“Ultimately, triathlon is about pain – how you endure it and the mechanisms you put in place to deal with it when it comes.” ~Chris McCormack
With the Indianapolis Marathon just around the corner, it is time to be reminded to “Embrace the Suck” on race day. If you truly race, you are going to feel pain at some point during your race and it will suck. “Embracing the suck” is all about how you handle the pain when it shows up. Being mentally prepared for the pain and “suck” is essential to peak performance on race day.
How do we prepare to embrace the suck? Easy…train…during tough workouts, push your body to the moments that suck and take note of where your mind goes during the suck moments. Once you know what this pain feels like, you can determine a plan to help you deal with it on race day. Make a checklist that you run through, accept pain as an inevitable…don’t try to deny that it will show up, positive self-talk can also help keep you focused, smile 🙂 (that always seems to work for me…learning this one from the best…Chrissie Wellington), focus on controlled breathing, determine if your nutrition is in check, make sure you are as relaxed as you can be so you aren’t wasting unnecessary energy, focus on stride pattern and/or stride cadence (for those who are in tune with their stride), and stay in control.
Your body will do anything your mind tells it to, so stay in control. Never lose control of your mind when things get challenging. Stay focused and EMBRACE THE SUCK!!
This last Sunday I raced Ironman Kansas 70.3 making this event my 5th 70.3 mile triathlon race finish. Ironman Kansas 70.3 was my first Half Ironman distance event on June 7, 2010, which I finished with a time of 6:46:24…It was time to go back and see just how far I’ve come in my training over the last 3 years.
Since then, I have completed Ironman Branson 70.3 in September of 2010 and Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance in July of 2011 and 2012. I have gotten slightly faster in each discipline of the 70.3 mile distance (although it doesn’t look like it on the run below…bad run day). I set a new PR for the 70.3 mile distance on July 22, 2012 at Chisago Lakes Triathlon Half Distance with at time of 6:32:44.
Going into Ironman Kansas 70.3 this year, I knew I was feeling really good (both physically and mentally), but I had no idea that I was about to SHATTER my previous PR!!
We arrived in Lawrence, Kansas on Friday evening and went straight to athlete check-in before they closed for the day. We then went back to the hotel and checked in, unloaded our car and went to find some dinner, before calling it an early night to get some “good sleep” as Coach Julie calls it 🙂
I had every intention of sleeping in on Saturday morning, but I woke up at 5:45 am. Adam would be so disappointed, but he would also know that this was sleeping in for me!! 🙂 After some breakfast and lounging in the hotel room, I packed up my swim gear (for a pre-race swim), run gear (for a short pre-race run), and Mojo (to leave in T1) to head to the race site.
We left the hotel at about 10 am and drove the bike course before heading to the race site. Having completed this race in 2010, I had plenty of time to forget just how hilly this bike course was and wanted to get every hill and turn fresh in my mind for Sunday…Oh yes…my nemesis was at mile 50…
After driving the bike course, we ended up at the race site by 11:30 am. First things first…I needed to get Mojo checked into T1 and scout out my spot in both T1 and T2. As we were waiting in line to enter T1, I found out we didn’t have to put our bikes in transition on Saturday due to the 60% chance of severe storms over night (with the potential for hail and straight line winds). I was very pleased with this since the winds were already well over 20 mph and many bikes were being blown over. Some people decided to leave their bikes in T1 anyway, but I wasn’t one of them…Mojo would be spending the night with me in the hotel room…YAY!!
We encountered many athletes from our Zoom Performance team at the race site Saturday and thus talked to many people over the next 2 hours. By 1:30 pm, we hadn’t really gotten anything accomplished…except my race number tattoos in place…
…no pre-race swim, no pre-race run, no bike check-in (although I did see my spot for T1), no T2 scouting, lots of talking to people…and I was HUNGRY and drained of energy. I convinced my husband to leave and go find something to eat. As we were leaving the race site, who should we stumble upon, but Craig Alexander (AKA…Crowie)…
We left the race site, grabbed a late lunch (3 pm) and headed back to the hotel where I showered, got all of my race gear organized for morning, revisited my race goals, did some race visualization, went downtown for a couple of gourmet cupcakes and then went to bed (at 6:30 pm)…that 3 am alarm clock would be early…
In typical pre-race fashion, I didn’t sleep well…every 20-30 minutes I would wake up and look at the clock. At 2:55 am I woke to look at the clock one last time and decided it was time to get up and do this!! I had 3 servings of my “superfood” breakfast with almond milk and fresh strawberries and a glass of Trop50 Orange juice, got into my race gear, revisited my race goals, loaded the car (we were checking out before going to the race site) and off we went to the race site.
There had been storms overnight, but they did not affect the race start. Arriving at the race site by 4:15 am gave me plenty of time to really get organized and get all of my gear into each transition…yes you read that correctly, the bike to run transition (T2) is in a different location than the swim to bike transition (T1), so I really had to think through what I needed at each transition location.
Everyone had to be out of both transition areas by 6:15 am. Because I had gotten to the race site so early, this was not a problem for me at all!! At 6:30 am, the professional men started their race, at 6:35 the professional women started their race and then the age groupers went in waves. I was in wave 12 and was allowed to enter the water at 7:02 am. Because this is a floating swim start, we had to swim out to the start buoys and float until 7:04 when the air horn went off. I love the floating swim start…it gives me plenty of time to acclimate to the water temperatures (and increase the temperature in my wetsuit a little 🙂 ) before starting the swim.
7:04…we were off!! “OH MY…This water is rather choppy!!” I was trying to do my bilateral breathing, but it wasn’t working. I took water in with nearly every breath. “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate back down. Ok…let’s try this again, but breathing every stroke with 3 strokes on the right and then 3 strokes on the left…3…2…1…go.” That wasn’t working either…these waves were getting in my way and I was still taking in water instead of oxygen…not to mention all of the other athletes kicking and hitting around me in the same dilema all floundering for a little air. “Flip over on your back and kick…get your heart rate down. Ok…let’s try this again, but breathe only on your right side with every stroke. This is where you are most comfortable anyway, so give it a try…3…2…1…go.” Finally something that works…well occasionally!! “Nice and steady, straight swimming, breathe…Nice groove you are in!! Keep this up!!” I continued to stay mentally focused throughout the swim. As I approached the swim exit, the swim traffic really picked up as athletes of many different waves were all trying to exit the swim at once. I stood up, ran up the ramp, looked at my watch…”HOLY COW!! 39:05 with those waves…AWESOME.” I yelled to my husband…”39 minute swim…Wahoo!!” and continued on my way to T2.
At T2, I inhaled my Oreos, stripped my wetsuit, drank some water, geared up for the bike and was off…4:38 in T1…What was I doing?!?!?!?
Onto the bike…I knew this was a challenging bike course and decided to take it easy out of the park and up the first big climb. “Keep your heart rate low, stay focused, believe in yourself and your training.” I was staying focused and really excited about how I was performing on the bike…about mile 18 I dropped my chain on a hill climb, so I quickly put the chain back on and continued to climb…”Remember, focus on what you can control…yes your chain dropped, but it is back on and you have the ability to let it bother you or throw your frustrations in the ditch and leave them on the side of the road…” I chose to leave my frustrations in the ditch and move forward 🙂 I continued to feel strong and in control!! At the first turn around, I was excited to get around the cone and have the wind at my back…oh yeah…it was predicted to have winds at about 10 mph winds from the WNW, but they were closer to 17 mph with gusts over 20. “Wind…Kiss Me Harder!! Push me back to the next turn around cone…” I continued to feel strong and in control of my race. I was alternating Oreo cookies and Carbo Pro for nutrition every 30 minutes and drinking lots of water, so I felt really good. “Finally, the 2nd turn around and I can head back to Clinton Lake Campground…YEEHAW!!” At about mile 50, my nemesis appeared, but this time I was going to conquer it!! In 2010 I remember struggling to stay around 5 mph while climbing this hill…NOT TODAY!! I was able to maintain between 9 and 10 mph as I climbed…YAY!! I have gotten stronger on the bike!! Time to push into T2…
At T2, I quickly changed out of my bike gear and into my running gear (or so I thought)…2:57 for T2…WHAT AM I DOING IN MY TRANSITIONS?!?!?!?!?
Oh well…put it behind you, focus and get out on the run!! I usually struggle to keep my heart rate low when I start the run since I usually start out too fast, but I was able to keep my HR low and maintain a nice, even pace around a 9 minute mile for the first couple of miles. I was feeling really full off the bike, so I decided to just drink water and suck on orange slices for the first few aid stations, see how I felt by mile 6-7 of the run and reevaluate whether I would consume the Honey Stinger Chews I was carrying. This plan worked quite well for me and I ended up not consuming anything other than water and orange slices for the entire 13.1 mile run.
While running a race, I typically spend the first 1/2 of the race finding my groove (depending on the distance of the race)…both physically and mentally. During the second 1/2 of the race, I start to look for people to “pick off” while I’m running. As I pass people, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” chorus plays in my head…it has been known to escape from my lips on accident a time or two…
This experience held true on Sunday during the run portion of my race. After completing the first loop of the run (only walking through the water stops), I made a pack with myself that I would continue to push forward, finish strong and only walk through the water stops. This strategy allowed me to pass MANY people on the run and “Another One Bites the Dust” continued to play in my head. Remember that wind on the bike…well, it made for some good air conditioning on the run. Adam was in my head…”Kiss me harder wind.” With only 2 miles to go, I picked up the pace a bit and finished strong…1:59:18…YAY!!
I was overjoyed with my finish!! While I didn’t quite reach my sub 6 hour time goal for this race, I did meet every performance goal that I set out to accomplish and I still had a 27 minute PR on a VERY challenging course…What could make this day better?!?!?! How about a finisher photo with Hines Ward (professional football player for the Pittsburg Steelers)…
When my husband asked Hines which hurts worse, getting hit by a linebacker or completing a 70.3 distance event, Hines immediately responded with, “Definitely this!!”
3x(1 hour ride & 20 min run)…the first set was to be easy (with my heart rate in Zone 2), second set should be a little harder (Zone 2-3) and the third set closer to race pace (solidly in Zone 3).
I was SUPER excited to do this workout and see just how far I could push myself…both physically and mentally. When I woke up Sunday morning it was dark and gloomy outside…it better not storm…I have been looking forward to this workout all week!! I looked at the weather forecast and saw that there were chances of severe storms starting after 1 pm, so I knew I needed to get started!! I had already decided that I was going to ride the same route and run the same route with each set to see if I could get a little farther every time before turning around and heading back home. This would prove to be a much bigger challenge than I originally thought…especially on the bike!! Come on Mojo…Let’s do this!!!
Set 1: I started out on Mojo heading east, then north and finally east again. When I got to the 30 minute mark, I turned around and headed back home via the same route (west, south and west). With the winds from the ESE at 13 mph, I thought I would be able to get home a little faster (heading west)…and I was right. I ended up riding 14.76 miles in 56:36 (just shy of the planned hour). This meant my average speed was 15.6 mph for the first ride. I felt as though it was really easy and I wasn’t pushing hard at all. I took very little time transitioning to the run…I was shooting for a 9:00 pace off of the bike for the first set. I started off nice and easy and felt like I was at a pace that I could maintain for a few hours at least. I was right on pace…I ran 2.26 miles in 20:16. This meant my average pace was 8:58 for the first run. I was off to a great start!!
Set 2: I immediately transitioned back to Mojo and headed out for the second set. I started off slightly faster on this set than the last set. I felt as though I was working, but not very hard…little did I realize that the winds had picked up and were now closer to 18 mph from the ESE. I did make it farther, but decided to ride for 32 minutes before turning around to get me closer to the 1 hour time I was shooting for…this strategy worked!! When I turned around and headed south back into town, I really felt that headwind…WOW!! I ended up riding 16.17 miles in 1:01:14, which gave me an average speed of 15.8 mph. While I was not much faster on the bike this time, I was faster…and every little bit counts!! 🙂 I knew I needed to keep some energy in the tank for the last set, so I quickly transitioned to the run and went out faster than the first set, but not pushing to exhaustion. I ran 2.34 miles in 20:15. This meant that my average pace was 8:39…I felt like I could have maintained this pace for quite a while…I’ll take that!!
Set 3: I again quickly transitioned back to the bike and hopped on Mojo for the last set…Let’s get ‘er done!! I knew I wanted to push hard, but at a pace I could maintain and I did just that…I made it even farther than set #2 before turning around. This time when I headed south back into town, the winds were even stronger than during set#2…the winds had increased to 21 mph from the ESE. I was mentally really strong and focused during this set…”I am strong. I am tough. I am strong. I am tough.” I rode 17.16 miles in 1:03:04 during my last bike leg…WAHOO…16.3 mph average speed for my last set!! With my fastest transition yet, I was off and running. I quickly found a pace that I could maintain, but with difficulty. I ran 2.35 miles in 20:04, giving me an average pace of 8:33…YEEHAW!! I DID IT!!
I successfully completed this workout as planned!! With Ironman Kansas 70.3 only 3 weeks away, this was a HUGE mental boost!! I was exhausted, but ecstatic…time for food, a shower and a nap 🙂 Oh yeah…the severe storm that was suppose to come…it came later in the day with 70 mph straight winds and tornadoes around us. Glad I wasn’t out on the bike then…
There have been some recent scientific studies conducted with mounting evidence suggesting sugar is actually MORE addicting than cocaine. Who knew??? According to many nutrition experts, sugar is the most addicting legal substance available today. Similar to cocaine, sugar triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, which plays a key role in regulating reward, locomotion, behavior, learning and emotion. The sad part is…sugar is in almost every processed food there is. In 2007, the average American consumed approximately 152 pounds of sugar in one year. That is nearly 266,760 calories consumed just in sugar alone!!
I am not referring to the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables (fructose) or in milk (lactose). I’m referring to the white stuff that is an ingredient found in so many recipes and processed foods. The problem is you may not really think you are consuming sugar even when you are. There are so many different names that sugar can be labeled as. According to fitsugar.com, the following list are alternative names for sugar found on our food labels, and this list is not complete:
corn syrup solids
fruit juice concentrate
high-fructose corn syrup
I enjoy sugar laden foods just like the next person, but I also know that I feel much better physically, mentally and emotionally if I limit the sugar I consume. I have gone 3 weeks really monitoring the foods I eat, trying to eat very few processed foods and eating as clean as possible. After having completed this 3 week experiment, I came to realize that my body really does respond negatively to sugar laden foods (among other things). The results of my experiment have lead me to really monitor my sugar intake in the future.
Does this mean you need to completely avoid sugar all of the time??? No, it will be a challenge to completely avoid sugar since it is in nearly everything we eat. If you are mindful of what you are eating and look at food labels to avoid sugar as much as possible, you too will notice a definite difference in how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Think about the POUNDS of sugar you WON’T consume by being more mindful and the vast number of calories you will avoid adding to your body!!
I challenge you to avoid sugar (and all of the discretely labeled sugar products) for one week and see how you feel (for you to REALLY notice a change, 21 days is the ideal amount of time to make a change stick). Do you notice a difference? If so, how do you feel? After that week, choose a sugary treat…a large piece of chocolate cake, a piece of pie or a sugar laden soda. How do you feel now? I bet you’ll notice a HUGE difference and avoid sugar as much as you can in the future. 🙂