Tales from the Trails

I am officially a seasoned trail runner!  No, not really.  I was originally scheduled to run the Optime 5k race as a Power Buddy with Special Compass this weekend.  Unfortunately, that was postponed due to the hurricane.  I figured I would just throw a training run in, when Darin mentioned I could still sign up for the trail run he was doing.  Sure! I thought and signed up for the Inaugural BadAss Trail Run.  There were two options, a 5k and a 10k.  I am more than capable of an average 10k, but was a little hesitant to do a trail 10k.  I did some poking around on the website and saw that it was two loops.  I went ahead and signed up for the 10k figuring I could call it a day at the 5k distance if the trail was too crazy.  The moment I clicked submit, it was like one of those TV flashbacks…. There I was on the trail at Markham, my first and only trail type training run, dirty, rocky, full of tripping hazards.  Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

We got to the race this morning and I was feeling really good.  I knew it would be something different, but I was curious to see how I’d perform.  Maybe I would even like it, who knows.  At the start line, the path was asphalt and looked to be for as far as I could see on the course.  Things were looking up!  Maybe this was a trail run in that we were on an asphalt path in the middle of a bunch of nature.  That’s my kind of trail, I thought.  The start buzzer went off and we headed out.  I was doing great.  The view was pretty, lake to the left and forest type area to my right.  I was just humming along.  I didn’t look at my watch, I just wanted to enjoy it and run by feel.  Hey, this is not so bad, I thought.

Not long after we turned onto a compacted stretch of trail.  It wasn’t asphalt and it wasn’t what I would expect a trail to be.  My footing was fine and I just kept plugging along.  This is ok, I thought.  Things started to go downhill from there, literally.  We went up and over an area that was full of chunky rocks, clumps of earth and who knows what underfoot.  As we headed to the downhill, it was full of gravel and I nearly ended up on my rear.  I caught my balance thankfully and kept going.  Things evened up a bit so I picked up a little speed knowing that I would have to go slower if met with that same terrain later in the course.  A few seconds later I clipped the side of my leg on a branch sticking out.  My “end this now” side of my brain was sure I was bleeding all over the place (it was just a scratch).  I decided not to look and just keep going.  Sure enough the terrain became more and more unsteady.  I tweaked my ankle twice landing on chunky rocks.  It wasn’t enough to damage anything, but enough to hurt.   I started asking myself why the heck I signed up for a trail run.  Minutes later, my right knee went and I knew I needed to call it a day at the 5k mark.  I was torn but I knew it was the right thing to do.  Trail running is fine, but it’s not my thing.  The last thing I want to do is hurt myself to a point where it affects my training for the MiamiMan race.

I followed the turn to the 5k finish line and called my trail race a success.  I went over to the timing people and asked that they please change me on the record from 10k to 5k.  The guy managing the computer chuckled and said “are you sure?  If you didn’t say anything you would have won the 10k with that time!” we both laughed and he made the change.  I was relieved I made the change.  After I finally sat down for a bit, my knee was really throbbing and I knew that I would have messed things up if I had tried to keep going.  I waited for Darin to complete the full 10k and cheered for others as they crossed the finish line.  I can totally see why some people get into trail running.  It really keeps you on your toes (bad pun totally intended).  You have to really keep an eye out on what’s ahead and be in tune with all those little fine muscles in your ankles that aren’t as used in road running.  The scenery is far better than some road runs to be sure, but if you aren’t focused on what you are doing you can really hurt yourself (or at least, I can).   One of the things I enjoy most about running is that I can just zone out.  Of course I am aware of my surroundings from a safety standpoint and I look at where I am going, but it’s nowhere near the kind of focus I need on my feet with the trails.   I’m really glad I tried something out of my comfort zone, and I am even more glad that I knew when to call it a day.  So no, I am not a seasoned trail runner, but it’s safe to say that my trail running season has ended…but I am still a BadAss!


That’s it….. I’m Done!

Sunday was the Labor Day Triathlon.  My redemption day!  The day where if the swim went well, it would provide me the proof that all this training I do, all the failures I experience and push past are worth it.  The day where I would finally know that I can do this sport, all three parts of it.  Well, that didn’t happen, and hanging my hat on the thought that it would be easier to accept failure if I expected failure, didn’t work either.

The morning of the race, I was feeling ok.  Kind of excited.  Excited that this might be the day I actually swim right.  I was hopeful but didn’t have high expectations because I know that what I feel before hitting the lake and what I feel in the lake are two very different things.  The one thing I did know, was that either way I could finish.   The distance somehow looked shorter to me this time.  It didn’t seem like that unachievable feat it has in the past.  When it was my wave’s turn, the gun went off and I was feeling good.  I started out in great form.  I was swimming freestyle and breathing every stroke.  I was about halfway to the first buoy when all the sudden, my chest felt tight and my head came popping out of the water.  It’s very hard to explain, but the only thing I can relate it to is how the body reacts when it thinks it’s in danger.  Instincts took over and I literally could not put my face back into that water.  I swam a bit like that, telling myself to just give it a minute.  I hit the first buoy and flipped onto my back.  I was hyperventilating again.  This time was different though.  As I swam backstroke I tried to take inventory of what was going on.  Was I afraid? No.  Was I physically drained like in the past? No.  Why couldn’t I get my breath to calm down?  Why couldn’t I do this?  I tried again and again.  I realized quickly that I was just wasting time.  I was going to be way behind as it was, so I had two choices.  Keep trying to swim it “right” or just go on my back and swim it faster.

I decided to go for faster, knowing that I definitely didn’t want to miss the cutoff.  That’s a move that today, the day after, I regret.  Time in that lake is limited to races.  You can’t swim there when there isn’t one.  I really wish I would have taken the time to figure it out.  I wish I would not have concerned myself with times, or what other people think.  I wish I could have stopped worrying about inconveniencing everyone else, holding people up and just took the time to figure me out.  I wish I would have taken the time to sit in that water, and find out what made my body react the way it does.  Instead I took the quick route, thinking that if I got the swim over with, I could enjoy the rest of the race.  I was dead wrong.

In the past bad swims, I spent the entire time trying to fight the instinct to quit.  All my energy went to just moving forward and completing the swim.  I always felt free after I got out of the water.  I was always exhausted, but relieved that I didn’t quit and ready to get to the fun parts.  I had planned this race no differently.  I told myself that whatever happened in the swim, I was going to enjoy the bike and run and really push myself.  I was going to leave it all on the course.  This time was different.  I got out of the water and felt nothing.  I walked into transition, didn’t even try to jog.  I couldn’t care less about the bike.  I got my gear on and walked my bike to the mount line.  I rode at a fine pace, I didn’t push myself nor did I just cruise along, but my head wasn’t in it.  I did my two loops, dismounted and walked my bike into transition.  Maybe the run would be better.  Maybe crossing the finish line would boost my spirits. Nah, who cares.  I am going to finish because that is what I paid to do and didn’t want it to be a waste.  I crossed the finish line and collected my medal.  I had hoped for some feeling of excitement, relief, something but all I felt was like getting home and getting a shower.  My head was throbbing,  and I felt like the day was a loss.  I just wanted to wrap it up and head home.  I decided to give myself the day to have a big old pity party.  As we were headed home, I decided to look at my times.  I pretty much expected this to fuel my pity party.  My times would be the barbecue grill on which I roasted myself.  Much to my surprise, I had my fastest race ever!….even in the swim.  My original race has always been my best up to this point and it took me 1:36.  This time, it took me 1:27, and that was with me moping into transitions and not giving it my all on the bike or run.  Huh,  not much fuel for the pity party anymore.

While I very much did have my pity party, I woke up the next day feeling so much better.  I started to realize that what I was afraid of most was feeling like I was just going to want to quit the sport.  I was worried that this would be the nail in the coffin and I would just feel like I was not cut out for it, like it wasn’t worth the effort.  I was afraid that I would just not want to do it anymore.  After all, how many times can you fail at something before you start to think that maybe the universe is trying to tell you it just isn’t for you?  During the swim, I felt empty and numb, but now I see that it wasn’t because I failed again, I was empty and numb because I am so used to pouring all my energy into not quitting that I didn’t know what to do this time. The thought of quitting never once entered my mind.  The thought that I could not finish never entered my mind.  Yes, I was really disappointed that it wasn’t going to be my inspiration for the next race, my confirmation that it was the right thing for me.  It wasn’t going to be my redemption.  I think that at some level I was waiting to have to fight those feelings of quitting for good.  I was going to have to convince myself to try to train for the next race.  I was going to have to convince myself that I could move forward.  I waited for all those things so I could pour my energy into that, and they never came.  I realize now, that I have improved leaps and bounds.  Not just because of the times I achieved, those were nice, but because I didn’t have to use energy to fight myself and keep from quitting anymore.  I didn’t know it at the time, I really wish I had.  I know I didn’t give the rest of that race my all, if I had, my times would have even been better.  I woke up the following day ready to train and determined to improve.  I’m looking forward to executing my coach’s plan, which is going to really kick my butt next week.  I’m excited for the next race and I know I’ll be ready, for even the swim.  I won’t quit, I won’t even think twice about it, I’m done with that.  This is what I want to do.  This is my sport.