The last thing I said to Derick before heading down to the pier was “I’m ready…hope my legs are too”. That is always the lingering fear in the back of my mind. I can take care of the controllables; physical preparation, fueling and resting, being mentally prepared. But when things get tough, and you demand more of the body, there are no guarantees as to what it will give you back.
In short, they didn’t want to cooperate for me in Oceanside. I was anxious to get out on my new setup of the Felt DA and Reynolds 58 AEROs and put into action the past months of work. But when I dug deeper into the tank, there was little response. Not sure if it was the cold air, the rust of having not raced in 7 months or just an off day. But I realized it would be a tough go about 15 miles in. 40 miles is a long and lonely haul when you are frustrated and consumed with your own thoughts. I’ll admit the temptation to pull out was stronger than it has been in awhile, especially when I spotted a good friend out on the course taking pictures. But I knew quitting in Camp Pendleton would have left me a bit stranded, and I played the mental game of asking myself why would I have quit? Because I didn’t feel good? Because I was getting passed more than I would have liked? I don’t know, those reasons just didn’t set well with me. So I pushed on, trying to just enjoy riding my bike in a beautiful place; almost taking myself out of the race mindset on purpose so as to stop beating myself up.
As I rolled into T2, I yet again had a decision. Do I bail now, saving it for another day? I knew full well that even the most heroic run would still leave me far out of any sort of contention. What would I be fighting for the last 13 miles? I racked my bike and tossed on my new yellow Zoot TT’s, grabbed 3 Power Bar gels and headed out to run. I don’t think realistically stopping was ever an option.
I tackled the run with all I had, despite seeing the lead women about 4 miles up on me. Four miles, I thought… that is about 25 minutes. Wow. Demoralizing? Of course. Frustrating? Absolutely. But about 3 miles in when i found myself asking why the hell I was working so hard for no real “result”, I told myself, because it matters.
It mattered that I keep fighting out respect for the support system behind me…sponsors, family, friends, who know that I will always give it my all. It mattered that I respected myself enough not to give up, to know that I could still dig deep when the going was ugly. It mattered because I don’t toe a start line “contingent on a perfect day”, I toe it knowing there are no guarantees and it isn’t supposed to be easy. It mattered that I pushed my damn ego aside and realized that even if I was last today, this result didn’t define me. It mattered that I didn’t bail when things weren’t going my way because there are a lot of people who would give anything to have the ability to do what I was doing…I think of this often, inspired by those with limitations I know nothing of. It mattered that I raced like I was running for a win, on a day it was tough as hell physically, mentally and emotionally, because I know from experience gritting through these days makes the good ones possible. It simply mattered that I finish what I start.
As always, I want to thank my sponsors who support me through the ups and downs. My husband Derick for his guidance and support. While I am of course disappointed with my season opener, I know that one race does not define a season. Lessons are learned, strength is gained, cobwebs are out. Opportunity awaits, and there is no doubt I’ll refocus on what lies ahead.
Thanks for reading,
I’m often asked what my mantras are. What do you say to yourself when it gets really tough? How do you go to the dark place, when things get really painful? It seems my mantras are often changing. But lately, while not so much a ‘training’ mantra, I have found myself saying the same thing. It’s been this. ‘Kelly, you can’t be too afraid to get out there for fear of not being perfect; or not being where you want to be, right now. Once you go down that path, you’re done. You’re paralyzed by fear and you’re scared to fail. Go and toe the line, knowing you’ll do your best, and savor the chance to push hard and take risk. That is good enough.’
As many of you know, I finished 2013 with surgery (on September 26th). I took the requisite 6 weeks off; resting, walking, letting my body and mind heal. Truth be told, I think it was the best forced rest I’ve had in years. By mid-November, I was able to do all three sports; swim, bike and run; though it was a gradual process. I eased back, letting my body and intuition be my guide. At 10 weeks post surgery, ironically on my birthday, I ran a local 5k. Scary? Without a doubt. But, it felt so good to tackle my fear of ‘what if’ and get out to do what I love; run. All went well. Not a PR, far from it, but one step in the right direction. And as we all know from setbacks and forced rests, there was new appreciation to be able to go and run 3 miles hard; plain and simple. I didn’t do anything remotely close to ‘core work’ until well into December, for fear of straining something in my abdomen. I finally realized I had to start to act like ‘me’ again; and let myself train as I normally would. December progressed; I was allowed one run a week where I picked up the pace, usually just 2-3 miles within a run. We proceeded to take our usual 2 week, 3000 mile road trip to see our families over Christmas and New Years; I stayed on task but the priorities were visiting, not training. Again, something I firmly believe in; I’ll never sacrifice time with families and holidays (once a year) for training. The other 54 weeks of the year I dedicate to that; which is plenty.
Welcome January 5th; back in Austin, and ready to really hit it. Logically so. My coach and husband Derick is ever the wise ear, telling me that even if I did opt to race 3M Half, I could not force the running to get my fitness up quickly just for one race; there is a big picture here, and it is a long season. Early January, I got in two good weeks of consistent training; some intensity, but mostly just my routine again. Late December, he said that he thought it would be alright to do 3M if I really wanted to. Mind you, this is the race that in 2012, I busted out a 1:14.42; a 3 minute PR. It was, personally, one of my most proud accomplishments in sport. So while I could ‘just do it’, in the back of my mind, there was that question, “Can I run a 1:14 again?”
I decided to give it a go. The week of the race, I battled in my mind with not racing. ‘You don’t have to race, Kelly. If you’re not ready, it’s OK.’ I think as athletes, we are always trying to be tough; never back down, never say never. I tried to tell myself that it was alright if I felt I should bail on it. But then, I asked myself, “You love to race, especially running races. Why would you back out? You’re healthy, and you love running races. Why bail?” And then I acknowledged; I’d back out purely because I was scared of what I may not be able to do. And I countered that with telling myself, as an athlete, the minute you are too scared to try for fear of failing or not being perfect, you’re through; you are letting irrational fears take control; and mentally, you’re screwed. I didn’t like that fact; so, I raced.
I took the day prior to race day easy, just a swim; we both knew the main goal for this race was to get back out there, gain some fitness, and of course see what I could do. However, every time I toe a start line, I go into ‘race my best’ mode. I know that my expectations were probably greater than what Derick had in mind. I did the numbers; I knew what pace would land me a 1:14, 1:15, 1:16, etc… but bottom line is, my legs would go as fast as they could and my body would dictate. I tried to take it out smooth and controlled, and I rolled through 3 miles in about 17:10, which was good. Lucikly I had a small group of guys with me who seemed to be pacing together. We cruised through 6 miles in about 34:24, still; very good. I was a bit surprised this pace felt so smooth. Between miles 7 and 8 the guys started to pull ahead, or maybe I pulled back; all I know is I wasn’t certain of my ability to hold this pace for 13. By mile 9-10, it just got hard. The legs began to hurt, my breathing became a bit more labored, but I tried so hard to stay focused and keep the effort there. At mile 10, I did the math; a 20 min 5k would land me 1:17.43. An 18-19 min 5k (more realistic) would land me 1:15 to 1:16. Still doable! With 2 miles to go, everything hurt and it took all I had to just mentally keep on going. I realized by this point that the time was what it was; the more important thing was that I had tackled a bit of race fear and embraced it.
I crossed the line in 1:16.34, about 15 seconds behind what I had done last year; but all in all, pleased and relieved. Sometimes, it is just about not being afraid to admit your fears; and tackle them. I feel like that was what this race was about. Additionally, I managed to defend a title that I have had the past 2 years; in the big picture, self-perfection aside, there was a lot to be proud of.
So 2014 has officially begun! Next up I’ll be focusing on Panama 70.3, February 16. I’ve done this race twice before so I know what to expect; while it is early, it’s a good opportunity to test out the fitness and, as with 3M, gain some more fitness from it. The time between now and then will be focused on recovery, a short training block, and a short rest. I have to say; it feels good to be back into the rhythm. I’m stoked for what this year has in store, and excited about the amazing sponsors that I’ve got on board. Thank you for following along and being part of my journey! I’ll try to make it exciting.
One of the unique things about competing (age and level of competitiveness regardless) is that it allows you to constantly be learning about yourself. There were two things I learned about myself from Rev 3 Williamsburg. 1: I absolutely love to be in a position when racing whereby I am forced to be the hunter. There is something about the thrill of being far behind knowing I will have to dig hard to have a chance to win, knowing that I may pull it off or I may completely blow up (or even suck trying) that really gets me motivated. The risk is big but the possible reward is bigger. 2: When in doubt, I draw inspiration from those around me.
I went into Williamsburg pretty relaxed. I have had some questions lately about my bike strength and found there could be ‘answers’ as to the recent struggles, so with my mind a little distracted, I knew the race could be up in the air. But I was healthy, rested and as ready as I could be; this is nothing major but enough to throw a small curve ball my way. We headed there on Friday, and I tried to put aside any of the ‘questions’ and doubts and simply put myself into race mode. I may not have been as nervous and eager and amped up for this one, but I have raced long enough to know how to simply put myself into the mindset of getting race ready, no matter the prep. I was also excited for a new event, a new place to explore, and a new race experience; with a lot of Derick’s family there to support, the race was able to double as a chance to connect with family which is always a bonus.
My plan going into this one was to swim hard and try to come out first or very close, bike rather controlled given the recent revelations (not so ideal given that hard efforts have still lost me time this season, but it was the plan and I would implement it) and do my usual on the run; just run my ass off and go for broke. When I was jogging before the start, I looked up at the sky and rain was opening up to some blue sky. I told myself: “Enjoy this one. Take it in, race within yourself, let the chips fall where they do. Appreciate the ability to go and push yourself. And despite whatever is going on coming into this, never count yourself out.” I just felt at ease, relaxed, and appreciative this morning.
The goal of first out of the swim did not happen. That went to a very strong Tenille, with Lauren quick on her heels; I had to settle for third, about 40-50 seconds back. This swim course was a bit challenging, as it threw some unexpected currents and waves at us, especially the second half. It felt like the final red turn buoy kept drifting further away from me! I just kept my head down and did what I could, enjoying the final 100 meters or so of dolphin diving. This was one of the longest ‘shallow water’ stretches I have ever seen. Dolphin diving is a workout in itself!
Next up was about a 1/4 mile run to T1 through a grassy field, and it was onto the 56 mile bike course. Just as planned, I took it out mellow. I actually looked at my SRM this time (as I usually cover it up) and tried to gauge my effort, keeping the power below whereby I had been feeling this bizarre quad pain all season at the start of my races. I have to say it was a little refreshing to not feel like I was scrambling right off the bat to crush the bike, as I always do (and always have done, barring Ironman races). I plugged along, enjoying the flattish to moderately rolling course; it was very pretty, constantly surrounded by green trees; until I came to T2 on the William & Mary campus, exiting the bike in 4th place, 9 minutes back from first (my usual lately).
I started the 13 mile tour around the campus, and quickly saw Charlie of Rev 3 about a mile in and asked him if they had a new baby yet. (His wife was due any day now!) A sign that I was still fairly relaxed, despite a big deficit! At this point, I was telling myself that I would give it all I had, and bottom line is I’d either claw my way back into the podium (and maybe to first if I was lucky) or I wouldn’t…I didn’t get too bothered by the big time gap. The first loop I realized this run had it’s challenges, namely that there were many turns but also some small yet deceivingly tough hills. I moved into 3rd at the 5 mile mark. Yahoo! But tried to just keep the pace steady. I was literally hearing “6 minutes back! 4 minutes back! 2:30 back!” as I plugged along. I passed 3rd place at about mile 8 but knew that Margie (Shapiro), a good friend of mine, was still far up ahead and was having stellar day. Truth be told, I was so stoked for her that I had figured I’d be content with 2nd today. I found myself yelling words of encouragement to those folks out there who looked to be overcoming far more obstacles than I, and even threw Margie a high five about 6 miles in. I was pushing hard, but I was also really enjoying myself and soaking in the atmosphere. I saw a ton of Team Red White & Blue members racing. I heard many people cheer for me, which is always so appreciated; even when I cannot acknowledge it. I just seemed more at ease than usual.
Until about mile 11. At this point, I was told I was less than 2 minutes back. Damnit, doing the math… I may catch her at the line. Now I realized if I wanted to try to win this, I should focus and pick it up. I started to put on the tunnel vision, tuck the head down and began digging deeper. At mile 12, I ran through the crowd (and by the finish line) and I was told “49 seconds down Kelly!”. I thought to myself “Shit, I have to go HARDER?!” The body was definitely feeling it now. There was one final out and back, and I could start to see my carrot (Margie) but I knew it was a fine line; if I pushed too soon, I may blow. I kept on the pace. Final turn, and 1/2 mile to go. She looked to be maybe 20 yards ahead. I figured now I had to give it all I had. I picked it up to as much of a sprint as I could muster, and managed to move into the lead with maybe 1/4 mile to go; and even then, I kept sprinting, knowing it didn’t end until we hit the line.
When I finally did see the finish, it was just pure relief and joy that I had managed to pull that off! I was greeted to the usual excitement of Rev 3 finish lines; a hefty crowd, an absolutely ecstatic Sean English jumping up and down like a mad man, and thankfully huge grin on my face. It was such a nice feeling to have finally managed (although barely!) that highly sought after first “Win” of the season!
Truth be told, I was elated with this finish. I have tried hard lately to overcome self-doubt, stay positive and realize that this is all ‘part of the process’. I realized that any day we can get out and do this is a day to be grateful, but additionally any day I can come out with a win is a huge added bonus. I was also so pleased with myself that I kept my head in the game and remained positive even when I knew I was far behind. Margie deserves huge props for such a stellar performance, forcing us all to play chase all day long to her. It’s funny. While we can get frustrated with times in our life when we struggle, it makes the success’ we encounter so much more meaningful. Today was one of those days.
Thank you to the MANY who continue to support me, not only my incredible sponsors but my husband Derick and his guidance, my family (especially my mom and dad, I am fairly certain my mom gets more nervous for every race than I do) and my many friends; your notes and messages mean the world; I feel very blessed! Oh..and now to the best part about this entire trip…
We opted for a 1 week off mid-season break, which entailed 6 days in Southern Indiana at my parents cabin. I knew if I stayed in Austin I’d be inclined to just go to Masters swim…or just go ride easy… and I needed NONE of that. I slept in (until 11am one day), drank coffee, enjoyed good food, plentiful happy hours, and a lot of time in Lake Barbara (their man-made lake my father claims he named after my mom). My biggest workouts came in the form of rope swinging. And on that note, here’s to B-A-L-A-N-C-E!
Thanks for stopping by,