Not hunger for food. For racing.
It's been a recurring theme and I can't ignore it any longer. a few weeks ago I was reading GoSonja. She had received an amazing anniversary gift from her Husband -- some chit-chat time with Dave Scott. Long story short, but you really should go read it for your self, Dave pegged her lack of hunger for racing for her less-than-what-she-desired race performance.
A few days later I'm reading a Lifehacker feed about changing the way you make your decisions. Let's just say it involves a lot of "Hell, yeah!" and not settling for "Eh, okay." Go read that one too.
Then I read a race report from another favorite blogger, Mary IronMatron. Her 5th Ironman race at Lake Placid. Amazing, right? But she wasn't thrilled with her performance. She wasn't happy during her race. She didn't have fun. She realized she wasn't "hungry" for it.
I was super hungry and super scared when it came time to do my first 70.3 race. Remember that old television program, "Scared Straight"? For a non-competitive-middle-of-the-packer, who isn't a great runner to begin with, a 70.3 is kind of like a season of "Scared Straight." You know that every second of training counts and you don't let one day go by with a yellow box in TrainingPeaks because you've trained less than planned. You're scared, sh*tless that if you miss just 1 minute of training, you'll tank the whole race! Now, training more than planned is perfectly okay, because, well, you know that will make me better in the end. Right? NOT. (Lots of lessons learned there, but that's a whole 'nother post).
When I decided to do my first 70.3 race, I was all "Hell, yeah, I wanna do this!" "I gotta do this!" The Redman 70.3 race came and went and I can say I was absolutely thrilled! Aside from getting sick on the run I had fun, I enjoyed the race. Of course with my time being so slow, I knew, before I crossed the finish, before I even reveled in what I had accomplished, that I would promptly find the nearest Internet access, and I would sign up for another 70.3!
Yep. That's what I did. Signed for Galveston 70.3.
Now, to be fair to myself, I *wanted* to do Galveston -- because I had something to prove to myself. Admittedly there was a small part of me that was hesitant. That little (usually wise) voice in my head whispering, "Maybe it's not the right time?" "Maybe you need to work on your running more?" "Maybe get your health issues in check FIRST?" Of course I ignored that voice and did it anyway. I chased cut-offs all day long. I couldn't relax and have fun or genuinely enjoy it until I knew I'd officially finish, which wasn't until I was more than 5K into the run. I compare it to racing with a gun pointed to your head all day long.
My Galveston run was slightly better, in that it was so consistent the whole way through, which led my thinking, "Oh yeah... I gotta do another because I know it could be even better!" "I'm going back to Redman damnit!" "I have business to take care of there!"
Just like that, with a couple clickitty-clicks on that dang ol' Internet I'm signed up for my 3rd 70.3, where I returned to Redman.
I did finally start to listen to that voice in my head. I made a concerted effort to take care of health issues -- I learned I raced those previous two 70.3 races with Iron stores as low a 7 -- yes, a single digit! My hormones were all jacked up -- between severe Anemia, Thyroid, and Prolactin, my body was in a constant fight with itself! Add to that the stress of training and I was just begging for disaster.
I did make health improvements, but not all was 100% corrected. In spite of the incomplete progress, I was determined for Redman. If I'm being completely honest though, I didn't have that "Hell, yeah!" feeling. I even blogged repeatedly that I was looking for my "mojo" and knew I left my "race buzz" over there, but couldn't find it! Looking back, the fear of failure; the worst possible thing for me is to race and not see improvement in some fashion. Which is silly, since I have so much low-hanging fruit that there is always improvement somewhere!
Galveston 70.3 was the next race coming up in my backyard, making it a hard race to say "No" to, but I did. I said, "No." and stuck to my guns. There might have been a few minutes here and there during a training outing with the club that I thought I might regret it. However when race day came, I was completely at peace with my choice. I was happy as a clam to volunteer that day! I knew I had my first race of the season coming up a few weeks later.
I was so ready for Kemah Olympic. My running had improved by over 2 minutes pace per mile and my swimming and biking had been coming along nicely. This race was a definite "Hell, yeah!" for me. I wanted this so bad, however I returned from the bike puking (rough swim waters and ingested too much salt water) and left on the run still puking, then collapsing. It wasn't to be my day. You live to race another day, right? The point is, it didn't matter how badly I felt -- I wanted it so bad, that nothing was going to stop me. That is until they scraped me up off the pavement.
I've said this before, but we as triathletes are constantly driven to do the next best, biggest, baddest race out there. If we're not on our own bandwagon, we've jumped someone else's and we ride their post-race high until we're registered for something. Anything! I think we are convinced that is how we are supposed to "live the dream." If we're not killing our selves, we're not. What is it that makes us feel like super-heroes who are above the complications of real-life, over-training and injury?
The majority of us are not pro, or even elite athletes. We may or may not have full-time jobs and families. I have to remind myself it's okay to take a break! It's okay to say, "No." to a race that I'm not 100% "hungry" for. It's okay to wait until hunger returns and give it a wholehearted "Hell, yeah!" and not be fueled off the hunger of other athletes signing up for races around you. In the end, if you really love it, you'll go back to it. Period. End of story.
Personally, I think there should be a law that triathletes who finish a 70.3 or 140.6 race should not be allowed on the Internet for 30 days post race. That also may apply to those who "sherpa" these 70.3 and 140.6 finishers as well. Just sayin'.
It doesn't take too long to feel the hunger return. I'm about 6 weeks post-op on my knee surgery, and really for the last 3 to 4 months I could not do nearly what I was, and had to pull out of Hyvee Nationals. The good thing is, I've taken a needed break, but I can feel myself getting itchy. I'm going to River Cities with a "Hell, yeah" -- but also with the realization that I am still recovering, and won't be "racing" -- it will be a fun training day, and I'll get through it, having fun doing something I love.
This IS all part of my journey. Every up. Every down. Every fall. Every recovery. Every failure. Every success. I need to keep in mind the kind of 140.6 race I want to experience. I don't have any dreams of finishing a sub 10 hour race, but I do dream of enjoying the day, as much as possible, and know my training has brought me to the point of not worrying about cut-offs. To the point where I can cross the finish line and realize what I've done while standing on my own two feet with a stupid ear-to-ear grin on my face, and not be scooped-up off the pavement or found horizontal in a medical tent with a DNF.
This was all kind of a ramble, but in any case, here's to taking time to really enjoy the journey to achieving my ultimate goal (and keeping it fun too!)
Clear Lake International - Relay (Swim)