For me, when it comes to racing, whether it's a half marathon or a triathlon, it all comes down to the training. Did I train enough? Did I put in the time? Did I exert the right amount of effort? Did I have enough rest days in for recovery? If I can honestly say that I've trained enough, then really, ultimately, it doesn't matter how I perform on race day. I will know that I arrived at the starting line as prepared as I could be. So many factors that are out of my control can affect race day performance--weather, injury, a migraine--that I like to be able to do what I can to ensure that I arrive as prepared as possible. Whether I come in first (a joke, because as a back-of-the-packer that would never happen) or last (not a joke, as I once came in third-to-last) I can only do the best I can on race day, with the tools that I've been building up. I know there are people who train much harder than I do, and people who train much less, but I need to feel good about the training that I do, for myself.
In one month, I have this monster race coming up: the San Diego Triathlon Classic. It's my first Oly (Olympic-distance triathlon) which is roughly double the length of the sprints I've done in the past. I know many of my readers do much longer distances, and an Oly is no big deal, but for me this is huge. It's a 1500 meter swim, a hilly 40k bike (about 25 miles) and a 10k run (6.2 miles). I signed up for it several months ago thinking that I wanted a challenge. Doing all of these distances back-to-back-to-back is daunting.
The hardest part, and therefore most rewarding, has been training for the bike. I can cover the swim distance (I regularly swim 2000-2500 yards, or more, twice a week in the pool) and I can, of course, do a 10k run. But since taking up triathlon last year, the bike has been my nemesis. It's hard for me. Hills are not my friend. However, in the last few months I've had a breakthrough. Hills that used to kill me, that I used to have to stop in the middle of and rest before continuing on, I can now ride up nonstop. I may be only going 5 mph, but I'm riding them! I feel so much stronger and confident on the bike. In fact, the bike is slowly becoming my favorite part of training. The past few weeks I've regularly been doing a hilly 26 mile bike ride on the weekends. I feel like a warrior. (Don't tell anyone, but I'm even considering signing up for my first century next year, which is a 100 mile bike ride. I may not end up doing it, but just the fact that I'm considering it is a big deal for me).
Last weekend, I did my longest brick ever. A brick is a back-to-back workout, typically a bike-run, but it can also be a swim-run, run-swim, swim-bike, etc. My previous longest bricks have been during actual races---maybe a 10 mile bike and a 3 mile run. But on Saturday, I did a brick consisting of what I will have to do in next month's triathlon: a hilly 26+ mile bike ride, immediately followed by a 10k run.
The bike ride was glorious. I rode with a friend that I met on dailymile; she and I have been riding together recently, which is great because not only are we at the same pace, but she's wonderful company! The weather was cool, with lots of cloud coverage. As I was nearing home, however, I was exhausted (the way back on this out-and-back is mostly uphill). I couldn't imagine running 6.2 miles. I told myself I had to run at least 3, but to try for 6. I rode home, put my bike away and started to run. I ran 3.1 miles, ensuring that I would get my 6.2 miles total on the out-and-back. The first four miles were great, but at mile 5 the sun came out from behind the cloud cover. I was hot, tired, and done....yet I kept going (maybe I took more walk breaks than I wanted to, but I didn't quit). I arrived home after 6.2 miles feeling like I had a truck run over me, yet feeling exhilarated at the same time.
I can do this thing.
When I am doing my big Oly next month, and feel tired and overwhelmed, I will remember that I can do it. I've already done it. I can, and will, do it again.
I can't wait to write THAT race recap!