With a couple of weeks to reflect on my Ironman North American Pro Championship race in Texas, if I had one quote to summarize the experience, it would be from “The American President” movie. The President’s Cabinet are figuring out what to do when hordes of press are camped outside the residence and one of them says, “I think the important thing is not to make it look like we're panicking.” And the response from Michael Douglas’s character is, “See, and I think the important thing is actually not to BE panicking.”
There are a million times during an Ironman where it’s so easy to panic. The days leading up to the race, social media stalking the competition, pre-race predictions, sizing up competitors at pre-race meetings…not to mention during the race, with the swim start, navigating the bike course and trying to track down competitors on the run. Every time I get this panicked feeling I think of that scene.
This race had a lot of challenges; last minute course changes, weather…you name it. And it’s easy to get freaked out and allow it to change you. But that’s the beauty of long course racing. It does not reward those who panic, but those who stick to their guns and roll with what comes to them on race day.
I did not feel great, stellar or sharp the whole race. My swim was even more sub-par than normal, I never hit my numbers on the bike, and during the run my nutrition wasn’t going down well. All those things were good cause to freak out, change my strategy or push too hard. But I thought of that movie scene - I decided not to panic – largely because I felt the weather conditions were far too great a factor to allow anyone to over-extend themselves and actually get away with it. So I stayed put, focusing on say, keeping good cadence instead of my dismal watts for the bike and deciding to hold steady on the run instead of pushing the pace faster.
There was a lot of “carnage” on the course that day and given I wasn’t feeling 100% myself, I decided to hang tight and not become part of it. I was so unaware of the carnage up ahead that starting the last lap of the run I didn’t realize I passed two more women (who were either in the portajohn or collapsed on the side of the path) to take over 3rd place. When a man on a bicycle (little did I know he was actually the official race escort) came alongside and said “Great job, you’re in 3rd!” All I could think was, “no I’m not…who IS this dude? So I yelled at him saying “you’re going to get me disqualified if you don’t leave me alone!” (apologies to you, race escort dude, for my rudeness…)
I didn’t win this race as I was hoping, but I can be content with my 3rd place and clinching my spot at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. That race is my ultimate goal and I felt it best to “actually not be panicking”, when faced with less-than-perfect racing.
Up next is some rest, continued swim focused training, and a great lead-up to Kona in October!