Friday, November 22, 2013

What goes on between the ears....

Yet another Ironman weekend in the books.   I am so thankful for this sport and all the wonderful friends I have made since being in the sport.  What a treat to get to see so many of them lay it all out there last weekend.  I am always amazed that the quality of human tenacity and spirit that propels the body over the course of the day.  While getting in my own training with a friend, I was asked what I think about when I am racing and training.  I actually have been thinking of writing about this so the timing was perfect - thanks Megan!

I have and am very fortunate to have had some amazing mentors and coaches to light the way for me.  Some of them may be surprised to realize that their words of wisdom were not always lost on me and in fact stuck only to be replayed during any given training session.
Simon Lessing told me that the pool is the one place that I can and should always "race".  There are those times where I can get into just an easy rhythm rather than really grabbing the water.  This takes some commitment to really focus on the clock and tell myself the truth about what is showing up in the pool that day. 
Todd Erickson reminds me to avoid getting flat.  His take is "don't be a barge". This is a thought I have replayed during just about every race since I first heard him tell me. 
Susan Ingraham  is always tweaking my stroke and has taught me to ask the question "why not" fearlessly.  
Chris Aarhus was my first triathlon coach as well as cycling coach.  Volumes could be written here on all that I learned from Chris.  For the purpose of this piece I will stick to just a few.  "If you want to go faster pedal faster". Seems simple but often I find that it is easy to just get into a rut rather than really stay focused.   Sometimes it is just about turning the peddles over faster – although not necessarily in an easier gear!  Chris also taught me the importance of accepting the suffering, “give the legs time to accept the discomfort, Dawn”. 
Chris Legh was so brilliant to teach me the concept of “it’s not like you are going to die”. He should know as he gave it to himself so hard at Ironman that he collapsed.  He came pretty close and if he didn’t, the likelihood of me meeting the grim reaper on the course is slim. 
  Hillary Biscay has and continues to teach me so much about going for it.  Before every race, I ask for a race plan and at the end of each of those conversations she reminds me that “we are RACING”.   Hillary has also reminds me that the pain I can experience is directly in my control and that I can make it happen more that my competitors if I chose.  I love that I am in control and I can “make it hurt”.  So much of life feels like we don’t have a choice with discomfort and in racing, reaching my goals is in direct proportion the my willingness to embrace the suffering as a good thing.  
When I am training and racing I have realized it is critical to listen to what I actually telling myself.  Words have power - not only those that we hear from others, but just as important are those that we tell ourselves.   Being ever conscious of what is happening between the ears makes all the difference in any training session and race.  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sometimes it is just Messy

There are those times.  It just happens naturally.  Everything just seems to fit and flow perfectly.  It is amazing.  When it does - I feel unstoppable and on top of the world.  And, Thank God it does!

And then there are those other times.  When everything seems slightly off.  Timing is just not right.  It is messy.  It feels slightly forced.  That was what Longhorn 70.3 felt like.

I had a full weekend that did not include ideal racing conditions.  It was my college homecoming and one of my dearest friends was coming in for her birthday which developed into a min reunion of some of my oldest friends.  Because adding this to my race roster was a last minute decision,  I was forced to do the 80 mile drive to packet pick up, back to San Antonio then back to Austin for the race on race morning.  Not a lot of rest.

Morning of the race the heavens decided to grace us with a steady downpour.  Now on one hand that would mean cooler temperatures and on the other that would mean a muddy T1 and wet slippery roads.  I have not been cleared to go down again and put the clavicle at risk so wet roads are not ideal.  Coachie had given me a goal for my watts to keep me honest and I was grateful for that and a bit nervous as well.  I knew the swim would be tenuous at best.  I had been banned from the pool for 2 weeks prior to the race in order to allow the scattered bones of my collarbone to find each other and connect.  My run training had been solid so I knew it would a great chance to see where the run actually was.  I also knew that this course is conducive to some fun racing conditions for me as a chance to see friends and loved ones on the course during the race.

As the sky's cleared and we lined up for our wave starts, I was relaxed and excited to meet up with a very good friend and fierce competitor. Karen and I have raced against each other since the beginning of time.  I have such respect for her as a mom, woman and competitor and I know that she will always bring out the best in me.  Lining up next to her is a treat as we become like two school girls squealing, hugging and catching up right until the gun goes off.  When it did - she was gone! Like really gone.  Now we usually swim very similar times so this was a bit telling.  About this time, I started to mentally write my race report.  That one included all kinds of explanations about a broken collarbone, lack of swimming and a fair amount of mental sandbagging.   I know better.  I know that if I allow myself the luxury of this kind of mental masterbation I am setting myself up for a crap race that I wont get back.  See once the splits are recorded no one cares how or why they are what they are just that they show a disconnect.   There is no "do over".   This is racing.  Racing requires presence of mind.  So I pulled out all the stops to get my mind back on track.  I reminded myself that the quickest way out of the frustration is to actually swim hard or at least as hard as my body would allow.  I focused on the fact that once I was on the bike I could re-asses and settle into the plan.  So I dug deep and fought against the lack of connection with the water.

The interesting thing about racing in South Texas is that there is any number of external challenges that can add to the flavor of a race.  A pleathera of sadistic little stickers required carrying our bikes through the long transition area to avoid flats.  That also required running through the mud bath in our cleats.  As I got to the mount line I realized I had cleats full of mud and a chain that was off the ring.  Crap!  Do not write the race report, do not write the race report... stay in the moment.... stay in the f'ing game. Yep at this point the voices in my head resorted to stronger language.

The bike was uneventful.  Having the pleasure of being one of the earlier waves resulted in one of the cleanest rides I have had in a long time.  I did not have the massive peloton passing me that I have had on other races.  I was thankful for the watts goal as that kept my head focused even when I felt as if I was in no mans land.  Still much of the ride just felt "off". The legs pushed but felt harder than I thought it should based on my training.  "Stay out of the Story and Dig Deep" was the mantra.  There are just times that it doesn't feel "right".  It is important to remember that just because it doesn't "feel" right doesn't necessarily mean it isn't right.  Sometimes it is just a bit messy and off and that doesn't mean it cant be good.

In to T2 and I was ready to run or rather get off the bike.  The run in Austin is different almost every year.  There is no shortage of crowd support and usually heat, humidity and  hills.  This year the cloud cover staved off the heat for much of the day.  The run was 3 loops and through plenty of mud - yep more messiness.  Again, early on it I was aware that it just didn't feel "right".  At this point in the day, we are presented with options.... walk, walk aid stations, walk the hills, jog or make it hurt.  That became the new mantra - "make it hurt".  No matter how much it hurt, I could make it hurt more. At least then the messiness would be on my terms not on factors out of my control.  The fastest way to the end is to move as hard and as fast as I could.   So that is what I did, even when the Garmin said I wasn't moving very fast.  Sometimes you just have to fake it and make it look like you aren't.

That is how it goes sometimes.  There are times that it just flows.  It is perfect and feels almost easy. That it is fast, furious and really fun.  Then there are times that it is messy and hard and requires digging deep to stay in it.   We remember that we decided to do this when it felt good and we stick with it even when it doesn't.  When we have an entire community pulling for us to make it. When we do all the hard work it is easy to think that the result will be one of "those" times and can be shocking when it isn't.  The good news is that like any great commitment - the reward comes from staying with it through the hard times, through being willing to dig deep even make it hurt a bit and staying present to the lessons to be learned, to fake it until you make it and avoiding "riding shot gun through the valley of the shadow of doubt" that gets you to the finish line and the time of your life.  Such is how it is Ironman!

Thanks to my coach Hillary BiscaySmashfest Queen for making me look great, Robert Cordova photography for capturing it all, Gu and Vega for fueling the day and Rick Avalos and Brittons Bike Shop for taking care of me and Crush so that we can dig deep.