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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Light my fire...

  Last Wednesday was another one of those days.  After a third consecutive week of seemingly making little to no progress with my long runs and again fighting my pace and heart rate, I knew I was at my limit.  I'm sure I'm where I'm supposed to be, but at that point in time, the world had become black and white.  With just a month until my first pro race, I was freaked- although improved, my swimming will still leave me in the back of the pack with the stragglers (being realistic here; at least we're not in the "two minutes off the last straggler" territory anymore, though), without riding outside, I have no idea how to interpret computrainer watts and mph, leaving me with no real clear of where I stand on the bike, and running...ugh.  I'd run that same loop a full minute per mile faster last year.  I mostly was concerned that I'd just completely forgotten how to push and hurt on two feet, and that once presented with the situation, instead of embracing it, like I used to, I'd just crumble.  As much as those around me have tried to convince me that I'd be fine, I wasn't going to believe it until I saw it.  And so it only became a matter of time until I snapped.

  "A matter of time" turned into "two days".  I didn't set out on my run Friday morning (which was supposed to be a simple 60min at zone 1) with any intention to let loose...but after trotting through a mile, I'd had it.  I can't tell you why that was the point at which I lost my self-control; it just happened.  I subtly picked up the pace.  My garmin was freaking out anyways-my HR was reading in the 190's, and it started telling me I was running 4:30 miles (yes, I love technology...).  I took that as a sign to just run-I wanted to hurt a little, I wanted to remember what it felt like to run strong.  I didn't need to be redlining, and I didn't need to turn the run into a personal time trial, but I did need to clear my head and prove a little something to no one other than myself.  With 20min left in the run, when the loop I was running had leveled out after a longer ascent, I finally found enjoyment in running again.  I had that fleeting, light, float-y feeling that can be fickle and hard to come by; my pace felt quick but comfortably so.  I finished the run smiling but shaking my head at myself.  Nothing about the run had been even remotely close to what I was supposed to do (and yes, I did pay a little later when I hit the bike after work), and it wasn't even the fastest I'd ever run over that particular loop.  But, we've been trying to get my mind to shut off more.  Covering the garmin for a bit had helped, but that little internal self-sabotaging voice of doubt wasn't going to go away until I showed it otherwise.

  I'd thought I'd gotten it out of my system, but yesterday became more of the same.  Somewhere around the 3.5-4 hour mark of my long ride, I was averaging one watt lower than what I had finished at the week before.  With my garmin safely chucked on the floor (out of sight, out of mind?  I knew I'd at least started the ride well within control) I decided that I needed to at least meet the prior week's wattage.  I also realized that I could hit the computrainer "century" ride mark.  Once I met the wattage, I still had over half an hour to go-so why not try to get just one lousy little watt more?  And so, this resulted.  Whoops.  Still, I didn't actually realize it was happening.  Plus, I was actually having an occasional conversation with Dave (mostly about how miserable we were) and one-fingered typing on Facebook to Mary about why she wasn't making my favorite people list (ha!) during that last hour.  After the overzealous last couple of hours of the ride, we headed out for a brief run in the hurricane-force winds.  The worst of the gusty headwinds were over after the first 1.5 miles of the run, I turned the corner and-bam!-found myself aided by a sweet tailwind.  I was sort of surprised at how good I felt after the amount of time I spent on the bike, and again, I (dangerously) wasn't paying attention to the garmin, so I went with it.  And so, this resulted.  Again, whoops.  Not quite zone 1 there.

  So, where has all this misbehavior gotten me?  For today, at least, back into my zones (and, for four minutes of bike tabatas, absolutely gasping for air).  More importantly, though, some small fire has been re-lit underneath my butt.  Instead of dreading the next time I'll toe a starting line, I'm starting to feel the itch again.  It's been missing up to this point.  Last night, I had a glass of wine (given the last time I'd had any alcoholic beverage was at the QT2 Christmas December, it hit me like a ton of bricks), took a deep breath, and pulled up the Galveston bib list.  I found my name...and I saw the "F PRO" next to it.  A small shiver ran through my body; this time, though, not just of fear, but of excitement, too (the wine helped).  Realistically, I know the level of talent and desire that exists in the relatively large women's pro field there will leave me towards the back of the pack (hopefully not DFL...hopefully).  Still, if nothing else, at least the past few days have given me some small amount of confidence that maybe, just maybe, I almost sort of belong there.  I know that more than likely, I'll be spending a good amount of that swim and bike totally alone, but I have a little more hope now that I'll see a person or two on the run, which had been my greatest fear.
  The irony is, I probably should have just been more patient.  I spend my workdays on the other side of the equation-trying to convince patients that their pain will take time to go away, that their exercises may not seem to be doing much at first, but they should stick with it, and give things a little time to work.  Inevitably, I'll be asked how long it will take, and I'll never really have a good answer-everyone is different, everyone responds differently, and if we have to stop and readjust, we'll stop and readjust.  Sometimes, I'll hear mentions of slow progress as we go along; other times, after a few weeks of continuing frustration on both our parts, we'll change something, and we'll see a breakthrough.  Yet here I am, not following the advice I dish out every day and losing my patience (I'd want to kill me, after all).  Suddenly, though, I feel back in the game.  I know I'm not in peak shape right now-but, it's March.  I should be fine.  I'm only a few short weeks from getting my feet wet (literally) in the pro field, and I know that while I won't be able to control a whole host of things that happen that day, I can control my mindset going in.  If I'm not there mentally, then my physical preparation will go to waste.  And, if my last few days of misbehavior have taught me anything (and assuming that they didn't totally destroy me), it's that maybe I've got just a bit more in my physically than I was willing to give myself credit for (I'm hoping!!).  Rats.  They're always right.  :)      

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