Finding the Joy

When I first stated doing Ironman, I was newly unemployed with kids who had just started going to school full-time. I had time on my hands and wanted to try something new, something other than running. I didn’t care how I placed or what the time on the clock was. I was just so proud to get out there and conquer my swim fears and hopefully finish with a fast run split.

That lasted for one season.

Then I decided to get more “serious.” I hired a coach, followed a plan, and started the quest to see just how much I could improve. And in just five years, I went from newbie to vet, from novice to Kona, from not knowing much about triathlon to a ten-time Ironman.

Along the way, I’ve realized that triathlon has given me a lot – fitness, friends, confidence, new experiences, to name a few. But I also started to realize it couldn’t give me everything that I was looking for. It couldn’t substitute for voids in other areas of my life the way I thought it might. That’s why sometimes even after having a great day in training or on the race course, I didn’t always feel fulfilled in the way that I wanted. Something that started out fun and new had become just another area in my life where I felt like I didn’t always measure up.

Last year I was pretty sure I was going to stop doing Ironman in 2016. With nothing left to prove to myself and no real desire to put in more work than I had been doing, I felt like I had reached the end of my journey in the sport. But then, as I like to say, the tri gods had other plans.

I embarked on the world’s longest off-season, which has included tons of organizing and purging of junk, a home renovation project, and many days on the slopes with my husband and kids.

I’ve done a bunch of running since December when I thought I might try to run 100 days in a row – I made it 22 until I got sick and skipped two days – but the runs have been mostly slow and short. There have been zero bikes or swims.

I’ve spent some time this off season (yes, I’m still in the off season) wondering what I want from triathlon and what it can realistically give me. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that all I really want this season is to regain my fitness and have some fun. I want it to feel more like it did when I was new and less like a job or something I am doing out of a hard-to-define sense of obligation.

It’s easy to forget when you immerse yourself in our world, but if you step back and think about it, it’s a pretty amazing thing to accomplish, covering 140.6 miles all in one day, oftentimes in less than ideal weather or on challenging terrain. It’s special. I’ve needed some time away to remember that.

So my wish for 2016 is this: I hope to continue the quest to find fulfillment and joy outside of sport. And if I make some progress on that, I hope to allow myself to approach my training and racing with the joy and wonder of someone just discovering it.

If you have recently felt like our sport is not bringing you joy, I challenge you to ask yourself what you are trying to get out of Ironman and if you are asking for more than the sport can deliver. If so, you can do what I’m doing and try to figure out how and why other areas of your life are lacking and hopefully find a way to stay in triathlon that makes you feel good about yourself. That’s what I hope to do.

I am not quite ready to delve back into a training plan just yet, and if I believe what social media says, it feels like I’m the only one. But I hope when I am ready to return to more structured training, I will have an appreciation and renewed drive to face the 2016 season and be my best. Or if not the best, then to have a smile on my face and continue to enjoy this privilege we call Ironman.

Gratuitous ski pics since that’s mostly what I’ve been up to lately

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9 thoughts on “Finding the Joy

  1. I love that you have the time and location to ski! I definitely miss the slopes! Enjoy the off season for as long as you need/want. Triathlon and Ironman will still be there when you are ready to return. That is one of the great things about it 😉

  2. Love your honestly here Jen! “With nothing left to prove to myself and no real desire to put in more work than I had been doing, I felt like I had reached the end of my journey in the sport.” I am feeling the same way, and also in the middle of the world’s longest off season myself! May you find lots of joy this year.

    • Sometimes I wish I could be one of those robot-girls that trains year-round with hardly any breaks, but that’s just not me and it sounds like it’s not you either. Hope you are equally enjoying your monster off-season!

  3. This really resonates with me – there is so much going on with my life that I decided that triathlon really has to go on “hold” this year for my sanity. While I’m still doing a 70.3, I have yet to officially begin training. Over the past few months, I’ve seen that there are so many other adventures – not that triathlon and Ironman are not, but I realized that, for me, I don’t want to have the tunnel vision that sometimes one needs for that 140.6 distance. And, yay to skiing!

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  5. You read my mind. I’m only in year 3 of triathlon, having done my first triathlon at ironman Raleigh in 2014, I’m at a point where I’m not really sure why I do this, having done 3 fulls and 3 halfs in less than 2 years. I’ve registered for full Canada and Chattanooga this year, done prior to a leukemia diagnosis, I’m not the type to drop races, I’ll likely go and if I have to dnf due to the cancer, so be it. I’ve done nothing since 9/27/2015, the day of Chattanooga, and finding out about a relapse two days later and more chemo. I feel lik I need a break, I’ve been motionless for 4 months now, so I’ve forfeited all my fitness at this point.

    • Anna, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. If training is what you need to help get through this difficult time, then I would stick with it for that purpose, but put health and wellness first and listen to your body. Those IMs are a ways out and you can start from zero now and still be fine. Good luck to you!

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