I’m tired. The sore is starting to set in. It’s been a few hours since my first triathlon and the adrenaline high is long gone.
My smile isn’t.
While I’ve been training hard over the last few months to get my fitness level back, and confidently signed up for the triathlon as a symbolic gesture that I’ve returned to 100%, my anxiety level went through the roof as the event approached.
I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hair. I didn’t know what to wear. I started getting cranky (a sure sign I’m stressing out) because the idea of an open water swim scared me to death.
Last weekend, my husband saw past the freak out and talked me off the ledge. He put everything aside to do a mock triathlon with me. It was cold, windy and raining…absolutely miserable. At the finish, I knew what to expect. I tested out my hair, wetsuit, transitions, and clothing options. I was ready to go.
Or so I thought.
Then yesterday, I picked up our race packets and drove the routes. The bike had only one hill, nothing like I’ve done previously (we live in a hilly area). The run was basically flat. I was feeling good. Then I went out to the dock and saw the buoys in the lake. That’s when panic set in.
It looked huge. So much longer than our test tri last weekend. I wasn’t sure I could make it without exhausting myself for the bike and run.
I wanted to back out. Sometimes being a parent sometimes sucks. Everything is a teachable moment. What would it tell my son if I quit?
So this morning, I did my hair. I got proteined and caffeinated. We drove out to the course and had plenty of time to settle in (and panic).
It wasn’t the best hour and 40 minutes of my life, but it was pretty good. When you’re alone in your own head for that long, it’s a great opportunity to pay attention to what it tells you. Here are my learnings for the day:
Our perspective regarding our performance over time can be skewed, so have a measurement system.
The swim felt like it took forever, but it was only 24 minutes. The bike felt like I flew, but I was only going 16 mph. I thought I was crawling on the run, but it exceeded my target.
When we struggle, it may feel like we’re doing poorly. When we feel good, it may feel like we’re doing great. In reality, without some way to baseline and measure our performance over time, we have NO idea how we’re doing.
Deliver. Measure. Improve. Repeat.
Celebrate incremental wins to stay motivated over long efforts.
At the start of the swim, all I could see was the entire course and it felt overwhelming. In the water, I could no longer see it, so I focused on getting to the next buoy. I tracked landmarks on the bike, remembering the route from the night before. On the run, each mile was marked, telling me exactly how far I had left to go.
During training, I watched Creed on the bike trainer or the treadmill for motivation. Rocky tells Donnie “One step, one punch, one round at a time” rather than focusing on the entire match. It held with me throughout the race.
Along the route, I’d tell myself one buoy, one turn, one mile, or one transition. Any one of them was achievable. I had to keep going to the next one, rather than thinking about all that was ahead of me.
The feeling of achieving our goals stays with us longer than what we overcome to get there.
I think I was in denial until I hit the water. It was cold, but I was in it and it was too late to back out. The only thing I could do was finish.
At that point, it didn’t matter that I was tired. That I was scared. The hours I had put in. The tweaked knee or busted hip. It all faded. All that mattered was finishing and the feeling of accomplishment that came with it.
Fear is temporary. We can sleep later. Pain fades. No one can take away something we’ve earned through it all.
At this point, I’m not sure when or whether I’ll do another triathlon. I’m signing up for other running and biking events for the time being to stay on track with my health and fitness goals.
Even if I never do another one, I’ll always be able to say I did this one. That I overcame my fear of the swim and got it done. I’m not going to jump out of an airplane anytime soon or anything, but it reminds me that great things can lie on the other side of the things we fear.
Have you ever tackled a fear head-on? What did you learn about yourself? I’d love if you would share your experience in the comments or social media.
I was five when I was taught that perception, not truth, was reality.
The lesson was that it did not matter what I said, did or meant. It mattered how what I said or did was perceived by others.
That’s a young age to discover that my truth was not the TRUTH.
It took a while to sink in. To realize that facts and figures are likely absolutes, but thoughts and feelings – while they may have certainty in my own mind or that of others – are not.
Searching for the truth
In the last few weeks, after considering how easy it is to believe the bad things and reject the good, I’ve been paying more attention. To my words and others’. To what our words reveal about our perception, and whether or not that perception is real.
I have listened to friends criticize their intelligence, weight, beauty, capability and skills. I’m flabbergasted, as I tend to hold them in high regard in the areas where they think they fall short. They are equally perplexed by my own self-judgment.
Re-evalutaing my truth
I’ve been working diligently over the last three months to get back to my pre-surgery fitness levels.
Along the way, co-workers, friends and family have been very supportive. They share how healthy they think I look. For them, this is likely a huge improvement over the woman who could barely walk upright and who was regularly in visible pain.
They didn’t perceive me as overweight or frumpy as I struggled to find anything comfortable to wear. They didn’t see me as less effective because I was at the mercy of doctors’ visits and couldn’t control my own body. I did.
My perception is my reality. And my perception has been that the work I’ve done is not enough. That I’m not there yet. So I caveat my “thank you” with “but I still have more to go.”
In my head, I haven’t hit my goal. There are still flaws to fix. Challenges to overcome.
Is my truth the truth?
Which is the truth? For better or worse, they both are. To others, I look healthy and fit. To me, I still have work to do. Each perception is reality to someone. But it is our individual perception that drives our relationships, interactions and behaviors. Our perception of ourselves, and of those around us.
While having a high bar and setting challenging goals is a good thing – it’s what’s successfully driven me and endless others since forever – a negative perception can erode our self-confidence and the very success we aim to achieve.
To change our perception, we have two choices. Change our setting or change our perspective.
Reconsider the setting
Driving around in my ATV over the weekend, I saw a dandelion. It’s a weed and can be considered troublesome by many. However, in this moment, I saw beauty in the invasive object.
In the right setting, even a weed can be beautiful. Sometimes, an environment change may be all that’s needed to realize our potential gifts. A different role, team, desk…even small changes matter.
A co-worker recently shared that when her manager moved her desk to another floor, near the window, it was like she got a promotion. There was no other change, but it lifted her spirits and injected new life into how she perceived her job.
Putting ourselves in a different setting can change how we see ourselves.
Shift the perspective
The other opportunity is changing our perspective. Sometimes, we just need to decide something about ourselves or someone else and it may as well be true.
If we think someone has potential, our interactions with them will help reveal and realize that potential. The same can be said of ourselves. It was Henry Ford that said (loosely) – If we think we can or think we can’t, we’re right.
I often find myself in conversations where I offer a different take on the same situation. Having a second perspective suddenly opens up other possibilities. What was once black or white may now be grey.
If we think rigidly about ourselves or others, getting another perspective may provide us the space to consider an alternate truth.
Finding a new truth
The work I’ve done over the last few months has resulted in the joy of being able to “shop” my own closet…discovering items long-since forgotten. Rather than thinking that I’m falling short of my goal, I’m enjoying where I am, knowing I’ll get to where I want to be.
I may not be in the best shape of my life, but I’m healthier and fitter than I’ve been in a long time. I’m able to function without pain and am celebrating my return to 100% wellness by competing in my first triathlon this weekend.
I’m changing my setting – providing an opportunity to create an interim success. I’m also changing my perspective – seeing that interim success as the accomplishment it is.
How we talk about ourselves reveals our perception. Regardless of whether that perception is real, we make it real because we believe it.
If that talk isn’t positive, it’s time to find a new narrative, and create a new perception.
After all, life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being perfectly human, as our flaws are what make us interesting. If a weed can have a moment of beauty, so can we all.
We are often our own worst critics. So when someone else chimes in with their own criticism, it’s as if we expected it. It reaffirms our fears.
As a result, It can be difficult to take a compliment. To say thank you without thinking “but”.
If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of what we didn’t get done. Focusing on the mistakes we made instead of being proud of our accomplishments. Of what we were able to do.
While it may be easier to believe the bad stuff, because it sounds like the fears running around our heads, that doesn’t make it true.
To make it easier to believe the good stuff, we have to flip our thinking. While humility is good, self-sabotage is not. We have to periodically remind ourselves of our strengths. Of how much we rock.
The next time someone offers a compliment, pause before deflecting. Embrace the feeling and sentiment to say thank you. Resist the urge to argue or mentally check off what could have been done differently.
Over time, the good stuff will be easier to believe.
I’m a rule breaker. Well, maybe more of a bender. I believe in spirit and intent, as sometimes rules take time to catch up with reality.
Going into this past weekend, I was really looking forward to Captain America: Civil War. I’ve long said I am Iron Man, and identify with Tony Stark as someone who has had to figure out how to lead without the suit. However, when it comes to Team Iron Man or Team Cap, I’ve been Team Cap all the way.
While I say I’m a rule bender (Tony frequently bends, shapes or ignores rules as he sees fit), I have a firm grasp of what I see as right and wrong. I understand the rules – all the nuances of the rules – to make sure I don’t put a toe past them.
If Tony and Cap are each on one side, then I know Cap is going to be squarely on the side of right. That’s just what he does. In effect, he’s the balance Tony needs.
At least that was my position going into the weekend. The reality, as expected, is murkier than a strict definition of right and wrong.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to stop here. Spoilers ahead.
The end of winter in New England begins an array of color. We will see rich scarlets and ambers as leaves begin to pop. They’ll eventually turn green, but for a little while, it’s a promise of the autumn we’ll see later this year.
Fall in New England is stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. Having been to see the colors change in many parts of this country, I can confidently say New Hampshire is my favorite, since long before I became a resident.
Though I am no longer an avid photographer, each year I make a point to go color hunting on a few different weekends. The target is peak foliage, with the hills alive with reds, oranges and yellows.
On a recent trip, I was spending a few days with my photography mentors, Margo and Arnie, who always push me to look past the obvious. To get up and stay out before everyone else. To find the shot no one else can get.
Spending time with them, absorbing their lessons, I realized the pursuit of a stunning image is no different than the pursuit of leadership.
Look beyond the easy win for the real opportunities
Anyone can get off a bus, point at a pretty tree and click the shutter. I’ve done the same thing in countries around the world, when I have a day to spend to see as much as I can.
Getting at the real beauty, or true image, of anything takes time. More than a few minutes making snap photos (or judgements) about what’s on the surface.
As many of you may know, the last year has been a bit of a health roller coaster.
A year ago, I started getting severe migraines. The resolution meant adjusting medications that had been stable for almost a decade.
It didn’t take long before I was on bed rest, preparing for two surgeries, and then more bed rest.
Coming out of the surgeries, I felt great. I was able to walk long distances, some days up to 9 or more miles. But it only lasted until I returned to work.
Sometimes what’s good for you feels bad
I fought the new pain. I tried walking. In January, I got back on my bicycle, determined to return to my former level of fitness.
I only made things worse.
Six weeks ago, I could barely walk. After 10 minutes on a treadmill, I was in severe discomfort. At 30 minutes, I had to stop, as the pain would become excruciating.
So I quit.
I stopped doing everything.