... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's Never Too Late to Start Again

On November 24th of last year, I completed my triathlon goal for 2013 by doing the Lavaman Keauhou olympic-length tri. It is horrifically embarrassing to admit, but what is writing for if you can't be honest? Since that day, nearly four months ago, I have done exactly three bike workouts, two runs, and one swim workout.

Beautiful Hawi, the reason I commute instead of move
It sounds even more awful now that I've said it out loud.

There are plenty of excuses. The weekend after the race, I got a cough. Not a normal cough, but one that left me (and Sean) awake at night, one that rattled deep in my chest, one that kept me from catching my breath, made me lose my voice for almost two weeks, and one that wouldn't leave my body for almost a month and a half. I'm not sure if this was a reaction to exerting myself in the race, or a side effect of sharing an office building with a pediatrician's office, or some combination of the two, but it knocked me on my butt. The one bike workout I did try to do, I gasped for air and spit up phlegm every few minutes. Not fun.

Then, just as my cough began to abate, our office moved from lovely, intimate, beautiful Waimea, which was just thirty minutes from my house, to overrated, crowded Kailua-Kona, leaving me with an hour and fifteen minute commute each morning and evening. This alone should have been handleable, but I also started school on January 6th. While I'm very excited to be working on my Neurodiagnostic Technologist degree (!), I got overwhelmed by too much change all at once. I left the house each morning in the dark at 6:15, drove for almost an hour and a half, worked a ten-hour day, drove the long drive home, arriving again in the dark around 7pm, then had two hours to shower, cook dinner, eat, read and do homework, attempt to relax a little, and get to bed so that I could get enough sleep to do it again the next day.

I failed at this.

Now before you say, "Wow, you are lame, that is not so bad," I would like to offer my explanation for my malcontent. I didn't move to Hawaii, especially to this island, to spend every waking moment at work. Call me what you will, but I have come to the conclusion that for me, life is to be enjoyed, and that if I can't be a ballerina, I don't want to watch my non-work life be consumed by time at the office. I want to be outside, I want to feel the sunshine and the ocean and the wind on my face. I was mourning my old life, in which I could feed the cows behind our house, run and swim before work, and walk around our yard to relax before watching the clouds turn pink over the ocean when I came home each night. I love where I live passionately, and seeing it only in darkness five days out of the week just made me sad. By the time the weekend came I was so tired and irritated that all I wanted to do was lay around. I had lost 7.5 hours per week to driving alone and another 10 or so to school work, and these hours came out of my training time. In fact, they obliterated my training time.

Could I have been more cavalier? Could I have been stronger? Could I have powered through and made it happen with my workouts?

Yes, of course. Yes, yes, yes. That is exactly why I chose to call these "excuses" instead of "reasons." I was tired, weak, sad, and angry, and it got the better of me. That is the truth. The irony, of course, is that if I had mustered the strength to work out I am 100% sure it would have actually made me feel better, because I have yet to finish a workout and feel badly about it. Exercise seems to be the only exception to the concept of classical conditioning - even though I always feel wonderful afterward, it still seems daunting to me.

My wake-up call has been prodding at me for the last couple of weeks. First, I just feel awful. My body feels heavy and fatigued and my stomach is off due to the "convenient" foods I've been consuming. I've gained weight, and I lack energy. Then I went to ballet, and looked in the mirror. I remembered how I looked in ballet classes when I started going to this studio. I showed up with my hair nicely done, in good ballet clothes, and when I moved my arms I saw muscles, not jiggle. I looked like a ballerina. This did not resemble what was greeting me in the mirror. My hair was unkempt, thrown hastily into a messy bun that wouldn't stay in place because I haven't had a chance to get my hair cut, I was wearing socks instead of ballet slippers because I hadn't had time to search for them in the dark that morning before I left for work, and my legs wouldn't lift like they did before because the muscle is gone. And it hit me.

This is ridiculous. I need a plan.

I have been so busy focusing on what I can't do training-wise that I forgot what triathlon has taught me. I am strong. I am tough. Discomfort is okay. In fact, discomfort often leads to the greatest accomplishments and instead of wallowing in it I should be facing it, feeling it, and using it to prove to myself that it can't beat me. I started browsing back through my old posts and found one written at this time last year, just as I was about to uproot my Honolulu life to move to the country; Swimming Through the Tides of Change reminded me that this is not new in my life. Just as I have overcome it in the last, I can overcome it now. It is never too late to start again.

So here is the plan:
1. This year my goal is as follows: Maintain my triathlon fitness and improve my running. Since the Hawaii 70.3 filled up long before I thought I needed to register, and I have neither the financial means nor lack of common sense to pay $600 for a half-Ironman, the race is out for this year. Instead of being frustrated, I am looking at it this way: This year started out badly for me, training-wise, and it's going to continue to be tough for a little while. This can annoy me, or I can take it as an opportunity to really solidify my fitness in the olympic distance. Since running is my weakest sport (even though I have grown to enjoy it), I will focus on amping up my distances and speed. This way, I'll be really ready to increase my training distances next year when I can really dedicate myself to training for the half and full Ironman.
2. Figure out my eating.
My body hates processed stuff and too much starch. That's it. My taste buds love cake and pasta and peach gummy candies, but my stomach does not. I have to get back in the habit of eating cleanly, because it's really hard to have energy to work out when your stomach is churning or feels like a balloon.
3. Follow my training schedule for Hilo Triathlon, as best I can.
I made a lovely new schedule for the Hilo Triathlon, which is July 13th, and I will stick to it. However, if I miss a workout because of work or school, I promise not to get all grumpy and down on myself, because once I am upset I fall off the training wagon. Positive thoughts, positive effort, anything is better than nothing. I will do what I can, when I can, and celebrate that.
4. Pay more attention to taking care of myself.
I've been so far into the mindset of "just get it done" that I've neglected myself. It helps to feel like you look nice, not because of what other people think but because caring about yourself encourages you to do other things to care for yourself, such as working out so that you can feel strong. I do care about myself, so I'll try to show it more.

There is no shame in getting derailed. We are all human, and life doesn't just chug along on an even course. There are ups and downs, periods of time when everything just fits and times when everything seems like chaos. I can't be frustrated by losing my momentum. Instead, I must revel in finding it again. So I am back, learning and striving and growing and, as always getting stronger.