Monday, September 28, 2009

The back and forth of it all

It seems that so much and yet so little has been swirling around my head in these past few weeks. In the final few weeks, errr, days of preparation before Ironman Hawaii, I'm still trying my darnedest to figure things out and to process everything.

And while I am absolutely grateful for this opportunity to race on The Big Island, grateful for a second shot in the sport when - during parts of last year I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to set foot on a triathlon course again, let alone think about swim-bike-run, grateful that I have the ability to actually DO this - I am experiencing many challenging ups and downs.

There are times when I am BEYOND EXCITED!!!!

The prospect of being on Hawaii, swimming with turtles, celebrating the fact that I'm racing in Kona, seeing old friends and making new ones, praying to Pele and the Hawaiian Gods (yes I will appease them to the best of my ability), sipping coffee on the lanai while looking out at the WARM ocean...well... I can't wait.

Then there are other times where I feel beyond overwhelmed. Like.. can I even do this? Have I done enough? Have I done too much? The constant fatigue...that's normal...right? Am I mentally able to stay STRONG for another Ironman...because I know how hard I worked for that first one a few short months ago. Can I do this...again?

Rationally, I KNOW that I've got the best coach around and that I 100% trust Jennifer Harrison. Rationally, I KNOW that I've gone the distance before and that I can do it again (knock on wood). Rationally I KNOW that I'm training for an Ironman, so there WILL be fatigue. Not only that - I'm training for TWO Ironmans...so there will most definitely be fatigue. Rationally...I KNOW that I can do this - because deep down I know what it takes and I BELIVE in myself, the training, and my coach.

But at the end of the day, I still see myself in the mirror and I still question.

These past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. I've gotten the chance to speak with many many triathletes training for Kona - and the resounding responses that I get from the majority are, "Yes, I've had a few breakdowns...yes, I've stopped in the middle of workouts...yes, I feel neurotic at times...yes, I'm tired, hungry, and cranky, and my loved ones have to put up with me...yes, I just want the race to get here and be DONE...yes, I can't wait until its all over."

So the big question, then: why do we do it?

If its this difficult, then why bother in the first place?

I'll admit that when I get really stressed out, I find the only way to get through my work/day/workout is to step outside of myself, almost as though I'm looking at myself from another person's perspective. Detach and observe from a distance...

If I can view what I'm doing from somewhere else - then it doesn't seem so bad. My responses (when viewed almost outside my body) to workouts, fatigue, stress all seem normal. And I'm much more kinder and more understand to myself when things get rough, when a workout is hard, or even...if the cat box is full and stinks and I just don't feel like scooping the poop.

Because who really wants to scoop poop? But I digress...

The other night when I told my Mom about how I was handling the stress, she sounded really really worried. She explained about how some people who survive traumatic events (ie abuse, rape, neglect, war, highly highly stressful situations/environments), how they oftentimes detach from their situation in order to survive.

Now I'm not implying by ANY MEANS that I've got it bad. Relatively speaking - life has been humming along pretty darned tootin' good. Except for this Ironman Monster in the back of my head. So yes, the stress and subsequent detatchment is self-imposed.

But at the end of the day, I keep returning to the 'Why?' question.

In the past when someone has asked me why I do the sport, why I push myself, why I compete - I've always explained that I learn the MOST about myself through training and competition. Most of it has been really good. Lately, though, I've had a few tough lessons. But I'm NOT complaining...not one bit. Because had I not ventured down this road, I never would have figured these things out in the first place.

At the end of the day, I do the sport because I love the training, I really enjoy the people, I love the satisfaction at the end of a tough workout, and I love to compete. Somewhere in this pre-Kona-Ironman stress, I've lost sight of some of that...instead focusing on the Big Scary Unknown Ironman Monster. And its been tough.

But I was reminded the other day, very unexpectedly. While channel surfing one evening, an old broadcast of Ironman Hawaii was aired. The race wasn't what caught my attention. Rather, it was the emotions, the tears, the joy, the happiness at the finish line. Before I realized it, I found myself shedding tears and crying while watching people cross that famed finish line. And I knew then that I HAD to do this race, I had to stick to my plan, had to follow through until the very end.

At the end of the day - is Ironman for me?

That's a tough question. Coeur d'Alene was amazing and I would NEVER take back that experience, not in a million years or for a zillion Kona slots. But training for Kona has been different. And I'm not sure if that's because 1) I'm nearing the end of my season 2) The distance is still scary 3) Its KONA 4) I miss my short course speed and race schedule 5) the stress has not been easy.

There are a few things that I DO know.

I know that I'm ready, even if I'm tired. I know that when push comes to shove, when the voice in the back of my head whispers about doubt and failure, that I'll have a response and be ready to push harder. I know that I'm GRATEFUL that I'm not a professional - because this race is FUN, its about celebrating the fact that I got there and went through some tough times in order to do so. And I know that I'm ready to give it my all, even if the training hasn't been easy.

Because good things in life rarely are.

To everyone racing towards the end of their season, all I can say is Hang in there - you are NOT alone. And you're doing GREAT. It may not be easy, pleasant, or even fun at times...but thing about the finish, think about the good, think about why we do this sport in the first place.

And if that doesn't help - think about the beer and pizza at the end.

I know that I already am.

30 comments:

Mama Simmons said...

Marit! No stress about Kona.... Seriously, it's JUST a really fun race and a way to celebrate how far you've come and YEP you get to go out and ride on a beautifully paved Queen K Hwy with NO cars and the best athletes in the world and the beautiful Pacific Ocean off to the side. It just doesn't get any better than that!!! So NO STRESS! You are ready, you know you are... Rest up bc we get to go have a really FUN kick-ass day here very soon! That's all it is- a really FUN kick-ass day. :)

D said...

I had beer and pizza for breakfast... every day for the last year. It's been rad.

Charisa said...

Great post - I think you know what you love and I think you will continue to live your life doing what you love - whether it be short or long, etc. And you will rock Kona because you are so strong!

wonderwoman said...

You have no reason to stress over Kona! You're prepared and strong and it seems like a great opportunity to go out and experience something amazing.

Missy said...

Sounds like you have a great support system, that's for sure. I can't imagine going to Kona, unless, I'm 72, I never will. Go for the rest of us, who will never get to go..and kick ass too;)

TriGirl Kate O said...

...and you DESERVE it!

I kept remembering your post about the person who, while you were out running said "Keep it up! You're doing GREAT!" And you are. xoxo

Molly said...

I was supposed to give up pizza and beer for Ironman training? Shit! I knew I was doing it wrong.

Marit, you're a huge inspiration and I think you've got a fantastic attitude about the whole thing. If it were easy, no one would fear Ironman! You're going to do fantastic because you've put in the hard work, you are mentally tough, and you respect the distance.

Beth said...

I know you know this, but of course all your emotions are normal!! I don't think one triathlete can honestly say they haven't thought on race morning - "why in the world do I do this to myself???" or thought that during training and really struggled with the why. I'm not doing Kona but I know how you feel. The stress/pressure is real, even if it is, in the end, just a race.

BUT - you will get through it. And when it's all said and done and you sail through that finish line on Oct 10 you'll wonder "why did I ever doubt??" :)

cherelli said...

Love your posts, very inspirational line of thinking. Do you think sometimes it is the "rational mind" that is the doubter whilst the body/subconscious is actually good and geared to go? Just that little "rational-spouting-society's-terms-like"immense"-"inconceivable distances" etc head voice that has to be silenced...and tends to shutup when you hit the "zen" of a workout. Just listen to the body positively zinging when it's moving, pretty sure it's loving it. Just go with the flow, you're about to have a day out in the Hawaiian sun many of us can only dream about. Enjoy it for us, we are partly living vicariously through you!! :) You'll do great.

kerrie said...

totally normal thoughts - especially before your first kona! if i ever get too tired, too cranky or unmotivated, i know that my body is telling me that it is time for a break or time to really focus on that taper :)
i love this race, i love the big island and i love hanging out there - that's why i do it. it just seems like a pretty mythical place to me and i feel so blessed to be able to challenge my limits in this way and share it with the people i love and hold dear. and trust me when i say, there is no better feeling than running down ali'i drive, past the big banyan tree towards the finish.

ADC said...

I am sure it is many things racing and training related that make you feel like that. But I am also totally sure that the feeling you feel have at that finish line is unbeatable. It has been a long season for you and that pizza and beer will taste awesome.

Marni said...

you'll be just fine. when you get stressed, just read your post on Sept 24 of all these great things that you enjoy :)
The pizza (and massage) will be great afterwards but just remind yourself that YOU did the work to GET there. So with all this training to be able to do it again, all the pressure is off. Just race your plan!
-marn

Jennifer Harrison said...

Marit! No stress about Kona. you could do the distance in your sleep.....So, start to really enjoy this taper and rest the body and mind and get ready to CELEBRATE your awesome season on 10/10! It is normal to be so nervous...but, like Kerrie said, there is NOTHING like doing the IM in Kona...down Ali'i drive and there with some amazing athletes (like yourself)...so, go off to Hawaii and ENJOY the whole experience. Nothing beats your 1st Kona IM. :)

Amanda said...

This is all part of the journey, part of what you'll remember, part of why you'll be so full of emotion when you cross that line. You've put in the work to earn the reward of the race. You're gonna kick some major booty! And then rest!

Runner Leana said...

Marit, what a great post...I think I'm going to need to reference this one as I work towards IMC next year. You've already asked yourself why you are doing this...so you know! When the going gets tough on race day you'll have that answer in your back pocket. You have worked so hard, you are so strong, and you will rock Kona. It is just a 140.6 mile party to celebrate what an amazing year you have had. Enjoy it!

Kim said...

marit- what a crazy journey you have embarked on! kona will be the most amazing time of your life, and im so glad you are sharing every thought in your head along the way! you are ready!

Shan said...

Marit, I have every bit of confidence that you will have a fabulous race. The proof is in the pudding, er, training you've done, and now it's just time to soak it all in and have a blast out there. Hawaii is truly a magical place, so enjoy every second - and please make room for me in your suitcase. :-D

I will say though, I'll be glad when we both have more time to catch up and chat! Love you!

Angela and David Kidd said...

You know I've been struggling with a lot of this as well (and I'm not even doing Kona - just think what a nut job I'll be if I ever get there). But you know what, this weekend I just had fun, I accepted what I was feeling is normal, and now I'm feeling like my old self. Enjoy this taper, treat youself like the bad-ass you are for getting through all of this training and having an amazing season and get ready to have fun in Kona and embrace every minute of it!

Teresa said...

Great post and so true. This sport allows us to learn a ton about ourselves and others. It teaches us when to push, when to hold back, and when to go with the punches. All your preparation is there, I see that you believe and trust in your journey. That is what counts. Game day will be fun and your smile will shine. Good luck and have fun!

Teresa said...

Great post and so true. This sport allows us to learn a ton about ourselves and others. It teaches us when to push, when to hold back, and when to go with the punches. All your preparation is there, I see that you believe and trust in your journey. That is what counts. Game day will be fun and your smile will shine. Good luck and have fun!
tn

Sherry said...

Marit, you are an amazing athlete... and in looking at what you've come back from... you should be an Ironman featured athlete! No worries at all... Kona is just the icing on your already amazing achievements. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!!!

E.L.F. said...

You get to go out there and do everything you love to do for an entire day. In Hawaii. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, just remember to look left on the way out to Hawi. And on the way back, look right :) (very far off in the distance)

Trigirlpink said...

Woooo hooo! IT's almost show time and of course your gonna run the whole gammet of emotions! But Yipppeeeee! YOU ARE GOING TO KONA! Brush those icky feelings aside. This is FUN! A CHALLENGE and you've got a SOLID foundation with your fitness and the best coach EVER. Yay!

Trigirlpink said...

Lordy lord... Tabbitha is crackin' me up. Orca Kitty Kat says Hi and kick some KAT BUTT in KONA! :-)

Ange said...

oh Marit....you said this very very very well. thank you fro putting my thoughts into words. wow. I'm with ya.....

Kim said...

This post means you are exactly where you need to be. IF you weren't feeling like this..I'd be worried.. Really I would. Those that are all ho hum..whatever..are not in a good place. Those that are so worked up they can't sleep 10 days before the race..same thing. You're in between adn it's the perfect place to be. Those times of stress and craziness will all fade away once your in it.. You'll push yourself (in a controlled way) and you'll really cherish it Marit.. I promise. Enjoy the experience and know that when the finish lines comes..it will be the sweet ending to a long journey!! Can't wait to cheer you on!

Ryan said...

Beer at my place immediately following the race, then beer in my back pack at the finish line starting around 9pm...but then again you'll probably be walking back to the finish line with Melissa and I because we are at the same condo...Party (post race of course)!!!!!!!!!

Herrad said...

Hi Marit,
All I want to say is
You can do it...GO MARIT GO.
Love,
Herrad

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