Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Your body won't go where your mind doesn't push it - "Lise Munsie, you are an Ironman"

epic photo - alta lake 6am pro warm up - taken by holly
Wow. What a summer.

  I don’t even know where to begin.  Perhaps where I left off…. Broken “stress fractured” femur. Ugh. The plan was to switch from IMCDA to IMC, build up running, do a few races swim-bike and hope for the best.  I stuck to the plan, did Shawnigan lake Olympic as a swim-bike-DNF… then the Oliver half ironman I did as a relay with Chris Young, I did swim-bike and he did the run for me.. not much to say about that, I had breakthrough swims and bikes at both races, swimming at around 1:45/100m and biking averaging between 34-35kph…. Splits were beyond what I hoped. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired, I was right where I needed to be, except for running.  Building building so slowly on the run, run-walk for about 6 weeks and we were just moving up to 30-40 min runs when all my femur pain came back. I failed the hop test, couldn’t sit on the edge of a table, my bone scan came back just as bad as before
bone scan 4.5 weeks out
and when I called Dr. Mike I heard some sad words “Lise, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ll be able to do ironman Canada” (4.5 weeks from race day).

Well I would be lying if I said I didn’t take this… poorly… put my bike up for sale on pinkbike and stopped training for a few days… indulged in things I had been not indulging in and felt generally pretty crappy as one does when they pour a year of their life into this race.  I talked about maybe getting through the run somehow or just doing the swim-bike for experience but I had so wanted to place in my age group that I didn’t even feel the race was worth doing if that wasn’t a possibility. Then I got a letter from a friend. This letter was hand-written , photographed and sent to me by email, because this particular friend was suffering from a concussion and could not look at the computer screen.  This concussion came about because she was hit by a careless driver while warming up for a race, a race in preparation for Kona for which she had already qualified.  One of the most dedicated and talented athletes I know, first shot at Kona had been compromised by a situation completely beyond her control. I feel the letter is too personal to repeat here but long and short of it was it made me immediately stop feeling sorry for myself, realize people have done this race in far worse circumstances and that not trying was simply not an option.  With that I got back to training, did the last of my 6 hour bike rides and 6am open water ocean swims, replaced my runs with pool runs… again… and did anything I could in hopes of being better for the race. Stayed off my leg, didn’t take pain killers so I could monitor my discomfort, knew I would kill the swim and bike and just hoped beyond all hope I could find a way to finish the race, even if I had to walk the whole damn marathon.  I was prepared to pull out if the pain was dangerous or not manageable, but no matter what I was going to try.

OK now fast forward to race week.

I first of all have to say I often feel like one of the luckiest girls around.  The people in my life, past and present are simply incredible.  This race was in NO WAY done alone by me.  I want to start my race report off with a list of thank you’s…. to people who undoubtedly got my through this year, this race, and who will surely get me through the next leg of this adventure.

Family always – the support I have had from you has been unprecedented, encouragement and belief… and of course reed booking a flight out two days before my race so he could be with me, he came to my first short triathlon and having you at ironman was unbelievably memorable.
Day before race with Reed and Leanne at Olympic Plaza

Friends – where to start. Holly my friend, colleague and throughout training year roommate. Encouraged me, got excited for me and put up with my super insane training schedule, 5am mornings and yowling Siamese through this whole process. Was amazing to have you there on race day.

Leanne – introduced me to triathlon 3 years ago and did my first try-a-tri with me. Then flew out, took care of me before and after race day. Has been an amazing friend through everything, this week wouldn’t have been the same without you!

Noa – my friend and coach, got me to the start line and I know will get me to another, stronger and faster…. And with her all the amazing athletes in pacific triworks – so inspiring training with people as motivated and dedicated as this group… no better in the city or probably anywhere else… R.J, R.S, V.G, J.M, D.G, S.K and others.
6am angry ocean - dedicated training partners never miss a workout

Anyone who did any workout with me, especially long rides, encouraged and believed in what was going to happen – especially Winston and Andrew, indoor spins, long rides…. Sunday night whirly pool sessions at hillcrest, just spending hours talking triathlon shit before and after the race. Awesome to have you both there on race day as well. Winston running along beside me on the course, and Andrew for yelling at me during his own race about how pumped and happy to was that I was going to finish the race as strong as I did every time I saw him on the bike and run.  All the other UBC Triathlon Club members who are always encouraging and inspiring, racing with me this year at IM and others…. N.C, B.N, T.B, C.H, M.M, S.C, T.W, D.L, E.W, D.S and so many others…..

My friends outside of triathlon who kept me grounded and doing other things... J.K, L.W, M.B, J.M, J.F and the whole crew

Christopher – always encouraging and helping me with my athletic and personal goals in any way I might need, and quite frankly putting up with a whole lot of BS.

Austen and other friends at work for getting me through this year and again.. amazing encouragement

Girls at work for volunteering at IMC and being there, hugs, cheers, amazing sign and the BEST chalk drawings on course – Marna, Heather and Chelsea, you guys are hands down amazing.

Race morning with the ladies, 5:30am never looked so hot

Daphne and David for letting me and 100 of my closest friends stay at their Whistler palace for the weekend.

Dr. Mike for helping me at no personal gain with this persistent injury.

Sugoi apparel for making me a brand champion, providing me with race and training gear, inviting me to the pre-race BBQ and all the cheers and support. An amazing company, best training gear and race gear and fantastic people.

transition race morning
swim start
For a race report there isn’t much I want to say.  Ironman had turned into “just a race” in my mind… but your first ironman is in no way, “just a race”. It is truly an experience, a painful-amazing-incredible day long journey. I am not the kind of person who says stuff like this, but it really is unlike
going strong at km 175

anything I have ever experienced 226kms of unchartered territory. The swim start was one of the scariest moments of my life, I was ready for it, but it was scary. I started strong, got run, over, ran people over, took 500 or 600m before I could even swim properly or breath, so the first emotion of the day is fighting for air, fighting for space…. The rest of the swim I was ready for without question and it came easy. Getting out of the water and having my wetsuit stripped by friends volunteering was a special moment, the volunteers in the tent who help you get into your bike gear and off on the bike.  The bike I am in love with, the whistler course is so hard, 1900m of climbing and it was hot….30 degrees and yes there was wind in pemberton… not an easy day, but I hydrated like crazy, took salt, took as many gels as I could handle and had the ride I wanted, finishing in under 6 hours. 

Then the run… the white elephant in the room. Since the Victoria marathon in October I have had a grand total of 8 weeks intermittently where I was able to “land run”, and nothing more than a 40 minute run, and no runs 5 weeks prior to IMC. I had no idea what was going to happen, all I knew is I wanted to finish.

fake it till you make it
Faked it and ran out of transition for the crowds, once in the forest, I was exhausted, my cardio fell apart and my legs felt like shit. I did walk-run for the next 3 km’s and considered strongly dropping out of the race. I felt like hell. I figured I’d give myself 10km and that I would force myself to run between 2 aid stations (about 1 mile apart) to see how I felt.  This worked at first, I got a second wind, legs began to behave and running (slowly) felt OK. I followed an original plan I had where I would run (now more like jog) to each aid station and walk the station… this was working, and I was feeling stronger and stronger…. I was able to keep this tactic up (with a few other walk sections) for the first 20km.  All my friends found me, cheered for me, asked me if I was crazy and WTF I was doing running, high fived the other PT athletes, Dr. Mike and UBC tri club members on course and made it to lap 2…. No turning back now... 21km to go  This is where my body fell apart. Lungs and Cardio were ready to go but body said no. Quads seized up completely making running very very difficult (cant blame them after 6 months off).  This is again where the “dig deep” and “this is going to be uncomfortable” come in.  It truly was sheer will power and determination that allowed me to force my body to keep going. Knowing at most I was 2 hours away from accomplishing this amazing goal.  Every step hurt whether I walked or ran, so I ran as much as I could… 8km to go… foot pain kicks in, my stomach has had enough gels, I am shivering a bit even in the heat and have to force myself to take in anything at aid stations.  Sharp shooting pain in my foot, this is where I start walking more than I run…. The other athletes and volunteers and spectators never let up though, so nor would I. The cheering, the smiles, the encouragement…every step .. one foot in front of the other… 8 short… but Oh so long, km’s.  At one point when I didn’t think I could go on Winston showed up and walked beside me, he told me everyone was waiting for me around the corner with signs and if ever I was going to fake it, now was the time. Got the arms going, made the legs go, came around the corner and there was everyone together, Reed, Leanne, Holly, Heather, Marna, Chelsea, Nailey…. With signs made just for me, chanting “cello” and confusing the hell out of the crowd. Made me laugh and forget about everything that hurt…….. 2km to go, they were racing me to the finish line to watch me cross. 

finishing photo screen capture from live feed
The last 2 km, I barely remember, except for the amazing chalk art “Lise Munsie you got this” “Lise you sweet nectar” (inside joke here) and a picture of my cat in giant letters 500m from the finish (seriously I have the best friends) I turned the corner and actually saw the finish line. I just remember putting my hands to my face because I legit could not believe I was finally done, ran as best I could, highfiving every one of my friends at the sidelines waiting for me to cross, arms over my head with the announcer “from Vancouver, Lise Munsie, you are an ironman”.  The moment is honestly as epic as it sounds.  Noa and Victoria were waiting to hug me, Reed and Leanne who were videotaping the finish quickly joined and it was just a giant celebration. I have never been happier.

Celebrating over the fence

I’m hoping my second ironman experience will be very different, I want to be in the race in a different way, I want the run to be like the bike and swim, where I am prepared to fight for my placing, fight for a podium spot, give everything in a totally different way.  But I have learned along this journey that if that doesn’t happen, that’s ok. It’s not going to stop me from trying and it definitely won’t stop me from competing one way or another.

Now time to rest and recover, heal my muscle and heal my bones, have fun with friends, do normal stuff, not watch everything I eat, go out late and sleep in.  Then…. We begin again J
My splits and averages are all available on sportstats for interested parties!

Monday, 24 March 2014

#NOTTODAY - femoral shaft stress fracture

Sports Doctors, Bone Scans and Stress Fractures … oh my.

I’ve been meaning to update this for a while, but my training situation has been such a bummer I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.  

My injury story …….. perhaps it will help someone else out in the future.  Two weeks before Victoria marathon (in October) I started getting running associated pain, similar to runner’s knee, but migrating a bit. Went to physio to have it checked out, was diagnosed as runners knee, misalignment, muscle imbalance… the usual, did some maintenance therapy and decided we would deal with it after the marathon, however the marathon was probably safe for me to run.  Ran the marathon in a significant amount of pain, but adrenaline and my competitive nature got me to the end in my goal time.  Next day couldn’t walk, not because of sore muscles but because of stabbing pain.  Started taking time off (except for an aquathon that I shouldn’t have gone in).  The pain lasted quite a while and I completely took off running (including water running) for almost 8 weeks.  Pain slowly got better, religiously did my physio strengthening and balance exercises and overall took it easy focusing on swim and maintaining bike. Dealt with the pain day to day, taking tons of anti-inflammatories and icing it.  Finally seemed like the pain was gone so I started a very conservative run-walk program.  In all honesty, there wasn’t a single run where I didn’t “feel” discomfort of some respect in my right leg but assumed it was mental or not important. Started building up to 40 minute run-walks over Christmas (4min one, 1 min walk X 8) etc….. I can pinpoint one run where it went from discomfort to stabbing pain. I felt nauseous for about 3 days after this.  Thought it could be a Christmas hangover. I was wrong (and I’m pretty much never wrong).  After this point I can’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been in so much chronic pain.  Stabbing pain in my hip, inner thigh, near my knee…. Migrating, never the same. Hurt to walk, sit, sleep. Back to physio….. my legs are stronger and more even than ever.  Diagnosis… facilitated segment.  After another 3 weeks of not running and being in major pain I finally allowed my physio to perform IMS on me  (dry-needling… google it).  It was quite a painful treatment, but within 48 hours I was pain free! Hurray! We had figured out my problem.  I felt so much better and was so confident that this would cure me if I got the IMS treatment for a couple more weeks that I tried some more short run-walks…. Slowly and surely the pain came back with a vengeance.  Out of sheer desperation I started googling sports Dr. all over Vancouver and found a name I recognized. I had participated in some cycling studies last year with an on campus sports med lab and as it turns out the principle investigator in this lab who helped me out with some asthma issues associated with the study, is a local sports med dr. as well.  I contacted him to see if he could refer me to someone.  He told me to come see him right away and examined me in his lab.  Found that I was balanced and my legs are quite strong…. And then asked if I’d be checked for a fractured femur.  Wait What.  Nobody had mentioned this to me.  My google searches never came up with this…. After almost 6 months of pain… must be a ludicrous idea, but hell why not rule it out with a bone scan.  He was able to get me in for a bone scan that Friday….. and what did we find.  A god damn mother effing fracture in the shaft of my femur.  Turns out stress fractures are common in endurance athletes, not so much the femur.....  I had no idea. Also turns out that anti-inflammatories are bad for promoting bone healing. Shit. And I should have been on Vitamin D etc. for the past 6 months. Double shit.  So yes. Frustrating. But now I have a solid diagnosis.  

 And now I wait…. I wait for the pain to go away. I wait for Ironman.  No longer ironman couere d’alene… huge bummer.  Had to switch to ironman Canada… just to give me time to hopefully start running safely again, which means I likely will not be in top notch shape a month later for worlds in Edmonton, but as per my previous post on adaptability, its part of life. You want to be in the best possible condition and shape for every race, but in high level endurance sport it just isn’t an option, you’re either injured or on the knifes edge if you’re pushing your body…  So for now I will continue to wake up everyday , take a few tentative steps to see if the pains gone…… so far it’s been all #nottoday.  Lucky for me I’m surrounded by amazingly supportive friends and family who keep my spirits up, priorities straight and perspective in the right place.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How do you document real life when real life's getting more like fiction each day

Life-training update.  Those two things are intimately intertwined.  With the ironman entry, the awesome marathon finish and worlds coming up this year I’ve upped my training regime for the winter.  It has included indoor spins, by myself and with friends,
outside winter rides in all weather, winter runs in all weather, water running and a massive increase in swim volume.  I am however once again struggling with my right leg.  Its migrating pain all around the upper leg, and so far nobody can really figure it out.  I feel like my ironman goals are slipping away and going from being fairly lofty to just hoping for a strong finish.  Its been hard for me to come to terms and deal with this with all the other craziness in my life, but I’m taking this as part of my personal growth phase… or whatever. Interestingly enough my injuries and pain do seem to be quite linked to stress.  The brain-body connection is something that fascinates me, from a neuroscience and physiology point of view. This year has been an amazing year, I’ve grown as a person 10000 fold, met new amazing people and my life feels very full.  I have poured 100% of myself into the three things I love: 1)My job 2) My small side business 3) Triathlon.  I took an academic job instead of a pharmaceutical job because I believe in what I’m doing. I keep my small business going because I love it, it’s my baby, my brainchild, 4 years of meeting amazing women worldwide, sharing their stories and passions… plus it’s the only way I can support my #3 love – triathlon.  Turns out it’s not a cheap sport and it becomes more expensive the more passionate… and unfortunately more injured you are.  The past few weeks a situation has been brought to my attention that directly affects me and two if not all three major parts of my life.  #2 is quite affected, meaning #3 is affected both from a monetary and emotional point of view that isn’t helping me with my injuries, and of course when I’m stressed and emotions are running rampant my work suffers #1.  Lucky for me the people in my life are amazing, my friends (new and old), roommate, colleagues and some ghosts from my past that are making guest appearances and stepping up to the plate for me. It’s nice to know people support you and are there for you, to let you vent or blow off steam, or just be good (and very interesting) distractions.  So I will continue to focus on getting healthy, try not to stress about my race season and not getting better and embrace the amazing people around me who have never let me down. I will forget about the people who have betrayed me (an unpleasant theme in my life), as it turn out betrayal comes in all shapes and forms, but amazing people also come in all shapes and forms and as it also turns out I’m pretty sure they outweigh the not so amazing ones.  Feels good to get that off my chest

Monday, 14 October 2013

Dial it in and Dig Deep

Dig Deep.

Dial it in.

Two pieces of advice that were given to me by two different people I really respect.... Two sayings I think I finally understand.

Here is my race report for the Victoria Marathon aka "my first marathon" aka "the marathon in which I qualified for Boston"

My plan was always to run the Victoria Marathon as ironman preparation until I got injured this summer... then I decided not to run the Victoria Marathon.  Then my leg got better, I got over my post season depression and started running again.... then I thought maybe it was possible and 3 weeks ago I signed up.  The purpose this time being preparation for ironman and taking it easy on the run. But THEN I started going on long runs with the best training partner in the world, the one and only Winston Guo training for the Chicago marathon.  Runs were feeling great, I was having a blast and my body was holding up fabulously..... then I started thinking about splits and my times and what could be possible.  Could a Boston time of 3:35 be a possibility for me?  Maybe..... I like to push myself and i liked to think about running in the best known marathon in the world. Two weeks out from race day however my old injury flared up.  I stopped running and was back at physio with a diagnoses of patellofemoral pain syndrome - a fancy word for runners knee, mine being cause by the same muscle imbalances responsible for all my other injuries.  The good news was that running the race wasnt a risk of a bad injury and that a fancy tape job could help dull the pain... the bad news was there would be (and was) a bit (significant amount) of pain associated with the run.

So race weekend... arrived in Victoria and met up with my awesome friend John, it was a gorgeous weekend and within minutes he had me convinced a hike up Mount finlayson was a good idea.  It was.  Not overly strenuous as I went slowly, but a great adventure and gorgeous views!

  Once we got down I spent the day downtown picking up my race package and went on an easy 20 min run to make sure the legs were loose and muscles felt ok from the hike.  Spent the night in, carboloading with some good friends before a movie and early bed.  Surprisingly I was super nervous... but able to sleep.  Up in the morning and at the race site an hour ahead of time.  It was a frosty morning and I was not inclined to take off my long sleeve shirt... tri club peep to the rescue with extra clothes for me so I could turn in my dry bag.  Hung out at the start line with Nailey and before you know it I was running my first marathon.  First of all I will say what a perfect course... rolling the whole way but no extreme elevation.  Gorgeous scenery and well supported. I knew that everyone starts out too fast and I started out faster than I planned but was holding back... turned out I was feeling pretty comfortable at first with 4:40-4:50 splits and I knew in my head if I could told that for the first 21 km that I would a) have a half marathon PB (nailed it) and b) would have a bunch of 5:00-5:20 kms to play around with at the end.  Now I won't lie, the adrenalin did it's job for the first 20-25km, my knee didn't hurt too much I could just feel it, but then 25-30km hit and the pain really started.  I was tired, I was starting to hurt and every step was sharp shooting pain on my knee cap.  Knew it was time to "dig deep" just tried everything I could do to put it out of my mind. Any km I could get in a split less than 4 was a win and gave me more play time at the end. Focused on how hard I'd pushed to maintain my splits and what a waste it would be to give up now... that finishing in 3:30 was a safe boston qualifying time and that somehow I knew across the continent winston had qualified and I didn't want to let him down!  Then came the last 10 km... this is where I "dialed it in" just like winston always says on our long run and it works.  You have an end point, you know you can do it and you know you can get there.  I knew what 10km was, I know what it feels like and I know how to run it... so I just did.  Finished the race in 3:29. Exceeded the highest goal I set for myself.  Didn't think it was possible.  But was so elated at the end.  Just goes to show what is possible when you set your mind to it and work for it.

Did the usual ice, wine, nap post race thing and had a nice thanksgiving with friends.  Next day hit the trails of victoria on this sweet puppy
in some fabulous weather. couldn't enjoy it quite as much as I'd like because of my sore knee but I'll take care of it..... Loved being back out on a mountain bike, it's been too long and I miss hitting the trails.  No time, money or space for a new steed in the stable right now though :( 
Now time to dial in some new goals for the winter.... but what shall they be.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change

this weekend at banff was all about flexibility and adaptability..... adapting to a long road trip that took many twists and turns (I'll never forgot my unexpected night crashing in revelstoke)... cold weather camping and racing (must. find. hot springs) and making even more new and amazing friends.
stuck on highway 1

preparing our campsite

Packed a car up with 4 awesome people and road tripped to Banff for the beautiful Banff triathlon.  I knew it was going to be cold and with my recent burnout issues I opted to run the sprint. The weather did not disappoint and cold and rainy it was (could be good mental practise for CDA...286 sleeps - what what).  Naturally weather aside and self doubts and my telling myelf "i didn't care about the race" I still cared just as much as I do about al the races.  By far my worst race prep ever.  Due to the double transition set up I made it to the lake with 20 minutes to go, had to inflate my tires, find water and set up an extensive transition in an attempt to keep my stuff dry and sort out my wet/dry bags.  This is the first time I've ever been walking down to the water as the race was pretty much starting.  Hopped in without feeling the water or warming up and I was pleasantly surprised, not as cold as I
banff swim backdrop
was expecting.  Horn blew and we were off.  This seemed to be a slower swim field, I had an alright time of 9:10 for 500m, not my best, but I came out of the water early, followed by a long uphill run to T1.  I've been working hard on my quick transitions but today I decided coat and socks were necessary, it was pretty frigid, so my T1 was a slow 4 min :P but that was comparable to most other peoples.  The bike course was stunning (through Banff mountains, past lakes and into the city) with a negative elevation gain, so despite my bike training being lacks as of recent I still PB'd it averaging over 34km/hr.  T2 I still had frozen feet and couldn't get my shoes on quick because I couldn't feel them :)  For the run all my training paid off and I got a PB as well.  Run felt amazing and I was able to push myself for a 22min 5km, averaging 4:23/km.  The run finishes down the main strip of Banff with tons of people around so it was so inspiring.  All these splits got my first in my age group! 

lise and nailey making rock art
After the race I ran around in the pouring rain trying to find dry clothes.  Then I watched another triclub member finish his Olympic distance race before heading to the hot springs to thaw out.  Had a really fun night camping before getting back on the road.  On the way home we stopped at Lake Louise.  It was my first time there and it was just as beautiful as I could have imagined!  Here are a few pics from the Banff roadtrip  :)
athlete love

lake lousie.. awesome trip