Friday, June 10, 2016

Finding Aloha: Reality, Roadblocks, and Rejuvenation

A friend of mine recently posted on social media:

"On days like today, I just need a hug.
I'm in a new kind of Ironman adolescence where my mirror still says I'm a back-of-the-packer; but my training plan says I'm a Kona-qualifier.
Despite being extraordinarily tired and emotionally spent, somehow I find a way to keep up with grueling workout after grueling workout. But I'll be completely honest: THIS HURTS!!!"

I was in my warm-up on the trainer preparing to start another brutal set of intervals.  I instantly got all choked up and a new burst of motivation coursed through my legs.  Truth is, I've had a really hard time accepting that I've qualified for Kona.  I thought that once it happened I would spend a year celebrating and preparing for the big day.  Instead, I spent 3 months feeling like a big fat blog, unfit and unworthy of competing in the World Championships.

No matter how many times my husband reminds me that I can't be in peak fitness year round.  And my target race is in October, not February.  And to keep trusting the plan, it got me there in the first place.  Despite all of that I have still struggled.

After St. George 70.3, which would have been about 7 weeks into training, I finally started to feel like me again.  I recognized my bike legs in workouts and didn't feel like I was struggling just to hit Ironman watts.  With this milestone my excitement for October was kindled.

Out on the run course at Tempe International.

In mid-May I raced a olympic distance tri which is our local club championships.  I was very proud to represent my local team, TriScottsdale and pull in second female overall, earning extra points towards our club win.  And my run legs have continued to hold on through the spring and I capped off the tri with a 10k at 7:22 pace!

TriScottsdale sweep of the women's podium!
The training plan is ramping up and I'm seeing progress in all three disciplines.  After a very sluggish winter, my swim is finally starting to feel a little more natural.  I'm having a lot of fun on my bike.  We have a new favorite route for when "hills" show up on the training plan.  Instead of biking from home and wasting half of our time on flats, we drive out to Sunflower and bike a 25 mile loop.  In a 50 mile ride we get over 6k of climbing (and descending!).  Plus it's always windy which is great practice for me looking toward October.

Sunflower repeats!!  I love hills!
This past weekend I took my (adopted) little brother rim to rim through the Grand Canyon, twice, spending the night at the North Rim in between.  Friday we ran/ hiked the South Kaibab trail, through Phantom Ranch and up the North Kaibab with a stop at Ribbon Falls in between.  I have done this trip now 4 times, and I forget how hard it is.  That hike up the North Kaibab, especially the last couple of miles, is quite difficult.
South Kaibab Trail

We reached the top and were dismayed to realize we still had to walk 1.7 miles to the lodge.  Apparently I had completely blocked this from memory!  But we arrived well ahead of schedule and treated ourselves to pizza before we checked in.  We enjoyed beers and people watching while overlooking the rim before heading to bed early for our return trip.
Well deserved beers.

Saturday we reversed direction, leaving out Ribbon Falls.  We cruised into Phantom Ranch 2 hours ahead of schedule and after a brief stop to refill water were on the hike out by 8:30 am.  Heat warnings had been issued for the entire weekend, with temps in the canyon expected to reach up to 110.  We knew it would take 3.5 hours to reach the rim, and felt confident in our water supply to last that long.
North Kaibab Trail

We felt that way until we got stuck behind a mule train that had stopped to help a hiker suffering heat stroke about half way up.  If you are familiar with the South Kaibab Trail, the hiker was lying on the side of the trail near the middle of the switchbacks, just below Skeleton Point.  The park ranger offered some assistance and then radio'd for the helicopter.  We were probably only stopped for 10 minutes before they started moving again, but then they stopped 3 more times on the way through the switchbacks.  Each time I became more and more anxious about my water supply and worried that they would need to rescue two more hikers if they didn't get moving!

Soaking my feet at Ribbon Falls. 

Thankfully, when space permitted at the top of the switchbacks, the mule train pulled over to let us pass.  I had been promising that we'd stop to rest, but at that point all I wanted was to stay ahead of the mule train so I set the pace and stayed on the mission until we reached Cedar Ridge with 1.5 miles to go.  We stopped for a few minutes to sit in a very small patch of shade and eat some calories.  Just after we started hiking again the mule train pulled into Cedar Ridge, so our timing was near perfect.

#maycausedeath #donottrythisathome

We paused on the final switchback before reaching the rim.  Behind my sunglasses, I choked back tears.  I have no real explanation for why I love the Grand Canyon so much.  It just speaks to my soul.  I think because it is raw, and harsh, and beautiful.  It makes my muscles ache, my lungs burn with need for oxygen and all the while soothes me with sounds of water rushing along the creek bed, and wind through the canyon walls.  Sometimes, higher up the trail, away from the river, the silence causes my ears to ring.  I wish I could disappear there and explore every nook and cranny of each trail.  I wish I could sit for hours and watch the sunrise and the light move across the canyon changing my perspective.  Everything looks different when I blink and look again.

South Kaibab at sunrise.

This weekend refreshed my spirit and boosted my fitness.  I am ready to put my head down and do work, without fear or judgement, for the next 17 weeks.  I know I belong in Kona, and by the time October rolls around I will be in peak shape to take on what will no doubt be a challenging, amazing experience.  Focusing on #FindingAloha this year has allowed me to find the joy and passion in each workout, and honestly, looking at life from this perspective has carried over into my work and "non-triathlon" life.  I embrace each new challenge in training and try to give my very best every day.  I am so excited to get to Kona and realize a dream that has been many years in the making.          

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