Thursday, October 6, 2016

Good. Now.

A few months have gone by since my last update which included a recap of my race in Calgary. There have been a lot of ups and downs since then, but I’m happy with where I am headed.

Injuries suck. They’re awful. But, they are essentially guaranteed to happen to endurance athletes. I don’t exactly remember when my injury first started bothering me this summer. I remember racing Green Events Firecracker 5k on July 4th and my heel/arch bothering me for a bit during the warmup. In July I raced Vineman 70.3 (aka bike drama) and then Calgary 70.3 afterwards. While the result in Calgary was great for me, the next day I was in a lot of pain in my heel/calf/shin area. I tried to manage the injury the next few weeks. I let Coach Mace know that I was experiencing some pain, although at the time, I thought it was a pain we could manage.

Lake Louis in Banff National Park post Calgary 70.3
One Wednesday morning after a track workout the night before, I woke up and nearly cried after walking across the room. It felt like a knife had been stuck in my heel. At this point, I finally acknowledged that I would have to amputate my leg. Or take some time off of training. It was difficult to watch races happen knowing that I could have competed, but I had myself to blame for not backing off early enough.

I did my best to stay positive and focus on the things that I could control. In mid-August, I drove to Kansas City with Rachael to see her dog Molly. Rachael thinks it was to help her move home, but I really just wanted to meet Molly. And to check out all of the good coffee places.

After returning to Colorado, I started an intensive program of swimming and job searching. My daily activities included driving to the pool 2 x per day (biking still hurt my injury a bit), applying to jobs, putting away dishes, walking the dog, and eating. #StayAtHomeDadStatus Part of me enjoyed the lack of daily structure. It allowed me to lay around between workouts, but I also found myself feeling unproductive. I applied to a variety (15+) of jobs and kept track of them in a spreadsheet.

I had a few interviews that gave me hope, but nothing seemed to pan out. Despite having a college degree (basically two), above average math and computer skills, and being able to lift 40 lbs, I still was turned down for several minimum wage jobs. With my savings dwindling down, the appeal of a full-time engineering gig started to look more appealing, but I knew I had to keep trying as I believed I could find work that would accommodate training and my lifestyle. 

Goes to college for 6 years...can't get minimum wage job.
After a few weeks, I started speaking with Bryan VanMeveren about potential employment. Bryan leads a local law firm here in Fort Collins and is also an incredible triathlete. He’s one of those age group athletes that somehow manages to do it all, be successful, have fun, have a family and help others all at the same time. He’s a great role model in our community. We worked together to figure out how I could help the law firm while still allowing me to have the time and means to train the way I believe I need to in order to be competitive. While I’ve only been working with VanMeveren Law for a few weeks now, I am very happy and doing what I believe is giving me a balanced lifestyle.

As many people know, triathlon has it’s highs and lows. And when you’ve decided to race professionally, these swings can be very tough. Over the past few months, I’ve sometimes found myself picturing how I’d like to live as a triathlete, however, when I take a step back, I see that I am doing exactly what we set out to do at this point in the process. The goal for this year was to learn. I threw myself into races with tough competition and tough courses. Why? To see how I would respond. I’m happy with where my head is at this point in my first professional season and I am happy with the progress I have made. On your own, it is not always easy to see the bigger picture. It has helped me immensely to be surround by people, friends and community who support me in this dream. 

Over the past month, I’ve been able to diagnose my injury, thanks to a local PT Craig Depperschmidt, as an overstressed posterior tib. Craig is a triathlete and understands the paranoia of needing to train while injured. We’ve been able to identify some postural issues stemming from my hockey days and seem to be on the right track towards fixing them.

Hockey player Steve riding a bike on family vacation. (2009?) Side note: that bike is now my commuter bike!
One of the PT exercises given to me to help stretch out my back involves blowing up a balloon. Simple but effective.
 Five years ago, I would have never imagined living my current lifestyle which focuses heavily on training and recovery. I was raised to concentrate on doing well in school so that I could have a stable job, save money, and start a family should I want to. Sure, I was encouraged to do things that were enjoyable, but I was taught that anything that might detract from a steady job and income should be done so very cautiously. 

Only recently do I think that I've transitioned to fully believing and committing to what I am doing. It’s easy to be frustrated with workouts, results, money…and forget how much progress is being made for future years to come. Mace has often said, “focus on the good, focus on the now”. I’m very grateful for the friends and family who have been supportive of me through the thick and thin this past year. 

CSU Tri at Oktoberfest a few weekends ago.

Coach Mace and the summer training crew
Next week I’m going back to Kansas City for a few days to watch Rachael run the Kansas City Marathon, drink coffee, reconnect with Molly, and get a change of pace with training. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be heading to Vegas to help coach the CSU Triathlon Team at Pumpkinman Triathlon. I’ve never done the race but I’m a Vegas party animal, so they wanted me to come. There is a possibility I will be racing Cabo 70.3 October 30th. If my running continues to improve like it has, we may try to squeeze a few more races in, however, I feel no pressure to race again this season and would rather ensure I am healthy and that all systems are “go” for consistent off-season of training.

I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit in terms of content and frequency of posting on social media. Personally, I’d love to get more inside views into life as a “pro”, so that’s what I’m trying to shed light a bit on what my day to day looks like. If there is something you’d like to see, or something you don’t like, let me know! And if you’re going to be in Colorado/Vegas/KC when I am, I’m usually down to exercise ;)

Back to Molly and Rachael next week :)
Long ride on the Peak to Peak highway.
You can follow me on social media:Facebook, Twitter : @steve_mantell, Instagram : @stevemantell37, Strava, Snapchat: stevemantell37
Thanks for reading and have a great day!


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