Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One step in a long Journey

I was more than optimistic heading into IM Louisville.  I was finally healthy after a half-season gone to fatigue and illness.  I managed a decent bike at Vineman and put in a great training block to prepare for IM.  My rev3 debut in Wisconsin was less than stellar, with a 7th place finished, and basically falling apart on the run.  However, this did not discourage me.  The training I did for the month between Vineman and The Dells was for 140.6, not 70.3.  Even coach Matt Dixon said not to worry about my most recent race saying, “we beat you up pretty well before that one.”  I had two weeks to recover and get ready.  On Tuesday I was really feeling my energy coming back and I just knew I was set for a great race.
Then I woke up Thursday, ready to fly to Kentucky for the first time, with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose - definitely not ideal conditions for spending 6 hours in the air.  By the time I landed in Louisville I could barely hear, despite trying to clear my ears every 5 minutes.  I could feel myself start to panic, but I remembered I still had over 36 hours to rest and this was probably just allergies anyway – NOT the end of the world!  I was scheduled to do a 90min bike on Friday, but after registering and attending the pro meeting, I went back to my homestay and crawled into bed for the rest of the day.  I was trying to put on a good face, but inside I knew it was bad.  I felt terrible, but tried to stay positive, especially after a pep talk from my #1, Mark.  Saturday I was more hopeful as I woke up not feeling 100%, but definitely better than Friday.  I got out for my workout – a short swim, 60min bike, and 10min jog.  This was shorter than planned, but didn’t feel too terrible, and I was actually more upbeat after I was able to get moving.  I checked-in my bike, and made sure I was ready to race.  In my mind I still wasn’t 100% sure I should start, but I was determined to rest, hydrate, and do everything in my power to make it happen. 
Getting ready to race - had 2 people ask to take pictures with me.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I wasn't Meredith Kessler :)

I woke up race morning with a stuffy nose, but again feeling better than I did the day before.  I mentally committed to the race and was determined to perform the way I know I can.  I tried to erase any doubts about my health and focus on the plan Matt and I put together.   All of a sudden we were in the water and the gun went off.  I found my targets and made sure I was in a good position to catch the draft.  About a third of the way into the swim I found Nina Kraft’s feet and I vowed not to let them go.  At one point close to the end I felt the pace was slowing.  I wanted to make sure we weren’t allowing the other girls to close the gap so I came around and took the lead.  It was clear Nina wasn’t going to let me go so I ended up letting her do the pace making again.  I did think to myself that no matter what else happened, for about 5 minutes I was leading at IM Louisville. 
We exited the water almost together and I was able to run around her on the way into T1.  That didn’t last long as I kept dropping things out of my pockets and had to keep picking them up off the ground before I got to my bike.  I need to sort this one out before the next one!  I left T1 about 30 seconds behind Nina and she took off.  I was confident that I could real her back in if I stuck to my plan to build the bike – again it’s a long day and I didn’t want to wreck myself in the first 10 miles.  I could tell I wasn’t setting a blistering pace and when Bree Wee came by me I had to let her go.  About mile 20 I was passed by a pack of 3 women, including the women who would go on to get 2nd, 4th, and 5th on the day and I jumped on the train.  We rode together for the next 80 miles, until I hit the wall.  I knew it would be hot and nutrition would be EXTREMELY important.  I set my watch to beep at me every 15 minutes to make sure I was focusing on nutrition  - what a difference that made.  I ate when I otherwise wouldn’t have been thinking or wouldn’t have wanted to.  If not for that I might not have made it past mile 60.  Nevertheless at mile 100 it was like all the power drained from my body.  My back was killing me and I was struggling to stay aero.  Just 12 miles to go – then the bike is over.  I tried stretching out, sitting up a bit, and then just gritting my teeth to fight through to the end.  I stayed in contact with the other girls until about mile 105 then I saw them quickly disappear.  It was frustrating not to be able to keep the pace, especially that last 7, but I tried to stay as strong as I could and just get to T2. 
Still going strong at this point!

Right away on the run I knew things weren’t good.  That’s usually the case so I didn’t worry – I just needed a little time to get into the grove.  Often the first 2 miles feel the worst of the marathon but things can easily turn around.  Before I had hit mile 2, I puked, had bathroom issues, and had to sit down on the side of the road.  I drank some coke, lots of water, dumped ice down my jersey and was determined to rally.  I know it can happen.  I powered through like that until about mile 8 when I knew things weren’t going to turn around and I wouldn’t be able to keep pushing.  At IMSG I pushed my body past that point, ended up passing out, and spent a couple hours in the medical tent.  Although I felt better in a few  days, who knows how long a breakdown like that really affects your body.  I wrestled mentally with whether or not I should pull out.  On the one hand I wanted to cross that finish line more than anything.  I wanted to show IM that it wouldn’t beat me again and that I could finish no matter what.  Then I realized that what I really want more than anything is a race I know I’m capable of.  Wrecking my body to get a finisher’s medal isn’t going to give that to me.  That’s when I decided, even though it’s embarrassing, hurts my pride, makes me feel weak and guilty, that the best thing I could do to salvage the season was call it a day. 
Before the puking and thinking, "Ouch, but no worries, things are going to turn around and I'm going to kill this run" (oops!)

 At that point I was close to the turnaround on the first loop.  I didn’t want to get assistance knowing I was fine to keep walking, slowly, so I decided to walk back myself.  It was a long 5 miles to walk – with nothing to do except think about my decision.  I went through the full range of emotions – feeling so devastated by my decision, hopeful about the future, angry that I was not able to continue.   As I continued to walk I could see the other pro women still fighting for the day – something I was no longer able to do.  I was so proud of them and jealous at the same time.  I tried to think about what I need to do to get healthy and how I’m going to approach the rest of this year. 
Those mixed emotions stayed with me the rest of the evening and all the next day.  However, this morning I awoke with a new sense of determination and hope.  At first I thought about how I have 2 more races left this season and I want to do everything in my power to make them great.  Then I realized I have 2 more races this season, but many more seasons in my future.  This is a journey and each race is just a stepping stone.  Sure I haven’t had the breakout rookie pro year I was hoping for or thought I was capable of, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be successful in the future – I just have to keep fighting.  And I will.

Very happily dropping off my bike post race.  So nice not to have to worry about that one!
As always I have to thank my incredible sponsors and support crew: Saucony, Reynolds, Clif Bar, Xterra Wetsuits, Oakley, TriBike Transport, Cognition Cyclery, Purplepatch Fitness, and Team Sheeper.  I couldn't do it without you!
My VIP this week is the amazing girl who opened her home to me while I was staying in Louisville.  She is one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met.  Not only did she allow me to stay in her house, having never met me before, she also was constantly checking in on me to make sure I had everything I needed.

Forcing Jacque to join me for a pre-race feast of Outback!
A fellow triathlete, Jacque’s first attempt at a 70.3 was foiled by weather in Muncie as the race was shortened due extreme heat.  She is already making plans to try again (I’m pulling for Vineman 2013!!) and is also considering doing her first IM in Louisville next year.  Can’t beat a hometown Ironman!  Although I was forcing her to go to dinners with me and taking up her time, she kept on her training schedule and is extremely motivated to meet HER goals, which was inspiring.  I’m so glad I have made this new friend.  Thanks so much Jacque for your hospitality and generosity!  I can’t wait to see you excel in your triathlon adventures!!
Also loved Jacque's dog, Lucy, and our fun times with the tennis ball!

1 comment:

  1. I was out there with you and I yelled at you. Good on you for being smart! You do have many more seasons/races in you. Keep on keeping on. Hopefully you will be in Arizona!!