The weeks leading into taper for my last ironman I was tired. But not just tired like you should be when you’re putting in those big weeks… really tired. over it. I mean don’t get me wrong, I was excited to race…but that is really all I wanted to do. I remember the workouts in taper were hard to get through. I couldn’t turn the switch “on” and ultimately submitted to a lot of rest as it felt as though rest was what I needed.
I was coming off of a lot of unexpected success in my 2015 season. I raced my first Ironman, qualified for Kona, and raced my second two months later. There was a lot of emotion with that.
I finished my first and was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. Pride mixed with an equal sense of I-want-to-lay-in-my-bed-and-eat-potato-chips for-a-month. But then it’s like….you qualified for this really cool race… and you should feel honored.. and you do.. but you’re tired!!!!! Physically & mentally. And filled with self doubt that you could REALLY do that all again. And so soon??? And you feel REALLY STRESSED from all of these different angles but you can’t tell anyone that because who complains about the opportunity to race a world championship?? And then you’re stressed because you shouldn’t feel stressed.. So you just smile & go with it.
So I don’t know. I guess I had mixed feelings going into 2016. I never really gave myself the proper time away from the sport. Even after I got home from Kona I was right back to the grindstone, determined to do it all again. Because racing gives you the ultimate HIGH and when it’s over you feel the low that follows… and what better to fill that void with?? More training!! Hindsight, man.
⁃ I felt like I had so much quick success in 2015 that I HAD to race an Ironman in 2016
⁃ And not just that.. I had to race an Ironman and I had to do it BETTER.
⁃ And you know what? I don’t know what the driving factor was in signing up. My perceived idea of what others expected me to do or what I truly wanted to do. The lines were blurred.
Anyway I put a lot of pressure on myself… Physically.. mentally… and you know where I landed? About 20 miles short of the finish line in that next attempt. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was disappointed in myself. That I was so distracted.. that I let myself get so sick… and I had trained hard for this.. and what will others think? It hurt.
So I stopped racing fulls for a few years after that. Mostly due to how drained I felt because of training for them and the drive I had to develop speed. I lost a lot of speed work to sheer miles during the weeks of training. I also found that, more often than not, I was listening to what I “should be doing” to prepare for the race rather than what I knew to be good for myself. I mean I was dicking around in Colorado that summer without a job before Ironman boulder in 2016. Over training. Riding all of the mountains. Whatever.
The point is.. When I finally decided to race an Ironman again (Hello 2018!) I knew it would look different. I knew I may never ride 100 miles before race day (let alone 130). I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily have a long run every weekend. I knew I would swim more. And I knew that the focus needed to be pointed internally.
Spoiler alert: You can log a lot of training miles and still totally suck at racing Ironman.
So I made a lot of changes
For starters.. I am in a much better head space. I have put time and space between myself and fulls. I feel refreshed and ready to take it on again. I do not feel pressure to perform a certain way. And I feel STRONG from the miles and experience I’ve gained in the past few years.
Here are the biggest changes I’ve made:
1-Called in back up. Meredith Kessler (who has served as my ultimate girl crush and role model since the beginning of my triathlon pursuits) has extended her heart, friendship and wisdom to me over the years. This year, she has coached me.
I so value her mentality to racing, training and life. As another woman who needs to make every pedal stroke count…she gets me, she gets it… we’re busy!! But we’ve got goals… And let me say she’s taken me on one hell of a challenging ride. Less BS. More work. I’ve been challenged. Humbled. Pushed. And I’m grateful for every moment of it.
2-I began working with a performance and strength coach. I LOVE strength work. Strength work has been an ever changing part of my life as I’ve moved through a variety of sport level of competition. However, I came to a place where I was constantly questioning if what I was doing was truly benefitting me in terms of triathlon. As someone with limited time to train… I want to make what training I do QUALITY and EFFECTIVE. So.. I began working with Nathan at Running Mate KC. I cannot speak enough to how positive the experience has been. I have learned so much and have seen such massive results from the short months we’ve spent together. This has been KEY!!
3- **I did not do this for the sake of training, but I have noticed the way it has effected my body in a positive light in terms of training**
I eliminated meat & dairy from my diet 😬
Dairy was a forced choice- I have always had problems with it, but they had exponentially grown and are we’re no longer manageable. The only dairy I consume now is a vary occasional cone from our favorite ice cream spot. BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SUFFER FOR WHAT YOU LOVE OK.
Meat is another story. I guess as everyone around me stopped eating meat, I began to question why someone would make that choice for themselves as it just seemed like the harder choice in the world we live in. One day I literally just went manic.. ripping through research. Podcasts. Trying to absorb every piece of information. Ultimately when I came up for air, I decided from many angles.. I could see a benefit in drastically reducing (eventually eliminating) my consumption of meat.
Within the first few months of my meatless/dairyless life I noticed many things.
1. I was no longer sick. This is crazy to think about now.. but from the time I was young… I have had constantly inflamed lymph nodes in my neck. They’re always swollen. But at certain times, I would push myself ever so slightly over the edge (not get enough sleep, big training day, mild stress) and would immediately fall sick. Like antibiotics.. fever.. the whole schabang. After changing my diet this was the first thing I noticed. Like within the first two weeks. My neck for the first time in my life was not swollen.
2. I recovered faster. I have nothing concrete to support this. No data. But I felt better. Quicker.
3. I could put in MORE training because there was less stress on my system.. easier to recover.. easier to get after it once again.
4. I lost about 8 pounds. …that I didn’t know I had/didn’t plan to loose. Not because I am NOT eating… I eat a LOT. Just eating more of the right things (right for me!!)
The outcomes very much surprised me. I won’t say I will never eat meat or dairy again. If I want to indulge in something.. I will! But the reframing of these two items in my diet and mind has been EVERYTHING for me!!
4- I took time to look at patterns. When do I have the most energy for workouts? When is it easier to do tasks like emails.. school assignments.. what environments suit me best? How many days a week do I need/want to train with others? It is amazing what taking a step back can do!! I will not bore you with the details, but ultimately this helped me reframe my week to make the best use of my energy and resources.
Training with others is important for me! Because of that.. there are certain staples I rarely skip in the week. One being track Tuesday’s.
Pattern I noticed.. I can bike any time of the day but it is hard for me to run in the evening without group accountability.
I don’t really have a point here. I guess the point, if there were a point, would be that it is OK to do it wrong. Sometimes we have to do it wrong before we can do it really right. Reflection is good. Mindfulness is good. People are good.
Parting thoughts: Never stop learning. Never stop growing. Stay humble. Always hustle.