My Life as an Athlete (or part of it)

I've played every sport under the sun (except skiing, fencing, and jai alai) and I've been fortunate to reach at least a fairly competitive level at all of them, whether a team-sport or individual-sport.  I've had a full athletic career no matter how you cut it, so I don't feel compelled to have to keep testing my limits or reveling in pain, but it's a tough routine to break.  

Let me explain:

Today was the first time in my 9 years of multi-sport that I didn't race the Lums Pond triathlon/duathlon in my hometown of Bear, DE.  It was a bit of a struggle to resist registration, as I wasn't quite sure exactly when the streak would end, although I knew it would end some day.  I rationalized the many reasons I should register, mainly that I'd be the top seed on paper in the duathlon and it's always been my goal to finally win on my home turf instead of finishing 2nd/3rd.  But I stuck to my guns and "retired" once again from multi-sport racing following my finish at Ironman St. George in early May.  That race in itself is worth 2 blogs, I'll spare you the details.  I can honestly say, I don't really miss it, although missing the Lums Pond race this weekend stung a little...it looks like the course was cut short today due to rain, so I take solace in knowing I didn't miss the "real thing".

I remember years ago asking a former pro-athlete and colleague, "What do you miss the most?"  His answer, "That feeling of being reallyreally fit and strong, you know?"  I do know, now.  So what am I doing now with my training and athletic goals?  I'm simply practicing what I preach and enjoying the process of getting fitter again, without registering in advance for any races, nor holding myself to any time-goals when I do race.  I was in the best shape of my life on May 7th (objectively and subjectively).  I've lost a great deal of swim- and bike fitness since then, especially given the long layoff after the Ironman, having sprained my ankle for the first time of my life 10 days before the race on a leisurely jog around the block (like I said, a brutal race experience, with the ankle hardly being the worst part of the trip).  

Although I am not a professional athlete by any stretch of the imagination, people do think I've achieved a high level of success in running and triathlon, and I can agree for the most part.  What some people assume, however, is that things "always came easily/ naturally" for me or that I "never had to overcome beginner's obstacles".  That isn't true.  I remember joining the track team my first year in college to get faster (the football coach said I was too slow; he was right) and the sprint coach looked at me on the first day and said as he walked away, "okay, how about 3 miles on the track?"  I was left to run 3 miles alone and I cramped everywhere, needed walk breaks, the whole nine yards.  I couldn't imagine how people finished marathons, since 3 miles was the farthest I had run at that time. 

So, I'm feeling humbled again in training as I go through obstacles and barriers just like everyone else.  I've had a few nagging running injuries in the past when I jumped full-throttle into running and triathlon during grad school.  Then I had a nice stretch of about 5 years without any real pains or injuries, never needing to miss a workout or a race, and never DNF'ed.  Then, in January, I found out I had a herniated disc (stemming of a few years working for Coca-Cola during college), which started a downward spiral of premature cramping in all kinds of places during my bike workouts.  Then the sprained ankle came and sabotaged the run fitness and PR's I had built pre-Ironman.  Despite all this, 2011 has been another eye-opening year.  I've learned more about myself, more about training principles I can apply as a coach, and done more soul searching to determine exactly what in the heck I want to do for the rest of this year and beyond.  

Here's my answer so far...

As I back out of triathlon on the personal level, I will also no longer be coaching triathlon after this year, so DC Running Coach will only focus on running (go figure).  I'll be teaching racquetball this year for the first time since grad school, so that is a welcome blast from the past.  I'll be ready to launch the 2nd year of the National Road Racing League in a few months, and I'm still teaching the college sport psychology course in the fall.  I have plenty of variety to keep me occupied and entertained.  But what about training and racing?  Minus a Kona spot (and the Lums victory), I've crossed off every major goal I set out to do with running and multi-sport, but I've never really focused just on running, my best event.  

October is the heart of running season, but it will always smell like football-weather to me.  The last few rugby games I played post-college were fun, but I've hung up my hooligan-ry.  Pick-up basketball was always my first love and I definitely see that happening this winter.  On the other hand, I'm curious to know how fast I can go in a 5k or marathon if I take my own best coaching advice and really train like a runner.  No more high-speed collisions on the field, no more 5-hour bike rides, no more sharing lanes at the pool.  Sounds like a plan.

Thanks for reading.


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