Sunday, September 29, 2013

13 years of triathlon, let's keep going!

In a complete 180 from my previous post earlier this month, I signed up for my one triathlon of the season--the Olympic distance edition of the Half Full triathlon next Sunday. You know, I figure I've done at least one triathlon every year since 2000 (even 8 ironmans that one crazy year) and I'm not about to break what will be a 13-year streak.

My fears of aggravating the costochondritis were put to rest a few weeks ago when I did the 10k run portion of the Nation's Tri relay with one of my patients. After not running much for the 3 weeks prior, I still gutted out a 45:15 while keeping myself under the chest pain threshold. Not too shabby, and in the end, being around the triathlon environment and being a handler and relay partner for the challenged athlete division...well. I really have no excuse to not do a triathlon, do I?

A couple of the guys were featured in the Nation's Tri gallery on Triathlete Magazine's website.

BTW, the guys did really well. There were about 10 amputees in the race, missing anywhere from one to three limbs. Some did the whole race on regular equipment, some rode handcycles on the bike portion and used push-rim wheelchairs for the run segment. All very motivating if you ever get a chance to watch these guys in action! We was also an amputee running clinic last week at Walter Reed with Heinrich Popow, who is a 2012 Paralympic gold medalist in the 100m for guys missing a leg above the knee. Really sweet and knowledgeable guy who helped inspire our patients and show them all kinds of running drills and skills.

So through work stuff, I'm constantly pumped up and inspired, it's just a matter of making the time to train and staying healthy. Last weekend I did a 7-mile offroad running race on Coach Mac's (TBB bike shop owner) property, the Brandywine Bend race, which is age-handicapped and inspired by the Dipsea Trail race in San Francisco. It was awesome to see my old training partners from Delaware and have them kick my butt. I could definitely feel the costo when running up the big hills, but it was fun to dig up the high school cross country skills coming hard down the hills on dirt trails.

Right, staying healthy--I got my first flu shot in about 15 or so years last Monday at work, since it was mandatory for all Walter Reed employees (boo, hiss). I got the FluMist vaccine, which shoots live virus up your nose and is supposed to be more potent and effective than the dead virus they shoot into your arm. As fun as it was to say I had live virus shot up my nose, it wasn't fun to feel sub-par and yucky for several days. So much for my cram plan for the triathlon. I'm okay now with one week to go!

So now I'm trying to remember what it's like to race an Olympic distance triathlon. I don't believe I've done one since Wildflower in 2009. I did a couple sprint triathlons last year for kicks, and just went on Gatorade and had slow transitions. I don't think I even had elastic shoe laces. Heck, it's been nearly a year, so I'm trying to remember how to race triathlon, period. I got all kinds of last minute stuff, like elastic shoe laces, a new hydration system for the bike, new pedals and bar tape, and am beta testing the Team RWB triathlon kit. Chafage alert in the shorts! I may end up going with my trusty pair of favorite tri shorts from the teamTBB days--the ones I'm wearing in the race photo above.

All right, so a week to go... taper? What taper? A couple months of not doing too much thanks to the costochondritis, a couple hard running "races", then a week of laying low while battling the live virus up-the-nose, I sound like I'm full of excuses, don't I? I did get a chance to do some course recon on the original 32-mile bike course (they have since shortened it to 25 miles, no complaints here) and the 6.5-mile run course. So here's to hoping it's not too ugly!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Costochondritis 1, Wongstar 0.

Summer is over and so is my sub-5 comeback, or rather, it is postponed for another year. I hit a glitch a few weeks ago which I learned was a case of costochondritis. Sounds like a disease you get where you can't go to Costco without spending less than $100, doesn't it? Well here is what Mayo Clinic has to say:

"Costochondritis (kos-toe-KHON-dri-tis) is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone (sternum) — a junction known as the costosternal joint. Pain caused by costochondritis may mimic that of a heart attack or other heart conditions."

and Wikipedia...because you know I Google'd the heck out of it:

"...a benign and often temporary inflammation of the costal cartilage, which connects each rib to the sternum at the costosternal joint, and is a common cause of chest pain. Though costochondritis is often self-limited, it can be a recurring condition that can appear to have little or no signs of onset."

Yeah, I'd never heard of it either! I was getting chest pains whenever I ran more than an hour and started to worry it was a heart issue. (It was around the 3rd/4th ribs just left of the breastbone...right by the heart area.) You know, having heard of multiple pro triathletes that had to retire due to heart issues--enlarged hearts, arrhythmias and heart valve issues...

Heart problems plaguing top athletes
Normann Stadler, Heart Surgery, and You
Elite Triathletes and Heart Problems

Kind of scary, but two different docs pegged me for costochondritis. I had an EKG to rule out heart issues. Like wikipedia said, costochondritis is sometimes caused by a traumatic event, sometimes the onset is spontaneous. The first doctor mentioned that it probably happened because I was in excellent fitness for so long (never had any issues when racing pro), but have been fairly inconsistent in my training, then tried going a little harder and my body wasn't quite ready yet. A lesson learned in sitting on my butt for many months and then trying to go 0 to 60 too quickly.

Now that I think about it, the first time it happened was 4 weekends ago. I was attempting my first set (in a really long time) of 21x800s on the track (with 200 easy recovery)...which was always a pretty standard teamTBB track set, total distance 21km or 13.1 miles AKA a half marathon. Never mind that it was the middle of a hot and humid August day, and that I hadn't done any track workouts in at least a year. It wasn't like I hadn't done ANY speedwork...I had just done them indoors on the treadmill, where it was cooler and air-conditioned, and I even used the treadmill that has its own built-in fans. I had done a half marathon set like this a couple weeks prior, only it was 15x800's with an easy 400 recovery.

Okay, maybe I'm an idiot, but I have this problem where I keep forgetting that I lost my athletic superpowers a couple years ago. Or just that I've lost the brain cells saying that it wasn't a good idea to attempt that track set at 1pm on a rather hot and humid day. I made it through 9 of them (and was pretty excited to be holding under 7:00/mile pace) before I got the chest pains. I figured it was the humidity, jogged super easy for 30 more minutes, then called it a day.

I forgot all about this episode until the following weekend, when I got the same issue 60mins into a 90min long easy run. Of course I ran an out-and-back loop, so there was no cutting it short, and my chest remained tender to the touch and somewhat painful even doing mini 30-minute easy runs after that second episode. So it was two weeks ago I got the official diagnosis and made the executive decision to call it a season, chill out and step it down.

My training hadn't been going too consistent the last several weeks prior to this issue, and I was already thinking of stepping down to the "Oly Rev" distance at the Half Full in October. (Plus I had done some bike course recon and felt REALLY weak...or heavy...ok, just SLOW on the hills...) But with the whole inflamed rib cartilage thing, I decided to back off the training for a few weeks, and cut myself a break. Obviously I am not good at figuring out how to make smaller goals to shoot towards after racing ironmans professionally. You could say I have a distorted perception on what a reasonable racing goal should be. (Duh.)

So the plan going forward is to step down even further to Olympic distance for next year. Should be fun! Maybe I'll try to build up for a fast half Ironman at the end of next year... instead of in the next month. Just give myself more time to get in some solid, consistent training. I still had the Navy-Air Force half marathon on the calendar coming up in 11 days, but decided last week that I didn't want to run it slow. I don't sign up for races to go slow. I can still run...only I am limited by the intensity. I can basically run under the pain threshold. I've still got my entry for the Army Ten-Miler in 7 weeks (Oct 20), which I'm going to see if I will be able to do. It's a really big local race and I'm hoping to be mostly recovered by then.

All that said, I got roped into being on a relay team this Sunday for the Nation's tri. One of our double amputee patients is doing the swim and hand-cycling the bike, and needs a runner. So...I get to bust out a 10km run. Hard for me to say no, when I just have inflamed ribs and these guys are missing multiple limbs! It should be fun, will keep you posted!