Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hurdles are there to jump over, not to stand in front of and wonder....

I grew up a gymnast and made a quick and happy transition to a sprinter and hurdler in middle school.  I loved hurdles - specifically I loved the 300m hurdles.  It's one thing to sprint 100% for 300 or 400 meters, it's another to gracefully get over 10 hurdles in the process.  I also ran the 200m and 4x400m, but there was something so special about a really good 300m hurdle race.  It took more patience to become good at racing hurdles... you have to learn not to "stutter" before the hurdle, you have to have no fear and trust that you will get over that hurdle without a problem.  You have to focus on more than just running form but also on form while getting over the hurdle.  That patience I learned while working to become a good hurdler is something I am re-learning today as I struggle with a different kind of hurdle - an injury just 11 weeks out from my first Ironman.  

Hey Nicole Kaes...remember these days?!

A few weeks went by with my back and glute feeling a bit off, but I truly just thought I was just tight from lack of good stretching and dealing with a lot of stress and less than optimal nutrition.  We were in the midst of deciding to move, signing papers and making plans to move, and trying to fit in training all while Anthony was out of town for work for a few days.  Ohhhh and preparing to race in a week...  So when Friday of race weekend came around neither Anthony nor myself were feeling particularly in the "race mindset."  Saturday morning we picked up Anthony's younger sister, Heather and we headed to Charlottesville with a full car (the 3 of us plus Brutus!).  We spent Saturday afternoon/evening checking in and getting our packets, driving the bike course, and then exploring the UVA campus a bit with Heather.  Wow, Charlottesville and UVA are GORGEOUS!! 

Come race morning I was not really feeling particularly nervous or excited which is 100% unlike me on race morning.  Normally I am jittery, nervous, anxious, excited, and just super duper curious as to what my body will allow me to do in a race setting!  This morning was not like that - I was just calm and not a confident calm, just an abnormal calm.  It was a beach start and it took me about 10 minutes to start to find a rhythm in the water...after I found my rhythm I was a happy camper, but I had a bit of the swim where my right leg felt a little tingly which I found odd but attributed it to it being my first wetsuit swim this year...On to the bike. 

I came out of the water feeling really good and energized - I definitely didn't push it on the swim... I just wanted to feel good when I got out so I could race the two legs that I was strongest.  I was soooo ready to hop on my bike and get to my happy place riding.  I knew the course from driving it and I was SO excited to ride it - it was a really pretty ride!  The half to 2/3 of the ride felt really good I was holding my goal normalized power without a problem.  Somewhere along the way my legs just stopped feeling strong.  I knew I wasn't pushing too hard, I was pacing well, but something felt off.  I kept pushing as best as I could knowing that I could make up a lot of time on the run where I am the strongest.  

I got to transition and I was ready to run.  I started off and I had to slow myself down in order to keep the goal pace of 7:45-7:50 for the first mile.  First mile - 7:45 and felt great.  Took a 10 sec walk break to reset and get ready to pick it up for the next 5 miles.  About half way through mile two, I started getting on and off sharp pains in my right glute.  By 2.5 or 3 miles in my right leg and foot were going numb and the on and off sharp glute pains continued.  The rest of the run was a run/walk. I was so disappointed, but the glute pains were not something I could push through, so I walked when I got the sharp pains and jog/ran nice and easy when I could.  So much for 7:30 average and a sub 7:00 last mile........ I am glad that I pushed through as best as I can, but Monticelloman Olympic distance race did not turn out nearly like I had imagined... 

And so after a day of being in denial that anything was really wrong, I made a doctors appointment after searching for the perfect orthopedic.  I will say that I LOVE the doctor that I found - a super fit former Division 1 swimmer and a female!  What I didn't like...her diagnosis.  After looking at x-rays and lots of talking, she is having me get an MRI and believes that I have a herniated/bulging disc.  There is no way to know whether she is correct until I get my MRI on Wednesday night, but in the meantime I am only "allowed" to swim and cycle easy for maintenance.  

My amazing coach has me walking Brutus a lot, swimming, and re-focusing my left over energy by getting creative in the kitchen.  The hope is that I will be able to get back on the saddle for an easy ride this coming weekend.  I am SO bummed that I will not be able to compete in Raleigh 70.3 (I was SO excited to ROCK this race), but I am trying to look at all of the positive things and I am so so so excited to cheer on Anthony at Raleigh!  

Views from todays 4 mile walk at Burke Lake Park with Brutus

I had a great weekend full of lots of long walks with Brutus in the amazing weather, but it was SO hard to see all the cyclists and runners out on the trails.  If there is one thing I am totally ok with, it is being patient in order for my body to get healthy and happy again, but man is it frustrating.  I am not trying to get out there and run or cycle hard, but I am so envious of those who can.  I have never been injured so close to a key race and it is truly a mental battle.  Staying positive and trusting that my coach has a plan that will get me to IMLP happy and healthy is really hard.  I have accepted that my goal may truly have to be "just to finish happy and healthy" with no set time or place in mind, but just knowing that it is only 11 weeks away and I will not be running for at least four of those is really hard for me to wrap my head around.  

In the past few days I have learned a lot about the mind and getting over hurdles mentally and learning to just trust the plan and your body.  Life gets bitter sometimes, but I am thankful that I have a body that is as healthy and strong as it is and I am going to grow a lot from this experience.  There is always fall to rock a 70.3 and in the meantime I am focusing ALL of my energy on getting healthy enough to cross the Lake Placid finish line on July 27.  I am learning that my mind is a lot stronger than I thought and getting over this hurdle is teaching me a lot about myself....I will have quite the journey to reflect on during those 140.6 miles in July!

I can't thank my support system enough as I get over this bump in the road... you have all been so amazing and your positive energy has really helped me stay optimistic and keep my eye on the prize of IMLP...hey until there is an MRI to give a true diagnosis, for all I know it's just a big knot that a massage will fix...right?! ;) 

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