Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My Journey to Ironman Part 10: What now?

So I finished an Ironman and met my goal to gain mental toughness. And, most importantly, I beat depression. Or did I?

The day after the race, I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders, and it was amazing! I felt changed, different. I saw the world differently. I felt differently about things. There were a lot of mundane things that I just didn’t care about and didn’t want to clutter my life with anymore. Eric says I emerged a confident woman, more like the pre-depression Mandy, only better. I didn’t experience post-race blues like I have after other races. I felt a sense of freedom and hope. After the race, when negative or depressing thoughts and feelings  sprung up, I was able to send them on their way relatively quickly, because I AM AN IRONMAN. It’s amazing how I felt I was capable of so much more than before the race. I really didn’t want to lose those feelings!

Then last weekend, a big trigger hit me. I’ve been pondering on it ever since. I realized that after the race, until last weekend, I’ve been in this bubble of positivity and warmth. And then I allowed that trigger to snuff out the light in my soul. I felt like it shriveled up or went into hiding. Since then, although I’ve recovered somewhat, I feel a little more like pre-Ironman Mandy than post.

Even though I knew the post-race euphoria wouldn’t last forever, I’m a little bummed it didn’t last longer. Driving home from work last night, I felt quite emotional with the realization that perhaps this mental test isn’t quite over yet. I had a taste, if only for a few weeks, of what it feels like to love myself. I really can’t remember when, if ever, I’ve felt that way. And I’m angry, because over the weekend, I allowed the trigger to wash most of those feelings away. I realized on that 45 minute drive home, that the real application of what I learned will come when I can love myself no matter what. Now that I know what it actually feels like to feel good about myself, I hunger for it. I shed a few tears as I determined to not let anything (especially myself) convince me I’m not worthy of love, compassion and understanding, and most importantly, I DO NOT EVER want to go down the dark hole of depression again. I’m not naive. I’m 39 years old today. I know I’ll struggle with it again sometime. But the desire to beat down the negative committee burns in me hotter than a California forest fire. I am lovable and capable. I’m worthy of kindness, compassion, and understanding. And I am certainly worthy of being listened to and taken seriously (not all of my ideas are crazy!!). That means I need to block out the negative with my own Great Wall of Mandy, stand up, and roar! And not back down! It’s time to fire the negative committee and permanently hire the Mandy Power committee! Comparing how I felt in June 2015 with the month after Ironman, is literally like night and day. I don’t ever want to be lost in the dark again. Ever.

So it’s time to set some new goals. I really want to apply what I’ve learned to my future and I’m starting out on a good foot -  after almost two years of looking for a new job, I was finally offered and accepted a new one which I start on the 16th. I’m so excited and finally feel the confidence to take on a challenging new role. 

I’m also looking forward to taking this year off from triathlon. Having my life revolve around my training schedule for a year was tough. I can’t wait to spend time doing things on our house and doing things with the kids. My daughter is going to try a few triathlons this year, so I’m super excited to coach her and do some races by her side at her pace. I’ve also loved not having to stress about missing workouts if I get sick (which I did right after we got back from Australia) - because I have no races to train for! It’s been great. Oh, and I’m also loving getting to sleep in on Saturday. I am feeling some withdrawals from not working out an average of 2 hours a day, and every now and then I have a panic-y moment when I wonder if I’m working out enough. But then I remember, it’s okay! You’re taking a break! It’s a good feeling.

In 2019, I enter the 40-44 age group. So my goal is to qualify for USAT Age Group Nationals again in Olympic distance and then qualify for the 2020 Age Group Worlds. That means I’ll need to shave off about 30 minutes from my fastest Olympic distance time. To prepare for that, I’m focusing on strength training and nutrition this year. I found a new place that does boot-camp style 30 minute classes, and I am loving it! I’m really looking forward to this next challenge, because I LOVE short distance. I’d much rather do 10x30-second sprint or hill intervals during an hour run than run at zone 2 for 3+ hours. Trying to see how fast I can go makes me happy! I’m also considering setting a goal to do some 5k races this year and see just how fast I can do one in.

As for long-distance, I have a few scores to settle. I want to finish Ironman Cozumel. I want to do an entire ironman that includes a swim and the entire bike course. And I want to finish St. George and Oceanside 70.3s with much better times. Raleigh, North Carolina 70.3 is on my bucket list, since that’s about 2 hours from where my family lives. I also want to break 2 hours in a half marathon. I’d love to do some trail half marathons, since trail running is my happy place. But, longer distances will have to wait until our kids are out of the house. It’s just too much stress for me to try and juggle everything like I did this year. I have every intention of being an active grandma, so consistent exercise will definately be part of my future.

Bottom line, I am pawing the ground at the start gate, a newly minted powerful race horse, ready to take off. I feel empowered to be a better me, to live a better life, and to discover what it is I’m really supposed to be doing with my talents, skills, and lessons learned. I’m so excited for the future! I haven’t felt that way in YEARS! And I’m really looking forward to learning how to continue growing my mental strength. The more I can learn about beating depression, the more I can share with others so we can end this epidemic!

Thank you for reading about my journey. I hope it’s inspired you to go after tough goals. You don’t have to finish an Ironman to conquer depression or gain mental toughness. But you do have to do something. Sitting on the couch watching Netflix, scrolling through Facebook,  watching countless YouTube videos, or even reading dozens of self-help books won’t change your life. You have to make it happen. But you CAN do it!

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