Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend recap

The weekend training went 80% perfect, 20% horrible.

I did an interesting running workout on Friday, 60min with 3x2k at 10k pace. It is nothing spectacular but I have never done intervals this long and at the pace this fast. And it fwlt really good, they were all in around 4:09ish.

Saturday was a mix of success with a failure. Bike workout at threshold pace, 5x5min at 220-230W with 3min easy. This went great, hit all of them perfectly. I had a strong tailwind on a way out and I was basically going 100rpm to hold 220+, whereas on the way back I was gridding it at 80rpm into the headwind. Of course 100rpm was harder.
The intervals themselves were great but on my way back home, my right knee started to act up. The same pain that I had two weeks ago after doing those big gear intervals. And it was pretty bad. I was 20+km from home and what was I supposed to do? Walk 4+ hours in my biking shoes? Not possible so I slowly slugged home fighting tears the whole time. Tear of frustration and pain. Eventually I found the position that was little less painful and I got home.
I have never had this problem before. It only hurts when I push down (also going downstairs hurts), I can do the pull up or pull/push at the top and bottom of the stroke no problem. And when I give it two days rest it is as new. I do not know what the deal is???? I increased my saddle high by a little two weeks ago and I wonder whether that can be it. But honestly I still think that my saddle can actually go even little bit higher. Or can it be the cleats that are already quite used and maybe it makes me hold the knee in a weird position? I have no idea!!! Easy rides do not cause this, only hard pushing. Frustrating. I thought that it was just a fluke two weeks ago caused by big gear intervals but it happening again yesterday is no joke. I will try to increase the saddle high and see what gives. 

Today was a running workout, with some very weird pace changing intervals. It went well although I have no idea whether I ran the pace I was supposed to. I do not think so but at least I felt the change in pace.
And then open water swim with some swimming friends. They took me to Stichkanal (part of the artificial channels network that connects different cities in Germany) in Hannover, I had no idea that one can swim in the city. But this channel is very rarely frequented by boats since it is basically in the city and one can swim there. We did 3.2k (according to Garmin) out and back and phew! Swimming in a wetsuit after spending so much time in a pool is weird. I cannot even imagine swimming 3.8k in IM in a wetsuit. It is so constricting. But I guess that one needs to get used to it. Out was ok, I was hanging on the side of my usual swimming buddy but the way back….Two other swimmers overtook us soon after the turnaround and I made a very stupid (or brave) decision to hop on their feet. Wow! I have never worked so hard for so long. I was hanging for my dear life and if I lost the feet just for a second (and this happened quite a lot) I had to start going full sprint to catch the guy. It was so much faster than the pace I had swum in those two tris I did last year. A lot of fighting went on in my head. It was quite uncomfortable but I knew I can hang on until the end and I knew that if I do not stay with them it will be a looong way back alone including some breaststroke. So I fought. I was incredible happy when the guys stopped. Very good mental training, I need that. My poor swimming buddy also tried to jump on my feet as I left him but he lost the battle with his brain and eventually let go. We compared notes afterwards and he was having the exactly same fight with himself as I did with myself.
I ended this week with 18k of swimming.
Next week will be a battle. Since I am going to London I have only 5 days to fit everything in and next week is the highest running week since forever (probably 1.5 years). It will require running on consecutive days once and one double and I will likely fit only two easy-peasy bikes in (which will be still more that I have done in last two weeks). I should be able to fit 17k of swimming no problem. Also the week after will be horrible since I will very likely be at home and we all know my training goes to shit when I am at home, both due to my very unsupportive parents and I will likely not have access to pool or bike. Not the best timing ever since it is only one week before my triathlon on Aug 19th

It is a bummer that Cavendish did not win the gold yesterday:( But I think that it was all their fault so I cannot complain too much about it.
Is Paula Radcliff really out the marathon?!? I cannot believe that!!! Poor gal.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My new hips/glutes strengthening routine

Although I do not think that my ITB problems has much to do with my hips/glutes (I think it is caused by my running stride. Although I admit, I might be mistaken. It is probably a combination.) since there is all the rahrah about the benefits of strong core/glutes/hips I recently started with strengthening exercises again. But little differently than before. 

I did the usual glutes/hip strengthening exercises as part of physical therapy for 2 months and my ITB never improved. Than another PT told me that exercises I have been told to do were not really efficient because they were not translating into running. I did new exercises that were supposed to translate into running but did not see any improvement as far as ITB goes or improvement as “feeling stronger” goes.
So I have pretty much given up on doing them because I did not see any benefits. I have been primarily working on changing my stride and it seemed to do the trick, my ITB has been more or less happy since March. But a few weeks ago I read an article about ITB with pictures showing why/how dropping a hip while running causes the ITB to get pissed. And all those nice pictures and visualization kind of made me think that there is something in that theory and therefore I have decided that I will try again. And even if they do not help with my stupid ITB having strong hips/glutes is still supposed to be good for you.
However because I did not see any difference (and I really mean NO difference at all) with traditional exercises as walking sideways with rubber bands, clamps, or different leg lifting I have come up with my own exercises. I wanted them to transfer to running/walking. And what’s the better way than do use everyday activities as exercises. 

So basically my “routine” is like this:
I am always super conscious about how I walk up the stairs (do not let a hip sink as I step up, use core/glutes/hips to keep hips leveled), force the step from hips.

I am also super conscious about how I stand (engaging core) and if I do something that requires standing on one leg, even if it is for a second, do not let the hip opposite to the leg I stand on drop. 

Tying my shoes standing on one leg, engaging the hip stabilizer of the leg I stand on so it does not pop out making the other hip sink. This was little hard at first but this is where I see the most improvement. Now it is quite easy to keep hip nicely stabilized without too much effort whereas before it had to force the hip not to pop out. (And yes, I tie my shoes standing, I never sit down and now I almost always do it standing on one leg whereas before I usually just bend down.) And if I bend over to tie the shoes I still engage the hips so they stay aligned.

Basically every everyday activity that I know requires some obvious hips action (because I guess everything requires hips action but I am concentrating on those where I can feel it) I try to perform so that it engages my glues and keeps hips in a correct position. 

And I must say that I have seen some improvements in my hip strength doing these “exercises”. What felt hard at the beginning does not feel that hard anymore. Also I had to concentrate hard on keeping the hips leveled because one always popped out and the other dropped whereas now I can keep them stabilized without thinking about it too much. Hopefully I will soon get to the point when my hips will be strong enough to stay leveled all the time without my brain telling them to do so. 

I honestly do not know whether it makes me a faster runner but hopefully it does. And hopefully it will help me to keep ITB happy for the future. 

I booked my flight and hotel in London. I am going to stay 2 days only though, Sat and Sun and see women’s tri on Sat and women’s marathon on Sunday and spend the rest walking around and soaking in the atmosphere. Unfortunately I did not know before that I will be able to go so almost all tickets are gone for Slovakia. There is one for athletic for Friday evening left, for 150£, but there is only one event that interests me happening that night - women’s 10 000 and even that does not interest me enough to pay that much. So I will just go for two days and watch free tri and marathon. I wish it was cheaper to get to London because I would love to go to see bike races and canoe slaloms. But honestly, tri and marathon are the two events that interest me the most so it is perfect timing and I am not complaining!!!! And I am going to take some pictures this time!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tour de France sur les Champs Elysees

I know that an event like TfD requires pictures but sorry, no pictures. I hate taking pictures. Plus when one takes pictures one does not really concentrate on what’s going on and I preferred to see the action. Also it is hard to get good pictures of fast moving TdF guys (although this is not really an excuse because I had million opportunities to take pictures after the stage when they were not moving fast).

I took six or seven pictures and one video though but since the only picture I was interested in taking was the one of Mark Cavendish and I did take his picture but I think the ones I can find online are much better than mine so I do not have any incentive to download them to my computer…

Anyway, I must say WOW!!! I went to see only the final stage and it was simply awesome.
If you are considering coming to Europe to see TdF you must spectate the last stage. Although it is the only stage I have ever seen I am sure that it offers the best spectating opportunities. In other stages you see the peloton for a few seconds as they wheez by you at 30mph. In Paris they do several loops between L’Etoile and Louvre so you can see them multiple times and each team does a slow round on les Champs Elysees afterwards. Also if you are lucky and stand by a very loud group of cheering fans you might get a high five from Cadel Evans and a kiss from a random Rabobank rider. That would not happen in any other stage!

TdF was not the primary reason of my visit to Paris so I was not really interested in getting to les Champs at 8am to get a good spot and then standing there to claim that spot for next 9hours.  Watching on les CE is overrated anyway because you do not see them any better than standing on Rue de Rivoli for example and you do not see the finish anyway unless you are VIP. So I did not even try to go to CE and instead arrived to Place de la Concorde 1.5h before the riders were expected to come. I used my wits and claimed a sweet spot on the fence of les Tuileries:) After seeing the riders pass by four times I moved to the other side of Tuileries and the spot there was even better. It was AWESOME. I was little higher than the road and was able to see them coming from the distance and then passing below me. Sweet. It was also the spot where many riders ditched their bottles and nice policemen would collect them and give them to spectators as souvenirs.

After the main show was over, I moved to Champs Elysees, watch the awards ceremony on a big screen (because not being a VIP you only saw Wiggin’s butt) and then find another sweet spot to watch the team “promenade” by the above mentioned group of loud cheering fans. This teams promenade was great because some riders stopped to sign autographs, high five people etc. Definitely a spectating high light.
It was fun to see Wiggin’s little son did the round with him on a little yellow Pinarello, just like his father’s but in kids size:)
It was great and I am glad I did it because who knows when I will be able to see TdF again. 

Of course the TdF was not the primary reason why I went to Paris. I visited my great-aunt, finally closed my French bank account and went shoes shopping. You see, I like to buy my shoes in Paris. I am one of those people who would not wear anything less.  No seriously, it seem that I cannot wear anything but shoes from a particular store in Paris. Everything else irritates my ITB. Unfortunately they did not have anything I liked or they did not have my size so I did not buy anything. Now I will have to wear sneakers everywhere:( So I went grocery shopping instead. I know. Who does grocery shopping when in Paris? I do! I bought bread, smoked salmon, crab sticks and of course all my favorite sweets. I had more things on my grocery shopping list but I ran out of space in my backpack:(

Now it is planning a trip to London to catch some tri and marathon action in two weeks.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scratch the last post

(No worries PPC, I am not talking about scratching the “not doing Branson 70.3”. Poor PPC, I am sure I always give her a small heart attack when I mention IM or HIM and future or plan in one sentence.)

I said that 11 quality kilometers in two days did not affect me in any negative way. However, it seems that it is not true after all. I am a zombie in water now. I did not swim on Wednesday and then swam on Th in the morning and I was able to hold sub 2min pace for first 4or5 200s and then I died and finished the  last 5 getting slower and slower and ended with 2:15 pace or something like that. The same was true for Th afternoon when it felt like I was swimming backwards and I cut the workout short at 2k hoping to make up the volume today morning. However, when I was not able to hold 2min pace for more than 2 100s this morning I knew that something was up. So I hit only 16k for this week. (But I did 18k last week, so it kind of evens out. Ok, I know that I am giving volume too much attention here, but I have a volume goal for swimming right now, so I can obsess about it).

I think that it was indeed those 11k combined on Mon and Tue. Or maybe 17k/week is little too much for me. I can swim that much but I am not able to hold faster paces after 12-13k of swimming for a week. Plus I always “push” reset on Sunday and start from zero, however I sometimes swim on Sat and Sun too so there is no rest between weeks. For example when I said I swam 11k in two days on Mon and Tue it was proceeded by 18k I swam the week before without any days off in between. Makes sense?

Anyway, I think that I am going to continue with 17k until the end of July, so two more weeks, to see whether I will adjust and will be able to do more quality workouts and then I decide whether it makes more sense to go back to 15k.

On a bright note, running is going awesome! At the beginning of June I started doing workouts and I was dying. I was not able to hold 4min pace for 1k intervals, I had to walk some in my 3min breaks. Simply dying. People probably did not believe that and therefore my 20:20ish 5k was slower than they expected but I swear it is true. (I mean PPC when I say people, because nobody else really cares:)) I was dying during those workouts! However now 4min pace is a breeze and I can jog all my rest intervals. I had a good workout on Wednesday (800, 1600, 3k, 800 with 2min job between): 800s at 3:55 are easy and 4:10ish pace for 3k felt like a nice tempo run (It was little faster than planned but that’s what you get when I am not on track and cannot check on my pace every 200m. Which is however good because road races are not done on a track. Obviously.). I do not bend over my knees gasping for oxygen after each interval and 2min jog (I can jog the whole recovery now) inbetween is enough rest. So yes, I am getting there!

Ok, I am off to a shopping spree in Paris. Because I need new shoes. Because you  know, I buy all my shoes in Paris. I am THAT person. And that's the true story!
I will also try to get a picture of Mark Cavendish while I am there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

11k in two days, the process, IM Mt Tremblant

You know what swimming 11km in two days did to me? Nothing! Yeap, that’s right. I feel like I did not do anything out of ordinary. Well, at least today. Yesterday afternoon when I was putting in the last 200m to those 11k I was not this “springy”. Even people I usually beat smoked me in the last few sprint intervals. But I did not expect anything else, my arms were quite tired. And I slept like a log for 8 hours last night.
But still, it is pretty great. Just imagine that 2 years ago I have never swam more than 50m of free at the time (although to be honest I am sure I could have swum more than 50m but my goggles were leaking all three times I tried so I have never swum more) and now I can do a good effort 6k in one day (in two sessions). It is really about non-leaking goggles.   
So why the hell did I do 11k in two days? This is a week when I have to cram everything into 5 days. Originally it was supposed to be only 4 days and when you have 4 days to do 19k of swimming it means that you have to swim a lot each day. But it turns out that I have one extra day after all, so I am taking today easy.

I am also only able to do one biking workout and have to run on back to back days this week:( Hope it will be ok. I think that my ITB will survive that, and I am more concerned about the lack of biking. I am just not biking enough. I still have not made a peace with my decision to swim more and put bike on hold. It still bugs me but reason tells me that it is a right thing to do since my swim is truly pathetic compared to bike and run. So although it bugs me I am sticking to it. I tell myself that I will be able to resume better bike training once I am in the US and that makes me feel better. Meanwhile I repeat process-driven, not goal-driven mantra. Meaning, think about bigger picture. I have a goal but that one is quite far away, like years away, and the process to get there is more important right now. 

That being said, I am trying really hard not to put any high expectations on myself (esp for the biking leg) for the upcoming tri race on Aug 18. But it is hard. Very hard. I hate doing races unprepared. I can still hope that some of the TdF riders’ abilities will magically transfer to me this weekend but I know that such things do not happen in a real life:(

Do you also have these crazy thoughts like I do, like for example signing up for Branson 70.3 in September? The race is on 23rd and I can (with 92.7% probability) enter the States on 21st, so that would work. Plus my sister lives in Tulsa so maybe I could persuade her to come watch. But of course it is just a thought; I am not going to do it. I would love to, but no. Just go without any goals/paces/watts and check the stats at the end to see how you did. But I cannot. Although it is tempting. It would give me a nice benchmark for the future. But no. I cannot run a half-marathon right now. So it is settled.

You know what irritates me? All the crap I get for pulling a plug on IMMT. Gosh, as if my decision not to do an ironman race eventhough I can walk the marathon and thus finish made me a failure. Sure, I was excited to do the race but when it became apparent that my ITB won't survive it I got over it. I have already even forgotten that I was signed up for that race.
I already said this before, but I must say it again: I am going to smack the next person who tells me that finishing an ironman race is one of the biggest achievements one can do. Get real people. There is nothing heroic about getting through 140.something miles unless you are missing at least one limb. Not leaving Walmart with 15 new plastic bags everytime you go there or buying teddy-bears for little orphan kids for Christmas, now those are real achievements! Yes, we spend hours and hours training, we make sacrifices, it is serious stuff. And I take it quite seriously myself. But at the end even IM is just a race, like any other selfish fun we do for ourselves. Now pros, that’s slightly different because they can actually use the popularity they gain finishing/winning races for something good. But the rest of us folks, not so much.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Running is all good

The knee does not feel that great. I can feel it when I have to push with that leg (e.g. standing up from the chair) so I have decided not to bike today at all. Not a good timing for not being able to bike since I will not be able to bike next weekend either. I am going to France to catch the TdF action on Champs Elysees.

But I had another great running workout today. Yeap, running fitness is coming around! Woo-hoo.
15min tempo followed by 4x800 @ 3:09, 3:08, 3:09, 3:06. Tempo was little slower than last week but still in the right range. I took only 4min after the tempo, I took 5min last week, and I am slowly getting it down to 3min, because that’s what I used to do in 2010.
800 were fine, not easy-peasy though. I must say that tempo left the legs quite tired. It is the purpose however, so it is all good.
I think that I will go to a track for the next similar workout to make sure that the times I run are indeed close to times I would run for an accurate distance. Because track does not lie!

Also did 1k easy swim just to loosen up.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

1000s in a pool

I have not done this workout in forever and today seemed liked a good day for 1000s:) 3x1000 w/ 1min rest.
First one was a warm up. 21:08, but that includes headcrash with one dude and a short break to discuss it. I was freezing.
Second one was 20:30, it felt good and I was not freezing anymore.
Third one was 20:19, and it also felt good. I was working little bit harder than on the second one and I believe that I could have gone under 20min if I wanted to. Next time!
I was expecting my arms to start hurting as they did in every single swim this week but the pain never came. Great! I think that I got over that weird thing.
You know what is interesting? I did 1500m in a 50m pool in around 27min at the end of February without much problem. That is around 1:48 pace. Whereas now I have sometimes problem to do 100s at 2min send-offs. That is totally discouraging. Is it possible that I really lost all the fitness in March and April when I was swimming only sporadically and then May and half of June when I did not do any hard intervals. Or is it possible that this pool where I swim now is “slow”?  
I do not know, it is just all very very strange.

But you know what? I am not analyzing it too much and I do not dwell on my pathetic swim. I am swimming 17k a week so I MUST be getting better at swimming and all those weeks will add up and I will eventually become a fast swimmer. It just takes time. 

My knee does not agree with the big gear intervals I did on Wednesday. Not ITB, that one is fine. It is something in my actual knee. I started with intervals today (minuters) and I bailed on them after the 7th one because I felt like a shi* and because my knee started to hurt. At first I felt like a slacker because honestly I bailed out more because of not feeling that great than knee pain and thinking that maybe I should have just pushed through it. I was thinking about doing at least something easy but I am glad I did not. Because it was still 1h15min ride and the last 5min were basically a one-leg drill because I could not push with that knee. It does not bother me when walking or running, just pushing on pedals makes it painful. Therefore I believe that it must have been that big gear stuff.
I shall see how it feels tomorrow, and I might do a short easy ride.