Lessons from a Stranger

Have you ever met someone who instantly knew who you are as a person, and changed the way you think about life? A couple months ago I had the chance to spend 24 hours with a man who changed not only the way I think about triathlons, but about life.

As much as you  might find me complaining about being a bedside nurse, this profession has lead me to meet some incredible individuals. I had the opportunity to be Mr. X’s nurse, an incredibly talented athlete whom fascinated me. I’ve met other athletes and triathletes, have had coaches, etc., but have never learnt so much about myself, about racing and training in under twenty-four hours. Well, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew some of the things he told me, but I’ve never had anyone tell them to me to my face. He gave me tips, hints, and advice that I would end up using for the last three races of the season.

Numerous times, he suggested I read Golf is Not a Game of Perfect; he said it was a “game changer” and should be read by everyone– not only athletes.  I went to a local library and glanced at it. Sure enough, it was about golf. You probably have the same thought as I did when I first took a peek at the book: I am not a golfer. I do not know anything about golf. High handicapper? Have no idea what that means. The only thing I know about golf is that golf carts are fun to drive (hah). I decided to rent it because, what the heck, and realized that Mr. X was correct:the psychology in the book can be applied to other aspects of life and other sports.

So I thought I would share some things that I learned both from those twenty-four hours, and take away messages from the book.

  1.  I remember Mr. X stating, “You are an anxious racer, aren’t you?” after just twenty minutes talking to him. When he said that, I felt like he could see into my soul :-p Being an anxious racer was brought to my attention back in June in Tupper Lake when someone else mentioned it to me. Yes, I am an anxious racer. I stress over everything. I stress over the appearances of other people in the race (and compare myself to them). Stress leads to doubts about my abilities. A certain amount of excitement and adrenalin is good in a race. But when doubt replaces trust, you are screwed. A [triathlete] must train herself in physical technique and then learn to trust what she’s trained. You spend hours during the week training for the big day, and you have to learn to trust yourself and all the hard effort you have put into preparing for the event. I’ve found I doubt my training and capabilities, ultimately leading to feelings of anxiety.
  2. This leads to the next point from the book: People by and large become what they think about themselves and Confidence is crucial [to a good game]…Confidence is simply the aggregate of the thoughts you have about yourself. If you don’t think you can do well in a race, you won’t do well. You “psych yourself out.” If you think you can win, you can win. Go to a race with confidence. “Don’t stray to the back of the pack. Push yourself. When you get to the race, think, ‘I’m going to own this motherf-ing course, and no one can stop me.’ Believe in yourself and start at the front. You are there to dominate.'” A little intimidating? Maybe. But I’ve become one of those people who starts at the front of the pack.
  3. [Athletes] who realize their potential generally cultivate the three D’s– desire, determination and discipline; the three P’s– persistence, patience and practice; and the three C’s– confidence, concentration and composure. I found it incredibly interesting to hear about Mr. X’s training routine when he trained for 140.3 races and other triathlons. He had three workout sessions a day, 6 days a week. It was not just the number of hours he put into his training, but he went into training sessions with a focus. “What is your plan today? What is your focus? Every training session should have a focus– whether it is a speed session on the track, power work on the trainer, or drills in the pool. Never go into a session without a plan….Train like you race. If you aren’t seeing stars at the end of a swim workout, you did not swim hard enough.” When training for my first two 70.3 distance triathlons, as well as IMLP, I put the training in “to log in the hours.” I didn’t focus on speed in the pool. I didn’t focus on speed on the track. I did workouts without any thought to it. When I was injured and started training for Aquabikes last March, my mindset regarding training changed, and meeting Mr. X emphasized that new mindset: train like you race. If you don’t train like you race, how will you perform on race day? If you don’t practice your transitions, how will you do no race day? “Don’t be that person who will not ride in the heat or the cold. Train in the elements. Know what it is like to push hard in the humidity or in the hail. Know what your body will do. Practice changing tires. Sit in front of the TV and change them over and over and over again until you can change a flat in under 60 seconds. When you are out on the bike course, concentrate on the road. Know the course. Never go into a race not knowing what to expect.”
  4. A golfer cannot let the first few holes, shots, or putts determine his thinking for the rest of the round. Okay, so how does this relate to triathlons? Triathlons are more complicated than a running race or swim competition: there are more elements involved, meaning there are more opportunities for problems and potential obstacles. I can give you a perfect example with my most recent race: the swim start was one of my most horrible swim starts ever. It was windy and extremely choppy, and I was unprepared for the choppiness. I felt confident when I first started but then found myself swallowing gulp after gulp of lake water, choking and coughing. I hated the swim start. It was not going the “way I wanted”. I freaked out and had to swim breaststroke for the first couple hundred yards to help gain composure, which means I was not swimming as fast as I had hoped. I could have just given up on the race then, and a part of me thought, “F- this.” But, another thought crept in, “no, don’t let this bad swim start ruin the whole race.”  Instead of dwelling on the negative, I accepted that the swim was not what I planned, and continued with the race….Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough, trees, or sand. The alternatives–anger, fear, whining…do no good.
  5. Attitude and self-talk can make or break an athlete. I would say that I am probably one of the greatest negative self-talkers of all time. Unfortunetly, thinking negatively about myself has become such a habit after all these years, to actually have positive self-talk is rare (sad, I know). This negative self-talk does a triathlete no good during race day. Imagine being at the start of a race and thinking, “you suck, you are not going to do well, why do you even do this?” Fortunately, on race day, I’ve actually been able to change my negative self-talk into some positive self “pep-talk”–and I think those positive thoughts have changed the person I am. [Athletes] with great attitudes constantly monitor their thinking and catch themselves as soon as it begins to falter. It would be so much easier for me to tell myself that I am a horrible triathlete, that I cannot place, that the other women look like “true, slim and strong athletes.” And in the past, those thoughts have crept up in my head, like at the beginning of Tupper Lake. Now, if I start to have those questioning thoughts, I try to change them and rephrase them. I am *just* as good of an athlete as those other women out there.
  6. Which leads me to another lesson: If a [triathlete] chooses to compete, he must choose to believe that he can win. Winners and losers in life are completely self-determined, but only the winners are willing to admit it. It is highly unlikely that you are going to win a race if you don’t believe that you can win it. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
  7. Another thing: fear. I learned that fear is completely normal in an athlete. Personally, I have a fear of failure and of another DNF in my life. That one DNF left such an imprint on my life that I fear it happening again. I know in reality there are possibilities of future DNFs that are outside my control. Heck, the professionals have DNFs and DNS’s, so why can’t us “common athletes” have them? But you need to overcome that fear and not let it consume you. Courage is a necessary quality in all champions. But an athlete cannot be courageous without first being afraid. 
  8. (Okay, so this does not come from the book, but after recent news, I thought it  to be an important subject to bring up). You are not a product of your coach. You are a product of your own hard work and dedication. What a coach does in his or her own personal life is not a reflection of the you; their values and their life decisions do not represent the person you are.  I used to think having a coach whose athletes pulled off podium results was the one to look for. It did not matter if they were expensive: if they were able to have athletes win, then why not pay the money for them to coach you? But I came to realize that my own growth and progress as a triathlete was not because of my coach. My growth was because of the dedication and hard work I put into my training…It was for the mornings I woke up early on my days off to go to the pool, when I really wanted to sleep in and be lazy. My growth was because I followed a plan, and attempted things that were outside my comfort zone. The one person who had the biggest impact in my “triathlon career” would have to be my swim coach. She is the one I spent the least amount of time around, and met late into my training for IMLP. She is first one to push me to test my limits during an actual race– and for that I will be forever thankful.
  9. Lastly, A person with great dreams can achieve great things. If you asked me last year at this time if I would compete in a championship race, I probably would have laughed in your face. I think there is a little section in each of us that wants to excel at something, whether it is athletic or non-athletic. But before you can excel, you need to have a dream. I admit my dream has been to qualify for something– even if it was not the Ironman World Championships. And you can’t let anyone else belittle that dream or criticize you for it. Emotionally, participating in aquabike races last season instead of triathlons  was difficult. More than once I heard people say, “She only did the aquabike– she did not do the whole race,” and hearing that was hard. It is like telling a sprinter who does 5K races that “he only did a 5k and not a half marathon.” My reasons for not competing in full triathlons races was beyond my control, and it was not by choice I cut out the run portion. I was overjoyed to find races that had aquabike options.  I decided to dedicate myself to the disciplines that I could still complete, when I could have simply given up on the sports all together. To hear people say I didn’t finish the whole race felt like someone was telling me all my training for the events was not true training. But you know what? I trained long and hard for those races I participated in, and even if I was not able to finish the run portion, doesn’t mean I did not try or work as hard as the others who were able to run. If I let those people impact how I did in events, I would never have qualified for a race. Don’t let anyone belittle your dreams. They are just jealous because they may not have dreams of their own.

Now go, rent that book and read it 🙂

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All quotes taken from Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Dr. Bob Rotella

Toughman Tupper Lake Race Recap

Prelude

SO I know I stink at writing posts nowadays…But my life might seem boring to others as it is basically work/ school/ school work/ swimming/biking/ repeat.

Since I have a paper due, I figured now was the best time to write a race report 😛

Sometime during this past winter,  I decided to sign up for Toughman Tinman Aquabike, which was a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride. Basically, a 70.3 distance, minus the run. Perfect for those who are unable to run. Since March, I’ve put my share of swimming and cycling in– and have focused more on my training than I ever have in the past (to include IMLP). This race was going to be a fun one: one where a bunch of other women from the Hudson Valley would be “tri-ing” out their first triathlon race!A fellow Hudson Valley-er (and terrific mother/athlete) helped organize some swim lessons with Jane who helped me with my swim last year. They did Monday night swim workouts together, to prepare for this race!

(My apologies ahead of time for going on and on during this post!)

Race-Recap: They say sometimes you have good races, and sometimes you have bad ones. 

Friday I drove up to L.L’s amazing camp in Long Lake, where she opened up her doors to us ladies doing the race Saturday morning. We went to packet pick-up and tried out the water where the race would be. (Oh, and side note: the race is not actually in Tupper Lake. It is in Raquette Pond!). Dinner was low-key and relaxing– it reminded me of summers growing up on Lake George. I loved everything about it. When I grow up I want a lake house in the Adirondacks.

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The 30 year olds are ready to race!

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The first of many selfies!

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Just a couple of nurses contemplating life and the race course…Photo courtesy of K. T.

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Pre-race healthy carb loading dinner! Yes, we wore PJ’s at 5:30 PM

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Good night, Long Lake.

Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast/ coffee, and headed to Tupper lake for the race. I had my english muffins with PB and a local honey blend (which is my new favorite breakfast, thanks to Devon!).

Driving up, I listened to music and thought about how fun the race would be. I was not prepared to go out super hard, because I had not been feeling well the week before. It was all about fun– riding and swimming in the Adironacks!

(Toughman Tupper Lake is a relatively small, local race, but really great value for the entry fee!)

I knew that the Aquabike (AB) field was fairly small, but as I racked my bike and prepared my transition area, I could not help but notice the other women who were doing the AB with me. They were fit, slim, toned, had (more) expensive bikes, aero helmets, and donned fancy team tri-kits.

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Transition

I could feel my heart drop into my stomach.

Holy crap. Look at them. They are hardcore triathletes. I’ll never be able to keep up with them. 

I put on my wetsuit and took a dip in the water to get acclimated, trying to stay positive and not worry about doing well, but just having fun. I found the other Hudson Valley women and wished them luck on their first triathlon. Then I found my swim coach Jane and fellow RN/ Ironwoman-to-be, D.J.

“Did you see the women doing the aquabike? They are so fit!I have nothing against them.” I remember exclaiming.

“Nahh, don’t judge a book by its cover.” Jane said. “Man, Molly, you are really an anxious racer!”

Uhhh, duhh.

We waited for our waves to start.The swim start to the race is so low- key and relaxed– you can wait with family/friends right until you enter the water.

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These triathlon newbies about to DOMINATE!

I was not sure how my swim would be, but I was hoping for under 39 minutes, which is what I was able to swim one lap of the IMLP course last year. Jane kept saying, “I think you can swim a 35– try for a 35.”

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Staying calm before the start…

“Yeahhhh,” I remember responding,” Or maybe a 40 minute swim…” I have a fear of pushing myself in the swim, and did not think it was possible to do it in 35 minutes.

The aquabike wave started after the mens half swim wave. It is no surprise that I hate swim starts. They just freak me out. All the kicking, bubbles, shoving…Especially when you are starting with men! My goal was to start hard and then settle into a comfortable rhythm. Before I knew it, we were off.

Unfortunetly, I felt panicked quickly and tried to swim away from the buoys and the crazy people. After a couple hundred yards, I was able to weed myself out of the mass and tried to ease into my 1-2-3-breathe rhythm, but ended up breathing with every stroke. Oh well. I didn’t push myself, but went at a comfortable pace. Eventually, I made it to the turn buoys. When I was heading back to the beach, I found myself catching up to the men from the wave in front of us.Which meant, men swimming into me.

More than once I found myself choking on water and doing breast stroke to gather myself back together, and then sight. They had warned about the sun being right in your eyes on the way back, but other races I have done, like Quassy, have a similar return swim. Finally, I was back at shore. One unfortunate aspect of the swim was you had to run on rocks to get back to shore. Major ouch.

I thought there would be a clock showing your time, but there wasn’t. And my watch had no OWS tracking capabilities, so I had no idea how I did on the swim. I remember hearing Jane shouting ” Go molly!!!!!” and yelling back, “What is my time?????”

When I reached transition I had to make a decision: do I worry about putting my socks and cycling gloves on? When I grabbed a glove and was about to spend time putting it on I though, “screw it,” and started on the bike course.

I felt good starting on the bike and since I had not ridden further than 30-32 miles this spring, I decided to race to the turn around in Cranberry Lake, and then at the turn around, have a race back to the finish. I was told the course was not too hard– just rolling hills. They fail to mention that the rolling hills begin two miles into the course. Thank goodness I’ve made it a point to do hill work once a week– I think it definitely helped.

Once out on the course, I realized i had made the mistake of spraying suntan lotion all over my watch, so it was nearly impossible to see the screen (and with that, see my distance, the time, etc). Not knowing the time was going to make nutrition a bit more complicated. But, I was fully prepared with bars, gels, and gummy chew things. (Yes, I was that oddball triathlete with a $3000 bike who wore a camelbak…Hey,  I did not want to have to stop to get nutrition on the course.)

I rode hard, and had a couple gel chomp blocks in the 30 minutes on the bike. I have never had gel chomp blocks (NOTE: there IS a taste difference between types of gelled blocks) and thought they would be like the Gu chomps I used when training for IMLP. Wrong. I had three of them and they left me with a disgustingly sweet aftertaste in my mouth. Ewwwww gross. So I just sipped on my water and Biocharge along the rolling hills.

The first 28 miles out I felt fine. I was pushing harder than I would normally on a bike ride, but felt like I could maintain what I was doing. I ate a VO2 prime bar over the course of the last hour, and made sure to drink lots of water.

This isn’t so bad at all!

When I turned around in Cranberry Lake to head back to Tupper Lake, things drastically changed.

I felt myself incredibly nauseous and light headed, therefore I continued to drink more water thinking I might be dehydrated. I then noticed that I was not sweating at all (which was very abnormal for the girl who sweats walking up a flight of stairs).

Sh*t. Something is not right. 

I continued to push myself, despite the way I was feeling.

At mile 30, I wanted to quit. I was mentally and physically done with the race. I tried to hum music to myself, which has helped me in the past. But after “singing” a verse in my head, my nausea would return with a vengence.

Why am I doing this? This is not fun. Why am I doing this? This is the last race I’m ever going to do…Why am I doing this? F-ck you, rolling hills!

I kept pedaling.

This is stupid. Just stop. You aren’t a good triathlete, so who cares if you finish or not? You aren’t like the other women. Just stop.

Then I would think, “No, get to the finish line. Just get to the finish line and you are done. Just finish and you can go home. Just finish….Just finish…”

The 5 mile distance signs felt like for-e-ver. With each sign I tried to reason with myself by comparing the distance to rides I would do at home, “this is the ____ loop you do at home all the time….No big deal….You got this” 

I felt like I was riding slower and slower. People started passing me.

The rolling hills that I hadn’t really noticed going to Cranberry Lake, were like mountains.

I thought about how my nutrition and hydration was so out of whack. The “200-300 calories/hour” on the bike did not happen. I calculated the amount of calories I had consumed total, and it was less than the amount I consumed on my olympic aquabike course at Quassy. I kept waiting for my body to bonk. I could feel the tears starting to well in my eyes.

I hate this. This is not the way the race is supposed to go. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to have another DNF. 

When I finally hit the 50 mile point I thought I could make it.

“C’mon Mol, this is just like riding to the Fork in the Road at home. You can do this”

Except, at home, we didn’t have two “hills” to climb in those five miles.

After what I felt like was an eternity, I saw the “Welcome to Tupper Lake” sign. I was almost done.

I was going to finish.

Finally, I was able to dismount the bike.

I felt sick, yet relief that I had finished, and disbelief that I had completed the 56 mile bike ride in three hours.

I found my fellow Hudson-Valley-ers who had already finished their races (and PLACED!!! woo HOO, those women ROCK) and tried to force myself to feel better. It was a shame that I honestly felt like crap, because the post-race food was awesome, and there was even a post-race beer tent.

After about half an hour and  forcing myself to eat some orange slices, I started feeling better. I was still concerned with the fact I was not sweating at all, nor felt any urge to pee, and felt nauseous as heck.

Jane sat with me, and we chit-chatted for a bit. There was a live band (ah-mazing post race!) and despite not knowing how I did on the race, I felt a small chance that I might have placed in the race. I wanted to wait and see what occured with the awards before heading to my Adirondack home to shower (Yes, L.L.– I consider your amazing Adirondack camp MY camp HAHA). Jane ended up finding the results and came back to me:

“Well, good news: you won your age group– because you were the only one in it….And, you also are first place overall in the womens AB division!”

Wait– I actually beat those hardcore women triathletes in their fancy kits and expensive bikes?

Wait– I placed in a long distance race?

Wait– I qualified for a “series championship race”?

I never in a thousand years believed I was capable of doing well in a longer-distance triathlon. Never before did I push myself. I’ve always finished long distance races (well, just the three long distances triathlons I’ve completed) with the mentality of “just saying I finished.” I never thought I was capable of swimming fast, or riding my bike faster than 15 mph.

Heck, halfway in, I never believed I was going to be able to finish that race to begin with.

But, I managed to perform better than I ever have, despite feeling physically the worst I have ever had.

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Male and female aquabike winners

So, there you have it. I managed to have both my best race time wise, and my worst race physically.

I’m stoked I did’t let the voices in my head win and tell me to quit.

A HUGE thank you to L.L, D.J., and all the other ladies for a great women’s weekend away! It was super fun.

A HUGE thank you to my swim coach, Jane, for pushing me to go faster than I believed I could go.I don’t think I would have done as well as I did if you were not there.

=)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aquabike Training

I sat down to start my last project of the semester and somehow ended up on my wordpress site starting a blog post instead. What can I say? Apparently I have no self discipline when it comes to end-of-semester-powerpoints…Especially when they are about Nursing Leadership (yawn).

I figured I would blog about training, since I’m almost finished with my second full month of training after a four month swim/bike hiatus.It is hard to believe I started this blog about running and duathlons, and now it has turned into a blog about biking and swimming…How does that happen?

I can’t remember if I blogged about it, but I signed up for the Tupper Lake Tinman aquabike in June! I am overjoyed that I remembered some races have an aquabike option– which is awesome for people who cannot run. In fact, a fellow nurse is doing it too! I figured an aquabike would be good prep for my race in September, even if I am not running yet. Might as well focus on the sports I still can do, right? The event is composed of a 1.2 mile swim and then a 56 mile bike.* Woot woot! My racing life is not over just yet! It is crazy, but after IMLP last summer, those distances seem like a piece of cake.

Swimming

From the beginning of March when I started to swim and bike again, I’ve put in some major pool time (for me): swimming 3-4 times per week. To put it into perspective, 3-4 swims last year is what I would do in two or three weeks!

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I cannot believe I am going to say this, but I think not being able to run and focus on swimming has definitely changed my views of the sport. Truth be told, when I trained for my past two half IM’s and Ironman Lake Placid, I swam once *maybe* twice a week if I was feeling “inspired.” There were some weeks when I never swam at all. I thought that since I “was not a swimmer” I would never get better at it, and might as well focus on the run and biking. I was always reading how athletes should focus on their weak sports, but I never took on that mentality. Plus, being in the pool was a complete bore. I still have no idea how I was able to finish the 2.4 mile swim at LP only swimming once per week. My prior training methods should NOT be followed. Hah.

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All prepared for training!

After consistent swimming for the first time in my life (well, since I was maybe 10 years old) I actually see myself improving. Not only improving, but I’m pushing myself harder at the sport than I ever have, and pushing through my fears of swimming that still haunt me occasionally. I still basically have two swim speeds (fast and easy) and would love to learn how to do a kick turn, but I’m pretty excited about how far I have come from this point last year. Focusing on my weakness is slowly transforming it to a strength.

Training

Back to aquabike training. Training for this race is basically the same as training for a triathlon, minus the run. Part of me thought training for just two sports instead of three would be easier, but aquabike training is actually difficult. Part of the difficulty is probably due to the months I missed of all swimming/biking. The other difficulty is the fact I am trying to follow all the workouts the way they are meant to be, and pushing myself harder in my training than I did in prior years.

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A snapshot of last weeks training

My weeks are composed of 3-4 swims and 3-4 bikes, with a couple strength sessions thrown in,** and range from 6-9+hrs per week. Last week I swam more in one week than I ever have (totaling over 6 miles). I was looking back at my training for my first half IM and the hours I spent training for that race ranged were really not enough for that distance. Heck, for that half IM I went two months without swimming…No wonder it took me 55 minutes to complete the swim. Training sessions are short and focused, which I like. (In my opinion, there is no need to spend more than 2.5 hrs on an indoor trainer). There are still about two months before Tinman, but I am focused and dedicated to doing my best on this aquabike….Especially the swim portion!

I am SUPER excited that my doc gave me the go ahead to bike outside and not only on the trainer! I’ve missed riding up hills 😛 (No really, I’ve missed riding up hills! All about feeling the burn.) Being outside makes me feel like a human again.

Happy training everyone!

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“My attitude is if you push me towards a weakness, I will turn that weakness into a strength.”- Michael Jordan

* I also signed up for another aquabike later in July in the Hudson Valley! How could I not? I mean, without the running, it should be easier on my body…Right?!? 

**I went for a walk to see how my ankle and foot would do (lets be honest, it was a walk/slowwwww jog/walk/slowwwww jog) and the foot did not hurt! My leg muscles on the other hand felt as if I had just run a marathon. Baby steps! Shhh, don’t tell my doctor. 

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My $$$$$$ orthotics, the cure for my foot problems…Hopefully

When was the last crazy post written?

June 2017
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