Friday, July 31, 2009

Soreness and a breakthrough

I've been trying to squeeze in double workouts as much as possible this past week, meaning I bike, then swim. Eventually I'll combine them, so that I swim first, then hop on my bike, but for now I usually have a few hours between workouts, which is perfectly fine, since I'm still in rehab. The main limitation for me in the past few months has been what my knee will handle. At first even 30 minutes of very light spinning caused it to swell and become painful, so 90% of my riding has been just getting the knee to flex and extend over and over again for 30 minutes. Which means that I have to go maddeningly slow and a maddeningly small gear. This all changed yesterday.

I'd had a peek at a longer spin earlier, and I was worried that I'd pay for it, but I got home and iced and didn't hear from my knee for the rest of the day. Aha.... my NEXT ride would be a full hour I thought, and it will be GREAT. Then, life stepped in and projects around the house needed doing, the rain and wind howled, kid needed to be entertained, and I just couldn't envision riding for an hour on my clunky old road bike in the basement.

Well, the stars were aligned yesterday and I got my hour long ride in, and I even snuck out of the granny gear and spun along the flats for a bit at a decent pace. I was religious about gearing down when I felt pressure on my knee, and actually finished the ride under an hour, so I tooled around a few neighborhoods until my time was up. Again, I iced the knee and it was very quiet all day. During the day, my neighbor and I decided to run the first annual Brookview Terrace Kids Mini Triathlon, to amuse our children. My daughter and her daughter are going to participate in the Fronhofer Kids Tri on Saturday and we thought they should have a taste of what it's going be be like. Along the way, we seemed to collect 4 more children, until, at the end of run stage, I think I had 9 kids at my house! I shooed them all home minutes before my friend Lisa showed up for our swim at Lake Desolation (coined Lake Destination by my daughter, who at 8 is still coming up with funny malpropisms).

The swim should have been great, the water was warm, there were plenty of people, and when I have a double workout, in the past, I am usually loose and relaxed for the second workout. This time, I fought it the entire way. My stroke was short and choppy, and I kept inhaling water. I was 2 minutes slower than last week, a clear indication I wasn't swimming efficiently. I also was hungry. I don't remember ever thinking about food while I swam, but tonight, that's all I could think of! When I finished, I swam with the kids for a bit, then we all headed up to the deck at Tinney's to eat dinner and watch the sun go down on the lake. A lovely young couple and their 16 mo old daughter joined us. They had recently moved here from Florida and were both looking for jobs in the area. The view and the conversation and the baby's antics were enough to distract us from our nearly hour wait for our order. Tinney's is immensely popular on Thursday!

I noticed that I was unusually tired when I got home, but I still wasn't aware of the cause. When I fell into bed I had a minute to reflect on the day. It was then I remembered what this overall tiredness was. I finally exerted enough effort for a long enough time to tire my body out, I remember this! The tiredness was GOOD! The combination of riding and swimming did it, I finally hit on an intensity level that tired me out but didn't negatively affect my knee. This is tremendous.
Today, I will enjoy the overall muscle soreness, because it is a sign of good things, not injury. It's time to start training.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Something to be said for NOT paying attention

I'd love to write that while I was riding I was so in the "zone" that I forgot to pay attention to how long I was riding, but, that wasn't the case this morning. Sometimes I really, truly do get so focused I get lost in the ride, but I'm afraid my inattention was a direct result of my activities last night. I spent the first half of my ride wondering if just around the bend would be a good place to pull of and discharge whatever was left in my stomach from last night's margharita and mexican food soire'. No names will be mentioned, the guilty know who they are. You see, I'm kind of out of practice for these events, and although I had the sense to stop by 8pm, the damage was done. Too much sugar, too much tequila, too fast. As predicted, no amount of coffee this morning could clear my head. This, however, proved to work to my advantage.

Sometimes, you just have to get on and ride, which is what I did, and by the time I decided that I wasn't going to have to stop, I was well past my halfway point, timewise, in my scheduled ride. Seeing an inviting, wooded, stretch of gently undulating roadway, I thought, okay, I'll go until I reach an intersection, because I can be a little OCD about leaving things half done. Along the way back, it occured to me that this was a REALLY nice road to ride on. Well paved, nice breakdown lane, lovely, damp forest smell, and look, there's a horse, and another one. Wow, I am having a nice time. I want to ride this road again, and maybe go past my turnaround point, I wonder what the next few miles would reveal. I spun back home with a smile on my face, and checked my summary file on my bike computer. I increased my ride time by 1.5x, kept my speed to a reasonable rate ( I measure it in KMH so I don't choke at how slow I am ACTUALLY going right now), and yikes, look at the time! Didn't I leave at 9:30 like I usually do? How did it get to be 11:15? Oh yeah.... I slept in a bit today...

The rest of the day was delightful, cavorting at Tripp Lake, pictured above ( picture taken from with the kids, and evening mass. I don't think I'll utilize today's method of training much, but I am going to try to just go out and enjoy the ride more often.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thank you, Rachael

I had a great swim last night, largely thanks to Rachael, who happens to swim almost exactly the same speed as I do. With the Lake Placid Ironman looming this weekend, our numbers were down for the swim, which meant no kayakers to accompany us. I'm okay with that, having made the swim twice, I'm gaining confidence. Rachael and I were the only non wetsuited swimmers, which makes us, coincidently, the swimmers most at risk. Have you ever swam in a wet suit? It's virtually impossible to drown. If you are in trouble, all you need to do is turn over on your back and let the wind blow you to shore. Even your swim cap, which traps some air, affords you some bouyancy. Rachael and I started out together, with an unspoken agreement between us, that we wouldn't lose sight of each other. As always in open water, my first few minutes are a bit frantic, my stroke count is high and I go into O2 debt pretty quickly. Somewhere around minute 5, I realize what I've been doing and make a conscious effort to increase my glides and relax. However, when I did that Rachael would pull away. I am, at heart, a competitive person, and I love a chase, and to be chased. It makes me work harder. Now, everyone's first impulse, when trying to go faster is to move faster, and work harder. In running, people tend to move their legs faster, in swimming, they increase their stroke count, in skating, the tendancy is to revert to shorter quicker strokes. I have found, though, as I age, it's better to work SMARTER, not harder. A theory I try to apply to every sport I participate in. So, fighting the impulse to start flailing away, I tried to remember all the Total Immersion drills, and made an effort to swim more quietly, and really make sure the weight transfer with my hips was timed to match the dive of my incoming hand. Did you know there is weight transfer in swimming? There is, and it makes a huge difference.

Even after practicing this in the pool I still find it hard to put into practice in an open water swim, especially in a race situation. But, as much as I could, I swam very consciously and purposefully, trying to make the most out of every stroke. I could feel the surge ahead as I lengthened out. I am graced with a long body and arms, and although I am not lean, I am "leaner" than I was a few months ago. This, I believe, was the sole advantage I had, all other parameters being roughly equal. Rachael was about 8" shorter than I was.

On and on we swam, at times I pulled ahead, and at times she led me, until we got to the island, our turnaround point. It had taken us 17 minutes, with no stops. We paused briefly, then headed back. 17 minutes to the shore, 1 stop when we collided with a group heading out. Oops! The swim was beautiful, because neither of us wanted to get left behind, yet neither of us could pull that far ahead, so we kept each other going. I swam steadily for 35 minutes, about 0.9 mile. Very nice for an evening workout. Top it off with a Saranac and a chicken salad with friends at Tinney's and it made for a great time. Thanks again Rachael, hope we can swim together next week too. Today is a rest day, as I'm tired from pushing the mower up and down our hill and my swim.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bright Idea

Faced once again with having to be creative with my workout, this time, due to weather concerns, I decided that the best course of action today would be to get my ride in EARLY. Since I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon at 9, I thought that riding TO the appointment would kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Then I remembered that the route would take me cross town, during morning commute, and thought better of it. Stop and go, it would probably take me the better part of an hour, and wouldn't prove anything. I could ride one of my usual routes.....yawn..... No, what made the most sense, really, would be to put my bike IN the car, drive to the Dr.'s office early, then ride out and back, clack my way into the office, sweaty and stinky. What doctor wouldn't appreciate that?
I picked one of the east-west arteries that feed the small city of Saratoga Springs, and in the mist and light rain, I pedaled westward. The mist wasn't too bad, and I noticed, with some satisfaction, that my average speed was up. Now, I'm a numbers person, and I love gadgets that provide me with data, so I resolved to keep my average speed at this new level. Bright Idea.

I arrived back at the office with 10 minutes to spare, and breezed into the waiting room, damp and sweaty. The actual appointment was brief, the Dr. was pleased that I was biking and swimming, cautioned me to ramp up my workouts slowly, and said I didn't need to come back until I either re injured myself ( always a possibility) or I wanted to get that meniscus trimmed. Fantastic, and I nearly skipped out of the office. I'm sure they had to deodorize the room after I left, I think my shorts and shirt were capable of standing by them selves.

Down the stairs and out to the car, and that's when I felt the first twinge. By the time I got home, my knee was very stiff and sore. Bright Idea to maintain the increased average speed, eh? Apparently, recovery is going to proceed VERY slowly. Ice and ibuprofen, my old friends, here I come once again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

10 Feet of Rope, 2 Bungee Cords, and A Belt

The exercise addiction has kicked in, like I knew it would. It's a good disorder to have, every day, looking forward to that "fix". I especially like cross training, or multisport training, because every day I do something different. With no gym membership, and a restriction on running, I'm left with cycling and swimming, and weight training. I'm also at home with at least 3 children, sometimes 5 or 6, depending on the day. We seem to collect them, which is fine with me, but I have to plan my training time around who is coming and when,and sometimes things happen at the last minute. This morning was an example of the usual "unusualness"of my life. I offered to watch a friend's child while she worked for the morning. The arrangement came about after a flurry of texting early in the morning. It's a win win situation, my daughter is entertained, and the mom gets to work for the morning. We were both going to the movies with our kids after lunch anyway.

Now, here is where I get creative. I can't leave the kids to go on my ride, however, we do have a backyard pool, which gets used almost every day from May to September by the kids, and occasionally by us adult types when we can't stand the heat, or, after mowing. Swimming laps in the pool, however, is not a whole lot of fun, possibly less fun than, say, riding on rollers in a damp basement, another activity I studiously avoid. to the garage to dig around for some bits and pieces of things, and here is what I found:

Doesn't look like much, does it? It's actually a high tech swimming training aid, in disguise. I tied the rope to the fence, hitched 2 bungee cords together, and hooked the bungee cords to the belt, which was around me. In I went, and off I swam. 20 minutes on the cords and 10 minutes of laps. All this while the kids were swimming. Yay for me. Now, to work on the weight training without stressing the knees...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wither thou, O Athlete

After wallowing for a year or so in self pity, and reinventing myself as, more or less, a full time college instructor, I found myself unemployed this summer. Hrupmph. No time like the present to get back in shape, I figured. Off I went for a run. The last run I would ever take, apparently. Whether I had a previous injury or the run caused the injury I won't know, but about $1400 worth of exams, XRays, and MRI's later, and the diagnosis ( drum roll....) meniscus tear. OK! Those are repairable, I know, because I tore the meniscus 3/4 of the way around on the OTHER knee and most of it was able to be stitched back on.

Noticing the furrowed brow on the surgeon's face, I then deduced we weren't through yet. We both peered thoughtfully at the Xrays and the MRI report. "Hmmm....see this here ( pointing to the top of my tibia on the Xray) and this here ( now the other tibia)?"

"Yes..." I replied slowly...trying to seem like I was following this.

"You have some pretty serious osteoarthritis going on in these knees, how much pain are you in on a daily basis?"

"Ummmmm......" not wanting to admit that even sitting for short periods causes my knees to ache horribly.

"You know..... ummm, your weight has alot to do with the stress you are putting on your knees, and, errr, you are, let's see....a good 40lbs over weight right now"

Great, thanks for that, I thought. Something I didn't already know. Actually, he was being nice, it was more like 50.

Back and forth we went, and I asked for a month or two to drop some weight and start exercising again before we started talking meds and arthroscopy. He agreed, as long as I never ran again, and cycled, for the time being, on the flats, for short periods of time. We shook hands and I made my next appointment, ego stinging smartly.

Back at home, I pondered.... what to do..... how to drop the to get back in shape..... Well, the first is obvious, eat less. Check! Actually this proved easier than I expected. I eat every 2-3 hrs, very small amounts of food, nothing that isn't fresh, lots of veggies, etc. The second objective required more thought. Biking, at first, just irritated the injury, so I started out with 10 minute spins on the bike, comical, when you consider it takes me almost that time to find my gear, put it on and get ON the bike. I have a pool, but swimming laps in the backyard pool is torture, and I can't afford a Y membership, so where to swim, where to swim.... Enter my saviors, the Saratoga Tri Club. Open water swimming, FUN! So once a week, I swim about a mile, out to an island and back. This week my friend from speedskating, Lisa, joined me. She's a tremendous endurance athlete and had no trouble with the swim. I'd like to do this more often, but I won't swim alone, so I'll have to find another form of exercise to round out this training. As a bonus, I also will not have to give up Triathlons, which I find enormously fun, thanks to Jayne Williams. I can just do the swim and bike portions! Some races even have an "Aquabike" category. This way I will be able to do both Sprint and Olympic distances. I'm pondering the Lake George Oly this Sept...... Here's where we swim, beautiful, isn't it?

As far as speedskating, I probably won't be skating much short track, but I should be able to be on the rink to coach. Once again, I hope to be able to compete in long track this year. I've still got a good 30 lbs to shed and alot of endurance to gain, but I may just be able to be an athlete again.