Friday, March 2, 2012

Trying to Reason with Yesterday's Season

My 2011 season, in metallic form.
The post title was taken from my favorite Jimmy Buffett song (don't judge me, punk rockers): "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season." But unlike the singer, I can't just stumble next door to the bar for a bloody mary and make the memory of my 2011 season go away. (Well, at least not long-term.)

But seriously, this morning, my race watch was staring at me. It hasn't been on my wrist since October, and it occurred to me that I still haven't looked at my splits from the marathon portion of last year's Ironman Kona. This is in total opposition to my obsessive-compulsive nature. I record my splits after ALL races - even the bad ones. In the case of the bad ones, I eventually review them with a clearer (read: less emotional) mind. And I usually do it right after the race in case I accidentally clear the watch - or worse, in case the watch battery dies.

But after Kona, I stopped wearing that particular watch. I couldn't even look at it - or those splits. Looking at the splits meant I had to relive the unraveling of my Kona marathon, and even now, it's still too much to bear. And so, like a broken record, I ask myself the question once more - why am I dwelling on the ONE race that went (horribly) wrong after so many went right?

Maybe it's BECAUSE so many went right - my expectations had finally risen. Maybe it's because I (mistakenly) viewed Kona as the most important race of the year, disregarding all other performances as "just warm-ups." You'd think I'd be used to it by now, being the Disaster Magnet an' all. But for me, disaster fallout, like speaking in front of a group when you have stage fright, never gets easier. Today, when I look in the mirror, I see someone who is always one step away from the the brass ring. I also see someone who is tired, and confused, and feeling her age - and trying really hard not to "be too hard on myself" and not to give up.

And if I eventually succeed with having that great race at the end of the year, will that be enough?

I suppose not, but it's not entirely out of the question. I HAVE reached goals in the past that allowed me to put things to rest. After running a sub-2:50 marathon, I realized I couldn't run much faster with my genetics and training time. Trying harder would have been a losing battle. I let it go to avoid more scars, more injuries, and more reasons to hate myself. I accomplished my running goal - I ran in the Olympic marathon trials. I was never delusional enough to think I could finish any better than almost last. I managed one more marathoning feat after that - I proved to myself that the sub-2:50 wasn't a fluke. Then I hung up my marathoning shoes (so to speak.. I still run marathons, but not with the zeal I had in the late 1990s).

I wish my trip back to Kona in 2011 was good enough. But I can't help but view it as another missed opportunity. I expected more out of myself, especially after a great year of learning how to race and how to approach racing. When I try to look back at a season of successes, I lapse into just reliving the mistakes and embarrassment of Kona. For crying out loud, I've become the embodiment of the the oft-spoken-in-jest expression: "you're only as good as your last race."

Then there's that growing-up-background-mental-programming thing. I was raised in a family of overachievers. The more my brothers and I accomplished as athletes and students, the happier my parents were. And when "winning" was down, the atmosphere hung heavy over my house. Whether it was us kids or our parents that took losses the hardest, it never really mattered in the long run. Winning was good. Not winning was bad. It was the same for grades. A's were good. B's (and lower) - bad.

I grew up thinking if I wasn't the best, I was a failure. No one remembers who came in second, right? Seriously, it's like a joke - like that line from Talledega Nights (yes, I AM going to quote Ricky Bobby): "If you're not first, you're last." I LIVED that. Every time I didn't win, it gave me one more reason to hate myself. And I assumed everyone else hated me too. I spent most of my formative years apologizing to my family, friends, and coaches for being a disappointment. Sometimes it seems like the only thing I know how to do.

But what really matters at this moment is if and how I can let go of last season so it doesn't continue to haunt me. I need to look it in the face and tell it to go away once and for all.

And along came a glimmer in the distance that might just be the shovel I need to bury 2011 once and for all. USA Triathlon announced their age group athletes of the year, and I somehow managed to garner an honorable mention in the master's category. I keep thinking it must be a fluke. Did they see how poorly I performed at Kona? Or at the USAT National Championship? Someone must have missed something in the details. Isn't it like the Oscars? Doesn't the end of the season matter more?

Maybe things are a little different in the real world - you know, the one outside my head.

And it may just be time to go write those splits down.

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