I finished IRONMAN Texas nearly one hour slower than my PR, and 23rd in my age group.
As the carpet burn on my knees and elbows has healed and the even bigger bruise to my ego has dissipated, I'd like to share my top three lessons I learned:
1. Find a coach. I prepared for IRONMAN Texas using an advanced training plan borrowed from a friend. Being self-coached and overly ambitious early on led to an overuse injury and utter burnout a month before my race. If I had trusted the guidance of someone trained and experienced who had walked the IRONMAN path before me, I could have modified my training approach and perhaps ultimately improved my race experience and performance.
2. Take the time to get out of your head. One of my most trusted advisors is fond of the saying, "Alone in your head is a very dangerous place to be." Eliminating social interaction may have freed up time to train, but it certainly did not produce performance improvement. Balance is key. Many athletes choose to make their race experience about something larger than themselves, like giving back to their race community or raising funds for a cherished charitable cause. The IRONMAN Foundation is an incredible vehicle for making one's race larger than oneself and giving back to others along the journey.
3. Relish the process. Release the outcome. An outcome-driven approach, such as focusing on a finish time, age group placement, Kona slot or national ranking makes success contingent upon factors completely beyond one's control. If I had listened to the messages my body was sending and focused on getting my gear in order well in advance of the race (the process), as opposed to obsessing about my desired finish time (the outcome), I undoubtedly would have had a better and more successful race.
The next line of the aforementioned Rolling Stones song is, "But you get what you need." Aside from providing many hours of laughter as my tri friends repeatedly watched the video of me tumbling on the red carpet, falling at the finish line gave me a much needed jolt back to reality.
Today I'm getting out of my head by mentoring a female newbie in the sport and supporting another female age group peer as she prepares for USAT Nationals. I am also working with a certified coach to identify a realistic plan for improvement in the sport of triathlon. We are together mapping out a race calendar and a supporting training plan that will help prevent burnout in my beloved sport.
I've relocated and now cohabitate with my husband, who is training for IRONMAN Florida this fall. New on his training plan is a weekly date night. What a novel idea! Even with six hour rides and three hour runs, my more balanced better half recognizes the importance of actual human interaction.
Betsy Langan, MSW is a grant writer and women's health advocate who resides in Key West, Florida. Addicted to the sport of triathlon, she has completed over 60 swim, bike and/or run events in the past five years, crossing the finish line in a vertical position 98.9% of the time. Betsy is currently studying to become an IRONMAN University certified coach, and hopes to formally share her passion with those just starting out in the sport. She can be reached at email@example.com.