Tuesday, January 31, 2012

half ironman half shmironman. Or no comfort zones.

I've just come back to my computer on a rainy Tuesday.  After a failed workout.  I had 2 hours on the bike on hills in my schedule and woke up at 6 this morning determined to make it happen. Had breakfast, got dressed, got the bike packed into my car (not easy as it's a mini) and headed about 10 miles away from here where rolling hills begin.  I waited for it to get light and found, to my dismay, that the day was grey.  As I got into my first mile I was very conscious that I had no lights on my bike or myself (although my jacket is a fairly luminous orange).  The second mile in I realised I was struggling to get out of my bike clips.  This is a permanent low-grade fear of mine - not being able to clip out - which can escalate quickly at any provocation.  This was such a provocation.  I talked myself down, out of the clips and got my toolkit out to see if I could loosen the clips.  Didn't have the right size allen key (although my clips are already pretty low on their setting I still struggle to get out).  And I then proceeded to have a minor panic attack.  The hills I was intending to climb in this grey drizzle are pretty steep and the thought of not being able to get off my bike if it got too hard, combined with my fear that I was not visible enough in the drizzle due to not having any lights meant that I got on my bike, turned around, and headed back to my car.  Head hung in shame, but I couldn't do this. 

I'm all for the cheesy inspirational quotes.  I love Oprah, I encourage others daily, I have a Lulumemon bag hanging on my wall to inspire me ("floss! Do something that scares you!").  I believe in it - I believe in not getting too comfortable with what you already know, in constantly pushing on and beyond yourself. 

But in the last few weeks I have found myself, on a few occasions, sitting in my car in the same situation as this morning.  Panic struck.  Terrified. Close to tears.  Unable to move forward or ahead.

I hate the expression "comfort zone".  But it's very descriptive.  And I've spent so little time there in the past 6 months that I'm hyperventilating a little with all the "doing things that scare me".  I feel I've done little but do things that scare me.  Doing the course in London terrified me.  It terrified me because I was nearly the oldest one there, and was afraid of being thought ridiculous for even thinking I could do this.  It terrified me because so much of the material we covered, practically and theoretically, was new to me.  Mostly it terrified me because becoming a personal trainer is something I want to do so much and doing something you want so much can be very scary - the thought of failing at something you really want is so much more scary than failing at something you don't care about. 

But I did it.  I passed every subject, practical and theoretical, the first time round.  And I came home and thankfully my family was still there, they all survived without me around as much.  Home was, and is, very much a comfort zone.

But still the scary stuff continues.  Starting a new business? Scary.  And this half ironman training?  It's entirely utterly terrifying.  What doesn't help is that I am such a beginner at this.  Just working out my training schedule makes my head hurt.  Thankfully I have a coach who has been a huge help but my new training schedule is - you guessed it - scary. 

Most of the time I can pull myself together and tell myself to have faith.  To have faith that breaking down the elements I need to put my business in place will eventually result in me having a business.
To have faith that all the sessions in the gym, in the pool, out on the run and on the bike will eventually meld together into my being able to do this thing in September without collapsing on the course.  That spending time doing something that is so hard and so new to me will benefit me as a person, as a parent, as a wife and as a trainer.  Most of the time I find myself able to breathe in, to breathe out - to figure out how to break the problem into smaller, doable targets. 

What is my point here?  I guess that most of the time I try to "feel the fear and do it anyway".  To fake it till I make it.  To break my challenge down into small manageable steps.  But sometimes, just sometimes - the big picture overwhelms me.  Sometimes I freeze in the face of all I have to conquer.  I don't know what more to say about that - is it good or is bad?  It is what it is, I guess.

Today my new turbo trainer will arrive (courier willing).  Tonight I will set it up and tomorrow I will ride, indoors.  I won't have to worry about unsurmountable hills for a little while, or dark mornings, or scary cars whooshing narrowly past me.  I will go to the pool and do my drills without worrying about the 1900m that await me in September. I will go out and run my tempo workout so hard tomorrow I won't have a chance to worry about it. 

And I will go back to my inspirational quotes and use them as weaponry against my fear.  Here's what Penelope Trunk said yesterday "no one is a failure in the middle of a big change. You can't fail if you're moving toward something. You fail only if you stop." And I will keep reminding myself how great this felt, and how good it was.  Running was inconceivable 10 years ago.  Running Boston was inconceivable 5 years ago.  Who knows what I will have done 5 years from now?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


(Apologies - it's a long one).

Big hairy-assed goals, or BHAGs, are a recurring feature in my life.  If I'm feeling down or just a bit meh, that's the time to catch me.  Suggest something crazy to me, anything crazy, and I'll do it.

Generally it works.  I've LONG been a believer in the Opposite of Me and while BHAGs aren't necessarily the opposite of me they tend to serve the same function of shaking something (me) loose and up and onward.  They basically kick me into action when I need it.

But the thing about BHAGs is they are all those things - big and hairy-assed - scary.  And so right now I'm staring at two great BHAGs and trying to figure out how to tackle them.

BHAG number 1 is setting up my own business.  Oh, I've sort of dabbled in that before but not in any concerted way and not with something I felt as passionately about as my personal training.  It matters so much more, and is therefore so much more scary and hairy-assed.  I waste enough of my life over at lifehacker.com to know that the way to handle panic-inducing goals is to break them down into doable steps.  I'm doing it, folks.  I've qualified, applied for my certification and insurance, am seeing the bank on Thursday and am working on a website.  Making everything into lists is helping me enormously - keeping my head down and working through stuff point-to-point is going well and it's only when I look up that I am caught in the headlights and start panicking (what if nobody wants to hire me?  what if I'm no good?), so I'm trying to avoid looking up too much.

BHAG number 2 - ah.  Waaay back in late November I was getting frustrated with the lack of structure in direction in my training.  Although I had the London marathon on my horizon this April, my training was not happening (enough) and I felt I lacked purpose.  You might have told me that I didn't lack purpose, that traveling up and down to London and doing this course and the studying and being away from my family and all was kind of eating up my time and energy and that this was okay.  And you would have been right.  But you weren't there when they emailed me that the Vitruvian half Ironman was expected to fill up within a day of opening.  Nor did you hide my credit card.  So yes, I signed up for a half Ironman in September of this year.  And all through December it seemed to be working - as a kick.  I got stuck in and started an 18 week 55 mile per week plan (from my beloved Advanced Marathoning - it really does work for me) and contacted the local Lincoln Tri club and asked to join their swimming lessons.

(Quick aside - I've mentioned before how I am really not much of a "club" person.  I like to run alone and train alone, at times that suit me and that fit in with everything else in my life.  I do realise, however, that I need "proper", "good" swimming coaching.  And oh my word - have I found it.  I am the slowest, worst swimmer in the pool and yet, and yet - I am getting great coaching from the coaches and everyone else is incredibly kind and encouraging.  So far, I have not missed a session and most weeks I've managed to get to the pool for a practise session as well.  So this bodes well!)

But yes.  There is a very big hairy-assed element to this half ironman.  In September of this year I want to get through a 1900m open water swim, an 81km bikeride and a 21km swim without falling to pieces.  I am realistic enough to know that just getting round is going to be my goal.  And the 21km run should be fine.  The 1900m swim and the 81km bikeride though - there's a different thing.  At present I can't actually swim that distance, nor ride that distance.  And I'm going to have to change that.

I hadn't really focused on the training until last week - Christmas got in the way, I was running well, the kids were home, I was finishing my course work..  Oh yes.  The coursework was what got me going.  Doing a case study on a newbie triathlete aiming to run a marathon and do a half ironman this year  (who could my subject possibly be?) got me diving into Joe Friel's Triathlon Training bible.  And panicking about the amount of biking and swimming I should be doing..  I'll spare you the full panic blow-by-blow but basically I spent a week running around flapping hands in the air saying "I don't know how to do this" and doing surprisingly little in terms of training.  And this week I am beginning to sort of come down to earth after some good chats with my tri coaches and particularly one with my life coach or BFF, Dawn.  Things pointed out to me include:

  • I can't do it all as an "A" goal.  I can't train 5 days a week on Pfitzinger towards the marathon and then add 2 swimming workouts, 2 biking workouts and 2 strength / conditioning workouts to that.  
  • I tend to overcommit and then exhaust myself and then get sick / injured.  Yup.  
  • Am I going to be a triathlete who's running a marathon or a marathoner who is doing triathlons? 
Okay!  I know!  I need to make a decision and adapt my plan accordingly.  A bit of soul-searching revealed to me that I was really, in all honesty, gunning for my 3:40 in London.  I didn't get near it in Boston last year and feel I could get it.  However, it would take everything in the next 12 weeks to get there.  And my triathlons (am doing a sprint in May, an Oly in June) will most certainly suffer if I don't spend more time on my bike and in the pool..  Moreover, the 3:40 - why?  Well, honestly, because it would be Boston qualifier and I could also use it for a Good for Age place in London.  Both of these are goals I've already achieved, actually.  

So I've decided to be a triathlete running a marathon.  And London is now a B (or even a C goal). I'm going to have to run less (makes me nervous).  And cycle more (I'm still struggling to fit my bikerides in).  And swim more.  And do weights consistently for the first time in my life.  And - more importantly - be okay with not beating my PR in London this spring.  It might happen, but it might also well not.  And I've got to get my head round to being okay with that.  

So training is a work in progress...  More on that next time.  Till then I hope you feel more confident about what you're doing than I do!