Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leggo the Eg(g)o

Hey there Sportsfans! Er... Trifans. And my parents. Can't forget about them.

The past week or two, I've been thinking a lot about speed, pace, and going slow. Yes, I realized there are different levels of slow. And that your slow is not the same as my slow. And my slow is nothing compared to really fast people's slow. And I'm fine with that, really I am.

But one day - if I work hard enough and smart enough - my fast will be the speed of their slow. Yes Timmy, there IS a Santa Claus!

Okay. Enough about that.

Sort of.

The longer that I've lived in this triathlon mecca of North County San Diego, the more I've noticed the phenomenon of "ego" (with certain individuals).

Ego (Ee-goh) is defined as: 1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. 2. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment. 3. egotism; conceit; self-importance.

Let's be honest: it's not fun going really really slow. Not cool getting passed by joggers wearing knee supports or fanny packs (really - it did happen to me!). And the last thing I want is to slow down when Mr. Super Competitive Biker blows past me on the Coastal Highway.

But I do, it did, and I slowed.

Why?

Because I don't define my self-worth based on what other people do (or don't do). And I realize that in order to achieve my 2009 season goals, there are some things - like ego and pride (at times) that I'll have to forsake. Check it at the door, leave it behind. Be prepared to stay in my zones, watt range, and most importantly - listen to my body.

And if that means that I walk up a hill to keep my heart rate down (even if a jeep full of hot 20-something guys drives by), I'll do it. Yes, I was embarrassed and I would have loved to look reallyfast! sprinting up the hill. But it wasn't in the cards, and I followed my workout plan.

Jen would be proud.

In the end, I don't think the guys even noticed. Or cared.

So why would I concern myself with what others' think?

Good point.

I think we do care, to a certain level. We all want to be fast, to look speedy, to impress. More importantly, we seek approval - oftentimes from people who could care less.

I spent a lot of last year letting these feelings, thoughts, and emotions go. Learning a lot of hard lessons in the process, but growing as a result. Realizing that I don't have to be the fastest or the best. That I simply had to do the best that I could under my own special circumstances (given the conditions that I had). If I put my best effort forth - even if it wasn't a personal record - that was good enough.

That's when I found happiness, peace, and resolve after my crash. When I learned to let go and simply accept what I could do, rather than dwelling on what I once did.

Fast forward to the present.

A few times in these past weeks, I've had bikers specifically draft off me, zoom around at an opportune moment, and then look back as if to say, "let's race!" The older guys are the worst. They can hang on to my wheel, but when I deliberately slow down (intended to signal that they should pass), they'll slow as well. My snot rocket aim has improved dramatically; helpful for races where I've got a belligerent drafter on my back.

But where I've noticed the biggest ego is at the pool. Perhaps its because we swim in close proximity to others, can see our fellow swimmers in the lane right next to us, or seek approval from the coach on deck. For whatever reason, I've noticed a 'race-like' mentality from a few swimmers.

And don't get me wrong: I love me a good race, when its appropriate. NOT, let's say - during the pull set before the main swimming set.

For some, this is the norm. Warm up is completed, and the 800-1000 meter pull set begins. Er, race set.

I noticed something was amiss during my first afternoon Master's swim. One girl - who normally leads the pull set for every practice - jumped in and declared that she was going to lead because all she can do well is pull.

Being the new gal, I kept my mouth shut and did as she did: strapped on my paddles and prepared to pull just under base pace. If I thought the tempo was fast while swimming, it was NOTHING compared to our time when we came into the wall 200 meters later. We were no less than :35 faster than our base pace. I was shocked.

We were swimming faster than the reallyfast! guys in lane 1 and 2. WTF?

Long story short: this continued on for the remainder of the pull set. All 800 meters. Yeah. Good stuff. I wanted to wring her neck, but didn't think it would be appropriate, given the fact that I was the new girl. When the main set came around, Ms. Speedy Puller went to the back of the lane, declaring that her "work was done!"

And that was it. She was done. Toasted. End of story.

I've watched this scenario repeat itself during nearly every afternoon Masters swim I've attended. Thankfully, from the safety of Lane 2. (I'm happy to say that I've moved up). Yes, she may blow by us during the pull set - glancing at us under water to gauge her effort against ours - but when it comes time for the main set, she's done.

I've watched this sad story unfold too many times to not comment. At first I was upset: angry at being "forced" to swim at her pace. When in all reality, it was me and my own ego that fought hard to stay in her draft. But for what purpose? Swimming a 1:15 first 100 meters with huge paddles and a giant pull buoy between my legs did nothing for my triathlon endurance. If anything, it destroyed me for the main set and limited my chances at improving.

When I hopped into lane 2 (and swam a "normal" pull set, ie 3-5 seconds faster per 100 meters base pace and NOT 15-20 seconds faster per 100!), the stark realization hit me. I wasn't trashed after the first set, and swam more efficiently throughout the entire rest of the workout. In addition, I didn't feel as though the guys in my lane were out to "get" me or "beat" me.

Instead, we cheered each other on, supported each other, and when I found myself barely making the send off time during some nasty 200s, the guy right behind me told me I COULD do it. It was wonderful.

And never, not once, did the thought of competing against them or impressing them by upping the tempo cross my mind. I felt like the lane was working together; united we would work our way through the workout and make our base pace.

Lane 3 was different. After the pull set, no one wanted to lead. Maybe they were too fatigued from their previous effort? Perhaps no one wanted to take the chance at getting blown? Who knows? My theory is that no one wanted the responsibility, no one wanted to take a chance at leading the lane for fear of failure. No one wanted to try leading, and then not be able to hang on for the rest of the main set. Instead, they played it safe - swimming in the draft and pacing off the one sorry soul brave enough to lead.

I did that a few times. I lead the lane - only to be told that my pace was too slow (that was the last straw for me). Sorry if I don't want to spend :20 on the wall after each moderate 100. That's not always the purpose of the workout. Granted, I was fatigued, tired from my December 5k race. But after the pull set, absolutely no one stepped up to the plate and took responsibility to lead.

So I did. Call me foolish, call me naive: when the others in Lane 3 said they were too tired, I took them at their word.

After that swim, I drove home and cried. I thought briefly about calling Jen, but squashed the thought. Instead, I wrote down my feelings and did a lot of thinking.

I was so frustrated, so upset by a few of my fellow swimmers. Sprinting the pull set, not stepping up to lead, and then criticizing the one person who does step up to the plate (because she's not going "fast" enough) seemed like a low blow. Several low blows.

So I got angry, I got upset, and then I dealt with it.

For whatever reason - for old time glory, to prove that they've "still got it", for the sake of putting down others in a way that would make high schoolers proud - these people act the way they do. They stay in their lane, race each practice, but grow little from their efforts.

It's quite sad, really.

They let their individual egos get in the way of any potential growth. They let pride in swimming faster! and stronger! for a few sets cloud the bigger picture.

And perhaps for them, their big picture is Masters Swimming. Maybe this is the one place they can excel, the one time they feel good about themselves and their swimming.

I put my Lane 3 demons to rest last Monday at Masters. That morning I completed my 30 minute power meter test, and my legs were rightfully toasted. The gas was empty and I knew that swimming would be tough. So instead of hopping into Lane 2, I joined Lane 3.

Sure enough, Ms Speedy Puller took off for the pull set. And I was swimming second. As she pushed off the wall, I reminded myself that I didn't have to swim at her pace. What would happen if she swam her usual 1:17, while I cruised in at, say, 1:32? So that's exactly what I did.

So she had a lot of extra time on the wall. Big deal. Did it look as though I couldn't keep up? You betcha! But I really didn't care less. As long as I made the 1:35 send off, I was totally fine with it.

And the guys behind me didn't seem to care - no one tapped my toes or grabbed the ankles. Instead, it was the most relaxing pull set I've yet experienced in Lane 3. And the rest of the swim went great as well. I wasn't blown out, didn't hyperventilate to keep up, and I actually enjoyed myself.

Once I got over my own ego of pace, time, and looking good for other people who could care less, life became a lot more enjoyable and less stressful. Sure, I may simply spin up a hill or jog at a snail's pace: but I'm doing so for a reason. Because what's the point of 'winning' practice, when it's just practice?

I've got bigger things in mind, much more on my radar than just Master's swimming or looking good for hot guys in Jeeps on Pacific Coast Highway.

So if you see a girl on a white Scott, sitting upright and spinning easy - don't be alarmed. It's just me following my training schedule. But be warned: come race day, I'll be ready and fired up, raring to go and secure in the knowledge that I trained not only hard when it counted, but smart. Why don't you join me?

34 comments:

Elizabeth A. Rich said...

I saw your comment on facebook so I had to check out your post! I love this, its too perfect and oh-so true. I'm sorry about your lane 3 masters... I probably would have wanted to cry as well!

Courtenay said...

Nice post Marit!

And I totally know what you mean. Sometimes I have to hold back my ego, remind myself that today/this workout/etc. is NOT my race. It feels good.

TRI-ROB said...

True dat homie. True dat.

I call it, "Putting your balls in your back pocket".
I'm learning... its a process... and having someone like Liz guiding me has certainly been helpful. Ego is a funny thing.

Thanks for this post.

Breathe...

ADC said...

Well done Marit for keeping your pace. My coach makes me run some really slow long runs and at the beginning I felt embarrased when everyone was passing me, but then I started reminding myself that they are probably training for the 5 km race and not ironman. Just stick to it.

Beth said...

Well I think Lane 3 at your masters is STUPID! So there! :)

Great job Marit - for sticking to what's important and doing what's right FOR YOU. You have MUCHHHHHH bigger fish to fry. I think it's sometimes hard to remember that the usual masters swimmer doesn't have to go home and run intervals on the track or didn't just come from a 30 minute all out power test on the bike. :)

Anyway, thanks for the post because I know it's something we all need to be reminded of!

Beth said...

PS I really like the title of this entry. :)

Danni said...

This is a great post Marit!!! I struggle with this myself all the time. It is hard work, and it takes trusting the process and knowing that when it's time you WILL arrive.
Hugs,
Danni

Train-This said...

See.... you should ahve moved to rochester and swam with the RAMS. There is no lane drama here!!!

Good work sista!

Alili said...

Really well put Marit!

runningyankee said...

Great post marit! Its so tough to stick to your guns. It helps knowing that others out there are having the same stuggles that I am. good luck - you'll have a fantastic season!

cat. said...

thanks for a great post, marit.
and i had to laugh because a friend of mine who lives down there always refers to it as "sandy eggo".
keep truckin'!

BreeWee said...

Well written...
Hope you have a WAY better 09 than 08 (one with less time recovering and more racing!!)

Dave said...

Really good post, Marit. Even for us non-masters folks, there's always someone a lane or two over tempting us to "race".

Mer! said...

Extremely well said...you're so good with words! I would have just written something along the lines as "my lane three sucks, they're all losers"...you have a much more eloquent and powerful way with saying things!!

Loved our chat yesterday =0...thanks for all your hugs, it's been awesome having you here in SD and getting to know you!!!! Many hugs!!!

Molly said...

So so true. It's hard to ignore what other people are doing but it's best to focus on our own workout! My own husband goes zipping on by on the bike and I stay back, doing what I was supposed to do, knowing my time will come :)

Pedergraham said...

I am the worlds' slowest puller so I have a hard time inagining ever leading a pull set, unless I had the lane all to myself. Well, then I'd be the first and the last! But, you know how I feel about people that complain about the leader being too slow. It's called a gentle tap on the foot to let you know they are planning on passing, or a nice friendly, "Do you mind if I go in front of you?" at the break in betwen repeats. I am gonna come out to San Diego and do a cannonball on those girls!

I love the image of you riding on the PCH and I'm imagining a nice soundtrack to go with the picture...it was -25 F when I got up this morning! :)

Shan said...

OH Marit - how I know this post like the back of my hand!!!!!! The SD tri scene is totally brimming with EGO - yes, I said it!

Case in point - at my turbo session on Tuesday, we had a pretty challenging big gear, low cadence set, and then were supposed to hop off the bike and run a 1000m on the track, and do this 3 times. I specifically asked the coach what our goal pace should be off the bike, and she said tempo to cruising, since it was our first workout of the year running off the bike.

SO what happens after the first bike set? Everyone takes off at 5K pace (or faster)!! I finish it at 6:30 pace, heart rate THROUGH the roof, and still almost LAST!! For the second and third sets, I too had to quash my ego and cruise the 1000's - why trash ourselves in the second week of January?

I totally agree with you, and I have come home from a masters session one too many times complaining about this or that...

So GOOD ON YOU for doing your own thing - you'll kick ass and take names on race day... :)

xoxo!

BriGaal said...

I think it's all been said, but good for you for sticking to YOUR plan. I hate drama - in the pool or anywhere else! Stay away from those lane 3 losers ;)

Eileen Swanson said...

Nice post, totally well written and from the heart, I hear ya.....some people are so annoying with their racing at EVERYTHING! I have some good stories that you would LOVE to hear about this kinda stuff ;-) HAHA! I'll call ya one of these days....

XOXO

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post. An experience everyone has had; you really caught the essence of the EGO fanatics, and you dealt with them so well! You have done your family proud.
Marit - I'm surprised hot guys in Jeeps exist on the Pacific Coast Highway; I thought they only existed
in Saint Paul
See you soon!!!!YEAH
Love, Mom

Damie said...

I think we can all related to this, in the pool, on the bike, or in a run. You are going to have a great 2009 because you are focused on you! I love it!!!!

Sarah said...

Well, I'm agreeing with you and everybody else here.

People are dumb. I mean it. It's all because their stupid EGOS make them dumb. You got my blood boiling writing about this lane 3 dork! I just CANNOT STAND people like that. I say next time if she says something about you not keeping up, just call her out for it. Call her on her bullsh**. (can you tell I am steamed????!)

In any case, we all know what it's like to be out there running our long slow run or riding our LSD ride and somebody blows past and you think "ugh, they're going to think I'm so slow!" And then you have a reality check: SO WHAT! :D It's all about what happens at the race, not in the pool/on the road/on the trail. I think Americans especially are far too obsessed with what other people think of them and we just need to learn how to stop caring. It's kind of the same way nobody wants to be in the front row of spin or yoga. They think everybody's looking at them (even though they're not and even if they are SO WHAT?).

I guess this is emotional for me because I finally, I think esp in 2008, really learned to let it go, too. And once you learn to let it go you feel SO GOOD!

Keep on rockin' it, Marit!

Missy said...

It's ALL relative and the guys in the Jeeps are so fat that they couldn't push or walk a bike up that hill. Easier said than done, I get caught in the "I'm better than this, hey, everybody, I'm better than an XXX pace."

Jennifer Harrison said...

Marit, well you know a
My opinion of all this: No one gets any awards winning the race in January... And this post is about the egos, which seem to be in SD... It isn't like that as much here in Chicago, probably because we do not have the depth of talent here. But this shows a maturity as an athlete as well & knowing and trysting your plan! And "most" Masters swimmers are just that.... Swimmers.... Hang tough! ;)

Kim said...

I am so proud of you Marit.. proud of you for realizing the picture is so much bigger and that the season and the training has only just begun. There is so much to come and you did EXACTLY what you were supposed to do in this case. There is no need for ego and the rest of us are there supporting you even if we aren't beside you in Masters practice. You did great, and the best is yet to come. I promise..

GoBigGreen said...

Hey there, come to the YW in cathedral hill. Our lane drama is about who is chit chatting at the wall and how to get us to get organized to get going! It is a super mature thing you did. Controlling your own pace and saying WTF to the other stupid lane mate.
But yea it sucks.
Cant wait to swim with you in AZ and be forwarned, my drama is about how to get into the SPLISH suit without some cooking spray and how to get some espresso very soon after our swim! HA!

Steve Stenzel said...

Great thoughts! Nice post! Never do anything just because there is a jeep full of hot 20-something guys around. I learned that lesson YEARS ago.

;)

Maijaleena said...

Great post. It's hard not to want to keep up and race when we are competitive people, but really, it's practice and its January and we have to do what is best for our individual needs. You put it very well!

Charisa said...

So true - very well put :) And I will attest to the 100% truth in this post!

Ordinarylife said...

What an absolutely fantastic post!

Bob Mitera said...

Well said Marit.

I've been "getting my ass kicked" in workouts for years only to be the one kicking ass on race day.

A Navy Seal friend of mine said, "the more thou bleedest in training the less thou bleedest in battle". Take the hard road. Do the extra set. Do the fly when challenged.

Hard work never killed anyone (but as it says on Chuckie V's blog) but why take the chance? Hard work and a functioning brain are the keys to successful racing.

A local female elite triathlete caught me at the IM Wisconsin in 2005 (the one where only 83% of the starters finished). I asked her how she was (about mile 60 of the bike) and she squeeked out a weak, "I'm gr-e-a--t" clearly working too hard to finish. She should have qualified for Kona but she didn't notice the signs her body gave her. She DNF'd.

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