Remember your ‘why’.
I’ve said this a few times of friends and athletes. If you remember your ‘why’, if you recall the meaning behind what you’re doing, you’ll continue to fuel the fire, strive for your best, push through the dark, blah blah blah…
I have to be honest, though; I don’t always know my ‘why’. Maybe I forgot. Maybe it changed. Rarely, it is so damn clear to me, especially when I’m in the throws of a training cycle. All of this, to me, is absolutely, 100% a-okay.
From 2015 - 2018, my primary focus was to qualify for the Boston marathon. My ‘why’ was to get the time so I could run the race, but it tunneled deeper than that. My ‘why’ was to qualify for a race that would define me as a ‘real runner’. I needed to push myself beyond my mental and physical capacity to feel valued. Instead, I felt like shit when I failed not once (September 2015), not twice (April 2016), but three (April 2018) heart wrenching times. Technically there’s a fourth one in there, but I quit halfway through my training cycle; I never even started that race. That quit presented on River Road in Lake Placid on a Saturday in late July of 2016 (not that I’m a stickler for dates). I planned to try again in the fall of 2018; however, injury put a stop to that plan. I have placed a pause on that goal; I do know, though, that the ‘why’ for Boston has changed to be more meaningful. I also know that I don’t need a time to validate shit.
During my on-again off-again relationship with a BQ (I mean when he’s good, he’s good; but when he’s bad, he’s wicked), I started my side romance with triathlon. We’re still in the honeymoon phase, I suppose, but our intensity is picking up. I am head over heels, trying to stay level headed through it all. I’m more mindful in my plans, the way I juggle a schedule, even the way I attack a workout. Three sports, lots more to fuck up, but I suck at all three in different ways, kinda like life - I suck a bit at it, but I’m more mindful of where I can make improvements, how I interact, and sometimes, when to say ‘no’, be in the present, or when to take up space.
My ‘why’ going into this Ironman 70.3 has certainly changed from when I originally planned to race this distance. This race was actually supposed to be the fall of 2018 in North Carolina. After a hurricane destroyed the area, Ironman graciously granted the athletes deferrals to either NC 2019 or a select race of our choice. I picked Ironman 70.3 Virginia (on 5/5 because tortilla chips and tequila) while my coach and King Sherpa scoured the interwebs to find a comparable race distance for fall of 2018. Thankfully, I was able to cut my teeth, so to speak, on the same distance - the only thing that was comparable. I raced in a field of less than 150 athletes (not over 2K), I swam in nuclear waste (not in a saltwater channel), I rode and ran a course with rolling hills (not a ‘fast and flat’), and I certainly did all the things in pouring rain and unseasonably cold Tennessee weather. That ‘why’ had evolved a bit into ‘just check the fucking box’, but how it unfolded meant more than that.
Today’s ‘why’ has built upon what that rogue race stirred up inside my soul. My ‘why’ is mine only. I did not train months on end to prove a damn thing to anyone. I am not waking up before sunrise to push myself for a social status and I’m certainly not doing it because I think it will make me more valuable as a team mate, a coach or even a human being.
Because I can. Because it’s my kind of church that soothes my soul, gets the demons out, and brings me peace.
Because I continue to deny the dark, to rise above whatever tries to push me down, to prove only to myself that I am stronger than the storm and there is no quit.
Because, why not?