Post Race Wrap Up

The more I race, the more I learn.  


Not just about how best to mentally prepare or what strategies to employ, but about myself.


About what things I allow to serve as motivators to dig deeper and push harder than I had before, as well as attempting to discern which might have the opposite effect and result in more of a road block, at least until I can sort them out and turn those into a launching pad for further growth and progress in their own right.


And how what one learns in sport carries through into every other aspect of one’s life, which is yet one more reason why I feel so passionate about educating on the significance on getting moving from an early age, just as much as eating properly.


Looking back over the last decade at myself as an athlete, I can vividly recall being in particular states of mind while getting ready for a race and how difficult it was to learn how to work through them and come out a more tenacious athlete without giving up one iota of competitiveness or desire to perform past prior limits.


There was what I’d call a beginner’s mindset I had for quite a while, in which I had goals such as completing a race as opposed to doing so in a certain time and when I made rookie mistakes which we all do in terms of poor nutrition protocol or improper training.


Then came the stage in which I first learned the significance of mental preparation and learned of the work of Tim Noakes, “My unproven hypothesis is that in the case of a close finish, physiology does not determine who wins. Rather somewhere in the final section of the race, the brains of the second, and lower placed finishers, accept their respective finishing positions and no longer challenge for a higher finish.” The winner’s brain simply doesn’t give in.1


Around the same time, I began dating my husband, who at the time had transitioned from being a successful marathon runner and fellow Ironman triathlete (we’d met via having the same coach a couple of years earlier) into ultra-running.  


From those two inputs, I began to learn how to mentally prepare not just for an event, but for training as well.  I began to test not reacting negatively to a high heart rate, which would occur when I began to push the pace during a run and not to dwell on what might go wrong in a race.


In a nutshell, it became clear that while we obviously need to put in the time to physically prepare for a race, to not equally prepare mentally could easily result in a day sabotaged by worry, doubt, poor focus and a disappointing outcome.


Roger Bannister, the first runner to break the four-minute mile, once said: “It is the brain, not the heart or lungs that is the critical organ. It’s the brain.”2


Later followed a good five years during which my race performance began to improve significantly and I began to regularly place in the top three or win the age group, but with that came a self imposed level of stress about the performance which resulted in extraordinarily high levels of anxiety and catastrophic fear of something going wrong during the race.  It was as if not winning would have been the end all.



Fortunately, the stress wasn’t so out of hand that it worked against me and I continued to be able to perform but the emotional wringer I’d put myself through each and every race made the days leading up to it less than pleasant, to say the least.


And interestingly, it was actually at this very race, the Ironman Hawaii 70.3 back in 2009 when I had my breakthrough on that front.


Chris and I had landed here in Kona and the race was coming up a few days later.  I’d already begun to feel that uncomfortable churning in my stomach and worrying about the cross winds, flatting on the bike, which might cost me a win and blah, blah, blah.


It hadn’t gotten too overwhelming, as the race was still a few days away.


And then, as if by magic, the next morning when I woke to a beautiful morning in paradise, it dawned on me how lucky I was.


There I was in Hawaii, with my husband, about to have a chance to race in one of the most special places in the world.


And if, for some reason, I didn’t win my age group and earn a slot to World Championships, would it really be the end of everything?


This wasn’t to say that I no longer cared about the outcome; rather, just that it took the tiniest bit of pressure off and allowed me to reallocate what would have been wasted energy into positive thought processes.


And I preformed better than I had before.


So this, all of it, has been part of my own growth as an athlete.


And when I sit down to write a race report, I do think it’s fun, perhaps, to share time splits, wattage goals and when I chose to surge on the bike and who had a target on their back for me to pick off during the run, those things all seem less important than the bigger picture.


It was indeed a great day at the races; hot yes, and some wind, of course (when is there not some wind in Kona?) and I had a solid plan that my coach and I discussed at length the day before.


A new swim strategy, a higher wattage output on the bike a new pacing goal for the run all proved to be successful in my result of an age group win and 4th woman overall.


I’m also incredibly proud of Chris, who also had a great day out there, winning his slot for IM  70.3 World Championships in Austria where we’ll both race this August. 


I gave it everything, worked hard throughout each second of the course and am now ready for a couple of days of R&R, which shouldn’t be too hard given the surroundings!


As I’ve written before, there’s just something incredibly special about being here on this island that goes beyond the spoken word; a feeling of being part of something bigger.


And I feel honored to be a part of it.





[1] “Tim Noakes on Fatigue, Cowardice, Winners and Losers.” Runner’s World. N.p., 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 31 May 2015.

[2] Kolata, Gina. “A Little Deception Helps Push Athletes to the Limit.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 31 May 2015.