It is funny to write this post as my “offseason” has now been underway for two months. But that said, I haven’t really reflected too much on 2012 yet. Maybe that is because it was just too painful. Between broken ribs and hypothermia, I am somewhat left feeling like I just didn’t really have a 2012. Although I realise that is a bit of a broad statement. And I realise that when I say “I didn’t have a 2012” I am not recognising my achievements. But I can’t help but feel a bit sad at “the season that wasn’t”.
I recently read Sonja’s post in which she describes her season in comparison with 2011, using Venn diagrams. I loved the idea – find a visual to show how I felt at the end of 2012. Like Sonja, my 2012 was just so different to my 2011.
If I could sum it up, 2011 was “on” and 2012 was “off”.
What do I mean?
In 2011 I achieved so much, pushing myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing, learning that the game is mental and not physical. I did not die at Strong Like Bull training camp; I enjoyed every moment of the MS150 Houston to Austin ride (okay not every moment, but I still had a great time); I swam across the Chesapeake Bay. And once I got the single sport focus out of my system I turned around and had a blast at the 2011 London Triathlon and in the process qualified for the 2012 USA Paratriathlon National Championships.
But 2012? It just felt off to me. Interrupted. Just not as fun as 2011. Not by a long stretch.
Sure, in 2012 I achieved a goal of competing in the Paratriathlon National Championships – but it was bittersweet. In addition to fracturing my ribs two days before the race in a freak accident, I also lost my paratriathlon classification. (I get retested regularly as I have a progressive degenerative neuromuscular disorder – and in 2012 I had become too strong to compete in the championship wave)
June and July were months of healing, with the Olympics in August. I had my first ever middle distance race experience at the end of August at Rev3, but this was punctuated with the intense frustration of having a bad swim – a consequence of my May bike wreck which I hadn’t taken the time to sort out. And only in September – a full nine months after vowing to sort out my peroneal tendonitis – did I finally get a completely new and radically different set of orthotics that is finally enabling me to run without searing ankle tendon pain. But I was advised not to use them in my last race of the season, which anyway ended in a DNF caused by hypothermia. At least now – in November, two months after my season ended – I am finally on the road to recovery from severe ankle tendonitis. Finally.
When I look back at 2012 I have to assess it frankly, honestly. And looking forward to 2013 I have to plan with that honest assessment in mind.
My highlights of 2012 – like 2011 – came when I wasn’t looking for them.
My best moments happened when I was relaxed and completely enjoying the moment.
Example 1: The Saturday before CapTex – the 19th of May – I hit a wetsuit assisted 1min30second 100m swim. I was peaking, and feeling strong. The week before – the 12th of May – I was consistently hitting 1min40second 100m times in the pool – without my wetsuit. I managed to shave 10seconds off of my pool times just through consistent and dedicated swimming on Saturdays with my new swim coaches at Red Top.
Example 2: During our “for fun” race that shakes the cobwebs from our system – The Egg Hunt Triathlon in Florida – I managed to turn in a sub-40 minute 5k run. This was my first ever time doing this in a racing environment, and I was absolutely over the moon. It was especially exciting for me as I had such a bad run of tendonitis from November 2012 until January 2013. It remains a beacon of hope for me on my running horizon.
I also know that part of the differences between ON and OFF have to do with training. Consistent training.
There is a lot to be said about having crystal clear lines of communication with whoever you work with – especially when you work with people and trust your body and progress to them (coaches, doctors, etc). I felt like after May my training plans did not match my physical reality, the fact that I needed to manage my tendonitis, the way I felt after my rib fracture. Instead of addressing the problem with clear communication with my coach, I became inconsistent. And when I felt my performance fade I felt demotivated. I was caught in a spiral. A spiral that only rethinking my whole approach to my 2012 season could have helped. And when I mean rethink, I do not mean the decisions to DNS a few races.
In retrospect, I just should have talked to my coach, rejigged everything, and just rebuilt my 2012 season from June to point toward a successful sprint triathlon level. Instead I pushed things before I was ready. I inconsistently trained, leading me not to spot the problems. And in doing so, I find myself back to square one, where I should have been in July. I’m now in shoulder physiotherapy because I didn’t take the time to recognise and treat a not-so-obvious injury to my shoulder that happened when I crashed my bike in May.
Live and learn. Continuous forward motion and continous self improvement.
So that brings me to 2013.
What on earth will my 2013 be like?
First and foremost – I have to get back to the fun. The ON. The simple joy in doing events and succeeding in them. To get back to the absolute rush of crossing the finish line (like I felt at Rev3 and The Bay Swim). To feel the joy in just being ABLE to race. Those. Those are the reasons why I started to do triathlon in the first place. And that is what I have to get back to.
So far that has meant changing things around. Both mental and physical shifts.
I am working with a new triathlon coach (more of that on a future blog).
I am going back to square one with running, deliberately and patiently rebuilding.
I am setting myself some milestone goals that may not seem large, but mean a lot to me. Things like running a continuous 10k by March, and a continuous 5k hopefully within December. And both definitely without straining myself or causing further injury.
I am contemplating a triathlon camp in February, one of the things I did at the start of 2011 which really set up my triathlon season in a nice way.
I am thinking of revisiting some of the things I have done before – like the MS150. But with new aims – like “racing” day one and minimising my breaks to maximise my post-day-one time in the St Arnold Brewery tent.
I intend to be more methodical, measuring and learning how to measure, learning how to read the data and the way that the data creates a map on how things are going in my body. If there is one thing I would like to do in 2013, it is to become better able to predict when I am hitting fatigue zones, hitting the edge of tendonitis and injury. To use the data to help guide me into a stronger place.
I know that I am not going to be doing the 2013 USA paratriathlon race events, and I am almost 100% certain that I will not be doing the UK races either. Having lost my classification in 2012, I focused my energy post-national-championships on trying to get appropriate feedback into the paratriathlon classification system review that is due to be finalised for the 2013 season. Until I see the new system and how it is going to be implemented, I do not feel comfortable signing up to race as I may yet again find myself functionally impaired from my nerve disease but measuring too strong to compete as a paratriathlete. Instead, I may take advantage of the fact that classifiers will be in London for the 2013 Triathlon World Championships to see if I can get myself classified under the new regime. But that’s as much visibility as I have with regard to me and paratriathlon specific events.
I don’t have all the answers yet, and certainly have not chosen my races for next season. But I feel like I am now at the stage of being able to sort the pieces.
The next step is to begin to put together the puzzle. My 2013 race plan.