My body tells me no...


After several weeks of feeling good, and a couple rides where I actually marveled about how well I was doing, my body gave me a big middle finger. 

It was last Friday, 8 miles into our ride at Lake Anna and we were at a stop sign, regrouping.  I felt that familiar pounding in my chest.  Its kind of like the symptoms of a panic attack, but without any of the mental component. I knew that if I pushed through, I would wind up feeling much worse a few miles down the road.  I had Stacey hold my bike while I paced around a bit, since standing still is a big no-no with syncope and POTS....but it just wasn't getting any better.  I remember looking at Stacey and telling her (I think?) that I wasn't right.  There was a moment when I tried to lie back, with the end goal being to swing around and prop my feet up on the fence behind me.  Nope!   I immediately went tunnel vision, and as I sat up, I tasted metal in my mouth.  That was when Stacey took off like a bat out of hell, riding back to go get my car.  Liz handed me water to pour on my head, which simultaneously felt divine and like I was drowning.  I felt like my heart was beating extra hard, in addition to fast.  My HR monitor confirmed that I was indeed tapping away a nice allegro in my chest cavity.  My hands felt like they weren't connected to my body.  Liz continued to talk....possibly engaging me in conversation?  Its a little blurry.  I some point our voices sounded normal again, and I realized my heart rate had finally come back down to rest levels.  I started feeling significantly better, to the point where I knew that once I was in the car with some A/C on me, I'd be great.

So a few things about this:

  1. Did I already mention how awesome my friends are?  There really are no words. <3
  2. There is absolutely a part of me that feels bad that I threw such a wrench in our fun day.
  3. There is also a part of me that is proud that I was able to throw that wrench.  I wouldn't have done that earlier this year even.  Now I know what I need, and I'm not going to compromise.
  4. I bounced back really well.  I was sort of tired and wasn't hungry at all for the rest of Friday.  But I actually felt well enough Saturday and Sunday to get my workouts in.  That's never happened before, and I credit me actually stopping before things went to far
  5. I don't know why this happened.  And that's frustrating.  It was super hot.  I'd had some GI distress earlier that morning.  Maybe because of that, I didn't drink enough plain water?  I'm getting really good about getting enough salt, but if your total fluid is low, then plain water needs are higher.  Or was it my bike fitness?  I don't know, my HR was kind of high the whole time.  I'm not great at hills, but I shouldn't be feeling the burn 7 miles in.  Maybe it really was the heat.
This is five days later....trying to cool down after 800m repeats....with an HR of 165.&nbsp; Grrrr.&nbsp; It didn't come down below 140 for a good 20 minutes.

This is five days later....trying to cool down after 800m repeats....with an HR of 165.  Grrrr.  It didn't come down below 140 for a good 20 minutes.

My body tells me no, but I won’t quit, ‘cuz I want more.
— Young the Giant

I feel like I say this a lot, but where does this leave me now?  Same place as before.  Head down, getting it done, eyes on Waterman's International Aqua Bike.  Not everyday gets to be sunshine and rainbows.  I need to be okay with that, because letting myself get upset or sad is just asking for a downward spiral.  Dark days make the light days even brighter.....or something like that.  Sigh.

In the Zone (Part 2) – The Test

Nothing will work unless you do.
— Maya Angelou

Indeed!  I did some serious work on Saturday.  My LT field test was a bit scary, a little painful, and above all, empowering.  There isn’t a feeling much better than overcoming something that had you mentally up against a wall.  My LT test had me unreasonably worried.  I was concerned that I wouldn’t pace myself well, that the results wouldn’t be worthwhile, or that I would collapse and throw up.  If any of these things had happened, it wouldn’t have been a failure, just a learning experience.  Yet in my mind, I had worked it up to catastrophic proportions.  One day I will experience a sports related failure, and at that time I will overcome it, I’m sure.  Fortunately, yesterday I executed well.

My plan had been to head over the high school across the street and run this test on the track.  I jogged over to the school as my warm up, and was dismayed to find that all the gates were locked.  What?  I could have sworn I’d seen runners on the track early on weekend mornings last summer.  Due to the hills, I didn’t want to run my usual routes in the neighborhoods, so decided in the moment to do loops around the high school parking lot.  Each loop took me about 8 minutes to run, and there was only a slight elevation change.

The thirty minute time trial began.  I tried to pace myself slower than I thought I should go for the first five minutes.  Even so, I was moving faster than I had run in quite some time.  I continued with the test, trying to focus on keeping my shoulders relaxed and my breathing even.  After ten minutes I hit the lap button, so that I would be able to check my average heart rate for the final 20 minutes of the test.  Mentally I kept checking in.  How am I feeling?  How’s my turnover?  Am I pushing the same now I was did a few minutes ago?  I noticed my breathing switch from my usual count of in-3-out-2 to in-2-out-1.  The last five minutes I tried to give it everything I had, focusing hard to keep myself from slowing down.  I was pouring sweat and felt like I was on fire!  As the last few minutes ticked by, I noticed a guy run into the parking lot from the neighborhood.  He ducked into an unseen alcove, opened a gate that I hadn’t noticed before, and headed down to the track.  Ugh, really?  Luckily I only had to run hard for a couple more minutes, then the test was over.  I walked a little ways, getting my heart rate back down, then slowly trotted the rest of the way home.

Once I got inside, I got down to the business of recovery.  In this case, I sucked down some nuun and sipped a chocolate milk.  I did get a little bit off track at that point, and while I was still cooling down before hitting the shower, I found myself answering the siren song that is salt & vinegar potato chips.  So good!

Does Lay's sponsor athletes? Because I would be all over that!

Does Lay's sponsor athletes? Because I would be all over that!

I believe my LT test went very well.  I didn’t puke.  I saw a max heart rate of 193, which sounds kind of freaky high.  I felt completely fine though!  To each heart their own, I suppose.  After getting everything uploaded, I checked the average heart rate from the last 20 minutes of the test.  That number is my lactate threshold, and is used to determine my training zones.  So there we go.  Starting next week I’m ready to start Zone 2 training in earnest.  I’ll do another LT test in about 6-8 weeks.  I’m so excited to see what kind of progress I make through the summer and into the fall!

In the Zone – adventures in heart rate training

This week I’m embarking on a something new with my run training.  Spurred on by Stacey’s training recap, wherein she talks about MAF training, I started to do a bit of thinking.  After looking back at my Reston race report, I know my aerobic engine needs some work if I want to enjoy the run leg.  The final decision was made after accepting my deep desire to do everything within my power to avoid feeling exhausted as DC’s notorious humid summer sets in.  I’m taking the plunge into heart rate training.  Zone 2, here I come!

This is the data from my Tuesday run. &nbsp;You can see from the cadence and pace where I walked to bring my HR down.

This is the data from my Tuesday run.  You can see from the cadence and pace where I walked to bring my HR down.

The idea behind heart rate training in general is that your heartbeat can be used as a data point to help you improve.  There are so many theories and programs floating around online, it’s enough to make your head spin.    With summer upon us, maybe you’re missing that “homework” feeling of your younger days?  Never fear!  Just try to research heart rate training online and figure out which method is right.  I’ll wait.  No, I won’t, because I’m not that patient.  After some reading, I’ve decided on Zone 2 training.  According to Joe Friel, elite endurance coach, Zone 2 is the easy aerobic zone.  Working predominantly in that zone will give my body the stimulus it needs to adapt and create a more efficient aerobic engine.  Sounds good to me!

There are some caveats.  First, to truly determine the zones, Friel recommends a Lactate Threshold, or LT test.  I’ve been told that these are somewhat painful.  Sometimes puke-inducing.  Come Saturday morning I will be heading over to the high school track and busting out 30 minutes of steady high intensity running.  I need to pace myself evenly over the 30 minutes, but finish knowing I don’t have any more left in me.  Sounds like a great way to start the weekend, no?  My average HR over the last 20 minutes of the test will be my threshold, the number use to determine my zones.  From there, it’s a matter of programming the numbers into my Garmin, and setting it up to buzz at me when my heart rate goes too high.

Second caveat, and the one that people seem to struggle with the most: Zone 2 is slow.  Like, molasses in winter slow.  I’ve read accounts of people who usually head out and run in the 9:00/mile range having to slow down to 11:30 or more to keep their HR in Z2.  Many people seem to give up on Z2 training because they can’t take the blow to their ego, or they find it demoralizing and boring.  As someone who usually trains in the 12:00/mile range, it sounds like I’m going to be slowing way down and doing some walking.  Perhaps an awful lot of walking.  Taking 14+ minutes to cover a mile doesn’t sound particularly riveting, but hey, I’ve never been a speedster.  I plan to keep a positive attitude, and come fall I hope to see some measurable improvement.

So that’s where I’m at.  I want to develop a better aerobic base and eventually run faster.  I’m going to try Z2 running for the next 20 weeks, and see what kind of results come of it once the end of the season rolls around.  I’m pretty sure this weekend’s test is going to be quite painful.  I’m positive that at some point I will want to give up on it.  I’m also more than a bit nervous about what slowing down means as far as getting race ready for an Oly.  My training plan is based on minutes, not miles.  If I’m so slow, will I actually be prepared to race the distance?  After careful consideration, I believe that this is the right course.  I’ve picked a plan, and now it’s time to execute.  That, and always believe in race day magic!