Saturday, October 3, 2015

What drives me

Earlier this week, I listened to THIS podcast on The Art of Suffering while knocking out some intervals on the treadmill.  As always Hillary's words were thought provoking and I thought I'd share some of my reflections.

I am open about my goals and dreams, and I think sometimes because of that I feel the need to justify why I do what I do.  Sometimes I hear people say things to me or about me regarding my pursuit of "Finding Kona" and I have to try really hard not to take things personally and realize that the perspective of the public is tainted by what I allow to be public.  What I put out there is what people see and judge me based on.

So when I say I am #findingkona and I fall apart in the Texas heat or walk a 6 hour marathon in Lake Tahoe, I shouldn't be offended when someone asks me, "what the hell happened??" (Which someone did, by the way.)  What they don't see is why it doesn't really matter.  Really.  It doesn't make me depressed.  It doesn't fuck with my mental game.  It doesn't deter me in the slightest from believing that one day I will find Kona.  I know I can.  

In the podcast, she talks about how obsession with a goal can be detrimental.  It can prohibit one from performing their absolute best because when in a race situation that is not ideal it is way too easy to start making excuses (for me, I'm not winning so I'll just walk the next aid station) or to allow it to get inside your head and you start to feel worse physically because mentally you're not where you thought you'd be.  For example, if I am so focused on qualifying for Kona (I need to finish top 2 in my age group), and I come off the bike in 5th place-- it can be daunting to try to imagine the outcome that I so desire.

After Ironman Lake Tahoe, I talked to Hillary as I always do via phone.  We recounted the race step by step, broke down what went right (a LOT) and what went wrong (one KEY thing).  We talked about how we are going to address the issues in training and preparation for Arizona.  And then she said something to me.  She said our goal for Arizona is going to be to see how fast I can go.  That's it.  What am I physically capable of, on a course I know as well as the back of my hand and have raced 6 times.  How fast can I go?  This prompted a cascade of thoughts as I released myself from the pressure of qualifying and embraced a new vision.  Not that my ultimate goal is different... but I have zero control over who shows up to race Ironman Arizona- which directly affects whether or not I will qualify.  I have absolute control over my own race execution.  

I emailed my coach after listening to the podcast.  She knows me pretty well as an athlete and can see how my mind works in training and racing.  But I thought she might be interested to see how that side of my brain functions in the real world.

This is what I wrote:

When you talked about lesson number 1:  not obsessing about a goal -- this is something I've thought a lot about.  And what you said to me after Tahoe was kind of a relief in a way.  You said that for Arizona we are going to focus on going as fast as we possibly can and have that be our goal for the day.  How fast can I go.  I've known for a while that I need to not obsess about Kona, but it's really hard not to.  Hearing you say that gave me permission to take a step back and remind myself that this is a process and a long term goal, not one that has a time limit on it.  I honestly love training and RACING, I wouldn't be here if I didn't.  So no matter what happens, I'm still going to be here working on getting stronger and faster.

I started thinking about my other life, and I see the same sort of thought patterns and the good/ bad that comes out of obsession.  My family says I decided to be a veterinarian when I was 6.  As a child I asked for a microscope for Christmas one year (and got one).  When I was in high school I took classes at our local CC during my junior and senior year so that when I started college I had > 30 credits.  English, Art History, Philosophy, but also Calculus, Advanced chemistry and Physics.  I chose biochemistry as my undergraduate major because it was harder and more prestigious than biology or animal science which most pre-vet students are.   

I remember getting a C in organic chemistry first semester of college because there were some concepts that I couldn't grasp.  I had a complete meltdown when I got my grades thinking I'd never get into vet school.  A friend of mine who was pre-med explained a few things and I aced second semester O-chem.  I applied for vet school during my sophomore year of college "for practice".  I had all the prerequisites done so I was allowed to do this.  When I got the acceptance letter it never occurred to me not to take the spot.  It was the only thing I had worked for my whole life.  (I could have deferred a year and finished undergrad.)  

I started vet school at age 19.  I could legally prescribe drugs before I was old enough to drink.  I guess the point is, I know how to channel that obsession and energy over a VERY LONG period of time.  Yes, there were moments when I had meltdowns and worried I'd never get in... but it never deterred me or got in my way of achieving my goal.  

I think in triathlon, I have that same ability to maintain motivation long term.  It is crazy to me how many people are "burnt out" after one season.  I cannot relate to that.  Now, I just need to channel my energy and focus into my new goal for IMAZ.  Kona is the long term goal-- but just like I couldn't start vet school at age 6 because I decided I wanted to... there are a lot of things that I CAN do now to prepare for someday.

I worked for 13 years on one goal.  13 years, during a time in which most people have no thought or care in the world aside from who's going with whom, and what they're going to wear to the football game on Friday night.  I know how to focus and kindle a slow burning flame.  It's like looking through a tunnel and seeing only the end result.  And everything you do as you walk through that tunnel takes you one step closer to your dream.  You can't be afraid of the darkness or the creatures that might be hiding in there.  You simply focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.  And take one step at a time.  

Hillary's response to my email validated everything that I value and believe to be true about myself.  She encouraged me to shift my thinking on race day, but also acknowledged that I am not like most people.  That for someone like me the intense and extremely focused pursuit of one goal IS where the fun is and actually adds to the experience rather than being something that a normal person can sustain for only a short period of time.  She recognized that for me, being "all in" IS the fun, the motivation.  What drives me. 

As I mentioned in the last post, I didn't achieve the goal I had set out for myself on race day in Lake Tahoe... but I'm no less excited and "ready" to tackle Ironman Arizona.  My training the last few months has been unbelievably rewarding.  I have grown so much as an athlete and I can see the gains every single day.  I want nothing more to be on the start line in Kona 2016.  And you'll likely hear me talk about it every day for the next 372 days.  Well, every day except one that is.  Race day in November.            

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