I had an epiphany last night, I would sit down if I were you, this might come as a shock. I am not a professional athlete. I know! It took me a little while to come to terms with it, but when I did I felt much better than I have done in quite a while.
At the start of the year training was going very well, I was totally committed to the cause, losing weight, not drinking, eating absolutely perfectly until around the end of March when the concentration slipped a little, there were a few weekends here and there where I wasn’t as disciplined as I could have been. I really, really enjoyed them. I was still training hard and getting fitter, but I couldn’t shake off a feeling of guilt. Every time I’ve cracked open a can of beer or me and C have been out for dinner I have had a little voice in the back of my head berating me “This isn’t training” “Craig Alexander / Lance Armstrong / insert name here doesn’t drink beer” “You’re supposed to be losing weight, pizza isn’t Ironman food” I was lying in bed awake at night worrying because I’d committed to a certain weight / body composition / abstinence from alcohol and I wasn’t doing it. Getting out and training relieved the guilt a little, but with work and other things getting in the way of training and picking up a few little injuries meaning I am unable to train the guilt wouldn’t go away, it was becoming all consuming, the whole process was not fun. I didn’t want to do it anymore; no more training, no more dieting, no more Ironman I just wanted to quit.
I hadn’t spoken out loud about it, the internal duologue with my guilty conscience was quite enough, but I talked to C about it yesterday and she reminded me that I am supposed to be doing this for fun, not to win anything, or beat anybody, just for me, but I had put all of these conditions on myself that were making me unhappy. This year I have lost a load of weight, I feel good about myself and I am fit enough to get round an Ironman, which is what I originally set out to do. I spend so much time reading about the Crowie’s and Macca’s in the sport and I’d started to put unnecessary pressures on myself to be like them. There’s nothing wrong with pressure, or wanting to emulate the top professionals, but I am a 31 year old man who fairly recently got his arse up off the settee to set out to do this. I’m not a professional athlete and I don’t need to beat myself up for not acting like one.
It was less than 2 years ago I set out to do this and I’ve already achieved a lot that I’m happy with, I am getting better at running and cycling, I’ve got one Half Ironman under my belt and should have another one come Sunday. 5 weeks after that, providing nothing goes spectacularly wrong I should be standing in Bolton City centre with and Ironman finishers medal around my neck, and if I’m not for some reason, I’ll try again another time. I am committed to long distance triathlon, I love the training, I love the racing (when it’s over mostly!) I definitely have some more weight to lose, but my little epiphany made me realise I don’t have to do it now, I have plenty of time. The achievement of balance always seemed to evade me, it was either training, dieting and working hard or drinking and eating and doing nothing, but it doesn’t have to be like that! At the moment I (injury excepted) have balance: I can enjoy the training and enjoy the rest of life. If I’m not 65kg on race day and holding 30km/h on the bike then so what? It was only my arbitrary conditions that piled this unnecessary pressure on me anyway. That doesn’t mean I’ll train any less hard, it just means the pressure is off a little and I can enjoy pushing myself rather than feeling like I had to.
Perhaps, given the time again I might not have gone straight to Ironman this year, I think trying to concentrate for 7 ½ months was, for me, too much to handle and this pressure has stemmed from attempting it. I’m looking forward to spending much more time on running over the winter and having a go at the Brighton Marathon in April 2013, I will certainly have a 16 week block of diet and abstinence leading up to that and hopefully get closer to my body composition goals, but if I don’t then I’ll try again and not stress too much about it. It really is all about balance, as long as the miles are ticking over and I’m enjoying then that’s what matters.