Sunday, May 30, 2010

Operation Cheering Section

Sunday was my day off from training, but it was race day for three of my friends. They were running the Run To Remember, a half marathon that winds its way through the city, across the river and up to Harvard and back. And this was Natalia's first half marathon ever!

Armed with these posters I hit the course:

OK, perhaps a bit of explanation is necessary for the first one, since several runners commented (and one demonstrated) that gorillas are not really the best animal to emulate when running. Natalia is mega strong, and one morning in the pool our coach, trying to encourage her to use all that muscle, yells out "Natalia, Swim like a gorilla!" I took this one out to Harvard, just before the turn around to cheer her on.

This one was much more easily recognized with many runners actually intoning it in Dory's voice. And this time I surprised Natalia, by hopping on the T and showing up in downtown crossing to cheer some more. It was funny how holding up a sign for the runners makes you an automatic tour guide for the race to any one else walking down the street. Also, I think making signs is the way to go, it's way easier than yelling.

And here she is at the halfway point, too fast for the camera. It was great fun to see her out there, achieving her goal.


Once again, I find myself 3 weeks out from a half ironman, and once again, I feel underprepared.

Yesterday I went to do some course recon over at the Patriot course itself. The course is fantastic. Pretty flat with some undulations to keep you feeling fast. A few nasty pavement spots, but overall pretty good. It's clearly not as straightforward a course as Mooseman, but we seemed to navigate it ok. It's two loops of 29 miles each, so 2 miles longer than the regulation HIM. If they took this distance off of the run, I would be totally happy with that, but obviously they don't.

Despite my misgivings coming out of winter training, my biking is feeling REALLY good now, and I feel like the bike in this half is going to be fun, not boring. The terrain allows you to get that racing feeling. I'm not feeling like I have to hold back to stick to a race plan. Also, there's something about riding for 58 miles that is way easier than riding 90K. I replaced my chain and cassette two weeks ago and the bike is riding like new. Plus the last few long rides I've done have involved very little drafting, so I'm feeling prepped for this ride by myself.

I won't go as fast as my last half, but that's to be expected cause the courses are so different. Yesterday we held an average of 17.6 mph. Busso worked out to about 18mph. I'd be really happy to hold around 17.

But then there's the run. I did a 45 minute run off the bike yesterday. And it didn't hurt as much as the 30 minutes last week, but it still felt hard, and that's not even half of the distance that I actually have to do. I haven't done any long runs. Everything has been focused on not aggravating injury. It feels a lot like Noosa two years ago, when my shins were so bad I pretty much didn't run before the race, and it killed me mentally. I need to come up with some sort of mantra to get me through it.

Predictions for this year:

  • 30 minute swim (that's 2 min faster than last year which seems fast, but I'm feeling more confident in pushing it in the swim)
  • 3:20 bike (20 minutes slower, but it is 2 miles longer and not deadflat)
  • 2 hour run (no idea if this is reasonable)
That puts me at 5:50 before transitions. Add 10 minutes for transitions (this year I really need to hydrate better). And we're looking at a 6 hour half. It's a little disappointing to think this year's half will be a good deal slower than last years, despite feeling fitter, but I need to set reasonable expectations.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mooseman Recon or "I'll see you at the top"

My first race of the season is just 2 weeks away: the Mooseman Olympic distance. This weekend my team went up to Bristol, NH for the day to try out the race course. I rode the Olympic course twice to get in a nice 54 mile ride and followed that up with a painful (though not in the usual spots- shins felt ok) 30 minute run. Here's what I learned:

  • This course is awesome. Rollers immediately, followed by the "Rhythm Section" (relatively flat, but bumpy roads), then undulating newly paved highway, and finally more rollers.
  • There is one BIG hill aka "Devil Hill" but it's short, so yeah, you've gotta go in your granny gear, but it's only for a minute or two
  • Trying to find landmarks to identify hills that I'll need to downshift on was hard. OK, after the cabin with the boat in the front yard, or how about the summer camp, or maybe the boulders. Oh hell. In the end I think I'll just downshift when the hills look big.
  • I don't go fast downhill. My coach joked that I needed to put on a little more weight, but honestly, it's not the weight, it's the brakes that slow me down. I just get nervous. Repeatedly on Saturday, I'd get dropped as people sped past me on the downhill, only to catch back up on the uphill. I guess that's a good thing.
  • As the morning progressed more riders showed up which gave the course much more of a race feel with people to pass/ be passed by. I felt good going into the last 20 miles, so I pushed it and averaged 17.1 for both loops. Nice.
  • I'm now wondering about my half ironman (in 4 weeks). If the course is not truly dead flat, like Busso, and is more similar to this course, maybe I will be able to really "race" on the bike and not just hold pace. The question is how hard can I go on the bike and still finish the run.

Monday, May 17, 2010

M.O.M.'s 5K 2010: Race Report

I would have done this report much sooner, but I've been waiting for picts to be posted. Unfortunately, it looks like this race didn't have a photographer. I've found these, but there don't seem to be any of me. So you'll just have to imagine what I look like. ;)

I love Mother's Day races. I try to do one every year (or cheer one on if I've, say, just done a half ironman). It just seems like such a great way to celebrate moms. I've never run a 5K with my mom (though I would LOVE to), but since I don't usually get to see my mom on mother's day, I enjoy having that small time to myself to think about my mom.

I started the tradition many years ago (maybe 8 actually) with the M.O.M.'s run in Davis Square. This race is organized by my local massage therapist, and it's always got a great feel to it, very family-friendly, lots of people hanging out for the raffle, Red Bones BBQ and free beer after the race.

This year was a gorgeous day, sunny and bright, but ridiculously windy and around 50 degrees. This makes for a mentally tough race. I got to the start (roughly 4 minutes walk from my house) with about 30 minutes to spare and got my number and bag. I waited til about 10 minutes til the start to go out to warm up. I didn't want to get warm and then cold again. I went for a very short warm up (maybe half a mile) focused on having good form.

Ok, I was feeling ready. I haven't run a 5K since the PR I set in March. I wanted a good time, but I wasn't expecting a new PR. I had done a 3 hour brick the previous day, so I wouldn't say my legs were exactly fresh, and I had 4 hours of riding to pull off after this race. I decided to just run to feel good, and if I felt good, to push it.

There's no chips for the race, so I trust my watch time, more so than the official time. It took a bit of time to get the pack moving to cross the start line. Almost immediately, my left shoe came untied. Ugh, why couldn't it have come undone during the warm up. Isn't that what it's for? To stop or not to stop? Well at this point, I still had 3 miles to go. Seemed like the 10 seconds I would lose to tie it, would be much better than taking a spill. So I took a look up at the people just ahead of me to get a sense of where I was in the pack, and I pulled to the side to retie.

To my surprise, it didn't take much time to catch back up. I saw Brenda who trains with my team and had recently finished the Boston Marathon. In fact I think this was her first run since then, and it was the day after her birthday, so the reality is, she's a much faster runner than I am, but given circumstances I caught her. We chatted a little bit, then pushed eachother. And finally, I dropped her.

The course was a bit different to years prior. We run up highland and back down summer. This means that there are essentially two hills instead of the one (up summer, down elm) of previous years. I made the turn onto vinal for the first downhill, and it felt great, but I got passed back by another girl I had just passed. This would never do. As we turned onto Summer, just passed the halfway mark, I passed her back.

I set my sights on a few people ahead of me for the uphill, but they were pretty consistent. A few runners I closed in on, but then could never catch. That hill on Summer was pretty lonely. Just coming over the top I finally passed one of them. Now we were into the last half mile, and I just wanted to be done. But I was also running into the wind now. I tried to put on the last of what I had left and caught two more people on the way to the finish line, but came in with an official time of 24:03.

It was a little disappointing to see the clock tick over to the 24th minute since my last race was solidly in the 23s. But my watch had me timed at 23:52, which I think was more accurate. And that gave me 14 seconds slower than my last race. Now if we account for the tying of the shoe, and the hills (the last race was nearly dead flat), it actually seems like a race I was pretty on par with. I came in 6 out of 63 in my age group (12 seconds behind 5th place, 17 out of 4th, and nearly a minute out of 3rd), 82nd overall out of 360. A little better than I'd fared at the last race (6/68 and 121/460).

Overall, a very promising race. Hopefully, with a little luck on the injury front, I'll be able to keep pulling down this sort of race.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Old injuries are new again

My second season doing triathlon I started getting pain on the outside of my knee. I tried stretching and icing it, I started wearing a compression brace, and I cut back my training. But nothing seemed to work. Then one night, after some vigorous stretching, I awoke in the middle of the night to find my knee roughly the size of a cantaloupe (or rock melon, if that's your preference).

I went to the doc. They x-rayed it, they mri-ed it, and the verdict was to take some prescription NSAIDs and leave it alone for 6 weeks. It still hadn't recovered, so I went to 6 weeks of PT, which I was also not very impressed with. We did some very gentle exercises to strengthen the inside of my knee, and after 12 weeks, it seemed to have calmed down.

I know a lot more about the injury now, and I realize it was actually ITB syndrome which was putting pressure on my knee and causing it to rub. And with all the shin issues my running created over the last two years, I haven't really had to deal with it again.

Until about 4 weeks ago. I noticed after strength training that my ITB was tight, but after a few days of foam rolling it subsided. The following week it was back again, but this time, the following day I had the pain in my knee again. Bugger. More rolling.

And this is where I should probably establish that I am up for just about any sort of crazy treatment that the internet can throw at me. Since I started triathloning, I've submitted myself to being stabbed (accupuncture), having giant hickies (cupping), table-clutchingly painful massage directly into the injury, and essentially finding my funny-bone in my legs (fascial stretching from a man I usually refer to as "the witch doctor"). I've also tried nasal irrigation, but that's not related to my running injuries (though I really believe it works). Basically, if some one promised to make my leg injuries subside through massaging my aura or sitting in post-race porta potties on a warm day, I would do it (and probably pay $90 for the pleasure).

My coach suggested I go see the team chiropractor. So on a Thursday after another session of strength training, I went to see him for the first time. He does a combination of Active Release Therapy, which is targeted massage meant to break up the adhesions in and between muscles, and Graston Treatment, which is essentially ironing out the muscle with a butter knife. The Graston results in some pretty serious bruising. The first treatment goes well. I go back the following Tuesday after a strength workout of my own and before a track practice. My knee felt good going in, but on Wednesday I've got pain in the top outer part of my calf and stiffness on the inside of my knee. Thursday I go back to strength, and back to the chiro. This time we do some pretty serious work to the inside of my knee and it's the most painful treatment I've had and by Thursday night my knee is seriously stiff, like I can't bend it all the way. That night I was supposed to do a run, but upon putting on shorts I discovered my knee was swelling up again.

This is bad, and I start to panic a bit. I've only got 6 weeks til the half. Now is the time to be doing my best volume work. I can't have a swollen knee. I run my knee through the GameReady (a compression and icing machine, which Paul bought for his shoulder and is awesome), and it definitely helps some of the swelling. The following morning I go to swimming and the knee is still a little swollen, but it's better. I talk to my coach about it, she assures me that some localized swelling is normal after an intensive treatment. And this helps quell the fears.

By Saturday morning things are feeling better. Every now and then I take a step that just feels like my knee is not quite in the joint the right way, but for the most part it's better. I go ahead and do a brick with 2:20 of biking and 40 min of running, and things feel pretty good. Sunday I run my mother's day 5K and follow up with a 58 mile ride (in some serious wind).

I had a bit more Graston yesterday on the ITB, and on the inside of the knee as well. Still a little swelling, but I rode this morning and things seems to be ok.

But that's just it. I can't really tell what's been the culprit here. Is it the strength training that's causing the dramas in my knee, the increased volume or the treatment? And if it is the treatment, is the cure worse than the disease, or will it result in improvements in the long term.

I'm traveling this weekend, so I will only be able to get in a long run while I'm away, which I hope will give the knee the rest it needs to recover from all the stuff I've been throwing at it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Best (and Healthiest) Stew Ever!

I like making one big meal on a week night and having a few days worth of leftovers to bring in for lunch. Besides chili, I didn't have much in my repertoire that met this criterion. Enter the Best and Healthiest Stew Ever.

Last summer when we were part of the farm share, we got a ton of kale at the beginning of the summer, so after I confirmed with my gardener sister that the leafy substance was indeed kale, I got to work exploring kale recipes. There are several variations of a kale, white bean and sausage tuscan soup online. I started with this one. But, well, all that sausage made for a pretty greasy soup.

I substituted ground turkey for the sausage. Now that makes it way less greasy, but also significantly less tasty, and that would never do. A little more googling on spices that go into various sausages, and I settled on adding fennel seeds, rosemary, cumin and ground sage along with fresh garlic to recreate some of the flavor. I also found that getting "italian" ground turkey (i.e., turkey with red pepper flake and oregano ground into it) helped make up for the lack of sausage and reduced the need for a bouillon cube.

The other thing that seemed absolutely necessary was the Parmesan rind. Apparently, you can buy a whole tub of rinds at the grocery store (though you have to freeze them right away otherwise they mold). The rind just seems to make the whole thing a bunch richer.

Here's the new recipe:
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1lb Italian ground turkey
Ground sage, fennel seeds, rosemary, cumin (I measured these out the first time, but now I just guess)
1 can of cannellini beans
1 can of water (from the beans)
2 pieces of parmesan rind
1 C of chopped carrots
1 bunch of kale, chopped

Sautee onion and garlic til translucent over medium heat, add turkey and spices, brown until turkey is cooked through. Add cannellini beans and an additional can of water. Add parmesan rind. Toss in carrots. Let stew for 20 minutes. Add in kale, stew another 10 to 20 minutes. Remove rind. Enjoy with a little fresh grated parmesan.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Living in Australia, even in the rainy parts, you become much more aware of your water consumption. Shower timers are common. I was scolded by friends for leaving the tap running while washing the dishes. Washing of cars or watering of lawns with anything other than rain water is a huge no-no. It's like living on a boat. But, back in Boston, I've gotten reacquainted with my laissez-faire water usage attitude.

I had friends from oz in town this weekend, and I bragged to them about being able to take as long a shower as they liked. Not an hour later and announcements start coming that there's a massive water main break in Boston, that we're on the back-up water supply, and that we're to conserve and boil water before drinking. The irony is clear, and my immediate reaction is thirst.

I take for granted having safe drinking water. An emergency like this makes you aware of the modern conveniences that you don't even think about. Now most residents of the greater Boston area know that Cambridge is on an entirely separate water source (and has been unaffected by the break). Many local restaurants just closed rather than risk using contaminated water; others charged restaurants for the bottled water they served instead. It's pretty amazing the ripple effect (pun intended) this has had on the community.

In our house, our largest pot is the dutch oven. Unfortunately, it's a well-seasoned pot, that we use frequently for chili. Our drinking water has hints of cumin, capsicum and cinnamon.

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