Monday, April 22, 2013

In the water they can't see you cry - A book review

In the water they can't see you cry - by Amanda Beard

This is the first book I've read on my new kindle (a birthday gift from my dad). I was skeptical at first, since I'm a little old-school - I was hesitant to read a book that wasn't on old fashioned, traditional paper. Holy crap, now I freaking love it. I don't want to read another traditional book again. It's so light, thin, and easy to tote around, I just love it.

I haven't ready a book that's kept my attention like this in awhile. I don't want to give too much away, but I've been amazed by Amanda's complete honesty and frankness. [Webb: I'm glad you guys are such pals now that you are on a first-name basis.] She doesn't hold anything back, and that's what makes this book so compelling. You get to see what it's like to be a kid who grew up to win an Olympic medal at age 14. Which, as an athlete, is totally interesting and inspiring. But she doesn't try to hide her flaws, she is just like the rest of us, she just swims faster. That makes her story so powerful. She just tells it all like it is. And I loved every minute of it. Her honesty is refreshing and kind of therapeutic. I didn't want it to end.

From her early beginnings as a fun-loving girl in idyllic Irvine, California, you follow Amanda Beard through her intense swim practice schedule that start at a young age, as well as her difficulties in her academic studies. You get a glimpse of just how much work, and how many hours go into the life of an athlete who is destined to compete in the Olympics. You see her through the tough adolescence years that we all have to face, but for her, it was even worse, since her changing body affected her award-winning swimming. One aspect that brings this story closer to home is that Webb grew up in Arizona and went to the University of Arizona [Webb: Beardown! Go Cats!], where Amanda ended up going on a swim scholarship. As a huge UofA fan, Webb was well aware of Amanda Beard, and totally into the fact that I was reading this book. I didn't think anything could make me want to move to Tucscon more, but congrats Amanda, you did it.

As a woman and an athlete, I found this story moving and enlightening.
Yes, she has a natural talent, but she shows how she's also a normal person too. I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The mystery of the wonky knee..

Elle: A little history: About a year and half ago I was (probably) over training. I did a tough Sufferfest bike workout in the morning, and then a hard speed workout on the track after work. The next day I woke up and couldn't bend my left knee. I had never had knee problems before, this was a first.
My doctor took a look, ruled out any major problems, and told me to rest for a month. Which I did. Then back to training. I had another episode in January  2012. Over the next year and a half I saw two physical therapists. I rested, I did PT exercises, I stretched, I rolled, I saw a chiropractor twice a week. And spent a full season doing races, wrapping it up with a 1/2 Ironman. Then, at Thanksgiving, I did a 4-mile run: 2 miles downhill, then 2 miles back up the hill. After that, everything went to crap. The pain in my knee got increasingly worse. In the morning it wouldn't hurt, but by the end of the day, I'd be limping. And after six months of going to the chiropractor's office one to two times a week, even he said it was time to get imaging. The x-rays showed nothing. The MRI, however, was a different story.
And finally I had an answer - the MRI showed a torn meniscus and a big 'ol cyst.
After much thought and discussion with the surgeon, I knew what I had to do. So I scheduled the surgery for the day after my return from Miami.

The Surgery
Knee wrapped up in ice
I was told not to have any food or liquids (no water or anything) after midnight the evening before surgery, which was super tough. Not having food, that's no problem, but not even a sip of water? Damn.
Webb was great to take the day off and was with me the whole way. We got to the hospital around 8am, and things went fairly smoothly from there. Before I knew it, I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm. I barely remember being rolled away to the operating area. And the next thing I know, I'm kind of awake, and it's all over. As I gained consciousness, a nurse would occasionally pop by to see how I was doing. And after a bit, I was rolled to the post-op area. I was pretty groggy, but anxious to get dressed and get on with things. Then the best thing happened - a woman walked over and told me I had a visitor. I assumed it was Webb, so I asked, "Is he bald and cute?" She gave me a funny look and replied, "Um, no. It's a runner. He has.... dreadlocks?" I thought for a minute, then it hit me: Shawn! I had told him a while back about the surgery, but I can't believe he remembered, and actually came to visit! Not only that, but he gave me the most beautiful 'get well' card ever. It was really great to have Shawn there, with his uber-upbeat attitude and energy, it made me feel tons better. He even stayed with me until Webb showed up, and walked with us as I was wheel-chaired through the hospital to the front doors. Webb brought the car around, I gave Shawn a big hug, and we were on our way home.
Good knee vs. Bad knee

So here's something I didn't know: You're not supposed to try to go to work two days after surgery. If you do, you may experience the following:
- Nausea & dizziness
- Hot flashes
- Extreme lack of mobility
- Difficulty concentrating
and if you're a weirdo like me ...
- Massive and uneven pupil dilation

That's right, I didn't get the memo that I was supposed to be totally resting my knee for about a week, so I attempted to go to work. Which resulted in a huge 'work fail'. I left pretty shortly after I arrived, and took a cab straight to my eye doctor. In my dizzy, sweaty state, I had looked in the mirror and saw that my eyes were completely funky: both super dilated, the left much more dilated than the right. Since I had iritis a couple of years back, I freaked out and went straight to Dr. Laura, at South End Eye. I walked into the shop, and Dr. Laura said, "Hey there, googly-eyes!" I love Dr. Laura.
The eye exam came out fine, there was nothing wrong. Dr. Laura suggested that I probably pushed myself too much, too early, and that I should go home and rest. She was right. And I spent the rest of the week on the couch, working from home.

The Recovery Plan
Ten days after the surgery I had an appointment with Dr. Lars Richardson (my surgeon). He said everything was looking good, and even showed me photos that were taken during the surgery. (Super cool! I saw my patella!). Apparently I (along with 3% of the population) had a discoidal meniscus (aka, an abnormal meniscus), which they discovered once they were 'inside.' So the surgeon proceded to fix it. Which is pretty awesome. I plan on swimming this weekend, and slowly amping up my workouts. First with biking, then the elliptical trainer, and lastly - running. It's going to take some time, and I'll have to increase intensity and duration slowly, but at least now I'm on a clear path to recovery. Which feels pretty good.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Where have we been?

Elle: So, there's been a lot of down time for the past 6 months for me, my knee was getting really painful almost every day. I couldn't work out much, just some biking and swimming (with a pull buoy). It was really tough for me not to be able to workout, especially since all of the other triathletes were starting their training season, and all I could do was sit on the couch with my leg elevated, icing. Was it Runner's Knee, ITB Syndrome? More on that later. It kept me pretty badly sidelined. I did, however, get to catch up on my beer drinking...

Webb:  Meanwhile I have been indulging in some guilty training. I spent nearly every Tuesday night the last several months getting faster on the run. Our all-time favorite running store and sponsor of our Thursday and Saturday run club started offering small group run coaching in October: SEAC>Elite. So while Elle was frustrated with a non-cooperative knee, I was out on the track or in the hills with a handful of like-minded souls willing to push ourselves in pursuit of PRs.

I've always felt confident that I had the ability and will power to push myself to my limits without external pressure. SEAC>Elite taught me otherwise. Running with others, especially on a track or in a chase tempo, pushed me harder than I have ever pushed myself. It is not unlike joining a Masters Swim program/class. No matter how hard you think you can go, you can go harder. But going hard is not always ideal. In that way I and the other SEAC>Elite runners have benefited from Dan's extensive experience in putting together workouts that get the most out of us. Even though we each have different goals - I'm the only triathlete looking to improve my 5k and 10k times off the bike - it absolutely works. At the end of the day, whether you are working towards a 5k or marathon PR, you need to run fast to get fast.

Elle:  Even with the knee issue, I was able to do some training. And after much cajoling by head coach Abe Rogers, I finally faced my big fear and joined the Cambridge Masters Swim Club (CMSC) in the fall and started going twice a week. No lie, it was hard waking up on those dark, cold mornings at 5:45am. I convinced Nicole (swimmer extraordinaire) to join, so together we braved the winter mornings and swam. And since I always had to rush to get to work on time after swim practice, I never had time to dry my hair, thus I often sported some lovely haircicles* leaving the pool.

Going to Miami
Nicole, the big swimmer that she is, told me about this swim race in Miami that she was doing and it didn't take much for her to convince me to join her: Miami in April? Yes please! It was going to be a "girl's weekend," the two of us and Nicole's friend from high school, Veronica. This was my first trip to Miami, and I couldn't have been more excited. Nicole grew up there and acted as tour guide. To prepare, I watched several episodes of 'Burn Notice', so I was ready to go.
Snacking on Triscuits
at the house
So here's a crazy coincidence, I posted the race on Facebook after I registered, and soon after got an email from my dad - he & my step-mother (who live in California) were going to be in Miami that very same weekend for a wedding! Sadly I only get to see them about once a year, so this was really a pleasant surprise. I told them about the race, and they thought that was pretty cool. We decided that Nicole and I would meet them at the post-wedding brunch on Sunday at the famous and fabulous Biltmore Hotel. This trip just keeps getting better...

Nicole and I arrived in Miami on Thursday night and stayed at The James Royal Palm Hotel, right on South Beach. It was already pretty late, but we suited up and went out for a couple of late night drinks at the swankiest bar I've ever been to, The Rose Bar at The Delano Hotel. Holy expensive drinks, Batman! I won't go into all of the evenings events (because what happens in South Beach stays in South Beach), but I will say that at one point a couple sat down next to us and we started chatting - they weren't just from Boston, but they were literally our neighbors - fellow South Enders. I try to take a vacation from Boston, but it just keeps pulling me back in! The nightlife in Miami is just insane...

We did a good job of getting up fairly early on Friday and went out for an easy ~4-mile run on the boardwalk. It was so glorious to see the ocean - no one was out on the beach yet, but it was still a fantastic sight after suffering through the longest winter ever.
After a couple of post-run drinks at the hotel pool (maybe more than a couple...), we packed up and drove to Veronica's parents house, where we would spend the next two nights.
Best race number ever!

RACE REPORT: The Miami Mile Swim Race
It was a bit chilly in the morning when we got up and headed to the Yacht Club - the location of the race. Both Veronica and I did the 1-mile, and I have to say, it was one of the toughest swims I've done. It wasn't so much the crowd of swimmers, I'm pretty used to that mash-up, but the super choppy conditions resulted in mouthfuls of salt water and a feeling of nausea that just wouldn't go away. Plus I couldn't see any of the turn buoys, so I just had to follow the swimmers in front of me. I never really felt like I was able to get into a smooth swim groove. By the end, I was totally ready to be done with this race, and practically sprinted onto the shore. I couldn't imagine doing 5 more laps, which is what Nicole did, since she was swimming the 10K!
When I came out of the water, I crossed the finish line and bee-lined it to the fresh water pool to rinse off and get some of that gross salty water out of my mouth. I finally got out of the pool, and then a huge surprise: Who do I see walking towards me from the crowd? My dad! He had come to watch the race and take some photos. It was an awesome surprise. We hung out for a bit and chatted before I had to head to the feed station to pass Nicole her nutrition.
Nicole chats up the women at the 10K swim start
The way that worked was that I carefully headed out on a narrow wooden boardwalk that jutted out into the water. I sat at the end, ready to hand electrolite drink/water and a gel to Nicole. She didn't take anything after the first lap, but stopped by for something to drink for the second, and requested her gel on the 5th. After 3 hours, 20 minutes Nicole finished the marathon of swim races. And she rocked it, coming in 16th out of 33 total swimmers.
The MiamiMile swim start

After a lovely Sunday morning run in the neighborhood where Nicole grew up, we packed up and headed over to The Biltmore for an incredible brunch with my dad and step-mother. After fully taking advantage of the luxurious, abundant brunch spread, we headed down to the pool for some rest and relaxation. If sitting poolside at the Biltmore, sipping on a Vanilla-Mango daiquiri isn't heaven, then I don't know what is. But before we knew it, it was time to drive to the airport, and soon enough we were heading back to the hinterland Boston.
Poolside at the Miami Biltmore

This was a great trip. It was so nice to see the Miami sun and take in some of the night life. I was glad that I faced my fear and swam the Miami Mile. And the added bonus of seeing family really made the trip special. Fyi, the Nautica Oly Triathlon was on Sunday on Miami Beach. There are already plans in the works for next year: Miami Mile swim on Saturday, Nautica Tri on Sunday...who's in???

*Haircicles: What you get when your hair is wet and you go outside in freezing cold temperatures. Basically frozen chunks of hair. Very attractive...
Chatting with my dad on the feed station boardwalk