Alice and the Rabbit Holes

Alice

Remember when Alice falls down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland?  My journey has been much like Alice except I’m not falling; I’m jumping…and I keep jumping into one rabbit hole after another in search of finding the root cause of my pain.  The goal being to get back to training so I can get back to racing.

A little History

Back in July 2015 I pulled something in my right hip reaching for a nutrition bar 3 months before Cabo Ironman.  From July – October I had tried chiropractic, PT, acupuncture and massage.  I have blogged about those trials and tribulations in past post.

This new Journey…The “Alice Journey” started in October of 2015 when I started working with my PT to resolve my hip pain and agreed to start from the ground up.  Since July of 2015 I have found the following to be true:

  • I have said this over and over again. Pain is on the outside of my right hip.
  • I can’t touch the pain.
  • I can’t sleep on my right side.
  • Sometimes I get burning sensation in my right glute
  • Other times I get a toothache-like throbbing at the top of my IT band where it connects to my pelvis
  • And sometimes I feel it pulsate on the outside of my thigh.
  • It hurts on the top side of my hip when I stretch the right side. It feels like the muscles are super tight along the right oblique.
  • Sitting is bad and standing is good
  • Hip flexor stretches help to dull the pain but it never really goes away.
  • I do not have low back pain
  • I want to race!

Rabbit Hole #1 – Instability – Physical Therapy

After x-rays concluded nothing was broken the Sports Med wanted me to do physical therapy before doing any further tests.  I had failed the stability and mobility tests like a champ in the office so he was certain that my pain was from instability.   I met with the PT twice a week for an hour each time and I would leave with specific exercises.  It was like a reset.  I had so many imbalances and my muscles weren’t firing on time and some muscles weren’t firing at all.   It took three weeks to get my glute muscles to perk up and that took the PT walking beside me poking my butt as I lunged across the gym.  I did PT from October to January and had completely transformed how I moved.  I went from struggling to roll over to jumping on and off of a boso ball one-legged and bear crawling with a flat back for 20 ft….fast.   I have done PT in the past but this was different.  I think there is something to be said when a PT works with their patient holistically.  I wasn’t just a number.  I didn’t get pumped in and out in a 20 minutes session.  I needed more.  She worked with me for an entire hour each session and we started out with two sessions a week and then progressed to one session a week.  Each session built upon the last session.  I could feel myself getting stronger each week.

But….I still had hip pain and still struggled to make any gains on the bike.

Rabbit Hole #2 – Inflamed Bursa – Cortisone Injection

In January I went back to the Sports Med where he agreed to do an MRI after I passed all the mobility and functional tests.  I then met with an Orthopedic Dr who reviewed my MRI and felt I had inflammation in the bursa and I needed to do a cortisone injection.  This rabbit hole probably never would have happened had I not been impatient with the Sports Med Dr.    In goes the injection with no results.

Rabbit Hole #3 – Glute Tendon Tear – Prolotherapy

Back to the Sports Med where he ultrasounds my hip and glutes to find that my glute medius tendon has micro tears and lots of scar tissue.  We agree to try prolothearpy.   Prolotherapy is when sugar water is injected into the affected area to create inflammation which stimulates healing in the area. After two sessions of prolo with zero relief I moved on in search of other options.

Rabbit Hole #4 – Body Alignment – Rolfing

I found a rolfer that was willing to take on the challenge.   Rolfing (also referred as structural integration) is different from deep-tissue massage, in that practitioners are trained to create overall ease and balance throughout the entire structure, rather than focusing on areas presenting tension. As a structure becomes more organized, chronic strain patterns are alleviated, and pain and stress decreases.  You can learn more about the benefits of rolfing here.  My goal was to realign my body and eliminate the hip pain.  My first session she noticed my body pulling to the left of my body so she wasn’t surprised that my right hip was hurting.  I have completed all 10 sessions and have found relief in all parts of my body…except my hip.  I plan to continue to incorporate rolfing as part of my training program when I am healed and back on a consistent training program.

Rabbit Hole #5 – SI Joint – PRP Therapy

After all the work with my sports med doctor and failed attempts with prolotherapy I was guided to try Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy by my super fabulous PT and with support from the sports med doctor.   After an assessment it was determined that much of my pain was coming from my SI joint.  I was setup with and a cortisone injection to the SI joint as a test to see if the pain would go away.  Now I didn’t jump off the table with zero pain.   It took about a week for me to notice I could sleep on my right side with no pain.  I was pain free and it felt so so good.  I was back to biking and running (reserved training of course).   Then about 5 weeks after the injection the pain came back.  This means the SI is likely the root cause.   I am scheduled for the PRP injection next Tuesday.  I am a bit nervous and afraid of the procedure but really hoping this is the cure to what has plagued me over this past year.  You can learn more about PRP here

Rabbit Hole #6 – Spinal Adjustment – Chiropractic

While waiting for the cortisone injection results I was referred from the PRP specialist to a chiropractor.  I’d never go back to a chiropractor due to past experiences but the specialist urged me to do so.  I’ve known my L4 and L5 were slightly compressed for well over 10 years and it really hasn’t been a problem.  However before diving deeper into PRP I went down this rabbit hole just to make sure this wasn’t the culprit.  The adjustments did help relieve the feeling of pressure through my spine a bit but it was hard to feel if this was working because my pain was still masked by the cortisone injection.  Once that wore off it was very clear this wasn’t going to be the fix.

Rabbit Hole #7 – Body Alignment –  Strain Counterstrain Therapy

This is an interesting one and difficult to explain how it works.  The practitioner identifies sensory organs located on your head.  Tenderness found on your head refers to a specific part on your body.  The practitioner then goes to that part of your body finds the tender spot and works it by shortening the muscle and connective tissue resetting the dysfunctional neuromuscular and the tissue returns to a normal state that translated to pain relief and improved mobility.  They then go back to the location on your head and the tenderness is gone.  Crazy right?!?!   All I can say is that I can get off the table and have less pain and more mobility…but it doesn’t last long before it returns to its inflamed state.

What now?---Down the Rabbit Hole

Well, we will see if the PRP is the golden ticket.  I pray it helps because I don’t know what else I can do; I’m grasping for a solution….what other rabbit hole can I possibly go down after this?

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Cutting Cermony

After racing Santa Cruz 70.3 I have continued to wear my race bracelet….until today.

Keeping my race bracelet on was for a much deeper reason.  Many think it is because of the little spousal rivalry my husband and I had set into play over the 70.3 Santa Cruz course…which I won.  My race bracelet really has nothing to do with that at all.

Surprise!!!!

You see, I had found such a great group of like-minded triathlete friends in Oakland that I have really struggled to transition to Portland fully.  I miss them every day.  I miss the weekly swimming and running session and the weekend rides.  I know I have expressed my heartache but I don’t know that I really recognized how emotionally draining it has been on me.

Once in Portland I felt like I was missing out on big events and training sessions that I really wanted to be a part of and found myself back in train on your own rut.  I even traveled down to participate in training weekends when I could…and the fact I won’t be making the end of season team party next month really aches my soul.  This race bracelet is the last moment of the season I was able to spend with my favorite peeps…and I really didn’t want it to end.

Santa Cruz  23 Santa Cruz 21 Santa Cruz 22

Now that the season is over and I have slowed down to reconnect with myself a bit more I realized something.    I haven’t lost those connections…because they are still there (in a virtual sort of way) and will be there when I visit and at a couple of next years races..and maybe if I can convince them to come this way for a weekend of training.

I do need to strive to make those types of connections here in Portland.   Now hear me out, I don’t need motivation to keep the desire I have inside me to compete in triathlons…cause that is seeded deep.  I have close friends that could attest to that!!!!  LOL

But it is awesome and motivating to connect with people who enjoy the sport like I do.

bracelet

So today ….cutting of my race bracelet symbolizes my willingness to move forward instead of staying in a constant
state of longing.   While I heal physically it is also time to heal emotionally.

I have already begun to connect with like-minded triathletes here in Portland and they are pretty awesome individuals…

Onward and Upward!!!

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2015 Triathlon Memories

It was a roller coaster of a year. A few things that really pulled at my heart strings.

  • Started the season with a foot injury.
  • Bullet hole through my front windshield…yes this really happened
  • Moved my family from Oakland to Portland.  I stayed behind
  • Car broken into twice
  • Sold our Oakland home
  • Then I moved to Portland (I really didn’t want to leave but the babies needed me)

Through it all I met the most extraordinary individuals…..

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Santa Cruz 70.3 Race Recap

If you are thinking about a really cool new destination for a 70.3 next year add Santa Cruz 70.3 to your race lineup.  The water temperature was in the mid 60’s and it was overcast most of the race.  I never got cold and never felt like I was going to overheat.  Lots of volunteers and aid stations the entire way as well.

I have nothing but great things to say about racing Santa Cruz 70.3 especially since I shouldn’t have been racing at all. With a hip and back injury that forced me out of racing Cabo it was really time to let my body heal….but you see there was a little husband/wife wager on the line…and I’ll be dammed if I was going to lose.

Several months back my husband said he could do this race and finish in the same amount of time and without any coaching. It ignited a fiery flame of determination. This was all about principality. I knew I could beat him so I set the bar a bit higher for myself. I wasn’t only going to beat him I was going to beat him by an hour.

See he is stronger on the bike if we are just going for a ride; he can out run me on the run if we are just going on a run…but putting it all together and add a swim into the mix…baby I got you beat (hair flip).

Swim
The swim started out great but I got thrown around like I was in a washing machine after I reached the first turn. It was a bit smoother on the way back in but didn’t make for the best swim of my career. My wave went 20 minutes before my husband’s wave so I knew I wouldn’t see him for awhile.

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Bike
I knew if I was going to have any issues on race day it would happen on the bike. At about 1.5 hours on the bike my hip and sciatic pain started up. With every peddle stroke the burning on my right hip intensified. I really wanted to be in aero as well but knew it wasn’t good for my injury. At mile 40 I saw my husband on the bike and felt I was a little bit behind my 1 hr goal. I pushed harder but found it hard to maintain because I really had to pee (I refuse to pee on the bike) and the burning sensation on my hip was insane. I jumped off the bike for a potty break somewhere around mile 44 and that break helped subside the constant burning pain through the hip as well as my bladder…enough to get me back to transition.

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Run
The run course was an out and back and I knew I could gauge my lead on my husband by when I passed him on the course. I didn’t waste any time getting into a rhythm but fought the hip and sciatic pain for the first 5 miles. No sign of my husband at mile 6 or 7. I still hadn’t seen him by mile 8. Then there he was coming up the road as I passed mile marker 9. Doing all the calculations in my head I was still a bit behind my goal. I finished up the run where I saw a humpback whale come up out of the water to eat. Coolest part of the event.

1141_028089

Of course I beat my husband…but only by 43 minutes. Oh Yeah…doin the dance, doin the dance !!!  I didn’t rub it in his face or anything like that.  His friends, who had no idea of the little household competition, took care of that.  Once he finished and we connected his friends said to him “Dude, your wife kicked your ass.”

1141_037231

Oh, and I finished with a PR of 18 minutes which is amazing given my injuries. I just keep thinking if I can do this injured….I can’t wait to see what I can do healed with nothing holding me back.

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Injury Wins! I Surrender…

This weekend in 140 characters or less: Skipped Century and Pulled out of Ironman Los Cabos – Despair Anger Depressed Realization Acceptance Depressed Again #FeelingLikeAFailure

surrender

The Slightly Longer Version….

Yep, I have decided to back out of Cabo. It was a very difficult decision but one I think I have subconsciously been thinking about for several weeks. I have come so far in my training (lots of money spent as well) but reality is I have been fighting an injury for 7 weeks (see my post, “Listening to Your Body” for the full cautionary tale). The hip and lower back pain have been bad enough that they keep me up at night….every night! Pushing through the pain to do the training was making the injury progressively worse. With only 9 more weeks to go, it was time to pull the plug.

With the decision comes a lot of mixed emotions. I wanted more than just to cross the finish line. I am hoping by writing this post about my decision, about how I am feeling and about the thoughts that passed through my mind leading up to the decision I could impose some order on my jumbled thoughts. Here is the best I could do.

Despair – When I reached out to my support crew on Friday; my triathlon coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, strength coach, physical therapist, triathlon colleagues, sports medicine doctor, and primary doctor there was no one that could save the day and help relieve the pain. Why won’t my body just get it together? There was nothing I could do and no one that could help me (my support crew has done everything in their power to keep me functioning). Realization that I was helpless.

Anger – This weekend’s century ride was an important milestone. I knew last weekend I wasn’t going to be able to push through the total distance but I never expected that I wasn’t going to be able to ride at all. The realization was crushing. (insert explicit screams here).

Depressed – I have put so much time and effort into this training. I had inconvenienced my family and friends for this training. I feel like a complete failure. Commitment leads to results. That is what I have been taught. That is what I believe. I made the commitment and put in the work and was dedicated.  My coach would tell you I am one of the most dedicated athletes she has had.  You give me the plan.  I am going to do the plan to the fullest…and I am going to love every moment of it. Training has been #1  and I worked everything around my training schedule.  Even with the commitment and dedication there was something missing, a weak link, and it feels like that weak link was me.

Realization – I have been fighting this injury for 7 weeks and every day I push through the training the worse the injury gets. I only have 9 more weeks to go and have only completed 40% of my plan due to the injury. Do I really want to start the race dragging my right leg behind me? What would that look like at the end of the race? Would I damage something beyond repair? My primary goal (which I wrote down from the very beginning) was to get to the start line strong, healthy and ready to race. My current state is nowhere near that goal.

Acceptance – There are other races. I would rather start a race healthy, healed and strong rather than drag my injured self across the finish line…after all my dream is to podium. That’s not going to happen with this injury and if I continue to damage what hasn’t been allowed to heal, I might make sure that it never happens. I was not willing to possibly sacrifice my dream for the sake of this one race.

Depressed Again – Hey, I’m only human. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between acceptance and depression the past several days. Give it some time.

The Big Scary Ferocious Truth

With my last race report I included a quote that “Sometimes the words we leave unspoken are the most important ones that should have been said”. This was probably less prophetic and more psychoanalysis. There was certainly something I wasn’t saying and something about the quote certainly touched a nerve. I was trying to dig past the rational me (thanks Sigmund) and get to something that was even more terrifying than 100 miles of the fiery flames of hell licking up my thigh (describing what would have been my century ride).

The scary truth is, this could be it. No more triathlons…ever. My family and friends know how much I love triathlon.  It is a sport I plan to do for a very long time… like forever ever. (After all it is the only tattoo on my body) The thought of having an irreversible injury that would pull me out of triathlon for good is unimaginable.

So there it is. The deep darkness of my worst fear. Now that it is out in the open for all to see I can tell you that I don’t go down without a fight. In fact I think it’s safe to say that I usually come back swinging even harder.

Hopefully; hopefully I’ve learned something. I am taking a deep breath and fighting against every instinct I have to do it differently next time and take my recovery one step at a time.

If you are dealing with injury, what is the hardest part? Being a grouch all day? Feeling guilty about eating so much and not training? Feeling like a sloth? Leave a comment below and share your biggest fear.

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My 10 Best

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

 

During my career as a triathlete I’ve experienced many of the most uplifting moments of my life and likewise come face to face with some of the most crushing disappointments. It seems to be in the nature of the sport that we pass through such extremes. Some would say it’s a bit like being bipolar but then what else would you expect from people that enjoy doing the same thing over and over expecting everything to change. Despite the low points I get up every morning looking forward to the challenge of another day. Choosing to focus on the positive and forgetting the negatives is a skill that has only grown stronger through training for the Ironman. Along the way I’ve found a few happy people, places and things that help me stay positive. Here are my 10 best.

 

  1. Best Inspiring Movie – Ironman World Championships

 

With their over the top life-and-death struggle story lines, voice of god narrators, stirring music and way too much slow motion, the Ironman World Championship movies are my guilty pleasure. I don’t think I have found any Hollywood movie that gets me more juiced. Some of the music they use I have found and listen to on race day. It just sets the mood right.

 

If you haven’t tried one yet check out the Revista RunOnline coverage of Kona 2013 on YouTube. Make sure you have some tissues handy.

 

  1. Best Pain Cave Soundtrack – Pink / The xx

 

I go through phases but anything by Pink really gets me going. Get the Party Started, Just Like a Pill and Raise Your Glass are a few of my favorites. To get warmed up I always listen to the instrumental piece by The XX called Intro. It helps clear my head, get centered and focus on my intentions, whether I’m getting ready to crank out some miles in the basement or it’s race day.

 

  1. Best Preworkout Snack

 

My preworkout snack routine is pretty set and by this time I think my body knows what’s coming up. If it’s a morning session I eat a half cup of steal cut oats. I add a little cinnamon and brown sugar to give me some quick carbs and flavor. If it’s an afternoon session I will generally eat an apple and string cheese right before heading out.

 

  1. Best Time of Day – Before 5 in the Morning

 

I am a morning person and always have been. For training I find it’s an ideal time both mentally and physically. My day typically starts around 4:45 or 5:00 or even a bit earlier if I have a long morning training session planned. I enjoy the quiet and peacefulness while I go through some of my morning rituals. I generally make oatmeal for the family and then stretch and sip on a cup of coffee. If my vegetables are blooming I head out and water them.

 

  1. Best Day of the Week for Training – Friday

 

Ever since we moved to Oakland and then continuing when we came back to Portland I have reduced my work schedule to make Friday a training day. The kids are at school and I make it a day to really focus on training without distractions. I usually do a long brick session. As well as a great boost for my training it helps free up some family time over the weekend which everyone appreciates.

 

  1. Best Road Cycling Route – Marin-Big Rock-Highway 1

 

My favorite route of all time is through Marin County. The hills are challenging on the way up to Big Rock but then you get rewarded with a ride through the redwoods. The trees just envelop you on your way down the mountain and then it dumps you out on Highway 1 where you have a beautiful view of the ocean and get to smell the ocean breeze on the ride back.

 

  1. Best (and scariest) Swim – Alcatraz to the Presidio

 

There were strong currents, the water was freezing and I was scared to death of jumping off the ferry into the bay but this turned out to be my favorite swim ever. What made the difference was chatting with a 10 year old who was doing the swim for her 10th time. I shared with her how scared I was to jump and she gave me this awesome pep talk. When they gave us the signal to jump everyone sort of edged back while my little friend jumped right in. As she went I found myself stepping forward and jumped in right after her. It was the coolest swim start I’ve ever experienced.

 

  1. Best Workout Partner – Rodney (Hubby) Hicks

 

Despite having almost the polar opposite attitude toward training and racing (or maybe thanks to that) my hubby continues to be my most valuable training partner. He makes my long rides on Friday one of the highlights of my week and he has also done more than I can say to make this all possible. Other than my rides with Rodney I tend to do most of my training alone. Although I am a member of a triathlon training group in Oakland and Portland and participated in swim camps and trained with swim clubs it has always been difficult to line up training sessions because everyone is usually on a different schedule.

 

  1. Best Race – Oceanside 70.3

 

The Oceanside 70.3 has to be my favorite race. I’ve done it twice and am signed up again for the 3rd year. It’s held at the end of March and this year it was a pretty typical 75 degrees and sunny. The course is set up really well with lots of aid stations and there are volunteers and fans, many from the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, every step of the way. You never run out of water or ice and people come out and set up their sprinklers and hoses along the course if you want to cool off.

 

  1. Best Trail Running Route – French Trail, Redwood Regional Park

 

This is an absolutely gorgeous trail run through towering redwood forests just a few miles from downtown Oakland. It’s amazing that this place exists so close to such a large urban center. It makes you feel very connected with nature. There is a whole network of trails in the park but the French Trail goes deep into the ravine where these gnarled old trees are covered in moss and there is this mesmerizing energy there that I always like to stop and soak in for a moment. Then I take off and climb the next hill.

 

Have you got BEST? Leave me a comment and share it with the rest us. Everybody needs something to make them smile. Thanks in advance for sharing yours.

 

 

 

 

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Midsummer Olympic Triathlon – Not your average race report

Okay so I did pretty decent out on the race course and super happy with my placing (1st age group and 4th overall female).  But that is not really what I want to report out on.  The placement was just icing on the cake.

I have battled hip and lower back pain (that keeps me up at night) with intense burning sensation on the outside of my right thigh when I get out and ride my bike.

Tri Sherpa Village

You know the saying it takes a village to raise a child, well it is taking a village to get me across the finish line…and sometimes just to the start line.  You see I have this team – I call them my Tri Sherpa Village (they don’t even know they are part of this massive village I have created) – and each have had a hand in my recovery and progress, mentally and physically, throughout this journey.  Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Massage Therapist, Strength Trainer, Swim Coach, Sports Medicine Doctor, Triathlon Coach, Teammates, and my friends and family.

One piece of advice came from my PT, Annalisa, this past week that really sank in.  She shared a story about a cyclist that had just been feeling really sick and chose rest over pushing through the planned sessions prior to her race (because if you know me well enough I am the one pushing through every session).  The rest proved fruitful as she was able to bounce back and do really well on race day.  I’m not sure how the stars aligned but my coach, Raeleigh, had removed the cycling session that I normally do throughout the week – the week became more about R&R.

Spoken Words

Something unexpected happened at the closing of the race and is really the most important take away from my race report.  You see, several ladies (5 to be exact) came up feeling compelled to share how strong I looked on the bike.  They had no idea the struggles I have had on the bike over the past 7 weeks.  I really needed to hear those words. It instantly dissolved the self-doubt I’ve carried over the past weeks. “Sometimes the words we leave unspoken are the most important ones that should have been said” author unknown.

My take away from this race is to share those often unspoken words more often with others – stand in that gap of others self-doubt and offer an encouraging word.

 

 

 

Race Day Bloopers

Those moments you would like to do a retake.  I have a couple bloopers I feel are worthy of sharing.

Swim

Blooper #1 – I was about halfway out to the first buoy when my hands brushed something hard and slimy under the water.  Lake Monster!!!!! a bit of panic set in and my stroke quickened until I felt safe again.

Bike

Blooper #2– I passed this dude at about mile 18.  At about mile 20 he decided he would pass me on the uphill.  I had to tap on my brakes (on an uphill) because he really didn’t have what it took to get up the hill and pass appropriately.  He slid in front of me and then he spit to his right side of  the bike and the projectile landed all over my face.  I caught up to him and very politely said “Well, that’s a first…being spit on that is”.  He said he was sorry and didn’t think anyone was behind him and added I made him feel bad…I smiled, dropped into a higher gear and sped away.

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Nutrition: The Final Frontier

My five-year mission to boldly seek out more intelligent food choices.

 

Food Star Trek Enterprise

 

The Vacuum of Space and Time

I’ll start off by saying that I have no idea how many calories I consume. Nutrition, when it comes to fueling my body for triathlon training, has been uncharted territory for me. I like to think that I eat a healthy diet but I will be the first to admit I have much to learn.

High volume training seems to create a black hole where an infinite number of calories can disappear. Not necessarily a bad thing if you like to eat but I have found that filling the void with healthy food choices has been a daily challenge.

Added to my own needs are the demands of a busy growing family with a range of food preferences. While Einstein’s theory of relativity predicts that the faster you go, the more time will appear to slow down, my own experience with the space/time continuum has been that there are always empty stomachs and never enough time to fill them. While I still have a long way to go on my voyage to better nutrition, I have managed to discover a few new tricks on my own and found some helpful guides along the way.

 

My Alternate Universe

Sharing meals with my 3 children and husband has meant mastering the substitution game. Every great chef knows a work around when certain ingredients aren’t available. While I don’t aspire to be a great chef I do like to think of myself as a cleaver cook. Using alternate ingredients to make familiar family favorites more nutritious has been my best trick for eating healthier while keeping everyone happy.

Swapping lean ground turkey for beef on sloppy Joe night is a typical trade off. While my kids want their sloppy Joes with a bun I go one further and have mine over a lettuce salad. Fortunately I love salads and I’ve found they are a great alternative for bread in a variety of dishes.

 

Visiting the Vegans

Along the way on my journey to better nutrition I spent nearly a year as a vegan. It was something I had thought about for a long time. Adopting a vegan diet was an easy fit for my lifestyle because many of my favorite foods were already vegan. The results, when combined with the demands of my increased training, were mixed.

It felt like I was eating the healthiest diet of my life. At the same time I was piling on the training. I later found out through trial and error and with help from my new watch that my intensity was too high. I felt like I could push myself but when I did, I would suddenly tank.

While dealing with the frustration of fatigue I also found out I was allergic to soy protein. Since I wasn’t getting enough protein I was also losing muscle. What had started as a positive step up for my training turned out to be two steps back.

After nearly a year I decided I needed to look for a different approach if I wanted to stay healthy and build my training. I needed protein and I needed calories.

 

Cosmic Energy

One benefit of following a vegan diet was that I became very aware of how food made me feel. Potatoes made me sleepy so I started to avoid them before training. I found bread would clog me up and leave me feeling bloated. While I avoid getting into the gluten debate I think it’s likely that has something to do with it. I also consulted a naturopath and they helped me find ways to feel better. Recognizing how I felt after eating certain foods was part of that.

Substituting salad for bread was one easy solution. Finding a substitution for soy protein proved to be harder and it wasn’t possible for me to keep following a vegan diet. I went back to chicken and ground turkey and other lean white meat for my protein. Rather than following a strict schedule or diet I let my stomach be my guide. Gauging how much to eat and when is usually a matter of when I have time and when my stomach starts to grumble.

 

Big Bonk Theory

Until a few months ago I would never take anything other than fluids during a training session. As I have ramped up my mileage, particularly on the bike, I’ve found this to be a problem. I would reach a point where I would suddenly become super tired. Fluids alone were not enough. I have started adding nutrition bars during my long rides and found that bananas are also good. I don’t have any plans to add solid food during my runs or during my swimming workouts but for rides, when I am out there on my own for many hours, the extra energy has been a big help in avoiding the bonk.

 

Captain’s Log 

Upon rising – Protein Shake

Breakfast

-Steel cut oats

-Cream of rice

-Chicken sausage

Lunch

-leftovers from the night before

Snacks

-raisins, nuts and anything that is easy to store in my desk

Dinner

-Healthy version of sloppy Joes with ground turkey over salad

-Turkey or chicken over salad with a side of sweet potatoes

-Leftovers stuffed in a burrito wrap

Training

Swim

-Usually water only but sometimes electrolyte drinks

Bike

-Nutrition bars, bananas and plenty of GU Roctaine and water

Run

-Usually water only but sometimes sports drink and gels

 

Exploring the New World

I still have much to learn about nutrition. Fueling myself for an entire Ironman distance race is still a big concern for me. Juggling meals for the family with the bottomless pit that comes with higher training volumes has been challenging enough. If you have any tips gleaned from your own triathlon training experience for day-to-day nutrition, fueling during training and race day nutrition strategies please leave a comment below. Your experience is appreciated.

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Triathlon Time Management

Trainingtime management pie chart

Training for an Ironman has had an immense impact on many faucets of my life. Overall I think it has helped me to better balance the various roles I play as a wife, mother, athlete and as a results oriented IT project manager. It may seem odd that a sport with a reputation for extremes would help someone create a more balanced lifestyle but I think for me it has done just that.

I have found there is something to the idea of lifestyle design that author and blogger Tim Ferriss promotes. I haven’t read his books or more than a little of the material on his blog (part of my own lifestyle design) but there is enough media floating around to understand that he believes changing your lifestyle can lead to big improvements in performance, in all areas of your life. I believe it can and does. Although I’m nowhere near a 4-hour workweek, nor do I want to be, setting priorities and delegating (or outsourcing as Tim would call it) have made a huge difference. Here is little breakdown of how my lifestyle has adjusted to becoming a triathlete.

Mom

As mom to three of my favorite people: Jerad 16, Zoi 9 and Eli 3, I get to experience all of the special joys of being a mom. Mixing together a busy family, a career and the training necessary to prepare for a full Ironman does not always go smoothly. But there are ways to make it work and with a little determination, some creativity and a lot of help it mostly has.

When we recently came back to Portland after a year in Oakland, my husband Rodney took on the role of stay-at-home dad. While all three of my children are either in daycare or in school, which lightens the load a bit, it’s still a huge commitment. It gives me the kind of freedom to be an athlete that many moms either don’t have or don’t think they have. Rodney is still able to meet up with his running group (we don’t typically run together) and keeps busy doing consulting work, while I get more time to train.

With approximately seven years separating each of my children it leads to some interesting insights. Disney World for example, is great for the whole family but Universal Studios is not so great for a 3 year old. Although I can’t compete with Disney World, as far as being a mom, I manage to cover the bases a little better than Universal Studios. I am mom to each of my children but in very different ways. For me, having children so far apart is also an opportunity to have them help make time to train. My two older children pitch in often which is a big help. My oldest is able to keep an eye on things on occasion while we’re gone. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the chores around the house are magically done when I get home, at least the house doesn’t burn down and my three year old doesn’t wander off.

My mother-in-law lives in Portland and we are, at least temporarily since the move, living with her until we can find our own place. She’s also been willing to help with the kids, especially when we go out for long bike rides.

Work

Before I fell into the world of triathlon, work was #1. That has changed. I don’t think it has diminished my effectiveness and in fact has probably made it easier for me to see that other people are juggling priorities as well. I can still get everyone on task but hopefully with a little more compassion than the old me. The old me would never take a sick day from work. I was there early and stayed later than was necessary. Around the same time that I was becoming more serious about my new sport, there came a new job and a move to Oakland. Right up front I negotiated a 1/2 day off so I could use that day for a longer training session. It was the first of many lifestyle adjustments.

Moving back to Portland I was able to return to my old job. During the time in Oakland my priorities had shifted. With my heavy training load I couldn’t work more than 32 hours per week. They were fine with that. Fortunately for me as well, my former employer was very very happy to have me back.

Things that Don’t Get Done

The biggest difference in adapting my lifestyle to being a triathlete has been my own attitude. Making time for triathlon training has meant shifting my priorities. A lot of things that used to be important to me, a lot of things that I used to frankly obsess over a little too much, just don’t get done. Ironing was something that I used to do daily. Every night I would be ironing my clothes for the next day and all of the clothes that I had in my closet were arranged by color and grouped by pants, shirts and skirts etc. Now they are more or less just there and ironing is something I do maybe once a week but then again maybe not. I am a very A-type personality (I may have mentioned this before) and in my house there was a place for everything and I was very adamant about everything being in its place. Now there are a lot of things that I just don’t know where they are. I have grown a thick skin to things like dirty dishes in the sink, toys scattered around and I can’t remember the last time anything was dusted.

All together it has been a great experience. Not just to see what I could accomplish as a triathlete but also to see what was possible. You don’t have to be stuck. If you want to make a change, big or little, set your priorities, ask for help and of course, do the work. If you’ve got a story about a way you are able to balance your lifestyle and still get the training done please leave a comment.

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My 3 Favorite Injuries

When it comes to injuries, like most triathletes, I’ve had a few. “But then again”, as the song goes, “too few to mention”.

Psych!

Of course I’m going to mention injuries. This wouldn’t be a triathlon blog without discussing injuries. Come anywhere close to a triathlete (or a group of two or more) and see how easily the conversation can veer to injuries.

You: “Boy it’s hot today.”

Triathlete: “Not as hot as the day I crashed my bike and tore my ACL.”

You: “How’s your mom?”

Triathlete: “She’s really happy at the new senior home but I’m worried she’s not getting enough protein. When I went vegan a couple years ago I was having the same problem and ended up with a stress fracture in my back.”

You: “That’s some crazy stuff happening in Greece.”

Triathlete: “What?”

Other triathlete: “How’s that KT tape working for you?”

A Remarkable Run

For someone as active as I’ve been all through school and into my adult life, I’ve had a remarkable run without a major injury or setback. For 14 years I played soccer and made the varsity team as a high school freshman.  I ran track and cross country starting in grade school all the way through college. I didn’t have any type of major injury that I can recall until college. I was running cross country and starting to up my mileage for a half marathon when I began having knee pain. I went to see the sports doctor about the pain and he ended up giving me a shot of cortisone at the urging of my coach. We were racing the next day and of course I had no pain. I hated the idea of taking a shot to mask the pain but I didn’t know how to talk to my coach about it so I just quit running cross country for the school.

Recovering from Injury without Medication

As I’ve gotten older and gradually drifted more toward half-marathons and finally jumping into the world of triathlon, I’ve experienced more injuries. Some have been the chronic type caused by the wrong shoes, problems with technique or just trying to dial in the right training zone. Others have been the more acute kind, such as from my brief (lasting 5 minutes) return to soccer after 9 years away. That ended in a cast for six weeks, crutches and a persistent problem with plantar fasciitis that continued for two years.

With my general aversion to drugs of any kind (I only take a liquid multivitamin because I don’t like things that come in pills) and an allergy to Ibuprofen, I’ve had to develop alternate strategies for recovering from injuries and managing chronic conditions. I still get discouraged when an injury keeps me from hitting my training goals or causes me to miss a race but I’ve learned to be proactive. Having a strategy for adapting my training so I can continue getting stronger while recovering has helped make me a better athlete. I’ve come to appreciate that injuries, while best avoided, are still an opportunity to learn something and come back even stronger.

Here then are my 3 favorite injuries and how I deal with them.

The Niggle

For me, those small annoying sensations that start to demand my attention are in fact a handy tool to gage my body. When the niggles start popping up, particularly in my lower back or right hip I know it’s time to back off. When I got to the run of my first 70.3 I had a bad case of the niggles. I had been struggling with an IT-band problem for about 6 weeks leading up to the race and I’d replaced my regular running with water jogging. I was able to stay in the race by focusing on shortening my stride and finding a rhythm that allowed for a little less pain. Once I get in the groove I use whatever mantra that comes to me and silently sing it in time with my stride.

The Bonk

For a long time I struggled with feeling completely exhausted after some of my brick workouts. The feeling would continue into the next day or days and it felt like I was just grinding myself down. Not good if you’re trying to avoid getting injured.

The most recent addition to my training tech arsenal is a Garmin Forerunner 920xt. This replaced a much older Garmin model and came with a bunch of new features. The heart rate sensor and zone settings have been the most beneficial. When I first got the watch and did a couple of runs and bike rides I quickly learned that I was pushing too hard. My bike cadence was low and my heart rate was really high. Since then I’ve learned to switch to a gear that is more manageable, keep my cadence up and bring my heart rate down to the zone I’m trying to hit. The benefits have been dramatic and I’m able to finish my sessions without completely draining the tank and recover faster as well.

The Special Expletive

I have a love-hate relationship involving ice. If I ache from a training session I prefer to sit in the hot tub but if there is something bothering me in a specific location I lay on the ice. For minor aches and pains it works wonderfully. I always follow up with lots of stretching and roller work.

The ice bath is something I reserve for extreme cases; usually after a big race like my recent century ride. The pain in my quads was just throbbing after that so I took the plunge. I definitely used some special expletives during the first 5 minutes but I managed to hold out for 5 more and then repeated it a couple hours later. In the morning my legs were refreshed. It was really amazing considering the way I felt the night before.

Avoiding the Problem

Over the years I’ve developed a whole suite of strategies to avoid rollerinjuries. From massage to band work and core strength exercises to hot yoga, I do everything I can to stay healthy. Ignoring things has never seemed to me an effective approach to handling any problem. Pain from injuries like the 3 I’ve mentioned has taught me a lot but if I can avoid an injury with a good preventive program, I’m all for that.

If you’ve learned anything from your injuries or discovered something that has helped you recover please feel free to share in the comments below.

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