Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting back on Track

Riding the gaps. Yep, that's me twice - I'm that fast. ;)

It's been a little while since I've done a detailed post - and there's a reason for that - training had not been going well.

A few weeks ago I had a long week full of stomach cramping. I mentioned this briefly in my pancreatectomy post ( This is a very uncomfortable cramping/burning sensation that seems to come and go with meals but during that week the cramping stuck around for hours at a time. It was lucky that this came around during a recovery week because it did cause me to miss a couple of during the week workouts. Unfortunately this same cramping struck during my Saturday long ride which made for a very uncomfortable last 20 miles. I had been looking forward to that ride because former pro rider Tyler Hamilton was riding with the group but given the pain in my stomach I was not able to stick around to meet him. A lot of that week was spent laying very still on the couch since moving made the pain worse. Thankfully the pain eventually passed though it still occasionally threatens a bit after some meals. 

Am I worried about that pain? A little. Unfortunately I can't take any stomach pain for granted given my history. I have to keep in mind though that almost certainly this is a side effect of my surgery. You don't go and cut out someones lower stomach and some organs that play a major part in digestion without upsetting the apple cart. I will mention it at my next check up but I am fairly certain that it will be the same story with my stomach issues of the past and not come to anything.

The week after these stomach issues was our first MAJOR building week of training. Since I knew that my rest week had not been particularly restful I was very scared of this week. Highlights of this training period included a mid week 14 mile run and a ride in the North Georgia mountains with this kind of elevation profile:

4 Gaps in North Georgia
Yep, I was worried. While I love climbing, I really dislike descending particularly any descents that involve twists and turns. It had been many years since I had ridden in the Gaps as well so I wasn't quite sure how I was going to handle it.

There is also the matter of my anxiety level being sky high right now. There are some potential MEN 1 related health issues going on in my family right now that are stressing the entire family out. They aren't my issues and it's not something I'm ready to talk about yet as we don't know the entire story but my auto reaction is to get super high strung. Any stress right now is going to provoke a strong reaction from me...

...and it did. The ride in the Gaps did not go well for me. I started out with a high blood sugar level, way higher than I would like, but I pressed on knowing the exertion would bring it down quickly. The first climb went well and then we began the descent which went badly for me pretty quickly. That particular descent off Wolfpen is curvy and I made it about 3/4 of the way down and began to panic. I know all the right ways and tips to descending but logic and knowledge goes out the window when your entire body and bike are shaking due to your exertion to keep your mind calm and focused on the task at hand. I stopped on the side of the road to collect my thoughts and stop the shaking and was picked up by Coach Mary who got me the rest of the way through that descent. 

To make a long story short, the descents sent my stress hormones sky high which also sent my blood sugar shooting up. I struggled over 48 miles to keep things in check. The middle portion of the ride (without descents) went really well and I thought I had recovered but once we got to the longest climb of the day I knew I was in trouble. Describing the feeling of rocketing and plummeting blood sugar is difficult. It isn't like low blood sugar where I lose comprehension you just feel BAD. Like a rag that has been wrung out. Once we started to climb Unicoi I felt hot and cold flashes, saw lights that weren't there, and began to fear that I might pass out. About half way up I had to stop on the side of the road and didn't think I could get off the bike. This was defeating - I have never not made it up a climb. As usual, my training partner Sarah was there to pick up the pieces. She got me off my bike and witnessed the tears of frustration and fear that my body wasn't up for this. I wish I could tell you that I rebounded, but I didn't. Coach Mary came along and got me almost to the top but I had to stop again due to the same hot/cold flashes and fear of passing out. After that I got in the car and called it a day. Almost 50 miles and 3 climbs was all I had in me that day. I got back to the park we were staying at, said my good byes to the group and slunk in to my tent away from my training mates to regroup and nap. 

This Ironman training isn't easy - it's not easy for anyone. I suppose that's what makes it worthwhile but it can make you miserable too. No one likes to fail and it felt like a failure that day. No matter what though, I have promised myself and make an implied promise to my family that I won't do something stupid or take chances I shouldn't. I don't want to win the battle only to lose the war and all those other platitudes. :) So I told myself to buck up and get something to eat though I wanted to hide from everyone.

Bucking Up - 'Icing' my legs in a cold stream.
The next day didn't go well either - more panic in trying to do an easy-ish descent the next morning and several more days of lackluster training. I was mostly OK with that but waiting to see some improvement.

I wasn't looking forward to last Saturday's ride and was looking for an excuse to do it on my trainer. My usual training partners were otherwise engaged so I had to find a training alternate so I decided to go with the Spring Team in Training group since they are doing the same Half Iron distance race in Knoxville that our IM Canada group is doing. I showed up feeling uncertain and the weather matched, foggy and drizzly. Only 6 people were doing the 55 mile route I needed and it looked like a fast group with only a couple of people I knew from a previous training season. That kind of makes me nervous since I don't love having to explain that I am a diabetic that might get hypoglycemia. Luckily though, Cristin was going to SAG for us (follow us on the route in her car) so I felt pretty safe that I could pack it in if things didn't go well. 

And then - like magic - my legs responded to the pace of this group. The pace was a little faster than my normal pace but it felt good. I was supposed to keep in in Heart Rate Zone 3 per Coach Mary so I kept it at the back of the group but felt great the entire ride like I could surge if needed. Every time l looked down at my computer we were going 20+ mph. We encountered a couple of steep climbs late in the ride where I felt really good and had more to give. A dog gave us a good run for our money at one point and was right behind me. I haven't ever been chased that closely by a dog and it would normally freak me out but I actually found it to be kind of fun outrunning that dog! I was pretty spent in the last 5 miles thanks to the climbs but was thrilled to see my finishing average MPH as 18 - truly impressive for me considering there was over 4000 feet of climbing on the route. Riding with this group had definitely been good for me and I was thrilled with the result. I had a 3 mile run afterward that I managed to finish up in 32 minutes - pretty good.

Sunday's schedule called for a 10 mile run which I would need to do by myself. I have never run that far by myself. I thought about trying to find someone to run part with me but then thought it might be better to see what I could do on my own. Coach Mary called for me to do this run in 1:55 - I guess based on my previous long runs the past few weeks which had slowed down a bit since earlier in the season. The first 3 miles felt tough and slow but the next 7 miles went much easier with the pace gradually picking up throughout. Finish time was 1:36:25 - woot!

So getting back to the theme of the post - training is getting back on track. Obviously this isn't going to be the only tough period of my training but I am glad to be at the other side of this first suck-fest. It gives me confidence that I will get through the next one.

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