Did you know that most triathletes are typically Type A, obsessive-compulsive geeks? Well. Know it. We try to put on a cool front, but in case you haven't already seen through it, it's all show. Some of us are Type A about... everything. Life. Work, family, hobbies, traffic... Have to be the boss. Everything has to be perfect to the smallest detail, and if it is not, we will not rest, we will not un-tense our muscles, until it is. Since we have strict personal rules and standards, we also expect others to live by similar standards. Yes - it is frightening. Fortunately, those folks are a minority.
The rest of us are Type A about one thing - training. Some more than others, certainly. I can think of plenty of examples of opposite ends of the spectrum. But regardless of your inclination towards OCD training methods or a more relaxed approach, either way, there is constantly an underlying guilt haunting the back of your mind, waiting to rear its nagging, obnoxious little head when you deviate from your training plan, or, if you don't (gasp - shudder) have a training plan, to constantly ask you "WHY AREN'T YOU DOING MORE??!" I like to call him the Obnoxious Nagging Triathlon Guilt Monster, or ONTGM for short. I do not call him this is in front of my friends. I would feel like even more of a geek than I already am. Not necessary, as all of my triathlon friends would be quick to inform you - and as all of my non-triathlete friends would be even quicker to inform you. But here I am baring my soul and letting you into the secret and stressful world of guilty, over-worked triathletes.
You may ask - Is anyone safe from ONTGM? Some may be. I have in mind a few seriously Type A athletes who literally follow their training plans to the tee, and therefore can have no real qualms, it would seem, about their endeavors. I can't imagine being them and having anything other than an underlying peace and contentment, knowing that I have done everything in power to enable myself to kick the largest amount of ass possible as efficiently as possible. My coach, for instance, is die-hard about his training plan, and he has the research and experience to back it up. I can't picture him ever worrying about not training enough or not training properly. I could easily be wrong, and he might suffer from ONTGM attacks like the rest of us, but I don't see it. On the other hand, I have a close friend who is an excellent athlete, but hardly ever trains, and therefore seems to be continually afflicted by ONTGM to the point where she actually seems to have been been nagged into regular training this season. I mean, this is serious stuff.
Quick pause - if you're a triathlete, right now you're probably thinking "Yes. I know exactly what she means. If only I felt guilty more often I would train more often and be a more competitive athlete." If you're a regular person, you're probably thinking "WTF?" Why do we love the sport so much if entails such a rigorous and taxing schedule? Why? I'll tell you why. It's because WE'RE TYPE A. As mentioned previously. See, triathlon does rely to some extent on naturally ability, but, like any endurance sport, much of an athlete's ability to be competitive comes more from hard work and time spent training. We can control it!!! And I think we can all identify with the joy of working hard for something, and then achieving it. And of course, there are other perks as well - healthy lifestyle, super hot bodies, adrenaline rushes, etc. So don't let my descriptions of ONTGM fool you - we still love the sport, but like any addiction, it has the odd downside.
About a month ago, I came back from a short trip to Hawaii. I noticed the day we left that I was tired - weirdly tired. Fatigued. I just assumed a busy week of hiking, drinking, training, and even some racing, had just left me with the to recover. A reasonable assumption. It soon became clear that something else was going on. I kept having days in a row when I was too tired to get out of bed, and I would feel light-headed and dizzy, with strange headaches. Ok. Not good. I see FOUR, count them, one two three FOUR doctors. I finally get tests run - and they come back with some strange results. First - the CT scan for the headaches. I have chronic sinusitis. Ok. Antibiotic and Mucinex. Second - bloodwork. Elevated iron and potassium levels. Anti-nuclear antibodies present. Oh, and apparently I had mono sometime in the past. Hmmm. Could explain the complete and utter exhaustion of the past month. So I go to the doctor (again), and she starts to go over the bloodwork. She explains that the iron and potassium aren't actually high enough to cause any problems. Ok. That's easy. However, she says that the ANA result is not good. Not good enough that I need to go see a specialist. She starts listing other symptoms for rheumatoid disorders (which are what ANA is indicative of), but I don't have any of them. So that's weird. She seems convinced, ultimately, that I had mono recently, and am still recovering. Only thing is, aside from fatigue, I haven't had any other symptoms of the virus. But she still seems pretty sure. Ok.
So I ask the doctor what I should do right now, assuming I am in fact recovering from mono. She says lots of rest and healthy eating. I say "define rest." She looks at me strangely. Says that I should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, taking my supplements, and eating a healthy diet. So finally, I ask her about training. And she tells me to listen to my body. Listen to my body. It's been talking to me. Apparently. I tend not to listen when it complains because it can be a whiny little bitch sometimes. But now I have to listen to it. Refer back to my description of Type A triathletes given earlier. I am not pleased with this situation.
My sick little Type A triathlete self is definitely having a rough time right now. It's having to make a bunch of choices that make its Type A part a little crazy. Taking days off. Changing up my schedule... It's very painful. I know if you're reading this, and you're not an athlete, you may not understand. And I understand that. A year ago, I would have though anyone in my situation insane for trying to continue to train period. But I didn't have this fun addiction a year ago, so here I am. And, as long as the doc says I can keep training, you better believe I'll be out there. I mean, my first A race isn't until April - and we can have this fixed by then, right? Right.