Smiling through the Pain
Updated: Jul 31
There's a mental trick I've been practicing where if you smile (even if it's insincere), the effort will feel just a smidge easier. That trick, along with many of the other ones I tried to deploy didn't work at Boulder 70.3. But, hey: at least the photos look great (for the most part)!
In all seriousness, this race ties with the number one slot for the toughest race mentally (the other being Boulder 70.3 last year 😅). I had too much going on mentally in the 2 .5 weeks leading up to the race. And to be honest, I wasn't able to healthily address my stress and mental wellness, resulting in a day (and really the whole race week) of being disengaged and detached from myself. It made me vulnerable to the extreme physical load I had set out to do.
Despite a pretty strong bike, I wrapped up the ride and set off on the run feeling mentally exhausted. All of the aches and pains were amplified ten-fold, the cheering honestly agitated me (which made me realize I wasn't myself), and every mental trick I've taught myself and practiced through training couldn't shift my mental state. My coach spotted me with 5km to go on the famous dirt of Monarch Road, expressing encouragement and all I could muster with a dead and desperate face was, "I'm in survival mode."
I kept surviving and taking in water and ice at every aid station. I reach the last 800m of the race, I high fived some kids reaching out their arms, encouraging all of the runners, thinking it may help change my attitude at the finish. But instead of feeling relief at the finish or at least slightly satisfied that I finished this time around, I felt drained, empty, and deeply confused.
It certainly wasn't the day I was hoping for or a situation I prepared for. But, it's still a valuable lesson in mental resilience. My initial essay I sent to my coach depicting my day was negative for the most part, despite my effort to keep it as emotion-less as I could. After some more space and time from the experience, discussion with my coach, and listening to Matt Dixon's episode on Building Mental Game in Sport 3 times through, I realize that I didn't give myself that much grace either. It was the first triathlon race of the season, my C-goal was to finish, and I walked away with no injuries or gut-issues. And despite running some of the most miserable 13.1 miles ever, I approached the final turn to the finish and thought, "maybe I'll do Lake to Lake in 2 weeks. That sounds like fun!" My love for the sport is still there. While the race was not an all out success, it wasn't all a failure either. It was just not my day, and that's okay, too.
The reality is that nearly every single one of our experiences aren't pass/fail. They all fall on a scale that spreads across between failure and success, or good and bad. There's always something to takeaway, to learn from, that will help us to grow and to evolve.
Not every race experience will be the best one, but every single one is a lesson our own development as athletes and as humans.
Happy training, y'all, and I hope everyone stays happy and healthy!