Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Rowboat

The ratio of Race Reports to 'Brain' Reports on my blog is about 1:3. Overdue for something in the psyche arena...

Training for an ultra for 6 months was a test of my resolve, a long and weary road that allowed me to experience some crucial lessons about commitment, heart and endurance. When the season wrapped for me – I can clearly recall this moment, driving alone back to my apartment from the airport and crew meeting spot – it was a giant exhale. My brain no longer was consumed by The Race. I spent the next two weekends having a blast with my friends, not caring if I worked out or sleep in or eat a donut hole. Since November 2012 I’d used almost every single weekend for Ironman or ultra training. And now, I could take a breather and just have some non-sports fun.

And then the sparkle of having free weekends faded. Though much of my time became consumed by my coaching roles, I started to itch. Physically and mentally. What happens when I start itching? I start thinking, reflecting, scheming and fretting.

As a worshipper of all things scheduled and goal-oriented, the last few weeks have had me bobbing around in a little rowboat, just floating around in a giant sea of potential, but no real destination on the horizon.

See, once I realized I could actually run 100 miles, the world opened up a bit more – the sea of opportunity expanded. Or rather, suddenly I saw just how great it was. I felt, and still feel, like with enough commitment and planning, I can do anything I want. It’s a fantastic feeling. Sometimes. I say sometimes because in other-times, when I’m not actively doing something that pushes me to grow, change, suffer, overcome and triumph … some big, grandiose undertaking … I get frustrated with myself. All that determination I was able to muster - where is it? Time's ticking, there are dreams to be chased, but I can't figure out what exactly they are. So here I am just sitting in my rowboat, wasting time and potential. Not sailing toward a challenge. Not conquering the world. Is it a reaction to being overscheduled so long? It is it laziness? Is it ... acceptable?

Working hard is great, being lazy sometimes is great, but failed potential is the worst. - Campbell Scott

Looking back a few weeks, I began to notice that every three or four days, I would (to continue with the metaphor) start rowing insanely toward some sort point on the horizon. “There! I will head there!” And I would exhaust myself for a day or two charging along at the new idea or goal. “A race! A career change! An intense amount of introspection to dissect all of my personality flaws and insecurities so I can banish them away and be all-power and adorable (at the same time)!” Row, row, row your boat, frenetically toward whatever shiny object catches your telescope…

But nothing felt organic or right. It was goal-setting for the sake of having something to do. Not doing something out of passion. And it’s rather exhausting behavior, although also pretty amusing, in a Shakespearean character-study kind of way, when I step back and look at it.

When you’re training, day in and day out, you pose to yourself the question, “What are you capable of?” And day in and day out, you can easily answer - with a workout, with attention to preparation, with the act of getting something done not because you always want to but because you committed to. Easy opportunities to prove yourself to yourself. But I'm finding that, out of season – without a map and a plan for these arms and oars – it’s much easier to get stuck drifting and to start poking holes in your own hull.

I’ve recovered completely from The Race. No physical race hangover, not much mental fatigue. The soreness,the memory of soreness, and some memories of that day have ebbed away. I've worked hard for 15 months, and I've been fairly uncommitted to anything (aside from coaching) for the past 7 weeks. It feels like it’s time to come up with the next adventure. But without force. Time to get planning, but with patience. I don’t know what it will be - moving to the South Bay and settling in sounds like a good adventure every now and then. Not quite like running through the woods at night or swimming in the ocean, but it's a challenge to unseat my cling-to-the-familiar comfort I generally seek. Whatever it is, it will be a better use of time than me poking more holes and measuring my self-esteem by how much I'm not doing.

Through the summer I'm committed to coaching folks to marathon finish lines in Seattle and San Diego, and also helping triathletes reach their summer and fall race goals. I'll return to Malibu for the Bulldog 50k in August, hopefully it's a little cooler than '09, but August in California makes no promises. October is a Half Ironman, my first effort at that distance. Neither race will get the attention that I gave ultra. And that's okay by me. I have a whole ocean I've got to go explore. If you need me...

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