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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Comeback Time!

So its been almost two years since I last posted on this blog, but I guess every streak has to end sometime... Where to start? I guess I should just give a "brief" summary of what's been going on for the past 22 months or so. After racing White Lake I put in a few weeks of solid training and managed to win a close race at Kure Beach triathlon against the talented (not to mention dashing) George Worrell. Right after that I hopped into base training for cross country season. Fall of 2011 would be my last high school XC season and I wanted to make it count. Long story short, I managed to string together several months of 70 mile weeks and fast workouts before peaking too early and getting sick. I ran a 15:30 5k on the state meet course and won regionals but in truth I had left my best running in my workouts. I came into states seeded second and proceeded to have my worst race of the season. Needless to say, I was disappointed, so in my mind an offseason was out of the question. I immediately jumped into marathon training with the goal of running a fast time at Quintiles in March 2012. I got up to several 95 mile weeks (including some stupid 15 mile tempos) and managed to-- surprise surprise-- develop tendonitis my my knee. Unable to run or bike I ended up doing a swim focused block essentially by default. After a couple of months of solid training and the help of Dave Sokolofsky I was able to swim a 5:20 500, a time that I was reasonably pleased with. It seemed as if I was going to be able to carry this fitness into a solid summer and fall of racing. That's what I thought. But once I started triathlon training I noticed that I was lacking spunk. I just didn't feel like doing it anymore. So in late March I quit cold turkey (the few of you who are actually reading this may have seen my Facebook post about 'retirement' around this time last year). By cold turkey, I mean that I did not run, bike, or swim for 12 months. Instead I took up powerlifting and put on 45 pounds. (Powerlifting meets, kind of like triathlons, consist of three events: squat, bench, and deadlift. You combine your best lifts in each event for a total that determines your placing in the meet. Maybe I'm drawn to the symmetry of three. Who knows?) Powerlifting is great. The intensity and focus required to squat or deadlift heavy weights really appealed to me. But all year I felt like I was lacking direction. Triathlon had been such a huge part of my life that I assumed this was just a temporary state, something I would work through as I adjusted to life outside the sport. Maybe that was the case. Regardless, this general malaise just wouldn't go away. Some days it was worse than others; I found myself slipping out of my dorm and taking these long, introspective late night walks more and more frequently. Something ingrained deep into my psyche was dissatisfied; Quenton Cassidy would have said that the demons were getting hungry. And he would have been right (at least, insofar as a fictional character can be right). I had struck upon that hunger for triathlons once again. It all boiled over one Tuesday during spring break. Some perfect combination of factors converged that day and caused me to literally dust off the old Specialized and ride for 2 hours. When I finished I was greeted by that familiar comforting exhaustion which I'd been missing for the past year. I'd also missed perhaps my favorite part of the sport: moving through nature at a rapid pace, driving on through fatigue that would demoralize the uncalloused soul. I remembered that burning desire to race, to test myself, to "see what I can do." John L. Parker wrote of the endurance athlete that his task "was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free." There is a truth to these words that only the competitive racer can know. I now understand that I don't just crave training and racing, I need them to strike a fundamental balance balance on some psychochemical level. Racing is, indeed, one of the few ways to really confirm that you are alive. In a society where we rarely encounter the limits of our physical capabilities, triathlon offers an outlet to explore- and expand- one's own potential on a primal level. I believe that there is something left over in our DNA from the days when we had to chase down game or take up sword and shield, and its just not getting fed in this post industrial age. There are few greater joys than to fly through the woods propelled by our own lungs and legs, existing wholly and completely in the moment. So much for a brief recap of the past two years. I know that it could take a while to get back to my previous ability-- and the added weight isn't going to help me in this regard-- but I'm completely at peace with that. I'm training again because I remembered that I enjoy it. And because I remembered a dream which I almost let die, a dream I relentlessly pursued for five years before temporarily setting it aside. Since I was a ninety pound 14 year old I've always wanted to see how far I could take this whole triathlon thing. I wanted to find out how good I could be...Now I'm on my way again. And not once do I plan on forgetting how fun it is to swim, bike, and run.


  1. Sometimes you simply need a break. I stress that to every client I have. It's not just a way to let your body physically recover, which is in hindsight what your body was trying to let you know it needed, but it's a mental reprieve from the focus and dedication you have to put in.

    Glad to see you're back, but it doesn't matter what discipline you stick with or pick up next. As long as you enjoy what you do and respect the training and demands.