Tree-alities Part 3: On how to go out on a branch.... and come back again.

This last post was the hardest one for me to hit “Publish” on. I can speak in vague philosophical themes all day but when it comes to admitting to something I don’t want to come to terms with in a public fashion, I struggle. Don’t we all?

This decision was made about a month ago but since making the decision and discussing it with several close friends and family members, I’ve been going through a complexity of different emotions over my decision. I’ll first share my thoughts going into actually making the decision and I’ll finish with a few comments about how I’ve felt since making my choice.

From April 12:

I’ve been mulling over something for nearly a year now. Since getting a crushing blow about my knee last year, I’ve questioned my ability to race as a professional athlete. Since also taking a small step back from the sport last summer it gave me the chance to take a long hard look at what I want to do and how much commitment, focus, and luck was going to be required to reach my triathlon goals. If I have to be brutally honest with myself, I’m at best a “C” level pro (has a pro license but not making significant money or finishing well among their competitors) who could aspire to be at best, a “B” level pro (capable of winning smaller races, and potentially finishing well at higher level races) under current circumstances. To take the steps necessary to get to that point I have to put a lot of pressure on myself to train, recover, and make sacrifices in my social and professional life. I’ve never been able to fully commit myself except for maybe very early in my triathlon career when the shiny new professional triathlon goal still didn’t have any revealing limitations. I was having a lot of fun learning about the complexities of the sport and seeing myself make remarkable improvements week after week. Now that I’ve been plugging away for a few years, the shininess of being a professional triathlete has worn off. I started to realize the time and dedication it takes just to be considered a middle-tier professional in triathlon. It can be hard to want to dedicate your life to a sport where your livelihood can be dictated by your performance on a handful of days per year. Many of which rely on luck and perfect preparation.
So because of these things, I’ve decided to step away from racing as a “professional.” I’m rejoining the age-group ranks and trying to get back to the root of why I started doing this sport in the first place: to have fun, to train a lot (something I masochistically enjoy), to be around like-minded people, and to continue to cultivate my competitive drive. I’m tired of the self-inflicted social comparison to other pros and I’m tired of pouring my energy into a goal that for me, demands my 100% self at the cost of other things in my life. Doing this sport at the end of the day should only be a part of who I am. Not the whole of who I am. My successes and failures shouldn’t define me or my level of happiness. And as my former coach (and friend), David Tilbury-Davis has told me time and time again, if you lose sight of what made you passionate about the sport to begin with, it’s probably time to take a hard look at what you are doing and decide if it’s truly something of value to you.
The sport lost most of the “fun” for me. I don’t want this to seem like an ultimatum and that I’ll never race again. In fact, I plan on racing quite a bit this summer! I still love racing and love trying to get the best out of myself. But I also recognize that the self-inflicted pressure from standing on the tip of this one “awesome thing” branch, while fighting the monsters and men with saws that have tried to knock me off has become detrimental to my progress on other intertwined life and career goals. I chose my jobs over the last few years to enhance my ability to train because they were low-stress and flexible. They never paid well but they paid enough and let me be around a lot of like-minded people, both as coworkers and people I service, while getting in the training I set out to do. To reach my goals I also sacrificed a lot of social outings and opportunities so I wouldn’t set off the balance necessary for me to carry out my week-to-week training. Yes, I realize these sacrifices are necessary to achieve what I wanted to achieve – but the power of this one “branch” should not overwhelm the importance of my progress on other ultimate goal “limbs”. If I can take this step back and still continue to improve I may re-return to some of these goals I previously set - but never again at the cost what got me into sport in the first place: fun.

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Following sharing this post with friends and family I went through a range of emotions. I’ve had a hard time actually letting go of my professional triathlete goals because there is always this part of me that asks, “what if?” What if this is my best year ever? What if I’m giving up on myself too soon? I set out about a year ago giving myself 5 years of still pursuing being a professional triathlete and here I am… just giving up on that. I’d wake up feeling like I lost purpose and drive and training seemed more like a chore than a joyful pursuit.

But then one day I swapped my elite license for an age group license. And then I signed up for a 70.3 relay with friends. Then I signed up for the local 5430 series. And then I started to remember how fun it was to race and train on my terms, which generally means racing all of the time; Not only in triathlons, but in bike races, run races, racing lane mates to the other end of the pool, or to the front of a buffet line. So to kick off my summer with a fresh spin on things, here’s the tentative schedule for the next couple of months:

6/3: Colorado Sprint

6/10: Best on Hess TT

6/15: Boulder Road Runners All-Comers 1 mile race

6/24: Loveland Olympic Triathlon

7/4: Superior Mile

7/9: Boulder Peaks Triathlon

7/16: Mount Evans Hill Climb

7/22: Sunshine Canyon Hill Climb (I like climbing things…..)

More races to come….

 

Confused on this talk of limbs, branches and trees? See posts one and two.