I figured it was about time I do a write up-on my FIRST RACE BACK (and other random musings). Yup! That's in all caps for a reason. For those that don't know - I spent all of 2015 on the sidelines (boo!). I had a not-so-fun virus/bacteria infection March & April that culminated with a stress fracture in my femur in early May. I didn't run a step May 1 - November 1. It was a really long haul for me (and those around me!), so to be racing in January, to be healthy, to be 5th at the Pan-American Championships: heck, it felt like I won the thing!
My goals for the race were quite simple and very internal:
1. Have my longest run since May 1st
2. Remember what it is like to race again
3. Get confidence in my body
4. Remember what is like to hurt (in a good way!)
5. To wake up Monday after the race and feel no alarming aches & pains
6. Most importantly - have fun!
Now that a week has passed, I can safely say that I checked all of the boxes and am happy to be officially starting my 2016 race season.
Before the race we posted a cool video entitled "Clean Slate" - which is how I was viewing the race in Panama. I honestly had no idea what to expect after taking so long away from racing. I was nervous, excited, a bit scared... Really I just wanted to get the "first race" monkey off my back. This was going to be the first real test on my body since being injured: I hadn't run 13.1 miles yet, I hadn't done a hard bike/run workout yet, I hadn't been through the pre-race routine in 9 months. For the first time ever, I didn't even look at the start list before the race. I had no idea what to expect, how my body would feel, or what it would be like to be back out racing again. I had a very internal perspective headed into the race: go out, focus on a few of the controllables, see where my fitness was at, and save the evaluating for post-race.
So, what was it like?!?!
This was our first visit to Panama and I really enjoyed it. I am kind of kicking myself for not staying an extra day after the race to do some exploring... I guess there is always next year. Parts of the race were hectic (for ex: the training in Panama City), but I kind of liked that adventure element as well. Thank you to BN Sports for putting on a great event in a big city. I always enjoy experiencing new places.
Race morning came and I was surprised how "normal" every thing felt for how "not normal" my 2015 was. I went about my pre-race business and before I knew it we were filing down to the Panama Canal to start the swim. A highlight on race morning was that I had my first bit of caffeine since May 1st. 100mg double caff CLIF shot, yes please! Thankfully a few of the other pro women were kind enough to listen to me yapping at a million miles a minute as caffeine pulsated through my veins and we were waiting for our delayed race start.
We jumped into the canal and it was swim, swim, swim - business as usual. It wasn't my best swim, but I did what I could to keep pushing even though I was just off the main pack that I was hoping to swim with. It was pretty unique to be swimming in THE Panama Canal, with giant boats and shippers working there way upstream.
The bike course was changed the day before the race to many loops on the Cinta Costera parkway. The race organizers did a great job pulling this course together considering the constraints. Due to all of the loops on the course, there was never a dull moment. There were lots of 180 degree turns, we shared the course with all of the competitors, and it kept my mind on task the whole way. I was holding the leaders pretty even until the last 10 miles or so and then started to lose some time. I could tell it was crazy hot out and was trying my best to respect the conditions by getting in fluids, cooling off and getting my heart rate to settle a bit before the run.
Onto the run. The only way I can best describe my run was that 13.1 miles felt like 26.2! My run training had been conservative and smart leading into the race. It wouldn't be a smooth lead-up to a race if I didn't have a few freak-outs, right? I had a few random phantom "aches" and "pains" in my femur/groin area in the 2 weeks leading into the race. I knew there was no way my leg was broken again, but at the same time - you just never know what these random pains could mean? Luckily my physio, Jay Dicharry set my head (and body) straight and I was prepared as best as i could be. Basically: I am still hypersensitive to everything I feel going on in my body - so we were EXTRA conservative to keep me happy with my run training.
Back to the run - it honestly was one foot in front of the other. Not only was I uncomfortable with the distance and "race pace" of running again, but it was hot, hot, hot as we ran along the Panama Canal. I treated each aid station like a water park: ice down my top, water, sports drink, more ice, sponges, water on my head. I would feel cool for 45 seconds and pick up the pace only to be roasting again moments later. I ran a pretty consistent race: even mile splits throughout. I was passed by a few speedsters (Kirsty & Lisa), but my smart pacing, solid CLIF nutrition plan, and staying as cool as possible paid off and I was able to move up a few places as well.
I was thinking while out on the run how cool this sport is: everyone was battling out there in the heat. Trying to get the most out of themselves. Suffering. Pushing limits. This is what it is all about!
I crossed the finish line in 5th place and it was a "win" for me on a few levels: my first race back! No (alarming) pains in my leg! I got some points on the board to help my qualification for Kona! Most importantly, I had fun.
Which is the last thing I wanted to write about. Last year wasn't much fun (no kidding, injuries are never fun). Even before I was injured I was feeling mass amounts of self-imposed pressure, self-judgement, training was forced and not fluid, and if things weren't going perfect, I was pissy. I lost track of who I was as an athlete and why I got started in triathlon in the first place. If I have only one goal for 2016 is to have fun and enjoy the process along the way. I gained a boat-load of perspective last year and was reminded of the ups and downs we endure when trying to be "your own best version of you." The high's are great, but it's in the trenches where you find your true colors, your true supporters and what drives you to keep pushing on. It's the ultimate test of self-belief.
Coming out the other side - I am thankful for the $#!& year I had in 2015 - it allowed me to take a step back & view triathlon from a much larger level. I am confident it will make me a better athlete in 2016 + beyond. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after starting and completing my first race. My next step is to continue to gain fitness & confidence back in my body all while enjoying each step of the way.
Next up: training camp with the QT2 systems athletes & coaches in Florida. I plan on racing a few more 70.3's to continue to get my legs under me and then decide on a May/June Ironman. It's a long year ahead and my ultimate goal of Kona remains the same. Stay tuned as I keep chipping away.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting. This Sport is awesome - it's good to be back!