Tuesday, July 31, 2007

State of Things

• So, I've had a really great couple weeks of training. I feel back on point. Weight is coming off, endurance is building, and strength is developing. I'm yet to really "test" my knee, and am sticking to mostly HR zone 2 running of an hour or less, but this week I think I'll do a little more to see what I'm capable of. To say it feels good to be back is an understatement. Strange, though, that while the season draws closer to a close for everybody around me, I'm just getting fired up. I think I'll have a lot of pent-up race day energy all off-season. Good. Make me that much better next season.

• Todd and I have, I think, all but decided on Racine as our 70.3 next season. They haven't published the precise race dates yet, but one thoughtful bit is that Lifetime might be just the week before. That's a great race that's a priority for me, but it just might not work out. S'okay. Eye on the prize, as they say. I'll let you know as soon as I know.

• Refresh coming soon to the blog's appearance. No longer in transition. Now, on a mission. Becoming Ironman 2009. Bring it.

• I watched the Becoming Ironman documentary (on your right, there, for the YouTube links, if you're interested) yesterday and cried like a girl. My Team kicked ass. Best Day Ever.

• I'm extremely excited to be volunteering at Ironman this year! I'll be on State Street & Henry as a run marshall from 3:45-8:00pm, and then at the finish line doing medals or whatever from 9pm to midnight. I'm hoping I strategically placed myself in these locations so that I can, with great obnoxiousness, be the freakshow cheerleader for Pharmie, Steve, erin, Wil, and Stu. Am I forgetting anybody? I can't keep track of everybody's race schedules. Lemme know. I'm so excited for you guys. I can't wait.

• Speaking of everybody, I was thinking - does anybody in the Madison area want to get together for a beer or something in the next weekend or so? Not this weekend - I'm back in Minneapolis - but maybe the next? I'm thinking Teach, erin, Thomps - who else? Anybody around - if I didn't say your name it just means I don't know where you're geographically located, so it's just a big open invitation. Lemme know. Maybe I'll send some emails around or go comment hopping to get your ideas. Drop a comment, though, if you have an opinion. It might be fun to get to know each other a little better than from behind the screen. Plus, I'm new in town, that sort of thing. Let me know what you think.

• I got a new LG tri-bag, and get this: it comes with a little detachable, fold-up bench for transition. Ha! Dope.

• Coolest thing that happened this weekend outside of my open water swim (where I practiced sighting so as to not be so constantly screwing up my times with the drunken wending that is my Modus Operandi in the water) and my 30 miles on the bike (flawless! whahoo!) - watching my Grandpa - The Legend - play bowling on the Wii. Kick. Ass.

• Speaking of miles on the bike, my last 3 rides, consisting of 17-something, 23-something, and 30-something, have all resulted in an average mph of 17.8. That's consistency, baby.

All from me for now. Lemme know about social hour, those interested - I think it'd be a good time. Hell, maybe we could even make something regular of it!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Physically Therapeutic

In the first days of September, 1996, my Dad and I were playing our 35th hole of golf with his regular buddies - I was the "outsider" (though always made to feel like a lifelong member) on a group of guys that had been golfing usually twice a week for years and years, and were a constant riot. My Dad - he was one hilarious dude. Sometime I'll tell you more stories. Also, he could smash a golf ball. After a weekend of water skiing and golf, I was spending these last few holes trying to out-drive him. Sometimes I did, barely - usually I didn't. On this tee box, 2nd to last of the day, a water hazard awaits just beyond the box. I'd played this course since I was old enough to golf - 8 or 9, I suppose. That water hazard was home to many a ball with my name on it.

I reared back - I've always had excellent form on my swing, even if I have a horrible slice - and swung with everything I had. I smashed the ball - best drive of the day. But - I felt a tiny slip in my lower left back. Nothing painful, just out of the ordinary, and different. We packed into the carts to head after our respective hits, and I decided I'd better back off a little on the next drive.

We were playing a skins game - where the lowest score on each hole is the winner of that hole (I think for $.25/hole), and as we approached the final green of the day, on the 36th hole, my ball was about 5 feet from the pin, and I'd be putting for par, and the skin. We joked about who'd be buying beer at the end of the round as the other guys putt in. I was the 2nd to last guy to putt, and I carefully leaned over my ball to concentrate on making the putt. Very suddenly, and totally to my surprise, my legs went right out from under me. It was as though somebody had struck the back of my knees and my legs just crumpled, and I fell in an awkward heap to the ground. There was no pain - just total surprise that suddenly I was lying on the ground when a moment ago I was looking down at a golf ball. The green lay right in front of the clubhouse, and it was a strange place for somebody to be suddenly lying there. A few guys joked from the clubhouse to "cut 'im off! He's had enough!" Everybody started laughing - because it was funny - and I started laughing too. And that is when my back exploded into a searing sympony of agony. Immediately my laugh halted in mid-breath and I shrieked in pain. And suddenly it wasn't funny to any of us, and everybody looked around in total confusion. Whatever this was, it wasn't making sense.

My back was spasming so violently that I could barely talk. This was a tremendous hurt, the kind of pain that redefines your scale of how bad something really is. Everything I did, the slightest movement, aggravated the muscles on my lower left side to clench into angry fists, and I'd feel the pain all the way back in my teeth. I was 22 years old, and my Dad had to carry me to the car. I had to "lay" - which was more propped up at an awkward half-lay, half-sit position - in the back seat just to function. We raced home, and Dad carried me into the house and I lay down on the floor while he called a doctor. It was an effort to find any kind of temporary relief, nevermind comfort. I spent the next two days in generally that same position, and my parents had to feed me, assist me in every way, even help me into the bathroom and back - to walk without total pain, I had to lean way back, have somebody supporting me, and only walk on my tip-toes. It was maddening.

I was due to fly back to school in Boston 3 or 4 days later, and underwent intense therapy for the next few days just to try and get to a place where that was at all possible. Three times daily I'd visit a chiropractor, as well as my regular doctor and a massage therapist. My muscles were literally stiff as bone. Whatever injury I'd suffered back there, all of my muscles were working overtime to protect themselves from it. The whole ordeal was excruciating.

Side-note... that was the last time I ever golfed with my Dad. He died three and a half months later. I've never known quite how to feel about that. That being the last time golfing with him, I mean.

Anyway, it would seem, some 11 years later, that this trauma has continued to haunt my body, and in the opinion of the physical therapist I began work with yesterday, may be the cause of not just my knee issue this season, but a lot of weird, left-sided weakness and instability that I didn't even know I had. She began with a complete history, and I limited that to mostly the last three years of training. She had a look at me in different positions of standing, then asked me if I'd had any kind of injury to the left side of my back - so...something about me is obvious in that way to the trained eye. At first it didn't occur to me to share something that happened so long ago, but then I indicated that, yes, I'd had a really horrible back-spasm issue there once. She was immediately intrigued, so I told her the whole story, and how if I stop working out now for even a few weeks I have aggravation on that side - soreness, stiffness. That if I keep working out I don't have any back problems, but otherwise I sometimes have to deal with it a bit. Throughout the course of the appointment she kept doing the math, and seems pretty confident that this one thing in my life is the source of a lot of real and potential problems. That's weird for me - like being told scar tissue from a cut when you were a kid is affecting how you live as an adult. Strange how the body doesn't forget.

She was a great therapist and a really cool woman. About my age, I think, fun and light-hearted. I didn't feel like I was among a sterile medical professional, but just a cool person who knew more about stuff than I did. I liked that. She had me do a few tests, then, and I was - like I was at my original appointment when they ran a few physical tests - totally shocked at the apparent differences that I hadn't been aware of in my symmetry. When I stand on my left leg, for instance, my right hip drops down. Plain as day. Not so standing on my right leg - the right side of my back is strong enough to support the muscles required to keep my opposite hip aligned. Fascinating. I laid down on my stomach, and she pressed on the muscles in my lower back, first on the right side, then the left, just to loosen up a bit. It was not a massage, she just pressed down. We were chatting through this when she got to my left side, and in mid sentence she stopped and said, in surprise, "ooh..." - I'd felt it too. Like an angry ghost, my muscles on that side immediately spasmed slightly around her fist. This happened through half-way up my back - she'd press, we'd both feel a tightening. I pictured the muscles back there as some angry old creatures protecting some ancient precious. Ever after all this time, whatever happened back there, they were conditioned to respond. It felt alien.

We did a test where I reached back with my right hand, elbow up, and grabbed the back of my neck. G'head, try this. Then you reach up with your left hand, elbow down, and reach to kind of scratch your back between the shoulder blades. Then, try and reach both hands to touch each other. On the one side - no problem, I could link fingers, even. On the other - my hands were almost a foot away from each other. I was totally blown away - it was like watching somebody else's body on the one side. Nothing worked the same. How I'd managed this long without either knowing this huge lack of symmetry existed, or getting injured much earlier, is a mystery.

But then, she had me do some simple stretches. And that was equally as surreal. We'd do an exercise, find a major problem area, and then do some kind of stretch. Sometimes the stretch didn't obviously correlate to the problem. After stretching, we'd do the exercise again, and suddenly things worked. By the end of the appointment, in fact, I could do that finger-grab-behind-your-back exercise just as well with the opposite side - an entire foot of inflexibility suddenly accounted for. Insane!!!! In fact, when I left, my whole body just felt loose and comfortable in a way I don't think I've ever experienced before. It was like walking in somebody else's much more flexible body. Even the weird shoulder issues I've had since before Ironman, and which I've been choosing to not address until after this knee thing is situated - suddenly felt so much better.

All from stretching.

Who knew? And can you imagine the possibilities? Swim, bike, and run could be a whole different game in a body that was more able to play the right way.

So, we've got 3 more appointments planned through mid-August, and I have homework to do the stretching twice a day at home. Next time we'll work in more exercises. At the end of this, I should have a lot more flexibility, stability, and equilibrium that I didn't even know I was missing. How exciting.

Meanwhile, a solid weekend planned - hopefully an open water swim, and my longest time on the bike so far (30 miles, which is a far cry from a century, I know, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. A month ago I was hardly on my bike at all!) Stay tuned. All seems possible.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

Saturday: 25 miles on the bike, 4 miles (ish) on the run. All was well, and I didn't really have to back off my knee at all (though that said, I was in HR zone 2ish mostly the whole time. Favorite part:

I'd just left my house and climbed the big hill near my neighborhood. I'd maybe been on the road a quarter mile. I mentioned that I recently rediscovered my Garmin 305, and that I'd only used it a few times before I'd lost it, so it had some settings that weren't to my preferences, and I realized this just into my ride. So, top of the hill, I stopped and was leaning over my handlebars, tapping away at my computer.

A voice said, meekly, "hello?"

I turned to the yard in front of which I'd stopped my bike, and a small woman, maybe in her 50's, walked precariously in my direction, holding a yellow frosty mug. "Are you okay?" She asked.

"Oh yeah, I'm fine!" I told her, "Just making some adjustments to my computer here."

"Ohhh," she said, relaxing her shoulders and smiling, "I thought you were sick or something!"

"Oh! No, I'm fine!"

She laughed, now totally relaxed. "I looked out my window, and it's such a hot day, and I saw you slumped over there and I thought, 'Oh no, he's not doing very well,' so I brought you out some water." She said, nodding towards the mug in her hand. Then she blushed, and said with a laugh, "Now I'm embarrassed!"

I was extremely touched. "Oh, geez...I...how sweet of you! What a kind thing to do. No no, I'm just getting started on my ride here and had some tinkering to do here...I...I'll certainly have some of your water, you went to all the trouble!"

And so she handed me the mug, it the currency of this brief exchange (it would have been a let-down, after all, to not have purpose for me to drink from it), and we chatted a bit about how her brother liked to ride bicycles, and how far was I going today, and it's hot outside today, and how I should be careful. And then she took her mug, and I thanked her again, and with a smile and a wave she went back inside her house.

And I thought of the first time, in 2004, that I rode my new road bike (not knowing yet the differences or advantages or even existence of those crazy 'tri-bikes'), and how I got a flat tire and walked 3 miles in my cleats as four different highway patrol officers whizzed by, none of them stopping for a "how's it going", and of all the times I'd been on a long ride and some redneck blares his horn just behind me, or of any number of less-than-polite things I've experienced or endured on a ride, and how this one thing made up for all of them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Small Victories

Yesterday I swam over my lunch hour, about 40 minutes. In the afternoon I biked about 50 minutes, then ran about 50 minutes.

Conduct becoming of a triathlete. And, which I hadn't done - multisport training in a single day - since the first days of May.

I backed off and walked a bit when the knee started to protest. I geared down when I felt it on the bike. I wasn't out for speed, just for the experience. The (sometimes literal) learning to walk (again), before running.

But I felt good. I'm not in terrible shape - I've managed enough running, even the light mileage these last few months, to not be huffing and puffing. I'm embracing just being out there. Not checking my watch for speeds or tempos. Watching my heart rate to keep it low, and doing right by the bum knee. Being patient. I lack endurance, of course. It'll come. It'll all come.

Last night, then, I shaved my legs. Which I hadn't done since the first days of May.

Because that's what triathletes do.


Game on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Breath Celebration, The Rider on Fyre, A Pregnant Chick and Purple Rain

I've been totally exhausted lately - I think my body is finally starting to demand repayment on the massive sleep debts I've acquired since March. So I'm really tired at night, really tired in the mornings. Anyway, yesterday I was up at 5:30 am to get to my office and get to work, and at about 7:00am, you'll be amused to know, I subjected myself to the wonders of yoga. I found a great websilte that has fully featured, downloadable yoga sessions, each about half an hour long, all free. Very well produced. Anyway, I pulled it up on on one of my monitors, turned the monitor towards my greater office, and got to it. I found a particular workout for beginners that was geared towards the hips and knees.

So it's as dorky as it sounds - I don't mean yoga in general (well, not entirely), but the scene: There's me, in my office, Jackson lying on the couch behind me eyeing me suspiciously, contorting myself into unimaginable poses. I have to check what the lady's doing 3 times because I can't make sense of it. I get it wrong more than I get it right. And the lady, she's saying things like "listen to your breath...celebrate the breath...know and treasure and welcome the breath..." - what the hell? So I'm trying to balance on one foot, and pull a leg behind me, and deal with how utterly unelastic I am, all while treasuring my breath.

But, by the end, I was actually getting the hang of it a little, and I think I actually enjoyed it some (weird new-agey lady not withstanding). I may try to start my day with it a few times a week. I think it would be good for me as a triathlete and a person. It did get me sweating a little, and I could easily isolate areas of major weakness with how unsteady I sometimes was.

So anyway, about 5:00pm, then, after a long day of work, I headed upstairs to get organized for an hour on my bike. I laid down on my bed for two minutes while Amy was chatting about her day, and when I opened my eyes a moment later it was nearly 7:00. Clearly, more than anything, I needed some rest.

After some dinner, then, I asked Amy if she'd like to join me for a bike ride - I thought I could at least enjoy a mild ride around our new town on Fyre, and it would be fun if she came along. She was excited about it, so went and got all changed (part of the fun for her and working out is the cute clothes) and came back down wearing an Under Armour top that I'd gotten her a long time ago, pre-pregnant. "Can I wear this?" and it was hilarious - imagine wearing the tight lycra that we usually do, then throwing a small beach ball underneath. I suggested maybe a t-shirt over it? but she seemed most comfortable with the pregnant lycra look.

Amy's bike is a Target Special, some 3 or 4 years old, that she's ridden maybe 10 times in her life (maybe), and which is a huge, heavy thing. And it's purple. It was all dusty and funky from years of storage, so while she tended to wiping it off and I tended to inflating tires, we were greeted by some passing neighbors that we hadn't met, which is always fun. Anyway, I imagine we looked like quite a pair - pregnant chick bursting out of her workout clothes, her hilarious yellow helmet (a child's size, even), humongous on her little head, with her dorky husband, all decked out in gloves and riding glasses and a jersey, the whole 9, just for a quaint ride around town. What a tool.

I went inside to grab my shoes - I have different shoes for Fyre than I do for Ol' Blue - and made the discovery of the century: During the madness of the weeks of getting ready for the move, I somehow lost my Garmin 305. This after the company had just replaced it for me, so it was brand new - I'd maybe used it five times or something. I remembered turning it on and setting it on a bench off my driveway (all at the old house, obviously) to detect satellites while I got Fyre ready for a ride, and then, in my haze of activity at that time, I rode off without the damn thing. The next day, when I wanted my watch to go run, it was nowhere to be found. As I don't lose things - ever - and I knew I'd set it on the bench, after days of looking around, I finally decided either I actually had lost it, or more likely some damn hoodlum in my old neighborhood swiped it while I'd forgotten it overnight on the bench or something. So, all these weeks since, I've been working out with my old 301, which has such a wacked out heart rate monitor in it that I don't even record HR during my workouts. Two days ago I finally ordered a new 305 - and as you know, these things ain't cheap - so I could get HR training back into my scheme of things. It's actually due to arrive today or tomorrow.

Anyway, of course you know how the story is going - I reached into my shoe, and there was my 305. I shouted in glee. Whahoo! Amy came bursting into the room, pregnant chick in lycra, sure I'd cut my finger off while slicing apples or something.

Alright, so we finally get on the road, and by this time we have about an hour of daylight left. We live in a hilly neighborhood, so we headed up our street and turned left, and were immediately met with our first hill. I was coaching Amy on how to get into her easiest gear while she was cursing me for bringing us up this damn hill right away, and maybe we could have done some gentle riding for awhile first, and maybe she'd like to ride her bike more often but dammit this is a little much on your first right, don't you think? until finally we crested the hill and saw the descent on the other side. "I like this part!" she yelped and cruised several blocks down the other side, me behind her and terrified that she'd fall off her bike or something. We get to the bottom of the hill, go a few flat block, then turned right - where another hill awaited us. She said crap, and maybe this is far enough and I can go on without her, and I said hell no and it's not as bad as it looks from here, they never are. So we start climbing again and her heretofore abandoned bike is screeching and clicking in protest with every gear change, arguing its re-entry onto the streets when it had been perfectly fine sleeping all these years. Something is wrong, Amy's saying, this doesn't sound very good, maybe my chain is about to fall off or something, and I assured her that she's okay, there's nothing we can do about her bike right now, it needs some love and attention but it'll be okay. Then to change the subject a little I asked her what her bike's name was, and she paused only a beat and said proudly, Purple Rain, and in a way that suggested I should have known that all along. I laughed. A few quiet moments of climbing later she asked if she's supposed to look up the hill while riding, or do you look down, and I said it depends, that on the Bitch Hills at Ironman you just watch your front wheel and pray to Jesus. She eyed her front wheel intently, then. Moments later she announced, mid-hill, that she needed a rest, so while I started to protest that no, don't stop in the middle of the hill it's harder that way, reward yourself with water at the top of the hill, she was already pulled over and taking a swig from her bottle.

We finally meandered a few more miles down the road to our destination, which was a river trail I'd been wanting to investigate. We approached the tiny river as it runs through town and found it surrounded en masse by hoards of gaggles of gooses, all oblivious that there were people in the world. They covered the sidewalk and street, and as we approached they didn't seem terribly concerned for moving until the last possible moment, then they'd flutter away, parting like the Red Sea, their huge wings beating the wind and they being so big so up close that I got a little creeped out.

We finally found our little trail, explored it only a little with promises to return soon, and headed home. Amy said she would lead us home, she's sure she could find us a way without so damn many hills, and in fact, she did. Our return trip was pleasantly hill free, and all was well but for her complaints that this damn seat isn't adjusted right at all, my butt bones are killing me on this thing. I promised her it would get better if she stayed at it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.

A diagnosis! A plan! A potential! Whahoo!

First off, MUCH love and a full on kiss on the lips to Erin, who suggested to me the UW Health sports medicine clinic where I had my appointment today. This place was tha bomb. They had Triathlete magazine in the waiting room. What!?!

I called today to make my appointment, and they said the earliest they could get me in with a doctor was August 5th. Ugh. I pleaded for something better, and she said I could meet with an Athletic Trainer or a Physician's Assistant as early as Friday. Much better, but put my name on a cancellation list. They called 15 minutes later with an appointment for this afternoon. Dope.

Okay, so it's a great facility with a huge gym in the center of it, and it wreaks of athletes and sports medicine. It wasn't like walking into any other clinic I've ever been in - it had the tone and vibe of activity, not deathly illness, and all the other patients around me were high school and college kids clearly into athletics.

Anyway, I get in and see I think an Athletic Trainer, but I don't know for sure, I can't remember her name or what her title was, but she saw me first, gave me a priliminary diagnosis, then relayed that to the doctor who came in and met with me also. First thing was, they listened. I hate that doctors always seems like they're in a huge rush to get to the next person. And they always give me useless information. And I don't trust them. I have no real reason for the distrust, it's just a long held thing. Anyway, these people made me feel like an idiot for feeling that way. She went all the way back to May, when my injury first started, and listened as I told her what I knew - it was overuse. It feels like this. Sometimes like that. Not always, though. Today I did 5 miles and I'm fine, last week 2 miles and I limping. Then she started asking questions that indicated she knew what was happening with me - is it worse going up or downhill? Yes! Some swelling, but only slightly, not bad, right? Yes! She asks more questions, we talk about things, she asks me what I want out of this (besides the obvious, to be healthy in general) - is there something out there I'm training for? I told her I'd feel like a whole new person if I had a late season triathlon in front of me - just something to redeem these lost days and hopes.

So, she puts me on a table and we do some how about this, and now? and how about that, and finally she diagnosed and described what sounded right on to me. It's some kind of syndrome - patella something something - and it has to do with the cartilage just behind my kneecap. Not the cartilage between my leg bones that meet at the knee, which is typical miniscus stuff that requires surgery, but the cartilage behind the kneecap. She said this is the most common injury they see, and everything I'm describing is textbook. (I'm always surprised - I'm sure each time I'm injured that whatever it is will be the first time ever that a doctor has seen it, and he'll call over all his colleagues and they'll pore over me and scratch their heads. So dramatic.) Most interesting was a test she did where she wanted me to lift my right leg, while lying on my left side, vertically, towards the ceiling while she provided resistance. No big deal. I go over to my other side, my left side - where my knee is screwed up - and we did the same exercise and I couldn't resist her resistance at all - it was actually alarming, like something I should've noticed before. Much of the problem happening in my knee, it seems, is a results of weakness in my core. Wowwwwww. Huge epiphany.

So, the treatment: First, I'll start physical therapy to strengthen my core. This I'm excited about - I think it'll teach me great things, but also help this knee get better and avoid future injury. Then - we discussed running. This was after the doctor was in, so there were three of us in there. Not, "they told me what to do without a care for my thoughts" - we discussed it. Together. Basically, let pain be my guide. "If you can go 3 miles without pain, then go three miles." I asked, "Should I stop, though, when I feel it, or just when it hurts?" "Ah," said doc, "good question." He thought about this, and said, "I have no problem with you running if you feel it if you ran 5 miles today and aren't limping around. But don't get to a point where it's painful." I can swim all I want, and I should keep to the no-pain rule on the bike. Most importantly - they virtually prescribed a triathlon for me. Doc told me he thought I should put a late season sprint triathlon on my schedule, "because everybody needs goals to do their best." What? Kickass, this guy! But, he warned, I'm not to do more than sprint distance, and my training should be appropriate to sprint distances, and as one would when coming back from an injury. He told me I couldn't really injure it any worse if I ran through the pain, but that if I got to that limping point again, I'd basically have extinguished whatever healing progress I'd made to that point, and would start over. I need rest, he told me. But, the right kind of rest. "I don't want you to be a couch potato."

I can't tell you how excited, relieved, and happy I am to have some clear direction and advice by people that seemed to truly understand what I was about, what was important to me, and how I should proceed. To have a clear course of action - the PT - that's more than just "ice it and rest", which is what I thought for sure any doctor would tell me, and which of course I've been doing. These people were just fantastic. I feel a thousand times better.

So, mark your calendars everybody - Devil's Challenge Triathlon, September 15th. I feel so liberated, so happy to daydream about a race on my schedule. And while I'll train only within the boundaries of my healing, I am so going to attack this thing. I'm taking it full-on seriously. And by that I mean - I've had a tendancy the last two years to take Sprints a little lightly, since you can kind of go full throttle with no problems, not even drinking or eating if you don't want to. But like I said earlier - I will never, ever again take a day of racing for granted, no matter how short or small. This will be my first serious foray back into Ironman training. Game is on.

And - so much gratitude for everybody's well wishes on baby and my health. JB, very best of luck in your Ironman training, and please keep stopping by. Thanks Bill for your thoughts, and you'll love the concert for sure. TZ and everyone else, thanks a ton, it means a lot.

What a weekend

We headed back to Minneapolis last week for a stretch from Wednesday night, returning home last night. We were extremely busy - I had business meetings all day Thursday and a concert Thursday night (Alison Krauss & Union Station, which was ridiculous it was so good), we had Dr. appointments on Friday (we decided not to move our existing baby appointment away from our Minneapolis doctor, since we were coming back [at that time, anyway] for Lifetime, anyway. Now, though, we'll be getting a new baby doctor out here), then the triathlon - which Todd was racing, so I went to watch - on Saturday, as well as lunch with mother, and finally home yesterday morning. It was the least restful "vacation" ever, but it was great to be back and see our friends and family, and while I'm tired, we had a great time. Wanted to share some highlights with you:

First off - there are, in life, few times when you hear words that literally change your life. Where before those vibrations met the air your life was one way, and afterwards it is irrevocably changed. I've had a few, not all of them good. This year has been pretty well full of them, though. "You are an Ironman". "We're pregnant", and now this...

Utrasound Lady (U.S.L): ...okay, let me just angle in here... (with intentional pause for suspenseful pause for dramatic effect) ...okay. See these 3 lines?"

She pointed her cursor to three lines, nearly parallel, but all slightly pointing towards a centerpoint just to the left of the lines. The lines were on either side, and in the middle, of baby's legs.

Me (in my head): Is that the pork and beans, then? The cash and prizes? Looking at testicle testicle penis? Just what am I seeing, here????

U.S.L: "These lines indicate gender...you have a baby girl."

You have a baby girl.

You. Have. A baby. Girl.

And I put my hand on Amy's leg, and put my head down, and just quietly wept. As, to my surprise, I do just now.

Somehow I've known she was a girl forever. And not just since we were pregnant, but I think maybe my whole life - that my first (or maybe only, we have no plans here past tomorrow) child would be a girl. I certainly didn't have any kind of preference, and as I've been telling people, I don't care if it's a Gila Monster in there as long as it's healthy. And that is the God's honest truth. But in my heart, I've known baby was a girl. It wasn't just a feeling, or a suspicion. It's so that every image I've had of Amy and I parenting a child has been parenting a little girl. And that if it were a boy, I'd have had to revise all of those images. Which, I would have been happy to do. Only saying, I've just known all along. Which is weird. But to hear the words is still profound, and alters one's life significantly. Pretty huge, amazing stuff. Now, is there a chance the U.S.L is wrong? Yes - as she told us, and she has to, they can't be 100% sure until baby is actually out of there. But she said she's 99% sure, as sure as any of the information can give her, and that there was nothing confusing about what she was seeing. And, she told us, if she wasn't sure, she wouldn't have told us.

Baby is a riot. She was in there the whole time flopping all around. She started the ultrasound breech, and by the end was in some crazy acrobatic position. She was moving her little hands and arms and legs around. It was so surreal, to see a little person, which you are responsible for, in the act of becoming. To actually see her. In fact, you feel a little like you're invading her privacy in there - she's beyond, at this point at week 23, being just a dynamic hunk of cells - she actually has intentions, and actions, and some basic ideas in there, however rudimentary.

Anyway, she posed perfectly for us, and the U.S.L. lady was able to get some great shots. A few I'm happy to share - first, her profile (I swear she looks a little like me already...), and second, her crazy acrobatics, where if you adjust to the image you'll see she's almost touching her nose with her knee, her feet are way over her head, and she's reaching out to touch her toes. Crazy baby.

The whole experience just made baby so much more personal to us (not that she wasn't before, but you get it), and it's very exciting.

Saturday, then, Mike, Patrick and I banded together as Team 'Zilla and headed over to Lake Nokomis to watch Todd (ToddZilla, or TZ, as I like to call him) rip up the Lifetime Triathlon. This is Todd's A race, his first year at the Olympic distance, and he was in full form heading into the race. First we three parked clear on the other side of where we wanted to be on the lake - I have no idea how to park for these things when I'm not racing - and so after we first walked forever to the lake, realized we should be somewhere else, headed forever back to the car, drove around misc. roadblocks, found a parking spot forever away, we finally made it to the beach. Thus, we missed the start of the race, but we were there to see him exit the water. It was a perfect day for racing - I've never had such a perfect day, thanks very much - with a bit of a breeze, but temps in the 70's and enough clouds to keep the sun from screaming down. Todd looked great coming out of the water, and I screamed my head off for him and ran down the chute until he headed into transition where, as a non-athlete, I was not allowed. Sigh. Anyway, I watched him head off out of T1, and figured a window for how long it would take him on the bike - he came in right at the near end of that window, so that we almost missed him! But, the way the approach to T2 works at Lifetime, he has to make a sharp left turn and go around a point in the park, so I was able to run from one location down to another and see him making his final pedals into T2, screaming for him as obnoxiously as possible the whole way. A short jaunt across another part of the park and I was able to meet him on his first of two laps around the lake on the run. As soon as I saw him coming I'd shout "TeeeeeZillaaaaaaa!", and the people around me would laugh and Todd would throw up his fist with pointer and pinky extended, universal sign for kicking-ass and taking-names.

He got up to me, smiling and looking great, and I ran with him for a few strides. "How 'you feeling?"
"Good - my goggles broke right before the swim!"
"What?! - you looked good on the bike!"
"Yeah, feeling good."
"Kick ass baby, we'll see you next time around!"
Then I'd slow to a stop while he kept on, and I'd shout after him "Goooo TeeeeZillaaaaa!" and he'd throw up his ass-kicking fist again.

Then we three went to find a new spot for his second lap, and we tried to go somewhere a little more isolated, because as an athlete I like when there are people cheering in some of the quieter spots. We saw him again, and I screamed as obnoxiously as possible as soon as I saw him, and he erupted into a grin again, and again I ran with him. He said he was feeling good, "All day, baby!". I told him negative splits from here on out baby, pick it up and set it down! We watched him go, then, and headed to the finish line to see him. Patrick and Mike stayed in the finish chute, and I made my way up further, so that I met him just at the turn-off before the finish chute is in sight. I screamed again, and told him to throw down whatever he had left. He looked great, all day - smiling and looking easy breezy. He finished in something around 2:32, which as you know is pretty damn dope.

I guess his goggles broke, like, literally 3 seconds before he was to jump in the water. To hear him tell it, he turned around and looked at the world like, "what the hell do I do now?", and luckily some lifeguard or volunteer showed up out of nowhere and provided him with a pair. This is all to his credit - I think I would've thought - shit! what?! - and just jumped in the water and swam blind the whole time. He did great to not let that kind of thing discourage him, and to enjoy the day and race hard instead of letting those things, out of your control, into your head and your race day. And, he doesn't know it yet, but that's a big part of becoming Ironman. :)

How was it for me? Well, I'll be honest. The part watching Todd was incredible, and really fun, and awesome. But the part not out there racing with him...It totally blew. To feel on the outside, it made me sad and a little cranky. Volunteers were telling me where I could and couldn't go. I was blocked off from where I was and wasn't allowed to be. I was not, by rights, a part of it. I saw the newbies on their mountain bikes, and the pros on their rocket ships, and I knew how it felt to be wet on the bike, a little chilled, but not uncomfortable. I could feel the sand on my bare feet as I ran up to transition, in my zone of race-day brilliance, hearing friends and family cheering. I missed it terribly, and I'll tell you that I cried just a little. But, like the rest of it, I learned from it, too. As I told Todd later that day, I don't want to make too much of it - it's not like I've lost a limb or something, I haven't totally lost perspective here - but to not be able to race and have to watch a race, it makes one realize that even a "bad day" racing is better than no day at all. And so to that, there is no "bad day" racing. Just be grateful for the opportunties we have to be out there. It's a great, great game, and it's hallowed ground in some ways, and to be a triathlete - to be among those that just step up to the line - is to be blessed, and among the best there are. Here's hoping that's the last race I ever watch, at least unless by my choosing.

But - while I expected to mostly feel like shit about it all morning, I actually really enjoyed myself. I was mostly focused on Todd's race, and on where and when to go next to get to where we needed to be. I again have deepest respect for the spectators, particularly Team Bintliff whenever I race, because it's a lot of work for a combined 45 seconds of interaction with somebody important to you, and it says a lot about how loved and respected all of these people are that so many people come out to watch them. More than anything, I'm just stupid proud of Todd. He's worked really hard for this, and he's continuing to work hard, and he's not just a hack out there to try it on - he's a bonafide triathlete now. Kid's got mad speed on the run, too. I'm excited to do 70.3 together next year. So big shout out, much love, and deep respect to my man T.Zilla. Well done, dude. Here's to the next chapter together.

Last year at Lifetime, where next year we'll kick ass and take names

Knee update: I have an appointment at 3:30 today, thanks to Erin for the info and recommendations on where she's had success. I have no idea how it'll go - like I said, it might be a little difficult explaining this whole thing to a doctor, but we have to start somewhere. I'll let you know what I know when I know it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Life. Time.

My buddy Mike said to me last night - do you need to remember why you got into this in the first place? It wasn't a loaded question, just an honest one. And a good one to ask. I got into it for the fitness first - to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also to re-involve competition in my life. It was never - and has never and isn't now - about race times, or beating the guy next to me. But also, when I took that first step, it was not about distances, or Ironman. It was just about something new in my life, something healthy and good. Ironman came into it later.

But, IM has never superceded my reasons for doing it. It has appropriately fallen into those reasons. It is so damn hard. And because of it, it taps deepest into my well of wanting - to train right, and best, and hard. To race with purpose. To involve this thing in my life with meaning. It's easy to lose perspective in all of this, especially when sidelined. I don't think I have. Lost perspective, I mean.

Thanks for the words of encouragement, everybody. And you there Kressa, for the freakshow comments that you leave. Funny girl. All are appreciated. I'm going to continue to figure this out. And meanwhile, I think get back to some of the science.

I'll be watching my good buddy Todd at Lifetime on Sunday, and I'll do my best to cheer him on right, as he did for me at Ironman. Lifetime was my first "Ironman" - it was the poster I saw, in late 2003, when I weighed 235 complacent and bored pounds, and said, "I want to change." It's a race that has a very special place for me, and to not do it this year - when I'm all signed up - it's hard. We're headed back to Minneapolis this weekend - originally planned all around Lifetime weekend - for baby dr. appointments and several business meetings. I promised Amy I won't bring Ol' Blue, as if I did I'd probably get myself into the race as-is, and probably that's not best for me right now. So, I'll be watching. I've never watched a triathlon before. Kick ass TZ. Kick ass and take names.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Update: Read here and here, point #3. I don't think it's ITBS, because mine is on the inside of my left knee. The Runner's Knee looks petty promising, though. I think I may see a doctor tomorrow after all. As usual, perhaps I am not the first person in the world to experience such a thing, and some remedies can be easily found. That said - nothing in this post really changes. I'll keep you posted.

So. A busy and family-centric 4th of July week, which was great and exhausting fun. Ate too much, drank too much, stayed up too late and saw too many movies, but wouldn't change a thing. That said, it's time to get back to real life.

Let's talk about this mutherfucking knee. Well first off, lately people are posting these things about how their blog is rated PG-13 or R or NC-17 or whatever. Because they say "ass" or something. Which is amusing. Anyway, I've never found it useful to censor my normal way of speech on this thing, so if ye be offended, I cry your pardon, thankee sai. Just part of being me.

Okay, on with the show. The season, I have to all but accept, is over. It never really got started, true, but I can tell you that it is depressing as hell to wait all winter for the sun to come out, thinking about awesome race day mornings and those great long rides and all the things that make up the context of our being triathletes, only to be sidelined when the time comes. I've been trying, for a week, to make some kind of peace with this. I can, only to an extent. I've learned a lot this non-season - valuable, expensive lessons - and I imagine I'll be learning for some time.

The first thing I learned was that - and this may come as no surprise, but is difficult for me nonetheless - Iron is privilege, not a right. When the fitness starts to go, for whatever reasons - in my case, the whole saga with the move really derailed me - just because one is an Ironman does not mean he's categorically at all times prepared for 26.2 miles, or 13.1, or even 10 or 6. Of course this is common sense, but when one finishes Ironman, and is in such absurd shape and such a ridiculous level of fitness, it's hard to accept that it's possible to not be in a constant state of ready to kick ass and take names. I don't know if this is arrogance - I hope not - or just foolishness. Maybe some of all. Truth is: I did this to myself, this knee injury. I can tell you precisely how it happened, and it happened because I was being reckless. I wouldn't have called it reckless at the time, but I know now that I was. In March and April, when my schedule just totally derailed, I was still trying to plug in 12, 13, 15 miles on the weekends without the 3, 4, 6, 8 mile maintenance runs during the week to support that kind of mileage. Classic overdoing it, undertrained. I had a great base this winter, but lost it in the spring.

Second lesson so far: For what? I scheduled an early season marathon, and right now that seems like a really, really stupid decision. What good, really, does an early season marathon do me when I want to be competing in triathlon through September? Running is difficult, hard on the body, and is activity that can leave one more prone to injury than the swim or bike. A late season marathon - with a summer full of tri to reinforce the training - seems appropriate. But all that running this winter/spring for a generally meaningless marathon was stupid. I think I was acting like I had something to prove, and that's also stupid. I can't think of what that is right now, but I can think of no other reason why signing up for a May marathon would seem fun or purposeful. And I've considered January marathons in the past. Maybe that's possibe if I just shift summer tri training to fall running training, but a May marathon, falling almost smack at the end of base training and just when it gets serious (and fun) for tri training was short sighted. I won't do that again.

Third lesson: Life happens. This isn't my job. I don't depend on racing to put dinner on the table. It's okay to not be super rockstar triathlete every minute of every year, even thought that's kind of what I want to be. If I'd have rearranged my plans and priorities when the move stuff went down, maybe I'd have had a season of just sprint races. Or something. That would have been okay - I could've happily lived with that. Adjust to the reality, whatever it is, instead of staying stubborn on the road, even if full of ruts and cracks.

Fourth lesson: buck up, shit happens. The recent Triathlon mag - the one about XTerra, had some useful bits in it about injury. Cam Widoff, who I don't know enough about to have an opinion but who isn't, for whatever reason, on my cool list, made a few comments about injury that were useful, which basically stated - it happens. It's part of the sport. People lose entire seasons, and that's life. All true. And some of the XTerra guys had some insanity - out for the season with broken necks, or broken wrists, or whatever. So hey - it could always be worse. Doesn't change the fact that - stupid knee or broken wrist, I'm still not out there. But injury - or illness, or babies, or whatever else life has in store for us when not on the bike - is part of the mystery of it all. To be respected and appreciated all the same.

Part of that last is, of course, bullshit. I'm trying to make this easier for myself. But much of it is true. And I need to deal with that.

Those that know me well - and I suppose in this arena those who are constant readers do - know that acknowledging a lost season is...incredibly disappointing. Incredibly.

Those same know that my return next season will be one of...assertiveness. Because I am pissed off. I have only myself to blame, but I will find a way to personify this thing - this injury and its roots, wherever they are borne within and without me - and anthropomorphize it, and turn it into my enemy, so that next season I will choose to see this lost season as an adversary. And it will be the thing chasing me through thunderstorms, and the thing infiltrating my head with fear and doubt, and Rider and Machine will mount up and slay some new dragons.

The worst thing you can do in this game is take it for granted. Get complacent with it. Get comfortable with it. Ironman is some kind of angry animal. You can figure out a way to harness it, maybe even approach it, the lucky few ride it, become part of it. But it's still an animal. It'll still bite your hand off if it deems you unfit for its company. I will have work to do to Become Ironman again. This is never more clear to me than when 4 miles leaves me limping.

So here's what happens now: First, an update. 4 miles today, and I managed it. I mowed the lawn afterwards. I was not left in excruciating pain like I have been. See, I don't know what to do with this. Unless it's in a full flared state, and it's not all the time and it seems a bit random after which runs it will flare - it will be difficult to communicate with a doctor about what's going on. I'm not afraid to do that or anything, but I kind of have to wait for "the next time" this thing goes out of control - otherwise it'll be a wasted trip. This calls, by the way, on my inherent distrust of the medical profession at large (do you count Pharmie? I don't think you do, I'll buy drugs from you any day), where I don't think they have a damned idea what they're talking about half the time. But, it's irresponsible to not see a doctor about this, and so I will just as soon as I have something to communicate to them. Otherwise it goes like this: "So where does it hurt?" - "Well, it doesn't right now, but it did yesterday. Here." - "Here? Is there pain when I press here?" - "No, there isn't any today. But yesterday, whoowee." - "Yesterday." -"Right." Etc. etc. So I don't know what to do with that.

Secondly, and I realize I'm falling into a self-diagnosis trap, but if it were some kind of seriousness, some kind of torn something or other, wouldn't it hurt, like, all the time? Not just during and after a run, but during and after all runs? And not 4 miles into it, but pretty right away? The next day too? Or when mowing the lawn? Or after a long walk with the dogs? Or a day of standing? Or whatever?

Anyway, back to the point: here's what happens now. You remember in Rocky 4, when he goes to Russia and grows a beard and chops wood? That's me. Except for the beard and the wood chopping. I'm going back to base training. Day One. January First. Three milers during the week, long runs of 5ish during the weekends. An hour, max two on the bike. Probably a lot of time in the water. Lots of walking, and rest. If the knee flares up - then off the doctor I go, the very first time. If it doesn't, and instead responds to the lower mileage and more relaxed workouts, then I know it needs continued "restful exercise".

It's not at all unlikely that the thing will require some kind of surgery. I'm prepared for that, I think. I have to just see how it goes. Sigh.

So, stay tuned. IMWI '09 is a go. These are my first steps. However painful they prove to be.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


4.5 miles today. Was good through 4. Walked the last half mile for the pain in my knee.

Killing me tonight.