2012 vs. 2011

The last year has been a bell-shaped curve for me, in some ways. Certainly my conditioning is back down where it was last year, and I’m pretty sure I’m in exactly the same clothes. But in my head, it’s a sea change.

This time last year, I was so frustrated, so unhappy with derby and my own skills/performance, but unwilling to leave it and spiraling about what to do next. I turned to the gym to “fix” me, made a sort of enemy out of my body, and spent the next 6 months mostly setting really high bars and constantly chiding myself for not reaching them, chasing after league- and team-mates who could then and will always run and skate circles around me. It wasn’t enough that I did what was asked, or that I was improving, or working hard — very hard. I found incredible pain in the unchanging view of people’s backs (when they were even in sight), and in what felt to me like constant failure. It’s a matter of perspective, of course; I was upright, skating, playing, rostered, voted captain. I was still in the game. But I felt, week after week, like someone had made some big mistake in giving me those spots.

So I hit the gym a little too hard, and wound up with a relatively minor overuse injury that nevertheless kept me from doing the half-marathon in May that I’d registered and trained for. I trained through it, but was so frustrated by the way it limited what was still such a new routine, and what I knew was an unsustainable schedule. But I pushed on. Bouts, bouts, bouts. And the combination of derby drama and derby suckage kept pushing me, making me want to hide at a training camp (yay, Blood & Thunder!) until I got stronger. I nurtured that thought often. It was scary, facing that pack every week, wondering what feelings chasing them would bring up.

It wasn’t all unhealthy stuff, though. I did find all sorts of awesome good-for-me things in that time: It turns out that I love to cycle (though not so much the indoor cycle trainer), and I’ve gotten so much out of training with a group of strong, amazing women I met through one of the local bike shops; I had a blast creating and living through MegaDay (a 9-hour training day of boot camp, running, biking, Pilates Reformer, sled sprints, treadmill hills and weights), even though it came from a not-so-healthy headspace; I still love running (slowly) when it’s good (and it’s usually better than I think it’s going to be); and I learned once and for all that I do my best when I have a coach or trainer nearby to push me beyond what I think I’m capable of. And I definitely learned that I have to stay away from the scale when my thoughts start turning on me.

Because I still see myself in two very different, mutually-exclusive ways: the couch potato and the athlete. Unhealthy and healthy, weak and strong, hidden and brazen. That duality is always there, and it means that derby is a constant challenge. Is the athlete showing up today, ready to work? And when she does, then it’s easy to lose focus on *my* goals, *my* pace, and start comparing my skills to someone else’s. One of these things is not like the other. Worst game ever.

So here we are in late February 2012. The draft was kind to me, and I’m more grateful for it than anyone can imagine. And I’m the better for a year of overtraining and a few too many post-practice sobfests. I’m aware now, if nothing else, of how much my own framing of derby situations affect my mood. I learned a bit about how to get more out of shorter workouts. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve with respect to both nutrition and training (and recovery), and I have a much better sense of the landscape of my own brain when it comes to how all this stuff makes me feel — and how damaging bad feelings can be to my training. That’s the biggest lesson of the year, I think.

So here’s to you, 2012.

May you be filled with positive powerful messages, delicious healthy food, pukeworthy awesome training, more/new amazing derby and cycling peeps, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Oh, and bourbon (of course).

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