Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Transition Time

It has been brought to my attention in many ways that I was not myself at Memphis.

Sadly, I know and I apologize for not being me.

Now it is confession time. This year has been a huge leap for me. I was so excited to take on the challenge of being a professional and even though my mom keeps asking me did you make the right decision (ah, mom), I keep thinking to myself YES! I am learning more about racing and myself than ever before. I learn something new every day. I wouldn’t trade this experience for all of the medals and titles in the world.

But at the same time I have been feeling lately like my mind and body need a change. This year is different – the challenges, goals and demands are very different than before. The racing itself is much different. The way I view training day to day has changed. It’s a different mindset with new emotions. There is a lot to balance and put together. I realized that I am a different athlete now – or that I need to be. And with that needs to come a completely different approach to accommodate those new needs. So I made the very difficult decision that I needed to change the coaching approach.

This was a very hard decision to make. Jennifer is more than a coach I employed – she is one of my best friends. We talk every day, many times a day. I love her like a sister and her support, guidance and friendship mean the world to me. How do you tell a friend good bye? The thought of leaving her instantly brought a warm rush of tears to my eyes and a million emotions seated heavy in my throat. It was like a divorce – a painful realization that a relationship so strong that I cared so much about was not meeting my needs anymore simply because my needs had changed.

Last week I realized it was time to make the change. But first – a race. I went into Memphis with all of these thoughts and emotions sitting in my head. For as much as my legs didn’t respond in the race it was because my head was heavy with pain. And it trickled into my legs and left me with a feeling of I cannot do this anymore. I couldn’t ignore what really felt like the pain in my heart of knowing I was going to hurt a friend.

Out on the run course I completely broke down. I thought of nothing but the fact that I was going to leave my best friend and how hurt she would be and how hurt I would feel because of that. I was distracted. My legs stopped. My head hurt. I just wanted to transport myself to the finish line and be done with this weekend and race.

I did a bad job of hiding that. At the end of the day I am only human and it showed. When I saw Lauren I cried. When I saw Leslie I cried. When I saw Ryan I just piled my plate high with junk food and ate 4 cupcakes. Balancing the stress of racing, managing my emotions, and being there for my own athletes was something I failed miserably at. Even worse than DNF, I failed at being myself.

Monday was not easy. Not only was I sad about leaving her but also scared about taking a risk. But like everything else this year, I will never know if I don’t risk everything and try. In the past year I have made decisions – huge decisions – for myself. And I will tell you that each time it gets a little easier. The more risks you take the more you learn to trust yourself, to listen to yourself. But that doesn’t make the pain of change any easier to get past.

Jennifer and I talked. It was hard but in the end I know we both understood a change would meet my needs. Athletes change, in body and mind, and the best athletes are those that are so inseparably connected to themselves that they sense when a change is due and trust this enough to make the change. Will this be the right change for me? I don’t know but the unknown and the possibility is very exciting for me to embrace. And I know Jennifer is excited for me too.

Four years with a great coach – honestly, I have been the luckiest athlete in the world. Ok, maybe just the nation but our relationship together truly made me world class. And that’s something I will always respect and appreciate. Four years ago if you would have asked if I would be in this position I would have laughed. But Jennifer saw a potential in me, knew how to bring it out and together we worked to create a combination of strong body and mind. And when you have that plus an excellent coach in your corner, well, you become a force to be reckoned with on race day.

A new coach will bring me new adventures, new lessons. I am excited about this opportunity and hope that four years from now I will look back and think I cannot believe what I have accomplished yet again. It will be an awkward transition time but one I know will be the best for me and my goals.

So – to Jennifer – thank you for amazing accomplishments under your guidance and with your support. I will miss you as a coach but will keep you close as one of my best friends. And in case you were wondering I will keep sending you e-mails 100 times a day :)


Anonymous said...

What a heartfelt post today and difficult decision. And what a surprise, but certainly understanding. YOu always hear that you have to keep changing up your workouts to force your body to make changes. This likely runs that same course - sometimes you just have to shock yourself in order to make a great leap forward. Perhaps this is just what you need in order to make that next big leap.

It's too bad that is has to be so painful.

And one last thing - where did you find cupcakes?


Danni said...

Let me just say WOW.
I give you props Liz, this must have been a hard decision. But, like everything in life; one must keep growing and sometimes that means letting go of things well known to us, and taking a chance at something new.
I am sure this will be an extremely good change.

Wes said...

again, Liz. Amazing and powerful. I love this corner of the internet. People are so willing to share and grow and teach.

It's funny how when we change a relationship like this, the worst case scenarios are what we tend to focus on. I bet Jennifer, from what I have learned about her in the past couple of months, probably wanted nothing more than to make sure your needs were met, and for you gals to maintain such a rich and loving friendship.

I wish you all the best in this...

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Oh Liz, I KNOW how hard this must have been. You've got a friend and House Monster in Florida cheering and rooting for you... Hang in there! And for the record - I don't think you failed. You had some hard stuff to go through, but you did NOT fail. In spite of a very difficult decision, you hung in there, made it through. And you'll be stronger because of it.

Train-This said...

I have been through this type of thing, although my previous coach didn't share the sisterhood you two share (it was a guy). What's awesome is that you both are in support of this and I imagine your freindship will only grow. Only get better. Only improve.

Your day is coming Liz. Trust, believe and keep hold of the dream.

:-) mary

moonpie said...

What a difficult decision, but it very well may be one of those make or break decisions that will determine your future success as a pro triathlete. You're certainly NOT going to become a top-level pro without making difficult decisions.

The status quo is for average peeps...

rr said...

I've gone through this recently too, and it was terribly hard. There were a couple of tense weeks. And now I park myself on my old coach's couch 4 days a week just like the old days, and I have his wisdom in addition to the new coach's.

Great post -- hope you and Jen talked 102 times today..


Cy said...

You do such a amazing job expressing your emotions in writing.

I'm sure Jen wants nothing but the best for you as you move towards your goals.

Good luck!!

KodaFit said...

Thank you for sharing!

Your thought process leading up to this, and the way in which you and Jen handled this situation, speaks volumes about the character of each of you.

When I eventually am able to convince myself and my wallet that the time has come to employ a coach, I only hope I can be half as lucky.

BreeWee said...

You are the BEST! You totally teach and inspire and motivate and humble yourself... I think you are doing the right thing ALL the way!

Pro life is so hard and it means so many changes, even hard ones like this!

By the way I agree, this totally speaks VOLUMES about both of your characters, she supports you THAT much that she is believing in you to take the next step...

BEST to you and YES, you made the right choice becoming a pro! This emails proves it, it is all about the process!

Bob Mitera said...

Hey Liz -

Without Jen it would have taken a lot longer to get to this point in time - a pro athlete.

As a coach myself, I have coached pro triathletes and a good coach and athlete knows WHEN it is time for someone with more knowledge, different knowledge or a change. Coaches as strong and great as Jen know and support our athletes in this. I haven't talked to either of you yet but it doesn't change you.

You have new needs and are growing. As I said in my email to you from FL...

I wouldn't want to be your competition when you come together.