“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream,
not only plan, but also believe.”
~ Anatole France
Instead of sharing a standard recap of the Timberman 70.3, I thought I would change things up a bit and impart some of the wisdom I obtained during my first HIM experience. So without further ado, here are my Lessons Learned at the Timberman 70.3:
- Not every race day is going to be a good day. You can train. You can taper. You can hydrate. You can do everything you are supposed to do beforehand and still have a crappy race day. I went into Timberman knowing I would not be at 100% due to my recent knee injury; however, I was not prepared to wake up race morning with a brewing sinus infection. Despite feeling pretty crummy, I had an okay swim. However, I suffered miserably through all 56 miles of the bike. My knee had blown up and was swollen by mile ten; and my legs felt like they weighed 100 lbs each. Even worse, my entire body ached so badly (think flu-like body aches) that all I think about was to curling up into a ball and sleeping. I truly wanted to enjoy the experience, but instead I spent 3 and a half hours literally counting down every mile. I played songs in my head, I thought about places I’d rather be, and desperately tried to distract myself from just how much I dreaded the run. I thought about quitting, fantasized even. Then I reminded myself that I have been through worse runs, worse rides, and worse pain. I worked too hard. There would be no quitting.
Smiling through the pain. Just a few more miles to go!
- Things can always turn around. For as awful as the bike was, that is how awesome my run went. I had dreaed those last 13.1 miles, but actually felt the best I had all race. Just as easily as things can go downhill, they can also turn around for the better. That is the secret of endurance sports. If you can just hang in there long enough (and eat/hydrate properly), a second wind will come.
Starting the run. Happy to see my hubby cheering.
- It’s supposed to be fun. Thankfully, it’s hard to forget that fact when you’re assigned to the Whoopee Cushion Swim Wave. I may have hated every second on the bike, but I still smiled and tried to have fun the whole race.
I know you’re jealous…
- You are only as good as your support network. I never would have gotten to the start line of my first half without an amazing network of people to help and encourage me. From my husband and family to my tri club, friends, and fellow Toughies, I have been extremely blessed with some great people in my life which makes all the difference when you are taking on larger than life goals.
I had the angel my mom gave me almost the whole way
(it would have been tough to wear it on the swim)
- The rules in triathlon exist for a reason. This may seem common sense, but it has never been so apparent to me as to why these rules are in place as in racing at an event where no one followed them. Now while I understand that with over 2000 athletes the bike course was crowded, that was still no excuse for teams of athletes riding in packs three or four wide. Not only was it dangerous (especially considering the course wasn’t closed), but it forced everyone around them to travel at their pace and further congest the course. Not to mention, with all the wind it gave the drafting riders a HUGE advantage. The other thing people kept doing which was both hugely inconsiderate and dangerous was riding to the left when not passing. This meant other riders had to pass way out in the road to get around them. If you are going to participate in a triathlon attend the safety briefing and follow the rules. They are in place for everyone’s safety, including yours.
- There’s no need to be rude. The one other negative lesson I learned is that I never want to swim ahead of a men’s wave EVER AGAIN. I get that triathletes are competitive, but is beating on a woman half your size in the water really going to improve your time that much? We ladies have more of an understanding. Sure there are women who will plow over each other, but for the most part we get that we aren’t there to win. Getting run over by a bunch of dudes in the water is not my idea of a good time… And by the way guys-who-don’t-understand-personal-space, I swim way out to the side to avoid the contact nature of triathlon swimming, so if you are over in my turf chances are you aren’t winning your age group either. On that same note, there’s no need to be rude on the bike or run either. I have never done any running event where I have been elbowed or shoved. It’s completely unnecessary. “On your left” is generally sufficient to get people out of your way. Plus, I go out of my way to be out of the way (I like personal space), so if you are crashing into me you are really working at it. We are all out there trying to do our best, let’s try to be courteous of each other. It’s called sportsmanship, and I’m pretty sure it’s in the rules too.
- There’s always someone more miserable than you are. When you are suffering in your own circle of hell during a race, it’s hard to think of anything else. You feel like you’re in worse shape than EVERYONE else, the worst athlete out there even. The truth is, there is always going to be someone suffering more than you. I thought I was in terrible shape on my bike and couldn’t imagine making it to the run. Everyone around me seemed to be struggling so much less than I was. Then when I was on the run and able to see much more of the race field, I realized I was not as bad off as I originally thought. Yes, I was tired and having some pain; but I could still hold a steady pace. Many of the people I crossed paths with were walking, moaning, grimacing, and limping. It was a quick reality check as to just how lucky I was to feel good at all on my run.
- It’s all worth it when you cross the finish. All the training, the sacrifice, and suffering is 100% worth it when you cross that finish line. There’s not much that can compete with the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving your dream. The setbacks and pain don’t matter. They become a distant memory. It’s all sunshine and rainbows at the other end.
I see you finish line, and I am coming for you!
- There is value in bad race days. Sure it’s great to wake up feeling fantastic on race day and know you did your absolute best. After all, it’s the only time you really get to see the absolute limits of which you’re capable. However, it’s unfortunate that people often overlook the value in the horrible racing days– the ones that you struggle to survive let along finish. While great race experiences demonstrate to us what we are we can do on our best days, the bad ones remind us of just how strong and resilient we are under the absolute worst circumstance. After finishing the Timberman 70.3 I don’t just know I’m tough enough to finish a Half Ironman, I know I’m bad ass enough to do it with limited training (thanks to surgery), a knee injury, and a sinus infection on next to no sleep. Not to mention that I stuck with it despite how absolutely miserable I was the entire bike and still hammered out the whole 13.1 mile run without walking. In fact, I blasted through the run in under 2 and a half hours… after a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and feeling like death. That is how far sheer will and determination will get you in life. My calves and feet went into spasm the last 2 miles of my run, but as long as I could physically keep my body running, I was going to keeping moving. I didn’t stop to walk because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to start again. Instead, I pressed forward and prayed my muscles didn’t seize completely and cause me to face plant. I can’t remember the last time I wanted something as badly as I wanted to see that finish line. At the end of it, I was most proud that I pulled that run out after such a horrific ride on the bike. To go from 3.5 hours of misery on the bike to running a pace that was faster than the second half of my marathon and not far off from some of my stand alone half times was just mind blowing to me, especially given how terrible I felt in general.
- Smile through the pain. Not just in racing, but in life. Smiling will not only make you feel better, but also attract positivity. When I smile during a race it reminds me of how lucky I am to be there. I’m not only healthy, but also doing something I love. I am happiest when I am outside and physically active. That is why I race. I smile because I’m happy and grateful to be there. Guess what else… I get extra cheers from the spectators for smiling!
So happy it’s over!
- You have to REALLY want it. At the end of the day, it’s going to be your drive and motivation that carry you through to the finish. You have to want it enough to get through the training and the setbacks along the way. There are so many opportunities to get derailed on the path to our goals and dreams. It’s so much easier sometimes to quit than stick with it. That is why you have to want it with every ounce of your being, so when the pain and suffering come you aren’t tempted to give in. It doesn’t matter how much support you have if you aren’t 100% committed. Once you get to a point where every pedal stroke, every step hurts and you hurt everywhere, the only thing that is going to keep you going is how badly you want it.
Some nice bling for my effort 🙂
- There is always a way. Regardless of what your goals and circumstances are, there is a way to achieve your dreams if you are willing to put in the work and never give up. If you stick with it eventually you will get there. It may take years or a lifetime, but as long as the drive is there it will happen. Keep dreaming. Keep working toward your dreams.