I now have three races to catch up with – with job changes and trying to get our house ready to sell, life has been a bit crazy. I’ve taken it easy since St. George, but now that Saturday’s Rock Cliff race is done, I’ve got a month to prepare for the Toughman Half. I’m not nearly as worried about this race as I was St. George. I know I can do it, and I plan on getting a PR for the course – I came in at 7:47:10 three years ago. And so far, I’ve been PR’ing almost every race this year. So first, a brief look at Salem Sprint Tri, Daybreak Olympic Tri, and Rock Cliff Olympic Tri. Then I’ll get to this entry’s spiritual triathlon connection.
Salem was harder than I had anticipated. I finally realized the reason for my slow bike splits this year.
1. I’d been training at a lower wattage over the winter, staying mostly in zone 2 to prep for the longer distances. But that also meant I’d have a harder time going hard and fast on the shorter races.
2. Something was wrong with my front wheel. It kept feeling like the brakes were rubbing the whole time, even though I kept looking down and saw they weren’t. I finally realized I’d been experiencing this for all my outdoor rides this year. We’ve had it looked at since, but no one has found anything wrong with it, even though I know something is. Since then, I’ve just ridden with my wheel I usually just use on the trainer until we can get a second opinion.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to be able to kick butt on the bike, I decided to just try to relax and enjoy it. I had just gotten a new bike fit earlier that week, so I was still adjusting to things. The weather was cool and rainy again. Blah. Despite all of that, I still managed to PR the course by a little over a minute – 1:30 faster swim, and a five minute faster run! Yeah, the bike was slow. But I felt really good about the faster run – even uphill!
I have a love/hate relationship for Rock Cliff. This was the 4th year I’ve done this race, the 2nd year I’ve done the Olympic. In 2013, it was my first race after not finishing Boise 70.3, so swimming wasn’t my friend. But, I finished – in 3:54:18. Last year, I signed up for the sprint at the last minute – and was so glad I did because I finally reached my goal for the year of qualifying for USAT Age Group Nationals. This year, I felt like I still had a bone to pick with that Olympic course.
Unfortunately, I’d been feeling ill for a couple of days before the race, and when Kermit and I woke up Saturday morning, we both felt like we were going to hurl. I was so weak and nauseas, I didn’t know how I’d do an Olympic distance. I could switch to the sprint, but then I wouldn’t qualify for The Works from Racetri, earning an extra cool trophy at the end of the season. I decided to go up there and if I still felt uber sick, I’d just volunteer. Stress really wreaks havoc on my digestive system, and I’ve been experiencing plenty of that lately.
After going to the bathroom a couple more times and getting transitions set up, I started to feel a little better. Okay, let’s do this thing. I knew if I just went slow and steady, I could finish and still PR. If I had done Daybreak the week before in 3:02, I could do less than 3:54, even with feeling sicky and not eating more than a few bites of a peanut butter sandwich.
Once I blew bubbles a few times in the water, I got used to the cold, and by the time we started, I immediately just relaxed into a steady rhythm. It was weird because sometimes I’d swim through ice cold water, and other times, it was warm. The distance was a bit short, putting me a full 25 minutes ahead of my 2013 time – I was loving that! On the bike, I decided to take it slow and easy, since I hadn’t eaten much and was feeling a little energy depleted. But I was able to stay at a pretty good clip throughout, relaxed on the downhills, maxed out at 43 mph, and bettered my bike time by 15 minutes. Of course, part of that was because of the flat tire I got in 2013.
On to the run. I was super stoked because they changed the run course last minute to avoid the river – which had overtaken part of the course we usually do. That meant more time on the trails around the campgrounds. I was in my happy place! Because of the light drizzle, cloud cover, and high, fast river, the run course was amazing – it smelled great, was challenging, and was just my favorite part of the race. I took in all my nutrition, trying hard to milk every last ounce of energy I could squeeze out of my tired body. Although it was a slow 10k for me, I PR’d the run by 5 minutes.
Overall, I PR’d Rock Cliff Olympic by 48 minutes! Despite feeling super stressed and sick the few days leading up to it, it was a great race overall. And, I placed 3rd in the 35+ collapsed age group, and 1st in my USAT age group, again qualifying me for this year’s USAT age group nationals (I also qualified at Yuba last September). I was super pleased. And also proud of Kermit, who finished his sprint distance, even though he felt really sick too.
I had an epiphany after Salem that I’ve been mulling over ever since. Thanks to a possible yet unknown malfunction on my bike wheel, I’ve had added resistance on all my outdoor rides. I’ve had to work twice as hard to go as fast as I used to. The uphills have been harder. The flats have all felt like hills. And I couldn’t even rest much on the downhills because I was still going slow and had to keep pushing. It’s been so hard. Physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. I’ve questioned myself and my abilities as a triathlete. I’ve wondered all kinds of things like, “Is getting older really slowing me down this much?” and “Have the 5 pounds I’ve put on since last year slowed me down this much?” and “Seriously, what’s wrong with me?! How can people be flying past me on the entire course?! Last year I was so much faster; how could I get so much worse with all the training I’ve put in?” It’s just been really, really hard.
Depression has been having the same effect on me. No matter what kind of state I’m in, everything seems harder. I seem to move slower, take longer. Even though I continue to work hard. I have to work twice as hard to try and get the same results, but often I still feel like everything is slower. I have to work harder to feel my Savior’s love for me. And often, I don’t feel it. I feel weak spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Even though in reality, I’m not. If anything, I’m probably stronger than I’ve ever been. But the depression adds extra resistance to everything I’m doing. The uphills, downhills, and everything in between all feel harder than normal.
What these two scenarios have in common is that ultimately, I’ll be stronger for all the added effort. Hopefully, in time, I’ll be a stronger cyclist than I ever imagined. And, hopefully, with time, the depression will pass and I’ll be stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than ever and able to handle what happens next… at least more so than I would have before going through this. It will still be hard, but I’ll have more confidence in my ability to keep pushing through it.
I continue to repeat and apply the phrase that got me through St. George: This hill won’t last forever. I just have to keep pushing through it until I get to the downhill. I don’t always know when I’ll hit the downhill, or how long it will last. But I know it’ll be there. I won’t allow myself to think about any future hills that may also be ahead. Just focus on this one, and the release I know will come afterwards. Don’t stop. Don’t quit.