Mandurah Ironman 70.3

Monday, Nov 11, 2013 at 15:43

TriathlonOz - Michelle

Having just done this event yesterday I wanted to get my thoughts out early before the details got fuzzy in my mind. It was probably the hardest race I’ve ever done – not in terms of suffering but due to the lack of a desire to “dig deep”. So here I am yet again, contemplating what I need to learn before the next race. Just when we think we’ve got it all covered in training, you go into a race and discover you have more weaknesses than you realise.

My weakness is not preparing my mind for how I’m going to feel running in race conditions. The odd thing is that I can swim and ride reasonably well in the first part of a triathlon and in the last 3 races I’ve done (2 half ironman distance and 1 sprint) I’ve been first off the bike in my age group. You would think I should be very competitive but I’ve had 4 years of being overtaken on run courses like I’m a broken-down car in the emergency lane and I seem to have developed an easy acceptance of this fact. I simply have no expectation that I can hold a podium position in the run so I resign myself to lose sight of it before I’ve even begun. Yes, I’d love to get a placing just once, and I was 35 seconds away from it last race but I threw that opportunity away by stopping at the aid station on the run, gasping for air and had to be coaxed back into running. My pride and ego can live with that, knowing that I've done a good ride seems to be satisfaction enough.

When I do bricks (running immediately after cycling), I allow myself to run by feel, which usually results in a half-hearted effort just to shuffle through the distance. So, I shouldn’t really be surprised when I go into a race and find I do the same thing. Only instead of running 3-6km off the bike as I would in a brick session, I have to run 21.1km off a 90km bike ride. In races like yesterday, I seem to go into some sort of auto-shut down routine where the mind goes dumb, the feet drag, and I attempt to run with minimal effort. I call it sustainable running. I’ve figured out a trick - don’t allow your heart rate to spike, so when it starts to feel hard, slow down, or walk, or even stop if you feel you need to! I've told myself this is sensible. On day's like yesterday, when the risk of severe dehydration or heat stroke where very real and most people were talking walking breaks, it seemed the only thing to do. The strange thing is I am conscious that I am sabotaging my performance when I do this and I tell myself I don’t care, that I’m happy to have done well on the bike and that is enough, all I have to do is finish. And is that so bad?

Triathlon is not easy for anyone (except the pros). Very few of us are good at all 3 disciplines so I put myself in the same category as most and accept my weakness and am satisfied with what strengths I do have. If I really was competitive I wouldn’t bother with triathlon. But that’s not the point. I actually enjoy running and swimming and I enjoy the challenge of triathlon. And I don’t get enough satisfaction from team events. To my mind, if you want to feel proud of an achievement, you have to know that you really worked hard for it. Where’s the pride in something easily gained? I’m sure you see my point. So understand this – running off the bike is exceptionally difficult. It’s not impossible to shuffle through it but mentally it takes more than what you want to give to do it well.

I am currently having a big think about what I might need to do to find the desire to put more effort into my run performance on race day. Whilst I am satisfied with my performance yesterday - a finish in tough conditions, an 8th place in the swim in my age group, moving up to first on the bike, and then finishing in 10th after the run and over the finish line, I am not proud of my achievement because I know I didn't work on the run to the best of my potential. So, question is, am I prepared to train (my brain) to push myself harder? Physically I know I can do it. My training runs are all of good quality and have a defined purpose and goal. The problem is the mindset. Mentally, I’m not yet sure how to take it up a notch when needed in race conditions. I am pondering if this is an issue with how long I’ve been doing triathlons (4 years). Not long in comparison to many other legends of the sport but for me, that is a long time to be committed and focused on pushing my limits. In my training I am constantly pushing myself to my absolute limits. I really work hard in training but that's the physical side and my weakness is in the mind. How do I train that? Am I just tired of this constant pushing of self? Or is it my stage of life? At 45yrs old I have nothing to prove to anyone and quality of life can be found doing other things.

I am open to any and all suggestions and comments, but for now I need to have a good think as the next Half Ironman distance race is only 8 weeks away – Albany Half.

Some wish for it, others work for it!
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