Pulling Back to Move Forward

Last year when I was preparing for Ironman World Championships, I pulled a muscle in my back. Far from the worst type of injury, of course, but significant enough to affect my training and to draw my attention to what my body was telling me, and likely had been telling me for a while but I’d opted not to listen:  take a break. I began racing in 1998 and enjoyed it so much, made a balance of training and work and met some incredible people through the sport (including my husband), that I simply never took a real break. A grade II strain of my hamstring ten days prior to the LA Marathon in 2011 was enough to force a short break, but even then I was straight onto more cycling and swimming and full speed racing ahead, with that season culminating in Ironman World Championships (which was,  indeed my PR year there), followed by the NY Marathon three weeks later (not a PR) and then Cal International three weeks after that (again, not a PR and another just over 3hr time…again). Shortly there after, I had a little tweak here and a little tweak there but even then I carried right on racing. Mostly because it’s just what I did. But the truth is, it was starting to feel not all that fun, and I began to think about taking some time off. I promised myself years ago that the time I’d pull back and pause would be if it ever wasn’t as fun. So last fall, after a disappointing, but not surprising finish at Kona (not remotely surprising, actually, given the fact that my training had been so modified) I proactively decided to focus on strengthening what was weak (gluts!), getting in a bit more rest and seeing what it was like to not be racing as much. It felt good for a few months, and I’m very happy to write that in late spring, I began to get the bug to race again. Being in NYC, though, was a horse of a different color in terms of training. Of course, there are many triathletes who live and train there, so I’m not for a second pretending it’s not possible… it’s just…different. My husband and I tried our hand at some other racing.  He raced the heck out of the NY Gran Fondo and he and I together raced a more low-key one a few weeks later. A few half marathons also proved to be fun and at both races, guess what?  It turns out a rested body performs quite well! Add to the mix what I’ve just begun studying with my yoga teacher training and I approached my race yesterday at Ironman Timberman 70.3 with a calm state of mind I’d never before experienced. To say I didn’t care about the outcome would not be correct; rather, I didn’t feel like my world would end if I didn’t win or come top three, which is how I felt about my racing for a long time. I had a good swim, rode at a higher wattage then I ever had before and had a solid, steady run, though not my PR, I was still quite happy with the 2nd place finish (Drat that swim!  The winner had five minutes on me there and we were nose to nose in the other two!) and a slot to next year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria. I think it comes with experience and time and when one is actually ready to pull back and take a break. It was scary, no doubt.  Emotionally, the idea of not racing was, for me, unthinkable for a long time but ultimately there came a time when I simply had to listen to myself and ease up a little. I see the same thing in friends and clients and it’s definitely a case of being ready to look at the big picture and know that if your body says to pull back, you probably should.  And don’t worry, you’ll be back, so long as it’s something that you truly still want to do in your heart. And if not, something else will come along that’s just as fun. Fun being the key word.  Why else spend so much of your free time doing something you’re not enjoying? Good to be back!