November 30, 2009

The Shoe Verdict

I went shoe shopping yesterday in preparation for my big running debut next week. As mentioned in a previous post, I was thinking about switching to Newtons and gave them a try. I ended up not buying them, not because I didn't like them, but because I don't think I'm ready for that much of a change. I've spent the last decade running in the heavily padded, highly stabilized Asics Kayanos so any sort of change is a big step. Now that I have custom orthotics stability shoes are no longer needed. I wanted less shoe and am hoping over time I'll adopt a better running form. Newtons claim to guide you in that direction and after a short treadmill run I can see why, but having been off my feet for nearly four months and really having to learn to run all over again, I decided to wait and re-consider a bigger change in the spring.

I ended up going with the Brooks Ghost, a very light neutral shoe that offers enough support so I can start running in them immediately. I'll likely keep the Kayanos and alternate for awhile until my feet are used to running again. With just two days to go, I can hardly wait.

I'm heading home today after a nice long weekend in Wisconsin. I'm doubtful my whole stable weight plan worked and I blame the browned butter and sea salt rice crispy treats my sister made last night. Until then I may have been able to break even, but after eating four and wishing I had eaten a few more, I think a little weight gain may be in order. But if you had tasted them you'd know it was more than worth it. I'll have to burn them off on my inaugural run Wednesday.

November 29, 2009

Cider Donuts and Slab Bacon... Another Day in the Great State of Wisconsin

I had only one goal this Thanksgiving weekend - survive the gluttony with zero weight gain. Leading into the holiday I was beyond busy at work with travel and long hours so my training schedule had gone from spotty at best to nearly non-existent. I vowed to do something active every day while here in an effort to at least make it back to New York at the same, already elevated, weight I was at when I left. Thankfully there hasn't been a scale in sight so I will have to wait until tomorrow night to assess the damage.

After a slightly healthy reprieve yesterday, I lapsed back into Midwest goodness with a visit to the New Glarus brewery (delicious), a scoop of ice cream at a New Glarus candy shop (yum) and a breakfast this morning consisting of a paper thin molasses cookie (hey, it was thin), a cider donut from a local farm (apples are healthy, right?) and three slices of absolutely phenomenal slab bacon (bacon, enough said) purchased from the sausage and meat shop in New Glarus. That New Glarus is a lovely town indeed.

Hopefully the daily activity I have managed to squeeze in between meals will at least balance things out and send me home having achieved my goal. If not, I'm predicting a diet of vegetables and water in my future next week. But hey, it was worth it.

In the New Glarus Brewery Tasting Room

View From the Brewery

Loading up the Purchases

Ah, Meat

November 28, 2009

The Newton Debate

I've been considering Newtons for over a year now, since the Ironman Wisconsin expo in 2008. At the time I was gearing up for a marathon and was afraid to make a switch so my plan was to wait until winter. But then I started training for the Ironman and again, was afraid to make a switch. Now that I've had a 3.5 month running hiatus due to the worst injury I've had yet, I feel like it might finally be a good time to consider a transition. I've read countless articles, blog posts and message board debates and in the end, like what I've learned. Slowtwitch recently posted this review that gave me the final push.

I am planning to go to a Newton dealer this weekend to figure out which shoe is right for me. They have some intermediate transition shoes for people like me who are used to overly cushioned stability shoes so that might be a good way to go. Either way I'm thinking I'll do just one run a week in them until I feel adjusted, and hopefully can ease into full time by summer. I'll let you know what I end up going with.

November 27, 2009

Five Days to Go

I received my training calendar for the month of December and for the first time in three months, there are run workouts listed. In just five short days I will attempt my first run since my pre-Ironman injury, a whole 10 minutes done in two-minute run, one-minute walk intervals after a hefty walking warm-up. After the 5K walk yesterday I walked 5.86 miles with my sister and her husband today and was totally pain-free. I also had a dream last night that I was running again. Based on how long I've been in recovery, the time since my PRP injection and the finally normal pain-free walking I'm able to do, I think I am ready. But seeing it on the calendar made me instantly nervous.

I will progress from a 2'/1' interval in week one, to 3'/1' in week two, 3.5'/30" in week three and then non-stop running in week four. If all goes well I'll be able to do a continuous 30-minute run on Christmas day. That would be the best gift of all.

Here is a shot of my parents and I finishing the 5K walk yesterday. It doesn't matter what length or how hard a race is, it's always a great feeling to finish.

November 26, 2009

Huffin' for Stuffin'

In the sea of 4,000 runners and walkers, the best team name we saw at the Berbee Derby 5K this morning was the title of this post - Huffin for Stuffin. If you're going to get up early on Thanksgiving and subject yourself to the cold you might as well make it fun right? And fun it was. This day was a family first. My sister and her husband were running the 5K so they asked me if I wanted to walk since I'm still not able to run. I then asked my mom, who's never done anything athletic before, if she wanted to join me, and to my surprise she said yes. Then my dad posted on this blog that he also wanted to join so I signed him up as well. And this morning the five of us braved the chilly, slightly snowy Wisconsin weather to cover 3.1 miles together.

I've been running for 10 years. I've completed five marathons, countless running races, several bike events, six triathlons and one Ironman. After all that it's hard to have an experience that is truly new, but today definitely fit the bill. First of all I haven't walked more than a mile or two since my injury so it was nice to be in a race, and beyond that, I was sharing the experience with my mom and dad, who both had never done anything like it before. We had such a great time despite numb fingers and cold faces. My sister and her husband waited near the finish and joined us for the final walk, but allowed us our own moment to cross the line together, hand in hand and so proud of what we'd done together. I really hope this was just the first of many great similar experiences we can share together.

I haven't spent a Thanksgiving in the United States for several years so it was another first for us to be together on this day. We had a great time and I'm hoping that the slightly active start justified a bit of the indulgence.

November 25, 2009

Exercise Makes You Happy

I thought I'd share another interesting read from the New York Times Well blog, this one focusing on the anxiety reducing effects of exercise. As the post states, it's long been thought that exercise increases feelings of happiness, but new research shows it may also train your brain to react more calmly in situations of stress. Perhaps that's how Ironman triathletes are able to survive the chaotic mass start.

I have definitely noticed a difference in my mood and emotions since becoming significantly less active. When I look back at how I dealt with the crushing news of my injury and the potential end of my Ironman before it even began, I realize I was in a much more stable and calm emotional state. Smaller, more insignificant things really get to me now and I don't like that feeling. So if the looming 2010 season isn't enough motivation to stop being lazy, perhaps the desire to feel better - even happier - is enough.

Tomorrow morning is my big re-entry to racing with the Berbee Derby 5K in Madison. I'll be walking the race with my parents so it will be a very memorable experience. It's rather fitting that I am doing my first race here, the site of my most significant race ever. This one will be a little easier though and should earn me another bite or two of Thanksgiving treats.

November 20, 2009

Very Brief Offseason

I feel like I just did the Ironman. I still talk about it like it was a few weeks ago. But in reality, it was a few months ago, which means I've been recovering from this injury for three long months. I remember the doc telling me it was a 4-6 month recovery on average and thinking that sounded like an eternity, yet here I am in the home stretch already.

I was surprised to learn my Lake Placid training is starting in December. I can't even manage to get on a consistent schedule of light activity and before I know it I'll be Ironman training again. I always pictured the offseason being full of fun, non-tri activities and being anxious to start training again. But due to my foot I've had to restrict all activity and aside from the first month of down time, I haven't been particularly anxious to do any swimming, biking or running. And it flew by in a flash.

I'll feel tremendously better when I get back on track and regain the consistency I had pre-injury, pre-Ironman. Knowing it's just around the corner, I'm going to enjoy these final free weeks and not beat myself up so much about slacking off occasionally. On that note, I'm off to enjoy a training-free weekend!

November 18, 2009

New Faces, New Places

The best thing about the sport of triathlon is the people who do it. During my short 1.5 years training and competing I've met upwards of 30 new people, all of whom are interesting, fun and incredibly nice. Some are just acquaintances that I see from time to time and others have become good friends, some having shared my first Ironman experience with me. It's exciting to think I've barely scratched the surface and will have many more opportunities to continue meeting others who share this common interest (or obsession).

Through the series of events that my injury put into motion I've come out of it with not only a hefty dose of perspective that allowed me to discover a lot about myself and what the Ironman really meant to me, but also with the chance to meet some more great people in the sport. A friend I met through the Brooklyn Tri Club referred me to an ART therapist, who referred me to my podiatrist. Over the course of my three-month recovery we've become friends and Sunday I got a chance to meet some of his friends on a small group ride. I haven't been on the bike with a group since my trip to Vermont in July and forgot how much fun it can be. Even though I didn't know anyone I felt as though I were amongst friends. That's the beauty of this commonality we share. We drove up to Bear Mountain, about 45 minutes north of the city. Bear Mountain is situated right next to Harriman State Park and is stunning. It's also incredibly hilly with some fairly long and difficult climbs. While I never hesitated to say yes to the invitation, I was a little worried my foot wouldn't hold up and would slow me down. I hadn't done anything since the morning of my PRP last week and was hobbling in the walker boot. I figured if my doc invited me it must be ok, right?

I ditched the boot for the day and hoped for the best. The weather was great. It was in the upper 50s and overcast with tiny breakthroughs of sun. If the sun had made its way out more it would have been perfect. With all the climbing, the 38-mile ride took us just under three hours, but the time flew by. We tended to ride in pairs, alternating who was in each pair throughout.

After the slight PRP setback it felt really good to be back on the bike. I'm not sure if the weather will give me another chance for a day like that before Spring. One can only hope.

November 12, 2009

Challenges of a Long Distance Triathlete

They always say the hardest part of an Ironman is the training. While I wouldn't say my Ironman was easy, particularly with the injury, I will agree that committing to the seven months of training, logging thousands of miles on my bike, hundreds of miles on my feet and countless hours in the pool, was by far harder than the race itself. But now that I'm two months post-Ironman, I think an even harder part of being a long distance triathlete is staying motivated in the offseason so you can enter into the new season ready to start over and build to your next big race.

The challenge is that you absolutely need to rest. After an Ironman you are mentally and physically exhausted whether you want to admit it or not. I think many of us pre-Ironman imagine we'll dive right back in because we're so caught up in the routine, excitement and adrenaline. But then you wake up Monday morning and realize you can finally sleep in or do something in the middle of a weekend day rather than be on your bike. At first there is guilt, you feel like you should be training. But eventually there is acceptance, and for me, an incredible amount of pleasure in non-triathlon things. Last weekend it was in the upper 60s, sunny and gorgeous. I should have been on my bike. But instead I relaxed and spent my day with a friend instead. And for the first time all year, I didn't feel guilty.

After two months, I'm just now liking the idea of a little training. I've been easing back into biking more consistently, swimming at least once a week and doing some strength training. I'd like to step up the swimming a bit and increase the strength while waiting for my foot to be ready for running. I think by December I'll be feeling even more motivated, but still in an offseason sort of way. If something else seems more appealing, if I work late or am just tired, I'll skip the training and I won't feel guilty. By February, which isn't that far away, I'll be longing for the days I chose to sleep in and blow off the training. Now is the time to recover, relax and be a non-triathlete for awhile.

November 11, 2009

Rapid Progression

Last night was rather sleepless. I had taken percoset for the pain, which helped tremendously, but percoset makes me feel generally awful and keeps me from sleeping so I was uncomfortable and restless most of the night. When I woke up this morning I still couldn't walk. I used my crutches to get around and had to call a car to take me to work. I was tired and sore all day, but with the boot and crutches, managed to stay completely off my foot.

I noticed mid-day that the pain had lessened significantly and when I finally got home tonight and took off the boot, I was able to stand flat-footed as long as I didn't apply pressure. I'm nowhere near back to normal but I'm really happy to see how fast the recovery from the injection is progressing.

After two days of biking outside in the unseasonably warm weather, I took today as rest due to my foot. I have business travel the rest of the week but should be able to swim before leaving. I've been aiming for consitency. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't need to follow my schedule by the letter, but rather be active on a consistent basis to ease back into the routine of daily training. I've definitely been feeling better since stepping it up and for the first time since before the Ironman, I'm actually looking forward to doing more. That's a huge step.

November 10, 2009

PRP Experience

Today was my PRP injection and while it wasn't awful, I've certainly had better experiences. I was insanely nervous even though needles don't particularly bother me. I think it's more about the foot being the unfortunate location of the injection than the injection itself. The cortisone shot pre-Ironman really freaked me out so this was exponentially worse.

The procedure was really simple. I had blood drawn, I believe around 10cc, or the equivalent of two teaspoons. That part was fine except the veins in my left arm proved to be elusive so I had the pleasure of being poked on both sides. The blood was then put into the centrifuge for about 15 minutes, during which time I had three shots of local anesthetic in my foot to ease the surface pain of the larger gauge needle used for the injection. These shots surprisingly hurt a lot. The first was back toward my achilles, in a nerve that runs along the length of the foot, the second near the site of the tear and the third an inch or so down in my arch. My podiatrist had me sip an orange juice while I waited for my platelets to be procured and my foot to get tingly. I think he was afraid I'd faint from the blood being drawn or being terrified of the injection. Apparently some patients don't handle it well.

After what felt like forever, the technician came in with a syringe full of a pale pink liquid. It resembled rosè wine but something told me it wouldn't be as pleasant. I started to sweat profusely. I was a little embarrassed I was being such a baby about it. I'm supposed to be tough after all. As the doctor put the needle on the syringe and headed toward my foot I positioned myself so my bent right knee blocked the view. I could not watch. He gave me a quick warning and in the needle went. The initial poke was minimally painful to my surprise and relief. But then he started to slowly inject the PRP, about 4.5cc which is a decent amount, and the pain gradually crept up. He told me I'd feel some "fullness." That was a rather unsettling sensation. There were two areas in the fascia he was aiming to cover with the platelets - the site of the tear in my arch and an area just beneath my heel. I survived the arch and was holding up well, but when he moved the needle to the heel I nearly died. I could tell I was turning a shade of crimson and I felt a wave of heat pass over me. My stomach tightened up. It was an intense shot of pain that at first felt like it might pass once the injection was done, but it instead continued to intensify long after the needle was out. My doctor rubbed the injection site for a minute, bandaged me up and then stayed in the room with me while I composed myself. I was afraid to stand up, afraid to put weight on it. I could barely walk and the limp was way worse than when I was initially injured. But at least it's only temporary.

I'm back in the boot and back on crutches until the swelling and pain subside. I'm really glad I did this despite the discomfort. I need to feel I've done everything possible to get better and this was the final step.

November 7, 2009

First Race

I registered for my first post-injury race today, a 5K run/walk in Madison on Thanksgiving morning. I'll be walking of course, but not by myself this time. My mom is walking the race with me and I couldn't be more excited. My sister and her husband will be running and we're hoping to have my dad come along and be our official photographer. It will be a family affair.

Even though it's a walk it feels like a big step in my recovery. I feel completely normal about 90% of the time and have really picked up the pace as I walk around daily. For the first time in a long time I feel like I could run, but I know I'm not quite ready. I'm optimistic that the PRP will be the final push I need to get to 100%.

I swam today after a two-week hiatus and oh my. Swim fitness dies quickly. I felt like I was swimming through mud and was about as graceful as a fish flopping around out of water. I'm a little averse to swimming these days but clearly will need to force myself to go at least twice a week to maintain a marginal level of fitness. I only covered 1,300 yards and was beat. I wondered how I ever did those 4,500 yard workouts and managed 2.4 miles with over 2,000 people. Then I thought about everyone racing Ironman Florida today. I hope it's the day they dreamed of. There really is nothing like an Ironman.

November 5, 2009

So Much For Free Cookies

It's now been two months I've been grossly off my pre-Ironman training diet and I continue to feel the toll. I'm about five pounds heavier, my body composition has drastically changed and my energy is inconsistent. If I felt so much better when eating better, why is it so hard to stick to it? My activity is also tremendously low so I blamed the five pounds on going from training 15+ hours a week to 15 minutes. I keep thinking I'll get more active and magically shed the pounds. But then I read this New York Times blog today and am beginning to think otherwise.

A recent study proves that in most people, exercise does not lead to weight loss. Nearly all of us also have to modify our diets in order to drop the unwanted pounds. It also shows no evidence of a miraculously revved metabolism that keeps blasting calories long after the workout has ended. So if you're indulging a little - or a lot as has been the case for me over the last two months - and exercising to compensate for it, you're likely just equaling things out and not ever burning enough to be one of the lucky souls who can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound.

I've been hitting my nutrition goals about 50% of the time. Let's not discuss the other 50%. So now I'm vowing to aim for 80% and ultimately 90% when I'm back into serious training. But as with all other aspects of my life, I'm planning to remain flexible. After all, a little dark chocolate or the occasional cookie can't hurt, right?

November 4, 2009

PRP: It's On

Thanks to an insurance company denial, I thought the PRP treatment I wanted to try for my foot was no longer an option. However, after an appointment with my doctor today it's back on the horizon and looks likely for early next week. It's still very expensive but much more manageable thanks to his help. I'm also filing an insurance appeal, but coverage is a long shot. I don't care at this point. When I think about other things I willingly spend money on without a thought and then compare it to my well being and long-term enjoyment of this sport, there is no debate. While it's an unproven treatment in general, it has been known to work well for my specific injury, particularly in preventing future re-injury. That's good enough for me.

In other good news, there is a chance I'll be running again in just four weeks. I'm not even sure how I feel about that. On one hand I can't wait to get back to normal, but on the other, I'm terrified of not being 100% ready and risking a setback. Injuries really screw with your mind and I imagine I'll harbor some doubt and fear until I make it successfully through my 2010 season.

A little bad news often accompanies good news. The bad news here is that the boot will be back for a week after the procedure. I thought I was done with my old friend the boot, but it looks like we have unfinished business. I'm just glad I refrained from running over it in a car in celebration of being liberated from it. That ceremonious moment will have to wait for now. But luckily, not for long.

November 1, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Since I was heading up to the Adirondacks for the weekend I asked my podiatrist if I could do some easy hiking, and to my surprise he said yes. So today, on a crisp, clear, beautiful fall day in Lake Placid, I went for my first post-injury hike and loved every moment of it. We hiked Mount Jo, just shy of three miles and around 800 feet of elevation. I walked carefully and my foot felt fine. It was such a pleasure to be outside doing something different for a change.

After the hike I finally stopped at Mirror Lake to test the water temperature. Suffice it to say there isn't enough neoprene in the world to make that water swimmable at this time of year. I dipped my hand in and it swiftly went numb. But touching the water definitely made me look forward to being back up there for training and racing in the warmer weather. What a perfect weekend.


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