Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Anatomy 101..........

Husky Sprint looms. It's a few days away and I am on the windtrainer spinning away. Visualising the race. I've done this race a few times now and can visualise details, even bumps in the road.

Jump off the trainer and hit the treadmill for a 10min easy run done as 2min run/1min walk. Why? Because the nerve is aggravated and so the burn is happening (both knees) right on the bony part on the side of my knee.

After 2 rounds of the 2min/1min it really is cranky and the pain increases. I get off the windtrainer totally deflated. The Gazman is out for a 2hour run. How come he can run! Earlier this week my girlfriend announces all over F.B that she has just run 16kms. Nuts! I head inside and sit with head in hands trying to make sense of it all. The naysayers and my own evil twin (you know the one that would rather have you sit on the lounge all day) starts her taunts in my head. 'What are you doing? just give up'. 

The Gazman arrives home drowned in his own sweat. He says one thing wrong, it doesn't matter, it wasn't him. But I picked up my running shoes and walked down the hall. I see red. Screaming a broken 'I QUIT!' The shoes become black and fluro orange missiles hurling down the hallway landing innocently against a cupboard. I hit the showers. The Gazman finds a drowned rat, curled up letting the water dilute tears of frustration and anguish. 'No, I don't want to talk.' I want to stay here feeling miserable and woe is me-ing for the rest of my life!

A text from Coach, how's the legs? in a word.....FARKED!

He reminds me in his sensible voice, that the nerve will settle by race day. And it did. I am a true believer, and I am sorry I doubted him. When the Oracle speaks.....listen and believe also.

Race day. I travel down South to beautiful Huskisson. 

Huskisson, wet the day we were there
First time travelling on my own to a race, and quite eerie. I register and meet up with my buddies. Bike looking pretty sweet swinging on the rail. I was unusually social and chatted with a few women in my age group. 55 of us gals having a crack today. Huge.

Swim, deep water start, on my belly, hooter, away. Rounded the first buoy without much fuss, aimed for the second. Linked arms with another girl in a red cap while dodging the slower girls from the wave ahead of us. Aiming for the last buoy, I look ahead and don't see any other red caps. Just two beside me. Hey, I'm doing ok. Hit the beach, hit the steep carpeted stairs that are iconic to Husky and enter transition to the calls of 'Go Sammi!' (6th place) T2 over quickly and out on the ride, shoes-on mount and away. Dial in the legs to big gear churn and hit the out section of the 10kms. 

Its a steady grind as it is not steep, but it is a long gradual grade. I play, 'overtake, no you overtake,' with another girl. There aren't that many bikes in front of me, keep it up. Downhill and the legs worked the circles, Up onto the pegs for a few rolling hills before diving back into the bars for the descent. I was overtaken by a couple of girls younger than me. But at the last 3kms, spied a girl my age over take me. I let her go, opting to spin the legs prepping for the run. (7th place). 

Run Sammi, and bang! itb both sides give off loud warning shots that they are not happy. Ok, back off the accelerator and just put one foot in front of the other. Worse case scenario, a 5km walk. Low and behold, the feet kept ticking along. tap, tap, tap, shorten the stride, cadence up, itb's ease, ok, let's go. I ran consistently and without stopping except for a quick drink of water and a splash. The legs kept going and so did I. Blister coming grrrr in a spot I hadn't taped. Mental note of its location for next time. Turnaround cone dead ahead Sammi, keep it up. A quick stock of the body gave a green, all clear signal just as I spied Sonya coming towards me. Ok, there she is approx 2mins behind me. She saw me too. Time to lift. I found energy in the legs, lengthened the stride a fraction and put a little pressure them. They groaned but kept at it. A tightening mid way down the left itb, but nothing scary. Finish line dead ahead Captain. Lifted the pace and with the feet lifting, knees coming through, head up, zipped up suit, and cranky face on, I finished. (11th place) yep, I had watched lots of girls pass me by.

Me behind.
I was very happy with my race, and later spoke with Coach who was equally as happy.

Fast forward to Monday and treatment with Coach. Nothing really to work on as both legs weren't burning and the itbs were relaxed, we chatted instead. 

Ok, this is how I interpret what's going on with my body and these pesky itbs.

Tight illiotibial band is my thing. Much the same as Coach has a pesky achilles heel, Baby Bear has his neck issue, The Onion Man has his tight calves and Slippery has his groin, and Scott has his shin splints. ITBs are my 'thing' accepted. Deal with it.

  • My tib/fibs are very curvy, but my feet track true so the podiatrist has given me orthotics to help address the tracking.
  • My form has been addressed by Coach and run form analyse and constant mental adjustment from me and cues from Coach when he sees something ensures good run technique.
  • Fascia adheres to muscle, so I need to maintain, so I stretch, roll, yoga, self massage and regularly see Coach for physio as he says it gets so tight even self maintenance is not enough.
  • Core and frame alignment are crucial and so I do my clams, core work, 1/4 squats, strengthening work to keep strong in the core and keep the frame in line.
  • The bursa gets inflamed with too much rubbing of the itb over the bone and so occasionally I need an anti inflammation cream or ice to keep it from getting to angry. I have needed cortisone shots 3 times now before Ironman as the work load was too much to maintain.
  • Load on the body, program load and how much training I can manage before the itbs flare up is all important and I need to communicate this to Coach more often. The fine line between working too hard and time to recover is always a constant tweak for Coach as I get fitter.
  • Racing and training combination. As we do not take a lot of time for rest post race, this can put a load on the itbs. Rest is important, I need to communicate and rest when it says rest.
  • Neural load, when training and racing the load on the nervous system becomes greater and sometimes the load is too much and so the burning comes from the nerve being irritated rather than the itb being tight. Again something to communicate with Coach is the amount of residual fatigue I am carrying over a period of time.
  • Scar tissue, over time and constant rubbing and sawing of the itb over the bone has built up some scar tissue, this adheres to the muscle and bone and thickens the itb at the burn site. Maintenance and treatment can ease this. But surgery is really the only way to cut away the scar tissue and by punching holes in the itb the band can stretch again. I am not there yet. Maybe in winter I will consider this again with Coach and see what he says. For now, I am trying cupping and suctioning the fascia off the muscle.

Have I missed anything? So that's my anatomy 101 understanding of what's going on with me. Time to start planning my next race and enjoy my 3rd Happy Thought in a row. Woohoo.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fighting the Enemy Within................

Pretty apt title and video for this post and my latest thoughts.

Went to see Coach again for treatment yesterday. Treatment consists of me laying on the physio bench aka The Slab! and Coach (who is a world class physio) working his magic. The Slab, affectionately called this, as I am simply the keyboard and Coach's fingers tap, push, prod and hammer my troublesome itb into submission. It's 45 mins to an hour of hard manual labour for Coach, I'd like to think of it is a labour of love, but perhaps it's more a rescue mission in reality. On auto pilot he gets to work, and the conversation freely flows with topics that range from racing, training, adjustments to training, life, the Crew and members and what they are up to, to the big ticket items such as how we managed to slip the latest Big Lebowski quote into a situation or how we slammed some fat fuck out on a run. Good times.

Without ever divulging too much of what goes on in my head, for no other reason than, it just doesn't seem as critical when I get on The Slab, I listen, laugh and consider the conversations and advice he imparts and measure this against my own thoughts and ideas. 9 times outta 10 I come away with renewed vigor, motivation and a released itb. It's a win all round.

My latest thoughts again come full circle back to getting the iliotibial band release surgery and how I never get anywhere in my training. With two Sprint races now under my belt, I was slowly feeling like I was getting somewhere. But dashed when the itb tightened again after running group with the Crew the following Wednesday. A hiccup in the matrix, but still it was enough to dash me against the rocks and start the storm of self doubt and 'why bother!' thoughts charging through my head again. Que video........

Right now, the enemy is within! Within my own head. Can I do this? Am I fooling myself? Just get the damn surgery! Give up! It's like someone has tipped up a cement mixer and as the grey sludge rolls into my brain, it fills every cavity in my head and pushes the positive thoughts into the darkest places of my mind. The grey sludge rolls like lava and conceals rationale thoughts and visions. I can't even see the medals that hang from the wall any longer, the grey is all-enveloping and suffocating like a pillow wrapped about my face. It's dark and has no place in an athlete's mind. But am I an athlete? or just some chump weekend warrior who has an over inflated expectation of herself? I should just give up! But that's the easy way out!

Once on The Slab it's like he pulls the plug and the sickly wave of sludge releases and dissipates. I don't even feel it go. Perhaps my itb is directly linked to my brain!

I strike out on a new week, with renewed commitment. WELCOME TO THE GRIND! This is the battle Roy-ale between body and mind. Now let's pick our shit up and get our hands dirty!!!!!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Can I get you another beer............

Orange; the place, not the colour. A country town 4,1/2 hrs west of us and hot, dang HOT! 39 degrees and a dry heat like an oven set on nuclear. ok, I'm exaggerating, but in my world where Sammi is very comfortable closer to ya mild 26, Orange is the backside of the sun as far as I am concerned and here we were about to do a triathlon in it. A quick recci in the afternoon to scope out the bike course and a quick dip in the dam where we would swim and then we headed back to the apartment. 

So, I'm bunking in with my buddy Sonya, who I don't really know well enough to spoon with, but you do what you have to and as Deb was sick and needed her own room, more for isolation so we all wouldn't get sick, than for her sake. A quick pasta meal and after a huge hot day we went to bed and I crashed. I woke up the next morning, lay awake for a moment without opening my eyes taking account of how I was feeling. Nope, not sick, no excuse to stay in bed. I rolled over and reached for my phone and after a little motivational speech from Eric Thomas, I was ready to face the day.

We rolled into the parking lot, 6 of us traveled together, 4 girls in one car and Lloyd and Sandra and 5 bikes in their van. The little red Cervelo was tucked in tight and sandwiched between 4 Giants....oh the indignity! I re-payed the little bike by carrying it over to registration. There was glass everywhere in the grass and so she felt like a Princess again as I carried her over my shoulder.

All 6 of us sat in a line in the brown parched grass in the shade cast by a parked van waiting for the race briefing. This was insane! I was dying and I hadn't even done anything yet. We decided to hell with watching the briefing and headed for the dam. 21 degrees, at least it was a wetsuit swim and I pulled on my wettie, asked for a zip up and walked into the relief of the cool, fresh water, murky brown, reedy blarch that was Lake Canobolas.
Lake Canobolas - the run course goes round the lake twice
Beach start, sweet! The Crew had been practicing these on Thursday nights for a while. Confidently, I toed the line next to a young girl in a tri NSW racesuit. Boy I got balls! 

That's me in the pink cap, (long sleeves)
Anyway, the hooter went and we raced into the water. I felt good except for the feet flying in my face that you couldn't see for mud. 

Round the pontoon and set a heading for the first buoy. I can't breathe, geezus I'm panicking, stop breast stroke a second, get going, nope, can't breathe stop again, breast stroke what the hell! Relax Sammi! Damn it. I slow my pace and try to relax my breathing. We round the first buoy and I have lost a fair bit of ground. Then, release as my wetsuit zipper explodes across my back and cold water floods in. My wetsuit hadn't been pulled up high enough and so it was tight across my chest and I couldn't breathe. Once the zipper gave way, the cold water was sweet relief. I refocused and hit the accelerator. 

I came out of the swim and raced up the beach. Into transition where my wetsuit decided to attach itself to my legs and not come off. Give me a break! Finally free, I grab the little ride and run for the mounting line. 

My legs burn as I hit the first rolling hill. And so that was the name of the day. Burn up a roller and fly down the other side. My gearing was proving to be tricky and the heat was driving me insane. I started to panic and look for excuses to pull out. This is nuts. A calm Eric Thomas moment comes over me,everyone else is in the same place as me and suffering alongside me, it is an even playing field, you aint gonna die today. Get stuck in to it.

I climb up to the turn around point, drop my gearing to ease up the hill and stand up to crank up the rise. Suddenly my bike bucks as the gears race across the cluster and skipping 4 gears lands back down in a heavy gear. Holly crap I almost went flying. I dig deep and the legs burn as I finally limp round the cone and hit the downhill. I'm flying. But what was that? My gears aren't syncing. My head is racing with how to overcome the issue while my legs are digging in deep and churning along the downhill section. Once at the turn around I hit the climbs again and the gearing starts jumping about once again. I growl an exasperated release of frustration as a girl overtakes me. She asks if I am ok? Yep, I try cheerfully to answer her, but inside I am screaming and vowing never to let my bike be transported by anyone ever again. I figure the derailleur has been knocked and the gears are screwed.  To top it off, I drop my water bottle and I still have about 7 kms to ride in this unbearable heat. This is not going to stop me!

I roll into transition once more and hit the run leg. My legs feel heavy but they are turning over on their own. I feel ok, but hot. I run through a misting tent and it is sweet relief. I take a second to enjoy the coolness before heading out into the blaring sun again. It is now 11 am and 39 degrees. Bring it on! Up ahead I see a screedy gravel covered track. Oh noooooo. ITB jumps to mind as I test the gravel under foot. Damn it all. A hill, crest and immediately another hill, crest and a downhill in shade. I stop at the bottom and walk for 30 seconds and that then became the story for the first lap. Walk/ run. I was over taken by lots of guys who I had managed to overtake on the bike or keep behind me. But I was so hot I couldn't get going.

Finally, on the second lap, I found my second wind and the legs and body started to come together and now I was running without stopping. I heard Adam behind me call out, 'keep pushing Sammi you are having a fantastic race'. It spurred me on. He eventually overtook me with 1km to go. But I had held him off the whole time. It was a good feeling. Up ahead I saw a young girl in an Aus tri-suit. I willed myself to keep up with her. The final part of the run is along the damn wall. I came up alongside the girl and then found myself speeding up and over taking her. I felt so good at this point I lifted again and before heading for the finish line managed to give a high 5 to a kid. I zipped up the suit, set my eyes on the black line and smiled. Done!

An awesome feeling!
I stopped quickly to talk to Adam and congratulate him, grabbed some cold drink, icecream and fruit and sat in the shade waiting. 

6 minutes passed before the next girl came in out of my friends, Sandra! the rest followed after her. All 6 of us achieved podiums on the day in our respective age groups. Me I got 3rd. But, I had scratched my mark in the ground last race and today, I convincingly had held the line!

Swim 0:13:17
T1 0:01:35
Cycle 0:40:40
T2 0:01:19
Run 1:25:48 0:28:55