Ironman 70.3 St. George was one of the most disappointing performances I’ve turned in in a long time. But as I mentioned in my last post, I think it was also one of the most important days I have experienced. And because of that it’s also a day that, in the end, I am proud of.
I did everything I could to set myself up for a great performance here, and I honestly thought I’d done it all right, and this could be a breakout day for me. I prioritized this race heavily, tailoring my training plan and workouts to doing well here, and ultimately putting Xterra Vegas on the backburner. I spent almost a full week in St. George getting acclimated and getting to know the course even better than I already did. I was “all in.” I felt great leading into the race, and while I didn’t have huge result expectations in such a deep and tremendously talented pro field, I believed I could put together an exceptionally strong race on a personal level. I felt nothing but optimistic.
But when race day came, I simply didn’t have it. I’m honestly not sure where things went wrong, and even still I don’t really know. But for whatever reason, my body was just not ready to perform on that day. There really were no shining or even redeeming moments at all throughout the event — basically just sub-par racing, and MAJOR struggling, from start to finish. Couldn’t hang with the group in the swim, so I ended up alone and off the back… could not generate power on the bike despite the tremendous amount of work I’d been putting in to that specific thing and the progress I’d made in training, and fell further and further behind… suffered so bad on the run I wanted nothing more than to just stop right in the middle… etc, etc…
It was a downright terrible day. Nothing went particularly horrible in itself, and I really don’t have any specific incident to blame or excuse to fall back on. But nothing went well either… or even semi-well. It was just plain hard, and frankly not fun at all. Needless to say, it was not the day I’d planned for and envisioned.
But the thing is, these days happen. Not everyday can be a good day. Sometimes, no matter how much or how well you prepare, your body still doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, and the day you expected to be great suddenly becomes awful. Some days are just not good, and you can’t even find a reason. It’s a huge bummer, but it happens. There’s really not much you can do about it, but you can do something with it. And that is a conscious decision.
After I got out of the water alone in St. George, with only a couple girls left behind me, I was concerned, but still determined I could turn things around. Once I neared the end of the bike and saw how far off the pace I was (with a bike time almost 10 minute slower than the year before — yikes!!), I knew the day had already fallen apart, but I tried to keep an open mind and just see what I could do on the run. By the time I hit mile 6 of that half-marathon and felt any last ounces of energy I had in my body start to evaporate, all I wanted to do was stop. My body was done, I was wayyy off the pace, and I honestly questioned why I was still out there suffering so bad when I was just going to turn in a terrible result. Why not just stop right there and end the struggle?
But I didn’t stop. Because that’s not who I am, and I couldn’t just give up on myself because things weren’t going well. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do to make the day go better for me at that point, but I told myself that I could decide how I wanted to handle this bad day. I could make the choice to stop and look ahead to the next race, or I could make the choice to carry on, give everything I could even if it wasn’t much, and get to the finish line. I know many people might choose the first option, looking to conserve energy for the next race efforts, and ultimately they’re probably smarter or at least more sensible athletes than me. But I don’t like giving up, whether it’s the right choice or not, and I wanted to stick this one out, despite how much I was struggling. I wanted to see it through, and I wanted to get all I could from myself for the remainder of that horrible run. In the end, I did that. I crossed the line knowing that even though my body had so little to give that day, I gave everything I had, and I hung as tough as I possibly could. Maybe that wasn’t the smart decision as a professional athlete, but it was the right decision for me — because it was the only one I really knew how to make.
After I finished, I was massively disappointed with my performance, because I’d expected so much more from myself, and especially because I just couldn’t understand where things had gone wrong. It’s always the most frustrating when you can’t pinpoint the problem so you know what to change next time. I am generally pretty good at shaking off a poor result and looking ahead to the next opportunity, but this time I really felt defeated — I think because I had focused so specifically on this race, and I truly thought I would rise to the occasion. But instead, I felt like I failed. I felt like all the time spent on the race and in St. George was a waste. I really started to question myself and whether it made sense for me to be focusing on 70.3 racing, or if I simply “wasn’t good enough” at this distance. I made a hard choice this year with my coach to focus primarily on these races over Xterra because I thought it would be the best thing for my development all around, and would ultimately make me better at both in the long run. But after this race I seriously contemplated whether I should just throw in the towel on road racing, and shift my primary focus over to the area where I’m having strong success right now (Xterra). Why put myself through that again?! As I said, I really let this result get to me, and I’m not fully sure why… Fortunately, after I had a bit more time to process everything and get more recovered from my “epic disaster of a race,” I also had some time to calm down, stop viewing it all so dramatically, and get some rational perspective back.
I realized that while St. George certainly hadn’t been anywhere near the race I’d hoped for, I still had many reasons to be proud of what I had done there. I realized these types of “performances” are actually in many ways the most challenging of all, and they are certainly the most important. Because as much as I felt impacted by this race as it was, I knew I would have felt that much worse if I hadn’t pushed through it and had just given up. Ultimately, It’s easy to give all of yourself on the days when you’re excelling. Digging deep and finding that extra little bit just comes naturally. But when you’re not having a good day, or you’re at the back of the pack, it’s much harder to convince yourself to keep on pushing. You have to find that tenacity inside and will yourself through it. It takes a lot of heart and grit to get through a day like that. In many ways, these tough days are the ones we should actually be most proud to complete. And they are the ones that make us strongest in the end.
How we choose to handle our bad days, and what we choose to do with them, is so incredibly important, and that’s why these days should never be overlooked. They are a crucial part of the racing experience, and what make the good days that much better. We have to learn how to get through them, to take everything we can from them, and to move forward as a stronger and wiser athlete. In order to really succeed, we have to understand how to fail, and how to turn that failure around. We have to learn how to fall down, and to get back up. (Thanks to my friend Lenka for sending me a PERFECT Chinese Proverb after the race that read “Giving up is not falling down, but refusing to get up,” which inspired me in so many ways!).
I fell down in St. George, and I wasn’t even sure at first whether I wanted to get back up. I considered cancelling my plans to race the Raleigh 70.3, and just focusing on the remaining Xterras instead. But thanks to some good reflection, a lot of incredibly encouraging words from others, and a good hard chat with my coach, I decided there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to “get back up” and keep on pushing. It seems these races are a challenge for me right now, but that’s precisely why I think I need to keep on doing them. I need to prove to myself that I can achieve my goals, or at least do the best I can to get there, and not just give up on them or change my plans to steer away from what I’m least successful at. I don’t want to have to wonder what I could have done if I’d stuck with it! So, here I am in Raleigh, having put in another very focused road training block, and ready to give it absolutely everything I have out there for tomorrow’s 70.3. My goals are 100 percent personal, with NO result-oriented expectations, and I cannot wait to try my very hardest to make them happen.