8 Weeks till Kona – WHY???

8 Weeks - WhyOne of the questions I’ve been pondering a lot recently, is why I do triathlon. Maybe it’s because I’m eight weeks away from the biggest race I might ever do. Or maybe it’s because I’m already thinking about what’s next. Do I want to do another Ironman? Do I want to try and go pro? Do I want to take a year off? When I’m trying to look into the future, I always come back to the why. Especially in the midst of a big training block, leading up to a major race, I frequently struggle to find the joy in what I’m doing. My muscles hurt, I’m tired, I’m hungry…so why keep going? If I’m not having fun, than why am I doing this?

In an article that I recently wrote for GLUKOS Energy, I referenced challenge as one of the main reasons I engage in this sport. But more than just the challenge, more than merely trying to do something I haven’t done before, challenge represents the opportunity to improve upon yourself. Every time we encounter an obstacle, it doesn’t matter if that’s in sport or life in general, we have two choices: 1) we can turn around and find an easier way, or 2) we can roll up our sleeves and learn how to overcome it. Option #1 is often the more tempting option, because who likes discomfort or difficulty? But one thing that I’ve learned in the last several months is that the easy option is not usually the best way to go. We experience, discover, and grow so much more when we have to work for something. Maybe that’s why I seem to be interesting in way too many things. New projects, subjects, sports, etc. present an opportunity to learn something new. I think to back to my undergrad and grad school days, and despite the mental/physical fatigue that went along with studying for hours each night and writing endless papers, the process of learning continues to draw me in.

I had a bike workout last week, and Alyssa wrote in the description, “…yes, this should be really f-ing hard.” Who wants to see that going into a workout? That definitely led to some trepidation as I went into the session. But you know what, I completed the ride. It hurt, but without putting in the work I know that I’m not going to be any better, stronger, or faster. I’m not going to learn anything new, and learning something new is going to involve some discomfort.

I’ve heard this thought explained a number of different ways, but I really like how Missy Franklin put it in the above video. “No matter who you are you can always wake up feeling really motivated. But, if you really want to get where you want to go, you can’t only finish the day great, you have to finish better than you started. I think when you get to that point, that’s when you really need to think about what you want.” Finishing better than you started the day is not going to come without work, motivation, and drive. Our natural state seems to be one of deceleration. Our bodies slow down as the day progresses, and our minds start to shut off. But achieving that next level of growth is going to require pushing through that “natural state.” In another episode of the Missy Franklin GoPro series, referring to the training she was going through, she said, “It’s just like constant exhaustion. You just live in soreness. You live in sleep deprivation. You live in just being so unbelievably tired.” But you also live in pursuit of a goal that is worth the discomfort and exhaustion.

It’s a crazy mental state that I have yet to be able to fully explain or wrap my mind around. But it is so much of the “why” to my pursuit of and engagement in triathlon. We’ll see if that desire continues after Kona, but I never see myself not working towards a goal or trying to learn something new.