Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crazy or Sane?

Language is a very powerful thing.  I have had the experience of someone telling me something and it gets stuck in my head like a bad country song. The tape plays over and over.  Too often that "something" isn't necessarily positive or uplifting.  Sometimes I even find myself believing it.  In our sport it isn't uncommon to hear "that's crazy" and "that's dangerous" or "that can't be good for you".  I think many of us at some point thrive on doing that which is deemed "crazy" or "dangerous".  Perhaps that is what got us into this in the first place.

However daring it seemed in the beginning, caution must be heeded when buying into these messages.  Lately, I have been aware of other athletes saying things like "that is crazy" about a workout or referring to "us" and not sane.  From our vantage point once we cross over to being an athlete this lifestyle can not be considered "crazy".  It should be considered getting it done.  Nothing positive or uplifting can come from a negative connotation of craziness.  Is it "crazy' to desire above all else to be the best that one can be?  Is sanity in question to reach the highest state of being?  I think not!  We have a lot of examples of real insanity in our world - movie theater shootings and elementary school massacres and young children and athletes being struck down by distracted motorist- that is mother F'ing crazy.  What I do is the exact opposite!

I chose to live this life to the fullest!  I chose to experience everything this vessel that my soul resides in can do.  I plan on reaching the grave on the very last day of warranty in this body completely used up having screamed at the top of my lungs, faced my "crazy" fears and realized that I am the very furthest point from insanity possible.  I am fully aware and in complete control of all of my facilities and running on all cylinders.

Thankfully my coach and those that she coaches continue to raise the bar and set the standard for me of what is possible so that I may have just that experience.  I am grateful for every one of those athletes that share my passion for testing limits so that I can be reminded of what is possible.  I am blessed to be able to train with some of the most passionate and dedicated athletes that challenge me to find the extra gear to either keep up or set an example and never let me take the "easier, softer way".  

So the next time we hear "that's crazy" or have the urge to say it to our selves or to another athlete - lets use our language to affirm each other.  Lets encourage with the best and most possible words we can find.  Lets remember that "we" are the sane ones so that we set the example of what really is
"sane" and "insane".

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Now?

It is the inevitable question we ask each other at the end of the season - what are you going to do next year?  Certainly, it is a valuable question and when we surround ourselves with goal oriented high achievers it is reasonable that we hold each other up to a standard.

I went into my "A" race with a plan for next year.  I encourage everyone that I work with to do the same.  That allows us to stay on course.  As a busy mom, wife, friend and woman; I have learned that if I do not claim my time something else will.  When I had back surgery, I treated my rehab just like training for Ironman.  As soon as I could, I would walk or build up to walking the same amount of time that I would need in training. This made coming back to the sport much easier because I did not need to carve our 2 hours or find 2 hours each week day.  I just put swim bike or run in there instead of walking or rehab exercises.  So I will apply the same principal to my "off season".  I haven't actually had an "off season" in a few years but my body let me know in no uncertain terms that we would have one this year.  So does that mean that I will fill my "2 hours' with all the things I have put off while training?  If I do, I can be certain that that all my careful organization during the season will much more difficult.  So my "off season" two hours a day will be dedicated to healing my body and preparing for next season.  I have some muscle imbalances that can no longer be ignored.  I have some feet that need some attention.  Even without a structure of swim, bike and run - I have a goal.  My goal is to get my body in such balance that I will be able to "burn the boot".  Why such focus even on rest? Because that is what I have learned from Ironman.

I had someone say to me "Ironman is what you are".  Close, but Ironman is just a race.  It is just a chance to swim, bike and run for a long time. It is just a game of chase just like what we did in the pool or on the playground as kids.  Yet, Ironman is about much more.  It is about facing doubt or uncertainty.  It is about dreaming big.  It is about choosing to push up against what we think is possible and going beyond that.  It is about learning that we are not our circumstances by willingly putting ourselves in really uncomfortable places and persevering.  It is about asking big questions and seeking until we find the answers.  If all those qualities are about Ironman - then I am Ironman because that is how I chose to live my life. That is how I will go into this period of recovery.  This is how I will begin the process of beginning again.  My goals are set for now and for the next year.  I am in training yet again.  I will learn more about myself.  I will face doubts and insecurities.  I will have some victories.  And when the new year rolls around, I will build on this period so that I can go play on another playground. 

Sweat and Tears

 This picture was taken on the last day of camp last year.  Needless to say, this run resulted in a few tears and lots of sweat!

Much has happened in the world of endurance sport in the past few weeks.  Big questions are being asked out loud.  These are the same questions that have been asked in whispers but now more leading edge conversations are happening in the world of sport.  I find that exciting.  I have my opinion and will share it.

We are always evolving and so is sport.  At one time, running a marathon resulted in death.  Pheidippides ran the distance and died.  However,  this year there were over 22,000 participants running with me at the Boston Marathon despite the BAA's best attempts to get us to defer our entry as a result of an untimely heat wave.  When I did my first Ironman in 2005, the total participants were 1400 and now the average total number of athletes racing an Ironman is close to 2800.  What this tells me is that sport is evolving.  Athletes have so much information available to them as a result of science and what we have learned about the body.

In the early 1700's one of the leading causes of death was by consumption or commonly known as tuberculosis.  In 2009, the total deaths in the U.S by tuberculosis was 529.  Science of the human body and the medical community seems to be very leading edge.  As a result of the evolution of science, more now is know about the human body than ever before. Diseases are cured as well as drugs discovered that benefit the body not diseased; hence the doping trend.

I am most interested in what happens in the head and in the heart to motivate someone to engage in sport.  On some level there is a deeply personal decision to test one's self that drives competition.  All the EPO and Testerone in the world is not going to get my butt off the couch and on the bike or in the pool.  Eventually, all athletes must ask themselves why am I doing this.  What lies in the answer is what I believe moves us from being the spectator to being the athlete.  Somewhere along the way, most athletes that I know have decided to see what they can do whether it is mentally, physically or emotionally.  At some point, we want to see if those fears are real.  At some point, we want to see if we can take "it".

Before I knew the athlete that resides inside of this body, I knew I loved a dare.  To really get me to do something was to say I couldn't.  I didn't always take the honorable route. (If you've read my blog you know my familiarity with Cliffs notes - God Bless Cliff whoever he is)  I didn't always follow the rules nor did I chose challenges that were smart.  If you grew up in Corpus Christi in the 80's you may remember a time when there was NOT a sign on the Packery Channel bridge that said "no jumping" and you may have even been a part of us that helped create the need for that sign.  So far be it for me to risk my fancy glass walls by tossing stones.

As I took on one of Coachies alter ego "Wooding" workouts last Thursday that left me with tears in my goggles, I was completely aware of why I do sport.  Started out seeing if I could do it and well lets just say I will get another chance.  Still I walked away from the pool with a "Oh yeah- watch me! This aint over yet" attitude.  I was well aware of the effort it took between my ears to decide that I was going to get this!

In 1986, I had a doctor that looked at my crooked and then broken spine give me a list of things I "shouldn't do".  Running was one of them.  Based on what the docs knew then - he may have been right.  In 2008, I had another doctor tell me just the opposite as he put a rod in my back.  He was the one to sign me up for my 4th Ironman.  How times have changed! Ten days ago another "doctor" looked at the xray of my feet and tell me I should "think about walking when I am 80" and 7 days ago yet another doctor told me that he could fix these up and I would be back up and running.  Science is always evolving.  Sport is always evolving.  Humans are always evolving.  One thing is certain - evolution sometimes requires sweat and tears.

So what now?  My hope is that those with the most intimate knowledge of what science can do for sport and what sport can do for science come together.  That no athlete is faced with denying what happens in the heart with some sweat in order to get to the finish line.  That all athletes get the chance to "cry in their goggles" to know that they are alive and on the leading edge all on their own!  That is where one experiences one's creator. This is what I believe.  For now... off to have just one of those experiences on my bike, in my living room and all on my own create a little bit of sweat.