Friday, August 24, 2012

Separating The Lessons From The Angst

Well, it appears that this week I am sidelined.  That is leaving lots of time to sit around and think.  On the upside, I am getting a few extra blog posts written.  On the downside, I have visited the race website about 5000 times... today.  Yeah, the race website for Tri Rock Austin.  That would be the race that is in less than two weeks.  The one I am, at this point, convinced I am going to miss.  That is just torture!!

It is not so much that I am missing that race and I have placed a personal premium on being able to complete a planned set of races without falling apart.  It has more to do with simply being able to suck it up and do the work, arrive at the starting line and subsequently the finish.  Oh, and in a competitive fashion, thank you very much.

I have had a maelstrom of thoughts going through my head this week.

"Did I ignore the symptoms?"  "Did I fail to prepare?"  "Did I push when I shouldn't have?"  "Did I slack when I should have pushed?"  "Was it stupid to run the 5K?"  "Did I hammer too hard on the bike?"  "Am I actually not good enough to do this sport?"  "Am I doomed to be an overweight, delusional wannabe that cannot actually finish what she started"......


Hold up there, cowgirl.  It's time for a reality check.

How fast this simple little injury has deteriorated into total self-loathing.  How about a little sanity here.

First, I trust DW.  I trust his ability to prep me properly for the races.  I have done what I was told start to finish (thank goodness I record all my workouts with my Garmin and they are saved for posterity).  There was no lack of preparation.  So that considered, I am going to break down the rest of the factors in play this summer.

Two, to answer the push-too-hard-push-through-pain question.  Yes, I did ignore pain.  I crashed my bike and was in all kinds of pain for weeks.  I did push myself because that is what I do.  It is what makes me an athlete.  The important details here are what can I take away from this as lesson in smarter training and racing.  What is within my sphere of control to change?  Now I am trying to separate the true mistakes from the nature of the beast.

I cannot change the fact that while on a hard ride, in the rain, on a new bike, I braked too suddenly and went down at a high rate of speed.  There may be learning experiences in that but sometimes lumps are a part of the process.  If you never overshoot your limits, you are either not trying hard enough or you have so much experience, you know exactly where that ULTRA-FINE line is.  If it is the latter, that information was gained by, well, taking some lumps.

Three, I had a lot of change all at once in the middle of a heavy training block.  I changed bikes, position, gears, bike shoes (they broke), running shoes (my favorites were discontinued and I tried some new ones that were not, ahem, ideal), terrains  (Austin has a nice packed gravel running trail and once on the road it was either difficult single track trails or concrete; mostly concrete).  In retrospect, change like that should be avoided mid-season.  In my case, some of it was unavoidable but now I know to use the off season to explore things like this, check my equipment and upgrade worn parts, and experiment with any changes I may want to make.  Once the racing season begins, stick with what works.  I cannot control all of the change listed but usually a little is no big deal.  It is when it starts to add up that the body can no longer adapt.

Then there was the fall itself.  I hurt my hip which led to an altered gait for a few weeks and strained the structures on the opposite side of my body, namely my IT band.  I also injured my shoulder pretty badly which took my swim training off the board.  That meant that at a time when my biomechanics were undergoing a lot of change, I suddenly increased my run and bike volumes.  Plus, in Michigan, I was having so much fun I was stretching some of my workouts past their prescribed limits.  So, in short, a pretty significant bump in volume on the bike and the run while rehabbing injuries.  Did I drive this point home to DW?  Did I make sure he realized that I was dealing with daily pain in training?  No, not really.  I didn't really appreciate the significance of it myself.  That would be a rookie mistake but not an indicator of a fundamental lack of worth as a human being.

After my body started sending me LOUD signals, I did finally get busy finding the last few pairs of my old running shoes online and buying them.  However, it was too little too late and I had set a bit of an inflammation cycle.  Going forward, I will always have my next pair of shoes in the closet so that when I start feeling achy, I can just switch them out with new ones.  It's like having a spare roll of toilet paper in the cabinet.  Do you really want to rely on your ability to get to the store after you've run out and before you need to pee again?  Point taken.

Once the pain begins, all you can do is attempt to contain it, limit it to manageable levels while continuing to train.  If it cannot be managed, ultimately the situation arrives at breaking point where time off is the only solution.  I had been looking forward to the off season for some rest and a chance to heal up a little.  I didn't make it that far, though that is not entirely surprising.  Now, hopefully, with diligence I can minimize the impact of this little hiccup and get back on track.  There are still two more races on the calendar after Austin.  Self-pity and self-loathing won't get me to those finish lines any more than they will carry me home in the Austin race.

As to the 5K, the bike leg, and the rest of the useless self-deprecation, drop it.  A race is a race and the point of preparation is to be able to go for it.  It was not a lack of training, mistakes in pacing, or a lack of fundamental worth in play.  It was a few mistakes (that can be corrected going forward) which added up to a problem.  As of right now, I don't seem to need surgery.  It is recovering on it's own and most likely, a week of training is all that I will lose.  Due to my travel schedule, it is a critical week in preparation for Austin, but who cares?  I will leave the final call on Austin to DW since my objectivity is sometimes a little suspect.  But seriously, one race in exchange for physical health and strong performances in the long term plan seems like a fair trade to me.  This week?  That race?  If it is the price I paid for the mistakes above then, in the grand scheme of things, the price of this bit of education really wasn't all that expensive.

Now survive a week of rest and a little active recovery and get back down to business a little wiser for the experience.  If Austin is a lost cause, so be it.  Look forward to Galveston and Dallas, followed by an aggressive schedule for 2013.

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