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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Well, folks, I won’t be going to the Olympics this year.

An Olympic-distance triathlon, that is. What? Did that sound like I meant something else?

I’ve planned for and registered for three sprints already this summer, but my original (pre-knee injury) plan had been to also try one Olympic distance. I couldn’t help but notice that Rev-3 was coming to Wisconsin Dells, and I also couldn’t help but notice that registration was discounted until Feb 1, not to mention the coupon Active.com kept e-mailing me, plus the fact that June 22 fit right into my schedule.

But would I really be ready to roughly double my distances? I felt pretty confident with swimming. Even though we focus a lot on sprinting in my swimming class, our total distance each workout is usually around 3000 to 3500 meters, so I felt confident that I could at least survive that portion of an Olympic distance tri without pushing myself out of the running. Biking is never (yet) my strong suit, but I can go and go, so that didn’t worry me too much. It was running a 10k after everything else that was worrying me. My original plan had been to do my first 10k at the Berbee Derby in November, but my knee injury prevented that from happening. I revised that to the Shamrock Shuffle (on St. Patrick’s Day), but considering that I’m only running 1 minute at a time and it’s almost February, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, either.

But, still, I was agonizing about this June 22 race. I may be naive (spoiler alert: I am), but I felt like I could, if worse came to worse, show up and do it, and do it pretty well.

So I had a chat with my physical therapist, figuring she could give me a clear idea of what I’d be capable of pushing myself to do this summer, and if nothing else, she made the decision a lot easier:

“No.”

Seriously, though, I so appreciate having a PT who understands triathlon and can frankly advise me not only on what I can and can’t realistically do, but also sincerely wants to help me achieve my goals. As a follow up to being shot down on my Olympic distance idea, I asked her, “Do you think I’m on track to being able to run fast this summer?”

She paused and thought about this for what felt like a long time, then asked me again when my first race was (early June) and how fast I wanted to go (“faster than everyone else”). I told her my PRs and roughly my competition, and she thought again, and then said….

Wait for it….

“Yes.”

So that’s where I’m going. Short and fast, all summer long. And you know what? As much as I feel like I’m only getting older, and I only just started this sport last year when I’m already too old, and I have to accomplish every single one of my triathlon goals rightthisverymoment, there’s really plenty of time. As a reminder of that, here’s your inspiration for today:

Jaring Timmerman recently became the first person to compete in the 105-109 Masters swimming age group. He set world records for that age group in the 50m freestyle and the 50m backstroke. He also holds the world record in the 100-104 age group for the 50m freestyle, by the way.

I could figure out exactly which day it was in September, 2013, that I threw a roundhouse kick and felt my meniscus pop and tear. But I’d rather not relive that moment, and instead share that yesterday I was able to run for the first time since then.*

I’ve been in physical therapy once a week since about November, and my PT has promised me since day one that they’d have me up and running soon enough. And after almost three straight months of doing hip strengthening exercises every single day, yesterday was the big day.

I was allowed 4 minutes of walking followed by 1 minute of running, with no more than 4 minutes of running total. The temperature spiked all the way up to 36 degrees, which after the recent polar vortex, felt amazing and warm, as if the birds were singing and snow was melting in dripping puddles from the trees, and we should all be frolicking naked the whole day long. Ahem.

Anyway. That got weird. But it felt nice out. So Josh and I went out and I started my stopwatch, and we walked for 4 minutes, and then it was time to see how the knee was going to work.

It felt… strange. The first minute of running was painful. It felt like my knee was grinding on bone and my IT band (my most recent** source of pain) was tugging at the kneecap, making it feel like it was going to explode. But, in a reversal from all the PT advice I’d received up until now, my physical therapist told me this week I could start working through the pain as there’s a bit of scar tissue that needs to be worked out of the joint, and I’m able to hop and skip like a champ in the PT gym. Not to mention, balance one-legged on a Bosu ball, which I challenge all of you to try with two healthy knees.

Anyway, it was hard. And scary. I so don’t want to hurt myself again. But then all of a sudden, 60 seconds were up, and we walked again. The second minute of running was much more comfortable. Surely the scar tissue had worked itself out in one minute of running! I was like a gazelle again, and I could almost pretend we were out for a nice mild winter day’s 4 miler.

My watch beeped and we walked again. The third minute of running (let’s be real, we’re talking a gentle jog for all of these) was achy again. Popping, tight, crunching. I was positive I’d never be able to run again. No more triathlons. No more road races. No more anything but swimming.

And then, of course, minute four felt great.

My overall conclusion? I have no idea. But I’m glad to have had the chance to at least be back out there. I’m discouraged that things are so sore, but hopeful that this is just scar tissue breaking up, as my PT has told me. And I’m doing my hip strengthening exercises every day without fail. Are you?

Special bonus one-off: I did my first 100 m*** freestyle in 1:10 this past week. Rock.

*By which I mean since that day I did a 25 mile brick after the meniscus tear because I didn’t know that I tore it.

**Also a relatively ancient source of pain. I was hit right in the IT band (on the same knee, of course) more than ten years ago by a 55 or 60 mph pitch when I was playing softball in college, which I’m sure has contributed to my current knee woes.

***Actually 80m because our gym’s pool is a shorty. Still, though: fast.

I have a knee-jerk reaction against New Year’s Resolutions. It’s the same way I feel about diets, weekly mileage charts, yearly reading challenges, number of words to write per day mandates, and so on. It’s not that I don’t understand their value or appreciate why they work for others. It’s just that for me, success is much more likely when I make something a daily habit. A lifestyle, some would say.

That being said, I’ve been recovering from an injury for almost four months now, and taking a look at what I accomplished last year and what lies ahead in 2014 is a way to keep connected to the role working out and racing has as a part of my identity. My knee is getting a lot better. I do my PT exercises every single day, no matter how late it has gotten or how tired I am. In the past few weeks especially, I’ve noticed a big improvement. I can half-run down the first five stairs in a flight. I ran ten steps to catch the plane train in Atlanta. I can consistently balance on my left leg without falling over. But I still haven’t been cleared to run, and as much as I love swimming, I’m tired of not being able to do flip turns and I miss the variety of swim-bike-run-HIIT-etc so much that I’ve been contemplating trying to invent a fifth swim stroke (breast stroke arms with dolphin kick, anyone?).

Plus I have SO MUCH incredible new bling for my bike (Christmas FTW!) that I seriously cannot wait to get it all installed and get a good fit. I have aerobars, you guys. As a Christmas present, I got the most amazing, beautiful new wheels:

Cat not included

Cat not included

ANYWAY, enough with the talking, here’s with the lists.

Things I’m proud of in 2013:

  • Ran my first (three) triathlon(s)
  • Placed 3rd in my age group in my first race, riding my 13 year old mountain bike without clipping in
  • Learned how to clip in (ahem)
  • Fell over learning how to clip in
  • Won a 5k for the first time (the St. Olaf 5k, 1st place woman, with a time of 25:54)
  • Won my age group in another 5k (25:30, Whisper Walk & Run Ovarian Cancer fundraiser)
  • PR-ed my 5K (24:42) as part of the third leg of a triathlon
  • Bought my own wetsuit. (And I LOVE IT)

Goals and races planned (so far) for 2014:

  • I’m starting the season with (and have already registered for) the 2014 Summit Credit Union Couples Triathlon(fka the Capitol View Triathlon, also known as the first triathlon I ever competed in). My goal here is ambitious: to place among the top three women overall. My secret goal (I should really stop sharing my secret goals on my public blog on the Internet) is to win overall for women. Is this attainable? I don’t know. One of the things I find so interesting about triathlons is that there’s really not a great way to predict how you’re going to do. I can make predictions about my times, but I have no idea who else is going to be there or what sort of a day they’re going to have. This is a short bike course, which favors me, and I have made significant improvements to my bike, so I think I have a shot. If I don’t place in the top three overall, I want to win my age group.
  • I also am planning to compete in (but have not yet registered for) the Door County Can’t Beat the Bluff! Triathlon. I suppose my de facto goal is to place (either in my age group or, hey, I wouldn’t complain if it were overall), but my real reason for this one is to practice swimming in Lake Michigan, one of the great lakes. I need to brave the cold, the waves, and the vastness because…
  • When I first hurt my knee, I was depressed about not being able to train (I had no idea that four months later I’d still be rehabbing) and USA Triathlon was tweeting all about the Age Group National Championships that were going to be held in Milwaukee in 2014 for the last time until who knows when. So, feeling sad, my knee hurting, and after a drink, I got on Twitter (always a recipe for success) and this happened:
The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

Well, what else could I do but register? To be fair, I did some due diligence by looking at the finishing times in my age group for 2013, and calculated out some conservative estimates for myself, and I see myself about in the middle of the pack in my age group. I’m much more nervous about surviving an aggressive swim start in Lake Michigan, but I feel like I have to take advantage of how close the race is this year. I visualize the swim start every night before bed and practice breath control and active recovery every time I’m in the pool. I’m hopeful I’ll survive.

Those are my three planned races this year, but I’d like to do two more triathlons and a few ad hoc running races (Berbee Derby, I’m looking at you). I haven’t decided on the last two tris, but Devil’s Lake is tempting me for an end-of-the-season challenge.

Non-race-specific goals:

  • Learn to race without socks.
  • Learn to leave my bike shoes clipped in, putting them on and off while I’m on the bike.
  • Learn to ride with aero bars (probably goes without saying, but hey, what’s  a blog for but saying stuff)
  • Get better at basic bike maintenance on my own

And, of course, swimming remains a big focus for me. I know it’s the shortest part of the race, but it’s the scariest, it’s the most stressful, and it has the largest possibility of death involved, so I think the focus is warranted. I personally think I’m doing quite well in the swimming realm. In my last tri of 2013, I finished the 400 m swim in 7:03, which I’m thrilled with. But I’d like to try to avoid the open water panic this year. To that end, I’ve started taking allergy medicine and am working on a strategy with my doctor that will allow me to actually train in open water in the summer of 2014. I’m so allergic to fresh water lake algae that last year I felt like I had to “save up” my allergies for race days and then spend a week (or three) miserable afterwards. Now we’re going with a prevention is the best medicine strategy to keep me loaded on Zyrtec ahead of time. The more time I spend in open water, the more aggressive I can be on race days. That’s the plan anyway.

My other super secret swimming plan (see above re: secrets on the Internet) is to practice sprinting the first 50 – 100 meters of the swim to get away from all the kicks and elbows and toenails (I got cut so badly by a toenail by a fellow swimmer once that it took more than three weeks to heal) and then swimming at a steady pace after that.

Finally (this post has gotten way out of control): running. For the first time, I’m going to incorporate speed workouts into my running. I don’t know why I’ve never done this. I do this for every other sport I’ve participated in, but running was always about trudging slowly through whatever distance. But a major goal for this year is to go to the high school track and run some speed intervals once a week.

And finally, some random asides:

  • Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@msricha5). I try to write funny tweets, but I also complain about the weather a lot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m sure that as I continue to rehab my knee and if the deep freeze ever ends, I’ll be tweeting a lot about triathlon.
  • This has nothing to do with anything, but the list of goals for 2014 makes me think of it. I have gotten so tired of feeling that I have a million things to take care of that I’ve entirely stopped making to do lists. I don’t make them at work, I don’t make them on the weekends at home. I’m just done. Oh, I still make lists, for sure, but now they’re called “Goals for Saturday” or “Goals for today.” It’s made my life a lot happier (more impact than you’d think), and that’s my gift to you, if it helps at all.