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Friday, January 29, 2016

Bumps in the road, waves in the water-tales from the backside

 Well, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  And such has been my past month or so, so I decided that I finally should get around to updating the nitty gritty details of why I'm in Rochester right now with a very moderate at best weekend of training planned, and not down in Panama to finally kick off a racing season as planned not that long ago.  The derailment was subtle this time around.  I was 1.5 weeks into what should have been a very solid 3 week build, hitting some great, consistent training numbers, and beginning to get excited about what could be.  So, basically the recipe for sweeping little signs and signals under the rug, because, well, I have to get this training done!  The Wednesday before Christmas, I set out for what should have been just a run of the mill, 75min aerobic run after a long swim.  My body wasn't really having it, though.  No biggie, I'd put in some solid work recently and I knew that I was just a bit sleep deprived and slightly stressed about getting all of the shopping, wrapping, etc done.  I walk/jogged it back to my car after ten minutes, and decided that I'd do the run after my swim/bike the next day-but I maturely wouldn't tell my coach, because I was afraid that something in the following days (a tempo run, a long ride, and then a swim/bike/double run day to finish out the week) would get yanked, and I just really wanted to get all of that in.  In my mind, this would make for a very solid few days of training, and I wanted to challenge myself with it all.  After all, races were around the corner!

   I know that the pain had started by that point, only because I remembered that I had mentioned it in passing at my chiropractic visit later the day of the run that wasn't meant to be.  Yeah, my butt hurts a bit up at the hamstring attachment, where that fracture was.  I don't know.  It's always something.  And this was true and fair enough.  Something has hurt somewhere in my right hip and pelvis area at some point every single day, during every single training session, since my crash.  This isn't a complaint, it's just a fact.  I've been able to live with it, work through it, and apply training stress despite it.  I know and can accept that what I do precludes feeling "perfect" after the injuries and such I sustained, and that's fine-I trust what I've been told medically in terms of the timelines presented.  If I hadn't spent this entire time trying to push the boundaries of what I could handle, maybe I'd feel perfect orthopedically, but I also would be in the R wing by now.  I'd much rather do what I can when I can and train, even if it means that yes, things hurt here and there.  That's fine.  And let's face it, triathlon training means that the body spends a lot of time sore and beat up to begin with.

   But...there's still a line to be aware of, the line between "stuff that's sore because you broke a bunch of crap and had surgery and your body doesn't totally remember how to fire stuff correctly and you're back to training 20-25 hours/week" and "you're just a dumbass overstressing this shit that doesn't know what it's doing anymore".  I misjudged that line.  That ass pain was ok enough making up that 75min run the next day-I actually remember being a little bit more concerned because my IT band seemed wonky.  It hurt a little bit more the day after that, Christmas day, but I ignored it well enough because I more or less had one of the best tempo runs of my life.  Then I sat on it for 5 hours riding the day after that, because, well, I was putting forth some great bike numbers!  Finally, I got to that Sunday.  I swam.  I did my first 60min run.  I drove home.  I got on my bike.  And then I set out for my second 60min run.  In the first 5 minutes of that, I did consider turning around because things seemed to hurt more than they should.  But I didn't, of course.  My legs felt like they were late in an IM marathon, and I wanted to toughen myself up in that regard.  I finished the run.  Then walking stopped working out so well the rest of the night.

   Still, no big deal.  I came down with a cold.  Training got cut back anyways, much to my disdain.  We took out a couple of runs.  Just under a week later, on New Year's day, you know, the start of new beginnings and better years, I tried to go out for a run, thinking that the residual pain would go away once I got moving.  Six minutes later, I realized I was an idiot.  13 minutes later, I was crying to Dave in the basement.  At the time, I was mostly worried about the possibility of further fracture there.  We got x-rays, which showed nothing, but I wasn't satisfied.  I emailed my surgeon the next day, who shot me some reassurance and set me up with an MRI (#4, if anyone's counting).  Fast forward some laying in a tube, a whole lot of worrying, dragging everyone around me into my crazy, another round of immune system stress failure (completely with bilateral pinkeye!), pulling out of races, workout breakdowns, painful sitting, and lost sleep, and finally I had some results.

   The answer?  Well, there really was no answer.  The original fracture there was healed.  The proximal hamstring tendon looked fine.  The left side of my sacrum showed some sort of stress reaction, which was news to me-I hadn't really been feeling too much out on that side of my sacrum until I knew that I was supposed to be feeling something out on that side of my sacrum, because the right had been aching plenty.  I had a little swelling in the lateral portion of my hip, but nothing major.  The only thing of note that fell in line with my symptoms was a little bit of swelling in my butt bone bursa.  So, earlier this week I ended up back on a table at the orthopedist's office with a needle being jammed around in that area (no shame left in that building, hah), trying something to see if we could get my symptoms under control so I can get back to work.  I was told that the injections will take up to a week to take full effect, and I haven't tried running yet, so really, time will tell.  I think that things are feeling a little bit better, but again, the true test has yet to happen.  In due time.  I did try to hold onto my race plans and goals for some time during this, but in the end, I was simply missing too much running, my pain wasn't clearing up quickly enough, and I had to face the music that I wouldn't be able to go forward as planned.

   So that's the story of my ass.  Honestly...I haven't really taken this setback all that well, which is funny, because in the realm of crap that's gone wrong with me orthopedically, everything suggests that this time around should be the least of my worries.  But, in some ways, it's easier when the pain source is easily identifiable on a scan than when it's a guessing game of what it is and what will help.  My timeline's a bit muddy right now, and I've had some not-so-great moments along the way as a result-frustration, crying, resisting help, being argumentative, etc.  I just like to race triathlons, especially long course triathlons.  It's a huge part of my identity, for better or worse, and it makes me tick.  I haven't completed a long course triathlon in 16 months now.  It might seem like a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, but for me, right now, mired in this cycle, it still feels like a long freaking time.  This time around, this setback, probably hit me the hardest just because before things started, I had come so far.  And I was so close.  I had let myself believe that this time, it would be for real.  I can also really, legitimately say that my fitness was at a level that I hadn't seen in some time across the board.  I was registered for races, I had plane tickets booked.  Countdowns were on.  It all seemed so real.  So, well, yes.  I was going to be disappointed, and the onus really fell on me to try to de-funk it all.

   At the same time, it all folds back to that perspective thing that I've tried to somehow keep a hold of in the past.  Everyone's alive.  Nothing's broken.  Neither myself nor anyone close to me has any sort of permanent debilitating condition.  I have no reason to believe that I won't be ok eventually, even at my most irrational moments.  I have many, many awesome people who care about me and are in my corner (at least, I think I do :) ), and I think some deeper understandings have been gained along the way.  My dogs are soft and cute.  We have a roof over our heads-it even comes with a brand new hot water heater!  We have netflix to watch stupid movies with lots of swearing when I'm in a mood.  Maybe my ass hurts and I'm not somewhere warm playing triathlon with a bunch of grown adults this weekend, but my life is very first world and very fortunate otherwise.  And although I've had moments of needing reassurance, deep down part of me truly believes this is going to all work out, one way or another.  Although it stings like crazy to have gotten so far and again not have anything race-wise to show for it, I wouldn't have traded the past couple of months for the world, because, if nothing else, they proved to me that I can still do this.  I still have the mind and, as soon as I get this latest setback cleared up, the body to train like I want to be able to train.  The amount of joy that I felt when in the middle of some solid training blocks (even when my body felt like a sore raging pile of shit-funny how that works) served to 100% remind me that yes, this is still absolutely entirely what I want to be doing, for better or worse.  Even with some overdramatic moments, this little blip in the radar won't change that.

   And, weirdly, I've found some healing in the water.  It's certainly no secret that my relationship with the pool can wildly swing from hot to cold, but I've found it to be the only place where I can truly just switch off my overactive brain and concentrate on the task at hand.  Having a masters team to swim with several days each week has given me some life.  The day after that failed 13 minute New Year's day run was my masters team's 10k swim day.  Despite some angst-y emailing about it the night beforehand and tears on the drive in, I found myself at RIT as planned.  I was in the borderline lane between the lanes that were definitely fast enough to make the full 10k in the time allotted, and the lanes that would be going for 8-9k instead.  My normal lanemates and I were given the choice-go for the full 10k, or start on the 8-9k track.  We all fully agreed to go for the 10k-we started together; we stayed together; we ended together.  It was somehow incredibly fulfilling and I felt about 9000x better afterwards.  Breakfast wasn't a bad touch, either.

    During my week of MRI limbo, I then impulse registered for a 1 hour postal swim.  Just me, a lane to myself, and an hour of pushing.  The day before that had involved MRI results, injection scheduling, frustration over a lack of clear answers and timetables and ambiguity, and more crying than I'd managed probably since the day I found out that my pelvis was broken over a year before that, for whatever reason.  So, I woke up the next morning, forced my brain off, went to the pool, and just swam.  I set a goal of 4000 yards, as it was a round, simple number that seemed like it would be an appropriate challenge for me.  For an hour, I focused on nothing but checking a digital clock on the wall every 200 yards and keeping those splits under 3:00.  After an hour, I was through 4,175 yards.  I cruised back to the starting wall with sore arms, laughing a bit at the irony-theoretically, this implied that that elusive sub-60 IM swim I never thought I'd be able to achieve is achievable-but the hardest part is apparently just going to be making it to the damn start line.

   A couple of days later, I was back online, registering for yet another masters meet (I vaguely recall the time I said I'd never do another one...oops), this time at UB, my alma mater, in a pool where I'd spent many hours water running my way through injury.  Maybe something about going back to the building where I'd spent so many hours chasing goals and coming back from various aches and pains would be healing in its own way.  I registered for the 500, 200, and 1650-a new one for me.  The day before that meet again featured more foot stomping and pouting and getting gently lifted down from ledges (common theme), but the drive to Buffalo cleared my mind a bit.  The first two heats of the 500 ended up getting combined, so I found myself on the blocks a little earlier than planned, but that was ok.  I couldn't see any clocks, so I just swam.  With a couple hundred to go, I told myself to make it hurt, and I made it hurt.  I had no idea about anything in terms of time until the end, but I shaved a few seconds off of what I'd swam last spring, when my head was completely screwed on when it came to swimming after a huge winter focus.  The 200?  Well, I actually somewhat loathe that event.  My lungs and legs were burning and my turns were absolutely sloppy and off, but, well, I grabbed another second off of that time.  Then came that 1650, which proved to be another painfully cathartic experience in the water.  I spent the first half not thinking and the second half just telling myself to swim harder.  I've never swam that distance in the pool before, but it ended up being the same pace as my 1000 last spring and my 500 last fall and over a minute faster than I've swam in any Olympic tri swim ever.  So, good enough.  I'm still far from being any sort of amazing swimmer over here and I will always know that, but progress is progress and if I don't let myself feel at least a little bit good about it right now, then I'm only doing myself a disservice and denying myself some much-needed athletic satisfaction.  So I'll take what I can get, even if it feels weird to me because of my relationship with swimming in general.

   So that's that.  I'm still here.  I'm injured in some regard, but nothing's really super wrong.  I'm doing what I can, although right now that involves backing off a bit in order to get things right.  I want more than anything to get to a race, but I also want to be smart about it and get myself rebuilt going forward.  I'm in a position right now where I'm gradually trying to turn off the stubborn asshole and turn on the honesty with myself and those involved in this so that we can all just try to make it work.  I know that I need to listen (easier said than done), because those times that I haven't listened have always come back to bite me in the butt (quite literally right now).  I've got a lot in life.  I've got people to guide me through.  If I do manage to get myself to a freaking finish line (of a half IM or longer), it's going to be sweet.  And that will keep me going.  Until then, thanks to everyone who's been awesome and who hasn't given up on me yet and who's still encouraging me to pursue this craziness.  I appreciate it more than I can articulate, busted butt and all. :)

I was feeling too lazy to upload pictures to this post, but I had to end with one of the dogs in a rare moment of pretending to like each other on the same couch.  The dogs don't judge me based on my running (in)ability.  And they're always good for feeling less lazy, because they do this about 90% of the day, unless UPS comes or a cat walks past the window.