So what does a Winter Triathlon National Champion think about when she’s racing? Pretty much the same thing every race. This is so hard. Maybe I should just quit. I really don’t need another medal. Ugh, why didn’t I bring more food.
I had the pleasure of competing in the Winter Triathlon National Championships in St. Paul, MN over the weekend and unbeknownst to me at the time, I won my age group. To say I was shocked is an understatement.
After the race a friend sent me a text asking how it went. My reply:
It was really, really hard and honestly I don’t know if I would do it again. All they had for food at the end was chips and bagels (remember I was raw for the month of January) The bike was super icy and really hard to get up some of the hills, and they did alter it so I was on the bike path a lot, but the parts in the snow I was falling all over the place. At one point after falling, I just kicked my bike, and said ‘I’m over this Sh!t’. It took me over an hour to go 10 miles. I’m just glad I finished.
After I got home and ate something, I did send a follow up text:
I think I may have been hangry when I replied to your text. I feel much better now that I’ve eaten!
Something I’ve struggled with during all my races is race anxiety and fighting the little voice in my head that is constantly encouraging me to quit. I signed up for the King Boreas Winter Triathlon because I want to practice my skiing in a race situation for my upcoming 50K Birkie in February. And I figured adding on a 5k run and 10 mile bike before the ski would be easy peasy. Oops, not so much!
The bike course was comprised of 3 loops of a 3.3 mile route that had some trail riding as well as some paved riding. Of course I had no problem on the paved portion, but the trail riding was super icy thanks to a snow/freeze/thaw/freeze the previous week. And the race director put in hours upon hours getting the trail ready for us to race and they did a fabulous job. But I just wasn’t ready for the conditions.
I fell multiple times on the bike and granted it was on soft snow, so no danger of injuries. But those fat tire bikes are heavy, and honestly, the bike has always been my go to discipline in triathlon. So to be struggling so much on the bike was very humbling. During the first loop I started to formulate my plan on how to quit the race, turn in my chip, but still complete the ski portion of the race.
At the end of the first loop I pulled over, and made some adjustments to my toe warmers, and got my neck gaiter pulled up over my ears. Ok, on to the second loop. Yep, this is still hard, and I’m definitely going to quit after this loop. My rear wheel came off the skewer as I was walking my bike up yet another hill. Got it back on and tightened down. At the end of the loop, I once again dismounted my bike to check my rear wheel. Unfortunately it was all secure, so I had no reason to quit. On to the third loop. Ugh, I’m so tired. But I persevered and finished the third loop.
Finally on to the ski portion. I did have a nice chat with another athlete in transition who was already done with the race. Oh to be that athlete. Oh well, finish the ski and you will be that athlete. He was nice enough to tell me that the ski was fun, and had some good glide to it, so I should be able to get up some speed. Well, all I can say, is I did my best. I knew it probably wasn’t going to well, when a fellow athlete skied up past me and with much concern in his voice and a little look of horror on his face he asked if I was okay. I was, just super tired. He skied on with little effort, and I continued on, wondering how in the world I was going to complete the Birkie in a month. So now instead of considering quitting this race I was looking ahead to quitting the Birkie.
I did finish, I did get home and eat, I showered and warmed up, I foam rolled my aching muscles. I was fine!
That evening my husband and I went out to eat, and one of my athletes texted to ask how the race went. I replied that it was hard, but I finished, and was looking forward to competing again next year with her. Her reply about ten minutes later. OMG – you won your age group!!! Did you get a prize??? That’s great! What… I had no idea. I didn’t even go to the awards ceremony. Now I really am glad I stuck with it and finished the race. And to think of all the times I thought about quitting.
The more I race the easier it is to fight the urge to quit. But the urge is still there, constantly battling me at every step. But the more times I don’t quit the stronger I become at overcoming the urge. It’s like any other skill, it needs practice to strengthen. And now I can call myself a National Champ! What will you do with your strengthened perseverance?!
This year has been about trying new things. When I was telling a friend that I was bummed that the Tri season had come to an end, she asked if I skied. I haven’t skied in about 10 years, but was thinking about getting back into it. The competition season doesn’t have to end just because Tri season is over, why don’t you sign up for the Birkebeiner?
So without putting much thought into it, I went home and signed up. I’d figure out the finer details later… like the fact that I didn’t own a pair of skate skis, or that I’ve never actually skate skied before… just minor details.
I was recently watching the Kid’s Baking Championship on TV and I think adults could learn a lot from watching kid’s compete. On this particular episode the kids were tasked with making a cookie cake, AKA a bunch of huge cookies stacked on top of each other. The kids tackled the task before them with enthusiasm. Then came the moment to stack the cookies. Some were great, perfectly stacked, nice and even. But others started to break apart as they were stacked. But instead of throwing in the towel, they just pushed those broken parts together the best they would go, used some frosting as glue, and covered it all up with more frosting.
The best tidbit I came away with after watching that show is that the kids weren’t afraid to try and fail. Because they knew that there was also a chance they would try and succeed. And that to try and fail, really meant, to try and learn.
Back to my Birkebeiner training. I had my skis, I was at a trail with man made snow, and I had watched some YouTube videos on how to Skate Ski. I was set. Until about five strides into my first practice session when I knew that I was far from all set. I was on a 1k loop and I was being lapped multiple times. I made it around the loop once, took off my skis and went straight to my car. Ugh, I thought, how am I going to make 50k when I barely just made 1k. But instead of wallowing in self pity, or giving up, the first thing I did was send out an email to a fellow coach that had a ski instructor in his arsenal of coaches and got some one on one coaching.
As adults I think we get so wrapped up on needing to appear like we know everything that we’re afraid to try new things for fear of looking foolish. But if kids had that same fear they would never learn and grow. And as an adult we should always strive to continue to learn and grow. There is a great big world out there, surely we can’t be expected to be and expert on everything just because we’ve reached adulthood. I encourage everyone to get out there and try something new, even if it’s a little scary. You never know, you might find a new passion!