Hi, I’m Matthew. And I use to run a blog before we “pandemic’d.”
Now that we’ve addressed my awkward absence of the last 16 months, I’m doing my best to get back to what life was like before a bat closed movie theaters and indoor dining around the world (am I making a light hearted joke about a global crisis? Yes – it’s called coping… and thats for another post when I’m ready).
Things are slowly opening up again which mean, triathlons are actually happening – that’s right LIVE and IN-PERSON sporting events (insert mind-blown emoji – tears of joy emoji or pizza emjoi – just because people love pizza).
So the opportunity presented itself recently to return to racing and to get a taste of what life use to be like (and after exploring the COVID protocols, limited participant entry and social distancing efforts) and I made the decision to go for it…
And as you’ll find out (if you have the patience to listen to me talk to myself for 13 minutes) I had less than 3 weeks to train…
The whole vlogging thing is new to me – but makes talking to yourself feel less neurotic when you have a camera. Eager to hear your feedback!
You can debate the pros and cons of having a digital footprint – but for millions of millennials (like myself) we great up in the age of posting, tagging and sharing. And I’m immune to post-shaming… I love the comments and interactions I get from friends and family on what I post (and if you think I post a lot, be grateful you’re not in any of my group chats)!
Believe it or not, I only share a small amount of the pictures I take. And I take a lot of pictures… A. Lot. Of. Pictures. Everyone who knows me knows that this is something I’m really passionate about. I’m not someone who binge watches show on Netflix or Hulu (or Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc…) but I will spend a lot of time watching old videos I recorded and looking back at pictures of people I’ve spent time with, places I’ve been or things I’ve done – and a very unhealthy amount of pictures of meals I’ve enjoyed.
The additional time on my hands (thank you, Shelter in Place?) has given me the chance to organize some of my media specific to 2019 and merge it together in one video.
2019 was my “Year of Triathlon”as I chased one of my bucket list goals of becoming an IRONMAN triathlete (which I did, DM for my address to send me congratulatory gifts – JK… just send snacks).
Training for two 70.3 miles races and one 140.6 mile race meant that I covered a lot of ground (+water and road) training. And those miles added up – as did the post workout posts I’ve been flooding your newsfeeds with (in addition to what I ate for dinner).
If you’ve got 3 minutes to spare – feel free to follow my digital footprint of my workouts and training from November 2018 when I signed up for IRONMAN Arizona to the week of the big race (SPOILER ALERT – my race specific photos and videos are in another post).
I can’t remember where my car keys are or where I left my cell phone charger – but looking back at this video, I can vividly remember each and every moment.
While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity I had to train (and be outside – damn you, COVID) I am especially thankful for the workouts that sucked… the times I feel short of my training goals and when I just wasn’t feeling it. Because looking back I can say it was worth it and I’m glad that I put in the blood, sweat and tears (yes, there were plenty of tears – I still have PTSD when anyone says “headwind” or “B-Line”).
And I’m grateful to everyone who shared this journey with me…
My parents who constantly reminded me to be safe, my friends who motivated and encouraged me (and sent hilarious texts during long training sessions).
I’m grateful to the trainers & coaches who I grew and learned from – and my fitness community who never missed an opportunity to ask how my training was going.
I’m grateful to the IRONMEN who came before me and gave their constant wisdom, encouragement and support (especially Steven in Australia).
And I have the most appreciation for my husband who found ways to entertain himself for hours and hours between seeing me on race courses and survived the endless 5:00am wake-up calls and the “I can’t I have to train” excuses for the last 16 months.
I’m grateful for this footprint and this experience and can’t wait to see where the miles take me next.
There is so much I want to say about my IRONMAN experience…
Completing the 140.6 mile triathlon has been a goal of mine for years. And with seven 70.3 mile triathlons (the distance before the 140.6) under my belt, I finally felt ready and prepared to make the jump to the “full” Ironman triathlon in 2019.
At mile 132.6 in the race the sun began to set and I slowed my “casual” pace down to walk to take the entire experience in. It was then, when a particular quote and song from my training profoundly hit me – and that reflection is what I wanted to share in this post…
At the Mile 18 marker of the 26.2 mile run, I looked up to the beautiful, watercolored Arizonan sky and it hit me – that it wasn’t just the day that was coming to a close – but also my journey to becoming an IRONMAN (more IRONMAN specifics in a later post to come).
Like all things in life – there is a start and a finish. But for me, this finish was an actual “finish line” and the difference between the start and the finish was 52 week of physical training, mental toughness and self care/preparation.
I’ve done a ton of endurance races in my life (as most people do in their late 20’s – early 30’s) and I’m generally the person who picks up speed to sprint to the finish. But not today. Not this race. And not this goal. This moment was when a quote and song from my training spoke to me and appeared clear as day, almost as vivid as if the words were etched along the concrete trail in front of me.
Background on the quote…
One of my favorite quotes I had obsessed about during this year of training was –
“It’s Not the Result That’s Important, It’s Who You Become in The Process of Achieving the Result.” – John Canfield
And at mile 16 (or mile 132.6 of 140.6 miles) it hit me that I was definitely going to cross that finish line and I was definitely a different person than I was 52 weeks ago when I committed to this goal.
Background on the song…
Music fueled a great deal of my training, and my “go-to” song was “Giant” by Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man. Here is a cliff notes version of the lyrics –
“I would be nothing Without you holding me up Now I’m strong enough for both of us Both of us, both of us, both of us
I am a giant (ooh) Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see ‘Cause I am a giant (ooh) We’ll be breaking boulders, underneath our feet I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am a giant (oh)
Don’t hide your emotions You can throw down your guard And feed from the notion We can be who we are You taught me something, yeah Freedom is ours It was you who taught me living is Togetherness, togetherness, togetherness”
– “Giant” – Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man
When times got tough during training – like mile 56 of a 112 mile bike ride, 2,100 yards of a 4,2000 yard swim or mile 13.1 of a 26.2 mile run knowing I was only doing HALF of what was going to be expected of me on race day, I spoke to myself and asked my “Giant” for help.
Who was this Giant? Well, he was the voice inside my head who reminded me that I was stronger, tougher and worth working hard for. Basketball players may channel Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan or Lebron James – but in the triathlete world, that “Giant” to me was Craig Alexander (2011 IRONMAN 70.3 & 140.6 World Champion), Lionel Sanders (multiple IRONMAN 140.6 & 70.3 Champion) or Tim O’Donnell (2019 IRONMAN World Championship Runner-Up) – all icons and legends in the triathlon world who not only stood out as IRONMAN Champions – but were legends at the largest IRONMAN stage in Kona, Hawaii.
During training I would watch Youtube video of their key races, their training routines and pre/post race interviews. Their dedication to their craft and laser focus in swimming, cycling and running made me want to be a stronger athlete.
Now back to the story…
So as I looked into the sunset and could visually make out the 8 miles ahead of me leading to the finish line, I started to think about how far I had come and how this big, epic, scary, audacious and bucket-list goal of mine was minutes (okay, hour’ish) away from being one of those “breaking boulders (underneath OUR feet).”
I say “our” because I started my training with my “Giants” being my sport specific idols. But my internal thoughts and voice slowly developed into its own person – the “Giant” within me. I was creating and fueling my own driver and motivator.
As my personal fitness and mental toughness improved this year, I didn’t always have to look to my idols content to motivate or push me – I found that push in myself to be better and to naturally want and expect more from myself (don’t get me wrong – watching any of Lionel Sanders workouts will always humble me and leave me in awe). I was becoming my own giant and my own motivating voice inside my head (Did I just admit to talking to my own self in third-person? Yup, A little crazy? Probably. All aboard the crazy train.. Choo Choo).
In my 6th 70.3 race, the first race of the 2019 season – I crushed my Swim, Bike and Run personal records in Santa Cruz – becoming my own giant and identifying that not only was I out performing my previous efforts – but I still had gas in the tank to push harder – and to give it that little extra effort that I didn’t know existed months prior.
Just one month before IRONMAN Arizona at Tempe 70.3, I took my PR time from Santa Cruz and CRUSHED it by 9 minutes – with my BEST bike time (on what is known as a pretty sh*tty bike course). I can vividly recall the conversation in my head during lap 2 of the 3 lap bike course. I had improved my time from lap 1 by minute and could ultimately pull my fastest bike split EVER if I could shave 3 more minutes on lap three – and then I did. That right there is Giant AF, my friends.
And even more important than race timing and personal records, I became my biggest cheerleader and my biggest driving force to step up my own game. The outside voice of “You can do it” turned into the confidence to know and own the statement, “I can do it.”
And there are too many additional voices and faces to name that kept motivating inspiring and holding me accountable to my IRONMAN dream – for them, I will forever be grateful. There wasn’t a single conversation, text or social media message that didn’t positively impact me and leave a lasting impression on me and this amazing experience.
There were many setbacks, injuries, low-points and moments that derailed my training and straight path to this finish line – but the person I became this year made my drive (and Giant mentality) bigger and stronger than the problems and setbacks I faced.
The lyrics of Giant also said “Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see.” That view started as a medal, a finish line and even visualizing the social media “I did it” post minutes after completing the race. But as the race got closer, and my personal Giant got bigger, the view was a better and stronger me. Not just athletically – but mentally stronger, emotionally in-touch with the overall experience and (SO) appreciative of every milestone and step it took to get there – and again, grateful for the support system I had cheering me on to accomplish this goal.
These thoughts, memories, quotes and song lyrics got me from mile 132.6 to mile 140.6 in what felt like the blink of an eye – and with the biggest smile on my face when I got there.
Could this just be the rambling of a 35 year old who worked way to hard this weekend and still needs to rest and recovery? Possibly (add dehydrated and sore to the list).
But that home stretch to the finish line is one I don’t ever want to forget…
This year has been challenging. Work has been challenging. Projects with the home renovation have been challenging. And committing and training for a triathlon has been challenging.
Disclaimer:This isn’t intended to be a dark post – if you can make it till the end, you’ll see the marshmallows in this bowl of Lucky Charms.
I could elaborate – but the point is, life will always present challenges. Life will throw you curve balls, disappointments and derail you. But staying focused on the end goal, the overall benefit or the “finish line” helps to keep you going. And to be honest, that isn’t always going to be enough. You’ve got to develop a new level of perseverance and for me, if I’ve had to do any training this year its been on developed my mental toughness.
One of the most common questions I get when people hear that I’ve been training for a race (which some might consider cruel and unusual punishment) for almost a year is “Why?” And frankly, my “why” keeps changing. Some days it’s because I started this whole ordeal because it was a bucket list goal. Then it became a science project to see what my body was capable of. And some days it was because I’ve gotten this far so why stop now… But ten months into this process my answer today would be “to see what else I can learn in the process.”
In this process, I’m learning that mental toughness is a muscle that needs to be exercised, fueled, flexed and also given time to recover.
When the alarm goes off at 5:30am to workout from 6:00am-7:00am, 49% of me says “GO BACK TO SLEEP…” But the 51% says “You’re working towards something bigger.” And some days, its 75-100%“Lets do this”and 25-0%“You’re warm and comfortable – you’d be crazy to jump in a swimming pool… it’s ####### January!”But I’ve had to train myself to see the cost and the benefit and put my faith in the latter.
This same practice comes to play when you’re on a bike for what seems like forever, your butt hurts and your legs are cramping… You have to rely on that toughness to tell you to keep your cadence up, switch to a lower gear and that “little old” hill climb will be over soon.
…and when the hill is greater than your push that day – you walk your bike up the hill next to speeding cars honking at you… and you use the time to hydrate, eat whatever nutrition you packed for the ride and tell yourself every honk is someone who thinks you look damn good in bike shorts.
It’s not the outcome you wanted like powering over a tough climb, but you didn’t stop and made the best use of your time and effort – and that’s still a win.
That mental toughness is telling the voices in your head (and in the outside world) that your smarter, stronger and bigger than the obstacle in your way. Sure, you’ll get knocked down and failure is always a possibility. But toughness means getting back up and continuing to move forward and learning along the way.
There are a million Instagram posts, quotes and stories that reinforce this – but not enough dots to connect you from where you are to where you want to be.
For me, I connect those dots by fueling my mental toughness – and I do that in a lot of different ways.
I try to celebrate the milestones and forward momentum no matter how big or small they might be. I post almost all of my workouts on my Instagram Story (because posts on FB or an actual IG Post would be way more annoying than my posts already are). I do this, because on long rides on my indoor bike trainer, I love watching my IG Story highlights and seeing my times, distances and training that got me to where I am today. I am far from where I’d like to be, but I can 100% celebrate how far I’ve come. Using IG Stories has helped me do that and after 10 months of training, I can smile and laugh at the posts – which burn about 12 minutes (and growing) of time on the bike! (@MattthewCGoto on Instagram)
Selfishly, everyone likes attention – I’m not going to say I don’t like compliments or praise received on social media. But the reason I like the comments (and don’t act like you don’t) is because I’m my hardest critic. I’m the first person to compare the watts from todays workout to yesterdays. I can tell you if I’m getting faster or slower in each discipline down to the second, yard and mile. And I have a laundry list of thing I know I can do better or be better at… But I’m not as quick to give myself a pat on the back or praise – which is worth its weight in gold when someone who you care about, respect and trust leaves you the comment “I’m proud of you” or “You’re killing it.”
Another way to build your mental toughness is by finding a community of support who can hold you accountable and cheer you on. I train mostly by myself because of my travel schedule, but I consider myself to be unbelievably lucky to have a local gym/studio with caring, passionate and supportive people who always ask me how my training is going. Not just to be polite, but because they genuinely care and are cheering me on through this journey. I can’t count the number of times I left a hard workout feeling physically depleted – but fueled spiritually and mentally because of the advice, support and energy my community shares with me.
And I have some amazing friends and mentors who send me random and unexpected messages of encouragement – who I can never truly thank enough for their support. And my Plus+ for life has been more understanding and supportive than I deserve – especially with the 5:00am wake-up calls and the fact that I’m always wearing running shorts in public. #WhoWearsShortShorts #ItsMe
And I also fuel my mental toughness by leaving myself positive affirmations. For me, this comes in the form of post-its (so many post-its) to remind myself how many days I have till my next race – or to be confident with new projects at work or during tough decision making. Sometimes it’s setting a playlist with music that puts me in the best state of mind to crush a workout, relax or sometimes hits so hard I’m ready to go to war. And sometimes it’s as simple as a bag of gummi bears (Haribo – everyone else to the back of the line) waiting for me in my stinky gym bag as a post workout treat. #TreatYoSelf #GummiBears #HashtagsAreStupid
But what I have found to be the one of the best ways to reset, put me in the right mentality to take on challenges and to fill the mental toughness tank in my brain is to take a step back and come up for air… (and unlike everything else in triathlon, air is free)! The “time out” to breathe helps put things into perspective, slows down your heart rate and allows you to re-evaluate the situation.
If you get anything from my 2,000 words of rambling, I hope you can take these traits to build your own mental toughness – or at least gain some understand as to why other people do the things they do..
Be Open and Appreciate Praise
Find a Community of Support
Come up for Air
And if you are one of the lucky ones who have these tools, please help provide these for others. Give the compliment, ask what you can do to help someone else breathe easier and take the 2 seconds to give someone praise – you never how how impactful that can be. Sure, I’m talking about triathlons which most people will never try – but these principles speak to challenges in general – and we can all agree that we appreciate all the help we can get when life gets challenging.
So when things get challenging – like this mornings swim workout that I felt would never end, my neck mobility was non-existent and my coffee wasn’t kind to my stomach – I came up for air (literally – I soooo need to write Dad Jokes). I looked at my mental toughness checklist and appreciated the fact that I’m healthy, spending time on my personal growth and development, and have so much to be grateful for. Then I put my goggles back on my face (and awkwardly smiled at the old dude splitting my lane – he didn’t share my joy… but I’ll win him over eventually) and started playing one of my favorite songs in my head, and got back to swimming with the rhythm of the song in my head keeping my pace – and pushing through the neck cramps by switching lanes and being grateful for clean restrooms conveniently located to near the lap pool.
Once I finished the workout, I took a 6:48am selfie with goggle lines on my face and smiled – not just because the workout was done – but because I dipped into my mental toughness to go head to head with this mornings challenge… and I came out ahead.
I am still learning – every single day I’m learning. And in being open to learning I hope that I am growing in this process.
That you for reading – I hope you were able to cash in on the metaphorical Lucky Charm Marshmallows of positivity I hoped to share in this post.
I’m excited to share more of my triathlon journey with you and all that I’m learning in the process. If you have any training tips, advice or even general feedback – please send it my way – like I said, I’m always learning and would love to learn from your experiences too!
Coming off my worst race by the numbers but a huge personal accomplishment I was asked to give advice to a new triathlete. First of all, I’d encourage any new triathletes to NOT read my previous post as I would hate for my anxiety issues to spread like wildfire. But I do have some advice I’d like to share with anyone bored with one sport and crazy enough to dive into the punishment/addiction/challenge that is Triathlon. So Casey – this post is for you!
Before you Race-
Respect the Sport! Triathletes are competitive and you don’t want to get in someones way, slow down their transition or look like an idiot on the course. Most triathletes I meet have a history in one aspect of the sport, but dove into the other two elements had first (usually swimmers who take on running and cycling or cyclists who take on swimming and running). You’ll need to learn the lingo like T1, T2, Open Water and Drafting. And you’ll have to understand new phrases like Rolling Starts, Age groups, Passing Rules and Race Etiquette. Luckily most races have athlete guides. And always try to speak with a triathlete experienced with your race to get expert advice on the course – as they vary and conditions can change. Know what the water conditions are in advance. Be prepared if you need a wetsuit or if the temperature bans wetsuits on the course. For example, Oceanside 70.3 is beautiful and sunny weather for the bike and run – but the transition area opens at 4:30am and the temperature is in the low 50’s so you better have warm sweatpants and a jacket on hand to stay warm before the race start!
Train Insane or Remain The Same! You will know the distance that you will be racing, so push yourself to be able to tackle that distance with confidence and a little more. Race day will have a bunch of unexpected challenges, don’t let fatigue and physical ability be road blocks to your success. When I first started with sprint triathlons, I would train for 6-10 miles when my race was only a 5K (3.1 miles) knowing that the run would be the last obstacle in the race and I wanted to have plenty of fuel to keep going out of T2! Also don’t underestimate your transitions – and the only way to get this right is to practice! Brick workouts are workouts that transition between Swim and Bikes or Bikes and Runs! Get plenty of practice transitioning so you get quick at making the changes AND your muscles adapt to the quick change in physical demands!
Understand your body and the fuel it needs! Few sports involve hours of demanding physical activity – which means your body needs to have the correct fuel to help you get the max output needed for race day and training! Make sure you understand what your body needs and listen when your body gives you signs. Proper hydration and fueling can make or break a practice and can derail your race before it starts.
Keep It Simple! Minimize your gear to just what you need and never tryout new gear on race day! There are a few key items that you NEED and a few hundred other items you may think you need – but you don’t. Practicing your transitions will help you trim down your race needs that will help keep your transiton area simple – AND keep your transition items in YOUR space – which may only be a few inches from your neighbors. But also be prepared – while “less is more” is good etiquette, you also need to be prepared. In my tri-bag (yes, you too should have a bag dedicated to triathlons) I have a zip log bag filled with first aid supplies. You never know when you’ll need blister repair, road rash clean up or extra sun screen/contacts/etc… You can’t rely on the course or course assistance to have you covered. And since a Port-a-Potty is a staple of most races, make sure you have Clorox Wipes and flushable wipes as your gonna need them! And speaking of the tri-bag of extra supplies, that leads me to the next item on the must have list – a Race Crew!
Support Crew! You need a wingman/woman who will be patient enough to wait for hours for you to finish the race, understand the sport to give you pace reminders as you pass them on the course and can sport your tri-bag with your race extras while you’re on the course! For me, just having the mental support makes a world of difference on race day! Whether its the person who is taking pictures of you, throwing you extra nutrition mid race or being there to remind you that “you can do it” you need to have a support crew/person on race day!
Have a Routine! I layout all of my transition items the night before and make sure that I know what I need and know where it is for when I need it. And the morning of the race I shower and apply a layer of lotion sunscreen, body glide (your new best friend) and then a spray layer of sunscreen… Did I mention sunscreen? Then I get dressed so I am comfortable in my race kit and know I’ve applied enough body glide to get me through the day! Friction is not your friend!
These are the best pieces of advice I could think of and think they will help anyone whether its your first triathlon or your fiftieth! A lot of races will even have Facebook Groups or Twitter accounts so you can send direct questions to the race directors or get answers from others headed to the same race! Good luck to everyone on your next race, especially if it will be your first! And I hope these few pieces of advice help Casey tackle her first traithlon with confidence! =)
These wise words aren’t mine, any sports fan – especially any student athlete from NC State – can tell you this quote came from the epic Jim Valvano (aka Jimmy V) acceptance speach at the 1993 ESPY Awards. This quote has always spoke to me because as an athlete you are often faced with the question “to continue or to quit.” And everytime I ask myself that question, I think about Jimmy V and his outlook on life in a fight greater than whatever (trivial) obstacle I am facing. And I instantly gain perspective and I continue on with more passion and enthusiasm than before. Jimmy V said, “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities, It cannot touch my mind. It cannot touch my heart. And it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” And he followed up by saying “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” While this has always been on of my favorite quotes – it was my mantra on April 1st, 2017.
After a few physical health set backs, a ridiculous work schedule and what I can only refer to as “The Ronald McDonald Diet” I still decided to give IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside a shot. If you’ve read my previous post, you know the history – but reguardless – I committed to race and come hell or high water I was going to stick to that commitment.
My doctors gave me the thumbs up but gave me the instructions to “Have fun and be smart – if it’s not fun anymore or you’re working against your current treatment, STOP!” So I made the trip to Oceanside, a race I had been successful at in the past and have competed at the same distance three times previously. And I told myself I was going to give it a shot and stop whenever it became to much and I was mentally prepared to receive a DNF (race code for Did Not Finish). And most importantly listen to my back specialist, acupuncturist, occupational therapist, physical therapist and general practitioner (who already scheduled an MRI for the week after the race be she wanted to “plan ahead”).
I am an anxious triathlete. And by that I mean that I get really bad race anxiety the night before a race. If you are an over anxious triathlete too we should start a support group (meetings start every Monday at 6:00pm… I’ll be there at 4:45pm and then wonder if you remembered it was 6:00pm and check my post repeatedly to confirm the time till you arrived).
The night before a race I have to sleep alone (no one else in the room) the night before a race because I have trouble sleeping and slightest noise or movement will trigger my impulse to reorganize my transition gear and double check every item I brought to the race. March 31st (Day 0) wasn’t too bad – I only organized my gear 5 times, race to my car 3 times, went to the grocery store once and the convenience store twice (I had to get my “lucky” Gatorade I can’t race without).
So sleeping less than 2 hours before race day I left my hotel at 3:30am and was the second person to park in the parking structure at the race site. I forced myself to eat my Pre-race rawberry Poptart (again – tradition or obsessive compulsive – you decide). Then I got to the transition area exactly at 4:30am when it opened even though my race time didn’t start till 7:40am, but like I said “anxious.”
Usually I have a race crew, but with the events leading up to the race I honestly didn’t think I was going to attend and told my support crew (partner, parents and siblings/nieces) not to make plans to attend. My first words of advice to anyone doing a big race (“big” is up to your personal discretion) is to have someone there for moral support – big fail on my behalf. I’m pretty confident (“pretty” being an understatement) but I missed having someone to assure me that I was going to do great, pick up my transition items for me and be there to cheer me on through the course and be there for the finish line. The feeling of being on a risky solo mission only increased as the thousands of spectators and family members lining the perimeter of the transition area and not having anyone there sucked (my mature adult point of view). My point of this rant – the anxiety continued to build.
Thankfully I ran into a good friend who was doing the race with me who helped me gain some confidence before the race started and in true millennial fashion – took a pre race selfie! The morning was FREEZING. I’m talking 45-50 degrees outside and on the concrete harbor with the ocean breeze making the air miserable. The perfect temperature for being in lightweight spandex and a wetsuit (which immediately makes you regret eating every French fry you’ve have in the last year). THEN the race begins – oh wait, never mind. The “rolling start” began… This new approach to starting the swim start is new for IRONMAN and is great for the majority of competitors, but not for those who get over anxious. I watched as the Pro Males started, the Pro Females started, the 30 minute finishers started, and so on, and so on… People kept pushing their way infront of me in an already cramped and uncomfortable situation (don’t get me started on wetsuits) and it was not the a good start to the day. So after getting in line at 6:45am – I didn’t enter the water till 7:40am – but atleast the water was 63 degree which felt great compared to the chilly harbor breeze.
Don’t get me wrong – IRONMAN hosts and amazing race and Oceanside is the perfect location – please don’t misread my insanity as a poor review – I’ve just sharing my personal experience (it’s a positive story, I just haven’t gotten there yet – please hold).
To summarize the rest of the race – I had to tell myself to suck it up, tell my brain to inhale confidence and exhale doubt, put faith over fear, adjust my strategy and game plan multiple times and constantly tell myself not to give up – not to ever give up.
Why so much drama you ask? Well here’s the recap -I got elbowed in the head 200 meters into the swim by Robocop and nearly drowned. I have two bruises from two other WWE moves I was victim to from my fellow triathletes at the mouth of harbor. My front wheel came off my bike on a bump. My bike chain kept derailing. I couldn’t switch to lower gears between mile 29-45 (aka the most inclines on the course – so I walked… at one point I even carried my shoes as I pushed my bike). When I had my bike upside down to fix my gear issue My water bottles leaked and left me without water for somewhere between 6-9 miles on the course (my GPS watch died so I really have no idea). I almost swallowed a bee. I had a bee fly into my neck strap of my helmet. Oh yeah, and I’m the guy who competes in a Triathlon with a spraind trapezius muscle, two muscle contusions in his back and has some neck issue he can’t even pronounce. The race was the most difficult physical obstacle I have ever experience.
But I wouldn’t allow myself to stop. I wouldn’t give up (even though the race support crew in the grey Toyota RAV4 asked me 3 times in the bike course if I was still racing). And it was about 3 hours and 30 minutes into the bike portion of the race I came to the realization that I might not finish, and not because I made the smart move to stop – but because I would miss the strict time cut offs on the course. And without a watch, I had to start asking my peers for the time. And since I wasn’t moving very fast – I actually had some phenomenal conversations on the course that kept me going. To mention a few, I met an athlete pushing themselves at a 70.3 race to took off once I let them know the worst was behind us. I met a woman who didn’t care if she finished because she was losing weight and couldn’t have imagined doing the race a year ago. And I met an awesome woman named Chris who missed the bike cut off in 2016 and was back for redemption. And in these interactions I used my mantra and shared it with others!
I made it to the bike transition as plenty of pro athletes and conditioned athletes were returning to collect their bikes wearing their Finisher medals – and i was mentally drained… I had cheered myself on as much as I could and used whatever fuel I had let to cheer on those I passed on the way. I sat down to take off my cycling shoes and was shocked to see how long I was out on the course. And as I told myself I was DONE – I did 2/3 of the race and I could throw in the towel right then and there.
Then I heard a familiar female voice say “Let’s go! We have 3 hours to knock out 13.1 miles!” And in that statement I realized I was down, but I wasn’t out! So I put on my running shoes and started on my way to the race course. I’ll admit it, as a usually pretty good athlete I was given so many awkward looks from the staff and athletes that finished and their looks all said the same things – “He’s just now starting the run?!?!?” I passed a group of finishers who made a joke and they all laughed – the little confidence I had to get up and get going on the run was crushed and I considered turning around and getting my gear right then and there… then I saw Chris! And she made the bike cut off! And seeing her reminded me that everyone on the course has their own challenges and their own personal goals. Mine was just give it a shot and have fun… and while I wasn’t really having fun, I had made it 57.2 miles without pain killers and that was enough to commit to 13.1 more! I would trot 1/4 of a mile and speed walk the other 3/4 of each mile.
And since I knew Chris lit up when I yelled her name when she was in sight, I made it my goal to remember people’s names from their bibs and encourage them to the finish! I was the annoying guy who kept asking every volunteer for a time check – but I was also the guy who asked people to push, cheered them on as we passed each other on the turn around and gave more high fives in 13.1 miles than I have probably given in the last 13 years! I kept encouraging others and reminding them to keep going – and don’t give up! I met a man who was in his 60’s and threatened to kick my ass if he passed me who lightened my mood! I met Nicole, Brian, Mike, Karen, Bianca and there was Chris!
When I made the final right hand turn with the finish line in site I took off sprinting – I wish that was the storybook ending but I only made it about 15 seconds before I started cramping and my back spasms picked up… so I made my walk to the finish line with a very brave pace – finishing the race at 3:54 minutes, only 6 minutes to the race cut off! And even though I didn’t have support crew waiting at the finish I was welcomed by hugs from the volunteers and the IRONMAN crew who welcomed me past the finish line as if I just won! My pace (or lack there of) allowed me to high five and thank everyone who was still cheering on the finishers and out of the four 70.3 races I’ve completed – this one left me with a whole new set of feelings and emotions.
It was the most difficult race I’ve ever experienced, I was humbled by my bodies physical ability, I was challenged mentally to see the positives when the negatives were tipping the scale and most importantly I didn’t give up.
And as I was posing like a total idiot for my Finisher photo, I saw Chris making it to the finish line! I ran to her as she crossed the finish line and we both screamed as she got her Finisher medal! We hugged as if we were long lost relatives reunited after a decade apart! She didn’t even get through the bike last year and today she is a Finisher! She didn’t give up and we kept each other going on the course and provided the mental toughness to keep going!
And it was just brought to my attention by my fellow IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside finisher, Nick (with an impressive sub 6 hour finish) – out of the 3,430 triathletes who attempted the race on Saturday, there were 1,052 that DNF or DNS… So I FINISHED and that’s quite an accomplishment in itself!
This was much longer than expected but I have to say the Jimmy V quote means something totally different to me now than it did before the race. Somewhere along 70.1 miles in Oceanside I realized that having a mantra is great, but sharing it means so much more. So if you are still reading this, Don’t give up – Don’t ever give up!
It’s been two months since I slid on ice and fell injuring my neck, back and race confidence (thank you, Pacific Northwest – for nothing).
I have had five different doctors who I see atleast two to three times a week all while not missing work and still making my way across the country or up and down the California coast. And if you’ve ever flown with a sore neck – imagine the discomfort with your neck, back and shoulder area all out of wack… but back to the point – Being injured sucks!
Every year I sign up for a race to keep me motivated to workout while I’m traveling. This year my race destination of choice is Oceanside, CA! Months and months ago I signed up for the IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon as a weird and twisted reward to help my work/life balance (who rewards themselves with 5:00am workouts?!?!?). This will be my 4th half-IRONMAN in the last 4 years which should make me a pro (or atleast not an idiot on the course), but unforeseen circumstances have thrown a total wrench in my training plans.
I had to listen to my doctors and had to take time off of training for my back and neck to recover. I wasn’t expecting it to take almost 2 months – but apparently my back specialist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, acupuncturist and general practitioner know a thing or two about the human body (who would have guessed?!?).
Fast forward to today… I made my way to the pool for a swim workout. I could clearly tell I had been away from the pool as my arms and legs were burning in the first few minutes of the workout. And there is no reality check as cruel as throwing on a speedo after a long break from the gym… but none the less I made it through a slow and steady 1600 meters.
But what has been harder than the actual workout – is the recovery. I’m not one who likes to sit still – in fact my attention span runs out by the time I’ve decided where to sit and have already rearranged the furniture in my head – twice.
So this swim workout was followed by a 3 mile walk back home (conference calls are the perfect time to squeeze in some miles) and then a good stretch when I got home.
Recovery followed – not running, swimming or biking… or lifting or moving or anything else for that matter. All in an attempt to not over due it and risk further injury. And the next day I headed to acupuncture – a forced therapy that I didn’t believe in until I actually tried it.
And here we are, three days from my race and on shaky ground if I will be able to finish or if I will even make it to the starting line. Listening to my body and trying to put common sense in front of stubborn pride. My doctor says I am able to give it a shot and has confidence that I am able to do it in my current physical condition – so let’s see how the next 48 hours go! Wish me luck!
Tough love is pushing through when your mind and body are both working against you… I’ve been MIA in my posts lately because of an unexpected setback – an unfortunate work injury (womp womp)…
My training has been swapped out with physical and occupational therapy and my optimism has been chipped away day by day – but I haven’t given up.
My runs have turned into uncomfortable walks, my bike has turned into a hanging rack in the garage and my swims… well let’s just say I haven’t drowned…
But today my aches were louder than my alarm and I was wide awake squirming for comfort at 5:30am and my mind started down the path of “I can’t, I won’t and I shouldn’t…” and then I thought about the fourth IRONMAN 70.3 medal that I DON’T have… I’m not (that) materialistic, but I own the fact that I live for race medals. I’ve gone as far as to cancel races because the medal (or lack of medal) didn’t get me excited for the race. And while I am very pleased with my collection of Sprint/Olympic Tri and 1/2 Marathon and 5k/10k medals – the IRONMAN 70.3 medals take priority – and one day the 140.6 medal will reign supreme (if I ever take it off). So I started thinking about what the medal would look like and more importantly how it would make me feel. That medal would be the token of accomplished that said “the work injury couldn’t stop me” and that “I overcame reguardless.” And then I realized that this medal would mean a little bit more and I wanted it more!
My race kit is black and blue and I wear it only for 70.3 races (it’s like my battle-armor) so I crawled out of bed and grabbed my Nike suit that’s the same color (competitors mindset or something – it just felt right) and my goggles – essentially the only thing I needed to swim – and I drove to the pool. It was 48 degrees and raining – not the best conditions but I worked out anyway.
It. Was. Cold… It was a slow warmup and an even slower workout – but I did it. And I feel better now that I did! The medal is 58 days always and now it’s not about the strength or the endurance, now it’s about the mental strength.
I’ll keep caring for my injury, keeping my eye on the prize and remind myself when I feel self doubt – to shut up and workout! 🙂
Thanks for listening and feel free to comment! 🏊🏼🚴🏽🏃🏻