Saturday, October 13, 2007

The race that wasn't

My Mom once said that I was like a racehorse - that I just didn't know how to hold back. As a little kid, I remember running around our huge backyard, running home - solo - 5 blocks from the park (to the dismay of my Grandmother), and on one especially fateful 3rd birthday, running up and down the stairs and eventually breaking my elbow. I just didn't know how to stop, and easing up wasn't really an option. So I just kept going. Unfortunateley, it has taken a long time to change. And while I still retain some of that little kid innocence, the same spirit that propelled me to run circles around the backyard still keeps me going from time to time even now, I've also learned a lot from this past over-exuberance.

Case in point: the morning's would-be race. It just wasn't

After yesterday's awsome ride, I could feel a bit of stiffness from my left hamstring/IT band. I've had problems earlier in the season with this, but with lots of stretching, regular massage therapy, painfully cold ice baths after intense training session (Nathaniel measured the water at 48 degrees Farenheit, while I gasped, "Oh Sh*t!" and lost all sensation in my lower legs), and careful planning by my coach, Memo - it really hasn't been too much of an issue. I pulled out of a race in early September because of this, but figured that I had the problem licked. The tricky thing about hamstrings and IT bands, or with any injury for that matter, is that even when you think you're okay, there's always that little bit of doubt, that 2% chance in the back of your mind that something, just something doesen't feel quite right. Call it hypersensitivity, call it crazy, call it what you may - just the mere thought that you might, just might not be okay, is enough to send the heartiest of souls into a panic or frenzy. And that's the dilema that I was faced with all last night and again at 3:50 this morning.

After a good stretch, plenty of ibuprofrin, tp massage, and a few good pressure point jabs from Nathaniel, my leg still didn't feel all that great last night. BUT, it's been worse and I've still raced on it... I figured that it would be okay - please please please be okay so I can race! - tommorow morning, but that I would ultimateley play it by ear. Bright and early my alarm went off, I switched on the coffee maker, made my bowl of oatmeal, and spent 5 min in the kitchen looking at my bike while alternateley flexing and extending my left leg. It looked okay. It felt okay. But wait... just the smallest, the teensiest... I could feel a slight little jerk, the the smallest, most innocent of little jabs when I flexed the hamstring. And right then, I knew I wasn't 100%. Instead, I was scared. Because I still wanted to race - because I love racing - but I knew it wouldn't be in my best interest. At that moment Nathaniel walked into the kitchen, groggy from the 4:10am alarm that he set. I told him that if I wasn't registered for the race, that I wouldn't even bother going. His response? He was VERY supportive, but said that we could bring a tennis ball, I could TP massage the knot, and he would have ice packs ready at the finish line.

It was right then and there that I realized how stupid racing would have been. I looked at my bike, all decked out in her racing wheels and splendor, and looked into Nate's concerned eyes, and decided to hold back. Stop. Relax. Woa Nelly! Who was I kidding? It's one thing if this was the a-priority race, or my last race of the season. But it isn't. It happens to be part of a race series that I truly enjoy, but I've still got 28 days until my big race, my numero uno, big kahuna, letter A++ race of the season. Nothing, absoluteley nothing would be worth injuring myself before Clearwater. So that was that.

In the end it wasn't really a tough decision, but rather, going through the process of making the tough decision that was the hardest part. Life is full of ups and downs, we all realize that (hello!). But sometimes when we want something so badly - like running freely around the backyard until you see stars - you don't always realize the long-term concequences. Sure, I could have raced today, had a blast, and done great. But at what expense? Would I have been able to run tommorow? Could I have done my Tuesday speed work? Would I be running pain-free a week from now? Or would everything be okay, and my mind/body was just playing a cruel trick on my overly-sensitive hamstring? Who knows. The point is, is that I'm no longer willing to risk myself or my health for a short term objective. I've got my goal in sight, and if that means making a few sacrifices along the way (as long as they're moral and just!), I'm willing to go for it. And that's one of the brilliant things about this sport that I love - is that we all sacrifice, we all take risks, we all question our training, health, and yes, even our sanity. But that's what it's about. That's what truly makes this real.

And yes, I'll still get in a great speedworkout -just not today.

Instead, Nathanilel and I went back to bed and slept in (yea!). And while I was a little grim about not racing and worried about my hamstring throughout the day, I was immensley cheered by curling up on the couch and watching the live IM Hawaii feed. How wonderful! These athletes are truly all inspirations unto themselves. Oddly enough, at 9am Saturday morning I was still questioning calling this race off. But then I heard a pre-race interview with one of the pro Men (sorry - I can't remember which one because I caught the tail end of the interview after getting my 3rd cup of coffee!), who said that he hadn't raced since July in order to be in top health and top form for Hawaii. Wow - talk about sacrifice. And at that moment, any doubts or residual sadness about not erasing today were immediateley erased. Still worried (that same 2%) about the hamstring, but totally at peace with my decision.

And while the little girl in me lives on, I can still feel her drive and pull to go careening down a hill at breakneck speeds, I've learned a little bit along the way of how to hold back some of that passion ,and save it for when it really counts. Because in 28 days when I know that I'll need that free-spirit, just let-yourself-go drive that she has, I'll know where to find it. And she'll be waiting to be unleashed.

A big hug and hello to everyone in Kona!

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