Friday, October 14, 2011

Ironman Training Day 14: Cramping

15 minutes into my run this morning, I found myself doubled over in agony, unable to run another step. I clutched my abdomen, closed my eyes, and tried to breathe deeply and slowly as the waves of pain washed over me. Sitting on the curb in the dark, I vaguely wondered what the occasional passing motorist might be thinking as they passed, their headlights lighting up all the reflective bits on my apparel. Is she sick? Injured? Homeless? Yet, no one stopped to check on me.

Five minutes later, recovered, I stood up and resumed my run.

Everyday, my inbox fills with emails from the various newsletters I'm subscribed to: Runners World, Triathlete Mag, Lava, Active, etc. Newsletters with training ideas, nutrition advice, run techniques, race day strategies, tips for beginners, apparel news, etc. But it's extremely rare that I see any discussions of the physical challenges that we face specifically as FEMALE runners, cyclists and triathletes.

You know what I'm talking about... Our hormonal cycles affect everything we do, often rather dramatically. Just a few examples:

-Some women, like me this morning, suffer debilitating menstrual cramps during workouts. Other women can barely get out of bed, much less exercise, on certain days of the month.

-Pre-menstrual water weight gains affect how our exercise apparel fits. Waistbands may feel snugger. Bras may feel too tight. Our breasts may hurt when we run. Earlier this week, I had to mine my dresser drawers for sports bras that were a full cup size larger to accommodate the swelling and provide enough structure and support for the extra weight of my breasts.

-Managing our flow during exercise is a challenge. Tampon strings may rub. Pads may chafe. We may find ourselves far from home in unexpected need of feminine supplies (usually while wearing something other than black bottoms!)

-Race days become more complicated. Where to stow the extra tampons on your bike or during the run? How to manage your hygiene when the "bathroom" is a port-o-john without a place to wash your hands?

-Our appetites change. We experience cravings and may seek out foods that are not necesarily conducive to helping us maintain an optimal weight.

I could go on, but you get my point. Why is it that these topics never come up in the flood of "Tips, Tricks and Top 10 Lists" we see all around us? With so many women participating in running events and triathlons these days (I read recently that there are now more WOMEN competing at the half marathon distance than there are men), why is it that there's so little discussion of a topic that concerns just about every woman who participates in these events?

Are we prudes? Are the mags and websites afraid of alienating or (more likely) grossing out their male readership? Do we think that these sorts of topics are best discussed in whispers with our girlfriends?

I don't have the answer, but it puzzles me, and I wish it would change. It would be nice if we could be "grown-ups" and talk about ALL the things that affect us as athletes.

Along those lines, I want to give a shout out to Nicole DeBoom of Skirt Sports. Nicole, a former professional triathlete and Ironman Wisconsin Champ, is expecting her first child with her husband, professional triathlete Tim DeBoom. She's been blogging through her pregnancy, and this morning's post totally cracked me up. I loved that she was so open and honest, talking about something that every woman who has had a baby experiences, but might not be considered a topic for such public consumption. So kudos to you, Nicole, for writing such a frank post.


Despite this morning's challenges, I ended up with a decent run. I've "graduated" from R3W2 to R4W1. The knee is still a little tender on these runs, but it's slowly getting better. Not perfect, but I'll take it for now.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ironman Training Day 13: Peanut Butter

Hello. My name is Susan Otcenas, and I have a peanut butter problem. Crunchy. With salt.

I don't know what it is about peanut butter, but I crave it. Constantly.

I'm allergic to milk. When I was a kid, I would eat my Rice Krispies with peanut butter. A big blob of peanut butter on my spoon, dipped into the cereal repeatedly, until one or the other was gone. Ah, the memories! But, I'm all grown up, and now I like my peanut butter straight up, no krispies required.

This is especially problematic when I'm trying my best to be in "weight loss mode" as I am now. The hungrier I am, the harder it is to resist the siren song of peanut butter! I've finally resorted to banishing it from my household. I simply have no self-control. If it's in the house, I will move the spoon from jar to mouth to jar to mouth until it's gone.

Sigh. Today I tried to drown my peanut butter sorrows in a pint of sweet cherry tomatoes. It wasn't quite the same somehow. But at least it curbed the hunger.


Swam another mile this morning. All three 500s were sub-11:00. I consider this to be progress.

Here are some swim-specific poolside exercises, courtesy of Adam's Peanut Butter!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ironman Training Days 10,11,12!

Wow, I've been so busy this week I've barely had time to sit down!

DAY 10

Monday morning saw me back at the cycling studio. Note to self: 3 beers and 5 hours sleep on a Sunday night are NOT conducive to a successful class on a Monday morning.

After some warmups and one-legged pedaling drills, the main body of the class included two 15 minute intervals at 90rpm. We began at around 110% of threshold and stepped it down 10 watts every minute for 5 minutes, then brought it back up 10 watts each for 2 more minutes, then finally held threshold for 8.

The first interval went pretty well. I nailed the power levels. But the SECOND interval was uuuuuuuuuugly! When all was said and done, I averaged 20 watts lower on the second than the first. Harumph. That'll teach me to get to bed earlier!

The graph below shows the two 15 minute intervals. Green is cadence, which I maintained at 90. Power is yellow, which is clearly lower on the second interval. Lower power, higher heartrate (red). Not good.

DAY 11

One mile swim, 5.5 mile run, all before 7am! Not a bad way to start the day!

I feel like I had a bit of a breakthrough on my swim kick. My first two sets of 500 were nothing to write home about. But my LAST set was amazing. I can't exactly describe what I was doing differently, but I was moving much faster. I swam a 10:28 500! This will sound ridiculously slow to a real swimmer, but it's a solid 30 seconds faster than any of the 500s I've done in the past two weeks.

Between each of my 500s, I did a 50 yard kickset. I think that helped me concentrate on kick efficiency, and that translated into me paying more attention to it on the last 500. All I know is that it worked, and I will try to replicate it again tomorrow.

After my swim, I changed into run gear and (mostly) ran the 5.5 miles home. I'm still rehabbing my knee, so I did Run 4 Walk 1 x 11. 56 minutes back to my house put me at 10:10 per mile. I think that's not half bad for a run/walk.

In the afternoon, I went to Sweetpea and had a complete cleat fitting, and got the fit on my tri bike dialed in. I'll post a picture when I get it from the fitter. We made quite a few adjustments, and I'll be interested to see how it feels on the open road.

DAY 12

Back to the cycling studio! Today's workout was labeled "intense hill climbing intervals" Geez, you ain't kidding. The main workset was 50 minutes, which included 33 minutes at or above threshold. Most of the climbing was done at 55-60 rpm, so these were steep, power building hills. 10 hills in all. TEN!

I did pretty well until the 9th interval, when I was starting to lose some steam (surprise!). I made a joke about getting gapped, to which the coach responded by making us do a 15 second out-of-the-saddle surge to catch back up! :-)

This was a very hard workout.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ironman Training Day 9: Portland Marathon

I volunteered at the Portland Marathon today! I joined the Red Lizard Running Club at their aid station at mile 24. When I arrived at 12:30, the folks passing though the aid station were at 5hr30min. When I left at 2:15, the participants were at 7hr15min. Most were walkers at that point, and many were really hurting. I was very impressed by their perseverance and did my best to cheer them on and letting them know they were rockstars to me. Having never done a marathon myself, I can hardly imagine how tired they must have been as they grabbed some water, electrolytes and gummy bears from the Red Lizards. I hope I helped make their experience just a little better.

Congratulations to all the participants today! You are amazing!

Ironman Training Day 8: Bike, Yoga, Weeds

Saturday October 8th.

Busy Day! 8am cycling class. Today's focus was on cadence work at tempo wattage (high zone 2, low zone 3). Specifically, we did cadence ladders while attempting to maintain the same wattage throughout the ladder.

0:30 at 90 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
1:30 at 95 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
2:30 at 100 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm
3:30 at 105 rpm
0:30 at 80 rpm

We did 3 10 minute sets of the above ladder, with 5 minutes Zone 1 recovery in between each ladder. I did pretty well on the first 2, but started to get fatigued on the 3rd.

The blue highlighted areas are the 3 10-minute work sets. The cadence is in yellow, where you can clearly see the rpm step up throughout each set. The pink line is the wattage #. The first 2 sets look good, but on the 3rd, I can see where I was having a hard time maintaining power, especially towards the end. Finally, the red line is my heart rate. It really increases alot as the cadence goes up. I struggle at the higher cadences (though I'm getting much better) and my HR really goes up alot. I hope to see some improvement in that as the winter progresses.

After class, I stayed for a one hour yoga session. The instructor is a cyclist, so she's familiar with the imbalances we have. I let her know that I was a yoga novice and encouraged her to guide me as much as she felt necessary. As the class progressed, it was clear I have alot of work to do on my core and upper body strength!

I spent three hours in the afternoon pulling weeds at my rental house. To say that my arms and neck are sore today would be an understatement!