I took a little break. I ate Reese’s PB Cups in mass quantities mixed with pounds of M&Ms. I dyed my hair brown. I co-coached 75 kids to an undefeated Cross Country season. I spent an exorbitant amount of money on MAC makeup and Roden & Fields face creams. I spent some much loved time with my nearly 13 year old twins. I ate a lot. And, lastly I have been navigating myself through the start of a mid-life crisis. I will be 44 in January so I am truly in mid-life. None of this “I am turning 40 BS.” Please. The shit is getting real as I hit my mid-40s. I look in the mirror and think “WHO is this person?” The wrinkles, the dark circles. All there and all real. I know it is just a number, blah blah blah. The good news is that I FEEL GREAT. I may look like a hot mess, but I feel awesome.
Of course, this was much needed break and I was able to re-charge myself a bit. After my last race of the season (September 7th), I was desperately in need of a break from Triathlon. I took a few weeks off where I did not do too much of anything at all. FULL rest for 7-10 days and then more rest for another 10-14 days and then I slowly got back into things. I took 7.5 weeks off any structure, which, I think is a bit on the long side, but this year I needed it a bit more. In fact, I took 5 weeks out of the pool and that I have not done in eons. I just could not get myself to the pool and in fact, had no interest. So, clearly a big break was needed.
After my little break, I got back into the swing of things and that really meant MORE strength for me and NO TT BIKE. In fact, my TT bike is still in the bike box. Instead, I got out my Cross bike again and start exploring trails and different areas on it. I love my Cross bike. And, after doing 3 Cross races last year as a CAT 4 after I was done with Kona, I wanted to do the entire series this fall as a CAT 3.
The Cross scene here in Chicago is great. There is a race every weekend and there are a ton of talented riders who come out and race from Iowa, Wisconsin and all over Illinois. Making the shift from Triathlon to Cross racing is like watching an Elephant run versus a Cheetah. For me, I was the Elephant on the course. After last year I was thinking, “I am not too bad at this.” I got 2nd at State and naively thought I would just roll into the series and do OK. I was so wrong. I got hammered. In fact, the best I have finished this year is mid-pack. Racing in the Elite women’s race (CAT 1-2-3) is humbling to say the least. At first I was so frustrated with myself because I could not get rid of my fear. I was just so scared. NOT nervous. There is a big difference there. Fear limits you. Nerves drive you. I was afraid because my bike handling skills were so sub-par compared to the girls I was racing against. AND people crashed. I crashed.
The first Cross race I cold barely continue to push the gears on my Cross bike through the sand, mud and grass my quads would NOT respond at all. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. I was breathing like I was racing a 5k run race…I was working that hard from start to finish. AND I was still in the back. In fact, one time I looked right after the start and I was DFL.
But, as the races went on I got a wee bit better (not much) and I started to have some fun with it and started to develop a camaraderie with the other riders that are always near me in races. They would scream behind me, “JEN, wider on those turns! STOP braking!” They were traumatized by my lack of bike handling skills but what I lacked there I made up in my strength and aerobic engine on the courses. In typical fashion, I got better as the the race went on.
Many courses I would pre-ride and I could not even make the sharp turns in practice – but when the gun went off, my fear melted away and I was able to “fake it until I made it” out there. I will probably never be great or even good – but it has been fun racing with these girls and it has helped my bike handling and anaerobic threshold tremendously. And, the others had fun at my expense. I ride on the PSIMET team – super fast girls who are winning these races. At one race the Team Manager screamed at me while I was dismounting and carrying my bike over a barrier: “There are NO words.”
Apart from not killing myself at Cross, I eventually did get back into the pool. After 5 weeks out of the water I really could not fit into my shirts and bras anymore (too big!) – I thought about not swimming again ever, in fact. My muscles decreased and my lats and shoulders went down (yay!). The first time I swam after the break I was like Gumby in the water – I was awful. Could NOT engage my core. Reminded me to remind my athletes to always engage their core in swimming. I was so disconnected and therefore fighting the water. Not good! While I do not have my speed back yet- after 3 weeks of consistent swimming I am starting to feel normal in the pool again.
I also added MORE strength to my weeks – I never stopped Pilates (except for my few week break), which I do every Monday. Then I am now doing a TRX class this fall/winter every Wednesday that I love. And, then on Fridays I see Kate (strength trainer). Between Cross racing and strength this fall I am sore a lot. In fact, because of all the breaking and shifting on my bike hard and fast, I literally have an elbow and forearm that kills me. I am sure it is tendonitis at some level but some nights it just aches (back to my mid-life crisis here with achy bones).
And, during this time, we have had some fun times apart from sweating. We had an impromptu 25th High School Reunion (back to my mid-life crisis) this past weekend. It was hilarious. One of the many reasons I like Facebook. We all just picked up like we see each other every week. They were playing Journey & big hair bands all night; I had too much to drink. It was a good time. In addition to partying like it is 1989 (the year I graduated HS), we are breaking ground this fall on a new house. I am SO excited. We need a change and while the house/lot is only about 1 ½ miles away, it will be a welcomed change and I have spent more time on Pinterest this fall than I care to admit as I Pin all my favorite bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. In fact, I need HELP (anyone an interior decorator?) But, fun and refreshing indeed.
I am off to Arizona this long weekend. Jerome is “participating” in Ironman Arizona. He has been in China for the past week and literally comes home and turns around to head to Tempe. Brutal! So that is why he is participating . It will be fun to get into the sun again and spectate some athletes I coach, friends & Jerome. And, I may take a 90 minute detour south to Tucson for Thanksgiving & fly the kids out!