The Ashley Project: Setback Edition

Editor’s Note: Ashley, a Second City Fitness client, began training with Jeff in late February and is blogging about her experiences along the way. After a rocking spring, she’s run into some hurdles. You can read her previous posts here.

When we left The Ashley Project, I was riding high off a huge half marathon PR and stoked to start my triathlon season with a super-strong base. Apparently, the universe had other plans. Now I’m less than five weeks away from my big goal race knowing that I’m not as prepared as I want to be. But I will, at least, be rested. (And on the bright side: I’m not actually dead.)

Can't tell I'm sick, can you? Running a 10K with a BFF. Apparently, bad things happen when you don't listen to your body.

Can’t tell I’m sick, can you? Here I am, running a 10K with a BFF (his first!) in mid-May. He was cool enough to slow down because I was so wheeze-y. Apparently, bad things happen when you don’t listen to your body. Noted, universe.

About a week after the Kenosha half marathon, I paced a 9-mile run with my training group and really struggled. I figured my body was still tired and recovering and I probably should have only done about half the distance. By that afternoon, my throat hurt. The next morning, I had a fever. What I thought was a cold wound up sticking around for almost a full month. Two visits to two nurse practitioners and two prescriptions later, I was diagnosed with a chest and then sinus infection. Not the sharpest Crayon in the box, I kept training and even did a 10K with a friend. Although I scaled things back considerably, since I was barely able to breathe without coughing, much less run.  My training felt like it was grinding to a near standstill and I pulled out running the Soldier Field 10 miler.

By early June, the antibiotics seemed to have done their trick. I did my season’s first triathlon. It was slower than I expected, but I attributed it to coming off an illness. I picked up the training intensity, hoping for a solid PR at the Pleasant Prairie sprint triathlon in late June.

Before Pleasant Prairie, I thought i was good to go. The universe had other plans. (Stupid universe.)

Before Pleasant Prairie, I thought I was good to go. The universe had other plans. (Stupid universe. Geez.)

Instead of a PR, I wound up with a DNF, an ambulance ride and 2.5-day hospital stay after being diagnosed with a flash pulmonary edema, which developed during the swim.

Nearly drowning (or realizing that you’re in the water, unable to breathe, and unable to get yourself to shore while coughing up blood) does a number on your brain. I still had the massive IV bruises when I reluctantly waded back in the water a week later with Jeff by my side, but was seriously lacking the confidence about what should have been my strongest event. I eventually decided to ditch the wetsuit entirely (the feeling of it pulling on my neck made me panic; it also kept me from doing breaststroke, my “emergency” stroke that I use if I get tired or nervous in open water.) and focused on regaining my lost open-water confidence.

These days, I’m back to full-speed training, but I’m trying to listen to my body in ways I wasn’t before. If I’m exhausted after a stressful day at work, I’ll reconfigure a workout or give myself permission to take a nap. And after a combined total of almost 5-6 weeks of little-or-no training, I’m stuck re-evaluating my season and my goals. My speedwork is slower. My long runs take longer. My inhaler is getting more use. (Although, knocking almost 5 minutes off my 10K PR this weekend at the BTN 10K did go a long way to making me feel like everything I’ve worked for isn’t totally lost.) Still, my inner perfectionist is struggling with the fact that I’m disappointed in myself as I tackle the remainder of my season, which includes my first Olympic-distance triathlon, a sprint and a 2.5K open-water swim.

My first open-water swim after the hospital had two-foot waves, a surf advisory and white caps galore. And Jeff, who made sure I actually swam.

My first open-water swim after the hospital had two-foot waves, a surf advisory and white caps galore. And Jeff, who made sure I actually swam and didn’t wuss out. (This may be the least-flattering photo known to man.) 

I’m trying to remember what Jeff says: That it’s better to go into a race undertrained and healthy than overtrained and a wreck. Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m letting everyone down. Jeff’s invested so much time and energy into The Ashley Project. My friends have had to endure months of training talk. And I let myself built up such great expectations about what was to come – from weight loss to PRs – that it’s hard to let that go. I never thought I’d be talking about “salvaging” what’s left of a triathlon season.

I guess that’s life.

So with another PR under my belt, I’m marking the days off the calendar until the Chicago Triathlon. I’m doubling down on my training and trying to make every workout count. I’m refocusing my brain on how far I’ve come, not how much further I have to go. And I’m thinking about the gains I’ve made: I’m a lot more confident on my road bike, knocking out a 22-mile ride with an average pace of about 17 mph – way faster than I thought possible. My bike handling has gotten better. I’m regularly logging mile-long open-water swims at Ohio Street Beach, where I’m stopping less and using fewer breaststroke breaks in each successful swim.  Most importantly, I’m spending a lot of time reminding myself that I may not be where I want to be, but I’m still healthier, fitter, faster and stronger than I ever was when I started.

Look! A muscle!!

Look closely! That’s not dirt or a shadow. That’s a muscle! Where there was none before. 

So here’s to the rest of the season, the next chapter in The Ashley Project and making lemons out of lemonade.

Want to know more? Follow Ashley on Twitter or DailyMile.


3 thoughts on “The Ashley Project: Setback Edition

  1. Awesomeness can’t be undone by sickness. It’s not about how fast you’re doing any of the numerous athletic events you compete in, but the fact that you’re out there. That being said, I KNOW I would be struggling with the mental aspect of wanting to be training hard, and not being able to. Even a day or two off drives me nuts. I’m impressed with your ability to stay positive- an asset to an endurance athlete, in my opinion. It prevents you from giving up altogether, and instead drives you to keep working.

  2. Pingback: The Ashley Project: The Ass-kicking Edition | secondcityfitness

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