I just completed my first sprint Triathalon: 500m swimming, 13 miles biking, 3 miles running.
To me, running is easier than swimming. I can burn through 8 miles without having to think about it. But when it comes to swimming, I really have to mentally prepare myself for it. Although it was just a sprint Triathalon, 500m was no cakewalk to me.
But what about biking? That’s easy. Having completed the MS 150 (2 day cycling relay that spans 150 miles) in past years, cycling was just as easy as running.
So now that I have completed my first spring Triathalon what did I learn in hindsight? My thoughts:
1. Get a swim coach and stick to a regular routine. I got the swim coach; she was referred to me by a close friend of mine. But the routine, well, the swim lesson was free and she was a student that had other priorities. If I could go back into time, I would have signed up for a dedicated swim coach, that I could pay to stick to a certain schedule. Unlike cycling and running, swimming requires a technique. The good news is that it can be taught!
2. Train super early in the morning. I am a morning person who likes to get the day started early. It became a habit for me to go to my local gym at 5:45AM and knock out a few laps at the pool. Since most races start early in the morning (7AM or earlier), I developed this habit of getting myself mentally prepared. The latest that I would ever work out was 8AM. Anything later than 8, would not be great, especially if you are training in tropical/desert climate, summer months, etc.
3. Train on an empty stomach. (Referring to point number 2) Since most Triathalon start at the break of dawn, it will be a challenge to eat anything before 5AM. Train on an empty stomach, and reward yourself with a solid meal. The day before the race, eat a solid dinner, and poop it out the morning of race day. What’s the best part about finishing the race? Beer, massages, free snacks and guilt free all you can eat buffet.
4. Remember who you are dedicating this race to. There will be a point in your race that you hit a wall. It could be a physical wall, a mental, or both.. Hopefully, it’s not a literal wall. That is why you have to stay positive throughout the race. When my body feels like it wants to shut down on the n’th mile of cycling, or I feel defeated after my legs lock up at the last 500 meters of my run, I distracted my mind by reminding myself who I am running this mile for. One of those miles, I ran it for my Dad; another mile for my Mom; the next one for my brother and my sister; the one after that for my pledge captain and my pledge bros; this one coming up, for my fraternity, etc.
5. Remember your skeptics and your haters. Point 4 is a list of positive affirmations. This list is not positive, but it gets the job done – motivation. I reserved this list for my ex-girlfriends who doubted me, cheated me, and ultimately walked away from me. This is a special list for people who I have purposefully chosen to burn a bridge and never considered repairing that bridge on my own accord. Every step that I took on that run, every pedal that I took on that bike, or that stroke on that swim, was a way for me to mentally release that bottled up dark thoughts.
6. Build yourself a playlist, and don’t forget to bring the headphones on race day. I forgot to bring my headphones on race day. But because I have listened to my Running Playlist over and over again, I felt like I could hear the each soundtrack in my mind. Choose songs with powerful lyrics that uplift you. Sometimes it is the tempo and the rhythm of the music that keeps you on pace. Whatever it is that gets you in a positive and energetic state of mind, find music that amplifies that moment. Trust me, you will need it.
7. Love yourself. The moment I finished the race, it felt great. I felt the warmth and good feels that flooded throughout my body. But the feeling was only ephemeral. On my drive back home, my negative self talk told me that I should have trained harder; that I could have swam faster; that I could have ran faster, etc. Point 5 can be a powerful booster during the race, but the lingering effects caught me off guard. Nostalgia hit me hard. I was sad when I reminisced of a time when there was someone who I once loved, cheering for me on race days. I remembered how sweet that feeling was, and how bitter it now feels to no longer have that support. Remember to love yourself with all your heart, so that it makes up for the dry spells in life when love almost appears absent, and that this self love rejuvenates hope for a greater love to come.
To sum it up, most of the 7 points are a mental excercise. You too can complete a triathalon, if you put your mind into it!