The Bad Thing Happened and It Is Fine, Probably

Because we’re so close to Ironman Wisconsin and because I’m so tired — tired past the point of being able to explain it or even care if people understand why I’m too tired to care about them — I’ve been waiting for something bad to happen. It seemed about time for some kind of accident or emergency room visit. And then during the Oakland Triathlon on Saturday, it was such a mess of a race — the roads were bad, the course had dozens and dozens of sharp turns, there were too many people of too varied ability on that not totally closed course, plus it was raining — that I just kept waiting for something bad to happen. So many people were crashing on the turns, and I was taking them so carefully and so slowly, so naturally I crashed on the straight downhill.

I hit a pothole and then I hit two more potholes. I knew I was about to hit the first hole too, but it was too late to really swerve in those conditions; I thought I’d just ride through it. And that worked fine, but then I hit the second one and the third and my hands came off the bars and the wheel turned and I was skidding across the ground.

I knew I was crashing too as I crashed. I’m pretty sure I yelled, “Fuck” multiple times as I rolled and my bike rolled over me. Actually, I’m pretty sure I said, “Fuck” more than 100 times in total on Saturday.

It was this odd thing, because fairly quickly I was sure that I was “fine” in that sense that I wasn’t going to die or have any permanent damage. I wasn’t sure, though, that I wasn’t going to pass out or that I didn’t have some pretty bad temporary damage. So I was trying to self-asses, and swearing like crazy, and bleeding all over, and then focusing really hard on not passing out (which is a super special skill of mine). But when I eventually stood up to get out of the road, so I wouldn’t get hit by people still racing, I couldn’t really use my right arm to get up, and that hurt a lot, so then I really was about to pass out. Which meant I had to lay back down on the sidewalk. And I was laying there curled up on my non-bleeding side on the sidewalk somewhere in a commercial part of West Oakland, muttering “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck” over and over and trying to focus on one thing so I wouldn’t pass out. I was staring at my foot and part of me was looking at the rain and the dirt everywhere and thinking how much this was going to hurt later to clean out, and the other part of me thought ‘my ankle looks really skinny, that’s weird.’

An ambulance came and there really wasn’t much they could do, because if it’s not broken and it doesn’t need stitches or surgery (which it was decided it didn’t) then there’s honestly no real point in going to a hospital. As a professional ER-goer, let me tell you: most of the time, you don’t need to go to the ER. Are you going to spend $15,000 to drive in an ambulance so that some people, who may or may not have more experience than you cleaning out cuts, can clean out your cuts? And then you’ll still be wet and cold and stuck like that for more than a few hours, and they won’t have dry clothes for you and they won’t have food, and you won’t have a way to tell anyone where you are or how to come get you. No, that’s just dumb, and also a misallocation of resources.

Since the ambulance definitely wasn’t going to give me a ride back to the finish and I was starting to shake from cold or shock, and there apparently was no race support to pick up all the people crashing all over the place, and I debated trying to bike it but threw that idea out pretty quickly since I couldn’t use one of my hands or my other arm, eventually one of the totally freaked out volunteers went and got her car to give me a ride back. Which was really nice of her and I hope I didn’t bleed all over her car — but, also, how was that the official system?

Now I have cuts all down my right side, lots of skin gone across my shoulder/back, and a nasty cut/bump on my elbow. I also apparently landed on top of the bike with my knee, so that’s starting to swell too. And I managed to dislocate my left thumb earlier in the race, getting out of the swim. It’s all stuff that should heal. Hopefully, soon. Hopefully, before Wisconsin.

There was this weird part of me too that was relieved a tiny bit that the bad thing happened and it wasn’t that bad. I was like ‘this is fiiiiiine.’

But now I’m tired again, so tired. And cleaning out the cuts across my back was more painful than actually getting the cuts across my back. (I found myself wondering if you can pass out from pain. I think you can, right?) And now I’m in that part in between when you’re busy just dealing with a problem, and the time when that problem is actually better. It’s the part where everyone else is like ‘Wait, you’re still complaining about that?’ And you’re like why is my shoulder still dripping ooze on the floor?

My shoulder is covered in Tegaderm, which is why it's weirdly shiny and you can't really see all the oozing. Yay.
My shoulder is covered in Tegaderm, which is why it’s weirdly shiny and you can’t really see all the oozing. Yay.

 

When Your Body Fails Right After You Finally Make It Through Everything

The last few weeks I’ve been sure I was going to get sick. Thesis project, South Carolina nationals trip, more final projects, bachelorette and Wildflower, final final project, and then moving a bunch of my stuff back up to the Bay Area. And, also, it’s possible that I might have gotten very drunk after that final final project. Theoretically.

Basically, I’ve been waiting for my body to give out and it made it all the way through all those things and now, here is a list of ways my body has betrayed me since Friday:

  • I dislocated my thumb. Randomly, while loading the car. It popped right back in, after hurting like a mother, so I figured no problem. But, since then it’s been really painful. I couldn’t even open my beers at Beer Mile with that hand. And then the thumb popped out again today. Now, I can barely use it. I’m sort of hoping this gets better on its own. Or possibly I splint my hand.
  • My Achilles has been hurting after run workouts. At first, a few weeks ago, I thought it was just sore. But, it’s gotten worse and worse. After the hard run on Sunday, I couldn’t even bend my ankles. Then, I hit a wall funny on a flip turn yesterday, and it just kept hurting. This is concerning.
  • I’ve gotten sick. Finally, it caught up with me. Last night, I thought I might be getting sick, but I’ve thought that a bunch the last few weeks and usually I wake up feeling better. Today, I woke up feeling sick instead.

Also, add a whole bunch of bruises and blisters and whatever. This is not just my imagination. There’s, like, for real studies about how people get sick after big events. Sure, it’s probably because you have a weakened immune system and then you get sick after the gestation period. But I think there’s also something to the fact that your body can hold on for so long but then no longer.

Race Report: Big Kahuna Triathlon

Won a trophy -- if not THE trophy.
Won a trophy — if not THE trophy.

 

Short version: It turns out that if you don’t really train for a half-Ironman, then it’ll go pretty much how you’d expect it to go. My legs stopped working with 2.5 miles left to run. Between then and the finish, I went from second to fifth, which was excruciating — physically and emotionally. On the plus side, my legs worked for a lot of miles before that point. And, it turns out my five hour finish (5:08) may not have been as super slow as I thought; the race, itself, was also slow and long. (For the Big Kahuna aficionados, they’ve extended the bike course slightly.) Bonus miles!

Long version: When I’m really not excited about a race and can’t think of any possible reason I want to do it, I tell myself just to go through the motions. Just go through the motions of getting ready, setting up transition, warming up, standing at the start, and eventually the rest will kick in. It usually works.

Sunday, I went through the motions like I’ve done this before and eventually we were running down the beach to the ocean. I am, apparently, really fast at that, because I hit the water first. The crowd sorted itself within the first 20 feet. Then, it was me and a girl who was swimming quickly away from me. Right after I lost her feet, another girl went by me, and then it was just me. But, I knew I was swimming well. I could tell from the amount it hurt my arms and by how many guys I was passing from the earlier waves. I, actually, maybe for the first time ever, didn’t hate my life or the sport of triathlon during the swim. I knew I was swimming a PR, so at least there’d be that high note.

After coming out in 28:30 (yay!) and running the half-mile to transition in bare feet on concrete, I started the part of the race I was second-most worried about: the bike.

It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t great either. My heartrate monitor stopped working — no matter how many times I pressed “Find” on the computer — and I don’t have power in my race wheels, so I went by feel. Going by feel works really well if you know what that effort is supposed to feel like. I have no idea right now. Instead, I kept asking myself: Does this hurt? But, in a way you can sustain? Should you pass that guy up there? Probably, you should.

About 10 miles in, I saw someone up ahead hanging on the wheel in front of them, to such a degree that this person was coasting at points and at other times sprinting to jump back on the wheel. Typical, I thought, 45-year-old male behavior. Because that is who I usually see drafting. I rarely see the front women go deliberately out of their way to draft. For the most part, I see women just trying to deal with the men they’re catching and the men catching them and the general chaos that is triathlon when you’re a fast female in a mass race. Then, I realized this was a woman. It took me another 10 miles to catch her, after which she tried to hang on to my wheel for a bit.

At the turnaround, the woman in first came blazing through from farther up the road, past the turning point, yelling about having missed the police cars and cones and volunteers. Trying to keep her in sight was a new motivation, but it only worked for so long. Then, things got blurry for a bit. I’m not sure if it was partially the fog that was literally making things blurry or partially that we had reached the edge of my fitness, but I was struggling with that classic battle: I just want to be off my bike, but then I’d have to run. Lose-lose. Also, I was actually literally having a hard time seeing.

I was enough out of it that when I got to transition, I swung my leg over the back to dismount, still coasting in slowly, and I got my leg caught on the seat. I’ve never done that, even in practice, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to save it. The whole bike came crashing down on top of me as it, and I, tipped over and semi-skidded to the dismount line. I’d like to think at least some of the time in my not-so-awesome 2:47 bike split was used up by me pseudo-crashing and picking myself up.

But, still I was fine. Everything was fine. The run started out strong enough. I focused on high turnover and running steady. I told myself that I’d finally nailed my nutrition and wasn’t going to collapse in a heap somewhere in Santa Cruz — as has happened before. I just kept ticking off 7:15-7:30 miles. It was fine. Even when it got ugly around halfway, which happens for everyone on this course as you run around a never-ending field, I was still running in the 7:00s. Heading back up the long hill in the sun around 9 miles in, I rationally knew that I didn’t feel any worse than anyone else and, in fact, I felt far better than the last time I had been crying while stumbling up this stupid hill. No, everything was fine.

See, everything is fine. I'm obviously have a better race than that guy.
See, everything is fine. I’m obviously have a better race than that guy.

 

Obviously, abruptly, it wasn’t fine anymore. I’ve heard the phrase “the wheels came off” and I’ve even used it, but I don’t know that I ever fully appreciated what it meant before Sunday. I went, very suddenly, from running 7:30s to running 9:30s. My legs simply hurt. Every step the right leg screamed in pain, especially on the downhills. My legs wouldn’t bend. They wouldn’t move forward. They were done. I was still pretty fine aerobically, completely aware of the women closing on me from behind, but there just wasn’t much I could do about it. One woman, who actually started five minutes after me, passed me with 1.5 miles to go. She then put more than another three minutes on me in that last 1.5 miles. And, she wasn’t running that fast.

Eventually, it ended. I didn’t even walk, not even through that long stretch in the sand at the end, though walking might have been quicker at points.

I'm actually right at the point when it went bad here. It just looks like I'm still running, because things look faster from behind.
I’m actually right at the point when it went bad here. It just looks like I’m still running, because things look faster from behind.

 

The extra added bonus fun of doing a race you’re not physically prepared for is that when you push your body to that point, and it hasn’t had the appropriate amount of time to get ready, it really hurts. I have been in more pain since Sunday than after any race except possibly the Dipsea that first year. My dad said that I just wanted to see how far the tank could run on empty. And, I guess now we know.

This saying occurred to me the other day, because I was thinking about everything I’ve put my body through — all the concussions, the multiple broken teeth, the stitches, the heart condition, the cuts and bruises and tears — and it’s safe to say I will not arrive at the end well-preserved. At least I’ll use up what I’ve got. At least.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

Race Report: Wildflower Olympic Triathlon

Short version: Everything about the race was ok, decent, solid. Nothing was great, but nothing was bad. (OK, my bike was a little bad.) It was hot and it was rough, but I hung in there and finished 5th or so overall in 2:41 — just 3′ out of 2nd and right in the mix. Considering how really shit the last month has been, ok/decent probably is pretty much the same as super awesome. I know some odds were 2:1 on me not finishing.

Long version: Most people know that I tore a muscle in my foot last month and then shattered my front teeth about four weeks ago. Some people know that I also got sick while in Chicago and then heatstroked the fuck out of myself last week and got food poisoning (or, just couldn’t eat with being so messed up; it’s unclear). Not everyone knows the other little things that keep seemingly going wrong and how stressed I’ve been about paying the government $10,000 — stupid TurboTax — and trying to figure out how I’m going to move to LA two days after IM Canada to start a ten-month fellowship. Basically, I lost 5-7 lbs. in about a week-and-a-half simply because I couldn’t really eat anyway with my teeth or stomach or cold and anyway eating is a lot of work.

You can see how expectations might not have been totally high going into this race. Except, even though I kept saying that, I still totally expected a lot from myself. I still wanted to kill it.

Running through the "lake."
Running through the “lake.”

 

There was almost no chance I was going to camp at the race site — even though that’s the big thing with Wildflower — because the odds of me coming down with giardia and/or being arrested for murdering a fellow triathlete were fairly high and either would have ruined my race. Instead — after hacking up everything and blowing my nose a billion times at the motel — I showed up at 7:30 a.m. race morning, set up, caught the shuttle to the swim start. and then sat around for almost two hours waiting.

Despite that, I almost missed my start. Oops. It was just as well because the water in the new swim location was Gross. So thick with nastiness you couldn’t see your own hand. Who would have wanted to warm-up more than 1′ anyway.

I got dropped really quickly at the swim start. It was weird. I don’t think I’ve been farther back than 3rd out of the water in an age group race since, I dunno, my first race? Usually, I’m a back-of-the-first-pack swimmer. But, when I looked up after swimming hard out of the start, I expected to see a couple other people around me as we separated ourselves from the rest, and instead I saw myself separating from them. Then, I got dropped by the second pack of swimmers. I started to have an attack of confidence. And we were only 5′ into the race. Was I swimming as fast as I could? Did I get slow? Did my arms hurt so much because I was going to fall apart and not being able to finish? Ahhhhhh.

The swim went on, besides one girl grabbing me and closing her hand around my shoulder and trying to pull me under when we were totally by ourselves, and I only mildly struggled to keep my motivation up. My watch said I swam a 22:45, but the results say 22:15, so that’s actually not terrible (even if I was 10th-12th out of the water for some reason), but it’s not great. And, then, I realized: Now, I have to run!! Ugh.

Because of the drought, we had to run about 2.5 miles from the swim to our bikes, across what should be a lake but is currently a desert. This was my favorite part of the day. 1. I like running rolling trails and 2. as I explained to Steve, I’m comparatively better at running out of the swim because I’m used to being disoriented. I don’t know if I actually was running fast or if I just felt like I was because I passed some women from my wave, some women from waves before me, lots of men. And, then, just as I was wondering if I had tried to run too fast, there were our bikes. Oh wait, that means now I have to ride my bike. Ah.

The desert lake run.
The desert lake run.

I really thought I was killing it on the bike for about 20′. I didn’t have power, because my new bike set-up doesn’t have power with my race wheels, but I was doing all the things I usually do: singing Taylor Swift, checking that I was on the verge of throwing up, etc. I haven’t raced my new bike yet and I’ve been really struggling to get it to fit right and be comfortable, but I was positive it was fast. I was sure the bike was going to whisk me to a fast split. I just forgot that I had to go hard too.

About 8 miles in a girl passed me and I realized I should probably go harder. I tried to keep her in sight then and succeeded for awhile. But, it turns out: I’ve been training a lot for halves and Ironman; I have not been training for Olympic distance. And, I’m not going to be one of those douches who says Olympic is “short” and “just go hard,” because for real it’s closer to a marathon in time than a 5K. But, I kept falling into more of a tempo pace and struggling to constantly be going as hard as I could. Also Rihanna failed me as a sing-along song. With maybe a quarter left, I lost the girl. I tried to find a rhythm. I just wanted off my bike, but then I’d have to run. No winning. I genuinely thought I was going to bike a 1:19/1:20 until about the last mile of the bike. It turns out I biked a 1:23. Ew. Oh well.

The run is the most brutal part at Wildflower. It is hot and hilly. And, this year, with the amended run they added a super long steep hill. I mean crazy. It was like a death march, through which I was trying to run. I got those chills that happen when you’re so hot you get cold. At first, I tried to keep up my cadence and I passed some women. But, then some of them were actually from other waves and some of them were from mine. Both were discouraging — How are there still so many people ahead of me from my wave? Why did I just fight so hard to pass someone who started 10′ before me? I started to not care about passing people anymore. What’s the point. That’s the difference between the fire and the complacency. I went back and forth between the two. At the top of the long death hill, I told myself: It’s halfway, it’s downhill(ish), push hard all the way. And, I did. Or, I tried. It seemed like I was flying, but it gets really hard to tell if you’re going fast or not when you’re passing so many people who started so much before you. Maybe you’re just going fast in comparison?

Then, I could see the campground, which meant we were almost done and the last mile was downhill. I pushed, pushed. Passed some more women. God, how many people were ahead of me?? And, then, we hit the flat stretch to the end and you know, you know that you’ll finish then. And, I thought: Why do you know you’ll finish at this point? Just because you can see it up there? How is it everyone finds a last bit to push at the end? It’s all in your head. I didn’t think I really had a bit left to push. What if I don’t finish from here. I thought it was a real possibility.

But, I did. And, then, after I finally got moving again, I started shoving ice down my shirt and sucking down dozens of cups of ice water all at once. It turns out I might have been a little more messed up than I realized.

Also: stronger than I realized. I made it despite not being able to eat Thursday, despite Wildflower being my least favorite race ever, despite everything. First race out of the way. Keep moving forward.

Things That Have Not Really Gone Right This Last Month

– Tear a muscle in my right foot in a freak accident while standing on a trigger point roller when the arch was tight –> miss Oakland Half Marathon
– Mess up my left knee riding my TT bike, which doesn’t exactly fit. (This is actually incredibly frustrating since riding my bike shouldn’t hurt.)
– Smash my face into the ground and break my front four teeth.
– Yeah, that was really painful and bad –> Miss HITS Triathlon
– The shoes and stuff to help the right foot muscle get better re-inflame the bone spur on my left foot. Both hurt a lot. –> Miss Boston Marathon
– Overdo it after smashing my face up and my whole body gives out.
– Now I am sick, which really isn’t particularly shocking.

All this has sort of meant I haven’t been working as much as I should either and that’s becoming a bigger problem now too. I’ve also become so nervous about everything that cutting a bagel makes me worry about slicing my hand open. Tomorrow I’m going to pull it back together. Tomorrow.

Boston Marathon: My Plan

boston-marathon-map

Tomorrow I will be running some of this route. I will not be running all of it. I will, likely, jump in (with my official bib that I paid for, but without the timing chip so nothing get’s messed up) and run some part with some friend near the middle or end. I feel like people may think or do think I’m doing something bad in doing that, but I don’t really see how it’s any different to run the first six miles or a random six miles. If I get up early and catch the bus to the start and then run the farthest I’ve run in a month (7 miles), then I’ll end up somewhere out in the suburbs having to wait for an injury shuttle back to the finish. It sounds much, much better to take the T out, cheer some people, run some distance without hurting myself MORE, then take the T back home.

So, hopefully, that works out.

Everyone keeps Instagramming and Twittering their Boston experiences. My experience so far has been: out late in Harvard Square drinking and eating cookie sandwiches with Melissa, sleep almost none, run 5 miles along the river (with every other person in Boston), spend a stupid amount of time figuring out the Hubway bike share, lunch with Courtenay, hang out with Ilyce, dinner with Vishal and Deanna, exhausted time for bed. I also spent maybe 10 minutes total at the expo to get my packet and number. I walked into the other half of the expo — the half where they sell shit and give away shit and talk about shit — and I just wasn’t in a place where I wanted to do that. I thought I was. I thought since I’m not running, it’ll actually be more fun to do all the random stuff you can’t really or shouldn’t really do before a race you actually care about. But, I just wanted nothing to do with any of it. And, my foot was hurting — my other foot, the one that hasn’t hurt in months.

So, tomorrow, I will cheer, I will run some, I will swim some, I will finish some work, and I will go to the after-party in the evening and lie outrageously about how fast I ran the whole marathon. Too fast for you to see me.

Boston Marathon 2014: Less Than Two Weeks Away

What are your transportation plans?
What are your transportation plans?

It’s time for #Boston2014 (#BostonStrong #WeAllRunBoston #RunTogether) and I’m repeating a tune that sounds very familiar. It’s unlikely I’ll run it or, if I did, I’d finish. But, I have a ticket and I’m planning on going, so who knows. A small part of me thinks I could just wing it, but the 5 miles I ran slowly yesterday would suggest otherwise. And the soreness in my foot today would suggest that even if I could, it’d be a bad idea. I’d likely re-tear whatever is finally healing along the arch.

The race organizers don’t know my personal issues, though, so they keep sending me emails asking me to tell them if I’m taking the shuttle, tell them if I’m attending the pre-race dinner, tell them my emergency contact, tell them what “my story” is. Man, Boston Marathon people, I really wish I had answers for you. I do.

It’s hard to stay focused on the long-term goal: Ironman Canada. I really wanted to run Boston this year and actually finish. I also want to sleep indefinitely right now. (I don’t feel good today.) Those are hard to reconcile.

Right now the plan is: I’m flying to Boston because I’m going from there to Chicago. I’ll hang out, see how I feel. I sort of want to jump in and run part of the course, just for the fun of it — if I’m able to run parts of things. Or, alternatively, I’ll drink a bunch and heckle runners.

I should probably just buy all the merch and make up stories about my finish time.

THE PASSPORT TO BOSTON
THE PASSPORT TO BOSTON

What would you do?

Ironman Training Week 15: March 31-April 6

Ugh. UGH. UGH!!

This last week was not good. I mean it was — it was a re-start of training again (yay!) — right up until I face-planted into the ground. And, as I sat at the ER, I thought, “Well, at least I already got decent workouts in today.” Because, honestly, I’m about to give up on this whole training seriously thing. Throw in the towel. Lay down on the floor. Etc. It’s hard to stay motivated when things just aren’t really exactly going your way.

This weekend I’m supposed to race my first triathlon of the year. It seems pretty clear that’s not going to happen. I’m still sporadically on narcotics and racing triathlon on narcotics sounds like something I would have tried in college. I’m actually not even sure you’re legally allowed to. Pain killers could probably have some performance-enhancing benefits. Also, they make you go to sleep and throw up. So, that’s less performance-enhancing. Pros and cons.

These are the debates I’m having with myself this week.

Monday

Rode 16 miles (56′) on the trainer with 2 x [1′ at 220W, 2′ at 200W, 3′ at 180W, 4′ at 160W] I meant to do three sets, but then the last set I just sort of stopped. I wasn’t even really battling with myself about it sucking or anything. I just did the 1′ at 220W and stopped. And, then, decided I’d do some 1′ sprints and then try to hold Ironman pace for a bit, whatever that is. I think it might be 145W for me. But, I don’t know. Could someone who knows tell me?

Crossfit in the evening. I did 5 pull-ups. Basically I should retire now.

Tuesday

Swam 3,500 yards in the morning. Oh shit, my arms hurt. I intended to do  3 x 6 x 100 (descending) and then a pull, buoy set, but I was struggling to do the 100s in the low 1:20s. I had two weeks where I was swimming crazy fast easily, so fast. I was going to write a post about how I got fast at swimming. But, that went away. Now, I’m back to struggling for every yard.

About 10′ of PT and light strength stuff.

Wednesday 

Biked 20 miles to the ferry and to the office and back. Moderate and easy and hard and, generally, the way commuting goes.

Thursday

Biked the Point Reyes loop (42ish miles from my house) on my time trial bike. I need to work on getting used to my time trial bike. Did 2 x 10′ as half-Ironman tempo at 170W and did some drills, but mostly just tried to ride in the bars and get comfortable. Before the ride, I would have told you I hate the time trial bike and it sucks. But, then, I did the loop in 2:40. I have never done that loop in under 2:55 or so. It simply IS a three hour ride. Evidently, the bike may be fast. And, if it’s fast then I can deal with it being not my most favorite.

Swam 1,750 yards with lots of band swimming.

Yoga class.

Then: crashed my bike on the 15′ ride back from the gym.

Friday

Ow.

Saturday

I felt great, so I went to a TRX class.

Then, swam 2,000 yards easy and water ran for 20′. It felt good. I got all optimistic that everything was going to be great and I would just miss a day of training and get back on schedule. Yeah, no. Recovering from slamming your face into the ground takes more time than that.

Sunday

Some days you feel better. Some days you feel worse. Sunday, I felt worse.

TOTAL: 11:10

I guess that’s not awful for breaking your teeth and going to the emergency room. Still. I’m having a hard time getting re-focused and motivated. And, it’s been a long, long time since I actually made a schedule and stuck to it through a whole week. This week was not that week.