My brain says, "go big or go home". When I realized that it was time to start working towards a goal again, I immediately went to the Ironman website to look at races. Who really knows what the future of triathlon will be post-pandemic, but since I'm intentionally embarking on a long-term recovery and rebuilding journey, it's good that I'll need to wait a couple of years before these events are back to where they used to be. A big endurance event like Ironman is great for goal setting because there are so many natural stepping-stone races you can use to track progress. 5k's, sprint triathlons, duathlons, and swim events are (usually) plentiful and pretty easy to work into a training schedule. Smaller events keep interest and motivation high and provide natural speed work, transition practice, and development of mental toughness.
I'm looking at a full distance Ironman in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which takes place at the end of September. Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's a sign, but I came across this race the exact weekend it was supposed to take place in 2020. It's an 11 hour drive from my home, which is great because I'd rather not worry about shipping my bike. There are mountains nearby, which makes it an easier sell to my husband who doesn't really consider it a vacation worth taking if there isn't some epic hiking involved. It's in the fall, which means the bulk of the training will take place in the summer (no four hour bike rides in February, thank you very much). And it's a river swim. Downstream. Wow.
Front and center right now is getting my body physically back to a place where endurance training is even a possibility. In the springtime when the YMCA was closed, nearly all of my exercise came in the form of cycling; first on Zwift in my basement, then up the Niagara Escarpment or toward the Kettle Moraine on beautiful summer days. My bike is a Specialized Ruby. Ruby has a power meter and aerobars and sometimes, on an adrenaline high, I think she is my best friend. We spent a lot of time together from March through July. I swam and ran a few times a week, but it was nothing compared to the hours on the bike. Weight training disappeared because the Y was closed and I never did have the discipline for strength training on my own. By mid-July, the twinge I had noticed in my right hamstring was slowing me down, disrupting my power output, and pretty much sucking the joy from my rides. Eventually I was biking just once per week, for less than an hour, and walking most mornings instead. Things weren't improving and I was frustrated and sad.
Last week I had the chance to spend some time with a physical therapist who told me my glutes and core were weak and which left my hamstrings to do all the work. I needed to back way off and focus on strengthening these muscles so my overused hamstrings can rest. I'm so thankful to have a plan of action. What's both exciting and overwhelming is that strengthening my core is something I can work on every minute of the day. Now that I'm tuned in, I notice how often I slouch, how I walk lazily, without even considering how my core and hips are functioning. I took ballet lessons for years when I was growing up: How my PT friend coached correct core stabilization sounded exactly like how my dance teacher taught us to carry ourselves. That Jean Wolfmeyer; she knew what she was talking about.
I talk to my clients about how it's important to have multiple goals for the many stages of training. Right now, I've got two: My long-term goal of Ironman Chattanooga in 2022 or 2023, and my short-term goal of healing my hamstring by retraining my body to fully utilize my core muscles. (I have a sneaking suspicion that doing this will also help my swim and my run form during the marathon.) The other goals are a mystery right now, hidden from me but I know they are out there to be discovered as the journey unfolds. I'm excited. Nervous about reaching high and "putting myself out there" by talking about this, but also crazy motivated and relieved to be reconnecting with some part of me that feels like it's been missing.