July 15, 2011

To LP or not to LP - returning to racing from ankle injury

Some of you may know that I managed to screw-up my foot pretty badly during the race series Ohio Triple-T in May. To make long story short - during the run in second of four races I stepped on lose stone while running down the trail. I twisted my ankle and had to completely stop. After a while I was able to start moving again so I first walked and then jogged it in. While I was doing that a big softball somehow grew around my ankle so I pulled the plug and went home. Well that sounds easy, but it was not - I drove 9 hours home from Ohio and cursed myself for not being more careful.

Fast forward to following Monday when I saw my dear doc in Foot and Ankle practice in Bethlehem - seriously great doc that tells it like it is which I really appreciate even though I may not like what he is saying at times. Initial analysis was that I messed it up badly and needed MRI. At the same time I got pair of crutches and a boot. After MRI I knew that it is not too good - 75% tear of ATFL and bone bruising in the ankle. Prognosis 4-6 weeks on crutches with boot and with ABSOLUTELY NO TRAINING. I tried to negotiate water running (which I hate) or swimming with pull buoy (which I tolerate - actually I love swimming, but with the pull buoy it is not as much fun). But was told that any load even minimal on the foot would not aid healing. Since I has overuse injury of the same ankle last year and rushed the return to racing I believed the man.

I was depressed like hell since I knew that my buildup to LP was seriously interrupted and that LP race is not happening. I was up in 70-80mi long rides at that point, I just broke 1:20 for 100m in the pool and things were going quite well even with running. After 2 weeks of being completely down I resumed some light core exercises, but I could not do anything else which really sucked big time. I'm not going to bother you with all the negative thoughts that I had back then, but it was not pretty and poor Dasa and Ian had to live with me. On the positive side I had more time to spend with them and we did quite a lot of fun things - like taking Ian to the movies for the first time, cheering on Dasa as she raced in local 5k, cheering on Ian as he raced in kids triathlon, trip to shopping mall on the weekend (I have not done this in a while). So it was actually good change of pace, but I definitely missed training and racing.

No I'm six, well almost seven, weeks from the injury. The crutches are in the basement since last week, boot came off on Wednesday and I have been swimming and biking for past almost 3 weeks. Training is slowly building up and everything is fine - except this thing called IM Lake Placid. In the initial enthusiasm after I returned to swimming and hand cycling I though I will attempt to 'finish the race'.

das boot

I figured I could swim 2.4 miles with no problem, bike 112 will be a challenge but it is doable and I can walk the marathon and still finish before midnight. That was the idea. After I had chance to seriously discuss this with my doctor, who understands that I'm little on the crazy side, I had to re-assess. Here is how the conversation went:

Me: What do you think about me doing the race just to finish.

Doc: What is the race again?

Me: Well it is a triathlon - swim, bike, run. I thought I could swim, then bike seated and then walk the run.

Doc: Yeah that sounds fine. But what are the distances again?

Me: Yeah it is an Ironman so little over 2 mi swim, 112 mi bike and marathon.

Doc: Are you crazy!? I can see how you can swim and bike it, but the walk will set you back a lot. There is good chance that you will be here on Monday after the race with the very same injury. Well the chance is more like 90% that the 6 weeks after the race you will be back on crutches and with your friend boot.

Me: OK. I really wanted to do this race.

Doc: Sure I can't stop you, but I'm putting down that you have been warned. You really have only 1 week to go from minimal walking in the boot to walk 26 miles. That is not enough. If we had 3 weeks we could try, but one week is just not enough time.

Me: OK let me think it over. In my head it was more like 'Shit this is not going to work. D*** F*** ankle.'

And I did rethink it. After overcoming the disappointment of not being able to do what I wanted to I made a decision that I'll start the race just to be part of the whole thing. You will see me swim the two loops and then do one loop on the bike. Then I'm going to call it a day and cheer on my friends that will be doing the whole thing (Good luck everybody!!!).

So what lead to this change of heart? Call it a reality check. Let me explain - one thing is for sure - the 6 weeks on my butt did not help raise my fitness. While I still have pretty good power output on the bike and can move pretty swiftly in the pool (despite my left foot kicking at maybe 50%) I do not have the needed muscular endurance. This past Saturday I did 40 mi ride during which I bonked like no other time and I was pretty tired the rest of the day. Then just for the fun of it on Sunday I swam in 5k race and that was very hard. I finished about 20 minutes later than I would have expected. First 1.5mi loop was OK, but the second one was really hard and I was very sore for 2 days after the event.

Steelman swim course (part of 1.5mi loop)

It is like being splashed with cold water. I need to face the reality that getting back to the fitness I had at the end of May will take time. I need to start working on my endurance and rebuild it. So the plan is treat LP as training day and a preparation for events in September or later in the year. I will be back to T-Town doing track cycling in August and later Aqua Velo race in MD before returning to full triathlon race. And I will stay in shorter distances for the rest of the year. I'm already planning for 2012 when I will not jump back to Ironman training, but rather rebuild and take a stab at the sub-5 half that is still on my bucket list (I miss like 3 minutes so I should probably practice transitions ;-).

So my friends I'll see you in Lake Placid, but do not try to keep up with me since I'm doing much shorter ride than you do and I do not need to save my legs for the run. I will definitely do a hard 56mi loop and swim hard as well. It will be blast. I'm already looking forward to it.