There is something wrong with me and I cannot figure out what it is. I’ve been in a migraine cycle for over a week. It came on last Friday night at dinner with my wife and father-in-law, one day after having three hours of dental work done. That migraine was classic – visual precursors of strobing, tunnel vision, then a brief calm before the crushing right side pain. Did a full 4 hour treatment of medication, yard sale Saturday, bike time trial, then felt like crap again and had to cancel going to a friend’s birthday party. Sunday killed the final milestone run with a 1:35 ½ marathon, then I had another migraine two hours later. Monday was off, Tuesday I swam and then had bodywork that helped a bit, then Wednesday I was supposed to run but had another migraine and a cycle of medicine instead. Thursday a long swim, and Friday drove to Tempe, Arizona for the Soma weekend. I drove to Arizona feeling like boiled crap and had no clue what to expect from a weekend that was kicking off my “Helloween” week of epic volume training.
There is a time bomb in my head. It has exploded thrice in a short amount of time. Friday night out to dinner with my wife and her father I started seeing strobes and lost vision, a clear precursor. We finished our dinner and my vision returned so I could drive us home – all the while I knew the massive head pain was coming. I got home and spent the next four hours in pain taking drugs to club the thing out of my head. Saturday wasn’t too bad with a yard sale in the morning and then a 90 minute bike time trial going well. Sunday was that epic run and about two hours afterwards I was seeing lightning strobes. This migraine was different from the rest. Normally I get visual strobing on my right side and I lose vision in my left eye. The pain is huge but dominant on the right side of my head. Sunday’s migraine was all left side and the feeling of my heartbeat pulsing in my neck and temples made me nauseated. I did the full cycle of meds, lost most of Sunday to being in bed, and hoped things were better. Monday was off, Tuesday was a swim, and it was about then I noticed that I have had an intense knot of tension on the right side of the base of my skull. I’m perpetually tight in my SCM, but this was much different. It made it so turning my head to the right was a painful experience. Wednesday I couldn’t shake a feeling of despair, fatigue, and overtraining. When I tried to run my left hamstring stated howling and I had to scrub the 75 minute workout because my leg wouldn’t allow it. I went home and did strength work instead. Later in the day when I spoke to Brian he said it was to be expected – we ran hard Sunday and he even had a rough day afterwards recovering from that run. I went on with my day, working for clients, picking up my bike from the shop after getting Julian’s race wheels put on and the drivetrain cleaned up for a weekend of training in Tempe on the Ironman course. I was sitting at a client’s desk at 6 when the visual strobing started again. I was supposed to drive to Malibu to work on the client’s home computer but immediately had to pack my things, make profuse apologies, and head home to tend to brain bomb number three.
In preparation for Ironman Arizona Coach Brian and I came up with mileage goals for the six month training period leading up to the race. We also devised 5 Milestone achievements that would operate as individual victories along the way. The race would be icing on the cake with the milestones tangible achievements that could stand alone in their own right. Those milestones are:
1) Ironman distance ride (112 miles), non-stop
2) 8,000 meter swim
3) 300 mile bike week
4) Ironman distance ride + 1 hour run
5) 95 minute 13.1 run
I finished #1 July 6th. #2 was done October 10th. #3 was done and then some (315 miles) in July. On October 3rd I attempted #4 and wound up running 45 minutes off the bike before I bonked. Good lesson, still a milestone. Number 5, the 95 minute half marathon, became history today as I ran harder and faster than I’ve ever done before. Today’s run: 1:34:57.
I thought I would publish a list of the songs in my IronMax playlist. This is the playlist on my iPod shuffle and iPhone I use for long rides (in one ear only), long runs, and now for long swims with my H20 Audio Interval. It’s a long list, more than 500 tracks and 1.4 days of music. It was hard to get it down that small, given that my entire iTunes library is 110 GB in size, with almost 24,000 songs from decades of collecting music. The criteria for these songs is they had to motivate me to dig in at the hardest moment. I envisioned mile 83 somewhere, being pushed back by a headwind, and being down calorie. What song would I need to come on the headphones that could shake the cobwebs from the brain and get the legs turning. I’m curious what other people use for their music. I’ve got a lot of guilty pleasures in here. For example: the 70’s rock of Rush, Supertramp, and AC/DC, or the surprising amount of Metallica and their Eurotrash disco cousins, Daft Punk. The stuff I was surprised I came back to frequently were the classical pieces – Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance is a favorite, but Basil Poledouris’ score from Conan the Barbarian never fails to lift my mood. A few things came from friends and either made me laugh out loud with their silliness, or were just weird enough to throw into the mix as a wake-up. I blame Coach Brian for those. There’s the requisite cock-rock crowd pleasers played to death at Ironman events (AC/DC again) and a few recognizable pop hits. There’s a lot of Washington D.C. hardcore or bands from and inspired by that scene (Dismemberment Plan, The Evens, Fugazi, Retisonic), bands like The Oxes and Austerity Program are pure instrumental guitar noise, while Ratatat fills out the melodic instrumental set. Rap appears here and again in upbeat party songs by 50 Cent, Gold Chains, Rhymefest, and even The Bloodhound Gang. It’s a tour through my musical history, emphasis on the uptempo. I’m going to print out a small list of the best of these to carry in my top tube box on the bike. When I need a lift I’ll eyeball the tracks and pick a song to play in my head; the groove has been worn in pretty deep.
I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter from the time I was nine years old in the parking lot of the movie theater where my father and his girlfriend took me to see Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. That movie spoke to me on a visceral level with its major theme of antiestablishmentarianism and its protagonist fighting to realize his dreams. I already knew I was different from the other kids my age. I had skipped second grade, been placed in split grade classes and given the coursework of the older kids. My biological mother had tried to impose her will upon me in any number of ways, including using her diabetes as a weapon in an attempt to emotionally enslave her own children. My parents divorced when I was six and I was at the mercy of the court, which assigned custody to my toxic mother. At nine I fled the prison of her custody and found support in my father’s home. Shortly after moving in with my father I changed my name as a way of declaring my independence. I threw off an imposed personality and staked my own ground. Brazil spoke to me in such a deep way I decided to focus all my energy on becoming a screenwriter.