Something Old, Something New

I'm mixing things up a bit yesterday and adding a couple of things to my schedule.  Something old, and something new.  In many senses of the word.  The old is yoga.  I used to do yoga several years ago (and of course as a discipline it's quite old).  Doing yoga doesn't work well for me when I have a high run volume.  But this year I'm not running as much, and I'm really enjoying my yoga routine again.  I don't particularly enjoy group yoga, but I have a tried-and-true routine I do at home that I'm happy to be reunited with.

The new is TRX.  I've never done it before, and it's kinda new as a thing anyway.  So far I'm not sold on it.  So far, I'm terrible at it.  I'm all wobbly and frankly I feel quite goofy.  I think it's going to be one of those things you really have to stick with to get.  I'm not sure if I'll stick with it long term, but I feel like I should really give it a good go at this point to be fair.  I really like strength training, so may go back to a routine of free weights, bosu, swedish ball, etc., instead of TRX. But I'm working on it.

In addition to our basement room full of bikes for trainer riding, we have a third bedroom upstairs that we can use for a workout room.  Lots of space to try something old, and something new.

How are you mixing things up this year?

Platelet Rich Plasma Treatment

I've done a few posts over the past several months about some knee issues I've been having.  I got an MRI this summer, then went for a surgical consult where Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections were suggested.  I had the first injection last week, so will give you my initial thoughts.

First of, what exactly is PRP? Blood contains red blood cells, white bloods, and a bunch of stuff in a liquid called plasma (proteins, nutrients, salts, other solutes, etc.).  Platelets are specialized cell fragments (hey, who knew I'd get to do my day job - biology teacher - here on my blog?) that we think of as mainly responsible for clotting, but they also produce a variety of proteins called growth factors.  Growth factors, in the simplest definition, promote cellular growth (a.k.a. healing).

A PRP treatment is an injection of your own platelets (cool, because then obviously there's no risk of rejection or other complications).  My surgeon did the treatment, and he started by withdrawing a small volume of blood from me (15 mL), which was then centrifuged down to separate the plasma, concentrating all it's components, from the red and white blood cells.  That increases the concentration of platelets in that sample of plasma, which should stimulate a rapid healing response.  Then, the plasma was drawn off the separated blood and injected into my knee.  Um yeah, that hurt a lot!  

My blood after centrifugation.
The yellow is the plasma, which is drawn off.

The plasma with increased platelet concentration.
That was all injected into my left knee.
A smaller bore needle than I was expecting, but still...

The whole procedure took less than half an hour, and I was out of there, limping a bit and with a sore knee, but otherwise no worse for the wear.  My surgeon told me to "take it easy" for a week, so we had to define exactly what that meant.  We agreed on no activity for two days, then return to easy spinning and pull-buoy only swim for 72 hours, no running for one week.  I can live with that.

My knee was definitely sore when I left.  I am assuming it was from both the needle itself, and the injection of fluid into the joint.  The injection site was a bit tender, but there was also some pretty pronounced (and expected) inflammation in my knee.  I was instructed not to take any anti-inflammatories as that would interfere with the whole process.  I didn't sleep very well that night as my knee was throbbing, and the next day it was still sore and I was still limping.  By about 48 hours, there really wasn't any soreness left.

I'm now at 5 days post injection, and I have to say that my knee feels great.  I haven't done any running yet which will be the real test, but I did a moderately-intense trainer ride yesterday and didn't feel any pain at all in my knee.  It's hard to separate the placebo effect from any actual physical effect, as of course I'm really hoping this treatment will work, but I'm trying to be objective.  The swelling has disappeared.  I'll go for a run on Wednesday (that's my official waiting a whole week), and am anxious to see how my knee feels.

I go back to the surgeon for a follow-up in a month, where he/we will assess the effectiveness.  There is some evidence that people who respond positively to a first injection will do even better with a second, so we'll see where we're at.  Health care doesn't cover this as it's fairly new, so each injection is $450... not something to do if I'm not getting good results.  But way more than worth it if I do.  I am optimistic because of how good my knee feels after not even a week.  I'll report back after my run on Wednesday.

Let me know if you have any questions about Platelet Rich Plasma treatments, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Joshua Tree Hike

In the it's almost too late to blog about this file, when we were in California in December we went for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park.  It was a nice, yet pretty windy day, and really busy full of people.  Some of the trails we wanted to hike were closed, so we picked a 10km loop called Lost Horse Mine.  It was basically a couple of kilometres up Lost Horse Mountain (summit 5278 feet) to an old mine.  Then down a steep, windy trail off the back.  It ended with probably about 4 kilometres through a sandy wash back down at the bottom.  Here are some pictures.

While hiking is great and can get you off the beaten path, I really want to ride up through the park and back around to Palm Springs.  We didn't bring our bikes on that trip, but next time!

Swim Test Set

Today I swam a swim test set.  I did a warmup of 200 easy, 200 pull, 200 kick 100 build.  My main set was the test set: 3x300 meters tempo on 6 minutes.  Then I did 400 steady full gear (paddles, pull buoy and band) and cool down for a total swim of 45 minutes.  A little shorter swim than normal.

The goal of the test was to keep the 300's within 15 seconds of each other.  Then take the average of the three, and divide by 3 to get by tempo pace per 100m.  Since 3x300 is not that long, I wanted to be as consistent as possible and I wanted to swim as close to tempo pace for a half iron distance swim as thought I had right now in early season.

Here are the times I swam for the 300's:

So yeah, I'm pretty consistent.  And it felt comfortably good, not red-lining but a solid tempo.  It also really made it easy to calculate the average: 5:06; so my 100m tempo pace right now is 1:42 (converts to just over 1:31 for 100 yards). Not bad for this time of year.  

I'd really like to swim a sub 1:06 for the full Vineman Aquabike (Ironman distance swim & bike [3.8 km & 180 km]) in July, so if I can work on holding that pace for waaayyyy longer then I'm on my way.  I'm going to repeat this test set every 6 weeks and hopefully my times per 100 will come down a couple seconds by the summer.

The Pain Cave

Winter is in full swing, and a great way to get through it with decent bike fitness is to do a lot of indoor riding.  The days are getting longer, but still not quite enough daylight to ride after work, which means at least a couple of evening rides on the trainer each week.  Weekend rides depend on the weather; rain doesn't always stop me, but today was beautifully sunny but crazy cold, so hello trainer riding again.  Plus, indoor riding is a great way to build fitness and have consistent, measurable workouts.  They're definitely becoming more and more popular for all-year training, and even in the summer Jason does at least one ride each week on the trainer.  It seems to be de rigeur now to name the room your bike trainer lives in the "Pain Cave", so here's a look at ours.

First of all, it's downstairs, unheated and uninsulated.  Even still, we have to open the windows and door, and in the summer we crank the fan.

It really helps to have someone to ride with.  We have some great training videos and workout books, but still the company is nice.

Essential tool for the fall, summer, and winter: a fan.  This past week has been cold, so merely opening the windows and door is enough.  Another essential tool for workouts when you're just spinning: a TV.  More focused work though I don't have it on; it's a distraction and I can feel the effort and watts decrease.

Jason has a great workbench, tool kits and almost everything needed for most bike repairs, builds, and maintenance.  The added bonus is he loves doing it.

The longest trainer ride I've ever done was 5.5 hours, when I was getting ready for Ironman Arizona in 2012 and the weather was extremely crappy outside.  Normally, after work rides are 1-1.5 hours.  Weekends 2-3 hours.  I could NOT ride over 3 on the trainer unless I absolutely had to.

Doesn't have the scenery of road riding, but sometimes putting the time and effort in is the goal.  Enjoy your time on the trainer!

2014 Race Plans

Last year was a crazy year for me in terms of some big events and different stuff on the schedule.  This year I don't have any huge or "special" events planned.  I'm just trying to go low-key, a lot of local stuff, and do enough of a variety to make sure I'm having a lot of fun and staying fit.  There's no long distance running on the books; I get my first Platelet-Rich-Plasma treatment next week so I'm keeping the run mileage low this year. 

Here is a tentative list of what I have planned... subject to change on a whim of course!  I'm also open to suggestion, so feel free to fire me a note with a cool event.

Westshore Sprint Tri (Victoria)

Shawnigan Sprint Tri (Shawnigan Lake)

Xterra Victoria
Goldilocks Century Ride (Boise, ID)
Full Vineman Aquabike (Sonoma County, CA)

Iron Girl Sprint Tri (Seattle)

Vancouver Sprint Tri - maybe, or Cultus Lake Sprint Tri

Fall in general
Cross on the Rock cyclocross series

I'm hoping to do a longer race - maybe the Lake Havasu HITS half, or the Rev3 Florida half.

There may be a few other local triathlons that get thrown in there as well.  But basically an easy, fun year of not too much mileage, just some fun variety.  Any suggestions?

Celebrity Guest Blogger Jason: Vegomatic

Alison's note:  I had kind of forgotten about the "cleanse" Jason and I did last month.  I was going to do a post about it, then didn't.  Jason kept notes and wrote something up, and he hasn't done a Celebrity Guest post for a while.  So here are his thoughts.

Last week I ate an unprecedented amount of vegetables.  I developed some bad eating habits between Austin 70.3 at the end of October and the New Year.  Bad eating habits equalled weight gain and I managed to tip over 170 pounds, taking full advantage of the 8% rule (the suggested amount of weight to gain in the offseason over your race weight).  Now I am 5’10” so by no means was I overweight, but I was noticing that my stomach was no longer flat and my pant legs were becoming shorted due to the extra fabric required to cover my butt.  Alison was about to start a vegan cleanse.  I was in and recorded my daily data and thoughts on a diet that consisted primarily of green vegetables and juices.

Day 1: Morning weight 167.4 pds. 
            Exercise:  Swim 60 min, water run 60 min.
I was very hungry throughout day and ate a lot of nuts.  Alison explained how high in calories nuts were.  Better reduce my intake.

Day 2: Morning weight 165 pds.
            Exercise:  Trainer ride 80 min aerobic.  20 min TRX
The green smoothie for breakfast left me fuller than yesterday’s smoothie.
            There was a lot of chocolate and baking in office to temp me.  I resisted.

Day 3: Morning weight 165.4 pds.
Exercise:  Swim 60 min.  Run 53 min hills.  No power at all and bloated with stomach distress.
I am not much lighter but don’t look as puffy as I did after our vacation.
            My muscles are stiff and sore.

Day 4: Morning weight 164.2 pds
            Exercise:  Aerobic spin on trainer 80 min.  20 min TRX.
            My muscles are now really stiff and sore. 
            I am not quite as hungry today.  My salad at lunch was huge and took me 30 min to eat it.
            I am adjusting to the new diet.

Day 5: Morning weight 163.4 pds
            Exercise:  Swim 60m for 3,400m.  Run 60 min.
I bonked on both workouts.  I am really craving some complex carbohydrates and proteins.   Give me some beans please.
My dinner was a cold soup made from avocado and cucumbers.  I laughed as I ate it as it reminded me of the 80’s movie “Better off Dead” where the soup gets up out of the bowl and crawls across the table by itself.

Day 6: Morning weight 162.8pds

I am pretty sure that I was running a pretty big caloric deficit for the week as I put up some weight loss numbers that the Biggest Loser would have been proud of.  My daily energy was not low but I did not have the punch necessary to complete quality workouts.  I am happy that I did it.  It showed me that I could be disciplined with my diet and best of all I no longer crave sugar or soda during my day.  That is a huge win.  I am back on track to attack the 2014 triathlon season.  Sometimes we need to press the reset button and this cleanse did the trick for me.

It Takes A Village

The saying “It takes a village…” can apply to sport and fitness just as much as anything else.  When I think of my multisport pursuits, yes, I end up slogging out a lot of miles on my own in the pool, on my bike, and running, but I am super fortunate to have a great network of others I can call on when I want a training partner or mentor.  Let me tell you about a few of them.

Some of my peeps, at the start of our annual
Snow to Surf relay race.

My friend Corinne.  Not only is she an absolutely incredible swimmer (an understatement, she held the swim course record at IM Canada for awhile!) and never minds giving me pointers whenever I want.  I learned to be way more efficient sighting in open water thanks to her tips.  And – she is pretty much game for anything, anytime!  A ride, a swim, a road trip, a double century, an adventure – she is in, always!

Catherine, my mountain biking partner.  She and I started mtn biking at the same time, and spent a lot of hours on the trails of Tzouhalem crashing, riding off the trails, laughing, some crying (ok, mostly me), more laughing, more crashing.  Catherine has turned into a way better mtn biker than I did (that whole consistency thing really pays off…) and she’s responsible for some grand adventures on two wheels.

Janet, on the water.  She taught me to surf years back.  I still remember practicing pop-ups in the sand while camping on the west coast here on the island.  She understands my love of the water, and how even just sitting out on a board waiting for waves can be fun.  She is a true outdoorswoman and someone I can look up to and learn from.

Kirsty.  I like to think I followed in her footsteps, as our first IM times (several years apart) were exactly the same.  She went on to take almost 5 hours off that time, while I’ve only shaved off 2.  Guess I have some more following to do!  She’s been a great friend through long training discussions and has even written a lot of training plans for me.

Wendy, the superstar.  She’s a multiple Canadian cyclocross champion, and there’s no one better for a lesson on the trails, words of wisdom, and teaching the flying mount from a pro.  Or just dinner and a movie!  Some of the best, simplest training advice comes from Wendy: “Big ring in spring”.  Simple, understandable, executable.  Perfect!  (Or “parfait” as she and I would say).

Jason.  Patience and never-ending support.  Whatever I want to do, he’s there.  He’ll ride or run or swim or SUP with me when I want him to.  He’ll pull me around on his wheel when I need him to.  He’ll point out trails for Catherine and I to ride (or to avoid) when we’re ready to.  He’ll buy new tires when my bike needs them.  He’ll talk gear whenever I want.  He’ll plan races with me whenever and pretty much always.  He’ll go the wrong direction on a new trail so don’t leave the navigating to him.

That's not a complete list of people, by any means.  I was thinking about the meaningful peeps in fitness to me, as my friend Tanya (founder of GOTRIbal) has just created an app just for that, called Activebudz (for more info, click here!) – to find training partners, mentors, mentees… whatever you’re looking for in your athletic pursuits.  I’m super lucky to be surrounded by knowledgeable, adventurous, talented and hilarious peeps, but what about those looking for an amazing network?  Download Activebudz and build your own village!  If you already have a village, then add to it – the more the merrier!

Link to download: Activebudz for iPhone

On Activebudz’ home page, it says this: “Surround yourself with people who challenge you, support and believe in you and, no matter in work, family or health, you will always succeed.”  I’ve highlighted some peeps who do that for me.  Yeah, I could do triathlon (etc) without this awesome posse.  But I wouldn’t want to!  And I wouldn’t be the same athlete and know much of what I know without them.  It truly does take a village to raise an athlete, and that village is a fun, fulfilling place to be!