Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things to Avoid with 8 Weeks to Ironman

With two months to go in my training schedule and in the midst of feeling successful in accomplishing some of the hardest training of my life, things still threaten to sideline me. I should be thinking about my Ironman all the time and focusing on avoiding disasters, but sometimes, being weary from training has the opposite effect.

Yesterday at work, I walked right into a wooden post while carrying my lunch. This morning while running, I tripped on a sidewalk irregularity and fell. Yes, it could have been worse, and I still don't know how bad it is, but I cannot afford to lose focus on the run again. The proverbial "momentary lapse of reason" could be the avoidable thing that ends my Ironman quest. There was a lot of blood (still wondering why no one stopped to help me when it was hard to miss that I was injured), and although my knee was severely damaged, I could still run. The scarier thing was landing on my hand and potentially breaking my wrist. I did two stupid things: I ran tired, and I tried to avoid landing on my new iPod Nano. From now on, I must get more sleep so that I'm alert while running (and not dragging my feet). And I must never run with my iPod Nano again. If the shuffle is not charged when I get up in the morning, it'll be a no-music run. I mean, there's no need to raise the probability factor on the disaster magnet.

Some of my "live-and-learn" techniques on how to avert training and racing disasters:
1. Don't run or ride without adequate sleep.
2. Swim on the good-weather days even if you're tired and want to put it off until the next day.
3. Do NOT run with unilateral leg pain (a stress fracture waiting to happen)
4. Bring a map.
5. Do not joke about the color of your bike being "run-me-over black."
6. Do not leap over snow banks if you don't know what's on the other side.
7. Do not decide to run when you have already committed to taking the day off (this is inevitably a corollary of Murphy's Law)
8. Never do a race where the swim is in Utah Lake
9. Don't carry a camera over your shoulder while holding a second camera if there's a possibility of black ice.
10. Avoid strenuous work of ANY kind during your taper (I can't stress this enough).
11. Don't run the first few miles of a marathon more than 10 seconds per mile faster than you plan to average for the entire race.
12. Never stay overnight in Gary, Indiana on a race road trip.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Easy-week Art Project

This week is an easy training week which gave me time to work on an art project that needs to be done by 29 April.

Every year since 1994, I've made Christmas cards using either linoleum block printing or screenprinting. Until 2007, I did all the production by hand which was extremely time consuming and labor intensive. In 2007, I purchased a small etching press from Dick Blick to finally streamline the process! (much to the dismay of my right arm, which looked forward to the pain and muscle-building process every holiday season).

This year, I'm using the press to print my first set of cards for non-Christmas purposes and I wanted to blog about the process for everyone who asks me how I do it. The cards are a set of five animals, to be auctioned as a fundraiser for the Madagascar Fauna Group in conjunction with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's 2009 Prosimian Husbandry Workshop. The prints are one-color (black), so there won't be any discussion about registering multiple colors.

I start with a photograph manipulated in Photoshop for size/color. I print it out at the proper size (the card image this time will be 1/4 the size of a 8.5x11 in slice of paper - so 4.25x5.5 and there will be five, two landscape, three portrait). Then I gather the necessities: music (most important - carving and printing MUST be done to good music!), linoleum block (I use Dick Blick's golden lino sheets, they're easier to cut than battleship gray linoleum and they don't seem to harden over time), lino cutters (speedball makes a set of 5 cutters with handles) and carbon paper to offset the image to the block:

The next step is to offset the image onto the paper and start carving. I usually start with the most interesting and intricate area, so if I screw up the carving, I can start over without too much time lost. For animals, this translates into: start with the face.

Here is the progression described above:

In my next blog I'll show the five finished blocks and the printing process. Now I have to go buy paper. My favorite paper for printing cards is called Stonehenge and it comes in several neutral colors. It's heavy 100% cotton acid-free paper and I can tear it to any size. I don't use the already cut and deckled-edge card stock, mainly because I want the finished piece to be a frame-able piece of fine art disguised as a greeting card.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Excuses

Thus endeth the hardest weekend of my IM buildup. 100 miles on the bike Saturday followed by a 20 minute run, and a 2:50 run today (Sunday). There's not enough advil in the world to make the pain go away, so I've decided not to go swimming.

Thus begins my easy week. Every 4th week is an easy week. But, I've decided to make it a run/bike easy week only. As the gatorade bottle says, NO EXCUSES. I must get my swimming in order and soon. 9 weeks to go and I've not been able to hold a regular swim schedule. At my age, I can't rest on my swimming laurels, and although I can probably make it through the 2.4 mile swim with little training, I want more than just to "make it through." I'm an All-American swimmer and I should be able to hang just a little behind the leaders for the swim. In 2002, I managed an hour in the swim, even in bad weather and after having to stop and go back for my chip (the averted disaster, it was miraculous found still floating in the water). I should be able to swim 2.4 miles in under one hour. But that will take me whipping myself into shape.

Starting tomorrow morning, I'm instituting Super Session 2009. Everyone who swam for the Meriden Silver Fins in the early 1980s will know what I'm talking about. It was a week of pain during the winter holiday - over 10,000 yards of swimming per day. My goal? Maybe not 10,000, but to get through at least 3 swims this week of 3500+ yards. My legs need a rest, my arms do not. No more excuses.

Let week 9 begin.

Second Century

Rode my second 100-miler of the year yesterday. Started by getting up early enough to get it done with time left in the day (translation: wheels on pavement by 8 am). As my husband would say, I lollygagged (translation: I didn't leave the house until 8:24). I'd like to say I was confident enough to finish 100 miles in 5:30. I wasn't. But, the day was amazing - sunny, 60-70 degrees, light-medium wind from the west. I averaged exactly 18 mph on the way out, and after my turnaround I was holding 20-22 mph for about an hour until I hit the rolling hills of the park. (I knew I had to have a hefty average above 18 mph by the time I hit the Ridge Road hill on the parkway.) Long story short: success! 100 miles in 5:32. My PR for the distance. And I managed to scrape up the energy to get out and run 20 minutes afterwards. It was supposed to be IM race pace. Yeah right. But who really cared at that point? Not me. I was running and I could just barely visualize the 26.2-miler in my future.

The down side: nausea around 5 hours, pain in my left hip. Need to work on the nutrition factor. I may have had some dehydration but the water fountains were not yet working in the park so even when I stopped, there was no water. Can't let that happen again, must stop at Second Sole next time to get water before the parkway.

So, one non-disaster and a long run yet to do today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A New Challenge

In my last 44 years on earth, never did I expect to hear the following statement: "You have mitral valve regurgitation," or "there's a problem with your heart." Apparently, this is the newest disaster list item. Is it a disaster? I don't know. I would normally consider heart disease or heart failure a disaster.

Here's the chain of events that led to the diagnosis. After showing an abnormal EKG, I was advised to get a heart ultrasound to find out why there was an abnormality (my doctor called it a polarization). Was I worried? Not really. Mostly because years ago, an abnormal EKG meant that I was an endurance athlete. This time it didn't. This time, I have mitral valve regurgitation. A mild case, but still, a case. I've been told it's not "urgent" - whatever that means. Will it affect my ironman training? It hasn't yet. I can't believe it's something that came up all of a sudden, so I'll continue with my regular training. But, something makes me wonder if my training had anything to do with it. Did I overstress my heart?

I guess I have to wait to find out more when I see my doctor. Until then, long runs, long rides, hard swims.. business as usual.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Too Much or Too Little

Was feeling very sluggish in the water today. Tried to swim fast but my times reflected someone just flailing around in the water. My husband says I've been training too hard. I think I've been training too little. At least in the pool. I can't seem to get a regular schedule going in the pool. Once I do, they change the pool hours or close the pool for an event or holiday. Needless to say, I'm starting to worry that I won't be ready for the 2.4 mile swim on June 21. The last thing I want is to end up like I did in IM Florida in 2003 when I got out from the first lap and could have easily just walked off the course. That was the beginning of the disaster for that race (and my "career") - ended up in a heat stroke collapse and cart to the finish line. Death from embarrassment and disappointment at my "comeback." I want to believe it's different this time, but today, my energy is low and I'm down.

So, again, I have to ask, is it age?

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Weekend of Firsts

The end of Week 12. This weekend was to be my first 100-miler on the bike. The plan: run long on Friday (my day off), then a quick trip to Pittsburgh (actually Greensburg) Friday night to see Ray Lamontagne. Saturday, get up and grab an awesome English breakfast at Piper's Pub on Carson Street and check out Ikea Pittsburgh on the way home. Sunday, up early for a 100-mile bike ride - north to Lakewood, west to Lorain, and back. I had done all of it before.

But, everything changed on Friday morning when I woke up to a downpour. I panicked. There goes my perfectly-orchestrated weekend. One thing was for sure - I did not want blisters from running 2:30+ in the rain. I scrambled. I would have to run long in Pittsburgh/Greensburg. But where? I Googled. I was in luck. The "Five Star Trail" was minutes from my hotel. It was almost like a miracle. A flat (in the Pittsburgh area?), part-paved, part-gravel rail trail that goes for about 7-8 miles. Am I just lucky? Remember who I am.

It was a nice trail - a great surface, a relatively safe feel with lots of people around, and a clean space because of volunteers who pick up the trail garbage on Saturday morning. Impressive. And it was sunny and around 36 degrees - perfect weather. I left the hotel around 8:15 and told my husband Jim to come find me if I wasn't back by 11. Who needs a map? It's a simple out and back. I never get lost.

I never GOT lost.

After I stopping a few times for a bathroom break and to fix my water bottle carrier, I was running late, so I decided to jump the trail early and take a shortcut back to the hotel to make it before 11. I decided to jump off at that railroad bridge I ran under on the way out. No prob. So what did I do wrong? All of a sudden, I'm in the middle of nowhere, with no memory of my surroundings. I KNOW I went under that railroad bridge. I circled back. I started to panic. Someone stopped to help me. Thank Gauss! I said "I'm lost!" She yelled: "well, THIS is Highland Avenue!" and drove away. !?!?!? Ummm, ok.

I decided to run a different direction,... but now I was really lost. I went toward what looked like a main drag, and lo and behold, a savior! The Mailman! I ask him for directions. He gives them to me. He says "go up this street, take a right on Pittsburgh Ave., and that will turn into Route 30/130 and lead right to your hotel."

Enter disaster magnet.

He said "right." But I heard: "left." Mainly because I thought "I have to go left" to get back. My sense of direction was apparently no longer intact. I went left. After a few minutes, I realized my mistake and turned around and ran back to the intersection. It was uphill. I was getting later by the second. I checked my watch. It was 11. Desperate for some landmark, I just kept running. Then I started praying. Praying that Jim was not also panicking and searching for me in someplace I wasn't. Must run faster! When I finally started recognizing landmarks and was on my way back to the hotel, I saw Jim's car. He picked me up. It was the FIRST time I ever got lost running in an unknown city.

So what did Jim say? "Why didn't you just ask someone if you could borrow their cell phone and call me?"

Sheesh. Men and their Logic.

The rest of the weekend was not so dramatic. I got up late on Sunday, lollygagged until 1 pm and then went out on my bike. At least I checked the weather and changed the plan to go east instead of west because the wind was from the east. Although this route has a lot of stops and starts for crossroads, in the end it was a good idea because when it clouded over and got cold around 5 pm, I was riding with the wind. It was slower than expected, but in less than 6 hours, I rode my FIRST 100-miler of my 2009 Ironman training. (And the first since 2003.)