I'll second a recent assessment by Seth that the smoother the race, the less entertaining the race report. I've written some classic race reports involving peanut butter in my hair, feeling like the swim start was akin to a bunch of blindfolded hamsters in a fish tank, aggressive middle age male age groupers who refuse to get beat by women, men in see through speedos and my friend jon making semi-obscene gestures at me during a race. Alas, there is nothing that funny to report from Sunday, other that the fact that, for the first time in 5 years racing, I felt that I left it all out on the race course. I couldn't have run another 100 meters. It felt AWESOME. How awesome you ask? This awesome:
To start this race report, I'm going to shatter all of your preconceived notions that TNT mentors and coaches have this whole race thing all figured out. Guess what....we don't. Personally, my achillles heel is my mental issue with the run. Several times in the last few years, I train appropriately and have gone out and rocked the swim and the bike, only to talk myself out of pushing my limits on the run. One of my goals this year was to just get the hell over that. Part of that has been the longer runs that we've been going and losing my fear of the distance and discomfort. Part of that has also been telling myself constantly that, yes, I am a runner. Which is particularly ironic because I actually have a state track title and a school record under my belt and I ran track briefly in college. Somewhere along the way, as I got older and no longer weighed 120 pounds, I forgot that I am still a runner.
I've been doing a lot of mental exercises the last two years (i've got a great book on mental training for triathletes if you are interested in the issue) and had been looking foward to putting them to use at blue lake. One of these mental exercises was to walk through my race in my head several times before the race started: once before I fell asleep, once when i woke up and once in the car on the way to the race with really loud music blaring from my car (the latter to help with the waking up process as the starbucks next to my house wasn't open yet). This involved not only visualizing the swim start and transitions and pacing, but reinforcing the key words and phrases I wanted to repeat to myself while I'm racing so that there is an appropriate balance of paying attention to what is going both on internally and externally during the race. But here is the key to my mental exercise. As soon as I parked my car, I stopped the mental walk through. At that point, its time to quit analyzing and fretting and just TCB (take care of business). At this point, I know what I need to do and I know that most of what is going on around me is irrelevant to what I need to do to get to the finish line.
(as a sidenote, i used to feel sort of ridiculous going into my zone before a race because I felt that it was silly because I am not an elite athlete. if you feel like that, get over it. we are all entitled to a game face and to get pumped up and have the opportunity to go out there and be excited to push ourselves beyond where we ever through we could go. where you ultimately finish in the pack is irrelevant)
I'll spare you the details of most of the race, because what was most important to me was the last 15 minutes before the run and the run itself. To that point I had been focusing on not thinking about the run and just concentrated on my bike. As I got closer to T2, I just start to tell myself, "you are a runner" "you are a runner", over and over again. Once I was through T2, I broke up the race in my head by each mile, with the goal of keeping a steady pace throughout. which meant starting faster than i really wanted to. when things got tough, i used a trick that someone on my college track team taught me...chanting "keep it up, keep it up, keep keep it up" in rhythm with my foot strikes. By consciously controlling the thoughts in my head, I can try to prevent ones like "this sucks" "i suck" and "i just want this to be over" from sneaking into my head. It still happens, but the key is to prevent those thoughts from going onto the repeat cycle.
(as another sidenote, i am the first to admit that controlling your mental processes is a really hard thing to do in endurance events. especially when things go awry. For those of you that don't already know, I have never raced Pac Crest without having some sort of incident. In 2005, my back derailleur broke and only through Seth's magic was i able to finish the race. Last year, my nose started bleeding during the run and I had to walk most of the 1/2 marathon to avoid bleeding to death through my face. Last year I made a choice to finish the race and took the extra time to really enjoy the race experience. But not before I spent several miles in tears walking along pissed off at my own perceived failure. Because I came off the bike near the front of the field, I was passed by an enormous number of people during the run. Many of those people took their walk breaks with me and I ended up sort of reveling in the experience for what it was.)
The moral of this race report: we all have the physical capabilities and conditioning to finish our races. But take the time to fine tune your mental game. Take notes of your positive and negative mental self talk and think about how that affects your physical performance. Come up with key words and phrases to repeat through each stage of the race. The End.
8/36 in Age Group, 37/172 Women
Gratuitous Wetsuit Shot: