Last weekend, after a month of battling inconsistency in training, and seven weeks after finishing my last race, I finally FINALLY got the chance to toe the line again. It was back to beautiful Muskoka for Multisport Canada's Bracebridge event. After watching this one last summer I had been excited all year for this venue. Its a very unique event with a time trial swim winding around the bends of the Muskoka River, then a tough bike course and fast run.
I have never done a time trial start but I was looking forward focusing completely on my own race, especially with it being my first one back and knowing full well it wouldn't be easy. Usually the pros are given the lowest start numbers, and not that I need or deserve special treatment, but it was a bit of a surprise when my registration wasn't found and I was given #290. So I would be starting behind the old ladies and would race through everyone, being sent off 5 seconds at a time.
By the time the leaders were getting out of the water I was just starting my swim warmup. But it was actually nice to take all the pressure off and make the race a 2 hour time trial without worrying about anyone else. And it was also nice to know that Amanda was starting 150 places ahead and based on the time gaps I knew I would go by her at some point.
So I had a nice relaxing start to the race, not having to sprint the first 200. As I worked my way down river then back up I got to see all of the swim strokes of the Balance Point athletes I have come to recognize, thanks to Coach Gabbi having us always swimming loops (ie. through each other) in open water workouts.
I got out with what felt like a good swim, and turns out...it was! 21:54, I think my best open water 1500. And I passed over 100 people in the water. My plan on the bike was to push but not too hard so I had some legs left to run 10k. I continued to work my way through the field, not having any idea how I was doing relative to the leaders who were 30 minutes up the road. Having worked on my position throughout the summer I was really comfortable on the bike but I could tell I didn't have the same power as I'm used to. I like nothing more in training than banking big miles on the bike, and I definitely could feel the lack of miles in my legs. But it was a big motivator to see the bright pink Rudy Project helmet of Amanda up the road, and I tried to give her a few words of encouragement as I rode by (and almost got taken out by a car in the process). I continued to ride smart but ended up with a pretty rough bike split, probably about 5 minutes slower than I would have wanted.
I got off the bike feeling fresh and my legs actually felt pretty good as I went off for my first Olympic run in over a year (it seems to be a distance I neglect a bit). I wanted to start conservative and build to a 36-ish min run. Nothing crazy but I would have been happy with that given the summer I have had. So I locked in at 3:40 pace and the first 5k flew by. As I made the turn back I started to pick it up and surprisingly I had no problem doing so. And then the wheels fell off. At 7k my quads started to cramp up and it would not go away. I tried to loosen up while running (which according to witness accounts looked pretty ridiculous) until I had no choice but to stop and stretch it out. I got going again pretty quickly but that was all the fitness I had to give. I stumbled back in with a slow run but thrilled to actually cross a finish line!
And then it got even worse.
Prior to the race, series director John Salt (a good friend and the best series director in the world) made me promise him that I would see a specialist about my concussion before entering another one of his races. He gave me a name for a good doctor and I begrudginly finally saw a professional about this. Turns out that I am still experiencing post-concussive symptoms, which have gotten worse since racing. Despite trying to be cautious I did not take it seriously enough the first time around and now I'm really paying for it...but I'm going to really do it right this time. No training until further notice. Absolutely no racing any time soon. I shouldn't even be looking at a computer screen for this long...
Its still sinking in that its August and my season is over, and I can't even "take it easy" and hook up with the roadies for the rest of the summer. But part of me knew all along that something has been off this whole time, and its comforting to know that it wasn't just a complete loss of motivation to continue with this sport. As I have said before, a concussion is not like any other injury where you can develop a prognosis or train through it. And it doesn't matter that mine was relatively minor. The symptoms I'm experiencing - headache, dizzyness, and feeling totally spaced out all the time - will simply not go away if I don't take it seriously right now.
So its time for a little couch surfing (not too much TV though) and taking the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and after some decompressing, planning out a fun, long and motivating season next year. I already have some ideas but I'm not going to throw anything out there until I have some real time to take it all in and do it right. I'm tired of losing motivation half way through the summer, half assing race schedules and throwing in events when I'm bored. I want to continue improving and moving up, and continue on my direction in this sport.