Any Given Sunday is a classic movie where Al Pachino delivers a great inspirational speech about fighting for victory and moving on in life and about living about not giving up and that every inch of forward progress matters.
I don't know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch play by play till we're finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time.......On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.......I'll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.
This past Sunday I participated in the Oktoberfest Tri. It was a 2 week build up to a race like no other I had participated in and not in the good sense. To say I have been busy would be an understatement. It is budget season at work and our first round was due. Having a new staff under me put a larger than normal amount of work on my plate to get it done and turn it into our corporate office by the deadline. During this time, I missed 4 days of training. 4 days of biking that I will never get back again. As I look towards IM Fortaleza, I know my greatest chance for improving my time from IM Boulder will be on the bike. Missing those 4 days in two weeks less than 50 days out is certainly not going to help me. I also met up with some friends from my past.
I had a visit from Belial ~ The Demon of Guilt. He first made an appearance in Demons~Page 2. He reminded me that I am letting myself down by not training. That I can rationalize, be busy with work , look out at the cold and snow all I want and I can complain that I am too tired, too hungry, it's too dark, too anything to train and I can skip it. I can crawl up in a ball and go under the covers and hide. Hide from my responsibilities of getting my ass ready and in shape for Fortaleza. As I miss each training opportunity to make myself better, I hear him in my mind on how I am letting myself, my family & friends, my coach down. Doesn't matter that you've completed 2 IM's in 8 months. Right now you are not training as you are supposed to and you are letting everyone down. I hear his cackle ringing in my ears as he mocks me, "Two weeks is like a lifetime, you'll never get those training days back, you are failing". It has been great having Belial hang around the last few weeks. A week after he arrived a second visitor came knocking on my door......
It was Cortisol ~ The Demon of Stress. He hadn't been around since What am I doing? Cortisol paired up with Belial as the guilt of missing training fueled stress. The thought of missing training made me think and believe I am out of shape and getting pudgy. That I might need a B Cup for my Bro, to notch another hole in my belt and to let out my pants. After all I did miss 4 training sessions in two weeks and 9 since Boulder IM 8 weeks ago. How am I ever gonna manage to cross the finish line? (Yes, sarcasm) The Stress Demon has been present quite regularly never wanting to really leave me alone. My eating, training, sleeping, recovery, stretching habits have all gone arry. Headaches have been pretty regular where typically in my life they are non existent. Yesterday, I even forced myself to take 2 aspirins, which rarely ever occurs. To end the week my Exec. Admin Asst approached me and said she was worried that I may burn out. Me burn out?!?!?! I never thought such a thing was possible till I heard her words ringing in my ears.
Lately, dare I say, in my head, I feel like I am moving around like a rickety "old Man". My neck hasn't stopped hurting for months. (At least it stopped cracking.) My hip has felt out of whack, My leg muscles feel tight, my lower back aches just trying to straighten up. Heading into Steamboat Sprint Tri 5 weeks ago I felt fast and spry. My spirit was light and I was jovial. A huge contrast to waking up this past Sunday morning to head to the Union Reservoir and the Oktoberfest Tri. The pieces just didn't fit into place on Sunday like most race mornings for me. I was in a decent mood but not carefree like most race days. There was the gloom or heavy feeling hanging in the air that nothing can/will go right. I had forgotten to get my race packet earlier in the week. I had to now get it race morning, where there will be a late fee charge. I saw Kenny and Sasha as we entered the expo area as well as the loooong lines. I asked them if they would be kind enough to take my bike into the transition area as I was fearful I would get a horrible spot since I first had to wait on the packet pick up line. I was psyched they did and I got on line. Well, after about 10 minutes of the slow moving line I looked up to realize I was actually on the porta potty line and not the packet pick up line. Yep, this is how my day is going to be I thought. Off this line and onto another. I get my race number and head into the TA. After a few rounds of walking up and down rows of bikes I finally spot where they racked Bella. I set up my transition area and head off to wait on another line to get body marked and then I go on another line to get my racing chip. Finally done with the last line of the day well am I? Nope, I can't get my racing chip because my bib was by my bike and I needed it on me. So off the line and get my bib and back on the line. And so the morning goes. And I think to myself....
Nok, Nok. Who is there?? It's me......
...Nok "The Drowning Demon"Demons~Page 1 I, at times, have been scared shitless of Nok during this process of learning how to swim. I have started each race with him in mind over the last year and I prepared myself how to deal with him and not allow him to get me. Then there was the Boulder Sprint, I tried to start in the middle of the pack with Ken and bailed out after about 50 meters of getting hammered, kicked, punched and frustrated. I haven't tried that again since. Today I did make my way towards the front of the swim group. I usually like to go to the side away from everyone but today I couldn't. I was trapped and we didn't even start the race yet. I looked left and right and there was no where to go. I didn't want to start at the back of the pack. This is a sprint. I truly felt stuck, in more ways then just this one. The horn sounded, I started my garmin and I was off. I was sandwiched. Caught between the mass of people on my right and a rather large guy on my left. Keep swimming, keep kicking, keep moving. I heard Coach EK in my head about the story of people that stop when they panic and people crash and swim right over them. A few races ago that would have been me, but not on this Sunday. I was not in my comfort zone. I felt my heart rate go through the roof. I was not in my zen zone. I had no pattern to my breathing, to my stroke, my kick. I was just trying to find some space to move. Before I realized it I was past the 1st buoy and rounding the second. How could that be possible?? I keep feeling people touching my feet. Not like Susan at Rally Sport touching my feet in the pool but an I am gonna swim over your ass and drown you if you don't get outta my way touching my feet. Keep moving, don't stop. I hear you EK, I'm not stopping!!
Finally, my breath slowed down and my stroke had some sort of rhythm to it and I tried, really tried to swim straight. Long strokes, extend, follow through, don't lift your head on the breath, elbow high, dolphin kick and so a billion things I have heard Jonathon and Eric say to me in the pool kept playing over like a broken but comforting record. Before I knew it, I was preparing myself mentally and physically for the "what's next" Getting out of the water, I had no clue if I had a good or bad swim. It felt ok time wise but like crap mentally. "Don't go too fast out of the gate on your bike." You have a tendency to do that on your bike and run" Coach EK says to me a few minutes before the start. We set my power goal earlier in the week and I was riding about 7 watts less then that to start. Trying to heed his words and not go to hard at the start. I then realize I screwed my Garmin watch up and had paused it rather then putting myself through transition and start the bike leg. I promise, One day I will get this watch 100% perfect in a race but not on this Sunday. I mess with it a bit and get it set straight. Then realize I haven't had any fuel. Going up hill, not the time to do that right now as I peddle and watch the scores of people passing me. I try to stay true to my watts and just ride my race. I hit a flat and so starts my calculated nutrition as I don't want to intake anything on the run and feel I may need to catch up a little as I hadn't ingested anything to this point. My mind wanders to the deadening feeling I have in my leg and I shift around to loosen up and I keep my eye on my power. I realize I am starting to catch and pass a few folks that took off like a rocket and flew by me. Though I am still getting passed far more than I am I am reciprocating. Then Belial comes to mind and my missed bike rides over the weeks. Cortisol pops by to remind me I am out of shape and should be disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen.
And I think Lord on this Sunday please oh please don't let me be last in my age group.
I enter the transition area off the bike 2 watts higher than I had planned and feel pretty good even though it felt like everyone was faster than me. I can't find my bike rack. I walked the space but it was not the normal racks that I was used to and could not find where I needed to put Bella and grab my running stuff. I am going back and forth on the aisle and I hear spectators chuckling at me. Yeah, keep laughing at me jerky. I am annoyed because any decent work I may have done on the bike I feel is now completely lost. I finally find the rack and realize that I did not see it because someone else bike was in my spot and somebody else threw their wet suit over my running shoes. So it looked a little different then what I was anticipating and how I left it. (Thanks Kenny) I am off on the run. I know exactly where I want to be on the run and I hear "Don't go too fast out of the gate on your bike." You have a tendency to do that on your bike and run" I think about Kansas 70.3 and how I felt great the first few miles, faster than I should have been and my knees fell apart on a downhill. I settle in but dang, my lower back is as stiff as can be and I watch my time drop from being too fast to being below my desired race pace. A few minutes later my neck and lats and shoulder start to feel tight. My right side has taken a vacation and not allowing me to perform as planned. Now I am in try to fix it mode and figure out why I hurt and feel soo stiff. Charles while running by mentions that I have no arm swing and look stiff. Yep, I do and it feels that way. Ok first section is up hill perhaps I can make some of the time up on the downhill return trip. I hit the half way point and I try to pick up the pace. I am losing real estate and if there is a time to pick it up it needs to be now. At this point I am 30 seconds slower per mile than I expected to be and with every person that passes me I look at their calf to see their age group and wonder how much further am I falling behind. I round the final turn and have made up significant time. In the 5K I bettered each split by about 20 seconds. On the final straight away, I even gave thought to not doing my finishing move, but I couldn't allow a bad race to interfere with tradition, even though I was sour on the race so.....Wings Up....I'm taking flight and Flying to the Finish. I cross the finish, I hear Dana call my name and see Bill moments later and we pause for a 303 Tri picture.
My back is sore, my shoulder is tight, my hip hurts a bit and I ran pretty slowly. Not feeling that great at this moment but I am surrounded by some great people. Coach EK takes 1st in his age group. Kenny takes 1st in his age group. Elizabeth takes 1st in her age group. Dana & Bill take 2nd in the mixed relay. These folks are not great because they did so well today. They just all happen to be quality people that performed well on this Sunday and I am proud of them all. I finally make my way to the race results to see where I landed in the pile and there in front of my eyes I notice that I had just raced my fastest sprint tri race of my short career. I literally felt like shit and raced 3 minutes faster than I did in Steamboat when I was on the podium in 2nd place. It just goes to show you that On Any Given Sunday during triathlon season anything is possible. I hear Coach EK in my head, race with what you have nothing more. nothing less. Today, I did just that. I had the 10th fastest swim time of my age group and the slowest run time. In the middle of the pack on the bike. Pretty damn funny to me. The weeks leading up to the race were pretty bad, prerace felt off, the race itself felt like crap and yet I had just ran my personal best....... I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.
I hope I will always make the decision to live and to experience life and when I want nothing more than to crawl into that ball and stay under those covers that I am able to pick myself up and take it one inch, one step at a time. After the race, I decided not to do my training ride as scheduled. My back stiffened up pretty good, my hip hurt even more and my head was pounding. But during that time, I decided to rededicate myself to my training and my goal of IM Fortaleza. I will go back to a proper eating schedule, I will add a 30 minute run to life daily, I will make an appointment with Heather my miracle worker and have her lay her hands and needles and electric stim on my body to hurt and heal it sooo good. I spent the rest of the day with Jess, hobbling through an art festival, eating momos and Tofu Aloo out on our favorite patio, catching a movie and sharing in a traditional post race bloody mary.
What a great fall Sunday!