Sunday, October 30, 2011

Here. Now.

There is a blog that I follow.  It is one of those well designed, visually entertaining blogs that attracts followers.  It is written by a witty, enigmatic woman who has chronicled her journey from couch potato to Ironman athlete.  She finished Miami 70.3 today, as did a number of my flesh and blood friends and former training peeps.  These people rocked it!  They are their own heroes today and they all earned their pizza and beer!!

The energy and excitement of their posts, blogs, etc was positively infectious.  I wanted to be there.  Not there as a spectator, not simply entered in the race in my current half-hobbled state.  I wanted that feeling. The fit, ready, wound like spring excitement before, the intensity and focus during and the total exhalation afterwards.  Looking at the photos, I could feel the butterflies at the start, the euphoria at the finish, and digging down to your bedrock between the two.  It is what makes competing so much fun.  

But.. there is always a "but"... it is more than that.  I wanted that sense that I had systematically worked for something and seen it through to its logical, wonderful conclusion.  There is no joy in being broken.  If the injury is acute and heals quickly, it is easy to assimilate it as a lesson, find the silver lining.  When they are long, chronic, recurring injuries, they suck the soul and motivation out of an athlete.  You begin to lose touch with the person who could do all of that.  It becomes easy to identify with your disability more than your ability.  

It has seemed like the last six or eight month have been about what I can't do, not what I can.  I have come to the conclusion that my journey right now is not the swim, bike or run.  It is the mental journey.  It is finding the tenacity to keep myself inspired when no body is posting support on Facebook.  It is figuring out how to see myself as an athlete when my body feels like an over-baked potato.  It is how to corral my ego so that I can just be as slow, as weak, as underdeveloped as I need to be right now.  Why?  Because without this mind frame and an honest accepting of my new baseline, I have no hope of getting to the first paragraph of this post.  Period.

JS, MA, RW, TS, and all the others.... CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mind-Injury Link

I had a good week and in spite a small bout with a bug on Thursday and Friday, was pretty pleased overall with getting all the workouts done more or less as planned.  I did get a little confused at one point and did a swim when a bike was on the schedule.  I can't explain that beyond sleep deprivation.  I was just a little confused.  :P

I did a field test yesterday and it was the first measured workout since starting back.  I was so nervous it felt like I was prepping for a race.  I couldn't figure out why I was so anxious at first until I realized that this workout would quantify all that I had lost in the last 6 months.  Or at least that is how I was looking at it.

DW has given me the speech about clearing the slate and not worrying about where I was vs. where I am.  My friend MF, who got held my hand while I purchased my first bike gave me a similar pep talk, even citing the recovery of her sister who came all the way back from barely riding to the podium!  I realize that to many athletes "where I was" isn't anyplace worth mentioning.  But to me, it was all that I had worked for.  That has left me wondering why I have so much of my fragile ego wrapped up in it.  The last six months haven't been about the quality of my physical training.  They have been entirely about the mental journey.  So I guess this is the next paver along the path.

I do have a lot of ego wrapped up in this.  I have always been the "fat" kid, even when I was not really fat.  I have a linebackers build and a little body fat goes a long way towards making me look like an overstuffed sausage.  Body image issues aside, I don't think I look bad these days.  I would classify my body type squarely in the normal or average range.  I don't think I "LOOK FAT" in street clothes or by street standards.  Except that I feel fat... even when I am feeling pretty darn thin and fit.  But I am a very competitive athlete that wants to succeed.  And that does not jive with what is in the mirror.

The thing that cuts through these issues like a blade through paper is my bike performance.

When I show up to a new group ride, I see it.  I hear it.  I am told that the ladies at the back keep a nice easy pace that I should be able to maintain.   If it is a fast drop ride, the guys just roll their eyes.  Then the ride starts and I depart just behind the leaders.  I take my turns at the front unless I don't know where I am going.  I keep up.  I turn in a performance that raises eyebrows, that takes that body image and shreds it into a million little pieces.  I earn their respect and my own.  I am not the fastest on the bike, nor am I going to beat anyone who is far beyond my ability. It's not that.  It's more that my performance on the bike  validates me.  It makes me a consideration rather than a preconception.  If you assume I cannot.. am not, you may be stuck trying to catch me.

It provides me with a buffer for the constant tearing down and demoralizing workouts that running produces.  It can be summarized by one incident.  I was running on the track at a group workout.  Due to this injury that has gone on so long, I can't even relate to a running performance that is not diminished, and so it was that day.  As I shuffled along, getting passed over and over, watching people who had once been just starting out, pass me like I wasn't moving, hyper aware of the fact that I had not only not improved but gotten worse, a girl (BB) that was not particularly friendly towards me (in fact she would tear me down at every opportunity), passed me while running beside a new member doing her first workout.  I heard that new member make a comment about how slow I was and BB cautioned her not to make that assumption because I was so strong on the bike.  Intellectually, I know that if I had not gotten injured, my run would be much farther along, but intellectualizing doesn't help me.  This is a matter for the gut.

The bike is what gives me permission to call myself an athlete.  The bike is what allows me to forgive myself for being so weak in other areas.  The bike is what lets me stand up tall, even while wearing spandex which creates a most unfortunate sausage skin effect.  It validates me as an athlete.  Losing bike performance is like losing a bit of myself.

I suspect the two should not be tied so closely and that there are people (if anyone actually read this blog) who would probably slip me the name of a good therapist.  The Dalai Lama would frown on this attachment, as would almost anyone with a healthy relationship to their athletic goals.  But there it is, as I promised at the beginning, honest.

There is more to this thought, but a blog entry should not be a novel, so I will cut this short.  But I need to, and will, revisit this, because it is this connection that will answer the questions concerning why I overtrain, train through pain, etc.  It is the mind-injury link.

Another thing... the field test went really well.  It wasn't as bad as I had feared and I got a chance to reconnect to something very important, something I can only seem to remember when I am actively doing it.  I ride because it is fun and it makes me feel great.  My memory for this critical detail is so very short, and my memory for the debasing, self-abuse seems so long.  I guess that is true for a lot of people, but I am not hanging out inside their heads.  Seems I have a lot of work to do in my own attic.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Speaks For Itself

All Moved In and Loving This Town!

I am all moved in (as you may have gathered from the title of the post.. feelin' clever!) and aside from a case of cardboard poisoning, appear to have survived the whole experience rather well.  So far, I am loving Austin.  This is one excellent town.  Bikers abound.  Runners abound.  Kayakers abound.  Musicians abound. I think I am about the only thing here with all feet on the ground, though I will bound just as soon as I can!  Seriously, this might be the most bike friendly, outdoorsy city I have ever seen.  

Now that I have that little bit of gushing out of my system, I have other news.  I started back cautiously this week.  I am not running but carefully... like a child handling a bird's nest... began training again.  Just a little bike ride.

The first trip out felt horrid.  I came home and wanted to cry.  I had to get off my bike after about ten miles because I nearly passed out.  I didn't have my HR monitor on but it felt like it was about to leap through my mouth and go screaming down the veloway.  I got back on after a couple of minutes and cautiously peddled back to the car.

Today was a different story.  I was doing low intensity work, just spinning really, but I found the zone.  I was churning out my miles with a smile.  I felt like my form was pretty good too.  Knees in, back flat, pulling around the back side of the pedal stroke, rhythmic, turning the crank like a piston...  Pure bliss.  I didn't have a long workout on the schedule, but after so much forced downtime, I am just happy to be back in the saddle!  Tomorrow I get back in the pool.

The rest of this week and next are all swim-bike.  I don't know when the run will appear but I am fairly nervous and anxious about it.  It has been such a long road this year and I am so afraid that I will try to run and go back to square one.

It has occurred to me that it would be easy right now to give up on running, say I can't, walk away and put it into the past.  But that is not what I want.  I want this, running and particularly triathlon, to be a part of my life.   I took the other road once before when I ushered martial arts training into my history.  Even though I stand by that decision, there isn't a day that I at least for a moment consider going back.  I don't believe that tri's have the same intrinsically detrimental movements that martial arts had and that, with the right conditioning, I should be able to train and race well into the future.   I certainly hope so.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tomorrow I begin driving back to Texas.  I managed to tweak my back pretty hard loading the truck today but I hired professionals at the other end so I have minimal heavy lifting from here on out.

Below is a non-tri funny.  Enjoy!