“Break on through to the Other Side”

During our team (Endorphin Fitness) banquet back in winter, I was awarded the “2013 Breakthrough Athlete for Group Coaching” award. To be honest, I was completely caught off guard when the coach called my name.

Breakthrough Award

Here’s a little back story…Many other athletes had incredible years – some placing in every single race. I, on the other hand, had traditionally been more of a mid-packer. When I started training with the group, I was fine with that. I had come to terms with the fact that I was slow and likely will always be slow. I had always been more of a “fast twitch” athlete – one who excels with hand-eye coordination, quick agility, ability to think and react on the spot, etc. Endurance had NEVER been my thing. I was always the first to get winded when playing basketball. I ran cross country one season as a way to help build endurance… of course, I was one of the slowest runners!

In fact, I had no real motivation to train for triathlons other than I was trying to lose weight and get toned. Signing up for a race gave me a goal to keep going. I was completely satisfied with that. I didn’t need any special equipment (other than my Garmin 910XT) because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to compete.

Then, over the course of the 2013 triathlon season, my mindset started to change. Seeing my teammates podium in their age group seemed to slowly wear off on me. It made me want to try harder and do better.

I had one of my worst races ever at the RTC Sprint Triathlon that year (mid April). I became incredibly winded on the swim and just couldn’t seem to catch my breath during the rest of the race. My cycling speed was incredibly slow. Racers kept passing me – saying the sympathetic “good job!” When I finished that race, I felt like a flame had ignited. My performance was so lackluster that I never wanted to experience that again.

With my first Olympic (REV3 Williamsburg) quickly approaching, I knew I had to kick my training up a gear or two.  I made a point to attend as many practices as possible with my work schedule. I stuck to my weekend workouts as best as I could. When the race was upon me, I felt ready.

My mom and sister came down to cheer me on and their energy helped tremendously! The swim was extra rough that morning, but I made it through swimmingly (pun intended!). I felt incredible on the bike. I was expecting a time of ~1:30 and I finished up in ~1:17. I did OK on the run – finished in little over an hour – but to be honest, the run just isn’t my strong suit. I finished and completed my first Olympic! And… I knew I wanted to do another one.

REV3 Pic

My next race was a local “women only” sprint triathlon here in Richmond 2 months down the road. I felt like I had a good shot of doing well with the way my training was going. I remember approaching my coach and asking for tips on how to improve and get a faster time. My mindset had shifted – I wanted to compete. The competitive team sport athlete in me had emerged. It was actually quite empowering. When you move away from exercising just to lose weight (to only be continuously frustrated when it doesn’t happen) to exercising for progress, it becomes SO much more fun and exciting.

I ended up placing in the top 20 at the Pink Power Sprint. Unfortunately, I was 4th in my age group, BUT I wasn’t discouraged. Instead, I had my mind set on getting a podium in 2014.

Fam Pink Power
W
ith my mom and sister who also completed the Pink Power 

Fam 2 Pink Power
P
ost race celebrations!

Circling back to the “Breakthrough Athlete” award … while I was incredibly surprised when Coach Kyle called me name, I was also very honored. I didn’t have the podiums or the credentials, but he recognized the pretty dramatic shift that occurred within me that year. He called it a “breakthrough of the mind.” This award gave me extra motivation to train harder and prove myself worthy of it.

Why on Earth do you do THIS?!?!!

That’s the question every non-triathlete asks when I tell him or her about how I’m training X amount of hours in order to compete in triathlons. Or my favorite: “You rode 50 miles?!??? In one day??? On a bike?? You are crazy!!” 

Garmin

 However, it is one of those questions you kind of shove in the back of your mind and don’t really think about (kind of like my 5 year career plan – more on that later). Hey, I’m just doing it – do I have to have a reason why?

 It IS an important question to answer, though. Being able to answer it can help fuel your passion even more.

I have been pushing myself A LOT this past season. I signed up for my first Half-Iron distance race (the Mussleman 70.3 in Geneva, NY) and knew that an intense volume of workouts was to come. As I’ve stayed the course and completed as many workouts as possible, I’ve started to notice a change in my triathlon mentality.

I have started to actually enjoy the workouts. Not that I didn’t before – they just often felt like an obligation and sometimes a hassle (particularly when I was swamped at work or tired). I am improving and showing progress. My motivation has moved beyond just doing this to stay fit and *lose weight. I actually feel like I may be able to compete.

I’ve started to feel optimistic – I am not destined to always be a mid-packer. I am physically able to push my limits, improve and compete.

 Reflection is an amazing thing – I need to make a point to do it more often!