Thursday, July 04, 2013

Why Not?

Hi, in case you didn’t know me, I am Liz; wife, coach, athlete but most importantly I am Liz – mom to my adorable 3 year old (He's 3?!  HOW did that happen!?)  Every day, approximately 7 am, I start my shift.  It ends around 4:30 pm when my husband walks in the door and I give him either a look of WORST DAY EVER HE’S YOURS or smile gleaming with the pride of knowing on that day – I kept him alive, yet again! 

VICTORY!

But where was I – I have moments like that all day.  Where was I?  What was I doing?  Parenting is multitasking at its most frenetic pace.  Just when you are moments from walking out the door which took 20 carefully orchestrated minutes of grabbing extra diapers, extra snacks, not letting the dog out and getting shoes on both you and child before someone darts out of the door shoeless heading for the driveway – well in the moment right after THAT - someone found the container of coffee grounds, the one you said DO NOT TOUCH, and threw it all over the kitchen counter. 

Why?  Ask yourself not why.  Think like a 3 year old:

WHY NOT?

But rest assured this isn’t going to be about parenting.  It’s actually about training. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve decided to take a huge risk and completely change my training.  It’s something I’ve thought about for awhile.  I’ve spent the past 6 months doing things that were well within my reach and clearly worked.  Let’s be honest: the best training is the most consistent training.  I got fit.  I got fast.  Consistent I have been and it paid off.

But something struck me while I was at Eagleman.  As I raced the bike, I went back to all of the moments on Ragbrai.  Those gritty, nasty, pancakes in my mouth rides where I surprised not only myself but the line of men I dropped up a hill on day 3 – those where did that come from moments.  And not much of my training.  Which made me wonder: day to day, week to week, am I getting enough of myself?  

Don’t get me wrong.  Any idiot can thrash themselves day after day in training right into a useless pile of fatigue.  I don’t want to be that athlete.  But I believe there’s a better athlete in me.  I want to give that an athlete a chance to come out.  If I’m going to spend the next 12 weeks of my life training for another world championship, I want to give the best of me chance to come out.  I want to be carefully challenged.  I want to raise the expectations.  I don’t want to cross the finish line with any unanswered questions. I don’t want to play it safe. 

I’m a big believer that you often hear the things you need to hear when you need to hear them.  You don’t have to look for inspiration, it’s often right in front of you.  You just have to be open to receiving it.  This just so happened in a conversation I was having with one of my athletes.  Conversations with my athletes are not only where I learn more about them but I learn more about understanding and coaching athletes.  Communication is the heart of coaching!  In this conversation, this athlete was telling me about her goals.  As I listened, I thought to myself: her goals are ambitious but not impossible.  Ambitious because they would require a high level of work, recovery, passion and attention to detail.  So I told her this: your goals are ambitious but not impossible.  Her response to me was a classic movie quote (from Jerry McGuire):

If you tell me to eat lima beans, I’ll eat lima beans.

That conversation got me to thinking.  It wasn’t really about lima beans.  It was about commitment.  About dreaming big.  Doing what’s uncomfortable to get to that next level.  Sacrifice.  Wanting it – really, REALLY bad.  There was a fire in her eyes and her words that made me realize how deep the hunger for high performance can growl.  I greatly respected and connected to that.  It made me ask myself:  

Was I ready to eat lima beans? 

Yes.  You see, I want to be better.  I want to expect big things.  So it was time to take a big risk – I was very comfortable and quite fit at what I was doing.  Why change something that was clearly working?  Well, in times like this it helps to think like a 3 year old:

WHY NOT?

The idea of getting completely uncomfortable and taking a bigger risk lit my fire again.  In doing so, I know I might fall completely short of my goal.  Better yet, maybe do something that will completely NOT work.  That risk, to me, feels completely worth it.  That risk motivates me.  That risk actually frees me.  Makes me feel like I’ve opened myself up to the possibility of anything; failure or success.  If I succeed, it will all be worth it.  And if I fail?  Also worth it.  I would learn more about myself in the process and have no what ifs, no questions unanswered when I cross the finish line.     

Last week I was on the track doing a very challenging workout.  It was hot.  So hot all I could smell on the track was burning rubber.  I had some aggressive times that I wasn’t sure I would hit.  I got to the point in the workout where it becomes you against you – the chatter and negotiations start in your head.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been there.  You know the place.  I’m hot.  I’m tired.  This is hard.  This hurts.  We can back off a little.  We can give up here.  That’s when you know you’re on the edge.  Push through and you start bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to go.  Settle and you safely stay behind looking across and wondering when will I get there? 

You won’t.  Trust me. 

It’s those moments where you have to have a stern talk with yourself.  You say, self, do you want to play it safe or do you want to do what it takes to be ______ (insert goal here).  You make the choice, in that moment.  Play it safe or risk everything.  If you hit it, you break through.  If you blow up, you now know your limit.  Both are valuable learning experiences.  Every choice you make at times like this, the difficult, painful choices are the ones that get you closer to where you want to go, physically and psychologically.  But you’ve got to be in situations and workouts that get you to the point where you have those conversations.  I’m putting myself in those situations now in training.  Carefully, with purpose, but I’m going there.   

I’ve raised my bar.  All around.  Can I recover harder, sleep better, eat wiser, outsmart my body into thinking we can do this?  Yes.  WHY NOT.  I’ve stopped saying your swim is good enough, Liz.  It can be better.  Why settle?  The other day I put myself into not just the fast lane but with the guys who lead the guys in the fast lane.  After a 2000 yard warm up, they chose to do their 200s on the 2:30.  Without consulting with me.  THE NERVE!  When I realized the interval, I literally screamed OH MY GOD!  Yes it took paddles and a pull buoy to make it.  Small details that the Fake Swimmer never frets about!  But I made it.  And stood at the wall afterwards thinking I’ve never done that before.  That is the building block of confidence. 

Last week, I took along one of my athletes on a ride knowing that when the challenge of a workout is high – almost impossible? – misery loves company.  After we got through the first challenging interval she asked what’s next?  I said – two more of those and then wait until you see what’s after that!  Even worse, summer had thrown a thick blanket of humidity over us making any workout much more of a challenge than usual.  But these are the days you go back to when the race gets rough, thinking I got through that, I can get through this.  I don’t want only days where I nail workouts flawlessly.  I want to struggle a bit.  I want to stop to gather myself.  I want to think can I really do this?  These are where great performances come from.  That place.  Rising above, working through it.  Not from the easy successes. Because let me tell you – the race successes: they are never, ever easy.

(simple, yes, but not easy)

I’m not suggesting you destroy yourself day in and out.  I am suggesting you become fearless enough to seek new challenges when appropriate in training.  Challenge doesn’t have to mean going long or fast every day.  Challenge can be flawlessly executing your fuel plan, not missing the recovery window, hitting your watts in a bigger gear, making a certain send-off.  A few times a week look at your training plan and think to yourself HOW am I going to do that?  Get a little scared.  Put yourself in the faster lane.  Ride with someone stronger.  Chase speedier splits.  Do a triple brick.  Will it work?  Dream big enough to want to find out.  And trust that this process can be as rewarding as any victory you achieve.  It’s the process of learning and bettering yourself. 

In the past few weeks, I’ve also completely readdicted myself to coffee.  Heading to the coffee shop is one of my guilty pleasures – the one place where I don’t have to do a damn thing. I pay someone to make the coffee and pour it in my cup.  Sure, I can make coffee at home.  But for 2 minutes out of the day, I want it to be all selfishly, lazily, greedily about ME (unless I take my 3 year into the shop with me – then it’s all about keeping him away from the reusable mugs and $3 juices).  Little did you know the coffee shop is also a great place for inspiration.  Sure enough, something on the latest marketing poster resonated with me:

Turn the what ifs into why nots?

Exactly.   What I’ve been saying here all along.  Think like a 3 year old.

Who’s with me?