Let me start by saying that I’m incredibly grateful to have had an exciting, and healthy, 2019 triathlon season. It wouldn’t have been so successful without the support of my husband, the guidance of my coaches at TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition, the understanding of my clients, and me for taking care of myself and listening to my body. I had highs and lows this season, but I think I came out with more high moments than low moments. This is an opportunity for me to look back, and reflect on lessons learned before training starts back up for the 2020 season.
What I’ve Learned
- The Mental is just as important, if not more important, than the Physical
This is probably the biggest takeaway for this season, and something I look forward to building on in 2020. Negative thoughts and self-talk will put you out of a race faster than any physical factors. I felt that for sure at Florida 70.3 when I was struggling with the heat on the run. The negative thoughts of “I feel awful”, and “this is not going the way I want it”, and “I am a horrible triathlete” didn’t accurately reflect reality. Even though my time was 10 minutes slower than 2018, I finished 10th in my age group and 35th female overall! It was also one of the highest scoring races for me this year. Lessons learned: have a plan for the heat and stick to it, and get those negative thoughts out of my head. They’ll come, but it’s not worth the energy dwelling on them, and they don’t reflect reality at all.
- I’m stronger than I give myself credit for
Nothing showed this to me more than riding my TT bike, with my wrist taped up, over two Alpine passes only a few days after ITU Worlds. It was tough, and I suffered, but I survived, and bounced back. When things get tough, I’m going to remember those hours spent slowly climbing the St. Gotthard Pass and the Furka Pass. Watch me suffer below.
3. Racing with no expectations makes it more enjoyable, and gets better results!
Racing with no expectations means I’m not going into a race wanting or expecting a time or placing. This is easier as I move into racing more IRONMAN-branded races, where I have no idea where I stack up with an international field. But this mindset has allowed me to enjoy races that I may have considered a failure otherwise. For example, I enjoyed every minute of Chattanooga 70.3, but I placed 21st in my age group. Is that bad? If I was aiming for the podium or a top 10, I could’ve left that race dejected, but instead it was one of my favorite races of the season. It was the first time I felt really controlled in the run, which proved to myself that I was capable, and this led to a great run performance at Augusta 70.3.
Racing without expectations also has removed any pre-race or race day nerves from the equation. This could also be because I’ve been racing for 8 seasons and completed 50+ races, but I think it’s to do with knowing that I’ve done the work, and all I can do is the best I can on the day. My identity isn’t wrapped up in being a triathlete, or beating a particular athlete, or ending up on the podium. If I come in first or last, does that really define who I am as a person? I would hope not.
4. Life balance
I hate to tell you this but I don’t have this one figured out. This year I’ve accepted that there’s likely no such thing as “life balance” and certain things will take over my life more than others. I’m lucky that I have a more flexible schedule since I’m self-employed, but it’s hard to be an all-in, growth-minded business owner with a full triathlon schedule for 6 months of the year. My husband and I also held off on taking vacation time during the year since we were taking 2 weeks off to go to Switzerland at the end of August. We both got to August 25th completely burnt out. We’ve agreed to try and take a few more long weekends to the mountains or somewhere else close throughout the year instead of pushing through for the longer vacation at the end of the year. I also plan to reduce the number of races I do in 2020 so that I have a bit more time to focus on my business. I do think triathlon is a positive thing for me mentally and physically, which makes me a better business owner, but there are times that there’s just too much for one person to do and stay sane.
5. At no point do I want to train or race myself into injury or the medical tent
I think I’ve always felt this way since I started triathlon, but it’s worth reiterating. It’s certainly one of the reasons I chose TriMarni as my coach as they have the same ethos. I’m an age group triathlete – no podium or world qualifying spot is worth me ending up in the medical tent or hospital. Does that mean I don’t have the competitive edge? If so, I’m fine with that. I look forward to longevity in the sport, not ticking off boxes. I think triathlon can attract people who have that all-or-nothing, 2nd-is-the-first-loser mentality. So much of triathlon lore are video clips of people crawling or passing out at finish lines. Sure, that’s inspiring. It inspires me at times, but real human strength and potential is shown when crossing that line in a good state.
6. I’m not the fastest triathlete out there, and I’m okay with that
I felt like I got my butt kicked at USAT Age Group Nationals this year. Where I came in 21st in 2018 and qualified for Team USA, I came in 38th this year, and nowhere close to qualifying for Team USA in 2020. But Nationals wasn’t my A race this year (ITU Worlds was), and I have to be appreciative to be able to race with such strong and fast women. I have been in this sport since 2012 and it took me 6 years to get to All-American level. Instead of beating myself up because I’m not number 1, I need to look back and appreciate every step it took to get to this level. I am not a phenom in this sport, nor have I been in anything in my life. Any success I’ve had came after a lot of hard work, and I feel like I can, and should, appreciate that journey more than just showing up on the scene and blowing everyone away. More on this below.
How I View Myself in Triathlon
A perfect segway from the paragraph above, I’ve been thinking about my 8 seasons in triathlon and how I view them. Every race, every misstep, every podium has been a stepping stone to the next challenge. And then late one night, as I was about to drift off to sleep, this image popped into my mind as a decent representation of triathlon for me so far.
I’m close to the middle of this staircase. Too often, my eyes are focused up to the achievements I haven’t accomplished yet – podiums, world qualifying spots, Kona – and I forget to look back at everything else I’ve accomplished. I remember chasing that age group podium at the local races. That was never a given for me. Moving from age group to the open category in the South Carolina Triathlon Series in 2017 was a big leap of faith for me. Do I deserve to be here? Lining up at ITU Worlds had myself asking the same questions. Imposter syndrome is real! So at the end of this season, I’m stopping on the step that I’m on and looking back, enjoying those achievements that previously I glossed over because I was on to the next thing. Helping those who are starting their triathlon journey and need some advice. Looking up at my kickass friends, teammates, coaches, and professional athletes and appreciating the hard work they put in to get there.
And to back up my slow and steady journey of progress in triathlon are my USAT Athlete Results. Search for my name and you’ll see that every year I’ve improved just a little. It’s been slow, and tough, but I’m still heading in the right direction. Will I ever make it to Kona? I have no idea. I haven’t even done a full IRONMAN yet so it seems too premature to even think about it. Will I make it to 70.3 Worlds? That is something I’d like to aim for in the next few years (just not Taupo in 2020 because I can’t afford to head to New Zealand for that!).
What’s in Store for 2020
As of now, my big race in 2020 will be IRONMAN Lake Placid. This will be my first attempt at the full IRONMAN distance. I say “attempt” because a finish isn’t guaranteed, especially at 140.6 miles, but I have full confidence in my coaches, my training, and myself that I’ll get there healthy and compete to the best of my ability.
The only other races on the schedule right now are Chattanooga 70.3 and the new Blue Ridge 70.3. I’ll be travelling in April so that removes many April races from my schedule. I’m sure I’ll add more races maybe before Chattanooga, but certainly after Lake Placid, but this is the plan for now.
Thanks for following along on my journey!