A long ride, sloppy swim and infected blister support the strong claim that I am an idiot.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Tri for Les community:
I am an idiot.
Many of you already know this and the following story will surely re-enforce that label.
For those who are not aware of my boneheaded state, prepare to be convinced by a spectacle of wrong turns and general ignorance, spanning the past month.
Let us begin.
Up until this point you’ve seen mostly cheery, positive and overly excited blog posts about awesome training efforts, and how much fun it is to push the limits.
Clearly, I was excited after a promising performance at the Boulder IM 70.3 race: “We’re galloping with a full head of steam toward Ironman Arizona.”
Well, shortly after that mile-high experience, it all came crashing down in a slow-motion train wreck that left me with a wounded, bandaged foot (yeah, the left one) in a surgical walking boot, sinking deeper and deeper into an idiot spiral.
Read on to see how the wheels fell off.
Exhibit A: The bike burn out
A few weeks ago, I cranked out my longest bike ride to date: 90 miles, in 5 hours and 15 minutes, in 99°F. I started before dawn and rode along the Beeline Hwy, through Fountain Hills, up Rio Verde Rd. and returned back to my starting point by around the 4-hour mark. I refilled my water bottles, put on more sunscreen and jumped back on the bike for another out-and-back of a little over an hour.
Over the course of the ride, I drank three water bottles mixed with two scoops of Accelerade in each, plus two more water bottles at the 4-hour mark along with one pack Clif Shot Blocks. Still, it wasn’t enough hydration for that kind of heat.
It felt great to push myself for that distance, with minimal muscle soreness during the ride. However, it got brutal hot, brutal early. My legs weren’t hurting too badly, but my soul took a beating – especially toward the end of the ride. I wasn’t hydrating adequately for the conditions and I struggled and hated myself through the final hour-long out-and-back.
By the time I finished it was 99°F. As I blasted the AC in my car and chugged a recovery drink, a moment of clarity arrived: maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to gun it for so many miles, in nearly triple-digit temps, without a super-sized hydration plan. I was in a daze for the rest of the day, and spent most of it on the couch, foam roller and lacrosse ball.
Exhibit B: The sloppy swim
After that little burnout on the bike, I took the next two days off to recover and try to get my mind right. My legs got sore, but I kept stretching, rolling out and working on mobility exercises.
When swim-day came around, I was excited to get back on the horse and churn out an uplifting 20x100m set. Excited yes – but apparently still fatigued.
I slept in and arrived late and frazzled to the pool. My pre-work window of swim time was cropped by a quarter, and I had to skip my warm-up, Total Immersion drill-work and cool-down. This kind of corner cutting messes with my head, and I slugged through the first half of the set with a pretty negative attitude.
Then, sure enough, my left knee and quad started to ache in an inflamed, tendonitis kind of way. I yelled in frustration – underwater, silently, to myself, which added to the frustration – and kept swimming, hoping the soreness would go away.
It lasted for another 700m, until I gave in, yelled underwater again, and hit the showers. I should’ve taken that morning off, rested and spent another day on mobility work instead.
Exhibit C: The blister run
Eventually the soreness (and some of the anguish) from the swim and bike wore off and I got back into the training groove. A solid week of CFE strength workouts, interval running and riding and swimming without incident returned me to a much preferred confident, inspired, invigorated mental state.
Then, I thought it’d be a great idea to reward my feet with a new pair of dress shoes. My tootsies have always felt a bit cramped in my current office-place footwear, so I picked up some standard leather shoes that I hoped would give the doggies some more room to breathe.
Well, the stiff new shoes dug into the back of my left heel. After two days on the job they produced an open, quarter-sized blister near my achilles tendon. The back of my left foot hurt with every step – even when I wasn’t wearing the devil-spawned footwear.
So, I made sure to dress and clean the sore properly, and took another couple of days off to let it heal, right? Wrong.
I blindly followed my training plan, stuck a loose Band-Aid on the open wound and grinded out a 10-mile run on a Friday morning before work – expecting the problem to just go away.
Let the line above serve as the smoking gun to my idiot argument.
After the run, my legs felt OK, but I noticed an increased amount of pus and pain oozing from the blister. I stretched and went right into the office where I’d spend the next 8 hours sitting in front of a computer at a desk.
Not the ideal recovery environment after a long run – blister or none.
At about 4pm I hit a wall and eventually turned into a pile of mush on the couch when I got home around 6pm. I would spend the next 12 hours in pain – groaning, sweating, waking-up-every-hour pain.
My calves, quads, glutes and abs suffered from the week’s workouts and long run.
My aggravated left foot swelled up to the point where you couldn’t see my ankle.
My ego hurt from another bout of idiocy.
Side note: Other than blister thing, the run went really well. It was my longest run since injuring my foot in February, and my arch, form and pace were all pretty strong. Silver lining, I suppose. (Sub-side note: Silver linings often become the focus for idiots. They distract us from the painful truth and encourage further delusional decision making.)
Exhibit D: The infection
So with throbbing, swollen foot, invisible ankle and wounded pride, I went to the doctor who diagnosed the infection in a matter of minutes thanks to the telltale red marks running from the wound up my ankle and calf.
She prescribed antibiotics, some ointment and daily epsom salt soaks.
I kicked myself (figuratively) for not dealing with this sooner, and accepted the fact that I’ll have to take about a week off of training to let it heal.
Before I left, the doctor fitted me for a walking boot to prevent further aggravation from regular shoes. Not as extreme of a walking boot as the one from my previous stress fracture ordeal, but still not fun. Walking boot 2.0 – the cherry on top of this idiot sundae.
Closing argument: The lessons learned
I believe idiots can learn lessons.
Maybe that’s more of a hope, being an idiot myself.
Either way, here’s what I’m doing to curb this kind of behavior, and get back on track:
- Avoid the couch while my foot heals and work back into form with lighter recovery-week workouts when I’m all better.
- Scale back long bike rides. I was overdoing it with the really long bike rides on the weekends and I think that contributed to my recent burnout. So I’m scaling back the stamina work and going to a full CrossFit Endurance regimen for these next two months leading into IMAZ.*
- Keep building up to the run. The only adjustment I’ll make is to push myself a bit longer on the runs to build up the strength and confidence I have in my lame left foot.
- Move long runs to Tuesday nights. Until now, I’ve been doing long rides on Saturday mornings, and long runs sometime on Sunday. I think all that distance back-to-back is causing unnecessary soreness and fatigue. So I’m moving my long bike rides to Sundays and get my long runs in on Tuesday nights. The rest day on Monday and stretching will be good to have as a buffer in between the ride and run.
- Long Time Trial run, right before heading into the office? Never. Again.
Today, the treatment has taken hold, the swelling has subsided and the wound has nearly closed.
I should be back to training within this coming week, just in time for the Nathan Olympic Triathlon on Sep. 22. It’ll be my last race before the big one on Nov. 17.
Off weeks, obstacles, curve balls and acts of idiocy are going to happen. It’s important to learn from every train wreck, never make the same mistake twice and – in my case – never stop trying to be less of an idiot.
– Live every day –
*I’ll expand on my adjusted training program in an upcoming article.
P.S. Coincidentally, my sister went through a rough patch around the same time: Dating Ironman: Part Deux