Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shock The Monkey Tour

Yep, that's right. You heard me. This Ironman Journey has now officially been dubbed the Shock The Monkey Ironman Tour 2013. Why? Why the hell not? I've had a monkey on my back for over a year now and that sucker has finally come off! 

It is obvious that race day is the end of this journey, but it is the training journey that is taking me over a year to complete. It is during this journey that I will be changing ~ mentally, physically, and spiritually in preparation for more of the same on race day. Triathlon training can be serious stuff. There is hard work to cut weight, build muscle, and improve skill. There are time sacrifices and juggling of schedules and priorities. There is so much seriousness to it all. That is where my training team comes in. To lighten things up, provide some laughs, keep things in perspective, and help me to maintain my mojo when times get hard.

I have the best support team a girl could ask for, and the best Sherpa who has embraced this journey of mine as if it were her own. I know that ultimately triathlon is an individual sport, but there is no doubt in my mind that I am on a team.

Hang around to see what antics are in store...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Mind Bank

I'm working hard on developing strategies to improve my mental toughness as I feel this continues to be my greatest limiter. In training, 9/10 times it is my mind that forces my body into stopping rather than my body collapsing from exhaustion. Often I recognize that this is happening, but I can't overcome it. The poor excuses sneak in and prevail and I grind to a halt.

I am making gains, but there is still a long way to go. I find a am hesitant and nervous with new challenges rather than eager and adrenalin filled in my approach to them. The confidence I have acquired applies to the activities I have already conquered but not to the ones that lay ahead. I approach certain aspects of training with dread rather than with ambition. The fear of failure still embraces me - and I face that fear by Finding Excuses And Reasons as to why I can't complete something.  This is where I am trying to make strides.

I am trying to focus on positive thoughts rather than letting my mind lead me elsewhere. I realize it is just a game of distraction and I am hoping I can fool my brain into ignoring the pain, fatigue, and impulse to quit by implementing some new strategies.

I just finished reading Chrissie Wellington's book, A Life Without Limits, in which she addresses this very issue. She recommends developing a "mind bank" of images that can be turned to when struggling in order to help push through the pain or fatigue. I started thinking about images I can put into my mind bank to pull out as needed ~ places I've been and experiences I've had, as well as things that I love.

Some of the mental coins I am placing in my mind bank:
  • The memory of breathing in fresh tropical air, dipping my feet into the clear blue water of St. Martin while sailing on a catamaran with my closest college friends. That lone image is my happy place. 
  • Kayaking at the lake house during my trip to Muskoka, Canada and hearing only the slap of the paddles on the water and feeling the icy spray of the mist on my face. My moment of solitude and peace.
  • Numerous mountain biking and trail riding and canoeing experiences during my adventure races. The belly laughs and crazy antics of my friends are such good memories.
  • The thrill of exploring new terrain by foot or by bike, of learning a new skill, of putting a mastered skill to use. I have several of these coins to withdraw.
  • I can always focus myself on objects that I love ~ the ice cold creaminess of a big bowl of Blue Bell ice cream, a large sweet icy lemonade, the faces of my children, friends, and husband, and the memory of my Dad.

Another strategy to help me focus is to concentrate on the technique of whatever it is I am doing. Whether it is to think about my running posture and stride, my cadence on the bike, the entrance of my hand while swimming, or my breathing, there is always something that I can zone in on to block out the pain and fatigue. My struggle is that although I am learning to do this,  I can't seem to keep that focus for the amount of time it takes to fully complete the activity. I am expecting this to improve with training and my determination to block the discomfort out. I am trying to incorporate this into training, so by race time it will be second-nature and I will be able to maintain the focus.

Chrissie talks about the mind being our body's main defense against injury. This defense system is geared to send warning signals of impending system failure, encouraging us to quit the behavior that is triggering it. But the brain is able to be trained to ignore these perceived limits and those limits can gradually be extended to allow for greater and greater physical feats. With each successful push past a perceived boundary, the boundary gets moved again. In turn confidence is built by one's ability to withstand the effort safely. It is this knowledge that she says one can fall back on when struggling. The more experiences of success you have in your arsenal the more comfortable you will be in your endeavor to push onwards.

There are other strategies too ~ if you train on the course that you race on you can establish landmarks to guide yourself by. She at times listens to the same music when training on a course so that when she races she can "hear" the songs as she passes the landmarks. She also dedicates aspects of her run to causes or people in her life. I am trying to implement this as well. In both training, and for my race, I have matched certain people with certain mile markers and am going to try and lift them up during that mile. Something positive to focus on rather than the pounding of my feet.

Ultimately, in order to succeed, I realize that I have to trust in my training plan, and in doing so... my Coach. If I don't fully give myself over to the program then I won't have confidence that my training will have prepared me to successfully accomplish my ultimate goal. When I am in the throws of competition, that is one doubt that I don't want to have.

Whether it is a mantra, a poem, an image... bank it and be prepared to make a withdrawal during training and on race day.