Thursday, July 18, 2013

Let's Talk About The Upside.

I am falling short of race goals again due to prevailing health issues.  I am frustrated and disappointed but there are a few very shiny silver linings.

1.) My Health.  Do I think that all these problems are suddenly cropping up from nowhere? No.  I spent most of my life abusing my body and neglecting my health.  In fact, at a certain point in my history, the abuse of my body could almost be considered suicidal.  Now I am testing my body with hard training and all of the damage and weakness that those years left are simply giving way under pressure.  The reality is that just because you wake up one day and decide to clean up your act does not mean that you haven't incurred a huge physical debt that must be paid.  The wealth of orthopedic problems that I have suffered are not because I am fundamentally flawed but because I did an awful lot of damage while I was 100+ lbs overweight.  As I got back into shape, my joints and tissues had a lot of wear and tear, plus the first few years I was compounding the issues by carrying a lot of excess weight in training.  That's the way it goes, folks, when you walk that road.  You don't lose weight and magically all your problems go away. Your body will struggle to heal them but you cannot expect results overnight.  Your kinetic chain will be totally out of whack and it will take a lot of careful patient work to get things back in balance... but it can be done... slowly.

The same holds true for my breathing issues.  The doc thinks, given my history, I have always had asthma.  The mold and allergies may have pushed it over the edge but chances are, I have never known what it feels like to train using my full lung capacity.  I have a lifetime of defense mechanisms in place that tell me to stop right before my breathing gets out of control.  I'll be honest, until recently, it's possible that I never pushed myself out of L2/3 because that's when the oxygen ran out.  The fact that I have NEVER in all my years made myself muscle sore from cardiovascular work (weight lifting was another story), even hard races, tells me a lot.  I've rarely even had a burn in my legs during a hard effort.  I have never been able to push that hard because I was gasping for air.

What does this mean for me in the long run?  Well, provided I don't let the run of difficulties get the best of my attitude, it means that at some point, if we can solve these issues, I will have the ability to improve in a way that I never have before.  For every challenge, handicap, struggle, there is a unique advantage that can be gained if you can make yourself open to the idea.  I was overweight.  As a result, I have a lot of joint damage.  The upside?  I am also very, very strong from all those years of working in barns, being very active while being over 235 lbs (at 5'4").  I have learned to be semi-competitive while using about half the oxygen my body can actually provide. Right now, I am choosing to focus on the possibilities that holds for the future.

2.) My Love Of The Sport.  When I got sick last fall and had to take some unstructured time, it nearly sent me over the edge.  "Unstructured" also immediately became "inactive".  But I was also very sick.  This time, even though we are only a couple of days into it, I am looking forward to doing some bike "touring" while I am in Michigan, riding with some of the local guys, and so far have woken up each day eager to do some work.  Yesterday's late evening ride plugged me into one significant fact.... I LOVE to ride.  I also love to train the run and swim as well but at the moment, heading out the door knowing that I am not obligated to do anymore than I feel up for has eliminated the sense of being overwhelmed that had been developing.  I go back to my horse training days on this and find it humorous that I am not so different from the animals.  A horse can train through pain/problems for a while, but eventually, it starts to eat away at it's passion and courage until finally the animal loses all it's "heart" and gets "sour".  Same holds true for people.  It's called burnout.  This time, working with a coach that was really in touch with the situation meant that we got a handle on the situation before I burned out (which is my usual M.O.)  In a perfect world, the off season unstructured time would not come 3 weeks before the "A" race but hey, the world isn't perfect.  At least it is coming before I am so far gone that I can't enjoy it.

Coach Brain (Stover)
3.)  My Coach.  This is huge.  Brian (Brain) has my number for sure.  I don't doubt for a moment that he was expecting this to happen weeks ago.  He also let me fight for it for a little longer and come to my own conclusions about the futility of the situation.  He then listened to me and talked it through for a LOOONG time.  He never made me feel like he/we were giving up but rather that we were making a choice to take a long range view of my situation.  At some point, a coaching relationship gets tested.  You WILL find out if your coach is truly invested or if they are simply cashing checks.  Brian (Brain) showed me that he is not only invested but understands my brand of crazy well enough to keep me on track through a tough time.  His experience, support, and dynamic approach to coaching are the difference between a post about being disappointed and series of tragic posts that rolled across this site last fall.  My faith in him going forward will be even greater than it already had been.  I truly believe that I am in good hands and that will pay dividends down the road... even more than it is currently.  He has already achieved impressive results with a half-broken athlete.  I'm looking forward to see where we go from here as my body continues to heal and get stronger.

Right now, I am going through a transition from seriously overweight couch potato through recreational fitness enthusiast to serious athlete.  There are a lot of layers that get uncovered in the process and many long-neglected details that have to get sorted out... a lot of debt to be paid.  It's not an overnight process, or an easy one.  It is a process and with each layer I peel back, each time I find a new problem that can no longer be ignored, it is because I am becoming a better athlete and pushing my boundaries farther and farther.  Each step takes me farther down this road I'm on and further cements the changes I have made in my life.  Each problem that arises is another opportunity to clear the road to my best self.

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