In an earlier blog I talked about my doing a sprint tri in Lake Placid while we were on vacation. Here is the back story to what could have easily been me walking away from the sport of triathlon.
My swim was rather uneventful, I took my time and actually enjoyed the process, something I have come to learn from some amazing athletes on a Facebook triathlon forum, Women For Tri. I came out of transition and actually had a smile on my face. I walked my bike from the transition with a group in front of me and a group behind. Clip in the left, clip in the right and here I go. About 250 feet in, I hear a female voice behind me. “Hey. On your left.” Me: “thank you” Her: “you need to get out of my way” Me: “OKKKkkkkkkk?” I could not have possibly been any further to the right. Whatever, carry on.
Toward the end of bike portion, I was coming up to the top of the hill toward Main Street and my legs gave out on me. You see, part of my Autoimmune Disease (AID) causes me to not feel my extremities very well at times. This is a dreadful part of my new reality. I manage on most days, but this day was hard. I was tired as I had already done my run and swim circuit that morning. Mid crank, I could not get my right leg to move at all anymore, it was as if my body said, “That’s it, I’m done” and just gave up. I fell, still attached the bike as I could not release my cleat fast enough as my legs were not responsive. Crashing down on the side of the road, I landed with my right hip on the edge of the curb and my head (helmet attached thankfully) and shoulder went into a concrete pillar. My right hand blocked my fall and immediately swelled. Pain everywhere. Well, SHIT.
As a child, falling from your bike is like a right of passage, at some time in our youth, each one of us had scraped knees and palms as well as a mental note to not do whatever it was that caused us to fall in the first place. As an adult, however we all know that is much different. Chronologic progression, I like to call it. (I refuse to say I am growing up, I am just chronologically progressing) As an adult when we injure ourselves, everything in our body immediately locks in, memorizes what happened and tries to prevent us from doing whatever “thing” injured us. It’s a mental note persay. “The coffee table is there, please do not put your little toe into it again”. “”Dopey, your elbow is right there, so is the door jamb. Remember, It’s not so funny, that funny bone”. As a person who suffers chronically from all things gravity, I can tell you very bad, colorful words come from this little person on a regular basis.
When I fell during this race a rider behind me immediately dismounted his bike to help me up, saying “holy cow, are you ok??” Two cars stopped on the hill to assist. I popped myself out of my boot, still attached to the cleat, pushed the bike away and stood up. Immediately, after with now the post fall adrenaline surging through my system, I looked myself over quickly to assess the damage. Well. My favorite Garneau tri shorts are ripped, I can’t move my hip that well, right knee and thigh are bleeding and crap, I think I broke my hand. Now, as a Paramedic we are rigorously trained to treat and correct life threatening illness or injury. This training is hard wired into our brains so it never has an off button. I think to myself “Is this anything that is going to kill me?” “NO.” “Is this anything that will prevent me from finishing” “NO.” “Can this wait?” “YES.” The rider grabbed his bike, and says I’m going to ride back into town and go get you help, stay right here”. “No, thank you. I really just need to get back on the bike and finish as long as it works”. “Your bleeding…” “All bleeding stops eventually” (Insert smile here) He says, “You sure??” “Hell, yes, I am going to get back on this damn bike and finish”.
I knew myself well enough to know that if I had quit and walked off the course, the seed of doubt would be permanently placed in my head and I would second guess over a years worth of training.
I came back in to the transition for the run, Mel immediately assessed my hand. “I am going to finish, I don’t need my hand to run” “The Lion lights up, she says. It’s showtime” “It’s Showtime” I repeated.
I started the run slow...EVERYTHING HURTS!!!! Came up to the top of the hill and made the right turn onto the side street. As I am now at a decent trot, I recognize a face coming toward me, one of two runners. He sees me approaching, the recognition washing over his face. “YESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!” “WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!” We high fived, had our moment and both kept moving. I turned to look back and noticed an “M Dot” (the Ironman tattoo) tattoo on his calf. “Rockstar” I thought and suddenly, spontaneously I gained my second wind.
I ran to the top of the hill and turned that terrible orange barrel marking the halfway point. “I got this” I thought to myself, looked down at my ripped up hand and headed down the hill. It was getting dark, twilight had set in. Everything hurts. THIS SHIT IS HARD. I came down toward the end of the gravel road to make the left to head toward the finish line and turning off Mirror Lake Dr toward me was a girl. She was looking down and concentrating. “Wait. I KNOW HER.” She looks up as she heard someone rapidly approaching her from the front...ME. Her: “Are you F-ing KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!” Me: “NOPE! Enjoy the rest of the run!!” I smiled and trotted toward the finish line pulling off some of my best run times to date post ankle surgery and AID diagnosis. I was so proud of myself. The gentlemen I saw on the run, came over and said how proud they were of me for not quitting and what a huge deal it was that I got back on the bike. Initially, I agreed.
The next day however, was a different story. I woke up, found the coffee pot and began the long arduous wake up process. Then I headed toward my bike. Nothing really out of place. But was it? Physically, the bike was intact as was I. Mentally, however… the seeds of doubt had been subconsciously planted. SHIT. Mike said, “we need to get you on that bike today.” (By WE he meant, ME) “Not today, My hip is killing me” I took the day off. Then the next day, “I’m too tired” and “I can’t” every excuse I could. The day before we left… My bike shoes were handed to me. “There’s no excuse today, your going” This was followed by many volleys of no’s, yes’s and a myriad of excuses. I lost. Mike won. Lots of bad words. I would ride, then pull over, dismount and stop. Over and over for an hour. It was brutal. I am stubborn and obstinate. The session ended and I went back to the house with my tail between my legs. PITY PARTY.
We came back to Jersey and I quickly transitioned back to work and Mom duties. My bike loomed on the trainer, like a vulture awaiting my self imposed demise. Then the email came from Ironman for IMLP 70.3 with the bib numbers and instructions. AWESOME! Hold, on put the brakes on. I read the time cut offs for each event that would lead to a DNF (Did Not Finish) and being pulled off the course. FULL ON PANIC MODE. I called Mike shaking. I was not going to be able to do this. I was in full on freak out mode. And just like that, there it was: the “seeds of doubt” had grown into a full sized “I can’t do this” tree. SHIT.
Since last week, I have had multiple conversations with fellow triathletes, both professional and non professional. The resounding theme: “TRUST YOUR TRAINING”. So I showered the tree of “I can’t do this” with a healthy dose of “trust your training” and I hit my shit bricks hard. Blocks of risers, intervals of hitting the “Hills” hard and learning how to come up out of the saddle with heavily cramped legs and hip flexors. Spinning. Intervals. Spinning. Intervals. Hours at a clip. Run intervals. It has been a physical and mental reprogramming process. Any triathlete will tell you, this shit is hard, but what makes an endurance athlete different is how we are wired, it’s how we handle the hard shit. Our “seeds of doubt”.
So now, I am digging up those “seeds of doubt” and liek caution, I am throwing them to the wind. I am going to go out there on the 9th, trust my training and remember this one thing:
Every amazing athlete standing in the Triathlon trenches with me on that frosty morning has at one point, had their own “seeds of doubt”. “It’s SHOWTIME”
Stay safe and be good to each other ~ T