Suffice it to say, the 2015 season is a bit of a lemon so far in the racing department.
Certainly, my perspective on racing has changed. The single-race-as-a-goal has realistically been replaced with a desire to be an athlete for life. With 40 just behind me, there is a noticeable difference in how my body reacts to training volume and stress. Being "in" for the long term demands a measured approach. Recovery takes longer, and the abuses that my body once took in stride (hard back-to-back sessions, high weekly volume, cutting my sleep schedule to meet life demands, being less than perfect with nutrition) are no longer tolerated.
Work stress in December left me fighting a losing battle to the cold and flu season in January, followed by the loss of my beloved Bogey in January. Add fatigue and stress to more stress, and you end up with a pretty unpleasant base. Training was inconsistent at best, and each setback necessitated a few days or a week of recovery.
These things happen. After each setback, I hit "reset", and I moved on...although not without a few good pep talks from Coach Jasper. I was pretty determined to make some lemonade out of those lemons. After all, your mindset is one of the very few things that is absolutely in your control.
The head, the heart or the body...?
Repetitive bouts of fatigue and stress cumulatively sap even the hardiest of minds and body. And, in trying to work a solution, it is always easiest if you understand the root cause.
So, I spent the first two months of 2015 wondering what the hell was wrong with me. The fatigue and constant sniffles were a pretty obvious sign that something was amiss. Tired all the time. So, so very tired.
Emotional stress and physical stress are really hard to differentiate. Was it my body telling my head that it had had enough, or was my head influencing what my body felt? I was doing nothing different than I had for months, years, before...and yet, the result I was getting was so very frustratingly opposed to what I had ever experienced. I wasn't getting stronger, I wasn't getting faster...I was just getting tired.
Just don't tell me to eat a steak!
As Jasper puts it best (and an outlook that I am grateful for), there is no cookie cutter approach to planning an effective training program for an athlete. A training plan is highly individualized, a puzzle that fits into the demands, capabilities and lifestyle of each athlete. There is absolutely no perfect or singular approach that works universally for every athlete.
The high-volume, high stress plans that work for some athletes absolutely do not work for me, and they never have. This bod simply doesn't do boot camp - it needs love. Effectively training means being smart, and taking the time to listen to your body isn't being lazy or unmotivated. Rest, recovery and head space have always been important to me, and are even more critical to me today. Being an athlete does not mean that every spare moment of your free time needs to be consumed by training.
You are not supposed to be wrecked all the time. Hard days are to be matched evenly by the easy days when your body is given the luxury of recovering. And, when it is clear that something is physically amiss, you step back and figure it out.
Mindfully shelving the race in Oceanside created space - it eliminated the stress of racing when my body was not ready to race. It also offered the opportunity to plan a sunshine escape not involving race chaos...a simply lovely riding adventure to the Santa Monica Mountains over the Easter holiday. Riding in the sunshine for no greater reason than because riding is fun.
|Incredible Malibu canyon climbing|
|Vitamin D + mountains + ocean views = bliss|
Snap back to reality
Suffice it to say, it is somewhat relieving to arrive at the "why". Along with the fatigue and general malaise, symptoms that had been somewhat resolved by my surgery in 2012 had reappeared. A blood test confirmed that my iron levels are the lowest they have been post-surgery, and borderline anemic. The sneaking suspicion then subsequently confirmed by ultrasound.
There are many life experiences you would choose to repeat, given the opportunity. An incredible vacation, a milestone achievement, a loved one's accomplishment, the unconditional love of a puppy, an unforgettable sunset. Surgery, however, does not fit the bill, and wasn't exactly my grand plan for 2015. But here we are.
And yet, I feel fortunate. I feel fortunate to know that there is not only a path to recovery, but it is a path I somewhat understand the trajectory of. I feel fortunate to know that there is a reason behind the fatigue, and fortunate to feel like I can control how I manage it. I might not be fast, I might not be racing, but I am here, I am alive, and I get to do what I love, with the people I love, every day - and that's not all that bad.