Wednesday, April 21, 2010

JOB VS PASSION

I am studying to become a wildlife biologist (specifically, a mammalogist: a scientist that studies mammals). Not only do I have to complete my bachelors, I have to get field work experience. My job will be research in the field, hoping to discover some new ecological or biological principle, or perhaps a new mammal species, or even how the physiology of mammals dictates their survival and their relationship with their environment. In any case... I need field work experience to really make it in this area of research.



Last summer, I cut my triathlon season short (beginning of July, I did my first Half-Ironman and then 12 hours later I was on a plane to Peru to do volunteer research on mammals in the Amazon). When I returned, after not having done any swim/bike/run, it felt like I had to restart all over again. Almost any fitness I had acquired seemed completely lost.

This year, I have been training since September to do several races (2 Half-Ironman 'A' races, and some other run and shorter triathlon 'B' and 'C' races) in the months of May and June, prior to jetsetting to Australia in July to study abroad for 1 year.



However, last week I was thrown a curveball. My mammalogy professor offered me a job for those very same months: May and June. He is someone I greatly admire, in fact he is the reason why I switched programs, into Wildlife Biology. In essence he made me discover my passion for animals and my need to directly study nature, not just write about it. This job, then, is a 8-week field work experience in the Yukon studying behaviour, energetics and metabolism of red squirrels. It is an amazing opportunity. However, the very idea of abandoning 8 months of grueling, hard training and missing out on ANOTHER racing season has me sick to my stomach. I don't know how I can handle it. The idea of having to pretty much restart, yet again, training after I return really frustrates me.

I have no idea what to do, and I have to make my decision by the end of today. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thoughts?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fears

Among all the tiny fears that surround us in our everyday lives, there is this one fear that I can't seem to banish: the fear that I can potentially be injured at any moment. That an injury is flying at me from around the corner terrifies me.

Two years ago, when I injured my ACL and meniscus playing soccer, I immediately knew something was wrong. When I saw several doctors, they all told me that nothing was wrong. That I should ice the injury they assured me was "very small, just a strain in the tendon". So, following their advice, I continued to play soccer. And I continued to stay injured, and progressively worsen. Finally, I had to go to the emergency room because I couldn't walk. My knee was so swollen.

After a knee examination, an MRI, etc etc with yet another doctor, they told me that I had torn my ACL and my meniscus had become completely shredded and was now lodged in my knee joint. They noted that this was NOT a new injury, but one that had occurred several months ago, when I first noticed something was wrong. Seven months of playing on a severely unstable knee because THREE doctors told me I could was inexcusable. I was so angry.

Here are a couple shots of my knee post-op. Some are uuuuugly so you've been warned!!





In any case, it has been 2 years and 1 month since the surgery and I still worry that any small niggling pains are about to turn into full-blown debilitating injuries. Most don't. Some are worrisome but I figure out the cause soon enough and I fix it and let myself recover.

One recent "injury" happened on the weekend. Nearing the end of my long run on Saturday, I felt a niggling pain in the quadricep of my right leg. I passed it off as regular old muscle ache. The next day, while doing a 2 hour trainer session, I felt fine but as if my legs were more tired and achy than usual. Getting off the bike, however, I knew something was wrong. My right quad HURT. It hurt not like a muscle aches when it is sore, but like an overstrained muscle.

So now here I am worrying that something is seriously, dangerously wrong when who knows? It might be nothing? Either way, I'm going to test the waters today and really make sure NOT to push it and to back off before things go too awry. If there's one lesson I learned throughout all this is that you DON'T want to be that triathlete that pushed themselves so far with an injury that it's become all but permanent. You want to back off, give yourself the few moments, days, etc to recover a minor injury so that it never becomes a major one!!

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

You know that thrill you get...

You know that thrill you get when you sign up for a race? You press that button, you fill out that form, you scramble for your credit card with your mind racing forward to the day of the event. You think "I CAN DO THIS!!!" and you take the plunge.

That's it, you're in, you'll get a bib number soon. All you have to do now is get yourself to the starting line.

That feeling, my friends, is one of the greatest feelings there is! (That and finishing a race, feeling absolutely fantastic in a race on a darn tough course, beating a PB best of yours during a regular ol' training session... oh boy the list does go on, doesn't it?)

In any case, I had that very feeling last August when I signed up for IM Canada (for this year, August 2010). Then my hopes were dashed (in a good AND bad way) when I applied (and got accepted) to study in Australia for a year starting July 2010. Well, all the giddy race feelings are back, because I just found out I might be able to do IM Canada after all!! That is, if I even have enough time to train properly and if course scheduling works out perfectly!

(Source: http://www.ironman.ca)

It's all up in the air for me right now, but at least I've got my initial dream back: IM Canada 2010!! That's all I can ask for.

Keep you posted...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why do I have a coach?

(Source: http://blog.skillsactive.com)

I've often struggled with the idea of being an amateur triathlete and getting coached. Isn't coaching for pros and REALLY fast amateurs? Who would want to coach silly old me: 2 years into the sport and not nearly as fast as the speedsters out there, especially not on the bike.

What coach would pick a relatively slow newbie over a fast, experienced athlete? Am I "worth" being coached?

Well, it all comes down to perspective. Who needs the most coaching: the newbie or the professional? The answer is both. The professional requires someone other than him/herself making the training plan and keeping him/her guided. In this case, a coach helps the athlete fine tune his body and his mind so that he/she can race at peak strength and ability. The newbie, on the other hand, requires a coach just as much but perhaps for slightly different reasons. A newbie's coach guides the inexperienced athlete through the basics of proper training, and, if the coach's instructions are properly followed, the athlete is better for it. The athlete is fitter, yes, but he/she is also smarter. The athlete is more balanced mentally AND physically.

So, in the end, if you're hesitating about getting a coach... don't! It's well worth the money.

Then again, I had a coach for several months that did not jibe with me at all, was completely uncommunicative and far too pricey for the effort level they put into my coaching. After several months of frustration, I switched coaches and am 100 million times better for it. But that's another story. DO interview your coach and the company you are thinking of giving your well-earned money to. It's your right (and responsibility)!

Monday, April 5, 2010

That first introductory post...


Alright, I've succumbed to the allure of the blog world. However, I'm here not to ramble but to lay out a specific goal, and what it takes to achieve that goal.

I am a female triathlete. My goal: become a pro. Even if I have what it takes (I do), it'll take several years to get there. And I will get there.

A brief introduction:

Prior to the year 2008, I didn't even know there was such a thing as triathlons. I had been going to school, playing soccer from the age of 5 (but never at any competitive level), dabbling in other sports and pseudo-sports (yoga, anyone?) and generally just trying to cope with the dramas of being a teenager in a not-so-happy home.

When a rather sudden knee injury sidelined me from playing soccer, I felt into some depression. Soccer, although not my whole WORLD, was so important to me. It was critical for my happiness. Every twinge, every knee-collapse, however, reminded me that I had to stop. I needed surgery. I couldn't walk. My range of motion was limited.

I began to swim. If you can't run, you walk. If you can't walk, you swim. I swam. I swam nearly every day up until my surgery, and the minute I could swim again after a couple weeks of rehab, I was back in that pool. I tried to remember what I had vaguely learnt in kiddie swimming lessons and I applied it. I got better. I watched youtube videos of professional swimmers to see how they moved their bodies. I got better. I joined a (very, VERY easy-going and non-competitive) masters swim group. I was terrified each Tuesday and Thursday for those classes, but I went. I got better. I moved up a couple lanes. I started feeling that fire grow.

In the meantime, my knee had become strong enough to support my body weight. I could walk, I could bike a couple kilometers, and soon enough, I could run.

Six months after rehab from my knee surgery, I completed my first triathlon: an Olympic in my hometown of Montreal. I had generously allotted myself 1 hour for the swim, 2 hours for the bike and 1 hour for the run. I completed it in far less than 4 hours (3:2x:xx) and thought that was amazing. I had no idea that I was one of the last people to finish! How was I to know, with my lack of wetsuit in freezing water conditions, my hybrid bike, and my operated knee that a 3 hour, 20-something minute Oly was a horrible time? But I loved it!!!! I had a blast!!

During the off season, I promised myself to get better at all three sports. However, cold winter weathers had me off the bike for months, and winter running never really came into my mind, and when it did, the running was sporadic. But I swam so much. So so much.

When springtime rolled around, I invested in a proper road bike (but a cheap one, I had no idea what I was doing) and I went out more. My love of swimming, however, usurped much of my 'training' time. I did do some running and biking, but not as much as I should have. I did not nearly have as balanced a training schedule as I should have. Heck, I didn't have a training schedule at all. I just went out when I thought I should, and always swimming as much as I could.

I did my first half-marathon. On another weekend, I did a sprint and a half-marathon back to back. I did 2 Oly's. And I finally ended with a 70.3 distance race. I was mid/front of the pack for swimming, back back back of the pack for biking, and mid/back of the pack for running. There were ~50 competitors and I was 4th last or something like that. I finished in 6:00:36. My goal had been 6:30-7:00.

I then jet-setted to Peru to begin a volunteer internship doing mammal research (I'm studying Wildlife Biology) for the rest of the summer. The moment I returned I got a coach with the plan of doing an Ironman.

I changed coaches (lack of communication on his part was the root of the problem) and I continue to train. I've learnt a great deal, although I know that I still have SO much to learn. I've become humble and learned to appreciate that training takes time. Periodicity is important. It's not go go go non-stop don't rest kill it. It's balance, it's training in different zones, it is rest weeks and/or rest days, it's pushing when I need to and backing off when I should.

My short term goals include racing (obviously). I have a half-marathon coming up (which I hear from coach is going to be a training race - I gotta run it on tired tired legs). Then, I plan on doing an Oly and 2 70.3 races. Finally, finally, I get to do my Ironman. It's slated for March 2011 in Australia or New Zealand. Wherever I end up moving to in the next few months, that's where it'll be.

My long term goals include racing (even more obviously). I want to become good at every distance, but especially the endurance triathlons: 70.3 and IM. I want to be a balanced, knowledgeable triathlete. I want to abandon my niggling fears on the bike. I want to know how far I can push it, how deep I can toe that red line, and how far I can extend beyond it in a race. I want to become fully humble and be comfortable running slow.

Most importantly, I want to become a professional triathlete. I will become a pro. This is my journey.