Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Gauntlet

In 1977 Clint Eastwood starred in “The Gauntlet”.  This was a story where he played a cop sent to transport a prostitute for trial on minor charges.  As it turns out, she was actually going to testify against a leading mobster and he was chosen specifically by a corrupt Police Chief because he was a mediocre cop and deemed “expendable”.   Time after time, their transport vehicles get riddled with a ridiculous number of bullets as the Chief has listed them as "armed and dangerous".  They are on the run from the mob as well as the cops.  Together they face challenge after challenge after challenge...
I bring this up as June is presenting itself to be my gauntlet.  As earlier mentioned, I’ve challenged myself to complete two physical “events” per month.  These can be anything that would be above and beyond a normal workout.  I have run races, participated in indoor triathlons, and track meets.  The idea being that having a target event on the immediate horizon will keep me focused on working out.
From January through April, I managed to find and schedule events pretty easily.  I actually averaged three “events” per month.  May proved to be more challenging as family events ate up most of the weekends and scheduling two events became difficult.  I ended up “creating” two events.  On May 17th, I completed a 2 mile swim at the local YMCA.  I’ve swam that far before, but not in a long time.   Last night I completed a “CrossFit Challenge”.   This consisted of 10 rounds of 6 exercises.  It took me 86 minutes and the best term I have found to describe what I went through is “brutal”.   Through years of football, rugby and triathlons, I have never had a workout that kicked my ass as badly as this one did.   That which does not kill me….   Fortunately, through both the swim and CrossFit Challenge, I have amazing friends that came out and did them with me.  I am blessed.
So here I sit looking at the month of June that I’ve scheduled.  I have signed up for four events.   There are two other events that I may also do.  The first is an “Aqua Bike” race this Saturday.  I will swim 400 yards and then go for an 11.25 mile bike ride.  It is actually the first two legs of a sprint distance triathlon.  I simply do not have a 5K in me at this point.  On the 8th, I am going to Olivet College to throw shot put and discus at the USAT&F Michigan Outdoor Masters Championships.  There is a 2K Open Water Swim on the 19th.  On June 22nd I throw shot put and discus again at the State of Michigan Games.  The next day I will swim the 50, 100, and 500 Freestyle as part of the State Games.  The month rounds out with a Sprint Triathlon on the 29th.  I may look to try to find a biker and a runner to do it as a “Team”. 
It is a lot.  As I type my body aches from the 50 burpees, 100 pushups, 150 sit ups, 250 air squats, and 500 jump ropes from yesterday.  The thought of doing six events amidst business travel, end of year school events, a soccer potluck, Cub Scout activity, and who knows what else has me a bit intimidated. 
During my CrossFit Challenge, my coach Zach Parsons, kept pushing me to get through the next set of exercises…to keep chipping away at it.  As I look to June, I’ve decided to keep that focus on the next event.  Chip away that one.  Then keep moving.  Always keep moving.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The turtle went over the mountain…

Back when I decided to begin this journey, my goal was to become a runner again.  I’ve taken on many challenges from simply “working out again” to completing two sprint triathlons.  I’ve swam, biked, and ran.  I’ve swung kettle bells and done burpees til my arms fell off.  I’ve participated in CrossFit Challenges, Open Water Swims of more than a mile, thrown shot put and discus, and even one very comical attempt at the long jump.
As I sat down and looked at 2013, I decided that I wanted to have a goal of participating in two “target events” per month.  Whether it is a 5K, an Indoor tri, or a cross country hike I needed a steady focus on something other than another workout to keep me going.  I realized I needed to have that “next mountain” on my horizon or I might get complacent.
January started well.  There was a fun run of 2.2 miles on New Year’s Day.  Scratch off one.  My second event was going to be an indoor triathlon in Muskegon at the YMCA as part of a series I was participating in.  A “Box Only”, or members only, event was posted at the CrossFit gym I work out in and I decided to give that a try as well. There was an additional triathlon I could do the day after the CrossFit event but my coach, Zach, talked me out of doing both.  I’m glad because the fatigue factor after the CrossFit event was far greater than I had imagined.  Still, I completed three events in the first month.   I was already ahead of the game.
In February, I completed two more indoor triathlons as well as a five mile hike of the Appledorn Trail with a bunch of Cub Scouts.   Herding Cub Scouts for five miles is more of a workout than you can imagine!
March consisted of a 5K race, an indoor tri, and my first indoor track meet.
April had two more triathlons and I have 5K race this friday at Sammy's school to close out the month. 
May could be tricky as scheduling conflicts have left me only one target event (5K)  I am interested in.  I may be able to sneak in another Appledorn Hike or, if needed, "create" my own event.  I’m thinking of an indoor tri of longer segments or riding the Kal-Haven Trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven.  Either way, I will find two “events”.
It sounds physically hard.  Actually, scheduling is the hardest part.  Much harder than some of the events!  Between the boys soccer, tennis, bowling, baseball, golf club, scouts, Little Rembrandts, and who knows what else, my travel for work, Kimm’s travel for work, run camp for her half marathon, and events she’d like to do, things get busy quickly.
Reaslistically, I need to focus more on simply running.  CrossFit has provided me greater overall strength as my swimming and biking have shown.  I just need to run better.  Dropping a few pounds would help too!
I looked ahead to June.  June 1st is a Saturday this year allowing the month to have five Saturdays.  Finding two events for this month should be easy.  June 1st has an event called the Double Time.  A friend I met through racing, Jim Mischler, runs this race.  It is early in the outdoor season so I could do this one and still find others to do later.  The location looks nice and I am goint to just do the Aqua Bike, (like a sprint distance tri without the run).  June is also when the State Games of Michigan take place.  Between Track and Field and Swimming that’s two meets in two days…but I did this last year.  No problem.   The last weekend of the month has another sprint distance triathlon that Jim’s group organizes.  This is held out at Gull Lake…very pretty.  Another “must do”.  Continuing on, I see that the Michigan USA Track and Field Outdoor Masters Championships are going to be held in June.  At first I think that there is no way I could fit it in with the other events.  Wait…June 8th?  That is open!  Okay…it would also allow me more practice before the State Games.  Finally, I see Jim send out a posting for a 2K open Water swim.  This is actually going to be held on the Wednesday before the State games.  I did one last year at the same time…I just did not have a second track meet and two races bookending in the month. 
Part of me looks at this as nuts.  It is a lot of events.  Another part of me looks at this and says “Why not?”   It’s not like I’m going to a bunch of pub crawls.  I’m not spending time in strip clubs.  I’m doing something that promotes a healthier lifestyle and helps me draw inspiration to be a better person.
It will be a “gauntlet” of activity for the month.  The mountains will come at me fast and furious in June.  No rest for the weary! 
I’m going to feel great...once I get through it all.
…and then I will look ahead to my next mountain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cross Fit to be Tied....

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It’s not that I have been taking time off rather life has been very busy!  This fall I was introduced to Cross Fit Training. Conceptually, you are training your entire body.  High intensity, at least 3 major joints in motion in each exercise, and your workouts constantly change to avoid falling into a rut.  You literally do not know what you are going to be doing until you get there…or right before you begin! 
Each workout is broken into four sections.  First is a “warm up”.  When I got started, the warm up itself would kick my butt.  A typical warm up might include a 200 meter run, 15 sit ups, 10 pushups, and 5 “burpees” (think squat thrust followed with a jumping jack).  This series is repeated twice. 
The second section of training works on skills.  This may be learning proper technique of certain exercises from running to dead lifts and clean and jerk. 
The third is known as the workout of the day or "WOD".  This is where things get interesting.  WODS can vary dramatically.  One included squatting down and exploding up tossing a 20lb Medicine ball up against the wall (at a target @ 14’ on the wall) 10x followed by jumping /stepping up onto a wooden platform 1x.  You progress to 9x Wall Balls and 2x jumps.  8x/3x, 7x/4x, etc… until you do 1 Wall ball and 10 platform jumps.  You go as fast as you can.  Trust me.  It’s a workout.  Other WODS have you work in groups of 2 or 3 rotating through various exercises.  Occasionally, a WOD takes a different turn.  One night we all got to do 150 Wall Balls.  The recommendation was to do “as many as you can before you have to take your first break”.  Uh….okay….  I got through 20x when my lungs were screaming.  A quick walk around in a circle and a few breaths later,  I picked up the ball to continue.  I figured I could get maybe 15x more done and then settle into sets of 10x.  6x Wall Balls later and my lungs felt like I sprinted a marathon…    Another interesting WOD was when we were given a choice.  We could do one set of 100 Burpees, 100 sets of 1 Burpee, or any combination that would get you to 100.  WODs like that are timed so you can compare your results for improvement.   
There are also WOD’s that are “set” that use specific movements, weights and repetitions and are timed to measure yourself against others.  These often are named.  One is “Fran” 135lb “Thrusters” followed by pull ups.  21x each followed by 15x and then 9x.
After the WOD, there is a cool down/stretch session.  These are HIGHLY recommended.  Often rolling out your muscles with a foam roller will save you a lot of tightness and pain the next day. 
There were two obstacles I needed to deal with, other than the physical activity, with Cross Fit.  The first was that coming from running/swimming/biking, I pretty much knew what I would be doing and could adjust my schedule to what I felt like doing that day.  I can turn my brain off and just…”go”.  With Cross Fit, you can’t turn your brain off.  Quite the opposite, your brain is fully engaged in what you are doing.  You can’t just turn it off.  It sounds like a small difference, but it is really a big one.    The second was that in Cross Fit, you are pushed to failure.  When I swim, I can adjust the pace to how I feel.  I have a series of distances I plan to swim or maybe one long one, and I just…”go”.  In Cross Fit, if you don’t fail, you are not pushing yourself fast/hard enough or you need to increase weight.
Once I got used to the ambiguity of each workout and pushing myself to failure, all I needed was to learn to deal with the physical aspects of the workout.  I found muscle aches I never knew through football or rugby.  There are far fewer bruises however…
I wish I could say I have dropped a bunch of weight as a result.  I can tell you that my body is "re-sculpting" itself.  My legs have these “things” where my muscles used to be.  They look like…well… “muscles”.  My chest and shoulders are firming up.  My clothes are fitting very differently.
In a few weeks my indoor tri season starts.  I will be interested in seeing how my workouts will impact my results.
I have some issues with flexibility in my legs but I can work on that.  I feel I am getting closer to getting over the hump and having a breakthrough running.  Getting my legs back under me will do wonders for me.
The journey continues…one strange workout at a time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reflections on the Shermanator....

I’ve waited a couple of weeks to update because I wanted to get some perspective after competing in the 2012 Sherman Lake YMCA aka “The Shermanator”.
So as Jerry Lewis might say before updating the board with the total number of dollars pledged at his MDA Telethon….. TIMPANY!”
I finished.
At this point, you might be wondering…huh?  You swam 500 Meters, biked 10 miles, and ran a 5K and all you can say is “I finished”???
Kinda makes for a boring blog, so I will elaborate.  I had been on vacation the week before the race.  We rent a cottage every year on Lake Michigan and spend a week in the sun, water, exploring the wonders of the lake front etc…  It’s very nice.
Throughout the week, I knew I had the race coming and was very excited…okay…for those of you who know me….anxious… about it.   Kimm and I had taken the boys for a bike tour, we had been very active, I even tore off a 10 mile bike ride on my own. 
I came home from the lake a day early. Kimm had offered to come home with the boys a day early so she could come but I insisted they stay and enjoy their last day at the cottage.  I unpacked and headed out to Sherman Lake as I volunteered to help set up the transition area.  It was a lot of work, but it allowed me to acclimate myself with where I wanted to be in the area as well as how I would need to navigate through once the race started. 
I had gotten a call from Tim Ferris.  Tim and his wife Connie have become some of our dearest friends since we moved to the Kalamazoo area.  He was wishing me good luck for the race.  “What time do you have to be there?”  he asked.  I told him I was leaving the house at 5:15 as packet pick up started at 5:45 and I wanted to be early to get a good sport in the transition area. I also said he was welcomed to join me.   There was a pause “5:15…well good luck with that!”. 
I spent the evening packing and re-packing.  Anxiously, I thought and re-thought each move I would have to make.  The phone range.  It was Tim calling back.
“If I’m not there when you leave…just go ahead.” 
My alarm went off right at 4:15.  I wanted PLENTY of time to re-think through everything and have my body wake up.  I ate a banana, had a granola bar, and drank some water. 
At 5:05, I realized there was a car out front.  It was Tim.
I gotta tell you having him there was a blessing because he proceeded to tell me a story that had me laughing the entire way out there.  I was the second person through registration and the second one setting up in the transition area. 
Tim was gracious in finding a good spot to view the spectacle from.  I would bounce back and forth chatting with the other triathletes and popping back out to make sure Tim was having fun.  All was good.
The park filled up, the National Anthem was sung and before I knew it, I was getting in the water to begin my first tri.  I hung back in the crowd avoiding the chaos of the start.  After the first 100 yards, I realized I needed to place myself further up.  I was stuck behind guys that had shot out and were now floating, doing elementary back stroke, or simply treading water.  I had to navigate around this like they were pylons at drivers training.  After I got clear of them, I was able to get a nice comfortable stroke going as was at the bouy to turn and come back at.  I found myself zig-zagging a bit but got settled and the final 100 meters flew by.  I was hoping to break 15 minutes and had finished in under 13.
Usually when transitioning from swim to bike, I have plenty of time.  In this race, I needed to run through sand, around the entire transition area on matts, enter the back of the transition area and get ready to go.  I guess I pushed harder than I should.  I realized I was pretty winded.  I had a water bottle set to rinse my feet with and my socks and shoes all laid out.  I still took twice as long in the transition area as most.
Once on the bike I felt pretty good.  There is an incline to climb getting out of the lake area and rolling hills the rest of the way.  The first few sets of hills were fine.  I was able to push down hill and build momentum for the uphill portions.  The course was an out and back, with two 90 degree turns that had a big hill in the middle.  One would think that out and back means that it evens out…that every hill you go up, you also get to go down.  The problem was the hill between the two large turns made you slow down and you lose all momentum.   From mile 2 on, my “push hard downhill/pop back uphill” plan would not work.  I had to grunt it out.  What I had hoped would take 40 minutes ended up taking close to 48.  On top of that, I had to use a lot more energy than I expected.
Back in transition, I parked my bike, swigged some Gatorade, popped an energy blob of some sort into my mouth and headed off for my run.  Again, the transition area by the lake is in a “bowl” that the run course had to exit.  I initially walked to get my legs back under me and because I was pretty darned tired.  I got to running a bit but once on the flats, the shade was gone and the temperatures got high.  I knew I was going to have to alternate walking and running, but quickly realized it would be more than I had planned. 
As an aside, I must say that when competing in an event like this, the people you meet are amongst the coolest in the world.  People were cheering each other on, providing words of encouragement.  Letting you know there’s yet another hill around the next corner....(Thanks!)
I make it through the flat open areas and get back to where I am running in the shade and back down  into the bowl towards the finish line.  With about a half mile to go, I run into Paul Emenheiser, one of the leaders of the trizelle program I participated in.  He “runs me in”.  This means he runs with me, providing me words of encouragement, how much further to go, and reminding me of what I am about to accomplish.  With about 50 yards to go he drops off.  I wish he’d stay with me as his presence was comforting but I realize he wants me to do this on my own.  We all get to finish on our own. 
I lengthen my stride and cross the line trying to look as fresh as a daisy but fooling no one.  People are cheering and I see Tim trying to get a picture.  I am pretty certain it will not turn out.
After I cool down, I trade stories of the race with Tim and other folks milling around.  I met many people who were awe inspiring.  One woman had just turned 50 and was doing the race, her first, for her husband who is serving in Afghanastan.  There were people of all shapes and sizes.  One guy had a flat tire and ran his bike the last mile in...before starting the normal run!   My guess is that a few may have even been inspired to see this big old bear of a man finishing a tri. 
I finished.   I aimed to be in between 1:30 and 1:45.  It took me 1:49:41.  Almost 5 minutes longer than I hoped.  As my brother once told me “I don’t want to do something that feels GOOD for that amount of time!
On one hand, I accomplished a major goal of finishing a tri.  I met a lot of amazing people.  I got to spend time working out with my wife and kids and living a healthy lifestyle.  I realized that I am blessed with many friends who have and continue to support me.   I did something I honestly thought I couldn’t do. 
On the other hand…I wanted to do better and have to deal with the fact I’m still a tortoise.
At least I have a goal time to beat next year.
Oh yeah… my next race is September 1st in Niles.  A new mountain to climb.....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This was the 5 days that was.....

Last week, a five day schedule began that was both physically and emotionally taxing.  I had planned on it being a physically challenging stretch, but as an old saying goes “Man makes plans…and God laughs”.
Wednesday, I had planned to swim my first open water event, a 2K swim at the local Boy Scout camp known as “Roto Kiwan”.  Logistics had us juggling several things that day including a tryout for Sammy for a travel Soccer team.
I rushed home got changed and was ready to go when I heard our cat, Linus, meowing very loudly…and strangely.  I went to check on him.  He had gotten sick and was sitting on a chair looking not to happy.  I cleaned up the mess and checked on him.  His eyes were bright and he purred when I pet him.  He looked to me like he had a tummy ache and wanted to be left alone.
I headed off to my race.  Max came with me for moral support and being that it was 94 degrees, to play in the water during the race.  There were about 30 of us and most were swimming open water for the first time.  We got started along a triangular course that looped around the middle leg of the course once.  The total distance is 1.2 miles.  I had swam this is a pool and knew I could make the distance.  I wanted to practice swimming in a crowd and sighting in the water.  I found the first two legs to be non-eventful.  The crowd thinned out pretty quick and I was able to take 50 strokes, look around, make course corrections and continue.  The third leg proved to be a challenge.  The slight wind we were swimming with on the second was now blowing in our faces.  Even though the lake was set down below a pretty good tree line, the wind created just enough chop to make breathing something you needed to concentrate on.  I also found sighting into the sun to be more challenging as well.  I zig-zagged my way through this leg probably adding another 100 yards of distance.  The fourth leg was with the wind again and I was able to catch up and pass to the pack I had originally found myself with.  The final leg was crossing the wind and sun worse than the third.  Fortunately it was not as long.  I felt strong coming in.  I finished in just under 61 minutes.  I had estimated it would take a bit longer, so I was happy. 
I got dressed and Max and I headed to the car.  I planned to go right to Sammy’s tryouts to cheer him on.  Remember that saying about plans?  God laughed.  I called Kimm to let her know we were on our way.  Apparently, when she had gotten home, Linus was still feeling ill.  In fact, he was a lot worse.  His eyes were no longer bright and he could barely lie in his chair.  She had rushed him to the vet and he was in really bad shape.  No one was sure if he would even make it through the night.
I went from really feeling good about my accomplishment to being very concerned and sad about our furry little buddy.  I began rethinking how he looked to me.  Should I have seen something more?
Thursday, Linus had to be put down.  His little body was simply not able to process glucose.  He was not getting better.  He looked sad.  Kimm and I had to pull ourselves together and be strong for the kids who were going to be devastated.  It sucked.  Linus was a silly animal who slept on his back in the most awkward places.  He hid much of the time but would wake me up by standing on my chest while I slept.
I miss him a lot.
We have a 14 year old dog, Bailey, who has dodged the Grimm Reaper a couple of times.  I never thought she would outlive Linus.  I guess you never can tell….
The swim drained a lot out of me physically.  Losing Linus had me emotionally drained as well.  Friday I had my Trizelle training first thing.  We were going to be swimming at Woods Lake, outside for the first time.  We swam about 600 yards in the open water.  Normally we have a bicycle workout and run after the swim.  I had to leave early to get to Grand Rapids for work. 
My arms were still pretty sore from Wednesday as we started swimming.  The distance was nothing compared to the 2K, but my arms felt like Jell-O.  It was nice being in the water while the sun came up over the trees.  The camaraderie of the trizelle group made it easier as well.
I took Friday night off of any training as the State of Michigan Games were to be held Saturday and Sunday.  The State of Michigan Games are an Olympic-like event that takes place in and around Grand Rapids.  It is a tourist attraction that had over 5800 athletes to the areas competing in a wide array of events.  I didn’t sleep well without having Linus on my chest and climbing onto the windowsill to look out at the neighborhood while it slept.
Saturday morning, Kimm took Max off to the site where the bowling was to take place.  Max has medaled the previous two years.  She would then run him over to where Sam and I were competing in Track and Field. 
We were in a variety of events.  Sam had done long jump last year and wanted to do it again.  On a whim I decided that I would as well.  I never had before but I figured…give it a shot.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?
“Don’t break your ankle, Dad” Sam offers, right before I run down the ramp. All the other folks in line start laughing.  “You can’t do that Sam!” I said.  “Now the only thing I can think of is breaking my ankle!”
I run down the ramp and realize that trying to time a jump off the board is not as easy as it looked.  I pretty much ran through the pit.
“That’s not very good” Sammy observed, again to the delight of the fellow competitors around us.  “If you can get six feet I’ll buy you a Dilly Bar” he offered.  “Never underestimate what the Old Man can do when food is on the line” I growled like a bear.   
The pit officially opened.  It was my turn to go.  Running down the ramp, all I could think about was breaking my ankle.  I awkwardly jumped about two feet behind the board, made it into the pit and fell forward.  I could feel my left ankle “tweak” a bit on the landing.   Not too bad but “NostraSamus’s” prediction rang in my head.  I was covered in sand.  “Seven Feet Eight Inches” the judge called out.  “Done” I said.  I got a legal jump in, beat the goal Sam had set for me, and despite my best efforts, had done so without breaking my ankle.  It was time to concentrate on the events I really came to compete in.  There were so many jumpers and such a small window for them to get their 3 jumps in I didn’t want to get in the way of any of the kids really trying to do something in the Long Jump.
I headed to where the shot put and discus field were leaving Sammy to get his three jumps in.  Discus would be next.  At 47 I still have to throw the college-weight 2K disc.  Compared to the 1.6K high-school disc I threw growing up this feels like a manhole cover.  I have not practiced enough to control a spin, so I stood at the front of the ring and heaved.  I managed to get one out over 90 feet which was a 2 foot improvement over last year.  This was good enough for second in my age bracket, so I was pleased.  Max arrived from bowling with the gold medal he won around his neck.  He was pretty pumped up.  Kimm and my Mom were there to cheer us on.   Max also got to throw discus.  He beat last years’ mark of 33 feet (1K disc) on his first throw.  His next throws increased gradually to 38 feet.  The only other boy in his age group had thrown 45 feet 2 inches, so I did not expect Max to catch him.  On his last throw, however, it all came together.  The judge marking the spot had to back up a couple steps!  44 feet and 7 inches!  What a great effort!  I was so proud of my boy!  He took second but he really gave it his all. 
I missed out running the 50meter dash as it overlapped with my time throwing.  No worries.  I was not too upset that I did not finish 5th in an event while I was placing in one that actually meant something to me.  I did manage to muddle my way through the 100 meters.  No photo finish here…sketch artist.  The pounding on my ankle wasn’t really needed.  Going back for the Shot Put, it was really sore.
Meanwhile Sammy had taken silver in the long jump and 200 meters again improving on his 2011performances.  Again…Dad was as proud as could be!  The last event for us was the Shot Put.  All three of us were competing in it and we were in the very last flight of the day.  I knew that I was not going to catch the first place thrower at 35+ feet (16 pound shot) but remembered the only other thrower threw around 25 last year.  My ankle had swollen and I had a noticeable limp.  I thought I had to only get a decent throw off to take second.  It turns out I was going to have to beat a 27 foot 4 inch throw.    I coached Sam and Max through their throws and then had to focus on mine.  Sammy took another second place.  Max, while improving form last year did not medal.  I had six chances to get over 27-4…  My first two throws were pretty feeble.  I was not shifting weight over onto my left at all.  I pretty much was all upper body and in the high 25’s and low 26’s.  I did plant off my left softly and got out to a high 26 on my third throw.  I went for it on my fourth and got a big shift in the ring.  My ankle stung pretty good and I knew I had gotten off my best so far.  27-3….just an inch behind.  I had a couple of minutes before my last throws so I tried “walking it off” knowing it would not work but hoping to loosen it up for one good throw.  I know that these games are meant to be fun, but I never met a competitor that given the choice, didn’t want to win, if possible.  The ankle was loosening up and I knew I’d get one decent push.  I started thinking about fourth and goals in football, push over scrums in ruby, anything to get me pumped up and get some adrenaline going.  I could do this…I would just have to dig deeper than I had planned.  When called, I got my shot and headed into the ring with purpose.  I knew that getting that 16 pounds moving as quickly as possible would be key.  I did not take long.  I bent and exploded as fast as I could.  Maria Sharapova would have been proud of my scream.  I quickly exited the back of the ring.  I knew it was the throw I needed.  I wanted to show some excitement but to do so would have been showing up the other thrower.    The call came “Twenty Nine feet, three inches!”  I allowed myself a small fist pump and I prepped for my final throw.  Knowing I had done what I set out I could not overcome the sting of my ankle.  My last throw was nowhere near the previous. 
As a family we took seven medals.  Sunburned, exhausted, and sore we headed home. 
All I could do was hydrate and l rest that night.  My arms were still sore from the swim and competing in four events had beaten me up pretty good.  I went to bed early.  My weekend was not done yet.
Sunday I crawled out of bed.  My treatments on my ankle had helped a lot.  I could walk with only a slight gimp.  I kitted up because I still had three more events to compete in…swimming.  I never had participated in a swim meet before and noticed that the State Games had the kids swim Saturday, during the track and field, and the adults to swim on Sunday.  I registered for the 50, 100, and 500 Freestyle. 
Sammy came along for the show and my Mom met us at the pool.  The event only had a couple dozen participants.  This turned out to be the best thing for me as everyone was very friendly and it felt more like a “get-together” as opposed to an “event”. 
My first race was the 50 Meter.  Once down and back.  I hoped to complete in 42 seconds.  Despite an awkward start and turn, I still managed to post a time of :39.33.  I got to rest for a short while and prepped for the 100 Meter race.  My goal was 1:30 and I snuck in under that at 1:28.  Finally, I had the 500 meters of 20 lengths of a 25 meter pool.  I hoped to beat 10 minutes.  I completely overestimated the time needed for that as I was able to finish in 9:09.
Over 5 days I swam 2K, and additional 600 yards, competed in 4 track and field events, and swam in 3 more races.   I experienced the highs of personal achievement and the lows of losing a beloved family pet.  I high-fived my boys and had them crying on my shoulder.

I’m gonna take a couple days off.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Breakdown...then breakthrough

In reviewing the year I have been posting my trek from tortoise to hare, one theme keeps recurring like a broken record.  I’m really having trouble running!  At first I wrote it off to simply being way out of shape and that I had not really run for a while.  When I tried to run the pain in my feet, ankles, knees was terrible.  I thought this was something I had to train through.  Eventually, I avoided running and focused on swimming or bicycling.  My running was just not improving.
As part of the Trizelle triathlon program put on through Gazelle Sports that Kimm participated in last winter, and I am working though right now, is an association with a locally based sports related physical therapist.  Kimm had a “gait analysis” done and determined she needed to do some specific exercises to strengthen parts of her body and she needed different shoes.  Her running woes have disappeared.
I muddled on.
My swimming and bicycling have gone very well.  I am feeling confident in both skills.  My running has not improved…period.  Finally, one Sunday my body actually felt pretty good.  No pain.  I decided that if I’m going to get a decent run in, it would be that day.  I kitted up and stepped outside.  We had learned some basic good form running skills that revolve around posture, arm swing, where your foot should strike, and taking “quick” steps.  I stretched a bit and began jogging down the road.   Almost immediately the pain returned.  It was different this time, however, because I realized that I was running on the outside of my feet.  My foot was not rolling back onto the ball of my foot!  Try walking that way…you’ll see how much it hurts!
Coming home, I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to have a gait analysis done, just like Kimm had.  I was able to get an appointment set for a few days later.  The therapist I saw, Scott, was awesome.  He has been associated with the Trizelle program and has completed an Ironman Triathlon.  He knows first-hand what I am trying to do.  He listened to my story, did an examination of my feet, ankles, knees and hips.  Turns out…I’m “pretty tight” and need to do some exercises and stretches.  The “highlight” though, was getting on a treadmill and running while being videotaped from behind.  If you are self-conscious about how you look, I recommend you NEVER be videotaped running.    Top down, I started off well.  Head and shoulders positioned well.  My arms were moving evenly and in good motion.  My hips even are in good alignment.  We then jumped down to my feet and worked back up.  My sense of running on the outside of my feet was confirmed…but I then was able to witness the effect on my ankles.  Seeing how my knee were compensating for things made me hurt just watching.  In the world of physical therapy, they have a medical term for my gait…”a hot mess”.
As it turns out, I was wearing quite possibly the worst shoes for me.   Scott wrote a recommendation for a specific shoe best designed for my needs and reviewed the exercises I need to do to loosed up and strengthen my legs.   I purchased the shoes that night.
Last Friday morning was my first attempt running in my shoes.  The “Trizellians” swim, bike, run, and wrap up with a session on a training related topic.  The swim and bike went great.  When the run started I focused on using the good form we had been taught.  There was a lot of traffic that day and getting a “herd” of runners across a busy street is not as easy as one would think.  I finally got into a groove.  “Posture…arms….quick feet” I kept repeating in my head.  I made maybe a half mile when I began feeling pain in my quadriceps and my lungs were crying for a break.  I began to walk.  One of the other participants asked if I was okay.  I was embarrassed that I was not able to go further.  “Yeah…just out of shape” I muttered. 
It was then it hit me…it was not my feet holding me back, it was just “out of shape”!  THAT is something you can train through.  THAT is something you can improve on.  THAT is what you expect to feel when you go running!  I can’t tell you how great it felt to be out of shape!  Okay…that’s an overstatement, but I knew that without having to combat the pain of my feet, I can improve the rest.
Having been involved in sports all my life, not being able to run has really been hard.  It has messed with my psyche.  Not seeing the problem for what it was and moving towards a resolution left me a bit upset with myself.  I know that beating myself up does no good so I’ll just channel that energy into getting into better shape.
My goal for this program remains the same.  Finish the sprint distance triathlon.  I’m not sure if I will be able to get to where I can run the entire distance.  I’m told some people walk the entire race.  As one of the instructors pointed out to me:  “If you finish last…you beat the people that did not finish…and they beat out the ones without the courage to try.”  He very insistently added…”and YOU will finish!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

“Trizelle” Training Impressions: Day 1.

I will readily admit that I was somewhat nervous about the first day of triathlon training.  Despite the fact that Kimm had gone through the previous session, there was an “unknown” factor involved.  I’m not good with that.

First, I mentally had worked through all the gear I needed to take.  I’d wear my swim gear and running shoes and shirt and just put on dry shorts after swimming.  Make sure you have goggles!  You don’t want to look like a total “Noobie” and forget your goggles!  I grabbed a water bottle, snack for after and loaded up my bike and helmet.
Everything was laid out and loaded up so I was all good to go.  Being the first time getting everyone together, they asked us to be ready to go by 5:45 so we could be in the pool by 6:00.  I set my alarm for 4:55 so I would have plenty of time. 
I’m ready.
Now… you just need a good night’s sleep.
Being a bit anxious about sleeping through my alarm, I woke every 30-35 minutes and would stare at the clock.  This was not helping me rest much.  Finally I woke at 4:15.  I lay there trying to get back to sleep.  Finally at 4:30 I figured, oh just get up!
I dressed as quietly in the dark as I could and headed out.  Being very early I drove around town taking in the sights and sounds of Kalamazoo before it woke up.  I got to the pool, found a good parking spot and listened to the radio until I saw signs of life inside.  I grabbed my kit bag and headed in.
I checked in and got the bicycle shirt that comes with the program.  I headed to the locker room to prep.
All I needed to do was get out of my shoes and shirt and grab my towel and goggles and I was ready.  I had meticulously packed the bag so everything was going to go smoothly…except for the goggles.  My goggles were right on top of my towel…right?  No.  They must be rolled up in the towel…no.  Did I pack them in one of the end caps?  No…  I am instantly pissed at myself.  “Noob!” I mutter.  “You are going to look like a total Noob”!  The one discipline I can actually do…and I forget my flippin’ goggles. FML…
One of the Training Directors, Paul, is wandering through the participants and I sheepishly admit my situation to him.  He instantly offers up a spare pair he brings for just such situations.  His “no problem…no big deal” attitude quickly eased my worries and soon enough the introductions and goals for the day were being reviewed.
We had four lanes of the pool to work with and would have to share.  Swimmers with college/high school swimming experience were to go to the far right. People who swim on a regular basis were to hang in the middle lanes and those with little/no experience/fear of water were to go to the left lane.  This is affectionately known as “The Shark Tank”.
Swimming went well.  While clearly not one of the top swimmers, I would place myself in the upper 1/3 of the class.  I did learn two things:  First, I need to widen my stroke.  (Who knew?) Secondly I have a very poor kick.  While trying to kick down and back holding onto a board, I commented to another participant… “I think I’m actually going backwards!”  This is why we practice….
After swimming we moved onto the bike.  I go out to get my bike from the back of my car and spot my goggles on the ground.  They had fallen out of my bag.  “Noob”…  I muttered.
We train in the order of the race as it will prepare us for making the transitions during race day.  It is an “out and back” approach.  That way nobody gets lost.  We go for 10 minutes out, turn and come back.  The faster athletes just go further.   This portion also went very well.  I was able to train at a pace higher than I thought and was able to go further than expected.  The lesson learned from this day…wear your sunglasses.  Even if you don’t need them for the light they do keep bugs out of your eyes.
Finally we moved on to the run.
The run was pretty much everything I expected…and in a pleasant way… less!  Running usually has my knees and ankles aching with each step.  Having swam and rode immediately before really warmed me up and probably had some endorphins kick in.  I was able to run without any join pain. That is the less…less pain.  In a strange way it may be easier for me to run the 5K as part of the tri easier than if I just were to go out and run…  Go figure.
The instructors in the program are great.  As there are many different levels of athlete participating, they simply assist each one in taking the next step in improving.  Whether swimming, biking or running, they spread out to stay with each level of participants.  I have already mentioned the “shark tank” in the pool.  I am certain for some this is their greatest challenge.  I will also guess that some biking had not done so for many years.  This is their challenge. 
As we prepared to run, they announced certain instructors would go out with the rabbits and lead the way.  One of the instructors was going to hang in the back and was designated “The Sweeper”.  I immediately had a vision of the street sweepers in “Soylent Green”.  My goal:  Stay ahead of the sweeper and don’t become “goodness from the sea”.
Heading out, I met Jamie who was moving at about the same pace as I was.  We headed down the street discussing the morning, telling our stories.  We’d have to stop at cross streets for traffic to clear and I don’t think either of us were too concerned as we were a good 50 yards in front of the sweepers.  We made the turn at 10 minutes to head back.   Though my knees and ankles were good, I realized that my greatest need was to get my muscles back to where they need to be.  My quads were screaming.  Jamie was quick to agree when I said, “I need to walk for a second…”  The problem here was that as we had to back track over the course we came out on, we lost our lead over the sweepers… they were now right on our tail! 
I muddled through the course on the way back.  I got passed by the real runners.  I got passed by the runners who I passed on the bike.  I got passed by those from the shark tank.  One of the instructors, Paul…my “goggle savior”…ran me in.  Paul reminds me of the guys I used to play rugby with. I instantly feel comfortable around him.   He has done many of these races including the Ironman.  He chatted me up as we finished the last half mile.   I realized that I had actually ran better than I thought I would.  Lots to improve…but that’s what the next 10 weeks is for.
The class had about 30 registrants.  There were about 20 there.  Kimm told me about half do not make it past 7 weeks.  What is clear is that everyone there has a goal in mind.  Each is on their own separate journey.  My guess is that, like me, that journey is to do something they have never done before.  It may be to do it faster…better…farther.  It may be to prove it to a friend, spouse or as in my case, myself.
My takeaways were these:  Sleep better, zip your bag shut, bring your sunnies, and stay ahead of the sweepers.

…and one more…  I think I’m going to be able to do this.