Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Surgery Update

Yesterday morning I checked in for surgery on my achilles tendon at 6:00 a.m. This first picture is a comparison of my legs before leaving for surgery. You can see the area around the achilles tendon on my right leg is much more defined than the left leg due to the swelling I get on the tendon of my left leg. My surgeon, Dr. Tuvi Mendel would be performing arthroscopic surgery to clean up the tendon. Jen drove me to the hospital along with our son Owen and we got checked in. I was given a really sweet gown with pink flowers on it to wear during the surgery...lovely. In addition I was also given a cool cap to go with the ridiculous gown. I'm not sure why the need for the cap when I don't have any hair. I was a little nervous going into the surgery because I wasn't sure whether this was an injury I should be operating on or if it would heal on its' own if I stopped working out for a month or two. Because it is arthroscopic the recovery is expected to be much less than a traditional full blown surgery where they open me up.

At about 7:00 the anesthesiologist gave me a mask to breath into and said he was going to give me good oxygen to breath in. His trick worked as the next thing I knew it was an hour and a half later and the surgery was complete. I also found my leg to be in a cast. Jen was with me and said Dr. Mendel assured her he found plenty of damage to my tendon when he went in. When I awoke the first thing to go through my mind was that I forgot to call for a substitute teacher for my classroom! I immediately got on Jen's phone and called our office at school. Of course they had taken care of my mistake and I think they were laughing at my loopiness than hadn't worn off from the anesthesia. Just after 9:00 a.m. Dr. Mendel came by to talk to me about the surgery. He said it was something that was definitely needed which made me feel better about the decision. He said when he got in he was able to see lots of damage to the tendon and even some bleeding coming from the tendon. He showed me pictures of what a normal tendon looks like and then showed me what mine looked like. The pictures resembled some kind of shredded beef like you would get on an Arby's sandwich. He felt very good about the surgery. He said the clean up was more than what he expected and I couldn't decide if that is why I was in a cast or if it was because he didn't trust me to stay off the leg for a week. He didn't think I should go back to work this week. I'm going to see him on Monday morning to get the cast off and begin rehab. After that appointment I can get back to my classroom where I've had lots of fun since taking back over for my student teacher over the past week. I'm not a big fan of laying on the couch all day with my leg in the air but I know this is part of the rehab for getting healthy. I was supposed to race on May 22nd in Galena, IL and I e-mailed them to let them know it was highly unlikely that I would be healthy to race. I asked them if I could defer my entry to next year but apparently they don't like doing things like that even in extreme cases of injury because they responded back that they do not refund or transfer entries for any reason. That was disappointing especially since I won the race last year. I didn't expect a refund but thought at least they could let me defer to next year.

The following picture was generously sent to me by David Fathauer who was in Sullivan braving the cold, rain, and wind to get pictures of the race. Thanks to him for sending that to me. I'm very excited to begin the "comeback" and return to activity soon. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sullivan Triathlon Race Report and Results

On Sunday I decided to try an experiment and race on no run training the past 6 weeks. This was a sprint triathlon in Sullivan, IL...about 3 hours and 15 minutes from home. The distance was a 400 meter swim, 13.5 mile bike ride, and a 5k run on the end. I don't have any pictures because Jen was with the kids at a baby shower in Chicago. I had signed up a year ago and deferred my entry to this year due to an injury to where else but my achilles tendon. I have to thank the race director Monte Johnson for allowing me to defer the entry and for putting on a really well organized race. Going into the race I planned to have arthroscopic surgery on the achilles this upcoming Tuesday. My longest run over the past 6 weeks was 2 miles and that was a couple weeks ago but I thought at that time that I could make it 5k. I knew it would hurt but didn't expect what was to come.
I drove up to the race with fellow Team Tri-Fitter and friend Jason Gravert. The ride there was good except I missed an exit but Jason's GPS rerouted us and took us on some very rural roads in Illinois to get to our destination. The race didn't start until 12:30 so it was nice to leave the morning of and we arrived about 10:30. I had decided I was not going to run at all for a warm up which I've never done but I didn't know how many miles my achilles had in it so I wasn't going to waste any of them with a run warm up. I decided to bike the 13.5 mile course as a warm up mostly so I could check out the "dangerous" turns the race director described in his e-mails to us. It was also very wet out as it rained off and on all day. The wind was also going to be a factor as it was blowing a steady 18 miles per hour. After the warm up ride I decided I was going to stick with the Zipp sub-9 disc on the rear of the bike and the Zipp 808 up front for a little more control than the 1080 that I would go with on an ideal day. The 808 has a little bit narrower rim so it isn't affected quite as much in the wind. After the warm up ride I went for a nice warm up swim. The race would start in an indoor pool with a 400 meter swim going up and down lanes and moving across the pool as we went, so every 2 lenths I torpedoed off the wall and under the lane rope into the next lane. The swim warm up was good and I was ready to go in as the 16th swimmer to enter the water. They would send 1 swimmer every 10 seconds and we had sent in an estimated swim seed time that determined the start order.
SWIM: I started with the 2 foot bunny hop as diving was not allowed to start the swim. I got into a great rhythm early on breathing every three strokes. I was able to see the wall pretty clearly even though there were no marks on it so I went with flip turns at each of the walls. About 1/2 way in I still felt in a great rhythm but was getting tired enough I started breathing every 2 strokes. With 2 lengths to go I caught the guy who started 10 seconds ahead of me and I decided to draft for 1 length to recover just a bit. When we hit the final turn I went around him and got out of the water and headed for the bike. My overall swim time was 6:01. That ranked 7th out of the 267 finishers. For me this was a very solid swim. It included my run out of the pool and down some steps before we reached the transition mat. It is also about 40 seconds faster than I swam for a 400 meter pool swim at Scott County Park for a race last September.
BIKE: I made it through the first transition in 24 seconds. That was the fastest T1 of the day. I take great pride in my transitions. I'll be hosting a transition clinic at Crow Creek Park in Bettendorf free to anyone who wants to learn some tips on how to get through T1 and T2 faster on May 8th at 9:00 a.m. I was out on the bike and I passed one or two guys early and then didn't see anyone. The best swimmers were up the road ahead of me by quite a bit because they started ahead of me and then swam faster than I did. Because I started the race 16th and passed 1 in the water I figured out my 24 second split through T1 allowed me to pass 9 or 10 of the swimmers that started ahead of me. I moved into 3rd position about 4 miles into the ride. I could see the two guys ahead of me but they were up about a minute and a half at that point. One of them was my good friend and college teammate Chris Sweet. The first 5 miles was with the wind at our back and I was maintaining speeds between 30 and 35 miles per hour. At high speeds I can really feel the benefits of the sub-9 disc. At about mile 5 we made a really scary turn that brought some riders down and we were headed directly back into the wind. It was also a rough stretch of bumpy road. I knew this tough part is where I had to make up time. My plan going into this race was to get a decent lead off the bike because I didn't know what the run would bring me. We made a right hand turn at mile 6.5 and headed back towards the 1st part of the course where we would be doing a 2nd loop of what had been miles 3-5. When I got to the turn back to the point where riders were on their fist loop I had cut the gap to 50 seconds. The wind was again at my back which meant more 30 mph riding. That was fun. At mile 10 we turned at the death trap again into the wind for a 2nd time. I had the lead down to 30 seconds. We would finish with about 4 miles into the wind. After about 2 of them I passed Chris just as the rain started pouring down in our faces with the wind blowing right at us. I was only about 15 seconds back of the top rider and I caught him with about a mile to go. Both he and Chris has started about 2 minutes ahead of me so I thought I would be fine unless I fell apart on the run...I just about did! My bike average speed was 24.9 mph which ranked 2nd.
RUN: I had another good transition through T2 and was out on the run for the big experiment. I put on the GPS watch to check my pace. As I started I thought "This doesn't hurt so bad, maybe I don't need that surgery Tuesday." I went through the 1/2 mile mark on 5:40 pace which wasn't bad without training but then we went around a tight turn and I must have stepped wrong because my achilles sent a good jolt of pain through my leg. Okay...maybe I do need that surgery. From that point things went downhill in a hurry. I needed to get the run over. I remember looking down just before the mile mark and my pace had already slowed to 6:00 mostly because I was starting to really favor my good leg. I could tell I was starting to limp and thought the smart thing to do would be to stop...that's much tougher to do when winning the only race I may do for some time. By 1.5 miles the wheels were starting to come off. My achilles was screaming at me and the pain scale had escalated to about a 7. Before this run the highest it had gotten on the pain scale was a 6 and that was over a month ago when I decided not to run again for a few weeks. I was really favoring the good leg and any time I had to step on pavement it hurt much worse. I veered a little off course to get on softer grass. Luckly most of the run was on a limestone trail and there weren't really any hills. The only incline on the course hurt really bad. By mile 2 I wasn't sure I was going to finish. My pace had slowed to 7:00 because I was trying really hard not to put weight on my bad leg. The last 15 mile run I did 6 weeks ago today was 6:30 pace for the entire run...this was not good. Chris passed me with .4 miles to go and I didn't dare try to go with him. The pain had escalated to 9 or 9.5. I was just hoping to finish at this point. He started about 2 minutes ahead of me so I thought to hang on for the win I could finish with my brutal hobble shuffle. I did finish in 58:51... with a run time of 19:31. My last mile had to be over 7:00. My run rank was 3rd overall despite the wheels coming off. My time was good enough for the win and a $100.00 gift card to Spin City Bicycle Shop. Chris finished 2nd overall in 59:54. He looks really fit and I think he'll have a great summer. My buddy Jason Gravert had a great 1st race of the year finishing 41st. I was glad he came with me.
I already have a bruise forming on my leg and it hurts really bad walking now. I'd be really disappointed in my decision to compete if the doctor says it is bad to have the surgery now and I have to wait. I'll have to wear the walking boot at school tomorrow so I can get around class and teach kids about what made slaves more or less valuable at an auction. One last I was waiting around and checking the results out after the race a guy next to me was studying them and said, "Jeff Paul, I think he got his pro license." His buddy chimed in, "No, I don't think he did. I'm pretty sure he hasn't gotten it yet." A 3rd guy said, "Yeah I'm pretty sure he hasn't gotten it yet." I said, "I think he got it in January...I'm pretty sure of it." I then walked off without them knowing who I was. Complete results of the race with splits can be found at Congrats to everyone who raced here in Sullivan today. The conditions made it tough on the ride and a lot of people fell between the one tough turn on the bike and the many tough turns on the run. Be proud of getting this one out of the way.
I'm praying for a successful surgery this week so this race won't be the highlight of my 2010 season. I know I have to be smart about my recovery. Next week I'll post how the recovery is going. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 22 Summary...The BIG Question

As far as the achilles tendon injury this week there still hasn't been a change in the pain. It feels great in the though nothing is wrong. It doesn't hurt to bike but hurts afterwards for about 30 minutes. Running hurts from the beginning. Swimming doesn't hurt at all. It doesn't matter how much I seem to do, the next morning always brings me relief of any pain and a feeling it is healed. I had a busy week and went over 2 days without biking or running...not that I've done any running lately. Walking around and doing exercises would make most anyone think the injury was gone but sure enough...20 minutes into an hour ride I could tell it was not gone. Part of my busy week was 4 doctor's appointments and 1 MRI. I got the results of the MRI back and learned some new things. There is such a thing as a Kager's it and you'll find where it is located. That is the place where my swelling is at. The foot and ankle specialist tells me the swelling is chronic...5 weeks of no running and still swelling makes me think the same. The Kager's triangle is between the achilles tendon and the tibia. After some tough thinking and asking lots of questions to Dr. Mendel, the foot and ankle specialist I went ahead and scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on the tendon on April 27th. If by the grace of God it heals sooner then I will cancel the surgery. Scope surgery is fairly non-invasive but more aggressive than anything I've done with it yet. It involves making two small holes near the tendon and going in with a small camera and a knife to get the swelling out. The part that sounded painful to me is that he said he makes a couple really small incisions on the tendon to promote healing...injure the area to get it to heal I guess. Despite the busy week I swam twice, lifted 3 times, and rode 220 miles. I got my longest ride of the year so far in on Sunday when I went 100 miles. It was beautiful out...1st long ride that didn't feel like the tornado from the Wizard of Oz. The flags lay still in all the small Iowa towns I rolled through. The ride was at an easy effort except for 10x 3 minutes at 40k time trial effort in the middle. Overall I finished it in 4 hours 38 minutes for an average speed of 21.5 miles per hour. I used to have to ride hard to hit that speed on my training bike and training wheels even for short rides. I felt good about the effort. I guess the sun was a little brighter than I anticipated. I didn't even know I was burning until a couple hours later when my wife noticed 3 white patches on my neck. I may feel this one tomorrow. On to the big question...
I've had some people ask me about the injury and then they ask me "What have you learned from this?" This is their nice way of coming out and telling me, "You overtrained and now you're hurt because of it!" I've had plenty of people in the past tell me that I should train less...that I may get hurt with my volumes. So what did I learn from this? I learned that I am a risk taker. I learned that I gamble to be great. I learned that I have big dreams...that I don't care how much work it takes to reach them...I have no problem getting work done. This is where we get into a bit of a philosophical debate. Some like to play it safe and make sure they are healthy to race. If my goal for the year was to place in my age group at the Quad City Triathlon I probably would have trained about 10 hours a week and most likely wouldn't be hurt right now. But...that's not my goal. My goal is to stand on the podium of a professional 70.3 race. If you can't make it to the starting can't win. Show me an example of a pro who wins that doesn't take risks training their absolute butt off...there isn't one! The difference between them and I is that they have 40 more hours a week to work on recovery...stretching, massage, icing, some weird compression socks, and other gadgets. I understand how high my goals are. I simply don't think I can reach them playing safe. If I am aggressive in training...pushing the limits like I was...there is a chance I'll end up I currently am. The flip side is that if I push the limits like I was and stay healthy I may be good enough to stand on the podium at a 70.3 race. On the other hand if I was conservative in training I would certainly make it to the starting line healthy but I also would certainly not make the chance! I've never been some guy with crazy talent in this sport. There's a reason I was 202 lbs. two years ago and a reason I never was an all-conference runner in college. I'm simply not that talented. What I do have is a relentless work ethic and a belief that if you take some chances and put in enough work you may be able to beat some people you have no business beating. You may also end up watching from the sideline. I'll take that risk. I'll always take that risk. It's the very reason I write this blog. I see myself as someone with decent ability...not great, but decent. I'm trying to prove that when you go all in for a goal...any goal, it can happen. I write to inspire others to do the same...not necessarily for triathlons but for anything in life they thought was impossible at one time. The same risks that have me injured now allowed me to get the pro status in 1 year of devotion to this sport. I hope when people think I'm hurt because I overtrained they'll also realize I won 7 races last year when I overtrained. I think about 2 runners I coached as I write this. Devin Allbaugh and Charlie Paul were two guys who chose to train far beyond the norms for high school runners. They both took extreme risks...and they paid off. They were both all state, 1st and 3rd respectively in the state 3200 meters, and they both currently run for division 1 Iowa State University. Neither of them were that talented early on in high school...they just both chose to take big risks to achieve greatness. They also both went through multiple injuries in high school. Was it worth it...I'm pretty sure I could speak for them both with a yes. That's all I have to say about what I've learned...I'll be racing in Sullivan next Sunday as a last hurrah before surgery. I think I can make it 5k on the will just hurt a lot. DREAM BIG!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week 21 Training Summary...Long Workout Nutrition

Not a lot of great news to report on this week. I'm still hurting in the achilles tendon after bike rides and it hurts too much to attempt running. I have 3 doctor's appointments scheduled for next week and an MRI on Tuesday. I'm working with Doctor Kaminski from Kaminski Pain and Performance Care to see if this is something that can heal without surgery. If it isn't better in a week when I meet with the surgeon I may go ahead with surgery on it. Since biking is only about a 1 on the pain scale I've done lots of it lately. This week was less than last but still 235 miles over 6 days of riding including 3 high intensity interval workouts. I went 82 miles on Saturday morning and it was awesome! The first 60 I rode easy and the last 22 I did at Ironman effort. My average speed for the entire ride was 20.8 mph. The wind wasn't super out of control like last week but it is still spring in Iowa and it wore me down a bit. I am trying to get my long rides done this year without stopping to refuel. Last year on a long ride I would stop at 2-3 gas stations and refill on gatorade, eat 2 pieces of pizza, big chocolate chip cookies, a candy bar, and normally some candy for the road...sometimes even a coke. I kind of realized that it would slow my Ironman time down quite a bit if I needed to stop at a gas station on the course to buy pizza and cookies. I'm working on a nutrition plan that I know is one of the most important aspects to an Ironman race. I relied on GU Energy this weekend and will continue to do so. I went with GU Recovery Brew mixed with GU Electrolyte brew. The GU Recovery Brew has 52 grams of carbohydrate in a serving to go along with 8 grams of protein. The Strawberry Watlermelon flavor is delicious so that makes it easy to get the calories in. I wanted to drink it faster because it tasted so good so I made a reward game out of the ride in which I would get to take a drink every 10 miles after the initial 20. I wanted a drink that had a little protein in it on the long workouts to help repair broken down muscle. The GU Recovery Brew has that. In addition to that drink I had a separate bottle of GU Electrolyte Brew that has extra sodium and an additonal 34 grams of carb. I also used 2 GU Energy Roctane gels which are the best ultra endurance gels on the market because they include amino acids that prevent lactic acid (the soreness you feel while working out) from setting in. Throw in about 10 GU Chomps (they taste like the best fruit snacks ever but also contain amino acids and carbs) and that was my 82 mile meal on the ride. I plan to stick with the GU Energy nutrition plan for my long workouts so when I race the Ironman in September I won't have any worries about nutrition negatively affecting my race. I have to give a special thanks to Brooke Kennedy and all the staff at GU Energy for helping make my training and racing possible. I'm super proud to have such an awesome company that I really believe in helping me on this journey. If you want to give any of the GU Energy products a test they carry the entire lineup at Healthy Habits bike shop in Bettendorf.
I had a good week of swimming with 14,300 yards and also made 3 trips to the weight room, 10 sessions of core work, and three times doing push-ups and lunges. My total training time this week was 21 hours. I'm staying positive through this achilles deal. It was hard to be patient a few weeks ago but I'm at peace with it now. I'm excited to get it taken care of so I can begin the comeback trail. As of now my schedule hasn't changed and I'm planning to race in 2 weeks on April 25th. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Week 20 Training Summary

Happy Easter! I hope the bunny was as good to you as he was to Payton. She had 4 Easter Egg hunts this week! Week 20 was my most solid week of training since my achilles injury two weeks ago. I had an injection in the tendon last Friday and although I'm hopeful it will get me back healthy it did cause me some immediate pain. My achilles was really bruised and swollen last weekend. Through this week that pain has subsided and on Monday I biked without any pain. Running still hurt a bit so I did not attempt that until I ran a whopping 2 miles on Friday. I placed the pain at a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. I'd like to get that to a zero before I begin running regularly. Sunday I ran 3 miles and it was still at a 2 on the pain scale. Since biking did not hurt I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and get out and ride every day. I had my biggest bike week ever during the school year putting in 340 miles. I rode 90 miles on Saturday with 60 of it in the morning and then had a great 30 mile ride with Jared Dammann who is a member of Drake's triathlon team. Jared is in great shape and will have a tremendous race at collegiate nationals later this month. He also kicked my butt in the pool on Friday and Saturday. I rode 40 miles on Saturday and then did a long 80 mile ride on Sunday morning. I thought a lot about Kansas this weekend, not because it is where I'll be competing in my first pro race but because of the movie Wizard of Oz. I felt like I was trapped in that legendary tornado the entire weekend while I was riding. I'm getting used to the Spring winds in Iowa. At one point on Sunday I looked down when I had the wind at my back and I was putting out 96 watts and was going 29 miles per hour. About an hour later when I was going into the teeth of the wind I was at 311 watts and I was blazing along at 12.8 miles per hour. Yes, that's right...over 300 watts and not even 13 mph. No, that was not on a hill. I also knew how windy it was when I got chased by a small vicious looking dog in one of those Iowa towns where about 30 people live. I could not get away from the dog since I was going into the wind at about 14 mph at that time. In total this week I trained for 25 hours...17 of which was on the bike. I lifted weights 3 times and bumped up some of my leg lifts again. I also did core work 10 times, lunges and push-ups both 4 times, and ran the total of 5 whole miles. I'm hopeful that I can up that total to around 15 this week if the pain continues to go away. I'll be racing in 3 weeks if my achilles is entirely healed. Ironically this is a race I signed up for last year but was forced to defer that entry to this year since I had an achilles injury about the same time a year ago. We had a great Easter church service with the sermon focusing on goal setting and how hard it can be to stay focused on long term goals. Our pastor reminded us to stay focused on "then"...meaning long term goals and also to ask, "Why not me?" That's something I remind myself of when I prepare for success during the 2010 season. There are 5 spots on the podium in professional 70.3 races...why not me? DREAM BIG!