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It has been a rough few weeks. Three weeks ago I hurt my foot running, well specifically, while jumping over a snake. I made casual mention of it in this blog post. It has been swollen and bothering me ever since so last Friday I broke down and went to see my sports doctor. I recounted the specifics of how I incurred this injury and he LAUGHED at me and said, “I’ve never heard that one before”. He took a look at my swollen sole and pronounced it a text-book example of a plantar fascia tear.

Then he said, “No running for 6 weeks”. I really don’t like this fellow; every time I see him he tells me not to run. He explained that if I don’t let it heal properly the fascia will develop scar tissue and that could lead to chronic plantar fasciitis and then I really won’t be able to run for a long long time. So this means that I have to pull out of my final two triathlon of the season. To put it mildly, I am crushed.

My good friend from the blog Philosophers Run had just written my a kick a$$ training plan for August that would get me into great form for my final triathlon in September. I was even considering doing the Olympic distance instead of the Sprint–all revved up to keep those age grouper ladies from passing me on the run! Now there will be no running for quite a while.

In this picture it seems so innocuous; it is only a golf ball sized area that has a slight swelling. It doesn’t hurt unless I put pressure on it (which I guess I do whenever I walk) but if I wear my race-recovery rider sandals it feels alright. Not being able to run totally disrupts my schedule not to mention my brain. I guess this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal on the surface–the doctor said I can still bike and swim–but not being able to run (again) has left me a bit rattled.

Upon consideration, I think I have identified the reason. I don’t get to be the 42-year-old mom who races triathlon, now I am just the 42-year-old mom who is injured and doesn’t race anything. There is a difference and I feel it; I don’t get to self identify as the recreational athlete who races triathlon. In reality there was no money or fame or recognition invested in triathlon for me. It is all emotion and self-confidence and motivation and now, I realize, identity. This is a bit hilarious because I am really not that good, but it makes me happy and if you remember, one of my goals this year is to choose to do things that make me happy–and now I can’t!

I certainly don’t have career-altering ramifications weighing on me like Simon Whitfield. I have been thinking about him a lot since I watched him crash out of the Olympic Triathlon. It was heart breaking to see and I know that he could have medaled.For him a medal–or even a good race–would have provided an open door to endorsement contracts that would have considerable financial reward. I have no such heavy weight if I don’t race; in fact, I shall have a net gain for not racing (race fees, supplies, travel), but I am not in this for financial reward. I will state right now that Simon Whitfield STILL has great worth as an endorser: 4 Olympics, first ever gold in triathlon, plus accomplishments too numerous to list here. He is one of the most amazing athletes I have ever seen (all of which makes me think that he MUST have a pretty awesome wife). Personally I will buy whatever he is hawking and I am currently saving up to purchase one of his “Relentless Pursuit” jerseys. To be blunt: Simon ROCKS and he will take this very difficult end to his Olympic career and turn it into a great thing because he is a true Olympian and an incredible athlete. He has inspired a nation and will continue to inspire those of us who love Triathlon.

One thing I have learned about myself is I have a high motivation for success and a much lower motivation to avoid failure. While I greatly fear being in the bottom half of a race, that doesn’t stop me from racing. I have this strong, almost irrational desire, for success (even when the chances are slim) and that greatly outweighs my fear of failure–maybe it is just the way I define failure! You see, we all have some form of need for achievement (nACH) whether it be high or low and this can be further broken down and defined as a need to succeed or a need to avoid failure. So the best scenario for someone with a high need to achieve is an event that is challenging, but not un-doable; so there is a hope of success (whatever the race goal is), but no guarantee that it will be successful. Most, if not all, athletes have a high need to succeed. People that are motivated by a need to avoid failure are not usually athletes or competitive and they will put themselves in situations that are either way too easy or way to hard for them. Why? They are guaranteed to avoid failure if the task is very easy and they are guaranteed an excuse for the failure if it is too hard to humanly accomplished.

All very interesting stuff which makes me think of Paula Findlay. That girl is one amazing chick! She is a professional athlete, so we can assume that she has a high need  for success. I don’t know any of the details so I shall not comment on her very trying year leading up to the Olympics, but she went to the start of her Olympic Triathlon with performance and outcome goals. The girl was gunning for a medal; then, disaster. From what I have read she just didn’t have the legs. For whatever reason she knew that this race was not going to be good–and then she got lapped on the run and really knew it wasn’t going to be good. Her race changed from one where she had a challenging, but achievable, goal in mind into one in which she was NOT going to reach any of her goals. (I, for one, think it is incredible to just BE in an Olympic race so do not think for one second that there is a critical tone in what I write). Paula knew she was going to be last. She could have dropped out (as we saw some, ahem, american marathoners do) and thus avoid the failure by saying it was her hip injury. But. she. didn’t. What Paula did was WAY harder than dropping out of a race or, I think, winning the race; she finished the race knowing she would be last.  This woman, who is driven by a need for achievement and success, continued on when there was no way she could succeed. I got up at 3am to watched her race and when she approached the finish line in tears, apologizing, I was in tears shouting at the television telling her it was alright, that she didn’t need to apologize to anyone. My God, she was last IN THE OLYMPICS!!! Most humans on this planet never get anywhere near being in the Olympics. It is a great testament to her drive and her dedication to Triathlon that she crossed that finish line at all. Well played Paula Findlay! I will be watching when you race in Rio…and hopefully in a lot more local races before hand.

If this seems like a bunch or disparate thoughts–well, it kind of is. I am trying to process what it means to be injured and not be able to do what I really love to do. I also really needed to write something about two athletes that I have been following for quite a while who have very different outcomes to their races than I (and I am sure they) had anticipated. In a way I am grieving all of it. I would love to sit down with a beer or a glass of red wine and have a chat with S & P and hear how athletes come to terms with outcomes that are far below their performance goals, but that isn’t likely. For me, I realize that it is just one aspect of my life, but you know what? Sport is the part of my existence that challenges me and makes me happy. I am never going to win an Olympic medal or compete in an event of any significance and I had really put my hopes in my fellow Canadians to realize their dreams with me along for the ride, shouting encouragement at the TV, but the outcome we desire is never guaranteed.

We will all get better: my foot will heal, Simon will do awesome things as an ambassador of Triathlon (and maybe become an Ironman???), Paula will get back to winning races (and finish her degree). It will all be good (didja notice how I put myself and Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay in the same sentence??? The only time THAT will ever happen is when I write it on my own blog!) But for now it is okay for some things to suck. This too shall pass.

As I sit here typing and icing my stupid torn plantar fascia, I have decided that I am going to take back my identity; I am going to redefine success.  I shall be a recreational triathlete working on my goals for next season. I was planning on focusing on strength training in the fall, so I am just going to start that a bit early. I am going to work on my run so that those damn age grouper women stop passing me! I am going to continue to work on my swim so I get so far ahead of them they won’t be able to catch up with me. I am going to figure out how the hell to ride a bike properly! And I am going to continue to follow Paula and Simon’s careers and look forward to all of the remarkable things they have yet to do! It is all good and there is much to look forward to.

Are you motivated by a need for success or a need to avoid failure?

Does anything i have written resonate with a struggle you have experience?

What is your performance goal for this fall?