

Don't laugh.

The first item I ordered is an aeronet. I'm sure this thing will change my life.

It holds a water bottle (purchased separately from Nashbar b/c trisports and the local shops didn't have it) AND stuff on your aero bars.

Why I need it: currently I overload my jersey pockets with food, bags of infinit, phone, etc. And I already have a big bento box. I use it to hold gels, bars, pills, etc. I don't know why, but it is always full.

So with the aeronet, if it works, I can hold an extra bottle of water, a banana (which I've been reluctant to put in my jersey so I haven't taken one), and other goodies. Now do you understand?

The next item in my goodie bag is a gel flask (with an adorable little holder thing that attaches to the bike).

Teammate Ryan was explaining to me how he uses his to mix up gels with water and protein powder for a convenient snack on the bike. While I don't think I'll go that far, I think it may solve my problem of taking gels on the bike.

Since I am not quite ready to ride with no hands, this might allow me to take the gels one-handed without leaving so much gu in the packet. Now I am a mess.

I do like my chocolate gu and hope that diluting it a little doesn't decrease the yumminess.

The next exciting item is a salt stick. I know, I hadn't heard of it before browsing around tri-sports, either.

The picture is of the big version. I got the mini version which should fit my road bike. You take out one of your handlebar plugs and stick the stick in there. If it works properly, I should be able to give it a little twist and out will pop one of my s-caps.

I'm looking forward to not trying to deal with opening a baggie or pill box while riding.

I am hoping that this isn't too difficult to install or use. We'll see.

This is all about trying to get maximum nutrition as quickly and easily as possible. I'm psyched. I post about how the new purchases work out. I am going to try them this weekend on my nice, easy-breezy 20-miler.

Oh how I love recovery weeks!

PS - I did get a couple of pairs of socks, too. And yes, I realize that all of these items aren't that bike-geeky. They're more tri-geeky.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to Myself

Someone, ahem [my sister Laura], has told me that she doesn't read my blog because my posts are too long. Fair enough. I know they're long. Heck, you should see all of the stuff I leave out.

So fine. I think I'll start inserting a nutshell version at the beginning of each post. Okay?

Nutshell Version:

I had a tough weekend but now it is recovery week. (That just means I work out less and not as intensely.)

I intentionally skipped last night's bike ride because I just didn't feel like it. My body said the couch would be better so I listened.

Today I had a great run.

I'm glad I rested.

How's that, Lau? :)

The longer version:

I was drained. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. And despite last night being the final Conte's BBQ of the year, I just had no energy to devote. So instead I made myself comfortable on the sofa and began reading "Becoming an Ironman," which my friend Joe so kindly loaned me a few weeks ago and after reading my last blog post gently urged me to start reading.

I felt mildly guilty about skipping the workout, but since I swam in the morning and it was a recovery week, I let it go.

Today I took a midday break to go for a run in this absolutely gorgeous weather (mid-70's and sunny). I had an awesome run. I just felt so good. I wanted to run faster than zone 2 would allow, and I yielded to the HR monitor. Afterwards I felt invigorated and athletic.

I am really glad I listened to my body and rested. In the long run, I think I am way better off.

The book is great. It contains short essays by athletes from all walks of life who've attempted Ironman. I think that was the first time I've sat down and read (when not on vacation) in over a year. Yikes!

I really appreciate everyone's support this week via my blog, email, and facebook. It is great to know that others have gone through this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Get your 2010 Colondar now!

The moment you've all been waiting for has arrived. The 2010 Colondar featuring my buddy Shawn has finally become available.

Nope, that's not a typo. "What is a Colondar?," you ask. Well, it is a calendar featuring photos of inspiring colon cancer survivors. I am very proud of my friend Shawn's valiant fight against cancer. Check out his blog and his post about the colondar.

Fight! Fight! Fight!