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.