It’s a mental state

A friend and teammate recently posted that Wednesday was the first Ironteam group swim and “Only 40 more until Ironman Couer d’Alene, but who’s counting!?!?”

 I read that, paused and….laughed. Why? Because I am not. At all.

 I realized – full force on – that I am not a counter. At all. A lot of people are counters: how many days until big events that one looks forward to with excitement, and sometimes a little fear and (in the case of something such as exams) dread. Me? I deal with these feelings by not thinking about it at all. I basically immerse myself in to what I am doing now (preparing for an event) and focus on changes over time – doing assignments, training….what ever the event calls for. I don’t see or focus on events. Rather I plod consistently towards a goal and finally, on the day, the nerves, excitement, fear and/or dread truly hit me.

That isn’t to say I am not a numbers girl. After a hard training session I will go back and compare it to similar activities from the past and ask if there has been improvement. If so – where? I email these comparisons to my coach and point out what I am taking from that ride, and where I think I need to focus to make more improvements. And ask for her input. Mary receives about 3 emails for every one she receives via training peaks from me!  

Really – it’s just like being back in school. I would do homework consistently and study each lesson. Each lesson was a building block. When test time came rarely did I feel the need to cram and learn anything new for the test – rather it was a process of reviewing items so they were fresh in my head, and writing up the (usually allowed) cheat sheet. I never counted the days to an exam…I just kept working on and understanding the lessons. I rarely did a homework problem to just “get an answer” but worked on it until I understood why a specific answer was correct. That was time consuming! I trusted that my teacher would have us ready for the exam through their instruction and homework (the times I crammed was the times I did not trust the teacher).

In training I trust my coach – that she does the counting and will have me ready. Therefore, there really is no need to count or add extra anxiety to my life. I just need to do what she writes for my workouts. Each session is a building block. I do each training session with a specific goal in mind and steadily approach my overall goal. I keep in mind my objective for each training day. I focus on the now. Afterwards I look at my data and look for improvements over time. The race, just like the exams, will then take care of itself.

It is when I lose that focus that I stumble.

At some point nerves hit me. This usually happens when training is over and it is time to put it all to the test. And that is when I start to get a standard pre-race anxiety/excitement/curiosity at how it will all play out.

My favorite races are when I am not thinking too far ahead, but trusting my body and my training at knowing what to do – they have been trained, after all! My body and brain know what needs to be done. At this point, just like on exam day, it no longer requires much thought. Of course there are a few curves thrown in but with training you can work though them (for the most part!). Overall the idea is just to GO!

I see a pattern of trust going on here!

The kicker is, right now, I am working on doing more than just finishing but pushing limits. So…there is a lot of adjustment and training going on physically and mentally as I learn to push my body to go a little faster, and steel my mind to be a little stronger with each passing day. And it’s hard. And I love it.

My teammate and I emailed back and forth as we learned a little more about ourselves. With some deeper digging we realized we have a similar approach to daily training: look at the current training block, know what we need to do, and figure out what needs to be planned to get it done. And we will get it done. And we will be ready. In that I trust.


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