Friday, February 12, 2016

My road back to mental and physical fitness

2014 was an incredible year for me from the perspective of triathlon.  I completed three ironman’s, the last one with a PR.  I was excited about 2015 and signed up for three more races.  In retrospect, I might not have taken off much time before jumping back into training, and was actually “punished” by my own body when I tripped and fell warming up for a half marathon in January of 2015 and popped a rib out of place.  Most painful experience ever, by the way!  I never fully got untracked, decided not to do the first IM I’d signed up for, did manage to race at Ironman Boulder, where I felt like the light switch was flickering on and off all day.  In fact, while I was proud of giving the run everything I had, I’m pretty sure that in doing so, I completely fried my adrenal glands.  As luck would have it, my third IM was cancelled due to weather, as I arrived at the airport in Baltimore!  The fact that I was relieved should have told me all that I needed to know.

Ultimately, I took September and October off almost completely.  A solid two months without any training whatsoever.  I wasn’t feeling well, mentally and physically, and since I’m a doctor, was convinced that I was developing some terminal disease.  My return to fitness began in November when I spoke to my coach, Tim Waggoner (aka Lucho), and decided to forgo any specific training plan.  I would come back totally based on feel.  He would not give me any workouts, but we would talk once a week.  I did what I felt like, when I felt like it.  At first it wasn’t a lot, and it wasn’t hard.  I used no electronics.  As the weeks passed, I started to get some of my motivation back.  

Just six weeks back into my training, I actually went out and did a 25K trail race, although I really focused on pacing myself.  One thing was clear, twenty years of regular exercise, including 8 Ironman’s over the past 6 six years, matters.  Also, my body tends to tell me what I need to do.  Over the next couple of months I intermittently struggled with hip, glute and low back issues, but they were ultimately fleeting.  I have kept doing what I feel like, when I feel like it.  

In the past month, I’ve started added intensity, and have actually been having a lot of fun.  Regular computrainer workouts with 10 x 1 minute at a solid wattage really gets the blood flowing.  I even got in a 4 hour ride on my computrainer, which is encouraging from the perspective that I know that when the time comes to increase my bike volume, I’ll have no issues.  

My weakness in ironman races has always been my run.  I’m relatively consistent, but have felt that I am capable of running faster.  After discussing this with my coach the other day, I have set a goal of doing as many 20 mile runs as possible over the next 5 months.  My next IM is in early August.  Today, I went out and ran 16 miles at a comfortable pace of 9 minutes/mile.  We’ll see how my legs feel tomorrow.  If they feel good, I’m on the right track.  

The mental side has also been coming back.  When you aren’t feeling good physically, your mental attitude suffers.  In December I went on a prolonged Facebook sabbatical.  I don’t miss it, although I may tiptoe back in gently to keep up with friends I have made over the last several years.  It just can’t be something that is a priority in my life. I have a new grandson who takes precedence over everything else.  I have a new job that I love, I still like training and I still like ironman training in particular.  I love to see what my body can accomplish through regularly increasing effort.  It’s remarkable to me that just a few months after a two month layoff that I can go out and run 16 miles comfortably.  Rest and recover do matter.

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