In 2019 I competed in Ultra520 in Penticton BC. I went into this ultraman distance race injured and unprepared physially, to say the least. The Ultra520 is a 3 day, double ironman distance race. Day 1 is a 10km swim and 160km bike. Day 2 275 km bike. Day 3 84km run or back to back marathons. My background is in swimming so I knew I could get through the first day. The second and third days were yet to be determined. I suffered a stress fracture after running the Big Sur marathon the end of April and had not been able to run more than 10km. I also took work on a ship for a month before the race so did not have access to a road bike only a clunky mountain bike that I maybe got an hour training in every other day. So when race day came I had to forget about not having the training in a focus on what I could control, my attitude!
In the swim I focused on the feel of the water, making every stroke count. I was grateful for my kayak guide who was keeping me fueled and on task. On the bike I practiced gratitude for being blessed by an aboriginal chief, whos’ land I was riding on. I was also able to stay in the moment and be present. My mantra was, “What time is it, NOW!” and “Where are you, HERE!” I repeated that to myself for the duration of my ride. I also practiced mindfulness by doing a body scan every 10-20 minutes. As I would scan my body I would notice my tightness in my shoulders, pain in my foot and other areas of my body and I would try not it judge how anything felt as good or bad but just as is right now in this moment and that it could change in the next moment. To my surprise at the end of day one I was in first place out of the females. I had been so focused on me and being in the moment I had not focused on the race but just enjoying myself. Day two came and the real test was upon me. I had never ridden this far. My longest training ride prior to the race was 6hrs! I brought with me the same strategies that I used on Day 1. But the best part about Day 2 was that I got to ride through some of my favorite areas in the Okanagan. I got to climb the wall, 1 km 20% grade, up to See Ya Later Ranch, where I got married in 2000 and now where I would say good bye to my marriage in 2019. I cried as rode by but also got strength by having Steve King there talking on the microphone cheering for me! As I rode the back roads they were beautiful and magical, again I focused on gratitude. The last half of the ride you get to ride part of the Ironman Canada course backwards and then you get onto a stretch of highway that I had always wanted to ride. I kept practicing my mantra and doing my body scans. My crew kept me fueled the whole time and upbeat with their cheers. End of day 2 to my surprise I was in first place of the women with a 90 minute lead! Then came day 3. I woke up light headed. My longest run prior to this day was 10km and I had to run 84! I started the day with a body scan meditation. I ate breakfast and went to the start line with my crew. Did I mention I had the best crew out there! At the start of the race I could feel the pressure of knowing I was in the lead and had to perform. I didn’t like this part of me, this competitive side that I wasn’t sure how to manage and still remain present.
The competitive side of me brought out a lot of negative self talk. I had to reframe my talk, focus on my process goals, light feet, elbow drive, knee drive. I had to focus on my breath and tap into my senses of sight and sound. It was a hot day and my crew kept me fueled and cool with sponges and ice! At km 25 my pacer met me. She was like an angel in the distance. This is a friend of mine who I admire as both a person an athlete. She ran in front of me and I focused on her feet, the rhythm, the sound and her amazing energy!
On this tough day I had to use so many mental skills and strategies to get through. I did not know what place I was in and by km 60 it really didn’t matter. The focus was to finish. With 4 km to go, my crew informed me that I was in first place. Now with tears in my eyes and so much pain in my feet I had to rely on my crew for more support even though they had given me their all I asked for more and they delivered. My team and I crossed the line that day in first place in the womens division and 9th overall!
What happened over those 3 days is that I felt I earned my PhD in mental performance consulting. Everything I had been teaching and training others to do, I had to do myself, and I did! It was amazing! This was the best race of my life for so many reasons. I share this story because I know the value, power and strength of how mental strategies can enhance performance and my belief in them has never been stronger!