Back to Square One and Okay with it

It’s been two+ months since I recognized my burnout and I’m happy to say, folks, that sparkly Pen is back.  I think back to how I was living this spring/early summer and it just makes me sad.  I remember being on the verge of tears constantly.  I remember sleep-walking through the days until I could get home at 5 to nap.  I remember being constantly stressed that my training was going so poorly and yet still didn’t have it in me to invest more into my training.

My two weeks off really did the trick.  During that time, I travelled to Western NC and didn’t swim, bike, or run once.  Instead, I filled my days with reading, eating great foods, hiking with the dogs, and occasionally relaxing out by the pool.  It was wonderful.

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How adorable are the pups with their packs???

I returned back to my life after the 4th of July and was noticeably more myself, but I was not fully healed.  It has taken another two more months of not training, not stressing about training, and focusing on self-care to get to the point where I am on the mend.

Does this mean that I’m back to “normal?”  Heck no.  Right now, my “long” runs are 4 miles.  My run pace is 1.5min/mi slower than I was running in June…which itself was already 30 seconds/mile slower than I used to run.  I haven’t been in a pool for 2 months and I’ve ridden only maybe 100 miles since that last post.  60 of those miles were part of a charity ride that I entered on a whim and just enjoyed being outside on my bike.

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But, all of this time off means two things, (1) I’m out of shape.  I’ve said to people that I’m out of shape and they always give me the same reaction.  They look me up and down and say “you don’t look out of shape.”  But the thing is, in-shape-ness is not determined by weight.  I may look close to the same as I did in June (perhaps because, well, I didn’t look particularly ironman-fit then either), but I am not sure that I could comfortably complete a 10K if I wanted to right now.  And honestly sometimes, being “in-shape” is relative.

(2) I found a life outside of Ironman.  I have a tendency to be extreme.  I pretty much live balls to the wall.* I like to be busy, I like to do be productive, and I pretty much run my life in constant fear of being lazy.  This means that there is little time for down time and relaxing.  And we all see where that left me before.  So, I’ve been actively trying to find “non-productive” things to enjoy during my free time now.  I think part of the reason that I was so drawn to ironman was that I could have a hobby that required me to be productive during all of my “free” time.  So, I’m changing that.  The pups are getting lots of dog park time and I’m doing a lot of cooking.  Brennan has become a whizz at frisbee catching.  He is less of a whizz at giving the frisbee back sometimes.

I’m happy and relaxed, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little unmoored by the current loss of my athlete identity.  And I would be lying if I said I don’t feel pangs of jealousy and insecurity when I see all of the wonderful things that my triathlete and runner friends are doing.  I want to be back training, but I want to keep the balance.  So where does this leave me?  Rebuilding.  And I am kind of excited.  There are no expectations except the expectation that I continue to have a life in addition to work and training.  I’m planning on getting back into running–my very first true love and I plan on fashioning goals for next year that have absolutely nothing with being fast but instead test other limits of mine.   Next year, I’m going to start by focusing on running a healthy and smart half-marathon and then move to attempting an event that I don’t even know if I can even complete: The Assault on Mt. Mitchell.

But first, before all that, I’ve got to get back at it.

*Did you know that this idiom actually originates from the position of a throttle lever in going full power?

Don’t Even Care: How Burnout Killed My Ironman Season

Don’t let my silence fool you into thinking that I am deep into the busy ironman training season.  I am not.  Lately I  have been doing a lot of sleeping.  This post has been a long time in the making, but unfortunately, the subject is the prime reason that I can rarely get myself to sit down and focus on writing.  The big bad B-word: Burnout.

Like many other professions, my particular career carries with it a very unique predisposition to causing burnout and compassion fatigue (see here and here).  I thought I was burned out in 2010 and 2011.  But it was nothing like I feel now.  After the crash happened in February (and again in March) and I was forced to take a step back from training, I lost my primary stress outlet.   I think that is when things started to unravel.  My lack of training led to poor management of stress which just increased my stress and made me more tired so that when I could start training again I didn’t have the emotional/physical/psychological reserves to put in 14 hours of training per week.  That made me feel guilty AND continued to mean that I was lacking in a stress outlet, which in turn compounded everything.  By this spring, I was coming home to nap during my lunch hour and napping again when I got home from work.  I was skipping workouts, key workouts, right and left.

 

Ultimately, in May, I found myself sitting on the curb during a number of runs with my head in my hands because I was so unhappy and tired.  It was during a run on Memorial Day weekend, that I sat down on the curb and crafted an email to Jen saying that I just couldn’t do a full Ironman this year.  3 mile runs were difficult and I just did not feel like myself.  And with that, I essentially wiped out all of my plans for the rest of the year.  And I just didn’t even care.

 

 

I thought that I might be depressed.  I thought that I might just be over triathlon.  I thought that maybe I was just a lazy and apathetic person.  But, it wasn’t until two weekends ago, though, that I figured out what was happening.  For a while I just thought that I was dead inside because my attitude to almost everything in my life became one of callous indifference.  I was becoming someone who is not me.  But while at a PD conference, when everyone was talking about how inspired they were, I turned to a coworker and started to cry.  And all I could do was say that I realized just how tired and numb I was.  I realized that always taking home all the immense sadness in my job was making it so that I was too tired to do anything. I didn’t care about anything.  Not a goddamn thing.  And especially not training for an Ironman.

So, I got home and I looked up burnout.  And every single symptom was me to a T.   Chronic fatigue, but insomnia at night? Check. Increased Illness? Check (so many GD colds…). Anxiety? Check. Loss of Enjoyment and Pessimism? Check.  Anger? Check.  Feelings of Apathy, Helplessness, and Hopelessness? F yes. I started looking back at the last few months and I think other people noticed before I did.  I had a number of people who I work with on a daily basis ask if I was ok because I had lost my sparkle.  I struggle with being burned out because “why me?”  And not in a plaintive “why god, why me?!” kind of way.  But, in a “why am I the weak one that falls to burn out and not anybody else?” or “why am I the weak one?”  And I feel incredibly guilty that I have ended up this way…because I should be working harder; I should be making a bigger difference.

I realize now, that I haven’t taken a legit vacay since October of 2011.  I have taken time off to race but not taken time off from the world to relax.  And I’m not good at relaxing, which is probably a big part of my problem. I’m also empathic to a fault, so I take home all the burdens of all of my clients.  I honestly spend a lot of my free time thinking about the sadness associated with my clients’ lives and my job in general.  It is difficult not to get burned out as a very sensitive person in a job that is only filled with sadness and where you so often feel absolutely impotent.  I think I was self-medicating with all the triathlon hours I was putting in.  And, to a degree it worked.  But, I also believe that I was headed into burnout even before the crash, the crash just hastened it’s arrival.

And so, after work tomorrow, I start a two week impromptu vacation.  I had two weeks leave of court for Ironman Coeur d’Alene that were not going to be used when I cancelled my IMCdA plans, so I just decided to up and take them.  I have some sketchy plans, but mostly, I just want to find my, as one person called it, “bubble” again.  That person said that when I’m happy and myself, I just bubble.  And I apparently haven’t been that way for a few months.  I know that is not the case now.  I need to find that again, but I’m just not sure how.

But, that’s where I’ve been–in the middle of a burned out apathetic haze.  I feel more out of shape than I have felt in my entire life.  I attempted a sprint triathlon and DNF-ed yesterday because my HR was above 185 the entire time and I couldn’t get it below (another side effect of the revved up nervous system I’m dealing with). I’m just here.  I would like to get back in shape so that I don’t feel so uncomfortable in my skin, but now, I’m in a mindset where I don’t know if it will ever be possible to train like I used to–to want to train like I used to, even.  And I know it is the brain completely clouded over by burnout…but, still.  Right now, it feels like my life will never return to its normal, like I will never be able to crawl out of this.

I am going to start doing the things that I know should help me, even though all I feel  like doing ever is sit on the couch.  Hopefully I will do more yoga, disconnect my work email from my phone, enjoy my runs, eat healthy, and get good sleep.  And hopefully as I piece together these things that I used to love, I’ll start to love them again and I will start to crawl my way out of this hole.  And then when I get done with vacation, I can return to work and take better care of myself.

IMKY Weeks 1 & 2

As I settled into Ironman Louisville (IMKY) training with 22 weeks to go, I struggled with the mental drive to keep up with training.  After almost two months of non-ideal (or non-existent) training because of “catastrophic” ice storms and crash(es), I had forgotten how to hurt.  And I forgot why I did all this training.  In fact, I am still struggling with that right now.  It’s been months and months and months since I’ve raced and I just don’t have that fire lit under my butt right now (maybe because I feel so out of shape).  So, week 1 was a mental battle every day between taking a nap or training.  Or sitting on the couch watching Teen Mom 2 (yea, no shame) or training.  Finally by the end of the week I had a little fight back in me and I got in my first legit long run in months and had a pretty solid brick workout (still on the trainer).

Fueling with Amy's Cheddar Bunnies!
Fueling with Amy’s Cheddar Bunnies!

While I was starting to get my training groove back, I had a figurative anvil dropped on my head and week 2 was plagued with the typical extreme Georgia spring pollen showers.  I honestly have never had horrible allergies…until this year.  I was so incredibly miserable (and probably very unpleasant to deal with).  I only starting feeling better(ish) when I took allegra AND zyrtec AND sudafed AND nasacort (yes, I might have been a bit woozy too).  And that was after 5 days of wandering around carrying a box of tissues and whining to anyone whowould listen.  Just for reference, 100 ppm is a high tree pollen count.  Last week, we had steady 3200+ ppm readings.  That is 32 times what is considered “high.”  I now associate the smell of new spring flowers with misery.

As the week ended and I was still miserably battling allergies, I was *dragged* kicking and screaming to the beach with some friends.  I tried to back out a number of times (the introvert in me always thinks trips with a large group of people are a great plan until it actually comes time to do them.  Then I freak out).  But,as they prepared for drinking and relaxing on the beach, I prepared for some solid beach training.  We took 2 cars and a truck, and the back of the truck was primarily devoted to my bike and trainer and other such training essentials.  I was pretty much a space hog.  But, once I got to the beach, I was thankful to be able to do a beachfront trainer ride (still benched from riding outside) while my friends relaxed and then join them once my 2.5 hours were over with.  I was less motivated by the time sunday came around and did another hour on the trainer, but flaked on my long run.  The pull of breakfast and watching bad movies was too hard to overcome.  I began this week beating myself up about that willful skipping of an important workout, but in the end, I decided that I had to move on from it and use the experience to remind me not to do that again.

Week 1 (March 24 – March 30):

  • Total Hours: 7 hrs 42 min
  • Swim: 1:51/5600yds
  • Bike: 2:30/??miles
  • Run: 2:51/20miles
  • Strength: 0:30

 

Week 2 (March 31 – April 6):

  • Total Hours: 9:01
  • Swim: 2:24/7600yds
  • Bike: 5:54/??miles
  • Run: 0:49/5.5miles

And now, my car is packed up (mostly) and I’m headed to Florida for the first “race” of the season.

And I smack my head again.

Two weeks ago, I was supposed to have a recap all about how I was feeling better and I had committed to Ironman Coeur d’Alene training.  I was all in.  I had lined up at least 7 different 70-100 mile rides that had 5000-10000′ of climbing each.  I was passing on stuff with friends because I was going to spend the next 17 weeks focused on one thing: ironman.

And so with that in mind, I had a good first training week back.  I was a little rusty when I started back on Monday after a two week concussing-fueled hiatus.  But, by Friday, I was getting back in the groove and I had decided that I would drive to Spartanburg for an organized Assault on Mount Mitchell training ride that would be 86 miles and lots of climbing.  So that Saturday morning, March 8th, I woke up early and headed out of town for a 2+hr drive north to Spartanburg.

All was going well when 30 miles into the ride I came down a hill and my aerobars moved.  Apparently I had not tightened the bolt tight enough when I fixed them after the super crash.  So, I looked down to shift them back up because I had a good 100 feet between me and the group.  But, by the time I realized what was happening, the entire group had stopped because the road was washed out.  I slammed on my brakes, but I had to brake so hard that I wiped out.  Ugh.  Again.

The fortunate thing is that the brunt of the fall was absorbed by flesh wounds…though I did hit my head again.

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I never lost consciousness and I def didn’t hit my head nearly as hard this time.  But, this still scared the crap out of me because a higher frequency of brain trauma can exponentially increase the negative effects of the trauma.  I didn’t get another concussion this time, but the crash did set me back a week or so in the recovery from the bad concussion.  After this second accident, my doctor (ok, my triathlon bestie/emergency medicine doc with specialized concussion training) benched me for a month, which means absolutely no riding outside for a month because I cannot risk hitting my head AGAIN while my noggin still heals.

When I realized that I wouldn’t get back out on the road until 12 weeks before IMCdA, I realized that trying to race a full Ironman by the end of June would be a recipe for disaster given this spring’s miserable start.  And, because of that, I took advantage of the new WTC transfer program and transferred my registration to Ironman Louisville.  With Louisville, I’ve opened myself up to a different set of challenges (hot hot hot) but have managed to give myself an extra two months of training and a location close enough that my family will come and cheer!

This spring has been less than ideal with training and I’m now 22 weeks out from Ironman Louisville.  I haven’t had a legit long run since my last half-marathon at the end of January, and I’m solidly twenty pounds above my ideal race weight.  I’m a little scared.  But hey, it can only go up from here, right?

Right.

Concussiongate 2014: Days 0-9

I’m still amazed by the fact that the only part of my body that I managed to damage in this crash was my head/brain.  No road rash, no real bruises, no broken bones.  While I don’t remember the impact, I can only imagine that somehow, I initially and primarily made contact with the ground solely with the back of my helmet.

Here’s what I remember from that ride on Sunday 2/16:  

Finishing up one 25 mile loop on my ride and trying to decide if I should do 30 mile loop or a 35 mile loop.  Getting hit in the head with head-level ice-storm debris that extended from the shoulder out over on the road.  Being surprised and knocked off-balance by that and then as I tried to correct, seeing more debris in the road.  Thinking “oh expletive, I’m going to crash.” Thinking “oh expletive, I’m crashing.”

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The offending ice-storm debris

**Nothing**

Waking up with a car pulled over on the side of the road and two guys that were already holding my bike.  Trying to get up to get to my bike.  Briefly standing up, blacking out, falling back down as I passed out again.  Pretty much crawling to the side of the road as I tried not to vomit.  Remembering to stop my garmin (priorities, people!). Telling the guys from the car “oh, I’m totally fine, I’ll just ride home, you can go on.”

Deciding after they left and I was alone on the side of the road that I totally could not ride home.  Deciding that instead of calling my friends, it was a good idea to send texts (or even smarter, GroupMe messages) to my friends to see if they could pick me up.  Thinking a good GroupMe message was: “crashed my bike, can anyone pick me up on the side of the road in SC.”  Calling my bff’s husband and saying that I was somewhere over the river in SC and giving the following directions: “cross the river at that road by the place, and then turn right and keep going.”  Knowing that I was incapable of giving coherent directions to anyone who didn’t know where I was.  Thinking “oh I should totally instagram a picture of the debris that made me crash.”  Not instagramming said picture.

Getting picked up by a cycling/triathlon friend who would know where I was without me really having to explain.  Driving home and having said friend suggest he take me to the ER.  Refusing, saying I was “fine!”  Getting home and texting my bestie, who then told me to “go. to. the. ER. NOW.”  Relenting, finally, but ignoring her advice to have someone drive me.  Being a dumb stupid moron and driving my own GD self to the ER with a head trauma.  Not realizing how f-ing stupid that was.

Continuing to tell all the doctors/nurses at the ER that I was totally fine (incorrect).  That I never lost consciousness (incorrect, though at the time, I had no idea).  That I had no pain/injury other than my goose egg on my head (incorrect–I couldn’t move my neck and had given myself whiplash).  Being seen by a doctor/nurse for a total of 2.5 minutes.  Not getting a CT scan. Being handed discharge instructions, but not being told anything about what to do. F-ing driving myself home.  Going to sleep.  Occasionally waking up and Groupme-ing my friends that I was, in fact, still alive.  Emailing my boss and judge that I (naively) thought that I would be in for a half day tomorrow, but just that.

Things stopped being fuzzy around Monday afternoon when I finally read the discharge instructions that no one went over with me.  Apparently, I was not supposed to be alone for 24 hours (oops) and supposed to be woken every 2 hours (oops).  I was also not supposed to drive (oops again). You know what is great medical treatment?  Telling someone with a head injury that they shouldn’t read, but only giving them discharge instructions in written form without going over them.  Either I will have to read them.  Or I won’t know.  Some of us are crazy dog ladies that live by ourselves, Mr. Doctor.

Day 1 (Monday 2/17): I actually felt ok-ish Monday, but I stayed home from work.  I have, unfortunately, extensive experience with Post Concussion Syndrome after a crash four years ago that had lingering effects for 6-8 months (spanning a time that included my last Ironman, an experience that was miserable courtesy of PCS).  That time, however, I didn’t realize I had a concussion and continued to work and train for days until someone said something about me being spacey (and maybe a little mean with marked personality changes).  That time, I also didn’t slow down.  I tried to power through it.  I think I took a half day off from work and maybe missed one workout.  For a concussion, the most important thing you can do is rest your brain: don’t think, don’t read, don’t watch tv, don’t text or play on your smartphone.  And in fact, recent literature shows that it is resting in those first few days that really impacts the speed at which you recover.

The effect of not recovering last time was so not worth those extra few days at work or hours of training. So, I committed to taking time off from training and time off from work this time.  I spent all of Monday on the couch.  I couldn’t do anything to keep myself entertained, so I tried to sleep as much as humanly possible.

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Monday

Day 2 & 3 (Tuesday 2/18, Wednesday 2/19): By Tuesday and Wednesday, the headaches began to kick in and I was walking around my house like a drunk person.  On Wednesday I decided to try going into work, but when I got there, I was greeted by a friend saying “oh god, why are you so pale?”  I attempted 10 minutes of work and then I was promptly sent home.  The majority of both days were spent on the couch listening (not watching) the Olympics.  Tuesday and Wednesday looked shockingly similar:

Day 4 (Thursday 2/20): Again out of work, but I spent a great deal of time stressing that I was missing a court session where I had cases on the docket.  Not that I wouldn’t have been straight up ineffective had I actually tried to be a practicing lawyer while seriously concussed.  The headaches continued to get worse and I continued to be plagued by the feeling of being a stumbling drunk that got dizzy and nauseated when standing.  I attempted to make a doctors appointment with my GP, but she couldn’t see me for another week and a half (WTF).  So, I called around at the suggestions of a family member in the medical field here, but no one (seriously, not one freaking person anywhere) could see me.  I live in the city of the largest public medical school in GA.  There are very few benefits to living here, but access to decent medical care should be one of them.  Apparently, it is not.  Soooooo, back to the ER I went.

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Back to the ER!

There was a general consensus that it was ridiculous that the treating physician didn’t order a CT scan on Sunday at the ER, but that the window of dying from a brain bleed had already passed, so I was probably safe without a CT scan now.  I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome and told that with my history of a previous lingering concussion, there was a good chance that I might have symptoms for quite a while.  I was further advised that for prime brain healing, I should (no shit) sit in a dark room and do nothing.  I asked for ambien to sleep away this incredibly boring time of not being able to stimulate my brain.  Apparently, that is not a medically proscribed use for such drug.  Sigh.  Back to a dark room with no stimulation.

Days 5 & 6 (Friday 2/21, Saturday 2/22):  Things started looking up around Friday.  I made my debut back at work for a lunch with an interviewee (though, I was still not driving) and managed to do about 1 hour of work in the afternoon.  I felt good.  I wasn’t 100%, but I was feeling at least 85%.  I began to have great ambitions to start training hard again on Monday after I went back to work.

Day 7 (Sunday 2/23): It was a bittersweet Sunday morning as I spectated the Augusta Half Marathon.  I was sad to not be running like I had planned, but I always enjoy spectating races and cheering on the athletes of all shapes and sizes…especially when I can do it with the two loves of my life.

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Days 8 & 9 (Monday 2/24, Tuesday 2/25): I returned to work yesterday and unfortunately had an 11 hour day ahead of me.  By 2pm, I was worthless.  I only made it that long because I didn’t really use my brain for the first hour or two of work.  Working is hard, y’all.  For real.  Today was more of the same struggle to get through a normal 8 hour work day.  Around 3:30 today, I had my first PCS-induced temperamental semi-melt-down as I hit an all time energy low.  I was supposed to have an hour trainer workout, but I couldn’t get out of bed before 9 am and as soon as I got home from work at 6:15, I was in pajamas.

Obviously, I’m not making a quick recovery.  I was told to take 2 weeks off from training, which is less than ideal with an Ironman 18 weeks away.  I had hoped to start back with light training this week (slightly shy of the 2 weeks), but I’m not sure that is going to be possible, as I can barely now make it through an entire 8-hour work day without succumbing to bone-tired exhaustion and an inability to formulate complex (and sometimes simple) thoughts.  I know that some of this is normal and probably could be expected since generally concussions take longer to resolve with each passing instance.  But I’m now starting to really worry that I will be able to make a quick comeback, particularly with my history.

The question becomes, wtf do I do about CdA.  I’m not sure yet.  I have lots of thoughts, but do not have the brain power currently to do any more thinking tonight (or proofreading, sorry if you are reading this Randy :)).  And, anyway, I promised Jen that I wouldn’t make any decision about CdA until at least March 1.

And now, time for a, hopefully, 10 hour night of sleep!

Heart and Courage: On being part of a team and Coeur 2014

I still can’t quite believe that it is 2013 (where is my flying car?).  And I really can’t believe that 2013 is racing to an end.  But, it is, and it’s time to get thinking about the new year and new adventures.  With that, I’m super excited to announce that for 2014, I was selected to be on the Coeur Sports Ambassador Team for 2014.  Coeur Sports is an amazing (and amazingly adorable) new swim/bike/run/tri line for women launched this year at Interbike and I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing young company.

2014_Ambassador_Team_Artwork_grande

With Kebby’s leadership behind it and with all these amazing women supporting the mission, Coeur is a company that is headed for big things.  I’m proud to be part of a company that in its first year wants to really support the women’s sporting scene by taking a large number of women on to their team.  And already, in their first year they have begun donating a certain percentage of their proceeds to the Challenged Athlete Foundation.  I’m proud to be part of something that is so cute, too.  But honestly, more than anything, I’m proud to be a part of this team of fantastic female athletes.

As their website says (and my high school french validates), Coeur is French for heart & is the root of the word courage.  And that is what many of these women portray in their lives and in their racing.  As I sit here and reflect on my journey in triathlon, it is not in racing that I really needed my courage this year (though, it could have helped).  Instead, it was the courage to allow myself to be vulnerable and put myself out there, because, without that courage, I would not even be on this team.

In 2013, I had the honor of being picked to be a part of a previous ambassador team.  I remember exactly where I was when I found out (slightly intoxicated at a “Welcome Back” party for a colleague).  It was one of those moments when time stopped and I thought “who? me?”  I was shocked and on cloud 9.  I think I looked at the announcement at least 10 times to see if I had imagined my name there.  I could not believe that they would want me.

The team was led by Kebby, the now founder of Coeur, and filled with these amazing women (like Hailey, Page, Katie, Erin, Maria), all of whom are extraordinary athletes and cool people.  And much like the 12-year-old-socially-awkward-nerd-girl I used to be, I kind of idolized them and wanted to be like them.  And, much like the 12-year-old-socially-awkward-nerd-girl I used to be, I was terrified to really put myself out there to get to know them.  I was thrilled to have this built in group of amazing female athletes to be friends and teammates with.  But, I was also terrified that I would be that awkward girl that no one wanted bugging them because despite my desires, I was nowhere in their league athletically; so, I tried to stay to myself.  I figured it I put my head down, worked, and got the results, I would feel like I deserved to be among these women.  And then I could be friends with them.

As the 2013 season closed to an end, and as I was trying to decide what to do for 2014, I seriously considered not applying to be a part of any team, my season had been ok and I wasn’t feeling like I had made the progress that I had hoped.  I was terrified of putting myself in the same situation where I created these walls based on fear of rejection or not being good enough.  Having previously known Kebby from the other team, I bounced around the idea of emailing her to see if Coeur would be taking ambassadors.  I painstakingly wrote the email and had it saved in my drafts for a few days until I got the courage to send it.  When I finally hit send, I felt sick to my stomach.  And yet, I followed up with an application, because I was determined to be a part of the team that Kebby was building that included a number of the girls that I already looked up to.

In the few days since the announcements were made on the Elite and Ambassador teams, I’ve already made many new friends.  I’ve been tweeting and facebooking and I cannot wait to get to know these women better.  Last year, I waited all year to feel like I belonged before I was willing to put myself out there.  I never got that courage and I realize now that I squandered all these months that I could have been building relationships because I was scared.  It dawned on me that this is my biggest weakness: my fear of failure and vulnerability.  Without risking failure or vulnerability, you can never make the big dreams come true.  I am not going to make new friendships and relationships without allowing my heart to be seen and possibly rejected.  And without the courage to push myself further than I ever have while knowing I could fail, I will never reach the athletic goals I have.

So this year, I’m going to embody the principles of Coeur and have the courage to go for it.  I am going to go for the things that scare me.  I will put my whole heart into my big dreams and I will allow myself to take big risks.  I’m a little scared and very excited.  And I’m oh so grateful to Coeur Sports for this wonderful opportunity.

2013 Season in Review through Superlatives

It turns out that if you are a delinquent blogger and try to write your last two 70.3 race recap weeks (or in the case of Augusta, months) after the fact, you really don’t have anything to write.  I basically swam, biked, and ran a bunch of miles and it hurt.  Done.  So, instead of writing a stale B2B RR (Synopsis: It sucked, I was slow, I mentally imploded, I sprinted into the off season for rest), I am going to wrap up 2013 with some superlatives and then put this season to rest.

Best swag: B2B Finisher Pajama Pants.  So f-ing comfortable…and long enough for this giant.  I have been living in them.

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Best medal: TryCharleston 70.3 Bottle Opener Medal.  I don’t travel with a bottle opener, so this was highly appreciated at our bonfire after the race.

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Best race: TryCharleston 70.3 I was just on that day.  I think the goal of my life will be to create the magic of that day.

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Worst race: Eagleman 70.3.  Eagleman is my kryptonite.  Or Achille’s heel.  Or both.

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Worst blisters: A tie between Eagleman and AGS70.3

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Ok, not Eagleman blisters, but the toe-gash from Eagleman. There were blisters, lots. Just trust me.
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One of the two very painful AGS blister-feet

Best post-race food: AGS 70.3 nachos and margs at Nacho Mamas

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Best executed race trip: Eagleman.  Eagleman is a tricky race to plan for–there are only like 4 hotels in Cambridge that all book up 8 months before the race and even the closest big town fills up too.  Collectively, Josh and I have been stuck in Salisbury, MD (45 minutes from the race) four times.  Also, if you try to get back to B’more/DC in the afternoon of Sunday after the race, the Bay Bridge traffic means that you sit in your car for a good 2-3 hours not moving.

This year, we got a hotel IN CAMBRIDGE!  And, got it for Sunday night, so we had a free and clear Bay Bridge on our way back to baltimore on Monday morning.  Add to that eating our weight in crab, berger cookies, and crab chips and Eagleman was by far the most fun and well-executed trip (if not the best race).

Four plate brunch at Miss Shirley's in Annapolis!
Four plate brunch at Miss Shirley’s in Annapolis on Monday morning!

Best swim leg: TryCharleston (:33).  This swim was unexpectedly good.

This smile shows you just how thrilled I was with this swim.
This smile shows you just how thrilled I was with this swim.

Best bike leg: AGS70.3 (2:36)  While I may have accidentally overcooked it in retrospect, this ride felt fantastic.  I was mentally-positive the entire time and felt like I was just out there spinning and not riding my way to a 5-minute bike PR.

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Best run leg: TryCharleston (1:46).  This is really the part of this race that I need to recreate. I came off the bike thrilled to be running.  The first 6 miles were effortless and it wasn’t until I hit mile 9 that I actually started to struggle.

So excited to run!
So excited to run!

Cutest kit: Soas Vintage Race Kit

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Best race photo: Augusta Finish!

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Pure Joy!

Worst race photo: Eagleman swim

Not so much a bad picture...but look at that face.  That is my angry face.
Not so much a bad picture…but look at that face. That is my angry face.

Cheapest race trip: TryCharleston ($145 fee + $80 cabin rental + $60 gas + $0 dog boarding)

our little cabin on the lake
our little cabin on the lake

Most expensive race trip: Eagleman, easy.  I don’t want to add it up, but it was at least $700 for a weekend 70.3 trip.

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I met one of my 2013 goals (a solid 70.3 run) and managed to PR by 20 minutes at the 70.3 distance, but I failed to meet my sub5 goal.  I’m ok with that.  It gives me more motivation during the winter and I plan to come back and kill it next year.  And with that, the 2013 year is over!*  Actually, so is the 2013 off-season and I started up with my new coach for my new season this morning. Next year, I want to race up to my potential.  Next year, I will race up to my potential. 

*please note that there are no mentions of B2B because it was neither as bad as Eagleman nor as good as AGS or TryCharleston.  It was an eh race.  Just eh.

Embrace the Sock: Augusta 70.3 RR

**I really planned on getting this race report out before B2B, but I did other important things, like binge watching American Horror Story (omfg. best. show. ever).  And then I planned on getting these last two race reports out, with other off season posts, before the off-season wrapped up.  But, yea.  Now, it’s the last evening of the off-season and with wine in hand, I feel frantic to wrap up the 2013 season!**

My AGS70.3 race report in three words: embrace the sock.

I had wanted to write inspirational words on the inside of my arm for when times got hard and I decided to write a well know Macca quote: “Embrace the suck.”  Except that I used a slightly too thick sharpie and it looked more like “embrace the sock” not embrace the suck.

Turns out it was actually foreshadowing message from the triathlon gods.

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But more on that later.

Prerace: The best part of AGS70.3 is that it is so super convenient.  I can sleep in my own bed, make breakfast in my own kitchen, and drive the 2 minutes to the start from my house.   I don’t have to stress about driving somewhere I am unfamiliar with.  And we can tape the “don’t forget” list straight to my front door.

Never Forget the Lucky Charms!
Never Forget the Lucky Charms!
Beautiful blue skies all day!
Beautiful blue skies all day!

It was a chilly but beautiful morning, and I regretted not bringing sweatpants.  Normally before AGS70.3, it’s not hot, but it’s humid and I would not enjoy hanging out in my wetsuit.  This year, I had on a warm hat, a softshell jacket, and put on my wetsuit up to my waist to keep myself warm.  Mostly I did the usual: drank down a bottle of Osmo Preload and munched on my Lucky Charms.

Swim: 25:25, 1:18/100m, 14th AG, 61st female

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Don’t get the idea that I’m some kind of amazing swimmer.  This swim is with the current down the river.  The water wasn’t nearly as fast as it had been over the few weeks before but it was a little faster than last year.  Not much goes into this swim, it’s a straight shot from the 5th street bridge down to the boathouse.  I just tried to swim as close to the middle as possible to gain the maximal benefit of the current, though, as usual, I struggled with swimming in a straight line.  As I climbed out of the water, I heard my coach yell that I was in 11th in my AG (he was a little off) and I was thrilled considering that barring running blow-ups, swimming is my weakest sport.

T1: 3:36

Bike: 2:36:48, 21.48mph, 4th AG, 24th female

The plan for the bike was to relax and ride.  With the largest 70.3 AG field in the US and a wicked fast swim, the bike course is notoriously crowded.  Fortunately, it means that the course is less strictly policed by officials because if they weren’t a little relaxed, they would have everybody in a penalty tent for drafting or riding two abreast. This worked on my behalf as I was leapfrogging with a gentleman the first 10 miles and eventually he talked to me and we basically spent the rest of the ride chatting (yea, it was a little rule breaking.  my bad) or leap frogging.

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Me and my new friend

This new friend kept my mind off the ride and I felt GREAT!  My rpe was at a 5 or 6 even though my HR suggested it was closer to 8 or 9.  As I rolled up on the forty mile marker, I felt great and knew that I could come in under 2:40.  At that point, I tried not to go too far and instead spent the last 15 *downhill* miles spinning it out and getting my legs ready to tackle 13.1.

Nutrition: 3 bottles of Osmo Active Hydration, 2 packs of PowerBar Cola chews, flask with 3 gels worth of Hammer Apple Cinnamon Gel.

 

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T2: 3:26 It may look like I was just playing around in T2, but I swear I wasn’t.  This year, the T2 mat was at the end of a quarter mile run out…

Run: 1:59:28, 9:07/mi, 12th AG, 60th female

Coming off the bike, I knew that I was within striking distance of my sub-5 goal.  If I ran under 1:50, a theoretically conservative run time, I would see a big beautiful 4 leading my finish time.  I had a frozen bottle of Osmo Active Hydration because I had anticipated hot and humid weather

First mile came in under 7:50 and I knew I needed to reel it in.  I managed to bring it back to what should have been an “easy” pace of 8:20-8:25, but my legs were dragging and I had trouble getting in a rhythm.  At that point, it was certainly not a mental thing because I came off the bike in a very positive head space.  I was right on target and I knew I could run a 1:50 in my sleep.  But as I made it to mile 4, I started being really tight and decided I would walk the aid stations.   This is the slippery slope to walking too much (at least for me).

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the look of a death march too early on in the race.

Walking is amazing at this point in any race and feels amazing.  And once you let yourself walk a little, you walk a lot.  And that’s what happened.  It was a constant mental battle between running and walking and knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to go sub5 which led to even more walking!

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happy to be close to getting my blistered feet out of the shoes.

This also happened and slowed me down (note: I swear I used to be able to race with out socks and be fine, but this is the second time this year that my feet got torn to shit and I will never risk it again): 

Always wear socks.  Always.  Totally worth the 30 seconds.
Always wear socks. Always. Totally worth the 30 seconds.

Nutrition: coke, a gel or two…and a realization that I need to pay a lot more attention to run fueling.

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Finish: 5:08:53, 12/185 AG, 60/1198 female

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Overall, I’m happy with the race–at least the first 2/3s.  I probably did go a little too hard on the bike, but I definitely didn’t push myself to the limit on the run…except perhaps to the limit of my blisters.  With this great bike and swim, I was really looking forward to B2B and the possibility of a fab run…

A big shout out to Soas Racing for keeping me super cute and comfortable during the whole race!!

2 days…give or take 5 hours.

2 days until the season is over.  And I’m not going to lie, I’m a little excited.  It’s been a long season.  In January, I started training for the TryCharleston 70.3 and it’s been go-go-go since then.  I’ve logged more than 100+ training hours this year over any other year.  I’ve raced three 70.3s (5:06, 6:01, 5:08) and have one more to go.

Mentally, I’m done and have been since AGS70.3 3.5 weeks ago (heck, I can’t even get myself to finish my race report…but I plan on finishing tomorrow).  I think my fitness peaked in August/September, though I haven’t really felt at my prime at all this year.  I’ve steadily inched up and away from my racing weight to an all-time high weight during any triathlon season and I’ve done barely any training since Augusta.  I don’t feel fit.  I don’t feel like an athlete.  Right now, I can’t imagine running or racing 13 miles by foot.  Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I’m kind of dreading Beach 2 Battleship on Saturday.

You are giving me side-eye, right?  This is my hobby.  I choose to do it.  I should not dread something that I choose to spend all my free time and disposable income on.  I know this is my beloved hobby.  This is something I do because I love it.  And I do love it.  But, I prefer to feel fit.  I prefer to feel hungry to race, not hungry for the off-season.

I know that 75% of this is mental and I can’t really have lost all that much fitness between September 29th and now.  But, I overestimated my ability to stay in the training zone for 10 months.  I also did not realize how mentally hard it would be to peak for two “A” races within four weeks. I’m ready(ish) to get on with training for IMCdA, but first I need a legit off-season so I can mentally reboot.  Whine, whine, whine.  Poor me.  Even I can barely handle the whining.

So, in 2 days…give or take 5 hours of racing to go, and then I’ll be sitting on my butt for two weeks.  And then I am so excited to attack a good IM training cycle.

But before then, I’ve got another 70.3 to get through.  I just hope it’s not too ugly.

The Most Fun Hammie Workout.

I’m old. I turn 30 in 7 days. To celebrate, we’re in Charlotte, where last night we went to Carowinds for one of their Halloween themed nights and to ride all the roller coasters.

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I have no idea why, but I woke up super duper sore. It may have to do with all the bracing I was doing because I was sure I was facing certain death at least 75 different times. I don’t remember feeling that way the last time I rode roller coasters which had to be at least 15 to 20 years ago. I actually feel like I spent 5 hours doing hamstring curls because my hammies and calfs are so tight and painful from trying to grip on to the seat with my legs/feet so I wouldn’t fly out. Also, all the jostling the car does during the ride does a number in my back and neck. When I got off one of the rides and walked down the stairs, I was all hunched over holding my lower back. Yep, old.

They say the park is “PG-13.” I sure hope the F-word is PG-13 because on a number of occasions, I screamed “oh dear god, dear holy god, fuck, fuck, fuck, we’re going to die! Fuck, I’m going to die.”

Most fun I’ve had in years.

Now, I just need to get the energy to go do my long run while all my friends sleep.