“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”
-- John Dewey
I came across the quote above the other day, and after a long hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided to try my hand at the keyboard again and reflect on one of my favorite race experiences thus far. I'm not sure if people really read these anymore (really, please let me know! I’d love some feedback!), but I was proud of my mindset before and during the race and I want to make sure I record what worked for future reference!
On Sunday, August 26th, I raced the SuperiorMan 41.5 Triathlon in Duluth, MN. It was better than I expected and I highly recommend the race to anyone. It had a small town feel, was extremely well organized, and scenery was breathtaking. Personally, Duluth holds a special place in my heart. Being my mom’s hometown and home to my grandparents and extended family, I grew up visiting the city often and in terms of racing, have extremely fond memories of the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon in 2016 and my half-marathon PR. Although the past year (I know!) has been a roller coaster of several various injuries, having the chance to race was a pure joy. Instead of the standard swim/bike/run recap, I want to share five things that worked really well for me and that I hope to take with me to every race going forward.
As mentioned, the lead up to this race wasn't super ideal. Due to several bone stress injuries, my running has been extremely limited and the longest run I did prior to the 5.6 mile run portion of the race was a 5.7 mile training run that included 30 second walk breaks every 10 minutes. No problem, right?!? But, instead of focusing on how much I hadn’t trained or how fast I might have been able to run in the past, I kept my focus only on what I was capable of that day. This mindset loosened the grip of expectation and allowed me to just run hard, have fun, and see what resulted.
I’ve been loving Kara Goucher’s new book “Strong: A Runner's Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You”. The night before the race, I read a few pages and picked out a tool I made sure to implement in my race. The exercise in the book had me identify a negative belief or thought that often occurs in tough workouts and then take that thought and simply reverse it. One of my common beliefs during challenging efforts is “this is too hard” and can lead to me giving up too early. When this thought came up during the race, I simply thought, “this is not too hard.” Sounds easy, but it was so effective. When things got tough, especially on the bigger than expected hill at mile 2.5 on the run, I just repeated “this is not too hard” over and over. It helped me believe in myself and my ability to get through it and stay strong.
I’ve been working hard on improving both my overall and race nutrition the past few months. After some expert advice, a huge lesson I’m learning is that lots of training requires lots of energy! While my overall caloric intake was adequate, the proportion of carbohydrate in my daily intake needed a bump up, especially before and during 4+ hour workouts and races. As much as I miss my beloved gobs of almond butter, I’ve traded a few of them in for more rice, bread, and sweet potatoes. The morning of the race included a huge bagel, banana, and juice and during the race, I made sure to get in a full bottle of sports drink and enough Clif Shot Bloks to make me want to gag (let’s face it, nothing goes down smooth those last few miles!). Again, this was simple, but effective! I’ve been feeling more energized than ever, and combined with strategic caffeine consumption (save it for race morning!), I’m basically the energizer bunny!
I can’t say enough about how much of a difference an amazing support system makes. Having a crew of my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends give up their day to cheer me on meant so much. Whether it’s driving me and my car full of all the gear around, waking up well before dawn, or strategically placing themselves in matching t-shirts around the course with a written schedule(!) of predicted times I would pass by, my tribe is truly THE BEST. Without their support, this race or any other, would be impossible. They understand the importance triathlon holds in my life and do anything they can to encourage my growth, even if that means allowing me to spend good portions of family vacations swim/bike/running! What’s more, chest bumping my dad and sharing a teary-eyed hug with my mom at the finish line is an experience I’ll never forget.
If you haven’t noticed by the extreme amount of gushing so far, racing happy is how I race my best. Reflecting on how thankful I am for my support and the ability to get out there and do what I love, contributes to an attitude of gratitude and always leads to my best performance. This time, I was lucky enough to come away with the win (including the men!) and new course record, which as you would expect led to more happiness! (Results here.) I’m hoping to take some of the happiness and the other lessons I’ve learned with me into my next race. Ironman 70.3 Augusta is just around the corner, and with a bigger stage comes a bigger responsibility to remain focused on myself and my goals.
If you made it to the end, THANK YOU so much for reading! Anyone who is part of my journey, is part of my tribe, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to share their own lessons learned, has feedback, or would just like to hear more of my rambling and crazy adventures. :)