The real satisfaction in training

Man, can perspectives change in a relatively short period of time!

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon-involving a pool swim. This shit is HARD.

Yesterday evening I was feeling very tired. I’ve had weeks of hard training. Yesterday wasn’t any different. I did my morning gym session, came home to get some work done, then went back out for a very long bike fitting session to try to solve some of my on-going leg pain issues. I REALLY didn’t want to have to go to the lake for a swim. I was tired. I was cranky. It was dark and cloudy outside. But I’ve told myself that I was going to do everything possible to do all my training as best I could for the event that I am due to take part in in about five weeks time. My husband saw that I was tired and told me not to push too hard. I responded, “I’ve decided that I’ll only do four laps of the lake if I’m not feeling up to it.”

I’ll only do just four laps. That’s 1.8km. ONLY. My husband let out a “Ha! Times have changed!”

In May 2016, just over a year ago, we were driving towards another lake where I was going to participate in a triathlon for the first time that involved an open water swim. The few triathlons I had done before that involved pool swims. I cried the whole way there from anxiety. My only real open water swimming experience before this swim was the test swim in the same lake the day before. It was awful. I barely managed to get myself around the 750-meter distance doing a breaststroke most of the time. During the event, I front-crawled a bit and breast-stroked a bit until I got myself around the course.

Yesterday I was going to do a “short” 1.8km swim if I was feeling too tired.

I cycled down to the lake. As I was swimming, I told myself that I’d need to be able to keep moving forward during my upcoming event even when I was tired, so I just kept going. I didn’t do the “short” swim. I swam for the full hour available to us and got my “middle distance” swim done for the day. I then cycled home. Much of this was done under dark, cloudy skies that were turning darker as the days now get shorter. The street lights had turned on by the time I was on the bike cycling home.

Once I had showered and dinner was heating up in the microwave, I thought I’d take a look to see what training was in store for me the following day. For several months now, four days of my week usually involve a morning training session and an evening training session. This can be gym/swim, gym/run, gym/bike, bike/run, swim/bike, or any other combination thereof.

I opened the excel sheet that contains the training program my triathlon coach sends me on a monthly basis and looked for Wednesday, August 23.

A fist pump, a yesssssssssssss, and a little happy bounce on the couch ensued. I ONLY had one evening swim session to do on Wednesday! That swim session is an hour-long always grueling coached session with the triathlon club. I almost always feel like I’m going to die at some point during that session. Yet yesterday, when I learned that I didn’t have a run or a bike ride to do on Wednesday morning, I almost felt like Wednesday had turned into a rest day and I was ecstatic.

Over the many months of training I’ve said that I can’t wait to get my life back after this event. I’ve whined about swimming in a cold lake. I’ve dreaded going on long bike rides all on my own. I’ve hated doing sprint sessions where I run so hard I think my heart will explode out of my chest. I’ve never understood people who get giddy about training and go on and on about how much they enjoy it.

I don’t feel “joy” but I do feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that no matter how tired I am I can still keep going. I can still jump into a cold lake, which surprisingly doesn’t feel all that cold anymore–I must be acclimatizing, and just keep swimming. I can be bored shitless from cycling for hours on a bike but just keep pedaling. I can be sweating like a pig, my face burning-hot red, my heart in my throat, and I can just keep sprinting. I might not be fast at anything I do. But I can keep going. That requires just as much mental strength as it does physical strength. Probably more.

And this is what I find satisfying about all this training. It’s not that I’m physically stronger. I never really feel physically strong at all. It’s that I’m learning that there’s a place inside of me that I can dig down to and access in order to just keep going. I need this place in my day-to-day life. I need this place during the difficult times we all go through. I know I have it. I know I can reach it.

I know that I can just keep going.

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