Crash

Well, it’s been two hours since my last post and my family has not arrived home and I am still awake so I figured I’d better spew more crass ramblings about some random subject. This post deals with a crash.  My crash.  I just saw the movie “The Descendants” with George Clooney.  Excellent movie, but I’m not here to write a review.  It’s relevant here only because the movie centers around a husband whose wife suffers a boating accident and falls into a coma.  I was immediately reminded of my encounter with an SUV 9 months ago.

I’ve told the story before, but never the effects of the incident.  If you’re not familiar with the story, I’ll provide a very brief recap…my head gots runs overses…yeesh, lingering effects. On April 2, 2011, I had a four hour bike ride to complete as part of my neverending training for Ironman Texas.  Typically, I would ride early, early in the morning (3-7am or 5-9am) to avoid missing any significant time with my family and, frankly, to get it over with.  Hundreds of years and we still don’t have a comfortable bike seat?  Anyway, the bulk of the ride I completed up and down Highway 6, which has a huge shoulder.  Now, cars are still going 60mph, but I feel slightly more comfortable there than riding on Memorial Drive.  That said, I had to take Memorial Drive very briefly towards the end of my ride.  3pm on a Sunday means Memorial is fairly busy so, thinking I was being smart and safe, I decided to take the sidewalk.  As I turned onto the sidewalk, I put it in a lower gear and kind of coasted towards home.  The first intersection I came to (Turkey Creek Drive), which is really just a side street with a stop sign, is where the crash happened.  I noticed a car pulling up to the stop sign.  It looked to me like the car was performing a rolling stop and so I applied my brakes and decided to wait for the car to turn.  Well, the car stopped. I assumed it was because 1) of the dozens of cars on Memorial streaming in front of her; and 2) she saw me on the sidewalk (not the case).  So, I stopped applying the brakes and pedaled towards the intersection.  About 10 feet before I crossed, the car began crawling forward and stopped, by that time blocking the sidewalk.  Trying to avoid barreling into the car, I slammed on my brakes and was actually able to keep from hitting her car, but anyone familiar with physics knows that while the bike may have stopped, my body did not.  My shoes unclipped and I flew over the handle bars.  I put my hands out and winced as I watched and felt them scrape and skid across the pavement next to the car.  I remember sitting there for a moment and, after realizing I was ok, thinking “fuck…this is going to hurt in the morning and what the hell happened to my bike?”  I did not realize two things 1) my head was directly in front of the car’s tire; and 2) the driver of the vehicle had not ever and in fact still hadn’t seen me or my bike.  As I sat there mentally complaining to myself on how inconvenient palm scrapes are, I felt a throbbing and a pressure in/on my head.  I then felt my head begin to slowly compress.  I still, briefly, did not realize what was happening.  I assumed the adrenaline was wearing off and my body’s pain sensors were making me aware that I was also going to have a headache tomorrow.  I then heard the other tires on the car crawling across the gravel and I realized the car was moving forward and my head was being pulled under her tire.

Now, what happened next is where I may lose a lot of people mostly because it’s so cliche and I wish I had a better way to describe it, but, I don’t.  My life flashed before my eyes.  At least that just sounds better and more relatable than “as I came close to death and my brain was robbed of oxygen, the synapses misfired…pulling information at random stored in brain; some memories of past experiences, dreams, yearnings or anything other information ever stored by my brain.”  It really was like a summary of my life from beginning to end.  I had visions of my childhood, when my parents were divorced, graduating from middle school, college, law school, my parents’ deaths, my marriage, a random run, meeting Adryan, marrying Adryan and then my kids.  My last thought was my kids.   I remember thinking “Rowan and my new one (Adryan was still pregnant with Carys).  This can’t happen.  I haven’t taught them everything…I haven’t spent enough time with Adryan.”  Whether you believe it or not, that all happened in probably 2-5 seconds and I remember every moment, every thought and with that last thought I pushed my face and skull into the pavement and dragged and pulled away from the wheel as hard as I could.  I felt the helmet strap snap and my head pull away just before hearing the car roll over my helmet.  I staggered around and slammed my hands on the hood of the car as I saw her start to pull away…she still hadn’t noticed anything.  When she saw my face dripping with blood, she stopped.  After that, it gets boring…for me anyway.  People stopped to help, firemen and paramedics showed up and they ushered me to the ER where I got stitched up pretty quickly.

To say it was a life changing experience is an understatement.  I still hesitate to take my bike out onto the roadways.  I remember every second of the bike ride during Ironman Texas was fraught with phantom car engines and flashes of my head lying against the pavement sure that at every turn some car was going to pull out and finish the job.  For about 2-3 months after the incident, every single time I closed my eyes to sleep, I saw myself on the ground under her car.  I felt my head compressing.  I wondered what my kids’ lives would be like without me.  God still wants me here for some reason.  Some people ask “then why the hell are you still doing triathlons…didn’t that put things in perspective?”  Well, yes, but not in that way and maybe that’s silly.  My parents died fairly young and ever since then I’ve always been readily aware that we are not here long and you need to accomplish things while you can.  I did not need this incident to make me aware of that.  What it did was make me aware of what I have.  I think I was shown all the things I’ve been given.  A brief summary of my life to say “look how easy and fortunate your life has been” and also a reminder of things to come, i.e. quit fucking around and make things better for YOUR kids.   Don’t just want to be better, actually BE better.  Be a better husband, father, attorney, triathlete, pianist, etc.  Son of bitch that’s a cheesy, maudlin, horribly lachrymose post, but I do not know another way to describe it.  It was a life changer, alright, fuck it and while I’m sure completely necessary for the above described and many other reasons, I hope it never happens again and is why Rowan will be wearing a helmet on her tricycle even in the grass next to our driveway.

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Balance

Life is about balance, right?  Balancing work and family.  Right v. wrong.  Apples and bananas.  Ding Dongs v. Twinkies…huh?  Anyway, Triathlon is no different.  Should I put in a few more hours on the bike or rest?  Should I focus on running or biking?  Biking or swimming?  What about strength training?  Carbs v. protein.  The part I struggle with the most is balancing triathlon and family.  I do not enjoy leaving my family every morning for work, but I have to work to provide for my family.  It’s a necessary evil.  Certainly I’d prefer to spend the days with my family, but we need income; society has made that choice for me.

Triathlon is different.  Triathlon is not necessary for our family.  Triathlon does not provide income.  Triathlon is my own selfish endeavor.  No one else benefits except me and of course the charities, bike shops, Luke’s Lockers, and other triathlon related entities that take my money, but you get the point.  As my wife aptly pointed out during one or our “discussions” on the subject “go on your long bike ride, but you’re choosing triathlon over your family.”  Nothing lets the wind out of your sails like that statement.  In fact, thats more like tearing down your sails, shredding them, defecating on them, burning them, wrapping them up and sending them to you in a dirty diaper.  It’s completely accurate though and that’s what’s difficult.  Nothing is more important than family, which is why it’s times like those that you need to step back and decide “how important is triathlon to you?”  “Is it worth it?”  The fact is on those long runs and long bikes, I AM choosing triathlon over my family.

Nonetheless, my answer is yes.  I want triathlon in my life.  I’ve come to believe (however erroneous this thought may be) that I need triathlon in my life.  My wife asked once “aren’t we enough?  Why do you need triathlon?  It’s like you’re not satisfied.  What void are you filling with triathlon?”  It has nothing to do with my family not  being enough.  If I broke my ankle tomorrow and my doctor said I could never do another event again, my life would be no less fulfilling.  I would certainly be disappointed, but it wouldn’t crush my spirit.  Family is always more important.  So why do I do it?  I have no idea.  Fitness and health.  The need to achieve goals.  The desire to not waste potential.  The need to see what my body and mind is capable of.  I really don’t know.

So how do you fix it?  Well, after listening to advice from people much wiser, my New Years Resolution with regards to balancing triathlon and family is to…well…do better.

1.  Communicate with my wife better about what my goals are, what events I want to do, and, overall, not excluding her from triathlon.  When your spouse does not share your passion and in fact does not even understand it; hates running, biking, and swimming, you start to think “Well, she doesn’t want to hear about it then.  I won’t share with her the long run I just did or the equipment I just bought and am really excited about.”  That’s not fair to her and really it kind of lying by omission.  She may not like running, biking, or swimming, but she likes that I like it.  That seems like a simple concept, but that shows you how smart I am.

2.  Compromise.  It’s ok to miss a workout or two or three or ten and if race day comes and your family needs you, fuck it, they’ll be another race next week, next year, etc.

3. W.I.N.  What’s Important Now.  Whatever I decide to do at that moment, put 100% into it.  Don’t do a 4 hour bike and wonder what your kids are doing.  Don’t take your kids to the park and think “what a beautiful day, I should be running.”  Make a decision and be comfortable with it.

4. Train early and train late.   I already do this to a large extent, but if everyone’s asleep, you’re not exactly missing family time.  Now, Adryan does not like when I run or bike at night.  I do not share her concern.  My biggest injury came at 3 in the afternoon on a sunny Sunday, but I respect her anxiety.  Hello trainer and treadmill.

Triathlon is a work in progress.  I am a work in progress.  Finding balance in any situation is a lifelong pursuit and this is all self inflicted.  This is only an issue because I want everything.  I am unwilling to compromise.  I refuse to give up triathlon.  That said, I will make it work.  I know it’s possible.  I see other couples do it and do it well.  It’s an adjustment, right? Just do better, how fucking hard is that?  Apparently, very fucking hard.

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Speed

I’m positive there are few things I dread in life more than intervals.  Run super fast…now slow down…now run super fast again, but longer this time.  Ok, now run REALLY fast…I don’t care if you can’t breathe…keep running…faster…FASTER!!!

That said, if there’s one thing I need to achieve my sub 3 hour marathon goal in February, it’s more speed.  I’m just not fast enough.  It’s simultaneously motivating and discouraging.  It gives me something to work towards.  Something I want, but do not have.  On the other hand, it’s frustrates the shit out of me running as fast as I can around that track only to look down at my watch and realize I’m still not there.  I’m still not where I need to be. 6:15/mile isn’t good enough?  “McMillan here…NO!  I need 6:00/mile for speed work.  And stop half assing it on the 800s.”

Every passing day, every workout that comes and goes means less time that I have to get what I want.  I’ve said before that failure is necessary, but that doesn’t mean I fucking enjoy it.  Frankly, I’m really fucking tired of it.  I’m ready to start setting goals and actually achieving them.  When I have this discussion with others, they are quick to point out past achievements.  “Look at what you did last year though…an Ironman…you had a kid…you’re doing great.”  Those things were great….WERE.  That’s not fair.  I still enjoy my daughter every day, but you get the point.  When I achieve something, it’s done…what’s next?  The journey was great, now what?  Time for the next goal and the next journey.

So, I need speed to get to reach my next goal, but I need to slow down to enjoy that journey and make it easier to get what I want, is that it?  I guess, hell, I have no idea. I do know that I enjoy being alone on a dark track pretending that I’m winning an olympic gold medal.  Man, if only.  I guess I’ll stick with having an amazing wife, gorgeous daughters, a great coach, a stable job, and wait for the speed thing to catch up with me.

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Christmas

I participated in a Christmas Eve run with Outrival Racing this weekend.  Items of note include 1) the less than stellar weather, 2) the fact that, once again, I cannot read a map, 3) I have a great coach, and 4) I met a woman who felt comfortable wearing lighted snowflakes on her breasts (Tammie or “Snowflake Tits”).

Coach K on the far left...Snowflake Tits not pictured.

Overall, the run was adequate.  Upper respiratory infections and stomach viruses have made training scarce these last few weeks.  This group run was the first time I’ve felt healthy during a workout in quite awhile. My pace was not nearly what it should have been, but, it’s just one run, right?  I took a wrong turn for about 50 feet, which was fabulous and the third time in three group runs that that’s happened.  “Awww…I think it’s great that you guys let mentally challenged people run with you.  Nick, this is called a map…these are streets and this right and this is left.  Look…I think he’s getting it.”

I’m also still not accustomed to running with a group and sometimes unclear on the concept and the etiquette. Again, like most runners, I prefer running alone.  Part of the appeal of running is the opportunity to escape mentally, get lost in your own thoughts and, if you’re me, get away from people.  I’ve always been selfish and a tad awkward in the social realm;  unwilling and with no desire to make an effort with regards to social customs.  “Hi, how are you?”  “Do you really give a shit?…Uh…I mean, fine, how are you?  Tell me about crap I don’t care about and people I don’t know.  YAY!”  I am forced out of that comfort zone for my career as I need to bring in business, conduct seminars, and generally, be the happy/social attorney.  Personally and at home, I revert back to a somewhat shy, reserved, semi-austistic mute.

I can certainly see the benefits of running in a group from the standpoint of competition making you stronger and better as well as accountability. Training with a group is also supposed to make you faster, but this isn’t training really, it’s just a run here and there.  I end up running alone anyway as everyone breaks into their own pace or maybe some people are choosing to run together in which case I suspect there’s an expectation of conversation, which means no ipod and, f&#*, being  social.  Either way, I keep thinking “what’s the point?”   We are all running at our own pace and meeting some place after.  Why not just meet some place after?  Everyone do your own run wherever you want, and we can meet for breakfast at __ o’ clock.  I know, I know, get to know other runners,  socialize, HAVE FUN!  How do you “have fun”  when other people are around?  Isn’t that impossible?  Won’t other people see how vulnerable you are and how much you do not belong?  “That guy runs too slow…what the hell is he doing here?!?!?”  Am I overanalyzing this?  Absolutely, but what else do I have to write about?

So where do Coach K and Snowflake Tits fit into this?  Well, much like my wife, they are the polar opposite when it comes to being open and social.  “You doing ok today?”  “Well, at 7 am this happened…at 8 am that happened…at 8:15…”  “Holy crap, just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’!!”  This characteristic is one that initially and, really, continues to attract me to my wife.  She does it so effortlessly.  How do you push your ego out of the way EVERY single time you talk to someone else?  Either way, the more I’m around other people like that, I think the easier it becomes to be less of a social retard.  I don’t think I’ll ever be quite at Snowflake Tits’s level…”And then my husband buys a fucking range finder?  A RANGE FINDER!  Just shoot the damn deer…who cares how far away it is?  Someone turn my lights on, I’m getting heated.”  Huh…what just happened?  How did we get here?

My wife and our oldest, Rowan. She even LOOKS more social. 😉 Being hot doesn’t hurt either.

The next month of running should be more relaxed.  I’m not as stressed about achieving the sub-3 hour marathon.  I continue to strive towards that goal, I am certainly not giving up, but  if it happens, it happens, if not, oh well.  As for group running, I still prefer running alone and I’m pretty sure a small piece of me dies every time I have to be social outside of work, but the inner 5 year old in me needs to grow up so I see more of them in my future.

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Reflections on Running and a Sub 3 Hour Marathon

So, it’s marathon season in Texas again.  Well, at least for the next 8 days when it’s not 95+ degrees outside and, honestly, it could not have come at a better time.  Not only because the weather is far cooler, but running is where my love for endurance events began.  Running is where I gain the most confidence.  I’ve only just started my triathlon “career” as it were so I’m still discovering what it is about that sport that’s so attractive to me.  Why did I decide to add biking and swimming to the mix and why do I do it? I  know Adryan also desires an answer to that question, but, beyond the typical desire to achieve, staying in shape and adrenaline addiction, I’m not entirely sure. Running, however, is different.  I know precisely why I love running.  In “Lore of Running”, Tim Noakes discusses what attracted him to the sport and I think it’s a common theme for a  lot of runners, myself included: “I share some of the personality characteristics…attributed to [a lot of runners]:  a love of privacy, an overwhelming desire for solitude, and an inability to relax or talk in company…”  He goes on to say that “[g]iven these characteristics, the attractions of running are obvious.  For a start, it provides complete solitude.  Even in the most crowded races, the point is reached when fatigue drives us back into ourselves, into those secluded parts of our souls that we discover only under times of such duress and from which we emerge with a clearer perspective of the people we truly are.”

Shy, reserved, anti-social, borderline autistic are a few of the many personality traits people have used to describe me over the years and, by and large, they are mostly accurate.  Outside of my family, I much prefer to be alone.  Running provides me with just such an opportunity.  I can selfishly lose myself in my own  goals and desires and focus on something devoid of the emotional and physical attachment that relationships and human interaction inevitably bring (as an aside, this is probably what took me so long to hire a coach.  Running with a group or even discussing my goals and achievements in the endurance context was a private pursuit.  Running with others and then discussing it after seemed almost invasive to me.  I’ve matured a bit, but, at times, it still does.  “How’s running going?  Any doubts/fears I should know about?”  “Uh, who the hell are you to ask me that??  We’re just best buddies now is that it?? Oh, right, I mean, well…ok”).

Lastly (then I’ll stop with the quotes) he aptly points out that “running [teaches] about honesty.  There is no luck in running.  Results cannot be faked, and there is no one but yourself to blame when things go wrong…It has made me appreciate what I now believe to be a very real weakness in many team and skill sports: in those sports you do not have to admit to your imperfections; there is always someone or something else to blame, if you choose.”  I believe we all desire an endeavor that tests just the individual.  A task or opportunity for which we alone are responsible and relied upon and, if successful, we alone can extol the virtues of in our own mind from the moment of achievement until the day we die.

Well, that was quite a tangent.  Perhaps that should have been a post in itself, but it provides a nice backdrop to my intended topic of the sub 3 hour marathon or, as I like to call it, my next goal.  I’m excited to focus primarily on running again.  I’m still learning how to swim and bike competitively, but I know how to run.  Coming off my injury slowed my progress a bit, but I am, for my money, back on track and improving speed and endurance daily.

No problem then, right, let’s go out and run 26.2 miles in under three hours.  Well, therein lies my primary doubt, fear, obstacle.  A sub 3 hour marathon requires an average pace of roughly 6:50 minutes/mile.  For many, that may not seem a daunting task.  Well, for me, it’s f*$&ing scary.  My pace is not even close to that as this point, which would be fine if I had another 6 months to train, but I’m looking at early February to accomplish this goal.  So, I have 2 months to get up to speed…literally.  The cooler weather is certainly a blessing and, per my last post, I cannot focus on what may or may not happen on race day, but it certainly adds a bit of pressure to each workout.  All that said, I think this is a good goal.  Setting goals in endurance events, or in any context, is tricky.  You want to test yourself and see what you’re capable of, but you want to be realistic in terms of your time, skill, talent, and ability.  “Tomorrow, I break the world record for the marathon.”  Uh…that’s a bit lofty, no?  “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!!”  Likewise, you do not want to set your sights too low just for the sake of comfort.  “Mark my words, this is year I’m going to run a marathon in 11 hours.”  Seriously?

 

In my case, I think running a sub 3 hour marathon 6 months from now is very doable and not really testing myself.  I think the added pressure of a shortened training schedule, while risky in terms of injury, will keep me motivated and pushing hard.  Time will tell if this was a smart decision, but I am, so far, enjoying the journey and the pressure of each workout.  My first test as far as progress comes next Sunday at the La Porte half marathon.  Yes, La Porte has a half marathon.  I’ve always wanted to run in the midst of chemical factories and rusty shipyards.  “Well, Nick, that was a spectacular performance, however you now have cancer, tetanus, and the plague.”  Yay La Porte!

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Variation on a Theme

I decided to continue my discussion on the mental side of endurance sports, this time farther removed from the disappointing performances, much more enlightened and far less self pitying.

The most difficult concept to grasp when it comes to the mental side of sports, at least for me, is that the best thing you can do is turn your mind off.  Live in the Now.  Forget about past failures and, though it may hurt your ego, your successes as well.  The truth is that terrible performance you had ten months ago has nothing to do with your 1:45:00 run today nor does that brilliant marathon you had 3 years ago.  Endurance sports, and life for that matter, are not just “what have you done for me LATELY” endeavors, but more what are you doing RIGHT NOW endeavors.  I’m certainly not discounting the benefits of having a positive performance or training session and using that to build for the future; however, I think too often people rest on their laurels and don’t continue achieving.  Hell, I fully intended to do that.  “I’m just going to do one Ironman so I can say I did it and then, never again.”  Or, per my last post, you can dwell on subpar performances or overall stagnation in training and events and allow that to cloud and/or limit your potential

Now, that being said, it’s impossible to completely turn off your mind.  This is where all those cheesy motivational quotes, posters, movies, books come in.  If you can’t turn off your mind, at least make what’s in there work for you.  Think positive.  Remember that everyone is meant for great things, no one is perfect, and failure is necessary.  “It’s not how hard you get hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”  Do not blame others for your failures and do not take too much credit for your successes.  And honestly, if you do not want to go out and achieve and kick the shit out of all your goals after watching these videos, there’s no hope for you, I’m sorry.

Ok, so, forget about the past.  That makes sense.  It is the past, I cannot change it.  So, focus on the future, what’s coming up, right?  WRONG!  Wait…huh?  What does live in the NOW mean to you, Nick???  Honestly, sounds like a bunch of metaphysical bull#$&* that you’d hear on Oprah or some late night AM radio station.  “Live in the Now, man, we are all one.  Let’s love everyone and group hug every two minutes.”  So, forget the future too?  Sort of.  This, for me, is another difficult practice.  Goal setting is such an important part of endurance events.  What are you going to achieve and when?  Do you have enough time to train for that Half Ironman in April or should you wait for the next one?

What about the future?  Forget about it.  Dwelling on the future can be just as destructive as dwelling on the past.  Endurance athletes tend to get caught up in “wasted potential” and setting high expectations.  Not entirely a bad thing.  We should all set high expectations and one certainly shouldn’t lower one’s expectations to meet the level of performance, but vice versa.  As with anything else though, it’s a fine line.  Focusing on waste potential and what others are achieving = overtraining.  Setting expectations too high or focusing on them too heavily = high stress and overreaction to failure.  So what’s the solution?  As Tony Horton would say “Do your best and forget the rest.”  Ugh, seriously?  I read this whole blog entry and your answer is some trite quote from a fitness guru with too much testosterone??  Well…yes and, as with most things, balance.  Just like you have to balance family and triathlon, work and family, happiness and melancholy, the mental side of sports is about balance.  Set high expectations, then leave it alone.  Focus on what you can do now, with each workout, to achieve that goal and do not worry about a bad day or week or month.  Shit happens.  Focus on a failed event only long enough to learn from it.

Most of all, remember what’s important.  Yes, it’s just you out there and when push comes to shove, you can only rely on yourself, but anything can be taken too far.  I am not the only one with these struggles and, more importantly, these “struggles” are comparatively pretty irrelevant.  So I did not finish a triathlon in a certain time…boo hoo.

 

For me, this is what's more important


Lastly, remember that triathlon and other endurance events shouldn’t be so important to you that it changes from a positive to a negative impact on your life. A negative feeling about training may tempt you to dread or avoid it. Eliminate those negative feelings by refocusing on why you love triathlon, whether it’s the exercise, socializing, competition or the feeling of accomplishment when you finish the race. Remember that training is a process and pressing forward with your training schedule will help hone the mental endurance you need on race day.

Alright then, with all of that intangible, metaphysical crap out of the way, next time we discuss my latest goal….the sub 3 hour marathon.

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Mental State

My last post on this “daily triathlon” blog was Father’s Day and the topic had nothing to do with endurance events. I thought perhaps it was time to get back into it and, for a change, talk about athletics, specifically, the mental side of things.  So many people (athletes included) scoff at psychology, meditation, mental preparation etc. choosing to focus on the obvious, the tangible, the physical side of sports/endurance events.  That said, if you participate long enough, at some point, you discover the importance of mental strength and, simultaneously, mental weakness.  I’ve discovered both.

I recall my “training program” for my very first marathon consisted of “run.”  When?  Whenever I felt like it.  How fast?  Whatever.  How long?  As long as you feel like.  Nutrition?  Eat anything you want.  If you get tired, just stop.

This lax, disorganized, clueless self training turned out to be a blessing and a curse.  The latter, for obvious reasons.  I arrived at race day wholly unprepared and completely stressed the two weeks leading up to the event.  The longest I’d run at that point was 10-11 miles at a conversational pace.  I looked at all the other runners and immediately felt out of place.  So where exactly is the blessing in all this?  I discovered the ridiculously important and vastly underrated mental side of sports.

As the race director counted down from ten and fired the starting gun, I told myself “we are going to finish this.”  “No matter what happens, we can do this.”  “Thousands have done it before, you can too.”  I ran 2 miles…felt great.  5 miles…barely winded.  10 miles…still good.  13 miles (longer than I’d ever run)…super duper.  I hit mile 20 and I felt like I could run ten more miles, what the hell was wrong with me?  I crossed the finish line and felt amazing.  I also told my body “we’re done” and suddenly my legs were on fire and my whole body hurt.  I suddenly understood what all those cheesy after school specials were talking about.  You can do anything you put your mind to…unless you’re Stephen Hawking and you want to walk, but you get the point.

It dawned on me how much we overvalue the physical side of sports.  I could train every day for ten years, but if I show up on race day with a fear of failure, I’ll never live up to my potential as a marathoner/triathlete.  That said, the first few years of endurance events for me consisted of just that.  I arrived and looked at everyone else.  “He’s in better shape than me.”  “You’re 300 pounds, how are you passing me??!?”  “What if I don’t finish??”  “What if I finish in a terrible time”  I let fear and doubt creep in.  Thankfully time not only heals all wounds, but also most ego.  Thus, after a few years, I was able to show up at events and just participate; run MY race, not someone else’s.  I also took it for granted.

 

I suffered a very minor fracture in my ankle just before Ironman Texas.  I ran the event and then took some time off from any kind of training.  In the middle of recovery I rolled that same ankle, which lengthened my recovery time to around 8-10 weeks.  I began running/training again around August or so.  Though I’d only missed a couple months of training, I felt like I’d lost years of fitness.  Running, biking, and swimming were slow and inconsistent to say the least.  I ran Ten For Texas in a paltry 1:19:00, barely able to eek under 8:00/mile.  I competed in Galveston’s 5150 Olympic distance triathlon and could not even break 2:20:00.  I competed in Katy’s Firethorne Sprint triathlon and apparently my bike had had enough of this shit and completely broke down.  I find myself, mentally at least, right back to where I was when I started these endurance events.  I’m comparing myself to other athletes.  I fear failure.  I fear disappointing family, friends, coaches.  I spend time, money, and training for these events and fall flat on my face.  I fail…miserably.  I missed Sundays with my family and what do I have to show for it?  Nothing.  I am unable to run as fast I know I can.  I push my body, but it won’t go.  Some of the above I’m sure stems from improper goal setting and having realistic expectations, but that’s not everything.  My doctor would have me believe much of it stems from my injury, but I honestly just do not believe that.  That may explain the soreness after some runs, but not the depression and constant state of frustration when it comes to running/biking/swimming.

 

I decided to set my next goal of a sub 3 hour marathon in February 2012.  I was briefly excited and mentally motivated when I finally set my goal, but I soon fell right back into self pity and self doubt wondering “what happens if I don’t achieve that goal?”  CAN I achieve that goal in 3 months?  I’m not running 65-75 miles a week, am I running enough?  I find myself wondering why I am no longer adept at forgetting my failures and focusing on the positive?  Why, as my brother would say, am I being such a whiny bitch?  Suck it up.  I don’t know.  I can’t stop thinking about Ten For Texas and 5150 and the terrible runs I had after coming off my injury.

Like I said, I took the mental side of sports for granted for a lot of years.  Only recently have I realized that you have to work and strengthen that aspect of your training just like you do the physical side.  It’s one thing to realize the importance and respect the value of something and pay lip service to it, it’s another to practice your respect for that something.  I thought when I recognized and came to the realization how important mental strength was to the sport, I was done.  I had it all figured out.  Of course, anytime that happens, you’re screwed.

Now, I’m back to square one.  My confidence in my ability is lower than it’s ever been.  I need to get away from the negative and focus on past success.  I have to do that somehow.  I’m not really sure how, but I know I can’t keep fearing failure and letting doubt reign over my training and love for the sport.  I’m sure it will come soon and at the right time.  In the interim, frustration and failure continue to dominate my internal conversations.  How can you realize the importance of positive thinking and mental strength, even experience it for 5-7 years of racing and then suddenly not be able to tap into that ability?  There’s a reason for everything and, of course, failure is necessary, but son of a bitch, it’s a real pain in my ass.

 

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