Monday, June 20, 2011

Not with a bang but with a whimper

I've pulled out of the race. It's been clear to me since Friday that I just wasn't getting better fast enough: I've been sick for more than two weeks already, I still feel really woozy when I walk around and have a deep reservoir of phlegm in the lungs and a cough that makes people on the subway edge uneasily to a further-away seat. I just saw my doctor: she's prescribed antibiotics and rest. Under other circumstances I might be more foolishly inclined to fight this reality (I have my share of stubborn idiotic endurance sporting ways in me), but in fact I am still just feeling so ill that there is no point even thinking about it. I've canceled the whole trip, I'll go and recuperate at my mother's house over the weekend (where I can console myself with the company of my little cat, who is staying there for the summer) and fly to meet Brent in Ottawa on Tuesday as per what would have been the next stage of our itinerary in any case.

It is a disappointment, but I will survive: at least I got some really good weeks of training in. It is very costly in dollars, unfortunately, but there is nothing to be done about that. Morale is very low, not least because of several weeks without exercise, but I'll hope to be back running again before too many more days pass - at this point it still seems inconceivable, horizontal is about the only position imaginable!

Ugh, feeling very low, but wishing all the best to those racing on Sunday - it should be a great day out there....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mood swings

I was so excited yesterday, but notwithstanding that enthusiasm, I am also still very worried that I'm going to be to sick to race. I am still pretty darn sick, ugh! I have a doctor's appointment on Monday, and I think that's one obvious checkpoint: if she and I at that point both think it's a really stupid idea, that is a time to pull out. I am so dispirited thinking about it, but I have to be realistic: I have been sick for almost two weeks now, and my lungs are still in very poor condition. It is a widely prevalent attitude in the endurance sport world that if you can actually stagger onto the course, it is still a good idea to race, and I must confess that I have much of that attitude myself, but I don't want to do anything that might prevent me from being able to have a good daily exercise routine for the rest of the summer, which is really important to me too...

Updates to follow. Right now I am going to go and feel Glum!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Water of chilliness! (13.1C = 55.58F!)



Slightly scratching my head (metaphorically speaking), why am I so excited, but - I have a bib number!



Very strange indeed to take my bike and gear bag to SBR and hand them over and walk away quite naked of bicycle and gear! I could not for the life of me find my pedal wrench this morning (I think it is buried under all sorts of other stuff in the 'triathlon closet'), but a guy at the store very kindly removed the pedals for me anyway; they were so securely attached that it rather seemed as if no man would ever put them asunder from the bicycle, and he had to enlist one of the store's mechanics to detach the second one! I had better pack the WD-40 in my toiletries bag...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The gear bag

There is something vaguely pornographic about writing this list when I am still feeling quite ill (lungs are on the mend, but it's taking what seems like forever to get better - I have written off any notion of a weekend mega-workout, all I can hope for is to get to the start line more or less healthy!). Send positive thoughts my way!

I'm shipping my bike and gear bag to Coeur d'Alene via TriBike Transport. I've used this service twice for the Florida 70.3 race and been very pleased with it; the great advantage is that the bikes are shipped on trucks, so that they don't have to be disassembled and put back together (and you can also pack things like CO2 that you're not allowed to take even in a checked bag on a plane). Also you don't then have to have a carry-on bag packed densely full with a huge amount of race stuff that you can't risk having go astray in checked baggage...

(NB - you will all be shaking your heads - the reason this is important is that I'm not coming back to New York afterwards, I'm going with Brent to Ottawa for a week and then back to Cayman for the rest of July and August, so I have to haul all of my stuff for the whole summer, including work stuff that also tends to be - marked-up manuscripts! - not what one could sensibly check!)

I made a master race-day list the other day, and then used that to figure out what I'm sending in the gear bag. Not the helmet and bike shoes (helmet might get banged up and lose efficacy - thanks, Carly!; bike shoes will be needed if I manage to have a few short spins to get the legs going again between now and race day); not the swim stuff, ditto and it's lightweight/compact. But most of the other stuff I have a fallback version of here if I need it, and I do think it makes sense to send as much as possible this way.


running shoes
wetsuit, booties (I did not get the neoprene cap, I will wear two regular caps for warmth, I do not like the idea of a possibly strangulating chinstrap!)
sports bra, tri shorts, jersey, run shirt, socks, rain jacket (very lightweight, it fits in bike jersey pocket and in the pouch I'll wear on the run)
hand-held bottle (will use this on the run to drink between aid stations, will ditch it if it gets bothersome)
bento box
albuterol inhalers
canister of EFS drink powder
Hoo-ha Ride Glide (chamois cream - have not yet tried it, but it sounds useful - BodyGlide stays in regular toiletries bag, I can always pick up another onsite if I need it)
Honey Stinger waffles (delicious bike nutrition!)
2 tubes, 2 CO2 (plus one more of each in saddle bag on the bike - yes, I'm paranoid, those flats on the Montauk Century rattled me, I have room in my hydration pack to store these and there's no reason not to have 'em - then also if I see another racer who needs one, I could hand one over without thinking it was foolhardy!)
a selection of gloves: short-finger bike gloves which are what I will probably use, full-finger ones which are more comfortable and which I would use instead if the day was 50s-60s rather than 70s-80s, running gloves to store in my waist pack in case it is cool in the later part of the evening - I'll be walking much of that marathon, and keeping hands warm is most important (I will also have the rain jacket for an extra layer)
Nathan hydration pack with Camelbak 70oz reservoir (for bike)
Camelbak waist pack (for run, but packed with supplies not with hydration: 6 Crank cherry gels [I cannot imagine I will be able to get down quite so many of them, but they are preferable to every other kind I've tried, and it's a long time out there!], salt tabs in a plastic tube, Benadryl ditto [I know I now am sounding like one of those people who carries a whole pharmacy with them, but I am at the far end of the spectrum on sensitivity to insect stings etc. and I can easily imagine a situation where Benadryl would make a huge difference to my day!], immodium, 2 handiwipes, dramamine [that is if the water is rough on the swim]

Drop-off was originally scheduled for today, but has been moved to tomorrow, at SBR. This has given me a very uneasy butterflies feeling in stomach, as though I have somehow messed up and missed all-important deadline!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday morning update

Well, the eyes are much better this morning - those drops are fairly miraculous. There's still clearly something wrong, but you wouldn't look like an utter pariah if you walked down the street without sunglasses!

My lungs are still just full of junk, whenever I get this sort of chest cold it tends to linger. Lots of congestion in head, and voice still mostly missing! My current plan is to steel myself and say right now that I won't exercise until Friday. On Friday I'll do a trial bike-run (1hr bike, .5hr run) and see whether it has any adverse consequences for lungs. Then on Saturday or Sunday I'll do that five-hour workout (1hr swim, 2hr bike, 2hr run), curtailing the run if I am having any difficulties.

I am now into the part of the taper where you're (barring that one long weekend workout one week out from the race) just supposed to be doing half-hour swims and runs to sharpen things up and 1hr bikes to keep the legs moving, so though I really will prefer to hit that one long workout this coming weekend, I think it will be prudent not to worry about what I miss between now and then.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I wrote a fuller report of the weekend's trials and tribulations at my other blog!

(The most relevant bit is that I came down yesterday with bacterial conjunctivitis, one of the most disgusting minor ailments known to mankind!)

Lungs better this afternoon than they have been over previous days, when I was coughing up huge chunks of phlegm pretty much constantly, but still really not substantively better. I imagine I am going to have to take a couple more days completely off before I even think about exercising. 'Better' still means pretty poor, and I have also almost completely lost my voice!

So it looks like I will just have to wait it out. It is going to be mentally worrying to me if I literally have not done a minute of exercise between my last long ride three weeks out from the race and the race itself, but I will hope to do one long workout next weekend as per the Gale Bernhardt plan (1hr swim, 2hr bike, 2hr run). I think I need to leave it at least until Thursday to swim to make sure that the eye stuff has really been cleaned up. In fact it may be that Thursday is about when is the soonest realistic time to do anything much at all.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quick update

Down with a non-acute and yet still pronounced chest cold. Basically I'm looking at a whole week off: I'm going to a wedding in Baltimore over the weekend (first stopping in Philadelphia for Thursday night), and I think it's probably Sunday or Monday anywhere before my lungs are better enough for it to be a good idea to exercise. Unwanted early taper! I think I might do some walking in Baltimore over the weekend, though; it would be useful from the point of view of heat acclimation, as I think it is going to be in the 90s with high humidity (say, 2hr Saturday and 1hr Sunday?). I last exercised on Friday and am strongly feeling the effects of the current deprivation!

Will see how I feel Monday and then decide how to handle next week. I would like to do one long triple workout with all the gear I plan to use before I drop off my stuff for TriBike Transport on the 15th, so that probably should take place on Tuesday (I'm shipping a gear bag as well as my bike, and will send pretty much everything but bike shoes that way so that I don't have to worry about keeping it with me in carry-on when I fly on the 23rd) - I'll seriously curtail the run component if I still feel at all sub-par.

So I think I'm past the worst of it, yesterday was the tipping point, but still definitely full of phlegm! I deduce that a 100-mile bike ride currently puts a significant strain on my immune system (I got sick within 2 days of each of my 100-mile rides), but also that I never got fully better from the first ailment.

(My right-leg chafing is only just now really getting better enough to exercise with anyway, so I pretty much just had to resign myself to the fact that my body was asking for a lot of days off!)

My last long workout pre-race is supposed to be Saturday the 18th, with 1hr swim, 2hr bike and 2hr run, but since I will have already shipped a lot of the specific gear I'm using, it's not the occasion to do one last check on all that stuff!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday moaning!

Very glum this morning; chafing is much better (right leg still sore, but left leg pretty much recovered), but I am coming down with another lung ailment!

I wasn't feeling well in the late afternoon yesterday, but I put it down to not having eaten enough earlier and the fact that I was having an extremely long wait (like, almost an hour!) for a city bus to get me across town to the subway on the way home from visiting out-of-town friends with new baby in tow on the dreaded and inconvenient-to-reach-from-me Upper East Side.

As the evening progressed, though, I realized that I'd been quite wheezy all day, and that my lungs were clamping down...

I think I am not as sick as last time (this is what I always think when I am just getting sick, but in this case it has a fair chance at being right!). The plain and obvious truth: I got sick at pretty much exactly this interval after my other 100-mile ride too; clearly it just puts an extended strain on the huffing-and-puffing system that doesn't necessarily create problems during the ride itself (I use my albuterol inhaler before I start, keep an eye on the clock and make sure to use it again roughly every 1.5 hours, a little before it actually wears off) but that leaves me wheezy afterwards and very vulnerable to any minor respiratory infection.

The fact that I never get enough or good enough sleep is the clincher; that's what makes all the difference in whether or not you can fend off a minor viral infection, and really I am always very vulnerable, the number of times I get a restful night's sleep in a month is pretty much none!

I only had this asthma diagnosed a year and a half ago, but in fact it has caused me significant problems for much longer than that, in all three marathons I've done and in a number of other endurance sport situations as well: the precipitating factor for getting terrible month-long bronchitis last fall was doing the short 'social triathlon' in Cayman and wheezing a lot on the run. I need to get a better handle on this and how to circumvent it.

There is nothing I can do but take it very easy for the next couple days and hope to get better more quickly than I did when I was sick four weeks ago. As I said before, I have this doctor's appointment later today anyway (original goal was just follow-up on insomnia and asthma from winter physical); I will see if there's anything she can give me, but am not especially optimistic.

What I really will need to do is see the asthma specialist again when I get back to New York properly in September and take a deeper look at what can be done to improve this, and also to see what can be done about the insomnia; I have an appointment with a sleep specialist tomorrow, though I've seen a few other folks like this before and do not imagine miraculous change is in order. Really I need a new regimen where I do a lot less in general, take things easier, never work in the evenings, etc. and tackle the sleep thing in the most ambitious possible way...

I am certainly feeling a bit glum, in short, but there is truly nothing to be done now but wait to get better. I missed the last big training week's long swim and long run, but I did hit the all-important long bike ride, and I won't sweat it about losing these days of workouts. I believe I have trained enough to have the base to finish, and that what I do or don't do this week won't materially affect that. I'm away at a wedding Thursday to Sunday and wasn't planning on exercising much then anyway - I'll just have to wait and see how it goes. If I feel good early next week, I'll have a long-day workout like the one I imagined, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday once I've had a chance to 'test' whether lungs really are better.

(It's possible that this really just is a slight thing and I'll feel better enough on Wednesday to do some kind of workout - we can only hope.)

I got the IMCDA athlete's guide on Friday, and I spent a good bit of time Saturday poring over it and running the numbers on course cutoffs. In fact, though people complain about them, the cutoffs are very generously designated; their rationale is that if you're still at that point it is in their experience pretty much impossible that you would finish, and I will take that consequence if it comes. But I still believe that if I have a reasonable day out there, I can beat the cutoffs and get an official finish in the 16-16:30 range - and that is what I am going to try my damnedest to do!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I took yesterday off to let this chafing heal up - it is pretty atrocious! - and hoped to do a long run this morning, and maybe even go to the noon swim workout; but alas, it is clear that I will be very stupid to run while it's still like this (very sore, very disgustingly damp!), and swimming is out of the question on hygienic grounds. Gross!

It's frustrating, but it's not as bad as getting sick after my other hundred-mile ride, so I think I will prefer to err on the side of caution. I'm going out of town from Thursday to Sunday for a wedding; I'd like to have one big training day on Wednesday (I had scheduled it there, then wondered if it wasn't too much close to this past weekend, but since I will have had all of these days off, it starts to seem like a good idea again!). I'll see how the chafing is doing tomorrow and make the call then about whether to start to work out tomorrow or wait till Tuesday. I actually have an appointment tomorrow with my primary-care doctor (just a mid-year follow-up on asthma and sleep stuff), so I can ask her to take a look at it then and prescribe some topical antibiotic cream if she thinks it's a good idea.

Unwanted rest days are a bane to me - and I am up so early, too!...

I think I will see if I couldn't eke out another hour of sleep, and then spend the morning at a cafe working on my essay, which made a significant leap forward on Thursday in terms of done-ness but has languished since without my attention!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A charmed day

When I first read about the 100 Miles of Nowhere at the Fat Cyclist blog, I got incredibly excited. I knew I'd need my final long ride for IMCDA right around now, and though it is perverse to ride round and round in a small circle, it is also appealing to me because it circumvents a lot of my obvious bicycle-related anxieties (fear about being stranded far from home, fear about riding on real roads with serious traffic!). Also, it's in a good cause: the 'registration' fee is a donation that the Fat Cyclist a.k.a. Elden gives to Livestrong (his commitment to fundraising to fight cancer is partly a way of remembering and celebrating the life of his wife Susan, who died of breast cancer after a five-year fight).

Tomorrow's the official event day, but if you want to ride many miles of nowhere in a NYC park, it will be much more sensible to do it on a weekday, and I am very lucky in having a great deal of flexibility built into my schedule. Central Park is really too crowded even on a weekday - so my destination was the 3.36-mile loop in Prospect Park.

And it was bliss, with one exception!

(I am feeling particularly charmed as the subway train was pulling up exactly as I arrived on the platform at Grand Army Plaza, the car I got into was nearly empty and I actually had a seat for myself and bike almost all the way - I got up for a couple stops in Lower Manhattan as it is not right to take up the priority seating/handicapped area when there are not tons of other empty seats - but it was an unusually stress-free train ride home, or perhaps I was just riding the endorphin high.)

There are some nice hills, and the road is empty enough (I got there around 8, while it was still open to traffic, but there are no cars other than park vehicles from 9-5) that you don't have to slow down too often for people.

I am not just lucky in my schedule but lucky in my bicycle-riding friends - Liz couldn't make it, but Brian Berger came out and rode with me from miles c. 37 to 55 (Brian has done a lot of bike racing and is a much faster rider than I - his easy speed was my hard-effort, that hour was definitely the most strenuous of the day!), and Lauren came and found me when I was rinsing off my calves at mile 90 and made the last 10 miles pass by in a flash.

So the only thing I have to complain about is a most mortifying chafing situation. Truly I cannot imagine that this has ever happened to anybody else other than myself, and I put it down entirely to the fact that I have anomalously large calves! I was wearing my new 2XU tri shorts (they are great, and for better and for worse rather longer than any of my other shorts), and had sport drink in the hydration pack (too lazy to sort out the link right now, but it was a new one Lauren has recommended to me); the tube hangs down on my right-hand side. And after about an hour I noted something very strange and sticky and painful happening on my upper right calf - it was somehow sticking to the bottom part of my thigh on each pedal turn! Hmmmm, how could this be? I stopped to investigate, and it was clear that the sport drink was leaking from the tube at a fairly dramatic pace, soaking the back of my leg which then became tacky and produced the most amazingly unsightly chafing! At mile 60 I gave in and rinsed off that leg with water from a fountain and switched the tube to the other side, just to confirm my suspicions - so now BOTH legs have it, though the left side is really not as bad. (But it has an extra bruise/chafe patch where it began to adhere to the frame pump, which rapidly became covered in a disgusting residue of sugar and salts once I switched the hydration to the left-hand side!)

The easy fix on this: replace the Nathan water reservoir with the one from my old Camelbak, which has less storage room in the pack itself but which has a fluid-only-comes-out-when-you-bite feature that I'm not crazy about in other respects but which is clearly preferable to the alternative! I will spare you a picture, it is minor but grotesque and I am going to be YELPING when I shortly hit the shower!

So - a thoroughly non-epic, really quite wonderful 100-mile ride on what is possibly the most beautiful day of this season so far (sunny, low humidity).

By the numbers:

7:02:30, 101.19mi. (avg. pace 14.4mph)
avg HR 134, max HR 158

zone 1: 53:49
zone 2: 3:39:12
zone 3: 1:38:53
zone 4: 49:49 (thanks, Brian and hills!)

Halfway plus?

Not sure if numbers are visible - 56.64 down, 44 to go!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday double spin

That was brutal! Last week when I did it I still had the tail end of illness, but that meant my legs had effectively had a week of taper and I felt pretty powerful on the bike. Today I really didn't have vim to work too hard - there was something wrong with the fan on my end of the room, it was all much too hot and much too loud and I was having a very hard time persuading myself even to stay on the bike once the second class was underway. Had to dial back the effort significantly in last 40 mins. or so as I started to feel a bit queasy whenever I touched the bottom of zone 3 - either I hadn't eaten enough earlier or else I was just too warm.

2:05:20 (avg HR 131, max HR 148)
zone 1: 39:52
zone 2: 1:15:47
zone 3: 4:13

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gear review: tri bra tops, my two cents

Otherwise known as procrastination when I should be typing up edits on my essay!

(Apologies for difference in image sizes - I have pasted them in piecemeal, and cannot be bothered to figure out the resizing possibilities!)

The tri bra top is basically a sports bra made out of material suitable for immersion in water, and notionally styled so that it could be worn on its own (not by me, I do not have the figure or the temperament to run in one of these on its own, I will wear a shirt on top! - but it is in theory part of the design mandate for many of these tops).

If you were on a very tight budget, you could certainly use a regular sports bra instead of a tri-specific one (I have even worn a sports bra and tri shorts now and again at Chelsea Piers when doing a swim-spin combo & having forgotten the tri-specific top); some racers will have a full-length sleeveless tri top either over one of these or instead of it, but I prefer a short-sleeved real bike jersey for my ride so I usually wear tri top and shorts for the swim (alone or under wetsuit depending on temperatures - maybe a throwaway cover-up t-shirt if I am going to be hanging around a long time pre-race and don't want to be half-nekkid), then don the bike jersey in transition. I've also seen fast women racing the "stroke and stride"/aquathlon-type race wearing one of these under a regular women's bathing suit so as to have additional support on the run.

The tri top I have used for a long time is a Tyr one much like this. It's my fourth season of triathlon, strange to say (this was my race report for the first triathlon I ever did, the Florida 70.3 three years ago in May 2008!), and I've worn this top a lot in training as well as racing; it never was as good as a real sports bra for longer-distance runs, and it became increasingly floppy with age, plus seams that once were relatively chafe-free started to give me more trouble.

Since triathlon is a gleefully expensive hobby, and since a long-course IM-branded race is one of the best ways imaginable to rationalize leaching large numbers of dollars from the bank account, I thought this would be a good time to upgrade...

I picked two different ones to buy based on some digging around online.

The first one was the Pearl Izumi women's elite crop (in pink and gray, or "flamingo and shadow grey" as they would have it).
The second was the Zoot women's tri bra top (I think that's the model I got, but am not 100% sure - color "Caribbean" as pictured, i.e. turquoise and yellow).
I have now tested them both on bike and run (the latter is the more crucial test). I think the Pearl Izumi has a slight edge from a strictly run-specific point of view, and is pretty certainly the one I'll use for my race. The Zoot top is great, though; it felt a bit less supportive during double spin class last week, where we do a lot of the dreaded 'running on the pedals,' but in fact when I wore it for my long run yesterday it was absolutely fine. Any sports bra of whatever description will need some Bodyglide to be chafe-free on a 2-hour run, I think, but I was surprised by how comfortable the Zoot felt. Also, on a strict independent-identity-as-top point of view, the Zoot comes out ahead because it has more coverage; I am thinking about getting another one for regular non-athletic summer wear, under a low-cut t-shirt. I like the blue-and-yellow color scheme better than the pink-and-gray, but the pink one goes better with the other gear I'm wearing, insofar as this is a factor!

(This is the bike jersey I will wear - since I train in one like this, using a sleeveless top would be a recipe for disastrous sunburn - and I'll change into my 'cerise' Patagonia Draft t-shirt for the run. This amazingly lightweight and comfortable shirt is in a suitably lurid and celebratory color scheme - when I was running in the park yesterday, a baby girl sitting on her mother's lap on a park bench noticeably coveted it, and reached her hands out to me each time I went past them!)
For someone who has always had near-complete lack of interest in clothes, other than a strong opinion that things need to be plain and without off-putting details, I sure spend a lot of time and money on triathlon garb - I wish it were nearly as interesting or appealing to find nice things to wear in the 'real' world, but I simply cannot enter into the spirit of it in the same way!