Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Week Twelve: Fitbirds Go To Tampa...

What an awesome week! Training camp was an absolute blast as well as an absolute challenge! I was taken to my breaking point and was faced with some mental challenges, and although I may have failed at some, I learned in the process. There are still so many mental obstacles that throw me and that I have not yet figured out how to overcome. If I don't learn to control my emotions when I am tired and hurting I will be faced with some serious consequences come race day. I think that the mental aspect is still my biggest hurdle.

There were many awesome photo opportunities in Tampa and I was disappointed that as team photographer I was not able to shoot as many pictures as I would have liked, but Coach seemed to think training was more important than art, so I spent more time in the pool, on the bike, and in my running shoes than behind the lens. We have big plans for some of the great shots that we got, so for now I will just post a taste.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week Eleven: Styling in the Big Girl Panties

What a week! I am giddy. I wasn't sure exactly how this week was going to end when last Monday rolled around to start it. I was still hobbling on one foot as my cellulitic toe was pretty tender and sore. I only managed to get one four mile run in since the infection started over a week ago, and that run left me doubting that I would even attempt the half-marathon that was fast approaching on the upcoming Sunday. I accepted even more red on my schedule this week and dealt with the replacement of runs with swims. I managed to sit on my trainer and spin in endless circles, going nowhere, for two days in a row. The last of those spins was for 3.5 hours of misery. That was the day before the half-marathon.

I surprised myself this week and I learned more about myself in the process. I was pressed to make some tough decisions regarding my training. In doing so I realized that I could rely on my intuition, that I had the inner strength to do what needed to be done, and that I had again seen a jump in my confidence.

Challenge of the Week:

Deciding whether to race in the half marathon. I went back and forth all week long and had pretty much decided against racing by Thursday. I wanted to have a good training camp and not risk more injury that would affect my training when I got to Tampa the following week. What was my struggle? It was going to be a beautiful day. And I actually love to run now. And I wanted to race. But I didn't know if I could pull out of the race if I needed to. I had been instructed by my coach to not let my pain go above a 5/10. I was told not to start the race unless I knew I could pull out if I had to. I didn't know if I could.

I thought about it long and hard and finally decided that because I had to run that day whether it was in the race or on my own (as a run was still on my program), I figured it would be a lot more fun in a group of 17,000 people than alone. In New Orleans there would be food and beer after, and I'd claim my technical race shirt that I had paid for. I was in.

I made it to NOLA Saturday afternoon, picked up my packet and did a short walk of the expo. By the time we got back to the car, my foot was hurting enough to make me question my decision. I decided to stick with the program and see how far I could get, knowing I'd have to pull out if it got to be too much. I ran my pre-race facilitation that evening and carbo-loaded with Lizzard, FBI, and our husbands. After a lemon drop at the SYC, I wolfed down an entire pizza and then topped it off with some pastries from the doughnut store across the street. I love pre-race meals....

Coug and the Lizzard at the SYC

My Pre-Race De-Hydration
View from the SYC
Early to bed, early to rise. Lizzard and Kevin were gracious enough to allow us to stay in the boathouse with them. We got a good night's rest, popped a bagel and some water for breakfast, and rushed to the start line. I was eager by the time I got to my corral. I found myself standing in a long line for the last minute port-o-johners and watched my corral move ahead without me. Priority one - Port-O-John. Priority 2 - catch up to my corral. I managed to catch them just in time to start my Garmin and cross the timing line to begin the race. I had planned ahead just in case my race was cut short by carrying 40$ for cab fare (and for drinks to numb the frustration), and my cell phone to notify my finish line observers if I wasn't going to be there as planned. Figuring I had enough challenges I gave myself a break and broke a cardinal training rule... I listened to my music while I ran. I had enough going against me, I decided I'd at least be comfortable.

My coach had called me the night before to wish me luck... and to tell me to go out fast and strong because I probably wouldn't make it past 3 or maybe 6 miles. I gave her a hard time for her "negativity", but looking back at it during the race, I'm glad she laid it out there for me like that. It took the pressure off of having to complete it. It was just a training race, and I had to remember that. Knowing that I wouldn't be viewed as a "quitter" made it okay to walk away if I needed to.

I did what I was told and started out with a pace that I usually save for short distance testing. I felt great. I looked around this year. I looked up and not at the ground. I enjoyed running with a mass of people. I realized that sooner than expected I had crossed over the mat at the 3 mile mark... then the six mile mark. I threw my jacket to Lizzard's husband as I ran by smiling. I was passing people this year and not breathing hard at all. My foot felt great. I kept moving. Nine miles in I was getting tired, but still running hard, still not breathing labored. My legs were getting heavy. The long bike ride the day before was taking its toll. I slowed at the water stations but kept moving. Esplanade. Only 3-4 miles left. I knew I could do it, but I said a prayer that either I finished strong, or if suddenly the foot kicked in that God would give me the strength to walk off the course when I was so close to finishing.

Mile eleven was hell. I tried not to think. I just kept my legs going. I was looking at the ground now. Eminem started playing "Like a Soldier" in my ear and that got me going a bit faster. I wanted to stop so badly but I couldn't. I knew my pace was better than last year and I wanted to finish ahead of my time. I wanted it.

Mile twelve. I slowed and almost stopped but forced my legs to keep going. And then out of nowhere it happened. I stopped to walk. I was whipped. It wasn't long - at most - five seconds of walking passed before I felt someone grab my arm and pull me forward. I looked up to see Grace running beside me now. We didn't say anything to each other but I thanked God for putting her there at that moment. It was all I needed to get moving again. It was a struggle. I still wanted to walk, but I was afraid that if I did Grace would slow down to get me moving again. We trudged together towards the finish and I found a little bit left in my engine to speed up at the very end. I was ecstatic. I had finished with a new Personal Best. I dropped my time by over 3 minutes and ran a 10:03 pace.

Saving Grace and Coug

Lessons Learned:
  • Never say Never. Where there's a Will there's a Way. Just Do It. Mind Over Matter. (Or whatever over-used cliche you want to fill in here). 
  • Believe in Yourself.
Grace, Lizzard, Coug, Ellen, FBI (not pictured Koko)

So what's next? Training camp in Tampa, Florida is this week. I am excited, nervous, and ready.

To all of my Fitbird teammates that will be joining me I want to say this: I will NOT be earning the Put Your Big Girl Panties On Award this time at camp. I'm already wearing mine. Someone else can have that honor bestowed upon them...

Bring it Coach.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Week Ten: Dawn of the Red

The Beginning of the End
The sky fell in on me this week, or so it felt. It started off so well, with completed workouts, a strong and fun swim on Tuesday, and the breaking in of my new bike trainer. And it ended with two IVs and a bucket of antibiotics to tear up my stomach for the next two weeks.

I have been SO careful this season, and SO afraid of getting hurt during my training. The fear of spraining an ankle when I ran kept me to the asphalt and off of the trails for the most part. The mountain bike was put away for fear of a fall. Adventure races were forbidden due to their risky nature.

So what do I do? Well, I trip UP the stairs. I'm not sure how I did it exactly, but I think I was trying to subconsciously compete with Grace for attention. Barefoot and with hands full, somehow my foot slipped off of the step and my big toe went down while the weight of my body went up. I groaned on the steps for five minutes trying not to throw up while my children, undeterred, continued to play the Wii just feet away from me. Eventually I could bend it, but was convinced I had either fractured a bone, or sprained it enough to keep me from running. That was Tuesday afternoon. But that was just part of my downfall...

Earlier that day I was forced to do a long run inside the YMCA on the treadmill due to bad weather. I had my old running shoes on, which have given me problems with blisters in the past. Towards the end of the run I felt like I was developing a bad blister below my big toe. I sucked it up and hobbled through the end of the run. When I got home, I cleaned it and tried to pop it but it appeared to have already been emptied. Sore but clean, I padded it with a sock and went about my business.

Wednesday I had acquired a limp and it felt like their was a hot dagger deep in my blister. Having a coach that has completed an Ironman with gaping surgical wounds, I couldn't let a little thing like a blister stop my training, so I pushed through a run in 32 degree weather with Grace that night after work. It was painful and my run was awful, but it was after all just a blister. I had teammates who had pushed through much worse....broken clavicles, concussions, torn rotator cuffs. It was good mental training I kept telling myself.

I continued to tell myself that all night long as my foot throbbed like it had just been slammed in a car door. The sheets hurt so I had to hang my foot off of the bed as I tried to rest. I took two of my husband's Loritabs and it didn't touch the pain. When I awoke, not only was it swollen but now I had red streaks running up my foot. I couldn't bear any weight on it.

As much as it made me sick to accept it, I knew I had to go to the doctor. That meant there would be no Masters swimming and probably no run that day since I couldn't even walk. I knew right then that this was going to be my downfall into red on my Training Peaks program. I was totally bumming.

When I got to the doctor I learned that my self diagnosis was right and I had acquired a nasty cellulitis.  This immediately ended my week of exercise and training. I was given two days worth of IV antibiotics and orders to stay off my foot for a few days. Oh, and they also had to debride it by cauterizing the tissue down to the blister that was under the blister that was filled with.... well let's just say it wasn't pretty.

I swear it went really deep...

The sad thing is that as bad as it hurt, the pictures just make me look like a wuss. I embraced the wuss in myself and called Grace to come to my rescue, feed me a burger, and drive me home since I couldn't use my foot on the gas pedal safely. I then proceeded to go into grieving mode over the destroyed green on my program. I "HTFU" and overcame the grief quickly and decided I'd just start fresh for the next ten weeks.

Challenges of the Week:
  • Learning to walk up steps without hurting myself. This is a skill that must be practiced. I am taking my time with it.
  • Accepting that red does not = failure. Keeping green was a mental game for me, a way to stay accountable. Although I didn't complete my workouts as written this week, it was not for lack of wanting or willingness. So be it. Moving on. Next week... green!
  • Following doctor's orders and resting my foot. Those three days were worse than any taper week I have ever had. I was cranky, irritable, and depressed over not being able to get out and exercise like I should be doing. I wanted to enjoy the break but it was hard watching everyone gear up for a race I wanted to compete in.
  • Not being able to race in the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K with all of my Fitbird friends. I was really looking forward to this race as I hoped to have a good run and use it in preparation for the half-marathon next weekend. Glad all my peeps did well, but was hoping to test my high octane at this race.
Lessons Learned:
  • Be very careful when performing blister care on my feet. Cellulitis can be a nasty painful infection.
  • Patience. I'm still working on this one...
  • Acceptance. Being green is cool, but it doesn't define me or my overall training. It doesn't describe my effort, or my determination, or my will.
Plan: 13:00
Actual: 7:30 no longer green....