Sunday, April 5, 2015

Do more of what makes you happy

"Do more of what makes you happy" - It's the key to bouncing back up, and a mug that I've seen on Pinterest and bought earlier this week because I need the constant reminder. There aren't many options, but when Mother Nature gives you two days at +10C and sunny skies, you take time off from work and go for it!
So  I took Thursday off and along with Good Friday and the weekend, I knew I was in for a treat. After starting the day with a steering committee meeting that I had to hold over the phone since it was super important (and I was the host), I turned on my "Out of Office" notification and called it a day work wise. I could not wait to get the fun started!

Truth is, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Zin was working, the kids were in school and I had no plans on having fun alone. I spent a few hours on the couch, but I don't even remember watching TV. I do remember counting down the hours to the moment I'd go on a bike ride with hubbs though. Eventually, it happened.

Empty roads, a strong head wind and patches of snow still on the ground. And a crooked horizon because I am out of practice taking photos while I ride.
I also had a crooked helmet because it hadn't been worn it in months and who knows what happened in the garage while it was sitting in its box? Oh well, stop looking at the helmet and look at our smiles instead. I *think* Zin was smiling.
It was a short hour to reunite with my bike and my balance skills. But also with all the feelings that bring me happiness, even temporary like the endorphin high. It may have only lasted for an hour, but it filled the day with enough awesome to make it memorable.

And the next day? Guess what? I did it again!! This time I took a few folks from the tri club to Belfountain and we ended being on the roads for more than 3h. It was still windy and cold, but the company warmed my heart. And this smile? It stayed the entire weekend!
Not even the aborted run on Saturday could kill my mood. I spent most of this short break watching movies (Mad Max 1 & 2, Into the Woods, The Imitation Game, Annie) and doing things that I love. Okay, folding the laundry doesn't count. That always sucks. But I cooked healthy food and it turned out pretty tasty (yay me!), took care of my sore muscles by stretching, rolling and icing. I even did a strength workout focused on my hips and glutes.

I talked to my mom and my best friend in France today, I put on my compression tights which I haven't worn in months, I even went on Zwift island for another spin to help my legs recover from the failed run.

What else? Long weekend shenanigans aside, should I mention that on Monday I ran 30 minutes non stop? That almost did not hurt. On Tuesday I went to the pool where I introduced two new members of our club to our swim workouts. I swam a few lengths too, the first in weeks. I didn't like it, but what else is new? I prefer showing people good swimming technique from the deck rather than getting wet. Besides, I'm such a mediocre swimmer that nobody should take my own swimming technique as gospel. Do what I say not what I do, okay? And with this last thought, maybe it's worth mentioning that I also signed up for  a NCCP triathlon coaching course this coming weekend. Don't you worry, I'm not going to give up my day job yet, but at least I'll feel more confident about the advice I give to people starting in triathlon, who ask for it quite often. I really enjoy seeing people falling in love with the sport and I believe that having a good mentor makes a big difference. As I will be spending this year on the sidelines due to my injuries, at least I can make myself useful. And that makes me happy too.

"Do more of what makes you happy" is going to be my mantra and one way out of this. I give you my word.

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?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Shaking things up

I should probably not be writing a post while hormonal and exhausted, but the next few hours are the only ones where I can collect my brain in an attempt at coherent sentences that don't start with "I've had enough", "I give up", "I hate this" and "I am fucked". Alright, now that I got those out of my system, let's see how if I can turn things around.

1. My strength routine. I gave up. I took a break from it. I also decided not to continue working with the personal trainer who has been giving me workouts since September. As a matter of fact, I prefer not to be working with anyone while my state of mind is not in a place where I can have a normal training schedule. It's just not fair to anyone who has to listen to my constant bitching and moaning, especially when they are not ready or willing to hold my hand whenever I need it (which is pretty much every day). I can be a real piece of work, coaches, beware. The decision came in the middle of my last workout when I started crying, like many other times before - just that I wanted it to be for the last time. If the workouts make me cry, it means that they are not for me, period. Who in their sane state of mind would continue torturing themselves like this? Without having someone to give me feedback and encouragement on a regular basis, I cannot just wait and hope for a miracle. And working out by myself, in the middle of my living room, is not something I can do over and over again, especially with the same exercises for months on end. I ended hating everything about them, end of story.

So in this chapter, I will try something different, where hopefully I can find more joy in the moment. I will try group exercise again, I will go back to Yoga, I may even hold a plank or two when I feel like it. It may not be as efficient in making me strong enough for finishing an Ironman, but if I break the monotony and try to have fun for a change, things may just fix themselves. Who knows.

Today I took the first step in a different direction, literally. I went to Zumba! You know the theory about cross training for athletes who are used to going straight forward all the time (running, swimming, biking - d'uh) - it is said that you need cross training that makes you move laterally as well - and this is important for maintaining a good muscle balance in your body. Well, there was a LOT of lateral moving in Zumba for sure!! I was told that shoes were the most important, so I took my New Balance Minimus that had been neglected ever since my calves took too much of a beating, and the minimalist running fad ended. They were perfect. I also wore a Coeur tri top and a pair of Yoga pants.

One hour later I was glowing! This workout also made me cry at times, but it was more of an overwhelming feeling - I was on cloud number 9. I never felt so alive, jiggling my stuff like all these other girls who can.

You have no idea how much impact "This Girl Can" movement had on me. For being someone on the "soft" and "round" side instead of "lean" and "ripped" - constantly seeing images of people flaunting their 6 pack abs and toned bodies did more harm than good to me. It's not easy when you're surrounded by top level athletes, but very few are real about their bodies, only showing what makes them comfortable and powerful. Anyway, where I am getting with this, is that today opened my eyes. Just like in the video above, being in that Zumba class was such a liberating experience. There were no 6 pack abs in that class and everyone was shaking, shimmying, jumping, sweating, shouting - this class really changed me.

I came home, and for once, I did not hate what I saw in the mirror, muffin top and stomach rolls.It also happened that Mary Eggers posted an image of her stomach and little did she knew, a Facebook thread started filling with other women posting images of their "non 6 pack abs" as well. I lifted my shirt too and took exactly one picture. I looked at it, I liked it. Maybe my brain is still in the post workout fog, maybe that I don't see all the belly fat because I still have an hourglass shape, maybe it just doesn't matter that much anymore. I had 2 children, multiple surgeries, I put on 50lb, I lost 50lb... but at the end of the day, I am still an triathlete, a marathoner, an Ironman.

2. My nutrition coaching. Things are going well, for the most part. We are now at the end of the third habit, and this was the one that I had most difficulty with. It also happened that I missed taking my thyroid medication for a few days in the middle of it and my body went beserk, treating me with some nasty side effects while I was testing my hunger levels. Thankfully the coaches jumped in quickly and addressed my concerns right away and for now, I think I am set on the next steps. In total this program has 12 habits, 6 months of coaching - and while I tend to lose patience not seeing any change on the scale, just like with strength training, I have to trust the process and continue believing that the habits that I am learning will eventually lead to a leaner body. Not giving up yet!

If you are interested in the program that I am following, you can always go see Georgie's articles on her website. She is awesome!

3. Swim/Bike/Run. I ran once this week - I tried doing 4:1s, outside - but left knee started hurting after 20 min. I give up. I am taking it easy. I will go back to the massage therapist, roll, stretch and I will keep doing this run until it no longer hurts. What else can I do? I am fucked. I may go for a gait analysis too. And will ask for an MRI, some x-rays and everything else that could explain why my knees hurt. Now the pain is moving all around the kneecap... it's not even symptomatic of ITB anymore. I guess it wants to keep itself entertaining.

I also biked once. It was the first time since my back injury - so it's been what, 3 weeks? I thought I could do a 1.5h workout... yeah, right. And most likely I could have, if I had the willpower, but there too I started crying in the middle of an interval. I was telling myself that there was no reason for working so hard with a busted knee ... and I would have liked a workout more enjoyable. So I gave up decided to be gentle with myself and not go overboard. Thankfully Zin was there to remind me that I had not biked for a long time and 40min were more than enough for the day.

The workout was called Arrow, but it ended being more of a Broken Arrow. As you can see, I did spend more than 20 min at threshold and almost 7 min at VO2max, so it was a quality workout anyway, but way too ambitious for a comeback. I guess I have to work my way back up here too. I am glad that I decided not to attend the group spin, or I would have made things even worse. Did I mention that I had knee pain after the spin too? But of course. When it rains, it pours. But if you were to ask me on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad it was, I'd say a 2-3. Certainly not an acute pain, but the same nagging feeling that I've been having for almost a year. Just there to drive me crazy.

I also swam once, and it was a good one! I had to leave the best for the end... I bought a pair of ROKA SIM shorts and I tried them today for the first time. What an amazing feeling!! They lift my bum just enough to remove maybe 5% of effort, which allows me to concentrate on form throughout the entire swim. Without them, I usually fatigue in the middle of the main set and the last exercises have a pretty horrid form. However today, not only my times were faster, but I finished the workout without feeling completely exhausted and my form did not suffer.

100 free
200 pull
300 build
50 easy 
2x200 pull build 
50 easy
3x100 build
200 cooldown (50 alt stroke, 50 pull, repeat)

During the pull sets I knew that my bum was a little lower than with a pull buoy, but it did not prevent me from swimming well.

Overall, I still put in a good amount of effort as I kept kicking with them. I also tried a 2-beat kick here and there, to see if it makes a difference, but all I can remember is that it felt awkward and that I was putting in more effort than necessary to keep my limbs in sync.

Alright, I think you've seen enough close up shots of my body for a day. Time to end this post before I start peeling more layers. I'll leave you with my heart beat in the shape of a Zumba class. Guess how many songs we danced to?
Bear hugs to everyone!!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Good news!! Grab them while they last!!

Wait, what is happening? Good news?? Something like that... may not be very significant in the grand scheme of things, but at least it's a start. Every day that I don't feel injured must be celebrated!!

After last week's stunt in the hospital, I made sure to stay put. I spent most of the weekend on the couch, resting my back as much as I could. I did not have to take any of the Tylenol/Codeine (T3), but continued the Naproxen until Wednesday evening. I skipped all workouts, and I even went for massage therapy on Monday morning. Despite the therapist's gentle touch, it totally made me feel like I got beaten with a baseball bat. Needless to say, I worked from home that day because I needed to remain horizontal. And just like that, come Thursday, all pain was gone!

Gave myself 2 more days to make sure it wasn't just the Naproxen lingering in my system and Friday night I laced my shoes and went out for a run. Well, you know... the sort of runs that I'm doing right now. Went on the same 2.5km loop around the block, but did 2 min run/1 min walk, with the run intervals a little faster than usual. I remember when Zin was recovering from ITB issues, he was told to run a little faster = less pounding. No issues during this run, but my knees felt a little hot afterwards, which I suppose is the new normal.
Next day I spent a good 30min on my roller, plus stretching and smashing all sore muscles. My adductors were a mess, and so were my Gluteus medius. By the way, you'll hear me talking muscles more often from now on because thanks to Jim from 50 after 40 I finally bought a muscle chart. I had no idea it would be so big though... I still need to find a place for it where it doesn't scare my house guests.
That's what I get for not knowing the imperial system...

Alright, last but not least, today I returned to the pool! The workout was mostly speed intervals and for the first time ever I went without having breakfast - I wasn't feeling hungry, and as part of the nutritional coaching that I'm following, I am learning to listen to the hunger cues - so I don''t know if it was in my head or not, but I wondered if I would have done better with some food in my stomach. I managed to go through all the sets though and I was pretty proud of myself. Here's what it looked like (not all times were recorded because I don't measure the kick sets and sometimes I just forget to start the watch again, plus there's the Garmin hiccups).

100m free | 50m pull | 50m kick | 3x50m fist rest 30 | 4x50m desc rest 20 | 50m 85% rest 40 | 100m 85% rest 45 | 150m 85% rest 50 | 150m 85% rest 50 | 100m 85% rest 45 | 50m 85% rest 40 | 100m pull ez rest 20 | 8x25m sprint rest 15 | 2x75 (25kick/25pull/25swim) | 50 breast stroke
And that's about it! Back was a little tired after the swim, hence the blogging opportunity while I lie on the couch, waiting for Zin to come back from his 18km indoor run.

One day at a time, it's all I can afford for now. Thanks to all who sent me words of encouragement and were there for me when I was losing it last week. You guys mean the world to me <3.

Monday, January 19, 2015

One more hiccup

Some good news would be great for a change, right? RIGHT?! Sorry to disappoint, dudes, but you can leave now if you wish. A few more shitty weeks like the ones I left behind and I call it quits. And I'm NOT a quitter, but struggling day in and day out it's getting on my nerves.

I took the stretches seriously, I was working on those like a champ. Was anything getting better? Less pain in my legs or glutes or hips while rolling, stretching, smashing, wrapping? Of course not. Less tightness in my knees? Yeah, right. I GET IT, it takes weeks and months and years... maybe an eternity to feel perfectly fine. But I am tired of trying... Aaaaarrrrghh!!! Can we go back to my body of 2 years ago, please? But I'd like to keep the Ironman if you don't mind.

If only you could hear me screaming inside. It's all muffled and it makes my ears bleed, but it's there. I need a pillow to let it out so I don't scare my kids. Hey, speaking of which, my son told me the other night that he heard me making sounds like in The Exorcist while I was trying NOT to scream too loud while I was in pain with a nerve pinched in my back, and everything else tensed and spasming like I was possessed. Say what? But of course, let's rewind...

Two weeks ago it was all about the bike and body maintenance. I went to 2 spin classes, really tough ones, and I felt really unmotivated to do any strength training, as my quality time with my roller was constantly making me aware of all aches in my body. Add even more pain to the mess? Thanks but no thanks. So anyway, come Wednesday of last week and I finally got out of my frightened stupor and decided to do a strength workout, and even better, make it count. More weight, more reps, it's time to feel the burn again!

I won't lie - I struggled. Right off the bat, I had a pretty hard time finishing my first set of "Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press and Twist" with 10lb in each hand. But hey, I had been doing these exercises for 3 months, I figured that maybe it was time to be able to complete a set.
If I remember correctly, the most reps I had done with this weight before was 10. But for the first set, I tried maxing it out at 12. The last 4 were a torture. I also had "Plank with Alternate Arm Extension" on the menu:
I did 12 extensions with each arm, up 2 from the previous time. The last 4 were also a killer. I felt like going into child pose and staying there forever once I finished those.

Then I did some side leg raises, where I also increased the reps by 1 from the previous session. Those were not too difficult, but they definitely made my glutes remind me how weak they are.
Then I did some "Bear Crawls", which I also maxed at 15 (up 3 from 12).
In case you don't know how these work, you crawl into a pushup position, then you lower yourself all the way to the ground, take a breath, then you push yourself back up and rewind to the starting position (upright, not shown in the picture above).

In total I did 3 sets of these 4 exercises. In the second and third attempt at the Dumbbell Shoulder Presses, I used 8lb and 5lb respectively because I figured 10lb for max reps was too much. The rest of the sets remained unchanged. It felt hard and I was pretty proud of myself when I finished it. BUT... because there is a BUT...

Right afterwards, I also went on my bike trainer to do 1h of easy spin. I do this all the time on Saturdays with the tri club - that's why they are called StrengthSpin classes after all. Really easy, nice cadence of 90+ rpm. But, because of the late start, I ended up finishing my workouts after 10pm and I decided to skip the maintenance and go straight to bed. And as soon as I lied in bed, I felt the pain on the side of my back like someone just stabbed me. I decided to ignore it because "meh" - for sure it'll be gone by the morning - and I didn't think too much about it.  I didn't have the best sleep that night for sure and in the morning, the pain was still there.

It went worse and worse throughout the day, to the point that I had to go to see the doctor at my workplace, who sent me back to my desk with a Robax Platinum. I kept on taking muscle relaxants that evening and night, because the pain even woke me up in the middle of the night and it was pretty unbearable. Went back to work again, but on Friday night, as I went to bed again, it hit me like a wrecking ball (cue in Myley Cyrus licking a hammer) and all hell broke loose.

Within 1h I could no longer breathe. It was like someone was stabbing me on the side of my abdomen with every. single. freaking. breath. Have you ever been stabbed? Me neither, but sure I never want to. It was the worst pain I've ever been in. If I recall properly, when the nurse asked me how painful it was from 1 to 10 I replied "fuuuuuuuck". That bad.

So Zin took me to the Emergency, where 2h later was given an IV of morphine, along with Gravol and a bag of Saline. I must have spent 2h in drug-land, barely conscious, talking about passing out over and over again... I don't remember much. When all the blood and urine tests came back a-ok around 4am, I was given 2 Tylenol 3 (w/ codeine) and Naproxen to go and that was it.

I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch, aside from a dinner at Queen Mother Cafe, downtown Toronto with Carol and her boyfriend - which I managed to handle pretty well thanks to being heavily medicated. Needless to say, I skipped the alcohol, but I had an amazing dessert.

And here I am again. Waiting. My massage therapist confirmed a shortened QL and nerve impingement, that miraculously went back to normal since. I am not allowed to do any exercises that twist my upper body, including shoveling snow or starting the lawn mower. I feel completely beat up after the treatment and stayed in bed today. Tomorrow may be a better day and maybe one day I can go back to swimming, and biking and running, you know.. all the stuff that keeps me happy. Sounds like a plan?

And kids? Don't try this at home.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Trial and error

Today is a better day and I have to write about it before the feeling goes away. Nobody likes reading endless complaints, or so I think. But if you stumble on a pity party like in the previous post, every once in a while, you may feel compelled to comment, to help, to share your story, to empathize. However if you've heard the same story for more than 6 months, I suppose that it's starting to become annoying and you may even find yourself saying "shut up and do something about it already". But as I said, I have been trying and it hasn't been easy, mostly because of all the conflicting expert information that is out there. When you don't know who is wrong or right, you have to be open minded and go through trial and error. Unfortunately for you, my readers, I share (almost) everything as I document all my attempts to returning to a pain-free state of being. Every day I tell myself the same thing - wouldn't it be WONDERFUL if today my knees and hips stayed quiet? I can't wait for that day to arrive, but in the meantime, you have to bear with me as I go through the motions of experimenting with things that make sense to me in a particular moment. Only when one avenue has failed, I move onto another because there is method to my madness.

Let me give you an example: foam rolling. First and foremost, I have to admit that I am lazy. Any good reason not to roll and I'm game. For many months last year I went to see a massage therapist named Antonio. I loved Antonio - his specialty was myofascial release and he knew how to make my aches go away, even though I'd come back home with bruises all over my legs. Yet he always said that I could help myself by rolling more often. And I would always reply... sorry, not today. Eventually I ran out of money and I stopped going. Then my ITBs became more and more problematic, and the pain in the knees followed. But don't get me wrong, I am not necessarily implying that it was a cause and effect - just that I could no longer give my legs as much TLC as before and maybe, just maybe I could have delayed the knee pain if I had continued going to see Antonio regularly.

Anyway, back to foam rolling. My massage therapist would tell me to roll, my coach would tell me to roll, my husband would tell me to roll, and so would many of the people I know - but then I'd come across expert opinions such as these "Your IT band is not the enemy (but maybe your foam roller is)" or "ITB or Not ITB... That is the question" and then my brain would go into a deadlock: what to do, what to do?? It also did not help that I was sent to another massage therapist/acupuncturist and this guy told me that he didn't believe in foam rolling either, especially for ITBs. I respect and trust many of the health professionals that I see and I know that there isn't ONE solution to all issues. But there it was, another reason to NOT roll. And I believed in it 100%. I also believed that the key was in releasing the TFLs and hip flexors and stretching the glutes etc.
Alas here's where I failed because I didn't do those things either.

When I wrote the previous post, I received many pieces of advice and of course some were conflicting. I am always happy to receive suggestions, don't get me wrong, but I ended staying awake until past midnight weighing pros and cons and reading hundreds of opinions that you can find on those websites' comment sections. All articles are interesting, and all opinions carry their weight, but at the end of the day, I have to look at what I already tried and worked (or not) vs what is left to be tried even if some people are passionately against those ideas.

So here I am, holding another list of TODOs in front of me and looking forward to the process, or rather to a different outcome. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but as I consider myself sane enough to see the difference between approaches and the value in each of them.

After the initial shock that my IT bands/hips/knees combo is still not operating pain free, I skipped my bike workout because I was scared to make things worse given that my hips were somewhat achy and the rubbing of my left knee cap was puzzling. Just to make it clear, so far I have not experienced the kind of pain I was in last year during the Ironman training months, but the same tightness, pulling and rubbing that I would feel at the beginning of every run. In the past, it would only go worse from there, hence my erring on the side of caution. However today I decided to make another attempt at running, but a little differently. I also bought a new pair of shoes which I wore during my 4km walk earlier this week. I didn't choose the pink but they were $72 so I can't complain.
I went to Cassie Campbell Recreation Center where they have a nice gym with a track and started with dynamic stretches and the usual ABCs of running warmup. Only then I went to the treadmill, where I did 1km of run/walk alternating 1 minute each at 1% incline. Nothing violent and I am not even sure that I ran 1km, but I could not feel anything "wrong" at the end so to speak, so I take it as a win.


Then I did my strength workout, followed by the famous "couch stretch" and foam rolling. Because why not. These are the tools that I'll use in this new trial because I also trust my friends and coaches who I know have been through similar experiences. If it worked for them, maybe it will work for me too. Out of this exercise, I did find a possible causal relationship between my left knee pain and tightness on the hip/leg/whatever.

Let me explain the "couch stretch" with a few images from the very useful book "Ready to Run" by Kelly Starrett.
On the right side, which didn't present any symptoms so far, I can go to step #6 and hold it for 2 min, while on the left side, I can barely get into #3, and then only hold it for 30-45sec at a time with my arms raised on a block. The difference between sides is dumbfounding, but it definitely explains why the left feels tighter than the right, and why it may affect my ITB/knee. Because it freaking IS tight.

So what if this whole mess is not an injury, but just tightness that I need to get rid of to become a "supple leopard"? One inch at a time - poke, listen, address weakness, imbalance, stiffness. There must be a way and I'm gonna find it. I have tools, I have plenty of support and I'm working on my patience every single day. Can I have a yay?