I am reading a fantastic book called Calm the F*ck Down (The Brave Triathlete).

Yes, this is actually the title of the book…

I’m approaching my third and final sprint triathlon this season.  The first one was a frustrating exercise in showing me truly how out of shape I was two months post Ironman.  The second one showed some promise, somewhere between out of shape and where I was at last year (which made sense, since that’s about where my training was at the time).

For this race, earlier in the year, I had envisioned coming to this race fit, closer to race weight, and specifically trained to kick ass at the distance.  Ironman recovery took longer than expected, my motivation for adhering to a strict schedule ALSO took a while and to be honest, is still not completely there, and I really just felt like riding my bike all summer.  I suppose a loss of about 3 lbs depending on the day is technically *closer* to race weight, but my intention was to have a tri kit that fit and I didn’t feel like a sausage in, which has not been the case yet.  THAT in and of itself is also another novel post, so let’s gloss over that and get back to racing, shall we?

Where I’m actually at right now is pretty all-around decently fit even though the scale is still laughing at me.  I don’t have the utmost confidence of a full season of consistent training, but I’ve had some workouts lately where I have surprised myself.  Also, this is a race that is set up for my success.  The bike course is relatively flat and fast.  It’s my second to best sprint bike split back from 2011 when I had no business getting my second best sprint bike split (I didn’t even have clipless pedals yet).  The run is on concrete, not kitty litter, and also pretty flat and shaded.  However, this one also seems a little more competitive in terms of where I’m likely to place in my age group, but the only thing I can do is show up and see what happens.

I’m sure this is going to sound like John Madden type commentary, but what’s really going to make the difference is how hard I can hammer the bike, and how my legs (and brain) feel at the start of the run.  I finally found the entrance to my pain cave again late this summer.  I’m still stepping into it apprehensively, there’s no “eff yeah, let’s go hurt ourselves today” attitude back yet, but I’m finding that once I get going, I can open the cave door and spend some time inside again instead of my body and brain immediately freaking out and going:

Here are things that I have done recently to give me some proverbial feathers in my cap:

  • I have ridden 100 miles and have not been too wrecked at the end at a not-completely-embarrassing speed.
  • I rode about 6 miles on the bike at about 20.5 mph average for the speed loop part of the bike and I was breathing hard but also chatting a little.
  • I ran 9:30 min/miles off a hard bike for 2 miles and was chatting in multiple word phrases on the first mile and also not completely shelled after.
  • I have seen 8s on the run for a little bit whilst really pushing myself.
  • I have done all these things without caffeine and some at the end of a long workday in the relatively hotter-than-race-day weather.
  • I’ve done an Ironman, which actually means absolutely nothing in this context except I’m too damn stupid and stubborn to quit hurting myself by moving forward rather slowly for 15+ hours in a single day.  And I like to remind the world that I’m an Ironman.

So, there are two sports psychology things I’m taking into this race.

Thing one – I’m crazy in the brainpan.  No wait, that’s not it…

First of all, like I usually do, I’m going to set goals and intentions for this week and that day.  But, we’ll do this a little differently.  First, I’m going to get all the insecure crap out now.  Here we go…

You’re too heavy to PR/podium you haven’t trained enough Ironman training wrecked all your speed forever all the fit girls are way faster than you especially after a full season of training and you’re going eff something up and  finish in the bottom half of your age group and then whine about it all weekend…

*record scratch*

Ok, beyond THIS point, we leave all the negativity and bullshit behind and I’ll walk you through the perfect race weekend.

I wake up on Friday refreshed and relaxed and excited.  I’ve had at least 8 hours of sleep every day this week and I’m ready for the trip up to Kerrville and reasonably calm.  I’ve got everything packed and I’ve thought ahead to pack all my tri gear in separate bags so I can put them right into the T1 and T2 bags.

I eat my normal breakfast, lunch, and snacks.  At 2pm, everything is settled at work and we head out.  The drive is uneventful, and so is packet pickup.  We have everything dropped off for the race and are done by 7pm.  At that time, we drive to our campsite, do minimal set up – just what we need to function for the night – eat our sandwiches, have some sleepytime tea, and go to bed.

After a restful night of sleep, we’re up and to the race site around 6am.  I’ll eat half a sunbutter and jelly sandwich and have some tea for caffeine and a coconut water for electrolytes.  I’ll get my tires pumped up, drop off my bottles, arrange my T1 area, and then get in the porta potty line and take care of all that nonsense while nomming some caffeinated blocks.

Then, as I approach the water, I become Sapphyra, the badass barbarian warrior chick who is going to fearlessly dominate the course.

Sapphyra conquers things.  Especially large rocks.

Ok, don’t laugh.  Fine, you totally can because I am honestly laughing at myself a little.  I need a slight break in the positive-only mandate with some some not-so-sunshine-and-rainbows thoughts from the past to explain what this is and why I’m doing it.

/rose colored glasses off

Part of the Brave Triathlete book that I really identified with was showing up as your alter ego (the version of yourself you want to race as).  Yes, this is a video game avatar, which has nothing to do with triathlon, but, here’s the thing.  Becoming Sapphyra made me feel strong and powerful in times where I was horribly obese, out of shape, and didn’t have that much going for me in life besides a powerful avatar.  She was confident and up to any challenge.

Ever since I (low speed) crashed and fell apart afterwards at this race two years ago, something has been broken in me more often than not on race morning.  I used to show up with big dreams and goals, scary ones, ones that I didn’t always reach but that’s okay, and most importantly, be SO EXCITED to go toe that line and see where ended up.  Now, I’m somewhere between calm and numb and full of ennui about the day.  Even Ironman morning I wasn’t so much crapping my pants like I expected, I was just worried about finishing using the bathroom for the fiftieth time before they closed the start line.

Sapphyra, however, is not apathetic.

/rose colored glasses back on

Sapphyra is unreasonably excited to have a reason and an arena to test her mettle.  She’ll look at that start line, at the competition, at the dawning day with eager anticipation to just get this thing STARTED ALREADY.  She’s hungry to find the entrance to the pain cave quickly, get inside, and start digging to see how deep it goes.  She’s eager to see if she can condense all the effort of 15+ hours of an Ironman into under 90 minutes.  She’s interested to see how she can use a course that is SO in her wheelhouse and cooler weather to dominate.

Sapphyra will line up in the right place for the swim, which is not at the back of the pack.  When she hits the water, she’ll concentrate on smooth form but also push the pace as much as possible without blowing up.  She will not sit behind anyone and she’ll swim aggressively (without being mean).  She’ll realize that she cannot win the triathlon in the swim and swim smart and not outside herself, but not lose focus and take the pedal off the gas.

She will move expediently but not rush through transition.  Once she hits the mount line for the bike, she’ll kick it into badass warrior overdrive (weather permitting – if we have rain, it will be semi-safe sort-of-overdrive on the turns).  She will cycle aggressively, building speed on flats and false flats, recovering on the downhills only when the Garmin reads 23+ mph.  She will take a salted watermelon gu that will already be ripped open in her bento box on the first long downhill section, drink a few times, but otherwise just effing hammer the bike as fast and as hard as possible with literally no regard for the run.  What run?  Are we running after this?  I’ll deal with that later.

Maybe the last mile, after entering the park, she’ll recover a bit.  She will do the same expedient but not rushed change from bike shoes to Hokas and get out of transition as quickly as possible because THAT TRANSITION IS HOT LAVA.

Here’s the epic quest.  She will get out on the run course and fight all the brain demons that tell her to slow down.  She’ll take her big ol’ two handed sword and slash the leg fatigue and the lungs screaming “NOOOOO” and the voices that say “slow down, you’re not a good runner anymore” and all the frustration that I rarely run at my potential during these things and that I’d actually be a podium contender sometimes if I could stop tanking this last leg of the race.  Not today, because eff that noise and nonsense.

She will get out on the course and find the highest level of hurt she can maintain for the distance.  She will concentrate on good posture and form and get a mantra in her head that helps keep the pace while rhythmically chanting it.  She will stay within herself but also look for people ahead of her and go “fishing”, especially those in her age group.  The last mile, she will turn it up one more notch and give a kick at the turnaround when she can see the finish.

Then, she’ll cross the line and become me again, and make a beeline for the food and the beer.

Barbarian badass recovery program

I am really sure that I’m making wayyy too big a big deal out of a little race, but it’s good practice.  The last thing I want to do is have a completely untested strategy when I approach one of these that really DOES really really matter to me.  So, even though it feels a little ridiculous, Sapphyra will be making her triathlon debut Saturday morning.

So, Sapphyra’s triathlon goals are:

  • A strong swim.  No idea what this means right now but it’s 10-ish minutes of my race I just want to get over with as quickly as possible while not wrecking the rest of my day.
  • 20+ mph on the bike.  It’s been my goal for a while, I feel very fit on the bike and this is one of the better courses for me to try for it.  Let’s do this!
  • A run with an average in the 9s.  8s would be awesome and maybe I’ll have enough caffeine and magical unicorn dust and badass secret identity mojo to do it.  However, I want to at least run sub-10 min/mile and run near the edge – outside my comfort zone, just before redlining.

Wish me/her luck this weekend!