Why Quitting Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

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Why Quitting Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

A week ago I made the tough decision to pull of of IronMan Wisconsin. Many of my readers know that I’ve been training hard for this race for a year now. (An IronMan race is a 2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike and a “little” 26.2 mi marathon run to finish it off)

And I was *so* close!  Only 5 weeks out from racing.

That’s right; I quit.

Why on earth would I made the decision to quit and bail out on this race when I was so close to accomplishing a huge goal?

And, more importantly, is it ever okay to be “a quitter”?

IronMan Racine

On July 17, two of my boys and a triathlon friend and I drove to Racine Wisconsin to participate in a half-IronMan race. (My boys weren’t participating; they went along to cheer and enjoy the scenic getaway).

The view from our rental house in Wisconsin!

And wow! Wisconsin is beautiful. I wish I would have photographed more of the iconic red barns and beautiful countryside.

Beautiful red Wisconsin barn and scenery

On the Saturday before the race I was able to swim in Lake Michigan. I had no idea that Lake Michigan was *so* gorgeous!  Crystal-clear water. I’m sure that the ripply sandy bottom I could see was 15-20 feet below me. The beaches were so clean and pristine. No seaweed, washed up jellyfish or other trash anywhere to be seen, unlike other ocean beaches that I’ve visited.

The weather that day was idilic. There were sailboats ~ so many sailboats dancing in the water, and many, many people enjoying the beach.

There’s weren’t, however, a lot of people swimming. That is some *cold* water ~ 58 degrees, to be exact, even in July!  I was wearing a wetsuit though, so it was all good. Swimming in a wetsuit is so fun. Not only does it insulate you from the cold water, but wetsuits are very buoyant! I’m like a cork bobbing along in my wetsuit. Not a particularly fast cork, mind you, more of a steady persistent one.

That was the good part of our trip.

A glowing red sunrise greeted us on race day morning. The old adage “red in the morning, sailors take warning” proved true.

Red sunrise

race morning pic

My cheering squad, race morning

The large thunderstorm which the sunrise foretold canceled the swim portion of the race and delayed the start of the shortened bike ride until 10:30.

I began riding my bike almost four hours after the scheduled start of the race! The photo below is a good example of the fact that you can’t always tell, just by looking, how someone is doing. I don’t really look like I’m battling extreme panic here, do I?

me on my bike in Racine

The delayed race start included time stuck in crowds which was tremendously overwhelming for me. I was able to complete the race, but after dealing with high levels of panic on both the bike and run portions of the race, by the time I ran down the finisher’s chute, I was fighting tears and barely able to speak.

That’s how complex-PTSD frequently manifests itself in my life. Any situation where I feel trapped or out of control is a huge potential trigger.

I have always loved triathlon training, but due to my panicky response around crowds, racing has never been fun for me. The race in Racine was by far the worst for me.

I returned home from Racine, trained hard for three weeks and then reluctantly made the tough decision to pull out of IronMan Wisconsin.

Why I Pulled Out

Ever since I was forced to take my children and flee my 27 year long abusive marriage, I have tried to evaluate the activities that I choose for myself through this filter: “Does this activity help me be more available for my children, and does it help me emotionally?”

Up until I participated in Racine, in reference to triathlon, the answer was a definite “yes” to both of those questions. However, since Racine it has increasingly become a big “No.”

When I returned home from Racine, my triathlon training became more and more challenging, and I am not referring to the workload.

I had been having PTSD-related panic attacks both while swimming and running in training. In the weeks following Racing those were becoming more and more frequent.   

In the past I have almost always looked forward to my workouts, even the long hard ones but after Racine I found myself dreading each workout, not knowing when, exactly, I’d be ambushed by overwhelming panic.

Additionally, every time I thought about participating in IM Wisconsin and the PTSD panic that I always have to battle in large crowds, I felt physically sick.

This past January I had surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in my right knee. Once I finally got past the long rehabilitation period, my knee did pretty well with training, in spite of the significant arthritis that was found in that knee during surgery. After running the half-marathon in Racine my knee decided that it had had enough though. Every time I ran after that race my knee would swell, become very painful and I began to lose range of motion in it too.

I saw my orthopedic doctor last week. The swelling in my knee is almost certainly related to arthritis and it is also possible that I have torn my meniscus again. 

The swelling and pain in my knee became the deciding factor that forced me to step back and objectively evaluate my reasons for continuing to pursue my IronMan goal.

I am not willing to risk further damage to my knee to participate in a race that I am already dreading, from an emotional standpoint.

Here’s the thing: Triathlon training and racing have never been the end goal for me like they are for many people. They have always been a means to an end ~ a way for me to manage Complex-PTSD symptoms in a healthy way so that I can be more available for my children.

When training for triathlons and participating in races stopped playing that role in my life, I knew that it was time to quit, even if it was 5 weeks out from the biggest race of my life; an endurance event that many people only dream of doing.

I had faithfully invested the time, never skipping workouts and have trained so hard for this.  I was ready to take on an IronMan from an endurance perspective. Emotionally, however, I could not have handled the crowds and race stress. I know, especially after how hard Racine was on me, that while I might have been able to force myself to do it, the emotional fallout would have been too great.

My uncooperative knee sealed the deal.

My very life is an endurance event right now. I’m in the thick of some of the hardest stuff I’ve had to deal with yet. One of my adult children is in the midst of an ongoing mental health crisis situation, and that’s just one of the challenges in my personal life right now. It’s beyond hard. 

I am not willing to continue any activities that will compromise my ability to help my children and my family.

Could I have “gutted out” the last 5 weeks of training and completed the race? I’m pretty sure that I could have. I figured my times for each event and I would have had time to walk the whole marathon before the cut-off time at IM Wisconsin, if I needed to.  If I continued to love training and if my knee wasn’t swelling, and if I didn’t have overwhelming personal situations that I’m handling right now and if racing didn’t trigger my PTSD, then, yes, absolutely I could do it!

Right now though, I need to only participate in activities that are helping me take care of my family, not ones that are sidelining me emotionally (and now physically too).

Will I be sad on Sept 11, the day of IronMan Wisconsin?  Maybe a little. But right now my family and my own mental and physical health need to be my priority.

I recently came across this quote, and I thought it was so applicable to me and my situation right now:

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”  ~ Ann Landers

Why Quitting isn’t a Dirty Word

Some of us struggle with lack of commitment, and some of us don’t know when to quit. Can you guess which group I fall in? (Hint: I stayed for 27 years in an abusive marriage, desperately trying to make it “work”)

I’m sharing this to encourage you to consider quitting. In spite of what Olympic athletes will tell you, quitting isn’t always a dirty word.

Are you in a situation that was, perhaps, initially beneficial but is now sucking the life out of you?

I am here today giving you permission to quit and do what is best for you and perhaps, for your family, with no shame.

Not everyone will support your decision. Both when I left my abusive ex-husband, and now, as I have announced that I’m pulling out of my IronMan race, I have had a few people that I care about very much respond in ways that are tremendously unsympathetic and hurtful. 

Their response doesn’t change the “rightness” of my decision, in either situation though.

ElliptiGO view

I’ve officially stopped training for my IronMan race, and I probably won’t ever run again (I have no desire to get in line for an early knee replacement), but I still train each day in ways that help me battle stress and deal with my PTSD. When I ride my ElliptiGO on the beautiful paved nature trails here and listen to praise and worship music, my very soul thanks me for the decision I made to quit.

If we don’t purposefully say “no” to things that don’t line up with our deepest values, then we won’t be able to say “yes” to the things that matter most to us.

Four years ago I found myself in so much pain emotionally and physically that I finally chose to say “no more” to staying in an abusive marriage. I quit, and even though it was the hardest, and most painful decision I’d ever made, quitting was a winning and life-giving choice for both my children and myself.

Now I am choosing to quit training for triathlons. While it is sad to abruptly stop something that I’ve been so committed to, and have enjoyed so much in the past, it has already been a life-giving choice for both my children and myself.

There are no gold medals given out for quitting, but sometimes I think there should be. Sometimes quitting is the hardest and best thing to do.

How about you? Is there something in your life that you need to quit? Quitting doesn’t always mean defeat. Sometimes quitting helps you win, even if you don’t receive a medal for it.

ps- If this topic hits home with you, I think you’ll love Shauna Niequist’s new book: Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

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  1. Teresa Cassle August 15, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Susan this is incredible. You have so much more strength than so many folks who stay stuck. I completely understand where you are coming from. I have to remind myself that just getting up and facing the day without panic or fear is an accomplishment for those of us with CPTSD. There are many others who are stuck somewhere gutting it out, I hope and pray those folks read this or something similar. I love hiking, it’s how I cope and force myself to commit to something that’s good for me. I can give of myself until it hurts but I have never done anything just for me and it feels so good. It’s helped me cope with panic and fear, it’s been so cathartic for me in so many ways. Like you I love to listen to worship music but mostly I listen to nature and slowly take it all in while I huff and puff on down the trail like Bilbo Baggins. I am in a few groups on social media for hiking and also plant based eating which helped me cope with some health issues. There is a lot of pressure to run and train for marathons and participate in competitive sports. I have questioned myself over and over again as to why I’m not keen on that sort of thing, and I always come back to the panic factor and what’s my motivation. I have to focus on what’s good for my emotional health, and I realize that’s not everyone’s reason for physical activity. It was so refreshing reading this today. You put into words my struggle of the past few months, I’m so thankful for you my Sister in Christ. <3

    • susanmoore August 16, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Teresa, I 100% get that. It’s hard for people who haven’t dealt with something as overwhelming as CPTSD to understand what a huge “win” it is for me to simply show up for life many days.

      I agree with you about how helpful it is to be out in nature. For me, working out is good, and if the weather won’t cooperate I’ll take my workout indoors because it’s better than nothing, but you’ll find my outside in pretty much any weather because there’s just something *so* much better about being outside.

      Maybe someday we can hike together! I’d love that!

      Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement, my friend!

  2. Lisa (Yount) August 16, 2016 at 2:49 am

    #That’sGold!! You are wonderful and amazing Susan! Thanks for this article. Hugs & Prayers sent for those moments that are hard. I am proud of you, for all you have done and for quitting!

    • susanmoore August 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

      Lisa, thank you so much.

  3. Lesley Boyer August 16, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Good for you!

    I see such a healthy attitude in your post. ‘Quit,’ as you have implied, can be synonymous with ‘finished,’ with ‘completed,’ with ‘fulfilled.’ You stopped IronMan training. You quit. At the right time, when the purpose of training had been fulfilled, you quit. You finished. You completed your race. I wish you could hear me cheering for you. I am, in fact, standing and cheering. Please accept this lovely Gold Medal. It is no less real for being virtual. You earned it. Now onward, dear friend. The best is yet to come.

    • susanmoore August 16, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Leslie, thanks so much. You are so sweet and encouraging, as always. 🙂

  4. Barb August 16, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Susan, I always love reading your posts, you are an amazing writer, emotions flow through honestly. I think our journey through life takes the odd twist and turn. We certainly don’t see the bad spots encompassing so much time. And yet the good moments can mean so much more. I respect you for taking the opportunity to focus on the next most important events of your life, and for having the strength to adjust your goals to achieve them. Be at peace with your choices, there will be many more.

    • susanmoore August 16, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Barb, thanks. I appreciate your friendship.

  5. Niki Hardy August 19, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Susan, you’ve shown us that “quitting” as you put it is one of the strongest, bravest and toughest things we’ll ever have to do. I wouldn’t call it quitting though. Thank you for sharing. In relation to our thrive conversation, this, “quitting”, is a choice towards thriving. A choice to be brave in the dark times. Thriving isn’t alway pretty or easy or come with unicorns and butterflies, but it does lead to greater healing and peace. Much love.xx

    • susanmoore August 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Niki, I hope so. Right now it is a choice that I know was the right choice, but it definitely doesn’t “feel” like thriving at this point. I do appreciate the encouragement though, and I hope you are correct.

  6. lynne lorentsen August 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Cheering you on as you leave a trail for panic sufferers and survivors of all kinds. I’ll follow your lead 🙂

    • susanmoore August 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks Lynne.

  7. Abigail moore August 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Love you mommy!

  8. Cynthia Campbell (Cunningham) August 6, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I am still stuck in an abusive marriage for now 21 years. I have 3 chronically ill children that require so many specialist and medications. I don’t see how I can get out and still get the medical care they need. We have a genetic mutations that cause the problems. I went years with out knowing what was causing all my problems so I didn’t know I had it when I had children. I too exercise for the escape it gives. Friday someone told me to go to your site that maybe it will help me find my path. thank you for writing this.

    • Susan Moore August 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Cynthia, I’m so sorry. Feeling trapped is horrible. I will pray that you can find the resources you need to live in freedom. You and your children deserve to live in safety, free from fear.

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