Driving directions: Follow the ocean for about a day, hang a left at the Gulf of Mexico, drive into the sunset for what feels like eternity, when you see the man that actually looks GOOD in wranglers, boots, and a stetson, stop. You found Texas.
Yup, I did it. I arrived at the finish line. I am heading west tomorrow. Of course, that just means I get two hours from home and start a three week horse show, so it's more like T2 than the finish line, but...... LALALALALA.... not listening!! Only thinking about being done here.
My final week in FL is less of a triumphant victory and more of a whimpering survival. I don't think I have yet recovered from three weeks of insomnia. I am sleeping again but overall feel fairly weak. Each day gets a little better but I am still relying on massive doses of caffeine to get through a work night and my athletic performance has been tragic, to say the least.
The last couple of weeks have been debilitating mentally. What I held together when everything was going crazy in my life, I have lost control of now that the crisis has passed. I had night after night where I was feeling alarming symptoms, almost heart attack-like. It finally dawned on me that I was having anxiety attacks over and over. I haven't had one of those in years. Unlike the last time I dealt with it, there was no obvious precipitating event, just a 15 months of extreme stress, a few weeks of crisis, and three weeks of insomnia.
Fatigue. Fatigue is the real culprit here. It undermines your ability to cope and the effect just snowballs. It will turn you into a person you do not recognize. I don't cry. I have broken down in tears several times lately. I don't scream at service people no matter how much they may deserve it. I had a full exorcist moment at the Ford service department a few days ago. It's not pretty. I told DW that I hated running. I don't hate running. (I hate sucking at it.) I realized I sounded like a petulant little child and that night I had a dream that he fired me as a client. I have eaten potato chips instead of my balanced meals several nights at work because I needed to rebel against the discipline that was making me put one foot in front of the other every day. Now I feel fat AND tired. This is not helping, but they were pretty tasty.
Still, I guess if the goal was to integrate my work and athletics, I did that. I also got a sobering dose of reality. This is really hard and it is not going to get easier. I am going to have to plan breaks into my year to recover and train. There are already breaks in the calendar because that is the nature of the job but I need to focus on making those count. I am also going to have to take a night off once in a while. The one thing I know for sure is that I don't want to give up. For all of the whining, having this training program has added a dimension of stability and purpose (remember I am not married or in any relationship, don't have kids or other family members to care for and support, don't at the moment even have ties to my community. I have this.) to my working life. My job is like a choking vine that cuts you off from the real world, takes over your sense of identity, and leaves you with a miserable, broken existence. I see it everywhere I look, especially amongst braiders. Right now, triathlon is what is standing between me and complete surrender to the horse show world. (A top trainer once asked me "are you sure you are a braider? You are just... so NORMAL.")
I tried to organize tonight night off so that I would be rested for tomorrows drive but that didn't work out. I am disappointed, but that is mostly because I had my heart set on catching the LBS ride right before I had to leave. Between my crazy schedule and DW focused training plan, I have not gotten to join that ride (the one where I learned most of what I know about riding hard and paceline work) since I came back down here. That is a huge bummer, but one that I will survive. It would have been a great way to end this trip on a good note. (Note... there were about four more paragraphs here that were not saved when the internet went down and the resulted in the computer locking up. They are critical to this post having a theme and a message and not just being a big WHINE FESTIVAL. Unfortunately, I was really "in the zone" when I wrote them and now I can't recall exactly how I put this together. So in lieu of intelligent thought, I am just going to offer up some cheese and crackers.)
I have a run on the books for this afternoon and I'll be honest I am kind of dreading it. My last run was, ahem, tortoise-like. My average pace was nearly two full minutes off what I had been doing and it felt terrible. I ached all over and my legs felt like cold sides of beef. My psychology requests a solid effort from my body but last I checked my body wasn't taking requests. My plan is to just go through the motions, if that is what it takes, for the next three weeks and once I am home in Austin, hit the trails and leave the Garmin Overlord at home. Remember what a good run feels like when it is done just for fun. I also know that my attitude will improve tremendously once I am able to do the types of workouts that help you to track progress. I don't like stagnation and right now, it is taking all my effort to just hold my ground. It is amazing that I can be giving my all to something and still be impatient with the pace of the progress.
I talked to DW before he headed to Puerto Rico (Good luck DW, blazing fast wife KW, and any other athletes you may have there!) and I was in a particularly black mood. I was having trouble seeing past the inside of my own skull and hopefully I did not let him in on my dark little secret... I am actually BAT-SH*T CRAZY! He is excellent a putting everything into perspective. At some point, this storm will pass and I will be grateful for all of the bad runs, frustrating trainer sessions, achy swims that I did when I just wanted to say "screw it". All of the effort I am channeling into putting one foot in front of the other right now will be recognized when I don't have to make up for a big backslide in my progress. For the moment, going forward is like riding into a strong headwind. I may not be getting very far but at least I am not losing ground. When the time comes, I will be ready to push off this foundation and see some results.
I feel like I am standing at the top of a mountain looking across the miles to another mountain top with the valley below shrouded in clouds. I know that is where I need to go, but I have no idea what I will face along the road through the valley along the way.
I have used this analogy before but it is so appropriate to my life right now that I am saying it again. I know where I want to go, I know how I want my life to look in a few years. I have a clear picture of the goal, even if I have shared the full scope of it with NO ONE! If I look at the top of that mountain, I stay focused on the goal. If I look at the dirt under my feet, I stay in the moment (and don't trip over as many rocks). If I look at the actual distance between me and my intended destination, it seems so overwhelming. Right now, I am trusting that I will have what it takes to arrive there, though I am aware that like so many things in life, I probably don't know what I have gotten myself into.