Week 10: Into the Canyon

You can read all my weekly recaps of being a professional triathlete

This week’s comes with a trigger warning: Please do not tell me you are concerned about me. No kidding. I am concerned about me. Please assume that if I actually needed help my first course of action wouldn’t be to write vague essays on the internet. 

If you’ve ever swum competitively, you’ve had a day where you struggled to make the intervals. You were swimming full-out and at first you’re hitting the wall with a couple of seconds before you have to start the next one. Then, you’re barely touching and you have to go again. You’re swimming as fast as you can, hard, again and again. Until eventually you just miss an interval. You hit the wall, fuck, and go right into the next one, but you’re a second behind now. You’ll have to swim faster to catch up, but you can’t swim faster because you’re already swimming as fast as you can. So you start to weigh your options: Should you sit out a 50y and then jump back in? Take an extra five seconds to re-group? Try to go harder and make it up? And the whole time you’re thinking this, you’re still swimming full-out, floundering, because you can’t afford to fall farther behind.

This is pretty much a metaphor for my last week. Also, literally, that happened to me in the pool on Thursday.

I started writing this weekly post on my phone at the dermatologist’s office — hey, look I still have that scar from Kona — and now I’m typing in my bike fitter’s waiting room. I’m so behind on life that odds are I told you I’d do something and I haven’t done it yet.

There have been other times I got knocked flat by training, times I felt like someone was punching me in the face repeatedly. But usually, even in the middle of crying in my car or melting down outside a Chipotle, there was some small part of me deep down (deep, deep down) that thought the ridiculousness was at least a little bit hilarious. Usually you have to think it’s so bad it’s sort of funny. That’s not the case anymore. I have no sense of humor now. I have no anything. I may be completely without personality at this point. I am just tired.

That’s the only thing I have to say when people ask how my weekend was or how am I or what have I been up to? I’ve been training. This weekend I trained. I am training.

You want to know what’s an acquaintance-level conversation stopper?

Someone: So, what’d you do this weekend?
Me: I rode 62 miles hard, then I ran a fast-ish six miles off the bike. Then I had to lay on the couch for a few hours trying not to throw up.


I know I’m not really at the same level as the top pros. Not yet. I know lots of people who are faster and fitter and train more. But I also know lots of people who thought I was crazy before, and I don’t know what to say to those people. “Hey, you wanna see crazy?!” It’s not just the volume that’s doing me in, which is bad but not insane; it’s the intensity. If the workout says hit best average, it better be your goddamn best.

I used to think of top-level pro athletes as explorers diving into a deep canyon. And all of us regular people, standing hundreds of feet back from the edge, can see the top of the canyon but not into it. We know it’s there; we gather that it supposedly goes quite far down, but we can’t see it. We can’t really know what it takes to climb to the bottom and back out. It’s only as you get closer that more of the depth becomes visible. It’s only as you get closer that you can appreciate how far down it goes. That’s what I always sort of thought. That very few people ever climb down into it and far fewer come out the other side. Well, I’m peering over the edge right now and let me tell you: It is fucking deep.

I don’t know how people do this. I have to assume they think it’ll be worth it at some point. Odds are it won’t, just statistically speaking. But it might. I don’t know how people climb down into that canyon and back out the other side, but I know that some do, and that’s got to be enough for now.

7 thoughts on “Week 10: Into the Canyon

  1. This so reminds me of a segment of Adrienne Rich’s “Diving Into the Wreck.” (Sorry, I’ve been reading Rich like crazy lately.)

    I go down.
    Rung after rung and still
    the oxygen immerses me
    the blue light
    the clear atoms
    of our human air.
    I go down.
    My flippers cripple me,
    I crawl like an insect down the ladder
    and there is no one
    to tell me when the ocean
    will begin.

    I sometimes think of this when I’m on a long run and I just want to f*cking stop but I can’t stop because I’m out in the middle of nowhere, miles from the trailhead, so I just keep running (goddamn it!), and for some reason this gets me through (well, once it didn’t, once I sat on the side of a mountain and bawled).

    Hang in there. P.S. Don’t worry, you still have a personality, lol.

  2. Ahhh, love this. No way I could be concerned about you when you’re mental fortitude is strong enough to spit fiyah like this! Thank you for phrasing training in a way not many can understand…not that I’m even close to the bottom of the canyon, but hanging out near the rim. Please don’t stop writing. Or training 😀

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