Last year was not different. By December 31st, I had registered for most of what I plan to race in 2014. Money was spent; dates and hotels were secured; all I had to do was wait patiently.
I just needed to keep my base up and get through the winter so I could race Tri U Mah, Fargo 1/2 Marathon, Liberty half, the ITU Oly, Timberman oly, Racine 70.3, Point to LaPoint swim and, the biggie, Ironman Wisconsin. Then, fall fun, my husband and I signed to run the Twin Cities Marathon's TC Loony Challenge, which is doing the 5K and 10K on October 4th and then the TC 10 Miler on October 5th.
Why would I think anything would break the pattern?
It was the coldest winter in decades across the country. Minneapolis had an unprecedented 60 days BELOW zero last winter. Usually, we can brace ourselves for the normal week or two in January. Last year, pretty much mid-December though February the mercury refused to go above zero degrees. (We did have an odd warm day, but mostly, we were frozen solid.)
I started a new job last October and, as a new employee, was not able to take any vacation time for the first 90 days. This meant that my husband and I were stuck in Minneapolis for the winter with no relief.
What did I do?
Instead of making friends with the gym and the trainer, I reintroduced myself to the couch. And snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
It was also the winter that ended my long streak of being mostly injury free. For all the years I've spent swimming, biking and running, I have managed to stay healthy.
I had the first hints of trouble training for and running New York Marathon last year. My husband and I ran the race together. He was feeling good and running strong. I did okay up about mile 15 and then my right hip started to bug me. Nothing terrible, just that nagging ickiness. I ended up having to stretch it out more than once, which slowed us way down.
My husband (The Trooper), stayed with me the whole time, even though he could have had a much faster finish time.
I think the nagging ickiness conspired with the couch and snacks so that by February, I had a lot of hip pain and a very, very limited range of motion when trying to lift my right leg. Sometimes I had to think long and hard about whether or not I could lift it high enough to get up a stair
This was a big and unexpected surprise, which I tried to ignore for a long time. ("It will go away... I just know it!").
My base training was very sparse. (Did I tell you the couch called my name every night? It wooed me.) I kept "active", but mostly walking to and from the fridge.
It didn't help that my long-time coach had some life events of his own. His medical student girlfriend got through her studies and was placed out of state for her residency. He was busy concentrating on moving so I, and my love affair with the couch and snacks, were able to slip under the radar for a long time.
Finally, last February, I had to face the reality. My hip was not getting better. If I was going to do Ironman, training would start soon and there was not way I could fake it across the finish line.
I finally made an appointment with Tria Orthopaedic Center. They have a great reputation and work with a lot of athletes -- pro and amateur. I met with a nice (young) lady doctor, who is also an endurance athlete. I told her that I didn't care if they had to hold me together with duct tape, I just wanted to be able to finish Ironman She promised me I could. I love her.
X-rays indicated some hip arthritis (WHAT?). Again, a huge surprise. In my head, I am 35. In my joints and muscles, I'm in my mid-50s. Dagnabbit.
The hip arthritis wasn't so bad as to stop me from being able to stay active, but it, along with the combo of snacks, winter, the couch and the cold, my glutes, groin, SI joint and all of the "stuff" in that area, just seized up and every thing failed. At once.
So, I've been working on trying to get better with physical therapy, chiropractic work, stretching, ice, heat and compression. The good news is that, after 3 months, I am much, much, MUCH better. I don't think about climbing stairs any more. I can actually swing my leg over the bike again (as opposed to lifting it, resting it on the stem and then hoisting it over to the other side, which is what I did for most of January and February). I don't wake up in the middle of the night anymore in so much pain I can hardly stand it.
The bad news is that, I'm still not at 100%. I have a definite limp, which is much more noticeable when I'm tired. I can swim just fine; I can bike just fine. It is the running that is a problem. My gait is very short and choppy. My pace has sunk like a stone. Some days I run fine with no after issues. Other days, I run and the hip nags for a few hours after.
Ironman training happens over many, many weeks. In theory, for a September race, people start training in earnest in February. The fact that I'm trying to rehab while training for a 140.6 mile race maybe slowing down the recovery.
But, will I stop? No. Why? Because I'm determined (translate to stubborn). And, because I am cheap. I have a lot of green skin in the game, having registered -- and paid for -- all those races last January. Why leave money on the table?
What HAS happened has been:
- A pullback from some of the races. I wasn't ready for Fargo 1/2, so dropped that down to the 10K. (Slowest 10K I've run in my entire life). I am doing better and don't want to push it yet, so dropped from the half at Liberty to the Oly distance. Lake Superior reported ice on the lake as late as last week. I do not need to swim 2.4 miles in a slushy, so I've dropped Point to LaPoint this year. (Also happens to be an Ironman Wisconsin camp that weekend that my training buddies are going to, so wanted to spend time there with them).
- A new coach. Sometimes you just gotta switch things up. I moved on to a new coach and things have been going great. She is on top of me if I start to slack. This is what I need -- especially since the couch is always beckoning.
- An agreement with myself. Although I want to do well at each race, I am really looking at each one as a training day helping me prepare for Ironman. My primary goal is to do everything in my power to get to September 7th as healthy and prepared as I can possibly be so I can cross that finish line before midnight.
Tomorrow is my first summer race -- Liberty Oly. Wish me luck!
Here goes nuthin'.....