Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warriors: Choosing the Right Battle

I've been thinking a lot about inspiring people - particularly about Bruce Lee whose wisdom and practices are inspirational, not to mention, one of my guiding forces growing up. I didn't do martial arts. Bruce Lee was just a popular guy in my environment and his films dominated our household as I was growing up.  My favorite quote by him, "The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus," is how I think of Sue, my good friend who just completed a helluva Ironman and who not only had a laser-like focus on her training but who did it all in the style of a warrior.  So being fresh off the Ironman course in Boulder, CO, I asked her to write about her experience and here's what you get: an honest recap of an amazing performance.  Enjoy!  --Vera
When Vera asked me how my Ironman went, my reply was, "Ugh, I hated it." I love Vera for the fact that she knew exactly what I meant when I explained it to her.  Of course, Vera gets me like few people do.  When she asked me to write a blog on the experience in the context of being a warrior, my first reaction was that well, my thoughts mid-race weren't very warrior-like.  But, really, we are all warriors in our own way at the things we care about.

Given what I've read about others' experiences, I had a perfect race: I met my time goals, was comfortable 95% of the time, finished healthy and strong, and my recovery has been smooth.  But, when I crossed the finish line, I said to my handler and to my husband, "Never again." I should have nothing to complain about.  So, why the negative reaction?

It comes down to what is the best fit.  I'm happiest in small events when my competitors are friendly and chill.  Where I have my own space and can just compete to my level of fitness.  I could never be a road racer, and I'm not suited to big mountain bike events like the Leadville 100 or the Firecracker 50.  Give me a small local race any time.  I don't want to jockey for space or be affected by the safety or the behavior of my competitors.  Ironman brand races are the opposite of this; you are beat up in the swim, and have to be on constant watch for other bikers either for safety reasons or for race-related reasons like drafting. The run is less stressful, but by that time the race has taken its mental and physical toll and you are still running amongst 2400 other athletes.

So, what lessons can be learned when you are in a situation where you just have to grind it out?  How can you be warrior-like when you don't feel like you are a warrior?  These are the ones I learned.

1.  Be graceful even when its hard.  The coach I worked with to prepare for the race said, ''Don't be that
person." Meaning, don't be the person who brings people down with your woes.  I made sure to be positive to people on the course, thank the volunteers and cheerers, high five the kids, stop for pictures and hugs with friends, and not mention to them how awful I felt.  Of course it's hard, everyone knows it!  It's just hard in different ways for different people.  It's an easy thing to be graceful;  it pulls you out of a funk for a short while, and helps other people have a good experience.

2. Smiling makes everything better.  On the run course, people cheered for you like crazy if you smiled.
 I'm not sure whether I was smiling for joy, smiling to make people feel good, or out of embarrassment.  It didn't matter - as I found out when I smiled, running felt tons easier and was fun as a result.

3. Quitting is worse. Quitting loomed on my mind repeatedly on the swim as I was pushed, pulled, and smushed.  And, it loomed early on
the run when 26.2 miles seemed impossible.  But, I knew I could finish and that quitting meant I'd have to do this all over again.  I'm so grateful I pushed through and had a strong race.  I am one and done - nothing to improve on; a future race could not go better!

So, with IM checked off the bucket list, my training season is over. It is time for fun.  My friends are already looking ahead to next season for races but I'm just going to play.  The thought of racing holds no appeal.  I'm sure that drive will return, but I will be sure to look for events that challenge me but are also a much better fit.  Part of being a warrior is choosing the right battle, isn't it?

Hate the role or love it, Sue Lottridge is a psychometrician. She leads the efforts at her company to develop and use an automated scoring engine which employs computer programs to score test-taker responses to constructed response items, essays, and the like. In short, she is a geek, but reasonably pleasant to hang out with in spite of it. She loves rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, and open water swimming and just completed the Ironman Boulder.  

1 comment:

  1. Great job Sue! You know yourself and your motivation. You are meticulous about training, no excuses. You know your goals and motivations, when to put it all out there, when to dial it back because it's not your thing. Knowing yourself and motivations is the name of the game, or as you say it, "picking your own battles" (goals). If I ever do an IM I will do it your way and Stanley's way, "one and done". Each of you are my heroes for doing one IM well and with results that met your mark smartly. Knowing yourself, having a top notch training plan and/or trainer, doing the training with no excuses (races are won and PRs are achieved on those days that the others make excuses) got you there. You are rock solid, a wonderful athlete, with a reasonable perspective on life or racing, and always smiling, fun and self contained when it comes to those mental demons of a race, and sweetly aware of others, racers and spectators and personal supporters, not just consumed with yourself. That's where it's at in athletics and life