3… 2… 1… GO!

Being my first year competing on the TMS-IOS team, I was absolutely thrilled to get ready for the upcoming racing season. However, this excitement was not without reservations—over the summer of 2018, I developed a pretty nasty medial tibial stress fracture while training for NC 70.3 2018. The timing was kind of odd—I received news of the stress fracture about two weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated the Wilmington area of NC. Not long after the immense damage of the storm was assessed, Ironman emailed all the eager participants to inform them that the race would be cancelled. Surprisingly, Ironman offered race deferrals due to the circumstances under which the race was called off, so I was fortunate enough to be able to defer until the following year (I’m coming for ya, NC 70.3 2019!).

The following weeks were tough, as my teammates and ride-or-die training partners (Kelsey Noll, Sloane Tilley, and Cath Ruckeis) were able to find another race on the same day as NC 70.3 was supposed to take place. While I was at home moping about my bum leg, the people I had spent tons of hours training with were off to conquer Toughman Tennessee 70.3. The typical mixed bag of emotions that comes along with being sidelined due to injury (self-pity, jealousy, frustration, anger, sadness—you know what I mean) was completely wiped away when the three of them absolutely dominated the course and landed in top placing spots (HELL YEAH!). Their performances made me so proud to be their teammate and also motivated me to do the best that I could to get healthy. For most of the summer, we had all been pushing each other through some tough 70.3 training, so it was very exciting to think that I could get myself there again if I made the necessary changes to my training to stay healthy.

I won’t lie—the next few months were tough. This was my first serious injury as a triathlete (so honestly I shouldn’t be complaining at all), and it totally caught me off guard (I know that seems ridiculous with a stress fracture, but I had very mild displaced pain until one day it suddenly hurt very bad all up and down my tibia—yowza!). I did not realize exactly how much I had been relying on training to deal with life, until I was forced to cease and desist all training and don Das Boot (what I affectionately called my air cast). My only outlet for stress and processing my thoughts/feelings was ripped out from under me, and I didn’t have any other tools at my disposal. After a few really bad mental health days, I realized that this was not going to fix itself, and that it probably wasn’t healthy to rely on exercise as the sole source of mental health care. So I got set up with a therapist (can not recommend this more strongly as a life-changing way to care for yourself), started going to a yoga class (Monday mornings with the 65+ crew of mostly little old blue haired ladies, who are so impressive!), began learning the practice of meditation (the Headspace app is what got me started), and embraced the newfound free time to enjoy other activities that had fallen to the wayside during intense months of training.

Honestly, getting injured was probably the best thing that happened for me this past year. It forced me to face some inner demons, make intimidating but important life changes, and re-center my focus and priorities outside of triathlon/training. Sure, there were days where I hated every second of it and there were many bouts of ugly crying and “Woe is me” rants (both internal and voiced aloud), but it was an important process to move through, the kind where you come out on the other end stronger than before.

When I was cleared to run again, I didn’t start up right away. Things still didn’t feel quite right in my leg and I decided to trust my body. Thanks to Dave William’s wise coaching and my newfound training mantras of “less is more” and “listen—no, really LISTEN to your body”, I was able to slowly (albeit sometimes painfully) and safely build back into a training plan. Things were different this time around—full days of rest (often more than once per week!) and a new attitude towards body maintenance allowed me to spend more time on things like proper stretching, strengthening, foam rolling, and sleeping. There were a few minor setbacks along the way, but I listened to what my body needed and took the right action (often, adding in another day off training for recovery and routinely visiting Dr. Jason Pyrigi). Dr. Jason Pyrigi and the team at Carolina Pain and Performance played an integral role in my path to recovery, and I still go in on an as-needed basis to check in on things. Dr. Pyrigi and his team truly worked wonders on the problem areas of my leg and in doing so, have taught me so much that I never knew or fully understood about how to sense when your body is recovered and ready for another grueling workout, or when you need to take the day off or cut your workout short and focus on other recovery habits (as mentioned above—foam rolling, strengthening, and proper stretching).

After many challenging weeks that tested my patience and willpower, I slowly built back into structured training, and things felt good enough to start setting my sights on spring races. With Dave’s blessing, I set my sights on the inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty 70.3 in May, which would require a very conservative low-volume training approach but would be doable. Since I had been training for a 70.3 when I got hurt, I was very hungry to tackle that distance. I also wanted a tune-up race, so I signed up for the Beaverdam Olympic, a super fun course I had put down one of my best performances on in 2018. For funsies, I also ended up signing up for the Triangle Sprint since I have raced that one on and off since 2014—another wonderful local race!

It turned out that all the pain, anger, sadness, and frustration that resulted in taking a long, hard look in the mirror (which subsequently led to making some major changes to both self-care and training practices) ultimately paid off in a big way. I am not accustomed to landing overall podium spots at the local race level, so you can imagine how humbling and emotional it was to pull off:

3rd—Beaverdam Olympic (gotta love the squishy beavers)

2nd—Inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty (a race so wild it is deserving of its own blog post)

1st—Triangle Sprint (made extra special since my parents happened to be passing through town and got to see me race for the first time since my first ever sprint triathlon in 2013)

Looking back on the journey from a solid 70.3 training regimen, to a serious bone injury, to a period of relearning how to care for mental and physical health, to the slow transition back to a new “normal” training schedule, to being able to race competitively again… it’s been quite a ride.  

The takeaways from this whole experience have been impactful. I’ve developed new ways to take care of my mind and body, deconstructed some of the toxic ideologies I had towards training and replaced them with a much more balanced approach, and gained so much confidence in myself as an athlete along the way. I strongly encourage you (whether you’re a “serious” athlete or not) to take a few steps back to examine whether your training and athletic lifestyle are truly in balance with other important aspects of your life. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself!

Ready? 3…2…1… GO! 

Rex Wellness – Garner Race Report

I meant to write this blog after my “A-race” for the year, an ultra-marathon in Key West, in May. However, as that race didn’t exactly go as planned, I decided not to dwell on the negative and wait for something positive to come around. That day came with a perfect race, in perfect weather, only a few miles away from my house at the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Garner.

Last year I raced in all three Rex Series races that FS Series put on. They have always been one of my favorite races in town. The swim is in a pool so we get wall breaks. The bike is on good roads so you can put your head down and hammer. The run is only two miles so it’s done before you know it.

The Rex Garner race was on July 7th. There was no wind and it was 70 degrees. I slotted in behind teammates and superstars Cari Soleo and Stephanie Sullivan for the time trial swim start. I was nervous about the swim as I have not swum, at all, since the final Rex Series race of last year. I kept the stroke long and efficient and ended up with the 20th best swim overall (3:53 for 250 yards). I was glad to be done swimming and sprinted through T1 as quickly as possible.

The bike has historically been where I can catch up from my swim deficit and build a little gap on the competition for the run. I knew my legs had good endurance from the ultra-marathon training but was unsure about the top-end power needed for these sprint races. My legs felt AMAZING all day. I kept my head down and pounded as best I could. I knew I had good legs as I watched my splits on the Garmin mid-way through the 10-mile bike. On the way back, I focused on keeping the pressure on as every second counts when the entire race is only 40 minutes long! I finished the bike very pleased with my effort and had the fastest split of the day (24:10 for 10 miles). I cruised in to T2, racked my bike, and took off.

For the previous 6 months, all my training was based around running. I was routinely logging 80-90 mile weeks during the build-up for my ultra. I knew my legs could withstand any beating I threw at them on a 2-mile run. The question was if I could get them to turnover quickly enough for a sprint. It felt incredibly strange running at that pace; fun but also uncomfortable. On my way out to the turnaround, I saw teammate Kerry Martin absolutely flying on the way back! I knew I had to pick it up to have any chance at beating him. Just after the turnaround I was able to catch and briefly run with another teammate, this time it was Kelsey Noll. It was a nice mental break seeing that Kelsey was destroying the women’s field and making it look easy. I kept pushing and made it to the finish with the 2nd fastest run of the day (11:44 for 2 miles).

I could not have had a more perfect race. The swim was smooth, the bike was fast, and the run was over before it started to hurt. It was encouraging to have this happen after my ultra-marathon that did not go as well… to say the least! It was a great day individually and also for the Inside-Out Sports Elite team as we finished 1-2 overall on both the men’s AND women’s side.

Redefining: Ninja Racing

Merriam Webster, June 2019: Entry: Ninja Racing

noun

plural: ninja racing

Definition of Ninja Racing

: deciding to race at the last minute without properly training or informing your coach

I’ve been competing in triathlon for 4 years now. Almost 3 years to the date, I was hit by a car on a training ride resulting in 3 fractured vertebrae, a fractured tibia, and a partially torn meniscus and ACL. I will never have a physiologically normal body. I will not be able to handle the typical high-volume training that many of my teammates do. I may be facing another surgery in the coming months. I may never be the athlete that I theoretically “could have been.”  

It is okay for me to be sad about this. It would be strange for me NOT to be sad about this. But it is also okay for me to claim and be proud of the athlete that I am. But, for 3 years, I’ve been trying to fit into the mold of what I see as the dedicated, typical triathlete. I feel like an imposter every time I earn a podium spot for a race I decided to do 3 days prior. I don’t kick in the pool, and I haven’t done bike intervals in 8 months, and I don’t train my run.

I’ve done 3 races so far this season and exceeded my own expectations in all of them, including a 70.3. I’ve done them all sneakily, deciding to race and signing up last minute because I love and miss the sport and the community. I was scared to race because I was afraid to finish badly, or, perhaps, not finish at all. What I’ve learned is that sometimes the mental toughness it takes to get yourself to the start line far exceeds that needed to get yourself over the finish line. I would never discourage another person to race because they were worried about being slow, so why was I doing it to myself? I don’t know what is next for my body, but I do know that as long as I can safely make triathlon a part of it – I’m in: full send.

Merriam Webster, July 2019: Entry: Ninja Racing noun

plural: ninja racing

Definition of Ninja Racing : racing to have fun and admitting that the endorphin boost doesn’t suck either