I’m often asked what my mantras are. What do you say to yourself when it gets really tough? How do you go to the dark place, when things get really painful? It seems my mantras are often changing. But lately, while not so much a ‘training’ mantra, I have found myself saying the same thing. It’s been this. ‘Kelly, you can’t be too afraid to get out there for fear of not being perfect; or not being where you want to be, right now. Once you go down that path, you’re done. You’re paralyzed by fear and you’re scared to fail. Go and toe the line, knowing you’ll do your best, and savor the chance to push hard and take risk. That is good enough.’
As many of you know, I finished 2013 with surgery (on September 26th). I took the requisite 6 weeks off; resting, walking, letting my body and mind heal. Truth be told, I think it was the best forced rest I’ve had in years. By mid-November, I was able to do all three sports; swim, bike and run; though it was a gradual process. I eased back, letting my body and intuition be my guide. At 10 weeks post surgery, ironically on my birthday, I ran a local 5k. Scary? Without a doubt. But, it felt so good to tackle my fear of ‘what if’ and get out to do what I love; run. All went well. Not a PR, far from it, but one step in the right direction. And as we all know from setbacks and forced rests, there was new appreciation to be able to go and run 3 miles hard; plain and simple. I didn’t do anything remotely close to ‘core work’ until well into December, for fear of straining something in my abdomen. I finally realized I had to start to act like ‘me’ again; and let myself train as I normally would. December progressed; I was allowed one run a week where I picked up the pace, usually just 2-3 miles within a run. We proceeded to take our usual 2 week, 3000 mile road trip to see our families over Christmas and New Years; I stayed on task but the priorities were visiting, not training. Again, something I firmly believe in; I’ll never sacrifice time with families and holidays (once a year) for training. The other 54 weeks of the year I dedicate to that; which is plenty.
Welcome January 5th; back in Austin, and ready to really hit it. Logically so. My coach and husband Derick is ever the wise ear, telling me that even if I did opt to race 3M Half, I could not force the running to get my fitness up quickly just for one race; there is a big picture here, and it is a long season. Early January, I got in two good weeks of consistent training; some intensity, but mostly just my routine again. Late December, he said that he thought it would be alright to do 3M if I really wanted to. Mind you, this is the race that in 2012, I busted out a 1:14.42; a 3 minute PR. It was, personally, one of my most proud accomplishments in sport. So while I could ‘just do it’, in the back of my mind, there was that question, “Can I run a 1:14 again?”
I decided to give it a go. The week of the race, I battled in my mind with not racing. ‘You don’t have to race, Kelly. If you’re not ready, it’s OK.’ I think as athletes, we are always trying to be tough; never back down, never say never. I tried to tell myself that it was alright if I felt I should bail on it. But then, I asked myself, “You love to race, especially running races. Why would you back out? You’re healthy, and you love running races. Why bail?” And then I acknowledged; I’d back out purely because I was scared of what I may not be able to do. And I countered that with telling myself, as an athlete, the minute you are too scared to try for fear of failing or not being perfect, you’re through; you are letting irrational fears take control; and mentally, you’re screwed. I didn’t like that fact; so, I raced.
I took the day prior to race day easy, just a swim; we both knew the main goal for this race was to get back out there, gain some fitness, and of course see what I could do. However, every time I toe a start line, I go into ‘race my best’ mode. I know that my expectations were probably greater than what Derick had in mind. I did the numbers; I knew what pace would land me a 1:14, 1:15, 1:16, etc… but bottom line is, my legs would go as fast as they could and my body would dictate. I tried to take it out smooth and controlled, and I rolled through 3 miles in about 17:10, which was good. Lucikly I had a small group of guys with me who seemed to be pacing together. We cruised through 6 miles in about 34:24, still; very good. I was a bit surprised this pace felt so smooth. Between miles 7 and 8 the guys started to pull ahead, or maybe I pulled back; all I know is I wasn’t certain of my ability to hold this pace for 13. By mile 9-10, it just got hard. The legs began to hurt, my breathing became a bit more labored, but I tried so hard to stay focused and keep the effort there. At mile 10, I did the math; a 20 min 5k would land me 1:17.43. An 18-19 min 5k (more realistic) would land me 1:15 to 1:16. Still doable! With 2 miles to go, everything hurt and it took all I had to just mentally keep on going. I realized by this point that the time was what it was; the more important thing was that I had tackled a bit of race fear and embraced it.
I crossed the line in 1:16.34, about 15 seconds behind what I had done last year; but all in all, pleased and relieved. Sometimes, it is just about not being afraid to admit your fears; and tackle them. I feel like that was what this race was about. Additionally, I managed to defend a title that I have had the past 2 years; in the big picture, self-perfection aside, there was a lot to be proud of.
So 2014 has officially begun! Next up I’ll be focusing on Panama 70.3, February 16. I’ve done this race twice before so I know what to expect; while it is early, it’s a good opportunity to test out the fitness and, as with 3M, gain some more fitness from it. The time between now and then will be focused on recovery, a short training block, and a short rest. I have to say; it feels good to be back into the rhythm. I’m stoked for what this year has in store, and excited about the amazing sponsors that I’ve got on board. Thank you for following along and being part of my journey! I’ll try to make it exciting.