18 July 2008

Tinkerbell and the Ironman

Last year, I joined Weight Watchers in an effort to lose some weight. One of the best parts of that experience was discovering a group of Weight Watchers who also do triathlons. The group is fairly diverse and includes a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds who are participating in a variety of triathlons from the sprint distance on up to the IM. Each of these people have some amazing stories and I have learned valuable lessons from each of them.

One of these people is a woman we call Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell is a USAT and USA Cycling coach and has shared SO much information regarding triathlon and cycling that has been incredibly useful in my training. Tink recently headed to Idaho for IM CDA and she shared her race report.

While her race didn't go as planned, her race report had so many good takeaways that I feel like I need to address because I'm certain that I can and will use them during my 1/2IM, as well as in IM Wisconsin. Before you go on reading, you'll probably want to read the race report so you have some sort of frame of reference.

The Role of Coaching ~ In her race report, Tink discusses the role of coaches in her training program. She discusses the different coaches she works with, as well as their strategies for helping her to achieve her goals. I haven't used a coach during my 1/2IM training and I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford a coach for IM Wisconsin, but after reading about Tink's experiences, as well as other triathletes I know who use coaches, hiring a coach is something I definitely need to think about. I believe that working with a coach can definitely give an athlete the edge. I also recognize that while there are so many variables out of the athlete's control on race day, and that maybe a coach and training can help the athlete feel better prepared to deal with those variables.

The Role of Mental Preparation ~ While I have a degree in Sport Psychology, I haven't really used mental preparation in my training until this summer. In her race report, Tink discussed the mental preparation she used and reminded me of the importance of mentally rehearsing the race plan for a race. I've definitely learned the value of imagery and have seen the results that come from mental training and practice. Now if I can just get the imagery to work for my swim...

The Role of Nutrition ~ Every endurance athelte knows that nutrition is important. The tricky part is figurinig out what works and how to make the necessary adjustments when conditions changeg. Tink did an outstanding job of developing her nutrition program, tweaking it when necessary and putting it into place during her race. I've really struggled to dial in my nutrition program and while I feel like I've got my race day plan in place, I'm not sure if its truly perfected or if its really the plan I should. It seems to work, so for now I'll stick with it. I do feel like I'll be changing and modifying it as needed especially for IM Wisconsin.

The Role of Persistence ~ One of my very strong characteristics is my persistence. I believe that this trait has been key to my success in life, but especially in triathlon. At Kona last year, Rutger Beke showed persistence by walking most of the marathon. At IM CDA, Tink showed amazing persistence during the swim and I was so incredibly impressed and inspired by her dogged pursuit of finishing that incredibly tough day. Stubborness is key to my goals and I'm so glad that I have such inspiring examples to draw on.

Recognizing and Acknowledging the Limits of the Body ~ As an endurance athlete, I've completed a variety of races at a variety of distances. I've completed all of my races, even when I've been in pain or sick or tired or whatever. In all of my races, the though of quitting crossed my mind, but immediately was dismissed as not an option. I've had some friends who have DNF'd and I've spent alot of time thinking about how you decide to stop. I've wondered if I could actually stop and recognize that my body was/is done. I honestly don't know if I could stop, but I truly admire and acknowledge athletes who honor and respect their bodies by stopping, whether it be during training or racing. Tink didn't have to make the decision because others made it for her. However, her class and attitude really inspired me and I'm so grateful for her example. If I'm ever in a situation where I'm forced to be done in a race, I hope that I can smile and say, with class, "It's just a race."

So, there are the insights I would like to remember and take away from Tink's IM CDA race report. I'm grateful for her willingness to share her experience. Perhaps I'll be a better person and triathlete by putting these characteristics into life and racing.