I was last out of the water at Rocketman. How far behind was I? Well the mass of my wave had already exited and I was alone in the water. Before the race started as we were all waiting to enter the swim start an athlete in my age group informed me there were five in our age group. Well now I know, I need first place to qualify for Nationals. I looked around, butterflies in my stomach. Everyone seemed so much fitter than me. We entered the water and I put my nerves aside. All I could do was my best. I had trained and I was ready.
So I’m last out of the water. But I’m okay because I love the bike portion of triathlons. So I get on my bike and start checking the calves of everyone I pass on the bike. I made a mental note of each athlete I passed in my age group. Meanwhile I thought about Rinny Carfrae at Ironman World Championships 2014. She came from behind off the bike and had to make up a bunch of time on the run to take first place. So my mantra of the day became “If Rinny can do it so can I.” I counted down five people in my age group. When I passed the last person she was still right behind me. And it didn’t take long for her to pass me again. I sat back on the bike, maintaining my cadence and power. She was still just ahead of me when I saw her sitting up and stretching her back. I picked up my speed a little to start to close the gap. Again I saw her sit up and stretch. That’s when I pounced. I kicked up my power and passed her. But I didn’t want to just pass, I wanted to put enough gap that she would find it crushing to even try to bridge the gap. I put myself in the pain cave long enough that there would be no coming back for her. I never saw her again during the race.
For me the bike is my strength and I still had the run. My legs screamed for me to walk, but I said No. I stayed focused. I kept running. With about a mile to go someone passed me with my age on their calf. At that point I knew it was over. I needed to get first place in my age group to qualify for Nationals. But I made the decision to keep running. You have to keep going because you never know what is going to happen in a race. They may have to stop just up ahead. The wheels might fall off on the run. They may have GI issues. You just never know. So I ignored my brain begging me to walk and just kept going. I maintained my pace through to the end of the race, and crossed the finish line spent, in a complete daze. I wandered around in a bit not sure what to do with myself as I waited for the initial standings to be stapled to the results board.
Finally the results were up… and at the top of my age group was my name. Not second, not third, but FIRST. I walked away and then went back to recheck. Still first. I stepped away again, only to go back for a third time to reverify that I was indeed first. I’ve sat through many awards ceremonies, for the sole purpose of waiting to if my name would be called of a door prize (it never was) but this was my first time waiting for my name to be called to stand on the podium.
What would have happened had I let myself go after coming out of the water last? Or not built a gap on the bike when that athlete was stretching (whom came in second place)? What if I had walked during the run? All opportunities to stop, slow down, not win. But I stayed focused and determined to keep going and do the best that I could. This is the mindset you need to reach your goals. What will you do with perseverance?
Goal was to go 17 mph. Just wasn't able to get it to happen. Felt like I was pedaling through molasses. Tough day on the bike. At 4 hours 30 minutes I was at the end of the gateway trail near my car and it took a long time to decide if I should throw my bike into the farmer’s field and call it a season, lay down right there and take a nap, or continue with the last hour and a half. At the end of the ride I felt completely shot. Everything just felt off. It took a long time to decide if I wanted to do the run. I seriously contemplated skipping it. Then I thought about just doing an hour. Decided I better do the whole thing as I'm going to have to do a marathon at the IM.
This is the entry during one of century training rides followed by a long run during my Ironman training. Every athlete is going to have training days like this. The goal is to not give up and push through these days and come out stronger in the end. On these tough days I go back to one of my favorite quotes by Greg Plitt, “Championships aren’t won in the theater of the arena. They are won in the thousands of hours of training and the five a.m. runs in the rain when everyone else is sleeping. That’s where it’s won. The heart of a champion is a light switch that’s always on – it doesn’t go on and off when someone’s watching – it’s constant.”
If you’re quick to give up during a training session what’s going to give you the drive to go through when the going gets tough on race day. Tough days in training are what you need to help you have the confidence to finish tough races. Training days aren’t just about working on your body and your muscles, but about training your brain and mindset. It’s equally important to have a strong mindset and a strong body because it’s your brain that will give up on you long before your body will.
Here are six steps to help you get through those tough training days and help you start to improve the strength of your mindset:
This is tough; I’m tougher
I’m not training to be skinny; I’m training to be bad-ass
Kicking my ass today, so I can beat yours tomorrow