Lately I have been presented with moments that made me realize I am suffering from an identity crisis. Stay with me I promise this is not about some sort of mid-life adulthood crisis.
I was at the pool talking myself through a grueling swim workout
that consisted of lots of sprints (I hate sprints, whether they be on land or
in the water). I have the luxury of swimming at a private pool where I am often
the only swimmer. This day, however, there was another guy I know swimming. As
he was leaving the pool, he commented “Looks like you’re working hard, Erin.
You must be in triathlon mode for the summer.”
Since my trip to Boston, I've been in the midst of a swim/bike focus, which is something that I originally embraced with a "this sucks" attitude, as I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the pool and my bike in the past.
The thing is, I always considered myself a “runner who does triathlons” as opposed to a “triathlete.” I happen to do triathlons and get away with relying on the strength of my run. I’ve heavily relied on my running strength in tris; my swimming has been mediocre at best, and my biking is just adequate. Though I’ve been doing tris for 4 years,
the runner identity has remained. I clung to the "runner" label over
the "triathlete" label. But now, with my running injury and not being able to rely solely
on my run to carry me, there has been a gradual shift to “Oh shit, I need to get my butt on a bike and in a pool if I want to stand a chance at not getting embarrassed.” The shift probably should have come much sooner, but I've been stubborn, and until now, not
entirely ready for it. My answer was always that I didn’t want to cut back on my running, so I guess I’m a runner who does
To be honest, I’ve always been pretty lazy in regards to my swim and bike workouts. Not necessarily in regards to volume, but most definitely in regards to effort. I find it difficult to really get outside my comfort zone and push myself. I’ve been content with just swimming laps or simply heading out for some aimless miles on my bike. I’ve never really pushed myself as I have in running. This typically makes for a middle of the pack swim and bike split and a strong run split on race day. I’ve been content training and racing this way.
But lately I have been attacking my swim and bike workouts with fervor. I attack them with purpose and push myself like I haven’t before. This change in approach is not due to a goal of hitting x, y, and z times at my triathlons this summer, it’s due to a change in ATTITUDE. As I’ve been injured and running 60-70 miles week no longer became an option, I initially looked at cross training as a punishment rather than an opportunity. As I’ve changed my mindset over the past few weeks, I’ve come to really look forward to my swim and bike workouts (WHO AM I?) and the new challenges they present. I’ve been in the pool and on my bike more consistently than ever before, and I am making improvements. That is when I realized I am in the middle of an identity crisis. The line between a runner transforming into a triathlete. Running is just part of me. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s that simple. I run because I love to run. But I have also learned that swimming and biking can also provide the same
endorphins – and mental and physical demands and challenges that running does –
I never believed that before.
I'm done being satisfied with swimming sub-par. I’m done being lazy with my bike training. I can't count on making up that kind of time on the run anymore. I want to continue to embrace this opportunity to become a better swimmer and cyclist – a better triathlete. While my improvements aren’t drastic, they are happening, and that is exciting to me. I’ll never be a super star in the water or on the bike, but I know I can be better than I am now.
And, you know what the silver lining has been through this? All of the cross training has helped my running too. I’m keeping my mileage around 30-35 mpw with 10 miles being the longest run I am doing at this point - and - yesterday’s speed session at run group indicated that I am not that far off from where I was before.