Sweat: 2015 Year in Review - the pit and the pendulum

Hello and happy new year!  I hope 2016 has started off on the right foot for you.  It has for me, and actually, it's started off with the right three feet ... of snow.

We got pummeled with a ton of snow this past weekend.  Cheers to Winter!

Funny, this kind of epic snow puts me immediately back to 2014 when I was Ironman training, and every snowstorm brought with it the accompanying stress of "how/where/when will I do my workout??".  The timing of today's post works well with that.

Each year (admittedly, usually much earlier than now), I post a recap of the prior year's athletics feats and my goals for the current year ... I started doing this in 2013, and then had a pretty epic 2014.  But if you read my blog this past year, you know that 2015 was a rough year athletics-wise.  I guess that is inevitable coming off of the three year momentum of triathlon!-->half ironman!-->ironman!-->BQ marathon! .... BA BOOM crash.  Like this:

As much as I loved those big, juicy goals and those incredibly transformative experiences and the sweeter than can be imagined finish lines, it was impossible to sustain.  Well, that's not really fair or accurate.  It was impossible for me to sustain because I no longer wanted to make that level of effort because something had shifted; hence: the pit and the pendulum.

The pit was pretty big post-Ironman and post-BQ at Steamtown.  Where does one go after an Ironman and after qualifying for the Boston Marathon?  If you're me, you keep on going.  Or at least you try.  I had it in my head that I would obviously not continue the Ironman-level training that I had done in 2014, but I figured in 2015 I could step back just a tad and continue to run faster and faster. That didn't happen.  I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying I didn't PR once in 2015.  Every single race I did, I fell short of my time goal.  And I didn't get it: I was training, I was putting in the work, I was trying ... and yet, something was off.  And so deeper into the pit I fell.  As I went further and further from Winter to Spring, my confidence eroded more and more.  My runs were slower and I was feeling tired.  I tried to pep-talk myself up, but I realized that my heart was not in it.  And, as an allegory for life, if your heart's not in it, it's not gonna work out.

So, after a string of disappointing races (New Years Day 5K, Austin Half Marathon, Frostbite Five Miler and then the sad deflated cherry on top the New Jersey State Marathon), I opted out of racing and "training".  Truth be told, I had been struggling for awhile before I decided to just stop pushing and railroading myself and, instead, just let myself be.  Running, my soul sport, had begun to feel like a chore.  And I knew that that alone was reason to dial it back and reconnect with the reasons that I loved to run.  I resolved to take the Summer (and possibly more) off from racing and training.  I would run.  I would swim.  I would bike.  But I wouldn't "train", and I wouldn't keep a training log, and I wouldn't have a training schedule.  I would swim, bike, run for the fun of it, and for the love of it.  I hoped that this would get me out of the pit, instead of deeper into it.

And honestly, I was having a rough time.  Not only was my heart not in my races or training, but my heart wasn't into anything.  I was lonely, and that loneliness was palpable.  And an amazingly strong run could not fix it.  Nothing could.  I've made no bones about the fact that as part of my journey I wanted to find love - both to love and to be loved.  But love isn't something you can set a goal and attain and shoehorn your way into.  Love, almost always, finds you.  I knew that a shift needed to come from within.

And it did.  As part of my time off from the structure of my training/races regimen, I also resolved to go outside my comfort zone in all areas of my life.  I did, and within a relatively short amount of time, I met my Matthew.  And the pendulum swung in a major way.  We started dating and very early on, I knew (and so did he) that there was something different and something special here.  As adults in our 40s who have both been married before, we didn't propel ourselves into a relationship filled with only hearts flowers unicorns glitter and sparkles ... things got real really quick.  And while our relationship is, really, filled with hearts flowers unicorns glitter and sparkles, we've dealt with the really real stuff along the way too.  He is, without question, my soulmate.  It's only fitting that my soulmate helped me reconnect with my soul sport.

With the pendulum swing, and the resurgence of my heart, I felt more and more like me (actually, more and more like a "me" that I didn't think was possible ... a truly happy and fulfilled "me" ... which will be the subject of another post to be sure), and more and more like I wanted to really run  and race again.  I ran the Philly Half Marathon in November, and while I didn't hit a PR, I had a wonderful, fulfilling race.  As I ran, I knew I wasn't going to PR, and for the first time in a very long time, I truly did not care.  I enjoyed running and racing for their own sake and for the love of it and for how they made me feel.  I look back at that race, and I can't remember my time, but I can remember how I felt.  It was as though running was giving me a big hug.  I realized that while finish times matter and are important, right now, they don't matter as much and aren't as important to me.

So, there are no stats this year.  I usually post a run down of my distance and time for swimming, biking and running from the prior year and all of my race times/whether they were PRs.  I don't even have that information this year, because I didn't sync my watch for so long that the watch and computer utterly refused to cooperate and upload all of my workouts.  It doesn't matter -- at least not this year. It doesn't matter that I ran X miles or biked Y hours, but it does matter, very much to me, how those things felt and where I did them.  I can tell you that I swam a bunch, including a refreshing and fun swim in Jamaica where I cut my thumb on some coral that I swam too close to.  I got to swim in Mirror Lake again, and I cried actual tears in my goggles when I swam the IMLP course and remembered all of the sight landmarks along the way.

I biked a bunch.  You know biking isn't my favorite.  So I'll just say I biked a bunch because I did.  I biked with my friends and my sweetheart on the road and on trails.  I biked in Lake Placid on the IMLP bike course.

And I ran a whole lot.  Running is my favorite.  I ran runs that made me feel like I wan't tethered to legs and was, instead, flying; I ran runs that made me feel like a fraud and a failure; I ran runs that made me cry with transcendence; I ran runs with dear friends where we laughed, cried, cursed and said many inappropriate things.  I ran alone where I got lost in my thoughts.

The pendulum swing in 2015 was to a year in which I really, truly lived.  I didn't simply swim-bike-run. I fell in love, and I really lived.  I swim-bike-ran ... but I also did this ...

And this ...

And this ...

And this ...

I've found that as much as I enjoy running (and swimming and biking), there are so many delicious life experiences to be had that don't involve those things.  Hiking, zip-lining, enjoying a glass of wine, relaxing and resting ... and nurturing and being present in a loving relationship.

In keeping with that shift, I don't have any real goals for 2016 other than to continue to have fun and to do what I love.  Of course, I still love to swim/bike/run, and I will keep on doing those things.  I'm signed up for the Love Run Half Marathon in April and Escape the Cape sprint triathlon in June, which will be my first triathlon since Ironman Lake Placid, some two years ago.  And for now, that's enough.  I may decide I want to try to BQ again.  I may decide I want to do more tris.  I may decide I want to PR at a half marathon.  Or I may decide I have no desire to do any of those things, and I'm happy with the status quo of running (and swimming and biking) and don't want to do anything more than that.  I'll let my own pendulum decide.
Cheers to the lessons learned in 2015 and to the joyful hope of what's to come in 2016.
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