I’d like to preface this post by clarifying that my race wasn’t actually 70.3 miles – it was 72.2. Just so we’re clear 😉
It’s been three weeks since my first 70.3 race. On one hand that seems crazy, because it feels like it was just yesterday. And then on the other hand, it feels like it was a lifetime ago!
For those of you who don’t know, a 70.3 race is also referred to as a half ironman. The particular brand I went through, Challenge, simply refers to them as a “half distance”. Which just feels weird to say.
These races usually consist of a 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21.1km run, but every now and then there are variances. My particular race was bumped up to a 2k swim and a 93km bike, with the same distance run. On a bike course that’s 90km, you wouldn’t think 3km makes much of a difference. But believe me, for me it did 😉
It’s taken me a little while to process everything and to get clear on how I really feel about it all. My recovery hasn’t gone the way I expected it to – I’ve been feeling more mentally-drained than physically-drained. However, I have a hunch that has more to do with the last four years than the last four months.
In any event, as I’ve taken time to reflect on my experience, I’ve come to realize a few key things that are super beneficial to any area of life. So of course I have to share them with you!
I’ll spare you the full race recap, and instead I’ll just let you know that, all things considered, I’m happy with my finish time of 6:37:59 (I had long-ditched any time goals and was expecting to finish between 6 and 7 hours).
So without further ado, here are 5 lessons I learned from my first 70.3 race that you can apply to any area of your life.
What you do consistently matters more than what you do occasionally
This probably seems like a given, but hear me out.
When you’re training for a big event, there are often “key workouts” that deserve a greater amount of your attention. This might be the 32km training run when you’re prepping for a marathon. It could be an important brick workout when you’re training for a triathlon. Or maybe it’s a specific drill session to help you improve your skills in your chosen sport.
Whatever the case may be, you’ll typically know which training sessions within your plan are the real important ones.
And while I totally agree that these sessions deserve much of your attention and focus, I also believe it’s important to look at the big picture. What training have you done in past years to get you to the point you’re at now? What base have you built up on your off-season? How’s your recovery? Your nutrition?
When we get so laser-focused on those few key workouts, we not only forget to give ourselves credit for everything else we’ve accomplished, but we also run the risk of injuring ourselves. That “I’ll get this workout done, come hell or high water!” mentality isn’t always in your best interest.
After I crashed my bike back in May, I missed an entire block of training. And you better believe I had my moments of freakout. “I’m missing long runs!” “I’m missing long rides!” (And spoiler alert: even after I was “healed”, I still missed long runs because of knee problems, which meant my longest run before the race was 9km).
The same rings true in other areas of life. If you miss that fifth workout when your goal is five workouts a week, that’s okay. If you slip up on your eating habits and eat the entire buffet one night, that’s okay. If you made your first mistake at work, that’s okay.
What you do consistently matters more than what you do occasionally.
Things only matter as much as you say they do.
This was a big one for me to realize. During my last bike ride before my race, I was feeling pretty “off”. My taper had me feeling sluggish, and an insanely busy couple of weeks were taking their toll on me.
But as I was riding down the street at a pace I had deemed as “not fast enough”, a thought popped in my head: I am still a worthy human being, even if I don’t ride my bike as fast as I think I should. A lack of speed doesn’t detract from who I am as a person. It doesn’t make me any less me. This was a big realization, for someone who has attached her worth to her accomplishments for many years.
The following day I was chatting with a friend about my nerves surrounding the race. She very gently asked me “well…at the end of the day…does it really matter how it goes?”
Which made me realize – no. It doesn’t. In the big picture – of my life, of this planet, of this Universe – no. What happens during the race does not matter one single bit.
And that was SO freeing! It didn’t send me into the race with a cynical “it doesn’t matter, so why even bother?” mentality. Instead, it sent me in with a “you’ve done the work, have fun and don’t worry about the outcome” mentality.
How often do you find yourself getting all worked up about certain situations? Do you worry excessively, or put tons of pressure on yourself to perform at your peak level?
If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself: “does this really matter?”
Don’t underestimate the power of your mental strength.
I’ve talked about how powerful your mindset is many times, so this is nothing new. You can think of this as more of a friendly reminder 😉
So often we put our focus on the actions. On the training. On our physical capabilities. On our abilities to successfully carry out a particular task.
But our mindset/outlook/perspective/whatever you want to call it surrounding those activities is equally important. I’m willing to argue it’s even more important.
While out on that HOT 93km bike course, I had to use positive self talk to carry me through the 60-85km mark, and then again from the 90-93km mark.
Each time those thoughts of “I’m hot” “this is hard” ” oh not this fucking hill again” (gotta love loop courses), I had to actively work to change my thoughts.
“Lots of gas left in the tank.” “Legs are feeling strong.” “You did this hill once, you can do it again.” Over and over and over again. And as silly as it all sounds, it works!
Similarly, if you remind yourself that you’re capable of accomplishing something and WHY you’re capable of doing so, you’ll have a much better time.
It’s okay to change course.
A recommendation that I often make is to share your goals with those you love so it makes them real. It ups the accountability factor big time!
But what about when you change your mind after you’ve shared those goals? What if they’re no longer in alignment, or in your best interests?
That is totally okay. You don’t let your loved ones down by focusing on your best interests, even when those interests have changed.
I had initially intended on doing two more triathlons this year, at least two more half marathons, and a gran fondo.
One of those half marathons didn’t happen, the triathlons aren’t going to happen, and the fondo isn’t going to happen.
Yes, it’s disappointing for me to say that. Yes, I feel FOMO when I see others posting about their fondo training. But I know that for where I’m at physically and mentally, taking on those challenges is definitely not in my best interest. Instead, I’m finding other activities that are more in alignment with where I’m at, like yoga and hiking.
Want to read more about changing the direction of your goals? Give this a read.
Keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind.
This is a BIG one.
This thing you’re doing, whether it’s a race, career ambitions, personal goals – WHY are you doing it? Why is it important? What does it mean to you? What will it allow you to do that you can’t do now? What impact does it have on your life?
Keeping your WHY at the forefront of your mind is a powerful motivator that will help you get through the tough times. It’s helped me get up for many an early morning bike ride. It’s helped me drag my butt to the pool when I wanted nothing more than to sleep.
And in those last two hours of the race, it helped me hold back, listen to my body, and make sure I wasn’t pushing myself too hard.
By the time the run rolled around, the temperature was in the mid 30s (about 95F for my American friends). I was doing more walking than I was running, and as I could see my average pace dropping on the screen on my Garmin I kept feeling the urge to try and pick it back up.
I had to remind myself why I was there: to have fun. To get across the finish line. To feel a sense of accomplishment and pride for all the work I had put in.
My main intention was to have fun and finish with a smile on my face. Not to win or become one of the people who had passed out from heat exhaustion.
One of the things I love about physical activity is that so many of the lessons you learn you can apply to other areas of your life. Sometimes you just need to keep your eyes and ears open, and be willing to embrace those lessons!
With the way my body and mind have been feeling as of late, I’ve been opting for more gentle forms of movement. I have a feeling that the next few months will include many lessons of patience and introspection!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve ever learned from physical activity?