August 7th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson
–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM NOW cyclist
Over the past several years, I’ve tackled many athletic challenges I had previously thought beyond my ability. It has been a rewarding journey and it has been fun to learn the technicalities of new sports and become involved in these communities. However, no race or training program I’ve completed yet will compare to the challenge that is staring me in the face right now.
On August 1st, I began medical school at University of Michigan. After the application process and deferring an additional year, this has been an event in the distance for so long now that it is a bit surreal that it is actually happening.
There has been a lot of information to take in and process this week but there are a couple themes I thought were especially relevant to share here.
My goal is to continue to train and make it to several mountain bike races through the fall. When I told people this leading up to the school year, I received a range of reactions from derision to support. However, after the first week of orientation, I was pleased with how much the faculty and leadership pushed the idea of balance. With startlingly high rates of burnout, job dissatisfaction and even suicide among physicians, leaders in the field are now acknowledging that the environment can be consuming and toxic. Often retaining a life outside of medicine can be the crucial component to a sustainable career.
I was happy and a bit surprised about this attitude, especially at a school like Michigan. The real test though will come in the next several weeks and months when “drinking from the fire hose” of information begins in earnest. My plan is to utilize an indoor trainer more and to try to be intentional and efficient with my training time. The tricky part is there will always be more information to learn and many competing priorities and I have to figure out where to draw the line. But this line doesn’t get easier to draw after school or after residency so it is something that will take deliberate practice starting now. This balancing act is not unique to me or medical students though. Everyone, especially people trying to balance any level of racing and training with work, family, and other obligations need to practice their own deliberate balancing act.
One phenomenon I have been reminded of this week is imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a term coined by two American psychologists as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Attending an elite medical school means I am surrounded by brilliance. It has been great to meet the people I will get to know very well over the next four years as we all take on this challenge together. However, learning about others makes it easy to fall into questioning if I deserve to be here, especially with a relatively non-traditional background.
This phenomenon can be rampant in endurance sports as well. Whether this is racing for the first time or signing up for a new discipline or race distance, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you don’t belong or are not at the same caliber of the people around you. Confidence is a fickle friend that can be easily shaken. However, confidence is one aspect of racing that can be just as crucial to results as training or fueling. It takes exceptional mental discipline to build and protect this confidence and use it for good and not let it grow to arrogance.
Life has changed a lot in the last month and will continue to change and evolve until I can find a rhythm and routine. My hope is I can continue to do the things I enjoy while pursuing a great field but I also realize this will likely be my biggest test yet- mentally, emotionally, and physically. I hope to capture some of my thoughts either here or on my personal blog, but no guarantees, there are only 24 hours in a day.
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