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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The balancing act

  My offseason officially concluded today (with some threshold testing on the bike-olf).  Four weeks of unstructured "training" later (I occasionally ironically thought about how the amount of exercise I was doing in that time probably qualified me as a normal, healthy person), tomorrow I'll be starting back into the grind.  Mary and I met today, we set my season up, and I'm obviously excited about what's (hoping that all goes according to plan, of course) on tap for 2013-the rookie jitters are gone, and it's time to take the kids gloves off a bit.  I'm already looking at flights and elevation profiles and pro rankings and all that.  But, at the same time, I honestly haven't spent the last month in any great rush to get started.  People asked me here and there if I was going nuts yet, and really, after spending a year juggling work and training and dogs and the normal challenge of house upkeep in a two ironman household...I just wasn't.  I obviously don't have children, and my schedule certainly wasn't as packed as it is for many of my peers, but I still spent a good portion of 2012 just tired.  Life keep seeming to have this way of bringing me just to the brink of my sanity (I remember just sitting back and crying one morning as I crawled around my bedroom floor through piles of laundry looking for a freaking matching pair of socks to wear to work, feeling that I was defying the laws of probability as I pulled out one stray sock after another), and then throwing me a bone just in the nick of time, whether it was a recovery day or week, a long ride where I was able to shake off my fatigue and feel inexplicably strong, or even something as simple as a smile from my favorite cross guard on a morning run with the dog, or calling back a new patient and finding him/her to be, as I might put it, "basically the nicest person ever" in the midst of an otherwise stressful day.

   But enough complaining, my life isn't really all that hard.  It's actually pretty darn good.  And my husband even cooks dinner most nights (and hand washes dishes-because he's just so much better at it than I am, of course).  What I really wanted to reflect upon is something that came up today when we met (Dave and Logan Franks were there participating too) after my testing-the concept of balance.  While Chrissie Wellington's retirement announcement surprised some, I honestly couldn't say that I was surprised-the woman did incredible things in/for the sport, and has nothing left to prove.  I've been reading her autobiography, and I can relate to some of the things she described from her childhood days-excelling in school, a desire to use her brain for good.  So, I can understand how after using her body instead for a number of years and accomplishing all their is to accomplish in long course racing, she might just want to go back to using her position and her brain and her time to pursue different pursuits.  Throughout my high school, college, and graduate school careers, my academic achievements far outpaced my athletics ones.  This might be part of what drives me so much athletically-academically, I could put in the work and get my 4.0 every semester, and that was that.  Athletically, it's not as linear, and there's no ceiling-well, there is, but I don't know what it is and I won't unless I keep at it.  Still, I can't turn my back on the 20 years of school and the doctorate degree I spent so much time (and money) on-and I don't want to.  It's something I worked towards, it's something I continue to try to work at, and it's balance.
I'm a libra, so I guess that means I was born level or something.
  Successful long course racing takes time and dedication-no doubt about that.  I've made many of the common concessions of the pro triathlete without hesitation, including Friday nights in, Saturdays spent on the bike, 5am wake up times, using all my vacation time on trips to races, swapping out those diet cokes for water, coming to terms with my clothes being everywhere (well, that one might just be laziness...) etc.  This hasn't been a big deal for me-I know what my goals are, and I feverishly want to do my best to get after them.  I've never crossed a finish line wishing I'd done less to get there.  Of course, there's always more I could do-and I do need to work on some of this next year.  Except for a select few of us, there's always something else we could change.  But, the question becomes-what's the cost?  Where's the tipping point between healthy sacrifice needed to maximize ability and reach a goal, and an unbalanced life that leaves one cranky and miserable, usually with a lack of return on investment and in many cases declining performance and a loss of passion for the sport?  I could leave my family and friends and go live in a tent at altitude, subsisting off of vegetables and training 35 hours/week (that might be a bit of an exaggeration...but we get the idea)-but that wouldn't work for me.  I do think that the tipping point probably varies from person to person, and while an adherence to a certain lifestyle or certain sacrifices can be suggested, it can't be dictated.  I'm incredibly lucky to have a coach that gets this, that respects this, and that lives this herself.

   I know what I need for my balance-I need time with my family and friends, I need sleep, I need a bit of time to take the dogs for a hike in the woods a couple of days each week, I need ice cream and chocolate and pizza here and there, I need human contact after four hour training days, I need to be gainfully employed, I need a chance to utilize my talents outside of triathlon.  I also have outside interests-I like to garden, I like to deck out the house for holidays, I like to write in this darn blog, I like to walk around my dad's property and look at the growing plants and pick stuff, I like to watch a few mindless tv shows every week, I actually do sometimes like to clean.  These "things" all keep me somewhat grounded in normalcy, and, conversely, keep my passion for the sport high (after all, nothing beats daydreaming about racing while planting vegetables on a warm summer evening).  Next year, I do intend on dedicating myself to the sport to a greater degree, but not to the point where I lose my sense of balance.  I can waste less time browsing slowtwitch and spend more time sleeping, reading something educational, or even preparing bottles to save time for the following week's workouts (  I can get my butt to the pool for an extra session each week.  I can clean up my diet more.  These are all things that require more self-discipline, but the type that I consider worth it.  I want to better myself as a triathlete, but not at the expense of worsening myself as a human being.  Apart from a small charm I wear around my neck, nothing about my outside appearance or carriage of myself screams "crazy triathlete", and I hope to keep it that way.

  So, as my offseason comes to a close, was I bored?  Was I going nuts?  I was decking the halls, enjoying staying up past ten and sleeping past seven, spending my Saturday shopping with my mom and sister and having a grand old time, and putting together a 1000 piece puzzle.  I even washed the windows and windowsills on the first floor of our house.  Trust me, that's a big deal for me.  The laundry...still didn't get done, but I'll keep telling myself someday on that.  Basically, I righted the triathlon/life scales towards the life side of things, until I was ready to start building the triathlon bank again.  That starts tomorrow, and I'm right where I need to be heading into it.  I'll be pushing my limits and testing my thresholds and making sacrifices, but at the same time, keeping in touch with my sanity.    

  Just in case anyone was still worried I've been's some photographic evidence of our overly festive Griswold house.  I love Christmas.  It's like a disease.  Dave loves me.
Festive holiday mantle.  No fears, the other dog has a stocking too-it's just hidden behind the woodstove.  Because dogs have any freaking idea what Christmas is, or that they have stockings hanging.

More den.  Dave likes giraffes, so he Christmas more when I somehow make them fit in the decor-hence the giraffe planter with fabric poinsettas jammed in its butt.

Festive holiday dining room table.  Sometimes Dave comes in here with his laptop and does work and moves things.  It makes me disproportionately upset.

Festive holiday kitchen table (not that we're classy enough to eat at the table).  Find the giraffe!  Dave did.  It was the one thing he complimented about all of my festive holiday kitchen touches.  Actually, a giraffe can be found in the mantle picture, too.  Oh, Dave.
We decorated the dog too.  She's trying to hide.  Yes, I do realize that it'd be healthier for us to have children someday.


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