Tough Stuff

22 06 2011

From the moment that I (Chloe) finished my first Triathlon in the Spring of 2009, I was hooked. Prior to being a triathlete, I was a swimmer, and couldn’t imagine loving a sport as much as I did swimming. But the sense of community, dynamic nature of training and racing three very different sports, satisfaction of knowing that completing a triathlon is indication that all of the muscles in my body are in great shape, and the pure joy in competing are the reasons why I have dedicated so much time, effort and money into the sport.

Unfortunately however, as is the case with anything that you are deeply invested in, you learn that there are two sides to the equation. Most of the time, I love being a triathlete. I love knowing that at the time that most people are just waking up, I have already completed a workout. I love the sense of accomplishment (and endorphins) after tackling a bike or run that is longer or harder than any I have completed before. I love being able to call that extra scoop of ice cream “fuel.” And more than anything, I love that I have found something that I truly am passionate about, that is not only good for my mind and body, but that is supported by a wonderful community and great group of friends.

But then there is the other side of the equation…the tough stuff. I began my training for my Half Ironman on January 1, 2011. I have, for the most part, stuck to a pretty strict training schedule and have only missed a few workouts. In the middle of the Spring, I went through a couple weeks where my motivation wavered. I fell off of my bike, kept getting sick and just wasn’t finding the motivation to make my workouts. I got through it though and was back on track…until about a week ago. The hardest race that I have ever competed in is exactly one month from Sunday, but today, I find myself feeling the most challenged I have been since beginning training.  I have written many posts about the positives of triathlon training, but below are some of the less spoken realities of the sport that I have been facing recently…

Triathlon training is:

Lonely: I have written about a number of group rides, swims with Steph and Chris and runs with other local triathletes, but the reality is that about 75% of my training is by myself. There are times when I am in the mood to just get out there and swim, bike or run alone, but on long runs or rides, it is sometimes difficult to push myself and maintain a sense of purpose when I have been out there for an hour or hours by myself.

Frustrating: With increased training, comes increased hunger. And with increased consumption of food, comes weight gain. I have absolutely no idea how much I weigh right now, but since training for Musselman, my thighs, shoulders, back and butt muscles have grown to the point where my clothes don’t fit as well as they used to. I KNOW that the majority of my weight gain has been muscle. I KNOW that this muscle  is 110% necessary for my big race. And I  have no doubt that my faster times and increased endurance are because of the muscle that I have built.  I have found myself frustrated however with my inability to reconcile my feelings of being annoyed that my clothes no longer fit but knowing that my weight gain is not only temporary but NECESSARY!

Aggravating: As many of you know, I have been struggling with knee pain on my long rides. The pain started about a month ago (about 2 weeks after I got aerobars) and has prevented me from doing any rides over 45 miles. This past weekend the pain was so bad that I had to stop my ride short and get picked up on the side of the road. Not only has HIM training taken a toll on my body and aggravated various muscles, tendons, etc. but it has left me feeling aggravated. I am one month out from a race that I have been training for since January and I am not able to ride a distance that is even half of the race distance.

Expensive: If you were wondering what I was doing about my knee…I am starting physical therapy tomorrow. I also bought a new seat for my bike so that I am more comfortable in the saddle and hopefully will ride in a stronger position. That being said, my credit card bill is going to be a bit high this month. Unfortunately that little phrase that my Mom loves so much, “money doesn’t grow on trees” is a reality that I (and MANY triathletes) face. PT, new seats, $150 dollar races, gas to get to races, hotels to stay at the night before races, the new helmet after you crack yours falling, the $250 bike fitting so that your knee pain goes away, the $100 pair of new sneakers every 3 months, the increase in grocery bills because you are hungry as a hippo…it all adds up. And while I am invested in the sport and try to be conservative in the way that I spend my money, I find it very difficult to financially support my life as a triathlete.  I am a 26 year old young professional just starting out and the reality is, that money just doesn’t grow on trees.

I have absolutely no doubt that I will get through this tough time. I know that no matter what happens with my knee, I will race on July 17th (even if I have to pedal one legged or dress someone up as me to do the bike!- any takers?) and give it my all. I know that my running and biking thigh muscles are temporary and I should enjoy the benefits that they are providing me. I know that with any sport, there are ebbs and flows, and that if there weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a dedicated, passionate athlete. I know that I am not alone…Lauren and Emily have also been experiencing similar frustrations. I also know, that the tough stuff is not often talked about and if I did not share this stuff with you, I would not be an honest blogger.

I have been training my butt off (or on in my case) since January 1st and I am not going to give up now. Yeah…things seem tough and challenging today, but I know that it will be worth it in the end.

Question of the day: What gets you through tough times?