On June 28th at 4:40 pm, dressed in my vintage Chinese’s New Year Coeur Sports kit ready for yet another training session, I sat on the floor of my bedroom with my back propped against the foot of my bed and cried. Big, fat, wrinkled chin, squished eyes, ugly crying. Head in my hands, tears streaming my face, I was filled with the sense that this path was not headed towards my dreams. The path I suddenly realized I was on was not building me up and preparing me for the mountain I had fixed my eyes on, rather is was destroying me physically and mentally.
On June 28th, I found the courage to stop.
Truth be told, on June 28th I found the courage to stop mentally, but physically? I needed play, so I headed to the field for a little ultimate Frisbee for the first time in nearly 4 years. It was beyond joyous, but my body soon reminded me that it too needed rest –true, committed and extended rest and rebuilding.
I think there is one force and two factors that warped my path. The force? My relentlessness in pursuing a long term goal. I am driven by a desire to see the limits of this body of mine. This relentlessness had me so focused on my mountain top, that I didn’t notice that the path had become rugged, dangerous, and detoured. I am here because I could not see the whole picture. My factors? Fatigue and injury.
Late August 2015 I started to notice that my body wasn’t absorbing my training. I was putting in solid work, but when it came to recovery I could feel that I was only rebuilding to be where I was before the “tear-down”. I was only maintaining, or maybe even slowly slipping backwards. Mid October I finished my racing season with the greatest physical effort I’ve ever produced and then rested. Two weeks of nothing more than 1 or 2, 30 minute walks per day and then I was back to building.
I went from November 2015 to May 2016 without feeling like I’d gained any fitness or speed. Early on I had a high HR for my training paces –typical of coming back from a rest period, but also an indicator of Overtraining Syndrome. I slogged ahead, respecting the slower paces and just following my HR. By the end of winter I had exchanged a high training HR for a low training HR. I saw a 20 bpm drop in my 20 min FTP test on the bike, at exactly the same power and perceived effort. There was a complete decoupling between my HR and pace/power. My target aerobic HR of 147bpm on the run now took a greater effort and at times a 45 sec/mile faster pace to achieve. I had to push an extra 10 or 20 watts just to get my HR to the aerobic zone on the bike. All the while that feeling of maladaptation from August persisted. And the fatigue. I was just so tired.
It felt as though sleep had become a pause button, rather than the reset button I had once known it to be. I’d hit the bed drowning in fatigue and woke up right where I left off. After a training session I would feel positive and as though I would make it through the day only to crash 30 minutes later. And when I say crash, I mean crash. I’d pull my chair away from my desk and just lay on the floor at work, because laying down was infinitely more doable than sitting up. I couldn’t think. My eyes were heavy and my vision always a challenge to bring into focus. I had to try to amp myself up before meetings and crashed hard after interactions. Sugar and caffeine streamed endlessly into my mouth just to survive my daily work demands. I was just so tired.
The name given to my fatigue? Over training syndrome + adrenal fatigue. The source of the fatigue seems a mystery, but in reality it's just a lot of little things and probably some bad timing between all the stresses that accompany life and training.
One of those major stressors started 4 years ago, just weeks before my second Musselman 70.3. I was out for an easy run and a sudden pain locked up my hip and seemingly robbed me of most of my strength. This pain has twisted and morphed, but it has persisted in some fashion for four years. Daily pain. Frustration on the run, screams on the bike, and tears from simply sitting for more than 20 minutes.
I sought an answer in the first year. What I found wasn't pleasant. ‘Bad hips’ and a life sentence from Rochester’s premier hip guy. Fair enough. I was given the green light to keep going for as long as I can handle the pain, so I did.
Turns out the diagnosis of ‘bad hips’ was as ambiguous as it was wrong. I have a proximal hamstring tendinopathy with further pathologies in my adductor Magnus and hip rotators. I have an actual injury that is accompanied by an actual protocol and hope.
|Tired and injured, but not done. Easy walk in the rain after my second strength session|
|A little Saturday hike at an easy pace with this fella.|
Until the next tale,
Major love going out to my amazing sponsor, Coeur Sports. When I told them my season was over, they sent me love. And a t-shirt. With a big-o heart on it. I am writing about my story because they inspire me to be authentic, follow my heart and invite others into that journey. Thank you for the love and support, Coeur!