Friday, May 19, 2017

Feeling ready, feeling grateful

So, here we are again, a couple days to go between me and my target triathlon race of the year, Chattanooga 70.3. I've made it to Chattanooga and am checked into the race, traveling with my mom and my triathlon supporter extraordinaire, Brick. Workouts are complete, carbs have been eaten, and there's not much left to do. I am so excited for this race on Sunday and I feel a way I haven't felt before leading up to a race. I feel more prepared than any race I have ever run in my life.The best way to describe it is just that I feel ready. I feel prepared. I'm ready to do this.

I don't have any "If only..."'s or "I wish that I had..." in regards to my training and preparation. I worked hard and I trained smart. I'm happy and I feel good.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been working with a coach, Jerome, and training with a group, ITL Coaching and Performance, that has helped to set me up for success. My training has included so many new elements to me that always felt like what "professionals" or people way more talented and experience than I would do. It is a stark difference than a year ago when I showed up here in Chattanooga to compete in this race for the first time.

Last year, I had done ONE bike ride that was 56 miles or longer before the half ironman and did mostly all of my bike training on my own, This year, I went on many long bike rides over the 56 mile distance that is covered in a Half Ironman. Not only that, I biked through rain, cold, heat, wind, up and down hills, and over and around mountains (literally.) One of the very first rides I went on when I first started training with ITL - when my fingers and toes would go numb from the cold and I was discouraged by how slow I felt, Coach Adam said to me, "It's these long, slow cold bike rides in the winter that make a difference in the spring." This was something I told myself over and over again on rides throughout February and March - always with the image in my mind of racing Chattanooga 70.3 in the spring. And even on indoor rides, when I was sweaty as heck and burning out my legs on my trainer doing the workouts that my coach put together for me - it was always the picture of this weekend that I was working towards. Trying and trying to get stronger on the bike, knowing it was my biggest area with room for improvement.

Last year I built up my runs, always easy and the same effort level, similar to how I would for a half marathon - because that's all I knew to to do. And this year in training for Chattanooga, I started doing trail runs as my long runs. I started doing track workouts. I pushed my pace to times when I felt like I might puke or my chest might explode and I got over the fear and intimidation of doing a trail run, to the point where I really enjoy it! I kept working. Even through injury that had me call off a few of my runs - something that eats away at me to have to do. I compensated with strength training and extra biking and rest too, when I needed it. My running times have already shown improvement even before Chattanooga 70.3 when I got a personal best time at the Publix Half Marathon in March - by about 2 minutes, while running on tired legs!

I continued to swim at Windy Hill, pushing my attendance to 3x a week of regular swimming vs. 1-2 last year. I kept working to push myself in the water, both mentally and physically during the swims. I felt like a badass doing Monday morning swims after tough weekend workouts. Many mornings when I was the only female at the swim practice, I would mentally "race" some of the faster guys in the lane next to me. I got high off the times I would keep going and some of the guys would stop for a rest. Maybe I wasn't always faster then everyone else, I would tell myself, but I could keep going when others would stop. And I tried new things this training cycle, which kept swimming fun and exciting for me, such as my first Master's Swim Meet this past April.

I also worked at my diet. I continued to see the nutritionist that I began working with last summer. I followed her guidelines through the winter, but really kicking off when I started my "official" training in January. I of course break and indulge and am flexible with it every now and then as I am only human. But, by working at it I have been able to lose 12-15 lbs since January - without feeling at all like food is controlling my life, without measuring portions or counting calories. And did you see that list of restaurants I have tried within that time period? Yes, it has been hard work and a focus, which I am proud of. But also proud of the fact that I have had a healthy relationship with food throughout the time of training and watching my nutrition.

I set my goal race for this year as a race I had already done before with choosing Chattanooga. This is not something that I usually do. I am a person who likes to travel for races, new destinations, new cities, new challenges. But when I thought about my goals for this year - I really wanted to see what I could do in one year. From Chattanooga 70.3 in 2016, to Chattanooga 70.3 in 2017, how much can I improve? And for that, I wanted to control some elements, which is how I ended up choosing to do a race I had done before. I know what to expect in the swim, I know the bike course, I know the loops on the run and where to expect the hills. There is no new ocean swim or scary climbs or unknown elements to the course racing the same race I did last year - so that is something I feel good about and did intentionally in selecting this race.

So yeah, in the simplest way to describe how I am feeling... I feel ready.

And grateful. And happy.

I feel ready mentally ready, as well as physically. I go into this race with not just a drive to do well on the day, but already with a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. Because throughout the time of training this year - it hasn't all been just hard work and focus. It has been So. Incredibly. Fun. It has been about pushing myself and trying new things and having fun - and getting to know an incredible group of people in the process.

Throughout those miles and miles of bike rides and runs on the trails and roads and track, I have gotten to know an amazing and incredibly supportive group of people who have become a little family and huge support network to me in Atlanta. In between breaks to catch breathe after a big climb on the bike or push up a steep hill at Kennesaw Mountain, I've gotten to know people in a way that I have found you only can when you exercise and train with someone. We've discussed how many sisters is the ideal number for a guy to have that you are planning to date, the coworkers that have been annoying to us the most that week, and conversations about our "saddle" that shouldn't be repeated on a public blog. With many hours logged in training this year, topics of conversation have covered everything from the silly and trivial to goals and hopes around racing to marriage, divorce, dating, family, moving to new cities and our insecurities and fears in both triathlon and life.

I've laughed - a lot. Made jokes. And found support and encouragement in the people around me.

We've fallen off bikes, pushed over hills, shared snacks, and found random places to go to the bathroom together. I've seen these people more than I see most people in my life through training, post run coffee or breakfast, dinners at Willy's, coaching sessions, and locker rooms. And I've loved it all - having to find the right balance of doing my OWN workouts and training plan - with wanting to be with the group all the time.

Everyone told me that joining triathlon groups would improve the experience for me, but I never quite realized by how much until I joined ITL.

Throughout this post, I included a number of pictures from throughout this training cycled that really stuck out to me in my mind of some of the pictures that sum up this training for me. Pictures of moments where I was proud, pictures following workouts where I didn't want to be there pushed through, pictures with new friends, and of the group workouts that I love.

I originally started this post as just a list of my favorite pictures from throughout training and somehow I ended up with what I have here. It's Friday evening and the race is on Sunday, with a weather forecast that isn't looking too promising. I'm ready for the weather. I'll take rain. I'll take wind. I'll take what the day brings. I just want to race. I am focusing on what I can control and am mentally ready for whatever, but more than anything, I just want to race.

My coach Jerome told me during one of our conversations that last year at his goal race, he didn't have a good day. He wasn't happy with the race, but when he thinks back at it - he thinks back positively because of how much fun he had in training for it. And with two days to go, I am seeing that clarity for myself.  Maybe the next few days will bring disappointment or maybe they'll bring some frustration. But overall, I'm grateful for where I am, where I've been, the fact that mom and my best friend Brick are both here with me in Chattanooga, and that I'm strong, healthy, and have a great community of people around me.

Let's do this Chattanooga, here goes nothing!

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