Monday, April 30, 2012

NOT on Your Left!

The good, the bad and the ugly!  That about describes my race.  Ali, Ericka and I decided to do the Sheriff's sprint triathlon in Ludlow, MA yesterday.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, except for the temp.  When we left the house it was 26 degrees!  30 for the start! YIKES!  Pool swim, but you still have to go ride your bike WET!

I had a vendetta against this course.  Last time I was LAST, complete with the police escort (that I wanted to punch in the face) she meant well 'you go girl.'  That and they were taking the damn finish line DOWN when I got there.  It wasn't totally my fault though, because they messed up the timing of the swim.  You are assigned a start based on your 300 swim time.  They put me in 12 minute 300??  (I could probably sleep a 12).  Instead of letting us go get in line, they did an entire restart, making me the last 20 to START. Needless to say, that made me LAST on the whole course.

This time, I decided I was NOT going to be last.  I've been training and I'm in better shape (albeit lots fatter) but still.. I had it!

The swim was pretty good, even though I HATE pool swims.  So much outside of your control can happen! Even laughter.. like THIS GUY!  wow he's got hootspa to wear that!

The first 3 laps were good, then the guy behind me passed me, which is cool.  I drafted from him for about 20 yards,  Then of course he slowed down!  UGH  The last lane is pretty small and for some reason was a clog of people.  There was no where to go except swim in this guy's wake.  I definitely lost 15-20 seconds at least from that!

Exit the pool and go get my bike, fine no problems.  It's cold so you have to put more clothes on that normal, that makes T-time longer.  I was right next to the "bike out" so that was nice.  I took off.  Only heard ON YOUR LEFT TWICE!  For real?  I hear "ON YOUR LEFT" every 5 seconds every other race.  I did however, pop my chain on a hill.  I never do that!  Another 20 seconds!

I knew I should push harder, I also wanted to practice my eating, drinking for the longer races.  I slacked a little bit on one of the hills.  In no time, I was back in transition.

I ran to my area, put my shoes on, grabbed my hat and race belt and took off.  Then I looked at the 'RUN OUT' - no mat?  For real? I looked around for another 15 or so seconds. I totally thought I was in the wrong area.  Then I realized they weren't tracking T-times!  grrr.. lost time!

Then to top THAT Off, I set my multi-sport setting wrong on the Garmin.  I went from Other to Bike to BIKE? I am a slave to my speed on the Garmin.  For some reason I can't tell the difference between 15 and 11 min mile!  I finally got it situated after about 2 minutes of fumbling!  grrr...

But, as I ran, people were NOT passing me in droves!  No one 'ON MY LEFT'  WOOHOO!  Maybe 20 people passed me. Amazing!  As I rounded the corner to come back I saw others just starting.  FOR REAL? I wasn't going to be LAST? I was doing a race with OTHERS?  how frickin cool!

I only walked a little bit, I totally shouldn't have either.  They had the water stand at the bottom of this hill.  It was just so easy to take a drink then keep walking up that hill.  DUMB, there was another 30 seconds gone.

I ran the rest of the way, never passing anyone but no one was PASSING ME !   Ericka was waiting, and I knew Ali was just behind me. (To be clear, Ali beat me but started after me lol).

We went and anxiously waited the results.  I was 4th Athena.  Losing by 1:30.  Not only could that have been taken with my dumb mistakes, but ALSO I think there was a timing glitch.  I can only assume that the glitch happened to the other person too so I'm just going to let that go.  I'm so aggravated that I COULD have been 3rd if I choose differently.  Lesson learned, this race will be in my head next time!

Lastly, there is NOTHING like triathlon pictures to motivate you to lose weight!  Good Grief. I'm bigger than last year and man it shows.  Today starts new eating habits, I don't want to see those pics again! (and as honest as I am here, I'm not posting those)!

I have another race in 2 weeks, then a HALF MARATHON in 3 weeks!  YIKES!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

You know you train too much or are addicted to triathlons when....

  • You think 1 workout in a day is a '"DAY OFF"
  • You look forward to the next training session to beat what you did the day before
  • You automatically reach for the pocket in the back of your shirt, even during work hours
  • You smell like chlorine no matter WHAT you do
  • You forget how to drink from a cup, no squeeze top, no workie..
  • You have everything with you to shower at all times
  • You always have 3-4 pair of shoes with you at all times (bike, run, shower, work)
  • You are constantly charging gadgets (ipods, HR monitors, GPS, gopro helmet cam)
  • You check your workout 'stats' 3x a day
  • You own about 7 different kinds of lube (body, bike, etc) and KNOW how to use them
  • You get a weekly massage and it is NOT a relaxing experience
  • You get excited when you see a workout gear sale, but can't figure out when you can get there
  • You offer to 'run' to the hardware store, but then realize you have to carry the items back in your POCKET
  • You have a designated dresser (or room) for your workout / race gear
  • Your bike lives in the living room
  • Your bike is worth more than your car
  • Your house is a disaster
  • You have 3x as much laundry than anyone else in the house
  • Your spouse forgets who you are
  • Your dog forgets who you are
  • The neighbors think you got a divorce because your car is always there, but you aren't

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Monday, April 16, 2012


What better day to write about running than Marathon Monday!  Good luck to everyone running today, it's going to be close to 90 degrees!  You really never know what you're going to get with New England weather!

Today's post has been a long time coming, A friend told me a while ago "I don't know how you can write about this personal stuff, but it's pretty cool." I don't really want to write THIS one because I'm very embarrassed at my run, HOWEVER I know that I will help 2 groups of people:

  • First those that THINK they are slow.. well you can look at me and say "I guess I'm not." 
  • Second: those of you who say you CANNOT do it, that you smoke, you are too heavy, you are not built to run, you can only walk, etc.
Guess what folks? well you CAN do it.  All you have to do is MOVE YOUR FEET!  The only one who cares how FAST you move your feet is YOU!

Here goes the confessional!  I am a consistent swimmer and biker.  Distance is no problem and I don't freak out at a 50 mile ride or a 2 mile swim!  BUT, tell me to run for 20 min and I'm a basket case!

I've done 20ish Triathlons, I love them.  Secret is I tend to walk most of the run! Because of this, I'm almost always last!  In the beginning I hated it being last, but I'm used to it now.  I know I'm doing a good thing by FINISHING, something most people don't even try.

I saw one of these goofy facebook pictures that said "even walking a 5K is better than sitting on the couch" (But I can't find it to post). It is so true.  Move your feet!

I hired a coach this year, thank goodness she does custom training as I am a neophyte in running but pretty consistent in everything else.  She started me out with 10 min runs.  YUP ten minutes.  My pace was a meager 16 min mile.    Sad, embarrassing, pathetic, but it is what it is. I couldn't "RUN" for 10 min, I would WALK in the middle of that 10 minutes.  In prior years I would just focus on the bike and the swim because I hated running so much!

I am not built to run.  Athena body! The girls are D's!  Life's little blessing of "real women have curves" means "real women work a little harder sometimes."  I have many issues that only some of you would understand.  Had to find a comfortable sports bra, instead of wearing two of them!  (BTW I love the Danskin Tankini, people I train with must think I wear the same clothes all the time!)  I must drag my heavy self around to run, so like many I would skip the run's and just keep swimming/biking!

This year I made a decision to do the Providence Half Ironman.  In order to do that I know I need to get my run time under 15 min pace!  Some of you may look at 15 and say "well I can walk faster than that." Yup, most of you can!  Thing is I can't make a giant stride for the walk or it pulls out my hips - SOOO I must actually RUN it at this painfully slow pace.

As I've said before, I could not do any of this without Chi Running.  I try to attend a clinic every year just to check in.  This year I had a really great comment from my running coach, he said my running has improved dramatically .  WOOHOO, it's working, right?

Right now, my RUNNING is getting better, I tend to be in the 13's or 14's. I am VERY VERY happy with this.  I did a 10K on Saturday.  Took 89 minutes, but the 5 K part that was actually a race took 41 minutes.  This is my FASTEST time yet on a 5K.  The training is paying off!

What was pretty sad for me is that I know I'm improving and was so excited to not be at the end.  WELL, 14 min pace is certainly still at the end, so I have to just be ok with competing with myself!  I hated seeing all the runners disappear by .5 miles.  Only the walkers were near me.  Also a very sad thing was having 2 women stay almost with me, but they would would walk then run for a little bit then walk.  Blah! Again, I know where I am and have to be good with it and NOT give up!

I was able to run most of of the 10K.  There's a big hill and I kept saying to myself "you aren't walking until you get there."  I did not!  Also a friend, Tara came running BACK up the hill after me to help me finish.  I think she pushed me a good half a mile pace faster!  She finished first in her age, (something like 21 minutes) and missed first place women by 6 seconds!  This and she says she's "not a runner."

To all of you out there that think you are NOT runners, you can do it. WALK, JOG!  You don't have to compete with everyone out there.  I'm living proof!

I'm psyched each day that I can run further without stopping.  I'm psyched when I look down at my Garmin and see my pace in the 12's!  A 12 is a mighty feat for me!  I will be very happy with that.

And to those of you who think your 9's or 10's are slow? well lookie here, you keep going and only compete with YOURSELF!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Training with a Chronic Illness

Training for any event is time consuming, painful, and tiring, however adding in a chronic illness tips the scales!  Most of you know I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  EDS is a spectrum disorder so it affects everyone differently I will speak to my personal manifestation of it in this post.

It is often difficult for others to understand ‘invisible’ illnesses.  You can look and “Assume” that someone is ok, but you really never know.  I have seen many facebook reposts talking about these invisible illnesses, but no one other than the ones suffering can really understand.   For example, society gets mad at the mom that is letting her ‘bad child run around the store’ – well you didn’t realize that he has Autism.  You hear someone has Crones disease, and you just think “so what’s that? You just have to go the bathroom all the time?”    Or EDS, “oh you can do party tricks, how cool.”

We get blamed for being hypochondriacs, pain killer seeking individuals, or just ‘fakers.’  There was an article in Maxim that just TORE through the EDS community.  They said “5 diseases we’d think it would be cool to have.” Um, ok? How about you don’t wish a disease or disorder on ANYONE?  They eventually retracted the article and posted a link about awareness.   They did not post anything about the other disorders.

Bottom line is it’s not fun to have EDS, it’s not curable but you have to find ways to deal with the body you were given.

You can read about my EDS issues in some of my other posts if you want to know more:

My body is schizophrenic.  I have a strong athlete in here and I also have a weak, cranky, pile of mush.  I have to battle which one gets to come to the surface on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.  I don’t bitch about my pain, because I know there are others out there that are worse.  I am thankful that I can be as active as I am.  I can still walk, work, and function, so it’s a good day!  I am in pain probably 98% of the time, (as most if not all people with EDS are).  I am usually a 2 on the 10 scale all of the time, but sometimes it can get up there!  As you’ve seen in other posts, I’ve done triathlons with Migraines (7 or 8).  Sorry Nike, JUST DO IT!  If I gave in to the ‘mush’ side of my schizophrenia, I would be nothing.

Having a chronic illness means you need to be HYPER-aware of your body.  I have learned to tell the difference between a sublux and a dislocation.  I know what a ‘turned off’ muscle is.  I know specifically when different joints are out of place.  I know when to push and when to sit by and let “Mr. Mush” hang out for a little bit.

I have TEAM LAURA that works with me.  I see a chiropractor 2x a week; a massage therapist once a week,  I have a triathlon coach, a master swim coach, physical therapist, cycling partners, workout partners, EDS support group, cardiologist, primary care physician, rheumatologist,  neurologist, sports medicine orthopedic physician, and a very forgiving husband.  Even though I have TEAM LAURA, I am alone.

Each day presents its struggles.  I get up early (4AM) and hope I don’t have a migraine.  Yes, this is daily.  If I pass the migraine test, the walk down the stairs will tell me what joints may be out of whack  Sometimes I can put them back or I know I can just deal.  For example I have some bones in my feet that lay on top of each other.  I can’t put them back, nor can I walk on them.  If that happens, I have to reconfigure my workouts.  Can I swim instead of running? You can’t just give up and go back to bed, figuring out the contingency is best!

Next, nutrition!  I am still working on this, but many (if not all) people with EDS have some sort of digestive problems or dietary restrictions such as the gluten allergy.  I personally am sensitive to whey protein, and this REALLY puts a damper on any of the pre-made sports nutrition.  It took me a long time to figure out why I would get tight chested.  I have to eat things that won’t bug me, I have to be overly conscience about my fluid intake, and I have to take a million supplements and/or medications.  If you looked at my medicine cabinet you would think an 80 year old lived there!  I take 14 pills a day that I had to put in a DOG pill container so they would fit!  That’s not including any adhoc pain meds, migraine triptans, or asthma meds.  (I have athletic induced asthma, no idea if that’s related to EDS, not that it matters).

Once I determine if I can get out of the house, I embark on my training day.  I had to learn several techniques for each sport so that my entire body was IN LINE.  An EDS body has basically no ligaments. The ligaments are like worn out hair scrunches so the muscles are forced to do all the work.

 I attended a seminar with Coach Al Lyman, and he spoke about the importance of body alignment for ALL athletes.  My thoughts on that are “well duh.” I watch people swim, bike or run and think “MY GOD YOU ARE WASTING ENERGY, you look like a 5 wheeled car.” I have no choice but to watch form in EVERY movement.  He also said that “people aren’t born with IT Band syndrome” – well I kinda was born with it!

My IT band is a source of contention.  It tries to counteract all stabilization for my entire body.  It can get SO tight that I can’t even touch it.  With EDS, you can’t stretch like ‘normal people.’ A normal stretch would pull out joints long before the muscle was stretched, so we have to look to alternate solutions.  I see a massage therapist, use a percussion massager, biofreeze, or just suck it up!

Prior to my EDS diagnosis, I was in physical therapy for what was they said was as ‘hip bursitis’ I discovered that my hips move out of socket no matter WHAT.  Slow deliberate movements would even push them out.  I discovered that with my EDS my hips will NEVER work properly and I need to consciously KEEP them in line.  I have to think about my hips, legs, feet, etc with EVERY step or they will swing out (I look like I’m being sassy).

I work on strength training but it has to be so careful and deliberate.  I cannot do a situp or anything that requires me to pick my head up off the floor.  This causes the vertebrae in my neck to move and causes almost immediate migraines!  I can’t do pushups, or things like downward dog because my wrists are very loose.  I have found modifications to most everything, and continue to work on small incremental strength training.  It sucks because I am stronger than the weights I use.  I was totally embarrassed at a bootcamp once because someone asked “who the hell brought the 3lb weights?” –Sure I can lift more, but it pulls out my elbows before it gets to the bicep!   I’ve learned to live with the funny looks and just do what I know I need to do!  I wish my bones would let my muscles do more, but it is what it is!  I have to learn what WORKS and keep pushing along that line, not the line someone else thinks I should do!

Most people don’t get it, they say things like “well you could do a situp if you just use a towel.” Or “just work up to that 10lb weight.” They don’t understand that it’s the ligaments not the muscles and I have to be super careful if I want to continue down the path of fitness. Even most physical therapists, personal trainers, or even physicians are clueless about EDS.  They think pushing is good.  You REALLY have to know your body!

I have learned the technique of Chi Running.  Let me tell you, this is amazing.  Even if you don’t ‘run’ check it out.  It will help you move without as much effort.  It keeps everything in line and eliminates cramping when you’re doing it right. There is no way I would ever be able to ‘run’ without this technique.  Running is very difficult for me though, even with the Chi Running.  I have to think about all the form issues (am I aligned, mid foot strike, peel up my foot, circle rotation, lean, arms, etc).  BUT, I also have to think about my hips, are they pushing out to the sides? Is my neck out of place? Are my shoulders falling down? In Chi Running they teach you to relax the shoulders, but if I relax mine they will be at my elbows, so I have to hold them.  Each step is very deliberate and thoughtful.  It is quite easy to forget a piece, as with EDS you really have to think about EVERYTHING that most take for granted.

On a different note, cycling is awesome!  I love it, I love distance riding and I also love spin class.  I didn’t used to like it though.. I discovered that there are different types of spin bikes.  The regular ones like the Schwinn are terrible for me.  I need to be in almost perfect alignment or I will pull things out of place.  The Keiser bikes are awesome.  I can get myself in an aero position without pulling anything out.  My legs rotate nicely and with the SPD pedals, my feet stay where they belong. The only time I have to think about things is when I stand up, then my crazy hips slide out. I have to think about keeping them in.  I also have to think about my shoulders, same as the running problem. If I just let them go they will be way out of place.

As far as outside, I love my triathlon bike. I used to have a road bike but using the road bike handlebars would just kill my shoulders and wrists.  I was lucky enough to find a really awesome Tri bike, and then I spent many, many hours in the saddle with a professional bike fit. I recommend this to all cyclists, but more importantly to my fellow EDS peeps.  There are such slight adjustments that can be done that will make your ride so much better and not hurt.  Standing next to the bike and putting the seat next to your hip is NOT a fit.  Measuring angles, measuring your rear end, etc are so important to make it ‘FIT’ perfectly.  You do not need a giant puffy seat either, that actually can cause LOTS of problems. You need a seat that fits your butt.  A big seat will make you work harder, the legs and hips have to circle around this giant thing.  A proper seat (saddle) will allow your legs to move freely.  It truly is amazing what happens when you are FIT in your bicycle.

I love riding, 50-60 miles WOOHOO.  Thing is, I am slow, but I’m okay with that - I have to be!   I am out there, doing it.  I get caught up being pissed off that I’m not as fast as my friends.  I often feel bad for making my riding mates slow down for me, but I eventually have to think “hey they choose to ride with me and they know what they’re getting.”  The ones that would get annoyed don’t ride with me anymore.  That one took a while to get used to, but it really is a catch 22!

On the other hand, I can swim with anyone.  The pool (or even the lake) is a contained space so speed doesn’t matter!  This is my strongest sport. I could swim for days I swear.  I’m just not FAST.  Also like Chi Running, there is a technique that focuses on alignment and efficient propulsion through the water.  “Total Immersion” swimming is AMAZING.  I’ve been doing this for years.  If I had to swim the standard way of teaching swim, I would be PULLING through the water.  With EDS, I cannot pull.  I would pull my arms out before 3 laps.  With Total Immersion, my arms simply rotate through the water and there is no undue stress.  I believe everyone with EDS that is capable of activity should try TI swimming!

Like I mentioned in the beginning, my body is schizophrenic.  I never know which one is going to show up.  Weather affects me more than most.  Sure you will hear people say “eh it’s going to rain, my bones hurt.” Well with EDS you are a walking barometer.  High pressure systems are the best, it’s like the earth is giving you a hug and holding things in for you.  Low pressure systems SUCK.  This isn’t really what happens, but it feels like you are put in a zero gravity chamber and your muscles just float away.  As they expand, nothing works, joints slip even more, migraines are prevelant and it typically means extra pain.  Sometimes, such as when we had the Hurricane last year, the pain is just unmanageable and Mr Mush takes over.  What really sucks is that once the system is gone, I  don’t go back to normal, it’s like the system sucked out my strength and it sets me back WEEKS in training.

This is very frustrating as I am working VERY hard to get strong, but it is a vicious cycle that all of us with EDS fight.  I know what my goal is, and I just have to work harder than some others.

I’m ok with it, I know what I have, I know how to deal with it.  Sure it sucks!  I don’t tend to complain too much and this post really isn’t a ‘oh whoa is me’ post, but its more to raise awareness and to provide some support to my fellow EDS peeps!

Just keep plugging along and hope for the best.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I know it has been a while since I posted.  I've been learning how to manage time with work, life and training for a Half Ironman. It is tough, but I think I've worked it out.

I hired a coach in Feb: Hollie Kenny.  She has a spectacular resume, pro triathlete, places in just about every race she does, etc.  She has given me motivation and accountability to do what I know I can do- finish the 70.3!  (in the 8 hrs 30 mins allowed).

I get up at 4AM most days so I can complete at least one workout before work.  If I have time I can do two workouts before work, but most days I have to do the second workout after work.

We use Training Peaks to communicate and log workouts.  I find this tool PERFECT for me.  I can log into my calendar and see what's up, I can upload my Garmin info, write post workout comments, keep track of nutrition, etc.  I am a data geek by trade but this takes me over the top.  I love the accountability of the workouts too.  "I have to finish that 90 min because I have to report to Hollie."  When I would workout alone, I would skip workouts or just quit because I didn't feel like it.  There have been at least 10 workouts in the last couple of months that I would have never done if it weren't for the accountability. (heck ALL of the running workouts).

I went on Vacation in Feb, and actually continued with my training. There is no way I would have done that without a schedule.  Really though, I found I love to run on the beach, and oooh warm open water swims in Feb are AWESOME! Who wouldn't want to swim here?

Coaching has helped me get from NOT running (I would walk most of the time) to running 50 min and NOT thinking about stopping every 10 steps!

I am an endurance athlete, but I'm not a fast one.  Tell me to go for a 4 hr ride - easy!  Except don't count on how many miles that will be!  Hollie is helping by programming workouts to make me faster. It isn't about "go as fast as you can every time and hope you get faster." It's slow, methodical, and efficient training.  I am building and starting to feel the results.

I am about 5mph faster on the bike already, and from zero to ~14 min mile on the run.  I'm totally embarrassed of my run time but zero to 14 min is just fine for me. I had a few miles this week that were in the 13's so I can see the number coming down.  The trick is to not get frustrated and give up.  Seeing progress is pretty nice, but it hasn't always been like this.  My running has been miserable for years and I only do it because its part of the triathlon.  This is the first time that I actually looked FORWARD to a run to see if I was getting better. Oh how the tides have shifted!

My swimming has always been ok.  Oddly, I'm even leading in this picture!

Tell me to swim for 3 miles, no problem! I just can't do it FAST.  So that's what I'm working on!  I joined a Master Swimming class at the YMCA, which is great, but I swim Total Immersion.  The coach there has been great as well and has tweaked workouts for this alternate style.  For example in TI you do not pull, you use your body for rotation and arms basically as rudders, so given that you wouldn't have 'pull' drills.

In the words of Dori, in previous years I would "just keep swimming." I never did drills, but turns out that's how you get faster and stronger!

I'm learning!  I'm motivated!  I want to finish this Half Ironman!  As of right now, I am 'close' to the times individually. Add them together and I'm going to be slower. BUT, this is a GREAT place to be in April, I still have 14 weeks to get faster!

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