The Grind and How to be Crazy

A recent Monday I came into work and my coworker asked me about my weekend.

“It was pretty good, I had a really fun brick workout this Saturday!”
He proceeded to say, “I assume every workout you do is fun to you though, right?”
“Well, no, some of them really suck. And some of them I just don’t want to do at all.”

This was when I got a slight smirk. A smirk that said “I knew you were crazy for training for this Ironman, but you must really be crazy if you don’t enjoy all of it.”

Reflecting on the word “fun” is like reflecting on the word “happy”. When I think of the word fun, I think of roller coasters. I think of playing games and laughing. It’s a state of being that, in all actuality, is rather fleeting. Just like how the word happy implies a state of permanence. Am I unhappy? Absolutely not. But I don’t sit at my desk at work all day with a grin on my face. I really felt that this concept was opened up to me by The Oatmeal’s Cartoon: How to Be Perfectly Unhappy. You can find it here.

Triathlon is my passion. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t want to spend the majority of my free time any other way. At times, it is truly fun, I love the feeling of the wind in my face on my bike and the cruising feeling I get when I reach a runner’s high. But today, in February, those times are few and far between. It’s dark. It’s cold. I’m tired. I’ve been training for two months and have yet to see the sun actually rise during my morning workouts. And the after-work training is no different.

Me getting home from swimming on a particularly chilly morning

I’ve had some really hard days. And I know I’m not even into the hardest part of my training. I’ve had days where my legs seem to be literally screaming at me to stop. I’ve had nights where the stress of work and personal life cause me to sleep in my own tears, yet somehow, I still get out of bed when that 4:30 am alarm rudely yanks me awake. There are times when I want nothing more than to come home and eat a pint of ice cream in bed, but I’m dragging myself to the gym.

So how do I do it? Why am I so crazy? I have a hard time explaining it even to myself. I’m perplexed at my willpower to continually pursue an exhausted and sore state. I’ve thought, there must be a girl in my brain who slaps a button whenever I feel unmotivated, and it plays a montage of sappy Ironman finisher and inspirational videos like this one. Certainly, there are times when I’m reaching the end of a particularly long workout and I can envision crossing that line, with tears in my eyes. But not all the time.

If you had the attention span to read that whole Oatmeal comic, you might be thinking what I’m thinking. I’m in the pursuit of more than momentary comfort. And I’m definitely past the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle/bikini body. This may even be a little bit unhealthy. I’m driven to see how capable my body can become. I’m curious to see if there are limits to my dreams. I may be exhausted all the time, but I’m getting stronger. Like Matt Inman said, “I want to hurt so I can heal”. Every time I think I’m gonna break, I come back able to run faster, bike stronger, swim harder.

Bringing things full circle, a huge reason I’m training and racing is for my mom. My mom once told me that out of the 6 marathons she did, only the first one was actually fun. The rest, she was in and out of ambulances, battling knee pain, and she almost always felt like throwing up. Why the heck would someone not learn from the second marathon?! The third even!? Why on earth would she do six!? Through this process, I’m finding that I’m a lot like my mom. I’m a bit of a masochist, and seem to enjoy suffering. But there truly is nothing like achieving what you thought was impossible, and I’m in search of that.

Honest moment here. My mom has been dealt a crappy hand. She never smoked. Never drank. SHE RAN MARATHONS. And she has terminal lung cancer. I’m never going to minimize how sucky that is for her, and for me, as her daughter, to always have on our minds. It’s easy to get caught up into thinking “I don’t deserve this. The universe is pitted against us.” But instead we move forward and make the absolute best of it.

My guess is that a lot of people are dealt “crappy hands”. All over the world, people go to bed hungry, women are harmed, and children lose their parents. As much as I want to be stressed about my mom, my personal life, my job, I try my best to think of how blessed I actually am. My friend and former teammate Valerie Snider said it best in a Facebook status. How fortunate am I that I get to be a woman engineer. I get to race in spandex and wear swimsuits without being ostracized or harmed. I have the luxury and time to train for an Ironman without worrying about where my next meal will come from (more like where can I find a bowl of ice cream). And I have the most loving, funny, and supportive family in the whole world. While I have these things, I’m going to make the best of them and take full advantage of all that my wonderful life has to offer. Today, that means dragging myself out of bed at 4:30 to see how strong I can be. 


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