Catching up – Ironman Arizona, Surgery, Recovery…

I’m surprised it’s been so long since my last post.  Things have been nuts all the way around and I didn’t even have a chance to throw together a post-IronmanArizona blog post.  The truth is that I returned from Arizona completely psyched but also staring down the barrel of a massive work schedule along with getting things ready for my December 18th surgery, so it fell by the wayside.  In a nutshell, here’s my thoughts:

On Ironman Arizona –

Some Sweet Rides

Some Sweet Rides

I arrived out in Arizona on the Friday of raceweek.  In addition to being out in AZ to volunteer (and thus solidify a spot in the 2014 race), I was looking forward to rooting on and supporting TinMen Endurance – a group of 5 heart-transplant recipients that were all racing together to raise awareness for organ donor programs.  My buddy Derek successfully finished Ironman Lake Placid in July becoming the first American to complete a full-Iron race.  We all went to dinner on Saturday evening and I had a chance to meet the guys and their families and learn about their stories.  Sadly, only two of the five were able to complete – one was jumped-on while entering the water pre-start and had to be pulled out before the gun at 7am, and another was swept off the run course late-night.  A third (Kyle Garlett) took a nasty spill on his bike a couple of weeks before the race and just couldn’t make the start.  Many of you might know Kyle from his previous Kona attempts and spotlight segments on the NBC Kona broadcasts.

The race was fantastic.  I was able to join some friends out on the bike course during the day before my volunteer shift at the finish line.  I saw a couple of nasty wipeouts – 3 loops causes WAY TOO MUCH CONGESTION and I sincerely hope the rumors of elongating it to 2 longer loops in 2014 becomes a reality.  At one intersection I saw a tri-teammate from Delaware dash into a porta-john, and shocked him when he emerged to find me holding his bike with a good luck cheer!  My time at the finish line was incredibly inspiring and while I was completely exhausted after a long day on my feet (woke at 3:30am) it’s impossible to NOT keep going while these competitors kept streaming across the finish line.  It was an honor to participate as a volunteer, regardless of my registration.

IMAZFinishLine

I headed back to my hotel and caught a couple hours of sleep, then checked out and headed to Athlete Village to get a place in line.  The word on the street was that there was an unprecedented number of volunteers gunning for slots, and the long winding line appeared to have way too many hopeful people in it.  Once the sun came up the line began to move about 7:40 am and I ended up finding my way to the front and registering for 2014.

I Guess This Makes It Real

I Guess This Makes It Real

Surgery –

My hip really felt a bit “blown up” in the days leading up to the surgery.  Just to refresh, over the past summer I felt more and more discomfort while running.  After a round of PT treating what we thought to perhaps be a “groin strain”, an arthrogram revealed a torn labrum in my left hip.  We tried a cortisone injection to no avail, so it was onto arthroscopic labrum repair.

I look calm here, but I'm totally freaking out.

I look calm here, but I’m totally freaking out.

I’m not exaggerating, I was completely losing it prior to going into the OR.  My wife was really comforting though, and before I knew it I was waking up and only wanted something to drink really bad.

So there was a little more damage than my doc thought:

Beforehip

Red and frayed = not good. This is the anterior, and more damage was seen on the other surfaces.

But, it all cleaned up nicely…

Afterhip

Nice and smooth…

So the first couple of days were tough.  I needed crutches almost all the time and the pain meds were my best friend.  I used the hell out of my 110% Compression shorts and ice – ice and compression might just be the best thing ever.  I kept up stretching and my isometric exercises, and 9 days after surgery my doc was amazed at my recovery.  I had much more range of motion than would be expected, and he cleared me for bike, elliptical, pool, and core strengthening and just about anything I felt up to EXCEPT running!

So off we go.  PT begins tomorrow, and I’ll be working with a tri-teammate who is an excellent PT as well as a Level 1 USAT coach!  I’ve already been on an exercise bike as well as an elliptical, and the crutches are no longer needed.

Ironman Arizona 2014 – you’ll be my bitch…

Getting Better – Resuming Activities Soon

So as I type this, my house is asleep.  I’d normally be out for a long run or big brick, as weekends are the perfect time to exploit my family’s love of late sleep while I go log some hours.  Also, most of my team is gearing up to race – either locally at our little “Top of Delaware” sprint or at Mount Tremblant or Timberman.  Normally I’d be at the local race as a “tune-up” for my intended A race of the Diamondman 70.3 in September, but the Triathlon Gods had different plans.

PT has been going well.  I’m now being pushed pretty hard, and we’ve added stationary bike and elliptical into the mix in small controlled doses.  Most of the work is actually stretching, strengthening, and stability.  My typical PT session looks like:

  • 10 minutes of ultrasound on the affected area
  • Sometimes – my PT does a little bit of “active release therapy” here  – if you’ve never had, it’s like a slightly more violent deep tissue massage designed to break up scar tissue
  • Stationary bike – 10 minute warm up (get a bit of a sweat going)
  • Calf Stretch 4 x 30 sec
  • Lying Hamstring Stretch – 4 x 30 sec (each leg with a strap)
  • Lying Quad/Flexor Stretch – 4 x 30 sec (each leg with a strap – facedown)
  • Using Flexi- bands (black = high resistance) – 4×12 reps straight leg standing lifts all 4 ways (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction)
  • Lying Knee Squeeze playground ball (adduction/groin) – 4 x 10 sec
  • Standard Planks – 3 x 30 sec to start (these kick my ass, and are part of the reason I’m injured in the first place)
  • Abdominal Bridges – 4 x 10 feet on bosu ball
  • Electro-Stim Therapy w/heavy ice pack – 15 minutes

This whole sequence ends up taking about 90 minutes or so.  We’re getting more aggressive with the intensity and the pace of the session, which is a good thing.  I’ve also noticed that injury recovery often involves days where you think “Wow, this stuff is working” and other days where you believe “Aww crap this sucks and I’m hurt again”).  It’s just difficult to know how you’re going to feel the next day or two after you work the injured area, but lots of my day to day functional pain is gone.  It hurt like hell to get out into my car and out of my bed, but those small daily reminders have vanished.

I’ve just entered into a period of heavy travel for my job.  The fall season is chock full of industry events and functions, and since my company’s primary marketing tactic is to exhibit and present/speak at these events, off I go.  I’m on the road and speaking 12 out of 14 weeks, but a lot of those trips are just 2-3 days in duration.  It’s going to be a stressful 3 months, and my biggest challenge is not blowing up like a fat balloon while grabbing fod on the road.  Salads and oatmeal will be my friend, and if I can begin some very light easy running soon I’d be a happy guy.

I just purchased a new heart rate monitor that will be compatible with my iPhone5.  I am going to play around with a Heart Rate Variability app called SweetBeat.  A Twitter buddy of mine is a big believer of using HRV to guide day-to-day intensity and monitor the body’s changes, and it’s been proving very effective especially in guarding against over-training.  I believe that I’ve been pushing the envelope here, and that over-training at least contributed indirectly to my injury.  I’ll explore this app and it’s benefits in some future posts, but you can read about my friend Brian’s experiences here – http://bri-tri.com/tag/heart-rate-variability/

 

 

Slumping and feeling ‘meh’ – time to rally

So I very well know that nobody wants to read a “sad sack” post – “Woe is me” thing…

It’s true though – I traveled most of the last week and aside from two awesome runs (one in Baton Rouge and another around the lake in Austin) I was completely buried with travel and work-related stress.  Things are moving into the springtime “insane” period at work, and my schedule will become more and more difficult as we come closer to summertime. Additionally, without going into details the subtle dynamics of my job are becoming more complex and that is bringing about more stress than is typical.  All I can do is put my head down and plow through doing my best work and know that everything should fall into place.

I haven’t been in the pool since last weekend (4/6), and aside from a quick 30 minute spin over the weekend I haven’t been on the bike at all.  The worst part – I haven’t felt that burning, that crushing desire to get out there and move!  That bothers me.  Actually it pisses me off, as I know I’m just settling for bleh-excuses and meh-laziness.

Now this Boston-thing on top of it all – I’m incredibly angry and saddened.  They say that if you want to see humanity at its most positive, visit the finish line at a marathon.  Watching the coverage is heart-breaking, but also uplifting at the same time.

This must become my catalyst today.  I have to move things forward in a positive way.

Bikeless, cold, and confused…

If you’re familiar with the song library of he great Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five (actually only three dudes and not five), the title of this post is a play on their song “Selfless, Cold, and Composed” – it’s a great song in the form of a jazz trio.  I’ve been known to swing periodically with my musical listening tastes, and my educational background as a high school band director (yes I was Mr. Holland’s Opus for 5 years) has given me a wide variety of music to draw from.  My iPod running playlist is hysterical.

My training has been light due to an impromptu vacation we took to the Pocono Mountains for some skiing this weekend – and boy was it cold and windy.  Unfortunately I came home with a souvenir I didn’t want and that was a stomach flu that lasted for about 4 days.  I lost about 4 pounds the wrong way too, and just today (Wednesday) I feel relatively normal.

Some good news – I finally sold my bike on Thursday to a guy that saw my ad on Craigslist.  In the three weeks I had the bike posted, I encountered one other half-serious buyer that was a good distance downstate.  Part of the sale was a pre-paid annual tune-up at a chain of local bike shops through 2017, so someone from a distance away would not find that beneficial.  Luckily the guy that bought the bike lives around the corner, and he’s 6’4″ so the 62 frame is good for him.

So Monday was an off-day, and I was still very much recovering from the stomach bug.  I hadn’t eaten anything in almost 40 hours, so I’m not sure why keeping my GuruFit appointment with my local bike shop seemed like a good idea?  I arrived at the shop wearing my bike shorts under my jeans and with my tri bike shoes and Look pedals.  I was walked to the rear of the store where a small fit studio was set up, and I saw this thing:

Not from the Starship Enterprise, nor a medieval torture device...

Not from the Starship Enterprise, nor a medieval torture device…

There are only about 40 of these units in use around the country.  My shop has had this since November, and the word is starting to get out.  The process sounds unique in that the adjustments are made real-time via servo motors and hydraulics.  Tom, the owner of the shop, had to go through quite a bit to obtain one of these systems, and then to be trained.  The process involved setting up a fairly benign triathlon posture set to my height and general flexibility fitness, so after taking some measurements he set the bike with a Zipp cockpit and a Specialized Toupe seat – these components appear to be very close to the used Cervelo I am considering purchasing from a guy on my tri team.

Front view

Front view

So once the general dimensions were placed and my pedals were attached I jumped on.  I told Tom about my bout with the flu over the weekend and he said that no big exertion was needed.  He set the Computrainer for a conservative 150 watts and I started to pedal (we eventually backed it down to 125 when I began to fall apart towards the end – it wasn’t pretty).

I can compare this process to the eye doctor, “Better here….or here?”  He began moving me into a more aggressive posture and changing angles and orientation, while also watching my cadence and my output.  Since this was my first taste of a real triathlon aero position, it was difficult to me since EVERYTHING felt odd.  The confusing part about it was that some of the adjustments were 5mm or less at a time!  Keep in mind my riding to this point has been on a standard road bike that has been too long for me, and my aerobars were hopelessly too far out to be comfortable.

GuruMonitors

 

So we worked into a series of three different “fits”, and not surprisingly they all ended up within millimeters from one another.  At that point, he put some markers on my hip, knee, and ankle and took some video for analysis.  As part of the after-action report, he will do a side-by-side with a cycling pro for a comparison (and a laugh I’m sure).  I thought ahead and found the old geometry numbers for the Cervelo Dual (P1) and gave those to him.  Unfortunately every manufacturer has a slightly different way of determining their geometry measurements, so some assumptions need to be confirmed before Tom can tell me whether or not the 58 Dual will/will not fit me in this GuruFit position we found.  He thinks it’s a good possibility it might, but there are some seatpost angle options that might be the difference.

I was pretty blasted when I was done.  I was under-nourished, slightly dehydrated, and still whoozy from the flu, but I managed to pedal pretty continuously for about 45 minutes during the session.  The price for this was $200, which is more expensive than the typical road fit.  The triathlon position is so technical that the process is much more involved to get a good position.  From what I gather, it’s comparable to the Retul system, and some of the other fit methodologies out there (and believe me I am not an expert here), but it sounds like the $200 is a pretty good value comparing to some of the other options.

So I’m hoping to get that final report in my hands shortly.  I’m looking for a green-light on that Cervelo, and then the fun will start.  Until then it’s getting back into the swing by building baseline fitness for the beginning of my program and learning how to eat/digest again!

Race Recap – Rock and Roll 1/2 in San Antonio

(Note – I fully intended to pepper this post with photos of my race, but seeing as how the “water resistant” FuelBelt pouch I bought at the race expo woefully under-performed, my phone was toast.  I do not have a MicroSD card reader, so I’ll have to come back and add the few photos I managed to take.)

I spent the evening hours on Saturday carbing up.  I saw this tweet from Bella on the Riverwalk:

 

I figured that I would call it in, and then walk over and bring it back to my hotel room.  When I called, David the proprietor, he “shamed” me into eating at the bar and not eating in solitude in my room.  I’m really glad he did, as the restaurant was literally right on the Riverwalk in a secluded little pocket (almost hard to find due to some construction).  I had the lentil soup (first time for me, and I’ll be totally cloning this recipe at home), “Pasta Bella” (pasta of the day, sauteed Texas Gulf shrimp, red sauce, artichokes, shrooms, spinach, and red pepper flakes).  In addition to copious amounts of ice water and fresh bread and olive oil, I also enjoyed a single glass of Cab.  The wait staff was gearing up for what appeared to be an onslaught, but they took time to chat me up as I ate at the bar.  I really need to become more social, because it is so easy to retreat into what’s uncomfortable, even when the decision to do so is borderline anti-social behavior!

I headed back to the room and walked briskly  as I wanted to get a read on my legs.  I felt 100%, and I was confident that my lower body would answer the bell on Sunday.  I laid out all of my gear for the morning (the less thinking the better), and running races is so much more simplistic that triathlon!

I was amped up, to say the least.  The evening before I made the mistake of hydrating using a new Nuun flavor I picked up at the expo.  I love Nuun and have used it quite a bit in training, along with my normal go-to mix of 1/2 strength Gatorade and Blox, but this particular flavor had CAFFEINE!  Oooops.

So I turned in early, and I was completely packed except for shower stuff post-race and the clothes I would wear home on the plane.

 

RACE MORNING

I woke up on time and showered/shaved.  I watered-up and had a handful of smoked almonds along with a PowerBar.  I filled my bottle with 20 oz of Nuun (with the caffeine) and headed out the door.

I can’t wait to trim that belly fat off!

I was in Corral 15, and the corrals were very packed.  The crowd was a bit quiet, and everyone just did the cursory “dance” (back and forth, calf stretches, hammy stretch, etc – this really resembles the “Pee Pee Dance” to the untrained observer).  We’ll I did have to dash to the porta-john and I ended up just jumping back into my corral in time for our start.

We set off and I felt fine.  The temp was maybe a little warmer than room temperature.  My goal was simply to run very consistent splits, hold back at the beginning, and not walk (unless the conditions at the water stops required it).  I was also hoping to stay under an 11 minute mile pace.  I was keeping an eye on my heart rate, and I was happy that in the first four miles my HR never reached 169 and my pace was right on.

 

Some observations:

  • Mile 1 was my quickest mile (makes sense), and then my next was mile 13 (head scratching), but I wasn’t consciously trying to kick in to the finish.
  • I took some GU gel about 15 minutes before the start, and then gels at mile 5 and 9. This worked extremely well for me, as I never felt deprived or weak.
  • This was my first run of any significance wearing compression sleeves, and I thought they felt fine.  I didn’t notice any significant improvement in performance with them, and it’s probably not fair to compare my post-race discomfort in the days after since I’m pretty certain I would still be sore without having worn them.  Who knows, but lots of runners swear by them and at least I’ll have another recovery aid if I choose not to wear them on the road.
  • The sun came out around mile 3, and that changed the hydration strategy quite a bit.  I began taking water or Gatorade whenever it was offered, and dumped water down my tri-top.  It got hot out, and since our season changed up in Delaware it was a bit of a shock.
  • My iPod shuffle died about mile 10, so I ran the rest naked.  This is a bit new to me, but I was fine with it.  For 2013 I need to get away from the audio-assistance with the longer races anyway.
  • I remember passing mile 3 thinking, “OK, this is just like a 5K warmup to the (10 mi) Broad Street Run (I ran back in May).  When I passed mile 10 I had a similar thought, “This is just like a 5K warmdown after running Broad Street”.  The difference is that I felt like I was going to spin off the panet after crossing the finish at Broad Street in May.
  • The finish line was incredible chaotic, and the long winding chutes they make you walk through is almost like another race expo.  “No, I don’t want PF Chang coupons right now, I want a banana, chocolate milk, and a Gatorade.  Yes I’ll take that cold towel, but if you ask for me to sign up for anything I’ll scissor-kick you in the throat…”
  • One very small criticism is the water and energy stops on the course.  I wish they could make them clearer as you approach, as there was a lot of congestion with bobbing/weaving runners getting caught off-guard and not aware that a station was up ahead.  Broad Street in Philly does this really well, and with almost 40,000 runners it was very smooth.
  • I will say that the folks at Rock-and Roll run an awesome event.  The pre-event communication was tremendous, and I felt very informed and clued into what to expect as a first-timer.  I would whole-heartedly recommend the race series to anyone that is looking to tackle a distance race.

It was a longer walk than I expected from the other side of the Alamo Dome to the hotel area, but I made my way back to shower and catch a cab to the airport.  In hindsight I should have bought or brought 2 sets of compression sleeves – one to run in and the other to wear home.  My shoes were sopping wet, so I went the flip-flop route, and my full compression socks wouldn’t have looked right!

 

So I finally made it home about 9PM.  It was my birthday and my wife/kids had a little impromptu party set up for me which was nice.  I was away since the previous Wednesday and I was really missing home!

So all-in-all I am resting and recovering.  I plan to swim tonight and then lift tomorrow night while the girls have swim team practice.  I have a 20 week half-Ironman training sequence that I am reviewing now that I received from BeginnerTriathlete.com, and it looks extremely well-suited for my goals in 2013.  More on that later.

 

Fun at the race expo – t-minus 24 hours…

So this time tomorrow I’ll probably be about halfway through the race.  I am equal parts excited, terrified, and confident – I know that makes zero sense, but not much about any of this exercise does!

Seriously though, my business week here in San Antonio wrapped up really well yesterday, and as soon as I was free from obligations I shot on over to the convention center to hit the race expo.  The only other large race I’ve participated in (Broad Street Run in Philly was over 40,000) I skipped the expo and just grabbed my number.

Publicly, “Rock-and-Roll” events seem to carry a pretty positive opinion of their race operations, and if the race is supported as efficiently as the expo then I think I’m in for a good time.  It was a big event with tons of vendors and exhibitors, some running workshops, and something for everybody.

I did a little shopping for myself:

  • I grabbed some GU gels since I didn’t want to chance taking them through TSA
  • I grabbed some Nuun tablets for my hydration – I’ve been accustomed to Gatorade with a little BLOX silk amino acids added, but my system seems to function fine with either.  The Nuun is easier to transport home through TSA.
  • Shades – I grabbed a cheap pair of sunglasses – I forgot mine.
  • Fuel Belt pouch – I normally leave my cell at home, but I want to grab some photos.  Additionally it’s just a good idea while away from home.
  • CEP sleeves – I’ve work some inexpensive compression socks post-workouts, but I’ve never actually run in them.  I went for a short treadmill run yesterday and they felt nice, kind of like my shins and calfs are getting a nice hug!  I’m going to wear my full socks home on the plane tomorrow, but I’m going to give them a shot in the race.
  • I grabbed the 13.1 finisher shirt in addition to the freebie they gave away (which is a bit crappy in my opinion).  The finisher shirt is much nicer.

 

I grabbed some other freebies as I cruised through the expo.  I really wish my wife and kids were here with me, but there’s a ton going on at home and it just wasn’t feasible.  The one thing you don’t notice when travelling for business is that there is generally something ELSE to do next, and clients or colleagues to do it with.  Out here I’m solo this weekend, and dinner all by myself really sucked last night.

I’m working from the hotel room this morning, and then I’ll go for a walk to loosen up the legs a little later.  I’ll get a good stretch in, then apply some BioFreeze to help with some last minute recovery.  Lots of carbs and water today is the name of the game!

Touchdown in Texas

My flight miraculously took off on time from Philly and I landed in San Antonio without incident.  This pleasantly shocks me seeing as the East Coast and the Philly area once again had the scourge of inclement weather to deal with.  Thankfully despite the sleet falling I managed to get out ahead of the bad stuff.

I’m here in Texas for work.   A big part of my job is managing the relationships my company has with professional associations, especially those in healthcare human resources and recruitment.  I actually don’t present until Friday morning, but there are some meetings and social things going on this morning (Thursday) so I need to be here.

Of course that’s all well and good, but the presentation is one I’ve given about 25 times this year.  What’s really on my mind is my first half marathon on Sunday – also my 40th birthday.

I really starting running with purpose last fall, gearing up for a 5K in early December of 2011.  It took a lot of work to run for 30 minutes without stopping, and my goal for that first race was to not throw up, walk, or cry (and I was successful!).  Even before I warmed down from that 5K, I decided to find a race on or about my 40th and run 13.1 as a “stretch goal”.  Along the way I ended up falling into a bike purchase in June and I became completely obsessed with triathlon.  This was mainly at the inspiration provided by a buddy of mine who, as a cancer survivor and hart transplant recipient, is tearing up 70.3s, marathons, and is scheduled to do two 140.6 events in 2013!

I wouldn’t say I’m totally prepared for this race on Sunday.  I pushed it on the treadmill on Tuesday evening and ran some hard intervals for 30 minutes and the result is that I feel a little “twingy” in my shins.  It’ll be ice and friction massage later in my room, for sure.  I do feel that I can monitor my HR zones well enough to get through in about 2:15, so that’s the time I’m shooting for if all goes well.  We’ll have to see about that, but I really just want to have fun, suffer a little bit, and then head home to Delaware for cake and ice cream!

So I plan to blog a bit on my downtime – I’ve got lots to keep me busy (like a late expense report from October a mile long) but I’ll be here Friday night and Saturday for the race expo flying solo, so I’ll be bored and filling the time no doubt.