I spent the past few days thinking. Actually eating a lot of ice cream and thinking. I like ice cream and only eat it after races. I do a lot of things after races only. I only drink wine after races. I only let down my guard after races, I….
I guess that’s what hit me. We were in Lubbock on Thursday and I was reading a travel guide. West Texas produces 45 percent of the wine in Texas. And you know I love wine. I wanted to go to a winery. I wanted to sit at a table and sample wine. Not go get drunk but just to enjoy wine. My metabolism is too fast and I am too Italian to get drunk on wine. Chris said no, we can’t, we’re racing.
Honestly, I didn’t like that answer.
And that’s when I (finally) realized that sacrifice, restraint is worthwhile if you are seeing a lot of progress. Your sacrifice is rewarded with a personal best or a breakthrough. But when you are no longer progressing it changes. And I finally admitted how truly un-fun that is and how unvested I was in racing. The old me would never consider wine before a race. But when you’ve spent over a year racing 30 minutes off your best times and fighting to not be last, what does it matter if you have a glass of wine.
The point is that I started thinking about desire. And just why I am doing this.
Truth be told, I love to compete. I am an athlete. I always have been. I remember being 10 years old while all of the other girls in the neighborhood were inside talking about boys or whatever little girls do and I was outside with the 6-year old boy down the street seeing how many laps we could run around his house. Years ago when my uncle Michael asked me Elizabeth, what moves you my answer was – movement. Being able to move and physical activity. That’s about all it takes. I just need freedom to move through time and space. I’m also terribly goal-oriented and fiercely competitive. All of that makes me a good athlete and helped me get good at triathlon. The sport was a goal, a challenge, some place to productively put my competitive energy and my desire to move
I am now a professional athlete. I found myself in the Lubbock airport on Monday after yet another sub-par performance as a pro. A performance that was a full 15 minutes slower than when I did that race 3 years ago, as an amateur, on my road bike with clip-on aerobars.
What is going on here?
And I realized that I am tired of wondering and trying to figure it out. So instead I looked for a book to distract myself. I have spent so much time trying to figure out what is wrong with me and why I race poorly that the pursuit of myself is becoming fruitless and melodramatic. I fear that if I don’t resolve this soon I will become like so many other pros (in any sport) who seem sadly unbalanced and only on a path to alienating others and risking their health all for the pursuit of…themselves.
I found a book entitled Integrity. It was the cover that struck me:
Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality
What is my reality? The reality is that I’m not a very good pro triathlete. I am a good athlete but I am not good at it professionally. And I am ok with that. And finally just letting myself say that is a huge relief. I don’t want to pursue something I’m not good at. It would be one thing if I was improving, setting personal bests or getting better with each race…but I’m not. So how much more proof do I need? How many times do you fall on your face before you finally lick the pavement and say to yourself – yup, that’s the taste of pavement, I’m down, I’ve been here before and I don't like it.
How much more time, money or life energy do you waste?
I was sitting on the plane, reading the book about integrity, thinking about my own experience when I read this:
Willpower and just trying to make good choices cannot compete with true desire of the heart, for that is where the passion is. The heart is always stronger than mere willpower.
I have the willpower to train and arrive at a race. I have the willpower to finish a race just because I can. But I no longer have the desire nor the heart. I simply cannot get fired up about showing up to a race and fighting to not be last. I don’t know why. Maybe I don’t believe I belong there. Maybe physically I am not prepared to be there. Maybe I am too tired. True, I performed well as an amateur but for some reason it is not translating to competing professionally. I have explored dozens of reasons why and I am tired of seeking answers. The truth is that I am not getting any closer to mastering this process and that frustrates me. But how exciting it is that I can say that I gave it a try! I do not feel like I am giving up because for the past 18 months I have given it my all. That’s all I have. But now, I just want to have fun again.
I love this sport. I love coaching my athletes. I love traveling all over the country to meet with friends that are fit and passionate about what they do. I love helping others to achieve their goals. I love sharing my experiences with others – and feel like this entire journey (good and bad) as a pro has made me a stronger athlete, a smarter coach, a better person.
When I return to racing triathlon I want to do so with passion and desire for my goals. For now, I will have fun and just let myself be for awhile. I will drink wine. I will skip breakfast sometimes because I can. I will eat waffles for dinner. I will not download power files. Nor wear a heart rate monitor. I will not eat bars. I will not take another salt tab unless my life depends on it. I will locate my desire and find my fire. And in all honesty, I just want to find and be me again.
Life is too short to not have fun at what you do. Triathlon is fun - but right now racing has become unfun. Sure, it's not always supposed to be fun, I get that, but I'm not trying to make a living off of this, I'm not trying to be the next Olympian. I just want to enjoy myself and return to what was once my outlet and recreation. To take it all a little less seriously.
Are we having fun yet?