Many times every single week it surprises me what our bodies are capable of doing when we train them appropriately. When training loads get high and Coach Tara tells me workouts to do day after day and hour after hour, it’s hard to believe that it’s possible. Until I get out there and do it. The first few swim strokes, pedal strokes, and/or running strides are sometimes challenging. But I trust her, like I hope my own athletes trust me, so I attempt to do what she says. And almost always things come together and it happens, despite what physical and mental fatigue might be there.
Yesterday was Calgary 70.3. If you read my last blog post it was a challenging lead up to this event. Yet, somehow, I pulled off the best 70.3 race I’ve ever had. This year has been a year of learning to shut off the mind and focus on the task at hand. Racing has become a refreshing experience of letting the rest of life’s stress’s go and being focussed on only the goal at the present moment. I’ve read about mental strength and focus and how important it is for endurance performance. I’ve done presentations to groups of athletes on that same topic. However, I feel like only now am I truly grasping the power of the mind and how to have more control over it.
First, about this race. This race is beautiful. The swim was in a small man-made lake just outside the city of Calgary. Warm and clean water in a supportive community. For me, the swim can be the most challenging. It’s a “go hard and hang on for dear life” approach we have been practicing. I haven’t been good at succeeding at that approach so far :-)) But feel like I’m getting better being comfortable with that mindset with each race. Yesterday I went out hard and was happy to be on some feet… until I realized that suddenly there was only one set of feet there. And that I was swimming faster than that set of feet. So off I went on my own for my own 1900m swim, once again. It was a nice peaceful swim though! And I felt I could stay focussed on keeping the effort up and not let thoughts wander and not let negative thoughts come in. I could see the group ahead at all times so that was good, I knew they weren’t too far away! So away I went, stroke after stroke, thinking about just staying relaxed, working hard, and keeping technique as efficient as possible.
Out of the swim.. into T1… and again happy to see a number of WPRO bikes still on the rack. Off I went on the bike.. starting to get into my happy place. I’m more confident in my ability to ride and run with the others than to swim with them. I look at my powermeter. And realize if it was accurate I was FLYING and would catch everyone, man and woman, by the end of the ride. So I figured, I should probably not ride by power, there was a good chance it was not accurate for some reason :-). So watching heart rate numbers and going a little by perceived effort, off I went for a nice 90km ride. It’s funny how 90km seems short these days. It was fun! And beautiful. Calgary’s version of “rolling” hills, some nice countryside, and smooth roads. One of the nicest bike courses I’ve ridden. The end of this bike course is FAST. You fly into T2.
Into the running gear. And off for a pretty hilly half marathon!! The run in a triathlon is never easy, as you might imagine! This is where you really get to see how your body is going to hold up, and how far you can push your limits. My race plan said “This run looks pancake flat…”. I can’t remember any places that were flat. There were many hills. But it was all beautiful! On a bike path for pretty much all of it. One step at a time, focussing on keeping cadence up, keeping heart rate up where it was supposed to be, and again not letting negative thoughts in. A friend who is an inspiration to me in the way he lives his life said to me… “Just go until you puke, Cindy”… LOL. And another who said “Never give up. No matter what you do, never give up.” So I kept those two things in mind and tried to just keep pushing and not slow down. And although I did not puke, I felt like I did my best job thus far in pushing that effort from start to finish and never giving up!
Approaching the finish line I knew I had just had the strongest half ironman race yet. I was happy to cross with a finish time of 4:27.59 and 8th female pro.
I would recommend this race to anyone looking or a good half iron distance race. Calgary is a beautiful city filled with friendly people, beautiful mountains, and the race course is one of the nicest I have seen. Being in the middle of a big city (like Toronto) it’s easy to sometimes forget what is important in life. Being in the mountains is a peaceful experience and I believe it helps to ground us. If you go to Calgary, for this race or any other reason, spend time appreciating the beauty of what is around.
Now. Some other cool things about the trip to this race:
– My homestay family, Gail and Richard, were amazing. A huge THANK YOU to the two of them! I have been so lucky to be able to meet great people in many areas of the world through this program. These two went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and make sure I had everything I needed to have a successful day on the course. Not only that, RIchard did the race himself, putting out a solid effort on the course and gaining some confidence for his first full Ironman coming up in a few weeks!
– I got to spend some time with some people from back where I grew up in Northern Ontario, which was great. The world is big but it can also seem small sometimes! From visiting the mountains and lake louise to floating down a river on a raft for four hours, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have done on this trip – even with the added unplanned “excitement” that happened at the end of the day yesterday. 🙂 I hope to see these people again sometime soon!
– I feel lucky to be able to do what I do and live life the way I live it.
– Visit Calgary. If you’re looking for a 70.3 race, definitely consider this one.
– Do what you love. Love what you do. And give it your best shot.
THANK YOU to those helping me along the way…
Quintana Roo Bicycles, Normatec Recovery, Rudy Project, PowerBar Canada, NUUN Hydration, Pearl Izumi, Rick Choi and Reel Kool Products, Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy and of course QT2 Systems and Coach Tara.