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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The "better late than never" post-NOLA race report, life changes, etc, etc!

   Well, ever since my last post, my life as I know it has started to change a bit, so it's now time for an update in that regard.  Originally, I had started a New Orleans race report, but then I left my laptop charger behind, so that never actually got finished.  Anyways, I'm due to give a brief synopsis of that (better late than never-I was in overload for IM Texas, so not much more than the bare minimum of life was getting accomplished), and then I will get into what else has been happening in the world of Jennie...because I know everyone is basically hanging on the edge of their seats in that regard!

   So, the NOLA 70.3.  After Cabo, I was forced to pick myself, dust myself off, and get my sorry butt training again.  I can't say I really had the smoothest ride in the world there, but Jesse basically started me off with mostly aerobic, base building type stuff.  I headed into NOLA with some volume in the legs, but really not much intensity.  Numbers-wise, I was starting to rebound a bit, but still wasn't seeing the kind of bike numbers I had been able to hit in January/early February.  No big deal, though-I've never been one to shy away from racing unless I was in peak shape.  Somehow, I'd made it almost 10 months without racing a 70.3, too.  Despite my six month hiatus from tris as a whole, I made it to race day feeling calm and relaxed, approaching the day as more of a chance to shake off the rust, and, if nothing else, get in a good workout.  As for the race, it started well-I made a swim pack, and was working to hang in there, which is always a good sign for me.  Well, at first, at least.  Shortly before the second turn buoy (the course was shaped sort of like a giant "M"), I veered a bit right, then left, then right again, and then botched the turn, and...the pack was gone.  I tried to bridge the gap, but I didn't have it in me.  I spent the rest of the swim trying to keep pack at least in my sights.  At least I was able to practice staying on course and sighting, which aren't really my strong points.  I finally exited the water in 30:40, which was a decent swim for me, although I was a bit frustrated that I had lost the group.

   Once on the bike, I found myself completely alone.  Totally, completely alone.  Very occasionally, a male age grouper would pass me, but for the most part, it was me, my power meter, and my bike against the wind.  And the wind was in full force!  Early on, I found myself feeling quite miserable trying to hit my goal power, so I down adjusted the target five watts, and went from there.  Still, I was struggling.  The ride became mostly a mental game, as I felt like I was pushing hard, yet not making any progress.  At the out and back sections of the course, I could tell that I was only a few minutes back from the bulk of the race, but I was hurting trying to catch up.  I also had zoned out during the pro meeting when the locations of the water stops was discussed, which led to me skipping the first handoff because, hey, I still had almost a full bottle!  That ended up being a mistake, as the second stop wasn't for another 22ish miles, about 10 of which I spent with no fluid whatsoever.  Oh well.  I did my best to catch up hydration-wise, and then, FINALLY, at mile 45 I managed to pass another pro woman.  I made a couple more passes before T2, and used time to motivate myself, pushing it to the end in order to hit a sub-2:30 bike split.  Once I'd moved up a bit in the race, the power numbers started to come around as well, and I came into T2 feeling halfway decent.

   Onto the run!  To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect.  My last triathlon run experience was an entire marathon of misery in Kona.  Not one step of that run had felt even anything resembling decent.  That was the first time that my run had more or less failed me in a race, so I was carrying that in the back of my mind.  Additionally, although I'd put in a bunch of run volume before I'd gotten sick, I hadn't put in a whole ton of intensity, and it really just wasn't feeling all that hot.  So, when my first few miles clicked away in a somewhat strained 6:40ish, I wasn't all that thrilled.  Still, I was moving up, so I figured that it couldn't be that bad, although I felt like I was barely moving.  As the run progressed, my legs weren't necessarily coming around-I didn't necessarily feel bad, I just didn't feel like I could go any faster.  My HR was reflecting that, as well, it just kind of hung out a few bpm lower than normal for a 70.3.  I decided that the run would be about finishing in a somewhat respectable place, given I'd been pretty back of the pack for most of the race.  Then, about halfway through, I caught back up to Kristin Lemos.  We'd exited T2 pretty close to each other, and she'd taken off in the early miles, when I had nothing in me to go with her.  For the next 5+ miles, we ran together.  It was one of those mutual understanding sort of deals-we went back and forth a bit, based on who felt better at the time, and moved up a few more places together.  I knew that I wasn't running as quickly as I would have liked, but that was ok, it became about survival and remembering how to hurt.  Have Kristin there proved invaluable, and I was constantly reminded to keep my foot on the gas pedal; I'm sure that I would have made some BS excuse in my head (I'm slow anyways, my time is going to suck, I'm not near the money spots) to slow down otherwise.

    Shortly before mile 12, something began to shift a bit in me.  My track record in close 70.3s has been pretty terrible-I'd been 0/5 in races decided by under 25sec in the past couple of years.  Basically, that sort of sucks.  Each time, I'd felt like I'd given what I had in me, but I'd been left with the lingering, "did I really?" doubts each time.  So, I put in a surge, telling myself I had less than 10min of running left, and found myself gaining a bit of ground.  The final mile was just a total pedal to the metal, pain-fest.  I found myself having visceral reactions to everyone telling me that I was "almost there" and that I "had it", because almost there isn't there, and I was fairly certain that I wasn't guaranteed anything until I crossed the line.  After navigating what felt like the longest finish straightaway EVER, I managed  to get to the finish, salvaging the day with a sixth place finish (one out of the money, of course, in typical Jennie fashion).  Even though the entire thing felt somewhat sloggish, I somehow ended up with the third fastest run split of the race, which gave me at least a little bit of my run confidence back.  Altogether, the race had been fine for where I was at at the time-a solid little rustbuster, nothing spectacular, but then again, it shouldn't have been.  I'd remembered how to push and race, so at the end of the day..good enough!

   Now...onto the whole life announcement/change stuff.  Over the past four years, my work situation has been such that I've been able to get in my training and racing without a problem.  I can't say enough about flexible, accommodating, and supportive my bosses Scott and Sue were in allowing me to move my hours around to travel, and for letting me work mostly afternoons and evenings in order to get my training in in the mornings.  During my time there, I'd also been able to take courses in run gait analysis, and I'd been supported as I pursued this interest, gave clinics here and there, etc.  I'd dropped my official weekly hours there from 38, to 32, to 25 over the course of my time there, and I had been maintaining at 25.  But, to be perfectly honest, although I'd done well with that for some time, as my training and racing schedules became more vigorous and intense, I just found myself becoming more cumulatively tired and dragging around on a daily basis.  As life would have it, business in the PT world is challenging these days-high copays, people on budgets, reimbursement rates that haven't budged much, etc.  So, about a week before NOLA, I was informed that our practice would be changing ownership.  I wasn't sure as to what would happen regarding the flexibility that I'd been granted in terms of my hours and my travel schedule.  This spurred me to consider my professional goals as both at triathlete and a physical therapist, and I began to weigh my options.

  For a little background, when I was writing my PT school essays, like every other good little PT school applicant, I probably started out by saying something totally generic about how I wanted to help people.  Then, probably like 90% of these applicants, I wrote about going to PT for some sports injury, and how I found it interesting.  I probably said I wanted to work with athletes someday.  As us young idealists went through grad school, though, we were told how about athletes, about how we’re difficult to work with because we won’t just stop, when it would be that simple to get better.  For many of us, they were right; we all graduated with a wide variety of interests developed and changed over time and clinicals.  But that wasn’t the case for me; my interests had not changed.  Running was ingrained into me as a very part of my identity, and the sport was one of my true passions in life.  I understand runners, I understand triathletes, I understand the mentality of the active person.  I know what it’s like to be broken down, I know what it’s like to have to build yourself back up, and I have walked out of many offices and appointments before completely frustrated when “don’t run” was offered as the solution, rather than, “maybe we should figure out what’s going wrong when you run, and fix it”.  I’d rather treat someone who is in pain because he/she was too active rather than too sedentary.  Additionally, although I don't believe that simply being a athlete necessarily makes one a good physical therapist in treating athletes (that comes with continuing education and experience), I do think that it does offer some credibility in recommendations and such, as stopping entirely is a last resort, rather than a first line of defense.     

  So where is that leaving me?  After the work announcement, I decided to contact Todd Smith, a former coworker who has since opened his own sports performance/physical therapy facility, PCX Sports Performance/Procare physical therapy.  In addition to my physical therapy license, I also have maintained my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification.  We talked and agreed that I could be a great fit in there-offering physical therapy, run analysis, and ideally small group training aimed at runners and triathletes.  Honestly, it brings be back to my reasons for going into PT school in the first place, and it will give me a chance to do what I'm passionate about.  So, next week will be my last week at my current job, and then I'll start training there the following week.  I'll be starting bit by bit there, trying to build up some clientele (which will involve me having to suck it up and advertise myself a bit...yikes!).  Hours will depend on business, may be variable, and will be slightly less than what I've been working, which is fine by me- a chance to get somewhat of a breather here and there (and maybe put away my clothes or something.  Or, more likely, play in my garden, because I like that a lot better), and to work with other people just as crazy as me.  So that's that-all good stuff that I'm very, very excited about at this time!

   And, because it took me ages to actually get this post together (hence the month old race report)-oh yeah, I'm racing an Ironman in two days.  I could continue on about that one for ages, too, but I'll just say that I'm pretty darn excited about that one.  Although getting it all together was a task in itself, I'm going to be riding a brand spanking new QR PR6 with fancy Di2 components and stuff (minus a power meter, so this one might be a shot in the dark!), which is pretty sweet.  My training?  Well, it hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies this time around, to say the least.  I managed to implode here and there (which included crying against a tree in Seneca Park and walking two miles home on the last day of my overload), and I think Jesse was rewriting things every few days.  All of the crap I went through before Cabo left me a little bit gun shy every time I felt anything not all that great-why am I so tired?  I've never been this tired before.  I was running faster last year!  How come I can't push through this?  I used to be able to!  How do my watts compare?  Why couldn't I swim today?  I'm so tired!  All I want to do is sleep!  There must be something wrong with me!   But, in looking back...I really was doing more, taking on more, and, well, probably not sleeping enough, and definitely stressing about everything else too much :)  I'm now fairly certain that I'm remembering last year incorrectly in thinking that I actually had energy, and I also can see that yes, I really have been doing more.  So, IM Texas is coming, for better or worse, and although I'm not very sure about how this is going to go, I just want to race an IM.  Here we go...