Saturday, August 20, 2016

Nebraksa: As Terrible as it Sounds

            From start to finish, this was a frustrating and disappointing race.  For the past 2 years, Nationals in Milwaukee has been a highlight of my triathlon season.  Milwaukee was absolutely gorgeous, and was my favorite course.  The hype, the glam, and the fanfare was all top-notch.  The swim was cool and perfect.  The bike was rolling, but fast, and the run was a fantastic route alongside the harbor and boats, and the sandy beach.  Omaha was a giant letdown before the horn ever sounded to start the race.  The venue was located at a park, but in a run-down neighborhood.  Milwaukee showcased the best of what it had to offer, while Omaha shoved us in a ghetto corner of their city and tried to make it appear grand by having our run turn-around be around the ball field of the TD Ameritrade Park.
The swim was hot and we couldn’t wear wetsuits.  While I knew that would result in a slower swim time, I wasn’t anticipating looking at my watch and seeing it be THAT slow.  At least everyone was in the same boat, right?  Unbeknownst to me, I came out of the water in the same position that I have at past National races.  This was not going to be a fast day though.
The bike would have been fine, and I felt optimistic about it, until I hit that one enormous hill that killed all speed.  When I hit the turn-around, I counted myself to be around 20th, so I tried to stay optimistic.  Then I rode the brakes coming back down that giant hill because of the turn at the bottom.  The downhill is where I make up time and I just lost that edge.  I came to the dismount line with a terribly slow bike split and not eager for the run.  I did the flying dismount and my shoe came unhooked from my pedal and dropped on the road.  I had to turn back and grab it, almost dropped my bike, before heading into Transition.

I saw Andy shortly after the run began.  I didn’t feel a single bit of pep in my step.  I stopped at the fence next to him and broke to him that I didn’t want to do this; I wanted to be done.  It wasn’t fun doing triathlons anymore.  Oh yea, and I really had to pee and there was not a port a potty in sight!  I somehow had to compose myself so I could breathe while I attempted to run.  The run was a straight out-and-back through an industrial area.  We were able to view giant plastic barrels, rusted fences, old abandoned buildings, a gravel pile and rubble as we ran.  But not a single port a potty around.  Dang it, Omaha!
            I would rather forget the race and pretend it never happened.  I would rather not think about how my run was the slowest ever since I started doing this (at least a full 6 minutes slower than last year).  I’ve been running 7:30 pace off the bike in training for 4 miles (or more), but I averaged 8:12 this year at Nationals.  My run alone made the difference between being somewhere around 11th, and where I ended up being – 29th.  The swim was my slowest ever, and I’ve been feeling confident about that lately.  The bike was pathetic for me. 
Somewhere in all of it, I wonder if I really am that bad, or if it was just really a matter of me having given up.  I walk away from this race with a lot of regrets.  I didn’t fight for it.  I let the doubts and negativity get to me mentally and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I can’t look in the mirror and tell myself that I did the best that I could that day.  Coming off the bike, I wasn’t far off from being an automatic qualifier for Team USA again.  But giving up happened long before that I think.  Before the horn sounded and we took our first swim stroke, I believed I wasn’t good enough.  And then I raced liked it.
            Thankfully, it doesn’t end quite there, as my best friend finally got to have her first experience at Nationals.  While she also experienced the same kind of slow swim, she did great on the bike, and pulled off a decent run to finish 32nd in her age group and beat my time by almost 30 seconds!  When we started triathlons, she was always beating me, but hasn’t done so since 2011.  Congratulations, Katherine, I couldn’t be more proud of all of your hard work and coming back so strong after having your second kid!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Injuries: Blessings in Disguise

            This summer of training has looked vastly different from the last 3 summers of training.  The past 3 years, I spent prepping for the half-iron distance and logging a lot of miles and hours.  This is the first summer since 2012 where my longest race is an Olympic distance.  Last summer got the best of me and I was feeling more than a little burned out.
            This summer I have also been battling a foot injury, and so my running has dropped from 6-7 days/week of running to only 2-3 days.  My weekly mileage has dropped from around 30 to quite often, single digit weeks.  My longest run of the week is only 4-5 miles, when it would otherwise be 7-9 miles.
            Mentally, in the beginning, it was tough to accept this.  I felt lazy, out of shape, and had a hard time adjusting and accepting so much recovery time.  Now, I feel like I have fully embraced it.  It’s still tough to accept such low mileage, but I love the extra time that I get chilling with my kids, or having extra days off to just hang out with the hubby or get things done around the house.  Being on the verge of the approaching high school volleyball season, I definitely need the time to just get stuff done at home.
            Physically, it was tough in the beginning in figuring out how much I could still handle without making things worse.  Some days my foot hurts when I walk, and then others I can make it through 3 miles without it really bothering me.  I’m learning that I’d rather risk doing less and ending up underprepared for a race, than to push it over the line and have a full blown injury that leaves me in a boot, unable to run at all.  With running so much less, I also feel like I am better recovered for my next workout as a result. 
            My run split from Graniteman this year versus last year was within seconds of one another.  Some days I feel “off” and slow, and other days I feel good when I do run.  With Nationals being only one week away, I know that my chances of making podium have greatly diminished.  That’s just the reality of what my training shows of where I’m at.  But I’m also okay with that, because I feel so much more balanced and happier this year, less dependent upon race results to show me my worth, and enjoying more downtime with the family.  I never would have scaled back my running without having been forced to, and so while I know I need to continue to be careful as I monitor my foot, I can also accept that the injury and setback has turned into a blessing for me.