One of the weird things about being a professional triathlete is having other people talking and writing about you in the media. Obviously, that can be both good and bad… depending on what they write about you! Phil Wrochna at firstoffthebike.com has just written a profile piece on me. It’s a bit of a retrospective on the last few years of my career – where I’ve come from and where I’m heading.
As strange as it is to read about myself, I reckon Phil captures some great insights – there’s definitely some value in being able to reflect back on these events, get a little perspective and be reminded of the lessons learned all over again.
For what it’s worth, here’s my response to the article, with a few extra reflections and insights of my own thrown in there.
Running hot in Cairns
Phil goes back to 2013 and Ironman Cairns. I reckon he’s right – IM Cairns was a pretty significant race for me. There’s nothing worse than sitting, stewing in the penalty box watching your rivals get further and further ahead. A lot of things go through your mind while you’re waiting for that time to tick away. Fortunately, I was able to control the frustration, keep it together and channel those feelings into a fast run leg.
I think it raises an interesting question for all triathletes – when you get into one of those tough situations, what makes the difference between just ‘losing your shit’ and letting the race go or keeping it together, rolling up your sleeves and getting on with the job?
To a large extent I reckon it comes down to the mental game. In fact, my last two races have highlighted that for me. Both were tough. In Melbourne, I felt bad but kept going. It was a really rough day at the office but in the midst of difficult conditions and some back issues I was able to keep my focus and persist. The result was a second place and a deeper knowledge of myself. I came away from Melbourne knowing that when I need to dig deep I can do it, even when I’m not feeling so great.
Busselton 70.3 was a different situation. After a good start, my back started to tighten up, aggravated by the icy conditions. The question was- what do you do when your body isn’t coming to the party? When do you push through and when is the best option to pull the plug, walk away and save your body for another day? No one likes to post a DNF, especially when you’re going into the race as the defending champ. It’s a kick to the ego, if nothing else. But on that occasion I decided the best option was to look at the bigger picture, pull out, learn some hard lessons and use them to refocus my Kona preparation.
I know athletes wrestle with these questions in every sport, but it’s particularly relevant for endurance athletes. Let’s face it, IM racing is never easy. It’s always a fight against pain and exhaustion. One of the reasons why I waited so long to go to Kona was that a race like that needs a certain maturity and enough wisdom to be able to judge exactly where you’re up to. You’ve got to know when and how to push through, when it counts.
Staying in the moment is always my aim – being able to keep your head in the game, not over-thinking it, but at the same time, not just acting on your feelings. You’ve got to know when to keep running your own race and when you need to change up and go with the leaders, so you’re not left behind. I try to learn a little more, sharpen my skills and my judgement a little more, every time I race.
On the road to Kona 2015
Phil made a comment in the article that really rings true. He said,
One good day in Kona has some currency but that erodes over time.
Kona is definitely the big goal on my list this year – all roads lead there. 7th last year was a great result. It showed me what was possible and I guess it put me on the radar of other competitors.
This year, I’m heading back to Kona- older, more experienced and hopefully, wiser. But I’m not taking anything for granted. Kona is the real deal. When you’re heading through the Energy Lab it’s about as real as you can get. There’s no room for BS, hype or lame excuses… it’s not about your reputation, your brand or the crowds. All that external stuff is stripped away. It’s the ultimate test of who you really are – as an athlete and as a person.
Thanks to Phil Wrochna and firstoffthebike.com for putting me under the microscope and digging deep. Keep up the good work and keep the insights coming.