For the last 13 years I have competed in the xterra World Championship off-road triathlon. It’s held on Maui and has become an annual tradition for me. I love training with my friends who do it, and am always inspired seeing the amazing athletes that come from all over the world to compete in the race. This year Lance Armstrong did it along with some former Olympians.

Every single year, except once in 2002, I have bonked at xterra.

Bonking, a.k.a. hitting the wall, for anyone who doesn’t know this term, is when you’re pushing yourself physically hard in a race or hard work out, and suddenly you start going slow. I have become delirious in some races, “Where’s the trial?” I asked some people once at xterra. Wikipedia defines bonking as: “a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy.”

I have bonked in other races too. This year a 24-hour mountain bike race had me bonking about an hour and half into it, and last year in a half marathon trail run it happened too.

After all these experiences, many discussions with coaches and trainers, and even Joe Friel who wrote The Triathletes Training Bible (www.joefrielsblog.com/), I have decided it is pushing myself for significant periods of time beyond what I trained for, and not getting enough calories that causes my bonks.

My daughter says that Mark Allen, Kona Ironman (IM) hall of famer, and former husband of Julie Moss (who had the most famous bonk of all time in the 1982 Kona IM), took in 700 calories every hour for his marathon during IM (my daughter also says he holds the current record for marathon run at Kona). I only eat about 250 or less an hour racing and training.

I’m a slow learner, but think I finally get it. I need to be more patient. Slow down and eat more calories. And while riding my bike today, I realized that the same concept applies to communication and dealing with emotional distress, as well as physical activity.

Last week on a listserv I belong, some people complimented my work. I got immediately embarrassed and felt shame, like others would think I was “fishing” for compliments. Immediately after feeling ashamed, I sent out an email that included “I am not special.” After I sent it I realized no one actually said I was “special.” Then I felt even more shame and emotional distress. Many, many times I have jumped in and responded to things, only to feel worse and not better after wards.

When we feel emotional, I have learned after almost 60 years of life, we need to simply feel our emotions, and not rush into any response.

If we wait, and let things settle down, we can deal with our emotions easier. They are not so raw and distressing after time has passed.

I love this part of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke who is “considered one of the German language’s greatest 20th century poets.”

Let everything happen to you,
Beauty and terror,
Just keep going,
No feeling is final.

If we want to get better communicating, and heal from emotional distress, and if we want to go faster in races, we need to be patient, go slower, and settle down. Rilke is right, “no feeling is final,” and if we wait to communicate, and give unpleasant emotions time, we can appreciate this wisdom.