Friday, September 26, 2008

These times, they are a changin'

A few things happened today that got me thinking. Time is passing, whether we like it or not. Whether we are ready for the inevitable changes or not.

My kids didn’t have school today, so we were all just hanging out around the house. I was scheduled to do a key bike workout, some ten-minute efforts with wattage numbers starting with a 2. I figured I would put the bike on the Computrainer and get the workout done while the kids hung out in the other part of the house. Well, there were two problems with that.

One, it was an absolutely perfect day outside, and the though of sweating out those somewhat uncomfortable intervals inside changed everything about the workout. They would be fun outside, hammering up and down the road, enjoying the Indian Summer. But inside, ugh. Sweating all over the floor, counting the minutes as they ticked slowly by, with perceived exertion much higher than it would be outside. I am just not an inside workout girl. I rode several 4-hour rides this winter outside when the temperature never reached 30. That was more appealing than the trainer to me.

Secondly, my kids love love LOVE the computer. Having mom hog the computer for a stupid bike ride would be cruel in their eyes. They fight over who gets to use it, and I have to allocate computer time like gold bars. Braden builds virtual LEGO cities. He knows how to customize a LEGO order and put it in a virtual shopping cart. If that kid ever gets his hands on my credit card number I am going to be in big trouble. The twins love making web pages on Piczo, and playing Webkins.

So I decided I would leave the girls in charge for a little while and go on my bike ride outside. They will be twelve next month. I guess they are ready. But I don’t know if I am. I gave last minute instructions, made sure I had my phone, told them to call me if they needed anything, and I was off. I felt so…strange. Apprehensive, but … free. I worried the whole ride, but I had a fantastic workout. For the last twelve years, I have always had to find “coverage” -- someone to watch the kids while I worked out. Rob and I would often tag team, which means we hardly ever get to train together. Or we would find a babysitter. Many times, I have had a group of training partners waiting on me, while I was waiting on a teenage sitter. Those sitters never knew how their punctuality, or lack of, affected up to half a dozen people at times. My kids have been around triathlon their whole lives, and fitting in mom and dad’s training is natural to them.

I rode my route, the “bait shop” route, in record time. Maybe it was the feeling that I needed to get back quickly before they kids burned the house down, or maybe I felt a bit lighter. I felt a bit of empowerment that I could leave my most precious people on the planet alone for a little while, and it was just fine.

I got back home, and the girls were playing in their room. Playing with Barbies, nonetheless. Here is a picture of the Barbie scene. I guess the Barbies were watching a movie on Payton’s laptop from school. Yes, my girls do most of their homework on laptops now. I am constantly amazed at their computer savvy, and I find it amusing that they still have hearts of children enough to integrate the Barbie dolls in their world.

The girls got dressed up tonight and went out. Yeah, they went out. Celebrating one of their girlfriend’s birthday. They looked so pretty waiting for their ride I had to take their picture.

Then, SURPRISE! They were picked up in a big black stretch limousine. Are they really old enough for all that?!? I guess so, whether I am ready or not. But, secretly, I do find comfort in the fact that I know their Barbies are still strewn about the floor of their room, waiting to be played with when they get back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back In The Saddle: Redman Triathlon

I’m a month out from my knee surgery and things are on the mend. I have started running a little but not enough to race. I was originally planning to go to Portland, OR and do the Age Group National Championships this weekend but injuries and knee surgery nixed those plans quite some time ago.

About a week ago, I started to feel better on the bike and I felt the urge to test my fitness. I wrote to the folks at the Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City to see if I could get into the half ironman aqua bike.

Redman is Oklahoma’s only iron and half-iron distance race. I have done it several times before, using the iron aqua bike as my simulation prep for IM Florida in 2005 and Kona in 2006. This year they made the iron distance aqua bike an official event. For the athletes prepping for Ironman Florida and Kona the timing is perfect

This weekend the race, for me, wasn’t prep for anything other than getting some baseline data to work from to build upon for next year’s program. I haven’t ridden longer than about an hour and forty-five minutes recently so it would be interesting to see what would happen. There wasn’t much pressure to perform and I was glad that I wouldn’t have to get off and run. Dana challenged me to break 3 hours. That was a doable goal and I was up for it.

We had to check in our bikes the day before the race so I had to drive down there after work on Friday. The morning of the race was perfect. There wasn’t any wind and Hefner Lake was like glass.

The iron distance and iron aqua bikers went off in the first heat, following them, 15 min later, the under 40 male half iron athletes, then 3 min later, me and the over 40 male half iron and aqua bikers.

My swimming has been coming along great lately so I quickly swam away from my group and within a few minutes, I was swimming through the bulk of the younger half iron males. At the turnaround, I had clean smooth water and I began to pass some of the leaders of the first heat as I continued to move through the field.

My goal, though cocky, was to be with the overall leaders of the first heat of half iron younger guys by the time we hit T1. I figured a 25 or 26 minute swim would get me there. My Xterra Vendetta wetsuit provided me with the best ammunition to get the job done. I ended up with the fastest swim split of the day, a 26:38. The course might have been a tad long.

I had a sub 1 min T1 and was on the bike in third overall not including the 3 min head start I allowed on those guys. By 4 miles, I had moved into second overall and I was setting my sights on catching the overall leader. Folks on the roadside were telling me the leader was just 3 min up the road, so in reality we were about even. Without the burden of the run hanging over me, I was going after him. There wasn’t a lead police vehicle with lights flashing on it so I couldn’t see him up the road.

The race starts in an urban populated portion of Oklahoma City, and then you quickly find yourself out on desolate farm roads with fields, grain elevators, potholes, and chip seal roads as rough as gravel. Out there, alone it’s easy to lose concentration. I just looked down at my SRM and tried to keep a steady wattage level of around 230 and my cadence above 100. My heart rate was high in the 150’s but I didn’t care because I didn’t have to run. At around 1:30 into the bike I started feel the fatigue. That seemed about right, because that was about the extent of my long rides recently. My quads and calves started to cramp so I soft peddled and worked them out.

I was pretty pumped coming into town, as it appeared that I was going to achieve my goal of going under the 3-hour mark. I was motoring at an even wattage and cadence and I was getting ready to turn it on to the finish.

The traffic is a little dodgy coming into town so you have to keep your wits about you. Redman does a great job of policing intersections and fast food entrances but some people don’t follow their directions and are quite irate with athletes taking up their road space. I saw a few honking and shaking their fists.

I was approaching the last major intersection before I made the turn for the final loop around Lake Hefner to complete my race. I had my hands on the hoods and fingers on the brakes as I cruised through. I just don’t trust drivers at busy intersections like this. At the very last minute, a silver car pulled out right in front of me. I tightly gripped my brakes and fishtailed slamming directly into the side of the car. “Smack!! Ugh! It reminded me of the type of hit I would take when I was playing football. It sounded the same too. The right side of my body and head took the majority of the impact. According to my SRM, I was going 27mph and on impact, I had slowed to 16.5 mph. That’s one tidbit of data that you can garner from your power files that the book “Training with Power” doesn’t tell you.

I laid on the ground for a bit, stunned and angry. My right leg cramped and it was bleeding. The policeman who was supposedly directing the traffic asked me if I needed an ambulance. I looked up at one of the other police officers picking up my bike and the wheels seemed to be turning well but the handlebars were bent. I looked over at the driver of the car. It appeared to be a gray haired elderly lady. I told the police officer to get all her information. I was going to finish the race.

I gave them my race number my name and birth date and told them that I would be in touch. I was banged up, sore but I could ride another five miles, and I was already so far out in the lead already. I hadn’t come this far not to finish.

I cruised in third overall in the half and won the aqua bike but my time was 3:02. The accident cost me my sub 3 hour goal and my bike time was 2:34, far from the sub 2:30 pace which I was on. My anger soon changed to relief. I realized that this accident could have been more serious. I could have had a much more severe injuries or even been killed.

The race director, co race director, and folks in the medical tent were all wonderful. I was treated like a king. Everyone was flocking around me giving me drinks, pretzels, bandaging my wounds. Those folks all work so hard to make this race a success and I appreciated all their efforts to take care of me and devote their free time to help make events like this a possibility.

I have to admit, the traffic situation at Redman is a problem though. I heard of other athletes having narrow escapes and in my past races here, I have had close calls too. People just don’t follow the traffic direction. Other than closing the course to traffic, I don’t see any other way to solve this problem. The folks at Redman have done everything in their power to make this course safe.

Currently, I have a sore neck from the whiplash and a swollen lower right leg, but I will recover to race again. My friend, Brian Flournoy, D.C. fixed my neck up today and the headaches that I was having have diminished. I feel fortunate just to only have these injuries.

I haven’t had an accident in years. I was due. My plans for the future see me on the Computrainer…a lot.

If anyone out there is looking to do an Ironman race and want to try a race other than an Mdot, Redman should be considered. It is set to be the Half Max USAT Long Course National Championship next year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some Races Just Take Guts!

Of the few Ironman races I have started, I always wonder at the starting line if this will be the race, which I will face disaster, an unavoidable event out of my control that results in implosion and blows my race apart. When I cross the finish line part of the emotion I feel when I raise my fist in the air is relief, because nothing went terribly wrong and I finished strong.

When I started coaching athletes this year, I tried to guide them away from potential disaster and help them through my experiences to have a solid race.

One thing that I like to do which most might find somewhat compulsive, is my race blueprint. My race is scripted. It’s a booklet that I have put together. I have everything planned out concerning pace, nutrition, fluid consumption, what to do when X, Y or Z occur. It’s something that I have put together through the years and continue to make additions. A lot of the information has been gathered off the internet and from other athlete’s race reports. It’s a script for the “perfect race.” I review it for a few weeks and days up to the race just as an actor might remember his lines. I gave my latest copy to my athletes and let them configure their own blueprint.

Last week, Matt Carnal, an athlete I coach raced IMKY. Matt had been training for this event for a year and was doing great until an uncontrollable situation occurred during the peak of his training phase. Matt works for a company called SemGroup .They made some risky bets in the futures markets, which resulted margin calls and within a week of the news breaking, bankruptcy.

SemGroup was a great company to work for because they valued employee physical fitness. They had a tremendous health club in their building, which was more posh than anything else was in town. Matt was well rewarded for his athletic participation with sponsorship from the company. He was the model employee.

Bankruptcy resulted in SemGroup terminating 110 Tulsa employees and, unfortunately, one of them was Matt. This came as quite a shock. Priorities quickly changed and so did Matt’s focus. I felt so sorry for him. He had worked so hard and for this to happen, just as he was heading into the home stretch was a real bummer. I think making a race blueprint and thinking about his race plan was the furthest from his mind.

Before Matt left for Louisville, I sat him down and went over a plan but there is no way that you can cover all the bases in 15 minutes.

Matt had some company along on his trip, Sean Stevens; another athlete that I coach went to the race with him. Sean brought his mountain bike so he could offer some verbal support at various positions along the course. In addition, he helped share some of the drive time going home.

On race day, I was on the computer with my cell phone texting splits and coaching advice to Sean and he was able to relay it to Matt. It was a slick operation. I was the “Chance Command Center” at the home office in Tulsa, OK and Sean was my patrolman.

Matt’s race went just as planned for the swim and the bike. He was off the bike in around 15th place in his age group and his weapon is the run. I was confident that Matt had a 3:20 or faster marathon in his legs. He had done some badass long runs after long bikes at 7:00 pace in the humid Tulsa heat so I was feeling pretty stoked. I felt that when Matt hit that run he would unleash his fury. I was looking forward to watch him move through the field on the split grid. I felt he might be able to go under 10 hours. A top five age group placing and a Kona slot were within his reach.

I was texting splits to Sean that Matt should adhere to prevent him from going out too fast and I was informing him of the carnage that was happening to his fellow competitors ahead of him up the road. Then I got a direct call from Sean and he told me Matt wasn’t feeling too well. GI problems, gas, bloating, and dysentery “It’s not good” Sean said. I gave Sean all the information I could to help Matt get through this bad patch but the pace still didn’t improve. I was racing vicariously through Matt this year. It was disappointing. I wanted so badly for him to succeed and get a Kona slot his first time out, but sometimes shit happens and there isn’t a thing we can do about it.

There are a number of reasons that he had GI problems but I won’t go into all of them now. All that matters is that Matt finished his first Ironman in 11:01, despite his problems in the race and on the home front. He finished 14th in his age group under very difficult conditions. Not bad for a first timer. Chalk it up to experience. I guess its back to the drawing board to figure out how to manage his nutrition for next time.

I have often asked top age group athletes, why do you continue to race? What drives you? Their answer is almost unanimously, “I have yet to have that perfect race.”

I wonder if the entity of the “perfect race” even exists. It sure would be great to experience it if did.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Knee Rehab.....Smooth Sailing

I want to thank all of those who called or wrote emails to me after my recent surgery. It was appreciated. I have often been asked about how my rehab and recovery is going, so I thought I might document it here to allow others who may have this procedure take a peek at what is involved in the rehab and recovery. Of course, everyone is different and some surgeries are more involved than others are. My surgeon tells me that I am way ahead of the game in my recovery.

Originally, I mentioned that my plica was lateral. Contrary to that belief, it was in fact a medial plica, which had torn loose and settled in-between the two condyles of the femur. I have pictured it above.

I went into this procedure in very good shape. I was swimming a lot (4-5 x /week), and despite some pain in my knee, I was able to ride my bike three times a week fairly hard and had built my Critical Power up to a season best. I wanted to go into the surgery in good shape with the rationale being that I would lose some fitness but, once recovered, I would still be reasonably fit.

I am currently a practicing Anesthesiologist, but I am also trained and board certified in the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. I knew what I needed to do to recover as quickly as possible. My enemy would be muscle atrophy in the quadriceps muscle group and swelling, which would limit the range of motion of my knee.

I have documented below how things went for the first few weeks of my rehab.

Day of surgery: Ice and ROM (range of motion). I didn’t need any oral pain medication. The knee felt kind of squishy to move it but I made sure I ranged it often. My knee actually felt better after the surgery than before. This was a good sign. It is important in this period to keep the range of motion. If it is kept stiff, the collagen in the knee capsule can remodel quickly resulting in a contracture making it more difficult to move later on. This becomes more of an issue with knee replacements than with arthroscopic surgery. However, contractures can occur if the patient becomes complacent about ROM.

Post op day one: I went to work with my portable ice pack and crutches with partial weight bearing (WB) through the right leg. I worked on ROM a lot that day. I provided the anesthetic for a long back surgery. I was able to sit in one place for a while which I would have been doing at home anyway.

Saturday, Post op day two: Ice, ROM, dressings off, crutches, compex muscle stimulator on the quads for an hour to maintain some muscle tone.

Sunday, post op day three: Ice, ROM, and one crutch, advance WB

Monday, POD four: Back to work, ice, ROM, one crutch and at end of day, no crutches. I got back to training today and swam 3300 yards including a 1000yards in 12:02 pushing off the wall with one leg. It still hurt a little pushing off the wall full force. Knee is still swollen. I might have overdone it a bit with the kicking today. Compex on the quads.

Tuesday, POD five: worked all day and into the night and next morning. No time for exercise but I was able to occasionally ice, ROM, stretching, full WB walking with a slight limp. Some pain and swelling.

For the rest of the week I swam daily and by the following Sunday I was on the trainer spinning 100-120 RPM 120 watts for an hour a day. I occasionally iced the knee when I felt I had pain and swelling or the joint felt warm. Riding the bike actually helped ease the tightness and discomfort at the portal sites. There is some residual scar tissue at the port sites and I massage those areas frequently.

By two weeks post op, I advanced to 200 watts intermittently on the bike trainer. Currently, I am able to ride 200+ watts for a few hours and rode outside the other day hitting some 30-second efforts in the 500-watt range with no ill effects. My 1000-yard swim time is down to 11:35, so things are good on the waterfront. I am holding off on the running for a week or so and I should be able to be back to full triathlon training including running 4 weeks post op. I’m back and it feels good.

My motivation has been low this year because of my pain issues and burn out from the past few years of really hitting it. It’s tough fitting in the training, a greater than full time job, and a family including a wife that does this crazy sport. I just had to shut it down this year and have fun. However, after I watched my buddy, Marky V, lead IM Canada for the majority of the race, and my wife, Dana, do so well there a few weeks ago, the motivation to race and train is starting to come back. Dana and I are already making plans for next year.

I guess that my future plans of buying and relaxing on a sailboat, hoping for a windy day will be replaced again with getting on my bike and hoping for a windless day.