I want to remember that I bought a new bike this spring and I love it and it has been a colossal pain in the ass. I've been on my CD.01 for four years, it has taken me through five IMs and at least a half dozen 70.3s, not to mention hundreds of thousands of miles all over the country and as recently as March I was saying to people I don't need a new bike I love the bike I have! But then April rolled around and we were surprised to end up with a tax refund and I found a last-year model of exactly what I would want on deep discount in my size. TriSports got me all set up with the crank that I wanted and the saddle that I ride, and then I spent some time tracking down all the little bits and parts that a new bike needs, cages and pedals and putting shitty wheels on it that weigh a million pounds and retaping the bars et al. I got in with my body magician for a fit the week after NOLA, we matched things up to my old bike, made a few tweaks and he dispatched me to the road to check it out. I rode it once and then made a small adjustment, then again and another small adjustment and that led to falling headfirst into the rabbit hole of my hamstring hurts so I tilted the handlebars up 1º but that made my knee hurt so I moved the saddle forward 2mm but then I lost all my watts so I moved it back and down 1mm instead but then my left arm started to cramp while in the bars plus I can't climb well so I moved something else 2mm and on and on and on, generally driving myself (and Charlie, hopefully he is used to it by now) a little bit crazy. The good news is that last week I rode probably somewhere around 200 miles on it and my knee twitches have died down and nothing hurts. At least not more than I think anything should hurt after that much time in the saddle, so I believe that I've finally landed the elusive perfect fit of power and comfort but jesus what a pain in the dick the last couple of weeks have been here.
I want to remember that I finally sucked it up and started going to 5:45am masters on Friday mornings with the awesome Julie D. She coaches the really excellent Monday masters I've been attending for a few months (that happens at a much more reasonable time of day). The Friday morning session is sprint-until-you-vomit on ten minutes rest, and this is a piece of my swim fitness that kind of completely blows, so 5:45am (which I understand is really not all that early) masters it is. This session has a few more of my regular swim friends in it so it's different than Mondays in that I don't get lapped every 100 yards by every single other person in the pool, but it pushes me much harder than I can do on my own. While it's true that I am grumpy from the moment my alarm goes off until about 300 yards into the workout, when I get out I am always glad that I showed up. And all together the pieces of my swim have been put together really well recently, I think my swim sat on a plateau for quite some time and this spring it seems to be creeping forward again.
I want to remember that for a variety of medical reasons I went back on the pill for a grand total of four days and it completely screwed with my body (maybe this is TMI but whatever, click away). It threw my RPE against pace/watts system completely out of whack and that combined with a bit of heat had me pretty WTF until Michelle pointed out that maybe the new dump of hormones was to blame. I checked out the list of possible side effects and had seven of them so I went straight back off of it and 4-5 days later things were pretty much back to normal. That said, there was a pretty miserable 100+ mile ride in that week. I was completely nauseous, a bunch of kids driving threw a can of beer at me and I wiped out, I couldn't deal with sugar AT ALL and I spent about three hours being super pissed because I wanted to cry. And I REALLY hate crying.
I want to remember that despite the fact that I just told you that I spent three hours on a bike wanting to cry, all things being relative I think I am holding my shit together fairly well this time around (although there are still five more weeks of training so no promises). Part of that is I realized a few weeks ago that once I race CdA it's highly likely that it will be at least a year before I race ironman again, and there's nothing like a walloping dose of perspective to keep your head on straight. I believe that losing your shit when training is beating the daylights out of you is a choice, you are not a victim of it, but certainly there have been times in the past when volume and fatigue have been so high that yes, I have chosen to bawl my eyes out because I couldn't cut open a fucking avocado. But this time, there is almost a bit of wistfulness mixed in with a normal amount of cranky, like when a six hour ride shows up on my schedule and I think, wow, I'm only going to ride six hours a few more times! For whatever it's worth, that tiny bit of appreciation is going a long way towards keeping my head positive even when I am really, really smashed.
I want to remember that I've been more relaxed about eating this time around than I have been in a while, and it's good. I'm eating well, I still crave vegetables after a long day in the saddle and bump into the ceiling of my sugar tolerance at least twice a week, but I also am not beating myself up for the tiny slice of cheesecake although it does make me fart for several hours which is not fun for anyone. I know that compared to last year, I have been carrying around a few more pounds of inflammation and Snooze pancakes but I also feel like I am riding well, swimming okay and running just fine. So I will keep my extra pounds and sleep soundly knowing that whenever taper arrives the inflammation will melt off and the rest will keep me company for yet another trip through ironman.
I want to remember that I figured out that Michelle has figured out my recovery patterns and because of that I've had some fantastic workouts pop out of (seemingly) nowhere. I think there are two pieces to why this is working: part of it is because Michelle is wise about knowing when to dig me out of the hole and part of it is because I've seen her do it enough times now that I trust her to do so when I need it....and when she doesn't do it then I know it means yup get your ass off the couch and go ride. The last few weeks have been pretty much as expected, but the way recovery has been laid across the volume has translated to quite a few sessions that I looked at beforehand and said, well I have no idea if I'll be able to hit any of that but I'll go try and oddly enough it shows up. And sometimes it's a hell of a lot harder to hit things than I would expect but maybe I've finally gone through this enough times that I'm starting to understand the difference between training to finish an ironman and training to race one.
And along those lines, it has been a bit surprising how often I have workouts where the comments after go something like this: on every interval I was pretty sure I was going to blow or not be able to do one more but then I kept going after it and I didn't blow... and that might be the best thing I have learned about myself over the last few months. All the things I've done to get myself into a situation where I'm not afraid to try, that's where I am, and blowing and rolling home at 35 watts is happening less often than I would expect. I've learned the difference between making the box turn green because planned time was completed and because the intention of the work was executed properly. Completing the time will get me to the finish, sure, it's worked five times before. But if I want a different race then I need to be doing different work or maybe even similar work with a different attitude. I'm sure I am not saying any of this well at all but I think the trite-and-true you are stronger than you think is starting to sink in. That doesn't mean I don't bitch about how hard some sessions have been (because bitching about this hobby that we choose to do in our spare time is our god-given right). But so far when the choice has been to stay with the thing that hurts or give up and jog aerobic home, I'd like to believe that I have consistently kept chasing the hard, even if it means hitting repeat 900 times on the fight song and feeling the huge blister under my big toe fill, pop, soak my shoe and then run another 7 miles on it.
When I was training for Coeur d'Alene the first time, I had quite a few but I am so tired meltdowns. And now these stories are fun to tell, the time I ran a MAF test in 2 mile increments and hid under the bleachers hyperventilating from heat and humidity between repeats, the time I called the poet for a ride after I got stung by a wasp and he drove twenty miles to get me and we drove for five minutes while I sniffled and then I got back out and rode home, the time I rolled out for 100 miles and was 20 miles from my house before I noticed that I had forgotten all of my water bottles, all the times I wanted to throw my bike in the ditch and just walk home instead of sit on the saddle even one more second. Lake Placid there were a few less although I do remember a spectacular blowout with the poet about who put the ANT stick where after who used it last, Cozumel again a few less and so on. Somewhere along the way I realized that losing my shit is kind of exhausting especially when I know I'm going to get up and finish my session anyway so I might as well just skip it and get home sooner.
I had lunch with a friend of mine yesterday who possibly has never been around me while I've been this level of exhausted by training, and she asked me rather dubiously, why do you keep doing this? And it was hard to convince her that I do this for fun, because when I eat an entire tupperware of leftover bison/sweet potatoes/red peppers in less than thirty seconds without taking a breath and my eyes look like pissholes in the snow and I hold my sacrum like I'm 80 years old when I get up, it doesn't seem to her like I am having fun. So I tried to explain that I'll have fun on race day, and maybe that worked and maybe it didn't, but I think the real reason that I keep doing this (other than the because it feels so good when I stop! answer) is that because I am still learning shit about myself from this process. One of my athletes shared a really great article with me a few days ago, and the quote I pulled out of it is this: There’s a difference between joy and fun, and the things that bring you the greatest joy are often not that fun while you’re doing them. All of this brings me joy even if it's not always fun while it is happening. Training is tears and singing along to Rachel Platten and scraping my shoulder on the floor of the pool and pacework in the pouring rain and blisters and sugar and descending and always being hungry and selfies and hitting stop on the Garmin when it says twenty miles and chamois cream and so many other things, but it's my joy. It's that simple.
Five weeks until ironman.