Thursday, September 30, 2010

I forgot to mention...

...a few things when describing my Build phase. The first and probably most important thing: the weekends. With my weekly average dropping so significantly from the last phase to this one, my long, low- to middle-intensity weekend rides have become incredibly important. Now that I'm only swimming, running or riding 6-8 hours during the middle of the week, I have to be absolutely sure that my weekends account for the remaining 10-12. Sure, I'm doing tons of intervals and intensity work... but an Ironman's an all-day event, remember?

Secondly, and I mentioned this in my "post-Big K" post, is most of my runs need to be a part of bike/run bricks. I don't really need to do a whole lot of long running -- I'm actually probably better off not doing that -- but I do need to be sure to make what time I do spend running count. We'll see how it goes.

Finally, did you know that I'm a celebrity? Well, not really... but there was a photo of me on the front page of BusinessWeek.com for a day!

Nice bike!

Intensity

Just because I haven't gone for a run in what feels like an eternity doesn't mean I haven't been keeping up with my other disciplines. After the triathlon in mid-September, I enjoyed a scheduled "rest week" before launching into the second phase of my training: Build.

I probably averaged about 25 hours of training per week during my twelve-week Base phase, but all of those hours were long and slow. I was laying a broad foundation with long hours at a low heart-rate. Well, Build is where things get a little bit more interesting - and a little bit less time-consuming.

At this point, I've scaled back from 22-28 hours per week down to 17-20. I've eliminated all of my mid-week rides and replaced them with two high-intensity, power-based spin classes per week. I'm swimming more, but that's only because I'm unable to run. I've upped the intensity in several of those pool sessions and turned one of them (either Tuesday or Thursday morning) into a super-hard VO2 Max workout. Oh, it burns.

I plan to ease back into running in the next week or two. The first Build block ends in about ten days, at which point I'll be able to enjoy a lighter week before embarking on the next one, where I'll probably ratchet down to 15-17 hours per week, but incorporate additional VO2 swims, interval runs and intensity rides.

So... that's the plan. Less than nine weeks to go.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Broken!

ALRIGHT! After an agonizingly long week of waiting, I finally had my follow-up at the podiatrist today to go over the results of the MRI I had last week. Rather that beat around the bush, I'll just come right out and say it: my foot is not broken! At least, they don't think it's broken: "No low signal fracture line is identified." I've also managed to avoid tearing any ligaments or tendons: "The tibialis anterior and extensor tendons are intact."

Great news for sure, but... if my foot looks healthy, why does it still hurt? The doctors are attributing the pain to some tendonitis. Apparently I have a "cornuate navicular with mild distal tibialis posterior tendiosis." In plain English, that means I have a small bony bump on one of the bones that one of the ligaments on the inside of my foot runs over, and that bony bump is rubbing angrily against the tendon there. Fun stuff.

So... how what? It's been two weeks since I've done any running and I still have mild mid-foot pain. I'm worried that if I do any running, it's just going to re-aggravate the area and I'll be hobbling around for another weekend. They've prescribed me a steroid anti-inflammatory that they think will help the area rid itself of the tendonitis; I'm scheduled to embark on a 17-day course of those meds tomorrow morning. Hopefully they work fast and I can get back to running like a normal person by mid-October?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

X-Ray Vision

I went to see a foot specialist on Tuesday about the issue(s) I'm having with my right foot. She ordered up a few x-rays. When they were all done, they burned those images to a disc and handed it to me as I was on my way out the door. Has this been general practice for a while? I suppose I don't get x-rays often enough. Either way, it's cool as heck.

My feet!
The x-rays were inconclusive; hairline stress fractures don't normally appear on x-rays until after the fissue begins to heal. (The "new bone" material that your body produces is more dense than the surrounding bone.) I may not have been able to learn much from the image above, but it is crazy/cool to think about. I should've been a radiologist.

The next step up from an x-ray is an MRI, which I had done yesterday. I was a little bit worried I wouldn't be able to keep still for the full hour the scan takes, but it wasn't so bad. The elevator music they were piping in to the chamber put me right to sleep. When they were all done, I packed up and was about to head out when they, too, handed me a disc. Sweet!

When I got home from work, I loaded it into my computer and opened it up. The resulting file showed four-panel image of my foot from the top, bottom, left and right. Using the scroll wheel, I was able to cycle through "slices" of my foot. Pretty cool stuff. I wish I knew more about reading this stuff, though - it's so freakin' interesting.

This is my freakin' foot!
The doctor's apparently going to review these scans today and chat with the specialist over the next few days. I have a follow-up scheduled for Tuesday of next week, but I am going to make a few quick phone calls to see if I can learn anything this afternoon or tomorrow. I'd really like to know what it is I'm dealing with, here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nothing to report... yet

Alright, it's been a weekend and the pain in my foot has died down to manageable levels (e.g. I can walk on it without limping too much). I went to see a specialist this morning; the doctor did some poking and prodding. She took some X-rays which proved to be inconclusive, and ordered an MRI which I hope to schedule for this afternoon or tomorrow. I'm headed back to the podiatrist to review the results of the MRI a week from today.

According to the doctor, there are a few possible situations. Optimistically, it's just some severe tendonitis around and underneath an accessory bone (navicular) on my right foot. Less optimistically, that same tendon could be torn and/or pulling away from the bone itself. Pessimistically, it's a stress fracture.

Swimming and cycling don't hurt much, if at all, so I've been keeping up with those disciplines and will continue to do so until I get a concrete diagnosis and/or someone straps me to the sofa and says, "STOP!"

Ten weeks 'til the race. I'll keep y'all posted.

Friday, September 17, 2010

No News is Bad News

I am at the doctor this afternoon for a regular checkup. I had him take a look at my foot, which has been bothering me since Sunday. He couldn't tell me it was or wasn't a stress fracture, but I bet you $100 it is.

Ugh.

I'm screwed. So freaking screwed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big-K Quick Thoughts and Take-Aways

My wetsuit fits. I was worried it was too tight around the shoulders, but I felt fine after this swim. Part of me wanted to explore the option of a sleeveless wetsuit for Australia, but I think I'm good to go with what I've already got.

Currently dealing with some strange pain on the inside of my right foot, below my ankle... It doesn't feel like muscle/tendon pain. Worrisome.

I need to practice grabbing gels and bottles at aid stations. I'm just not very good at it. I also need to practice Speedfil'ing my Speedfil on the go.

I'd like to figure out how people do the what whole "pre-clip your bike shoes into your bike" thing, where they actually start riding on top of their shoes and then slip their feet in on the go.

There has to be a better way to get my shoes on during T2. Maybe I just need to get better at tying them.

More bricks. I need to be able to hit my stride much earlier in the run. If I had to guess, I'd say my first three miles were at 10-minute per mile pace, and my last 10 were at 7-minute per mile pace. That's crap.

I need to make sure I warm down after events like this. I am seriously hurting right now.

It's going to be really, really hot in Australia. How am I going to prepare for temperatures like that? Going to have to start wearing thermal cycling gear on nice, sunny days to get my sweat on.

Speed work is part of the Build phase, but this race only underscored the importance of interval training. I can get faster.

Speaking of speed work, I have to incorporate that into my swim practices and runs as well as my rides. One day per week needs to be high-intensity intervals for both of those disciplines.

The decreased volumes I'm about to start enjoying should leave me with some extra time on my hands. I want to use some of that to work on my core strength (especially my lower back), flexibility and so forth. Stretching, maybe some yoga.  need to build that in to my routine.

My diet has faltered since that stomach virus. I've got to get back on track stay there 'til December. Once this triathlon's over, pizza and beer every night for a month.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Kahuna Race Report

It's Monday morning and I can barely walk. My legs are ridiculously sore and I owe all of that pain to yesterday's Big Kahuna long-course triathlon. It was awesome.

The Backstory

After a short (2-3 day) mini-taper, I packed up the car and hit the road for Santa Cruz. I was expecting warmth and sun and got neither; I was greeted in SC by weather that was not unlike what I'd just left in San Francisco. In fact, it was worse. What a scam! Slightly disappointed. Anyway, I picked up a monster salad from Whole Foods, checked-in at the hotel and watched the second half of the Penn State game before hitting the sack early.

The course in Santa Cruz is fairly straightforward. It starts with a 1.2-mile ocean swim, clockwise around a large wharf. From the beach, there's actually a fairly long (2-3 block) run to the transition area. The bike course is out-and-back, 56 miles of thick rollers on Route 1 - the Pacific Coastal Highway. The run's also out and back, with the first and last four miles on hard pavement (ugh), the stuff in the middle on packed trail (awesome), and the last 500 meters on the beach (sand, mega-ugh) for a total of 13.1 miles.


As mentioned above, the weather was slightly disappointing, though the thick, gray marine layer made for fairly ideal race conditions, temperature-wise. Route 1 was damp and winds were higher than expected, especially the gusts off the ocean.

I arrived on the scene before 6 o'clock, scoped out a good spot in the transition area and began setting up. I've said this before, but this might be my favorite part of any triathlon - setting up your transition area and watching everyone else do the same, all in pre-dawn darkness. There's just such a great, nervous/excited energy to all of that activity.

I still don't know how she did it (magic?!), but Kristine appeared around 6:30, helped me put the finishing touches on my transition and then faithfully photographed the entire event. Awesome!

Anyway, here we go...

The Swim

Wetsuit on, we walked to the beach where many of the competitors were milling about. At this point, you're either doing one of two things: warming up, or staring numbly at the water and trying to understand why the heck you signed up for this whole thing in the first place. I don't know what the exact temperature was, but one thing's for sure: it wasn't warm. Between 55 and 60 degrees, from what I understand.

They were starting us in age group-based waves separated by five minutes, with the pros and youngsters (24 and under) shoving off first, followed by my wave of 25-29'ers and so on. As mentioned before, the swim course is out from the beach, between two sailboats, clockwise around a large wharf (and past a buoy or two) and then back in toward the beach on the north side of the wharf.

After a bit of waiting around, the gun sounded and my wave was off. Most of the people in my age group seemed taller than me (normal) and I wasn't able to get a good read on anyone's prowess as a swimmer before we hit the water. Once we were all horizontal and swimming, most of the guys formed a large V-shaped pack to my left and were quite obviously swimming a poor line to and through the sailboats. Wondering where they were going, I kept on sighting and went my own (more direct) way. After about twenty strokes, I had left the pack behind. By the time I reached the sailboats, I was already catching stragglers from the group ahead of me!


Suffice it to say, I was cruising. Around the wharf, around the buoy, then back in toward the shore - stroke after stroke, I was eating up space between myself and the beach. The temperature really didn't bother me once I got moving. There was a twinge in my shoulder, but I put it out of my mind. I passed more and more silver-capped swimmers. I felt great.

Two complaints about the swim: first, there was a severe lack of guide buoys. I can imagine people swimming way off course. That's no fun. And second, the swim "finish line" on the beach was a giant, inflatable Muscle Milk arch... and it was dark brown. That, combined with the dark sand and dim light made it very difficult to sight until I got pretty close to shore.


Despite those, I managed just fine and busted out of the water, through the gate and on to T1 feeling pretty darn good about myself.

That bike looks sweeeet.
The Ride

This was a ride of firsts: my first race on the time trial bike I bought in July, and my first ride on the aero wheelset I bought two weeks ago.  I hit the transition area, mounted up and set out - through town for the first few miles and then north along the damp, chilly PCH for another 20+. While I wouldn't call the course "hilly," it certainly wasn't "flat." Large, gradual rollers gave way to long, gradual descents with often-amazing views of the California coastline. Or so I'm told; I wasn't actually out there to enjoy the scenery.

The first hour flew by. I attributed my smooth, scorching pace to those new wheels ("It's like mechanical EPO!") - and then I hit the turn-around point at mile 28 and realized I'd been enjoying a tailwind that whole time. The worst thing about realizing you've spend almost 30 miles enjoying a tailwind on an out-and-back course is that you know you've got almost 30 miles ahead of headwind ahead of you.

I did my best to stay as aero as possible without my back tightening up too much (it hurt pretty bad toward the end of the ride) and kept slamming down gels and sucking down water. When I finally turned off of Route 1 and into Santa Cruz itself, I was elated - I couldn't wait to be off the bike.

Two complaints about the ride: first, there was a set of SUPER slick train tracks around mile 14. My back wheel almost slide out crossing them on the way over, but I managed to keep the bike upright. Close call, though. (By the time I got back there at mile 44, they were actually asking people to unclip and walk across. Too many crashes.) Second, the high gusts off the ocean combined with those deep-dish rims is a bit sketchy, especially on exposed descents. At one point, a massive tourist bus blew by me as I was coming down a hill. The wave of wind that it carried with it almost knocked my bike right out from under me -- at almost 40 miles per hour. Absolutely terrifying.


The Run

The second transition could've been a bit faster, but my fingers were so sticky with nearly-dried Hammer gel that it took me multiple tries to get my laces tied. Frustrating! I grabbed a bottle and another gel and set out again, this time on foot.

I hadn't run a lick in two weeks thanks to a painful bout of shin splints, so this was to be the race's biggest question mark. The first four miles were terrible. My legs just plain hurt. I had to hop into a bathroom at one point and empty my bladder. I couldn't find my stride. I was being passed left and right. It was ugly.

Around mile 4, a few things happened. I picked up another gel at one of the aid stations, the course turned from pavement to packed dirt, and I started singing the Eagles fight song to keep my spirits high. By my third or fourth round of "E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!" I seemed to find a groove. The pain started to melt away and I settled into a nice, easy lope.

At mile 6, my spirits were so high that I thought I'd share them with others, so I began shouting friendly words of encouragement to everyone who I crossed paths with. "Lookin' good dude," or "Rock on buddy," or "Nice work!" Every. Single. Person. And let me tell you, I crossed paths with a LOT of people (the entire field) on the way back (as they were on their way out). Amazing what a smile and a few friendly words'll do for someone who's struggling a little.


Thanks to that little distracting game, the miles melted away. Before I knew it, I had hit the beach for the final 500 meters. Running on sand to round out 13.1 miles is unpleasant, but it wasn't the "kick in the pants" I'd been warned about. I grit my teeth and pounded it out, drilling down the finishing straight and across the line.


The Aftermath

I crossed the line feeling great. All of that positivity on the run had me in the best mood ever. There was no collapsing at the finish. I felt awesome. Someone put a lei around my neck, and then they handed me a super cool finisher's medal. Kristine found me. We celebrated. It was great to have someone watching, taking pictures and cheering me on; I had fully expected to be down there on my own!

Sweat and salt
We set about the tasks of packing and post-race refueling. By the time we got in the car, exhaustion (and soreness) was starting to set in.

Oh, we did check the splits before hitting the road. My swim was 23-mid (1st!), my bike was 2:34 (21.8 mph avg., 40th) and my run was 1:48 (8:18 minutes per mile, 109th) for a grand total of 4:52.22. I need to become a better runner. Need to. But anyway, breaking 5 hours? Bad ass!!

Anyway, the soreness has only gotten worse. Stairs are not my friend. I definitely should've warmed-down yesterday. But all-in-all, a great race. I'm sure I have a few more thoughts, but I'm seriously tired of typing. If anything else comes to mind, I'll add it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

PSYCHED

For whatever reason, I am so psyched (PSYCHED!) right now about the next three months. I don't know why I am feeling so especially excited tonight. I had a rather disappointing 5.5-hour day yesterday and a slightly less-than-stellar 6.5-ish day on the bike today, but despite that and the stomach issues, I feel... strangely refreshed. Well-rested. Refocused. Ready.

89 days. Bring it, Busselton.

BRING IT, BUSSELTON.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Derailed / Lemonade

Something wacky happened to my stomach yesterday, and by wacky, I actually mean extremely painful. I don't know whether it was something I ate or if it was just the fact that I did eat. Either way, I was doubled over in pain all night and checked myself into the emergency room early this morning to make sure nothing more sinister was going on. I got home just before lunch and haven't eaten a whole lot since.

Needless to say, I did not embark upon my scheduled, 6-hour bike ride out to Marshall this morning, making this the first day of training I've missed since the beginning of June. That's a long time, but the streak was bound to be broken some time.

This was supposed to be the penultimate weekend of my three-month base phase, but that's been derailed. Rather than try to get sneaky and re-arrange this week's hours to account for the unexpected off-day and hit my epic, 29.5-hour target, I think I'm going to take this opportunity to let my body recover from the intense volumes I've been logging for nearly three months.

To be completely honest, I don't think another 25+ hour week of base mileage will really make all that big a difference. I'd rather circle back and get ready to tackle the all-important, eight-week Build phase that runs from mid-September to early November. (I'm not-so-secretly super excited for Build. Base is getting dull.)

This is actually going to work out well, especially with Big Kahuna next weekend. Rather than training all the way up to and through the event to gauge my "baseline" performance, I think I will actually cut my losses and turn this week into a sort of mini-taper. Not to mention the fact that it'll give my shins (getting better, thanks to RICE) and shoulder (getting worse, depending on what side I sleep on) a little break.

Hopefully I'll be fine to ride tomorrow. I'd like to get the 5.5 hour (mixed) and 6 hour (ride only) sessions I had planned for Sunday and Monday in regardless of "mini-taper," but I think it'll all depend on whether or not my abdomen lets me sleep tonight. Then I'll step down an hour every day 'til Saturday and lay it all on the line on Sunday morning.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, in my case, sign up for a Half-Ironman and make lemonade-flavored Gatorade.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sunset Ride

The days are getting shorter, so a few days ago, the Mission Cycling crew set out for the final Thursday evening "sunset ride" of the "summer." I use quotation marks there because we haven't actually had a summer here in San Francisco yet, and because I don't think the sunset has actually been seen on a single ride this year.

I left work around 5 PM to a warm breeze and lots of sunlight. "This is promising," I thought to myself, "Maybe the sun will keep the fog away!" I dropped my laptop off at my apartment and continued on up to and over the bridge. It was there that I noticed the wind - a surefire sign of the cold evening ahead. Crossing the bridge was chilly, but Sausalito was warm and summery. I trekked north out of town and over Camino Alto. After a short while, I turned around and climbed back up Chapman and retraced my steps back up toward the bridge to hook onto the club ride.


By the time I got up to West Lot, it was freezing and the fog was rolling in thick. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long - the gang rolled through (at least 15 riders!) and we descended back down into the warmth of Sausalito before a quick regroup.


The climb from Sausalito back up to the bridge was uneventful save for the insane fog bank completely obscuring the city of San Francisco. It looked like a white version of the Smoke Monster from Lost had completely swallowed the entire landmass. From the bridge, we continued on up into the Headlands to the Saddle. That's where the fun started. As soon as we turned the corner past the first lookout, we plunged into insane fog. Thank God for bike-mount lights. I couldn't see twenty feet in front of me. It was like riding in a sea of gray.


We regrouped again on the Saddle. Everyone was complaining good-naturedly and trying to stay warm. All the while, the sun was disappearing behind the (unseen) horizon. When we set out for home, it was dark. And not just dark - dark, wet, foggy, and cold. The descent down to West Lot was scary, but it was the bridge that was completely surreal.

Pitch black save for those yellow, art-deco "streetlights." Damp to the point of dripping. Silent save for the wind (the fog seemed to dampen all sound) and completely deserted. It was just us - a long line of flashing headlights and taillights, but I couldn't see more than three riders in front of me. It felt like a scene from Bioshock.

I never thought the bridge could be that creepy, nor feel that dangerous without scores of tourists throwing themselves under your front wheel. But... wow. That was a cool experience, but I don't think I'll ever do that again.

Photos courtesy of Zach Bass.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Speed Weaponry

Some more fun came in the mail today.