Remember those days in elementary school when your stomach started to turn suddenly, and you were confused, anxious and wanted to explode, but were stuck in the center seat in the middle of the classroom smashed in-between two girls whose gummy bear reeking fragrance was riling up whatever torment was raging inside your gut, and all you wanted to do was close your eyes, breathe deeply and wish it all away, but instead you chose the correct, yet embarrassing move of raising your hand, inviting peer ridicule, and quietly whimpered to your teacher, “I don’t feel so good.” That green-faced kid in class was me last Thursday.
Last Wednesday was a landmark day on all fronts. It was gorgeous outside, sunny, but cool, just how us Californian’s like to take our winter. I kicked it all off with a phone date with one of my best friends who lives in Pennsylvania, then cranked out a trio of my favorite workouts, a hilly bike ride, followed by a speedy treadmill run, and topped off with a few mellow laps in the pool to recover and rejuvenate my limbs for whatever was on my plate next. I followed that memorable morning up with a productive day at work, a fun night with Marion, and our dogs, then just minutes after midnight I drifted off to sleep smiling and saying to myself, (or maybe out loud), “What a great day.”
Cut to fours later waking up at 4A, then drifting in and out of sleep for another two hours, until it was time to wake up for real at 6A. It felt like I had accrued maybe four hours of solid sleep, but that slim number of slumber was not going to suffice.
I don’t need a ton of sleep, I never have, but I need at least five to six hours to reduce stress, and regenerate necessary energy stores that are required to wake up ready to take on whatever the day throws at them. On this particular Thursday morning, I had a real gem of a workout staring me down and poking hard at my shoulder taunting, “Let’s go, T. You really think you can handle me?”
“Yeah, let’s go!” My groggy, yet determined ego pushed back even harder because this workout had a short memory, I had already pummeled it a week or so before. (Truthfully, I didn’t quite knock it out, it was more like the end of Rocky I, when Rocky beat the odds by staying upright against Apollo Creed the entire fifteen rounds taking it down to a split decision, which Apollo won, but we all know Rocky was the real hero). I felt like Rocky. I wanted to face that workout again.
But I didn’t feel so good.
It could be the fact that I finished reading Scott Carney’s excellent book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, moments before driving to the pool that set my mind askew. The book explores the extraordinary ways of Wim Hof, the Dutch gentleman known for controlling his immune system by activating brown fat to stay warm in extremely cold temperatures by regulating his breathing. It is a very well-written and fascinating book, but maybe not the best subject matter to have at the front of my mind just before tackling a short-breath themed swim workout.
I started out on edge, and never achieved the necessary rhythm to feel good, let alone strong. Although, I have felt this way in the water before, and have just kept swimming with the mindset that I would eventually swim out of my funk, and nine times out of ten I do, but not this time. Something felt really off, a heavier feeling than just the swim. I kept looking at the clock and thinking, “I don’t have time for this.” The irony is that this is all I make time for.
Next, I climbed out of the pool, changed into my run gear and went for a run.
I literally ran away from my problems.
I blamed the swim workout of course, but it was bigger than that. I am not a weak swimmer anymore, (I’m not amazing, but I swam 10,000 yards earlier in the week and felt fine). In fact, I really like that workout, despite its catty attitude, I don’t mind being challenged; I have set my life up to be challenged every single day. I don’t want to breeze through anything, I don’t want to relax, but I need to, I am just not sure how?
Later that night while popping the balloons of my pity party, I realized that I have made changes in every part of my life to set up achieving excellence as a triathlete, but something is still missing. My diet is squeaky clean, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I found a job that allows for ample time to train because I work later hours, I married a man who is relentlessly supportive of my goals, what is the missing piece of the puzzle?
The days that I wake up refreshed and rested are my Wednesdays, (see above), meanwhile the days that I wake up restless and exhausted are my Thursdays, (see above, under Wednesday). I need to prioritize gaining more quality sleep. Also, I need to accept that I will not execute every workout perfectly, and I need to make time to relax and exhale once in a while in order to appreciate how far I’ve come, and look ahead with a clear focus of how far I have to go.
Honestly, I needed that poor swim performance to kick me in the teeth and remind me that I am trying to be great, but I am not there yet.
In more uplifting news, the absolute highlight of my week, and what I needed to truly shake me out of my melancholy was watching my friend and athlete, Ned, run the LA Marathon last Sunday. Ned and I have been working together for nearly two years, and he has made gigantic strides in his running and overall fitness. We met at New Deal Studios over a dozen years ago, he is a talented compositor, and stayed in touch via social media, but I was stunned and honored when he asked me to coach him for the marathon. He has already learned many needful lessons that only the marathon can teach, and he has overcome it all with a positive attitude and gained genuine running prowess along the way. For example, this time last year he had a broken foot, but still kept doing whatever he could to stay in shape. Next, when he was healed up and ready to train for LA, he prepared astutely, showed up ready to go, and executed the plan to a “T” by running a 3:38. That is a good marathon finish on its own, but it is a HUGE improvement from the first time he ran the LA course, at 4:06.
I am really proud of him, and can’t wait to prep him for my favorite marathon, the next one.
This tune from Kendrick Lamar and SZA, "All The Stars", off of the Black Panther soundtrack is my current favorite on rotation. Enjoy.:)
**Please note, the title for this week's post is a nod to the late Chester Bennington. It is a lyric from the Linkin Park song, Heavy.