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Monday, April 27, 2015

Resilience

  "Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on."  (Psychology.com)

noun re·sil·ience \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

  Resilience.  It's been a word that's been on my mind a lot lately, and a concept that I'm doing my best to hold onto, along with faith, belief, all of that stuff.  I've been wanting to update this blog for a bit now, but I've struggled with where to start.  I was waiting until I'd stepped off of the roller coaster onto solid ground, into the land of sunshine and butterflies.  2.5 weeks ago, I thought that I was there, but what I didn't know was that I was actually standing in roller coaster line yet ago-hopefully, this time it's just the kiddie coaster, but, as Shalane Flanagan had said after a disappointing (for her) Boston marathon, "Success is not linear".  But anyways.  Let's back up.

  On April 2nd, my x-rays were deemed good enough to start running again.  I was through the moon.  Run again I did-five times in the next 8 days, up to 40 minutes.  The paces were fairly reasonable, the remaining hip/glute/sacral/SI pain seemed to get a little bit better every run, and I was happy.  Through the moon.  Unicorns were jumping over rainbows.  I could think about racing again!  I ignored those little inner voices warning me about too much too soon, about the fact that I'd spent less time on my feet in the four months prior than I ever had.  And, sure enough, the feet proved to be the weakest link.  During that 40 minute run, I felt some tendons become irritated in my feet (right more than left), but Ihad stubbornly pressed on anyways.  Well, they didn't stop being irritated within a day (as I'd originally reasoned), or even within a week.  I should qualify this by saying...I know better.  While I've somehow made it through the past ~5 years without issues thanks to smarter training and footwear, foot tendonitis had been a chief enemy of my running career for years before that.  It has always been this pattern, too-go for a run, start to feel it, keep running anyways-I don't have that much longer, and tendonitis is an overuse injury, not something that I can get from 20min of running on it-and then find myself limping around for days afterwards, and unable to run for a few weeks.  

   Long story short, I didn't run for three days after that, tried again on the fourth day, and made it 3 minutes before walk of shaming it back to my house, refusing to go to the pool that day in a fit of anger, frustration, and self-pity.  After another nearly two weeks of not running AGAIN, I made it 3 miles yesterday-not perfect, still sore, a little worse today, but enough to soothe my mind and soul and rekindle the hope a bit.  Still a ways to go, but very limited running is better than no running.  Quite honestly, I had started to feel a bit numb to it all throughout that whole process.  The tri season is alive and well, huge performances are coming in, races are ticking past, and I've been in this limbo of, how much longer on the sidelines?  Last weekend, I went down to New Orleans with Dave to watch him race.  After watching the pro women come in (and knowing about Sarah's equally major injuries last year), I went off by myself, and had a moment under a palm tree before composing myself and making it back out onto the course to watch Dave come in.  

  Then, we came home, and I promptly went down with some sort of bad salad bar (as far as I can determine, it's the only thing that differed between Dave and I during that trip) virus.  But, I didn't have too much trouble finding some good out to come out of that one-quite honestly, without running, my motivation for swimming especially and, to a lesser degree, biking, was starting to wane a bit, the time completely off of my feet (pushing off the wall in the pool and the pressure of riding were also bothersome) was nothing but beneficial for my healing, and hey, my skinny jeans have now been upgraded from "cutting off circulation to my lower extremities" to "just kind of uncomfortable".  It was almost a small reset within a reset of a reset. 

  So, I'm ready to start the next few weeks and get back to the swimming and biking grind, and to get back to my "normal" mindset of all of this-forget the rest, and do the work that you can do while you have the chance.  I've had my moments of just wanting to throw in the towel, and say, screw all this, but it never takes long for, well, what's at the essence of what I want to come out, for resilience to kick in.  More than anything, I want to run, and I want to race.  I want to run so I can race, but I also just want to run for the sake of running.  I can swim and bike ad nauseum, but they won't replace my first love in sport.  Good days and bad days, whether the run is coming easily or is requiring a fight, to me, there's something about a run.  My mind keeps going to my favorite long run route, across the bridge and down the hill and onto the boardwalk by the river, then up the big hill, and then gradually up more-don't worry about the mile splits yet!-and then over the other bridge (31 junctions in the concrete up the hill, count them 10 at a time), and finally looping through neighborhoods while willing my legs to push just that much more until I have 10, 5, 3, minutes left, until I'm running up my street until the watch reads the EXACT time listed, because I'm OCD like that.  It's pain and pleasure rolled into one, there are parts I love (the boardwalk) and swear I hate (that last little uphill portion before coming out onto Lake Ave), but the run is freedom and accomplishment and healing.  My run routes are like a comfortable old friend.  Finishing a run soaked with sweat, legs chafed and stinging from the salt, back rubbed raw because I didn't realize my shirt had ridden up and my fuelbelt was slowly giving me a tramp stamp, not knowing if I want to grab a cold drink or stand underneath the hose first, legs stiff and shaky and just happy to be done, that's when I'm in my glory.

  And I want to race.  I don't really know if I have words for that one.  It's not about podiums or prize money or points or any of that anymore.  It's not about any of the things that preoccupied my mind and cluttered my soul last year.  I've been stripped clean of all of that, and none of it matters anymore.  It's back to me and this body, and quite honestly it's liberating.  I spent too much time worry about the result, and only wanting the result, that I almost started to dread the process, especially since this body was still reeling from me forcing it towards the result for so long.  Deep down, I was scared of not feeling good, I wasn't truly willing to embrace the pain, and I was intimidated with how long I'd have to hurt.  But now I miss it.  I miss feeling raw, digging down, going to the dark place of shutting up the signals and replacing them with desire.  I miss that place where letting up stopped being an option that I gave myself.  I'm craving all of the feelings that come along with it, good and bad-the nerves of the start line, the first few minutes of the swim during while I'm inevitably thinking, "I hate this I hate this I hate this, go go GO, don't lose them already", the uncertainty of the early portions of the bike in which I'm always overanalyzing every sensation from my body (is this too hard, can I maintain this, I can't maintain this, maybe I can, why is this so long?), the highs and lows of hours in the saddle, the brick feeling in my legs the second I start running and I swear that I can't run fast to save my life, the eventual easing and the time period where I'm smiling and thanking people and clicking off the miles, and finally, the countdown and the fight and the point where I'm clinging to what's left, because another gel would make me barf and the tank is only draining and I'm trying to make it to the finish before it totally runs out.  I only need to remember these past few months to know that sitting out hurts more than racing ever has.

   Then, there's one more demon, one huge ass demon that I'm going to have to face sooner rather than later, with sooner likely being in a few days.  Riding my bike outside.  Other than ~20min of white-knuckled spinning around the neighborhood a few weeks back, I haven't put rubber to road since Cozumel.  The last thing that happened there wasn't eating dirt, it was anti-climatically slowing to a stop in town after getting back up and riding again, but that moment of losing control is what still plays in my mind far more than I'd like it to.  I've never hidden that I've never been the most confident person on two wheels (to say the least), and although I'd become far, far more comfortable in recent years, I feel like I've been knocked back to square one (well, hopefully not that far-I did actually ride in my aerobars for a bit during my brief spin).  It doesn't help that my crash occurred while doing something that I'd been scared to do for years, which was manage a water bottle with my hands.  Saturday's forecast calls for a clear, 65 degree day, though, so I can no long deny that I need to get back out there, before the anxieties totally take me over.  In some ways, this feels like a bigger barrier to me than anything physical regarding my ability to run. 

   So for now?  I'll keep on working on the resilience.  I'll put my head down, and just keep trucking on, doing what I can so that as much as me is as ready as it can be.  I'll channel whatever frustrations I might encounter, and I'll use them as some sort of productive fuel for my swims, bikes, and tolerated runs.  I'll stay smart about it all.  I could throw in 1000 things right here about how small and non-permanent my problems really are and how overdramatic this really has been, how my foot tendonitis is about as first world as it gets, about how I still have it good.  I have the "A" race on the horizon-the dangling carrot right now is IM Mont Tremblant-which is far enough off that I feel that I have the chance to do the work in order to be prepared there.  As frustrating as it has been to be putting up good swim (for me during allergy season, ha) and bike numbers but not have a run to back it up at the moment...one (literal) step at a time.  I hope to be able to start hitting some races beginning in June, so I'll keep a sense of cautious optimism in that.  In the meantime, I have a wonderful support system of my husband, family, friends, coach, teammates, bike sponsor, and even complete strangers who have reached out to me and carried me through, so I feel nothing but fortunate in that regard.  So, that's where I'm at at the current moment-some up and down, but more good than bad, and keeping my mind and body resilient to whatever else might be thrown my way!

"And if your glass heart should crack
Before the second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on..."