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theunexpectedtriathlete

I never saw that coming!

The Spaces Between Us

I have a race tomorrow. And I also have a friend’s birthday tonight. I will likely go for a little while, making sure I’m in bed early so I can be ready for the first sprint triathlon since I got sick/was hospitalized in October.  Now, I’m 99% sure that I will be fine and even though I’m undertrained, I am aiming for a successful race. But, I am nervous about not being well rested. Exhausting my body can trigger some of the sensations of vertigo. I don’t want that mid race.

 Here’s my struggle. So many of my friends are supportive of my new found love of the race. They have been encouraging and respect the things I have to miss to be successful. I had to miss a wedding last year because the race was just a little too far away and am missing one this year for the same reason. Those friends were understanding and knew that I was there/will be there in spirit. They understand that this is important to me and that I was already committed.

 But, what do we do with the friends who are less understanding? The “closer” friends who make comments like “why don’t you just quit because you have to miss things?” It changes the friendship. It changes the closeness. It changes my enjoyment of the experience when someone who is supposed to support me doesn’t.

I am someone who tries to do three things at once all the time (hence the whole “triathlon” appeal lol) because I don’t want to let anyone down. I try to do it all and often that means not doing things for me– like training.  And, when I can’t do it all, I feel badly.

And tonight, I don’t know if I can do it all but I don’t know if the understanding will be there. 

Maybe more than half crazy

My athletic therapist and I had a visit today. I was in pain. My hips were killing me and my knee started to hurt so much that I tapped out during a run (which I never do). She treated my injuries and we talked about my illness in October. 

Suddenly it all made sense.

My comments to friends about not feeling like I’d fully recovered are accurate. I’m not crazy!! (Well, at least not when it comes to that ūüėÜ)

I hurt because my body is fighting to stabilize. I’m burning out because my body is still working harder to balance as I run. It makes sense.

I have a half marathon coming up in two weeks and it’s scary. The finisher’s gift last year for that half marathon was a blanket. That blanket was with me in the hospital. It was a reminder that I am strong, even when I couldn’t stand up on my own. There is an importance to completing this half marathon: a year ago it was the first one I ever ran, my cousin helped start it, and it’s blanket comforted me when I was at my weakest. But, it’s scary to know that my body isn’t 100%. It’s scary to have to change the goals from personal bests to merely finishing. It’s scary to wonder if my body will fail or be strong. The unknown is frightening. 

I feel determined to finish, even if I have to crawl. 

6 months ago, I couldn’t stand on my own. It was months before I could run without tipping over.  In two weeks, I will challenge that same body to run 13.1. 

Undertrained

Wobbly.

Weaker than I’d like. 

But determined, and maybe stubborn enough to get through. 

Seeking advice 

I’m stuck. 

I mean– I’m stuck. For the last few years my world has happily involved running and for the last two triathlon training has reigned.  

I’m finding though- that my motivation is failing. Perhaps it was the serious illness that derailed it– I’ve never been able to get back on track since– perhaps it’s something else. I don’t know.

What I know is this: 

I fell in love with running. Then I fell in love with being a tri-girl. Last year, my half marathon goal was front and centre. My body was a machine. I craved the endorphins of a good run, cycle or swim. 

And now I’m lost. 

My body is not the same. I don’t feel like a “machine”. My mind feels weak.  Vestibular Neuronitis derailed me and I just can’t find the passion. I WANT to do my best, I want to compete and keep bettering my times but I’m struggling to move forward.  My half marathon is approaching and I can’t get one foot in front of the other. 

I would love to hear your suggestions. Perhaps to talk. 

How do I fall in love again ? 

Continuing the battle

I got sick in¬†October. It’s now almost Christmas and I’m still dealing with the effects. What a struggle it is to try to get back on track. ¬†I still have bad days with the vertigo and the other things that came along with the virus (the confusion, anxiety and depression) still linger at times.

For the first little while, all I wanted to do was run and cycle and I was so frustrated that my body wouldn’t allow me to be successful doing it. I tried and found some successes but the frustration eventually took over. I moved on to some strength training because it didn’t increase the dizziness as much but the truth is – my energy and motivation are gone. I WANT to get back on track but the energy it takes to train seems to be more than I have. So, I stick to short strength workouts a couple times a week.

I get so frustrated with myself that I’m not training properly and then that frustration leads to a sense of defeat. When the defeat kicks in, I am unmotivated to train. And then I become frustrated with myself for not training properly. What a lovely cycle. When I do train, runs and cycle sessions are usually met with step backwards – less speed and endurance or increased dizziness. I went from running a half marathon and getting ready to set a 10k PB to finding 5k a struggle. It’s heartbreaking and I’m not used to failure.

We have a big trip coming up over Christmas and I was looking forward to going for a run in each place we stopped – Kansas City, Memphis, New Orleans and Galveston- before taking my run to the cruise ship decks but I fear my goal with go unachieved. ¬†Perhaps the ability to run outside without snow might create a little motivation when we get on the road but for now, it seems a challenge. ¬†I’m not usually one to walk away from challenge but this illness seems to be kicking my butt.

I wonder how others with¬†this illness get back on track. At this point, even though I have done it, I’m afraid to run. It honestly scares me. What if I fall over? What if I can’t do what I think I should? What if…

 

Health and heartbreak 

My body failed me. 

And it failed me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. It wasn’t an injury that took me down, it was my health. The day of my last planned 10k race of the season I was hospitalized and never got to run.  It has been a frustrating and awful few weeks. I’m recovering now…I’m getting there but I’ve been afraid to really talk about it for a few reasons.  One is that there is this ridiculous idea that we are supposed to suffer in silence. And I ascribed to that for a while…but finally the silence makes the struggle worse and about two days after I admitted to struggling, I started to really improve. The other is the accusations by a very select few that I was exaggerating or faking my illness, or that it was only a matter of over training and my body was just tired. None of which are true.

It was the most terrifying morning of my life. 

I thought I was dying. I couldn’t stand or walk. I couldn’t get to the bathroom on my own. And it was the difference of an hour. At 4 am I woke up thinking I was late for my race and was fine. I went back to sleep and woke up and hour later and everything had changed. I woke my husband for help. He had to lift me, carry me, dress me. I was helpless. I was unable to open my eyes because I would be instantly sick. I couldn’t get myself off the floor. 

I should be at the race
At the hospital, every examination the doctors wanted to do made me ill. I couldn’t move or open my eyes. IV drips of Gravol didn’t stop the spinning or the nausea for a while. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I had gone from being strong and ready to set a personal best in the 10k race to having to be lifted out of bed and helped in the bathroom. I was humiliated and scared. It was beyond what I thought I could handle. I felt weaker physically and emotionally than I ever had.  The diagnosis: likely a nasty and ugly viral infection. 

Able to sit up the next day

By the next day I could sit up some but I couldn’t be left to move on my own. Nurses or my husband monitored me as I shuffled my feet along the floor, staring down at the ground because it was the one thing that didn’t move on me. They moved me to a ward where I was the youngest by over 30 years. The woman next to me would scream all night in Italian (which now has an element of hilarity) and I still couldn’t do anything on my own. Out of stubbornness I would try only to get scolded. I wanted to go home.

In my head- home was the golden ticket to recovery. I would get home and all would be well. And then I got home. And I didn’t get better. I was still too dizzy to do much. 

Recovering at home

I was miserable. So miserable, in fact, that I went back to work sooner than I should have. I tried to go back to dance classes, and cycling on my trainer. I was still dizzy and my brain was fuzzy. I just wanted so badly to be “normal” again.  I managed but not as well as I’d like to think. I was afraid to admit that I was struggling because I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak, or lying. There had been select accusations that I was faking. It was crushing. I needed help but was scared to ask. 

I am grateful for those who stepped up and let me vent or cry in frustration. I’m grateful to those who drove me around and made sure I was safe.

I’m on the mend. I’m not 100% but today was a good day. I was able to dance with my classes and when I came home, I was able to drive myself to an appointment. Better yet- I was able to run. It was slow and unsteady. I had to use the handles of the treadmill to steady myself and I pushed perhaps a little too hard but even at a full minute per km slower than usual, today’s run felt like success. 

Slow but at least I could run

I don’t know why my health failed. But I do know that I won’t take for granted my ability to put one foot in front of the other. 

And I will come back stronger. Eventually. 

Kenora Krazy

Last weekend was the Kenora Borealis triathlon. I have never been so happy to be a sprint distance athlete. ¬†THAT HILL! But we will get to that…

Here’s the break down of how things went:

The night before…. my friend Sandra comes out to the cabin so we can go together for the race. We make the decision that I should change the tube on my bike because the patch won’t necessarily hold and after the “land of broken training sessions” I don’t want to risk it. ¬†So, they laugh at me while I struggle and struggle and eventually get it (the next time I had to do this was better…and yes, there was a next time). As we are pumping the tire, things don’t seem right and the tire won’t stay in the rim so my husband takes over and then two minutes later –VOILA– tire ready. ¬†We’ve done this inside because it is, again, raining. ¬†Out goes the bike and 5¬†minutes later…BANG. The neighbor screams, we jump and the whole community stares at our place. Well, good thing I have another tube to replace the one that just exploded. ¬†We spend the rest of the night waiting for the thing to blow up again. It doesn’t. Thank God. I don’t think I can sheepishly go down and apologize again to the rest of the lake community.

So, we get up the next morning, brave the wall of mosquitoes to load the bikes and we are off for the drive in to Kenora. The whole time I’ve got two thoughts: 1) what have I forgotten? I’ve had nightmares for weeks about things breaking down/falling apart/being stolen (I dreamed that my bike was stolen mid bike course once. Don’t ask me how that happens.) and 2) please don’t rain..please don’t rain.

And then we were there! Got the bike tires checked for pressure, got set up and then spent about 15 minutes debating whether or not I wanted to wear the wet suit. Race time was approaching and I was texting the husband, looking for the husband and not finding the husband. He overslept…… and then we were off!!!

THE SWIM

FiNALLY a swim without panic. I took the advice I got from “beginner triathlete” and sang in my head. ¬†A little “Uptown Funk” base line kept me focused and going. I probably could have gone a little harder but the plan for this race was to find a way to swim without freaking out — don’t go out too hard. At one point, I thought I was way behind everyone so I had to mentally keep my game going by reminding myself that the success of this race was not panicking and having a strong swim. I figured I can fix it a bit on the bike and the run. Out of the water, I realized that the person in front of me was my friend and that swim a was a little faster than I thought!

On the way back in to transition I hear my neighbors from the lake screaming out my name. It turns out that they had woken up the husband and they’d come down together.

THE BIKE

I got out of transition, forgot my race belt, and then was back out and on the road. The first part of the cycle felt amazing. I passed my friend and was pushing well and then the hill hit. ¬†OH MY GOD THE HILL!!! ¬†Now, remember, I’m a prairie girl. I do get to ride the hills at the cottage but those hills are nothing like this hill…this hill went on and on and on and on….my watch registered the incline at about 100m. It was brutal. I passed a couple people and was like “YES!!! I’VE GOT THIS!!” and then I looked at my speed and started laughing. I might as well have been going backwards. ¬†Don’t ask me how some people managed to fly up that thing. They must have legs of steel and feel zero pain. I yelled at one guy as he came racing by ¬†“you make it look so easy” to which he yelled back “oh hell no”…while moving at double my speed.

The way down that hill was a blast. I wish there wasn’t a head wind because it would have been awesome to figure out just how fast I can go. On the way back in to transition I joked with the volunteers that I wouldn’t forget anything this time. ¬†I can hear the neighbors again screaming and yelling out my number, which they were enjoying way too much (I was “blessed” with number 69…never going to hear the end of it). It made me laugh enough that it pumped me for the final leg.

THE RUN

BARF. At least I thought I was going to for the first 5 minutes. Thank go that passed. The run wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Mentally, I wanted to go faster…I really did…but my legs were just refusing. I was flip flopping from speeds that I was happy with and speeds where I was like “GOOOOOOOOOO”. Uptown Funk rhythms helped refocus me a bit again. I came across the finish line strong because I didn’t want the lake friends to think I was wimpy and then I was done!

THE RESULTS

Not going to lie — I was totally disappointed. ¬†I was 6th in my age category and two minutes faster than my sprint last year on an easier course so I should be happy…but I’m competitive and really wanted to place in my age group. That being said — I looked at the times….the women in my age group were just insanely fast!! I was about the same speeds as the men in my age range but those women must feel zero pain to be able to get up that hill at some crazy speeds. But, as my friend reminded me, I was faster than last year and faster than her….and nothing fell apart, unlike the “disastrous race”

 

The Land of Broken Training Sessions

Well, that was fun. And by fun I mean frustrating and annoying.

I have a race in a week so I figured before I started easing back, I’d better get a brick session in. I haven’t done one in a while and I should probably remember what that horrible jelly legs feels like.  So, off I go! And my cycle is feeling pretty good. I’m givin’er on the hills and they’re finally not feeling like death. I’m a happy camper and then WAIT! What was that???

RESCUE #1

I have a flat. On the side of the highway 4km in to my ride. The good news– at least I was down the hill before I ran in to the problem. The bad news– it was a terrible way to wreck the fabulous momentum I had. So, I get off the bike and call the husband for rescue because the last thing I want to be doing is fighting with changing a tire on the side of a busy highway.

We get back and find the hole and patch it because it turns out that the backup tube in my kit is way too large for my bike. Good thing we figured this out now and not mid-race when I was desperate.

Fixed up! Good to go!

Back on the road…

I’m not feeling quite as fabulous but I’m ready to go on attempt #2. I head out on the highway and I’m not flying at quite the speed I was, but hey, at least I’m going. Get to the turnaround spot, wait for the tons of traffic to pass and head on home. It’s a bit windy but overall beautiful and my patch is holding so yay!

All of a sudden I hear a noise and look up just in time to see a cooler lid come flying off the back of someones truck. ACK!

“please don’t hit me …please don’t hit me…”  whew! It lands on the highway. but WAIT! There’s another car about drive over it.  “please don’t fling it at me…please don’t fling it at me…” and it just stays put until the next car hits it and here comes the cooler lid flying right at me! And it just misses my back tire by a matter of inches. Yikes.

At this point I figure “that’s two”…I’d better get back before I end up with a third thing going wrong.

In the distance I can see them…the dark looming clouds. We’ll call it motivation  to pick up my pace and get going. I figure I have lots of time. I figure wrong. I feel the first few drops and sigh. Well, at least I won’t over heat

RESCUE #2

And then it hits. The WALL OF RAIN…awesome. I’m still more than 5km from home and I am getting pelted by rain. I chuckle a bit because rain seems to be the theme of this year’s tri season for me. And then I stop chucking. The rain has picked up and I can no longer see anything. It’s pouring and the semi-truck drivers are pulling over to the side for a minute. I realize that’s it. I can’t do this in this weather. I pull over in to the gas station parking lot and call again for rescue. A couple of flashes of lightening in front of me tell me I made the right decision. All I can do is laugh when the car pulls up to collect me. I look like a drowned rat. I’m completely soaked.


I give up. Today there will be no brick session.

And then the sun came back out.

You have got to be kidding me.

I still give up.

Today is not my day.

 

The Dance 

Ever feel like “it’s just not my season”? 

I’m feeling a bit that way today. My legs are on fire all the time, I’m not powering through the hills like I managed to be able to do last year and I feel like I’m not managing to get any faster. Maybe it’s just not my season. 

There’s a race in a week and a half and instead of thinking that I’m going to go and kill it, I’m thinking that I’m going to “hopefully survive.” I haven’t managed the improvement that I wanted to.

It’s the mental game. It can get in the way. It’s causes you to doubt yourself more than any physical thing. Have I trained enough? Too much? Why am I not faster? Is this all I’ve got? Question after question to psych yourself out. 

Triathlon is a dance between the physical and the mental. They take turns leading and if one is a bad partner then the dance fails. 

My dance is off beat now.

A Weighty Topic

This year has been a variety of struggles -injuries, hectic schedules, etc but the most frustrating one has been weight gain. I know that any friends who know me will start rolling their eyes here because I’m still not exactly the biggest person in the world. My current weight, although desirable to many, is one that I’m not comfortable with. I’m not comfortable in my own skin.

A about 10 years ago, I started a new job and gained a considerable amount of weight. I was a much larger woman than I was accustomed to being. I felt unattractive and unhealthy. So I decided to change it. I ate better, I worked out and I lost 50 lbs. I was so happy and proud and it’s actually what brought me in to running (which I am eternally grateful for).

This year, however, something has changed. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I slacked some on my healthy eating, maybe it was the high amounts of stress, but whatever it is, I have started to gain. ¬†At first, it was a matter of just not losing my “summer weight.” I’m backwards to most people and I’m super active in the winter because I’m teaching dance at work plus training so in the summer I GAIN weight (thanks to lake living and eating ) –usually about 10lbs and then it goes away when the school year kicks back in. This time it never really went away. I got some of it back down but not in the way I was accustomed. And then it got worse and more weight came on. Now I sit at about 7-10lbs heavier than I usually sit in top form. And I’m devastated. I know it’s not much, but I have a small frame.

Logically, I know that the number on the scale shouldn’t really matter that much and it should be about how I feel, how strong I am and how fast I am in my races but this where the struggle comes in. Because I spent a bunch of time injured this year, I don’t feel as strong, I don’t feel as fast and my body isn’t responding in the way I want even though I am training hard.

My husband is the king of sabotage by snacking all the time on the least healthy foods, wanting steaks and bacon and eggs on the weekends and eating at all hours and I have very little/no willpower when the smell of bacon fills the house and food is being waved under my nose. And it doesn’t help that I LOVE to cook. Whether it’s healthy or gourmet cooking, I love making food. Entertaining over a meal is one of the things I enjoy the most.

There seems to be nothing I can do to get my body back on track (which I know is just the frustration speaking) but this weight gain along with the injuries is just making me feel as though my body is betraying me. In my head, I tell myself that some of this gain is muscle – that I have added strength even though it doesn’t always feel like it — but in the end, the frustration wins. My body isn’t quite as sleek as I want it to be and in the summer months of living in bathing suits, I’m not as confident. ¬†I miss my muscle tone and the feeling of being light on my feet.

Most of the time when I try to talk to people about this, they roll their eyes and tell me I’m being stupid. They make fun of my concerns or disregard them entirely. My usual weight is lower than that of most friends my age. One friend finally seemed to understand and said that it’s about what you are used to and comfortable with for yourself.

I likely won’t be able to do as much about it in the summer as I want (even though it’s race season) but I need to find a way to not let my body image frustration affect my performance as an athlete. The mental game becomes a weighty topic.

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