I’ve Decided Not to Quit

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)

Sweden 70.3 and Finland 70.3 and Now I’m Home

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.

finland - start of bike

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:

Finland - 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)

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A Sorta Wildflower Race Report That’s Really a Life Report

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.

Continue reading “A Sorta Wildflower Race Report That’s Really a Life Report”

What If I Forget How to Win?

Here is a list of some things that have happened since the end of the last triathlon season:

  • I had that EP Study and procedure done to figure out what’s wrong with my heart
  • I then had a bad reaction to it and started having atrial flutter episodes, like, all the time, which (in case you were wondering) suck
  • I spent December depressed and contemplating if I was going to have to quit everything
  • Once I started training again, I got insanely bad food poisoning and threw up for 12 hours
  • Also, I passed out from the throwing up and gave myself a concussion
  • I got it together and then a couple days before the 50K Snoop Lion scratched me and I needed two stitches
  • The heavy antibiotics they put me on also messed up all my bacteria and I went on some more meds
  • Oh, and now it turns out I’ve had a cracked tooth since the beginning of January, ever since I got a filling done that went badly

And somewhere in there Tupac got sick twice and had to go to the emergency vet, and the car broke down on my way to work. And, honestly, it all starts to feel like a lot, you know?

At the end of last year, I said I wanted to have more fun and do some more random stuff this winter. And even with everything, I kind of have. I bought one of those class packs for the Crossfit “box” here (and everyone needs to stop violently hating on Crossfit — like, whatever, don’t be stupid about it and it’s perfectly fun in the off-season and can even be useful). I finished the 50K. I raced a half-marathon without really being in any way prepared for it. And then this past weekend I did a cross-country ski race because Steve was doing the longer more competitive race and he convinced me to do the one-lap 15K.

It was not amazing. Turns out I don’t really know how to skate ski that well, since I’ve only ever taken one lesson. I can sort of muscle my way through, but I don’t actually know what I’m doing. And after a bit over an hour I lost even the minor ski ability that I have. I started falling and then I was essentially hiking. With skis on.

The thing is though, with everything that’s gone wrong and with all these random “races,” it’s really easy to sort of give yourself an out. You can still be trying really really hard, but honestly what’s the point in going that extra bit to completely kill yourself for the difference between last and second-to-last in something you don’t even care about. And now I’ve entertained so many random whims I’m starting to worry I’ve dulled any killer edge I once had.

What if I forget how to win?

I know this sounds like one of those pseudo-intellectual wisdom nuggets people are always dropping on Twitter, but it’s a real thing. You have to remember how to tap the well, dig deep, whatever your phrase of choice is. And, for me, remembering not to give up can be hard.

So, anyway. I’m concerned. It’s all been a lot. And I’ve been dragging ass emotionally. But I also know there’s nothing to really do about it but the work and if you do the work then you’ll be ready and eventually it’ll come around. And I always do the work, whatever Hillary puts on the schedule. And the swimming and biking have started to come back around. So we’ll see. First triathlon is Escape Surf City at the end of April to get ready for…WILDFLOWER!

Oh, and I’m racing a Spartan Race this weekend. Naturally. But I promise to try my hardest, or at least the hardest I can try without the risk of breaking a leg being too high.

So I Ran 31 Miles

Last weekend I ran my first ultra, the Way Too Cool 50K, and I was going to write up a short blog post but then I wrote about the two lessons I learned for Wednesday’s newsletter instead, and then I thought I’d just like add some stuff here when photos come out, and then they didn’t come out and I had other stuff going on like work. So, anyway. Here’s the nitty-gritty if you want it.

Continue reading “So I Ran 31 Miles”

Week 6: A Race Report-ish – Kaiser Half-Marathon

Thursday I had my final (sorta) follow-up appointment at Stanford. It was the shortest appointment ever. My doctor basically said, “Well, if you haven’t had any more heart episodes since early December, then I guess it’s back to normal. We still don’t know exactly why it came on so intensely, but fingers crossed it stays away and I don’t see you again for many years.”

Fingers crossed is always the official medical diagnosis you want to hear.

Continue reading “Week 6: A Race Report-ish – Kaiser Half-Marathon”

Year 1: What we learned and what we didn’t

Hey.

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.

Continue reading “Year 1: What we learned and what we didn’t”

Week 30: Santa Cruz is pretty too I guess

Warning: There is a gross picture at the bottom of what my screwed up feet look like after all this racing. I was just going to post it at the top here because #realtalk, but trigger warning, you guys.

I raced Santa Cruz 70.3 (formerly Big Kahuna) yesterday, mostly because Steve was racing it and I’d already be there and I needed to get a big weekend in for Louisville in five weeks. But holy shit I wasn’t excited about it.

Continue reading “Week 30: Santa Cruz is pretty too I guess”

Week 27: Ironman Mont Tremblant 

I’m currently sitting in the Air Canada lounge in Montreal, because when I changed my flight to go to New York after the race it was cheaper to end up with a business class ticket than to pay the change fee. Turns out the thing the rich people never told us is with all the free food and drinks you basically end up ahead. Money makes more money and all that.

Ironman Mont Tremblant happened on Sunday. I finished in 10:02:something, and that’s totally good and fine. It’s a PR and I’m proud of how I rallied on the day.

Continue reading “Week 27: Ironman Mont Tremblant “

Week 18: Just One Lesson

Read all my weekly recaps of being a pro. This week’s brought to you from the Liberia Airport in Costa Rica. 

If you missed the bonus blog post earlier this week, take the triathlon quiz and earn money to be donated to Exceeding Expectations.

(Photo: Wagner Araujo via IM Costa Rica 70.3)

There’s a lot to say about Costa Rica and the country’s first Ironman brand race. At least, I hope there’s a lot to say because I have to write a story about the trip and you’ll have to read most of the details when it publishes.

So I’ll just say this one thing now about the race:

Continue reading “Week 18: Just One Lesson”