Everyone, listen up. Taper has started.
Hold onto your butts, people!
I repeat, taper has started. This is not a drill! Apparently, this week is where I work through ALL the mental shit, so please bear with me. I’ve written and rewritten this post a few times all with different tones depending on which end of the massive mood swing I’ve been on, and I’ve chewed up and spit out at least 10k words and I hope I’m leaving you with the best 3500. I’ve also spent many, many, many hours previous with these thoughts rolling through my head and, like evil demons, they need to be expelled and shown the light of day to dissipate, so welcome to my blog!
Let’s start with a quote…
before the end of the year im going to write down the things i want next year so when i get them i know i was brave enough to want them
This quote has been going around the instagrams and it’s fairly timely for me right now. Last year I was brave enough to write down my big scary goal of busting ass and getting some podiums and qualifying for Nationals. Eight months later it doesn’t seem so big or so scary simply because it happened. Four podiums in five races including an overall 3rd place, and I qualified not once, but twice. My performance at the actual race itself was not exemplary, but in my mind, it was a total victory lap and I enjoyed the experience even if I felt extremely outclassed (little fish – meet REALLY BIG POND).
This year has given me a little bit of confidence back. I can show up to these sprint races now like Bitch I’m Willy Wonka, and stare down my competition and figure out who I’m going to be racing for the podium (and I’m actually pretty good at picking the horses) and it’s almost not even faking it anymore.
Here’s the conundrum. Now I feel brave enough to want. I’m not quite brave enough to vocalize my next big scary (probably multi-year) goal but it’s definitely there in my mind.
Three years ago to the day, I stood upon my last long brick for Kerrville 70.3, feeling the exact same way, as if something magical could happen at my upcoming race, and then reality smacked me right in the face with insane lady cramps that morning, a low-speed bike crash at mile 50, and a complete and utter meltdown on the run. I’ve honestly spent most of the last three years mentally recovering from the terrible horrible no good very bad season that this race kicked off (gaining a bunch of weight, missing my goal by over an hour here, then two marathon personal worsts).
I’ve done a decent job at shedding the insecurities, the faked apathy, and the pounds I put on. While it’s still a work in progress, I’m also working on breaking the limits on what I think is appropriate for me to accomplish. I hit a pretty hard plateau for a while where certain paces on the bike and the run seemed to be the ceiling of my capability. These limits are all shattering this year, one by one, as I go out in search of where my new stronger and lighter body and more confident mind are at.
Yesterday, I jumped on the treadmill with a prescription for 1 mile warmup, 3 miles faster, 1 mile cooldown. Instead of just pumping up the speed and staying there, I decided to take myself into a progression run, starting slightly above the previous warmup pace. The first mile ticks by feeling easy at 9:35. The second mile ticks by, and it feels like I’m working, but I’m not really challenged yet, running at my current estimate of my all out 5k pace. The third mile is one of the fastest I’ve run in a long long time and I’m just starting to breathe hard and not yet feeling spent. The time for those three miles is around 26:45 – or within spitting distance of my 5k PR (26:30) about 9 years ago. The cooldown was hard because I just wanted to keep running faster.
I got pretty good at sprint triathlons earlier this year, but I had no idea how this was going to translate to races two to four times longer. I figured I would be at a disadvantage not having a lot of base mileage under my belt, in fact, this has been my lowest mileage year in a LONG TIME. I feared to get the distance I’d lose the speed. However, this weekend, I jumped off a 56 mile bike ride that would have been a 5 minute 70.3 PR (that felt like playtime and honestly TOO SLOW and NOT ENOUGH POWER), and ran 10k closing in on a pace that would rival my standalone half marathon PR if I could continue it for a second 10k and maybe speed up a *little* at the end.
I could give a bunch of other examples but suffice to say I AM MOTHERFUCKING FIT AS A FIDDLE right now and I keep proving it to my doubting self time after time when I show up to training, even on days when I think, “this is the one, this is when I’m going to fall on my ass.” And then I go knock it out of the park. I’m not sure how many times I have to do this to actually, fully, and totally believe in myself, but I’m getting there. The doubting voice shows up, but it’s getting easier to not back down from being challenged, and whisper in it’s ear, “just watch me try”.
If you would have told me I’d be in this situation six months ago, coming off a disastrous half marathon, disappointing indoor tri, and coming in dead fucking last at a 6 hour bike race, I would have told you that you were high. There was no other possible explanation.
Let me go very, very off topic for a moment to Dungeons&Dragons. It will take a while to get back to the original point, but it will be relevant eventually, I promise. I’ve been playing this ridiculous genderfluid bard named Fork for about 2 years in our every-other-week game. Fork is a semi-famous (but a legend in Fork’s mind) performer who ended up, through choices made in the campaign, on the bad side of the very corrupt law of the land, many times I ‘ve had to contact a lawyer for several cases. The only thing Fork ever cared about was being famous, and with that option being snatched from Fork (obsolesce or death are my current options), Fork hasn’t given a shit about anything in quite a while.
It me! Funny story, my character was supposed to have dark hair but our artist had it in his head that I looked like Tilda Swinton so blonde I became!!!
Through a plot twist, the only way to progress towards clearing the group’s name is a play with perils similar to a gladiatorial match, which is right up Fork’s alley as both a performer and an adventurer. Furthermore, Fork, who is masquerading as the sexy leading man, Gaston, is cast in the lead opposite literally the only person Fork cares about in the world – River. River is an estranged childhood friend that Fork had treated terribly on Fork’s rise to fame and in hindsight, regrets it deeply. Fork never knew how to repair the damage so Fork just kind of stuffed those shame feelings down and ignored them.
Fork has been trying to hide under the guise of Gaston as to avoid the subject, and had been doing quite a cracking job at it, but last session, River tricked another member of our party into outing me and subsequently confronted Fork. At first I (person and also character) was a little bit flummoxed because it kind of came out of nowhere, but I (we) decided that true honesty was the best policy with my oldest and dearest friend and pretty much spilled all the beans to try and repair some trust, so we’ll see where it takes me in the next session.
Hopefully my bad luck with dice doesn’t follow me next session…
It’s silly how my actual heart felt less heavy when the conversation happened. There was a chance to reconcile! Oh happy day! My brain has gone absolutely wild with inspiration and possibilities of where the story can go from here. I’m more prepared for this next session than I have ever been for one in my life. I’m sure somehow I’ll still be surprised by our very talented storyteller but the massive pile of notes I’ve compiled is pretty impressive, considering I usually just show up to these sessions, eat cheese, make witty comments and misuse song lyrics, give people bonuses when I remember, and attack things when they need to be attacked. This time, Fork has plans! Fork has bullet points, and lots of them.
After this had been rolling around in the forefront of my brain constantly for the last week, including the entire last half of my 56 mile ride, I had to figure out why. What nugget of importance did my brain find in this situation that it has latched onto?
1. I have been playing this character for a few years. It may sound silly, but I do give a small piece of my heart and soul to any character I’ve spent time with via writing, acting, or roleplaying. Fork has actually has taken the longest to really grab me – Fork has been a challenge to play with my own weaknesses as a human being and FINALLY THIS IS SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT AND I DO ALL THE TIME FOR WORK. I do table reads of scripts (which the next session is) at least twice a year. I do a 90 minute live stream show once a month. I give a presentation to the entire company once a month as well and I do my damndest to make sure it’s amusing (last one, I did voices). I do scripted videos at least a few times a year. I’m absolute shite at improv but give me something mildly prepared and THIS IS MY WHEELHOUSE, PEOPLE!
2. There’s a lot of college nostalgia in play – not the kind of longing where you want to go back (no no no no no please), but remembering how EXCITING it was. While there was no time when anyone was poisoning each other’s makeup or in danger of being dumped into a vat of acid like in this particular situation, present are the familiar on and off stage dramatics, jealousy, and intrigue, things that were so much a part of my late teens and early 20s. This is my turf, baby. I know my way around a theater and it’s denizens.
It’s bringing back all the fun and terrible memories – everything from the nervewracking auditions to the long days of rehearsals bonding with the cast, to sneaking in with the stage manager and crew after midnight with beers and trying to summon the theater ghost, to my first (and last) on stage kiss. For anyone wondering, it was totally not hot AT ALL, to be quite honest. However, for purposes of letting FORK’s mind wander, as this is part of the next session… what if instead of being kinda of weird and awkward, it was EXACTLY like the hopeless romantics imagine and a moment of magic for the two people involved? What an interesting and dramatic twist that would be…. the actor and the writer in me has begun to weave that potential tale (if the person running the story lets it go that way) and it’s a lot of fun!
3. And here’s the thing that I arrived at after a few days – that actually correlates with my real life – allowing myself to delve into these thoughts and memories weirdly has peeled back a layer of my little black robot heart. It’s weird to FEEL something because I’m pretty much a goddamn automaton lately. Is this what feelings are? I kinda remember how, in fact, when I was younger I made a habit of reaching into my heart and pulling out my guts and rearranging them on a table full of (terrible, terrible) poetry, and spending many many late nights and early mornings in coffee shops discussing matters of the heart and soul, like some beatnik wannabe poets.
Maybe that was also a defense mechanism, feeling all the feelings before someone else made me feel them first, but I’ve swung the complete other way now. I see something emotionally moving where other people are bawling their eyes out and saying “wow, that’s sad I’m sorry” (and look around for cues… sad is the right thing to feel here, right? beep beep boop borp). I’ve just found for me as of late, it’s easier for me to just not feel much. It felt like I haven’t much to gain by doing it. Ripping your heart out and stomping all over it for no reason seemed like an exercise in idiocy to me.
All fantasy has some roots in reality. I think I’ve been a little obsessed with this story unfolding because it’s a safe space to explore emotion without it being REAL. Fork’s avoidance and ennui in this situation was similar to the very same apathy that I experienced with training and racing for a while – see, told you I’d get there – feeling like I didn’t care about a thing because subconsciously I didn’t see a point. I was probably going to fuck it up anyway and it’s better not to admit you want the difficult thing because failing at something you care about sucks. But then, sometimes a crack lets some light in and you realize a few things.
I DO CARE. Just as Fork really cares about reconciling with an old friend even if Fork didn’t want to admit it, I actually care a big huge fucking LOT about this next race. I wrote some flippant words a few months ago about reaching my big goal for the year (qualifying for Nationals) and these were two 70.3s were just for fun and didn’t really matter. I guess that isn’t working for me anymore. It’s mad passionate extraordinary love for racing or nothing, I suppose (name the movie I butchered this quote from below and you get a cookie!). Damn it. That was not the plan.
Really. I just wanted to come back here and earn my tacos and beer with a little swim bike run before I indulged…
I AM STANDING ON THE EDGE OF A HUGE POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGH. Fork’s story is at a turning point and could be advanced with the head or the heart from here. I’m choosing to run WILD with the latter with little regard for the former, and have that guide Fork’s choices. I think the story will be MUCH more interesting because of it, no matter how it actually turns out.
As for the upcoming race, I’m figuring that with racing my head, I’ll be running to the finish around 6:10-6:15 if all goes like clockwork. That’s great – about a 20-25 minute PR! However, I know if I’m willing to rip my heart out and really go for it, push through the nonsense when it gets stupid and hard and I would give anything to back down (where I have backed down in the past), I could find myself somewhere sub-6 hours, which is unicorn territory for me. Even more, I could start to believe that my next big scary multi-year goal has teeth instead of being a pipe dream. If I care and I fail, maybe it’s another three years until I believe again. Or more. Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice…
I’m only smiling here because I was finally, mercifully done with the worst race ever.
It’s been a l0ng time since I approached a situation with my heart and not my head. I talk a big game sometimes, but let’s be honest – in my life, more times that not, when I start to approach realizing my big scary goals, when I have to take the plunge to start the journey into the dark place that leads to the pursuit of greatness, I find something else to do instead. “A jack of all trades, but a master at none,” a first grade teacher said about me, and it’s stuck all my life. That’s the mark of someone that dabbles enough to be good but not great. Walking the path to mastery is a terrifying thing I tend to avoid at all costs even if I crave it with all my being. Honestly, it’s crazy I’ve stuck with triathlon this long and not taken up ballroom dancing or martial arts, because it’s about time to plunge into the unknown if I want to improve and conquer my next goals and that’s where it gets dicey as hell for me.
I’m reading HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT, which I purchased immediately after reading ENDURE because I wanted more more more immediately because I’m kind of obsessed with Sports Psychology, obviously, HAVE YOU MET ALL 5 MILLION WORDS OF MY BLOG? These books are really hitting home that this robotic lack of emotions, this wonderful coping mechanism that allows me to have this nice, even, comfortable, mildly pleasant life, with fairly decent triathlon results is keeping me from becoming the fed-up athlete. To become this is a GOOD THING, that is, finding the point where you are sick and flippin’ tired of coming up short and find something extra, pushing closer to your ACTUAL potential (which our stupid meaniehead brain does it’s best to keep us far, far away from), and there lies the unicorns and rainbows.
Here’s my taxi cab confession – while I am super thrilled with everything I’ve accomplished earlier this year, I have to admit that the races were well executed days that were indicative of my good, maybe even my best performances in training, but nothing more. There was no magic. Alright, something about the run at No Label felt a little outside myself, maybe had a bit of the fed up athlete thing going on, but it was also a race with no expectations, not a race where I stood on the start line desperately wanting. It’s neat when it’s a fun surprise, but I have yet to actually SUMMON the magic. Even though I played one in a previous D&D last campaign, I’m not a wizard.
(…and maybe sometimes at work…)
I certainly found motivation by chasing down other girls on the bike, but on the run, I always found a place that’s comfortably hard and stayed there and let the chips fall where they may. Twice, I had someone significantly faster breeze by me in the last half mile which lost me an age group win at Texasman and later cost me a podium at Rookie. I’ve learned how to race with my head REALLY WELL this year. I’m super proud of that. I’m getting great at stringing together three solid efforts regularly. That’s nothing to sneeze about and an important feather in my cap. But something is missing.
When I stand on the line in Cozumel, I want to do it with an open heart for the first time in a long time. I feel like the last block of training was enough to show me the possibility of what could be, but maybe not crack my potential. I’ll admit, I’m fucking terrified. This is the first full 70.3 I’ve raced in 3 years, and it’s the first time in so long that I feel ready to just… DO FUCKING BATTLE with the distance. It’s my nemesis. This is number seven, and six times before I’ve done varying shades of OKAY to disappointing. There’s so much that can go wrong in such a long race, and it feels dangerous to have hope for something amazing, to feel brave and want things, and to set my sights on the performance that not only my brain knows is reasonable, but my heart thinks is POSSIBLE.
To find the darkness, I’ve had to train in the darkness.
I know to get to the place I want to go, my heart will need to do battle with the abyss at some point during the run and come out victorious. I need to take the leap that I am stronger, that I am more capable of more than I imagine. When doubt comes in at mile seven, or two, or wherever the demons wait to ambush me, when they scream at me that I need to slow down, that I need to walk, that I need to lie down under that nice palm tree over there, I want to be brave enough to have the strength to shout back, or at the very least whisper, “just watch me try” over and over until I reach the finish line.