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A Change of Plans? Think Again.

I had a conversation with my coach last week that went something like this:

Me:  I am going to take a breather from triathlon racing this season. Maybe I’ll do Augusta, but as of now, I am not sure. The fire in my belly for racing is just not there. I didn’t feel it spectating at Chattanooga 70.3. Usually, I think, “MAN! I wish I was out there.”  Nothing.  Nada. I know there is no point racing without the fire… There’s just a lot going on and I really want to focus on strength training and running.  Priorities just need to shift to fit my life right now. 

Gerry: Great. Sounds like a great plan. 

Of course, there was more than this. This is a summary.

We had a great conversation about how it’s good to identify what you are feeling, to figure out what you really want, and to act accordingly. I had a great gut feeling getting off the phone, felt like it was the right decision, etc., a little pep in my step.

So much fun at Chattanooga last weekend, though!!

Fast forward a week, and I text my poor coach a message.

Me: I am signing up for Ironman Florida.

Gerry:  [dead silence]

By the way, I know what dead silence means. We’ll just say, it’s not good.

Then the next DAY, the phone rings,  Uh-oh.  The dead silence. An entire day to stew. Uh-oh.

Me:  I am scared of this call.

Gerry:  You don’t need to be scared, but I think you need to justify this wild swing in your plan. 

Lawd, I am thankful for this coach of mine.  This wild swing in your plan.  Just that phrase was a like an electric shock.

How did I swing wildly from taking the season to breathe—to doing the damn big one?

I don’t know what got into me.  I haven’t been in a position to even make eye contact with my bike.  I mean, I can’t look at it. I don’t want to look at it. I used to LOVE riding, but not lately. I can’t swim without intense shoulder and neck pain—especially after the swim—(bone spur and compressed disc is the status of things there).

SO let’s just throw in an IRONMAN race.  W. T. F.

Never once did he say, “That’s crazy.”  Because we both know that if I wanted to do an Ironman and finish it, I would do the damn thing and finish it. (Even though it was a totally a crazy idea with the current status of things.)

But instead of telling me “you crazy,” he asked me the right questions.

Tony Robbins says that it’s allll about asking ourselves the right questions: and where I failed to ask myself the right questions, Gerry was there to do it for me, to ask me the questions that I should be asking myself.

These are the questions that stuck out:

  • Why the wild swing in your PLAN?
    (Note: his use of the word PLAN. He was holding me accountable for my self-made plan. I had come to a decision and made a plan. And then I took a monkey-bar swing in the other direction. This plan-keeping thing is what Lauren Zander called “personal integrity” in the Podcast Episode 16)
  • If I am hearing you correctly, you now WANT to swim 3000-4000 meters a few times a week and ride your bike for 5-7 hours on the weekend? (Note: I did not mention this fact. He brought up the reality of Ironman training. Right now, I don’t have the 7 extra hours prioritized for riding on the weekend. I would have to massively shift things on the Sucky Rotation Schedule. Hurmph.Which led me to ask myself the next question, “Okay, Mere. What priorities are you planning on moving to make room for Ironman?”)

    (Answer:  None?  Oh.)

  • I am not trying to convince you one way or the other, but I am wanting YOU to justify this decision to YOURSELF?
    (Note: I gave him a really long diatribe about why I made this decision. Which was full of no real reason other than, “Because I can.”)

With these three questions, plus the bonus, I asked myself…  I realized that I had flipped a complete 180 from what I knew in my heart was the right decision.  I had come to the right decision earlier, and I had created a plan around it.

Plans can change, sure.

But when I decided to focus on running and strength, and give myself some time away from the long (time-suck) of riding and long (pain in the neck, literally) swims… that was a well-thought out, healthy and practical plan.

When I flipped, my new “plan” was not a plan at all. It was an impulse. A reaction (to what, I have no idea). And silly.

I am thankful for impulses. They sometimes lead to really great things.

But with the impulse, it helps to have the plan somewhere in the same stratosphere—and I am thankful for those people who always show me the way—right back to me.

(Summary: No Ironman Florida. Augusta is still possible, but for now I am doing what makes me happy:  running and lifting weights.)

NEW Episode 19 
Lesley Paterson
(Holy abs, Batman.) We talk triathlon, fitness, acting, and fecal transplants. (Yeah, baby). 

Listen now on iTunes or in Your Browser


  • Robyn

    May 31, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    This is so familiar. I’ve decided in the past to not run a race and at the last minute sign up. The race tends to be not the greatest performance because it’s an impulse signup. Then I mentally beat myself up because I signed up and wasn’t prepared. 2017 is very different. My focus is training for the NYC marathon. If a race fits in my training plan then I’ll sign up. Otherwise, it gets skipped. No more FOMO!!!!

  • Rick Barrett

    June 3, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I often feel the same impulses and sometimes find it difficult to reign them in. I’m also taking the year off from a full IM; instead choosing to run the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Marathon…I ran the first one in 1977 at age 24 so now, at age 64, I figure doing it again 40 years later will both reflective & rewarding! See you in 2018 Ironman!

  • Beth Lahr

    July 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    I had the exact conversation with myself that you had with your coach. “I’m going to concentrate on running and strength training.” And I wonder how long that is going to last for me. I volunteered at IMLP finsh line last night and I thought I was going to be transformed by the experience and get that “fire in the belly ” desire to do more or do bigger, but no. I was completely underwelmed by the whole experience. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it and loved helping the finishers, but it was not a “magical” experience for me. By the way, I just so happened to throw your name out to Andy Potts while we were standing together at the finish line and he told me to say hi to you! Lol???


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