Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

The Dirty Double: My First Finish Line in 14 Months

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“Oh, s***, Dede.  Sorry.  I didn’t even recognize you.”

Words heard moments before the start of Eagleman 70.3 just over a week ago.

“That’s OK,” I said, “I’ve been flying a bit below the radar for a while now.”

I assume most people figured I’d retired.  Why wouldn’t they?  It’d been more than 14 months since I’d toed the line for a triathlon.  There were times I wondered myself if my useful life in the sport might be over.

14 months.  4 different injuries.  A whole mountain of frustration, and at times, coupled with doubt. 

By now, I could have bought my own MRI machine for the basement.

Finally, in January, after the 4th injury set in, I started to dig deeper and discover some answers.  My amazing doctor suggested some extensive (and expensive (!!)) tests.  When the results came in, she said, “In layman’s terms, your body is eating itself to stay alive.”  I was catabolic.

Food had never really been “my thing”, you see.  This was of particular hardship to my DaveyG who is one of the world greatest “foodies”.  There’s nothing he wouldn’t cook for me.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t that much I was keen to eat.  I had always been one who ate to live.  Not lived to eat.  It’s not that I didn’t eat, but I was never mindful about what or when I was eating.  I’d eat breakfast, and get busy into my day.  Suddenly, I’d be 4PM and I’d realize I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  I under-fueled training sessions.  I seemed to “get away with” not eating much variety or quantity, only as my doctor pointed out in January when the results came in, “you aren’t really getting away with it” anymore.

Enter Katie Rhodes from Own Nutrition.  I had heard about Katie from fellow pro (retired) and good pal Hillary Biscay.  Some of Hillary’s “kids” (coached athletes) had worked with Katie before.  I decided to give it a try and I tried to change my outlook. 

My attitude had always been, “I don’t want to eat that.  It doesn’t taste good to me.  I don’t like that”.  I changed my attitude to, “It doesn’t have to taste good to you, but it’s your job to eat it”.  Much like I don’t especially like track workouts, or VO2max bike sessions, I do them because I know I have to in order to be successful at my job.  I don’t especially like eating half the stuff Katie tells me to eat, but I do it because it’s part of my job and I have to do it in order to be successful.

Katie outlines my weekly menu based on my training program, so just like I know I have a 10:30 AM swim on Monday, I know I have to eat ABC at 9:15 on Monday, followed by XYZ at 12:20.  I follow my menu like I follow my Training Peaks; to a “T”.

So far?  So good.  That, coupled with more PT than I can shake a stick at, my body is starting to cooperate with me again.

I started working with F2C Nutrition and they helped me coordinate my training nutrition, including Pharma Greens for pH balance, Rehab 3:1 for recovery and glycogen replacement, Amino Durance with BCAA, and my new racing fuel, Glyco Durance (green apple is the bomb).  With such a wide variety, I have no choice but to pre-fuel, fuel, and recover properly!

Enter problem #2; paranoia.  You see, every time I’d rehabbed an injury in the last 14 months, gotten back to running, gotten some fitness back enough to consider a race, Julie and I would decide on a race, and I’d set about making travel plans.  I’d buy a plane ticket and like clock-work, within 3-5 days, I’d be injured again.  So when we picked Eagleman/Costa Rica back-to-back races, I admittedly dragged my feet in booking travel.  For a while, I thought I might well drive to Eagleman to be safe….just in case the “airfare curse” was real and not just a figment of my imagination.  But getting to Costa Rica would present more of a challenge via car.

So I set up the travel arrangements on my computer, loaded in my credit card info, and then left the house to walk Piper.  I left Dave to hit “enter”.  One can never be too safe and I absolutely intend to keep this up for the remainder of my career….just in case.

So I set off for Maryland, still not 100% convinced I’d make it to the start line.  I bumped into another pro in the porto-potty line (where all the cool kids meet pre-race) in the morning and she welcomed me back to racing.  I looked at my watch and said, “Still 45 minutes to go.  Anything can happen.  I’ll believe it when the gun goes off.”

Well, I made it to the start and the gun indeed went off.  We quickly formed a pace line in the water, and I was relieved to not be at the front of it.  I sat comfortably on super-swimmer Sheila Treleaven’s feet with Leanda and Lindsey somewhere behind me on mine.

Coach’s orders were to ride without fear.  She’d given me a power target that lead me to believe that either 1) all the biking I’d done during my injuries had truly helped me to up my cycling game, or 2) I’d be in a suicide-by-bike mission that would leave me with a small mushroom cloud above my head somewhere early on the run.

CRBike

 

In the end, both were true, I think.  I biked one of the best bike splits, power wise, that I ever have and no, I didn’t quite have the run legs to back it up.  We knew I’d be a bit of a one trick pony, however.  I had not run consistently in over a year and let’s be honest, the run was never really my strength anyway. “Swim, Bike, Defend,” as my friend EK said. 

I did all I could do out there and walked away with a strong swim, a good bike and the best run I could have hoped for.  And I made it to the finish line healthy and happy.  It may have been a 3rd place finish, but it still pretty much felt like a “win” to me.

EM finish

 

I didn’t have long to enjoy the satisfaction of my podium finish in my first return to racing in over 14 months.  I still had work to do; “the dirty double”.

When Julie suggested the dirty-double (back to back 70.3 races) as my return to racing strategy, I must admit; I thought she was straight up nuts.  But I also knew that somewhere behind that cheeky grin she gave me when she suggested it, there was some pretty smart logic to it on her part.  For starters, we both thought I’d be pretty rusty for Eagleman, so maybe racing Eagleman would blow out some of the cobwebs and enable me to actually perform a bit better in Costa Rica.  Plus, racing a double like that tends to give you a pretty good fitness boost, so no matter how things shook out in the end, I’d be better for it once I got thru it.

In the end, I wasn’t as rusty as I thought having not raced for so long.  If nothing else, I think my Eagleman performance was a touch stronger than Costa Rica.  If my run was shaky at Eagleman, it was an outright death march in Costa Rica.  But again, I hung tough and landed on the podium for the 2nd time in a week, again, in one piece, happy and healthy, though it may have taken a second for a smile to return to my face after that one. 

CRfinish

Now back in Boulder with a few days to recover from racing and traveling; we’re keeping moving this week, but nothing terribly hard.  No real race plans up ahead just yet.  Will debrief with Julie in a day or so to strategize about what’s next….or, simply put…do whatever she tells me.

I can’t express my gratitude to Julie over these past months.  Dealing with injury after injury has been no picnic, but without really saying it, she wouldn’t let me waiver.  I did my best to hang in there, stay focused and keep believing, even when there was no earthly reason to do so.  And even when things were bleak, she took them in stride and quickly helped me formulate a plan for moving forward.  Training always had purpose.  We were always achieving something in the hope that I could put the pieces together.  So as I’ve said before “Dibs for President”, I say.

And of course, my #1 DaveyG who never once questioned my intentions.  Never once said, “Are you sure you want to keep doing this?”  He just kept on believing that we were doing all the right things and that the sh*t storm would pass eventually.  Who knows….maybe it’s only the eye of the storm and there’s more coming, but we’re enjoying what, on the outside, was a small success in two smaller races, but to us, feels pretty darn satisfying.

Thanks to my sponsors for your continued support: Big Sexy Racing,  Ice Chains, Ruby’s Lube, OwnWay Apparel, Norma Tec, Reynolds, F2C Nutrition, Zone3, Rotor, Polar, HiBall, Beet Performer, Bonk Breaker, Lake Cyling, Kask, Ryders Eyewear and to Hoka, and Mark Andrews at Trek.

And of course the team of who I refer to as “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men” who help keep Humpty Dumpty together; Amy, Lori K, Kris, Christine, Dr. Hansen, Cary Gold, Kristin Carpenter, IOG for dialing me into my new Trek to the tune of 2 x FOTB, the great and powerful LvL and to Bob Cranny.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so I am enjoying today and happy to be back racing.  I’m eating it up; both literally and figuratively!

Photo credits: FinisherPix, FinisherPix, Lindsey Jerdonek.

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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