Wednesday, September 4, 2013

All these things that I've done

Oh, my. I've been meaning to get back to the blog for quite a while now. It has been a crazy summer, full of highs, lows, and everything in between. As I write this post right now, I'm on an airplane on my way to Madison, Wisconsin to witness, volunteer, and cheer on a friend at Ironman Wisconsin; as such, it seems like the most appropriate time to get back to the blog and update you all dear readers (hopefully there are still a few out there who are wondering what in the heck happened to me!) on what has been going on since I last updated the blog back in, gulp, May!

First, let me extend an apology. I know that many of you used my blog to keep in contact with me as I train towards my goals. I do apologize for going dark, and while there are no excuses, there are reasons that we'll get into about what happened. But I'm back and I will be making a much more diligent effort to keep the blog updated.

The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs that is in my playlist for when I'm out running, or doing my best imitation of running. Part of the reason that I'm coming back to this blog is because I want to acknowledge what I have done so far. When I started this journey, I was just coming off of yet another major orthopedic procedure on my ankle, I was extremely overweight, and I was darn miserable in my own brain. But I made a goal and a pact with myself to turn this thing around. That was in July of 2012. Here we are now in the very beginning of September of 2013, basically about 14 months into my journey in becoming a triathlete.

At the end of a recent race, I took a look back and decided to objectively evaluate what I had accomplished after a tough race in which very little went to plan and I was feeling unsettled. After I did, I realized that while I remain looking forward to the goals that are in front of me, it is wise and well for me to turn around and look at the distance I've come. So, here is that list:

  • I've run 5 5K races
  • I've run a 8K road race
  • I've run a 10K road race
  • I've run a 10K trail race
  • I've run a 12K road race - Bloomsday including running up Doomsday hill! (mostly running it)
  • I've completed an indoor triathlon
  • I've completed a sprint triathlon
  • I've completed an Olympic distance triathlon
  • I've swam an ironman course twice (all 2.4 miles)
  • I've swam across Lake Washington (2.56 miles)
And nothing in that list covers all of the miles, milestones, and achievements that I've done just in training. Oh, yeah - and there is one other little thing to add to that list.

  • I've lost right about 145 pounds (it fluctuates a bit during this peak training I've seen)
So, if I'm fair to myself and turn around and look at where I've come in such a short time. That is something to be proud of.

It's a summer that has not been without it's challenges either, both physical and mental. The physical challenges have been with my back, my Achilles, and still with the ankle. It seems that for a while we were playing round robin with which ailment would limit me in training. The ankle has been up and down, but for the most part we are now in the stage of it being better. However, I've developed a case of Achilles tendonitis which has yet to go away completely. It comes from having muscle imbalances in my calf and lower leg from walking uneven for so long.  Then I tweaked my back a couple of weeks ago and it kept me laid up with limited workouts for a couple of weeks. These are things that can happen in training and I will learn to have to deal with them as I ramp from here to a full Ironman event. That doesn't mean that it isn't frustrating!

The mental challenges have been the worse. There have truly been some dark moments as I trained this summer. There is a significant lack of confidence that flows through me and it reared it's ugly head in a big way during this summer. I have been incredibly lucky that I have been surrounded by so many excellent training partners and friends, and then most of all my understanding wife who have helped me, listened to me, given me advice, and just generally thrown me a life preserver when I've needed it.

Recently, this weekend, I finally put a finger on what has been eating at my self confidence and made me doubt, at times, that I could compete and finish some of these races that I've selected for myself. Ultimately, what it boiled down to is that I didn't feel like I was good enough or as talented enough as the people I admire and respect, and so I didn't see that I could do the things that they have. Well, you know what - I do have talent and I can do this. I may not be as fast as many of them. I may not be as experienced as many of them. But I've put in the training time. I work hard. I try my best. As I have also been reminded by my coach and by many of these people, I have a lot of heart and I've been told by many of them that the find me to be an inspiration. So, why do I think I'm not as good as them? A lot of it comes from my youth in which I never really had anyone tell me that I was good enough to do this sort of thing, or never was really encouraged to be proud of what I can do or have done.

That last little bit probably requires some explaining because I still find it challenging. I often have a hard time with pride because I was discouraged from it because I was told it would be found to be arrogant. As I'm learning that isn't true. Sure, pride can turn arrogant. Pride doesn't mean that you aren't humble as well. There is a line between pride and arrogance and I have to learn that it's ok to zfeel a little more pride, well, more than zero. Pride lets you believe in yourself, believe in your worth, believe in your capabilities. If I never feel pride in myself, I will always put limits in front of me.

I'm getting some assistance now in working through all of these things and I think it is beginning to work. This past weekend, for the first time, I think I truly believe I'm going to make it in Miami for my half ironman. That's not to say it will be easy. It won't be (sure would be great if it was!). But, I will cross the finish line and even if it's a DLF, I can still be proud of it. How many people can say that they've done the things that I've done in the last 14 months? How many people can say that they've toed the line of a half ironman and finished? And then gone on to sign up for a full Ironman? I will never be a gazelle, but just because I'm not a gazelle doesn't mean I'm not an accomplished athlete.

Are there still challenged to be faced? Demons to be slayed? Kraken to be defeated? (Ok, that last one comes from a comic about running from The Oatmeal ( Yes, Yes, and sure why not? My weight has crept back up a little bit, but as I've been told by my coach and medical professionals and others, this can be expected during the height of training because it's hard to feed the body for the level of intensity that I am doing and as well, there are likely body composition issues going on. I will get through it, but also I am not a number. I am not defined by what the scale says. I am more than that.

So, moving on from the mental games that have been plaguing me this summer...

My Ironman target has moved. I was originally going to do Ironman Wisconsin next year, but instead a bunch of friends and teammates have organized around doing Ironman Arizona next year instead. It's why I'm on a plane headed to Madison right now as I was going to volunteer and register for it this year. However, It looks like that at last count there is likely 7 or 8 of us that will be racing Arizona that day. I was the only one looking at Wisconsin for next year and the thought of having a huge chunk of the team there encouraging each other and sharing in the trials and tribulations of training for the same event is far, far too enticing to pass up. I'm almost giddy with excitement about being able to train and race with all of these people that have become so much more than teammates to me. They've truly become my friends.

So that means I'll be volunteering at both Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Arizona this year. And that's OK. I truly will get to drink in the experience, learn from it (much as I did when I went to the Vineman 70.3 to cheer on my friend Krista), and really get amped up to reach for that goal. On top of which I get to cheer on teammates who are competing at both events as Jen is at IM WI and Eileen is at IM AZ.

I'm back ... I will be more frequent and I will be posting a few catch-up entries here over the next few days to catch people up on some of my races and where we are at in training for Ironman Miami which is now just 52 days away from today. And soon, I hope, nay will, be sharing in the moment that I will cross the finish line triumphant in beautiful downtown Miami as I achieve step one in a life time of new goals and achievements.

The buffalo continues to roam, and thanks for coming along for the ride.