I think triathletes have guilty consciences by nature. We tend to be an anal-retentive, type-A, overzealous, obsessive lot. I think we even out-obsess runners, dancers, and gymnasts. (And I should know, because I have been all of those at some point.) If we don't have every detail buttoned up and locked away, we can out-guilt the most sterotypically guilt-ridden Catholic. That being said, "confirmation" is the perfect title for this entry.

I realized, as I poked around the worldwide web, looking for some kind of guidance on my recovery that would reassure me that I haven't lost my fitness base, that triathletes and runners are really very different. Although both tend to analyze numbers, results and training plans into oblivion, triathletes in general seem to have this bizarre desire to out-everything, everyone. Even worse, we have this raging desire to finish EVERYTHING to the VERY LAST DROP. Almost to the point where we take an all-or-nothing stance on racing, training, even life. And this week I stepped right into that trap. Why? Because I feel crappy this week. So I'm not getting a very good start to training, and that also makes me feel like world's biggest slacker. As I noted yesterday, I've already had my weekly rest day.


But I'm not training if I don't train with the club. I'm not progressing if I sleep. I should be doing 30-mile hill rides and 10-mile runs and 3km-swims like those other guys the 3rd week after 70.3, and not taking ANY rest days. I should have 20 more races scheduled, and I should be out buying a wetsuit, and I should be seeing a coach every day, and I should be waking up at 3:45am and working out at lunch and and and and . . . .

That's where I had to stop myself. Because none of that crap is really going to get me where I need to be. You know what is going to get me where I need to be? Getting back to basics. Getting back to why I started this sport: because I love it. Getting better at the simple things, like finishing shorter-distance races and enjoying moderate comfort during my workouts. And, on the days when I really, truly need to rest, remembering that it's my body's way of telling me "Hey, guess what. You're doing some work here. You're getting some things in order. You're (as one other athlete told me after FL 70.3) under construction. So if you don't take a break now, this house ain't gonna be finished on schedule. In fact, it may never get finished at all." Removing some of that pressure from myself seems to be the only way to return to the love of the sport that brought me out of the depths of illness and exhaustion the past two years.

I have to accept that, as a triathlete, I'm always going to feel "lazy" for not completing something (even on the days I walk 4 miles and swim 1500yds, because OF COURSE it doesn't count if it was slow and fun and not a structured workout.) But I also have to accept that, as a whole person - let's face it, my other life responsibilities have to take priority, since I'm not getting paid to be a triathlete and my personal relationships often suffer because I put them aside to train or travel for races - I'm not always going to be able to train the way I'd like. What matters, of course, is that I give it my best effort on a regular basis. And that's where my personal demons throw a f'ing party in my brain. Those little jerks start screaming at me, "COME ON! This isn't your BEST, you LAZY B(!@*H! You can DO BETTER!!! Go read what workouts coaches are making everyone else do. Go look at what all the other triathletes are up to. Not only that, but look at what YOU are capable of!!! You, my friend, ARE A SLACKER! You can do SO MUCH BETTER! I don't care if you are falling asleep on your way to work. YOU CAN DO MORE!"

No matter what I do, it's never enough. It's not that there is always someone better, faster, stronger, smarter, prettier, tougher. It's that *I* could always be better, faster, stronger, smarter, prettier, tougher.

And it will always be that way, regardless of whether I make every single workout during a given week.

The truth is, the only real confirmation of progress comes from within us. It doesn't come from coaches, experts or colleagues. It's how we feel mentally and physically. It's how we're personally enriched by the effects of the sport on our lives. It's when we're finally able to hear those little obsessed triathlon demons inside our brains and tell them, "Shut your f'ing pie hole. You don't know what you're talking about."

And they listen.

Folks, I'm a long way off from making the voices listen. But I'm getting pretty good at serving them a nice, hot cup of shut the f*&k up.

2 tidbits of wizdom:

Dr. Iron TriFeist :) said...

And the cool thing is that you've figured it out! So many experienced triathletes can't understand rest is good and we don't have to pummel our way through every event. Way to go!

Alili said...

This is an awesome post-really, I loved it! I've been figuring out minor stuff that is getting in my way (domino effect going out of control) and the answer was step back and listen. I feel a little lazy and a little leery about my race this weekend. But I'll do it, baby steps.