Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relentless forward progress

Nothing to see here - just working through some issues. I think best when I type, so this is just going to be me thinking out loud. Writing is my therapy; if all else fails I can just go for a run! 

Picking up from where we left off last week... it's pouring again (thanks, brick Tuesdays) AND I slept clean through my alarm, so here we are instead of playing outside. 

Last night I hit a new milestone. On a day when absolutely nothing went right, my crowning accomplishment was...falling off my bike trainer! I know, I'm a genius. 

How does one fall off a bike trainer, you ask. ('Did you hit a stationary vehicle?' my friend asked...har har.)  I hadn't checked the setup in a while, and the back spoke worked itself loose five minutes after I started riding and the whole thing slid sideways. Fortunately my couch is next to the trainer and I simply slid off onto the couch. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. 

I was very tempted to just stay on the couch in a heap, but eventually I scraped myself up and rode for another 50 minutes. (Pro-tip: stick veggies in pan. Put pan in oven. Leave to roast for duration of bike ride. Bike ride done = dinner done. Ta-da! 'Why don't we cook dinner like this more often?' my husband said. 'It's so painless.')  

Input != output 

If not for the swim training, I'd be quitting my tri training group now. Yesterday one of the coaches posted a message congratulating everyone from the group who podiumed at this weekend's Singapore Triathlon events. Everyone else who raced...roundly ignored.  What's sad is that a lot of the mid/back-of-the-pack age-groupers who commented ('Yay!' 'I'm inspired!') are the ones who are most enthusiastic, who work just as hard, who put in just as much time and effort. (Not me - I haven't, in all honesty, been training that hard.) I'd like to think that the equation is hard work in, outcomes out. But life is also not a level playing field and some of us start with our ankles tied together. And we need people to believe in us, too. I'd like to find a training group that believes in us. 

I think part of the frustration is the nagging feeling that I've stalled out, progress-wise. This irrational feeling makes absolutely no sense considering that this is only my 4th triathlon and first OD. But I suppose I'm comparing it with running, where my optimism is directly proportional to the potential progress I *feel* like I can make. With local running the field is enormous and over the past few years I've drifted up through the field, which is a satisfying gauge of some sort of progress. Also, I've been thoroughly spoilt by the massive progress (outcome-wise) I saw shortly after picking up interval training, and have to remind myself...it's not every day you get to PR in a marathon by over an hour!

If I'm going to be honest with myself? I haven't been training that hard. I swim a paltry distance twice a week, cycle a couple of times a week, and cannot live without my long run. 

BUT. The sprint triathlons of the past couple of years were done on basically no cycling (for the last one, I literally cycled ONCE before the tri.) No cycling for those versus cycling two to three times a week for this one? I'm comparing me now to me then and I expect results. And I think somewhere deep down I'm scared of putting in the training and then not producing any results. (Editor's note: aha, now we are getting to the root of the matter.)

Hard work in, outcomes out, ankles tied together? 

But it's just stupid to be running scared, or pissed off because no one (even you) believes in you - it makes no one happy, least of all yourself. I don't know what the solution is but I feel better already after writing all this down.  

Things I'm irrationally scared of
Coming in dead last in my AG 
Coming in dead last in my AG despite actually having cycled this time 

Things I ought to remember
New distance = automatic PR!
With triathlons, just like with marathons, I'm playing a long game and every season is just more data. 
In the grand scheme of things none of this matters to the state of the universe. 

tl;dr - training environment doesn't help with self-doubt issues; need to learn to believe in self. how?


  1. I've definitely been in your spot, where your training just seems to stagnate. It's tough. For me, it was a sign of over-training. Once I scaled back, I was able to start improving again. Maybe your multiple sports are taking a toll on your rest and recover?
    Also, I think you should look for a new tri-group. Nothing wrong with groups who celebrate success, it just seems that this one doesn't provide the support and training you need right now, and it's putting undue pressure on you. Maybe even just find a different swim workout, and do the rest on your own. I've certainly been the slowest in speed groups, and it isn't always inspiring! It can be downright disheartening!
    Anyway, I'm sure you are making big improvements in different ways, you just aren't focused on those at the moment. Not all improvement is in speed.

    1. The funny thing is that I feel better (healthier, more energetic) during tri training than if I was solely running! I feel more solid and stronger, too - more bombproof, if you will. So there are definitely lots of other benefits to tri training that I didn't detail in this post. Just trying to work through one small psychological issue - the cure for which is probably a nice chunk of time off to recover mentally. And you're right about the tri-group. I have my eye on another one, whose coaches I ALWAYS see cheering and supporting their athletes at events...

      I do have lots of other adventures on the horizon to keep me busy - volunteering at another ultra, crewing and cheering for the husband during his 50K, and other things!

  2. Funny thing, I was trying to think what advice I would give you, but I think you've already given it all yourself! I think it's totally reasonable to expect a good race when you've been working harder, so there's nothing wrong with being excited about that. But yes, it is also important to focus on Yay, conquering a new distance!! and Not a goal race, so just have fun!!. Whenever I race a new distance I try to think of it as setting a bench mark, just to see where I am so I can measure my progress the next time I race it. I think I would also wait & see how this race goes for you before you buy too far in to the idea that you've stalled in terms of progress.

    (Also, yes, I agree that maybe if you can find a club with a different vibe, that might help with some of this.)

    Good luck!!!

    1. Haha, this entry was my therapy! I'll get to September 7 and re-evaluate. I have a PT appointment on the 30th so I'll find out what effect all the clamshells have had, too...

  3. Oh Grace, if only you weren't halfway across the world, I think we could have our own little self-doubt/sports psychotherapy group (and eating club!). ;) For me, it helps to vocalize these things to my boyfriend, who is the best cheerleader anyone could ask for. (Maybe I can outsource his services. Haha.) He believes in me 100x more than I do in myself, and always discourages me from negative self-talk. And it's not because he's a relentlessly positive person either, but one of those people that believes your brain plays a huge role in performance. "If you don't think you can, you won't." That kind of thing.

    Anyway, it sounds like you worked your way out of these issues by writing this post... hopefully you have some of your mojo back!

    1. Jen - I won't be halfway across the world for very long...well, if US Immigration ever gets back to me on that spouse visa. (We are moving to Boston - my moving date is indefinite, of course - so the husband can do his PhD. It'll be an adventure!) :) My other half gets a regular earful of my negative self-talk and always talks me through it, but it's also written down here because I'm sure it must be terribly repetitive for him!

    2. Oh yeah, I forgot that you're moving to Boston! Well, you're overshooting CA by 3000 miles but at least we'll be on the same continent.
      Maybe our partners can form their own support group called, "Didn't I already hear/read this before??"

  4. You really do need to find a new group. I felt the same way, mostly ignored, and it was only training with such nice people that kept me going. I remember one race where I actually beat two of the three golden girls who got highlighted in the newsletter and finally felt obliged to say something and got a very grudging acknowledgement the next time. Perhaps some people pay extra for their coaching??

    1. Hahaha, I didn't know that happened to you! Yes, I think we've had a lot of the same issues with that group. I have my eye on that other group, the one which does the Botanic Gardens fartleks and whose coaches sound really encouraging (I'm always seeing them at races - that's dedication. What's your experience been with them?). But I'll miss the friends...