Sunday, March 29, 2015

One week you're the hammer, another week you're the nail

Strange, strange days. Two weeks ago I was all about ramping back up my bike workouts and increasing my run frequency, but things just didn't turn out that way. I had a relatively good first training week, starting with Hot Yoga on Monday, then the 3 scheduled workouts as part of the Base Building Training Road program, which I pretty much aced, for once. See all details here if you are inclined to read wattage and heart rate and all that cool stuff.
The runs, however, just went downhill from there. The first one, on Wednesday was actually pretty good, I managed to run without pain for 27min non stop, a whooping 4km! I was hopeful to say the least. On Sunday, however, I only managed 2.5km, about 15min of running, until the knee pain came back. I decided to walk back home, but it was so damn cold that I called Zin to pick me up, then we drove straight to Tim Hortons for a tea. I took this picture just seconds before I jumped in the car.
Despite the sucky knee letdown, I was still in good spirits.

Last run was this week on Thursday, after spending most of the day crying and unable to deal with anxiety attacks. I had to come home at lunch time because I was not able to talk to people face to face without an emotional breakdown. At some point I even considered calling Zin to pick me up because I was afraid of driving by myself. I feel very vulnerable posting this picture but I know it helped me process my feelings, like looking from the outside in, if it can make sense. Seeing myself in distress makes my brain think more rationally and helps me detach from it (to each their own, I guess).
So anyway, I managed to keep my mind busy that day, working from home and arguing with people on the phone, which has become rather the norm lately. Then in the evening I went out for a run, but had to start walking again after 25min because of the same dreaded knee pain. These runs have become rather predictable.

And that's it. No other workouts. An insane amount of work made me too exhausted to move a single limb. On Tuesday, I made it home at 2am, completing my longest work day ever, 16h non stop. Part of me is telling myself that it's not worth to jeopardize my health for my career, but truth is, most days it bring me a lot of satisfaction for a job well done. After quite a few years of being treated like crap, my job is appreciated and I feel that I am making a difference. This too shall pass, right?

That day I also quit the nutrition program which I was following since January. While I completely agree with its teachings and I know that it works well for others, I could not get myself to remove enough sweets and treats from my diet, which would be the key to my weight loss. They are a coping mechanism and since I am not taking any medication for my depression and anxiety, I cannot afford removing them right now. Not losing any weight and seeing others being successful at it had also become an additional source of stress, so I preferred to detach myself from the other participants in the program and focus on what I can control.

In a move that can be seen as self-sabotaging, Zin and I went to Erin on Saturday to visit Holtom's Bakery where we bought a few sweets for the entire family and some amazing bread. I only had one butter tart and a scone, and I have been fighting with my will power since. But it was "good for the soul" after such a miserable week and I realize that we are healing ourselves with food, but we have no time for psychotherapy.
Then we went on a little drive on our favorite summer biking routes, and stopped by the Cheltenham Badlands for a quick dose of fresh air.
I see a few tentative smiles, so things are looking up!

Today was Around the Bay 30K race. I missed this race last year because I was training for the Ironman and my coach thought it would be a bad idea to put such a high mileage on my legs at that point in time. This year I had a bib for the 15K relay, but I had to give it up. Since I barely can run 4km, it would not have been very wise. But Zin was racing it and I could not miss the opportunity to see how the day would unfold for him, and for many of my Daily Mile friends.
2:12:50 later, Zin crossed the finish line spent, but he achieved his goal of getting a silver medal in the oldest race in North America, given to all men participants who finished between 2h and 2h15. Those who finished under 2h received a gold medal. Last year he missed it by 3 minutes, so it was a sweet victory to come in with more than 2min to spare.
I am so proud of him!! He continues to inspire me every single day with his perseverance and desire to better himself in his athletic endeavors, as well as trying to be the best hubby a woman could wish for. And I am also proud of the friendships that I made over the years thanks to running, and to Around the Bay. This race started it all, so it's only logical that it became my favorite. Thank you my friends, you know who you are!!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

It's all about that base

Yeah, what about that base? That base is gone, RIP!

Between the crazy work schedule, the lack of energy and motivation, and the lack of cooperation from my knees, I had to put the biking workouts on pause for a while. Two months more precisely. The last group spin was, as a matter of fact, on January 5th and since then... not much that could count as bike training, not even maintenance. When I received my Coeur Team kit though, it motivated me to return to triathloning. This girl gotta represent, right?
So I decided get my ass back in the saddle and follow one of the Trainer Road plans to bring some spin back in my legs.  Initially, I wanted to do the Sustained Power Build plan for triathletes. It started with a 20 min test, but I chose to do the 8 min one instead. I didn't have high hopes and indeed, the test managed to put me to shame as early as the first interval.
I hovered just above the current FTP line, way below the target. The whole test was pure torture. I could no longer hold a good 90rpm spin, and I had to grind my way through it. At the end I was served with this piece of news.
I didn't know how to react. My ego was hurt, the legs were screaming in silence and I could feel the nausea making its way up towards my throat. I decided to sleep on it and not draw any conclusions. I left my FTP as it was with the goal of reevaluating after the following workout.

Two days later, boom: Avalanche Spire. 6 intervals of 6 minutes over-under the threshold. Jeez, already?? I knew these were going to hurt, but I felt motivated enough to attempt them on the old FTP. I only managed to complete 5 of them (plus the warmup that wasn't shabby either), then the legs shut down and refused to cooperate any longer. Hitting the wall had never been so predictable.
I chose to show my HR zones above so you can see how much time I spent around threshold. This one felt like another test. It destroyed me. And once I got off the bike I made the decision to change the plan and go back to building a base again. Obviously, my base was nowhere to be found and I figured that if I continued working this hard, I would have set myself up for another injury, given how much my hips and glutes hurt afterwards.

Thankfully the pain subsided significantly since and it allowed me to get back on the bike for the third workout of the week. However, I switched to the Sweet Spot Base Low Volume I plan, so I am back to square one, literally.

I also lowered my FTP by 10 watts and swallowed my pride. The Ego will live. And so with the new setup, I did Baxter today, which wasn't that easy either. It was supposed to be 1.5h of sustained aerobic effort, but as you can see from my heart rate drift, I ended doing a third of it at threshold. Not pretty at all.
Oh well, it is what it is. I'm already over it. Bringing the FTP down and changing plans was a good decision given my obvious lack of fitness.

In other news, I continued the Hot Yoga on Mondays, I went skiing again, and managed to fit in another Zumba class. All in all, things are moving forward, but running hasn't seen any improvement yet. I had to give up my Around the Bay 15K relay bib up because it would not have been smart to race while I still have pain in the knees. I'll have to save my crawling skills for the finishers' carpet in Kona (you never know... lottery results are coming!).

I really wanted to know how bad it was... And so one night I laced up my sneakers and decided to run 5K without stopping. It was still very cold and this may have had a negative effect, but as expected, after 20-25min, my left hamstring and calf started tightening up and knee(s) to hurt to the point that I had to walk. It took me 38min to make it back home. Again, not surprised. I am still hopeful, still going to my massage therapist, still poking and probing one muscle at a time.

This past Wednesday I asked him to concentrate on my IT bands, which were of course, as bad as I imagined and he also found the muscles along my left shin to be extremely tight and painful. Never a dull moment... Friday I went for another run... Again, I wanted to run without stopping, and I made it home pain free as I ran for 17 min straight. I know that I did not reach the 20 min threshold, but it was nice to have a pain free run, that really felt like a run. I had to concentrate on keeping a good form with each step, engaging my glutes and trying not to shuffle as I usually do. Anyway, I know that it didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, but it was a good moment to savour, if only for a night.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The never ending off season

Long time no blog post, I know, I know... But crazy busy work and trying to have fun when I'm not staring at my screen 12h in a row does not leave much time for something else. For those looking for a triathlete in training, I am not much of one these days. It's like the never ending off season around here. But at least I am not stuck inside my head with my dark thoughts or eating my feelings. That's progress!
What February "training" looked like
February started pretty miserably with a week that I already talked about in my previous blog post. But at least it ended on a more positive note, with Zumba. As you can see, I kept the Zumba streak alive by returning to the class twice more.

I also swam three times, all in my Roka SIM shorts. I am still in love with them. What a marvelous invention these shorts are. I wish I'd swum more, but my motivation to go out of the house in the cold at 9pm hasn't been that great after very long days at work. Honestly, I felt like sleeping most of the time. I've been so exhausted, it's not even funny. And I'm not even training for an Ironman, yikes!!

Then, I went back to Yoga. Hot Yoga that is. Three times as well, and it made me feel so. damn. good. So far no hip injuries like last winter, but then I'm not going crazy with biking at the same time either. Speaking of which...

The biking has suffered the most. I've completely fallen off the wagon. I stopped going to the group spins on Wednesdays and Saturdays and since the aborted trainer ride at the beginning of the month, I only went on the bike once to try Zwift. Now, that is a lot of fun, but oh so dangerous!! If you are naturally competitive, watch your effort level! Within 3 minutes I was already trying to hang onto other people's wheels for as long as possible and beat my own times with each loop. I remember killing my legs that night which was probably not very smart. I didn't go back since, but I will... I decided to start one of the base building programs from Trainer Road and attempt a return to cycling...but it requires being on the saddle at least 3 times a week, and that WILL be a challenge. I'll see how I can fit those in and most important... how my knees will hold up.

With that in mind, I also returned to my massage therapist and he immediately found a lot more tension in my left hip and and adductor area than my right, explaining my knee pain once again. Read this article, it's quite interesting. I am going to see him once a week until the pain goes away. Word! I know there is no other way. I've already seen improvement in my run.... This guy has magic hands, for real.

So running... it's been... promising. I almost don't want to talk about it because I don't want to jinx myself. I ran once a week, mostly on the treadmill because of the cold. Last time I went outside, I came back like this.
Note that our 16 days extreme cold weather streak just ended, so there is hope for some outdoor running in my near future. What else can I tell you about my running? The longest I've run without a break is 5 minutes. Just this Friday I was tempted to do 5:1s, but I changed my mind in the middle of the first interval and decided to mix it up with Trisutto's famous treadmill workout. Again, if you are interested, this article explains what it is all about. My improvised session looked something like this:
5 min walk
5 min @ 6mph 1%
1 min walk @3mph
Trisutto's intervals
2x[30 seconds at 6mph 2%, then 30 seconds 4mph 2%]
2x[30 seconds at 6mph 4%, then 30 seconds 4mph 4%]
2x[30 seconds at 6mph 0%, then 30 seconds 4mph 0%]
1 min walk
Repeat set 3 more times
5 min @ 6mph 1%
5 min walk
I felt pretty good, although my knees seem to be a little cranky since... but it's a different kind of pain, more like fatigue. So I take it as a good sign, that other muscles were engaged. My next massage therapy is on Wednesday, and we'll see what Antonio-magic-hands finds then.

Last but not least, I went skiing!! I was SO nervous, you won't believe it. It's been 10 years (!!!) since I've been on skis. I even told my family goodbye like I was going to die that day. Thankfully I didn't go in the Alps, even though it's where I learned to ski, but at Mt. St Louis Moonstone, which looks more like a big hill to us Europeans. It was perfect. My friend Carrie drove me there and together with her family we spent all day on the slopes. I really surprised myself with my lack of fatigue. I remember back in the day, I was ready to go back home by 2pm, but this time, at 5:30pm I was still contemplating doing more runs. In retrospective it was a good thing that I stopped, but I still can't believe how much stronger my legs are. All the Ironman training is paying off now, lol.
Look at this beauty. 30 runs!! If you zoom in, you can even see the turns on some runs. How cool is that?
Okay, enough with the geekery. What's an epic ski day without pictures? And if I can say, I look pretty out of place. I swear, I must have been the ONLY person on the slopes without a helmet. A lot has changed in 10 years... wow.
Alright, time to end this post. Too much fun makes me rethink all this triathlon thing. But hey, Muskoka 70.3 is in 4 months and it's not going to swimbikerun itself. Whose idea was to sign up again?