Racing Milestones and the Road to Recovery

A few months ago, I finally made the decision. I’ve been involved in the sport of triathlon since 2008 and I decided to go for the big one. When I first started racing, the thought never crossed my mind. IRONMAN. I started triathlon when I moved to a new city – a way to meet new people who shared a similar interest in fitness. I never had any intention of ever attempting an IM. Plus, just finishing one sprint was a challenge for me. I never swam much to begin with, and the open water experience is what keeps many from attempting the sport. I am still apprehensive every time I enter that water at the beginning of a race and still say in my head “Good, I am alive” when I exit the water. I had always been active, mostly in soccer…year round…and then general fitness in college. I was never into anything fancy. After graduating college, I moved to a new city and got into boxing at a gym. There, I made some new friends who were all getting ready to race their first triathlon. Joining the ranks, I too decided to take on the challenge – The Pewaukee Sprint in Wisconsin (still a favorite race to this day)! I even managed to get some co-workers interested in the sport and now the company I used to work for has a triathlon team with their own personalized Hal-Leonard tri suits! 🙂 Proud.

Naturally, my first swim happened to be cancelled due to algae in the lake. I immediately signed up for a sprint that was happening 2 weeks later. I wasn’t going to do all that training and not do an actual triathlon. 2 weeks later, I raced and got the bug. I’ve never looked back and triathlon has become part of my lifestyle.

Now, 6 years later, I find myself again in a new city, making new friends. My first triathlon in this city – Nation’s Tri – also had the swim portion cancelled this year. Irony. But this year, after several sprint and Olympic races and one half-Iron under the belt, I bit the bullet and signed up for IM Maryland. October 3, 2015. After volunteering at the finish line this year and watching the athletes, I was reminded about how much I loved the sport. It is a great way to meet new people, but training also provides much-needed “me” time, especially on the long bikes and runs. It offers me the chance to reflect, think, and focus. It is a wonderful way to explore and to enjoy the outdoors. It is also the personal challenge and the anticipation of knowing I am going to push my body to the limits. I hope to accomplish something that few can say they have done. Now is the time. I have time in my life to devote hours to training and may never again have the opportunity. The challenge is mine. But to successfully finish, I need the support of my family and friends. While some may think the goal is foolish, it is those nay-sayers who won’t have a place in my heart. I have already been inundated with support from those who will root for me and offer understanding when I say “No I can’t, I have to train.” Or “Yes I can do that, but only after I finish my bike ride.” “Sure I will come, but I need to bring my own food because I have to eat healthy fueling foods.” It will be a wonderful year.

However, almost immediately thereafter, I was sidelined with a back injury that forced me to stop biking (on my road bike) and running. Just like that I was told – nope. Stop everything and fix this right now. I have never had an injury that required this type of dedicated physical therapy — aside from numerous knee dislocations back in the day that probably SHOULD have required some PT. So instead of jumping into a tri-specific off-season plan, I have been strengthening my back and focusing on small movements and excruciatingly long workouts that have little to do with triathlon. However, last week I was given the go ahead to run 1 mile….ONE. One mile and no more. This week it was two. And no more. It’s a long way to go to get to 26.2. I have cried, I have punched pillows, and I have laughed in frustration BUT with three more weeks of scheduled therapy to go, I must admit my back feels stronger and my swimming is most definitely getting better (as that was really all I could do there for a while).

The injury has made me nervous that I won’t be ready for the race in time, but then I remind myself that I still have a little over 10 months to go. The mileage will increase and so will the strength in my back. So off I will go. Slowly upping my mileage through the winter with my trusty thumb loops and motivated by gifts from two wonderfully supportive friends. The picture and cowbell sit with all my triathlon gear so I don’t forget to stay determined.

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“It’s always the athlete’s responsibility to keep everything in check. We have to listen to our bodies — sometimes the hardest part is to back off and rest.” – Julie Dibens