Battle within a battle

You know…  Even though I’m not training at the level I was when I trained for the marathon (40+ mile weeks, etc.), I’m still getting those old familiar feelings again.  You know that little tinge of hopelessness and doubt you get right in the middle of a training regimine where you get those tiny little doubts and you feel like you are training for nothing?  These douldrums are common and can lead to giving up if you aren’t aware that they are coming.

I wanted to quit so many times when I was training for the marathon.  At some points it just seemed stupid and senseless.  There was no need to abuse myself like this.  It proved nothing.  I think in the end it was almost as hard for me to get through this portion of the training as it was to get through that 26.2 miles at the end of it.  Months on end of running in the dark, heat, wind, rain, thunder and other hazards while the rest of the planet slept or watched me go by was depressing.  But I did it.  I lived… And I’m a better person for having done it.

I felt a tinge of that this weekend.  I’m painfully slow on the bike and have no endurance.  I rode with a group that was way too fast for me to stay with and got dropped on the first big hill.  That little dose of reality, along with the 30 mile an hour winds I coped with for the rest of the ride alone, made for a tough ride.  Then yesterday, going for a run in more heavy winds, rain and cold just left me with a pleasureless feeling I haven’t had in a long time.  There was no joy.  Just cold.  I ran slow.  I hurt.  I questioned why I was there and why I wanted to do this thing called a triathlon.

Then this morning I had a frustrating session in the pool.  I ended up having to circle swim my laps with one guy who was much faster and one guy who was much slower than me.  I couldn’t get into any rhythm at all and I just felt slow and out of sync.  I crawled out of the pool frustrated and tired (emotionally).

This feeling is not new to me or to anyone who has taken on such a challenge as an endurance sport seriously.  You HAVE to train.  You HAVE to sacrifice your time and your friends and your life.  If you have ever tried to do anything like this and NOT felt despair at some point, you are very lucky.

So what can you do about it?  I am a strong proponent of a couple of methods for breaking this routine that have really helped me.  Actually, helped is not a strong enough word.  They have saved me as an athlete.

  1. Race-  And I mean organized races.  Figure out a way to wiggle in some real (t-shirt and swag) races into your schedule.  It gives me something to look forward and get excited about.  It momentarily takes my focus off that huge, distant goal and brings me back to reality a bit.  Spending a day living in the “now” of a race, with all it’s preparation and ceremony, can really shake me loose from a rut.  And if it’s only a 5K and I need more miles, fine.  I can either take it as an easy day or just run some more when I’m done.
  2. Training buddies- Nothing will take my mind off of my issues like listening to somebody else’s issues for a while.  Just having a group to follow around for a bit can really energize me or give me a gauge for my fitness and performance level.  My running friends are very encouraging and positive people.  I rarely have deep discussions with them but just being around them inspires me.
  3. Look ahead- About half way through an event specific training program, the end comes clearly into view.  If it’s a big event, you get your race number in the mail.  Or you start to get those emails about details of the event.  The chat starts to pick up on email lists, etc. about what to do, where to go, and details start to emerge.  It is also at this point that I can start to gauge what my final fitness will be based on how my training is going.  I set my final goals for time and hang on until the end.  This is where I start to look for “what’s next”.  By the time I’m 3/4 of the way through my training program I am already signed up for my next race.  Unless this race is the race of my life and I’m just going to stop forever after it is done, I need to look past it a little bit at this point and start to plan for life after “the big one”.

These things really help me.  Even though I was pretty down yesterday on and after my run, I was running a course I have never been on because it is part of a real race I am doing this weekend.  I am trying to line up my summer race schedule and firm up some dates so that I can get at least two open water swims in before Club Nationals in September.  These are all little things but they really help me.  I hate feeling down and frustrated, but it happens.  I just need to learn how to battle it along with the wind, rain, cold and everything else.  Which is as much a part of training as mileage or splits.

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