At the end of each year, I always like to reflect on what I have experienced, achieved, and learned throughout the year.
It’s a useful exercise to not only recognise and celebrate achievements and progress, but also to learn from any negative experiences too – how you managed to overcome them or what you choose to do in the face of adversity.
Last year was a strange one for me. At the end of May I raced my last and only triathlon of the year, the Outlaw Half. After which, I picked up a tendon injury in my foot. This meant pulling out of Ironman Austria, my 50-mile ultra marathon, and putting to bed any dreams of racing for the remainder of 2018.
The weird bit was this. I sat there the night before Outlaw Half, with no inkling of an injury, crying because I didn’t want to race. There was no motivation, I wanted to pull out. I ended up racing anyway, and not enjoying it at all. I finished the race feeling nothing – no enjoyment, no satisfaction – just an intense pain in my foot.
I was deflated, empty, and now injured, too.
It was ok though. Why?
Because I think I needed this to happen. It’s often only when we are forced to take a step back that we can get perspective on our lives. For five full-on years I had been smashing triathlon. Eagerly entering race after race in fun locations around the world, giving up my life in the pursuit of becoming slightly better than half-decent.
When I got injured last summer, I went pretty anti-triathlon for a bit. I was feeling bitter about the whole scene, stepped right back from it and decided to just have fun. I was exercising regularly but no structured training to speak of anymore. It felt like a breath of fresh air had entered my life.
Suddenly there was no pressure. No pressure to hit power numbers or threshold pace in training. No pressure of racing. No worrying about having a glass of wine because of my 5.30am alarm and hard training sessions planned the next day. No waking up and looking at Training Peaks and being a slave to a training programme.
I was free.
It was really quite liberating, and in perfect honesty, I think it was exactly what I needed. The body has a funny way of presenting itself with some physical debilitations when it needs a rest (and indeed the mind, too).
I also had the rare opportunity to do other stuff that I hadn't been able to fit into my life when triathlon was so all-consuming. I climbed rocks and mountains, I started yoga practice, I went on some amazing holidays, and most importantly, I had fun. I spent time with people. Relaxed, undistracted, and unpressured time.
But soon enough, as the months passed, my passion for triathlon came creeping out of hibernation once more. It was an opportunity for my passion to go either way. An excuse to ‘get out’ and put to bed this crazy obsession after years of enjoying pushing myself hard, or I would take a step back, miss it like crazy and feel the fire burning once again. I’m pleased to say it was the latter, The fire is well and truly back.
And although I ‘took it easy’ a bit last year, I have to say, it hasn’t been at the detriment to my fitness or performance (I think!). I increased my FTP during the summer, saw some of the best bike performances in training that I have ever seen, and even got a 10-mile TT PB.
Since bringing the running back into play and gradually increasing the mileage and intensity, I think it’s safe to say I haven’t lost an awful lot; the training sessions seem to be going really well and my threshold pace (albeit for a shorter duration, admittedly), seems to be the same as when I was at my peak running fitness.
All of this is really to say that it’s ok to lose the love for triathlon from time to time. It’s ok to take a step back. It’s ok to have some time off and regroup, do other stuff – and I’m talking more than a couple of weeks at the end of the season.
Sometimes, we need headspace and room for our bodies and minds to take a break from the all-consuming triathlon love affair. In fact, I would condone it. I think it’s healthy. More healthy than being constantly obsessed – for motivation is finite. We will all hit a wall somewhere, and it’s an opportunity to let nature take its course, take a step back, and let the passion come back of its own accord – without forcing anything.
I am excited to be heading into 2019 with a new coach on board, some training camps booked, and some races lined up. This year has been a massive learning curve and exactly what I needed to regain perspective on what life is all about. And just as important, to get that fire burning inside of me again…