Wattie Ink. Pro Heather Jackson Talks About The Importances of Enjoying The Journey
This past weekend I was able to break the tape first at Chattanooga 70.3!!!! Yayyyyyy! I’m so excited and humbled that I was able to do this, especially given the talent in the women’s professional field that toed the line on Sunday. A huge congrats to all of them, as well as all race finishers! I hope that the race went as well as you were hoping and now, enjoy your recovery. Rest your body and your mind. Enjoy your recent accomplishment. Let it all sink in before you start your next block of training or working towards your next goal.
Chattanooga 70.3 was originally a tentative race on my schedule this year. My early season plan was to peak at St. George 70.3. I would race Oceanside 70.3, one of my favorites and one I always like to target and kick off my season with, but knowing I wouldn’t be going into that one as fit as I normally am in March. I wanted to go after St. George 70.3, the North American Championships, a race that had been on my bucket list forever but had always conflicted with Wildflower. Not being the defending champion this year at Wildflower, I saw it as my chance to give St. George a go. All of my training from February onwards targeted May 7th. I worked on my swim, rode and ran up and down hills for two months mimicking the course in St. George. Every training session I pictured my competition on different parts of the course. I went on Strava to find rides with similar climbs and descents of the St. George course. Then, Wattie and I went to St. George two weeks before the race to see the course firsthand, learn it, ride it, check out the town, the conditions, etc. I had one, pinpointed focus for the first 4 months of 2016.
St. George 70.3 race day came. I was fit and ready. Then, in the swim, I struggled to breathe. I had a bit of a panic attack and had to stop swimming to try to get my breath. I struggled through the swim portion thinking that it would go away after I got out of the water. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I felt like I was breathing through a straw the whole bike. I just couldn’t push the pedals how I had been for the prior two months of training. I wheezed and gasped the whole ride. Then, to make things worse, it started downpouring cold rain and I got a bit hypothermic. This also didn’t help my ability to breathe. Off the bike, I tried to run and it got exponentially worse from there. I was just gasping for air and couldn’t get my breathing under control. I was forced to pull out for medical help. I couldn’t even finish the race I had just focused on for the last 8 weeks.
I share this specifically for those who may have not had the day they wanted this past weekend, or on a different weekend, for whatever reason- you got sick during race week. You had mechanical issues. Maybe you just had an “off” day for whatever unexplainable reason. The race just didn’t go as you had pictured through your weeks of training and preparation. It is so tough to deal with mentally. I know, I’ve been there. The two weeks in between St. George and Chattanooga were a complete roller coaster. I was so disappointed. And frustrated. And confused. I thought I had done everything right! After about a week and many, many, MANY talks off the ledge from my husband Wattie, my frustration turned to motivation. But here was the tricky line to walk. In my head, I had to redeem myself at Chattanooga and show the training I had been doing and fitness I knew I had. I had to have a good race. It’s all I could think about. I had to prove myself after what I saw as such a complete failure of a day in St. George.
Again, I am just so lucky to have someone like Wattie in my life, and I’m sure many of you reading have someone like this in your life. He saw the mental shift in me and now talked me off a different ledge. This may not be word for word, but there was a talk somewhere along the lines of: “You don’t HAVE to do anything at this race (meaning Chattanooga)! It’s not about your place or your time or finish. The whole point of it is to enjoy it. You GET to race. You’ve done all the training, the hard part. The race is supposed to be fun, and if it isn’t, you shouldn’t even be on the start line.”
The whole week leading into Chattanooga, Wattie and I just took Chattanooga and its people and atmosphere in. That city is incredible- the people are SO nice and friendly there. Everyone talks to you and says hi. There are tons of cool littles bars and restaurants. And everything is in one central area- the race site, the YMCA for swimming, a Whole Foods…it was perfect for a race venue. We enjoyed it and I went into Sunday’s race in a completely different mindset. I was relaxed. I didn’t have to prove anything. I got to race. I had the privilege to race. Results, times…none of that mattered. Just have fun. That was my mantra all day.
Sunday’s race in Chattanooga goes up there as one of the best 70.3 distance races I feel I have ever executed. I wasn’t thinking about trying to win or place well or beat so-and-so or prove anything to anyone. I was just enjoying the whole day and my body responded in the best way I could have asked…I just felt “on” all day. Everything was firing on all cylinders and I truly believe it was that positive mentality connection. I just enjoyed doing the three sports. I even, okay only slightly, but I even enjoyed the swim. The bike course was so awesome- my favorite type of rolling course. And the run course was also incredible- way hillier than I thought it would be with incredible spectators EVERYWHERE, including a super cool wooden pedestrian bridge that was lined with crowds that you get to cross twice. I couldn’t have asked for a better race to just go to and enjoy…so thank you Chattanooga!!!!
So, to those who didn’t have the day they were hoping for…. don’t dwell on your frustration or disappointment as tough as it is. This sport is so fickle, which is also probably why it’s so addicting! One day you can feel absolutely amazing and set massive PRs, while the next day you can’t even match 50% of yourself on a standard training day. As I recently read in an interview and listened to on a podcast from superstars Heather Wurtele and Lionel Sanders, your race performance doesn’t define you. It’s one day and just a sport we do on that one day. It’s the journey and process, to use their words, that matters. If it wasn’t your day on Sunday, take the less than ideal race day for the lessons it teaches and focus towards the next one. Sunday’s race isn’t who you are…there’s so much more to life outside our little triathlon bubble than one race result. Move onto the next one! With a positive mindset. Try going into it with the goal to just enjoy it- both race day and the training leading up to it. Nothing more than that. Maybe that positive, ‘have-fun’ mindset will lead you to a race best day. It worked for me:)
Thank you to everyone for reading, and for your support through all of the ups and down on this journey! Thank you again to Chattanooga, the volunteers, the fans and spectators there…you were awesome! Next on this journey for me is Escape from Alcatraz in a few weeks! Another one that you can’t do anything but enjoy. I look forward to seeing everyone there!
Happy Memorial Day everyone.....make sure you take advantage of our 20% Off SALE, use my Code & SAVE! Code: MEMORIALDAY2016