Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MRI day

Finally the day has come for my MRI! I am very excited because there will finally be a chance that I will get to find out exactly what is wrong with my hip. I obviously don't like the fact of the injury but I hate not knowing exactly what it is even worse. If I am told that my adductor/s in the right leg are torn and I need to completely rest for some period of time then I'm fine with that. If I am told that there is just a strain and some scarring and all I need to do is stretch and run at low intencity then I'm fine with that too. What I can not deal with very well is being in the limbo of laying back some to try and let whatever it is heal but on the other hand trying to stay somewhat active to try and keep up some level of fitness, strength and flexability.

I did go for a short run this morning though because it is the best my leg has felt in over a month. I "ran" 3.1 miles at a 12:45 per minute pace, which is about 4.5 to 5 minutes per mile slower than my pre-injury workout running pace. There was slight discomfort with just about every step but I'm not sure if that is due to injury, scarring over a healed injury or something new caused by the inbalance I've been living with. Anyhow, today is the day. I hope to have some answers by the end of the week.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rio Grande Cup Team Time Trial

Well, yesterday was the Rio Grande Cup Team Time Trial and the New Mexico Outlaws fielded two three man teams. My team is pictured to the left. Ok, so those aren't actually our faces but come on, we are the New Mexico Outlaws! Anyhow, my team consisted of myself, Brian "Myles" Pilgrim, Chuck "Grumpy" Ritz and Mark "Crazy Eyes" Tretjenr aka Mr. T. I say my team because that's what you get to do when people work for you, right? Like "My Employees" I dare to make this presumption because I can assure you those two guys WORKED to pull me across the finish line. Actually, Grumpy did push me across but that's for later. I spent all day Saturday getting my bike prepped for the event.

The course was mostly flat with one or two big rollers, I don't quite recall since I was anoxic alomst the entire ride. The race kicked off at 10 am with teams starting at 2 minute intervals. The wind was already strong by start time with gusts blowing between 25 to 35 mph. This was my very first time trial, actually it was my first bike race. I started a century once but my tire blew apart at mile 19, that's another story though. Grumpy and Crazy Eyes are experienced cyclists.

At 10:06 the three amigos sped off down the course. Actually Grumpy and Crazy Eyes sped off, I opted instead to clip in on the right side and kick the hell out of my left pedal to give it that satisfying spin and wait for a second, third, fourth and fifth stab at clipping in. Finally clipped in I powered after them catching up pretty quickly. We headed out nice and smooth planning on rotating for 60 second pulls with the instruction to wait 15 seconds before deciding to accelerate. We began in a straight pace line and the drafting was good, we moved smoothly and the pulls were nice and even. The first, and possibly only hill, was just a few hundred meters off the start line and I ended up with my first or second pull taking place right about at the crest, which meant I got to lead the speedy decent. We hit around 35 mph comming off the back side of the hill getting buffeted by the wind somewhat. Once we hit the flats we kept motoring along at something like 27 mph and were still working smoothly. I don't know how far into the 28 mile race, 14 out and 14 back, I made it as an effective member of the team but I know it wasn't far. I started falling off the back and Grumpy and Crazy Eyes noticed right away and started to slow and coach me through the oxygen deprivation. The thing about this race was that the team time was measured by the third rider to cross the finish line. Having only the three of us meant that we all had to stay together. Much of the rest of the race consisted of Grumpy and Crazy Eyes doing their best to block the wind while I did my best to hold onto their wheels. I was sucking wind something fierce but I was determined to at least make sure I tapped every reserve I had for the team's sake and for the sake of someone else, but that's for later too. Near the end of the ride it was as if I awoke from a fog and decided I had the nenrgy to pull at least one more time, I knew the other two had to have been whipped. I did get in one last 60 second pull and to the best of my knowledge I didn't let the pace falter though at the end of the pull I think I almost ran over my team by pulling out to the left while we were in an echelon left formation. I should have just dropped straight back but I was delirious by this time. Being delirious I also got this crazy notion in my head that I would sacrifice myself for the two men who had pulled me through the race. I must have been thinking it would be a nice surprise present because I didn't mention my plan to anyone. Instead when we crested the final hill, the one a few hundred meters from the start/finish line, I let out a wild yell, lept out of the saddle and poured every ounce of strength I had into my cranks. Apparently I just took off like a rocket leaving my teammates in the dust to curse my name and rue the day they ever conceived of taking me out in public. Well, that bit of personal glory was short lived when I realized that the finish line was not actually 100 or 200 meters away but more like 1000 to 1500 meters away. My legs finally imploded and my teammates caught me in short order and then had to start pulling me to the finish line....again. With the line safely 10 or 15 obvious meters away I gave it another valiant try and poured it on one last time. I was traveling at such a dazzling velocity by this time that Grumpy was barely able to catch me and literally hurl me across the finish line with a mighty push, you know, slingshot style.

I am kidding you not, I was completely slap happy after that race, completely spent...and you know what...I LOVED IT! All the rest of that day I kept replaying the brief glimpses I had of the race, or us ridding in echelon right, echelon left, almost side by side at some points. I also kept wondering at the skill and support of my teammates. Thanks Grumpy, Thanks Mr. T. To top it all off, we won the open division with a time of just over 1 hour 10 minutes, not bad for a group of triathletes ridding 28 miles across a wind swept open plain.

Last but not least, there is a very special reason why I was willing to blow out every resource and my teammates were willing to show such determined loyalty. We rode this race with a fellow Outlaw in our hearts, our dear friend Len "Pretzel" Piazza who was pulled from a race last week with dizzyness only to discover he has a brain tumor sitting up against his brain stem.

We love you Pretzel! Fortitudine Vincimus my friend.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sure it hurts, but it feels sooo good!

I've already done the race report for the Buffman & Squeaky Olympic distance triathlon but now I have some pics to post. This is the wife and I standing around listening to the pre-race meeting with wetsuits half on. I know I look like I'm paying attention but I can assure you I'm not. I think at this point I was just trying to scope out the competition and make sure I kept in mind what they were wearing, as if it made any difference with the injury. Still, I'm not planning on being injured forver and I enjoy keeping track of what everyone else is up to, you can learn a lot about racing, both what to do and what not to do, just by watching what others are doing.

Like I said in the earlier report I was the second Clyde out of the water missing the top spot by 3 seconds. I think I've finally decided I really love the open water swims. Here in New Mexico and West Texas we have a lot of events that have pool swims. Actually, the majority of the events are pool swims. Pools swims have some merrits, such as clean, clear water and the fact that you will never peanalize yourself with extra distance because of poor navigation or foggy or lost goggles. However, there is something about the open water swim that just seems more triathlon, more like an event and less like training. Maybe it's the excitement of the mass start, swimming in a pack or the whole element of running out of the water trying to strip your wetsuit while the blood flow is returning to your legs leaving you to lurch about on the shore like some drunken swamp thing.
Seperated at birth?

As much as I like the swim though, I really love the bike. Not only do I like the sensation of speed but I am actually good at the bike, even in comparison to most triatheletes at any given event. It is not unusual for me to end up with a bike split in the top 10% overall. However, because of my Clydesdale stature I am not the greatest on hills, that is going uphill, downhill I fly and I love it. Even though the climbs present me with a disadvantage over lighter atheletes, I still love them. I'm not saying that I want courses that are non-stop climbing but I like a few thrown in.

You can get a bit of an idea what the climbs at Buffalo Springs are like from these pictures if you look more closely at the background. This is about an 8% grade, which isn't necessairily tough but when you consider the fact that the climb is immediatly out of transition it commands a lot more respect. Right here I'm pushing a heart rate of about 190 beats per minute and creeping up the hill at about 7 mph.

The run has been my achilles heal since I began racing but this year I made some huge improvements, which is why my current injury is so discouraging. Last year I was running about a 10:30 per mile pace if the run ended the race and about a 9:20 if the run was at the begining. At the begining of this season I ran a tri with the run first and clocked a 7:09 per mile split and one with the run at the end clocking an 8:10 per minute split. On the Buffman & Squeaky my run fell to a 13:17 per mile split. I do have a lot of hope for a comeback but I'm sure getting impatient. Even with the injury though, I don't mind the run. I remember when I first started triathlon I used to curse the run. I used to think things like, "I could just stop right now and walk off the course and nobody would care, I wouldn't lose anything and it wouldn't change a thing in my life." Of course in reality it would have changed something quite fundamental in my life, something central to who I am, it would have left me with the lable DNF, Did Not Finish. It is one thing to DNF because of mechanical failures or physical problems but it is another thing entirely to just up and quit.

Fortitudine Vincimus my friends, through endurance we conquer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Peaking through a brick wall: Race report for the Buffman & Squeaky

Well, this past Sunday I toed the line in the sand with over 100 other triathletes at the Buffman & Squeaky Olympic distance triathlon just outside of Lubbock, TX at Buffalo Springs Lake. My hip was feeling a bit better but the fact that I could feel it at all was not a good sign. On the other hand I did not do this race loaded up on ibuprophin. I did get the medical go ahead to keep racing and training just so long as I don't do things that really hurt. That being the case I wanted to be able to feel any pain I may have.

The race started out great. It was a mass start running off the beach. When the shot went off, actually it was when the race director yelled GO, I hit the water with everyone else and ran into the 68 degree lake to about knee depth and then dove and started swimming. There was some bumping and josteling but nothing like some of the slugfests I've been involved in during other races. The great thing is that I was able to find some open water pretty quickly and was able to just cruse along. My navigation was spot on but large numbers of others were swinging wide on the course. I only began to stray once and that was in the direction of cutting it too close instead of swinging wide. I was the second Clydesdale out of the water missing the top spot by 3 seconds.

Transition went pretty well. I'm kind of slow stripping the wetsuit so my T1 was 3 minutes 5 seconds but I was the first Clyde out of transition.

The bike went great. If you have raced Buffalo Springs before you know that right out of transition you climb, everyone is out of the saddle, in the small ring and mashing away. I was hitting around 6 - 7 mph and my heart rate soared. Then you get a brief respite, fly down hill and then climb back up out of the canyon onto the flats, which constitute about 80% of the race. The only other climb on the Olympic distance is in and out of Yellow Horse Canyon, another lung buster. I passed a few people on the bike but had such a good swim that I was pretty far forward in the pack so most of the atheletes ahead of me really belonged there. The ride on this course is actually 25.2 miles instead of the usual 24.8. My average pace ended up being about 20.1 mph with an average cadence of about 95. Not bad considering the climbs involved. By the end of the bike I was 14 minutes ahead of the next Masters Clydesdale (my group in this race) with only 10K to run. I was 4 minutes ahead of the nearest Clydesdale overall. This is when the whole injury thing kicked in. I got through T2 in a reasonable 1 minute 15 seconds and started out on my "run."

I felt like the proverbial 98-pound weakling. It isn't so much that my hip area hurt as much as it was stiff and weak. I shortened my stride and tried to clip along at a reasonable pace but within short order I began having real bad pain in my hips and lower back, all the core muscles that are strengthened by running, which I have not been doing so that I can heal up a bit. At mile 2 the Clyde that took 1st in the 39 and under passed me, then at mile three the Clydes that took 2nd and 3rd in the 39 and under passed me. I was hopeful that I could hang on for something but the temperature was also over 90 degrees and I was having a hard time cooling down. Everytime I hit an aid station I grabbed a couple cups of cold water and poured them over my head. At mile 4.5 the Clyde who won the Masters division passed me like I was standing still, which I was very close to doing. I just kept trudging along with my lower back and hips feeling like they were about to completely fold up on me. Finally and mile 5.5 the Clyde who took second in the masters passed me. At this point I was just hoping to hang on for a finish. Finally, in an excrutiatingly slow 3 hours 14 minutes and 1 second I crossed the finish line to hold on to a podium finish earning third palce in the Clydesdale Masters. I had done the run in a mind bogglingly slow 13 minute 17 second per mile pace. To put this injury in perspective, on January 15 I ran the 38.5 MILE Ghost Town 38.5 Ultramarathon at a 13 minute 33 second pace.

Now this isn't a picture of me or even of Buffalo Springs Lake but this is preciselywhat I did immediatly after crossing the finish line. I marched right over to the lake, stripped off my shoes, socks and race belt and hit the water for a nice cool swim. It was absolute heaven. I was so hot and my lower back hurt so bad I just couldn't stand to do anything but float in cold water. Did I say it was absolute heaven?

One nice thing for my efforts was earning the coveted lucite dog bone..that is actually the award...lucite dog bones engraved with the event's name and your place, 1st through 3rd. The race is named after the race director's pair of Boston Terriers...Buffman & Squeaky.

Any who...the experience felt like I was looking through a brick wall. My performance on the swim and bike were up to snuff and the run did not hurt at the location of the injury so I can see some improvement but my running legs are totally deconditioned and though I could see some improvement, there wasn't a damn thing I could do to hold on. It was just a mental fight to cross the line. Oh well...the Buffalo Springs Half Iron is just 4 weeks away and I still don't know what I'm going to do. I suppose like the docs say, keep stretching and keep active but don't do anything that seems to agrivate the injury, whatever it is.

By the way, it's looking like I strained an adductor muscle, probably a grade 2 strain with some tearing in the muscle and tendon. I saw the sports medicine specialist today and that was his guess, which was also my chiropracter's guess, he's also a sports medicine specialist. The MD has ordered up an MRI. In the mean time it's the New Mexico Team Time Trial championships this weekend and of course, I'm right there. Can't let the team down, you know how it is.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Carry on! Carry on!

I've oficially had my injury for one month now and the chiropracter I saw yesterday believes I may have torn an adductor muscle slightly deep in the muscle. He believes that would account for the rather amorphus symptoms I've had. He also believes that I am on the mend and that I should continue to train and plan my races just so long as I do not try and go full out and do not continue activities that seriously agrivate the discomfort. I am still going to go see the Sports Medicine at the local University for what will now be a third opinion. I am going to whip this thing and I am going to continue to carry on.

In the mean time, enjoy this selection...I have been thinking a great deal about perserverence lately and this poem captures the message pretty well.

Robert William Service - Carry On

It's easy to fight when everything's right, And you're mad with the thrill and the glory;It's easy to cheer when victory's near, And wallow in fields that are gory.It's a different song when everything's wrong, When you're feeling infernally mortal;When it's ten against one, and hope there is none, Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

Carry on! Carry on!There isn't much punch in your blow.You're glaring and staring and hitting out blind;You're muddy and bloody, but never you mind.Carry on! Carry on!You haven't the ghost of a show.It's looking like death, but while you've a breath,Carry on, my son! Carry on!

And so in the strife of the battle of life It's easy to fight when you're winning;It's easy to slave, and starve and be brave, When the dawn of success is beginning.But the man who can meet despair and defeat With a cheer, there's the man of God's choosing;The man who can fight to Heaven's own height Is the man who can fight when he's losing.

Carry on! Carry on!Things never were looming so black.But show that you haven't a cowardly streak,And though you're unlucky you never are weak.Carry on! Carry on!Brace up for another attack.It's looking like hell, but -- you never can tell:Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the deserts of doubt, And some who in brutishness wallow;There are others, I know, who in piety go Because of a Heaven to follow.But to labour with zest, and to give of your best, For the sweetness and joy of the giving;To help folks along with a hand and a song; Why, there's the real sunshine of living.

Carry on! Carry on!Fight the good fight and true;Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;There's big work to do, and that's why you are here.Carry on! Carry on!Let the world be the better for you;And at last when you die, let this be your cry:
Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

Monday, May 15, 2006

365 Days to Ironman Arizona

Well, today it is officially 365 days from the start of Ironman Arizona! This will be my first official Ironman. It is true that since concieving of this idea I have inserted another iron distance race but it is not an Ironman. Don't ask me why I'm more focused on IMAZ, maybe it's because it was the first iron distance race I identified as a goal, maybe it's because it is a desert race and I'm a desert guy, maybe because several others on my triathlon team have run IMAZ or maybe it's just that M-dot appeal. I guess it really doesn't matter, all I know is that in 365 days and 17 hours I will have finished Ironman Arizona.

In the mean time I an 41 days from Buffalo Springs Lake Half Iron, which will be no small feat to complete. This race is another local favorite and is considered by many to be one of the most difficult half iron events in the 70.3 circut.

In exactly 131 days and 17 hours I will have completed my first iron distance race, as I stated earlier it is the Oklahoma RedMan. I am looking forward to this race because I think I may actually be able to pull off a podium finish in the Clyde division, whouldn't that be increadible! My wife will also be doing the half iron that day, her first too. I feel bad that I won't be at the finish line for her but at least we will see each other out on the course more likely than not and we will also both be able to revel in the glory that we did something truely amazing together.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Whenever something does not go my way I tend to do what Albert Ellis, the famed behavioral psychologist, calls catastrophize. In other words, I freak out and immediately assume the very worst. I don’t usually show it, except to my wife, but it’s there as she can attest. I walk around the house like some giant Germanic Woody Allen….oy…oy…oy.

This recent hip whatever the hell it is has really had me tied in knots. I have been a good boy for two consecutive weeks and have not run, biked or raced. I even took one week off swimming. During this time I developed a condition I will refer to as Triathlangst.

In order to ease your next visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist below is the diagnostic criteria for Triathlangst:

A. The person has been exposed to an amazingly benign event in which all three of the following were present:

1) The person experienced some amazingly benign event that results in a constant nagging pain that can not be localized in any way that would be useful to a medical professional.

2) The person's response to the benign event involved intense feelings of helplessness, bitterness and horror at the fact that you have experienced wrecks on your bike that looked catastrophic but resulted in nothing more than a scrape whereas the benign event, such as stepping on a piece of paper, adjusting your jogging shorts or drying off wth a towel, has resulted almost complete incapacitition

3) The person was advised by friends, family and/or the medical profession to immedialy cease running, biking and swimming.

B. Either while experiencing or after experiencing the amazingly benign event, the individual has three (or more) of the following dissociative symptoms:

1) a subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness
2) a reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., "being in a daze")
3) derealization
4) depersonalization
5) dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)

C. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in at least one of the following ways: recurrent second guessing, kevtching, research into similar physical sensations that WILL NOT cause you to stop racing or training or a sense that being wildly optimistic and up beat will magically cause the negative sensations shooting through your body to immediatly dissipate.

D. Marked avoidance of people, books, magazine articles or physical sensations that arouse recollections that the amazingly benign event actually took place and that the pain you are experiencing is real.

E. Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty seeing other people excercise, irritability, poor concentration, hyper self-pity, exaggerated purchasing of triathlon gear, motor restlessness).

F. The Triathlangst causes clinically significant distress or impairment in your ability to relate to others without bitching about your injury and an inability to empathize with virtually anyone elses hardships because let's face it, your not racing.

G. The certainty that you have somehow magically ruined some major body part beyond all concievable hope becomes unbearale within 2 days and negotiations with your injury or ailment begin immediatly.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hip injury continues

I've been struggling with this stupid hip pain for three weeks now, entering week four. I have not know what is causing it but have many guesses. During this last month I ended up raceing 5 times, two of which I probably should not have done because I was already injured. It began the day after my third race when I decided to go for a long slow run. I did my usual Sunday run, which was up to 10.5 miles, on a farily flat course and about 3/4 way through the run I felt what can only be described as a tapping right between my legs every time my right foot hit the ground. It was weird but not painful or even necessairly uncomfortable so I let it go and finished the run. The next two days I did not run, which is my usual training protocol after a long run. Wednesday I decided to start some heat training so left my run for the afternoon. Wednesday is also my 40 mile bike day when I ride the 20 miles in to work and then return. So, the ride home has a couple good climbs right near the end of the ride and immediatly off the bike I went inshde and in about 5 minutes was on the road for my little 6.5 mile afternoon run. After about 3/4 of a mile I began experiencing a kind of stabbing pain between my legs. This hurt but, stupidly, I discovered that if I really focused on moving my legs perfectly straight and slowed my pace a little I could keep going with only "a lot of discomfort" instead of serious pain. I finished off the 6.5 miles and went inside and just about collapsed. I could hardly walk, I have no idea how I was able to keep myself running.

Anyhow, I stopped running for the rest of the week but kept biking to work, though I used the shorter 15 mile route without the climbs, and I started taking Ibuprophin religiously every 4 hours. Three days later I ran in the Amarillo Sprint Triathlon loaded up on Ibuprophin. The race went pretty well until the last mile of the run, which was the last event in this race. At that point my leg just about siezed up and I was able to gimp it on in. Amazingly, I wond the Clydes division and sent a new Clyde course record. I spent the whole next week eating ibuprophin, not running but still ridding my bike. I was making some headway with the pain and by Thursday was feeling pretty good and so ridding home, with the wind to my back, I hammered away on the bike on this one long flat that is completely free of traffic. Got the bike up to 38.5 mph and felt strong. the next morning I felt less strong and the pain and weakness were back. I wnet to see my doc and he said he thought it was inflamation and that I just needed to take the anti-inflamatories and give it rest. I took the anti-inflamatories and, well, I did'nt exactly rest. What I actually did was my fifth race in April, the Atomic Man Duathlon. This was a 10K - 40K - 5K race in hilly/mountainous Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was beautiful and I did run it slowly. I'll do a race report later but suffice it to say, I was hurting on the run.

Ok, now I'm finally serious. People are probably thinking that all my weight must be in my head, which must be filled with concrete or some other heavy, non-thinking substance. I took all last week off. I did not run, I did not swim, I did not bike and, gulp, I did not race at my next scheduled race, Ransom Canyon. It was more painfun than my hip but today is the first day where I feel like I may actually get better. I went for a swim, I sat in the hot tub and I spent about 20 minutes stretching.

Let's hope this works, I'm more than willing to skip the Jay Benson this comming weekend but I REALLY do not want to miss the Buffman & Squeaky on May 21st. However, more than that, I do not want to miss out on the rest of my season. I'm registered for the Buffalo Springs Half Iron on June 25th and the Oklahoma RedMan Iron distance on September 23rd.

Don't know why I need to learn so many of my lessons the hard way.