It’s here again; the time of year when I wake up in the still dark and loath conviction, promise to stop setting goals for myself that beg me to rise before the sun, and threaten – if only for a moment – that I’m going to quit training and racing, sleep in, lounge about all morning with the boys and eat homemade pancakes until I explode. I promise to do it I will do it…tomorrow.
Sometimes, I blink a couple of times and open my eyes, allowing them to adjust to the black of our bedroom. I get out of bed, shake off my slumber quickly, and embrace the matter at hand – diligently preparing for whatever comes next and starting the day solidly, stoically.
Other mornings, I fall out of bed a bit like a limp wet noodle might, manage to put my clothes on (backwards,) realizing my error as my eyes slowly adjust to the lamps lighting the street outside our apartment. I move reluctantly, maybe even timidly, half telling myself that I just don’t have what it takes to start swimming, biking or running. But ,before long, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Soon I find that place where my heart is beating quickly, I’m sweating, and my brain and body are digesting beats in my headphones, thoughts in my head, and daydreams on the horizon as fuel for the matter at hand. That matter might be pushing further than before, faster than before, with more power, more focus. Sometimes that matter is merely showing up which is just as important (if not more so) than any of the other details.
On the good days, I’m surprised what I’m able to squeeze out of my body and being in these wee hours; taken aback that when I ask or power, strength, or speed it comes… from somewhere, in greater quantities than I ever imagined possible.
On the other days, I’ll feel only weak. Defeated. That call for power receives only quiet. When I push for speed the needle doesn’t seem to budge. As much as I hate these days, I know that they will lurk amidst the others, as valuable as all the rest.
Regardless of the outcome, when the sun comes up, the noise in my head will quiet as the rest of the world begins to buzz and as it does, this work will fade into the day. The time will come for me to acknowledge and absorb my work into the larger whole for whatever it is, whatever it was. To embrace what I did today, and to let it go. I don’t have time or space to carry it with me for the rest of the day or into tomorrow because tomorrow there will be another challenge to take its place and I’ll need all of my focus to arrive again.
This is what we call the “overreach;” the place where an athlete is giving more than they think they have. Where the sheer reality, volume and intensity of the tasks at hand make them question their abilities. Hauntingly, this is all part of “the plan.” It is the overwhelming, dark and intense part – the part that breaks most athletes into average beings again. If you allow the “shoulds” and “coulds” deep within to take over – if they overwhelm your grit – you’ll never be as strong, or fast, or powerful as you think you are. As you think you CAN be.
But, if you embrace your exhaustion, admit that you feel broken, but that you’re willing to TRY with all that you have, then you’ll already have succeeded.