Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why I Hate the Ironman

I figure it's about time to put this out there and I'm pretty sure if you know me really well, you won't be surprised by any of what I have to say.

I've been having a lot of issues lately. I've been working hard with my counselor to determine who I really am and what brings me true joy in life and it's been surprising, frustrating, difficult, fun, exhausting, enlightening, exciting and sum it up in a few words.

I spent some time in Puerto Rico back in March and finally got back into doing some writing while I was out there. It wasn't anything long and certainly not anything particularly newsworthy but it made me feel good. I enjoy writing. When I was young I used to write short fiction stories on my mom's computer whenever I had free time and though a lot of them remained unfinished, they were always fun for me and surprisingly effortless to compose. Blogging has never quite been the same as my true writing and I've been working hard to figure out why. I read a lot of my old posts from the past couple of years and once I stopped trying to fight my brain to figure out what I didn't like I figured it out.

It was glaringly obvious.

The last day in Puerto Rico, I wrote a lot. Probably the most profound thing I put on paper was this, "Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a hell of my own making." I listen to a daily "motivational" podcast called The Daily Boost (check it out if you can use 9 minutes of "motivation" during the week) and he says a lot of things that stick with me. Lately I've been stuck on an episode where he said "What if what you think you want isn't what you really want."

Holy Shit. Mind Blown.

(I promise this is all about to come together)

In my last post I whined about how nobody was asking me anything about my big move across the country. And I wasn't being entirely honest about that. People are asking me questions, or rather one question. What about the Ironman?

The first time I got this question I rolled my eyes and ignored the text. The second time I logged off of Facebook (which has become more and more common for me these days) and quit answering messages for a while. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. These people are all wonderful people and I don't mean to come off as a total asshole but what was incredibly frustrating and actually hurtful for me was that nobody was asking about me. When I sat down to think more about it I had a lightbulb moment and realized they were asking about my next big race because I'd trained them to. I have turned myself into nothing but races and fitness goals and athletic achievements. My entire self worth, all self esteem and emotional being is tied to what event I have coming up.

Training took over my life. And not in a good way.

As embarrassing as it is, I will confess that it has been at least a year since I've truly sat down and just read a book. I have more unfinished writing pieces than I care to count, and they're really good pieces that deserve to be finished. I can't tell you the last hot yoga class I took (yes, I know this is technically still fitness but it's quite mental for me too). I hardly bake anymore and only cook what's fast and healthy regardless of how good it tastes. I don't just lay on the floor and play with my dog. The Colonel and I don't sit and play cards while listening to music like we used to because I never have time.

Bottom line: I don't do any of the things I enjoy. 

You probably know that I'm obsessed with the Canadian tv show Boundless. One of the stars of the show, Turbo, brilliantly says during a particularly awful and grueling event "If it's not fun, why do it?" I've really been trying to focus on that and I'm realizing that most of my life is full of things I force myself to do for no real reason at all.

Case in point, Ironman Louisville. When training for endurance events (or I guess anything) gets hard and generally unpleasant you have to talk yourself through it and as I and a bunch of other people like to say "remember your why". Why the hell are you doing this? When I was running along in my solo 20 miler before my last marathon I didn't have to ask myself why I was out there until probably somewhere after mile 18 (a good sign!). I had that ever so popular thought of Jesus Christ what the hell am I doing to myself out here? I marathon because it's fun for me. I don't know why and I don't especially care but I genuinely enjoy it. Even during the race when after mile 15 I couldn't keep down a single solid and after mile 26 watched as my goal time slipped out of my hands I was having fun. I wasn't worrying about anything in particular, I wasn't even thinking about anything. I was just being grateful. For my surroundings, for my body, for my life.

When I hop onto my detested bike (I like Dottie, I just don't care to spend hours on end with her...) I immediately have to remember my why. But through some soul searching and deep convos with my counselor I learned that my Iron-why wasn't actually a legitimate why. I signed up for Ironman to be proud of myself. I wanted an accomplishment that was so big I could never doubt myself again or feel down about myself. If I finished an Ironman, I wouldn't be myself anymore. I'd be someone better.

But here's the thing. I should already be proud of myself. I have accomplishments, some that are quite big. Why do I need to finish something "even bigger"? If I'm not proud of any of my marathons, of my first triathlon, of learning to ride a bike, of losing 60 pounds, of graduating college in 4 years with honors, of not marrying an asshole, of becoming a certified trainer or of anything else I've ever done, why oh why do I think Ironman will be any different? The issue is with me, with my own self and my own brain and no amount of physical punishment (yes, to some degree endurance sports can be defined as punishment) is going to change that. In my current mind, I'll never be fast enough or go far enough. I was training for Ironman and already looking forward to finishing ultramarathons. I always say I prefer to run far because I'm not fast. Nobody asks about your time for an ultra but they always seem to ask for a 5K (which I think are way harder than marathons btw).

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

I don't remember who said that quote but it's fucking brilliant. I have consented to let myself feel like I must complete longer and longer races to actually be somebody. But in doing that I've lost the pretty great somebody I actually am. I want to be well rounded. I like to read and write and exercise. I like to run but I hate to bike. I'll swim for an hour or so, I'll ride for an hour at best and I'll run slowly for days. So why don't I just do that? Why can't I or anyone just do what we want to do, what we like to do, what we live to do?

I have surrounded myself with some pretty great people, but I've also inadvertently surrounded myself with people who are my particular version of krytonite. People who are overly competitive, people who reek of false modesty (i.e. Omg I ran such a sloooow 7 minute mile today...), people who, like me, force themselves to do things they don't enjoy doing. And when you're around people with the same issues as you, it's hard to see when there's something wrong. I don't determine what's wrong with other people but I do know there's something wrong in my life.

I downloaded a new book on my kindle. I'm writing again. I've already googled yoga studios near our potential new apartment. I'm ready to be who I am and to do things I like. So in case it wasn't obvious, I won't be doing Ironman this year.

And for that matter, I may not do it any year.


  1. Ooops sorry, I was someone who asked you about Ironman!
    I think you've made a good choice, and that's exactly how I felt about doing another marathon. That's why I switched my last full to the half. I just wasn't loving it, it didn't make me happy anymore. Love your quote, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent". I need to remember that.
    I'm so glad you're getting back to things you really enjoy!

  2. That quote was Eleanor Roosevelt btw;-) it's one I've hung onto throughout the years too.

  3. "If I'm not proud of any of my marathons, of my first triathlon, of learning to ride a bike, of losing 60 pounds, of graduating college in 4 years with honors, of not marrying an asshole, of becoming a certified trainer or of anything else I've ever done, why oh why do I think Ironman will be any different?"


    That's what I was saying in my head as I was reading up to that sentence. And then there it was!

    I love your real, honest posts.

    I'm also going to send you a book that isn't even out yet but I think you'll love.


  4. I feel bad that I asked about the Ironman now myself... :(
    But I get exactly what you're talking about.
    I have that same kind of "I get it" realization when I didn't care about my time on a race - just finishing... its seeing that only what YOU think about YOUR life matters. Your life isn't going to change if my time is PR'ed by 2 minutes... No ones life is going to change if I'm first or last in a race... its all about doing what makes you happy. I hope you learn to find new things that make you a better you :)

  5. Good for you! Take care of your mind and your body. Don't torture yourself and don't ignore the things that bring you true happiness. :)