Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some good news!

After being evaluated by a physical therapist yesterday afternoon and speaking to my doctor later that evening, I am happy to report that my hamstring tendon is intact!

This is good news! If there's no tear, it means I'm not in immediate danger of a major rupture - and that's huge. Unfortunately, the pain still remains. They're attributing that to some chronic and repetitive stress in a way that makes it sound a lot like a form of arthritis.

I've essentially got some very loose tendons and ligaments around my knees (probably from years and years of breaststroke) and flat feet, which combine to throw my alignment way, way off-kilter. The result is some unpleasant bone-on-bone grinding. The pain I'm suffering now is acute, but the issue I'm dealing with is probably going to be a problem for me for the rest of my life.

The plan of attack is as follows: a break from running, a mega anti-inflammatory and a handful of exercises intended to strengthen the stabilizing muscles (glutes, hamstrings, etc.) that are supposed to keep me tracking straight. I'll have to keep up (and expand upon) these strength exercises in the off-season, and that's where Kristine's yoga, coaching and injury-prevention recommendations will come into play.

I don't know if this means I'll be able to run in Zurich, or what kind of pain I'll be in at this point. I could be looking at a very long walk. But at least I'll (probably) finish.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unknowns

The past week has been a whirlwind. I went from completing a decent 13.1-mile run on Sunday to barely being able to walk on Tuesday to being diagnosed with a possible hamstring tendon tear on Wednesday. I had an MRI on Friday and hope to have results by the end of the day today. To say that I'm on pins-and-needles waiting for my phone to ring would be an understatement.

What's crazy to me is just how devastating that diagnosis was to me last week. I went from a feeling of supreme motivation to the exact opposite, complete apathy or burn-out, in a matter of moments. My head was completely knocked out of the game. I cut my swims short. "What's the point?" I said to myself. I even cut one of my rides short, which I never do. I obviously haven't run since Wednesday.

It's weird. I'm a fairly positive person, but last Wednesday sparked a vicious downward spiral. That little bit of news was like the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm not sure what's going to happen today or this week or on the fifteenth, but now I've got a mental battle to fight as well as a physical one.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Livestrong Challenge: Davis 2012


The Livestrong Challenge has become a bit of a tradition for Kristine and I; the '10 edition served as the spark for the beginning of our relationship! Typically held in mid-July, we were bummed that we weren't going to be able to participate this year... until we found out that it'd been moved up three weeks to late June!

Naturally, we signed up! And yesterday, we loaded the bikes onto the back of my jalopy and set off for Davis, California. We wined and dined with fellow members of our fundraising team, Team Fat Cyclist, at the appreciation dinner on Saturday night and then tucked into bed for an early start on Sunday morning.


This year's course could be described with one word: flat. And because it was so flat, I don't really have a whole lot of fun or interesting bits to report on. I suppose I could the words "flat" and "boring" interchangeably here. There were no climbs, no descents, no pretty vistas or views... just a whole lot of straight, flat/boring road and a moderate dose of wind.

Somewhere in the first ten miles, I broke away with two members of Team Beat the Clock. Both were incredibly strong riders. Peter, a kindly-looking man clad in an NCNCA '11 State Champion kit, had a monster engine and probably dominates every field he races against. Carola complained about missing fitness after recovering from two broken toes - but as I told her at the end of the ride, "If that was you out-of-shape, I'd hate to ride with you in it!"

So yeah, the three of us broke away at mile four or six... and that's all, folks. The three of us were at-or-above threshold for the next four hours, taking pulls into the wind and chatting breathlessly whenever we could. We skipped most aid stations, stopping only twice and only to refill our bottles before shoving off again.

I felt very strong at the beginning of the ride, but my I began to pay for pushing myself a bit too hard toward the end. Peter never seemed to flag - it seemed he could have maintained that pace for another four hours if he needed to.

We pulled back into Davis and crossed the finish line (96 miles) in 4 hours, 17 minutes and 10 seconds.  Fast! Our 22.4 mile-per-hour average made quick work of the course, but that final hour felt like it was never going to end! Anyway, we were the first finishers of the longest route by several miles.

Anyway, 96 miles it too close to 100 to stop there, so I turned around and set back out onto the course, found Elden "Fatty" Nelson and some members of the Fat Cyclist crew, and rode back across the finish line with them. All-in-all, it was a 103.5-mile day. Good stuff!

Kristine had a good ride as well - she hasn't been on her bike much this year, but never the less finished a 68-miler and felt pretty comfortable doing so. Go Kristine!

I learned a little bit during this ride. First and foremost, my 200-watt average across over four hours is the highest average wattage I've ever posted on a road ride and my legs are not happy about it. Today's effort is the kind I would need to replicate to break the five-hour barrier on the bike leg of an Ironman triathlon... and I don't see that happening any time soon! But something close to 5:10 might be in the cards, depending on wind and hills. We'll see.

Also, my hamstring did not bother me today - at least, it did not bother me on the bike. I'll take that as a good sign. More to come on the hamstring later and/or tomorrow. For now, I must locate food.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drama

"I think it's a hamstring tear, for sure," my doctor said, matter-of-factly. "You can't do the race. You'll rupture your hamstring."

I'm pretty jaded when it comes to diagnoses. I feel like I've heard it all. Stress fracture. Tendinosis. Bursitis. But when she said that, alarm bells started to sound in my brain.

The IT/hamstring pain that had been bothering me through May has lingered on through most of June. I took a week off and it felt a little bit better. On Sunday, I went for a nice, long run. It felt okay - a little tight, if anything, but totally manageable. Then it stiffened up. Bad. I've been limping ever since.

Anyway, last time I was in to see the doctor, she said she'd give me a shot of cortizone to stamp out the inflammation if the other things she'd prescribed didn't help it improve. So despite the limp, I wasn't concerned. I had another follow-up scheduled for Wednesday (today). I'd just go in, get jumped full of steroids and be on my way.

I guess something about my gait or recovery (or lack thereof) changed her tune. Hmm. Well, we'll know for sure in a few days - I've got an MRI scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, which means the results should come back by the end of the week.

You'll rupture your hamstring. You'll rupture your hamstring. That's scary. That's really scary. And what's even scarier is that I have been running on this tear. Who knows how close I've come to serious injury? The thought makes my mouth run dry. You'll rupture your hamstring.

Maybe my season ended at Ironman St. George and I just don't know it yet.

Monday, June 18, 2012

There's always someone crazier


The world of ultra endurance racing is proof that no matter crazy someone might think you are, there's always someone (or lots of someones) out there that's crazier.

I love this chart (above), which compares the distance and profile of the Boston Marathon (lower left) with the profiles and distances of some of the world's most challenging ultra-marathon races. "Heartbreak Hill" is barely a blip on the Ultra radar. (I may have to amend my original statement - if you're Leadville-class runner, you might be at the top of the craziness food-chain.)

In the triathlon world, you've got Ironman-distance races. But you've also got examples of absolute insanity like the Ultraman World Championships (ultramanlive.com) or the Epic5 (epic5.com). The former is a three-day, 320-mile triathlon that includes 6.2 miles of swimming, 261 miles of cycling and 52.4 miles of running. The latter is a seven-day event wherein competitors complete an Ironman-distance triathlon on each of the five major Hawaiian islands. INSANE!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Update: Mad Scramble! + Lake Tahoe?!

This weekend was a good one. Mike Vulanich and I rode almost 90 miles in 90+ degree heat on Saturday and the all-too-familiar Vineman course was the route. It's a shame that getting up to Sonoma has to be such a production; those roads are so nice and lightly rolling!

I woke up early today to swim (5,200 yards) and run (13.1 miles). I feel good in the water, though my endurance could be better. Today's run was a total experiment; my IT band has been a constant source of pain for me over the past few weeks. For this little test, I decided to simply grit my teeth and run through the hurt. IT pain aside, I felt okay on the run. I wish I had more time to log a few longer ones, but such is life. One month until Zurich. Bring it on.

Regarding Ironman Lake Tahoe, I've mulled over my options. I've decided to sign up for next year's race - or at least try. The event is going to sell out in minutes! If I manage to score an entry, that's awesome. I will do whatever it takes to give Tahoe my best shot. If I don't, it's not the end of the world. Canada will be my "safety race," and I'm still considering Cozumel (with Alex) as a potential season finale.

Registration for Tahoe opens at noon tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mad Scramble! + Lake Tahoe?!

Local triathletes are buzzing about the newly-announced Ironman Lake Tahoe event that is scheduled to take place in September 2013. We've been clamoring for an official, Ironman-branded California race for some time now, and that wish has finally been granted.

The course looks tough, but what Ironman course doesn't? There's a two-loop 2.4 mile swim in Lake Tahoe itself. From there, participants will head inland for a two-loop 112 mile bike ride before returning to the shores of the lake for an out-and-back 26.2 mile run. The bike and run course profiles are somewhat daunting; there are a few sustained climbs on the bike, but I think it will feel like mostly rolling hills and total roughly 5,200 feet of elevation gain.

The real problem isn't the elevation gain, though. It's the elevation itself. Lake Tahoe is situated at 6,200 feet above sea-level. At its highest point, this race tops 7,200 feet. For an athlete who trains in the lowlands, this kind of altitude prove to be an enormous challenge.

When this race was announced, I could barely contain my excitement. It's a good thing registration didn't open today; I would have signed up in a heartbeat. As my initial blind enthusiasm began to fade, I started to think more logically about the race itself. The altitude, which I hadn't factored in originally, is no joke. Unless I'm completely over-estimating the challenge of performing at altitude (which I totally could be!), Ironman Lake Tahoe will probably go down as the hardest Ironman event in history.

Decisions, decisions

Now I have a problem. Registration for Lake Tahoe opens on Monday and entries are going to sell like hotcakes. If I want to do that race, I'm going to need to know by Sunday night. That means I have a lot of decisions to make over the next two days. My better half, support crew and triathlon travel buddy, Kristine, is away this weekend, so my brain is spinning in overdrive trying to weigh all of my options and figure out what next year will look like.

Here are my full Ironman options for 2013. Note that this list does not include the "don't actually do a full Ironman in 2013" option, which I have been weighing as well.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene (Late June)

I'd like to do this race purely because I think a lot of my training partners and triathlon clubmates will also be there. San Francisco seems well-represented at Coeur d'Alene, and there's a good chance I could run into fit friends from other parts of the country there as well. CdA seems like a super popular race.

Because Cour d'Alene is so early in the season and two full months before any other race I've got my eye on, I could do it as my "low-key" or "B" race next year. Once I decide whether or not I'm doing that one, I'll probably need to pick one* of the following:

Ironman Canada (Late August)

I've been shying away from Canada because of it's spectator-unfriendliness, but now that I think about it, 2013 might be the right year to tackle this one. If there's one Ironman race that seems to attract a lot of (very talented) California triathletes, it's Canada. And with a shiny new Tahoe race only a few weeks after, I can't see many people opting to do both. Tahoe could actually leech a lot of talent from the Canada field... making Kona qualification in Pentincton slightly more attainable?

Pros: Gorgeous course. Normal level of difficulty. Depleted field?
Cons: Travel. Single loop bike and run might mean boredom for spectators.

Ironman Lake Tahoe (Late September)

The bay area will be buzzing about this race for months. I think everyone I know is going to try to secure a spot on the start line; registration is going to be absolute madness! As I mentioned before, this race will be very hard. If I chose to do this one, I would be doing it almost solely to race close to home alongside many of my local training buddies. (Oh, and there's always the prestige/bragging rights about having finished a first-ever/hardest-ever race...)

Pros: Gorgeous course. Three hours from San Francisco.
Cons: Extremely difficult? Altitude will require lots of weekend training trips to Tahoe.

Ironman Cozumel (Late November)

Kristine and I have talked about Cozumel a few times. It sounds like a great place for a little vacation, and we all know how vital a vacation is after a hard day of triathlon. A week on a beach in Mexico after burning out my legs sounds like a very good idea!

Pros: Beach/vacation paradise!? Late in the year.
Cons: Travel. Late in the year/Thanksgiving weekend.

Canada + Cozumel (Late August + Late November)

Doubling up here would definitely be possible, if a bit expensive. If I choose this option, I think I would actually make Canada my target race, and do Cozumel as my no-pressure outing. Though now that I think about it, I'd actually have three full months between races... which might open the door for some fast racing in Cozumel, too.

Tahoe + Cozumel (Late September + Late November)

Doubling up here might be a bit more affordable because the Tahoe race is local. In this situation, I would be making Cozumel my primary target, with my motto for IMLT being "just freakin' finish this beast."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three weeks?!

Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.

For some reason, I felt pretty good about taking a week off last Tuesday. I think I was telling myself that I'd run a bit during my week on the east coast, or that I'd watch my diet. My body definitely needed a break and I hoped to come out of the time off having put all of my injuries behind me. I also think I was trying to convince myself that I'd come out the other side and be juuuust fine.

Well, I'm definitely rested and my injuries are definitely on the mend -- but they're not quite there yet. And I bet I gained five pounds over the weekend.

Now I'm doing the math and Kristine and I leave for Switzerland in only TWENTY-THREE DAYS.

I'm freaking out. Part of me wants to really smash the next three weeks. But another part of me is wary of pushing too hard and screwing myself out of a real taper. Or worse, injuring myself even further than I already have. I'm going to have to show some restraint.

Hmm.

I definitely have some catching up to do after this little vacation. I think I'll try and tackle this week with some extra zeal. Some solid aerobic burn will go a long way toward providing me with some much-needed peace of mind. I'll ratchet the intensity back down to normal levels next week, and then back up for the third week. A ten-day taper will begin as soon as I set foot on that plane to Zurich on July 4.

These next three weeks are make-or-break. I'm going to need all of the help, support and encouragement I can get.

Note to self #1: Next year, hire an actual coach!
Note to self #2: Try not to take week-long vacations during the final month of training for major races ever again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Short break before the home stretch!

Okay, wow. The past six weeks have been pretty tough. Though I did allow myself a light week in the middle there, the past six weekends have all featured some pretty extreme rides. There were two 200Ks, two centuries, a Tour of California stage ride and an Ironman.

My running has been off since Ironman St. George, and while I wasn't concerned last week, now I'm starting to worry. Swimming has been off as well, ever since I pulled that muscle. It's a shame, too - I came out of IMSG feeling pretty fantastic in the water.

From a cycling perspective, I've definitely earned some rest. From a running and swimming perspective, my body is demanding it. So as much as it freaks me out to take time off just five weeks from race day, I'm going to do so. I'm going to do something I haven't done since January - take three or four (or five?) consecutive days off.

What's awesome is that this short break just so happens to line up nicely with a trip back to the east coast we'd planned several months ago. We're going to spend some time with family (hers and mine) and I'm going to try not to over-eat at every turn. When we get back to San Francisco on Tuesday, I hope to feel refreshed and healed and ready to tackle the final four weeks of race prep.

We're entering the home stretch!