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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Head full of doubt, road full of promise"

  Here's the thing about comebacks, if that's what we want to call them.  They're not the nice, clean, linear journey back up to glory that we think they should be.  You get knocked down, you think that you've paid your dues to karma, the universe, whatever it is, and that it's going to be a steady trip up back above where you've started as long as you put in your time, and do your work.  But that's not true.  One bad thing happening doesn't automatically build up immunities to other setbacks.  It's like a long climb on a ride, when you're not sure where the top is, and you're not quite sure if you're ever even going to make it there.  Sometimes, the road dips back down again, and while it's a momentary relief, deep down you're cursing it, because it's just taking you further away from where you want to be.  But, the steepest, hardest, most challenging portions are the ones that pack the most punch in getting you there.

  Anyways, this update could have taken an entirely different tone had I written anything a couple of weeks ago, when I was going through another one of my "phases" (euphemism for "periods of being a total bummed-out PITA to everyone around me).  I was trying to make peace with my bike, which meant that I went on some of the absolute slowest rides of my life, and not for lack of effort.  I was running a bit, but I just didn't trust that foot tendonitis or the residual SI joint pain and glute pain from my crash injuries.'s allergy season.  I just didn't feel like an athlete, and I couldn't fathom that I had ever been one, or would ever be one again.  Another impetus of it all was that IM Texas was approaching.  I'd raced it well two years in a row.  2013 IM Texas probably remains the best-executed race I've ever put together in my life, both mentally and physically.  Before I knew that everything was broken and wasn't going to heal in any sort of timely manner, I was supposed to race it.  Not to mention, it was the North American championship race this year.  So, I just wasn't taking it well, and I was frustrated at my level of upset over it, too.

   But, what could I do?  What would make me happy?  Ultimately, it was to feel like a whole, legitimate triathlete again.  And although feeling bad for myself and pulling the plug on everything might have seemed like a good short term solution, it was only going to send me further down the hill again.  So, I got my act together, got through my training, and eventually got my heart and head back into the game.  I did have a few days where I really had to convince myself to get going (and there might have been a few choice emails in there...), but getting out of the valley wasn't going to happen from moping.  I also registered for a tri.  As for now?  Well, I'd say that things are looking up, although I'm still superstitious to say that with outdoor riding a couple of times a week (paranoid).  So, anyways, since my biggest challenges have been outdoor riding and running, I'll give a little breakdown/update on how that's all gone down.

I forget where I saw this graphic, but a few weeks ago, I was thinking about it.  A lot.  
   It's no secret that I've never been the most confident of riders.  I've always had some degree of nerves before outdoor long rides, and I've always been grateful to finish rides intact (and not just to get off of my saddle).  I had gotten better as the years had progressed, though.  But, still, starting off this year, I suddenly found myself having reason to be afraid of my bike again.  Sort of.  My first ride outdoors wasn't fun.  Dave and I headed out to the flat country areas west of us.  I cried a few times.  I was slow.  Dave told me I was slow.  I got more upset, and went to buy flowers to plant to make myself happier.  I got sideswiped driving home, furthering my fear of the roads.  I went out again a couple of days later, by myself, on some roads with rolling hills, nothing too crazy.  It was horrible.  I was even slower, and I barely spent any time in the aerobars.  My HR was sky high, my speed was terrible, and I wanted nothing more than to be done the entire time.  The next weekend, I recruited an army to help me.  Mary would ride a loop around Canandaigua lake with me while Matt and Dave played men on bikes; the weakened Dave and I would meet up for the remainder of my ride.  There were real hills.  This time, I cried on the way down to the lake (why did everyone have to tell me that it could have been so much worse??  Now that's all I think about!!)  But, I wanted more than anything to feel "normal" on my bike again, because I can't race (well) without that piece.  Mary was patient and perfect, she led me down the sketchiest descent until we got to the other side of the lake, where I began to open up and feel a little bit better.  I ended the ride in much better spirits, having regained some degree of comfort with my bike, although I was still rather pissed off at how stinking slow I was.  I've since been outdoors a few more times, and every time has gotten a little bit better.  My power and speed are fairly close to normal, and while pre-ride nerves will always be a part of me, the crippling anxiety seems to be letting up.  Descending, winds, aerobars, speed, passing cars, road conditions-looking at it objectively, none of that had anything to do with my crash, yet I still was (more of a) spaz (than now) about it the first few rides out-it was really the whole "feeling not 100% in control" thing that freaked me out.  I have yet to screw around with bottles while riding yet, though.  In due time (or, more accurately, when necessity dictates that I'll need to get over it-I did once, I can again).

   Anyways.  Then, there's running.  I don't know where I left off here, but after a couple of weeks of not running due to the foot injury, I started running again.  I think it's been five weeks now.  The foot isn't 100%, the SI isn't 100%, but they're allowing me to do run modest amounts (I've worked up to ~25mi/week on 4-5 runs, longest run was 8 miles so far) while still working themselves out.  The foot feels close to better (knock on wood).  The SI-well, one of the main reasons I didn't get an MRI for so long was because that sprain really seemed like it could have been the cause of everything pain-wise.  The ortho told me that it could be up to a year for my injuries to be 100%, and that wouldn't surprise me.  All I can do is keep the area strong, and progress reasonably.  Almost everything has been aerobic to this point, and I've been doing my best to try to keep the thoughts about the dichotomy of my run paces six months ago to my run paces now out of my head.

  I did pin on a bib number and raced the Sunset House 5k last weekend, though, which helped with the whole "feeling like a runner" again thing.  I had no idea what to expect or hope for heading into the race, as I could count the number of non-downhill, non-wind assisted sub-7 minute miles I'd run in the past 6 months on two fingers.  I was still excited, and honestly, heading into a race with zero pressure on myself was a welcome change.  Plus, the race started and ended less than a mile from our house, meaning that I knew every inch of the roads-nothing quite like starting back up close to home!  The run itself was hard, but good hard.  I started off a little uncomfortable, but not bad.  I pushed the second mile, and was surprised that I didn't slow down too much there.  I felt really rough the last mile, but realized that I could get in under 19, and, in my mind, that would be pretty darn respectable for me, all things considered.  I thought about the past six months, and realized that nothing that could happen in the final few minutes of that race could suck more than that had.  I held on, and ran 18:56.  Never have I been happier to run over a minute off of a PR.  I was the first woman, I wasn't too far behind the men that I'm normally near, and I took home a beautiful stained glass trophy made by one of my high school coaches and a couple of gift certificates, including one to one of my favorite local garden stores, which made me really happy.
Finishing, courtesy of Mary's phone in the giant case.  It's my normal pain face, but I think I see a certain side of six months of pissed in there.

Dave BEAT me.  In a straight RUN.  Asshole.  That's only the second time that's happened.  The first time, I had a fever.  If he outsplits me on the Keuka run, though, there will be a problem.  I still got a prettier trophy.

One day post-op, Mary busts the selfie stick out of her purse...
   Otherwise, I'm also officially registered for the Keuka Lake Olympic tri, which both excites and scares me.  I raced the sprint last year; the last time I raced that Olympic was in 2010.  I'm grateful to be planning to start back up close to home (more outdoor riding to make it through between now and then, so I'm not counting on anything until it happens).  I'm starting to be really grateful for everything that's happened over the past 1.5 years, really.  I've still felt pretty good training, for the most part.  My energy feels more stable, I'm not downing double caffeinated gels to get through anything, and I can enjoy being tired from training, because it's the being tired from training that I so desperately missed, it's not the being completely drained from training and unable to recover properly that I dealt with for much of last year.
Keuka sprint tri last year, two days post 7 hour ride, and at the end of a 30 hour week.  I'm happy to report that run sucked a lot, so at least I'm used to it.
   I've also learned more about pain and disappointment (although my little first world problems hardly make me an expert in the area), and it's changed my perspective on how much I have around me, as well as how awesome it really is to get to suffer in training.  Workouts still hurt just as much, but that's still somehow different, because it ends and I'm stronger as a result, and more suffering=more results.  Many things in life aren't that way and many people aren't that fortunate, so to be involved in something with that advantage rocks.  When training gets painful, for better or worse, there's some little steely, angry edge in me that wasn't there half a year ago.  A few times, I've started to think about how I didn't feel like heading out for a run after biking, but the little voices in my head soon chime in with, are you freaking kidding me right now???  Sometimes, I get disappointed that I'm running 30sec/mi slower in zone than I used to, but then I remember that that 3 months ago, I couldn't even walk half an hour without laying on the couch in pain for the rest of the evening.  Bad runs are still runs, and every run is a good run.  I'm starting to recognize my body again in multiple ways, and I even had to (hopefully) put away my forgiving work pants last weekend, because they weren't staying up anymore.  I'm not there yet, but I can see where I came from and I have hope about where I can get to again, and that's all I wanted.  Most of all, I'm grateful for the continued love, support, and assistance that I've received from both near and far-family, husband, coach, friends, acquaintances of all sorts.  I read and appreciated every single word that's come my way.  So, I'll continue onward and hopefully mostly upward with rubber side down (I'm a little paranoid...), take the inevitable blips as they come with perspective, and enjoy every instance of finding my identity and loving the sport that comes my way.