Sunday, 18 July 2010

The prize of failure

success and satisfaction.
Even failure has its prize:
From the one who's on his way out,
To the one on her way in."

My dad wrote this to me, on the cover of a book he sent me after I moved to England in '96. I was only 15 and I honestly did not remember these words until I found the book again, with the recent move. I did not remember them, yet I have lived every day of my life by them. He is with me in everything I do, in my spirit, in my values, in my way of thinking.

I have felt like I have been letting him down lately. I have felt very low and every day, robbed of pleasures, has become a struggle. The pact I made with myself (and Duncan) when my dad died, to live every day to the full, to take "fishing days", sounds hollow now. Yesterday I had trouble getting out of bed or getting motivated to perform even small tasks like eating. That was yesterday...

Today I am back. I am refocusing. I am drawing up new goals, or looking again at the old ones in a new light. As in a race, when something goes wrong, but also in training and in life, to refocus is to start afresh. To not worry about what has been but to ask of yourself: "How can I best go forward from now on?". Here is an interesting article on it from the Podium Sports Journal. It is more about refocusing on the spot, during competition, but it should be clear how it transfers to other down-time too.

I am doing this, as of now. I am concentrating on good quality workouts to get me back on track, eating well (which seems to be much easier in the summer - is it the abundance of fresh produce, or is it the abundance of time to prepare healthy meals?), revisiting Pilates systematically, spending a little less time on miles and a little more on balance, technique, stability. And trying to start enjoying it again. Finding new trails for running, catching up with old episodes of my favourite series on the trainer, listening to IMtalk ( and getting out on the mountain bike are all helping me keep it fun.

Behind each difficulty there is a prize, even if it's just the knowledge that you have the skills to overcome difficulties, refocus and go on.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The luxury of sport

The journey is long. Longer than I thought. And full of potholes! And it feels like I lost my map quite a while ago.

I haven't written in a while. Life has got in the way. It feels like a struggle at the moment and I am sad to say there is little enjoyment in our everyday tasks. I don't know if it is a delayed reaction to our loss, as a family, though every day that goes past it feels like the gap my dad left is getting bigger, not smaller. Or maybe just tiredness, after a very long, very difficult year. Either way I have been feeling deflated and just so so tired.

We have had to move out of our lovely little house and into my family home. It was a decision made mainly for financial reasons and it has been harder than any of us thought. Physically, emotionally and financially it has taken a huge toll and we are at the end of our third week of moving, with a lot of our stuff still in boxes, having to make some decisions. Our IM training has taken a huge hit - we have done no structured training since racing 3 and bit weeks ago. We have to decide whether racing in Copenhagen is prudent, or in fact even possible.

I was reading a very old issue of Inside magazine the other day, an interview with Dean Karnazes (if you don't know who Karnazes is, he is worth a google!) This is what he says:

Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we'd be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we're so comfortable we're miserable. There's no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I've found is that I'm never more alive than when I'm pushing and I'm in pain, and I'm struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there's a magic. (for the full interview

It definitely struck a chord with me. It gave me insight into why I do endurance sport... but also into the huge cultural differences there are between Greece and Western culture, namely what I know of Western culture, the UK. OK, it also gave me an excuse, a way out, a reason for my inability to concentrate on training or anything tri related.

Sport, especially endurance sport with its pain and suffering, is a luxury. A luxury for when your every day life is not a struggle. I am not under the illusion that everyone who does endurance sport leads perfect lives, but in the last three weeks it has felt like both D and I have expended massive amounts of energy to get through every day that we had none to throw into our training.

When we moved from London it took us 20 minutes to cancel our bills, on the phone and online. Here in Greece it took me several days of queueing, arguing, submitting useless sheets of paper and a little bit of begging. In London I did the weekly shop in the half hour it took me to log into Sainsbury's online and choose the products I wanted delivered to my house. In Greece it takes me several hours a week, dealing with unsmiling cashiers and having to fight my way to vegetable weighing as no one knows how to queue I know... hardly a tragedy - there are people in the world who don't have the luxury of the super market or indeed have very little food. It sounds so petty when I type it, but nothing is easy here. And it seems that the little things have been accumulating. They have been eating away at our energy, to leave us empty, bitter and deflated. (It was helpfully all topped up when our new neighbour, who got annoyed with us asking him not to throw his rubble in our skip and stuck four nails, one on each of our tyres for fun. Welcome to the neighbourhood!)

We have been trying to refocus. To look at the positives. We are getting back into a routine that will allow us to train, play and have fun. We love triathlon and, most of the time, it relieves the problems of our every day life. So we are plotting our return...