Thursday, May 6, 2021

70.3 St. George

Of the overwhelming number of things that I missed about racing, what I missed the most is how painful it is. Really. That's my actual favorite part. That's why I look like a smiling lunatic the whole time. I would have quit this sport a long time ago if it only hurt a little bit. 

But it's not just pain for the sake of pain. It's the acceptance, management, and gratitude for the sensation, without labeling it as bad or scary or trying to distract myself from it.

It's choosing to lean in and feel the nuances rather than be overwhelmed by the broad interpretation.

It's about suffering and being compassionate for my body rather than mad at it for not achieving some unattainable output.

It's the delicate balancing act of engaging with my body's needs and choosing what it can survive without until the finish line. 

About a week or so out from the race, I sorted through the entire participant list to find all of the fast women in my age group. As tedious of a process as this was, it was not hard to find an ABUNDANCE of fast women in my age group. Now, here's the thing: I have made an immeasurable amount of progress towards honoring my self worth, doing less comparing of my journey to other people's journeys, blah blah blah. None of that stopped me from spiraling into a tornado of doubt. 

But it did help me pull my shit together and regroup rather quickly. As soon as I felt the spiraling coming on, I got out my journal and positive-self-talked myself right out of that shit storm.

"Exhale fear, inhale gratitude." 

"Choose growth."

"I am not my thoughts."

"This is just the full moon in Scorpio fucking with your emotions, you totally got this."

Thankfully, this all ended before we headed out to St. George. By the time we pulled into town, I was buzzing with excitement. I had completely stopped thinking about the competition and I could not believe I was actually going to get to race and do all of the race things: the start line, the hills, the heat, peeing myself, dumping ice down my shorts, celebrating the 1st ever NYX team race, more hills, seeing my athletes and teammates on the course, seeing so many people that I only kind of know and only see at races, and crossing a REAL, LIVE, FINISH LINE. 

Swim: 32:06

The swim was relatively smooth. 32 minutes is not a great time for me, but it's not bad. I'm confident that once I can get in some open water training this season, I'll drop that back down. 

Bike: 2:47:15

This was my biggest area of improvement. The last time I raced in St. George, I biked exactly 3 hours. Dropping 13 minutes is not what I was expecting, but then again, I intentionally did not make any specific time-based expectations for this race. I usually do, but I had different goals for this one. As I was putting together my race plan, I realized that the story I had been telling myself in all of my past races is that I need to conserve energy on the bike so that I can use my run as my strength. There are not many things I love more than passing people in the back half of the run and I was afraid to not be able to rely on that. 

But I realized that having any part of my race plan be based on fear or scarcity would not allow me to get the best out of myself. So my goal for the bike was to actually race the course, looking for opportunities to go harder, not easier. I am not in peak fitness by any means but I wanted to race as well as I could with the training I had under my belt, and then trust that my run would be there for me. Accomplishing that goal was my biggest win on the day.

Run: 1:45:16

I've raced this course twice before and the 1st 3 miles of the run course going straight uphill did not get any less brutal. But again, brutal is what I show up for. I didn't want to know what place I was in coming off the bike. Sometimes it's farther back than I'd like it to be, and I've let that get in my head in the past. Then about 1 mile in, when someone inevitably shouted out what place I was in, I just shrugged it off. I had already made the decision that nothing was going to bother me, so I just dug in. Exactly as I would have otherwise. 

The 1 thing I messed up was not a small thing to mess up. I didn't take in any calories in the 1st 5ish miles of the run. I don't even have a good excuse for why that happened. I forgot? It's my first triathlon? I went too hard with the mantras and thought I was invincible? 

So while this is a decent time for me on a course with about 1k feet of climbing, it wasn't the best I could do. 

I finished the race in 5:11:52, good enough for 11th in my age group. As much progress as I've made with not allowing my outcome goals to define my day, I don't love finishing outside the top 10. It certainly doesn't define my day, but I'm not thrilled about it. Overall though, I'm happy with my performance, which is the part that I have more control over. In terms of fitness and strategy, this was a good stepping stone as the first race of the season. 

What really made this race special though, was that it was the 1st ever NYX Endurance team race. We had 15 racers, and 10 people on the Sherpa Squad who came to cheer, volunteer, and be part of the magic. Our tent made its race debut a little over a mile out from the finish line so we could provide support all day long. We were the last cheerers on the course, even after the run course sponsor took their signs down. 

I had 4 athletes racing with me and they each have their own inspiring story to tell. A race is a check-in with how you've been progressing physically. It's easy to convince ourselves that we're doing everything we can to improve without an actual test to suggest anything different. It's also a check-in with how you've grown as a human, measured not by your results, but by how whole and integrated you feel when the dust settles. 

Did you hit your outcome goal and realize that there's still a pervasive sense of emptiness? Do you convince yourself that it's fine because the next milestone will make you feel worthy? Do you feel balanced, knowing that you've found the intersection of spending enough time on training and family/friends/work? Are you proud of yourself?

Here are a couple quotes from my athletes' race reports. These are the reflections of their dedication to the practice of choosing growth:

  • "I never realized how much I self sabotaged in my early life, and how much of a factor mental toughness is in training. Every time things got tough, I used my mantras. Actually I used my mantras during the whole race. I used motivating, kind statements. I gave myself grace. I was my biggest cheerleader out there. I used to need external motivation to get through tough races. This time I used my internal motivation to get me through and it was far more effective and satisfying. It was a big breakthrough for me."
  • "I was going to go out and PUSH- but push because it made me happy, not because it was going to help me beat others. This was my goal for the race. Go into it without fear, and know that my abilities are limitless. I can do anything if I just let go. This season for me will be about letting go: letting go of control, letting go of fear. It's my time."
  • "The emotions I felt afterwards were about so much more than racing. This race meant a lot to me personally and this is the most accomplished I have ever felt from a race. It was a breakthrough race for me and that had nothing to do with time or speed."

Bringing NYX Endurance to life with Julie and Alison has been so rewarding. The experiences of our athletes are validation that our creation is beginning to align with its mission. 

Usually I have more challenges to overcome on a race course, but I was honestly just so grateful to be out there that I never had a single moment of doubt or insecurity. I'm excited to see where this mindset takes me.

Here are some more pics of the celebration:

The Sherpa of all Sherpas: my husband (and Ralph Dog) ❤️

Cheering on my athlete, Erin, as she breaks out some dance moves 💃

Coach Julie on her way to an AG win, as Coach Alison tells her how big her margin is

#sherpasquad getting after it

Photo cred: My tiny beautiful sister, Gina. 

    IG: @ginamaria_photography

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