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.|
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!|
|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.|
|My new 2016 bike bling. A picture's worth a thousand words.|
|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.|