Give up the ghost

Everyone’s got a stress tripwire that’s unique but for many of us it's the transitions that challenge our coping skills.

It’s not the transition itself that gives us so much trouble but the anything-can-happen dread as we move from activity to activity, place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship.

So it’s not a surprise that I’ve been spending so much mental energy on the swim segment of the upcoming Bethany Tri.  I have such a long list of unknowns as I visualize myself going from dry land to the blackness of the Atlantic that it’s almost too much.

Let’s just start with the fact that it’s a .62-mile ocean swim in the actual ocean. There are current issues and sand issues and underwater creature issues and water temperature issues.  I’ve been researching rental wetsuits, tri-suits, body wax (yeah there’s that, I’m not making it up), goggles, breathing techniques.

Friday and Saturday I practiced swimming in the Equinox salt-water pool as long as possible without stopping – Friday I hit .30 miles in 29 minutes and on Saturday I made it through 49 minutes and .48 miles.

I’m trying out 2 new pairs of goggles and so far the TYR sport nest pro nano metallized goggle makes me wonder why I’m not a spokesperson for that company.

I still don’t have a full range of motion in my left shoulder but I’m making it work, taking truncated strokes and going easy.  I’m not 100 percent sure what success will ultimately look like where my shoulder is concerned so I'm doing my PT exercises and avoiding swimming intervals for now.

It’s a big unknown what will happen once I put on the wetsuit and get into the ocean at the start of my wave but I can say it’s unlikely I’ll be able to 1. stand if I need to stop and rest and 2. adjust my goggles if they fog up and I can’t see.

But here’s what I want to say about the swim portion of the Tri.

The swim is not the problem.

It’s the bike/run brick.

I know. I did my first brick this morning, and if I learned anything it’s that I have much bigger things to worry about than a great white shark zeroing in on me off the coast of Bethany Beach in mid September.

I’m not lacking in self-awareness regarding my routine before my long runs on Sundays.  In the summer months I want to be on the trail between 7 and 7:30 am. That means I am out of bed and dressed and drinking coffee and rolling my feet on a pinky ball in my kitchen at 6 am.

I could take longer. There’s so much eating and drinking and digesting and warming up my muscles and getting my brain focused that sometimes an hour just doesn’t seem to be enough. 

But mostly there’s the emotional drain of not knowing exactly what will happen when I take those first few steps on the trail, when I go from resting to running.  By now I almost have a visual of what muscles need to be activating and socializing with other body parts in order for me to be able to tell myself yeah man this is happening today, I’m ok.

So this morning as I was getting out of bed, I practically sprinted into my workout clothes anticipating how much fun I was going to have on my amazing Jamis. I wasn’t planning to warm up my muscles for my run because the biking would do that.  And I wasn’t very hungry since I’ve been incorporating more carbs into my diet so I wasn’t worried about taking time to digest.

I had a cup of coffee, half a banana, and took water and apple slices with me.  I figured I could use some practice eating while riding since I’d be using the bike portion to fuel during the Tri.

I was on the trail by 7:15 and just loved zipping by the same runners I see week after week.  I felt like I was riding above the ground a bit – kind of how I feel when I’m driving an SUV.  

It was even a little chilly this morning so for a brief few minutes I wondered if I should have worn long sleeves.

Once I hit Georgetown I came back up the trail toward Bethesda and locked my bike at one of the racks at Fletcher’s Boat House.  I was experimenting with Sport Beans and had a few with a ton of water.

After a few stretches, I hit the trail at an easy pace and wasn’t surprised that my legs felt heavy – like a brick.

But wow after half a mile I started to experience intense shin splints.  I haven’t had these for over a year and I was really uncomfortable.

I had taken my Jamis to the wonderful guys at City Bikes in my neighborhood yesterday to get baskets put on my pedals and to see if they thought the fit was ergonomic.  Everything checked out fine and I love the baskets.  Now I’m wondering if I need to get used to them and if the shin splints are from pointing my toes down when I ride.

When the discomfort got ridiculous, I stopped and walked a bit. Then my sister called and that helped distract me as I picked up the pace again. We talked for nearly 3 miles and by then I was ok but it wasn’t my usual run.

I continued to struggle until I got to 5, which was my goal, and I’m sure I could not have done 6.

Really I was so disappointed and felt like crap.  Kind of my worst run ever. I met my Vassar classmate Neile for a walk and then we stopped for brunch.  By the time I drove to Fletcher’s to pick up my bike I was really spooked by the whole thing. It wasn't so much the discomfort but the surprise of the discomfort. I just wasn't expecting it, and definitely not in my shins.

My plan is to switch it up as much as possible so I can get used to how it feels to go from swimming to biking or even running to biking or swimming.  That way I can minimize crossing my own stress tripwires. 

But hey I’m not even a tiny bit worried about the ocean swim. 

See you next time!