Monday, August 21, 2017

Comforts & Fears, Highs & Lows, Success & Failure

Social media these days is oozing with everyone's success stories.

"I'm engaged!"
"My kid made the honor roll, I'm so proud!"
"Look at all the fun I'm having on vacation with my friends and family!"

And rightfully so. No one wants to air their dirty laundry in public. I'm guilty of it too. It's natural to want to share your most joyful moments with the world. But once in awhile, a little truth never hurt no one.

It's no secret that my life has been a tornado these past 3 months. Of course I decided that the beginning of the triathlon season would be the most perfect time to move and start a new job, all while racing and training for 2 pretty important races that are rapidly approaching in September. My life is far from glamorous. The standard weekday starts around 4:30-5am with a workout, followed by a full 9-10 hour day of work that involves finding a different sense of focus to learn and educate myself in a field I've never experienced before. But I'm gaining a sense of accomplishment and respect I've never had in the workplace before. As soon as I'm done learning (working) for the day, I head out for workout number 2. To say I sleep like a baby at night would be an understatement.

Weekends consist of a bit more sleep, catch up sleep if you will. (If you can consider 6am sleeping in.) But by 7am I've mounted my bike for some serious road time. Mark and I depart Crystal Lake and venture off into the farmlands of Marengo, Hebron, & Union. Once in awhile the Barrington Hills call our name, and we make the best of our least favorite 25 mile loop. Occasionally we've been known to make pit stops at our favorite General Store in Greenwood for a fresh espresso. We've also detoured and found ourselves doing laps around Lake Geneva. Or better yet, climbing the mountains in Madison, Wisconsin.

Climbing big hills with Team RyBread in Madison
Because bikes and coffee just mix

New Team Wattie kits! #rocktheW

By the time Sunday morning arrives, my feet struggle to hit the floor in the morning. Everything is stiff and aching. Right, but Sunday is the day of rest. Not in the world of triathlon. I generally save my long run for mid day, giving my legs a chance to wake up a bit before I force them into an uncomfortable pace for 12-15 miles.

Like I said, it's a far from glamorous decision I've made. And I understand that. This is a decision I've made and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The day to day lifestyle of this sport isn't pretty, but the glimore of success on race day makes all that sacrifice well worth it. But Megan, what about your family? And Rob? That's so much time away! You're right, it is. But my family knows what I'm not without the sport of triathlon. I'm not Megan, I'm not their daughter, I'm not me. And Rob, he's the first one to understand. And right now, we're living opposite lives, literally. He's currently working the night shift 6-7 nights a week. Our goal is to spend every Saturday night together, and we're lucky if we get that opportunity. Our lives are literally pulling us in opposite directions right now, but our hearts couldn't be closer, supporting each other and understanding that isn't "forever." I need him to know that all the time I spend working out is for a reason, and with an end goal I hope to achieve one day. Just like I need to understand that he will likely be called into work at the last minute on a random Saturday night, ruining any plans we may have had.

PSA: I own more than workout clothes and Rob sees the daylight once in a while 😍

Rob won't be working the night shift forever. Just like I won't be racing triathlon forever. What!? Megan, YOU WON'T BE RACING FOREVER!? Shocker, right? I'm 29 years old, about to turn 30 in less than 3 weeks. A "spring chicken" as many at work call me. They're right, I'm young still. However, I've been running since I was in the 5th grade, never taking more than a few days off at a time. But I've been beating my body up pretty steadily for the last 10 years now. There comes a point when you wonder how long your body allow you to compete at the level you hope for. Waking up every day brings a new ache and pain, one that I hope is a result of a tough workout. But the older I get, the longer those aches and pains linger, making me wonder when my "old age" will come into play in this sport. On the super bad days, you start to think, "hell, maybe I've hit my peak already?" I do the best I can to recover as quickly as possible, I fuel my body properly, and I'm as focused as they come. But nothing can out play the plans that are already set for you.

Megan, are you going somewhere with this? I promise, I am. This summer I've stepped outside of my comfort zone more than ever. In all aspects of life. But when it comes to Swim, Bike, Run, I've been questioning myself lately. Ryan has done his job more than I could ever ask of him and has pushed me to my limits this summer. But my body and mind don't seem to be on the same level. One bad workout these days can send me spiraling down into a mental grave that Ryan has to dig me out of about once a week. But Megan, you've had bad workouts before! You are such a realistic person and know that those days are going to happen! Yes, you're right. But I'm allowed my bad days too ya know. In 3 short weeks, I'm about to be faced with the challenge of swimming UPSTREAM for approximately 900 meters, followed by literally climbing a mountain on a road that resembles a corkscrew, and then running 13 miles with an elevation map that looks more exciting than some roller coasters (props to Rob for that one!). I'm confident I can handle all 3 of these challenges... one at a time. But all strung together? Cue Megan's once a week freakout sessions: 

"Ryan, I've been swimming like crap lately. I'm never gonna even make it out of the water for Worlds. Literally I'm going to be pushed backwards." 
"Ryan, I just struggled through an easy indoor spin on the trainer. How am I expected to climb a frickin' mountain when I can't even spin my legs out INSIDE?"
"Ryan, I feel like I've never ran a day in my life and I'm 50+ lbs overweight. If I ever make it to the top of these hills I will be forced to roll myself down them." 

Yeah, he's gotten all of this plus more over the last couple of months. What it comes down to is this:

1. Lately, I have more fears than comforts. I fear a bike crash more than ever. But that's because I've allowed myself to get a bit more aggressive on the bike and do things I promised myself I'd never do. I fear a calf cramp in the upstream swim in 3 weeks because I'm going to have to kick so hard just to make it out of the water alive. I fear the thought of walking up a hill crossing my mind because I'll be damned if I'm going to be competing against the best in the world and WALK up a goddamn hill. I fear being one of the last to cross that finish line because in the back of my mind I know that my qualification was a roll-down slot, so maybe I'm not truly meant for this race? Call me crazy, but the realist in me has thoughts like this running through my mind on repeat multiple times a day.

2. My highs are just as high as my lows are low. And they come equally. Four days ago I was texting Ryan about how unconfident I am in this sport lately. I feel I'm running out of steam. It's taking more and more energy to keep my spirits up when I start to falter, and I'm running on E more than ever. In the same breath, I woke up on Saturday morning and had my most successful 100 mile ride to date. I hopped off that bike and logged 4 miles on the run and never felt better. The ride was far from flat, touching the high and low end of Bull Valley, the high point of Lake Geneva, and ending the day with a double climb up Deerpass and Collins Road in Marengo. I'd be lying if I said I wanted to stop my ride when I did. I immediately texted Ryan about my workout high and he responded to me, "I'm sorry, this is the same girl that claims she's terrible at triathlon?" Yup. That's me.

3. In order to succeed, one must fail. Isn't funny how at certain stages of life you have a pretty good idea of where you'll be in the next year? Or the next 5? And how often is it that that plan actually plays out and your life looks exactly as you had planned. Spoiler alert: it never does. And neither does this sport. I can't believe how far I've come in this Swim Bike Run world. But I also can't believe how much farther I still have to go. I've had failed workouts this summer. Failed races. Hell, I've had failed days in general where workouts don't even make it to the table. (One of those being yesterday. I never made it to the lake for my open water swim because my lower extremities told me if I attempted to do anything besides sit with a cup of coffee in hand, they'd likely seek revenge on me in the form of injury.) And all of those failed experiences are necessary to get me where I want to be. I've got more lessons to learn and miles to log (all while consuming as much red meat and craft beer to fuel those miles as possible).

Spot. On.

So there's my confession. I'm fearful and running away from comfort zones, all while experiencing as many successes and failures as I can during my times of highs and lows. There's your dose of honesty and reality from me. 

The next time we meet, it'll be almost go-time 😉 #worldshereicome

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