Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finding YOUR Balance!

When I look back at my career in triathlon, I think it's pretty obvious that not only was I hooked from the start, but that somewhere in the very depths of my soul, I wondered "what if?"  After only a few races, I started buying my own iron-on paper at the office supply store and placing logos on my race top like I was a professional athlete in training.  I have evidence of this below.  I was doing Eagleman 70.3 as my FIRST half in 2007 all logo'ed up with Powerbar etc.  Wouldn't you know, my soon-to-be very good friend Jocelyn (and her now husband, Jeremy) were in the background of my pictures taken after the race!  Didn't even know them then!

 Eagleman 70.3 June 2007 - first half!

I enjoyed the process of training and seeing if I could improve month after month, year after year.  I did plenty of slowing down to appease my heart rate early on, but I never doubted the process (even as a runner who was used to blazing through six minute miles in college).  Routine suited me and I reveled in it.  Working full time and getting up at 4:30am to get on my bike wasn't ideal, but I knew I always felt better doing it than not doing it.  Co-workers questioned my sanity and why I was working so hard.  Friends became the people I swam, biked and ran with on a regular basis.  My husband became intimately familiar with the in's and out's of triathlons and dealt with me and my lack of mechanical ability as I learned to disassemble and reassemble my bike.

Finding the balance in those days was tough because there wasn't much time for anything else other than work and training.  Recovery was shorted regularly and although I worked hard, I understood that progress was coming, but sometimes felt slow due to the demands on the rest of my life.

When I started seeing hints of the ability to turn pro, I wasn't really sure what to think.  Could I really compete at that level?  Why did I even want to do it?  I asked myself some tough questions, but I always knew the answer even before the question was asked.  Challenging myself has always been in my nature and whatever the highest challenge was, that's what I wanted, sign me up!

Oh how hard that first pro year was with trying to run my own business full time and figure out what it really took to do this whole thing of training as a pro!!  My coach was an integral part of that year on so many fronts.  There was definitely some flailing around trying to do too many things, not sleeping enough, thinking I could skimp on some things and going full bore into others.  My body let me know very quickly what it was willing to do and what it was not.

Ironman Lake Placid (mile 1) headed to my mile 23 DNF

That was the first time I remember Coach Jesse talking about the mythical place of "crisp and clean".  He described it as a place where you are sleeping enough, eating well, focused during your workouts, nailing your workout nutrition, recovering after, paying attention to the details and watching the puzzle pieces fall into place.  You feel good and the workouts go well, day after day, week after week.  Your mental and physical body are in tune.  You don't think too much or too little.  You do the workouts, they go well, you let them go.  You don't worry about the outcomes, you focus on what you're doing day to day to achieve the best results possible in that moment, workout, meal etc. 

I wanted to get there badly, but I didn't know how.  I also wanted to hang out with my friends until later on Friday night, drink wine (sometimes in decently large quantities), kill it on the business front and still keep the rest of my life running smoothly (dishes, cleaning, seeing family, attending events etc.).  At some point, the realization came that the plate could only get so full.  I had to think very hard about what I wanted to be on it.  If the training and getting better at this whole pro thing really was a priority, then a few things had to go.  I had to learn to say "no" to a few things I wanted to do (and had always done) while becoming a master at structuring my time so I had enough to run my business AND train AND recover properly.  Life would still be full, but the areas that weren't contributing to my success had to be examined, and in some cases, toned down so I could get it right.

Somewhere late in that first year (2012), I started to find it, crisp and clean.  It felt really, really good and I finally knew what Jesse was talking about as I prepared for Ironman Arizona.  After a DNF at Ironman Lake Placid, my first professional Ironman, I had to find it or I was most likely going to chuck this whole thing and do something else with all my time.  It was hard to come back after that race and training didn't seem worth it if I couldn't even get myself to the finish line as a pro!

 Ironman Arizona - My first real breakthrough (9:30, previous best 9:48/10:00)

Once I found it, I wanted to hold onto it, but we don't live in a box shielded from the outside world where things that could derail us just bounce off effortlessly.  I realized that while I could be rigid and grip tightly to the things I'd found were helping me stay on track, I also would probably never get to see my friends, enjoy my life or do much other than eat, sleep, train and work.  Not so fun.  I had to learn how to cycle in and out of crisp and clean when necessary.  Learning this would prove much more difficult than anticipated, but I resolved to keep at it!

 Fast forward to today.  I seem to have found a place that works for me in the world of balancing the "world of Kim" in the areas that keep me on track, but that still allow me to flirt with a normal life every once in awhile.  At times, I'll be honest, I've fallen right off the deep end. For example, after a race for about two weeks, you'll find me staying up late doing some of the excess that doesn't make friends with crisp and clean.  I might show up at the pool for a workout with a headache from that fourth glass of wine or having frozen yogurt on a more than regular basis.  I indulge a bit because it makes me feel normal, and darn it, we need it to be able to buckle down when it's important.  About two months from my "A" race, you'll find my husband dropping me off at 9:30pm on a Friday night while he goes out with our friends and I come home to go to bed.  It isn't glamorous, but I know what it takes and guess what, that's part of it.  There's no more wine and there's detail nailing, napping and routine abounds.  Saying "no" to this and that isn't fun, but it's part of the decision I make during that time to make sure the work gets done.  I'm a pretty balanced person so while that time is tough for me, I've found what works and I stick to it. 

Sometimes, I envy the friends in the pro world that I know don't struggle with this balance quite as much.  They don't seem to feel like they are missing out on things and are pretty content living the eat, sleep, train, work lifestyle.  I've tried to do it to the extreme and yeah, I get mean and ornery.  Instead, I've talked to other females in this world who have gone before me and seem to have found what works for them.  It seems to help hearing that I don't have to be completely rigid for things to still work out.  When I'm happy, I'm training well, and that's part of the key too.  If I'm not happy and I feel like the discipline and the "grind" is too much and taking away all the things I enjoy, then I'm not in a good spot mentally and I can't go on.

 Two of my loves, spending time with friends and WINE!

It's good to have passion, drive, willingness to go "all in" and all of those things, but you also have to realize how your own personality plays into things and how it will impact your training and lifestyle. If I had kept trying to shove a round peg into a square hole, no one would have been very excited, trust me!  If you love something, find a way to keep doing it in a way that allows you, it, and others around you to breath.  You'll know when you've struck that balance between doing it well and having it fit into your life in an appropriate manner.  There are a lot of people around you that you still want to be there for you and support you and that YOU want to support so we can't exist in the "it's all about me and my training" bubble.  That's not life or really allowing what you love to enhance your life or the lives of those around you.  Look for ways to strike the balance!  Go a little nuts after your "A" race, but not off the deep end! 

 Exhibit A. i.e. The Deep End

I'm slowly finding my way back to crisp and clean and in a month or so I'll be all in yet again, but until then, I'll be carrying a little extra lbs around, seeing a few friends on the weekends and occasionally sleeping in! 

Here's to balance!  I hope you find YOUR happy place in 2014! 

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