These Are the Ugly Times.

I’ll be completely honest.

The only reason that I did my workouts yesterday was because they were in the plan.  They were written down.  Staring at me. 

I didn’t want to leave the house.  Or pack all my shit.  Or work the ride and run in around all of the other things that I had to get done.  I wanted to bail.  To say "It’s too cold." or "It’s too wet." or "My legs are still burned from Thursday’s triple."

But there they were on the plan.  Demanding completion.  Demanding, at least, an attempt.

It turned out to be one of those days…. 

I had to do a shoot in the middle of the day at my studio, so I packed up all my gear and brought it with me.  It’s been cold here lately, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but does present some safety issues on the bike when the road is covered in sheets of ice.  There wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to ride yesterday morning – no way.  I was waiting until the afternoon thaw.

Every rider I know who went out yesterday morning either went down on the ice, or turned back early.

So at 2:00pm when my shoot is over, I put on all my gear and get ready to head out on the bike.  I’ve miraculously remembered everything: gloves, booties, wool knickers, wool socks, base layer, wind layer, jersey, rain jacket, shoes, winter cap, helmet, heartrate gear.  It’s a miracle!

And then I look at my bike.

No flat kit.

I forgot to put it back on when I cleaned the bike.

Luckily, Bike and Hike is just a few blocks from my office, so I roll over, buy a tube and some tire levers, shove them in a back pocket and I’m off.

The legs are heavy and the workout is a battle.  I struggle to produce the intensity that I’d planned.  It’s absolutely pissing rain and 33 degrees.  The booties soak through 40 minutes in. 

I keep my head together and finish the ride.

Just as I make the corner to go to my office, I see that a semi-truck is parked in the middle of the road.  This forces me to one side, sandwiched in between the truck and a row of parked cars.

I am heading directly for what I refer to as the Bicycle Spiderweb Death Trap of Doom.  Three old railroad tracks coming from varying directions converge here.  They are slick with all the rain.  With so many angles, it’s impossible to ride over all of them at a direct perpendicular.

There are about 8 to clear.

As I’m rolling toward them I am thinking, "You should get off and walk across those.  You’re going to go down."

But I keep rolling.

And I go down.  Hard.

The saving grace is that I was moving slowly.  I still manage to mash in the right brake lever and knock the front brake calipers out of alignment.  I get up, press on the tender meat of my now-bruised hand, check out my now-scraped knee, rotate my now-sore shoulder, open up the now-rubbing brakes wide to minimize the effect, and get back on.

Fall off.  Get back on.  This is life.

I send a "dumped my sled" text to Sal, change clothes in the studio, and head to Stumptown for coffee with the lovely HG. 

It’s nice.  She’s nice.  The coffee is nice.  I’m warm. 

I want to stay that way. 

But there is another workout on the schedule and I am not going to bed until it is completed.

My nutrition has been off all day – my caloric intake has been way too low and I can feel the effect.  By the time I get home, I realize that I haven’t eaten in four hours, which is a disaster.  I can’t eat now because I’ve got to do a run. 

I know I won’t make it if I run on fumes, so I reluctantly ingest a Gu, gear-up, and head out into the pitch-black neighborhood streets.

My legs are cooked, my energy is low, and my head is not in the game.

"Pull your shit together, Swift." I tell myself.

I run through Hawthorne, dodging all the Saturday night socialites.  I run to Laurelhurst on darkened streets.  I can’t see the ground well enough so I end up slogging through some impressive puddles.  The feet are soaked 20 minutes in. 

I can’t generate the intensity I want.  I just can’t get up to speed.  Down Ankeny, past Ken’s Pizza where warm couples are eating hot, crispy carbs.  Around 28th I realize that if I run on bigger streets, I’ll have better lighting and better drainage. Duh.

At 38 minutes I want it to be over.  This is rare – I almost never actually want runs to be over.  I love running. 

I want to go home, to cut it short.  I adjust my route so I can end early.  I’m over this.  Every step has been a battle.  My stomach hates the Gu, and my body is pissed off about the low calories.  I’ve got nothing and it hurts.  My face is twisted with the effort.

These are the ugly times.

Then, almost like magic, my switch flips in minute 39.  I go from grimacing and near tears, to floating, flying and smiling.  I have no idea how this happens.  It seems impossible.  I look at my watch.  I’m running fast now and I feel 100 times better.  I make another turn to reroute again for more miles.

I end with a respectable 7.25, come home, slam a recover drink, run an ice bath, last 30 seconds, give myself props for trying, drain the bath and take a hot shower.

Within thirty minutes of the shower, my body shuts down in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. It just turns off.  I can feel the energy draining out of me.  I choke down a few last quality calories, shut down the house, and crawl into bed.

Amid the intense warmth and comfort of new flannel sheets, I sleep uninterrupted for a record 10 hours.

My legs are sore, my body is tired, and my resolve is set.  Today is another triple.

Bring it.




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  1. Heidi–
    These are the kinds of days when we discover what we’re made of. I was glad to read on to find out you completed your daily goal. I’m proud of you!

    You will remember this day the next time you’re in a race (or a sucky place in life) and everything starts to fall apart. Your body will start whining, “this is too hard. Let’s slow down.” And your will, hardened and honed by the wind and the rain and the fatigue of years past, will say, “no freakin’ way.”

    You’ll hear others tell you to “take it easy, you’re working too hard…bladdy blah.” I’ll tell you, the world is changed by people who have the courage and tenacity to do the stuff, with no regard to bad weather or a hundred others excuses. Ride on, little sister. Ride on!

  2. That was quite an adventure. Good for you for going back out for the run, and even better for feeling the flow! Thanks for leaving me a comment on the new green Kermie. Too funny that we named our car your Dad’s name!

  3. I loved Ed’s comment. I have found that to be true – you store work outs and use them later when you need them – physically they prepare you of course, but it’s the mental part that I remember and appreciate.

  4. Someone told me a few months ago (and it’s something I agree with, at least for the most part…) that sometimes, the greatest success is just hanging in there and finishing what it is you set out to do. Sometimes an indicator of success is not being the best! fastest! most overcoming of challenges! most outwardly determined and focused! that you have ever been. It’s just completing, it’s just keeping your word (even if you set your accountability to only be towards yourself), it’s just making it through.

    And you made it through in style. :)

  5. “…run an ice bath, last 30 seconds, give myself props for trying….” –Swift

    “Do or do not… there is no try.” –Yoda

    Sorry to bring Yoda into this conversation, but he is the ultimate coach/mentor.

  6. Coach Volk.
    That made me laugh out loud!!
    Alright already, I’ll consider myself called out. The ice bath is on.

  7. Wasn’t it just, like, 3 months ago we were all bitchin’ and moanin’ about the sun and how it wasn’t real cross weather? Then came Hillsboro and now here we are in the middle of one dank mother of a winter. I agree with others; you store this stuff to yank it out when you need it most.
    And isn’t it kind of ironic to talk about ice baths? Sounds like that’s what you were getting in the streets!
    Plus side – the days ARE getting longer.


  1. The Everyday Athlete » Blog Archive » Recovery 102: On Ice Baths and Other Shenanigans - [...] after last week’s character-building, bike-crashing workout, I tried to sit in an ice bath.  I only lasted 30 seconds, ...
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