It feels hard to justify writing here these days. It seems sort of self-indulgent. With my newsletter every week and the pseudo-race reports on Instagram, how much more could you all really want to know about me?
So what now? What’s next?
I didn’t really feel like saying anything more after Ironman Lake Placid because it sucked. I talked about why it sucked on the podcast, but if you lay out any more of the details of the sucking it starts to sound like you’re just making excuses and no one cares anyway. So. Let’s sum up: I was very calorie deficient going in; I was stupid and didn’t deal with that quickly or sufficiently enough once I realized; I handled the crazy rainstorm badly (even as I told myself I was handling it great and everyone else was going to blow themselves up); things just kept going sort of wrong and mediocre on the bike; and when I finally tried to pound calories on the run, they came back up and they kept coming back up for about two hours. I walked and I jogged and eventually I finished.
The only thing I feel bad about (still) is that maybe half of the pro women *also* walked at some point on that run and threw up at some point, but most of them managed to rally. And I didn’t. And it’s impossible not to acknowledge that on some level I didn’t rally because at some point I gave up just a little. One of the other girls, Jennie Hansen, yelled at me when I first started walking around mile 16 or so, after another bout of full-body heaving. She yelled, ‘Keep fighting, Kelly.’ And I did, I promise, but then I had to pull over to the side of the road again and then I might have stopped fighting, not completely but a little, because I just couldn’t handle the head-to-toe retching anymore. My abs were sore for days.
I kept thinking the race would come around, even when it sucked well before it *really* sucked. But it didn’t. And I kept thinking I just need to finish this, it’ll be fine. But when I finally, fuck finally, hit the oval and could see the end, it actually hit me how much I had screwed up and this is what that looked like:
There’s been this ongoing debate for the last few months about what the hell I’m doing, if I should get a “real” job. I mean, I have a real job, I make a full-time income (to be clear, mom), but obviously I could utilize some of my non-triathlon skills more, right? I could make more money, right? I could be high-powered something-or-other? So I’ve been browsing job sites and weighing options, but it turns out there are only a handful of jobs I really want and none of those are available or hiring me right now. And, in the mean time, I’ve been half-assing this being fast thing.
It’s not been my best year. There was a solid 5-6 months of one goddamn thing after another. And then I was in my head for a long time after that, waiting for something else to go wrong. But I’m done, fyi, in case you’re keeping track. I’m done having one foot halfway out the door.
Pro athletes’ blogs are littered with proclamations like this. It sounds dumb. And there’s not really anything different about my declaring it to be so.
I disappeared for a little while after Placid. I did Swimrun with Sara — “raced” feels like a strong word for what we did. And I started training again. I have some ideas about plans for late-season. But mostly I stopped looking at job boards.
Thursday I had my first really hard workout again, and Hillary had given me some numbers that were, uh, optimistic. If you know me, you know I will kill myself to hit my workout numbers, fully wreck my body, but I still thought this seemed unlikely. And then I thought about being faster now, about who I want to be racing, about taking that kind of focus out of training and onto the race course. And I hit the numbers (mostly).
And that’s what’s next for now. Being a pro triathlete.
(Photo at top: Payton Ruddock)
Maybe the light is different in Europe. Maybe it’s the bathroom mirrors. But at one point during the two weeks in Finland and Sweden, during the blur of hotels and Airbnbs and rooms, I looked up and thought, “Man, I aged. I looked older.”
That’s not a metaphor. That actually happened.
There is this thing that happens at races, where we have the same conversation every time, the ‘how long should we keep at this, what am I doing with my life’ conversation. Often it’s with other pros I’ve just met, sometimes ones I’ve never met before, and they had a bad race or I had a bad race or they’ve been wondering if it’s time to quit or we’re all wondering what comes next or maybe we’re just shooting the shit. It’s something about our speed, the middle-of-the-pack speed, where even if you’ve never met each other, you know each other. Where there are maybe only 100-200 other girls in the world who you don’t have to explain your life to, who are going through the same things.
I spent a lot of time on my own in Finland and Sweden, just by nature of the solo trip. And the whole thing maybe got a little more self-reflective than was absolutely necessary. But what are you gonna do.
After I got to Finland, I fell asleep and I woke up at a totally normal time, and then my body gave up trying to figure out what was going on. The 24-hour daylight knocked me flat on my ass. Literally. I kept having to lay down I was so dizzy and nauseous. That’s a less than ideal way to race, but I didn’t get a say in the subject.
The race started at 4 p.m. and I was still napping at noon. Ultimately, I ended up 9th out of 9 (sigh), but given that all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep during the bike, I was actually pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. After wanting to simply take a nap, after crashing on the dismount, after crying slightly, I was closing at the finish, hard, and missed by three seconds in the chute, ended up a little over a minute out of 6th and a couple minutes out of 5th. It wasn’t awful, though it wasn’t good either.
Yes, apparently blood was dripping down my knee during the run:
Eight days later, Sweden 70.3 went better. Sorta. I ended up 9th again, but in a much more competitive field.
I actually biked like I know how to ride a bike, close to my best 70.3 watts, maybe tied with. Which required constant focus on the long descents, minute by minute it’d be so easy to just zone out and still be going fast down the long gentle hills, but not fast enough. And then I ran strong, a couple of minutes off the winner (who is also the Olympic silver medalist). But I never was able to close the gap from my terrible swim. And, oh man, I swam *terrible.* Girls who got out of the water with me the weekend before in Finland, put three minutes on me in Sweden. Three minutes is a lot of minutes out of 30. Three minutes is a lot slower to get in one week.
I still don’t really know what happened. I think I was dragging a little; I have no pick-up right now, no sprint speed with all the fatigue. And I think sometimes these things just happen. And you try to fix the issues it could be, and don’t worry about the issues you can’t fix, and move on and swim faster next time.
But it was pretty awful in the moment. Pretty awful to know I’d come all this way and I’d fucked up. Because I knew. I knew I had swum insanely bad and that I was all by myself, out of the race. I knew when you spend the whole race alone you end up losing exponential time, since you lose any benefit from being anywhere near anyone on the bike. That all my effort and all my watts would still cost me more minutes back here by myself. I knew it, but instead I kept thinking, “It was probably slow for everyone; I’m sure the whole group is just around the corner up ahead.” And then I ate a gel and I got on with it.
And there was a point maybe an hour in, where I was all alone still, biking through the Swedish countryside, and I thought, “Well, I’ve already spent most of this trip by myself anyway.”
I’d like to have some point here, some lesson or takeaway, some kicker on the end of an essay, but I just watched Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ comedy special and I’m not feeling in the mood to wrap things up in a punchline. So here’s the best I’ve got:
During the first loop of the run in Finland, since I’d given up on a good race and was simply trying to get through the thing with a strong effort, I started high-fiving small children. Because why the hell not; they were so excited about it and it certainly wasn’t slowing me down. And then I started to have fun, and then I started to realize I wasn’t running badly at all and I was closing on the girls ahead of me, and then I started to realize I was *really* closing, and then I picked it up and picked it up until I was sprinting through the final kilometer. And I ran out of room. But what if I had believed a little earlier?
And, so, that whole week in between I believed. I believed I could hold my own and all the training was there. I believed, even when I fell off the group a few minutes into the swim, that I’d simply re-catch them, and I believed I was making up time on the bike, and I believed I’d reel girls in on the run. The fact that I was super wrong is beside the point.
(Top photo: Ironman Finland)
After Wildflower I was going to write something about my race and how I had a therapy session for myself out on the run course, but then it was hard to explain and long and I never quite got to it and I started it and then I didn’t finish and now it’s ages ago and who even cared in the first place anyway. So. This is sort of that story, but sorta something else. And it’s self-involved and diary-ish. But you know, whatever, if you don’t like it there are other parts of the internet I’m sure you’ll enjoy instead.
Well, this was an interesting experiment. Hope you got to see what a week looks like for me more or less, at least an easy(ish) week — though the workouts got tough again at the end. Already, this upcoming week is busier: in the office one day, filling-in part-time on social three days, three stories due, plus some other things in the works, and the podcast and newsletter. And then it’s off to camp the week after and we get into full-in triathlon season. So maybe I’ll come back in June when we’re in a really nutty time, though of course when things are busy you don’t have 30-45’/day to do this.
9:22 a.m. Get up. Tired. Eat a chocolate mint Clif bar and drink some Gatorade. Browse my phone to see if there’s anything that needs responding. Not really responding to stuff this weekend. Feed boys and empty their litter box. We empty dishwasher. Watch some TV. Take my time getting ready to run. Not excited.
10:54 a.m. Finally out the door running. Workout: jog down to high school track, 21 x 800 at 3:15/200 jog. Except for an emergency bathroom break and a gel, it is continuous. More or less. The 200 jog recoveries turn into shuffling by the end and I fall off pace the last five. But I finish and not *that* far off pace. Jog most of the way home so slowly, and then decide to walk the last three-quarters of a mile.
At this point, I feel like it should be noted that while I can tell you on any given day what workout Hillary has given me, there is no secret workout. The secret is in putting the workouts together in a way that makes sense for me and building an overall program that gets me to my goals prepared. And if you want that specific Hillary magic, then you’ll probably have to hire her.
People always want to know what the secret is, what specific workout they should do, but everyone’s really doing the same workouts (more or less). So I don’t think one specific workout matters as much as you think it does. Not any one day. It’s all the days together that matter.
8:30 a.m. Wake up to Snoop pulling all the toilet paper down to cover his litter box. He has decided that since we use toilet paper when we go to the bathroom, he should too. Decide not to do anything about this. Stay in bed.
8:58 a.m. Get up. Eat Chobani yogurt-oatmeal-mixed nuts, look at my phone to see if there’s anything that needs responding, feed the boys and play with them, watch a little TV, get ready to ride.
9:57 a.m. Head out door to meet a friend to ride. Make it 100y down the road and realize the stupid computer isn’t recognizing the Powertap wheel again. Go back in, switch wheels.
10:06 a.m. Finally rolling. Meet friend a few minutes later and regroup.
8:07 a.m. Alarm goes off. Get up slowly. Emails and look at phone, respond to a thing or two and press publish. Cats. Set up bike in trainer and get trainer food/drink ready, so it’s all set to go when I get back from the pool. Eat my morning chocolate mint Clif bar.
9:12 a.m. Drive to JCC, definitely later than I intended to leave.
9:30 a.m. Start swimming. 3,600 yards. Many many 50s. Lots at a steady tempo, which sucks. Honestly, I find it harder to swim 50s on :45 than to swim 100s on 1:25, which makes no sense. Some sprint 50s at the end.
10:32 a.m. Out of the pool and throw on bike clothes and rush home.
It has come to my attention that I should clarify when I say I’m spending time on the computer answering emails and setting up interviews and reading stuff it sounds like I’m just dicking around, and sometimes I am, but mostly that’s all some variation of My Job. Brainstorming ideas, emailing pitches, responding to follow-up questions, reading some report online for background, reading some other random thing to see if there are any good stories out of it. Plus some screwing around. Basically the same stuff I’d do in an office.
8:07 a.m. Alarm goes off, throw on workout clothes.
8:19 a.m. Drive, eat morning chocolate mint Clif bar.
Wednesday was actually a relatively normal day for me, moderately normal for my mid-week triathlon day. Though usually my mid-week triathlon day (there’s always one) actually has quite a bit more training in it. But what are ya gonna do.
Also I feel like somehow this was one of those days were time disappears in cleaning up after cats and picking up stuff, etc, etc, etc.
2:00 a.m. Still awake.
8:00 a.m. After dozing on and off, alarm goes off. Get up, get ready to ride, scan emails.
This week is turning into a full-on Spring Break. It happens sometimes. It’s a lull in the cycle of work and a recovery(ish) week. I have a lot of pitches and ideas and things out there, hoping at least one will stick. But not Tuesday. Tuesday was a full rest day + a nowhere I had to be day + a Steve was in Sacramento day = I might have gone all day without speaking to any real people and mostly just breaking up cat fights.
I am going to have to do this again during some other week when things are at totally insane peak, just so you don’t all think I’m a bum. But in the meantime, I’m trying to view this as the calm, a rest period, to prepare for whatever comes later.
See Monday here.