Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Doubting that Ironman life

Full disclosure: I wrote this post on Monday evening. And Tuesday evening, I am already feeling a bit better and have picked myself up a bit, but wanted to share the post anyways. This blog has always been a place to capture how I feel in a moment and time and that's what this is. A lot of these feelings have been reoccurring and building so it makes sense to share them. Emo post, commence:

I keep having this reoccurring thought go through my head that maybe this Ironman life just isn't for me. Maybe I took on too much trying to think I could do this and do this on my own. Perhaps I am having rosy colored hindsight or whatever you call it... but I don't remember having this much doubt when I went about half marathon training or marathon training the first time around.

However, I guess when I did those things, I didn't really have any expectations for myself. I didn't know or believe that I could do them, so I saw anything as a success. Right now, I am training for something new to me, but not TOTALLY new to me. Right? I did a sprint triathlon before I ever getting into distance running. My first sprint triathlon was in 2012 and that was the first major race that I worked and trained for. Bought a bike, built up to a 5K, swam some laps, etc. So I have done this stuff before. And now, not only am I an "endurance athlete" but I am not only a coming off of a year of really big accomplishments. I started last year by setting three goals for myself and I crushed them one by one, doing way better than I even imagined I could. I broke 2 hours in a half marathon last March. I did an Olympic triathlon over the summer and placed in my age group. And then I finished my goals for the year by breaking 4:00 hours in a marathon - something that wasn't even a goal, but just happened! I've come to the point where I feel like my goals should be more than just "to finish" and because I am "experienced" - this should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

This is a lot. Mentally as well as physically. And I don't know that it is for me. I have been struggling so much lately mentally. And it freaked me out that it felt so hard to run on Sunday. And that my paces have been dropping.

When I talk to my friends who have been doing Ironman races for a while, they tell me that my thoughts and anxieties are normal - and that one of the benefits of working with a coach or with a group is to help with that. I understand the reasoning behind why everyone works with coaches or groups, and I knew that going into this and making the decision to do it on my own too. I still just can't justify the expense of it all right now for something that is just recreational to me. I have never had to pay for a running group or a running training plan before, so it frustrates me that you have to do that with triathlon world.

Then again, part of the anxieties that I have is that the other people I know who do these things - have done a lot of them. So when I compare myself to them, we aren't going through the same thing at the same time and it makes me doubt myself. I wonder if I would be better off just completely isolated without knowing what other people are doing or what their workouts are or how they are feeling after them.

This weekend I had a new distance PR on my bike - I biked more than 40 miles. I biked for 2 hours and 40 minutes! The most I had ridden before that was 35 miles, once, back in November. But when I wrote about the bike distance PR on the blog Sunday, I just breezed through that in a post I wrote yesterday about 100 other workouts. Shouldn't I be celebrating that more!

And you know what I did the day after I did that - something that was a new personal BEST for me on the bike? Well, I went and I ran an extremely hilly half marathon. What?! Who does that?! And what happened to the former lazy girl who used to think these things were amazing accomplishments?? Because, hey, news flash - that's pretty damn cool.

Yet, I felt disappointed after the run and I still felt disappointed through to Monday. Those 13.1 miles were a struggle. From the very first 3 miles of the race, I felt like crap and my legs just were not having it. I felt tight and I felt stiff and I felt tired and I couldn't at all get myself to run at the paces I have gotten accustomed to running lately.

I ran the race at a 10:10 pace, in 2:13:44. A time that in the past, I would have been totally happy with. A time that, for most people, is a great time! A time that I felt disappointed in. Not because of the time necessarily, but because of the fact that it took A LOT of effort to run that time! Just a month ago I ran in New Orleans at 2:04 but it wasn't as strenuous as this race. It was a relaxed 2:04, which was what I was expecting out of myself for the run this past weekend. Even during all of my long runs during marathon training last year, I was consistently (well) under 10 minute miles at a comfortable pace all through the fall and spring. I knew I wanted to run the race yesterday relaxed, but I didn't know that relaxed would feel so hard and be at that pace.

So what does this mean for me? Why am I doubting this whole Ironman life thing? I worked so hard to get my running paces to be regularly under 10 minute miles. I was so proud of each and every long run I did last year with the paces that I was able to maintain, and the fact that I have kept those paces through to this year has been a huge accomplishment for me.

To see my times drop down as I have gotten into triathlon training is hard. I ran a half marathon at the end of January in 1:57. At the end of February in 2:04. And at the end of March, now at 2:13. This same exact race is the race that last year I ran at 1:57 for the first time. I am pushing new boundaries with biking, but I don't like that it is sacrificing my running.

And let me just mention again it felt SO HARD to run that 2:13. I cried at the end because I was so happy to just get through it - both mentally and physically - because it was a fight!

I should be proud of myself for just doing it but then I look at my other friends who are training for similar races and it doesn't seem like it is so hard for them. I talked to an Ironman friend at work yesterday and told her about my weekend. She also ran the race on Sunday (9 minutes faster than I did) and then casually mentioned that she had gotten back on the bike for the first time in a while for a 30 mile ride on Saturday. And, she just took 8 weeks off of running due to injury. Another friend also used the half marathon on Sunday as a training run for a 70.3 - and had biked 60 miles on Saturday then ran a 1:28 half marathon. Now I know I am not out to run a 1:28 half marathon, but it doesn't seem like anyone else struggled the way that I did at this race after biking the day before!

This weekend exhausted me. But it turns out it is just a "normal" weekend for triathletes. My friend said to me today, "it is your new normal!" But I don't know about that. I don't know if this triathlon life is for me. I don't want my run times to get slower and I don't want to run more training runs like the one I ran on Sunday.

I think I have had more emo-y posts than I have in any other training cycle before and I still have two months to go before the race.

SO. Here is where I tell myself to stop whining. To put things in perspective. To focus. And to get out there and just WORK.  Here is where I give myself a pep talk.

Katelyn, you are doing something NEW. You've never done this before. All those people who are doing more than you or who are doing the same as you and aren't getting winded - they've done this before. You need to cut yourself some slack because you are setting out for something that you haven't done before - so you aren't going to be great at it right away.

As you are struggling and doubting yourself mentally and stressing about paces and analyzing online race calculators, remember that you are training for something you have never done before. Think back and adjust my mindset to when you were training for running distances for the first time.

Yes, you've done sprint distance races before and an Olympic - but this is different level. And when doing something new, the goal is to finish. Do not worry about paces. Do not worry about times. Just focus on doing the mileage and the time and effort you are putting in.

You don't want more training runs like the one on Sunday? Well, put in the work. Run more when you get off the bike. Push yourself. Nothings changes without you first making a change.

Your body will learn the more you train and the more you do something. You've gone through this before! You give people this advice ALL the time! How many times have you told people about the first day that you ran 10 miles without stopping? A lot. Because what happened? The first day you ran 10 miles without stopping you spent the ENTIRE rest of the day LAYING ON THE FLOOR because you were so tired. And then what happened the next time you ran 10 miles during a training cycle? You went to a party and danced all night. Your first half marathon took you a MONTH to recover from. Your body will get better at this too if you keep working at it and keep doing it more. That's how this works.

So the first time that you do 40 miles on the bike paired with 13 hilly miles running, yes you should be on the floor! But it will change. This isn't forever. If you want to get better, just keep working.

Also, on Friday you ran 3 miles at a 9 minute pace. it's not like you CAN'T run faster. This one was one run. And you decided to run this race like - a week ago! So just calm down about it.

Again I will repeat: Katelyn - if you want to get better - just keep working.

So with that being said - you've got two months left. Today is March 22nd and the race is May 22nd. Two months. You either do or you don't. You either train or you don't. You either put in the work - both in the pool, on the bike, or on the pavement - or you don't. You either clean up your eating and get into better shape - or you don't. You will be prepared come May 22 or you won't. There is no "try" in "tri" training. Just do it.

The next couple months in addition to my workouts, my training will be mental. To boost my confidence. To tell remind myself that I'm badass on a regular basis. To ignore what everyone else is doing around me and just focus on doing the best that I can do. TWO MONTHS TO GO PEOPLE.

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