A Rant and a Bet

Yesterday I indicated I'd write about resolutions for the new year.  But I need to rant first for just a second. Sometimes I just don't know which expert to listen to when it comes to keeping me healthy and strong.  Does that ever happen to you?  I've got workouts from Coach Gerardo.  I've got a carefully crafted strength-building regimen from the Shan Clan.  I've got a set of exercises to do from my ART therapist, Dr. Ben.  I've been going to a deep stretch yoga class where the instructor showed me one set of exercises for hip openers and today I went to another yoga class where the instructor told me essentially the opposite of what the Shan Clan and Dr. Ben were advising.

Who the heck am I supposed to listen to!?!?!

Today's conflicting advice came courtesy of a well-intentioned instructor teaching an Anasura-based mixed-level flow class.  I came into class fresh off my first run in two weeks, a stride-counting exercise where I was tasked with 30+ strides in 20 seconds on a slight hill.  The good news is that my left leg and hip held up fine.  The bad news is that towards the end of my run, I felt a twinge in my right psoas area (where the hip seems to meet the groin) and on the outside of my right knee.  I hadn't even been running 30 minutes.

I told the yoga instructor of my troubles and she paid special attention to me in class, adjusting me regularly in poses I thought I knew well.  It was a humbling but informative experience. But the surprising part came towards the end of class when she told me I needed to stop "clenching my butt" so much in yoga poses and relax more in the glutes.

I've been called a tight ass before, but never quite like that.

What I couldn't understand was why I was being told to do exercises like bridge pose or glute exercises where that's precisely the goal.  So I asked the instructor, and her eyes widened.

"That's the WORST exercise you could be doing for yourself!" she whisper-exclaimed, trying not to disturb the peacefulness of the flow.  "That's exactly why your psoas muscles are as tight as they are!"

Now I'm totally confused.  Has this ever happened to you?  Whose advice should be considered more "expert" than the other experts???  Normally I'd say my coach, but he's not a yoga instructor, nor an ART therapist.

Some days, I can't help but just let out a big sigh at the end of my training day.


OK, rant over.

On to the annual empty-promise exercise known as The New Year's Resolution.

I was thinking of generic resolutions (e.g., "spend more time volunteering,") when I read this blog post from "In Over Your Head" (Julien Smith) that my father forwarded to me.  I highly recommend you take a minute to read it too.  The short version: Treat your resolutions like bets.  "This past New Year, you probably had an opportunity to make a bet with yourself. You may see it as a resolution, but that’s not actually what it is. It is a bet, and if you lose, you will actually be worse off than you were before. The opportunity will be gone, and you will have less hope about being able to change. You will have lost the bet, and you should treat it that way."

This really changes how I look at resolutions.  I will take them more seriously moving forward.  If I'm going to say it, there needs to be real skin in the game, so to speak.

After reading that post, I promptly found a Post-It note and wrote the following: "Break 12:00:00 at Coeur d'Alene."  It now sits smack in the center of my bathroom.  Soon there's not going to be any room to see myself on that mirror!

I know how risky this bet is.  I know I'm behind in my training.  I know I'm listening to several masters right now telling me how to restore my health.  But I'm still going to bet myself I can break 12 hours at IM CDA.  And I'm making my bet public.  Let's see what happens.

I'm also going to bet myself that I can volunteer at least nine times this year.  It may seem low, but considering how little I've done in the past it's a huge jump.  My bet  allows me to pick something almost monthly while leaving big "milestone" months alone if need-be (e.g., June (IM CDA), August (wedding), and September (honeymoon)).

What are you going to bet this year?

169 days and counting.

Red Zone

I'm not sure how many of you use Training Peaks as your online training tracker.  The thing I'm really addicted to with it is the color-shading for each workout. It's simple, green for completed as scheduled, yellow for either slightly over or under on the scheduling, and red for an incomplete workout or something way beyond what was required.  Call me a creature of habit, call me old school, call me Pavlovian, but I NEED that green shading after each workout.  It makes each workout real, tangible. An all "green" week for me is a happy week.  A productive week.  A successful week. Those yellow (unless it's to symbolize more work) and red shades, they gnaw at me.  I view them the way my family viewed B's on school report cards amidst a string of A's, "What happened with the B?" Arrrgh!  Really???

So you can imagine how I feel now when I log into Training Peaks and have to ignore any running workout for the next two weeks and any cycling activity for the next week.  The latter is Coach Gerardo's order and the former is my ART specialist's suggestion.

There's gonna be a whole lot of bleeding read staring me in the face the next few weeks.  I hope I can handle it!  It's like bringing home a report card filled with D's and F's!!!

How will I live???

(Yes, I have a touch for the dramatic.)

Here's why though.  This morning marked my second ART appointment, and my therapist really worked deep into my hips and psoas region (connector between hip, IT band and what feels like my abdomen area).  He identified what he clearly thinks the problem is for now, extremely tight hips and weak glute muscles that are combining to severely limit my range of motion.  Ironman Arizona and the final training that led up to the race are likely causes.  Along with what I can only describe as an ill-informed, ill-thought out and overly aggressive recovery period.  A "recovery" period that isn't making me better, but probably exacerbating the problem(s).  Compounding them, or just POUNDING them.

I feel like I've wasted the past four-plus weeks since IMAZ with inconsistent workouts that have either been too long (first trail run), too strenuous (two-hour trail run in the rain?), or too unnecessary (yesterday's two-hour rainy bike ride).  What I haven't done enough of is yoga or basic strength training, and it shows.

Today though, after my ART session, I went back to Black Dog Yoga for a Deep Stretch class with Gerardo and a couple Fortius teammates.  Though it will be hard with the holiday schedule, I'm hoping to live in the yoga studio the next couple weeks, waiting patiently to get my groove back.  I'm going to have to trust that slower (or non-existent) will ultimately lead to faster and smoother.

Lately, I've been writing about committing to recovery but not really practicing it.  Today, I finally come to terms with it. Yes, I know I've been wishy-washy.  That's my brain and heart winning out over my body.  Now that I know clinically what my physical ailments are, I'm ready to accept the "red zone" and move back towards the green one.

Hopefully by the time I'm fully recovered, I'll add one more adjective to describing my "green" workouts: Gratifying.

181 days and counting.

Bad Luck Monday

There are certain days when the best thing to do is stay in bed.  Avoid showers.  Avoid going to the bathroom.  In other words, for better or worse, don't move.  And for heaven's sakes, don't train! That best describes my past 24 hours.  I've been attacked by a series of silly bad luck papercuts, adding up to one bizarre day:

-- I spilled a bottle filled with Accelerade in my gym bag last night, likely ruining the camera that has taken most of the photos you've seen in this blog.

-- Earlier today, I took an involuntary shower when the lid to another water bottle wasn't secured tightly enough as I tilted it down towards my face.

-- I had a problem with the condo at home this morning that required me to stay there until the early afternoon.

-- On the way into the office today, I ordered lunch from my local Baja Fresh.  The same spot I go practically every week once if not twice.  I order the same thing for the most part, alternating between burrito plate, taco plate and fajita plate.  Today, for the first time in the years I've gone there, they screwed up the order -- loading my burrito up with sour cream.  Which, of course, I encountered the hard way.  I HATE sour cream.

Fortunately, today is a recovery day from training.  Not much can go wrong with an easy spin on the trainer (which went off without a hitch, thankfully) and a yoga session (still to come, fingers and legs crossed!).  I'm actually doing yoga at home tonight since I think I'm done venturing outside for one day.

I can't believe I'm here in one piece still!

Tomorrow and Wednesday it's supposed to rain.  Maybe it's a sign that I should continue to stay indoors and ride the spin bike or trainer. Only time will tell, unless the power goes out on my alarm clock.  At this pace, I better not joke about it!

32 days and counting.

Well-Deserved Recovery

No big workouts to report today, not after this past weekend's mash-fest.  Instead I took care of myself with an early evening yoga class that left me dripping with sweat (still can't get that hand-stand!) followed by a long massage with David from LA Body Mechanics.  While the yoga class at Black Dog was a little more than I bargained for, the massage helped me drain the rest of the pain from my body.  Not without a fight though. My glutes, quads, adductors, calves and lower back were quite sore, though David said overall my body right now is in great shape.  That's reassuring given the intensity of the past few weeks and my lack of stretching. Turning away from my body for a moment, my real focus the next few days is going to be on the weather.  When we get a big shift like the one we've had in Southern California -- 90 degrees one day and rain the next -- my immune system goes straight down the toilet and I usually get pretty sick.  I'm hoping that all the training hasn't left me winded and incapable of fighting off another cold.  This leaves me torn as tomorrow morning I should have a long bike ride before work.  If it's rainy, damp and cold, I'll probably stay indoors and ride on the trainer for nearly two hours.  That could wreak havoc on my butt though, as I'm starting to get saddle sores.  I know, not the sexiest subject, but if you're sticking with me from the beginning of my training you should know the truth.

Ironman hurts.


At this point in the training, expect to wake up in the middle of the night to eat.  Expect sores in uncomfortable places.  Expect to need food in the middle of work meetings or risk getting a headache.  And expect to need food soon after eating a hearty meal.  Expect to be sore in one place or another all the time.  Expect to pay for massage work every two to three weeks with two months to go until the race.  (I'm on a schedule with David now.)

And expect to be antsy to work out when you've had a couple light training days.  For all the bitching and whining about the training, it's addictive.

So while I'm recovering today, I'm already thinking about tomorrow.  And despite the volume of this past weekend, I feel pretty good.

Progress.  Every day a step closer to the final goal.  Every day a slight new victory. A new insight.  But it requires doing the extra work.

47 days and counting.

Monday Blahs

The battle for control over my body is in full swing.  So far, it's a draw between the Germs and Immune System. Of course, I did use a performance-enhancing drug last night to aid in the fight: NyQuil.  That stuff is brutal!  At first, I was chattier than Joan Rivers on the red carpet.  Then, BOOM!  I felt like my legs and arms were anchored to the covers while my brain floated away like an inflated balloon.  Unfortunately, the sharp pain in my throat woke me up enough to remind me of my whereabouts.

Today, I've gone through waves of feeling healthy and waves of being hot, sore and sick.  There's pressure behind my eyes as I write this.  The good news is that I'm spitting out all sorts of mucus, and none of it is of the gross, brown/yellow variety.  That has to be a good sign.

I participated in a yoga class earlier and was able to maintain my nasal breathing for the most part, which is also encouraging.  I'm planning to continue my normal volume of training this week until my body indicates otherwise.

Not much to report today.  So I'll cut it short for now.  The quiet joy of an off-day tempered by not feeling 100%.

That about sums it up.  Definitely a case of the Mondays.

67 days and counting.

Monday: Second Best to an Off Day

Triathlon training is the uncommon cure to a common case of "The Mondays." You know The Mondays...the slightly annoying, slightly depressing malaise that sets in after a blissful weekend.  In our case, in the world of the obsessed triathlete, it often consists of a Half Ironman divided over Saturday and and Sunday.  For those less fortunate, it's an emotional hangover or perhaps even a physical one.

But my Mondays are now the second-best thing to a day off in Ironman training.  Today, I spun on my trainer for 45 minutes while catching up on Mad Men.  I'm enjoying this season so far, incidentally.  It's grittier and shaping up to be a little nastier.  And subtly, I think the directors have made a very nice switch from the idyllic nature of the late 50s to the more pressure-filled world of the early 60s.  Camelot clearly has burst.

But that's not what I enjoyed most.  It was the fact that I my coaching itinerary was to stay in heart-rate zone 1 while maintaining a healthy cadence.  This yielded fresher legs, a healthy coating of sweat and the feeling that while I probably didn't gain anything from the workout physically, I still felt relaxed and ready to take on the day.  That's plenty.

The second part of my workout called for either a strength session or yoga.  Not wanting to over-exert myself, I opted for yoga.  Suddenly, Monday evening felt like Sunday evening.  I dare say that while I worked a full day today, it still feels like a three-day weekend.  How often can one say that after still completing nearly two hours of training?

The meat of my 18.5-hour training week begins tomorrow.  I've got a coached track session with Gerardo to improve my stride and a coached swim workout.  Somewhere in between I've got a big day in the office.

In other words, Tuesdays are the new Mondays in the world of the Ironmadman.

96 days and counting.

Week Done!

This week of training, while not particularly hard, left me slightly gasping for the finish.  Maybe it's the long weekend. Maybe it was waking up before 6:30 a.m. three out five weekdays.  Or that Trudy and Bam-Bam are back to wreak havoc on Stephanie's and my sleeping patterns. The more I think about it, I'm probably just a bit more tired than usual because of the mere 12 hours separating the track and swim workouts from this morning's 1.5-hour bike ride at Griffith Park.  I didn't really push it, but by the end of this morning's ride my legs were definitely glad it was time to call it quits.

I'm scheduled for some yoga now, which I'm going to our work gym to complete.  That'll probably restore and refresh me.  Tomorrow, I have an off-day as Steph and I are back on the wedding  venue scouting trail.  Ojai and Los Olivos are on the docket.

I'm looking for some highlights or superlatives to describe today's workout.  Not much comes to mind at all.  It was one of those rides where you find yourself looking at your watch more for a countdown to finishing as much to see how fast you're going or where your heart rate stands.  I know my calf compression sleeves came in handy and reduced what felt like sore and stiff legs when I woke up this morning.

What can I say...some workouts are just more enjoyable than others.  Then again, it was gorgeous out, without a cloud in the sky.  And in a few years, it will be a real privilege to be able to fit in a pre-work bike ride.  So I file this one away to, Don't Take It For Granted!

139 days and counting.

Race Ready

Namaste. My weekend began with a yoga session by myself at home.  As I've mentioned before, solitary yoga truly enables me to gain the mental benefits of yoga as much if not more than the physical.  It takes me to a very calm place that I rarely seem able to access.

I have no one to blame for that besides myself.

All the thinking, analyzing, and speculating never seem to stop unless I actively force the issue.

For 40 minutes tonight, I did.  And, like my Wednesday running lesson from Coach Gerardo, I simply focused on breathing.  As much as I could, at least.

More than the immediate physical and spiritual effects this opened up for me, it reinforced what I need to do this Sunday.  While I'll likely keep the heart rate monitor with me, it'll be more for timing checks on the bike and run, less on heart rate itself.  I'll focus on my breathing.  And hopefully go fast as hell.

For now, I declare myself race ready.

Tomorrow is a day of rest, and packet pickup.  Along with that comes a drive-through of the bike and run course.  After that it's all formulaic -- buy nutrition, lay out the transition bag, clean the bike, grab the necessary accessories (canola oil, anyone?).  Then, we wait.

146 days and counting.

Pain in the Neck

The good news is I don't think I'm sick.  No symptoms of illness today.  No sore throat.  The headache is gone.  No achy bones and joints. The bad news is that my lats and neck are extremely tight.  My back feels rounded by tightness.  My side neck muscles are totally strained. It contributes to a feeling of illness because my entire upper body feels off.

And it's definitely because of my new swim stroke.

At least I know the culprit.

It could be a lot worse. I could have gotten sick.  I may still get sick, for all I know.  But so far, the past couple days have given my legs a chance to heal completely.  I feel fresh from the waist down  I'll be jumping in the pool tomorrow morning and perhaps I can work through the soreness and agitation. Maybe Coach Gerardo can pinpoint what I'm doing that's causing this tension.  Or, maybe I'm doing the stroke right and this is the initial natural by-product. I hope so. And I hope I pick up at least a minute of time from this new mechanical tweak/parlor trick.

Not much else to report from today.  The only "workout" I had, if you can call it that, was a 1.5 hour yoga session at Black Dog.  It was a "gentle yoga" session, perfect for my back and neck but not so good for my fitness level.  However, I feel a touch better in the lats -- not so much in the neck.

By tomorrow, I'll essentially have worked 2.5 hours in three days.  I basically missed roughly 6.5 hours of training.  Will that come back to haunt me this Sunday?  I have no idea.  I do know Gerardo wants me to post a 2:30:00 finish time at the event. That would be 14 minutes faster than my previous best.  I am up for the challenge still, but I doubt it will be good enough to qualify for nationals.  I will fire it up and do my very best though.  That's all I can do.  Bum swim stroke and all.

150 days and counting. And exactly five months from today, I hope to be an Ironman.

Makeshift Yoga Studio

Stephanie and I opened our own yoga studio tonight, Dickens Downward Dog Yoga.

It's located right here in Sherman Oaks, in my bedroom, in fact.

(Yes Dad, you can keep reading.  This is a G-rated blog.)

Steph and I both had a long day and night, yet both of our schedules called for an hour yoga session.  The only way we could make it work was to use a DVD.  Of course, Steph made my room feel just like a yoga studio, complete with dim lighting, candles and music.  All that was missing was incense, which I can live without.

I find that yoga at the end of the day is hard.  Especially before bedtime and about an hour after dinner.  Concentration is low, although relaxation is at its highest.  The DVD, by Mark Blanchard, didn't help.  Both Steph and I were stymied at times by the complexity of the poses.  I had to retreat to Child's Pose a few times and by the end of the workout completely ignored the DVD to work at my own pace with more mellow poses.

Maybe that's the point of yoga.  There's no wrong way to do it.  There's no being overwhelmed.  It's how you respond to the poses being suggested that matters.  Instead of forcing the pose, as is often the case in life, sometimes it's best to simply choose a more comfortable pose altogether.  It's one thing to push outside of a comfort zone.  It's also just as valuable to know when to remain within the friendly confines of comfort.

At 10 p.m. on a Monday night, comfort won out.

There's nothing wrong with that.

"There's nothing wrong with that."

Perhaps that will be the new mantra of our new studio.

I like that sound of that.

Dickens Downward Dog Yoga is closing for the night.


199 days and counting.