It is crazy to me to think back and realize that it has been five years since I had my best season, and how badly I squandered things after that. Sure, it wasn't entirely terrible, but I brought personal worsts to a whole new level over the past two years. The worst part? It is entirely my fault. I really can't blame anyone else. And as hard as it is to admit it, much of my demise was probably preventable.
Sure, there have been a few injuries and those are really going to happen no matter what. But it's how badly I let them get to me that made them effect me that much worse. My first major issue in 2008 had me out of running for six weeks but I let it completely destroy me mentally and even somewhat physically and the repercussions lasted far longer than that initial period of not running.
For a very long time, I was the person who would never miss a training session. I'd get up at crazy hours to run 20 miles before work, spend most of every Saturday on my bike, get on the trainer at 3:30 in the morning to get a ride in before getting on a plane, plot out what I was going to eat day after day. I didn't make any excuses because I wouldn't have accepted them as legitimate. And you know what? My performances were the result of this dedication. I'll admit that I was completely surprised by a lot of the things I had suddenly become capable of doing, because in a way it sort of seemed "easy" to me. Just do the training like you're supposed to, sleep and eat well, have a great race. It's really not that complicated and there isn't some magical quality that fast people possess aside from unwavering determination.
After I had my breakthrough year, I think I got a little scared. How could I top that? It was so far beyond anything I had even dreamed of accomplishing. "Winning" Lake Placid, seventh in my age group in Kona, riding away from the field like biking was the easiest thing in the world and even somehow managing to run well. I decided right away that there was no way I could top it. So I started training and racing that way. Well, I can't do any better, so I don't really have to try as hard, right? The decline was very slow, but it was certainly there.
Aside from my injury, I still did the training, but I stopped taking care of myself otherwise. Weight started to pile back on which made me feel like more of a failure after having worked so hard to shed the years' worth of evidence of my teenage addiction to Doritos and Pepsi. I didn't take action, I simply gave up. And like I said, the race performances showed it. I remember how I used to show up at race start lines feeling like I'd done absolutely everything that could be done to have the best race possible. Suddenly every single race I showed up at had me feeling like a kid who forgot to study for a final. There's nothing you can do at that point but fake your way through it and accept the inevitable of your failure to prepare adequately. Sure, I could still finish races, but I didn't get into this just to cross finish lines. If I did, I certainly wouldn't train so much.
So we all know that earlier this season I had to drop out of Mooseman because my foot was bothering me. My foot had been bothering me since at least Mother's Day, but it didn't really hurt enough for me to think much of it so I just altered my run stride a bit. Then I found out it was broken. I was pretty much out for the summer. Oh, and out at least $1000 worth of race entry fees that might as well have been flushed down the toilet.
A lot of other years this sort of news would have been devastating to me. I cried when I found out I had a stress fracture just two weeks before Kona in 2009. I cried on the run I was on in 2008 when my back brought me to a screeching halt. This time, instead of getting upset about it, I decided to treat it like a good thing. First, it would keep me from having what I knew were going to be a series of disappointing races over the summer. I just wasn't in a position to do well. Second, it gave me a reason to stop training for a while. And I mean really stop. Not the couple-week break at the end of the season, not a break from running but continuing to swim and bike like crazy, but to just completely and totally stop. Sure, I swam and rode here and there, but there was no set schedule. I did what I wanted when I felt like it. I slept in pretty much every day and stayed up past 10 on a regular basis. I participated in family events without going home early because I had to train early the next morning. I only had to do about 25% of my normal laundry amounts. I didn't have pressure on myself about coming back as soon as possible.
do have time and as long as I do all of the little things I'm supposed to do, I can be back on track. Ironman Texas is eight months away. That is a pretty long time. But the work does need to start.
So let's just pretend that I didn't squander the last two years and maybe just train like there's no way I can fail. I've got friends I used to train with that I haven't been able to because I got way too slow, and it'd be nice to be able to train with them again. I'm hoping to spend the next month slowly getting back on track, still without a schedule and still without running because I'm not there yet. But biking, swimming, lifting, elliptical, just generally starting to get into a regular routine again. Then hopefully I'll talk to my incredibly patient coach, Jesse Kropelnicki, and we can pick an official start date. Three years ago he brought me back from the dead. I dug myself a similar hole this time, and hopefully we will both be able to bring me back again.
So here's to hoping that my blog will now turn back into updates on my training and how things are going well. Oh, but if only my Garmin 310XT didn't shatter last weekend after falling off my wrist during the race :(