This is the point in training for an Ironman distance race where it get’s HARD. Not just physically, but in the mental sense. I am in week 13 of 20. 54 days until race day, and it is the point in time where the enormity of the distance starts to really set in (for me at least). This past weekend my Endurance Nation training plan called for a 6 hour day consisting of a 1 hour swim, 4 hour bike and a 1 hour run. All back-to-back. Not terribly intimidating for me since this is not my first rodeo and I’ve done several of these big days before. This day is designed to see how your body responds to the stress of performing the disciplines all together over an extended period of time. As well as to start to fine tune your nutrition plan/requirements for a long day. So I get it. I buy into it. I know it’s necessary. But what is funny to me is that the hardest part of this kind of day (other than the logistical planning piece) is the mental aspect. Not necessarily imagining how I will get through the assignment but it’s the space where my mind goes DURING it. It’s when the Queen (the name my friend Meredith Atwood over at Swim Bike Mom has named the lady parts) starts screaming to get off the bike and the point where the mind realizes that at the end of 4 hours I will still have a good 2.5-3 hours left to go on race day. And then during the 1 hour run it’s all mental self destruction happening when I’m thinking to myself, “this hurts and it’s hard, and on race day I will have 4 more hours of running to do! How in the world will I ever do this?!
Well, I have, and I will….get it done. Somehow.
It’s not only the act of performing the training outing du jour, but the time spent PRIOR to it thinking about how/when/where I will get it done that exhausts me. Geesh, the mental gymnastics that we go through should be identified as a fourth discipline. Where will I ride 5 hours? How many loops will I have to do? What time of day should I go? What will be the traffic? The weather? What will my family do while I’m out?
And we do this for ……fun?
I’m very much looking forward to resting after the race, mentally. I will revel in the fact that my first waking thought of the day will NOT be about what I have to do for training that day.
But until then…..this is where the rubber meets the road.
I haven’t posted much about training lately folks but do not fear, it’s been getting done. For the last 8 weeks I’ve been in the General Prep Phase of my Ironman training. More specifically I have been suffering through the Endurance Nation Get Faster program. Why? Well, to get faster of course. It’s one of many secret sauces EN has in it’s menu of plans, but only available to it’s team members. So I get to feel special while suffering. Part of EN’s philosophy is to keep you out of the mindset of “Ironman Training” for as long as possible to maintain your sanity. So the last 8 weeks have had a shorter/more intense flavor to it. For example, long runs would be done with 3 or 4 miles at a zone 4 pace, for a total of 75-85 minutes vs. 90 minutes at zone 1 or 2 pace. Same idea with the long bike. Ouch.
This week is test week. I get to do a series of workouts that will allow me to measure whether/how much I have raised the ceiling of my fitness house and dial those benchmarks into my training going forward. At the same time I have been at the beach for Ironthing I’s end of season baseball tournament. This meant hauling the bike and the trainer with me and having my training schedule at the mercy of the baseball schedule and family time (and catching sharks/whiting).
“What are you strongest in?” I get this question a lot when talking about doing an Ironman. My reply is always a snort, followed by an, “……uhhhhh…..”. No matter how much I have contemplated this question and tried to formulate an intelligent response, my natural reaction is to stumble. I guess it is because I do not believe I am strong in any of the three disciplines. I can certainly tell you that my weakest link is the swim. Having taught myself how to swim, in a non recreational way, only six months before my first triathlon, a swimming background is absolutely not where I come from. As for the other two disciplines, I had only run 5 miles on a treadmill and didn’t own a bike the day I decided to enter the triathlon world. My strength I guess is in my will to finish and my willingness to put myself in an uncomfortable place. I’m not fast but I am strong in will…..at least most days. I guess this is what fascinates me most about the Ironman. It is available to ANYONE. Anyone who has the commitment to train, sweat and be uncomfortable. I love being out there on race day seeing so many different types of people all going the distance, young, old, big and small. When people try to tell me how impressed they are that I compete in Ironman races I can not bring myself to be impressed. I’m not special. I can only tell them that anyone can do it if they commit to it. Strength is in the commitment. If only commitment could transfer into a 12 hour finish time…..
A few month’s ago our oldest child, Giggles, moved out on her own and instantly a light went out in our home. Giggles came to live with us six years ago. She was struggling to find her way after graduating from high school and it broke our hearts to see how her spirit had been broken. Giggles has always been the loudest, most gregarious kid. She lights up a room when she enters it. But not so much back then. So we provided her with a soft place to land and she will say that it was the best decision she has made for herself in her life but I will say it was one of the biggest blessings God has ever provided to her father and I. It took time for her to realize she could trust, be honest and love freely but over time Giggles has educated herself in a profession, manages people and has matured into a beautiful young woman.
And I miss her so. I miss her laughter, I miss watching her hang out with her brothers and I miss all the little shared looks and understandings we exchanged on a daily basis. But I have to cast my eyes to the positive. We were truly blessed to have had an opportunity to develop a deeply loving relationship with this child. The dynamics of the divorce and geography limited the relationships with the Girls when they were growing up. It’s simply not the same when you do not share a roof together 100% of the time. Divorce stinks. The positive is that Giggles has been able to truly find out who her father is and develop a deep bond with him. And I have known uncommon joy from being able to love on a truly special person. Now, don’t roll your eyes, it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns and I may be on the verge of waxing poetic, but my heart is full and Giggles is a big reason for that. So I suppose for now I will have to get used to having the house fully lit just once a week.
Well folks, it’s here. Day one of the 20 week Ironman training cycle. D’oh! I am actually starting one week early to build in a week off while I am away at Cooperstown in July for round two of the Holy Grail of baseball. I am entering what we call the General Prep phase which looks a lot like the Outseason but with volume and swimming. Today was a little zone 3 run and a swim. I decided to get these done at the gym. On the way I encountered a rude man in traffic with whom I exchanged a few hand gestures with and subsequently met again while walking into the gym. Yeah, awesome. He definitely was skulking back a bit to avoid me. It must have been all my Ironman gear exuding badassery…..or the hand gestures.
Upon mounting my trusty stead Mr. Dreadmill, I look up to see this.
Ummmm….whaaat iiiiss this? Are you trying to break an ankle? To further the madness, she turned around and ran backwards. I don’t know, I have a hard enough time running straight. This just seemed a little nutty. But after my brief visit to critical land (I was still a little puffed up from Mr. Rude Road Man), I chuckled (well snorted really) and decided to be thankful for the distraction. By the time the run was done, I had totally forgotten about the pre workout yuck, crazy lady was gone, and I felt accomplished and fantastic. It’s amazing how a good sweat can change your perspective!
Tomorrow I am slated for a 30 minute run and a 3 hour bike. That should feel real good and have me walking like I have ridden in the Kentucky Derby. Giddee up!
If at first you don’t succeed….well y’all know the rest.
Round one of the Epidural Cortisone Injection was not a success :-(. However I had gotten to the point the week before the injection that I wasn’t experiencing any more back/shoulder pain. That I credit to Miss Julia, my fabulous DPT. Love ya girl! So all that was left was the tingly/numbness in my fingers. Yay!
Off to round one I went. And in the words of Yukon Cornelius, “………Nothin.” So the news of the failure of results from the injection was met with puzzlement and dismay by my doc, Dr. Wing Chang. How I haven’t called him Wang Chung yet amazes me. He projects more Eore than an 80’s dance tune though. He holds on tight to his optimism.
So Dr. Black Rain Cloud suggested another injection. Of course I hopped on that train, despite the inconvenience of the whole situation with losing two training days, having to ask someone to babysit you because they drug you up so much you’d be arrested for driving, and we won’t even talk about the cost. But desperate people say yes pretty easily and off I went yesterday for round two. It’s too early to tell whether this one will work but I’m proceeding with guarded optimism.
In between injections, Charming and I traveled to Orlando and saw off our youngest daughter to the land of marriage.
The bride was lovely and happy and the day was a little awkward and uncomfortable for reason’s I will write about sometime when I can find a tactful way to do so. Suffice it to say, we are glad to be home and are praying that God will bless sweet baby girl’s marriage.
So, Ironman. It’s a go for me. At least for now. I am going to proceed with my training plan, hope that the injection will eliminate the tingly fingers and praying that the training won’t trigger a relapse of the pain.
Most importantly I’m tired of talking about pain, pins and needles. I want to get back to blogging about my training experiences and the uncommon joy! I’m ready, bring it!
So it’s been almost a month since my last post. In all honesty I’ve been finding it difficult to find any joy to write about. I have found myself bouncing between doctors offices and physical therapy and it has interrupted my training schedule and completely displaced my MoJo. What I thought was a jacked up trapezius muscle has now been determined through an MRI to be a bone spur between my C6 & C7 vertebrae. This spur is pinching my nerve and causing arm/shoulder pain and tingling fingers. Good times.
Dr. Magic Hands went on a ski trip and recommended I see my primary care doc to get some steroids while he was away. That started the ball rolling down the road of traditional medical care. So I found myself at a physical therapist and it was love at first ultrasound. Sweet Julia is an angel from heaven. Sorry Dr. Magic Hands, I have cheated on you and I liked it! I will be back and we will make up, but for now Julia is my Jam (and insurance covers her 😉 ).
Cute, isn’t she?
Sadly, despite how hard she tried to woo me with the ultrasound machine, the traction machine and her Graston scraper,
I was unable to obtain long lasting relief and off to an MRI I went. Only to receive the craptastic news of the spur. I was really hoping for a soft tissue issue. But it is what it is, and now I’m off to meet a new batch of medical providers who want to sedate me and give me a Cortisone shot into my vertebrae. Sounds safe, right?
So, through out this whole pain-in-the-neck process (sorry couldn’t resist the pun), my training has been sporadic. I go through days of not wanting to irritate my symptoms more and then days where I think “you might as well just do it since it’s going to hurt anyway”. The half ironman that I was going to do in May is off the table and anything beyond that, I will decide after I see how the Cortisone works.
As I type this, I’m realizing that there has, in fact, been joy to report. Joy in the fact that I met a kind, warm caregiver and new friend in Sweet Julia who took the time to let me cry on her shoulder and counsel me. Forgive me Dr. Magic Hands, I promise that I’ll make it up to you.