Saturday, March 26, 2016

Eat cake & other things I've learned from my Coach

Liz is always passing along little tidbits. Sometimes, she puts them in my training log. Sometimes I read them on her blog. Regardless of where I read them, I keep track of these little morsels of awesome. I have a document on my computer that I print off before every race. I read her words before every single race. Her words are reminders of what I have gone through to get where I am, right here at the start of a race.

I know what you're thinking. I print off a sheet with a bunch of "YOU GO GIRL" quotes. That's not really my style. The words that speak the most to me aren't the words of support or encouragement (which she gives plenty of). 

Instead, the ones that speak to me the most are the ones that speak to what it's really like to be a triathlete. These are the pearls of knowledge that point me in the direction of reaching my goals. They keep me on the path.

Although I have hundreds of them, these are my favorites.

1.) Make sure your goals & commitments are aligned. It's easy to get wrapped up in what your friends are doing. Early in my tri-career, I jumped on the Ironman wagon. I had two kids at home who were very active in sports & activities, a business that was just starting, a spouse, and all those other things that go into being an adult. During training, I was tired all the time from 4am order to get to two different kids' practices at 8am. I was cranky all the time. Needless to say, after being up early and covering more miles on a Saturday than most people cover in a month, I wasn't being the best mom, spouse, business owner, friend. The experience was so horrible that I took a year off from triathlon after that. I realized that I could still enjoy everything that I love about triathlon by doing shorter races. To this day, every once in awhile, I think about doing Ironman again. Then I realize that even though my sons are adults and have moved on to their own lives; our business has grown to a point where I can train when and where I want......I can't commit to Ironman training. I have goals and dreams that challenge me; a training volume that I can handle; and plenty of time on weekends to be with the people who are most important to me. I'm happy where I am. 

2.) Train with intention. You need a passion for this sport. Training, fueling, recovery shouldn't be seen as a sacrifice. It should be seen as an investment. Training with intention is more than consistency. It is giving your best physically and mentally It's doing the workouts you need to do. It's doing the hard work, the workouts you don't always like. It's having a back up pool for when your pool closes. It's having a back up for when your back up closes. It's about suffering when you need to suffer. It's about recovering when you need to recover. It's about training in 40 mph winds. It's about swimming in cold water. It's about not giving up on that last hill repeat.Training with intention is about your purpose. Remember: The easy way out will always be there. Don't complain about the results you didn't get for the training you didn't do. 

3.) Accountability is the wholehearted embrace of what you desperately want to ignore. For me, this happened last year at Age Group Nationals. Every year, I would watch women in my age group do amazing things. I kept improving incrementally. I repeatedly asked myself, "When was I going to make the big jump in my finish times?"  Over and over, I told myself a story to make me feel better, "Those women are natural athletes. They've been doing this much longer. You just need to train harder". I even went as far as, "You're just not a runner". Those stories were lies. The truth was something that I desperately wanted to ignore. After Nationals, I took two weeks off. During that time, I did a lot of reflection. I have always like the the way I looked. I hate the standards that are imposed on women, but I realized that my weight wasn't a body image issue. My weight was performance issue. I could no longer ignore it. I could blame everyone else for my performance, or I could wholeheartedly embrace my issue. I hired a nutritionist. 

4.) Never underestimate the importance of your crew. This goes way beyond a support crew. Your crew are the people who believe in you and your crazy dreams more than you do. They see you clearly when you're too tired to even make dinner. They see your strengths and weaknesses. These are the people who tell you what you need to hear, and it's not always what you want to hear. They are 100% vested in YOU. I've been doing triathlon for 11 years. I never really had a crew until about a year ago. I never understood how important it was to have these people in my life. They're a very small group of people who challenge me physically and mentally to be my best. They're coaches and friends. Recently, I ran a 5k. The day before my race, "M" said to me, "You're going to run a 27 minute 5k tomorrow".  I responded with, "A 27:00 5k? That'd be nice, but I've never even come close to that".  The next day, I ran a 27 minute 5k. Always listen to your crew.

7.) There is no better feeling than reaching a goal that seemed impossible a few years ago. Set the biggest, craziest goal you can. Set the goals that you are embarrassed to tell people. If you can dream it, you can do it. For years, I had wanted to qualify for Nationals. I could never get there. In my first year of working with Liz, I qualified. It took me 7 years to get there. SEVEN years of training of getting close but missing. When I crossed the finish line, I broke down. I hugged Mr. Tea, and I let the emotion of 7 years come pouring out. I have never felt anything like that. It was the greatest feeling I'd ever had. 
It doesn't end there. My first 70.3 finish time was 8:45. I was 2nd to last to finish, and definitely last in my age group. Even back then, I had a goal. I didn't share that goal with anyone because I was too embarrassed. I just finished 2nd to last. If I told anyone, they'd say I was crazy. But every year I worked toward it. I posted the goal on my wall. Eleven years later, it's still there. A few months ago, I shared that goal with Liz. She was the first and only person I ever told. She didn't laugh at me. She didn't think I was crazy. She said, "Ok. This is what we have to do." I don't know if I will reach that goal this year or next or in 10 years, but I won't stop reaching for it. 

8.) Confidence is being proud of your accomplishments on the inside but being outwardly humble. Again at AGNats, I was overwhelmed. It was my first time there. Everyone looked so pro, and I had no idea what I was doing. I saw a woman that I recognized, but I couldn't remember how. I went up to her and asked, "Are you from CO?"  We introduced ourselves. Her name sounded familiar, but I figured that I'd just seen her at races. She had been to Nationals before and asked if I had any questions because she knew how overwhelming it could be. She took the time to answer my questions and give me course advice. She was the nicest, most genuine person I'd met. Several days later, we were back home. I remembered her name and looked her up. She was one of the top 5 women in my age group in the US. I would never have known it if I hadn't looked her up. To this day, I hope to run into her again to thank her for everything she told me that day. 

9.) Enjoy life outside of triathlon. As an age grouper, triathlon has to fit into my life....not vice versa. Is it your birthday? Anniversary? Are you seeing old friends for the first time in years? Celebrate. Have dessert. Eat the damn cake. Enjoy food. Enjoy life outside of triathlon. Triathlon is one of the most structured sports. We have to fit in several workouts every day. We "fuel to perform". We are constantly being analyzed. We need down time. We need time away from that. Take one day, once a month where you have opportunity to be you: the parent, the partner, the sibling, the friend....outside of triathlon.