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The Rough Patches

April 5, 2017

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged, and to be honest, that is way too long to be going without putting my thoughts down onto paper (electronic paper for that matter…). I’ve been a little busy with work, school, and training sucking up just about all of my time and energy, but this is something that I am used to by now. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the freedom I have to be able to pursue a graduate degree, work, and train for triathlon. I think I have done a pretty good job of balancing all three of these things over the past few years since I got really serious about triathlon. Up until recently, I was proud to say that I had done a fantastic job of keeping all three of these pursuits in check without truly burning myself out.

 

February/March was when my sense of balance began to come crashing down on me. It started with my decision to pursue a really intense four weeks of training in which I was knocking out some epic ultra-distance cycling ride every single weekend while also keeping up with my regularly planned swim and run workouts, pushing close to 20-25 hours of training each week!. I was deliberately pushing myself to the absolute limit every single weekend, setting lots of new PRs and gaining tons of confidence in myself in the process. In hinds

 

ight, my biggest downfall was probably my ignorance of the amount of recovery that was truly needed after these epic ultra-distance rides and the amount of stress that was being placed on my body each week from my training volume.

 

In addition to the physical stress that was being placed on my body from my training, I was also stressing big time about my upcoming life transition in going from primarily a full-time student to a full-time professional out in my field. Honestly, I’m still struggling with this, and I’m not sure that this stress will go away until I actually graduate with my Master’s degree in late july and find myself a full-time job that I am happy with. This stress and anxiety over my future is definitely self-inflicted, but I tend to worry a lot about the future when it is murky and slightly out of my control (something I am definitely workin on…). This psychological stress coupled with the physical stress of my training made for a lethal combination, and it’s full effects were about to take hold of me; although at the time, before I started notcing that things were heading south for me, I felt like I could take on anything!

 

The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for was overtraining. I was about three weeks through my really intense 4-week training block and prepping for the final hoo-rah that was to round out the last of my epic rides, a 175-mile ride from Gilbert, AZ to the top of Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ, when I began to notice my body starting to break down on me (elevated resting heart rate, inability to get heart rate up to normal levels in training, sleep disturbances, muscle twitching, and mental and physical fatigue that wouldn’t go away). By the time the Mt. Lemmon ride came around, I was absolutely obliterated both mentally and physically. I suffered through those 175 miles more than I ever had in my short life as a cyclist. It took everything in me to complete that ride, and I knew that I had to rest for some time afterwards before I got back to anything serious.

 

It took me almost two whole weeks in order to recover, and I am just now getting back to regular training at my usual intensity level. As much as it sucked to miss out on two weeks of training and amazing Phoenix winter weather to train in, I am glad I experienced what it was like to be overtrained. I had never truly experienced what it was like to push my body and mind beyond the limits of what they could handle. It taught me a lot about myself, forced me to reflect on the first three months of 2017, and led me to gain a new sense of optimism for the rest of the year.

 

During the training block that eventually led to my demise, I learned just how powerful I am. I accomplished some pretty incredible feats on two wheels. I rode my bike 175 miles from Gilbert to the top of Mt. Lemmon and also achieved a long-standing goal of mine to summit South mountain 10x in a single day. Both of these achievements took just about every ounce of physical and mental strength in me, and through the process of pushing myself past the breaking point, I learned just how powerful both my mind and body are.

 

On the flip side of all this, I also learned to appreciate my mortality a little more. I learned that I am in fact not invincible and that my body will break down on me if I push it too hard for too long. This can be said for both my training as well as the other events that are occuring in my life. I think it was a combination of both the physical stress of training and the psychological toll of the anxiety concerning my future that did me over in the end. This led me to be a bit more appreciative of the delacacy of my body and my mind.

 

In the aftermath of all that came from my burnout, I found myself with time to reflect upon 2017 and all of my accomplishments thus far. Afterall, we are already 25% of the way through 2017! I have made some great progress this year and have already achieved three of the goals that I set for myself this year:

 

  1. Run a sub 1:40:00 half-marathon

    1. I ran a 1:32:32 in the Arizona Rock n’ Roll half-marathon in January

  2. Run a sub 40:00 10K

    1. I ran a 38:57 in the Phoenix-Mesa 10K in February

  3. Set up my LLC  and open it for business

    1. I successfully filed for my LLC and set up my business, Peak Endurance Solutions; I currently have my first client as of last week!

 

I consider this a pretty successful 2017 thus far. I am happy with the progress I am making, but know that there is so much more that I am looking forward to this year, including:

 

  1. Successfully defending my Master’s Thesis and graduate with my MS in Exercise Science

  2. Completing the second draft of my book and move one step closer to having it published

  3. Improving my Ironman 70.3 time to <5:00:00 in order to progress towards my long-term goal of qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships

  4. Completing Project DM (Extreme Ironman-Distance Triathlon going from Lake Roosevelt to the top of Humphrey’s peak in Flagstaff)

 

I’m currently making daily progress towards these goals, and I am so excited for each one of these to come to fruition this year! I definitely struggled a little bit when I was in the midst of my overtrained state, feeling defeated and beaten down. I felt like I failed myself. After taking some time to reflect upon my experience, however, I think it was necessary for me to go through it and to garner the lessons learned. It allowed me the chance to step back for a period of time and reflect on what I have accomplished so far this year and to consider how fortunate I am to be able to tackle my remaining goals for 2017.

 

Sometimes I feel like it’s so easy to get engulfed in the day-to-day routine of living that I forget to periodically reflect upon all of the amazing things that I have accomplished up to this point in my life and to remind myself of all of the incredible hopes and dreams that I have. Maybe this is one reason why the rough patches not only exist, but why they are completely necessary. They are there to remind me of just how important it is to appreciate my experiences, learn from my past, and plan for an amazing future. Here is to a successful first quarter of 2017 and to an even more successful rest of the year!

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