After reflecting on six months of triathlon training, it’s easy to see where I went wrong and right. In fact, I could write a novel about what went wrong. But I’ll leave that list for another day. Today, I’m going to reflect on the good–actually, the BEST. I’m all about learning from our mistakes but every now and then we really need to give ourselves credit for crossing that finish line. Because if we did, that means we got lots of things right!
Some of these decisions were based on hours spent reading or talking with other triathletes, but the majority of these decisions were made simply because I went with my gut on most decisions.
#1 Listened to My Body
As a seasoned athlete, I know firsthand the benefits of listening to your body. But in this day and age, it’s easy to get lost in the mountains of information out there on the web instead of just going with what your body needs. During these last six months, I backed off when my legs were telling me to or slept an extra hour if my energy lagged. Some days, my mind screamed no but my legs screamed yes, so I went a little further.
#2 Gave Myself Time
Dealing with a stress fracture forced my hand in a very close relationship with the bike trainer and pool–a relationship at the time I didn’t welcome. Even before training really ramped up, I had two long months of no running and needed to keep myself occupied. As it turns out, those two months gave me extra time to build up to a base that I never had before. And by the time my training plan actually started, I was ready for anything.
#3 Ran Less
The majority of plans I read through stressed the importance of running less due to the pounding the body endures. “Make every run count,” several publications stated. And it worked. With running as little as once or twice a week, I was still ready by race day. But don’t worry, that little running was supplemented with more time on the bike and in the pool, which was much less pounding.
#4 Found Training Partners
Biking 60 miles a time gets boring. Very, very boring. And swimming in the lake alone is dangerous. After taking the plunge to join a triathletes group, I found training partners for both of these sports. From accountability, idea swapping to safety buffers, I’m so grateful for training partners.
#5 Experimented with Sport Drinks, Gels and Bars
Both the olympic triathlon and half-ironman takes several hours. That means lots of food, water and sport drinks are necessary to get the body through the day. But with such a sensitive stomach, it was important that I experimented with various types of food and drink before race day. After several months of trying different products out, I eventually got my nutrition down to an exact science. And by race day, I was prepared to fuel my body with what it was used to.
#6 Treated Myself
I’ve always had a runner’s appetite, which typically has me famished every few hours. But the hunger I had during peak training months turned me into a MONSTER. My body craved food all the time. Even with a protein-packed shake most mornings, I was still gobbling down food just a few hours later as if I hadn’t eaten in days. To help curb my cravings, I made a deal with myself. On weekends, when I’d pull myself away from my pillow at 5 a.m. and put the distance in, I’d treat myself to a score of goodies. As a result, I had something to look forward every week, instead of dreading waking up before the sun on a Saturday and Sunday.
#7 Ditched the Pool
Several months ago, I showed up to what was the first of many open water swims in Lake Monona. At first, these swims were extremely uncomfortable and difficult. I’d panic on occasion while my mind would take over and scream at me about all the unknowns. After I finally let my guard down, I had new-found appreciation of the lake: I had the rare opportunity to intertwine my two passions in my life (nature and fitness) all in one adventure.
#8 Switched to Clip-Ins
The timing wasn’t a great decision, but the standard pedals had to go. Just two weeks before my race I switched out the standard pedals on my bike for “egg beaters.” Like I said, the timing was not great but by race day, it made a significant impact on my performance.
#9 Increased My Sleep Time
For many of us, exercise is not our only commitment in life. And sometimes, these other commitments can result in less sleep. But sleep is something most athletes should take seriously. Every now and then, a good night’s sleep does mean skipping a workout or leaving a party early but it’s ultimately a really good decision for your body.
#10 Had Fun
I took the training seriously. The gear seriously. The time commitment seriously. But I didn’t take myself too seriously when it came to race day. I reminded myself to smile and have a good time. For my first 70.3, it didn’t matter to me what time I came through that finish line. All that mattered was that I finished and enjoyed the journey!