“Certainty is the enemy of growth.” ~Mark Manson
New chapters can be as challenging as they are exhilarating. While I now have have three years of experience racing as an elite triathlete, the shift to 70.3 has me feeling like a rookie all over again—it has been incredibly exciting to step up to an event that I believe will play to my natural strengths, but also unnerving with all the unknowns it brings.
While draft-legal ITU and non-draft/long-course racing both fall under the general umbrella of “triathlon,” they might as well be two different sports. All of this “new” is exciting! Especially if you believe, as I do, that change and growth come hand-in-hand. But as I’ve mentioned, the vulnerability that accompanies change can leave you looking around, comparing yourself to others, and doubting yourself. The problem is that in doing so, you prevent yourself from discovering your potential.
I’ve gotten many questions from triathletes and non-triathletes alike about the difference between preparing for the two events. So I thought it worth sharing a couple of the biggest changes I’ve faced as well as the practices I’ve adopted to help me embrace them instead of getting in my own way:
New Bike, New Muscles
I have always admired the bikes that Felt makes, and I’m thrilled to finally be riding one! Thanks to the guidance of Jim Manton, I decided to invest in a Felt IAx. We opted for the IAx, which doesn’t have a fully integrated headset and thus allows for TriRig’s front-end solution, which provides more adjustability to get to my ideal position on the bike, from both the aerodynamic and performance points-of-view. I have always lived by the motto of “do it once, and do it right,” so I am grateful to be able to ride on such a state-of-the-art machine.
The time-trial position is extremely different from that on a road bike. On my TT bike, the power and stability is really rooted in the lower core/glutes whereas, while my legs and hips did most of the work on the road bike, I was also able to stabilize myself and generate power with my upper body. I certainly have never needed to roll the back of my neck as much as I do now! Since getting back into training in mid-November, Jarrod has had me simply riding my bike versus jumping right into specific training sessions. While mentally I wanted to jump right into harder sessions, this has actually been great, because I have been able to adapt to the position, develop those new muscles, and really get comfortable generating power in a new way before we get down to business.
I found myself going through some of my earlier posts and found one written shortly after I decided to become a full-time professional triathlete. I was reminded that big journeys begin with small steps. Infusing patience into my more common “get it done 5 minutes ago” approach has allowed me to enjoy this adjustment period and base work, as it’s the type of session that I really love to do! As we were first ramping up my volume, I also used the extra time to re-focus on regularly addressing details and going that extra mile that can sometimes get dropped in the heat of training: pre-hab, bandwork and foundation training, and post-workout rolling.
New Training Structure
While the top ITU women are extremely strong across the board in swim, bike, and run, the draft-legal dynamic of ITU racing often means that races come down to the swim and run disciplines. Because I didn’t have a background in either, I spent the last three years swimming an ungodly amount, running a lot, and biking a little. Now, that order has now been flipped on its head. At times, I’ve found myself feeling anxious about this shift and the unknowns of how I’ll respond to these changes. Training with a squad of ITU athletes is a gift because it keeps me in touch with that swim (and run) speed. But it is also a daily reminder of the familiar training structure I’ve left behind.
I have committed to embracing becoming as aerobically fit as possible and letting go of my swimming specifically. When I start looking around or feeling doubt/anxiety, I just remind myself of my my motto these days: “be the aerobic beast you know you can be!” Cheesy, I know, but it re-focuses me and keeps me calm. I also think of May Sarton's quote, “The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures.” I have faith that there are many treasures in store for me if I don’t cling to the losses along the way.
The scientific power of meditation and mindfulness is compelling, so much so that high-powered corporations are investing in it to improve their employee well-being and performance! And with the challenge I’ve had focusing inwards lately, I decided to commit to spending at least 10 minutes a day with Headspace to quiet my mind and channel its energies in all the right ways. It’s not only helping me take control of when I use my external environment for motivation and when I put the blinders on, but it is also helping me focus on the present when I begin worrying about what training will look like, how I will respond to it, how I will compare to a new and unknown field of athletes next year.
Of course there’s no guarantee that these practices will be the key to success. But since I have implemented these changes and returned my focus to conscious mindfulness, I have noticed I’m calmer, more focused in sessions, and my progress in all three disciplines is gaining momentum. Whether you’re embarking on a new life journey right now or not, with the new year—and new year’s resolutions—around the corner, I recommend implementing these practices to execute even the smallest changes you’re seeking to make.