Blogs tagged with "anxiety"

These days, soaking in ink is my usual state of being.

Just because I've not posted in a while - not posted in this blog space, that is - doesn't mean I don't have something to post. In fact, I'm crazy busy. But I'm desperately trying to be LESS crazy busy. I'm trying to get to a place where I can sleep at night without worrying about how I'm going to get everything done. And strangely, the things that I worry about getting done are things like my art and my training. I worry about work too. But my "work" worries have become things like: "How am I going to make it through the day on four hours of sleep?" and "Is there anything in my programming future that's more exciting than what I'm doing now?"

Thus, my work worries are also worrying me.

It's a vicious cycle that needs to stop.

The print production process

Anyway, I HAVE been posting...

I attempted to design a little wishful thinking
into my race helmet.

My apologies for neglecting this blog lately. There are so many things happening, I've not had time to sit down and write about any of it. And worst of all, I can't slow the progression of time. Here's a quickie update on things:

  • I'm tapering for Ironman St. George. This involves the typical taper madness, feeling excessively sluggish and not at all rested. Hours of sleep are down, anxiety is sky-high and worries about not finishing are getting the best of me.
  • My knees are hurting. Bad. It's my first time ever with knee problems. I'm trying not to think about it and saying a lot of prayers. This is also another first for me.
  • I'm maxed out at work, working through lunches and taking extra hours of my own time because my employer, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, is opening a huge world-class elephant exhibit - African Elephant Crossing - on Thursday, May 5. Don't get me wrong, the only regret is that the opening and my race accidentally (but inevitably) fell on the same weekend. Also next week, the Zoo will be launching a new technology initiative that I've been intimately involved with and working feverishly to finish up.

But, as I said, time marches on with no signs of slowing. My P3, nicknamed "Toothless," is already on its way to St. George with TriBike Transport. Unfortunately, because of (real) disaster recovery in Japan, my new Pearl Izumi team racing kit will not be in until mid-May so I'm going to have to dig up some old threads to race in. The weather in Cleveland has continued rain and cold and windy and I've not done much riding outside. And with seven days to go, I still haven't attempted to swim in my new Quintana Roo wetsuit.

But despite all the insecurities and falling behind in my race preparation, there are some positive things to report. The water temperature at Sand Hollow (IMSG swim site) is now 62 degrees F (up from 55 on April 21), and the weather forecast for St. George on May 7 is sunny and dry with a high in the mid 80s.

It's finally sunny and getting warmer today, so I'll be taking the beloved 2003 Cannondale Ironman 5K out for a spin on my final race simulation brick.

Benchmarking Ironman: RunTri's 25 Toughest Ironman Races
Check out the full details at RunTri.com

There are 19 days to Ironman St. George and I fear I'm heading smack into full Disaster Magnet panic mode. (How ridiculous is that? Only I could be "afraid" of panicking.) I don't feel so alone going to St. George because I regularly read the blog TransitionFour. Check out his latest infographic on Ironman St. George - race registration numbers are dismal. I find it very strange that there's an Ironman race that couldn't sell out because it's labeled as "too hard." I mean, COME ON! This is Ironman - it's supposed to be hard. As crazy as Ironman athletes are, I would expect them to be flocking to this race just to say "I did the hardest one!"

Female registrants are waaaay down, only 18% of the total (compared to 23% in 2010), and registration is down for the older age groups. This is both good news and bad news for me:

  • The bad news about small age groups is there are very few Kona slots - maybe just one.
  • The good news about small age groups is fewer people are willing to take on the challenge.
  • The bad news is that it's possible only the best triathletes will be there (because of the course difficulty).

So, yeah, in my mind, the bads outweigh the goods at this point, and panic creeps into my thoughts nightly. It's giving me flashbacks to the weeks before finals in college. I'm even having the nightmares of being late to the test. Most of my conscious panic involves the following:

  • fearing I've not done enough hill training to perform well in an Ironman with 6000 feet of climbing
  • worrying that, with my horrible nutrition issues, I've had no way of testing my fueling for a race that may very well last over 13 hours
  • wondering if I've REALLY done enough running to tackle an extremely hilly marathon after the swim and the bike (this anxiety translated into a 2:20 long run at 5 a.m. this morning)
  • fearing that because I can't get out of town until two nights before the race, if something goes awry with my travel arrangements to Utah, I won't have enough prep time
  • fearing a swim in seriously COLD water
  • wondering if my allergist is right that I won't get asthma in Utah's dry conditions
    AND...
  • the usual sleep anxiety
I hope that writing down these fears will make me look extremely silly and others will smack some sense into me. I have 19 days to get a grip.
Is it a coincidence that as soon as I finished writing this entry I got an email stating the Ironman St. George Athlete's guide is now available? I'll be wearing #309 on race day.
My cat's manifestation of today's general feeling

Sometimes I get ahead of myself. And that's how anxiety and panic begin to take hold. For instance, this weekend, I conquered the monumental task of spending five hours on my bike trainer. But I didn't see it as an accomplishment. Instead, based on my "trainer" speed and distance, all I could think of was: "I just had the crappiest bike ride of all time that proves no matter how hard I work, I still suck on the bike."

The truth is, I've been training my arse off on the bike. But I'm getting ahead of myself. After the Disney Marathon, I dedicated myself to complete a three-month workout plan known as the "ComputTrainer Challenge" in my circle of training cohorts. It started with a time trial to determine my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) -- which I did four days before the marathon -- and continues with three workouts weekly, designed to increase our sustainable power output. The one thing I've not told anyone (in that circle) is that because I'm racing Ironman St. George in May, I've been doing a really long ride (obviously, now up to five hours) every weekend (this was not advised). But in reading others' assessments of the training plan and improvements in their fitness levels, I realize I'm not making the same gains. Instead I'm tired and cranky and my legs are screaming with fatigue. And I'm sick and tired of doing all my workouts indoors during this horrible winter.

So today I called my good friend and fellow athlete, Ron, to complain, and he helped put it all in perspective. I WAS getting ahead of myself. He reminded me that my trainer speed and distance has no comparison to that of the road and I need to just focus on power. He reminded me that I have to deal with stresses at work in addition to training. And he reminded me I'm doing exactly what I need to do. And I need to stop comparing myself to others.

But then I was still doing it. Affording a CompuTrainer was a stretch, but I determined it was the best option (and nothing speaks louder than "guaranteed to make you faster"). But here I may also have gotten ahead of myself. I'm now hanging out with a group of "CompuTrain"ing athletes, and I've fallen back into that behavior pattern of comparing myself to other triathletes -- this time financially.

It reminded me to address the third bullet in my Seasons End article from December: "Where on earth will I scavenge up the cash to pay for ever-increasing race entry fees, gear (including necessities like running shoes, nutrition and supplements) and travel expenses?" Every time I turn around or read other athletes' blogs or forum posts, I feel like I'm the cool triathlete's poor relative -- the one riding a purple ten-speed, running in cotton sweats and (white) Chuck Taylors, and wearing a stop-watch around my neck. Remember those people? Oh my God, I've BECOME one of those people!

But seriously, what is a financially-challenged athlete to do? (Um.. figure out how to make more money, or) put things in perspective, of course! My friend Ron got an earful on this front as well. Me: "All these triathletes I know have unlimited funds, multiple racing bikes, Garmins, treadmills in their basements, Newton running shoes, compression wear - you name it." I can't keep up. If it's marketed toward triathletes, everyone else seems to have it and I can't afford it. I know, I'm getting ahead of myself once more. Ron came to the rescue, again, with one simple line: "Steve Prefontaine didn't have any of those things."

All it took was a look back, and I'm no longer getting ahead of myself. When I got home from work today, my husband Jim reminded me that I know what I'm doing. And that I needed a day off. From the mental stress. From the physical stress. From the fatigue. And, in the midst of a massive winter storm, from the weather.

And right now, everything is back in perspective.

There are eleven days to Ironman. I have two race simulation workouts left. I should have done one today, but the J-Team stayed out too late learning all about wine, so today has been declared a day off.

But now I'm dealing with the most uncomfortable thing about the Ironman taper -- the sluggishness and lethargy. Sitting in front of the TV, my legs feel like two balloons. What causes it? How does cutting back to 50% of my training make me feel like I've gained 50 pounds of water weight? No matter how many times I experience it, it's still disorienting and panic-inducing. It's hard to do nothing when you're used to training an average of 2-3 hours per day. During a taper, all sorts of things start to creep in:

  • Depression, anxiety -- for many of us, training is the "drug" -- it's how we self-medicate for daily stress, but nothing is more stressful than a big important race looming on the horizon
  • The so-called "phantom" pains -- strange pains just pop out of nowhere in places that never hurt before
  • Heavy legs -- this could be a real effect of holding onto water and carbs or it could be the effect of drinking too much wine last night (there's no way to be completely sure but I'm going with the former)
  • Sleep issues -- the body isn't working as hard, so it has much more energy and not as tired as usual
Here's where athletes sometimes make mistakes. I made the "big one" before the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2008. With all the extra energy and no long run, I spent the weekend before the race cleaning the walls of and painting my kitchen. Who knew painting was such a strenuous activity? I woke up the next day with severe hip pain that translated into an excruciating last ten miles of the marathon. Lesson learned. When they say "don't use the extra energy during your taper to do spring cleaning," that INCLUDES housework of any sort (except, perhaps, sitting down and folding laundry).
The other mistakes I don't want to make this time is gaining or losing weight. It's quite easy to gain weight during a taper when you're used to eating huge amounts of food to keep up with the huge amount of calories you're burning. But losing weight is something I never thought about until I dropped more than five pounds in two weeks going into the 1999 Cleveland Marathon. I still don't know how it happened, but it resulted in my starting the race in such a state of fatigue that I had to drop out of at mile 15.
But, to get away from the usual Disaster Magnet-type thinking (i.e., negative), there are things I plan to keep in mind during my taper: reduce mileage while keeping the intensity up, drink more water daily to hydrate well and keep my appetite in check, practice relaxation techniques, and get more sleep.
And maybe, think positively.
(For anyone struggling with the same taper doldrums, try putting your mind at ease with this article: Marathon Taper Traps)
There are eleven days to Ironman. I have two race simulation workouts left. I should have done one today, but the J-Team stayed out too late learning all about wine, so today has been declared a day off.

Twelve days to race day. I wrote in an earlier blog that I'd set some goals for the J-Team (previously known as "Team J"). One third of the J-Team -- my husband Jim -- spoke up last night after reading the blog.

He gave me a sort of tell-tale smile: "Does one of these team goals involve sleeping the night before the race?" Ouch.

Good question. I vaguely remember "sleeping" was one of my early-season race resolutions. Have I done anything about it? Not really. Four months ago, I was supposed to start going to sleep early. I didn't even start going to sleep early THIS month.

I defend myself: "I'm getting energized for my race by watching the Tour de France."

Jim strikes back: "DVR." Damn. So much for that excuse.

I guess I'll be practicing nightly relaxation exercises for the next twelve days. And no caffeine after noon. And no.. um.. *sniff*.. no three-hour nightly Tour rebroadcast.

If that doesn't work, there's always my secret weapon. The British indie band Turin Brakes. When all else fails, it's the one thing I have going for me when it comes to sleeping at night: Turin Brakes' 2003 album "Ether Song." I rarely mention it. Why? you ask... Obviously, when mentioning your favorite band, the last thing you want to do is tell potential listeners that one of their amazing albums is the equivalent of counting sheep.

There's so much more to it. When I first heard "Ether Song," it wasn't the sonic version of a siesta. It was a constant companion in my waking hours -- a brilliant mix of stormy and calm that sent shivers down my spine no matter how many times I listened.

Then came the accident -- the closed-head trauma, the neck injuries, the neck brace, the stuck-in-one-position-staring-at-the-ceiling-sleepless nights, the I-might-as-well-be-taking-speed effect of the steroids. After I struggled for hours one night while watching the time tick away, Jim suggested I try the iPod (perhaps my whimpering was keeping him awake?) It was that moment I discovered the drug that was "Ether Song."

I drifted through the first three songs, and, the next thing I knew, it was five hours later and daylight. That's a pretty powerful drug. The next several days, I tried other albums with no luck (well, to be fair, I did have intermittent luck with Radiohead's "Kid A"). But as soon as I played "Ether Song," I was out like a light. So this was it.. my favorite band puts me in a coma.

Little did I know that shortly thereafter, I would actually have the opportunity to tell them that. How, or more importantly, WHY, would you ever tell musicians that their music puts you to sleep? And why would you make it one of the first things you ever said to them? I still don't know, but at least I got a chance to explain... and, oddly, Turin Brakes' singer, Olly Knights, was not at all surprised by my revelation. He was almost, dare I say, thrilled to hear it. Like it was planned that way. Maybe to him, "Ether Song" didn't induce sleep, it induced a state of complete euphoria.. that then translated to sleep. The perfect drift off...

And there it is. My secret weapon. Something I will have to call upon once more because I didn't work on my anxiety issues and race-week panic attacks. And what's wrong with that?

Another recent conversation with a friend has inspired me to write this blog. It's not something I like talking about. And it causes anxiety. What is it?

Panic attacks. When you feel like you can't breathe and every time you try to relax, it's like another round of electric shocks going through your body. That's what happens to me regularly before races. Not right before like at the starting line, but at the times that it's most important to be resting -- the night before. And even worse -- the night BEFORE the night before.

It never happened in high school or college. Eight years of swim meets and four years of track meets and not a single panic attack. Oh sure, the nerves kicked in just before I got up on the blocks or walked onto the track. If it were a "big" meet, I might feel some nerves the "day of," but never the night before. And I would not have described it as "panic."

The real panic attacks started in 1991 before my first marathon. By 3 a.m. that morning, all my near-nod-offs had been thwarted by extreme anxiety and the feeling that my heart was pounding in my head. I was so desperate, I tried drinking shots of vodka. At THREE A.M! And THAT didn't work either. So I arrived at the starting line of the 1991 Cleveland marathon on no sleep with remnants of alcohol in my blood and extreme anxiety. But, in retrospect, over the years, I learned that sleeping the night before a marathon probably does more damage to your mind than your body. It's the sleep you get TWO nights before that matters.

Fast forward to the 1998 Chicago Marathon. I was close to a qualifying time for the Olympic Marathon Trials and put enormous pressure on myself. The result? You guessed it -- the anxiety set in TWO nights before the race. In a hotel in Gary, Indiana. We were not even in Chicago yet and I was sleepless for 24 hours. (And to this day, I still feel anxiety anywhere NEAR Gary, Indiana). I could barely eat the next day because of nausea, so I went into the race not only sleepless for two nights but also depleted. By mile 13, I was hitting the split button in every Porta-john on the marathon course. Over the years, I would learn that lack of sleep almost always manifested itself as stomach distress. NOT something I wanted to deal with in my future Ironman endeavors.
I finally explained it all to my doctor. His antidote? Anxiety drugs. The drawback? By the third day, I was so relaxed I couldn't get out of bed. Yeah, it was great, but I couldn't run in this condition. Dosage adjustment did the trick, and by the time I ran my next marathon, a Trials qualifying time was back in my sights and I was able to sleep.
Then came the night before the Trials and a whole new level of anxiety. You guessed it, drugs or no drugs, this was a fight I would not win. At one point during the night, I swore I heard a fire alarm go off in the hotel. No one else heard it, not even my husband. People must have thought I was a raving lunatic when I asked. The Trials marathon was a disaster (for more reasons than just anxiety). The year was 2000.
That year I decided things NEEDED to change. My doctor asked me to see a sports psychologist. It was probably the singular best thing I ever did to get control of my anxiety. He taught me how to relax using breathing techniques and relaxation tapes. I learned how to let go of things that I had no control over. I learned to have confidence in myself and run my own race. It was amazing. In September 2000, I arrived at the starting line of the Quad Cities Marathon with a full night of sleep. I even forgot to bring my gel for the race, but it mattered not. To my surprise, I didn't even feel nerves at the starting line. I ran the smartest marathon of my life, negative split, and won the women's race.

So what happened? I started racing triathlons in 2001 and didn't lose a single pre-race night of sleep until Ironman Hawaii in 2002. I dodged anxiety right up until the moment it really mattered and then had the worst panic attack of my life. I spent two nights of no sleep in Hawaii which resulted in a vomit-fest during the marathon. You'd think the first thing I would do is go back and re-learn relaxation techniques, but I never got a chance. In 2003, I was hit by a car and took a four-year hiatus. And now that I'm back, my relaxation techniques are so far gone that it feels like I have to start all over from scratch. And training for Ironman, I feel like I don't have the time. But, I need to make the time. It might be the most important time I make. Maybe writing this blog will point me in the right direction. Otherwise, I may never get a chance to go back to Hawaii and have that perfect Ironman race I missed out on.

Another recent conversation with a friend has inspired me to write this blog. It's not something I like talking about. And it causes anxiety. What is it?

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