Sunday, January 29, 2017

Overcoming Fear - Mercuryman Triathlon

Millions of years ago, fear was used to protect humans from things that would attack us, drown us or burn us.  Fear was an instinctual life insurance policy that needed to be fast and accurate to help us make good decisions and preserve posterity. 

While fearful thoughts and anxiety remain for good reason, we often find ourselves having irrational fears that prevent us from living our best life.  Before I tackled the Mercuryman Triathlon this past week, I found myself having a few of those irrational thoughts that can hinder race performance (or even cause us not to start at all) if we let them fitler in.  “What if I’m not able to finish? What if I am disappointed afterward because my times were so slow? What if I embarrass myself?” were all thoughts that crept into both my conscious and subconscious mind as the countdown to race day pressed on. 

It was easy for me to feel confident and well-prepared before, but this time my preparation wasn’t quite as great, my numbers in terms of paces and wattages for the run and bike weren’t even the range of what I used to be able to produce.  Having Emma has been the best thing that has ever happened in my life, but training time has shrunk because she needs her mom.

During the wee hours of the morning the week prior, I realized that regardless of my lack of confidence or the lingering thoughts, I wanted to do the race badly enough that the rest was irrelevant!  There were no TRUE consequences, other than hurting my own pride, that could happen out there if I was smart, followed my pacing and nutrition plan and rode safely.  No one cared how I did nearly as much as I did!  I was making their assessment of my abilities into a much bigger deal than it needed to be!  While some fear can be healthy, too much fear can keep us from taking on challenges that are well within our reach.  I simply refuse to let fear be the reason why I don’t take a chance on something I really want to do.  It’s important to show my new daughter that is how Mom works to be her best and that she can do the same.

In the end, I used a few simple techniques to make sure I was ready to rock:

      Mental Imagery – I saw myself over and over feeling calm and happy at the start line.  I imagined my swimming smooth and controlled, my cycling strong in the wind and careful, my running with proper form and fluid strides.  I could see myself having a great time in the race before it even happened and it put my mind at ease and allowed me to be more excited than nervous.

2.       Thinking Positive – Every time a negative thought came into my mind about the race, I replaced it with a positive one.  I kept repeating to myself prior to the race that I was strong, healthy and that it was a gift to get to race.  “I love racing,” I told myself any time things started to take a negative turn.

      Get Outside of Yourself – Sometimes we become so focused on ourselves, that we miss the bigger picture or opportunity.  This race wasn’t about me, it was about supporting a great cause, forming relationships with other athletes and encouraging them to have a great day out there with high fives and lots of cheering along the way!

4.       Monitoring Excitement Levels – It’s easy to let nerves overtake you before a big event.  This could be anything from a big presentation to a race.  I constantly asked myself if my excitement and nervousness was a 5-6 out of 10 at the highest.  If it was, I was in a good spot.  If it got too high (think butterflies in the stomach), then I focused on deep breathing from my diaphragm and took it down a few notches.  It helped me retain the energy I needed for the big day vs. spending it on the days prior to the race that weren’t really the focus.

In the end, I had a fabulous experience!  The swim was rough and had a strong current, but I just kept on chugging until I finally saw the finish line of the two-loop course!   I ran out of the water knowing my time wasn’t going to be very good, but still had fun and made a face at Kyle to let him know I was enjoying it and making fun of myself!

The bike was hot and windy throughout, but it was nice being on non-snow covered roads where I could practice my legs turning over and missing the occasional chicken running across the road!  The 56 miles went by quickly as I made sure to drink enough sports drink to stay hydrated and keep my energy up at full throttle! 

The run is usually my favorite part of the race, but this run was pretty much on fire it was so hot!  I will still say it’s my favorite because the interaction with the other athletes was so fantastic.  We did a triathlon camp the weekend before and I got to know many of the athletes personally so that was a highlight of the day seeing each other out there.  It was a four-loop run course and I wanted to walk off and hide in some shade many times, but as the sun burned my back and I dumped countless ice cups over my head, I just knew I had to keep moving.  I like to train my brain to not consider walking an option or else I’ll do it too easily the next time!  Research studies have shown that our muscles communicate to our brain when they are fatigued well before they have a chance of shutting down to protect us from harm.  Through the years, I’ve trained my brain to override these signals.  As athletes, we become better and better at this process with experience.  As with anything, practice makes perfect.  Keep it up, it will come!

Seeing Emma and Kyle out there cheering me on was fantastic and I couldn’t wait to cross the line and give them both a kiss as a first-time MOM racer!  It was a new, amazing experience to race with a little person waiting for me and she didn’t care if I won, lost or didn’t even finish.  She just loves her momma!  It’s a great feeling to know I’m loved regardless.  When in doubt, remember that when you face stressful situations that raise your anxiety!  YOU ARE LOVED and that is the best thing of all!
Thanks for all of the support from my sponsors, especially Ultragrain, who has shared my journey through the years!  Cooking and baking with whole grains makes it easy to incorporate better nutrition for our family in such simple ways.  Thanks also to Coeur Sports, Rudy Project, QT2Systems, Brooks, Quintana Roo and NormaTec Recovery

Wow it was hot, hot, hot on that run! 

 The other pro girls and I had a blast after the race!  

 Big congrats to Alyssa Godesky for the win!  She is ready to take on two fulls next month in New Zeland! 

 Always great to see Trevor and Claire, the Race Directors who pull off a fantastic experience!  Kate, their new baby, is three months old!  So cute!

 Last year we announced we were pregnant with this picture and this year we have our beautiful Emma here waving to the camera!  What a difference a year makes!

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