Name: Holly Bennett
This morning my roommate commented on my prep for Penticton: “You’re in the home stretch!” Home stretch? Say what? Why do I feel like I’ve only just begun the bulked up training that will carry me through the 226-kilometer course?
In reality I have logged quite a bit of quality training, though I know I still have a ways to go, especially in regards to chamois time (until now, my training has been more run focused to prepare me for the relay team marathon at Challenge Roth). And even though I spent a full week recovering from Roth, doing a just few easy sessions (my only heavy lifting involved wine glasses, beer steins and rather large slabs of chocolate), and now we’re only four and a half weeks out from race day, I know I’ll be physically ready to rumble just in time for the August 25th start. I’m not at all daunted by the final fierce sessions that lay ahead–but I am struggling slightly with the question of race day confidence.
I’ll be honest–my confidence was kind of rocked by my poor marathon performance at Challenge Roth. On paper, I was all systems go for a PR-perfect run. Coach Dibens congratulated me on my straight-A behavior, executing my sessions in impeccable detail and proving that I had the fitness to reach the finish in my goal time. Granted, I went into Roth toting equal parts preparation and experimentation. I’d shown I should be able to tick off 26.2 miles at a perfect 8:00-minute pace, but there were also a few unknowns, including the late afternoon start (due to the relay format) and my insistence on first doing the race’s 3.8-km swim leg. Bottom line, my run went to plan only for the first half–after which maniacal muscle cramping thwarted my effort and slowed me to an embarrassing shuffle. So despite the reason–likely something related to nutrition as opposed to any lack of fitness–I felt a slight sense of failure. The most important task ahead of me now is to regain my confidence by the time I toe the line in Canada.
In our first Project Penny piece, I stressed the importance of “flexing my positivity muscle”. But staying positive is about more than saying you’ll stay positive when the chips are down–it’s about actually walking that walk of toughness when you’re truly tested. On race day in Roth I did a darn good job of keeping my chin up as my pace fell, holding the sting of disappointment at bay in the moment. But I’d be lying to say it’s not there a little bit. Racing the full event in Penticton will surely be an even tougher test, with many more roller coaster moments and miles to conquer, so it’s time for me to turn that sting into a solution, pulling the positives wherever I can.
First and foremost, as my dear friend and teammate Jené so eloquently put it, I ran another friggin’ marathon! Good, bad or ugly, that’s experience that will only serve me well.
Second, I’ll fess up that for the first time I may have gotten my race nutrition wrong. Usually my nutrition strategy is one of my strengths (along with quick transition times–when you’re not the fastest swimmer, cyclist or runner you take what glory you can get!), but my Roth experience shows a few flaws. For example, trying to remain a gluten-free predominantly-vegan partly-poultry-tarian (say what?), while easy peasy in uber-alternative Boulder, is a tough task on the road. I’m pretty sure I went into the race somewhat depleted. I may also have needed more fuel than I was willing to stomach on race day itself, nervous about overloading my belly while waiting for my turn to run. And maybe, just maybe, Coke and water alone isn’t enough of a cocktail to hydrate the back half of a marathon. Note to self: Suck up the sports drink. Hats off to my relay teammate for turning the tables on my frustration. “You didn’t have a bad race–you learned a lesson,” he said. “And that can only be good.”
Third, my body was nowhere near as beat up post-race as if I’d run the full distance as hard as I’d hoped. Rather, I felt like I merely raced a half marathon–followed by a lot longer than average cool down. Sure, that led to a less than ideal result, but on the flip side my body didn’t take too much of a beating, leaving me fresher than anticipated heading into these final four weeks.
I’ll take these positives and run with them (and ride and swim, also). The focus from here on out is onward, upward and ultimately on that finish line in Penticton.
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