Upper Limits

Well this corner of the internet certainly has some cobwebs on it and they’re not decorations for Halloween! According to WordPress my last post was 5 months ago when I was trying to be a “coach”. Anyways, I’m glad to be back and writing again. Hope you’re all still on board.

For the past couple of weeks I have been taking part in Swim Bike Mom’s (or Meredith Atwood as she’s normally referred to) Swim Bike Fuel Program. She’s done two other rounds since launching last year and each time I said, “Maybe I should try this but what I am really going to get out of it? Eat more veggies and cut out sugar? Duh.” But then I started to read the comments of those who had gone through it and of Meredith herself who admittedly has always been a work in progress (just like myself) and has really changed things around for the better. I finally committed both financially and mentally to doing this and am very happy I did.

Since Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August of 2015, I’ve struggled…with a lot of things. But most importantly, at the root of these struggles, has been my lack of mental fortitude and strength. I became soft, lazy and unaccountable – to myself. I told myself that it was ok to eat donuts for breakfast for whatever reason, I said I didn’t need to go run because I was tired, I explained away the things I knew I should and deep down wanted to do which has led me to gain weight, lose muscle and lower the expectation of myself as an athlete and professional.

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As I’ve worked through this journey over the past couple of months, I’ve realized a couple of things as it relates to mental tenacity:

  1. I’ve been treating myself with kid gloves as it relates to sports, almost as if I was going to break if I pushed myself or that I would injure myself. If I injured myself, I wouldn’t be able to do anything so I did the bare minimum.
  2. My mental image of myself as an athlete since IMMT changed significantly (and even from Ironman Lake Placid). I’ve never been the athlete to “just finish or just get through it.” No, I’ve scouted the competition, set goals, had coaches push me, etc. But when I signed up for the two Ironmans, my approach changed for some reason, I didn’t attack the goal of the Ironman because it was “just to finish” (which completing an Ironman despite a specific time is a tremendous achievement, I have yet to do it). By setting the goal of just finishing, I admittedly did the bare minimum and therefore failed.
  3. By lowering my standard recently, I ultimately was making certain I didn’t fail. Because lets face it, failure sucks and no one wants to fail but ultimately we need to fail in order to appreciate the process and achievement it takes to succeed.
    1. Side note: this is a lesson first taught to me by my mentor and now friend Trip Durham. He specifically wanted me to fail at something the year I was the team leader in college for our game ops group. I didn’t fully understand it then and I didn’t really experience failure the way he was expecting it until I tried Ironman. Trip writes on his own blog and I highly encourage you to follow him.

So back to Swim Bike Fuel. One of our lessons has been on self-sabotage. This program is not just nutrition focused but rather focuses on why we make the choices we do and how we mentally go about things. In the self-sabotage lesson, our leaders referenced the book The Big Leap and Gay Hendrick’s term “Upper Limits”. As I read the lesson I found myself agreeing with a lot of it but honestly its taken me about a week and a half to truly put all of the pieces together and understand the picture fully.

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I’ll try my best at explaining Upper Limit as I understand it: when things are going well and good things are happening to you, you also may recognize that the other shoe must drop and something must go wrong because really its too good to be true. So if you don’t achieve so much, not having those achievements won’t hurt so bad. Essentially, we lower our bar to reach, making it easier on ourselves. I also take it to mean that we lessen our resiliency and don’t exercise that muscle as often. We don’t fight to keep the good things going or we allow the “bad” things to counteract or outweigh the good things.

Here’s an excerpt from Gay Hendrick in DailyOM “Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.

Unfortunately, our thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood, before we can think for ourselves. Once programmed, our Upper Limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance, and creativity that’s rightfully ours. It keeps us in our Zone of Competence or at best our Zone of Excellence.”

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Gay goes on to talk about relationships, money and the like and how we can use tools to change our outlook as to where we stand currently. He sums all of this up with, “Because few people understand how the Upper Limit Problem works, many of us believe we are flawed, not destined for greatness, or simply not good enough to deserve the dreams we want to achieve. Others miss out on big-time success and chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing. Millions of people are stuck on the verge of reaching their goals, can’t seem to scale the wall, and are struggling under a glass ceiling that is completely within their control, waiting to be removed. But here’s the good news: You’re not flawed or unlucky or anything of the sort. You’ve got the Upper Limit Problem, and it can be transcended in the wink of an eye—if you’re equipped with the right tools and a willing heart.”

So at the end of the day, I’m working on changing my internal dialogue about how I feel regarding different situations in my life. As it relates to running and triathlon, I’m learning that I am a runner and I am a triathlete, a competitive one, I’m just on the path to getting back to that and so I must be patient with myself but also push myself to keep forward progress going.

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In 2 weeks I will be on the Verazzano Bridge in New York City ready to tackle my first marathon ever with 50,000 of my closest friends. When my credit card showed I had a charge from NYRR, I was filled with dread. Dread because I knew I would have to train and push myself and do things that were going to mentally and physically tough. I wanted to quit many times this season while training for this race and it took me a long time before I even got serious about training but ultimately, I made the decision that I need to do this no matter what and to get it done.

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Last weekend I did my longest run ever of 20 miles. I planned out my Sunday as I was already registered for the local Marine Corps Half Marathon that was re-scheduled due to Hurricane Matthew so I just needed to tack on some more miles and knock them out. When the new race course was announced, it was the least exciting course possible but one that will ultimately benefit me on November 6. The course was four loops around the Jaguars stadium and their empty tailgating lots. There weren’t many supporters, nothing in the terms of scenery and the weather was ridiculously humid (as it has been all Summer) but as I went into the race, I knew that if I could knock out the 20 miles with this race as the majority of the miles, I could do the marathon in NYC.

That training run probably deserves its own post and maybe I’ll do one but I had a big mental win that day when I made the decision to leave the post-race area (after dry heaving into a trash can for a bit), head back to my car for more fuel and complete four more miles to make it an even 20.

I’m tired of setting my bar low and not really achieving anything in the process, only not liking where I’m at. So I’ve decided to “let go” of comparing myself to pre and post Ironman situations and just move forward with being the athlete that I am and to stoke that internal competitive fire because really I’ve missed it.

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When I do find success, it may hit when that medal goes around my neck in NYC or in another form, I will remember that I put in the work and deserve to enjoy the moment and not to self-sabotage with something else. Its all about balance and knowing when to push and when to ease up.

I hope you identify your own Upper Limit and find some meaning for yourself in my long over due ramblings.

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