Many of you know that I raced the Ironman Wisconsin 70.3 on Saturday. This was half iron #22 for me, and I was beyond excited to return to my home race after a four year hiatus. My original goal (made last September) was to finally break the 5-hour mark in the distance. But, after realizing this summer was going to be the busiest three months of my life, I toned down my expectations and decided to shift my goal away from time and to simply showing up to the best of my ability on that day. 

Hmmmmm…. Or, did I? 

I absolutely believe that this is the best way to tackle any race, and I wasn’t faking the value in my intention. But, I didn’t realize how much I was also still relying on my “secret” time goal. Truthfully, it wasn’t really a secret. When people asked me I told them that I believed I was capable of finishing in around five hours and fifteen minutes. This was never a lie. But, as the race got closer the “I believe I am capable of” turned into a simmering need to reach, or beat, this time. And, a “hope” for a top-five podium finish also became a need in order to fulfill my worthiness as an athlete. 

Looking back, I am not surprised by this at all. It is exposing and humbling to race under the eyes of your athletes and fellow area coaches and teams. My week was more-than-usual stressful leading up to the race. I became an empty nester, and although I wasn’t laying on the floor in a puddle of “I can’t live without my children” tears, I know I still was (and am) working through the emotions surrounding this change, including acknowledging a big identity shift. Additionally, in absolutely crazy timing, Jamie’s new business venture suddenly became slated to open on the Friday before race day (over two months than the originally planned date). The impact of these completely out of my control circumstances led me away from curiosity, and into what I know best: control

And, as it does, control leads to tension. In me it manifests more stress, not less. Little stressors feel bigger. This time, I scrapped for more control while feeling it all slip away. 

Although I felt slightly anxious, the issue of my race result defined worth was mostly subconsciousness before the race. So, I was still very excited to put it all out there on the day. I was happy to be with friends from out of town and surrounded by my athletes and our team. 

I had a good swim, even though it was very crowded, and was in good spirits exiting the water. I love to ride fast, and was ready to tackle the home bike course (literally passing one block from my house). But, when I started riding I felt uncharacteristically irritable. First, I blamed it on the early no-passing zone–which is no one’s fault, but  honestly is irritating when you are stuck behind a slower racer. Later, I negatively focused on the congested course, and on other riders’ inability to move out of the center of the road. 

As I kept riding I tried to find my normal connection to gratitude via chatting with God. I couldn’t make it last, as my body hurt everywhere, made worse by rough roads, hills, and more turns than I remembered. And the entire time I kept looking at my watch, choosing to stay frustrated with my lack of maintaining the speed needed to make this “secret” time goal a reality.

After many miles (about 40) of waging this internal battle, I moved my focus from default thinking to awareness. I found kindness for myself and reflected on why I was not enjoying something that I have always loved to do. I opened up into curiosity again, rather than hyper-focusing on making sure I didn’t let myself or anyone else down if I didn’t hit that specific time goal and placement. 

In doing so, I realized that in a time when life felt hard, I didn’t want to do a hard thing in this way. I still wanted to rise to the challenge, but I reminded myself that I didn’t need to think about time at all. I wanted my hobby to add value, not become something that cultivated negative competition within myself. I wanted to remember that I was fueled by love, not by shame. I acknowledged that in this hard season of my life I needed the smiles and connection to myself, my amazing team, and my family/friends in order to be genuinely filled with gratitude. 

I refocused my intent in tackling this hard thing through abundance. I decided that I was going to do what I know is best (and what I tell my athletes to do)—stop looking at my watch and stay connected to my body. I was still happy to get off my bike (it was still very true that my whole body hurt more than usual on two wheels). But mostly, I was excited for a chance to start the third discipline with a renewed energy and mindset. 

I didn’t look at my watch for the run. I tried to smile and dug in deep. I made each moment matter, even when I highly suspected that a podium spot was well out of reach. I took the love from the fans. And I did what a very good friend reminded me to do, I imagined taking my seven year old pig-tailed self along for each step, giving us the love and kindness we deserve. I found joy. 

I crossed the finish line in 5:31, far from a PR (or from that 5:15 secret goal). But, I smiled with sincerity. I was spent. And although I was disappointed in my body’s unwillingness to show up to what I wanted it to do that morning, I am thankful for the struggle. And, I am content with knowing I truly gave all I had. I did it while remaining gentle with my emotionally vulnerable self. 

And funny enough, I finished in 6th in my age group, just one spot off that much desired podium. 😉 

If you ever wonder why I do this brand of hard things— this is why. I don’t do it to distract or run from my feelings, but to be faced with them in vulnerable spaces. I find honesty there, without the secrets. I am blessed with much abundance in my life, and can see how I could sit back and live on autopilot. But, I want more. I want to grow and evolve with full awareness and presence. I want to feel. I want to encourage you all to have self compassion. I want to be love. The “vehicle” of triathlon helps me stay alert to it all. 

Hopefully you can learn from me this week by applying my story and lessons to your own literal or figurative races. To be grateful and curious in the journey, over focusing on the destination. I am very grateful that I get another chance to take all of this back to the water and the road in Arizona for the 70.3 in October. 

And no— I do not have a time goal for this one. Not even in secret. 😉