The following image describes the World Triathlon Series Edmonton in numbers:
Yes, the conditions of WTS Edmonton were almost unlike any I’d ever experienced before, (except perhaps European Championships in Kitzbühel 2014). The athletes tent was a like a strange scene out of a war movie with an army preparing for battle against the cold, wind and rain. Except, in this case, the armor of choice was tin foil or plastic wrapped bodies, helmets and cycling shoes, arm warmers, duct tape and thick layers of Vaseline and warming creams.
Harry Marra, multi-events coach at the University of Oregon, was never my personal coach, but whenever he’d see me at university he’d ask:
“Hey! How are you? Are you healthy?”
When I asked why he never asked about how training was going or upcoming races, he simply replied: “Your health comes first. If you are healthy then I know you are able to do all the rest.” Coach Marra was speaking from many years of experience.
Athletes train their bodies in an attempt to push their physical limits; that’s the job description. However, somewhere between ambitious goals and pressure to perform, it can be difficult to respect that simple rule: “Health first – no matter what”. Last weekend at the World Triathlon Series in Stockholm, I was once again reminded of this simple lesson.
For my first race back from injury, I found myself at the foot of the podium this last Sunday in the Sprint European Cup in Riga. Inside, I had mixed emotions:
- Rational Claire says: After the string of injuries you’ve had this year, you should be happy
1) to be racing 2) to be healthy and 3) to have earned valuable points.
- Competitive Claire says: Fourth place, that’s the first loser! You can do better!
If my race were a monologue, here’s how it unfolded:
Here’s a little update for the rest of the season. After missing so many races due to crashes, illnesses, slips and subsequent injuries, I see this as Triathlon Season 2015, Part Two: The Redo. This Sunday, Aug 9th I will compete in my first European Cup in Riga, Latvia at 13:00 local time (watch live streaming here). Since I’ve only been back running for 10 days after nearly 2 months off I’m not setting any particular expectations, but remain excited for the chance to race and to get in a competitive effort.
How to describe my experience at the first European Games in Baku? It would be like getting that first lick of sweet ice cream before accidentally letting it all fall on the floor…let me explain.
This was my first multi-sport event and it was an incredible experience to stay in the Athlete’s village, eat in the massive dining hall, train in the numerous brand new sport venues and meet athletes’ from all disciplines across Europe. The organization by host nation Azerbijan and by Team Belgium was impressive to say the least and I felt fortunate to be a part of the historic first-ever European Games. Since the triathlon was on the first day, I did not participate in the opening ceremony, but heard the fireworks and Lady Gaga singing from my room.
As far as triathlon is concerned, my last two months have been a string of injuries and mishaps. Beginning with a torn calf muscle, followed by knee and Achilles tendonitis from a crash, a sprained foot from another crash, (all of which was interspersed with bruises and road rash), then slipping at the pool and fracturing my 2nd and 3rd metatarsal, the start of my season has been less than ideal. Consequently, I’ve had to learn train my patience. Since I'm sure I'm not the only athlete dealing with injuries, illness or setbacks, I thought I'd share five ways that help me get through difficult periods.
Reorient your goals
After a medical diagnosis is given and a treatment plan established, now it is time to reframe your goals in accordance. Sit down with your coach and create a flexible, yet realistic timeline. Establish your priorities and cancel races if necessary replacing them with others later in the season.
If there's one thing I've learned from the start of this season, it's that obstacles are just part of the game, overcoming them is the true test of an athlete's character. As such, a mixture of emotions went into explaining another Did Not Finish (DNF). After staring at a blank curser for a while, I decided to just outline what happened and broke this blog into five parts: the swim, the missed opportunity, the crash, the hospital and next steps. Feel free to skip directly to the part of interest for you.
DNF. Three little letters I hoped to never see after my name, yet there they were: Did Not Finish. Walking off the course with my broken bike, bruised hip and scratched knees, the sinking realization set in that I had just quit my first race ever. Although it was probably the smartest decision, it was a very difficult one to make. Before getting into what happened on race day, here’s the back-story.
Throughout the week leading into the race I was battling some micro tears in my left calf. This injury was leftover from a calf cramp during last week’s New Plymouth World Cup race. On the eve of the race, my coach and I decided that, given the residual pain and tightness in the calf, if I was in a position to do a top 15 keep running, if that was not the case and the pain was high, stop to avoid a full tear or real long-term injury.
I will start this post with a disclaimer: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. Triathletes, have you ever wondered how durable your bike suitcase really is? At the airport, have you ever cringed in fear watching the baggage handlers throw your expensive carbon bike onto the plane? Here's the question at hand: Does an EVOC bike suitcase withstand falling off a trailer cart onto a freeway going 100km per hour? I discovered the answer to this question while driving to the airport last Wednesday.
Belgian teammate Marten Van Riel reminded me of a term I haven’t heard since university: “the rustbuster”. The rustbuster - as the phrase was employed by my previous coaches - is used to describe the first race of the season that probably didn’t live up to your full potential, perhaps, in part, because it's been a while since your last competition and it's time brush up on those racing skills. As my first triathlon of the season, here are a few things I was reminded of while ‘busting my rust’ at the New Plymouth World Cup.