I've been told that I should write more personally about my training and experiences. I find this quite odd, since people that know me, know that I don't like talking about myself, sharing or really "opening up". However, I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens. So here we go ... welcome inside. Can I actually F*#%ing do this?
Lately I have been overcome with small, infrequent, but extremely overwhelming bouts of doubt. It is hard to pin down what exactly brings them on, but they exist and they are becoming louder and louder.
The latest whispers came in a recent discussion I had with some friends over my upcoming IRONMAN Cozumel event and a comment was made: "Of course you're going to finish. Right? There is no chance you won't finish" A simple, harmless comment. Meant as support. Shot through me like bullet. My response: "Well, yes, there is a chance I won't finish".
In this flash of a comment, the thoughts racing through my head were too much to comprehend or take. At this moment I thought, "well shit, is this what people think? These are people who are travelling to Mexico to see me race. Who wouldn't be there otherwise. Who were spending thousands of dollars, for me. A completely selfless act, in support of me. What if I fail? How could I let them down?"
Simultaneously, my mind raced with ways and scenarios that could see this ending in a DNF (did not finish). What if my training is inadequate? What if I bonk? What if I hurt myself? What if I panic and can't finish the swim? What if the weather is shit? Too windy and miserable? Raining? What if I overheat? What if my nutrition plan is insufficient for the climate? What if my bike malfunctions? What if I crash? What if my knee acts up? What if ... What if...... What if..........
It all happened in a moment. Almost like a stoppage of time, where my mind took over and I tried to not let my friends see the weight, the power that such a harmless comment had on me. I smiled. Inside, I was sick. I was filled with doubt. With regret. Realizing that maybe, just maybe this wasn't about me anymore.
This is but one example. I've noticed the silent but deadly feeling creep up on me more and more lately. As race day nears, I find myself questioning what I'm doing more and more. This is no easy task. I've never even ran a marathon before! I'm I actually crazy? Have I thought this through? Am I setting myself up for ultimate failure?
It is a self perpetuating cycle that I rationally know does more harm than good. As I hit deeper and deeper cycles I notice changes in my behaviour. I eat shittier. I miss workouts - why workout when you're going to fail anyway? I get depressed.
It has become a persistent voice whose negativity echos through my thoughts when:
- I miss a work out
- Enjoy a couple extra beverages
- Sleep in
- Cut a training session short
- Don't feel like I'm pushing it enough
- Miss out on social events
- Neglect my friends and family
- Eat. Work. Train. Sleep. Repeat.
- Fall behind my teammates training.
To date, I've never let the doubt take over - I've come close, but find the strength to snap myself out of it.
I'm the type of person who appreciates when people don't think I can do something. When I first started this triathlon experiment, the number of people telling me I couldn't do it was many; but, provided me with an immense amount of motivation to prove them wrong. If I didn't, well no one really lost.
I've learnt, or to be honest, am learning to use these feelings of doubt as fuel for the fire. I have started to embrace them. To use them as motivation. As a means to help me achieve my goal, not disable my ability to move forward.
There is no easy way to explain how to do this. I'm assuming for each individual it will be a little bit different. A few tricks I use to dispel those moments of doubt:
- Fight back: When you're starting to question your efforts, fight back. Have an internal dialogue with your doubt. Tell yourself each and every reason those thoughts are wrong. Convince yourself you're doing all you can and you'll be alright.
- Trust your process: You're not a professional. Don't hold yourself to that standard. Trust in your plan. Trust in your effort. Trust in your training. I'm willing to bet you've thought this through. Don't let some momentary doubts ruin all that work.
- Rely on your support team: I'm lucky enough to have a lot of positive support around me. When I finally decide to open up about how I'm feeling, they are quickly there to pick me up and get me back on track. I've said it before and I'll say it again - NEVER under estimate the power of your support system - friends, family, spouse, coworkers, whomever.
It isn't easy. I'm not always successful. But for me, this simple conversation helped me understand that I'm more comfortable letting myself down then I am letting others down. It has become evident to me that I'm not just in this for me anymore. That people are actually rooting for me. That people want me to succeed. That people will be disappointed or let down if I don't.
It is a powerful realization. It is one I don't take lightly. It is one that has helped drive me forward with purpose where I otherwise may have faltered.
While the feelings and thoughts of doubt are natural and will likely not go away, I'm convinced I will make myself, my team and my supporters proud.
The grind continues............