Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mind-Injury Link

I had a good week and in spite a small bout with a bug on Thursday and Friday, was pretty pleased overall with getting all the workouts done more or less as planned.  I did get a little confused at one point and did a swim when a bike was on the schedule.  I can't explain that beyond sleep deprivation.  I was just a little confused.  :P

I did a field test yesterday and it was the first measured workout since starting back.  I was so nervous it felt like I was prepping for a race.  I couldn't figure out why I was so anxious at first until I realized that this workout would quantify all that I had lost in the last 6 months.  Or at least that is how I was looking at it.

DW has given me the speech about clearing the slate and not worrying about where I was vs. where I am.  My friend MF, who got held my hand while I purchased my first bike gave me a similar pep talk, even citing the recovery of her sister who came all the way back from barely riding to the podium!  I realize that to many athletes "where I was" isn't anyplace worth mentioning.  But to me, it was all that I had worked for.  That has left me wondering why I have so much of my fragile ego wrapped up in it.  The last six months haven't been about the quality of my physical training.  They have been entirely about the mental journey.  So I guess this is the next paver along the path.

I do have a lot of ego wrapped up in this.  I have always been the "fat" kid, even when I was not really fat.  I have a linebackers build and a little body fat goes a long way towards making me look like an overstuffed sausage.  Body image issues aside, I don't think I look bad these days.  I would classify my body type squarely in the normal or average range.  I don't think I "LOOK FAT" in street clothes or by street standards.  Except that I feel fat... even when I am feeling pretty darn thin and fit.  But I am a very competitive athlete that wants to succeed.  And that does not jive with what is in the mirror.

The thing that cuts through these issues like a blade through paper is my bike performance.

When I show up to a new group ride, I see it.  I hear it.  I am told that the ladies at the back keep a nice easy pace that I should be able to maintain.   If it is a fast drop ride, the guys just roll their eyes.  Then the ride starts and I depart just behind the leaders.  I take my turns at the front unless I don't know where I am going.  I keep up.  I turn in a performance that raises eyebrows, that takes that body image and shreds it into a million little pieces.  I earn their respect and my own.  I am not the fastest on the bike, nor am I going to beat anyone who is far beyond my ability. It's not that.  It's more that my performance on the bike  validates me.  It makes me a consideration rather than a preconception.  If you assume I cannot.. am not, you may be stuck trying to catch me.

It provides me with a buffer for the constant tearing down and demoralizing workouts that running produces.  It can be summarized by one incident.  I was running on the track at a group workout.  Due to this injury that has gone on so long, I can't even relate to a running performance that is not diminished, and so it was that day.  As I shuffled along, getting passed over and over, watching people who had once been just starting out, pass me like I wasn't moving, hyper aware of the fact that I had not only not improved but gotten worse, a girl (BB) that was not particularly friendly towards me (in fact she would tear me down at every opportunity), passed me while running beside a new member doing her first workout.  I heard that new member make a comment about how slow I was and BB cautioned her not to make that assumption because I was so strong on the bike.  Intellectually, I know that if I had not gotten injured, my run would be much farther along, but intellectualizing doesn't help me.  This is a matter for the gut.

The bike is what gives me permission to call myself an athlete.  The bike is what allows me to forgive myself for being so weak in other areas.  The bike is what lets me stand up tall, even while wearing spandex which creates a most unfortunate sausage skin effect.  It validates me as an athlete.  Losing bike performance is like losing a bit of myself.

I suspect the two should not be tied so closely and that there are people (if anyone actually read this blog) who would probably slip me the name of a good therapist.  The Dalai Lama would frown on this attachment, as would almost anyone with a healthy relationship to their athletic goals.  But there it is, as I promised at the beginning, honest.

There is more to this thought, but a blog entry should not be a novel, so I will cut this short.  But I need to, and will, revisit this, because it is this connection that will answer the questions concerning why I overtrain, train through pain, etc.  It is the mind-injury link.

Another thing... the field test went really well.  It wasn't as bad as I had feared and I got a chance to reconnect to something very important, something I can only seem to remember when I am actively doing it.  I ride because it is fun and it makes me feel great.  My memory for this critical detail is so very short, and my memory for the debasing, self-abuse seems so long.  I guess that is true for a lot of people, but I am not hanging out inside their heads.  Seems I have a lot of work to do in my own attic.



  1. Thanks for reading my blog, I am glad that the 'success is not a staircase' post helped you out a bit. It's even good for ME to go and re-read it and remind myself of all that... :) I sound so convincing but I still get frustrated myself!
    good luck with your training!

  2. For what it's worth, my self image is disturbingly wrapped up in my "athletic" performance. This is just a little pathetic since I struggle to get into the top 20% of my age group on a run, and I've had a great tri if I can stay in the top third. Anyway, when I think of where I started and compare it to where I am it makes me pretty happy :) Sometimes remembering the time before tri-ing can be helpful

  3. At least I know I am not alone in this!! Thanks!