Tuesday, May 24, 2011

arms, legs, lungs

Getting back in shape.  It's tough.  It's so much easier when you're feeling fit and everything is easy.  You don't even think about the mechanics of running b/c it just comes to you - your limbs are pre-programmed and effortless.  You still work hard when you need to, but you have a sharp sense of control.  You've got gears and you can shift.

In the post marathon wasteland, you've got nothing.  Well, I had nothing.  I wrote before about the mental struggles and the downtime I found myself in, whether I liked it or not.  Slowly I began to enjoy exercise again - mostly in the swimming and biking domain.  And, for anyone who knows me, for me to say that swimming was my favourite....woo boy, I was definitely not into running :)

biking.  more fun than running.
It was nice to get outside again, exploring on my bike, very little pressure but set goals for the day, time, speed, whatever it was (making it to Steveston for croissants...Deep Cove for doughnuts...you see the theme?).  Even in the pool, I was happy to lend a little more focus to what I was doing, and all of a sudden, I realized I was improving in the water, but I have been so focused on the marathon that I didn't even notice.  That may be the blessing and downfall of triathlon - your mental energies can only be spent in so many places, but, simultaneously, you can't get too worked up about any one thing because your next workout is usually only a few hours away (if that).  

Now maybe I'm totally off the mark because I really don't consider myself a 'real' triathlete - coming from the outside as a runner, it's been hard to identify as such.  However, I do now feel like I belong on the start line, whereas before I felt like a total fraud.  Man, I was SO stressed about it all.  I was talking to Shawn and joking about how awful it must have been to be around me before my 1/2 Ironman last year (he wasn't around for the 1st 1/2 Ironman, which is just fine, because I was so sick he probably would have locked me in the car).  He confirmed, yes, it was awful, I was stressed, it was not enjoyable.  Lucky for both of us, it got better.

But for 1/2 Ironman #2, everything made me feel awful - tuning up my bike (I was worried it would screw it up - the opposite effect of most tune ups), going into get my race package (they know I'm a phonie!!), going into transition to rack my bike (look at these crazy fast bikes!), making sure I had all these tidbits of gear that I had only vague ideas of what to do with, showing up race morning and looking around at all these totally intimidating looking people, and on and on.....I felt awful.

I never got excited, I was never happy (only when I got out of the wetsuit and onto my bike, did a glimmer of happiness occur - and then true happiness occurred for me on the run), and I was so stressed that I'm sure I did not reward anyone who was being supportive as I could only see down the small black tunnel that lay ahead of me.  And I was no stranger to racing, but all this was totally uncomfortable.  But I'm also a person who believes in getting out of your comfort zone, so I did have a belief, however uncomfortable I was, that I was doing the right thing.  I was just going through some serious growing pains.

Ironman Canada came around and things were very different.  I was more nervous about the physicality of the task, and really only about how to manage effort levels throughout the day.  I was less hung up on gear and procedural tasks - I understood those better now.  I had more energy to put into thinking about how to move my body through 140.6 miles, and more time to remind myself of all my training, my survival of two panic attacks in  two race swims, my ability to complete an absolute hellish training ride from Oosoyos to Keremeos and back (on my Nishiki!), and my consistent toughing it out in the marathon.  I had a mental toughness bank and I was fully prepared to make some withdrawls if needed.

proof of happiness during IMC!

So finally, I could put to rest all the worries and chatter and start reinforcing my belief in myself - finally!  I think when you've been in a sport for a while, you forget how much mental energy 'new' athletes have to spend on everything but the pure basics that move them forward - arms, legs, lungs.  It's really that basic, but not when you're new at this.  Then it's anything but.

Now I'm going back to triathlons.  It's great because although I am now just feeling ready to compete again, I don't think I could be doing it in any other venue except triathlon.  Talk to me about a running race only.  Yuck.  No thanks.  But do a 1/2 marathon during a 1/2 Ironman.  Sure, sounds good.  Triathlon running is very different.  It's a chase, for me at least, and it's fun!  Maybe also because I'm signed up for a few triathlons this year, there is much less pressure on performance and end targets and more focus on learning experiences in each part of the sport, and more so in tying them all together and seeing what happens.  There'll be more pressure perhaps toward the end of the year, but I am a believer that you can only put on so much pressure before your cooker explodes, so you need to use it wisely.  I am just coming off a fairly highly concentrated race in the marathon, so I'm happy to just race and enjoy it.  How novel.

Maybe this is a case of not-yet-got-the-pre-race-gitters, and I always seem to fall into the zone I need before a race, sometimes sooner than others, but I'm not there yet, and I'm pretty happy about it.  I'm so relaxed at this point I keep worrying (see, worry is still here - I'm not immune) I'll forget my helmet or my cycling shoes or something stupid like that.  Running races are quite simplified compared to a tri race.  But they're not as complicated as I originally thought.

So, while I'm digesting oatmeal and chilling with my feet up, I'm building strength and peace in my body for the upcoming race this weekend.  I'm excited to get out there.  The strange thing to me about triathlon is that the last race I did was last August!  That was a long time ago!  Seasonally, triathlon rules where running is a year round standard.  So I'm excited to see the gains I've made in the last 5 months.

I'm even considering getting elastic laces.  So maybe I am a little bit triathlon after all...

Lots of races coming up this weekend so good luck to everyone out there - don't forget to have a little bit of fun along the way - it might just make you go faster :)

this made me go faster & have fun!

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