Recent Revelations


On Owning It
A few weeks ago I ran with Christy, who's training for the Richmond Marathon, just a few weeks after I do IMNC. Over a few miles we caught up on life and training, and both reflected that our training cycles have not gone exactly as planned. We talked about our goal races and how we think they'll shape up, and she said something I've been thinking about ever since. She told me she had recently come into a very zen place with her training and racing goals, and had accepted that she hasn't been able to train the way she would have liked and that she isn't sure if she'll get the sub-4 she's been working at for the last several years. 

It took me a while to process that, but after several days, it started to sink in. Although I'm sure that she's battled some conflicting feelings, and maybe even still is, when I listened to her tell me she had accepted whatever race she's given, I believed her. She owned the training that she had done while also owning her shortcomings, and owning whatever comes out of that. 

I've spent a lot of my Ironman training in a place rooted in fear, doubt, and insecurity. Training for an Ironman is the most overwhelming thing I've ever done. There are so many variables, so many what-ifs, so many articles floating around with advice and dos and don'ts, each one made to sound like they will make or break your training cycle and/or your race day. And it's true, it's a long day and there are so many different scenarios that could play out and so many different strategies and preparations that can guide it in one direction or the other, but the basics are simple. Swim. Bike. Run. I know how to do those things. I can do those things. Whether or not I can do them for hours at a time and strung together for over half of a day remains to be seen, but I know I can do them.

I am not perfect and my training hasn't been either, and I've finally gotten to a place where I can confidently say I own that.  Just last week, in my peak week of training, I had a pre-work brick workout scheduled for Wednesday morning. I was late getting on the trainer and then I spent five minutes messing with my bike and I was supposed to run afterward but with all of that wasted time was I looking at about 15-20 minutes to get ready for work after I finished. So I decided to do my run that afternoon. It wasn't exactly what I had planned, but any normal person would roll with it and ask who cares. For me that's something I would usually beat myself up over, but that day, I owned it. I ended up having about an extra hour to get ready for work that day, and I owned the fact that I had made that decision, that I had given myself that extra time to slow down. I went across the street and got a coffee and donut and ate it while watching Teen Mom as I got ready. I actually did my hair. Like, spent longer than five minutes on it. It felt good to have that time, but it felt even better to own it.

I haven't put in as many miles as my training plan called for, or as many as others training for the same race, but I have done what I could. I could have done better, but I also could have done a lot worse. Most importantly, I did what I could. I've swam, biked, and run over 2000 miles over the last four months

On Having Fun
Throughout Ironman training I've heard things about how it should be fun, not stressful, how training should work around my life and not the other way around. And I get the sentiment - I'm not getting paid to do this, so what is the point of getting up at 4am and spending the bulk of my weekends away from my family if I'm not even enjoying it? I've wondered that a million times as I've pedaled through yet another horrible hour on my bike. I've struggled so much, not just with the workouts but then also with the fact that I've struggled. I've driven home from the trail secretly wishing my bike would fly off the back of my car and doubted that I should even attempt an Ironman in the first place. If I couldn't have fun in training, why did I think the race would be any better? If I couldn't post on Instagram about how there was nowhere I'd rather be for 6 hours on a Saturday than my bike saddle, was it really worth it?

But guess what? Everything sucks sometimes - and that's okay. Sometimes things even suck for a lot of the time - and that's okay too. Nothing is fun 100% of the time, but just because it's not fun doesn't mean it's not worth doing. I really like my job. I like my office and the work I do, but there are absolutely times I would rather be on my couch than at my desk. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy my job or that I'm a bad employee or that I should quit - it just means I'm human. And the same logic applies to doing an Ironman. Just because I'm not raving every single second about how every workout was the best thing ever doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. And even complaining about workouts more often than not because they are hard, or I'm tired, or I just don't want to do them doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. It just means that I'm human.


On Baselines and Happiness
The other night I was talking to my sister-in-law, who is not only the sweetest person on the planet (and I'm not just saying that because she might be reading), but also a psychology professor. I don't remember how (but she brought it up, I swear!) but I ended up kind of spilling my guts to her about how badly I've been feeling about my training. One of the things that's really been nagging at me is that I feel so far removed from where I started, that it's hard for me to look back and celebrate how far I've come. I know in my head that I used to gasp for breath while running one single 11-minute mile, but I can't feel what that was like anymore. I want to, because I want to celebrate how hard I've worked, not just in the last 4 months but the last 5 years, to get to where I am now, but I can't make myself feel something I don't. It has honestly been depressing to me that when I do finally finish something like my longest swim ever or a bike ride that I stopped approximately 45 times but eventually kept going anyway, I can't appreciate it for the accomplishment it was. All I see is the bad in it and none of the good because I can't remember what it was like to not be able to do those things.

I'll spare you the full psychology lesson since I would probably get it wrong anyway, but basically the point was that my baseline for happiness has drastically risen since I started running 5 years ago. Of course I don't get the same high from running (and swimming and biking) now that I used to, because my baseline has moved. Having this conversation was so eye-opening for me and really helped me start to let go of some of the things I "should" be feeling and embrace the things I do feel. Was it as exciting to train for my first Ironman as it was to train for, say, my first half marathon? No, not at all. But so many things have changed since then, so many things about my life and my mind and my body are different than they were then, so it's unreasonable to expect it to be the same experience.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is one thing that's stayed the same. At every finish line, especially my firsts, I've always had the same emotions. Happiness. Relief. Pride. Joy. The reasons I feel each of those things might be different with each race, but they always show up at the end. My baseline for feeling proud of myself during training may have moved, but for a race it's the same. I have no reason to believe Ironman will be any different, no reason to think I won't experience happiness at finally hearing those 4 words. Relief that the training and the day are over. Pride in knowing I kept going when I didn't want to. Pure joy over accomplishing a goal that so many don't even dream of, and one that for a long time I couldn't even have comprehended. 

After all of that, with 10 days to go, I've finally reached a point where I happy and content with where I am. I have put in the work. It wasn't always fun. A lot of times it wasn't fun. Maybe even most of the time it wasn't fun. But the hard work is over, and now all I have left is to rest and get ready for my victory lap.


5 comments :

  1. training for something like this is grueling and there will be days, even weeks that it's not fun and you wonder why you're even doing this! but deep down you know why and you have your reasons and when you cross that finish line, you'll be on cloud 9 and so happy that you stuck with it!!

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  2. I beat myself every time I fall short of my training plan. Which, if I'm being honest, has been the case most of this year; even back in spring. And as far as I see, there are two approaches: Know that I should have done better, or accept that I will never perfectly follow a training plan because my life, my happiness, comes first--and sometimes my training plan doesn't fit those life goals. I agree that owning it is totally the better approach, but I'm working on getting to that step faster than I have been. And maybe even skipping the whole "Alyssa, you're such an idiot and now you're going to fall apart completely in the race" spiel before I get there?

    I also, on the flipside but actually on the same side, agree that not-fun things are still worth doing when the ends they are a mean to are more valuable than that hour or two or six or eight of not-fun time spent.

    I'm so saddened to read you can't feel the joy of seeing your immense progress over these months and years. But I get it, too. The baseline concept makes so much sense. I can see now that there are a lot of areas where I don't feel gratification like I used to because of the huge shift in my baseline. Interesting—thanks for sharing.

    Oh man, Tracy. I'm really, really upset I won't be there to hear those 4 words too. And see your face when you hear them. I have no doubt that that rush of emotions you so love about finish lines (and that I share with you too! Finish lines are so beautiful, no matter if I'm crossing them or standing at them cheering) will be there 140.6% in a few days. Never forget that every step of that victory lap (which is all the race really is, right?! It's the reward!) has been earned, fought for, and that they are for you alone. No one can take that away from you. Go own it, friend!

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  3. As a total outsider in the sense of being a runner or going from a beginner at something to being a rockstar (seriously!), it seems so normal to me that you would feel all of those negative emotions when you're working towards something so hard. I love what you said about owning the decision you made to split up your workout even though it might have initially felt like you failed (at your planning). I'm so, so proud of you and am thankful for how real and honest you are.

    ps. the fact that you can no longer remember how hard it was to run a short distance is really encouraging :)
    pps. I can't believe it's already 10 days away!

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  4. "Everything sucks sometimes - and that's okay" SO. MUCH. YES! I feel that way with photography. It's my passion, and I prayed to get to this point of having so many weddings on my calendar for as long as I can remember, but still, some days I dread it. Because I just want rest! Still working on that work/life balance!

    You're going to crush this Iron Man!!!!! :) you've worked so hard, and you're going to do so so well! Thanks for your honesty!

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  5. i am so happy that you've come to this realisation. but seriously, every word you said is spot on. everything sucks sometimes, but just because it isn't fun doesn't mean it's not worth doing. i've never been super serious or hardcore with my training, which is probably why i don't beat myself up over not meeting goals or sticking to my training, because i never have... but you're right, no matter what the training schedule, i always get those feelings crossing the finish line. relief that it's over and pride that i did it. that's never a bad feeling, you know? i'm so happy for you and loved following along on your journey. can't wait to virtually cheer you on as you cross the finish line!

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