photo by Steve Penland

Friday, October 14, 2011


The long track life has been frustrating lately.

After last Monday's 5 minutes of dryland, I skated my last oval inline workout of the season on Wednesday.  I was supposed to do 4x8 minutes, but Coach TieGuy reduced it (after I whined a bit over the phone) to 4x4 minutes because I'd been sick for two weeks with what turned out to be a sinus infection.  The skating workout was OK, if slow; it was 87 degrees that day--insanely hot for Minnesota October weather--but fortunately the heat didn't bring out the skateboarders like it usually does, so I had a SkatePunk-free workout, which was a refreshing change.  On Thursday, I did a whopping 10 minutes of dryland, which didn't feel too bad.  Between the improving dryland workouts and the nice antibiotic I was on last week, I figured that things might be looking up.

Not so. After a lovely, workout-free weekend at the cabin with my best friend from college, the Hubster, my brother-in-law Sherpa Boy, and my dog Keira (a strange but quite enjoyable mix of people/animals), I was ready to tackle the whole 43.5 minutes of down time in Monday's workout.
Here's me and Keira on our only "workout" of the weekend, a walk at Oberg Mountain.

Keira photobombs appreciates one of the nine scenic overlooks.

Anyway, I was all fired up for Monday's workout (or as fired up as I ever get about dryland, anyway).  I was planning to do the workout in the track around the indoor hockey rink at the high school in the district where I teach.  It's cold, and loud, but I prefer doing my dryland on a smooth surface, and in the company of people who don't stare when I dryskate (high school hockey players are much better at ignoring old speedskaters hopping crazily about than are the folks in the park across the road from my house, which is my other smooth-surface location).

So I changed, walked past the weight room full of grunting high school boys and preening high school girls, and stepped into the hockey arena.

The first fly in the ointment was the music.  The hockey team often has music--LOUD music--playing when they practice, so I was expecting to not be able to use my iPod (dryland workouts and trail skates are the only time I use the iPod--a first-generation Shuffle that still has scuffs on it from my rotator-cuff-tearing crash a couple of years ago).  Last time I did dryland in the hockey arena, though, the music was good; I wasn't familiar with a lot of it, but it was good "beat yourself to a pulp" music.

Not so this time.  This time, the hockey lads were apparently channeling their inner Old Farts, because the music was all 70's-era stuff--AC/DC, Rush, and so on.  OK, so I'm pretty much from that doesn't mean I have to like the music!

The music turned out to be the least of my problems, though.  My left hamstring had been tight all day at work--although the left adductor pain I had been feeling the previous week was gone--and, when I started my 10 minute warmup jog, the pain moved to my left hip.  When I started the dryland, it moved back to the hamstring, then back to the adductor, then back to the hip...kind of a pain Whack-a Mole--I never knew where it would pop up next.  It wasn't severe pain, more like pain/weakness combined, but by the third set of dryland exercises it was quite clear that I would not be doing the whole 43.5 minutes.  I ended up quitting after 22 minutes of downtime, hobbled my way through a 20 minute cooldown walk/run, and then drove home in disgust.

Wednesday called for a skate at the RollerDome--in Minnesota, we get to inline skate in the stadium where the Vikings play and the Twins used to play (we skate around the concourse, a 600-meter loop that takes us past bathrooms, beer stands, and brat grills.  The onion-mustard smell that lingers the day after a Vikings game can be quite overwhelming).  The Dome opened for skating on Wednesday, which was convenient since the Oval had closed on Sunday...but my leg was hurting enough from the dryland that I ended up only doing half of the prescribed workout.

So now it's Friday, and I haven't done Thursday's workout--a running speed workout--because any sort of running/jogging is painful.  As is any sort of dryland...which is unfortunate, because running and dryland are 2 of my 3 weekly workouts.  Skating is a bit better, but still causes pain.  I'm going to Milwaukee to skate next weekend, so I don't want to aggravate any injury I might have before then--but I also need to keep working out because my fitness is already behind where it should be because of the thyroid issues in the spring and early summer, and being sick the last couple of weeks.  I really should do a time trial when I'm down in Milwaukee--and I probably will--but I don't think I want to get objective evidence of how I'm doing right now.  Usually I really look forward to the first time trial of the season, because I expect to see some improvement from the previous year's early-season times...but this time I think it's likely that I'll get some pretty depressing results.

So far, this season (staring in April) has been the worst I've ever had, even worse than the two years when I was apparently becoming hypothyroid but was not yet diagnosed.  I've struggled more with completing workouts, skated more slowly, and missed more workouts than I have since I re-started skating in 2001.  It sucks.  Earlier in the season, when I realized that I was hypo again and my meds needed readjusting, I decided that I should do everything peripheral to working out as as diligently as possible.  That way, the hypothyroid-induced bad workouts wouldn't be compounded by bad diet or lack of stretching.

It was a good plan, but there's just one flaw.  I, like most people, I think, am motivated more by success than by failure.  There may be some people out there who, when they fail or when things are going poorly, can say "well, that sucked, but it sure makes me want to work harder next time."  Most of us are more likely to become discouraged and to have a harder time remaining focused on the goal and working hard if we fail than if we experience some success.  I do some work as a behavior analyst at school, and I always emphasize to teachers that they need to build on a child's success--even if that means modifying an assignment so the student can complete it successfully--rather than use failure as a motivator.  The trouble is, when I'm skating slower in a workout than I was last year, there's no way to modify the workout such that I can be "successful."  I know the workouts aren't at the level that they've been in past years, which I'm assuming means that the first time trial won't be at the level of past years, which I'm assuming means that the races this winter will not be at the level of past years.

Which, of course, means that I'm having a hard time remaining motivated to do all the peripheral stuff, the diet and the stretching and whatnot (I even had a Diet Dew today, after quitting it a couple months ago after discovering that the sucralose (Splenda) in it may be bad for thyroid function).   I need some success to build on, and I'm afraid that may not be happening at my first time trial next weekend.

So I need to change my mindset.  I need to remind myself that I love skating.  That it's the best time of the year,with the whole winter season fast approaching.  And that my technique feels like I've made some big improvements this summer.  I need to forget about how I've done in past years, and to just do the time trials next weekend, take the times as my starting point, and work towards lowering those times rather than comparing them to previous year's times.   I need to just enjoy the excitement of the upcoming long track season without letting the frustration of a bad pre-season get in the way.

I'll let you know how it goes...

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