A2A, 38 mile finish line; 2011

Saturday, March 31, 2012

There's No Love Like Wheel Love

My MPC Street Fights are like a loyal lover, waiting patiently for me to sow my wild wheelie oats and return to them. They know that I love them, they are just waiting for me to realize it... And so I have.

I have tried a few different types of wheels, including the Bont HRR's. I honestly thought that they would win my heart. But they didn't. I skated a few times on them and did not feel the spark. The street fights are smooth and fast - and neon green. What's not to love?? I put them back on this morning, and knocked out 32.83 glorious miles... They are my absolute favorite wheels, so why keep looking?

My skate today was fantastic; I had a south westerly wind, so I knew it would be in my face on the way home - but I didn't care. I needed to get a distance skate under my belt. My original plan was 28 but when I hit that bridge, I just could not get myself to turn around. Not when downtown was sooo close... When I got to confluence park, I took off my skates for a few minutes. The balls of my feet weren't bothering me too much but I figured it couldn't hurt to give my feet some air and a good stretch. I was right about the wind, but I just didn't care. I have a 'summertime' playlist on my iPod that has about 400 songs on it - spanning from 1979 to 1989. I had that on random so my mind was very busy playing road trip through the past. I ignored the wind and the swarms of mosquitoes and just enjoyed myself.

My feet and calves were good until about the last 1.5 miles; and even then it wasn't too bad. Just a little burning in the balls of my feet. I think I might know what is causing it; my boots are pressing down on my big toes - to the point of wearing through the nails. I also have some hot spots on the sides of them (where my ginormous bunions are.) So I'm going to use a heat gun to spot mold that area and the area above my left inner ankle bone (I have a constant bruise there - no blisters or anything.) The spots on my heels haven't been an issue in a while so I must have corrected whatever was tearing them up.

I feel really great today! I've been eating really clean, and working out consistently: weight training and cardio. Next week is an active recovery week (no weights) and I'm looking forward to some variation. (Yoga, swimming; stuff like that.) If I can keep this up, I should be pretty lean and mean by Duluth...

So far I'm at 225 miles skated for the year; my best marathon time so far  is 1:44, half marathon is 48:38. I think that's pretty darn good for only being 3 months into the year... I don't have high expectations of myself for Texas - I hope to complete the marathon in 1:45 or less. I have 21 more days left to get ready for it!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blow by Blow of a Tuesday Skate

Yes, the pun is intended. It's March, and it's windy every time I go out. I've decided to name the wind Olga. I visualize her as a huge Russian weight lifter who intends to whip me into shape, no matter how much it hurts. She shows no mercy. She ignores my anger and my frustration; and only howls louder when I feel like giving up. She relentlessly makes me work for every mile. I hate her when she's screaming in my face, but love her when she's got my back.

I did not feel like skating yesterday. I was tired and cranky. All I wanted to do after work was go home, put on some comfy sweats, grab some junk food; and watch a movie. (I was thinking 'Aliens'.) But - it was Tuesday, and as long as it's not raining, snowing, gale force winds or colder than 45 degrees; I skate on Tuesday. The weather was nice enough, upper 60's, a little overcast, and according to the weather dude - 'breezy'.

Parked my car, suited up (reluctantly - I'm still contemplating going back home to watch Aliens) - and hit the trail... Ooooh yeah. WIND. WIND WIND WIND. Right in my face. Olga was not going to let me sneak in a nice, easy skate - she was going to make me work for it. I wanted to get 10-15 miles but every time my GPS let me know a mile had passed, I resisted the urge to turn around... Below is a summary of my experience:

"I hate this! I hate my skates. I hate this season. I hate the wind. I am not having fun. I HATE THIS"
*swarm of gnats*
"I wish gnats had different flavors. Like Nerds"
*pass a bike*
"Sweet! I passed a bike!" *Granted, the rider was like a hundred and going about 2 mph... Grumble grumble*
*come up on a swarm of Grackles who circle my head angrily* - duck and skate through them.
"That was weird..."
Get passed by a pack of bikes who didn't even bother to give me a heads up - "On Your Left, you idiots!" I yell. They can't hear me though, because of the
"OMFG I hate this wind! I hate this day! If I were at home watching Aliens, I'd be at the part where Hudson whines 'game over man, game over!'...."
Pass two inline skaters. Happy to see more skaters, sad to see that their form is crap: but also feel envy because of their big, comfy cushy skates....
-- I swear at some point a jogger passed me ---- 
*another giant swarm of gnats*--
I can make it to the bridge. That puts me at about 11 miles round trip... I can make it... *come around the corner and see The Bridge*... Feel a tug of relief, my ride is half over.

Cross the bridge - Olga is now at my back. On the other side of the river is a brand new section of trail. It's wide, it's smooth, and it's pretty flat. I suddenly feel a burst of energy, I crank it up, I get low - and I feel like I'm flying. Now, I don't care about the stupid wind, or the pain in my feet and legs, or the fact that I'm tired and whiny. I get a huge smile on my face - big mistake *swarm of gnats* (I seriously wish they were fruit flavored.)

The ride back was awesome. There was a goose laying in the middle of the trail; I passed her so fast that she didn't even react. (Either that or she was laying an egg - I couldn't really tell...) I passed more bikes, and the bikes who passed me had to work for it, and they let me know it.

"Awesome skating" says one dude.
"Great Cadence!" says another dude
"I've been trying to catch you for a mile!!" says yet another.
And then there were a couple who never caught up to me... I wonder what they were thinking...

End of ride, check my GPS. I tracked 11.45 miles in 48 mins/32 seconds. My mph average was 14.2, I felt pretty happy with that.

I wanted to high five Olga. She's like that personal trainer you hate but can't stop going back to. Eventually she won't be a factor, but I'm hoping that skating in the wind is making me stronger... (Feels like it's doing SOMETHING because nothing wears me out faster!!) I can't wait until she's gone though - because when there is no wind, I am definitely faster... (and Fast = Fun...)

Tomorrow is Thursday... and as long as it's not raining, snowing, gale force winds or colder than 45 degrees; I skate on Thursdays... (Here we go again...)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trial and Error [Mostly Error]

The weather has been semi-cooperative lately, so I managed to skate 62.77 miles last week (putting me at about 162 for the year so far.) They have not all been happy miles. In fact, most of them have been agonizing. My brain is having a really hard time with this - skating is usually something fun, and chill, and playful. My brain likes playtime. The pain part is new, and my brain does not like it one bit!

After my painful skate on Friday night, (I deduced that I had my skates laced too tight. Took about 2 hours for feeling to fully return to my feet.) I tweaked my frames out a little, put on some new wheels (I got a set of the Bont HRR 100mm wheels - light blue) with a new set of bearings; I laced them a little looser, and set out to try to get at LEAST 25 miles under my belt. The first 24 miles were fine. I had the wind in my face on the way out, but it wasn't gusty so I didn't mind it. I turned around just before hitting the 15 mile point and started back. I felt really great - aside from the usual weird muscle awareness in muscles I was previously not aware of. (Like that weird fish fillet one on the side of the calf.)

With about 5 miles left to go, suddenly the balls of my feet felt like they were on fire. It about took my breath away. I leaned back - yes, I do hear you guys in my head, telling me things like 'don't toe push, lean back on your heels, push with your heels, bend your knees,' and so on and so forth. It's like I have a head full of coaches but I can't really SEE if I'm actually doing these things!! Leaning back relieved the pain a bit - but it remained with me until I pried my sweaty boots off and stuck my feet in ice. (I'll skate with my buddy James here soon so he can actually see if my feet are doing what my brain thinks they're doing...)

Overall though, I felt a sense of triump. I skated almost 30 miles with minimal discomfort (until the end.) This to me is progress - because I am going further and further before the foot pain starts. I keep reminding myself that this is JUST the beginning of the season, I have plenty of time to learn and grow. I am also completely over any lingering fear from my fall - so no more extreme hesitation when I cross bridges or come upon unfamiliar obstacles in the trail.

And I'll tell you what, those stretches of trail where I can get myself to go all out and fly as fast as I can are what make all of this worth it. For a few precious moments I forget about how much my feet hurt, or how much that weird fish fillet muscle is screaming, or how tight my left hamstring is; or the fact that I have gnats plastered to every sweaty exposed piece of flesh. For a few precious moments I am no longer earth bound. And I live for those moments.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Full On Training Mode!

I love this picture. I don't know how many times during a workout I've felt like I was going to barf, pass out, or DIE. But I didn't. And I kept going. Like Tuesday for example. It was too cold to skate so I half-heartedly headed to the gym for a boring treadmill workout. I wasn't into it at all. I told myself I would do 'at least' 15 minutes. I tried to run but only made it about half a mile so decided to walk... Then I kicked it on random to at least give me some hills to trudge up... When I hit 15 minutes, I decided I could go another 5 minutes... At 20 minutes I figured what the hell - lets go to 30... At 30 minutes I figured I could manage another 15... and at 45 minutes I suddenly felt the urge to run; so I ran for 15 more minutes. And that is how a 15 minute workout turned into an hour. And I felt worlds better at the end of it.

I am happy to report that I have finally found my groove. My winter blues are GONE and I am fully into my routine. (Hallelujah, I was beginning to worry!) The week after my crash I took it easy; but I did some form of cardio every single day. Then I started hitting the weights. 3 days a week - Mon/Wed/Fri: those are my weight training days, no matter what. We have a decent gym here at work, so I go workout for an hour, and if the weather is nice I skate after work too! (I just make sure to pack enough food to support that much activity.) I call those days 'twofers' and I did one yesterday.

My workouts usually start w/ 20-30 minutes of running on the treadmill. (I used to just do a 5 minute treadmill warm up.) Afterwards it's 25-30 minutes of weights. I try to skate Tue/Thur/Sat and/or Sun; but like I said, if the weather dictates I skate on a weight day; then I just do a twofer. The ideal is to skate 3-4 times a week but it's springtime in the rockies - which means unpredictable weather and lots and lots of wind... I'm really trying to change my relationship to the wind - to view it as a training tool but I really, really hate it. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself skating full on into 25 mph wind with tears streaming down my face and swear words streaming out of my mouth because I feel like I'm not even moving!! But I know in the end it will make me a stronger skater.

I've been out skating about 5 times since my crash, and the trepidation has passed! I am not feeling anxiety or fear anymore when I go out. This is a HUGE relief - there is no room for fear in speed skating. (A healthy dose of vigilance perhaps; but not fear.) I made a deal with myself to do 2 weeks of 'short' skate outings (15 miles or less; preferably less) building up to the longer outings. I am hoping to get a nice 25 + mile skate in this weekend. The Texas Road Rash is exactly ONE MONTH from today, and I still have a lot of work to do. I am still set to skate that one in the pro master's division so I need to make sure I at least show up for it!!!

I'm doing pretty good with nutrition - and that's usually the hardest part of it for me! But I have a good meal plan that works with what I do every day, and I always make sure to provide my body with recovery fluids after a workout. (It really does make a difference as far as muscle soreness.) I do not fear food and I know on days when I'm doing a twofer that I'm going to blast through some serious calories, so it's okay to add a couple more snacks and an extra carb in there. Food = fuel. Need it to succeed.

So that's where I am right now. Prepping for my first race and absolutely stoked for the 2012 skate season!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Inspires You?

Once upon a time, my motto in life was 'If the going gets tough - I'm outta here!', and I truly did live by it. Relationship getting tough? I'm outta here. Job getting tough? I'm outta here. Exercise getting tough? I'm outta here... I had nothing inside of me that would adhere to something difficult with a determination to fix it; nothing to inspire me to work through a rough patch, or a challenge, or even just sticking out a period of apathy. When things in my life got difficult, I often walked away and started over somewhere else.

But somewhere along the way, I found something inside of me that holds on now - through tears, through sweat, through anger and frustration and a screaming desire to throw in the towel - something inside of me digs in and says 'no'. I guess you could call it drive. I have finally learned about cause and effect - every action has a consequence; either positive or negative. I try to embrace the positive and correct the negative instead of shrugging and walking away.

I'm not saying that sticking things out magically got easy - not even close. I guess I just look at the big picture now, and not just the little corner of it that I am experiencing problems with. When I struggle out there on my skates; I visualize one of my skate heroes out there, gliding effortlessly along in a pace line and I WANT THAT. It makes me grit my teeth, ignore my pain, and keep pushing forward. The only way I will ever BE the way I want to BE is if I get out and do what I need to do. You don't become something simply by sitting on the sidelines wishing for it. You actually have to participate.

Another thing that helps keep me grounded and my goals realistic is that I idolize real people. My inspiration doesn't come from some celebrity with a hoard of personal trainers and private chefs and six hours a day to devote to hot yoga - I idolize real people who work, have families, and still manage to get out there and accomplish the very same things I hope to accomplish. There is a woman here at work who is 55 years old and works out in our on-site gym every day. She's unbelievable. I'll be trudging away on the treadmill and look over just in time to see her start a set of lat pull-downs and every muscle in her back ripples with the effort. It's glorious. I want that. It makes me kick things up a notch. All of the female skaters I've become friends with over the past couple of years inspire me - especially the ones who are older. I think of my skate friends who are working through injuries - getting out there day after day, determined to do what they love. That is what inspires me.

The desire to be a part of that club - an elite club -  is what will make me strap on my skates tonight - knowing full well that there will be a south westerly wind blowing right in my face as I'm skating back home. A desire to be able to hold my own with those skaters during the marathons this year is what will make me wrap up my blisters and ignore them when they complain. The passion I feel for a sport that I'm completely new to is what will make me keep getting out there, day after day - until I am no longer struggling.

To all of you who inspire me, and encourage me, and give me advice - thank you. I never could have come this far alone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sleek and graceful? Not this skater...

Got out to skate today after work - I put my mind in a different place to try to avoid disappointment. I decided that my focus would be on form and technique, speed and distance could wait. The Bonts and I are still in the 'honeymoon' phase, and so far we aren't gelling too well. (But I'm a romantic, and I refuse to give up on them no matter how much they keep hurting me...) 

I tweaked a few things prior to today's outing: first I switched back to the 100 mm Street Fights (BIG difference, I really love those wheels!) and I scootched the frames inward a bit. I noticed a difference right away, there wasn't any pronation and the wheels felt much more comfortable. Negative is that I experienced some pressure on the upper inside top part of my left foot, and those damn raw spots on my heels... 

I put myself into a relaxed frame of mind and tried to remember a few things: no toe push (hard to tell if I'm actually getting that one) focusing more on a full range of motion finishing with the heel. I know I over exaggerated this move a bit, getting my elbows into it; I imagine I looked a bit like a duck sliding across a frozen lake. I feel uncoordinated, sloppy and clumsy. It's aggravating! But - I'm determined to get past it.

I did get some speed up on a new portion of the trail they've paved; it's smooth, flat and straight, perfect for a balls-to-the wall zoom-fest. I opened it up - and it scared the crap out of me. Not good... Not good at ALL - considering the fact that I'm trying to become a speed skater... I skated with quite a bit of fear the entire time tonight. Something I'm still chewing on in my brain to try to figure out the cause... (Probably still not confident enough on the Bonts?)

Of course the return trip was full on wind in the face - OF COURSE it was! If you have ever tried to run in a swimming pool then you can imagine what skating into the wind feels like. It's exhausting and frustrating. But it's also really awesome resistance training - as long as you can look past the whole exhausting and frustrating part. 

Got back to my truck feeling tired but the muscles felt good - I haven't had the cramping like I did that first day so that's got to be a good sign. However, my heels are torn up, and that's NOT a good sign. The weird thing is that I didn't even feel it until I was almost done with my skate...

But... I'm gonna keep chugging along because this is what I do and I love it. I am toying with the thought of skating Road Rash on my K2's though - since our relationship is comfortable and true. I'll give the Bonts a few more weeks to see if we can work things out but I gotta say, my heels are hurting...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feeling Discouraged...

I am usually pretty upbeat and positive; years of being a negative pessimist took their toll on me until I decided that I was done being a 'glass half empty' kind of gal. Now I am usually more of a 'not only is the glass half full -but I also have the power to top it off!' kind of gal...

But I'm also human, and prone to having moments of being unable to see past a particular moment to visualize the big picture. Yesterday was one of those days. I've been out on my new Bonts 3 times - and all 3 times brought some kind of agony and frustration.

Day one was completely my fault for being overzealous. I skated 31 miles on brand new skates, and on the return trip I experience excruciating muscle and foot pain. I had raw spots worn into the backs of both heels and my legs were so cramped I could hardly walk. It was extremely disheartening.

Day two was of course, the day of my epic wipe-out. Yesterday when I skated past the spot where I crashed, the water was gone so I could see exactly what I had done wrong. The water flow was coming down a part where two paths joined, so when I tried to skirt around the bigger portion of water my skate must have gotten caught in the seam where the two paths joined together. If I would have just taken the water straight on - I probably wouldn't have wrecked. Disheartening.

Day three was yesterday. I was apprehensive to begin with, but once I saw that the trail wasn't too bad, I tried to find my stride. I came across one slushy wet obstacle underneath a bridge, by the time I came upon it, I was going too fast to slow down so I ran right through it. My heart was pounding so hard I thought I was having a heart attack! I skated right through it without even a wobble. I had a relatively enjoyable skate to the turn-around point (wisely I decided to turn around at just over 8 miles rather than push myself to turn around at 10.) This is where things went to shit. As soon as I turned around, the wind was right in my face. It was so intense that it almost stopped me dead in my tracks several times. I had to work twice as hard to get any speed up, so I started to feel exhausted, and frustrated, and angry. At one point I looked at my GPS and noticed that it had taken me a damn HOUR to skate 13 miles!! My heels were hurting, I looked down at my feet and noticed I was pronating HORRIBLY and I could not get myself to correct it. I made it back to my truck feeling exhausted and frustrated rather than relaxed and euphoric.

I had moments of thinking about switching back to my K2's. I had moments of feeling like I absolutely despised the Bont skates. I had moments of thinking that I transitioned too soon - and then wondering if I should have even transitioned at all. I felt dread about my upcoming marathon in Texas, rather than excitement. I felt completely disheartened, discouraged, and tired. A part of me isn't even looking forward to the next time I try to get out and skate.... And that really, really sucks.

I have two huge blisters on the back of my heels again; same spot on both feet. I know I need to adjust my frames. I feel sloppy, clumsy, and awkward when I skate. I'm guessing the muscle soreness will eventually resolve once I have my legs conditioned to work with the new skates - I'm hoping that the sloppiness will improve as well. I'm not really looking forward to the outings I'll have until all of this happens, and I have a fear that it WON'T. In fact, I'm actually looking more forward to running on the treadmill than I am to skating again...

I also realize that it's early in the season - but have I lost EVERYTHING I gained last year??? I sincerely hope this is a temporary hitch (and a normal one) because the thought of losing my joy breaks my heart. I'm hoping this painful transition is normal and I just need to suck it up and push through it because the rewards will outweigh the grief... They have to...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Aftermath

It's been three days since my wipe-out, and I am so DONE with it! I'm stiff, sore, leaky; and frustrated. I'm one of those people who likes to move really quickly - I walk fast, I take the stairs instead of elevators, I park far away from wherever I'm going because I like walking. I move a lot and I tend to move quickly. Yesterday at work I parked in the visitor parking, hobbled into the lobby like a little old lady, and took the elevator up ONE FLOOR.... Augh!!! All day it was hobble to the printer, hobble to the restroom; hobble to the cafeteria. It was aggravating. I tried to use the Tegaderm bandages but a couple of my scrapes were a bit too juicy so I had to go back to the gauze/pressure bandages... I dumped them halfway through the day and left my elbow unwrapped (which both repulsed and fascinated my co-workers) and put some regular bandages on my knee. As soon as I got home I unwrapped them all and tried the Tegaderm again. I like those bandages because they're light, flexible and not bulky at all. I'm determined to keep them on, even though I'm... Leaky.

Last year I learned that - for myself anyway - anything I do physically is at least 75% mental. My body is like a horse just waiting for instructions on how hard to work. My mind is the thing that sets limitations. Of course, my body speaks up if it's being worked TOO hard - but in the past I never even came close to pushing any physical boundaries. Last year I did and my body responded. I had some issues with a tendon in the back of my right leg and some arch pain in both feet, but other than that - my body responded. The things my body accomplished gave my mind the confidence to keep moving forward.

Now that I'm experiencing a set-back in my momentum, my mind is having some doubt. Even though this wipe-out was not due to any type of failure on my part (the thing I did wrong was not turn back when I first realized how bad the trail conditions were) my mind is still a little shaken. When I think about falling again, I don't feel any fear or anything like that - the fall itself wasn't so bad. It's the aftermath. Having to slow down and think about what happened, and wondering if I'll actually be able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish this year. I'm almost starting to feel that doubt that has always curtailed me in the past - that fear of not being able to become more than I already am; to not be able to break through barriers that are holding me back. I know I'm not getting any younger, but I feel determined to not let that be a factor. It takes a little longer for me to get conditioned and I know I can't hold my own with people in their 20's - but I don't care about that. What I want for myself is to do well, and then do better. I need my mind to believe that I CAN do that, or else I'm already set up for failure. Last year I did well - this year I want to do better.

So I'll lie low for a while, take some time to let these bruises and nasty, leaky scrapes heal. As soon as my joints can bend without pain I'll start working out again: I will walk, then I will run, and then I will skate: but first I'll wait for the snow to melt and the sweepers to groom the trails!! I'll read about what my skater friends are doing, and their accomplishments will fuel my ambition and desire to accomplish things as well. My body will heal. And so will my mind...

... and so will my skates... I'm lucky the damage to them was minimal!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It was bound to happen sooner or later....

The dreaded wipe out. It finally happened.

I used to fall quite a bit back when I first started skating; but I was never going at the speeds I skate now, and I never skated unless the conditions outside were perfect. My falls were usually clumsy, slow motion events that resulted in minor scrapes and bruises: I would slap on a band aid, brush the dirt off, and keep going. Yesterday I had a spectacular wipe out about 3 miles into a skate where I actually had to turn around and head back home.

When I first parked and started getting my gear together, I realized it was incredibly windy. I hesitated for a moment, but decided to get out anyway. I figured a slow 10 mile skate in the wind was better than nothing. When I got to the trail I noticed several patches of ice and water - I hesitated for a moment, then decided to get out anyway. I figured I could skirt around some ice or water.

The trail was a mess. There were rivers of water from melt off all over the place, along with sand, dirt, twigs; the usual winter debris that USUALLY keeps me off the trails. I came around a corner and started down a hill when I saw this massive flow of water about 4 feet wide rushing across the trail like a small creek! I was going way too fast to stop so I just gritted my teeth and skated into it. I felt my right foot wobble and the next thing I knew, I was ass over head, tumbled a few times and ended up on my stomach. The first thing I noticed was my bloody right knee, and my left elbow was a bit sore. I skated to a bench to inspect the damage. From what I COULD see, my elbow didn't look too bad but my knee was a bit of hamburger. I sat for a second, got my bearings and wiped off my knee - then headed back to my truck. I was okay at first but man, when the adrenaline started to wear off things started to hurt!!

When I got home I was able to see that my elbow was a lot worse than I thought. I went to the urgent care this morning for a couple of xrays (just to make sure I didn't break anything) and all of that came back normal. I just need to let this stuff heal!

I don't wear knee or elbow pads and I won't start now. Personal preference. What I learned from this little mishap is that I need to be more patient and wait for the trail conditions to improve. I'm too impatient and want to SKATE... Now I have no choice but to lay low for a couple of weeks...

I've been cross-training and doing some running along w/ weight training to get my conditioning back up. I think I might skate Texas in the open division instead of the pro master's so that I don't feel so much pressure to get in peak shape by April. (I don't think that's going to happen no matter how badly I may want it!) Things will come together, I just need to be patient!