Unfortunately 2016 saw some unfinished racing. I DNF’d in IM New Zealand and really should have DNS’d (did not start). I started getting sick Thursday before the race and it hit me hard on Friday. I was so dehydrated from the sickness that I really shouldn’t have started the race and ended up pulling out after getting heat stroke. I learned for myself the wisdom of Chrissy Wellington’s advice to not start a race if you wouldn’t do a hard workout.
Heat stroke is not to be taken lightly. After getting it once you are much more susceptible to getting it again in the next several months. I raced IM Texas 2 months after New Zealand and got heat stroke again which caused me to pass out .5 miles from the finish line. Sometimes it is better to not start or pull out early before you damage yourself. That, however, is much easier said than done for endurance athletes, elite or amateur.
2. Don’t stress or worry about making everything perfect; everything is a process
Fear is paralyzing. When we worry about making every workout the perfect workout, we can paralyze ourselves or create unnecessary stress. There are so many sources of stress we can’t control so why add to it?!
The old phrase “try your best” fits well here. This isn’t a rainbows and butterflies “try your best” but a legs/arms shaking, can’t catch your breath, want to quit “try your best.”
Since I have given up my perfection and given myself permission to fail, I have learned a new level of trying. When you ask yourself “is this absolutely all I can give” instead of “I better do this workout perfectly”, you find a new level to yourself.
3. Visualization, Visualization, Visualization
I have done visualization before but not to the level I started doing under Jesse K. I visualize each part of the race from preparing transition before the race to crossing the finish line. He has me write down what I will be feeling, doing, and thinking and a few key focus words. I go through this focus plan 20-30 times before a race while listening to my “theme” songs for that specific race. When we visualize things we activate those same neural pathways that are activated when we actually perform them.
My previous coach, David Tilbury-Davis once told me, “Hope is not a strategy.” I love this quote and take it to heart every race I prepare for. It came up in 2016 after I injured my shoulder and included in a prerace plan, “I hope my shoulder holds up” and “I hope to find some feet.” When you plan and visualize, it’s no longer hope but reality.
I’ve done a swim camp in January twice now with Tim Floyd of Magnolia Masters and he has always said you need a “feel for the water.” I thought this was hogwash until I was out of the pool for 2 weeks with a shoulder injury. When you are out of the pool for more than 3 days that feel starts to diminish and you have to regain it the next swim. This is really important for age groupers who hate swimming and don’t have a swimming background. Don’t let more than 3 days go without jumping in the pool for a couple K’s!
Fellow pro, Meredith Kessler, has become an amazing friend and mentor in this sport and this is a line she repeats. Unfortunately 2016 was full of drama and the damaging effects from it. Stress and drama not only distract you from your goals but also increase cortisol, which leads to disrupted sleep, weight retention, fatigue, etc. When someone has cancer, they cut it out, so cut the damaging things and people out of your life.
We’ve all hit slumps in races, workouts, or life! I’ve found that words have a profound effect on my attitude. When I tell myself I’m tired, don’t have energy, or don’t want to do something, it usually doesn’t go so well. When I tell myself I got this, I can do anything, I’m committed, or I want to accomplish a goal, I generally can get my mind in a good place! Prophets in the Bible moved mountains, turned water to wine, and parted a sea all through their words. The words we speak to ourselves can perform miracles in our own lives.
7. You are the manager of your team; the buck stops with you
I use to be a robot who just delivered workouts and thought that was what an athlete coaching relationship consisted of. That was the biggest mistake I made in my relationship with my old coach. I now know I have to completely understand what we are doing and why and ALSO agree with it in order to execute effectively. I think Jesse sometimes cringes when he puts in my training since he knows it’s a 50/50 chance he will get an email/call/text complaining or wondering why we are doing certain workouts.
Planes are flying Petri dishes of sickness. I used to get sick so often traveling to and from races that I created a prevention plan that generally works for me. 1. Don’t travel within 24hours of the race. 2. Take emergen-C for 3-4 days before the flight, 2-3 times during long-haul flights, and 3-4 days following the flight. 3. Take hand sanitizer with you and use liberally throughout the flight. 4. Don’t touch your face ever!
Focusing on the past or the future can allow guilt and fear to creep into our minds. I never can think about the entire 140.6 miles of an Ironman or I get overwhelmed. When we focus our minds on each individual pull, pedal stroke, or stride we are not only more efficient biomechanically, but we can better manage our mindset.
10. Your “Why(s)”
I’ve heard several people talk about the “why” behind what drives them to participate in this sport. I agree with the sentiment that you need to know why you do what you do so when things get tough you have the motivation of your “why” to lean on. For some reason I always thought this had to be one thing, but I have found that I have so many “whys” that come to my mind while training and racing.
When I am hammering our 5x5min at 300 watts on the trainer in the basement, I find motivation when my daughter comes down and sees me putting in all the hard work and dedication to goals.
When I am on my last effort and send my husband a text right before starting, I find motivation when he comes down with paper signs to cheer me on because he knows I can’t hear his cheering through my music.
When I am tired and exhausted and don’t want to go out, I think of those people who would give anything to even be able to go on a run and I find the motivation to go out and do it for those who can’t.
Most of all, because as a Christian I believe that God guides and directs our lives for His purposes, I find motivation in the knowledge that this is the direction God has guided me and I hope to bring His love to others.