Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And now for something completely different!

This past weekend I participated in my first-ever swim meet. I’ve never even been to one before, so my expectations were a wee bit high –  visions of the Olympic torch and names like Phelps and Torres danced in my scared little head.

Needless to say, when I walked into the (extremely nice pool, especially for a high school) pool, I immediately turned to Moose and said, “Great practice pool. I wonder where the real pool is? And the NBC cameras?” as I looked around for Bob Costas.

Er, OK, so my nerves, which had been one nudge away from hysterics for days leading up to Friday, sorta dissipated a bit when I realized the pool I was staring at was indeed the meet pool. It looked, well, like any other pool. In fact, I kind of thought it looked (shh…) a little small and not very intimidating at all.

Cool, I can do this.
The pool DID NOT look like this much, except for the water part.
True story: I’m grounded enough to realize 1. I am not, and never will be, a swimmer, like, a real swimmer, and 2. I really had no business competing at this particular meet (Illinois Master’s State Swim Meet, LOL), but I’m all about having fun and trying new things these days, and this fit my agenda. I really don’t have anything else going on at the moment. #IronmanDone. Besides, when has any of that ever stopped me before?!

Every other year, they offer the 1650 (mile) as part of the meet, and since I've been told no one (i.e. real swimmers) ever wants to do that distance, it was fairly easy to register. I’d hoped to score 8th in my AG – and add one (yes, one) point to my team’s overall tally of just under twenty thousand or so points (these people can swim!).

There were 10 women in my AG.

I didn't have a plan, per se, other than to not go off the blocks (I didn't feel the need to lose my goggles on my first-ever event. See the part above about not being real), and just swim as hard as I could for as long as I could. I did a practice mile with my swim team a few months ago on our training trip to Florida, and had that time to beat in the back of my head.

The time my swim coach suggested as my seed time was several minutes faster than I swam in Florida. I totally thought she was, ahem, high as a kite when she suggested the time, but she's been to this rodeo before and I haven't, so there ya go. End of story.

As I was nervously standing around waiting for my heat to start, I met the other woman in my lane (we were swimming two per lane, staggered by 15 seconds or so, each staying on our respective sides). She told me this was her first swim meet and she had no idea what time she'd swim, and I thought, "great! We're newbies together!"

But I should've known better.

She was wearing a speed suit (hint #1).

She clarified...this was her first meet since high school, but she used to swim competitively. I decided then and there to just ignore her, and it was a wise choice, because she lapped me twice and was on her way to dinner by the time I finished. Newbie my ass.

Lane mate looked like this. No joke.
 First 1650 thoughts (and a bonus track, peeps!):
I found the numbers my counter stuck in the water for each lap amusing. I still suck off the wall. I still swim "short." I swim with my eyes closed a lot. The pool was hot. The time went by really fast. It was nice to have clean water and a black line to follow and no shopping carts, diesel fuel, trees or dead fish to swim through, and sharing a lane with one other person is a luxury compared to trying to cram 2200 of us into a tiny space.

I ended up swimming a 26:26:08! Over 2:30 minutes faster than I swam in Florida and faster than my seed time to boot! And while I ended up 9th and scoring a point by :13 seconds (damn it!), this is the fastest I've swam, so how can I be disappointed?!

AND to make it even better, I swam Saturday - 200m relay (free) - and my team was 4th (woo hoo!), and I successfully went off the blocks, which seriously feels Bad.Ass. if you do it right.

THEN, someone on my team didn't show up for the 500, so I subbed in for that, went off the blocks, didn't lose my goggles, swam my ass off and ended up scoring 7th in my AG (7:44).

At the end of the day, I scored two points for my team (plus 10 for the relay) and had a ridiculous amount of fun.

And, an  update of sorts:
Since the meet is over and I really am flying free, I'm determined to lose the self-pity 15 pounds I've gained since my last Ironman and get into good shape. I'm inspired by Michelle and loosely basing my workouts on what she does. It obviously works for her and seems really sensible and doable, so thanks, Michelle!

Today I ran 3 miles fairly hard - no watch or HR monitor, because I don't have to! :-) Then I went to our basement, "The Balboa Gym" to lift. As suggested by my swim coach, I'm mostly focusing on the muscles along the back side of my body, plus core and legs.

With stretching and my general pissing around shenanigans to get out the door, it took me about 1:15 total, which is perfect!

Here's an update picture of my leg, after today's run. As you can see, my left calf is not swollen at all, and it actually looks smaller to me than my right. It's been 6.5 months since surgery, and I'm finally (finally) mostly pain-free, numb free (from the cut saphenous nerve) and with the least amount of swelling in years. Years.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Life After Ironman

It looks like I'm a "3 and done" Ironman athlete. Two weeks ago I made the responsible decision to officially withdraw from Ironman Louisville. I'm still grappling a little bit with this, but instinctually I know it is the right choice.

Who am I, if not an Ironman?

I'm still me, and I'm so much more than 140.6. I'm a silly heart, a goof, a wife, a daughter, a lover of dogs, a writer, an inspiring swimmer, a foodie...the list is endless. But it was still a difficult decision.

Even if I could run (I'm still not running, five months post-op), I have to honestly answer the question, "just because you can, does that mean you should?" And the answer to that is a resounding no. I'd much rather cool my long distance jets and enjoy a lifetime of shorter, casual runs than push the envelope and blow myself up...and never be able to run.

Before marathons and triathlons, I was just a woman who ran for the love of running. I've loved it and benefitted from escapism in my runs for as long as I can remember. Like by seven years old I'd discovered its magical impact on my psyche. I haven't run since July of 2012, and I haven't run pain free in about two and a half years. I'm slightly depressed (it sounds cliche, but it really is my mental therapy) and out of sorts. I've begged the Universe or God or Karma to just give me the freedom to run regularly, a few times a week, and promised in return to treat my body with respect and not abuse it with 15 hour training weeks and 13 hour races.

And that's where I am. LOU is out. I see my surgeon tomorrow for another effort to get me back on my feet (orthotics, which I've never needed) and Hoka running shoes are the latest desperate attempt.

So, life after Ironman.

I'm figuring it out. I'm loving the pool more than ever, have plans for landscaping and maybe even a garden this summer, have a few cycling tours lined up...basically, I'll live. And hopefully happily and with a run or two peppered in there. :-)

Monday, December 03, 2012

38 weeks

Ironman Louisville is roughly 38 weeks away. I have an app on my phone that has the weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds ticking away, but generally, it's about 38 weeks away. (I'm too lazy to grab my phone and actually open that app right now. My phone is, like, snuggled up in my hoodie pocket.)

Not that I really need an app to tell me I signed up for an Ironman and it's next August.

I'm not terrified out of my mind about this one (yet) - at least not the kind of fear that makes me want to puke when I think about it. This is Ironman dance # four for me...assuming I make it to the start. In races past, I could make the hair on my neck stand up just thinking about race day. This time around, I just want to make it to race day. How can I worry about the race when I'm not even sure I'll be able to toe the line?

Granted, I definitely have a flair for the uhm, how do I put this? Dramatic, but I do have some legitimate concerns. 38 weeks isn't a long time, especially when it comes to 140.6. 

It hasn't even been two months since surgery, but as I take stock of everything that's not working as it should, I wonder (fear) that I won't be good to go, at least not in time to properly train. Or...ever. (See? Dramatic!)

Swimming is good, and I don't seem to suffer any ill effects from that (thank God!), but the swim is the smallest percentage of the race.

Cycling feels OK, but causes swelling; yesterday I walked 4.5 miles and today my left foot is comically swollen. Like, I look at it half in disgust and half in amazement. Is that my foot?! Who knew my toes could be so fat?!

Last week when I worked downtown, I wore my CEP compression socks, and by the end of the night, my foot was so sore I could barely walk. How can I run a marathon at the end of Ironman when I can't even handle a day of office work?

My surgeon thinks he "might" have either irritated or even cut the superficial nerve that runs parallel to my scar. He seems nonplussed by it, but as a result, my ankle is totally numb on the inside (medial?), as is the top of my foot, and some shoes cause pain (like my running shoes). He says this should go away in "six months to a year."

This is what keeps me awake at night this go around.

I have my first PT appointment tomorrow, so I'm hoping they can tell me this is all normal and everything will be OK, and I need to calm down and get back to regularly scheduled worrying (like losing my goggles on race day or getting lost and ending up at a basketball game on the run course, both true nightmares I've had in the past.)

In the end, I know it will all be OK. Either I will recover and be able to train and finish my Ironman odyssey (full circle, Louisville was my first, I hope Lou 2013 will be my last), or I'll admit it's too much, too soon and...and...that will have to be OK, too.  :-)

But, man, I can't wait to get back to crazy nightmares about race day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Freshly chlorinated

One of my favorite things is the faint smell of chlorine on my skin after a swim. I usually notice it the most when I'm sitting on a conference call, and it reminds me not all of my life is spent sitting at a desk.

I haven't seen the dark side of 6 a.m. (heck, who am I kidding? 8 a.m. is more like it) since about July, so when the alarm for swim went off this morning at 5:31 a.m., you betcha there was mental chatter about getting up...or not.

My iPhone: blares "Dirt Road Anthem" by Jason Aldean
My bed: "You looooooooooooooveeeeeeee me. I'm sooooooooo comfortable and snuggly, and I'm all yours until, like, 9 a.m. if you so choose! Don't leeeeeeaaaaaaaave me."
My brain: Get up now or you'll never go. Today is the first day of the season for you. GO! You've been waiting months for this! GET YOUR LAZYYYY ASSSSSSSSSSSS UP!

I got up. And, like always, I never ever ever regret going. Even today, when I pretty much wanted to bail during the warm up because it didn't feel good, I love the pool. (Swimming never feels good after a prolonged rest. I know this! I'm stiff and creaky and weak and reminded I'm a land-based animal, but I figure if any time is a good time to be stiff, creaky and weak, this is, like, the most opportune time evar. So, I mentally whined the whole time, but kept going.)

I definitely felt my surgery in the water. The most noticeable, ah, issue is my utter lack of flexibility in my left ankle. I shouldn't be surprised - it's been stuck in the same position for a long time. But, still - I'm surprised.

I also felt a weird twinge of - I don't know what - in my actual calf muscle - kind of like, well, my muscle shifting around some. It didn't hurt, just felt...odd. Like, uhm, maybe I'm growing something in there. Like an alien, or (more likely) maybe my surgeon dropped a Junior Mint in there, and I'm incubating small nuggets of peppermint. Regardless, oddest sensation.

I managed to do alright until the last 10 minutes of practice or so when had 90 zillion (or maybe it was five x 100) dolphin kicks w/ breast stroke pull, and then both calves were like, "Uncle! We give!" and I knew when my strong calf cramped up, I was done. For today. :-)

It's all good. My swim coach had some great advice that I'm taking to heart and really thinking about. I'm super hard on myself for not having 12% body fat or breaking records on the 100 my first day back - so, as I think about what she said, I'm going to try to be a little easier on myself, take my recovery slowly and sanely and accept that where I'm at is where I'm supposed to be, and it's all going to be OK. And there's more to life than weight, body fat, reps, centuries, gadgets, paces and my VO2.

Finally, because it's funny -- my typical yoga class:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I like to ride my bicycle

I like to ride my biiiike.

I have a feeling I'm gonna have a lot of "firsts" in my near future. Today's first: trainer ride in 17 weeks. :-)

I was cleared to ride a little over a week ago, but we wedged a whirlwind trip to Arizona to see my brother, mom and Rog's folks (while working remotely) For Thanksgiving. I didn't even pretend to pack workout clothes. Too many hours working, in the car and visiting, meant no time to try cycling for the first time in months.

I hopped on the scale, expecting to see shock and awe. While I was pleasantly surprised (146.2), it's so apparent I've traded muscle for fat. I'm soft, jiggly and slightly disgusted by my fluffy self. My little break was great - I ate everything I wanted with no diet restrictions, but now it's time to regain at least a leetle bit of control.

I chose to not wear my compression socks for my initial ride. I wanted to see what it would feel like. And my workout was short and sweet by design: the last thing I want to do is go nuts and set myself back. So:

10 minutes warm up/easy
10 x :30 hard (perceived effort) and :30 easy
5 min cool down

Baby steps!

I seemed to handle this just fine. Yay! The only weirdness is my incision is numb and annoying. It's kind of like trying to ride with static electricity in my calf: it doesn't hurt, isn't affecting my cadence or power, but is, well, annoying!

After my ride, I did some core: half of my Abs Ripper x DVD and some work on my BOSU ball.

Tomorrow is my first swim back with the master's swim team! My goal this season is to "swim like a swimmer" and even do a meet or two! It's early afternoon, but my swim bag is already packed and I'm ready to go. I'm giddily nervous, like the day before the first day of school!