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This Is Your Brain on Triathlon October 10, 2011

I knew when I signed up for this that this event was going to be as much of a psychological challenge as a physical one. I was not mistaken in this. The psychological and emotional obstacles have been HUGE and sometimes even debilitating. After my first open water swim I was not at all sure I could even continue.

But continue I have, and I have been putting as much time into my training my psyche as I have training my body. If there is ANY tool or resource I can find to help me in this area, I am trying to use it.

At the “Stories of the Body” retreat last weekend, I utilized several of the guest artist activities to help me in my tri efforts. At Bethany’s “Bodymindfull” workshop, I created a triathlon dance in which I danced my way through the swim, bike and run. I envisioned them happening with ease and joy. Then in the collage workshop I made a triathlon collage with random pictures I found in magazines and calendars. I LOVED the image of the nuns rowing on the water. It just gave me immediate comfort. I won’t be alone out there. Some holy presence will be there protecting me.

My wonderful retreat participants blessed and gifted me with a little Quan Yin figurine which I immediately took with me on my tri course bike ride. Another source of protection and support. Knowing she was in my bike pouch really was calming and reassuring.

One of my Team in Training teammates recommended a booked called The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training- I ordered it on Amazon within about 30 seconds! and have read about half of it already. The chapters on Confidence, Emotions and Intensity are really helping me. (thank you Katherine!)

Yesterday, Lily and Vince and I went out to bike the tri loop again. It felt really good. I felt strong and I loved the course – hilly but not too steep. It felt so reassuring to get out there and feel what it’s actually going to feel like. I can do this!!

Today was the first big coached workout I’ve had in two weeks. We did about 90 minutes in the pool which included some fascinating tri open water “simulation.” First they had us warming up, all bunched together in two lane lines. All the thrashing bodies smushed together in the water. It did indeed bring up, even in 4 feet depth, the anticipated anxiety. But then we got through the next phase, of pushing hard to get out of that crowd, then finding a race pace that was sustainable, and finally a push toward the end. It was so helpful.

Then we had a six mile run. My last attempt at running six miles (after the open swim) was NOT a happy experience, and I was determined to find redemption on this run. I challenged myself to run for the FIRST TIME EVER without my earbuds and music. I love running with my music. It calms me, it keeps me at a good pace, and it keeps me from hearing the sound of my own panting (which just makes me upset and nervous). But I know that earbuds are most likely going to be prohibited during the race itself and I wanted to get used to doing without. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

Incredibly, as soon as I began running, the music started going in my head. I’ve listened to those songs over hundreds of miles and you know, they are so hardwired into me at this point. I don’t know every single song lyric, but I was able to hum/sing most of my repertoire through the majority of my run. Which included a bunch of hills and challenging trail stuff. I walked up the hills and ran the rest of it. When I was coming down the hill toward the group at the end, I was so excited about finishing 6 miles (race distance) that I was all set to hold up six fingers for the camera. The camera guy was not aiming at me when I finished and then I heard coach Haakon say, “That was about 5.5 miles.” WHAT?? I didn’t finish my six? Teammate Alison said, “let’s do the last half mile.” She was sorta kidding sorta not, but I said “YEAH let’s do it!” and we ran out and completed the last half, just so we’d know we could do the whole six. YEAH! HIGH FIVE! (high six?)

When the workout was done I was pretty overjoyed. I was jumping up and down. I didn’t feel depleted or sick or horrible. Which meant a couple things: one, my bug from last week must be GONE from my body, and two, I think I’m getting better! I’m going to be prepared!

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3 Responses to “This Is Your Brain on Triathlon”

  1. Christie O. Says:

    Hooray!!! I totally and completely agree with you, I have had to buy that book too! It was awesome. Oddly and awesomely, I also went to a retreat before my first Olympic and had some spiritual guidance along on my swim I am sure. I took with me a shell from the retreat and it makes me think of the beauty of the ocean and the water instead of the scary. Anyways, this was awesome to read, you have overcome so many hurdles that crossing that finish on race day is going to be SWEEEEET!!!! So excited for you! Besides, you have a cape, woman!! (you need to email me your snail mail address so I can send it you — you will LITERALLY have a cape!)

  2. Diane Says:

    You are going to do great! You are putting in the training and come race day it will all pay off for you.
    Good move running without your music. It will absolutely NOT be allowed in your race in any part of it. Better to get used to that now.
    The funny thing is when I started running without music, I didn’t like it. I also didn’t like the sound of my ragged breathing. But after training that way for quite some time, I got used to it and now I almost never listen to music on my runs. I find it almost soothing to not have the music. And my breathing has actually gotten better because I do listen to it now. :-)


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