Self Belief = Results= Confidence
In order to have confidence, I truly believe it all starts with self belief. We don't get confident without creating some kind of result, and we don't get results unless we believe we can do it. This has been something that has taken me a very long time to grasp. Now that I can see it, I will be holding this equation in my back pocket to remind me where it all starts.
I could title this blog, Ironman Cozumel Race Report, but it's not really about the race, but what the race helped create for me. 2015 has been a very interesting year for me. I struggled early on in the winter with motivation and inspiration. I continued to go through the motions everyday and get the work done, but the tears that rolled down my face told another story. My first competitive race would be in May and I was in my basement, day in and day out, alone on the trainer watching every Real Housewives of wherever episode possible. I felt like a hamster running on a wheel and making myself crazy. I was missing something big.
May came around and I raced Wildflower. I had a decent race considering I wasn't really in a happy place. I just put the hard work that I continued doing to work. And it was OK. But OK doesn't win races, it doesn't create results, and it doesn't create confidence. Frankly, being OK doesn't really get you anywhere but the same place you are. A few weeks after Wildflower, when I still found myself feeling the same way, I wanted to quit it ALL! I didn't have the belief that I was enough; strong enough, fast enough, worthy enough, to become the athlete I had dreamed of all these years.
Luckily I have an incredibly smart, wise, and compassionate coach. He just gave me some room to breathe. He knew I wasn't done, but also that I needed to figure things out on my own. And you know, the other side didn't look that great either. I wasn't quitting to go to the Peace Corp because it was my life calling. I was just hoping that life would take the reigns and create something spontaneous and new for me. But that's not often how life works, especially for a goal driven achiever like myself. I gave myself that breath, but I chose not to quit. We both, my coach and I, agreed that we just needed to do things differently. We were not sure what that looked like, but we would give it our best go.
For starters I jumped into some new races that I had never done before. And then I spent a few months training with friends, learning how to play and live life a little less serious , all while still training hard. My July was fun and the results were good. Not perfect, but getting better and the fitness was revealing itself. By August we had decided that I would go back to race Ironman. It had been in the works for a while, but with all the ups and downs it wasn't worth rushing.
Ironman Chattanooga started out pretty well. I had not raced the distance in 3 years, so I didn't have much to lose, little stress of expectation, and just needed to go out and give it my best shot. I surprised myself quite a bit and had a great swim and bike combo. But then came the run. The part of the race where when I beleive in myself and put every tool I have into motion, I will come out on top. But, I didn't do that. When the going got tough, I gave up on myself. BIG TIME. I crossed the line happy I stuck it out until the end, but very disappointed in myself for giving in to those thoughts that I wasn't enough. I had done the work and was ready to land in the top. There was no reason have those doubts. I was fit and prepared. I was missing one thing: total belief in myself.
After IMChatt, my husband had a serious sit down with me. He has always been my biggest supporter and has so much more confidence in my abilities, than I do for myself. I said I wanted to do another Ironman before the year's end. He agreed under one condition. He told me that he wanted to see me really execute to my best ability in Cozumel, or he did not want to continue to support me financially going forward. The placing did not matter but the execution did. He knows where my fitness is and what I am capable of doing. If I wasn't going to fight and perform like a professional, I may as well go back to being someone who does triathlon for a hobby. I know this may sound a bit mean, but it wasn't. It was the hard truth I had to hear. He was right, and I was instantly at a cross roads.
All year I had spent hours mulling over if I should stick with triathlon or should I be doing something different with my life. But you know when you are faced with a decision that is regarding losing that thing that has been closest to your heart for a very long time, the decision becomes clear in a nano second. I did not want to stop being an athlete. I did not want to stop chasing my dreams. That really is a huge part of who I am. And from that day in September everything changed for me. I had something to prove. Not so much to my husband or to my coach, but to myself. If I truly wanted to keep the dream alive I needed to believe in that dream, believe in myself, and do everything possible to get myself there.
I went from being down in the dumps to a laser focused machine. I truly don't think I had ever been so targeted on exactly what I needed to do to make things happen for me. Everyday I was nailing each session, not missing a beat. For the first time I felt like a true professional athlete. I was behaving the way champions behave day in and day out. I started getting stronger and confident in my ability to go out there an execute the best race of my life. It felt really amazing to be 100% sure of my purpose.
My coach and I went to Cozumel a few weeks ahead of time to nail the acclimation, and to cross all of the T's and dot the I's. And we did just that. There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be a race to catapult me into a whole new place in triathlon. Race day came and of course I was nervous, but I had created a belief in myself that I could execute this plan, I belonged. I was enough.
The swim didn't go as planned or show the improvements I have made this year. I made a few mistakes at the get go and had no choice but to fight on. I am still learning how to race the swim segment better each time. Exiting the water I was a little bummed that the plan had already fallen apart. SHIT!!!! But it was early in the game and regardless I was still doing my very best. Coach yelled to me to take a risk and crank up the wattage on the bike. I had some serious work to do.
I'm telling you it was a grand feeling. I just put my head down and went to work. A whole new race plan created itself. I didn't doubt it. I didn't doubt myself. And I moved up 10 spots by T2. The energy flowed through me and I never hit that dark spot or lull. I was just going with the flow and keeping within my abilities. Straight out of T2 I got a sudden nervousness....."this is where you make or break it, Erin. Don't be scared, don't stop, be smart, just keep moving.....BELEIVE" And so I did. I believed with every ounce of energy I had left that I could finish this race with a great performance. And although I didn't pass anyone,I crept closer and closer as the race went on to the leading athletes. I crossed that finish line in 8th place and a personal best of 9:35, but most of all holding on to a new found confidence.
Although the race was far from a perfect, I executed it into my best race ever. And moving forward I know exactly what it takes for me to do it again and again and again. It all started with the belief. Once I gave myself that, I had a chance. I now have infinite chances to make even more magic for myself. Of course there will be amazing races in the future and ones that just fall apart. That's the name of the game when you are going in 100%. I'm ready for the challenge. Bring on 2016.
Thank you to my amazing friends and family who supported and encouraged me through the ups and the downs this years. There wouldn't have been the ups without you. Mostly I have to thank my husband, Rob. He never stopped believing in me, but put me under the gun because he knew I could make things happen for myself. And last but never least, my coach Dan McIntosh. I never dreamed in a million years I would have found a more amazing coach than Dan. He has developed me in two seasons into an athlete I dreamed of becoming. He keeps me grounded, he keeps me working, he helped create my belief. None of this would have happened without Dan. Thank you.
*Early September Rob sent this to me about professional golfer, Jason Day. He revealed he secret to success. I didn't forget about it. I think its finally sinking in:)
“I always thought that I had the skills to play and win at the highest level and be competitive, but mentally I think the last piece of the puzzle was to really believe. It’s easy to say, just go ahead and believe in yourself … But how do you believe in yourself when you don’t know what to believe in? That was the hardest part for me.”He continued:
“I look at a wealthy person and say, ‘you’re rich.’ But if they don’t truly believe that they’re wealthy, then they’re not going to believe it. It’s easy to say that you have a great swing and you’re one of the best players out here, but if you truly don’t believe in it, you’re never going to be. That’s what I was talking about, that’s the last piece of the puzzle. Everyone is good to be out here. Everyone is a good golfer. Everyone can be great. The biggest thing that separates the best players in the world from the good players is upstairs.”