Monday, April 24, 2017

Love the Process

Monday has only one redeeming quality: it’s my rest day. Last Monday, I was so grateful to have a rest day that I almost said “I love Mondays” out loud. The previous week had been really frustrating, with notes like this in my workout log:

  • Wednesday: Gave up after 39 mins on the trainer feeling nauseated and sluggish.
  • Thursday: Masters. Lots of kick with fins and pulling with paddles today, which saved me because I couldn't keep up with the lane. Still very tired. 
  • Friday: I'm still feeling sluggish and crappy, and frustrated! 
  • Sunday (after my “easy run with friends” in San Antonio was far more difficult than expected): I thought it was supposed to be easier to run at sea level now. (sad face). 
I was filled with self-doubt. Maybe I’m getting too old for this. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to get up at 4:45 to go to the pool and then struggle to keep up with my lane at Masters. I don’t want to do a hard treadmill run after a long day at work. I just want to sleep. Why am I struggling on an easy trainer ride? Everything is hard. Nothing is easy. I’m getting slower, not faster! What’s the point? I’m terrible at this! I'm tired of being the slowest one here! What’s wrong with me?!
It wasn't an easy run, but it was so wonderful to run with Orissa, Linda, and Brian on one of my favorite old routes.
Social media didn’t help. I have a couple of friends who are struggling with burnout and have been quite vocal about it over the last few months. They've been in the sport for years, and suddenly they’re talking about how it’s not fun to race anymore, how they’re over it, how they need to figure out how to get the joy back. These people are usually the ones posting the most positive, inspirational, joy-filled pictures and updates about how they love training and the sport. If they’re burned out, I don’t have a chance.

Thank goodness for the well-timed comments of a couple of friends who didn’t even know they were positively influencing my frame of mind. This time, social media helped me out quite a bit: Thanks, Strava, Instagram, and Facebook!

Last Sunday, Whiting, who is also training for Boulder, posted a workout on Strava and commented “Only 6 more weeks til Ironman Boulder!” A lightbulb went off. OF COURSE! This is how you’re supposed to feel 6 weeks out from the race. Although I feel ridiculous for not recognizing it after years of doing this, and going through the same thing EVERY TIME, the realization brought such relief.

In the middle of last week, Ariana, who's training for St. George 70.3 on the way to Ironman Boulder just like I am, posted on Instagram about feeling the struggle between walking a line between working so hard that it will be impossible to recover and working so little that you'll be sluggish on race day. Her post was exactly what I needed to read: I’m not the only one struggling physically and mentally here.

I think Ariana's photo says it all.
And Coach Marilyn Chychota posted on Facebook exactly the reminder that I needed (I'm paraphrasing): there is no easy button for Ironman. It's just weeks and months and years of chipping away. You need to build a foundation, it's not glamorous, and to be successful, you have to love the process. YES.

Although my workouts this week were much improved from the week before, I’m still incredibly tired. But my state of mind is vastly improved. On a run this weekend with my new training buddy Julie, I talked about how tired I’ve been. She asked, “Isn’t Boulder in about 6 weeks? Yep. Makes sense that you’re tired now.” It’s funny that we can easily recognize these things in others, but it’s so hard to have perspective when you’re thinking about yourself.

Lessons Learned!

  • Understand what’s normal. Ironman training is hard, and in every cycle you (meaning me, but also the universal you) reach a point where you’re tired, sluggish, grouchy, fat, and lacking motivation. It will pass. 
  • Talk to your friends/training partners. Knowing that others are going through the same thing helps! It was so validating to read Ariana’s post last week, and to talk to Julie about it this weekend. 
  • Talk to your coach. This should probably be the first thing on the list, but not everyone has a coach. For those of you who do – tell them how you’re feeling. They can modify your workouts to help you through the rough patch. Emily will give me two workouts: the “I’m feeling better” workout, or the alternate “I’m feeling crappy” workout. She is sure to tell me to be honest with myself about how I’m actually feeling. 
  • Find inspiration. Get out your go-to music, choose a favorite route, invite a favorite training buddy…whatever it takes to get you motivated to make the workout happen! 
  • Get started. I learned this one from Dawn at a time when we were both struggling personally, and, like so many lessons, it works beyond the sport. Just get started. Get in the car and drive to the pool. Or get on the bike on the trainer. Or lace up your running shoes and walk outside. Say, “I’m just going to do the warmup and then I’ll see what happens.” Nine times out of 10, you’ll do the whole workout, and you’ll feel better physically and mentally afterward. And, that one time that you walked into the gym, got changed to swim, walked over to the pool, and turned around and walked right back out? Well, you probably needed the rest that day. :)

When Shelly and I first started running together years ago, our mantra was, “I can do anything for 5 minutes.” We’d keep on running, and 5 minutes would turn into 10 or 15. We used to joke that once we got into Ironman training, our go-to phrase became, “I can do anything for two hours.” I’ll modify it just slightly again and say: “I can do anything for six weeks.” The countdown to Boulder begins!

Joshua Tree has been my go-to inspiration for years, starting when I was 18 and
trying to lose the college "freshman 15." Mom took me to the gym with her each
morning that summer, and I walked on the treadmill listening to this cassette on a
yellow Sony Walkman. This music still works its magic today on the treadmill,
and I'm happy to report that I'm moving quite a bit faster than I was back then!