Sunday 31 March 2013

Mar 31/13 - Injury Report

   Well what can I say about this week. It was a bummer of epic proportions in terms of training. I mentioned in my training log last Monday that I had some sort of knee injury and my doctor felt it was most likely a Bakers' Cyst (aptly named for the Doctor who originally discovered it). Well I wasn't sure that the symptoms added up and I've been back and forth all week with my own self-diagnosis. I'll explain briefly as best as I can the symptoms. Within about an hour of finishing Around The Bay I could no longer straighten my right leg. There was a feeling that the ligaments would tear and a lot of pressure behind my knee. I went home and iced it off and on all afternoon and night thinking it was nothing serious. By the middle of the night the pain was preventing me from sleeping and I could not walk on it. There is no pain from the pressure of standing on it, but there was immense pain when I tried to walk, most of which came from attempts to bend it. As I rid the knee capsule of inflammation during the course of the week I began to notice my knee moving back and forth in the joint, which is still happening now. It feels like there is no stability and I have no confidence in the integrity of my knee right now. The pain has lessened throughout the week and Saturday I was able to do 3km of speed work and drills on it at the track using a steel-hinged knee brace.
High Knee Drills
I tore my ACL and PCL ligaments two years ago attempting a very dangerous skateboard trick called a McTwist and spent 16 months rehabbing it using that brace. Now not 6 months after discontinuing it's use I'm back in it again. When it's on I do have a lot more stability, but my knee is pretty screwed up and I still do not have a clear idea of what the injury is. Ice, rest, stretch a bit and hope for the best at this point. As for this week I'm going to try my best to get back to regular training. I race the Jordan 5km this coming Saturday and you can bet if there is still a leg attached below my knee I'll be at the starting line.

   Now I know a lot of people might be saying "What the hell are you thinking??". I understand. What many of you may not know is my history with injuries. Check out my post, "Tale of the Tape" to see a complete list. I have found through my personal experiences that rehabbing an injury for myself begins as soon as I have the ability to use the injured appendage again. I push through a bit of pain, but also know when to back off to prevent further injury. I ice repeatedly immediately after training and I am always, always reassessing the injury and recalculating the best way to move forward. Many people would say, "Just forget about the race and take time to heal so you don't lose your whole season!" Well when I skated professionally I had to perform with injuries all the time or you didn't get paid. I once twisted my ankle so badly my leg turned purple up to my knee! I missed one day of shows. The next day I cast my ankle in trainers tape and showed up an hour or two before the first show. I spent the morning teaching myself to skate and ollie without the use of any movement in my ankle. I took some ibuprofen and finished the last few days of shows like that. What I learned from this and many other similar experiences is that we can push our bodies through a lot more than we suspect. I may now be at my best come race day, but I'll still do my best with the circumstances I have to work within.

   The week did not go well for me. I did not train Tuesday for obvious reasons.

   Wednesday I came home from work, still feeling fatigued from the previous weekends
My lifeline
racing, but because of training guilt felt I should at least get some core and weight training in. The usual hour in the gym went well, but was a struggle from my energy standpoint. I finished, showered and crawled into bed to relax for a while before going to sleep. I remarked to Chris that to prevent the chances of waking up with a migraine I should probably get up to stretch because I could feel my muscles tightening. Ever say something and in hindsight realize how on point it was? I woke up at 1am with a migraine. Nothing new to me, I get approximately 1 per week and have my whole life. I usually take some tylenol and a gravol and fall back asleep  Caffeine works wonders for me, but I usually try to make it to morning or else I'm headache free, but wide awake in the middle of the night. Christine was even so amazing to massage my neck and shoulders until I feel asleep. I then awoke at 3am. The migraine should have been gone, but within minutes I began to realize how dire my situation had become. This was to be the worst migraine I have had in twenty years. It was gonna be a long, hard night. I began taking painkillers, but the nausea was too extreme and I began a vomiting streak that would last nearly the next 7 hours. It was accompanied with a first-time, crippling abdominal pain which left me unable to breath for up to 30 seconds at a time. Oh and let's not forget the drill that was boring through the back of my eye. For those of you who have never had a migraine it's not just a bad headache. Not even in the same realm. It's the worst pain and usually behind one of your eyes you can imagine and accompanied by unbelievable nausea. I had to call in sick to work Thursday and was still a mess by the following evening. So much so that I couldn't even get out of bed, much less meet up with my Tri partner Steph to swim.

  At least a little bit of this week was salvaged by a 40km bike ride with Chris on Sunday afternoon. It wasn't hard for me to notice that her light and easy pace was leaving me gasping for air in the back. However, I'm glad to have an experienced cyclist to show me the ropes. Hopefully I can get my skills a little more polished in the next 10 weeks.

  I'm looking forward to getting things back on track this week. Lots of running races coming up and only  10 weeks now until my first triathlon at Guelph Lake.

   I'm not superstitious, but fingers crossed anyway.

Monday 25 March 2013

Mar 24/13 - Around the Bay!

   The week culminated 8 months of hard training with the Around the Bay race in Hamilton. Good news, bad news. We'll get to that in a bit. Let me talk about the week of training first.

   Monday and I was destroyed from work as usual. Decided to opt out of my weight training for a yoga session. Good change of plans as I actually felt revitalized after. Just what my body needed.

   Tuesday nights are usually time off right now while I wait for skateboarding weather to arrive. This week because of my race on the weekend I used this night for cycling to give myself Saturday to rest up for ATB. Chris and I did a 30 minute spinerval video of intervals. Normally no big deal, but this night I came home a little stressed out from the day and decided to have some of Chris' fresh baked banana bread and a cup of coffee. Yep right before interval training. I'm an idiot. I pushed through all 8 of the intervals even after extreme nausea set in around interval 4. By the time 30 minutes was up I climbed off my bike and collapsed in a heap on the floor, not to move for almost half an hour. 

I layed there...

And layed there. Pouring cold sweat, trying desperately not to vomit.

Safe to say I won't be eating or drinking acidic things before doing intervals again.

   Wednesday I came home from a tough day again at work in a bad mood. Not usually the case for me, so I decided to run it out. Since I had a race this weekend I should be lowering the intensity a bit, but I needed to get out of my negative head space. I ran 8kms of hills and stairs in just over 45 minutes. I felt great when I got home. Still healing a strained gastrocnemius (calf) muscle I kept close attention to it, but I felt ok during the run. Iced and foam rolled when I got home.

   Thursday I came home to an under-the-weather Christine so I decided to bail on my swim workout to take care of her and keep her company. I'm nothing without my teammate so she will always come first. Glad to say she's back on top of the world again!

   Friday nights are always a night off and after a tough week at work it was most needed. Headed out to see Chris' friend "Forkfarm" rapping at Club Absynthe. Gotta say I was a little apprehensive because I hadn't been anywhere that serves alcohol since quitting drinking a couple years ago. The night turned out fun and the music was awesome.

  Saturday was race kit pick-up day. They put on a running expo of sorts at Copps Coliseum where you get your kit from. I found a couple of great solutions to my problems there. First I found headphones called Yurbuds. They are basically a rubber cover for earbuds that lock into your ears and never pop out! I also found a specific muscle roller I had been trying to buy in Canada called Muscletract. It consists of 4 knobby wheels between two handles. Unlike foam rollers it's design really allows deep fascia (tissue) massage, preventing scar tissue or adhesions between muscles and their sheathes to form. I truly believe in the powers of massage and rolling for maintenance, injury prevention and healing. I went for a long walk in the sun that afternoon wearing my five finger shoes. I noticed my knees were clicking and felt as if they were popping in and out of joint. It seemed to be occurring mostly to my right knee. I have had so many knee injuries including ACL, PCL and meniscus tears that I chalked it up to that and continued my walk. I hope you're noticing the foreshadowing.

"I see the train a comin" - Johnny Cash
   Sunday was race day. I was calm, cool and collected at the start line. There was an ocean of people and I could really feel I was a part of something so much bigger than myself. All 6000+ of us were connected in the challenge we were about to embark upon. Some were looking to win, others just to finish. I was looking for under 3 hours. The horn sounded and the ocean began to swell and move forward. It had begun. I knew the first 20km would be no issue unless my calf strain reared it's ugly head. This was a big part of my decision to run at a conservative 6 min/km pace. I felt really good as we left the start so I decided to pick up my pace to build a buffer of sorts in case things started to get really ugly towards the end. I held more or less a 5:30 min/km pace for the first 10km and then something very unexpected happened. I saw lights for a train crossing begin to flash up ahead, but I thought they wouldn't let a train come through a race...would they? Yep. Just as I reached the tracks the train came barreling through dissecting the pack of runners in half like a frog in biology class. I stopped my watch. For me, the official time wasn't important. I had a personal goal of under 3 hours and if I was going to lose 4 minutes as this train passed I wasn't counting it on my end. I used the time to stretch, eat a gel and chuckle as many of the runners began to have melt-downs, careening their necks to search for the end of the train. It came, the gates went up and a new mass start commenced. Here we go again. 

I see my pacers just ahead!
I made it to the 15km mark after spotting my friend Lonnie along Beach Blvd taking photos of the race, I was at 1:15:00 clock time. I was about 3-4 minutes back from the start so I figured I was right on pace for my goal. I began pushing a little harder to continue building my buffer. I noticed the aches and pains creeping in around the infamous kilometer 19. this is where the giant rolling hills of North Shore Blvd begin, as well as the pain. If you had any good feelings left in your body by this point you should simply kiss them goodbye and embrace the pain cave. I did just that and ran directly in. For the next 11km I simply detached myself from my surroundings, received the pain signals from my legs & feet and ran. The last uphill battle at Valley Inn Road, lovingly referred to as "Death Hill" had many runners becoming walkers. I had never walked this hill even once in training and it sure as hell wasn't going to be today. In addition to my pride I knew Chris and her friend Steph were waiting at the top to pace me in the last 4km. I spotted them as I reached the top and then leaped into action. Not 100m later I was stopped dead by a hamstring cramp. "Shit!" I thought. Not now, not after all this... a hamstring cramp takes me out?? I stretched and massaged it feverishly. I had to do this. I just had to. The ladies coaxed me on. I was practically begging them to let me walk, but Steph knew the pace I needed to get in under 3 hours and I could tell by the way she was religiously checking her watch that she wasn't going to let me fail. The last 2km was a total nightmare of agony. I had never wanted to stop doing anything so bad while simultaneously wanting to keep going so much. The two of them left me as I entered the finish corral and I was alone again for the last 500m. Down the ramp into Copps and around the corner there it was. More beautiful than the Aurora Borealis, the time clock of the finish line. It read 3:02:00 clock time. I knew I had made it to my goal by my chip time, which starts when you actually crossed the start line. 3:59:37 chip time, 2:54:17 on my Garmin (that's minus the train fiasco). I could barely stand, but felt amazing to have just run 30km. I did it.

I have to share my victory with Chris & Steph, never would have made it without them!

It was amazing to see the support though the streets of Hamilton, Burlington and back to the Hammer. People with signs, drums, music, clapping, cheering and generally passing their energy on to us the tired masses.

   Ok so here's the bad news. I thought it was just the usual soreness after the race, but as the day wore on I began to realize something strange was afoot. Or a knee as the case may be. I was developing a terrible pain behind my right knee. Thinking back to the previous days strange occurrence while I was out walking and it didn't take a mathematician to put two and two together. Something was really wrong with my knee. I have the Jordan 5km race in two weeks, so my goal was to finish uninjured in under 3 hours. I accomplished one, but not the other. After seeing my doctor today it looks like a baker cyst behind my right knee. This develops when the knee capsule ruptures and fluid leaks out the back forming a painful lump and immobilizing the knee. So here I sit, packed in ice for the last two days, blogging a tale of success and an obstacle to overcome. This week will be rest, perhaps light bike or swim training, but I'll see how I'm healing. I've been down this road so many times before, I just didn't expect it from running.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Mar 17/13 - I Needed a Week Like This

   Anyone know where the hell the nice weather is? Yes I'm aware that I seem to be starting every blog post this way but seriously. It's the start of spring this week and it's still so damn cold outside. After even a short run I'm a popsicle, the orange one no one likes. Anytime I've ever seen a variety box of popsicles in a freezer all the grape and cherry are long gone and it's a third full with orange. I think we are all universally sick of winter and orange popsicles. 

   Well that was quite a tangent. Sorry back to our regularly scheduled programming.

   Monday was another crazy long and far too stressful day at work. Installing door locks, yes finish carpenters do that too. Unfortunately for me it was in the home of people already living there and the wife had a horrendous cold, which she was desperately trying to give me by coughing all over everything in the damn house. I wore a particle mask like a frightened citizen from the 2003 SARS scare and bathed hourly in Purell hand sanitizer. I also drank about a gallon of lemon and chlorophyll water in hopes of staving of the illness. I guess it worked because I survived unscathed. By the time I got home that evening the day was a washout.

   Tuesday my boss texted me that he had diarrhea from bad cheese he ate. For anyone following my blog and not keeping count that's 5 missed days now in 8 weeks. I was already up so I decided to hit the gym early that morning and free up my day. I used this gift of a day off to work on my bikes and run a bunch of errands. 

   Wednesday my legs were finally feeling well enough to try and run again. An easy day at work helped too. I took off in the daylight around 6:30pm, but it was almost -10C with windchill and I felt it. I kept the beast inside me under-wraps and managed to control myself to a meager 6:24min/km pace. The nice part was I took off with no idea where I was going and ended up on top of the escarpment overlooking Hamilton at dusk with the most amazing view of the city I've ever seen.

   Thursday and it was back to the pool with my friend Steph. We get to chatting and forget swimming sometimes, but that's what friends do. 1350m, a little under where I should be for my weekly session, but nice to have someone to keep me motivated. My kicks are a lot stronger and more consistent now and I'm staying far more level at the top of the water. It does come at a cost as I can feel my heart rate climbing from the extra exertion of kicking for propulsion. Also my window of opportunity for air got smaller as I keep my head more level in the water during breathing.  All in all my swimming is getting technically better, but I need to get more laps in.

   Friday and another night off to chill with Christine. We snuggled up and watched movies. Does it get any better on a cold winter night? Don't think so.

Post 25km icing session
   Saturday I nervously headed out for my long run after a nice egg wrap for breakfast. I say nervously because of last weeks injury disaster. While most people are tapering for ATB for me it's more important mentally for me to get close to the distance. I need to have the confidence that I can make 30km and the only way for me to build that is to come close in training. I held myself back once again to a modest 6:18min/km pace. I felt good and monitored my legs very closely from the command center in my head. I've always had the ability to "detach" myself from myself. What I mean by this is I actually picture my consciousness as sitting inside my head like a commander on the bridge of a ship. I'm in control of my body and receive feedback from it. The difference is I make decisions from this feedback and "command" my body what to do. It doesn't have the ability to tell me when to stop, I tell it. It wasn't until after the 21km mark that I really started to hurt. I determined it wasn't injury and pushed the last 4km through the "pain cave", a delightful place endurance athletes end up where the only thing you can focus on is the agony you're experiencing. Lovely. Home to ice off and on all night while every single muscle, tendon and ligament became inflamed. it hurt to think about walking.

Bike & Multimedia set-up
   Sunday morning and after 9 hours of coma like sleep I actually felt good and could walk, uhm somewhat. I was doing a great impression of Frankenstein anyway. Got on the bike trainer and squeezed out 25km while watching "Grandmas' Boy". The laughing kept me distracted enough to finish.

   Not to bad of a week after last weeks fiasco. Next weekend it's Around the Bay. At this point my only goal is to finished uninjured. I have the Jordan 5km two weeks after that and that's a race I actually have a chance to place in if I can keep my legs in good shape. I can already tell my first year as a runner/triathlete is going to have a giant learning curve. How else do we gain experience, but through our triumphs and failures.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Mar 10/13 - A Train Wreck of a Training Week.

   So I promised to be open and honest about my training on here and this week is a tough one for me to swallow. I'm trying to get used to failure in this sport and it's not something I do well. At the same time I'm no stranger to hard work or overcoming adversity. This week had plenty of both. After such a personal victory last week in the Chilly half marathon I was feeling invincible. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The finished wine cellar
   Monday I was very, very sore from the race and had a long day at work. I spent the day going up and down stairs to build a custom wine cellar. As any runner will testify to - can I get a witness here? - going down a set of stairs after a hard run is agony. Needless to say that day was a write off for training.

   Tuesday came and I realized my new cell phone was a total heap of *@#$. It was dropping text messages like a juggler with Parkinsons disease. In the words of Neil Young, "I tried to plug it in, I tried to turn it on, when I got it home it was a piece of crap!" So after another tough day at work I skipped my night in the gym to return and upgrade my phone. Now completely content with my new LG Nexus 4 laptop, errr cellphone. Well it's awesome, but its the size of a small flat screen tv. I thought technology was supposed to get smaller?

   Wednesday I woke to discover I had something horribly awry in my back, shoulder blade region. As best as I can tell now it was some sort of pinched nerve. Whatever it was by days end it was on my last nerve and I wanted to die. Especially now that my beloved Ibuprofen is forbidden to me due to the gastritis I have been working so diligently to heal. I came home hunched over like a question mark and had no hope of running. Also this day I noticed that my right calf was still sore from Chilly. I had really pushed myself in that race and felt something "pop" in my right calf around the 13km mark. I was able to continue running and it was only what I would perceive as usual soreness the next day so I thought nothing of it. Now halfway through the week the thought that I may be injured was creeping quietly into the back of my mind.

   Thursday and it was still very painful to take deep breaths. Every time my rib cage expanded with air or I had to turn my head a burst of white hot pain shot through my back like a prison shank. Now I was getting stressed. After some internet research - not the wisest idea - I was convinced I had gall stones, liver cancer and was probably simultaneously having a heart attack. Did I mention I can be a hypochondriac at times? Another long day at work and I had decided this week was a total washout and gave up hopes of training. I went to bed that night smothered in guilt from a missed week.

   Friday and things were looking up. First TCIF! - thank calendar it's Friday (I'm not religious) and second I could breath somewhat pain free. The cancer seemed to be receding and I had survived the heart attack. Long day number 5, not to be confused with Mambo Number 5 and I was home to recuperate for Saturday.

   Saturday and it was long run day. 26km on the docket and with Around the Bay 30km race only 2 weekends away I needed to get back up to distance. It was 6C outside and sunny, the first nice day of the year. What could go wrong? Ask that question and you'll usually get the answer. As I took off into my run I found my legs felt like lead and my heart rate was soaring. I had the sensation that I weighed 500lbs and was landing every step with twice that force. I felt like... what's the phrase I'm looking for here? Ah yes, a flaming bag of shit. I was sure this was because of the week off so I pushed on. I made it to the 5km point and was slowly starting to loosen up when it happened. "Pop". My right calf again. Fuck I thought, I'm injured. My leg began to buckle and I had to stop. I tried stretching it for a few minutes. I started running again. I could push through the pain and it began to numb out. I kept running. Around the 9km mark the side of my left knee began to burn. Great, I knew immediately what that was as I had dealt with it before. Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. No it's not the new heavy metal band all your friends have been talking about, it's an inflammation of the band of stabilizing tissue extending from the outside of the hip to the knee. This combined with the returning calf pain was too much. I called the run off. Only problem, I was still 5km from home and Chris was somewhere 30km away training on her road bike. I had no choice but to continue running, limping, walking, repeat until I made it home. The future of my ATB race is certainly not looking bright enough to wear shades.

   Sunday morning and I could walk on my leg again at least. Still sore, but I can at least push off my toes a little. 11C outside and sunny so I had to get out. Chris and I layered up and got out for a 30km ride on our road bikes. It wasn't a hard paced ride as both of us were still dead from the day before, but at least it was some cross training for me while I try to heal my legs. 14 day countdown to ATB. Still 2 weeks to ice, massage and stretch to optimize my chances of healing and going the distance. Fingers crossed.

Friday 8 March 2013

Keeping the Challenge

   Recently a friend asked if I could give some of my thoughts on will power and avoiding plateaus. For me sports, training, athletics, whatever you want to call it, is all about the challenge. I live for it. I thrive on it. Once I feel I've accomplished a goal I become bored and feel stagnant. It's all about moving forward in life. You look back to remind you of how far you've come, but never with regret. No matter how many mistakes or bad choices we feel we've made you can't change them and really they are the sum of what you see in the mirror before you now.

   So how does all of that relate to will power and progression? For me it's not so much will power as the drive to reach a goal I've set. I'm not "willing" myself into anything, but simply keeping the prize in my minds eye. Everyday. You see I can be a tiny, wee little bit obsessive. Ok maybe a little more than a wee bit. When I have a goal in mind it's all I think about. This keeps the drive going. I'll tel you a short story as an example of what I mean.

Before                                  After 
   2009 I decided that I want to be in the best shape of my life. More specifically I wanted a six pack. Desparately. To me a six pack represented the ultimate expression of perfect physical fitness. It's what we all are astonished by in the human physique. It was a quest. I started with the infamous P90X. Tony Horton quipped and encouraged as I pushed myself along with the participants in his video workouts. I followed the diet guide and cut almost all fat from my diet. Then I did P90X again, but double this time. I worked out morning and evening most days. I was exhausted, but dropping weight like an anorexic with the flu. The analogy that was best described for me is that that fat comes off like draining a swimming pool. Everyone has a "deep end" and it's the last spot to drain. For many people this is the abdominal area. So you can be very lean, but even the smallest amount of fat will still remain there. From bone breadth testing - a test to learn your skeletal frame size - I knew that even at 6' tall, I was very small framed and should weigh between 145 and 155 lbs. I know this sounds too thin, but unfortunately in current times the majority of the population is overweight and would be shocked to see how little they should actually way. Besides getting a six pack, weight means being very lean, unless you are a muscle bound endo-morph. These are the people like Arnold Schwarzenegger who are naturally very large and muscular even at low body fat percentages. But I digress. By the time I got my beloved six pack I was 138 lbs and 1.5% body fat. Most people who knew me were appalled. My face was sunken in and I was just too lean. I realized this myself and eventually began to lay-off the training and dieting, putting on 15 lbs again. People told me frequently during my journey that I was looking unhealthy and too thin. There was a point to this story, I was completely one track minded. I looked at everyone's  mid-sections, envying those who had great abs and critiquing those who didn't. It was all I thought of. I'm not saying that to reach a goal you need to be this obsessive. It would be destructive to most people. What I am saying is that to reach a goal you must keep it in your minds eye every day. Picture it until it's not just a goal, but a reality you just haven't made it to yet. Like seeing into the future.

  As for the plateau issue, well to me that's an even easier issue to solve. If you plateau, your mind or your body is bored. Many times I have plateaued and when I do I simply change gears. If it's running like I do now, I change location, change the time of day, change my runs from long and slow to short and fast, I try hills, different shoes, new music on my mp3 player. You get the idea. When I was skateboarding competitively I always tried new things. I was never just a street skater, vert skater or bowl guy. I did it all. For me it's better to be good at all kinds of things, then the best at just one. 

   I used to do some personal training and have gone through periods in my life where weight lifting was my only sport or training. Just ask my previous training partners who I helped to coach to better fitness Keith and George. Myself and these two nutcases used to push ourselves until we would sometimes faint or vomit. Why? Why the fuck would anyone do that? Because we challenged each other. I do the same for myself. Small challenges every day. When I comes to working out I have developed a great "routine" that works for me and is really not routine at all. For training you need structure, but that doesn't mean you can have variables within that structure. I train my core and hit the weights once a week for an hour to supplement my sports. Once I'm in my gym It works like this, I have a set routine of what muscle groups I work and the order, but I don't plan anything. I have enough different exercises in my head that I basically decide just before my set what I'll do. I don't repeat those sets for more than 2 weeks in a row. I find trying to beat last weeks results only works once for me then I need to move on. I constantly change from barbell, to dumbbell  to body weight exercises. I use pyramid reps, negative reps and whatever else I can think of to just make it feel new and different.

Here is my basic workout:

Core: 10 sets, 15-25 reps per set, approx. 150-250 total - 20 minutes
Abs 2 sets to failure.
Lower back 1 set to failure.
Repeat 3 x
Push-up variation to failure

Weight Training: usually work top to bottom - 20 minutes per round

Round 1: dumb bells, medium weight
Shoulders 8-12 reps
Chest 8-12 reps
Back 8-12 reps
Biceps 8-12 reps
Triceps 8-12 reps
Legs 8-12 reps

Round 2: barbell, heavy weight

Shoulders 6-10 reps
Chest 6-10 reps
Back 6-10 reps
Biceps 6-10 reps
Triceps 6-10 reps
Legs 6-10 reps

  This routine has helped me to stay motivated and be creative by inventing my routines on the fly. It also helps to keep the dread factor down, since I don't even know what my workout will entail it becomes useless to dread it. It also helps to design the workout to how you're feeling that day. Not all days are created equal.

   To sum all of this up. Pick a goal. Live it, eat it, breath it. Stay excited about that goal. Tell it to others and make it your reality. Keep things fresh through constant change. Come up with new challenges for yourself or challenge your workout/training partner to a competition or a race. This will help to keep your mind out of the "gotta just get this done" mode and into a "I wonder how good I can do today" place. For me it has always been living in the moment that kept training and sports so exciting. Could I learn this new trick today? Can I beat my last running time? Can I actually lift this much? Can I last just one minute longer? I hope you'll find like I did that the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes with answering these questions for yourself is truly the most addicting and motivating factor there is.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Recovery & Supplements

   Recovery is such an essential part of training and athletics. It's when your body actually grows stronger. Pushing yourself to the edge for too long without proper recovery will lead to fatigue, over-training and eventually a full collapse. This I know all too well. "Not" training has always been the most difficult for me. Curbing my desire to continually give it my all does not come naturally. I am getting better at listening to my body or at least knowing when the message it is sending me is a serious one. Being well rested allows you to go full out for your workouts and do them with enthusiasm.

  I do a have a secret for immediate recovery though. It's my personal recovery drink. Gatorade, Powerade and the rest are good, but for me either contain too much sugar or artificial sweeteners which I avoid like a plague. I did some research last year when I saw a weird, cloudy drink being handed to the athletes during the long distance swim event in the 2012 Olympics. After some research, as well as my own trial and error I did come up with a cheap, effective recovery sports drink. Taste can be decided by personal preference. 

Ryan's Recovery Potion:

1-1.5L of water
Juice of half a lemon (lime, orange - citrus)
Tbsp of honey
1/4 tsp of liquid chlorophyll
1/8 tsp of salt (approx.)

   Water is obvious and for hydration. Lemon benefits are many and listed in my "alkalizing my body" post, but for this purpose it's taste and provides potassium. Honey provides both taste to balance the salt and tartness of the lemon, as well as providing the much needed carbohydrates. Chlorophyll contains rapid delivery magnesium and a whole host of other benefits explained in the previously mentioned post. Finally salt or sodium one of the key elements in hydration. Without Sodium, too much water intake can cause hyponatremia. This occurs when the ratio of water to sodium in the body is too far out of balance and the body's cell begin to swell with water intake. Symptoms include cramps, muscle spasms, confusion, headache and vomiting caused by brain swelling, leading to coma or even death. I'm not a doctor or nutritionist so I cannot recommend this drink for anyone, but it has served me well.

   I would also like to talk about some of the supplements I take on a regular basis. My diet as a vegetarian is full of vitamins and minerals, but I feel some of my nutritional needs require supplementation due to the stress and strain training places on my body.

The following I take on a daily basis and I've included their intended use.

Protein Powder:
Although I feel I get enough protein from my diet as I do still eat eggs, as well as rice and greens, as an athlete I like to supplement it. I use a vegan protein powder as it uses proteins from plant based sources such as brown rice. Some research has lead me to the belief that whey is very acidic to the body.

It's been recommended from many reputable sources that everyone could benefit from a multivitamin once a day.

Microorganisms that live in our digestive tract and keep us healthy by inhibiting the grown of unhealthy bacteria.

Vitamin D (winter only):
Regulates calcium and phosphate in bloodstream, builds bones and part of a healthy immune system. We can get enough in one hour from the sun on a nice day, but need bare skin for that so in winter I supplement.

Since becoming a vegetarian I have now scaled back on my daily supplements and use the one listed below only after training:

B Vitamin Complex:
Great for energy, immune system functions and metabolism.
  Greens Plus:
Great source of antioxidants.

Alpha Lipoic Acid:
One the super antioxidants. It helps to stop heart disease, collagen breakdown (skin, bone, tendons, etc) and controls inflammation.

Antioxidant and immune system booster.

Assists in carbohydrate metabolism and insulin production.

   Once again I'm not a doctor or nutritionist and cannot recommend this to anyone. This is simply what I have discovered works for me.

   One other thing I would like to mention here concerns recovery and although is not diet related I do feel it is an integral part of my training process. A healthy diet and some supplementation can really help to speed up the healing process after the damage of training, but you have to do some upkeep from the outside in as well. This is where massage, rolling stretching and icing comes in.

   Massage and rolling are basically the same thing. Now I'm not really talking here about the type of massage that feels good while you're on the receiving end, more like the kind you think you may die from because of the pain. That being said it is a vital part of keeping your body injury free during training or at least enhancing recovery time. Both massage and rolling promote tissue regeneration by reducing or breaking up scar tissue, as well as increasing circulation which carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Rolling is done by a variety of instruments. The best part is you can do it yourself and it only takes a few minutes. After having it recommended to me by several trusted people I have used it to recover from multiple calf strains and Achilles tendonitis. I now swear by it. I always follow it up with light stretching of the affected areas, but I also do a nightly stretching routine anyway. After all rolling and stretching comes the magic cure. It's better than NSAIDs, such as Ibubrofen for controlling pain and inflammation. Ice Ice Baby. Who knew that the Vanilla rapper from the eighties had so much to teach us. I have used ice for years and always try and promote its' amazing powers. I have used it to successfully control arthritis in my knees, tendonitis in my Achilles, muscle, tendon and ligament strains of all kinds. Not to mention general bumps, bruises, aches and pains. It even helps my migraines. Combined, these techniques are truly magnificent. Massage and rolling will break up the scar tissues and get fresh blood flowing in. It helps the muscle or tendon to gain more range of motion so it can be lightly stretched to help remove knots. The ice will remove swelling caused by excess fluid. In the words of the great Beastie Boys "We're triple trouble ya'll, we're gonna bring you up to speed"

Sunday 3 March 2013

Mar 3/13 *Chilly Half Marathon Results!*

   Another set of race results and this time my very first half marathon! As usual though we need to start at the beginning.

Monday nights I'm back to training double duty. I wanted to add a 3rd day of running and the only place it really fit was there. Unfortunately it's also still my core and weight training night so It's a bit of a long workout for the start of the week. I'm looking to do speed training on Mondays, pace and cadence on Wednesdays with Saturdays allocated for my long runs. I set out for a 6km whatever run. I suppose something like fartleks. Those are basically random bursts of sprinting throughout your run. Sort of like interval training, but not as structured. I set out at a good pace and headed anywhere. Before I knew it I was at the base of the Dundurn stairs. These stairs scale the escarpment to the tune of almost 350 steps. Many locals go there year round for stair training. I decided a stair sprint was in order and blasted up them in under a couple minutes. Good idea, bad idea. My heart rate was near ventricle bursting and I had to drop to my knees when I reached the top. I ran up the street a little to recover and then a fast flinging foot fandango down the stairs and back to the bottom to continue sprinting the 2km back to the cabin in the city. Needless to say, the core and weight training was a struggle and left me with a pounding headache. I'll reiterate the old adage, "no pain, no gain"

   Tuesday was a needed night off. With a winter storm looming over Southern Ontario again the boss said "Don't even bother yourself to wake up tomorrow". So I didn't.

Blister surgery
   Wednesday morning came, but brought no storm with it. Freebie day. Spent the day editing video footage from the last two years. It was a total slushfest outside. it looked like a slurpee machine went berserk and flooded Hamilton with an unflavoured version of the brain-freeze inducing goop. I couldn't run in those conditions so I followed my girl Chris to Goodlife Fitness to run on the hamster wheel, um I mean treadmill. I thought "hey I should run in my Vibram Five Fingers!" Their basically a toe sock with a thin rubber sole to give you the feel of running barefoot. Good idea, bad idea. I wanted to make 16km on the 'ol stationary running device in preparation for this weekends half marathon, but at 13km the burning pain in my big toes was too much. Luckily for me it was only giant water blisters which kept me walking on the sides of my feet. Fuck. Lesson learned. Don't try anything new the week before a race. In order for me to get a free ride on the running belt that night I had to sit through the "Goodlife" spiel about how great the prices for the gym were and how I had but one day to reap the benefits of their "ends tomorrow" promo. Finally free, I was on my way to Dr. Browns' home surgery clinic to pop those delightful blisters.

   Thursday night I was back in the pool, this time with my friend Steph who has also decided to take on the challenge of triathlon this year. She just had to one up me though and has decided to go the full Olympic distance. After seeing her bust out 1000m on her first night in the pool I have no doubt she'll make it too. As for myself, my coach has me working on keeping my head down and body flat in the water. This requires a lot more kicking action and although my lap times are coming down the heart rate and breathing are going up. My swimming still needs a lot of work before my first race in June, but there's still time for that.

   Friday and Saturday were filled with the usual errands and a few unusual ones too. After both my phone and laptop crapped out - no doubt in an electronic co-conspiracy against me - I had to go shopping for both on a budget I didn't have. Thanks to my sugar momma Chris for helping with the laptop. I'm not sure she really knows how often she saves my ass. At least I haven't asked her to shave my ass yet. But I digress.

Chilly Half Marathon, Burlington, ON

   So today was the big day. They say it's only your first time once, so I did my best to soak in and savour every moment today. The atmosphere at the start and throughout the race was amazing, as was the windchill. My support team of one, Christine was there camera in hand, bag of my gear on her back. Still not sure what I'd do without her. I had never run 21.1km without stopping or in under 2 hours before so I randomly decided my first time would be today. I packed into the corral with the rest of the sub 2 hour hopefuls and waited for the horn. I heard nothing, but all of a sudden everyone was running so I followed suit. Next began 21.1km of adjusting my pace and passing runner after runner after runner... Around the 5km mark I aborted my Garmin watch and it's never ending data stream to run completely on "feel". That's when the race finally began for me. I would simply pick out someone ahead that I felt for whatever reason wasn't as good of a runner as I was, then run them down and blow past them. I wanted to demoralise them a little. To me every other runner is the enemy. I don't mean that in a violent or mean way, but in order to be competitive and place better I have to beat them. Finally I found two worthy opponents. Two young guys weaving their way through the field. It was around the 12km mark and I decided no matter what it took from me I was finishing with them. I could feel my calves screaming as I increased pace over and over to stay with them. at 18km they made their move and really put some fire in the furnace. I stayed just behind the weaker of the two, stride for stride. At 20km I thought this is ridiculous I am faster than this guy and began sprinting to catch the other. I was on his heels within 500m of the finish and decided I still had about 2 minutes to put a hurt on everyone left in front of me. My pace was now under 4:30km/min and I managed to pick off 4 or 5 more runners before crossing the finish line in 1:48:06. Almost 20 minutes off my personal best. I had my hands in the air like I had just won the whole thing. I didn't care who was looking. I was hurting head to toe and smiling ear to ear. I can't wait to do it all over again.