Archive for the ‘Injury’ Category

The title makes neither common nor grammatical sense but that’s ok, it’s Tuesday.  I don’t love Tuesdays.

Lobsterman 2012 was a really fun race!  Before I really considered myself a “triathlete” (2010), I borrowed a bike, biked to and swam in Walden Pond a few times over the summer, and completed this race as my first every Olympic distance triathlon.

There are a few reasons it’s a “repeat” for me– 1. It was my first and you know, there’s nothling like your… first.  2. It has a lobster bake– and people who like to sit on the ground in spandex and eat Lobster after kicking some serious butt in a race are my kind of people.  And 3. It looks like this–

This is the only race, therefore, that I feel I can compare apples to apples from one year to the next.  So, without further ado- I present– 3 years of race results!

2010: 2:35 Overall Time
193rd Place Overall
24th Female
1st of 9 in my Age Group
Swim: 22:54
Bike: 1:23 (11.4mph)
Run: 46:50 (7:30)

2011: 2:27 Overall Time
48th Place Overall
5th Female
1st in Age Group
Swim: 24:57
Bike: 1:16 (19.5mph)
Run: 43:33 (7:02min/mi)

2012: 2:23 Overall Time
57th Overall (Fast field!)
5th Overall Female (yet again!)
1st in Age Group
Swim: 21:18 (1:18/100m– if this isn’t an advertisement for my swim club, I don’t know what is…)
Bike: 1:13 (20.5 mph)
Run: 45:30 (7:19 min/mi)

The final delta is 12 minutes faster than 3 years ago, 4 minutes faster than last year… AND… I’ve been injured!  Not altogether terrible 🙂  (Let’s get that RUN in shape now, eh?!?!)

This is my take-home message: while I’ve been injured a lot of the season, running very little, I’ve managed to make up for that.  I’ve ALWAYS said, don’t waste time on your strength in Triathlon; rather, focus on your weakness. this is in stark contrast to what I’ve done this season.  Without being able to run and with my hip bothering me a bit on the bike, too– my most consistent training has been in the pool.  And wow… it works.  Granted, I don’t putz in the pool.  My workouts aren’t long either though.  I stick to a hard pace, very little rest and really pushing it.  I don’t swim a lot- during the broken ankle incident I was up to 4 times a week?  Now I’m dialed back to just 2.  However, those workouts are really solid.  This morning’s was a 1000 meter warm up and drill, followed by this:
2 x (400HARD, moderate 8 x 50)
2 x (200 HARD, moderate 4 x 50)
2 x (100 HARD, moderate 2 x 50)

The whole set was 3800 meters and the majority of the pace was 1:25/100meters (not yards).  I was DEAD by the last 100. And if you’re not? You’d better be going for longer than I was 🙂 I think the key is to understand how to maximize your time and sustain the RIGHT effort for that time.  If I were training for Iron distances, I would need LONGER swims.  If I needed more distance I would slow down my pace.  I wouldn’t have swum so much this year but not only did I have to… stupid injury… but I also LOVE my team!  I swim with a talented group of mixed-age masters swimmers.  They absolutely ROCK the pool at 5:30am most mornings.  I’m there as much as I can be and no matter what I’m doing next season, I’m signing on for another year of the team because I can’t fudge these numbers– clearly swimming is keeping me in awesome (or well, good enough) shape.

I’ve fared MUCH better this season than I would have anticipated in May.  In May, I thought I’d re-break my ankle during a transition in a race, not kidding.  I was afraid I’d actually try to unclip from my pedal and crack the ankle all over again because the whole joint felt so weak and fragile.  But nope!  With a little faith and a LOT of slow work, I’ve manged to recover about as well as anyone might have imagined I think.  I’m pretty psyched. I’d like to be a lot faster in NZ for World Championships, but I have a good training plan,I’m working toward a well executed race, and I have a fan coming to watch :)– so I’m pretty sure,  I’ll have a great time.  Proud of 2012 thus far!

Larry, the Lobster, and me 🙂

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My pseudo National Championships recap briefly mentioned a struggle in the bike portion.  It’s not that struggling in a race is uncommon; in fact? it’s generally the case, physically, anyway. I race because I love to race, I love to feel fast and I really, really like to compete.  Therefore, I recognize that no matter what I do, racing will also, on some level, hurt.  That’s how it works!  The indicator of a good racer is not the lack of physical struggle he or she confronts but rather, how well they can sustain the hurt.  Yes yes, it sounds masochistic.  Well, it is! Training for triathlon is not intended to make it so that races don’t hurt; it’s to enable you to sustain physical depletion better than the next guy (or girl).  Maybe you’d disagree- I’m open to other opinions but I’m pretty sure athletes generally agree on this point.

But that isn’t the point of this post.  Clearly, races tire you out, make your quads scream, make your hamstrings lose their spring left– let alone your lungs’ lacking air and your chest’s tightness in the last 1 mile “sprint” at the end of an olympic-distance triathlon.  My struggle at Nationals on the bike was two-fold– my injured hip/glute felt broken– I had shooting pains from my  lower back through to my shin.  Yep, it wrapped around my right side.  No one likes racing injured… I especially dislike it.  The real, technical, holding-me-back struggle however was mental.  The combination of the injury and a few key passes by girls I didn’t think would pass me… well, that began to deplete the one part of me that I’ve always thought as a forte– my mental game.

My mental game often requires dancing to my ipod… pre race. I’m not embarrassed… perhaps I should be…

The mental game can make or break races for me.  When I raced in both swimming and kayaking, the mental game was crucial.  I was known for racing in practice (teammates LOVED that… no wait… they didn’t).  But the reason I did was because I wanted to know I could pull ahead, I wanted to know I had a kick left, all I needed was the knowledge. I had to practice to build that confidence but eventually I could train myself to start as the slowest in the group knowing that my kick would, in the end, beat everyone else’s.  That was predominantly mental– it wasn’t really about fitness.  It was about confidence and… well.. surprising the hell out of my teammates with 150 meters left in a 500 at Nationals for kayaking.  If you’re wondering what connects my various athletic endeavors– from gymnastics, to diving, to swimming to kayaking and eventually triathlon– it’s the mental edge.  I’ve worked my whole life to build the confidence I need to kick hard at the end.  To not get beat and to, as my 1BandID says, “Dig Deeper, Finish Faster.”

Nothing like a come-from-behind “win” (well, the heat anyway) in a 1600 swim race.

But when I fail at the mental game, I fail. Hard. And, I need help. I came up to the 10 mile mark at Nationals feeling ok, with just 15 miles to go.  The pain was tolerable, the hills weren’t atrocious, the wind was high (which is usually in my favor) so my mental state was steady.  Then I got passed.  Not by just anyone, but 2 girls, in my age group, neither of whom had worn wetsuits in the swim.  That, was bad news bears.  In that moment, I honestly felt that I wasn’t worthy of being at Nationals.  My mind wandered… my heart sank. I thought to myself, “what would happen if I just DNF’d (did not finish)?”  That was an unsuccessful line of thinking; if you’re ever considering it,  don’t.  I slowed down, I thought about how hard this race was, how much I had tried to train but couldn’t do enough because of my stupid injury.  I yelled at myself for being injured.  I thought about how no one would really care if I just coasted through the end and made this just basically a training ride.

Cycling’s never been my forte– those are the parts of the race when the mental game matters most! Physical weakness needs the most mental strength!

But somewhere, deep, down … was a much stronger voice.  It was most definitely my friends, my family, my teammates… it’s everyone I surround myself with daily.  They were all saying, “Who is this and what have you done with Julia?”  They know I could do better– they all know, I’m not a quitter.  Left to my own devices I was feeling incredibly depressed, sunk in my injury.  But no single person in my life would let me get away with “just coasting.”  So I leaned on their strength.  I thought about all my incredible friends who work their tails off– and not to win some arbitrary race, but because working hard feels incredible.  Because there’s reward in the simple knowledge that you made your own strides in a day.  My teammates kick butt in their workouts– partly to win some awesome races, of course– but partly because they just love working really hard.  There is nothing akin to the feeling of utter depletion.  Pushing yourself to a limit you didn’t know you had is the reward in and of itself.  Why would I squander this opportunity to work it, hard, all the way to the end?  I just couldn’t.  They wouldn’t let me. Right then, I told myself, “Buck up champ.  Racing isn’t about winning. Racing is about making it hurt… sustaining the hurt… and telling the tale after.”

At that moment, with the strength of all my friends, family and teammates, I turned it around.  I picked up my cadence, I refocused, and I took off after those two ladies in my age group.  And, with a mile to go in the bike, I passed them.  (In full disclosure, they caught me again on the run… but not for another 3 miles!)  And, everything about the race got INSTANTLY better when I decided to take it on, not give up, follow through to the end.  When I took my whiny self OUT of the equation and thought about how my awesome friends and family would all work their hardest in a similar situation, that they’d never give up and they’d never let me give up, I felt like I had the strength of 10 people.  It was incredible.

I submit that the next time you think you need to give up, you need to “just cruise” instead of working to your best ability in a race, a workout, a project– take yourself out of the equation.  Ask yourself what your friends would say to you– what your family might say (as long as it’s positive, people…) and then hit the RESET button.  Or at least, try.  Sometimes you don’t have it one day– that’s ok too.  But when you’re wondering whether you’ve got something more… ask your (imaginary? in-your-head) friends what they want you to do… and believe me, they want you to keep working to YOUR best. And if you ever need it, you can imagine that that is what I would tell you.  I’d say– “you got this… dig deeper, finish faster.”

I owe my friends and family and teammates SO much for their consistent encouragement, their own hard work and determination because it’s completely, awesomely contagious.  Keep it up guys, I need it 🙂

So, long time, no blog. That’s pretty lame.  The truth is that it’s really hard to write, talk, communicate in any way about triathlon when you’re injured.  Well, when I’m injured anyway.  It’s not as though I’ve thought that I’m invincible… no wait, yes I did.  As I posted earlier this spring, I was stuck in the pool a lot over the course of my broken ankle recovery.  The recovery was slow, but by May at least the cast was off.  I worked up to being able to jog again and in fact, I posted a 5k “PR” at the end of May.  Only to find out later– I think the course was short. Nonetheless, it was a decent time followed with… serious hip pain.  That hip pain is reminiscent of pain I was experiencing in November/December, which caused me to stop running last winter. So here I was again, unable to run, in the middle of the tri season.  I’d take breaks of a week or 2 off of running, riding and swimming as much as I could.  I’d then return to the track or tempo runs, only to feel this radiating, killer pain in my low back, right side of hip and down into the hamstring.  I write this now, not because I’m all better, but because I think, I hope… I am improving.  All I know is that I can’t bring it back full force.  If I do, I’ll risk a PR at Worlds, which is what I want more than anything else.  I couldn’t care less about placing… I’d just like to hit that pretty stride I had last year at Nationals.  So, that’s where I’ve been.

Just for fun– here are my quick Summer highlights of 2012:

1. May 17: Summer Blues Run— 5k PR (ish?) 19:27

2. June 1:  Rev3 Quassy!  I never wrote about this race despite it being a ton of fun, actually.  Firstly, #Rev3 events are fantastic.  The race was incredibly well put together, my name was on my bike holder, and the support throughout the race was spot on!  Obviously, I’m a teammate for Rev3 but I’d have this opinion either way– it’s just a festive event when it’s a Rev race.  Given the opportunity I’d be going to Cedar Point, Dells, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida to do their races.  The timing just doesn’t work, sadly!  In any event, it wasn’t a terrific finish by time, but I placed in my age group and overall, I was in the top 10 women to finish.  That felt awesome.  Despite pretty much hurricane conditions on the bike, I managed to NOT fall.  That’s probably a win in and of itself, right?!  Yeah, I know. I fall a lot.  (At least I’m smiling as I churn up a puddle:)

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3. June 22Racemenu 5k Overall Winner 🙂

4. July 6-8: Black Fly Tri.  This event was AMAZING.  The festival weekend is comprised of a Bike TT on Friday night, Olympic Tri Saturday and Sprint Tri Sunday.  You can pick and choose- or do the “Lord of the Flies” Competition, which is all 3 🙂  You know which one I chose… obviously.  After not quite enough training for it, and a BEAST of a hill in every event (it takes place ON a ski mountain after all), I still had a fantastic time.  I ended up in 2nd for the Oly, Sprint and the Overall in my Age Group.  I met a TON of people and got to hang with some old friends too.  LOVED it!

5. INJURED   There was just no getting around this. From mid July through mid August I was just plain old injured.  There was no racing and there was barely any running.  I worked on the bike as much as I could and I swam… but it was tough all in all.  I actually made time in my life for other fun things– I spent time with my family in New York, spent time exploring Boston’s eateries and the rock gym, I went to Florida, and did my best to put the anxiety of being injured at bay.  It worked, for the most part.  My friends noticed it, as I’d snap, “I don’t want to talk about Nationals!” or Worlds, or even generally about triathlons.  I felt like a fraud– I was this athlete previously in pretty decent shape ready to take worlds by storm and then boom– a crazy, injured season.

5. Age Group Nationals 2012.  OK, so, they happened. But even the day before I caught myself saying, “this race had a limit, maybe I should have sacrificed my spot so that a real athlete could be competing.”  Ew, self-loathing, useless thoughts.  So, I bucked up the best I could. After a terrible night’s sleep, I woke up with the beginnings of a RIDICULOUS poison sumac attack.  It was laughable, really.  In any event, I raced!  I put up some interesting numbers–

Here is my comparison of Nationals 2011 (fresh and tapered!) and 2012 (freshly injured!):

2011 Results:
23:33          T1: 1:35        Bike: 1:13.06        T2: 1:25            Run: 41:39

2012 Results:
Swim: 22:37     T1: 2:04     Bike: 1:13.49    T2: 1:28      Run: 44:03
Deltas:
1. Swim = 2012 much faster!  1:35/100m vs. 1:23/100m this year!  2012 swim training worked!
2. Bike= negligible.  In pain so I know my mental game was way off.  Also, SO thirsty on the bike and if you know me you know… I didn’t have water with me. #dumbtriathlete
3. Transition 1: Hilarious. WHAT was I doing…
4. Transition 2: Tired AND very dehydrated
5. Run = 2012, whoa. As expected, really slow.  However, I stopped to walk through the first water stop and pull my shoe lace tighter.  I think this might improve by October.

The swim was a great take-home message. Training consistently really does help.  The same is likely the case for the other two sports but… silly, injured me, wouldn’t know.

Lastly–

August 26: Rev3 Old Orchard Beach!  Another fantastic event! I did this as an Olympic Relay, having just come off of Nationals the weekend before.  My awesome guy got coerced into it as our runner- his little bro has just gotten into tri’s and is flying!!! So, I swam, Jeff cycled and James ran and we WON!  I had never done a relay tri before and this was such a fun race race for it.  So many spectators and fanfare!  I definitely didn’t pay attention to course maps and ended up running to the swim start a mile away– but that’s clearly human error- not a race problem 🙂  I’ll pay better attention next time…. #oops.  This was its inaugural year and it went incredibly smoothly.  Everyone should head up to Maine for it next year!

So that’s it… so far.  This morning I hit my 10 x 100 @ 1:15 and it actually didn’t kill me. I’m psyched to think I could even get a little quicker by October.  But no guarantees. I need some open water practice, for sure.  I have a few races in the next month then it’s taper time for Worlds.  I’m finally able to talk tri again so I plan to do a bit more of this in the next few weeks.  Hopefully I’ll find something interesting to chat about.  Requests welcome, as always.

(Classic “fitting” shot on my new-to-me Quintana Roo Seduza! Although the two main components (the bike and the jules) in this picture appear to be normal sized, it’s just an allusion; we’re just both mini. 🙂  More fun (funny?) pictures follow…)

As many cyclists and triathletes will admit, a professional bike fitting can ostensibly seem to be a big, unnecessary cost. We will also admit, that’s just not the case. Professional bike fitting is a bit of a nebulous term– the costs range dramatically between bike shops (and friends who know bikes “real well”) and the actual service itself ranges as well. There isn’t one, best way to ensure a great fit for a new or even old bike. That isn’t only because each person’s shape and flexibility is different but when you add the complex geometry of the bike, the differences between cyclists is exponential (or factorial, actually). I think women might best understand this by thinking about the ways that clothing fits… or doesn’t… even if technically a size 6 should just be a size 6, right? Yeah, I know, never that simple. Guys- your clothing is ridiculously simple so the analogy stops there.

Why get fit? A proper fit bike will make your time on the road and trail (or the race course) more enjoyable and maximize efficiency. Whether it’s a new or old bike, you could probably benefit from finding optimal riding position (even if it’s just YOU who’s changed and the equipment is the same). If that weren’t enough reason, a “fitting” is the type of initial cost that has a long term benefit in injury prevention– and let me tell ya– nothing is worse than being a sidelined athlete. Often things such as: saddle sores, sore knees, tweaked hips, lower back aches, shoulder strains and neck soreness are directly related to your bike fit. I don’t want to overpromise here (note: I’m not even a good cyclist let alone an actual bike fitter!), but I have also read and heard that a good, tight fit on the bike can lead to an overall increase in output by 10% (I presume this is talking about wattage). So, to recap you might consider a bike fitting if you’re a) new to the bike, b) dislike being injured, c) want to increase cycling efficiency or d) want to be faster. If you want none of these? well, you’re probably not reading this blog.

What is involved in a bike fitting? That depends.

1. The basic fitting: although it might vary a little from shop to shop, for the most part the basic fit will analyze the following:

  • Pedal-shoe interface (yep, this is actually variable      and can be optimized based on your quad/hamstring flexibility)
  • Seat height (fore/aft)
  • Cockpit sizing (handlebars, brakes, gear components)
  • Bar/stem height, length, rotation
  • Handlebar placement
  • Aerodynamic position
  • Proper Pedaling Mechanics–how to effectively pedal, so      the power will be transferred to the pedals.

Cost? Usually around $80-100. OFTEN this will be included in a bike purchase! So make sure to ask. It might be discounted if you spend some money on gear and equipment too. I’d say this is basically mandatory for anyone getting a new bike, but possibly insufficient for a seasoned cyclist looking to ameliorate aches/pains or improve pedal-to-power stroke.

2. The mid-level Option: The mid-level bike fitting is also completed by professional bike fitter. This fitting not only measures everything from a basic fit, but in addition adds in aspects of motion, flexibility, and angular momentum. Specifically, a professional fitter will look at your overall movement on the bike to see where you might have muscle imbalances (or flexibility differences), mobility, stability and strength (specifically core!) that will contribute to a great fit versus just an “ok” fit. These fittings span the gamut for price- you want to make sure this is going to be at least an hour’s session and just ask the bike shop what the fitting includes to make sure it’s really getting into the nit and grit of your cycling. The average costs I’ve seen? $150-$300. Communicate what you need and what you’re looking for and you’ll find that either a higher cost is justified (is the fitter recording the stroke and analyzing dynamically? might be worth a little more because then YOU get to see what he/she does!) or it’s a lower cost with less frills (just some extra expertise and dynamic analysis).  Either way, I’d actually say this is worth it if you’re going to be cycling more than once a week– no matter the distance. If you’re getting on your bike that consistently, a bad fit will be contributing to overall pain in other parts of your life. And why invite that? No need for discomfort (well, no more than what happens in daily, grinding workout sessions of course).

3. The High-Tech Option: There are really high tech fittings; these include clipping into your bike in a way that not only measures your power around the pedal stroke (watching for inconsistencies, or where the “waste space” of your pedal stroke is) but in addition this allows a sophistacated software system to understand where your flexibility is insufficient and should be “supplemented” by your position. The software/hardware combination does this by measuring the weight the foot is carrying around the stroke. Then in addition, they include the bike mechanics measurements included in the basic and pro fittings as well. These are completed by a professional bike fitter (certification is pretty stringent) and can run over $300 per hour. Yep, I know… that’s kind of pricey. Honestly, this isn’t money I (personally!!) would spend. This is because I know I could get a great (albeit slightly less fancy) fit for less, but also because I’m not talented enough to benefit from the delta in price (meaning, I might as well use the extra $$ to race some TT events and improve my handling). If you are a good to great cyclist– this might be a fun opportunity to explore your inefficiencies and improve your cycling in a way you are less likely to by cycling through the same motions that you have for multiple seasons. Fewer places offer something like this though, so it’s usually worth a quick google search (Aw, I know, you just wanted an easy link right? try this: http://ww1.lmgtfy.com/).

I have been incredibly fortunate to be introduced to a fantastic cycling couple– Don and Elaine Vescio who run the triathlon center VMPS, which I’ve mentioned before. Don and Elaine led computraining sessions I took part in all winter; they analyzed my pedal stroke, they told me to stop pedaling a bike that was too big for me, they let me borrow a bike when mine was stolen!, and have been incredible mentors in all things triathlon. In addition, Don helped me not only pick the bike I so badly needed in order to train and compete (to replace my sad stolen TREK) AND helped fit me to the bike. In fact, we are still working on optimizing the fit and the components to suit my exact needs! It was a laborious effort on Don’s part– it’s definitely a pro-fitting (and beyond, really), which he offers anyone for a very very reasonable rate and the time and care and expertise that he has are worth much more. And because we were having fun– we took some pictures! Good fit, right?? Pretty aggressive and tight and I’m lucky to have the flexibility for it (or so we hope!). I’ve only clocked ~100 miles on her, but I’m happy so far!

Tell me– what’s your experience? Is the bike fitting worth it? Are there tell-tale signs of a successful fitting? Any requests you’d make specifically to improve a fit?

As most people know, I haven’t been running, cycling or being a real triathlete these last few weeks.  As a little update– my silly boot has stuck me in the pool almost every day for 14 days in a row!  NUTSO.  I swam 28,000 meters in about 8 days.  Obviously, this just isn’t sustainable.  And I’d know, I do sustainability professionally…. no wait… wrong one.

Anyway, my coach added something to my schedule that he called, “pool running.”  He seriously underestimate my capacity for this weird, new activity– as he instructed me to “just strap on the running belt and run the intervals.”  Oh, yes, just … strap on.. wait, what?! Strap something on in the pool? This former (past life) swimmer girl stopped in her tracks. It’s not that I’d never seen people doing this activity, it’s just that… I thought it was minimum age 60.  Oh how very wrong I was.  My first time aqua jogging was hilarious.  I had a set of 5 x 3 minutes with a nice long warm up and cool down.  I thought, “well, this will be easy, maybe too easy.”  HA.  Wrong yet again.  I worked my buns off… not literally (glutes have purpose, I swear!).  I don’t know much about my heart rate data, but I do know that I was working it– and doing my best to ignore how ridiculous I looked.  But at some point I couldn’t help thinking, “this isn’t running; hell, this isn’t even jogging.  This is awkward… yogging.”  A la Anchorman — yes that is an urban dictionary link.

Seeing as I have had NO clue how to do this… these have been my own self-developed ‘strategies’ for, well, trying to move forward:

1. Feet off the ground (thinking about nearly-missing the bottom); skip the shallow end.

2. Pull my knees up, keep up the cadence… (that’s clearly a relative metric).

3. Arm pump is ok, as long as it’s NATURAL.  This is not sculling practice!

The best way to show the “look” of this activity might be the “What people think I do” meme.  Yes, go see that link, the whole post will make more sense if you do 🙂  This is my best attempt:

When I say I’m “Aqua Jogging”:

What my friends think I’m doing:

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What my Coach thinks I’m doing (great form, so angular and tall…):

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What it feels like I’m doing (come on! I’m wearing a floating device!):

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What I’m actually doing (wait I’m supposed to be moving… forward?):

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Motioning a whole lot… and not. going. anywhere.

So far, This is my Awkward Yogging.  Clearly this is NOT a ‘how-to’ post– more of a “HOW DO YOU DO THIS?!” desperate plea for help 🙂  Any thoughts? Hints? Strategies? 

Today I’d like to chat about Flip Turns.  But for full disclosure I should first mention that one of my flip turns has resulted in the following hott look:

 Yes, that would be the HIGHLY fashionable “Stormtrooper v6” boot.  It’s so a la mode, right?  All the cool kids are getting them (Get better quickly, Kacie!).  Granted, Kacie is a rock star.  She ended up with not 1 but 2 stress fractures and has a good excuse!  That girl just completed a 2X Ironman.  Yes, you’re reading that right.  She completed a race consisting of 4.8 miles of swimming, 224 miles of cycling and 52 miles of running.  Yes, insane, but also bad ass.  She has a great Q&A post about it herebecause I know you were wondering which flavor of poptart she uses 🙂  #BreakfastofIronmanChamps.

So, back to the issue at hand.  Flip turns.  As I mentioned I managed to break my ankle doing a flip turn in… wait for it… January?!  Yep, that’s right.  2 months ago, I did 2 things that put me in a boot today: 1. I flipped HARD into the wall– not into the water and OFF the wall, but INTO the wall and 2. I kept working out on the ankle assuming it was just a bone bruise (because honestly, who breaks a BONE in the pool? this girl, apparently).  In any event, this is all to say- flip turns are NOT evil and that’s coming from a girl who would happily claim otherwise right now 🙂

Before I get into my mini tutorial on how to do a flip turn, I first want to say– first, practice your flip turn AWAY from the wall.  Do them in the middle of the lane, try switching direction quickly, it’s great practice.  Second, find your place by watching the bottom of the pool, looking up at the wall will slow you down a lot and trust yourself, keep practicing your orientation; thirdly, don’t be timid.  Yes, you can hit your feet, your ankle, etc… but it’s very rare, you are MUCH more likely to be too far than too close ever.  If you want to  improve, practice makes perfect, so strive for a great turn on EVERY wall during your practice!

Flipturns: A Tutorial for a fast flip:

1. Body position- Going INTO the wall, you need to prepare your body to wrap around the turn.  The best way to do that is to feel your horizontal body line tilt down at the chest, just a tiny bit.  By thinking about pressing the weight your chest down a little towards the bottom of the pool, you’ll be able to get your head sunk a little lower than the surface of the water.  Do not tuck your head or arch your back, but rather feel as though you are leaning toward the bottom of the pool- chest first, sinking your upper body beneath the surface and feeling your shoulder socket stretching a bit as you keep your arms moving in the same place along the surface (yep, better work on that flexibility!).  This shift in your chest will only result in about a 2 inch, or 4 cm difference- that isn’t a lot! Don’t dunk yourself. Swim into the wall, sink the chest, which will THEN allow you to tuck your head at a spot lower than your body, which enables you to engage your abs to PULL you legs over top, instead of bouncing up and over the surface with your head and body. Many people think the flip is like a jump into a tuck just before you hit the wall.  I’d argue that it’s more like quick origami fold in your body to wrap around the turn, instead of a gymnastic bouncy ball at the wall.

2. Tight tuck/fold:  Rather than thinking of the flip turn as a big awkward ball, I think of the flip as I said above- a quick fold in the body to switch directions as quickly as possible.  Here is a pretty good picture of what I mean– notice her head is down, face looking towards knees and legs are not shooting up above the water line, but are smoothing following her body flat around the turn.

3. Feet PLANT: Aim your feet toward the wall- smoothly draw them (with your ABS!!) over top of your head, along the water line (not up and over!), until they meet the wall.  At that point, plant the balls of your feet solidly so that your toes are up.  As you practice, this might change to the SLIGHTEST angular change- 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock depending which direction you turn, but my advice is to practice the fastest turn possible to get OFF the wall, which lands your feet with those toes up.  Your legs do not need to be right next to one another– in fact, they shouldn’t be.  Space your feet about hip width on the wall to generate the most power– think of it as you might a solid squat in the weight room.  Your hips are already naturally down (as they would be seated ‘back’ in the weight room), your back should be flat, parallel to the surface (flat back in a squat) and with your feet separated from one another, you’re prepared to essentially perform a squat jump off the wall.  Mary Eggers is about to take on LANCE (Armstrong, y’all) in a swim race and here she is demonstrating AWESOME positioning off the wall:

4. Tight streamline: The streamline off the wall might be the most important part of the flip turn, the place where you could gain or lost the most time.  Notice in the Mary Eggers picture, she notes that her arms are already in the right position before she takes off- that is crucial!  If your arms are loosey-goosey, they are only hindering your hydro-dynamicism (creating drag)  coming off the wall.  When you get your feet planted on the wall, think about forming the tightest line possible, from hands to feet.  That means, pulling those arms tight above your head, straighten the arms, tucking the head right between the arms (no tucking the head up or leaning it back), engage the abs and the glutes and… launch!

Altogether: Consider looking at the body from the side, optimally you would see: 1. flat horizontal line 5-7 feet from the wall, then the same tight line in the body but upper body tilting beneath the water (3 feet from wall), then the head tucking around, pulling your legs straight over your head into a pike at the wall (knees as close to face as possible) then quick bend at the knee at the last minute to plan the feet on the wall, toes up, hands overhead in a atreamline position, ears tucked beneath straight arms, feet apart, and LAUNCH!

When I hurt myself, I did a few things wrong.  I turned onto my side before the flip was complete- so my feet were never going to get to the right position on the wall, with toes UP.  However, I was doing a few things right too because it’s tough to crack your bone– my tuck was tight, I had a lot of speed.  Don’t use your flip turn as a chance to slow down and rest- it’s just a change of direction, unfortunately necessary in these little pools!  So, take advantage- swimmers and triathletes alike, just because you might not perform one in a race doesn’t mean there isn’t a fitness to these- don’t let your heart rate drop by using these as rest, think about how they can boost you for the next 25 yards or keep you up to speed when your technique starts to falter.

I clearly am no expert- but I love doing flipturns.  Any other advice you can think of?  How do you use your turns- for a little boost? or a little rest?

Reacting to an Injury

Posted: December 29, 2011 in Injury, Lifestyle, Training, Winter

Although the title sounds a tiny bit negative… I’d like to think this might be a little motivating, thinking about and anticipating obstacles we might encounter in 2012.

I’m taking a minute to discuss the inevitable: injuries.  They happen.  In fact, according to the NCAA and the Collegiate Trainers’ Association, approximately 30% of college athletes suffer from an injury every year.  And those are just the ones that are reported… lest we all forget the likelihood of ACTUALLY reporting something to a trainer… is… minimal at best. That means, it’s likely you’ll be injured… at some point. If you’re training, you’re asking a lot of your body and while we are made for more than we typically ask of ourselves, we have our limits too.  But what we really excel at, when given the time, is recovery and resilience.  Granted, you need to TRAIN yourself for resilience, but you can do it.  Even mentally, we are prone to breaking down and getting depressed about an injury.  But what’s the use in worrying and dwelling?  How does it help?  I’d like to argue that our ONLY real option for injuries is to react like athletes react to any challenge– wo/man up. Figure out that while it sucks to be injured your only real choice is to make yourself better.  Don’t retreat into it and don’t dwell.

One important caveat– I’ve had several friends deal with very debilitating injuries and surgeries that left them out of training for weeks and months. Sometimes “get over it and do your exercises” isn’t what is appropriate.  But- my brother is a fantastic example of how even awful injuries are what you make out of them. Ben demolished his elbow– shattered it– in a whitewater paddling crash last spring.  After an excruciating 3 hour ride to the hospital, drugs galore, and immediate surgery, he was basically told he wouldn’t really recover from the injury– range of motion would be 50% at best.  For a paddler? That’s rather life-altering news.  But he didn’t let it stick- he was told that with exercises and strengthening, that maybe, maybe when the metal bolts holding the pieces of bone together were removed… he might get a little more back.  Well, if you know Ben, you know he’s generally up for a challenge.  We went to Italy that summer for a paddling race that.. of course… he could no longer do.  But he was there, positive-minded, steered the boat like a champ

Ben steering our Dragonboat in Italy. Ben "Hamburglar" Ledewitz.

(while drinking wine, no less)… and walked around EVERY day with a giant rock in his hand.  It was unnerving at first… but he explained that he was just strengthening all of the little internal ligaments.  He hung from a bar in our villa almost every day, he stretched and lifted weights with it- even when it felt like it was doing very little to aid the process. But by autumn, he got the bolts removed and he’s up to almost 80% of range of motion, if not more by now.  He’s back to paddling and in fact, if you want to see the 50′ drop he took– take a look here: http://www.whitewaterfreestyle.com/2011/california-whitewater-2011/.  (Yes my brother has the best mullet you’ve seen. No it’s not ironic… ).  It’s just a small testament to the idea that we are made to recover, you need only to ask your body to do it.

But, I have thus far (knock on SO MUCH WOOD (twss)), been pretty lucky injury-wise.  I am, however, dealing with one right now.  I have a theory about things like this though… “respect and recover.”  I know, this sounds like an odd injury mantra, but it’s worked pretty well so far.

My little injury report–

4 weeks ago I got a nagging, acute pain in my right hip while running on the treadmill.  I had had the pain before and I know it’s not great.  It’s not a huge problem, but enough to slow me down especially running.  Part of me thought, “well, this won’t last, not a big deal, let’s get on with life.”  Naturally, what athlete would say otherwise?  After I finished the run, I got on my trainer for a nice hard ride of long-ish intervals.  No crazy 30s pieces- just 3-4 minutes with hills here and there.  It felt GREAT! And by great I just mean, NOTHING in my hip at all.  beautiful!  The next day, I had my computraining endurance ride– 1h30m on the bike on the Coeur D’Alene Ironman course.  Something was a little… off.  I had a pull on my right side but this time, down closer to my knee.  Hip was ok, a little funny feeling, but ok.  I certainly wasn’t going to stop my ride- the pain was not bad.  if it had been… I would have stopped immediately– 2 injuries on the same side is the same injury (in my opinion) and if it had been bad, I wouldn’t have wanted to risk it.  But, I got off the bike stretched and FOAM ROLLED!! and felt much better.  By Sunday, I was feeling pretty good and met up with a teammate for an 8 miler.  Nothing fast, lots of hills.  It hurt. It hurt the whole time.  It was just nagging.  As soon as we finished, I knew something was wrong.  After the run, I chatted briefly with my coach and then left a message for my Dr.’s office and decided right then I would address it.  I didn’t have another run scheduled until the following Tuesday, so I waited it out a little bit.  Made the appointment for Thursday afternoon.  I ran the short workout on Tuesday with very little pain and all of my cycling was feeling ok.  Wednesday’s run was a little wonky, but not bad.  Thursday’s appointment was a little strange because I hadn’t felt the pain in a few days.  Luckily, I had really taken note of the problem: the where (hip and right lower quad), the how (acute + pointed in the hip, pulling in the quad), and when (running for the hip, cycling on the quad).  These helped my dr. immediately address the issue and help me come up with some strategies to address it.  The stretching, foam rolling and icing regimen were probably the most important but some key strength training moves have been super helpful as well.  Lastly, I talked to my coach again and let him know what was up.  He told me: “One week, no running.”  Um, what?! I don’t really know how to do that… how does one do that?  He encouraged me to give it a try, “just 1 week now is better than 2 months in March,”  he said.  Damn, that was a good point. (he’s awesome, if I haven’t mentioned. if you’re looking for a coach… you should ask me about him).

So that’s what I did.  One week.  I’m a lucky girl- I have some other options when it comes to staying in shape and challenging my body, so you better believe that’s exactly what my coach asked me to do.  In that one week I– cycled 5 times, I lifted twice, hiked once, went dancing, and (for the first time since July…) I swam twice.  There are so many more options though– I was just finishing finals so I didn’t have time to hit the slopes, or do yoga, get to a kickboxing class or rock climb– all of which are fantastic workouts.  But the point of all of that is that… I’m feeling a ton better! I’m not perfect and I recognize that I probably spurred this injury by running daily for 17 days… my hips are just not made for that action right now.  I need rest days between runs and that’s ok! Because there’s so much more to do… than run.  I also nursed the crap out of my IT band.  I foam rolled (and need to do MUCH more), and stretched it out!  Here are my favorite IT band stretches (yes, these are super awkward pictures because 1) didn’t want to use a random person from the interweb unbeknownst to them and 2)I don’t have any pictures of me doing these… for which you can thank me later):

Tree Pose. Letting the external knee relax out to the side (owwweeee in that good way)

Shoe pose? Not sure that's the official name- but it feels great. Ankle over opposing knee, and sit into 90 degree angle on 1 leg. Balance on wall/chair

Weird, awkward side posey thing. Feels awesome (wrap one leg tightly behind the other, stretches hip of the back leg)

Jules’ Injury Mantra laid out:

Respect

Respecting an injury means a few things:

1. Admit it- if something really feels ‘off,’ recognize it.  You know your body;  you are the only one who is going to help when you feel that eerie, uncomfortable feeling that is different than just being sore.  So, recognize. Then, DON’T be a rockstar (pretty and dumb) and go harder to “push through it.” Don’t ‘Web-MD’ yourself to death.  Do try to understand what is hurting, where and when you do what.  Is it a tightness? All over? or very Acute?  Does it happen running up hill or down? Are you feeling a temperature change in that spot– hot or cold? (no joke, I was just asked this– it’s indicative of bursitis, who knew?).  Take note!

2.Accept it- take a few days off immediate from the exercise bothering it most.  It’s OK, A-typers rolling their eyes at this, just DO IT!  Don’t prolong an injury for a month that might be fixed with a little rest!  If it hurts when running, then: cycle, swim and yoga to the rescue!  Ski! Snowboard! Do some fun stuff for a bit.

3. Address it- Still nagging? GO TO THE DOCTOR.  Don’t put it off, just go.  There is NO harm and it could actually help you immensely.

4. Adhere to the orders– When the Doctor says “do this exercise”– just do it!  You reserve no right to complain about the injury if you don’t try to take the steps to alleviate the pain. If it’s Physical Therapy- do it. If it’s an MRI- schedule it. But don’t sit around feeling sad about it because you’re only going to dwell on the pain, which will make you feel less and less like you can overcome it.  And let me tell ya, take a quick glance through any news today and you’ll see- we humans are MADE to recover.  You will. Whether you’re an athlete, or not, you’re physically capable- and the more you do to help yourself, the faster you will recover from the injury.

Recover

1. Actively recover- Again, sitting around thinking about an injury has probably never done anyone much good.  Even if you can’t run, walk a bit, do lunges, do anything that doesn’t actively hurt your injury.  The best thing you can do is to pump up the muscles around the injury that are helping you to recover.  So, find the parts of your body that you can work, and work em! If it’s challenging, or something you’ve never done before– all the better!  Fitness is all about how well your body can react to change and challenge.  When you demand that it tries, you improve your fitness.  Injuries are a great excuse to try something new.  And don’t be afraid.. if it hurts? Stop. Try something else.  Be patient with yourself and you could gain a whole new repertoire of exercise regimes.

2. Rest.  Eat well, sleep and drink.  No no, drink WATER, I mean.  But sure, drink fun stuff too, if you are out with friends- enjoy the time out.  Get happy! Don’t sulk inside… you’re not down for the count, you’re not BLOWING your season, you’re actually MAKING your season.  So, get after it!

Don’t half-ass it.  You wouldn’t half-ass a workout, or a work assignment, or school work (well…) I mean, no! Of course you wouldn’t. So don’t half ass your recovery, do it right. If you do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it 3 times.  You may have to do it again, but it’s HIGHLY likely, that if you respect the injury and recover effectively, the next time a similar pain creeps up, you’ll recover in less time.