Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Defining Success

I've been doing a lot of thinking the last 24 hours. Thanks, Jason

He asked something along the lines of what my limiter is because apparently.....I'm so awesome, it's hard to identify.

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The conversation started me thinking of my 2 year plan, where I started and what my goals were for this year, looking at them from a BIG PICTURE view.

How did what I did this year help me with my 70.3 and Ironman plans?

Last year, I podiumed at every race. This year, I podiumed at about half my races. This was intentional. I didn't slow down this year. I didn't have any set backs. 

I intentionally registered for races where the competition was significantly higher. I podiumed at half my races this year, going up against some seriously amazing athletes.

And guess what? I qualified for Nationals FOUR TIMES between last Aug and April of this year. FOUR TIMES. 

And let me tell you, every single time I got the email....it was emotional, probably because I'm a big baby but also partly because it was something tangible, something that I could touch that showed all the work I put in, finally paid off. 

That's not a fluke. The women in the 45-49 AG are some of the most incredible athletes around and to have the privilege of racing with them, learning from them, and having them push me to NEW levels....sometimes it's humbling.

I put myself (well....admittedly, it was Liz that recommended I do most of the things I do) in the situations where I knew I wouldn't be a contender just to see how I react. Will I give up? Will I fight for a PR when there's nothing else on the line?

It comes down to "HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?"  I was willing to forego any age group wins to win in ways that were going to help me down the road.

What were my wins?

1.) Finally pacing a 10k off the bike LIKE A BOSS. It might not have been the fastest that I could run, but I had to prove to myself that I could pace it correctly. It's a baby step but a necessary one. It was something that no one will see in my finish time. Anyone looking up my time will say, "oh....5th place....she must have had a bad day."

Why is that important? Because I'm heading into longer distances; distances where pacing on the run is critical.

2.) Getting my ass kicked.  This happened a lot. Nothing shows what you're made of more than getting your ass kicked in a race. Stuff happens at races. It can be a fueling issue, a weather issue, a mechanical issue. Hell, you can just be racing the fastest people. It can be anything. But, at some point, you'll have a race where you have to make the decision as to whether you are going to finish regardless of your time or you're going to throw in the towel.

What do you do when none of your plans are working? Plan A, B and C are out the window, and you are straight up in survival mode? Are you going to give it everything you have or do you walk off the course?

When everything was against me, I gave it everything I had for the first time ever.

3.) Renewed confidence. Triathlon is about being the best triathlete, not being the best swimmer, cyclist or runner. It's about playing to your strengths to get your best out of your weakness. This year, I learned that I can push harder on the swim, do what I need to on the bike and know that I will push through the pain on the run. (My old Coach once said that the swim is mis-marked than any other event. I don't know if it's true. He said that a number of years ago, and maybe technology has improved. BUT, I *do* know that I swim pretty damn straight, and my swims are almost always the same pace but different distances....and therefore finish times. Even at Nationals the swim was long. Fortunately, Liz gave me that critical piece of advice). 

Focusing on the Olympic distance (as much as I hate the distance) has taught me more than anything else. I've learned what real pain means. I mean. REAL FUCKING PAIN. I ran through it. I've learned how to pace my open water swimming, which is always tough with no clocks or lane lines and basing my pace on my effort....oh....and is THIS hard....or is THIS? What happens if I hold THIS pace? Will it affect my bike? All those things made sense to me for the first time ever. (I can't thank Coach Andrew enough for his help, and the work he has done with me, forcing me WAY out of my comfort zone at masters; telling me to swim up a lane and get lapped "because it's good for you". And Coach Liz having me swim long open water swims with paddles for goodness sakes. THAT was new....and uncomfortable....)

On the bike, I learned NO FEAR. I love going fast on the bike. In a way, I was afraid of my own power. In fact, Liz said to me once, "Don't be afraid of your power."  Getting the new bike two days before my A race of the year meant a race of ifs and buts and candy and nuts. It took me awhile to get familiar with the sheer speed of my bike, learning how to shift quickly, climb, where should I shift, where should I grind? Toward the end of the season, I started getting comfortable riding at my higher power zones. I was comfortable in those zones. NO FEAR.

She made me train, like she's never done before. The +2 hour workouts of bike/run/bike/run/bike/run/bike/run/bike/run/bike at 100-105% FTP and then run at 7:40 pace. You remember those days? I really did almost cry.

REAL FUCKING PAIN.

The type that makes you question everything you know about yourself and every one of those damn goals you set years ago. Are they really that important? Maybe you should just give up now....


When I raced and trained at efforts that almost made me cry, There was one thing that I believed with all my heart.

And on race day, the pain finally made sense.

**

Accomplishing these things made me realize....I've accomplished everything I've wanted to accomplish at these distances. If I want to make a run for Team USA, I can qualify again down the road.

For now, I've done everything I wanted. 

I can race....really race....being not just uncomfortable but being in pain. I know what to do when I'm dehydrated. I know what to do when I can't keep fuel down. I know how to race in +100 degree temps. I know how to race in 55 degree water. I can race in 50 mph winds (thank you Palm Springs). I can race in hail and rain. I can have bad training weeks and keep going. I can block out or accept the distractions.

I looked back over my year. There was nothing else I wanted to do with short course. I wanted to go long again. More importantly, I have the confidence to do it.

I'm going into the next phase of my tri journey armed with so much more confidence than I ever have.

I've taken my time to go long again. I work in goals that last years, not months. My race schedule is set up a year in advance working with Liz. We adjust training and racing as necessary when I'm faced with new challenges or as my schedule dictates. 

I don't jump into anything blindly. 


I do things when the time is right for me.  

Are you ready? The crazy is just getting started.

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