It's been quiet around here, but definitely not quiet in my thoughts. I've spent the last couple weeks reflecting on my goals, this sport and my life, mostly about how the three intersect. This intersection is sometimes clear and other times it's a head-on collision. I had a string of recent weeks where mileage was missed for various reasons - weather, mechanical issues, personal plans. Each time it happened I felt a little more stressed. Not guilty like last season, but stressed. The anxiety was crushing other things in my life and started to spill over to my friendships and relationships. My training became a burden to people I care about because I allowed it to be. Lying in bed wide awake at 1am on a Saturday night in tears I paused and took a huge step back.
I do this sport as a hobby, something for fun. Stress, anxiety, conflict and tears are not fun. The next morning was awful. I was exhausted, it was freezing outside and the wind was relentless. I spent the 2.5 or so hours I gutted out on the bike realizing I was no longer doing something I loved. I was doing something out of perceived obligation. I want to ride my bike. A lot. I want to do it because I love it and enjoy it, not because I feel I have to even when it's 45 degrees with 50mph wind gusts. I don't want the people I care about to feel affected by my need to log miles and I don't want to feel anxiety over missing those miles. I have plenty of real reasons for anxiety in my life so my hobbies should be an outlet, not a contributor.
I made a decision that day to change things. The Ironman is an incredible experience but I'm not willing to allow my life to be completely absorbed by it. I enjoy the challenge of training. It makes me feel strong, accomplished and capable. It forces me out of my comfort zone and reminds me that I'm alive. But it's not all I am. I see myself as an athlete, someone who is happiest when active and outdoors, but also someone who wants to be spontaneous and enjoy life. So I decided the rigid Ironman training structure just isn't for me. I had a long talk with my coach about taking a new approach with less obligation and more room for embracing the unexpected. I'm making some sacrifices to have this, including a ridiculously early wake-up on Wednesdays to complete my long run before the work day and long, solo rides on Friday so I can ride whatever distance, pace and intensity I feel like on the weekends. Or I can do something else on the weekends. I can pretty much do whatever will make me happy and that, to me, is living.
I tested out my more relaxed approach during a trip to Lake Placid last weekend. I wasn't up there to train, I was up there for vacation so I did whatever the day, the weather and the mood dictated. I felt incredibly free and was more relaxed than I've been in ages. It was magical.
I may arrive at the start line a little less prepared than I could be, but I want a life with more magic and less stress so whatever will be, will be. I've never felt better about a decision.