Life, Run, Triathlon

Addicted, with bells on

I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason.  The reason may not be clear at the time, but I feel like eventually, things fall into place and some sense can be made of things – good and bad.  I was listening to a podcast the other day about a swimmer /triathlete that overcame a serious alcohol addiction.  She eventually started over and finally found happiness within herself.  She is now a coach and has learned to love sharing her story in the hopes that it helps others.  I couldn’t really relate to her telling the story of her addiction as I have never really had an addiction like that, but I could totally relate to her reason behind sharing her story.  Then she started to talk about all her athletes and how they are very prone to addiction.  I immediately thought she meant doping, then she clarified.  She said that so many of the people she trains are so addicted to the numbers, the goals and the specifics in training, that they lose sight of the joy in it.  She said that they obsess over marking off their workouts and making sure to hit those exact heart rates or intervals.  She tells her athletes to stop looking at those things so much and just try to enjoy the sport.  I felt like she was talking about me, but didn’t want to think about it.

Yesterday, we did the Jingle Bell Jog.  It’s a race put on by a local running club, it’s fairly small but with a great turn out.  This was our second year doing this run and we really enjoy the atmosphere.  We got dressed up in our best running elf costumes and most people run with jingle bells somewhere on their body.  Every time one of these fun races comes up, I have to tell myself that time doesn’t matter… this is for fun, not a PR.  Nearly every time, I have to tell myself that more than once.  Why?  You may ask.  Well, because I guess I am a bit competitive.  I really want to run at as fast a pace I can and see how I do, that’s why.  Don’t get me wrong, running or walking with the group is always fun, but it doesn’t hit the old adrenaline button like running all out and crossing that finish line nearly drained of everything you have does.

This time was no different.  When Darin asked if I wanted to run for time, I casually responded “You know, whatever, I’m not worried about it.  We are here for fun. ”  He knows me well enough to know when I am lying through my teeth.  He knew that our one friend was originally going to run, but wasn’t feeling great and could not today, but the other was up for trying to run the entire 5k.  “Why don’t you two run it and I’ll keep an eye on the kids” he replied.  I immediately accepted.  The one thing other than running at my max that gives me that adrenaline, is helping someone else run at theirs.  We headed off and I must say, I was surprised I was able to handle the jingle bells as well as I did.  I went about a mile before I snatched mine off.  She and I completed the run and waited at the finish line to cheer everyone on as they came through.  I think everyone did really well and had a good time.

After the race, my brother came over and we were discussing all things about life and somehow got on the subject of my training.  He and I are a lot alike, so I told him about the podcast.  He immediately knew that she was describing me (and him) to the letter.  I talked about how I absolutely hate seeing my Training Peaks calendar have any red on it.  There have been days where I worked out when I probably should not have, just to see it light up green.  Then I confessed how the other day, I went to the pool and was supposed to swim 1,750 yards but only did 750 because I just was not feeling it.   Being me, I couldn’t take that the TP calendar marked it as red.  So, what did I do?  I changed the goal to match what I did, so it would turn green!  We all had a huge laugh and in that moment, I realized that although we were laughing, that was really sad.  I changed the goal back so that I now have Christmas mix of green and unfortunately red on my calendar.

Later the same day, I read an article in Women’s Running magazine.  In it, the woman describes this obsession that can hit some runners.  They do a few 5k and then immediately they want to do a 10k.  After that, they need to do a half marathon, and then a full.  They just can’t help themselves.  They have to mark that accomplishment off and never even take the time to relish in how great it felt to achieve it, before setting up the next biggest goal.  It’s a form of addiction to a certain extent, and apparently, I suffer from it.  Like some junkie in a corner slapping their arm getting ready for the next injection of whatever their drug of choice is, I am chomping at the bit for the next big goal.  My high doesn’t come from a substance, but trying to do substantial things.  I love hitting that “done” button on the workout everyday.  I get that high when I hit “register” for a race, and don’t get me started on how actually hitting a PR makes me feel!

I pondered these things for the rest of the day and came to the conclusion that I am most certainly addicted.  I know they always say step one is admitting you have a problem, but is this really a problem?  Isn’t  being addicted to something that is good for you, well… good?  I think to a certain extent that is true, but when I took a good look at how I have been feeling lately, and all the signs I have been given but ignored, I realized I’m addicted in several ways, some I am ok with, others I need to change.

The first thing I realized, is that I am exactly the person that they were talking about in the article.  I started running to be a better pet parent.  I was thrilled that I was then doing 5ks in about 45 minutes, then that eventually became 30.  The funny thing is, I could be so much better.  I could beat my under 30 minute time goal if I just focused on that one goal.  I got started training for the first sprint triathlon and thought that was going to be my major goal.  I would be able to say I did one.  The moment I checked that off my list, I wanted to go for the next size up, the Olympic.  Looking back, I may have decided that before I was even dry from the swim, and that was a struggle!  I’ve already been saying the goal for next year was a half Ironman.  I have become the jack of all these trades but master of none.  I haven’t taken the time to hone any of these skills before moving to the next.

Next is the training obsession, ok, addiction – there I said it.  I have always had to double check that little voice in my head to make sure that I am not just wimping out on a training session if I am not feeling it.  Truth be told, I am scared of going back to where I once was.  I am scared of becoming sedentary again.  I like moving, I like how I feel.  All those little “why’s” I wrote about are still there and I want to nourish those.  I like the person I am when I feel good, when I feel healthy and strong.

I slept on it and made a decision.  The moment I did, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, yet at the same time I felt a little uncomfortable.  Feeling that discomfort is a sign that I made the right decision.  What I decided is that I am changing things up!  I am letting go of the thought that the next goal needs to be bigger than the last accomplishment.  This year, I am going to focus on the races I have already signed up for and while doing so, I am going to prioritize all those little goals and the things that really make me happy.  Running is what makes me most happy and I have two big races coming up,  a 10 miler in March and half marathon in April.  I also have that Olympic distance triathlon in March.  I am going to rearrange my training plan to focus more on my running and swimming.  I am not worried about time for the triathlon, so I am going to focus less on the bike than the plan suggests.  When I swim, I am going to focus on all those little things I have wanted to work on, but have been so consumed with marking off the number of yards that I have lost sight of the quality of yards.  I know in the end, this will make the swim portion that much better an experience for me.  I am not picking another big race until I feel truly satisfied with the smaller ones.  So, my half ironman dreams may have to wait another year or so, but I know it will come one day.  For now, I have to stop making this about the addiction of bigger goals and checking off boxes, and get it back to being about the enjoyment of the sport.  I’m addicted to being happy.  That addiction, I will keep.

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