My 2012 IM New Zealand & Melbourne Journey
Going into my 2012 season, I knew I wanted to hit up 2 races that had higher points early in the season in order to solidify my KPR. This was meant to allow me the comfort of a mental and physical advantage as opposed to a.) worry about points through out my season and b.) potentially burning myself out physically and mentally with travel and racing. I wanted to allow myself the ability to race shorter races in the spring and summer, while "saving" and preparing my mind and body for Kona, and 1-2 other IM distances races in November.
Now, training for not only one, but two IM races early in the season is not something I've EVER done before. The earliest IM I've ever attempted was last year and that was in late May - this year, IM New Zealand was on 3 Mar with IM Melbourne 3 weeks later on 25 Mar. Training in Wisconsin for these two IMs was also a new challenge I had to face. Running on some icy and snowy roads and facing the indoor trainer and computrainer daily becomes a necessity. Luckily, I was afforded the opportunity to train in Birmingham, AL for 4 weeks prior to flying to New Zealand. This offered me the chance to get outside, feel the road, and acclimate my body to the weather I'd face in Taupo and Melbourne.
As luck would have it - the weather served up a turn of events for race weekend and ESPECIALLY race day in Taupo, New Zealand forcing the race organizers the difficult decision of canceling the race. The rumor mill ran amok as I heard things such as: it was only going to be a bike and run and no swim, they were only going to have us do a 1/2 IM but still, no swim, the 3rd rumor that came across was that no swim, no bike, but we would all do the marathon…it became a little nerve racking not knowing when and what we would be doing, especially when you've prepped your body for a full distance race! Finally, the Friday before the original race day, we were all asked to come to a meeting at 4pm to be told the race (which would've been the next day) was cancelled. However, the race was going to be held on Sunday, but it would only be a half IM. This brought cheers and tears to many. Cheers, because, despite the conditions, SOMETHING was still going to be put together. Tears, because, we all came to do an IM and over 500 of the 1600 competitors were first-timers, or what I call, "vIrgins". Let's face it, you spend the time, money, energy - you want to do a full. I recall meeting a girl from the Chicago, IL area that was in total tears. I felt so bad for her (and her family that flew all the way to NZ to watch their girl race). I gave her a big hug and told her she WAS going to be an Ironman, it was just going to be a matter of time. I told her to remember that it's the JOURNEY she took to train for one that builds your character and that's what makes you an Ironman. Yes, the actual one day event solidifies it, but it's a stepping stone of many days, hours, and minutes that puts it all together and you can't forget that journey to get there!
Racing a half, went alright - got my points for Kona but, again, was a bit disappointed I couldn't do a full - but, on the positive side, my body was not as beaten up for Melbourne as it would've been had NZ been a full! So - heading over to Australia after NZ was different than I had anticipated. I wasn't nearly as tired or sore as I would've been had I done a full IM but, I still raced hard and needed a little time to recover. Jake and I took 4 days after the race to enjoy and explore New Zealand as tourists before heading over to Australia. It was also foolish to not do a couple "tourist" things as well as enjoy each other as we haven't lived under the same roof since June 2011 (8 months) and it takes a little while to get accustomed to having someone there ALL THE TIME! :)
Once arriving to Australia I was more than ready to get back to "regular" structured training as I was recovered and thrive on daily "beat downs"! I was eager to get in a good 7-10 days of tougher workouts before tapering again for IM Melbourne. We stayed in Noosa Heads, Australia, which is one the beautiful coast about 2 hours from Brisbane. I was fortunate to find a great deal on a condo for 10 nights before heading to Melbourne, so I took advantage of the hotter, humid climate, while still getting to be doorsteps away from a gorgeous, sandy beach and amazing weather. First workout out the door was a 4 hour ride with intervals…most of my closest friends know, I like and have a tendency to sleep in…especially if there's a husband in bed with me that's in no rush to get up either! Well - first day out, I took my time and it wasn't till about 10am that I hit the rode…big mistake! I felt the humidity within the first 20 min…soaked to the bone on that ride is an understatement! But, what doesn't kill you - makes you tougher! (However, I learned quickly - get your a@$ out of bed!!!)
After 10 days in Noosa, Jake and I flew to the big city of Melbourne. I had no idea Melbourne was as big as it was and our hotel was in the heart of the city! It was exciting to be walking down sidewalks with LIFE going on in every corner. Trams sliding down the street, performers jamming out on the street for some of your change, artists drawing or painting a picture - it's cool to be around that for a bit, but, I am a product of my father and like my own space :) I'm not claustrophobic, however, the older I get, the more crowds of people bother me. My theory on this is that most people, when put into a crowd, stop using their primal instincts or forget about "situational awareness" - they become sheep and just follow the person in front of them or don't necessarily think about others. I'm extremely intolerant of this and get very much on edge. It sometimes makes my husband laugh, but I remind him also that in a crowd, I'm usually one of the smallest/shortest people and it gets a little daunting at times, whereas if you are his height (6'0") - you can tower over the idiots and make your way to your destination with ease…have I been babbling too far? Sorry - I'm off my soap-box now!
Here comes the honest portion of my blog…I'm not going to lie or withhold any feelings on this part, because, a.) it's therapy for me to honestly put out my feelings in order to learn from them and b.) if at any time my experience can help out a reader, fellow athlete, etc, then great! Win, Win! I was feeling uneasy going into IM Melbourne - not scared to race, or to be in a big city, but I felt a couple things. Allow me to number them and then follow up with how I dealt with them!
1.) OUTSIDE EXPECTATIONS:
First, I knew I was going up against the best of the best in the world…this posed a lot of challenges to me that I haven't faced in my career to this degree. I already put an enormous amount of pressure on myself on a daily basis, but I also have a great support network of family and friends that put a lot of faith and belief in me as well. With that wonderful support also comes pressure and unfortunately ignorance. So many believe in me and somewhat live "vicariously" thru me that the pressure to always win (regardless of the competition) is at the forefront of their minds. For example, when I didn't "win" in New Zealand, I received a couple texts and emails with forlorn "congrats" or "you go get 'em next time" - I hate those "pity" emails and sometimes get frustrated and down by them…I feel like shouting, "I don't come to your job and ask you why you didn't get that account, or make that sale?!?!?" Now, how did I deal with this? Well, I'm mature enough to know I'm simply under a microscope and that that is the pill I must swallow when it comes to this crazy profession. At the same time, I also have to learn to switch it off and not really care about who I "please" or don't "please" --- it's NOT my job to make this person or that person happy. However, I've also learned that it is simple ignorance on their part and I must remember that my sponsors, coach and agent have put full faith and belief in me, so, I need to believe in me! But, more importantly - if you don't get a good vibe from a "friend" or family member - fire 'em! Yup! You heard me, FIRE THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE! They are energy thieves, will never be happy and are most likely unhappy with their lives and want some company in their own misery! I find myself (now in my 5th professional year) selecting very few close friends and family to confide in about my training, lifestyle and racing - I begin to surround myself with people who understand the ups, downs, twists and turns that racing takes, or simply give you an energy boast! If you're ever confused by not knowing ether someone is toxic or not…just ask yourself, "Do I feel energized after I speak to them or after I'm around this person do I feel a bit lower?" Your answer should be sweet and simple! Next on my list is...
2.) YOU CAN'T ALWAYS PEAK FOR EVERY RACE!
I had to remind myself several times on this trip that it's MARCH…the big dance is in October and if you are in peak form now…well, good luck getting there again or maintaining that till October! It was frustrating for me to not get to race an IM in New Zealand, even though it was a good thing that my body didn't have to endure two IMs in a matter of 3 weeks - however, my body was a bit confused. I trained for an IM and then had to turn on the 1/2 IM switch. I then got a little recovery and tried to ramp up again for about a week before tapering again - my body has been going hard for a good 2.5-3 months and THRIVES on consistency and training - this slow down in training was difficult on me mentally and physically but I had to believe in the process and put my faith in my coach that he would properly advise and prepare me for these 2 races. Then, the next step (and even bigger picture) is to get me back to training for the next 6 months leading up to Kona. Believe in the process regardless of what your ego is shouting…no…you are not getting fat! Yes, people - I too have those negative thoughts that wreck havoc on my soul and if any of you have a special pill to take that hampers those evil little voices, please send them to me! This brings me to my 3rd point…
I found myself several times get a little emotional in Melbourne. I think looking back it was a combination of things. a.) not training in my normal environment and on a normal schedule threw me for a loop and b.) I was away from family and friends for quite some time - almost 2 months away from Kasey (daughter) brought on a lot of "mother's guilt" and the lifestyle of living out of a suitcase for close to 5 weeks overseas (not to include the 4 weeks in Alabama before flying down under) was starting to wane. Yes, I was with Jake, but I had that pressure of spending time with him while mentally and physically getting myself geared up to race…by no means was he putting undo pressure on me, but it was pressure I put on myself to spend quality time with him knowing this was our month together before he left for Afghanistan this July (for 9 months). This all lead to the inevitable…number 4…
4.) RACE PRESSURE!
This was a HUGE race…the Asia-Pacific World Championships…a 4000 point race and let's face it - this was the best competition outside of Kona the world was going to see this year before the World Championships! The big names were showing up, while the question in my head that kept ringing…"Do I belong?" was stirring controversy. The pressure of getting enough points for Kona, making some money to justify all this sacrifice, time away from family, cost of the trip, etc…at times, it's enough to make a grown woman cry!
So, how does one deal with all these factors? Great question! Let me know when you figure it out! Ha! Ha! No, in all sincerity, I think it all comes down to taking each individual stressor and properly compartmentalizing it into a section. This is a part of the whole journey and I put myself in a totally different situation this year than ever before by coming overseas for 2 HUGE races in order to properly position myself for the World Championships. I had to continuously remind myself to keep my "eye on the prize", which was to gather up my points for Kona so I didn't have to spend all summer "chasing" them and burning out my body and mind prior to the big dance. I learned a lot of things this last month. I slayed a couple dragons by facing some big fears - like going over seas to compete on foreign soil…guess what, when you're not in your back yard and aren't the favorite - you better have a fan in your head pushing you along! Another thing I learned was BELIEVING in myself. The last 4000 point race I attempted was last year at IM Texas. I defeated myself mentally before the gun even went off. It took me months to recharge my mental battery and get to that place of confidence and belief again. I was determined to erase the 4000 point race curse I faced last May and I did that on Sunday. Remember, the race doesn't start when the gun goes off…you still have the challenge to get to the starting line - many forget that piece of the puzzle! Lastly - and probably the most important piece I took away from Sunday was finally believing in myself and knowing I belong in the top 10 in Kona. I've heard others say it - I've had it whispered in my ear, but to KNOW, now, without a shadow of a doubt that I'm in that arena of greatness, I am fully charged up to spend the next 6 months dedicating myself to that goal. It's going to be a great 6 months to watch it all unfold!
Well folks with that, I better hit the hay! Hope you enjoyed my piece of insight and I'll be writing another (much shorter) race report tomorrow regarding how IM Melbourne unfolded!
Thanks for your time and I hope you enjoyed this piece!