On The End of A Season
For me, this season started last year. Actually, it started 2 years ago, when I went to the first ITU Multisport Festival with my friend Ellen, who had qualified to compete in the World Championships for Long Course Aquabike. That was when I realized that that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to cross the finish line at the World Championship level. If you want to hear that story (of the World Championships, that I did qualify for, and did go to, and did cross the finish line, sort of, you can read it here: https://www.gobig.life/post/it-s-time-to-wake-up )
Here's the short version of what happened along the way:
I trained for a 70.3, which meant also training for a half marathon. Which meant healing for real an old nagging hip issue, which meant healing an old knee issue. So I did that. Physical therapy for months. I did three half marathons. On the third one I couldn't get my knee to cooperate. So I changed my plan of action. Because I had one clear goal:
To cross the finish line at the World Championships in this body, with these thighs, and this butt and this belly. To wear the colors of my country and show up in all my Athena gloriousness. To show the world that you can be an athlete at any size.
And I couldn't run a half marathon.
I pivoted. I decided to compete in the Aquabike (swim then bike). Because finishing at the World level was more important than finishing a 70.3. (I promised myself there would be time to finish a 70.3. This wasn't the year for it. Keep my eyes on the goal.)
We know the rest (see above). I competed at MiamiMan. I spent the winter training hard for swimming and biking. I took a good long break from running. So when I showed up at Athena Nationals in June this year in Chattanooga I had no idea what was going to happen. I hadn't run more than 2 miles in a very long time. I knew I could finish, no matter how much I had to walk. I knew I could finish.
I went hard and fast. And a funny thing happened.
I LOVED IT.
This endurance girl, who's body was built for long and steady and medium pace, PR'ed her swim, PR'ed her bike and set a new PR for average bike speed and ran/walked the 3.1 miles with NO PAIN. Could I start running again? Could I be a fast and short kind of endurance athlete?
My plan for returning to MiamiMan in November to do the Long Course Aquabike again (and try for a PR) suddenly seemed ... not fun?
I had also planned on racing 4 times in 2019. Great Clermont in March, Pontevedra in May, Athena Nationals in June, MiamiMan in November.
I needed to know if Athena Nationals (the short course, the sprint) was a fluke, or if going short and fast was actually a thing for me.
I found 4 more Sprints to do. And changed my MiamiMan registration to the International distance. I still needed an end of season race. I needed a goal to train for; I know myself.
I started run training again. It felt good. No knee pain. No hip pain. And, surprisingly, I could run constantly. I didn't need to run/walk. I did take walk breaks, but they were short and far apart. Running was fun! Who knew.
Then some other things happened. One of our cats got sick very suddenly. (As a side note, she is doing much better.) And I had to miss one of the International distance races I had signed up for.
And I thought about my team. And what it would mean to show up at MiamiMan as 100% a coach; to not race.
And that felt GOOD.
I found a race the weekend before; in Cocoa, Florida. Just up the coast. I asked Banana Man if we could go early to Florida. He enthusiastically agreed.
I kept training for MiamiMan, and talked with MY coach (yes, I have a coach. Why wouldn't I have a coach?) to adjust my plan for a race a week earlier. I also wanted to set some time based goals. Finish in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. Run consistent 13:45 miles. Push it hard on the bike to maintain 15-16 miles per hour. Sight really well on the swim so I didn't swim any extra distance. These were all doable goals. They would force me to stay on top of training and follow my training schedule.
Halloween came so quickly. We packed up the car. (Holy crap we have a lot of stuff. Holy crap *I* have a lot of stuff.)
I showed up race morning. I gave the race everything I had. Every bit of me. I followed my race plan and fueling plan to the letter.
And I earned First Place Athena Overall. And I stood on that podium filled with SUCH joy. What an amazing finish to an EPIC season. I also finished in 3 hours and 29 minutes. I swam pretty straight (I think the course was measured a little longer than 800 meters). I averaged 15.9 miles per hour on the bike (despite crazy headwinds with no complimentary tailwinds, and deliciously tricky rolling hills). And I ran an average mile time of 13:43, that also earned me a PR for a 10K. Where there places I could have been faster. YES YES YES. Did I have fun? YES YES YES.
And what did I learn?
That's it's ok to change your PLANS, as long as you stay focused on your GOAL.
Even when there are setbacks you can pivot, you can change, you can adjust and still get to your goal.
((Also, being on the podium is such a special thing. I have earned it 3 times in all of my racing. I never strive for it. I strive to be better than I was last time. And standing up there, for all the world to see, in all of my glorious authentic Athena self, to hear the crowd cheering ... there is simply nothing like it.))