Well it’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Y’all, thank you for sticking with me. Not long after my last post I was dealt some more nasty news on the athletic front. I’ve been battling hip pain for several years now, and with my insurance coverage about to go *poof* when the divorce was finalized, I was on a mad streak to use every bit of coverage that I could. So I finally saw a sports med doc about my hip, and she ordered an MRI with contrast.
Side note- if you’ve never had contrast before, OH MY GOD. They basically stuck a 8 inch needle into my hip through my groin and it was like TERRIBLE.
Anywho, the results showed that I had “extensive tearing of the labrum,” which is the cushioning in the ball and socket where your leg meets your hip. The highly qualified sports med orthopedic surgeon spent a long time explaining to me how I was not built to run. Like, really, of all the people in the world, running is very, very bad for me. The shape of my hip pinches that cushion, and with every step I was grinding it into pulp. The doc was amazed I had toughed through 3 half marathons. She didn’t even want to operate, because once it was fixed and I started running again, the other side would go, and then I’d likely be looking at a hip replacement in 10 years. The surgeon said she would never tell someone they couldn’t do their sport… BUT, I could take the fact that there were no signs of arthritis yet as an opportunity to change my lifestyle and find another way to be active.
No more running. No more triathlon.
When I tell my athletic friends this story, at this point I’m typically met with advice to get a second opinion. Because if it’s something you love, it’s your life, and you have to find a way to continue, right?
I have a confession to make.
I don’t love it. It’s not my life.
I don’t love spending 3 hours a day trying to fit in swim workouts and intervals and easy spins. I don’t love smelling like chlorine all the time and passing up nights out with friends to get up at 6 on a weekend to get my two hour run in before it gets too hot. I don’t love shelling out $350 to Ironman for one race. I really don’t love running. Really really don’t love running. I never felt like a runner. I could never tap into that speed or runner’s high. I was always getting injured when I ran.
I don’t love being in pain. And I was in a lot of pain.
So deep down, when I got that diagnosis, I felt relief. Relief that there was something physically wrong with me, that it wasn’t in my head or the result of not enough strength work or conditioning or stretching or whatever. Relief that I didn’t have to run anymore.
I have so many friends who are triathletes. Most are long distance racers who spend hours training and they love that work and how it makes them stronger. I’ve never been able to relate. I trained so I could make the cutoff times and not die. I trained so I could check off those boxes and feel satisfied at seeing all those green check marks. Even when I thought about doing a full Ironman I was really just thinking about checking that box. I was never going to be fast enough to go to Worlds. I never had Kona ambitions. You’ve got to love the process to achieve those things. I never did.
But racing…. I love racing. The atmosphere, the adrenaline, cracking jokes on the start line, wearing my Betty kit, pushing myself- I love those things. So this year I raced Aquabike. And I didn’t train. And I’m alive. I’m not fast, but I really could care less. I still crack jokes. I still cross the finish line. I still get a great workout. I’ve had a blast.
The crazy thing about not being on a training plan? My anxiety is gone. I have no expectations. I throw my gear in a bag, show up to the race maybe an hour before, do my thing, and have a breakfast burrito. I race for fun, and I have fun. Goal achieved. Simple.
To be fair, I’m not exactly a couch potato. I am a champ at closing all of my Apple Watch rings. I go to CrossFit 3 or 4 days a week and I hit up a yoga studio frequently. But I’ve put sport-specific training aside. I move my body however it feels good to move that day. I’m rarely frustrated by a bad workout. I have no idea what my paces or times are. There are no green or red check marks. My brain is a lot happier with this arrangement.
I really put this new strategy to the test last month at Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa, where I led off a relay team with the swim leg. 1.2 miles, 70 minute time cutoff. Last year I trained for this race. I swam 2 to 3 times per week, an hour each time, 2,000-2,500 yards, for 6 months. This time, I swam 1,000 yards about once a month. Just to make sure I still knew how make athletic swimming motions in a forward direction.
Did I have doubts? You betchya! It was an absolutely TERRIBLE idea. I hit that water and had a minor panic attack about this stupidity I was asking of my body. But 100 meters in I had calmed myself down and just settled in for a beautiful workout. I had no expectations other than to finish, so I just putted along slow and smooth. And on the home stretch, swimming under the incredible bridge that spans the lake to T1, I got this huge smile on my face. I had pulled it off. Because I was capable. I had spent 5 years training my body for this moment. The work was in me. And I was confident that my body could do awesome things.
Compare that to the Anxious Triathlete who started this blog. The one who needed all of her gear perfectly organized. Who planned out a race calendar a year in advance and checked all of the training boxes. Who was so nervous about doing everything right. Who was so concerned about looking like an idiot.
Train for growth. Race for fun. And for breakfast burritos.