Monday, January 4, 2016

putting my back back & on frustration

So, I'm hyper mobile.

When I was younger, it was good for a neat party trick.  I can fit my large-for-a-woman fist in my mouth (jaw hyper mobility), tuck my heel behind my head (hip hyper mobility), do a split, and do some of the crazier yoga poses, especially when pre-lubricated with tequila.  The downside to hyper mobility is that as a triathlete or almost any kind of athlete, we need a certain amount of stiffness, resistance, strength to perform.  My pelvis is hyper mobile and along with that comes a truckload of problems that I believe are the root of nearly every injury I've ever had.  The biggest issue is that my pelvis doesn't like to let my sacrum stay where it is.  Instead, it twists and rotates and as of last week, four times in my life has gotten so completely jammed up that it takes away my ability to train or even walk around, sit, stand, take selfies pain-free.  I believe that what happens - and let's just clear it up now that I am not a doctor and my ability to absorb and translate correctly what is happening is dulled by the fact that it's usually being explained to me after five days of excruciating pain & while I have a hundred needles lined up in my back - is that when it rotates and gets jammed, bones that are not supposed to touch, do (I'll leave a space here so you can cringe), and sometimes a nerve gets squashed in there and that's when the pain goes from discomfort and stiffness to nuclear can't-get-out-of-bed just take me out back and shoot me please.  If I told you how long these needles are, you would probably throw up in your mouth.
The first time it happened was the half marathon that almost wasn't way back in 2011.  I was in bed for almost two weeks until I found Chasity who was my miraculous miracle worker the rest of the time I lived in DC.  I also found Paul somewhere around that time; he taught me how to squat and deadlift and do lots of single-leg work to help my body learn how to keep things where they are supposed to be.  That's when I really started working in the gym on strength training.  It's not just so I can take back selfies while doing pull-ups, it's because I want my goddamn sacrum to stay the hell put.  
I didn't have another significant problem with it until about a year and a half ago, when I managed to knock it way out of joint just before boarding a plane to Portland to spectate the poet running a marathon.  If I remember correctly, I was a horrific houseguest, I could barely sit on a bike seat while trying to chase the marathoners around town, I kept bursting into frustrated tears of pain that no amounts of anti-inflammatories or massage therapists that my friends kindly called on Saturday or glasses of red wine would touch.  It wasn't until the following week when Heather snapped it back into place that my pain levels came down from "ghastly."  The good thing is, once it's back in place, it feels about 80% better and then it's just a game of waiting until the inflammation calms down before I'm happily crashing through my life again.  Heather stuffed about a dozen needles into my butt, sternly forbade me from doing flip turns for at least 48 hours and sent me on my way.  I think I rode my bike for four or five hours the next day because it was my birthday and by the time I was back in the water two days later, I felt 100%.  I sure do have a lot of pictures of needles in my back side (NSFW).  
It happened again last January, I was in the gym deadlifting and a superstar triathlete walked in, in my embarrassingly slobbering excitement I dropped my phone on the ground and when I went to pick it up, WHAM out my sacrum went.  I still wasn't knowledgeable enough by then to realize what had happened, so I spent a day or two thinking that I had pulled a muscle before realizing that it was the same twist-and-wedge and all I needed was to get it whacked back into place and then clean up the soft tissue damage and I'd be good to go.  I think I lost a week there, it was right before I went to Hawaii to train with Michelle and by the time I boarded the plane I was rested and healthy and desperate to ride hard again.
And this time around.  About a week ago I had a long trainer ride, certainly longer than I've had in a while but not excessively long especially considering that I did an ironman a month ago.  I got off about 2.5 hours in to refill my bottles and could tell that my pelvis was a bit rotated.  This is really common, every time I get off the bike I crack myself and these little adjustments (I believe) are part of what has kept me healthy and minimize text-message-SOS to poor Charlie.  I adjusted it then, and again later that night.  When I woke up the next morning the joint felt sore, but it wasn't until I was dumb enough to wear cowboy boots with a heel out to dinner and then off for dancing and bluegrass that it turned quite bad.  I woke up the next morning and the whole joint was a line of dull fire.  I went to the pool anyway because I'm a stubborn jackass and had a friend visiting and was bitterly disappointed to have to call off our new year's day swim at 8K.  I got in a couple more cracks and adjustments of my own but could tell it was still out, so Saturday morning I was sitting at the $19 strip mall chiropractor's office when they opened, where a horrified but very nice woman smashed me back into place.  I got some soft-tissue work done today by my favorite needle man who for some reason has always been a few states away when this has happened (possibly on purpose) and I know that in a couple more days I'll be fine again; this, too, will pass.
But I'm frustrated, and it's hard not to be.  I'm frustrated that no matter how much focused strength & mobility work I do, daily work, consistent work, that my body continues to be, quite literally, a high maintenance pain in the ass.  I went back through my training logs around these three instances to see what patterns I could find, and the truth is there are none, but the scientist in me finds that hard to accept.  Charlie said this morning that it's probably just a fluke, and if anyone knows how much work I do to try and avoid this it's tied between him and Erin and Michelle, and jeez is that annoying if it is in fact true.  
It's frustrating that I put a lot of time and resources into keeping my body healthy.  I get maintenance work done at least twice a month, year-round, sessions that leave me limping for 24 hours but then keep me going strong for a while.  I work with Erin, the magic guru of intelligent strength training designed to compliment what I put my body through in triathlon.  I generally eat well, I get enough sleep, I pay attention to recovery, I don't sit slumped in front of a desk for twelve hours a day, I've almost completely stopped being an asshole about new running shoes, I get regular check-ups on my bike fit; I feel like crying out to the heavens I do everything right! Yet still, breakdowns occur.

The flip side of this that I've finally, begrudgingly, arrived at, is perspective.  That all of this is worth it.  I've done two IMs a year for the last three years plus God knows how many other shorter races.  That is a LOT of fucking races.  I love to train.  I love to ride my bike for a long time, I love to swim long and don't let Michelle read this but I even mostly enjoy long runs.  As I've been worrying and analyzing over the past few days, I realized that I haven't missed more than about a week of training in four years of racing ironman.  In actuality, that's probably pretty fucking stellar.  My back has gone "out" (I realize this is a colloquial way of putting it but whatever, my backyard my backside) three times, my right adductor is needy as hell, I thought I broke my foot but it turns out it was a pissed-off peroneal tendon, my neck was making my hand numb for a while, I had a pissy knee for a couple months going into Cozumel the first time, my hamstring gets verklempt about life as a hamstring every so often, I crashed my bike which resulted in a jammed shoulder and a concussion and letting Geoff Hower stick his (appropriately trained and regulated) finger in my mouth, I've had little aches and pains here and there but for the most part, I've been healthy.  I clearly remember griping last summer to one of the men in my life that keep me healthy, why is my body such a huge mess all the time?! and being told, because you beat the shit out of it all the time!  Which is true.  
My other thought about frustration is, I think I'm feeling it right now because I feel slightly frustrated with a few things in my life.  Little things, but they add up and I'm finally saying, enough.  I've been frustrated with my weight for about a year, but it's only a few pounds, so it hasn't been enough to stimulate me into being better about fueling and food prep and snacking because whatever it's just a few pounds.  I've been frustrated with a lack of progress in a few highly-specific areas in sport, but not enough to get me to put in that little bit more time to being dedicated about working resolving them because whatever I've still got so much room for growth in the places I like to work on.  I've been frustrated at how poorly I sometimes manage my time which either gives me anxiety because I feel behind all the time or has me working past bedtime almost every day.  And I'm saying, enough.  It's not at all because it's the new year.  I don't believe in making resolutions.  Sweeping declarations of huge change only piss me off, because it's so hard to back it up when really, incremental change over time is what we all know works.  I know it, a few years ago I learned it, I lived it, and then I fell back.

But I am glad to see 2015 in the rearview mirror.  I'm glad to feel like I have this whole year, this whole season, spread out before me, a clean slate.  Rich with opportunity.  It didn't start with January.  It started with feeling closure about the really hard time I went through, in part Cozumel gave me that and in part the tremendous amount of work I've done on my brain gave me that.  Feeling the end of the season rang more true with me than the end of the calendar year.  Becoming more aware of myself in the process as an athlete, having clear ideas about where I want to go when four months ago I wasn't sure I wanted to go anywhere at all, ever again.  So I'll sit on the couch for a few more days with an ice pack stuffed down the back of my leggings, I'll keep doing hip mobility and taping my squat form and torturing myself with dry needling and watching you tube videos about running mechanics because at the end of the day, it's what I love.  And this is the kind of work I need to do to be able to continue to do what I love, then for now, at least, it's completely worth it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

on December

I've never finished an ironman feeling quite so peaceful.  It's different than feeling done kaput finished, I'm not ready to wash my hands of this distance no matter how I felt at mile 60 of the bike.  But, like everyone posts haughtily on instagram all the time, I do think that I have finally learned how to honestly be in love with the process.  With where I am, just me, not comparing myself to anyone else around me and where they are and how fast they got there and what their story looks like and how mine doesn't measure up.  My day went how I wanted it to go, start to finish.  That's what I care about, not about the time, or the heat, or the chafing, or the gut bomb, or the blisters or whatever else I could use to bring it down.  And with that comes peace.  Maybe I'm growing up.  
The week after ironman, I did almost nothing.  I had this idea that I would have so much extra time in my life since I wasn't training, but instead my body ate up all those hours with sleep and limping up and down the stairs (I'm 2 for 7 on this now: running the marathon makes you a hell of a lot more sore than a 6-hour walk).  I was home a day or two before hopping back on a plane (thanks, Southwest points!) down to Tucson to support my athletes running half & full marathons.  One week after ironman, I ran somewhere between five and eleven miles at a variety of paces back and forth between miles 19 and 26.2 of the race, and I am here to report that it was a fucking terrible idea although I did have a blast doing it.  I medicated with tequila and went back to bed, my abs sorely disgruntled with how much I laughed over two days.
Home again in Colorado for a minute before boarding yet another plane (seriously, travel points are the best) out to Philadelphia to visit with family for the holidays.  I spent some good time with them, I got to catch up with more than a few dear friends and start drinking at 9am on a Sunday morning.  The Eagles backed up my joy with a win (rare this season, hopefully more planned for next season now that Kelly got the boot).  This is what my teeth look like up close when I'm drunk before noon (hashtag balance).
Coming out of the second ironman of the year, I usually take the full month of December off so that I can spend all of January feeling fat and bitching about how few watts I have on twitter.  But I felt like I got that break with everything else that was going on in my life following IM Boulder.  I wasn't burned out going into Cozumel and regardless of what social media proclaims we all should be doing this time of year, I didn't need a full month away from training to recharge my batteries for 2016.  So I didn't do that.  I took that first week off.  The second week I asked Michelle to dump a bunch of swims on my schedule and I would bike or run if I felt like it (ha).  I did some mobility work and I swam almost every day, that was enough, it felt good.  And by the third week following ironman, I was ready to be moving again.  It was what I needed and it was right for me.  Taking a bunch of time off never makes me feel happy, it makes me cranky and my hips hurt and I miss the 5K swims and being able to shoehorn myself into tiny running shorts.  Moving my body is part of my life, it's a rhythm that I crave and if it ever stops making my life better, I'll stop doing it, but until then, here I go.
That said, I have been a bit more casual throughout the holiday season.  I shut down a couple of sessions when I wasn't feeling like a superstar instead of digging for mojo to finish it out, I had movie popcorn for lunch, I climbed into the shot closet along with all my swimming friends, I lifted hard in the gym, I said yes to every holiday party, every mimosa brunch, and I filled the days between with enough spinach and kombucha to keep my immune system happy.  It's a weird sort of balance, but it worked for me this year.  And one day of twizzlers and blueberry danish pancakes is pretty amazing but after two days of sugar over-consumption I feel like shit and want to go back to eating vegetables so my headache will depart.  I only put on an as-of-this-morning six pounds as opposed to some of my month-off-blitzes of the past, which means I will only be moderately crabby over the next few weeks instead of homicidally angry from sugar withdrawal.  I know.  I'm getting so boring in my old age.
I had a great talk with Michelle sometime in the first couple of days after the race about how it went down, where my weaknesses are and what the plan was for next year.  I still haven't pulled the many-hundred-dollars-trigger on a few things, one due to hesitance, most thanks to the financial holocaust of December.  But I felt good about our talk: where I am now, what we have accomplished and where I want to go from here.  The first thing that's going down is that she has turned me loose in the weight room to lift myself senseless for a while.  I'm only two weeks into it but it's making me really happy to experiment and lift heavy and wreck myself without worrying about what it's doing to my swim/bike/run.  The first day back I moved about 16 pounds and was so sore that I couldn't sit down unaided for a few days, but my body is used at least some level of this kind of work and I feel like I've adapted pretty quickly to the expanded sessions.  I'm taking time to work on things I really suck at (I'm looking at you, squatting), to be precise about form and correct some movements that I've glossed over or ignored as I've lifted through so many seasons of ironman training.  It's interesting and different and I'm enjoying the shit out of it.  I'm curious to see the result at the end of what I'm guessing will be 6-8 weeks of this before it's back to all bicycle all the time, which makes me equally happy but in a completely different way.  
I'm not going to take the time to do a year in review post.  I've spent enough time recording this year already and I'm tired of talking about how hard it has been.  And, to be sure, it wasn't all bad, a lot of that hard has taught me about real friendship, and love, and grief, and all the other crap that goes along with feeling my feelings instead of stuffing them down and shoveling rocks over them with sarcastic comments and dirty jokes.  But I've done enough looking back.  I'm ready to look forward to what comes next, to the next adventure.  I've planning a few trips with my bicycle to warmer places in January and February, I'm hosting a run camp for my athletes where I'll get to share some awesome people in my village, I'm hoping to catch James Taylor in NYC with a good friend, I'm going to run a 5K so I can remember that it hurts more than ironman.  And the small stuff, too, I'm going to finally teach Hunter to drop it and leave it instead of drop it and pick it right back up again, I'm going to cook the bison sweet potato thing five times a month, I'm going to swim outside in below-freezing temps and take selfies on the bike and grudgingly try to make peace or at least find a way to coexist with my run, I'm going to keep eating vanilla almond butter out of the jar with a spoon, I'm going to get to race, maybe a little, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to love the people (and puppies) that love me right back.  No resolutions, no sweeping declarations of change, no strict insane diets or detoxes or new regimens, simply just moving forward.  Working every day to make myself better, to help other people make their lives better, to keep asking question and listening and learning, chasing joy and discarding anything and everything that may distract from that.  That's all I need.  That's all I ever need (puppies say Merry Christmas).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ironman Cozumel Run: race report

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
-Mary Oliver

As per usual in ironman, I got some random quote jammed up in my brain at the beginning of the training cycle.  Because I can't just show up and race, I have to feel all my feelings and crap along the way.  I'm not sure why this one was so powerful to me lately other than acknowledging how strongly I needed to internalize the last line: I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.  I want to leave a big fucking dent in the planet when I go, I want there to be a hole in the space left by my absence, I don't want to just visit and quietly depart, I want to make a gigantic mess, leave a permanent scar, have a tiny part of the world ring with silence when I evaporate into nothing.  And what that looked like this fall was this: I didn't want to hide from all of my shit, not anymore, not ever again.  I drew in, certainly; I closed down my circle around the ways and people I spent time and energy on, perhaps more than I ever have.  But there is a difference between drawing in to try and find strength and hiding out of weakness.  I knew that closing into my small piece of the world wouldn't be forever, and I knew that I didn't want to come out swinging and full of fire, but instead: calm, steady, buoyant (heel-striking at mile 1, start as you mean to go on).
I had a pacing plan for the day, and I ran less than 2 minutes before realizing that stubbornly forcing my body to stick to that plan would be a bonehead mistake (I dodged this one but made a few others, follow along in your book).  When I went through the first aid station, I pitched my bottle (sorry, Stacy) and walked for a minute, taking in some Gatorade or whatever orange crap was on the course plus water, packing ice everywhere I could reach.  I was watching athletes coming back on the other side of the road, and I could see that everyone was miserable, drenched, suffering.  I got off the bike quite a bit sooner than the last time I was in Cozumel, where I only had a couple miles in the sun before it started to set, and that made a difference.  I don't hate racing in the heat, I prefer to be cold but I would also prefer for my thighs to fit inside skinny jeans and to not already need special eye cream at night and to be able to eat skittles without getting a sugar headache twenty minutes later so, what I think I'm trying to say is, I wasn't crabby about the heat, I knew what to do and what to expect and how to manage myself without getting all whiny about it.  

It was somewhere in the first lap when I fell into the walk-trance, though, just for a few minutes.  I went through an aid station and gathered and packed my goodies, and then didn't start to run again.  I don't even know why.  I wasn't watching lap pace or wearing a heart rate strap or even looking at the watch at all, but I felt it vibrate and looked down to see a mile split in the 12s and that felt like a slap, hey-o, wake up, let's go.  You are better than this, I said as I continued to chat with myself like a lunatic.  You are a better athlete than walking most of a marathon just because it’s a little bit warm, so how about if you get your shit together, suck it up, and get moving.  (And maybe, close your mouth).
So I did.  I wasn't running fast but I was rolling right along and pretty soon I was heading back into town.  I saw the awesome support team of our house planted in the shade at a restaurant drinking margaritas and that made me happy (with only a tiny side of burning envy).  Spectating can be rough, especially with three of us out there to keep track of, so I was glad they were having fun.  I walked next to the poet for a minute while taking some Pepto tabs, I told him that my gut was just okay but my brain was completely fine, I felt like I was managing the heat and the day and I wanted him to know that he didn't have to be worried.  He was so anxious about me returning to this race, he always frets when I'm racing ironman but this one generated a bit more stress for a lot of reasons based on my history of breaking bones and having massive race-ending meltdowns off the bike.  So when I passed him the first time on the run, it was really important to me to show him that I was happy, that there were no problems at all, I was doing work, quietly chugging through the day.  
The second lap I started to take it a bit personally that the sun was still up although we did get some shade at the far end of the loop.  I saw both of my athletes which was reassuring, one of them looked great, the other one made a sad face and rubbed her belly as she went by, so I stopped and gave her one of my little baggies of Pepto & Immodium and barked at her as part of the circle of life of coaches and athletes all over the world, You know what to do here so FIGURE IT OUT.  My feet were hurting, although I guess it's fair to say that by that point everything was hurting because it's an ironman and it hurts, no shit sherlock like the kids say.  This was the squashed, blistered, over-saturated running-on-knives hurt that I know well after many hot and damp races, I knew that a blister bonanza was going on in my shoes and I didn't want to look down and see but it felt like I was up to my ankles in bloody sludge.  Making it through the thirteen-mile mark felt good, all of my (many) ironman meltdowns have happened in the first half and once I'm counting miles down instead of up, a great deal of my anxiety drops away and it feels like rolling sweetly down into the finish.  All of my fear was about the first hour or two off of the bike and to find peace there felt like so much success, even with another 13 miles to go (seriously, close your mouth).  
Coming back into town the second time, I passed another one of Michelle’s athletes walking and gave him shit as I trotted by (turns out I’m a jackass because he cracked his heel jumping off the dock at the swim start, sorry Kevin).  It was nice to see a face I knew, though, and I realized how isolated I felt out there the whole day.  And I don’t think that was bad, I was doing my own thing, taking care of myself, staying in my little bubble. When I went by the poet and Rosalyn again I waved and said oh my God it hurts so bad (which they actually caught on video and it's hysterical & I can't stop sharing it with people), but I was smiling and they laughed and cheered, I looped through the turn and headed back out, two down, one to go.

I had been handling nutrition fine so far, drinking little cups of Pepsi, holding ice in my hands, mixing water & gatorade the right way because I have learned something from Stacy even if it’s not to eat or drink anything I have packed once I'm off the bike.  But when I started that last loop, the only thing in my head was okay, less than nine miles and this is finished, let’s close this out, I am ready for the day to be done.  So when I left town, I put my head down and I ran.  Not all that hard, but harder than I had been, and focusing on nothing but closing the gap between where I was and the time when I could take off my shoes and eat six pieces of terrible pizza in a row.  Letting my arms be relaxed, trying to keep my shoulders back and feet under me although I’m sure I looked like hell by then, I spent at least a mile repeating with each step I DO NOT HAVE TO WALK.  It was all going fine until I went past the mile 22 sign and suddenly felt a little hazy and realized that I hadn’t put anything in my mouth for well over an hour and I was about to bonk to holy hell and back (dumbass mistake #1).  So I slowed to a walk at the next aid station, I broke out a pack of chews in my pocket and ate them all, plus two cups of Pepsi plus a little cup of hard pretzels plus some Gatorade plus some water (dumbass mistake #2).  I jogged only about five minutes before my stomach revolted from eating way too much at once and - SPLAT - there went all my calories on the ground.  I started to feel pissed, these are dumb mistakes and I know better (although in my defense probably no one is high-functioning 22 miles into the ironman marathon).  
I walked for a couple of minutes and that’s when my negative brain moved in for the kill: I should be running hard back to town and instead I’m walking because I made a stupid mistake.  But then something I learned this fall came into focus: just because I’ve made a mistake, it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person.  And more importantly, the eight billionth thing I've learned from reading all the Brene Brown: When we deny our stories, they define us.  When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.  I spent all day feeling in control of my decisions - my reactions - and to throw that away at mile 23 would be such a waste.  I knew that I could probably yell enough mean things at myself to really get hauling, I could puke my way home, but I've never seen so clearly that I get to write the ending.  And I decided that I didn’t want to write the last thirty minutes of my day angry, digging, pushing, suffering.  I wanted to spend it thankful, for everything I’ve gone through that has brought me back.  I chose to be happy.  I chose to jog as much as I could, to walk a little if I thought I was going to barf again.  To thank all the volunteers, to high-five every little kid in those final miles, to say good job to every athlete that I went by, to smile broadly and gratefully the last thirty minutes of what can only be described as a solid day, start to finish.  I chose to let that cost me a couple of minutes, and it was worth every single one.  I laughed like a loon every step of the last quarter-mile or so, beyond thrilled with the day I chose, I took in the cheers of all the spectators lining the streets and too soon, the finish rose up before me and it was over.  Finished.  Line to line, my way.  (Close your mouth.  Open your eyes.  Pull down your shirt.  Sweet Jesus, as my friend Ashley says, this might just be a lost cause).
Run: 26.2 miles, 4:36:33
140.6 miles: 12:07:19, 12th AG

In the days (now weeks) that have passed since the race, my brain is so quiet.  Silent.  Sated.  I didn't even want to talk about the day for a while, I simply wanted to hug it close to me and keep it for myself, my contentment, it's mine, alone.  Now, the first question everyone has is: do I believe that I have a faster race in me?  Of course I do, and I’ve already plonked down my $700 for the next try.  But I'm not looking forward, not yet.  The goal in Cozumel wasn’t to see how fast I could go, even though that's what I believed heading into the race.  I discovered instead, with a little over three miles to go, that what I wanted was to be happy.  To feel peaceful, in control, strong, steady, for there to be no drama of any sort, to not care at all about the athletes around me or what else was going on in race but instead to truly make this one for me.  And that's exactly what I did.  It's what I said I wanted going into Boulder but that turned out not to be true.  Here, I thought I wanted to go fast, and it turns out I don't give a fuck how fast I went.  The first time I looked up any of my official times was when I sat down to vomit out these posts.  I haven't looked at any of the other athletes in my age group, who finished in front of me or behind me, who I passed and who passed me where, what the fastest bike splits were, how far off the front I ended up, none of that, because I honestly do not give a single shit about any of it.  And that is so liberating.  When I posted the I'm done! selfie on Facebook later that night with a mouthful of cotton candy I said, That was the greatest expression of self-love I have ever experienced in my entire life and that's exactly and all that it was.  I could have easily given away that happiness with three miles to go, I could have decided to flaggelate myself or hand it off to other athletes, people, the critics that surround my own personal arena, and instead I turned all of that down and chose me.  Success, this day, is mine (obviously no selfie will go unshared).
And it feels good.  Damn, it feels so much better than good, it feels completely fucking amazing.  I am happy.  With my day, my race, but more importantly, with the life I am choosing over and over, the story that I have continued to write.  I have made mistakes this year, I am tired of discussing my own failures, but I think that so much of my issue with ironman has been a suffocating fear of success.  But now I have it, by my own definition, and I want to luxuriate here for a while before I leap happily into whatever the future will bring.
Ironman isn't about anyone else.  It shouldn't be.  It should be about me, and what I want to get from it, and nothing more.  Everyone does ironman for different reasons.  I know what mine are, I own those reasons, and I'm finally experiencing the freedom of not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks about my why.  I had lunch with one of my newer athletes last week, and he asked me, you've done seven of these, why do you keep doing them?  And I smiled, and then laughed, and told him the honest truth.  Because I love it.  I love the training, I love my bike, I love the day, but better than anything else, I love the way my own path as a human is so dirty and awkward and deeply intertwined with this process.  I love what I learn about myself, every single time I go through it.  I love that ironman has taught me how much I love to feel so fucking strong.  Over time, the highs and lows have come closer together and on this day they smoothed into slightly over twelve hours of contentment, of moving my body and loving every minute.  And if there is something on this planet that makes you absolutely explosive with joy, why would you ever stop?  (Spoken like a true addict).

None of this would be nearly as fun, of course, without my people.  Michelle, you believed in me long before I knew how to believe in myself, and now that I'm finally learning how, I can't wait to see what kind of heel-striking swimming-every-day too-much-deadlifting elephant-heart happy triathlete-Frankenstein we piece together for the next one.  Erin, Charlie, Julie, Geoff: I'm so freakin' lucky to have gathered all of you up around me over the past few years and I'm thankful that you are all still here after the ups and downs of the last six months (you are all still here, right?).  OSMO & Normatec, I would be lost without you.  All my girls, spread out all over the globe, you held me together when I fell apart.  
And my husband, I don't talk about our story so much in this blog because it is not only my story to share, but you are a single place in this world that I can always go to feel unconditionally safe, protected, supported, cherished, loved.  I'm so glad that the little video I have of the finish line has your big huge loud voice yelling in it, because finally discovering this kind of success would be incomplete without you, simply, as I've said before, the best man I have ever known.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ironman Cozumel Bike: race report

The first ten miles felt great.  Legs were good, stomach was settled, power was right where I wanted it to be, brain was quiet.  I had to hold back quite a bit to keep watts in range, which I've never experienced in ironman before, usually it's legs vs. The Power Meter right off the bat.  When I did this race in 2013, I spent the first twenty miles crammed into a huge pack of riders, wasting time sitting up and coasting to try and get shaken loose and frustrated with so many athletes around me.  This year could not have been more different.  There were 2-3 riders near me most of the time; I passed a few people and got passed by a few people, but I had open and clear road for the majority of the ride.  I could feel a little bit of swirly wind going on, but it didn't feel like much, and (sigh) I remember thinking to myself, maybe the wind on the far side of the island won't be bad today and we'll all get to ride so fast! 
I went through the second aid station right before the turn and as soon as the trees dropped away from the side of the road, we were in for it.  I knew that I'd be facing the wind for roughly forty minutes until the next turn so I tried to note landmarks to help me break it up on the following laps and simply stay low and steady in the bars.  But I went through about five minutes of some seriously bad negative brain bombs - this is fucking stupid ironman is stupid why do I keep signing up for this if this was a 70.3 I'd be almost done riding I want to get off this is fucking stupid.  I didn't realize until I was out of the wind that I hadn't eaten at all during that section and likely wasn't tanked up nearly enough going in.  I immediately put down about 400 calories plus a whole bottle of OSMO, plus grabbed two bottles at the aid station for drinking and squirt showering and it was only about fifteen minutes until my brain settled back down.  It just wanted sugar, I told myself as I motored back towards town, everything is fine.  It was nice to start seeing little pockets of spectators pop up.  In Cozumel the support in the town is ridiculous and awesome but there are about twenty pretty lonely miles each lap of the bike.  I started smiling again and by the time I zipped past the poet and my friend Rosalyn I was happy enough to flash some peace signs their way.
I stopped at one of the aid stations near the beginning of the second loop to pee, grab some bottles & reapply sunscreen.  And look, I promise I'm going to try really hard to only say this once but, it was hot.  The day ended up being a bit warmer than is seasonal but on the bike with no relief or shade for so many hours, a few degrees can end up feeling like twenty.  I made sure to get down plenty of calories before turning back into the wind the second time around.  It was starting to get harder to keep my power up and I felt like a lot of energy was going towards managing the bike in the wind.  I stopped at special needs to pound a bottle of OSMO, put three new bottles on my bike and cram a fistful of chamois cream down my shorts.  I took another minute to open and eat a stinger waffle and then got rolling.  The trip across the island was a bit of a blustery crosswind and it felt like it was taking more work to move well, but I was glad to be heading into my last lap.  Counting down.
I pitched some more bottles as I rolled through town so I would have space to grab fluid the last loop.  The third loop was pretty bare - I don't know what it is about where I was riding, but I never saw more than 4-5 athletes around me the whole day, other than a few tiny peletons that went by (at least once with a woman pinned to the back, come on ladies) on the windy side.  I stopped near the beginning of the third lap to pee again and reapply sunscreen.  I've had a troublesome hamstring all fall and it started acting up somewhere after mile 90, not horrible just some twingy pain hello please stop doing whatever it is that you are doing thank you.  I kept shoveling down the bars even though they tasted awful, and when I ran out of OSMO I switched over to ice water in hopes it would cool me down from the inside-out.  

I realized after I made the turn for the last time (THANK GOD I DO NOT HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN) that my feet were swollen and completely saturated from all the water bottle showering.  That's happened before in hot races, and it usually means that I'm about to spend several hours feeling like I am running on knives and glass instead of sneakers.  I opened up the strap on my shoes to try and let them air out, and after a few minutes of feeling like that wasn't working I took my feet out completely and rode the last 5-6 miles home with them on top of my shoes, twisting and turning them to try and dry out.  I shoveled down one last bag of chews right right before dismounting, and while I'm always happy to hand over my bike, this was a bit more thank goodness that is over than usual.  But I've run well many times in the past off of a challenging ride, and I felt ready.
And in hindsight, I'm content.  I rode a small handful of watts higher than I rode at Boulder this summer (and despite that rode almost forty minutes slower, which I think speaks to the difficulty of the day).  I still need to fiddle with my nutrition timing to help with some of the bumps and lows that I hit, but my gut felt as good as it ever has.  I didn't finish with a massive sunburn or get hit by a Brit going thirty miles per hour while not paying attention or sit up in the wind or say fuck it and roll the last hour at 78 watts or stop eating because I just don't feel hungry.  I spent a lot of time talking to myself like a huge dork in the second half but it worked, my brain felt calm and steady and strong even as my physical body was starting to accumulate the fatigue of the day.

Nutrition: 5 Bobo bars + 1 Stinger waffle + 1 pack of Stinger chews & 8 bottles of OSMO + at least 4 bottles of water = 2120 calories for 370 calories per hour & 256oz fluid for 43 ounces per hour.

Bike: 112 miles, 6:18:47, 8th AG

There was a big clock outside of the entrance T2 that said 6:27 when I ran by it, which confused the living shit out of me because while I didn't look at my swim or bike times, I knew there was absolutely no chance that was even remotely close to my total race time.  I was alone in the tent and took time to change my shirt, use the potty, and stuff all my pockets; I was getting ready to head out when I realized my hips felt all of whack.  I only paused for a second before laying flat on the ground to unrotate myself and realign my pelvis.  This caused a high amount of consternation from the young girls working the tent, You have to go run now!! but it made me feel about a thousand times better even if I looked ridiculous.  I jogged on out of T2 with a bottle of warm OSMO in my hand, pretty sure that I was going to pitch it without a sip because heat + a ton of sugar is usually death on the intestines.  The poet and Rosalyn were waiting at the run exit and I was so glad to see them, I said something along the lines of well that was rough as I jogged by.  It felt good to release that from my mind and turn towards the last leg of the day: the run.
T2: 4:47