I mentioned back in December that I was training for a triathlon. I didn’t really know what that meant yet. Now that it’s just over a week away, I’m pretty sure I know what the “training” part means – and goodness, I really had no idea what I was in for.
I’ve always been a solo runner. I don’t like running with other people, mainly because I’m slow and I hate slowing anyone else down. I also relish the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and totally in tune with whatever my body is telling me to do (or not do). I don’t mind riding my bike alone, although that is generally more fun with a partner or two. Team sports are different – it’s really hard to play soccer 1 v 5.
Point is, when I started doing this training, I started like I always start training for stuff – by myself. I signed up by myself, I laid out a path by myself, and then realized I was failing by myself. If you’re reading this, you probably know me. If you know me, you probably know I can be a bit…um…stubborn. I like to think of it as independent, but it can be to a fault. This post isn’t really about training for a triathlon, per se. It’s about what happened along the way.
I had help in the beginning from a good friend well-versed in triathlons to set up a training plan that would actually get me to race day in one piece. That was great, but said friend lives more than 1500 miles away and wasn’t going to be there to give me pep talks when I hated all the things. Not that I didn’t call her on a semi-regular basis and tell her far more than she ever wanted to know about whatever trial or triumph I’d had that day. Sorry about that. :)
Training went fine, for the most part. I had good days and bad, just like any other training for a race. But in early April, with about six weeks to go, mental breakdown mode started to set in. I wasn’t where I wanted to be – but where did I want to be? I’d never really set a goal other than to finish, so presumably I was right where I wanted to be, it just didn’t feel right. I got cranky. I cried. I made lots of phone calls and sent lots of text messages to the friends I knew might be sympathetic to my plight, but I’d already made the biggest mistake – I didn’t let anyone in before that point.
I don’t generally let people in easily. Just like running, I tend to do a lot of stuff on my own. It’s great to have company, but I’m still going to do the things I need or want to do whether someone is going to go with me or not. Having not been in a relationship in a while, I’ve gotten so used to just doing things on my own that it never occurred to me that I might need someone around for when things like this set in. I don’t need anyone’s help, so why would I ask for it? I got this. I’m good.
By the time everything seemed to be heading south, I hadn’t really told anyone the direction I was headed, so it took most of them by surprise. But there I was, with work being busy, my graduate class wrapping up (and therefore having lots of end-of-semester work to get done), a band concert nearing – everything was coming to a head at the same time, and I didn’t feel like I was doing any of it as well as I could. I didn’t have time to train the way I wanted to, and it became a source of frustration. I started feeling like nothing I did was going to matter and I wasn’t going to be ready, even though I actually still had a lot of time. One night I actually woke up from a nightmare that I took so long to finish I was the only one left on the course, but when I got to the finish line, there were my friends, cheering for me like they hadn’t waited seven hours for me to finish. (Yeah – that’s right. Seven. It really was a nightmare.)
So, I sucked it up and let a few people in on how I was feeling. Mainly it was the same people that had helped me at the very beginning with training in some way so I didn’t have to start from scratch, but man did it feel like I was piling on them. This was my decision to do this race, why on earth would I burden someone else with my stress about it? It’s not like a million people haven’t already trained for triathlons and lived to tell the story. But I had to or I was going to keep feeling awful. I finally understood why people join training groups – it’s not all about the physical training, it’s about a support system of people who know what you’re talking about when you say you had a bad day. You learn from them, they learn from you.
After I finally admitted to myself (and others) that I needed some pep talks if I was going to make it through race day, things have felt better. I feel strong, and my fantastic friends have been crucial in certain pieces of the puzzle coming together (who knew finding somewhere for an open water swim was going to be so difficult before Memorial Day?). I can’t thank them enough for the mental and physical strength they’ve helped me find over the past few weeks. I knew training for a triathlon wasn’t going to be easy physically – I never anticipated the emotions that would come along with it.
I have some truly great people in my life, some I’ve known for years and others I’ve met in the past six months. It’s been been an incredible journey of self-discovery, discipline, and the art of just letting things go. Pretty dramatic for someone who is just training for a silly triathlon, eh? I know. But I’ve come out of this (the next eight days notwithstanding) with a deeper appreciation for friendship, companionship, and the importance of actually letting people in. I don’t need to do everything by myself. It’s okay to need help sometimes – and who doesn’t like to feel needed by the people they love and respect every so often?
So, I want to say thank you. To everyone who provided an encouraging word, sent a text, or even just liked a photo or status somewhere. To everyone who swam or ran or biked with me, who encouraged me to keep going without fully understanding how important it was at the time, who asked for updates on how things were going along the way. No one gets there completely by them self, no matter how hard they want to – present company begrudgingly included.