I guess I should write an update. It's been a hot minute. And I honestly don't really know where to start. I just feel a need to write.
Mostly I want to write about how I've been struggling the last few months. While I typically like to remain positive, I need to talk about the bad. Someone is always struggling and I promised myself a long time ago I wouldn’t hide the bad things from people.
I guess things kinda started to go downhill towards the end of may when I hurt my hamstring (again - well on the left leg this time). Since the Tulsa crash, I’ve been dealing with all kinds of fun things with my sacral nerves, low back, and hamstrings. This was the third time I’d managed to tweak one since right before IM Maryland last year. While it isn’t a deal breaker, it’s always annoying because it stops the momentum of training so I can rest and let it heal. Then I got food poisoning while I was in Vegas visiting family over Memorial Day. 10/10 do not recommend. At that point it was no big deal since my fitness base was huge, but then just a few weeks later, boom, COVID.
Notably, I actually raced City of Lakes sprint while I unknowingly had COVID. I had thought it was just a sinus infection, so I raced. I should have known there were some red flags - mostly because I was fatigued beyond normal levels and my heart rate was insanely high. I also had a horrendous headache two days before the race. It wasn’t until a few days later when I wasn’t getting better and got an email from a colleague saying that a meeting I was in the week prior had 5 people test positive. I basically said “dammit,”, went to my group office to get a rapid test (luckily I’d already been masking to avoid getting COVID before Lubbock), and tested positive in my office. While my symptoms remained mild, in that I never got a fever, I did end up feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest for a long while after. And well, we all know the rest of the symptoms at this point. Luckily, Logan never got it (still a bit salty about that 😂) and I basically just slept for what felt like a week. Since this was just a week and a half before Lubbock, I wasn’t even sure I was racing until about 5ish days before the race. I still felt like shit, but I was hopeful I could at least show up and finish and roll out of there with my worlds spot.
We all know how Lubbock went. I am thrilled with how things went all things considered. I’ve never raced a race and physically wanted to take a nap in the middle of it and I never want to run a half marathon with my lungs feeling like I was in a constant asthma attack again, but I’m happy I did it. Since I finished decently, I figure I was ok to continue training and get myself ready for Boulder. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.
This is where the “never compare yourself to others” comes into play. Since I have had plenty of endurance athlete friends get COVID in the last few months (well years I guess), I felt like I should be ok. Instead of listening to my body and all the red flags, I convinced myself that I was just a wimp and that I was fine because others I know returned to racing/training so soon after being sick. It was probably about 3 weeks before Boulder, I knew I was really in trouble. My fitness was faltering, I was gaining weight from what I assume was the stress my body was under, and I was so fatigued all the time. And since I’m so stubborn, I ignored all this, watched my power/paces get slower every week, and became more and more depressed as I watched friends go on with their awesome seasons. It’s hard not to get down on yourself when everyone is seemingly just doing awesome and your body can’t even get out of easy pace zones without your heart rate going into threshold levels.
I felt like all of it was my fault - I just wasn’t pushing through things and I wasn’t working hard enough. So I continued on. The week before Boulder, I had an easy run and I literally had to stop every mile to just catch my breath because I couldn’t keep my heart rate in control. Another warning sign that I shouldn’t have ignored, but did anyway. I had decided, at the very least, at that point that I was taking a week off after Boulder. Obviously, I turned in my chip after the bike at Boulder after getting stung and just generally tanking (still zero regrets about that). After that, I finally let myself rest.
Anyway, while the two weeks of rest were much needed, I hated that I let myself get to that point. I feel like I should be “on” all the time and it is really hard for me to allow people to see when I am vulnerable. I am the same with my bipolar disorder and dealing with my grief over dad’s death. I feel like I need to be “fine” all the time. It was no different dealing with the injuries/illness this summer. I hated that I felt like I was the only one struggling with COVID recovery and everyone else seemed fine. I felt like I had done something wrong. Which is absolutely stupid since biology dictates how it will affect you, but my brain wasn’t being rational anymore.
While I still don’t think I have long COVID symptoms, a friend reached out after Boulder and directed me to a Facebook group for endurance athletes dealing with long COVID symptoms. And it actually was very helpful. After perusing through the posts, I realized I wasn’t alone in all this. After I returned to training two weeks ago, the only symptoms I am dealing with are some high heart rate and brain fog. Luckily the fatigue and chest tightness have gone away. I’m still being cautious because I know my body did go through a lot, but I am confident that it is basically behind me.
This weekend was the first one since May that I feel like I actually could be returning to normal. It wasn’t anything spectacular - it was just consistent and productive. I have some great friends to thank for that. While they all were deep in the thick of Ironman training and with fitness levels much higher than mine at the moment, it was great to tag along for part of their long ride and just hang out with them. It feels like it’s been far too long that I enjoyed training and just letting myself be ok with where my body is at the moment. I made a promise to myself that when I came back into training, I would just enjoy the process.
I’ve learned some hard lessons this summer and that’s fine. Part of this crazy sport is learning from the lows, so that you can get yourself to the highs. I have learned this lesson many times over throughout my swimming and triathlon career, but I still somehow need to be bitchslapped into place once and awhile 😅 I am hopeful going forward that I will make smarter decisions and not let myself be a stubborn idiot. Time will tell - I’m sure I’ll end up doing something stupid again at some point, but hopefully that stupid is consistent Ironman training block leading into Ironman Texas in April lol!