The HR Juggler

Day 26: Go Compare

Posted on: December 26, 2012

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Happy Boxing Day! Today’s post is by the very wonderful Charlie Elise Duff, who is a good friend of mine and immensely inspiring without really ever realising it. You can find her on Twitter @charlie_elise.


This is a wonderful time of year for so many reasons. Not least looking back and looking forward. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate the past, shed the old, and look forward to the future.

This holds true for all areas of life but especially for me, triathlon training. Triathlon has become my main hobby. #HRcupcakes and subversive cross stitch have had to take a back seat. Fortunately, social media is now my work, so at least I still have time to tweet, but as has become something of a catchphrase for me ‘If I’m not on Twitter, I’m on my bike’.

Sometimes all you want to do is look forward. There’s lots of training advice out there, well-meaning and good advice, often, about getting faster, stronger, going harder and so on. Absolutely. One of the most wonderful things about the human body is its incredible ability to adapt to whatever we want it to do, given enough time and practice. But you have to look back as well.

I’ve completed six triathlons now, of different distances, over the past year (ok, year and a bit). As 2012 draws to a close, I am looking back to this time last year and how far I have come. 

Last summer I struggled through a 400m pool swim/20km cycle/5km run. But for me, the unsporty of unsporty types, unfit, wheezy and once very fat, it was a huge achievement and I am still proud of the 90 minutes or so it took me and all the other minutes and hours I spent training for it/falling off my bike (as I recall it was about a 1:1 ratio). Much like this year then really. Except that this year, although I freely admit the run was a bit of a fight, I am much fitter, lighter, stronger – and in September I completed a 1.5km open water swim, followed by 80km cycle and 10km run (in old money, that’s just under a mile swim, 50 mile bike and 6 mile run). It took me 4 hours 33 minutes. I was expecting a time of about 5 hours, and I doubted myself for 87km before I finally realised I would definitely finish, that my body was going to make it to the end, and that my brain could believe it.

If you’d told my teenaged self I’d do this – and that I’d be looking to the future to carry on doing things like this – I would never, ever have believed you. If you’d shown me a picture of what I’d look like and what amount of lycra I’d be happy to be seen in – in public – I think I’d have cried.

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I’m not ashamed to say I am really proud of what I – what we – have achieved. I can’t pretend I got here alone. I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me while racing, cheered, took photos and helped me celebrate. Or even more likely, put up with me, got stood up, turned down or grumped at because I was tired, on edge or stressed out either because of a race or a training session. I can’t pretend training is easy for me – that’s kind of the point – but it’s not always fun being my friend either. I know I am extremely lucky.

I’d like to do an Ironman one day. Ironman is a 2.4 mile (3.86 km) swim, 112 mile (180.25 km) bike and a marathon 26.2 mile (42.2 km) run (presumably this is considered a ‘cool down’ after all that). I was talking to a man at the gym about this. He does Ironman from time to time. As a ‘B’ race – a warm up – for his ultramarathons. Just to switch up his training a bit, keep it interesting. This might sound a bit disheartening; I mean, Ironman is the ultimate test of endurance, and he takes it in his stride. With people like him in running class, what’s the point? But he went on to explain that he had no doubt that I will do one someday. “It’s totally achievable,” he said. 

And that’s the point of going to running class with people like him. Looking forward constantly is a short cut to comparing yourself to other people. It’s easy to start questioning yourself, doubting yourself. Why aren’t I losing weight faster/doing more training/having more children? This is toxic to the soul and fatal to you reaching your goals. Let’s face it, Alison is a case in point. Not everyone can start running, run their first half marathon within a few months, pop out kids two at a time and hold down a full time executive job in publishing all at the same time. She’s fabulous and that’s why I love her, but you can’t go round comparing your life to others. What you can do, when you find people like that in your life, is to try to learn from them.

What you do have to do though, because you owe it to yourself, is to challenge yourself in ways that are significant to you. A few years ago, I ran my first 5k. Now I’m confident I could do a sprint triathlon any day of the week. Maybe I don’t want to do one every day – rest is as important as training, don’t forget – but the point is, my huge goals: like doing a swimming marathon (10km swim), winter cold water racing (wimped out so far), a channel attempt (ok, not yet) and an iron distance triathlon – are all MY goals. Yours could be going to the gym four times a week, doing the local 5km Parkrun, or swimming two lengths without stopping. My goals were those not so long ago. I’m a good few years off a channel attempt – both in training and saving up for the money to do it – it’s an expensive business. But based on how far I have come, I believe ‘it’s totally achievable’ and that’s why it will happen.

Goals are relative. So stop comparing yourself to other people, and start comparing yourself to yourself. You’ll be surprised how much comparing yourself to others brings you down, and how far you will go when you are competing against yourself. 


4 Responses to "Day 26: Go Compare"

Hi Charlie (& Alison of course)

Thanks for a great Boxing Day post and one to get you thinking. Very often we may be guilty of “keeping up with the Jones'” and is a battle I have been doing this year. Being new into this self employed game it is easy to look at others and wish you were; more like, achieving the same as, doing as well as etc etc.

What I have had to work so hard at doing is just focussing on my own game and doing it as well as I possibly can. This has got me a fair degree of success so far. Taking your story I am at the 400m swim/ 20km ride/ 5km run stage. Something to be really proud of yet more to do.

Thank you for inspiring me to take on my own version of the ‘Iron Man’ and I will relish the challenge and set my pace to be head of my own, no one else’s!!

That’s awesome. Thank you so much for your kind words, for writing them here and the very best with your goals!

Wow….is all I can say! I just go for a 20 minute speed walk every morning and then do 50 press-ups and 50 sit-ups. I am humbled! 🙂

‘So stop comparing yourself to other people, and start comparing yourself to yourself. You’ll be surprised how much comparing yourself to others brings you down, and how far you will go when you are competing against yourself.’

Love it! You’ve taken me back to my time trialing days in a very good way, cheers.

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