I think it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway, this winter was nasty. It was long, cold, dark and snowy, and my nose, lungs and throat were plagued by mucus and phlegm. Spring has officially hit our calendars, yet I’m desperately curious as to when the sun will warm us again and when my immune system will give me a fighting chance. It’s been a bit rocky, but I’m learning how to be patient and how to weather the storm.
Training started in December – the same as it has for the past four years. But as I’ve said many times already, it was a rougher start this year and harder for me to get back into a groove. The bundled up from head to toe, snot flying, toes freezing long runs on Monday nights that started in the dark and ended in the dark, the 5am wake up calls to what felt like the dead of night, and countless hours of spinning indoors on a trainer, felt more dreary and endless than usual. And, the empty cough syrup bottles, kleenex boxes and gallons of snot and phlegm reached an all time high. Being sick this winter quickly became the bane of my existence.
I first got sick with a horrible bronchial cough the week before Ironman in July – awesome timing – and then reared it’s ugly head again in November, December, February and April. I started to worry about my health and questioned why I was getting sick so often. I turned to Doctor Google far too many times, and gave myself anxiety about whether or not I was dying. I swear that before triathlon I never paid this much attention to how many times I was getting sick, or worrying about how many days I would be sick. I just dealt with it. But as an athlete, you become obsessive – obsessed with the day in and day out training, performance and health. With missing so many workouts, I questioned if I would be ready, and on the other hand, questioned if I even wanted to do it. Trying to get my momentum going was incredibly challenging. Just when I started to feel a shift in the right direction, I would get derailed. My decision making pendulum about whether or not to continue training has swung back and forth many times since December. I have thought it was a sign that perhaps I needed a change or a break, but each time I missed a workout, I felt an odd lingering emptiness and a burning desire to get back to the next one. So, I know the passion is still there, I just have to find my rhythm.
This isn’t the first time I’ve faced setbacks or doubts, I think those happen almost every year to every athlete. I have spent time dwelling on bad performances, recovering from injuries and illnesses, enduring through bad weather, trying to maintain relationships outside of triathlon, flip flopping on my commitment to the sport – all of those are obstacles, and all of them have taught me, and continue to teach me a little bit about myself.
This winter, in particular, I’ve learned how to restrain myself from acting impulsively or hastily. I’ve learned how to know when it’s right to wait out the storm and when it’s right to push through. I’ve learned how to trust my gut and go with my instincts. I’ve learned which cough syrups work best and which tissue brand is the softest. I’ve learned more patience.
There really isn’t a time when I’m not learning something. Over the past four years, training for Ironman has taught me a lot. Not only about the sport, but more importantly, about mentality and who I am. The training regime is not easy and you need to be invested both mentally and physically, and you’ll either push through or you’ll find another hobby. I guess, I’m one of those people who just keeps pushing through.
With May on the horizon, I’m hoping that the last of the dreary weather is moving elsewhere and that cold season won’t follow me through to next month, or any month after that. I’ve spent enough time battling it out with Mother Nature and snot – I’m ready for the next challenge.