If there is one ‘fear’ that I have before any race, it is the unknown of if my body will give me what I want it to on the day. Nerves I can deal with. Anxiety will always be there. I know I prepare the best I can, do all the right things, take adequate rest, and stay off my legs the day prior…but despite all these things, there is always that question mark of, even though I know I am ‘ready’, will the legs be there when I need them? As with nerves, I try to push this worry aside since it is out of my control, and most times it is a non-issue. This past weekend, unfortunately, it was ‘the’ issue.
I went into Rev 3 Quassy rested. I dialed the training back just a bit more than my previous races, as I knew this would be the most quality field I had yet raced, not to mention the largest prize purse and the most challenging course thus far for 2012. I did all the things I knew I needed to do. We arrived Friday, and awoke Saturday to a cool rainy day, perfect for a long sleep in and not too much activity. All seemed on par, except for little bit of a talking stomach. I skipped breakfast (also due to the fact that we slept until 9am, a full 11 hours of sleep!), did a light swim at the hotel pool and had my breakfast for lunch; probably not ideal, but not a big deal. At the pro meeting, I felt tired. I recall shutting my eyes a few times. Not totally like me. Dinner was at a local Italian place, and I picked at my pasta dish. Again, not like me; even if my appetite wanes, I eat. It’s fuel and I know I need it. I got back to our room at 7 and was in bed and asleep by 7:30. Again not like me. I tried to write it off as my body just needed rest and I’d feel great come race morning; but, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I knew this was atypical. I love to race, and I get very excited to race. This didn’t seem quite normal.
I woke up, ate my usual breakfast, and laid back down at 5am. (We were set to leave then and I am pretty anal when it comes to race morning arrival). I was just so damn tired. But again; nothing major was happening. A gurgly stomach, a lack of appetite and some fatigue. Big deal. We headed out the door, it was a beautiful cool morning and the sun was about to rise. This is an incredible locale to race; hilly, green, and a clear clean lake to swim in; my favorite. But the energy was just not there and it was pissing me off to say the least.
I of course debated starting or not, but the decision is much tougher to make when you have no viable ‘excuse’. I was not violently ill, I just didn’t feel quite right. Really, who can not toe the line because of that? To me, that was an awful reason. We won’t always feel great on race day and we all know we can still have great performances. When the gun goes off, I go into a mode that I simply cannot find otherwise. I just tried to roll with it. The swim kicked off and I managed to get right into the lead along with Laurel Wassner, and we swam great together; truly my favorite kind of swim in a clear lake surrounded by lush green trees. Picture perfect! I tried to take momentum from the fact that she and I were leading the swim; maybe this would turn out to be a great day and surprise me a bit.
Onto the bike and it was cold! A 50+ degree morning meant chilly temps to start the bike, but I tried to appreciate the fact that I was out here doing what I loved and work harder to warm up. There is not much warming up on this course, as you are hit with the big hills right off the bat. I hammered up them only to get passed by a few women in the first few miles. No big deal, I’ll come around, I told myself. About 1 hour into the bike, I realized that there was no coming around. I was taking a bit less calories because I was worried the stomach may go south. I started to push them more mid-way, but there was nothing in the tank. I realized that it was going to be a day like this; a day like I had imagined was going to happen, but I had ‘hoped’ wouldn’t. By mile 20 I wanted it to end. By mile 30, I’d moved further back. Each time I got passed, there was no desire (or ability) to try to keep that woman in sight. It pissed me off, but I knew there was nothing I could do; today the body was just not giving me what I wanted.
The end of the bike could not come soon enough, and when it did, I had moved well back through most of the field, after exiting the water first. I felt extremely dejected and I knew I was at least 10 minutes behind the lead women. I figured what did I have to lose; hell, go for the best run split! Maybe that would feel good. Off I went like a bat out of hell, and did what I could to make up any time possible. I passed Derick at about mile 10 or 11 and I recall saying “how far up?” and he said “to the lead?” and I said “to anyone!” That right there about says it all! I just wanted to claw my way back, but I’d be damned if I quit. It was the easy thing to do, and my body had wanted to for the past 50 miles of the race. I ran and I ran and I ran, and when it hurt, I tried to run harder. The rhythm felt decent, but I knew that no matter how hard or fast I ran, I’d likely not be in the mix today. I finished in for 6th place, and I cannot tell you how much harder that 6th place was for me to get than any of the wins I have managed this season.
I’ve had a few comments from people like “ah, we all have shit races.” It’s true. I have told myself, that’s life. Life isn’t easy, it isn’t fair and you sure as hell cannot win them all. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t upset me. I thought I was being too hard on myself, but Derick wisely pointed out, “Kelly you are upset because this means something to you…that is OK…” The frustrating part for me was that some of the best 70.3 women were here, and I wanted nothing more than to see how I measured up against them; toe to toe. How did I measure up? They spanked me, hard. That stings. But, after a few days, I have come to realize, I feel as though in a strange way, I needed this race. I knew that it could be ugly, and it was, but isn’t that racing? Every time we step up, we put ourselves on the line. We’ll either succeed brilliantly, or we’ll fail miserably (or of course fall somewhere in between). That is part of it. It is nerve-wracking, it’s scary, and especially if we have doubts, it’s even more daunting. But how do we learn how deep we can dig if we quit or even fail to start? I knew if I had pulled out just because ‘I had doubts’, I would never be able to forgive myself. So, I stepped up, and I got it handed to me; but that was all I had, on the day, period. And I had no choice but to accept it and move forward. You have two choices: you can let a crap result define you, or you can let it motivate you. I am trying to do the latter.
I’ve said it numerous times. The mental fortitude it takes to finish on these days is exponentially greater than on the days you win, no matter how hard you have to dig on those days! When you feel good, you have adrenaline…you’re pushing and your body is letting you…you are in that zone, even if it hurts like hell. On these days, you go through mental battles constantly “I want to quit. But I can’t quit. But my result will be shit. But that’s ok, you’re human. But people expect me to win. But that’s not realistic all the time. But I want to win, I am here to win. No, I am here to give it my best” etc etc. If not for days like this, we’d never realize how great it is when it all comes together. I gave it all I had, and for that, I am proud of the effort. On this day, it was all Mirinda, Heather Wurtele and Angela, who were all stellar; they deserved the podium and fought hard for it. Thank you the hard-working Rev 3 crew, who put on an awesome event as they always do; to my sponsors and Derick, who both support me endlessly through the ups and downs, and my mom who allowed me to cry my eyes out to her post-race (we can only do that to our moms, right?!). I think I have learned more about myself from this race than I have any race thus far this season. So on that note, let’s raise a beer to the character-building races!
Thanks for reading, see y’all in Muncie.