What if I am not strong enough?

 

Photo May 03, 10 56 19 AMIn yoga, Bakasana, or crow pose is one that I’ve never been able to do. In crow pose, your hands are flat on the ground, your knees are tucked neatly into your armpits, and the goal is to lift both feet off of the ground and use your core and arm strength to hold yourself up.

The thought that seeps in just before I try is what if I’m not strong enough? So I usually use modifications such as baby crow (one foot still on the ground) or double baby crow (both feet on the ground) because I simply do not trust in my strength.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh is less than four weeks away, and to be honest this training cycle has been challenging. Mentally I waver between feeling incapable and uncommitted most of the time. I know that is mostly fear nagging at the edges of my confidence. Physically, I feel like I’m tiptoeing around injury. From my right calf that had been a constant problem since January to my old knee issue that has recently cropped back up, I feel like I’m running and training scared. I’m worried about hanging in with training through Ironman 70.3 Augusta in September.

And on top of that, I’m struggling with an intense fatigue, a bone tired, beyond training exhaustion that has always been a part of my day to day, but within the last few months has become much more intense. I have a preliminary diagnosis of Fibromyalgia that I’ve been mostly ignoring for a few years. I think I might have to deal with it more directly at this point.

All of that mental and physical static is enough to have my focus blurry at best. I have been able to stay on track until the last two weeks. The weekend training has picked up in both distance and intensity, and it is taking many more days than it did last summer to recover enough to feel ready to dive into the next week.

I’ve considered my options. I know I don’t have to race any race. But my ego has been getting in the way of rational thought. After Augusta last year, after such a feat that I never believed I could do, my ego informed me that I needed to do more. Training and racing had suddenly or maybe gradually become less about proving my own strength to myself. Instead it became the only way I was able to see myself as strong and capable. A hefty race schedule of three half ironman races in twelve months reignited my ego; it became what defined me.

On Monday I met with my coach and after she had considered my many text messages of the weeks before, she suggested dropping Raleigh, which at first seemed odd since it’s close and Augusta is several months away. Her reasoning rang true: my heart is in Augusta. The original purpose for doing a long distance race remains at that finish line. At that race there was no ego; it was me proving to myself that I was strong. Not using the race as a support for my strength.

In struggling to make a decision over the last few days, the question at the heart of bakasana remains: What if I’m not strong enough to hold myself up?

Without distance?
Without this race or that race?
Or long training days?

What if I am not enough for myself when all of that is stripped away?

On Tuesday, I stopped a swim workout short after kicking aggravated my knee. I decided as I walked to the car that Raleigh was out; I needed to take care of my body to race the way I wanted to in Augusta. I realized that Raleigh has held my ego, but Augusta has my heart.

I came home and unrolled my mat and put on Blissology’s Monday yoga. The house was empty and quiet, and as I breathed and moved through poses, the agitation and uncertainty of the last several weeks finally began to fall away. Towards the end of the practice was crow pose, bakasana.

And again I wondered, what if I’m not strong enough?

But the question didn’t linger very long. I spread my fingers and rooted my hands on the mat. I softly tucked my legs and tentatively lifted one foot and held baby crow for several breaths. Then it just seemed to be time. With a strong core and a focused mind, I lifted the other foot from the safety of the mat and shakily held my first bakasana for several breaths.Photo May 08, 1 34 27 PM

With the release of the heaviness of my ego’s grip, I felt light. I was able to soar in bakasana using my heart’s strength. Crow pose has not become yet another defining label, like triathlete or runner or half ironman. Instead it has released me from all of those labels and given me spacious freedom to fly. And that is what I’ll do again in Augusta in September. Stripped free of self-imposed standards of success and worthiness, there is only me.

The me who no longer looks in the mirror with such a critical eye. The me who is finding more answers than questions. The me who runs and swims and bikes and practices yoga. And the me who is strong enough to stand with or without them.

Perspective

Photo Mar 23, 11 34 22 AMYesterday I was scrolling through Training Peaks, the app my coach uses to schedule my workouts, and I saw that next to the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race for next Sunday was a note that Ironman 70.3 Raleigh was eight weeks away. And my coach, who already knows me so well, also left a comment that the note was intended to excite me and not freak me out.

My impulse was to freak out, and though I almost choked on my coffee, I wasn’t settling in that that anxious place. I’ve been anxious plenty of times about Raleigh. I’ve questioned whether it was a race I wanted to train for or if I really wanted to race it at all. I’ve allowed insecurities to creep in and mangle my confidence to shreds leaving me to gather up the pieces and, with the support of friends, move forward.

But suddenly, I’m realizing it doesn’t feel quite so huge and looming as training for Augusta did last year, and a friend reminded me that my mental space was occupied for that September race in January of last year. For nine months nothing else mattered but September 29, 2013. My world, my thoughts, my time revolved around that ultimate goal and all of the hours and days required to get there.

And maybe that’s what you need to do to get through something so colossal the first time, but looking back, I’m still not sure all of what I was trying to prove (or to whom). It almost felt like a race getting to the race, and I know I was trying to prove to myself that I had it in me to do something big. I know that confidence (or lack of it) was the driving force. And I don’t regret that part. I don’t regret the changes it brought, and the sense of accomplishment I have.

Photo Mar 26, 2 22 05 PMThis spring is about balance, and with it half ironman training is finally falling into a proportional place. It is no longer a defining label I cling to; it is now simply something I love to do. It is part of the whole of me instead of the only thing I held onto in an attempt to find a deeper understanding of myself and my perspective of the world. Because when we cling to one hyper-focused thing, we eliminate so many other factors. We eliminate friends and family; we eliminate other activities we love. I built a wall around myself using the race and training as an excuse, which allowed me to sink back into old protective habits and thought processes. I might have made great strides physically, but in many other ways, life was not about growth last year. It was stunted, and looking back, I wonder if I even felt alive. Did I ever exhale or did I live holding my breath simply hoping I’d find the end of that 70.3 mile course and cross the finish line? Sometimes I’m afraid to look for the answer to that question, but I’d imagine a glance at my Instagram feed from last year would clear it up.

That tension is in stark contrast to this year that has felt alive and pulses with a beating heart and deep, cleansing breaths. It has been organically filled with friends and date nights and girl nights and family time. What felt taxing or too involved or too scary last year has naturally fallen into place. My friend Kristy is focusing on finding breathing room this year, and that is the best way to describe what is happening. There is breathing room and it is not just seeping in around the edges of training and thinking about a race. It cushions me and generates a kinetic energy that flows and connects.

This breathing room gives me the space to add ironman training in to my life as part of the whole. Instead of being the sole thread that bound the days and weeks of last year, the most important keystone that anchored me to myself, it is now something less and more. It is one of the many variegated parts that are coming together to create the brilliant mosaic that is this life. It enhances who I am and provides me with a place to test myself and grow in many ways, but it it is not the only litmus test for growth.

Instead the litmus test for growth is the happy moments that exist alongside and in front of the hard training. It culminates in the date nights and girl nights, the social trail runs and chatty family bike rides. It is noticing that race day is about nine weeks away, choking a little on my coffee, and then smiling and moving on with my day.