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Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray"

  Well, it's been too long since I've updated this thing, as time has kind of gotten away from me this winter, between working, training (including far too many hours of my life spent wrestling into tights, multiple pairs of socks, toe warmers, extra coats, etc), and coaching.

   I'll now just take a moment to provide the cliff notes version of this post, for those that might just want to get to the point (and who might not want a blow-by-blow description of my body temperatures and phlegm states): I got sick at camp.  I came home.  I trained a whole ton while still slightly sick.  I got sick again.  I'm pulling out of Cabo and racing NOLA 70.3, IM Texas, and IM Coeur d'Alene instead.

   Now, for those that want the long story :) : In January, I ran a couple of races-a tough, disappointing day at the Hearnish 10k, and then a slightly better day (all circumstances considered) at the Hilton Head half marathon a few weeks later.  I'd been biking well, running was trying to come around, and swimming was, well, normal for me.  Altogether, come mid-February, I was feeling ready to get down to Florida for QT2 pro camp, where I was looking forward to getting the bike on the road, running in shorts, and basically beating myself up in a distraction-free environment surrounded by teammates and coaches, all in the name of gaining some solid fitness heading into Cabo.

  So...yeah.  That didn't work out too well.

  I got into camp late Wednesday night the first week of the camp.  I'd been up late the night before packing, and thus ended up starting the first day of training on two consecutive nights of five hours of sleep, a far cry from my toddler-like seven hour minimum.  That day ended up involving eight hours of training.  No fears, I could handle it, I'd catch up, right?  Wrong.  I made it two more days.  I spend our two person marathon relay night a couple of days later feeling totally flat and defeated, barely able to hold up my end of the deal, standing there between my miles sort of frustrated.  I eventually realized that I'd put in a 65mi week of running, which I hadn't done since college, and I chalked it up to that.  That was, until I woke up the next morning with a telltale sore throat coming on.  Despite full-blown sickness defensive mode, I ended up in bed feverish and miserable the next day.  The rest of the week was then a whole bunch of up and down-I'd feel a little better, try something, figure out that I was totally unable to get myself even into an aerobic zone, and then feel worse again.  I thought that I'd hit my low one of the final mornings in the pool, when Jesse pulled me out of the water as I clung to the lane line, hacking stuff up and crying into my goggles.  He talked me off the ledge in the lobby of the NTC later, and even though I knew that I still had time to get in the training before Cabo, I spent a good portion of that day alternately trying to pick up the condo and then laying down, trying not to cry, because I was just SO freaking exhausted that even being upright was an utter struggle.

   On the bright side, I can't say enough about a few positives during this time.  For one, my sister and her PA powers were an absolute godsend-although I didn't want to spend my trip getting chest x-rays and picking up prescriptions instead of training, I would not have made it through otherwise.  "Getting pulled from the pool crying" day turned into "starting the Z-pack" day, which turned into "Jennie starts to feel human again" the following day.  Also, my teammates and coaches kept me sane and actually laughing throughout that time.  I care about what I do-so of course I was disappointed that I couldn't get in the training, and I felt like a lazy piece of crap about it.  But, my housemates in particular really made it hard to stay down too long (so thanks guys-and Jessie-hug it out, hug it out).  Nothing raises the spirits more after hitting camp rock bottom like forming powerbars into turds and putting them onto chairs to try to get a reaction, after all (maturity of a 9 year old over here, I'll admit it).  Anyways, once the antibiotics kicked in, I came around quickly (on the last day of camp), and at least headed home feeling much better, ready to tackle the overload week that I had missed.

   So all was well again, or so I thought.  I made it through my overload week with acceptable numbers-nothing spectacular, but I had a couple more weeks to sharpen that up, and I was still coming off being sick.  After all, I started the week on antibiotics, and by the end of the week I was still periodically hacking stuff up while training.  No big deal though, although at a few points I was really pondering how it was possibly that my body was STILL producing mucus (mmm).  As it turned out, unfortunately, the body doesn't really like throwing down close to 26 hours of training in six days when it's trying to get over walking pneumonia or whatever bacteria infection was going down in there.  I started off my recovery week with the normal dose of totally shot for a couple of days, started to feel better again by Wednesday morning, and then started to feel worse again by Wednesday evening.  The signs were subtle at first-I was living my dream of the work snow day (what up, blizzard Vulcan.  The national and local news were both reporting from various points of my regular running routes, because I'm just that hard core) when I just kind of gave up while trying to take down winter decorations (there might still be an artificial Christmas tree up in our house) because I didn't feel like going up and down the basement steps carrying things.  This often happens, though (I never claimed to be highly motivated when it comes to cleaning), so I didn't think too much of it.  But, the fatigue then built over the next couple of days.  I had a key ride that Saturday that I really didn't want to miss, but come Saturday, I dragged myself through the routine of mixing bottles, and sat on my bike for all of six minutes before dragging myself upstairs and sending Jesse the first in what would become a long line of self-pitying, pathetic, likely overly dramatic emails about how I clearly was not going to make it through my bout of the flu, mono, a sinus infection, pneumonia, malaria, ebola, thyroid problems, lupus, SARS, the swine flu, typhoid fever, whooping cough, and the plague all rolled into one.  In reality, I had an absolutely pounding headache, and felt awful every time I tried to get up.  Once again, every movement became and effort.  We originally thought that I might be able to try the ride again the next day, so I tried to convince myself that I was normal by going to Target with Dave that evening.  I became less optimistic when I braced myself against the cart on the walk up to the checkout, and then left the line to go wait in the car, somewhat afraid of passing out.

   This continued for several days-I was riddled with unshakeable fatigue and a massive, pounding headache that rendered me barely able to get through my workdays, let alone get in workouts.  I love being exhausted from training one day, knowing that I'll recover and get up and do it again.  I hate it from anything else.  I did a few recovery swims and rides that felt way, way harder than they ever should have.  The couple of times that I tried to run, I was actually somewhat worried that I'd trip over my own feet.  In the meantime, I actually went to my doctor.  He sent me for a few tests, and my sister sent me for  bunch more.  As it turns out, my blood work is pretty-good iron, good TSH, good everything.  My lungs and sinuses were clear.  Unfortunately, my body just wasn't getting the memo that it was supposed to feel all good and stuff.  I spent last week getting just ever so slightly better each day, all while stressing over that upcoming Ironman thing I supposedly had coming up.   Jesse told me that we'd wait until the weekend to make the final decision, but I sort of knew deep down that even if I did start feeling better, I wasn't going to be Ironman ready.  Honestly, I haven't gone into a race 100% since Placid last year anyways, and I was just not really too keen on the idea of putting myself through that again.  Yesterday, I did start to perk up a bit and was able to actually make it through some stuff, but clearly some fitness has been lost, and it was just too little, too late.  I'd already gotten the "get off the bike after 20min, stand next to it, and just cry a whole bunch" out of my system on Wednesday, so when I talked to Jesse later, I was pretty accepting that I wouldn't be racing next weekend.  You just don't BS your way through an Ironman, and the fact of the matter is that my body just isn't ready, and that's ok.

   So, it is what it is.  I was warned one August evening, as I bullheadedly insisted that I wanted to race Mont Tremblant and go to Kona, that it might catch up to me-not that fall, but rather early the next year.  Was that what did it?  Who knows.  I put my body through the ringer last late summer/fall, so even though I started up training again feeling revitalized and great, it very well could have caught up to me anyways.  I've put a lot of energy into a lot of different things this winter, and probably should consider some of that, as well.  Plus, these kind of things have happened to me in the past-I remember basically missing one entire spring track season because I couldn't shake being sick.  I culminated that year with getting pity clapped as I finished dead last in a 5k, struggling across the line.  I've stayed sick for several weeks before while training far less than what I've tried to do lately.  Fatigue, one sickness, not enough sleep, too much training, travel, last fall-all of it just added up and got to me.  But really, it's ok.  I know that the fitness is in there-prior to all of this happening, I'd been hitting some biking numbers that I'd never seen before, and my running was starting to come around.  It's not like I've done absolutely nothing, so I know that it's still buried somewhere.  Plus, not to mention, if I were to make a list of the world's problems, it might go something like this:
1. Thirst, hunger, lack of shelter, poverty
2. Violence
3. Political and civil unrest in certain areas
4. Missing airliners
5. The eroding ozone layer
6. Incurable diseases
.....
3,294,641: Jennie's race schedule gets rearranged

   That's not to say it hasn't felt like a big deal in my life, because it has.  Let's face it, we do triathlon because we love it and because we care about it.  Training for and racing an Ironman takes tons of time, mental and physical energy, and money.  For better or worse, this is a huge part of my life right now, and I put a ton of passion and emotion into it.  I haven't spent five hours on a trainer in my basement because I don't have associated goals and dreams, so spending a month watching one of them slip away did suck, and it involved its fair share of anger, sadness, tears, and general glumness and irritability.  But really, I just want to feel good again, so that's my #1 priority right now.  I've been very, very lucky with triathlon to this point.  I mean, I've been 100% at getting to starting lines healthy and ready to go until now, so let's face it, I have nothing to complain about because I'm missing one race.  Not a bad track record.  I'm extremely grateful to know that nothing is seriously wrong-some bacterial and viral things here and there pale in comparison to real health problems, and I'm already starting to pop through to the other side.  At the end of the day, I'm exchanging one race-cation for another.  I can do this stuff and still afford to put food on the table.  Heck, I soothed myself one of the days I spent on the couch by online shopping for a new Easter table centerpiece and door hangings.  Life is good.

   As I previously mentioned, my new race schedule plan has me shaking off the cobwebs at the New Orleans 70.3 in a few weeks (I really enjoyed that race a couple of years ago and I'm glad to get to return), continuing on to IM Texas as originally planned (hey, I've already started the heat acclimation training, so ahead of the game there), and then I'll be joining Dave out in Coeur d'Alene.  CdA is near where he grew up, so we'll get to visit with family and friends, and, well, fresh mountain air is more my thing than humid beaches anyways, right?  So until then, thanks for all of the support and concern throughout all this time, especially to my family (and to my sister for the medical expertise), to my teammates, and to Jesse for dealing with my whiny crap and continually readjusting my crap :).

Oh, and by the way, shout out to my marathon relay buddy Kim Schwabenbauer for a ridiculously awesome race in Melbourne yesterday, 3rd place with the fastest marathon narrowly behind two of the biggest names in the sport!  Kim rocks.  I'm now inspired to go get off my now expanding butt and try to learn how to run again :)