Twice in my life I’ve felt such an overwhelming negative/depressing emotion that it rendered me speechless and empty inside- confused on whether to cry, yell, punch something, or just lay down in silence.
The two events/circumstances that led to this feeling are very personal and irrelevant to this blog of mine which centers on my life as a triathlete.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s race moved the count up to three.
When I crossed the finish line as everyone else, I had done, however slowly, 70.3 miles in hot hard conditions so for the first hr or so I moved in a rather emotionless state to hydrate, change clothes, gather my things, and kept repeating in my head “good training, good training, you stuck it out”.
The reality of the Buffalo Springs race for me was that I didn’t get to race except for the first hour. I’ve received many notes from friends and family saying “good effort”, “way to get top 10” (in Honu), “your day will come” etc. While I greatly appreciate their intention and care, I am also humiliated by these remarks. That was not me giving an effort, I am not proud of that top 10-out of like 10, my day won’t “come” I am responsible for bringing it, this was my day, I am there/ready damnit!
Like all athletes aiming to be at the top of their sport, I am extremely competitive and I hate, hate, HATE to lose. That does not mean I can’t accept anything but a win or a podium. It does not mean I am a “sore loser” or a “bad sport” because I am perfectly okay with getting beat- and there is a BIG difference between the two.
If I finish a race and I know that I was able to throw down my best effort to my potential/fitness on that day then I don’t care if that gets me 20th or 1st because any person that BEAT me on that day was simply the better athlete. What I cannot stand is handing over what in tennis you’d call unforced errors, or a birthday present to your competitor. When YOU lose your own battle and cannot do/show what you have on the day, well that just blows.
For instance, at Galveston this past April, I finished like 28th out of a stacked field of athletes- my performance was one of my worst half Ironmans, but I was happy with my race. Why? Because I had spent Dec- Feb simply wrapping my head around even riding my bike for extended periods of time, I was just starting my season, and what I swam, biked, and ran was all the fitness I had on that date. I expected to get my butt handed to me, and I had a plan for the rest of my season to get myself in the shape I need to be in contention.
The last two races however, have been extremely frustrating. In Honu, after my saddle fell a smidge I failed to take the 1-2mins to flag bike support and raise it, and I also violated the number one rule before a race: don’t change anything. With this past weekend yielding the same excrutiating low back pain 30mins into the bike, which I have never ever before experienced in my 6 yrs in the sport nor ever in training, I have narrowed down the culprit to switching over to the Specialized BG trivent shoes (the ones with that varus wedge). The most frustrating part is I don’t just want to go back to my old regular shoes for a few reasons: 1) there has to be a race factor that is only making this pain come out in an event 2) my feet and knees love them- I’ve always struggled with alignment on the bike since my accident in 2008 and the varus wedging immediately felt amazing and both my knees tracked straight and I feel so much more power to the pedal- I really really want to make this work!
Without a long post because I really don’t want to relive any of it- I am home now and heading over to my chiropractor this morning to figure this thing out asap and just move on- here’s the short bit of BSLT:
Swim- fine, I don’t like wetsuits swims and that swim should’ve been non wetsuit at least for the pros, but I wore my awesome TYR sleeveless so I didn’t overheat. I sat on I don’t know who’s feet the whole way and came out a bit back from the group I would’ve liked but it’s a long day and it wasn’t too far back.
Bike- I got out of that first climb from t1 and my legs felt amazing, the hill felt effortless and I just continued to push hard from there and the plan was just to keep building up pace and if any girl came up behind me I would not let them go. Christine Anderson came up once into the flats (before the first roller/hill) and I kept her in sight and passed her back 1-2 times. That was the end of my bike. Shortly after we hit the first pitch and once aero again my low back began to hurt. Let me explain this pain… it’s not “oh my back is achey wahhh”…it’s “omg get me off this F’ng bicycle my back is going to explode!!!” It burns, I can’t put pressure on the pedals because it gets tighter and the pain increases to a point that it doesn’t LET me push the pedals with any force. My bike then turned into a mix of standing for relief, some sitting up, and soft pedaling dying to get to t2 and wondering constantly if I should just quit. But I hate to quit more than I hate to get dead last or walk to a 6hr Half Ironman.
Run- I thought maybe I could run well since in Honu I got off and the run was pain free. But the rollers in the Honu course vs the flat sections in BSLT made the back pain a bit less severe. When I got off the bike here I could feel it. I knew then I had no shot at anything and why bury myself and potentially put greater strain on my back. I went to the bathroom in t2- for some reason puked a bit, which I don’t think was from being physically as much as it was from being emotionally sick. I ran out of t2 with a plan to just run strong and finish the 70.3 miles. No joke my mindset was: it’s a good training day at least mentally, and the more ground you cover, the more you get to eat after ;) ..(yea I still had some humor left in me).
So that’s that. I had a great time there seeing old friends and meeting some new ones. Thanks to Mary for taking me out of my misery Sunday night and getting me to go out with her and some others.
I am gutted, devastated, frustrated, ashamed, you name it. I keep going from tears to anger to motivating myself to keep my eyes on Vineman and Louisville. I know I am in great shape and can still turn things around, but it is very hard to swallow TWICE not being able to race a race.
This will be fixed- first and foremost because I cannot go through that pain again- if it ever happens again I will get off the bike and call it a day. In an Ironman, forget it, there’s no way I could handle more than 56miles of that especially without causing some sort of long term damage.
I am in such an intense state of emotion right now that when I put on a bib number again and ride with my body cooperating, my PRs in both distances will be CRUSHED effortlessly- the power of the mind and the heart is unlike anything else. That’s why we see people do incredible things when pushed to extreme emotions. “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be”- so true.
That’s the scoop. This week is all about picking myself back up. Thankfully, strolling around Lubbock Lake on Sunday means I have zero soreness/tightness/heaviness in my legs- I could’ve just stayed home and done more to them with a solo brick. So as soon as my back recovers- should be a 2-3 days- I am back to serious work for VMan and LV.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Tuesday about 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave, with everything packed except the bike, I went with my gut instinct and called the ariline to see about changing my flight to the 18th- the Monday of Lubbock race week. My approach was if I get a rude agent that wants to overcharge me then it's a sign I need to just close this chapter and head home. Well, as almost never happens, I talked to the niced guy from United- Daniel Ramirez. I sensed he had an accent and it was not Indian so I asked if he spoke Spanish. Yep :) I am quite the manipulator, and in Spanish I can be extra convincing. So 15-20min later, I had a reduced change of flight fee with no other additional fees. The cost was less than dealing with the bike fee, the airport pick up in San Diego, etc that I didn't want to have to fork over before my next paycheck! But what really bred this whole idea in the first place was my friend Cody offering me to stay in his rad house- just off Alii but up up up some nasty grades...as we were driving up all I kept thinking was in 2 weeks of riding these beast hills home, Lubbock will be a pancake. After it was established that I was staying, suddenly I sighed with great relief knowing it was the right call. I am so comfortable training here! Besides there are still many more hills/routes that I wanted to squeeze in before Honu but didn't get the chance. I also want to get in another really long ride to Hawi using the back roads. Once these two weeks pass and Lubbock happens in the blink of an eye, heading back to San Diego will be the only option and the appropriate thing to do for the rest of my season/racing. I've done Lubbock once- in 2008, ironically it was the ONE year it was 50F and pouring rain. Hopefully this year it's one of the record 100F that yields a mirage in the distance from the burning asphalt. If there's one thing that successful people do it's learn from the past but keep moving forward with as much tenacity. I am not looking for a miracle to happen in my biking abilities these two weeks. It's not necessary. I just need to arrive to Lubbock with the lessons from this weekend ingrained in my mind and let the fitness that I have do the work it should. Alright back to my "real" job which I'm quite behind on :/ YIKES.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Yesterday's Hawaii 70.3 was the toughest racing conditions I've faced on the island- that's 5x this race and 4x Kona full. I finally got a dose of Madam Pele waking up on the wrong side of the bed. So, hats off to everyone that finished! After spending roughly 6 weeks training in Kona and pouring all my heart and energy into the prep, I can't say I'm not disappointed in my result yesterday. I had such great training leading in, I was feeling amazing the few days before the race, and had such a blast in the mellow atmosphere of Hawaii- training with some amazing but chill athletes (local and international). So to not have that reflected in my performance hurt deeply. It hurts the most when you really care- this race means so much to me for various reasons. Aside from the fact that it is in Kona, it was my first ever 70.3 when I was 19 and my qualifying race for that year's World Championship. I have so many memories here since then, and after all the trips to Hawaii for training and racing, Kona now feels like a second home. I am proud of my effort the entire day- that is what has held me together the past 24hrs- that I never gave up mentally and that I felt really fit- I did exactly what I came here for and got myself in the shape I wanted to be in. In the water I felt super strong- aided by the pool closing on us 2 weeks ago, I got in more open water swimming than ever before and felt very comfortable about where I would be heading onto the bike. Beth and I found each other at the rear of the lead pack that went out HARD and never seemed to settle after the 3/4-1mi or so to the first bouy. I expected/wanted to be more cushioned in the middle of the front bunch vs straggling at the tail end, but I have zero complaints about how the swim played out. It made for a very motivating start to the day. Onto the bike, all was going fantastic until I hit the turnaround at the Mauna Lani at about mile 6ish before the long stretch toward Hawi. Shortly after turning around, I rode over one of the reflectors and onto a bump/divet in the road and felt my seat go down a smidge. Of course when you've been riding in a position for so many miles a smidge can mean a world of difference. But at that point I could still see the field on the bike and there was no way I was going to flag down bike support to fix that "tiny" issue. BIG MISTAKE. Once we passed Hapuna before Kawaihae, my low back was starting to get tense- even more so with a death grip that would only get stronger as the winds picked up. By the time I hit the turn and climb up to Kawaihae that "smidge" had my back/QLs on FIRE. It especially hurt on climbs. So the only relief I got was the initial descent after the Hawi turnaround. It got to the point of wanting to stop and stretch- if it had been a training ride I would've absoltely stopped riding. I am not sure why/how just a simple bump led to that as I had the shop check my bolts and I rechecked them the day before the race. But maybe my idea of tight was not tight enough. Anyway, what's done is done. I was only relieved to find that running was not painful. I was scared I'd get off the bike and have to hobble. The run was actually fantastic. It was by far the best I've felt on this run course (turnover/physically), and only 1 or 2 dudes ever passed me so it was great to keep ticking off people- though it would've been nice to tick off girls in front or have come off the bike with a lead on more!! haha. Even with feeling the best on that run course, I didn't run my fastest time- the winds were gnarly!!!!! Although when we were getting tailwind it was awesome! I ddidn't mind the wind on the bike as much as the run because I wanted to PR this run course damnit! :) Despite the rough day on the bike, I know my fitness is absolutely there and things can only continue to go up. I did PR my overall time for this race with the toughest day so that helps me not be so hard on myself. When you have big aspirations and a huge drive, and know you are capable of achieving what you desire it is frustrating to not be able to put things together ASAP, but I also will never ever stop fighting and my year will be filled with more racing than probably any year prior. There will be bad races (hopefully all behind me now haha)and great ones. I am now looking forward to getting to San Diego, settling into my old routine and on to Buffalo Springs 70.3. After that will be REV3 Portand, which I am stoked about because I've yet to do a REV3 event and have heard nothing but wonderful things about their races, and a week later Vineman 70.3 Much more after that but not exactly sure what. As of now I'll need a streak of great performances to even have a shot at Vegas. But my priority has shifted to just wanting to put things together and get myself to another level this season rather than having that qualifying goal be the marker- many years left for that. I just need to race, race, race!!! Given that it's the thing I love most, it'll be a fun year.