don't give up on the year 'till it's over

2015 is the year I have been the most excited for. Ever.

And it’s not because I am doing new things or am making big life changes. It’s just because I am So. Very. Ecstatic. That 2014 is over.

Looking back, I wanted 2014 to be over a long time ago--seven months ago, to be more specific.

To be less specific, there are a number of reasons I was ready to be shot of the year, and I won’t go into them all here. A big one, though, was that I had an exceptionally disappointing first season as a pro triathlete. I’ve been told it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it’s not that I don’t believe that, rationally, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. And I’m not here to lie to you.

It’s not that I couldn’t find things to learn from in each race, and it certainly was not that I was going backwards in swimming, biking, and running. There was some “bad luck” at the wrong times (dropped chains and a bruised rib), but, more so, it was self-inflicted pressure, and mental stress, and emotional stress, and just straight up STRESS--and other aggravating intangibles that can get in the way of even the most talented and fit athletes.

The result of the buildup of all the blockages--both tangible and intangible--was such discouragement and self-doubt that I wanted to give up. Not on the sport, per sé, but on the year for sure. At the end of July I was ready to throw in the towel, shut down for the season, and wait for 2015--which couldn’t come quickly enough.

I didn’t, though, or couldn’t. As a pro, I knew I couldn’t make decisions based entirely on feelings of disappointment. I had to get some manner of progress from the season, even if it wasn’t the progress I had hoped for. So I changed gears.

I went to Luray, a local race where I knew I could make some money but that was low pressure. I stretched myself in a way I had never done before and raced on back-to-back days--the Olympic-distance race on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I won both, but, more importantly and regardless of the win, had the best races I had all season--compared to myself. I also had fun. I enjoyed racing and socializing. I regained a huge ounce of confidence and re-considered getting ready for a fall race.

Then, as I was planning for my little comeback, I got sick for the first time since I had dengue fever while I was in ‘Nam (though thankfully no hospital stays or hair loss this time). Not a big deal, but enough to make a fall triathlon questionable. Once again, I contemplated just being done.  Maybe this was my body telling me that the year had been full of too much stress--tangible and intangible alike--and that it was throwing in the towel on 2014.

But I pressed on, once again changing my approach (with the help of my coach). Instead of gearing up for a fall tri, I picked a late-fall 10k road race and started into a run-focused block of training. Our rationale was that I could still achieve one of the goals I had set for the year--to improve some of my run times.

The run block was fun. It gave me a little break from swimming and biking and took me back to my roots, so to speak. I think I got above 50 miles/week for the first time since college, which felt like a big deal (even though it wouldn’t have back then!).

It totally paid off. I broke my 10k PR by a minute and improved my 5k PR from my sophomore year of college--within the 10k. I won’t say I was satisfied, but I was appeased. The 10k time didn’t make up for my season, but it was proof that, frustrating season or not, I was still making progress--something I desperately needed to know.

Moral of the story? Sometimes it is tempting to want a “new start.” And sometimes, a new start is in order. (Thank God for 2015!) But sometimes opting out for a new start is a lot more like giving up. You never know what you might gain from persevering through a tough time.

That being said, perseverance might take a different form than what you had expected. Sometimes it’s not so much about a new start as it is about forging a new trail--thinking outside the box to try an unexpected approach or looking at the situation from an unfamiliar perspective.

Join me in welcoming 2015 (yeah, I’m a little behind) and committing to not giving up on it for at least eleven more months!

Thanks to my sponsors @Tri360, my coach @MZaneCastro, my parents, and all my friends who supported me through a rough year. You know who you are.

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