Sunday, September 18, 2011

Off Kilter

The last two weeks have been incredibly stressful for me, physically and psychologically. I would say that if you added up all the stress I had in the six years it took for me to do my PhD, it would not be as much stress as I have experienced in the last two weeks.

A week after starting my formal Ironman training program, I started a new job in nursing administration at a major hospital. I had misgivings about the job going into it; I did this kind of work before so it was familiar to me but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it again. Still, I needed a job so when I was approached about this one, I could hardly pass it up. Plus, it's flattering to be sought out, but that can cloud one's judgement. My worries about the job were valid and I now find myself in a troubled organization that has values and practices that are completely incongruent with my own. As well, I don't identify very much with nursing anymore but this job requires that I do. I feel duplicitous as I try to put on a happy face and appear enthusiastic about the hopes they have for my role, while all the while wanting to leave and never go back. The people in my department are very nice and there are little rays of sunshine that make me think I'll survive but so many distressing things happen that it overrides the hopeful moments. Friends and family tell me to give it time but it is much more than that; it just isn't a fit.

Now, my intention in this blog is not to discuss my career angst but to talk about triathlon. But life cannot be compartmentalized and my job has upset the balance of my life and impacted my training tremendously. In part, it's just that I have to get used to having a much more structured workday than I have had in years. I can do that - lots of people work full time and train and I can do it, too. But, more than that, it's the psychological toll that this has taken on me. The stress has made my training more difficult and I have not been able to enjoy it on the same level.

At the moment, I am swimming two times a week, running five times a week and doing two strength workouts per week. The swimming and strength training are fine. It's the running where I see the stress and fatigue affecting me. I had been getting progressively faster as I trained more often but I have seen a huge drop in my performance in the last two weeks. I have had some runs that are over a minute slower than my usual pace per kilometre. This past Wednesday, I had absolutely the worst run of my entire life without a doubt. My pace was barely faster than a walking pace (more than two minutes/kilometre slower than usual) and I suffered through the whole thing. My legs would hardly move and they hurt! Thursday's run was a little better and yesterday's run was actually my fastest run in the last year so I went from being profoundly discouraged to as happy as can be in three short days.

I know that I have to keep this in perspective. Every run won't be wonderful and I know that some of these awful runs are directly attributable to my current life stress. It's not that I just suck. Even during the terrible run on Wednesday, I tried to view it as perseverance training so I could learn how to keep myself going when I felt as bad as could be, which is probably how I'll feel at some or many points during my Ironman race. It's all worth something - even the bad days. But what distresses me the most is that my job stress has taken away from me something that was going really well, something that I was so excited about getting into. I haven't lost my will to train or my excitement about Ironman but the positive energy I had is being pushed aside because I am directing energy toward coping with the job.

I am plotting my escape. Two things are very important to me: That my work is an extension of what I believe in and that my life has balance. I need to set these things right. I don't know where this will lead me but I will seek something that puts my life in order again so I can train with a renewed spirit.