Confidence breeds confidence. It’s long been said, and I firmly believe it to be true. When we witness ourselves master a task, we feel good; our sense of assurance goes up, and often times we want to do it again; do it better. In the sporting realm, I’ve also found that racing elicits incredible fitness; gains that can’t quite be matched by training (that is, if you know how to race “hard”; take risks, go to places unknown and realize your potential). In the span of my triathlon career, I’ve always loved to race. Some of my best years I’ve raced as much as once a month; and often at minimum, once every 6-8 weeks. Of course as we age as athletes, we have to adjust recovery accordingly; and the more we do Ironman racing, the more we must respect not over-racing. I’ve had to step back this season from racing due to the not uncommon issue of niggles. Hence, less racing than I would prefer. I feel fortunate that the latter half of the season, my body is coming around; giving me the chance to toe the line more frequently. I can feel myself racing a little more aggressive each time; remembering how to dig deep, embracing the pain of competing, and appreciating that it doesn’t come easy. But you know what the hardest part has been? Having the deep-seeded, without a doubt belief that I can be as successful as I want to be when I step out there.
Whether you think can or you think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford).
I love this quote. And while it’s succinct, it’s actually pretty heavy. How do we truly BELIEVE WE CAN do something? It isn’t a matter of just saying it to yourself. It’s about believing what you say. I’ve always been one for honesty; whether it be with my friends, my family, my spouse, or myself. I don’t like to bullshit and I like to call it as I see it. So how do we, as competitive, driven people, truly believe we can do things? I’ve seen in the past, I’ve believed I can win races because I chipped away, kept improving, stumbled, overcame, then bam…I started winning! (well, it wasn’t quite that simple but you get my drift). I don’t race to finish 5th. Or 4th. Or 3rd. I race to win, and I’ve always raced to win. But it doesn’t always happen. One of the toughest obstacles I’ve had to work on recently is accepting the situation (though I’m pretty good at that; our bodies aren’t machines, and sometimes they break; even little breaks, called injuries) but the far harder task has been heading into races, believing I’m capable of doing what I always aim to do. Without a slew of chances to compete (and gain more fitness, more confidence in racing), I’ve had to rely on training to give me the courage to get out there, lay it on the line, and try to win. And it’s been tough, and I’ve gotten slapped around a bit. But, the cool thing about it all is, I’ve seen myself improving, I’ve felt my body getting stronger, the niggles have quieted down, and I feel like I’ve been willing to be vulnerable.
That is the most important thing. I’ve been willing to be vulnerable. This past weekend at Austin 703, I wanted to go hard. Take some risk, test my fitness, and see what I could do. I wanted at least a Top 3 but per above, I’m always going for a win. I came off the bike in 10th. A very kind spectator yelled to me “10th woman! Great job!” to which I responded to myself, “I’m pretty sure there are 10 women racing.” Ouch, bitchslap to myself. But I was able to laugh it off (all the while being internally pissed off) and start digging. This is where it starts. You’re not where you want to be, but you know that you’re doing all you can, and you’ll give everything you have to get to where you want to be. You may get there; you may not. But you’ll be damned if you quit trying. This was pretty much my Austin 703 race. I ran as hard as I could. I embraced the cheers (thank you to all of you, it was so awesome to hear my name so much!). I smiled when I saw friends, and encouraged a few when I could. My running legs felt like “me” again. I paced the middle of it given the conditions, but dug deep and pushed the final few miles with all I had. It was fun. I was thankful for the chance to find that painful place again. I was grateful for the opportunity to dig so deep, to work my way back into the race. I fell a bit shy of the podium, but I was pleased with the day; and I believe it is a great springboard into my final race of the season, Ironman Arizona.
Sometimes in life, the hardest thing is to believe you can when you feel like you’re just not really sure. I’ve lately had to really draw upon my experience, past accomplishments, small gains in training, and faith in my grittiness to get back to where I want to be. It’s not been easy, but as with anything, the best things in life are those we have to work our tails off for. And just as with my past 38 years, I’d honestly have it no other way! The taste of success is so much sweeter when it takes everything you’ve got to get there.
Thanks to my sponsors for their ongoing support! And thank you to those of you reading. Here’s to one more race for 2016! I’m excited, grateful, and ready for whatever the day brings.
(*Above photo courtesy of Ben Mungia! Thanks Ben!)