The Athlete’s Hangover

I wake up, body battered. Lying in bed for an hour trying to get up. Every muscle in my body screams for relief. I roll out of bed and step on a heart rate monitor that is misplaced on the floor. I wonder how it got there. The smell of sweaty clothes fills the room like a waft from the men’s locker room at the gym. My morning urination is much darker than it should be, resembling apple juice. I need to drink more water. My swim goggles and swimsuit are hanging on the shower curtain. I find some of my clothes from the day before in the bathroom and the others in the hallway leading into my bedroom. Every step I take down the stairs feels like needles stabbing my quads. I wonder which workout caused this pain. The blisters on my forefoot are starting to break open. I hope I am not bleeding on the tile. I walk into the kitchen with a case of cotton mouth that feels like the Sahara Dessert. As I pour water into a glass I notice an array of water bottles spread throughout the entire kitchen and living room. Some with remnants of water and others with electrolyte mixes. I wonder which workout each bottle was from and which bottle was mine or my mom’s. I find a tire lever by the stove, an allen wrench on the counter, and a set of new brake pads on the kitchen chair. I grab a bruised banana that resembles the bruises on my body and pull the peel back. I throw the peel in the trash and notice an assortment of candy wrappers and other quick energy supplement wrappers. I wonder how many calories I consumed yesterday. I can’t find my watch. My pedals and saddle bag are missing from my bike. I wonder why I took them off. I have a couple mis-matched cycling kits to choose from. I dig my sweaty, dirty leg warmers and gloves out of the hamper. I grab some energy bars that expired in 2009 and a couple of the bottles from yesterday that are lying around.

This is my hangover from a 3 workout day.

I roll my bike outside to see John Sherwood and my mom waiting for me to go for a 3 hour road ride.

Nothing like a little hair off the dog that bit’chya to set the morning straight.

My mom and I set off on our first ride with John. We head down 2499 to avoid the construction that surrounds our house (they are slowly trying to trap us cyclists in Highland Village). I lead them off onto the sidewalk that winds through the neighborhood to Chinn Chapel. A women walking her dog on the sidewalk caused me to slow down. I give the old roadie hand jester to the riders behind to slow. Then I hear some screeching and a metal to cement sound. I turned just fast enough to watch John sliding Super Man style across the sidewalk onto the grass. The way his arms were trapped under him as he slid made me think he was possibly unconscious. So I gave the infamous “Ohhhh Nooo!”… Luckily he was ok. I was hoping I did not ruin his training ride within the first 5 minutes. He had some great winter cycling gear on that allowed him to slide across the cement like a penguin on ice. Only one minor tear in his tights showed. Those super man and cobra back core exercises kept his head up just long enough to not slam it into the pavement.

We went on to have a great 50 mile ride in the sprinkling rain and wind.

I promise this stuff is not as dangerous as it sounds. Its just that crashes always spark writing stories.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Sometimes life gets in the way. I haven’t run in over a week; doctor’s orders until he gets my sacrum rotated back into place.

“How does my sacrum get rotated out of place”, I asked?

“It could have been that way for a long time and you are just now getting enough pinching of your L4-L5 from being out of alignment that it is causing the nerves running to your hamstrings to produce symptoms, or else you stepped in a hole the wrong way while running, or maybe it was one of your crashes into a tree”, he replies.

My jury is still out on any of this, but I am doing what he tells me, and giving the therapy a chance to work. I will take the rest of December off from running, focusing on my swimming and biking instead.

Tuesday, in celebration of my birthday, I did a 47-mile bike ride with a few friends, and my son. We road 1 mile for every year old I am. I was thrilled being in the great company of Christina Smith – a pro-rider for Rouse Bicycles, Ricky Bobby – our semi adopted son who just got a scholarship to ride for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Daniel – always willing to humor his mom and drag her around on his wheel, and my friend Pattie – the new women’s wrestling coach at Lewisville High School and along for the ride. The weather was perfect in the mid 70’s, and the first day of winter promised to be one of the very best! It was, and the ride was awesome.

Wednesday at my master’s swim session, Coach Tom had us finish our workout with a 100-yard sprint for time. I did a 1:10 from the wall, my fastest to date with him. After a long layoff from the early days of triathlons in the 80s, and a brief 6 month training period for an off-road ironman in the early 2000’s, I have been swimming consistently now for just under 2 years with Coach Tom. I am happy with my progress in times, especially given my limited time to swim of 3 days a week, for an hour at a time. He is prepping me for a mile swim for time the week after Christmas, so that we have a base line going into the last 4 months of training before the World Championship race in Spain.

Today, Thursday, was a day off from training, but a long, day of waiting at the hospital. My husband, Scott, had a back fusion of L4-L5. That is one heck of a surgery and not one I would wish on anyone. He has one of the best surgeons in America, and everything went great. There is a lot more to it than this, but they went in the front side of his body first, to replace the center of the disk and fill it with bone morphogenic protein and cadaver bone into a titanium cage, and then they flip you over and go in through the back with screws to fixate the spine. It will be a road to recovery in the coming days, weeks and months, but we both look forward to a much better quality of life because clinically, he will be more flexible and able to do more rehabilitation without all the pain he had before. Scott had the best possible team of surgeons working on him today, and great support from our family and friends who surrounded his hospital bed before they rolled him into the surgery room, as our neighbor Ray said a prayer. We are truly blessed.

Scott says I should bring my indoor trainer to the hospital and ride a few hours during the day; he is of course, under the influence of a morphine drip right now. Just so you know, I have no intention of actually doing this. However, I wouldn’t put it pass me to do a few hundred pushups or sit-ups in my rollaway bed here in his awesome hospital suite over the next day or two, should I get bored of my 40-hours of online continuing education I have to complete before year-end to renew my CPA license.

Set-Backs

There are always set-backs during training. So many things can get in the way and they should. At times family, friends, work, school, illness, or injuries can put a hold on training. When spending as much time training as I do it is a constant juggle.

I have studied the scientific principles of training for quite some time now. The easy part is understanding theories and methods. The hard part is applying it to my own life. Training is more of an art than a science. Every person is different. No two people react the same to a given training regimen.

I get caught up in what my friends are doing much of the time. I love to train with friends. It helps me to motivate and push myself a little harder than if I was solo. So sometimes I may do a little too much since my friends are doing it. I ignore the fact that they are training for something different or that they react differently to training.

This week I think I pushed myself a little past my bodies limits. It started off with a tree getting up close and personal with my shoulder. My friends and I left from Denton on our mountain bikes to ride south towards Lake Grapevine to complete one lap on the Northshore trail and then ride back. The ride south was awesome! We had a nice tailwind that pushed us to my mom’s neighborhood in Highland Village in the same amount of time that it would take to drive there! We all knew that the ride back was going to be brutal, but atleast it would make us stronger.

We arrived at Northshore to take a quick break so that I could eat some skittles, and Lucas (wolf berry) Brusseau could eat some goji (wolf) berries. I made jokes about how Luke turns into a werewolf after eating wolf berries. “That is why you are so fast! It is like that movie where the guy turns into a werewolf and beats everyone in basketball! Except you turn into a gnarly mountain biker!” Well I guess me saying that motivated him, because he took into the trail like a wolf into the night!

We chased him to the best of our abilities through the 12 mile loop. I felt like I was riding better than I had in a long time. Mountain biking always reminds me that I truly enjoy cycling. Sometimes road riding just gets boring. Wolf berry waited for us at a trail crossing. I howled at him as I rolled up to let him know his pack was right behind.

I love riding mountain bike trails with a fast group, because it makes all the people we pass think we are a pro-team. We caught a father and son riding together. The kid could not of been older than 10. He was riding like a beast! It is so cool to see families spending time together on the trail. It is an amazing thing to be able to have fun with your parents doing activities like this. I am blessed to have my mom. When I have kids I will make sure that I spend time playing with them outside.

As we passed the father and son team I miss-judged a turn. The father and son watched me almost eat dirt. Luckily I never actually hit the ground. My wolf pack had gapped me after this little stop so I had to kick it up a gear to try and catch them. The problem was that I had lots of gears to kick up in my legs but no handling skills to accompany the speed. So the father and son got to watch me hit the deck this time. The crash did not hurt so I jumped back on to attempt chasing again. Next thing I know I miss-judged another right hand turn and slammed my shoulder into a tree! It didn’t knock me off my bike. I felt stunned at first with no pain but immediately after followed an intense rush of pain that took the wind out of me. I hopped off my bike and came down to my knees. Jon told me, “Like mother like son! You two love trees don’t you?” My mom face planted into a tree recently in case you were wondering.

After the father and son caught back up and asked if I was alright, I decided to try and keep riding. I don’t think they thought we were a pro-team anymore considering how many times they saw me on the ground! It was very painfull riding out of the trail. Every little bump in the ground killed me.

I decided to get off the trail on to the road so that I could meet my back up with my pack after they got down with the trail. Stopping made the pain worse. I think my adrenaline numbed the pain slightly.

We started the trek back to Denton into a killer head wind. I decided after cringing in pain everytime I tried to put any power into the pedals that I should just go back to my mom’s house. Once I got back we went to the ER to make sure everything was ok. I knew that nothing was broken, but my mom, being a protective mother, wanted to make sure. The X-Rays came back negative. I was diagnosed with an Acute Cervical Strain and Contusion. They put me in a sling and sent me home.

Back to what I originally was talking about. There are always set-backs in training. This time it was an injury. Which probably came at a good time, because I am sick now too. Injured and sick…Hmmmm… If this is my bad injury and illness for the year, then I am lucky.

Training Camp

I planned to go camping this past weekend with some friends from the UNT Cycling team up in Oklahoma for some long training on the bike. There is a mountain that has a ~ 3 mile climb and 8% average grade that I wanted to ride up and down until my legs fell off. Well… things do not always go according to plan with training regimens.

I was scanned by a DEXA machine in the exercise physiology lab at UNT last week. I found out that I have osteopenia in my lumbar vertebrae that is near osteoporotic. A staple amongst endurance athletes. Apparently I need to be doing heavy squats and add some plyometrics (jumping, box jumps, high skips, etc.) in to my schedule. So last Tuesday I hit the rec to get some plyometrics. Problem was I think I did way too much for my first time in 6 months. I felt great while doing it, but my legs have felt like poop for a week now on the bike.

I also decided to go ahead and do a 4.2 mile run here in Denton. I always tell myself, “It is just a training run. No need to kill it.” But once they say go I have trouble not trying to race. I chased my friend (who is a much faster runner than I) into the darkness of South lake park. I thought to myself, “This sure is a dark run for a Christmas light run.” I took over the lead only for a moment before a high school cross country runner bolted by my friend and I. My friend then accelerated to keep the boy in sight. I watched my friends dreads as they swung back and forth, trying to get as close to his back as possible without clipping his feet. He later told me he was glad I kept clipping his feet, because it made him speed up. We ran as 2nd and 3rd for a good 3 miles before we hit the hills! I made the first couple in his draft but was dropped on the third as his breathing never seemed to get as loud as mine while going up. Now I just had to pace myself and try to hang in. I was kind of glad he dropped me, because I was not supposed to be racing anyway. Now I could just stay aerobic for the rest of the race.

I was pleasantly surprised that I came in 3rd only 39 seconds behind my friend who out-sprinted the cross country kid for 1st. A time of 26:55 for 4.2 miles had me stocked considering I have not done any speed training.

That was good and fun, but the next morning was the trip up to Oklahoma for some serious training. I felt great until I tried to pedal my bike. We were not even going fast, and I felt like I was beginning the time trial of my life. My legs were screaming for mercy. I told my friends that I knew my way around and that they could go ahead, yet they slowed down. I was mad on the outside but glad they slowed on the inside. The climb up Mt. Scott came to quick. Immediately I was dropped by the first turn. My legs had no strength to turn the pedals over. I gave it my all just to make it up in my granny gear. cut my ride Saturday very short at 1:40. We planned on 4 hours but just was not happening for me.

Saturday evening we went into Medicine Park for some dinner. After scaring all the locals in the restaurant with our hysterical laughing and watching my friend try and eat the biggest, sauciest, chicken Alfredo I have ever seen, we went back to our campsite to sit by the fire and make sweet music. I worked on my tribal dance around the fire while playing the Jinbeh as my friends all swapped instruments and sang together.

The friends I have right now are the best I have ever had, and I met them all through racing and training.

Sunday morning I woke up, wishing it was not 25 degrees outside, to go pee outside the tent. After some breakfast and hiking around the local trails we suited up for some cold cycling. My legs felt a little better but not good enough to do the planned 5 hour ride that day. I only made it up Mt. Scott twice with a total of 2:20 ride time. I like to keep the fun factor in my training so I was happy with the ride. Any more and I would of felt miserable riding.

We packed up to eat at the Meers Hamburger Stop just outside of the park. What an amazing find we made that day! Great food, great people, great feel, and great location. After stuffing our faces in 1/2 lb longhorn burgers, frickles (fried bread and butter pickles), and peach cobbler with homemade icecream we started the trek back home to our normal lives.