Friday, March 26, 2010

Cultivating Determination

determination (noun): 1) the act of coming to a decision or of fixing or settling a purpose 2) the quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose 3) fixed direction or tendency toward some object or end.

I often think back to my race results at last year's Great White North (1/2 iron) and think about what it will take for me to be faster this year. I want to have a better time this year. But I have been asking myself if I am determined to achieve that.

Clearly I need to train for the race but I wonder if cultivating a spirit of determination won't somehow be even more important to my success this season. I'm not what you'd call a "natural athlete" so, as much as I love triathlon, I sometimes feel like I'm out of my comfort zone. In academics, I am totally comfortable. I work hard and do well. I don't have to "dig deep" to find what it takes to get things done. In sport, it's a different thing. I am much more aware of the work it takes for me to be successful and I know that I don't always "bring it" like I should.

I was talking to Jordan the other day and she said that she makes sure she's suffering during a race. I don't really do that. I go at a pace that I think I can sustain for the entire race without suffering. What if I were willing to suffer for the cause? And, besides race day, how would my training be different if I found a way to push harder?

This morning, I asked Dan (my husband) about how to cultivate determination. He said that it's a matter of pride, competitiveness, and responsibility. He works hard during workouts so he doesn't feel regret afterwards. If he's running with someone faster than him, he vows not to lose sight of them; if someone else is slightly slower than him, he vows not to let them pass. He feels that, as someone who's been running for years, he has a responsibility to demonstrate that he has continued to grow and improve over the years and, in that way, to be a good role model for new people.

I usually work hard during workouts so I feel like it was worth it but I know I could work harder. I am easily overwhelmed and demoralized when people are faster than me so having people around me who could push me ends up having the opposite effect that it should. In races, I worry that I'll burn out before the end if I push too hard so I don't give it as much as I probably could. I need to find the determination and competitive spirit that will make me step up to the plate and do this like I mean it!

My friend, Dave, put this quote on his Facebook page a while ago and I loved it:

Dissatisfaction is a great starting point, for it is right there that we have the most power, strength, and energy to push change through. ~ David DeNotaris

I enjoy the training and the races and now it's time to take this to a new level. It's been too easy for me to let my disappointment tip backwards into feeling demoralized and unconfident rather than using it as a motivator for change. This season is about so much more than physical training for me. I need to develop the psychological outlook of an athlete. I need to be determined.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vulcan Tri

Today was registration day for the Vulcan Tinman Triathlon and I signed up to do it for the 5th time. As I mentioned before, this was my very first triathlon. It's a short sprint - 500m swim, 15K bike, 5K run. A lot of people do it as a first one or just to have fun with a tri once in a while. It's a very family friendly event so it goes on all day with adults, youth, little kids, and teams taking their turns. Although I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, I do tend to take this race quite seriously. It's early in the year (June 5) and it's often the first race of the season for me so I use it as a sort of time trial - a measure of how my training has been and how my season is looking. I tend to get quite anxious about it because it's an important test for me!

It's been quite hot most of the times I've done it (close to 30 C) but last year it was really cold - around 1 C. The swim (in an outdoor heated pool) and the run were really nice in the cold but the bike ride, with hail and soul-sucking winds, was a little much! I had hoped for a PB last year but the weather took care of that for me! Oh well. That's the way it goes but maybe this year the weather will be a little nicer and that PB will happen!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I planned to swim today but it's 8:00 pm and I still haven't gone. I think I'm skipping. I don't want to go alone. I don't feel like another back and forth boring swim. I swim at the same speed no matter how hard I try so I can't bring myself to do any hopeless intervals.

Maybe I'll go for a short run just to get a workout in for the 100 day challenge. I'm on day 56 and I have to stick with it now. Challenge or no challenge, I have to workout everyday anyway.

I feel like I'm just going through the motions of training but not having any fun.

The warm fuzzy I felt when my physio told me that I inspire him is gone.

I've been swamped with school work - marking, writing, job applications - so I've just been cramming lonely workouts in without a plan. I haven't made it to spin class for a couple weeks. I think about going to group swim training but that hasn't happened either. I feel cut off and afraid to go back because everyone else has probably made progress without me.

The stress has made me eat poorly because I don't take the time to shop and prepare good meals.

I am sad. If I'm going to do it, it should be fun. Right now, it's lonely and pointless.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ordinary Inspiration

The winter Olympics are over now but while they were on last month, they consumed a lot of my time. I couldn't tear myself away. Those athletes are so amazing - so fit, powerful, beautiful. In some distant way, they were inspiring to me, reminding me how important it is to get out there for each and every workout. In other ways, though, they are so far removed from me that I don't always make connections between what they do and what I do.

At spin class, we often watch recorded Ironman races on the big TV while we ride. The coverage tends to focus on the elite athletes at the front of pack. Like the Olympic athletes, the elite Ironman racers are also amazing and I admire their tremendous ability. I love to watch Crissie Wellington race. She is a British triathlete and three time winner of the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii. What's so great about her is that she smiles for the entire race! Still, I don't feel like I have much in common with Crissie; she is in a completely different league than me. What I always watch for are the back of the packers, the ordinary people who are out on the road way past dark, making it to the finish line just inside the cut-off time. These are the people I can relate to. I can see myself doing what they do and I want to be like them.

I have some friends in triathlon who inspire me, too. They may have been overweight or sedentary before but they are hardcore athletes now. When they make huge improvements in their times or take on great challenges like Ironman, I am motivated to raise myself to a new level, much more so by them than by someone who has always been athletic.

I think, in some small way, I've been able to pay this "ordinary inspiration" forward. There is something to be said for being at the back of the pack. Being a slow, fat triathlete has been good in some ways. People who are curious about triathlon can relate to me. I am pretty far from being intimidating! I think that triathletes like me are proof that this sport is for anyone who wants to try it.

Yesterday I saw my physiotherapist, whom I have not seen for several months. Every time I see him, he tells me that he has signed up for another race because he has been inspired by me! He did his first triathlon because I told him how fun it was. He did a 1/2 iron last summer, after hearing me tell him about my experience with Great White North. Now he is going to do a marathon because I did one last fall. This amazes me. He is thin and fit and I seem like the last person who would inspire him. But I seriously think that he looks at me and thinks, "If she can do it, so can I." And that actually thrills me.

Several members of my family have tried triathlon because they knew I was into it. My brother, Paul, and my niece, Stephanie, are very into it now and we have done some races together. My husband, Dan, the ultramarathoner, has done a triathlon, too, and is signed up for his second one this year. The Vulcan Tinman Triathlon, in southern Alberta, which was my very first triathlon, has now become an almost annual tradition for my extended family, with several family members signing up and the rest of them cheering for those of us who are racing.

I think it's natural that when you find something that you love, that makes your life better, that makes you feel good about yourself, you want to share it with others. And it's my "ordinariness" that has actually made it possible for me to inspire others to give it a try. I find that so satisfying because it gives triathlon new meaning for me and makes it something that I can share, rather than something just for me. I have noticed now, too, that what has happened is that the new triathletes I have inspired have turned around and inspired me all over again. They are so keen and enthusiastic. They keep me pumped up. Now, the downside to all of this is that all them end up being faster than me! But I guess that's inspiring it its own way; I better get out there and train so I can beat at least one of them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Right Tattoo

I have been wanting to get a tattoo for a while now but I can't seem to decide on exactly the right one. And I mean "exactly." I am nervous about getting one and I don't really want to have a lot of them. The first one might be the last one so it really has to represent me and my interests and values in a way that is not likely to change significantly over time. Tall order, eh?

Here are the ideas I have considered:

τρία This is the Greek word for "three." There are some threes in my life. There is triathlon, of course. I also have three kids and, when I finish my PhD program, I will have three degrees. Growing up Lutheran, I would say that the Trinity featured prominently. And, although I am not what you would describe as "new-agey," I also like the idea of "body, mind, and spirit" as the three dimensions of life. Trouble is, what if I imprint this on myself and then the idea of "three" doesn't hold up in some situations? I only have one husband and he's pretty important and I don't plan on having two more! What if there are more than three dimensions to God or life? Somehow I feel like if it doesn't capture everything, I can't make it permanent on my body.

Anima Sana In Corpore Sano This means "a sound mind in a sound body." It happens to be the slogan for ASICS running shoes but I just like the phrase. It represents something important to me. I am working hard on training my body and keeping it healthy, while at the same time, I am developing my mind through my education. The trouble with this one is: What happens when I'm old and arthritic and senile? It will sound pretty funny then and that probably isn't all that far away for me! Also, after thinking about the idea of "Body, Mind, Spirit," something seems to be missing from this one. It's also pretty much all about me and doesn't represent my family or other values to any extent.

Body Mind Spirit (It's becoming clear that I'd like a text tattoo, isn't it?) I like this one because, as I've said, it depicts the dimensions of life. I've covered the body and mind aspects with running, triathlon, and education. It's the spirit part that has me worried. I don't know what I've done with this. What does it mean? Is it faith, values, beauty, love, relationships, drive, passion, culture, music, art? I would feel like a "spirit" poser if I put this tattoo on my body without knowing if I'm doing it! Should I take more piano lessons, learn to speak another language, develop my competitive drive, or keep loving my family?

On a completely different note, maybe I should wait until I've done an ironman and just get that accomplishment inked. But then there are issues with that - even that won't be the only or greatest thing I will have done or the only thing that matters to me (except on that day!).

Clearly, getting a tattoo requires a tremendous amount of analysis and introspection! How can you capture it all in one image or phrase?

Maybe I need more than one.