Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Waning Athletic Ambitions

This weekend, I conquered another athletic hurdle: I swam two continuous miles “open water” in the ocean. This was both a physical and a psychological feat: having not swum more than 3500 yards in a lap pool, where the water is current-free and there is a wall every 25 yards to use for rest or propulsion (pushing off post flip-turn, for instance), I was unsure if I would be physically capable of swimming 3520 yards (i.e. 2 miles) in the choppy, salty, wide-open Atlantic. Granted, I have completed one other 2 mile open-water swim in my life: it was in a lake with my old club swimming team. However, this was about 6 summers ago, during which time I was averaging between 7,000 and 10,000 yards of swimming daily and attending double practices (one at 5 a.m., one at 8 p.m.) three times a week. And I remember that race being extremely exhausting.

The bottom line is that I did manage to swim two miles at Brighton Beach on Saturday and then went back and did it again on Sunday. Therefore, I should feel proud, right? Wrong. Instead, I feel slow and inadequate, since two swimmers I used to handily beat at “distance swimming” when we would convene for “practices” were far ahead of me on these ocean swims. It’s downright embarrassing, considering that both men had more-or-less just learned how to swim, while I was a former college swimmer. (Of course, I did get kicked off the team for being too slow…but I still completed all of the required training and competed for two full years.)

One would think that getting shown up by these swimmers (and consequently feeling slow and inadequate) would make me extra-motivated to work hard to improve. Ordinarily, that is how I would feel. Lately, however, my motivation to do anything athletic has been sub-par, at best, never mind my competitive spirit.

This lack of motivation is particularly worrying, as I need to begin training for the NYC Marathon in a few short weeks. I decided that maybe signing up for a race or two in between now and November 7th (race day) would help. It didn’t. Then I tried signing up for a swimming/running race to increase my interest in cross-training. It hasn’t. Then I thought maybe getting into triathlon training would save what little waning motivation I have left. However, I cannot even get myself to purchase a new helmet so I can ride the bike I have, never mind actually going through with a new racing bike purchase. (I figure that if I don’t even ride my current bike, why should I spend $1,000 on a fancy gizmo I am likely to break or worse: not use?) Plus, the more I think about it, the more work triathlons seem to be. There is so much gear you “need,” and on top of that expense, race entry fees are terribly expensive, and then on top of all of that there is the trouble of getting yourself and all of your gear to the race. I’m defeated just thinking about all of it.

Ultimately, this all boils down to my being tired of sports. “How can she be tired of sports?” you wonder. “She’s an athlete!” I actually wonder the same thing. However, this past weekend, when I went to swim at the beach, I met a slew of other open water swimmers, some of whom were triathletes, some of whom were just training for mere 25 mile swims around the island of Manhattan. And instead of being intrigued by all this talk of swimming and racing, I was just sick of it. I didn’t want to hear about BodyGlide and wetsuits and bodymarking. I just wanted to enjoy the activity for its simplicity—something I seem to be unable to do with any athletic activity anymore.

I am not sure how I will regain my love of athletic competition. I am hoping that marathon training will renew my vigor, but fear of injury is plaguing that enthusiasm from the outset. If even the NYC Marathon—one of the biggest running events in the country—cannot renew my motivation and excitement for running, I may have to try seeking a completely new sport. Perhaps I will look into curling . . . or better yet, power lifting!


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about bowling!!

Anonymous said...

Could it be that you’re simply growing beyond the necessity for do-or-die competitive athletics and gaining an interest in simply enjoying athletics (i.e. participating in sports)?

Congratulations on your newest “personal best”—swimming two continuous miles in the choppy, salty, wide-open Atlantic! Never mind about two fairly new swimmers being out in front; congratulate them and just appreciate their accomplishments, instead of comparing them to your prior swimming experience. I believe that past accomplishments are meant to be remembered joyfully, not meant to bring you down when you can no longer reproduce them or when someone else achieves or surpasses them.

Also, wasn’t at least one of those men taught how to swim by you? Another of your accomplishments that you should enjoy.

With regard to the “my motivation to do anything athletic has been sub-par, at best, never mind my competitive spirit” comment, could it be that you have other interests in your life now that make motivation for severe athletic competition less meaningful? Could it be that “personal best” is no longer “necessary” but that personal enjoyment is a possible goal?

It certainly sounds to me like triathlons ARE a lot of work and expense and worry about possible injury, especially if you don’t have a team of people to assist you with all the logistical and monetary stuff. Perhaps, just perhaps, it would be more enjoyable to root on someone you know (like T_ H_) than to put yourself through the expense and grueling training that is required in order to be a participant.

Your second-to-last paragraph seems to sum it up very well—“instead of being intrigued by all this talk of swimming and racing, I was just sick of it. . . I just wanted to enjoy the activity for its simplicity.” Perhaps it’s time to move on to non-competitive sports or to decide that you want to enjoy being athletic but that you’ve had enough of SEVERE competitive athletics.