A low that was OK

On Monday February 25 I hit a low in my travels. It is typical – your trip is just over half way done, you are tired, things are catching up and….a mini melt down or just being overwhelmed…what ever you wish to call it…hits. I kept perspective: I know I am lucky. I have been able to almost train as I want for over 1 year. These two weeks are nothing in the long term of what I have built up. I know many people have many more challenges than me. I know I am fortunate (and on a daily basis grateful for a body that allows me to train and race as hard as I do…and it willing to work and push limits). I know this, and kept telling myself. And still I hit a low.

And I am OK with it. I believe, as I have written before, that when you put a lot of heart in to something, when it doesn’t go as you want, you can be disappointed. It doesn’t mean the world will end. It doesn’t mean I want a pity party. It means I am frustrated and annoyed that I can’t live up to my expectations. And if I let myself feel this, recognize it, talk with a friend about it (and often they share their similar experiences and feelings)….soon I am back on a positive path mentally.

This time I was frustrated. My swimming was lack luster. OK – swimming in an 11 meter pool is probably why. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl! And it is hard to work up speed/a consistent effort in 11 meters. And I would have to stop flip turns occasionally as I would start to feel dizzy. And then my runs – Mary had written in some interval workouts and…I hadn’t hit them. And my paces were very off. OK – so I was running on snow and ice and facing some rough winter conditions. My long run included a 2.5 mile section of continuous uphill until I reached the park where I like to run. Once there I had over 3 inches of snow and a snow storm to contend with. It was like trail running…working hard at a slower pace than road running. I deliberated cutting my run short, but once I reached the park time slipped quickly, even if my pace was off. My weekday interval runs were horrible, but again, conditions were adverse. Monday the hardpack was starting to melt, and as I ran, each step sunk in to the soft snow about a quarter to half an inch. I should have been proud to get the paces I did get during intervals….but I was annoyed, my heart rate intervals weren’t there. And it was raining. And it was cold.

 I had pushed myself over the weekend – partially in training (although not long or intense, less than optimal conditions were present) and also as a tourist – going out and walking Prague for 4-5 hours after training. Saturday it was cold and snowy – and I walked and toured. Sunday was warmer but I still walked and toured. Monday I was tired and feeling disappointed at my training. And I was really feeling the effects of my altered diet (carbs, alcohol), and difficulty sleeping sometimes. And I had gotten a touch of some sickness (never felt bad, just off some and ended up losing my voice) the week before. All these reasons, but still I was annoyed at not maintaining my training standards.

I reminded myself I am fortunate. I train as I want 98% of the time: I have a flexible schedule to get my training in, a very supportive husband, unbelievable friends, terrific training resources, and a body that lets me train hard. I know I am lucky, and am grateful daily. I love the pleasure that comes from trying my best, and putting my heart in to training. It truly is where I am most happy right now.

But all those items mentioned two paragraphs prior were too much. I broke down. The thought of swimming in my 11 meter pool made me want me cry. I wrote Mary and asked to have the 1×800 yards (67 lengths) broken up. 4×200 was MUCH better mentally.

I skyped my friend Ann, and got her voice mail. I debated not leaving a message, knowing my voice would be a give-away that I was distraught…it was my chance to back out and not admit I was being weak – no one would ever know. I mean…I am in Prague. I am SUPPOSED to be working hard and having fun with stories to share upon my return.  I didn’t back out. I left a voice mail.

And then I emailed Carlos.

And I cried.

And I went to sleep (it took awhile). I woke up feeling puffy eyed and tired. But feeling better.  And had an email from Ann to call her…anytime. She had just sent it. The advantage of being 7 hours behind…it was only 11 pm for her and she was awake still. 

I also had an email from Carlos that touched me and made me smile….simple but so supportive, in his usual way.

I called Ann. We talked. I said the bad, and what I know is the good. And she talked about her trials and training – what she loves, and where she is challenged. She travels A LOT, and often has to fit in training as best as she can with limited resources. We were on the same page. I know I am not alone, but it is always reassuring to receive sympathy from a friend. It is one of the most restorative items in the world for me. It is not one-upmanship, but true sharing and caring. Eventually we hung up… I was feeling stronger and even better. And Tuesday was a very good day. Things hadn’t changed…I had simply allowed myself to feel the bad and let it work its way out instead of burying it and believing that I had “no right” to feel that way (because of all the good things I know and appreciate). Wrong…it was OK. I put a lot of myself in to what I do. I was tired. I was annoyed. I felt it and let it pass. It didn’t consume me…it was a feeling I honored.

Often I post about learning to become a better, stronger athlete. This is learning to become a better, stronger person. Someone who is getting comfortable with emotions, and learning how to deal with them so they don’t stop my life experience. Rather, they are a part of it: the good and the bad. If I hadn’t has felt it, I wouldn’t have that memory or exchange with Ann. And I wouldn’t have gotten so easily over it: I would have stumbled again in the future as suppressed emotions build and scar my life experience. Not any more. I may not always have the answer, but I know I need to honor the good and the bad.  And I am grateful for friends that I can reach out to, and who help me navigate to find true joy and happiness again.

And, I know that I want to be there when a friend has a feeling (good or bad) to be honored, and help him/her through it. I know I am often seen as focused and someone “not to be bothered”, but if I don’t have time for a friend in need, well, then maybe I need to unfocus for a little while and take a step back anyway! I’ll be the better person, and athlete for it! 

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