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My first triathlon. No race plan for this day since Duane signed me up without asking!

The 2017 triathlon season is well underway here in Texas and we’re getting ramping up for two races: TexasMan Olympic Triathlon (April 30) and our “A” race, the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (June 11). Let’s face it. Race day can be stressful. Whether it is your first race ever, first race of the season, 100th race, or any race in between, there’s a good chance you have some level of pre-race jitters. Jitters that will either heighten or destroy your race experience. One way to help keep harmful jitters at bay is to do some mental reps in the form of creating a race plan.

Race plans are relatively easy and difficult at the same time. As a high-level dreamer and having more things on my to-do list than are humanly possible to do, it can be difficult for me sit down and write out the details. The shorter the race, the harder it becomes. The longer the race, the more daunting a task my race plan becomes. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I do a race plan, sometimes I don’t. Turns out, the races for which I’ve done a race plan are the races at which I’ve performed the best. There’s something about the mental exercise of creating a race plan that settles my jitters and puts me one step closer to having a great day on the course. So much so that I’m certain a race plan will do the same for you.

What is a Race Plan?

I have to admit, when I first started doing triathlons and heard my Triple Threat Tough teammates talking about what was and was not on their race plan, I had no clue! I mean, seriously, training isn’t enough?

It took me about a year (and signing up for my first 70.3) before I finally owned up to my ignorance and asked my coach and my teammates what the #&?! a race plan even was! And these great folks were more than happy to help me figure it out. Each of them sent me race plans that they had done in the past and patiently answered any an all questions I had.

Looking at their race plans was a great exercise and I learned a great deal. The most important things I learned?

  • I was doing some, but not all, of the work in my head already. Great, except all of those thoughts tended to be swirling around in my brain come race day and my ability to catch them in the heat of the moment was right up there with catching a butterfly without a net. Doable, but dubious.
  • I was overlooking quite a few details that made me scramble on race day. I instantly saw that this was a great way to pull everything together in one place to make sure that I hadn’t overlooked any detail.
  • I was looking at a golden ticket to making race day much less stressful. Sure, it’s a piece of paper or a few screens on your smart device with little seeming significance. But it’s also a lot of information at your fingertips that keeps you grounded and minimizes the scrambling you might have to do. A race day checklist that makes you feel confident when you feel as though you’ve forgotten something important.
  • I was looking at a way for my support crew to help me without having to direct them. Your friends, family, and coach want to support you, but getting them to the right place at the right time can be an overwhelming logistical item that can added unnecessary excitement to race day. Information on the race plan gives them enough information to figure out when and where to find you on the course and how to help you with logistics if things blow up.

What is Included in a Race Plan?

When I looked at all the different race plans I quickly saw my teammates in them. My accounting- and engineering-minded folks had extremely detailed plans with times down to the seconds and nutrition down to the calories. My more creative-minded folks had very general information with lots of wriggle room. And there were a many that fell between the two extremes. All of them, however, included these general categories.

  • Race details: date, distance, race website, address including links to the main venue, start, transitions, and finish line, lodging information, along with travel and transportation information.
  • Training and Activities: workouts and a list of whatever tasks that need completing starting 4-7 days out from race day and including race day.
  • Nutrition: food and nutrition for the days leading up to the race and particularly what you will consume on race day.
  • Clothing: what you’re going to wear for each discipline including kit, electronics, shoes, race numbers, timing chips, etc.
  • Race strategy: where and when you’ll be on the course; your predicted pace, effort, and times for each leg, and nutrition plans
  • Finish details: finish time, meet-up location, awards ceremony location, bike transport drop-off location
  • Possible obstacles and how to overcome them: your worst nightmares and what you’re going to do when it happens

The great thing about the mental exercise of creating YOUR race plan is that you capture what you most need for race day. Race plans are not set in stone, so they can evolve on the fly if needed.

What does a Race Plan Look Like?

There is no prescription for what a race plan should look like. As I mentioned above, I could instantly identify each of my friends in their race plans. Some people had written bullet points on a scrap of paper, others had a word document, others had a very detailed spreadsheet, one even had a PowerPoint presentation. I took bits and pieces of each and made a plan that works for me.

I opted to create my race plan in Google Docs so that I could share it with my coach and support crew in an easy accessible way. It also allows me and my peeps to have access anywhere, anytime as well as print easily. As a picture is worth 1000 words, here is the current iteration (typos included!) of my race plan for my upcoming race.

 

Questions or suggestion for making the race plan better? Let me know in the comments.

Wondering how the 2017 TexasMan Olympic Triathlon turned out for me? Check back for my race report.

As I was dusting out shelves in the Journey Monkey blog posts and mulling over what direction this blog (and I) should evolve in 2017, I came across this post that I started way back in 2011. And while the story may be old, its essence, conveyed in the first line, rings through no matter the time. The time has come to clean off the cobwebs, do a copy edit, and post the darn thing!

Where will your heart lead in 2017?

Eleanor Roosevelt coined a phrase that I like to live by: “Do something every day that scares you!”

It’s interesting that the little inkling of hope buried deep in your heart can be amongst the most terrifying of things. On Sunday, April 17, 2011 I knocked a doozie off my list with playtri.com’s King Tut Triathlon.

You see, doing a triathlon (of any distance) had been on my bucket list for going on ten years. I’d talked about it, gotten a season pass at the Denton Natatorium several times, even convinced Duane to help me pick out a suitable bike! I knew in my heart that I would enjoy triathlon loooong before my brain could even fathom it.

Being a distance runner, the endurance aspect wasn’t the intimidating factor. Neither was the swimming; after all, what runner doesn’t need a sport for cross training? I took swimming lessons up until the point that I wouldn’t drown if I fell of the family bass boat as we zipped across the lake and I’ve been a scuba diver for more than half my life. My mental hurdle was getting on that darn bicycle!

You see, when I was in the first grade, my bike got hit by a car when I was on it. I was unscathed, but my pretty pink bike with the white banana seat and tassels streaming from the handle bars ended up with a very crooked front wheel.

My mother, who looked on as the car struck me, barely let me get my bike to the house before she had me off of it and had my father buryng it in the recesses of the tool shed where I was not allowed to enter. And that was that for my youthful riding career!

That fateful few seconds grew into an incredibly unreasonable fear that lead to white knuckle experiences Every. Single. Time. I got on a bike. It became easier and easier to psych myself out—cars passing, groups of people, busy country highways with little or no shoulder, gravel, trees—you name it, I could invent an excuse that further engrained the fear.

While on a couples vacation with some good friends to San Francisco, Duane and my friends convinced me that we needed to rent bikes for a day and ride across the San Francisco Bridge.

For someone who would have a panic attack within the first 100 yards of getting on the bike, it was a pretty huge endeavor. I did it and I kind of enjoyed it once I dug past the white knuckles, barely being able to breath, and the fervent hope that I would not crash and somehow manage to die doing something that people did every day.

Fast forward a few months, I got a couple of random text messages with cryptic questions from my better half about the whereabouts of my wetsuit, how thick it was, what size it was, my weight, how fast I ran. Random questions to be sure, but not so crazy that I fretted about them. He’d recently gotten into doing triathlons, so we’d had conversations about that kind of stuff…related to him.

A few days later, Duane walked in with a box and a bucket and had a sneaky grin on his face.

He announced that he was tired of me saying that I was too scared to ride a bike and could never do a triathlon and that he had signed me up for PlayTri’s My First Tri division of their King Tut Triathlon. In two days.

In the box was a rented wetsuit. In the bucket was everything I needed for the race and transition including a pair of cycling shoes, with cleats to go with the clipless pedals he had taken the liberty to put on my bike.

Uhhh…..

“It’ll be easy,” he said… “Only a 200 yard swim in a community lake (formerly a stock tank before the community grew up around it!), a 6 mile bike ride that would be in a protected lane, and a 2 mile run. Besides, I know you’ll love it.”

I took a nice cleansing breath and said OK. I got a 10 minute lesson on how to clip in and out of the pedals and was given a very high level introduction of how goggles, swim caps, swim starts, transitions, and bike mount/dismount lines worked.

Yeah. Well, all I can say about that is that ignorance is bliss. Yes, ignorance is bliss.

I jumped in the water with 5-10 other nervous ladies, heard the whistle blow and started my swim. I use the term “swim” loosely as I was completely hypoxic within about four strokes and had to dog paddle my way across this pond that I could almost throw a rock across. Nothing was overly remarkable about my transition, other than maybe how long it was. I didn’t fall getting onto the bike, but it did take me the first 2 miles to finally get clipped in. Every terrified cyclist wants to go uphill with one foot shooting off to the side with each pedal stroke.

Fortunately, it was early enough in the day that there was very little traffic and we had a full lane. As I pulled into the park, I marveled at how much fun the bike ride was and was ever so thankful I was able to unclip from the pedal and didn’t fall over. My relief at getting over what I thought was going to be the worst leg of the day was short lived. You see, a stuffy ear that I had attributed to allergies decided it was done with me and I had the pleasure of completing the hilly run with an ear so excruciatingly painful that I wanted to “mountains of the moon” myself to end the misery. (I ended up taking a trip to the emergency room later that day to get it fixed.)

It took me over an hour, but I finished. As with so much of what we do, it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t get to the end as I expected. In a hilarious twist of fate, the bike leg ended up being my best leg.

And I wanted more.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I would revisit triathlons as I spent the rest of 2011 getting over that pesky earache (12 weeks!!!) and training to do a sub 5-hour marathon. Through the efforts, handholding, and ecouragement of my awesome coach and supportive teammates at Triple Threat Tough, I’ve been doing triathlons ever since. I even became an Ironman when I completed the Ironman Louisville 140.6 in 2015. I’m not the fastest triathlete, though I have earned a few age-group trophies.

Most people who know me have heard this story. In fact, over the last (eh-hum) 6 years I’ve told it enough times that, I’ve become weary of it and hesitate to tell it one more time.

But I’m telling it again as a reminder to myself that, even though I was terrified, even though I didn’t know how, even though all I had was a dream and a nebulous faith that I could do it, at the end of the day, I achieved that goal. And I’m reminding myself that you don’t have to know the path, but simply have faith that you’ll get to your dream. It likely won’t be easy, but at the end of the day, you’ll have a good story.

While I use the fact that I’ve told this story a few times as the reason I’ve not published it, the real excuses fall partially (mostly) due to work and travel and life getting in the way as it so often does. I started enough other posts that this one ended up hidden on the next page. But an underlying fear of doing something with all my heart is what allowed those excuses to thrive. Just as it was really much simpler to be afraid of the bicycle than to ride it, it has been much simpler to be afraid of putting my story out there than to do it. Easier to figure out reasons not to do than to do.

But here we are at the beginning of a new year. A time to begin anew, to set goals and dream new dreams, or to pull out something that’s been tucked away in your heart and reshape it. To do what Henry David Thoreau recommends, “to go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” And sometimes, to be able to go in the direction of the dream that has been tucked into your heart for safekeeping, you have to do something that scares you.

For me, today, that scary thing is to hit the publish button.

So for the near future, dear reader, my intent is to go confidently in the direction of my dream of becoming the travel writer I’ve always wanted to be-as opposed to the magazine feature editor/writer, newsletter writer, or business blogger that I’ve been for the past 15 years (insert a very dramatic eye roll at myself).

And whether I publish only this one anecdote this year or 1000, with each of the publish button, I’ll be channeling my inner Eleanor Roosevelt and doing something that scares me.

And if my (our) stories are of no interest or of value to you, that’s OK. Your journey is not our journey. And your monkeys are not our monkeys. Unless, of course, we happen to be on the same trip. 😉 At which point, we’ll have a good time figuring it out together.

What about you, where is your heart leading you? What are you going to do this year that scares you?

A few weeks ago, Louellen woke me up in the wee hours of the morn to tell me that she’d somehow managed to get a lottery spot for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon and that we had only a few minutes to decide if we were going to go or not. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and checked my inbox to see if I, too, had won a lottery spot. I had not.

Getting a lottery spot is pretty special (about a 30% chance), so we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I decided to join Louellen in her quest to Escape from Alcatraz and joined TeamFox to help end Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurological disorder.

But of course, there’s more to getting there than signing up for the race and fundraising. Both Louellen and I will be training for what is one of the craziest races out there over the next few months. Here’s my first training update for my Escape from Alcatraz for Parkinson’s Research Backers.

Lou and I were camping at Isle du Bois State Park to do the the 15K portion of Endurance Buzz Adventure’s Isle du Bois Trail run. After waking up at 6:00 am to pouring rain that sounded like a battalion of Santa’s Elves banging toy hammers along the top of the Airstream, we decided to wimp out and sleep in.

Skipping 11 miles of running in 44 degree driving rain along rocky, muddy trails sounded like a good idea at the time. However, a few hours later, I started to feel like I’d wimped out.

I'm going in!
I’m going in!

So, to make up for it AND officially start the cold weather swim portion of my EFA training, I decided to go for a swim. The water temp in Lake Ray Roberts wasn’t San Franciso Bay cold, but my Garmin read it at 60 degrees. All I know is that it was C-O-L-D!!

My neoprene hood and booties checked out fine. Just need some gloves and I think I’ve got this. I’m going to try to keep swimming in local lakes until water temps fall below expected San Franciso Bay temps.

I’ll keep updates going on this website as well as on my fundraising page for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Thanks for all your support!