The Conservation of Energy from Ironman to Life
Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it simply transforms from one form to another. The sport of Ironman (and I say sport because anyone who has done a full Ironman would agree it is a different ball game to a half ironman) is all about increasing training stress and decreasing life stress to reach optimal performance. This training cycle I took a hit on this philosophy by decreasing training load to increase intensity. I knew going into Ironman Texas 2016 that my fitness and training progression had come to a temporary plateau in order to achieve that. I didn’t realize it until about 2 weeks before the race, but that really interfered with my mental game. Ironman is 50% physical, 50% mental so for the first time in my triathlon career I had to do some serious soul searching to get prepared to toe the line.
I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people in my life who understand my passion. For a long time I was surrounded my people who doubted me and questioned my journey. If it is one thing I learnt from this race it was that if I am to continue on this path it is imperative that I surround myself with people that believe in me.
I was fortunate enough to have met and become friendly with Caroline Martineau: a Canadian professional triathlete who I met last year in Texas and again in Arizona. She has the most positive and inspiring outlook to the sport and is extremely motivating when it comes to approaching the race mentally. We chatted before the race and she helped re-direct my focus. Too many triathletes always want to be moving forward, but its ok to be still. That was powerful to me. Even if all the small changes I had made for this race (learning to build my bike, getting comfortable in the water, dialing in nutrition, streamlining race preparation) would not show up in my race time on the day, they will eventually. This is a long, slow process if it’s to be done correctly. I always say to my clients any dramatic change isn’t sustainable. Slow, deliberate changes are long lasting. So embrace being still! Be in the moment and embrace where you are today.
Caroline picked up on my bib number and told me to Google the numerology of the number 4 and that was my “number” for the day. I did some research and the number 4 was defining hard work and that there will be many things that happen over which you have no control (this has been an area of work for me if you have followed my journey!) I picked up on a phrase that became my mantra of the day “Patience, perseverance and directness.” I wrote this expression on my arm race day morning and executed my race plan based on this.
Race Day Morning
My confidence started to ooze back in Friday morning and I held my head high as I caught up with some friends and fellow racers at the expo. Race day morning alarm was set for 3:15 AM and for the first race ever, I actually gobbled my applesauce pre-race breakfast and went back to sleep! I felt calm, cool and collected as I did my 10-minute Headspace meditation and a little mobility to warm up the body, felt nice and loose. Iron Mum and I headed down to the expo and walked the now familiar route from the expo area to North Shore Park where T1 was. I headed in to stock up my bike with hydration, fuel and do the final checks. I chatted with yet another inspiring person I have been lucky to meet in my Ironman journey: Katie Colville. We have done a number of races together and so enjoying catching up; we gave ourselves a pre-race pep talk and a hug good luck.
I exited T1, grabbed my headphones and went down the Woodlands Pathway to do a little zone out and pre race warm up. Blasted my song of the moment “Cannonball”, great pre-Ironman lyyrics “Well they can try to sink us, but I’ll just swim, because my will is stronger than a gale force wind. Here I come, cannonball.” I gave Iron Mum a big hug, took a quick picture and found my way to my predicted swim time start.
If anything in this training cycle I had put my efforts into the swim, finally being able to joining the Swim Fit at the Westport YMCA. Being around positive people who believe in my ability to expand my swimming ability has been a very encouraging experience. They have given me feedback about my stroke, pushed me to swim harder than I thought possible and noticed my improvements from week to week. All these factors led to a 7-minute PR in the water from last year. I was as cool as a cucumber walking into the water, lazor focused on my stroke and just getting from buoy to buoy. I glanced at my Garmin as I exited the water, feeling fresh as a daisy and hit one of the fastest Ironman transitions I’ve had to date.
If you have followed by journey you know my relationship with the bike is less than to be desired. I have made huge leaps and bounds in this area in the past few months with huge thanks to the patient and dedicated team at Cycleology. I can now (kinda, sorta ;)…) build and break down my bike. Having the knowledge of how to put my bike together and break it down is very powerful and comforting. I have been riding a new Scott Plasma and the gains in my transition runs have been pretty exciting.
I cruised off and stuck to my goal heart rate (glancing at the word on my arm patience) as I felt like I was barely moving and people were flying by me. This is always a challenge: holding back when you feel fresh with the goal of preserving the run. I will always be a better runner than biker and my goal on the bike is always to conserve energy. Yet, I was frustrated with the 80+ turns, the intense heat and humidity, and the feeling that the sweat, blood and tears I had shed in the saddle the past few months had not paid off. My chain actually got stuck behind the chain catcher, which is an issue I have had a few times in the past. A guy (it seemed as though he fell from heaven) in a white polo jumped onto the side of the road and managed to help me free it. Phew.
Feeling frustrated at the few minutes I lost, I pedaled away and my Garmin came up with a message I had never seen before “Memory Full”. This was ironic since I had gone to the trouble of erasing my memory a couple of days ago. And then it died. Nothing, I had no data, no heart rate, no pace, no power, no time of day. I am admittedly a slave to data. Every workout I do is based on numbers. And now here I was at mile 50 of an Ironman with nothing.
In this moment I had a decision to make, let something I had NO control over eat me up and ruin my day, or experiment and go with the flow. I chose the later. I actually laughed out loud. It was ironic because Iron Mum and I were chatting the previous day about how well I used to pace my Ironman’s when I just went “on feel.” Athletes are naturally intuitive and sometimes the data can cloud that. I began to feel excited about letting the reins off and the last portion of the bike ride significantly increased my pace.
I was pumped coming off the bike; my legs had never felt this fresh going into the Ironman marathon, which is definitely a testament to the new bike and position. I was smiling ear to ear running through transition and hit the first lap with a perceived effort of beyond easy as I was just doing a cool down T-run. The first lap was a breeze, minus me yelling out trying to figure out what mile marker I was out as to when to take in nutrition!
By the second lap the sky had started to cloud over, all of a sudden followed by a huge clap of thunder, and a bolt of lightening. Ut oh! My biggest concern was that I was flying so fresh and so prepared to achieve my goal of hammering miles 16-26 but that I wouldn’t get the chance to complete the third lap. This is when the directness came in and I intuitively sped up a bit. The heavens opened up and it started absolutely pouring, like nothing I have ever experienced before. Rain became hail and it was thrashing down. When I got to the next aid station there were no volunteers and a man instructured us to get to the closest timing mat and stay put and that there would be a 1-hour delay. A timing mat didn’t come and eventually we were stopped for about 10 minutes underneath a bridge during the worst of the storm. I asked a spectator if I could use a phone to call my Mum and tell her I was ok, this was very reminiscent of Puerto Rico! I couldn’t reach her but left a voicemail.
Once I got going again, I got back into the groove and after the turn around found my Mum. I stopped to hug her and asked, “Do you want me to stop?” I meant it, racing triathlon means A LOT to me, but nothing means more to me than family. She looked at me like I was insane (well I am!) and said “No, keep going!” I ran along and did a double take to come back and tell her to go inside if it got worse again.
And now it was GO time! I had just less than 9 miles left and it was time to empty the tank. I had a blast! I learnt a huge lesson in that last part of the run, although I might expend energy being an extrovert while racing (encouraging others, laughing at spectators, pretending to steal their wine glasses etc.) I also gain energy from helping or making others laugh or feel good. It was a huge moment for me, for someone who is very independent to realize that in actual fact I do get a lot of energy from others.
The last 3 miles of the marathon were absolutely exhilarating. Unfortunately I have no data from the run and Ironman removed the splits from the day due to the controversy of the stalled clock during the run. I do know my last mile was around 6:50, which is significantly faster than I started the marathon at. I was booking it to the finish line and found Matt Miller right by the finish line; it was really nice to cross the finish line with a friend and fellow Ironman.
The sport of Ironman is unlike any other. Every time I toe the line I learn more and more about myself as a person and an athlete. I continue to get knocked down, but if there’s one thing I pride myself on its my resilience. I am an expert at failure and don’t let anything get me down, well not for too long anyways ;) I absolutely love the process and the journey that I am on which is making me the person that I am. I truly believe I am here to follow this path and I won’t give up unless I stop having fun, stop learning or feel I have given it my best effort and am not getting the results back. I am nowhere close to feeling those things. So I keep on trucking! Thanks for following!