Anatomy of a Breakdown – Ironman Training Week 16

WARNING:  This is one of those posts that I just had to get out into space.  There is no rough draft or editing.  Excuse the grammar and spelling and enjoy the cathartic tone 🙂  

I’ve been waiting for it to happen, and today it did………..I had a complete mental breakdown.

Last week was one of our heaviest weeks of training and things were feeling good.  I had strong workouts and a GREAT long brick on Saturday.  I actually think that on Saturday, I rode the Veyo loop the fastest I have ever done it averaging 18 mph (and that was on a DOUBLE).  It truly was a great weekend with beautiful weather and TONS of cyclists on the course.  Really, I have to give last week 2 thumbs ups (minus the throwing up on Sydney’s part the end of the week).

So what happened between then and now…………

Monday was a typical workout day, but was atypical in that Jake had come down with the stomach bug Sydney had the end of last week.  Gross!  I really thought we had dodged the bullet with him, but Sunday night proved otherwise.  I was up most of the night with him and when 4:25a rolled around, I bagged the early morning workout.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  I would go it alone later on in the morning.

I hit the pool and felt pretty good and then headed out for a 75 min run.  My legs were heavy for the first 3 or 4 miles and the inside of my left knee was bugging me a bit.  Clearly, my body was tired from the previous week, but I just continued to push the pace because I just wanted/mentally needed to be done with the workout.  By the time I got home I was dead and my knee was killing me.  GREAT!

Tuesday, I went for a bike ride and the heavy legs returned.  I went from feeling like the Veyo Loop was flying by on Saturday to feeling like I must have a rubbing brake or a flat tire on Tuesday.  I just felt slow.  I didn’t want to be slow.  It started to get in my head.

It seems that recently all anyone wants to ask me about is how “fast” I think I can finish the Ironman.  My typical response is that “I have no clue” or “17 hours would be nice”, but deep down I’m running the numbers.  What does that mean……PRESSURE!  I’m starting to feel the pressure to perform, but yet, my legs just don’t seem to want to come to a training session, except for on the weekends.  For some reason I just keep telling myself that I am so much slower than everyone else training around me… that true……I honestly don’t know.

After the bike on Tuesday, I made the decision that my knee needed a rest.  It was killing me and I am NOT WILLING to have an injury.  It is still February and there are many miles ahead that I need to be in top form, ready to execute.  So Wednesday I traded out my tempo run for a swim/bike brick.  Thursday, I did a long tempo swim and a 2 hour bike ride…….That’s when the breakdown occurred.

Thursday, I got up early to hit the pool.  I created myself a little tempo workout.  I figured I better do something good since I was missing an 11 mile tempo run this week.  The following is the workout I came up with:

300 warm-up
10×200 Building each set with :20 rest
1:00 Rest
10×100 Holding steady at 1:30 with :10 rest
1:00 Rest
10×50 Holding on for dear life
300 cool down

Easy enough….Right? 😉  I think Coach M is rubbing off on me because that workout was KILLER!  What was I doing to myself.  I hate 200s.  I believe they are the worst interval length you can do.  Too short not to push hard, too long to push too hard.  I do have to admit that I was pretty proud of myself because I was able to hold 3:04-3:10 on the 200s, 1:29-1:31 on the 100s; and :40-:43 on the 50s.  Let’s just say, I was DONE after that workout.  I hit the shower and headed home. The plan was to ride for 2 hours while Jake was at his preschool field trip.

After I got home I felt like antsy… someone had spiked my oatmeal and protein powder with caffeine (which I don’t normally drink).  I was short with Jake and just felt kind of jittery.  Very weird feeling.

As I dropped Jake off to preschool, I noticed that the wind was starting to get a bit breezy.  Nothing crazy, but I knew that I was probably going to feel it in one direction out on the Southern Parkway where I was headed.  As I started, I had the typical dead leg feeling, but they seemed to come around after about :30 mins.  I had a snack before I left home, so I didn’t take a ton of fuel with me.  Over the course of the ride I would eat 2 GUs and 2 salts.

I was headed East on the Parkway and was into a constant headwind.  Nothing crazy, but it was there.  I was working through it and felt “okay”.  I threw out any thought of hammering the ride and just settled on riding for time.  I can’t say I was comfortable on the way out to the airport and figured that once I turned around at the terminal it would get easier……better.

Around I turned and felt the push of the tailwind.  Nice!  Wait……..Where did it go?  Is that a crosswind?  No…..That’s a HEADWIND!  AGAIN!!!!  I was devastated.  No matter how hard I pushed, the wind blew harder.  I was getting frustrated and kind of angry.  The antsy feeling I had earlier changed over to almost anxiety.   As I crested the hill to my favorite downhill stretch of this road………I gave up.  I didn’t want to push anymore.  Why should I?  I didn’t want it to hurt?  I didn’t need to go hard, did I?  I tried to push the feeling away and just continued riding.  Then the breakdown began……

My favorite stretch of road turned into the worst of my entire life.  The wind was blowing hard in my face and I just was getting nothing from my pedal strokes.  All I could think was, “What am I doing?”  “Why am I doing this?”  “I’m not good enough to even be doing this?”

I finally hit the turn around and went back towards River Road hoping for a bit of a tailwind………maybe a bit, but I was done.  I turned onto River right into a cross-headwind that sealed the breakdown.  I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.  I kept flashing the image of a poster in my fitness room that says, “26.2 Miles……Hell and Back”  I decided that as soon as I got home, I would deface that poster to say “Ironman……Hell and Back”.  Then I just kept wondering if I had a one-way ticket to the “Hell” part and wasn’t ever going to get to the “Back”.

At that moment, I was over it all.  I was sick of showering every 4 hours.  I was tired of wearing sweats and looking like a homeless person every time I walked out the door.  I was tired of being tired.  I was tired of being short with my kids.  I wanted to have a conversation with someone without thinking or talking about Ironman.  I was mad at my knee for hurting this week.  I was mad at my kids for getting sick and potentially “poisoning” our household.  I wanted to see my husband for more than 2 seconds as he walked out the door and I walked in.  I WAS DONE and beyond all that…………I WAS LATE TO PICK UP JAKE.

I tried to pick up a bit of speed, but the wind just blew that much harder.  I wasn’t catching any breaks and now I was really going to win the award for The Most Selfish Person of the Year for being late to pick up my son.

I pulled up to the museum and didn’t see Jake anywhere.  I asked his teacher if he was inside and she said that his dad had just picked him up.  Maybe if we had a conversation that lasted longer than 5 minutes we would communicate a bit better.

I got in the car and drove home.  I wanted to eat…………A BIG BURGER AND FRIES.  I resisted and settled on the left-overs in the fridge.  When I walked in the door it was clear I was having a mental breakdown.  I just tried to focus on the food and nothing else. Luckily after a few hundred calories (okay…..maybe a thousand) and a shower I was feeling a bit better.  Life wasn’t quite so bad (maybe I should have fueled better for this workout).

So there it is……….My first Ironman Breakdown.  Coach M had warned me that I would be dealing with all different kinds of fatigue over the next few months and I believe today was the “mental fatigue”.  It wasn’t necessarily my body that gave out on me.  It was my head and my heart.  Where do I go from here…….

Coach M has prescribed a few more days off the knee so that it will clam down completely (which means missing a 17 mile run that I actually really wanted to do) and a bit more swimming for the week.  I have to agree with her and at least when the directives come from her, I don’t feel quite so guilty.

The mental aspect of this Ironman thing is different from anything I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve never really been this deep into these depths.  Today was a first for me.  I’ve had bad days, bad weeks, bad races.  My heart and my passion wanted to give up today……that’s something new.  Ironman is not just about pushing your body to the limit, but pushing your entire life.  It shakes up everything that is “normal”.  It changes perspectives.  It creates a new challenge.  I’m going to wallow in my breakdown for just a bit longer and hopefully I will get it out of my system, then I will mount the bike once more……….READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD!

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