This post is long overdue, but I felt that I needed to write it up and there were definitely some important lessons I learnt and am learning along the way.
After The QT2 Elite camp in Florida in February, which was an amazing experience and a reality check in which I learnt a ton about myself, my body, nutrition and recovery, it was a bit of a rough return to real life. But we gave my body a bit of time to recovery and then went back into training to start the prep for my first pro race: IM 70.3 Galveston.
Lots going in in life as well, work was on full force and Becca and I were buying a house, my dad came to visit. All good things, but I had to schedule and prioritize and I did manage to get it all done.
In the weeks leading up to it I was feeling good, but struggling to hit some of my key workouts, especially on the bike. Were the goals set too high? Was I just psyching myself out? Tim made it clear though that you have bad days, everyone has bad days, you can’t hit all your workouts. Where was this fear of failing coming from? Didn’t I want to push myself to my limits? Working at your limits means you have to fail sometimes!
Getting to Galveston the nerves built up. Becca came with me and Nicole and Sam came out for support. First pro-meeting was ok, nothing crazy, just a lot of very fit people in one room. Having a few QT2 teammates in the room with me brought me at ease. Becca and I checked out the transition area. It was crazy windy and the water looked rough. I had a little bikeride to get in, so we got my bike ready and pumped up my tire and blew it out. Glad to have Becca’s support we laughed it off, changed the tire out and I got moving. The wind made me a bit antsy, but riding through it was doable: I am comfortable on my bike, I’ve got this.
I talked to Tim about the race, what were the goals what were my targets, but in the end: It’s just another race.
Got everything setup in the morning. Many thoughts going through my head: “Does everyone clip their shoes into the pedals?” “I should learn to do a proper flying mount”. Chatted with a few other pro’s and everyone was very friendly. Wetsuit legal for age groupers, not for pro’s, ok, that’s just what it is. Finally I walked to the swim start with Becca, Sam and Nicole. This was my cue, time to get to the front. We had 10 minutes to warm up in the water, so I got in and tried to settle in. The gun went off for the male pro’s and we lined up.
The gun went off and everyone booked it. Tim had warned me. I knew this would happen. Tried to hang on, but after a few hundred yards I knew I started losing them, so I had to find my own rhythm. Focus, Lenny, Focus. Should I be going harder? Am I going too hard? Am I going straight? Is there anyone I can hang on to? There was a person not to far away from me. Ok, get on her feet. Is she going too slow? I should pass her. I tried, but was this worth it? Ok fall back, not worth it. Am I going too slow? I didn’t find my rhythm, I didn’t find my focus, I didn’t get out of my head. But finally bike time. My bike was hanging there, pretty much on its own. But again, we knew this would happen. That wind is rough, mostly cross wind, and Angela Naeth had given me the advice to lean into it. But it was just me. No one ahead, no one behind. That is a lot of time in my head. I saw a few people, I passed maybe 2 or three women, got passed by a male or two (the fast age groupers). I wasn’t hitting my numbers, not even close. What’s going on? Where are my legs? Should I push harder? Will I burn out? Ok, lets try: push! Nope, can’t do it, just can’t. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. Why did I decide to make this switch? Maybe the numbers are just wrong? Maybe the wins last year were a fluke? I get back to transition: this is my part, the run, this is mine! I start off, get my legs under me and start moving. I look at my watch about a mile in to see my pace. F*, is this right?? I was going almost a minute/mile slower than my goal pace, but my legs would not move, I just could not pick it up. I see Sam, Becca and Nicole cheering me on, but all I can do is throw up my hand in frustration. I run it out, I had to, there was nothing physically wrong. So I ran it out. Finished. But this was not what I was hoping. I didn’t care where I ended up placing, but this was not how I wanted to perform, this was not what I knew I could do.
Talking to Tim afterwards I stated my disappointment. What went wrong? This conversation and taking some time to reflect in the days after: It’s about the mental game. I psyched myself out on the swim. But then the bike: I was so used to passing people. As an age grouper: I started behind multiple waves of others, so by the time I hit the bike I would pass one person after the other and find people that were close to my pace that I could hang behind (without drafting). All of this was a mental boost, and that was now gone. It was just me and my mind. As Tim put it: every person you passed was a little reward, a penny in the bucket. This is now gone, you have to find that reward somewhere else. Everyone you pass is now a dime or a quarter. By the time I hit the run I was just mentally out.
I’ve always been driven, the mental game was never something to worry about, but this now has to be a focus, a part of my training. Where do you get your motivation from? Why are you doing this? How do you find your focus? How do you refocus when focus is lost? How do you deal with “failure”?