July: Unstructured Training
The main question I had after making my withdrawal decision was "what now?" First I took some downtime from structured training to give my mind and body a break (6 weeks to be exact). During this timeframe I continued to work with and receive feedback from my coach, but my training calendar remained empty as my only goals for exercising were mental health, pleasure, and social engagement. While was content with the time away from structured workouts, but spent a lot of time wondering whether I had made the right decision. I also felt very lost in regards to figuring out how to move forward and establish a new direction. It took time for the reality of my decision to sink in and for me to emotionally heal from the difficulties I faced in June. But with time comes healing, understanding, renewed energy and spirit. Per usual, my coach offered sound advice by encouraging me to pick out some "new and different" events for the fall and that's exactly what I did.
I actually did quite a lot in July, all in the spirit of having fun and enjoying the sport. One day I was able to join a friend completing one of the final legs of the TransAmerica Ride and ended up riding 57 miles. I was having so much fun I simply didn't want to stop! A few days later I jumped into the Scenic Mountain Triathlon in Richwood, West Virginia, somewhat on a whim but with the blessing and encouragement of coach Jim. It was the first time I had even touched my triathlon bike in two months (since the Kinetic Half) and I had maybe (?) been in the pool twice in the month prior. That said, I didn't care. My only ambition was to enjoy the day and remember how it felt to be a triathlete (I'm happy to report it felt pretty darn awesome).
Scenes from the Scenic Mtn Triathlon: (L) I think that look on my face means "thank goodness this bike is over" (R) I actually felt quite good on the run! (bottom) Trying to look tall in hanging out with these stud award winners :)
A week later, Jordan and I traveled out to Lake Tahoe for him to run the Tahoe Rim Traill 100 Mile. The day before his race, I had made plans to rent a bike and ride around Lake Tahoe. Although I had only planned to do a portion of the ride around the lake (~45 miles), I once again ended up extending the ride to cover the entire 72 miles around the lake with a long lunch break by the water along the way. All I can say about that ride is, wow...holy incredible!!! The next day, I ended up pacing Jordan through the final 20 miles of his race, which equated to run-hiking 6 hours through the night. Two days later, we hiked 15 miles around Yosemite Valley. All of this was at higher elevation and needless to say after that last hike I WAS SPENT. The boys went on to hike Mt. Whitney (14,000 ft) later in the week and I joyfully stayed behind to nap, eat bon bons and enjoy a short and EASY bike ride around Mammoth Lakes.
August: A New Direction
After our Tahoe trip came a return to structured training and I was so incredibly happy to see those workouts on my calendar again! After much thought I had picked out some new events to work toward, including the New River Challenge Triathlon (a bike-kayak-run event), Waterman's international triathlon and the Richmond half marathon. Even though training began to pick up again, health and having fun remained my first priority. August was a month of making intentional changes: I didn't step back from Ironman training just to hang out and rest, but also to put my energy toward making some much needed lifestyle changes. I switched doctors, switched medications, made adjustments to my diet and changed my attitude. I dropped all expectations in my return to training, which meant looking at data less and focusing more on enjoying the process. I had my fair share of ups and downs in August, but above all it felt great just to be out there training consistently across all three disciplines.
September: What Goes Down Comes Back Up :)
The start of September was invigorating in many ways. School started back up for Virginia Tech and with that my workload picked up and I settled into a busier but fun routine. Training-wise I began seeing some longer workouts again, enjoyed the challenge that came with them, and was really looking forward to my fall races. Of course, those race plans instantly dissipated when I not-so-gracefully tumbled off my bike and broke my collarbone. I'm all about "new and different" experiences but that is NOT what I had in mind. Interestingly enough, the crash in no way hampered my desire to ride my bike. I was feeling highly motivated prior and that motivation has only continued to grow since. In less than two weeks after my crash (roughly one week post-surgery), I was on the trainer happily spinning my legs, sling and all. My bike was still in "rehab" but I didn't care. I borrowed my husband's bike, lowered the seat and spun until my hearts content.
Once I regained my energy after surgery, I was READY to get moving. Thankfully I have an in-house PT to guide my progress and check in with daily (usually in the form of, "can I do this??") Week one post-op was spent walking, slowly. Then I added back in rides on the trainer, then resistance training (lower body only and using no weights). I've been making steady progress and each week I'm able to do a little more. Some days I feel frustrated by what I can't do (still not cleared to swim, bike outside or run), but thankfully there's a lot that I CAN do and you better believe I'm taking advantage of it!! Last week I did stadiums, lifted, played around in the pool ("pool PT"), took the dogs on a hike, rode the trainer 3x and LOVED every second of it. Hard to believe that I'm feeling this good and it's only been 5 weeks since my crash. Side note: I'm working on a post covering my nutrition since the crash and how I've been eating to optimize recovery from an injury standpoint.
In terms of what's next, that's a big "???" I'm sort of hanging out right now with no plans for the rest of the year other than continuing to heal and getting back to consistent training. My next race is 7 months away (May) and beyond that, I have no clue what's in store for 2018. While I'm feeling highly motivated and itching to identify a new direction or goal, I'm trying to not rush that process either (key word: trying). For now, it's nice to relish in the simple fact that things are going well. I'm happy, healthy and have a lot to look forward to!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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