Race Schedule and Results

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weakness

I wish I could say that I didn't have any weaknesses.  But then I'd actually have a weakness - lying.  This weekend has been tough for me because my weakness reared it's ugly head in a big way.  And I've really been struggling with it.

My husband always tells me what an amazing woman I am.  Easy for him to say since he's married to me and it would look kind of bad if he was happily married to a less than stellar woman. :) And any time he tells me this, I guess he has facts to back it up - I mean, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm a wife, sister, daughter, friend, mommy (to fur pets, but they count).  I'm a business owner, a chairperson, a philanthropist.  I'm a swimmer, biker, runner.  I've run 6 stand alone marathons and I'm a multi-time Ironman finisher.  On paper you'd think I'm a strong woman.  And in most aspects of my life I am.  I know what I want.  And I'll get what I want (but in a good way... not some diva sort of way).

But I'm battling a mental weakness that I can't seem to kick.  I admire people who can be tough through anything.  Me, I crack.  I falter.  I crumble at adversity.

Prime example - Saturday was the Capital City Half Marathon.  I was super excited to go after a PR.  I got there early, with my biggest supporter right next to me (he wasn't running, but took pictures and cheered me along).  I met with up Meredith and Dave and generally felt good. I had some nerves and my stomach had been acting funny prior to the race, but nothing I couldn't handle.  I'm amazing, remember? :)  Mer and I started out together and we ran fast.  Too fast.  Of course, I don't really start to realize this until it's too late.  6 miles into the run and we're averaging 8:08's.  Meredith was feeling great and I had told her to go.  I ate something, thinking maybe it was just hunger, but the damage was done.  I'm started getting the chills.  Maybe I didn't have enough electrolytes - made sure I got some at the water stops and kept drinking.  My legs were feeling it.   I started to slow down, which on most days is fine with me.  But today, when I so badly wanted to PR and have a great race, my body didn't necessarily fail me - my mind did.

As soon as I saw those miles start slowing down, I was defeated.  I can be my own worse enemy.  Instead of saying "Colleen, you're lucky to be out here running.  It's a gorgeous day.  Enjoy it.  You're body is strong", I was saying "this hurts.  Why am I doing this?  How am I going to get through my half IM next weekend."

I crossed the finish line in 1:53:31.  4:10 off my PR, but my 4th fastest half marathon EVER.  I should be ecstatic.

Why then was I disappointed?  Why can't I be happy in my accomplishment? Why could I not get over the fact that I wasn't strong when the miles got tough?  Why couldn't I force a smile, tell myself to put on the big girl panties and get it done?  Why did I make it so hard on myself?

The mental side of triathlon is probably the hardest part.  I often tell people that the sport is 10% physical and 90% mental.   But it doesn't get easier for me.  I can put hours and hours in at the pool, on the bike, and on the roads.  But how do you train the mind? 

I know I can do it.  I know that I'm fit.  But the minute my plan changes, especially when I'm alone, I self destruct. When it's really not the end of the world (like Saturday...), I check out instead of persevering.

I  have admitted the problem, cried too many tears about it this weekend and am working on how to fix my mind.  It's my weakness. I have a mantra, which I will learn to repeat.  Hopefully it will help with the valleys that come with training and racing. I need to remember that not everyone has a body that lets them do what mine does.  And maybe I need to tell myself that I am amazing, and not because that's what my husband thinks about me, but because I am strong.  And I get what I want.

But in a good way...

41 comments:

Marci said...

I have the same weakness as you do... but if I can push through it... so can you Colleen! Stay strong!

Aunt Nan said...

You ARE amazing. Not just because Tom tells you so, but because I truly believe you ARE. Love you, Mom xoxox

Lori said...

Its like your mind and mine were hanging out during the race yesterday instead of keeping our legs going...so lets just say I feel your pain.

Alisa said...

Oh man, I struggle with this same thing. If you find a way to train the mind let me know!

Alisa said...

Oh man, I struggle with this same thing. If you find a way to train the mind let me know!

Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman said...

To use your words - "not to toot my own horn," but I've always felt I have plenty of mental toughness to push. It's the mental toughness to know when pushing is not the best choice that I need help on.

I know everyone has their own individual and quite unique ways of pushing through tough situations during their training or race. Some use mantras. Some conjure up pictures of loved ones. Some have a unique reason or person they race each race for. For me, when I hit an obstacle whether it be decreased speed, a surprisingly steep hill, a change in my plan, or even "the wall," the voice of my best friend pops in my head; "You can do it, just one more." As I make one more step, I hear it again - "one more." Before you know it I've done one of two things. I've collapsed because my body was unable to sustain the effort or I persevere. I've never collapsed.

Over time I've learned a number of little things about my body that help me push through those 'used to be' difficult spots. I know I can charge up a hill and feel exhausted at the top, but after another half a mile, my heartrate will drop and I'll breathe normal again. If I get a side stitch, I can change my step, tighten my abs and in a mile I'm good. Lots of helpful things that only continue to prove that there is nothing I can't overcome.

I still hear the voice though and it's now more of a taunt - "What is it that you CAN'T do?" I'll keep searching, but I doubt I'll find anything.

Best of luck!

Alisa said...

Oh man, I struggle with this same thing. If you find a way to train the mind let me know!

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

wow, we really do think alie colleen. And I have been there. Its time to step back and let our weaknesses become a vessel for our strengths!

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Life is hard, this racing shit is easy - or it supposed to be. Remember that! Your previous accomplishments prove your mind is fine. Remember that too. We all have moments like you described above, this is not unique to your situation so do not dwell on it!

Instead just chalk it up as not your best day. This happens, even Tom Brady has thrown a bunch of game ending interceptions. Michael Jordan missed more Game Winning shots then he made. Tiger Woods, now that dude has some mental issues! You are fine.

Heck, you should be proud that you had a tough day and still were mentally strong enough to suck it up and finish with a pretty darn good time. Remember that.

M said...

Thank you for sharing such an honest and heartfelt post. I struggle with the same things...a loving husband tells me how great I am and how proud he is. I miss a goal time by 3 minutes and end up a crying mess. Why do we do that? I dunno. But it's nice to know we aren't alone. Again, thank you so much for sharing!

Lauren said...

well I think youre amazing! I think everyone has their own ups and downs of racing- one thing I struggle with is comparing myself to others. Why cant I swim or run as fast as they can when I work just as hard or harder?

Great job on another half marathon. I'm sure that PR will come soon enough. :)

Kristin Deaton said...

It could have been easier for you to just DNF but instead you sucked it up and finished. Despite it not being your best run (no pun intended) at it finishing it through the mental part just really makes you stronger in the long run.

Aimee said...

I think we have all struggled with the mental side of things during a race. The mental side is by far the hardest to conquer. I know this race didn't go as well as you would have liked, but you did awesome!

Matthew Smith said...

The mental game is so hard for me too, but I think you rock because you acknowledge it and still keep pushing on. I'm sorry you didn't have your greatest race, but I think it was stellar. Don't let this one get you down too much. You're going to do great on the half IM this weekend. Go get 'em!

Andree said...

ooooh this is right up my little therapist ally! Email me if you want to chat :)

Ironman By Thirty said...

Disappointment sucks. But you know what it does? It adds fuel to the fire. You gotta turn that negative energy into positive ambition. It's like BDD's "can't do" lis. Your mind is trying to tell you can't do something. But you know better than that. You CAN do it. Get mad. And then go get it - prove that "can't do" wrong.

You totally got this HIM - no problem!

tri like mary said...

The mental part is SO hard. Hopefully you figure it out so you can let me know what the secret is. Great time on your race btw!

track coach and adorable wife said...

Your post totally reminds me of a past issue of Runner's World I just read featuring Kara Goucher. She talked a lot about how she struggles big time with her mental game and the things she has done to overcome them. I struggle in the mind too and it was good to see that even the best have to be mentally strong and they don't always have it together!

Jon said...

Some days you have it, some days you don't. Funny how when you convince your mind that it is either victory or the highway that it forgets about plan B. Was today meant to break any and all records on the grand scheme of things? Prolly not. That is what next weekend is for. Sounds like you made your early season "oops" and next weekend you will let it rip now that you have gotten this out of your system.

Caratunk Girl said...

Sorry for the tough day Colleen - but you still ran one heck of a half. I think you are mentally stronger than you give yourself credit for, because you FINISHED when a lot of folks would not have fought though that.

90% mental for sure!

I think that we learn something from every race. So you didn't get a PR. I am not trying to blow it off (at all), it totally sucks when you have a goal you are all fired up for and things don't work out as planned. But the thing is - how often DO things work out as planned in races, right? Learn from it.

Mental training is so hard to do I think. I am assuming you usually train with Tom, but maybe you need some long run time alone time in training to "train your mind". Just a thought.

Oh, Tom is right, you are awesome, and can do anything.

ONEHOURIRONMAN said...

Try this one on for size...
I think we can all agree that the mental aspects of IM racing are far greater than we may ever realize.
Subconsciously your mind was holding back because of your half IM next weekend. Nothing wrong with that.... you can't go 110% two weeks in a row.
Go into this next race with the positive thoughts that your mind did you a favor in allowing you to have something in reverse for this weekend.

DRog said...

lol@ Jeff analysis
but he is correct. I totally get what you are feeling. Been there on the back half of marathons twice in the last 6 months. You will be stronger b/c of the experience.

D

Meredith said...

I didn't mean to push you at the beginning. It sounded the previous week that you were ready for a pace like that and run faster than your PR. That's what I was going with. I think you did great. You just ran a half a few weeks ago and, I believe, you were sick in between that time too. Don't be so hard on yourself. Let this go and gear up for the next adventure.

Melissa C said...

I don't know if it is something about the sport in general that makes us deal with this. I have the same problem too, and was actually super afraid this would happen to me in my last marathon- that I would shut down if my pace slipped. Thankfully, it did not, but I honestly don't know what would have happened if it did. I think part of what drives us to be better is also the part that makes us get so down on ourselves when we don't succeed. I wish I had better advice for you other than I know what you are talking about. You are awesome!

Kim said...

do NOT let one half-mary bring you down sister. this is only the start to your triathlon season. you will dominate this year, i am sure of it... stay strong my friend. be confident in your training and in your mental strength.

Christi said...

First, you are a great person and a strong role model.

Second, I have the same problem and I have detailed it many times on my blog. But basically, I don't believe in myself most of the time and I am my own worst enemy. We can conquer this and we will. Keep your head up and remember I am always here in Colorado supporting you. Please contact me any time if you need a reminder of how great you are!

Wes said...

I follow a guys blog who was like 20 seconds off his 10 mile PR, and he called his race a "debacle". LOL...

You also have a problem because you see everybody else through rose colored glasses. We all do it. Work on it :-)

and you are amazing. just sayin... If you weren't vulnerable in some way, shape, or form, you wouldn't be who you are...

Matty O said...

The answer to all your questions: It's because you are an athlete.

Simple. You aren't the only one. You think I liked having to walk at Glass City? If anything I think you go easy on yourself when you get "down" hahah. I am brutal on myself.

But, these are the things we deal with as athletes that most other people can't handle, which is why they are NOT athletes :)

Hang in there and chalk this one up as mental toughness day ;)

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Racing is suppose to be the easy part, its the training that is the real hard part, the victories we try and earn with no one around to see it. Like you said, some days you have it, some you dont. I have always said that mental toughness is the 4th and probably hardest discipline of our sport. I am still working on mine. Saturday was such a gourgeous day to be outside too, perfect weather and nice blue sky.

Dave said...

I think you did great too. You shot for a PR and missed on one particular day, and there's absolutely no shame in that. Heck, you had what you termed a "self destruction" and still finished 4 minutes off a PR. I'd say that bodes well for future races. :)

Beal88 said...

I struggle with the same issues. With exercising and in life. I am my own worst enemy.

Molly said...

I think you did fabulous!

I struggle with my mind during races, it's my biggest weakness. I think it's hard to train your mind for a race. The amount of time spent in an actual race, is different than the hours we spend training. We control the training, someone else controls the race.

Like you said, in the hard moments, I tell myself that I'm lucky that I have the ability to run. So that helps a bit.

At any rate, congrats, I still think you did great : )

Kristin said...

Most People that are training have this weakness. We are type A personalities. Everything is supposed to be acertain way. There are great articles about mentally preparing yourself for races, trianing, etc. Mine is I visualize me having a good race all week long before the race. I write post it notes all over my house, the refrigerator, My computer, bathroom mirror Wherever with words of encouragement...try it! :)

Laura Wheatley said...

I'm learning how to "suffer" this year too...we can do this :)

She said I need a goal said...

You my friend are amazing. Please stop being so hard on yourself. I've had a hard lesson in 'STOP and smell the roses' (if I can get a bit corny on you). Honestly, you do what most people can't, enjoy your strength, don't pick it apart. That time is astounding, this coming from the girl that will cry from happiness if I get a 2:30 half in October.

Life's too short to waste time beating yourself up. Listen to your husband (and us) more and those tapes in your head less.

**said with love and complete admiration

Adena

Kristen said...

I'm sorry you struggled so much this weekend ~ I had no idea. :( For what it's worth (which probably isn't a WHOLE heck of a lot), I think you are pretty damn amazing and I wish I had nearly 1/2 the confidence and determination you have. Even though you are my little sister, I look up to you A LOT. x o x o

Anne-Marie said...

You ARE amazing!! Don't lose sight of that :)

I think this is something a lot of people - myself included - struggle with... and I think it goes with the Type-A triathlete personality. The same thing that drives us and motivates us to succeed and push ourselves also tears us apart when we fall short of our goals.

I give you so much credit for sticking out the race and coming close to a PR. You could've walked off the course at any point and called it a day, but you didn't, and in the end, I think that's what counts.

Kacie Darden said...

Oh girl I feel ya. I had a rough weekend too.....

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

I had a mental battle just yesterday. The demons are alway ready to battle me if they even think they have a chance. Be stronger...grow stronger. YOU are stronger!

Heidi Austin said...

The way i see it we all have our days of race magic. some days we have it and some days well we just don't. i think with solid training and a positive attitude you can go along way. when i get upset and dissapointed i always look back to my training to see what i could have done better :) you got this-

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

You are human and as an athlete (and a good one at that), we expect so much out of ourselves. The way I look at it ...you gotta have some of these shitty days to really appreciate all of the good days (which hopefully outnumbers the bad by a lot). You are mentally tough, no doubt! Sometimes our bodies do unexplainable things and we just can't waste precious time or energy on trying to figure out why. Just pick ourselves up, dust off, and put on your game face for the next race coming up!

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