"And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done." --Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!
I started doing triathlons ten years ago almost to the day, with a good friend on a borrowed bike and following a computer-generated training plan. And I crossed that finish line, darn close to last. And loved every second of it.
And it made me want more.
And by more, I felt instinctively that this meant more MILES. Longer, longer, longer. Longer was better. Longer got all the glory. Longer got the NBC broadcast, right?
So that's what I did.
I set my sights on the long stuff in 2005. I completed my first half ironman the day before I signed up for my first Ironman. Because that's what you do. That's the natural progression of things, or at least that was how it seemed to me.
I kept up the long stuff and completed more half ironmans. Most were better; one was worse. All taught me a lot about what I am capable of and a fire that I have in here that hadn't been lit in a while.
I kept going long. And I did like it. But life started to change, yet my training did not. And for a while it was fun. It was exciting to me to prove to myself that I could still do the long stuff. I could still ride 3 to 4 hours, sneak it in during naptime, get up early and swim, and run on the treadmill while someone slept in the swing. For a while, that was exciting.
"You can get so confused that you'll start in to race down long-wiggled roads at a break-necking pace, and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space..."--Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!
And then, after last summer, it wasn't fun. It became a chore. I dreaded the rides. I didn't feel like running. And swimming was something that I had a rough time fitting in because I knew it was 6am or nothing, and 6am is really tough when you have two children under 3 and one of them being just a few months old.
What motivated me, as the summer went on, was that I needed to make it worth it. Worth all the lost sleep, worth all the time on my bike when I could have been at home. That lit a fire in me, too, and I made it worth it to say the least. Shattering my PR by 16 minutes while still carrying around almost that many pounds is still something I'm extremely proud of. And it reminded me that 5:44 is still not my best. That there is something much faster than that in here, without a doubt.
But I was burned out.
I should have learned my lesson. I should have remembered all of this when I signed up for the marathon in May and set such a high goal. I did think about it when I got so sick last March, but the fire in there wouldn't let me quit. I had to at least try. And I still don't regret what I did.
But I realized more than ever after crossing the line in Cleveland that something had to change. I was trying to train and race the same way I did in 2005. And life in 2011 is completely different than it was in 2005.
I needed to adapt. To still feed that fire in me, but to adapt to the new reality of my wants and dreams. And my wants and dreams increasingly do not involve sitting on my bike for 3 or 4 hours. Because I've done that. I've done that, and I've done it well, and learned a lot and grown and succeeded.
I needed a change.
"It's okay to rest....but in the modern world, that's just not a popular idea. Outside of sport, in business, people boast about getting only two hours of sleep and still going into work. They're stressed, they're not sleeping, and they wonder why they feel like hell all the time. It's like the less you sleep, the more hardcore you are. Translate that to the triathlete world and it's 'Look at me, I ran twenty kilometers yesterday after riding for six hours.'"--Chris McCormack, I'm Here To Win
Instead of feeling pride after a ride or run, I felt almost inadequate. That no matter what I did, most of my training partners were doing double it. I couldn't keep up. And if I couldn't keep up with the volume, well, then, I must be worthless, right? I must not be cut out for this. Maybe I've outgrown triathlon.
But this summer has shown me something. I have had so much fun.
SO much fun.
I can't remember having this much fun training or racing. It hasn't been a burden or a chore. It's been a release, an outlet, a social hour. It's pushed me beyond my comfort zone time and time again. It's left me crossing the finish line in a heap, ready to puke. It's made me ask, "Okay...is there another gear in here?" since the races are short enough that you have to--you have to push harder than is comfortable.
And I was totally comfortable with the attitude that I've held the past 6 seasons: that "I'm not very fast," that "I'm no good at sprints." I just thought if I wanted to succeed in triathlon, I needed to do what I was getting better at: 70.3s.
But I wasn't enjoying them. So maybe I'd do these shorter ones and even if I was horrible, it would fit into life better.
"One key to training this way is to attach no guilt to it. You have to let go of the numbers. Stop counting how many miles you did at the end of the week! You have to train yourself to be confident that you are doing enough and stop overtraining as a security blanket."--Chris McCormack, I'm Here to Win
The funny thing? I'm actually not horrible. Three races can't be a fluke. Yesterday I won my age group and finished 5th overall, once again shocking the hell out of myself. Even in a large and talented field at Lifetime, where I felt pretty rotten and like I wasn't ready and had a pretty horrible run, I still finished near the top third.
And I feel like yesterday has really forced me to turn a corner here and transition into something different. I want to keep this fun going. I love the fire in me when I'm chasing someone down. I love the feeling when I'm red-lining. It's something new and exciting, and it may not be as glamourous as Ironman, but it sure is a lot more fun for me right now.
Next season will be more of this. It will start with a super fast half marathon in May. And then it will be as many sprints and Olympics as I can pack into a summer, depending upon what works for my family. Because nothing beats racing close to home with my kids at the finish line. Nothing. Instead of spending hours on my bike every weekend, I'm going to spend a few hours racing like I stole something. I'm going to hit the track hard. I'm going to hit the pool hard. I'm going to continue to get stronger as a cyclist and mix up longer stuff with intervals. I'm going to continue to lift and get stronger.
I'm transitioning. And I'm ready.