“Why am I doing this?” On wanting to quit but not quitting

don't quitMy big Olympic distance triathlon is coming up on Sunday. I can hardly believe it’s almost here.  I’m excited, yes.

But I’ve also had the thought, “Why am I doing this?” pop into my head a few times.  That can lead to a spiral of negativity if I’m not careful.  The voice tells me it’s silly to be doing this. It tells me I’m not adequately prepared. It tells me I’m wasting my time and I’m going to embarrass myself.  Everyone else is going to be a serious triathlete with a cool bike.

Everyone else is going to blow past me on the bike leg and whoever didn’t, will fly by me on the run.  I’m going to come in last. There will be no vegan food at the finish line. My family, who is coming to cheer me on, will wonder why they bothered! Spiral, spiral, spiral. It’s a mean and discouraging voice.

Last week, it even tempted me to quit.

But there is a counter-voice in there too. And that’s the one that says doing the Olympic distance triathlon as my “fittest by 50” challenge is an amazing goal! This is the moment I’ve been training for all year.  And it’s exciting that my parents are coming to watch, and possibly other family members.

It’s the voice that tells me this will be a fun day and a huge accomplishment. Even if I come in dead last, who cares?  A year ago I didn’t even think it would be possible for me to finish such an event. This year, finishing is not even in doubt. That alone is kind of incredible.

There are all kinds of sneaky ways I can talk myself out of doing things that require long term commitment. When I was writing my book on moral responsibility I reached a point during the review process when I was this close. But I wasn’t quite there yet. And that voice showed up in my head and started telling me that this whole thing was stupid, and the book sucked, and screw the reviewer who wanted more changes.  It almost convinced me that the project I’d been working on for 12 years didn’t matter anymore.

But I believed in the book.  I enlisted some help to talk through the changes with me. And I sat down with the manuscript and did the revisions. And in the end, I wrote the best book I could and published it with my first choice press (Oxford!).

It’s that turning point moment right now, when I’m feeling like the easy way would be to just go enjoy a weekend with my family and forget about the race. But that’s not what I’ve been working for all this time.

Not surprisingly, I’m not going to quit. I’m going to go there on Sunday and let the day unfold.

I’m ready and the forecast is excellent.

Bracebridge forecast for Sunday, August 10, from Environment Canada.
Bracebridge forecast for Sunday, August 10, from Environment Canada.


15 thoughts on ““Why am I doing this?” On wanting to quit but not quitting

  1. a friend of mine, who was new to running, entered a 5 k running race in a small town. It was a fundraiser so most of the town turned out to run or watch. My friend came dead last. Some people would consider that to be failure.
    The race announcer called her name and words of encouragement as she neared the finish line and everyone cheered at the top of their lungs. She finished with a huge smile and a huge sense of success.
    Good luck and may your experience be as positive!

  2. Oh, yay, Oly!!! I am not going to do one this year, which makes me sad, but the fact is that I haven’t trainined and the chances of injuring myself in last minute training is too great. That’s a hard lesson for me.

    Olys are so much more interesting than Sprints (although I’ve gained a new appreciation for them the last few years).

    I did one sprint this year, and it was awful. I was undertrained on the swim and run. I decided to do it anyway. I figured that even if I came in last–I’m a good person to do that! I knew why I wasn’t doing well. And how great would that be for the person who would have otherwise been last? Then I had a terrible, terrible swim (on my back, could NOT breathe). I realized that that didn’t mean I wouldn’t finish–I was just going to be slow. Oh well. But at the same time, it’s really nice to know that my fitness level is such that I can finish, even undertrained, even slow. And I think you are well trained.

  3. Awww, I want to give you a big hug right now. I’ve been there before too, and the best advice I can give you is to trust your training. Even if it hasn’t been perfect (and when is it ever, really), it will still likely be enough, and then go out there and think of the triathlon as a big celebration of all that work, and also of reaching your huge goal.

    I’m really excited for you, and I hope you have an amazing time during the race.

  4. Damn that inner voice that tries to scupper all our good work! Anyway, you go tell that voice you’re hanging on in there, you’re going to have a blast and anyway, really and truly at this stage, the hardest work is all behind you. Just savour every bit of the magic that lies ahead for you this weekend. Wishing you the best of luck and great fun!

  5. Great post. Glad you’re not quitting. I’m so excited for you. It’s a big thing the Olympic distance and there’s no doubt you can do it. That’s terrific.

  6. Good Luck!

    This post reminded me of the John Collins (one of the founders of IronMan) quote and I may not have this exact:
    You reach a point where you can convince everyone but that little voice in the back of your head that you’re through. If you go on, you win. If you stop, you lose.

    You’re a winner in my book! 🙂

  7. I usually finish in the bottom third overall and in my AG at every tri I enter…but I keep doing them. 🙂 For me it’s about pushing myself to do something extraordinary, not about how I place. And as I get older, I realize life is so much more about the journey, rather than the destination. 🙂

    1. Great attitude, John. I’m also in the bottom third, usually. I’m going to go out on Sunday and have a great time! 🙂

      1. Good luck; you’ll do great! Racing XTERRA Portland on Saturday myself; should be a good time. 🙂

        One upshot to getting older and racing tri: fewer people in our age groups, so a better chance to place! 😉

  8. Thanks for the post, Tracy! I do know how this feels, and I have bailed on some bike races because I couldn’t bring myself to start, believing that I was under-trained or under-prepared. But watching you acknowledge those feelings, getting support, going out there, and documenting it for us is a huge benefit. Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear all about it on the blog!

Comments are closed.