12 March 2012

Doubt and Uncertainty - Monday 5 March - 11 March 2012

It has been months since I've written a blog post about workouts and training. Time always seems to always be a factor and when then precious little of it, the blog becomes a low priority. This week however merits a post. It's long so don't feel obligated...
This past week became one of mental crisis for me. I've been contemplating pulling the plug on training for and racing in Ironman Texas. The week began with a heavy work load, an important deadline, and elevated stress at work. I necessitated my missing a much-need chiropractor visit to work on my foot. It meant leaving late but still trying to squeeze in my evening trainings. My job has expanded recently to include dealing more with vendors, supervising employees, and managing work flow to those employees. My stress level has gone up.

My foot injury is not progressing as quickly as hoped though I'm able to train on it successfully and am ramping up the time and distance on the run each week. I do still have a little doubt about being fully healed and ready to run a marathon on it but I think it's still moving in the right direction. 

Separately I've been sensing an increasing displeasure from my One-and-Only with the time I spend training. The more I train the less things get done around the house and the less time I have to spend with her. And when it gets to the point where she is unhappy with me day after day it leaves me no choice but to consider changing what I do because she is the most important thing in my life.

Trying to juggle training, work, family, coaching, friends, and miscellaneous obligations was becoming overwhelming. The goal for Ironman Texas is a Kona slot. I have very little interest in "just" finishing. "Just" finishing is always a worthy goal so please no one consider this a put down but I'm not expending time and money to go there to finish. I've finished 4 Ironman races so for me the stakes are different. With that as the overriding reason to race, to me it means that I can't cut back on training and still hope to achieve the goal. This limits my options.

By Wednesday I was in great despair over all of this. To add to this, I had accepted an invitation to go to an event on Saturday night in LA, likely getting home after midnight but still needing to do a long bike ride on Sunday. Plus it was lose-an-hour daylight savings time. Another family "obligation" popped up on Saturday. The clothes washer is broken and needs replacing. The house is a disaster. Blah, blah, blah. I was contemplating pulling the plug on IMTX. I got home with no motivation to do a 3 hour indoor trainer ride on the bike. For the first time that I can remember since I started training for IMs in 2009 I just blew off the workout. I cut the grass and folded laundry instead. And I was tired.

Did I talk to Linda about what I was thinking and feeling? No. Mostly I turned inward; not the best choice. I went ahead and trained as usual on Thursday, still working on my mental funk, having a short exchange with some friends online. I was undecided about what to do but was still thinking it was time to stop when I went to bed.

I woke up Friday morning with one thought in my head. It was a quote from the book Jonathon Livingston Seagull, which I read many times in high school, thinking of it as a sort of guide or inspiration for my drive to be a fast swimmer. The quote: "He felt better for his decision to be just another one of the Flock." This came at a time in the story whn the bird decides to give up on his dream, his pursuit of speed and flying perfection. His decision is short lived though because he knows he won't be happy just being "average". Maybe this is too out-there but I took it as an obvious message from my unconscious that I would be very unhappy if I did not continue to pursue my goal of qualifying for Kona.

I got up and got myself to the gym to do my long "run" - 1h15m on the elliptical followed by 30 min on the treadmill. I spent time thinking on my options and I used some positive affirmation questions I learned from Kirsten Lewis and her business, Awesomeness of You when I was training for Ironman Arizona last year: "What would it take to easily choose my greatness?" And "What if I was a far greater athlete than I have any idea of?" The workout felt great to complete and later in the day I had more conversation, this time with my good friend and swim training buddy. Before I left work, my boss and lifelong friend had some kind and understanding words of support as well as important input on how I could do this (i.e. work and train). He wanted me to do it.

Saturday, after cutting my swim short and dropping strength training, Linda and I drove to see my nephew play a high school tennis match. Finally I had a bumbling conversation with her about what I was thinking and feeling, and what I sensed she was feeling about my training. What it came down to is that she was "used to" my training and all this Ironman stuff. She knows how much it makes me happy and is supportive of me continuing. So it seems I was projecting my stress (and guilt?) on her when it pretty much wasn't actual there. With my struggles with stress and managing everything I was not sensing her issues but mine. I am an idiot for not talking this out sooner of course. It seems to be a lesson I have to learn and relearn - one of those things I'll likely have to work on for the rest of my life.
Saturday night I went to the Endurance Live Awards Gala put on by the Competitior Group. Had to leave at 4:00 to get there as it was being held in Los Angeles. I found myself in a room filled with a literal gallery of people who have been a part of my (mostly recent) athletic pursuits, especially this triathlon thing. Yes, there were a few people "missing" that would have made my "list" complete but as I think about it I cannot believe how many people WERE there that have been important high profile figures during my triathlon journey. Okay, some of these people are people I knew about as a kid, but still...
  • Dara Torres, 5 time Olympic swimmer, author of the book Age Is Just a Number, who is again aiming to make the US team this year at age 45
  • Jim Ryan, miler who ran sub-4 minutes as a junior in high school
  • Meb Keflezighi, US marathoner who, at age 38, qualified first for the London Olympics, and 2004 Silver medalist
  • Bob Babbitt, founder of The Competitor Group, interviewer of athletes and chronicler of the history of triathlon; founder of CAF - the Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Rudy Garcia-Tolson, first double above the knee amputee to finish an Ironman - Ironman Arizona in 2009 - the same year I finished my first.
  • Chrissie Wellington, 4 time Ironman World Champion, undefeated at Iron distance tris, amazing person,  who won Ironman Arizona 2010 in record time and in the process lapping me on the 3-loop run course that year
  • Chris Lieto, 2nd at Ironman Kona 2009, best cyclist out there, and the leader of Ironman Texas 2011(which I raced in) until he dropped out on the run due to injury
  • Michellie Jones, Silver Medalist in the first ever Olympic Triathlon in 2000 and, six years later, won the Ironman World Championship, competed in the Encinitas Triathlon as a training day, one of my first races
  • Dave Scott, 6 time Ironman World Champion in the 80's, Mark Allen's chief competition and roadblock, triathlon coach, and first inductee into the Ironman Hall of Fame
  • Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man
  • Kathleen McCartney Hearst and Julie Moss, whose Ironman Hawaii race was one for the ages back in 1982. Hearst won, Moss took second but it was a race no one would ever forget
  • Bob Seagren, one of the greatest pole vaulters ever, winning Olympic Gold and Silver Medals
  • Sarah Reinertsen, became the first above knee amputee woman to finish the Ironman World Championship
  • Apolo Anton Ohno, short track speed skater, Olympic gold medalist, and amazing athlete
During the various awards presented for Triathlete of the Year, Runner of the Year, etc., Chrissie Wellington was honored as the Woman Triathlete of the Year. In introducing her they played a highlight video of her amazing 2011 Kona performance which included explaining the injuries she got from a bike crash just 2 weeks prior to the race. She had severe road rash (and infections) and a partially torn pectoral muscle. (I had a similar, somewhat less severe experience, crashing a week before my first Ironman race.) Thanks to the injuries, she came out of the swim 5 minutes back, road a good bike, but went on to have a great run to pass people and finish first. As she explained in her acceptance speech, that race embodied what most of us (well, at least me) strive for and that is to give everything you've got and leave everything out there on the course; have nothing left physically or emotionally to give when you cross that finish line. On top of that she is always a gracious competitor, respectful and appreciative of her competition, and kind and generous with her time. I'm not sure there is a better ambassador and role model in this great sport.

At another point during the video (either for Chrissie or for Craig Alexander, the Male Triathlete of the Year) they showed a number of random age groupers crossing the finish line at Kona. It was then that my final decision to push forward was solidified. Sitting at a table with other people associated with the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, all I could see in my mind's eye was me crossing the Kona line, the first to wear an orange CCFA Team Challenge race top.

Yesterday I put in a 103 mile bike ride.


  1. I'm so glad you wrote this and processed it for yourself. As you know, I fully support your dream of being an Ironman. And I hope to eventually get to Kona since you refuse to take me unless you are competing. ;)

  2. What a great post! I think we all have those times of stuggle and doubt and as you describe, if you open yourself to the universe and listen, the answer becomes more apparent. Good luck Skip in your pursuit!

  3. Still waters run deep and I've always known that about you. The introspective part of you is also what I love about you. We all want to hear what you're thinking and what your goals and aspirations are. Please keep sharing them -- so we can live vicariously through you.

  4. AWESOME!! Great Blog Post Skip! Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. It is very much appreciated, helpful and inspiring.

    Wayne ( Ironman or Rust ) Rendely

  5. I enjoyed reading your post Skip. I cycle through the same thoughts about how selfish it feels at times to spend countless hours by myself, away from family and other obligations. At this point for me, a HIM once a year, and then sprints and Olys seem to provide the balance I need. Maybe there's a full IM in my future some day... not sure. I will enjoy following your progress and wish you good luck on your path to Kona!


    1. Thanks all for your comments! I'll focus on the HIM, oly, and sprint distances mentioned by Brad for a while. Hopefully that won't happen until after October!

  6. Skip, I am right there with you, although a few years behind you. It is great that you thought it all out and wrote it all down (er, typed it all up). Keep up the hard work and do your best to keep everything balanced (I know first hand that it isn't easy). Good job on the 103 mile bike ride.