This is a blog to help the sensitive souls that are also awesome athletes.
I won a race this weekend; it was totally unexpected. I even had to have to two people check the race results as I couldn’t quite believe it. This was my second time completing a half iron-man distance and I feckin’ won the race; wow. I don’t feel that I can really claim this because due to fog and weather conditions the swim was cancelled just as we were being briefed and ready to go and the resulting race was a 7 km run, 96 km bike and 7 km run loop ran twice to make the correct distance. The loops on my Garmin were on the short side, a bit disappointing because I like perfect numbers and 6.75 x 3 does not a half marathon make LOL; so in ways I am trying to compute what all this winning means.
The last time I was really good at winning something was anorexia in my youth and a drive to over-exercise that persisted into my early thirties. I made myself invisible in life and the only winning was the beating myself up in my head. Trust me the exercise was no preparation for this sort of stuff; it was just endless hours of cardio and weight training to burn every ounce of energy out of my body and a voice that wasn’t satisfied until this mission was accomplished. It probably did make me a phenomenal fat burner if I want to take something good out of it. This sort of strategy to cope with life is very common in sensitive persons; and one that can be turned around. There is so much more to life than internalizing your sensitivity; it is so very worth it to embrace a new way of doing things.
This isn’t the story of a victim, or even a victor. Nothing really matters as much as what we do right now and I just wanted to share some words of support for the sensitive souls that also have a drive to live life to the full and have a burning desire to experience it all. In other words get out there and make impossible dreams come true.
It’s not easy; and it is…
It’s not easy putting your self out there but you just have to do it.
I had insomnia for most of the night last night and I have a headache this morning after all the hyper-stimulation of yesterday. Racing is a big thing…. like:
Lots of people, lots of adrenaline, lots and lots of anxiety, and when it comes to a swim fear often permeates the air; lots of noise, lots of people’s internal chatter, lots of voices in people’s head that are pushing and pushing to win, or minds that are losing the battle to race on and are filled with thought-battles of giving up. Angry people using this to drive them, frustrated people beating themselves up, and the win-at-all costs people who have voices in their heads from what people said many years ago haunting them that to lose just isn’t acceptable.
I feel it all, and it is my responsibility to somehow navigate all this and master my own emotions. Being an empath is no joke in a tidal wave of others emotions; you want to give up and I feel you, you are a nutter having to win at all costs and I feel you, you are an ass-hole on the road on a bike and I want to kill you (OK that goes for us all); and you are the amazing soul that says don’t stop keep running you are doing great and I want to stop and hug you to say thank you. Race day is no joke when it comes to the feeling it big emotional spectrum. This does not make me special, it is just who I am, and there are many others like me in the spectrum of us all.
Many times a single line went through my head yesterday; “make no excuses”.
If I stop, I stopped and no one made me, if I didn’t drive hard enough that was my fault, if race nutrition didn’t go well or I failed to eat enough; that was my fault too.
There are NO excuses in this gig, or in life. It is what it is, I am who I am; and saying I got overwhelmed, anxious, or tired because of everyone else is simply unacceptable.
I must learn to manage my emotions in the soup pot of crazy just like I must leanr to change a tyre when I get a flat (note to self).
I actually made my journey in sport in the last 15 months about managing my anxieties over being around people and conquering my nerves. How? Being mindful, using visualization, and using grounding techniques. I spend time visualizing things ahead of time; how I will feel, how I will connect to solid things like trees and scenery, how I will enjoy myself.
I do this often, just on the go, for example when doing a run or driving to work or when I am falling asleep. I don’t ignore my anxieties; I acknowledge them and flip them around.
Visualization games are such a neat trick to add to your toolbox of athlete skills. There doesn’t have to be a strict set of rules in how to incorporate this into your life; do what feel right and make it meaningful.
I use some mad visualizations but they work for me. For example, we all knew that our race this weekend was going to have a very cold swim (little did we know that it would be cancelled due to fog, so hey that was a game changer for us all mentally!); anyhow all week I was imagining myself cocooned in warmth in this beautiful lake. I even imagined that the lake has a mystical lady guarding us, a bit like in the tales of Camelot.
Regarding the run, I didn’t know very much about the grounds but in my minds eye I kept seeing a Stag and wonderful trees so I connected to this energy in advance. I knew I would have an enjoyable experience in my run; and the image of a Stag it turns out relates to the deer they keep on the grounds.
Hey it make be a bonkers approach but if it works for me I’m not changing it. So do what works for you based on each event as you gear yourselves up to race.
The race don’t forget is all in your mind; set your mind up to race in advance, while being mindful that changes in plan do happen and then you are prepared more than most before you even get to race start.
I grounded myself before leaving the house yesterday; I fed my birds, smelt the amazing spring roses we have blooming, I waited to see my robin who visits me daily. This sets everything into perspective for me; I am part of something bigger and to just trust.
I know that at some point I will be in a sea of nerves and people; and I just set the intention that I will be OK in it all in my own little bubble. Garron, my boyfriend understand this too, he knows to expect that I will go quiet; he doesn’t need to say anything a hand on mine is all that is needed to show his support and belief and for this I am very grateful. I am a big girl and it is up to me to become comfortable in how I experience these events and learn to adapt.
During the race I try as much as I can to keep grounded, if I feel I am starting to lift off in a mind of pushing and racing I bring myself back down; I intentionally do this on the bike before I start running. When I am running I make sure to keep my feet “in” the ground and I run as aware as I can. If I am not noticing the birds and trees and my surroundings I bring myself back to this. This is where the energy is flowing; this is how I get over the feeling that someone is ratcheting up the whole back of my legs hamstring to toe. you have to learn to race in a relaxed state if you want to limit a dreaded cramp.
I am body aware but I also try to not be too much because feeling it big when you are only feeling hot or uncomfortable is no reason to stop; or feeling breathless because the dude beside you is about to keel over isn’t either. So managing my mind during the run is a big one; and it does need a bit more practice.
I remember the people I love; this grounds me;
That Garron would be at the line, waiting (a long time; he’s too damn fast 😉 )
I remember every tough training session that I have done and remind myself that I can do it. This year I ran in Colorado, the red rocks and hills of Sedona, and the humid heat of Houston. At the time they were all fun runs, gifting me the experiences of new lands and now they rack up as mental strength.
Life is gifting us lessons and tools all the time.
And then I remembered the endless brick runs on sore legs around the local roads. I was damned if all these experiences didn’t count for something.
Make every lesson of your life count for something more; there is a gem in everything to drive us on with greater self-belief.
Set clear goals:
Sport is an amazing life tool. I have learnt so much about myself in the past 15 months. My strengths, and my weaknesses. In truth my body when I work with her has no limits and my mind when working against me contains all limits. So this makes it clear where the work must be done!! Highly sensitive people seem especially good at internalizing a whole load of personal negativity; perhaps as a result of internalizing a lot of ‘stuff’ from the past. Let it go and leap into your potential and let go of the past. Don’t store up a memory-load of excuses; make them experiences.
Take everything that you learn through the achievement of things you never dreamt possible and use these experiences to propel you in other areas of your life. Where you gain strength in one part of your life, let it remind you of your strength in another.
I frequently set goals for where I am going and I always include words and pictures in my mind about how this will feel, how it will look, and how alive and vibrant and happy I will feel when I am in there achieving these goals. That is what winning means to me.
It’s just a race; damn did I say that? Its like athlete blasphemy!
Don’t let winning cost you everything else in your life falling apart; because that is a pretty expensive bill when you can no longer use sport to fill that void.
Let sport be what gifts you the knowledge and experience to be everything MORE in your life.
You simply have to keep perspective in all of this about what truly matters. Why are you doing this? What are your goals (not someone else’s), what is THE MEANING IN WHY YOU ARE RACING; your meaning and not someone else’s. Why do you train?
There must be a lot of positives in why you do this; for you!
These are questions that I ask myself all of the time? Why am I doing this? Why do I get up and train for hours each week? What do I gain from this? What keeps this real? Because honestly on race day some parts suck; like really suck, and you need to have a why to keep you motivated, inspired, and moving forwards. I struggle with my why too some days and that is when I need to take a step back and regain perspective in all of this. Who am I doing this for?
Some thing happened today that showed me just how important maintaining perspective is. It would seem that due to last-minute changes in my race yesterday, where a swim-bike-run usual middle distance event was turned on its head into a duathlon, that this upset the timing chips for a few of us. I wasn’t sure as you don’t really go too far into it in all the post-race hype; but then after a while the discrepancy became obvious. I never for one minute believed I did a 14 minutes 7 km run but after a few more glances into how the organizers dealt with the different format and timing adjustments it became clear that my timings and the girl who placed second had anomalies that the third placed girl didn’t have (and many others it would seem).
I don’t know how many other times are in error; and I hope that this doesn’t unsettle people too much. I may hang on to my first place in my age group and you know what I realise that it doesn’t really matter all that much to me. What does matter is what I got from the race, what I put in….and fairness. I cannot change anything about the day, I nailed most training sessions in my preparation, and I know what needs to be done moving forwards. I achieved my race plan; to have fun.
So for me a first, a third, or a last doesn’t matter in comparison to what I believe I can do. And this translates into all of my life. Can I keep my life balanced and still train hard, can I hold my self-worth no matter how badly a race or training session goes, can I hold my strength when I am injured and not make excuses, can I face life knowing I am putting my all in? And if I am not getting this balance correct; what must I do?
Last year I trained myself; it worked well when you consider that a prime goal of mine was to learn about myself, and to learn for my work, and I sure did learn a lot to then apply to my work with athletes. I have a knack of taking every little lesson into a big exploration of science; for example areas that tweaked my interest were further intricacies of athlete fatigue and how to heal it quickly, immune system support and herbs, injury rehab, individual metabolism quirks and improving metabolic efficiency, and well what training and nutrition hear-say translates to accurate science and meaningful practical strategies.
It was a journey and then the journey was done; after Zell-Am-See it was time to seek support in the form of a coach. To do away with the second guessing, and planning and analyzing of each weeks training, and allow my head a rest and my body to just do the work; but mostly I needed support.
Being a sensitive person I needed a good chunk of this as emotional support and from someone who is interested enough to understand me; someone who gets me. I will do what I am asked, and I will put my all into it so it bodes well for me that I am doing this in a way that is working with my strong and yet hyper-sensitive body and not waste my time or worse still fall ill or inured.
I also needed a big chunk of support in my self-belief, my coping skills, my racing and training ability and someone who could see my potential and reap it while relieving me from any pressure of expectation and encouraging me to do it for myself. Empowerment 🙂 I also needed an ass kicking when my negative self-talk kicked into play.
I have an awesome coach, Annchen Clarke. Annchen gets me, she nurtures me, and she understands that as much as I will push myself and do all that I am asked I need certain things to keep me balanced in this nut ball sport: fun, nature, connection, and a kick up the ass now and again to look within.
I believe that in order for the coach-athlete relationship to work, it is something that verges on alchemy.
It is more than the sum total of the parts; it is a coach that is knowledgeable, flexible, experienced, open-minded and yet strong in their beliefs, honest, tough and yet also mindful of the athlete as a whole being living in a complex world.
It requires that both athlete and coach place their egos totally out of the relationship and nurture authentic and truthful communication.
When a coaching-athlete relationship is not right, that is no ones fault necessarily. This is a relationship that must work and there is no point pursuing it when it no longer works SO LONG AS YOU ARE BOTH BEING HONEST ABOUT WHY.
When you find a coach who cares and brings out the most in you; hold them close and show them that you appreciate them.
Boss, I am forever grateful 🙂
When I spent time this year in retreat with Clint Frakes in Sedona to learn amongst other things about the Native Indian ways he said to me “Andrea, build allies in life”.
These, I have learnt are the positive people, the never quitters, the believers, the doers, the ones that are up working hard when everyone is asleep; the ones that stand by me no matter where they are, and the friends that aren’t afraid to give me a truthful leveling when I need one.
But also my allies in this life and sporting journey are the jokers and the comedians; the dream chasers; the quiet believers; the musicians and artists; the spiritually awake people and the ones passionate to create change in our world; and the world of nature and her flowers, birds and the animal companions that meet me on my path. These allies for me are important too and provide a great source of balance and inspiration to my life. These alllies remind me of the person that I want to be remembered for.
Be selective about the people who you let into your inner world; but also don’t be so blind as to miss the lessons from everyone else.
For goodness sake don’t do what doesn’t work; you have to be adaptable in this game of life. Otherwise in endurance sport something will break: you mentally or you physically.
The very best people in life don’t sweat the small stuff; they know where they are going and they know that the details will work themselves out as a result of their many choices and decisions. Not all may be the best ones that could have been made but being flexible allows for small adjustments that will get you to your ultimate goal given time and patience.
Be grateful for your health and fitness:
Be grateful for all that your body delivers when you ask it to give big. Listen to it, nurture and nourish it; stretch it, rest it, allow it play and have fun.
Say thanks for having an awesome body;
its more than most people have.
This will inspire you to appreciate you health and to quit making excuses. http://www.triradar.com/triathlon-features/bailey-lough-cutra-castle-triathlon. Bailey could have made a lot of excuses to never try!
I hope this article helps; I am just a small fry in all of this. I do however try to be mindful of all that you face in life as a busy athlete and someone doing their best in life, so whatever way I can use my experiences to support you better makes me smile.
PS an oldie video of the venue of our race yesterday; beautiful venue!