Mental Giant, Empty Bucket

author : mnatwood
comments : 0

from www.SwimBikeMom.com:
The Only Thing Crazier than Motherhood is Triathlon 

Mental Giant, I am not.

Scratch that.  Mental Giant, I have not been in the past

I am a former Olympic weightlifter making the transition to endurance sports.  We are talking apples to oranges here.  In my past life, I was often completely prepared and capable of [---------fill in the blank for whatever here---------], but would often mentally defeat my own ability to do/finish/handle/win. 

The shiniest example of this was my attempt at the 1998 Junior Worlds weighlifting team for the USA.  I made the team in 1997 - without even knowing it, so I couldn't psych myself out about it. To make the 1998 team, all I had to make was one more lift.

One measley little lift that I had completed a million times. 

I had lost about sixteen pounds of bodyweight (an entire weight class) for the event, so I was a little weak.  But my first three lifts were strong, and in fact, I made a personal record in the first category.  I felt surprisingly good going into the second half of the competition.  All required of me for a slot on the team was to make one of next three lifts.  Again, I had three shots to make one lift.  Three strikes, and I would be out.

One-by-one, I talked myself out of each lift. I remember grabbing onto the bar and thinking, nope, no way in hell, not this time.  

As I walked up to the bar the final time, I already knew it was over. 

I'm not sure why I mentally sabotoged myself, in that moment.  I had suffered and fasted/dieted/saunaed for two weeks. I had passed out in the hallway one night from dehydration. I had sacrificed and trained for six years, five days a week for three hours a day (that's something like 4,500 hours of my life). 

On that day, the reward was there for the taking. And I mentally blew it.  Why?

Well, I remember that I would have missed my high school graduation, and that was a big point of contention between me and my mom.  I remember that I would have missed finals, which would have caused issues with my teachers and the administration (but they always worked with me, so it was surmountable).  I would be away from my boyfriend for two weeks.  Oh wait.  The boyfriend who lived in Portland, while I lived in Savannah?  Yes, that was somehow still an excuse. I'm sure there were other reasons - all stupid.

As I think about it, I would often blow competitions and workouts just because of my mental state.  One workout I was running a 103 fever.  I went in the gym anyway, and was so sick I did not think about anything but how awful my head felt.  The mental side of lifting was not in play.  I was mindlessly throwing the bar around.  And without even noticing, I broke a personal record that day.  I wasn't thinking, and I succeeded. And it was easy.

This whole adventure into triathlon is partly to rid myself of my own mental diminuitiveness.  I feel that I need redemption for my stupid failures in weightlifting.  I was such a mental dingbat when it came to parts of that sport, and I still resent myself for it.  Redemption time.

The reason I am bringing all this up:  the Duathlon for which I am registered in two weeks is starting to creep into my head a little.  Little twinges of self doubt like: well, I haven't really done enough hill training on the bike, so maybe I should just sit out and not do this
or
maybe I'm just not ready for it
or
what if I fail?

Driving home from work today, I realized I was headed down the same stupid path of mental excuses as I used in weightlifting.  For me, the fear of failure has always been great.  To succeed, I must have a strong mind and an impenetrable focus. I will certainly fail if I believe that I will fail.  If I am strong, I cannot fail because I will have given everything I have to that moment, to that event. There is no failure when I can reach into the bottom of my bucket and know the whole darn thing is empty because I gave it all in that moment.

So there. That's my motivation.  Empty my bucket. 

If my bucket is empty at mile 8 instead of the end of the bike race at mile 12 or 16, so what.  So what if I fall down in the race or finish last.  Who cares?  Who really cares?  No one.  Therefore, the only person in the race is me, and this is a race against my mind. 

As long as my bucket is empty at the end of the day, then I win.

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date: February 15, 2011

Author


mnatwood

Meredith Atwood, an overweight and overworked wife, mother and attorney, went from the couch to the finish of a half Ironman triathlon in a little over a year. Her book, full of contributions from expert coaches, nutritionists and athletes, takes the reader through the disciplines of swimming, biking and running.

Author

avatarmnatwood

Meredith Atwood, an overweight and overworked wife, mother and attorney, went from the couch to the finish of a half Ironman triathlon in a little over a year. Her book, full of contributions from expert coaches, nutritionists and athletes, takes the reader through the disciplines of swimming, biking and running.

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