Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kona Race Report - and a little therapy session!!

A month later and I am finally sitting down to write a little bit about Kona.   I’ve really been struggling with what to write, where to start and how deep to get!  As I have mentioned in the past, blogging really isn’t my thing.  I guess I feel like an open book if I tell too much.  But today…I am going to try.  I think being open here will actually help me with a lot of what I have been feeling.  So brace yourselves..haha.  Oh and I’ll try to keep it organized, but my thoughts are sooo all over the place lately.

Let me first say – Kona 2012 was amazing.  The week was really great – spending time with mom, sissy, coach and friends.  Actually pretty cool how many NYers were there racing.  Way to represent from the concrete jungle!  Despite being nervous and full of emotion, I tried to take in all the pre race week had to offer.  The week before really is so much of what the whole Kona experience is all about.  I just wanted to start with this because I’m afraid the rest of what I am going to write may sound like negatives.  But keep an eye out for silver linings :)
Simply put – my race didn’t go as I had hoped.  However, I am still proud of my effort and am thankful to have had the opportunity to race in Kona again.  A lot of lessons learned in this race, so I am going to breakdown this race report by what I learned:

1.     You really do get out of something what you put into it.
2.     If you have doubts and negative thoughts pre race, they will affect your race.
3.     When things aren’t going as you planned/hoped, how you react and handle the situation is what matters.
4.     When it’s not your day, cheering and supporting your competitors is even more gratifying than when you are having a great day.
5.     Salt water will mess up your stomach.
6.     I’m tired.

1. You really do get out of something what you put into something.

Ok, I have to admit – I slacked big time on my training going into this race.  Which I am embarrassed to admit since I was racing in KONA.  But in hindsight I feel like I didn’t work hard enough.  So all race while I was struggling, all I could think is….you deserve this.  I qualified at IMCOZ in Nov. 2011.  I felt like I had so much time to get ready.  So I decided to run a couple of early season marathons and then pick up the tri training in the spring.  Great plan except the injury during the Boston marathon in April set me back and derailed my plans.  It set back my training and my race schedule.  I really wanted to get in some early 70.3s, then have a few weeks to recover before IM training.  That plan didn’t happen.  And now looking back, I just don’t feel like I made a new plan that worked well.  I felt strongly about getting in another 70.3 before Kona and there weren’t many August options.  I decided on Rev 3 Maine, which was the weekend in between my 2 weeks vacation.  I didn’t train through the race (maybe I should have?  I don’t know!) but I just feel like I didn’t maximize those 2 weeks of NO WORK!  And earlier in the summer when I couldn’t run, but I could bike, I just didn’t feel like it.  I was so exhausted from work every weekend all I wanted to do was join my mom on the beach.  I know this sounds crazy since this is a sport I love, but I’ll revisit this again when I get to #6).  Bottom line is, I could have done more.  And I didn’t.  And I knew that.  And it was in my head A LOT as the race approached and it was too late to do anything about it.  Which brings me to #2…

2. If you have doubts and negative thoughts pre race, they will affect your race.

I had MAJOR doubts.  I guess I started to realize I didn’t put as much as I could have into the training and I started to doubt myself.   I have always been fortunate to have decent results despite not putting in a lot of hours of training.   (For those wondering – a max week for me is 15 hours and that probably happens once a year. 10 hours is pretty typical and sometimes less).  However, I suddenly felt I ramped up the IM training/focus too late and the Rev 3 race was not a good idea.  I lost a couple of weekends of long rides and runs because of that race.  My confidence comes from knowing I can run strong off the bike.   But because I hadn’t done any long runs as of labor day weekend – I really started to panic.  I managed to get a couple in, but I’m not sure it was enough to quiet the noise of doubt in my head.  That just spiraled over the next 6 weeks.   While I may not have been as trained as I should be…the negative thoughts did not help me on race day.  I took myself out of the game before it even started.

3. When things aren’t going as you planned or hoped, how you react and handle the situation is what matters/ 4. When it’s not your day, cheering and supporting your competitors is even more gratifying than when you are having a great day/ 5. Salt water will mess up your stomach
(Combining #s 3-5 here)

Its ironic, I was finally able to quiet the doubts once I was out on the course, but it may have been too late.  The swim was really tough.  Swimming is not my strength and not something I focus much on in training, but I didn’t expect to battle people for 2.4 miles.  I really did have bruises on my arms after the race from getting hit.  Unfortunately, due to the battle for 2.4 miles, I seemed to swallow A LOT of salt water (something I need to work on!).  I was so happy to be out of the water in 1:12, which was actually a decent time for me as the swim times were slower this year. But once out on the bike I realized quickly the water I took in was not going to be good.  All the way out to Hawi – everything I took in for nutrition/fluids came back up.  All I can say about the rest of the bike leg is - demoralizing.  I don’t know what happened out there, besides the head wind that felt like it would never end.  What I do know is I reallllly struggled.  I felt like I may never get back to transition.  I would look down and see my speed and want to cry (I’m sure I did cry!).  Thankfully I saw an old teammate out there and that lifted my spirits a bit.  I just kept telling myself – get to the run, get to the run.  That’s where a race usually starts for me anyway. Not the case on October 13...I was feeling soooo dehydrated which I assume was from getting sick the first half of the bike.  I ran well the first 8 miles or so.  Then I saw my mom, who is always so sweet and supportive.  I never stop in a race or really even talk to my family when I am out there, but I yelled to her, “I don’t know what to do.  I feel awful.”  She yelled and I mean YELLED (with this look on her on her face I have never seen because she never yells, EVER), “Christine, you keep going.  KEEP GOING”  Hmm ok, no sympathy from her I guess.  Haha.  But she was right and I needed that tough love.  She knows me better than anyone and knows the disappointment I would have felt if I gave into the pain and dehydration.  I slugged my way up Palani, saw Sissy and Coach.  Told them what was going on and just being able to tell them made me feel a little better.  Out on the Queen K I met my race Angel.  Jennifer Hanley-Pinto – I would pass her through the aid stations and she would pass me in between.  She said to me as she passed me, “come on girl”  I said, “today’s not my day.  You go, have a great run”  She said, “don’t be afraid to walk through the aid stations:”  DING DING DING   Not sure why I needed someone to tell me that, but it was brilliant.  I guess I needed someone to tell me because  I have never walked in a race or even slowed down through an aid station.  She saved me though, walking through the rest of the aid stations allowed me to take in more fluids and replenish more from the dehydration.  In between aid stations I was running surprisingly well.   Despite the race not going how I had hoped, what really surprised me, was how I handled it.  I learned a lot about myself out there.  I am a very competitive person and had you asked me pre race how I would feel if the race went this way, I would have said upset, angry etc.  And most of all I wouldn’t have predicted that when my day was s*cking, I’d want to support my competitors.  I know that sounds bad, but I told you earlier I’m going to keep it real here.  Maybe it was the support from Jennifer that helped me or maybe I just have more good in me than I thought (haha), but there is no doubt, the more I cheered and supported other people, the better I felt.   I highly recommend this to everyone whether your day is going well or not :).  I learned the other side of Ironman that day.  I have never struggled in a race like that before and it was very humbling.  There is a camaraderie out there despite the competitive nature that we all have that is truly remarkable.

Somewhere along the way, I found my running legs again and the competitor in me came alive.  Even though I knew that I wasn’t having the day I hoped for, to me this is still a race, and I wanted to get to the finish line ahead of as many girls as I could.  It no longer mattered if I was racing for 20th place or 30th., I wanted to finish strong.  I ended up running a 3:21 marathon, 3rd fastest in my AG and I ran my way from 50th off the bike to finish 18th in my AG.  This is definitely a reminder to me to never give up in an Ironman, it’s a long day and you never know how things will end up!

No matter what happened out there all day, the finish line of an Ironman (especially Kona) is AMAZING.  What I did find interesting, I almost always cry at the end of a race.  Yep, I’m an emotional person…can you tell?  But I didn’t cry in Kona this year.  I think I processed so much out on the course that by the time I got to the finish line I really had nothing left.  I pushed through when so much of me wanted to stop.  But I never would and for that I am proud.

6. I’m tired…

What I realized these past few months and what I realized also led to my decisions to skip training for the beach all summer was.. I am tired.  Not tired of training, but tired from trying to fit it in around my work hours.  I do love Triathlon, but my job s*cks for Ironman training and it leaves me mentally exhausted. I’m tired of sleeping 4 hours a night to fit in a 90 min training session at most.  The stress I put on myself to fit it in has officially worn on me.  Admitting this is really REALLY hard for me.  I feel like I am admitting defeat.  Maybe I am, but I know that my race in Kona was directly affected by this on many levels.  All of which are mentioned above.  The skipping training, the doubts and my race results.  What I would love is to be able to train, sleep, spend time with family/friends (and of course P&R) and work a lot less.  Until I figure out how to do that I am just not sure I can compete at the level I want to.  And to be clear, I am not trying to cut back hours on a 40 hour work week, I want to cut back on the 60-70 hour work weeks!  Does this mean I am officially burnt out?  Is this what burn out feels like?  The off season will hopefully answer this for me.

In the meantime I am off to Arizona this Thursday.  It’s Sissy’s first (and only, so she says!) Ironman!!  SO SO excited for her.  I am supposed to be racing as well.  Final decision on this to be made Friday.  Bike is on its way and I’ll be there either way, so why not race?  Well… Since Kona I have swam once, biked once (yesterday) and run a handful of times.  I did just tell you about my burn out, so I guess this isn’t much of a surprise.  Recent NY weather has not exactly helped the training, but I cannot blame it just on that.   I am sure I can still do an Ironman right now, but will I do it well?  Or am I setting myself up for more disappointment?  A good friend of mine told me – participate only if you check your ego at the flight gate and can go do it for fun.   And that is what I need to figure out these next few days.  Can I really do that?  (PS – I do not have an ego!)   If I am racing, it will be great to be out on the course to see Sissy lots (3 loop bike and run course).  If I decide not to race, I’ll be cheering for her allllll over that course.  Everyone send lots of cheers to my Sissy next weekend!!

Sorry for the really long post.  I probably lost you all at #2!   I think writing this may have helped me process all my feelings and thoughts, so thanks for listening to my therapy session ;-)

And a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me all year long, especially my family and sponsors! It means sooo much to me to have people that believe in me and support me in this Journey!  A special shout out to the following: My MOM – my rock, my biggest supporter who travelled with me to every race this season.  I really could not do this without her.  My Sissy – my biggest cheerleader and my voice of reason.  My Sponsors – Tribike Transport – thank you for your AMAZING bike service. I was honored to be a part of the 2012 Ambassador team and you made my race travel so much less stressful! And to Health Warrior – your chia bars help keep me fueled and healthy. And an extra thanks for outfitting my Mom, Sissy and I for the Underpants run!  And my Coach for all the guidance and being flexible with my crazy job and understanding of my many missed workouts :)

Ill be back with an update on AZ…