Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recovery Day Funsies: Danimal v/s Animal

Yeah, this has nothing to do with triathlons or marathons, but it's my day off from training,and...this is hilarious.

Check out the staring contest between Danimal (OK GO) and Animal (Muppets)!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hit The Bricks (Movin' On Up)

Today I got up at 4:30am without complaining, because today I got to move up a rung on the comeback ladder. Today I graduated from training just one discipline at a time, to working a 'brick'.

Bricks are training two legs of the triathlon together without stopping - ride bike, get off bike, take off helmet, put on running shoes, run. Most often, a brick is bike to run, but can sometimes be swim to bike or swim to run. I'll do a swim to bike in a few weeks, but today was my first of a 6 week series of bike/run bricks.

Central Park gets crowded in the evenings after work, and during the day it is open to traffic, so if you want to get a decent bike ride in, you have to get there crazy early. This class started at 6am, so that meant a 4:30 alarm and I had to be ON the 4/5 train no later than 5:30. It was still dark when I rode to Union Square, but by the time I got to 86th st, the sky had that grey, heavy quality that I used to associate with dragging my ass home after all night partying and a sense of dread for the hangover that was coming to get me in a few short hours. The circumstances were different, and I was anticipating rather than dreading, but make no mistake, that self-inflicted pain was still coming, and rather than hammering my brain with the blunt edge of too many margaritas, it was going perform a full body guerilla strike on all of my muscles over the next 48 hours.  OK, bring it.  I'm ready.  I know for whom the bell tolls, and it tolls for my sorry ass.

Today's brick was going to be 'easy'.  The bike leg was only 10 miles, with just one attack on the Harlem Hills, followed by a 2 mile run at 5k race pace on the reservoir.  A hard brick would repeat that 3-4 times, with less than 10 minutes rest in between, but today we got a greak.

Hit the hills on the west side, and got a chance to have the coach watch my shifting.  I'm having trouble timing my shifts, and as a result, I'm getting dropped on hills.  Worked a bit, improved, was confident going up Cat Hill, and then managed to get cold dropped AGAIN at the top of the Harlem Hills.  I gotta get this shifting down, because everytime I lose pace, a pack of racers wooshes past me and I lose the line I was riding as the pack spreads out.  I thought I hated those hills when I was running, but climbing them on the bike is a new definition of pain.  Eventually we will do strength drills and I will need to start doing standing climbs in a higher gear, rather than spinning my way up.  I am not looking forward to that day.

The bike to run transition goes from a non weight bearing exercise to full weight bearing, so you can feel like you are running on dead legs for the first mile or so.  I was told to spin in an easy gear for the last mile or so to work the lactic acid out of my legs to help get them ready for the run, so the last mile was spent furiously pedaling in the hopes that my legs would not feel like jello for my run.

They felt like jello for my run.  It wasn't too bad, and after a quarter mile, I was fine.  I started late, but I felt good, so I knew I'd catch people. I forgot my watch, but it felt like a good tempo pace that I could hold for 2 miles, and sure enough, I started spotting people from the class and just worked on reeling them in.  I finished behind only two dudes, and I still had a little energy to burn, so it was a good run.

I liked this workout, I know its going to get harder, but it was nice to do so well at my first attempt.  Gave me a little swagger for my ride out of the park and into the morning traffic on my trip back to the west side to drop my bike off.  Its not THAT bad of a ride, but it is in traffic with lots of buses, morning truck deliveries, potholes, clueless pedestrians and everything else that makes riding in the city so exciting/terrifying.

I couldn't find any good Central Park bike videos, but to see a rush hour bike commute, check this one out.  This dude rides from the Upper East Side to West Midtown.  Its a pretty good example of why I don't ride in midtown, and why we get up so early to take advantage of the car-free hours in Central Park before rush hour. I have to work through the West Side and Downtown traffic all the time, but this is beyond what I can comfortably handle. Riding in this town is no joke, but I'm!

Monday, June 21, 2010

That's My Jam

I went to swim class on Friday, and after a warm up, I got settled into the DMC Pop Lock stroke, and funked my way down the pool. I was so tired of fighting it. I just wanted to enjoy being in the pool again, so I decided this was just going to be my signature ‘thing’. Paula Radcliffe bobs her head funny when she runs, Haile Gebrselassie runs with his left arm hooked tighter than his right, DMC does the robot when she swims. Done, right?

Coach says no, I have to fix this. I am laboring too much and I will be exhausted by the time I get to the first transition. He says I mostly need to stop THINKING so much. Which is hard. I am a nerd. Apparently I am also an Overglider and my extremely technical approach to training is holding me back. Check the link for a complete description of all the stroke problems I have. It really is like they wrote this specifically for me.

We settled into the lesson for the week, and we learned another variation of the single arm drill. I learned this back in Swim 1, but this time I had no glide arm in front to guide me, I had to fully rotate to the opposite side to breathe after each stroke. It felt odd, but it wasn’t hard, and it was actually pretty fun. After a few laps of this, we switched back to freestyle.

It felt different. My stroke rate was quicker and it felt easier to get the propulsion I needed. Coach walked down the lane, watching my stroke and after a lap, pulled me over.

‘THIS is your drill. You dropped your dead spot, smoothed your stroke out and your timing and rotation are almost perfect. Keep going, keep going, keep going.’

A few more laps and then he had me add more extension to my reach and it felt even better. Then I added bilateral breathing, and for the first time, didn’t feel like I was going to suck water down every time I breathed to my left side.

I am to work on other drills as needed, but to ALWAYS end with this one before my workout sets.

So there it is. Single arm 'choke stroke' drill is the key to unlocking my pop lock.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gear: The Elliptigo

I heard about this when I read Kara Goucher's latest blog entry on Competitor. Apparently her husband is training through an injury on it.

I give you: The Elliptigo
I...don't know what to say.  I've always seen the elliptical machine as a training time-out;  it is for recovery work.  Yes, you can get a good work out on it, but...90% of the people who use it just don't.  People who talk on their cell phones during a workout use it.  It has a damn MAGAZINE RACK.  Its not a bad workout, but its fans have made it kind of...lame.

So the idea of bringing it out into the world as a bike/running hybrid sounds...good.  Ish.  Again, it really is a good workout when done correctly. Maybe this will take it back from the Juicy Track Suits who leave their muffin crumbs and Jamba Juice buckets in the cup holders for me to stare at while I try to get a few miles done without dying of boredom.  I wonder how it looks?  Hey, Dean Karnazes - show us how its done:

I....just don't know if I can get on board with this.  It is another way to get outside, and you get a better work out on varied terrain, but this just looks weird.  I kind of want to try it, but I think I'd be laughed out of Central Park on that thing.  Seriously, every tri, running and cycling club in the city would beat me up and take my lunch money.  I don't think even the recumbent bikers and running jugglers would hang out with me.

I think elliptical training culture may be too strong to overcome.  This is a shot of Dean training for an ultra a few weeks after he shot his promo video:

I guess we can only sit back and wait for the novelty to wear off.  Snowboarding was considered strange when it was first getting off the ground - many ski resorts wouldn't even allow boarders to use their slopes.  Barefoot runners were a fringe hippie group until a year ago, when this book brought it into the mainstream.  Marathon running only became popular in the 70's, and even then it was a very specific group of loners and misfits who were drawn to it.  Maybe the Elliptigo will make it through its growing pains and become a popular sport as well as an effective way to cross train.  Cycling managed to do it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Race Report: Japan Day 4m

A race report! I finally get to do a race report! I checked my history and it is almost a year to the DAY since my last one! Today I ran the Japan Day 4 miler with Nixta!

It does feel a little wrong that of all things, we are sponsored by MSG laden ramen noodles, but oh well. Lookit my race bib!

I've been having some aches and pains that could be from anything from speedwork, residual pain (my muscles that spent a year holding tight around that injury waking up again and going; 'OMG! We gotta protect this again!'), pain from orthotics that haven't been dialed into the 'sweet spot' yet, or....reinjury. I don't think it is the last option, but it is enough to make me want to be careful. I took 3 days off, alternated heat/ice/compression, did all my stretching and strength training and waited to see how I felt on Sunday morning. Which was 'good enough to run it like a training run', so I saddled up and led Nixta to the 5 train.

We caught a train as it entered Union Square, and once we sat down, we noticed the passengers were predominately runners. By the time we got to 103rd st, the car was PACKED with runners. I wish I had taken a picture! I will next time, because it really is a kick to see all the running nerds commute to the 'office'.

Got there a bit late, so I ditched Nick at the corrals while I combined a warm up jog with a run to get my bag checked before the time limit. I then found my corral and started my warm up stretches while I watched the chaos of runners v/s cyclists on the other side of the barrier. 5.500 runners were there, wandering around, trying to get to where they needed to be, which is OK, but we were blocking the road that the cyclists use. There were volunteers yelling at the runners to move to the side, but once you put people in a large group, they go retarded, so no one was listening, and the cyclists had to slow to a crawl to get through. Most looked annoyed, but would either slowly pedal through, or they unclipped and walked the 30 feet that was the most congested. Now that I can count myself among both groups, I felt sympathy for both sides. There was yelling, swearing, threats, eye rolling and general bitchitude from everyone, and I wished I could just give them all a 'time out' so they'd stop bringing me down on the day of my 2010 race debut!

Running nerds...cycling douches...I feel you both, but can't we all just get along?

So, announcements, national anthem and then the horn sounds and WHEEEEEE! I'm running a race again!

The splits:

Mile 1 - 8:35
Mile 2 - 8:20
Mile 3 - 8:53
Mile 4 - 8:22

I kept this one around 8:35 avg, and apart from the weirdness of running on concrete again, as well as the stupid humidity and heat that made me want to die, I did ok. It was a sissy loop of CP; counter clockwise, using the transverses so no Harlem hills and the course lanes were pretty wide and easy to navigate. I took water at two stations (walking 30 secs at one) and other than some mildly sore groin muscles, hip flexors and butt, it was an OK run. I still had to do the negotiation dance with my brain/body, but I kept it steady-ish and finished just above my first 4 miler pace from last year. This was a slow training run for me. If I didn't have the old injury and the oppressive heat + humidity to deal with, I could've PR'd this bitch without sweating too hard. Nixta locked into a 7:30 pace and cruised it home, finishing in 29:57. We met afterwards for finisher bagels and a walk around the reservoir, then we got back on the 5 train to head home.

I have some soreness when I poke at the tendons in my groin area, but none when I walk, run or sit and as the day progresses, the soreness is going away. I'm going to take the week off from running, hit the R.I.C.E. + heat treatment, call the orthotic guy to discuss possible adjustments and just work on my swim stroke and weight training. Then we can see how I feel on Saturday for the Mini 10k. I can run it, I can skip it...whatevs. Right now, my focus is on my Triathlon debut at the NYRR Sprint Tri in August!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pop Lock & Drop Me

Memorial Day Weekend means BBQ's, beers, sleeping in and amateur hour on all outdoor sport fronts. Central Park was packed with fun runners and tourists who stand and mouth breathe in the rec lanes. The West Side bike path was packed with day cyclists, rollerbladers and tourists who stand and mouth breathe in the bike lanes. My beloved ghetto pool had scaled back lap swim hours so that they could pack in more time for local mouth breathers to bob up and down in the swim lanes. Memorial Day weekend is a training shit show, so other than my (non) speed session with the Boss and the Cool Kids on saturday and a few slow bike rides up the bike path and around Central Park, I kept a low profile.

After weeks of runs on my own, stretching, massage, strength training for my sissy hips, breaking in orthotics and gentle whining to the Boss, I finally got the go ahead to try a session with the Boss and his stoopid fast pirate crew of runners. We met at the Engineer's Gate at 8:30 Saturday morning. While we did a little stretching and got our water, I met the rest of the crew. One other woman named K there had the same injury as me and was about three months further in her recovery, so we warmed up together. The rest of them....stone cold dropped us on a warm up jog. I got dropped on a WARM UP jog. Damn. These kids mean business and I like it! We finished our mile and the Boss had us gather 'round for instruction.

'OK guys, we're going to do mile repeats at your 4 mile race pace with 3 minute jog recoveries. Do 3 sets, and I don't want to see any stopping, walking or wheezing. I'll run with the 6 min/mi group, the 6:30's will follow, K - you take some 7:20's and just try to hold on at 7:50's.'

My splits were as follows:

Mile 1: 7:51
Mile 2: 8:00
Mile 3: 8:06

Mile 1 wasn't that bad. It was back at where I was peaking last summer pre-injury, and I just had to keep my breathing regular and my legs pumping.

Mile 2 I started to get tired. New muscles were being recruited and they weren't happy about it, but I kept going.

Mile 3 I was miserable. The negoitiations between body and brain were getting intense. I remembered a scene from a Family Guy that Nixta and I had just watched, and this exchange is pretty much what goes on in my head when I'm running harder than I want to; my body is the whiney Luke Skywalker voice, my brain keeps telling it to shut up:

Afterward, my hip flexors were not happy. My left side felt twingy and weak, and I had a feeling that maybe it was too soon for speed work, no matter how slow my 'speed work' may be. The Boss & crew were great, they all said I looked great and seemed to be running easy (Ha! Suckers!). As I left, I told the boss about my pains and he told me not to worry too much but to go home, stretch and see how I felt in two days.

On my walk across the park to get Mega Bike from its uptown stables, the twinges subsided and after my bike ride back downtown, the pain was gone, but still....I think speed work is a mistake this early in the game. I tried running again on wednesday (aka The Day I Met The Queen) and while the run was fine, I was still getting inflammation and tightness afterwards. I think I strained a muscle. The coach told me to rest for 3 days and try an easy 4 miles on Sunday. If it gets sore again, I gotta take a week off and just focus on swimming and strength training. I'll be slow coasting through the Japan Day 4 miler tomorrow with Nixta, and will update afterwards.

So after all of this, I had swim practice on Friday. Because of the Memorial Day Mouth Breathers, I hadn't been in the pool for a while, so I knew I would be a bit rusty, but considering that the last practice I had gotten some big props from the coach for my improved stroke and endurance, I didn't think it would be that bad. But this week, he introduced a new drill. This week we had to focus on the pull in the underwater catch and pull portion of our stroke.

This sucked everything out of me. I had just gotten everything else together and now I had a new element to deal with. My stroke fell to pieces and my fluid movement was gone. Coach would stop me at every lap and give me more instruction, but instead of channeling Mr. Smooth I had started over analyzing everything and was back to poppin' & lockin' my way down the pool.

This is a screen shot of Mr. Smooth. (Check out the link to see what he looks like when he's animated)

This is what my stroke devolves to when I am frustrated and thinking too hard about how to do things correctly.

Coach was very patient, but I must've looked especially pathetic, as at the end of class he patted me on my swim capped noggin and told me to meet him afterward to talk more.

We talked for about 20 minutes and he said that my years of childhood dance training were working against me - I was throwing my shoulders back too much at the top of my recovery and hand entry and it was making me too wiggly in the water, but most of all I just needed to stop thinking so much and just DO. He also talked to me about my training schedule and told me I was pushing too hard. I need to stop doubling down my workouts for a while, get more sleep and enjoy a cheese burger and a beer every once in a while.

And so, after I finish my beer (race tomorrow be damned), I'm off to bed and hopefully my run tomorrow will be pain free. If not, I have all week to work on my swim stroke in the pool. Mouth breathers & manatees - report to the slow lane, I'm comin' back.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back in Black

Back from a communication black out- my laptop was on vacay. It got some R&R; a few margaritas on the beach, a little sunburn, and a whole new motherboard. Apparently I have a habit of riding that thing hard and putting it away wet, so I need to be nicer to it in future. Laptop...girl – I am sorry for treatin’ you so wrong. Don't leave me ever again, lady.

Last week’s otherworldly run is still pretty unbeatable, but last night’s run was a pleasant surprise that brought me back to giddy, 8 year old levels of happiness.

I’ve been going hard the past two weeks – training 6 days/wk doubling up workouts 3 days of the 6, extra weight training, lots of bike work and my first speed workout with the Boss and his pirate crew of stoopid fast runners (more on that later). I’ve been hurting and my muscles are wound up so tight, I’m afraid if I don’t take a break, there will be trouble, so I considered taking yesterday off and picking it back up again for Thursday/Friday. Humidity was on the books for the next two days, and humidity is definitely NOT fun to run in, so I decided to take it easy on a 4.5 mile loop and see how it went.

No Garmin watch today, I ran by feel. I cruised up the path, and saw a huge crowd of runners at the Donna Summer Playground/Team For Kids meeting area. I slowed down to see who was there, and my friend Mark came jogging over to greet me. He reminded me it was National Running Day and he was there to volunteer for the NYRR group run. Mark’s subway luck was against him that evening and he did not make it in time for his pre-race greeter job, so he joined me for my easy loop. We talked about training and discussed possibly going back to train with TFK. I would really love to, but the Boss sets my schedule and I’ve been so busy getting in my training for my first triathlon (oh yeah, did I mention that yet?), I didn’t know if I could fit another team in. We went back and forth a bit, and after a while we had looped back to the KC & The Sunshine Band Playground where I saw two of my former coaches; Sid Howard and Frank Handleman!

I felt like I was about 8 years old as I ran over. I almost shouted ‘Lookit me! Lookit MEEEEE! I’m RUNNING!’ I got big hugs from both and they introduced me to the third person standing with them; none other than Mary Wittenberg. Frank had me give her the saga of my injury and how I managed my recovery, all the while Sid kept interjecting ‘I love this story! Mary, listen to this! This is great!’. Since I am the biggest running nerd EVER, I went a little shy when I was talking to her (c’mon, its MARY WITTENBERG! If you are a runner in NYC, its like meeting the Queen!), but for reasons I still can't fathom, she was super interested in hearing my story and said she was very impressed with my discipline and focus. Sid asked me about my times on my recent runs and then grabs Mary and tells her ‘Watch this one, her progress is going to be interesting to see and she’s gonna get FAST’. Seriously, again...I’m 8 years old! It was as if I had been given a gold star on my book report, extra tater tots at lunch AND the honor of taking Sniffles the class guinea pig home for the weekend. All of last fall/winter I had been so depressed about missing out on all the team runs/parties and working with coaches like Sid. It was the best feeling to know that training time was here again and that I had more experience and the people on my side to help me see it through to the end.

I left the park not knowing my pace or my run time, but I didn’t care. It was awesome to come back and know that I wasn’t forgotten and that people were glad to see me again. For a long time I was pretty down on myself about my ability, so having people so respected in the community tell me that they admired all the work I put in on my downtime and all the progress I have made in the past 2 months was pretty huge for me.

I still don’t know if I will have time to train with TFK this year, but seeing Sid and Frank reminded me why I missed them so much. I’d like to rejoin the team and I’d like to raise as much money as I can for the charity because I really believe in the work they do. I may have to wait until after my triathlon before I can do a any runs with them, but my earlier decision to skip the team this year is back up for debate.

To go from having no choices to having too many...its a nice problem to have. Its going to be decision time soon!