Photo: Cliff Grassmick,Boulder Daily Camera
There are two ways the Boulder Peak triathlon could have ended. After not finishing two races this year, it could have been: three strikes, you’re out or third time is a charm.
The last 8 months have been filled with frustration and false starts, whispers that it was time for me to retire, and moments of self doubt. Through it all, though, I had the utmost belief that things would turn around. In addition to my own conviction, I have been fortunate to have allies dedicated to helping me reach my goal of returning to the playing field in top form.
My family, Coach Phil, training partners and friends have been instrumental in helping me regain physical and mental health.
How did things finally come around, you may wonder. And, why did I decide to race seemingly so quickly?
A visit to Orlando to consult with Chuck Wolf, an exercise physiologist who has helped me through a multitude of injuries, led to the beginning of change. He revamped my gym program to incorporate functional exercises that focused on rotation and help get the abdominal muscles firing again.
I spent so much time in the Flatirons Athletic Club weight room one of the trainers actually said that I spent more time there than he did!
In addition to the gym workouts, Phil modified my training. No hard efforts. None. Everything was about feeling good and staying pain free. My Garmin collected dust in a drawer. My Power Tap was now being used to moderate efforts.
After two weeks I noticed a change. I felt stronger. My run stride changed. My pedal stroke was different. My body was responding to the gym workouts. Phil added in some volume and then we tested the intensity (albeit, at a lower level than before).
I knew that my injuries were improving because I no longer feared having pain during workouts. The stabbing pain underneath my rib cage was gone. I could take a deep breath during my efforts. The steeper climbs no longer left me gasping for air. There was no residual soreness from training.
I had no intention of racing so soon. But, last Tuesday, after a series of good workouts (according to my mom that means I had one consecutive day of feeling well), I called Phil.
We had the following conversation.
JZ: I have a crazy idea. Are you sitting down? Maybe you should lie down.
Phil: Oh no. What?
JZ: I want to race Boulder Peak this weekend. I have been feeling good and this is a perfect opportunity to test things out.
Phil: Really? Ok. God bless.
Wow, that was easy!
My plan for Boulder Peak was simple. Swim hard, bike over the horrible hill that is Olde Stage as easily as possible and still move forward, hammer the downhill section of the bike and build into the 3 lap run. The plan was executed perfectly. Until the last lap of the run. This being my longest run off the bike since the Austin 70.3 in October, my legs did not have their typical durability. But, with only 2 miles to the finish, I was able to keep going and cross the finish line first. Yes, the third time was a charm.
Some questioned the wisdom of racing at home in front of so many people I know. I figured, I passed out in front of the home crowd last year, so whatever happened yesterday would probably be much less dramatic. And, the boost from friends and supporters could only be helpful (it was!). Besides, I needed a new swim cap and race shirt.
I know that my recovery is not complete. I will still spend time in the gym. I will still have to be careful about the efforts during training. This victory has reiterated that I am on the right path. This victory has reiterated that you should never give up on yourself.