Saturday, March 31, 2012

WFTW

Sunrise over Lake San Antonio

Last weekend was the San Francisco Triathlon (SFTri) Club's biggest, most enjoyable event: Wildflower Training Weekend (WFTW). On Friday, over a hundred club members loaded up their hatchbacks and station wagons and hit the road for a camp site on the shores of Lake San Antonio, roughly three hours south of San Francisco. Brent Ledvina and I hit the road on the early side and arrived just as the sun was starting to set, giving us just enough light to set up our tents without much difficulty.

[For those who won't know, Wildflower is a big triathlon event that takes place here in California. It's two days - some competitors race a half-Ironman distance course on Saturday, and some race an Olympic distance course on Sunday. Just about everyone comes with a tent and takes advantage of the campgrounds!]

Once the sun did go down, it got dark fast. Lake San Antonio is in the middle of nowhere, and the moon was new. The stars were out in full force -- Mars was the brightest I've ever seen it. Brent and I went for a short, headlamp-aided jog around the campsite before settling in with our fellow triathletes around the campfire.

The next day was a question-mark in everybody's mind. Many of us had been following the weather forecast all week, and not once did it look favorable for a long Saturday bike ride. I fully expected to wake up, unzip my tent flap and be greeted by ominous gray clouds and the smell of rain on the air. To my surprise, I woke up and found neither!

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous. The club had breakfast together before kitting up and heading out in three separate groups -- a short (Olympic) group, a long (half) group, and a super-long (IM) group. By the time we started riding, the sun had risen and the air had warmed to a comfortable temperature. The wind had picked up, too, but I'll take wind over rain just about any day of the week.

Having never done Wildflower before, I knew not what to expect... but as soon as we hit the open road, I no longer cared. The course looked like a triathlon course, and there were riders in front of me spaced out in a very tantalizing way. I settled into a good rhythm. Miles passed. Soon, I was riding alone in front of the pack, cruising along the course's flat-to-rolling country roads.

This ride was an experiment in a handful of ways. First, it was to be the first time I'd ridden anything other than Paradise Loop on the new bike fit. It was also the first time I'd really attempted to ride anything greater than 45 miles in two and a half months. I'd been spinning quite regularly, but I was afraid that fitness wouldn't translate to four hours on the road.

Well, it translated. And the fit worked out, too.

The Wildflower course is awesome... until mile 43. At that point, the road turns uphill onto Nacimiento Road - a climb that triathletes have affectionately dubbed "Nasti Grade." It definitely killed my otherwise respectable average speed. The descent down to Bee Rock was long and fast. I waited there for some clubmates and found none, so I decided to tack on a few more climbing miles; I wound up climbing up to the top of Nasti Grade from three different ways. Ouch.

The afternoon was fun -- various clubmates put on clinics of various sorts. Some went swimming, others (like myself) opted not to. There's something about 45-degree water that just wasn't appealing to me. Dinner was delicious and the post-dinner bonfire and social hour were both a great time!

Rain came in spurts over night, but my tent stayed dry. The club laced up for a run the next morning, and I opted to push my limits a bit -- 10K on actual roads! It came surprisingly easy, to be honest! My running legs are coming back, and they're coming back faster.

Shortly after returning to camp, Brent and I loaded up the car and hit the road for San Francisco, where I squeezed in the swim (at the pool) that I'd skipped in the lake down south.

Sleeping under the stars was fun, but being around all of those triathletes was... inspiring. It got my competitive juices flowing again; the motivation's returning. How badly do I wish I was down in San Diego, racing Oceanside today? Or racing Wildflower in a months time?! But no, I can't get too excited yet -- these are but small battles in California, and I have a lot of rehabbing to do before my war in Switzerland.

But... BRING IT.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What's up?

There've been a couple things on my mind this week.

Over-training

Those sensations of motivation loss and/or burn out that I mentioned last week haven't gone away, but I am doing my best to manage them. I'm trying a slightly re-arranged schedule (spinning on Mondays in the afternoon and Wednesdays in the morning) just to mix things up a bit.

I'm also backing off a bit in the pool - whereas before, I'd strive to hit 5,000 yards one or two times a week, now I'm letting myself be satisfied with 3,700-4,000. Most of my pool training to-date has been long and slow, so once I start feeling better, I'd like to start mixing in some higher-intensity stuff (sprints, intervals, etc.) and speed work over the next few weeks, too.

Weight

I weighed in this week and found that I am 5-7 pounds above race-weight. Despite having given up chocolate for Lent, I've still managed to eat poorly over the past few weeks. My chocolate snacking has been replaced by not-chocolate snacking. This is something I'm going to have to address in the coming weeks, especially as I start running more.

I find that I have a much easier time running when I'm eating healthier foods, e.g. more greens and fiber., and fewer sugars and starches. And running in general's going to be a bit easier if I don't have to lug around those extra five pounds.

Running

Speaking of running, I've gone for one or two runs in the new running shoes that my podiatrist recommended. I'm not entirely sold on them; they advertise a lot of good cushioning, but in practice, the ride feels very... hard. On the bright side, the toe-wrap seems to be helping. My left calf has felt much better over the past few days - almost normal!

I have to remember to ramp my running up slow. Since my last outing on Wednesday, my right calf has actually been a bit ominously sore/tight. WTF? It's just one thing after another with me. Hopefully this is just some straightforward soreness or a simple muscle strain and not the precursor to something more sinister.

Camping

I'm just about to head south for a three-day triathlon training camp with the San Francisco Triathlon Club! I'd be more excited if the forecast wasn't so gloomy... but such is life. Hopefully I can get at least one good ride in this weekend before the rain comes. Look for a full report after the weekend!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Big Toe

My feet are ugly.
I probably should've warned you before posting a picture of my foot, but now it's too late. What you see above is part of the potential treatment for the latest diagnosis in the ongoing saga, "What's wrong with my Achilles?"

What is that diagnosis, you ask? Well, turns out it might not be my Achilles at all. Dr. Saunders had a look at my MRIs from January and pointed out some inflammation that could be indicative of a small tear in the tendon that helps to flex my big toe. Apparently that tendon wraps around the underside of your ankle and follows the posterior tibialis up alongside the Achilles on the inside of the foot. That's just about where my pain seems to emanate from.

So it could be a tear, or it could be tenosynovitis, as before - but the good news is that whatever's wrong might not actually be wrong with my Achilles at all.

Interesting.

Anyway, this new diagnosis does begin to explain why I have more pain on impact than on push-off. The way my foot over-pronates, apparently I put a lot of force on my big toe with each strike. As that force vibrates up the unhealthy tendon, things start to hurt. The same could have been true for the Achilles, but the doctors wrapped my toe in this splint-like situation (pictured above) and had me run on it... and things actually felt pretty good!

More on this as the week progresses.

Training Update


South By Southwest didn't turn out to be as restful as I would have hoped. I came back feeling drained, and further training sessions only led me to feeling more and more tired. I think I'm treading a thin line right now -- somehow, I find myself at the edge of being overtrained.

My motivation has been waning for a few weeks now, and this past week was pretty miserable. Fortunately, the random Lehigh win over Duke in the NCAA tournament gave me a bit of a spark and got me through the weekend. Now I just have to be careful and stay as positive as possible... and not push myself too hard, either.

I also gotta force myself to get out onto the actual road on my actual bike and ride actual miles... if I don't start soon, I'm going to pay for it in July!

Friday, March 9, 2012

South by Southwest

Well friends, I've made it through another tough, three-week training block. If you've been following along, you probably know that these first two blocks involved a whole lot of interval sessions on the bike, some very solid hours in the pool, and not a whole lot of running. I've been rehabbing my calf injury, settled on a brand-new bike fit, and re-acclimated myself to regular swim workouts.

The next block will be a bit of a transition as I begin to increase the mileage of my weekend rides, and hopefully start running with some degree of regularity. The heaviest months of my training program will probably be May and June, so I'll be important for me to use the remainder of March and all of April to get myself set for more and more training hours.

Running is definitely the biggest question-mark for me right now. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes, just when I start to gain some confidence in where I am right now, something happens to take the wind from my sails. I had a very solid training day yesterday: thirty minutes on the Alter-G treadmill followed by 900 kJ's of intervals and 5,000 uptempo yards in the pool. I wrapped up the morning of workouts with out a hint of pain.

A few hours later, I had to make a dash for a departing bus. I knew I'd made a mistake by the third stride. I stopped, missed the bus and limped to the stop to wait for the next one. My calf has been sore, tight and seizing up since. I iced down on the plane. Now it's a matter of managing the pain, facilitating improvement and just generally not freaking out. (Yes, there is a part of me that is definitely freaking out.)

Ironman Switzerland is roughly sixteen weeks away, which isn't a very long time for a healthy person to train for a marathon, let alone an unhealthy one. Ramping up is going to be tricky. The plan is to start slow (obviously) and work my way up to some longer runs of 16 miles by mid-June and then back off significantly ahead of the race itself. Looking at the calendar, I don't know how this is going to be realistically possible... Hopefully these flare-ups continue to be small and easy to manage so I can work toward the goal with some degree of consistency.

Anyway, this weekend should provide a much-needed break for my tired legs, injured calf and sore shoulders. I'm in Austin, Texas, with a few co-workers for South-by-Southwest Interactive. The weather here in Austin could better, but I'm sure the barbeque's still just as legendary as it's supposed to be. Speaking of which, I'm hungry.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Learning, and buying shoes

I've seen a lot of specialists (two physical therapists, two orthopedists, a chiropractor and a podiatrist) over the past few weeks, and they all have different opinions about shoes for flat-footed runners. On one hand, the many degrees of variation can be quite confusing. On the other hand, I am learning a whole lot about my legs and feet.

To make a long story short, though: from the sound of things, none of the shoes I've bought in the past year are actually "right" for me.

My podiatrist is now recommending the Nike Structure 15's and the Brooks Tracer 11's. My chiropractor is recommending the new Puma Faas 800's and the Nike Lunarglide 3's.

Side note(s): I actually trained most of last year in a pair of Nike Structure 13's. They wound up being my Vineman shoe, too. And right now, I'm in the process of breaking in a pair of Nike Lunareclipse 2's. The podiatrist says they're "Surprisingly okay, but not great."

Oh, and get this: apparently I've been buying shoes at the wrong size for almost my entire life. Yep, though my feet from heels to toes are just over a size 9, my (super-flat) arch length is equivalent to a size 11. That means I should be buying larger shoes in a narrower format. Hmm.

I'm going to order a bunch of these online and do a bit more gait analysis in the next week or two.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fit


I've been riding my time-trial bike in the same position for almost two years. Over that time I've grown stronger, more flexible, and adapted to life on aerobars. After so many months and so much improvement throughout, I figured it was time to consider some improvements to my position ahead of Ironman Switzerland.

There are many highly-touted fit gurus in the Bay Area and I've actually seen several. But this time around, one came much more highly recommended than all the others - and that's why I spent just under four hours on Saturday taking a look at my Cervelo P3 with Andrew Weber from bikefit.com.

Andrew runs a mobile operation, so he came to me. We set my bike up on his trainer, flipped on some lasers and wrapped some tracking bands around my upper calves. Before I even got onto the bike, he said, "Wow, something's going on with your left hip." I asked him how he could see that, and he said, "Your bike's telling me the story." After some inspection and some explanation, I noticed that my saddle is kind of squeezed down on the left side -- something's definitely up there!

Before we got onto the bike, though, we went to work on my shoes - cleats, pedals, etc. - by first looking at my feet. Apparently my feet have a lot of varus/valgus - they naturally want to tilt a certain way - so we started shimming my shoes to account for that natural angle. Then we looked at functional leg length. Then we looked at shims a bit more. We played around with a lot of options, always double-checking on the bike to see if my knees tracked any better, or to see if I was sitting in the center of the saddle. Andrew was quite thorough -- and quite persistent -- in his quest for the perfect balance of comfort and straight knee-tracking.

After we found pedal-related the sweet-spot, we started looking at saddles, saddle height saddle fore/aft, and then bar height and customization. Andrew was super thorough here, too, and before we wrapped up, almost over three and a half hours had passed. The fit is very comfortable - and very different - so I figure it's going to take me some time to get used to it. But even so, I learned so much from those hours with Andrew - much more than I have with any other fit specialist!

Last night, I started doing some analysis to compare my watts and heart rate on the shorter cranks, with and without the new bike fit. I'm trying to refine that and make it somewhat digestible; I'll see if I can get it up here somewhere in the next few days!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quick Update


Alright, I apologize for the dramatic meltdown last weekend. Things are not as bad as they seem. The ankle flare-up seems to have subsided and how I'm feeling better than I have in a while. Perhaps that's just part of the natural healing process?

I broke the 22,000-yard mark in the pool this week. That's a lot of swimming.

On Saturday afternoon, I spent a few hours with Andrew Weber, a professional bike-fit guru, going over my time-trial position. We made some big changes, especially to the way my foot and shoe connect to the pedal. On Sunday, I took that new position out for a test spin. Now I'm compiling the results.

More on this and other things soon!