Ironman Texas was a flat race…in more ways than one. Not only was there minimal elevation gain on the course, my day was rather stale compared to my expectations. My heart and my mind were ready to make this a breakthrough race while chalking up some Kona-qualifying points. The preparation going into Texas went almost perfectly, setting up a kind of lead-in that would make any athlete buzz with anticipation. I had the best pre-race support in the form of Matt filling his role as husband/bike mechanic/photographer/Sherpa. And my homestay was with friends from Boise, Jeff and Erin Shilt, who not only were amazing hosts but provided a refreshing, familiar air of comfort in the days leading up to the race.
(Above: Pro Female start. Trust me, MFMG adjusted the exposure here. it was DARK!)
Most race reports detail the day, dissecting each leg of the race, what went wrong and what went right. To be honest, I think that would make for a pretty boring read. Rather, I’ve spent most of my time thinking about what I can learn from this race and how to move forward with my season.
One of my lessons came in the swim (imagine that!) The swim at Ironman Texas is in the warm and calm Lake Woodlands. The visibility is akin to swimming through a watered-down mocha, though it doesn’t taste anywhere near the same. Shortly after the gun I found myself swimming with a small group of women, which is always a little fist pump in my mind because (let’s face it) I find myself swimming alone more often than not in races. Around 300m in, I noticed we were pretty far off the buoy line. During my pre-race conversation with my coach, he emphasized not to follow the shoreline, as it basically suffers from scoliosis and is not a reliable reference. Here I am, following feet, but noticing we are quite far from the buoy line and I’m faced with a decision: stick with the feet or stick with my plan. Ugh.
I opted for the plan and strayed from the small group. I hugged the buoys and kept an eye on the ladies who were about 50m off to my right. I was holding pace with them, but it was taking me considerably more effort than when I was drafting. In the end, we met up at the turn buoy at the far end. In the pre-race darkness, I couldn’t scope out the swim course, but I gather that there was a gentle curve from the start to the turn buoy at the far end, and these clever swimmers were cutting the tangent. Lesson learned: start in the pack, stay with the pack.
For the remainder of the day, the race was flat- literally and figuratively. It seemed that no matter how much I focused on numbers or ignored them, my perceived effort was pretty high. I didn’t move much in terms of standings in the pro field. Staying focused when it feels like you’re having to fight for every minute is a huge mental challenge- one that I’m proud to say I conquered that day. Things that help me accomplish this: thanking volunteers, being a gracious competitor, smiling at the crowd, positive self-talk (which I won’t repeat here because it’s not all G-rated.) Oh, and being grateful to my little legs for ticking off the miles on ALL THAT CONCRETE.
(Above: Flashing a smile as I head into T2. Ready to be off the bike!)
I set a pretty high bar for myself and consequently ruminate over what is needed for improvement if I fall short of that goal. Isn’t this a metaphor for life? My work in wellness and nutrition counseling centers around goal setting and re-assessing progress as needed. Racing helps me relate to my clients as they step outside their comfort zones and strive for goals even when faced with the fear of falling short. Many of the things I discuss with my clients during their journeys apply to me as well. Lesson learned: practice what you preach!
Progress is progress. As one friend put it, “the positives of this race are enormous.” Feedback from others has been equally supportive and helps me regain perspective. This is my 3rd Ironman as a pro, having just graduated to the distance last July. Texas was a championship race that brought exceptional talent and experience to the start line. Several things went right, including my unwavering commitment to performing my best on the day, producing a PR and a sub-10 finish. I know what I would tell a client in a similar situation, so I shall give myself a pat on the back for a job well-done.
So many thanks go out to my partners, who continue to support me and provide motivation to keep growing: Blue Competition Cycles, Garneau, Pioneer, CLIF Bar, blueseventy, K-Edge, Tri Town Boise, Black Dragon Racing, Oakley, Vittoria Tires. This blog wouldn't be nearly as cool without MFMG's handiwork behind the camera.