On an easy run day, Mark asked if I wanted to do a trail run with him and and a friend. Sure, I said after confirming that (a) his training plan called for an easy paced run and (b) it would, in fact, be easy paced by my standards.
Once confirmed the three of us headed out to the trails. Our friend tore ahead while Mark hung back with me, letting our legs loosen up on the technical path which was winding, root-covered and rolling with hills. It felt good, slightly challenging but not too bad, and I only fell twice. The second time was the one that hurt the most because it came near the end when I was trying to pick up the pace a bit. Instead, I caught a root and fell and got a nice brush burn on my shin. Nothing a little ice pack and a large helping of pasta and garlic bread could not fix.
After dinner, however, we discovered that the place where we ran just tested positive for West Nile.
Luckily, none of the trail-running gang was bit by a mosquito. So we’re confident we’re just fine.
Now, enter a mini-brick day which called for about a 90 minute bike ride and a 6-mile run. Choosing to do the ride from my parents’ house in Lockport, I rode an out-and-back route along country roads, singing Bon Jovi and Celine Dion in my head. (Perhaps that was an omen.) My legs felt good and my cadence was fairly even despite the windy conditions. I had made my turn and was starting to wind my way back home when … enter rolling thud sound here … a flat back tire.
I let out a big sigh, but new I could handle this. It took me a few minutes to properly shift my gears on the side of the road so that I could easily remove the wheel.
Now time to remove the tire. And that didn’t go so well. The new tires on my new wheels aren’t quite “worn in” yet and aren’t very easy to move. I spent a good 10-15 minutes fighting with the tire and tire levers to no avail.
Maybe, I thought, I could just burst some CO2 in and give me enough pressure to ride home. Two blown CO2 cartridges later and the tire was still flat.
So I did what almost anyone would do in a similar situation. I called my mom.
Waiting for her gave me a chance to practice putting my rear wheel back on my bike. Only, I had lost a spring from the skewer in the grass.
All I could do was laugh.
I reported my literal (and figurative) bumps in the road to my coach. His response:
“Brutal. But builds character. Just pretend the workouts went as planned and carry on.”
Pretend everything went as planned? I can do that. Heck, I have trained my whole life to ignore bad things. This may just be my shinning moment!
Or it could be a chance to practice for that pesky Iron Distance in Montreal — that little bit of extra in my mental tank for race day.
While talking with the pros at Ironman Lake Placid, there was a theme about getting through the moments of darkness.
First off, you have to embrace the fact that there will be moments of darkness. Granted, they may have different names in your lexicon — moments of doubt, entering the hurt box, etc., etc. But at some point during the race, you will encounter difficulty. It’s much like life and, just as in life, how you deal with the difficult moments will determine whether it’s just a blip on the screen or the end to your day.
Second came the advice on how to deal with the moments of darkness. There is the tried and true “trust your training” mantra, which works wonders. That tough trail run? That bike flat? I survived all that. In fact, those tough training moments were perfect moments.
But then came the other piece of advice — wait. Yep. Just wait. Because the moment of darkness will pass. And upon some reflection, that is so simple and yet so true. Really, just wait it out. Because it gets better. I can think of dozens of runs, swims and bike rides where I wanted to quit. Where I thought I had done enough, had already given my best. But I talked myself into continuing.
“Just a bit further,” goes the chatter in my head. “You can make it to that intersection, top of that hill, or end of this set and then I’ll see how I feel.”
Funny thing is, by the time I hit that marker, I’m ready to give myself another marker to hit. And then another. And eventually, I’m back in a rhythm, ready to kick out an amazing finish to the workout.
Yes, tough days build character. And while I can use them in my memory bank on race day as reminders of how strong I actually am, the best thing to do in the moment is to let them pass.
Because another, greater, better moment of sunshine is waiting just up ahead.