I offer myself up as the first example of being new to something.
I raced the half Vineman in 2003. It was my first 70.3 and I lived and trained by myself in Pennsylvania. I had almost always trained by myself, finding some company here and there but I never trained with a group. I also had some bad habits like refusing to slow down or walk on a run for ANY reason. I could run and keep drinking. I could run and eat Gu. Me? Stop? No!
I did silly things like run 10 miles alone on the Schuylkill River Trail between King of Prussia and Conshohocken at 6AM for my long run. I kept my goals in my head, enrolled no one except my husband and set off to California to race.
My bike was damaged in transit and though I fixed it, my seat was not properly tightened and less than 1 mile into the race my seat post kept falling. Too proud to quit, I pedaled the remaining 55 miles trying to sit as lightly as possible on my seat or it would fall, forcing me to get off my bike and yank it back up again.
And then I got to the run. I’ve never been a strong runner and it’s always been my weakest leg in triathlon. As I was plodding along, I heard someone matching my pace behind me and I did something I never do. I turned around and said “hi”.
That “hi” changed my life.
The woman behind me was my age, first 70.3 just like me and we kept each other company the rest of the race and do you know what else we did? We walked part of the run. I was going to have to walk part of the run, regardless. But in my mind, that would have been a failure. I would have laid the biggest mental smackdown on myself and those 13.1 miles would have been the longest/most miserable of my racing career.
But they weren’t. Together, we decided when to walk, and when to run, and it was all good.
What struck me the most about the race is that I would have had to walked part of the run with this new found friend or not and my time would probably have been exactly the same had I found her or not. What was different is how I felt about it. How I felt about myself. What I realized is how I talk to myself, in my own head, out on a race course matters. It matters immensely.
I don’t think ever in my life had I practiced saying nice things to myself. In any area of my life. I think I either thought nothing at all or negative thoughts only. There was no cheerleader developed in my own mind to cheer for me. To tell me that things are good, or that I was doing a great job. I had no mantras for racing or positivity pre-programmed into my head.
In short, I was new to being kind to myself. I was new at giving myself a pep talk. I was new to looking at myself in a different, softer light. I could be appreciative of the good and not dwell on only the bad. I could be forgiving of myself and treat myself the way I would treat anyone else I knew that was trying their hardest only to succeed some days and fail others.
I’m not perfect at the positive self talk in all areas, but I’ve gotten really good at it during training and racing. I now have much more gratitude and grace on the race course then possibly anywhere else in my life.
What I thought would be a new experience in longer distance triathlon actually became an enlightening experience in how to race forevermore. In how to be forevermore.
So think long and hard about your journey and I’ll ask again – What are you new to?