Posts Tagged ‘triathlon training’

I’m Back On The Run

I went running this morning. It was a great run. The weather was perfect, my legs felt great, my breathing was controlled and consistent and when I finished my 3-mile run, I knew I still had my running mojo.

I say “still had it” because I have this weird phenomenon that happens to me after a race or even after a few days off from running. And I had a few days off  this week, five to be exact. After my race on Sunday, I didn’t get any exercise at all for the rest of the week. My schedule was just nuts last week.

I knew had to get back out there no later than today. After races, because they are tougher, and a few days away from running, I start to develop this irrational fear that I won’t be able to do it again. Somehow, after a few days off, the fitness level I’ve worked so hard to achieve will just disappear. Does this happen to anyone else?

The longer I wait, the more apprehensive I get. So today when I got up, got dressed and got ready to head out the door, I was armed with my arsenal of choices. I could go for a longer run (3.2 miles), a shorter run (2.5 miles) or I could walk. I can always walk.

I procrastinated a bit this morning. I tried to set RunKeeper on my iPhone but that just didn’t seem to want to work, so I walked back home and left it there. Now I was going to just run for running’s sake.

I set back out, starting with my walking warmup and a funny thing happened. Maybe it was the crisp morning air, or even just the week’s rest, but I almost felt like my legs were saying, “Now? Can we go now?”

When I started running, it felt like I’d been doing it all of my life. No nagging knees and I felt like I had more push than I’d had even before the race. I opted for the 3.2-mile loop because it would have been a shame to waste feeling that good on a shorter run. Maybe rest periods aren’t so bad after all.

Today’s was possibly the best run I’ve ever had. Maybe it was the chill in the air. Today though, I felt strong the whole way and I was reminded that I really do like this running thing. And I’m not even training for a race right now, although I do plan to tackle a 5K or two before the weather turns too cold.

On a side note, thanks to Jill from Finishing Is Winning for putting me in the spotlight on her blog as this week’s Props Wednesday! I was so honored.

Running: Treadmill vs. Road

running-treadmillIt was dark this morning when it was time to go work out. It was also kind of rainy. School started today in my neighborhood, and that combined with the dark signal that summer is definitely coming to a close. Kind of sad. I enjoyed this summer because I’ve spent lots of time outside.

I have come to love running in the morning outside. Long runs, short runs… even though my route is the same most days, there’s always interesting stuff to see and having a destination somehow gives each run a purpose, even if it’s just to get home again. Outside, there are hills and changing weather and trees and other runners and it just breezes by, even on slow running days.

Today though, since I needed to do my last brick workout before next Sunday’s race, I had to go to the gym. I actually prefer the stationary bike because I don’t have to worry about cars, but even though I don’t know what I would have done without it in the beginning, I now understand  the nickname I see so often for the treadmill – the dreadmill.

Running after biking is just not my favorite thing to do, under any circumstances. But doing it outside is a whole lot easier than jumping on the treadmill after a 10-mile bike. The treadmill doesn’t really allow for those points where I need to go slower or faster and because I don’t see my landmarks, it’s just me and the minutes.

Don’t get me wrong. The treadmill has its purpose and I’m sure as the weather gets colder I will be spending more and more time getting to know it and admire it again.

Without the treadmill, I never would have made it through Couch25K. Without the treadmill, I never would have become a runner. When I was interval training, those seconds, then minutes, ticking by made building up to running possible. It gave me the confidence that I could do this. The first couple of times that I took my new legs out on the road, I thought I might die and wished that I could do a triathlon in the pool, on the stationary bike and on the treadmill. But they don’t let you do triathlons in the gym, so I sucked it up and got better at running outside, never in the beginning thinking I’d ever trade the treadmill for the road in my heart. But I have.

This morning, I ran 2 miles after a 10-mile stationary bike training. I had to throw my towel over the readout so I couldn’t watch the minutes ticking by. It felt like an eternity. I tried playing with intervals, going faster, raising the incline. It still felt like an eternity, and it was only 23 minutes. I tried concentrating only on the music piping into my ears. I tried focusing on other people in the gym (there aren’t too many to focus on at 6:30 am). Maybe I was just tired, but the run felt long this morning and it was a short one.

Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for the transition back to running on the treadmill again. I certainly wasn’t ready when I transitioned to running on the road. I’m sure I will come up with ways to make the treadmill interesting again as I know I will be spending more time with it as the days get shorter and the air gets colder. Maybe by next Spring, I’ll be faster!

At least now I know that to mirror resistance on the road, I need to keep the treadmill at an incline of 1. That will make transitioning back to the road a whole lot easier. That and that I plan to run outdoors any chance I get during daylight hours.

How do you cope with treadmill boredom?

Ghosts of Injuries Past – A Torn Rotator Cuff Saga

Saturday when I was swimming, I got an old familiar pain in my left arm at lap 48. I was swimming hard, alternating fast 100s with recovery 100s to get ready for next Sunday’s race.

I was in a recovery 100, so I continued for two more laps but when the twingy deltoid muscle pain didn’t go away, I got out of the water, went home and stretched my arm with the exercises I had learned from physical therapy two years ago, along with exercises from a friend who had suffered from shoulder stuff too.

Back to the beginning: In July of 2007, I suddenly started experiencing pain in my left deltoid muscle (about midway between the shoulder and the elbow). It hurt,  but it wasn’t horrible… at first. If I left my arm alone, it didn’t hurt, but if I tried to raise it even to 90 degrees, ouch. Over my head quickly became impossible.

I had no idea really what I could have done to it. I went to the doctor, who figured it was a torn rotator cuff tendon. Based on his assessment, he sent me to an orthopedic. I chose my husband’s orthopedic/pain management doctor because I know her and like her. My husband has a bad back. Her assessment was a torn rotator cuff tendon, which she submitted to the insurance company. By now, three weeks after the original diagnosis, I couldn’t raise my left arm more than 45 degrees. It was basically useless unless I wanted to be in screaming pain.

The wonderful insurance company decided for me that I needed 6 weeks of torture physical therapy before I could have an MRI to find out what was going on  in my shoulder. I made it through 5 appointments before I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’d leave each session in tears and then not sleep for a night or two before the pain before would subside a little. I was literally living on Aleve, just to take the edge off.

Now September of that year, after two full months of not being able to move my arm, the insurance company finally agreed to the MRI. Why was physical therapy so painful? Well, because I had two torn rotator cuff tendons (partial tears that didn’t require surgery, thank goodness), tendonosis (where the tendon around the tears actually died and will never recover), a torn bicep tendon, bursitis and a frozen shoulder. Some of the physical therapy for the torn rotator cuff tendon is counter-productive for the other injuries. My doctor’s colleague chalked it up to the fact that I had a 48-year-old shoulder. Ouch. I think that hurt worse than the shoulder itself. Apparently, torn rotator cuff tendons/frozen shoulders aren’t uncommon in women in their 40s and 50s.

When I started swimming, it was on the advice of my orthopedic doctor (also a triathlete who has had a torn rotator cuff), who said it was one of the best strengthening exercises I could do for my shoulder if I could handle it. While I have my mobility back in that arm, I still have lingering pain. Usually, my shoulder will be a little stiff in the beginning of a swim, but swimming does loosen it up. It took awhile, but swimming generally feels good on my shoulder.

This morning, my shoulder/arm is still achy. It was to be a swim workout today but  I opted out because I won’t risk injuring this arm again. It was the most unbearable pain I can ever remember (and I was in unmedicated labor for 30 hours with my daughter). I believe it was the frozen shoulder that caused the majority of the pain (the membrane sheath that encapsulates the shoulder shrinks up and makes movement difficult) and that’s preventable as long as I keep moving my arm, but even feeling the familiar deltoid muscle pain is enough to send me into a panic.

I have a race on Sunday and I was hoping to get at least one more swim in before then. But if I don’t, at least the swim is the leg of the race where I feel most confident. Even if I swim easy, I’ll do OK in the swim. And in the meantime, I’m hoping that the twingy pain I’ve had in my arm these last couple of days are the result of a tendonosis flare-up and not a new tear. Fingers crossed.

Going from sedentary to active, I’ve taken all of my training pretty slow and steady to avoid injuries. I’d rather go slower than not be able to go at all. I’ll push myself through achy muscles and whiny knees. But this? It’s just not something to be screwing with. I promised myself in the beginning that I would always pay attention when there’s pain.

T minus 7 days to Trek Women Triathlon

My final and longest triathlon of the season is a week from today. Two weeks ago, I will admit, I was still on the fence about this race, even though I had signed up for it and paid the fee.

I am such a  newbie triathlete, and my first race on August 1, was tough, and shorter than this next one. That one was a 1/4 mile swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run. I did ok on the swim and bike, but by the run, I was toast. I finished with a lot of walking breaks, but I finished and I was  proud of that.

The Trek Women triathlon on Sept. 13 is also a 1/4 mile swim, but with a 9-mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run. That’s quite a lot longer than the first one. When I signed up for this one (and I swear I wasn’t high on anything), I’m not sure  what came over me. At my level of fitness, I wasn’t sure that six weeks would be enough training time to increase my bike distance and run distance by a third.

But here I am, one week from race day. And I’m feeling confident. More confident perhaps than I did even on August 1. I’ve been training pretty hard these past few weeks, even when I didn’t want to.

Yesterday (oh how I love weekends when I don’t have to peel myself out of bed at 6am), I planned a training brick. I really don’t like bricks (doing two race disciplines consecutively), and I especially am not fond of bike/run bricks. Going from the bike to the run is hard…in the race and in training. My legs feel like jello and don’t want to work when it’s time to run. It can take up to a half mile before they feel somewhat normal again.

Until yesterday, I have been doing shorter bricks (6mile bike, 2 mile run; 8mile bike, 1.5 mile run) and doing the full distances on their own.

Yesterday was the big test. In the morning, I made some adjustments to the bike and made sure the tires were good and filled (by the way, this makes a huge difference) and off I went. I hooked Runkeeper up on my iPhone to track my bike first, but something went wonky and it didn’t track. I’m not sure how long it took, but I rode 9.5 miles, I think in about 40 minutes.

I got off the bike, took  a couple of swigs of water, ate a babybel cheese, had to run downstairs (twice!) to get my iPod and headphones (stairs are the only thing tougher than running after bike training), reset RunKeeper on my iPhone, and took off running. I had planned to run 2 miles, but when I got to the turning point, I felt ok, so I decided to go for the longer run. And I made it! 3.2 miles, running the whole way. I did not stop once to walk and yesterday, it was pretty hot by the time I was running. There were points in the run where it took a lot of self-talk to keep from walking or stopping, but I made it through, It’s amazing how much of this endurance training comes down to mind over matter.

Runkeeper worked (sort of) the second time out, and I managed to finish 3.2 miles in 37 minutes and 40 seconds, which for me, was spectacular after the bike.

It was an exhausting workout but felt great finishing and now I know I’m ready for next Sunday. I know I’m ready because even though I was a little stiff yesterday, I’m not sore today. Today, I feel great and had a really good swim workout this morning.

Next Sunday, my goal again is to finish. And I’m planning on no walking during the run portion. Of course, if I end up having to, I will be kind to myself. I may not be the fastest woman out there on the course, or even close, but I can do this and finish proudly. I just have to remember not to drink half the pool this time. I know hydration is important, but I don’t think chlorinated water counts!

The ‘Not So Obvious’ Benefits of Exercise

I’m not in love with getting out of bed in the morning to exercise. But I am in love with how I feel when I’m doing it and how I feel for the whole day after.

We all know that exercise is essential to good health and fitting into those smaller jeans and muscle tone. We all know that exercise gives us  energy and stamina and strong bones.

But I’ve  gotten a couple of things from exercise that I didn’t expect:

  • My skin looks great. I don’t know if that’s from sweating or all the water I drink because I sweat, but  I actually had someone tell me recently that my skin is glowing. Plus I have a tan. A healthy, gradual tan that has come from running and biking outside (and a little sitting on the beach, which I wouldn’t have done in summers past.)
  • Speaking of water, I drink so much more water on the days that I exercise. And it’s easy. I’ve usually downed 32 ounces of water before 9:00am when I go out running in the morning. And I drink, drink, drink all day to rehydrate. On non-exercise days, water isn’t as appealing.
  • I eat better and usually less on exercise days. It’s almost as though my body knows on the days that its expended all that energy that real food is necessary to replenish. And that’s what I crave. On running days especially, I’m more likely to reach for that apple and make myself a nice lean protein/whole grain and veggie dinner than on off days.
  • I tend to concentrate better on workout days. I feel clearer, more focused and generally, lessed stressed. My job, my life are stressful these days, so that’s a very good thing.
  • Confidence. I am so much happier with the way I look and how my clothes fit, that I feel better about myself and more confident in my appearance. More than that though, I know I can run 3 miles, bike 10 and swim a half a mile, sometimes all on the same day.  These are things I didn’t think I would ever do, or ever be able to do,  and I’m really proud of my accomplishments. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but it makes me feel like I belong to a special club. And I draw on it when I’m feeling not so hot or confident in other areas of my life.
  • I’m inspired. Doing something repetitive for a half hour or longer gives me time to let my mind just wander. Lots of times, I just stay tuned into whatever music I’m listening to, or I focus on my form. However, other times, when I let my mind just drift, I come up with creative solutions to ongoing problems, blog posts or ideas on how to share what I’ve learned along the way with others.

On that note, I do have plans for creating an environment where those of us on this journey can encourage each other to stay the course and reach our collective goals – good health and fitness – however we are getting there.

Running Rain Delay

rainI planned to go running this morning. I really did. I got up at 5:50. It was still dark out, so I laid in bed contemplating. I really didn’t want to get up. And I’m really not so sure about running in the dark. By 6:15, the sky had brightened enough, so I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed. And then I remembered that I could play with Runkeeper and my new iPhone. That could be fun.

Still dragging, I went downstairs and since my son wasn’t home yet, I had to let the dog out. I had been planning a long run— more than 3 miles— but now it was getting late. It would have to be a regular run. And then I went outside with the dog.

It was raining. Not hard. A light drizzle. But who ever knows what that will lead to? The last time I went out in a light drizzle, halfway through, it turned into a hard, soaking rain. My hubby, who knows my run course, came out to rescue me but by the time he found me, I was already drenched.

Since I was already dressed, I considered still going…without the iPhone of course. But I really don’t like running in the rain. I’m not that hardcore.  I know I should run in the rain, because what if on race day it rains? I’ll have to do it then.

But this morning, since I was waffling anyway, running in the rain was not going to happen. I opted for cozy under the covers for another half hour instead. Hey, does it count that I got out of bed and got dressed? Do I get activity points for good intentions?

Tomorrow, we’re due for a tropical storm. Maybe I’ll be running on the treadmill in the gym after I swim. I only have two weeks of training time left. I shouldn’t be letting a little rain stop me.

Tolerating Two Wheels

This isn't me. I do wear my helmet!

This isn't me. I do wear my helmet!

I tolerate biking. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. It’s my least favorite of the three disciplines in triathlon training, and it takes a lot of self talk to get me out the door with my bike. If I didn’t have a race coming up in a couple of weeks, I would have hung up my helmet for the season.

I did go bike riding today though. 10 miles. It took me just under an hour, but then I wasn’t trying to ride fast today. I wanted to find a route that would be about 10 miles for safe training, so today’s ride was exploratory. When I ride it again this weekend, I’ll work on speed.

Overall, the ride was good this morning. I cruised through a neighborhood that I never go through in my car, the weather is perfect, and I felt like I got a good workout by the time I got home. Ten miles is the longest ride I’ve done and it felt easy enough. I wasn’t trashed after the ride, although we’ll see how I feel tomorrow when I bike and then run. In my race coming up, the bike leg is 9 miles and with less hills than where I was riding today.

Riding along, I kept thinking to myself “Why don’t I like this? I mean, I’m moving and it’s easier than running.” And then some woman pulled out of her driveway while I was approaching and I had to come to a quick stop to avoid being hit. She was on her cell phone.

Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m not a huge fan of biking because you have to take your two wheels out where the big boys (with four wheels) play and they don’t always watch out for the little guys.

The course I mapped out this morning keeps me on neighborhood roads with only a few places where I’m on high-traffic secondary roads. I give tons of credit to those cyclists who ride the major highways and routes. I don’t trust the cars.

Heck, rushing to work a couple of weeks ago, I almost backed into a woman walking behind my driveway. She was in my blindspot. And since I’ve started training outside, I’m extremely aware of others on the road and I always stop for bikes, runners and walkers who are crossing streets or coming up on my house. I got a much-deserved evil glare from the woman, and I felt awful about that for almost the whole day. I felt like if I could come so close to clipping someone and I have a raised level of awareness, how can I trust anyone else? The answer? I can’t. When we are out there training, we need to pay attention to those who are not paying attention to us. We’re moving targets.

Also, my bike is, well, borrowed. And not exactly right for the type of riding I’m doing. It’s a mountain/terrain bike and the tires are wide and the gears are clunky. I don’t know much about the mechanics of a bike, but I don’t think changing gears should be as clicky as they are on this bike.  I worry about things like low air in the tires, flats, etc. I need to learn more about the bike that I’m riding so I don’t get stuck if something happens to it. Plus, sorry, riding hurts my butt. Even with a cushy padded seat like the one I was riding on today.

When I was a teenager, I rode my bike everywhere. I rode to work every day, along major highways and roads and I never thought once about how dangerous it might be or that I might get a flat. It was a faster way to get to work than walking was.

I’d like to get back to that mentality on the bike now. I want to enjoy it as much as I did then and not worry about what could go wrong. I’d say for most of the ride today, I felt pretty confident and comfortable. But in cycling, there  is definitely as much thought and awareness that has to go into safety as there is into exercise or form.

To get started, I think I’ll head to the bike store this afternoon to see about replacing the mountain bike tires with road tires at least. Maybe they can give me a tutorial too!