I'm baaaa-accck!!!! After my vacation to IM Lake Placid, I am rejoining Cynthia and Courtney for our weekly TriTalk Tuesday link-up. This week's topic is - Lessons Learned.
When we picked this topic, I think the intention was to discuss pointers, goof-ups, and other revelations we've discovered over this race season. The mistakes I've made could fill the pages of a book, but as I've been feeling very philosophical and overly thoughtful in the last couple of weeks, I wanted to spin it and instead tell you what triathlon has taught me. Is continuing to teach me.
Last Friday I was doing a hilly ride with a work friend from my American Lung Association team. He and I were both feeling off, so the ride was even more of a verbal sparring match than usual (I enjoy the company of people whose sarcasm matches my own....). Coming up to the last hill I said, "Ok Szymon, inspire me!!!" He very solemnly said,
"Oh no Miranda.... it has to come from inside you".
Wiseass. The thing is, that phrase has stuck with me. In many ways, my triathlon journey has been an exploration of just what is inside me. What I'm capable of. What I can overcome.
All human beings crave validation. As children, we are graded and evaluated constantly. Our lives are quantified in an endless series of report cards, games won or lost, trophies and achievements. Then somehow, over time, the accolades slow. Our progress through this life becomes harder to measure. Some focus on career, material wealth, children... the ways in which to measure success are myriad. But we all want to feel success. To feel like we are making meaningful gains.
Triathletes are a competitive bunch - with each other and with ourselves. And boy do we love us some data. I could have the worst day - work could be tough, the kids could be sick, the cat could barf all over the living room carpet.... and if I had a good workout that day it gives me something to hold onto. I can say, "Well at least I did X". I achieved something. I did something measurable. That need for validation comes from inside.
Which is good, because it is hard to find validation outside. Friends and family can be supportive, other athletes are great (for the most part), but people can also be cruel and careless. I've opened myself up to judgment by starting a blog. Although truly, anyone that exists in the same world as other people is subject to judgment. In the time since I started doing tri I've had many people, directly or indirectly, imply that I am not serious. That I am not worth their time or association, that I should be doing x y or z. That my race results are sub par. Most of these people didn't mean anything malicious by their comments or insinuations - at the end of the day we are all human and the best way to avoid hurt feelings is to not take anything personally.
The judgment of your self-worth and your achievements also has to come from inside you.
Even your best training partner or your coach's opinion doesn't matter as much as your own, and YOU get to decide what that is. It is your choice to focus on the positive aspects of any race, or to wallow in the negatives.
I do the vast majority of my training alone. I am not able to join a tri team - my schedule isn't cooperative with regular workouts at scheduled times. There is always work in the way or a sick kiddo. I can barely sync up workouts with Gypsy and Hummingbird, my two closest (both geographically and training-wise) friends every other week or so. I have virtual tri-friends to check in with, and my online coach, but at 5:30 am when the alarm goes off the decision to get up is one I make alone. I choose to run a 10k after a long workday on the treadmill in the basement because the sun already set - alone. I visualize my A race going a certain way all by myself to get moving. Alone.
The drive to improve comes from inside.
Then there's what is actually inside. What is in your body. I've spent most of the last year trying to ignore my body. To beat it into submission. Which is (amazingly) why I've been injured so much. I've had a (non-confirmed) stress fracture, problems with every joint south of my belly button, a bum shoulder, and a dependence on prescription pain meds - all in the last twelve months. Someday I hope to learn that I don't always have a long run or a hard bike session in me. Like tonight - I ran 6 very sluggish miles after work on a hot humid day. I've been fighting a virus since IMLP, when my daughter got sick. My whole family has had it. In my mind, I've been resting. In Training Peaks, however, I've now worked out for the last five days straight. True, one of those days was an aborted swim set, and another was a flat slow 20 miler with my daughter on her trail-a-bike, BUT that isn't the same as rest.
You must, MUST listen to your body - what is "actually" inside you.
Ok I'm still working on that one. In the spirit of it, however, tomorrow I am taking a full rest day. I'm going to get a pedicure with some non-triathlon friends that I haven't seen in so long I'm sure they think I've been brainwashed by some weird cult and/or eaten by wolves.... Pretty toes will make me run faster.... right?