Monday, July 6, 2015

Race, race, race-ity race!

15 weeks. It's been 15 weeks, or almost 4 months, since I last donned a bib to race.  I've gone longer, yes, but with not getting to race my spring full, and not doing a 5K on the 4th of July as I typically do, for some reason it feels like it's been ages. 

Well, this Saturday that will change!  I won't be wearing a bib, though--rather, a "multi-sport timing band" and body markings.  It's triathlon time, my friends!  Seeing as this is my first tri, I don't have the nervousness that a big race usually brings on.  I honestly have no clue what to expect.  I mean, I know the distances, and I have done the course.  But all bets are off on race day when I'll be swimming, biking and running alongside 200 other women at the Triathlon for Hope. It's a mini-sprint, which just means that it's shorter than a typical sprint tri.  The distances are 0.25-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and 2-mile run.  The swim is just a short lap up the beach at Alum Creek, where I've been doing my open water training swims. 

Sunrise swim--even better than a sunrise run!

 I've been lucky to get there several times over the past couple of weeks.  I love meeting my friend Carrie there; I've known her since we were 9 or 10 years old through age group swimming.  It's great to swim with someone at my pace, as typically most triathletes are weaker in the swim. 

Carrie and me after an early morning swim at Alum

I've done the 12-mile bike loop about five times now (twice yesterday with Carrie!), so I'm pretty comfortable with the route.  It has a nice 5 mile flat stretch in the middle, and a not-so-nice quarter-mile long "grade 6" (whatever that means) hill at mile 10.5.  Yesterday Carrie showed me the run route.  It's actually going to be my first semi-trail race, as the first and last half-mile is on a gravel path. 

It's ironic as I consider myself a seasoned runner, but the run part is what is worrying me the most.  I've kept quiet about this on Facebook, but last Sunday with a just a half-mile left in my 12-mile long run, I strained my left calf muscle.  Yes, the LEFT one, the "good leg".  I felt a twinge deep inside and then a little snap in my soleus muscle on my inner calf.  I knew what it was immediately, and stopped Paige and Andrea. We walked (well, I half-hobbled) up the hill back to the parking lot, all the while with me lamenting about my awful luck.  Lamenting is putting it mildly.  The "f" word was used profusely.  I just don't get it... I barely am recovered from my last strain and now another one???  The annoying thing is that there was no lead-up to this.  There are two things I could possibly pinpoint as signs:  one, my left calf is always really tight after I ride; and two, I'd been feeling "off" in my runs (it would take me forever to warm up, and my easier pace just didn't feel as easy as it used to).  However, while it did take me awhile to feel good during my run last Sunday, my calf was not giving me any trouble at all... which is why the pop I felt was so surprising, and of course upsetting.  

I wasn't planning on going to go to my sports med doctor (why pay a $20 co-pay when you know what is wrong with you and how to treat it?), but decided that if I saw him, he likely would recommend physical therapy.  I needed to see someone who could tell me the reason behind all of these injuries (five in 12 months, as my friend Erin pointed out), and I knew a PT would be the best person to analyze my body and help figure things out.  So, into MaxSports I went last Tuesday, and out I went after 25 minutes with my diagnosis (as expected, an acute calf strain, likely grade 1, which means least severe) and a script for physical therapy.  I was evaluated by a PT at MaxSports Westerville on Wednesday, and met with the resident "runner" PT on Thursday.  My friend Lynn who is a PT as well met with me on Wednesday evening and did a thorough evaluation of how my body is moving and using the different muscles.  The final verdict was agreed upon: I have a weak butt.  That's the short version of the story, but basically, I am not using my glutes when I am running or doing strength work (like squats).  My calves are taking on all of the work, hence the reason why they continue to get injured.  The plan is to do strengthening exercises to activate these never-used muscles, and in doing so, they will start to take over when I am running.  I've been doing these religiously twice a day, and I'm hoping they are doing their job.

Not yet, but hopefully soon!

Meanwhile, I have been taking it very easy with my existing injury.  I took off two days from everything, and then just did some swimming and biking over the past week.  I did run an easy mile after our long ride yesterday, and I felt okay... just okay.  My calf is always tight after I ride, so it was hard to say how the injured leg was doing, but it was at least run-able.  I plan on one more short, easy run this week before my triathlon, and of course swimming and biking.  I know I can muscle through the two-mile run at the end of the tri.  After the race, I will reevaluate things and see where I am at and how I feel. Joe and I have a quick two-day getaway planned next Sunday/Monday, so that will force me to at least rest a bit. 

I can't say I'm not upset about the way things have turned out.  I can't say I didn't hope to run a marathon this fall. Because I did.  I really did.  I knew I could build up to the miles that I needed... the question was, would I have the speed to BQ?  Now I'll never know, because I'm throwing in the towel.  It needs to be thrown in, it does... but it doesn't make it any easier.  If my triathlon goes well, I may schedule another (hopefully longer) one before the end of the summer.  And I'm tentatively thinking of running a half in November with my cousin, pacing her to her PR (which should be a relatively easy pace for me).  But as far as running races goes... I think I'm out til spring, and that hurts.  I am back in the stages of grief again, where I waffle daily between anger and depression.  Swimming and biking just don't give me the same endorphin rush as running does, so while I'm lucky I can do these things, it isn't helping with my frame of mind. 

My thoughts when people say "At least you can swim and bike..."

I honestly didn't mean for this blog entry to turn into a pity party, but I suppose it did.  I am sure that by the time Saturday rolls around I will be ready to push through and enjoy my first tri!  No true goals other than to make it through without mishap (no bike problems, goggle issues, or calf injury, please!).  Race recap will follow :)

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