How I treated my injury two weeks before a race – Trigames Cagnes Sur Mer 2017
Cagnes Sur Mer Trigames, July 2017
As I get ready for birth over the next month, I reflect on my last triathlon race before getting pregnant. Trigames Cagnes Sur Mer 2017 was the inaugural race of 1.5km swim, 48km bike and 10km run. I wonder when I’ll be able to do the next race…
After a rather intense 2016 triathlon season, 2017 was to be more of a recovery year for me. In 2016, I was coached by Lubos Bilek, one of the sport’s well-known coaches, the coach of Sebastian Kienle, the Ironman World Champion, and my training program was simply no joke. My main goals were to win my Age Group at Ironman Nice, which I succeeded at, and podium at the 70.3 World Championship in Australia, which I missed by just 30 seconds.
A month after Australia, I went to India for my prenatal yoga certification and did not train there for three weeks. After another leisurely month, I went to Guatemala for a month in December for my 300 hours advanced yoga training, and put my training on hold again. I had to stop and restart my training once again in March, which included organizing my Reboot Yoga Retreat, after I finally spent a good three weeks with Paco Serrano’s Triathlon Team getting back in shape in Monterrey Mexico to arrive in France in early May for our 1st edition of our Côte d’Azur Epicurean Yoga Retreat. Once that was over in mid May, I was finally able to start getting back in shape, climbing the cols of the Côte d’Azur region.
I was not used to hills anymore and my first longer ride exhausted me so much, I slept for three hours straight after that. Wow, I have a long road ahead to get back in shape, I thought.
Before arriving in France, I was contacted by the Cagnes Sur Mer Trigames organizer, asking me if I’d like to participate in their race. It was to be their inaugural one! How exciting! I love supporting new business ventures. As an entrepreneur myself, I truly believe in helping other entrepreneurs with publicity. I was also honored by the invitation and the “close to olympic distance” was just about what I thought I might be able to manage fitness-wise. I said yes, and now I was committed.
I only had a month and a half to get ready and I was contemplating getting a coach. But then again, could he really work some magic in such a short period of time?
I decided to just coach myself, put in the volume that from experience I felt an olympic distance race required, and not to over-stress myself. This is my recovery year. I will only train once a day on most days. I will make sure to recover with yoga, and I will make it fun and social by also attending some track sessions with the Grasse Triathlon Team. I will build my volume gradually, so as not to get injured over the six weeks. So that was my plan, kind of a go by feel, day by day, really no plan. It was making me a bit nervous not to have more structure, but that’s when I just had to go back to the big picture. Gradual build over six weeks, so as not to get injured.
I also had a visit of my brother and his family planned two and a half weeks before the race and going to visit my family in the Czech Republic a week and half before the race. Not ideal, but I reminded myself that family visits were now more important than a short race during my recovery year.
I now had just four weeks to go before the race and went to the track twice a week for the following two weeks, once with the Grasse Triathlon Team on Tuesday, and then also on Friday, alone. That I thought was perhaps a bit too much track training for someone who was not in that much shape, but I figured that would get me in shape fastest.
(I also tried to do some hilly bike rides around the same distance as the race, nothing too crazy.)
After this block, and before heading to the Czech Republic, on Monday, two weeks before the race, I decided to go for a long run in the evening, even though I had originally planned to make it a rest day, as I felt my body needed it.
I did yoga in the morning and felt good, stretched out, the run felt smooth, but as soon as I was arriving near my turnaround point, I felt a tightening in my calf. Weird, feels like it needs stretching, maybe if I keep running it’ll loosen up, I thought.
I keep going and it gets even more tight to painful. I turn around to run back and need to stop to try to stretch it out in pain. Should I call my boyfriend to come pick me up? Should I stop running now? I decide to keep going, slowing down extremely, uncomfortable, trying not to change my gait so as not to compensate and make things worse, I cut my return section short and arrive home almost walking.
This is really not good just two weeks before the race. I placed electric stem electrodes on my calf, ice and a compression sock on top. At the same time, I felt the calf was a symptom of a larger problem somewhere else in the body.
While my muscles were still warm, I started to stretch all parts of the body and do yin yoga, long, deep holds of various postures. I started with straddle, stretching inner thighs, observing if releasing them would release some of the pain. It did.
With more postures, I realized my piriformes muscle and my glutes were quite tight also, and above all my left IT band, an issue I’ve suffered from a few times before. However, in the past, the symptom was either pain near the knee or in the hip. Knowledge of my own body made me think that the calf pain would mean less of a problem.
Now, what could be the cause of this? What came to mind was running on the track in one direction. While when going to the track on my own, I would switch directions, running both clockwise and anti clockwise, when training with the team, we would always run in one direction, putting more pressure on the inside, left leg, the source of my tightness. And the repeat uneven stress on the body at higher speeds than normal, during interval training, is a recipe for injury.
I started massaging my IT band, foam rolling, laying on Trigger Point Therapy balls at different trigger points of my body, and then did it again before going to bed, after re-icing a few times also. Next day I only swam. Things were fine, except when I pushed off the wall I could feel the tightness.
Next day, which was a travel day to see my family, I went biking just for an hour. No pain, just tightness. I followed this with one day rest, one day swim, one day rest, one day swim. On my rest days, I did yin yoga and vinyasa in the morning, and more yin yoga before going to bed. I massaged my IT band, put more magnesium spray and electric stem on tight muscles, pressed into my Trigger Point Therapy balls at trigger points of my hips and IT band.
I also found a massage therapist who also does cupping. I have never had cupping done, so was a bit weary of doing something new so close (a week) before race day. My therapist placed the suction cups on my back, the usual spots for cupping therapy, and I asked him if he could also place them on my hips and IT band. It wasn’t what traditional cupping therapy prescribes, but my therapist felt it would not hurt, so we went ahead with my invented treatment.
My massage treatment felt good, but mainly, it allowed me to go deeper into my yoga stretches. I always find massage/ shortly followed by yoga, to be very effective.
I continued my one day swim, one day rest with yoga protocol. Then a couple of days before leaving my family, I dared to try to run. It was a Monday before the race. I went rather easy and only 45 minutes or so, observing what was happening with the body. I tried a few 2 minute pick ups to see what would happen at higher speeds. It felt fine, but I could tell, some muscles had a tendency to go back to their old tracks, slight tightening in the left hip, inner thighs, left calf. I felt if I ran any time longer, I could have started to have issues again.
In the evening, I went back to my therapist. Since I still had bruises from cupping on some parts of my back, apparently a sign that my body was detoxifying itself from sluggish, stuck cells, the massage was shorter and without cupping. The next day, I did one more swim and left my family to see my friend Masa, her husband and baby in my home town. The next day I ran for only 30 minutes, including some run drills, in one of the week’s highest temperatures. I felt slow and was quite doubtful about how the race would go. For the last two weeks I had been just working on recovering from injury, swimming, not doing any bike and hardly any run training. Hopefully my body would not be in too much shock when it has to bike in the race! I have had coaches tell me before that while a good taper, rest before a race, is important, but taking too much rest is not.
It was what it was and the most important thing was to be able to finish the race without pain and to have fun!
It was this change of mindset that was needed to make the best out of what I had going for this race. I came back to France and went to pick up my tuned up bike from the bike shop. My chain, tire and cassette had been changed and all I could notice what a nice, crisp sound every gear switch was making.
Thursday before the race, I went to pick up my race number with my boyfriend at the sports store. I really was hoping to do this race a bit under the radar, do it for myself, for the love of the sport. When I went to check what my race number was, I was hoping I hadn’t been given something very low, that would draw attention and would give my bike space in the “fast people” section of the transition. I search around, amongst the roughly 700 competitors and can’t find my name. Oh no, maybe they forgot to register me! I look at the very top of the list one more time to scroll down though the names, and there at the top, I see my name next to #9. Sure enough, I was given a top 10 number.
As I started to organize my things for the race, I realized that I had left my Garmin charger in the Czech Republic. Oh no! I started to think if I could do the race without, not having any checks on speed, power or heart rate… I tend to go by feel in races anyway, but it’s still useful to check in with your pace, especially on the run, not to allow yourself to slow down. It would essentially feel like racing blind…
I contacted a couple of triathlon friends to see if I could borrow the charger, and luckily my friend Isa was super nice to even offer to bring one over to me! So grateful to have friends like these!
The day before the race I just stayed home, went to take my bike for a spin again, swam a little, ran a little, did yoga and meditation, cooked my pasta with tempeh dinner and went to bed.
Even though I had calmed my body and mind with yoga and meditation, I realized I was quite nervous. It was July and I hadn’t raced since September, almost a year. I wasn’t in the swing of things. I was hoping I wasn’t forgetting something.
I woke up many times during the night and my sleep was light, typical pre-race night and I tried not to let it get to me.
I had my typical breakfast of bread, banana, peanut butter, water and green tea, and off we went to the race site with my boyfriend. I was trying my new Zoot Kit on for the first time!
I came to transition and saw my spot right at the beginning, in the seeded, fast people section. I saw some fit-looking guy getting interviewed not too far away from me. Hope they don’t ask me anything, I thought. As I start setting up my bike, the interviewers start talking to a girl next to me, number #8. I listen intently to see if I can find out anything about my competition, but they only ask her what she thinks of the course. Thinking I would be left alone since my neighbor just got interviewed, the interviewers come to me, asking me if I spoke any French. Ahm… oui, un peu… I squeeze out. Happy about that, they proceed to announce through the loud speaker, that Hana Sykorova, multiple qualifier for Kona, the Ironman World Championship, and the age group winner of Ironman Nice, is also competing today… Wow, they have been prepped on who I am. Being asked about what I thought of the course, I simply remarked it was a typical bike course for the region, climb for the first half, descend on the second part. And when asked which part I liked more, I said climbing…
I then proceeded to meet up with my boyfriend, went for a short warm up run, took my amino acids and half Biestmilch and finished the rest of my electrolyte drink. The music was blasting and I was feeling more nervous. I had Enrique help me put my wetsuit on, I jumped into the ocean, which was calm as a mirror compared to Thursday, I tried to calm my nerves and came back out.
Not completely sure of the swim course and where all the bouys were compared to the drawing online, I asked some guy and he started to talk about the two loops… There weren’t supposed to be two loops! Just one! Nothing like getting confused right before the race! So instead I asked one of the official race organizers, who said they would go over it in a minute, and no, there weren’t two loops!
I went along the beach and ran into the lined up crowd, trying to be in the third line, enough in front to be able to draft off some feet.
I tried to stay calm, take in the atmosphere, and tell myself to enjoy myself!
The gun went off and I ran into the sea, following the guys in front. With a fast pace, I tried to stay inside the wake of the swimmers in front. People were swimming over me, pushing me around, the typical blender feeling, during which you just have to stay calm and accept it as normal. I tried not to get agitated by all this, when boom 💥 , someone kicks me into my eye, it hurts and my left goggle shifts up into the middle of my eye, so that I see absolutely nothing with that eye. Should I stop and fix it? But what if I lose my contact lens in the process? That was a dilemma. I was thinking I should have had my lasik done after all! I had lost a contact before during a race and it felt uncomfortable especially when descending fast on a bike, so decided against it. I tried to sight and see at least with my right eye. It was annoying and I felt my stroke was all out of whack. I tried to draft as much as possible and at times I had a really hard time seeing the buoy. I just had to trust those ahead of me were swimming straight. I did not have a particularly relaxed stroke, I don’t think, I just wanted it to be over. I could finally see the shore approaching and I did not seem to be that far behind the first crowd.
I eagerly got out to see Enrique, my boyfriend, tell me I was fifth. Hmm… considering swimming is not my thing, not too bad. If I had been in my normal shape, I could even feel confident I could come in first. But this time, I did not think I had too much in me to improve much from the position.
I ran towards my bike, pulling off my wetsuit, and to my surprise the two other girls with low numbers (below 10) still had their bikes there. I put on my helmet, sunglasses, grabbed the bike by the seat and started to run when my bike jumped. Meaning, the front wheel braked, making the back of the bike lift up. What is going on, I wondered? I put the back wheel down and I tried to run again and the bike kept stalling. I pushed on the front of the bike, at the handle bars, rather than pushing it at the seat and the bike moved a bit better. Then, almost at the end of transition it started to brake again, it skidded, and the back wheel slid and pushed someone’s shoes to the side. Oh no! I felt bad for the mess I created and at the same time a female competitor passed me. Great, so now I am number 6 due to the ridiculously slow transition time. Now, the big question was if I would be able to ride the bike! If it keeps stopping like that while being pushed, will I be able to ride it, and safely? There was just one way to find out.
After the mount zone, I jumped on my bike and started biking. The bike was moving, but with a squeaky sound.
This apparent friction somewhere was getting on my nerves. Clearly, I was exerting more energy than needed. In other words, I could be going faster. Later I found out that when I exchanged my tire, a thicker tire was put on at the bike shop, causing this friction.
Well, again, there was not much I could do, just push. I tried to take note of how my body was feeling, after this long rest. I could feel lactic acid building in my thighs, I was rested, but could feel my body was in a bit of a shock. It didn’t matter, all I could do was ride with good technique, enjoying the beautiful scenery, not forgetting to hydrate. At one point I was cheered on and told I was number 5. Ok, maybe I had passed one woman and hadn’t noticed.
I just kept pushing as I climbed, enjoying the familiar course.
Soon enough some technical descending was in the picture and I saw a woman pass me, being less cautious than me. I really dislike being passed on a downhill, but I just had to deal with it. There was a little bit of flat road left and I finally made it to the end of the bike course.
It was time for the final leg of the race, the run, and I was hoping to not have pain. It was three loops of 3km and a bit. That was a lot of loops for such a short distance, but enjoyable for spectators. First loop I just focused on form. My pace was at around 7’ per mile, something I would run in a half marathon when in good shape, but for the first loop I thought it was fine, better to negative split (run the second half of the race faster than the first), on the second loop I just tried to keep my form and pace – unfortunately I was not able to pick up the pace, and then at around the turnaround point, I felt an intense tightness in my hamstring. That was new. I did not want to injure myself and I did not want to alter my stride to start compensating either. Maybe I can push through, maybe it will just go away, I thought, knowing that that was not too likely. Sure enough though, after about 1km, the pain went away.
Now I had just one loop to go. I really tried to give it all I got, passing as many people in front of me as I could, not knowing my position, just knowing there were some fast women ahead of me, whom I would see at the turnaround points.
The course was a bit longer than 10k, and I could feel each extra meter over the 10k, it seemed like. I finally made it to the finish, with a big smile on my face to have finished without injuring myself. I immediately got interviewed, finding out I was 4th female, and 1st in my age group. Missing the podium by just a bit always stings, but one just needs to move forward. I was grateful I got in shape for the race and was able to manage my injury successfully, all the way to healing it with self knowledge of my own body, yin yoga and patience, knowing that less can be more, being just 5% overtrained and injured is worse than being 20% undertrained but healthy.