I started to write about my goals for Wildflower, and then I realized I don’t have much to say — not because I’m not excited but because the zen feeling that settled into my bones during the training weekend still hasn’t let up. I often roll my eyes at “the race is just the celebration of the training!” and similar sentiments, but in this case, it really has been about the process. I think about where I was six months ago — and where I was, incidentally, was still walking my bike on any street that wasn’t JFK Drive — and I’m stunned at how different I feel, physically and emotionally. I stopped being scared of my bike, and I stopped being (quite as) scared of looking vulnerable in front of strangers. When I think “triathlon” right now, the image in my brain is of swimming in Lake San Antonio, looking at my favorite mini-mountains, sun shining, water cool, deliciously calm — and I have no desire to lose that anytime soon.
So I do have goals for Wildflower, but my main hope is that I can keep relaxing into this race, rather than thrashing my way through it. Assuming there are no major race-day disasters, the only thing I want is to race to my potential. A pro and a con of having trained on the course is that I can’t quite divorce that goal from times. Training weekend wasn’t a race-day simulation, in ways both good (it will be less hot, though still hot, on Sunday) and bad (I didn’t run a 10K at 2 p.m. in the sun with 26 miles already on my body). But if I hit anywhere near those times, I have a shot at breaking four hours. When I registered, I put my estimated finish time as 4:30, so anything faster than that would be, literally, better than I expected. And if not, well, that’s not really the point right now, anyway.
I’ve been thinking more about what comes after the race — and, more precisely, how I can keep this peaceful feeling going as I roll into the vast uncertainty of marathon training. I have all this momentum, I want to go-go-go-go-go, but I also want to heal. I want to know not just that my head is in the right place as I stare down the summer months but that my body might be able to follow.
A couple of weeks ago, I got out my calendar and all my training ideas and ran them by my physical therapist (whose role has definitely been heavy on the “therapist” lately). He’s a runner and triathlete himself and I was nervous that he’d say there was no way I’d be ready for a marathon in September doing what I had in mind, but he actually thought I could dial things back even further. I’m still working out some of the details and editing the actual training plan, but I have a month to do that, because all of May is about recovery.
For at least one week after Wildflower, and ideally two, I’m doing nothing. Big-N Nothing. Exceptions to Nothing include foam-rolling and, I guess, walking when necessary, but that’s it. It hasn’t ever gotten out of my head that I first felt the pain in my leg while swimming, and sometimes swim days are the worst even now, so I’m going to shut everything down and sleep a lot and catch up on magazines. The first week of Nothing ends with a long weekend trip to Palm Springs, which will be spent doing Nothing by a pool during the day and Nothing in a hot tub at night.
The second week of Nothing brings the one major deviation I will allow from my Nothing-ness, and that’s my running analysis with my podiatrist. I have four pair of shoes already waiting at her office, along with Adrenalines and PureCadences new and old, and I’m hoping that 45 minutes on her treadmill will start aiming me toward some shoes that work. This will be my only run till June.
Week three brings the end of Nothing in the form of Bay to Breakers, which I will not — will not — run. I am going to wear something ridiculous and tipsy-walk 12K with a water bottle mimosa and take pictures of the ridiculousness. It’s going to take forever and be sort of obnoxious but hey, I already paid for the race entry, and the real party happens at the back of the line anyway. I ran it semi-for-real last year; I might as well experience one drunken Bay to Breakers in my life.
After Bay to Breakers, depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll get back on the bike and back in the pool and — I’m really excited about this one — back on the climbing wall. I’m debating joining the gym that has the pool-running belts or just buying an endless string of day passes, but either way, I’ll probably start working in some pool-running, too. Pete and I want to find a yoga class that we’ll stick with during marathon training, so the second half of May is for studio-hopping.
The last week of May, if I’m still feeling good, I’ll be starting the schedule I want to keep for the summer, minus the land running. That’ll probably mean at least one swim, ride, and climb per week, plus a yoga class and strength training. This is sort of the “test” phase of my marathon plan — if I’m wiped out by the schedule before I’ve even added in any running that’s not in the pool, I’ll readjust. The first week of June, I’m walk-running a few miles a week in whatever new shoes and with whatever foot strike we’ve settled on by then. And, assuming all of this goes well, it’s Go Time on June 11 — 16 weeks to Berlin.
This plan means I’m not doing a second Olympic triathlon at the start of June, and the amount of sadness I feel about letting that one go tells me something about where my heart is, sport-wise – but I’m still hoping to find a July or August (or November) tri that gives me a reason to keep using my bike and stay in my wetsuit. I never actually registered for the June race, and I’m not signed up for anything else except the San Francisco Half at the end of July, so while I’ll probably add a few more things, I’m not even going near Active.com until June 11. I’ve realized that a big part of my stress about running comes from having to commit to races months in advance, and I don’t want to have the “if my body doesn’t hold up, I’ve wasted money” logic hanging over my head anymore. If things sell out, they sell out; there are more races, and I’ll do them when I’m ready.
I feel — I know I keep saying this — at peace with this plan. The best part about it is that I have a month to work with and still get 16 weeks of Berlin training in. When I envisioned the year, I thought I’d be hitting June with a good Olympic-tri-built running base, but I won’t be, really, and that means my marathon plan is going to ramp up slower than I expected. But that’s fine. I honestly have no goals for Berlin besides showing up, running it, and loving the process as much as I’ve ended up loving the process for Wildflower. And if it takes a lot of Nothing to get me there, so be it.