Monday, January 9, 2017

Farewell Triathlon, Until We Meet Again

I have decided to stop doing triathlons. Not quit, just stop. I just don’t want to do it anymore. This feeling has been building up since 2014. I felt it coming, like an inevitable process of life I would just have to accept.  I hung on just long enough to meet my sub 14-hour goal at Ironman Louisville 2015.

 It was a few months ago, July of 2016. I was doing another sprint triathlon in Wichita. On this particular morning, after driving through farmland for over two hours at a ridiculously early time in the morning, I was met with a despairing feeling of not wanting to be there. Now, at every other triathlon in 2016, I felt that way, the feeling of not wanting to be there, but I finished all my races, collected my age group awards, and went home. But on this morning, I finally asked myself “then why are you here?” Standing in the swim start line I thought about the $70 I had spent registering for this race, this race I didn’t even want to do, and the gas it took to drive the 100 miles to get here. How much I wish I would have just skipped the race and had a nice date night with Joel instead.  How much triathlon had changed in the six years since I did my first race. How much I was tired of the NOISE. That day I raced, not to my potential, not giving it my best, and finished first in my age group. Once again, collecting my age group award, and taking the long drive home with a lot to think about.

I tried to keep up the immense love I had for the sport, but it just left me, slowly. I no longer had the desire I once had. I tried. I bought all the latest gadgets, another new bike, and Zipp wheels. I tried. I signed up for lots of races, and even registered for Age Group Nationals, which I have qualified for every year since I started triathlon but was never able to go. I ended up not going after spending $175 registering. After that race in July, I decided to stop doing triathlons until the love and desire came back.

So, what brought me to this point? A lot of things. There is no one experience or factor that brought me here, it has been a culmination of many. I could feel my triathlon fire dying down in 2014. So what do I do? Sign up for my third Ironman in 2015, that should do it. That was the Ironman I trained the least for. I rode my bike on hills more than anything and that’s how I finally got my sub 14 at Ironman Louisville. I capped out at a 12 hour training week and still managed to finish in 13:26. In that training cycle, I decided that I wanted to be home for my family in the evenings instead of trying to squeeze in another run or swim, and I did just that. Seeing how much it meant to my family that I was home in the evenings instead of out training was an eye opener. I was happier and they were happier

I had planned on doing a 70.3 in 2016, it would have been my 8th 70.3. With the race entry fee in hand and my Ironman All World Athlete status I started looking for a potential race, but I wasn’t excited. I thought about how much I didn’t want to train for a 70.3, how much I hated swimming, how many more lonely hours I would be on the road training. I was about to pay $300 to enter a race I knew deep down inside I didn’t even want to do. Joel had to go to a service school in Virginia April-May. Instead of registering for another 70.3, I purchased a plane ticket so I would be able to visit him in Virginia while he was at school. It was such an empowering feeling to buy that plane ticket. I broke free from the chains of triathlon I felt were holding me down. The chains labeled “this is what you do” and “you can’t stop now” and “we own you”. That weekend I visited Joel in Virginia ended up being amazing quality time together, and it really rejuvenated us as a couple. Had I done the 70.3 instead, I would have just ended up broken, blistered, sunburned, and disappointed.

Early in 2016, I decided to give finishing my bachelor’s one more honest try after quitting in 2015. So many years I could have finished my bachelor’s and I didn’t because I was taking triathlon too serious. Triathlon is a hobby, school is not. In 2016, I let training take a back seat and made my family and my school work my priority. Between January and December, I became 31 credits closer to my bachelor’s at Kansas State University. Ever since I was younger, I was told I was one of those people “not meant for college”. This has always been something I wanted to prove I could do, and I’m that much closer.

About the NOISE I mentioned earlier. Triathlon is now filled with so much NOISE. Today, you are not serious if you don’t have a coach. You are not serious if you enjoy drinks on the weekend. You are not serious if you don’t have a power meter. You are not serious if you are a crappy swimmer and don’t hire a swim coach. You are not serious if you eat meat. You are not serious if you don’t like Brooks. You are not serious if you eat gluten. I personally have been told I am not serious since I refuse to lose 20 pounds. SO MUCH NOISE.

In this process I learned something about myself that went against what I had always thought to be true. I always thought I needed to be registered for a race to exercise. Not true, I still exercise every morning. In December I ran 102 miles. I’m enjoying weightlifting just because I like to do it. I played 1 on 1 basketball with my oldest daughter yesterday. After weight loss surgery, exercise became so routine I just do it now, without any dread, it’s a part of my day. It has been for the past 7 years. I drop the girls off at school and I go to the gym without hesitation. It has actually been awesome for my mental health to not be doing triathlons. I don’t have to stress over when to swim, what kind of run to do, how much time I need to spend on the trainer. It has made me feel so great, to just exercise the way I feel like it to stay healthy. To have the chance to try new things instead of worrying I’ll injure myself for triathlon.  I have 2 big surgeries coming up between February and April, but after I recover from those, I have a list of sports and activities I plan on trying. I will still be doing running races, but I will not kill myself to try to win. I would like to run another ultra, as well as try mountain bike racing.

In closing, I say farewell to triathlon for now. I’m sure at some point I’ll return. I just don’t want to do it anymore. Without desire it is just a chore and I can’t pretend anymore. If I am not having fun than there is no point in putting myself through all this. Triathlon was not making me happy, it was making me miserable, and its time to leave. I want to run, I want to ride my bikes, I never want to swim. I want more weekend trips with my husband, more trips to the waterpark with my children. I want to exercise for the day and be done with it, not go back out later for mindless laps in a pool. I want to stay up late with my husband on the weekends watching movies, and not turn in early because I have to wake up early to mindlessly ride my bike for 7 hours. I want to take my children to every sport practice and game. I want to take that $70 race entry fee and go to the Japanese Steakhouse on a nice date with my husband. I want to walk across the graduation stage at Kansas State University and show that I was meant to go to college.

Triathlon, you taught me many things, but it’s time to say farewell for now. Until we meet again

1 comment:

  1. I've been there girl. Most people are afraid of the "butterflies" in their stomach before a race. People talk about getting scared before a race. I showed up for a race in 2005 and there was scared thoughts..just nothing. I knew at that point it was time to go.

    It took me 9 years but I finally did another race and now fire burns hotter than ever for me. Good luck in your future endeavors. Triathlons will be here for you when you come back. :)