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theunexpectedtriathlete

I never saw that coming!

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Random Thoughts

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. 

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. 

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.

Half Marathon!

Yesterday, I ran my first half marathon. What a crazy experience that was! I’m super proud of the fact that I did it but it made me question my sanity a little! 

For days leading up to it I was panicking and having nightmares that I couldn’t do it. I figured there was no way that I could get through running 21.1 km. Plus, being the overachiever that I am, I set myself this stupid goal — that I wanted to finish in 2 hours. 

For nights I tossed and turned and wondered how this was ever going to happen -especially considering I am just coming off of injury. And then it was race day. Ack!!!
I am amazed that I was not only able to do it but that I was still smiling at the end. I was hurting, my feet and knees were on fire, but time passed faster than I expected.

 I was so happy to run with a friend through most of the race. A high-five from him at the half way mark was a good boost and having someone with me made the nerves settle before the start. 

I spent a portion of the race just admiring the amazing group of people who had taken on this challenge. I was in awe of the amount of people in their 60s full out running this race (and kicking my butt!) and the dude who ran it BAREFOOT (what!?!!)

It was a wild race of emotion. From terror to elation. There were times it felt like I was never going to make it, times where I was flying high and having a great time, times when I just wanted to GOOOOOOOO and times when I wanted my friend to slow down because there was no way I could do that pace. 

I had made the choice to think in miles instead of kilometers because 21.1km seems insane but the smaller number of 13.1 miles seems manageable (plus, I have zero concept of how far a mile is). And, I think that choice helped. On the way out, I noticed where the 12 mile marker was and when I saw it on the way back -what a boost it was!!!

I started to tear up at the 12 mile marker. I couldn’t believe that I had made it that far. And then there were the cheers and the shoutouts from the spectators and I ran faster than I had the whole race, fighting tears the whole time. In the last 100 meters there were kids shouting at another racer (male) “don’t let her beat you!!!” and so he sped up. But so did I. 

And I crossed that line before he did.

And I finished my first half marathon in 2 hours and 26 seconds.


And I may never walk again.
 

Half Crazy?

Like being a triathlete isn’t crazy enough!!! ¬†People are already pretty convinced that I’m insane and my over-achiever tendencies are already mocked on a fairly regular basis. So, what do I do? ¬†Decide to make it worse!!

My new challenge is a half-marathon and while in theory that makes me “half-crazy”, I’m pretty convinced that this makes me completely insane. Padded room, anyone? Just me? Ok.

I am now going to have to work to run WAY further than my sprint distance of 5k and considerably longer than my max distance of 13.2km. ¬†And the best part? I haven’t left myself enough time. Only 10 weeks with a vacation in the middle of it. Good planning on my part.

Half crazy? Oh, hell no! I’m RIGHT FREAKING NUTS

Back in the saddle

It’s been a while. I’ve been slacking. I wish I had a good reason but the truth is, I don’t. The things that took up my time for training are done and have been for a couple weeks but I just didn’t get back to training. 

 

chain came off 20 seconds in
 
Part of me has been a little depressed and instead of taking advantage of the best anti-depressant, I avoided it.  So, today, I seized the opportunity to get back in the game. I couldn’t decide if I was going to run or bike. So, instead of picking one and doing the logical thing and easing myself back into training, I went for the dreaded brick session.  And not even a gentle one. Full sprint distance brick session. I really can’t do anything half way. Part of me is glad for that. Throwing myself head first in to things is something I really like about myself. I get to really get the most out of a lot of experiences. And while this feels amazing right now, I’m sure I’m going to regret this in the morning. The downside to my “all or nothing” tendency is that there’s usually a consequence. And this one is going to hurt a bit. At least it’s good pain. 

feeling good about those times
  
My times were decent, my body felt good and I was reminded that I really do enjoy this. 

Training is amazing therapy.  

finally smiling after an awesome session

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