Sunday, October 19, 2014

Time Under Tension

One of my first mentors, Dr. Jack Barnathan taught me that strength comes from time under tension.  While I know this to be the case, never have I remembered it more than on the Ironman World Championship course in Kona last Saturday.  Some time ago I cooked up the idea that doing both Half Ironman World Championship and Ironman World championship in the same season would be a cool thing to do.  This year it all came to fruition yet not without plenty of time under tension.

In training, often the benefits of time spent under the tension doesn't show up right away.  Such was the case in my life.  Last season saw the end of my marriage, my oldest off to college and a bike crash that resulted in my collar bone in many pieces.  Emotional, physical and mental tension was the constant at the end of the 2013 season with a bright spot at Austin 70.3 in more ways than one that resulted in a slot to the  2014 70.3 World Championships. Soon after a plan was cooked up by one of my favorite competitors, Sue Aquilla and a HPB team mate Tim Perkin to go to Ironman Texas and see if I could punch my ticket to Ironman Worlds as well.   Thanks to excellent coaching by my coach, Hillary Biscay and my sponsors Promotion Physical Therapy and the Alter G we did just that.

Before I knew it, I was landing on the big Island.  I was on a new bike - thanks to Dimond Bikes and excited to meet up with my other amazing sponsor the girls at Smashfest Queen and the rest of the Team HPB crew racing.
Of course, we had bikini swims and made Tim wear a pink Smashfest speedo!  The week before the race is full of so much fun, food and a little tune up training.
These signs are everywhere!

Michele the Smashfest Queen herself paced me for my last tune up run!

How many of these can I eat in a week?  Not nearly enough!

Before long it is time to get the show on the road and check in all the gear for the next day.  For me it always feels the same as when you have stood in line for the roller coaster, the car pulls up and the rail goes down.  At that point you are strapped in and are going on this ride regardless of how you are feeling.  In Kona it is the time to see all the rock stars and get the lay of the land.

We are off to check in - So excited to ride her tomorrow! Thank you Dimond Bike

She is racked and ready to go!

Once all the logistics are handled, it is time to eat (this is the point where I feel like I can not put another piece of food in my mouth) and go to bed.  I was relaxed and excited which is usually a good sign.  I slept well and woke up ready to go with two excellent shepas in tow - Chris Phillips and George Scharmen were the true rock stars just keeping me calm as I headed to body marking. As we walked up I could see the swells. To see swells that big and that early ment that the swim was going to be a bit more of a roller coaster ride.  Coachie had told me I was going to have to swim hard and that it was going to be a different animal that past swims so hold on tight... Time under Tension! Yep it was choppy and yep the new swim start was not ideal for most of us age group women but still it was beautiful and it is Worlds.  Swimming around the Body Glove boat always make me think about all the years of watching on TV and I am amazed at how early I can hear Mike Reilly and the music.  For me, the end of the swim is almost always bittersweet as my day is 1/3 over and still I was really excited to get on the bike.   The days leading up to the race had calm winds so I figured a fast bike and HOT run.  Madame Pele had an entirely different day planned.  Right before Waikoloa the winds picked up.  I should know better but I thought "wow - this could mean tail winds on the way home". Like I said - I should know better.  The bike was hard.  It is always hard in Kona. 
At this point I had just seen that Maik Twelsiek (Coachies Hubby)  riding the Dimond bike like mine was leading the race!  I was a bit excited. 
While the Dimond is the fastest bike I have ever been on,  the winds were the strongest winds I have ever ridden in.  Cross winds often had me bracing for dear life or found me in the other lane.  It was a ride.  At some point going down hill sitting at high watts going 9 mph, I thought about Dr. Jack teaching about Time Under Tension.  I knew that this day was going to have an entirely different meaning for me than I had thought.  I realized that this was going to be about experiencing my mental and emotional strength much more than my physical.  I started to draw upon the previous year.  My mantra was Time Under Tension Dawn - you have had a sh-load of it and you are strong enough to get through this.  I thought about all the times I just wanted the tension of life to ease up and yet I put one foot in front of the other.  I thought about what a freaking privilege it is to race on that course.  I thought about the doctors standing over me when I broke my back that gave me a list of things I shouldn't do - Run, ride horses or roller coasters, jump out of airplanes. Well I have done all of the above and here I am racing Ironman in Kona.  I thought about the Phoenix and rising from the ashes (ok I know it is cliche but at that point one starts grabbing for anything and it was hot!) and I thought about how blessed I am to have the most amazing people on the planet for me to call friends.  I have more than my fair share and felt all the love and support from all of them.  As I was making my way back to town I came across Miriam Cole.  She and I have raced against each other often and she kept me in the game those last few miles.

Back into town and off the bike and the winds had taken their toll.  My back was not allowing me to run at all.  As I tried to move through transition everything was locked up.  I knew I just needed to get on the course and things would come around.  Well they didn't.  Still on the course, there are times that the lesson to be learned is just about putting one foot in front of the other as fast as you can in the moment.  I resorted to walking 20 steps and then doing a funny little shuffle/run as long as I could.   Again - time under tension.  This was not about physical strength or conditioning at this point.  My mental and emotional conditioning is what I would be using at this point.  Every step was about experiencing the mental and emotional strength developed over the last few years.

Not feeling very strong at all and Allison filling in for Coachie telling me to find my run! For a girl that doesn't race - she sure gets the game.  
 While I didn't relish the slogging through the Energy Lab and in the dark on the Queen K, it did give me plenty of time under tension to consider the times I would cry when I watched this race on tv, the times I would follow friends all night and all the love and support from my family, friends, coach, sponsors, athletes and team mates.  Once again - the surreal feeling running down Palani and Alli ...

It even looks like I am running!

This one was not my best - far from it in terms of my ability to race.  What I did get to experience is my tenacity even when the chips are low, my love for this sport because I get to meet myself coming and going and my mental fortitude to finish what I started no matter what happens.  Life doesn't always go the way we plan.  In fact rarely does it - success is defined by how many times it does not go our way and we stay at the journey and get up one more time than when we get knocked down. 

The journey is far from over and I couldn't get through it without the support of my sponsors and my coach.  A very very special Mahalo to Hillary Biscay, Promotion Physical Therapy, Smashfest Queen, Dimond Bike

A very warm hug of gratitude to Allison, George and Roxanne Scharmen and Chris Phillips for toughing out with me and being the best Iron support out there! And all the love and words of encouragement to all of those at home and all the Tri-Belief athletes, know that is what carried me through!

1 comment:

Lisa Canedy said...

I'm celebrating you DAWN!!! I'm so encouraged to read your report! I know you had other plans of how you were going to finish. As you know, races have their own personality and you have to adjust accordingly. You did incredible!! You're one tough cookie! I'm so glad you feel good "about you" - don't ever underestimate/put-down yourself EVER!!