Sunday, June 26, 2011

Infinite Loop

Yesterday marked one year since I landed in the ER with bilateral idiopathic pulmonary emboli. That means a bunch of life threatening blood clots in both pulmonary arteries plus plenty of other clots in the lungs. You see, if blood can't get through the lungs, it can't pick up oxygen, and can't deliver said oxygen to your vital you brain and heart. Not good.

This past year has been full of reflections, but especially the last couple of weeks. I competed in the Pirate Tri a couple of weeks ago, which last year I did the day AFTER the PEs first struck. Not only did this race mark my return to the tri scene and the first one-hour-plus race effort, but it was the beginning of my "one year reflection" period. Leading up to the race, I seemed to be feeling all sorts of physical things that made me wonder what was going on. It was tough mentally to keep wondering if things were happening all over again, which would certainly mean a return to coumadin and the permanent end of bike riding and perhaps skiing. Even during the run section of the race, I developed a normal side stitch and thought it was happening again. I had and have no other symptoms, and can intellectually tell from my activities that I'm fine. But emotionally, it was hard.

As for the race, I came away from it feeling pretty good. I was 3rd overall in the swim, and much faster than last year. The bike was slow (although about the same as last year), but that's understandable considering I did no meaningful biking from June to April. And the run was 30 seconds faster than last year. In total, I was about 1:30 faster, won my AG, and was 8th overall. I'll take it. More importantly, it was great to see everyone again, knowing I was there to compete with them, not just watch and enjoy the environment. The comments and smiles I received were great. More on that later.

In May, I did the Cape TT. I wanted a max effort before the Pirate Tri to see how I would respond after about six weeks of more focused bike training. My good friend and great biker Bob- with a full year of Ironman bike training behind him- started 60 seconds behind me. I wondered how long it would take to make up the gap, hoping I could last at least a few miles. For those who know the course, which is the same as the old CELT tri course, I made it all of the way to the Spurwink church and the hill up to the dump before he flew by. He continued on to build a gap of an additional 30 seconds.

I was pleased with the race. But more importantly, what will stay with me is Bob's comment as he went past, "You still got it, Tenney." It was the perfect encouragement at the perfect time. It was honest and meaningful. And it is one of the many examples of how so many people have helped me get through this last year. Emails, notes, hugs, calls, visits, fruit baskets, good natured ribbing....the help came in many forms. I take two risks by listing certain individuals- first, I know I'll forget someone, and second, this sure isn't a very personable thank you. So here goes- Bob T, Scott M, Tom M, Julie N, Paul D, Cathy B, Jay E, Ed T, Angela B, Mary H-W, John S, Dave S, Mike L, John S, Andy S, John C, Rob S, Jeff S, Sue N, Coach Megerle, Marit C-L, the Winchester crew (Chip, Lara, Ned, Jill, Mike, Laura, Joe, Jan), and many others- thank you. Most importantly, thanks to my immediate and extended family.

As for my future racing plans...the goal race is the Sprint National Championships in Burlington VT on August 20. Based on past results, I should be top 5 in my AG, and would love to crack the top 3. It's likely I won't have another race before then. After, I'll likely do Lobsterman.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the training, especially the running. Other than a few short transition runs, it's all been on either the trails or the track, and never with a Garmin (Mary- remember the discussion around data?). There is a trail system a mile from the house, and another larger one a short drive away. Single track trail running is perhaps my favorite training of all time. There's a chance that if I had all other activities taken away from me and trail running was the only thing left, I'd be perfectly happy. Every single step is different than the last. On the one hand, I focus on every foot plant which keeps my mind occupied for long stretches, and on the other, I can get completely mentally lost when I'm out there. Every single run in the woods leaves me rejuvenated. Physically, it's also much better than pounding on the roads. I've labeled road running as "2-D," and trail running as "3-D." The constant ups and downs, uneven terrain, puddles, mud, trees, roots, rocks, and sharp turns of the trails strengthen my legs in ways that you can't get on the roads. As a result, I've been completely free from injury. Two weeks ago I went to Presque Isle and ran for two hours at the Nordic Heritage Center. That's without going longer than 1:15 since November, normally an unwise increase.

With a bit of track work, this doesn't seem to be affecting my speed. For the first time this season, I wore a watch to the track to see where I stood. I was able to descend quarters down to where I've been before, and then put together a solid, even-split, mile. Yesterday I did a transition run after a 2 hour bike and have never felt so good. I didn't blast out of the driveway, forcing the pace, but let the speed come to me. I have no idea how fast I was going, but it felt fast and effortless. I wish I could bottle up that feeling for a race.

Today I left the house for a one to two hour run in the woods. For those of you who follow specific training prescriptions, this is blasphemy. "One to two hours? There's a huge difference there. How does it fit into the rest of the week? What's the pace? Will the Garmin work in the woods?" Etc, etc, etc. I didn't care. I was just going out for a good run and I'd see what unfolded. At one point, I found a path that I soon discovered led to a circular path I'd been on before. I didn't know they were connected. So I went around, and around, eventually realizing I was stuck in this loop. I was looking for the trail to go back to where I came from, but missed it. I didn't care one bit. I was on top of the world, doing my favorite training, and I was alive.