Reader beware- numerous tangents throughout. Tangents are labeled so you can choose your own adventure- ie; read them or not.
Thanksgiving was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a year where if it could go wrong, it did – the last race would not disappoint. If you are thinking my attitude is poor, think again. This is a revelation and realization that is/was long overdue. We’ve all heard or some of us have had the unfortunate experience of hitting rock bottom. For an athlete that can mean several things. On the scale of ups and downs there are wins, losses, almosts’, regrets and a huge learning curve. This is evident in every aspect of life, not just sport. My thought - maybe … just maybe…some of you have had the same feelings. You can relate and lend words of wisdom?? Or maybe you will respond with HTFU Ryan. Either way without writing it out, the thoughts continue to swirl and I drive myself crazy attempting to make sense of the never ending what ifs.
Ever since I can remember I wanted to compete. Football, hockey, lacrosse, basketball and now triathlon. Of course there were times I would get bored or the intensity would fade a bit- A BIT - but the voice in my head stayed consistent. “Score!” “Knock this out of the park!!” “Touch down!!” “ RUUUUUNNNNN!!!” “WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
This past year was my low point for sport. In a season that encompassed surgery, heat stroke, black out, asthma, 1st stage of skin cancer and the worst finishing times I have ever posted, it was an all-time low. My close friends tell me I need training partners. Others say I need a break. Some claim its nutrition, and then some just say you’re crazy. Those are the ones I like the best. Tangent- You know - those people who haven’t a clue about the drive that lives inside us when it comes to sport.? We could never explain it, and they could never understand it. That’s a necessary balance in life. This is not criticizing but rather pointing out natural differences in people from all aspects of life. There are plenty of things I think are stupid and don’t understand. Like what the hell is the sword fighting going on at the park? Video games don’t entice me but some people sit and play for hours. You get the point. There is nothing wrong with any of it and if it makes you happy, I say do it! One more person smiling in this world is a good thing. No, it’s a GREAT thing!!!
I can hear each of you reading this…”Boring! Ryan, cut through the shit, end the tangents and get on with it.” Alas…here we go.
In a year where I witnessed my friends posting PR’s left and right, I am racing and training with a completely different mindset. I watched as Jim Wrubel qualified for Boston after ripping his calf apart mid marathon!! WT??? Tell who to HTFU? He’ll stop, slap you and still PR! Chris Rotelli going sub 10 at IM Tremblont!! DAMN!!!!!! “Your bike is dumb and your bike is dumb and I will throw dirty water on your bike!” (Z-man!) Chris Webb signing up for IM PLACID!! Nikki taking down her first HIM and I think…wait for it…she likes to run now…a littleJ Bergin finishing a brutal IMNYC!! Dev setting a 30 minute marathon PR!! Tami, my beautiful bride to be, going sub 2!!! Kim’s first year as a pro ends with a 9:20 full IM! Put that together with the fact I am starting to make some solid friends in Atlanta, plan the biggest day of my life and a new job that is beyond fantastic, I should literally be ON TOP OF THE WORLD!!! LITERALLY!!!
I am- EXCEPT … when it comes to racing and training. Each one of my races this year and almost every single workout has had the same underlying feeling. “QUIT! Hurry up and finish so you can go do something else. It’s cool if they pass. You don’t have to win. Just finish and go home.” Recovery is no better. As soon as I close my eyes to rest- I CRASH riding my bike! PTSD (guessing??) sucks and is a limiter like no other. 35mph and a twinge, or so I think, hits my shoulder. 6 months of pain comes rushing back. I’ve lost my edge.
Nothing about any aspect of it is fun anymore. It’s taxing. Miserable. Time consuming and without reward. My bike sessions might as well be null. Lifting is ridiculously boring! Running…I’ll take the short cut. Injury after injury after FUCKING injury!! Frankly, I am sick of it all!
When and in what life did I ever decide that half assed anything or walking through an aid station was even an option??? Seriously!!! NEVER! NEVER!! NEVER!!! Anything less than #1 or the heart to strive for #1 was unacceptable. If not winning at least giving it my all without regard to how I felt! Blowing up wasn't an option, it was the norm but dammit if I didnt push through. Now, it’s almost expected to be mid pack, part of the masses. Tangent-"My heart rate is too high! I need more calories." BULLSHIT!! Mark Allen had bread, water, a steel non-aero bike and would kick all of our asses to this day! If you know me or knew me you would understand this is- just- not- me.
Hang in there! You will love this.
Prior to the rambling I wrote; Thanksgiving was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Here is why. While running the half marathon (training was running once in six weeks because I didn’t give a shit) I was fighting for a spot up front. (group 2 not Kenyon group) I went out hard with the rest of the overzealous and said to myself; “PR today! Put your heart into the last race of the year because Lord knows you sure as hell haven’t done it to date.” So I did…to start. We hit mile 3 at just under 18 minutes. There was bumping and fighting going on the entire time.(What a bunch of idiots we were) Unfortunately a couple guys even got pushed out on a turn hitting the curb head first. By mile 5 we had thinned out a bit. There were two lead groups now and some intermittent runners between. The super group was about 7 or 8 minutes ahead of us but due to the long stretches we could see them. There was no going after that pack, this wasn’t the goal. The goal was to race amongst ourselves. The non- Kenyons. The triathletes. The track club. The marathoners. This is really where those battles on the race course take place. Its age groupers that train hard for no other reason except to PR. We race the other guy who’s family and social life has been neglected. We are the ones that go for that last speed session, one more hill climb, one more long slow run in the cold and dark for no other reason than to place in our age group!!! Bite your opponent’s arm off if you must, but get that spot dammit!! And then it happened. The voice that says all those things once again said something different.
It’s one thing to fight off fatigue and pain; it is another to fight your own mind. We rounded the corner and there was a McDonalds off in the distance. I haven’t had McDonalds in years but my voice told me to stop there and get a burger. How about a shake and fries? Up ahead was a coffee shop. “Why don’t we stop and get a coffee? Never been there before, let’s give it a try.” You think I’m kidding and exaggerating but truly I am not! At mile 7 or 8 the course took us down a road that I will never forget. Lined on either side were multiple homeless people. Amidst the trash and random clothes scattered across both sidewalks, there were groups huddled together to keep warm. The weather isn’t freezing here but when your blood is thinned from the hot summer, 40 degree temps can seem like single digits in those in the north. My heart sunk, my head heavy with the internal fight described above, and I started to fade from that pack. Those thoughts of stopping to get a Big Mac retreated and the thought of my Thanksgiving vs. theirs was now in place.
Another tangent perhaps however the point remains the same. My mind, my heart, my drive is no longer there. 8 hours in the mountains on my bike is a joke anymore. Im lucky to make 30 minutes on the trainer. So where do I go from here? Any ideas or thoughts? Take a break? Get better with my nutrition? Work harder at finding training partners? Perhaps go back to having fun and hang up the triathlon kit- motorcycle & car racing, dirt bikes? The answers are mine to find, I get that…but damn would it be nice to have some help.
Tangents are done- Thanks for hanging in there.