Challenge Penticton: The Mental Side of Things

There is nothing like racing as a local athlete, nor is there anything like winning a race like this on home soil! I was lucky enough to share the win with fellow local athlete, Jeff Symonds. My race unfolded pretty much exactly as I had predicted. I figured I would be 5-7 mins back after the swim (I was 8…..I’ll get to that in more detail later), bike my way into top 3 and hopefully finish in the top 3. No, I didn’t predict a win.

There was only 8 pro women on the start line on Sunday, which meant for a weak swimmer like me, my chances of swimming by myself were pretty good. This is exactly what happened. I didn’t have a panic attack, so I was happy with that, and there was a brief moment where I thought I would actually be able to stay on some feet…. The water was very choppy and it was a non-wetsuit swim for us. The second loop proved even more difficult as the faster age group men in wetsuits completely ran me over. I finished the swim 7min slower than my anticipated time, but soon found out that everyone’s times were slow.

I was just over 8min down when I headed out on the bike. This distance (3km/120km/30km) was very different for me, and I anticipated that there would be many people that would hammer out the first part of the bike at a half iron effort, especially with the first 30km or so being dead flat. I reminded myself to be patient and that I had 120km to do my thing…it didn’t need to be done in the first 30min. I settled into a rhythm, keeping my power within the planned limits. My legs really didn’t come around until 60km in, which happens to me in training all the time. I worked my way through the field, but when I was getting splits on first place, I wasn’t gaining at all. I was a little worried, but knew that if I pushed harder and didn’t stick to the plan that I would have another rough run. I have raced a lot since May, and on paper my run results have been pretty decent, but I haven’t had a run that has actually felt good. I ended up making up a huge chunk of time on the lead just in the last 20km. It was very encouraging to know that my patience had paid off.

I came off the bike within and couple minutes of the lead, and out on the run just a few seconds back from Mel. I had heard through the grapevine that she wouldn’t be running, and was warned that she would hit the bike hard because of this. Unless I hear it firsthand, I wasn’t going to believe this until she wasn’t running. Her bike split didn’t surprise me as she is always up there with the fastest bike splits. I felt amazing as I headed out on the run right on her heels. I settled into a rhythm and pulled into first within the first km. I glanced at my watch quickly to check my pace, which was a bit quicker than I wanted. I really didn’t know how to pace this distance, and my longest run since May had only been 20km. I the last month, my running has really clicked and I found myself having better runs when I’m not focused on my watch and pace. I turned my watch away, stood tall and put a smile on my face. I was super relaxed, and just thought about having fun….just another long run day that I love. I’ll be honest, not that I doubted my ability, but I had my mind set that Liz would win. She is a runner and I figured it would just be a matter of time before she caught me. At the far turn around (approx7.5km in), I was not surprised to see her pretty close to me and Karen close behind in third. I did a couple pace checks, but I knew that there was no way I could run 30km at a 4:10 pace. As I got back onto Lakeshore just before the halfway point, I was still hanging onto first. I passed my family, and took a moment to give Nixon a huge high-5 and a “big sweaty kiss”. I cannot describe how amazing it was to have all the local cheers along the way, and not to mention my family support.

The other thing that I was happy about was my nutrition plan working out. We had tweaked with it a bit as this year I have had some really bad issues with things not staying down or digesting properly. I started to fade a bit, but nothing more than expected as, to my surprise, I was still in the lead at the bottom turn around (22.5km)…barely. Liz was right there as expected. She made the pass with about 5km to go, but then never really opened up the gap. She stayed about 15-20 sec ahead of me. I think in my head that I was expecting this, and she would win. Mentally, I was ok with this…. Until I got to lakeshore drive with 1.5km to go. She was in striking distance and everyone was screaming at me. I had to try, I thought to myself. How many painful interval runs had I done on this stretch of road? What made this any different? I went for it, and caught her with about 500m to go. I had my doubts that I had surged to early as every breath I took was more of a painful scream. I stuck with it, and glanced over my shoulder expecting to see her right beside me. She had fallen back, but that wasn’t enough assurance that I had the win. I remembered Liz’s sprint finish in wildflower last year against Heather Jackson for the win. I got this. As I came into the finishing chute, I glanced again, hoping that I had enough time to enjoy the finish. I can’t even describe the feeling of holding that finishing tape above my head. This was the biggest moment of my racing career. My first big win, in my hometown, and the first race this year that Jay (my husband) has been able to watch. My screaming lungs and legs were quickly doused with an insane amount of happiness. I wanted that win, and somehow found a gear that I didn’t know I had. As a friend of mine said after the race: “You can be 99% fit, but if you’re even 1% mentally not in the game, it doesn’t mean anything.” It’s true. I was doubtful that I would win…in fact, I knew I wasn’t going to, until I changed my mind. As Jeff said in our post-race interview “You have to believe in yourself”. As he had predicted himself to win. Not from an egotistical point of view, but to mentally put your head in the game and believe 100% that this is your day. I learned a lot about myself on Sunday. I found a place I have never been before and tapped into something I didn’t know was there. For some reason, I realized that I do quite often have doubts in myself as I’m out there on race day. I seem to cut myself short….but why? I have put countless hours of hard work in to get to this point, why can’t I win? Or at least execute to the best of my ability with no regrets and believing in myself. I chose to race at this level, I need to BELIEVE I can race at this level.

A huge shout out to all my sponsors and supporters: Skechers, The Bike Barn, CarboPro, EnergyLab, Swagman Racks, Podium Imports, Garmin, BlueSeventy, Cobb Cycling, and Cervelo.

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