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)

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 3.07.02 PM

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”

Week 8: Running is Dumb

I had this idea this past week that I’d do this week’s post as a running diary throughout the week (which I’ve done before). Usually, when I do this, I just write it in notes on my phone over the week and then press publish at the end.

Well, here is as far as I got, before I promptly fell asleep and completely forgot:

Monday

9:02 a.m.

OK, OK, guys, I’m awake, stop meowing.

9:14 a.m.

God, I’m tired. I guess I really should get out of bed. I guess. I really do have things I need to do.

10:11 a.m.

Oh, look, the Olympics are on.

11:52 a.m.

I have put away all my stuff from L.A. organized my schedule and notes for the week, redone my calendar, sent some emails, and can’t delay getting started on these workouts any longer. How slowly can I gather my gear?

12:45 p.m.

Weighted backpack stair repeats. This is really a lot of days of ultra-training in a row. I am tired. On the plus side: zone out and put on a podcast. On the downside: my legs and brain hurt.

2:11 p.m.

Easy swimming post-stairs really shouldn’t be this hard. It’s just easy. Why does this sound impossible? Why am I sitting in the car about to cry? I am legitimately about to cry. I think I might be tired. Or hungry. Or both.

2:16 p.m.

Eat a Reeses to get the job done. #protip

2:44 p.m.

Everyone sucks. Everything is stupid. I should just quit everything.

2:48 p.m.

I might still be hungry. And tired. I should probably not make any life decisions right now.

3:05 p.m.

Or I should make all my life decisions because fuck it.

3:21 p.m.

The swim got done.

6:55 p.m.

I was about to get up and make dinner but now Tupac the Cat is sleeping on me. This has not been a wildly successful day.

__

It’s not that the fatigue is a surprise. You could have fairly easily looked at my schedule and known that right now I’d be at the end of the three week block of miles I’d need to put in to be 50K ready on March 3. Coming off the almost nothing of November/December, it was just a reality that I’d be constantly at the edge of my fitness and also the edge of how quickly I could really build that fitness.

But something can both be 100% predictable and logical, and still not be easy.

I haven’t really hit this kind of training wear and tear since…September? I remember that it happens. I know that it happens. Doesn’t mean I’m awake enough to care or to be polite to some random guy who wants to monologue at me about how he’s a really big deal at Stanford and here’s a list of all the renovations he’s done on his home and what he paid. And, anyway, when the majority of your volume is coming from running it’s The Worst.

Add to that the emotional seesaw of the Olympics and this morning I was glued to the TV for well over an hour of ski jumping, just because I couldn’t motivate myself to stand up and there was something strangely mesmerizing about them going down the hill and take off and land, over and over. That they get “style” points is bullshit though. Don’t argue with me about it, not this week.

 

Week 7: In L.A.

This will be short. I am tired. Have I mentioned I’m racing my first 50K in three weeks? And we’re in the ‘you really need to run a lot’ period of training.

I went to L.A. this weekend on a whirlwind 52-hour tour to visit some friends. That meant I wasn’t exactly “plugged in” so to speak. I sort of zoned out, instead, ate a lot of cookies, did some running. Friday afternoon, after I met a friend for lunch, I rolled over to the Coliseum pool (relic of the Olympics, now a $3.50 public pool, L.A. for the win). And I could not figure out what length this goddamn pool was, why they had put the bulkhead in somewhere weird. The lifeguard said “it’s 25” and I said, “no, it’s not.” I can close my eyes and swim 25 yards. This was not that. This wasn’t even 25 meters, I was positive. It was something weird.

Turned out it was 27.5m. But my workout and intervals and times were all set for 25y, so I had to swim almost 20% more on everything. Ugh. I can not even express to you how much this sucked. I could tell you “it sucked but I got it done and it was a total slog.” Except, seriously. I almost got out of the pool and gave up. And then when I didn’t get out, I felt like I was swimming in place. And then I got it done eventually. Not amazingly. I had to burn a lot more matches, though, than I wanted to burn on a random middle-of-the-road workout day.

And then on Saturday I ran 16 miles from my friend’s house to meet her for a hike in Temescal Canyon. It was a classic L.A. beach run, down the beach bike path all through Venice, Santa Monica, almost to Malibu. It was also a bit of a slog. I actually got the iPod out, that’s how slog-y it was. I’m sure there are people who love running along the beach. Or, rather, I think there are people who think they like running along the beach. But in reality it’s a mindfuck and the cement path just pounds your legs and everything hurts and it never ends. Trust me. I’ve done a lot of beach path running. It’s not as awesome as it sounds.

But it also got done. And my legs never really felt worse. Actually, they felt OK, and I felt OK. And then I ran “fast” on Sunday and weighted backpack stair’d today.

A lot of days I don’t really know how to explain what I do or what I want to do or anything about my life. A lot of days it feels like I’m just sort of dicking around and like I should PULL IT TOGETHER ALREADY. But then sometimes I tell myself if you just do the workouts, it doesn’t matter how you feel about them. Just keep logging the work, the days, getting it done. Eventually it’ll click. I hope.

You can read all my weekly recaps of being a second year pro triathlete. 

Year 2, Week 5: #sopro

Here are some things that happened this week:

  • I got home from Bermuda at 1:30 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning before working fill-in at the station on Monday
  • I wrote four stories, and missed the deadline on another one
  • I filled in half-time for an editor who’s in Thailand
  • My head and stomach still hurt, which required a lot of sleeping
  • Tupac had to go to the emergency vet for 24 hours
  • Plus, I somehow trained 15.5 hours, so at least starting to get back to normal

It was quite a week.

Oh, also, I signed some real contracts with sponsors this week, almost like I’m a real professional athlete who’s really getting ready for a real season. It’s sort of exciting. In case you didn’t pick up from the social medias, of course I’m still going to be working with Smashfest Queen and Dimond Bikes. We all know once I find a bike I like I never give it up. And if you need any cute tri or cycling gear (or running stuff and tank tops) let me know, because I own them all. I’m also adding two companies I’m working with this year: Clif Bar, since I eat a stupid amount (like, maybe, actually a dumb amount) of chocolate mint Clif bars, and Xterra, since I wore all my favorite Xterra wetsuits into disintegration and then lent my incredibly old one to a friend and never got it back because they also loved it too much.

So I guess you could say the year is really getting started now. I’m having my usual ‘how the hell does this all fit into the same amount of time’ breakdown. Last year, when I told Hillary at one point in the spring that I couldn’t get it all done, she told me: Well, just get through this week, and then know this is the new normal. So there you go.

Also. I have started to make a race plan. First one of the year, a half-marathon, this weekend. We’ll see.

P.S. Tupac is OK. He just has this thing where his urethra gets blocked sometimes, and he had to get the blockage removed. We’re working on a long-term solution too, a prescription diet and stuff.

Week 4: Throwing up in Bermuda

This week, I went to Bermuda for basically a long weekend. Four days really. A work reporting trip that was supposed to include a lot of triathlon-ing.

And then I got really sick. Maybe five hours after I landed, around 4 a.m. Really, really sick.

Sometime around the start of the 12 hours of throwing up, I passed out and hit my head on the shower stall. At least, that’s what I assume happened because I came to in the act of vomiting on myself, laying in blood on the floor of the shower. (When I told the PR staff for the trip that I was too sick to do anything and probably wouldn’t be leaving the hotel room, I downplayed this part. People sort of freak out when you say things like “passed out and hit my head.” But #realtalk guys, it was bad.)

Continue reading “Week 4: Throwing up in Bermuda”

Week 3: It gets better

There was a day, during the bad period in December, when I was doing a short walk/jog and there was an older larger man also walk/jogging around the neighborhood in his basketball shorts for his health. And I was not gaining on him.

Which is fine, except that the whole time I was taking walk breaks, I kept thinking to myself: YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL AT THIS. (I talk to myself in the second person, or maybe that’s the third. Whatever.)

Continue reading “Week 3: It gets better”

Week 2: Sparkles and Sick Cats

We’re in year two of this pro triathlon thing. More or less. You can read all my weekly recaps.

When we got our new cat Snoop, poor Tupac got so stressed out he made himself sick. At first he seemed fine, then he developed some kind of urinary tract infection and blockage and had to have a mini-surgery. This is, apparently, a thing that happens with male cats: they stress themselves out so much they get sick. After he recovered, he was mostly fine again. The two of them were getting along, except for the fact that Snoop is insane and tries to break everything in the house.

Continue reading “Week 2: Sparkles and Sick Cats”

Year 2, Week 1: Just Don’t Ask What’s Next

This came in the mail a few weeks ago and I was going to call that week one of year two of being a professional triathlete, but I still wasn’t training and was just doing the waiting to see if I got better thing, which meant sometimes instead of swimming I would end up drinking margaritas and feeling bad about myself, so it didn’t exactly feel like week one of anything.

Only now it’s 2018 and yesterday everyone posted their inspirational well-filtered photo declarations of how this year will be different and better and more. AND. I’m back on an actual training schedule now, albeit a light one. So let’s go ahead and call this week one.

Did you know I trained 640 hours this past year? Even with the fact that the last two months have been minimal at best. That’s a lot of hours.

Generally, I’ve done year in review posts about what I achieved, what I raced, where I went, what I did good and what I did bad. But Dec. 31 is sort of arbitrary. It feels delayed, behind the actual race season we care about. I already looked back at my first year as a pro. It happened. There were some things learned, some successes. The best thing about the year? And this will sound hokey as fuck, but still. I made a lot of friends. I think I only paid for a hotel at one race, because friends put me up and homestays let me crash and teammates gave me their extra bedrooms. I saw the same people over and over, and we went through the same things, and then we saw each other again at the next race. Who knew there really is a community in pro triathlon? At least a little bit. And thank you to Smashfest Queen and Dimond Bikes and Freeplay. This year was the first time I felt like a real sponsored athlete and actually knew the individual people who were behind the companies. It was like they were invested in me as much I was invested in them.

I went to L.A. and San Diego and Arizona and Seattle. Canada, of course, but Victoria and Mont-Tremblant/Montreal this year. I got to go to Costa Rica and visit New York for the first time in well over a decade. I don’t know how much traveling all over Northern California counts, Tahoe and Santa Cruz and Monterey, and wine country is basically every one of my long rides. Then there were a couple weeks in Chicago and Kentucky. Things happened.

My best race: Santa Cruz 70.3
My favorite race: IM Mont-Tremblant
My nuttiest race: Costa Rica 70.3 or maybe the Dipsea
My race I’m pretending didn’t happen: IM Louisville

I made a concerted effort this year to focus on triathlon, which meant a lot of the time I felt like I wasn’t doing as good a job in the other half of my career. Freelancing is defined by cycles of crises, and the cycles came so frequently this year I almost learned to just let them wash over me. But in between, I actually did some work I liked. And a lot of that had to do with finally doing more work in and about triathlon, almost as if I have some sort of expertise in the sport and industry.

People keep asking what my plans are for this upcoming year, what races I’m signed up for, where am I going, what am I doing?

I don’t know. I don’t know because four weeks ago I didn’t even know if I’d be racing at all. I don’t know because even though I’m back to training and starting to half-form plans, I still need to take it day by day. I don’t know because I’m really not *that* Type A.

I’ve gone a month now with no heart issues. I’m back on a training plan. Three weeks ago, it felt like I was exercising and working overtime just to go backwards, to still lose fitness. Now I’m actually starting to see efforts and times I sometimes normally see. I’m signed up for Way Too Cool 50K in March. I’m planning to do it, if everything goes according to plan. It’ll be my first 50K. My first real race back will be Wildflower, though. Everyone is doing Wildflower. It’ll be awesome and the start of my triathlon season. After that? Who knows. I’ll probably do Santa Rosa, possibly some other random stuff in there. I have a vague idea I’m going to race later into December after such a late start to the season, do a half or two down in S. America. I want to do Swimrun, and one of the races that sounds crazy and fun, maybe IM Wales, maybe Challenge Roth, maybe Super League, maybe something else.

No one really knows what’ll happen in the next 365 days, even if they say they do. I’m just being honest about it.