On Failure

Last week was the first week that the initial marathon momentum started to wear off. My motivation sagged. I plodded through a couple of workouts, and had an incredibly difficult time getting myself up for Saturday morning practice. The reality of my goal had set in, and doubts began to creep into my mind. I started to play with all sorts of easy ways out - I was SO tired, and the house was messy, my fundraising had lagged, and I hadn't done all my weekly workouts so I shouldn't push myself too hard on Saturday, and who was I kidding, anyway? I'm not a real runner. I fought all week to get that spark back, that infectious motivation that drove me to make this crazy goal, and actually go after it. I spent a number of days wondering what the hell was my problem.

And then a few things happened: I got a facebook message from an old friend who mentioned that my blogs here had been inspiring her. I perked up a few notches. A little unexpected support from the universe can sometimes change your attitude in a big way. And I read a few passages from a blog written by Sarah Peck, a friend and college teammate of mine that reminded me of some old baggage that was likely at the root of my current struggle. Sarah and I were weight partners on the Denison University swim team, where I swam my freshman year. Sarah, a junior, was as nice as she was initimidating, and I distinctly remember a morning medicine ball workout where I, loopy from not enough sleep, failed to catch the medicine ball she had lobbed at me with my hands. I did, however, manage to stop the 8-pound ball's momentum with my face. Stunned, I managed to retrieve the ball, as Sarah called out to me, "well, are you going to throw it back or what?!"

At the time, I was pissed, but more or less unhurt by the ball. More than anything else, I wanted to try to use the time to milk my injury, minor as it was. But looking back, it was such an important thing to remember - when life throws you a very heavy ball, and it ends up in your face rather than your hands, you reset and keep going. But sometimes, we get so stuck in our fears that we can't reset - we get stuck in this loop that holds us back. And often by the time you realize it, it's been running for so long, it's so ingrained in your person that it's easy - subconscious, even - to continue to let it run. I realized this weekend that I had been stuck in a loop for nearly nine years.

When I was 17, I was at the peak of my swimming career. I was undefeated that season in high school. I got faster literally every week when I got ready to race. And then, at the State championship meet that year - my senior year – I faltered. I failed myself. I slipped physically down a flight of stairs. I slipped mentally, and lost my focus for one day. One crucial day, the day that I had worked for and focused on for the last four years. My boyfriend was at the meet, so I spent the afternoon of finals with him, instead of preparing for my race. And I lost. By 0.01. One one-hundredth of a second. And just like that, my swimming career was over. Not that I quit, mind you, but I never got over the disappointment of that race. I continued swimming into college, but it was never the same. The passion I had up until that fateful day in November had dissipated. I felt like I was no longer whole. I ached that I had given up my beloved sport for a few more minutes with this boyfriend, who neither appreciated or deserved it. Not that I meant to, but it slipped away from me – slipped through my fingers and I didn’t realize it had happened until far too late.

I let that failure define me. I dwelled on it, and wallowed in it, and used it as an excuse every time things didn't work out (which, with that attitude, was often). Not once in almost 9 years, until I ran four miles with the Team a few weeks ago, did I feel like I could once again accomplish something - safely, competently, and wholeheartedly. That whole week, I feared that the four miles was a fluke. I was so nervous showing up to practice the following week, and the week after. But then I did six miles. I kept wondering when the bottom would drop out. When would I screw this up for myself? Which brought me to this past week - I had become so unsettled with my ability to take on each week's challenge that I psyched myself out. I was too terrified of what I could do if I tried - even if I tried and failed - that I couldn't sleep.

So this week, I'm finally trying to locate that damn reset button. I'll never get back those moments that could have been, but I can be a little gentler on myself. I'm ready to get back on my feet and start moving forward.

[reposted from my TNT blog 7/11/2011]

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