It's hard to believe it's the night before my target race - the Austin Triathlon. I first signed up for the race in April, and prepared over the last 4-5 months for my first Olympic Distance. It's amazing how quickly time passes, and it's insightful to observe the ups and downs of training which in many ways parallels life itself.
As I look back on my training this year, I've learnt quite a few hard lessons.
1. Overcoming fear of open water
This was by far one of biggest learnings. I remember how debilitating the fear was 5 months ago, and just other day, as I swam effortlessly and fearlessly in Barton springs, I felt free. On hindsight, I had made a mountain out of a molehill in my mind, and it was only when I gained control over my thoughts, was I able to see how mistaken I was. When I gained clarity and calm, swimming became the joy it once was when I was a child.
2. Race nutrition
The Sweet & Twisted Tri turned out to be a huge wake-up call in this respect. I crashed and burned at the tri because I had not eaten wisely the day before the race. On race morning, I could not keep anything down. I started the race on an empty stomach, and by the time I got on the bike, my energy completely tanked. On the run, I barely had the energy to run and felt nauseous. It was a hard race in other ways too - the heat got to me & the bike seat had not well-adjusted. After the race, I felt really overcome and my confidence took a hit. I remember sitting down with Coach A and going over the race in great detail. Finally, I asked if he thought I could actually do the Olympic Distance. He put it plainly, "Of course you can! Sha, you "bonked" at S&T. You had no fuel, and you need learn how to eat right during the race. If you don't put anything into your system, how do you expect it to anything for you?" Feeling like a trainwreck, I retreated inwards and focused more on training. I dealt with my negative energy and learnt to move on. I trained hard the week following S&T mostly to shake off the negativity. After regaining some confidence during training sessions that followed, I felt better.
3. Reclaiming the joy of Tris
While this may sound silly, but I think somewhere along the way, I stopped having fun during tri training. Several times, Arv would watch me struggle through an ardous bike ride or long run, and say, "Are you having fun yet?" Truthfully, I did not. I felt the training was necessary but tedious. After the Sweet & Twisted Tri, particularly, I became conscious of this, and went back to my core reasons for tri-ing. I also read my previous blog posts from my first season, and realized that although training had been challenging, I genuinely had fun getting through the challenges. I examined the reasons why my thinking had changed, and began to reclaim my joy of doing triathlons. I became mindful of when I felt like the training was a drag, and shifted my mental energy to more positive thoughts. Arv as always was my pillar - he chided me when I slacked, encouraged me when my confidence plummeted, coached me when I felt unsure of how to train and most of all, reminded me when I had forgotten the joy of tri-ing.
I've walked a long way on this path, and in some ways, I feel like I've come a full circle. But perhaps, that's best destination of all - to return to your Self and see the same world of Tris with new eyes.
I've set no timegoals for my first-ever Olympic Distance. And I'm already celebrating - I know how far I've come from my first season in 2007 (when I had initially thought about doing an OD), and feel so much better prepared for the race - that in itself is a great feeling!
And as Coach A put it, when you do a new distance for the first time, you already know you're going to PR. :)