When I was younger I always heard people say how important it was to mentally prepare for your race. I never really knew what that meant and it didn’t matter that much to me when I started racing, but I learned over the years just how important it truly is. When I first started competing whether it was track, cross-country, or triathlons, I would usually just show up, race, get the free food, and leave. It never once crossed my mind to picture my race in my head and to get into the right attitude to compete. As I continued to race my coaches and parents would always emphasize how it would help all my competitions if I did that. So I decided to give it a try to see what would happen.
Mental preparation was something I never had taken advantage of, and I was so glad when I finally started to. To picture yourself crossing the finish line with a new PR, or finishing knowing you put it all out on the race course, was something that made actually doing it seem much easier. It gives you the excitement of actually wanting to do it, or the determination of knowing that your goal is in reach. Mental preparation will also put you in the right mindset of believing in yourself and remembering why racing gives you the joy to continue to compete.
Going into Waconia this weekend I didn’t take advantage of any of these things. As soon as I heard it was a 20 mile bike course, my good attitude about the weekend went out the door. Just knowing that biking at a fast pace for 12 miles is challenging for me, the thought of trying to survive 20 miles was not pleasant. It put unnecessary doubt in my head that led to low confidence about how I would perform. Instead of trying to get these thoughts out of my head like a normal person would, I let them build up and continue to bother me until the start of my race. Never once did I stop to picture my race or get into the right mindset which could have helped me significantly, but instead I just treated the race like it was any other day. Instead of being excited for my race and dancing around to music, I just walked around waiting for my wave to go out.
At the swim start it helped to have really kind women to talk to before we ran for the water, and to have my happy-go-lucky sister right beside me being her goofy and smiling self. When we started it was relieving that it wasn’t an all out fist fight, but instead everybody went their own pace and we all spread out nicely. A minor goggle fog lead to swimming into a buoy and getting my arm caught in a rope, but sometimes you have to laugh those things off. Getting out of the swim and going into transition gave me an empty feeling in my stomach knowing I was about to start the leg of the race that I dreaded the most, especially today.
When I was biking many people passed me which was not unexpected, but I felt no reason to try to stay with them. I thought that because I had to do 20 miles that I should try to pace the whole course so that I wouldn’t die off in the run. When I was biking I did get very tired once I got past the 15 mile mark, but the course made up for it. It was well laid out and it was not as hilly as I had expected it to be. The run on the other hand was. I finished up the bike with a feeling of accomplishment knowing that it was the farthest I had ever gone in a race. Once I made my way through transition and started the run it was obvious that this would be a challenging course.
When I get to the run it makes me excited to do the part of the race that I am best at. I personally loved going up the hills on the run course because it gave me a feeling of redemption from my slow bike time. It was wonderful and very necessary that there was a water stop every mile and it was great to have encouraging volunteers all throughout the course. When I finally got to the last downhill that led into the finish shoot, I felt the physical and mental pain. Physically my body was exhausted from racing distances I had never done before, and mentally I was in pain knowing I was not determined throughout my race. I crossed the finish line feeling accomplished that I had just completed my longest triathlon ever, but I also finished knowing that something was going to have to change before my next race. Whether it would be my attitude, my training, or both, I knew that I was going to have some work to do.
Just reading through this blog it is good for me to see just how much my poor mental preparation and bad attitude affected my race. I really feel like I learned a lot from this race even if it was in a way that I would have preferred not to happen. It made me really reflect on how important it is to properly prepare myself and how important it is for me to race happy. I am still a young athlete who has much more to learn as I continue to race, but the journey through it is going to be great with ups and downs and I am just going to enjoy the ride. Timberman here I come!