Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review and renew!

A month has passed since I arrived in Kona in (what I thought was) the best shape of my life. Enthusiastic.  Upbeat.  Ready to go.

20/20 hindsight is beautiful.  Oh, what could have been.

Instead, I caught pneumonia. More than two weeks post-Kona, and three weeks since I first started coughing, I am still breathing with half a lung and can barely get out of bed.

"But you raced with pneumonia". "You did amazing all things considered". "Just think what you could have done healthy". Yes.....I do think of this. Often. And it doesn't help.

These are the facts. They are not excuses. I gave Kona everything I had, and came up very short of what I had dreamed. Frustrating, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing short.

It takes a while for these things to sink in.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have raced in Kona, twice. Every moment I had there is a gift, and any day that culminates with crossing the finish line on Ali'i Drive can never be entirely bad.

Being who I want to be is a delicate balance of goal setting, hard work, breaking down, taking small steps, failing sometimes, putting things back together and renewing those goals. A rebuild is needed, and warranty coverage has been called in.

Great things are not built in a day. Or a season.

My initial reaction was, of course, to immediately fill the void with racing, right away. Another triathlon, a road race, a marathon.....all kinds of crazy thoughts entered my head. Yet, I reasoned that reaction was just a band-aid - my disappointment manifesting into unproductive thoughts, and not reaffirming what is important to me at all.

So, the 2012 season is over, for me. And now there is time to reflect.

I am on the reserve list until at least January. And this forced rest for my body will require me to use my head instead. It get to think, really hard, about who I am, what drives me, what I want to succeed and what goals I want to reaffirm.

I get to catch my breath, look inside (even at the things that scare me) and invest in my potential. Rest. Recover. Dream.

Down time also creates space for me to accept failing as a catalyst to reaffirming my path and not a final destination for my dreams. Failing in Kona had nothing to do with my will, or determination, or drive.  Some days are just not meant to be my day, no matter how much training and planning has been invested.

But I know exactly what it feels like to have the race of my dreams.  How great it feels to set a goal and crush it.  And that memory is far stronger than any failure.

The pieces of the 2013 puzzle are slowly coming together.  Stay tuned.....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kona, redux.

My day in Kona can be summed in one word:  disappointing.

Putting it all in perspective (as though possible while the coca cola still has its hold on me), there were many things that went well.  Training leading into the race had gone extremely well under the watchful advice of coach Bjoern, and arriving two weeks early to acclimatize was a good call.    

I learned well in 2010 that Kona can be extremely unforgiving, and that understanding was reinforced today.  As with any race, I have to be flexible around the things I cannot control, but Kona is particularly unkind when things go wrong.    

In the days leading up to the race, I swam daily on the course to get comfortable with the aspect of the race that I find the most uncomfortable - the chaotic swim.  I ate well.  I rested.  And I caught a nasty cough.
Posing at Dig-me beach before a practice swim.
The head and heart were there.  The training was there.  And my body said no way.

I finally gave in to the cough and cold meds on Friday morning when it became apparent that I was not going to get any sleep without shutting down the incessant cough.  Needless to say, not the wisest start to a seriously tough race.    

The swim was just as I remembered it - terrifying.  It was rough, congested and violent.  The swells felt enormous, and the battering never eased up.  I stayed calm, swam the entire time and did not fight it.  At one point I sighted, and there were swimmers ABOVE me in a swell....it was just nuts.  There is an enormous advantage to a swimmer here and unfortunately, that I am not.    
I love my bike.  I love riding.  In fact, the fact that I get to get on my bike and ride like a banshee is basically the only reason I endure the aquatic version of WWF wrestling that precedes the ride.

The weather forecast this morning called for overcast skies, and (I kid you not) "winds from the SSW shifting to WNW in the afternoon".  For those familiar with the Kona bike course, that translates to tailwind in both directions.   The weather forecaster should be handed a pink slip!  The day turned out to be more like "blazing sun and relentless crosswind", aka classic Kona.  Heat, wind, humidity.  

I learned two things in 2010.  One, you will get baked out there if you do not protect yourself against the sun, and two, the ride always feels easy on the way out.

This year I opted to wear a Compressport triathlon shirt with full arm sleeves over my Sugoi RS tri shorts, and also opted for Sugoi RS half gloves on the bike.  I was extremely diligent about applying, and reapplying, sunscreen to my face during the ride.  (And, yes, I did carry SPF 50 chapstick!)  It was worth it.  Whereas in 2010 I was horribly sunburned and in pain by mile 80, I suffered absolutely no burn today at all (well, except for a little sliver of burn on my wrist!).

My usual feeling of "woo-hoo, I am on my bike", however, was noticeably absent.  My energy was low from the get-go and riding felt like an effort.  After realizing that my get-up-and-go had simply failed to show for the day, I rode conservatively and within myself.  This turned out to be wise.  I stopped at every aid station for two bottles of water, and ensured I was riding in an easier gear than I thought necessary.  When the wind started spanking us at about 60k and it started getting hard, I was passing way more than I was getting passed.  And in Hawi, when the headwind from hell hit, my flat legs were able to get me through. 

When your body repeatedly tells you "no" and you keep ignoring it, the troubles manifest in other ways.  I lost my voice from coughing so hard, and started throwing up my fluids on the bike.  Cola in, cola out.  I did discover, however, that one way to ensure no one drafts you is to keep throwing up :)  

I rode a 5:35 today in seriously tough conditions, on a day that my legs failed to show up.  The split itself may not scream success, but it was one of the highlights of the day to me.  I felt more confident handling my bike in the crazy wind, and knew to ride my own race.  The training paid off.

One of the other highlights of the day was looking up and seeing the infectious smile of none other than Chrissie Wellington, about 30k from the bike finish.  "You go girl" has never been so inspiring.

Luckily, my decision to change clothing for the run enabled me to leave my seriously raunchy ride clothes behind.  To the poor volunteer that had to pick up that pukey mess....I am sorry.  My glacial T2 is reflective of some porta-potty navel gazing while I composed myself and dealt with the GI distress that plagued the remainder of my day.  Between my coughing, nausea and potty troubles, I should have been labeled a biological hazard!       

The run was just ugly.  It was a big, long talk with myself punctuated with an embarrassing amount of walking, coughing and willing myself to go on.  When I saw my parents and Gregg cheering from the driveway of our rental house at the 4.5 mile mark of Ali'i Drive....I cannot tell you how much every part of me wanted to call it a day.  I was so happy to see them.     

Kicking down Ali'i...Iron-Gregg in the foreground.  So happy to see those familiar faces !
As any of us do, I went in to this race gunning for the race of my life, and in the end settled for the best I had on the day.  Kona remains an enigma, and my heart is as unsettled as it was when the gun went off.  It will take some time for me to fully put my day in perspective.

To everyone who was here today in person and in spirit - I thank you.  I appreciate all of the encouragement and your unconditional support for this sometimes silly and (at times) consuming hobby of mine.  I think I hear off-season beckoning....      

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taper. Not crazy.

Something has happened to my taper crazies.  They are inexplicably absent.

I arrived in Kona late Friday evening and have melted into the aloha life.  It is sublime.

Riding on the Queen K on Saturday brought me more emotion than I expected.  Or perhaps I should have expected it - after all, it has been an interesting few months.  It was a rush to the senses, a feeling of absolute calm and breathlessness.  The smell of the air and the flowers, the wind, the crashing waves, the stark contrast of the black lava, and the nervous energy abound.

I love it.

This is a place that exists somewhere between my dreams and real life.  Miles away from home, and yet so real.  

Wrapping my head around what will happen here in 11 days is a heavy load.  But I approach it with calm....not crazy at all, in fact.  For the first time in months, I am giving my body the gift of rest, but it is not rebelling.  I accept this time as a gift, as a chance to put my head to work.  The day may break my heart, but it will not break my resolve unless I let it.

Will I be forced to reach deep, have a hard conversation with myself many times over and summon everything I have to give?  Yes.

Does it scare the shit out of me?  Yes.

Insurmountable?  No.