Monday, October 15, 2007

Ironman Excitement and Typical Taper Blules

"For here on in, it really gets grim. For 99% of the people still left a this point, they're possessed with one thing: finishing. They're saying to themselves, 'If I can be standing at the finish, I've won.' And they're right. But for the gifted few, for our 1% that are still competing; that are still racing. They're more than standing. They're wondering, 'Can I catch that guy up there? What about the guys behind me? Are they going to get me? Are they coming on me? Are they picking up on me? Can I get him?' Because let me tell you something. This is it. The last hour of this triathlon. On the pavement at 110 degrees. That's when we're going to find out who the hell the Ironman really is."
--Mark Allen
Sound Byte from Competitor Radio

Wasn't Kona exciting this weekend? Mark Allen is right--there is something magical about the island. I just wanted to be there--as an observer. Maybe next year? I could feel the electricity in the air all the way in San Diego. I can't believe the upset--so many of the favorites dropped out because of crashes or medical problems. Yea for the underdogs! Both winners were first-timers.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender."
- Vince Lombardi

This quote hit home for me because I'm having such a hard time tapering. A body in motion wants to stay in motion--Newton's Law of Inertia. My taper is going as planned. At least, I have all the symptoms of a good taper--anxiety, jitteriness, grouchiness, depression. I'm driving everyone around me crazy. This is all normal. Am I feeling mighty or superhuman yet? In flashes--sparks--moments.

First few days of my taper, I was very fatigued and enjoyed the rest. However, my schedule got messed up and I missed some planned, easy workouts. By Friday, I was freaking out.

Friday was great. I had a terrific workout in the pool. My left shoulder has been aching a bit. I had the swim coach evaluate me. He said I looked nice and balanced. I think I tweaked it last week when I got a little exuberant with the speed work. I just have to back off and focus on technique and let it heal. Plus, I've been swimming 2000-2500 meters instead of 3000 meters when I'm in the pool.

Friday evening, I went for a much-needed bike ride with a friend on the coast. Before I knew what had happened, we had knocked back 30 miles, including the Torrey Pines hill, and I felt great.

Later that night, the side effects of the flu shot I had gotten earlier in the day kicked in. I've never had the flu but they were shooting us up for free at work, and my coworkers peer-pressured me into it. 5 minutes later, I couldn't figure why I couldn't move my arm. My shoulder hurt so badly! That night, I felt exhausted. I went to bed early and woke up with a headache and sore throat. Turns out, the flu shot makes you feel like you have the flu. So your body thinks its sick even though it isn't. Really, what's the difference?

I had planned on doing a sprint club race that morning in Mission Bay. I was really excited and had packed my bag, frozen my water bottle and set my alarm. I woke up at 4:45 am and dragged myself from my weird interleukin-induced coma sleep only to discover it was raining. I stood on my balcony, staring at the wet ground in front of me, trying to shake the haze of my flu-like symptoms (exhaustion, headache, aches, sore throat, etc). Hmmm. I feel like sh*t. My immune system is overloaded with heat-inactivated virus right now. Plus, with the steady drizzle, I could just imagine the run-off contaminating the already nasty water in Mission Bay--crawling with parasitic amoebas, pathogenic viruses (much like the one that caused Jason to be bedridden for 8 weeks), hepatitis, bacteria, etc. Combine that with slick pavement and the thought of risking poor Torch's all carbon frame around that treacherous course made me shudder. I made an executive decision...and went back to bed.

I slept all day, only to be woken by the taunting texts of my crazy friends who raced and wanted to make sure that I knew they had done it while I had "whimped" out. Okay, if you call whimping out not wanting to get a disease that could take me out of my last "A" race of the season. Or wreck and end up in the hospital. Sure, fine. I'm a whimp. See you on the start line. If you make it that far...

I'm discovering I need a lot of alone time during my taper weeks. I need to distance myself from my tri friends so as not to let their thoughts, plans, and well-intended but misinformed advice get in the way with my inner coach. I can't believe how many triathletes out there don't taper! Tsk, tsk. I know my body well. I know I benefit from rest and recovery. Now, I need to focus on myself. I need to be alone with my own thoughts and ideas.

It gets a little chaotic at times. I have a lot going on. I'm turning 30 in a few weeks. It's a milestone and I'm using this time to reflect on how I want the next decade to go. I'm writing a fellowship in lab, which is very overwhelming while continuing to get preliminary data at the same time. The taper has produced an energy and spark of creativity that I had almost forgotten was there. With that comes waves of emotion mixed with highs and lows normally blunted with exhaustive amounts of training. Jason and the bunnies have been instrumental in keeping me calm and happy during this down-time. Down-time I'm just not used to.

I had a delightful 8 mile trail run in Rose Canyon yesterday. It felt very refreshing. I saw flowers, lizards, bunnies, and falcons as well as beautifully crimson-colored poison oak. I realized, after running 8, I still had 2 to go to get home. My other option was to climb down the canyon, cross the creek and RR tracks, climb up the other side of the canyon and be home. I decided to forge my own trail "adventure racing" style. It was really fun. As I was winding through brush and jumping down into the creek bed, and then rock climbing up the other side of the ravine, I had brilliant flashes of feeling superhuman. When I returned, Jason looked at me with raised eyebrows, "What happened to you?" he asked, pulling bits of twigs and leaves from my hair. Another superhuman moment.

This morning, after dropping my bike at B&L for a tune-up, I drove to lab along the coast so I could see the ocean. For some reason, I had the urge to take the scenic route. Just as I was crusing down the hill towards the Torrey Pines State Beach, where the ocean view is particularly spectacular, I saw 7 elusive black fins disappear under the water. I blinked. It must be my imagination. Maybe they were surfers. All of a sudden, 1 of the dolphins leaped out of the water, displaying amazing airs above ground before gracefully diving beneath the waves. As if on cue, the other 6 dolphins began displaying their acrobatics too, not to be outdone. They were like aquatic ballerinas! It was definitely a good omen. I have nothing to worry about.


Paul said...

I was going to race the club race too! I ended up sick, without the flu shot :(. Anyway looks like your taper is coming together! how about that ironman race huh?? Wild...
Two more weeks to go..

Sara said...

Yeah the flu shot - I've never gotten one b/c I would probably get sick like you!! I've had the flu once - back in Grade 6, I'm not too worried.

Good for you for going back to bed and not doing the Sprint. That was such a smart decision!

Rob Saxe said...

That is one awesome headline. Great article, too.