Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Un-balance

Cleveland winters usually keep me training inside
(this was my front yard yesterday)
I've been struggling for weeks to write this blog - mainly because of a lackadaisical attitude towards training for many weeks. I've started my training for Ironman St. George, but I haven't been at all excited about it. Being stuck on the bike trainer for many months was easier - and much more fun - last year than this year, and even though I'm not skipping or skimping on workouts, I just haven't been really enthusiastic during most of them and I've been wracking my brain to figure out why. Here's what I came up with.

January was my month to be wholly unmotivated. I now believe that the reason for this was, simply, my job. I love my new job, and the time I've been putting into it (mentally) has taken me away (mentally) from my other great passion, training.

It's ironic that the reason for my return to racing in 2008 after a four-year hiatus, was also, simply, my job. That job (at the Zoo) had become a source of disappointment when I learned that hard work and dedication was irrelevant to my opportunities for advancement. I was "stuck." Eventually, I came to terms with it - because, fundamentally, I loved the work (and it's true, if you love what you do, it's not really work at all). But as always, I needed an outlet for the energetic and goal-oriented side of my personality and I already knew that racing could satisfy that urge. Recommitting myself to Ironman finally paid off three years later,  when I was able to make good on my nine-year-old promise from 2002 to one day return to Kona.

For the last three years, dedicating myself to training was easy because, like clockwork, something coincidentally disappointing at work would happen in January or February and reignite the passion to be a better athlete. But this year was different. This year there was no need to recommit because of work woes. This year I find myself in a very rewarding position at The Cleveland Museum of Art. I am surrounded by like-minded, energetic, and hard-working cohorts. Some of them are also athletes. And instead of fueling my passion for training and racing, my coworkers and supervisors have fueled my passion for my work. I am once again fully engaged in my job and spending more time at it than necessary - not because I "have" to, but because I "want" to.

And because I'm one of those people who can't do anything half-assed, this has once again become a curse as I desperately try to create balance among all the things I want and have to do. I just can't DO everything with maximum engagement. Upsetting the balance this year has actually created a new level of anxiety and stress that I'm currently having trouble coming to grips with.

Since the beginning of February, I've worked to put motivation back into my training but new stresses are revealing themselves. Now that the motivation is back, the gains do not seem to be coming. Or maybe it's too early to tell. I have always worried about a point at which my age becomes a major factor in the "hard work pays off" ethic, and I'm worried I may be reaching that point. In the past three weeks, I'm not seeing gains in power on the trainer despite working myself to exhaustion. The same is happening in the pool. The only place where my training seems to be paying off is on the treadmill where I've seen gains in speed over time by doing intervals. Based on the other two sports, I reason that my running had become very slow to begin with so it's no big deal that I got faster.

The question I keep asking myself is: how much longer can I keep it up if I don't see more positive results? In contrast to my worried assessment, my husband Jim (usually the voice of reason) keeps telling me I said the same thing last year. All I can say now is, I hope he's right.

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