Sunday, July 1, 2007

** Training and Racing – HOW??? WHY??? THE HISTORY, THE UPS AND DOWNS**

As previously mentioned (or in the **Living with Fibro – the first 2 years** section), I literally rolled into a world I had never thought I’d enter – the world of multisport endurance races.
It must have been not so soon after I was diagnosed with Fibro – I still didn’t know much about it and I really didn’t know how training for a triathlon for 5 months would affect me. In January 2003, I volunteered to race and fundraise for the Team in Training program as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I basically, all other reasons aside, did it to 1. Join my boyfriend at the time to celebrate his 2nd year remission, and 2. to get into kick-arse shape.
Little did I know that this event was going to change my life…eventually.

RACE 1: Maui King’s Trail Triathlon (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run). June 2003
At first, I followed the training program that was offered to all participants – a 6-day/week training regime. Not knowing what my body could handle or not, I went by the program. A couple of weeks in, I got sick, with aches and pains but also with some flu-like symptoms. I asked around and many people in the program were getting sick, because everybody was starting to exercise a lot and started to flush out the toxins in their systems (or that’s what they say..not sure if there is true medical evidence). So I didn’t think much of it, and dealt with it, thinking it’s just part of the deal that comes with training.
However, as most of the people progressed with their training, I didn't. I was very frequently ill, and they were no longer the cold or the flu. I was hurting and I was tired. I would have two good training days, which led to 5-days of pain and struggle for recovery. That’s when I started doing more research online about Fibro…and of course, I read how detrimental excessive physical exertion can be for fibro patients. Oops!

At that point, I was already about 2 months or so into my training, and I had done most of my fundraising. I really didn’t want to give up, given the fact that my friends and family have been supporting me. I started training about 3-4 days a week instead (I was forced to, naturally)…and definitely less than what the training plan suggested. Pacing myself and staying alert of my body condition helped me from the frequent flare-ups. I trained as much I could without getting terribly ill (still had days of suffering every so often), promising myself that I’d at least start the race and see what happens.

Long story short…I finished in 4.5 hrs. I really didn’t think I could ever finish – but something in me kept pushing. I walked many miles, and I even walked my bike up a couple of hills. Most of the people finished in 2.5 hrs-3.5 hr time. I obviously was one of the slowest. But when you cross that finish line, it really doesn’t matter…I became a triathlete that instant.

While I truly enjoyed finishing the race, the unanticipated and uneducated struggle I went through hindered me from training again after that race. I thought to myself that I was done with it for now.

RACE #2 - Maui King’s Trail Triathlon (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run) – AGAIN! June 2005
I had taken a year hiatus from any kind of training. I did some swimming and running very sporadically, until I finally decided to try the triathlon thing again. I don’t clearly remember why I signed up again, but I think it was because I was way too miserable so I needed a change in life. I was miserable because my fibromyalgia symptoms got worse, and I was dealing with work and life issues while I was trying to deal with my health. Stress was adding to my symptoms.

This time, I decided from the beginning to lay low and just go easy. However, I recall how I was giving myself an excuse to be lazy…blaming on the fibro to train less when I could have pushed my hard a little more. I was shy to join in on group training rides because I knew I was slow. I was pretty much training alone. Obviously, that was not as fun and it didn’t help me with the motivation. However, I really wanted to feel the joy of crossing the finish line again, so I just did the minimum training I thought was required to finish a race.

I finished the race, I felt great, but I felt like I could have done more. I was feeling like I was really letting fibro cut into my life … it was almost as if I wanted to fight it, but I let it become my excuse if I felt too scared to challenge myself. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

RACE #3 – Wildflower Triathlon. (Olympic distance: 0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run) – May 2006
This was the hardest race I’ve ever done – to date. I recall training a bit harder than the year before, because I knew how hard the race course was supposed to be. Wildflower is known to be one of the hilliest courses in the country. I was still partially mentally victimized to fibro, but I started having more and more of this desire to keep doing these races despite my illness. After the toughest 4-5 hrs of my physical experience in my whole entire life, when I finally crossed the finish line, I felt so good that I immediately promised myself that I will do this as long as my health allowed me to. I’m including my post-race journal from that race, for those who are interested (in separate section)

Not all races I registered for after then had such a happy ending. For two of the sprint distance races (half-mile swim, 13 mile bike, 3 mile run), I couldn’t start because I was having one of my flare-ups. I mis-managed my energy level the day before the race – I either worked out too much OR I didn’t give myself enough time to rest and sleep well. For normal people, racing requires great level of attention on energy management, nutrition and rest…so imagine for people like me, we have to be extra careful. I learned from my lessons to think smart, not push myself but just be positive and stay hopeful before a race.

After some mishaps, I managed to do a couple of more sprint-distance races in the 2006 season, until my body met another challenge…INJURIES.

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