fitness · training

Life Happens, Plans Change, and That’s Okay

Change of Plans Plan A Plan BI’ve done something uncharacteristic of me this summer: I signed up for two Olympic distance triathlons and then I withdrew.  Yep, Tracy of the “if I said I’d do it I’m doing it” mantra has bailed on Gravenhurst in July and Bracebridge in August.  Following my own gut feeling and my doctor’s gentle advice, I had to face up the facts: I just do not have it in me to train for these events.

Changes in my life of late have left me physically and emotionally depleted.  Renald moved away from London to pursue his dream of retiring on our sail boat. That’s great for him, and I’m in theory quite supportive of it because he’s 9 years older than I am and he’s worked really hard for many, many years.  Liveaboard cruising requires good health and physical energy.  Waiting at least five years until I can even think about retiring with him just seems ill-advised.  No one can know what five years out will bring.

So we bought a condo, sold most of our rental properties, purchased a St. Francis 50 catamaran (our dream boat, truly), and in May Renald went down to George Town, Bahamas and sailed the boat up to Annapolis, which is where I am as I write this post. It’s the starting point for my only extended summer vacation (just under two short weeks) and we’re heading up the coast towards Long Island Sound and Martha’s Vineyard and Newport in a few days. But for most of the summer (and the next few years) we will be a part and that is a huge change that is taking some adjustment. So there’s that.

Then there is the new job. As of July 1st I’m officially going to be the Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. I’m on vacation at the moment. My first day in the office is July 6th. I’ve had a few different administrative roles at the University so far, including serving as Chair of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research from 2007-2011 and most recently as Graduate Chair in Philosophy.

I admit that I enjoy admin work. It makes me feel as if I’m making a contribution to the University. And I like that it enables me to work with lots of others who care about making a contribution because usually those people have values that extend beyond caring only about themselves. I can respect that and it resonates with me. And at the same time starting a new job with a lot more responsibility is stressful.

And the book is due at the publisher on July 31st. A book contract with a good press that’s enthusiastic about your project is the most exciting and wonderful thing in the life of any writer. And as the deadline inches closer, my stress over it increases. It’s not that I don’t think we’re going to finish. I’m at the stage in the writing process where I feel as if every word I write is shit. This is normal. It’s as inevitable as the five (or is it four) stages of grief.
As if moving, starting to live apart from my partner, and beginning a new position at the University one month before our book is due at the publisher aren’t enough, I’ve also been feeling exhausted much of the time and sleeping badly. This got so bad that my coach recommended I get some blood work to see if anything was up.

Now, part of this is I think because I planned my spring events badly, doing too much too soon with not enough time in between events. I did the Around the Bay 30K on March 29th after a winter of training with a group. And then just 5 weeks later I ran my first marathon at the Mississauga Marathon on May 3rd. I survived ATB well enough even though I didn’t love it. But with the rest and recovery, I actually didn’t have enough time to feel super ready for the marathon.

I know that everyone says they don’t feel ready and it’s a normal thing to feel jitters before trying something new. But I still believe that, in fact, I wasn’t adequately prepared. I would have had a much better day if I’d down-graded to the half. I contemplated it and my coach even recommended it at one point (because I sounded so tentative and she said that’s not a great head-space to take into a new distance).

The marathon wiped me right out. Not just on race day. Not just for a week after. Or even two weeks. No, for a solid month after the marathon I felt exhausted. Getting out of bed for early morning swims, which used to be a routine thing that I enjoyed, became impossible. Even short runs challenged me.

And the bike? Forget it. My fear of the bike intensified and I looked upon it with dread. That may be a different issue altogether (see my recent thoughts on the bike here), but it factors into the result: I wasn’t doing the triathlon training required to prep myself for an Olympic distance in Gravenhurst in mid-July.

I got excited about the Niagara Women’s Half Marathon and had a fabulous time. But overall, I’m not feeling motivated to train for Olympic distance triathlon this year. The energy isn’t there and the desire has left me.

So when despite the bloodwork coming back all fine my doctor recommended that I ease up this summer so as not to let the stress of these big changes wear me down further by forcing myself to do activities that feel more depleting than energizing right now, I decided to follow her advice.

It’s been difficult for me to feel 100% okay about this since it makes me feel like a quitter in some ways, and I hate that feeling. But at the same time, I’m trying to learn a gentler approach.  I’m an advocate of doing less (see “On Doing Less”) but usually with the hidden motive of getting more done in the long run.  This summer, it’s about doing less, period. Not to ultimately achieve more, not to rest so I can throw myself back into things with a vengeance. No. This summer it’s about easing up because that’s what I need to do. Drop the big races, let up on training, get back to yoga, sleep more, all those good things.

The funny thing is that as soon as I decided to do that, my energy bounced back a bit. I got out for a track workout with the triathlon club last week and have also been doing 3K as fast as possible, since that is the distance of the run portion of the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon on July 11th.

Far from thinking about the KWT with dread, I’m really excited about it.  That is not how I was feeling about Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, both of which are exciting races in beautiful locations.

My new summer goal is as modest as they come: work on getting my 10K as close to 60 minutes as possible.  Other than that, I want to enjoy myself with the swim training, workout with weights, and get to the yoga studio at least once a week. I’ve got the hybrid bike out for commuting, and it’s a pleasant ride on the bike path from my condo to campus.

But this week, I’m on the sailboat. I’ve got my running shoes and my resistance bands, but I’m not forcing anything.  I’m sure that’s not the most inspiring attitude. Those who are into The Grind will be disappointed. I’ve had some grief for expressing this whole “doing less” idea because lots of people think they already do less and need to push themselves to do more. That may be. But if my spring is any indication, sometimes more can turn into too much. And when that happens, there’s nothing wrong with re-grouping and making some changes.

14 thoughts on “Life Happens, Plans Change, and That’s Okay

  1. I backed out of a lifting competition last Saturday because between a bunch of domestic stress, too much travel over the last two months to train properly in advance, it showing up on exactly the wrong day of the month, and my wanting to focus my training on boxing. I have felt like such a quitter – I have been torturing myself over it. I am very grateful to read this post. I keep getting waves of self loathing over the whole issue. It’s hard to know where that line is between just not pushing oneself enough and taking care of oneself.

    Side note: Why do I never see it discussed that one’s menstrual cycle can utterly wreck something one has trained for for a long time? I can’t be the only one.

  2. Thanks for the brave and honest post in a world where endless chatter about “doing more” abound.

  3. Sometimes, life has other ideas for us, and that is ok! Keep doing the best you can do and taking on these challenges so bravely, while listening to your body and spirit.

  4. Tough stuff. Those are all big changes and even though they’re mostly positive–you ran a marathon! you bought your dream boat! you’ve got a big, new exciting job!–it can be exhausting. Looking forward to bike training with you over the winter! And maybe you can teach me a thing or two or twelve about swimming if I actually get back in the pool.

  5. Great decision Tracy. My first marathon wiped me out for a month too and it took me a long time to get my mojo back. I think it is all part of the ebbs and flow of life – no need to fight it. As Sam says, lots of big changes going on for you – so glad that you are rolling with it. Enjoy the sailing and congrats on the amazing new job!! Take care of yourself. Catch those z’s. 🙂

  6. Tracy, thank you for this post. I feel some of the same tension over letting an event pass that I’ve signed up for, and I appreciate how eloquently and honestly you shared this. I have to remind myself that the events and the training I do are supposed to bring joy to my life, not just stress and more requirements. I’ve made “do less with more focus” my mantra as I’m trying to get my thesis done and move on to my next chapter of teachers college and working as a trainer to pay tuition. I do love training, but I love so many activities that can be easier to fit into a schedule that’s busy. I also know when I’m run down (now) and need to assess what fits with the rest of my life. I want to do my half ironman in two weeks and then just let things be simple – did I move my body today? Will be my question and if the answer is yes I hope that that can be enough for me to feel good–Whether it was yoga or crossfit or some part of triathlon, without the pressure.

    I hope that this summer and all the transitions are great for you. And I hope that we still get to cross training paths along the way. Enjoy your vacation!

  7. Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts and reassurances and also for telling me about your own struggles and experiences with this sort of thing. It’s comforting and has helped me feel better. 🙂

  8. Congrats. on your promo, Tracy!

    It does take some adjustment when 1 partner is retired while other one is full blast ahead on a full-time paid job and living part-time elsewhere. That’s how it is for us..split time between 2 provinces.

    So exercise and health time daily is very important, as well as facetime, etc.

  9. Sounds like you have a lot going on and made the right decision for you. I also like how you mentioned that you got more energy once you made the decision to stop pushing yourself so hard. Sometimes, just by taking the pressure off (and not training for a big event), we can recoup some of our energy and do more than we would have otherwise.

  10. Wishing you a great first day at your new job tomorrow! Sounds like you did a great assessment of what you need, what you want, and what’s right for you – that’s not easy, especially if “the answer” turns out to be something you’re not used to doing and not entirely comfortable with. Kudos for having the guts to be smart and make a change.

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