Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a jumble of semi-related thoughts

My trick collapsing leg is still being quite the trickster, and as such, I haven't run in over a week.  I've done a handful of 10-20 second test runs, each slightly less painful than the last, but I'm still getting quite a bit of pain in my ankle shooting up my calf and into my knee on impact.  Pool running doesn't hurt, but it irritates my hip flexors, so I'm staring down a pretty serious swim+bike block until my body gets its shit together.  I've been giving the angry calf plenty of attention in the form of the weird salt bath, compression socks, ice, and continued torture from Dr. Paul, which has left me rocking this bad boy.
As most of you know, the weather was nice enough outside this weekend that I could take my new crank out for a spin, so we decided to head into Arlington to test that sucker out on the Tuesday night Conte's hill loop.  2.5 loops plus some bonus climbs in and out of Falls Church later, I'm pretty happy to say that I've regained the ability to climb without mashing my brains out.  It does mean that all of my gears are in a different place yet again, and I need to re-re-learn how to control the bike as I climb and descend, plus the bike itself is still fairly new to me and I'm figuring out how to eat and drink and take pictures of myself without crashing.  But it was the kind of ride where I can't do anything except feel thrilled to pieces to be alive, and almost quiets the part of my brain that is angry about being unable to run.

I was fortunate enough to have Monday off, and I was stupid reckless enough to tell my coach Sunday evening that I was feeling extremely rested and would love a big day in the pool and on the bike.  She was happy to deliver, and after finishing my swim workout (description included lots of the word HARD) and getting my calf mashed up, I bundled up and headed into Maryland to climb lots of hills and play chicken with idiots driving silver Mercedes'.  This wasn't a HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY ride, this was the kind of ride where I learned a lot about where I am and got a good strong reality check about how much work is ahead of me to get where I want to be this season.  Being mostly inside on the trainer for the past few months, I've lost a lot of my good habits as related to nutrition and hydration.
By the end of last fall I had it down to a science and it worked.  I knew how much and when to drink and how much and when to take in calories, and it's been a really long time since I've bonked on the bike.  But bonk I did, yesterday, bonk bonk bonk all the way to the bottom of a long descent where I pulled over and ate every last calorie I had in my bottle, my pockets, stuffed in my bento box and hidden in my seat bag behind the spare tubes.  25 minutes later I still had the glassy-eyed slow-pedaling detachment that I associate with a serious need for fuel and pulled into a gas station to throw some more fat calories and caffeine down the hatch.  I had been tracking pretty carefully since the beginning of the ride and didn't think I was short, but the wonderful thing is, your body doesn't give a flying fuck about the math.  If it wants fuel, it wants it, and no amount of me thinking "but I've had 240-250 calories per hour, what's the problem?" was going to change that.  I think I failed to recognize that I was starting to ride at 11:30am instead of 5:30am and had only eaten about 500 calories so far in the day, I had done a swim with lots of hard effort and I wasn't taking into account how much work my body was doing to fight the pretty hard winds and not-cold-but-definitely-chilly temperatures.  I only had liquid calories with me, which is usually fine, but I probably should have eaten more non-liquid calories before leaving on the ride to give my stomach something to do the first easy hour.  I was able to spend a great deal of the ride in aero, including every single long climb, but I think that works against me in terms of nutrition.  It's all a balance, I just need to figure it out again.  I also got a good feel for where my climbing ability and endurance is at right now, and it's both slightly depressing and extremely motivating.  So, lots of work ahead, lots to be done on the bike, but I'm ready to put my nose down and bull forward.  When I finally rolled back up the driveway just ahead of the setting sun, I was worn out to my core but pleased about all the good stuff I had been able to work on.  Yes, my jacket can been seen from outer space and I don't care, it was 70% off last April and it keeps me warm despite extreme ugliness.
This is the first time I've really been injured in any way in the midst of full-blown triathlon training, and it's interesting how my responses are different.  I can bike and swim almost completely without issue, but there's a hole in my life where running usually is - and it's a different, smaller kind of hole than when I've been injured before.  Ever since college, I've felt secure in classifying myself as a runner.  I wasn't fast, I didn't do it a lot, but it brought me a great deal of joy and I wore that proudly.  I had special pants and knew how to wear my iPod headphones down the back of my shirt and had loops and routes and gave myself little pats on the back every time I got out the front door.  And when I got injured and couldn't run, I had nothing left.  It sent me reeling into a pretty deep depression that made it harder to climb out the back end.  Now, not being able to run is still creating a void, but it's tinier and harder to see and isn't a black hole.  Part of that is because I can still swim and ride, and my schedule can be filled up with those things to keep the itchy parts of me happy while I wait for the leg to heal.  Part of it is definitely because my coach is being pretty zen about the whole thing and not turning on all the panic stations, and that is calming.  And I think part of it is just because I'm not a runner anymore.  It's not what defines me.  I've become one of these crazy multi-sport athletes, a triathlete, and not only am I happier here than I ever was as a runner, I'm steady.  I never thought I would like being in the pool, but I find a lot of peace in the water and get real giggly when those 6K swims show up on my training plan.  I've loved the bike since the first day I rode it, and the only thing I don't like about heading out for a ride is how annoying the trail is the first 40 minutes I roll away from my house.  Running will always be how I got started, but I think I've finally stepped away from the roller-coaster love affair I've had with it for the last ten years.  So don't call me a runner, not anymore.  I'm putting down some pretty serious roots in the land of swim-bike-run, I'm thrilled to be here, and I'm never going back.  

23 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Katie and while I am so sorry to hear you are battling this whole injury war, it appears that you have a really healthy perspective on the whole matter and I am happy to see that Sonja is being zen for ya :)

    (also good to know I can make workout requests! ha)

    Sending healing vibes your way TRIATHLETE

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  2. Those bruises look seriously painful! I hope that leg gets it's act together asap girl but thankful that you have the swimming and biking to fall back on to help you keep your sanity.

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  3. Oh, I hope this happens to me with triathlon, I really really do. I had to fill out my "primary sport" on my shiny new Training Peaks account and it took me so long to pick because I don't feel like I can claim "runner" when it hurts me every six months. I may have mentioned before that you're my digging-out-of-injury-black-hole she-ro, but if I haven't, you are, and this post proves why.

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  4. I like your super bright jacket. I also like the end of your post. Even though I'm still new to the sport, I love everything about it and I am surprised how much I like swimming even though I had no clue how to even swim last year.

    I also need to ask you questions about your crank. I need to get a compact one, but not sure where to start...

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  5. The iPad balanced on the cockpit is freakin' brilliant.

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  6. great post Katie and i think this is where i'd like to be b/c running is still so central for me. i'm sure once i get my bike mileage up i'll join in the "i'm not just a runner" land. i have a lot farther to go on the bike then you so don't stress too much. motivated is a way better way to look at it so i'm stealing that from you.

    p.s. i love that jacket. neither you nor morgan should be surprised by this. the louder the better. and w/the bike - the more visible the better!

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  7. I'm pretty sure that trainer picture sealed your SOAS deal.

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  8. Go Ms. Triathlete!

    I understand what you mean about your self-image. When I quit riding horses after many years at a high level, it was REALLY difficult for me, because it was my entire identity. I didn't know who I was besides a rider.

    Later, I learned to think of myself not as "athlete-in-specific-sport" but just as an athlete. Period. The activity may change (i.e. swimming or pool-running instead of running) but at your core you're an ATHLETE.

    Thinking of myself as an athlete who targets running goals, rather than as exclusively a runner, has gotten me through a lot of dark cross-training hours.

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  9. I love the end of this post. To be honest, how you feel about triathlon was how I hoped I would feel when I tried to get into it last summer. Unfortunately the bike and I didn't quite click like I had hoped, but at least the whole experiment brought me back to swimming. Now if only there were more aquathlon events...

    I hope the leg is feeling better soon!

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  10. I also have a yellow jacket that you can spot from outer space! I bought it because it has removable sleeves making it also a super nerdy VEST that you can see from outer space. Oh well better to be comfortable and be able to be seen by cars than uncomfortably hot or dead...

    I hope you heal soon! But it sounds like you have a good attitude about this whole injury and you will bounce back just fine!

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  11. It fits you. I remember when you first got that bike and we met up for riding dates. I had a feeling you'd never give it up for "just" running once you got better.

    I love the complementary nature of the bike and running. The speed, the longer distances to be explored, the ability to coast ... all very good things.

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  12. I'm sorry that you can't run right now--you know I feel ya. But it really is great that the other two keep you a bit uplifted through it. And hopefully it will be short-lived.

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  13. Holy crap your calf!! You're totally right though in that when we defined ourselves solely as "runners," getting injured was a huge blow. Now with two other sports to pick from, it's a bit easier.

    P.S. I think I want an iPad now SOLELY so I can prop it on my bike. Not to convince Chicken Face of this plan...

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  14. That jacket rocks! It isn't ugly at all!

    Good luck relearning/figuring out the nutrition.

    I totally get how you are feeling about the running being less of a focus now that you are biking and swimming. It sucks that you are fighting injury, but super awesome that you are dealing with it. The 6k swims might be a little bit of a drastic way of dealing with it.... haha

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  15. Beer on the bike is a whole new level of awesome! LOVE it. I'm glad you have swimming and biking to keep you occupied as your body heals up. PS - when are we going biking? Seriously.

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  16. Really great post! Personally, I like the jacket!
    Last year, my first year doing this tri business, I was sidelined from running for 2 months. Normally, that would have sent over the edge, but, like you, I could swim and bike without any issues. It ended up being a good thing for me because I had to focus on the skills at which I sucked (and still do!). Also, when I was able to just finish the tri, I felt pretty ecstatic!

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  17. That leg looks painful! ouch!

    I'm also having these strange spring-like desires to ride again. it's odd.

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  18. There are a few pieces of perspective in here that I totally love and identify with. First, the idea that "your body doesn't give a flying f--- about the math" is true of sports nutrition, training days and anything else we try to play by the numbers. You're smart for knowing to listen to your body rather than the math. Also, the sense of perspective about injuries is huge, and is something I'm also coming around to. Injuries happen. They are part of training, and life. They're horrible, but then they get better. Here's hoping your "trick" leg gets better soon!

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  19. You should write a book. Seriously.

    You are so extremely inspiring! I know it takes time to get come to the realizations like you have, but once you get there the world is a brighter place. Good on you for taking the label away and focusing on what you love to do.

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  20. Swimming and biking are awesome, and you will be back running in no time flat. Keep us posted!

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  21. How long did you ride and did you travel to Philadelphia? Started at 1130a and rolled in just before sunset? Let's just say sunset is 630p that means 7 hours....holy biking batman.

    And I am like you with runner converted to triathlete. That is an adjective I use and I love it.

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  22. Okay first of all - WHY have we (I?) not seen that trainer picture before?! Simply amazing.

    Secondly, why doesn't every workout we put ourselves through elicit this feeling - "feel thrilled to pieces to be alive" ??? I want that. Who wouldn't want that?! Bottle it up.

    I hope the diagnosis that may have happened today was a "good" one...

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  23. I have considered you a crazy triathlete for a while now. You have always impressed me with your bike and swim skills...kind of a little role model for me.

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