4/19/17

Riding 107 miles in Greenville - a milestone!


Ride stats: 
5:53 total ride time
107 miles covered

7274 elevation gained
18.1 mph average speed
2 refueling/hydration stops
Too many animal friends to count but I said hi to all of them.



After 11 years of endurance triathlon racing, I am still finding myself improving in training and on race day. I remember back in 2004, while in graduate school and training for my first marathon in January 2005, I was told by several exercise professionals that I would struggle in endurance sports as a female vegetarian athlete. While endurance training/racing is not easy for any individual, I don't see myself as a female vegetarian athlete but instead, an athlete, who happens to be a female and a 25 year vegetarian.

Without a doubt, self-improvements have kept me enjoying each season of triathlon racing and training as I never feel bored or stale in a 3-sport sport. Although there have been many setbacks since I started endurance racing, I've learned that development from season to season and training consistency are key components to experiencing success on race day. In order to continually experience performance gains, my health has always remained my #1 priority. With a healthy body and mind, performance gains will come. Knowing that I can't always do the same things over and over and expect different results, every year as life changes, I carefully pay attention to better, smarter and more effective ways to nourish my body, fuel my workouts, train and race, never with rigid rules, methods or strategies. To me, training is a fun hobby that allows me to use my body, explore nature, travel and I use it to help me manage life stress and release energy, so I never like to put added pressure on my training/eating when it comes to performance improvements. Finding this balance between great dedication and just enough flexibility has been extremely important to my athletic development over the past 11 years. 


On Saturday, Karel and I ventured out to Lake Keowee,, which is the start of the Mountains to Mainstreet bike course. Since the start is ~45 miles away, instead of driving, we rode our on our tri bikes. Because the M2M triathlon course is a point to point to point course, we decided that the best way to pre-ride the 58 mile bike course was to bike to the start and then bike home. This made for a long ride but we were both mentally and physically excited for a morning together, on two wheels. Plus, we absolutely love exploring new roads/routes and the scenery and mountain views that come with riding in Greenville, so we knew the ride would be just as fun, as it was long. Oddly enough, the ride went by really fast! And the M2M course is so beautiful and scenic but also very challenging - just what we love in a bike course!

As athletes, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the journey of training as it's normal to have an outcome goal in mind for race day. Without specific goals, it's difficult to find the motivation to train, especially with those early morning wake-up calls and squeezing in a workout with a tired body/mind after work. 
Knowing that race day success is the sum of many small efforts, repeated over and over, it's important to always consider your own fitness journey and that every day, you are getting closer to building a better, smarter, stronger and faster version of yourself. Instead of wishing for quick results or comparing yourself to other athletes, celebrate your own accomplishments in your own journey.

There have been many times in the past 11 years when I have said to myself "I feel so strong" or "I have never felt this fit before." Just when I think that I can't feel any fitter or any more strong, I develop and find myself capable of even more with my body. Patience, hard work and consistency bring results and while it is great to have big goals and dreams, you must celebrate the small improvements and victories to let you know that you are making progress. 

Since moving to Greenville, SC in May 2014, I have only completed one ride over 100 miles (summer of 2014). Despite training for four Ironman's since we moved, riding 100 miles in Greenville was never a focus as the terrain is extremely challenging and the miles go by very slow here. We always go by time for our long rides as this makes for quality training and a better return on our training investment.

Throughout our long Saturday ride and especially after our ride, I couldn't help but think, over and over, where I am with my cycling fitness and where I was in 2014 and even more so, in 2006 when I did my first Ironman. I kept telling Karel after the ride "I can't believe I did that!"
Now, I can ride with Karel and he doesn't have to wait for me. Now, my skills allow me to ride safe and efficiently. Now, I feel one with my bike.

As much fun as it is to PR, stand on the podium or qualify for an event, every small achievement in training moves you closer to becoming better than you were yesterday in training and even closer to achieving something with your body, that you never thought was possible. In the big picture, athletic development and athletic success is not about the results but it's about progress.

It's easy to lose motivation and enjoyment for your sport if you believe what you are doing isn't working or if you don't see big improvements so the next time you find yourself questioning why you do your sport and why you should continue to put in the work, take a moment to reflect back on the progress you have made over the past few weeks, months and years. Thinking about big goals can be overwhelming so make sure to celebrate the little milestones and track and share your progress along the way.