Wednesday, August 11, 2010

in which i fail - for now

If you read my weekend recap, you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of a long bike ride in preparation for the Hotter'N'Hell Hundred, which is just three weeks away. The plan was to ride 60 miles on Saturday morning. We came home early on Friday night, laid out our gear and filled our water bottles, and then made sure we were in bed by 11pm. Nathan fell asleep quickly; I, however, was not so lucky. I spent the whole night tossing and turning, worrying and wondering, about riding my bike 100 miles in 100 degrees of hot Texas heat. At around 3am, I had a sudden and inspiring realization - I did not have to do the Hotter'N'Hell. I could throw in the towel and quit. I finally fell asleep.

The alarm went off at 5:30am. I turned to Nathan and whispered my confession.

"I don't want to ride this morning."
"If we don't ride this morning," he whispered back, "then we can't do the Hotter'N'Hell."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure."

We turned off the alarm and went back to bed.

This was not an easy decision to make, and I'm still wondering if I gave up too easily. But I've not been excited for this event in some time. In July, I said that I would complete the 100 miles, but I wouldn't enjoy it. Last week, I confessed that my training had "gone downhill." The only reason I've looked forward to this event is because once done, it would be over. I could focus on running. I could have weekends free to do whatever I wanted. I could never look at my bicycle again. Somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying the training, the journey. I lost the love I had for my bike and each looming ride filled me with dread. While I could probably have physically muscled through these last few weeks and the event, I'm not there emotionally or mentally. You can't ride 100 miles unless you want to, and I just don't want to.

(And there are other logistics - the heat, the six hour drive there and back, taking a day off from work, sleeping on an acquaintance's floor, finding someone to take care of my dogs for three days, the amount of money I just spent on plane tickets for a September wedding, etc. But if I wanted to do this ride, really wanted to, then all those other things wouldn't have mattered. Because my heart already isn't in it, those things make it that much harder.)

Even though I know I'm making the right choice, I can't help but feel a sense of loss, a feeling of regret, and a burning shame. Listen: I don't give up. I make a goal, I complete that goal. Failure is not an option. And when I've announced a goal, talked it up, put in 3/4 of the training, written about my love of cycling extensively on this blog - it makes it that much harder to step down. Last week, No Meat Athlete posted about failure, and I commented that I had failed at both meeting my secret goal for the Austin Marathon, and that I receive weekly rejection letters from literary journals. But those aren't really failures - they're just falling short, with the idea that success is on the way. This is different. This is straight up not even trying.

Of course, I have a back up plan. I can still ride the Pineywoods Purgatory in October. Last year, I rode 72 miles without training and even though the course is harder than the HNH - think huge hills vs. flat as a pancake - it's familiar terrain. It's in my hometown. I know people at the rest stops. I won't have to travel but 20 minutes to get to the starting line. The weather will be 10x cooler. I might even - gasp - enjoy the ride! So, while I won't announce to the world that I will do the century in the Purgatory, the possibility is about the only thing making me feel better about quitting this time around. That, and all the time I now have for running. ;)

What about you? Have you ever fallen short of a fitness goal or had to back out of a race at the last minute? Let's commiserate in the comments!


  1. I really, really, really wanted to do the Disco Tri but then I realized that if I spent $50-$60 per month just to be able to practice swimming, I would be missing out on many, many more things that I wanted to do. Sometimes I feel like a failure for giving up on that so easily. But I keep telling myself that eventually we'll be back in a good place financially and be able to justify spending the money to exercise the way we'd like to.

    I think it's good that you stopped if you were dreading the training. When you start looking forward to doing something just so that it will be over with, it's time to re-evaluate why you're doing it in the first place. Some people go through years of college just to be done with it (believe me, I know) and that's just wrong. ;-)

  2. I wondered if this was the decision (I saw on twitter) you had made. There is a fine line between pushing through a wall in training and just plain dreading training. I think this was the right decision.

    I signed up for two half marathons in the spring that I ended up not running. Between finishing my dissertation and teaching at two colleges, I had no time to get in most of my training runs. I had run a half not fully trained in March and didn't enjoy the race very much and felt lucky to come out of it without an injury. I made both decisions to not run the races a week before, and I felt like a loser and a quitter both times. It's hard to always juggle everything that life throws at you, but I knew that running and racing had to take a back seat to finishing my PhD and writing lectures.

    I also wanted to thank you for your thoughtful and articulate comment on my post about gendered assumptions!

  3. I've felt like a failure for not meeting goals many a time, although most of them haven't been fitness goals, just goals in general. Then yesterday, an acquaintance of mine on FB wrote this in her status. "Grateful for being able to give up because it gives me the chance to begin again." Think I might use that as a mantra next time, there's something very freeing about it.

  4. @Erica - I agree that it's important to enjoy the process, as the process is 99% of the event. The dread was my first clue that this was not the best choice for me at this time. And you're right about putting things off - not now does not mean not ever.

    @Historiadora - You guessed right! And doing a race when I haven't put in the training is definitely an injury waiting to happen. And thanks for sharing your experiences - it's good to know I'm not alone.

    @Carleen - I love that quote. Love, love, love. Thank you for sharing it!

  5. I knew the Disco Tri would be wrong because after a while, the only reason I was willing to spend money we didn't have was because I didn't want to feel guilty - A friend of mine had bought me an awesome disco scarf to wear at the event and I didn't want to let him down. When I realized how silly that was...

    ...I'll wear that scarf at the Disco Tri some day. :-)

  6. I just had this happen to me yesterday! I was pushing myself to do something that I wanted to...but my body just wasn't ready and it was causing so much stress. I decided not to do it. I felt so much better. Then the guilt hit!!!! I learned alot from that and how to treat myself better. We all have to let go of that guilt. Love that quote above.

  7. My hobby is starting projects! I have more "week 1's" on Daily Mile than seems possible (also, knitting projects). You are brave to blog about your experiences.

  8. I think it's great you will be back to your happy sport....running:) That is success in my book!

    I haven't been training for the Taos Up and Over. I promised myself I would be training super hard and I have been exhausted for no apparent reason. I'm still going to the race, but I won't be happy with my results....and it's my first race :(

  9. I just don't see why the HNH has to be in August. I mean, it's Texas for crying out loud - it would be hotter than hell if they waited til October to do it. Riding 100 miles in August in Texas just seems like pure torture if you ask me (which you didn't, but as all I can think about these days is how hot I am, I thought I'd throw in my two cents).

    But on another note, I commend you for your decision cause it's never fun to do something that should be enjoyable when it's just not anymore.

    Happy running!

  10. I posted about some goals I've "given up on" on No Meat Athlete. I definitely fail everyday at goals.

    But without failure, what would we learn from?

    WIthout failure, how could we enjoy success?

    In those terms failure is not all bad, there's plenty of gray in giving up on goal or not reaching it. If you learned something about yourself (e.g. you don't enjoy long bikes rides as much as you enjoy long runs) that will benefit you (knowing what you like is half the battle in continuing to exercise and stay fit), is it truly a failure?

  11. There's always going to be another race. Just remember that. I didn't run a half-marathon once because I didn't keep up with the training. But I've run several since then.