This year had a lot of ups and downs. I had a lot of big goals going into the season and they changed as the season progressed. One of my biggest goals was to master the sprint distance. I think a lot of people skip the short distances and jump straight to Ironman because that’s where all the hype is. I didn’t want to make this mistake (really I should say my COACH didn’t want me to make this mistake and reminded me I have a long journey ahead) he wanted to make sure I learned each distance and built up to the Ironman. I’m very thankful for that now.
As the season progressed, I started to get a bit drained from the intensity of the sprint training. I started enjoying the longer training. The discipline. What it required from me. I liked the challenge, but it was a different challenge. It was more of a mind challenge then a burning zone 5 intensity challenge – that’s kind of more of what I was used to coming from a sprinters background. So I embraced that. It was a bit tough to keep focused on sprint training when everyone around me was doing Ironman branded races and I began to lack motivation for a lot of my races.
I learned a lot about my body and mind focusing on the sprints and I’m thankful I stuck to it because going into the 70.3s I felt like I had a lot more speed, power, and mental toughness from all that zone 5 pain training.
Ironically, or not ironically, every time I tried to race the 70.3 distance, something rather traumatic happened. It was as if the universe was telling me I needed to wait to focus on that distance until next year. A good lesson there to trust the signs.
My first 70.3 was okay, I placed 4th age with a 4:54, which was a huge PR after my first attempt of just trying out the distance and not really racing, and I had the second fastest female bike split of the race (Which totally doesn’t matter if you can’t back it up on the run). I had a pretty bad nutrition fail coming off the bike and my run was not even close to what I wanted or knew I was capable of running.
My second 70.3 I ran off course and got disqualified, but was running down second or 3rd overall – that one was a heartbreaker.
Saddest red carpet EVER.
My 3rd attempt the race got cancelled.
My 4th attempt I had a random IT band flare up and got hit with a stomach virus the week of leaving me 8 pounds underweight and injured going in. That race — I cannot believe I finished… it was my slowest half ever, and arguably my most impressive.
My 5th attempt I had to drop down to the sprint distance because my IT band was so bad I wasn’t sure I’d finish and if I did finish I knew the damage to my IT band could possibly put me out for the off season. So I made the smart decision.
I ran my fastest 5k off the bike all season in my last race, at Challenge Daytona, off of 16 days of no running and excruciating IT band knee pain, and I won the race. That one was quite a lesson in itself.
Some of the highlights of my season were: placing 4th at Haines City 70.3 my first time racing the 70.3 with a 4:54, Winning my age group at St. Anthony’s Olympic (by over 10 minutes) with a 2:15, First overall at South Beach Triathlon Classic Distance, First overall Clermont Sprint Series #2, Second overall at NYC Olympic Triathlon (and winning $750 cash!), Qualifying Worlds at Sprint Nationals (not an outstanding race for me, but I did still place in the top 5), finishing Miami Man 70.3 under circumstances and taking 2nd in age and qualifying long distance worlds, winning Challenge Daytona and finally getting back to a sub 20 5k off the bike.
So, what did I learn this season? I believe if you can walk away from a race or season having learned valuable lessons and growing as a person and athlete – it’s never a fail. No, I didn’t have the season I “planned” or “wanted” but do we ever? I’m humbled and excited going into 2019 and I have adjusted a lot of expectations. Most importantly I am stronger, tougher, and a lot smarter now.
So here’s some of the big take aways I wish I had known going into 2018 and could have told my 1 year younger self:
- First and foremost, as my coach and boyfriend reminded me constantly: it’s about the JOURNEY and it’s a LONG journey. This year is not going to be the big year for me, considering I’m still fairly new to this sport and I have a LOT of work to do. When I finally got that concept through my somewhat thick skull and stopped focusing on every single minuscule aspect of my performance and race; it allowed me to let go and race/train a bit more freely. A bit more forgivingly. Which in turn meant I trained BETTER and raced BETTER. We hold ourselves to these standards – that can be completely unreasonable at times, and when we don’t meet our expectations – in every single workout – we get down on ourselves. When I focused on the journey – and my long term goals; it seemed silly to care about every single little workout or race. For an athlete like me, (who is arguably a bit psychotic and overly critical) that was huge. This wouldn’t work for a World Championship or my “make or break it” race, but I didn’t have any of those this year and majority of the time we can benefit from letting go a bit more.
- Mindset. If there is one thing I can say about this sport, it’s that you have to figure out what works for you specifically and how to control your mind. Arguably 80-90% mental when it comes down to it. If you line up with the elites, they all have the training, they are all fit, they are all ready to race… but it comes down to who has “it” and whatever that “it” is will ONLY come with the proper mindset and figuring out how to get your mind to work for you. I learned a lot of the things this season that hold me back and although we are all different, one of the biggest hold backs for me was simply – I cared too much. I put too much pressure on myself, I focused on the wrong things which brought more tension in my body. This lead to the inability to allow my body to relax and a heightened sense of awareness which drastically increased my perception of effort during a race. My energy would drain QUICKLY and in endurance racing that is NOT good. Thankfully my coach reminded me of some techniques and it wasn’t a matter of training more or racing harder, it was a matter of training and racing SMARTER. So, it’s not really about having more to give, it’s just about learning to give more of what you have.
- Sometimes less is more. Triathletes are usually a bit of a nutty breed of human, and I’m no exception to this. I am guilty of the “I HAVE TO RUN EVERY DAY AND ALL THE TIME AND RUN FAST AND DO EVERYTHING SUPER HARD TO BE BETTER” mindset. When I got injured at the end of the season I was forced to take time off of running going into my last race. (Another lesson from the Universe I’m quite sure of now). I had the choice to become a head case and let it sabotage my race or trust my coach, trust my training, trust my body, and trust that I could maintain my fitness through cross training and proper strength. I chose the latter. I know enough about the body to know how to keep my muscles firing in a pattern similar to running without actually running; and biking and running keeps your heart strong. I decided I would take 16 days off of running going into my last race of the season hoping my IT band would heal (it did not – but that’s a whole other story) and attempt to still run one of my best 5ks off the bike. After 16 days of no running and some lackluster, inconsistent training due to injury and sickness, made this pretty tough for me mentally, but I was determined to prove it to myself. I did run my best run all season and I felt the best I had in any of the sprints I’d done all season. Why? Because I applied all the other things I learned to this race and trusted. So, that showed me trusting the training, a little more recovery, and the right mindset can do wonders for your body. Also, I’m a bit convinced enough caffeine and listening to a David Goggins podcast can pretty much give you the motivation to do ANYTHING!
- Lastly and most importantly one of the biggest lessons I learned was to do it with love. When it comes down to it, if you can’t LOVE the sport and love the training and love the day to day (for the most part) you’re in for a rude awakening. I started to let my nerves take over and ruin my racing and when I took my attention back to the simple fact that I love this sport, I love EVERYTHING about it, I could smile and just have fun (fun being a relative term). I didn’t care so much about the outcome because I was just thankful to be out racing doing what I love. Thankful to be healthy enough to toe the line. And now I’m just thankful to be healthy enough to be running again & training in general.
Shit happens, especially in triathlon – and LORD did some SHIT happen to me this season. But I can’t tell you how many races I actually stopped and laughed to myself and thought, “You’ve GOT to be f****** KIDDING me???!??!?!?!” thank gosh I love what I do! So if I could sum it all up, I would say do the work – but don’t leave it at the physical, do the mental work too, and have fun & let go a bit – because if you aren’t having fun, it’s most likely going to go downhill at some point.
Hopefully this can help you going into the 2019 race season and give you a little more perspective 🙂