I’ve been working on this recap of my season for quite some time now in my head, considering the last race I did was the USAT Age Group Nationals Sprint back on August 10th. So yeah, I’ve had some time to mull things over. Actually, the fact that there is going to be a recap, or even a blog, is something that took me a while to decide. My 2014 season was not what I expected and there was a period during this past summer where I came very close to losing my passion for triathlon.
I truly believe that a person’s happiness is 99% mental. I know that terrible things happen to people that are not within their control, but there are some people who just bounce back and say, “Ya know what? Fuck that, I’m gonna slap a smile on my face and carry on.” I want to be that person. This summer I was so not that person. I let little things suck the joy from my favorite sport and a lot of these little things were expectations and demands that I imposed on myself. I felt that I was paying my dues and going through the motions and so I should expect to see some results. I kept putting it out there that this was going to be MY year. I set the bar high – really high. And while I still believe that setting the bar high is not a bad thing, (I need the carrot on the stick), the problem is that I let the actions of others dictate where I set my bar. I went to races expecting to podium or finish in a certain place. But those types of goals don’t take into account who shows up on any given day or where I am at in my training and adaptation. I felt that I was letting others down when I didn’t reach my goals and I carried the weight of those perceived expectations with me into each race. I didn’t want to let down my coach/team/fiancé/family – the list went on and on in my head! I felt that because I had gone through radiation treatment in 2013, I should be so much better in 2014 because I had “nothing wrong with me!” Well, I got my ass handed to me on a pretty regular basis this summer and I was too blind to see how lucky I was to just be out there. I had gotten wrapped up in the RESULTS and could not longer enjoy the EXPERIENCE.
When I first did a couple triathlons on a dare from a coworker back in 2006, I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am now and my race kit was spandex shorts worn over a bathing suit from Sam’s Club. I rode a steel hybrid Gary Fisher (with a very comfortable gel seat!). When people asked me about triathlon I would say “You HAVE to do one! It’s like being a kid again where you jump in the pool and then you ride your bike all over the neighborhood and then run around the block!” I never even saw the women who won my age group at races, and frankly, they didn’t much figure into my enjoyment of the sport. So where did that happy triathlete go? She got crushed under the weight of EXPECTATIONS and she – I - made triathlon into a JOB.
By mid-summer, I was feeling burned out and I became resentful. I didn’t want to listen to my coach, I didn’t want the “good lucks” or accolades from friends and family. “I am not worthy of all this!” I wanted to scream. “Why don’t you people just forget about it???” I felt like a fraud, like someone who dressed up like a triathlete and had all the right gear but I couldn’t actually produce the results. All my faults were magnified in my mind. When people told me I was strong on the bike, I thought, “Sometimes I forget to clip out and I fall over like an idiot.” If someone passed me on the run and said “Good job,” I muttered under my breath. I compared myself to the “fast girls” and found myself older or fatter or just not good enough. Repeatedly my coach and John reminded me that triathlon was my HOBBY not my JOB but still I felt I had something to prove. I continued to go through the motions, dutifully performing workouts that felt pointless and showing up at races without my heart. I was a miserable, tired person. I withdrew from anything or anyone who might discuss racing. I even shut this blog down for a spell. By early September I decided to pull the plug on all of it and just follow my instincts.
Fast forward to about week ago, I was running 7 miles at the reservoir. I no longer am working with my coach (through no fault of his – he is a WONDERFUL coach!) and not following any set plan. I’m just doing stuff. As I was running up a hill, my easy pace felt difficult. My initial thought was This shouldn’t feel this hard! Why am I struggling at this slow pace? But then, from somewhere in the recesses of my brain came the words: You will be tested. It caught me off guard. Yes, I will be tested. Not once, not twice, and not always in ways that I will be ready for. In all areas of this life, if you think about, you will be tested. For some reason, after cancer, I expected it to get easier. Just get a coach, lose some weight, buy the right gear and this triathlon thing is going to be fun AND I will see RESULTS! And while triathlon in general is great fun, sometimes it is not fun at all. Sometimes you feel like puking after running a 400 at race pace, or your crotch doesn’t want to be on the bike saddle one more second, let alone for another 20 miles, or it’s cold as fuck outside and those laps aren't gonna swim themselves.
I guess somehow I became complacent. It has taken me a couple months of reflection (and reading other peoples’ blogs) to understand that there is no fairy tale ending without the blood, sweat and tears. And that yesterday’s blood and last month’s tears don’t really count today. Today is a new day and you will be tested. Training is hard and racing is harder. My walls are covered with sayings like, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster” and “Suck it up, Buttercup.” But I guess I didn’t believe it. Perhaps I thought I would get a free pass or at least a discounted pass to the podium because I was doing all the right things? Hey, I had cancer, Universe! I shouldn’t have to work so hard! Right? Right?
I do not know where this laziness of my mind came from, but I see that there is no place for it in triathlon. Now that I have had time to reflect on my 2014 season, I expect nothing less than to suffer and to be tested each and every step of the way if I want the results. But at the same time I don't want to lose the joy of triathlon. It is a decision that I have not yet made. Are the results worth the sacrifices and the pain? By the start of next racing season I will have come to terms with that decision, and I hope that if I decide to go for it, then I find that deep down inside of me is the grit and the heart and the courage to battle on.