Tough Stuff

22 06 2011

From the moment that I (Chloe) finished my first Triathlon in the Spring of 2009, I was hooked. Prior to being a triathlete, I was a swimmer, and couldn’t imagine loving a sport as much as I did swimming. But the sense of community, dynamic nature of training and racing three very different sports, satisfaction of knowing that completing a triathlon is indication that all of the muscles in my body are in great shape, and the pure joy in competing are the reasons why I have dedicated so much time, effort and money into the sport.

Unfortunately however, as is the case with anything that you are deeply invested in, you learn that there are two sides to the equation. Most of the time, I love being a triathlete. I love knowing that at the time that most people are just waking up, I have already completed a workout. I love the sense of accomplishment (and endorphins) after tackling a bike or run that is longer or harder than any I have completed before. I love being able to call that extra scoop of ice cream “fuel.” And more than anything, I love that I have found something that I truly am passionate about, that is not only good for my mind and body, but that is supported by a wonderful community and great group of friends.

But then there is the other side of the equation…the tough stuff. I began my training for my Half Ironman on January 1, 2011. I have, for the most part, stuck to a pretty strict training schedule and have only missed a few workouts. In the middle of the Spring, I went through a couple weeks where my motivation wavered. I fell off of my bike, kept getting sick and just wasn’t finding the motivation to make my workouts. I got through it though and was back on track…until about a week ago. The hardest race that I have ever competed in is exactly one month from Sunday, but today, I find myself feeling the most challenged I have been since beginning training.  I have written many posts about the positives of triathlon training, but below are some of the less spoken realities of the sport that I have been facing recently…

Triathlon training is:

Lonely: I have written about a number of group rides, swims with Steph and Chris and runs with other local triathletes, but the reality is that about 75% of my training is by myself. There are times when I am in the mood to just get out there and swim, bike or run alone, but on long runs or rides, it is sometimes difficult to push myself and maintain a sense of purpose when I have been out there for an hour or hours by myself.

Frustrating: With increased training, comes increased hunger. And with increased consumption of food, comes weight gain. I have absolutely no idea how much I weigh right now, but since training for Musselman, my thighs, shoulders, back and butt muscles have grown to the point where my clothes don’t fit as well as they used to. I KNOW that the majority of my weight gain has been muscle. I KNOW that this muscle  is 110% necessary for my big race. And I  have no doubt that my faster times and increased endurance are because of the muscle that I have built.  I have found myself frustrated however with my inability to reconcile my feelings of being annoyed that my clothes no longer fit but knowing that my weight gain is not only temporary but NECESSARY!

Aggravating: As many of you know, I have been struggling with knee pain on my long rides. The pain started about a month ago (about 2 weeks after I got aerobars) and has prevented me from doing any rides over 45 miles. This past weekend the pain was so bad that I had to stop my ride short and get picked up on the side of the road. Not only has HIM training taken a toll on my body and aggravated various muscles, tendons, etc. but it has left me feeling aggravated. I am one month out from a race that I have been training for since January and I am not able to ride a distance that is even half of the race distance.

Expensive: If you were wondering what I was doing about my knee…I am starting physical therapy tomorrow. I also bought a new seat for my bike so that I am more comfortable in the saddle and hopefully will ride in a stronger position. That being said, my credit card bill is going to be a bit high this month. Unfortunately that little phrase that my Mom loves so much, “money doesn’t grow on trees” is a reality that I (and MANY triathletes) face. PT, new seats, $150 dollar races, gas to get to races, hotels to stay at the night before races, the new helmet after you crack yours falling, the $250 bike fitting so that your knee pain goes away, the $100 pair of new sneakers every 3 months, the increase in grocery bills because you are hungry as a hippo…it all adds up. And while I am invested in the sport and try to be conservative in the way that I spend my money, I find it very difficult to financially support my life as a triathlete.  I am a 26 year old young professional just starting out and the reality is, that money just doesn’t grow on trees.

I have absolutely no doubt that I will get through this tough time. I know that no matter what happens with my knee, I will race on July 17th (even if I have to pedal one legged or dress someone up as me to do the bike!- any takers?) and give it my all. I know that my running and biking thigh muscles are temporary and I should enjoy the benefits that they are providing me. I know that with any sport, there are ebbs and flows, and that if there weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a dedicated, passionate athlete. I know that I am not alone…Lauren and Emily have also been experiencing similar frustrations. I also know, that the tough stuff is not often talked about and if I did not share this stuff with you, I would not be an honest blogger.

I have been training my butt off (or on in my case) since January 1st and I am not going to give up now. Yeah…things seem tough and challenging today, but I know that it will be worth it in the end.

Question of the day: What gets you through tough times?

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30 responses

22 06 2011
Kimberly

It seems like the money topic on the blogosphere is so hush-hush. Thanks for acknowledging it. I always wonder why no one mentions the cost of gyms, equipment, and even yes, groceries! I just figured everyone else was better of than me or the topic was taboo. I can’t imagine what all of these stresses feel like on you, because the time you have spent (and continue to spend) training is probably more than I have ever devoted to any goal in my life, but that is also why I read your blog, I admire you a lot! This was a very honest post, thank you for sharing.

22 06 2011
321delish

Thanks so much Kimberly. I was hesitant to write this post…but glad I did!

22 06 2011
Liz

The closest thing I’ve done to a HIM is a marathon, which I know is a lot less training. But when it started getting tough (and I experienced a lot of the things you listed above) I read race recaps on other blogs. They inspire me so much and remind me of why I do this.

22 06 2011
amyreinink

What a thoughtful, honest post. The financial cost of training and racing is huge, as is the toll it can take on relationships and one’s social life. Yes, there are post-run happy hours, but I still cringe when I think about how I opted to skip a ski trip to Tahoe knowing it would screw up a half-marathon I’d trained really hard for. I PR’ed at the half … but still … there are tradeoffs. Thanks for sharing this perspective on what you give up to do what you love.

22 06 2011
321delish

Life is about choices….it is impossible not to face tough choices. and sometimes you are stuck in a situation that is a win-win situation where something has to be sacrificed…thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

22 06 2011
Lisa

I have many of the same frustrations, thank you for writing them in this post. To me so many tri bloggers write how they did this amazing workout, and then followed up by another, very few write about this side of training, which happens to everyone (at least that’s what I tell myself, so I don’t beat myself up).

22 06 2011
321delish

YES! It happens to everyone! If you go through a season of training for an event and it is all butterflies and rainbows…you are fooling yourself!

22 06 2011
sarah

Thanks for being honest. Even though I am only training for an Oly I still share many of your same thoughts. It does seem that sometimes you have to choose training over something else, and in my case training usually wins which means I miss out on doing something fun or hanging out with family. The $ of the sport is also very high! I don’t even know how much money I have put into it since starting my journey in Jan. Everyone month I am buying something new for the sport or signing up for another race. someone needs to take my CC away from me.

22 06 2011
321delish

YES! you have to be a millionaire to buy all the swag you want, compete in the races you want, etc. It’s tough…and its EXTRA tough when people around you are doing it!

22 06 2011
amy

There are good days and bad days, and a whole lot in between. Sometimes I need to take a break, and then come back raring to go. Sometimes I take a break and it’s hard to motivate back. I also do a lot better when I think of things in cycles and make sure to make some of those cycles more about having fun and staying fit than training to race. That makes a huge difference, especially in terms of the things that I’ll give up during the heavy training cycles.

Thanks for this post!

22 06 2011
321delish

I think thats a great way to look at it. Taking a day off per week is great, and even recovery weeks help, but they don’t allow you to take a step away from the training…

22 06 2011
DiningAndDishing

I hope writing this was theraputic for you! Sometimes blogs are the best therapy :). BTW, I think you look fabulous – I wouldn’t worry about weight gain at all! You look like an athlete and I think that’s awesome :).

– Beth @ http://www.DiningAndDishing.com

22 06 2011
321delish

Thanks Beth 🙂 It was therapeutic…but what is even better is all of the support that I have gotten in just the 1.5 hours that the post has been up!

22 06 2011
chandi

Love this post and so relate! I have 5 kids so I am not able to train with a group except for a few long rides.
I use my training time as my quiet prayer time and on really bad days I offer up my pain/frustration for a friend who has cancer.
Find a good ART guy for your knee – it helped mine!
“tough times don’t last, tough people do!”

22 06 2011
321delish

LOVE that quote! thanks 🙂

22 06 2011
Victoria (District Chocoholic)

Training alone is hard, no doubt, but if you work full time, it’s impossible to schedule group workouts for everything you need to do. I guess you have to find a balance between the two.

Another thing that is isolating is that few non-athletes understand the frustration of cutting a workout short because of factors beyond your control. It feels like failure to us, to most other people, it’s just easy. It makes it hard to find people who understand what you are going through.

Finally…if it were easy, everybody would do it. The fact that it is hard and you keep going is what makes you, and the endeavor, extraordinary.

22 06 2011
321delish

all true! Especially the fact that the difficulty in training is what keeps me (us) going!

22 06 2011
Allison

This is a great post, Chloe. I think you managed to express what so many of us feel! I definitely don’t know how people manage to fit all of the training necessary for a HIM or IM. I feel pretty overwhelmed just getting in what I feel is a decent amount of training for a sprint! I have tried to avoid getting sucked into too many races, fancy gear, etc. but there’s only so much that is unavoidable. I slightly dread the day that I have to actually buy a bike (I am currently using one I borrowed from a friend).

I hope that PT and your new seat make your knee feel like new. I know it has to be frustrating to be this close to a race you have spent the last six months training for and have something like this pop up.

22 06 2011
321delish

Thanks Allison! fingers crossed that my new “girl seat” and PT help!

22 06 2011
countrywayeats - Delia

Chloe! What is the MOST amazing thing I think is how great of an advocate you have become for your sport having only embraced it in the last few years (I thought you were doing it MUCH longer!). You are amazing; keep it up & keep posting!!!

22 06 2011
321delish

Thanks Delia! its a work in progress but I love it 🙂

22 06 2011
SusieQTpies

Congrats on finishing! You have to be very proud of yourself.

Thanks for stopping in and entering the Blog Bash Giveaway on my blog! http://cafescrapper-scrapsoflife.blogspot.com/2011/06/blog-bash-giveaway-hop-over-400-prize.html I appreciate it and am following your blog. xoxo SusieQTpies

22 06 2011
Emily

Race recaps. Remembering my end goals. Turning workouts into social events. Whining to other athletes who know what I’m talking about 🙂

This week is one of those crappy down weeks. And here I was hoping that recovery would be all sunny and happy and refreshing…

22 06 2011
321delish

we have a pretty great group of triathletes who can relate to every up and down along the road!

22 06 2011
Annie

THanks so much for this post! At the moment, your post is getting me through the tough week I’m in! I am 14weeks away from my first Olympic Distance race, and while I LOVE the sport, the loneliness and time commitment is huge. Keep on blogging, and keep on riding! I hope that knowing we’re out here helps you to get through your tough stuff! Good luck on your race. You’ll be great!

22 06 2011
leriley@gmail.com

We can do this 🙂 and anytime you need a training buddy please let me know- and i will do the same- i hate training alone.

22 06 2011
Why do I compete? | Passionate 4 Life

[…] $50 or $250 for a race entry fee.  To be honest, he’s right.  Another blog, 321delish had a good post today on the frustrations with triathlon training.  I thought it was a sincere post that examined […]

23 06 2011
Erin @ untilyoutri

Aw, a sad but great post, Chloe:(. I feel your pain on so much of this. My training for my HIM got VERY lonely, too. I did all but two of my swim workouts alone, and most of my long bike rides alone (this was before I met some of my awesome DC area triathlete blogger friends!!). It got pretty rough sometimes, especially on those yucky/rainy mornings when I had to drag myself out there by myself. And then when I sprained my foot there was so much frustration at not being able to run/train properly when I had been training so hard ALL winter (it happened on my last official long run before taper. So frstrating!). And I’m still frustrated about my foot and not being able to do anything and seeing everyone do all this awesome stuff! ANd yeah, it is SO expensive. I tell myself it’s okay because it’s my one hobby/passion, but it really can add up fast. I know this really does not address much of the problem but when you mentioned the cost of shoes I thought I should tell you that I recently found Holabird Sports. They had my regualrly $100 shoes on closeout for $50, plus free shipping on orders over $100, so I bought two pair! The company is just up in bmore so I had my shoes in like two days. Love them!!!

23 06 2011
Tami

I finished my first half ironman on Saturday, when I crossed the finish line it made all of what you wrote worthwhile. I think we all have addictions ( working out, eating, scrapbooking, drinking….some are better than others) and would feel the way you feel towards what it is we do with our spare time. I think I am lucky that I haven’t experienced the lonely part, I have some great friends who are doing the same races and we stick together most of the time. I hope things improve for you. Good luck with your HIM-I had so much “fun” I signed up for another one!

27 06 2011
Kristina

I am VERY new and hardly consider myself a “triathlete”. But this post really resonated with me. I finished my first tri in the spring, and even though it was only my first, I had to deal with a running injury for about 2 months of my training and I cannot count the number of times I cried in frustration.
Also, I cannot imagine training without feeling financially secure and having good insurance. I fortunately had a bike before signing up, but as you mentioned, there are so many other ‘investments’ that I *had* to make. It is NOT an economically-friendly sport.
I will say that I loved the tri that I completed, despite all of the self-doubt and frustration, and I have signed up for one more. We’ll see where things go from here.

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