Falling Behind, Moving Forward, and Rolling With the Punches

I had slated to write this blog post several weeks ago (last year, in fact!). It’s been on my to-do list since mid-December, getting shuffled around from the top to the middle and back down to the bottom as (numerous) other tasks (rapidly) come and (slowly) go. But as others eventually get checked off this never-ending list that only grows more just when it seems like it might be starting to shrink, “Write Blog Post!!!” remains — bolded, in red, double underlined… absolutely pleading for attention — and still outstanding, as a ‘non-essential’ task that takes no precedence over the ‘must-do’s’ of my “real work.” Here it is, already 16(!!?!?!) days into 2015, and I have yet to even have my 2014 season wrap-up written, let alone really have a true moment to not only write out but even really think much about my goals and focus for the new year. I’m already behind, in so many ways — my blog post being only a representation of everything else. So much is already not going as I had planned.  And you know what…?! That is totally okay.

Because it is what it is. My circumstances are what they are, and I’m doing the best I can with them. And this year, I am going to let myself be okay with that. I’m not going to try to change what I can’t control. I’m going to try hard as hell to make the most of what I can control, of course, but I’m going to relinquish the rest. I’m going to let go of the idea of even attempting to have everything go ‘according to plan’ — because inevitably it never does — and instead focus on how I can maximize and work with each imperfect scenario I face. I’m going to keep having the utmost faith in my abilities to conquer each challenge and continue moving forward, perhaps on a different trajectory than planned and maybe not always as steady — but still forward.

Moving one step at a time on a long road ahead…

A New Approach

Can't be anything but proud when you've put it all out there!
Can’t be anything but proud when you’ve put it all out there! Photo by Liz Gruber

This year, I am going to keep dreaming huge, tremendous, crazy dreams, and keep pushing myself to go further and faster and bigger. But I am going to be satisfied with knowing I did my best. That doesn’t mean I’m going to settle. On the contrary, I’m going to keep striving, and digging with everything I’ve got. But as someone who is perpetually wanting and expecting more and more from myself, this year I’m going to take more time to appreciate the efforts I’ve put in and to acknowledge that I gave all I had in the moments when it mattered most. It’s so easy to get hyper-focused on what we want to achieve down the road, that we forgot about how far we’ve already come and what we have already attained. This year I will continue wanting more, and keep aiming toward the big picture, but I’m going to be proud of what I’ve already achieved and give it the acknowledgement it deserves. As someone who tends to be their own biggest critic, I’m going to be a little easier on myself. I’m going to give myself more pats on the back, and maybe even a few air fives (woop!!). I’ll keep working just as hard — if not harder — but I’ll give myself more credit for the work I am doing.

Celebrating my STRENGTH. Photo by August Teague
Celebrating my STRENGTH. Photo by August Teague

I have so many lofty goals for myself, for this year and beyond… I want to be a better triathlete. I want to see myself reach a new level and become a top contender in the pro field. I want to get stronger, more mobile, and stay healthy and injury-free. I want to be able to focus more exclusively on my goals as an athlete. I want to train much more, and have far fewer outside obligations. I want to write more. I want to make more time for the ‘non-essential’ tasks, and more time for myself. And the list goes on and on…

And yet, here I am, 16 days into 2015, and I have yet to write anything but a few measly lines in my journal so far in the new year. I am already way, waaaay behind on my training goals for this season’s preparation period. I missed almost the entire month of December and beginning of January after getting a flu unlike any I’ve ever had that I just couldn’t seem to shake. I’ve just finally gotten things going again, but I’m still feeling the tail-end and approaching my return to training cautiously — a far cry from the big volume block I was hoping to already be well into for this month. Despite my desires to focus more exclusively on training, I feel further away from being able to accomplish that than I have in a long, long time, as I face the single busiest month of work I have had so far in my time as a sales rep, and an ever-accumulating list of obligations. As far as the “time for myself”… well, let’s just say I can forget about that one for now! To say I am overwhelmed is a huge understatement. Needless to say, I am not feeling very much like a professional athlete these days.

Not much training to be had these days, but still plenty to celebrate. Life is good! Photo by Emily Teague
Not much training to be had, but still plenty to celebrate. Life is good! Photo by Emily Teague

With my current reality in such stark contrast to where I’d planned to be — and even more so to where I want to be — at this point, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult not to get stressed out and feel like I’m falling further and further behind, especially as I hear about all the great training so many are putting in. But this is life. It gets in the way sometimes. Everyone has their own unique challenges. And I am making the choice this year to be okay with letting life take its course, and trusting in myself and my body’s capabilities to adapt and simply do the best that I can. Getting sick for so long was a bummer, but I can’t change it. All I can do is let my body do its thing and recover in due time. Being so overloaded with work is a bummer, but I can’t change that either. All I can do is try to tackle it all as best I can and keep moving forward.

I would like to able to just be an athlete and not have several other jobs demanding so much of my time, but I’m just not there yet. And I can choose now to get all worked up about it and feel super sorry for myself — and I’ll be honest, I do start to feel that way sometimes — or I can choose to suck it up, figure out how to make the most of my scenario, and focus on how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I do have to pursue my passion for sport. I choose the latter. I choose to stop always looking quite so far ahead to where I want to be, and remember to also embrace the moment I am in. I choose to quit focusing so heavily on the “ideal,” and also look at the now. I choose to plan less, and react better. I choose to always maintain an eye toward the future and work toward that vision, but with an increased awareness and appreciation for where I am at and what I’ve already achieved.

Looking Back

First pro race: Xterra Las Vegas
First pro race: Xterra Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Xterra.

As I take a good hard look back at 2014 and reflect on the season I had — my first as a pro! — I am keeping all of this in mind. I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be as a pro, and I remain focused on the journey ahead, but I am proud of what I achieved in my first year. This was a huge step up for me, but only the first of many still to come. It was challenging in so many ways, and a little bit scary, to take such a big leap… but I did it! And while I didn’t have any crazy breakout performances or any major pro podiums, I made steady, quiet progress and even exceeded my own performance expectations much of the time. I had some great races, with highlights such as two 7th place finishes on the Xterra America pro tour and a 7th overall in the series, a 3rd place pro finish at Vineman 140.6 and a top-20 pro finish at Xterra World Championships. I also had some great-for-me races, such as Vineman 70.3 or Challenge Ranch Cordova, where I felt I had an awesome day but was outshined by many other top-notch pros on the results sheet. And I also had some not-so-great races where I really struggled, such as Xterra Beaver Creek. There were highs and lows, but when you put it all together, I had a full, successful season where I accomplished my primary goals, and that is freaking awesome!

The main priorities for me in 2014 were to rack up as much experience racing in the pro field as I could, across multiple disciplines and distances, and to make progress in my racing and in my personal abilities as an athlete. I achieved both of these. I raced 2-3 times a month through most of the season, and never lost my love of racing, or my determination. I got sick once, but otherwise I stayed really healthy throughout the year. I made tremendous personal progress, improving significantly in many aspects of my racing, which is the most important thing and the biggest measure of success in my mind.

Final push of my first pro season: Xterra World Championship
Final push of my first pro season: Xterra World Championship. Photo by August Teague.

And while I’m sure I would have seen similar personal improvement with another year of racing in the amateur field, I am confident it would not have been as significant, or come as quickly. Making the jump into the pro field was like jumping into the deep end of a pool and being forced to swim or sink. There isn’t that option of bobbling between the surface and the bottom — you just have to go all in and go for it. I’m so grateful I chose to do that, and I was rewarded in all the ways I was looking for. The rewards were different than they’ve been in the past, and so too were the priorities. Podiums and results/performance took a relative backseat compared to progress, experience and development. I made a shift from the top of the totem pole to the bottom. And that was totally fine for me — but I had to shift my perspective. I had to make a commitment to focus on the bigger picture and the process of developing into the athlete I want to be. I had to differentiate between what I want now and what I want most, and immerse myself in the beginning of a long-term journey. I wrote an article for Freeplay Magazine (page 40) that talks much more about what it was like to make the leap to pro racing this year, and how my perspective and priorities have shifted, so please take a look if you want more insight on that! All in all, I’m so glad I made the decision to go pro last year and embrace the challenge that would help me grow the most as an athlete. I am happy with what I accomplished in my 2014 tri season, and even more excited for what is yet to come in 2015!

Capping Things Off and Finding the Magic

After tri season, I finished off last year with my first stand-alone marathon (not in an Ironman) since 2011, racing the California International Marathon in December. While I had some really good triathlon races in 2014, I never quite had that “perfect” day where everything just seems to come together effortlessly. But at CIM, I found the day that eluded me during tri season, and it was pure magic. It was one of those very rare performances where I felt so good I couldn’t really believe what I was achieving, even as it was happening. I wish I could relive every second of those 26.2 miles again and again because it was so very special. It was by far the best running performance I’ve ever had (and the mot enjoyable!), but the main reason that day is so significant, and what I will carry with me from it, is that it was such a perfect example of what is possible when you truly believe in yourself, trust in your capabilities wholeheartedly, and aren’t afraid to take a chance on yourself and go after something BIG.

Coming into CIM, my preparation was far from perfect, and I frankly didn’t have many workouts, if any at all, that really indicated I was capable of achieving a PR at the event. But I chose to believe I could do it anyways, and I chose to believe in a big way. It’s amazing how the body just knows what it’s supposed to do when race day comes, and I trusted in my body’s ability to do what it is capable of, even if the workouts hadn’t indicated it. I’m so glad I didn’t let any doubts take over and inhibit that! When I got to the start line, I decided this was going to be a day when I would take chances and just really go for it. My previous PR was a 3:14, and while initially my goal was just to try to match that, I decided to just run with the 3:05 pace group and see what happened. I knew it was a risky move, but I figured I had nothing to lose, and I wanted to go for it. I really didn’t have much practical reason to believe I could run there, but I did. And while I had a few tough moments where I doubted myself, I hung on, and when I crossed that line 3:04:39 later, it was the most amazing reminder of what we can do when we take a chance and truly believe.

The power of believing!
The power of believing! Photo by Margie LaPoint.

Forging Ahead, but Staying Present

With the 2015 race season looming ahead, I will take these lessons with me, and so many others I learned last year, as I seek out another magic day (or several…?!!), prioritize my personal progress, and chase after my goals with every ounce of energy I can muster. My schedule isn’t set yet, as I’m still working with my coach and support team to determine my primary race direction for the year, but stay tuned for that soon! You can definitely count on a lot of swimming, biking and running, with both some road and some dirt mixed in — and a WHOLE lot of HEART! And as I tackle and embrace the challenges set before me in 2015, I will continue to believe in the prospect of what I will be capable of down the road, but more importantly, what I can already achieve right now — despite all of life’s imperfections.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Sissy goltra says:

    Loved the blog and I’m so glad you are not only listening to what I am sure you’ve already heard from family and friends but now you are believing it yourself! The 2 phrases that stuck out to me were, the fact that you are appreciating yourself in the moment and you are letting go of the things you cannot control. Good life lessons! That remembered, our stress levels will go down! Hope you are enjoying a little yoga as well. As always I hope for the best for you! Love you Kara. Sissy

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