Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the difference

Other than describing my incredible meltdown on the side of a mountain in the Alps, I haven't really mentioned my trip to France.  I posted cheese, wine, and gelato selfies all over the Instagram, I spent two days endurance eating in Italy and I lost my shit on a good friend.  But I also decided, somewhere in there and not just because people kept dragging me out of bed after midnight to eat chocolate and drink wine, that I needed change.
Ironman Boulder came and went, a bookend on how I've done things the past few years.  It had to be, it was long overdue, I saw that in the bricks the universe zinged at me all spring.  Aim, fire, bullseye.  I had no idea what was going to happen once August 3rd had passed, but I did know that at some point in the days that followed, I would wake up and I would know.  Whether or not I still wanted to chase big ironman goals - and I was convinced that I would not - if I wanted to only participate in the distance, if I wanted triathlon to be a part of my life at all or maybe instead it would be time to finally buy a cross bike and join a Crossfit gym and reintroduce my body to yoga and take selfies at the top of fourteeners instead of filtered through my rotating days of swim, bike, run.  I talked in the spring about wanting to chase the fun, how important that is to me.  And somewhere in the months after racing down in New Orleans, I lost my way.  That's what I found in France.  I woke up every day and didn't think what boxes do I need to check to make sure I am ready for ironman but instead how will it make me joyful to move my body today?  It was such a relief to realize that the desire to move for pure health still existed, it simply lay dormant under layers of fatigue, wear, frustration, exhaustion.  The fact is, I've trained for and raced ironman four times in the past two years, three of those in the last fifteen months.  And I have loved training for ironman, it has satisfied a part of me that I never knew was searching, or empty, or needed to be run like a racehorse, or maybe I really just love to eat.  But when I came back from France, fatter and calmer and starting my long runs at 5am because I had already been awake for three hours thanks to jet lag, I knew it was time to change the way I think about training and racing and the place these things have in the satellite view of my entire life, not just the one that is molded around the colored boxes.  
Racing in Canada, I hurt my foot.  Just a little twinge, nothing that my gang of supermen in Boulder couldn't piece together and repair (I type as I sit on the couch with my right leg quite literally aching hip to toe from dry needling), but it meant that my run chilled its britches in timeout for a little while.  The specific pain I was having, I noticed with a bolt-upright-in-bed-at-2am-style aHAaa, was identical to the still-undiagnosed foot pain that kicked off a spiral of drinking too much and not moving my body or seeking health in any way that surrounded my divorce all those years ago.  Another mystery, perhaps solved.
So this morning I went for a run.  The first couple of runs after the one that ends in 911 pull all the fire alarms something is very seriously fucked here are cautious, so delicate.  I carefully trotted down the driveway, the way you tiptoe around the house when a baby finally goes to sleep, made the left turn into the blasting wind that we woke up to this morning, and...something clicked.  Or maybe not, maybe settled, or maybe I simply turned straight into one of those moments that you stumble over so rarely as an athlete, those moments where your fitness and your strength and your heart and your mind come straight into focus and your feet barely brush the road.  I didn't look at my watch, I didn't care, I let my body go, I set it free, and laughter thundered up and out of me.  Joy.  
Last weekend, I went to TEDx Boulder.  All of the speakers were phenomenal, that was expected, from each talk I was able to pick out a few seeds to plant in my own personal ongoing work-in-progress, but the standout speaker for me was Steph Davis.  Her talk was called Choosing to Fly and she spoke about the difference between endurance and resilience and it just takes one little mention of the R-word to yank me upright in my seat.  Endurance, she said, is numbing.  (All of this is poorly paraphrased because her talk isn't online yet and has been strongly diluted by lack my inability to remember things correctly).  It's the ability to endure.  And what is it to endure?  To hang out, to stay where you are, a death grip on your situation.  Endurance is stoic.  But resilience is motion.  Resilience is a giant rubber superball that you throw at the ground, and when you do, it erupts back up into the sky.  Being able to endure is merely holding on.  Resilience is letting go.  Endurance works, but you can do better.  You can choose resilience.

My left glute is lazy (I'm going somewhere with all of this and it's not just a list of all the ways my body is an asshole sometimes, I swear).  It doesn't like to turn on.  It's been that way for a while, but I happily started lifting all the heavy things again after 70.3 and I see it every day I'm in the gym, it takes monumental neurological effort to make it fire.  Squeeze.  It was noted in the bike fit I got last week, I can feel it when I try to power up a hill, it's the absence of work, a ghost glute that exists perhaps only for the purpose of keeping my pants up and a little bit so my ass selfies don't look crazy and lopsided.  I've learned recently that when I dead lift, my right glute tries to pick up the slack.  It fires like crazy; as the lifts get heavier and I dig my heels into the ground, sometimes it spasms and locks up as I pull away from the ground for the last time.  And when I drop the weight on the ground and stand in front of the bar, I notice that I am clenching the muscle because I know how much it will hurt to release it.  I grip, hard, I prefer the strain of tension because I am far more afraid of the pain that I know is waiting for me when I finally let go.
It all comes back to resilience.  Resilience, the smoky vaporous ideal that I have been studying, chasing, attempting to shape my awkward self around these last few months, hoping to jam my square peg into its stubbornly round hole.  I'm sure that trying to force resilience on a human is much like trying to feed jello to a rattlesnake but goddammit if I haven't been taking a crack at it, reading everything I can get my hands on, hurling everything fragile that I am into all things cruel and sharp I can find, putting my emotional being under duress with the hope that it will finally buckle like a naughty child and behave.  And there is little surprise that it hasn't been working, I saw that at Ironman Boulder.  Did I find success in the day?  Yes, absolutely, but that success was born out of endurance.  From my ability to hold on, to freeze, anesthetized, gasping, grasping, to squeeze every muscle tight, crazily fending off surrender when really it's yielding, letting go, that is the answer I've been searching for all this time.

Last November, in a fit of spontaneity, I signed up for Ironman Arizona, a race that historically sells out in about fourteen seconds.  I hopped onto the registration site when it opened at noon, very much with a if I get in, great; if I don't, NBD attitude.  I clicked through all the forms, waiting every second to be booted out of the system with a sorry, registration is now full error message.  And when I arrived at very last screen, the yes I really mean it I want to do this ironman button, I paused for a second, looked out the window, and asked myself, is this really what you want to do?  Two?  Again?  Breathed, nodded to myself, and then plunged forward.  Sure.  Certain.  Then.  But a year is a long time.
The past few months, I've been doing things differently.  I don't need to attach better or worse because it's none of that, it's quietly, different.  Lots of things, ranging from small to large and I'm not just talking about tequila and riding my bike here, what these things are don't really matter, what matters is that I've been doing a lot of smiling, laughing, chasing the fun again.  To see what change brings, matter-of-factly inviting the opportunity, be it good or bad.  And through all of these days, I've realized how closely related joy and resilience are linked.  The feeling when I am swimming well, so fast that I'm convinced my body is skimming the surface of the water instead of plowing through sludge like a mule, a long and grinding, winding climb through a canyon and the moment I turn to bomb back down, when I open my callused hands and drop gently return the barbell to the floor, heavy with sweat, those are my joyful moments.  The run I had this morning, my feet so light on the ground, wanting to burst at the feeling of choosing to fly, the flare and release of my body into the world that was waiting.  Those, as opposed to the moments where I struggle, where I fight, flail, burn; those are the moments where I am developing resilience.  It may be true that there is no joy to be found in the ironman marathon, that it is always a contest of the most stoic, but for me, for what I am asking of my body, I refuse to believe that.  If I want to succeed at ironman, and no one was more surprised than me when the light finally clicked on and it said, yes, maybe, okay, let's try again - if I want that, then I think joy, release, surrender, that is how I will find it.  Not by enduring, not by fierce concentration, not by a death grip and an impassive game face but instead by slipping on the run shoes, snapping on the race belt, and jogging lightly out of the tent with a grin.  Heaving the giant superball at the ground and riding its trajectory as it explodes upwards, outwards.  Everywhere.

7 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! I LOVE your blog! So I am assuming this means you ARE doing IMAZ? So am I. I would love to meet you! But seeing how I will certainly recognize you out on the course, we will meet there for sure! I have NO DOUBT that this new way of racing IM will work great for you! I have actually thought a lot about your attitude toward racing IM Boulder (before the actual race ever happened) and the difference between racing with focus, all energy concentrated on myself, not looking right or left and racing with an open mind, open eyes, looking around, cheering on others, getting energy from those cheering me on... And I honestly don't know which is a better way to race and which gets you to the finish line faster. It's totally personal I am sure. But I think, for me, the latter is going to be more fun and joyful and inspiring. I was going to test that out at Tahoe but that race never happened, so we will see how Arizona goes.
    So much for morning ramblings...
    Thank you!

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  2. I too have a lazy glute, my right. It just won't seem to come around. Thank goodness for Sports Acupuncturists.

    Keep writing about your resilience journey and what you're reading! I am getting so much out of your journey that applies to my own.

    PS Those are some big plates. Bad Ass.

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  3. I went to TEDx Boulder too - Steph Davis had such an awesome story! I can't wait for the videos to come out so I can share them with everyone who wasn't able to attend in person.

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  5. Re: Your Sponsors & Twitter

    Hello Katie,
    Quick message to ask if you would you be interested in a mutual following on Twitter. If so, you'll receive ‘anytime’ #RT support & I’ll mention you in my 'Follow-Friday Shoutouts' including your website & sponsors this coming Friday. I'm currently following you now & awaiting your follow-back. Note that I have thousands of Professional Ironman Triathletes / Coaches, Marathoners, Ultras & Pro Cyclists following me worldwide. Please check out the number of 'recent' Professional Ironman Triathletes in my ‘Photos & Videos’ section, that follow me & receive my continuous 'Follow-Friday & #RT support. I'm positive you'll know many of these well known professional athletes...

    I look forward to hearing from you Katie & hopefully we can share a mutual twitter friendship in the months & years to come...

    "Keeping your sponsors happy through marketing/advertising via #FF #Shoutouts & #RT support is Very Important to ALL Professional Ironman/Triathletes. And 'Twitter' is a great source to accomplish that goal!" *Strength In Numbers*

    Darin
    twitter.com/DarinArmstrong
    Professional Public Relations / Marketing & Communications
    Team LIVESTRONG

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  6. This is perfect. Every single blog post of yours I learn more and more about myself and what I want/need out of life and sport. Thank you for putting the words to things that I can never articulate, it helps me make sense of myself.

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