Monday, February 6, 2012

Busy Season is Getting Real

God Bless you, Seattle
for a weekend of perfect weather.
When I wrote my race report after Coeur d’Alene last summer I quoted Greg LeMond who said, "It never gets easier, you just go faster." I then went on to say, 

“I believe this is true, but I also think it gets a lot harder. Part of me would like to go back to my days of being new to the sport with the delusional naiveté of what it takes to train hard and race well. My workouts this year were much tougher than a year ago, but it’s been really fun to see the improvement and I’m excited to see where I can go from here. It also takes an emotional toll. I feel like I put more heart and guts into every race I do.”

This sentiment lasted through winter and I’m currently finding myself back to 20+ hour training weeks, long bricks, and little social life. Ignore any griping, I’m happy to be back! Ironman St. George is less than 3 months away and like I’ve said nearly a dozen times over the past week - $h!t is getting real. It sure is.

Over the past four years my training began ramping up in March to prepare for a June Ironman. This year the volume increases began in January, which made me start thinking about “busy season,” the 4 months during the fiscal year at a public accounting firm when I rarely saw the light of day. To give a little background, during my senior year at Gonzaga, a doe-eyed, naïve 21-year-old with really bad taste in business wear, began the interview process at public accounting firms. Anyone who has gone through this recruitment process knows that they brainwash you in the form of happy hours, fancy hotel stays, flights into big cities, gourmet meals, and a guaranteed J-O-B when you graduate.

From 2005-2009, I spent 5 busy seasons with a Big 4 firm, KPMG LLP, in Seattle. Although it taught me a lot about time management and professional skills (and some accounting stuff), I’m more than happy to be away from suffocating audit rooms, 10K’s (the SEC financial kind), 60-70+ hour work weeks, and bending over backwards for any client or Partner request (“sure, I’d love to clear your comments all day Sunday”). In 2008 and 2009 when I began training for the longer stuff (i.e. Ironman), busy season was even harder and unhealthy. I’d be at the gym when it opened and when it closed and I’d be eating dinner while doing work from home at 10pm. I was disobeying almost every rule of fueling and recovery. Besides that, I was a total zombie.

Now that I work in a more manageable 40 hour/week accounting gig and my time constraints are a product of Ironman training, I am a much happier and healthier person. Still, I couldn’t help but notice some of the parallels between public accounting and Ironman training:
  • Pen marks on my hands, arms, and face have been replaced with bike grease.
  • The office supplies that I’d lug around in my car during my audit days were swapped out for bike shoes, a bike pump, swimming caps, goggles, swimsuits, fins, a pull buoy, and extra workout clothes just in case.
  • Leaving home at 5:30am and not getting home until 9pm (or later). At least now I leave a workout by 8:30 or 9 rather than an office. And I can promptly tuck myself into bed when I get home.
  • Only spending time with work friends (public accounting)…only spending time with workout friends (Ironman training).
  • In the same week you can eat dinner at the nicest restaurant in town or from a vending machine. Yeah right; this only applies to public accounting. During Ironman training I pretty much eat the same simple meals with an occasional trip to the hot bar at Whole Foods.
  • Your appearance is a downward spiral from Monday to the end of the week. On Monday I apply make-up and sometimes even blow dry my hair. In my public accounting days, I was certainly pushing the limits of business casual by Friday. And now, Sunday after a long workout I’m in sweatpants and an old race t-shirt gearing up for the next week.
  • You plan your wardrobe by what is in the dryer, since it must be clean.
  • Rather than an eye twitch from too much caffeine and not enough sleep, I’ll get a muscle twitch from a good weight session.
  • During Ironman training, I geek out on data files. During busy season I'd geek out (actually more than geek out) on excel files.   
  • I can’t read more than a couple pages at night before passing out.
  • I still speak in acronyms, but instead of AICPA, SEC, PCAOB, I use, DPS, FTP, HR, and IM.
  • I always want to sleep (accounting). I always want to sleep (IM training).
  • I eat at weird hours. I eat at weird hours.
So although I no longer call my mom in tears from working too much, I feel like I’m just a little more emotional (see heart and guts above) than I was a month ago. Even with the running shoes and workout clothes piling up and the bike trainer in my living room, it’s all very exciting. I’m happy I have a lifestyle that allows me to leave work at work and put more energy into other hopes and dreams. I found a quote from Thoreau that said, "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it." Think about it – do you believe this is true? I really hope that it is.

Happy Trails!


  1. Ahhh love this. My best friend - not an athlete - worked at KPMG in Baltimore for a couple years while she was my roommate. It was not pretty to watch....I definitely could not have done that grind PLUS IM training. It has definitely made you stronger!

    And I can't read more than a couple pages these days either without falling asleep :( My library kindle books disappear after 2 weeks and I swear I've read 3 half-books because I'm never done in time!

    SO excited for you to race St George!

    1. Thanks! It was pretty ugly for a couple years, much better now. You’re a library goer too?! Yessa! I’m old school, so my hard copy books just rack up the 5 cent/day fees. :)

  2. Your hard work is paying off! Keep it up girl!

    1. thanks T! And since I'll be training all summer, I bet we can find a way to get our busy schedules to align (maybe even invite Brent to join us for a ride or two).

  3. Oh Cathleen....I may just have to start posting weekly busy season updates so you don't forget how much fun it is! But the 10k 10k idea made me smile!