The Good And The Bad

Life can be challenging at times. It is all too easy to forget this simple fact when everything seems to be falling into place. Some days everything just feels perfect. I am confidant, productive, and I am just on top of the world. Somehow I get to thinking that I finally figured it all out. This is it. From here on out this is how things will be. I’m done with the hard stuff. 
 
Of course this is never the case. As soon as I slip one tiny bit from that place of ease, I tend to fall all the way back down. Not a whole lot in the middle. All of that satisfaction and happiness that was there just moments before seems to evaporate. Life really is full of these ups and downs. The highs and lows. The good and the bad.
 
It is all too easy to get stuck in the mindset of permanence. In a moment of joy, or a great feeling of accomplishment I tend to feel very empowered and confidant. This on its own is not a bad thing at all. The point at which I feel that it does not serve me is when I take that confidence, and use it to inflate my own sense of self worth. In other words, Using a victory to boost your own ego never ends well. Just as dangerous is diminishing yourself in a moment of failure. 
 
The way I have seen this play out in my own life recently is with the intensity of my training. The feeling I get when I manage to complete a seemingly impossible workout is incredible. It is all too easy to think of myself as a bigger, better person after coming home from after run father or biked faster than before. I have found though that the ego boost is inevitably followed by an emotional crash. As soon as I think that I am more than I am I need to live up to these new expectations, which is impossible. I am the same person that walked out the door just a few hours before. 
 
The other day I had exactly this happen. It was the end of an intense block of training leading up to Wildflower and I was just getting home from a hard workout that left me exhausted. I hopped in the tub to soak my legs and I was already thinking about how nice it would be to climb into bed. Instead I went to the kitchen and proceeded to devour everything I could gets my hands on. This started me on my all too familiar spiral of guilt and shame which took me straight from my post workout high, to a deep pit of negative self talk. Where minutes before I was on top of the world singing myself praises of my accomplishments, now I was trying to bury my emotions in a jar of raisins. (I know it might not seem like the most indulgent, but we all have our vices…) This kept up for a few hours until finally, well after midnight I got too tired to bring hand to mouth one more time.
 
After a night of uneasy sleep I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. Instead of taking a step back and allowing myself the chance to reset and start the new day fresh, I jumped right back into my anxious guilt fueled overconsumption. I decided to allow this to go on until I had to get to work at 4 PM. Yes, it was a conscious decision. I was fully aware of the problem, knew the solution, yet I was unwilling to take any sort of action. I find that this is often the case with myself. When I am in this state of negativity, I feel undeserving. I derive some sort of satisfaction from treating myself badly because somewhere deep down I feel like I deserve it. Being able to derive satisfaction from self punishment in those moments when I feel unworthy is no fun at all.
 
Before heading in to work I called ahead to make sure that it wasn’t a slow day and that there might actually be work for me. It turned out that no, there were no customers and I could stay home. At this point I was at a crossroads. The external factor that could have turned around my day had just been removed. I could keep up with the unproductive wallowing like I had done so many times before, or I could do something to make a shift. I began to get a feeling that is all too rare in these situations. I decided that I was worth it. I didn’t need the line drawn for me. I have the power to make these shifts happen myself.
 
This is not something I have managed with any degree of consistency, but it is something that I am slowly but surely teaching myself to do. In those moments when my mind is working against my best interests it is extremely difficult to take a stand and change course, but it is something that I try to practice every day in little ways. I do this by trying not to ride the highs of doing something well, or taking that emotional dive when I make a misstep. For me it is about embracing the journey that I am on, and accepting that I am not perfect, and that perfection is not even the end goal. I am just trying to make better decisions on a moment to moment basis. And that can be harder than it sounds.
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Training

I started training with the Nu2Tri program in January. I had been interested in the idea of trying my hand at triathlon for over a year by that point, but things just finally fell into place. Once I realized that my housemate was on the board of the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association I realized that I was all out of excuses. It was just meant to be. He convinced me to sign up and after some trepidation I finally went for it.
When January finally came around I was excited. This had been in the works for a long time and I was ready to finally get started with this new test of my physical tenacity. I went to the first SCTA meeting of the year to sign up, and I got my official membership card. An interesting thing about us humans (or maybe just me…) is that at that moment when I got the card, I felt validated. This was no longer just a crazy idea. This was a crazy idea I had committed to. I was a triathlete. I was pumped. I had put this off long enough and I was ready to get down to business.

From that point on I completely threw myself into training head first. It felt like I went from 0-60 overnight. Before this point I had not been able to get comfortable swimming with anything other than a dog paddle, I had never run more than a couple of slow, faltering miles, and most of the cycling I had done was commuting fairly short distances. I had a lot of work to do.

I started going to every workout the club had to offer. Whether I felt ready or not, I decided that I was going to give it all a try. I went to track, I started swimming in the ocean, I went for all the bike rides, and it was amazing. I quickly realized that I had found something I loved. It was a great opportunity to push myself, make new friends, and feel more productive with my free time.

Throughout my life, I have found myself in many supportive communities with people ready and willing to mentor me. This is something I am extremely grateful for. This new community is no different. There are so many people who just have this excitement and passion for what they do. It is contagious! The more I showed up, the more I improved. The more I improved, the more enthusiastic I became. The more enthusiastic I became, the more people took notice and came forward to offer their help to me. This is the pattern I have always noticed in my life. This time though I was ready for what I might get out of it.

Many people around me made themselves available for encouragement, advice, training help, and even sponsoring me to do a race that I would not have been able to afford! The race I have the opportunity to do has really changed the trajectory I am on in these last couple weeks, and it is because of the support that has yet again popped up around me. For months people had been asking me whether or not I was planning to race Wildflower. Now, from what I have heard this is not a race to miss. It has been around for 31 years and over 7000 people come to race over one weekend. Everyone that has gone says it is an absolute blast, but due to the fact that it is apparently one of the most difficult courses out there, and these events are not cheap to register for I decided to pass on it this year. That turned out not to be the end of the story. Someone who would probably prefer to remain anonymous thought that I should not miss out on this opportunity and offered to sign me up. Being that the race was a mere 3 weeks away and I was under prepared, I had my doubts but I gratefully accepted. Not wanting the experience to be a complete suffer-fest for me he then gave me the number of a great coach and told me to give him a call for some advice. Having only heard stories about this coaches complete honesty about people’s abilities and his blazing fast Ironman finishes, cold calling this guy made me a bit nervous. To my surprise, when I got in touch with him he knew who I was, what I was planning to do, and he offered his time to get me ready for the race. Go figure.

We agreed to meet the next morning for what was to be the toughest bike ride I had ever done. By a long shot. I got chewed up and spit out the other side like I could have never imagined. In a nutshell, that is what my last two weeks have been like. I have put in more distance at a higher intensity in my training than I ever imagined I had in me. It has been such a powerful experience for me being pushed to my limits like that. Usually after a track workout I would get a ride home, eat dinner, and flop into bed. This week I was told to run 5 miles home instead. Did I feel like it? Not at all. I didn’t really think I could do it either. But when I got home I felt like a stronger person both mentally and physically than I ever had in my life. I was so relieved just to make it back, thoughts of skipping the next days workouts already setting up camp in my head. But the next morning, I got back out there and put in 8 miles. I know that those 8 miles didn’t come purely from my body. My body was telling me that it didn’t want to run. But it didn’t come only from strength of will either. My mind was telling me to turn around, go home, and sleep. There is somewhere in between that I have never had the chance to explore. That deep connection between mind and body where a well of untapped power has been sitting and waiting in me my whole life.

I had not thought that I could push myself in these ways before. I have always had an image of myself as weak and unable to follow through. I feel like I have run away from opportunities like this that have been offered to me before, because I was so afraid of failure that I would not give myself the chance to try. This is my chance to see that I’ve got more guts than I thought. To follow through. To test my limits. I am willing to go all out and either succeed in ways I have never experienced, or fail more spectacularly than I ever have before. That is why next weekend I will be toeing the starting line of one of the hardest olympic triathlons out there, along with thousands of other people, ready to find out what I am made of.

The crazy part? I feel ready.