My mind has been playing tricks on me lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a bit burnt out on life lately in general, just feeling a bit stagnant and like every day is just sort of coming and going. My confidence is starting to fizzle and negativity is starting to creep in.
Mental fortitude is such a huge component of racing, especially multisport races. And it’s strange to me that these thoughts of inability are cropping up in my brain at the same time I’m also training hard and seeing improvements in myself.
Mental fatigue is something everyone will deal with at some point or another. And when you’re mid race and feeling tired, it’s easy to get down on yourself, but in the end only you can make yourself finish what you started. I have a quote that has been on my home computer screen for like three years now, pretty much since I decided to get into triathlon and push myself.
“Recognize that your current limits are illusions, because fatigue is voluntary.”
Whenever I’m tired, or feeling like I can’t finish something and get through a workout, I remind myself of this.
Samuele Marcora is the leading researcher in how fatigue is more of a mental limitation then a physical limitation. Here and here are a few examples of physical exertion versus mental exhaustion. Active gives a great synopsis of the studies and provides the most iconic example possible to illustrate just how much of fatigue is mental versus physical, the Iron War of 1989. The Ironman World Championship between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Granted, mental strength cannot carry one through a bonk, which is an entirely different beast in and of itself. But in the grand scheme of fatigue, physical and mental, it is possible to push past the level of fatigue that you feel is your “limit”.
Having goals, no matter how unattainable they may seem, gives us something to strive towards. Having something to focus your sights on really helps you to keep things in perspective and help with the negative thoughts. Putting those goals out for everyone to see holds us accountable, regardless of nay-saying. That 5k my senior year of college that Rob and I ran together, the one that caused me so much agony and frustration, was a catalyst. It may have taken years to push past the occasional 5k here and there after that, but it was a point in my life where I realized having goals and having something the reach for beyond my current limitations was worthwhile and invigorating.
When I stood on the shore of Oneida Lake about the plunge into my first ever triathlon I couldn’t stop thinking “What am I getting myself into? What am I doing??” And what I did was amazing. I pushed my boundaries of self limitations to the max and I finished my first triathlon. It made me feel alive.
My confidence is wavering. I’m not sure what to do other than continue to train in a way I feel will get me over the finish line of Ironman 70.3 Syracuse. Rob registered me for a training camp that is designed for people racing IMCuse, it takes place on the course and is run by a whole team of incredible coaches. I was pumped thinking it would be just what I needed to regain some confidence. But life had other plans for me and I realized last night that one of my besties has a bridal shower the same day as the camp and since I’m in the wedding I need to be there, to support her, one of my dearest friends. So now at some point today I get to call and unregister myself. And now I’m back to square one.
So where do I go from here? I will continue to swim and bike and run everyday until I’m standing on the beach of the Jamesville Reservoir, but how do I pump myself up between now and then? I really need a pick me up to remind myself that I am strong. I mean, I know I am, but I really need to feel it right about now. I need to feel that I am capable.