I've been racing for a really really long time, especially 70.3's. I mean, I've been pro for like 8 years or so. Plus, I'm 40. And I took a ridiculously long off season this year. Racing an 4min PR was not even a thought in my head when I headed down to Texas 70.3 this past weekend.
What seemed like only a few weeks earlier (mid-February in actuality), I had headed off to QT2's infamous training camp pretty far out of shape. I struggled my way through camp, barely hanging on to wheels on the bike, feet in the swim, and spending a lot of time running by myself. After being at camp last year and knowing what I was getting myself into, I made a conscious effort to spend extra time on recovery (foam rolling, stretching, normatecing, sleeping and eating). It took me FOREVER to recover from camp last year and I was in shape then! By the end of the 17 day camp this year, I had managed to work my way back into the group and was holding my own for the most part. I still had a ways to go but at least I had found a little fitness. The good news was that this year, once camp ended, I was able to get back to hard training after only a few easy recovery days. My hard work at recovery seemed to pay off. After seeing that I had recovered quickly from camp, Coach Tim encouraged me to sign up for Texas 70.3. I protested-I really felt like it wasn't enough time to prepare for it. I did not protest very hard however because I was watching everyone else kick off their seasons and I started to get a little antsy despite my lack of confidence in my fitness level. So, that's how I found myself on the start list at Texas 70.3. By race day, I had managed to string together a few good weeks of training but the question remained as to whether this would be enough. I left for Texas feeling very unsure of myself and much more nervous than I usually am for the first race of the season.
My lack of confidence was definitely compounded by the race goals that my coach my coach gave me. While I was unsure as to whether I would even be able to put together a decent race, he apparently had different ideas. We talked over strategy and he gave me watt/HR/pace goals. These numbers seemed unreasonably high, even for a time when I feel I am in peak shape. I do trust in my coach's ability to predict my fitness much more than I trust myself so I did my best to wrap my head around it. In my conversation I had with Mitch Greene, my sports psychologist, the day before the race we talked about just focusing on the execution of the day and not the results. According to him I didn't need to believe it, I just need to be willing to try and execute the race the best I could. I didn't need to have confidence? Ok, great...I can do that! :) I did my best to shift my energy from worrying about the race and spent some time going through race day in my head and what I need to do to execute as best I could. The refresher was good too since it was the first race of the season. Even after years of competing, I always feel a bit rusty on the first race of the season.
Fortunately race morning started a little bit later than normal at Texas. With the sun not coming up until close to 7, it meant only a 5AM alarm. Yeah! The pro field here was one of the largest I've competed in. I knew the swim start was going to be extra chaotic and try as I might, I could not get any feet. I got knocked around a little too much and missed all my chances. I swam most of it by myself and thankfully felt pretty good (otherwise that would've been a really long boring swim). I caught a few girls during the swim but I still ended up 16th out of the water. I was slightly excited but mostly anxious to see how the bike would go. As I said, my coach had given me some pretty big numbers and I was expecting to have to push quite a bit to get there. Much to my surprise, everything felt pretty smooth. I also started moving up through the field pretty quickly which only added to my motivation. The most challenging part of this bike was trying to ride a straight line and keep myself hydrated and fueled while battling the wind. We had some pretty swirling crosswind throughout the bike and it was a risk not to lose my balance every time I took a hand off the bar. I came off the bike in 5th, which was way higher up in the field than I had expected considering the level of competition at this race. Of all the events, my run is always the biggest unknown for me. It made me a little nervous being in 5th and I knew there some fast runners behind me although I had no idea how far behind. My plan was to run my first 2 miles on the slower side and then build into the run. I gave myself some time to settle in and made sure to keep myself under control. I apparently didn't do a very good job though because when I looked down at my watch I was running way too fast....not good. I backed down a little but I was still running faster than I would've like. After the 2nd mile, I decided to just go with it and keep my fingers crossed I didn't blow up. I got passed pretty early on by Jodie as I knew I would. She came flying by me on her way to having the fastest run split of the day. Heading into the 3rd lap I was in 6th. Unfortunately for me, I only had about a minute lead on the 7th place girl and she was gaining ground quickly. I feel like I get myself into this position a lot! Those last 4 miles were going to be the longest of my life but it was time to start repeating all of my mental mantras repeatedly and seeing what I had left in the tank. I just about lost in at mile 12 when I ran my slowest split but I was able to pull things back together for the final mile +. In the end, I managed to hold onto 6th (but only 20sec!) and with a shiny new 70.3 PR of 4:20:06. Man, 6more secs and I would've broken 4:20. Ha! I'm not complaining though.
I never would have guessed in a million years I would PR at this race. I never would have guessed I was capable of racing a 4:20 at a half distance prior to this either. As I said at the beginning of this post, I've been racing a looong time. But that's what I love about triathlon. You just never know. What I do know is, you should never give up trying and NEVER give up on your goals!