Sense and Sensibility

I have had this stirring around in me for a while. My nutritionist asked me to write a letter to my body – expressing gratitude for all it has done with me. I did. And there was a lot there. After all, we have done a lot together!

Although I am not ready to share that letter, it has created stirs in my brain that I do want to share. I have held back out of fear – fear that things are going well, and to acknowledge it will cause something to end this good ride. But really – nothing I write can end this feeling. Nothing I write can “cause an injury” that may force me to step back. Actually, acknowledging something  just may generate more good feelings, and help me to better take care of myself. And so, with a mix of trepidation and tenacity I write. Are you ready?

The past few weeks my body has surprised me…a lot.

It has done things I never even imagined a few years ago. It is hitting faster running and cycling speeds, and holding them comfortably, that I never imagined. Really? Is this my body? Is this my brain encouraging my body? The answer is undeniably yes. They are working together.

Many times I have joked that my body and mind are not working together: that one wants what the other cannot or will not give at that time. But lately – they have joined forces. And the results surprise me with almost every workout. Yes, you can ask my coaches and I will point out where I believe I failed,. I am a bit hard on myself. But that is at the quick reference items. If you dig deeper in to some of the data I collect with each swim, bike or run, I am holding faster paces for longer distances with a higher (or similar) heart rate than ever before. Me! My body!

And my brain right there telling my body encouraging remarks “Think of how you will feel at the end when you know you overcame this discomfort to do something for you! Think of your pride in pushing yourself just that much harder. Think of your smile that you knew you could…and you did. You can do this now.” And if I don’t make it – I see where the improvement has been made, and I look for how I can reach the next stepping stone.  I try not to bash myself. If I do that…the joy and fun are gone. I try and look objectively. And – I ask my coach(es) for their opinion. Just to be sure.

I recognize that the journey I have embarked on is a process.  It is a long process for me, but far from unattainable. I have to be patient. And that is hard for me in some ways. For example, I am anxious to see some sign of improvement and may look at too narrow of an area. Also, I truly fear those training harder than me and will pass me. I don’t want to be left behind. I call that one “youngest child syndrome”).

In so many ways working steadily for a goal also fits me: I will work hard and steady to chip away at a goal. I was never one for short cuts because when I do the results are actually, for me, always less than desirable and I have to go back and redo a lot anyway. So, for me, it is better to be dedicated and work slowly and methodically to a goal.

Along the way I have realized that with each workout just doing it isn’t enough. I have to think about what I want to put in to it, and how I can work it to get the most possible out of it. Sometimes that means focusing on the mental challenge. I recently ran trails by myself – doubting my decision at every split in the trail even though I knew any choice I made would be OK. Mentally I had to go with it. That was a hard run for me. Sometimes, it is the physical challenge of finding another gear in me when maybe a part of me is saying “What?”

At the encouragement of my coach, I started going to Masters Swim since this January, and making slow improvements. And I know what my biggest (for now) struggle is: I struggle with where to make my catch in my stroke.  Recently, when I paused at the wall and saw Maria, the Master’s swim coach, I told/asked her “I know what you mean about pulling at the elbow instead of pushing your stroke. But I am really struggling at making that catch. How can I change this?” And she had me get out of the pool and worked with me. And then walked me over to the weight room and showed me exercises that has me focused on building strength and, when done slowly, focusing on form and position. Um…let’s just say I have home work to do after each swim! And I know to go back to her and ask again after a bit of work and strengthening.

I heard about a track practice session from my coach that a friend, Michael Sklar, is holding. And I have started going when I can. And I love it. He is very focused on pacing and understanding timing and effort.  At the last session I was holding 8:05 minute miles comfortably. Holy cow! Me! And my friends were cheering me along which made me blush, but I appreciated, even though I know I have a lot more work ahead to reach my goals. Holding paces like that for 15 minutes is a lot different than holding a slightly slower pace for 13.1 or 26.2 miles continuously. BUT – I have never done that pace consistently before. And now I am holding it some-what comfortably for longer durations, most notably for 7 miles at the Columbus Triathlon in early August.

Since Columbus I have been working on my running form, and noticing the form of other runners. I will admit, pride makes me work on keeping my form, as does the feeling that it is the easiest and hardest thing I have done ever. Easy as in the pacing feels comfortable. Hard as in…heck…I am working hard at the same time.

Progress on my bike is slow and challenging. But I grow to love riding my bike more with every passing ride. My body is starting to crave that ache that comes from pushing just that much harder than before, for that much longer. Although right now, it is also ready to slow down a little earlier than I want. But – again – it is a work in progress.

In short – my body is working hard, and showing me what it can do. And I am amazed when I look back. I think “Really? That’s me?” Yup – it is! I have the sweaty clothes and extra laundry to prove it!

I can’t help but think my body deserves a shout out; a “job well done”, even with my fear of jinxing myself into an injury. And this blog is my “atta girl”. Not that there is time to rest on its accomplishments. No – too many people are working hard as well and can pass me. But – my body has done a hell of a lot of work. And I am impressed. And I am grateful. And I know, from what it is telling me, I can do more. And I am ready!

And in return of all of the efforts my body has put in when I ask it to “do more” I promise that I will do the best I can to properly nourish it, rest it, and restore it so that it can perform when I ask. Of course this is a learning process…just like learning to push.  I will not claim perfection, but I will not stop trying the best I can!

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