A few weeks ago, I left my house for a 3.5-hour training ride, only to return about 15 minutes later.
My head wasn’t in it. My heart wasn’t in it.
After a few hours (yes, hours) of reflection, I wrote an email to my coach, whose customized workouts I had been following as I trained for the Ironman 70.3 Championship in Clearwater, FL.
Among other things, I told him: I’ve ceased to find the joy in training.
It had nothing to do with him. It had nothing to do with that day’s workout, a 3.5-hour bike ride followed by a 20-minute run. It was that neither my head nor my heart were in training at all anymore.
I tried taking a week off to see if it made any difference. But it didn’t. And even watching Mom train for the very same race, while it inspired me, didn’t reignite the flame inside… the flame I would need in order to put in the hours upon hours of swimming, biking and running that racing Clearwater would require.
While, as an athlete, I am obviously nowhere near the caliber of 3-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington or U.S. Half Marathon record holder Ryan Hall, I can relate to the very tough personal and professional decisions each had to come to recently.
Wellington decided to back out of the 2010 Ironman World Championship this past Saturday, the day of the race, due to flu-like symptoms. Hall withdrew from Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, where he had hoped to capture the U.S. Marathon record, less than two weeks before the race, citing overtraining and fatigue.
They both knew that they would not be at their best.
And again, while they are on totally different levels than I am, I can relate to that feeling.
Personally, I am at my best when I’m having fun. This is true both in life and in the activities I choose. Sometimes you have to deal with life when it isn’t fun, but the beauty in the activities you choose to do is that if you’re not having fun, a lot of times you have the ability to opt out.
When I was training for my first marathon, I had a blast. I truly looked forward to most all of my workouts. And the same goes for my first Half Ironman. Then, immediately after that I did another Half Ironman, followed by another marathon, followed by another marathon, followed by another Half Ironman – not to mention various other shorter races in between – all within a little over a year’s time.
Somewhere along the line, it ceased to be fun. And I reached my breaking point the day I was supposed to do that 3.5-hour ride.
At first, I felt badly about dropping out of Clearwater. I felt guilty. I felt I was letting myself and others down.
But then I remembered this: it’s just a race.
And also this: I am in charge of my own decisions.
I don’t owe it to anyone, not even myself, to race Clearwater. What I do owe myself is the chance to rest, regroup and find my desire again.
To find the joy in training.
I’m looking forward to it.