Lessons in Humility

Best of Madison 2014:

Here’s how I found out this blog had won the silver medal at the 2014 Best of Madison Olympics in the category of Local Blog:

(1) A new reader mentioned in a comment that she’d found me through Best of Madison.

(2) I looked up the Best of Madison results and couldn’t find my blog’s name in any of the categories.

(3) I realized I was looking at the 2013 results.

When I saw I’d won 2nd place in the 2014 results, my first thought was, “Thank goodness my most recent post was a funny one.”

I’m surprised and honored to be among the Best of Madison blogs. Check out the gold and bronze medal winners as well.

So welcome,  new readers, to my somewhat confusing blog. Let me break it down for you. Here, you’ll find approximately:

  • 79% posts about triathlon and running
  • 20% posts about baking fancy pastry
  • 1% posts that are pictures of cats

I hope you enjoy it! And if I can figure out how to put the Best of Madison winner graphic on here, I will someday.

What I came here to write:

At the risk of making my most recent post no longer funny and/or featuring a picture of a cat wearing a chef’s hat, here’s what I had in progress when the results came out.

As I continue rehabbing my knee injury, I’ve started increasing my running. When I was first allowed to run again, I was limited to walking for 4 minutes and running for 1 minute, for a total of no more than 4 minutes of running.

Well, one day last week, my time on the treadmill (I’ve been banished by my PT from outdoor running until I can do a full 30 minutes on the treadmill) felt great, so I decided to try for 2 minutes of running. That extra 60 seconds gave me an opportunity to think and notice my body more, and I realized that I was holding massive amounts of tension in my shoulders and hips. This is exactly what I do when I’m trying to swim fast — I tense up, as if contracting all my muscles means I’m trying extra hard. On the treadmill, I tried to relax, and suddenly everything felt so much better. I walked away from those 2 minutes feeling like a champ.

So this week (with the blessing of my PT), that’s been my routine – 3 minutes of walking and 2 minutes of running, 4 times. I’ve even upped the speed from 5.5 to a whopping 6.0 (to put this in perspective, this is a 10 minute mile — not exactly race pace, but it’s an improvement).

I’m happy things are turning around, and happy the pain is minimal. Really, it’s mostly just a dull ache at the spot where the meniscus tore and a sort of crunchy feeling on the opposite side (more scar tissue breaking up and floating away to… who knows where).

And yet, I find myself so self conscious at the gym. I don’t have to wear a brace on my knee and luckily swimming has kept me mildly fit looking, so I feel as if everyone must be watching me and wondering why I’m running so briefly and so slowly with a casual paced walk in between.

Yesterday, the only open treadmill was next to one of the gym’s owners, who was running a 10k at 7.2 (about 8:15 pace) and I felt like such a failure. I found myself wishing that I could wear a t-shirt that said in fluorescent letters: RECOVERING FROM AN INJURY.

Even worse, by the time I got to the 1:30 mark of my first 2 minute run, I felt out of breath and exhausted. How was I supposed to race this summer if I couldn’t even run 2 minutes at a 10 minute mile pace?

Most of my friends and co-workers know that I race and know that I love my gym, and I’m not infrequently asked for advice about how to get started running or joining a gym. I always tell people that the most important thing to keep in mind is that it might feel like everyone’s looking at you, knows you’re new, and is judging everything you do. But really, I say, no one cares. Everyone’s focused on their own workouts and if anyone does notice you’re new, they’re more likely to think, “Oh, good for that person. Way to start it out.”

Easier said than done, huh?

I feel the same sense of self consciousness when I’m doing my rehab exercises in the strength training room at the gym. As I step up and down on a Bosu ball, I’m acutely aware of those lifting heavy weights behind me, and again, I want to stop everyone in the room and announce that it’s just because I’m recovering from an injury. I know that stepping on this ball doesn’t look hard, but it’s challenging to balance without letting my knee tilt inward.

I don’t really have a conclusion to this, other than to say that starting triathlon as a whole, and especially learning how to swim as an adult, has put me time and time again in situations where I’m the newest and/or least experienced person in the room. Sometimes I get exhausted by wanting to be the best at whatever I’m doing and trying new things where there’s no way I’m going to be the best. There was a great and popular article about being a Peace Corps volunteer a few years ago about how serving in the Peace Corps taught the author how to fail, and how in many ways that was a much better and more valuable lesson than learning how to succeed. In a similar way, I feel the Peace Corps started me on the path to learning how to not be the best at something — how to try something new that I’m not likely to do well the first time out.

I still would like an “I’m recovering from an injury” t-shirt, though.

Quick and dirty triathlon book reviews:

A Life Without Limits, by Chrissie Wellington: Hand’s down the best book about triathlon I’ve ever read. I don’t think this was ghost-written (I don’t see any ghost-writer name anywhere on the book), and although it’s not literary CNF, who cares? Chrissie has an authentic and vibrant narrative voice, and I admire her even more after reading this. I heard that last year she was passing out finisher’s medals at USAT Age Group Nationals. If she’s doing that again this year when I’m there, I’m going to lose my mind.

Anatomy of Running, by Philip Striano: This had exactly what I was looking for — pages and pages of beautifully illustrated strength-training exercises specifically for runners, including a huge section on core, which I’m trying to work on. It could include more hips/glutes, though, in my opinion (and my PT’s opinion, who told me that “hips are the new core”).

The Triathlete’s Training Bible, by Joe Friel: I like how in-depth this book is, and I like taking the little quizzes (apparently I am mentally strong in visualizing, but not in confidence), but I lose my concentration when going over all the ultra-specific training plans. I’m still more of a by the seat of my pants athlete. Plus, looking at the training plans right now makes me feel like I’m going to fail all summer because I can’t physically do what I “should” be doing at this point in the off-season.

Stay tuned for my next post: in which I recap my 2nd ever Masters Swim meet, which took place yesterday. Spoiler alert: I didn’t drown.

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1 comment
  1. Aviva said:

    Thanks for the shootout, and congrats on your silver win!

    -Aviva In Dairyland

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