Life in the Fast Lane: Racing Recap
My sense of direction is pretty good most of the time. I can head out for a run or ride in new territory and find a loop that brings me back to the start, just feeling my way around. But sometimes, in a particularly unfamiliar area, I go down a path that seems right, then start to wonder if I might be on the wrong track but keep going, hoping to find a way out…only to get further into the woods and further away from my destination. This spring unfolded in much the same way, as the rolling ball picked up speed in the wrong direction and got enough off course that I needed to back-track. While training went great for many months, my hamstring had been bothering me since last summer, and was getting worse. I had started to branch into the wrong direction (fighting injury and minor health problems), and it took several disappointing races to see it.
March / April / May = travel and race ineffectively:
San Juan 70.3 (mid-March). Fine swim, ok ride but rubbing brakes and uncomfortable position on a not-yet-dialed-in fit, and terrible run: I was a jogging baby fearing the colossal cramping I had 2 years ago at that race. Outcome: 5th. BOO.
St. George, UT Training trip w/ the family (late March). More mechanical struggles with my fancy new bike; no training data but at least got some great rides and even a shocking swim in the 53-degree reservoir! And ZION Nat’l Park.
Boulder, CO Training trip (early April). Surprising to leave 70s for snow, but got to see & train with my coach and the Apex athletes. Got a new bike fit, which felt much better. Managed a great indoor strength workout, an indoor trainer time trial session, a couple of beautiful outdoor rides, a track workout (first since last summer), a bike time trial, a 5k race in the windiest conditions I’ve ever seen, and lots of fun with Lindesy Jerdonek and Kevin Collington, my gracious hosts.
St. George 70.3 (early May). 2 day turnaround until flight to Vegas en route to St. George for US 70.3 Pro Championship, my A race. Body felt beaten down despite the short and lower-than-appropriate effort of the prior week’s race, but was on an anti-inflammatory to help the hamstring, which controlled the pain a bit. The race panned out the opposite of how I’d hoped: poor swim, with tingly extremities, very sluggish ride (lost contact with strong riders after 1 hour), and total suffer-fest run: a war of attrition in my head. Outcome = terrible disappointment and 13th.
When my coach called after the Columbia, I avoided tears and came to grips with the situation: status quo was not working. I went to the doctor for blood work to see if anything was affecting my recovery (learned of some minor deficiencies but nothing severe), got an MRI on my hamstring (learned of some to-be-expected things there as well), and we backed off my training significantly, both in quantity and quality. My running dwindled to the bare minimum to help my hamstring along, my cycling intensity rarely exceeded half-iron wattage (about 80-85% of threshold power), and my swimming was even low-volume for a few weeks because of a sore shoulder. I was falling apart! In retrospect, it’s easier to see that I’m not the strapping young triathlete I once was: I flew to the other side of the country or further six times in 10 weeks (didn’t mention a family funeral also in there) and probably didn’t handle it well… Additionally, the hamstring “injury” I’d begun to feel many months ago, and which I’d hoped would magically disappear, had more heart than I did and would not simply be willed-away….
I made changes in my diet to include less processed sugar (essentially with the goal of eating for performance instead of for pleasure). I started on a few vitamins (which normally I don’t take for fear of tainting – USADA warns us constantly about the risks of supplements, since they’re not FDA-regulated). My additions, spurred by the blood work, were Iron (for low ferritin), vitamin D (surprised it was low), and a return to B vitamins (which I’m supposed to take anyway because my epilepsy medication leaches them). We brought strength training back into my plan more frequently (with focus on eccentric hamstring work, to help the damaged tendon shown on the MRI). I continued with massage and chiropractic, foam rolling, etc. to work on my aches and pains, and gradually over the course of the month I started to feel better, except for the hamstring. Finally I got in with a great doctor and we scheduled a PRP treatment (Platelet-Rich-Plasma) in early July. I felt so relieved to have a plan to address my hamstring!
With my plan congealed and my head in a better place, I made a request to Rev3 to please allow me to race the Williamsburg Half that weekend (6/23). Thankfully they let me register, and I was more than excited to get back to my “normal’ world of racing for a living (and for fun)! I hadn’t felt this ebullient for a race in many months. (Silver lining for long-lasting injuries). Not only was it a fun chance to spend time with my friend Astrid (a recent Williamsburg-transplant) but also for Brendan and the kids to join me for a race in our own state… So I embraced the opportunity and went for it on the bike (my only strength with the ailing hamstring and shoulder). I took the lead about 25 minutes into the race and held it for a few hours, nearly 1.5 of them including a very painful and not-pretty run. It was a great experience and a fun race – my experiment worked nicely until about 1 minute to go (when my good friend and “rival” Kelly passed me on the run, her own extremely valiant effort triumphing over mine). I was happy with second place and the chance to test my bike fitness.
I’m not healthy right now but hopeful that the PRP will be a solution for my torn hamstring, and that my shoulder will continue to heal with time and attention. My goal is to be ready “for real” by September so that I can bring it all together in Vegas at the World Championship!