Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lesson Learned - 2016 in Review

I've said it once before and I'll say it again, I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" people. I will never throw around my religious beliefs because in today's age, one wrong word can be skewed entirely. I take a pretty big risk writing my feelings for all the world to see, which is why I try to never get too personal. But there's one thing you need to know about me, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I believe everyone's story is already written. We'll never know why things happen the way they do. All we can do is learn from what does.

So let's put it this way, 2016 was a hell of year to learn from.

Lesson 1: Don't worry about what you can't control.

Technically, this lesson started years ago. But it wasn't until I toed the starting line of a marathon that suddenly became a half marathon that I was truly able to grasp this. Last year, I was chased away from Ironman Maryland by Hurricane Joaquin. I was fortunate to make it back 2 weeks later to the rescheduled date and race. But lemme tell ya, what a way to test that mental strength.
Ok race day in 72 hours! JK, go home and go back to work and wait for a possible reschedule. Stress for 3 days. Make last minute plans to get to rescheduled race. Get your head back on straight because you have to race 2 weeks after you trained your body to be ready.  
Fast forward to January 2016. The Clearwater Marathon was CANCELLED about 10 minutes before the start of the race due to flooding and inclement weather in the area. I was angry and frustrated. I had worked so hard and wanted my chance to prove myself. I was SO TIRED of mother nature messing with my goals. Clearly the plan was already laid out. I just didn't know it at the time. 

I raced that half marathon, and raced it well (all things considered). But that was the last time I ever worried about elements outside of my control. Every person that planned to run a marathon that day had to switch gears and re-wire their brains into half marathon mode, not just me. No time to be pissed off, just go out there and what you know how to do. Run.

So when April rolled around and there still wasn't an official bike course for Ironman Texas, I could honestly give 2 shits. I still woke up and road my bike 100+ miles on Saturday mornings. I put my head down did the work. And with less than 3 weeks until race day, our course was solidified. It had more turns than it did miles, and that could very well cause panic. "So much stop and go will slow me down! Turns are a recipe for accidents!" People on social media were seriously losing their cool over this and I was in absolute awe over their arguments. Instead, I stayed calm and took the turns one at a time and road my heart out on the straightaways. And because my patience wasn't tested enough, I was greeted with a viscous hail storm halfway through the run and the last thing I did was let it ruin my day. Because unless a brick wall magically came out of nowhere and stopped me in my tracks, I wasn't about to stop moving forward. 

This was real life that day in Texas.
I can't control the weather or the last minute course changes. Or much else for that matter. Everyone on that course is presented with the same exact challenge. All I can control is how fast I swim, bike & run on race day. And damn it that's what I'm going to do.

Lesson 2: Boys will be boys.

If you've been reading along you know that my brother dipped his toes into his first 140.6 this year. He also happened to be working one of the most time consuming jobs I've ever seen at the same time. The time he had left to train was minimal. Being me, I would have absolutely killed myself trying to prep for a race with a huge unknown. Mark? He operated on the "maybe I'll swim this week, we'll see" kind of schedule. Now, like I said. I understand he had very little time, at best. But there were times he could have easily fit in a small workout. And his "I can swim in the bathtub" attitude got on my nerves like you wouldn't believe. I feared whether or not not he'd be able to finish this race. I questioned how serious he was about this. But at the end of the day, I had to remind myself that boys will be boys. He's a damn good athlete, and the fact that he was able to cross that finish line on such little training kind of pisses me off makes me happy for him. It's ok, I'll just be over here.. swimming.

Mark about 3 hours post-race IMLP
Maybe next time he'll rethink that "bathtub swim"

Lesson 3: You can do anything for a minute.

This is something I'm still learning and reminding myself of daily. With progress and experience over the years, intensity has also skyrocketed. On and off the course. I've talked to a lot of people who can't imagine putting their bodies through 140.6 miles. But after doing it 4 times and training for it 4 times, I'll gladly tell them that race day is the easy part. It's the day in and day out of 2 intense workouts a day that really tests you. Because when I see 10x100yds at 90% with :20 seconds rest as the first half of my swim set, I have to remind myself, you can do anything for a minute. This also holds true when I lock myself in the basement pedaling nowhere. When my legs are shot and the sweat is literally dripping off my drenched sports bra and I'm nearing the end of the 2 hour ride but still have 90 seconds of a 20 minute climb to go, I have to remind myself you can do anything for a minute. Or when I'm out for an evening run after work as the sun goes down and I'm struggling to hold pace for my last half mile repeat at a 7:XX pace I think to myself you can do anything for a minute. Because it's true. That minute ain't gonna kill me. It's just gonna make race day that much easier. 

Lesson 4: Listen to your body.

On the contrary, knowing your boundaries is key. The daily work/life struggle is enough to make most people have some sort of breakdown from time to time. Whether it's physical, mental, or emotional. Add anywhere from 15-20 hours of training a week to that mess and you've entered my day to day. There are plenty of days when my alarm goes off and I curse Ryan's name for writing me a workout that requires me to always be up before the sun. Of course, you'll find memes that will all but tell you how lazy you are for choosing some extra ZZZ's over a 5am workout.

And if you're any sort of Type A personality like myself, you'll look at this picture and immediately think, "Game On." But the truth is, sometimes the body needs the rest. And if you've ever met me, you know how hard this is for me truly grasp. I workout overtired, sick, on borrowed time, whatever I have to do. If it's written on my calendar, I'm gonna do it. But over the last 12 months, I've learned the value of unscheduled R&R. Because every once in a while when my alarm goes off at 4:30am and I envision my workout going like this:

That's when I know it's time to reset the alarm. Pushing your limits is great. But there's a fine line. And sometimes, hitting that snooze button might give you the edge you need on race day.

Lesson 5: Recovery is more important than you think.

Along with listening to your body comes the necessity to recover. You don't get to workout twice a day and wake up every morning fresh and ready to go. After a heavy weekend of triple digit bike mileage on a Saturday followed by 15+ miles on the road on Sunday, you start to wonder how you'll ever recover in time to be hitting workout paces on Tuesday morning. Your body becomes fatigued and your muscles can feel like lead. 

I put my body to the test this season. Three weeks after Ironman Texas I found myself on the starting line again, 3 weeks in a row. A year ago, my body wouldn't have allowed this. But after more experience, trial and error, and strength, I was able to do what I love more often. Race. 

Very rarely do I leave the house without my R8 roller. Minutes after a workout, I will always roll out my legs, as brief as it may be. I take my R8 roller to work when my legs need some extra TLC and sneak in a quick roll in between phone calls at my desk. I've found one of the best sports massage therapists and pay him a visit when my muscle repair is beyond my control. I've also changed my diet over the past few years. There was a day when you couldn't pay me to eat eggs. And now? I can't live without them. I also used to prefer chicken over red meat. And now? I'd eat a steak 8 nights a week if possible. And when my eyes get heavy at 9pm, you better believe I'm in bed by 9:01pm. There are obviously exceptions when life gets in the way, but my day to day sleep schedule is pretty rigid. It's these small habits, day in and day out, that have helped me have the season I did this year. 

2016 Success Stories

A few weeks ago when we were setting up our Christmas tree, Mark had the idea (that he may or may not have stolen from Coach Speedy G) to use a few of our medals on the tree as ornaments. Long story short, it didn't happen. We have normal ornaments on our tree. But my wheels started turning and I got curious. So I dug out all of my medals from the season and it brought a nice smile to my face. Holy cow a lot happened this year.

I PR'ed in ALMOST every distance..
  • March Madness Half Marathon - March 2016 - 1:41:04 (2min 8second PR)
  • Southwest Half Marathon - May 2016 - 1:38:35 (2min 31second PR, 4th in AG)
  • Leon's Triathlon Olympic Distance - June 2016 - 2:31:32 (19min 50second PR)
  • Grand Rapids Half Iron - June 2016  - 5:23:39 (24min 34second PR, AG WIN!)
  • Lake In the Hills Tri Sprint Distance - June 2016 - 1:32:39 (9min 18second PR, AG WIN!)
  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon - November 2016 - 3:41:17 (19min 9second PR)
  • Elf Run 10k - November 2016- 45:01 - (2min 27second PR, 6th in AG)
  • Kiwanis Santa Run 5k - December 2016 22:19 (3second PR, AG WIN!)

Add that all up and you get a grand total of 1 hour and 23 minutes TO THE SECOND that I was able to shave off this year. The only distance missing from the list above is the Full Iron distance. BUT, there's always next year ;)

My mentors in triathlon are unparalleled

I jumped into this sport head first with no clue what I was doing. At all. But I told myself I'd find help. I just never imagined that the first person I asked would say yes. Let alone turn into someone I can call a lifelong friend. And this year, I was able to race side by side with him more than once. (More like, he'd WIN the race and hang out waiting for me.) His knowledge base is remarkable. His patience is noteworthy. And his support is phenomenal and pure. Both Ryan and Jacqui have inspired me in more ways than they realize. Their accomplishments are nothing short of incredible and have influenced me to dream big. If you are EVER considering a run or triathlon coach, you don't even need to ask me for a recommendation. Just go ahead and check out RyBread Racing.

My support system continues to amaze me. 

I'd be lying if I said this one didn't get me a little choked up. Ironman Texas is a perfect example. When Ian and Lindsey booked a last minute flight to Houston, shortly after the bike course was approved, solidifying the fact that the race would go on. Jess also purchased her ticket at the last minute, but we kept this one under wraps to make sure Jacqui had one of the best 30th birthday surprises. My father decided to make the trip down, making his travel accommodations well before I did. After watching Jacqui's bike crash the day before on her birthday, oversleeping and almost missing the race entirely, a last minute swim course change, a last minute bike course approval, and an UNFORECASTED HAIL STORM on the run, they were all there at the end of the day.

I remember the day I told my Uncle that I was planning on attempting this Ironman thing. He wanted me to come out west to run a marathon and spend some time in the area. I told him I had other plans for the fall and sent a picture of the Ironman logo. I didn't even have to explain, he knew. "Send us the dates, we'll be there!" he said. And they were. And the same held true when Mark decided to dive into the Ironman world for the first time. My aunt and uncle drove all the way from Omaha, Nebraska to Lake Placid, New York, with a pit stop in Chicago to pick up my parents after a small Southwest Airline nightmare. Traveling such distances isn't easy these days for that group, but they were determined to get there. {I have NO idea where Mark and I get this competitive drive 😉.} And when Mark and I played triathlon that day, climbing mountains and putting our mental strength to the true test, the 4 of them were there to greet us at the end of 140.6 miles.

And when the season wasn't quite over, I went out and added another 70.3 Half Ironman under my belt because I just can't help myself. The weekend before Steelhead, I watched my cousin start his life with his childhood sweetheart out in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And as I got off the bike in Steelhead, ready to tackle one of the most gruesome runs, the bride and groom popped up on the course, signs in tow as they yelled profanities in my ear to put the biggest smile on my face. My Florida pit crew strikes again.

And of course, my core...
  • Rob. Never missing a beat. Attacking the weather nightmare in Texas. Maneuvering his way through the Adirondack Mountains in Lake Placid. Putting up with my year round chaotic schedule. Tucking me into bed at 8pm on a Saturday night because my body just can't after a certain amount of miles logged. Always supporting my desire to go out for a burger during the heavy training months, even if we had burgers yesterday. And understanding that during the summer, it's likely my hair will almost always be wet because showering 2-3 times a day is the norm. Essentially, never leaving my side
  • My parents. Truly none of this would be possible without them. I grew up in a house that encouraged you to find that will to succeed and chase it. No matter what we wanted to do, our parents were our biggest supporters. And they still are to this day.
  • Mark. My brother. BFG and best friend. I can remember being as young as 5 years old and climbing into Mark's crib when he just wouldn't stop crying while my sleep deprived parents slept through the noise. The brother-sister bond is unlike any other, which means sharing the race course with him sets my nerves on fire. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
I'm so sad to see this amazing year come to a close. Two weeks before Ironman Texas I was almost certain the race would be cancelled, forecasting the beginning of the season on a low point. But, I guess everything happens for a reason, right? 😜

No comments:

Post a Comment