Sunday, October 23, 2011

My first DNF - Rattle Me Bones 5K

Today was my first DNF. I've had quite a few DNS in races, and there were races that I barely completed, but I've always crossed the finish line. Not today. My heart was not into this race, because I'm still healing from a nasty cold and because I was sore from yesterday's 9-run-run spectating.

I wasn't sure if I would even start the race, but when I got up this morning I was feeling fine, so I thought I would go and do my best since I've paid for this. Also, the race being held around a hospital, I felt like I owed it to the people who are currently in the hospital to run for them. I'm sure these people would much rather be doing a run than being on a hospital bed.

I usually have a game plan for races: a time goal, an expectation for a joyful race, that kind of thing. This morning, I was just running to see if I could find something in myself that would motivate me to be a more consistent runner.

The race started off fine. At first, my calves and right ankle were stiff, so the first 3 minutes were a bit painful. The second running interval was much better, but by the third one, I was getting asthma-like secretions in my lungs and I started getting heart palpitations. At first, I ignored them because I often get them for a few seconds and then they go away. Today, they were more persistent and I even got them when I was walking. I knew they were not dangerous. Nonetheless, I asked myself if I was ready to die today and I pondered that question. I'm under a lot of stress at the professional level: my dream job has been cut and I now have to find something that will be good enough until I can find another great job. There are a lot of doubts in my head: will I ever be happy at work again? Will I contribute to improving the state of our cities and environment again? I feel like my work has been like a vocation these past 12 years working in the environment field and I don't want to settle to "just a job".

These are dark times for me, trying to find a brilliant idea to continue doing what I love. The emotions are extreme: I can go from being completely despaired to being hopeful, from feeling sad to angry to helpless.

So, I wondered this morning if I was willing to take the risk of pushing through the discomfort, knowing it could lead to serious problems. Is my life worth that much right now that I will stop and not push it? In the end, I chose to stop - the ever so hopeful little voice in my head hinted that I would find a solution, that everything would be alright and that I should not take those risks. It told me that I would find my balance and that I would emerge stronger from this challenging time like I always do.

At the 2K sign, I stopped and walked back to my car with tears in my eyes. My first DNF. I'm pretty sad about it, but more sad to realize how difficult the current stress is on my heart and my body. Time to roll up my sleeves and focus on self-care.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Learning to walk again at the Army Run

I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I think I found my place
Can't you feel it growing stronger
Little conqueror

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

For the very first time
Don't you pay no mind
Set me free again
You keep alive a moment at a time
The first to find another state of mind
I'm on my knees, I'm waiting for a sign
I'm dancing on my grave
I'm running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I never wanna die
I never wanna leave
I'll never say goodbye
Forever, whatever

- "Walk" by the Foo Fighters

Life was good for me in 2007. This was the year I turned 30 and I achieved many of my athletic and personal goals that year. Then, life happened and a series of bad lucks from 2008 to 2010 found me physically broken, facing a year of many DNS in 2008. Between April 2008 and February 2009, I broke a rib and a toe, I bruised 2 more ribs, my cheekbone and my tailbone, I partially tore my psoas, I badly bruised my tailbone. In 2009, I got bronchitis and later on, a nasty bacterial infection in my stomach while in Mexico. I took two ambulance rides, I suffered through mild PTSD following a bike accident and had digestive issues so intense following my stomach infection that I dropped 25lbs. On top of that, I changed jobs to work at my dream job, which got cut not too long ago. I dealt with deep emotional issues that made life hell for me on a few occasions. Life was testing me!

Life was offering me an opportunity to grow.

I worked hard to heal physically and emotionally. I was able to race in 2010, but every race I did sucked because I had an unwanted companion, which I nicknamed The Mental. The Mental was by my side every time I attempted to push my limits, both in sports and in my personal life. The Mental is my worst critic: it tells me I’m not good enough, sometimes using mean words like “you suck”. I’ve been fighting The Mental for a long time, but it’s always there with me to ruin my fun.

I did not race much in 2011, but at the three races I did, The Mental showed up and tried to take charge. I did not let it – I was stronger than it was at the end of the day but it did make life miserable for me for a part of my races. This year, I increased my swimming endurance, I rode my first 50K and then 60K and I found my running mojo again. I faced what was in my heart and I dealt with the negative and celebrated the positive.

On Friday, someone advised that I find a ritual to do on my birthday to mark the beginning of a new year, full of promises. I decided this would happen while I was running the 5K at the Army Run today. My plan was simple: to plan the race and race the plan. I’m working my way through Learn to Run again and I’m now up to 5-minutes running intervals. I decided that I would race doing 3:1s, which would allow me to push without it being too difficult an effort.

The day was perfect: it was sunny and cool – it didn’t get warmer than 10 degrees during the race. I started off with everyone else, taking in the positive energy at the start line. I ran my first 3-minutes interval and decided to wear my headphones and listen to some music since I knew this was to be a spiritual race and music speaks to my soul in a way nothing else does. I ended up listening to Foo Fighters’ song Walk on repeat the whole race. I just love this song: it felt like it had been written for me to listen to on a very important day like today.

I felt like I was learning to walk and talk again – I’m learning to walk in my own shoes, to live my life for myself. I’m also learning to talk in a way that allows for meaningful connection with the world. I’m full of resolve to work through some difficult emotional issues and the song reminded me of my power to change my ways and take control over my life.

Before getting to the 2K mark, I got a runner’s high. I was thinking how great it was to be running on this beautiful day, to live in a country where we can run freely and for leisure rather than to get away from someone who means us harm. I was getting all chocked up and I came this close to losing it right then when I saw two amputee soldiers walking with their family members. I felt like I owed it to them to live the best life I can live, to contribute everything I have to contribute to this world. I had complete faith in me, for the first time in a long time, if ever.

And I just kept on running, 3 minutes at a time. The Mental tried to get some airtime in my head, but I didn’t fight it and simply replaced it with positive self-talk about how I was doing great and to just keep going. I ignored the annoying Mental and it left me alone. It tried to make me take a walk break before the finish line, but I refused and I ran for almost 4 minutes until I crossed the finish line.

I’m elated… I now know what a little faith in oneself can do. I’ve dropped a lot of emotional baggage on the course today and I feel so much stronger for that. What a great way to start my 35th year on this Earth! Thank you to all my friends for the birthday wishes – I felt loved today, both by the people around me and by myself. This is the best feeling of all, one that I haven’t felt often in my life.

Chip time: 38:46 (not a PB, but by far, my best executed race EVER)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Kelodie vs The Mental at The Canadian

200m swim, 15K bike, 3K run
Time: 1:21:21 - 99/119 participants; 56/72 female participants.

I registered for the try-a-tri at The Canadian. It was the only triathlon I was planning on doing in 2011. It hasn't been a great year of training, and the whole time, I've known that the training I was doing this year was in preparation for next year's racing season. I thought it would still be a good idea to do one race this year, just to keep the motivation high, and decided to do the try-a-tri, but to really race it this time.

I've always thought I would "master" a distance before jumping to the next, and the distances of today's triathlon seemed easy for me: 200m swim, 15K bike and 3K run. Easy peasy, so I thought I would leave everything on the course. My goal was to complete the race in 70 to 75 minutes - 5:30 for the swim, 40min for the bike, 24 minutes for the run and the rest for transitions.

You can tell it's been a while since you raced when you almost forget to pick up your chip. It was kind of funny when I realized I was missing a key piece of "equipment". I had GI issues this morning, maybe because of the stress or because of something I ate. My seasonnal allergies are also very strong right now, so I was not in my best shape to face the 30C+ temperatures that were forecasted.

I got to hang out with my colleague Suzy before the race. It was good to be with people who would keep my mind off the race! I went in the water 20 minutes before the start of my race to cool down and to get used to being in the water. In fact, by the time we started, I was starting to freeze! I did a short warm-up just to get used to the water. I saw Jo-Jo on the edge of the water a few minutes before it was my time to go: I was so happy to have someone who came just for me!

The horn was blown and off we went. I was doing good: I had a good cadence and I was in control. Then, I came upon a massive patch of weeds. They were so tall: about 1cm away from the surface of the water. I thought I would soon be through it and kept calm but after a few strokes, the weeds were even denser and I started panicking. I forced myself to do breaststroke, but at one point, I just couldn't go on. I was having a panic attack. I turned on my back to settle down, like coach Geordie told us to do many times and it worked. I considered DNF'ing but the thought of having to touch the ground and walk in the weeds was even worst than the idea of backstroking through it. So I backstroked... for as long as it took until I didn't feel my arms getting entangled into the weeds with every stroke. It took a long time, probably 100m. Eventually, I felt that the weeds were a bit shorter so I turned on my front but I was never able to return to freestyle. So I breaststroked. I kept moving, like I was taught to do. The Mental really tried to make me quit, but I did not.

It took me 6:36 to swim 200m, 1 minute slower than my best 200m time (both in the pool and open water). I was 112th/119 for the swim, including the run to T1 and T1 itself.

I started the 15K bike ride hyperventilating because of my panic experience during the swim. The first 5K were really hard: there was a big battle being played in my head between The Mental and me. I told it to shut up, but it wouldn't shut up! So I just ignored the negative thoughts and focused on getting my breathing under control. It was hard because I was very nauseated. I had planned on hydrating while on the bike, because it was a scorcher out there and the last thing I wanted was to get dehydrated. After the first 5K were behind me and both my mind and my heart had calmed down, I started looking for competitors to take on. I passed many people on the bike and it felt great each time! I was happily surprised with the tailwind on the way back and I found myself riding along with the iron-people, being able to follow them. It was a great satisfaction for me to know that I could ride fast when I decided to.

My official bike time is 40:12, average speed of 22.4. 83rd out of 119 participants.

I decided to bring my water bottle with me on the run and am I ever glad I did. There were no water stations on the run course for the try-a-triers and the sun was shining almost non-stop. I drank water, but I mostly enjoyed being able to pour water on my neck, back and head to cool me down. My plan was to run as much as I could, trying to slow myself down to run longer. I'm pretty satisfied with what I did: I don't feel like I wimped out during the run. I really gave everything I had in the conditions we were in. I even made a friend on the course! We leap-frogged the whole race and about 200m from the finish line, I told her to go ahead and beat me, to which she responded: "no way, we'll finish together!" which I thought was really sweet coming from someone I just met. As we approached the finish line, I saw Jo-Jo again and told her I was starting to have cold sweats. I was very happy to be almost finished. My friend Suzy and her family were cheering like crazy for me and it was awesome! My new friend and I crossed the finish line holding hands and after we were done, I congratulated her and asked: "by the way, what's your name?" LOL

Run time: 24:41, 111th out of 119 participants.

After the race, I spoke to a few other participants - people were so friendly today! Or maybe I was more open to speaking to others? I'm not sure the reason, but it sure made my experience more fun. I had lunch with my relay team-mates: Jo-Jo and Cynthia and we started making plans for 2012... in the form of an island vacation! Hum... not sure where this vacationning thing will lead us triathlon-wise! ;-)

I feel like I graduated from the Try-a-Tri today. After 4 years, I have finally mastered the distance. Now is the time to work towards the next step: the Sprint Triathlon in 2012.

The Mental: 0 Kelodie: 1

Suck it, Mental! I'm in charge.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Share the Road 60K Ride

Yesterday, I participated in the Share the Road Ride. JF and I decided to do the 60K ride. It was the first time ever I rode beyond 50K. I was excited that I had signed up for something to get to that 60K, because I thought I may not have done it on my own. If I signed up for it, it meant I would do it. And I did!

I was very nervous in the days leading up to the ride. My head knew I was ready for it: I had done a number of 40K-50K rides and most times, I felt like I could have kept going. I had faced a challenge during those rides: my nutrition. Each time, I sort of bonked because I was ravenous and hadn't brought anything with me on my rides that I felt like eating. Going into the ride yesterday, I had brought salted potatoes as well as a coconut raspberry square in case I was craving something sweet. Everytime I rode longer than 35K, I had these huge salt cravings, so I figured my body wanted the salt.

The ride started at 8:30 and I was expecting it would take me 3 hours to get it done. We met with my friend Cynthia who was also doing the ride and off we went. It was a perfect day for cycling: 18C and cloudy. At first, there were light winds but towards the end of the ride, the winds really did pick up and they were challenging (leftovers from hurricane Irene).

JF did not stay with us for long. He is a much speedier cyclist and it was difficult for him to be slow. Plus, Cynthia and I were chatting non-stop and I think he got bored. LOL

The route was very good. It went through beautiful areas and there were almost no cars on the roads. The ones that passed us mostly gave us ample space. I felt safe the whole time!

My nutrition was perfect and I didn't feel like I was dying towards the end of the ride. This is my biggest victory, having figured out what works for me. :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

A few firsts!

Last Saturday, I went to Open Water Swim training with the Triathlon Club. I had not realized that the wind was quite strong and the water would be choppy. This is probably a good thing because I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I got into the water. That was something!! I felt my body being carried around in the waves and it was not super pleasant. I got a little dizzy at first, but I think it may have been because I was super nervous and my whole body was tense. It was a tough one, but I'm glad I experienced swimming in those conditions. I am proud of myself for not leaving the swim and trying my best.

I'm especially proud that I did not leave after I saw my first fish while OW swimming. It wasn't a big one, maybe 10-12 cm long, but it was following me and it was all I could see when my face was in the water. Freaky!!! I kept swimming for a little bit but when I stopped seeing it, I had to stand to catch my breath, all the while worried that the fish would brush against my leg. (it didn't)

Then on Sunday, I decided that it was the right time to attempt my first 50K bike ride. The temperature was cool (22C with a light humidex) but the sun was out the whole time. I did two "Aylmer" loops and it went well! The first loop was eventless, but the second one was full of action. First, I got really hungry at about 35K - stomach cramps hungry. I stopped and drank some Vega sports drink, which helped for a little while.

Then, I saw a fugitive dog. He was sniffing everywhere and looked lost. I stopped to try to help him, but he wouldn't let me near and I was afraid he would run further away, reducing his chances of finding his home. I reluctantly left, making a note of the location where I had spotted him.

Finally, at around 41K, my bike started making a strange noise and it was slowing down. I thought I had a flat tire and I was pretty p!ssed off, but when I stopped to take a look, I noticed that my water bottle was "touching" my rear wheel. I tried to re-adjust the water bottle holder so that the bottles would not touch the wheel and left again. It did it again a dozen meters later. So I stopped again and loosened up the bottle holder. This did not do the trick and I had to stop again another dozen meters further. This time, I noticed that my seat seemed lower than usual, so I stopped and raised it, only to realize it was not high enough 10 meters later. I was eventually able to fix my seat AND the water bottle holder, but I lost a lot of time and by that time, the sun was up in all its intensity and there was no shade to protect me from the rays.

The Mental was mostly silent during that ride, which was really appreciated. I think it makes all the difference when I just ride and not worry about being able to finish or not. All in all, it was a beautiful ride. I had 2 hours and 38 minutes to think of stuff and clear my head. This was by far the longest bike ride I've ever done (I had "only" done 40.xK before) and also the longest period of time of exercise (I had never gone for more than 2 hours). I learned a valuable lesson in that I need to plan my nutrition when I'm out for so long. I'm knowledgeable of how to keep hydrated, but now I need to test a few nutritional options for longer training sessions.

I hope to get my first 60K in sometime this Summer. When I attempt it, I'll bring some broiled potatoes with me. This is what I was craving on Sunday and I heard this was a good thing to carry on the bike.

... oh, and the fatigue after that effort was INSANE! It took me 3 days to recover from both the physical soreness and the fatigue.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Time for an Update!

It's been so long since I wrote... I guess I didn't have anything interesting to write about... or maybe it's because I was away from home so much in the past 2 months! I spent 5 days in Montreal in April, then 5 days in New York City in May, 8 days in the Maritimes in early June and 11 days in California in the second half of June. Maybe I should write trip reports!

I am happy to report that I have been very active in those past few months. I got active again at the end of April when I resumed bike commuting. Then we walked and biked a lot while in New York City, which created a momentum for us to keep active upon our return. I started running again sometime in May - week 2 of Learn to Run: 8 times 1:1s, how humbling. I was so happy that running was going well, it felt just hard enough and I fell in love again. :)

June came along and I didn't swim, run or bike as much as I would have liked, but I am proud to report that I was as active as I could be. When I was home, I was working out a lot and I did my best to keep active while away, either by running or by walking lots.

I went for my first open water swim training last Saturday with the Tri Club. I was terrified of that training, not knowing what to expect and having had a few months to build up all sorts of open water swimming fears. It was a relief to get to the workout and get 'er done. I panicked many times, but I faced the fears and kept moving forward or took a break when needed.

This experience confirmed that I'm not ready for a 500m open water swim. First, I lack the endurance to swim 500m continuously, having only done it 2-3 times in the pool. Second, the risk of a full-out panic attack is too great and I'm afraid it would keep me out of the water forever if it happened. Third, I like the idea of really racing a Super Sprint Tri for once, as opposed to just finishing it. I think that's what I'll do, but I'll wait until the second open water swim training to make my decision. :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Swim Meet - March 2011

The Ottawa Triathlon Club held a swim meet two weeks ago. I signed up for it and then I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. I was scared of sucking so much in front of all those people that I don't really know. I spent the day coming up with excuses not to go and then telling myself to shut up, that I would get a baseline of what I am capable of, that I would get to swim under pressure like I will in a race, etc.

I had signed up for the 50m, 100m, 200m and relay "fun race". We started with a fun relay, where we had to swim 25m carrying an object - the first person carried one thing, the second one carried two, etc. I was the third one. I'm glad we did this first as it broke the ice in a fun way.

We then did the 50m. I pushed as hard as I could and came in at 1:01.8. Because I had never done a timed 50m, I had no idea what I was capable for. I'm glad I now have a baseline. I went way too hard on the 100m and by the time I reached 75m, I was done and had to slow down. I barely made it to 100m without puking. I definitely think I could not have done better on that day: 2.25.8

Before the 200m, I was asking some people who swim in my lane or near (the slower folks) if they had signed up for the 200m and none of them had. They said I was courageous to have signed up and it worried me. I thought: "well, it's just 200m - we can all swim that, so why would I be courageous to have signed up?". I understood when we got started. Everyone was so fast and I was soon left behind. I had to swim 8 laps and after 3, The Mental started telling me how I should not have signed up for that distance, how bad I looked in front of all those people, how I should just stop when I reach the wall, etc. It almost convinced me I could not do it, who did I think I was signing up for a 200m competition? My only answer to those thoughts was "just keep going, one stroke at a time". The Mental was very loud though and it didn't care for my positive and reassuring thoughts. It was the most awful battle I have ever had with The Mental. If I hadn't been in the water, I would have started crying. And then something happened with 3 laps to go.. All the others were done and I hit rock bottom thinking of how much I sucked. Suddenly, everyone started to cheer me on as if I was about to win an Olympic medal or something. At first, I was ashamed that it meant they were all looking at me and thinking how much I sucked, but then I told The Mental to shut the fuck up and take this for what it was: encouragement from people who have been there too. They too have been slower - most were not born a fast swimmer. Their cheers meant that they supported me in my efforts and admired me for signing up for this distance and continuing on even when everyone else was done. The Mental tried to tell me I sucked, but I did not listen to it for the last few laps of my 200m swim. I finished in 5:30.8.

I had a great time at the swim meet and I believe I broke some mental barriers I had about swimming in a competitive environment. There will be another swim meet in the fall and I'm pretty sure I'll sign up for the 200m again, just to see how far I have come.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lessons Learned from 2010

It has taken me a while to sit down and write this post, but I have been thinking about it for about a month. 2010 has been a difficult year for me, but I have learned a lot about myself during this challenging year.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of my stomach infection & hospitalization in Mexico, I realize how much impact this infection has had on my physical and mental health in 2010. I haven't had many days when I felt fine, other than the blissful days when I was off work in April and could take all the time in the world to sleep and eat well, to exercise and meditate. 2010 has been a year of anxiety surrounding my health. I burned out, I ate little, I spent many hours awake in the night worrying about my physical and mental health and the future in general. Honestly, I'm not sure how I managed to remain somewhat functionnal when I was experiencing such a high level of anxiety.

In 2010, I have learned that I can live with anxiety, even when it seems like it is taking control of me. I have learned that I don't need food to comfort me - in fact, eating my emotions made everything worse. I have learned that I need to respect my body, or it will turn its back on me. I have learned that if I get sick, it means that I haven't been living according to my values and limitations. I have found my limits. I am working on accepting them.

Towards the end of the year, I have realized how to be kinder to myself, really. I understood that I'm the only one responsible for my well-being and that I can take care of myself without putting additional pressure on myself. I am now aware of the problems in my professional life, and I have an idea on how to bring more satisfaction to my daily life. It may never be a carreer in itself, but it would make my life more interesting to pursue this idea.

I know that I am strong enough to manage if I take days one at a time. I will be fine.

Now, I wouldn't mind having less learning opportunities in 2011!