It’s been a rough year around here but I have certainly learned a lot about myself and what racing means to me. By realizing mental strength is not always about toughing it out and toeing the line, I’ve opened up an entire new world of possibilities. Having mental strength is sometimes knowing when not to start a race and take a well deserved DNS (did not start) and own it.
Today I’m linking up with a few women who know all too well how tough your mental game needs to be to conquer the screaming voices in your head, telling you how “less than” you are. But first, I’m sharing my three (yes, three) DNS’ I’ve taken this year and how I don’t regret any of them.
TO START OR NOT TO START? HERE’S HOW TO TELL:
YOU CAN’T SEE STRAIGHT
This seems obvious but, if you’re a fierce competitor or have been training for the better part of a year toward a goal, you just may find yourself sick as a dog on race day but wanting to do it anyway. That’s exactly where I found myself on race morning in Cuba, suffering from a ridiculous case of vertigo, something I had never experienced in my life up until that point.
I actually crawled to the bathroom and sat on the floor to pull on my race kit, wanting so badly to race. It took an hour of trying not to vomit and talking with my husband and brother to realize it wasn’t going to happen but it was one of the worst feelings I have ever had.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Get checked before you travel. Once I returned home I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, which caused the vertigo on race morning. I was certainly aware of the symptoms of the sinus infection before I left for Cuba but didn’t bother going to the doctor since they were manageable (read: I was able to train). Had I gone to the doctor and received antibiotics, this would be an article reviewing the race not recovering from never having run it.
Tip: If you’re not feeling well, there is no downside to going to the doctor before a big race.
Make smart decisions. I keep thinking about what might have happened if the vertigo hit me while in the water, in transition or on the bike. I shifted my thoughts to being grateful it struck when it did and completely prevented me from lining up at the start. I know if I was only feeling “a little off” I would have pushed myself to participate and it could have been a disaster.
Tip: Make smart decisions based on your health and how you truly feel. Be honest and realize that deciding to not race may be the safest and best decision.
Set your expectations. It never occurred to me that I would somehow not be able to race, which made it that much more difficult when it happened. I have raced all over the country and world and nothing like this has ever occurred. From now on, I will mentally prepare for the worst both with my health and equipment. No matter how prepared you think you are, things can happen that are out of your control and then, you can only control how you react to the situation.
Tip: Mentally prepare for anything and have a plan.
Be as prepared as you can be. As I already stated, there are things beyond control (like getting vertigo) that can happen to anyone; however, my stepmom had packed ear drops and those, coupled with the sinus medicine I packed, helped to mitigate the symptoms of the infection and vertigo. Because we packed a veritable medicine cabinet worth of drugs, I was still able to enjoy my vacation after only one day of rest.
Tip: Pack extras of everything and a variety of medication, especially when traveling overseas.
Have a backup plan. The Havana Triathlon held in February was a very early season race for me, and I was there mostly to have fun. However, I spent the months prior to the trip dreaming of swimming in the warm aqua water of the ocean, riding the gorgeous, flat streets of Havana and running on the iconic Malecón while looking out onto the ocean. Eventually, I was able to do all of that, it just took three days instead of one.
Tip: Plan something else you really want to do while at the race destination so, if you can’t race, you still have something to look forward to.
YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO
If there is a real reason you are just feeling “meh” about a race, skip it. The day before the Litchfield Hills triathlon in July I was pretty much dreading it. Here’s why:
- I was going to have to wake up at 4:30am and drive over an hour to the start by myself
- My husband was leaving for a trip overseas so I could have breakfast with him and hang out alone with him for a few hours or kiss him good-bye the night before
- I was heading into a two week vacation directly after the race and had to pack the car, dog, kids and drive over two hours to my destination while solo parenting
I honestly decided it just wasn’t worth it to me. It was kind of a throw away race to begin with and I just didn’t see what real value it brought to my life…not my racing life, but my overall, real life.
Sometimes the pros just don’t outweigh the cons. You have a gut instinct for a reason and you should listen to it.
IT’S CREATING BAD STRESS
Racing is stressful but there is a big difference between good and bad stress. Racing should be mostly good stress and when the scales tip too much toward bad stress is where you get into trouble.
After deciding not to race in Litchfield and then having a fabulous two week vacation where intense training took a backseat, I knew I was not in shape to make the World Championship Triathlon team. The only decision that felt right was to not compete at Nationals.
Once I made the decision to cancel the trip to Omaha and stay home, I felt nothing but relief and a huge amount of self-induced stress was lifted. It was incredibly hard to realize I just didn’t want it badly enough but I’m proud of myself for stepping back and saying so, before it was too late.
And now there is a whole new world of possibilities for the coming year and I can’t wait to share my big ass goals with you. Bur first…go work on your mental game with these chicks…
ANGELA | HAPPY FIT MAMA
NELLIE | BROOKLYN ACTIVE MAMA
CARLY | FINE FIT DAY
LAURA | THIS RUNNER’S RECIPES
SARAH | RUN FAR GIRL
Now you should have all the motivation and information you need to help kick your mental butt into shape for fall. Good luck and remember, don’t overthink it!
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Do you have a mantra or mental strategy for racing?
Have you ever taken a DNS that didn’t involve and injury?