No one needs a play by play of 281.2 miles. Here's the ugly truth: I was mentally weak. This didn't happen overnight. The breakdown occurred slowly between July and November. I came out of Alaska feeling underwhelmed with my performance but I didn't really feel trained going into it. And then I continued sorta training but not really for another few weeks until I pulled out of Wisconsin. At that time I had a come-to-Jesus talk with Hillary because I knew I was not in Ironman shape and I knew the double was creeping up.
And then training happened. And my numbers (according to Hillary) were good-- "as good or better than they've ever been", only I didn't really know this I just knew that training felt "harder" than I feel like it should have felt. But I kept doing it, and it was fine. Some days I felt great (mostly swimming), and other days I felt blah (mostly biking).
And basically, though my body was training-- my mind was totally not on board. I had zero confidence. And in a way I could see this coming. It was almost like I could see it in slow motion, the train zooming down the tracks at me as I stood there, powerless, and I just couldn't jump out of the way. I didn't know how to pull myself out of this. Or I did, and do, but I just didn't execute? Part of me kept thinking, I just need to be training more. Eventually if I do enough training, I will nail workouts that will give me confidence. But time ran out before I got to that point. And I tried to fake it. I dug out one of my favorite self help books to cram for some last minute confidence. But it was too late.
And so I arrived in Cabo. I had a chat with my mindfulness mentor, Jess, before I left and she said a few things that really stuck with me. One worth sharing: "These are not my thoughts." You know when you're at registration and cruising through IM village in the days leading up to a race and there's so much anxiety in the air? And people are kinda rude because they're freaking out just a little bit? And everyone is on edge? And on race morning when the tension in the air is palpable? I just had to remind myself that "These are not my thoughts" and stay as calm as possible. And actually it was the most relaxed I've ever been on race morning.
|My favorite kind of swim: non-wetsuit|
And when shit was going south 40 miles into the bike ride when I was already feeling the effects of dehydration and negative self talk wants to creep in? I reminded myself, these are not my thoughts. And I kept trouble shooting as best as I could. And at mile 100 when I felt like I was having an out of body experience secondary to dehydration, I stayed in the moment and kept myself alert as possible. And when I was dizzy and nearly to the point of blacking out on the run course, I stayed in the moment, and was rational enough to know I needed to stop and regroup.
|Beautiful.... and brutal...|
And I wanted to quit, but I also knew there'd be no revenge possible on Cabo and I needed to finish. Plus, I'm not a quitter. So I stopped, and laid on the curb, and ate a bit, and drank a bunch until I saw medical personnel starting to circle around me on their motorcycles and then I got up and ran/ walked, faking a smile and cheering everyone on around me lest they think I AM going to pass out and try to pull me off course. In the end, I got it done and actually 12 hours for a "bad day" is pretty darn good so it's fine.
|Number one done!|
Post double, I tried to assess what I could have done differently. And a friend had warned me about the lack of water on the bike course. But I didn't really know what this would look like, having never raced outside the USA. So what was happening was at every aid station they would give you a bottle of water-- the bottle was about a 16 oz size bottle, and contained approximately 4 ounces of water with a lot of ice. If I was lucky, I was able to grab 2 bottles per aid station... but with only 500 athletes the aid stations were not super spread out (like we're used to seeing), so often it was one little bottle every 10 miles.
In the moment I kept thinking, I'm racing...I can't stop to grab more water or fill my bottles, or whatever. Looking back, I wish I had A) worn a camelbak (this it the only thing that would have REALLY made a difference) or B) stopped, physically stopped, at the aid stations and poured the contents of 6 bottles into my 24 ounce bottles and kept going. Even when I was in a really bad place-- between miles 80 and the finish -- I didn't stop. I just grabbed water and kept going and this was a huge mistake.
All that said, every race is a learning experience and I definitely learned something. After the race, we didn't stick around in Cabo too long because we had to get back to prep for IMAZ.
My husband came down with "Montezuma's revenge" upon our return from Cabo. And if he was a 10 out of 10 on the "I never want to see Mexico again" scale, I was about a 3. Nevertheless, it was enough to make me question starting the race on Sunday morning. I thought there was a very good chance that I'd end up shitting myself if I couldn't get out of my tri-suit in time. Thankfully I had a 10 hour and 53 minute reprieve from symptoms after ingesting what had to border on a toxic dose of Imodium.
The swim was lackluster. The bike was gawd-awful. And the run... was actually fine. Not great. Not spectacular. But fine. After giving up at mile 80 of the bike ride (or maybe long before then), I tooled back into transition and just went through the motions. I ran out of transition and after a couple of miles settled into a 930 pace. And I worked for the rest of the marathon to keep my pace going. I wanted to quit. I wanted to walk it in. I wanted to not hurt so much. But I also wanted it to be over and the faster you run the sooner it's over.
|The finish line should be celebrated NO MATTER WHAT.|
And here's the kicker. Racing back to back was not any harder than just racing. We were so well prepared to do the double that by the time the second one rolled around I had forgotten that I had just raced a week earlier. I actually think I was in better shape going into the second race, and that coming out of IMAZ I was in the best shape I'd been in since May. (This is why racing multiple IM in a season can be beneficial!!!)
|Los Cabos- Arizona Double|
In my post race / end of season analysis I told Hillary that I physically I felt about 75% of normal heading into the double. And that's when she pointed out that my numbers were fine... and that I fell apart mentally. I *knew* this deep down. But I didn't want to admit it to myself. Once it was out in the open, I actually felt relieved. I AM still capable. Physically. Mentally? I can (and need to!) get my shit together. But to think that physically I might never be competitive again is a hard pill to swallow. One I'm not ready to swallow yet. I still have dreams. And goals. And things to do.
And as tough as it is to look in the mirror and say, girl, you fucking gave up... at least I can own that shit and move on. If I had to look in the mirror and say, your competitive days are over and you're never going back to Kona no matter what you do... well, that would just plain suck. And maybe I WON'T ever go back to Kona. I don't have a lot of actual control over that. But I believe that I can. And that's 100% of the battle.
So now here we are in off season. And I'm working on my weaknesses. Not just mental weakness. But physical weaknesses too. Because I want to be strong the next time I am faced with the choice.