Back In the Swing of Things…ish

IRONMAN or BustWhen last we spoke I was in Vegas, basking in the glow of being engaged, taking a little time off my structured workout plan, and thinking about returning home and focusing on my training. I’ve also been thinking about this blog.

As much as I’ve struggled with my IM journey (and that’s a LOT!) I’ve struggled with blogging about it. My other blog is about intersectional fat activism which I find easy to write about. This blog about my training I find much more difficult, I think chiefly because I’m not sure how to blog in a way that isn’t boring as crap. I’ve tried a number of different strategies but none of them have really worked. So I think I’m going to write it without a real strategy this year – just a diary for me and anyone who is interested to follow along with my training (that may or may not be boring AF.)

So now that I’m back from vacation and getting into the swing of things, let me catch you up:

Swim:

Before I left for Vegas I had a swim lesson during which it was pointed out to me that my kick technique had somehow morphed from graceful and helpful, to graceless and utterly counter-productive. Oops.  I’ve been working on it and I’m feeling more like the correct kick is getting (re-) imprinted, and consequently feeling less like I used to be a mermaid and it’s my first day swimming with legs. Yay.

Bike:

I was so excited to get out there and start biking, and then the whole world was on fire and it was raining ash, so the two bike rides I had scheduled for last week ended up being trainer rides. I hate trainer rides with the fiery passion of a thousand suns – they are super uncomfortable, and hella boring (nothing like working your ass off and not going anywhere.) I have another bike ride scheduled for Wednesday of this week and I’ll actually get to take Phyxius outside and go somewhere which I’m pretty jazzed about.

Run: (rotflmao because otherwise I’ll just cry)

While my achilles heel heals I am strictly doing slow treadmill walking and aqua jog so there’s no running happening. In fun news Julianne joined my gym so now she often comes and does her workout in the pool while I’m aquajogging – Before I was often in the pool by myself so it’s nice to have someone who can hear me sing “I’m Bored” to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “I’m Bad”

Attitude:

Delightfully sarcastic as always!  Seriously, I’d been feeling pretty beat down by these years of total unsuccess at completing an IRONMAN, so I was having a hard time this year psyching myself back up. I spent some time watching the recap videos from the various IM races this year and I’m feeling the excitement and desire again. It is even more difficult than I imagined (and I imagined it was pretty damn difficult) but I can do this – I have an IRONMAN in me and this is going to be my year!

 

 

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Fourth Year Of My Two Year IM Plan

2018 registration emailSunday I was scheduled to race IRONMAN Arizona. Unfortunately my doctor told me that my ankle rehab is not far enough along to allow me to do it without risking serious injury.

If you’ve not been following along with the blog, I’ve had a cascade of ankle issues – first I tore a ligament on the front of the ankle. The ligament is completely healed, but now my achilles decided that it would enjoy creating lots of pain. Sigh. I can walk slowly with minimal pain, but pushing to a fast walk causes an intensely sharp pain on every step that disrupts my stride and pretty quickly devolves into a limp, and running is simply unbearable, so the IM is just not in the cards this year.

I’m sad, and frustrated, and angry, and depressed about it. This is the second year that I have signed up to compete but haven’t been able to. It’s extra upsetting this year because my training was going so well right up to the ligament injury, so I was feeling really confident that this was my year to do it. Instead, I did Life Time Tri San Diego, an absolutely lovely short course tri in which I had to protect the ankle since I was still hoping for a miracle recovery that would let me do the IM, so I didn’t even get to show off the improvement that I’ve made, which is maybe the most frustrating thing of all.

We had a Vegas celebration trip planned, well, postponed is more like it – we had also planned a Vegas celebration trip last year, partially because we enjoy Las Vegas, and partially because one of Julianne’s clients – she’s a Virtual Executive Assistant – has a timeshare here and gave her a two-week stay as a thank you gift! Since we can both work from anywhere we have the flexibility to do an extended working vacation.

The plan this year was to spend Thanksgiving week here with my family, and then have a week for our celebration. The resort graciously let us move up our dates so that we could make the first week our “I don’t want to be depressed at home on my IRONMAN day” vacation, and the second week the Thanksgiving with my family week.  Little did I know that bright lights, dollar Blackjack, and my mom’s delicious cooking weren’t all that awaited me in Vegas.

It turns out that my delayed IM completion has been delaying something else as well. Two years ago Julianne decided that she was going to propose during our IM celebration trip. She got the ring and she started making plans. Then I had to cancel the IM and we cancelled our big Vegas celebration trip. I registered for the 2017 IRONMAN and she put the proposal on hold.

Until now! Her proposal was PERFECT and included many of my favorite things including Julianne (my most favorite!) two dear friends, street musicians, a street magician, a fierce drag queen, a beautiful ring (an ethical lab emerald – exactly what I would have picked), and – because she knows me so well – A MEDAL! (that says “I said yes!” with the date and occasion engraved on the back!)

IMG_5251

So I didn’t get my IRONMAN medal this year, but I do get to marry my beloved which means (obviously!) even more!  And we decided to have a long engagement so that I can focus on IM training and not wedding planning in 2018, so by this time next year I hope to have an IM finisher’s medal to accompany my engagement medal.

The other good news is that in addition to all the other rehab/physical therapy things I’m doing, I’m trying to change some things about my stride and form, including getting used to some new orthotics, which requires me to walk relatively short distances slowly, focusing on form. A long trip to Vegas has proven to be work really well for that so far – since we’re not trying to do everything in three days we can just do a couple of things a day which gives me a chance to walk as much as I’m supposed to, but not overdo it. (Also, we went to the Ice Bar tonight and it was way more fun than just icing my ankle.)

So, as I begin the fourth year of my two year plan to complete an IRONMAN, I want to say thank you to the those of you who have followed this journey and supported and encouraged me, including those who bought books, DVDs and/or dance classes from my IM sale – I hope you are enjoying the books and dance classes as much as (actually, I hope you are enjoying them more than!) I’m enjoying the spandex clothes and bike parts!

It’s taking longer than I wanted or expected it to, and it’s been a really difficult journey. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more soon about why in the world I’m still doing this, but this post has drug on long enough and I’m tired so for now I’ll just say that I believe that I can finish IMAZ and I think big goals are worth the time and effort. I’m lucky to have such an incredible support system both in-person (including my fiancée, did I mention I’m engaged?  Because I’m engaged!) and online. So congratulations to this year’s IMAZ participants and finishers, and here’s to another year of getting out of my comfort zone and swimming, biking, and running toward that finish line at IRONMAN Arizona!

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Race Report – Life Time Tri San Diego

As I rehab my ankle to try to be able to do the IRONMAN this year, I had told y’all that I was looking forward to doing the short course triathlons that were on my schedule. Even that didn’t go as expected. I broke a spoke on my bike the night before the Long Beach Tri so I wasn’t able to compete at all, then the Newport Beach tri got cancelled, which left Life Time Tri San Diego as the last short course triathlon on my schedule.  There was a question as to whether or not I should do it because my ankle is responding to rehab and the general consensus was that I shouldn’t undo all that. While I understood that point of view, I really wanted to do the race and cross the finish line.

So we settled on a compromise – I would do the SuperSprint (.24 mile swim, 6.35 mile bike, 1.65 mile run) instead of the Sprint (about twice as long,) I would’t push a big gear on the bike, and I would absolutely not, under any circumstances, run (not in transition, not during the run, not at all.)

So I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be about racing to get my best time, but practicing being out on the course and enjoying being in a race. I train alone and so it’s important for me to get practice  with open water swimming and biking in a race. I also decided that in addition to my usual goal – which is just to focus on getting to the finish line and getting my medal, that I would really try to enjoy actually being out on the course.

Race Morning (more like middle of the night, really. Why can’t we do these at night?)

One of the things that I look forward to about the full IRONMAN is that you get to change clothes. This isn’t just because I don’t enjoy cycling in clothes that are soaked with ocean water and sand (though I don’t) but also because they don’t really make tri shirts in my size (I’m a size 26/28 and even companies that claim to sell up to a 4x don’t come close to fitting me.) I was able to find tri shorts from Aerotech designs (I’m not affiliated, I just appreciate that they make clothing in my size) and thanks to a recommendation from a Fit Fatties member (thanks Katie!) I found a tankini to pair with it from swimsuitsforall (they once gave me a free suit, but I bought the rest with my own money and I’m not affiliated.)

If I was racing for time I probably would have just worn the tankini throughout (despite the serious chaffing that would occur,) but since time wasn’t really of the essence I decided to change out of it after the swim and wear my bike shirt on the bike and my Flying Rhinos shirt for the run.

I convinced Julianne that I should take an Uber so that she could go back to sleep for a little bit so I took my bag of stuff and bike pump and headed to the race site. My bike rack mates were awesome and hilarious as we all set up our transition areas. They had told us during the course briefing that we were allowed to put shoes at the specialty table for when we got out of the swim and I decided to do that.

I headed down to the water. We were allowed to get in and warm up and I dipped my hand in.  I was very excited that it was nice and warm. I elected not to get in because it was about 8 degrees colder outside the water than inside and I didn’t want to stand there and freeze until my wave. The race was wetsuit legal, but I’ve been really intimidated in the past to swim without a wetsuit so I had decided that this was a good opportunity to get over that.

I went and left my shoes and that’s when I learned that walking barefoot on the boat launch was not very fun at all. I looked up to find that I was not the only person mincing around, and I talked to several people who agreed that this would be the toughest part of the tri for sure! I was befriended by an amazing woman named Kay and we hung out and talked while we waited for our swim start.

The Swim:

It was a wave start, they sent 2 people in every 5 or so seconds. They suggested that we try to self-seed within the wave (I think his exact words were “If you’re not the world’s strongest swimmer, don’t lead the charge!) I’m a decent swimmer but certainly not the fastest so I put myself about half way back in the wave. I headed down the dock with my new buddy, dove in and started swimming.  There was contact at the beginning – getting bumped and kicked and such – and I didn’t freak out so that was a nice victory.

Then things got frustrating  – there were three women in front of me who were struggling – they would swim freestyle for a little bit, then switch to backstroke or breast stroke, or just stop and tread water. I didn’t feel like I could get between them without bumping/kicking them which I worried would freak them out, and in terms of passing at that point it was like being behind a car that’s broken down in the middle lane – the people behind me were all passing on both sides, besides, to pass on the right I would have had to go around the lifeguard which I’m pretty sure isn’t allowed, and to pass on the right I would have to swim across all three of them, then try to pass them, all while other people were swimming by.

To be clear, the women in front of me weren’t doing anything wrong, the problem here is that I didn’t have the skill/experience to deal with the situation so I just swam at their pace which was probably the wrong thing to do.  I definitely need to get more practice in the open water. I knew that it was taking too long but I wasn’t sure how long, I looked down at my watch and realized that I had neglected to start it.  Genius!

Per the official results I was 70th out of 85 people overall, and 50 out of 59 in my division.

Transition 1

This was the first time that the urge to run hit, I watched people zoom by me as I made what the walk back to my bike. I switched shirts and then started to rinse my feet and put on my socks and shoes.  That process did not go as smoothly as I would have hoped.  Net result, I left T1 82 of 85 and 57 of 59.

The Bike

I got to the mount line and prepared to get going, just as I started to pedal someone came up really close to me on the left. It startled me, and for a terrifying millisecond I was afraid I was going to crash on the mount line.  But I got going smoothly and headed out.

Soon after I got on the course I executed my first pass which also went smoothly, so I was feeling pretty good. The only way I can really get any speed on a flat course is to push a big gear. I can spin at a high cadence until the cows come home in an easier gear but I just don’t get speed.  I was under instruction not to push a big gear on the bike because of my ankle so I felt like I was crawling along. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery.  In addition to my wave, there were relays going on and so people from the relays started passing me, and I passed a few more people. Everyone was friendly and we cheered each other on which was awesome.

As I got close to the dismount line my old fear of falling down (a very real fear based on  the fact that when I started training on the bike I fell almost every time I tried to stop,) came bubbling to the surface.  It’s been ages since this was a problem but the after the blip at the mount line the idea of biting it on the dismount line was not appealing.  It went completely smoothly and I suppressed the urge to cheer for myself out loud. I finished the bike 80 out of 86 and and 53 of 59.

Transition 2

I can get lost in a hotel or shopping mall so I had practiced coming from bike in and finding my bike on the rack. Still, I was momentarily disoriented but I pulled it together and  quickly found my bike rack.  I changed my shirt, changed my shoes and pondered a problem.  I had needed to pee since the beginning of the bike, I was looking at over 30 minutes to finish this run and while I felt like I could hold it, it didn’t sound like much fun.

The “Run”

Ultimately I decided that since I was looking at over 30 minutes for this run, adding a couple minutes to pee wasn’t really a big deal. I hit the port-a-potty that was just a few yards into the run, and then headed out. For me, of course it was a walk. And a slow walk at that.  I tried to push the pace and was rewarded with ankle pain. Dammit.

The spectators and volunteers though the whole day had been amazing and this wasn’t any exception.  People were super supportive and encouraging. I met lots of fun people on the path and tried to just enjoy my time on the course. It was getting seriously hot outside and so I was ready to be done. As I checked my watch and saw my pace the urge to run, just a little bit, just to make up some time, was really strong (who would have thought that I would actually want to run?) As I got near the finish line the urge to run became nearly over whelming, but I kept my promise and kept my pace.

One super cool thing about this tri is that they were announcing people’s names at the finish line. They called my name and I raised my arms (which is how I always try to cross the finish line) and finished the tri. Despite the fact that it was ridiculously hot and she had to park a mile away, Julianne was right there, cheering and taking pictures. I was then greeted by a throng of volunteers handing me my medal, cold water and Gatorade and a lovely towel soaked in cold water.

My overall feelings are somewhat mixed. The event was awesome, the people were amazing, and I made my overall goal (cross finish line, get medal.)

I’m definitely not sad about being slow or being last place. There’s no shame in my slow game. In the words of the awesome Jeanette DePatie “I own last place, I make last place work!”

The frustrating thing is that I didn’t get to see all my training pay off on race day. I’ve worked so hard and trained so many hours and I didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of those labors. Still, crossed finish line, got medal!

Thanks to Life Time Tri, all the crew, volunteers, spectators, and most especially Julianne for a great race! If my doctor doesn’t ok me to do the IRONMAN then this was a lovely way to end the year. Huge thanks to Coach Steve – anything I do well is thanks to his guidance, anything I don’t is totally on me!

Here are some pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop and Celebrate

In a further return to post-injury normalcy, I’m finally back on the road with Phyxius We’ve been working on the trainer for a few reasons – I can make it as easy as I want to, so I can work on cadence even if the ankle doesn’t allow me to push at all, I don’t run the risk or a crash or an emergency that causes me to have to step down onto the bad ankle, I don’t run the risk of a mechanical issue that causes me to have to walk miles back to my car in my cycling shoes.  Which is to say that it make good sense but I’m happy to be feeling better and back on the road.

Those of you who’ve been here since the beginning (I should send you your own medal!) may remember that when I first got my bike riding wasn’t a big problem, but stopping was.  I basically fell over almost every time I stopped.  It was ridiculous. It turns out it was also emotionally scarring.  Even thought it’s been forever since I’ve fallen, it’s in the back of my mind every time I stop.

For those who may be wondering, the problem seems to be that  I was scared to really hit the brakes so I would just slow down to a crawl and then kind of try to stop Barney Rubble style, putting my foot down before the bike was fully stopped.  Then…I would be on the ground.  Not awesome.

Considering it had been a long while since I had ridden on anything but a trainer, on my first ride back my anxiety about stopping the bike started before I even got on the bike. By the end of the relatively short ride I was getting pretty worried – I’ve never actually been injured falling like this, but it’s exceptionally humiliating. As I rode into the parking lot it was full of people.  Frickin perfect.  I hung my good leg off the bike, hit the brakes hard and came to a graceful stop.  I played it cool, but in my head I was celebrating like Rube in Major League 2 when he successfully throws to the pitcher.  Was it an act worthy of celebration? No.  Was I (internally at least) celebrating anyway? You bet your ass.

Now I’ve got some rides in on the road and it’s feeling great to be back out and …knock on carbon…all my stops have been fall-free.

All smiles after stopping successfully at the end of my ride last night!

9.12.17 Bike

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Now An Actual Rain Cloud

I’ve been enjoying open water swimming recently and this weekend I headed to the ocean to try out my new Aquatard from Swimsuits for All  (full disclosure, they gave me a suit a while back to try out,  I liked it so much I paid my own money for this suit, I don’t get compensated for linking to it, I just thought people might like to know where they could get one.)  I bought it because I haven’t been able to find a tri suit in my size and this is one of the things I’m considering using as one. It was around 5:30pm and the beach wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be, which was nice.  Julianne and her visiting family decided to play in the water while I did my swim.

I took off and felt really strong though it was tough going for the first half – the water was a bit choppy, and there were a ton of boats outside the swim area which made it even choppier in an totally unpredictable way.  It’s still a weird sensation to me to be swimming while little waves hit me in the head every few seconds, and I understand that this is nothing compared to people who swim in real waves.

Unfortunately there were lots of stand up paddle boarders and kayakers in the swim area.  Despite my efforts to avoid them one of them bumped up against me trying to get over the rope that divides the swim section.  I pointed out where the launch area where she wouldn’t have to deal with the rope for the way back, but she was struggling and I was afraid it would take her the entire time that she had rented the kayak for to get over there so I held the rope down so she could join her friend (whose sole contribution to the situation had been to float on the other side in his kayak and scream “PADDLE!”) and wished her well.

As I turned around and headed back I’m pretty sure the tide was coming in because the ocean was trying to push me back onto the beach. My sighting left much to be desired – I knew I was drifting but then I heard a conversation on one of my breaths and thought “What are people doing out here?” Turns out they were hanging out in the shallows and I should maybe take another less in sighting.

Maybe writing about my perceived personal rain cloud was tempting the whatever from high atop the thing, because I suddenly felt an odd sensation – I picked my head up and realized that it had started to rain – sprinkle, really but this is Southern California so people were freaking out and engaging in a mass exodus.  This become more comical a couple of minutes later when it started POURING down rain and people began to run from the beach like they might melt (and to be fair there’s no way to know if you will since there’s never rain here.)

On another breath I heard a stand up paddle boarders scream “Oh my god I’m getting soaked”  that would be something that I would assume was well within the realm of possibilities were I balancing on a piece of plastic in the middle of the ocean, but I imagine people who have some skill can expect that they will stay dry the whole time.

And lest you think that I’m immune to questionable behavior in the face of precipitation, I started to ask myself questions like “Does rain bring toothy sea creatures to the surface?” And “am I going to be hit by lightening?” It definitely put the proverbial spring in my metaphorical step and I finished the swim in a respectable time.

As we drove away Southern Californians were being Southern Californians in a way that made me smile – people beeping every few seconds and turning on the hazard lights to make sure that… I’m not sure actually but it’s adorable though Julianne’s relatives who were visiting from Montana were less than impressed with our inability to handle…really any weather at all.

The new suit passed the test, sort of.  I don’t love swimming in the aquatard, it’s a bit of the vague discomfort of a wetsuit without the speed and buoyancy benefits, but it may well work if I had to bike and then run after this.  And I think has more drag than a regular suit which, if it’s true, makes it a helpful training tool.

Workout selfie and post workout “look at this rain!” picture

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My Personal Rain Cloud

Triathlon raincloudI feel like the three years that I’ve spent training for a IM have had a bit of a little rain cloud over them. There are little things – just recently my dog chewed up the charger to my heart rate monitor, I went to put on my wetsuit and it ripped, ongoing issues finding gear and kit that actually fit me, blah blah blah.

But there have also been much bigger challenges as well – I’ve gotten  sick at the worst possible times, had frustrating injuries, a really unexpected DNF out of the water at a half IRONMAN attempt, and though I’ve worked really hard I just haven’t gotten better as fast as I thought I would.

This torn ligament has put me firmly under the cloud.  First, I tore it. Then it was re-injured when a lady stepped on it with all her weight, now it’s getting better (again!) but all the stuff I did to heal it has aggravated my achilles.  I went to the doctor to get more x-rays and I have a heel spur.  It’s possible that I’ve had it for a long time since I had been managing achilles pain for a while, but now it’s not just at the beginning of activity, it’s all the time.  So all of my physical therapy activities are switching to managing that.

My doctor thinks I can avoid surgery (which is great since he says that would be five months with basically no training) and get it back under control with PT and icing and such and get back to running in 2-3 weeks. At this point I’ll be fine to do the shorter races on my schedule (I may have to walk the run, but I can definitely finish them) but while lord knows I’ve been aqua jogging my ass off, I’m ridiculously behind in my run training and once again in serious danger of not being able to complete the Ironman. Which blows.  And I want to be clear that any successes are shared with Coach Steve and any failures are mine alone.

So I’ll have to decide whether or not to try this year (provided my doctor even thinks it’s a good idea) But then there’s the bigger question – do I turn this two year project into a four year project and try again in 2018. I’ve certainly come a very long way since not being able to swim 10 laps without feeling like I was dying, and falling down almost every time I stopped my bike. My last really long run was super promising and made me feel like I could definitely get it done this year – until I found out that I had torn a ligament doing it.

My friends and family and especially Julianne are incredibly supportive of me – and also remind me that I’m a good and worthy person whether or not I ever cross and IM finish line. I know that’s true, and it’s reassuring, but I also believe that I can cross the finish line and I really want to. I took on this challenge knowing that I wasn’t going to be good at it, I just didn’t know how right I was! So for right now I’m going to worry about getting my ankle healthy (the good news is that I have a super common injury so the path to getting better is clear) and focusing on the short distance triathlons I have coming up, and then I’ll make a decision about the IM next year.

 

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Whale Watching

Last week was a fairly normal week of training, three swims, three bikes, two strengths and two aqua jogs, the only excitement being that I was out of town speaking at the Summer of Body Love Conference (which was awesome, hi everybody!) and that meant the joy of working out in a sketchy hotel gym.  Biking on an ancient stationary bike, strength workout using body weight since they didn’t have proper strength equipment, and then aqua jogging in the moonlight in the hotel pool while an amorous couple looked like they very much wished I would leave.

This week had much more excitement.

On Monday I was scheduled for an Open Water Swim.  Julianne decided that she wanted to swim as well so we headed to the beach. We got into water only to be thrown out by the lifeguard.  It turns out there was a baby whale in the area. According to the lifeguard, the baby was separated from his mother in Mexico and he has been making his way up the California coast. He explained that the baby is confused and lost, and appears malnourished but because he is Federally protected (as a grey whale) there is nothing that they can do. A crowd was gathering and soon enough he surfaced in the middle of the canal.  Then a few minutes later he surfaced in the middle of the swim area.  We stayed for a while and saw him surface several times – it was both sad and magnificent – and then we wished him well and headed home.

So I swapped my Monday and Tuesday workouts and did my speed work on the bike trainer and strength workout on Monday.  On Tuesday Julianne and I headed back to the ocean and this time we got to swim.  I decided that it was high time that I do my open water swimming without my wetsuit. That is how I learned that I somehow feel like my wetsuit has stealth capabilities, as if being in the water without it would make me a sure target for sea creatures (this was not helped by my newfound knowledge that the swim area is deep enough to completely contain an 18 foot whale.)

The first half was against the current which is always interesting, feeling the small waves rhythmically hitting me in the head as I fought to make progress. The way back was MUCH easier except that I had to dodge four adolescents who had decided to paddle – well, try to paddle – inflatable boats in the swim area. It seems like no matter how I tried to get around or past them they kept floating really close to me and they couldn’t control the boats so my progress was slowed by constantly swimming around me.

I also realized that I have never named my Garmin, which is odd since I name basically everything.  At the end of this swim I realized that she had shorted me by quite a bit and that sealed the deal – her name is officially “Cruel Mistress” or CM for short.

Then yesterday was swimming speed work – I was totally thrilled with how it went, I was able to hold speeds much faster than I have previously been able.  I decided to really focus on breathing (I have a tendency to lift my head too far out of the water which hurts my neck and is inefficient) so I focused on breathing in the TI way of keeping one eye in the water.  It was more efficient and comfortable but it also caused me to swallow a bunch of pool water which was less fun, but at least I was fast. Then it was aqua jogging to finish off the day!

Workout Pictures:

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