Reset, Recharge, Replan: Looking Ahead to 2015

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Injuries and Owies, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

I’m kind of putting the cart before the horse with this post but my review of the Incredoubleman Triathlon Weekend is still on hold pending pictures, so I’m plowing forward onto other things that are currently pressing on my mind.

Namely, me.

Of course.

So to begin with, please accept this disclaimer that this is going to be a very different kind of post.  Think of it as my having a real honest moment with myself.  In reality, this might just be the most important blog post I’ve made to date.

When I started this blog in what seems like eons ago, I really had no idea how it would develop (if at all) and I am proud of the journey that I’ve made and documented in these online pages since that time. I was a very different person then and nearly a decade after I made that initial commitment to change my life for the better; I’ve accomplished some really incredible things. Things I never would have deemed possible back then; superhuman almost. Of course, I know now that that these things weren’t really superhuman – nor am I for that matter – and ordinary people do incredible things all the time but, back then, they would have most definitely seemed superhuman considering the shape I was in.

Since then, the most common question I get asked is ‘why do you do it?’  Why triathlon?  Why did I take up a sport so physically and mentally demanding?  What I usually tell these people is “because I’m bat shit crazy”, and while that might be partially true it doesn’t really paint the whole picture and I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this particular question lately.  And the answers I come up with aren’t always positive.

Sure there’s the whole ‘challenge’ and all that, but there’s a darker side too.  Something I’m only now coming to fully realize. Maybe why the reason this is all coming to light only now is that I’m on the cusp of surviving, maybe, the most difficult year of my short and unimpressive life.  In fact, although I haven’t been doing the same volume of training in the year (2012) leading up to Ironman Wales (and for a reminder on how that turned out afterwards – click HERE), this year has been vastly more difficult physically, mentally and definitely more emotionally. To that point, I have recently lost both my parents this year in a span of five short months (HERE  and HERE) leaving me feeling rather like I’ve been orphaned and through it all…I swam, biked and ran – a lot.  Usually without any real plan or focus but more for the opportunity to just get out and deal with it.  This year was supposed to be my big return to being ‘competitively strong’, the whole ‘We Can Rebuild Him’ strategy, and in that regard I feel like I’ve failed miserably; albeit for reasons that were mostly beyond my own control.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that I’ve done some incredibly awesome things this year that pushed my personal boundaries of endurance and conditioning even further.  As part of this ‘tough guy’ training commitment I completed a 10k Swim for Strong Kids, set a new personal best for the 30k distance at Around the Bay and I recently completed back-to-back triathlons at the Incredoubleman Triathlon (update:  click HERE). But there was one important thing missing: DISCIPLINE.  The discipline of a well-crafted training plan and as a result, it’s left me feeling rather fragile…physically, mentally and emotionally.  But having said that, I’ve also learned something very important about myself in that I am a bit of a masochist when it comes to dealing with my emotions and personal well-being.

Before I went down this whole healthy living-triathlon path, I dealt with pain and sadness another way: I ATE.  I ate a lot and it was a completely self-destructive way of dealing with things.  But now that I’ve hopped on the ‘healthy living’ bandwagon, things really haven’t changed, I just have a different way of dealing with stress: TRAINING.  I believed it was a healthier way to deal with my emotions when things got rough; or one might have thought anyway.  But maybe that’s entirely debatable.

Instead of taking the time out I may have needed to cope and heal, I did what I’ve always done…I put my head down and ran directly into the storm.  Great in triathlon maybe, but not so great in life.  I did it when my Nana passed away. Within minutes of stepping out of the funeral home I put on my running shoes, pointed myself directly towards the darkest most menacing cloud on the horizon and ran directly into it. I thought it would be in some way cathartic and maybe I mistakenly thought that it was, but four years later I’m beginning to doubt that.  When my mother passed away this past January, I did the same thing: I ran…and I swam.  A lot.  I later used the experience to fuel my Around the Bay PB and later my 10k swim in the pool.  Was I following a plan?  No.  I was just out to punish myself through suffering.

Hell, I remember when “suffering” meant going 24 hours without a donut!  What happened to me?

When my dad passed away this past June, I focused into preparing for the Incredoubleman weekend.  And although I survived it and the results were favorable (they’re coming – be patient), I know I wasn’t performing anywhere near my potential.  Again, did I follow a plan to prepare for it?  No. I just went out and suffered as I always did.  The tipping point should have been when I completely tanked my 10k run at the Peachbud in July.  I felt like ass and spent most of the time being lapped.  But did I pay attention?  Shit no.  I put my head down and pushed myself into training even harder.

I had literally convinced myself that what I was doing was for the purpose of honoring my parents by doing something that would have made them both proud (and I believe they were).  But it came at a significant cost: cortisol.

Bucket loads of cortisol.

What is cortisol you ask?  Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone created by the body, more specifically a glucocorticoid, produced by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex.  What does that mean exactly?  It’s not really important.  All you need to know is that it is released by the body in response to stress (both mental and physical) and a low level of blood glucose (poor diet). Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through a process known as ‘gluconeogenesis’, suppress the immune system, and aid the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate.  In fact, elevated cortisol levels lead to a perpetual catabolic state where muscle is broken down and fat is stored.  That would definitely explain my growing waistline despite all the effort I’ve been making to get rid of it.  Moreover, cortisol is released in response to stress (something I know a little about), sparing available glucose for the brain, generating new energy from stored reserves, and diverting energy from lower-priority activities (such as the immune system) in order to survive immediate threats or prepare for exertion…see the problem here?  The real issue is that prolonged cortisol secretion (which may be due to chronic stress – nod nod wink wink) results in significant physiological changes; i.e. my body’s inability to cope with the amount of physical stress I am regularly placing on it in the absence of a well-structured training plan for the sole purpose of suffering.

So here I am three weeks after my last competition and my left Achilles is tender, my legs are all but refusing to wake up and the muscles on the sole of my right foot continue to ache and I just generally feel like ass.

All. The. Time.

Furthermore, I feel like I could break out into a flood tears at any moment.  Will I?  Probably not (okay, maybe).  Likewise, I’ve become more distant from the people who continue to love and support me; namely my family (which is totally unacceptable).  And what are my instincts tell me to do?  Well, despite being in what is supposed to be my ‘recovery period’ I have this need to immediately launch myself back into the one thing that’s been the common denominator through it all: suffering.  Go run…go swim…go…do…something.  Suffer!

Not smart.

>>insert bang head emoticon here<<

Except this time, after a serious ‘tete-a-tete’ yesterday afternoon with my councilor-slash-athletic therapist Dr. Kristin Burr at Legacy Health & Performance (LOVE THOSE GUYS!), I’m going to try and do things entirely differently.  I’m going to better listen to my body the way I know I should have been all along and make the right decisions going forward, hence, this complete ‘Come to Jesus’ moment in that I’m not continuing down the same path I always have.

So what should be the plan going forward?  I still want to compete and get back to being ‘competitively hard’ this year but I know now that something has to change in my approach to enable that all to happen successfully.  Specifically, I need a better plan; time to reassess my goals for 2015, restrategize and put me back on track to effectively accomplishing them.

  1. Play – That’s right.  Play.  Have fun for a change.  Maybe ride my bike with HRH, go exploring on Snowflake, go for short walks with Kelly now that the autumn colors are here, take in a yoga class, maybe do some light weights when the mood takes me; you know, just take it easy.  No ‘suffering’.
  1. Instructing.  In regard to ‘Play’, I have just successfully received my spin instructor’s certification through the YMCA (yay me!) and I am starting teaching now on Monday nights at 6:30pm and I love it.  The truth is – and I hope I’m not giving too much away here – but I don’t really get a ‘workout’ during these classes so much as I’m leading others through theirs; so I’m only suffering vicariously through them.  Perfect, right?  It’s my goal then to work with these regular participants over the winter months to build their own bike strength and endurance and achieve their own goals; all set to a groovy soundtrack (click HERE  for my playlists).
  1. Diet. In recent months, my lack of wanting to do anything else besides suffer has meant that my “healthy diet” has largely subsisted of meatball subs from Subway; quick and easy.  No more.  Kelly and I have made a pact to get back on the healthy eating bandwagon and make a serious bid to lose some healthy weight and that largely means going back to being gluten free.  I’m not setting any specific weight goals, just on maintaining a healthy intake of the rights foods while minimizing the amount of snacks.

That’s it.  That’s my whole philosophy:  “keep it simple stupid”.

That’s the plan anyway, to keep things simple and fun to allow my body the time it needs to reset, recharge and flush that cortisol 100% out of my system prior to getting back on the path to becoming awesome.

What else is there to say?

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