July 25, 2012

“He said I had Broken wings. Son you have to look deeper, look beyond the hurt, the hate, the jealousy the soft pity. Way down deeper where the dreams lay. Find your dreams son. It’s the pursuit of the dreams that will heal you. “

–          Billy Mills, Olympic Gold Medalist in the 10,000 meters 1964

 

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Billy Mills is one of the greatest inspirations in my life. He is literally the reason that I won my first race, and a large part of the reason that I found passion in running. I remember watching him guest speak in 2002 in Rochester, NY (my home town). He talked about the power of the mind and its ability to accomplish amazing things. I specifically remember him telling us his Olympic victory story. In his words…

“For me it was a form of self hypnosis. And I visualized dozens of times a day. Then I started with my workout book. Now how do you improve your time two minutes? Or a minute and fifty seconds? Its almost too phenominal to think about. So I just went to the simplist form of something I thought I could believe. Once around the track, 25 laps. I just have to put forth (snaps his fingers) “that” much more effort each lap. Times 25 laps and thats fifty seconds. My thoughts changing from one more try one more try to I can win I can win. 30 yards to go my thoughts became over and over again  I won I won I won, but I’m still in 3rd place.”

 

At that moment I realized I had just learned something incredibly special. And I was pumped about the next day’s race. I was new to Cross Country, but had an old soul for it. I remember the back third of the race (Mendon Ponds Park for you Rochestarians ) Devils bath tub, suicide and cardiac hill). Coming into the last hill I started snapping my fingers. I seemed to forget my fatigue at that moment. So each minute of the race I would pick up my pace for ( snap- snap – snap- snap – snap) 5 seconds. Well 5 seconds turned to a minute and before I knew it, I was in the lead. In fact, so far in the lead I couldnt see my opponents. As I came up on the final 400, I started chanting “i’m going to win, i’m going to win, i’m winning”. And from that race on, I found this increasingly passionate love for the ZEN of running, for pushing my body past what I thought was possible. If we stop where we think our limits are, are we really pushing ourselves to the limit? Or are we sacrificing our true potential? I’m not sure…but I was willing to find out. 

Fast forward 10 years! Most of you reading this know me and my history of running, turned love of swimming and biking and pursuit of a career in triathlon. In fact, most of you are waiting to hear what the heck happened. The truth is, I wasn’t just trying to give you an exclusive look at my knee cap. Although I must say, i’m glad its still there 🙂 There is a point to the story of Billy Mills….bear with me 🙂

 

Last Saturday I headed out on a brick ride/run with one of the most talented triathletes in this area. He has qualified for Kona 14 times. We rode a hilly loop to Lake Berryessa (out near Napa Valley, CA). For the first time, I hit 40 mph coming down off the “hill”. More like a mountain- but anyways. Bryant asked me why i did so well keeping up with him on the uphill, but trailed behind him so far on the down. I told him I was still a bit timid as I haven’t had many opportunities to do such hilly courses with steep declines. I also didn’t know the roads (note to self- know your route!). I struck up a conversation on the next uphill to pass time. “Hey B- you ever had a bad crash?” “Yupp, when I lived in Kona.” He went on to tell me the story of how the road ravaged his bike and sent him on a little flight on the hawaiian coastline. Then he asked me “You? ” I replied- “Nope…but I know everyone has their first crash. And that’s always scared me.” Well I hope you never do he said as we were pumping up the hill. 

     About 30 minutes later he told me to jump ahead of him and “be careful Kate, this downhill is very steep and technical”. I will B- Thanks. I wasnt sure what to expect, but given the fact that he thought it was technical made me extra sensitive. I remember thinking- okay, this isn’t so bad. There just isn’t a shoulder. I squeezed my legs together and got low to lower my center of gravity. I took a big turn to the left and it started getting really steep. My senses were supercharged now as I glanced up to see what was ahead. With no recovery time, I was into the next turn and had only a split second to decide. Oh god i’m not going to make it flashed through my head. I knew I could do one of two things: 1) Turn into on coming traffic or 2) tap my back brake and pray it will slow me down enough to JUST miss the side of the road. As I tapped my back brake, my rear wheel locked up and I felt it start to skid. I let off the brake but it was too late, my pretty new Giant Time Trial bike had sent me going 30 mph into a wooden stake sticking out of the side of the hill. It seemed as if life were in slow motion at that moment. I remember everything. I couldn’t see anything, but I heard my brake, the bang of my bike , my body hitting the ground and I remember moaning as my body skid across the rocks. I remember praying God let me stop skidding. I remember being terrified another one of those wooden stakes would impale me. Finally the ride stopped and i was laying face down. I rolled over and felt excruciating pain in my left knee. I looked down and saw my knee cap. I screamed Bryant’s name but he was still trying to safely brake from the descent himself. The car behind me stopped and rushed over with a shirt. I threw it over my leg and said GOD HELP ME GOD! Ugh…sorry too much detail. At that point I remember thinking that I had these tools. My coach Mary and my team QT2 has taught me about being mentally durable. I wasn’t ever really sure what that felt like. I thought it just meant muscling through everything. The water, my peddle strokes, my hack squats. But at that moment, I realized that mental durability meant being able to show courage in the face of fear. To show strength in the face of weakness, and to be at a place within yourself that no one, no injury, nothing tangible could ever touch. And at that moment, the pain vanished. I smiled at Bryant and said “B- I think I need a new helmet”. I laid my head back on the floor mat from the generous civilians car and waited 20 minutes for the EMT’s to arrive. We had no cell phone signal, so a passing car drove to a call box to phone for help. I honestly don’t remember anything but nothing. I remember everything about the nothing. The sounds, the smells, the sights, but I felt nothing. I had put myself into this zone and no one was going to touch it. I had never felt so strong yet so powerless at the same time. 

     Once the paramedics arrived, I had begun to feel some pain in my neck and back. My nose hurt and I wasn’t sure if it was broken or not. They decided to back board me in case I had any spinal cord injuries. The EMT asked if I wanted morphine, and I said “No thanks…i’m good”.  I remember thinking Lets see how tough I really am. I think he thought I was crazy.

 

I remember taking my phone out to call Adam 4 or 5 times while I laid there, forgetting every time I had no cell phone signal. What was I going to do? He was in Seattle! We just got my new bike! Now I cant do my long run tomorrow! STOP KATIE STOP. Thought stopping is an amazing skill. You just stop everything negative going through your head at the moment and STOP. I asked the medic how my bike was and he said I think it might need some work 🙂 Dang- I just got that thing! 

 

At the hospital I was poked and x rayed. The numbing and scrubbing of my laceration was more painful than the fall, but I kept thinking durability durability durability. Lisa came and held by hand and took me home (an angel as always). I’m not sure what I would have done without her. Taken a cab home? Adam called in the troops and his friend Brandon Jones stayed the night with me. My friends and neighbors picked up meds, offered dinner, came to visit and lifted my spirits. I was amazed at how loved I truly felt. From the bottom of my heart. I love you all! Even my long distance supports, my parents, friends, and fellow team mates. Thank you! 

 

My prognosis is good. I have a MRI of my brain tomorrow to check some inflammed blood vessels found in a CT scan. Hopefully just a concussion. Other than that, every day is getting better and better. I talked to coach and we are already planning my recovery. Lots of swimming in my near future! I am grateful to be alive, partially healthy, and so loved. 

 

If you ever find yourself questioning your ability to move forward. Take Billy’s advice. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break things into manageable pieces. My recovery plan? Listen to my coaches, thank God i’m still alive, recover stronger, faster, and better than ever. And learn how to hit a steep descend without going over my handle bars :O) 

 

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““You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last blog! I will be making these more regular now that I might have more to talk about 🙂  So much has happened since my last blog it’s hard to believe it has only been a month! First things first- my hubby is finally home 🙂 It was just as amazing, sweet, and intense butterflies in the stomach moment as I described! Since then, both his sister and parents have been out to Cali for a visit.

The next most important thing that has changed is MY BIKE!!! I kept waiting to become more comfortable on it, but it never happened. I had Aero bars but on, the stem changed, and 3 bike fittings. Last month I started getting horrible migraines that were keeping me up at night, and keeping me from functioning during the day. I just couldn’t fathom another long ride on that thing. Just thinking about it made me cringe. The bike shop I got the bike from treated me like a total newbie. You either have bad form or a weak core…its not the bike its you. Well I knew better than that. Maybe my core does need strengthening, and my form improvement…but I shouldn’t feel this disconnected from a bike I put that many hours on each week. So I took it to a bike shop specializing in Triathlons…and the first thing they said? That bike is WAY too big for you! Wow . Really ? SHOCKER! hahaha. After testing out the appropriate sizes and realizing that I just don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on what I really need…. a smaller Time Trial bike- I turned to Craigslist. I came home after a Saturday ride almost in tears, started up my computer and THERE SHE WAS. My beautiful perfectly sized Time Trial bike on Craiglist being sold by a hard core roadie who was moving from San Fran. Adam and I took a drive out, I rode it and felt connected to it immediately. Here she is folks 🙂

I couldn’t believe the difference! No migraines, no pain, and WAY more power. My recovery pace had suddenly become my zone one pace from my other bike. AND it’s a Giant 🙂 I just happened to do a Catalog photo shoot with them last month for their new Fall catalog coming out next month! I am working on a possible sponsorship deal with them right now. This bike is awesome! I am so impressed with this company! So I had one recovery ride on the bike, and an Olympic Tri the next day in Herald, CA. I threw myself into the race with a bike i’ve ridden once, and two pretty gross off weeks of training. Well…turns out that bike served me well 🙂 I came out 8th in the swim (Didnt have a good swim. Pretty sure a wet suit would have helped, although my T1 was great!), I was in the lead until the turn around on the bike after passing the 7 women ahead of me, when all of the sudden a gal blew by me and said “Don’t worry! I’m not in your age group it doesn’t matter”! It doesn’t matter!??! Yes it does! She was a strong biker and I knew it. She looked smooth and unphased by the hills, heat, and previous discipline. So I smiled and said great job, and made a pact with myself to try to keep with her as long as I could, to try to catch her on the run. See… part of this wonderful new bike was not having a water bottle in the front, or the back! After not realizing this (rookie mistake) until after I set up transition and ONLY BRINGING WATER! DAH! ROOKIE! I was just going to have to suck it up. I had Gels and ONE water bottle and it was in the 90’s…and thats it. I felt pretty dehydrated getting off the bike, and my stomach ached from not having enough water to wash down my gel. GROSS. Either way my favorite part of the race was yet to come. I hit transition and heard the announcer yelling to me. “KATIE! You’ve got some catching up to do! You are 3 minutes behind Holly our lead woman!” I smiled, threw my shoes on- gave him a wink and took off. I felt MUCH slower than normal. I felt tired, hot, dehydrated and just plain off. I knew this wasn’t going to be the best race of my life considering the nutritional mistakes I had made, but I also knew that running was MY game, MY sport, My passion. And if biking was hers- I could catch her. I hit the first water stop and they told me she was hurting. A mix of (oh man I hope she’s okay, and  yes! I can catch her) crossed my mind. I held my pace and made my way through the dry, hot, dirt fire roads of Rancho Seco park with no water, and no gels. I was hurting but knew that I could hold on- because running was my thing. Around mile 2 I passed her and we exchanged high fives. We’re all here for similar reasons, and I admire my competition- but I came to win. I pulled in a pretty big lead and was happy to be coming into the sights of the finish line. I could hear the announcer saying “And here comes our First Place Female! Holly….wait no its not Holly! Its…..its…Katie Myska!”  I laughed. It felt pretty awesome to come back from being the under dog 🙂 No one knew who I was, or where I came from- but I got the job done and I was satisfied with my performance. The best part was knowing this time Adam was at the finish line. He is an amazing fan, caddy, driver, and cheerleader.

Finally after a streak of 2nd place finishes…I get my 1st. Hopefully lots more of these to come 🙂 But the most important lessons i’ve learned aren’t about place. Adam and I have been living with questioning of – What is a number? Its just a number. When I stress about weight, its just a number. When we stress about age, its just a number, place, its just a number. Certainly we can find more happiness in more tangible things than a number. So why do we place so much value in them?

Swimming is beginning to click. I began swimming a few days a week with a masters program. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of talent in this area. I am SO FORTUNATE to be surrounded by so many amazing athletes and personalities. Friday at the pool, the coach pulled me out of the water to help me learn the catch and pull. I can swim, but I power through it. She helped me FEEL the water. She took my hand to hears and made the motion, making me feel pressure against her hand and repeating it over and over. She was so patient, and gave me a deeper understanding of WHY, HOW, WHEN, AND WHAT to do to transfer the skills to the water. I got in and boom, light bulb. So THATS what its supposed to feel like. For so long I didnt know what it was supposed to feel like- so how do you know if your doing it right? Come to find out, she was an Olympic swimmer, and now coaches Olympic Trial athletes. I was pretty excited when she asked me to leave Triathlon to come swim. I politely declined. I love Triathlon, and i’m learning to love swimming too.

I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with one of the most dedicated, most talented runners i’ve ever met. This gal has qualified and ran in the Olympic Trials for the Marathon, won countless half marathons and marathons, and has a PR of about 2:17. Incredible. And not to mention she is a great friend, wife, mom, and amazing cook. I am so blessed to have her as one of my training buddies.

One of my best, most amazing, incredible, talented and special friends I have made here is Lisa Holdener. This woman is like my angel. She has been my rock when Adam is away, she has been a training buddy, a friend, and an example of what I want to be as a mother and  wife. She is strong not only in Triathlon, but her morals, goals, and character. She is truly an inspiration to me and so many others. She is a HUGE presence in this community, and I personally know for a fact I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for her support. Her husband recently blogged about sports psychology and the importance of companionship. Lisa…if you are reading this. Thank You. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being you. I know blogs are supposed to be about yourself- but you help me learn more about myself every day. And for that I could never repay you. You have the most beautiful heart. I feel so blessed to be a part of your life!

Be on the look out for my very own Triathlon T-shirt line! I am teaming up with an amazing amazing business man Teddy Yueng of Spoken Cloth. My line is called “Tri Moxie “.  I think  you have to have MOXIE to be a triathlete. Grit, guts, strength 🙂 Lots of fun things to come!

QT2 systems is amazing. I am slowly learning more and more about myself, my training, the importance of durability, mental toughness, and the importance of trust and RECOVERY. They know what they are doing, and I trust. I trust my amazing coach Mary Eggers, I trust their theories and their experience, knowledge and passion for Triathlon. I can’t wait to keep on this path towards fulfilling my goal of becoming a Professional Triathlete.

Good luck to Jennie Hansen and all the other QT2 team mates competing in Lake Placid this month! GO TEAM! 🙂