Friday, May 29, 2009

This Sucks

What was a minor cold is now a raging sinus infection. I'm bone-tired from a) being sick and b) not being able to sleep because I can't breathe. Breathing is so much effort. I'm tired from breathing. My chest hurts from blowing my nose. I've done so many saline sinus rinses, there's water in my ears. Big yellow globs are coming out of my nose. I have zero energy and a low-grade fever. I can't taste or smell or even hear very well. Eating is a chore. I've lost 6 lbs. I'm completely miserable. There is nothing in my life right now that gives me pleasure. Including breathing out of my nose. So much for the marathon on Sunday. That I did all the training for. All of it. Except for Canada, that was my only other big race this year. Down the toilet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

For serious. Is this some kind of a cruel joke?

After my hip scare, now I have a full-fledged cold. I'm past the achy, fever stage and into the congested, dripping stage. Ugh. Less than 5 days until my marathon.

On a side note, Alec split his tongue open by running into a picnic table at his birthday party this Saturday, and we spent the evening in the ER. After several stitches, he's up and at 'em again. Kids are so tough.

Brent fell off his bike Thursday. Right on his butt. Luckily, except for some road rash and bruises, he's okay (so is his bike). Then, he was putting stuff on shelves in the garage while standing on the top of a ladder. The shelves (installed by the previous owner) were anchored into drywall with plain, old screws. All the shelves and everything on them came crashing down, on top of Brent, causing him to fall off the ladder (and on his butt again). Somehow, miraculously, he's okay.

Maybe I should be glad all I have is a cold....

Friday, May 22, 2009


Miracles of miracles. The hip is doing better. Unbelievably, it was the bike that healed it. I could barely walk Monday and Tuesday. It even hurt to swim. Finally got on the trainer Wed. night and when I got off, I was HEALED!!! Of course, it was probably because my Drs appt was the next day. He thinks it may have been some sort of muscle spasm/pinched nerve thing. So, I get to do a kind of ART on it (ouch!) and bike a lot (yea!). But, amazingly, it feels better and better each day (fingers crossed). I even jogged to the car (1/4 mile) yesterday and had NO PAIN!!! I think I can, I think I can......

Marathon (next weekend) I come...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


My 20 mile run on Saturday was fantastic. I ran faster than ever before, even though I had to run up the inside of Torrey Pines. It was wonderful. I was victorious.

Afterwards, I was religious about stretching, taking my ice bath, and nap. Sunday, Alec and I went to cheer Brent on at the Encinitas Tri. Forgetting about my run the previous day, I took off running to follow Brent out of the water. Stabbing pain in my left hip stopped me short. Hmmm. Must just be sore from the day before. But it continued to ache as I walked. Soon I was limping. Stubbornly, I met my group for a 40-mile, hilly bike ride after the race, hoping my hip would loosen up. At mile 12, I pulled over and called it a day. I almost never do this. However, my hip hurt, I was tired, and in pain. Gutting through the bike ride simply was not going to help me. Only hurt me.

I went home and sulked the rest of the day. My hip hurt worse and worse and worse. Ibuprofen and ice didn't touch it. It felt like my hip was on fire. I couldn't even lie on my left side.

I rested my hip and walked as little as possible Monday and Tuesday. I got a sports massage. She thinks it's my gemellus muscle (hip abductor). She dug in until my knuckles were white. I think the muscle is really tight. I feel a twinging pain every time I push off/extend. I've been applying heat and using a tennis ball to help loosen it up. This seems to be helping.

Today, I tried swimming. Kicking was not fun. It hurt a lot the first 10 minutes and then got better and better. Walking is the same (hurts at first and then loosens up). Uphill feels great. Downhill is agony. Oddly enough, this is the same muscle I strained training for my very first half marathon over 6 years ago.

I have an appointment with the sports med doctor tomorrow morning. Please, please, please let it heal before Rock 'n Roll Marathon next weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Harmful Effects of Antioxidant Supplements on Athletes?

As a scientist, one of my hobbies is to peruse the articles on exercise physiology. I came across one published this week in PNAS ( by Ristow et al, which I simply can't resist discussing.

I've always been a bit skeptical of "performance-enhancing" supplements. Afterall, they are not FDA-approved and oftentimes, very little is disclosed about what's in them. I don't like putting unknown, unproven things in my body. A lot of triathletes nowadays are scarfing antioxidant supplements because antioxidants are bad, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. Turns out, some are bad, whereas others may be good. Exercise is good for you (duh)--increases insulin sensitivity, metabolism, burns fat, promotes muscle anabolism (and all that goes along with that e.g. mitochonidria production). However, it is a well-known fact that exercise increases production of oxidants (free radicals) by MUSCLE. Hey, wait a minute, I thought free radicals were bad (they have been shown to damage cells and speed up the aging process)! Right? Right? A commonly-held belief amongst the masses were that these exercise-induced free radicals had negative effects on the body and delayed recovery. In response, the supplement fairies manufactured large gobs of "antioxidant supplements" (mainly enormous doses of oxidant-scavenging C and E vitamins).

In this study, insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism and production of the body's natural antioxidants were measured in trained and untrained subjects taking either placebo or antioxidant supplement (C & E vitamins). Antioxidants supplementation was found to prevent the enhanced insulin sensitivity and boost in the body's oxidant defenses normally afforded by exercise. In addition, production of beneficial mediators of insulin sensitivity (PPAR-gamma and PGC-1) and antioxidant defense (superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) were inhibited (these are normally boosted in response to exercise).

Turns out that the free radicals produced in response to exercise may actually be used by the body to increase metabolism and enhance insulin sensitivity. So, sometimes free radicals are the good guys? Perhaps. At the very least, maybe we should think twice before popping the expensive supplements!

--Ristow et al (2009)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nighttime Running

I didn't fit my 7-mile mid-week run in before sunset yesterday. Depression ensued as hopes for a "perfect week" were dashed. The stony silence that accompanied me must have made for terrible dinner company. Poor Alec and Brent. Then, a brilliant idea flashed through my head. Why not run after dark? I live in a safe neighborhood. I have a headlamp. Of course! Brent hated the idea but I would hear none of his objections. After reading to Alec at bedtime, I headed out the door.

I selected main roads to run along since they were lined by sidewalks dimly lit with lampposts. Oddly enough, I had never run there before, maybe because the route seemed dull. By starlight, however, it was an exciting adventure. The cool, moist night air felt refreshing against my skin. I couldn't see my feet hitting the pavement below. I only felt the soft bobbing of each footfall; I felt strangely disembodied. The rhythm was soothing, and although my pace was faster than normal, it felt effortless. My thoughts drifted, my mind quieted and went still. "So this is what I'm supposed to do during the meditation phase at the end of Yoga....but it's always so much work in Yoga," I thought to myself.

My normal mindset is a blind rush of madness as thought after useless repetitive thought races through, exhausting the essence of my being. However, the effort I must take to quiet my mind and relieve my stress is so inordinate; it seems like so much work. I just exhaust myself. Nighttime running quieted my mind, body and soul so completely, it was like a gift had been bestowed upon me. Running soothes my mind normally anyway but at night, the effect was ten-fold. It was magical. Instead of thinking, analyzing, examining, I just observed. I became aware of my surroundings, how wonderful my body felt; I became fully present. The miles flew by at a breakneck speed as I lolled off in my reverie. I could have stayed there forever. I felt fully recharged when I returned home, infused with a mystical energy. Odd that to slow down my mind, I have to speed up my legs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Random Thoughts During the 22K Xterra Malibu Creek Trail Run

  • Oh, God. My stomach hurts. Like I've swallowed a balloon and it's going to pop. Can I even do this?
  • 2 Immodium, Tums, and Gas-X (each) later: My stomach STILL hurts. There's no way I can run, much less eat breakfast. They're going to have to helicopter me out on top of the mountain.
  • At the race site: How can I do this on an empty stomach? Ugh. My stomach STILL hurts!!!

Race Start:

  • Well, I'm running. My stomach hurts but it's not getting worse. But now I have to PEE!!!
  • Everyone out here is SO fast! They all look like ultra marathoners or something. At least it's pretty.
  • Fog, fog, fog. Everywhere I look, there's fog.
  • I don't remember this hill on the course map! I thought the first 3 miles were flat. Hmmm.

The Mountain:

  • (Miles 3-6): So this is what 2500 feet in 3 miles feel like. Because I've always wondered. Dammit, I have to PEE!!!
  • Where is Brent going? I thought we were going to run together!
  • (2 miles later after running up the whole godamn mountain): Yes! I'm going to catch up to him. I'm SO relieved. I can finally tell him how MAD I am at him!
  • (Mile 5, after making up): It's so fun to run together! Look how beautiful it is! I wish we had brought a camera.
  • (Mile 6, the top): The sun is out now. I miss the fog. I guess it burned off. Wait a minute. No, the fog is still there. It's just below us. We're above the clouds!

(Miles 6-8) Are We Going Down Yet?

  • Where did this hill come from? I thought we were done with the ups! The ups are downs and the downs are ups. It's Bizarro Xterra!
  • Do I need a rope to climb up this rock? Jeez...I'm on my hands and knees!
  • This is more of a hike, not a run.
  • Walking is nice. Do I have to run?
  • An aid station! Thank God! Port-a-Potties, water, Cliff Bars, whoo-hoo! Time to eat breakfast (Oh, my stomach feels better!)

(Miles 8-10) The Horror of the Bees

  • Downhill hurts my stomach. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
  • In one of the few flat sections on the run, across a small meadow, the overwhelming sound of buzzing filled the air, vibrating in my ears. The ground was covered in black, shiny bees, so thickly, it looked like black lava. It was something out of a Stephen King novel. I squealed, shut my eyes and mouth and sprinted through as fast as I could. Apparently, I run much faster when terrified (anger is another good motivator).

(Miles 10-12) Down, down, down

  • I thought uphill was bad! I wish I had an uphill NOW!
  • OW!!! Will this downhill ever end?
  • You got to be kidding me!
  • Pain. Toes, quads, knees, stomach. All I feel is PAIN.
  • Uphills=WORK. Downhills=PAIN. I want up.

(Miles 12-14) The FINISH!

  • Ah, this must be the wicked final uphill I was warned about.
  • It's HOT!!!
  • I'm SO glad I'm going up and not down right now.
  • I'm going to finish, I'm going to finish!
  • Ah, the final 0.5 miles of a race. Pure and simple happiness. Nothing else like it.

On the other side of the finish line:

  • That was some recovery run!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Conquering my Greatest Enemy: The Torrey Pines Hill

San Diego is riddled with so many hills, it’s borderline ridiculous. Biking is my weakness, and I had many bad rides after first moving here. Plus, the roads don’t go in straight lines and many deep canyons separate them, making exploring new routes without checking a map first somewhat risky. I learned very quickly to never leave home without a cell phone. There were several rides where I got hopelessly lost, bonked and had no hope of making it home, requiring the “call of shame” to a friend for a ride.
I hated hills, especially the dreadaed Torrey Pines hill, which I seemed to be confronted with on every ride, no matter where I went. Although only about 1.5 miles long and not especially steep, it got me every time. Sometimes, I just wanted an easy, flat recovery ride, and my arch nemesis would raise her ugly head at the end of ride to punish my tired legs, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. I cursed her but that only made her angry. I fought the battle every time, my legs screaming in pain, my lungs burning, my cadence agonizingly slow as I struggled. To make matters worse, other cyclists flew past me effortlessly as I toiled in agony. I was shamed and humiliated, brought to my knees by a little hill. I complained about it to my non-cyclist friend from L.A., who callously commented, “It doesn’t seem that bad,” as we drove up it on the way home from the beach one evening, my ears popping on the way up in the car. I fought the urge to tie her to my bike, drop her off at the bottom, wave goodbye, and say, “See you at the top”.
Over time, the hill became mentally less challenging. Being confronted with it on a daily basis like the playground bully stealing your lunch money, took the mystique out of my fearsome enemy, who seemed to be actually shrinking. She seemed smaller somehow. Panic didn’t well within me, and I no longer tensed as I approached the bottom. I had reached a stage of acceptance; I was going to be confronted with this bully of a hill on every ride so I might as well get over my fear of riding up it and just get up it and over with already.
After that, we made a truce. Now, the Torrey Pines hill and I are friends. I go up and down her repeatedly. I even do the inside road, by the park because it’s steeper (and offers spectacular views of the ocean). I eagerly look forward to the pain and suffering of going up the hill as fast and hard as I can; I know it will make me stronger in the long run. Now when I climb, I look forward to the shift in my inner focus. There is no room for other random thoughts. I have to focus. I focus on my breathing, my cadence, staying relaxed, maintaining an even pedal stroke. My mind is occupied with only the here and now. There is nothing else, only the hill and me. Nothing else matters but reaching the top. My legs pump like pistons as the bike crawls upwards slowly; I alternate between seated and standing. Upon reaching the top, I am rewarded with an expansive view of the Pacific, so breathtaking it’s almost obsence. The sun’s rays play with the surface of the rippling ocean, littering it with a million twinkling jewels. I love doing the hill repeats in the evening so I can catch the spectacular melting of the fiery sun into the cool, blue waters. I gape in awe and have almost crashed several times with other cyclists mesmerized by the enchanting sight, who have equally forgotten to look where they are going.
Who is your arch nemesis, and have you made friends with her yet?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What's your time?

I hate when people ask how fast you are. Why do they think this is okay? It's like asking someone's salary. Very tacky. If I talk about a great track workout I had or a great race I had, and I don't mention my time, don't ask me! I consider it private. Even if I won, I would have the same opinion. My speed (or lack thereof) is NOT a measure of my worth. After CA 70.3 this year, people asked, "How did you do?" My response?
"Great! I stuck to my race strategy, had a lot of fun, and earned myself a 25 minute PR."
"What was your bike split?"
Are you freakin' kidding me? People are OBSESSED with speed. I guess I do triathlon to escape from time. I am an experiential triathlete. I love how I forget about space and time when I race. All I care about is the moment. I don't know what my heart-rate, speed, or power output was. I can tell you, however, great detail about how the wind sounded when it blew through the trees that day, or the great blue heron that flew over my head, or the smell of the jasmine blooming on the side of the road. No, I may not be very fast. But I always have fun. My typical response to the time-obsessed inquisitors is:
"I don't remember."
Which is actually the honest-to-God truth, although no one believes me. I focus too much on what kind of experience I had to remember my splits. I'd have to look it up, just like those guys probably do. Hey, it's all on Athlinks. So don't ask me. If you really want to know, you'll find out on your own anyway.

How do you answer this question?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Alec Earns His K-Dot

This weekend, Alec did his first triathlon in Mission Bay at the Iron Kids Triathlon . He did awesome! On the ride there, he said, "Poppa, I'm kind of scared of my triathlon." We reassured him that this was normal. First, he got body-marked.

Then, Poppa helped him get ready in transition.

And helped him get his "wetsuit" on (to keep the chill off--the Bay is COLD!!!).

Then, Poppa carried lil' Tenderfoot down to the swim start. Gotta start running around barefoot more, buddy!

One more shot with the athlete (he looks like a Superhero in his swim stuff), and it's time to get ready.

Alec gives us one more smile before the 6-8 year old wave starts.

And he's off! Into the Bay and around the buoys for a 50 meter open-water swim. Something many adults can't do! Alec was fearless.

Alec gets the superstar attention as Ironman Champion Heather Fuhr pulls him out of the water.

--Up and at 'em, he's done with the swim!

--T1: Putting shoes onto wet feet is tough! Grrrr...

And he's off for a 2-mile bike! He went so fast, all I could get was a blur of his back as he whizzed by. (Someone is getting a new bike for his B-day in a few weeks).

After racking his bike and almost forgetting to take off his helmet, he sprints out of T2, full-tilt for the 500-meter run. Go, Alec, go!

In the blink of an eye, he's almost done. Coming down the chute at the end, Alec bobs his head, working hard. This is hard work!

Alec blasts across the finish line! He made it! He's an IronKid!

We pose with our superstar athlete at the end. Good job, Alec! (He said the run was the toughest).

I took off for my ride afterwards, going 62 miles. A small group of us went from Mission Bay through Ocean Beach and Point Loma to the Cabrillo National Monument. Back through Sunset Cliffs and around Mission Bay again, we cut through Pacific Beach and rode up to Mount Soledad. I snapped some pics. The view was gorgeous, as usual.

We continued on to La Jolla Shores, up to UCSD, down into Del Mar and back up Torrey Pines. We then returned to Mission Bay via Rose Canyon. It was a great ride.
On Sunday, I did my 18-mile run in Black Mountain Park. Why did I think 18-miles of hilly trails would be a good idea (actually, it was 9 of hilly road and 9 of hilly trail). The rattlesnake sunbathing in the middle of the path at mile 17 was an extra bit of excitment. Oh, and there was an extra mile at the end, making it an 18-mile run, plus a 1-mile walking cool-down. Hmm, maybe that's why I'm tired today? Time for a recovery week! Yippee!!!
--Sasha, demonstrating proper recovery form.