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theunexpectedtriathlete

I never saw that coming!

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. 

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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.

The Disastrous Race

There’s always one. Sometimes you see it coming, and sometimes it just sneaks up on you when you’re not looking…the race from HELL.

brrrrrrr!! cold!

In the style of Sophia from Golden Girls….”picture it, Birds Hill Park, Manitoba, June 12, 2016……”

It was a cold, rainy and miserable day. Not what one would expect in June. A chilly 12C, the rain was pounding down, the wind was pulling tents up and over to the point they were being dismantled and put away. The thunder and lightening in the background created an addition enhancement to the atmosphere. And there we were, a group of crazy triathletes, all in our wet suits, huddled together under a tree, trying to escape the torture of the weather and anxiously awaiting information from the race director.”It’s going to be a great day! Just wait! The clouds will be clearing in about 10 minutes!” Came the booming voice over the loudspeaker. I looked at my friend, pointed out that they had said the same thing 30 minutes ago and continued to shiver. The debate was on…could we just do the whole damn race in a wet suit? You could totally cycle and run in it, right? We watched a couple of (smart) people head in to the transition area, grab their stuff and leave. A few minutes later the instructions came that we would be delaying the start and the Olympic and sprint distances would just be starting closer together. In the meantime, we were to go to our cars to warm up. Yup, that’s right. It was miserable enough that we were sent BACK to the cars because it was too damned cold to be outside.My friend and I huddled in the car, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, wondering if, perhaps, we really were insane, drinking coffee and cranking up the heat until we stopped shivering. And then it was time. We wandered down for the pre-race meeting. We figured it was as good a time as any to test the water and see how brutal it was going to be to swim in. Turns out, the water felt wonderful and all the athletes were hiding in it to stay warm. During the meeting, we were dragged out of the water and danced on the sand, our feet freezing to it with every step. As soon as that meeting was over there was a mad rush to get back in to the warmth of the water. The dark cloud and distant thunder loomed in the background, reminding us that we were, indeed, going to do this race soaked, whether we liked it or not.

huddled for warmth

The Olympic athletes were off and our time quickly approached and before I knew it we were off… and I was blind. Anti-fog spray my ass!! I flipped on my back for a bit to try to fix them, breast strokes a few times to get my bearings and then back in to the swim…and then fogged again. Can’t see a thing. No idea where I am on the course. Better fix this…. and then it strikes…

DISASTER 1: The strap lets go. Half way through swim and I no longer have goggles that will stay on my face. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I wear contacts to continuing with my face in the water just doesn’t work. I shove the goggles in my teeth and start breast stroking with my head up through the course, cursing in frustration the whole time. My friend is going to beat me due to goggle failure.  I go racing up in to the transition area just as my friend is leaving. Good, I  can catch her on the bike, it’s not over yet!

Shoes on…jacket on… helmet on…grab bike and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I can see her in the distance and I’m gaining on her. My legs are strong, I can do this. Closer and closer…I just need to adjust my gear and…

DISASTER 2: Bike chain drops. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I thought this problem was fixed!!! Hop off the bike, cursing wildly, pop the chain back on. My hands have a coating of grease that matches both the weather and my mood. It’s ok… I can still catch her. PUSH AND GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. She’s still in my view! I can do this!!! and then… well, they say things come in threes….

DISASTER 3: I can feel the twitching in my hamstring…the tightening of the muscle as it fights the cold. The muscle that may not quite be as healed from the tear in October as I would have liked. No, no, no!!! Not today! Not now!! No seizing!! And I can feel it. And… CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. I’m off the bike, using it as support to get this damn muscle to release. Good enough. I get back on the bike and tell my leg it’s just going to have to suck it up for a while longer. I look up. She’s gone. Defeat sets in.

First loop of the park done and she sees me as she heads for the second loop. She hoots and hollers, celebrates and laughs. I cry. She has no way of knowing the disaster that has been my race. I head out on the second loop a defeated and frustrated athlete. The rain starts a little again, this time, in ice format, pelting me at every turn. The dark clouds and thunder are closer now.  What’s the point? I’m so far behind I must be dead last in the whole race — totally irrational thought as I have CLEARLY been passing people despite everything going wrong. The downfall to the Birds Hill course is that you can end up quite isolated and I assumed I was so far behind. And then I gave up, slowed down and felt a little sorry for myself for a few minutes. And then that passed.

Eff-it. LET’S GO! In to the transition area, I see my friend just heading out on the run. Holy crap. I wasn’t that far behind after all. Damn. I could have caught/passed her if I hadn’t been acting like such a baby (when the results are posted I discover we were a mere 10 seconds apart in cycling time).  Rack the bike and head out on the running course. I’m a fast runner. I can catch her. I’m running, my legs are seizing, it’s freezing, and then the rain dumps. Full out downpour. You have got to be kidding me. At this point, all I can do is laugh. One of the course officials is cycling along side me, also laughing at the ridiculousness that has been my race but giving words of encouragement as I approach my friend. Along side her, I tell her that I don’t know if I can finish. I can feel the twitching in my hamstring again and I think I’m going to seize. But my slow and icky run suddenly shifts. The muscles in my legs loosen a bit as I pass her. WHEEEEE!!! I’m running, I’m moving, I’m going…. there’s the finish line!!!  WOOOT~~~~

And now all I can do is laugh. And when the results are posted, I’m DFL in my group. But I beat the race that wanted to beat me.

(and still snuck past my friend in the last few minutes)

messy and gross post-race

Oh –and on a side note, I ran the relay with my friend in the Manitoba Marathon this weekend and CRAP was it humid. I thought I was going to pass out the whole time. That means I’ve had a race that was so freaking cold that I could barely stand it and one that was so freaking HOT/HUMID that it was making athletes collapse. That means the next one will be perfect, right?

dead effing last

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.
 

Easing back in.

I hate being held back and this injury has done a great job of slowing me down. I haven’t trained in weeks. I’m packing on weight (granted being on a cruise right now doesn’t help that) and I just don’t feel like my awesome self. I need to get back on track. And what better place to do that than on vacation. Ridiculous, I know.

I discovered that the elliptical trainer doesn’t cause pain so I’ve done that a couple times and then I tried to run the path on the top of the ship. 

 

first attempt at running= fail
 
The view was spectacular but my foot injury resisted. I barely made 20 minutes before I had to stop. It was crushing. Especially because I have two runs coming up right away. Back to the elliptical and feeling sorry for myself.

Today, however, a small glimmer of hope. I hit the gym on the ship.  

the stunning Freedom of the Seas
 
And tackled a brick session knowing I might not survive. The goal: 25 mins cycling, 25 mins running. And I did it! No cycling pain and probably could have pushed harder but the best part was the run. Yes, I still ended up with pain but the foot held up until the last 5 minutes. I was a little slower and therefore short of my 5k but I seem to be at least on the right track. Slow and steady and I should be ready for my 8k in 3 weeks and, hopefully, the half marathon in a month.  

Now, if I can just stop eating on this cruise….

brick training on the ship

Set back again

So, wonderful, amazing, high-inducing run and then…crutches. Damn.  I blame the ice in my driveway and the spectacular fall I took. Spectacular because I managed to save my coffee, less than spectacular because, well, crutches.

I tried to tough it out and carry on but by the next day I couldn’t handle it. Too bad the hospital was useless ! The best I got from them was “not fractured. Take the crutches and see a physiotherapist or something if it still hurts in a few days.”  Helpful! Thanks. Going to the physio on Tuesday.

So, here I am, almost a week later and still hobbling around. I have discovered I can cycle without any extra pain so at least now I can do that but I am so frustrated!!! I want to run! 

Today, I figured I could go crutch free around the house. Yeah….not so much. By the time I was done making a lasagna and getting it in the oven, I was done. Couldn’t take any more…back to the crutch..and ice…and sulking on the couch.

So much for great training sessions and a rocking bikini body for my vacation in 11 days ☹️

This seems to be the year of the injury. 
  

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