It has been one year since I last competed in a triathlon. It is hard to believe how slowly and how quickly time has passed. My last race was Lake Stevens 70.3. It was not a banner day. Despite the pain from my rib injury, I hobbled through the race. I knew at the time that it would be my last triathlon for a long while, so I decided that I would finish slowly rather than not finish at all. After the race, I spent a month on the couch recovering both mentally and physically before beginning a long journey of doctor visits and physical therapy.
This past year has been one of change, introspection, patience and flexibility. I have altered my expectations as an athlete and redefined my role in the sport of triathlon.
No longer a triathlon competitor, I continue a very active involvement in the sport as a coach, writer, and educator. I avidly peruse results, stay up to date on technology, learn about new races, and keep informed about rules changes. I take my job as a coach very seriously so I continue to be a student of the sport; athletes look to me to achieve success and I do not want to fail them. As well, with my long history of ailments, I can almost always find a solution to an athlete’s problems. Cheering from the sidelines is not as hard as I anticipated.
In terms of training and racing, my year has taken a very interesting turn. I am a Masters runner with a very concrete goal of qualifying for the marathon Olympic Trials. Training has changed markedly. I run with the Running Republic of Boulder. In the past, I ran mostly alone, whereas now, I almost always have a run buddy (especially since if I cannot find a human, Diesel the dog, is always a willing and able partner). The workouts are completely different than anything I have done in the past – they are longer, harder, and far more taxing. Indeed, in the beginning I was getting a touch of workout anxiety, wondering if I could complete such rigorous training.
My confidence in running has grown tremendously this year, although I still worry about getting dropped on the long runs. And, I am continually humbled by the ageless 47 year old Colleen DeReuck who kicks my butt on a regular basis (how on earth can she get that far ahead of me in just 60 seconds???). I have toed the line at races I would have balked at in the past, and have a lot of fun doing so.
Flexibility and patience. I have been notoriously poor at both. My rib injury still plagues me and so, in order to train at the level I aim for, I have made certain modifications. For instance, I have gotten out early for more swim workouts this year than in my entire career previously. I learned that if my rib hurts in the pool, I must get out lest I make it worse. I cut run workouts short. I take unexpected days off to let a rib flare up calm down. I manage the pain most of the time, but it takes a lot of effort to do so and I cannot relent on physical therapy, stretching and gym work. I am “patiently” waiting for this injury to finally go away.
It is never easy to redefine yourself, especially when something has characterized you for many years. I realized that finding other tangible goals has eased the transition. We are always evolving; it is up to us to keep up.