What a difference a week makes.
Last I wrote, I was on top of the world, feeling strong and fast and all-too confident in my training, sure I was going to kick some World ass all over the course at the 2008 ITU Long Course World Championship in Almere, Holland. The emotional rollercoaster was at a peak and looking to climb even higher.
Until Monday of this week. That’s when the coaster detoured to a screaming emotional down, flying at breakneck speed toward utter disappointment. Because Monday, being so on top of my Triathlon game, I twitched my knee. And right away I could tell this was something real, not just a ping or pang you work through.
And so on that low, not knowing if the coaster could plummet any farther, I hopped on the bike and… immediately got off. I couldn’t get even a single rotation of the pedal with my left leg. The knee just wouldn’t allow it. The pain was too great. Fears of DNS (Did Not Start) rained in my thoughts. My race was over.
Or maybe not.
Since that low, I have researched my issue, conducted self-treatment, and protected the knee as if my life depended on it, and in a sense, my life of a different sorts – my triathlon life – does depend on it. For this, Worlds, is the highest I will ever get in this sport unless I go Pro, and since Pro and my name do not belong in the same category, you can quickly see how much this race means to me.
And so I went on Tuesday and Wednesday, then still 2 and a half weeks away from race day, with pain just bending my knee to climb stairs (up or down), lift my left foot to slip into my shorts, and even lifting my knee while seated as if to shift in my chair. In other words, during those days the pain was more than apparent; it was in every move I did.
But then Thursday came around and instantly I noticed a much different feeling in the knee. I was able to walk stairs, albeit gingerly, without feeling what I felt days before. And so I tested the knee in sitting on the bike. As I swung my leg over the saddle and stood over the base bar, looking down my driveway, thinking about rolling on, I wondered whether my knee would hurt. I knew it would. But on a level I wasn’t prepared for it to hurt. And so I rolled down. Now in the street and still rolling, I pedaled one stroke with the left. There was a strange feeling in the knee, but no pain. No pain. Holy crap, NO PAIN! Maybe I could still do the race. Down the street I went, soft pedaling about, and back I came with little noticeable pain.
Having passed the test, I immediately got off the bike, told Heather I might still be in the game. “Oh,” I said to correct an earlier statement, “and I’ll most definitely be bringing the bike.”
The rest of Thursday and all day Friday was all rest from the bike. I’ve been popping Anti-Inflammatory’s, going easy on the knee, walking stairs gingerly, trying not to bend the knee, occasionally icing, and I think it’s really getting better.
The problem is, I want to use every opportunity to let itself heal that I haven’t tested. So I have no idea if it really is better.
So the plan moving forward is to test again tomorrow (Saturday). Saturday’s test will be very big. I will hop on the bike and hope to soft pedal down the street and back. If that passes, I will continue on for a mile or two, five tops, all soft pedaling, all in feeling it out on what I can and what I can’t do. Then it’s back to rest.
If Saturday’s test passes, I’ll continue the same self-treatment and hope to test again on Tuesday, this time for a 5-10 minute soft pedal ride. And if that passes, I go again on Wednesday or Thursday and then box the bike for the trip to Holland.
If Saturday does not pass, and let’s say it fails miserably, I will go see a doctor right away. I already have a list of specialists lined up. Maybe one could give a quick fix, if at all even possible; or maybe they’ll tell me “no dice, no race, sorry.” In that case, the bike stays home.
So the emotional roller coaster swings up and down. Right now it looks as if I’m on the swing up, but after that fast drop down, as if free fall, I’m still so scared that I can’t yet tell if I’m heading back up. But it looks that way.
And if it doesn’t get better, I’ll be okay. I will be highly disappointed, but not in myself, and I certainly cannot be angry. The truth is that I didn’t get injured doing something stupid; I got injured doing routine, something I’ve been doing over and over for over a year. The season for me has been very good, kick ass even, and since I realize things happens, there’s nothing I could have done to prevent this. Things happen. In life and triathlon.
But I’m hopeful. Things do happen. And the roller coaster may go back up, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll shoot to the sky with a choice array of stars to align.
Training To Date
Because of the knee twitch, there has been no biking. But I have continued on with the swim and bike. Since I’m coming off of Ironman training, I’m still good to go. The layoff of the bike, being off it for so long, will have an impact, but it shouldn’t be too bad. If anything, it will allow me to recover in full body. Hopefully the knee, too!
I am also very excited about my final long run. Last Friday, when the calendar turned to August, 8, 2008 (8-8-08), I strapped on a hydration belt and set out on the run from work on a marathon distance route headed for home. This month was number 24 in my quest at Marathon-A-Month for Two Years. And that’s what I did, the goal completed. With the amazing support of my good running buddy John, I completed the run in a running time of 3 hours 23 minutes for M-a-M #24, the completion of the goal of two years, and marathon number 44 of all time. John ensured I had ample fluids and more than enough mental support to finish strong, and that’s what I did.
Get healthy. Enough said!
But hey, since we’re talking training, I’ll continue to swim, with one more long swim of 2.4 miles, and run. Nothing crazy long on the run. Just regular runs.
No discussion of World Championship bike course in Holland is complete without first talking about the history of the area.
After a massive flood in the heart of the Netherlands in 1916, it was decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland seas within the mainland, would be enclosed and reclaimed. This project was called the Zuiderzee Works. And so in 1932, the sea closed off completely thus forming the Afsluitdijk, later called LJsselmeer (lake at the end of the river Ijssel). As time marched on, more and more land was reclaimed for development – areas are called polders – with the latest coming in 1986. Almere, site of the race, is one of these tracts of land, or polders. Almere is one of the newest cities in the Netherlands, with the first house built in 1976, becoming municipality in ’84, it has grown to a population close to 200K making it the 8th largest in all of the Netherlands.
Reclaimed land from the Zuiderzee Works project was, as you guessed, all once ocean floor, with the entire area still sitting below sea level. And exactly what makes this land so unique also makes the WC bike course the flattest course I will likely ever race. And what makes it so unique, being below sea level and incredibly flat, also makes it, as I’m told, one of the hardest courses you’ll ever do because of the stiff wind that is always present.
Bicycle racers in Holland are famous for saying that they’d rather climb Alpe d’Huez, perhaps the toughest mountain climb in the Tour de France, than race out in the polders of Holland.
And when I say flat, I’m not kidding. Check out the course profile here. Seriously, check it out. Click the link that follows and then check the box that says “Show Elevation.”
Note the course starts at 0, or sea level, then dips to a whopping “-6,” or six feet BELOW sea level (not kidding). To mile 5 it dips to 20 feet below sea level, lost in the reclaimed land, and then bounces a bit before going back to sea level. One loop is shown for 38 miles. The course consists of two rounds of this loop. I mean, the course is so flat that over nearly 80 miles, I will only climb or dip in elevation to about a few times my own height. From a minus 2 below sea level to about minus 20. It’s flat!
What’s in a Name?
From “Nord,” my older brother, after he read in my “Team USA – August Update” (https://ironboy.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/team-usa-august-update/) how I described talked about kicking ass all over the course in Holland by flying by all of my competitors with my last name on the rear of my shorts:
“Remember that KIRLEIS is the shortened latinized saying of Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy… may each person you pass have mercy… not because the name on your butt is warning them about the exhaust… rather that they will read it each only once… going and never coming.”
Dropping the Hammer – “Thor’s Hammer!”
Check out the absolute coolest send-off gift my buddies at work got for me:
Just when I thought I was escaping the mass swim start common to Ironman races, I discovered this… After the Elite Men and Women get off in the first two waves, the rest of us jump in for one big happy love-fest, complete with fists thrown and elbows launched, for one massive start. Don’t miss it.
Check this out. Not only does the World Championship event try to mirror that of the Olympics in look and feel and even activities, there is even an entire Athlete Village where all countries will be housed. The place is called Centre Parcs. It’s where the Team USA hotel is location. And Team Germany. And Team Brazil. And Team AUS. And… Way cool!
So you all know me by now and know that upon returning home I will be having a Victory Party, good with Grolsch flip tops, a few Belgiums, and an assortment of other beer from the Netherlands area and surrounding countires. And that’s all cool and all, but get this…
The WC Organizing Committee will be having a Closing Ceremonies at a huge stadium in Almere called Almere Stad. There will be awards, dinner, and music. But before that even happens, the party will start in the Athlete Village. There will be a gathering of not only Team USA but also all the athletes of the world competing, and we will dance, and drink, and mix, and mingle and have a blast. And then we will roll right into Almere Stad for the official closing to this absolute blast of a once in a lifetime experience.
Holy crap. Somebody pinch me. But not in the knee, okay?!