Monday, 25 July 2016

St Mary's Loch Triathlon: a new approach to racing

I seem to engage a love/hate relationship with everything I am passionate about. The amount of times people have said to me “why don’t  you just see it as a job” at times I got frustrated with my profession as an equine veterinarian or “why don’t  you just race for fun” in relation to trying to combine my veterinary career with the elite ambitions I have in my sporting life. It is hard to explain sometimes that I am just not that kind of a person, I don’t do anything by halves, I like moving forward in everything I do and sitting still or taking it easy is not my strongest side.

My choice to let go of my elite athlete dream after the MTB World Championships was the right one for me. I have been feeling relieved simply not having to train hard after a busy day at work always thinking ahead of the next tough race on the calendar. But this is a new territory for me, so what now? I still have the Evergreen Endurance triathlon in September on the calendar. To race or not to race. I had taken a descent hit at the MTB World  Championships, mentally and physically. The first obstacle I had to overcome was my broken body, I had ignored my lower back and sacro-iliac problem for so long, it had now settled well and truly into my gluteals with a very angry left sciatic nerve. It almost felt like all the power had disappeared out of my legs which was very frustrating. The second issue was my brain, it had been a month since we returned from France and my MTB was still in my bike bag. Although I truly meant it when I said I was ready to let go of my athletic dreams, sometimes it made me feel like a failure that I had given it up.
I love my job as an equine vet, it is more than just a job to me
Over the last month I have worked with good friend and remedial massage therapist Judith on a weekly basis to get my legs sorted. I also entered an Olympic Distance triathlon which was about 6 weeks out from the Evergreen triathlon in Chamonix.  It would be the test for me to see if I mentally wanted to race Evergreen and physically could push forward to start working on the endurance I needed to be able to finish the “2000m swim, 97km bike, 22km run with a total elevation of 3500m” in one piece.

I deliberately chose a Durty Events triathlon because I knew it would not be a simple time trial over a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. The bike was an out and back but there was enough climbing in it to make it more interesting and the run was a trail run instead of a fast 10km on the road. Having raced quite a few of Paul’s events now I also knew that regardless of the outcome it would be fun. It had been a year since I last raced a triathlon, I could not remember the last time I run off the bike and I had done minimal training since the world champs and during the sessions I had been doing I had felt pretty poor especially on the bike. There were no expectations, none. Probably the first time I could actually say that and believe it. For the first time I really had nothing to lose and only things to gain by racing.
The best adventures are shared with the Fynnster!

So there I was at the startline with dog Fynn and Michael by my side and the only fear I felt was for the cold water temperature and sliding into a state of hypothermia after the swim. For the first time in many years there was no fear of failure.

The water was indeed mind numbing cold but I found myself in a little group swimming at a pace which was probably a little too easy for me but it felt good. Surprisingly good! I completely forgot how to do transitions quickly made worse by numb fingers!! I got passed by a few women early on the bike and I talked to myself, basically just with just one word : RELAX. I was surprised when I started catching people on the first climb and even more surprised that my legs did not hurt! Yes!! I decided not to go wild, but stay in the pain free zone and just ride. Even the torrential rain and wind could not change my happy mood. The transition zone was back in sight before I knew it and although I felt like my power was back on the bike I knew I would have nothing on the run. I did not feel any negativity at any stage, I stuck to the plan of staying in my comfort zone and after 10min running I felt more comfortable and relaxed.  The run was a proper trail run, technical in parts with slippery roots and off camper trails. It was a good course. I finished with a smile on my face with so much left in the tank it almost felt too easy. I managed to squeeze into the top 10 female overall over the swim/bike legs but had to let a few girls pass me on the run for 17th female overall in a decently sized field. Michael was surprised how happy I was “I have never seen you like this” he said “Not even when you have won!”

relaxing into the run
I showed myself that I could race, have fun whilst not being competitive. Somehow racing so easily was a huge confident boost and it made me happy. Evergreen was back on the calendar and I was looking forward to sharing that experience with some great friends!

“What races if any would you like to do next year?” Michael asked me. And I really had no answer, I am for sure done with racing competitively but I will also never be someone who just cruises, it is not in my nature. But the good thing is I am not really worried about it at this stage, a challenge will come my way, it somehow always does, and in the mean time I have a couple of races ahead of me which will be really all about the people I am doing them with.
"Whatever I believed, I did, and whatever I did, I did with my whole heart and mind as far as possible to do so" Jean Toomer

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