How To Feel Successful

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t … you are right.

I can.

I can complete Ironman Lake Placid while being a mom, working, and taking care of myself.

I can’t do it all perfectly, but I can start the race with confidence and finish with a smile.  The time that will take is irrelevant to me and so I have a minimalist plan.  This means a greatly reduced volume and intensity from what I used for my previous two Ironman races. I hit 95% of my training on a weekly basis, with a swim workout missed here or there. In the end, I probably train the same amount as before, since I would do 80% of my previous, more intense, workout. But the difference is that I feel successful because I am following most of the plan.

And when I feel successful, I am a whole lot more confident, which oddly enough makes me … you guessed it …. successful.

Here are some tips for how you can feel successful too.

Ain't no mountain high enough.

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

Adjust Expectations

Last week I had a five-mile run after a fifty-mile bike. By the time I started the run it was blistering hot in Miami. I began with my 2:30 run and 40 second walk interval that I have grown to love. Don’t shake your head and dismiss it because I am slow … read on.

Here’s how to find a run/walk interval that works for you.

But my legs were shot, it was hot, and I couldn’t keep it up. My first instinct was to berate myself. “Seriously? You can’t run for 2 freaking minutes?” As I internalized the mean words I was telling myself, my pace began slipping as I began to walk more.

Almost in tears, I had the idea to change the intervals. I wasn’t going to be running at my pace anyways, maybe if I chose a shorter interval for just these five miles at least I wouldn’t completely fall apart and there would be a rhythm to this nonsense of a run. I switched to a 1:30 run/1 min walk.

I thought I was pathetic but I was going to be pathetic running for one minute and thirty seconds.

And then it happened.

I completed one interval, and then another, followed by another. My pace began to pick up, and though I didn’t hit my original target … I didn’t blow it as badly as I would’ve had I tried to stick to my 2:30/40 second interval.

Once I began feeling successful, I was. And I ran an extra mile to prove it.

It’s not a copout, it doesn’t make me less fierce to reduce a goal.  It just means that I am not willing to feel like a failure because one thing is not going my way.  I’m just saying work with what you’ve got. You can’t hit your goals, in life or in training, all the time. You can’t bring your “A” game to every race. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up all together. It’s not a zero sum game, you’ve got to learn to work with what you have any given day.

Not every day is going to be great, and that's okay. Finish strong no matter what.

Not every day is going to be great, and that’s okay. Finish strong no matter what.

Embrace The Suck

And any given day will also include some pain: embrace it, don’t fear it.

This weekend I was riding with a fast group of ladies on a fifty two miler. Next to me was a friend with whom I have literally ridden hundreds of miles. With about five miles to go, she looked at me and said:

“How can it be that I can ride 100 miles just fine, but I’m dying at 45?”

I told her about my theory: whatever distance you say you are going to do, the last few miles will hurt. No exceptions. Just because you are riding less, doesn’t mean you will struggle less. If she were riding a century that day, and we were approaching fifty she would not be “dying” because it would be too early for her to allow herself to feel that way. We are able to go as far as our mind tells us to.

Knowing you will struggle makes the struggle real. Yet embracing the struggle, conquers it.

So it’s going to be hard? Might as well just put your head down, do the work and get it over with. You are going to finish, it’s still going to be hard, just get on with it.

Maria Luisa and I wondering how can 50 miles feel so hard?

Maria Luisa and I wondering how can 50 miles feel so hard?


Rely on Others

But then there are times where my brain says “you can’t, no more,” but someone else convinces you otherwise. For example, when I do my FTP test (Functional Threshold Power) I think there is no way to push my pedals any harder. This test basically requires you to go as fast as you can for ten miles. My face becomes bright red, my lungs feel like they can no longer take in air, and yet Andreas, my bike coach, stands behind me and says “one more watt, give me one more watt.” That means, faster faster, because the more you push the higher your watts. And you know what? That watt shows up. I might be wanting to vomit, but the watt showing that I pedaled hard is there.

He believed I could, so I could.

This wasn't my FTP, if it were he wouldn't be looking down and I wouldn't be capable of taking a selfie

This wasn’t my FTP, if it were he wouldn’t be looking down and I wouldn’t be capable of taking a selfie

Nothing can replace hard work; without it there is no way you can reach a goal.  That means, I better get cracking on my push up goal!  What success means to each one of us is different, but how to feel successful is pretty universal.  Be realistic, don’t be afraid of a little struggle, surround yourself with people who believe in you when you fall short.  Is there anything stopping you from feeling successful?

2 thoughts on “How To Feel Successful

  1. I stop me. In many ways. Peeling those away one by one. Thanks for the reminder!
    “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Henry Ford.
    “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

  2. I totally agree! Here’s the thing. I am great about incorporating this mindset into my athletic pursuits. Life- not as much. And life is actually where it matters more, right?

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