Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bring it on, I welcome it!


Today I woke up in pain.

What did I do yesterday? What have I done to deserve this?

I closed my eyes, and attempted to shift positions. Mistake. BIG mistake. Not only did I feel my hamstrings and glutes, but somewhere my adductors (the inner-leg!) screamed out in agony. And the totally sad part? I only shifted my body, didn't squeeze my knees together or do anything that would require an adductor.

Was I hit by a car? Was I in some kind of accident?

Oh yeah, now I remember. I started training again.

Yesterday I lifted weights for the first time in 4 or 5 weeks. Maybe even 6. Who knows?

So it's really a good thing. Something I'm happy about. In fact, I'll even go so far as to tell Coach, "Bring it on - I welcome it!" Even though my body is protesting today, I know it'll be for the best. And I know it'll make me that much stronger next season.

The funny thing about this, is that while my season ended a few weeks ago and I had a great break from training all together (hello sleeping in, late night TV, treats and snacks galore, bottles of red wine!), I'm ready to go. I want this. I want to feel fast, I want to work hard, I want that feeling of bettering myself. Of pushing my limits and discovering new ones. The hard part right now, is that the training is only minimal! Nothing too complicated, nothing too long, too fast, too hard. Just a little bit of structure and technique to get me through the holidays. Then, aha! Only then do I start my training in earnest.

And I'm sure that by early March, while I'm at the peak of my IM Arizona build, I'll look back to this entry and figure that I was crazy. What the hell was she thinking, wanting more?? Yes, I had a loose screw. One too many cocktails! The lights are on, but nobody's home! Yep - call me crazy, but now, it's what I want.

Bring in On - I Welcome IT!

Just last weekend I went on a really relaxing (albeit slow) ride with Ludi. We met up at the Blackwater trail, but didn't have any definite distance or time goals. After chatting and getting ready to go, we finally settled on 25 miles out, and 25 back, totaling 50 miles (and you though I'm no good at math! Ha! Just because I tend to loose count on swim laps, well...I can calculate running and biking miles with the best of them). As I had forgotten my watch (but was wearing my heart rate monitor), I didn't feel the urge to continually check out my heart rate and splits. Usually I'm a big numbers person: I love to know what's happening to my body, to see and to feel what I'm doing, and make the connection between the perceived exertion and work output. But these past few weeks of my off-season have been wonderful: no need to hold a certain split, to meet a specific time, to average a certain heart rate. At the same time, though, it's been challenging.

We had a fantastic time, enjoying the beauty of the Blackwater Forest and NW Florida. The weather was beautiful, and the cooler temperatures did nothing to diminish our soaring spirits. The trees were finally beginning to turn, and seeing the flecks of gold and streaks of orange was electrifying. The air smelled crisp, and was occasionally permeated by smoke from camp fires and cozy fireplaces. Simply put, it was a beautiful day for a ride.

One of the great things about riding with Ludi, is our conversations. Yes, she pushes me like no one else and never fails to help me find a higher level of intensity hidden deep within my subconscious, but she also understands the emotions of the sport. One of our discussions last weekend was our respective off seasons. We both agreed that some of the biggest challenges we were facing was the feeling of complete and utter meltdown. The feeling of "bleh". The feeling of total and absolute deconditioning.

Simply stated, we felt slow. We felt fat. We felt out of shape. (And Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll didn't help, as we combined to devour 3/4 of the roll... Along with a few select bottles of red wine. Oh well, 'Tis the Season!)

We didn't feel like ourselves.

But at the same time, it felt great to air my grievances. I knew that I wasn't alone: she wasn't the only one who struggled with the inner conflict of necessary off-season vs the feeling of out-of-shapeness that comes with it.

The more I read about other triathletes (and their blogs), and the more I talk to other athletes about these feelings, the more I understand myself and my own struggles. And I've come to the realization that I'm not alone! This is natural; this is okay.

I guess that's just part of the cycle, part of what we all go through. We work so hard to achieve our results, to go fast, to be strong, to be our best selves. Day in and day out, we focus and do what it takes to reach our potential, to achieve our goals. By the time race day arrives, the thousands of little decisions, made on a daily basis, have helped to shape the athletes we are. We work hard, we set out to accomplish our goals: we do this day in and day out. It no longer becomes a part of our thoughts, rather it becomes second nature. We do this because we simply are this way.

And that's why our down time, our off season is so hard. It's darn near impossible to simply switch these engraned processes off. No longer are we racing or training at high intensity. We don't push new levels in workouts, and we don't live at that constant state of hyper-workout-race-on-the-horizon-associated-stress. Additionally, we aren't used to the simple idea of "time off". Rather the norm of, taking it easy usually occurs after a 4 hour brick. Post-workout fatigue is the only way we know how to relax and kick our feet back while feeling like we've truly earned it.

Therefore, the off-season is just as much about re-programing our bodies just as much as it is about re-programming our minds.

So when my season begins in earnest, I'll be ready. I'll climb the highest hill, reach the tallest rooftop, stand at the edge of the ocean and scream at the top of my lungs, "Bring It On, I Welcome IT!"

That's why I'm so excited to take the tiny first steps. It means that I'm almost there, that I'm just about ready. Sure, I'm doing a little bit of working out - 10 or 11 hours this week - but nothing near the intensity or volume that I'm accustomed to. And that's okay. Now I realize this. I know and understand the emotions of what I'm going through. What my body is experiencing is natural. And I'm beginning to finally understand why.

Because I love this sport. I love the early morning swims, the beauty of a long ride, the floating sensation while running. I love the challenge, the new hurdles I have to overcome. I know it's not always easy, but that makes the end result all the better, all the sweeter.

Bring it on, I welcome it!

So today I'm in a little bit of pain. Yes, it hurts to move my legs, and I'm anticipating that tomorrow may be a little worse. But that's okay, because I know that it's all part of the process. I've enjoyed time off, and now a new phase is about to begin. Now I get to enjoy the light volume, low intensity, and no workout-associated stress through the holidays. I know it'll be hard (as I'm sure that one of the various groups I bike with will want to kick off December by cycling another century). And I'll resist the temptation to ride the entire way with them. Instead, I'll do my own thing, go at my own slow pace, and enjoy working out purely for the sake of being outside and reveling in winter's splendor. My body and my mind need this break, but at the same time I'm raring to go.

Bring it on, I welcome IT!

As for now, I'm enjoying a little bit of both worlds. No, I'm not in the best shape, and watching my heart rate creep up at my "easy" pace is pretty amusing. But I'm having a good time. I'm enjoying the late night tv (CSI: Miami marathon!), sleeping in a little, and indulging in holiday treats and spirits. But just around the corner, my 2008 season is waiting. It's so close, I can almost touch it. First the easy, light stuff, and then I'll get to ramp it up. And I simply can't wait.

So I raise my wine glass in toast and shout, "BRING IT ON, I WELCOME IT!"

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