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Saturday, October 12, 2013

TRI-ing to stay healthy!

A year ago, I was sitting on my hands anxiously waiting for the fourth Thursday of November -  and not for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving day marked the first day I could try to start running again after sustaining a fairly severe pelvic stress fracture. Once Thanksgiving came, I started what seemed like an eternally long road back to fitness.

Now I should probably note that I had been pretty stubborn about going to the doctor. (I was having pain that was affecting my activity level in July and didn't get it diagnosed until the first week of September.) Had I not played the self diagnose game this process probably would have been a lot shorter! So lessons number one and two today: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! AND if you think you are injured GO TO SEE THE SPECIALIST! (They have these nifty tools that can see things inside of X-ray and MRI machines.)

Ok, back to getting fit. This process was SLOW. I was trying to be very careful and was doing any exercises or activities that I thought would help me avoid a repeat injury. I picked up Yoga in January, and after a few sessions I could feel my muscles getting stronger and more flexible and being able to better support my posture, running, and climbing. This seemed like the perfect addition - until I pulled my lower back during a  class in February and spent several weeks shuffling about, understanding for the first time in my life what it is really like to have real back pain. You know the kind of back pain that wakes you up at night back pain. Lesson number three: KNOW YOUR EDGE - just because the guy next to you can get into a pose, doesn't mean you can or should!

In March a friend of mine recommended I take up triathlon as a good way to encourage non-impact cross training and reduce injury. After consulting two other friends (who happen to be on the board for the DCTRI club) I was quickly convinced that this was a solid idea.

With enthusiasm I jumped in the pool, started cycling, and adding a few Brick workouts (Bike/Runs) and two-a-days to my routine. I quickly did my first duathlon, and then another on some serious hills in Strausburg, VA and realized I loved every second of it! When the event photos came back from the Strausburg Du, I realized I was grinning ear to ear in every one! I didn't have my usual road-race grimace of embracing the suck. Nope, I was genuinely THRILLED!  The only other race photos of me that capture this much joy of sport are my trail ultra photos.
Strausburg Du - 1st in Age Group (out of 1), 6th Female!

Not only was I enjoying the multi-sport thing; but the biking was REALLY helping my running. My knees didn't ache, my speed was improving, and my periformis always felt GREAT after a bike ride. In fact, bricks are now my favorite workouts, because my body feels so good after a long bike ride. And for some reason, after 2-3 hrs on a bike, I can bang out 10 miles at a quicker pace, and with less effort than I can otherwise.

Also, I realized that with my typical running schedule (5 days a week, and no real distance other than the weekends), fitting in the biking and swimming wasn't all that difficult and gave me something to do in the evenings when I would have otherwise been chilling in front of the computer or partaking in more happy hours than are perhaps necessary. So I embraced the triathlon, and over the summer saw it pay dividends in both my health and my running times.

By the end of July when I curtailed my training to focus on selling the house and moving to Houston, I had set two huge ultra PRs in the 50 K and 50 Mile distance, and placed 16th overall in both races. Not only that, but I actually surpassed my 50K mark en route to my 34 minute 50 Mile PR. All of this with lower mileage on the feet due to amping up the biking and little to no speedwork. What the what!! I was sold. In addition, I did my first real Triathlon too - an Olympic distance tri. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience as well and banged out a sub 45 minute 10K after a 1500 meter swim and a 25 mile bike. My run split ended up being the 3rd fastest female run split of the day. Talk about feeling happy!

Just finished my 1st Triathlon!
In addition to all the awesomeness noted above, one of the best parts of this triathlon experiment is that for the first time in several years - I finished a season of racing without any significant injuries. I will definitely continuing TRI-ing in the future, and am already signed up for my first Ironman next September - Ironman Chattanooga. I highly recommend any runners consider adding some biking and swimming to their routine.

Happy Trails!

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