Sunday, November 5, 2017

On balance - reflections on my 2017 tri season

I'm a few months into my off season. That's kind of weird to say, but not surprising since I've taken a pretty long hiatus from training each year for the past few seasons.

It's not that I've been doing nothing... I've done the odd yoga class, a few trail runs with my puppy George, and weekly spin/run/strength sessions with my OTC group.  So I haven't been a total couch potato (though I have watched Ozark, Big Mouth, and a few episodes of Stranger Things and Riverdale seasons 2).  What I have been doing is working A LOT.  So, I wanted to say a few words about balance and stress, and maybe explain my season, my off season, and my plans for next season. 

Since March, I've had what is probably the most stressful time of my career. It has been an almost non-stop grind and it's likely to continue into December. I wasn't necessarily doing tons of overtime (though there were a few periods of that), but I was leaving the office on almost a daily basis mentally exhausted (and frankly, emotionally exhausted at some points as well). 

The beginning of this stressful period coincided with some huge volume in my build toward Ironman Victoria 70.3.  I realized pretty quickly that the heavy volume of training plus the heavy burden of work was unsustainable.  At one point, I just went a week without doing any workouts.  Saturday rolled around and I sat in my old backyard (oh yea.. I moved in that time period too) and just played with George... skipping my 100k ride and emailing my coach to say I just couldn't.

For a while, I was plagued with this feeling of guilt or inadequacy... why couldn't I figure out how to do it all? 

But then, I realized that it was OKAY to put things aside when other areas of life were demanding my attention. 

Our bodies react to stress in the same way, whether that stress comes from work, training, relationships, or whatever.  We produce cortisol.  Cortisol has all of these not great effects on the body.  It has some good effects too, but generally speaking, prolonged periods of high stress and high cortisol release can wreak havoc on us.  There are a few key things that happen, and as a female, one of the important things is that cortisol steals the backbone that is required to produce other types of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone.  I've learned recently that I really can't have my progesterone levels going any lower than they naturally (well artificially) are, because progesterone is kind of like one of nature's versions of xanax.  So on top of being stressed, I was also getting really anxious and depressed around that time of the month, when our progesterone levels naturally drop... mine were likely dropping really really low.

I didn't really know all of that at the time, but I did back off my training goals quite a lot.  I reduced the volume and intensity, and accepted that I would likely not have the season that I had envisioned last January.

In the end, I only raced four times - Victoria 70.3, Nationals at the Ottawa Triathlon, the MEC Island Hop, and Maine 70.3.  I was generally pretty happy with how things went, despite the way my training panned out over the course of the summer.

At the end of the season, I was still wanting more, and I'm happy to say that I'm ready to get back into some more serious training.  (I'm hoping that work calms down a bit post-December).  I also ended the season with a great appreciation for the hard work required to really be successful at the 70.3 distance.  I will return to it at some point, but I'm mostly excited to get back to going fast and being strong.

I'm also really excited to be working with a Naturopathic Doctor to address some of my hormone, stress, and sleep issues. It seems to be going well so far.  And I was just so happy to hear from her a level of understanding when we first met.  She got what I was going through and everything she said just made sense.  Knowing that there is a plan to address this stuff has been pretty exciting as well.

For now, I'll say goodbye to the 2017 season (I know it's not the end of 2017 yet), because I'm ready to put that one to rest and move on to the next thing.  I may not have met my original 2017 goals, but I certainly learned a lot about balance and I'm working on taking better care of myself.  Hopefully, I will take those lessons with me and have an amazing season of growth in 2018. Cheers!! 


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