Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I can handle this for now

Finally caught my breath from way too many days away from home. First, a week in Florida for spring break (glorious, except for the stomach bug Ben and I got while down there, and two vomiting episodes on planes); then a week at triathlon camp in Tucson for an upcoming story. Yes, I'm very fortunate to call a week at tri camp my "job", but I assure you those perks come along very infrequently--and this perk, which involved training with people who have, like, 10 Ironmans to their credit, kicked my butt clear across Tucson and humbled what little athletic ego I do have.

One thing, though, that became embarrassingly apparent in Tucson was that I'm incredibly mentally untough. My brain, when it comes to pushing myself, just asks why bother?, then clicks off. I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with an athletic body that performs relatively well on hours of endurance training, with only tiny bits of speedwork or intense training thrown in. I'm as thankful for it as I am for having a job that lets me occasionally sweat to earn money, but also know that counting on my lowest physical common denominator is the equivalent of coasting downhill on a bike; the alternative is to shift to the biggest gear and push the pedals to add to the speed. I'm good at pushing when I'm in a group environment or am held accountable by a coach, but I really suck at it when I'm by myself. In other words, I rely on others to make me be mentally tough. (And even they don't help sometimes; if I'm tired, I'll happily throw in the towel and coast.)

So I tossed around some ideas and mantras to see what could make me push myself a little more. I'm not ready to HTFU (harden the &*% up) and the idea of posting a word like suffer on my handlebars, as a coach at the camp did, doesn't suit me either. I can't go from one extreme to another so quickly, even if that's all I worked on. And I've got plenty of other things to work on if I never pedaled again--two kids, a job with tight deadlines, a marriage I want to thrive in--that if I concentrate solely on honing my race skills, I'll surely pay a much bigger and more significant price later.

But what I can do is put myself out there more and see what happens. I signed up for four triathlons this summer, and, as I resolved on January 1, plan on racing them--just not surviving them. (My first is Tri For Your Cause, a sprint in Boulder on May 4th.) I plan on saying, "I will," when somebody asks who is going to lead the lane in master's swimming (I already did this once, and I was totally fine). I'm going to find a cycling group whose average pace is a little faster than mine, and hang on their wheels to the best of my mind's abilities. I already know my legs and lungs are capable of going faster.

I'm also going to repeat my new mantra, which I found in a book for female triathletes, as often as I need to: I can handle this for now. Which means to me, there's no pressure to blow up, but no excuse to slow down either. A good start.



Leah said...

Great post. Good luck with your races! Two mantras I picked up this year: 1) I can do anything for 5 minutes. 2) I will not explode. They seem to be working for me.

Kate said...

I LOVE it. I can handle this for now is applicable to so many things!

Good luck on your tris.

Julie said...

This is great, Dimity! You and Sarah (and KCO) are wonderful role models as working mothers and athletes. Thank you for this blog!

KatieGirlBlue said...

Dimity, this is so funny to me, because JUST last night, I had dinner with friend who tried to assure me I was ready for an upcoming marathon. "And anyway," he went on, "90% of it is mental."

And I responded, "then I'm definitely in trouble, because I have the mental fortitude of a golden retriever."

Yeah. I'm better when it's NOT mental.

fastgrrrl said...

Nice, Dimity. I got a little choked up and I'm not even completely sure why. You inspire me.

runzalot said...

Dimity - just found your blog - loved your mantra - very appropriate and I may even "borrow" it for an upcoming race that I'm already mentally beating myself up over.

Another great one that I have borrowed (from Lisa Bentley - Canadian IM Champion) is to tell yourself that you've got to put everything you've got into your race therefore you've got to "take your heart & throw it over the hill (or course or whatever obstacle you're facing). You got where your heart goes, so follow it and you'll get there.

Good luck with your upcoming triathlons.

M&M said...

I LOVE this post! I do think running is very mental, from getting out of bed to pushing that last 800m repeat when you are exhausted. I am grateful to have running partners who are amazing runners and push me to be better.

Thanks for this post. What a great job you have!