Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I've hit the Wall

   Well let's be honest... I hit the wall a LONG time ago... Actually I am pretty sure I started up against the wall from the very beginning! It's getting so close to the marathon, less than 2 weeks and I am feeling utterly unprepared!  Yes I know, you are all probably thinking, how is that possible... But my training this season had a few flaws.  I never seemed to figure out a rhythmn and have a consistent work out time.  I hate making excuses for myself but these are the valid reasons:

    1.Work -  At the beginning of the summer right when training was starting, work got crazy busy, so much so that I was given "unlimited" overtime.  While that sounds exciting when you are getting paid hourly, it ended up sucking up my summer.  For almost 2 whole months I worked from 6am until 7 or 7:30 each night.  The one night I got home at almost 8pm, ate dinner and cried... I know, I know pathetic, but when you are at work more than not and can't even see a ray of sunshine other than the 30 minute lunch break, it begins to wear on you.  By friday I was exhausted and it became the big joke in the family that I would come home, take a nap, eat dinner and then go back to bed by 9pm!  I'm 23 years old, I shouldn't be going to bed at 9pm on a friday night.  Saturdays became my bust your butt workout because I rarely could manage the energy to crank out a 3 mile run during the week.  And bust my butt I did!  Then Sundays I would head back to work and put in atleast a 4 hour work day! 

    2. My Triathlons - While training for the triathlons has been AWESOME and a great way for me to break up the monotony of running.  The races on the weekends often cut in to the long training runs on the weekends.  I raced in three triathlons this season,  with 2 of them just 2 weeks apart.  It was fine though, I planned the training around the races.  What I didn't take into account was #3...

    3.  Getting Sick! - Everything I have read, says that athletes, especially runners and triathletes are more likely to get sick after a race than not to.  After my Chicago Triathlon, I was extremely drained, probably because of my stupid water debacle (Don't remember?  Relive my disaster here).  But I got a horrible head coldand by the following weekend I was out of commission, I even skipped out on a family party and laid on the couch all day!  I think I even had a fever, but I was too comfy on the couch to care enough to take it.  I was concerned, so I took care of myself as best I could and then I raced in the Lake Geneva Tri, and it rained for the whole thing!  Yeah... so much for getting better...  So needless to say I have been fighting off another pretty bad cold... its amazing how a cold can really knock you on your butt like that!

     4.  Other Obligations -  I swear every time I was going to do a long run, something would unexpectedly come up that I have no control over and I wouldn't get a long run in.  Or even the rain!  Last weekend I wanted to get in my 20 mile run and so I started running with my Dad outside, three miles in and it was lightening and thundering... yeah I want to run but I also want to LIVE!  Thank goodness I have a gym membership, I went to the gym and ended up running 13 miles on the treadmill... Any runner knows how horrible it is to run that distance on a treadmill.  But I was on a strict timeline and so 16 miles is all that I managed to get in...

   So 16 miles is the farthest I have made it in my marathon training.  And I just got back from a training run... 3 miles and I felt like CRAP!  I'm sincerely hoping that it just happened to be a bad running day...I know I can do it... Just not feeling it today...  I'm hoping that my overall fitness will carry me through!

Unmotivated and Concerned but Determined and Stubborn!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hot Mess that is my knee!!

  It's no secret that I struggle with some pretty serious knee pain fairly often.  It all started on that fateful Chicago marathon day 2 years ago.  About mile 16 or 17, I suddenly had excruiating knee pain.  It hurt to walk, let alone run.  I was in tears, crying while runners all around me kept treking on! How was this possible? I did all the training, my pace was perfect, I was on target to finish in about 4 hours, pretty impressive since I was new to the whole running thing.  The last 10 miles was a pathetic attempt at finishing the race, thankfully I got a huge boost when I finally saw my family at mile 23!  My little sister jumped in and basically dragged me across the finish line!  I was exstatic that I finished but devestated when I discovered my time was 5:18!  I hobbled around for months!  I went to 2 different Drs, had xrays and MRIs and the Doctors couldn't figure out what was the problem.  I was crushed!  How could they not find something, I wasn't making it up, the pain was real!  So instead they gave me this horrific knee brace and pain killers.  I HATE meds unless absolutely necessary, so I took them for about a day and just dealt with the pain.  THe internet is an amazing thing and so after doing some research my parents and I decided that I hurt my IT Band, seems pretty dang common in runners.  So now I was on a mission to get my knee stronger, a PT (Personal Trainer) at my Mom's gym suggested a foam roll. So I started using that regularly and was ecstatic when I could finally start running again.

  Marathon 2 came around with me having every intention of dominating Chicago without an injury and getting that time I deserve!  But as fate would have it... my knee and lower back were killing me through training.  I wasn't even going to run but My Dad was running it and we had trained a lot together so i toughed it out.  Bad call on my part, while I didn't end in as much pain, the pain started much earlier in the race, causing my finish time to be about 30 seconds faster! CRAP!  Again I was devestated and cried a LOT when I saw my Dad past the finish line.  It wasn't that he had finished before me, because I really don't care about that but it was more that I was in a TON of pain again.  I told my parents that they could not allow or let me register for the Chicago Marathon this year... and here we are again... yeah they did a really good job! ;)
   This year, I have been determined to stay injury free, no matter how long/slow this marathon takes... yeah.. easier said than done!  I got into triathlons hoping that it would be a good way to do some cross training and keep me strong!  So far I have been feeling pretty strong, there is still the knee pain but not as bad as it has been.   This week I joined the gym and it's the first time I have run on a treadmill in over a year.  My knee was slightly bothering me but no big deal.  On Saturday I had to do my long run, I wanted to do 18-20 miles.  The morning was overcast, three miles in and it started rhundering and lightening! NOOO! What was I going to do? What a second....I now have a gym membership, that's the solution! 
   Since I had to do such a long run, I decided to grab my knee brace (which I am "supposed" to wear whenever I run) and I hopped on the treadmill.  About an hour in to my run on the treadmill, a PT came up to me and we started chatting.  He said that he had noticed that I came up with a knee brace on... great... I was hoping people wouldn't notice...  He asked about my knee pain so I told him a very little bit about it.  So he said he'd bet his life that I have Patellofemoral Syndrome... Say what?!  Or commonly known as Runner's knee.  I have no idea what that means but Runner's knee.. ok sure... So he said he didn't want to disrupt my run, as I awkwardly just kept running while he was chatting with me, but that he would like to do an assessment on me after I was done running.  Ok... sure...

  So I finished my run, I was sort of on a time crunch because I was going down to ISU for Saturday night and I was picking up a friend, so I only was able to crank out 15 miles.  But I found the PT and all he wanted me to do was squats... how squats would show him anything, I had no idea!  But I did the first squat and my bad knee gave out and I almost fell on my butt... yeah, pretty embarassing!  I tried correcting it and he told me to just let my body do what it wants while doing the squat, not to try to correct it..  So I did a grand total of 15 - 20 squats. 

    Here comes the shocking part:  He said that I was absolutely correct that IT Band is SUPER tight.  He said that I have a muscular imbalance, that my calves and my IT Band is really tight but my adductors (inner thighs) and my tear drop muscle is really weak.  Because my tear drop muscle is so weak and my ITB is so strong when I run my knee collapses and causes the pain.    He also said that he thinks I have weak inner lower core muscles which can often cause lower back pain... yep, by this time I was speachless... I hadn't even told him about my back problems! What is he doing, reading my mind!?  He also said that my shoulder muscles are really tight which causes me to slouch, especially after a long workout, run or a long day! What is the world?! How could he possibly have figured this out from 20 squats!?!?
    Needless to say I am ecstatic to be able to get to the bottom of these problems, probably too late to salvage this marathon but... if I fix these problem areas.. Hello Ironman!

   Sorry for the ramblings, Im just ecstatic that after multiple Drs, xrays, MRIs, Chiropractic care, etc I might have found someone who can give me solid answers to my problems and help me fix them! WOOHOO!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow...

  Well I guess in this case, it isn't real parting as much as an ending... An ending to my first season of Triathlons!  Sure I could continue to do some tris through the winter months, but that would require me to head out to other States.  So here's my summary of my tris and what I have learned and need to improve for next season.

    My three tris were The Naperville Women's triathlon, the Chicago triathlon and the Lake Geneva triathlon.  Each one was different in its own way and a great experience.  The Women's Tri was a perfect first triathlon because I was in a wave of the youngest group of girls, most of us had never done a triathlon yet and so we were told that we are the "Future" of triathlons!  Pretty sweet to think about!  I was also truly inspired by all the Women that competed in this event, especially the Women in the Triumph category, they are the women who were either survivors of Ovarian Cancer or were still fighting for their lives.  They were truly amazing to watch, showing that they were not about to give up and that this is something that they are going to conquer!

   The Chicago Triathlon was amazing just because of the sheer number of triathletes!  All different skill levels, all in Chicago to challenge themselves physically and mentally.  There is something so cool about doing a race in Chicago, being able to swim in Lake Michigan and having the skyline constantly in your view.  It was also pretty sweet to be able to ride on Lake Shore Drive!

   The Lake Geneva Triathlon was tons of fun because being able to do it with my Dad and all of the VCS Tri team representation!  It is nice knowing that there are people around constantly cheering each other on.  It was an extremely hilly course and rainy but all in all, a great experience! 

 So what have I learned in my first triathlon season?
    1.  I am I terrified of my bike, especially when it is wet... definitely something I need to work on... and in my defense I have only had a road bike for a dew months.  Its a big difference from my previous Mountain bike!
    2. I love to swim!  As a kid, I always enjoyed swimming, but it is only this past summer that I really realized how much I enjoy swimming distances!  I look forward to being able to work on my swim in the future!
   3. I can conquer anything with determination, perseverance and most importantly the support of my family and friends!

  I'd like to say a Special Thanks to my VCS Tri-team for being so supportive and putting up with my silly newbie questions.  I know that had I not joined the team, I would not have completed any tris this year, so I am so grateful for their camaraderie and support! I look forward to many more seasons!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lake Geneva Triathlon!

    Saturday was my last triathlon of the season, and I have to say I am quite distraught! :(  I had no idea that I would enjoy triathlons so much!!!  This triathlon was in Lake Geneva, and originally it was going to be my first triathlon ever.  My cousin and I were going to do it together, but once I joined the VCS Tri Team, I was quickly encouraged to have more than one race on my tri radar for the season, and I am SO glad I did.  My first one, the Naperville Women's Tri (which is a perfect first tri for any woman getting into Tris), followed by the Chicago Triathlon 2 weeks ago and then Lake Geneva on Saturday. 
    After doing the Chicago Triathlon I very seriously contemplated going backwards and going back down to the Sprint distance, as opposed to doing another Olympic Distance.  But it just didn't seem right to do that, so I signed up for the Olympic, knowing that I could atleast complete it, even if I didn't get close to my time goal!  The weather forcast all week long predicted rain and Thunderstorms and I kept my fingers crossed hoping that the Weathermen were all wrong.  So on Friday my Dad (who also raced), my brother (who was a great spectator) and I all made the trek up to Lake Geneva and met up with my Cousin Michael, his wife and their adorable Baby.  We went to the Expo, which is probably the smallest "expo" I have ever been to, we listened to the Course talk and at no point did they even discuss the horrible weather our way, kind of odd...  Then we went back to my grandparents cottage in Pell Lake to spend the night rather than coming back to Chicago or getting a Hotel room.  I was definitely in semi-panic mode because it wasn't even 70 degrees on Friday, it was windy and overcast... the storm was on it's way!
   Saturday morning, of course came WAY earlier than I ever like, but that's how these races go!  We made our way over to transition at about 5am.  We were standing in line waiting to get into transition and get our body markings when it started pouring rain!  NOOOO.... Of course the Sharpie markers do not work in the rain, so we didn't even end up getting our body markings, so instead we were told "Just don't loose any body parts!" Ha! I certainly didn't plan to!
   We quickly ran into transition and threw on some rain gear to try and stay as dry as possible.  At this point I am already shivering and my teeth are chattering! Great...already a bad omen since I didn't have a wetsuit.  Thankfully it only poured for a little bit.  It was getting close to the start time, so my cousin and I who were doing the Olympic distance quickly got ready and bid goodbye to my Dad (he registered for the Supersprint and was going to do the Supersprint swim and then join me and do the Olympic Bike and Run with me) and my Cousin's friend who was doing the Sprint distance.
   I think I could count on one hand the number of people that weren't in wetsuits, of course I was one of them!  So I gritted my teeth and prepared to enter the water!  HOLY COW!  The water was way warmer than standing on the shore waiting to go in.  I had a great swim and felt very strong, by the time I got back, my Dad was still standing in transition by our bikes with his poncho still on!  I was shocked that he was already done and waiting for me... ohh but wait, he still hadn't even gone for a swim!  So he decided to blow off the swim and head out on the bike with me.  Thankfully it wasn't really raining at this point, just drizzling.  My cousin showed up in transition about 2 minutes after I finished my swim.
   Now anyone that knows me, knows that I am terrified of the bike, especially when it is slick out.  All because of my wipeout a few months ago... boo!   Within the first few miles, we had to cross train tracks, but by the time we had gotten there, someone had already wiped out and was laying on the side holding his head in the grass.  They had called an ambulance and there was a nurse on a bike behind me, who hopped off to see if she could help at all.  Because of this man's wipeout, they were making all of us dismount and walk over the tracks, I was fine with doing that!  The rest of the bike course was really hilly and it never failed there was always a turn at the bottom of a downhill!  Talk about tricky, considering our bikes were really wet and the breaks don't work so well when wet!  My Dad LOVED the downhills and did whatever he could to really get going, I on the other had was a little more reserved... About 1 mile out, from transition, it started to downpour and I mean DOWNPOUR!  Now naturally the last leg of the bike course is this really large downhill, under normal circumstances it would have been an awesome down hill... yeah not the case!  At the bottom of the downhill, we had to turn into a single car lane to get into transition.  No matter how hard I gripped my breaks, I wasn't slowing down, people are shouting for all of us to slow down.  I wanted to shout right back and tell them to try it and then let me know how it goes for them, but I refrained! :) In order to avoid a crash at the bottom, I had to swerve into the other lane, where cars could technically be... but I survived!  I do have to say, my wrists really hurt today and the only think I can think it that I was holding onto my bike so tightly thinking that the tighter I held on, the less likely I was to fall... I know, weird logic...
   Then we got into transition, dropped off our bike and headed out on the run.  The run was by far the hilliest course I have EVER run!  It was crazy!  There is one hill that they call "Killer Hill", umm... yeah I understand why it get's its name!  But we survived the run... As a rule, I always sprint into the finish line, whatever that means at the end of any race!  However, I failed to mention that to my Dad, and I just took off!  My Dad, quickly matched my pace so that we were right there next to each other crossing the finish line!  Right by the finish line, were members of my Tri team who cheered me on! I gave them a High Five and ran through the finish! Another successful triathlon completed!
   My official time was 3:15:10, which means I shaved off 30 minutes from my Chicago Triathlon time! YAY!!! I'm pretty excited about that!