This past weekend was the first really cold weekend in Saint Louis, some of our athletes ran through snow in Chicago and New York and suddenly it really felt like winter. The onset of winter, the shorter days, and the feeling that holidays are fast approaching have many of us thinking about our goals for 2018 and beyond!
Season planning for many athletes is in full swing and race schedules are rapidly filling up - which has naturally made me begin to think about my plans for 2018.
For me 2017 was a year that marked a turning point in my athletic career, after several years of of working to get back to running and triathlon following intensive knee surgery and even more intensive rehab, I proved that long course triathlon was something that my body would still allow me to do.
2017 was about me making sure my body could handle the training, and thus I have decided that 2018 will be all about working on my mind.
When we discuss season goals with our athletes we always try to focus them on goals they can control and not outcomes - we want to focus on the process of their training and not dwell on where they hope their training will end up. The goal is to be present!
Working with athletes to formulate their plans for 2018 led me to do a very deep introspection of what I wanted for my athlete-self in 2018. And after much thought - I have one goal - to see how much I can suffer. I know that sounds really vague, but I was in a good groove of pushing this many years ago and my body just would not allow me to reach those limits. With a healthy(ish) knee again, I am ready to jump back into it.
The truth is that I have crossed many a finish line and the pattern usually goes something like this - I feel like I’m going to die .... walk for a few minutes … regroup… and then inevitably think I could have done better at x, y and z. And I doubt this will ever change as I think it is the driving force to race, but I would like to think I could creep closer to eeking out a little more suffering.
In 2017 my coach and I were really cautious about my training and she was super smart to limit the number of races that I did until we knew what I could handle. This meant that I raced one Half distance Aqua Bike and a 70.3 - this was just enough to test the waters with my knee, but simply not enough to test the limits of my mental toughness. I made a lot of mistakes at Muncie and while I was happy to be racing again, the end result left me with a feeling of disappointment and a desire to achieve more.
And if I am being totally honest, I put up a lot of barriers which would guarantee that no matter what happened at that race, I had a reason why and an out if racing was not for me any longer.
So what’s the plan to achieve this big goal? I have to accomplish a few things to make it happen.
The first is that I need to race more - nothing insane. I plan to race four times in 2018. At this point I am thinking three 70.3s and a sprint. Racing more will give me more chances to work on the suffering in a race environment. Race anxiety is something that I really battle with - like it fucks me up in the head. I love and hate to race, and since I love, love, love to train, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to coach, I have avoided racing a ton as of late with the excuse that my knee could not handle it - the truth is that my knee can probably take it, but I was not sure that my mind could - and for the first time in a long time, I am ready to slay those race anxiety demons.
I need to fail. A lot. This is a huge part of this puzzle. I know for sure that I have to be able to come head to head in training and racing with failure. In fact my hope is that I can fail - this is not something that I have ever really wanted before - who wants to fail? But, one thing that really has been amazing for me as an athlete is the opportunity that I have as a coach. I actually do not think that there is anything you can do in your athletic career that will make you a better athlete than to coach as it allows you to intimately see the journey that so many others take and provides you with a first hand glimpse of the inner workings of great athletes during their highs and lows. It makes me realize that failure is not something that only I experience. And it also has shown me that those who achieve the most view failure as an opportunity. My 20 year old self would have said fuck that shit and gone the other way - but 20 years later and I realize that this is what is most needed to take me to where I would like to go as an athlete and a human. And honestly what I have needed all along.
I need to take chances. This is probably my biggest barrier that I need to get over. As a coach and in many aspects of my life, I am confident, but when it comes to how I see myself on a daily basis, I see a person who is not fast enough, does not work hard enough, and could always do more , which prevents me from taking chances and truly getting really uncomfortable. This makes for a lot of noise in my head - noise that needs to be silenced if I want to be able to get out of my comfort zone.
I am really lucky to have two really amazing friends in my life, who have helped me to get to a better version of myself and they are often the ones helping me to see my true potential. This was crystallized this past summer when I went home to New York and went for a run with my best friend. I had warned my coach about my New York vacation and as I had just raced, I was not in a specific training block so I went into full rogue athlete status. Colleen is a total badass runner and I know that running with her means that I better be ready to suffer. She is a machine and has the ability to get to some deep place and hurt in a way that I can only hope to one day. On this particular run we set out on one of old routes (back in the day we logged a million miles before the sun was up each day) and so while I have not lived on the East Coast in almost 10 years, I know each twist and turn, up and down, and shaded stretch of the route ---- or so I thought. I guess, after 10 years, Colleen had decided to change the route a little and this threw me for a mental loop as I had already mentally planned and decided how the run was going to unfold. I knew when I would hurt the most and where I would get relief - I had a total mental plan and had decided the outcome before the run started. I was sure that we were headed to the right at the end of the street, which meant one push up the hill, followed by a flat and then one big hill before we turned to the last mile stretch home - but nope, she signaled that we would be heading left. Instantly, in my head I was like, what in the actual fuck, left, I have never run this way, I have no clue what lies ahead, and that just meant that I got so mentally bogged down that I let the run control me, rather than control the run. LEFT did not fit my plan! A plan that I was so beholden to that I would no longer just run and enjoy.
I know for sure that what I need is to let go of my need to control every step of the way - the next step in this journey must include letting go of control in order to gain a new sense of control and a freedom to fail, learn, grow, fail again and reach beyond my current limits.