Chop wood and carry water, is how I loosely tied it into our anniversary celebration. And I'll chalk it up to whatever ironies there are in the world that the day I unboxed it and ran with it for the first time was the last time I would run - or really, exist - without pain, for a while.
I've had to deal with some rather unpleasant work stress these last few months on top of everything else that has been going on with my body. It was about a month ago when I went out one morning for a short & easy run to shake off the dry needling I'd had done the day before. Within two minutes, my HR was through the roof. I stopped and adjusted (spat on) my heart rate monitor, then kept jogging as lightly and easily as I could, and after a few more minutes it was in a range I generally only see in the last mile of a 5K against paces that could really be considered walking. So I stopped jogging and walked home. Thinking. Listening.
I've been here plenty of times in my life, the point where stress has built the pressure inside my body to the boiling point. And I know all too well what happens when I don't pay attention. I end up in a ditch after my riding partner rode straight across my stomach, or walking an ironman, or having a complete meltdown because my knife is too dull to cut open the avocado. It's not pretty. But every time I end up there, I'm always able to look back and see that, yup, I ignored all the signs. Something about the universe throwing acorns before it throws bricks and then next it drops a house on you because the universe refuses to be ignored.
This time, I listened. The first thing to go was the pressure that I was putting on myself to keep "training" while I rehabbed. Instead of actually evaluating what was going on inside my body and doing what I thought was best each day - which was sometimes, nothing - I was desperately clinging to a schedule, to the hopes that I would still be able to heal quickly enough to race well this spring. And I can think of more than a few times when I finished workouts despite knowing, deep down in my gut, that I should have shut it down. Returning from injury is the time when being a type-A OCD rule-follower will really just bite you in the ass. But I make mistakes, I'm stubborn, and I'm human (and apparently only take pictures of the top of my head).
So I let it go. Training as a whole. My spring races. Ironman, this whole year, if need be. All of it. I've been saying through these last few months that I don't care about racing, that I just want to be healthy again, but I still had those races niggling in the back of my mind. And I needed to finally, honestly, release that. Take it off my plate completely. Maybe it will get added back on, maybe not, but desperation is never a good rehab strategy. I knew as soon as I did it that it was the right thing to do. There will always be more races, and more training schedules, and more boxes to turn green, but that's not what I need right now.
A couple of days later, I went down to Denver with a friend who was going to look at new bikes. I only went for fun and moral support, but the poet knew, he said before I left, this is like when we go and meet the puppy just to see if we like him. I spent the afternoon happily harassing Liz and James (who are awesome) at TriBella, laughing at Emily trying on all the bike capris and no one was surprised when I called later that day to ask detailed questions about moving my components and my power meter and my aerobars from my current bike over to a new frame. And none of my friends pointed out the relative stupidity of buying a new bike when I can currently ride about thirty minutes max at ninety watts which is why, friends are good.
But what felt even better than buying a new bike (side note: selling a brand-new 2016 QR cd.01 frame for cheap if anyone is looking...) was spending an afternoon away from all the shit in my life. Even now, looking at these pictures, I can see how much the stress was dragging on me, how much I needed some light. Certainly this is expert-level rationalization but for whatever reason, buying a new bike felt like a fresh start. Starting over, clean. James was a wizard at moving over all my components and I got in with Charlie for a fit a few days later and it simply feels good. Like maybe it's okay to try something new and different, maybe it's okay for everything to always be changing (more top of head).
Since I set myself free from a schedule, I've been careful (accidentally killing myself when left to my own devices the biggest concern here). I've been swimming every day. It's mostly pulling because kicking irritates my SI joint, but I've been building up the no-toys swim very incrementally and who ever would have guessed that I'd get tired of pulling but goddamn if it doesn't feel good to swim with only my body when I do. I've erred on the side of extreme caution with the bike, as that is what tends to set me back the most. I've gotten out here and there for a few short and easy rides with friends, I've done a tiny bit of work on the trainer where I can bail if needed, and for the most part every time I pull on my bibs I am telling myself, I will not ride through even the smallest amount of pain. My goal with everything right now is to finish a session feeling like I could have done more, like I can repeat this tomorrow.
Per the advice of a great physical therapist, I've been keeping the runs short, frequent, aerobic. My "long run" was four miles, then six, then one morning I ran eight miles in ten-minute out-and-back segments because I wasn't sure how long I would be able to jog and didn't want to get stranded three miles from home like I did in January (I'm sure my neighbors think I am nuts by now). The poet is used to hearing me say, I'm going running and I'll be back somewhere between five and sixty minutes as I head out the garage door. I'm doing lots of stability work in the gym, I'm roping my eating habits back into a more normal space (stupid dried mango), and I'm not thinking much further ahead than that.
And letting this pressure ease, I'm still confident it was the right decision. I'm sure that I will turn back around at some point, that I'll start chasing watts and pace and races again, because there is joy there too, but right now I'm content with the simple ability to move my body in the absence of pain. For right now? It is enough.