Blogs tagged with "perspective"

Punishing myself by standing
in a Kilauea steam vent after
Ironman Kona

I'm in a sort of limbo now, having returned from Hawaii and stuck in the insomniac zone from jet lag. It's 12:30 a.m. and all I have is my thoughts to keep me company - or, as the case may be, to drive me insane.

I'd be lying if I said I'm not having trouble dealing mentally with what happened in Ironman Kona last week. People seem to think I need some perspective - that telling me this is going to make it all better. They give me pearls of wisdom: I "should be more grateful that I was able to finish" and "it's not about the finish time, it's about the journey," and they are "proud of me for gutting it out," and that life is about "more than just Ironman." I KNOW all these things. But it doesn't ease the pain. It doesn't make the questions go away. It doesn't make me stop asking myself why I failed in the most important race of my season. And I'm still not sure what exactly went wrong with my nutrition, but I do know that I made mistakes. Call it lack of experience, lack of training, or lack of intelligence. The mistakes WERE made, and I have to figure out what they were and how to avoid making them again. This is what keeps me going until the next race.

You learn lessons, you apply the learning, you see the result. I always said if I stop learning, I'll stop racing.

Ironman Kona will weigh heavy on me for a while. And although I will try to not let it "define me," when it comes right down to it, I have a hard time defining myself. I'm not one of those people who looks at everything and says "life is wonderful." I spend a lot of time crying over things (it could be anything from world news to bad things that happen to friends and family to being yelled at by superiors). I'm not happy with my place in the world. In fact, I want to make a difference in the world, and I worry that I never will. After several career changes, I often wonder if the work I have done or do is of any importance at all - if it has made an impact. I worry it hasn't. I worry that my life has been just a big waste of time and energy and resources. This is who I am.

And so, when I set racing goals, it's because it's the one aspect of my life over which I seem to have complete control. It's the thing that gives me faith that "hard work pays off." When I don't meet my goals or expectations, I feel I have failed and I have no one to blame but myself. And yes, I know I'm my worst critic (aren't we all?) - but without natural talent or genetics, hard work is the only thing I have. Thus, when hard work doesn't pay off, I'm stuck with confusion, self-doubt and lack of self-worth.

I feel like I'm looking at a long road to redemption.

But, contrary to popular belief, I CAN put things in perspective. I know I had a golden triathlon season in 2011. I set age group course records in two Ironman races: St. George and Lake Placid, and I'm the Ironman 70.3 world champion for the women's 45-49 age group. I also have a great new job with awesome co-workers at an institution that I believe in, The Cleveland Museum of Art. I'm lucky to have great sponsors (who I worry I let down), great friends (who I worry I let down), a very loving (and understanding, some say "saintly") husband, and a roof over my head (although Cleveland was never my first choice). So yes, life could be (a lot) worse.

After seeing how driven I am in racing, a friend once asked me "where does it end, Jeanne?"

I'll let you know when I get there.

Until then, for everyone who has experienced a bad race, I found some solace in these great words from IM World Champ Chrissie Wellington:

My cat's manifestation of today's general feeling

Sometimes I get ahead of myself. And that's how anxiety and panic begin to take hold. For instance, this weekend, I conquered the monumental task of spending five hours on my bike trainer. But I didn't see it as an accomplishment. Instead, based on my "trainer" speed and distance, all I could think of was: "I just had the crappiest bike ride of all time that proves no matter how hard I work, I still suck on the bike."

The truth is, I've been training my arse off on the bike. But I'm getting ahead of myself. After the Disney Marathon, I dedicated myself to complete a three-month workout plan known as the "ComputTrainer Challenge" in my circle of training cohorts. It started with a time trial to determine my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) -- which I did four days before the marathon -- and continues with three workouts weekly, designed to increase our sustainable power output. The one thing I've not told anyone (in that circle) is that because I'm racing Ironman St. George in May, I've been doing a really long ride (obviously, now up to five hours) every weekend (this was not advised). But in reading others' assessments of the training plan and improvements in their fitness levels, I realize I'm not making the same gains. Instead I'm tired and cranky and my legs are screaming with fatigue. And I'm sick and tired of doing all my workouts indoors during this horrible winter.

So today I called my good friend and fellow athlete, Ron, to complain, and he helped put it all in perspective. I WAS getting ahead of myself. He reminded me that my trainer speed and distance has no comparison to that of the road and I need to just focus on power. He reminded me that I have to deal with stresses at work in addition to training. And he reminded me I'm doing exactly what I need to do. And I need to stop comparing myself to others.

But then I was still doing it. Affording a CompuTrainer was a stretch, but I determined it was the best option (and nothing speaks louder than "guaranteed to make you faster"). But here I may also have gotten ahead of myself. I'm now hanging out with a group of "CompuTrain"ing athletes, and I've fallen back into that behavior pattern of comparing myself to other triathletes -- this time financially.

It reminded me to address the third bullet in my Seasons End article from December: "Where on earth will I scavenge up the cash to pay for ever-increasing race entry fees, gear (including necessities like running shoes, nutrition and supplements) and travel expenses?" Every time I turn around or read other athletes' blogs or forum posts, I feel like I'm the cool triathlete's poor relative -- the one riding a purple ten-speed, running in cotton sweats and (white) Chuck Taylors, and wearing a stop-watch around my neck. Remember those people? Oh my God, I've BECOME one of those people!

But seriously, what is a financially-challenged athlete to do? (Um.. figure out how to make more money, or) put things in perspective, of course! My friend Ron got an earful on this front as well. Me: "All these triathletes I know have unlimited funds, multiple racing bikes, Garmins, treadmills in their basements, Newton running shoes, compression wear - you name it." I can't keep up. If it's marketed toward triathletes, everyone else seems to have it and I can't afford it. I know, I'm getting ahead of myself once more. Ron came to the rescue, again, with one simple line: "Steve Prefontaine didn't have any of those things."

All it took was a look back, and I'm no longer getting ahead of myself. When I got home from work today, my husband Jim reminded me that I know what I'm doing. And that I needed a day off. From the mental stress. From the physical stress. From the fatigue. And, in the midst of a massive winter storm, from the weather.

And right now, everything is back in perspective.

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