People who do triathlon tend to say things like, “nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon” or “recovery should be planned like the rest of training”, but what about packing? It's a painful and unavoidable process. Training and racing require a constant cycle of packing and unpacking based on whatever sport(s) you’re engaging in that day. This means you’ll inevitably eff it up and need to improvise….like the time I had to do my post-swim run in my swimsuit on the treadmill (no sports bra/shorts), or the time I wore a damp, sweaty sports bra to the office, or hmm…that one time I forgot to bring a WETSUIT TO A RACE.
Yep, that happened at Lake Stevens this past Sunday. Now, I did manage to pack what’s called a skin suit, but it doesn’t help in terms of buoyancy and let’s be honest….I neeeeeed help swimming!! So we got creative and went to the local bike shop in Snohomish and bought an old rental suit they decided to sell me at 92% off, literally. It has holes in it and no sleeves, but it's better than nothing. Luckily the water was nice and warm (70ish degrees) so I was comfortable the entire swim. This, along with my recent pool torture (thanks coach H), clearly helped as I had a 6min + swim PR.
Swim (1.2 miles) - 36:52
Onto the bike. All essential cycling gear had been properly packed and prepared. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it would all function perfectly. My power meter simply didn’t work, it never calibrated. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and then surrendered to racing sans power. (side note: I cannot stand when people say they were “racing blind” without their power meter. You can still feel your legs, your heart pounding, your lungs, and if you’re doing a triathlon you probably know what “going too hard” feels like, stay accountable). As expected, I rode harrrrd. I knew it, I enjoyed it, I pushed it. This bike course is no joke (just about 3300ft of climbing) and the conditions were perfect so I was amped. The steepest parts of the ride come in the final third, which made me a little nervous about how hard I had previously gone and what the run might feel like….
Bike (56 miles) - 2:43
Settled into the run nicely and eventually figured out that I was in 3rd place in my AG. I kept the pace reasonably consistent for the first 8ish miles and then WAM…my legs were screaming. I slowed a bit (disappointing), but still continued to close the gap on the girl in front of me, but sadly didn’t manage to catch her. The absolute WORST part of the run was when I took a sip of Coke at an aid station and then tried to chuck the rest of it into a trash bin along the course…but no, I missed the trash (don't judge - I was the "hustler" on the basketball team, not the 3-point shooter) and threw it on a pile of light grey volunteer sweatshirts!! Really, Caroline? You’re the worst person, ever. I stopped, said “oh. shit. I am so so so so sorry. I’m so sorry. oh gosh. geez. I’m the worst.” and everyone just starred at me like I was crazy because no one knew what had happened. So I just kept running because my legs were beginning to cramp. But I felt awful, so bad. Truly, volunteers are absolutely spectacular and make the race so much better. I’m not going to assume the owner of that sweatshirt is ever going to read this, but I still feel obligated to very sincerely apologize.
Run (13.1 miles) - 1:41
It felt great to PR on a tough course and see Chris at the finish line (although I couldn't help but be frustrated about my 3rd place ranking). We had about a 22 hour journey home (which included power naps at a Motel 6, and a massive traffic jam caused by a car crash that unfortunately involved a truck full of....cattle), and all I could think about was how much work needs to be done in order to get faster.
Total Time - 5:08 (3rd place AG)
This weekend also helped me realize that when I am racing I cannot think about anything else but racing (somewhat contrary to my prior post about Focus). I’m always planning one mile ahead, recapping my last mile, smiling because it’s (mostly) fun, envisioning the finish, even when it hurts - the list goes on. It’s so exhilarating, and while you really put your body through the ringer, I'll argue that racing is easier than most training sessions. In training there is no immediate finish line, no enthusiastic high fives from loved ones when you’re done, no one cheering you on along the way. It’s just you, putting in the work, letting thoughts fly, embracing the pain that comes with growth, and the intense pursuit of speed. The training wouldn’t mean as much without the racing, but the racing would never even happen without the training.
Now we ramp up some aggressive training for Tahoe, which is happening in just over 4 weeks, pshh…nbd.
It’s often a key component to athletic achievement, “have laser-like focus”, “show unbreakable concentration”, blah blah blah. Yet, my attention span is often over-extended. (I suppose that’s just a sweeter way of saying I have a rather short span of attention). And I’ve learned to really appreciate this, because in the world of endurance sports, “focus” now has a very different meaning for me.
Hear me out (i.e., focus!) on this …Having a “focus’” (noun) is necessary if you want to find a sense of purpose and pleasure in the broader scheme of things. Identifying goals is important as well - I always have a goal of going hard and finishing strong. But my ability to constantly “focus” (verb) is less important, and can even be detrimental to my progress. In fact, a wandering mind during a tough session can often times be a life saver.
Stay with me…During a session, I wax poetic with myself about a whole host of things, rarely completing an entire thought. I may start with an “oh shit, this is going to be a tough workout” thought, but then I’ll scrutinize an article I recently read about raising minimum wage in San Francisco and how that might affect small businesses, then I might rehash a conversation I had with Chris about the lost art of bread making, and then contemplate a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor, then a brief pace check, then revisit the “oh shit I feel like shit, this is hard” blast, which is thwarted by a “I wonder what my friend Glenn, from 2nd grade, is doing right now at this very moment,” and then …well….you get the point.
This is good for training. I’m all over the place and that helps me. It helps me get past (and sometimes even forget) the tough moments. While I used to be SO frustrated by my mind’s inability to isolate one thought for an extended time, I’m now quite content to have a brain that can’t sit still while I’m training. Plus, I can't think of moments when it's socially acceptable to be this scattered-brained as an adult?
If I was incapable of jumping from one thought to another, I might never get past my initial “oh shit, this is going to be a tough workout” thought. What if all I thought about during runs was my burning quads? Or during long rides, my uncomfortable ass? What if my sole focus during swim sessions was my weak swim form? It would be a miserable experience. Call it scatter-brained, terrible short term memory, or fleeting amnesia. Call it whatever you want, but really it's a survival tactic, and be glad you have it (if you do).
I'm comfortable with all of this because I know one thing for sure….I will not stray from my broader focus. I will always know and intensely follow my goals, but I’ll keep it interesting in between. To help with this, I recently hired a triathlon coach, (she’s awesome) and training will be intense. I wanted to enlist some experience to help with my big goals of pushing my limits in triathlon, which would mean qualifying for Kona and 70.3 world champs, running a sub 3-hr marathon and swimming…um….better. The two of us are clear on these goals. We are focused.
Where does your mind go during training? Let me know in the comments section so I can read it after I polish off a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s and Facebook stalk Glenn.