So that happened. The first year is over. If you follow any of my social media accounts (or all of them), then you know I DNF’d IM Louisville. If you subscribe to our new triathlon-ish newsletter, then you kind of already read about my thoughts. I don’t know that I have a ton more to say. BTW, I’m doing a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter about triathlon (duh) and endurance sports and whatever I want it to be about. You should subscribe.
I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve thought so much about it I have nothing left to say about it.
Short summary: My body fell apart the week of the race. I had one of my skyrocketing heart rate/arrhythmia episodes a week or so before. I was starving, nauseous, stopped sleeping, missed a period. And yes, I am aware Ironman training symptoms sound a lot like pregnancy symptoms. No, I am not pregnant. But it reached a peak the couple of days before. Two days with four hours of sleep total, so sick the day before the race I felt dizzy and nauseous, and by the time I got to the dock I already had spent everything convincing myself to get to the start. Honestly, I thought it’d be fine by the time we started, because you always move forward and things usually come around, but I had nothing. I reached down into the emotional and mental well and there was nothing. It never came around. It just got worse and worse, more and more empty, and I dropped out at 63 miles into the bike. Though, honestly, I had quit before that point (even though I kept going through the motions and moving forward).
Was it as much emotional/mental as physical? Sure, possibly. And I’ve beaten myself up a lot about that. And I don’t really feel like beating myself up anymore.
Then, the next question becomes: what have we learned from this first pro year?
I need to still have fun.
I got very focused this year, very serious and all-business. We had to do what we had to do to get better. But one of the things that keeps coming up as I’ve been talking with Hillary about what went wrong and what went right and what we should do differently next year is this idea: I like doing different kinds of races, I like random things and having fun. I’m good at 70.3s and I’m getting good at fulls, but I like doing all kinds of races. And I didn’t do all kinds of things this year. I had this weird fear that after the 2016 Year of All PRs ALL The Time, that I couldn’t live up to it again, that if I did a half-marathon and didn’t PR I’d be terrified of never being fast enough again, that if I did a mile running race or an obstacle course I might hurt myself.
But, goddamnit, I am going to do an obstacle course race again, and a half-marathon.
I need breaks.
After IM Wisconsin in 2015, I peace’d out for five weeks (during which I failed at completing the Spartan Ultra Beast) and came back ready to go. I don’t think I even talked to anyone about triathlon for most of that.
If you were going to ask me why I was so burned out at the end of this year it wasn’t because I raced too much (I raced more in 2016) and it wasn’t because I trained too much (it was a moderate increase over the previous year). It was because I came into the season already kind of eh and talking myself into it. I never got fully recharged last off-season. The other half of ‘I never miss a workout’ is that never missing a workout takes a lot of emotional/mental energy, so I need some time where I have no planned workouts at all either.
Which isn’t exactly a problem right now, since I’m going through the most serious enforced break ever, post-hospital procedure to fix my arrhythmia (which I’ll probably write more about at some point soon).
But I’m also capable of a lot of hard, boring work.
All of that misses the point, though, that I trained more this year than I ever have and did things I didn’t think I could do, day-in and day-out. People always want to know what it’s like to get faster and fitter. It’s mostly boring. It’s the same work over and over, and you do it until you stop thinking about it and then you do it again.
We keep pushing the edge of what I think I’m capable of, and hopefully I re-coup enough to be ready to come back and push the edge of boring and hard again.
And, really, actually, I did pretty good.
Because, honestly, minus the mess of Louisville, I did pretty well this year. Empirically better than the year before — though it’s hard to appreciate that fact since instead of winning every amateur race I was 5th and 7th and 9th in the pro fields. I belonged in the pro field and mostly got over myself while doing it. I still need to readjust my thinking, remember that I’m good at this, that I can be even better. But all in all, the weeks went by. We improve. Sometimes we get noticeably better, sometimes we get worse, sometimes we just keep moving forward no matter what, hoping it’ll all make sense later when we’re done and can look back. And the only mistake I really made was forgetting that for a little while during Ironman Louisville.