I ran the New York City Marathon in 1997. And a short 10 years later, I ran my second marathon: Nike Women's.
I did my first half-Ironman in 2002, the spring after I had a miscarriage, to prove that I had control of my body. I did my second in 2004, after having my daughter, to prove that I had control of my life. And then, a short eight years later, did my third in preparation for Ironman.
Oh, and in 2011, I threw in the Mt. Taylor Quad, a crazy race up and down a New Mexico mountain, mostly for a magazine story.
I did my one—and probably only—Ironman in 2013.
Brief recap: 1997, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2013 (a double-whammy) were big event years for me.
My definition of big event? Something that is going to take me at least four hours to complete, if not more. While a half-marathon is definitely significant, the training and race don't drain me, physically and mentally, like a marathons and long-distance triathlons do.
This year, this is what I have lined up: Half-Ironman in Boulder in June (70.3 miles that, on an ideal day, will take me 5.5. hours); Pikes Peak Ascent in August (13.1 miles and 7,000+ feet of climbing that, on an ideal day, will take me 4ishhours); Philadelphia Marathon in November (4+ hours with Kelly, my 26Strong Runner; although I'm there to run her pace and cheer her on, I'll still be going 26.2 miles).
Brief recap: I've done seven big events over 16 years, and this year, just 365 days after the biggest athletic year of my life, I'm going to do three.
Um, to paraphrase Dr. Phil, how is that going to work for you, Dimity?
Answer to the bald-headed self-help doc: "Well, not super well, actually. I've been feeling particularly enervated lately—and I haven't even crossed a starting line yet. No idea how I'm going to do it all."
There was no rhythm or rhyme to my big events in previous years; I only used my gut and heart to guide me. Did I really, really want to do that thing? Then do I would do it, and be content for another couple of years until I found another thing I really, really wanted to do.
But somehow, when I finished Ironmother—which I really, really, really wanted to do—last year, I got swept up into the "if some is good, more is better" mentality. I certainly relished the race I put together and the finish line feeling for months and months, but, along the way, I convinced myself that it wasn't enough. I had to keep pushing hard.
2014: Big event followed by big event, followed by another big event. Huh.
Planning this year, I didn't listen to my gut or heart. I only listened to the voices that said, "You can go faster. You should train harder. You're a fast swimmer and cyclist, and you should see what you can do at the half-Ironman distance." Those stubborn, hard-core voices tuned out the sensible ones. The ones that reminded me, "You aren't into this. You have no desire to swim or ride fast right now. Every workout feels like a chore. You've got no spark."
My gut and heart finally got my attention about a week ago. I was on a bike ride in Boulder, one of my first true outdoor rides this year; I should've loved letting my legs spin and my quads work and my speed climb. Instead, all I could think about was getting home and and just being home. I wanted to clean my closet. I wanted to play Clue with my kiddos. I wanted to make a good dinner and eat it with Grant. I wanted to connect to my family, my marriage, my home—and I can't do that in from the saddle of my bike.
It wasn't just a bad training day. I know how to get through those. I hadn't had a good training day since I started focusing on Boulder. Deep down, I knew I didn't want to do any more long training rides. I knew I didn't want to swim in a wetsuit, nor did I want to figure out how I was going to pull off a half-marathon after swimming and biking for ridiculously long distances.
I (happily) went through all of that last year—and it feels way too soon for me to be doing it again.
Brief recap: I'm not going to do the Half-Ironman in Boulder in early June.
After I made that decision, my mental load got about 1,000 times lighter. To actually decide for myself not to do a race—and not let an injury dictate my fate—felt surprisingly empowering, if a little sad. I have the skills to do this thing, I have the equipment do this thing, I have the race bib to do this thing, I have the muscular power and aerobic capacity to do this thing...why don't I want to do this thing? I'm honestly not quite sure, but I know one thing: I should not do this thing if I know what's best for me.
Some people can get fired up to race big year after year (or month after month), but I'm clearly not that person. And the more I accept that that, the less time I'll waste listening to random voices that don't resonate with the person I am.
How do you decide when you're ready to take on a big race? Do you ever race when your heart and gut aren't into it?
(By the way, my heart and gut are still intrigued by Pikes Peak; let's see if they feel that way when I start huffing and puffing up the hills for training. And I'm all in for 26Strong with Kelly. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant those voices.)