Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Racing in 2014?

So, you've got a triathlon on your radar for 2014.   Maybe you've even already signed up for it.  Now what?!

First, don't panic and think you have to start training right now for a race that is a year away.  There is no reason to overdo it and risk injury or total burnout long before the race.  Instead, start working on your plan.  When do you need to start training?  Will you train alone or with a group or team?  Should you hire a coach?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What is the best way to spend your time getting ready now in preparation for a race that might be a year or more away?

Here are some thoughts about all these things!

1.  When do you need to start training?  This is a very personal thing.  If someone is coming off the couch for the first time (or maybe has taken some time off training for a while), they will likely need more time to get ready.  If someone has been training consistently, a structured plan could probably be started a bit later.  If you work with a coach, they should be able to guide you here.

2.  Will you train alone or with a group/team?   Again, this is a very personal thing.   Some people like to train alone.  Some people have to train alone due to other obligations and time constraints.  Training alone can really work well for some people.  Others like to train with a group or team.  They are more motivated to get their workouts in with a group.  This can also work great.  However, often the best option is a combination of the two.  Your coach can help you determine which workouts are great to do with a group and when you might want to go it alone so you can achieve your goals and not go too easy or too hard on some key workouts.

3.  Should you hire a coach?  There are a lot of options out there.  Some people do well with just finding a canned online plan and following that.  This often works best for a seasoned athlete and one who has comparable skills in all three sports and probably no glaring weaknesses in any of the three.  For someone doing their first or second triathlon that is a sprint or olympic distance race, I often recommend a training program like Team in Training.  These programs offer coached workouts, a structured schedule and a fun way to get into the sport or to improve.  For those racing a half Ironman or full Ironman, I always suggest hiring a coach if it is in the budget.  A coach can be sure you use your valuable training time wisely - working on your weaknesses and being sure you are focused on the things you need to be successful.  A coach will write a schedule that is for you - working on your weaknesses and honing your strengths.  They will work this schedule around your work, family and other obligations.  A coach will help determine if you are overtraining.  And, a coach will hold you accountable for completing workouts and achieving objectives.   A coach can also manage the schedule for you as obstacles arise - a minor injury, illness, travel - things that often derail the schedule for a week or two or more.  A coach will help you figure out how to get back into the schedule safely so you don't get hurt.

4.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  Most athletes think we know our own strengths and weaknesses.  But, often we just hear things like "I'm a terrible swimmer."  There are probably a lot of other factors going on in there that determine the real strengths and weaknesses.  Really looking at these can help get an athlete ready for success in the coming season.

5.  What can we do now to get ready for 2014?   Coaches fill up their rosters often long before January 1 of a new year.  So, start talking with coaches now if that is the route you plan to take.  You don't have to start a structured training plan right off the bat, but you can at least be sure you have a spot with your desired coach for next season.  We all have different philosophies.  And, we all have different specialties.  So, talk to some of the great coaches in the area to see who is a good fit for you.    Want to win your age group at Ironman and qualify for Kona?  There are some coaches who can help you achieve those goals.  Want to just finish your first Ironman and feel great?  There are coaches who specialize in working with beginner to intermediate level athletes.    A coach can also walk you through a variety of race options to see what might be a good fit for you to achieve your goals.  No need to do all the research alone!

As for me, I have already started planning my season for 2014 - we almost have to now that we need to sign up for races a year in advance!  I'll be racing Kansas 70.3 in June and Ironman Arizona in November.   If I can help you get started in your planning for next year, please let me know.  Right now, I do have room to take on some additional athletes for 2014.  Thanks!

Train smart and don't forget to have fun!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Have Rhabdomyolysis

"You have what?"  

That is the reaction that most people have had when I tell them.  I knew what it was.  And, I think I knew I had it even before I wanted to admit it.

Rhabdomyolysis or rhabdo is basically the breakdown of muscle tissue that results in myoglobin being released into the bloodstream.  The kidneys then have to filter it out.   Myoglobin breaks down into substances that can damage the kidneys.   The biggest fear with rhabdo is kidney damange.

So, how did I get it?  It's not always clear how people get it.  Exercise can cause it.  I have read case studies about people who have gotten it from swimming, marathon running, triathlon, weight lifting, football, even ultimate frisbee.  The strange thing in my case is that my workouts didn't really raise any red flags for it.  I did Crossfit last Monday.  It was not a particularly hard workout.  I had done a sprint distance triathlon the Saturday before and an easy 8 mile run on Sunday before.  On Tuesday my arms were sore.  Not really a big deal.  I ran a track workout and felt great.  On Wednesday my arms were sore.  Typically not a big deal.  But I think I really knew this was different.  

The soreness that I felt was WAY more acute than would have been warranted by the workouts leading up to it.  And, my triceps were swollen to the point that I had VERY limited range of motion.  I have a friend who had rhabdo in her arm a while back, so I knew I had it.  I didn't want to admit it, though.  I did a 9 mile easy run on Thursday.  My friend agreed that this is probably what I had.  When I got home from the run, I called my doctor and got an appointment for Friday morning.

I read that many doctors are not too familiar with this since they just don't see it often.  So, part of me thought that I would go in, tell her that I thought I had rhabdo, and my test results would be negative and the diagnosis would just be sore muscles.  My doctor is great about working together on things, and she knows that I know my body.  When I told her that I thought I had rhabdo, she did urine and blood tests without question.

Friday night rolled around, and I figured no news was good news.  I was hydrating well, peeing clear, so all seemed good.  It would be embarrassing when they called me with negative results, but that's OK.  Better safe than sorry, right?   My doctor called at 7:30 pm Friday night, so I knew the news would not be good.  She told me that I nailed it and that I did have rhabdo.    The test checks the creatine kinase levels.  The normal range is 10-120 micrograms per liter.  My number that day, 4 days after the symptoms started, was 6100 micrograms per liter.  

I was sent to urgent care for IV fluids and more tests.   My kidney function was normal and that was the most important thing for sure.  After the fluids, they sent more blood off for testing.   I actually asked if I could ride and run the next day.  The doctor smiled - not even close! I was sent home to do absolutely nothing other than hydrating like crazy. 

When the doc called on Saturday, I just knew he would tell me that my numbers were way down and I'd be totally good in a day or two.  Well, the good news is that my numbers were going down, but I was still at 5600.  So, I headed to the ER for more IV fluids and more tests.  When I left the ER, my kidney function was still normal and I was down to 4800.   Slow progress. 

So, here I sit.  On the couch.  Doing nothing.  Hydrating like crazy.  It's tough because I actually feel fine.  But, through reading and chatting with nurses and doctors, I understand that this can be a very serious illness.  I'm fortunate that my kidneys are fine.   And, I'll be back at training as soon as I'm cleared.  

The bottom line is that I KNEW that something was different and wrong.  But, I wanted to keep training.  I was feeling good and figured it would resolve on it's own.  In the end, I listened to my body and went to my doctor.  But, I wish I had gone sooner.  So, for all my athlete friends - when you feel like something is not right, something is not right.  And, what's the worst that will happen?  You'll be embarrassed about the false alarm trip to the doc or urgent care or even the ER.  But, even worse would be to ignore the signs that your body is giving you and do damage.  

See you on the roads soon!!