Keeping It Real: Dealing with Burnout

It has been a while since I have updated my blog. I haven’t really been keeping up with my Facebook page, either. I realized this when a familiar feeling started to wash over me earlier this week. Although when I was going through it I wanted to share it all with the world in the raw, I knew I had to get everything straightened out in my head before I wrote about it. So here I am now.

Last year at this time I was training for my first triathlon. I had signed up for it in November 2016 when they had a black Friday sale and announced that a local triathlon, Sanford & Sun, would be held on my 30th birthday. I had been entertaining the idea of doing a triathlon for a few years (actually I first thought about it 10 years ago when I first started running seriously in college, since I had access to a pool back then) and thought that it would be perfect do one for my 30th birthday.

Right around this same time in my training, I started to panic. Every time I swam I would have anxiety. There were days that I sat in the parking lot before a swim crying, not wanting to go in. And this was in a pool! I only swam in open water once before the triathlon and for me, once was enough. I had decided that I was going to just have to survive it – make sure I could do more than the distance required in the pool and I’d make it happen in the open water.

Well, that was a poor strategy. The swim at my triathlon was awful. I couldn’t put my face in the water without panic, so I swam with my head up the whole time, which slowed me down tremendously. I hated the swim and I was exhausted when it was finished. I finished dead last in the swim. I did okay on the bike and the run, and at the end of the triathlon I felt so accomplished! But I swore that I would never do it again. Plenty of people told me I might change my mind – I mean, I swore I’d never do another marathon after my first one and here I am training for my fourth. This felt different though. Just remembering that swim filled me with anxiety.

My friend Paula decided that this year she wanted to train and complete her first triathlon. We talked about different options for her and I told her I would do a duathlon with her, but not another triathlon. For one, I didn’t have access to a pool anymore and for two, I was so not into swimming that it wouldn’t be worth it to get access to a pool again. I knew that the duathlon was a totally different monster, and believe me enough people have told me it would be so much harder than the triathlon. But since I wasn’t all about the swimming and already had a decent road bike that I got for last year’s triathlon, I decided to train for the duathlon. Once again I would be doing the Sanford & Sun race the weekend of my birthday and was planning on doing it with Paula and she would do her first triathlon in September.

Well, Paula has kicking arse with her training and is falling head over heels in love with multi sport. We did a practice “mini triathlon” up at my parents’ place the weekend after the fourth of July and she did amazing. She completed almost the full sprint distance that day while I only did a short swim (maybe 50-100m) and shorter ride (about 8 miles). After that it was a no brainer – Paula wanted to do the sprint triathlon at Sanford & Sun and would possibly be doing the olympic distance instead at the race in September. After looking online and seeing that the super sprint distance (200m swim, 10k bike, 1 mile run) was less than half the price of the duathlon or any other triathlon distance, I myself began considering doing a triathlon again.

I decided I needed to try out open water swimming since I had failed to practice that enough prior to my first triathlon. A couple of weeks ago I went for my first group open water swim and had a pretty good experience. One of the girls I met there gave me her waist float which really helped me to feel less anxious, but that same panic set over me several times during the swim. I was lucky enough to have someone swimming with me and he gave me great pointers. I was ready to come back the next week and try again, and now was even entertaining the idea of just going for the full sprint and completing it with Paula.

And that’s what led to the eventual burnout. I worked a multi sport event in Caseville and was really hoping that it would inspire me more, but it didn’t. As I watched the athletes going out for the swim, I felt that tight feeling of anxiety, and I was safely standing on shore. I told myself I would do one more open water swim practice before I decided one way or the other. This time I took my husband with me, because he was even talking about doing the super sprint. While the open water swim went pretty well for me, it did not go well for my hubby. He barely started swimming and turned around without me realizing it, which caused me to panic because I lost track of everyone I was supposed to be swimming with. Although I ended up doing a 400m swim that night, it was broken up with several rests on the waist float. The people I was swimming with were much faster than me and got ahead of me instead of staying next to me, and it would cause me to overdo it and panic. Plus I couldn’t stop thinking about my husband being by himself, me pushing him to do this, and feeling awful about it. I got home that night and just sobbed.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had run (it was the Friday before). I couldn’t remember when I had last updated my Facebook or my blog. Instead of loving my training, I was feeling overwhelmed. I was dreading having to do more brick workouts. And I just came to the realization that multi sport is not my thing. I have wanted it to be so bad because I am so inspired by the people who do it. I have wanted it to be because I know I need cross training. But I reach a point where I am so overwhelmed by training in the different disciplines that I just get burned out on everything… and I do not want to feel that way about running.

So I had a good talk with my husband and a few of my friends, including Paula, about all of it. I didn’t want to spend the money on a race that I just wasn’t that into. I wanted to actually cheer my best friend on at her first triathlon, not be stressing out and struggling to finish and completely miss her doing awesome. I decided not to do the race at all – no sprint, super sprint or duathlon – and instead to just be a race mom and support my friend. The day I decided this I went for a 4 mile run by myself and I enjoyed every single step.

I still think that I want to do a duathlon some day, but not now. I would like to do it with the race company that I’m working for – TriToFinish – and to plan a little further in advance instead of finding a four week duathlon training plan and trying to wing it. I want to learn more about the bike and get better at it, but not necessarily invest a ton of money into different equipment and set up. For now the focus is back on marathon training. I re-focused my training plan and am excited about sticking to it. I feel a lot less overwhelmed and hopefully have hurdled the burnout. And I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to support my friend and be her race mom without the stress of doing my own race!

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