I've been going to Sport and Spine on the East side for a couple of months now. I had to go to PT a few years ago with my torn tendon and that was okay, but I wasn't impressed. Progress was minimal and we did the exact same thing every time...even though I wasn't making much progress. This time has been completely different though.
I've been making great progress and we've been trying a lot of different things. As soon as it seems I'm not responding anymore, Joe (my PT) mixes things up. Initially we focused on massage and foam rolling to try and get my muscles to loosen up. They were locked up all the way down my glute, hamstring and especially my left calf. The muscles were so tight I couldn't bend over to lift the toilet seat without bending my knees. The massage and foam rolling hurt, but after a couple of weeks things started to loosen up and my mobility began to return.
Then we moved on to dry needling and continued foam rolling, massage, etc. At this point I was able to ride again but wasn't swimming or running and I still had numbness all the way down my leg. I wasn't limping anymore and was getting around a lot better. I had lost strength in my left calf so I wasn't walking with my normal gait yet, but there was big improvement.
Joe believed a good part of my problem was my piriformis muscle pinching my sciatic nerve. We don't know if that was caused by my herniated disc or not (chicken and the egg) but that was the focus of most of my PT. The dry needling was interesting, and in a strange way I enjoyed it, but it wasn't very effective for me. I only did a couple of sessions and then we moved on to Astym (similar to Graston, but not as harsh). Astym was the magic bullet.
With Astym, they take plastic tools and scrape the area they're treating. For me, that was my left leg and foot. The thinking behind Astym is that the scraping creates micro-trauma under the skin and your body then sends blood to that area to heal. So it stimulates blood flow which speeds up healing.
It only took a few sessions of Astym and the numbness began to disappear. At this point, I was cycling but hadn't been swimming or running in 2 months. My PT wanted me to go to the pool to see if I could handle it. That went well, so swimming was added to my cycling. 2/3 of the way there.
We continued with massage, foam rolling, Astym and now some strengthening work to try to regain the strength I lost in my left leg, especially my left calf. He wanted me to go aqua jogging to start working on the running motion and to see how my body handled that without the pounding of real running. So, on a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I went for my first run. Ten minutes...outdoors. He said aqua jogging, but it was raining out so I figured that was close enough.
Wow...that was rough. Ten minutes....ten ugly minutes. My form was sloppy and my left leg was stomping the ground flat footed like I had no control over it. I was sure I was running with a limp but Courtney said I didn't look quite that bad. Fitness was hovering right around zero. I ran an easy pace, but it was far from easy. The only hill I had to climb was brutal. I was huffing and puffing like I was on day 1 of a couch to 5K program. Two months was my longest break from running since I started in late 2007. I couldn't believe how much fitness I'd lost.
I survived the run with no issues, other than horrible form and zero fitness. My disc/piriformis handled it well...although my left calf was extremely sore for 4 or 5 days after this. Then I ran again. Still ugly...still very unfit...but a little progress. When the pain in my calf went away, I ran again.
Today, the numbness is gone and my strength is returning. I'm swimming, cycling and running, although running is still a bit limited. My form is improving, but still has a ways to go. This week I will run 3 times for 30 minutes each time. There's an Alter-G treadmill at the West side location of Sport and Spine which I may try to use to get in a few more miles...and because I think they're interesting and would love to try one out.
So that's where I'm at. Unfit but recovering and back to triathlon training...and registered for the Puerto Rico 70.3. :)
13 weeks til race day. I have my work cut out for me.
Unfortunately, I missed Ironman Chattanooga. I was hoping that maybe things would improve suddenly and I would be able to race, but I had some pretty extreme sciatic pain radiating down my leg for about two weeks which included numbness and weakness in my leg. I couldn't lift my left heel off the ground and was walking with a limp. I figured even if I could get through the race, I wouldn't be able to perform my best and would probably make things worse so I cancelled the hotel and skipped the race.
That left me wondering what to do. I was hoping to qualify for Kona and felt like my fitness was there. My last two attempts to get back to the big island didn't go well and now attempt number three came and went and I wasn't even on the starting line. Should I sign up for another Ironman? Should I just give up on Kona and focus on halfs? I had a couple of good half ironmans this year and really enjoy that distance. My year of olympics was fun too. Maybe I should focus on those.
Then I saw a Facebook post stating that Ironman Wisconsin had less than 100 slots left. Hmmmm..... I've done Wisconsin a few times so I felt tempted to pick a different race, something new...but IMWI is the easiest one for me to do in terms of logistics. I get to sleep in my own bed the night before the race. I can train on the course all year. It's easy for my family to come watch. Etc.
I talked it over with Courtney and then limped over to my computer and registered (yes, I paid for the refund insurance). We decided one last shot at Kona was in order, and that IMWI made the most sense. Then we'll pick a couple of 70.3s to travel to so we still get to see some new places.
I wanted an early season race, and a little bit of research led me to the San Juan 70.3 in Puerto Rico. I haven't registered yet, but I did book the hotel.
If I'm going to be on that starting line on March 15, 2015, I need to get healed. I had an MRI which showed a bulged disc at L5-S1. I started PT last week and he thinks I have two things going on - the bulged disc (which the doc says is mildly hitting the sciatic nerve) and piriformis syndrome (he thinks my piriformis has tightened up and is pinching my sciatic nerve causing the majority of my problems).
I'll write more about my PT in my next post. Right now, I'm about 5 weeks out from my initial injury and I've made a lot of progress. I still have a long ways to go, but I'm no longer limping, I'm able to ride and I can now lift my left heel off the ground 10 times. I still have numbness all the way down my left hamstring, calf and into my toes, but my strength is returning.
This season was going really well. My training was great. My FTP was at an all time high, I was running well and my swimming was as strong as ever. I had two great 70.3s finishing 3rd and 1st in my age group. I came out of the water in 3rd in one of them, which is my best ever swim. I was also running about 10 minutes faster in 70.3s than I have in the past. I felt like I was on track for a good day in Chattanooga and hopefully another Kona slot.
Then came an old injury....my back. I hurt my back two days before AG Nationals. I strained some muscles in the middle of my back, and I managed to get it loosened up enough to race fairly well at Nationals so while it wasn't my best weekend of racing, it wasn't horrible either. I even snuck in there for a Team USA qualifying slot in the sprint race so I get to be a part of Team USA again next year.
After Nationals, my back healed and I thought all was good. Just a minor setback...it happens. Two days before Worlds, it went again. This time during a warm up workout and this time it was my lower back. I survived Worlds, but my back issues made the trip very difficult. Flying with a bike with back pain isn't fun.
Worlds was worse than Nationals, and my back cost me about 2 weeks of training. One of those weeks was supposed to be an easy week so that wasn't a problem, but it cost me a build week as I let it heal.
After that I managed a week and a half of really solid workouts and felt like I might be on track again. Then, earlier this week, my lower back pain returned. I made an appointment with a chiro who took the situation from bad to worse and left me with sciatic pain so bad I couldn't even stand up and walk around. That was a couple of days ago. The next day, Courtney convinced me to go to urgent care where they gave me a muscle relaxant. That helped with the pain, but the problem still persists. It's now Sunday, day 4 of sciatica. I have pain radiating down my left hamstring and calf into my foot. I have numbness and tingling and my calf has locked up. I can now stand and walk around, but I'm walking with a limp.
Ironman Chattanooga is a week away. I can barely walk and haven't done a workout in 4 days. I'm not sure this thing is going to go away in time for the race, and even if it does what damage might I do if I race? So as of right now, I'm not sure I'm going to be heading down to TN.
To make matters even worse, my dad changed up his chemo schedule to try and come down to watch the race. He was on a 3-week schedule, but moved a treatment ahead to give himself time to recover to make the trip. That treatment didn't go well, and he's in the hospital and can no longer make the trip.
So here I am trying to decide what to do. Do I go down and try to race? Do I skip it? If I do skip it, do I sign up for Cozumel? Do I sign up for an Ironman next year? Do I give up on the iron distance and focus on 70.3s? I had a lot of fun with those this year. Unfortunately, The Austin and Miami 70.3s are sold out or I would consider adding one of those to my 2014 schedule.
I haven't made a decision yet, and I haven't given up on Chattanooga yet....but I have given up on the hopes of getting a Kona slot. I don't see that happening. My back has cost me too much training over the past 6 weeks or so.
I'll post a Worlds race report soon. It was a pretty cool event.
The week after the Janesville tri, I headed down to Indiana for the Muncie 70.3. My training had gone well after Kansas, especially my swimming, so I was hoping to finally break 30 minutes in the swim. I set a goal earlier this year to break 90 minutes on a half ironman run, and since I just missed that at Kansas that carried over to this race. I'd never done Muncie, but knew there were plenty of rolling hills on the run so I wasn't so sure that goal was going to get checked off the list, but I figured I'd try. My other goal was to get a top 5 in my age group.
|The swim course.|
|Waiting for my wave to start.|
I lined up on the front row and the guy next to me quickly got in front and I sat on his feet. Once I got in line, it felt too easy. That was the mistake I made in Kansas and hoping to avoid that mistake I decided to move out of the draft to test it out and see how the effort felt without the draft. On my own, I started passing him and then a quick look up showed only two guys just a little ways ahead. I put in a hard effort and got on their feet. The pace felt good so I focused on staying on their feet.
This is where things got really frustrating. There are 5 minutes between waves. We caught the wave ahead of us within 2-3 buoys. Then we caught the wave two waves ahead of us well before the first corner. That was the men's 35-39, I believe. We were maybe a third of what way through the swim and we'd already made up 10 minutes on some of those guys. It was carnage. Sidestroking, backstroking, breaststroking, floating, etc. I lost the two guys I was swimming with and spent the rest of the time dodging people. I missed my sub-30 goal and came out of the water pretty frustrated. I really wanted to hit that goal, and I felt like I'd dropped a lot of time to my competitors working through the waves.
What I didn't know was that no one in my AG broke 30 minutes and that I was coming out of the water in 3rd, only 32 seconds behind the leader. Even though I didn't hit my goal, that makes this my best every half ironman swim. My previous best would have been Kansas where I came out of the water in 10th in my AG.
Transition was smooth. There's a long uphill run from the swim to the bike racks so I tried to be quick, but controlled. I transitioned 34 seconds quicker than the swim leader - and faster than the guy who came out of the water in second - so I left T1 a couple seconds in the lead. I had no idea.
Bike (2:17:01 - 24.5 mph)
The bike is flat and fast. Most of it is on a closed highway where you do two out and backs. There really isn't a whole lot to say about the bike. I watched my power, but not really close. The more experience I get, the more I race by feel and kind of watch my power but don't let it completely dictate my race. If I'm feeling good, I go with it. If not, I don't push it just to hit a number which is something I would have done in the past. Race WITH power, not TO power. In the end, my average power was exactly the same as Kansas.
I felt like I might be in the top 10 in my AG so I was looking for my competitors. I never found any, and that was a little frustrating. Where were they? I usually catch people on the bike. In retrospect, it makes sense. I left T1 with the lead and set the fastest bike split in my AG.
As far as bike courses go, this was okay but I definitely preferred Kansas. The roads were better in Kansas and I like rolling hills.
Quick and smooth.
Run (1:35:16 - 7:16 pace)
The run has a lot of rollers, but wasn't as hilly as I was expecting. I felt pretty good at the start of the run and settled in at a 6:50 pace. I really thought I was going to hit my goal. Everything was going well.
I don't know if it was the Skratch or what, but not long after drinking some (about 20-30 minutes into the run) I got the worst side ache ever. Oh man, that sucked. My pace slowed and I started looking for excuses to walk to see if it would ease up. The volunteers at the aid stations were holding out cups yelling, "water" which was the prefect excuse to walk for a bit and drink some water.
I still wasn't seeing anyone in my age group and the rollers were starting to get to me. My side hurt, my legs were tired and as with most 70.3s, it felt much hotter than it actually was. We had great weather, and suddenly I'm at the halfway point hurting much more than expected. I knew my sub 90 wasn't happening and even at the turn around point I couldn't find anyone in my age group so I just kept plugging away, clicking off the miles trying to get to the finish line. Eventually the side ache went away and I was able to step up the pace a bit toward the end.
I can't say the run was a disaster, but it definitely wasn't the run I felt I had trained for. I didn't over-bike so that wasn't the problem. I'm not sure what happened out there. I think the run would have been a few minutes better had I not gotten the side ache. That was a rough 30-40 minutes. I knew going in that sub-90 was going to be tough with all the rollers so I was thinking matching my Kansas split would be a good accomplishment. I missed that by a few minutes.
Overall (4:26:47 - 1st AG, 35th overall)
Even though I didn't get my sub-30 swim or sub-90 run, I did get my first age group win at a 70.3 so it was a successful race. My training is going really well this year and things are coming together. Like Kansas, I turned down my 70.3 Worlds slot because I'm doing ITU Worlds the weekend before. I wish I could do both.
After Muncie, my IM Chattanooga training block started. I did a big two-week block of work and then had a recover week leading into AG Nats (which is tomorrow and Sunday). Then it's another block of work, then ITU Worlds, then one last block of work and a taper.
I wasn't planning on doing the Janesville tri this year, mostly because I don't like the beginning and end of the bike course. The roads are horrible, and the intersections in town don't feel patrolled very well and they make me nervous. I've had a few cars pull out in front of me at this race. There's a lead vehicle, but there's only so much they can do so when I come to an intersection and see a car pulling up to a 4-way stop I start chanting to myself "don't go, don't go, don't go...." I've been the lead cyclist at other events and the police do a much, much better job controlling traffic and I feel much safer. Once I get out of town, I really like the course and don't worry about traffic.
That said, I decided to do Janesville because my dad said he could go. Chemo beat his white blood cell down, and so at the last minute he wasn't able to go. I considered sleeping in and watching the Tour, but opted to race instead.
The swim is a TT start and being last year's winner I got to start first. I've had a bit of a swim breakthrough recently so was feeling pretty confident that I could have a good swim. I wasn't sure who all my competitors were, but I knew 2nd and 3rd from last year weren't there. I did see Daniel Pearson, who beat me at the Cudahy duathlon last year by out running me by minutes (he can run). He opted not to wear a wetsuit, which I felt was a mistake. He gave me some free time on the swim.
I swam well and since I got to start first I was the first swimmer out of the water. That's a first for me.
|Coming out of the water.|
Being from Janesville, I knew the driver of the lead vehicle and she let Courtney ride along so she got some pics of me on the bike. The bike was pretty uneventful. I was first on the bike, and set the fastest bike split so I managed to extend my lead.
|Heading out into the country, my favorite part of the course.|
|Fresh blacktop. I was loving it.|
|I really enjoyed this part of the course.|
|The end of the new blacktop, heading toward town again.|
|Lead vehicle selfie.|
Wanna see what I mean about the intersections? Watch these videos. Where is the cop when I go through the first intersection in the first video? It's a 4-way stop. If a car is there and they don't know there's a race, even if they see me, they won't necessarily assume I'm not stopping. If they go, I lose.
In the second video you can see a volunteer, but not in the middle of the road so I can't see them so I don't know if the intersection is controlled or not. And you can see the police arriving...late. Well done, Janesville police. Well done.
Once I got onto the run, I checked my watch and started looking for Daniel. I figured I needed at least 2 minutes on him.
|I also know the lead cyclist on the run. That's Brent. Gotta love hometown races.|
I saw the second cyclist coming in and estimated I had around 2 minutes on him. Next was Daniel, and I estimated around 3.5 minutes. That should be enough, but you can't take it for granted. I tried pushing the pace, but really struggled in the first half of the run. I actually rode easier than I'm capable of so I should have felt better on the run, but I just couldn't get moving. The first half of the run has a pretty good climb, and I only managed a 6:34 pace. Not good enough. Like most races, I felt much better after the first mile and a half (maybe I'm getting old, but it seems to take me a mile and a half to get my running legs under me). After that, I managed a 6:03 pace for the second half of the run. It's got plenty of downhill, but I'll take it.
In the end, it was enough to hold off Daniel by about 90 seconds. Being the first one in the water, I led this race wire to wire. That's a first for me. Honestly, it's a little more fun passing people, but I won't complain. :)
So I wasn't going to do the race, but I did and had a lot of fun so I'm glad I didn't skip it. I defended my title, saw some friends, and I think Courtney had a good time riding in the lead vehicle which is a first for her.
Long race report for a race I was going to skip.
Next up is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12. I checked out the participant list and notice the guy who took 2nd in my age group in KS is doing Muncie. I was 3rd in KS, so this is the guy I was chasing. He out swam me by a lot. I out biked him by a minute or two and our run splits were almost exactly the same. I'm feeling better about my swim and I plan on pushing the bike a bit harder. I'm sure there are others I don't know who will get in the mix, so it should be an interesting race. I'm looking forward to it.
Sorry about the lack of pics. I had to do this race alone. I took the GoPro with me to get some pics of the venue and then completely forgot to take pictures.
My last few long course tris haven't been my best, for various reasons, so I was really hoping to put everything together and get some long course confidence back. So that was my main goal. A few other goals were to break 4:30, break 1:30 on the run, and break 30 minutes on the swim.
This race is always threatened by thunderstorms so I was watching the weather pretty closely. This year, the storms rolled through on Saturday and race day had a forecast of 65-70 degrees, cloudy skies and 8-10 mph NNE winds. Perfect. No excuses.
The Swim (31:18)
I lined up on the front row with the goal of finding some good feet and finally getting my sub-30 half ironman swim. The conditions were good and the course was well marked so I felt like I had a good shot. When the gun went off, the guy to the right of me took off and I fought for his feet. I found them, and just as quickly lost them. He swam a 26 something so there's no way I could have hung with him. I soon found myself in a usual position of no draft. I feel like this is a mistake I make way too often so I looked around and soon found some feet and stuck with those the rest of the way. This is the best I've ever done drafting in a triathlon, so that's a win. But I chose the wrong feet. I knew we were toward the front of our wave, and he was the only one in my wave I saw near me so I felt like he would be going sub-30.
This is what frustrates me the most with swimming. You don't get any feedback on pace out there, so you think things are going well and you come out of the water and see you're slower than you thought you should have been. I'm not a good judge of pace in the water. I felt like we were going faster.
I came out of the water in 10th in my age group, so not bad, but I really felt like I had a faster swim in me. If not sub-30, closer to 30 than 31.
It is what it is and normally a swim slower than 31 minutes would frustrate me but for some reason today it didn't. I looked at my watch, determined I chose the wrong feet and moved on. I chose to sit on his feet the whole way so I put my time in his hands so I can't really complain.
The Bike (2:22:05)
I did all my long bricks in training at about 245-250 watts and ran well off those. I felt pretty good out there, but opted to ride a bit more conservatively at just a tad under 240 watts. That wasn't my plan going in, and I never really thought about it. I just did it, probably because deep down I wanted a sub 1:30 more than a good bike split.
I had a fair amount of traffic the first half, but was pretty much solo the whole second half and had more headwind and hills so my average speed dropped a bit, but power remained steady. I hadn't seen anyone in my age group in a long time and hadn't gotten passed by anyone on the bike, so I suspected I might be in the top 5 in my AG.
I thought I'd bike a little closer to 2:20, but was happy with a 2:22, especially since I came off the bike feeling pretty good. I have to say, I really liked this bike course. It's what most 70.3 bike courses should be, I think. A few decent climbs, lots of rollers, decent roads, little to no car traffic. It was an honest course. It's not super challenging, but it's got enough climbing that you have to work for it. It's also fast enough that you can still throw down a decent split. And no potholes to dodge. I liked that.
The Run (1:32:08)
I came off the bike feeling pretty good. I settled in to a 6:50 pace and held it there for a while focusing on trying to get in some calories and water and just getting into a rhythm. This course has a few out and backs, and those are great when you're racing for position. I kept looking for people in my age group. It was tough because ages are marked on calves so you can't see them when people are running toward you, and numbers don't always indicate which AG you're in (I wish we had something like colored bibs or colored timing chip bands to indicate age group...something).
Around mile 4 I spotted a guy in my AG. I checked my watch. I was nearing a turn around so I'd be able to get a split. He had a little more than 4 minutes on me. I wasn't sure, but I suspected he may be running in 2nd, which would put me 3rd. Obviously he swam and/or biked faster than me....but can he run? I was determined to find out.
I started pushing the pace seeing if I could reel him in. I spotted him toward another turn around after the halfway point and checked my watch. I had closed the gap to around 2 and a half minutes. I wasn't sure I'd have time to catch him, but I thought I might. I kept pushing. Around the hour mark, I hit the only hill on the course for the second time (two loop run) and that was it. I was cooked. One stupid hill and I was done.
My pace began slipping. I grabbed some Coke at the next aid station and stepped up the pace....or so I thought. It sure did feel like I was running faster, but my pace dropped even more. Just like that I went from being on pace to breaking 90 minutes to doing damage control. My pace continued slipping, and I began wondering if anyone was catching me. I got another split on the guy I was chasing and the gap was back to around 4 minutes. Motivation was slipping as a sub 1:30 was out of the question and it didn't look like anyone was close enough to catch me. I just tried to hang on and not lose too much more time from that point on.
Overall: 4:28:35. 41st overall. 3rd AG.
Overall, I'm really happy with this race. I feel like I put it all together and had a good day, placed well in my AG, hit some of my goals, and I raced hard and went for it. I have some things to work on, but there were a lot of positives.
After the race I drove 8 hours home. That sucked more than the final 30 minutes of the run.
- After the race, my hamstrings and glutes were really sore. My quads felt fine. Maybe some more hamstring/glute strengthening is needed. Weak hamstrings is what caused my torn tendon. I've been slacking on my strengthening.
- I need to run more hills.
- I need to pick a good fall/winter half marathon and work on my half marathon time. I feel like I run well in half ironmans compared to my half marathon PR (which is 1:32, but it's from 2008).
- I feel like my best half ironman swim performance relative to my potential came at Door County a few years ago when I was doing lots of metronome work in open water. Time to dig out the H2O Audio again.
- I need to swim harder in races. I think I swim too easy sometimes.
- I would really appreciate it if people could write their half ironman swim PR on their feet so I know whose feet to follow.
- I need a new wetsuit. That Xterra hasn't held up well. Lots of holes.
- I need to change my BTA bottle cage. The one Trek makes for the new Speed Concept doesn't hold the water bottles WTC hands out very well. I lost one and somehow caught the other (I really should get an award for that catch - it was pretty good).
- I need to start the run with a water bottle. I get dehydrated out there and struggle to get enough water from paper cups.
- Clif Blocks. Mmmmmm....
- The Pearl Izumi Octane suit is awesome. Fast, comfy and no silly tri tan.
That's all I can think of right now. My next half is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12. I've got some work to do if I'm going to break 1:30 on the run there. The run course is hillier than KS. It also has potential to be very hot.
This race gave me some much needed confidence, so I'm motivated to train hard and hopefully do well at Muncie.
Last year I did my double du weekend where I did the Beloit Duathlon and the Delafield Duathlon on back to back days. I was very consistent with my duathlon finishes last year. 2nd overall in every one I did. After grabbing the win at the final Beloit Du, I was hoping I could back that up on Sunday at the Delafield du.
This race was a 3.1 mile run, 16 mile bike, 3.1 mile bike so a little longer than Beloit. I wasn't sure how my legs would respond so I tried to go out a little on the easy side and build into it. I was in the third wave and ran in 3rd place for about half the run before moving to the lead in my wave.
|Heading out on the bike.|
The bike went well. I managed a little over 20 watts more than last year, although my average speed was the same since it was windier this year. I managed to reel in the leader from the first wave and pull a bit of a gap before reaching T2.
Having caught the leader from the first wave, I came into T2 with a decent lead. I managed to hold on for the overall win, so it was a successful double du weekend. Unfortunately, with Beloit calling it quits I won't be able to do this challenge again next year.
This event was extra special because I got to race with two athletes I'm coaching.
|Me and Cristian, who had a great day and got an AG award.|
|Me and Michelle, who also had a good day and finished 2nd overall female.|
This weekend I'm heading down to Kansas for the 70.3. It should be an interesting weekend. I've never done this race, and it will be my first time traveling to a triathlon alone. Courtney usually goes with me, but she's at a music festival with her family this weekend. That left me and my parents, and that fell apart when we found out my dad has cancer.
It is what it is.
My Team USA kit arrived today. Worlds is less than 3 months away.