Late Christmas Gifts and Lessons to Learn

I received a late Christmas present this weekend: a few extra pounds.

Most recent pic of me (middle)
On New Year's Eve
This wouldn't be so embarrassing if it weren't for the fact that many fellow bloggers are far superior athletes than I, and it's pretty well-known information that diet is a giant factor in both weight loss and performance, so clearly many of you are better dieters, too.  Also, we all know I am already not a skinny triathlete.  (Hell, most people still can't believe I swim, bike and run.)  See photos.  Very much not athlete-looking.


It is also embarrassing because I don't usually gain any weight during the holidays (it's either minimal or I lose), but I tacked on almost 5 pounds this season. According to USA Today and several other sources, the average American puts on about a pound during the holidays.  I work out 5-6 hours a week on a REST week.  How can I freakin' gain FIVE TIMES the average?

Winning 2nd Athena Overall
at Baldwin Park in June '11
(now I'm just about too light to race Athena)
(I hope)

Yes, I have no thyroid, but you can't completely blame that since I take thyroid hormone.  That probably only handicaps me about 10% more than the average person.  No, this was a combination of adding candy, drinks, and treats (never much of a sugar person) to my normally 90% healthy, whole-er, less-processed foods, limited-booze diet, reducing my training volume, and then - the piece de resistance - having to take almost an entire week off last week for an upper respiratory bug.


So.  About this week off.  Saturday rolls around, I have a group ride scheduled on Sunday to train for the 2012 Tour de Mom, and I decide I'm feeling good enough to try a relaxed group ride.

Although I adore running on good days, I hate it on bad days.  Swimming (at least in a pool) has earned a similarly ambivalent place in my life.  But there has never been a time when a ride has not made me feel better. 
No matter how thy-low I felt, no matter how ill, on days when runs would trash my legs and self-efficacy or swimming would aggravate my balance disorders, on days when weight training just made me feel wimpy, riding always made me feel better. The only other thing this (or more) therapeutic for me is yoga.  In fact, I've often said there really is no such thing as a "bad ride."
That changed this weekend.

Even when I feel fat, riding
usually makes me feel better
Friday night through Saturday morning I rolled out of bed nearly every hour to use the restroom and cough my brains out, each time feeling more miserable from the lack of sleep brought on by recovering from a cold, and from some other mysterious yuckiness.  The final time I did this only to realize that I had less than 15 minutes to get on my way to my ride.  I threw my cold weather gear on and rolled out in time for the 40-ish degree ride anyway.

The problems with this were manifold:
  1. I had gotten less than 5 hours of real sleep
  2. I felt dizzy as hell
  3. I was still congested
  4. My head hurt
  5. I had no time for enough coffee or a real breakfast
  6. My stomach was vaguely queasy
  7. I forgot to take my thyroid medicine (this NEVER happens)
So the ride ended with me feeling nauseous, sniffling, coughing, and getting dropped 10 miles in.  And when I say "dropped" I don't mean "dropped back a little," I mean left completely behind.  So bad that I don't even think anyone realized I was gone.  (Normally this would hurt my feelings quite a bit, as I had some friends on the ride, but I felt too shiteous to care.)

I finally got home from getting my car, took a hot shower and sat down under a warm blanket in some fuzzy PJ pants.

The problems with this were also manifold:
  1. I was supposed to do research all day - now I would have to do it all Sunday, and I was already behind from being sick AND already had plans for Sunday
  2. I was supposed to go to a party that night
  3. The B couldn't come get me, because his car doesn't have a bike rack, and my keys were with me while my car was at the bike shop
  4. I haven't been dropped like this in 5-6 years
Normally getting dropped from a ride would also really hurt my ego, but all this did was make me feel bad physically.  The B had to help me get out of my toe coves, shoes, and gloves.  (He then made me some tomato soup and a grilled cheese, which was nice of him.)

But, after I started to feel a little better, I started to realize . . . they can't all be winners.

I talk a lot about the lessons I've learned from training and from cancer, but there is a big lesson here that I still haven't learned: when to quit.  I guess I thought (foolishly) that I could just keep pedaling through anything.  And, because I have become conditioned to not feeling great most of the time, I've pretty much trained through all kinds of shitty physical stuff.  So I don't really recognize the difference between time to just push through it and time to back off.  There is a difference between pushing your physical limits and making yourself sick.

The good news is this: I went out there and tried.  I didn't make it more than 14 miles, but I didn't lay in bed feeling sorry for myself.  Now I just have to figure out when it is more appropriate to do that instead.

Now, since I've had 2 full nights of sleep and MORE rest from training, my congestion seems gone, and I have the inspiration, I'm going to get my ass in gear and try to go for a little run.  Because, while it is up to me take care of me, this 5 pounds (plus the other 15 or 20 I'd like to shed) and this 70.3 (and these cycling races) are not going to take care of themselves.

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