It had been a training day from hell. I was very excited to be at my first triathlon camp in Western North Carolina with some of my favorite people. We woke up bright and early to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, which our coach assured us wasn’t really that hilly. I had my shiny new tri bike and was eager to put in a long day on the bike.
Nothing went as planned. Up the first hill my chain dropped and I was left behind by my group. I imagined all the fun they were having on the ride without me as I stopped to put the chain back on and tried to catch up. Turns out, the coach had blocked out a few memories of the Blue Ridge Parkway and it was indeed a significant amount of climbing – the average group member only rode about 72 miles over the course of a 6 and a half hour ride. I had a new saddle and wasn’t used to riding a tri bike, especially not in an upright position. Out of ignorance, I had worn my thickest bike shorts for protection during the long ride and that decision was coming back to haunt me. Over and over again I’d start to gain momentum only to have my chain drop and again be left alone on the long hills of the parkway.
I caught back up to my group and we wearily started back toward the hotel where we were staying. As we approached the turn back home, our coach sat in the road shaking his head. We still had 45 minutes to ride. He pointed to the nearest hill and told us to go. I started to charge up the hill, my anger fueling my weary legs. I was starting to feel good when at the top of the hill my chain not only dropped but twisted and was completely stuck. With tears of frustration in my eyes I briefly considered throwing my bike off the side of the mountain. A few minutes later my coach showed up and helped me fix the bike. I’m sure he gave me some pep talk that made me want to slap him in the face and I was off once again went off to find my group.
Over and over again during that day, I found myself thinking, ‘I can’t do this, I’ll never be able to finish an Ironman. I should just quit now’. I went back to the hotel tired, chafed and discouraged.
That night our coach took us through a visualization exercise. We all stretched out quietly on the floor with our eyes closed and imagined the race. From the feel of the cold water on our skin as we entered the lake to the wind on our backs during the bike ride, we imagined the entire day. We imagined success. We imagined the finish line. For me, it was very empowering and a game changer in the way I approached my workouts. Although I already intellectually knew that many workouts would not go according to plan, I still felt completely discouraged when one did not. I would start to doubt myself and I would let that doubt fester until it impacted the next workout and the next workout. Instead of approaching my training with confidence, I would approach it with a bit of fear that if that workout didn’t go perfect, I’d never finish the race.
That weekend I learned to approach difficult workouts with a different mindset. The good and bad are a part of the journey. My job is to show up and believe in the training. To believe in myself. When a bad workout comes along, I take it as a learning experience. When an awesome workout comes along, I celebrate by telling anyone who will listen. Most workouts fall somewhere in between. They aren’t bad and they aren’t awesome. They are just a part of the process, but the way I react to the bad workouts will have a huge impact on those every day workouts.
And on a side note, we’ve never let that particular coach live down his bad memory of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you ever go there, be prepared to climb!