Sunday, May 17, 2015

IT hurts

Every time I come out of a crisis, I feel completely lost about how and what to write here. Should I talk about it, should I just brush over the subject, or completely ignore it? IT. The monster living inside my head that takes over my thoughts and chews my brain, inch by inch until it feels about to explode. It's hard to explain if you've never been inside my brain. It hurts, a lot. It hurts my head, it hurts my body, it's rather unbearable the way I feel trapped inside a very tiny room with white walls. I can only make one step in each direction before I start to panic, over ventilating, heart beating out of my chest, in full panic mode. There is no way out, the pressure on my chest, the claustrophobic feeling triggered by the overwhelming amount of thoughts that keep bouncing inside my head. Many times I think there is no way out. It's just a matter of when I am going to lose the fight.
I start folding the laundry. It keeps my hands busy. It keeps me in a state of usefulness. The 3 baskets of clothes have been waiting for me for 2 weeks, but I ignored them. With more clothes added to the pile, the less adequate I feel for the task at hand. I manage to put away 1 basket and a half. But one hour from now, another one will take its place. It always feels like a sisyphean task. And predictably enough, I start crying again. Two hours of crying is quite a workout. Some days, it's all I can do for my family as I leave most of my energy at the office. I live in a constant state of mental drain. If it makes sense, I dream of a brain battery that I can recharge on the spot, like a robot.

Physically, there is a long way to being active to the point where I don't hate myself. I usually feel active enough to work out, but looking in the mirror is always hard. I miss the days when I had the energy to move mountains and I was not broken both mentally and physically. The month so far has been like a long walk through a swamp. Not only I did a lot of physio workouts, but those didn't get me outside of the house enough. This week I tried putting a little spin on my workdays so to speak, by biking to work and back. I've always been fearful of the drivers in my city, they are rather... intense. I made it 2 days back and forth and I didn't die. Now that was surprising. Each ride took just a little under 30min, and overall I enjoyed them. Which means that for the first time in a long time, I biked 3 times this week. And I smiled every single time.
It gives me hope to see these smiles. If I can be outside, if I can focus on things that bring me joy, I feel safe. I may be the least safe on the road, dodging cars and potholes, but being alone with my thoughts is certainly more dangerous.

I also had company this weekend. My friend Carol spent 2 days at my place with her boyfriend. She is training for the mighty Ironman Muskoka and she went on her longest ride ever yesterday with my hubbs and 2 other friends of ours. I couldn't go because I'm not fit to ride over 100km and I already go against my doctor's orders every weekend with the rides that I lead for my tri club. This picture that we took just after a long and gorgeous descent today, reminded me of our best times on the road, training for our first 70.3, two years ago.
In two weeks from now we'll be returning to Muskoka for a training weekend with the club, but once again I won't be allowed to ride long. I'll have to find a lot of mental tricks to stay present. Ideas are welcome... At least my boys will be with me and maybe they will be willing to spend some quality time with their mom instead of staring into their phones.

This post is bouncing all over the place and I'm not sure where to go from here. So maybe I'll just talk about today. It was our club's first race simulation day event, where we swam, biked and ran, just like in a race. We even had transition racks hand made by Zin.
With 16 people in attendance, it sure was a very successful event. We swam in circles for a while, simulating open water swimming, and that was a lot of fun.
Then we went on the bike ride and I chose to lead the 40km group. Other people, more speedy than me chose to go on their own, others did the 55km loop or the 20km one. To each their goals. I have no goals other than staying outside of the dark corners of  my brain.
I found the same uphills and downhills that I've been enjoying in the past few years, but traveling across these roads is always a new adventure. You never know what your legs are capable of. Today, it took mine more than 20km to go from wet noodles to pistons. I made it back with a big grin on my face, then I finished with a run. My longest run this year, 5km, wow. It took me 34min, between walking up the hills, taking pictures of other runners in the group and stopping to smell the lilacs.
My knees started to hurt at 4km, but I ran/walked the last km and made it back in transition where I scarfed down a few pieces of watermelon because it was the best ever. Then I went home, ordered food for lunch and collapsed in the couch with a beer. I am hoping that it refueled me enough to reach the end of another week without banging my head against (invisible) walls.

And since this is a long weekend, tomorrow I'll be riding with friends again, but this time from Burlington. I love me a slice of Escarpement, but I may not be able to keep up with Emma, who just finished the 8 Days in California Trainer Road Challenge. Read all about it here. She has become a beast on the bike... but maybe, just maybe she will be tired enough so we can chat in between hills.

What else? I don't feel like going into too many details of the last weeks worth of workouts. I reached 7h of workouts/week, with the help of bike commutes and picking the garbage on the side of the road at the semi-annual Adopt-a-Road club event. The physio focus is still there, but not as intense. I forget to stretch throughout the day, but I foam roll more often than before. I have made great progress in strength and agility and the physiotherapist seems rather happy with me, but I haven't seen a major difference in my knee pain just yet. Trying to stay patient. And remember to stretch. If you feel inclined to see how I filled in my weeks, here's a Training Peaks snapshot.
As for the state of my mind, one day at a time... it's all I can do. I know that most of you, for not knowing my past, assume that I am still dealing with the Ironman blues, or that I got depressed for not being able to run, or because I am not losing weight, or some other vain trait. Before I end this post, I wanted to tell you that this isn't the case. Why do I feel the need to justify myself? Because of articles like these which are hard to avoid nowadays. You see a lot of smiles on this blog, but I have plenty of pictures crying as well. The smiling pictures help me go back to those moments of joy. The sad ones have their purpose too, but I don't feel like bringing other people down with publishing them. I have been depressed for over a decade. Running and exercise just helps me cope with it. For the rest, there is no magic wand or snapping out of it. IT just is.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Physio Focus

I have been staring at this white screen way too many times in the past month, wondering what I could write about. Last time I wrote it was all about doing more of what made me happy. And I did follow suit, however these opportunities were far and in between. There is a sort of lassitude that is slowly creeping in. The less I work out, the less I am motivated to do it, kind of -
"without running, what's the point?". I know it's silly, but I am slowly losing the passion, the fire that ignites my willpower. Without races on the horizon, without a coach, without a plan, it's easy to fall back into the couch potato routine.
Pretty sure I was about to cry. Thank God for that Larabar.
I managed to drag my sorry ass out for a swim every week, hot yoga once a week and a bike ride or two every week, mostly outdoors. However, I've only tried running once for 15 minutes, and that was rather uneventful. Another reason for this decrease in activity has been because I've started working with a new physio therapist and I was told to stay put. Everything has to be "easy" and no runs longer than 20 min for now. But I am very busy taking care of my hips and glutes. All physio work is targeted towards strengthening these areas, so I've been trying to be a good student and fit in as many exercises as he prescribed.

I went to see this guy, who was recommended to me by half a dozen people for being the best at fixing wonky knees and shredded IT bands. I could not afford going last year because I had maxed my physio budget before my IT bands decided to go on strike. But as the new year started, I made it a mission to have a gait analysis done and find out what it would take to fix my legs so I can return to running. His practice is just 5 min away from my office, so that worked out perfectly. The good news is that I run well and he had nothing to say about my gait. He said things like "natural ability", "great posture", "talent" blah blah blah. Maybe he was just trying to be nice. But anyway, then he went on giving me the not so nice picture about my strength. "You are nowhere near as strong as you should be for doing the kind of distances that you chose". Or rather, I am not strong in the places that I should be, like hips and glutes. I've heard this one before... But only now I've been given extremely specific exercises that target precisely those areas. And gosh, he has me working hard.

He said that if I were to do just sprint triathlons or run 5Ks, he would have just told me to go home and not bother, but since I made him understand that running long distances is important to me, he is committed to seeing me returning to doing what I love. And he wants to follow me throughout the entire season to make sure I keep on doing things right. Not once he tried to sway me away from doing long distances or to tell me that I am destroying my body, like many other therapists said before. He isn't Lisa Bentley's PT for nothing. I really liked the guy. He also took time to explain every single exercise and how it affected my body. He puts a lot of emphasis on doing all exercises with such focus and purpose, it's almost intimidating when you think about engaging all these muscles during a single stretch or exercise. Like the bridges below. Try doing them on your heels, tilting your pelvis, squeezing your butt and the legs to keep them close to each other. And don't forget to breathe. Ouch.

He has me on a 40% mobility, 40% stability and 20% strength routine. I don't have the video to share with you, but when I run, my knees collapse inwards and good running technique can only take me that far before knees and hips start complaining. It's all normal since I sit at least 10h a day and then I add more sitting on the bike. So now I have to get up every hour and stretch my hip flexors and IT bands. I have to do a variation of the "couch stretch", by using my desk, with a good posterior pelvic tilt and glute recruitment, at least 5-6 times a day. At home, I get to do daily bridges and work with bands, and a thousand jumps and core stuff. Here's what this week's torture session looked like:
  • 10 x bridges 10 sec on/off 
  • 10 x bridges with leg and arms lift 10 sec on/off 
  • 5 x 5 lateral steps each direction with 2 bands 
  • 12 cross leg stretch on step and opposite side lunge, each leg 
  • 5 x 10 basic stance hops 
  • 5 x 10 left leg runner forward stance hops 
  • 5 x 10 right leg runner forward stance hops 
  • 5 x 10 forward/backward hops 
  • 5 x 10 forward/backward hops with open/close stance 
  • 10 cross step and side lunge with bands, each direction 
  • 10 x 10 sec low plank with arms on bosu ball
  • 5 x 10 sec side plank with leg lift each side
Band Level Up! Twice the bands, twice the resistance.
Sweat makes perfect
Can you guess how sore I am? These exercises make me grunt and sweat with each step! But after 2 weeks of work, the PT seems to be happy with my progress, so fingers crossed that I'm on schedule for his 6-8 week prediction of seeing real improvement (aka no more pain while running).

What else can I share? Maybe a little more of that stuff that makes me happy? It may not have been all unicorns and rainbows, all the time, but sure it did the trick, at least for a while.
Warm enough to wear my new Coeur bike jersey
Riding my bike with hubbs
Channelling my inner cycling diva before falling on my face (true story)
I knew I could turn the gloom around. Now that was a beautiful day worth reminiscing. Just looking at these pictures makes me smile!! 

What else did I do that made me happy? 

First, I got my NCCP coaching certification. Yessir!! I am supposed to sound legit and shit when I talk triathlon now. Just don't forget to talk to your doctor before doing anything I say, mmmmkay? Not that I plan on giving up my day job for becoming a coach any time soon... But at least I keep my mind entertained with knowledge since I cannot keep my body busy with practice.
Second, I managed to renew my Hot Yoga pass! For cheap. And I'm not even a Goodlife member. Don't ask me how I did it, as it may, or may not have required a pig tail and the blood of a virgin.
Last but not least, I met a bunch of friends and we had dinners and fun together. Friends make everything better!! Here is Phaedra and I eating ALL THE SUSHI and chatting up a storm. I love this girl!
Okay, I think that's enough smiles and good news to redeem this post. What say you? Here I click Publish.

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!!