But after my first race I walking away with mixed emotions. I expected to be jumping for joy over the finish line like you see the guys do on the TV coverage. To be honest I wasn’t sure what I was feeling at first. Everyone was coming over and congratulating me which was awesome and made me feel very special. I’d achieved something that a relatively small percentage of the population have even attempted.
But when I got back to the unit and reflected on the day, my performance and the expectations I’d placed on myself. Disappointment was the emotion that kept rearing its ugly head. Is this emotion even allowed after such a feat? There are people out there that can’t walk and I’m feeling disappointed?!? Do I dare feel this way? What’s wrong with me???
The build up to this race was huge. The expectations, the training, talking about it amongst my friends and family, the cost of training, bike parts, nutrition, accommodation, and the learning curve that’s not only steep but intense. Swimming throughout the depths of winter, riding distances every weekend that most cyclists might do once a year in a charity event. And fighting through injury and a bout of the flu a couple of weeks prior to the event. It’s all encompassing. So when things don’t go to plan it can hit you harder than you think.
I had set myself some clear performance expectations for the day and included what I considered a worst case scenario. Unfortunately, despite all my preparation,that wasn’t worst case enough. Over a 113km event which includes three completely different disciplines, impacted greatly by the forces of nature and further impacted by how your body reacts on the day ….. anything can happen. And of course on this occasion a few of these factors came into play.
My “metro” emotional journey diary:
Race Day: Mixed emotions with disappointment winning out
Day 2: Reflection
Day 3: Pride
Day 4: Determined and focussed on lessons learnt
Day 5: Attempting to capture my experience in writing
You know what? Of course it’s natural to feel this way. It’s in a triathlete’s nature to be competitive. Why do you think on the 8th day God created Garmin and Strava? But it’s how you turn it around and reframe it and learn from the experience that counts.
So let’s get down to business. Over a weekend filled with hot athletes, wall to wall TT bikes and inspirational feats by young and old competitors. What were my learnings?
Use landmarks to sight during the swim
- on this particular event the sighting buoys were few and far between which made it easy to lose direction. I ended up swimming an extra 300m plus due to zigzagging. So try and pick a key landmark behind the buoy you’re aiming for and use that to sight.
Don’t be afraid of wearing a wetsuit. They’re freakin awesome!
- as long as you’ve put it on properly and given your shoulders proper movement it’s like wearing a full body pool buoy. You’ll love it.
- make sure you put plenty of Vaseline (or you choice of slidey stuff) over your arms and legs to assist you in getting the wetsuit off quickly.
- ok so this was one of my biggest lessons. During training I never really had a problem with chaffing during the longer rides. However, that all changed once I had taken a dip in salt water. After 90kms I had chaffing in places that I didn’t know could be chaffed. So please, please, please listen to me when I say … Lube up. Get that vaso or chamois cream out and give yourself a generous helping in the nether regions. Honestly, you’ll thank me.
Prepare to be chicked
- if you don’t know what this is please read 21.1kms is a Freakin Long Way. I was chicked that many times I lost count. So leave your ego at home boys.
Open snap lock bags in transition
- this may sound silly but I forgot to open my food bag prior to getting on the bike. Trying to open it one handed while riding my TT into the wind wasn’t as easy as you would think.
Watch out for faster riders
- unfortunately there are idiots everywhere, and this includes on the bike course. They’re the ones that pass within 2cm of you and / or cut back in front of you just missing your wheel in the process. This caused a lot of carnage during the ride with many accidents along the way. So make sure you keep left unless overtaking and look behind you before you start to overtake in case there are faster riders heading your way. Nobody wants to scrape you off the side of the road just because you were impatient.
- grab some sunscreen from the aid stations and reapply. I got burnt to a crisp on my shoulders because I forgot to reapply. And that was after wearing a cycle top during the ride to try and cover up prior to the run.
Aid stations are your friend
- take advantage of your nearest aid station. It has all sorts of goodies, and it’s free! (Well, paid for out of your highly priced entry fee at least)
Use a checklist
- there are so many things that you need to pack for a long course event. Make it easy on yourself and use a checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Nutrition can make or break your day
- make sure you have a plan and stick to it. Practise with your chosen nutrition prior to the event and make sure above all you keep hydrated. (This was eventually my archillies heel)
- when your body sweats it loses salt (sodium). I lost that much salt that I could literally scrape it off my body at the end of the event. I could also see the salt marks on other athletes clothing. So make sure you have some salt tablets on hand to assist in the replenishment of this loss. But don’t go too crazy as there is also sodium in the other products you will use as part of your nutrition.
It’s a long way – pace yourself
- set a plan and keep to it. No matter what time you end up doing for your first 70.3, it will be a long morning at the office. Have a plan, pace yourself and do not get caught up in other peoples races. The amount of people that I saw fly past me on the bike to only blow up on the run was telling.
It took me about a week to process what I’d achieved and learnt through my first foray into the world of Ironman. It was a humbling, yet enriching experience where you ultimately test the quality of your training and mental strength when things don’t necessarily go to plan.
I have the towel, the jacket, the t-shirt, the medal and a renewed drive to further improve what this body of mine can do the next time I cross a 70.3 start line.
Don’t let your mind or your body trick you into thinking that you can’t. You actually can.
Keep smiling Tri MonkeysCLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE