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theunexpectedtriathlete

I never saw that coming!

THUD!!

You know what that sound is? It’s me hitting the wall. And not the cool “Game of Thrones” wall where the Watch is on duty and I might get to chase after Jon Snow, but the one that hurts a lot more: the training wall.

THUD.

Theeeeere it is. The moment where any sort of productive training stops, everything feels like death and you are definitely regressing not PROgressing.

THUD.

I hit it face first this time. I actually didn’t see it coming which makes it all the more frustrating. But there it is…

THUD.

The lack of progress, the backwards slide, the wrenching frustration that comes with just  not being able to feel GOOD about any of the training sessions.

Mine hit right after the half marathon a month ago. That race was fan-fricken-tastic. I mean, yeah, the IT band hurt and, yeah, I hobbled through the last two kilometers while seriously considering just sitting down and asking someone to drag me, but I finished in my goal time so that makes it fan-fricken-tastic. And then it all fell apart.

I have fallen spectacularly from grace. THUD!! From 13.1 in under 2 hours to not being able to get through 5k without stopping repeatedly to die a little.  Now, I am accustomed to the first few runs after I move to the lake sucking. I am a prairie girl who runs on the flat flat flat and then I end up in the Canadian Shield trying to make my body heave itself up steep hills, or the long, drawn-out hill that I affectionately call “the hill from hell” because, while it doesn’t seem so steep, it just keeps going forever…and ever…and ever…

This year, however, my body seems to be refusing to adjust. Even when I went to my other family cottage in Riding Mountain National Park, which has less challenging hills, my body just says “nope!” Most years, after a week or so of hauling my sorry ass up the hills (and believe me, half way up those hills,  it is VERY sorry),  I can get the groove going. This year however, the theme of each run is “THUD…ugh….wall”. Today, I decided to mix it up with some sprints, so with 30 second sprints at 1 min/km faster(minimum) than I usually run, hitting the wall made a little more sense– I mean, sprinting uphill is two horrible things combined– but it wasn’t during the sprints where I started to fall apart, it was the cool down. Go figure.

How much is mental? How much is physical? Is one better than the other? I mean, I’m kind of pulling for the mental because then it’s all in my head, not that I am entirely sure how to fix it. And, if it’s physical, how on earth did I crash and burn so quickly??

Either way… I need a solution and quickly because that “THUD” is really starting to hurt!  Plus, I have two Sprints coming up a week apart and if I don’t get my butt in gear (hahaha) they are  not going to go well!

It’s not about ego. Or is it? 

The Gazelle is training hard and progressing beautifully. Every session is a magical moment of improvement. I’m proud of her. She had a rough season last year and she is the queen of the comeback. 

There’s just one problem…

I suck. 

Now, I don’t mean that literally. I’ve got some solid races under my belt and I’m certainly more than reasonable in my times but I’m just not seeing the improvement that The Gazelle is.  In fact, lately, it seems as though things are moving backwards!! 

Let’s face it: right now, I suck! 

I had an amazing half marathon and finally broke my 2 hour barrier (1:59 still counts as under 2) and riding the high of that kickass race, I dove head first in to triathlon mode. Swim, bike, run, weights, repeat!! I’m a teacher- I have all the time in the world to train and get butt kicking ready so the Gazelle can’t catch me.

I had big plans for runs and biking at the lake– I will use those hills to build my power (those hills are a challenge for this prairie girl at the start of lake season). I will run and bike like I’ve never ran and cycled before!!! I will….stop half way up the hill and die. 

And there is the theme for all of my runs since the half marathon. Run a few minutes and then stop…run…stop…run…whimper…stop. 

There has not been a good run since the half marathon! How is this possible?? I can run a half marathon in under 2 hours but now I can’t get through 5km?!  

The Gazelle is striding her way in to graceful success and this Bulldog seems to be grunting and snorting and dragging stubby legs.

I will happily accept any sort of suggestions as to how to get past this hump because I would much prefer to improve rather than move backwards- which is how every run feels lately: I may actually be travelling backwards instead of forwards. I am in a constant state of running “blech”.

The Gazelle asked me if it would really be so bad if I didn’t have to wait for her at the finish line. I said “yes.” 

It might be a little about ego. 

Riding the Wave: “Failure” and Success

I’ve been quiet for a while!! Work has been busy, life hectic and, I’m not going to lie – training somewhat non-existent.  But!! That’s about to change. Time to get back on the wagon before it gets so far away that I can’t catch it.

I’ve got three races under my belt so far this season. Two half-marathons and one Sprint Triathlon and they’ve been met with mixed success. I’m having to learn how to work with this new, slightly broken, body. My gait has changed and certain muscles have weakened since by battle with Vestibular Neuritis and its been a “fun” little game trying to get back to full strength.

The good news: Failure is becoming motivating. The motto of “embrace the suck” is pretty much the name of the game but at this point it causes as much laughter at myself as it does frustration.

Here’s how things have gone so far….

 

Race #1:  The “HELP ME!!!” Half Marathon really called the Winnipeg Police Service Half-Marathon

It’s a nice day in May. A little windy but not too shabby. Which is impressive for Winnipeg where you never really can predict what the weather will do in this crazy Canadian city.

I’m running with a friend from work.  He’s faster than me but not enough for me to worry about it. I should be able to pace him fairly well. I tell him that I am not going to miss my goal of under 2 hours by 26 seconds again because that would just suck.   We’re off and running at a steady 5:21/km . I’m feeling good and we are joking a bit about how work is going to hurt the next day.

And then it hits. The attack of the IT Band. Barely 10 km  in and I can feel the pain creeping up in to my knee. I mentally tell my body to piss off because I do not have time for this and there is a long damned way to go.  I let my running buddy run ahead so I don’t screw up his time and I push as best I can.

I walk.

I grunt in frustration.

I text my best friend who is out with an injury and she tells me to “EMBRACE THE SUCK!!”

I walk. I run. I cry. Damn does it hurt.  About mile 11, a woman runs along side me as I am dragging myself up a small incline. She puts her hand on my back and tells me I’m ok. And I cry some more out of pure frustration.  Just after mile 12 I see a guy sitting on the ground with the medics around him and I tell myself “THAT WILL NOT BE ME”. At mile 13 the end is in sight but I can no longer bend my knee at all. I’m barely jogging and even that .1 seems insurmountable.  A man runs along side me, put his hand on my arm and pulls me along with him. He keeps pulling me until I tell him that “I’ve got it. I’m good.” Runners are truly amazing and supportive people.

I crossed the finish line at 2 hours 5 minutes… well, I DID say I didn’t want to miss the 2 hour mark by 26 seconds.

I embraced the suck.

IMG_7189[1]
My very supportive colleague waited for me at the finish. Notice my awkward stance as I can no longer use the right leg 
Race #2:  The Triathlon that Hates Me really called the Triple Threat Triathlon in Birds Hill Park.

So, one rarely expects their first tri of the year to be fantabulous but this race seems to be out to get me. Last year I dubbed it “the race from hell” because everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong and this year wasn’t leaps and bounds better.

The disorientation from the vestibular neuritis kicked me in the butt in the swim and I had to stop more than once to try to reorient myself. It was a crummy swim.  My sense of panic was high because of the disorientation and I just couldn’t seem to get myself back under control.

Now, my goal is always to beat my best friend, Sandra. She is fantastic and about as competitive as me. In theory, her long legs should allow her to kick my butt. Our athletic therapist has said that she is like a gazelle and I’m like a bulldog (woof?). And, while I’d much prefer to be compared to the long, lean, graceful gazelle (especially considering I’m a dancer), the bulldog seems about right some days (although I hope I’m not as short and stumpy as that implies) .

Imagine my surprise as I come in to transition, annoyed with myself for screwing up the swim so badly, and find the Gazelle still getting herself ready for the bike! ALL IS NOT LOST!!! I manage to get out of transition mere seconds behind her and now the race is on!! I hit that bike course like…well…a bulldog. I pulled away from her and used every ounce of my being to make sure she didn’t catch me. One loop done and as I’m heading out for the second I pass her on her way in.  Panic sets in that she’s going to catch me and I hammer down convinced that every athlete coming up behind me is her.

Back in to transition, rack the bike, still don’t see the Gazelle. Start running. Now, I should mention that I have Raynaud’s Disease as well. It’s a lovely little circulatory issue that causes my toes and fingers to go numb. Usually this happens when I’m cold but I’ve noticed lately that hard bike rides or strenuous runs can bring it on as well.  And, it rears it’s ugly little head and for the first kilometer my toes are completely numb. I wiggle them, I shake them, I curse them, all while trying to maintain a reasonable speed. EXCEPT!!! That courtesy of the neuritis, I am under trained.  The under training begins to show and the knee aches slightly but I am quickly distracted from the IT Band issue by the horrible cramping in my left quad… oh crap.  It’s two kilometers in to the 5k run and I’ve cramped up. This is a first for me. It sucks. I don’t recommend it.  I stop, massage, run. Stop, massage, run. Bear down and grunt in pain and aim for that finish line!!

Failure comes in that I was a little slower than the year before when it was the race from hell but…. I still manage to beat the Gazelle.

 

 

Race #3:  The “Singing in the Rain” Half Marathon really called the Manitoba Marathon

It was rainy. It was cold. It was like 15 degrees cooler than it should have been on a June day. It was a nasty start. I was supposed to meet Sandra, who will now forever be called “The Gazelle”, and her husband before the start of our waves. He was going to start in wave 1 and she was seeding herself in to wave 2.  Unfortunately, that never happened. I waited for almost an hour to catch the shuttle to the starting point, had to sprint to drop off my bag and wave 1 was underway before I was anywhere close to settled. I managed to get in to my wave and find a pace bunny with just minutes to spare.  I happily followed the 1:55 pace bunny (who I am convinced was going slightly faster than that pace). I wondered if I would ever find The Gazelle.

At the earlier part of the race, we passed the cemetery where my Dad is buried. It was Father’s Day and I felt the emotion starting to build up. I waved at my Dad as I ran past and asked him to help get me through a race where I probably shouldn’t, according to the athletic therapist, have been running.

I got a fun little game going with another runner in the 1:55 pack. He may not have been playing but I certainly was. I would run past him and settle myself in to a spot, only to have him come racing up and past me, so, I would race up past him and the game continued for quite some time. Somewhere a long the lines, the 1:55 pack moved a little further away and I heard another runner comment that they were definitely faster than the 1:55 pace.  I didn’t care. I had my goal and I was going to, hopefully, get there.

The first 10k flew by, which was a nice surprise, and I was still pain free.  I heard a voice call my name and I turned to see The Gazelle beside me on the course. I had caught up to her and was comfortably moving past. We chatted for a minute about meeting up at the end and I continued at my pace… and then the pain began again. Luckily, when the twinges began it was at about the 15km mark. I did have to pull over and adjust my IT band strap and allowed myself short, less than 1 minute, periods of walking to try to deal with the pain.  I was always trying to be aware of my time. I didn’t want to miss my goal time by 26 seconds…again… the last 2 km were excruciating and I wondered if I had lost my goal time. I hadn’t seen the 2-hour pace bunny pass me but I had been distracted by the pain.  My pace was dropping and I was worried about the time but I kept pushing. I told myself that I would be able to deal with the pain later and just to keep on moving.

As I came around the corner and in to the stadium I made the decision to just give’er! The my watch and the timer indicated that my goal was in sight and I raced for that finish line with every ounce of my being.

I cried but this time from the incredible emotion that comes from meeting your goal. 1:59:08. That’s under 2 hours and I will happily take it.  I’m sure my Dad was with me as I struggled through the end and it was fitting that I made that goal on Father’s Day.

 

And, now it’s onwards and upwards. Time for a new half marathon goal and to get ready for the Hecla Triathlon….and maybe to let that IT Band heal a little.

 

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 😆)

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”

 

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