It seems like, when something in a person’s life happens to gain momentum, other, similar things in a person’s life follow suite. If that momentum-gathering thing happens to be something that is not a happy thing, other unhappy things knock loose and tumble like a rockslide into a person’s otherwise merry way. In other words, life really appears to be throwing rocks in my direction. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect that the universe was trying to bring my IronWoman dreams to an untimely conclusion. I know better, though, and it’s just a challenge, an obstacle, like ay other.
It all started last week, when a dreaded all-too-familiar tickle in my chest, as if a family of porcupines had begun building a nest in there. Colds that immediately settle into my chest make me nervous, as I am ridiculously prone to secondary chest infections (I once had four bouts of bronchitis in four months when I lived in London–and they don’t believe in prescribing antibiotics). Tuesday night was still unseasonably frigid, with temps in the mid-forties. There was no way I was going to put my body through swim while it was trying to fight off this wretched thing.
I rested the chest until Thursday evening, when, after driving six hours up to San Francisco for a job interview, I joined one of the TNT teams for a swim. Midway into a kick set, my chest seized. I had to stop kicking entirely and stood to the side to dry-cough my lungs out before starting up again. I managed to choke and cough through a few more sets until my chest calmed down. The sets were short, much shorter than what I was used to doing. My body felt stiff from being in the car all day, even midway through the set. The team captain criticized my form, saying my “glide” was non-existent, and he didn’t see how I was going to make it through 2.4 miles like that. I knew I hadn’t been performing at my best, but, still, I felt embarrassed to be representing our LA IronTEAM and doing such a shoddy job. Oh, smell, I thought. I probably won’t see these folks again anyway.
My congestion worsened throughout the weekend, thickening and causing me to embarrass myself in public several times with extended coughing fits (never, ever leave home without a cough drop, people). I was beginning to envision myself as a tiny speck behind all of my teammates as they sped off on those wheelie cartoon legs into the rising sun, leaving me with my cough drops, hacking uncontrollably in a billowing cloud of desert dust.
Determined to get at least one run in, I took off from home with a friend (who was visiting from out of town),taking on some rollers into Beverly Hills, and hoofing it for seven miles, stopping many times to launch into phlegm-loosening activity, down more water, and to recover from the chest-gripping uphills. At the end, I actually felt slightly better, and I was glad that I’d gotten one run over with, in spite of all of the pestering side effects.
Monday morning I’d lent my friend Shadow Comet so that he could meet some friends for a ride, but I planned on taking Little Glory, my poor, neglected hybrid out for a leisurely beach spin. As I bustled around the apartment, putting things away, I accidentally knocked a box of straight pins onto the floor in the hallway. As I spun around to pick them up, CRACK! I slammed my pinkie toe right into the door frame.
It didn’t sound pretty, it didn’t feel pretty. Maybe, maybe I could just “walk” it off. The toe flamed red and started to swell. The pain didn’t subside as it normally did with a usual stub situation. My attempt at wrapping an ice pack around it only resulted in achieving borderline frostbite. I decided to put it up for a bit, no bike ride, and then we’d see where we were.
My friend texted, saying he’d gotten a flat and, in spite of the fact that I’d equipped him with spare tubes, would be arriving in a pick-up. The bike is fine (as am I), he reassured me.
When he got there, it was the rear tire that had gotten the flat. The CO2 cartridge had popped the new tube. Well, it was about time for me to learn to change the rear tire anyway (which I did, pretty quickly, and with no issues). I also purchased a hand-pump. No more CO2 monkey business for me.
Later in the evening, after I’d dropped my friend off at the airport, I got a good luck at the toe aftermath. There was a lot of blue and purple, and it still hurt to walk, with a kind of shifty-feeling in the bone area. A break, most likely, and, for a pinky toe, not much can be done, except tape.
The next day, I arrived at TNT coached swim, feeling pretty deflated by recent events. Still, part of me was excited to get into the pool, to do something that would relieve some of the stress. Then, of course, I heard what we were actually going to be doing. Today we were doing a marker set, 1000-yards timed. I fretted a little bit over my remaining congestion, the toe, and my lack of continuous training, but, at this point, I was so defeated, I just decided to let it all go, to get into the water, and to have fun, without worrying too much about being a Speedy McSpeedster.
We warmed up with 15 minutes of continuous swimming, took a full minute break, and started our set. Of course, in true SD Mulligan fashion, I managed to have a goggle band break right before my set, which delayed things a bit. I ended up starting off 100 yards behind the rest of the group in my lane.
Since my pride had been bruised the week before, I decided to focus on my length and glide through the water. Pretty soon I was overlapping my lane mates. I passed a couple of people, but then stayed stuck behind a teammate whose wildly flailing legs made going around seem a little more risky than it ought to have been. I slowed my “roll” and stayed back, managing to keep the front of my stroke away from the churning leg blades in front of me. Halfway through, the teammate actually stopped and allowed me to pass, and I took off, accelerating slightly, but mostly out of the pure enjoyment of gliding through the water, feeling unfettered by my stupid toe, flat tires, or dragging body weight. My congestion still bugged me, forcing me to take a breath every two strokes, but, in spite of the rattling, short breaths, I still managed to appreciate the rhythm and flow of my time in the water.
In the end, my coach told me my average split was at 2:03, which, while not great, was at an intermediate level. After our time trial, we had a 200 easy swim, and then a series of 100s at “cruising speed,” which, for me, seemed much faster than my 1000-yard speed. Maybe I was finally warmed up? I felt like I could have done the 1000 set again, with faster times. Maybe I am an endurance racer after all!
Maybe this swim is a sign that things might be headed back to normalcy. Maybe there isn’t such a thing as normalcy. Maybe you just have to take the bad with the good and put peanut butter on it (because PB makes everything better). Anyway, here’s to developing IronWoman emotional, physical and mental toughness!
P.S. I would have posted pics of my gorgeously purple toe, but my phone fell in the toilet last night and is drying out (yep, it’s been one of those weeks, for sure).