Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Ugly Truth.

Now that you've heard the heroic tale of the Ironman race itself, here is some of the negative aspects of training that you may or may not have heard about. When training for a first Ironman, people tell you the most terrifying stories. The stories usually revolve around, 1.) lack of sleep, 2.) being really really hungry all the time, and 3.) injuries. 

First, although my days of sleeping in were very few in the past nine months, there was only one or two distinct weeks when I was an "Ironzombie."

Second, yes, the food thing. I was definitely cranky when I didn't get enough food but I didn't wake up in the middle of the night with an empty tummy either. For this I am very grateful as it may have also contributed to many nights of uninterrupted sleep.

My #1 goal for Ironman training was - DO NOT GET INJURED! Months went by and I was in tip top condition, feeling like a champion in the making. There was no way I was going to over train. In fact, I would often stop my workout five minutes early, or at 9:99 of a 10 mile run. 


It wasn't until the last six weeks of training when things started to get really wacky.

Cyclist Palsy

About three-quarters of the way through a 90 mile ride along the Vineman course in Sonoma County, I realized I no longer had the ability to shift with my left hand. At first I thought perhaps my shifting mechanism had somehow been bent, or broken. But I soon realized that my hand no longer had the strength to push the shifter without using the strength of my entire arm. 

After the ride, I assessed the situation. I could no longer move my pinkie or ring finger, nor could I cross any of the fingers on my left hand. 

I promptly made appointments with a physical therapist, and called a doctor friend - completely freaking out that I had somehow suffered a traumatic brain injury, only to find out that something called cyclist (or handlebar) palsy is quite common. In short: Being in the drops for an extended period of time caused a pinched nerve which lead to immobility in my fingers and hand. I couldn't do the Vulcan hand (not that I needed to), cross my fingers, button my pants, or hold a fork in my left hand. Luckily, with some massage and riding out of the drops - it just went away.

Lesson learned: Use your core, and don't put too much pressure on the handlebars.

Calf Cramp

About a week later, I had to go back to my physical therapist about a massive calf cramp that started when I was running easy off the bike. I'm not sure if it was a cramp that was so severe that it hurt for a few days after, or if it was a nerve in my leg that shot pain down the back of my leg. 

"Sounds like you are ready for Ironman!" my PT said, meaning that everyone seems to have mysterious injuries and sicknesses leading up to the end of training.

Again more massage, rest, and stretching.


Between cyclist palsy and calf cramp, I also had a cold which put me out for a week. I definitely did the typical, "F#$% this, I'm going to ride up Montebello Road anyway, so suck it!" attitude.

Fun with Physiatry

I went to a physiatrist because it's covered under my medical insurance. I made the appointment when I had the mysterious hand palsy, and although the symptoms were gone I thought I should keep the appointment just to "pick his brain." 

I'd never heard of a physiatrist, and I bet 99% of people on this planet haven't either. A physiatrist is an internist who focuses on movement specifically. They are not physical therapists, or chiropractors. It seems their best qualification is the ability to prescribe drugs. The physiatrist didn't tell me anything a PT didn't tell me. He told me that my left side is generally weaker than my right, and ordered an MRI to figure out if I have nervous issues that stem from my back.

"So, Doctor, I have Ironman in 3 weeks. What should I be doing?"

He put his head in his hands and got kind of flustered. "Um your core - weak. Need to strengthen core. Pick one exercise and do that everyday and keep increasing the exercise." We decided on planks.

Great. So now my entire left side is weak, and also my core, which is like 80% of my entire body. Good to know.

Then, he decided to also give me a prescription for anti-inflamatory steroids "just in case" I feel something coming on. I felt he was on the verge of saying, "Well, just stop doing what you are doing," which, of course, won't happen.

I haven't taken any of the steroids.


Unfortunately I did not coin this term, which is sad because it is SO GOOD. I'd love to claim it. Pre-IronMan Syndrome is when your emotions are on a roller coaster and sometimes you cry because you miss a green light and stop riding your bike, or you get really irritated with a waiter for not filling your water glass for the 5th time. I never thought this would happen to me, but it unfortunately creeped in around the time I got sick and lasted until I was on the flight to Canada. I stressed out and cried for no reason a couple of times: on a bike ride in Tahoe, and while trying pack my bike for the trip.

The Quest for Rock Hard Abs

My (faux) New Years Resolution for as long as I can remember is to get rock hard abs. I felt pretty svelte maybe two weeks prior to Ironman and realized it was probably the closest I've been to attaining #RHA status since I was 18 years old. If the closest I've gotten has been through 12-13 hours of exercise per week, then this should deter most of you from desiring to have them. Seriously? Do you have an extra 12 hours to spare? And then, is it worth it to have a washboard as a mid-section? Your answer to this should be - No. Keep baking. And running the 5k fun run. Rock hard abs don't make you a better person. 

Are you in the best shape of your life?

Difficult question. Can I move my body for an extraordinary amount of time? 


Is my body in the best shape? 

Probably not. I've had all kinds of strange (although luckily minor) injuries in the past few months. You kind of beat yourself up training for one of these long events.

Post-Ironman Goals

Made Post-Ironman Goals
1.) Go on bike rides for fun.
2.) Work on my swim technique.
3.) Do some trail running.

Stretch Goals
1.) Become a stock photo model.
2.) Take up some martial art so I can beat people up.
3.) Rock hard abs!

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