Last weekend: I was slated to be on a relay team for the Ironman 70.3. I was going to be the swimmer for the swim/bike/run event – I trained well for the swimming and I had done the 1.2 mile distance in open water several times over the past few months. Then, I got THE EMAIL….our runner had the flu and was out of commission. So what do I do? I offer to do the run in addition to the swim….even though I hadn’t trained for the distance. I had run 11 miles for the first time a couple of weeks earlier, so I figured how bad could 13.1 be? I was feeling fit, strong, confident - why not give it a shot? I immediately set two goals for myself….run the entire distance (never jog/walk) and complete the leg in less than 2 hours. Really, Brenda? How about just complete the race, enjoy the day, and run the farthest distance that you’ve ever run in your life?
Long story, short: The swim was great in spite of the fact that the air temperature was in the 50’s, water temperature in the 60’s, and my feet were numb by the time I exited the water. I warmed up, hydrated, and stretched while my teammate was on his 56 mile ride. I started running and felt great. I was running a ½ marathon! It was a gorgeous day and I was psyched (adrenaline makes me incredibly ambitious). I pushed myself very hard, ran the entire distance, and was able to finish the run in 1:56:08 (8:51 pace) with a smile on my face…..the smile was pained and forced, but a smile nonetheless.
Joy and pain: Within minutes after finishing the race, after enjoying a brief celebration of our team’s success, my legs started cramping.…not just a calf muscle or foot, but my entire leg….if I bent my leg, my hip flexors and hamstrings would cramp; if I straightened my leg, my quads and calf would cramp. I immediately ate a banana, drank tons of Gatorade, walked, tried to stretch, you name it. I drank so much that I then had to make my way slowly to a Porta-potty….when I finally reached it and stepped up in, my entire leg cramped and I became stuck kind of half in and half out of the little green shack with the door shut on my leg (I did have a brief moment of panic as I envisioned the possibility that I might get stuck in there and have to call out for assistance. Newsflash: “Middle aged woman trapped in portable toilet as her body is gripped by spasms”). Apparently, my fear of embarrassment is much stronger than my fear of pain as I did what I needed to do and quickly forced my way stiff-legged out of the Porta-potty to avoid any prolonged stays or ugly scenes. It took me 15 minutes after that just to change my socks. I was finally able to recover well enough to drive home, but the entire cramping experience definitely put a damper on the day. For days after the race, I hobbled around, unable to go up and down stairs normally, even lowering myself down into a seated position was a sight to behold. My quadriceps and hamstrings were sore to even the lightest touch. I missed out on several training days due to pain from overexertion. I missed competing in the last triathlon of the season because my over-confident “twenty-something” ego didn’t heed the very sound advice of my own “forty-something” common sense……..Play within your means, Brenda, play within your means.
Take away message: No matter what you decide to do to improve your fitness, be smart and be enthusiastic yet cautious when trying something new or stepping up your efforts – pain and injury can be two detriments to maintaining an active lifestyle. It’s hard enough to schedule time for yourself to exercise – you want that time to feel good and be fun – it’s not worth hurting yourself and giving yourself one more reason NOT to exercise – make sure you play, but play within your means.
Walking the (active) Talk: Today my kids and I had a race day! The kids completed a fun run which I followed with a 5K race. They were excited to be in their first race and I was able to share in the experience with them while still taking time to do my own thing. It took a little planning (thanks to Pappa for helping keep an eye on the kids during the 5K!), but was well worth the effort.