Never Give Up?


In the last post, I mentioned that the biggest challenge of never giving up may be to grok what it means to never give up in the first place. As if on cue, my journey as an IRONDAD took a turn that offers up an excellent case-in-point.

It started with the marathon I mentioned. I felt pretty good immediately afterward, and, finishing in under 4 hours, I had done what I had come to San Diego intending to do. After the endorphins wore off, however, I noticed pain on the outside of my left knee. When I put weight on it, my leg would occasionally fold as if it couldn’t hold my weight. By the time I got to the airport, I was hobbling along so slowly that my friend Reisel had to push me through the terminal in a wheelchair so we wouldn’t miss our flight.

The next day- a Monday- I felt good enough to go in to work, albeit on crutches. The day after that I felt even better; I chucked the crutches and got around with a slight limp. And on Wednesday I decided I could run through the limp to do my regular track workout.

But after a few weeks, I noticed that my legs never felt fresh anymore. All of my regular running paces were down by 30-60 sec/mile, and I felt like I just couldn’t keep up at the track. When I talked to some more experienced triathletes about it, the first question they asked me was how much time I took off after the marathon.

So here’s the first takeaway from this post: apparently you’re supposed to take time off after a marathon. Maybe a few short jogs in the first week; no intense interval workouts and certainly no running up and down the slopes at Northstar the following weekend like I did. I really screwed the pooch on this one.

Clearly, the all-out, all-the-time approach to training that felt most intuitive to me was no longer working. I had to do something that isn’t always easy for me- I try doing it someone else’s way.

First order of business was to see what damage I had done and fix it. I went to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine. After examining me, he said I was in the early stages of overtraining and that  easing off the training for a couple of weeks along with a little physical therapy should do the trick. About the best prognosis I could expect, and it did indeed do the trick.

But how would I continue to make progress without making rookie mistakes that might cost me weeks of training time? I came to the conclusion that I’d have to borrow or buy someone else’s expertise, so I hit up three of the most renowned triathlon coaches in the Bay Area. And then I waited.

And waited. And after a week of radio silence, I came to another conclusion- that not only were these coaches uninterested in taking me on as an athlete, but that no coach would ever want any part in a story as raw as mine. It was a momentary crisis of faith that a friend- the same friend who wheeled me through the San Diego airport- helped me understand was inevitable in a journey that means so much to me. Fact is, I could do this with or without a coach, and her confidence that I had the determination to get it done either way made it that much easier to believe in myself. Second takeaway from this post: friends like this are few and far between. You should keep them close and hold them dear.

As it turns out, a few days later my top pick replied with a few questions for me. After a day of volleying emails back and forth, I convinced him to coach me. And, with that deal done, my chances of finishing Cozumel went dramatically up- along with my training volume. This time- and with this coach’s guidance- it has been ratcheted up in a way that always seems to leave me good to go for the next workout.

What this post boils down to is that Never Give Up does not mean Never Let Go. In fact, letting go is an important skill in the art of never giving up. If you’ve chosen a worthwhile goal, you can and should turn your back on checkpoints that initially looked like they would keep you on track yet lead to dead ends as you get a closer look at them. Put another way, the destination may or may not look like what you expected when you set out, but the journey will constantly surprise you. That’s what keeps it interesting.

I realize that the let-go sounds like some sort of washed-up spiritual claptrap. That’s because it is. But I’ll save it for the next post; right now I’ve got a long workout to put in and only 6 hours of sunlight left.


Leave a Reply