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Mental Giant, Empty Bucket

Mental Giant, I am not.

Scratch that.  Mental Giant, I have not been in the past

I was often completely prepared and capable of [———fill in the blank for whatever here———], but would often mentally defeat my own ability to do/finish/handle/win.  The shiniest example of this was when I tried to make the 1998 Junior Worlds weighlifting team for the USA. 

I made the team in 1997 (I made the team in 1997 without even knowing it, so I couldn’t psych myself out about it). To make the 1998 team, all I had to make was one more lift.

One measley little lift that I had completed a million times. 

I had lost about sixteen pounds of bodyweight (an entire weightclass) for the event, so I was a little weak.  But my first three lifts were strong, and in fact, I made a personal record in the first category.  I felt surprisingly good going into the second half of the competition.  All required of me for a slot on the team was to make one of next three lifts.  Again, I had three shots to make one lift.  Three strikes, and I would be out.

One-by-one, I talked myself out of each lift. I remember grabbing onto the bar and thinking, nope, no way in hell, not this time.  

As I walked up to the bar the final time, I already knew it was over. 

I’m not sure why I mentally sabotoged myself, in that moment.  I had suffered and fasted/dieted/saunaed for two weeks. I had passed out in the hallway one night from dehydration. I had sacrificed and trained for six years, five days a week for three hours a day (that’s something like 4,500 hours of my life). 

On that day, the reward was there for the taking. And I mentally blew it.  Why?

Well, I remember that I would have missed my high school graduation, and that was a big point of contention between me and my mom.  I remember that I would have missed finals, which would have caused issues with my teachers and the administration (but they always worked with me, so it was surmountable).  I would be away from my boyfriend for two weeks.  Oh wait.  The boyfriend who lived in Portland, while I lived in Savannah?  Yes, that was somehow still an excuse. I’m sure there were other reasons – all stupid.

As I think about it, I would often blow competitions and workouts just because of my mental state.  One workout I was running a 103 fever.  I went in the gym anyway, and was so sick I did not think about anything but how awful my head felt.  The mental side of lifting was not in play.  I was mindlessly throwing the bar around.  And without even noticing, I broke a personal record that day.  I wasn’t thinking, and I succeeded. And it was easy.

This whole adventure into triathlon is partly to rid myself of my own mental diminuitiveness.  I feel that I need redemption for my stupid failures in weightlifting.  I was such a mental dingbat when it came to parts of that sport, and I still resent myself for it.  Redemption time.

The reason I am bringing all this up:  the Duathlon for which I am registered in two weeks is starting to creep into my head a little.  Little twinges of self doubt like: well, I haven’t really done enough hill training on the G-Force bike, so maybe I should just sit out and not do this
maybe I’m just not ready for it
what if I fail?

Driving home from work today, I realized I was headed down the same stupid path of mental excuses as I used in weightlifting.  For me, the fear of failure has always been great.  To succeed, I must have a strong mind and an impenetrable focus. I will certainly fail if I believe that I will fail.  If I am strong, I cannot fail because I will have given everything I have to that moment, to that event. There is no failure when I can reach into the bottom of my bucket and know the whole darn thing is empty because I gave it all in that moment.

So there. That’s my motivation.  Empty my bucket.  If my bucket is empty at mile 8 instead of the end of the bike race at mile 12 or 16, so what.  So what if I fall down in the race or finish last.  Who cares?  Who really cares?  No one.  Therefore, the only person in the race is me, and this is a race against my mind. 

As long as my bucket is empty at the end of the day, then I win.


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