Now I am not saying that everyone should do an Ironman, that was my personal, crazy challenge. But is there something that you have wanted to tackle but never had the courage to try? How about running a 5K? 10K? A half or full marathon? What about a bike race? 25 mile? 50 mile? A century? Is swimming more your thing? There are tons of events out there for you as well.
The reason why I ask you all of these questions is because I am finding it more difficult to train now that I do not have some sort of event planned to look forward to. I am wondering if, you too, would be more successful if you planned some sort of event so you would be more motivated to get out there and do your workouts? And if you go this route, I would like to share a few things I learned (or re-learned) from doing the Vineman triathlon.
First, and this is one that I learned from Team in Training, never try anything new on the actual day of your race/event. What was I thinking breaking this rule when I was doing such an important race, and I actually tried two new things. On the morning before the race, I ate a breakfast I had never tried during my training. I ate some scrambled eggs with avocado and blueberries with Greek yogurt. I can't be sure that this is what made my stomach hurt throughout the bike and run portion of the race, but it might not have helped. I also purchased a new bike shirt a couple days before the race, and never tried biking with it before race day. I ended up with chaffing under both armpits, and I had to do my entire marathon with this irritation. Again, anything you plan to race with should be tried several times before the day of your actual event, or you might end up regretting it.
This race also reaffirmed my belief that training is the key to achieving anything challenging. It took me more than a year to prepare, but all that training really paid off. Not only was I able to complete 140.2 miles in one day, but as you can see by some of my finish line photos, I don't look quite as bad as I thought I would. After all, I even thought crawling across the finish line might be a possibility for me. The other reason I truly believe in training is that I was not nearly as sore as I thought I was going to be. I kind of anticipated that I might be hobbled for a week or two, but two days later I was hiking, doing short rides on my mountain bike, and even sleeping on an air mattress while camping in the redwoods. If you plan to do something new, find a training plan to make sure you are prepared. This will ensure that you not only enjoy your race experience, but can also avoid being so sore over the following days that you decide to throw in the towel. Here are a few of my favorite sites with training plans:
For Triathlon Training Plans
For Biking Training Plans
For Running Training Plans
For Swimming Training Plans
I also learned that no matter how much you love your support team, and no matter how much they love you, you are better off planning to be self-sufficient during a race for anything essential. I was very lucky to have my husband Sean and my buddy Kay there to help me. However, on the last lap of my run, I could not find either of them for my long sleeve shirt or my headlamp. Because of this, I ended up doing my last eight miles in a sweaty t-shirt with no light source. Once the sun went down, the temperatures dropped drastically, and I was quite cold anytime I had to walk. And because I had no light source, there were many times I had to walk, because I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face let alone see the road to avoid any hazards. If I had been smart, I would have left the shirt and headlamp in my special needs bag, which was conveniently located where I had to get my bracelet after each loop on the run. I had extra food and water in that bag, but nothing I really needed. So if you need something at any point in your race, make sure you carry it with you, or leave it someplace that you can get it yourself, otherwise you might not have it when you need it.
I trained physically for my Ironman by doing all my workouts. I trained mentally by doing my last month of training without music. I even trained by myself on some of my long swim, bikes, and runs so I would be accustomed to the loneliness I might face during the race. I did not, however train enough for transitions, changing a flat tire, or for the nutrition necessary for this kind of race. I got lucky with the flat tire, but my race would have been over had I gotten a flat. I could not change it fast enough, and during my entire 112-mile race, I only passed the mechanics three times. That means the likelihood of anyone helping me was slim to none. My transitions were terrible at over 9 and 16 minutes, and I think some practice doing these would have cut a few minutes off of these times. I was so busy being physically and mentally ready that I only practiced transitions at actual races. I did try to prepare for the nutrition I needed, but I don't think I researched enough the different options I had available. I think that what I hope you can learn from this is that while doing your workouts is important, there are other aspects you need to take into consideration when planning for a race or event. If you plan for these things as well as the physical, you will have a stronger race day performance.
Finally, I learned that helping another racer on the course can feel better than just cutting a few minutes off your race time. I shared in my last blog that I came across Raffi in my final run loop of Ironman. He had seriously injured his IT-band and was going to quit at the point where I ran across him. I really wanted to catch up to my friend Emily, but I realized it was more important for me to convince Raffi to continue on with his race. I pointed out to him that he had three hours to cover eight miles and that if he kept up his quick walking pace, there was no way he wouldn't finish. Once I felt like he wasn't going to give up, I then felt it was okay for me to continue trying to catch Emily. In the end I probably lost 5-10 minutes on my final time, but the feeling I had watching Raffi cross that finish line as an Ironman was amazing. He came up to me afterward and gave me a big hug and told me that I was the reason he hadn't quit. So if you are running a race and not in danger of getting a DNF (Did Not Finish), if you see someone with a flat tire or that might need a small pep talk, you might want to at least offer your help...it feels great!
So get out there and try something new that you never thought you could do. And when you commit to that new thing, don't forget to find a great training plan, don't try anything new on race day, remember to practice every part of your race, and start earning some race karma by helping a fellow racer finish their race. I would love for you to feel the way I do right now...confident, accomplished, and looking forward to my next challenge!