Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happiness is...

…a revised training plan!

After swim practice this morning, I talked to my coach about moving forward with my training in a way that won’t destroy my body. He had told me a couple days ago that I could substitute water running for running on land so today he gave me a quick lesson on how to do it properly. It isn’t difficult and I got the hang of it pretty easily and he told me a trick I can use to monitor and correct my form from time to time. So, I should be good to go. I’ll still be doing 5 runs per week but I think I will be able to handle that if it’s in the water. It hasn’t been the volume of training that’s been difficult (not yet anyway!); it’s just been the impact of running.

He also said that he is going to add another swim to my schedule so that I have an opportunity to do some long, continuous swims. I’ve been swimming with his training group twice a week but we focus a lot on technique and don’t actually do a lot of distance – often only 800 metres in an hour. It’s fantastic instruction and over time we’ll be going farther but I am glad that I’ll be going to the pool for a third workout each week from now on so I can build my endurance.

I get back on my bike, on the trainer, this weekend. I’ve missed my bike and I hope I haven’t lost too much fitness. But heading into spin season with my triathlon club will take care of that for sure!

I am optimistic that I am on a better path now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Learning to Trust Myself

Friends who have done an Ironman have told me that I will learn a lot about myself during my training. At the beginning of Week 9 of my training, I can already say that I'm learning, but it isn't what I might have expected. I thought I would learn about perseverence or how much inner strength I had or something like that but instead I am learning that I should trust myself more.

A couple weeks ago, I posted a question on a running forum asking people to share what they had learned about themselves during their own Ironman training. I got three or four very personal and inspiring responses. The rest, however, were not helpful. A couple of people, one in particular, read into my question and made some assumptions about my motivations and the importance I was placing on my training experience. All I wanted to know was what others had learned about themselves. Instead what I got was a lot of condescending advice that wasn't relevant to me, based on what someone who doesn't know me and didn't listen to me thought they needed to say. I regretted asking the question in the first place and figured that I should have just waited to see what learning emerged from my own training.

This week, I am having a very different experience but one that is leading me to a similar conclusion. I am having a lot of trouble with running. As my three faithful readers will know, I have bad arthritis in my hip. My sports doc and physiotherapist said I could train for an Ironman, as long as I "trained differently." My coach interpreted that to mean that I should run short distances very often. So I am running 5 times per week. I am swimming only twice and haven't been cycling at all for two months, except for one week last month when I took a break from running. My coach has a lot of experience and I trust that he knows about training. When he gave me this weird training program, I trusted that this was going to be right for me and that his rationale made sense. Still, he knows training but he doesn't know me. I know me, though, and I need to step up to the plate and represent myself. I know that this is not going to work. I am falling apart. Five runs per week is not allowing me to recover. I am at the point where I can hardly walk, let alone run. Meanwhile, swimming and cycling, which do not hurt me, are taking a back seat. I feel like maybe I should be swimming and cycling more. My coach has told me that I can substitute water running for running on land but it doesn't sound like the proportions of training for the three sports will be adjusted in my plan. I get it that I need to trust my coach but I also hope to see some flexibility in light of the evidence that things are not going well. For some people, this would just be an ordinary conversation with their coach but for me it takes a conscious level of trust in myself to acknowledge that what I'm experiencing is valid and therefore worth bringing up.

Although this is not a sport-specific example, I had another moment that prompted me to think differently about myself. This past week, I had an interview for a faculty position at the university. During the interview, one person asked me what I would do to begin to develop my work independently. I had been talking about opportunities I could see for collaborative research and I guess he wanted to clarify whether I was also thinking about myself as an independent researcher. It was a little "aha" moment for me. Making the transition from doctoral student to faculty member means that I would have to focus on the unique perspective that I would bring to the faculty and learn to trust it so it can develop.

Now, I do believe in learning from others, seeking advice, sharing knowledge, and working collaboratively. But, I think I need to start thinking of myself as someone who already knows something, someone who is ready for a new, important, independent, personal challenge - whether it be taking on the Iron distance or becoming a professor. I need to do this in a way that fits for me, in a way that respects what more seasoned people can offer to me and includes my own perspective and knowledge.

It's amazing how life experiences come together to create a lesson. This is a good one for me and I'm sure there will be more as I prepare for next year's BIG adventure in triathlon.