Friday, December 31, 2010

Swim Assessment with Cast = Video Motivation

I met Coach Jim at the pool this morning so he could see my swimming and assess the situation and implications for the still-planned-for swim training block. I swam with the pull buoy, without it, and then for the first time, with one zoomer fin. Today I was able to do a solid 300 with the zoomer, and a 100 with no assistive devices. They were tough little cardio intervals, but doable! What a fun challenge it will be to work my way up from that.

Coach Jim seemed much more pleased and optimistic than I expected which really encouraged me. He's not worried about the cast having a negative impact on the stroke.

He had his underwater video equipment there and I was able to see that somehow, in spite of the cast, I have made some improvements with my stroke and body position. So I am now pretty fired up!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maybe not so much "float like a butterfly..."

...but I got me some "sting like a bee!"

Jake had introduced a bit of boxing into my training in the fall. Even after just 15 minutes, I would  feel it in my shoulders, back, arms, core, and lower legs (when available for use!). Knowing I needed an outlet for frustrations (which were HIGH today), he figured out a way for me to throw some punches! I'm sure my technique leaves much to be desired, but it's a fun change-up!

In case anyone is getting the idea that this experience has been easy, it has not been.  Almost every day I have shed tears of frustration.  There's a near-constant level of discomfort that makes it hard to concentrate or be productive. And when I start to feel sorry for myself I beat myself up for that because this situation is (1) temporary (2) fixable and (3) not that big a deal.  And so I move on.

Not slacking on the other body parts either

I think this photo was accidental but it shows Jake's meticulous planning and record-keeping.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bench, rowing, swim ladder

I'm starting to see the potential silver lining in the one-legged situation in terms of swimming and upper body strength. I'm back working with Jake at the gym, I signed up for the February bench press competition so I have a focus and goal, and starting Monday I am moving ahead with a swim block with Jim.

I used the rower at the gym and that worked fine so that's a good cardio option. And today I had a real honest-to-goodness swim workout.  I can't believe what a non-issue swimming is (other than the funny looks I get crutching to the pool).  I did a 100-200-300-200-100 ladder, swimming those at upper aerobic intensity, and followed each interval with a half-distance easy aerobic recovery swim.  So it was 100-50-200-100....  I got stronger with each. With the pull buoy, I feel like I have NO excuse for not leaving a goggle in the water when I breathe or for keeping high elbows in the catch/pull. This could be just what I needed to fix some bad habits.

After a rough first week with calf cramps, pain, sleep issues, negativity, frustration, and moments of despair, I think the worst is behind me. One week down....

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas.... five minute out of this stupid cast to stretch just a little!!!

I should be sitting here awash in Christmas spirit, soaking up the spirit of the holiday and the excitement of my kids. Instead, I am shoving a wooden spoon down the back of the cast trying to figure out how (if at all) to diminish this monster calf cramp that is near-constant. I would like to jump out of my own skin.  I am beginning to think the whole idea of a "cast" is entirely medieval and more "old wives tale" than science.

As of this morning, I still had all the gifts left to wrap.  I woke up at my usual 5 am and figured there was no better time to do it.  Then I realized all the gift wrapping supplies were on the main floor, and all the gifts were in the basement in our locked space under the stairs. I should have planned ahead.  It took five trips up and down the stairs on my butt, but I got everything essential moved - wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, coffee, iPad to watch the Biggest Loser for entertainment....

If you are looking for a great tricep workout you can do at home, go backward up your steps on your hands and one foot a few times. I highly recommend it.

Then I had a really enjoyable hour and a half of wrapping, thinking about each gift and the recipient.

Later in the day, each child in turn joined me in the basement and we wrapped the stocking stuffers each had gotten for his brother.  That was a great moment!  A new tradition has been born as they loved shopping and wrapping for each other.

I did a LOT of sitting/laying around today.  Oh, except for that hour at the gym with another no-mercy Kurt Weidner workout for shoulders and triceps.  So now my entire upper body has been thoroughly brutalized over the last two days. The legs are jealous and sulking.

Time to wind down and catch some Christmas Eve sleep.  No doubt it will be an early morning!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Acceptance and adjustments.

Today started off well with the swim and a strength training workout with professional bodybuilder Kurt Weidner at the Weight Club (Jake is still out of town).  I'm pretty sure you could show up in a full-body cast and the guy would show no mercy.  Perfect!  I worked back and biceps and left in a much better mindset (it wasn't hard to improve on the fact that I was choking back tears on the way in).

Later I took the kids to Target to shop for stocking stuffers for each other. It left me exhausted, my leg was swollen, toes were purple, and I was done.  I got home, propped the foot up and didn't move for two hours.

I remember this pivotal moment the last time I was on crutches.  This was the moment when I realized I can't keep up the same pace of life without going to bed at 4 pm.  Time to make some adjustments.  Chill out more.  Run around less. Accept that my "training" right now is a lot of resting and healing.

I struck a deal with the kids.  I would try to refrain from barking out a constant stream of orders (pick up this, get me that...) but rather I would collect up and save all the commands, then, a few times a day, spew them all out.  They promise to run around and do what I tell them for 10 minutes at a pop.  So far so good. They think it's a game!!

So when you are sitting around "resting" and "healing" and have a laptop, you fill your time with things like Googling "fibular stress fracture". Ever wonder who works their way through to page 14 of the results? Down to the really obscure stuff?  Me! I read a big long thread on a runner's forum where one person after another posted that by trying to cross-train or run through a stress fx, they only delayed healing.  Things only improved when they totally backed off.  So maybe my doc is onto something by taking the choice out of my hands.  I will probably be glad he stood firmly against my desperate protesting.

I can swim!!!

I made my way to the pool this morning at 6:30 am.  I slept horribly last night, partly because this cast makes sleeping comfortably a challenge, and partly because I was excited to get to the pool.

I successfully hopped on one foot from where I deposited the crutches to the pool side, and maneuvered my gear along the pool wall to a lane. I tried tying the pull buoy to my leg with the stretchy band I use for drills, but it wouldn't stay on so I just used it the regular way, which seems to be the way to go. 

Normally with the pull buoy, and resulting elevation of the back end, you feel like you could swim forever, but combined with the drag of the cast, it made swimming slightly tougher than normal, yet the stroke mechanics were largely unaffected.  I proceeded on with some basic drills - 1 armed swimming, catch-up drill, fist swimming, fingertip drag - and then a few sets of 100's. No doubt this will be a great upper body workout.

Between the lack of sleep and physical adjustment to the crutches, this was not the day to push things. I am excited and hopeful to know I can likely maintain and maybe even improve, my swimming some during this time.

I have no excuses not to work on leaving a goggle in the water and using the "cigar mouth" to breathe.

There really could be some good to come out of all of this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1 day down, 27 more to go.

Well I enjoyed my four whole gym workouts, conceived and executed all by my little self.  (See Winter Training for my big, but brief, leap into self-managed workouts).  It's back to supervised training because without help, I am relegated to a limited number of machines for anything with weight. Thanks Kurt and Jake who will make it possible to use barbells, dumbbells, and plate-loaded machines.

If you find yourself with a cast and crutches, here are my suggestions, which I can confidently provide now that I am in...ding-ding-ding....Round 2... of this nonsense.
  • Get the doc to fill out paperwork, pay $5 at the DMV, and get a temporary handicapped hangtag.  You'll need the energy for life's essential activities, not for walking from the far reaches of the parking lot.
  • Get fun socks.  This is a must in the cold weather.  And even more critical if the casted leg happens to contain a regrowing half-toenail that could scare small children and pets.
  • Learn to walk by throwing the crutches forward with body momentum, freeing up hands to carry dishes, coffee, paper, laundry.  Because even if you get great help that first day or two, it will diminish exponentially and by day four, most help is gone. 
  • Take NO chances with stairs.  Falling down the stairs with an immobilized limb is terrifying. Best is crutches in one hand, stair rail in the other.
Back to the gym tomorrow and a go at the POOL!!!!!  Please just don't let me slip on the pool deck.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lightening can strike twice

Just like the last time, I went into Dr. Lebolt's office expecting to receive a little lecture about taking a break from running.  I'm walking fine, heck I put in a nice hour bike workout this morning.  Could a truly injured person do THAT? No way!!

No lecture...instead I got a cast and crutches...oh, and lovely paper shorts! The fracture is in the same place (fibula), but the opposite (left) leg. Not good when the doc says he can "feel it". At least with the left leg, driving is easier.

Four weeks in a cast, two weeks in a boot.

I had a little cry and then started the negotiating.

How about just the boot?  Then I can still bike and swim, it doesn't even hurt. (no, I don't trust you) 
How about two weeks in a cast, and four weeks in a boot?  That worked last time! (nope.  do you want surgery?)
Can I still swim in the cast? (you can try)

Then I pleaded insanity.  Meaning, I will be insane if I can't do SOMETHING.  I feel incarcerated or grounded.  Unfairly.

I even asked my neighbor, Beth, the PA there, to plead my case with Dr. Lebolt.  She kept me company while I got the cast on.  Give me a light blue cast, waterproof, yes I'll pay the difference, just like the last time.

I talked to Coach Jim right away and he assured me we will figure out things to do.  He and Dr. Lebolt still feel like Boston is doable.  So on the plus side I am glad I fessed this up to Coach Jim, and glad I saw TJ, and glad I got into Dr. Lebolt right away. I could have easily kept going on this thing for quite a while and then I'd be healing in March instead of January.

I wouldn't have discovered triathlon had it not been for the last leg injury.  So who knows what might result from this one.  I'll stay positive.

I think I worked through the five stages of grief in about two hours.  It wasn't pretty.  Done with the little pity party. Now it's time to get creative.  What CAN I do? How can I maintain some level fitness, and how can I use this time?? How can I come back stronger than ever??

I do realize in the big scheme of things, this is FAR from the worst thing that could happen to me. Suck it up and move forward.  I have health insurance, a loving family, and a rewarding job I can do with one leg. This is just a speed bump.

I'm blessed, loved, and thankful.


I have an appointment for my leg at 4:15 today, with my neighbor/orthopedic PA who got me through the last ordeal. I pulled the aircast boot out of the closet and put it in the car as insurance that I won't need it. Jim saw TJ at the pool and I guess it was agreed that it is good I am not running with the location and level of associated tenderness and pain. It is hard to concentrate today.

On the plus side I had a nice hour workout/sweatfest on the bike trainer, no pain there!  Well, except perhaps for the butt and nether regions which take a beating on the trainer since you don't really move around as much as out on the roads. I watched a past episode of the Biggest Loser while riding. I never watched it when it was on TV but it is pretty engrossing.  They are fighting for so much - their health and self-respect - and display tremendous courage.  It shows if you want big results, you have to be prepared for big change and big sacrifice. And while support is essential, the drive has to come from within.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Deja Vous

Two weeks ago I took a "funny" step on a run and rolled my ankle slightly inward.  Since then, I've had  significant localized tenderness along the fibula of my left leg.  18 months ago, I took a "funny" step on a run and had localized tenderness on the fibula of my right leg.  I ended up with a fracture and a boot for 6 weeks. So you see why I was hoping and praying this would just go away. It's not. And I know from experience what happens if I ignore this beyond a certain point.

So I finally 'fessed up to Coach Jim, who sent me to physical therapist TJ Stites, who is a runner/triathlete and understands the mindset of a runner. He pushed and prodded, nearly sending me through the roof. He's figuring something bone related, or an attachment, because it is so tender and so pinpoint. He recommended an xray to rule out a stress fracture. The very mention of that possibility left me with a terrible pit in my stomach.

Until I know more about what is going on, I won't be running. I'm pretty sure I caught it early enough for a quick turn-around so I'm staying positive (well, after a two-minute cry in the car). Hey, it's an opportunity. I was gearing up for an intense block of swim training in Jan/Feb anyway, and one of my triathlon goals this year was to bring my cycling up to the next level. There ya go!

I am annoyed that my lower legs seem to be a weak link. That's OK. The physical stuff can be overcome.  I still have a tough warrior spirit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Training

Here we go again, we got hit by the first cold and snow blast of the year which this week resulted in two school delays, two cancellations, and for the last day I haven't even been able to get out of my neighborhood in the minivan.  I know running outside is not smart or possible when my ultra-running friend opts to do his 30-miler on the indoor track which is 9 laps to a mile! Fortunately I have the bike trainer (yay!) and a treadmill (not so yay) at home. If I had a nice endless pool I'd be in business.

The only way I'll get to the gym today is by bumming a ride from a neighbor or waiting for Robert and the truck.

Right now I am training on my own at the gym for the first time in a while. I bumped up the training sessions 18 months ago with Jake due to the leg injury and never bumped them back down. A string of unanticipated home expenses triggered the change, but I also think it's time for me to put into practice all I have learned.

I'm planning out my three weekly workouts ahead of time, aiming for around 30-35 sets to be completed within an hour and change.
  • Monday: Chest, triceps, core
  • Wednesday: Legs, biceps, core
  • Friday: Back, shoulders, core
I still have a lot to learn.  For instance, loading weights properly. On Wednesday I used the H-squat, and after a set with a 45+25+10 on each side, I went to move up to 45+45 per side.  Only after I unloaded one side, I forgot to add the 45.  So here I was marveling that this heavier set actually felt lighter, I thought, wow, I guess I am finally warmed up!  Doh! 

It's also tricky to not have a ready-spotter. Or counter. Or planner. Or motivator.

Time to put on the big girl pants and figure it out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter bike training

Over the last year, I've ridden the bike on the trainer in the family room, living room, garage, and bedroom. Oh, and at the Weight Club and Blacksburg Country Club too!  This winter, I am trying it in the sunny 2nd floor "playroom" which the kids now prefer to call the "office".  I think I found the perfect setup!!  I set up a music stand in front of the bike and can set the iPad on there to watch instant Netflix movies while I ride. I did need to add an extension to the earbuds.  I put a yoga mat beneath to catch all the drippings...and believe me, I do DRIP despite the repeated toweling-off.  I sweat a crazy amount on there.

The room is open to the foyer/1st floor, so I can also monitor the general level of friction between the boys and yell if necessary ;-).  Sound travels well from that location.

Aquajogging, swimming, and getting lean and mean

This has been a challenging week of ups and downs and distracting and difficult life situations. Workouts are good for keeping structure, focus, and sanity when negotiating those emotional speed bumps (some of which feel more like brick walls).


On Wednesday I met with Ann McGranahan, an elite level runner, who supplements her running program with aquajogging/swim workouts. She took me through a one-hour workout, and I think this is what we did....if my memory serves

200 warmup
4 x 50 aquajog/butt kicks/kickouts
8 x 50
     25 sprint, switching off btw free, back, breast
     25 aquajog/buttkicks/high knees
5 x 1 min up/1 min down deep water aquajog finish with 20s hands in air
5 x 30s up/ 30s down deep water aquajog with 20s hands in air
2 x 50 build free + 25 aquajog
100 cooldown

I was pretty well beat after this, with a nice feeling of all over body fatigue. This type of workout would be a great addition to any runner's program and a nice option for those rehabbing.  The cross country team at VT does this sort of thing on a regular basis.

Swim Technique

Today I met with Jim to start tuning up my stroke.  We worked on body position and my kick, and here are some notes from that.
  • Pressing upper body more into water, which felt like it required a bit of chin tuck too
  • lower goggle stays in water, cigar mouth to breath (always)
  • Smaller kick with straighter legs, more pointed toes, generate more from glutes
  • Back arch, butt up
  • More 2-beat kick, less flutter.  Less kick overall
  • swim with elastic ankle band to limit width of kick
  • use pull buoy to get feel of more horizontal body position
  • one arm swimming, with other arm at side, focusing on rotation, high elbow
  • kicking drills - front, back, sides with smaller, straighter kick
  • get zoomers to increase speed at which drills can be done
Here were some good swim tips I came across:

    Lean and Mean

    I'm on day 12 of structured, pre-planned eating.  The goals for me are to maintain a more constant energy level throughout the day and to just feel better.

    I'm eating 7 meals a day with a consistent balance of macronutrients.  I really really like eating this way.  It takes about 10 or 15 minutes of planning the night before, and meal prep in the morning, but then I'm on auto pilot.  It makes it easier to pass up all the goodies that are everywhere this time of year.

    Jake of course works with the overall meal planning. I've gotten some other ideas from Juliet Gotthardt (see , a young female bodybuilder at the gym who is working with BB pro, Kurt Weidner (  She's very creative and has a way of adding kick and flavor to otherwise somewhat dull meals.  Those guys just eat for utility, we like things to taste good too!

    What I love about our approach is that I just focus on the meals and how I feel.  I'm paying no attention to the scale and in fact haven't looked at a scale in nearly a year.  I am getting on the scale - backward - so I don't see the number.  Jake keeps tabs and provides general feedback and encouragement.  It's not about the number for me and it's easy to fall into the trap of obsessing about that stupid stupid number!  Why is that??  So this way I think about what I can control (nutrition, meals) and I don't worry about what I can't control (what the scale says).

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Favorite multi-contributor blogs

    I've got two favorite multi-contributor blogs (more than one person writes for it) that I absolutely love and thought I'd share.

    The first is the No Meat Athlete. Even though it's geared toward vegetarian endurance athletes, all of the columns I have read have had personal relevance. It's witty, honest, and thought-provoking writing. A few favorite entries are 27 Things Your Training Partner Won't Tell You and My Big Screw-Up: Why (and How) I'm Training for a 50-Miler in Only 4 Weeks.

    The second one on my must-read list is Endurance Corner.  The contributors include coaches, elite competitors, sport psychologists, and nutritionists.  I find much sage advice here!

    Swim Video

    Last week Coach Jim of One on One Endurance captured underwater video of three of us triathletes to evaluate our strokes. It's a pretty cool system but requires some real dexterity on his part to simultaneously manage hardware, software, cables, and us.

    Reality can be quite a bit different than perception. 

    I'd been feeling pretty good about my stroke, and certainly some things are coming along - general rhythm, power, confidence, and overall feel. I also know I'm still struggling to keep that lower goggle in the water (yes, there IS more oxygen that one inch higher up!). But my perception that I was pretty balanced and horizontal in the water was very false. The body is OK, but the legs are dragging behind. What to me feels like a teeny tiny kick, is still fairly moderate. So I have some work to do to bring those legs up.

    I also need to bring those elbows up into a better power position.  Waaayyy up. I thought I had been doing that, not so much!!

    I know what is next. To fix things takes a big adjustment where everything feels strange and exaggerated and yucky for a while. I'm game.  Now's the time!

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Off-season nutrition goals

    Well, here I am in that limbo state called "off-season". Rather than just float out here in never-never land with no goals and nothing to obsess (!) about, I thought this would be a good time to learn more about nutrition and meal planning. I have always felt better when I followed Jake's race week meal plans. My energy levels are good, hunger pangs are minimal, and it takes the decision making out of it.  I actually prefer that.  I've never been a big foodie.  I hate to be hungry, but I also don't need every meal to be a gourmet experience. Cooking is NOT my thing....just ask my kids! I'm very basic and utilitarian!

    Two years ago, with Jake's encouragement, I used SparkPeople ( to log my food and manage macronutrients, and I lost about 20 pounds.  There is a lot of research to support the use of food logs for weight management and we have found SparkPeople, although not perfect, is about the best online tool there is.

    For a long time after that initial weight loss, I was good about keeping an eye on the scale, but not since last winter when I decided I would just go by how I felt. For some time now I have been subtly aware that I am no longer quite where I want to be and my eating has gotten too haphazard.

    It's easy to think when you are working out a lot that you can get away with eating whatever and however much.  It's not true, I think especially as we age and our metabolism slows. "Whatever" for me has all too often meant easy-to-grab carbs that don't fill me up and cause fluctuations in my energy.

    So I'm back on the scale, back on SparkPeople, back to conversations with Jake, back to more veggies, back to eating at regular intervals. I'm realizing that like my kids, who take basically the same lunch to school every day and are happy, I am fine with having some basic meals to work from for the majority of the day and then going a little wilder at dinner.

    I have found what works for me is to prepare quantities of the basic foods (brown rice, chicken, ground turkey, steak) and dice them up, package double servings in ziplock bags, and freeze them. I can pull out what I need as I need it. Each morning I prepare everything I need from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and pack it in my cooler.  Most of my meals are four or fewer ingredients. It's all ready to go, and ready to be eaten anywhere, virtually eliminating temptations to grab other things. It's a real cost- and time-saver too.

    This approach is a radical departure from the misconception and belief that we need elaborate meals and vast choices to be satisfied. Simple is better.  Simple foods and simple plans.