Out There: All Bark, No Bite

Let me off the leash! Illustration: www.shutterstock.com

Sometimes you just need to face your fears head-on and stop being such a sissy.

The last time I raced 13.1 miles was in June of 2012, at a half marathon in Milwaukee. It, uh, didn’t go well.

You see, when I toed the line, I had been dealing with knee pain and stiffness. Instead of telling anyone, including my coach, about my discomfort, I put on my happy face and a race bib. I had worked too hard to let anything get in the way of me and my PR.

As it turned out, the only thing that got in my way was me.

You probably saw this coming: my decision to race was a dumb one. Over the course of 13.1 miles, my injuries became full-on Issues, with a capital I. It took almost six months before I was able to run again, and more than a year before I could do so without pain. Even now, almost two years later, I attend physical therapy three times a week. Like, I said – Issues.

When I finally resumed training with Coach Dude in December of 2013, I did so with the intent of racing immediately. In fact, that was the first thing I asked him: What race am I training for? What’s the goal? His answer: Consistency. Until he felt I was ready to race, I was on a short leash.

Though I was irritated that I wasn’t getting my way, I knew he was right. (I hate it when he’s right.)

MORE: The Athlete-Coach Relationship

As I progressed through his workouts each week, I did so with the intent of proving to my coach that I was ready to race. I was a model athlete, checking off every task with satisfaction and a silent wish that I’d soon wear a bib number once again.

On Monday morning, I woke up to a text message from Coach Dude: “Nice work last week – you got in some consistent, solid runs! Hope you enjoyed your rest day! P.S. – Let’s talk races soon.”

I blinked and shook my head in disbelief. I was off the leash. I was off the leash!

But instead of running free, squealing, “I can race! I can race! I can race!” I cowered at his ankles like a scared puppy. As it turned out, I was all bark and no bite. For two years, I thought I couldn’t wait to enter another road race. But when given the opportunity to actually do it, I wasn’t so sure anymore. My panicked brain exploded with “what ifs,” including but not limited to:

What if I’m not as fast as I used to be?

What if my Issues come back?

What if I’ve forgotten how to race?

What if I make an ass of myself?

What if it hurts?

What if I fail?

“I don’t think I want to talk racing until I feel like I’m on my way to a PR,” I texted back to my coach. “When I do race again, I want to be sure I’ll kick ass at it.”

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As soon as I sent the message, I paused. What did that even mean, “be sure”? How could I possibly know? Would I ever know, or would I always find an excuse not to race? For crying out loud, when did I become such a sissy?

My phone buzzed again with a reply: “At some point, you just need to jump off the ledge, even if you’re not sure where you’ll land.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate it when he’s right?

The last time I raced 13.1 miles was in June 2012, at a half marathon in Milwaukee. This week, I decided to pick up where I left off by filling out an entry form for the exact same race in June 2014. The “what ifs” grow louder by the minute, and I’m sure they will continue to do so until June, but there’s a way to silence them. I just need to find the answers. I just need to face my fears head-on. I just need to stop being such a sissy.

I just need to jump.

****

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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