June 12, 2013

The Swim, The Bike, The Run

I'm not even gonna talk about how long it's been since I wrote a post.  Instead, let's just jump into exactly where I am with my training for the Chicago Triathlon in August!

I understand why, as far as human evolution is concerned, that we are programmed to forget pain.  If I remembered pain, I wouldn't ever want to try anything again, or push harder or faster than I have before to achieve my goals, so this is a worthwhile tool.  But I do have to say that I wish, so often, that I could bottle up the feeling of "AWESOME" that I get after I have spent some quality time in the pool.  It would make me want to swim more often than I do.  I did about 2000m yesterday (2K), officially longer than I will have to spend in the water during the race, and I felt GREAT when I was finished.  Nevermind the fact that I then proceeded to eat like I haven't seen food before (swimming does that to me) which essentially undid all the good I had just done in the pool, but the bottom line is, I felt like I could conquer the world.  Where is that feeling when the "I don't wannas" creep up?  But swimming has always been my strongest sport and the one that I chose first when I started this whole "exercise thing" in my quest to lose weight.  I've actually gotten pretty good and pretty fast now too, so I'm proud of my pool accomplishments and never really worry about having to complete that portion of the race.

Running, on the other hand, has not been my cup of tea recently.  I am training for the Chicago Women's Half Marathon which I will run next weekend (June 23rd) to officially bring me to over twice the distance that I will cover in the Tri - you know, just to make sure I can :)  I had planned to run a 15K on Monday of this week and then follow that up with an 11 miler this weekend to make sure I had the distance in me again before I taper.  But apparently I DON'T have the distance in me again at least as far as my body aches and pains are concerned and now I'm worried.

The weather has changed in Chicago again.  It's been a humid week and my allergies are starting to act up like crazy.  I thought I had managed to escape them this year with the colder weather, but not so much.  Whatever bloom gets in my nose and wreaks havoc has taken up residency in my sinus cavities and I want to rip my nose off my face.  Monday was a bad day for this and it just ended up not being my day to run 9+ miles.  I will also admit that I set out with a bit of a defeatist attitude and my bus card, which never helps, because dammit I'm tired and it was always in the back of my head that I could quit and bus it home.  I had a very long weekend of work and I just would have rather sat in front of the television all day.  But I didn't.  I got out there and ran.

Everything started out ok, I stayed slow and on my midfoot as much as possible.  I've been having trouble with heel striking which I think is causing a lot of my aches and pains, so I'm trying to stay present when I run and stay forward on my foot instead of pounding the pavement so hard.  I was tired and feeling the humidity by mile 4, but all was still good enough to keep plodding on.  I headed north on the Lakefront trail but underestimated in my head how much a mile and a half would be, so that always sets me back when I have to run way further than my mental picture of where I have to run to.  It makes me feel tired - more tired than I actually am.  I stopped for fuel (a GU pack) on my way back, but despite the extra fuel, I just crashed.  I slowed to a walk at 7 miles.  Then started the deal making.  Run to the next tree and you can walk for a minute.  You HAVE to run to Fullerton to the drinking fountain and then we can walk some more.  On and on.  Ugh. Finally, I HAD to run because I was out of time! I was supposed to report to work within a half hour and I was a good 3 miles from home.  I made it to the bus and perspired profusely the entire way home, noticing how badly my hip and knee were starting to tense up.  When I got up to exit the bus I felt the first wave of nausea pass over me and just prayed that I wouldn't pass out in the middle of the intersection.

*Odd side note - when I am not on birth control, I will often feel faint and have on occasion passed out after a run as my heart rate drops back down to lower than where it usually sits.  When I was on birth control, I never had an issue with this.  But I'm off it again (I hate what it does to my body and completely prevents me from losing weight, not to mention that I don't currently have a reason for it...boohoo...) and now the fainting spells have returned.  Obviously, it's completely hormonal, and the spells are absolutely tied to my monthly schedule - they are worse at certain times just after ovulation, and I perform my best on the first and second day of my period.  Anyone else have an issue with this?*

Anyway - I got home as fast as I could, but at this point my knee had completely locked up, stiffness everywhere, and I couldn't get ice on it fast enough.  This is an injury that happened during the marathon last year.  I was favouring my right hip which I thought was a case of bursitis (fluid and swelling around the hip ball socket that causes pain when the joint moves) but my massage therapist thinks it's actually my TFL - the muscle at the top of the hip that wraps around the hip bone and attaches to the quad muscle.  Since I was being ginger with my right leg, I was probably putting more pressure on my left to compensate and sure enough, my left knee locked up during the marathon at mile 16 and I ran with it like that for another 10 miles.  It was NOT comfortable.  And now BOTH of these aches are back again to haunt me.

I made it to 8 miles and called it a day.  And now I'm freaking out about being vastly undertrained for this Half Marathon next weekend.  The suggestions from fellow runners are to taper NOW, get off of the aches and pains and just rest, and to attempt the race with run/walk intervals, which is now my plan.  Thankfully one of my best running friends (Kathy from the Runner's for Boston night) is doing this one with me at 6 minute, 1 minute intervals, and so I'm planning on running it with her and doing the best that I can.

Which brings me to the bike, which I did today.  Do you have any idea how much easier it is to ride with air in your tires?  HAHAH!  This sounds like a no-brainer, but I am still really new with this whole bike thing, and after STRUGGLING for 30 miles during Bike The Drive over the long weekend in May, I was convinced that I was going to continue to hate the bike.  Until some guy at the end of the race yelled at me to get some air in my tires, and I heeded his advice.  I pulled up to the air cart and actually watched the guy fill my tires and it was like a light-bulb went off.  I have super thin tri-bike tires, which are very different from your standard large & fat easy-rider tire.  There is an air-release valve on these tires that actually needs to be ready to accept air!  And here I was trying and trying and failing to put air into my tires because I had never actually released that valve.  Duh.  So today I put in 12 miles (half of the Tri distance) in HALF the time that it took me to do it before, and all because I actually had full tires.  Amazing.  And - I don't hate the bike.  My butt only hurts half as much as it did before (it still hurts, but not as bad), my legs are way less fatigued, and since buying actual bike gloves, my hands also didn't take the beating that they did before having gloves.  Amazing what a little gear and knowledge can do for you!  Not to mention that I feel like a total badass when I'm suited-up properly.  Yeah baby - I own the road!

So all in all, it's coming along.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm not letting a small running set-back derail my entire process.  Thankfully, all three exercises are cross-training activities, so all work the muscle groups differently and swimming is non-impact.  There is hope for me yet.  And after the Half, I'll be able to lower my mileage again to a more manageable level every week so that I can start combining sports into brick workouts - usually swim/bike and then bike/run.  I would like to maintain a half marathon distance over the long term just in case I want to start training for another marathon.  It will make my life much easier.  But I think backing off to maintain a 10-miler every few weeks will suffice and will be much easier on my joints in the long run.  Heh...long run. Runner's jokes.  Haha.

In other news, I started my job at Fleet Feet Chicago this week.  More on that in another blog, but I won't let it go without saying that working for a national running store absolutely validates all this training.  And intimidates the crap out of me sometimes - but didn't someone smart say that we should do something that scares us every day?  Words to live by!