I spent the week of May 14th in Colorado Springs (at the Olympic Training Center!!) for the USAT Paratriathlon Coaching Certification Clinic. It was an amazing week. I love coaching – for my coaching brain, every athlete is a unique puzzle to figure out – but pursuing paratriathlon just felt right at this point in my life. I can’t explain it better than that.

I am not big on spending time with groups of people; it exhausts me. But after a whole week spending every minute with this group of coaches and athletes, I realized I had enjoyed every day. The athletes and coaches I got to work with are passionate with the attitude that it CAN be done. It was contagious.

We trainee coaches spent half the week in the classroom and half the week observing & assisting a wheelchair triathlon camp, with athletes of all levels. I learned a ton; and I have a lot more to learn. Next weekend I am flying out to Chicago to help coach (and keep learning) at the Dare2Tri injured military paratriathlon camp. I can’t wait!

The clinic ended Saturday. Assuming I passed the test, I will be a USA Triathlon Certified Paratriathlon Coach. I’m not sure where it will lead me, but I will keep you posted.

On Sunday I was signed up to run the NORAD trail half marathon at Cheyenne Mountain. It just seemed too convenient to pass up since I was down there anyhow. I am a bit obsessive about looking for races when I travel… I know.

It had started raining Friday. Kept going through Saturday. It was supposed to stop, but clearly Mother Nature didn’t get that message.

Race morning, I woke up to light rain. Sitting in my car next to all the other racers sitting in their cars, I did contemplate bailing. I was worried about trail conditions and it sure felt cold. As it turns out, the trail surface handled the rain really well. There were only 4 or 5 sections with the type of mud that builds up on your shoes until you feel like you are running with 10 pounds on each foot. The weather was cool and perfect for running.

This was my first race after the knee blowout. I told myself I would not look at my watch and just run how I felt. I did not even look at my heart rate once the whole race. A good thing. Sometimes it is just better not to know how hard you are working.

The race was essentially two climbs and two descents. As we started up the first climb, my immediate thought was “damn, I feel good”. I quickly reminded myself that could change. Every time my watch buzzed a mile, I thought “wow, I still feel good”. I ran the whole first climb (not fast, but not walking). I was a bit nervous (read: slow) on the downhill but kept a steady pace and ignored all the people who passed me. I would get them on the next uphill.

My prize!

At 9 miles, we reached the bottom of Climb 1. I still felt good, holy cow! I grabbed two Oreos and started up the second, shorter climb. It was slightly more technical, but I still managed to run most of it. At this point, I was tiring, so I was relieved when I started on the final downhill. Still, I couldn’t believe how strong I felt. All those early training miles with Alexis this year were paying off. I crossed the finish line smiling. Two volunteers grabbed me and asked me how old I was. I guess I look suspiciously old… I told them I was 46 and they handed me the award for first master female. Ah, the benefits of being old and running a really small race!

It is easy to forget how much of a toll a race can take on your body. In my younger years, I was (unfortunately for my health) able to push through my post-race fatigue and neglect my recovery.

Not now. My body simply shuts down: I think it realized my brain was never going to cooperate, so it had to take over. I am learning to accept and respect this.

Monday morning, I felt ok: A short jog for recovery and then some squat mobility practice with Eric, a coach at CrossFit Verve in Denver.

Puck in his happy place

Tuesday, I woke up feeling like the tin man, rusted with no oil. Every joint hurt. And I was SO. DAMN. TIRED. That lasted through Thursday. Fortunately, Puck doesn’t care how fast I move as long as he has ponds to explore, so we took some nice long walks. On Friday I woke up feeling partly human. This morning, Saturday, I felt pretty good again.

I just had to let my body work through the recovery process. I don’t know if my 30-year-old self would listen to my 46-year-old advice if I could go back and give it. Not likely. I thought I was invincible. My rational coaching brain knew recovery was the most important part of the training equation, but my irrational athlete brain ignored that. I paid for it in the long run; but it is STILL a mental challenge for me to give recovery the importance it deserves.

Recovery is hard. But the reality is that it is IN THE RECOVERY that you gain fitness.

At least now my body doesn’t give me a choice in the matter.