The Perspiring Pursuit Of Progress

“I thought of all I was proud of: the move to Alamosa, giving running a chance, the workouts I’d endured, the lessons I’d already learned. These thoughts filled me with drive and the desire to get better, and I turned my attention right back to where it belonged--- to the pursuit of progress.” – Deena Kastor

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I believe there are the mystical moments when the exact book you need to read at that exact moment you need to read it is right in front of you, and if you possess enough humility to realize you need that book like a bottle of water in the desert, you reach out and grab it.

Deena Kastor’s book, Let Your Mind Run was my re-hydrating bottle of H2O.

Deena writes a lot about mental training in her book, and learning about her struggles made me realize that the mini-freak out I had during my slow ride was 99% mental vs. physical. The reason that I am sure of that statement is that this past week I felt fine, meaning my strength and energy were boundless, and I completed every workout feeling spent, but solid.

Clearly, my mind is the one at the wheel.

Last Saturday after an annoying, windy romp through the first couple of miles along the coast of Port Hueneme during my long run, I finally felt comforted with the fact that running the Boston marathon this year was incredibly valuable Ironman marathon training. It is very difficult to mimic the unique sensations felt during an Ironman marathon, (which is why racing Ironmans is very important to practice racing Ironmans), but I believe that the conditions I endured in Boston, (cold, windy, wet), set me up nicely to handle the rigors that the Ironman marathon demands. This “A-Ha” moment was a relief, because I have been weighed down with guilt the past few weeks that by choosing to race Boston, I neglected needful bike training for Ironman Boulder. I believe that guilt is partially why I fell apart on my not-so-great, Wambulance dialing Century ride that I wrote about last week.

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Since I returned to the West Coast, (Best Coast), my mind has been steering me in circles with thoughts like, maybe I shouldn’t have run Boston? Especially because I did not achieve the result I wanted, (I don’t think any of us did that day), but still, I was very unhappy with my result, it was four minutes slower than what I worked hard for months to reach. Also, I wondered if my bike legs would feel sturdier if I had put more focus into my Ironman Boulder training months before I really needed to? Hang on while I reach for my Chill pills… Seriously, who am I?

While reading Deena’s book, I remembered that I choose to be a triathlete in order to keep learning about myself. I am lucky to have air in my lungs, fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers ready to fire when required, and a slimy set of gills that are always eager to splash in the water. (I know, lungs and gills just go with it). The point I am making is who cares if I ran well, or didn’t run well in Boston? I trained for and finished one of the toughest marathons in history, and lived to tell the tale. So what if I didn’t feel 125% for one of my long rides? I am not perfect.  I am blessed to wake up every day inspired to push my physical, mental, and emotional boundaries further than I did the day before, and if I hit a wall, or punch through it, I will still do it again the next day.

That is not only the life that I want, it is the life I have made. 

 My standard first outfit of  every  day. 

My standard first outfit of every day. 

For the past ten years, (officially on 5/30), I have focused everything in my being on becoming a tremendous triathlete, but I have also enjoyed being a triathlete.

Honestly, there have been moments when I have considered tossing my swimsuit, band, and paddles in the trash, donating my bikes to charity, and only lacing up my running shoes every day. Sure, it would be easier to just be a runner, but it would also be easier to toss my daily empty glass bottle of Kombucha in the trash, but I won’t be doing that any time soon. Instead, I will continue to strut the few extra steps to seek out a recycling bin to house the carefully crafted vehicle for my digestive health. Actually, even if I was just a runner, I would still swim and ride because both of those activities have made me a much better runner, but I don’t want to settle for what’s easier; I want to constantly challenge myself to find out who I can be. That mindset requires being uncomfortable. It is hard and painful to push hard enough to be in pain, but that is when the magic happens.

 Pre-relay race at Pomona College, Spring 1996. 

Pre-relay race at Pomona College, Spring 1996. 

I live for those moments.

After finishing Deena’s book, my mind was back on track, and was chatting up its usual dialogue, “Don’t QUIT! Be patient! Cry if you want, but keep going! AND…. Enjoy the ride along the way.”

 Heading out for my first Ironman marathon, ten years ago at Ironman Louisville, 2008.

Heading out for my first Ironman marathon, ten years ago at Ironman Louisville, 2008.

Life tastes better when we dare ourselves to suffer and work hard for what really matters most, the pursuit of progress.

Next, please enjoy this poignant classic from Sia.:)