This Sunday, I completed the Nation’s Triathlon. Well, Duathlon since the open swim was cancelled because of water conditions.
I came into it with a goal to complete my very first Olympic distance event (I had been doing sprints for years) and was pretty bummed when I heard the swim was cancelled. Instead, I set modest goals, considering I missed a few weeks of training, which included hitting the bike/run pace I had at my last sprint.
I also went into it with a positive attitude. It sounds cheesy, positive attitude, like the cliche inspirational quotes that show up on social media feeds. But a good approach really makes a world of difference.
For starters, I ventured into the city by myself. I typically drag my Hubby with me for emotional support. I’ve experienced pre-race jitters my whole life and having him by my side has helped. But after waking up at 4:00 am and seeing him and the kids sound asleep, I quickly changed plans and decided to meet up later. And I did just fine. Waiting for my wave to be called, and having nobody to distract me, I spent my time warming up, stretching and doing breathing exercises. And looking around the course. Looking into the faces of my fellow athletes, it became pretty obvious that pre-race jitters were pretty normal. As a longtime, competitive swimmer, I know what pre-race jitters feel like. I always assumed they were bad and did my best to avoid them. I confronted them alone that morning and made a commitment to myself to have a good time. And by good time, I mean: I’ve trained hard, I was really excited to part of this experience, and I owe it to myself. Just as I would plan workouts and feed my body well, I too needed to practice good mental training, which primarily consisted then of being self-supportive and loving.
The second most challenging part of the race was the run. T2 being the hardest part of the triathlon. Because a triathlon run is not like a normal run at all. After biking for over an hour, I was tired and couldn’t feel my legs. But I told myself to keep going and, for the first mile, to disconnect from the pain I was feeling in my legs, the sting in my lungs, and the faintness in my head. For the last three years, I have been doing a special kind of dryland exercise. A class that consists of non-stop push-ups, mountain climbers, squats, ab work, split jumps….and burpees. Lots and lots of burpees. The class is challenging, great for cardio AND mental conditioning. The goals are simple and straightforward but surprisingly hard: 1. Get the set done 2. Mind your space 3. Don’t stop. When tired in class, I replace I am tired with I’m going to stay light, I am going to stay strong, or better yet, I am not going to stop. As soon as my gaze drifts to others in the class, I focus in on my form, my breathing and my goals. And after completing and surviving three years of these grueling workouts, my mind is pretty familiar with the sensation of pain, trained to let go of negative thoughts and to move forward. So when it came time to start the run, I hit the course, determined to keep going. And not to stop. Turning pain into power.
I came into the race with modest goals to hit my sprint bike/run pace times. In the end, I went faster. I also left with a 2nd place Congressional Challenge award….um, mug. While snacking post-race, we heard my name called from the Awards Ceremony and Hubby and I did a double take. Did they just call my name? Taking home that mug was a pleasant surprise. I may be a swimmer, but I’ll drink a beer instead of toxic water any day!
My sister who also joined us post-race captured that excitement in this picture.