The Painting In My Mind

I wish that I were an artist so I could paint this picture that is in my head. It whirls and twirls across the canvas. Some lines shoot straight out, heading up, down, sideways, or from corner to corner. Others meander, sometimes picking up speed and looping back over themselves again and again. Some just form roller-coaster like hills across the canvas. There are a million colors but no direction to this painting. It is a painting of my mental state since I completed the Beach to Battleship Ironman in October.

This is not the mind painting I had imagined for myself before the event. For months leading up the event, the lines in my painting were straight and heading all in one direction straight to the center of the canvas, right towards the goal.

With the goal removed the lines had no place to go and I found myself wandering – planning and re-planning, working and not working.

I have been in endurance sports long enough to have expected this, but Beach to Battleship was different. The goal was bigger than just a race. I had built it up. It would define me. I would no longer be a quitter. I would be a finisher. I would be an Ironman.

I met my target, but since it had been placed firmly in the center of that canvas for years, my lines now have to wear to aim. What’s next? I wrote something about what’s next months ago, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Instead, my mind whirled and twirled and I found myself feeling off balance, out of control.

Luckily, I have a very smart coach and a week ago, he stopped the spinning.

“Let’s not do the marathon,” Jeff suggested, “Let’s just plan on the half.”

For days my mind sat idle, not knowing where to go from here. I can do a half marathon in my sleep. This goal means little to nothing to me. It is just a race. Should that bother me? Because as I sat there last week I realized it didn’t. Not having a target for now is okay. Not having a target will not be the end of the world. Being there at the end to support my sister is enough. I can do that.

But still I sat. What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?

Today I woke up and knew what was next. Fun. No plan, no goal, no timeline. Just fun. I rode my bike on the trainer today. I will do something else tomorrow. What? I don’t know. Maybe take Brian’s Clubbin’ Cardio Class, maybe a swim, maybe a run. Who knows? Thirteen miles I can cover without writing down every minute, bargaining out my time. I can do that and still enjoy the next few weeks.

I know I will eventually have to go back to a goal because that is how I perform the best. It is how my life progresses the best. But for now I am okay with a new painting – one in which balloons full of paint are thrown helter skelter against the canvas, one with no target painted firmly in the middle, one with no rhyme and definitely no reason. I do wish I were an artist.

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About Ann Brennan

Ann Brennan is first and foremost a mom of three beautiful children. She is the managing editor of Beyond Limits Magazine and the creator of Ann’s Running Commentary. In 2012, Ann took Ann’s Running Commentary to new levels – first with a segment on the RunRunLive Podcast, chronicling her journey to her first Ironman and second, with a new channel on YouTube. Currently Ann is working on a non-fiction book series and working hard every day to remind people to get up, get active and get out there.
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5 Responses to The Painting In My Mind

  1. How about Corey’s 9mi Bay swim this summer? That’ll give ya something to focus on…
    I totally understand, after completing my 1st Ironman I lacked focus for several years. I completed 5 more of them, but it sort of became routine. It wasn’t until this fall when I decided to start training for my first 100k that focus started to come back.

  2. Ann Brennan says:

    Thanks Doug. I am thinking about doing 3 miles of that swim but the truth is I was hoping to be one of his kayakers and support one of the swimmers that way.

  3. Norene Prososki says:

    I’ve often thought it would be a strange feeling after accomplishing a goal as big as becoming an Ironman. After successfully logging all those months of training, making all those sacrifices and putting in all the hard work and then to have it all come together in one defining day – it just seems so HUGE. Do you think because it was so big, that you’ve been searching for something that can equal it? Because I can’t imagine anything any harder than doing an Ironman. I think you’re doing the right thing – have some fun!

  4. Erik says:

    I don’t have the Ironman goal experience, but did have a large (for me) goal of a 50k. I ended up doing two in a month. I absolutely loved it. I think my after experience was different, for a time. After, I wanted more. I didn’t feel like I didn’t have anything to do, to train for. I kept thinking, further, further. Unfortunately, a birth defect in my hip popped up onto my radar (after a rash of hip/groin injuries) that I didn’t know I had and has really wrecked my running. Now, knowing that arthritis and hip replacement would happen really soon if I kept running a lot, I find myself wandering a bit. I do want to do a tri again, and I’d like to get faster in my 5k. But at 42, my getting faster is limited (especially with hip surgery on the way). But you have to focus on the little steps. Thinking about what you have to do to maintain fitness in general. You’ll eventually find something you really want to do, and you’ll be ready for it. For me, it’s staying strong until surgery, then it’ll be recovery, then base building and back to racing 🙂

  5. Ann Brennan says:

    Thanks Erik. Good luck with the surgery. I do believe that life is a really an evolution. We move through with changing goals throughout the years and sometimes we stumble but if we are aware of where we are right now and our main goal is to keep moving forward, eventually things will fall into place.

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