nothing changes unless you change
I spent some time in December - in the absence of swimming, biking, and running but not drinking or eating - thinking about the things that I complained about in 2013 (twitter makes this easy to revisit). To name a few: running off the bike, the size of my ass, I can't do a pull-up, I have two fabulous abs but that's out of a possible eight and those two might actually just be ribs, I let my head tank me on race day, I get the crazy hungry kind of angry, I hate the way my legs look in running shorts (below), and I always have to be the one to send the last text message. Every single thing on that list, I can control. I can complain all day about how the running shorts fit, but that isn't the fault of the running shorts. They are just shorts. I'm the master of the body inside them, and bitching about the shorts doesn't seem to have made them fit any better, so it's either time to try something different or decide to quit bitching about them altogether. I've read it countless times in a variety of forms: nothing changes unless you change.The first thing I did was to order a new pair of running shorts. In a size smaller than anything I've worn for as long as I can remember (vanity, thy name is both woman and blogger alike). When they arrived, I tried them on and made scary faces in the mirror and took a picture to text to my girlfriends with the note I quite possibly just wasted $50 on a pair of shorts that I might never wear outside of the bathroom. I put them on the counter where I would see them every day, and I think I made the picture the background of my phone for a while until people kept asking me if I liked my ass so much I needed to see it all the time (no). And let's keep this shit real, I could not run or walk or really even breathe in those suckers.
The biggest problem with change is that it happens slowly. Changing your body, your life, it's the opposite of painting your office bright green. You decide to change, you spend one day being different, excited, motivated about the brand new you that is being created, and you wake up the next day to find that you are essentially still the same you (WTF). Again and again, you look in the mirror, hop on the scale, look at pictures on Facebook, and even though you feel different on the inside, to the world, you are not. Having the patience and discipline to wait for change to show, that isn't easy. It's discouraging, and you will fail, often. (How much of a pull up I could do in January and I'm pretty sure I gave myself a hernia and dislocated my neck getting this far).
At no point when working through this in my head did I climb a mountain and plant a flag and name it My Slightly Different Life. There were no declarative tweets about never eating X ever or doing X again or any of the crap that shows up there especially in January when people are all hopped up about a new calendar on their desk. Sometimes it's good to have someone else to hold you accountable but I wanted to be the only one because I am the only one that is always here, that lives inside my head and curses too much and controls the fork and the steering wheel and the keyboard and the knife. It had to be for me, and it had to be done my way and I'm still not even sure if I really want to talk about it because it all just seems so unimportant but here we are (sometime in February).
When we ran out of cheese and pizza crust and powerade zero (I know) in the house, I didn't buy more, instead I bought eggs and vegetables and bison. I started hunting for ways to shake up my strength routine and you'll find how to learn to do a pull up all over my google history (along with knee hurts on bicycle why and how much chocolate in a healthy diet and adam levine no shirt). I started walking my dogs more. I picked up the phone and called people, more. I ate more bacon and less pancakes and Luna bars. I chatted in mid February about what was going into my belly, and then later about the status of my swim bike run, and that was after about six weeks of itty bitty change, not really anything to get excited about. I also talked recently about how so much of my training has been doing just what is enough. I realized that I wasn't bringing complete focus to my sessions, so I got rid of distractions. I stopped watching TV and looking at my phone on the trainer and only a small part of that is because I've had to completely relearn how to pedal with my right foot. I started looking forward to hard track sessions in Denver instead of carrying dread around all morning and when everyone looked around blankly in the water saying who wants to lead after hearing the main set, I started saying me me me I'll do it. A lot of that was uncomfortable, horrifying, frustrating, painful, but I decided that I was okay feeling that way. Might as well embrace the awkward because if there is nothing else life is, it is awkward (taking so many pictures in the gym, definitely awkward).
Soon it will be April. The work I've done the last few months is starting to pop tiny green leaves out of the ground. The shorts I bought in December, not only did I wear them to race last weekend, but I had zero chafing and my race photos don't make me want to projectile vomit in a bucket. I certainly don't want to focus on weight loss here, it's easiest to simply say that I'm a bit different, both inside and out, mostly because it's more challenging to take pictures of the brain waves.
But so far, these are only little baby shoots. A month doing some leading at masters and now I've moved up to swim with the men in the fast lane who are basically just goggles and abs. The first three days there I spent so much time worrying about how soon I would get dropped that I almost didn't notice that I can sort of hang, totally in survival mode and the last week has destroyed me in a way that swimming hasn't destroyed me in quite some time, but hang. I think these changes are part of what in the hell happened last weekend at the half marathon, and after three months of riding without power and then going outside last week on the TT bike for the first time since Cozumel, I'm wondering if it is has something to do with that situation as well (which probably means an FTP test is in my near future, speaking of horrifying pain).
And some of these changes, I firmly believe, have come from something Sonja told me a long time ago. Chase the fun. I have some friends who are dedicated athletes, they make every single decision in their entire life through the filter of what is best for their swim/bike/run. And that's okay, that's their journey right now and bless their serious and dedicated hearts. But these friends would never buy a mountain bike, none of them would ski so many days and certainly not so much in(to) the trees and backcountry and all the double blacks while whooping like a drunk frat boy, they wouldn't run all over the trail system when the road is faster and more consistent and less likely to result in a season-ending fracture, these friends of mine will always choose to ride alone and nail their intervals instead of spending ninety minutes chattering non-stop with a new friend at 900 watts and running miles that start with 7 off the bike when the schedule very clearly says easy just because they are so goddamn happy to be running next to the ocean in shorts. (I am not saying I have done any of these things for the official my-coach-might-be-reading-this record).
And that might sound inconsistent with my yammering about bringing focus to sessions, but somehow, in the scary dark corners of my thought process, it makes perfect sense. This is my actual life, and I don't want to waste even a moment. Sometimes that will mean laser intensity on the trainer and sometimes that will mean yapping away with the Garmin turned off, but both of these moments bring absolute brilliance into my soul. Eating the way I've been eating makes me feel healthy, and strong, and feeling strong makes me feel smashingly thrilled to be alive, so I'm going to keep doing it. And I do feel strong, that word is all over the pages of my training log. I felt strong last weekend when I ripped off a half marathon and I felt strong two days later when I was able to launch right back into training because I rocked my recovery. I felt like a shark when the new toes didn't swim away from me and I felt like the Incredible Hulk this morning at the gym when I did 23 pull-ups (okay, fine, maybe 22 and a half) and then deadlifted what I weighed at the height (width?) of my off-season.
The point of this is not to preach about living a perfect (i.e. boring) life, because I am not living this life perfectly. I am, and always will be, filled to the brim with human imperfection, and I've listed piles and piles of my faults in blog posts galore. I simply decided to stop complaining about the universe not changing around me and instead change myself. It felt like a fine line at the time, but it's not. It's enormous. I had to be the one to change. Me. No one could do it for me, no one could make it easier, but no one is more proud of the tiny things I've accomplished so far this year, both in body and in mind (although my texting habits still verge on harassment). And even if the rest of the year brings nothing new, nothing magical or monumental or breakthrough in my training or racing, even if we get to December 31st and the only PR I came out with was a half marathon in Utah, I would still continue down this path because right now it is far more important to me to spend my days singing and skiing and crashing down a trail all the while talk talk talking than it is that I finally sink a knife into the heart of ironman. Ironman is a thing, it is a vehicle for a journey and I am so happy that I hopped aboard it three years ago when I signed up for my first, but slaying these demons, chasing my joy, well, that is a far more enchanting way to move through life.