It was my boyfriend, Sean, who introduced me to the sport of triathlon. I never had any intention of trying out a sport where equipment was involved. I had only ever been a runner. I remember walking into our condo back in the fall of 2015 to discover a new tri bike propped up against our couch in the living room. When I found a brand new tri-kit in my closet a week after the bike showed up, I realized I was really going to do this.
After my first successful triathlon experience, I was on a vengeance. I signed up for every triathlon Sean did, entering each race in a blissful state of ignorance. Will I be able to unclip my bike shoes from the pedals today? Get my wetsuit off? Run the race without smashing into a cone on the side of the road and find myself splayed all over the pavement? (Yes, I did do this…in my second triathlon).
My point in all this is that my first year in triathlon was a little bit of a hot mess. But gosh, was it fun. No expectations, no pressure, no idea that I could and would do the thing I set out to do that day.
And then 2017 happened, and everything changed. The whole notion of “ignorance is bliss” I experienced in my first year was lost on me as I headed into my second. Every workout in preparation felt forced. I was excited to race (I think), but more than that, I was (even more) excited to have it over. I constantly wrestled with doubts of whether or not I could physically, and mentally, “last” the length of a normal tri season. When you are carrying a heavy backpack filled with negative thoughts and self-imposed pressure, any amount of work you ask of yourself is bound to shove you deeper into the proverbial hole.
I didn’t last much longer after that. Ultimately, I gave into the barrage of negativity that crushed me like a tidal wave everyday. Looking back, I felt like I HAD to match the efforts I put out in 2016. And not only that, I had to race faster, win by more seconds, and set tougher course records. Along those same lines, I truly don’t know what the driving factor was in signing up to race anyway. I knew I wasn’t racing for me, I was racing to meet the expectations I felt others had of me. I tucked away my tri kit and threw my bike shoes in the closet, resigned to the fact that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this sport.
I say all this because when I finally decided to start racing again, I knew I wanted to FEEL different about it. I did what any other normal human would do--I signed up for my first Ironman. And in a roundabout way, did this to bring the ignorance back; the novice mentality that helped me excel in 2016. Either way, I knew I had to make some changes from last year.
For starters…I was in a much better headspace heading into 2018, largely in part because I put time and space between the thing I thought was draining my energy. And even outside of that headspace (which in my opinion, is the most important), I made a few other changes.
Here are the biggest changes I made:
1. I took some time to focus on my health. I knew that how I was feeling went beyond just telling myself to “suck it up.” I needed to look deeper than surface level, and in so doing, made an appointment with a doctor to see if my “symptoms” were connected to something other than just frame of mind. Lab tests revealed some hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies that needed correcting. This was step one in taking ownership of my health and gaining control back.
2. I started practicing gratitude. When I physically started feeling better, it was easier to feel more positive and motivated. Instead of getting down on myself, I started APPRECIATING what my body could do, regardless of what it gave me on the day. I no longer cared about setting personal best’s, I just loved that I was able to MOVE without my mind willing me to stop.
3. I ate more. As an athlete in a sport where leanness is often celebrated, finding the weight where you race best can be an incredibly tricky task. In 2016, I danced on the edge of being too light for my frame, which could have been the driving factor in creating some hormonal issues in the first place. I shifted my focus from deprivation to enjoyment. I stopped focusing on being perfect with my nutrition, and instead focused on being good enough.
4. I stopped “shoulding” on myself. I encouraged myself to stop forcing workouts I didn’t truly want to do, and instead, stepped into doing what felt right. I took note of when I had the most energy for running or swimming or biking, and started giving in to rest days when I truly didn’t have the energy to get out the front door.
I will never pretend to think I’ve figured this out. But I got a bit closer this past year. 2017 was my year of transition. A transition into 2018 that focused on acceptance over resistance, progress over perfection, and showing up, rather than failing to even attempt to start in the first place. 2019 will bring it’s own set of challenges. Most notably, my first attempt at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. That for sure will be an amazing trip, and one I can’t wait to take!”