Thursday, March 29, 2012

How does this work?

I haven't written a blog in a long long time. Life has been so busy lately. That's the story for all of us. Life is just too busy.  I keep looking ahead and thinking about my list and dreaming of a day when the big things are checked off. You know,  those extra things that aren't usually there. They are cluttering my brain. I think how peaceful and orderly I will feel once they are done. I dream about going through the day without  the frantic hurried feeling. I crave a period of time when my list for the day is completed without a little asteriks next to it, "do tomorrow..." 

I fear that time may not come. Every time I accomplish one of those 'extra' tasks , a new one appears.  Or even worse, I have to do one over. This happened a few weeks ago and threw me into a bona fide meltdown.  The result has been no blogging. Don't get me wrong. I have Thought through 5 or 6 different posts. I write them while I'm running.  But then I get home and I'm left with 26 minutes to shower, get dressed, eat and drive to school to pick up the 3 guys. 

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Today, the stars aligned and I have a few 'extra' minutes to accomplish more than just the must do everyday tasks.  And, I am racing on Sunday so my training is pretty light. 

Here's what I have been thinking about the most.


I love racing. I love training. But I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes, I want to throw in the towel.  There are times when I think to myself, why? What is the point? I don't think I can or I don't think I should do this anymore.

This happens when I feel unbalanced. It happens when I can't even find the time to grocery shop without  tipping the full cart up on two wheels as I make a corner towards the yogurt because I only have 13 minutes to check out and then drive back to band practice to get my son.  Why am I running like this? Who knows what it was that day. But some days, it's because I rode my bike for 4 hours while the kids were at school. I know, gasp. 
Remember when you were younger, maybe it was High School, or maybe you were in college and you were trying to figure out what you would be when you grew up? I will always think that is about the toughest thing to figure out. First of all..when you grow up. I know for a fact I am still   working on that one. Part of the formula was to determine what you loved to do. And then to figure out what you were actually good at doing.  Don't forget, you need to earn money!  And then there is the question of time. Would your chosen profession allow you to raise a family if that's something you yearned to do? Big questions for a 19 year old!!! It is also pretty tough to figure out for a 25 year old if you ask me! Clearly it was tough for me,  since I have changed professions during my adult life.

Getting on with my point. As a grown up with three kids, I figured it out. My life allowed me to get back into a world that I loved as a child. I was given the chance to get back to what I love and where my talents lie. I figured out how to be true to myself and to do what made me happy.  It's a good feeling. It hasn't come easy. I have had to find peace with this change and accept that it's ok to stray off the planned course. It's ok to take risks.

Training and racing is what I love to do. I am not a professional athlete nor will I ever be. And yet, in some ways, racing is my job. Training is my job. Because I don't only talk the talk, I walk the walk. I am living what I help people do. I know first hand what it is like. I can relate.

My goals in sport are  personal. Sure, I have a goal to reach an Ironman finish line in xx:xx hours or to 'win' this or that race. That's not too personal. Those are just times and places.  But what IS personal, are my reasons. The drive behind it all. The motivation I have to set that little red alarm clock that I've had for years for 4:03 day after day after day after day so I can drive 30 miles to dive into  murky water that's  way too warm for real swimming. The thing inside me that convinces me that I DO want to go for the 4 hour bike ride even though I'm tired, my legs hurt, it's cold, my big race is 4 months away, I have work to do and errands to run, that's personal. Even if I could, I wouldn't write it all out for you. I'm sorry. I just feel that some of those  inner thoughts are best left alone.  After all, it doesn't really matter to anyone but me.  It shouldn't anyway.

You might be interested to know what's deep inside my head but it's safer in there. And actually, those 'secret' thoughts of mine are what help me push harder on race day, they are what help me through all the tough days. And there are many tough days. 

While my reasons for pushing day after day are my own, how I make it all work and how I reach success is for everyone. 

As a life long athlete and a coach I can give you a little formula to help you reach your goals. But never ever forget, your goals are your own. And your reasons for wanting to achieve them are personal. Hold that close. Make peace with it. Don't let anyone tell you why you shouldn't strive for what you want. But, if you really really want it, Go After it.

If the weather is warm, the roads are dry, the to-do list is under control, the kids are healthy, you had a little extra time before someone needed you and you're feeling rested, it's easy.
Wouldn't it be great if it was always like that?
Can you remember the last time all of that was the case? I can't.

I have hiccups in my training. I have obstacles and roadblocks. I have workouts that HURT! Some days I feel like my body weighs 60 lbs more than it really does and my feet are tied to the road with bricks. Some days the water feels like sludge and I am convinced. someone is grabbing my feet & pulling me backwards. There are so many hills in this town of mine and I can't count how many times I've stopped mid-climb to check my tire pressure because I was Convinced I had a flat. Nope. Full air. It was just me  and my lack of power that day. Now and then I am even  pulled off on the side of the road, leaning over my bike with a pain in my side that has me convinced an OR is in my future. I have wanted to poke my eyeballs out from boredom of pedaling away on my trainer for 3 hours in. the. same. spot.   I have run down the road with my eyes closed because my headache hurts so much or because I was stumbling with an imminent bonk in the next 5 minutes. Yeah, good times. I love training.
I do. I really love it. Because after all those sessions, I hop into a hot shower ( after a cold ice bath of course :0 ) and sigh  a big relief of , "okay...I did it. Move on. Not the best but tomorrow has to be better."

Here are my secrets: 
I do all my workouts, unless.....see below.  I plan ahead for the week with the weather and my personal schedule so I can fit it all in.Some days are tricky and so  I might be out running in little neighborhood circles in the dark while holding a little flashlight. But somehow, I will get it done. Even if that means running 12 miles before 7 a.m.  I know when the hard workouts will be and I prepare mentally and nutritionally. I also try to get to bed earlier the night before big days.  If I am sick, I know it's ok to miss something. But I need to be truly sick. A bit of a cold doesn't stop me. A fever does. If I am injured, I try to be honest about it. I do not run through pain in my knee or something that is new and sharp and that could possibly harm me long term.  I pat myself on the back for breakthroughs and cut myself some slack for the days that aren't so hot.  I think about the handful of days before those crummy runs or bikes or swims and try to figure out why. Or, I talk to my coach about those things. That is why he is there. I communicate with him a lot. I talk to my friend a lot. I use those close to me for that non- emotional advice.  I keep the end goal in mind. I train consistenly day after day after day. I embrace the weeks that leave me tattered. I fight the feeling of restlessness during light weeks that make me want more. I trust the plan. I work hard when it says to work hard and I go easy when it says to go easy.  I don't complain about hard workouts. I do the time. I do the work. .
I believe in myself.
I visualize success.
I picture the course, the competitors, what I am wearing, how I am feeling, How I will DO it on that day. 
I go after it. Every day. This is who I am and what I want right now. I have figured it out.
Figure out what you want. And then go after it.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ironman Mode

A funny little story

Winter in Maine is fun for the Bancroft family. We do snow dances and cheer when the map is covered in blue blotches that read 12-15"!!! Why?? We embrace the climate we live in and head to the mountains when it's cold.  The kids all got on skis when they were two. Thanks to my expert skier husband, Mark, they were independent within a couple years. Now, at ages 12,10, and nearly 8, they are all Far more advanced in their technique and skills than their Momma.  Remember, I grew up underwater with goggle marks on my face every morning and night. Skiing was even a bit 'taboo' during swim season (ahem, winter!) because if we got hurt skiing and couldn't compete for the team, well, that was bad!  So, I didn't grow up with the boards strapped to my feet like my kids have. That being said, I can hold my own. I might not look pretty doing it, but I can basically ski anything and thankfully, I am strong enough to fake it when I'm over my head. haha,most of the time.
Last weekend, we skied all day both days.  Saturday was silly but we were hardcore and hung on long enough to see this:
Not a bad way to end the day. Especially when it started out like this;

This is my neice and her friend. Yes, they are wearing trash bags over their coats. Why?? It was raining!!! Ick! We were all soaked. Right through to our knees.  But as you rode the lift, and got higher, it froze a bit and coated your goggles in a film of ice, and you stuck to the back of the lift, and then , you were Blind! Haha, yes, we are crazy. And we love skiing. So, we kept on skiing and ignored our mushy ski gloves and damp knees.  You see, Western Maine had a beautiful 14+ inches of new snow a few days earlier. And overnight several more inches fell so the new snow was ungroomed. We had to enjoy the new powder. It was really great skiing by the afternoon when the sun came the top... and then you skied into the fog. Doesn't it sound like a great day??? It actually was...but it was very tiring. Skiing in 'wet' powder is hard on the legs.

Sunday was even better. The sun was out and we were making our first runs by 8:30! Sadly, Mark's back was very sore. He wasn't skiing hard & fast like his normal self. Late in the morning, we were riding up the Barker Mtn lift and Tommy said he realllllly wanted to ski Top Gun. Sure! I like that trail. Why not? ( it's double black diamond.... I sort of forgot this part... that's why not.)  Standing at the top trying to choose our trail, Mark said he could do it because of his back. I volunteered. "I'll go with you guys? Sure.. Let's go!" 

Two minutes in..
Oh. dear.god.
What have I done????

The trail looked something like this. And I'm sure I looked a bit like this poor soul.


 Not like this:

In my defense, I Can ski moguls. I sometimes even like them. But, this trail was LONG and the bumps were HUGE and there were NO breaks!!!! It went on and on and on.  I was only several minutes in and my quads were SCREAMING for mercy. Absolutely begging for mercy.  The boys just slid between them with ease and gradually got further and further away........
I stopped, and unzipped my coat a bit. I was sweating.
On and on and on. I could see Mark standing at the bottom---looking up and surely just shaking his head at me.  He was about 1 inch tall. That's how far away he was.
There's not a whole lot to tell here except this. I was hurting. My legs were truly burning. In a mattter of three days I had swum 4000 yards, run 17mi, skied 7 hours and biked for several hours too. Navigating those giant never ending bumps was super hard. I wanted to stop. I did stop and layed, no I fell down once.  Those Ironman races I have done have been experiences in and of themselves. They are days I'll never forget. But, so what? Well, that Ironman mentality I have developed came in handy that day!!  It was not life or death, it was all in good fun, but I still had to get down that trail. So, I truly tapped into my Ironman mode and did a little self talk, "If youkeep going you'll get there sooner. Ignore the pain, stay focused, just a few more to go..."
And then, I was there. And I laughed so hard I cried. I had big alligator tears rolling down under my cheeks while I cracked up at how absurdly hard for me that was that day. Mark hugged me empathetically. The kids were incredulous. Why is she crying? I told them how great they skied and that Mommy had to dig into her Ironman self to keep up. I was laying at the bottom of the trail, resting and laughing.  My big kid was embarassed. "Mommy!!! You should get up. People are looking at you!"  Ha.. I'm so over that Cam. :) 
I shook it off, floated down some easy terrain and moved on. It was a great day.

The boys- I'm not going to let them leave me in the dust quite yet...