Friday, June 29, 2007

On the Road Again

So I was finally back on my bike this week. I knew my knee issues were more than just some kind of impact fatigue from running when it was also hurting like hell on the bike - especially climbing - which suggested (to my incredible grasp of medical and biological sciences) that there was some kind of tendon or ligament issue going on. Anyway, as the run went well, I thought I'd try the bike. Same story as the run - the knee felt fine.

I live, in my happy new world, about 3 miles from Lake Kagonsa, a huge lake here that my aunt & uncle live on (and which served as Team Headquarters during Ironman, and wherein I've done countless open water swims, not to mention zipping about on a sea-doo with Jackson, which is a vision). Bordering the lake are several small county roads, as well as a major highway, and a state park. In Minneapolis, I preferred to drive about 15 minutes to get a bit on the edge of the suburbs to be able to safely connect to the outlands without dealing with major traffic. Here, I open my garage door and within 5 minutes I'm on a county road. Ridiculous.

I charted a short course - about 15 miles - taking me north, then west, then south, then a bit back east - taking me from my house around the lake and back to my aunt & uncles, where cold beer and brats awaited me. Like the IM course, it seems all of Wisconsin was meant for biking, and its absurdly beautiful. Lush farmland, picturesque silos and barns, corn as tall as my Grandpa. My uncle was joking the other day that former governor Tommy Thompson never met a highway or road construction company he didn't like, which means the gravel road out here is hard to find - and though some of these county roads were a little rough near the shoulder, generally it was smoother blacktop than I found in Minnesota. I saw 3 other triathletes tucked into aero bars on my ride, and cars out here are so used to seeing us that there's so much less of that perceived antagonism that I felt on the roads in Minnesota - people here aren't so "damn you bikers!", since they deal with us every day. All in all, it's just really refreshing, really different, really new for me.

There are also, on my ride, hills - several of them. This is great - that on weekends I can plan my long rides around the Ironman course if I want to, but that even my maintenance rides will have some built in hill training - something I didn't have at all on my regular routes in Minnesota. The hills are nothing IM caliber or anything - shorter and less steep - but still, they're hills. I found myself more than once riding the brakes downhill, not having sufficient time on the bike this year to have the courage to open it up yet (that wheel wobble thing from last season is still, I have found, living in my head...and it may until a new iteration of Ol' Blue finds its way into my atmosphere).

The road stays within a few miles of the lake, and the final southward stretch hovers right near it. That's cool, too, to be able to ride on the shores of a place so meaningful to me - 11 years of July 4th reunions (which we're gearing up for now for next week!), so many adventures and lazy days on the boat or the dock, even the place Amy and I got engaged. To now have it be a regular backdrop to this part of my life taps deeply into the sentimental pieces of me that triathlon so often reveals.

So. Another run scheduled today, and maybe a ride as well, and my first "long ride" I'm scheduling for Sunday - not sure yet how far that is...still wanting to really go easy with the knee, so I'll shoot for 25 minimum. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For your amusement...

Just a quick note before heading to sleep - more tomorrow on yesterday's successful (and still pain free!) first ride in Wisconsin, but for now this, which is hilarious and kickass.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hello Wisconsin!

Well, if you're still out there at all, if anybody's actually still interested, I bid you a very hearty hullo. It's been a crazy spring, a crazy summer, and so far it's been The Season That (Almost) Wasn't. But, things are finally starting to make sense, and if the injury gods allow, I may still be able to salvage something here.

We're officially Wisconsinites now - this is our...what...10th day of living here or something? We live in a very lovely small town - about 11,000 people (which is about the size of where I grew up in Dakota), and though it's only 13 miles from Madison, it's not "suburban" at all - the town has it's own history and personality that I'm sure I'll be discovering for a long time. We live in an amazing house in a beautiful neighborhood and, true to the Madison way of life, every day I'm just astonished with how active this place is. People constantly walking by with dogs, or jogging, or zipping along on a bike. It's almost some kind of athlete's Rockwell painting or something, and we've met more neighbors in the past week than we did in 6 years of living in suburban Minneapolis (which was a reflection both on the suburb and on our general disinterest in our particular neighborhood). So far, so good. It feels more like "home" everyday.

Of course it is difficult to live away from our many good friends in Minneapolis, but I think we're figuring it out - not terribly difficult in this crazy age of communication, but nothing beats the actual presence. That's just another thing we'll be adjusting too.

We're officially halfway through the pregnancy (well, now plus a few days), and all seems to be going well. Almost every night Amy places my hand on her belly and says "feel that?", and sometimes I think I do, and sometimes I'm not sure what I'm feeling or supposed to be feeling, but last night was a bonafide alien movement coming from in there, and that's some kind of insanity, I'll tell you what.

Okay, so now that everybody's caught up, let's get back to the game.

A refresher: In late April, in the midst of all the move stuff that was slowly chipping away at my ability to consistently work out, I was trying to still nail down at least one long run - 10+ miles - even if I wasn't able to reinforce the run with shorter distances throughout the week. I paid for it when I was forced to stop during a run and nurse a knee that was killing me. I mostly rested it, and ran a 13.1 in mid-May that on paper went pretty well, but didn't really, and I could hardly walk for 4 days afterwards with the knee - it was in full aggravation. I don't know how to explain the pain, except that it lives sort of under my left knee cap and in the soft tissue around it. In my research it doesn't appear to be any of the usual suspects (though it very well could be) such as cartilage/miniscus or ACL stuff, but it got so that I couldn't run 2 miles without having to stop and walk, and then hobble around for days, even after just the 2 milers. Incredibly disheartening, and my plan has been, once moved, to seriously address it with a trip to the doctor. Meanwhile, I'd give the knee as much as 10 full days off from running, and then I'd go out and be okay to about 2 miles, and then suddenly limping after 2.5.

In addition, I'm nursing some kind of painful and consistent shoulder injury that might be a rotator cuff thing, and I think I've been dealing with that in some form or another since long before Ironman. But - one thing at a time. I can live with the shoulder thing (for now). The knee thing has been kicking my ass.

I skipped my first (and hopefully last) race on June 9th, though I am okay with the decision. Besides being injured, it was the weekend before we moved and we had a lot to do. Bottom line was that it wasn't in my family's best interests for me to go out and spend the time and energy on something focused only on my own satisfactions, however important in the grand scheme those satisfactions are to me. Still, missing a race you signed up for...ugh.

Anyway, last week I tried 3 miles with a gaudy knee brace I picked up at Target, and I felt pretty good about it - maybe 85%, which is so much better than I've felt all season. I still had pain the rest of the day, but it didn't last for days like earlier in the season. I didn't want to attribute too much to it - maybe the brace was doing some of the hard work and masking my symptoms or problem. Along the way, of course, I've fallen significantly out of shape, and it's been pretty heartbreaking to think that last season this weekend I was doing my 2nd Half Ironman and was clipping right along towards Ironman, and this year I'm considering walking the dogs "exercise". Bah.

Alrighty, so this weekend I just got fed up with all of it - the lack of exercise, the poor nutrition, the aimlessness of my season, etc. I've felt like a prisoner to my knee and it's been driving me mad. Of course, all the resolve in the world doesn't mean much if I can't physically go out there and do what needs to be done.

So yesterday - Monday - I went out to just see what was possible. I wanted a minimum of 3 miles if I could do it. I'd given my knee a full week of complete rest, and mostly this was a defining workout - if I had the status quo pain during and after, I'd be in the doctor's office on Tuesday, prepared for whatever course of action was required.

I'm happy to report - cautiously - that for once I had a decent run.

Jack & I ran 2.5 miles to my grandparents house for a 10 minute water break, then ran another mile, walked half a mile, and ran a quarter mile the rest of the way back home. Without a brace. My knee felt - well, really good. I had none of the expected pain, and I considered it about 95% normal - that 5% might even be exaggerated, and while I felt a few whispers of the pain I've been experiencing, nothing even close to the normal debilitating pain, and in fact if I wasn't nursing it so heavily I'd probably not even have noticed it as anything but normal soreness. I wasn't hobbled up by it at all last night after running, even though I iced it as a matter of prevention when I got home, and this morning I feel fine. I don't want to make too much of it, but I am so encouraged that maybe I can actually get back in the game. We'll see more after a ride today, and a week's worth of workouts, and some real stress to see how far we can go.

I had mentally all but given up on the Lifetime triathlon in mid-July, an Olympic distance. I'm going to just take each day here as it comes, and that race may still be a gametime decision. If I am coming back from this injury, I have to be so careful not to reaggravate it with a distance or intensity I'm not ready for. We'll see.

Meanwhile, 2 things of note: I'll be trying to take some pics of my new area on my workouts, to give you a sense of how things are for me out here now. Also, I'm excited to report that my friend Todd (who you know as a regular visitor here and who's having a really great first Oly season) and I have committed to training and racing together for a Half Iron next season. I'm really excited about it - we haven't figured out all the details of the "virtual" training together, but he's going to be in charge of the off-season weight training plan, and I'll be in charge of the Half Iron training plan. I'm a really solitary training person, but the "virtual" accountability of it will add a new flavor, and Todd's just the right kind of guy for me to do this with, so I think it'll be a blast. Not sure yet what Half we'll do - maybe Steelhead? We'll see.

Alright, that's all for now - you're officially caught up. I'm all moved in now, and the myriad distractions and obligations away from the game are sorting themselves out now. Come on back to the blog regularly now, cuz I am.

Friday, June 01, 2007

All About Me

So, let's catch up. I've been AWOL a bit, and I think it'll get worse before it gets better.

2 weeks ago I ran a half marathon. I approached it as mostly a fun run, and Amy's family and some friends were doing the marathon as a relay, so it was not a high pressure situation. My training being for CRAP, I had no expectations, and just went in to enjoy the day. Amy's sister was up for the first leg of their relay, so she and I ran the first 5 miles together. We'd decided earlier to just go easy, and stuck to about a 10:00 pace. All was well, and we enjoyed those 5 miles chatting and enjoying the crowds, even though the weather was crap for my 4th race in a row - low 50's and wind...if it had been raining, it would have been IM conditions all over again.

Anyway, at 5 miles we went separate ways, and, feeling good, I decided to see what I could do in the next 3 miles, then play it by ear. I ticked along at just over an 8:00 pace until mile 8, and then, still feeling good, sold out to really throw down for the last 5 miles. I've had two nagging issues all spring - my left knee, and my right achilles/calf area. Both loosened up a bit as the run continued, and by mile 8 I was feeling pretty solid.

Anyway, I clock along sub 8:30 until about the last half mile, when I just couldn't sustain it and slowed to around 9:30. I finished in just about exactly 2 hours - almost exactly the same time that I ran an early spring half marathon last year. On the surface that seems exciting - a strong time despite my poor training this year - but I paid for it. My knee was killing me for 4 days - the result, I think, of just doing more mileage on my long runs this spring than I have been properly prepared for.

So - that injury has been nagging ever since. In fact, I can't get 2 miles before it starts to hurt to the point of forcing me into a walk, and then it'll hurt for 2 more days. It even hurts on the bike - especially climbing. I didn't expect that, and that sucks. I don't know how to describe it - it's almost behind and underneath the knee cap. And, I don't know what to do with it. It feels like stop-it pain; there are two kinds of pain - ignore-it pain, where whatever it is isn't that big of a deal and you can train through it, and stop-it pain, where it feels more significant and you'd do well to stop whatever you're doing. So, I've been feeling in a holding pattern with this damn thing. I'm headed out for a run today, to see what happens, after letting it rest since my ride on Tuesday.

We move 2 weeks from today, and we're really excited. The house is full of boxes and miscellany as we get prepared and organized to move out, and all final arrangements have been mostly made - soon it's just a matter of finishing packing up, then getting out of town. I was thinking on my ride Tuesday - a short 20 miler - that I'll miss that well worn route, my training route that got me to Ironman. But...I'm also a little bored of it. It'll be fun to find a new training space in a new place, get acquainted with new country roads and routes. There's even a hill in my neighborhood that'll be perfect for doing some hill-running. And of course, the opportunity to train the IMWI course whenever the mood strikes. I do hope, after the move, that I'll be able to get back to training and blogging more regularly and share that new piece of life with whoever's out there.

And, most importantly of all, baby is doing well. 16 weeks 5 days today, and we heard the heartbeat again for the second time yesterday. Man, I tell you there is no sweeter sound. My face just erupts into a grin when I hear that little whooshwhooshwhoosh, Part Two working so hard in there to Become. And, I gotta say, solid heartrate, that little one has. Ironman in the making. Me & TST's shorties, rocking Kona '30. Sweet!

Anyway, that's me for now, the further tales of Ironman in Transition. What a weird season. Hang in there with me though - I've been given tentative family clearance for IMWI '09 - we'll see how it goes with baby, so I won't make it official for awhile. Still, something to think about. Sigh. One of these days, I swear I'll be a triathlete again.