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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Full circles around the sun-on this year's love


  Well, I guess I haven't updated this old blog in a while.  It hasn't been because I haven't had anything to say-I've had plenty on my mind, but life has been morphing into something resembling what I once remembered.  So there's what feels like real training.  And with that comes a need for early mornings, which leads to non-productive and early nights.  But, I digress.

  In reality, putting my emotions into words over the past couple of months is difficult.  On my back left flank sits a slight discoloration, a small reminder, should I chose to twist myself to see it, of it all.  It's not bad, though.  It's healed, just a little different than it was before-the perfect metaphor for the rest of me.  The time leading up to the whole "one year crashiversary" thing felt a little bit like picking the edge of a scab off of a wound.  That whole time period, from the trip to the diagnosis, remains crystal clear in my memory.  I'd say this is annoying, but it beats the alternative, which would be to have had ended up with the type of injuries where memory becomes clouded.  I'm not sure what else I can say that I haven't psychoanalyzed here about being injured, coming back, going down again, and coming back again that I haven't already written about over the course of the past 12 months.  I've gone through several very distinct phases.  Winter was the fracture phase; I had to resign my 2015 winter and spring goals, but I held onto hopes for the summer and beyond.  Spring was marked by a brief return to running, and also by facing my fears of getting back onto my bike outdoors.  I longed to feel like an athlete again.  I started to feel like an athlete again.  I had a tentative race schedule.  Then my hip disagreed.  Summer was, in a word, muddy.  I stumbled along through doctor's visits and waiting and tests and again letting go of goals.  I went through the motions in the pool and on my bike with no heart or passion behind them, because indifference was easier.

   I had my surgery.  As my body began to heal, I nonetheless found myself starting to have greater difficulty dealing emotionally, because although my healing was ahead of schedule, I was just so over it all.  September was hard-my chosen word for that month has to just be, gray.  I honestly just didn't feel like trying to be positive about it all anymore.  But, with some help, even the most stubborn clouds clear sometimes, albeit slowly and cautiously.  The darkest hour is just before dawn.  I began to run again in mid-October, with all of the confidence of a newborn deer taking its first steps.  First walk/running (the answer was always yes, I did have to wear the garmin and take run splits), then actual running.  Trusting the pelvis and hip and any progress was a tall order, and it's still a work in progress.  While I have the utmost confidence in the skill of my surgeon and the training from my coach, I have a harder time trusting myself and my own judgement.  Then there's that pesky feeling I have that I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I've always preferred to focus on the process, as I feel that what we learn along the way takes precedence over the outcome, but eventually, I'm human, and all process with more setbacks than outcomes gets old.  So, as much as I want to believe now is going to end up being for real, I'm going to be skeptical and superstitious and nervous to some degree until I actually find myself an IM finish line.

"So, as I sit here within three weeks of what (assuming all goes according to plan) will be my final IM of the season, I know that my prep for this race has been a microcosm of the entire year-some bumps along the way, some triumphs, some good days, some bad days.  More than anything, I've gained a greater appreciation for the sport and my place within it, I've figured out how to push and shove without forcing, and I've come to realize that sometimes, I just need to keep on keeping on.  Whatever happens in Mexico, well, it won't stay in Mexico, but I'm determined to enjoy it this time around.  Because hey...I won't be in my thirties forever, right?"
(Prophetic excerpt from my final blog post before Cozumel last year)


Because the old road rash picture seemed appropriate here

About a week later.  Winning at swelling.  Not winning at wound care.

Aaand, a year later.  Good as new!  Yes, I was definitely dehydrated post-run and flexing a little.
   Anyways-enough about that past stuff and that little dark corner of my mind!  I guess I should continue to make this post even more disjointed and actually update on what's new with me that's good, because I guess I do have some stuff to report on finally.  Training is coming along.  I'm probably up to ~75-80% of normal volumes.  I haven't done a whole ton of intensity yet, but I'm not necessarily at a point in my training where I would be putting in a whole ton of intensity regardless, and my fitness (much to my secret delight, because I can't say I enjoy high-end speed work and prefer to have the "I'm doing well enough without it" card to play) has progressed fairly well on a whole bunch of aerobic base training.  After plateauing and then declining in the water since my winter swim focus, I finally took the plunge (pun intended) with swimming and joined the Rochester Area Masters swim team a few weeks ago.  Although I'm convinced that other strokes exist solely to make me feel better about my freestyle, I'm so far glad that I put my fears about swimming with others aside and started with the team, as I know that consistent feedback, variety, and a "shut up and don't be an asshole" mentality are keys to my swimming.  My lanemates are great, and are patient with the spaz trying to figure out what she's doing in there.  I got to make a Zoolander reference today in regard to my completely lack of body rotation to one side (I can only turn one way!).  Biking is, well, biking.  Around three months or so after surgery, I was able to finally start riding clipped in all of the time.  My fitness has come along, although I can tell that my overall bike endurance and durability, especially with run training mixed in, still needs work.  I often find myself thinking, "I can't believe that I used to be able to ride x much longer than this after doing y and z in the preceding days" while parked in my saddle.  But, all in due time.

   So that's the quick and dirty on swimming and biking, which, eh, I've been doing those all year (minus the ~2 glorious weeks away from the pool to heal my incision...I sometimes miss my incision).  Which leaves running.  Running!  Actual running!  So, as I previously mentioned, I began the walk/jog process a couple of months ago.  After two weeks of that, I got to run continuously for the first time-20 big minutes.  From there, we slowly and gradually added bit by bit, five minutes at a time, a few times a week.  I've now peaked at a long run of 90 minutes, and I've had a few weeks of about 35mi/week.  Other than races (more on that in a moment), all of the training has just been aerobic, non-crazy stuff.  Even that, though, has been somewhat of a challenge.  Thanks to all of the swimming and biking, my aerobic systems have somewhat outpaced my muscular endurance and run speed.   This isn't a bad thing, though, as it has allowed me to be able to resume running at paces that I'd actually be happy with during times where I'd consider myself to be fit.  This isn't to say that I don't still have a long way to go, though-the difference is that these paces certainly feel more challenging, I'm not doing them off of the bike, and my long efforts and total mileage are still reduced.  Just like with biking, I finished that 90min run having difficulty fathoming running twice as long at nearly the same speed after riding a bike for five hours.  But, after the better part of a year away from running, re-learning how difficult it truly is to develop deep run fitness should come as no surprise.

   And did I say race?  Well, I did.  I managed to talk Jesse into letting me run a 10k on Thanksgiving, the Race with Grace.  I'd missed the previous Thanksgiving travelling to Mexico, so it seemed fitting to return to a race I'd run many, many times in the past.  The race itself was rough.  My instructions were basically, "screw up your hip and I'll kill you", and I'd had a couple of fatiguing days (which I assumed were by design, in order to ensure that I wouldn't be able to push hard enough to not follow those instructions) heading in.  It was windy.  I backed down the final half mile or so, and finished in 38:44.  Nothing earth shattering, supposedly respectable enough, but not enough to satisfy me.  The next day, as my food hangover and I were actively bombing out of a bike workout, I began an angst-y campaign to give another race a (somewhat fresher) shot.  By that point, giving into the demands of the nuts person (ha) must have just seemed easier than arguing, because by the end of what turned into a recovery ride, I had been granted permission for the Jingle Bell half marathon, a race up in New Hampshire that Dave and Becky were running the weekend of the QT2 holiday party.

Post Race with Grace-I made Dave tempo it so we could win the husband/wife title by default, because the Bylers are both really fast and won individual awards.  We still need to use the dinner gift certificate!
   So, just over two weeks later, I found myself on another starting line.  This time, well, I actually cared more, and as evidenced by the itemized list I'd texted Jesse about why my goal pace was entirely unrealistic (even though it, of course, proved not to be so) that morning, my normal race mental state had kicked in (insert winky emoticon).  Before I go any further, I will say that the race organizers did an awesome job.  The race itself was actually fairly large-about 800 participants-but there still was a small race friendliness and feel to it.  All of the volunteers-from the man who checked us in, to the local high school teams manning the aide stations, to the announcer who made the connection between Dave and I when he finished, to the sweet lady at the awards table-were SO welcoming and on top of their games.  As for the run?  The course was pretty much all fairly hilly and curvy-there weren't any majorly steep or long climbs, but there also weren't any long flat stretches.  Additionally, the final 2.5 miles were one long uphill, so that was in the back of my mind.

Race morning bathroom selfie in some of the most obnoxious race attire I've ever donned.  Might as go with a rainbow unicorn, pink zebra theme.  Makes perfect sense.

   I started out actually slightly under that goal pace (6:15) that I had deemed unrealistic, but throughout the first couple of miles I was actually considering it even more unrealistic, given that we were running slightly downhill and I was only slightly faster than it (6:10ish).  After that, the course started rolling more and mile splits got totally thrown out the window anyways, and I just focused on keeping my HR in a certain range that sounded about right to me.  I had miles in the 6:30's and miles around 6:05 with that, but the effort felt relatively steady so I just kind of went with it.  I passed Becky for the female lead somewhere around mile 4 or so, and maybe one or two more men after that.  Honestly, the race itself was fairly uneventful.  I never felt great, but I also never felt completely awful.  Every mile (thinking positive, as usual), I played, "what will my time be if I just run 7:00 pace for the rest of this?"  I figured that this was slightly slower than my normal training pace these days, so theoretically I'd come in below whatever time I was figuring, and be happy about it.  The last couple of miles hurt-but like they're supposed to hurt, I quite sincerely just hadn't been to that place in so very, very long.  My right leg, as a whole, was just struggling along at that point, not because of injury, but because of durability.  I wondered if I was having an allergic reaction to something, because I could barely breathe.  I was counting down tenths, then hundreds of miles.  I debated if I was going to finish, or collapse before the line.  In reality, I was fine for that stage of the race, but I'd just forgotten what things are supposed to feel like at that point.  Finally, after what felt like hours of struggling up a mountain (but was really more like 15min of running gradually uphill), I had made it onto the finishing straightaway.

   I let up a bit the last hundred meters or so, and just took it all in.  I was finishing.  I had run a strong half marathon, one that I would consider a "normal" good (not spectacular, but good) race (especially on a course with ~500ft of elevation gain) at any time period in my life, let alone where I am right now and where I've been in the recent past.  A year ago, I had been unable to sleep for nights on end after merely walking a couple of miles in Boston.  2.5 months ago, I wasn't running.  4 months ago, I was on crutches.  I crossed in 1:22:03 officially, but according to our garmins the course measured ~.15mi short, so probably more like 1:22 high if we're being honest.  Either way, I was happy with it-I'd remembered how to race and hurt, and I'd gotten to that point where I was willing to push myself through it because I really, really just didn't want to accept anything less than what my body was going to give me on the day.  And that was what I'd wanted.  I guess I broke the course record, too, not that that's saying a whole ton for a three year old race, but it sounds impressive, I suppose.  Becky finished just over 1.5 minutes later; we hugged and cried a bit, and then waited a few more minutes for Dave, who was brought in as "probably race winner Jennie Hansen's husband".  I guess this is what being mostly kinda "back" is like, I told Becky at one point before we began our cooldown slog.   

Finishing shots.  Somehow not awful, but the standards for Jennie finishing shots are low.  Like, a piece of tape on the ground low.

Becky and I post-race!  

I won beer.  This is good, because I don't really like beer, but I do owe a lot of people beers for the past year.  Come get some.  I have a case.  I also won chocolate.  It's almost gone.  This should surprise no one.

In New Hampshire, the port a potties are all named Dave, apparently.  I'm drawn to them.  Note: I'm a completely germophobe, but I somehow find the outside of a port a potty 9000x less disgusting than a cart handle or doorknob. 

I recruited company for my post-race recovery spin.  We watched Zoolander, though, so it was worth it.

   So that's training and racing and all of that stuff.  As for the hip?  Well, it's not 100% pain-free yet, but it's where it should be.  I still have some hip flexor and adductor tendon stuff going on, but (knock on every piece of wood in the immediate vicinity), it's been work through-able to this point, with a combination of smart progressions, strength and core work, and twice weekly ART treatments from Kenny Tsang at Active Care Chiropractic (I'll plug anything in here that I believe strongly in!!).  I saw Dr. Giordano a couple of weeks ago.  When I told him my running and training volumes, he told me that surgery had most certainly done its job in fixing the underlying problems, as I wouldn't be able to run as much as I was four months post-op if it hadn't done the trick.  The remaining soft tissue stuff is normal due to the motion restrictions I'd had.  Then he said the magic words-no restrictions.  I'd smiled and thanked him, but looking back, that doesn't seem like enough for someone whose knowledge and skill had quickly and accurately allowed me to resume life as I know it.

   Life as I know it.  That's a strange statement, because life as I know it hasn't been as I'd known it in quite some time.  Life as I know it is simple.  Swim, bike, run, work some days, recover, repeat.  Exist a little bit tired, sore, but satisfied.  Think about my next meal a lot.  Have goals in the near(ish) future to look towards.  This is where I'm happy.  Maybe I didn't know what I'd had until it was gone, but I don't think I fully comprehended how much I missed it until I started to get it back again.  Or maybe I did.  I don't know.  I do know that I was sad a bunch of the time.  I wanted to run so, SO badly.  Running was cast in some golden glow in my brain.  I wanted to be able to do normal volumes and such on the bike, too.  I wanted it to be hard.  And it is hard now.  There's no getting around that.  It's hardly like every ride or run has been like sliding down a rainbow onto my unicorn while singing songs about how grateful I am to be out there again.  Nope, I've used plenty of four letter words to describe them, I've had plenty of days where I'd questioned my own sanity, and I've gone through a whole bunch of growing pains while remembering what really, truly pursuing a goal is like, instead of just sitting behind a keyboard with a bunch of broken shit typing about how much I missed all of it.  I'm living what I've written now, and as f*cking hard as it is sometimes, I wouldn't have it any other way.  It's a different hard, and one that I can't elaborate.  It's a hard that has filled my heart again, and has woken me up from so much of the fog I felt.  It's the hard that's awesome in its hard-ness, because it's backed by love.

One of the little motivational things that's on the side of our fridge, the side that I see before I head downstairs to the trainer every time.
    So, even on those days where the runs have felt less than peppy (and today was one of them), I think back to the days where I felt a little bit lost, with a little empty area in my heart.  I often think of the girl who I was for most of the past year, and all of the promises that I made to her about how she'd use it all for mental strength down the line.  It might not make the immediate training moment any easier or more pleasant, but it gives me a little something extra to get me through it.  The thing about setbacks are that we can do the cliched thing and heal stronger, but it's not a given-it still requires a whole shit ton of work and dedication and focus, and then some.  My injuries and such in the past year don't guarantee jack shit.  They don't guarantee that I won't get injured or have setbacks again (and I more than likely will, nothing is linear-heck, I feel like this entire blog post is setting me up here), and they sure as heck don't guarantee that I'm going to have any degree of success down the line just because I've paid my dues.  Nope, I have to be willing to freaking work harder than I've ever worked before to get to where I would like to be.  Sure, my focus on what I want, and why I want it has been sharpened to a pointier point than ever before, but all of my typing and prose here means absolutely nothing if I'm not willing to put it into action, period.  I'll be the first to admit that I've had some major learning experiences regarding this as I've been moving through the past couple of months.  I have had a few workouts that just weren't working out, and I did have to pull the plug.  I took those hard-not that I've ever been happy about workout failure, but even I was surprised at how upset these made me.  Then it dawned on me-I wasn't just letting down my present self, but my past self.  This is something that I'm going to have to deal with for some time, I think, but at least I can recognize it moving forward.

My new 2016 bike bling.  A picture's worth a thousand words.
   Well...I think that's plenty for now.  Today's a weird day for me.  I started this blog post several days ago, but decided that I'd finish it today for a reason.  On 12/16/14, I got up, went and had an MRI, did some Christmas shopping, stopped at the Brighton Panera for some lunch, and ended up leaving in a daze, lunch half eaten, Christmas shopping halted, after my sister had called me to describe the fractures in my pelvis.  So, today, 12/16/15, I got up, went to masters practice, ran 11 miles, did some Christmas shopping, and have now stopped at the Brighton Panera for that lunch.  And instead of leaving in tears, I finished my food (mmm...training).  And I also did something else.  All year long, I didn't have a real solid race schedule or plans or anything along those lines.  All fall, I wanted a race schedule, but I also completely feared jinxing myself with one.  I still entirely, 100% have that fear, but my desire for a plan has won out.  It took a while to come up with one, and we were tentative to do so (I still am, especially with laying it out here).  But there is a plan.  After all, having a race schedule mapped out is part of being a competitive triathlete; maybe life won't go according to plan, but I can still share what I'm hoping for at this point.  The HITS Naples Olympic in a few weeks as a rust-buster, Panama 70.3, and then IM New Zealand.  After that, hopefully the Texas 70.3/IM Texas double.  So today, here, in this Panera, it seemed like the right place to finish up that IM New Zealand registration.  And now I'm actually going to go continue Christmas shopping, like I'd planned.  So here we go.  Full circle, fingers crossed.

Dave and I at the QT2 party post-half marathon.  I figured I'd throw in a picture to prove that we clean up every now and then.

Not that this is even really readable, but it's an MRI report that talks about a lot of screwed up crap.

How I feel about much of what I just wrote.

Because this blog always needs the Moose smiling

This blog also needs dogs frolicking out of a stream to finish it up, just because.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning

  As a girl in her middle school years when the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books started coming out, naturally I was drawn to the teenage versions.  For whatever reason lately, I've started to think about a poem in one of them, "After A While (You Learn)".  As the time has progressed and this year has gone on, I've started to become more and more aware that, well, crap, if nothing else, I've learned a heck of a lot this year.  About injuries and coping, but also about myself, my sport, perseverance, and love.  While I believe that I've learned plenty from my successes in life, this year has been one giant failure to meet my goals.  But then again, I'm starting to, well, realize that the lessons I've learned have made it anything other than a failure.  So, after a while (on the sidelines) you learn...

   That the people in this sport are good.  They will support you through your disappointments, and cheer you through your successes.  Notably, I've had multiple fellow pro women reach out to me, and it really, really speaks volumes to me and makes me feel incredibly grateful to be involved in something with so much respect and support between competitors.

   There's a difference between clarity and muddiness, or going through the motions.  I had a lot of periods last year of slogging.  I had plenty of times this year when my motivation waned, and training was nothing more than mindlessly exercising while counting down the minutes to nothing.  Conversely, I've had periods when the fog has cleared, and I've been able to just feel the difference.  When my head's in the right place after a long time of it not quite being there, I know it.  And it's more refreshing than I could have imagined.

   When you go long enough without something, you either discover that you can find more happiness with other stuff, or that thing, whatever it is, has become such an ingrained part of your being that something is missing when it's gone, and nothing will quite take its place.  I'm the latter.  Neither is right or wrong.  I guess this goes with the whole old, "if you love something, set it free" adage.

   Triathlon, and in particular Ironman, seems like a totally selfish endeavor at times.  But, on the other hand, training and competing makes me a better person.  When all is working on that part of my life, I'm far more likely to smile at a stranger, hold a door a little bit longer, and spread more happiness (and less bitterness) around me.  So maybe it's not as selfish as it all seems.

  Perspective is necessary.  Realize when things are temporary; I'm fortunate enough to be able to have the ability to return to being my full self again with everyone I care about with me; I'm clothed and in a house and comfortable and fed.  I need to continue to remember that, even if that day where I'm 100% isn't today or tomorrow or anytime in the next few months.  Sometimes yelling and screaming and throwing things inside is necessary, but once that's past, focus on what can be done, and do it.

  At the same time, it's ok to be not ok.  Sometimes, no amount of perspective could change my feelings.  Sometimes, I just wanted to tell perspective to go eff itself, because I was sad and thinking about how I shouldn't be sad because I had so much to be grateful for just made me sad AND guilty.  One debbie downer day in aquatic therapy, my PT told me what her mom had once told her as a child-"go to your room, and for 20 minutes, cry, throw pity parties, do whatever you want.  But get it out in those 20 minutes, and then come out better."  I took this advice to heart on more than one occasion.  I tried to stop guilt tripping myself for the down times, because, well, I couldn't do something that I loved, so not being thrilled about it here and there was ok.

   It's ok to let others help you when you're not ok.  Don't be afraid to reach out.  People who care truly do want to help, and are more than capable to do so in their own ways.  I've had so many relationships that have been made and deepened throughout this whole time, and that has been fulfilling in and of itself.

   Laugh at the ridiculous.  Sometimes, a dog in a peacock costume (one example here) is all that we've got.  At one point, I unabashedly binge watched whine about it episodes.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.

   Take it all in stride.  I've had ups, I've had downs, even on a day to day basis.  I'm learning to temper my excitement about the ups, and to keep my chin up during the downs.  Everything is a step towards something larger.

   Running is the best.  Especially in the fall.  I don't need to elaborate this one any more.

   Maybe, just maybe, those demons might just be the best thing to ever happen.  Triathlon is hard.  Maximizing potential involves a lot of pain.  More days than not (recovery days are necessary, after all), some sort of physical discomfort will be experienced.  When the pain comes in training and racing, I find that I do better when there's something to overcome, some darkness, some edge inside of me taking away the fear of taking it on.  Triathlon sure as heck isn't rainbows and butterflies.  Having some part of my mind hardened and angry only serves to sharpen the focus at times.  Life had gotten too cushy.  I might have just gotten what I needed all along, which was to (for lack of a better term) to find myself a little bit more effed up in the head, in the best possible way.

  As for my training status right now?  I'm starting to run again.  My hip isn't perfect-the joint feels good, but some of the tendons are trying to figure it out still.  But running is as wonderful as I'd imagined, and I'm doing everything within my power to try to make it work this time around.  I'm biking decently without putting in tons of volume or intensity yet, which is encouraging.  My hip is starting to let me clip in and work, which is hard and wonderful all at once.  Swimming is rough, but I'm finally addressing an issue I've been having with it for ages now (ulnar nerve compression symptoms), and I'll have some more answers on that in a few weeks.  I'm watching the leaves burst into color and the fall world come to life.  I feel cautious still.  Very, very cautious.  But better.

  And for the actual poem?  I found the original, and I might just like that too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ten years ago

  10 years ago, I thought I had the running world in my hands.  I was coming off of a year in which I'd been able to put in consistent work, and I'd pr'ed sizably in every distance from the 1500 up to the 10k.  I certainly wasn't a stud, but I'd been happy to be a scoring member of our college cross country team, which had finished in the top 10 at regionals that year.  In track, I'd met my goal of being included in the travel squad to our conference championships.  Sure, I probably got lapped by every scoring runner, but I'd been happy to be included.  That had been my junior year.  My only blemish was my final race of the season, the conference meet 10k.  I'd felt flat and struggled, finishing several seconds off of my pr, which I had thought I should be able to beat.
Junior year XC team.  We won a meet.  I was probably solely responsible for half of our teams points (in cross country, that's a bad thing), but we still won.  UBXC!
Goofing around at an indoor meet that season.  Note the old school early 2000's original digital camera.


Teammates Jenny, Carolynne, and me after the conference meet 10k that year.  I think Jenny double lapped me.  Carolynne and I (with Megan) put together a 500 piece puzzle that weekend, though, so that's almost as big of an accomplishment.  Not really.
   So what should I have done next?  I should have rested, taken a couple of weeks off to rejuvenate after a hard-fought year, and slowly built up my training according to the training plan that my coach provided.  What did I do instead?  I maybe took a couple of days off, and then randomly raced (and won) the Buffalo half marathon on a whim.  I then decided that I wanted to make the next year, my senior year, bigger and better than ever.  I had big aspirations-maybe I could turn that top-50 at the cross country conference meet into a top-20; maybe I could squeak into the top-8 scorers in the 10k outdoors.  Who knew what would happen if I ran more than ever?  So I ran more than ever.  If 50-60mi/week had worked out well during the season, then 70-80 over the summer could be even better.  I ran doubles nearly every day.  After a month or so, I started to hit the track.  Then there was my diet.  As someone who had always felt too "big" for a runner, I thought that all of the problems in the world would be solved if I was smaller.  At 5'4" and 116-117lbs, I was as light as I'd ever been that summer.  On paper, this is well within a healthy range and I certainly looked absolutely fine.  I was still heavier than many runners my height, though, and I continued to restrict food intake to a less than healthy degree to try to get the body type that I thought I would need.
Crossing the line of the Buffalo half marathon.  I had to turn down $500 to maintain my collegiate eligibility, too.  That stung.  Also, yes, I am definitely wearing a wife beater.
   Where did this leave me come September?  If you guessed, "killing it during cross country season", you'd be wrong.  If you guessed, "in an air cast up to my knee and on crutches, borderline female athlete triad", you'd be correct.  I made it as far as our team's 3k time trial in the early season before stepping off the track and realizing that I was done.  My day-glo bone scan shortly thereafter came as no great surprise.  I watched the conference and regional meets from the sideline.  In that time, I water ran, biked, and ellipticaled as much as I could, when I could, plotting my comeback.  My leg took a little longer to heal than I thought that it would, but eventually I was running again in November.  Because I was already planning on going to grad school at UB and thus would be running cross country during my fifth year already, we also opted to redshirt my indoor track season in order to have a better shot when I was in better shape.  I'd start competing again in spring track, when I was good and in shape and ready to have a great season.
With my teammates after I had road tripped out to watch our conference meet.  My aircast was here, but not seen.  Also memorable from this trip was the killer driving move I made in Indiana where I made a narrow pass of a tractor trailer in order to not have to turn off my cruise control.  Apparently it was more epic from the back seat than it seemed from the driver's seat.
   So what happened in spring track?  I was out for a run one cold, rainy, miserable March day when my IT band started stabbing me.  It didn't stop stabbing me in any sort of timely manner.  I couldn't run.  Cross training was iffy.  I had just started dating Dave in that time frame, though, so not all was bad.  I spent more time with friends and my new boyfriend.  I gained a bunch of weight.  I did what I could for that knee, including driving to the training room during my breaks at work over the summer, but that IT band syndrome was as stubborn as all get out.  I had MRIs; I tried to cross train; I tried not cross training and just letting it rest.  Finally, in mid-August, I had the darn thing shot up with cortisone, and showed up at the start of cross country practice completely out of shape, not totally healthy, heavy, but ready to go.  I had nothing to lose, really, as this was my last shot at collegiate cross country.  My season was lackluster at best, but I did manage to eek my way onto the travel squad by the end, and I was happy, after all of that time, just to be able to compete.  I continued to struggle with the knee pain throughout the season, only really solving it by the end.
I basically tried everything known to mankind to get that knee to behave, including awkward straps.

My roommate, fellow fifth year senior, and friend Kate after our final XC conference meet.  It was an absolute mud pit, and the pilot light on the hot water heater at our apartment was out, meaning lukewarm showers.  Our bathroom basically looked like a cow field exploded after that one.  Oh, and I think I ran a 23min 5k or something.
   Indoor track started.  By that point, my knee was feeling better, I had begun to drop some of the injury weight, and I finally made it to a meet and ran a halfway decent 3000.  Life was good again; the real part of my comeback was happening.  Then my left shin started to hurt.  I tried to ignore it for as long as I could, but that turned out to be the wrong approach.  Midway through the indoor track season, there was another day-glo bone scan, and another boot.  At this point, I was out of second chances.  I'd used up my redshirts the previous year, only to not have a indoor track season because I'd opted to wait to be in shape for one.  As for outdoor track?  I'd be able to start running at the start of the season, in early March.  I had no idea if I'd be able to salvage anything, after missing over a year of real consistent training.  I was never a star anyways; I wouldn't be scoring points or doing anything fantastic.  I was in grad school, and the workload there was beginning to pick up.

   So I had two choices.  I could throw in the towel, feel ok enough that I'd had three years of improvement in collegiate running, and be happy that, as a walk on, I'd been able to travel and contribute here and there.   Or, I could absolutely cross train to the fullest of my abilities and put forth effort every single day, which the hope that I could end my college running career on a high note.  In my mind, this wasn't even a choice.  I water ran until I could bike, and then I biked until I could use the elliptical.  I hammered away at it, constantly challenging myself to beat the stupid numbers on those stationary machines.  My teammates started to fear the prospect of my sweat-soaked sneaky post-workout hugs.  I remember showing up to the training room once with blood streaming down my leg, because I'd smashed it on the stationary bike console, but hadn't wanted to stop with 5min left in my workout.  Finally, finally I was able to start running.  At my first meet, I ran a controlled 5k on a miserable April day, finishing in 19:15ish (I think).  At the next meet, our home meet, I was given a bar to reach-sub-19:00 would mean that I got to travel to the Hillsdale Gina Relays the following weekend, one of my favorite meets.  I clawed my way to an 18:5x.  Then came Hillsdale.  Free of expectations, happy, relaxed, and more ready to go than I'd been in ages, I floated through the race.  To this day, it remains in my mind the best that I've ever felt in a 5k.  The laps ticked away, and I still remember running 18:17.  Again, nothing spectacular for a D1 runner, but this was within 10sec of my PR that I'd run two years ago at the same meet, a towards the end of that nearly perfect junior year when everything had gone as planned and I'd been nearly perfect in workout execution and training.  Finally, finally, I had a sign that I still had it in me after two years of struggle, ups and downs, and false starts.  I cried as my coach hugged me, enthusiastically telling me that I'd been like the "energizer bunny" out there that evening.  I went on that season to run a lackluster 10k at the conference meet, but rebound to carve a couple more seconds off of that Hillsdale time in the 5k on a scorching day a couple of days later.  I didn't have the huge 5k or 10k prs that I had planned on capping my college running days off with two years before that, before my dreams went haywire, but after everything, those performances were all the more satisfying.
Hillsdale focus.  I'm not sure why I opted against braids here, but the flying ponytail is kind of fun.

Post-MACs with some teammates.  Yes, Kate does have a beer, but we were done with college running and of age, so I decided that this wasn't too scandalous for the blog.
   So what does that have to do with now?  Well, if nothing else, I have knowledge that I've had stretches of bad luck and setbacks in the past that seemed to drag on longer than what seemed "fair".  And I got through it.  My unicorns and rainbows athletic plans didn't come to fruition, and I put forth a lot of work with no results.  If I really think about it, I can make that time stretch analogous to now.  My junior year of college was like my 2013 season (through Placid)-I worked hard, I had no major setbacks, and the pr's and good races and satisfaction came easily.  Then I got greedy, and went for more than my body could handle and more than my coaches recommended (the summer of overtraining then; racing Tremblant and Kona in 2013).  I paid (the stress fracture then; my struggles with health and energy throughout 2014).  I got my health and fitness back, opting to be smart and aim for the following year rather than going for the immediate rewards (redshirting that indoor season then; giving up on 2014 August qualifying in order to have a good build to 2015).  That all went off track with stuff that lasted longer than it seemed it should on paper (the ITB syndrome then; my Coz crash and fractures last winter).  During both of those times, I probably let go of the reins more than I should have in certain areas before re-focusing and finding joy in simply being able to train and race again.  I finally started to have some results more reminiscent of me, only to be completely struck down again (the second stress fracture then; the surgery now).

   I've been thinking about that stress fracture and the ensuing spring track season quite a bit lately.  To be blunt, I've been very, very frustrated.  I've struggled with dark feelings and more bitterness than I'm used to over the past few weeks.  My hip doesn't feel as good as I'd like it to, and I'm more than a little leery about what's going to happen when I try to start running again.  The timing right now is a little rough, too-squarely between the last race that I finished last year (Chattanooga) and the race that I had such high hopes to qualify for this year (Kona).  But I'm not the first person to ever have an athletic career derailed for a bit, and I'm not even the first version of myself to experience this.  I put my best foot forward (great figure of speech there..) and just plugged away then, making the most of what I could do when I could do it.  Sure, I spent a lot of time on the outside looking in, but I made it through.

   So that's what I can do now.  Almost in spite of myself, even with limited training, I'm not exactly in shape right now, but I'm not that out of it, either.  If I could salvage a season after a couple of years of ups and downs and a lack of consistency then, well, maybe I can eventually now, too.  Back then, I had teammates and friends and even other competitors to surround me, distract me, and pick me up with kind words, and I still have that now.  I'm still so grateful for each and every one of you!  From my cake-sharing roommate who got out of the boot a few weeks before me back in grad school to the fellow-injured friend who I shared some trainer frustration-vetting and a virtual drink (to comebacks) with during Chattanooga a couple of weeks ago, I'm supported.  Back then, I might have fired off an AIM message to someone; now, therapy and understanding is just a text message away.  I have my family, then and now.  Same with coaches who have let me vent my frustrations, who have done their best to keep me from making the physical matters worse (not an enviable task...), and who have continually pulled me up when all I really need to hear is that I can still do this, that I'm not completely foolish for still believing that it'll work out someday.  I guess I still have Dave (ha!), too.  He and I actually met between stress fracture #1 and the IT band syndrome days, and somehow that one has lasted (kidding!).  Which brings me to my next point-outside of all of this injury and competition mess, everything else is just pretty damn good.  I can't complain about any of that.  I guess I have been sort of complaining about things lately, but being an athlete is a huge part of my identity.  At the same time, though...life is still good.  I can't forget that, or forget to be grateful for that.
College friends way back when-this was our core group of classmates/teammates.  We knew how to be goofballs.
Friends!  And Dave.  He's still around.
So many profanities have been added to my phone's dictionary as a result of text conversations with this one.  We get each other.
   And going back to that belief, I guess that in spite of my numerous doubts and worst-case scenarios and consistent worries, some small part of me, deep down inside, still has dreams and faith that they can maybe someday come true.  They might not be the dreams of plan A, B, C, D, or even any letter left in the first alphabet, but maybe they're better.  I don't know.  But I can continue to delude myself.  With that, I'll sum this one up with a couple of my mantras and sappy anthems (my Pandora tastes are totally judgement-worthy right now, I completely recognize that) that I've been using as my reminders to take a deep breath and keep trucking on-"The only way out is through" and "Believe in yourself and all that you are.  Know that there is something inside of you that is stronger than any obstacle" are the mantras; Christina Perri's "I Believe" (loser alert) and Jack's Mannequin's "Swim" (ugh...swimming) are the anthems.  And maybe next time I decide to write, the rainbows will be out!
New appropriate bike sticker, courtesy of Becky!

I still have dogs and woods, too.  And leaves.  Luckily, Bailey is only seen and not smelled in this one, because she had found something awful to roll in by this point in the walk.


And seriously, if all else fails, Kohls sells this wonderful garments known as hooded fleece one piece pajamas for adults.  At the time, they actually made me even more sad about not being able to run because I really want to go for a run when it's chilly out and then live in them for the rest of the day, but I could probably just live in them all day and be happy anyways.
  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sing for the year-Dave's Muskoka race, as spectated by me

  Well, one of the Hansens had himself an IM a few weeks ago.  Given only one Hansen is fully functional at the moment, we can thus narrow it down to Dave.  Because he isn't one to write verbose stories about how he swam, rode his bike, and ran (actually ran) his way to a Kona slot, and because I'm starved to write about something that isn't 100% a psychoanalytical dear diary entry about my battles through injury and demons (not that I won't get into that at some point, thus the 100% disclaimer), I'm going to take the opportunity to tell a little bit about his journey to this race, from my wife standpoint.

  So, some background on Dave and Ironman.  This was his seventh one.  His highest AG finish ever was 4th in the 25-29 AG in Lake Placid 2012 before aging up.  Since then, he'd done a lot of finishing in the 6-10 range, and missing out on Kona spots by a few slots here and there, with his nearest miss being about a minute in Coeur d'Alene last year (prompting the beginning of his leg shaving).  Roll downs don't happen very often in the 30-34 age group, as I've learned by sweltering uncomfortably through many ceremonies.  Dave's general IM MO has been to swim not at the very front of the pack, but close enough to it (recently, at least-I think he started as a high 60's swimmer and has worked down to a consistent 57-59 swimmer-yes, given we almost always go to the pool together, I am a little jealous here), bike his way into contention, and then try not to get passed too much on the run.  His long course run has always been his Achilles heel.  Dave has run ~1:30 in 70.3s plenty of times; he's usually good for an 18:40ish 5k and ran a 3:08 open marathon three years back.  His best IM marathon heading into Muskoka was 3:35ish, but I'd always felt that he really could be good for about 10min faster than that.  Anyways.  Because he's my husband, I can say that his head has always held him back a bit when it comes to IM marathon running, as he always would say things to me like, "I can't run", "I'm a horrible runner", "how do all of those other guys run so fast?", and "I might as well just bike hard, because everyone is going to run past me anyways".  I had witnessed all of these thoughts in action in Lake Placid last month, as Dave came off of the bike in second and fell back after a 4:06 marathon, despite my gentle encouragement to get his head out of his ass and run.  It's not that there was anything wrong with the time; it was that I know Dave's capable of more than that.  Granted, he had missed a couple of weeks of run training heading in due to some hip pain from a bike crash a few weeks out (coordination in this household...), but still.  Afterwards, when he had tried to give me his normal excuses about how he can't run, I'd pointed out that we'd done two races together that spring before I'd gone down with the hip-a 5k and the Keuka Olympic tri.  In both races, he had outrun me.  Being pre-op at the time, I'd told him, busted hip and all, I guarantee you could have put me on that run course, and I would have run faster than a 4:06.  Tough love, maybe, but half (probably even more than half) of the battle in the five weeks between those two races was going to be getting him to believe in his running ability.

  As for his training between the two IMs?  Dave turned it over to me, to some degree, as I've had more experience both racing and coaching without much spacing between races.  Since he hadn't run to his potential in Placid, he wasn't as shot as he could have been, which turned out to be advantage.  We did one week of active recovery, followed by two harder weeks, and then two weeks of gradually trailing off into the race.  The "coaching" was somewhat informal-I'd give him a general layout of the week, tell him the workouts (minus swimming, he could choose those himself), and he'd execute.  Much of it was convincing him to take a couple of true recovery days a week, and keep him from making some portion of every single bike ride all out.  When it came to running, the idea was simply getting in some volume, keeping it aerobic, and keeping Dave from getting injured.  No crazy long runs were done; after all, Placid had ended with a marathon, and the potential risk to reward ratio wasn't worth it.  The longest he ran in a single day was 1:45, and I also had him do a couple of 10-12 mile runs two days apart, with a long ride preceding the first of those.  Again, nothing too crazy.  And swimming, well, I just let him figure that out on his own, since I was still out of the water for most of that time, and he's got it figured out better than I do, anyways.

  So, five short weeks after Placid, off to Muskoka we went.  This course has always played into Dave's strengths quite nicely, and I know he had been targeting this over Placid as his main target for the year.  We'd raced the 70.3 a couple of times, and he'd always done well there, qualifying for 70.3 worlds each time (declining it last year, though, as we thought that I'd actually be racing, making Austria too ambitious of a trip).  The generally reasonable temperatures and tough, rolling bike course always separates the strong cyclists like Dave from those who are relatively weaker, and it tends to grate the legs enough to make it tough to for anyone have a blazing fast run.  Plus, we have a place to stay up there with Lowell Grieb and Kat Ahokas, who are always awesome with their hospitality (and their cooking).  Another plus for me as a coach was that athlete Stevie was racing, so I'd be able to be up there to watch her, as well.  Two days before Muskoka, Dave and I also celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.  Naturally, I gave him the business about how he should win me a trip to Hawaii, although taking my car in for an oil change for me (I hate being an adult) would also be welcome.  Also an anniversary highlight was the moose that Lowell and Kat cooked for us that night.  Given I associate moose with our Moose dog, I had some difficulty with this, but it was quite delicious, and we decided that it clearly contributed to Dave's subsequent success.  Anyways.
Taken on a stroll around downtown Huntsville

This is Roscoe.  He's one of the resident dogs.  Roscoe is my friend now.  I petted him a lot.  I miss Roscoe.
  Fast forward to race morning, and I headed down to the start with Dave to wish him and Stevie luck, and to perform the crucial coach duty of hair braiding (on Stevie, obviously-my extent of hair help with Dave was offering him leg shaving tips like, "shave against the direction of growth").  I then took off back to Lowell and Kat's (complete with stealthy following a shuttle bus out of the parking lot against traffic on the narrow access road...scofflaw) to squeeze in a brief ride to burn off some nerves (unsuccessfully) while stalking swim and early bike splits before heading out onto the bike course.  Dave swam a 57 (he says the course was short, but that's still fast), and his first bike split was the fastest in his AG-good start!  I was able to drive out to a spot on the course that was at the ~90k and ~170k mark (the course was set up as sort of a double-loop lollipop with a short stick), arriving with the perfect amount of time to park along a cross street and walk ~1/4 mile up the road.  I parked myself towards the top of a straight, gradual uphill, which proved to be a perfect viewing location.  A few minutes later, the first rider came past.  I started my watch and started counting.  About five minutes and less than 15 others passed before Dave rolled along.  I gave him his place and distance to the lead, and then continued cheering while waiting for Stevie.  Cheering at that spot on the bike course was one of the most rewarding cheering experiences of my life.  Maybe it was Canada, but the racers were SO polite to me-I got thanked by the vast majority of the race, and was easily entertained by some of the exchanges I heard going on among the racers.  Seriously.  They were SO nice.  Stevie came along a short while later, and informed me that she fell, but was fine, but wasn't so sure about the bike.  Very not reassuring, but she's a tough one and was rolling along well still!
Race morning braiding.  Not taught in any USAT course, but instead on the PXC bus circa 1998.  Life skill right here.
   Then...hmmm, about an hour and a half to kill and no phone data...the horrors!!  Becky was texting me to keep me up on Dave's splits.  I attached some swim cords to a tree in the woods and entertained myself for a few minutes that way (while worrying slightly about bears and property owners with shotguns).  I was a little ways up the road from an aide station, so I noticed some dropped bottles between myself and the aide station.  Figuring that I needed any sort of good karma regarding water bottles and bikes that I could get (I did leave one by the side of the road in Cozumel, after all...), I made a few rounds up and down the road collecting dropped bottles and returning them to the aide station to kill a little more time.  At one point, some spectators were trying to help a woman who had pulled off the road with a broken spoke on her wheel.  My expert advice was to try taping it to another spoke, which ended up solving that problem, but her wheel was still out of true.  I remembered my frustration and anxiety about the race passing me by in Coeur d'Alene (nothing like recalling all of my awesome IM bike experiences at once, ha), so I just stood with her until tech support arrived while telling her that I once took my brake off in a race.  How that was helpful, I don't know, but it seemed like something to say.  I wished her luck once tech support arrived, and was glad to later see that she was able to finish.  Anyways.  Not too much longer after that, the car leading the first racer came into view.  I restarted the watch, but didn't have too long to wait this time-2:30 later, Dave came by in 3rd place.  Yikes.  I again gave him a place and splits (both forward and back, based on what Becky was telling me), and then hightailed it back to the car.
Dave raced as a psychiatrist this time.  One of many joke answers we put down that unfortunately made it all over his information...
   Cue the first of several rushed navigation moments of my day.  I reversed the directions out back to town, until...blocked road.  Detour.  Jennie gets lost.  Jennie makes some turns and hopes.  Finally, I pulled over and studied some tiny little google map printed out to get us to Lowell and Kat's in the first place.  Somehow, my directionally-challenged, low visual-spacial intelligence little brain managed to figure out how to circumvent the road closures and get back to their house.  With little time to spare to get out onto the run course (minus a quick social media update on where Dave was), I swapped the car for...the mountain bike.  Kat had (quite bravely, given knowledge of my bike skills) allowed me to borrow her mountain bike.  I'm not sure how advisable being outdoors on an unfamiliar bike with really bad skills hammering around a run course one month post-op was, but it happened.  Anyways.  I made it down to the 10k point of the run course.  Several minutes later, the lead bike approached, followed by...Dave.  Dave.  Leading.  10k into the run.  I had likened watching Dave on a run course to watching the fourth quarter of a Bills game, where you just sort of hope they don't blow it entirely and bite your nails to the last second, and this was a pretty fair assessment.  He told me he was feeling good.  Ok, ok.  Places 2-4 were within 30 seconds of him, though, so by the time he had turned at the first turnaround and come back to me, he was in fourth, but holding strong.  He then indicated that he was having a GI moment, though, so I of course panicked.  Cue second rushed navigation moment of the day, where I asked Kat for directions and made some questionable riding decisions biking my way up to the 15k mark to catch him again.  I made it just in time; he was still ok and holding his place.
Dave's brief foray in the lead.  I'm not a race photographer, for obvious reasons.
   Stress time.  I took a few deep breaths, hopped back on the bike, and made my way back down the run course.  I found a shady spot around the 28k mark, and gave my hip a little break, parking myself in the grass under a tree to be the weird person stretching.  Time dragged.  I texted Becky and Mary about my nerves.  Becky again provided me with splits, and updated me on Stevie, who was nearing the end of her ride and holding completely even.  Phew.  I had again started the watch when Dave had passed at the 10k mark.  I calculated.  18k past that.  About 11 miles.  Around 8:00 pace would be great for Dave, so I hoped that I'd see him before that time hit 90min.  I plotted my game plan after I'd see him.  I texted updates to my parents.  After 80min passed and no one had come past yet, I became a little more hopeful-no one was running sub-7:00 at that point, so Dave's goal pace would be keeping him in the game.  A couple minutes later, the leader came past.  I strained to try to see ages on calves, but they were blurred by that point.  A few more athletes came by.  Then, within 7-8min, I saw Dave.  For Dave 2/3 of the way through an IM marathon, he actually looked...ok?  He was still well sub-8:00 pace.  What came out of my mouth next was totally unplanned, totally unrehearsed, raw emotion.  My own repressed emotions came falling out of my mouth.  I don't know if I gave place or splits, but I do remember finishing with, this is the only way left to salvage this sh----- fu------ year (thankfully, no children were nearby), as my voice cracked and I choked back tears.  Yikes.

   I moved a little bit further up the course, to a point where I'd be able to catch Dave at about the 35k mark before crossing the road and then hightailing it along a bike path to get to the finish.  I caught Stevie along the way.  I didn't have too long to wait by the time I made it to a good location-maybe 20min-but it felt like an eternity.  I probably looked insane to the other spectators, given that all I could really think to do at that point was pace incredibly anxiously.  I also was fighting crying at that point.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  Part of it was just wanting this so badly for Dave, who's had to sit in the backseat of my career for so long, and who has been so close on so many occasions.  Part of it was wanting something good for us from this sport, yet knowing that it wasn't in my hands at that point.  Part of it was straight nerves.  Part of it was anticipating something I hadn't really had from the sport in so long-straight out joy.  And, of course, part of it was just my own hurt of wanting to be back out there, so close yet so far.  In a reasonable amount of time, Dave was past again-I've never seen you look this good this far into an ironman.  Just.  Keep.  Running.  With that, I was off.

   The mountain bike ride to the finish that ensued was absolutely ridiculous enough to distract me from the nerves and feelings.  Lowell had told me about a bike path that paralleled the highway the run course was on, that would take me close to the final road down to the finish.  I found it easily, and started trying to pound my way along.  Naturally, my first instinct was to try to muscle my way up a short hill, which resulted in a hard shift (raise your hand if you've been spoiled with electronic shifting for too long...), a near crash, and some hip wrenching.  Oops.  The path (which was slightly sketchy for my unskilled self with some major ruts and lumps) popped out close to the road at a few points, and somehow the timing always worked out so that I was able to just catch Dave and yell at him.  Two thoughts were going through my head at that point: 1. How is it possible that Dave's running pace at mile 21 of a marathon is faster than what I'm doing on this mountain bike?  I'm in worse shape than I thought, and 2. Dave knows that I'll give him the business if I catch him walking-hopefully, he'll keep running entirely based on fear that I could appear at any moment (he later confirmed that this thought was very much in his head during that stretch).  The path eventually dead ended.  Hmm.  I remembered seeing some sort of path off to the road a few hundred meters back, and backtracked to that.  This ended up with me carrying the bike down a rocky cliff...exactly as Dave was approaching.  Timing is everything.  Realizing how ridiculous I looked at that point, I could only laugh, yell at Dave again, and tell him, look at what I'm doing for you right now!  Go!  I raced my way up and down a side road, before eventually dropping the mountain bike chain in front of a bunch of spectators on the final descent towards the finish.  Smooth.  I was briefly mixed in with the end stages of the bike course, which elicited cheers, even though I was wearing a polo shirt and khaki shorts and riding a mountain bike.  I frantically cut down another incline and worked my way across a parking lot, pushing the bike across a course crosswalk while hearing the second male in Dave's age group announced across the line.  Get there, Jennie, get there!!!

   Just in the nick of time, I propped the bike against a tree, found an unoccupied spot just up from the finish line, and saw Dave making the final turn.  I started screaming like I was psychotic.  I also had not removed my bike helmet.  Awesome.  I kept screaming more loudly, like it was somehow going to make Dave move any faster at that point (in my defense, even he admits that he was moving somewhat painfully slowly that last small stretch).  He finally hit the carpet, and made it across the line.  I ran (yes, ran, shhhh) down behind the bleachers (helmet still on), shrilly crying his name by this point while doing some sort of bawling that, if captured, would have put any of my Placid finish shots to shame.  The spectators nearby looked at me, the insane crying wife wearing a helmet, with concern.  It's been a tough year, I tried to explain.  Finally, after I wildly screetched, "Dave!!! DAVE!!!!" into the finish livestream for several minutes (or so it seemed).  After that, there was hugging and celebrating and picture taking, until Dave eventually ended up in the med tent asking for nausea meds.  He came around quickly with the meds, and we found a results board that confirmed his AG place (3rd) and overall place (5th).  Just what we thought, but we couldn't be 100% sure with the rolling start.  Posted up next to results was the official slot allocation breakdown-3 slots in male 30-34.  He was in.  My aversion to the 30th day of the month while 30 years old and the number 3 in general began to ease away.  Shortly later, we headed back to the finish line, and cheered Stevie in to a significant PR, which was obviously another HUGE highlight on the day and an example of overcoming a whole bunch of battles.  The next day, Dave officially accepted his spot at awards, despite complaining about the entry fee.  Accountants.   
Dave getting interviewed.  $10 says the woman in this picture had her camera in "selfie" mode to capture the idiot chick in the helmet behind her.

Annoying couples selfie.  Gag.

With Stevie in the chute!  Quote: "I smell like urine and homeless people".  She didn't.  And I generally shower sparingly, so I didn't really care anyways.
Dave's AG at awards

He looks happy, but really he was whining about the entry fee.  At least it's not like the $800 I paid for my pro membership fee this year to NOT race. #stillbitter
   As for those pesky feelings-they ran rampant.  After watching two IMs in the five weeks before Muskoka, I thought that I'd gotten all of the gut wrenching and wanting to be out there out of the way, but man, was I wrong.  Conversely, that race completely woke me up to how numb I'd become, how putting up a protective barrier and not allowing myself to feel had become my coping mechanism this summer.  A husband achieving a huge goal of his in the sport that had eluded him for so long and finally executing the complete race he was capable of brought me back to feeling some of the greatness of the sport.  The triathlon disappointment to happiness ratio in this household had been very much skewed towards disappointment all year, until that day.  The joy was palpable.  At the same time, pleasure mixed with pain, and another part of me just felt ripped apart inside and raw again, perhaps more strongly than I've felt throughout this whole process.  Numbness is a defense mechanism.  My feelings had absolutely nothing to do with jealousy-Dave had worked for and deserved every bit of that success, even more so because he's had to deal with so much of my on selfishness in pursuit of my goals for so long while chasing his own-but everything to do with my own lost aspirations.  The depth of the chasm between where I am, and where I want to be suddenly seemed more exposed, and right now, it's just going to take more time-and a ton of work-before I can close that.  And waiting to heal gets frustrating sometimes.
I probably should know how to flip this, but whatever.  Dave wanted Chinese food the day after the race.  This was my fortune.  Yes, I cried at a stupid freaking fortune cookie.  It spoke of Ironman.
  I needed my support system in that next week, and thankfully they came through for me.  I shared in Dave's happiness while allowing myself to admit my own weakness.  I can't really describe it other than that waking up is hard sometimes.  As for right now, I've been thinking of the weeks left until I can run again as miles in an IM marathon.  I have just under four to go, and everything seems fairly analogous to mile 22.  I don't have that much time left-in fact, it's a distance I've gotten through plenty of times-but at the moment, everything about it seems interminably long.  I'm throwing every mental trick in the book at it that I can.  You're almost there is the absolute last thing in the world that I want to hear, because almost there just isn't there, and I've been trying to keep moving forward for a long ass time by now.  I'm gaining confidence with each minute that I will make it through, but the doubts are still there.  But if I put aside the petulant child emotions, I still know that I'm a lot closer to the finish than the start, and that each finish is a new start anyways.  Plus, my advantage right now is that I have this time to heal and build.  Although I'd love to be training towards another race and then recovering through an off season, there's something to be said for what having a chance to build gradually, hopefully eventually train without pain, and rediscover my fitness will do for me when the time comes to race again.  After all, I can't keep letting Dave have all of the fun without me!
I can sort of walk the dogs again, at least!

Hansen unpacking fail=dog snack time.  A-holes.

Feelings.  I had a glass of wine because of them.  First time since before I knew I had broken anything.  I should try it more often.
I didn't get Dave an anniversary present other than a coffee mug that makes it look like people are getting eaten by sharks when a hot liquid is poured into it, so thankfully they took a picture of us post-race that came out ok enough.  I purchased it.  Happy anniversary, Dave.  Here's a finisherpix without watermarks.

And finally, I thought that this triumphant Kona finish line picture of me belonged here.  I'd say that hopefully Dave will look better than this across the line, but heat isn't his thing.  Whatever.  He's the one that's going next year!