Rolling with the foamies

A bead of sweat trickles from my forehead and quickly rolls down my cheek, as I scrunch my eyes, squinting through the gentle, but harsh shooting sensations of pleasure and pain. My arms are desperately attempting to prop up my weary and shattered body, and a slight quiver through the tops of my triceps ascends into my shoulders and then down through my elbows. I delicately rock myself, thrusting back and forth, manoeuvring to find the sweet spot, all the while balancing carefully and gingerly. The ensuing sensations are unpredictable, and send a shocking shiver up from my stomach. This only makes me want to stop. As I rear my head back in my sadistic state, I close my eyes and re-position myself, angling into just the right spot, but causing my elbows to dig into the cold hard floor. I can hear the bones crunching, as I bear my heavy weight back onto them. It’s a hot date with my foam roller, and it’s the perfect mixture of pleasure and pain that always keeps me coming back for more. 
Over the last few weeks of training, my muscles have become extremely tight and sore, and I’m about as flexible as a steel pole. I am absolutely guilty of not stretching enough, and I know this by the looks of disapproval from my chiropractor and massage therapist every time I see them. No matter how many times I tell them, “Oh yea, I’ve totally been doing the stretches you showed me last week,” they always see through my lies. The thing is though, I don’t really know why I struggle with this part of my training. It’s like I have no problem dedicating two and half hours on the spin bike, but hashing out fifteen minutes of stretching afterwards is like asking me to do 100 pound dead lifts. I moan and groan all the way to the mats, and I count down the seconds like they have been split in half. Sometimes I just kind of throw my body parts around like wet noodles, rock my head back and forth a few times like a ninja preparing for battle, then reach my hands for the sky, take a sip of water and flip back on my jacket and sweats. Fast forward to the next morning when I’m stuck in my office chair at work and the pain starts to set in. There I am wriggling around like a 5 year old child who can’t sit still. It must be amusing to my co-workers when I hobble down the stairs like a feeble grandmother, shamelessly pull up my pant legs at my desk to massage my calf muscles, constantly and randomly stand up in the lunge position, or struggle to “find” my legs while walking down the hallway.  Of course, I curse my stupidity to skip the stretching from the night before, and promise to never skimp out again. This is where the painful, yet pleasurable hot dates with my foam roller come in handy. Like the hands of my massage therapist, it digs into my stiff muscles and elicits the same squirming response. I know it sounds horribly raunchy, and although I probably look like a struggling sea creature experiencing dry land for the first time, it provides some much needed relief. 
I have definitely learned that crawling out of bed barely able to walk after a good workout might be the DOMS setting in, but struggling to get through a day of work without popping hip joints or cramping calves for days on end is not normal. From here on out, I am dedicating myself to that extra fifteen minutes of post-workout stretching, and here’s to more hot dates on the living room floor with my bright and pretty orange foam roller. 

Bring da pain!

My lungs are on fire, my jaw is clenching and aching, my legs are like lead, my heart is pounding, almost out of my chest, and my mind is digging deep to find that last ounce of mental strength to compensate for my body that is on the brink of collapse. My RPMs are barely registering at 25, and I’m fairly certain that I could topple this bike over at any second. My coach is right by my side offering words of encouragement, trying to get that last little bit out of me, and it’s all I can hold onto as tears uncontrollably start to well in my eyes. Finally, he declares we’re done, and instantly my body begins sensing relief. This is the VO2 max bike test, and it nearly killed me.  
When it comes to the science side of sports, I can’t keep up. You show me formulas, equations, graphs, pie charts, symbols or anything remotely related to numbers, and I will look at you with horror and utter confusion – kind of like a child seeing Santa for the first time. Nonetheless, I find it fascinating, because over the last 10-15 years science has really driven sport in some unimaginable directions. Without it I don’t think we would have some of the powerhouse athletes today. So, while I may not understand it, I am, without a doubt, always willing to be a science experiment while someone else does all the thinking. 
The VO2 test was brutal, but once I didn’t feel like I wasn’t going to crumple on the floor and die a slow delirious death, I felt good. It’s just all apart of the process on the road to one hundred forty point six miles. And, anyways, I need to get used to the pain and the sensation of nearly dying, because at the end of it all what’s an Ironman without a little bit of suffering. 



An adventure on ice

I live for the simple adventures. The adventures that you can find in day-to-day life that are by no means grandeur, like climbing a mountain or traveling to a far away place, but just simply new and uncharted. On a Sunday morning after a friend presented me with a “no is not an option” offer, I found myself with a new adventure, that may seem simple but was actually quite grandeur. It was one that involved ice, a pair of 20-year-old-can’t-remember-when-they-were-last-sharpened skates, and head to toe armour that made me feel like a two ton linebacker; yes, I was going to play ice hockey. The last time I put on hockey gear, I was 7 and well, the adventure didn’t last long.
Upon walking into the dressing room I felt like a fish swimming into the shark tank; extremely out of place and expected to be eaten alive. Sitting down to gear up I sheepishly looked around before declaring that I had no idea where to start. With a laugh, my friend, immediately started pulling out the equipment and instructing what went where; well no, she pretty much dressed me. Like a 5-year-old I sat there holding out each arm as instructed, then each leg. At least I could tie my own skates.
By the time I was dressed and half the team was out the door I was already overwhelmed and thought I was ready for a break. But like a child being shuffled on stage for their first recital, I was shoved out the door and with a slight nervous stutter step I was on the ice. It was nothing short of a miracle that I stayed on my feet, and didn’t face plant. I already had visions of trying to pick myself back up, and laughed in spite of myself. Slowly I joined in with the others, skating some laps and getting used to the gear. This was easy. In fact, dressed like a linebacker made me feel much more safe and less prone to injury. If I fell my only suffering would be losing my pride. From the bench, my friends, helped guide me through the warm up and laughed at my Bambi-like skills and otherwise complete confusion. Every now and again I’d hear them acknowledge when I did something right and a smile would spread widely across my face. As I continued pretending to know my way around the ice I tried my best to not look out of place, or lost, or new, but at 5’9 with my robust frame I had nowhere to hide. I felt like a towering, uncoordinated giraffe; so much for blending in.
By the time the puck dropped I was ready for my debut. They had me playing defence, which I thought was hilarious because I could not skate backwards. So I proceeded to continue skating forwards while cranking my neck around like a deranged bird trying to find my opponent. This just resulted in confusion and dizziness, and they mostly just skated circles around me all the while probably wondering if I knew where I was going. Needless to say I managed to touch the puck a couple times and otherwise flailed around until they called me to the bench where I was greeted with praise. I couldn’t stop smiling. They said I looked like a natural but I still felt like that awkward, looming giant girafe trying to maneuver from one part of the ice to the other.
Each time they called me back on the ice, I took a dainty nervous stutter step then I was out the door. By my second shift I was sweaty and tired. I was expending all my energy into staying upright, remembering where to be, cranking my neck like a bird and otherwise trying to skate. I was slowly getting the hang of it and after falling down twice and successfully getting back up, I didn’t feel like a complete failure.
We ended up losing by a goal but my usually competitive attitude didn’t care about the score, or how I looked, or really even what I did. I just felt good. I felt like I had ignited a spark in me. On this Sunday, with the wind rushing through my helmet as I unsteadily zig-zagged up and down the ice, I was happy and care free.
I wish someone had encouraged me to play hockey when I was younger – who knows where it would have taken me. But I’m happy for the opportunity to get on the ice now and learn something new as an adult. This is one adventure, I plan to continue embarking on, while learning how to skate backwards and otherwise how to play this game.

Bumps in the road

Life is bumpy. I haven’t yet decided if I’m Ok with that or not. Sure it keeps me on my toes but smooth and straight, predictable and comfortable are kind of a reassuring thing. Right now, I don’t like bumpy. Right now, I want comfort and ease. I’ve thrown myself a curve ball (we are often guilty of the bumps we face) with a major change and I’m struggling to get back on track. Back on track with sleep, training and figuring out what I’m doing with myself. I’m in a major slump and I have yet to see the light. I thought my first swim back on Monday and a new job would reinvigorate me and recharge my batteries but there was nothing. I had visions of dipping my feet in the cool water and feeling alive again, and sparking back the motivation for my dreams, yet I was a fizzling engine as my tears of sadness just melted with the chlorinated water and disappeared. It was a punch to the gut, and the ensuing workout was a floundering mess like Dory without her Nemo. The rest of the week has been much of the same as my emotions yo-yo, going from loud and bright to quiet and dark. The loneliness, confusion, stress, and worry, and unknown have made me feel sick to my stomach. The long nights where I lie awake watching the numbers on the clock tick away are pure torture.
I know that with time though I will smooth out the bump and I will look back on the darkness with a new perspective and strength but as for now I just want things to be normal. Right now I am longing for laughter as I experiment with new training tools, or a smile as I accomplish something I never thought I could. Those are the moments in this journey that make it worthwhile. Sitting on my ass and dwelling on what was, or could have been, or choices that I made, is not what it’s about. I know I just need a swift kick in the ass but I need it sooner than later because Ironman doesn’t wait for the laggers. Tomorrow starts a new day, and maybe as I dip my toes into the cool water, I will feel that charge I have been desperately seeking for the past week. Maybe tears of happiness will collide with the water and I will feel strong again. Maybe I will sink or wish I was sinking. Maybe it will be good and the next day will be bad. Or maybe as my mom has always said, I just need to put on my big girl panties and get over it. But either way, I’m not giving up, because Ironman also doesn’t accept quitters and I have a journey to complete.